Friday, June 28, 2013

It's been real, Google Reader.

I apologize in advance if this is the one thousand millionth post you've read about Google Reader shutting down on Monday. I'm going to contribute to the broken record anyway, so if you didn't already know...

Google Reader is going away this Monday, July 1. 

What does that mean for you? If you follow Front Porch Sittin' through Google Friend Connect or Google Reader, you will need to use an alternative RSS feed to continue receiving updates from this here ol' blog. The most popular RSS feed bloggers and readers are using now is called Bloglovin', and you can follow me there simply by clicking this button:

Follow on Bloglovin

If you are unfamiliar at all with Bloglovin (which was definitely me when I first started using it a few months ago), I found a helpful tutorial for you here. And here's a simple way to import your Google Reader subscriptions into Bloglovin'.

If RSS Readers aren't your jam, you can also get new post notifications through email subscription, Twitter, or Facebook. Whichever you way you decide to slice the cake, I just wanted to thank you for being such awesome readers, no matter if you've been around since day one or just started following yesterday. Let's keep this party going come Monday! :)  

Have a GREAT weekend!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Review: Clockwork Angel

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Release Date: August 31, 2010
Pages: 478
Genre: Fantasy/Supernatural
Series: Yes! The Infernal Devices #1
-Clockwork Angel (2010)
-Clockwork Prince (2011)
-Clockwork Princess (2013)
Source and Format: Library; Hardcover

Summary (From Goodreads)
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

Thoughts on Clockwork Angel
HOLY CRAP, this book! I originally gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it deserved a 5, so I went back and changed it. Yep, this one is a new favorite! I don’t know what it was about this book, maybe I was just in the perfect mood for this genre and it was a right place at the right time kind of thing, but I LOVED it!

Because I like being mean to myself, I started reading this the weekend before we closed on our house, which resulted in some major book guilt. I needed to spend my free time packing, and then once we moved, unpacking. But all I really wanted to do was READ THIS BOOK. I finally finished it 15 days later, but that certainly isn’t a reflection on my feelings for this novel. If I had been able to, I would have gobbled this thing up in one day!

I went into Clockwork Angel having not read The Mortal Instruments series, so one advantage of being late to the party is reading all of these books “in order” and not knowing what will eventually happen in the future. I at least want to finish this series and book one of The Mortal Instruments before the movie comes out in August (yes, there's a movie). I think I can make that happen! Ok so before I get away from myself and gush all over the place with this review, here are the top three things I loved about Clockwork Angel:

The characters:
From the moment I met each of the characters in this book, I was fully engrossed in their story and wanted to know more about them. Even the servants had me intrigued! What happened in their past to make them the way they are today? What are their motivations? Cassandra Clare does an outstanding job of slowly peeling back the curtain to reveal important pieces to the puzzle, and how those pieces fit together. I just can't get enough of Will, Jem, and Tessa! My only complaint is that I wanted to know more. But this is the first novel in the series, so of course we can't know everything yet!

The world-building:
This book was kind of an instant win for me because it combined two of my favorite genres: historical fiction and fantasy. If historical fiction is not your jam, don't worry. There were times I often forgot this book was set in the 1800s because it was so character driven. Which leads to why I loved the world-building. Cassandra Clare has woven such an intricate and compelling world that I absolutely loved to get lost in, mainly because the Shadowhunter world relied on the identity of the characters. Downworlders, Shadowhunters, mundanes, parabatai--what does it all mean?! You'll have to read to find out!

TWO swoonworthy boys:
Ok, ladies. Cassandra Clare has given us a dilemma here. First we have Jem, the fair-skinned but handsome gentleman who shows nothing but the utmost respect for Tessa. He is dealing with a mysterious illness, but maybe Tessa will be the one to find his cure? And then we have Will Herondale. Prepare yourself for some major swooning! He is dark, mysterious, and confuses the heck out of Tessa with the way he treats her. He gives off a bad boy vibe, but I'm thinking there is a tender side underneath that hard shell. He likes to talk books with our leading lady, which hints that in fact there is a soft side to him. I am so torn between these two, but at the end of the day I think I am gonna have to go with Team Jem. That little stunt you know who pulls on the rooftop is just not gonna cut it! I am hoping there is a hidden reason behind that revealed sometime in the next two books. In the meantime, here's to hoping nice guy Jem doesn't finish last. :)

Memorable Quote
"Sometimes," Jem said, "our lives can change so fast that the change outpaces our minds and hearts. It's those times, I think, when our lives have altered but we still long for the time before everything was altered-- that is when we feel the greatest pain. I can tell you, though, from experience, you grow accustomed to it. You learn to live your new life, and you can't imagine, or even really remember, how things were before."

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cable Cars, Chocolate, and a Crooked Street, Oh My!

