Friday, January 30, 2015

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: ACOK, Prologue - Jon I

* PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL RE-READ POSTS WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS FOR ALL PUBLISHED WORKS IN THE SONG OF ICE & FIRE UNIVERSE. *

Once again I've been reminded how amazing the beginning of Clash of Kings is.I even enjoyed Tyrion I, though that's likely because of his interactions with Cersei and Varys more than anything else ;) And while Bran I of ACOK is a bit of a disappointment, there's so much other awesome stuff going on with other Starks - Arya and Sansa and even Jon (I'm of the opinion that pretending he's not a Stark is more than a little bit silly at this point) - that I can shrug off yet another boring Bran chapter just fine, thank you.

First, though, I suppose I should touch on the prologue and poor Maester Cressen. Silly man, thinking he could mess with Melisandre...though his reasons were good ones, which makes his death as sad as it is frustrating. We all know what follies Stannis gets up to later; it's hard not to grit my own damn teeth when re-reading this chapter. Especially when Cressen thinks to himself, "Stannis, my lord, my sad sullen boy, son I never had, you must not do this, don't you know how I have cared for you, lived for you, loved you despite all? Yes, Loved you, better than Robert even, or Renly, for you were the one unloved, the one who needed me most."

But of course I also know better than to get attached to ASOIAF prologue characters, though I suppose it's only AGOT and ACOK that feature ones worth caring about. (Considering ASOS is the murder-plotting Night's Watch brothers, AFFC is the Citadel novices, and ADWD is Varamyr Sixskins - all interesting prologues in their own right, but not characters I truly FEEL for.)

Anyway, beginning with Maester Cressen and continuing through much of ACOK, we hear a lot about that damn red comet. You know, the one that signifies everything from Joffrey's rise to power to dragons to the end of summer and more...yet apparently disappears and maybe was never that important to begin with.

This is my MS Paint version of the comet. Note: It's practically impossible to draw a comet that doesn't look like sperm.

Of course everyone wants the comet to mean something different, but Sansa has the right of it when she muses that the reasoning she's hearing from people in the Red Keep is, essentially, forced. Personally I subscribe to the theory that it simply has to do with Dany's dragons hatching...plus Varys has a somewhat similar view, though his wording is of course a bit off (for reasons that only become obvious later): "They say it comes as a herald before a king, to warn of fire and blood to follow.'" Is there anyone out there who actually thinks the comet has anything to do with anyone other than Dany? (Genuinely curious, here!)

Speaking of Sansa...Sansa my bb, my bb! Her lot in life has only gotten worse since we left her at the end of AGOT, and after some things I've gone through in my own life, her chapters get more and more difficult to read every time...perhaps because I pick out more and more details of her abuse at the hands of Joffrey and his Kingsguard (really, pretty much everyone in the Red Keep). It probably doesn't help that there are actually people out there who either simply don't think she's got it all that bad, or who outright think she deserves what she's getting.

While plenty of important things happen in Sansa's first ACOK chapter, there are a few that really stand out to me. First, the fact that pretty much immediately after she finally saw Joffrey's true nature, she became repulsed by him. When he takes hold of her hand, she remembers, "Once that would have sent her heart to pounding, but that was before he had answered her plea for mercy by presenting her with her father's head. His touch filled her with revulsion now, but she knew better than to show it. She made herself sit very still."

Sansa is learning, learning quickly, and surviving. On top of that, she's not lost her innate kindness - she is sweet to Tommen during the tournament, and of course she saves Ser Dontos's life...which brings me to the other thing I really wanted to talk about.

That being, Sandor. Sansa specifically points out that "Joff never asked the Hound to punish her". I've read some metas that state this is because Joffrey looked to the Hound as a big brother or perhaps even father figure, and that's why he doesn't sic his 'dog' on Sansa. I agree that there definitely should be some reasoning like that behind it, but I also can't help but hope that despite everything, Sandor will come back to play a part in Sansa's life later on. Post-Quiet-Isle, of course...but now I'm getting ahead of myself.

