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7.31.2015

Crush List - July

This month's Crush List is devoted to Seamus' bedroom! Now that it's painted (see here and here), I've been itching to finally decorate it. A woodsy/camp themed room in grey, red, and forest green is what I keep coming back to, which seems perfect for our little "Moose." Here are a few things I've been eyeing-up lately.
1 - Atmosphere and Earth prints from Brainstorm.
2 - Mounted Moose from Serena & Lily.
3 - Bear Throw Pillow from The Land of Nod.
4 - LACK Wall shelf unit from IKEA.
5 - Reversible Woodland Quilt from Hanna Andersson.

I can't wait to get started!

7.29.2015

Let's Go To The Movies - Ant-Man

Bill and I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Ant-Man. So, when a date night opportunity came along, we new we had to get out and see it.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is out of prison, trying to live the straight and narrow to be with his daughter again. He thought his thieving days were behind him, until a desperate scientist, Dr. Pym, (Michael Douglas) and his daughter, Hope, (Evangeline Lilly) enlist Scott's help to steal and destroy dangerous technology Pym's power-hungry protégé, Darren Cross, (Corey Stoll) is trying to re-create from Pym's past work. In order to pull off the impossible heist, Scott must use the same dangerous technology successfully created by Dr. Pym many years ago, and become Ant-Man.   

I love Paul Rudd, I love super-hero movies, and I loved...Ant-Man! It was so amazing and fun. Paul Rudd was perfect - humble, charming, and so, so funny. I actually thought Michael Douglas only had a small role in the film, but I'm glad I was wrong. Dr. Pim is one of the main characters! You would think a huge star like Michael Douglas would overshadow his less famous co-stars, but instead he really brought out their best. (Plus, it was pretty cool how they made him look young in the beginning.) Evangeline Lilly, as the tough as nails love interest, Hope, really shined as well. To me, Super hero origin films are always the best ones. This was that plus a really cool heist film as well. It wasn't just about Ant-Man. There was a real ensemble feel to the story, and it was a far better film for it.

The film was really innocent too and didn't take itself too seriously. It's PG-13, but I fully intend to let my daughter watch this one when it comes out on DVD. It's very, very family friendly (mild violence and maybe two swear words, but that's it).

I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention how much I love the continuity of all the Marvel movies and TV shows. The very beginning gives us glimpses of an aged Haley Atwell reprising her role as Agent Carter. We see Howard Stark aka Iron Man's dad. Falcon from the Captain America films makes an appearance as well. The film's ending makes it obvious Ant-Man will be popping up again as an Avenger. Oh, and with all Marvel movies, make sure you stay until after the credits to catch a glimpse at how Evangeline Lilly's character, Hope, will be popping up again as well. Yay!

I highly, highly recommend checking out Ant-Man.

Have you seen any good movies lately? Did you see Ant-Man? What about Trainwreck? I can't wait to see that one too.

7.27.2015

Vegetable of the Month - Spaghetti Squash Part Two

I knew our second spaghetti squash recipe this month was going to be a winner. It had bacon in it after all, and goat cheese too - both favorites of mine.

Vegetable: Spaghetti Squash
Recipe: Spaghetti Squash with Bacon, Spinach, and Goat Cheese
I loved this recipe! It was one of the best recipes I've tried in a long time. There was so much flavor and texture, and then the tang from the goat cheese...so good.

Bill and I both gobbled it straight down. I set the plate in front of Madeleine, and she told me it looked delicious. Of course, after one bite she declared she didn't like it. Seamus ate the goat cheese and that was it. Fine with me though, it meant there was more for Bill and me. Hah!

7.24.2015

Happy Towels

I decided that the boring, brown hand towels in our downstairs bath weren't doing it for me anymore. I wanted something more colorful, more bold, more...happy!
I picked up these hand towels from World Market, and they definitely fit the bill. I love the colors and the geographic pattern. The towels are also really soft and thick too. Bonus!
They are definitely happy towels, as they instantly brighten my mood whenever I see them.
Now I just have to decide what color to paint the vanity and medicine cabinet.  Any thoughts?

7.22.2015

Book Report - Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

I've been meaning to read Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) for ages and ages. I just love her. She was great in The Office and I'm a big fan of her show The Mindy Project too.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) is a comedic memoir of Mindy Kaling's life from her childhood as a chubby kid of successful immigrants to her successful career as a comedy writer and actress.

I said I was a fan of Mindy Kaling, but after reading her book...I think I like her even more! She's hilarious, honest, and completely relatable. We totally would have been friends growing up. (I wish we could be friends now!) This is such a great book for young girls to read too, or anyone planning on pursuing a career as a writer/performer in Hollywood. She got where she is because she's talented, yes; but also because she worked her butt off for it. I was impressed.

