Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Books, books, books!

It's time again to talk about my favorite subject: BOOKS! Which ones I've read, which ones I want to read, the one's I loved and the ones that weren't all that great. Currently I'm joining up with several bloggers who also love books and some fun little challenges/collaborations they have going on throughout the summer (#scsbc15, #collaboreads, and #thebookishsideoflife) (ALL THE BOOK HASHTAGS) that help me keep my reading goals in check. 

My main goal this month was to finish reading the Outlander book series, and I'm currently reading the seventh, An Echo in the Bone, which is set during the American Revolution and Scotland 1980's. You can read what I thought of the first four books here. Reading these books has been tough! I love the story, but with an average of 1000+ pages per book, it can get a little challenging. I've been trying to finish one book, then read a "light" book or two before I start the next one and that has really been helping to keep my mind from getting bogged down in all the words.


For the month of July, the #collaboreads challenge was to read a book with someone's name in it, I chose Madame Picasso by Anne Girard. As I've said before, I'm a big fan of historical fiction, especially when it has some recognizable characters. This book was based on the love story between Eva Gouel and Pablo Picasso, a fictional story due to Gouel's preference for living a highly private life but it still follows real life events. 

Now for the R.E.A.D.S. review: 
What part of the book could you not get enough of? 
I loved the romance of living in Paris in the early 1900's: the Moulin Rouge, going to Gertrude Stein's famous Salon, the poetry and artistry of the times - it made me wish I was living the Parisian/bohemian lifestyle. I love that Eva moved there with little more than a cent to her name and a dream to make something out of herself (without a husband, thank you) - such a wild notion for the times!
How did you relate to/care for the characters? What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns? 
I really related to the main character, Eva, who also went by Marcelle Humbart, a name she chose that sounded more "Parisian" and sophisticated than Eva. She left home at 23, unmarried (gasp!), and without her parents blessing to start her life in Paris. She refused the offer of marriage from several men because she didn't love them - she was a true independent woman. The plot was pretty simple and followed a third person narrator style, which was nice, as many of the books I've read have been in the first-person, multi-narrator style. There were a few twists and turns that kept me on edge - Eva's friendship with Fernande, Picasso's long-term lover being the main one.
What other books are like thisone? If none, did it remind you o a particular TV or movie with it's themes and characters? Does it serendipitous-ly line up with the things going on in your life or the news right now?
Of course, the only movie it reminds me of is one of my all time favorites, Moulin Rouge! (starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor) (if you haven't seen it, stop what you're doing and watch it now!) obviously because it focuses on the same bohemian lifestyle of many people living in Paris in the 1910-1920's.
What did you think of the cover? How did it relate to the contents of the novel? Admittedly, I was first drawn to the book because of the cover - I mean, how many books do you see with the silhouette of a naked woman's backside?
It definitely related to the themes/contents of the book - being that it was mainly surrounding Pablo Picasso and his lovers. 
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was a good read, but not the best, and of course I detested a few of the characters and their actions, but it's hard to be perfect. I would definitely recommend this book!


Books I've also recently read: 

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: 3 out of 5 stars - not great but not awful. Of course, I'm spoiled by the Disney version of events, but the writing style in itself just wasn't for me. Peter was also kind of a brat.

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica: 2 out of 5 stars - I barely made it through this book. I really wanted to stop reading it, but I forced myself to finish because (1) it was only one of two books I had for vacation and needed to bide my time and (2) because I'm a weirdo and I hate not finishing books. Even the bad ones. The characters were annoying, the dialogue was even worse, and the big "gotcha" at the end was hardly even worth it.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn: 4.5 out of 5 stars - great, just like the other two books by Flynn that I've read (Gone Girl and Sharp objects). Out of the three, I think I liked this one the best - I thought I had the whole mystery figured out but of course there was something in the end I wasn't expecting! 


This also marks the end of the Semi-Charmed Summer Reading Challenge, and even though I didn't get ALL the categories - I did better than last year! I completed nine out of twelve categories (145/200 points) and I read 5953 pages, which doesn't include three of the Outlander books that wouldn't fit a category. All in all, I've read over 7,000 pages since May 1st - I'd say that's quite an accomplishment.

My goal was to read 30 books by the end of the year and I'm somewhere around 17 - over half way finished! What are your reading goals for this year?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

If we were on our first date

Just like most other humans, I love me some buzzfeed. I don't always agree with or enjoy the articles they post, but I love it nonetheless. I'll never get over taking the "Which ______ Character are You" quizzesa (I am Hermione and Leslie Knope) or "30 GIFS that perfectly describe _____" articles. They make me laugh and laughing makes me happy. Recently Buzzfeed published an article titled 36 Questions You Should Really Be Asking On A First Date, all from the Twitter account @firstdateqs.

Since I'll never again go on a true first date, I I chose 10 of these (ridiculously hilarious) questions to actually answer some so you readers can get to know me a little better.

1. Do you starte eating a muffin BEFORE you unwrap the little muffin sleeve or after you unwrap the little muffin sleeve? 
Well, that honestly depends on how appeasing the muffin looks, if I just can't contain myself and wait to get the wrapper off. But generally, I unwrap the sides and leave the muffin actually sitting on it so I'm not holding the muffin with my bare hands.

2. If aliens are real, how disgusted do you think they are with you?
This reminds me of a Simpsons episode where the Simpsons are abducted by aliens to be eaten, which is complete normal alien behavior - first though, the Simpsons were put on display to show how strange they were. That just goes to show that we can't really say what aliens think - they may be disgusted with the fact that humans drink water or that they eat corn on the cob or flush their poop down the toilet.

3. Do you think lizards can fall in love? 
Yes, absolutely.

4. Do you think Shrek and Fiona should have gotten a divorce? 
Wait... I don't remember the last two (or three? How many movies are there?) Shrek movies. Just the first one when he rescues Fiona, then the second one where there is Puss in Boots. Did Shrek cheat on her with the Dragon? Did Donkey come between them? Wasn't there a gingerbread man somewhere in there?

5. If you had a dragon, who would you have burnt in to an unrecognizable crisp first? 
Oh that's tough. I wish I had longer to think about this question, but for now I'll say whoever is responsible for choosing the price of airline tickets. That ish is wack!

6. How many times a day do you look around you and think "I wish I was butt ass naked right now"?
Too many, yet, not enough.

 7. How quickly into building a piece of IKEA furniture do you throw yourself out the window? 
I've never been to IKEA.

8. How many times have you brought an entire bottle of wine into the shower? 
None, but thankfully, my bathroom counter is easily accessible from the shower and I put drinks on it all the time to consume while showering. Do you know how refreshing a cold beer or bloody mary is while in a hot shower? Do you?!

9. Do you put the toilet paper roll on the right way or the murderer way? 
The right way of course.

10. Do you think cats like guacamole? 
If they don't then I've got two cats for sale.

What are some of the strangest questions you've encountered on  a first date?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Stitch Fix Review: My Second Fix

The time has come again for another Stitch Fix review - because I got another Stitch Fix box delivered right to my doorstep, duh! This is my second time receiving Stitch Fix (if you missed the first one check it out here) and overall the experience has been great! In case you haven't heard of Stitch Fix, or if you have but you're not quite sure how it works, here's the low-down: 
  • It's similar to the typical "subscription boxes" in that you never know what you're going to get - but it's BETTER because you get to choose your frequency (anywhere from every two weeks to only once or twice a year) and you get to choose your price point. 
  • You fill out your very own style profile and get your very own personal stylist who chooses your five items (jewelry, tops, bottoms, dresses, etc) and sends it right to your house for a $20 styling fee. 
  • It's NOT an all-or-nothing kind of deal - you chose the items you'd like to keep and send back the ones that didn't quite work out. The $20 styling fee is applied to your purchases! PLUS - if you buy all five items, you get 25% off the entire purchase. 
You get to send your stylist a little note before they start each fix, to let him/her know some things you would be interested in trying. This time around, I told my stylist I wanted cute, but casual/comfortable "summery" pieces that would also be useful for my upcoming trip to Canada. Here's what I got: 

