2017 Oscars - Nominees and Winners

Did you guys watch the Oscars? How crazy was that Best Picture mishap? Are you ready to talk dresses? Let's get started.

First, I have to say, that I was really, really disappointed with the Oscar fashion this year. There was hardly any color, and I thought no real standout looks either. Still, it's fun to break it down.

I thought I'd do things a little different this time around. Instead of categorizing them, let's just start by looking at all the extremely talented women nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress this year instead.

Viola Davis
First up, winner, Viola Davis wore this fire engine red Armani Privé gown. The bold, bright color looked amazing with her skin tone. The fit is flattering and the halter and dropped sleeves add a bit of visual interest too. I wish the clutch had been gold like the bracelet, but that's about my only complaint. Her hair and make-up complimented the look well. Great job, Viola! Also, I was so happy she won!! Very well deserved. 

Naomie Harris
Naomi Harris wore this white Calvin Klein dress. I was very confused by this look. First, it's not really up to the caliber I'd expect from a nominee. Heck, it's hardly even presenter worthy. The color looks great on her, and the sequined material is very pretty. She lost me at the weird train though, and I wasn't a fan of the peek-a-boo cut-out either. All that combined with the crazy opposite shoes made this look a big ole miss for me.  

Octavia Spencer
Octavia Spencer wore this silver, feathered Marchesa gown. I loved the skirt; so much fun! The silhouette is flattering on her; and her hair, make-up, and jewelry were all lovely as well. I was bummed by the color, or lack thereof though. A pretty pastel blue or mint green would have really made a statement. Still, she looked great and it was actually one of the better gowns of the night. Lovely job, Octavia. 

Ruth Negga
Ruth Negga took a risk in this red, prairie-style Valentino number, and I think it paid off in spades. The fit is great on her and the lace is quite pretty. The color flatters her, and I even like the red on red on red with the dress, make-up, and jewelry. How fun that she wore a tiara! This was one of my favorites of the night. Great job, Ruth!! 

Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams wore this black and white Louis Vuitton gown. It's simple and classic and oh-so-very Michelle Williams, right? I would have loved to see her take more of a risk, but there's something to be said for sticking to your own personal style too. Flawless face as per usual. Nice job, Michelle.     

Meryl Streep
Moving on to the Best Actress nominees, Meryl Streep wore this navy blue Elie Saab number. Normally, I can totally get around what I call the Auntie Mame look (i.e. pants/gown combo), but here I felt the front panel of the skirt distracted from that classic silhouette. Loved the color and all the sparkle though. Good job, Meryl. 

Isabelle Huppert
Isabelle Huppert wore this white, sparkly Armani Privé dress. The dress in itself is pretty, but it looks far too big for her. I also wasn't a big fan of the belt. Still, it's age appropriate and she looks very distinguished. Ultimately, just an okay look for me though.

Nicole Kidman 
Nicole Kidman wore this embellished nude Armani Privé dress. It suits her statuesque frame and has a bit of visual interest, but again, I was disappointed by the lack of color. Her make-up and hair looked pretty though - loved that red lip!


Emma Stone
Winner, Emma Stone, looked like an Oscar statue herself in this golden Givenchy gown. It was, by far, one of the best looks of the night. I thought the fit was a little off at the straps (they seemed too long), and honestly, didn't love the transition to the fringe (a little too abrupt), but there's so much sparkle and movement going on here it more than makes up for my any quibbles. The hair, make-up, and jewelry all complimented the look perfectly. Beautiful job, Emma!!

Viola Davis's photo from here.
Michelle Williams's photo from here.
Meryl Streep's photo from here.
Ruth Negga, Emma Stone, and Octavia Spencer's photos from here.
Isabelle Huppert, Nicole Kidman, and Naomi Harris's photos from here.


Book Report - The Girls

For my first book read of 2017, I couldn't wait to finally dive into Emma Cline's debut novel, The Girls! It was on every "Best of 2016" list out there, so I was really looking forward to it.
It's Evie Boyd's last few weeks at home before being shipped off to boarding school. Lonely and seemingly an afterthought to her parents, she becomes drawn to a group of girls she sees in the park one day. They seem so wild and free to her, and she is taken by one in particular, the dark haired, Suzanne. After a chance meeting, Suzanne decides to take Evie under her wing. Soon she is spending all her time with Suzanne and the strange cast of characters living on an isolated Northern California ranch lead by an extremely charismatic man, Russell. The ranch is an exciting place for Evie, and she finally begins to feel accepted. As her attachment to Suzanne grows, Evie is unaware of the dangerous atmosphere brewing at the ranch when money and resources become scarce and is unprepared for the horrific actions about to unfurl.   

