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7.29.2016

Fan Girl - Gilmore Girls

And we have a date people!!  Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life officially premiers on November 25th (the day after Thanksgiving) on Netflix!

You all enjoy your Black Friday shopping. My plans for that day are officially set!

Gosh - they haven't aged a bit, right?

7.27.2016

Book Report - Styled

After completing the epic PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge, I took a long mental break from reading at the beginning of the year. Back in March though, I officially finished my first book of 2016, Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves by Emily Henderson.
Design Star winner, former HGTV host, Target brand ambassador, and blogger, Emily Henderson, dishes all her styling secrets in her first book, Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves. Learn the tricks of the trade while browsing page after page of beautifully styled interiors.

Emily Henderson has been one of my favorite interior designer since her Secrets From a Stylist days, and I have learned so much from reading her blog over the years. I was really excited for her book to come out, and I read it cover to cover. The book is chock-full of gorgeous rooms that are all expertly styled, and it's worth the price just to sit and flip through the pages looking at all the pretty rooms.

However, I really wanted to learn how to style, so I actually read this thing. That's where, I'm afraid to say, I was a bit disappointed. First, there was the quiz at the beginning of the book you're supposed to take to nail down your style. Bill and I took it together and ended up both utterly confused.

For example:
You love to fill your bookshelf with lots of objects, books, and accessories: 
a. Yes
b. No

Well, what else would you fill your bookshelves with if not some combination of those three things?

Or one of the possible answers to this question:
Your favorite seat in th house would have to be:
c. Your black Le Corbusier leather chair. You've had it forever and you could never get sick of its sleek lines.

What's a Le Corbusier leather chair? I consider myself to be more of a design enthusiast than the average person out there, so if I wasn't getting these references who was the target audience of this book supposed to be?

I put my concerns aside though and started reading.  The book breaks down picture after picture of various home interiors and explains the styling behind each shot. I don't want to say there were no tips in it, but I guess, they just weren't the tips I was looking for. While it talked a lot about styling rooms for photos, it didn't really teach you how to style in general. I really think this is more a styling book for professional prop stylists, and not us lowly folks just trying to figure out how to make our dang bookshelves look cute already.

Oh, and as a daily reader of her blog for years now, I was surprised by how many of the photos I had already seen previously on the blog. I really thought it would be practically all new material, but there were quite a lot of repeats.

Like I said though, the book is beautiful and there is a lot of inspiration in all those pretty pictures; it just wasn't what I was expecting. Emily's voice rings true throughout though, and it's a great voice. While I probably won't actually read this book again, it's definitely one I'll keep on hand to flip through from time to time.

7.25.2016

Let's Go To The Movies: The Shallows

So, um yeah, I went to the movies again. My sister was in town, and we're both fans of a good horror film, and The Shallows was on the top of my list.

After the death of her mother, medical student and surfer, Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) heads to a secret, secluded beach her mother once told her about; and revels in the fantastic surf and solitude. When Nancy unintentionally gets too close to the feeding ground of a great white shark, things take a horrifying turn. Bitten and stranded on a rock, the shore within her sights, she watches while the lone shark continues to circle just waiting for her to make a mistake. Nancy soon realizes the only way to survive is to fight back.

I was really looking forward to seeing this movie. I love horror, but lately can't quite deal with the psycho killers or paranormal stuff. But a killer shark? That's my jam. The trailer was awesome, and I love Blake Lively too.

All that being said...

I didn't love The Shallows. I was pretty disappointed with the special effects of this film. Seriously, there was one part where it looked like they just superimposed her head on another body for a surfing scene. And while there were parts that made me jump here or there, for the most part, it was lacking in suspense. It wasn't all bad though. Blake Lively actually acted the hell out of this film. It was essentially her alone the entire film, and she was captivating. All-in-all, I'd say this was just an okay film.  I wouldn't rush out to the theater to check it out or anything, but it's an alright little B-Horror movie to rent once on DVD.

7.22.2016

Coming Soon: Florence Foster Jenkins

Earlier this week I was invited to see an advanced screening of the new film, Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.