Point being, I think it's pretty rare that Martin does something - to this extent, at least - that has little or no meaning to it. Joffrey is long gone (no, not in ACOK, but soon enough), but Sandor and Sansa are still around...and with as much as Sandor pops up in Sansa's presence (and later, when he's no longer around, her thoughts), I can't help but believe that they will cross paths again. And the only way for that to work in any sort of positive or even neutral manner is for him to have never beaten her at Joffrey's behest, you know?

While I'm on Stark kids, Bran is kind of a brat right now, but I do always get a guilty chuckle out of his howling with the wolves. Now, some of what he wants to do - namely fighting beside Robb like Grey Wind - we know will never come to pass. But Bran also talks about finding Arya and Sansa, and ripping out the Kingslayer's throat, and I wonder if eventually one or more of those things will come to pass. Probably it's just him throwing wishes to the wind, but man, the more I read these books the harder it is to not search out more and more ridiculous hidden meanings ::sigh::

Meanwhile Arya is basically just being shuffled into place for more important things, though I think it's essential to point out that (a) she begins wishing that the river would wash King's Landing away, only to remember that Sansa's there, at which point Arya decides to wish for Winterfell instead, and (b) Yoren clarifies that Ned was supposed to come with them, but things changed at the last minute - and this leads back to Joffrey. The former hopefully foretells of a brighter future for Arya and Sansa (hopefully!), while the latter is important to much of Arya's storyline, including her 'prayers', at least until someone else finally does kill Joffrey.

I'm sure it's pretty obvious by now that the deeper I delve into this re-read, the harder it's going to be for me to separate what's happening now from what I know happens later and from fan theories that have ingrained themselves in my brain...and nowhere was this more apparent than toward the end of Jon's first chapter in ACOK. First, Mormont's raven keeps saying "King", and though Jon jokes that perhaps the bird wants Mormont to be king, Mormont's eyes never leave Jon Snow, which makes Jon "feel odd". He then asks Mormont why he told him the story of Maester Aemon, who joined the Night's Watch to avoid being used in the "game of thrones", as it were. Mormont does give him a reason, but first he says, "Must I have a reason?" Which kind of makes me wonder if he has some ideas about Jon that he keeps to himself. Though of course, how he could have gotten those ideas... ::shrug:: One just never can tell with these books, amiright?

All that said, not once but twice, Jon reminds Mormont that he plans to keep his vow to the Night's Watch...and sometimes I feel like the only person who trusts in R+L=J but would prefer Jon Snow to stay far away from the Iron Throne. And not because I have some sort of strong dislike for his character - generally I'm neutral on him. I actually just don't think he would want to rule, and the idea of him being in a relationship with Dany (which is the other thing that usually comes with Jon ending up on or near the Iron Throne) just seems incredibly boring and un-GRRM-like to me.

And now that this entry is insanely long, it's on to the second set of ACOK chapters for me!

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Confessions



I confess...I'm getting to the point where I'm fairly certain I'd be happiest becoming a recluse, never having to leave my house or deal with people ever again.

I confess...I have a newfound obsession with baking homemade bread. I did it for the first time on Friday and just HAD to bake another loaf yesterday. The kneading is obviously my favorite part.

I confess...I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel last night and I still can't decide how I feel about it.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: AGOT, Jon IX - Daenerys X

* PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL RE-READ POSTS WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS FOR ALL PUBLISHED WORKS IN THE SONG OF ICE & FIRE UNIVERSE. *

And I've finally finished AGOT!

Of course I only had three chapters left after my last recap, but as they're the last three, a lot of things finally come to fruition. First, Jon attempts to "run away" because he's like fourteen (fifteen?) and not thinking straight. Also because he's always kind of indecisive and whiny.

Sorry, Jon just really gets on my nerves sometimes. I don't even hate him; I just don't care. Poor Jon Snow.

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So Jon runs away and his friends bring him back. Or, as Mormont put it, "honor" brings him back. (His friends' honor, that is.) It's funny, re-reading this chapter and being so frustrated with Jon made me think about all the other times, both before and after, that one friend or another (or a group of them) helps (or outright makes) things work out for him. Kind of interesting how that's the case, and yet Mormont is also constantly reminding him that "The things we love destroy us every time".