I wanted to share one part that really resonated with me. Funnily enough, it is parenting advice of all things. Mindy doesn't have kids, but I loved her words here.

When I was a kid, my parents smartly raised us to keep quiet, be respectful to older people, and generally not question adults all that much. I think that's because they were assuming that 99 percent of the time, we'd be interacting with worthy, smart adults, like my aunts and uncles; my teachers; my ancient and knowledgeable piano instructor; Mrs. Brewster; and police officers. They didn't ever tell me, "Sometimes you will meet idiots who are technically adults and authority figures. You don't have to do what they say. You can calmly say, 'Can I first call my mom and ask if I have to do this, please?' " But we didn't have cell phones back then. The only people with cell phones were rich villains in action movies you knew were going to die first.

When I have kids I will largely follow how my parents raised me, because like everyone else on the planet, I think my parents are perfect and so am I. But one thing I will impart to my children is "If you're scared of something, that isn't a sign that you have to do it. It probably means that you shouldn't do it. Call Dad or Mom immediately."

As I start to send Madeleine off to other people's homes for birthday parties, play dates, and such this is a concept I really want her to understand and feel comfortable doing.

Mindy has a new book coming out in September (see here), and I definitely won't put off reading that one.

As for my Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge...I checked off "A book you can finish in a day" from the list (only took me about 6 hours to read).

Also, I much preferred this book to Tina Fay's Bossypants, in case you're wondering. I still need to read Amy Poehler's book...and Chelsea Handler's...and Ellen DeGeneres'.  So many funny ladies!

7.20.2015

Bookshelf Redux

I hadn't really tried to restyle our bookshelves since they initially went up (see here). So, I thought it was time to give it another try.
Left - Before / Right - After
Here's a closer look.
I like this attempt better, but it's still not great. I'm slowly collecting globes for the top shelf. I really want a big cluster of them along the top. I think it would look cool and is a nice nod to our love of travel.

I added the framed piece of art in the middle, and picked up a few more decorative accessories.

I'm still thinking some baskets on the bottom shelf or the floor to hold all the puzzles and games might help...break it up visually a little bit.

If you have any styling tips, ideas, or questions - please comment. I love when readers leave comments.

7.17.2015

Vegetable of the Month - Spaghetti Squash

I recently tried spaghetti squash, and was so impressed with it! It's so easy to prepare, and has a nice crunch to it without any overwhelming flavor. I knew I could easily substitute it for spaghetti, and had high hopes that it would be a winner with the kids.

Vegetable - Spaghetti Squash
Recipe - Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce
I didn't use a specific recipe, but here's how I prepared.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out all the seeds (like you would a pumpkin). Fill a baking pan with a 1/2 inch of water, and place the squash face down in the pan. Cook for about an hour or until tender when pierced with a fork. Let the squash cool slightly, and then remove the strands of flesh.

Easy peasy!

It's pretty amazing removing the strands. It looks like one solid mass when you take it out of the oven, but then once you stick a fork in and pull down - it just magically breaks up into perfect spaghetti strands.

After that, I just used our favorite jarred tomato sauce (Organic Marina Pasta Sauce by Simple Truth), and topped it with grated Parmesan cheese.

I ate it straight up, as pictured above. For the kids we mixed it in with regular spaghetti. Madeleine immediately knew something was off. Like I said, it has a slight crunch to it. However, when I made sure each forkful had a mixture of both the spaghetti and spaghetti squash for her, she ate it fine. The same goes for Seamus...no complaints. Yay!!

We eat spaghetti a few times a month, and I will definitely be mixing in spaghetti squash into it from now on.

Winner winner, spaghetti squash dinner!

Sidenote:  I actually prefer angel hair pasta over spaghetti, which I think is too thick and heavy, but I always still refer to angel hair pasta as spaghetti. One time Bill came home from the store with actual spaghetti (which is what I had written down on the list) and I berated him for basically not reading my mind and knowing that when I wrote spaghetti I actually meant angel hair pasta. To this day, every time I say we're having "spaghetti" he responds with some form of, "You mean angel hair pasta, right?" He'll never let me live it down!

7.15.2015

How Puzzling All These Changes Are!

