Friday, May 18, 2018

Matchmaking for Beginners Review

If you're a long time reader of the blog, you'll recognize the author of this latest book. I am a HUGE fan of Maddie Dawson and have written about her quite a bit actually. I included her previous book The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness in both my favorites for 2016 AND my anniversary giveaway that year. When she asked if I wanted to have a look at her newest book, I jumped up and down in my house...and I mean that literally.  So, we'll just start this review off by saying that I went into this book expecting to really like it...and I might be oh so slightly biased towards this fabulous lady and her works. You can call me a Maddie Dawson fan girl.

Can we start off with talking about the cover for Matchmaking for Beginners?? Okay...Survivor's had me going ga-ga over the beautiful watercolor bird on it's cover, but I honestly think I like this one even more! It begs to have photos taken of it, and I've shamelessly used it on new cover photos for my blog, etc. It's just so damn beautiful!! Maybe it's the blogger/instagrammer in me, but I am not ashamed to say that I get pulled in by stunning book covers. The colors, the heart gate, the dog, the's flawless.

Matchmaking for Beginners is a mesmerizing and magical tale about love and living big, authentic lives. Blix Holliday is getting up there in age, and with her tumor Cassandra growing, she knows she doesn't have long on this earth. She has filled her incredibly full life in Brooklyn with a cast of characters who enjoy her eccentricities, and thrive in the loving hands of her witchy ways. She's unsure of why she felt compelled to attend Christmas with her stodgy extended family until she lays eyes on Marnie MacGraw, the future wife of her grand-nephew. Blix IMMEDIATELY senses a kindred spirit in Marnie, and knows that big things are coming for her. Marnie, on the other hand, only wants a simple life. What transpires is anything but simple!

After nearly being left at the altar, and actually being left on her honeymoon, Marnie moves back in with her parents in Florida and back into the arms of her boring high school boyfriend. She is shocked to hear that her ex's great-aunt Blix has passed away, and left her eccentric Brooklyn home to her with the proviso that she live in it for three months. Marnie moves to Brooklyn expecting to pass the time until she can return to Florida, and start her simple life...but Blix has other things in mind.

 Ahh, I'm not even sure where to start with this review! I don't want to give anything away, but what I've always loved about Maddie Dawson's books are her truly memorable characters. I was blown away by even the most minor of characters in Matchmaking. And Blix!! From her first introduction, complaining about her boring family at a Christmas gathering she didn't want to be at, I knew I wanted to spend as much time with this character as I possibly could. And Marnie...even when she was making decisions I wouldn't have made...I could still see her in my life. These are authentic, flawed, sassy, smart, eccentric, and fabulously REAL characters.

I'm always going on about her female characters, but this time she wrote a male character I absolutely fell in love with. Patrick is a tenant in Blix's home. He lives in the basement, is an artist who was burned badly in an accident and now works on websites helping diagnose ailments. The text conversations between him and Marnie were so witty and clever! I live in a house with incredibly intelligent and witty people, and I'm just not that quick. I could never respond to texts in that manner, so was filled with awe over their conversations. In short, Patrick is one to watch...

The story could probably be described as a classic contemporary women's fiction story, an easy read, perfect for the summer months. It really picks up speed once Marnie hits Brooklyn. You might have an idea of where it's going as you're reading it. But none of these things really give you the true measure of this book. Blix has that eccentric sassiness of a Ya-Ya without the childhood trauma and abuse. It has the whimsy of something like Practical Magic, but once again without the violence. And it's filled with these women...REAL women, who make real mistakes, have real flaws, speak like real people, etc. That is Maddie Dawson's Magic.

In short, I highly recommend this book for your summer reading list. I'm so happy that Amazon picked it as a First Reads selection, and it's already doing so well...even though it's publication date for hardcover isn't until June 1st.

I honestly thought about just writing "Fan Girl, Fan Girl, LOVED IT, Not Surprised, BUY IT, Fan Girl, Fan Girl" because that really is the gist of what I said. 😂

Do you have any authors that you auto-buy?? People you just KNOW you're going to love before you ever even open the cover of the book?? Let me know in the comments!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Food and Weight...Weight and Food

As I sit down to write this, I'm honestly not sure where it's going to this ought to be a fun surprise for everyone involved.

I have been ruminating on the unhealthy relationship I've had with food since I was a young whippersnapper, and it's something I very much want to write about. But it's also something that is personal and somewhat embarrassing, even though I know in my heart that it's a struggle that a lot of people go through. I did a short and rambling video for my YouTube channel on Monday that touched on the subject (you can find it here), but I think it's probably better told in writing. I edited a whole lot of pauses and sighs out of that video, and tried very hard to keep my emotions under control. But my Weight Loss has been stalled recently, and I think that I need to get this subject right in my head before I can make any more real progress.

I am probably one of the heaviest non-foodie people you'll ever meet, and I say that with the utmost sincerity. Other than pizza, which I love with all of my heart and could eat daily and never get sick of, there aren't many foods that I actually like. I routinely eat and overeat foods that I can't stand. Most of my friends with weight problems are foodies. They love cooking almost as much as they love to eat. They feel passionately about food. They get excited over their next meal. If I were being truly honest, I would have trouble listing a Top 10 of foods I love. And yet, I am obese. I struggle with eating out of boredom, and eating when I'm stressed. I also have this complicated thing where self-worth and food get all jumbled up in my head, and when I'm feeling low I will overeat because then it's easier to feel low...if that makes sense. Because eating has never been about fueling my body, and that is something that I really desperately need to work on if I'm ever going to be successful at losing the rest of my weight and keeping it off. Food needs to stop being mixed up in my mind with self-esteem, self-worth, and control.

If I were to distance myself a bit, and try to see when my issues with food probably started, I'd say things began going haywire around the time that my parents got divorced. I'm not writing a blog post blaming my parents for anything that ails me, let's just say that I'm setting the scene for you. I was in the 6th grade, going through puberty, and my mother me and my big sister stayed with my father, who at the time wasn't even aware of how you made sandwiches. Regular evening meals were not being made in this new 3 person household. My sister did the best she could, but our meals regularly consisted of popcorn, ice-cream and frosted flakes...with the occasional ground meat and potatoes thrown in. I didn't eat popcorn until my late 20's because of this time in my life. This sequed into a full blown Junior High obsession with not eating, one that included competitions with friends to see who could eat the least. I felt like my life was spiraling, as it had all the earmarks of a good afterschool special with parental issues and alcohol thrown in for good measure.

Things got better when I moved to Louisiana towards the end of my freshman year of high school, but got worse after my boyfriend (now husband) left for the military and my home life got very chaotic again. I would post photos, but I had a penchant for oversized clothing so it's very hard for me to tell that I was under 100 lbs at 5'8"...but I know that I was. I wasn't eating, and worse than that, I was taking over the counter products to keep me from wanting to eat, and helping to keep my energy up. Most people my age remember when GNC sold products that actually worked, mainly because they included ingredients that are now BANNED. Yeah...I was a big fan of those products. But we're supposed to be talking about food, and how I wasn't eating it at the time. Feedback from my mother was that I looked great, I looked great, I looked great...and then she said "If you lose another pound, I'm putting you in the hospital.".

