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.

BEAUTY

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 item...so 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.

BOOK

 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)...so 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. 

MEDIA

 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??? 

FOOD


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 you...it 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 because...you 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. 

BAUBLES

 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 Jewelry...so 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 jeans...my 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"...no 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 page...it 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 ironically...so 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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Monday, March 5, 2018

Fave Spring & Easter Decor


Today, in my neck of the woods, it is absolutely beautiful outside. The sky is that particular shade of blue that invites you to venture out and take photos...or in my case, stare longingly outside because it's still right around freezing and my slippers and blanket are too welcoming to give up. Meanwhile, at my old stomping ground in North Dakota, they are gearing up for a massive blizzard that is expected to dump huge amounts of snow and force everyone to hunker down for a bit until everything can be cleared away and life can resume it's normal pace. In other words, it's the beginning of March...and I am ready for Spring.

I want pastel, bubble-gum colored flowers popping out of the dirt. Scarves to be stashed away, and the winter parka replaced by the cute jacket in a fun color. For once, I'm okay with holiday decor showing up in the shops WAY early because it means fun pastel colors that speak to my inner girly-girl.

So, I thought it would be fun to create one of my Etsy shopping lists...and this time devote it to Spring Decor, with a dash of Easter thrown in for good measure! I love shopping on Etsy, and finding unique items for my house, and to buy as gifts for the people I love. If you haven't seen my other shopping guides you can find them here. Hopefully you'll see something you like in the mix!



 Round Bamboo crossbody purse on Etsy

Okay, I know the title says Decor, and I'm starting out with a purse...but cut me some slack. One of the hottest trends for this spring is bamboo/wicker/basket style purses. Trust me on this, I spend a LOT of time perusing the Instagram stories of the ladies who are starting these trends, and they won't shut up about them. Anyway...you will find these suckers cropping up in all of the shops for Spring, and I actually think they are pretty cute...well, except for that GIGANTIC round one from that ONE shop that is SO HUGE I don't know how anyone can take the listing seriously. But this one that I found at StArmandsDesigns for $50 would look amazing with various outfits in the warmer weather. Dressed up with a cute spring/summer maxi, dressed down with some white shorts/jeans and a cute top...I'm telling ya, you will be seeing these things everywhere as it starts warming up. Plus, I'm always looking for an excuse to buy a new purse. 


 Bunny Wreath on Etsy

Call me old fashioned, but I like a good wreath. And spring is the perfect time to brighten up your front porch with something perky and cute...hence my first of two selections, the Bunny Wreath! I actually picked a slightly different bunny wreath first, and by the time I went to put this post together they were all sold old...like the entire shop was sold out of every style of wreath (and they were GORGEOUS!). All this does is bolster my confidence in picking things out for y'all! LOL Anyway, I think these little green bunnies with customizable bows are adorable, and they can be found at EverBloomingOriginal for $59


 Farmhouse Spring Placemats

There is an ongoing feud in my house between my husband and me/my daughter, and it centers around tablecloths. My husband loves them, and has bought the exact same white with tonal stripes tablecloth probably 5 times in the past 5 years...and we keep trying in vain to replace it with cute placemats. My stance is that tablecloths are too old-fashioned (and not in a good way) and look WAY dated and tired (at least in my house)...whereas a gorgeous table set with a glorious array of placemats that change with the season and occasion are the way to go! I'm currently losing the fight. But, if I weren't, I would have these adorably simple and understated burlap placemats with a cute little bunny on the side gracing my table in the lead-up to Easter. You can find these at HunnyBooCreations for $16+, and I have to tell you...that shop has quite a few designs that I would gladly purchase, including one with pastel peeps and another with a cute bunny from the back with a little white fuzzy tail


 Life is a Beautiful Ride Chalk Print

I think this beautiful chalk print from ChalkBoss for $17+ screams Springtime! As someone who plays with fonts and graphics online regularly, I'm a complete sucker for beautiful typography. And I'm envious of the folks who can create writing that looks beautiful with their hands and not the click of their fingers...not to mention artistic folks who can take chalk and draw a gorgeous bicycle filled with spring blooms. This print would add a dash of spring to any space in your house, and buying prints off Etsy is a very economical way to switch up your decor...especially if you're someone like me who changes their mind and decides they want to go with a different style at the blink of an eye.


