Tuesday, June 28, 2011

30-Day Challenge 28: Re-Cap on 19th Birthday + Annual China Trip!

QOTD: How do you keep your email organized and de-cluttered?

Day 28: In this past month, what is something you have learned? Well, I learned that I can read a book really fast if I really want to and if I really need to. Honestly, I spent about four hours today reading the last fifty pages of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert! I think that's the most I've read in a day since Harry Potter #7 came out.

Thank you everybody for all the wonderful birthday wishes and sweet comments! :) I truly enjoyed participating the Favorite Book Challenge and reading everybody else's entries. I have so much on my To Be Read List now it's not even funny. Well maybe a little bit considering I am a very slow reader! Honestly...I read every page at least twice. Har, harr. Anybody else like that?

On a different note, I went to dinner at Olive Garden with my awesome family and one of my best friends. I got the Chicken Scampi and it was, um, nothing short of amazing. Seriously....it was so good I was too excited and impatient to take photos for you all. So if you ever go, get the Chicken Scampi. It's basically heaven on a plate. TOTAL YUM.


Tomorrow, I will be in the lovely skies enjoying complimentary peanut snacks on a gigantic airplane with three rows of cushioned grey seats. Yes, my friends, it is time for my annual trip to China!!! Every year, my family and I fly all the way to China for some delicious dumplings and other oriental eats, distant traveling to various provinces around the country, and reunions with old friends and relatives. Assuming that Blogspot still works over there (unlike *sniff* Facebook), I'll be documenting my lovely day-to-day experiences right here on TRA so I will be able to share with you all my journey! Isn't this exciting? :)

Look forward to future posts on my trip to China!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

19th Birthday Blogfest: The Favorite Book Challenge

Question of the Day: What is your favorite type of cake? Describe the perfect slice...include any toppings or fruit or flavors :) I want to hear about the yummiest, sweetest, most divine cakes you can imagine!!!

Yayyy I am officially 19 years old, as of 9:15am this morning! *does happy dance* I'll be pretty busy for the rest of the day but I had to post and share my happiness with you all. I don't quite feel 19 yet but I'm sure it will hit me soon at some point--probably right before I dig into the birthday cake that is anxiously waiting for me in the fridge. *nom, nom*

Speaking of cake, be sure to tell me what is your favorite kind of cake and what your ideal cake would be! Everyone loves a good cake fantasy. :) In my next post I'll share with you photos of my own cake as well as other visuals of my festivities! Also I'd like to take a moment to thank all of my family and friends for always being there for me and for making today so amazing already--and it's not even the afternoon yet!

Since I already hosted my 100-Followers Inanimation Blogfest not too long ago, I decided instead to participate in a blogfest myself! And just in time...

Today is the last day to participate in Teralyn Rose Pilgrim's Favorite Book Challenge Blogfest over at A Writer's Journey (click the previous link to see the other entries)! The idea is to choose my top five favorite books of all time (this is a challenge, indeed), and for each book write two lines on what it's about and why I like it so much. So here goes!

1) My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult--This is a novel about two sisters; one of them has leukemia and the other was conceived by her parents solely for the purpose of saving her sister throughout their lives by constantly donating granulocytes, bone marrow, and other cells that are crucial for survival. Reading this compelling novel made me aware that many families must struggle and go through difficult situations and I must remember to feel grateful for all the good things in my life.

2) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini--Amir is a Sunni Muslim who is living in Kabul as a child, and befriends Hassan, the son of his dad's Hazara servant. I loved this book because not only did I learn so much about the contemporary history of Afghanistan, but I was also engrossed into a story that is filled with prose that highlights the sins, the tragedies, the beauties and the truths about what natives of certain Middle Eastern countries go through.

3) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott--Follow along with Jo, Amy, Meg and Beth in this book filled with their stories of growing up in the midst of America's civil war, from small skits to marriages to school troubles to sisterly quarrels. Having a sister of my own, I know how strong the connection between sisters can be and easily relate to all of these March girls in some way or another; plus, Alcott's writing is amazing.

4) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling--In this third book in Rowling's epic series of the magical world, Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwarts hear about his godfather, Sirius Black, for the first time and find out if he really is a menace or if there's something else about Harry's tragic past that we have yet to discover. I'm not sure why I like this book the most, but it's probably because we learn more about Harry than just the sad story of his parents' death that we already know of, and Remus Lupin is AWESOME (seriously, I wish I had him for a high school teacher).

5) A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle--Ahh, it is hard to explain this book but I will try my best: a science fantasy novel, A Wrinkle In Time follows the Murray kids as they set out on an adventure to find their father and discover the truth about what happened to him when he went missing during his mission to learn about time travel. This book indirectly shows its readers what it means to be courageous, put your family first, and have hope in the face of dark times.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!!!

Question of the Day: Tell us what makes your father the best dad in the world! :)


Here's to all the dads, uncles, grandfathers, stepfathers, and every other father figure out there!!! Thanks for saving us every single day, just by being there for us. :) YOU'RE THE GREATEST SUPER-DADS EVER.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

30-Day Challenge 25, 26, 27: Letters to People (in Chinese!)

Question of the Day: If you could spend one semester studying any language at all (regardless of time or money constraints), what would it be?

This post was actually inspired by the book Eat, Pray, Love (author Elizabeth Gilbert) in which Liz herself embarks on an adventure to Italy, India and Indonesia. I am currently reading Part One and Liz explains why Italian is so beautiful and why she has this passionate desire to completely immerse herself in this language.

During my freshman year of college, I got to take Mandarin Chinese--and I have to say it is absolutely wonderful. I've always been surrounded by family members who instead speak Shanghainese, the primary dialect in Shanghai, China, so I thought that this would be an excellent opportunity to learn more about and of the #1 most popular language in the world (Spanish in #2 and English is #3).

Now, I love Mandarin as much as Liz loves Italian. And I am proud to say that I am now able to write, read and speak basic Mandarin. HURRAY!!! Sadly, the reading part is most difficult for me since it's not an innate skill. As I will be travelling to China next month (woohoo SO EXCITED) I definitely think I need to brush up on my Chinese (both Mandarin and Shanghainese).

So for today's Challenge, as part of my 30-Day Tumblr Blog Challenge, I'm going to write letters in Chinese! Awesome excuse to practice, no?

First I'll show the letter I wrote in Chinese, and then I'll add the English translation below. Enjoy!!! Do any of you know Mandarin or Shanghainese (if so could you see if I wrote the letters correctly? hehe)

Day 25: Write a letter to somebody who is not in your state/country.

你好马? 我还有一个半星期就会去上海来看你。 我很开心! 我希望可以跟你去看电影和吃饺子。 我好久没吃上海采了。 我也要去看看你的办公室, 好吗?

My older female cousin:
How are you? There's still only have one and a half week left before I will go to Shanghai to see you! I'm so happy! I hope I can go with you to see movies and eat dumplings. I haven't had Shanghai dishes in so long! I also want to go see your office, is that okay?

Day 26: Write a letter to the person you miss the most.

你好, 姐姐!
虽然我昨天刚跟你打过电话了,可是我还是非常想你! 我在等到我们能一起去中国。。。没有很多时间了! 你想,飞机上面会有什么采是好吃的, 什么电影是好看的? 不要忘带好看的衬衫,裤子, 和鞋。 我们的家人都要看看美国的女孩子是穿什么呢.

Hello, big sister!
Even though I just gave you a phone call yesterday, I still miss you a lot! I am waiting for when we will get to go to China together...not much time left now! What do you think, what sort of yummy foods to eat and good movies to watch will there be on the airplane? Don't forget to bring pretty shirts, pants, and shoes! Our family members want to see what clothes American girls wear.

Day 27: Write a letter to your best friend.

