Sunday, December 29, 2013

Photo a Day: November

My thoughts tonight: "Quick! Better get my November photo-a-day recap up before December ends!" *whoops* But really, I almost skipped November because it is so late until I noticed I only participated four times last month anyway, so this won't take too long to share. And I really liked these photos, so I wanted y'all to see them. :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dear 2013 ...

Photo via @mcstroup on Instagram
When I saw Amanda was co-hosting a "Dear 2013" link-up, I knew this would be the perfect way to recap the year. As I mentioned in my November recap post earlier this month, this year has been full of SO MUCH FUNNESS. (Yes, I am aware funness is not a word. And because I know this rule, I can break it. Ha!) Without further ado ...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cityscape on Camera: Budapest, Hungary

Budapest, Hungary, on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life

So Christmas Eve probably isn't the best time to bring back Travel Tuesdays, but my Timehop feed has been full of pictures and tweets from my trip to Budapest last Christmas, and I realized I never blogged about it! This post will be short and sweet so you can get back to the holidays with your family. Enjoy more pictures after the jump!

Monday, December 23, 2013

24 Before 24: Run a Half-Marathon

I think I already mentioned this on the blog once, but in case you missed it: I ran my first half-marathon last month! In fact, this was my first "real" race ever. (Unless you count the two-mile "Friendly Frolic" run at my grandma's practically-retirement-community lake every Fourth of July. I don't.) Anyway, running a half-marathon was #1 on my 24 Before 24 list and also #7 on my Life List, so that was pretty exciting to cross it off both lists. (To be completely honest, my Life List originally said "run a marathon" because I wanted to do one with my sister, but then she saw it and told me she never planned to run a marathon again. So I was perfectly happy downgrading to a half-marathon haha.)

Why did I decide to run a half-marathon? I have never been a runner. I enjoy being active and working out, if that means: playing sports, cycling, lifting weights, doing sit-ups, hiking, swimming or skiing. I do not enjoy running. My mom and sister, on the other hand, have run numerous half-marathons, and my sister, Abby, also ran the Chicago Marathon a few years ago. Abby has been wanting me to run a race with her for quite some time, so when I got engaged, she finally convinced me to train for a half-marathon as a way to get in shape for my wedding.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Currently: looking forward to Christmas!

Photo via @mcstroup on Instagram

reading | Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I'm only halfway through the first book, but holy cow! I honestly think this series will be better than Divergent. When will it get its own movie franchise?? (And speaking of underrated young adult trilogies, when will Uglies get its own movie(s)??

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Best of 2013: Read

So I'm probably not going to reach my goal of reading 53 books this year, but I have read 39 already, and the even better news is that I thought eight of them deserved 5 stars! That means I absolutely loved more than 20 percent of the books I read this year, so I really can't complain about that. :) In no particular order, here are those eight special books:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Literary Junkies: December 2013

Welcome back to the monthly Literary Junkies link-up! This is the first month that Christine is taking over as Taylor's official co-host, so be sure to check out her blog at Life with a Side of Coffee and say hi! Read this month's questions and my answers below:

Image via @mcstroup on Instagram

1. If you could write a book, what would it be about?

Definitely historical fiction. In fact, this has been a goal of mine for quite some time; I just can't seem to decide which historical event to write about! Too bad I didn't do better with my reading resolutions this year...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Stocking Stuffers Under $20: The Book Lover

Stocking Stuffers for the Book Lover

1. You all know I'm a huge advocate of Goodreads, but if you have a friend who stills prefer pen and paper, this library-card-inspired journal would be the perfect place for her to jot down books to add to her ever-growing TBR pile.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Currently: preparing for the holidays!