 Tulip Wreath

Hopefully this, my second wreath on the shopping list, will still be available after I hit publish...as it looks like they're selling like hotcakes...but tulips are my favorite flower and I've been coveting these gorgeous tulip wreaths on Etsy for YEARS! The shop, ElegantWreaths, has tons of tulip wreaths to choose from and thousands of amazing reviews, so if this one (that goes for $85+ and can be customized) is sold out, hop on over here and check out the rest. I think these wreaths look so classy, and would make such a grand statement on the right front porch. I am absolutely smitten. 


 Shower fizzies on Etsy

Okay, I'm breaking my decor rule again, and this time for some Shower Fizzies from Lizush for $18+.  First off, if these don't look like Spring to you, I don't know what does. But Spring is a time for treating ourselves for surviving another winter of dry and gray skin (there's a reason Glotion was trending this winter), and I'm still a firm believer in Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance rule of having a little stash of indulgences to pull out every once in awhile and treat yourself with. (everybody had that book, right??) I, for one, haven't taken a relaxing back since I moved away from Germany and my huge corner spa bath...so I haven't been able to indulge in the bath bomb craze like everyone else. Enter shower fizzies, the ultimate solution! These are bath bombs for the shower...little essential oil aromatherapy fizzies to set in your shower...something that will turn the ordinary into the zen like. Count me in!! 


 Bunny Plates

Ahhh, adorable hand-decorated dessert sized bunny plates. I'm honestly not sure what else I need to say, as to me these pretty much speak for themselves. They would look perfect on top of those burlap placemats on a table WITHOUT a tablecloth! (y'all are going to have to leave a comment whether you're with me or my husband on this one) The plates are $25 at MaldenMercantile and if bunnies aren't your thing, they even have spring chicks! So cute in that minimalist style that part of me loves (what can I say, I'm very Gemini). 


Floral Paper Plates

And if handwashing fancy dessert plates is not your thing, let me introduce you to these gorgeous floral PAPER plates from ShopCelebrationLane for $5.50. I've actually purchased pretty paper plates off Amazon before also for a comparable price, but there's something about shopping on Etsy that I enjoy, and I don't think I've found this particular style on there before. (but don't get me wrong...I'm still an Amazon girl) Paper plates CAN look classy, and these are the perfect style for book clubs, coffee with your girlfriend, baby showers, or when you want to make your lunch look special. Beautiful paper plates people...you need to have a stash of these suckers just because. (I think my husband tossed my stash when we moved. Note to self, replenish stash.)


 Hipster Bunny Towel on Etsy

It's kind-of funny that I'm including a holiday themed towel on my list because this weekend I pared down on my holiday bath towels...but these are kitchen towels...so it's different. I know a lot of people go ga-ga over Rae Dunn items, of which I have none, and these towels have a font "inspired" by the Rae Dunn items...but I just thought they were cute. Bunnies wearing cute glasses in kitchen towel form are a fun way to Easter-up your house. You can find these hipsters at FarmhouseVinylCo for $12


 Easter Bunny on Etsy

Normally I wouldn't put an item made in Italy on a holiday/season themed list because I'm not sure whether it would arrive on time, but this bunny is too cute not to include. TramaiCeramics has this little guy for sale at $24.24 and he makes my heart sing, as cheesy as that feels to type. He is just SO freakin' CUTE!! I want him sitting on my desk, or on my mantle, or sitting on my end table...hanging out with his buddies in a field of fake Easter grass on a seasonal basis, or watching me type blog posts year round. I just love him. The more I stare at him while typing, the more I want to give him a name...like Ferdinand or Bernard. I'm stopping now....


 http://tidd.ly/ee761c1e

Since I've included Easter decor on the shopping list, I would never want to forget that for most people Easter is about more than chocolate and bunnies. While throw pillows are a great way to change up your house for Spring, and this pillow cover is beautiful, it is also a reminder of what Easter truly means to a lot of us. You can find it at LivingwithAmanda for $28+


 Bloom Pillow

OOH, and since at the time of writing this (March 5th) LivingwithAmanda is having a buy 2 get 15% off sale, I thought I'd include this beautiful Bloom Where You Are Planted Spring Pillow cover for $31.99! It is SURE to brighten up your house, especially next to a pretty pink flower and gorgeous white linens like in their gorgeous photo!! Absolutely stunning. 

I hope you've enjoyed my Spring & Easter Decor List because I had a blast perusing one of my favorite shopping sites, using y'all as an excuse! March is the perfect time to spruce up your environment with some bright and shiny to push out the gray dreariness of winter. 

