Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Wish for 2013

I'm not usually one for New Year's Resolutions. I had a small, unofficial list of tasks I wanted to get done this year, and I did some of them (e.g. read at least 25 books, wrote more snail mail) and didn't do some of them (e.g. run a race with my sister, finish writing a novel). But I do have one big resolution that I've made every year since I can remember. It's the one thing I pray for every single night before I go to bed (replacing "year" with "day," of course). I even addressed it in my high school commencement speech. And best of all, it's pretty simple:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Summer Book Challenge Winner: Hannah G.

The second Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge check-in will be up on Tuesday, so I wanted to spotlight yet another summer winner to encourage all the winter participants and prove that yes—it is possible to finish! :) Today I'm featuring Hannah G., who finished the summer challenge in 14 weeks, making her the fifth overall finisher. Read more about Hannah after the jump.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Book Chat: Merry Christmas to Me!

Follow me on Instagram at @mcstroup! :)

I didn't get a single book for Christmas this year. Amazing, right? Instead, my siblings and I all got each other cute little trinkets (like the above mug!) from various Christmas markets during our European holiday, and our mother graciously paid for us to take this European holiday. However, that doesn't mean I didn't buy myself a few Christmas presents on my Kindle. :) Here are my three most recent purchases:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Photo a Day: November

Woot! I'm posting my November Photo A Day challenge recap just before the December challenge ends. Thumbs up to me. I'm also linking up this post with Taingamala's last-ever InstaTuesday. (Sniff sniff.) Does anyone know of another good Instagram link-up I can join next year?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Semester in Review: Life as an LC

And that's only the beginning—only the most quantifiable things I could think of at this moment. I took this job because I knew it would offer me opportunities I wouldn't be able to find in any other line of work, at any other time in my life. I took this job even though I had been fortunate to find an internship at a great magazine: an open door into the career I had been preparing for since becoming my high school's newspaper editor in 2005. I took this job even though many people (friends and family included) didn't understand why I wanted to work for a sorority. But that story is for another day—maybe next summer when I'm searching for journalism jobs and wondering why I did leave the industry for a year.

For now, however, I wanted to share with you some of things I've learned on the road this semester as an Alpha Delta Pi Leadership Consultant:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Winter Book Challenge: Month 1

It's time for the first Semi-Charmed Winter 2012 Book Challenge check in! Please leave a comment on this post letting me know what you've read so far, in the following format:
30: Read three books from three different genres. — Between the Lines, Samantha van Leer & Jodi Picoult (young adult/fantasy) (358 pages); Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys (historical fiction) (338 pages); and Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen (drama/literary fiction) (335 pages)
If you're new to the challenge or just want to review the rules, check out the original post here. I'll post the scoreboard with the next check-in on January 1. Please record your progress on this post by December 10, as I will be traveling for the holidays and want to ensure the next check-in will be up on time. If you don't check in by December 10, please wait until the January post and record all your progress there.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Teasers are just spoilers in disguise.

Note: I wrote this post way back in June but just hadn't gotten around to publishing it yet. In honor of the release of Les Miserables next month, I figured now was the perfect time to hit publish!

And by teasers, I mean book jackets and movie trailers. Hear me out: I love previews. I'm one of those people who is actually upset when I miss the previews in a movie theater, and not just because I don't like looking for seats in the dark. I really like trailers, and I used to think it would be amazing to be a trailer producer (a la Cameron Diaz in The Holiday). However, if I know I want to see a movie and already know the storyline, I don't want to see a trailer because I don't want any part of the movie to be ruined for me.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Summer Book Challenge Winner: Nova R.

Today I'd like to introduce you to another finisher of the Semi-Charmed Summer 2012 Book Challenge, Nova. She finished the challenge in the first nine weeks, which made her the third finisher overall. Read more about her after the jump.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving!

I've been meaning to join this link-up with the sweet Meghan of Shine On for weeks, and what better week to finally join than Thanksgiving itself?

First, I am mostly thankful for the friends and family I get to see this holiday:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Summer Book Challenge Winner: Heather L.

I know it's been a while since the Semi-Charmed Summer 2012 Book Challenge ended, but I wanted to be sure to feature each of the ladies who completed that challenge as we prepare for our first Semi-Charmed Winter 2012 Book Challenge check-in (on December 1!). This first reader I'm featuring finished all 14 books of the challenge in the first six weeks! Read more about her after the jump.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I've got the whole world ...

... in my bag!

If you've been following my blog for a while, you might remember when I posted about how I fit my entire life into 96 pounds worth of luggage at the beginning of this journey. Somehow, a lot of those items have migrated to a permanent place in my purse. You never know what you might need! On any given day, my purse serves as ...

... an actual purse. Of course I have the necessities: Wallet, passport, business cards (in multiple holders; I have quite a collection now), receipt pouch, assorted ticket stubs that haven't been thrown away and my Alpha Delta Pi badge.