Let's just say I much prefer the advice, "The hard truths are the ones to hold tight."

But that's less about AGOT and more about me, so moving on ;) Jon makes it back to Castle Black, Mormont gives him a good talking-to, makes him promise not to run off again, and then announces that they'll be going beyond the Wall. And so, just like that, we are pushed into Jon's ACOK storyline.

Meanwhile Catelyn is dealing with the news of Ned's death, as well, though in a much less annoying fashion.

Okay, okay, I'll stop hating on Jon for now. Promise.

Really though, while Catelyn's final AGOT chapter is frustrating in its own right, it's less to do with her and more because it goes back and forth between her thoughts on what's going on, her father's half-nonsensical musings, and the annoying debate between Robb's bannermen. The only thing that really stuck out to me - until the rousing end of the chapter, that is - was Tytos Blackwood kneeling at Riverrun's heart tree with all the Northern lords. Perhaps it's nothing important, really, but considering how he pops back up in Jaime's storyline, it's hard to not read anything into this at all.

Additionally, Catelyn's line "She asked herself what gods she kept these days, and could not find an answer" really stuck out to me...if only because of her later fate. (Or maybe, in a way, lack of it?)

And then of course, "King in the North"!

I've said it before and I'll say it again; I'm not a big Robb fan. Don't hate him. Don't particularly care about him, to be honest. Yet it still "gets" me every time, when the Greatjon names Robb King in the North and all the other bannermen follow suit.


In conclusion, dragons!

Okay, so there's actually way more to Dany's final AGOT chapter than her dragons - including some passages that gave me pause, though as always it's at least a little bit likely that I'm reading into things. The first one to jump out at me was her promise to Jorah that "one day you shall have from my hands a longsword like none the world has ever seen, dragon-forged and made of Valyrian steel". Although I'm not a big proponent of some future where Dany and Jon are married and ruling together, my first thought was "hmm, wonder if she will end up handing Longclaw off to him somehow". That said, now that there are dragons again, maybe she'll actually be able to make him another Valyrian steel sword somehow? Or maybe nothing will come of it at all, since in her current storyline she's banished Jorah, anyway. (Though I don't really believe that nothing will come of it.)

And because this is ASOIAF and it's basically impossible to not read into things, I'm suddenly really interested in the placement of the dragon eggs...
"She climbed the pyre herself to place the eggs around her sun-and-stars. The black beside his heart, under his arm. The green beside his head, his braid coiled around it. The cream-and-gold down between his legs." 
Another thing that probably isn't all that important, but hey, when you're waiting this long for the next book that you just keep re-reading the first five over and over again, it's hard to not nitpick stuff like that. And to be honest I'm interested in hearing if anyone else thinks there may be some importance to the way Dany placed each specific egg!

One final thought: it really is a good sign that the first time that I read AGOT, got to the end, and "witnessed" the birth of Dany's dragons, I didn't think it was ridiculous. Until ASOIAF, I'd always been more of a sci-fi girl when it came to the books I read...but Game of Thrones proved to me that fantasy can be done right. It opened up whole new worlds for me - in reading, in writing, and in real life.

Little did I know what I was getting myself into at the time...though that became quite a bit more clear with A Clash of Kings. And with that, I move on to ACOK, which at the moment I still consider my favorite of the five published books :) Pin It

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: AGOT, Catelyn X - Tyrion IX

* PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL RE-READ POSTS WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS FOR ALL PUBLISHED WORKS IN THE SONG OF ICE & FIRE UNIVERSE. *

Now that we're down to the wire, it's like one thing after another in AGOT. Jaime's capture in the Whispering Wood, Dany insisting that Mirri Maz Duur save Drogo (at any and all cost[s]), Ned's death, news of his death reaching Winterfell, Sansa as a full-on prisoner in King's Landing, Dany losing her child and offing Drogo, and finally, news of Jaime's capture reaching Tywin...and Tyrion, who is then sent to King's Landing "to rule".



Phew. That's...a lot. Honestly I read these seven chapters a lot faster than all the ones that came before - once I got going I didn't want to stop. (Hey, it's ASOIAF...maybe it's more like I couldn't stop. Don't lie, you know what I mean!)

