Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Beginnings of my Weight Loss Journey

When I made my grand announcements that I was changing the blog up a bit, I stated that I was planning on talking diet and weight-loss on here...and as of yet, had only put my weight loss updates on Instagram. I have theories as to why I have avoided writing this intro blog post, and I think a lot of it has to do with how personal and sensitive a topic it is to me. So, this is me laying myself bare. Plus, if I put my intentions down on metaphorical paper, out in the blogosphere for all of you to read, it makes them more concrete and a whole heck of a lot harder for me to self-sabotage.

Now, one would think that would be a good thing, right? I mean...who ENJOYS self-sabotage? I would venture to guess, no one. But here's the deal from my vantage point, and we'll see if anyone out there relates in any way. When you have spent many years not taking good care of yourself, not liking yourself a whole lot, with low self-esteem, and pretty much dumping on yourself kind-of becomes a habit.

I would never say it feels good. I know popular theory is if you're continuing to do something, even if it's negative, you must be getting something out of it. But to that I would say, the only thing I've gotten out of it is the continuing belief that I'm not worthy...that I'm less than in one way or another. And that can't be good, or feel good, or anything like that. It has just become a habit. Or what my husband likes to refer to as a self-licking ice-cream cone.

You know how it goes: your self-esteem is low for whatever reason, so you feel crappy about yourself and you treat yourself like crap, so you feel crappy about yourself and you feel crappy, so you don't look as good as you could or feel as good as you could, so you're not living the life you could be living, so you feel like crap, and you treat yourself like crap, so you continue to feel crappy about yourself and your self-esteem continues to be low. It's a cycle. cone.

And just like every other bad habit out there, it can be excruciatingly hard to rid yourself of it. I have told my husband before that in order to change, I honestly felt like I needed to wake up one day and do absolutely everything different. That it wasn't a couple steps I needed to take. I truly believed, and still do sometimes, that in order to pull myself out of a way of internal dialogue I'd been telling myself for decades really...and the way I'd been living for years, I would need to get up and basically do the exact opposite of what I'd done yesterday. And that is hard.

For me personally, this really came to a head when my youngest child, who is away at college, wrote to me and, in a very heartfelt and personal message that I'm not going to share, basically said that it had always made her sad that I didn't love myself as much as she did. I cried and cried, because I honestly never felt that my issues had an impact on anyone else...that it didn't really matter to anyone else how I felt about myself. As long as I was being a good mom and wife, ticking off the boxes and doing for everyone else, what did it matter? Well, it turns out I was wrong. But even the fact that it took that to wake me up is kind-of sad.

So this wake up call made me think that it was time to stop thinking about changing, and actually start doing the work. And when I say doing the work, I mean doing goofy stuff like replacing my phone background with a pretty floral picture that says I Love Myself on that I see and read it all the time. For me, I have a lot of work I need to do internally to change the dialogue I have going on constantly that tells me that I'm no good. Affirmations and prayer have a big role in my life now. But it is a work in progress.

Now, what does this have to do with weight-loss? Well, years of not taking care of myself has taken a toll on my body physically. A formerly thin high school cheerleader, to reach my goal weight I need to lose roughly 160 lbs...basically an entire adult human's worth of weight. And putting that down on the blog is terrifying to me. Y'all are supposed to think I'm cool and fun, and in my head that person isn't as big as I am. And this is my weight right this minute...with the weight I've already lost on Weight Watchers.

Because shortly after my whole Christina's-going-to-love-herself-now wake-up call, I received an actual call from my doctor telling me that my cholesterol was high...which honestly scared the daylights out of me. So I asked if, before putting me on medication, he'd give me a chance to lose weight and change my diet, to see if I could lower it without drugs. And I attended my first Weight Watchers meeting that evening.

That was November 9th of 2017. As of last Thursday's weigh-in, I've lost 27 lbs. I am struggling with the thought that it's a drop in the bucket compared to how much I have left to lose. My Weight Watchers leader constantly has to remind me of what that weight translates to...3 gallons of milk and a couple of sticks of butter. When I hear it like that, I realize how much weight is no longer on my knees. On my ankles. On my hips. I could feel the loss when I went for a longer dog walk with my husband this weekend. But see, I'm still working on that internal dialogue thing.

Is Weight Watchers always easy for me? No, but I'm doing pretty good on it. I occasionally lose it, like I did recently on a grocery shopping trip with my son, when I let myself get overly hungry and started grumbling loudly about how I just wanted a large Starbucks drink and a couple of donuts. But I feel like it's a program I can stay on for the long haul, and I intend to until this weight is off. I like that their new program focuses on real food, and is flexible enough to fit into my life with ease.

