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10.31.2016

This Is Halloween, This Is Halloween

Pumpkins scream in the dead of night.

Happy Halloween everyone! I shared our trip to the pumpkin patch a little bit agp (see here). Well, we finally got around to carving those bad boys over the weekend. Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

The kids, of course, wanted nothing to do with cleaning out the pumpkins, which I always think is funny. Isn't that the funnest part for a kid! Nope, mine didn't want to get their hands all slimey.
I told Seamus to draw a face on his little pumpkin, and I would carve whatever he drew. That's his above - as you can see he went more abstract. You will notice though that there are two eyes a nose and a mouth. I loved it.

Madeleine wanted to try out one of the stencils that came with our pumpkin carving set. She picked the cat, and surprised Bill and I by carving almost the entire thing herself (under Bill's watchful eye of course).

I love that she was concentrating so hard her tongue was poking out.
There wasn't a whole lot more for Seamus to do, so he spent the rest of the time watching what everybody else was doing and generally acting silly. Here he's trying to hide from me taking his picture behind a clear chair. Didn't quite work, kiddo!
I was planning on doing a classic spooky jack-o-lantern for our last pumpkin, but Seamus saw the dinosaur stencil and really wanted us to do that instead. It was actually the first time I've used a stencil too. They're kind of fun, but take a little maneuvering to get everything to lay right on the round pumpkin. I'd do it again though. 
Here we are all lit up!
We finished decorating the yard just in the nick of time too. We added a few more skeletons, tombstones, and a light up spider web.

Sidenote: How awesome does our winter grass look!?!
Here it is all lit-up. It's a good start, I think. It looks like we put some effort in at least, but I'm still hoping to get it looking spookier and spookier each year.
We'll be off Trick-or-Treating with the kiddos tonight. I'll be sure to share a little recap soon. Stay tuned!

10.28.2016

Book Report - Library of Souls

I took a break from the free books being offered through my Amazon Prime membership and got down to reading a book from my never ending "To Read" list. I wanted to finish up the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs, so I picked up the third and final installment, Library of Souls.
Peculiar children, Jacob and Emma, embark on a harrowing journey through a dark and dangerous loop to save their imprisoned friends and beloved Ymbryne, Miss Peregrine, from the clutches of the evil Wights and their monstrous Hallogasts. Along the way, Jacob discovers more and more about his particular peculiarity and how to use it to their advantage. From the modern day streets of London to the slums of Victorian England, the fates of our young heroes will be decided as the war between the Peculiars and the Wights comes to its climatic end.

It had been a little while since I read the first two books in this series back-to-back (see here). I really enjoyed the first book with its fun gimmick of incorporating actual old photographs as illustrations and inspiration throughout the story. The second book was not quite as good, but I was still looking forward to reading the third to see how it all wrapped up. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations.

Library of Souls is a journey story as Jacob and Emma go about rescuing their friends. Unfortunately, it was a journey where not a lot seemed to happen, and I felt like I was continuously waiting for the story to start. What I loved so much about the first book were the amazing characters and settings. I loved how all the peculiar children worked together as a unit. With Jacob and Emma going at it alone in book three, I realized how one-dimensional their characters actually were. Even the placement of the photos started to feel forced, and they were sometimes not even relevant to the story. Add in the bleak and dreary setting as well and the book actually became a struggle for me to even finish.

It does, however, all wrap up quite neat and tidy and provides the appropriate closure to end the series. I suppose in that way I was pleased with the book. However, I'm not sure the story of these peculiar children was really worthy of a full three-book series. The story would have benefited if the three novels were edited down considerably and just been turned into a really good one-and-done book instead.

I'm still interested in seeing the film though. Has anyone seen it yet? I'm wondering why they switched Emma's peculiarity? Emma is supposed to manipulate fire, but they show her as the one who can float instead. How peculiar!

P.S. Eva Green looks exactly how I imagined Miss Peregrine. Perfect casting there.

10.26.2016

Coming Soon - Inferno

Tuesday night, I got to see a sneak peak of the new Tom Hanks movie, Inferno coming to theaters this Friday.

Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), brilliant Professor of religious iconology and symbology, is back. With the help of medical doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), the two must follow a trail of clues to reach a hidden deadly virus that threatens to annihilate half the world's population if they don't stop it's scheduled release in time.

