Friday, May 29, 2015

Audiobooks - my tips & recommendations

You guys know I love audiobooks. I told you why you should listen to them, but today I wanted to share my recommendations and tips for choosing the right audiobook for you.

If you know audiobooks aren't for you like you know the back of your hand, that's cool. Stop reading. But I have had several people tell me that they tried audiobooks but they didn't like them.. only for me to dig deeper and discover they chose the wrong book or didn't like the narrator. So if you think you want to give audiobooks a chance, or you have and weren't a fan - then I'm (hopefully) here to help.

Audiobooks - tips and recommendations for choosing the right one!

First, my (sometimes contradictory) tips:

1. Don't listen to something you wouldn't read.
If a book doesn't sound good, you're most likely not going to enjoy it whether you read it or listen to it. Of course, there are exceptions but if you don't like classics, listening or reading them is most likely not going to make a difference. I also don't like to listen to certain genres or types of books - nothing scary or over emotional thanks. You'll learn what genre you most like listening to. Don’t bother investing in audiobooks for topics that you’re not deeply interested in. 

2. Listen to something you wouldn't read.
I know, this makes no sense, but hear me out. I recently listened to The Martian and I am still going on about how much I loved it. A friend of mine read it and she said the sciencey stuff went too far over her head - I totally understand and I 100% credit my love for this book for the narrator - he made it so interesting and understandable. I also stay way more interested in non-fiction books when I listen to them vs. when I read them because I generally don't enjoy non fiction.

3. Pick something easy, familiar or comfortable.
See that comfort zone everyone is telling you to break out of in every other aspect of life? I am here to tell you, grab a blanket, a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle right smack bang into that comfort zone. You love Harry Potter? Listen to it (cough, Stephen Fry, cough, never Jim Dale, cough). You've seen the movie but haven't read the book? You know you already love that author? You read that book years ago, want to read it again but don't have the time? Listen to it. I need the audiobook to be simple and easy enough that if I need to road rage for a second, I didn't miss much.

4. Step lightly outside of your comfort zone.
After you have listened to a book in your comfort zone, step lightly outside of it. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. I love Pride & Prejudice, but when it comes to other classics my attention can wander or I will read the same line over and over again without understanding. I still love them, but sometimes I don't want to have to concentrate to read. Hearing someone else read it can help me understand it. It's very close to my comfort zone, but slightly outside of it.

5. Be weary of your emotions or limits.
This might not apply to anyone but myself, but I cannot listen to a sad book. I cry easily, so I don't want to be at the gym or sitting in traffic bawling my eyes out. Also, further to #1, I don't want to listen to anything scary or that will make me squirm. I know some people who listened to books like 50 Shades of Grey - good for you, not for me. I can read books that are sad, or romantic, or scary (sometimes) but I know I don't want to listen to them.

6. Don't multi task too much.
I can listen while running or at the gym, in the car or cleaning the house. I cannot listen whilst working, being on the computer or reading anything else. 

7. Look for books read by the author.
I know a lot of people didn't love Eat, Pray, Love. I think I enjoyed it because it was read by the author. Obviously, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are funny anyway and I just feel like I wouldn't have got the same thing from their books if I had actually read them.

8. Be picky.
I am so picky with choosing an audiobook. Most of the time, I am listening to a book, reading a physical book and reading one on my kindle. Not at the same time, but you get what I mean. I look on my TBR list and I choose a few that would be good to listen to and I see if I can get a hold of them for free or cheap. If I can't, I see if I can get the physical books for free or cheap. Sometimes I go months without listening to an audiobook because the right one did not come along with the right price. I'm picky, but I would rather love a book than hate one because I knew I shouldn't have listened to it.

9. Learn when to give up.
I have stopped more audiobooks than real books. For some reason, it's easier for me to say 'nope' and give up on an audiobook than on a real book. Sometimes the book is just bad and sometimes the narrator sucks. Sometimes I stop listening and start reading. Sometimes I give up altogether. Don't keep listening if you're not enjoying it.

10. Preview the narrator. SERIOUSLY.
Saving the most important for last. Can't stress this enough. I do not like Jim Dale, everybody else does. I listened to The Night Circus and I am quite certain I did not like that book because I do not like his voice or the way he reads. Unfortunately, I didn't realise this until afterwards. I love the Stephanie Plum books and tried to re-read / listen to them recently and I couldn't stand the person reading so I had to switch to ebooks. The narrator can make or break your enjoyment, I am not kidding.

Now! For my recommendations:


Audiobooks - tips and recommendations for choosing the right one!

Bossypants by Tina Fey - This is my first recommendation when people ask about audiobooks.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler - I am not a huge fan of Amy Poehler and not in a mean way, just in a I don't know that much about her way, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris - again, not a huge fan but only for lack of knowing anything about him, and I really really enjoyed this.
Other books I haven't listened to but have heard great things are Seriously... I'm Kidding by Chelsea Handler's books

Non Fiction

Audiobooks - tips and recommendations for choosing the right one!

