Crush List - November

I don't know about you, but November sure flew by for us. Here's what I've been crushing on lately, otherwise known as my official Christmas list!!
1 - Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tables to Bookshelves by Emily Henderson
2 - Channing Gold-Tone Watch from Michael Kors (only $131.25 on sale)
3 - Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford
4 - Tickets to Ballet Arizona's upcoming performance of Sleeping Beauty
5 - Faux Fur Foxy Throw from West Elm (only $99 on sale)


Vegetable of the Month - Sweet Potato

In honor of Thanksgiving, I decided to take on sweet potatoes this month. I'm not a big fan - never having been able to justify the classic potato texture with such a sweet taste. What can I say, I like my potatoes savory, not sweet. Here are the two recipes I tried this month.

Vegetable - Sweet Potato
Recipe - Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potatoes with Herbed Goat Cheese
OMG! These were amazing - so, so good. Seriously, Bill and I were blown away at how good these were. The savory bacon and goat cheese perfectly complimented (masked?) the sweetness of the sweet potato. This recipe is my new go-to sweet potato recipe. I will be making this every Thanksgiving from now until forever, and probably as an appetizer for parties too. By far, the best new recipe I've tried in ages.

Bad for them, but good for Bill and me, the kids didn't care for it. Seamus wouldn't even try it, and Madeleine took one bite and said she didn't like it. They're crazy though. These were delicious!

Vegetable - Sweet Potato
Recipe - Candied Sweet Potatoes
These are the sweet potatoes my mom makes every Thanksgiving, and I usually always pass them up in favor of good ole mashed potatoes instead. Since I was making them, I decided to actually try them this year, and decided they're not too bad. Super sweet, but still okay, although I only ended up eating about half of one wedge over all. Seamus, of course, wouldn't even try them; but Bill and Madeleine both gobbled theirs up.

All-in-all, I'm declaring sweet potatoes a success.

The second recipe is from the Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book, and I've included it below. Enjoy!

Candied Sweet Potatoes
Prep: 40 minutes | Bake: 30 minutes
Oven 375°
Serves 4

3 medium sweet potatoes or yams (1 pound) or one 18-ounce can sweet potatoes, drained
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon margarine or butter
¼ to ½ cup chopped nuts or tiny marshmallows (optional)

1.  Cook fresh sweet potatoes, covered, in enough boiling water to cover, for 25 to 35 minutes or till tender. Drain; cool slightly. Peel potatoes; cut into ½-inch-thick slices. (Or, cut up canned potatoes.)
2.  In a 1-quart casserole layer half of the potaotes, half of the brown sugar, and half of the margarine. Repeat layers. Baker, uncovered, in a 375° oven for 30 to 35 minutes or till potatoes are glazed, spooning liquid over potatoes once or twice. If desired, sprinkle with nuts or marshmallows and bake for 5 minutes more.


Book Report - Dark Places and The Call of the Wild

I read a few more books as part of my Pop Sugar 2015 Reading Challenge. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, checked off "A mystery or thriller" and the classic, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, checked off "A banned book."

First up, Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.
Libby Day was just seven years old when her mom and two sisters were murdered in their home. She testified against her brother, Ben, putting him behind bars. Now twenty-five years later and low on funds, Libby is far from a functioning and healthy adult; so when she is contacted by a Kill Club - a group of individuals obsessed with true crime - she agrees to work with them for a fee. She soon finds herself investigating the night she has tried so hard to forget, and questioning whether what she thought she always saw that night was actually the truth.

Dark Places hooked me pretty early, and I enjoyed the style of writing. It would jump back and forth, first telling what a character thought had happened; then go back and show, through another character's point of view, what really happened. It was a really useful tool to move the story along. Unfortunately, the big reveal, which really makes or breaks a good mystery/thriller novel, was a let down. I was hoping for a big OMG moment, but it was more, "really, that's what happened, huh". I was much more impressed with Gone Girl than I was Dark Places.

Incidentally, the "murder" at the center of this novel really reminded me a lot of the murder written about in Truman Capote's, In Cold Blood (see my review here). If you're at all interested in true crime, then check out In Cold Blood instead. You'll be so glad you did.