I was actually really looking forward to seeing Inferno. I'm a fan of Dan Brown's books (although I had not read this one yet) and enjoyed the first two movies (The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons). So, I was surprised, when within the first 10 minutes of the movie I was already cringing. There's a lot of really disturbing images that continue to pop-up throughout the film as Professor Langdon suffers through injury induced hallucinations. You'll suffer along with him, as they are quite unpleasant to watch. The movie took off instantly at an extremely fast pace, which normally is a compliment for a film; but instead of instilling excitement in the viewer, it felt hectic, frantic, and chaotic. I kept waiting for it to slow down a second to develop the story, but it never did. And that brings me to my ultimate issue with Inferno. The best part of a Robert Langdon movie are the puzzles, and watching him figure them out is when he (the character, not Tom Hanks) is at his best. There was very little of that here, as he spent most of the time fleeing enemies unknown to him. I wanted this movie to be smart and clever, instead it was predictable and relied too heavily on the thrill of the chase.

10.24.2016

Banshee's Got a Brand New Do

I realized I don't post very much about a very important member of our family - Banshee!
Banshee is our 7-year old rescue mutt. We got her when she was about eight weeks old from a shelter in Illinois. She was actually born in Kentucky, and we were told her mother was an Old English Sheepdog. That's actually what drew us to her initially. We were looking forward to when her black puppy coat would turn to grey and she would grow really, really big.

What we got instead was a medium sized black and white dog, which actually ended up being perfect. She did, however, end up with sheepdog hair. Although I like her shaggy look, at a certain point, it ends up covering her eyes and starts to mat up. So, we usually give her a good hair cut about four times a year; just letting it grow out again each time afterwards. 

I thought it would be fun to show a little before, when her hair is at its longest, and the after, immediately post groom. 
Isn't it funny. She looks like a completely different dog!
Let me tell you, she's such a good pup. She mostly sleeps all day, tolerates the kids well enough (but would rather they leave her alone), and prefers me above all else. The minute I sit down on the couch she's usually right up next to me within a few seconds. Although, if you're willing to pet her indefinitely, she'll pretty much cozy up to anyone. A dog's life, am I right?

10.21.2016

Lego-versary

Bill and I celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary earlier this month. I was so busy at work that I barely remembered, plus we had mentioned going out to dinner later in the month. So, I was actually surprised when Bill presented me with a new Lego set!

He got me the Palace Cinema - 10,232 pieces of brick building fun.
Last weekend, I got to work.
I wasn't especially into Legos as a child or anything, but as the kids started playing with Duplo and now Lego, I realized how much I was enjoying following the instructions and putting the structures together.
I had mentioned to Bill I wanted an adult Lego set, and he got me the Parisian Restaurant set for my birthday (see here - and yes, I am wearing the same shirt above as I was in that old post).
Like adult coloring books (see here), I find putting these sets together therapeutic. They're a great way to reduce stress and I find they relax and calm me.
I also love how intricate the sets are. There's so much detail!
My favorite part was putting together the "Palace" sign. How cool is it that it's someone's job to figure out how to put bricks together to make these things?
Maybe someday I'll have enough sets to make a whole little town!
Back to our anniversary though, we did get out to eat at a nice restaurant in Scottsdale, Lon's. I highly recommend it if you're ever in the area.

I can't believe it's been eight years already! It feels like it was just yesterday, but at the same time, I'm amazed how far we've come. Here's to Legos and love!

10.19.2016

More Halloween Decor!

I mentioned how I decorated our fireplace for Halloween the other day (see here), and have now finally gotten around to cleaning up and photographing the rest of this year's interior Halloween decorations.

First up, I rounded out the family room by giving the television cabinet the old black and orange treatment as per usual.
I love putting the kids' trick-or-treat pumpkins here. It's a nice pop of color and keeps them out of the way until needed. The candle holders I've had for ages.
The kitchen got a few fall touches as well.
Plus, I added a bit of new Dia de los Muertos fun too. The hand towels are new from Kohl's (see here).
The banner and hanging skulls are old from Target, but they have very similar ones available again this year (see here and here).
The powder room also got some new towels from Kohl's (see here). They really are the best place to get holiday hand towels.
Moving onto the living/dining room - more Dia de los Muertos! The colors just work so perfectly with my current decor.
Here's a close up of what's happening on the table. The skulls and black jack-o-lanterns are old. The skeletons and table cloth are from Target last year, but again they have similar ones this year (see here and here). My favorite thing though, are my new macaroon spiders!! They're from Grandin Road (see here), and are so adorable.
The rest of the spiders went on the bar, along with my glittery sugar skull and lanterns. They're both old, but Target has similar lanterns again this year (see here).
Moving over to the living room area. The front door has my Dia de los Muertos wreath from Target (similar here). Again, love the pop of color against the all white background.
Finally, new this year for my coffee table, white ceramic pumpkins from Grandin Road (see here) and velour spiders from Target (see here).
The pumpkins were a great deal and work, not just for Halloween, but all throughout the fall season. I was also impressed with these spiders. There are fuzzy, poseable, and have a nice weight to them - also, super cheap!
That's what's going on inside the Pretty Handsome house for Halloween. Do you decorate for Halloween? Do you do scary, crafty, glam, or a mix of everything?