I've always struggled to find good indoor toys for Madeleine, and seem to have had the most success with things she can create or build. We've had puzzles around the house for a while now, but she never seemed too interested...and she always needed our help to complete. Then, suddenly, it all clicked for her, and now she's really, really into puzzles!
This is her "puzzle robot." She will sit quietly by herself and put together all her puzzles. Then she'll take them apart and do them all again. It's a real turning point for her, as she usually doesn't like to play alone and always wants Bill or I to play with her instead. Seamus has always liked to play by himself, but Madeleine...not so much. There have actually been a few times lately where Madeleine is doing puzzles, Seamus is playing with his trains, and Bill and I are in the other room reveling in the fact that neither of our children need us for the moment. It's rare, but it's happened; and it's glorious!

Puzzles from top to bottom:
Solar System Floor Puzzle (48 pieces)
Vehicles Shaped Puzzle (36 pieces)
Disney ABC Puzzle (24 pieces)
Minnie Bow-tique 3 Puzzle Pack (24 pieces each)
Horses Shaped Puzzle (36 pieces)

My favorite puzzles for kids at the moment are from Crocodile Creek. They have such colorful and fun images, are really sturdy, and come in really cute boxes. The Vehicle and Horses puzzles above are both from Crocodile Creek (although I bought the first from Target and the second from Barnes & Noble). Madeleine seems ready for more advanced puzzles now, so I think we'll be picking up some of there Junior Puzzles soon. She would love the soccer and superhero ones.

Do your kids like puzzles? Do you? What other toys keep them quietly occupied inside? It's so hot here I'm always looking for fun stuff they can do indoors during the summer.

P.S. The title of this post is a Lewis Carroll quote from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  "How puzzling all these changes are! I'm never sure what I'm going to be, from one minute to another."

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.

7.13.2015

Let's Go To The Movies: Magic Mike XXL

I went to see Magic Mike XXL with some friends this weekend. It was not my pick, but I didn't exactly go against my will either. I had watched the first one (alone in the privacy of my own home), and I wasn't impressed. Male strippers aren't really my thing, and the acting was horrible. My friend claimed that this one was supposed to be way better though, so Magic Mike XXL it was.

It's been three years since "Magic" Mike left the male entertainment world. His new business is barely scraping by and his girlfriend has left him. So, when his old stripping buddies pass by on their way to the big Male Stripper Convention in Myrtle Beach, he decides to go with them for one last hurrah.

I'm actually not going to review this movie, because come on...it's Magic Mike XXL. It was bad like we all knew it would be.

No, instead I present...

RANDOM THOUGHTS THAT WENT THROUGH MY HEAD WHILE WATCHING MAGIC MIKE XXL

Is Mike a furniture delivery guy now? Wait, I think he designs furniture. Yeah, I think I remember that from the first movie now. What was the first movie even about again?

Is Matthew McConaughey going to be in this one too? Probably not, he's won an Oscar now. Yeah, he's definitely not in this one. Why was he even in the first one?

What the heck is with the girl in the helmet? How are they just ignoring her? She's so weird!

Adam Rodriguez's hair looks ridiculous.

Mike is dancing alone while welding. How very Flashdance/Footloose of him.

OMG...people are whoo-hoo'ing at the screen. Are you kidding me?

Does Channing Tatum have a dead tooth? Something is weird with his tooth. Am I the only one that does not think he is attractive?

Is this like a road trip movie?

Okay, Joe Manganiello's gas station dance was pretty good.

Jada Pinkett Smith looks amazing. She's such a bad ass too.

Haha, that's Michael Strahan. How funny, he's doing a little cameo. He's not going to dance though, right? Woah, wait, he's dancing. How long is this going to go on? Please make it stop.

I am embarrassed for these women.

I love Jada's outfit. I wish I could rock a vest as a top like that.

Wow, that's one huge house.

Oh, yay, it's Andie MacDowell! I love her. She should totally be in more stuff. She looks great.

How are they going to have time to make up all new routines? Isn't the convention like tomorrow?

Oh, yay, it's Elizabeth Banks! I love her. Wait, why is she in this movie?

You know, I'd be pretty pissed if I got dressed up nice to go to a show and some stripper got chocolate sauce and whip cream all over my clothes.

Damn, Joe Manganiello looks good in a tux. He should keep it on.

Nope, it's off, but at least he's stripping to Nine Inch Nails. This is the best routine so far.

Did Matt Bomer just put that girls hand down his pants? Gross. Isn't there a no touching rule, or is that only for female strippers?

Amber Heard has the same reaction I would have if some guy had his junk in my face. Shielding her face with her hands and looking away. Finally, an appropriate reaction.

Am I the only one that thinks some of these routines are borderline sexual assault?

I don't mind when they dance on stage, but this one-on-one stuff with the ladies is so disturbing.

