Crush List - December

It's time for the last Crush List of the year!!

1 - Katie Z Necklace from Dana Rebecca
2 - Heart Sweater from The Limited
3 - Threshold 5 piece Izon Flatware Set - Gold from Target
4 - Assorted Task Pads from Poppin
5 - The Wes Anderson Collection coffee table book by Matt Zoller Seitz

Happy New Year, everyone!!

P.S. The blog is going to have a new look and a new name starting tomorrow. I hope you like it.

Update:  I got the Wes Anderson book for my birthday!!


Touring Arizona - Butterfly Wonderland

My sister is in town, so we decided to take the kids to Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale. It is, exactly as the name describes, a wonderland of butterflies!
Once inside, you immediately are ushered into a small auditorium for the 3D movie, Flight of the Butterflies, which chronicles the life and migration of Monarch butterflies. This was actually one of my favorite parts of the day. Not for the movie exactly (although it was cool), but watching my kids react to a 3D movie. It was hilarious. Madeleine kept reaching out to try and catch the butterflies. Seamus kept his glasses on the whole time and moo'd and neigh'd at the cows and horses on screen.
After the movie, you are ushered into the Butterfly Emergence Gallery. It's a small area with three large picture windows where you can view real chrysalids and maybe witness a butterfly emerging from one.

After that, they usher (there's a lot of ushering) into the Conservatory - America's largest butterfly atrium. It's a large (10,000 sq ft), glass structure full of greenery and of course, butterflies! Basically, you just stroll around and observe, and it was a lot of fun.
The Blue Morpho butterfly was one of my favorites.
Check out the size of this moth. We Googled it when we got home and found out it is an Atlas Moth. Oh, and can you spot the Luna Moth? So cool.
This one caught Madeleine by surprise.
I think this was one of the best photos I took all day - it's an Orange-Tip.
Or maybe this was the best picture of the day, hah!!

After the Conservatory they had a few little exhibits showcasing ants, bees, and even a small aquatic display with fish and little sting rays.

So, that was Butterfly Wonderland. I think it was a fun little place to spend a few hours on a weekend. My only complaint was that it was a bit pricey. As fun as it was, there wasn't that much to the place other than the huge Conservatory. The rest was just filler, and I didn't think necessarily justified the price. If that's not an issue for you though, then definitely check it out.


We Wish You A Merry Christmas

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!! We sure did. Santa and all our family was very generous this year. If your house is a mess, remember you're blessed!
Enjoy your weekend!!


Christmas Cookies and Holiday Hearts

It's cookie decorating time!! I kept it simple this year, and we just made sugar cookies. Oh, and I found a much better sugar cookie recipe (here). It's easy to work with, and tastes delicious.
After I cut the shapes out, we brush each cookie with egg whites, and then Madeleine gets to put on the sprinkles.
We got in on the action a little bit too though. It's fun, and reminds me of my childhood.
I love her eyes in this picture. Too funny!
Hard at work.
Love this girl, and love Christmas cookies! I prefer the cookies this way, but Bill likes royal icing on his. So, later we whipped up some icing and did a few trays that way too.

Merry Christmas!


Book Report - War Brides

For my last book of 2014, I read Helen Bryan's War Brides. I signed up for a 30-day trial of KindleUnlimited on, and this was one of the books available for free through that service.
War Brides tells the story of five young women each struggling to find their place as war creeps closer to their small village nestled in the English countryside. Alice, the daughter of the late vicar; Evangeline, the American girl who stole Alice's fiance from her; Elsie, a poor, London evacuee; Tanni, a young Jewish girl who fled to England with her newborn son; and Frances, the confident debutante whose father is a high ranking military official. Together, they attempt to navigate the new normal thrust upon them by war: rationing, air raids, close quarters, and husbands fighting far away.

I thought this book was a missed opportunity. It's such a great story to tell, but it was not written well. The characters were all interesting, but when the war ended it felt like all their stories were suddenly rushed to completion. Then there was the second ending, when the women came back to their village for the 50th anniversary of VE Day, that just seemed really ridiculous. I would have gladly dropped that ending for more satisfying closure on how their war stories ended instead. It wasn't terrible, it just could have been better.