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - highly recommend. I did cry a lot though, so it was a strictly while driving book and not at the gym. Bonus, it's read by Edward Herrmann, who was Rory's grandpa and had a fabulous voice. He died last year, sadly. 
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie - you might be thinking 'but Kristen I have friends' but seriously. Good book, worth a listen (or read).
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - I actually read this but I think I would have enjoyed the audiobook more as it very sciencey.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey - This isn't as self help-y as it's sounds, I promise. Very, very interesting.

Awesome narrators
Audiobooks - tips and recommendations for choosing the right one!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - I know, I know but it's read by Patrick Stewart. Need I say more?
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt - read by the author, seriously absolutely brilliant.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert - if you haven't read this, I would recommend the audiobook over the real thing. It's read by Gilbert and I enjoyed it, though not sure if I would have if I'd physically read it.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman - This is a great book, and a fabulous audiobook. It's read by Rob Reiner - unfortunately it is abridged, but it's still good.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - read by Sissy Spacek. Seriously, I have both read and listened to this and I just love love love the audiobook.
The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe - read by James Earl Jones. His voice is probably more famous than his face.
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy - read by Alan Rickman you guys. Alan Rickman!
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling - I don't know what it is but I despise Jim Dale's voice. Stephen Fry forever. It's freaking Stephen Fry you guys!

Fiction or Favourites

Audiobooks - tips and recommendations for choosing the right one!

The Martian by Andy Weir - Seriously, this might be my favourite audiobook ever.
The Rosie Project by 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by 
The Help by Kathryn Stockett - this is like listening to the movie, maybe because Octavia Spencer who plays Minny reads the character in the audiobook. So good. Not just one narrator.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I really enjoyed this series, I know some people didn't, but it was like my first dystopian or the like so it was all new and enjoyable to me.
The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins - I didn't listen to this because I thought the content would be more suited to reading for me, but it wasn't that bad.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusack  - one of my favourites of all time.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova - I'm actually listening to this right now, so far it's an absolutely amazing book.

These are all my personal recommendations, I have listened to all but one or two and I listened to the samples for the ones I read but did not listen to.

Do you like audiobooks? Do any of these sound like books you'd enjoy listening to?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

(practice) packing for Europe: 25 items = 50+ outfits

When I say I have been planning what I am packing for Europe for ages I'm not joking. Oh, and when I say planning, I really mean stressing the buggery out.

I seriously lay awake at night wondering if I will look like an idiot in shorts or sneakers. Should I bring 2 pairs of jeans? Is 4 striped tops too many? Should I go completely minimalist, so I have more room to bring home souvenirs? Or should I bring enough so that I don't have to repeat a single outfit? I've annoyed my IRL & online friends with a thousand questions begging their opinions. Apologies friends.

It's no big deal, right? I packed everything in a carry on for Australia, and for a few days in NYC and that was real winter. So summer in Europe should be easy right? I swear, winter is easier. Layers. One type of weather: cold. Done. It's supposed to be warm in Paris, hot in Rome and cold in Dublin. So I need to pack all the things. Seriously, I'm stressing out just writing this.

packing for Europe - 25 items = 50+ outfits!

I finally sat down and settled on 25 items and made 50 outfits. Woah, right? I didn't need 50 outfits. I don't even need 25 outfits. But it can be done, apparently! I put everything in the carry on and it fit just dandy (with Millie too) but it was too full for my liking. Plus, I don't need 50 outfits, remember? I had to get rid of some stuff.

But I figured I might as well show what I came up with, right? As Thomas Edison said, 'I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that don't work.' That is not relevant at all, so here is a packing list of 25 items that make 50 outfits!

packing for Europe - 25 items = 50+ outfits!

// Graphic tee (actual from Brookish) // Striped long sleeve tee (actual sold out) // White tee //
// Red striped top // Black cami & Floral cami (actual is reversible Barcelona cami no longer available) // Striped short sleeve tee (actual from Gap, long gone) // 
// Leggings // Blue jeans // Black jeans // Black skirt // Printed shorts (actual from TJ Maxx) //
// Maxi dress (actual is J Crew à la eBay) // Striped dress (actual from stitch fix) // Patterned dress // 
// Oversized cardigan (actual from Express, sold out) // Grey cardigan // Denim jacket // 
// Brown belt // Black flats // Nikes  //Crocs // Scarf // Necklace 1 // Necklace 2 //

Here is everything in the bag: Except for underwear etc. Everything fit easy peasy, no rolling or packing cubes or anything fancy, I didn't even extend the bag. Just plopped everything in there. So I could pack it better, just wanted to show that it could fit. With a cat. (Ok, I lied there are 3 things missing in the below photo - the belt and the 2 necklaces, please forgive me). However, as you can see it's a lot and once I put all my makeup, hair stuff, underwear, misc crap in there, it will be chock full and there will be no room for shopping, which is obviously not okay.

packing for Europe - 25 items = 50+ outfits!

