Thursday, February 20, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 2.20.20

  • Thoughtfulness - My birthday happened last month. Should be no new news for those who read along regularly --as I remind people as often as possible leading up to and then for the entire month of January that we have reason to celebrate. HA! Unbelievably, today was the first opportunity I had this year to spend some time with one of my favorite people. Sara presented me with a gift she'd been hanging onto since early January. And it was THIS. Come on. Stop. It's perfection. Love the sentiment, love the little foxy's face, love that the fox reference calls back to an amazing friendship weekend spent with dear girlfriends (#foxtribe), and I especially love the thoughtful selection and time she put into making me this sweetest gift. Love. (If you happen to be in Charlotte on March 9th and want to learn how to cross-stitch, one of my favorite companies, Skillpop, is offering a beginner workshop and as of this morning, there are 4 seats left.)

  • Talking Teenagers - We're in the thick of it: 7th grade and 8th. (Enjoying almost all of it so far.) The hubby travels, the squirrels have many after-school activities and a lot of homework. Plus they have a growing social life to live with their friends on and offline. We try to sit down to dinner when it's possible and we're grateful that it happens 1-2 times a week. We have an unspoken "no devices during family dinner" policy and look forward to checking in and catching up. Just the other day, our youngest brought out her Chat Pack (which we hadn't used in a long time) and we were all reminded what a fun and useful tool this little box of wide-ranging questions can be. I pulled out 3 cards by chance to set up this photo. They read, Whenever you are having a bad day, what is the best thing you can do to help cheer yourself up?, If rain could fall in any scent, what scent would you want it to be?, and Most people have a favorite story or experience that they love to share with other people. Here's your chance: What's your story?. You can see from this random sampling that the questions are sometimes silly and sometimes door-opening to an actual conversation. It's interesting and sometimes eye-opening to discover where the prompt leads. If family dinners are impossible, these might also be a fun thing to keep in the glove box for moments between here and there or on the nightstand for an exchange before bedtime.

  • Amazon Fresh - I mentioned this a couple weeks ago as "Amazon Prime" but have come to distinguish that the service I am in love with is actually called Amazon Fresh. If you're logged onto your Amazon account (and it is set up like mine is) then under the search bar in a tiny font on the left, there is a drop down option called "Fresh" --THIS is what you're looking for (if you like fresh groceries delivered to your doorstep in paper bags within the 2-hour free delivery window of your choosing, that is). With a Prime membership, there is no delivery fee; however, Amazon will add a suggested tip which you can choose to edit or remove (I do hope you'll not remove it completely). 

  • JR Watkins Dish Soap - Remember when I changed my toothpaste and I was all jazzed about making little changes like this to get out of possible "ruts" we might not even realize we're in? Well... still good advice BUT I have learned that not every change is a good one. I tried a new dishwashing soap and it was no bueno. The dishes were still getting cleaned but my sponge was so stinky! Ew. Not all dish soaps are created equal. I am back to my favorite and I will not be straying anytime soon. J.R.Watkins is where it is at.

  • My Bed - Listen, I loved the opportunity to get away with Mr. Jones last week and am so very grateful for our annual trip to Cancun with some of the most fantastic folks from all over the country and all the many parts of our 22-year-life with his amazing company. But... damn. MY bed is cozy and it felt so very delicious to fall into it on Thursday night last week! If you're considering a "mattress in a box" --we definitely recommend them. We bought one years ago for the guest bedroom and after enough people raved about it, we spent a night on it ourselves. The next day, we ordered one for our bedroom and following that, when the girls traded up their twins for queens, we bought the same type. (All of ours are from Costco. I think we have 2 Novaforms and a Simmons version.) Even if you're not shopping for a new mattress, I hope you treat yourself to some quality sheets, perfect-for-you pillows, and your personal winning combination of blankets/comforters/quilts. Cheers to a blissful bed!

Friday, February 14, 2020

What I've Read Recently // January 2020

Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand
From Goodreads:
Follow New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand back in time and join a Nantucket family as they experience the drama, intrigue, and upheaval of a 1960s summer.
What I thought: 7/10
There're a lot of storylines woven throughout this novel. I found it to be entertaining and engaging. If you're a fan of Hilderbrand already, you're going to love this book. While I would still categorize it as a "beach read" --it was meatier than most. I enjoyed the cultural touchpoints that were woven throughout the story: Women's Movement, Vietnam War, Chappaquiddick, the Moonwalk, Woodstock... While the characters were interesting --each of three sisters dealing with their own various problems (Blair: feeling sidelined from rewarding work to stay home and raise twins and suspecting her husband is having an affair; Kirby: reeling from a dark secret and trying to navigate an interracial relationship she knows her family would not approve of; and Jessie: struggling through puberty, heartbreak, and missing her brother who is fighting in Vietnam), a mother who blurs her desperation of missing her son with alcohol, and a grandmother who has a secret of her own... there was a lot in the pages but ultimately, I didn't really fall in love with any of them.

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett
From Goodreads:
One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles.
What I thought: 6/10
This book was challenging. Despite its cheerful cover art, which I assumed suggested a fun and perhaps off-the-wall story --it was actually very dark. I found that I struggled to pick up and when I did, I was left feeling sad. I tried talking to friends about it the process of getting through the story and found that what kept be going is that I did end up caring about Jessa (main character) and really wanted her to climb out of her grief. I craved some happiness for her. Don't get me wrong, I didn't need rainbows and butterflies --but I definitely needed a little ray of sunshine to peek through the storm. This book is raw. It's uncomfortable. Ultimately, I'm glad I kept turning the pages. It's a good story that is told vividly and with an honesty that makes the reader squirm.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
From Goodreads:
Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched [her cabin mates] sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she—or anyone—saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.
What I thought: 4/10
I picked this book up because I enjoyed Sager's other work, Lock Every Door which I very much enjoyed and reviewed here. Unfortunately, The Last Time I Lied was not nearly as enjoyable. I thought the story was thin, the character's decisions were not all that plausible, and because the story felt so tedious to get through, the ultimate twist felt like a trick instead of a delightful shock.

The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia
From Goodreads:
From a beguiling voice in Mexican fiction comes an astonishing novel—her first to be translated into English—about a mysterious child with the power to change a family’s history in a country on the verge of revolution. Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable. The Murmur of Bees is a heartfelt work of historical fiction with a touch of magic. 
What I thought: 8/10 (Listened on Audible)
As usual with Audible --now that I always preview the narration by listening to the sample, I very much enjoyed the story that these voices brought forth. The pacing of the reading was perfect with the way the story unfolded. I'm confident that reading Segovia's words from the page would also be an amazingly enjoyable experience --she writes with such beauty and richness. The Murmur of Bees is the story of a lifetime and the tale cannot be rushed. Simonopio found an easy entrance into my heart and I'm sure he will find his way into yours as well. However, if you need a "page-turner" or a lot of bold action, this is not that.

Money Rock: A Family's Story of Cocaine, Race, and Ambition in the New South by Pam Kelley
From Goodreads:
Money Rock is the gripping story—by turns action-packed, uplifting, and tragic—of a striving African American family, swept up and transformed by the 1980s cocaine epidemic. This epic account begins in 1963 when Belton Lamont Platt (who would come to be known as Money Rock) is born in a newly integrated North Carolina hospital to Carrie, an activist mother. It ends with Belton’s sons, three of whom die violently as teenagers, and one—his oldest—who’s trying to transcend a criminal past in a world where the odds are stacked against him.
What I thought: 7/10
This story is as much about Platt as it is about Charlotte. Calling Charlotte my home now, I was caught up in the unveiling of the historic decisions (social, racial, political, and economic) that created the affordable housing epidemic we now find ourselves in. While Charlotte has long considered itself to be a progressive city --its practices and policies have grown from segregation and the disenfranchisement of its citizens. Reading like a novel, Kelley is able to interweave the story of one man's journey from Boy Scouts and ROTC to drug kingpin and from incarceration to spiritual fulfillment. The book is a great blend of narration and fact that shines a light on the interconnectedness of generational poverty and incarceration.