OOH, and I'm dying to know if you are pro tablecloth or are on my side...I promise I'll still love you no matter what. (I'm still married to the guy buying all those white tablecloths...)
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Friday, March 2, 2018

Hatshepsut: The Pharaoh-Queen of Egypt with In60Learning

 Hatshepsut The Pharaoh-Queen of Egypt by In60Learning Review on Tomes and Tequila

I was contacted recently by the co-creator of what sounded like a pretty cool publishing company with a very intriguing "product" that I thought might be of interest to y'all, so I jumped on the chance to give it a review.

In60Learning has basically realized that none of us have a lot of time to devote to reading giant biographies on historical figures, or to brush up on the things that we didn't pay attention to in history class (or was that just me??) so they made books and audiobooks that can be read in 60 minutes. Their current selection is mainly historical in subject, but I've been told that science and technology are on the way.

I think the idea behind it is great, really...as I like to think of myself as a life-long learner, and I actually didn't pay any attention to history in school, which is really funny since I live in a house full of Historians. I've always enjoyed reading biographies, and you know how much I love nonfiction. I basically suffer from wanting to know too much, and having too little time to consume all of what I yearn to learn. So to read up on Charlemagne or Marilyn Monroe in an hour, and come out of it feeling like I actually learned something...and not like I read a fluff piece...really appeals to me. I think it would be great for the extremely busy, commuters, parents of little ones, or people who just can't focus through a gigantic tome of a history book. (and while I'm thinking of it, why do they seem to make those sorts of books SO damn BIG?!?)

I was sent a link to all of the In60Learning books available on Amazon, and told to take my pick. I chose a biography titled Hatshepsut: The Pharaoh-Queen of Egypt because I knew who it was, but didn't REALLY know the background and thought I'd enjoy spending an hour in Ancient Egypt. While I was there, I did notice that most of their books can be read free if you're a member of Kindle Unlimited, which I actually AM (shhh, don't tell my husband) so I will probably read a few more, which is getting ahead of myself and telling you a little about how this review is going to go but...I thought it was an important fact to point out.

So tonight, after dinner was done, and while my husband watched a re-run of The Andy Griffith Show and my son fiddled on his computer, I spent an hour reading about Hatshepsut.

First off, there weren't any weird formatting issues or odd misspelling problems/punctuation flub-ups that are sometimes found on smaller books, or if so they were meager enough to not be of note. I mean nothing disparaging to self-publishers or small publishing companies, but I have read one too many kindleunlimited book that had so many mistakes I stopped keeping track. I know I'm not the only one to see them, and I have read authors stories of just how hard it is to format books for self-publishing, so I really do feel for them. But it's common enough of a problem that I wanted to make note of the fact that this book was formatted and put together wonderfully.

And secondly, I thought the book was very well written. It had the heft of a true historical biography. It wasn't filled with fluff, or dumbed down in any way. It was laid out in a manner that made sense, felt well-researched, and I'm pretty sure I learned something...which is rare in an hour of my reading time!

I found it incredibly intriguing how her successor Thutmose III basically erased her from history, chiseling her name off of things and destroying what she'd built during her reign. Or how he'd moved her body from the burial chamber she'd built for herself...the one that included lewd graffiti! I also enjoyed reading how she started the merging of male and female when speaking of Pharaohs, and how that continued well after her reign.

Basically, the fact that I managed to retain enough info to write that paragraph without looking back at the book means that reading it was a success! I just might be able to answer a trivia question or two if given the chance!!

All joking aside, I really did enjoy reading Hatshepsut: The Pharaoh-Queen of Egypt, and I do think the whole idea behind these books is pretty dang cool. If you're short on time, or just don't have the patience to devote to big ole history books but want to build on your knowledge base, these just might be the ticket.

So, if you're interested in In60Learning, and find the idea of learning in bite-sized chunks appealing, you can visit this link to sign up for their Learning List. The Learning List will allow you to receive updates on new releases, promos, and contribute ideas for upcoming work! Feel free to click right here and get more info.

And now I'm really curious how many people read nonfiction historical biographies in their spare time. If you do, please leave a comment below because inquiring minds (meaning me) want to know!!

 Tomes and Tequila on FB

OOH, and before I go...I'm starting a Virtual Book Club! The book we'll be reading for March is The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I'll be tossing a few things out about the book during the month, and then I'll be doing a Live FB chat on the 29th of March at 9 pm EST to discuss the book with EVERYONE! I hope you'll stop by and join in the fun!! I also have an incredibly cool surprise lined up for April so stay tuned!