Threats of hospitalization are apparently the thing to say to get the women in my family to stop being jackasses, because I stopped starving myself. Did I move onto other bad habits? Most likely. But we're talking about me and food here.

Somewhere in my 20's I flip-flopped, and instead of falling back on the bad behavior of not eating in times of stress, I started eating and leaning towards lethargy instead. Now, I am naturally a very hyper individual...but most of the time, you probably don't see that...the reason being, it's hard to be physically hyper when you are my size. Squirrel brain can show up no matter what your size, but bouncing around the house cleaning everything, and itching to DO SOMETHING instead of sitting still tends to DIE when you're over a certain weight. It's just not physically possible. So, you combine eating in times of stress...even if you've never been a foodie...with a metabolism that is so jacked up from starving it for years...with a lethargic body, and you get an obese woman. Not only that, you get an obese woman who doesn't recognize herself.

And I really don't know what to do with the whole food thing. My whole life it has always been one way or the other. Feast or Famine. Starvation or Gluttony. I honestly don't even think my body knows how to properly handle my metabolism is all kinds of jacked up. And I don't blame it. I have never treated my body as the temple God made it to be. I routinely talk about how my body hates me and my body aren't the same thing. And that doesn't even make sense! LOL

I think a few things need to happen in order for me to make progress, and I apologize that this blog post has almost turned into a diary entry. I think I need to find a way to reset myself when it comes to food...a way to really come to terms with food being a means to fuel my body. It needs to be removed from emotions for me, as I don't think I can ever have a relationship with food that involves passion or love, or any of those terms that a lot of people use when referring to food. It's been used too much as a tool for abuse in my life, either refraining from it as a means of control when my life got chaotic, or gorging on it as a means of feeling crappier about myself. I'm fairly certain I can do that within the template of Weight Watchers, I just need to figure out how. And then I need to come up with some good coping skills for when I AM stressed out or feeling overwhelmed. This is where I'd love to get some comments from my readers! What do you all use to help when you're having a tough time, stressed out, things are getting a little crazy in your life, and you need help getting centered?? Prayer, meditation, running, writing, art?? Please let me know in the comments here, or over on my Facebook page. It would help me a lot.

I wanted to write about this on the blog because I know I'm not the only person who struggles with these problems. I'm not the only person I know who has had disordered eating in the past, or who is struggling with it now. I don't mean to leave my male readers out, but us women have such a hard time with that intersection of self-esteem and weight. We let it all get muddled up together, and we shouldn't. Intellectually I know that I am worthy of love no matter my size. But it all turns into this icky mess at times, and then you toss that in with feeling things are out of control or you're overly stressed and it can turn into one giant feast or famine cluster-fuck (for lack of a more appropriate word). I had to put into words that this is something I am struggling with, and maybe we can figure it out together. I would like that.

Please leave me a comment if you can relate to what I'm saying, if you have any tips...any coping skills you'd like to share...any resources you think might be helpful. And I'll end this are loved and you are worthy my friends.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Not That I Could Tell Review

I finally have another Monday book review for you!! And it's another Netgalley/Ninja book, so big thanks to the author and the Great Thoughts, Great Readers crew for sending it my way. We've had family in town for a visit, so my reading has been relegated to late nights in bed...which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I haven't been putting in the numbers I normally do. I'm trying to play catch up on my e-books, but that means my physical books are growing out of control. I need to spend a few weeks on a television and movie fast so that I can feel more in control of my TBR list!

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser was both very similar to other books I've read recently, and yet different enough to keep me reading. At first I thought, didn't I just read a book about a group of female neighbors and some sort-of mystery?? And it almost made me put it down, thinking I needed to put more space between the two books so I wasn't spending too much time comparing. But I kept going, and was happily satisfied that they were different enough to keep my mind from jumbling it all together.

Not That I Could Tell is the story of what happens with a circle of friends/neighbors/acquaintances in small town Ohio when their seemingly perfect Doctor's wife next door disappears one day with her two children, after a girls night fire pit. As someone who has partaken in many a girls evening of adult beverages and girl talk, I could totally relate to these women. They were relaxed, finally didn't have the kids with them, perhaps said a few things they shouldn't have...and then woke up to find one of them missing. Kristin was recently separated from her doctor husband, so a few neighbors are immediately suspicious of him...and when he moves back into the house to "wait" and see if his estranged wife returns with the kids, his every move is under surveillance, from both the police and the neighbors. But the newest arrival in town, Izzy, feels that maybe everyone is being a little harsh to poor doctor Paul...and his interest in her is a little more than neighborly. Clara, who was closest to the missing Kristin, has been in a situation like this before...and is immediately suspicious of the husband, and fearful that the troubles of her past may be repeating themselves.

What really DID happen to Kristin? Did she run off with some money, and start a new life? Did her husband kill her? Do you ever really know your neighbors?? Is there such a thing as being TOO cautious?? Should you ever hop on the back of a man you don't know well's motorcycle just because you're having a bad day? And more importantly, how do you get over your sister marrying the man you love?? These are all questions I pondered when reading.

In spite of the similarities it shares with other books I've read recently, I really did enjoy reading this one. I'm a fan of books about girl friends...probably because I'm a fan of MY posse of gal pals, and love hearing about other groups of close women. My head immediately went to thoughts of how I would feel if one of my circle of girls up and disappeared after one of our evenings of drinks and chats...and the worry you would have that you'd missed something important, some clue that life as you'd all known it would change forever the next day.

And as this book neared it's end, I had a minute of thinking...huh, well I guess that wraps it all up in a tidy little bow, maybe...but it's kind-of anticlimactic...I mean I sort-of saw that coming...but is that really it?!? I was feeling unfulfilled and like it petered out, and had mediocre in my mind. And then I flipped to that next chapter and was reading along, a bit zoned out...and then suddenly went....WAIT, what?!? And went back and re-read that bit again. BOOM, instantly bumped up a notch. The kicker at the end made it all worth it, and totally made this book for me. Maybe I shouldn't say that, as now if you read it you'll be looking for it...but I was happily and pleasantly surprised by how this one ended.

So, if you're a fan of contemporary light mysteries/thrillers, this one should definitely make your to-read list. On a side-note, I kept forgetting it was set in Ohio. To me it felt like Washington State outskirts of Seattle, or Austin, or some other typical quirky area setting...and then they would mention some other town in Ohio and I would be stumped for a minute!! Then I'd remember...OH yeah, it's set in Ohio! 😂 I actually really liked that. Also, these aren't a bunch of older girl friends really, most have young kids at home, and one is single. There is also a lesbian couple and a military a lot of diversity, along with a tiny deployment subplot for my mil folks.

Big thanks again to Jessica Strawser, Netgalley and the Ninja Group for sending me Not That I Could Tell! 