你好! 你怎么样? 六月二十二号是我的生日,我会看到你。那天我要给你一张枝, 有你喜欢得歌写在上面。 你来的时候我们会做饭,看电视, 和吃蛋糕。你喜欢什么样子得蛋糕和饮料? 你告诉我, 我就会到商店去卖。请快一点给我发电子邮件!

My best friend:
Hello! How are you doing? June 22 is my birthday, and I will get to see you then. On that day, I will need to give you a piece of paper, which has a song on it that you like. When you come, we will cook food, watch television, and eat cake! What kind of beverages and cake do you like? You tell me, and I'll go to the store to buy them. Quickly write me an email please!

Whew!!! Goodness that was a lot of writing. It was great exercise for my mind though, and definitely helped me jog my memory, especially for some of the harder words/characters like cake, beverages and pants and grammar points such as 虽然, which means although.

If you know any other tongues besides English, feel free to write your comments in your respective languages! I'd love to learn how to say different phrases, though I can't promise I won't use Google Translate. ;) Share your languages with us!

P.S. Yes, I will be going to China next month and will definitely be blogging about my experiences--hopefully everyday if possible. I am SO excited and can't wait to share my adventures overseas with you all!


Friday, June 10, 2011

30-Day Challenge 24: "Why I Write YA" Blogfest

Question of the Day: Why do YOU write (or read) YA?

Day 24: What are five things you like about yourself?

1) I am extremely compassionate and empathetic towards people who are struggling through difficult situations, especially if they are health-related.

2) I like having a quirky obsession with Smallville, Superman, and comics in general; I actually don't know many girls who enjoy comics and superheroes.

3) My love for writing makes me feel happy and purposeful every single day; why wouldn't I like a trait that makes me happy?

4) I think that my ability to be extremely self-aware prevents me from going insane on a daily basis; I'm glad that I can keep up with my thoughts and feelings, compartmentalize them in my mind, and take control over them before they take over me

5) Family and the people I care about are number one. Because I have met some extremely appalling people in my life who don't really practice the good habit of putting themselves in others' shoes, the kind and genuine individuals whom have I had the good fortune to meet, befriend and now love are very important to me. I do and would do anything for them.

Today, Gabi at Iggi and Gabi is hosting a really neat blogfest as part of the YA Cafe Friday Specials. The reason I decided to participate is because YA literature is increasingly becoming prevalent in today's society and it's not a topic I have touched base with before on my blog. Also, despite the fact that YA is one of my favorite genres to read and write, when I first read the blogfest name my answer was blank, which really puzzled me since I would've thought it'd come to me immediately, being the YA lover I am.

So after pondering all day (hence, the reason why I am late in writing my entry--sorry about that! Better be fashionably late than never show up, eh?), I decided on my answer:

The reason I write Young Adult is because...

1) The age of adolescence/young adulthood is one of the most transforming stages in a lifetime. Think about it, a lot happens--the want and need for independence, struggle to maintain healthy relationships with significant others/friends/family, the search for one's place in a social setting as well as in the world, and the beginning of the search for one's identity. It's a time of trial and error. There are the most physical, mental and emotional changes in this period, which makes it so darn intriguing to write about.

2) Young adulthood is linked with so many experimental firsts, such as first love, first taste of rebellion, first change in physicality, and first brush with the bitter truths about responsibility and mistakes. All young adults go through these, but every young adult experiences these things differently. In observing adolescents that I interact with or pass by down the street, I see the way young adults react and the affects that certain situations have on them--and something about those observations compel me to create characters based on them. If I take these characters and put them in, say, a motorcycle accident (which was brought upon from that first taste of rebellion), how would they react? How would this affect every single aspect of their lives as young adults?

3) Young adulthood is controversial and paradoxical. As a young adult, you get to be risky and wild, but you also understand what it means to be serious and in what circumstances is it essential to behave seriously. You have the ability to appreciate even life's littlest things, but you also capture the big picture as well. You have enough intelligence to understand even the most complicated and abstract concepts, and yet you still have so, so much to learn. You are teeming with emotions and adrenaline (thanks, hormones!) and passion and overwhelming thoughts and experiences from a unique perspective. That makes for a zesty, identifiable character and one hell of a fascinating story.

