Book Report - The Scarlet Letter

Amazingly, I have yet to read any books so far this year. I wasn't kidding when I said I was burnt out from my Reading Challenge (see here). I still have plenty of books to talk about that I read last year though, so let's get started!

Allow me to transport you all back to your high school assigned reading days. Let's talk about The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Set in 1642 Puritan Boston, a young woman, Hester Prynne, and her illegitimate child, Pearl, are publicly subjected to the scorn and ridicule of their town on a daily basis. Hester refuses to name the child's father, and bears the full punishment of their joint sin alone; while the father of her child is tormented by his guilt and shame in secret.

I first attempted reading The Scarlet Letter in high school, but I'm pretty sure I just skimmed it then, never actually finished, and there may have been Cliff Notes involved. Despite the interesting story line within, his style of writing just did not appeal to me at all, .

So, how did it go reading it as an adult?

Pretty much the same, hah! I did actually read it this time, and read it all; but it's still not a style of writing I enjoy. I often found myself reading without really comprehending anything. I was constantly starting chapters over again to get myself back on track with the story. Hawthorne is a very detailed writer, so there are a lot of long, wordy passages about settings and such that for me, really interrupt the momentum of the story. I actually did break out the Cliff Notes again to try and really understand the point of all these wordy passages I was constantly encountering. I figured if I was actually putting in the effort to read it, then it I should really do all I could to try and understand it as well.

Eventually, I did start to get the rhythm of his writing, and I reached a point where it was much easier for me to follow. The parts of the novel where the characters interacted directly, I even actually quite enjoyed. Their dialogues and inner monologues were just so much easier to understand then other parts of the story, and I sped through those sections quickly. Hester has such strength and a quiet grace about her; and she is fully deserving of her place as one of the greatest literary heroines of all time.

Basically, if you stick with it and put in the work, the story pays off. I don't think it will ever be on my list of favorite books of all time, but it's a classic for a reason. There's a great story hidden within, but it will be up to you to dig it out.

P.S. The Scarlet Letter checked off, "A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't" on my Pop Sugar 2015 Reading Challenge.

P.P.S. While I was painstakingly making my way through this, Bill casually mentioned that Nathanial Hawthorne is probably his favorite author. What-the-what? How did I go this long into our relationship without ever knowing this? This now totally explains the copy of The House of the Seven Gables sitting on our bookshelf.


2016 Valentine's Day Gift Guide - Men

Yesterday we checked out some Valentine's Day gift ideas for women (see here), so today I thought I'd help you out with some ideas on what to give to the man in your life this Valentine's Day.
Bring some added heat to your relationship with the Zombie Cajun Hot Sauce Gift Set ($28.98). He'll have a blast testing each sauce out on all his favorite foods, and the zombie theme will appeal to his inner nerd too.

Whisky Rocks ($19.95) are a perfect gift for any Scotch loving man. They won't water down his favorite drink; and well...they're rocks, and guys like rocks. 
The Pocket Dial ($48) (created by Jimmy Fallon) is a leather iPhone case and pocket square in one! It's the perfect blend of whimsy and practicality for any man required to suit-up each day for work. It's a gift that gives too, as all net proceeds go to benefit The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an organization that works hard to save African elephants from ivory poachers. 
Is it time for a wallet upgrade? This Mason Leather Billholder ($88) has cool orange piping and a pop of bright blue in the lining that really elevates it on the style front from your ordinary, boring old black wallet. I speak from experience too, as I gave this wallet to Bill last year. It looks great and has held up really well.
A great multi-tool like the Wave ($90.85) is great if your guy loves tools. It's 17 tools in one, and folds up small enough to slip into his pocket. He'll love it, and maybe get him going on some of those items on that Honey-Do list of yours.    

What are you planning on getting your significant other for Valentine's Day? Do you exchange gifts, or just try and spend time together?