Florence Foster Jenkins tells the true story of the 1940's New York socialite and classical music enthusiast, Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep). She believes herself to be a great singer, but unbeknownst to her, can't carry a tune in the least. Her husband, St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) and all their dear friends are determined to shield her from the truth; but when Florence books Carnegie Hall to give a public performance in support of the troops, St Clair may not be able to protect her any longer.

This was an absolutely adorable little movie; just so, so sweet. Meryl Streep simply shined as Florence; capturing her enthusiasm and innocence perfectly. While Hugh Grant, as her ever adoring husband, gives one of his finest performances. It's a story of love, passion, and friendship, and it's really fun too. If you're looking for a great feel-good film, Florence Foster Jenkins is it.

7.20.2016

KonMari Method - Books

When I last talked about the KonMari Method, I had finished the process of sorting, discarding, and folding all my clothes (see here).

I was ready for the next step, and the next step is books!
The first thing to do is gather all your books and put them on the floor - every, single, book (and magazine). Again, just like with your clothes, you have to handle each book individually to see whether or not it brings you joy, and you just can't do this while they are all sitting on your shelves. In Marie Kondo's mind, books on the shelf are invisible, dormant; and you cannot accurately judge whether they bring you joy or not unless you physically touch each one.
A few things to think about as you go about the process:

-  the decision to keep or not keep a book should be based on the feeling you get when you handle it. Don't start reading the book. If you start reading the book, you'll start thinking of whether or not you need the book instead of focusing on how the book makes you feel.

- books you have not read, or started but never finished should be discarded. Planning to read a book "sometime" usually means you're never going to read it. The moment to read a book is when you first encounter it.
- For the books you have already read, it is highly unlikely you'll ever read any of them again, and you should consider discarding them.

- The only books to keep are your "Hall of Fame" books.

This is harder than it looks, as books are some of the most difficult items in our homes to part with. There's just something about books, especially for an avid reader like me. Even Bill kept telling me that you should never get rid of books. I buckled down and went through the process though, and was left with my discard pile (left) and my keep pile (right).
Then it was time to put everything back. Cookbooks went back to the kitchen, children's books went upstairs, most discarded books were donated to the library, and my keepers went back on the shelves. Seamus was more than happy to help if it meant he could climb the ladder some more.
When I was done, the bookshelf looked like this!!
I definitely paired it down to what, for now, are my bare essentials bookwise. For a bookworm like me, I think it was a good first step. As time goes on, I feel I'll be much more comfortable letting go of my precious babies here or there.
The shelves already look and feel lighter. And, just like with the clothes, I don't miss any of the books that are gone.

The next step is paper. Yikes!

7.18.2016

Let's Go To The Movies - Ghostbusters

I got out over the weekend to see Ghostbusters!

Professor of Particle Physics, Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig) is fast on her university's tenure track when circumstances reunite her with her childhood friend, and paranormal enthusiast, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). When ghost sightings start popping up all over New York City, Erin and Abby, along with nuclear engineer, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and subway worker, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), join forces to stop the growing ghostly threat.

Loved it!

Seriously, this was by far the best comedy I have seen in ages. Notice I didn't say "female" comedy, because that's not what this was. This was just a comedy that happened to star females; and it was a really good one. This was not the man-bashing in your face reply to the sexist society we live in that I was expecting based on the comments and fears that I continually read about online since word of this all-female revival was announced. They did right by the original, all the while, creating an outstanding film that easily can stand alone. By focusing on smart and strong people, as well as the power of friendship, Ghostbusters completely reinvented itself. Kate McKinnon completely stole the film; followed closely by Chris Hemsworth (who knew he could be so funny?) My only complaint, and it's a small one, was that they maybe gave too many nods to the original film. All the original ghostbusters made cameos, as well as Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts. We saw Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and more. It didn't necessarily detract from the film, but after a while, I was like, "Okay, we get it. This is a remake of a beloved 80's classic." Some viewers probably loved it, but honestly, it wasn't needed. This Ghostbusters was straight up entertainment and fun for all ages.

7.15.2016

Book Report - The Complete Maus and A Christmas Carol

You guys, we've come to the end! Finally, the last two books I read as part of the Pop Sugar 2015 Reading Challenge. The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman marked off "A graphic novel" and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens marked off "A book set in Christmas".

First up, The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman.
Maus: A Survivor's Tale recounts the true story of Vladek Spiegelman, a European Jew during World War II, as told by his cartoonist son, Art Spiegelman, in an attempt to come to terms with what happened to his father during one of our darkest times in history. Spiegelman casts the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats to portray this deeply personal story of a man's horrific past alongside that of a son's desperate need to connect with and understand his father.

I vividly remember reading this story as a kid, so when a graphic novel came up on my challenge list; I immediately decided it was time to read Maus again. It made quite an impression on me in my youth. I remembered how it made the terrible events of WWII easy to comprehend in a way that made sense, all the while never shying away from telling the hard truth. It's a very complicated story told very simply, and that's not a criticism in any way. It's the simplicity of the story that is its genius. Cat and mouse. Nazi and Jew. It's a gripping and visually stunning work of literature.

Next up, the classic Christmas tale, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
Crotchety old mizer, Ebenezer Scrooge, is visited, on Christmas Eve, by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley, as well as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come. The ghosts take Scrooge on a journey of self-discovery in an attempt to help the selfish man upon a new path come Christmas morning.

Okay, full disclosure...I don't like Dickens. You know I love me the classics, but I've always found Dickens extremely difficult to read and don't get much enjoyment from his works. However, I thought knowing the story of The Christmas Carol so well would help me to finally get behind Dickens, but alas, it was not to be. It still, for me, was like pulling teeth - absolutely excruciating. It's a beloved story, and I enjoy it in movie form every Christmas season, but this is not one I'll be reading again anytime soon.

What are you reading lately? Are there any famous authors that, try as you might, you just can't get behind?

P.S. Check out the complete list of books I read as part of the Pop Sugar 2015 Reading Challenge here.

P.P.S. Don't forget to enter the giveaway to win a copy of the Hamilton soundtrack!  You have until 7/29 to enter here.

7.13.2016

This And That



1.  Love this top!
I picked up this top from The Loft, and I'm really liking it. It's really structured, but comfortable, and the little peplum is both really flattering and fun. I've been thinking of doing some fashion posts showcasing outfits I put together, but I'm still trying to figure out how best to do that.        

2.  Madeleine's playing basketball.
Madeleine's big summer activity this year was basketball! She was very excited to be part of a real team with real uniforms and real games. She was the only girl on her team, and one of the only girls in the entire league. She's doing great. What she lacks in height and skill, she makes up for with speed and determination.

3. This movie looks like it could be good.  
I'm intrigued by this film, La La Land. It's an original musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (loved them together in Crazy Stupid Love). I'm hoping it will be good, but the trailer is pretty cryptic, so who knows.

4.  Stray Palm  
A little while back we noticed a little palm tree had started growing randomly in our back yard. All of a sudden, it seems to be not so little anymore. I love the irony that I can't seem to grow anything to save my life, but this little seed did it all on its own. I get it Mother Nature, you're awesome like I can never be. I think I've identified it as a Washingtonia Robusta aka Mexican Fan Palm. I love it, but it can't stay where it is much longer. I'm hoping we can transplant it to another area of the yard successfully. Wish us luck.

5.  The State of the World
Finally, I'm having trouble dealing with all the terrible events that keep occurring here in the US and around the world. I seem to internalize everything, and when these terrible events just keep piling up on top of each other so quickly, it gets really hard sometimes. I wish there was something tangible I could do to help make things better, but it all seems so small compared to the magnitude of hate and fear that continues to make headlines. I take comfort in the fact that I am raising kind children who love more than they hate, but it doesn't seem enough. What else can I do? What are you doing?

Please be kind to one another!  

7.11.2016

Children's Book Report - Once Upon A Cloud

I have a pretty little children's book to share with you today - Once Upon A Cloud by Claire Keane.
It's a sweet little tale about a little girl, named Celeste, who is trying to think of the perfect gift to give her mother. 
As she lays down to go to sleep, the wind sweeps her away on a magical adventure.
It's a cute little story, but for me, this book is all about the illustrations. The colors are beautiful and the characters simply dance across the page. It's like reading ballet!
Claire Keane, the author and illustrator, works at Disney and contributed to both Tangled and Frozen. You can definitely see that Disney style animation reflected in the pages of this her debut book.
It's a great book for kids to give their mom on Mother's Day or her birthday too. I definitely recommend checking it out.

What have you been reading to your kids lately? I'm always on the lookout for fun new children's books.

7.08.2016

Camp Seamus

I've been working a little bit on Seamus' room lately. Due to the craziness surrounding his birth (see here) and our cross-country move; he never really had a nursery decorated just for him. Now that he's transitioned out of the crib though, I thought it was time to start putting together a proper big boy room for him. I mentioned here, I was thinking of doing a woodsy/camp themed room, and I stayed with that idea.

Here's where we last left off.
And here's where we are now!
We went with the toddler bed (see here), so Seamus would still have lots of room to play. It didn't have much presence in the room though, so I found this great canvas wall hanging (see here) of old camp pendants that almost acts as a headboard. The bedding and blanket we've had, but I just picked up the little fox pillow recently (see here). 
I really love the wall hanging. It is just so perfect. Not only is it on theme, but the colors are perfect; and it gives a little nod to Wisconsin; the state where Seamus was born and where we called home for so long.

Next up is the wall next to the closet. It used to look like this.
And now it looks like this.
We've had this little toy storage unit for ages (similar here). It was previously in Seamus' closet; but I took it out because the colors work in the room, and it helps fill up the big blank wall. The little rocking chair was mine as a kid, and of course, we couldn't forget about Captain America (see here).
I plan on filling the space above the toy bin with some fun art. I have most of the prints, but still need to frame everything.

Finally, we have the dresser wall. Seamus has been using the old dresser from Madeleine's nursery. It was a hand-me-down back then that we had painted black. Decor-wise, it really never worked well in Seamus' room.
So, we got him a new one!
I was randomly browsing West Elm, and found the dresser on sale for only $399 (see here). I loved the natural color, that it was tall as opposed to wide, and especially the fun detailing. It totally reminds me of the feathers on an arrow.
I couldn't be happier with the purchase. I just threw a few knick-knacks on it for now. It was all stuff we already had around, except for the little campfire light which is new (see here).

It's definitely coming along (check out here for a refresher of where we started on move-in day). I just have to hang a bit more art and some shelves. We might actually have a completely finished room here soon.

For more on the evolution of Seamus' room, check out these past posts!
House Tour - Kids' Bedrooms
Buh-Bye Boob Light
Seamus' Room - Progress
The Real Slim Shady
Crush List - July

7.06.2016

4th of July Recap

We had ourselves a pretty quiet little 4th of July here in Phoenix. With temps around 110°, we kept the outdoor fun to a minimum.
We went for a swim before it got too hot, then retreated to the house to play. We watched a little TV too, catching the end of West Side Story and then The Music Man.
We had a really yummy dinner of brats, corn on the cob, pasta salad, corn muffins, and watermelon. It was so good!
Later, we headed outside again to do some snaps...
and some sparklers!
The kids had a blast doing sparkler after sparkler.
But, we started getting hot again, so we headed back inside to wait for it to get a little bit darker and hopefully a little bit cooler.
We were back at it again after the sun went down (unfortunately, still really hot though). I think this photo was taken right before Seamus burnt his hand on a sparkler and declared over and over again, "I don't want to play anymore, I don't want to play anymore." Poor little guy.
Madeleine was happy to finish up the rest of the sparklers by herself.
After the sparklers were gone, we called it a night. One of these years we'll let them stay up late and go see a good fireworks display, but for now, I'm enjoying our quiet little backyard celebrations.

How was your 4th? Did you see fireworks or a parade? With how hot it is here this time of year, I confess, it's not the funnest holiday for me anymore. You know how people do Christmas in July? I'm considering starting 4th of July in December for all us desert folks. What do you think?

7.04.2016

My New Jam - Hamilton (Plus A Giveaway)

I totally jumped aboard the Hamilton bandwagon! I had obviously heard of it (who hasn't?), and references to it kept popping up on some of my favorite shows (The Mindy Project, Inside Amy Schumer, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). Heck, Odd Mom Out even devoted an entire episode to it! Check out the totally not suitable for work clip below. So funny!