Would love to hear in the comments what everyone else is reading!! I hope you are all starting on Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey for our Monthly Book Club also!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


I just wanted to write a short post to apologize to all of you for my lack of content recently. My migraines have been out of control, and I seem to have more lousy days than great days as of late. I'm still reading when I can, and still working on the same sorts of things, but my drive to sit and write about it all hasn't been what it normally is. My head issues have put me in a funk, and I'm having troubles getting out of it.

So, bear with me folks. I hope to get up and out of the doldrums soon. As I type, I'm missing out on sightseeing with visiting family because I'm on day 4 of a bad head, and a not so happy stomach from all the headache medicine. I'm vowing to become the healthiest health-nut one can possibly become...if it means my head will stop hurting so much. Vegetarian distance runner? Keto yoga enthusiast? Whatever it is, sign me up Lord.

To any authors who are waiting on reviews, I apologize profusely. I will try to make them glowing once they arrive. To those waiting on jewelry catalogs in the mail? I bought some beautiful mailers, if I can ever make it to the post office. I'm not normally so scatter-brained, so I really do apologize.

Anyway, I hope to get back to normal sooner rather than later. And I hope all of you are having an amazing Spring!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Immortalists Review

I feel like I need to start this review off with an apology for being absent for a few of my regular M-W-F blog posts. I've been doing a lot of ruminating, and soul searching, about the blog and my writing etc...and it led to taking a few days off. But I'm back with a review for another book sent to me by the Great Thoughts/Great Readers Book Ninja Crew and Netgalley! If you follow any book accounts on Instagram, you've probably seen this beautifully covered book all over the place...or you may have already read it. This book has been talked about A LOT, so although it took me a little longer to pick it up than it should have, I needed to see what all the talk was about. Plus, I need to mention that cover again?!?

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin is the epic tale of the four Gold siblings, and how they live their lives after visiting a travelling psychic as children and being told the day of their deaths. How each deal with the impending date is slightly different, and begs the question of whether knowing when you will die would be a good thing? How would it affect your life? Would it force you to make different decisions? Do you put your faith in a prophecy given to you by someone others might say is a fraud? Do you even waste your time thinking about it, or bury it away?

Simon is the youngest of the Gold siblings. A stunningly gorgeous teenager when he runs away to San Francisco to live freely as a gay man, he lives with abandon and there's no tomorrow. And late 70's/early 80's era San Francisco isn't kind to the gay community. At times enjoyable, and other times incredibly frustrating, his story line filled me with sadness.

Klara is the bohemian sibling obsessed with her family's eccentric past. She works for years as a magician, at first on her own and then with her husband. But her problems with alcohol and what is most likely an undiagnosed mental disorder, start getting a tad out of control. Although intriguing and very mystical, I spent most of her story line wanting to give her a good smack upside the head.

Daniel is the all-american older brother and military man, although his career as an Army Doctor starts moving in a direction he didn't foresee. He becomes a man obsessed with his childhood prophecy, but at what cost? This is a man that made me As in, "What the HELL are you DOING?!?!". Good stuff...

And then you have Varya, the oldest of the Gold siblings. She has dedicated her entire life to studying aging, and trying to find a way to increase our longevity. But is she really living? And will her past decisions come back to haunt her? Her section of the book holds my favorite scene.

This novel is going to be a tough one for me to rate on a star scale, which is why I didn't give it one on Goodreads as soon as I finished it, like I normally do. It is a VERY well-written book, and I devoured it in two sittings. I read Simon's section one night, and the rest of the sibling's sections the next day. The entire premise of the book is incredibly intriguing, and really hooked me from the very beginning...and honestly would make a great book club selection because there's so much to talk about. But if you need to like the characters in your book...this one is probably going to drive you batty.

I mean it. If you need to care immensely about their outcome, really connect with them on a deep level, and like them as a person...this might not be the book for you. I'm okay with not liking my characters, or reading a book full of what I like to refer to as Gray people. Characters who aren't all good, wonderful, great, nice, sweet, terrific (Light) or evil, mean, rotten, horrible, nasty (Dark). They instead fit somewhere in the murky middle ground. I didn't necessarily "like" any of the Gold siblings, or their mother...or any of the other characters in this book. I came very close to liking Simon and Varya, and I'm okay with that. They were complex characters, for the most part.

It's funny...hands down, my favorite scene in the entire book comes at almost the very end, in a conversation between Varya and her mother. I'm not going to spoil anything for you...but my thoughts on the whole thing were pretty in line with the mom, who you generally don't like for the first half of the book...and the second half wonder if it's the same woman. But I was left wondering if things would've gone different for all of the Gold children if they'd have had this conversation with their mom a few decades earlier!!

Anyway...the book definitely makes you I'd say it was worth reading. I thought the writing was phenomenal, but it isn't an easy one for me to sum up in a cute little bundle for public consumption. I have complex feelings, so this review is probably all over the place! But a huge thank-you to the author, netgalley and the folks at Great Thoughts/Great Readers for sending me the book to read. A very complex read, where death may as well have been another character as in The Book Thief. But if given the chance to give a few whollops to some folks...I would. 😂

How do you feel about reading books with characters you don't like?? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Here We Grow Book Review

Booksparks has blown me away, yet again, with a gigantic stack of beautiful books to try my best to work my way through. This time it's Magic of Memoir all nonfiction memoirs, which is a nice departure from what I've been reading recently. This first book I grabbed felt SO relevant to my life and the lives of so many people I know at the moment. I honestly don't think it's possible to not have your life touched by Cancer, but I have too many people I love recently diagnosed to not feel that this book arrived on my doorstep for a reason.

Here We Grow: Mindfulness Through Cancer and Beyond by Paige Davis tells the author's story of her diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 38, and how she chose not to do battle per se but to embrace the experience with love and mindfulness. She is aware that to some it will sound a little too woo-woo, and it was refreshing to have an author come out and say that some may think her ways are a little too kooky for the average joe, but I think there's something to be taken from this book no matter where you land on the woo spectrum.

First off, I have to say that for a memoir, this book is extremely well written. Actually, I need to take that "for a memoir" out of it, and just say...for a nonfiction book, Here We Grow is very well-written, easy to read, and compelling enough to keep me reading the entire thing in one sitting. That is a pretty rare thing in nonfiction, and although it could be a case of the right book at the right time, I would read other things by the author...and I'm no meditation/yoga/mindfulness junkie or anything. Davis writes in a way that makes you feel like you're one of her friends, and yet it's not so casual that you feel like you're reading her diary entries.

As a very fit and health conscious woman, Davis is initially thrown by her cancer is everyone in her position, I'm sure. But almost immediately she decides she wants to take all negativity associated with the cancer away. She comes up with a care plan instead of a battle plan...tells her family she doesn't want to hear anyone speak negatively or talk about "doing battle", which is a VERY common I struggled to not write "A woman battling breast cancer" when typing up this review. And really, I can see where she's coming from. I had a conversation with my husband recently in regards to a family member being diagnosed, and how it must feel to be surrounded by 100+ people who are all stressed, angry and although they have the best of intentions, filling you with more dread than you already have. My husband actually said he wasn't sure he'd want to tell anyone, because in his eyes that would make it even harder to process and keep your own head on straight. I think the compromise would be to deal with it how Davis did.