Thanks Gabi for hosting such a great blogfest! Be sure to check out the rest of the entries here.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

30-Day Challenge 23: The Secrets to a Hot Blog

Question of the Day: Today, I'd like to know what you think of my blog layout. I need your critique, your feedback! Should I stick with it? Is the foreground a little too narrow? What can I do to make my blog appearance more attractive to my readers' eyes?

Day 23: Something you crave for a lot. Oh my!! I will definitely have to say my craving for Smartfood popcorn is rather alarming and sempiternal. This popcorn has been my #1 go-to snack since before my age had double digits.

Today I'd like to talk about what makes a hot blog.....hot. Look on your Blog Profile, scroll down to your List of Blogs. What about those blogs made you want to follow them in the first place? Was it the colorful layout, the sexy font, the helpful content in posts, or perhaps the unique blog name?

I wouldn't call myself picky, but there are some absolute musts in my rulebook that, when I look at a blog, make me want to go 'w-o-w-z-a gimme summa dat!', and hit 'Follow.'

Check out these tips I've gathered during my time as a blogger, think about what attracts you to a blog, and ask yourself:

Does your blog need a makeover? Or is it one of the hottest blogs on the block?

1) Minimal White Space. By white space, I don't literally mean space on your blog that is white. "White space" is simply areas on your blog that don't have any content (graphics, links, text) on it at all. Of course, you don't need to cover your whole blog with junk, and not all white space is bad, but make sure everything is laid out evenly (and not too cramped!) so that there aren't any areas that look empty/blank/out of place. Exception = when your blog layout is white or some other solid color (in that case, move along now).

2) A complimentary color scheme. I recommend having at least two or three colors in your "color scheme," much of which is dependent on your blog layout and header/text fonts. (The exception is a white/solid color blog layout, which is actually pretty attractive and popular from what I see). Decide what colors you want to incorporate and why. For example, The Inspiration Tree blog has a color scheme that includes browns and pinks and emphasizes on the concept of nature, which is also prevalent in the blog name. Keep in mind, though, that you don't want your blog looking like a disorganized rainbow, either!

3) Organization. It's okay to have a lot of stuff on your blog, just make sure it's tidy and with a "boxed up" look--not messy. An example of the "boxed up" look is the right column of the blog oh, hello friend: you are loved. Put your links/graphics in different categories. Of course, a blog layout helps a lot with this. A three-column allows you to put more stuff on either side of your blog, but a two-column makes the blog look less cluttered and overwhelming to the reader.

4) Resources. We love resources! Blogfest links, lists to popular blog posts, a Goodreads shelf, Twitter feed, and recommended authors are all considered resources. Not only do they provide more lovely things for us to read but they also give us more information about what sort of common interests we may have with you. Also, they don't have to be all on your homepage--you can have separate tabs with them too. Examples of blogs with great resources include The Happiness Project, Ready. Write. Go., and Paperback Writer.

5) Unique blog name. Nothing is as boring and generic as "A Writer's World" or "The Diary of BLANK." Choose a blog name that is either or: fresh, mysterious, humorous, inspirational, romantic, unconventional, professional. Some of my favorite blog names include Adrielne's Box of Thoughts, Annelise White Photography, Big Apple, Little Bites, I'd like cheese on my entire family!, Left and Write Brained, and Sixtyfivewhatnow.

6) Theme + Different Posts. Have a healthy mixture of personal/random posts and posts that are related to your blog theme. I personally like spontaneity and am not a fan of designated weekly posts such as "Writing Wednesday" and "Picture Thursday" or "Friday Five," but some people really look forward to them. If you do plan on having designated weekly posts, make yours creative. An example of a successful and interesting weekly post is Lydia Kang's Medical Mondays. A blog with some pretty amazing and inspiring content is b-sPlendid.