... a drugstore. Some chapter members have called my purse the "Mary Poppins bag" because I can seem to find everything in there. A chapter member smeared her eye make-up during a meeting? Good thing I have some Neutrogena cleansing wipes! Someone has a headache? I'm handing out the pain relievers! Got a stain? I have TWO Tide-to-Go pens for that. Other items in this category include gum, mints, Tums, cough drops, assorted pieces of candy, a water bottle, Kleenex, a nail file, a compact mirror, various lip balms, sunglasses, hair ties, bobby pins, hand sanitizer and—of course—a small flashlight.

... Best Buy. Of course I need my basic technology: My iPad, various cords, a USB drive, my phone (and my work phone, which I used to take these pictures) and my iPod.

... a (post) office. I have this thing for stationery, so I always have a few cards on hand. I also carry a small photo album I've been using to collect postcards from each school, a pencil pouch with assorted pens and highlighters to color-code my planner, said planner, return address labels, an unfinished crossword, post-its and two notebooks (one big and one small; you never know what the occasion will call for!).

Other items that can often be found in my purse depending on the day include a TSA-approved bag of liquid toiletries, a bag of almonds (or other snacks), my padfolio, my Kindle and/or chargers for my various electronics.

So tell me: What's in your bag?

P.S. — I did a similar post back in May, but my life was significantly less interesting then.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Blog makeover!

Last night I was on a Parenthood kick on Netflix and needed something to do on my laptop while I watched the show on my iPad (I know, my life is ridiculous), so Semi-Charmed Kind of Life got a redesign! What do you think? I kind of miss the personality of my old design, but I thought it was a little busy and wanted to clean the whole page up a bit.

Before & After
Click image to enlarge.

So really, what do you think? I'd love your feedback!

Fall Friday: The Footwear (Friday's Fancies: Week 14)

I had been planning a footwear-themed post for this Fall Friday post anyway, then I saw {av}'s Friday's Fancies theme this week was autumn-inspired, so I decided to combine them (again)! I know this Friday's Fancies is technically supposed to be inspired by a fall treat, but {av} always encourages us to post about anything we want, so I'm going to pretend like riding boots are my "treat." :)

Brown Riding Boots

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blogger Book Swap: A Review

Some of you might remember the Blogger Book Swap I co-hosted with Jessica a few weeks ago. The link-up to share our goodies was originally going to be last week, but Jessica extended it an extra week for those participants who hadn't received their books yet. This worked perfectly because I started my book right away, so the extra week gave me time to finish it!


My partner was the wonderful Leah of Leah's Life. During our email exchange, we decided we were pretty much book twins. When Leah told me she liked historical fiction and romance, I knew exactly what book to send her! (To be honest, I wanted to send this particular book to whomever my partner ended up being, so I'm glad it matched Leah's interests!) You can see the package I sent her here.

As for the fantastic goodies Leah sent me, check out the picture below:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Photo A Day: October

It's time for another photo a day challenge recap! At least this time I'm getting it up before the next month is halfway over. :)

I decided my previous way of sharing my challenge images was not very user-friendly because you couldn't read the captions while you were looking at the pictures. I'm trying a new design this week to make reading my post a little more convenient. What do you think?...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Something new.

I'm constantly inspired by all the adorable quotes on Pinterest, and I thought I would put my rudimentary InDesign skills to use and attempt to make my own graphic with one of my favorite song lyrics.

Without being too annoyingly self-deprecating, I'll just say I know it's not amazing, but I'd love to get your input. What do you think? Is this a hobby I should continue? I've been contemplating some Les Mis quotes for my next design experiment to honor the upcoming movie release....

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fall Friday: The Food

I suppose this post could have waited until next Friday to build anticipation for Thanksgiving feasts, but I just couldn't wait that long. Here are some of my favorite autumn foods (sweet potato pie and roasted pumpkin seeds), as well as some cute fall treats I located on Pinterest:

sweet potato casserole | roasted pumpkin seeds | campfire cupcake
 candy corn | pumpkin pie cupcake | chocolate acorns

Also, I know these images are a little more wintery, but I can't get enough hot, yummy beverages during the fall season:

peppermint mocha | hot cocoa

What are your favorite autumn treats and dishes?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fall Friday: An Instagram

I had planned to do a wonderfully delicious post about fall food today, but that will have to wait until another week. You see, I took the most quintessentially perfect fall photo in Pullman, Washington, earlier this week, and I just had to share it with you.

Two things I love about fall: The leaves and the footwear!

There's actually quite a long story behind my acquisition of these flats, but that, too, will be shared another day. Hope you're enjoying the first Friday of November!

Follow me on Instagram at @mcstroup for more stereotypical Instagram pictures. Am I following you yet? Leave your handle in the comments below!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Winter 2012 Book Challenge: The Preliminary List

Happy November 1st, everyone! As you recover from last night, don't forget to start reading your first novel for the Semi-Charmed Winter 2012 Book Challenge. :) I've included my tentative reading list for the challenge in this post. I would love to see your tentative lists if you're participating!