2016 Valentine's Day Gift Guide - Women

Valentine's Day is right around the corner! Here are some ideas if you racking your brain on what to get that special woman in your life.
A fun and girly iPhone case ($28) will help bring a little sparkle to her daily routine. Combine it with a cool charging cord ($18) and you're guaranteed to be the last person she thinks of each night as she plugs her phone in to charge before going to bed.
Skip the generic fine jewelry found at most department stores, and go for some fun designer costume jewelry instead! These heart studs ($48) are adorable and affordable, and she'll love telling people they're Kate Spade.
A sweet treat is always a classic choice. Fannie May's Pixies ($24.99) are a favorite of mine that will be sure to go over well. They come in dark chocolate too - yum!
A collection of Love Letters of Great Men & Women ($10.95) makes for a romantic read, and she'll love it even more when she finds a handwritten love letter written by you tucked inside the cover.
And of course, you can't go wrong with flowers, but try to avoid the cliche red roses grabbed last minute from the grocery store. Show you put in a little bit of effort in by ordering a beautiful arrangement already in a vase (this is key!) from a local flower shop or online from places like Teleflora ($34.95 for the above, but prices vary depending on arrangement).

Oh, and Valentine's Day is on a Sunday this year, so if you're looking for some bonus points, send an arrangement to her office the Monday after. She'll be so surprised, and will get to enjoy them all week!

If gifts aren't your thing, there are lots of other ways to show your love this Valentine's Day too.
     - Spend time together outside - hiking, if you're in a warm climate like me, otherwise skiing, ice-skating, or sledding are fun and romantic ways to spend an evening.

     - Make dinner together - pick something outside of the normal meals you make - lobster, beef wellington, or coq au vin, and attempt to make it together. Make sure you have a frozen pizza on hand in case it all goes terribly wrong.

     - A playlist - mixed tapes are a thing of the past, so instead; make a playlist of all her favorite songs and/or songs that remind you of her for the next time she gets in your car. Bonus points if you can somehow secretly upload it to her phone.

     - Check out a live performance - you can go to the movies anytime, so why not take this as an opportunity to check out the ballet, symphony, or opera instead.

What are you planning on giving for Valentine's Day? I'd love more ideas of what you're planning on giving (or what you're hoping to get). Let me know in the comments!


Let's Go To The Movies - Brooklyn

I'm doing my best to see all the films nominated for best picture for this year's Oscars. I surprisingly have only hit one of them so far, The Martian (see here). So, I decided to check out Brooklyn this past weekend.

With little future in her native Ireland, Eilis Lacey decides to leave her family behind and sail to America. Alone and terribly homesick, she starts to wonder if she has made a terrible mistake. Slowly though, she begins to build a life for herself there; one she doesn't want to leave when tragic circumstances call her back home to Ireland. Eilis must now decide whether home is the beautiful and familiar Ireland of her past or the uncertain and exciting future of her now beloved Brooklyn.

I so enjoyed Brooklyn. It was such a quietly beautiful film. Saoirse Ronan, one of my favorite young actresses, shined as the young immigrant, Eilis Lacey. Essentially in every scene of the film; Brooklyn required a strong lead, and Saoirse delivered. Her talent, combined with gorgeous settings and costumes made for a really lovely film. My only complaint was that it felt just a tad too long, and at one point I started to wonder where it was even going, but it eventually found its way back and delivered a satisfying ending. I can't say it was necessarily worthy of its best picture nomination, but Saoirse Ronan's best actress nominee was extremely well deserved. I highly recommend checking out Brooklyn.

P.S. If our little Seamus had been a girl, Bill wanted to name her Saoirse (pronounced Ser-sha). I loved the name, but just couldn't get over the Gaelic spelling. No one would ever be able to pronounce it!! I'm glad we ended up with our Seamus instead (although his name does get mispronounced quite often as well - it's pronounced SHAE-mus).



Mini Vacation Day 2 - Half Marathon & Balboa Island

Sunday was an early day for everybody, but especially Bill. He had a 5:30am start time for the Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland. For the rest of us, the goal was to be able to cheer him on as he crossed the finish line. We found spots at the finish around 7am, and he crossed the finish line a little before 7:30am. His final time was 1:52:16 (his fastest time to date!) We were all very proud of him.
After Bill got cleaned up, we headed out to breakfast at...Ruby's...again. A different location this time, but the same great food. Then, back home we rested a bit, and I took the kids back to the park. I'm pretty sure this place was the highlight of the trip for them.
Later, we decided to head over to Balboa Island, just the four of us, for lunch and a little shopping. We ate at Wilma's Patio, which despite the crazy mural walls was a pretty good restaurant - perfect for little kids.
Then, of course, we had to try the famous frozen banana from Sugar 'N Spice.
Bill and Madeleine were big fans, but Seamus and I thought they were only okay. (I opted for the Balboa Bar instead.)
After that it was time for a little bit of shopping. We picked up a few books for Madeleine at a cute little children's book shop called Island Tales, and they each got to pick out something from a tiny little toy shop called Our Gang's General Store too.
When we got back home, it was almost dinnertime. We just ordered in some pizza and relaxed the rest of the night.

Monday morning we got ourselves up and out by 9am. The drive was fairly uneventful, but we were all getting a little restless with just wanting to be back home. We got in around 3pm, and spent the rest of the evening settling back in.

Such a fun little trip! Here's to the mini vacation!


Mini Vacation Day 1 - Hanging in Huntington

We took a quick trip to California last weekend! Bill had signed up to run the Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland; and since Madeleine had Monday off school for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we decided to all go to visit with Bill's dad as well.

We headed out on Friday evening, and arrived at my father-in-law's house around 10pm. The kids did great on the car ride. With the late hour, they slept about half the trip! They were super awake and excited to see Grandpa when we arrived though, so we let them stay up for a bit. I think we were all in bed by 11pm, exhausted from the long drive.

Saturday morning we lounged around for a while and enjoyed a lazy morning. Bill and his dad then drove to Disneyland to pick up his race packet, and I took Banshee and the kids to a nearby park so they could all get their exercise in and their energy out. It was fun, and we stayed there for about an hour.

For lunch, we headed to Huntington Beach and ate at the Ruby's Diner at the end of the pier. We eat there at least once (sometimes more!) each time we go, and it never disappoints.
Image from here.
The kids had fun hanging out on the pier looking at all the ducks, surfers, and boats; and we did a little shopping at some of the sidewalk tents along the beach too. I picked up two mini paintings I can't wait to add to one of my gallery walls (see here or here).
We headed back to the house, and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. I took a nap, and the kids watched a little tv and played with some new toys Grandpa had gotten them. We made some delicious chicken tacos for dinner, and we watched the Packers/Cardinals game before finally heading to bed.


Coming Soon

We're out of town for the long weekend, but I wanted to drop in quickly to let you know about some upcoming shows and movies I'm really excited about.

First up, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies starring Lily James (and was that Matt Smith aka the 11th Doctor I spy too?)

Pride and Prejudice AND zombies...count me in! I love Jane Austen, and I love a good zombie flick; and the juxtaposition of the two looks like so much fun to me. This book has been on my to-read list for ages too, so I'll be sure to knock that out before checking out the film in February.

Next, the new PBS Civil War series, Mercy Street.

A bit more serious in tone, Mercy Street is the tale of two volunteer nurses on opposing sides during the Civil War. I've always found this to be such a fascinating time in American history; combine that with what looks to be an interesting medical drama as well and I'm intrigued.

Then, there's the BBC's War and Peace mini-series which starts tonight!! It also stars Lily James and Gillian Anderson too.

I love a good period mini-series, and this one looks amazing! The settings and costumes look gorgeous, but its the story I'm really looking forward too. I've never read the novel, so this will be all new for me. I can't wait!

Finally, the one I'm most excited about, The Crown on Netflix starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith (again, yay!).

The making of monarch, The Crown delves into the early years of Queen Elizabeth. I'm familiar with the backstory of her father and uncle, but I actually don't know much about Queen Elizabeth herself. The romance of it all, plus the pageantry, looks too good to pass up.

So, if it's not obvious by now, I'm a big fan of a good costume drama. I could seriously watch them all day long. The romance, costumes, language, and settings of them all - it's pure escapism for me.

Are you into period films too? Are you planning on checking any of these out?


Phoenix Suns Game

Madeleine had another school performance recently. This time at the Phoenix's Suns game!
The kids showed off their language skills by giving a short speech in Mandarin just before the game. They looked so adorable in their little costumes, and did a really great job. It was so fun to watch Madeleine down on center court and on the big jumbo-tron too! Afterwards, we got to watch the game, although we did leave after the first quarter. It was nearing 8pm, and it was school night after all.

The logistics of the entire thing were a little unorganized, but the kids seemed to have fun. Even Seamus behaved!! All in all, I'd say it was a successful evening. It also marked the kids' first professional sports experience. A Phoenix Suns basketball game. Who'd a thunk it?

Oh, and ever the little feminist, Madeleine said she liked performing; but didn't like the game much because no girls were playing.

P.S. Dia De Los Muertos Festival


2016 Golden Globes Fashion - Beautiful Blues

For my final Golden Globes Fashion post let's take a look at all the pretty shades of blue that showed up on the red carpet.

Jennifer Jason Leigh
Nominee, Jennifer Jason Leigh, wore this ice blue Roland Mouret dress. The color seemed a little light for January, but that's really my only complaint. It fits her great, and the capped sleeves really balanced the dress nicely. Her hair is pretty, but her make-up was a little light. The belt really tied the whole look together though. Well done, Jennifer.

Joanne Froggatt
Nominee, Joanne Froggatt, wore this flowy periwinkle Reem Acra gown. The skirt had a lot of movement, which was great; but I couldn't get behind the bodice. A plunging v-neck does not work with a strapless gown, as evidenced by the sheer fabric needed to hold it all together over the bust. I don't mind the hair, but I would have flipped it in front her shoulders. The make-up, jewelry, and clutch all compliment the look well. Overall though, this was just okay for me.

Kate Winslet
Winner, Kate Winslet, wore this royal blue Ralph Lauren halter dress. I was so disappointed with this look. Don't get me wrong, she looks fantastic as per usual; but she's worn this same type of gown and even this same color so many times before that I'm getting bored. It's time to freshen up the look, Kate! As much as I can't believe I'm saying it, this was a miss for me.

Gina Rodriguez
Nominee, Gina Rodriguez, wore this navy Zac Posen gown. She was one of the few that opted for a true ballgown silhouette; and it works for her, especially this color. I liked the off-the-shoulder look, but there seems to be something slightly off at the bust line. Her hair, make-up, and jewelry all accented the look really well. Nicely done, Gina!

Bryce Dallas Howard 
Presenter, Bryce Dallas Howard, wore this off the rack Jenny Packham gown (which apparently shocked the world). The color goes great with her complexion and hair, and the dress has a lot of interesting detail. The lace detail on top and the three-quarter sleeves seem to age the overall look though. Seriously, hack off the sleeves and lose the lace and it would have been one sexy dress. Instead it looks like something more suited for Helen Mirren. I wasn't a fan of the earrings, but her hair and make-up looked gorgeous. Despite its few flaws, this color just looks way too good on her to not like this look. Good job, Bryce!

 Julianne Moore
Presenter, Julianne Moore, wore this sequined Tom Ford dress. Note to all redheads - this is your color!! Seriously, she looks amazing in it too. I loved the long sleeves, and the sequins give it such movement. The neckline is a little wonky, but no other complaints with the dress. Her hair was a little unkempt; but her make-up was really pretty and those rings looked amazing. Very nice, Julianne!

Melissa McCarthy
Nominee, Melissa McCarthy, wore this navy kimono-style gown she designed herself. This dress looked much better on TV then it does in any pictures I've seen of it online. It also looked black on TV, and I think it would have actually worked better in black then this weird, shiny blue fabric we're seeing here. The cut was flattering on her; but the pendant necklace was the wrong choice, as were the shoes. I would have gone with a shorter diamond necklace, and some sparkly silver shoes. The bag worked, and I loved her hair and make-up. Not bad, Melissa.

Jamie Lee Curtis
Nominee, Jamie Lee Curtis, wore this navy dress with black flower applique details (couldn't find designer). The hem and sleeves were both too long, giving an overall heavy feel to the dress. Her hair looks great, but I would have done a bolder lip and some dangly earrings instead. I would have changed the black shoe to silver as well. This one was a miss for me.

Viola Davis
Nominee, Viola Davis, wore this starry Marchesa number. The color was gorgeous and it moved really well. I loved the sparkles, but thought they were a little too heavy in the bust area. Her hair and make-up looked fantastic, and I loved the clutch and jewelry too. Well done, Viola!


Jenna Dewan Tatum
Jenna Dewan Tatum was my favorite blue dress and favorite overall look of the night in this sparkling Zuhair Murad gown. The color was gorgeous, and I loved the sequined details. It looks like a beautiful blue flower. The v-neck is just a tad too broad, but that's my only complaint. Her hair and make-up look lovely, and I loved the clutch and jewelry. This dress is so gorgeous that I don't even mind she has her hand her pocket. Absolutely beautiful, Jenna!

What was your favorite look overall? I went back and forth between Jenna and Lady Gaga. I just love navy blue gowns too much though, so Jenna won me over.

All images from here, except for Bryce Dallas Howard's which was from here.

P.S. Make sure to check out all my fashion reviews from the 2016 Golden Globes!
Paint it BlackNude to WhiteShimmer and ShineOver the RainbowPink to RedPatterns, Peplum, and Plumage

2016 Golden Globes Fashion - Patterns, Peplum, and Plumage

Solids and sequins reigned supreme on the red carpet, but there were those that dared to go a different route. Let's take a look.
Eva Longoria 
Presenter, Eva Longoria, wore this flower applique George Hobeika dress. The beautiful flowers on her hips bring so much visual interest, and really pop against the stark white of the dress. The gold belt and faux-bow neckline help balance the heaviness of detailing on her hips. Her hair, make-up, and jewelry all compliment the look well. I would have gone with a different shoe, maybe something in red or gold, but that's it. Well done, Eva!!

Rachel McAdams
Rachel McAdams opted for this rose patterned Lanvin gown. Although I applaud the bold pattern, the bust line is uneven and the texturing on the fabric just makes the dress look wrinkled. Her make-up is nice; but I didn't care for her hair, and she could have done with a necklace. This one was just okay for me.

Maura Tierney
Winner, Maura Tierney, wore this color-blocked Elizabeth Kennedy dress. She strikes me as someone who is not really into the whole red carpet spectacle, but this looks like she didn't even try to make an effort. The dress is plain, but actually not terrible. It fits her well, and the color is nice. It was the styling that was just so way off here. The jewelry is too casual (and kind of ugly), her make-up is too light, and the hair should have been worn down. This was a big miss for me.

Melissa Benoist
Supergirl actress, Melissa Benoist, wore this Monique Lhuillier number. The dress fits her well; but the pattern is too delicate, and I wasn't a fan of the folds of the skirt. The white sandals and earrings are too matchy-matchy, and the pink color on the clutch was not the right color to highlight. I see pops of blue in there, and the look would have benefited from pumps, clutch, and earrings in a nice saturated blue color. The hair and make-up are okay, but the whole look strikes me as one of someone who is very new to the red carpet world. This was a miss for me as well.

Malin Akerman 
Malin Ackerman donned this icy blue (or is it grey?) lace Reem Acra gown. The proportions were a bit off here. It needs to hemmed first of all, but it's really the delicate bust that cannot support the heavy peplum waist and skirt that throws the whole thing off. Her hair, make-up, and accessories all look great though. Overall, not too bad.
Heidi Klum
Heidi Klum opted for this feathered Marchesa dress. I'm always amazed how someone so beautiful continuously gets it wrong on the red carpet. Surprisingly, it's actually not the feathers that are necessarily wrong here (although they are pretty bad). The color is very drab, the bust is terrible, and the black belt visually interrupts the line of the dress. Her shoes look too small, and she needed a bolder lip color. Her hair and earrings were the only aspects of this look I liked. Another miss for me.

Calista Flockhart
Actress, Calista Flockhart, wore this teal Andrew Gn gown. The color is absolutely gorgeous, and I loved the contrasting embroidery detailing on the bust. The sleeves were a little too fluttery for my taste, but that's my only issue with the dress. Her hair is a little casual, but I liked her make-up and gold clutch. Nicely done, Calista!

Jaimie Alexnader
Presenter, Jaimie Alexander, wore this stunning green and black Genny gown. The geometric pattern was definitely the most interesting of the night. I think the plunging neckline was too broad, but that's about my only complaint with the dress. Her hair looks good, and I loved the earrings. The smoky eye was good, but she could have done a bolder lip. I would have gone with a more sleek shoe than the chunky platform, and told her to take her hands our of her pockets too. Overall though, beautiful job, Jaimie!


