Let's Go to the Movies - The Fault in our Stars and Maleficent

After reading John Green’s, The Fault in Our Stars earlier this year (see here), I mentioned that I was looking forward to seeing the movie. I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint.

If you’re unfamiliar, the premise is two teenagers fall in love, and oh yeah, they both have cancer. As dismal as I’m sure that sounds, it’s actually a really sweet story. I think it is easy to dismiss young love when you’re older as not real, but what if you’re not meant to live a long life? It’s an interesting concept to explore, and makes for a very touching story.

This was also a rare case where the movie was equally as good as the book. I already knew the casting when I was reading it; so it’s easy to say that Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort were perfectly cast when that’s who I was always picturing as the characters in the first place. They had really great chemistry onscreen, and it was fun to watch them bring these characters to life.

I especially enjoyed the parts set in Amsterdam. It’s not a city I am too familiar with, but it looked so beautiful in the film. It definitely made me want to check it out in person someday. I also really liked Hazel’s wardrobe in the movie. It was such a simple jeans and T-shirt look, and it all looked so comfy. Even when she dressed up, the looks were effortless and comfortable.

If you’re a big fan of the book, well, I’m sure you’ve already seen it, but on the off chance you haven’t yet I would definitely recommend it. You won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t read the book, I’m not 100% certain this is a must-see movie. It’s good, but it will be just as good watching it on your living room couch after it comes out on DVD.

Another movie I saw recently was Disney’s Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie. Angelina is one of my favorite actresses, but she really doesn’t do too many films anymore (her last was The Tourist in 2010). I think it was such a fun role for her to take on, and it really suited her brilliantly. So much so, that I’m actually having trouble distinguishing whether I really enjoyed the film, or I just enjoyed her.

I liked the twist on the classic Sleeping Beauty tale. Was Maleficent a real villain, or just a victim of circumstance? Or maybe she’s not a villain at all, and the tale we all know just isn’t true. The setting was beautiful, dark, and moody; but I was aware that there was a lot of CG going on throughout. I also didn’t care for the enlarged heads on the three little fairies – they just looked off the entire time.

I loved seeing Sharlto Copley as King Stefen. He’s been a favorite of mine since District 9. I thought Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora was only okay. She seemed to be trying way too hard. I’m not sure I can blame her though. It had to be tough trying to keep up with Angelina Jolie in a role she was just so suited for. Angelina just made this movie. All in all, Maleficent was a great movie because Angelina Jolie was great in it.


My New Jam - All About That Bass

Happy Friday everyone! Have you heard Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass yet? It's sure to put you in a good mood and such a good message.

Have a great weekend!


Book Report - The Body Book

I recently read "The Body Book" by Cameron Diaz. This was a total impulse buy while shopping at Target not long ago. To best describe the read, just imagine if Cameron Diaz taught you health class.
Image from here
It is what it says, a book about the body. It's not just about nutrition, although that is a large portion. It's everything from what makes up your body, to how it works, to how best to maintain it. The material is a little dry sometimes, but there are enough "You go girls" in there from Cameron to keep it interesting.

I enjoyed the sections on body movement best and needed the reminder that our bodies want to be in motion.

My favorite quote from the book was:

"Discipline is having a strong awareness that your choices have impact and that your actions make a difference."

I gotta admit she's a great cheerleader.

Have you read this? What did you think? In general, how do you feel about beautiful and wealthy celebrities writing books like these. It didn't annoy me like I thought I would. I think it actually made me like her more.


Disney Project - Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros

The next two movies up in the Disney Project are Saludos Amigos from 1943 and The Three Caballeros from 1944. Both movies were made to highlight Latin and South America to try and garner goodwill between the US and these countries during the war years.
Image from here
First up, Saludos Amigos, which is another Disney film made up of a collection of segments rather than a full length feature. The first features Donald Duck vacationing at Lake Titicaca. The second a story about a little Chilean mail plane named Pedro. Next up is a Goofy story telling the history of the Argentine gaucho. Finally, Donald Duck makes a new friend Jose Carioca (the green parrot) from Brazil.

They're all cute enough cartoons, but so different from the Disney movies we're used to now.  I liked the Pedro and Goofy stories best. The Donald Duck segments were a mix of real people and cartoon, and I'm not a huge fan of that style. The most interesting thing for me was learning the origin of gaucho pants.
Image from here
The Three Caballeros is pretty much a continuation of Saludos Amigos...same style, same region. This film is broken into seven segments though - 1) a penguin who vacations in Argentina, 2) a little boy from Uruguay and his flying donkey, 3) Donald and Jose sing about Baia, 4) a group of Mexican children re-enacting the story of Mary and Joseph looking for an inn, 5) Donald, Jose and a new character Panchito Pistoles (a rooster) tour Mexico on a flying sarape, 6) Donald falls in love with a live action woman who sings a song, 7) the finale featuring mostly music and Donald navigating through weird kaleidoscope cartoons.