5 points: Read a book written by an author you have never read before. — One Day, David Nicholls
5: Read a book you already have at home but haven’t gotten around to yet. — Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer
10: Read a book written in the decade that you were born. — Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
10: Read a book that takes place in the state/province where you were born. — A Walk to Remember, Nicholas Sparks
15: Read a book titled The _______'s Daughter or The _______'s Wife. — The Pilot's Wife, Anita Shreve; The Tiger's Wife, Tea Obreht; or The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Kim Edwards
20: Read a book with a number in the title. — The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien
20:  Read a book set during Christmas or another winter holiday. — Still undecided. Any suggestions? :)
20: Read a book written by an author who shares your initials. — The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer
25: Read a Pulitzer Prize winner or finalist for fiction. — The Road, Cormac McCarthy
25:  Re-read a book. — The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
30: Read three books from three different genres. — The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (fantasy); The Paris Wife, Paula McLain (historical fiction); and Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen (drama/literary fiction)

If you want to participate, link up in the original post! The complete rules can also be found in that post. Good luck!

P.S. — Don't forget to tweet about your progress using the hashtag #SCWBC12!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Last-Minute Halloween Costume Idea

I am cheap. I'm not quite Extreme Cheapskates-cheap, but I'm pretty cheap all the same. Therefore, I do not like to spend any money when I dress up for Halloween. No buying or renting costumes for this girl; when I can't borrow, I make do with what I already have in the closet. In the event you share this tendency for frugality with me (or maybe just waited too long to secure a costume for tonight), I thought I would share my wonderfully easy and inexpensive costume from last Halloween: blackmail.

All you have to do is wear all black and safety-pin envelopes and other mail to yourself. Clever, right? I also thought it might be fun to wear an "envelope" clutch with this costume, so I included some of my favorites from Polyvore above.

So tell me, what are you dressing up as this Halloween? Do you have any easy and inexpensive costume ideas? I won't be dressing up as anything tonight, as I'm currently in a small college town and don't want to risk running into any of my collegiates at the local hotspots. That might get awkward. ;) Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fall Friday: The Football

I already shared my love for fall foliage, fall fashion and more fall fashion. This week, I wanted to share one of my greatest loves in the autumn season: football! More specifically, college football. Even more specifically, Tiger football.

I know the Tigers haven't been performing too well this season, but I don't mind. The way I see it, no one expected us to perform well in the SEC. When we lose, no one is surprised. When we win, it will be awesome and everyone will be impressed! I like to set my expectations low so they are harder to disappoint.... Well, with my sports anyway. I always root for the underdog. :)

Which team are you rooting for this season?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

InstaTuesday: NorCal Edition

I have been sorely failing to update you on my adventures as a Leadership Consultant, but I think I just found the perfect link-up to help me share my travels thus far. I ended up sending my camera home pretty early on in my travels. Now that I have an iPhone, it just seems silly to carry around another cord and another charger for my camera, especially because I don't do anything with my photos anyway. Therefore, Instagram has become my main form of communication, so what better way to share my adventures than with some Instagram photos through Taingamala's InstaTuesday Link-Up?

During my days off this past weekend, I traveled to Sonoma, California, to spend some quality time with my mother, brother and sister. These weekends are usually full of wine and sunrises, but this weekend we decided to venture outside the wineries and do some family-friendly activities. Enjoy!

Driving out of the city to wine country on Friday night.
Nothing quite beats waking up to this gorgeous view every morning.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blogger Book Swap

In case you haven't noticed, I really like books. And as much as I love my Kindle, there's nothing quite like a good, worn paperback novel. If you agree, then I have some good news! My fellow avid reader and blogger friend Jessica at Sweet Green Tangerine asked me to co-host a used-book swap with her, and I was delighted to oblige!

First, the rules:

Second, the button:


Third, my own shameless plug: I'm hosting a book challenge from November 1 to January 31 with all kinds of fun reading challenges (which Jessica contributed to!). If you choose to participate, feel free to use the button below. :)


I can't wait to find out who my book swap partner is! I already have a few good books in mind for you. :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Turtle Tuesday.

Did you know I love turtles? Well, I do, and today I wanted to share some adorable turtle pictures I've found on Pinterest over the years. Enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Semi-Charmed Winter 2012 Book Challenge

Photo via Ana Luisa Pinto on Flickr; Design by Megan C. Stroup

Welcome to the Semi-Charmed Winter 2012 Book Challenge! I had so much fun hosting the summer challenge that I decided to do it again. It will be a little shorter this time (four months was just too long), and I will also only be hosting monthly check-ins instead of weekly. Thanks to everyone who submitted category ideas for this challenge!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Photo a Day: September

I have to admit, I think I did a pretty good job with September ... at least during the first half of the month. Here's the round-up:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall Friday: Friday's Fancies (Week 13)

I know I just did a fall fashion post last Friday, but {av} is hosting a "Leaf Love" Friday's Fancies link-up this week, and I thought it might be fun to play along. Plus, I keep finding great autumn outfits on Pinterest that I want to share:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I originally created an outfit centered around this fabulous sweater, but then I decided I should let the colors of the fall leaves inspire me, as {av}'s theme suggests. I also threw in hints of navy, just because I like it, and a little beanie that I would never be brave enough to wear. Is it just me, or does anyone else feel silly in hats? Anyway, this is the final product:

Leaf Love

Click the button below to see what other leaf-inspired outfits bloggers created this week: