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!

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, 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? 

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, 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??

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, 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!

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 ;)