O Christmas Tree

We actually put up our Christmas tree the first weekend in December, but I just hadn't gotten around to photographing it until now.

I've always wanted to do a color coordinated tree some time, but it just never comes to fruition. I just love my hodgepodge of ornaments too much. Most of my ornaments are all from Old World Christmas. They're just awesome ornaments. Bill and I both have a lot of Hallmark ornaments from when we younger, a tradition I've started again with my own kids. I have a couple ornaments from Lenox and Wedgewood and just some completely random ones I have picked up here or there over the years.
We've used a faux tree the past few years, and I actually don't mind it. I'm always a little thrown with the tinsel situation though, and never know how to finish off the look. This year I tried the wrap-around garland, and I liked it a lot.
I tried to get a picture at night with the lights on, but I have no idea what setting to use to really capture that. This was the best I could get.
So, that's the official 2014 Christmas Tree. Woo-hoo!!

Someday I would like to do two Christmas trees. One completely styled in a color coordinated theme, and one like this with all my special ornaments. 

I've also always, always wanted a white Christmas tree. Maybe I can snag one in an after Christmas sale.


Getting Carded

I don't know about you, but I've been looking forward to getting the mail everyday; anxious to see whose holiday cards are waiting for us. I've been hanging them around a window in our kitchen, so I can view them daily. We aren't traveling home for Christmas, so cards are especially meaningful this year. It's the only way I'll be seeing a lot of the faces that mean so much to us.

Speaking of cards, here's what we sent out to our family and friends. Unfortunately, we didn't get any fantastic family photos this year, but these two shots of the kids were perfect. I made the cards on Shutterfly.
Have a great weekend everybody!!


Glendale Glitters

Some friends had suggested we take the kids to downtown Glendale for their annual Glendale Glitters light display. So, last weekend we headed out after dinner. It was a pretty impressive display.
 The lights were wrapped from the ground to the tops of every tree.
There was so much color and movement every where you looked.
The park definitely glittered.
I was just so impressed with how high they were able to get all these lights. It was so pretty.
I would love to end this post talking about how magical the evening was and how much we all enjoyed it. The truth though...Madeleine was in rare form and we left earlier than expected; exasperated and annoyed with her. I swear every outing is a crap shoot with them. We never know what we're going to get. We're slowly trying to get out more with the kids though. So, even though it was far from perfect, I'm still glad we did it.


Coming Soon - Inherent Vice

Thanks to my Phoenix Film Society friend, I was able to see a sneak peak of an upcoming movie. This time around it was Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice.

I wish I could tell you that this was a fantastic, must-see film; but I'm still trying to digest what it was I watched. The cast is stellar, and I really liked the style, setting, and costumes - but I had no idea what this movie was about!!! I was so lost throughout the entire thing.

It was so hard to follow, that literally 15 minutes in my friend and I were whispering to each other, "I'm so confused" and "Do you understand what's going on?"

I kept hoping that it would all come together in the end to all make sense, but it didn't - at least not for me. I sort of got one part of it, but am still clueless on most of it. This film will probably get praised by the critics and people will say they loved it, but they'll all be lying because they're too afraid to admit they didn't get it. Hah!

If I were you, I'd wait for this one to come out on DVD. It comes out January 9th, and if you do go see it let me know what you think. Maybe you can explain it to me.


Good Morning, Angels

Did you see the Victoria's Secret Fashion show yesterday? I just love watching it each year. I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I will never be a Victoria's Secret model, so I just watch it for the fun of watching the beautiful in beautiful costumes.

They broke the show up into six different themes, and I picked my two favorite looks from each to highlight here.

First up, was Gilded Angels. A beautiful take on the classic angel look all done in white and gold.
Behati Prinsloo
I loved the wings and breastplate corset on this one, plus those killer boots!! This one had a very warrior angel feel to it. Fierce!
Lily Donaldson
I thought the skirt on this one was just beautiful, and again with the breastplate, but on this look it came off very Grecian looking. So lovely.

