Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Book Review: Wild

I promise my Carmel pictures will be up soon, but our internet/cable went out last night and I may or may not have had a minor panic attack about that. Thankfully, it came back on this morning though! So while I didn't have time to upload the photos from our weekend yet, I wanted to share a review of a fantastic summer read.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed is an vivid memoir about the autho's solo journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. The book first caught my eye at Barnes and Noble back in March when it first came out because the graphic cover with the single hiking boot grabbed my attention. (What can I say, I do judge a book by its cover sometimes!) The subtitle for the book is "FROM LOST TO FOUND ON THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL" and that really pulled me as hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail is something that's always intrigued me so I immediately put this book on my summer reading list. However, I was a little concerned that being a memoir it might be a little dry and boring.

However, after reading this book I can assure you that it's the opposite of dry and boring, rather it's extremely emotional and captivating. Cheryl Strayed really takes you on a journey through her life, slowly unfolding all the layers in her past that got her to the point of wanting to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone at age 26. She had experienced a lot of pain--a broken family life, drugs, and the death of her mother at age 22 and she talks about all her experiences in graphic detail. Her writing is so poignant that even though I can't personally relate to those events, I felt like I was able to understand her feelings. She finally got to a place where she was just really broken and searching and thought that embarking on this journey would really help her to rediscover herself and by the time she actually embarked on the trail, the book already had me really engaged.

For those of you that might not be familiar, the Pacific Crest Trail is a mountain hiking trail that goes from the border of Mexico all the way up through British Columbia, spanning the mountains in California, Oregon, and Washington. Each year, many people hike the entire trail and it's something that takes months to complete. A few years ago, Cam actually did a 4 day backpacking trip on the PCT, and we've often talked about cool it would be to just quit our jobs and do the whole thing. I think what made this book particularly enjoyable for me is that I've actually seen a lot of the things she describes which just made it that much more real for me. The landscape in the Sierras of northern California, the beauty of Crater Lake in Oregon, and finally finishing her hike just past Timberline Lodge in Oregon, they're all places that I've been. However the way Cheryl so perfect describes the feeling of being out in the wilderness, I think anyone could really enjoy it even if they've never been west of the Mississippi, . The way she talks about the hardships, monotony, and incredible beauty of the trail is really moving as well, and it's great to see the emotional changes she goes through while walking those hundreds of miles. I also really enjoyed her descriptions of people she met on the trail, and it was really fun to read about the bonds she formed on the trail.

I was so impressed by her bravery throughout the story and how she dealt with challenges and trials on her own in the wilderness. When she did the hike, she was the same age as me, and I can't even fathom doing that by myself, I'm pretty sure I would have been really freaked out the entire time. Honestly, I can't exactly say that Wild made me want to hike the entire PCT because it does just seem like such a long, crazy journey that's a huge the same time, I think it would be such an awesome thing to accomplish. Regardless of how you feel about hiking, I'd highly recommend the book for a great summer read!

PS: I originally started reading this book for the PBFingers book club...and then didn't finish it in time to get my review up before she talked about it...but here's the link to Julie's review and others!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Two Books (That Aren't 50 Shades of Grey)

Because I think we've probably all read/heard enough about those books by now haven't we?

While we're on the subject, I have not read the 50 Shades of Grey series, nor do I plan to. I'll admit, at first I was intrigued and wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I was planning on reading them. But then after reading countless reviews about them on different blogs as well as hearing mixed reviews from friends, I've decided this is one fad that I'm going to have to pass on because I just feel it would be a huge waste of my time. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to get down on anyone who has read the books, as many of my friends along with bloggers who I respect have read them and loved them. It's just for me, I feel like I don't read nearly enough as it is. Between work (which has been incredibly time consuming lately), everyday life stuff like cooking and cleaning, working out, blogging, watching TV (what can I say some nights I'd rather just veg on the couch and watch funny/mindless television) and spending time with Cam and Lola, I feel like I struggle to carve out time to read for pleasure. So when I do read, the book damn well better be good! And by good I mean that when I finish it, I want to feel like my life is better for having invested the time to read it. And from what I've heard, I just don't think 50 Shades falls in that category. And it's not just about the sex. Sex is a part of life so if a book chooses to include it because it's an integral part of the storyline/character development and adds to the writing, I don't have a problem with it. But I know that the explicit nature of 50 Shades with it's ultra graphic descriptions goes way beyond that, plus I've heard that the writing is really poor and the characters are basically ripped off from Twilight, another series I never got in to. So I just feel like why would I read it these books just because they're the popular thing when there are so many incredibly well-written works of fiction and non-fiction out there? Plus, there are so many classics that I never read in high school/college that I'd like to read now. So if you're a 50 Shades fan, that's totally fine, to each their own. I just thought I'd add my two cents to this topic since a few people asked me if I'd read them :)

Moving on...