The key that is really missing in my unique equation is fitness. I am still not getting as much as I should. I know it, I don't have any good excuses to give you, and I will get right on top of it now that I've put it to figurative paper. I have a hard time in that I know what I used to be able to do, and get horribly upset with myself that I can no longer do it. I need to get over that hang-up, and just get on with it because anything is better than nothing. And comparison is a bitch...

So, this is where I am. Everything is all connected in my mind, and I hope you can see it too. I am on a quest to heal my thinking, love my body, and curate the life of my dreams. I have bad days. Those are usually ones that are wrapped around a migraine, when I'm angry with my body...pissed that it won't just cooperate with me and play nice. I keep throwing tidbits of what I'm doing out into the world in case there are other people out there learning to love themselves too...who might find inspiration in talk of a skincare regime I've started (after neglecting my skin for years) or my favorite devotionals and bible study programs (filling a spiritual void), my success with Weight Watchers (loving a body I loathed) or my favorite makeup (having fun and learning to love looking at myself).

I hope you'll join me for this journey. I will post more regularly about the weight loss portion because, now that I've opened this can of worms, I won't try to shove those squirmy suckers back in again. I have a goal of losing 100 lbs in 2018. I regularly post my weigh-ins on Instagram, and can always use more cheerleaders because this isn't going to be a quick thing for me, and support systems are very important. And also, please let me know if you're working towards a self-love goal this year. I'd love to be one of your cheerleaders too. I am a pretty good cheerleader. 😁

Monday, January 29, 2018

Appetite Book Review

 Appetite by Anita Cassidy on Tomes and Tequila

Well, it looks like I've messed things up a tad, and this post was meant to be up I'll start with my most sincere apologies to the author and everyone else involved in the blog tour for Appetite!! I absolutely adored this book, and I rarely take part in blog I'm sorry to be publishing on the same day as someone else, but I never post on a Sunday. 😕 So, we'll just get this review started off with an apology that goes something like this...

Hello, my name is Christina, and I'm human and flub things up sometimes. Occasionally I go through periods of time when I seem to flub up on a more regular basis. I currently appear to be in one of those periods. And I'm trying not to cuss so much in my posts, hence the word flub.

And then we'll follow up with a sincere thank you for sending me this book to review because I LOVED it, and I want to help make sure more people hear about it!

Appetite by Anita Cassidy * is a book all about desire and hunger, and the way it manifests in different ways within different people. It delves into what can happen when your appetite runs away from you and goes unchecked. When your yearning for something more takes over your life. And the internal struggles that we all go through in an effort to be seen and heard, wanted and loved, fulfilled and sated.

The book follows three different people combating three very different hungers. David is a young teen struggling with being extremely overweight. Angry and discontent with the way he feels day in and day out, he is attempting to live in a home and a body that is smothering him. Naomi is a wife, mother and businesswoman in her early 40's whose life has become rote and monotonous. When her dormant sex-drive is awakened by a young coworker's husband, the desire becomes so strong it may burn up her entire life. And Matthew is a teacher who is disillusioned with the impact he's making on the world, and hungry for change...a change in the world that he's actively taking part in.

 Appetite by Anita Cassidy on Tomes and Tequila

All three hungers are different, and yet the same. The three character's lives intertwine and are woven into an amazing tale of desire run rampant, and hunger managed and eventually taken under control...or not.

I found the whole thing incredibly fascinating, and was hooked from very early in the story. I think this book would make a FABULOUS book club selection because it makes you uncomfortable, in that it really makes you think so much about the unconscious need for fulfillment in our lives. How that NEED can manifest into something toxic if left unchecked. And oh how I would love to pick other people's brains about this book! I want my girlfriends to read it, and to have a big ole discussion about the character Naomi...cause damn, this woman brought up all sorts of feelings in me!

And someone who is currently struggling with my weight, his story made me very emotional. I actually teared up at a couple of parts, and that is actually pretty rare for me. (When reading, don't even get me started over how often I cry watching This Is Us....)

The Matthew character made me feel for teachers the world over, and how hard it must be for them sometimes, to see through the daily grind and realize that what they are doing is truly important and that it may actually be sinking in to the brain of one of those kids, even if they don't see it playing out before their eyes.

Anita Cassidy wove an incredibly well-written novel full of complex characters, both the main three and their supporting cast. And a story that knocked my socks off. I highly recommend this book. At 457 pages, it wasn't a short and fast read...but was well worth every second I spent curled up on the couch with it! This is a very smart book, one that will probably have me thinking about it for quite some time...and I love books like that! So, huge thanks again to the author for sending it my way.

Now I just need everyone to read this, so I can do a Facebook Live, and we can talk about it! LOL 😂

 *Affiliate Link. Please visit my review policy for more info!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Rogue Affair Review

 Rogue Affair Kindle Edition on Amazon

So I've done something a little different on the blog, and this post is going to be pretty short. I was given this lovely romance anthology to read and review...and I thought it was great. Rogue Affair * includes 10 short stories by authors Tamsen Parker, Ainsley Booth, Olivia Dade, Kris Ripper, Amy Jo Cousins, Emma Barry, Adriana Anders, Kelly Maher, Stacey Agdern and Jane Lee Blair. I met a few of these ladies at a Washington Romance Writers luncheon in October, so thought I would give the book a go...and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it, since I'm not normally a huge romance reader.

The short stories run the gamut of "heat levels", so to speak, from very hot and heavy to your average romantic encounter from a contemporary women's fiction book. But there really is a story in here for everyone, and I enjoyed every single one. Of course, some resonated a bit more with me than others...but they are all very well written, and guaranteed to add a spike of heat to your reading week.

Now, what makes all of this different is that...rather than write up a regular review, I decided to do my review on YouTube! My plan, if you could call this grand scheme I came up with during a week of very little sleep a "plan", was to film a book review once a month...while wearing my pajamas and drinking alcohol. I know...revolutionary!! So last night I set my camera up and filmed my thoughts, and put the video up with very little editing, so you can watch me wax poetic about such things as attending an event where you know no one, why wearing a statement purse is a good conversation starter, the difference between good romance and bad romance (hint, it has nothing to do with Lady Gaga), and the book I actually intended to talk about!

So, check out my video and let me know what you think. If I get feedback that it was even remotely enjoyable to watch, I'll make it a regular monthly thing. I'd love it if someone could help me come up with a clever name for the "segment"! Like, share, subscribe...shout from the rooftops about your friend Christina's new YouTube channel, etc. 😁 And know that it's cool to throw in some romance in the middle of your very serious book reading.


 *My site uses Affiliate Links. Please visit my review policy page for more details!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Bond...James Bond.

A love letter from Christina...

Okay everybody, before I get started on this little fluffy piece on the blog, I need to explain something very important to y'all. 

I have suffered from pretty epic insomnia for over a decade now, and although I'd been sleeping better for a little while, it has reared it's ugly head again. Because it had been better for a bit, I'd kind-of forgotten what it's like to try and function at peak level when you're so exhausted you can barely crawl out of bed after sleeping for less than 3 hours. I say this to let you know that a) I have stared at my computer for days trying to compose one of the many proper posts that I have planned for the upcoming year, with little progress because my brain is in zombie mode, b) this might explain why, if you follow me on Instagram, I went from talking and showing myself in stories, to hiding (can't be bothered to do hair and makeup), and c) if you know me in real life, you'll know that at a certain point in my overly tired cycle, I go from zombie to nut. It's up to you to figure out where I'm at as I write this. 😉



I am a fan. 

If I had any skills with poetry, I would just compose an ode to the suave spy and be done with it, but I was not hit with the poetry stick. I once wrote a storytime themed haiku on here, and was high off the power of it for about 6 months! I am in awe of you poetry folks. Okay, getting sidetracked...

I have been a fan of James Bond since I was a very young girl. My father wanted boys, and God blessed him with two girls. Because of this, I grew up working on cars, shooting guns, and watching John Wayne and Bruce Lee movies. But the movies that I truly loved, and that stuck with me through adulthood, were the James Bond films. I adored my Dad, and I loved watching Roger Moore with him. I loved the character Jaws in the films because I had silver caps on my teeth as a kid, and thought we had that in common. And Bond was just cool. 

I honestly don't care what any critics of the man or series say. I love James Bond, flaws and all. I love the witty quips of Roger Moore, the muscles of Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan's suave ways, the quiet steely anger of Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby's model looks, and don't even get me started on my love of Daniel Craig. I'll take short, brutish, blonde gay dolphin (thank you Craig Ferguson) Daniel Craig in all of his emotionally broken glory any day! I blame my love for technology and gadgets on Q. I even love the new Q, and my son was convinced I wouldn't. And SKYFALL?!? It tugged at my sentimental heartstrings in ways I didn't think was possible. When watching it at the theater, I just kept poking my son and gesticulating towards the which he would smile and say, "I know...". 

When my son was fairly young, probably 9 or 10 years old, my father sent a big ole box of vhs tapes to us while we were stationed in Germany. The box contained all of the Bond films that had been released to date. My Dad had recorded each one for us, and I had the joy of sharing them with my son. I'm sure that my excitement for them was apparent, and combined with my son's love of all things movie related, easily made a Bond fan out of him too. Once I saw that he liked them, I pounced on it and decided that I was going to do everything I could to encourage the pair. 

Right about now is where I need to state again that I like to buy things for people that I love. If my son liked Bond, that meant I could buy all sorts of Bond-related items, and say they were for him, when really they were kind-of for my benefit. The first items in this category are the Young Bond books *. If you've never seen, read, or heard about them, I HIGHLY recommend the series! When I worked at the library we shoved them into the hands of a few people so they could see just how cool they are, and everyone who read them seemed to enjoy them almost as much as we did. I read them alongside my son, and it was so much fun to learn why adult Bond was the way he was. 

