What I'm Watching - Victoria

Are you guys watching Victoria on PBS?

Jenna Coleman is outstanding as the title character. I've been a big fan of hers since her Doctor Who days. Her portrayal of the pint sized queen is perfection.  She has amazing chemistry with the two leading men: Rufus Sewell as her trusted adviser, Lord Melbourne, and of course, her beloved Prince Albert, played by Tom Hughes.

The series is written by Daisy Goodwin. I've read her stuff before (see here), and must say I am enjoying her much more as a TV writer than author.

The only part I'm not loving is the whole story line with the palace servants. I feel they're trying to do a little Upstairs, Downstairs thing (another great series by the way), and it's not really working for me. I only care about Victoria's story line, and hate the interruption. It's like comparing queens to commoners; oh wait, that's exactly what it is and unfortunately the gap between those two worlds is just too big to bridge in one show.

However, I just found out that this is not a mini-series like I thought it was, and is actually a seasonal series! So, I guess the additional characters make a bit more sense with additional seasons to get to know them. As of yet, I have no vested interest in any of them though. Couldn't even tell you there character names and I'm four episodes in already.

Don't let my one complaint deter you though. The costumes and settings more than make-up for any shortcoming in story, and again, Victoria's story lines are sublime.

If you haven't started watching it, PBS is still airing past episodes online and on their app.

I swear, between this and Netflix's The Crown I've got my period dramas covered and I love learning more about these two amazing queens. Queen Victoria ruled for 63 years, and Queen Elizabeth II just hit that milestone herself and is now England's longest reigning monarch. The lives these two ladies have lived. I love it!


2017 Valentine's Day Gift Guide - Men

We can't forget about that special man in your life.  Here's a few great Valentine's Day ideas for him too.

Scratch Map | $26-$40
Such a great way to track all the places you've visited together, and inspiration to start planning your next great adventure.

Yellow Submarine Lego Set | $59.99
Does your guy totally geek out to any specific fandom? Most likely there's a fun Lego set to coincide. This Beatles Yellow Submarine set is cool and colorful, and there are a ton of other fun sets out there too.

If you can manage to find one (we've been trying since November with no luck), the NES Classic Edition is a fun nostalgic gift for your guy. 30 classic Nintento games built into one tiny system. Just be prepared to lose your guy for hours at a time as he takes a walk down memory lane. 

A stylish and small emergency tool kit is a practical gift every guy will want. Even if he never uses it, he'll love feeling like he's prepared for everything.

Amazon Echo Dot | $49.99
Play music, control lights, ask questions - this little disc packs a lot of punch and will make your guy feel like he's living in the future today.

Besides gifts, how are you expecting to spend your Valentine's Day? Do you love it or dread it?


2017 Valentine's Day Gift Guide - Women

I can't believe it's February already, which means Valentine's Day is almost upon us! I rounded up a few ideas if you're stuck on what to get your special lady. Here we go!

Heartstagram Framing | $39
Framebridge is offering these 11x11 frames for all your favorite photos. Just upload your picture on their site, pick your frame, and they'll mail you the finished product.  The heart-shaped mats are too cute!

Silk Eye Mask | $45
A silk mask instantly makes bedtime a more luxurious experience. It comes in lots of colors too, but the red or pink would be especially apropos for Valentine's Day.

Perfume is always a classic, so pick her up a pretty bottle of her favorite scent. If you're unsure what she likes, you can never go wrong with Chanel No. 5.

If you're going to do heart shaped jewelry, might I suggest this adorable Kate Spade necklace? It's modern, fun, and perfect for everyday wear.

Some pretty new make-up brushes will make getting ready each day just a little more special - pretty and practical.

Do you and your significant other exchange Valentine's Day gifts? What do you hope to get from them? What do you give?

P.S. For more great ideas, check out 2016 Valentine's Day Gift Guide - Women.


My Fashion Uniform

I've been wanting to do more personal fashion posts, but I've been a little unsure whether I had anything interesting or useful to contribute to the conversation of clothes. Plus, there are a lot of really great fashion blogs out there already. However, a lot of them seem really unattainable to me. Either the blogger looks like they could be a straight up model or the prices are way out of my league. I really love fashion though (plus recently lost about 20 pounds, so feeling more confidant than usual), and thought I'd go ahead and give it a try. So, for all you short, curvy, regular gals out there, let's talk clothes!

I basically have a fashion uniform, and this is it. A henley blouse, skinny jeans, and ballet flats. I also try to accent with some fun jewelry whenever I can.
Why does this outfit work so well for me? First, a henley blouse is flattering on all, but it's especially flattering on my body type. I try to stay away from anything that hugs my stomach area (hello, two kids!!). The drape of a henley works well to camouflage your mid-section. I'm also on the busty side and can't really do button down shirts (they gap between the buttons across at the chest). The little pintuck on this v-neck brings just enough structure for the ideal fit and flare fit. The cream blouse also has a bit of texture and a nice tone-on-tone pattern for some added visual interest.

Moving on to the jeans. Again, the skinny jean is pretty universally flattering. When you're carrying a few extra pounds you want to streamline your silhouette as much as possible. Skinny jeans don't add any extra bulk to your legs and have a great slimming effect. They're called skinny jeans because they make you look skinnier, not because they're only for skinny women. Then, the blackish color is a fun change of pace from your ordinary blue jean.

Finally, the shoes. Ballet flats are classic and comfortable. While I love a great heel, I've come to terms with my height (4'11" for the win!) and find I like the ease of movement a great flat can provide. The burgundy color brings a little contrast keeping what is essentially a basic black and white outfit from being too boring.