I knew it was taking Broadway by storm, but it still didn't sound like my thing. I'm not a huge American history buff, so the subject matter didn't really interest me. (Truth be told, I couldn't even confidently answer whether Alexander Hamilton was president or not.)  Plus, a hip-hop musical? Nope, I'm definitely more into the classics - Phantom, Les Mis, that sort of thing. I truly thought I wouldn't like it.

Then I saw James Cordon's "Carpool Karaoke" with Lin Manuel-Miranda which was great.

Then I saw the cast perform on the Tony's, and it was pretty great too.

I was pretty intrigued by this point; so, I decided to just get the soundtrack already, and let me tell you, it is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!! It's been on constant repeat since I got it. I love it, Bill loves it (well, love might be a strong word, but he likes it), and even the kids are loving it too. It's truly a work of genius. I especially love that the soundtrack is essentially the entire show too. Usually you just get the "songs" on a cast album, but since they are rapping, you're getting every word of show. Seriously, it's about two and a half hours long! I'm having so much fun learning the songs and imagining the show in my head.

I've also learned a ton. I think I may be qualified to teach a class now or something. I'm all, "The Battle of Yorktown? Yeah, that was in 1781." "The Federalist Papers? Yeah, Hamilton wrote 51 of those essays - 51!" "Was he president? Uh, no! He was the first Secretary of the Treasury, silly".

So, now it's your turn!
If you would like to enter to win a free CD of Hamilton (Original Cast Recording), then leave a comment below letting me know what your favorite Broadway show is along with your email address (that's the only way I'll have to contact you). Please only one entry per person. I have no way to monitor that, so you're all on the honor system, okay? You have until Friday, 7/29 to enter, and I'll announce the winner on Monday, 8/1.

Good luck!

Quick Disclaimer
This giveaway is not sponsored.  I am paying for the CD with my own money. I just really enjoyed the soundtrack and wanted to say thank you to my readers for reading!

7.01.2016

Book Report - Fever 1793 and The Bell Jar

Here's a couple more books I read last year as part of my Pop Sugar 2015 Reading Challenge.  Laurie Halse Anderson's, Fever 1793, marked off "A book based on a true story" and Sylvia Plath's, The Bell Jar, marked off "A book written by someone under 30".

First up, Fever 1793.
It's the summer of 1793, and Yellow Fever is starting to spread throughout Philadelphia. Fourteen-year-old, Mattie Cook, is helping her mother run their family's coffee house along with her grandfather and their cook, a freed slave named Eliza. When the fever hits the Cook family, Mattie and her grandfather are forced to flee the city. While away, Philadelphia becomes a very different place, and upon her return, Mattie grows up quickly as she starts helping those that were too poor to leave the city when the fever hit and attempts to salvage the business her family worked so hard to build.

Fever 1793 is a well-written young adult novel that brings a bit of history to life for the reader. It's a fictional tale set during true events. The Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 killed 5,000 people (10% of Philadelphia's population) in just three months. I'd say I can't even imagine the devastation, but Anderson does such a great job of describing the events for the reader you'll feel like you're there. Seeing the events unfold through the eyes of 14-year old Mattie brought such a personal perspective to the story. Mattie's resilience and bravery make her an excellent heroine for young readers out there. I did enjoy the story, but this is most definitely a book for the pre-teen/early teen crowd.

Next up, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
It's 1953 and 19-year old Esther Greenwood has landed a one-month internship at a women's magazine in New York City. As the weeks go by, Esther becomes more and more disillusioned with her life and sinks slowly into a depression that threatens to consume her completely.

I really wanted to love The Bell Jar. Every time I had heard it referenced it always seemed right up my alley - dark, moody, and female psyche centered. I was expecting a lot from it, and while it didn't exactly fall short of my expectations, it didn't quite live up to them either. It's a really great read, but it felt scattered to me at times. I wasn't always sure where it was going. I'm also not a big fan of open endings. I like closure, and don't always want to wonder or be left to my own devices to try and interpret. Despite that though, I'm positive I'll read this one again. In fact, I think it will be even better the second time around. Now that I have the basic story under my belt, I'd love to go back and really dissect it more. The Bell Jar may not be a book for everyone, but for those drawn to dark and sad stories (like myself), it's definitely worth exploring.