And now for the main event! For the next two weeks or so, this blog will be getting some MAJOR California love. I hope you are ready! If I were a good blogger, these posts would've happened weeks ago, but a good blogger I am not. And that's ok. To sum it up, we spent the first part of our trip exploring San Francisco, then drove down the Pacific Coast Highway to Monterey and Big Sur, and then finished things up in Wine Country. Today I will be blogging about our first day in good ole San Fran.

Our travel day started on the Sunday morning after Kyle's graduation, and our first stop from Atlanta was a layover in Dallas. On the way to Dallas, our pilot pointed out the Mississippi River, which was really cool to see since I had never seen it before. It would be neat to see in person one day as opposed to 30,000+ feet in the air, but I'll take it!

We quickly grabbed lunch at the Dallas airport and before we knew it it was time for the last leg of our flight to San Francisco. On the way out to California, we saw Lake Powell in Utah and even got a glimpse of Half Dome in Yosemite (Kyle was freaking out!). I originally planned to read a book or sleep on the flight out there, but I couldn't keep my eyes away from the window, taking in the beautiful landscapes. What a gorgeous view!

We arrived safe and sound at the San Francisco airport around 1:30 in the afternoon and immediately called our moms to wish them a Happy Mother's Day (yes, that's how long ago we took this trip). Our next mission was to figure out how the heck we were going to get to our hotel from the airport. One thing people always complain about in Atlanta is the lack of public transportation options, and I think San Francisco is the complete opposite. There are too many! Or at least too many for these car-driving Atlanta natives. We finally decided to take the BART (aka the San Francisco MARTA equivalent and cheapest option). The BART took us within walking distance of our hotel, and we felt a little silly walking around downtown with our rolly bags behind us, but thankfully we weren't the only ones. Eventually we found our hotel (Hotel Union Square), freshened up, and came back out ready to explore the city. Here is the view of Union Square from our hotel room:

The first thing we decided to do was take a cable car ride--a quintessential thing to do in San Francisco. Our hotel was really close to one of the stops, so we bought some tickets and waited in line for a pretty good bit.

Eventually we were off up the hills of San Francisco! One thing that surprised me about the cable cars was that they weren't just a tourist attraction, the locals actually used them to get around. In a city where practically no one drives, I guess it makes sense to take advantage of any mode of transportation you can get!

Near the end of our cable car ride, we passed by a section of Lombard Street. We knew Lombard was a place we wanted to check out, so when we got off the cable car we turned around and made the trek over to it. And man, it was a hike! Check out this hill (one of many we climbed to get there):

Our little hike was worth it in the end, though. Lombard Street is known as the crookedest street in the world with its 8 hairpin turns (you might recognize it from the movie Love Bug). For some reason I thought that this little section alone was Lombard Street, but it actually runs all throughout the city. It's funny how you have preconceived notions of a place in your head, but in reality it's totally different. And in real life this was a pretty neat sight to see!

If you turn around from where I was standing in the picture above, this is the rest of Lombard Street continuing down the hill.

After taking pictures at the bottom, we decided to climb the staircase and take more pictures at the top. We had buns of steel after this trip, for real!

I loved all the hydrangeas in the landscape design. So pretty!

The view of the Bay from the top of Lombard Street. 

From Lombard we walked back over to the area around Ghirardelli Square. And yes, we found a stationary cable car to take some touristy pictures with. I couldn't resist!

Next we explored around Ghirardelli Square, where the original Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory is housed. When you walk in one of the Ghirardelli stores, they hand you free chocolate samples. My kind of place! We may or may not have walked in several different times (different doors everytime, duh).

There was a neat green space in front of Ghirardelli Square with a small beach. This is where we had our first sighting of the Golden Gate Bridge!

You can barely see it through the afternoon haze, but the Golden Gate Bridge is right to the left of my head over that pier in the background. I will save my gushing over the Golden Gate Bridge for the next post, but y'all, it is seriously one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

After walking around some more, we found a sushi place for dinner (don't remember the name) and then it was off to bed for these jet-lagged geezers. We needed to get some beauty rest for our big bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge the next day. Which will be coming next on the blog--YAY!  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer Series Challenge

Oh, sweet summertime! The time when I get the most reading done! Y'all know I like to post book reviews here occasionally, and even though I'm (SUPER) late to the party, I've decided to join the Summer Series Challenge hosted by Asheley at Into the Hall of Books, Heather at The Flyleaf Review, and Lauren at Love Is Not A Triangle. I'm so excited! This is exactly the sort of kick in the pants I need to get reading this summer. 

The point of this challenge is to finally finish a series you've already started, or start reading a fully published series in its entirety. Sounds like pretty much everything on my TBR! If you are interested in joining and have a place to post book reviews (there's still time to sign up!), go here to read Lauren's introductory post and join in the fun.