Next, The Call of the Wild by Jack London.
The Folio Society edition
Buck, a strong and loyal dog, was living a sheltered life on a beautiful California ranch when he is kidnapped and sold as a sled dog in the Yukon. Facing a harsh environment unlike any he's known before, Buck faces enormous obstacles - cruel masters, canine hierarchy, and bitter cold - as he takes the journey of a lifetime; all the while never shaking his unbreakable spirit.

The Call of the Wild was another one of those books where I was asking myself, "How have I gone my entire life without reading this amazing book?" It may be a story about a dog, but there is so much humanity in Buck's story that it really just grabs the reader and won't let go. I absolutely loved it!

What have you been reading lately? I love talking books!


New Netflix Shows

I don't think it's any secret how much I love Netflix (see here). They've seriously been killing it in the original programming department for a while now, and they show no sign of stopping anytime soon. Here's a quick look at three new shows I'm watching or plan on watching on Netflix.

We recently started watching Aziz Ansari's new show Masters of None. He's been a favorite of mine since Parks and Recreation. Bill and I even saw him perform in Las Vegas last year for our anniversary (see here). The show is so very fresh and funny. Love it!

I'm also looking forward to Jessica Jones, a dark, super hero drama, starring Krysten Ritter. Gotta love shows about female super heroes. This one just premiered a few days ago, and I can't wait to check it out.

Then, of course, there's the Bill Murray holiday special, A Very Murray Christmas (available December 4th). Bill Murray, George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, Michael Cera, Amy Poehler, and directed by Sophia Coppola! This is right up my alley. I'm really looking forward to watching it next month.

What are your favorite Netflix shows?


The Desk Is In

When last we left Madeleine's room, I was planning on picking up a cute little desk for this wall (see here).
Well, I actually did pick up the desk shortly thereafter, but had yet to ever photograph it for your viewing pleasure. It's working perfectly, and as predicted is full of crayon marks already.
It's this desk and chair from IKEA.
You also might have noticed that I finally hung the little bird picture up above her dresser. That was a Target clearance find awhile back. The gold whale and pink lamp are also from Target. The deer is from IKEA (similar here). The ceramic music box, Cinderella, and Prince Charming are all vintage - saved from my childhood. Lastly, the little yellow hedgehog on the desk was a clearance find at CB2.

It's coming along, but I feel like I have an awful long way to go with the final styling of it all still.


Building A Wardrobe - Fun Patterns

I went to The Loft in the hopes of finding a dress for an upcoming event, and scored not only that, but a couple blouses as well. Plus, everything was 40% off! I love when that happens.

The shirts are great, and can easily be dressed up or down - very versatile. The dress is really cute too. I needed something that would work for Chicago in December, and I think with black tights and some black suede pumps it should be just the ticket.

The best part, they all feel very me - classic cuts in simple, but fun patterns. For once I wasn't buying something just because it fit and had no other options. I bought them because they're totally my style, and they happen to fit great as well.

Shopping win!


Let's Go To The Movies - Hotel Transylvania 2

This was supposed to be a post about The Peanuts Movie, but it was sold out when Madeleine and I got to the box office. So, Hotel Transylvania 2 it was instead.

Dracula (Adam Sandler) is a grandpa! His daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), and her human husband, Jonathan (Adam Samberg), have had a little boy, named Dennis, who seems to be a lot more human than vampire. He has until his fifth birthday, though, for his fangs to come in before all hope of him becoming a vampire is lost. Mavis and Jonathan love him no matter what, but are worried about raising their human son around nothing but monsters. When Mavis and Jonathan decide it might be best for them to leave the hotel to raise Dennis among humans; Drac and his monster friends take Dennis on one last monster of an adventure in an attempt to bring out his fangs and keep the family from leaving the Hotel Transylvania.

I was pleasantly surprised by Hotel Transylvania 2. I liked the animation style, the actors voicing the characters, and it had a great message about accepting those that are different than us and letting people just be whoever they're going to be. It was cute, funny, and had enough adult humor to keep it fun for parents too.

