Thursday, November 28, 2019

Things I'm Thankful For Thursday // 11.28.19

  • Family - My sister-in-law and her family arrived early yesterday morning and my mother-in-law came yesterday evening. We are so happy to have a houseful for the holiday and grateful that they flew across the country to spend it with us.

  • Friendliness - People who naturally and consistently make eye-contact and smile at others throughout the day have a special place in my heart. Throw in a "hello" and I'm liable to get weepy. 
  • Coffee - I'm thankful for coffee. I'm especially thankful for my husband who preps the pot before bed in the evening and has a steaming cup waiting for me when I come downstairs every morning. 

  • Clean Laundry - Our dryer broke last week. I'm thankful for the functioning one at our friends' house down the street! They generously offered the use of their set until our new one arrives tomorrow. Black Friday, y'all... good for appliances. A bonus to lugging the wash back and forth is the extra time throughout the day that I get to visit one of my favorite families. 
  • Holiday Jammies - If loving these $16 Walmart pajamas is wrong, then I don't want to be right. These are so soft, it's unreal. I think they're some kind of velour with a little stretch and give. I love the red piping at the collar and cuffs. These will draw extra hugs from all of your family members --even the surly teenagers will want to be close to you again. They run true to size (check the chart in the link).

  • Thyme & Table - Are you familiar with this Walmart brand? I'm hardly ever in Walmart and this week I visited to browse the holiday offerings. While I was there, I perused many aisles and came away with the awesome pajamas (above) --as well as some other fantastic finds. These measuring cups and spoons match my kitchen perfectly. I love the brass utensils too. 

  • Better Homes & Gardens Acacia Serving Pieces - I also spent a lot of time in this aisle talking myself out of buying everything. These heavy wooden pieces are gorgeous, in person. This tray with brass handles was very tempting (in case anyone reading this needs Christmas ideas for me)... but I came away with the cake stand instead...

  • Candy Canes - Simple and festive. I piled a bunch on the my new cake stand and set it up by the front door. I also added a sweet ceramic house that's also a (battery operated) votive holder and a little flannel tree that I found in the ornament section. (The house was $5 at Walmart --but not available online. Here is a similar one from Target, a red one from Walmart, these from Crate and Barrel, and cute speckled one from Kohl's.)

  • Sales - Benefit is offering 25% off and free shipping in case you want to treat yourself to a new eyebrow system. Gap is offering 50% off (code BLKFRIDAY) and an additional 10% off (code BESTEVER) in case you want to pick up one of my favorite sweaters. The Body Shop has 40% off and free shopping if you're still considering the amazing Japanese Camellia Cream
  • Kringle - This authentic Racine Danish Kringle is amazing. These usually make an appearance at Trader Joe's in the weeks leading up to the holidays. This year did not disappoint. Almond is my favorite but Raspberry is pretty great too. The crust if perfectly buttery and flaky and the filling is a great balance to the pastry. Please pick one up if you see this. Trader Joe's sells these for about $7; However, I've seen them at specialty shops for as much as $26. No worries if you find them too early --just keep them frozen until the night before you're ready to enjoy!

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Monday, November 25, 2019

What I've Read Recently // October 2019

I do realize that it's nearly December and I'm blogging about what I read in October... Apparently, I need to pull my nose out of the books sometimes and take some time to share my thoughts.

The Storyteller's Secret, by Sejal Badani
Adapted from Goodreads:
A NY journalist is struggling as her marriage unravels after her third miscarriage. She travels to India seeking answers to questions regarding her mother's past that have influenced their strained relationship. Through her courageous grandmother’s heart-wrenching story, Jaya discovers the legacy bequeathed to her and a strength that, until now, she never knew was possible.
What I thought: 6.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
I listened to this book on Audible and found the narrator to be supremely annoying at times. I owe much of my negatively-slanted take to that fact; however, I also had a hard time with the stubbornness of the main character (Jaya) with regard to her interactions with her mother and with her husband. Admittedly, I have a hard time enjoying books when I don't *like* the main character. Happily, this book had another central character: Jaya's grandmother, Amisha --and I loved her! The overall story was sweeping and beautiful, part of the book is set in a place and time that I know very little about. I absolutely enjoyed getting to know Amisha (and her faithful friend Ravi) during British occupied India.