I've always felt a bit off about what happened in the Whispering Wood, but reading this now I wonder if maybe it's just reading about the battle from Catelyn's point of view. Her chapter begins with some great observations and descriptions, gets pretty jumbled in the middle, and then ends with some awesome Jaime quips. It still feels a bit off to me, but the more I read it the more I get out of it/remember about it, I suppose. So at least there's that.

As for Daenerys, she inspires and maddens me by turns - though in Dany VIII and IV, it's the other way around. (First she maddens me with the mess she makes of Drogo's situation and the fact that she simply "can't talk" to tell Jorah that he shouldn't bring her into the tent, then she inspires me with her recitation of the lines, ""All her fear was gone, burned away...All the grief has been burned out of me...If she looked back she was lost...If I look back I am lost...If I look back I am lost...If I look back I am lost...If I look back I am lost...")

More importantly, though (at least, I think/hope so) are some other things that Dany thinks and sees in these chapters. First, the fact that she muses over how her brother Rhaegar "died for the woman he loved", and that two chapters later Bran makes a comment that Robert was betrothed to marry Lyanna, "but Rhaegar carried her off and raped her" is...quite interesting, and not something I've ever picked up on before. Maybe it's meaningless in terms of its juxtaposition, but I certainly found myself wondering who the hell told Bran that his aunt was "carried off and raped". Maester Luwin doesn't argue against this point of view either, which is...concerning. I understand that Dany was likely to hear her version of the story regardless of whether Lyanna was kidnapped and raped or whether she went willingly, but man I would like to know more about Bran's version of the story and where it came from!

Back to Dany, though - she sees shadows of "a great wolf" and "a man wreathed in flames" dancing with Mirri Maz Duur in the tent. Clearly Robb and Stannis, of course, but I feel like usually what she sees in the shadows is glossed over in favor of the later, more specific visions and prophecies that surround her. Additionally, I'm very interested in hearing any and all interpretations of this passage:

"And [she] saw her brother Rhaegar, mounted on a stallion as black as his armor. Fire glimmered red through the narrow eye slit of his helm. 'The last dragon,' Ser Jorah's voice whispered faintly. 'The last, the last.' Dany lifted his polished black visor. The face within was her own."
I'm hesitant to say what I think this means because I'm either (a) reading *way* too much into it or (b) missing something important. Thoughts, anyone?

Anyway, up in Winterfell there are plenty of generally concerning things going on outside of Bran's take on Lyanna's fate. I wonder if Bran's request for a poleaxe - so that he and Hodor can "be a knight together" - followed by Maester Luwin's warning that this is unlikely, as "when a man fights, his arms and legs and thoughts must be as one", was more overshadowing than I gave (give) it credit for. Not just for what's already happened in terms of Bran warging into Hodor, but perhaps what's to come, as well? Ugh, the very thought makes me shudder...perhaps even more than Rickon's patting Shaggydog's nose, getting Luwin's (and maybe Summer's?) blood all over his hand, and then licking his fingers. Wherefore art thou, my little cannibal Rickon... ;)

Speaking of Starks, that brings me to Arya and Sansa in King's Landing. Both girls are surviving, though at this point it's in a sort of "just barely" state. Thankfully, they're both learning fast - Arya is feeding herself and "seeing with her eyes" rather than assuming things are safe (not stealing from the baker's cart when the gold cloaks are close by; not approaching the Wind Witch without thinking and realizing none too soon that it's a trap). As for Sansa, she already knows better than to trust the Lannister servants that wait on her, and she also does a good job of reminding herself of the advice given to her by Littlefinger and Sandor.

Yet in both girls' cases, it's a good thing they have people watching over them - Yoren stumbling across Arya and essentially taking her under his wing, and Sandor giving Sansa that aforementioned advice and then later stopping her from trying to murder Joffrey (and likely kill herself in the process).

I don't know if it's because of what I've been through the past year and a half or so, or if I'm just generally more sensitive because of my current mental and emotional state, but I'll admit this: reading this Sansa chapter was hard. Much harder than it's ever been before. I'm not even sure I can place exactly why, but I found myself rushing through it, wanting it to be over, and suddenly dreading her chapters in ACOK.