Photo via @mcstroup on Instagram
reading | Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. I'm not loving this series as much as the bloggers I learned about it from did, but the books are fun, quick reads. And I'm excited to start Paper Towns next—hopefully tonight! :)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Best of November: A Month in Review

Who else thinks 2014 should be a lot farther than 25 days away?! Even though this year has gone by way too fast, I must admit I'm getting pretty excited about writing my "year in review" post for 2013. This year has been eventful and full of "firsts" for me, which are always fun to record. For now, though, let's review what happened at Semi-Charmed Kind of Life (and in my "real" life!) during the month of November:

Most Popular on Instagram & Notable Events

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

November was full of fun events, as illustrated in my Instagram feed from the month. Jonathan and I either had people visiting us or were traveling every single weekend. My mom and sister came into town and helped me pick a wedding dress (I'm not sharing pictures of that for obvious reasons haha), Jonathan and I took our engagement photos, I ran my first half-marathon with my sister in Monterey, and my family was able to spend Thanksgiving together in San Diego. (Even our dog, Brady, was able to join us!)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stocking Stuffers Under $20: The Travel Bug

Stocking Stuffers for the Travel Bug

1. A cute journal to record what she did, ate and saw each day. Unfortunately, since the time I made this collage, this specific journal from Francesca's has gone out of stock, but you can find adorable journals at Target, Barnes & Noble, Papyrus, local boutiques, etc. :)
$12 (no longer available)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Autumn 2013 Book Challenge: Month 2

Photo via @mcstroup on Instagram
Welcome to the second Semi-Charmed Autumn 2013 Book Challenge check in! I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend (or just a wonderful weekend, if you're elsewhere in the world!). It's been two months since the challenge started; how far are you into your 13 books? Here's where everyone stands as of the first check-in (including one winner already!):

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Stocking Stuffers Under $20: The Caffeine Addict

For the second installment of my holiday stocking-stuffer guides, I had to pick some treats for the caffeine addict in your life. Whether her poison of choice is coffee or tea (or a combination of both, like me), these gifts will be sure to bring her some holiday cheer. :)

Stocking Stuffers for the Caffeine Addict

1. "Is coffee, indeed, the substance that drives history?" According to Barnes & Noble, you should read this book to find out! 
$10.78 (online price), $14.95 (in store) 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Photo A Day: October

What's that you say? This challenge from Fat Mum Slim ended 23 days ago? Oops.... Well I only took five photos for the entire October challenge anyway, so just humor me for the three seconds it takes you to look at them. :)

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

My favorite picture of the bunch is definitely the bottom middle: That's the trail near my house where I did my longer training runs this fall. So beautiful!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stocking Stuffers Under $20: The Organized One

I love giving gifts, but I don't love the pressure the holidays put on me to find the perfect gifts for everyone special in my life. I would much rather buy gifts throughout the year as I find things I think my family members would like than buy them something for Christmas just because I need something to put under the tree. One thing I DO love about holiday gift-giving traditions, though? The stockings!! I absolutely love finding stocking stuffers, and most of the items on my personal wishlist each year are honestly more in the stocking-stuffer category.

For the next few weeks leading up to the holidays, I thought it would be fun to create little stocking-stuffer gift guides as my own version of "Wishlist Wednesday." For the first installment, I've rounded up some smaller, inexpensive items that would be most appreciated by the organizers in your life: the planners, the type-A personalities, the paper-product junkies ... you know who I mean. :) I tried to pick items from stores that are pretty easy to find (think Target and Staples), but don't forget to check out Ross, T.J. Maxx or Marshalls for similar gifts in a low price range!

Stocking Stuffers for the Organized One

1. My original thought for this item was a cute kitchen timer, but this hourglass timer from World Market was just too pretty and classic to pass up. This would be perfect for any friends who believe in the Pomodoro method and need a cute, unique way to keep track of time.

Friday, November 15, 2013

My first "real" giveaway: Paypal Cash!

I know I've been a little absent from this space lately, but I've still been brainstorming ways to expand my content and grow my blog after I finish a few other life projects and can jump back into the blogosphere. Given this thought train, imagine my delight when I found an email from the lovely Amanda inviting me to join her giveaway! This is my first "real" giveaway with other bloggers, and I have to tell you, there are some pretty great peeps in here. :) Please take a minute to at least visit the home page of all the lovely ladies in this giveaway; I guarantee you'll find at least a few new blogs to add to your feed (if you're not reading them all already)!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nonfic November: A Guest Post

Remember that post I promised you about fiction/nonfiction pairs for the autumn book challenge? Well, the day has come for me to share my ideas! But you'll have to head over to Doing it the Open Way to see the post; I'm guest posting as part of her Non Fic November series today. This post also coincides perfectly with Jessica's Book Chat link-up topic for the week: nonfiction. I love killing two birds with one stone. Check out the full post here.