I loved every minute of reading how the author dealt with her diagnosis and treatment. She was surrounded by a caring family and wonderful friends, with treatment at M.D. of the best cancer treatment facilities around (and one that a family member of mine is currently being treated at). She had the help of a mindfulness guru to come up with meditations for each major surgery and chemo, which she felt helped to keep her head in a good place and the energy around everything where she wanted it to be. She was able to put the right foods in her body to promote healing. And was healthy enough before the diagnosis to come out the other end with a body in a good place to build itself back up again.

Might it be a little too woo-woo for a lot of people either going through cancer, or with family and friends dealing with a cancer diagnosis? Perhaps. But even if it just gives you a different perspective and way of thinking about things...or one little tip you hadn't thought my mind it's worth the read. I'm okay with a little woo in my life. And there's not a big difference in my mind between a beautiful well-written healing visualization, and a healing prayer asking for God to be with your surgeon, etc. You take the information given to you, swirl it around with what is important in your life, and make it your own.

Fabulous memoir. I immediately followed the author everywhere, and had to see how she was doing now since her diagnosis was a few years back. Incredibly nice lady folks, and I can't thank Booksparks and the author enough for sending this book my way. The publication date is set for May 22, 2018 and it's available for pre-order through Amazon and other retailers. If you visit the author's website here you can actually read an excerpt of the first couple chapters, if you're curious.

I'd love to hear if anyone else has book recommendations dealing with Cancer. If you have any, please leave them in the comments section below.
*Affiliate links are used on the blog. I will receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase. Thanks for supporting the blog!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

My Planner

Or How I'm Attempting to Be Organized This Year...

I will be the first to admit that me and organized are not normally used in the same sentence. It does not come naturally to me, and it's something I really have to work at. I'm generally more of a willy-nilly kind-of lady who spends her days putting out whatever fire pops up, and am reacting to things instead of setting my own pace and plan. It is something I am trying to work on. But since it is now April, and I've actually been consistently using my planner all year...I figured I could finally write a blog post about it without feeling like a fraud.

I previously had been doing some bullet journaling, but moved into a beautiful Filofax A5 ringed planner mid-January (you know, after I'd spent days making spreads in my bujo) and am in love. The draw to bullet journaling was just how customizable it is...and the idea that I could make any spread I might need, therefore making the ultimate planner. I think my head hadn't quite caught up with the times because between Etsy, and the computers we all have at our disposal, a ringed planner can do the exact same thing really. And I would sometimes find I'd spent so much time setting up my bullet journal, I would be too exhausted to use it. But really, I think the switch had more to do with coveting the duck egg blue filofax than anything else, if we're being truly honest.

So, I realize that truly going over my planner and how I use it would probably work best in a video and not a blog post. I plan on filming one soon, as I'm participating in #SSSVEDA this year on YouTube. What that means, for those who don't spend all of their spare time watching videos over there like I do, is that I'll be posting a video every day in April! (or at least that's the goal) I'll be sure to let y'all know when the planner video goes live, but I thought I'd write the basics of how I'm using it, and where I bought my supplies in a post to go along with any video I made.

I purchased my beautiful Filofax off of Amazon. The original version that I selected comes in an array of colors. I was torn between the blush and blue, as those are my COLORS, but the duck egg blue totally won out. They come with the regular Filofax inserts, but I knew they weren't going to fit the bill for what I wanted out of my planner, so I headed over to Etsy to see if I could find any that were exactly that I was looking for (or close to).

Now this is where the whole customizable thing comes in. What I want and need from my planner is probably going to be different than what you want and need from YOUR planner. The good thing about a ringed planner is if something isn't working for you, you can just take those pages out! more pages you don't need! If you decide you need something different, you just open those rings up, and toss some different pages in there and TADA, your setup is working again! Here's a list of the sections I have, or am working on adding, in my planner:

  • Future Calendar and Holidays
  • Month at a glance
  • Monthly habit trackers (one of my most used pages!!)
  • Week on 2 pages
  • Daily pages (I find the ones I have aren't working for me, need to find new ones or make my own)
  • Finances/Bill Tracker (moved from computer file to paper)
  • Lists Section (books to read, movies to watch, stuff to buy, gifts, groceries, etc)
  • My B's Pages (a section with goals, priorities, brainstorming, etc)
  • Bible Reading Tracker
  • Contacts (because sometimes it's nice to not have it all digital)
  • Running To Do List
  • Quotes List
  • Blog/Business Pages and trackers
  • Recipes, Meal Planning
As you can see, the choices are endless really. I chose to buy the bulk of my pages from ptpaper on Etsy because I am a fan of the style of the pages and font the shop uses. I love the Habit Trackers from there, and they are probably my favorite pages in my planner. I am also a fan of the Dated Weekly Inserts  and the Checklists (which I use in my list section).

Then, because I'm a girly girl who wants to be happy every time I open my planner, I have an extensive colored pen collection...but the ones I'm using the most at the moment are my Pilot Frixion Erasable Gel Pens that I purchased from Amazon, because a) they are colored, and b) they are erasable. Are they perfect, will they last forever in your planner, and have you thrown away every other pen you've ever purchased Christina?!?? No, but last month I used the pretty blue one...and this month I'm using the pretty purple one...and I'm happy. Also...I'm not afraid to admit that I play with stickers and washi tape sometimes. If I could doodle, I would me. I am a frustrated stick-figure drawer. So therefore I have to rely on people more artistic than I to bring the pretty to my black and white planner pages. Do you have to embellish your planner? Heck no. This is all about you doing you, we all need to remember that. But I have been known to spend a bad day placing happy llamas in various places on my planner pages just because. 😛 I have bought both good and iffy quality planner stickers from Etsy, but honestly my favorites have been from Michaels and Hobby Lobby (SALES!!). I purchased some truly STUNNING flowery ones a few weeks ago from the Michaels clearance section that made my heart SING. 

OH, the other thing I actually purchased for my planner were a few dashboards from JeePapeterieShop again for the pretty/happiness aspect, but also to add a couple distinct sections to the planner. And this elephant makes me happy.

I realize that this blog post is all over the place, and I could really use a thesaurus to find some new words to use in replacement of I said it WAY too many times. But I really wanted to express how I've taken something I have always been horrible at...namely planning my time, and being organized and intentional about how I'm living day to day...and am finding a way to work on improving at it, while also keeping my enthusiasm up and enjoying the process. Because if I told myself that I had to use a boring and restrictive planning regime, it wouldn't work for me. I think that's why digital planners have never kept me interested for very long. If planning and organizing is something that you also need to work on, my advice is to try and find a system that you will ENJOY looking at multiple times every day. Because if it doesn't make your heart sing, you aren't going to use it. Or at the very least, it's not going to be something you look forward to. And right now, I need to look forward to my planning time. And by golly, if that means I have to stick hot pictures of Michael Fassbender on the dividers for my finance section, just to get me to spend time there...then I should do it! 😂

So, my question for you today is...are you a naturally born organized individual? Do you use a planner? If so, what type are you using?? Inquiring minds want to know, y'all!! 