PAPERMOON Ramona Ribbon Detail Blouse ($44)

When I pulled this top out of the box, I loved the color, but for some reason wasn't loving the all-over feel of the top. I couldn't put my finger on it because I generally like the flowy-style tops. I tried it on and it fit well, but something was still a little off about it. Even looking at the photos, I can see that it looks good and pairs well with the white denim, but ultimately it just isn't something that is my "style". I sent this top back.

THML Christen Embroidered Tie Neck Top ($54)
KUT FROM THE KLOTH Distressed Boyfriend Jean ($78)

I immediately loved this top before I even tried it on. First: I'm a big fan of embroidered styles (just check out my pinterest style board) and second, I'm a big fan of funky patterns and this top had both. I was a little wary of the fit - I know I just said that I liked "flowy style" tops but this one seemed a little too flow for me. Like a mumu. My husband, however, said that it looked good so I decided to keep it.

I'm not a jean-wearing gal. It's hard to find jeans that (1) cover my ass when I sit down and (2) fit both my thighs and my waist. I currently own two pairs of jeans that I wear semi-regularly. I much prefer palazzo pants, maxi skirts, and dresses. BUT I have really been digging the "boyfriend" jean trend. Unfortunately, these were just a little too big all around, so I sent them back.

EZRA Brianna Dress ($88)
I knew before I even got this dress all the way unfolded that I didn't think I would like it. Then I put it on. The cut wasn't right, the sleeves felt odd, and it was itchy. Hard pass on this dress. I did like the cutout/lacy style but the high neck and boxy shoulders made me feel like I was a Mennonite.

MARKET AND SPRUCE Dafne Chevron Maxi Dress ($88)

I think my exact reaction when pulling this dress out of the box was, "Oooohhh, mama likey" or something similar. The reaction when trying it on was pretty much exactly the same. Maxi dress: check. Stretchy material: check. Stripes: check. Great color combo: check. Kept this without thinking twice.

My favorite part about receiving fixes is the surprise factor - you really never know what you're going to get. My stylist chooses things I wouldn't normally choose for myself, and I really like that because sometimes it's something I end up loving. I feel like my stylist is starting to get a taste for the things I like and the things I don't particularly care for. I don't think I'll continue on an every-other-month basis, just because due to my job, I rarely wear "real clothes" to work, and I really don't need all that much. I'll probably get my next fix when it starts cooling down and my fall/winter wardrobe needs updating!

Have you ever tried Stitch Fix? Would you have kept anything from this fix?

*This post is not sponsored nor endorsed in any way by Stitch Fix however it does contain referral links, meaning if you sign up using my link, I will get a referral fee.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Staying Healthy During Summer

We're half way in to summer and knee deep in beach vacations,, lake outings, and generally wearing less clothes than we normally would be wearing. Ice cream in is abundance and every other weekend we're attending a bar-b-que or wedding where there is ALL THE FOOD, not to mention - the cocktails. So how are we supposed to stay fit and make healthy choices with all of this yumminess in our faces? Here are a few tips to help stay healthy during the summer:

1. Stay away from sodium (salt). Sodium = water retention = bloating. There's nothing worse than feeling like a filled up water balloon when you're putting on your bathing suit. If you've got a beach trip coming up, cut back on the chips, soda, and other foods that are high in sodium (processed, pre-packaged foods are usually HIGH in sodium, even if they are low in calories).

2. Trade ice cream for frozen fruit (or just regular fruit). There are tons of recipes on pinterest for frozen fruit concoctions that can help curb your sweet tooth. One of my favorites: strawberries with just a drizzle of dark chocolate.