Raising Financially Confident Kids by Mary Hunt
From Goodreads:
It's natural to want your kids to have a secure future. But when it comes to teaching the next generation how to handle money, parents are failing.
What I thought: 7/10
I bought this book after an enlightening conversation with a new friend who is also raising two kids, similarly aged to mine. She mentioned the "Salary Plan" and I had so many questions! Her family's plan was born from Hunt's main idea (enhanced by a couple other authors) and fleshed out over time as they began down this path. Here's what you need to know: Hunt's book is dated. Some of her core recommendations are no longer easily applied ("only ever pay for things with cash"). Overall, the book had too much why and not enough how --but I hope that doesn't dissuade you from picking up a copy. The premise is excellent and the main idea critical: We need to do a much better job educating, preparing, and helping our kids practice to become smart financial decision-makers. This book offers simple and good advice: Start giving your kids more financial responsibility and ownership so they can learn from mistakes while the consequences are small, they can experience the rewards of working-toward/saving-for important purchases, and understand that we shouldn't be providing for their every want or waiting on the sidelines to rescue them (with loans or handouts) at the drop of a hat. This would be an ideal read when your kids are 8-9 years old --but odds are it's not too late to start adopting some of these ideas now. The Jones Family will be implementing some version of the Salary Plan very soon. 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 2.6.20

  • Tanning without the sun - My first job (in high school) was working at a tanning salon. I started as a "Bed Cleaner." It really was as gross as it sounds: wiping wet and sometimes crusty sweat off of fiberglass tanning beds. Also, people stink after tanning because of aforementioned sweat, close quarters, and indoor tanning lotions. I also folded towels, vacuumed the salon, emptied waste paper baskets, and restocked the tanning lotions --I mean, accelerators; tanning accelerators. I had a uniform. Along with minimum wage, I also got to tan for free. Eventually, I worked my way up the ladder to "Tanning Technician" (selling memberships and deciding how many minutes was a "safe" session to prevent the client from burning --but also feel like they were getting their money's worth). Clients liked to feel "prickly" and "taught" after a tanning session so they knew the bulbs were baking them sufficiently. We sold little heart-shaped stickers. Clients used a sticker, placed carefully, on their usually naked body, that would leave behind evidence of their darkening skin. I never used the stickers but I carry lots of evidence on my skin that proves how well the bulbs worked. *sigh* These days, we know better. I love sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats. I love cover-ups and umbrellas. However, I still also love a "golden glow" and have been conditioned to feel "healthier" with a little color on my legs and arms. Thankfully, I can achieve this sun-kissed coloring (within a week or so) with a little effort, a few bucks, and 3-5 extra minutes in the shower. I've been using Jergens Natural Glow Wet Skin Moisturizer (medium to tan) off and on for years. Things I love about it: the price ($9), the fact that you can find it anywhere (Target, Amazon, grocery store), the color builds over time, it's hard to really "mess up" --resulting in streaking and drip marks, it doesn't stain my clothing or sheets, using it leaves my skin feeling more supple. A thing I don't like about it: when I forget to wash my hands after application (more often than you'd think *another sigh*), it leaves behind this regrettable stain between my fingers. Tips: exfoliate beforehand --especially elbows, ankles, knees, and toes *knees and toes* (please tell me y'all started singing along too) scrubbing aggressively with a coarse washcloth is better than nothing, remember not to dry off before you apply --you should be dripping wet from the shower, wrap your hair in a towel before you begin, when you're done applying, pat your skin dry --paying attention to your feet and ankles (drips of water down your legs will result in streaks hours later), wash your with hands with soap afterward. {wow. i had a lot to say about Jergens.}

  • Fur Babies - Pets are amazing. Richard Parker is a joy --when he's not meowing at the top of his lungs outside our bedroom door at 3am. For those of you not in the know, Richard Parker (named for the tiger in Life of Pi) is our 23 pound Ragdoll cat. He spends every morning on my lap as I sip coffee in my pajamas atop the couch trying to solve the mysteries of the universe --or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. He is simple. He is friendly. He is always warm and soft. He's devilishly handsome. He doesn't ask for a lot from anyone and we love him so much. 