After just watching Saludos Amigos I was sort of over this concept, so I didn't really enjoy this one as much as the other. I felt it just dragged on and on. Plus, I'm really just not that big a Donald Duck fan.

All in all, I probably won't watch these again. If your kids are little, they may enjoy it. It's good to just have going in the background while they're playing. If your kids are older, they'll probably find both these films dated and sort of dull.  Sorry, Disney, you know I love ya, but they can't all be winners.


The Family That Vans Together...

We're headed on vacation next week, and I realized that neither of the kids have shoes that fit them well. Madeleine's toes are starting to hang out the end of her sandals, and Seamus has just been going barefoot so long now that I can't even get his shoes onto his feet anymore.  In anticipation of all the walking we were going to be doing, I also wanted to get new shoes for myself and have been interested in getting some Vans for a while now.

We found a mall near us that had both Stride Rite and Vans and headed out one Saturday morning.  We got their feet measured at Stride Rite, but were underwhelmed with the selection.  Everything was so juvenile - gaudy colors, characters, etc.  Plus, they were expensive.  I didn't want to pay over $40 a pair for something that I didn't even like.

With measurements in hand I figured I would go to Target later and find something for them.  Then, we headed to the Vans store for me.  The first thing we saw when we walked in were adorable kids shoes - who knew?  So, we looked for the kids too.  Pretty soon Bill was in on the action too. He was feeling nostalgic; apparently he pretty much only wore Vans when he was younger.

Here's what we walked out of there with.

Emily - Authentic Lo Pro in High Rise/True White
Madeleine - Atwood V, Toddlers in Grey/Pink Lemonade
Seamus - Slip On V, Toddlers in Shark (not available online)

I think I'll be buying Vans for the whole family going forward.  They are such classic shoes, but still have a touch of fun and whimsy to them.  Plus, they are super comfortable.

Just for the record, this was not a paid for or sponsored post (I wish).  I think this is a good product, so I just wanted to share.


6 Months In

It's been six months since we moved to Phoenix, so I thought it would be fun to talk about how our new life here compares to our old one in Milwaukee so far.

Milwaukee - Most of Bill's family lives in the Milwaukee area.  My family was in Illinois between 1 and 2 hours away from where we lived.  It was easy to see people, and we were always getting together for birthdays and holidays.

Phoenix - We have no family in Arizona, but surprisingly have still seen quite a lot of our family.  We've had at least one visitor every month since we moved.  My parents came down for New Year's.  Bill's mom, step-dad, and little brother visited in February.  My parents came down again for Seamus' birthday, then later we met up with most of Bill's family at his sister's house in Las Vegas all in March.  We went home for a visit in April.  My brother-in-law on Bill's side and also my little sister both visited in May.  In a few weeks we're headed to California to visit with Bill's dad as well as my older sister and her family who will be vacationing there too.

It's not as easy to see family, and we don't see everyone at one time; but we do still see family. So much so that I really have not missed people very much yet. I do miss getting the kids together though. That was always fun. I was so close to my cousins growing up, and I'm a little bummed my kids won't see their cousins very often.

Advantage - Milwaukee

Milwaukee - By the time we left Milwaukee I only had one close friend there still. The others had moved away over the years. Bill still had a lot of friends, but in the past few years everyone sort of stopped hanging out with each other now that they all had families. I would get together with my friend for lunch about once a month, and we would get the families together every few months. Bill occasionally met a friend out for drinks, or someone might have a party here or there. Honestly, we didn't have much of a social life there anymore.

Phoenix - Those friends I mentioned that all moved away over the years all moved to Phoenix! Yes, my two very best friends in the whole world live in Phoenix. It was part of the reason I was okay moving here. So, I have been enjoying spending time with them. Bill, on the other hand, has not really made any new friends yet. He's hung out with the husbands of my friends a few times, but has yet to meet anyone on his own. He needs to join a club or something. It's hard to make new friends as an adult, right?

Advantage - Phoenix (at least for me)

Milwaukee - Both of us worked outside the home and had between 15-30 minute commutes. My office was like a ghost town though after the company was acquired and a lot of people left.

Phoenix - It was my job that brought us to Phoenix. I'm still doing the same job, but in the corporate headquarters now which are bustling. My commute is about 15 minutes. Bill also retained his current position, but now works remotely from the house. I think he slightly misses the social interaction of being in an office, but that's about it. He likes not having a commute or distractions.