Next up was the Dream Girl theme; and Taylor Swift, who could be a Victoria Secret model herself performed. This theme was all black and pink with a very 40's boudoir feel to it.
Taylor Swift
Martha Hunt
I loved the soft, fluffy, pink wings on this look juxtaposed with the black stockings. The necklace, lace, and powder puff stilettos complete the look.
Blanca Padilla
This one was all about the robe for me. The soft color and fabric, the way it flows, it's just such a romantic look.

Ed Sheeran took the stage next for the Exotic Traveler theme, and we finally got to see Angel veterans, Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio. VS did two Fantasy Bras this year to commemorate their friendship and long partnership with VS.  Awh.
Adriana Lima & Alessandra Ambrosio
These were such vibrant and fun looks. I just loved all the jewels and sparkle here.
Lais Ribeiro
This next look was all about the gorgeous floral fabric for me. Seriously, how beautiful is that fabric. I love how the bright colors pop off the black. The vest was super cute too.

The next theme was University of Pink with Ariana Grande performing. This was actually my least favorite theme, but it was still fun and colorful.
Elsa Hosk
I liked the graffiti wings here, plus it was nice to see some cute sportier looks.
Sara Sampaio
This crop top and leggings look was really fun. I especially liked those bangle bracelets, and check out those shoes! I love how they have treads on them. No detail is missed.

Moving on to the Fairy Tale theme with a performance by Hozier. This theme was very soft and ethereal. One of my favorites of the night.
Lily Donaldson
I adored the beading on this look, plus the shades of purple. I love how it feels both heavy and soft at the same time. It also moved really well on the runway.
Devon Windsor
Thee dragonfly wings on this look were a nice change of pace. I just loved the color. The gray vest and boots really pulled the look together; so intricate and detailed.

Finally, Taylor Swift took the stage again for the last theme, Angel Ball. All the looks were all done in black (or near black) and/or white. It had a very dark and moody feel to it and was perfect to close the show.
Lily Aldridge
I loved the sparkly midnight blue on this look; such a pretty fabric. The wings were very villainous too.
Kate Grigorieva
Finally, this sheer dress with black embroidery looked really great on stage. I also liked the high-waisted underwear. Very nice look.

I thought it was a really good show. Taylor Swift was an awesome choice. One of her best friends is model Karlie Kloss, so it was cute to see them interact on stage together. The same for Alessandra and Adriana, there was a real sense of friendship emanating from the screen and it made it all so fun.

I'm already looking forward to next year's!!

All images from here.


Here Comes Santa Claus!

We're moving full steam ahead into our holiday activities. We headed to the mall over the weekend to visit Santa Claus! We had to wait about an hour in line, but everybody did okay. I wasn't sure how Seamus was going to react; he was so young last year, but he did great. Madeleine, just like last year, asked Santa to bring her "toys."
I tell you, though, this visiting Santa is quite the racket. I think they thought I was insane when I said I didn't want the $30 package and just wanted one 5x7 picture. It still ended up costing us $30, but better than the $60 it would have been to buy two packages. Crazy, but you have to do it, right?


Book Report - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children & Hollow City

I kept seeing the cover of Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children all over Pinterest as a must-read, so I decided to check it out. I enjoyed it enough that I read the second novel, Hollow City directly after it.

The story surrounds a young boy named Jacob who shared a strong bond with his grandfather. Growing up his grandfather would tell him stories of peculiar children he knew in his youth that had special powers. After his grandfather dies under mysterious circumstances he goes to England to try and learn more, and discovers that all his grandfather's stories were true. Now that he knows the truth, can he go back to his life before or will he give it all up to join their cause?

The best part of these books is the gimmick with the photographs. The author collected real old photographs, and then created a story around them. For example, the little girl on the cover of the first novel is Olive; she can levitate. It was such a cool idea, and really different. I would get so excited every time I came to a new picture. They really helped move the story along.

I also loved the settings. There is a time travel element to these books, and although Jacob is from the present; the bulk of the story takes place in England during WWI.

As far as the story itself, it's a young adult series, so they were both really quick reads. The first book was better the second, but the story moves along fine between the two. I'll be looking forward to reading the conclusion whenever it comes out.