So, after the young Bond books, I had to buy the entire mess of movies on DVD in the set with all of the extras and special features. If you haven't watched these, they are worth it for the special features alone. Roger Moore does commentary on his films. There are documentaries galore, which any true fan is going to want to sit through. Now that we have them, we periodically get on Bond kicks and decide to watch them in order or just pick and choose whichever one catches our fancy. Endless Fun. The Man With the Golden Gun is playing as I type. 

OOH, and you can't really talk about the Bond films without discussing the music. We own numerous CDs of Bond music, both score and title songs. I have had numerous arguments debates with my son on which theme song is best. But I can tell you that every time I hear Carly Simon sing The Spy Who Loved Me I get goosebumps and slightly weepy. I mean that. I'm not even being dramatic. I ACTUALLY get goosebumps all over my arms. I know, I'm a little nutty, but as the song is nearing it's end and the Bond theme music enters it a tad, I find myself getting all emotional. But really, what I enjoy most now is the reaction my husband has every time he hears the Sam Smith song for Spectre. 

I think the most odd thing I've ever bought that's Bond related was the Roger Moore doll I gave my son for Christmas in 2006. It was from Live and Let Die, and for some reason he had it up until about a year ago, when my husband told him he probably didn't need to be carrying toys around with him in his 20's. I think we both regret not fighting him more on that one...especially now that I see how much it costs to buy one now! 

I've continued to buy various Bond books for my son over the years. We've graduated from Young Bond to beautiful coffee table books now that he's in his 20's. For an independent study getting his Bachelor's in History, my son actually wrote an almost 40-page gorgeous paper on Bond. This makes me happy. I feel like we've bonded over Bond, just like I did with my father. 

So there you go. My name is Christina, and I love James Bond. I will always love James Bond. And I can't wait until another movie is released. Now excuse me while I curl my tired butt up under a blanket on the couch and watch another movie. I think this time it'll be Casino Royale...

*my site uses affiliate links. please visit my review policy page for more details. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

How To Stop Feeling Like Sh*t Book Review

 How To Stop Feeling Like Shit by Andrea Owen on Amazon

Surprise, Surprise...I have a review for a self-help book in January!! I am actually laughing at myself as I type this.

I am nothing if not consistent in my love of books on self-improvement, so when I was asked if I'd like to read and review How To Stop Feeling Like Shit: 14 Habits That Are Holding You Back from Happiness by Andrea Owen *, I jumped at the opportunity. I have her previous book, 52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life, on my Kindle and have listened to a few of her podcasts. Plus, I have goals for 2018, and can use all the help I can get. It felt like a match made in heaven.

Owen is a no-nonsense, straight-talking life coach/ her books are filled with a lot of no-bullshit practical advice, which I love. I have mentioned on the blog before, especially in regards to Gretchen Rubin, that when I'm reading a self-help book, I want practical tips that I can actually put into play in my life. I don't necessarily need a whole lot of the psychology behind it, although that's nice. I want you to tell me what I should be doing when I wake up tomorrow. This book is filled with exercises and practices that I can do...and it's laid out in a manner that makes it easy to find those tips.

The book covers somewhat negative habits that a lot of women fall prey to, and ways that you can acknowledge them, and work on changing them for the better. A few examples of the habits she covers would be catastrophizing, people pleasing (which is a HUGE one for me), listening to your bitchy inner-critic and the imposter complex.

While I personally don't find that I struggle constantly with every habit that she describes, some of them are things that I do really have issues with. In reading to review, I picked the book up and devoured it cover to cover. But, I have big plans to go back and do the exercises she lists for the habits that I do think I need to work on. I feel it's one of those books that you can use for the chapters that you need, and then skim the rest. The exercises didn't appear to be too woo-hoo out-there crazy, or so involved that I wouldn't want to conquer them. And they actually made sense to me, and felt practical enough that I feel they would do me good.
 How to stop feeling like shit on Amazon
The book isn't hefty, and was a quick read at 224 pages. It's not quite as cerebral in it's sass as Sarah Knight's books, yet it's way more blunt and cool than Rubin...if that makes sense. I like the author, and how open she is about past mistakes in her life, and how she's grown into the woman she is today. Unlike others, I don't mind that it seems we now have life coaches falling out of trees in their abundance. I'm personally working to become a bigger fan of myself, and will read anything that might have one tiny little nugget of info that resonates and helps me in some way to improve and grow into the woman I want and know I can be. Yes...I'm aware that the previous sentence smells so bad of cheese, I almost deleted it...and I would have if it wasn't so TRUE. But there were definitely nuggets in this book, and I felt it was worth the time I'd invested in it.

