Patio Progress

We finally pulled the trigger on some new patio furniture! We had been using a cheap metal set from Target for the last few years. It worked okay for a bit, but the cushions sort of fell apart on us, and, well, it was black...and Phoenix, so you know, not the best combination.
I had seen this fun Mid-Century set from World Market last year, but missed out on it. When I saw they had restocked it again, I was so excited! It's the Marina Del Ray collection, and we picked up the couch and two chairs.

It's a nice grey wicker with acacia wood legs. I thought it had just a little more style than your average outdoor wicker furniture set. Plus, I'm pretty much a sucker for anything Mid-Century.
We decided against the matching coffee table, and went with this Wood Praiano Storage Coffee Table instead. It breaks up all the wicker, plus it has storage. It's also acacia wood.
I'm a little worried how the fabric is going to hold up. The summer sun here is harsh. Everything we keep outdoors ends up faded from the sun. I was hoping the cushions were covered with Sunbrella fabric, but no go. I'm planning on getting covers for them shortly, as once summer gets here we actually won't be outside much - other the pool.
I'm also playing around with the configuration a bit too. The chairs will probably end up on the other side of the coffee table facing the couch to make a nice little conversation area. I just thought this way worked better for photos.
Now that we have some decent furniture, I hope to enjoy the backyard more. So far, so good.

Do you have outdoor furniture? How do you store/protect it in the off-season?

P.S. This Dune set from Crate & Barrel is my dream outdoor furniture set. It's a nice alternative to wicker and is super clean and modern too. A friend of mine has it, and it looks great in person too. They seem to carry it every year, so maybe someday. Sigh.


Glasses Upgrade

For the last few years I have been sporting these glasses. I really only need glasses to see far away, so primarily just wear them when I drive or go to the movies. These little coppery upside-down frames have served me well, but I was looking to change things up a bit.
I've noticed I'm starting to need them beyond just my car or the movie theater though. So, I wanted to get a pair that were more modern and chunky, but that still felt classic.

Enter Ms. Kate... 
Hello Pretty! 
I ended up going with the Kate Spade Sharla Eyeglasses in the Tortoise Pink Fade. They were actually the first pair I tried on, and I just kept coming back to them.
I tried on a variety of chunkier frames in all different colors. The black "hipster" frames were too much, like I was trying too hard. The colored frames were fun, but felt too specific. I even tried on some cool chunky clear/acrylic styles that I wanted to like, but just sort of got lost on my face. The Kate Spade Sharla's were the perfection combination. They're chunky, but since the dark tortoiseshell doesn't go all the way around they're not as stark as the all black frames. Tortoiseshell also goes with everything, as does, surprisingly, the pink. It's a light, clear pink that acts like a neutral and blends well into my face. It's obvious I'm wearing glasses, but the fade to pink keeps them looking light.

What frames are you sporting these days? 


Easter Window Shopping

I was going to share how I decorated the house for Easter, but I realized it's pretty much exactly like it was last time I shared back in 2015 (see here). It's definitely been too long since I added to my Easter decor.

This year, I randomly picked up two new bunnies from the grocery store, but that's it!
They're super cute and have a surprising amount of heft to them. The only bad thing is that the "grass" sheds a bit, but as long as I don't handle them too much they're fine. 

That's probably all I'll be adding to the collection this year, but it hasn't stopped me from doing a lot of online window shopping. Here's a few decorations for the season that have caught my eye.

Hallmark's Easter Heritage Collection includes a very dapper Mr. and Mrs. bunny and a cute framed picture. They have a fun vintage vibe to them, without being too cutesy (although they're probably right on the cusp).

William Sonoma always has my favorite alabaster eggs. I already have a little 6-pack, but someday I'll finally pull the trigger on a 24-pack. They look so simple and chic displayed in a pretty bowl.

I thought this Garden Bunny Cloche, from Pottery Barn, was sweet and understated. If I were to spring for anything else this year, it would probably be this.

Lenox, a favorite company of mine, has this fun little Bunny Quartet that appeals to the music lover in me.  They also have these pretty ornament tree and ornaments for each holiday that I've been meaning to pick up for ages.

All pretty and fun stuff that if I had some money to blow I'd be all over. As it is, I'll probably check them all out right after Easter to see if I can snag any on clearance.

Oh, and if you're looking for something quick and easy to brighten up your home for Easter, nothing beats fresh tulips or lilies.

Happy decorating!!

P.S. Target still has my white ceramic bunny candy dish and cookie jar from the old post (see here). I'm only seeing them in store though. 


Book Report - Matilda

I mentioned here that Madeleine and I read Roald Dahl's, Matilda, together before seeing the live musical to familiarize ourselves with the story before the show.
Matilda Wormwood is a special young girl of extraordinary intellect, but her family just finds her odd. When Matilda starts school she excels under the tutelage of the gentle and kind Miss Honey. However, the horrible headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, has other ideas of how children ought to be taught at school. As Matilda and Miss Honey's friendship grows, it becomes clear Matilda is going to have to take matters into her own hands to rid the school of the awful Miss Trunchbull.

What a lovely little book!

Seriously, how did I miss this one as a child. I know I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, but I still somehow missed out on this Roald Dahl classic. Matilda is a fantastic little heroine, especially for the 10 and under set (boy or girl). She was so much fun, and I loved that she loves books! A girl after my own heart. The list of actual books Matilda reads at four years old is quite an extensive and grown up list. I hadn't even read them all! I had fun telling Madeleine which of them were my favorites though.

Mostly though, I loved the message of the book. Just because you're small doesn't mean you have no control over your situation in life. When you see injustices in your world, it's okay to use whatever skills you have to try and make things right. When you're small, that sometimes means being a little mischievous and occasionally breaking the rules. Life is what you make it, no matter your age.

Here's what Madeleine had to say about Matilda.

1.  Matilda is smart. She can do stuff with her eyes. 
2.  I liked the part where she mixes her dad's stuff into her mom's stuff and then his hair turns green
(It actually turns platinum blonde in the book. It was the stage musical where they had it turn bright green)
3.  I also like that she likes books. My mommy also likes books.

True dat, baby girl. True dat.

What are you reading with your kids? Madeleine and I just finished up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone recently. That took us months to get through. She was probably a tad too young for it yet, but she still really liked it. Bill has been reading The Encyclopedia Brown series with her. It was a big favorite of his growing up. I'm thinking The Little House on the Prairie books are probably next up for her and I.


Coming Soon - Wilson

I have another movie review for you today. I saw a sneak peak of the new Woody Harrelson movie, Wilson. It opens worldwide this Friday, March 24th.

Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is an overly friendly kind of man with no real filter for his words or actions. He just can't seem to help his extremely strong feelings about life. Feeling lonely though, he tracks down his ex-wife, Pippy (Laura Dern) and discovers he is the father a teenage daughter that Pippy gave up for adoption after she left him. Excited at the idea of being a dad, Wilson finds his daughter and awkwardly attempts to bond with her.

So, um...this was interesting.

I'm usually all for a good quirky comedy, but Wilson was a maybe a little beyond quirky and more just weird? It was almost a bit too over the top and so incredibly awkward to watch. Woody Harrelson actually did great as the title character. He really loses himself in this role, and I genuinely forgot I was watching him. Considering he's usually the type of actor who just "plays himself", I think this film is a real testament to his skills as an actor.

I didn't not like it though. It's just...different. More amusing than funny, and again, just so, so awkward and weird.  Wilson is a film that is only going to appeal to a very specific niche audience. If you're a fan of the graphic novel by the same name or a fan of Woody Harrelson or a fan of small independent films, then go out and see this in the theater to support small little films like this. They need you. If your tastes run more mainstream, you're probably going to want to just skip this one.


Let's Go To The Movies - Beauty and the Beast

We, and apparently the entire rest of the world, went out last weekend to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie.

A heartless prince (Dan Stevens) is turned into a beast and forced to live hidden away in his enchanted castle. The only way to break the curse is for him to learn to love and be loved in return. When a courageous and bright young woman, Belle (Emma Watson), comes to the castle looking for her imprisoned father; she agrees to take her father's place and stay forever with the Beast. Hopeful she may be the one to finally break the curse, the Beast's loyal servants do all they can to nurture Bell and the Beast's blossoming affection for each other before their time runs out.

As a huge fan of the 1991 animated original, I was so excited to for this reboot. I actually tend to get a little anxiety when I'm this excited to see a film. I worry it won't live up to my expectations and I'll end up be sorely disappointed.

I'm happy to say, Beauty and the Beast did not disappoint at all! It was everything I had hoped it would be. Yay!

It was first a complete visual feast for the eyes. I don't know which was better, the high Baroque costuming and ornate castle or the quaint, but oh-so provincial French village. Everything was just so pretty to look at.

Then there was the story that both honored the original, but was still different enough to set itself apart.

Emma Watson was a terrific Belle. I don't think she's been so well suited for a role since her Harry Potter days. Dan Stevens was able to humanize the beast remarkably well underneath all that CGI. Kevin Klein, Luke Evans, and Josh Gad all did amazing work as well. The "Gaston" number was so much fun!