This was such a visual book, and I immediately thought what a good movie it would make. A quick IMDB search, and I discovered it's slated for 2016 and Tim Burton is directing it.


Touring Phoenix - Tom's Thumb

The day before Thanksgiving, Bill and I took the day off work, but still sent the kids to daycare. It's how we sneak in what we occasionally call a day date. We've enjoyed hiking since moving here, but hadn't done any real noteworthy hikes yet, as the kids are usually with us.

So, we decided to hike the Tom's Thumb Trailhead together. 
It's a 4 mile round trip hike, and definitely the steepest hike I've done so far. The trail was pretty good most of the way, but there is a little bit of bouldering near the top.  Here's the view part way up. For a while we weren't sure where Tom's Thumb actually was. There were a lot of pretty impressive rocks, and we kept asking ourselves, "Is this it, do you think?"
However, there was no mistaking it once we actually did find it.
When we finally go to the top, we were the only ones there; so we took a bunch of pictures and explored the rocks for a while.
Here's the view from the top!
I'd like to say that the big adventure stopped there. That we had an easy hike back down and went on to enjoy the rest of our day off. I'd like to say that, but...


Yup, just shortly after starting our descent down my left foot slipped and I went down hard. The pain was intense, and I didn't think I would be able to keep going. We rested for a bit though and then slowly started down again. We didn't really have a choice. We were 2 miles away from our car and civilization, so I hobbled down the hill; leaning on Bill the entire way (who basically hiked back down backwards). It took forever, and I was so sore and tired by the time we made it back to the car. I'm so grateful Bill was with me to help me. I literally leaned on him harder today then ever before.

Despite the mishap though, we had a really nice time together. I can't wait to heal up so I can hike some more!

Oh, and also, over the weekend we celebrated our one year anniversary living in Arizona. I can't believe it has been a whole year already. We're still loving it.



Are you listening to the Serial podcast? I'm totally hooked.
Photo from here
If you're living under a rock and don't know what this is about, let me fill you in.

In Baltimore, 1999, 17 year old Adnan Syed is convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. He's serving a life sentence in prison. He says he's innocent. Journalist, Sarah Koenig, decides to investigate. Each week Sarah (who I could listen to talk all night - her voice is so soothing) tells us about the case and what she's discovered; and we also get to hear from many of the actual parties involved through her taped interviews, including Adnan himself.

When I first started listening I assumed the story would be all about how Adnan was wrongfully convicted, but it's not. He might have been, but I'm 10 episodes in and Sarah's still not sure and neither am I. I definitely think he got short changed in his trial, and there seems to be a lot of reasonable doubt. Whether he's truly innocent though...

This is the first podcast I've ever listened to. I didn't realize most of them were free, so I'm sure it won't be the last.

Are you listening to Serial? I'm dying to talk more about it with someone. I'm so excited there's going to be a Season 2. Are there any other podcasts I should be listening to? Let me know.


Let's Go To The Movies - Big Hero 6

Madeleine and I had a movie date over the weekend. We saw Big Hero 6. The last time we took Madeleine to the movies we ended up leaving early. It was about a year ago and she was just too young. Her attention span is still pretty short though, so I wasn't sure what to expect from her this time. I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie either. I had seen the trailer..."hairy baby", but honestly wasn't really too intrigued by it. So, what did we think?

I thought it was great. It was funny and sweet; plus action packed. What I really liked about it though was the emphasis they put on science. There were no princesses here. They're Super Heroes, but not because they're super human, but because they're smart and invent super suits full of all sorts of neat gadgets. It was also quite lovely how they portrayed death, and how even though people we love may die, they are forever in our hearts. That's a hard message to get across to kids, and Disney did a great job of exploring loss in a way that will make sense to kids.

Madeleine liked it too. I'm excited to say she made it through the entire movie. It wasn't for lack of trying though. After the popcorn ran out, she wanted to go get another snack. She wanted to go to the bathroom. She wanted to go "talk to the neighbors" (the people sitting down the row from us). I was able to talk her out of everything though. She still moved around a bunch. She would climb on my lap whenever the "bad guy" was on screen, but other than that she was great. It was a fun time.