And Andrea Owen gets bonus points because she regularly posts her dancing unabashedly on Instagram. I mean, crazy dancing...with the kitchen. Dancing like no one is watching, even though thousands are. For this, I am a fan. Because I have come inches away from posting myself dancing on an Insta-Story. And I regularly sing and dance on Snapchat. Plus, Jonathan Fields said we should, so....

Anyway, huge thanks to the author and her people for sending me the book! I will continue to work my way through it, and definitely thought it was a good nonfiction book to start 2018 with. But please don't worry, 2018 is not going to be filled with self-help, I promise. Next up I should have a slightly naughty to full on naughty compilation book, and your standard book club fare, along with plenty of others. 😁

 *this post uses affiliate links. please visit my review policy page for more details.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Star Wars Shopping Guide

I am a huge Star Wars fan. I can't even play it cool and pretend that I'm not. I have grown up with the films. I've stood outside in negative degree temps in North Dakota to watch The Force Awakens on opening night. I watched at least one of the original trilogy from the back of a station wagon at a drive-in movie theater in Oregon. I also brought my young son to watch Episode I, excitedly, within days of it showing up on screens. I have passed my love for these films on to both of my kids, who have become even bigger Star Wars nerds than I am. I can feel my husband rolling his eyes as I type this, but then he recently tried to explain why Boba Fett was his favorite character to our son by saying "he was a bounty hunter, it was cool!" so really, he doesn't have a leg to stand on. 

I realized I hadn't done an Etsy shopping guide in quite some time, and thought it was time to profess my love for Star Wars on the blog. These are SO much fun for me to make, and I hope you enjoy them too! Here are ten extremely cool Star Wars items I found for sell on Etsy. 

*this site uses affiliate links. please visit my review policy for more information.

Star Wars Whiskey Decanter and Glasses

 Whiskey Decanter on Etsy

This whiskey decanter and glasses set is sure to make the fan in your life incredibly happy. I have many whiskey drinking friends who also love Star Wars, and I think this would be a terrific gift for them! The set comes in many different incarnations of varying sizes, and although coming from the Ukraine, the shop has fabulous reviews. It can be found on LuxuriousGiftShop, starting at $19+

Obi-Wan Plush on Etsy

Obi-Wan Kenobi is my daughter's favorite character from Star Wars...and she loves pillows. I stumbled across this gem, and had to include it for her! He's just so cute. And I'm a huge Ewan McGregor fan, so there's that. You can find this on Zhelly for $25

 Leia Shirt on Etsy

Okay, let me first say that I'm not a man-bashing uber feminist. I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea. I just like Princess Leia, and I loved Carrie Fisher. I grew up with Star Wars, and she was my favorite I think this shirt is cool. It comes in Unisex sizes Small to Extra-Large, and can be found on PinkRobotShirts for $22

 Ben Swolo shirt on Etsy

I am about 99% sure that my daughter would wear this to work out in, because this guy comes in a close second to Obi-Wan. At Christmas, I walked around the kid's toy aisles looking for cool Kylo Ren items to buy her just to be funny. She got a plush Kylo...and a Funko Pop. If I'd have thought far enough in advance to go on Etsy, she'd have received this too! You can find it on DCVisualArts for $20+, in kids, women's and unisex sizes up to 5 XL. 

 Vader decal on Etsy

I love all of the vinyl decals that are available on Etsy...from Instapot and Kitchenaid decals, to ones for your Yeti Tumbler. I think it's a great way to personalize very bland items that you use all the time. This vinyl decal designed for a Macbook or Iphone just makes me laugh. You can find it on Alittledecal for $6.90. 

 Do or do not ring on Etsy

I am a big fan of rings that have sayings on the inside. It must go back to my early childhood fascination with spies, secrets and codes! I just think it's incredibly cool to have what looks like a plain silver ring, and only you know that it secretly says something special...this one being a quote from Yoda. You can find this one on BeAMaGiKLaMP for $38

 Storm Pooper on Etsy

This is one Star Wars gift that I have actually purchased for friends before! I think it's so cute and funny...the perfect gift for the fan in your life who is expecting a baby. It cracks me up just looking at it! If you've never checked out the baby stuff found on Etsy, you're missing out on some incredibly cool items that are slightly different from what you can find in the shops. This can be found on KnotHeadsCustoms for $14.99+

 R2D2 decal on Etsy

R2D2 was my favorite character in the Star Wars of my childhood, and I still love the little droid. BB-8 is very cool, and has some of the best bits in the new movies...but no one can replace my love for R2. I thought it might be nice to show y'all the KitchenAid vinyl decals that I referred to earlier, if you haven't seen them before. They really do have these in just about any design or fandom you can think of. This one is from GoodMommyLtd for $17.99. 