P.S. To see how my Halloween decorations have grown from year to year, check out Halloween Decorations - Inside Edition | October Is Here... | One More Thing For Halloween  

10.17.2016

2016 Pumpkin Patch Adventure

Over the weekend, we headed to MacDonald's Ranch for their annual Pumpkin Festival. My parents were in town, so we thought it would be a fun fall activity to all do together. Because nothing screams fall more than 90 degree heat in October.
This is the third October in a row we've come here to get our pumpkins for Halloween, so we know the drill pretty well by now. There's horseback riding...
Obligatory silly face cut-outs...
Feeding the animals at the Petting Zoo...
Which is always a hit with the kiddos.
Plus an array of other "ranch" activities like panning for gold and lassoing.
Love Seamus's determined little face here. 
We took a train ride out to their patch where we picked out a pumpkin for the family and then each kid picked one out for themselves too. Once we were finished, we took a hayride back to the ranch.
And for my dad who asked why he and my mom are never on the blog, here you go world - meet Mom and Dad!
So, that's this year's pumpkin patch adventure. Care to see how the kids have grown? Check out our our last two visits - Pumpkin Patch and Pumpkin Picking and Painting.

10.14.2016

Book Report - The Moonlit Garden

I recently read The Moonlit Garden by Corina Bomann. This was another free book as part of my Amazon Prime membership.
Lilly Kaiser, a young widow who owns and operates an antique shop in Berlin, is unexpectedly given an old violin by a mysterious stranger. Feeling she is not the rightful owner of such an exquisite instrument, Lilly, with the help of her best friend Ellen and the handsome music professor, Gabriel Thornton, traces the origins of the violin to its original owner, Rose Gallway, who lived in Sumatra over a hundred years earlier. Once a famous and highly sought after violinist, Rose simply vanishes from the musical circuit practically overnight. As Lilly's musical adventure takes her from Germany, to England, to Italy, and eventually Indonesia itself; she discovers the mystery surrounding Rose's past and realizes a different life might yet be possible for her if she is just willing to open herself up to loving again. 

I was initially interested in reading this novel for the violin portion of the story. As a former violinist (I played from 5th - 8th grade, and then on and off since then) I'm partial to anything that has to do with violins (see here). For the most part, I enjoyed the read. It was really two stories in one. It started with Ellen, in present times, and her quest to solve the mystery of the violin; then would jump back in time to Rose, the original owner of the violin, and then tell her story from her perspective. It helped move the story along nicely. I actually preferred the Rose story to the Ellen one. Ellen's felt a little contrived - like how convenient that her best friend is also a violin restorer. Rose's story felt more authentic, plus the time period and being set in Sumatra made it more exotic and intriguing to me. I did like the bit of romance between Ellen and Gabriel though. It's been a while since I read anything romantic, which is funny since there was a time in my late teens when that was all I read. Finally, I didn't love the ending, although it wasn't bad by any means. It just wasn't what I was expecting, and again felt contrived. Overall though, I'd say The Moonlight Garden was just an okay read. It's decent enough when you're in the midst of reading it, but unfortunately not very memorable.

10.12.2016

Coming Soon - The Accountant

Monday night, I saw a sneak peak of Ben Affleck's new movie, The Accountant.

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck), is a socially awkward math genius who cooks the books of the world's most dangerous criminals. When a high-level Director at the Treasury Department, Ray King (J.K. Simmons) gets a little too close, Christian decides to take a legitimate job investigating an accounting irregularity at a state-of-the-art robotics company that was discovered by a young clerk, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick). As Christian gets closer to the truth, he and Dana find themselves in deeper and deeper trouble.

It took me a little while to process my feelings for The Accountant, but now that I have, I feel pretty confident that I liked it. It was an unexpectedly decent action flick. It wasn't without flaw though. First, I'm not hundred percent sure Ben Affleck was the right choice for the title role. I went back and forth the entire film between liking his performance one minute and finding him all wrong the next. However, his character was also incredibly awkward, so while I would say his performance was a little spotty, it didn't detract terribly from the film as a whole. I was surprised by both J.K. Simmons and Anna Kendrick's roles, or more accurately non-roles in the film. Such bit parts seemed a waste of both their talents. However, it made the movie better having their familiar faces on screen, and Anna Kendrick was especially delightful. The scenes between her and Ben Affleck were pretty funny.