The only flaw, I felt, was with the cast of characters who lived in the castle. In their attempt to make them extremely realistic looking, they lost a lot of what made them so, well...animated. Their faces were all so tiny and the expression and emotion of their words didn't always translate to screen. There were also quite a few times where I was very aware I was watching CGI. They did such a good job with everything else though that none of that really deters from the overall experience of the film. I mean, "Be Our Guest" was still pretty remarkable.

If you're a fan of the original, you'll most likely love this retelling too. It's a great family film (although it may be just a tad long for the under 6 crowd), it's a great nostalgia film, and it's a pretty great little musical too. Pure innocence and fun.


Touring Arizona - Canyon Lake

I recently went on a day trip to Canyon Lake for a work outing and was so impressed by this little hidden gem that I wanted to share.
Canyon Lake is about an hour West of the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. It is exactly as the name implies - a beautiful lake surrounded by high canyon walls.

We took a steam boat ride around the lake courtesy of The Dolly Steamboat.
It was such a relaxing and serene way to view the lake.
Apparently there was an Eagle's nest with baby eaglets on the top of this rock tower, but I couldn't see it.
We've also had a lot of rain here lately, so the desert was super green and pretty.
There are all sorts of camping sites by the lake and you can rent kayaks and such to explore the area. Nearby is the quaint little Western town of Tortilla Flats for some cowboy fun and food.

I can't wait to go back with the family or our next out-of-town visitors!

P.S. Happy Saint Patrick's Day!


How to Make a Snake Cake

I wanted to give you guys a little tutorial on Seamus' snake cake. It was super easy and looked so cool!
The first thing I did was look up "snake cakes" on Pinterest. Then, be prepared to lose a good hour of your life oohing and aahing at the insanely realistic and cool snake cakes out there. Seriously, they're are some really talented people out there. 

Anyway, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do with the cupcakes, but needed a little inspiration on how to decorate it. This photo came up and seemed well within my capabilities.

Next, grab a box of cake mix and some frosting. That's right, we do box here. I barely had enough time as it was to pull this thing together and really, nobody cares, especially not kids. No need to drive yourself crazy attempting some insane "from scratch" recipe. This is real life people! 

Back to it though, I'm partial to Pillsbury and picked up their Devil's Food flavored cake and White frosting. Then, just bake the cupcakes according to the directions.

Now comes the fun part. Decorating!!

Seamus' favorite snake right now is the Green Cat Snake. So, I knew we were going to be using green. I used food coloring to dye the white frosting to the shade of green I wanted, then frosted each of the cupcakes. I arranged them in the snake shape I wanted on a Wilton cake board. I ended up using 20 cupcakes to make a nice big "S". Like Seamus says, "S" for snake and "S" for Seamus.
Then, we got out the M&M's - regular and Easter colors. Bill literally picked out all the green ones from each bag, and I arranged them on top of the cupcakes in a striped pattern like the inspiration pic. There are a ton of other snakes and patterns you could go with though. For rattlesnakes you could use all shades of brown. For a California King Snake - orange, brown, and yellow. Wow - Seamus isn't the only one who knows a lot about snakes now. His knowledge is rubbing off on me.

Finally, these candy eyeballs and a Twizzler Pull 'n Peel for the tongue. For the finishing touch, I grabbed a package of Easter basket filling and used it to create a grassy backdrop around the snake.
That's it, guys! Can you believe how easy? The best part it, it looks pretty amazing and your kids, family, and friends will think you're some sort of cake decorating genius.

Have you made any fun cakes lately? What are your favorite birthday themes for kids?


Touring Arizona - Phoenix Herpetological Society

Seamus is really into reptiles right, really into them. He loves all things dinosaurs, snakes, lizards, and so on. He's like a sponge when it comes to this stuff and can easily recite countless facts he has learned from books and TV.

So, when I saw a van on the highway decked out in alligators and snakes from the Phoenix Herpetological Society ("PHS"), I made a mental note to check the place out for when his birthday rolled around.

PHS is a reptile sanctuary and education facility for rescued reptiles. You know those people who keep venomous snakes and other illegal reptiles as pets? When they get caught, or you know even sometimes die from being killed by their "pet", this is where those animals end up from all over the country. It's actually pretty amazing, and turns out, only like ten minutes from our house too. Crazy!

They only offer guided tours, so you have to make an appointment if you want to visit. We signed up for a 10am tour and headed over last Saturday.