  • Colgate Optic White Toothpaste - I've been on the Crest Train for decades. It's what we've always used. I don't spend any time thinking about it, I just buy Crest in bulk --usually at Costco. A few weeks ago, I went to visit a great friend in Texas. I carried-on for my flight (please be impressed). Without a travel-size on hand, I arrived toothpasteless. Amy hooked me up with a nice fresh tube of Colgate Optic White in a snazzy red box. Wowza. Super refreshing. Maybe it's just nice to have a change? I don't know... what I do know is that I FEEL like my mouth is cleaner and my breath is fresher. When's the last time you thought critically about your toothpaste? Like I said, it may just be the change that is refreshing. In any event, I'm glad to have tried something different. 
  • Akeelah and the Bee - You've seen the movie, right? Circa 2006. Lawrence Fishburne. So good. If you're lucky enough to live in Charlotte, you have an opportunity to experience the stage production at The Children's Theatre between now and February 16th. Please don't miss this show. It's outstanding. Not only did I have the pleasure of seeing it last weekend --I also got to usher the show with these two lovelies: 

  • Hints of Spring - It snowed this week --for like a minute. Then the temperatures climbed to the low 70s a day or two later. Today it rained. This weekend we will dip into the 40s. "If you don't like the weather in Charlotte, wait 5 minutes" is something I've heard several times over the last 7 years. I'm actually not complaining. I like variety. I wish the globe were healthier --no doubt. But here's what I'm loving: hydrangeas the size of my head (actual quote from City Stems). On my counter. Do you regularly add fresh flowers to your home? I feel like I go in fits and spurts. This time of year, it's so nice to grab a little "farmer's bunch" from the grocery store or Trader Joe's to brighten up the kitchen. I do need to be better about this.

  • A little "I love you" - As I sit here typing up the final edits on my post for this week, I literally just received a text from my brother: "Love you! I hope you're having a good day." Such a simple and easy way to bring a smile to the face of someone you love. Here's your nudge to do the same for someone you love. ***Since writing this post yesterday, I've heard some devastating news about a good friend who lost her father last night in a tragic car accident. My heart is with her and her family. Let's promise not to put off telling our people how much they mean to us.***
As always, thanks for reading along.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 1.30.19

  • Trader Joe's Beef & Broccoli - What do ya know? It's another Trader Joe's go-to from our house to yours. You'll find this in the freezer section next to the Orange Chicken (Yum!) and Chicken/Vegetable Fried Rice (Love!). The package contains about 2 meal-sized portions when serving with rice. If you're also making Orange Chicken, potstickers, or an additional side dish, then the bag could stretch to 3-4 smaller servings. Preparing it on the stovetop is simple and takes about 15 minutes. While it is best served crispy from the pan, the girls enjoy this one in their lunches from time to time as well.

  • Celebrate! - My favorite event of the year is right around the corner! As many of you know, I have been volunteering with the Children's Theatre of Charlotte for years. (This year, it has been my honor to serve as President of the Theatre's volunteer organization, Encore!. If any of you local peeps are interested to hear more about how you can get involved, do let me know.) Regardless of your availability to volunteer your time with me, attending the annual fundraising gala is open to the community and a MUST. The theme this year is Back to the 80's (music, arcade games, heavy appetizers, and themed cocktails from the open bar --all included in the ticket price). Yes, you should dress for the theme. Yes, you should purchase your tickets today. Yes, I will be the dance floor waiting for you to join me!

    Celebrate! moments from years past --in varying stages of sobriety.
  • Wrinkle Warriors - Here I am again, behind the times on what I assume many of you have already been enjoying the benefits of: RETINOIDS. Wow. Wish I had started with a topical vitamin A serum a long time ago... better late than never, right? After a lovely lunch with girlfriends about a month ago where the topic of retinol was discussed at length, I did a bit of research (googling) and read a lot of articles --both sciency (definitely a word) and beauty-based. After being convinced of the benefits, I found this article in Marie Claire to be the most succinct and helpful in providing a simple, reasonably-priced starting point for an over-the-counter, topical treatment plan. My favorite of their suggestions (I have been using 3 of the 4 products for about 14 days) has been the Roc night cream. I can feel it working as a pleasant heat that feels almost cold (does that make sense?) blooms across my upper cheek/under eye area upon application. I have noticed minor flaking/peeling during makeup application --which is a nuisance but assures me that it's doing its job. 

  • Snacks - I love snacks. Because my schedule is never the same from one day to the next, I especially love easy, grab-and-go snacks that are low in refined carbohydrates and sugar (two things that I try to be thoughtful about limiting). These individually portioned "California" packs of salami and provolone cheese are great! I find them at Costco and get 8 packs for about $11 in the store or a couple dollars more through Instacart. The downside: bad breath. I apologize in advance. 