I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life, by Anne Bogel
From Goodreads:
A collection of charming and relatable reflections on the reading life. This book leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today.
What I thought: 8/10
This was a fun book to read and it would make a terrific gift for any avid reader in your family or circle of friends. I myself, received this book as a gift some time ago and finally have gotten around to reading it. Because it is a collection of thoughts/themes arranged by chapter, it is definitely a book that does not need to be consumed in one take. Each chapter stands alone and includes insightful, often funny or clever takes on being "a reader." I enjoyed all of the chapters but found chapter 8, How to Organize Your Bookshelves, to be a highlight. This would be a great nightstand book that you could turn to when you need a few pages to settle into before sleeping.

The Last Book Party, by Karen Dukess
From Goodreads:
A propulsive tale of ambition and romance, set in the publishing world of 1980’s New York and the timeless beaches of Cape Cod. 
What I thought: 7/10
The characters were mostly likable. The setting was richly described. This was an easy book to read and I got through it very quickly. There were lots of references to other books --always a bonus. However, I didn't think there was anything particularly special about this story and I don't think it rises to the description of a "coming of age" novel. Without giving too much away, I will say that "the middle" came quickly --I was surprised by the actions of the protagonist and the turn in the story. This would be a good one to put on your summer book list.

The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
From Goodreads:
A dark and twist-filled psychological thriller about a woman who stopped speaking the night her husband was murdered and the psychotherapist who treats her 6 years later.
What I thought: 8.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
So many great twists and turns. I loved being surprised. The characters were interesting and the plot was engaging. I didn't want to put this one down (or get out of the car, as it were). The narrators were excellent but the story would be solidly captivating in print too. I definitely recommend this book if you like mystery/psychological thrillers.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive, by Stephanie Land
From Goodreads:
Stephanie Land's memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America.
What I thought: 6/10
Where to start? I really wanted to like this book and I found that it did offer personal and moving insight into the cycle of poverty in America. Stephanie Land was successful in proving that freedom of choice is a privilege in many ways; however, as a person, I found Stephanie to be judgmental, jealous, and perplexing. For example, one passage reads, "Living with illness or pain was part of my daily life. But why did my clients have those problems? It seemed like access to healthy foods, gym memberships, doctors and all of art would keep a person fit and well. Maybe the stress of keeping up a two-story house, a bad marriage, and maintaining the illusion of grandeur overwhelmed their systems in similar ways to how poverty did mine." WHAA?? Am I reading that right? Upon receiving a surprisingly big tax refund, and while living in a mold-infested apartment that is making her daughter very sick, she decides to buy herself a diamond engagement ring. Being the crazy plant lady that I am, I was also dumbfounded by her admission that she helped herself to some cuttings of a client's plants because she liked them and wanted her own. Really? Just ask. There were certainly good passages and I came away with new understanding --for which I'm grateful. In the end though, I find myself thinking, "Whatever Stephanie... I'm glad you finally got to Missoula --though, I fail to understand your obsession with that idea."

The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by Ryan J. Stradal (Author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest --which I thoroughly enjoyed and blogged about here.)
From Goodreads:
A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate and the secrets of making a world-class beer.
What I thought: 8.5/10
I so enjoyed nearly everything about this book. It was solidly entertaining. It felt like "home" in a way that good food feels comforting. This book was about women who endure heartache, troubles, and setbacks but keep moving forward. Stradal's books make me proud to be from strong, matriarchal, midwestern roots and they make me miss my grandmother.