3. Indulge a little. I get it, it's summer, it's hot, and everyone else is eating snow cones. If you want one, get one! Indulging in something sweet every now and then will prevent future binging.

4. Try a new fitness routing. I love getting out in the evenings and going for a brisk 20-30 minute walk. It's still warm, so you'll still work up a sweat, but it's not too hot to get dehydrated. Another great summer exercise is swimming!

5. Drink all the water! One of the most important things you can do during the hot summer months isstay hydrated. If you're one of those people who just "don't like" water, then make it fun - add sliced fruit, mint, or crystal light packages to your water. Another thing I like to do is drink from a fun container. I have 3 or 4 big drinking cups with straws and for some reason it is always easier to reach my water goals when using those rather than a plastic water bottle (plus it's better for the environment).

Those are of the things that can help you make healthier choices this summer, and of course throughout the rest of the year as well. What are some things you implement to stay healthy?

Monday, July 6, 2015

July Goals: Summer Bucket List Update

I'm going to be one of those super annoying people who are always wondering how it is already another month and say, HOW IN THE HECK IS IT ALREADY JULY?? Did June even happen? I think I must have slept through it. Back in May, I came up with a list of things I wanted to accomplish this summer and I thought I'd mark my progress and see what I've done and what I need to cram in to this last month of summer. 

Sidebar: do you consider July or August the last month of summer? I've always considered July the last month because, growing up, school started back in August and that always meant the end of summer to me.

My would-have-been 4th of July outfit if it weren't for the torrential downpours.
Things I've accomplished:
Nothing - gasp! I have not completely checked off one single thing from my Summer Bucket List. The closest I've come is going to the beach, my goal was to go three times this summer and I've been twice.

Things to-do:
-Visit someplace new. We are booked to leave for Canada later this month!
-Make homemade ice cream. I really don't know why I put this on my list. It's so, so good but we don't even have an ice cream maker! But with Blue Bell shutting down, I am having some serious ice cream withdrawals.
-Have a picture for every day. I'm trying really really hard on this one!! Some awesome bloggers have come up with some fun instagram challenges (here, here, here, and here) and it has really helped with this, but I just can't seem to get it done every single day. I will admit though that it's forcing me to think outside the box a little!
-Make s'mores/go camping. I am going to count our stay in Canada as part of our camping experience since we'll be staying in prehistoric really old cabins.
-Get better at skiing. Haven't had a chance fr this one yet, we've been so busy on weekends that we just haven't had much time for boating this summer.
-Finish the scsbc15 book challenge. I've put a big dent in this by reading the first five books of the Outlander series, but I've still got a ways to go.
  • 5 points - freebie/any book: The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (992 pages) 
  • 10 points - any book you've never heard of: undecided 
  • 10 points - book on my TBR list: Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #2) (752 pages) 
  • 10 points - Goodreads "Best Book" in 2014: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica 
  • 15 points - a new author: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (896 pages) 
  • 15 points - an author you've read before: The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes 
  • 15 points - "light" or "dark" in the title: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  • 20 points - city/state/country in the title: Paris Red by Maureen Gibbon 
  • 20 points - an animal on the cover: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon 
  • 25 points - part of a four (or more) book series: Voyager by Diana Gabaldon (870 pages) 
  • 25 points - longer than 500 pages: Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (1070 pages) 
  • 30 points - alliterative title: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (240 pages) currently reading
As you can see, I've only crossed off four books since starting the challenge, but I'm giving myself a little leeway since they were monster books! 

Other goals:
-Get on track with my gym habits and stop eating like a cow. I always said I wasn't going to be "one of those women" who gained weight after the wedding, and I am still of that mindset, but my body seems to be disagreeing with me.
-Do some exploring in our hometowns. Montgomery was one of the top 10 most historical cities in the U.S. in 2014 and I want to see and do some new things.
-Try more new things, like taking the photos above, and cooking salmon fillets for the first time (delicious), and hiking to the top of a mountain.

What are your goals for the rest of the summer?