Hopefully I'll see you tomorrow, April 5th at 9 pm EST on my Facebook Page for our Virtual Book Club to discuss The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah!! 

*This page uses affiliate links, where I receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase using a link I provided. Thank you for supporting my channel! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Family Next Door Review

 The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth on Amazon

I have another of the Netgalley/Great Thoughts Great Readers Book Ninja reviews for you!! I won't bother you again with the story of how bad I apparently am at the fast-paced professional book reviewer lifestyle (if you want to read about it, you can find it here), but suffice it to say, I do better going at my own pace. This book was, however, sent to me to review...and I am eternally grateful for it because it was an enjoyable read!

This quick paced contemporary mystery has REALLY got me thinking about my neighbors, both past and present...and how you never truly know what's going on with them. They may seem like the sweetest, nicest people one earth, and there could be a whole other life going on under the surface that you're unaware of. To me it read like classic Desperate Housewives meets Big Little Lies. If you're a fan of either of those, you're going to enjoy this!

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth is the tale of a neighborhood called Pleasant Court, and the women who live there. Ange, Fran and Essie are moms who are friendly in the wave, chat, and occasionally have a glass of wine with each other sort-of way. Ange is the bubbly and perfect real estate agent whose handsome husband may be up to some shenanigans on the side. Fran is a new mom who is obsessively running...but running from what? And why doesn't she want her terrific husband too close to her new baby? And then you have Essie, who is trying to prove that she's a good mom.

Barbara, Essie's Mom, lives next door to her, and is a prominent fixture in her life. She moved close by after Essie left her first child at the park in a fit of postpartum depression. When the oddly single and childless Isabelle moves in on the other side of Essie, the neighborhood is thrown off balance. Suddenly secrets are being revealed, and everyone's lives are shown to not be what they appear. Then all out chaos ensues. The big question is, do we ever REALLY know the family next door??

 The Family Next Door on Amazon

I have to give the author some major props for taking this book places I wasn't expecting it to go. It was a super fast paced ride, and I finished it in one go...which is a good sign really. But I totally thought I knew where it was going, and then it veered off a different way...and I sat back and thought...huh, didn't see that one coming! It always excites me when that happens. And it happened more than once with this book.

This novel could've taken place basically anywhere that I have lived in the past. It could be written about people I know, and people I've lived next to. And initially that's where my head space was while I was reading it. But then it veered off a little into something a tad larger...and that was okay, because at it's center was still that core nugget of wonder and knowledge that you just don't ever really know what's going on behind closed doors.

If you're a fan of a lighter type of suspense book, you're going to love this one. I think it would make a great book club selection also, as the discussion fodder is endless. Secrets, betrayal, infidelity, motherhood, postpartum depression, mental health issues, sexuality, trust, friendship, etc. I mean seriously, tons to talk about!

So big thanks to the author, and the Great Thoughts Great Readers Community for allowing me to take a crack at The Family Next Door. I'm always in the mood for a good mystery, and now I want to go back and watch the first season of Desperate Housewives! And I'm left wondering if all female real estate agents are prone to perfectionism? I know of one I can ask...😂

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday Favorites

Due to some computer and camera issues, I never managed to get my February Favorites video up on YouTube, so I thought that I'd post a Friday Favorites blog post instead this week! Why not share a few of my favorite things of the moment, and include some of the things that would've been included in my video were it to have been published? Hopefully I'll be able to get a March video up, but until then, here are a few of my favorites in a variety of subjects, genres and "types", for your perusal.


L'Oreal True Match Lumi Cushion Foundation: I am on a personal quest to find the perfect foundation, and have yet to find that holy grail I just keep buying, fiddling, mixing and tweaking. One day I'll really love a foundation, and the next day I'll hate it. But I actually really like this cushion foundation, and have repurchased it probably 4 or 5 times now. It is a little more of a dewy finish, which I personally like now that I'm a little older. I struggle with dryer skin, especially using anti-aging products, and I find that the mattifying finishes leave my skin looking older sometimes. So, this is a liquid foundation in a cushion compact. It comes with a little pad applicator, but I apply using either a foundation brush or my beauty blender. At the time of writing, it's cheaper on Amazon than any other website that I checked, and way cheaper than the CVS that I purchased it at recently! It's what I grab when I just don't want to struggle and futz, I want to apply my foundation and happily move on to something else. 

T3 Twirl Convertible 1.25" Curling Iron: You may not have realized this yet, but I'm absolute shit at doing my hair. I always have been, but even at 42 I'm hopeful that someday this won't be true. I'm a classic Gemini who gets bored easy, and my hair has been every natural color that good money can buy, and every length from pixie to half-way down my back. And although it's naturally pretty straight, I have always coveted big ass curls, but never managed to get the hang of beachy waves or curls that would actually stay in my hair, until I purchased this curling iron. Yes, it is expensive...but it's the first curling iron I've purchased that actually makes my hair hold a curl...and it has a base that can hold different sized heads for different looks. It heats up SUPER fast, and has made my hair look like I know what I'm doing with it...which is worth every penny.

Look at that curl!!
L'Occitane Cleansing and Softening Shower Oil with Almond Oil: Y'all...I have the secret to wonderfully soft, shower shaved legs in the winter! I received a sample of this Shower Oil a while back from Sephora, and I have to admit that my daughter was the first to realize what a gem it is. She took it from my sample stash, and then asked me to buy her some more as she LOVED using it to shave her legs. I bought her a big ole bottle, and have bought her a few more since. But it was only recently that I purchased one for myself, and let me tell you...I wish I wouldn't have waited so long! The smell is divine...a very subtle almond, that doesn't leave you smelling once you're out of the shower. But the ease in shaving is something I've never achieved in the shower before. And my legs go from combo scaley/wooly to smooth and moisturized. You won't be disappointed.


 The Kindness Boomerang by Orly Wahba

The Kindness Boomerang by Orly Wahba: You might be wondering why I'm putting this in a Friday Favorites, and not devoting a full review to it. Chances are I will write a full one in the future, but this book is laid out in 365 devotional style, and I'm actually in March right now (crazy, I know) I wanted to tell you about it sooner rather than later! I am highlighting this one like crazy, and it fills my heart up. Chock full of inspiring ideas for spreading kindness in the world, and stories of how the author did the same both on her own and with school children, it reminds me that there are still amazingly wonderful people out there who are trying to make this world a better place. And sometimes we really, really need to be reminded of that! I think we all need this book, and to put the ideas...and the brilliant ones we come up with while reading it...into practice daily in our lives. 