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
From Goodreads:
A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward. Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family.
What I thought: 9/10 (Listened on Audible)
This book was a lot --and I want you to want to read it. It was heavy and brutal and so very beautifully written (and performed by the narrators --who were excellent). There was poetry and ugliness in nearly every passage. It captured the essence of grief with raw honesty and refused to pull any punches. The story was sorrowful and simultaneously full of love. Both the voice of JoJo and and that of Leonie were captivating.

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me, by Adrienne Brodeur
From Goodreads:
A daughter’s tale of living in the thrall of her magnetic, complicated mother, and the chilling consequences of her complicity.
What I thought: 7/10
"Don't ever forget that you and I are two halves of one whole." This is what Adrienne's mother, Malabar, reminds her throughout this story that begins with Malabar's breathy confession that her husband's best friend, Ben, has just kissed her. Adrienne becomes Malabar's confidant as she is manipulated by her mother into becoming a key player in the distractions and guise that keep Malabar's and Ben's spouses in the dark. I found it extremely readable and was impressed that the author was able to retell the story without anger. Instead, she gracefully crafted a beautiful and somewhat tragic tale of a dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship. 

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 11.21.19

  • Anticipating the arrival of family for Thanksgiving - We are so excited to have Greg's sister and her family and Greg's mom coming to visit for Thanksgiving next week! Obviously, I can't wait to catch up with Jessica, Justin, and Grandma Lulu. That being said, and with full transparency, I am over the moon to have our 2YO nephew here for a few days! He is so delicious. Speaking of delicious, I plan to make this Eggs Benedict Breakfast Casserole on Wednesday afternoon and leave it overnight in the fridge. I'll pop it in the oven on Thursday morning (whip up the hollandaise sauce) and we will enjoy a warm and effortless breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.

  • Platform Sneakers - Finally. I'm so late to this party. You all have been dancing around in these kicks for ages and I've been missing out. I don't know what the hold up has been... These shoes are cute, functional, comfortable, and versatile. I ordered mine during a big sale here. I can attest that they are true to size. Come to find out, you can get (what I'm betting are the EXACT same shoes) on Amazon for almost half the price. Here are a couple links to my friend Miranda's Amazon shop: I think this pair is closest to the color (taupe) that I bought. I also love this color and I'm considering these black ones that look like leather.

  • Fleece-Lined Leggings - I wasn't sure about these when I came across them. I thought they would be unflattering with the extra fabric (goodness knows, I don't need any extra padding over the rump). I was pleasantly surprised to find they didn't add any noticeable difference and I was thrilled to discover that they are supremely cozy. I don't want to take them off! The high waist is flattering. The length leaves a little scrunching at the ankle (which I don't mind at all) --see photo above. They are true to size and offer some compression. They do have a little sheen to the fabric which would make them very easy to dress up with a tunic or long sweater --and I'm certain they will look fantastic on you curled up on the couch with that glass of wine in your hand too.
  • Groomed Eyebrows - Fun fact: I seldom leave the house without putting my eyebrows on first. My priorities are these, in order: clothing (pajamas count), coffee, eyebrows, brushed teeth. I've tried lots of products and I am in favor of mixing up your routine on a regular basis. Lately and for some time, my favorite eyebrow cosmetics are Benefit's Gimme Brow and Benefit's Goof Proof Brow Pencil. Each product comes in several shades between blond and black. You'll need to get some help at the counter to find the right "prescription" for your face. It will be worth your time. The second photo collage of my face shows naked brows (top left) and finished brows (top right). The bottom three photos are my steps: 1. Shape and fill in brows with the soft crayon side of Goof Proof (be gentle during the application; we're going for a natural-ish look), 2. Use the brush side of Goof Proof to smudge and blend the pencil marks (making them less harsh-looking), 3. Use the tiny wand of Gimme Brow (a tinted gel) to add definition and texture. VoilĂ ! (Please be impressed by that grave accent. I had to do some research to figure out how to make my keyboard cooperate.)