Oh, no, they're in thongs. Ah, now they're showing each one of them in their thong! Men do not look good in thongs. These are attractive movie stars, and they look ridiculous. No man should ever wear a thong!!!

There you have it. It was a laughably bad movie, but all in good fun. Have you seen it yet? Will you?

7.10.2015

Easy Summer Activities - Ice Cream Pizzas!

Sometimes it feels like there are too many times during our day-to-day lives that I have to tell my kids "no." No, Seamus, don't hit. No, Madeleine, you can't watch Jurassic Park 3. No, you guys, you cannot have Pirate Booty at 8 o'clock in the morning. So, when Madeleine asked me randomly if we could make ice cream pizzas (an idea she saw on some cartoon), I happily said "yes." 
It was super simple, and I bet you already have most of what you need at home. We popped some break-n-bake chocolate chip cookies in the oven. Then, after they had cooled, we just added ice cream and toppings. We used nonpareils and mini-marshmallows, but the possibilities are endless!
Needless to say, it went over well with the kiddos. They had fun decorating them, and of course, gobbled them right up.
It made a super easy dessert feel like such an event - so much fun!
Are you doing any fun little summer activities? In a lot of ways, summer is our winter. We stay indoors a lot because of the heat, but we do make sure to at least go swimming in our pool every weekend. I'm so happy we have that right in our backyard.

Have a great weekend! 

7.08.2015

Book Report - The Fortune Hunter and The Hunt For Red October

I'm so behind on my book reviews. Besides these two, I still have 6 more waiting in the wings!

I read The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin and The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy recently. These books have absolutely nothing in common, so why in the same post? I figured they both had "hunt" in the title, so I could make it work. Plus, it's a good example of how varied my tastes in books are. I do not discriminate when it comes to books. Anything goes.

First up, Daisy Goodwin's historical fiction novel, The Fortune Hunter.
It's 1875, and heiress Charlotte Baird is in the English countryside for the hunting season - although she much prefers her photography hobby over hunting. Her money, not necessarily her beauty, allow her any choice of suitor, but Charlotte is in no particular hurry to marry. That is until she meets the dashing Captain Bay Middleton, considered to be one of the finest horsemen in all of England. The two grow quite fond of each other, but Bay's fine horse skills soon have him playing "pilot" to the Empress Elizabeth of Austria. In England for the hunting season as well (in addition to escaping her husband for a bit), the Empress is considered to be the most beautiful woman of her time. An avid horsewoman herself, she and Bay soon grow close. Bay cannot deny his attraction to the Empress, and he must soon decide between a life of passion and scandal, or that of compatibility and friendship.

I started reading this with no knowledge that the characters were all actual historical figures. I thought it was going to be a sweet little romance between Charlotte and Bay, so I was thrown when the Empress showed up and lured Bay away from Charlotte. That's when I decided to Google the names and realized what I was actually reading. Once I adjusted my expectations, I started to enjoy the story more. The writing is a bit simplistic, and I doubt a lot of the historical accuracy of the story. (Goodwin states at the end that not much is actually known of Charlotte Baird, and that she fabricated the entire photography hobby for her - a major part of the novel).

All in all, I thought this novel only okay. There are far better historical fiction authors out there if you're interested in this genre (Phillipa Gregory comes to mind). If you're looking for something light and quick to read though, then you may want to give this novel a try. It certainly didn't offend by any means; I've just read better.  

Speaking of better books...

I randomly picked up The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy as my next book to read. Bill has a ton of Tom Clancy books at home, but I've never read him before!
Russian submarine, "The Red October" has gone missing, and the race is on between the Americans and Russians to find it first.

I feel like I should write more for the synopsis, but that's really it. I also feel a little silly "reviewing" a book that has been so widely well-received since its debut in 1984.

So, here's what I'll say...

I have zero interest in submarines, and in general, have little interest in this type of novel (which I would categorize as a military mystery adventure novel). So, it's a real testament to Tom Clancy's skill as a writer that I was so engrossed in this novel from beginning to end. It's very technical writing, filled with military jargon and acronyms; yet, I was able to follow along with absolutely no trouble at all. I highly recommend reading The Hunt for Red October. I'm so glad I gave it a chance, and you will be too.  

As for my 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge - I checked off "A book based entirely on its cover" (the Victorian riding habit had me intrigued) and "A popular author's first book" from the list.

7.06.2015

Shopping Made Easy

I really hate shopping for clothes lately. The effort and time it takes to get to the stores, trying on a dozen or more things, and feeling bad about myself because none of it fits. I'm lucky if I find anything at all. I'm really trying to build up my wardrobe again though (see here), so what's a girl to do?

Enter Stitch Fix!