 The Voice on NBC

The Voice: Is anybody else watching this?!? When the show first started, we watched regularly...and then stopped for some reason. I think it probably had something to do with my husband working late every damn day, and me working nights sometimes, and yadda yadda yadda. But we started watching again, and I quickly remembered why we loved watching before. And let me tell you...I think Kelly Clarkson might be my long lost twin!! Well, except she sings better than I do. But I LOVE that lady! I mean, I will forever love the Adam Levine/Blake Shelton dynamic, and they still crack me up. But Kelly Clarkson has added such verve and pure joy to the show! She can't help herself...she is up and dancing when she loves what someone is doing. Her heart is broken anytime she can't keep a singer. I LOVE Kelly Clarkson. Maybe instead of The Voice, I should've just put Kelly Clarkson as a Friday Favorite??? 


Bubly Water: I have a confession to make. I've been cheating on my LaCroix sparkling water. I know!! I feel so bad. Since I started Weight Watchers in November, I have drank 2 Coke Zeroes...and rely heavily on sparkling water for both an aid in getting in my daily water intake but also to fill the void in my life where Soda used to be. I am a DAILY Cold Orange LaCroix drinker...occasionally mixing things up with a Coconut. But the other day my husband brought me home a box of Orange Bubly Sparkling Water, and let me tell tastes like an orange Starburst! Now, I'm not saying those were my favorite in a bag of Starburst...but the orange flavor is just different enough that I was hooked. So when I went to Target the other day I picked up a strawberry bubly know, strawberry Starburst actually WERE my favorite in the bag...and it was SO YUMMY! And then I went and admitted out loud, to both my husband and my son, that every time I looked down at the can and saw the little "hiiii" on the pop top, it warmed my heart and made me happy. I may be a convert. 


 Chloe and Isabel

Statement Jewelry: Okay, my inner critic is screaming that you're reading this and thinking that I just started selling jewelry and am already pitching it on the blog...but I actually started writing this about 4 days before I signed up to sell Chloe + Isabel shut up inner critic!! (I added that portion when editing today...because I'm neurotic) Let me tell y'all about my love of jewelry. Back in high school and my early twenties, I walked around with about 6 of my fingers adorned with rings, normally always had a bracelet on, wore one or two necklaces every day (with one I wore 24/7 unless I changed it up), and don't get me started about my earring collection. And then somewhere along the way, probably as the rings got tighter, I just stopped. I would wear simple stud earrings, but that was about it. My second earring hole filled in, and my collection dwindled. Then a few years ago, about the time I started watching YouTube beauty and lifestyle videos, I remembered my love of jewelry. And I was introduced to the Statement Necklace and Earring. Now, let me tell ya...I had been wearing nothing but simple studs and hoops for decades. But I looked at these beautiful necklaces full of multi-colored flowers, and big pink chunky stones and I got excited! And earrings that looked like crystal bees with purple stones and antique metal finishes!! I SO wanted to be excited about getting ready in the morning, and adorn myself with pieces that made my soul happy. And then that inner worrier started screaming that people might think it was weird...or what would they say...or am I really the type of lady who can get away with that...or are women who weigh as much as I do supposed to draw attention to themselves...and a million other niggling anxieties. But I tell ya...we are given one life to live, people. And it's too short to wear boring shit because you're worried people will think it odd that you went from simple silver hoops to earrings that your husband jokes look like Beetlejuice. So while you will probably find me wearing a plain black or grey top, with a pair of neck, wrist, fingers and ears will now be decked out in the most beautiful baubles I can afford, simply because it makes me happy (whether that be statement or simple). So, if you haven't embraced the Statement Jewelry phenomenon because of any of the reasons I listed above, I ask you to tell your inner worrier to shut the heck up, and give it a try. There's a reason you're seeing them everywhere now. Our predecessors (and the younguns) knew what they were doing. 

My Beetlejuice Earrings

So there's my Friday Faves for you today!! I hope you've enjoyed, and maybe found something that sounds good to you too. Let me know in the comments if there's anything you're REALLY loving today, or if you're a fan of anything I listed above. I'd love to hear about it! 

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A New Venture

 Christina's Chloe + Isabel Boutique

Way back in the days of yore, I was a Pampered Chef consultant in England. I was actually a British consultant, the first in Norfolk, and did very well for myself. I had two little ones at home, and it was a great way to earn a little bit of spending money and get out of the house and socialize. I remember buying bright yellow paint from Woolworth's to do my daughter's bedroom with my first paycheck, and being so incredibly proud of my entrepreneurial self. My husband cracked endless jokes about me making money selling cooking tools when I burn frozen pizza. It was a wonderful, if short lived, time in my life. I quit when my calendar got heavily booked and my kids grumbled about me being gone too much at night. In my heart, I was a stay-at-home mom.

I have been tempted to sell various products throughout the years. I think I came really close to signing on the dotted line with one particular company, until my husband told me there was no way on God's green earth he wanted a wife selling "those things" matter how big the commission, how smooth my sales skills might be, or how sure I was that the kids wouldn't stumble upon my stash. 😂 But alas, I held off returning to the world of direct sales until yesterday.

 Christina's Chloe + Isabel Boutique

A few years back I hosted a pop-up show for a friend of mine, to show off some jewelry for a company I'd never heard of called Chloe + Isabel. She brought a few pieces to my house. I had my girlfriends over for some wine and nibbles. We checked out her selection, perused the catalog, chatted for ages, and that was that! I received a crap ton of free products for what was essentially a girls night that had a backdrop of beautiful jewelry. I let my daughter pick out the free stuff, and I bought myself two pair of earrings. And then the company kind-of dropped off my radar. My friend stopped selling it. I didn't hear of anyone else selling it really. But the pieces I bought are still going strong, and I was amazed by the quality. And every once in a while I would hop online and check out their catalog to see what new things they'd started making.

So when we were moving, and I stopped working full time at the library, I entertained the notion of going back to some form of direct sales. But I wanted to do something I loved. Something that I could feel passionately about...that would fit in with my blog, my priorities, and my current focus. And I came back to Chloe + Isabel.

Now, I need to tell y'all upfront that this is something I sat on for 8 months before joining. And I'm going to include this portion one time in this blog post, and then I'm going to let it go and embrace my decision. Perhaps I worry too much about it, and I'm sure when my kids read this they'll roll their eyes at me, but I want to make sure all of you know how much thought I put into the products and items I share and recommend. If you are reading this, I think of you as my friend. I could never tell my friend to buy something I wouldn't buy myself. And I would never want my friends to feel that I'm using them. I have always made sure that if I show you a makeup item, I use it myself. If I'm reviewing a book, I have given you my honest thoughts about it. If I was going to sell something, and share photos of it on the blog...on my Instagram account...on my FB has to be something that I can stand behind. And I have to sell it in a manner that goes along with my personal values and ethos, no matter what the training says. I believe Chloe + Isabel will be a company that fits the bill for me.