The tour started off with the tortoises and turtles. They literally have hundreds. Some were little...
And some were big! That's a baby Galapagos Tortoise second to the right from Seamus' head. 
We learned all about tortoises and how they make great pets. However, a lot of them end up at PHS because people aren't prepared for how big they sometimes get or how long they live. It can easily be a multi-general pet as they tend to live over 100 years! The spontaneous and crazy part of me totally wants to get one now, but so far, the practical part of me has won out. But seriously, how fun would it be to have a tortoise toddling around the backyard?!
Next up was turtles. Do you know the difference between turtles and tortoises? I do now. Turtles can swim and eat meat. Tortoises only live on land and eat plants. So, you know, if you ever find a tortoise, don't throw it in the water!

The highlight was feeding the tortoises. They may not move too fast, but they can sure finish off a piece of celery right quick. I could have fed them all day.
We saw all sorts of lizards, iguanas, an armadillo, and even a random otter. After that, it was time for the venomous snakes!
Cobras, vipers, rattle snakes - you name it, they had it. It was super freaky when the rattle snakes would start a rattlin' too. Seamus loved it.

Next up, the crocodilus. There are 23 different species of crocodilus (which includes alligators), and this place had like 20 of them. Again, I was amazed at the shear volume of reptiles they have.
The American Alligator was my favorite. This guy was huge! Fun fact, they got him and one other from a family here in Arizona that was keeping them as pets in their backyard. Crazy, right!
Did you know alligators won't eat humans? You could totally get bit by one if it makes a mistake and wind up seriously hurt or dead, but, you know, they won't eat you. Crocodiles, on the other hand, those bad boys will gobble you right up.

We ended the tour (which, by the way, ended up being 3 hours long!) with the non-venomous snakes.
It was a great way to finish off the experience. The handlers brought out a bunch of snakes and lizards that we could all touch and feel. Seamus was surprised the snakes were so squishy.
HPS is really an incredible place to visit if you're in the area. It's a great alternative to your run of the mill zoo, and I can't recommend it enough. They offer a valuable service and have a real passion for their work and these animals.


Seamus Is Four!

Can you believe it? Seamus turned four-years-old this week! We celebrated with a little family party mid-week, but have big plans for our reptile loving boy coming up soon.
You know it's a party when we eat in the dining room! Yes, we set up shop in the dining room and ate homemade pizza and cupcakes. 
Speaking of cupcakes, I had so much fun making this snake cake for Seamus. It's actually pretty self-explanatory, but I'll have a little how-to post on it coming soon.
Silly boy + party hats = fun, fun, fun!
Needless to say, the birthday boy was very excited.
So, excited that he hardly ate a thing because he couldn't wait to open his presents!
Bill and I saved his big birthday present until last. It was...

Seamus has been cruising around on his little balance bike for ages now, so we thought he would be ecstatic. Turns out, not so much, but that's okay. I'm sure he'll be biking around on it soon enough. 
All in all, it was a really great night. I can't believe he's four. He's hilarious and so, so smart. I'm beyond greatful that I get to be his mama. Love you, Shea!

P.S. Seamus' Third Birthday Recap | Let's Get Dirty | 1st Birthday Recap


What I'm Watching - Big Little Lies

Remember when I gushed about how much I loved Liane Moriarty's novel, Big Little Lies (see here)? Well, HBO, turned it into a mini-series with some big name stars (Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Zoë Kravitz), and it's so good!!
I definitely recommend checking it out. Liane Moriarty is great at exploring the drama of everyday life. In this case, it's a bunch of overly involved mothers of first graders. The story starts off with a death, but the viewer doesn't know who dies or how it happens. Liane Moriarty is the master of the gradual build, so you may find the show just a tad slow moving, but if it stays true to the novel, the payout will be worth it.

Reese Witherspoon, and especially, Nicole Kidman are both killing it too. I'd put money they'll both be nominated for an Emmy/Golden Globe next awards season. Also, the amazing homes of these characters and the ocean settings are a general feast for the eyes. If you're looking for a low commitment guilty pleasure, Big Little Lies is it.

What are you watching these days?


Fan Girl - Bon Jovi

I'm not sure I've shared Madeleine's love of Bon Jovi here on the blog yet. One day, back when she was 4 years old, we were riding in the car listening to one of my playlists, when Livin' On A Prayer randomly came on. Part way through the song, Madeleine stopped and asked who was singing. I told her it was Bon Jovi, and she confidently exclaimed how much she liked the song. The connection she felt to that music was immediate.