Don't worry though, I'll buckle down and get through them, like I do with everything :p

Anyway, Ned's finally dead and although, thanks to Yoren, we missed seeing his death through Arya's eyes, we basically relive it with Sansa. One thing I wanted to point out is that it seemed to me, on this read-through, as if Sansa was saying that she actually liked dreaming about her father's death, because at least she was dreaming about him/at least in her dreams he was still there for a moment, or something? Maybe I'm misreading that...it threw me for a bit of a loop, to be honest, so I kind of hope I am.

Last and very much least, one final Tyrion chapter! To me this one is more about placing people where they need to be - mainly Tywin going to Harrenhal and sending Tyrion to King's Landing to deal with Joffrey - than anything else, though I did pick out this particular quote:

"Lord Tywin was oft quiet in council, preferring to listen before he spoke, a habit Tyrion himself tried to emulate."
Do you really, Tyrion? Really? You, who is constantly kicking yourself over how much your big mouth gets you in trouble?

I think that's all I need to say about that ;) And now, on to the last three chapters! Pin It

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tara's ASOIAF Re-Read: AGOT, Tyrion VII - Tyrion VIII

* PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL RE-READ POSTS WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS FOR ALL PUBLISHED WORKS IN THE SONG OF ICE & FIRE UNIVERSE. *

I can't lie - even after all of my bitching about Tyrion, the chapter that started off this part of my re-read is a good one. Mostly because we finally meet the infamous Tywin Lannister, but also I have to admit that there's probably no better way to meet Tywin than through the very jaded eyes of his absolute least favorite child.

Side note: Sometimes the show really got things right, and one of those things was casting Charles Dance in this role. Oh, and not giving him those ridiculous "side-whiskers, two great thickets of wiry golden hair that covered most of his cheeks from ear to jaw."

Seriously, this is what I picture.  Much better sans side-whiskers.

I mean really though, if "Lord Tywin did not believe in half measures", why not shave it all off?

Anyway, on to more important things...like Sansa!

Seriously though, Sansa V is a pretty darn important chapter, both in terms of her own character development and the things she witnesses. First, she's gone from being an important member of the court - the future queen, and all - to being the daughter of a traitor. And she's treated as such; men and women who were once friendly to her now won't even look at her. She's a pariah. Yet she takes that in stride and stays throughout the entire session, even allowing herself to hope, when she hears them list Arya's name, that her sister made it onto the galley and then to Winterfell.

Before Sansa's truly big moment, though, we see Ser Barristan ousted from the Kingsguard and Sandor Clegane brought up to take his place. I honestly don't know as if this scene really 'hit' me the first couple of times I read it, but now I find myself chuckling at Cersei and Joffrey's folly, and also questioning how they were ever allowed to do things like dismiss a member of the Kingsguard for the first time ever...and then replace him with a man who, much as I love him, refused to say a knight's vows. And even told the entire court he wouldn't ever do so.

Ohhh Lannisters.

And then Sansa finally works up to presenting herself before the king and the queen regent to beg for her father's life. I really don't understand how even the most misogynistic Sansa hater can't look at that and say, "Wow, an 11-year-old girl got up in front of 'king and country' to apologize for her traitorous father. Because regardless of what we readers think or know, and even despite the fact that Sansa herself doesn't truly believe that her father is a traitor, she knows that's what everyone else thinks, and she plays the game as best she can in hopes of saving him."

But yes, I know there are still plenty of Sansa haters out there who refuse to look at things that way. So moving on...Ned is bothered by the past and assaulted by the present in the form of Varys, who shows up in one of his myriad disguises to teach Ned a thing or two about what he wants and about who really suffers during these games of thrones. Because yeah, once in a while GRRM says something really meaningful and quotable.