So, did it live up to the hype?

For me, definitely no. In fact, I really struggled to even finish it!

First, I thought The Girls was a historical fiction novel based on the 1969 Manson murders and was hoping for a cool True Crime feel to the book. Turns out, Cline took the idea of the Manson murders and then created her own story based on that concept. The novel is told through the eyes of 14 year old Evie, who falls in with this cult because she is sort of obsessed with an older girl in the cult, Suzanne.

Once I wrapped myself around that concept, I was hoping the book would really dig into the psyche of the girls and other followers and how Russell was able to exert control over them and convince them to well...murder. It slightly delves into that topic, but mostly centers on Evie and her obsession with Suzanne. An obsession I was never was able to truly understand as Suzanne seemed so obviously damaged to me. 

So, this wasn't the story I was hoping to read. Turns out, I actually wanted Suzanne's story. I was hoping through Evie that's the story that would be eventually told, but it stopped short of ever really going there.

In addition, I wasn't a big fan of Cline's writing style. I felt it was overly dramatic and wordy which gave the entire thing a very pretentious feel. 

Ultimately. the book is probably fine enough, but once I realized it wasn't the story I was looking for, it continually went, for me at least, downhill from there. The good thing is, it made me realize how much I've missed reading True Crime, and that the story I wanted to read is actually already out there. Helter Skelter, is officially on my To-Read List.

Were you ever disappointed by a book everyone kept telling you was so good? Did you read The Girls? What did you think? Let's talk books!


Pretty Handbags

I am completely digging this colorblock handbag from J. Crew. How fun for spring!
Signet Bag in Colorblock Italian Suede and Leather
The colors are a fun mix (the back is the pale pink color), and I love a good crossbody bag. The bag comes in a variety of colors, but this one is my favorite; and you can even monogram them!!

I can't stop thinking about it, so I'm pretty sure I'll be pulling the trigger on it soon.


Let's Go To The Movies - The LEGO Batman Movie

We went to the movies as a family over the weekend to see The LEGO Batman Movie.

Bruce Wayne enjoys his life as vigilante crime fighter, Batman, but finds superhero status can be quite isolating as well. After unintentionally adopting an overly optimistic orphan, Robin, Batman reluctantly allows Robin to assist him when The Joker unleashes the baddest villains in movie and tv history from the Phantom Zone onto Gotham City.

OMG...pure family fun!

Funnily enough since I'm a bit of a Lego nerd (see here, here, or here), the original film from a few years ago was not even on my radar when it first came out. However, I ended up really enjoying it when we rented and watched it with the kids. Of course, Will Arnett as Batman was one of the funniest parts of The LEGO Movie, so I was super excited that they devoted the sequel to his Batman.

The film is colorful and fun. There's tons of action, and the animation is outstanding. It's really funny, plus there are plenty of "just for grown-ups" jokes thrown in as well. Bill and I were continually glancing at each other for all those "did you catch that?" moments.

My only complaint, was how incredibly fast moving the animation was. There was always so much movement going on and just so much to look at - it never slowed down! It was a minimal distraction though, and probably really more a testament to how crazy good the animation was. Just, me personally, found it too busy for my eyes to take. I'm glad I skipped seeing it in 3D.

Other than that, I loved it and the kids loved it too. It's a blast!


Book Report - The Nordic Theory of Everything

For my final book read in 2016, I chose the non-fiction book, The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen.
Finnish journalist, Anu Partanen, now an American citizen, looks at the differences between her homeland and the United States. Finland has long been recognized as one of the top places in the world to live. From, education to healthcare, personal relationships to parenting the Finnish seem to succeed in finding the collective life balances we Americans crave, but can never quite seem to obtain.  

I loved this book so much, but be warned, in our current US political climate it may make you very, very sad. There are such better ways out there that our government could be helping and supporting all of its inhabitants far better then it is currently doing so that are actually achievable if, as a whole, our country collectively redefines its current values. It would be a herculean task and would take years to get us there, but I do believe it is possible.

I think the first thing that The Nordic Theory of Everything does well, is debunk the myth that Finland and other successful Nordic countries are socialist "nanny states". They have actually fought multiple wars against Socialism, and their successful national healthcare and education systems do not cost its citizens as much in taxes as skeptics would make you believe. They actually create additional freedoms that we currently do not have in the US. Are you really as free as you think you are when you have to make employment decisions based on healthcare coverage?  Are we all really equal when our chance to attend higher education is dependent on your parent's income and what they can afford?