What's Stitch Fix you ask? Well, it's a subscription shopping service, and it's pretty sweet. Here's how it works.

First, you fill out your Style Profile, which is fairly extensive. You put in your height, weight, and sizes, but it also asks you a lot of questions about how you like your clothes to fit. Do you like your clothes loose or fitted? What areas do you want to show off and what do you want to hide? They have style mood boards that you rate to gauge your style. They ask what colors and prints you like and how much you want to spend too.

Then, you pay $20 for them to...well, shop for you.

Finally, every month, you get a box of clothes in the mail!
In the box, you'll find 5 items - mostly clothes, but the occasional accessory too. They also give you these fun cards showing different ways to style your items, and an easy prepaid bag for any returns.
You get to try on the clothes in the comfort of your own home. Here's what I got in my first box - two shirts, a pair of jean shorts, black capri pants, and a necklace.
You decide what you want to keep and what you don't. If you decide to keep the item, you check it off online and are charged for the item. If you don't want the item, you check that online as well and just send it back in the prepaid bag provided. The $20 service fee is deducted from whatever you purchase (i.e. you decide to keep a $60 blouse, you only pay another $40 for it). If you keep everything, they give you 20% off your entire purchase. There is the off chance that you won't want to keep anything, in which case, you'd be out the $20 monthly fee. In my opinion though, the service they're providing - the convenience of it all, is worth that small risk.

I was really pleased with what I received in my first box - mostly because everything fit! I didn't keep it all though. I didn't need the necklace, and it wasn't really my style anyway. The shirts were both a tad long, and I didn't like how sheer they were. The jean shorts were too short for my personal taste. But the black capri pants...they were absolutely perfect! I could probably go on for a couple of hundred words how much I love these pants, but I'll just say I love them and leave it at that.

I went online and left comments on all the items letting them know what I liked and didn't like about each piece to help with my future boxes, paid for the pants, and returned the other four items.

It was the most pleasant shopping experience I've had in a while. There's no pressure or stress, plus it's nice to just get something fun in the mail too. I can't wait to get my next box!

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

7.03.2015

Pretty Pots - Part Two

I mentioned here that we had spray painted a few planters that were left on the property when we moved in, but never got around to showing you the two we put in the front of the house!
To refresh your memory, they looked like this before. Pretty boring and blah.
After we spray painted them it then took me forever to figure out what the heck to put in them.
Ultimately I decided that anything was better than nothing, so on a trip to Home Depot I picked up a Hibiscus and a Boxwood plant.
Madeleine and I had a fun time planting them, and I love the little pop of color they bring to the front lawn.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure if they're going to make it. These were taken a few weeks ago, and we only just realized that they weren't getting any water! We didn't know that the water lines running to the pots were not on the watering schedule. So, no water...for weeks...in Phoenix...in the summer. We've remedied that now, and they've surprisingly perked back up a little. I'm afraid though that the damage might have already been done. We'll see. 
I always find it odd that I love flowers and plants so much, but have zero interest in gardening. I'm only interested in the finished product, not the process. We have plans for the front lawn, but you better believe that everything we put in will be low, low maintenance.

Have a wonderful Independence Day weekend!

7.01.2015

Book Report - The Girl On The Train

I read "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins a little while back. Everywhere it seemed people were reading it, so I jumped on the bandwagon to see what all the fuss was about.
Rachel takes the same train back and forth to work each day. At one stop, she's allowed a daily glimpse into the lives of one particular couple. From her seat on the train, she watches them a few moments each day as they go about their daily lives, and nicknames them "Jess and Jason." They seem to have a perfect little life, and it reminds her of the life she had not too long ago. Then, one day, she sees something she shouldn't. Suddenly, "Jess" is missing and Rachel feels she must tell the police what she saw. Before she knows it, she's become entwined in the controversy herself. Is she really helping though, or just meddling where she doesn't belong?

It's been a while since I read a mystery novel, and this one is pretty decent. Rachel was an interesting character; definitely more the anti-hero than traditional heroine. She's pretty messed up, continually doubts herself, makes a lot of mistakes; yet somehow finds the courage and conviction needed to get to the truth.

The "mystery" portion kept me engaged, although I did figure it all out about 3/4 of the way through. So, for me at least, there was no exciting reveal/twist at the end. I still enjoyed it though. It's a nice quick read, perfect for the beach or travel this summer.

I checked off "A Book published this year" from the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge list. I'm just about 20 books in for the year, which leaves me with 32 books yet to read before the end of the year. I'm going to try my best to finish, but 5+ books a month seems quite the task. Wish me luck!