Even more important, though - at least in my opinion - are Ned's thoughts about Lyanna and her bed of blood...and Jon. The fact that only a couple of chapters later, Daenerys meets Mirri Maz Duur, who tells her "I know every secret of the bloody bed"...I mean come on, how heavy-handed can ya be, Mr. Martin? ;)

Speaking of Dany, I find it interesting that when she attempts to "save" the Lhazareen women from being raped, Jorah tells her that she is Rhaegar's sister, "in truth". Personally I'm still torn on whether or not Rhaegar took Lyanna against her will, and while I know that Jorah isn't exactly the best judge of [moral] character, this particular passage really stuck out at me as perhaps a bit more proof that Rhaegar wouldn't have kidnapped and raped Lyanna Stark. Ah, the things we may never know...

Meanwhile Drogo is dealing with some gross (and as we all know, eventually fatal) injuries and Jon is back to being a bit whiny despite the talking-tos he receives from both LC Mormont and Maester Aemon. Plus Robb arrives at the Twins, Catelyn deals with Walder Frey on his behalf, and the alliance that ends up being the ruin of the soon-to-be-King-in-the-North is struck.

Things are moving along quickly at this point and several of them come to a head in Tyrion VIII. Shae has finally arrived on the scene, and well, we all know how that turns out. I mean honestly, even in the way Tyrion describes her it's clear that she's trouble. Silly Tyrion for basically forgetting who and what she is, even as he later constantly reminds himself.

But I digress. There's a battle, Tywin thinks he's won, but it turns out Robb isn't stupid! Sorry not sorry, Tywin. He's a great character and I'm no big fan of Robb, but the end of this Tyrion chapter always puts a bit of a smirk on my face, when the boy essentially outsmarts the legendary commander.

And now I've got just two recaps left for AGOT! It's amazing how much more interesting this stuff seems now that I've read it several times...I know that probably doesn't make much sense, but the first time I ever read A Game of Thrones, I wasn't really hooked until after Ned died. Only in hindsight do I understand how much I was really missing... Pin It

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Confessions



I confess...my right foot is [still] in pain from the 5K that I ran on Saturday :-/ I run 5-6 mornings a week, and I didn't have this problem the last time I ran a 5K, so I'm just hoping it's nothing serious.

I confess...I spent wayyy too much money at Barnes & Noble yesterday...but hey, at least it was on reference books, right?


I confess...unfortunately having so many great new books to read means I've put off my writing more than I should have, the past couple days. Better get back to the grind!

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sometimes I'm proud of myself.

Yesterday I ran the Greenville News Run Downtown 5K for the third time.

I've run other 5K's, and they've all been fun, but as this was my first ever road race - back in January 2011 - it has special meaning to me. From now on I think I'll try to run it every year, and then, as usual, follow it up with breakfast and spiked coffee at Coffee Underground :)

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A lot has changed since that first time I ran this race. I didn't think to time myself back then, so I didn't make under 30 minutes like I wanted to - but I *was* under 31 minutes, and I'm fairly certain I didn't cross the start line until the race was a good 50 seconds in.

I know better now, of course, and these days I clock myself. This time around things were even MORE wonky, though, because I was running late Saturday morning and strolled up to the start line at 8:59 AM...to find out they'd started the race nearly three minutes early! As I broke into a run and crossed the start line, someone shouted that they'd stopped tracking the chips, but I didn't care - I'd already turned RunKeeper on and was ready to go.

For some reason, the first mile was hard, the second easy, and the third just a push to keep up the very steady pace I had going. I think the last time I ran more than two miles was September; the last time I'd run more than three? Well, my last 5K, back in March of last year.

Still, I passed people steadily - rarely did someone pass me - and in the end I finished in 26:30...according to my phone, of course. Since I'd "started" the race nearly three minutes late, though, my "official" time was a bit off...


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But hey, 564th out of 1,328 people? With a late start?

I'm happy.

I'm a bit sore today, but I'm happy.

And that runner's high worked itself into other aspects of my life. I ate well yesterday. I wrote a bit, edited a bit, plotted a bit. I read a lot. I watched a movie. I hung out with my sister and my beautiful niece.

And today, even though I'm a bit sore, I went for a short jog with my pups, brushed them, ate a hearty breakfast, cooked a nice dinner, went out and picked up some writing and travel books with my Christmas gift cards, and more.

All in all, a successful weekend. And yeah, getting my butt out of bed and running that 5K yesterday was the main reason why it was successful :) Pin It