Have you read any good nonfiction lately? What's your favorite topic to read about?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Blogger Switch Back: A Swap with Vintage 1973

It's Wednesday, which means it's time to "switch back" with Regina of Vintage 1973. (If you missed our "Freaky Friday" posts last week, check them out here and here!)

Freaky Friday Blogger Switch

Today, I'm going to take the questions Regina answered as me and show how I would have answered them. I have to say, I was pretty dang impressed with Regina's answers! This project really showed me how much we can learn about one another just through reading our blogs. Below, I included Regina's answers as me in black, and I wrote my own answers and comments under each answer in green. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cityscape on Camera: Evian, France & Vevey, Switzerland

Today is the final installment of my European Extravaganza recap series. I've actually been writing these posts since late July, but it still seems weird to think I'm already done recapping all our fabulous adventures. Of course, there's only so much you can fit into a picture, so I hope I told you enough stories that you could really get a feel for each city and country.

After leaving the Azores (and spending a very long night in a children's playpen at the Lisbon airport), we went back to my mom's condo in Switzerland for a few short days of relaxation and re-packing before heading home to California. My sister's high school friend had flown over to visit her before traveling through Europe with her parents, so we all took an afternoon to take advantage of the warm weather and swim in Lake Geneva ... where we got chased by a swan. And got to see lots of confident Swiss women proudly showing off all 80 of their years. (Don't worry, there aren't any pictures of the latter.)

Megan swimming in Lake Geneva on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life

Friday, November 1, 2013

Freaky Friday: A Blog Swap with Vintage 1973!

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful Halloween. I'd love to hear what you dressed up as in the comments! My fiance dressed up as Superman and I dressed up as Lois Lane (kind of a cop-out, but it allowed me to still look professional in my office). Anyway, I'm participating in a brand-new project with Regina of Vintage 1973 today, and I'm excited for you to check out its inaugural post! Regina wrote up a great description of the project already, so I'm just going to include it after the jump. Enjoy!

Autumn 2013 Book Challenge: Month 1

Photo via @mcstroup on Instagram
Can you believe the first month of the Semi-Charmed Autumn 2013 Book Challenge is already over? I feel like it went by so fast! For those of you who have been playing along, here's your first chance to check in and show me what you've read so far. And if you are intrigued and still want to join, it's not too late! Click the link above to read the full rules, and feel free to look back to October 1 and count any qualifying books you've read since then.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

(Almost) Anyone Can Travel: On Prioritizing

I’m a big proponent of prioritizing. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might already know this about me. Prioritizing is especially important to me regarding two things: time and money. I’ve talked about my feelings on being “too busy” before, specifically in this post from last summer. In this post, however, I'll be focusing more on the importance of prioritizing money, especially if you dream about traveling for an extended period of time.

Various foreign currency I haven't gotten around to exchanging yet.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Islandscape on Camera: Pico, Portugal

After spending a few days with Jonathan's dad's family on the Azorean island of Terceira, we hopped over to Pico to see his mom's island. One of the neatest parts of visiting this island was getting to stay in his grandparents' old house. It has electricity and running water and everything (although the hot water was veeeeery limited), but there were some quaint aspects of the house, like the chickens a neighbor still raises at the house and the well outside where we washed our beach towels from Greece. :)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week in Review: 10.19.2013

I think this will be my last weekly recap post, at least for the near future. Now that I'm working a 9-to-5 job, my weeks all pretty much look the same, so I'm finding these posts to be a little repetitive. I plan on switching to a monthly recap instead (similar to what I used to do, but with an updated format), but I'll be finding other ways to share my most popular Instagram photos and posts each week, whether that's on social media or elsewhere. I hope you enjoy my final Week in Review post (for now)!