  • Fabric Razor - Do you have one of these? Listen, if you wear sweaters (and who doesn't??), you'll need to pick one up. This handy gadget carefully cuts those annoying sweater fuzzballs off your knits and helps you carry your favorite sweaters over season to season without them looking too tired. I have had my little battery operated one since 2014. It's no longer available on Amazon but this one is similar, highly rated, and a reasonable price. I've seen them at Target too (near the irons). You should check and empty the fuzz reservoir* (I'm sure that's the technical name) as needed --several times per/sweater. Be sure to take it apart from time to time to clear the blades (my guard just twists off) and follow the directions to avoid damaging any of your clothes. I have been using mine seasonally for ages and have never pulled a hole in a sweater --but apparently it can be done. Don't be that ding dong --but do clean up those shabby cardigans! The only downside of using this device is that you'll have less sweater fuzzball picking to do when you're bored and stuck at that stoplight.
    *Handful of fuzz is from ONE sleeve

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 11.14.19

  • This Felted Wool Garland - I just found this today at Trader Joe's and had to sneak it into the post! I'm a huge fan of felted wool (as long as it's not touching my skin and making me itch). I love the colors in this garland and can easily imagine it making any space feel more festive this holiday season. The 9 foot strands are 100% New Zealand Wool and hand-felted in Nepal and sell for just $9 each. (They also had adorable trivets for $5/each! --A fun hostess gift this season?) As soon as I got home, I draped a garland on my plant table in the dining room and another over the mantle in the living room. They would be great in your tree too! Plus, I feel like having them out before Thanksgiving is not a "no-no" (even for those who feel strongly about the holidays taking their turn in line). Anyhoo... I found mine at The Metropolitan location and I hope you have an easy time picking some up for yourself!

  • THE Amazon Coat - I managed to not order this coat last year when everyone and their brother were blogging about it --but recently decided that I still really loved the way it looked and for the price, would be worth checking out. I find this coat to be worth the hype. Despite (a very few) of the reviews, the coat I received is well-made and without flaws. I ordered it in Beige and couldn't be happier with my choice. Some have suggested that because of its bulkiness, you ought to size down. For that reason, I ordered one in a Medium (my typical size) and one in a Small. Because of the breadth over the shoulders and length of sleeves, the Medium was just right for me. It is definitely a bulky coat --I have to take it off when I'm driving because it fills up the front seat! The length is very flattering and I love the black zippers and ribbon details. The coat is so cute in person that my Pilates Besties each ordered their own when I wore it to class earlier this week (both selected Red --so cute)! 

  • Chai Tea - The actual teabag kind that comes decaffeinated so that I can enjoy sipping it all late-afternoon and into the evening after my coffee allotment has been met. Twinings makes my favorite and I always splash a little creamer in to make it even more indulgent. It smells and tastes like the season and is delightful.

  • Soup - It's Soup Season, yahoo! This Italian Sausage & Spinach Soup from Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer publication (circa 2010) is a go-to around here. It is so easy and packed with flavor. Many times, I have substituted readily-available Johnsonville Sweet Italian sausage, Swanson's (or some other) chicken broth, and/or whatever canned, diced tomatoes I have on-hand. We prefer subbing the brown rice, as it hold up better for leftovers --but that will increase the cooking time. The result is always delicious! Remember to buy some parmesan for garnish and a loaf of crusty bread to serve on the side!

  • My Foxy Slippers - My friend, Sara, gave me these delightful foxes on my birthday last year and I absolutely love them! They are perfect for chilly evenings and frigid mornings on our hardwood floors. What I especially appreciate about them is how cozy they are tucked up under a blanket with me on the couch. With my other slippers, I feel like I have to kick them off before bringing them onto the furniture and these are not like that because of the sock-like softness and pliability. Amazon offers lots of critters (the piggies are very sweet). They would make a great gift for yourself or someone else on your list this year!

  • This Kitty - Speaking of cozy critters... In addition to "Soup Season" it is also Richard Parker in His Hut Season. I love it. He's happy to be warm and I'm happy that he's not shedding all over the navy-upholstered chairs. Win-win.