7) A layout that tells a story, parallels with your personality, and is comfortable to the reader's eye. Customized blog layouts are the best, because they're usually pretty, impressive and spell P-R-O. It's okay if you don't use a customized blog layout, of course; if you use a 'premade' template, I would go with one that isn't overly used by other bloggers and balances out between the background and the foreground. Oh, hello friend: you are loved's and Talli Roland's blog layouts fit these criteria perfectly.

8) Correctly formatted blog posts. This is probably one of the more important elements I consider when looking at a blog. After all, these posts are what I am going to be reading every day! I've heard that shorter blog posts are better, but to me I don't think that's necessarily true. You just have to make sure that the text is formatted so your reader will be comfortable reading. Make sure you have plenty of paragraph breaks, perhaps a few bold sentences, and maybe even bulleted lists. Graphics or photos sometimes prevent the post from being too "texty". Also, you need to have a readable font. Nobody wants to read a post that is in Kristen or Joker. Keep your font face and size uniform throughout your blog.

Everyone has different preferences as to what they consider to be a hot blog. Share with us what makes a blog attractive (or what turns you off) and what makes you click 'Follow'!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

30-Day Challenge 22: Summer Reading List

Question of the Day: What books have you read this year so far (not that I need any more on my To Be Read List!)
Day 22: What do you see yourself doing in ten years? Oh my, 28 years old is hard to think about when I can hardly believe I am almost 19 (mark your calendars, June 22 is coming up people...just kidding haha). Hopefully, I will be living comfortably in Boston, married to the love of my life, and working for a hot shot magazine or newspaper. Self? Elle? Time? Boston Globe? I live to dream big and dream on until dreams = reality.

One of my 2011 Resolutions is to complete the 24-Book Challenge. I didn't read nearly as much last year as I would have liked to and should have, so I've been trying to make up for that since New Years'. What makes summer so amazing for me is that suddenly I have all this comely free time to do things I never had time to do during the school year--and that includes READING. :D

So what's on my Summer Reading List? My goal is to read eight out of the twenty-four.

1) Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin--a nonfiction account that grinds out the details of the 2008 primary and general elections; I have less than 100 pages left to read!! Yeah!
2) The March by E.L. Doctorow--a fictional novel creatively told from various points of view during the Civil War of 1861-1865

3) A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini--a contemporary novel by one of my favorite authors that tells the compelling story of two young women; the book takes place in Afghanistan in the midst of war

4) Eat, Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert--after watching the awesome movie based on this novel and reading/hearing so many good things about it, I knew I just had to get this book for myself! This book follows a middle-aged woman who sets off to "find herself" on a journey in which she travels to Italy, India, and finally Indonesia; My copy ships within the next week, and I can't wait to start reading...

5) I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max--a good friend recommended this book (adventures of Tucker Max himself as he goes about being an asshole) to me, and I am really curious to see what my reaction will be since all the reviews I've read have basically told me that it's either a you-love-it-or-you-hate-it deal; nonetheless, it's thought to be a must-read for college students so sounds perfect for me either way ;D

6) But Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody--I watched this film in AP Comparative Government in my senior year of high school and it really made my eyes pop at Iranian culture and the way women are treated there; the story is of how Betty tries to escape with her daughter from under the grasp of her abusive husband and his family in Iran

7) On Writing by Stephen King--I won this book from Tessa Conte's Outside My Blogontest and I am finally able to make time to read it! Yay! From what I've heard, this book serves as an awesome memoir of Stephen's adventures as a writer as well as a sort of sage guide for other aspiring writers on the craft

8) Nine Rooms of Happiness by Lucy Danziger and Catherine Birndorf--Danziger is the Editor-in-Chief of one of my favorite magazines, Self, and after reading brief excerpts I decided I wanted to read this book at some point; thankfully, it was on sale at the local Borders (before the store regrettably closed)! Now I am a firm believer that we ultimately create our own happiness, but no harm in reading up on a few tips on feeling felicitous, right?

Have you read any of these books or heard of them? Do any of these sound like books worth reading to you? (no spoilers please)

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