Maggie Gyllenhaal
Presenter, Maggie Gyllenhaal, was my favorite of this bunch in this gold and black floral Marc Jacobs dress. Maggie is the master of ugly chic, and this dress was no exception. On anyone else I would have probably hated this; but on her, it totally works. It had a whole Gatsby vibe that I was definitely feeling. It is perfectly suited to her long and lanky body. I might have changed the lip color, but other than that this is perfection in my book.

Do you agree or disagree? I debated between Maggie and Jaimie's look as my favorite, but I think my overall love for Maggie Gyllenhaal ended up making my decision for me. Who was your favorite in this group?

All photos from here.

2016 Golden Globes Fashion - Pink to Red

You may have notice I didn't mention any of the red or blue dresses in yesterdays Over the Rainbow post. Well, that's because there were just so many that I was forced to give them each their own post. So, here's a look at all the dresses that were various shades of red, from barely there pink to the deepest of wines.

Cate Blanchett
Nominee, Cate Blanchett wore this pink, fringed Givenchy number. Cate is someone who has fun with fashion and enjoys taking risks. Yes, this is a little weird, but it's also very pretty - the color, the lace detailing, and the movement of it all make for a very visually interesting gown. I wasn't a fan of her hair, but overall I thought this was a great look. Nicely done, Cate.

Leslie Mann
Leslie Mann wore this blush pink Monique Lhuillier gown. I thought this was a beautiful dress too. The color was lovely, and I enjoyed the flower details on the tulle of the skirt. The high neckline of this dress was more conducive to a pendant instead of the choker she has on here though. Her hair is a little plain too, but her make-up looked great. Overall, not a bad look. Good job, Leslie.

Katy Perry
Presenter, Katy Perry opted for this rosey pink colored column dress. I didn't mind the color, but I thought the fit was off around the bust area. It was the hair though that really ruined the look for me. This was a big miss for me.

Amber Heard
Presenter, Amber Heard, wore this rose colored Gucci gown. It fits her great, and I loved the flower details along the neckline. It's soft, and pretty, and really feminine. The hair, make-up, and jewelry all accented the look really well. Great job, Amber!

Emmy Rossum
Emmy Rossum wore this bright red Armani Prive dress. The silhouette of the dress is nice, but it needed to be hemmed. The hair and make-up are fine, but the overall look is a little plain side. The necklace is fantastic, but wasn't enough to elevate this look to anything higher than just okay for me.

Jennifer Lawrence
Winner, Jennifer Lawrence, wore this red Dior Haute Couture number. I wasn't a fan of the cut-outs at her waist, but otherwise loved this look. It is a really good color on her, and the shape is great. Her hair and make-up were perfect, and that necklace was amazing. Great job, Jennifer!

Natalie Dormer
Natalie Dormer wore this flowy J. Mendel gown. The jarring black neckline really ruined this dress for me. It does not go with the soft, feminine flow of the majority of the dress. It's like someone slapped a collar on her. The hair is messy, and she needed a bolder lip to match the heavy eye she's sporting too. As much as I love her, this one was a miss for me.

Bernadette Peters
Broadway legend, Bernadette Peters, wore this wine colored column gown. The fit is great on her, but the competing reds of the embroidery and dress bugged me. Her accessories aren't helping anything either. The black bag doesn't match, and the earrings and chunky bracelet are too matchy-matchy. This was a miss for me as well.

Disney star, Zendaya, wore this tiered Marchesa dress. I was torn on this one. From the neck up, it's pretty much perfection; but I wasn't sure about the layering of the skirt. I liked the color, texture, and the hints of black peaking through on the dress; and her hair, make-up, and accessories all complimented the look well too. Ultimately, I decided I liked it, wonky skirt and all. Nice job, Zendaya! 


Olivia Wilde
Presenter, Olivia Wilde was my favorite pink/red dress of the night in this sexy Michael Kors sequined gown. The silhouette is great, and I loved the belting, halter neckline, and how the sequins give what could have been a stiff column gown so much movement. There's a liquidity to this dress that is simply amazing. I would have lost the necklace and gone a different direction on the hair, but those are my only little critiques. Beautiful job, Olivia!!

All images from here.