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 11.07.19

  • Little Getaways - I had the pleasure of enjoying an abbreviated beach getaway to Isle of Palms, South Carolina this past weekend with my 12 YO, three of her girlfriends, and their moms too! It was a whirlwind of a trip. We arrived to our very cute and amazingly located AirBnB on Friday night and had to scramble back to Charlotte in time for a 2pm soccer game on Sunday --but almost all of the moments in between were so fun! We spent our one full day having a lazy morning, enjoying a late breakfast, walking, playing, and reading on the beach for hours; then we cleaned up, had a delicious dinner out, and wrapped up our late-night with way too many break-and-bake cookies while watching a terrible movie in our pajamas. Perfection.

  • Fraiser Fir Season - November 1st marks the start of Fraiser Fir Season at the Jones Household and I'll be the first to admit that I might get way too excited about a scented candle --but seriously, THESE candles are worth the hype. I received my first Fraiser Fir a couple years ago from my sweet friend, Megan, and my holidays have been forever improved. To be sure, Thymes candles are pricey but you really don't have to burn them for very long and the (perfectly crafted) scent last long after you've blown them out. Do yourself a solid and pick one up. They also make great hostess gifts!

  • Hot from the oven chocolate and almond croissants - Chilly weekend mornings sometimes call for special treats and Trader Joe's has you covered with their frozen chocolate and almond croissants. The hardest part about making these simple treats that will delight your family (and any guests visiting over the holidays) is remembering to take them out of the freezer the night before! Let me assure you, your loved ones will be impressed and delighted by you when you pop these out of the oven!

  • Bittermilk's Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour - We love this cocktail mix so much that you can count on us having a bottle or two at any given time. The Smoked Honey is perfectly festive this time of year. You'll find the flavor to be slightly tart and smokey. If you are hosting a book club, ornament exchange, dinner party, or just enjoying a cozy evening at home, treat yourself to equal parts Bittermilk and your favorite whiskey shaken with ice and served over a fresh highball of ice. Add an orange twist and you've elevated your bartender status to Mixologist-level. #youfancy (Feel free to adjust the amount of mixer if you like stronger or less-sweet cocktails.) One bottle makes an average of 15 cocktails (or maybe 12 in our house).

  • Deep V-neck Sweater - I saw this sweater at the Gap a few weeks ago and got really excited because I've been wanting to find a soft, cozy v-neck in a light camel/beige color. I tried it in my normal size (medium) and was pretty let-down. It was ridiculously big and looked rather frumpy. It wasn't until I got home that it occurred to me to try it way sized-down. (Go ahead, judge. I wasn't firing on all cylinders, I guess.) Anyhoo... I ordered it in an XS and BINGO: I love it. It's great untucked with a pair of jeans but mostly, I have found myself wearing it tucked into a few of my skirts. The material is thin enough (still so warm and soft) and the hem is "smooth" enough that it totally works tucked into an A-line skirt. Very cute. (Yes, I do say so myself.) The price online is $70. I've never actually paid full price for anything at the Gap because they are constantly running sales. If it's not 40% off on the day you try the link, try again the next day and it probably will be. ;)

  • Amazon Skirt - Speaking of skirts... this is one example of what I'm talking about with the sweater above. I bought this skirt in black from Amazon over the summer and wore it with t-shirts, tank tops, and sandals or wedges. It has transitioned nicely into fall paired with the Gap sweater, long-sleeved t-shirts, and my chambray button-up --all tucked in. I think the skirt works best with your top tucked. It has an elastic waistband, cute tortoise shell button (non-functional) down the front, and the pockets and pleating are very flattering.  It's $18 and so far I have only spot cleaned it. I would not recommend putting it through the dryer. I would recommend picking one up in black and possibly a second color (all of them look very cute)! It comes in "juniors" sizing. The medium fits like a 6.

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)