Get this: I only posted two pictures on Instagram in the past week! Whaaaaaat? I know; insane in the membrane. I guess I just didn't think my life was very Instagram-worthy this week. Here are the chosen two that made it to my feed:

1 | 2

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Photo A Day: September

My participation in Chantelle's photo a day challenge last month wasn't so hot. I think part of that was because I was pretty focused on my own photo challenge for one of the weeks. But, I did get a few nice shots to contribute to the #fmsphotoaday hashtag on Instagram:

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Literary Junkies: October 2013

It's the third Tuesday of the month again, which means it's time for the Literary Junkies link-up! I didn't get a chance to read this month's book, so I won't be participating in the Twitter chat this evening, but I couldn't miss an opportunity to connect with my fellow book-loving bloggers with this month's questions. Read more after the jump to see the questions and my answers!

image via @mcstroup on Instagram

What are you currently reading? Tell us a bit about it!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Words cannot explain my feelings about this book. It is beautiful and tragic and everything a novel should be! I had heard this book was amazing throughout the blogosphere, but I really didn't know what it was about. I'm glad I started reading this without really knowing the plot details, though. It just made it more surprising and beautiful!

Islandscape on Camera: Terceira, Portugal

I can't believe I only have two more posts after this one to finish up my European Extravaganza recap series. I know I've been recapping this trip for quite a while (since July 23, to be exact), but there is still way too much to fit on any blog. I am so grateful I was able to take this trip, especially with my fiance and siblings by my side. :) Anyway, enough sappiness. Like I said, I still have two posts left! Today, I'm sharing photos from my time in the Azorean island of Terceira.

Street bullfight in Terceira, Azores, Portugal, on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life
image via @mcstroup on Instagram

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Azores, I like to refer to the islands as "the Hawaii of Portugal." This archipelago is composed of nine islands and located about 900 miles southwest of Lisbon in the Atlantic Ocean. Jonathan's parents were actually both born in the Azores and emigrated to America. His dad was born and raised on the island of Terceira, our first stop in the islands. (His mom was born in Pico, which I'll share with you next week!)

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Volunteer State on Instagram: Memphis & Nashville

As I mentioned on Saturday, I spent five days in Tennessee last weekend. My sister of the suitcase (a.k.a. fellow Alpha Delta Pi leadership consultant last year) got hitched in her hometown about an hour outside Nashville, and by some amazing miracle, every single one of the 2012-2013 consultants was able to attend! Not only was it a great reunion, but Jonathan and I took a few days off work to explore Tennessee, considering we were already making the long trip.

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life
One of my favorite signs down this strip said, "First chance for a drink. Next chance 25 feet."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Currently: recapping my banned books week photo challenge

Happy Sunday, everyone! I promised you last Sunday that I would recap my favorite entries in my Banned Books Week photo challenge last month, but I broke that promise. So, I'm recapping today! First, though, I want to share my current goings-on for siddathornton's The Sunday Currently link-up.

image via @mcstroup on Instagram
reading | The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Holy cow. Expect more thoughts on this book during the Literary Junkies link-up on Tuesday. I hope to be finished with it by then!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week(s) in Review: 10.12.2013

Hey there! Did you miss me last weekend? I didn't pack my laptop for my five-day trip to Tennessee (shocker, I know!), and week in review posts are pretty hard to write in advance if you leave early Thursday morning. Therefore, today's post will encompass the past two weeks. And hopefully tomorrow I can catch up on those 300+ unread posts on my Bloglovin' feed. :)

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

If you like these Instagram photos, be sure to check back on Monday for an Insta-recap of my trip to Tennessee!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday's Fancies: The best of ...

First, I want to send huge kudos to Alison over at {long distance loving} for celebrating her 150th Friday's Fancies link-up today! That's almost three years of fashion-related posts every Friday! For this special anniversary, I decided to pick my five favorite fashionable creations from the past and reshare them here. You can click on any image to see the original post. Enjoy!

This was the second outfit I ever created for Friday's Fancies, back in February 2012.
I would definitely wear this now!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Summer 2013 Book Challenge: Final Scoreboard

Wow! This summer's book challenge had a record number of finishers. Nine of you completed the entire challenge within three months! (Or nine of us, I should say. Yippee!) Read more after the jump to see the final scoreboard.