And speaking of funny, this film was oddly lighthearted and pretty funny too. It was by no means a comedy; being it was actually quite intense and violent at times, but still...it was funny. The juxtaposition worked oddly well. Actually, odd and awkward keep popping into my head whenever I think of how to describe this film. Odd and awkward, yet pretty good.

Even though all my instincts throughout kept telling me I should not be liking this movie, ultimately...I did, and I think you might too. Especially, if you're looking for movie that appeals to both men and women. Again, this is strangely a good choice as a date movie.

10.10.2016

Boo! Halloween Decor

I've started decorating for Halloween! One of the main reasons I love the holidays is the decorating. It's fun to change things around, and the kids think it's great.

Every year I try to add a few new items to my collection. Here's what we have going on this year.
My BOO marquee sign from a few years back is still going strong.  It's actually still available from Grandin Road (my favorite place for Halloween decor), and they have a fun purple EEK sign this year as well.
The hanging skeleton bat is new this year from Grandin Road too.
The skulls and garland are a couple years old now, but they round everything out nicely.
I randomly found these candy corn cones at the specialty grocery store near my house, AJ's Fine Foods. I loved the sparkle and pop of color they bring to the hearth.
Here's the panned out version. This is the one time of year Bill's telescope goes perfect with the decor.
We still have more to do both indoors and out. Plus lots of more fun Halloween activities. Stay tuned!

P.S. October Is Here... | Halloween Decorations - Inside Edition | Do I Like Orange?

10.07.2016

Even More Toddler Friendly Halloween Movies

I'm so excited October is here! The weather is starting to cool down...finally (although it's still in the 90's, hah!) And of course...it's almost Halloween. For the past few years I've been compiling a list of toddler friendly Halloween movies for the four and under crowd. Here are this year's additions.

Hotel Transylvania 2

We all really enjoyed the first Hotel Transylvania, but honestly, I think I enjoyed this sequel more (see here)! This one is currently on Netflix.

Room on the Broom

My mother-in-law sent us this book a few Halloween's ago, and it's a favorite of the kids to read every Halloween. Seamus actually found this one which is also currently on Netflix. I love how spot-on the animation is. It's like the book just came to life!

Megamind

What's a villain to do without a nemesis? This one's a lot of fun with Will Farrell and Tina Fey voicing the two main characters (plus Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill lend their voices too). It's currently airing on FX.

Dreamworks Spooky Stories and Spooky Stories 2
I couldn't find online trailers of these, but they're both currently on Netflix. It's a compilation of shorts with your kids' favorite Dreamworks characters. They're nice and short too, so if your kids don't have the attention span for a full movie this might be a fun alternative for them.

Casper's Scare School

Okay, this one is not movie, but it's a fun little series to watch at Halloween time. Surprise, surprise, it's also on Netflix. It's Casper and his little monster friends adventures at Scare School. Both my kids really enjoy this one.

I hope this helps if you're looking for some seasonal tv viewing fun with your little ones. Check out the list from the last two years as well.  Enjoy!

10.05.2016

Switch-chair-roo

When last we left off, I had purchased the below table for a steal (see here), then rushed to pick up the matching chairs before they went on clearance and weren't available anymore - total impulse buy.

I was digging this look. I was fine with this look. But...these chairs ended up being so UNCOMFORTABLE! You can probably tell from the photo below, but there was no sort of curving or indentations on them to coincide with the natural curves of your body. They were just too straight and stiff, and with the amount of time I spend sitting at the kitchen table were not going to work. I was totally bummed.
You see, we had ordered them online, put them together, and trashed all the packaging, so I didn't think we'd be able to return them. Plus, we'd been using them daily for weeks. I thought I could live with it; but after a very uncomfortably spent work-from-home day, I decided to investigate whether or not I could still return them. My online receipt said I was still within the return time frame, so I called up Target to double check it was okay to return to them in-store since they were already assembled. Turns out, they were totally fine with it. No questions asked.

I love Target!!

With that done, it was time to find some new chairs. We had spied these babies at a recent trip to IKEA. Bill and I both liked them, and they were super comfortable. They have a nice wide seat and when you lean back they rock a bit. The day after returning the Target chairs I went and picked them up.
I like the modern element they bring to the room. Buyer's remorse is the worst, so I'm glad I was able to get something I was happy with in the end.
Oh, and the kids had a blast "helping" Bill put these together. Here's Madeleine, long after they were already put together, just tightening things up.
The Great Kitchen Refresh of 2016 is almost at an end. All that's left is a light (which has been ordered), a picture, and a new faucet!

If you're not up to speed, check out these past posts to follow the entire process.