Full disclosure though, I did actually doze off for a few minutes, but I'm thinking that was more the new lounge style recliner chairs our theater just installed rather than the film itself. I was almost completely horizontal in a big comfy chair watching a cartoon. You try staying awake for that!

Seriously, it was a pretty cute movie though.


Dia De Los Muertos Festival

Madeleine performed with her school at the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center for their Dia de los Muertos Festival last Friday night. She looked adorable in her costume.
It was a really cute performance, but here's what I remember most about the night.

1.  Madeleine and Seamus getting caught in the neighbor's sprinklers minutes before we were about to head out.  Seamus wasn't too bad, but Madeleine got pretty wet.  We toweled her off, and luckily she was dry by the time we got to the venue.

2.  Madeleine untucking her blouse on stage right before the performance started. Ugh!

3.  Seamus not wanting to sit still, getting louder and louder, and eventually me having to take him outside and missing the last song.

There you have it. Just wanted to keep it real for you guys, in case you thought our life was all these pretty blog pictures. I wish!

It was fun though, and the kids did pretty good considering the late hour. The performance didn't start until 7:30pm, which is past Seamus' bedtime and just about Madeleine's. I think it was our first trip into downtown Phoenix at night too. We definitely need to get down there more.


My New Jams - Adele, Arianna, and Gwen

I've added three new tunes to my music collection, and seem to have them running on repeat lately. I love new music!

Adele - Hello

Adele is back, yay! It's a beautiful song (although a little slow). I'll definitely be picking up her new album later this month.

Ariana Grande - Focus

I'll confess I wasn't much of an Ariana Grande fan initially, but she's really started to grow on me. This is a pretty fun pop song, and she may actually have the makings of a decent pop princess.

Gwen Stefani - Used To Love You

This video is actually kind of heartbreakingly beautiful. I was so bummed to hear about her and Gavin's split, and this song has got to be about that, which makes it even more sad. It's pure Gwen though, and I love it!

What have you been listening to lately?


Madeleine's 5th Birthday Recap

We celebrated Madeleine's 5th birthday last week!
All she wanted for her birthday was a scooter, and we were more than happy to oblige (it's this one here).
Then, over the weekend, we had a big party for her with all her little school friends. She requested a Dance Party! 
The decorations (from here) weren't really Pinterest worthy or anything, but I thought it all turned out okay. Honestly, with my three day work meeting, parents visiting, and Halloween right before, we're lucky it looked even this good.
Of course, we added some balloons too, which were a big hit with the kids. Madeleine and Seamus are still playing with them.
I even put together goody bags for the kids to take home with them. The glasses and disco ball necklaces were from here, and the buttons, glow sticks, and toy were from here. We had a ton of left over Tootsie Pops from Halloween, so I threw a few of those in each bag too.

As far as food, we had some SkinnyPop, Pirate Booty, soda, and water available for people to just help themselves. For the parents, we also had Mimosas. Then, we served Rosati's pizza (just like home) with fruit, veggies, and milk for lunch.
The cake was from our neighborhood grocery store, Fry's. I thought it was only okay, which was a little disappointing since I loved the one they made for Seamus' first birthday (see here). I think it was the chocolate buttercream frosting...not a fan. It was pretty much devoured though, so I guess everyone else liked it.

We didn't really have any games or activities. They were supposed to, you know, dance for a bit; but that only lasted about 5 minutes (which was alright because it was too bright for our disco ball thingy to work anyway). They mostly just ran around like crazy playing outside or with balloons.

All in all, I think it was a success. I'm not 100% sure though, because for me it felt like a crazy three hour blur of madness. 

Anyway, I know everybody says it, but I have no idea where the last five years went. Seriously, five years! Madeleine is such an amazing little girl, and I feel so blessed that I was chosen to be her mom. I wish I could keep her small forever; but at the same time, I'm really looking forward to the next five years too!


Book Report - Pride and Prejudice and The Importance of Being Earnest

Another couple of books read for my 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge! Jane Austen's, Pride and Prejudice, marked off "A Classic Romance" and Oscar Wilde's, The Importance of Being Earnest, marked off "A Play".