The Finnish, it seems, value children above all else. All their national programs are setup to benefit children first, and the whole country is behind that way of thinking. The book examines all the different relationships a person encounters from birth to death, and how by putting things like education and healthcare onto the government's shoulders instead of our own, we can be free to make life decisions based on passions and what make us happy instead of what we can afford. A life free of dependency on employers and families, Partanen argues, makes for a much higher quality of life.

What the book also does well, is point out the flaws in the Finnish system too. It is in no way trying to say this is the best and only way. No system is perfect, but it's important, as a nation, to grow and change and think outside the box to come up with new solutions that benefit society as a collective whole.

Personally, I think this book should be required reading for all US citizens. We seem to be very polarized and divided right now. A book like The Nordic Theory of Everything is a great way to further educate ourselves and remind us all to keep an open mind and look for interesting and different solutions to solving our nation's problems.


Sicko Kiddos

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day yesterday. We didn't do much as we are a sick, sick household this week. First, Seamus fell ill on Saturday, then I followed suit on Sunday night. We've been hanging out on the couch sleeping and watching tv for days now. I wanted to watch Victoria, he wanted to watch the same Team Umizoomi episode he has seen a million times. We compromised and watched, Team Umizoomi... and Go, Diego, Go... and Paw Patrol... and The Lion Guard and basically anything Seamus wanted to watch because he was just so miserable, but so super snuggly that I just let him do whatever he wanted.
Feel better soon, baby boy.


Kids Date - Matilda

Madeleine and I had a Girls Night Out over the weekend. We went to see the musical, Matilda!
I was a little worried how she would do at the show as the last time I took her to see one (The Sound of Music) she fell asleep, and we left at intermission. She's a little older now though and in the weeks leading up to the night we listened to the soundtrack over and over again and read the classic Roald Dahl book the show is based on together too. They were actually all firsts for me too. I had never read Matilda and didn't know the music for this show either. So, I really, really didn't want to leave at intermission again. (I didn't mind with The Sound of Music as I had seen that show already before).

I'm happy to announce she stayed up for the entire thing! Yay!! Also, the show was fantastic. Double yay!! Seriously, this is such a great show to introduce kids to musical theater. It's about kids and it stars kids too. I was amazed at the talent of the young performers. Actually, even if you don't have kids, you'll enjoy this musical. It was fun, lively, and had great effects and choreography too. Loved it!


Pretty Thank You Notes

Do you send Thank You notes?  I most definitely do, and make sure the kids and Bill always send them as well. Thanking someone for a gift or kindness they did you is just the proper thing to do. Plus, who doesn't like to receive actual personal mail for a change, right?

So, for someone like me, who absolutely loves paper products, picking out my next batch of Thank You notes is both a big deal and just about as fun as it gets. Here are a few contenders that have caught my eye lately.

I like a lot of color, so this fun Colorful Confetti set is right up my alley. I love the colors, use of negative space, and the super cute green envelopes.

Florals are always classic and pretty. I particularly liked how the rose, peach, and red hues of the below Gold Foil Black Floral set pop against the black background.
I've actually bought the below Multi-Color set before. Simple, bright, and fun.
This Forest Friends set is super cute and would be handy to have around when the kids need to write their notes.

I love the sophisticated color palette and mid-century vibe of this Geometric Pastel Luxe set.
I don't know how to choose, so I guess I'll just have to get them all!!


Book Report - The Daughter of Union County

I recently read The Daughter of Union County by Francine Thomas Howard.
When his wife, Lady Bertha, suffers yet another miscarriage on the same night his former slave and mistress, Salome, gives birth to a healthy light skinned daughter; Lord Henry Hardin makes the split-second decision to pass his newborn daughter, Margaret, off as his legitimate heir. The household is sworn to secrecy, but as Margaret grows and enjoys a life of privilege she is continually haunted by rumors she doesn't understand. Lord Hardin, is nothing though, if not a devoted father to Margaret and her two younger and dark skinned brothers who grow-up on the estate with her, but knows them only as the sons of their servant, Salome. As time passes and no longer under her late father's protection, Margaret must make the decision to trust a family she has never known or risk being ruined by those attempting to profit from her hidden past.

For the most part, I enjoyed The Daughter of Union County. The characters were interesting and it kept my attention well. I was constantly surprised by how long it was though. Every time I thought the story was wrapping up, I'd realize there was still hundreds of pages still left in the book. The story covers a really long span of time, but like I said, continuously interesting throughout.