Advantage - Phoenix

Milwaukee - I love downtown Milwaukee and always will. It is such a great old town with a great look and feel. I like the old buildings, the lake, and the trees. There are lots of fun things to do there - festivals and great restaurants. I loved going to Miller Park to watch the Brewers play and would try to catch the ballet or a musical when I could.

Phoenix - Phoenix is a planned city. You don't get the sense that it developed naturally over time because it didn't. All the architecture is exactly the same, and it feels very new everywhere you go. You look one way and it looks very stark and barren, but you look the other and you get to see mountains. A few hours away you have some amazing places too like Sedona and the Grand Canyon. Also, there are a lot of other really cool places and cities that are easily within driving distance. Phoenix is an outdoor city with lots of hiking and mountain biking. They do have a symphony, ballet, etc. but I have yet to check any of them out.

Advantage - Milwaukee

Milwaukee - extremely humid summers and extremely cold winters. You're lucky if you get two weeks of that perfect spring and fall weather before the extremes set in.

Phoenix - extremely hot summers and beautiful springlike weather the rest of the year.

Advantage - Phoenix (obviously)

Milwaukee - I loved our first house in Milwaukee. It was over 100 years old, and had such character. I don't think it was ever a forever home though, and to make it what we wanted we would have priced ourselves out of the neighborhood. I had always thought we would end up in a nice mid-century ranch on a wooded lot in one of the suburbs.

Phoenix - I can't explain it, but our current house felt like home from the moment we got it. Before our stuff was there Bill and I stayed overnight on an air mattress, and we could not believe how comfortable and right it felt even then. It really works for how we live, and has a great flow. It's not old and there are multiple copies of it all around the neighborhood, but we love it so far. It's home.

Advantage - Phoenix

There you have it. Phoenix wins 4 to 2. Maybe I'm just high on the newness of it all, but I have no regrets so far. It's hard to leave your family, but there are so many other wonderful places in the world to live too. I'm glad we have this opportunity to explore someplace new. I don't know if we'll be here forever, but for now, it's where we want to be.


Me Style Pretty One Day

When last we left off here, we were rockin' new white Elfa shelves on our new white walls. The background was set. For me that was the easy part. I'm really good at getting rooms to about 90% finished. I can do the big ticket items, but that last 10% is so hard for me. The styling and all the little details...I get stuck.
We brought down all the books that needed to be housed here, and I also brought down pretty much every decorative accessory that I own - which is surprisingly not many.  After a couple of attempts this is what we created.
I'm pretty happy with it. I think the biggest struggle was trying to mix my different styles from over the years. I've never had this stuff all in one location before. For example, I went through a phase where I only bought leather covered books. I must have secretly thought I was going to end up in an English manor house or something. It was difficult to mix them in with all the other hardcovers and paperbacks that we've accumulated too.
The accessories are things I've bought here or there over the years with no plan of where they would ever go or creating a cohesive look. They're just things I liked in the moment.
Is it perfectly styled? No, but it's what I wanted. A place to hold all our books and games plus display a few things. I'm sure this will continue to be an ever evolving space in our home. I like it though. My favorite activity lately is lounging on the couch gazing at it.


Elfa the Shelf

Between the front door and the stairs in the living room we have a big blank wall.  Right away I knew I wanted tall bookshelves to fill the space, but we decided to wait on buying anything until after we painted the space.  I looked online for ideas, and these from cb2 were my first choice.  They were $399 a pop though, and I needed at least three; which made it much more than I wanted to spend.  Plus, the shelves were stationary and I wanted to be able to move the shelves around.
After the walls were painted, we figured tackling this project would give us some immediate satisfaction and get some much needed color on the walls.  Plus, we have a ton of books that have been crowding up the office since we moved in.  We wanted them out of there.
We headed to the Container Store to check out their Elfa system.  We gave them the dimensions, they drew up the plans, and we waited on pins and needles for the estimate which we estimated was going to be over $1K.  It was $566.70 and we were like, "Wait, what?"  Needless to say, we were sold.  For convenience sake we had them deliver and install it, which added a bit more to the bill, but it still came in hundreds below what we were expecting.  Now our big blank wall looks like this.
I can't wait to style it!!

Living Room Budget 
Paint                             $641.75
Elfa Shelf                      $566.70
Elfa Shelf Installation     $260.00
Total                          $1,468.45


Pretty Fly For A White Room

It's done! It was a long week with painters everyday, half the furniture under tarps, and the rest crammed in our bedroom; but the painting is done. The Red Monster has been replaced by cool, crisp, white walls and I love it!!
So, what exactly got painted?