  • Musicians - This little monkey plays the French horn. Despite being nervous as hell and understanding all the extra work she was potentially adding to her already full plate, she auditioned for and made the All-District Middle School Symphonic Band. All of that anticipated extra work was packed into 16 hours of rehearsals over a day and a half followed by an amazing concert performance (that overlapped her first soccer tourney of the season). To say that these student musicians were impressive would be an understatement. Both our girls play instruments and have from 3rd and 4th grade, respectively. They have both wanted desperately to quit at one point or another because music can be challenging and their lives get busier and become more “their own” over the years. Despite the emotional protests, my husband and I remained united and clear: quitting was not an option. I’m happy to report that we've all survived the rough patches (so far). As one Band Director said this weekend, "I've met countless adults who say, 'I wish I had never quit playing my instrument.' But I have never --not once met someone who said, 'Gosh, I wish I had quit.'" ;) Cheers to this phase of their musical adventures where both seem to be enjoying it!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 1.23.20

  • Girls' Trip - My 14YO and I just returned from a fantastic Girls' Trip to Houston, Texas where we each enjoyed the company of one of our dearest friends, separately. ;) When G and her best friend from summer camp started talking about getting together for a visit, I reached out to one of my longtime besties who lives in the same (enormous) city to see if we could pull off a choreographed weekend. Thankfully, it all penciled out without any difficulty. After arriving in Houston, I drove G to her friend's house and dropped her off (after a longer-than-planned and enormously enjoyable visit with her friend's mom) then hopped on the freeway and headed north to arrive for a long weekend with my friend Amy and her family. We each had an amazing time and made lots of great memories doing all of the things that bring us joy: visiting, eating, exploring, relaxing, laughing, did I mention eating? So cheers to saying, "YES" and making things happen.

  • Sorel Sneakers - I took these babies with me on our trip over the weekend and they were perfection. I love the way they look and am obsessed with the wavy sole. They are so comfortable that the fact that they are cute too is honestly just a bonus. I worried about the "sock" fit a bit (no adjustability with laces or even the strap --other than to make it tighter), given my very high arches but after I wiggle my way into them (with a little effort), they are roomy without being loose. I do think that the versatility justifies the price tag. They are true to size; however, if you run between sizes, go up.

  • This Egg Thing - My friend Miranda has a blog and a big following on Instagram --her stories are gold. She mentioned this "rapid egg cooker" from Dash the other day and I immediately ordered one. I love hard and soft boiled eggs so much that I've resorted to purchasing them peeled in those plastic bags from the grocery store --and they're FINE that way, really (so I guess I have low standards --but not "meat and milk from Amazon" standards). But fresh is always best. As soon as it arrived, I gave it a try. I made 2 "soft" boiled eggs to begin. They were absolutely perfect... for a matron in England, I imagine. The white was a little too loose and milky for my taste so I tried the next setting and they were perfection! Apparently, my preference and what I have been calling soft-boiled eggs for years now are actually "medium-boiled." Medium boiled eggs have solid but soft whites and runny, bright yellow yolks. There is a third setting for hard boiled and an insert for an omelet (haven't tried it) and another for poached (perfection over my beef fajita leftovers for breakfast this morning). I love that you can cook 1, 2, 3, and up to 6 eggs at a time. There're no timers to remember or debate about when to add the eggs to the water (when it's cold or after it's started boiling?). There's no "boil the eggs for this long with the lid off and then "remove from heat, cover, and set a timer for this long" either. I'm telling you, for me, this is a game changer. Some reviewers have complained about the buzzer. The company may have changed it because my "buzzer" is more like a jazzy little tune --albeit, a loud, jazzy tune.

  • 49ers - Speaking of GAMES... the San Fransisco 49ers are going to the SUPERBOWL! We are not a sports-fanatic family by any stretch --but do and will always root for our Bay Area teams: Niners, Giants, and Warriors. We couldn't be more excited to cheer on our team in the big game coming up... not this weekend, right? Next weekend? I think so. (See what I mean? No worries. I'll find it. Greg will help.)