 Han Solo Soap on Etsy

Okay, this is another one that just makes me laugh! Han Solo...frozen in carbonite...soap. Soap, I tell ya! You can order it in different colors, and different scents...and lather up with Harrison Ford every morning. I can think of worse things. These can be purchased from NerdySoap for $4.30

 Mug Set on Etsy

Call me sentimental and mushy, but I love this understated coffee mug set. It's the perfect his and hers set for the couple who relate to Han and Leia. Nothing too fancy, and your husband won't be embarrassed to have a mug that says Nerfherder on his desk! (Plus, in the context, I'm okay with Princess...) You can find these on AboutAMom for $27

This particular gift guide could go on for AGES, and I have to say that where Star Wars and Etsy REALLY get things right is with their infant and children's items. Since most of my readers are a little older, and don't have babies at home, I only added one baby item, and tried to stick with items for more mature folks. BUT, I'm telling ya...if you have a friend who's having a baby, or you're having one, and there's a Star Wars fan in the mix somewhere...PLEASE check out Etsy! They have SO many cute items that would really stand out for your little one. I think Etsy is the best site to go to for gifts, mainly because it gives me the chance to buy items for my friends and loved ones that they may not have seen before...something just a tad bit more original and special than what I can find in a big box store. 

Please let me know if there are any fandoms, themes, or items you'd like me to dedicate a shopping guide to. I love making them, and I hope you enjoy reading them! Leave a comment below if you can think of anything. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Between Me and You Book Review

 Between Me and You by Allison Winn Scotch on Amazon, review by Tomes and Tequila

Even though I've decided to start writing about more than books on the blog, I've kept my reading goal at over 70 books for the upcoming year...and am excited to still share with you some of my favorite reads. Between Me and You by Allison Winn Scotch* had been on my wishlist for almost a year, and through a combination of lovely blogger magic, I had the privilege of reading it right before it's release last week. I believe I'm supposed to put in my review that "I received this as part of the Great Thoughts Ninja Review Team, but all opinions are my own", but when I checked to see if I had the wording right, I realized I'd been kicked out of the FB group! I'm guessing this is probably due to the fact that I don't normally finish 10-12 books a week, and am no longer exclusively writing about books...but I am nonetheless grateful that they allowed me to read this one! Like I've told you before, I'm not the best book blogger around.

Enough about my shortcomings...let's talk about this lovely book!

I have previously reviewed the book In Twenty Years, also by Allison Winn Scotch on the blog, and I have to say...her writing keeps improving, and this new one was complicated, subtly nuanced, and incredibly thought provoking. I so enjoy when I feel an author's books keep getting better and better.

Between Me and You is the story of Ben Livingston and Tatum Connelly. They meet at a bar, where Tatum is bartending while attending school for acting. Ben is an aspiring screenwriter. They fall in love, and their relationship evolves. Through the death of loved ones, the birth of their child, Oscars, secrets, stalkers, and more...this is the story of Ben and Tatum.

Told in chapters that alternate between Ben and Tatum's point of view, with Tatum's timeline starting with them meeting for the first time, and Ben's timeline beginning at the end and working feels confusing for the first couple of chapters, but then you get a feel for the characters, and it all makes sense. Because of the manner it's written, you find out bits and pieces of stories before you get the full details. In a way, that made some of the plot twists a little more interesting than if it had been writing in a strictly chronological manner.

This is one of those "Love Stories" where it's not all black and white. Neither of the main characters is perfect. They are both flawed, and we all are. They both make mistakes...things happen. But it is interesting to see how it all plays out over the course of a couple decades. And I really enjoyed it.

So, if you're looking for a less than typical contemporary fiction book, this one should be on your list. Definitely grab it if you enjoy reading books that are a little bit Hollywood, as this one has some movie star flare in bits and pieces, with the main characters being in the industry. At 358 pages, it wasn't a quick read, for whatever reason. I didn't finish it in one go, but that may have more to do with what all was going on in my life at the time, and less to do with the book.

Have you picked a reading goal for the year? Is anyone doing a particular reading challenge? Let me know in the comments!
 *Contains affiliate links, visit my review policy page for details.

Friday, January 12, 2018

My Word of the Year

It's the second week of January, and my goal of publishing a blog post 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday has already fallen by the wayside, so I'm not sure whether this blog post will really be valid anymore. This was supposed to be an inspiring chat full of motivational snippets, and a go-get'em attitude, that was to be the crux and center of my entire blog for the year. But I have a headache...again. And unfortunately for me, migraines tend to throw my game plans all out of whack, and leave me with a more cynical outlook than I'm normally predisposed to. So, do I give you the bright and shiny version of this post...or the realistic and brutally honest version?

I guess we'll go with brutally honest. I'll do more motivational another day.