First up, was a re-read of my favorite book of all time, Pride and Prejudice.
When Elizabeth Bennet meets the wealthy bachelor, Mr. Darcy, she immediately finds him arrogant and snobbish. He, in turn, finds her and her family, exceedingly common. When a romance starts to blossom between Elizabeth's sister, Jane, and Mr. Darcy's good friend, Mr. Bingley, the two find themselves continually in each other's company. They soon realize that they each might have judged the other too harshly, but are both too proud to admit their feelings have started to softened.

What can I say that hasn't already been said about Pride and Prejudice? Nothing, except to tell you how much this book means to me.

I was late to discover Jane Austen, and first read Pride and Prejudice for a college course my Freshman year. There aren't a lot of times when I fell in love with required reading, but this was most definitely one of those times. I laughed...I cried...I swooned...I fell in love with Mr. Darcy right alongside Elizabeth. Not only that, I fell in love with Jane Austen! She has become a lifelong friend, who has brought such joy to my life. I read as a form of escapism, and there is no other book I'd rather escape to than Pride and Prejudice. It is perfection.

(Although there is nothing like the novel, if you are looking for an excellent screen adaptation of the book there is none better than the 1995 A&E mini-series starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.)

Next up, another classic, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.
John "Jack" Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff (who knows John only as Ernest) are young, eligible bachelors looking to sometimes get out of their obligatory engagements. So, John lets Algernon in on his secret. His name is not Ernest at all, but actually Jack! In order to sneak away from the country and enjoy himself in London, he has made-up a brother named Ernest. When he wants to escape to London, he tells his pretty, young ward, Cecily Cardes, and her father that "Ernest" requires his assistance in London; allowing John to head off to the city whenever he desires. Once, in London, he goes by Ernest himself and does whatever pleases for as long as he likes. Intrigued by the mention of Cecily, Algernon heads to the country and pretends to be Ernest, Jack's fictional brother in order to meet her. In the meantime, John has asked the beautiful and wealthy Gwendolen Fairfax (who knows John only as Ernest) to marry him. Hilarity ensues when Cecily and Gwendolen meet and discover they are both in love with and being pursued by who they think is the same Ernest!

I adore this play. The Importance of Being Earnest is funny, witty, fast-paced, and the wordplay is just so very clever. It's such a quick read too (maybe an hour or so), so there is no excuse for anyone out there for not reading this play. Definitely check it out, you won't be disappointed.

(After you've read it, you can check out the film adaptation which is also pretty good, and incidentally also stars Colin Firth)

Do you like Jane Austen and/or Oscar Wilde?  What are your favorites?


Day Date - The Book of Mormon

Bill and I took in a Sunday matinee performance of The Book of Mormon over the weekend. We headed to ASU Gammage, which is such a nice theater. We had great seats, and could see everything perfectly. Unfortunately, we completely forgot about lunch, so we were pretty starving by the end of the show; but other than that, we had a great time.
As far as the show itself, I thought it was a really funny and entertaining show, with an actual really good message too. Yes, it specifically pokes fun of the Mormon religion, but it could very easily have been about any religion (my own included). When you really examine the specifics, all religions seem strange and silly and essentially make no sense. That's not the point though. Religion, in its simplest form, is just hope. So, it's not really what you believe, but simply that you believe.

That's how I took it, but I'd be interested to hear what you thought of The Book of Mormon. Did you find it uplifting, offensive, or somewhere in between? I'd especially love to know what you thought if you're a Mormon yourself.

P.S.  Touring Phoenix - Tom's Thumb and Day Date - Hot Air Balloon Ride


2015 Halloween Costumes

Let's bring all this Halloween business to a close with a quick look at our costumes. Bill and I went to a Halloween party Friday night, and pretty much came up with our costumes, well...Friday night. We scoured past costumes, the kids' dress up-drawers, and weird things we already owned (me - cowboy boots, Bill kilt and sword). Here's what we ended up with!
Next up, the kids.
Madeleine decided to be a wolf again (available here). She told me many times over the past couple months she had to be a wolf two Halloweens in a row. Seamus was a lion (available here), which was a past Halloween costume from Madeleine a few years ago.

I love reusing costumes! They get extra wear and require no effort on my part.