  • LipSmart - This is definitely a splurge item and it would never have even made it into my hands if not for the generous gifting of my friend, Carrie, on my birthday. But now she's created a monster because I love it! Honestly, I hadn't even looked it up until this moment so that I could share it with you and then I hesitated a bit because it is so pricey... The good news is that a little goes a long way. All of my skin dries out in the winter --especially my lips. I can honestly report that LipSmart makes an immediate difference in the dry/lined look and feel upon application. It has a slight tingle but none of that "bee sting" nonsense. It feels silky and not a bit sticky. 

  • Home-Roasted Bell Peppers - Another little take-away from my trip out to see Amy in Houston was learning to make roasted bell peppers. We (mostly Amy!) put together a delicious meal on Sunday night: Fiesta Bowls (something I have actually never prepared with my family --even though we all love a good Taco Night). Amy made cilantro-lime rice, black beans, and corn. She grilled chicken, onions, and fresh jalapeƱos. I took the job of roasting the peppers right on the gas range then peeling, slicing, and drizzling with olive oil. There was fresh cilantro and lime wedges, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsas and hot sauces... everyone built and enjoyed their perfect bowl (or two). It was lovely. I will definitely plan this for dinner soon and now that I know how to roast peppers my stovetop will never be the same. #Truth --and worth it.

  • Amazon Prime - OK. We've been Prime members for a very long time. It has always calculated as a good deal to pay for the Prime membership and not pay shipping. However, having signed up so long ago... I sometimes feel like I'm late to the game on some of the more recently offered services. I have tried Subscribe and Save (not a fan --I can't get our quantities and delivery days to work consistently). I eventually tried some kind of "pantry" option some time ago (where you add things to a "box" over the course of several days until you have it full for delivery) It was Eh. Today I was stuck at home with some work to do around the house and desperately needed to get to the grocery store for a few items. I visited our local grocery store's online system (Harris Teeter) and filled my "cart" for their delivery option (not a typical move of mine) and because I was going to pay a small delivery fee, I went to town restocking our needs. As I was adding things to my cart, I felt like the prices on a few items, in particular, were really high. I opened a second window and looked for them on Amazon. The prices there were a fraction of those at HT and the delivery options were within hours of placing my order. In choosing a 2-hour window, I paid no service fee. There was no knock on the door --no followup text or email asking me to tip my delivery person. Just three bags of groceries on the porch within hours. Is this a thing that's just available in my area or have y'all been enjoying this service for ages? It should be noted that I kept the fresh diary, meats and produce in my delivery from HT and only ordered pantry/household items from Amazon --but all of the grocery items were available through Amazon --I was just too skeptical this first time to try them because where are they coming from? Is that weird? Have you bought things like milk and ground beef from Amazon? Would you? 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 1.16.20

  • Harvest & Moon - Mariah Oller is a cellular biologist turned Tarot card reader who happens to be incredibly talented, absolutely darling, and an amazing conduit to connect you with your spirit. Yep. All of that and more. Tarot is something I've always been curious about and celebrating my birthday this year, I decided to treat myself (and my girlfriends) to Tarot readings. If you've ever considered Tarot as an approach to tapping into some clarity, do check out Harvest & Moon. Even if you're not in Charlotte, Mariah offers virtual readings too!

  • Pillow Talk - Ok. Yes. I do enjoy pillow talk but the type I'm referring to in this case is Charlotte Tilbury's lipstick that I found in my stocking on Christmas. (Combo with the liner is no longer available but you can buy it separately here.) I can't tell you how many glosses, lipsticks, balms, and stains I've tried. You already know how much I LOVE Stainiac (so good!) --and now you can add this combo from Tilbury to your short list. I first heard about this color from another blogger, I'm sure (who may have read one of the multiple praises from beauty reviewers like this one). What I find great about it is that the neutral-pink tone looks good on lots of skin tones. The lipstick is creamy and smooth without any stickiness and it lasts too (admittedly though, not as well as a stain). This shade is a great step up from a basic nude without looking like "too much." I'm a fan.