1 - The walls of the living/dining room, family room, loft, the downstairs hallway, and the upstairs hallway.
2 - The ceilings in all these rooms.
3 - The baseboards in all these rooms.
4 - The doors in all these rooms.

It was a BIG project.
I'm thrilled with the results. It looks so fresh and clean. I think the front door is one of my favorite things. I just love how it disappears into the wall now. It's funny how a different color changes the way other things look too. I never noticed the ceiling fan in the loft before, but with the new paint color it looks really great - practically brand new. I think it will stick around for awhile now. On the flip side, all the lights in the living/dining room and the scones in our upstairs hallway look so yellow, as do all the smoke detectors and such.

One other quick change we made in these rooms was switching out plates on all the light switches and outlets. In most places they were a very ornate oil rubbed bronzed. We switched them all for white, and they look much better.

Next up - fill these big bare walls.  We would like to do a gallery wall of art and photos as well as add some mounted bookshelves. I'll also be back with some pictures of the freshly painted family room and loft. Stay tuned.


Day Date - Hot Air Balloon Ride

Before I share the after photos of our freshly painted rooms, I thought I'd share a fun date Bill and I had last Friday. We took the day off of work and went for a hot air balloon ride!!
This was one of Bill's birthday presents to me, but we took our sweet time about booking it. Mostly because we had to be there by 5:00am and we didn't know what to do with the kids. We ended up just doing it on a weekday, and our awesome babysitter let us drop the kids off at 4:30am.

Bill had booked the trip through Arizona Balloon Safaris using a Groupon to get 50% off. First we met up with them at the local Safeway to check-in. Then we loaded into a van (10 in all) and started the hunt for the perfect take-off spot. I assumed they just always took off at the same location, but not so. We went to four different spots before our pilot declared the last a good location. Then they blew up the balloon.
 This thing was enormous. They started with fans blowing into it as they hooked up all the cables and such.
 Then came the hot air, which was loud and fun too watch.
 Finally, the balloon was vertical.
This was the view looking up. I could not believe how huge this thing was.
Finally, we were off. I was amazed at how quiet and still the ride was. I had zero sensation that we were even moving.
We cruised over the desert, with views of the foothills and other balloons. We did not go nearly as high as I was hoping and cruised at around 300 feet up in the air. It was fun to look down and try and spot the local wildlife. We saw lots of jackrabbits, a coyote, and a red-tailed hawk.
Here we are right before take-off. It was such a nice way to spend the morning. The landing was hilarious as we came in hot and ran into a cactus. Afterwards, we enjoyed a champagne breakfast as the crew packed the balloon away.

We decided to make the most of our kid-free day by doing a little shopping, followed by lunch at The White Chocolate Grill, and finally seeing Maleficent. It was so much fun, and in line with our new goal of giving experiences instead of things. I would definitely go hot air ballooning again, and highly recommend it.


Mmmh, Pizza

For awhile now we have been making pizzas from scratch as one of our weekly meals. Well, almost from scratch, as I don't make the dough or the sauce. Back in Milwaukee we bought pizza dough from the awesome Italian grocery store - Glorioso's. Once we moved I was on the hunt for a new place to by fresh pizza dough. We had ordered once from #1 Brothers Pizza near our house and really liked the dough, so we asked them if they sell their dough fresh and they do. Voila, homemade pizza night was back on.
We made buffalo chicken pizza the other day which is one of my favorites. Served with some ranch on the side it is delicious.
Madeleine helped me put it together and was really excited to eat it.

Do you guys make your own pizzas ever? What are your favorite combinations? We're always looking for new ideas.


Ding Dong the Red Monster's Gone

Painting started on Monday, and the Red Monster was no more as primer went up by the end of Day 1. Even in its unfinished state it was such a vast improvement.
I can't wait for the whole area to be white. They'll be done on Friday (yes, an entire week for the whole project). I can't wait to share the finished project with you all. Stay tuned.


Meet Larry

Our yard has a new visitor - we named him Larry.
Everyday for the past week or so we kept seeing this lizard chilling on our backyard fence. He would be there multiple times a day to the kids' and husband's delight. It became Bill's mission to get a picture of it and hopefully identify it. This picture was taken with a zoom lens, as usually the moment we step outside he scurries off. I don't think Bill has identified him yet, but I'll let you know if he does.

Phoenix has a lot of different wildlife we are just beginning to experience. The birds are all different - there are a ton of quail which is new for me. Thankfully, I haven't seen any snakes or scorpions yet. I have seen two coyote so far. They had coyote in the mid-west, but they seem to be much more prevalent around here.

What's the local wildlife where you live? It's so weird to go from squirrels and raccoon to lizards and snakes.