So herein lies my problem. I want to read ALL THE SERIES. Why are there so stinkin' many?! And why are there so many GOOD ones?! You will probably laugh at me as I list out all the series I want to read, but don't get too impressed. I will probably only read one or two of these during this challenge. I am just a fan of making long lists that I never stick to. :)

Series I Want to Finish:  

Series I Want To Start and Finish: 

Ah! Where to begin?! Again, NOT gonna read all of these series by the end of August. A girl's just gotta have her choices. :) So what about you? What series would you like to start or finally finish?


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kyle's Graduation From Physical Therapy School

Even though I'm writing this about a month after the fact, I don't think I could call this blog a journal of our life if I didn't include a post about Kyle's graduation from Physical Therapy School back in May. This was a pretty exciting couple of days for us and our families, so you can bet lots of pictures were taken. Consider this your fair warning, there are a lot of pictures ahead!

Kyle made his way over to Augusta the Monday night before graduation, and I joined him two days later on Wednesday afternoon. When I walked out of the office after a half-day of work on Wednesday, I couldn't help but smile because I was about to have ELEVEN days off straight (we left for California two days after graduation). Nothing like that much time off work to make you feel like a kid on the first day of summer break! Wednesday evening we went to visit some friends, including Jason and his daughter Lucy (we missed you, Laura!), and Karen, Ryan, and their daughter Madi. I also got to catch up with my former boss, Holly, over lunch on Thursday, and before I knew it it was time to get ready for the hooding ceremony Thursday night.  

The hooding ceremony included undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Allied Health Sciences, so majors were along the lines of Dental Hygiene, Respiratory Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant, and of course Physical Therapy. I am going to have to agree with Amanda and say that this particular event almost bored me to tears. They could have just invited the PAs to the first hour and half of it (they won pretty much all the awards under the sun), and then invited everyone else to the last 15 minutes for the hooding. The hooding was pretty entertaining since they had each department chair stand on a box so they could better reach over the students to hood them. Unfortunately my camera crapped out on me while Kyle was on stage, but we did get plenty of pictures afterwards, as you can see. :)

After our photoshoot in the gardens at First Pres, we headed downtown for a late-night dinner at our favorite restaurant in Augusta, Frog Hollow Tavern. While we were waiting for our table (which should have been ready since we had RESERVATIONS, ahem), Kyle's sister gave him his graduation present. It was pretty hilarious:

Even though we had a pretty long wait (we didn't get our food until 9:30 PM...yikes!) I think everyone was really impressed with their meal. Frog Hollow has yet to disappoint in that area. And from there it was off to bed to get some beauty rest for another day full of festivities.

Friday morning before the big school-wide graduation was the PT class brunch. This event was my favorite because food was involved, of course. Just kidding. Kind of. It was also my favorite because it was a way for Kyle's class to celebrate their accomplishments just as PTs, and also reflect back on the past three years together. We loved catching up with everyone and wished we could have had more time together!

It's tradition at the end of the brunch to have a candlelight ceremony, but apparently you can't count on Justin and Kyle to take things seriously. ;) 

After brunch we grabbed a few photos with friends on the terrace, and then walked down to the greenway to get some family pictures with Kyle wearing his full regalia (yes, I'm pretty sure in the Augusta heat and humidity Kyle hated me for this).

And then it was time to head over to the James Brown Arena for the big Georgia Regents University graduation. As you might remember, when Kyle started Physical Therapy School his school was still known as the Medical College of Georgia. Then the name changed in February 2011 to Georgia Health Sciences University. And as of January 1 of this year, Georgia Health Sciences University and Augusta State University consolidated to form Georgia Regents University. It's really confusing, I know, but the important thing is that Kyle still got a Medical College of Georgia diploma (since he matriculated as an MCG student) and that will be the diploma hanging on the wall in our house. Speaking of diplomas, here he is crossing the stage to get his placeholder diploma (they had to wait until the end of the ceremony to pick up the real deal backstage). It was a special moment to hear him introduced as Dr. Kyle Fenton for the first time.

After they were done calling the names for the College of Allied Health Sciences, my family and Kyle's family bailed like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride. No shame in our game! We were graduation festivitied-out. But the fun wasn't over yet! We wrapped things up at my parents' lake house on Lake Oconee with a bbq dinner from Georgia Butts and key lime cake for dessert.

Overall it was a really fun weekend celebrating three years of hard work for Kyle. I am just so unbelievably proud of him. His work ethic and his faith throughout it all has been a huge example for me. Also, thank you does not say enough for our family and friends who supported us during that time. We truly would not have made it without you. What a journey it has been, and what a journey it will continue to be! 


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