I especially love this look because it can easily get me through an entire day. My day job has a very casual dress code - jeans and sneakers allowed daily. So, it's more than pulled together enough for the office, comfortable enough for all the after work running around I need to do as a mom, and just dressy enough to go out to dinner and a movie with friends.

A closer look at a few details.
I echoed the cream of the blouse in my choice of earrings.
A delicate gold necklace is versatile and goes with everything.

Blouse: Cream henley blouse (similar here)
Pants: Old Navy Mid-Rise Rock Star Jeans (similar here)
Jewelry: Kate Spade Disco Pansy Flower Stud Earrings | Pottery Barn Kids Gold Name & Date Tag Necklace (similar here)

I'm looking forward to building a new wardrobe as most of my current clothes including all shown here are getting too big for me! My goal is to build a really versatile wardrobe. Ideally, I'd like to be able to make at least three distinct outfits with each piece of clothing I own, and I plan to share them all with you! Stay tuned!


Books - The Spice Of Life

Are you ready to add some instant art to your child's room for under $20! Good, cause I'm about to show you how.

First, let's take a walk down memory lane here in Seamus's room. When we moved in, it looked like this. Bright blue walls, sponge paint, airplanes, and a wonky rail around the room.
After we painted (Benjamin Moore Cement Gray for the walls and Pure White for the doors and trim), it was vastly improved, but still pretty bare. I wanted something for the little wall space to the right of the closet that was fun and colorful, but still had some sort of function.
Enter IKEA and their $4 spice racks (these here). There's a million uses for these handy-dandy little shelves (just google IKEA spice racks and see), but I wanted to particularly use them to display books and add a bit of color to Seamus's walls.
I thought about painting them, but decided to leave the natural wood for now. It goes well with his dresser and stools (see here and here).
Picking the books was a little harder than I thought it would be. I wanted lots of yellow and red, but found a few punches of white helped balance things out. 
Picture books are really little pieces of art already, so it was fun to get some of my favorites off the bookshelf and on display. I'm sure to be continually shuffling these around all the time.
There you have it.  $16 for the shelves, and a couple of bucks for screws. As always, thank you to Bill for hanging them up!! I think I'll be adding some to Madeleine's room too, but I'm going to paint hers white first. Stay tuned!

And, in case you're wondering, from top to bottom, the books on the shelves are:
  Curious George by H.A. Rey
  Mix It Up! by Herve Tullet (which I talked more about here)
  One Thousand Things by Anna Kovecses
  The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
  Who Done It? by Olivier Tallec
  Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Peña
  The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
  My Big Dinosaur Book by Roger Priddy
  Bugs Galore by Peter Stein and illustrated by Bob Staake
  I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg and illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast 


Let's Go To The Movies - Hidden Figures

My two BFFs and I went to the movies over the weekend and saw Hidden Figures!

During the Space Race of the early 1960's, NASA needs only the best and brightest if they're going to beat the Russians to the moon. Three extraordinary African American women rise to the challenge despite enormous obstacles and opposition from their peers in segregated Virginia.

Finally a "based on a true story" movie about amazing women!! Woo-hoo!!

There was so much to applaud about this film, the story being number one. It so needed to be told and is long overdue. It was surprising enough to find out women were forging ahead in the fields of mathematics, engineering, and computers at NASA in the early 1960's, but when you add on the fact that they were African American women to boot, it's beyond impressive. Such pioneers these women. And who knew NASA was so ahead of its time, you know, besides the whole space travel thing.

I loved the look and feel of the film too. It was bright, colorful, and full of great music and energy. Impressive and moving performances by Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe, and especially Octavia Spencer. They each brought their all to their respective individual stories, but especially shined when together. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen such chemistry between a group of females on screen before. Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, and Mahershala Ali rounded out the rest of the ensemble cast nicely.  

The fact that Hidden Figures felt so incredibly fresh and relevant here in 2017 is unequivocal proof of how rarely true stories of women of color are featured in film. The fact that this movie is doing great at the box office is why they need to be told more. There is an audience for these films - great date movie, great Girls Night Out movie, great family movie. Great movie!

P.S. The Oscar nominations came out yesterday. Hidden Figures nabbed three nominations including Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer and Best Picture!


Why I Marched

I debated for a while whether or not to write about why I participated in the Womens March this past weekend. This isn't a political blog, nor do I want it to be; but it is a lifestyle blog of which my life is front and center. So, while I don't want to get into a huge political discussion here, I think it's important that we, no matter what our beliefs, get more involved in the political process; so I wanted to share why I marched.
At the core of my specific political beliefs are some underlying principles that I try to live by, hope others do as well, and especially expect from those elected to represent me in government - kindness, equality, respect, and generosity.  Yet, for the first time in my adult life, I am disheartened to find I see none of these qualities reflected in our current president.  

In addition, I found it deeply concerning that almost half our country's population either agreed with this man's rhetoric and behavior, or chose to turn a blind eye to it in exchange for keeping their party in charge. I guarantee you if the situation were reversed, I would have happily crossed party lines when casting my vote as some things are just more important than one's personal politics.

But, alas, here we are, and I'm afraid I see an America more akin to that of my parent's generation then the progressive and modern country I thought we had become. One that is scared of diversity instead of celebrating it. One that values money and greed over compassion and love. One that wants to build a wall to keep out "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" instead of welcoming them in with open arms.

And you know what, I take my share of responsibility for that. I was complacent. I took my rights and the rights of others for granted. I thought what was hard fought and won by others was now safe for all eternity, and for that naive and misguided view I'm truly sorry. It's time for me to atone. It's time for me to do my part. This election showed me that. It woke me up, and you better believe I'm paying attention now. I could no longer sit on the sidelines just watching and waiting to see how this all unfolds.

So, I marched.