Now, I enjoy Bon Jovi, but I'm no die hard fan or anything. I have his Greatest Hits album, and can sing along to a few classics, but that's it. Madeleine wanted more Bon Jovi though, and it wasn't long before she was totally Fan Girling.

Pretty soon, it was all she wanted to listen to in the car. Then, she would ask to watch his music videos on YouTube. She had me print out lyrics to her favorites, so she could learn the words and sing along better. It was both hilarious and adorable.

We picked up the new album, This House Is Not For Sale, when it was released last year; and when Bon Jovi announced they were going on tour...well, I felt it was in the stars for her to go. I'm serious when I tell you, his music speaks to her.

So, last Saturday, we headed downtown to catch the Phoenix leg of Bon Jovi's This House Is Not For Sale tour. She was so excited!
I was a little worried how she would handle the late hour of the concert. There was an opening act, so Bon Jovi didn't even take the stage until 8:30pm. That's about an hour and half past her normal bedtime.
She absolutely loved it though. She was standing on her chair and totally rocking out - dancing and singing at the top of her lungs.
I had more fun watching her watch Bon Jovi then watching Bon Jovi myself.
Yes, she rocked out so hard, that after an hour...this happened. It was so loud too, but she was out.
I was torn whether I should take her home or not. I was really enjoying the show. I figured this was most likely the only time I would ever get to see Bon Jovi in concert, and I really wanted to hear them sing Livin' On A Prayer.
My maternal instincts got the better of me though, and I woke Madeleine up to take her home. However, once she was up again, she decided she was hungry. I got her a hot pretzel, and she stayed awake for the rest of the concert. The closed the show with Livin' On A Prayer, and it was so much fun to sing along with the band and 10,000 other people too.

As for the concert itself, I must say, Bon Jovi puts on quite the show. There was so much energy in the arena. You could tell they were having fun, and everybody watching was having fun too.

Do you remember your first concert? How old were you? Mine was Aerosmith's Nine Lives tour when I was 18.


2017 Oscars - Presenters: Part 2

Let's jump right in today and check out the rest of the presenters, shall we?

 Hailee Steinfeld
Hailee Steinfeld wore this floral Ralph & Russo gown. It was one of the few patterns on the red carpet, and I thought it was lovely. The soft colors of the florals added a lot of visual interest without being too overwhelming. The halter neck and belt brought a bit of structure to the ethereal gown. Her hair and make-up complimented the look well. Nicely done, Hailee!

Kate McKinnon
Kate McKinnon kept it simple in this black Narciso Rodriguez dress. It was a bit on the casual side for the Academy Awards, but it fits her well. Wearing her hair up and a bold red lip and/or nails would have helped up the fanciness factor. Still, not a bad job at all. 

Dakota Johnson
Dakota Johnson wore this gold Gucci number. I get the Old Hollywood look she was aiming for, but she fell short. The skirt is wrinkled, the front bow is odd, and the necklace is too much with the already busy collar. Mostly though, the hair was a big missed opportunity. Some glamorous waves or a fun up-do would have really helped the look. As is, this one was a miss for me.

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johannseon wore this floral Alaïa dress. I didn't like how billowy it was at the bust. A belt was the right decision, but not necessarily that belt. She tried to give the look some edge with the hardware and black nails, but it's competing with what obviously wants to be a flowy and feminine gown. This one was another miss for me.

Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron wore this black and gold Christian Dior gown. Again, the billowy bust bugged me. It exaggerated her already long torso. Wearing her hair long and loose would have helped, but ultimately, this was another miss for me.

Felicity Jones
Felicity Jones wore this nude Dior number. I had a complete change of heart on this dress from when I first saw it to now. I wasn't a fan of the non-color and there's some fit issues at the waist, but I'm now digging the ballerina vibe of the whole look. The hair and make-up are cute, and the shoes adorable too. Good job, Felicity!

Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe wore this embellished Elie Saab gown. Personally, I loved it. It was such a breath of fresh air to see something different on the red carpet. It's probably more in line with what you'd expect to see at the Met Gala instead of the Oscars, but it's also so very Janelle Monáe. She loves bold and graphic gowns and that's definitely what this is. Great job, Janelle!


Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson slayed in this navy blue velvet Alberta Ferretti number. I had to give her the win, as hers was the only look of the night where I literally said, "WOW!" She looked stunning from head to toe. The dress is simple, but sexy; the perfect showcase to highlight her figure and those gorgeous jewels. OMG, that necklace!! The hair, make-up, and accessories perfectly complimented the look. Beautiful job, Taraji!!

Janelle Monáe's photo from here.
Kate McKinnon's photo from here.
All other photos from here.