  • gorjana - Our family spent the holiday on the west coast, sharing time between Portland, Oregon and Southern California. When we were with our friends in Laguna Beach, I was introduced to the Laguna-based jewelry company, "gorjana." Love, love, loved the pieces --especially the layerable, delicate necklaces. (I'm a sucker for a necklace!) However, it was literally just past Christmas and while I was taking advantage of some of the sales, I really wasn't doing to much shopping for myself. Flash forward to the day after we returned from our trip: My girlfriend, Tracie, took me out for an early birthday lunch and gave me THIS. Unbelievable. "You've heard of gojana??" she asked. And so I launched into the story as I unwrapped a most perfect necklace with the biggest smile on my face. (It's adjustable even!) Sadly, gojana does not yet have a storefront in North Carolina; however, they do have a great online store and lucky for you, Nordstrom now carries the line in case you want to have a look in-person.
  • City Stems - (Making a second appearance here on TILT because I'm obsessed.) The secret is OUT. Not only is she one of the *best* people I know and love, but Laura Hughes of City Stems is so outrageously talented that if you want to get on her schedule for a holiday or big event, then you best get in line. Laura creates the most beautiful plant and floral creations you've ever seen. I think the magic about City Stems is that Laura is not only exceedingly gifted with an eye for style and detail --she an incredible listener. She works to understand your style/vibe/vision and then executes something that captures the idea and makes you feel completely understood. Listen, I know I'm a bit crazy about plants and this little ballad to Laura might seem a bit over-the-top but I'm telling you: This is special. Remember her name. Follow her Instagram. Get on her list. Treat yo' self and those you love. 

  • Hemleva - Speaking of loving plants, this little number arrived in the sweetest birthday package from my friend, Simone, and she couldn't know be better. Ha! I also have this beauty on my keyring and wouldn't mind adding this to my Hemleva collection. 

  • Warm cake in bed - Thanks to my friend, Gretchen, our family has adopted the tradition of waking up the birthday person on their special day with warm cake. Depending on the day of the week when the birthday falls, it can be an early morning --especially for me who is the cake-baker and sharer of birthdays with our youngest. ;) It's and easy and sweet tradition (pun intended) and if you use the box mix, like me, than not too difficult to execute. Just remember to serve your frosting on the side because it will melt or crumble the cake if you try to smear it on top. And remember to put the candle in the frosting and not the warm cake, as the wax will melt inside the cake and the candles will fall over before you can quietly crack the bedroom door open and start the quiet singing of the birthday song!

  • Dermot Kennedy - Not only to have Gretchen to thank for warm birthday cake in bed, I also have to thank her for introducing me to Dermot Kennedy. She mentioned him like 2 days ago and I've been listening nonstop. Before that, I was living under a rock. Here he is performing Outnumbered on Jimmy Kimmel and here's a link to listen to him sing Power Over Me on Ellen (from May of 2019!). If you like those and are interested, here he is acoustically performing with a small gospel choir on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert. Yeah... so "HI! It's me... just crawling out from under this rock." AND... Dermot is coming to Charlotte in February and I'm going! *Fangirl swoons*

  • Bloody Mary Bar - I love when a vision comes together in the way that you imagined. That's what happened when I put together this bloody mary bar last week. I looked at all kinds of ideas on Pinterest and found a bit of this and that around the house (tray, stand, jars, letterboard...). The fun part was deciding what to offer as garnishes (photo taken before the plate of bacon was set out). While I usually start with a V8 base, adding spices, heat, fresh lime juice, horseradish, worcestershire, etcetera... I took the easy way this day and was SO pleased with (locally made) Bruce Julian's pre-made mix. Anyone for brunch??

Monday, January 13, 2020

What I've Read Recently | December 2019

Off to a good start in 2020. 
Here it is, not even halfway through January, and I'm putting the finishing touches 
on my list of books from December. {takes a bow} 
It was a lovely month of holiday planning, travel, celebrating, and family. 
I found lots of opportunities to read and I hope you did too. 
May this new year offer you plenty of time for stories!

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon
From Goodreads:
From ​the New York Times bestselling author comes a breathtaking fantasy of a cursed kingdom, warring clans, and unexpected salvation.
What I thought: 8.5/10 (Listened to on Audible)
As soon as I finished listening to Amy Harmon's What the Wind Knows, I chose another novel from her to listen to next. Though a completely different book than the first, The First Girl Child was also amazing! The story is sweeping, the characters so so interesting, and the drama is balanced beautifully by the relationships that are described so richly. Even if Sci-Fi/Fantasy is not your jam, do yourself a solid and give this book a chance. I think there's something for everyone. 