I am one of those ladies who has always picked out a New Year's Resolution. I remember coming up with them as a child even. The idea of a new year always excited me. The idea of changing things up, doing new things, improving my life in some way, held incredible sway over me...and still does. But the main word that needs to be focused on in those sentences is IDEA.

I am an ideas lady. I am generally great at coming up with them. I love to research. I love to read. If you're thinking of buying something, I'm the lady to call to help you figure out what the best one is to purchase. I know what car I want before I've ever walked onto the sales lot. My ideas monkey-brain combined with my occasional obsessive/addictive personality is both an asset and a flaw. I can come up with an entire calendar's year of weekly preschool story time themes, and research my way into kid's programs up the wazoo for a job...and obsessively learn everything there is to know about Michael Fassbender or the best shop vac to buy my husband for Christmas. But I can analyze and think something to death before it's ever come to pass, and for a lot of my life, it has never come to pass.

In a nutshell, what this amounts to is living the grand majority of my adult life inside my head, with my ideas.

This year, instead of picking a resolution, I decided to go with a word for the year. Picking a word instead of a resolution has gained a lot of popularity recently, and it felt right to me. So, I of course set out to spend a great deal of time pondering what my word should be, when all of a sudden it hit me.


2018 is going to be my year of Action.

On the page of my bullet journal that I set aside to brainstorm my focus for the upcoming year I wrote that one word, with a few lines underneath to emphasize how important it was. And I decided that this year I was going to try to get out of my head more, and actually DO MORE.

I am actually USING my bullet journal to break down goals into small manageable chunks, and sticking them into my week, so that I can achieve my dreams instead of just thinking about them all the time. And I am taking ACTION. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone, and do things regularly that scare me a little bit. Starting my YouTube channel would be the perfect example of this. I have wanted to make videos since the first time I went live on Facebook to show people how much snow we had in North Dakota. I'm going to write a big ole post about finding your passion, and really working towards it, but my real passion is connecting with people. And I want to push myself to do more things that really help build on that. And while connecting, I want to be a bright and shiny beacon of support for what the world really needs right now is more bright and shiny.

So for 2018, instead of living in my head, and filling it with ideas of how I'd like to improve myself and my life, I want to take Action to actually make some of those ideas come true. I want to consciously live with passion and verve. I am really focusing on taking good care of myself for the first time in my life, and I want to share it with you because I know that a lot of you are in the same place that I am. Maybe the circumstances are slightly different, but your focus has been on other people and other things, and you've let you fall so far down on your priority list that you barely even register. Now is the time to take that action, and start taking steps to live the life you've dreamed of. None of us are getting any younger, and unfortunately there's no guarantee of a tomorrow...

Well crap, I ended up going all motivational on you after all.

Do you make resolutions? Or did you pick a word of the year? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

My Favorite Beauty Gurus on YouTube

Yesterday I filmed and uploaded my first real YouTube video. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. I ran into the problem of my aspiration being higher than my present skill level! But, I learned a lot from that first video, and I'm confident that if I keep working, and trying my best, I will eventually produce a product that I'm happy with. I feel in my heart that we all should be pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones this year, and doing things that scare us a little bit. It's how we grow as people. And I really feel strongly that everyone should be working towards following their passions! So for me, this means pushing myself in ways that scare Instagram stories, which I've done daily recently. And YouTube. I figure the more I speak into a camera, the less awkward I will be! So, please let me know if there's something you'd like to hear about, or a video you'd like me to film. I want to be a resource for all of you in any way I can, be it Weight Watchers, Make-up or Books.

Now, to bring it back to YouTube...

My first video (which you can see right here if you missed it on Facebook) showed my favorite make-up products of 2017. I really tried to pick things that I use almost every day, and some of these are products I have bought again and again. I hope those who watched found it helpful, and weren't too put off by the video quality being less than stellar for the first 3/4 of the run time. At the end of the video I told you two of my favorite YouTubers that I highly recommend checking out. Afterwards I thought it might be good to do a full post to really highlight my favorites, and what I think they do best! I am subscribed to all of these ladies, and enjoy watching...learning...and dreaming.

So for your perusal, here are a few of my favorite beauty gurus on YouTube!

Marnie is one of the first beauty gurus I found on YouTube, and I think the first video I watched was a "what's in my purse" video (I still love those!!). I love her vlogs, her 3 dog's shenanigans, and her fashion style. She is the reason I own statement earrings from Bauble Bar. 

I can't sing the praises of Kristina Braly enough. She is smart and funny, and so down to earth! The fact that she did vlogmas this year with a newborn baby astounds me, and she is real enough to talk to you on camera with an acne dot on her face. I love this lady!

Angie does some of the most comprehensive and well researched videos on YouTube. Her foundation reviews, and wear tests are some of my absolute favorites. If you want to know how something is going to work on more mature skin, she's your girl. 