And here are approximately 50-ish outfits: I tried not to get too 'add a necklace, voila it's a new outfit!' so if there are duplicates or outfits too similar, it's not intentional. Also, I'm no fashion blogger. You've been warned.

packing for Europe - 25 items = 50+ outfits!
packing for Europe - 25 items = 50+ outfits!
packing for Europe - 25 items = 50+ outfits!
packing for Europe - 25 items = 50+ outfits!
packing for Europe - 25 items = 50+ outfits!

A few notes and thoughts:
- Technically, there is only 24 items because the black / floral cami is one cami, but for adaptability sake let's call it 25. 
- The black flats in the pictures are different than the ones I want to bring, not that you can even see them. I ordered these ones, I own them in natural and wore them all over Australia and I wear them to work all the time and they are super comfy so I think I'll be fine.
- The long sleeve striped top is not the one I'm considering taking, the one I want to take is from Target and I just hadn't received it when I took these photos.
- The lighting in our bedroom at 10pm at night is so top notch, and my iPhone really captured all the details but just in case you're curious, there are blue jeans, black jeans and black leggings (separated in the pictures).They do all look the same but they will look different in real life in Europe. Right?
- I will wear a cami under the white tee in public. Apparently this blog doesn't count as public, sorry about that.
- Leggings are for travelling only.
- Sorry about the dirty mirror.
-  I have already decided I'm leaving the Nikes. They are not cute and honestly no more comfortable than my flats. If my feet cry and need sneakers, I'll buy some. But I think I'll be fine. If I had some New Balance sneakers, I'd take them because they are cuter than my Nikes. I'm making the right decision, right?
- I'm considering swapping the denim jacket for the below grey jacket - but then I'll have a grey jacket and a grey cardigan and is that too much grey?

In case you ever wondered what goes on inside the head of a crazy over planner who is also indecisive.. here you go.

So if you are going somewhere and need 50 outfits, I hope this helps you. But like I said, I don't need 50 outfits so I need your help - I think I know what I'm going to cut out thanks to bugging my friends on the weekend, but I would appreciate your opinion. What do I cut out? What don't I need? What is uglier than it's friends?

Guest Post @ Erin in Sydneyland

Hey y'all!! Today I am guest posting at Erin's, who is currently gallivanting around her hometown, and yes I can say y'all because she's from Texas. Okay, I can just write y'all because you don't want to hear me actually say it. She normally lives in Sydney, so basically we are opposite twins. But stop reading this, and go read my post here about what I would miss about the good ol' USA if I ever moved back to Australia!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My 'oh shit, Europe is less than 3 weeks away and my jeans still don't fit' post.

First off - I'd love if you'd check out my interview with Jana for her Interview with a bookworm series! It was such a fun thing to answer, I mean who doesn't love talking about books?! Check it out here.

I haven't been doing my Sunday Sweats posts lately - my bad - but my workouts have been fairly boring anyway, so no biggie. Truth is, I just don't feel like sharing that I'm working out and not seeing results.

I've lost a bit of weight recently, but not enough. I know it is 100% because of my food choices (damn doritos with my nachos) but for the past few days, I have been very well behaved. Unfortunately, there is not much I can do between now and Europe to make those jeans fit any better, short of buying new jeans - which I will have to do if I don't lose a bit more. That's the hard truth right there.

I know I'm not fat. But I'm not happy with myself, and that's what matters. The below photo makes me cringe. My legs are huge and my upper body has zero definition. But I still posted it on instagram, because who cares?

I'm not going to lose 10lbs in 3 weeks, so it's silly to even try. Just gotta make healthy decisions. Eating well and exercising as much as I can - without going overboard on either. Specifically:

1. No gluten. 
Seems obvious, but it's so hard for me to say no to when it's in front of me. If I don't want to be vomiting all over Paris, I need to stop.

2. No snacking.
I'm not a good snacker. I know all the people say smaller meals and snacking is good, but it's not for me. If I am hungry, I need a meal. I don't need snacks, I just eat them because I'm 'supposed' to and that's just extra calories I don't need.

3. No junk.
This is my biggest thing. I fall into a trap of 'well, I'm not going to lose weight so I might as well get a milkshake'. If I had just buckled down months ago, I wouldn't be having to buy new jeans right now.

4. Consistent hard exercise.
No slow running. No easy weights. I need to push myself, and I need to do it almost every day.

5. Running + Weights + Yoga.
Further to the above, I need to do all 3 of the things that I enjoy and that will help me look better. Yes, I'm vain, I know. They also help me feel better as well.

Linking up with Tracy and Alyssa.


Gosh, what a boring post, sorry guys. It's an embarrassing thing to share that you don't like how you look or what you weigh, or that you had plenty of time to lose weight for a trip and you still didn't. I'm trying to remind myself that I need to focus on being healthy and it doesn't matter what the scale says, but it's hard. I don't want it to get to me, because then I will do something stupid like eat 500 calories a day (which will just make me sick anyway).

I'm not feeling super fit and healthy right now, stupid jeans and number on the scale. If you have any suggestions, please throw them at me. Ultimately, I know I should be healthy for my life, not just a trip. Not to mention I know my weight won't affect my trip that much. But it sure would be nice for my jeans to button up, that's all.