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
From Goodreads:
A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the bond between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.
What I thought: 7.5/10
Parts of this book were very compelling and the character development was excellent; however, I felt like the story dragged at certain points and I had a hard time understanding some of the motivations. Having said that, I think Keane did a great job putting the reader within the messiness of a complicated family drama that deals with some very heavy themes: alcoholism, mental illness, abandonment, and infidelity... This novel demonstrates the ways in which life is complicated and fluid. There is also a lot of forgiveness, love, and tenderness here as well. This one is not a "light read" but if you feel like taking up a sweeping family drama --this is perfect for you!

The Pigman by Paul Zindel
From Goodreads:
In The Pigman, what begins as a teenage prank soon becomes a timeless examination of grief, acceptance, and the transformative power of friendship.
What I thought: 8.5/10
My 7th grader was assigned this book for her Language Arts class. It has been compared to The Outsiders and Catcher in the Rye and the tone feels similar to these two works. The Pigman was written in 1968 and until she told me I needed to order her a copy, I had never heard of it. So when the unassuming little paperback arrived from Amazon, I decided to sit down and read it. With its honest and sparse prose, first-person narrative through the lens of the two main characters, and a plot that is simple yet emotionally challenging, it's no wonder this little novel is considered a "groundbreaking young adult classic." It's hard to say more without giving too much away. If you're interested, this quick read would definitely be worth your time.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
From Goodreads:
Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together.
What I thought: 9.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
This book (on Audible) launched to the top of my "To Read" list when David Sedaris sang its praises and those of Tom Hanks (narrator) when I had the pleasure of hearing him (David) speak in Early December. I just realized that this is only the second book by Ann Patchett that I've read. The first was Bel Canto and if you've been following along, you already know that Bel Canto is one of my all-time favorite books. I'm adding The Dutch House to that small list of perfect books and finally getting the message: I need to treat myself to more of this author. Some reviewers have mentioned they felt The Dutch House was slow at times. I never felt anything less than completely wrapped up in the story --given even the fact that I listened to it in "stop and go" spurts as I ran errands and lived my normal car life. This is a sibling story that is told with incredible warmth, depth, and honesty. The relationship between Danny and Maeve is what you might dream of for your own children. Obviously they're not perfect and perhaps there are other relationships in their individual lives that suffer because of their bond --or perhaps they're destined for challenging relationships because of their childhoods and thank goodness they have one another and their unshakable love (which is how I choose to see it). This book is a gift.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
From Goodreads:
Kevin Wilson’s best book yet—a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with remarkable and disturbing abilities.
What I thought: 9/10 (Listened on Audible)
You guys! This book! I'm telling you... it's SO very good. I don't know how Kevin Wilson was able to write such a heartfelt, (darkly) funny, endearing, and warm (pun intended) novel about a pair of 10 year old twins who occasionally burst into flame --but that is what he has done. I loved this book. Ultimately, I found the story to be about love, acceptance, loyalty, and faith. The fact that the kids caught on fire never distracted from the heart of this story --it became instead, a perfect way to demonstrate what love ought to look like when you've found the people with whom you belong. To top it all off --the narrator was brilliant and I laughed my ass off. (Also, if bad words offend your senses learn to get over that because you're missing out.)

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow
From Goodreads:
In a dramatic account of violence and espionage, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Ronan Farrow exposes serial abusers and a cabal of powerful interests hell-bent on covering up the truth, at any cost.
What I thought: 8/10
Wow. If you think you know about the #metoo movement and what you know absolutely pisses you off --then pick this book up and light your anger on fire! This book was so disturbing. How these men got away with such blatant and disgusting behavior for as long as they did is baffling --and yet not so unbelievable, really. Sadly. The writing and the research are excellent. I think this is an important read no matter who you are --but if your the parent of a daughter, then especially so.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
From Goodreads:
No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen's new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings.
What I thought: 7.5/10
So many good books in December! Don't leave this one off your list. I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I ultimately did. In fact, when I was finished reading it, I kept telling everyone about it because I found it to be unique and entertaining. This page-turner has a few flaws (I'll let you decide for yourself) however, it was captivating and each twist left me trying to re-piece the puzzle. Lock Every Door is the first book by Riley Sager that I've picked up. Several reviews were quite scathing as they compared this work to his other two novels: The Last Time I Lied and Final Girls. Sounds like I'll be adding those to my short list!