 Christina's Chloe + Isabel Boutique

If you read my blog post about Curating Your Best Life, you know that one of my areas of focus was Beauty. As someone that spent years putting myself on the back burner, I am working hard to take better care of myself...and it is an inside and outside job! The Beauty focus area is why you're seeing makeup videos on my Facebook page. I am learning to put myself together as the woman I want to be. Dressing this beautiful body (y'all, in my head that was said please read it that way) and bedecking it in a way that makes my heart sing is a process. I am trying to teach myself that I can wear whatever in the heck makes me happy, instead of worrying about what those strange judgmental people in my head might think. And beautiful, beautiful jewelry makes this lady incredibly happy. I mean...super duper happy.

I am learning that, while I have always loved simple and chic earrings, I LOVE statement jewelry pieces. I like crazy big earrings now!! (The pair I wore in my last pair of Makeup videos caused my husband to refer to me as Beetlejuice) I am also a fan of statement necklaces, especially given my clothing usually consists of solid colors (and a lot of black and gray). With my uniform of jeans and a black or gray top, a statement necklace or crazy earrings means I can still wear my girly blush or light blue...or boho styles...and feel comfortable.

 Christina's Chloe + Isabel Boutique

So, I am now a Chloe + Isabel Merchandiser! I should get my kit soon, and will probably do a live unboxing on the blog page so everyone can see what I received. I will also have a launch party within the next few days. Hopefully you'll love the products as much as I do...and will enjoy seeing some baubles along with the books. I am still learning the ins and outs, but I've tried to make my boutique pretty, and already created a collection of every item on the site that is under $50. If you like what you see, you can shop straight from the shop, or ask me about doing an online pop-up party and receiving some free products (just like I did back in the day!!)

Thank you all again for being so supportive of me and all of my adventures. 💛💛💛

Monday, March 12, 2018

Spectacular Spectacular!

Or My Monkey Mind and Moulin Rouge!...

Growing up, I was an incredibly hyperactive child. I have very vivid memories of the myriad of ways my mother attempted to quell my constant movement and motor mouth. The quiet game, in case you're unfamiliar, was a competition to see who could go the longest without making a peep (my big sister always won). I remember being tasked with trying to go from one commercial break of the Cosby Show to another while sitting in the same position, and failing miserably (I liked to sit like Mork from Ork, on my head). I was always in motion, and never shut up...while my big sister always appeared to be contemplating the universe and reading.

I don't know whether my hyperactive body slowed down because I packed on the pounds, or whether I packed on the pounds because my hyperactive body slowed down...but for one reason or another, between childhood and now, my body in constant motion has stopped. For those who know me in real life, you know my ability to talk your ear off didn't...but I've lost the inability to sit still for more than 5 minutes at a time. While I'm trying to remind my body that deep down it loves to move, that isn't the subject of this blog post. 

The part of this hyperactive person that never slowed down, just like my mouth, is my monkey mind.

For those unfamiliar with it, monkey mind is a Buddhist term meaning a restless, indecisive, uncontrollable, inconstant and confused mind. And mine is bouncing around from one thing to another at lightning speed constantly. It is one of the reasons I have so much trouble sleeping. The confused part I would never fess up to, but my brain is always going a mile a minute, and filled with a stream of chaotic tap-dancing. I spent ages trying to find a way to describe what it felt like to have a truly hyper crazy brain until I re-watched Moulin Rouge about a year ago. 

If you've never watched the movie Moulin Rouge, you're missing quite the experience. The 2001 film by Baz Luhrmann was a huge hit. I fell in love with it on my first viewing...purchased the DVD, both music CDs, and listened to the movie's version of Lady Marmalade WAY more than I'd like to admit. 

The film is vivid and chaotic, with crazy musical numbers and beautiful costume design. I watched it last night with my daughter and her two best-friends who are visiting from out of town for Spring Break, since neither had seen it before, and one remarked that she felt she was being assaulted by it instead of viewing it! It's a little out there...

But when I watched it a year ago with my son, while my husband was deployed, I told my beloved oldest child that one of the musical numbers was a perfect expression of what was going on in my brain at all times. The background noise of music lyrics and random ideas that is can-canning around while I'm trying to sleep...cook...write this blog post...concentrate on anything, really. 

I would try to set the scene for y'all...but as an illustration, it probably works better without any background. The musical number is called Spectacular, Spectacular...

I used to say that I had a song and dance man tapping around with jazz hands in my head, but I think this illustrates it a bit better. My brain is always on overdrive. I constantly have a song playing in there...usually something old and obscure, although I did go on a walk with my husband recently with the song Dance Off by Macklemore floating around on repeat. I have ideas of a million projects bubbling up. Old memories of the good and bad variety playing on a movie screen in the background. And then we have the worrier and critic sitting front and center, analyzing everything I do or say...everything I DON'T do or say...everything it thinks I SHOULD do or say, etc. That's the worst. 

I honestly think that part of the reason why I am constantly looking at my phone is the boredom that comes from having a pretty hyper brain. My phone habits go something like this: hop over to Instagram and peruse, then pop over to my Bible app and read a passage, then check my bank balance, then check the weather, then hop over to Twitter to angrily see what people are complaining about today, then pop over to Pinterest to look at house inspiration and recipes, then back over to Instagram, then oooh maybe I have an email, then let's see what's going on over at Facebook, then back over to Instagram, then a selfie to my girls on Snapchat, etc. It's a means of distracting the monkey mind. 

Right now my inner worrier and critic spends most of it's time fretting over my lack of a job, and over the blog you are currently reading. Well, that and my body...and my face. LOL But mostly where I'm going with the blog and my future. I'm pretty sure I put too much pressure on myself internally, and I overanalyze until it ends up paralyzing me to movement. It's a thing. 

But monkey mind is really and truly a huge part of my life. And mine looks a lot like the Moulin Rouge. Most of the time I don't mind it a whole lot. I'm pretty good at coming up with ideas for things. It came in handy when coming up with creative projects at my last job. But it isn't great when it comes to following through with those ideas necessarily, although that wasn't an issue in a professional context. When I'm the only person relying on that follow through though, I'm not as great at it. 

I'm sure I'd benefit from yoga and meditation, especially when that inner critic gets to be a little too overbearing. I've done meditation in the past, and do it sporadically at present...mainly when I'm suffering from an epic dance number interrupting my chance at even a modicum of sleep. Oh, and I also pray when it all gets to be a little too much.