I haven't been watching Stephanie for as long as I've been watching some of the other ladies on this list, but I think her videos are great. She is usually reviewing slightly different items than a lot of the other ladies, and I love that she does so many "collaborations" with her daughter! (Her daughter makes me laugh...)

And as an honorable mention....

Okay, I had to throw Tati aka GlamLifeGuru in here just because...this lady cracks me up! She reviews everything from drugstore to extreme luxury brands, and is a BRUNETTE! I know that seems weird to comment on, but when I first started watching these videos, I found it odd that almost all of the ladies who weren't 20 making videos had blonde hair. Anyway, she's great...and living the LA high life make-up professional lifestyle that is fun to visit every once in a while. 

So there ya go...these are the ladies that I visit regularly on YouTube, for advise on all things beauty and then some. I hope you take a minute to go check them out! If you pop over to watch and decide to leave a comment, let them know that TomesandTequila sent ya!! 💗

And let me know if you have any ideas for videos you'd like to see!

Friday, January 5, 2018

A Pearl For My Mistress Review

 A Pearl for My Mistress on Amazon, review by Tomes and Tequila
*This post uses affiliate links. Please see my review policy page for details
I am actually incredibly excited to write a review for this book!! The author, Annabel Fielding, reached out to me and asked if I'd like to have a crack at her book...and after reading the synopsis, I knew I needed to give it a read. It sounded like your classic historical fiction book, but the romance appeared to be what those in the literary world refer to as "diverse". The book was better than I could've ever hoped, and I can't recommend it enough. I think it's an important book, and I'll get into my reasons after I tell you what it's about. I don't want to get ahead of myself!

A Pearl for My Mistress takes place in 1934 England. Hester Blake becomes a lady's maid to Lucy Fitzmartin. The Fitzmartin family has lost some of it's splendor in the new century, and their daughter Lucy has taken to writing moderately controversial articles that are in favor of the British Union of Fascists and the new government in Germany. Hester has big dreams of eventually travelling and sees her job as being a way out of her old life. The entanglement between the lady and her maid, and Lucy and the simmering uprising in Europe, cause many secrets...some more disastrous than others.

I was really taken with this book, although it wasn't a quick read, and it took me quite a while to finish it. I'm a fan of historical fiction, and this extremely well-written novel fits right in with my favorite Jane Eyre. The big difference being the relationship between Hester and Lucy, which was a big reason why I accepted the book to read in the first place, if I'm being completely honest with you.

When I worked at the Library, I had a few really good conversations with our Librarian about diversity in books, especially where LGBT people were concerned. We both expressed our wish for more books that had a gay or bisexual character in it, that weren't CAUSE books. A lot of the books with lgbt characters have being gay as the entire plot. In most literature, say in a historical book with a romantic plot or subplot, there could be a liaison between two characters and it is just that...a few paragraphs of a love scene, and then the rest of the book carries on. As a library that tried very hard to make sure we had a catalog of books that made all of our patrons feel represented, we struggled to find books with lgbt characters that felt like mainstream literature. Where is the good contemporary mystery where the detective just happens to be sleeping with someone of the same sex, and it only happens in that one sex scene...and isn't talked about for the rest of the book? Why aren't there REALLY GOOD novels of varying genres out there that are written like mainstream fiction? You know, where the old flame who shows up to throw a kink in the 40 year old woman's rocky marriage is a woman because she's bisexual? I'm sorry for going on a giant, long paragraph tangent here...but I feel like these books need to be written. Because if the story is good, anyone will read and love it, regardless of THEIR sexual orientation, and that can only be a good thing.

A Pearl for My Mistress is one of the books that we were always looking for. This is a damn fine historical fiction book. The characters are well written. The setting is lush. There are secrets and intrigue, back-stabbing and at least one torn corset (or gown, I should say). And the fact that Hester and Lucy fall in love is treated in the same manner as Jane and Rochester. It is more about a Lady falling for her Maid, and less about the fact that they are two women. Do they touch on it being taboo? Of course, but them falling for each other isn't even the main topic of the book. It just happens.

What I found more interesting was the setting being between the World Wars in England, and the many people who were for the new government rising to power in Germany. I have to be honest with you...I didn't pay a lick of attention in my history classes, which is funny mainly because I live in a house full of historians. So, I had to ask my husband and son if there really were a lot of people who felt the old government in England were stuffy and didn't trust them after World War I, and were for the Nazis. I guess I haven't read enough books set in this time frame! (If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments!)

So, if you are a fan of historical fiction, classical fiction or romance (although it's not a heavy romance), I definitely recommend picking this one up. I thought it was great. I have to thank the author again for sending it my way.

My husband is back at work, my daughter is back at college...and hopefully my routine will be back to I plan on having a regular schedule of content again! Thank you for sticking with me through this blog drought.