Obviously, a story about race set in the late 1800's, there was some uncomfortable language used throughout. It almost felt a little too excessive, but perhaps I'm just especially sensitive to this issue. I understand novels written during those times using certain words we now find offensive, but I wonder sometimes the best approach for modern writers telling a story set in those times. I don't know exactly where the line is, but felt this author was right on the cusp and maybe even crossed it. I understood how terribly racist a few of the characters were in the story, and didn't really need the constant reminder each time they opened their mouth.

Other than that, it was a pretty good read. It was another free book from Amazon, and definitely one of the better ones I've received.

What are you reading these days?


What I'm Watching - Victoria

Are you guys watching Victoria on PBS?

Jenna Coleman is outstanding as the title character. I've been a big fan of hers since her Doctor Who days. Her portrayal of the pint sized queen is perfection.  She has amazing chemistry with the two leading men: Rufus Sewell as her trusted adviser, Lord Melbourne, and of course, her beloved Prince Albert, played by Tom Hughes.

The series is written by Daisy Goodwin. I've read her stuff before (see here), and must say I am enjoying her much more as a TV writer than author.

The only part I'm not loving is the whole story line with the palace servants. I feel they're trying to do a little Upstairs, Downstairs thing (another great series by the way), and it's not really working for me. I only care about Victoria's story line, and hate the interruption. It's like comparing queens to commoners; oh wait, that's exactly what it is and unfortunately the gap between those two worlds is just too big to bridge in one show.

However, I just found out that this is not a mini-series like I thought it was, and is actually a seasonal series! So, I guess the additional characters make a bit more sense with additional seasons to get to know them. As of yet, I have no vested interest in any of them though. Couldn't even tell you there character names and I'm four episodes in already.

Don't let my one complaint deter you though. The costumes and settings more than make-up for any shortcoming in story, and again, Victoria's story lines are sublime.

If you haven't started watching it, PBS is still airing past episodes online and on their app.

I swear, between this and Netflix's The Crown I've got my period dramas covered and I love learning more about these two amazing queens. Queen Victoria ruled for 63 years, and Queen Elizabeth II just hit that milestone herself and is now England's longest reigning monarch. The lives these two ladies have lived. I love it!


2017 Valentine's Day Gift Guide - Men

We can't forget about that special man in your life.  Here's a few great Valentine's Day ideas for him too.

Scratch Map | $26-$40
Such a great way to track all the places you've visited together, and inspiration to start planning your next great adventure.

Yellow Submarine Lego Set | $59.99
Does your guy totally geek out to any specific fandom? Most likely there's a fun Lego set to coincide. This Beatles Yellow Submarine set is cool and colorful, and there are a ton of other fun sets out there too.

If you can manage to find one (we've been trying since November with no luck), the NES Classic Edition is a fun nostalgic gift for your guy. 30 classic Nintento games built into one tiny system. Just be prepared to lose your guy for hours at a time as he takes a walk down memory lane. 

A stylish and small emergency tool kit is a practical gift every guy will want. Even if he never uses it, he'll love feeling like he's prepared for everything.

Amazon Echo Dot | $49.99
Play music, control lights, ask questions - this little disc packs a lot of punch and will make your guy feel like he's living in the future today.

Besides gifts, how are you expecting to spend your Valentine's Day? Do you love it or dread it?


2017 Valentine's Day Gift Guide - Women

I can't believe it's February already, which means Valentine's Day is almost upon us! I rounded up a few ideas if you're stuck on what to get your special lady. Here we go!

Heartstagram Framing | $39
Framebridge is offering these 11x11 frames for all your favorite photos. Just upload your picture on their site, pick your frame, and they'll mail you the finished product.  The heart-shaped mats are too cute!

Silk Eye Mask | $45
A silk mask instantly makes bedtime a more luxurious experience. It comes in lots of colors too, but the red or pink would be especially apropos for Valentine's Day.

Perfume is always a classic, so pick her up a pretty bottle of her favorite scent. If you're unsure what she likes, you can never go wrong with Chanel No. 5.

If you're going to do heart shaped jewelry, might I suggest this adorable Kate Spade necklace? It's modern, fun, and perfect for everyday wear.

Some pretty new make-up brushes will make getting ready each day just a little more special - pretty and practical.

Do you and your significant other exchange Valentine's Day gifts? What do you hope to get from them? What do you give?

P.S. For more great ideas, check out 2016 Valentine's Day Gift Guide - Women.