But then a part of me thinks that I have the brain of a creative genius. I may not be using it to it's full capacity, but surely people like Mozart and...I don't know...J.K. Rowling, have mad monkey mind. That just like me they have/had technicolor brains filled with a veritable symphony of chaotic images and thoughts. The difference is that they were better at harnessing that restless, constantly shifting stream of inspiring can-cannery, and turn it into liquid gold. I, on the other hand, have cried myself to sleep one night because of a monkey mind meltdown that went something like this: when looking at my face after washing it before bed I started ruminating too much over my old acne scars, which led to thoughts of how I didn't take good care of myself for too many years, which led to a total meltdown about what I'm doing with my life and whether staying at home with my kids was a worthy use of 18 years of MY life and whether they felt that they got any benefit from it (yes, I texted and asked both of them mid meltdown), and how it sucks that I don't have the degrees to pursue a job I'm intelligent enough for, and what on earth do I want to do with my life anyway, and why does my number of followers on Instagram go up and down the same amount EVERY DAMN DAY to where it ends up being pretty much the same thing, and why don't they all like me, I mean seriously, what is it about a photo of a book that could make them unfollow me after following me to begin with, and is it possible to make money off a blog because Lord knows I spend a shit load of time doing blog related stuff, and my LORD my husband would love to retire eventually and me having a job would help, and why don't I have any friends in Virginia, and why after spending too many hours perusing the internet do I find myself wanting a Louis Vuitton purse when I hate purses with logos on them, and what do I even WANT in life, and aren't you supposed to have goals, I really need some goals, and I need to get some more of those hormone patches because I am truly turning into an old crone and I know that I have a lot of hair but it's still coming out in bunches in the shower and I'm SO sick of getting ZITS!?!?!

All to the tune of Night Fever by the Bee Gees and Somebody's Baby by Jackson Browne, which are two of my default can can songs. They are like screensaver songs for me. OH, and while that meltdown is happening and songs are playing, I'm also compiling my grocery list and seeing Instagram flat lays in my head. Flat lays in pretty hues of the blush pink, mint green and robin's egg blue variety. And hot damn it's almost Easter, so you can add some flowers and birds chirping to that picture too.

So, Spectacular Spectacular. Watch that YouTube clip and get a glimpse of what my brain feels like. And know that it's possible to look pretty chilled out and sit on the couch too much, and yet still have major hyperactive monkey mind going on underneath the hood.

Hopefully I haven't scared you off...and you'll feel for your ADHD having kid or cousin/nephew, if you didn't already! I'd love to know if there are any other monkey mind sufferers out there. If so, please leave a comment below! OH, and let me know if you loved Moulin Rouge, or felt assaulted by it! 😜

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Secret to Southern Charm Book Review

I have written time and time again on the blog about how much I love the south, so I will keep it brief and try not to bore you with oodles and oodles of gush. The recap would be that, although born in Oregon, I moved to Louisiana at 15, and am in love with pretty much all things Southern (yes, I can think of bad things also but I prefer to think of the good...). The South has snared my heart, and although there's a huge section of the Southern United States that I haven't yet visited, we'll just label me a Southern Living subscription holding fan.

When a blogging friend reached out and asked if I, a) liked Southern fiction, b) didn't mind chick lit/beachy reads, and c) would like to read her friend's book that would be coming out in April...I jumped all over it! And when said book arrived signed by the author, I swooned in true southern-belle style. 😂 (I'm trying to paint a picture for y'all...) I truly haven't got used to signed books...and still lose my shit over them.

The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey is the second installment of the Peachtree Bluff Series, and has a release date of April 3rd, 2018. I hadn't read the first in the series, but it didn't keep me from following the story...although I purchased it as soon as I finished this one. I also asked the author if she's working on a book 3, and thank the heavens above, she is.

The book begins with Sloane hiding away in the room that belongs to her at her mother's house in Peachtree Bluff, succumbing to grief after finding out that her military husband is missing in action during a deployment. Her two little boys are being looked after by her mother Ansley, and her two sisters Caroline and Emerson. After hiding away in there for a month, re-reading love letters and watching home movies, she's finally talked into returning to her life for the sake of her boys and the love of her family.

Ansley has her hands full with all three grown kids at home for the summer, and care-taking for both her grandchildren and her aging mother who moved in. She loves nothing more than being there to help her family, which is the most important thing to her, even if it's put a kink in both the time spent at her design firm and her love life. She's told her old beau that she can't see him anymore, that her hands are full with her kids...but there's more to it than that. Although her girls think of her as being the most vanilla woman around, she's keeping a secret from her past that she's convinced could destroy her present.

The novel is told from both Ansley and Sloane's point of view, and through their day to day living and memories of days past, we're left wondering what their futures will look like. Will Sloane be able to move on in her life? Will she ever get closure, and will people stop thinking she's delusional for believing her husband is still alive? Will Ansley decide her happiness is just as important as her children's? And are there communities out there as lovely in real life as Peachtree Bluff????

I absolutely adored this book. I have to be honest with you, when it starts off with a deployment missing in action situation, as a military wife, I braced myself for one of two things. Either it wouldn't feel realistic to me, as I've found a lot of fictionalized military life to be so far away from my real world experiences that it's turned me off what might've been a great story. Or it would hit so close to home and real world military wife worries that I wouldn't be able to read it. To me, the story was closer to real world but mixed so beautifully in a story of family and love that it made it readable. I'm pretty sure every military wife has wondered if they'd be able to tell if something had happened to their husband while they were deployed. Would you wake up in the middle of the night and just know? I felt like the depiction of military life and deployment living was really accurate, down to the hidden credit card bill from buying your children thing to make up for their daddy being gone. I can SO relate.

Along with the military story line, I loved everything about Peachtree Bluff, and this family. They are not all perfect, and holy cow have the girls underestimated the life their mother has lived! But the town reminds me of a southern Stars Hollow (of Gilmore Girls fame)...a place that seems so perfect, it can only live in fiction. The minor characters were wonderful and fully fleshed out, the setting painted with vivid colors, and Lord if I could have my last birthday be like the Grammy's!!

This book is definitely sweet tea and sunshine wrapped up in binding, with a pretty lady in her swimsuit on the cover. Once again I'd say that I'm probably gravitating towards the more lighthearted books at the moment because I'm yearning for summer, and my mind isn't in the right place for thrillers and suspense. But I read this book cover to cover in one sitting, staying up WAY past my bedtime in the process, and immediately gushing on twitter (at like 3 am) that I LOVED it. I think you'll definitely enjoy it if you're a fan of Southern books and settings, beachy reads, and books that cover family dynamics and mother/daughter relationships.

A huge thanks again to Kristy Woodson Harvey for sending me The Secret to Southern Charm! I can't wait to read Slightly South of Simple...even if it means reading the books out of order. I need more Ansley and her daughters.

I hope everyone is doing well this week! I am a little off my game, so not as many Instagram posts and I didn't film the videos I intended to. My sweet Bella dog is having issues with her back legs, so we're doing the whole pain meds until x-rays can be done thing. That combined with some family members having health issues, and not being close to home, has made for a slightly melancholy Christina. I've eaten more points than I should have. I haven't moved my body enough, or done the self-care that I should have. Really the only thing I've kept up with is my Bible reading. I attach this to the end of my blog post to say that enough is enough, and I'm publicly stating I'm ending this funk now. Next week is Spring Break and I'll have my daughter and two of her best friends here...which should be a blast! So, no more depressed me. That being said, please send some oomph, prayers and positive thoughts our direction if you could...because I can use all the help I can get!!
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