The Book Chat: E-books vs. Print

I've touched on my feelings about e-books a few times, but it's been a while since I've done a full post on the subject. After reading my Kindle almost exclusively last year while I was traveling and then moving back to a city with a library card a few months ago, I definitely have some more defined thoughts on the topic now. Luckily, Jessica chose e-books vs. print books for the Book Chat topic this week, so you get to read all about my opinions today! :)

all images via @mcstroup on Instagram

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cityscape on Camera: Lisbon, Portugal

The final big European city on our backpacking trip was Lisbon. Abby, Jonathan and I took an overnight train from Madrid to Lisbon for a few days in the Portuguese capital. Unfortunately, we didn't book our tickets much in advance, so there were no beds left. :( We just sat in regular train cars for the 9-hour trip. It was still way more comfortable than a plane, though!

Welcome to Lisbon on Instagram on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life
Patterned leggings are a cultural experience in Lisbon. ;) via @mcstroup on Instagram

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Happy birthday, Jonathan!

In honor of #tbt, here's an oldie but a goodie from our senior prom.
Jonathan hated this hat, but I thought maybe it could be his birthday hat in this case? Haha.
Jonathan's birthday was yesterday, but of course we were too busy celebrating for me to get a post up to commemorate the occasion. (What was the celebration, you ask? Frozen food from the grocery store, homemade guacamole and a Criminal Minds marathon finished off with the new episode of SVU. Man, we are old. Oh—and we had to pack, because I'm hurriedly typing this as we get ready to head to Tennessee! More on that later.)

In honor of his 24th year, I wanted to share this video for those of you unfortunate souls who haven't been graced with its hilarity before. I typically don't share videos on the blog (I'll admit it—I almost never watch videos in my blog feed. Sorry! It's just not always convenient to load a video), but this one is just too good to pass up. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cityscape on Camera: Madrid, Spain

After nearly a week in Andalusia with the entire family, Mom took my little brother back to Switzerland with her while Jonathan, Abby and I continued on to Madrid. (Don't worry, Michael was leaving for a study abroad trip at a cheetah rehabilitation center in South Africa. So it's not like his trip was being cut short.) We caught a train from Ronda straight through to Madrid and checked into our hostel. We were able to find a very affordable hostel within walking distance of two major plazas in Madrid (Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor), the major shopping street (Gran Via) and the main city park (Parque del Retiro). I highly recommend Room007 Ventura Hostel if you're ever in the area. We even had a great roommate from Brazil, so Jonathan got to practice his Portuguese and we had a friend to explore the city with.

Drinks and tapas at El Tigre on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life
With our Brazilian roommate at El Tigre bar. Now THOSE are tapas!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Summer 2013 Book Challenge: Month 3

Time's up! Please put your books down and record your progress in a comment on this post. :) You can see the scoreboard up until this month after the jump, along with my check-in to see how to format your comments.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Autumn 2013 Book Challenge: The Preliminary List

When I host a book challenge, I like to host a little "pre-link-up" party so everyone can share what they're planning to read. This link-up is not mandatory to join the challenge, and you're not obligated to read the books you list today. It's just a fun way to see what other people are planning to read and get some ideas for categories you're struggling with! See my preliminary list after the jump.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Week in Review: 09.28.2013

Good morning/afternoon/evening, everyone, depending on your corner of the globe! I'm back in the hometown again this weekend for the wedding reception of a family friend, so I'm writing this while alternately trying to drink my coffee and fight off my adorable but persistent mutt from laying his head right on my keyboard.

This week's "best of Instagram" feature is a little different than usual. Instead of showcasing my four most-liked photos on Instagram during the past week, I'm going to show you my non-#bookphotoaday photos (which happens to be exactly four photos!). I'll be doing a recap of the entire Banned Books Week photo challenge on Sunday, so you can see all my bookish photos then. (Or, you can follow me on Instagram at @mcstroup and see them now!)

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Book Chat: Banned Books

I am pretty darn disappointed in myself right now. I was so excited to blog about banned books for Jessica's Book Chat link-up this week, and now it's almost 10 p.m. and I haven't prepared anything. I really couldn't miss such an important topic, though, so here's just a small handful of banned or challenged books I've read and loved (click on the book covers to see my reviews on Goodreads):