I recently read two books that I really enjoyed and felt were life-enriching, positive reads so I wanted to share them with you!

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot is a semi-autobiographical collection of tales about a country veterinarian in England set in the 1930s. My mother-in-law gave me a series of James Herriot books for Chrismas a few years ago as they're some of her favorites; I've been meaning to read them for the longest time but just hadn't gotten around to it until now. The book is so wholesome and heartwarming; the stories about the different cases that James Herriot has to deal with are very entertaining, largely in part to the colorful people that live in the Yorkshire Dales where the story takes place. If you were a fan of Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Praire growing up, you'll probably enjoy this book as well because it's a simple yet charming account of an era gone by. Back then, farmers really depended on their animals for their livelihood so if one got sick or injured, it was a really major problem. James Herriot has to deal with a lot of large animal vet work like assisting with the births of calves or horses as well as small animal cases as well. This book isn't a page turner with crazy storylines or plot twist, rather it's just a lovely story with great descriptions of the pastoral English countryside that will bring a smile to your face. If you're an animal lover I'd highly recommend it!

StrengthsFinders 2.0. by Tom Rath is a book that I actually read for work as part of our monthly book club (which I think is so neat that my company does this!). The premise is that people spend so much time trying to improve their weaknesses in order to become more well-rounded, when in reality, we'd be better off focusing on discovering, developing, and playing to our strengths. By focusing on what we're good at instead of what we're not, we can really be successful and fulfilled in our careers and life overall. When you buy the book, it comes with an access code for you to go to the StrengthsFinders site and take an online assessment to discover your top 5 strengths out of the 34 different areas covered in the book. The book then talks about how you can more effectively use your strengths to their fullest capacity and gives great action items and tips. What I loved about the book is that after you take the assesment and read the sections about your strengths, you just feel really good about yourself, it sounds so dorky, but it's true! I felt like the descriptions of my strengths perfectly captured me and the things I'm good at and it felt great to just recognize those qualities instead of beating myself up about things where I fall short. I'd highly suggest taking the assessment and reading the book as I think it's very insightful!

(If you're familiar with this book/have taken the assessment, I'd love to hear what your top strengths were--mine were Woo, Communication, Maximizer, Positivity, and Significance)

Happy reading friends! Xoxo

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Book Thief

It's been quite awhile since I posted a book review, but I've got a great read to share with y'all today!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is actually a book I started months ago, and for some reason it took me forever to finish. And it's not because the book is bad, quite the opposite actually, it just wasn't one of those novels that I couldn't put down. It's been on my radar for awhile now, but I was motivated to start it back in April when Julie chose it for the PBFingers Book Club. Since then I've gotten sidetracked and read other things, but I kept reading it little by little, and now that I've finally finished it I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

The book is written in a very unconventional style that's extremely descriptive yet choppy so it's a little disconcerting at first. The book also has a unique narrator--death. Because the book takes place in Germany during WWII, death is constantly present so I thought the choice to personify him and use him as a narrator was very clever. The book centers around a young girl named Liesel who is given up for adoption by her birth mother and taken in by foster parents in the town of Molching, Germany. The book takes us through period of years in WWII Germany where we get to see Liesel grow up and go though many different experiences. In the beginning, she doesn't know how to read at all however, her foster father teaches her and she falls in love with words/reading. She ends up stealing quite a few books over the course of the story hence how the book gets its title.

Another key element of the story is that Liesel's foster parents end up hiding a Jewish man named Max in their basement, and the story showcases the bond that he develops with the family and Liesel. The story also revolves around Liesel's relationship with her neighbor and best friend Rudy, and he is her constant support and partner in crime. The entire story is full of many emotionally captivating moments, and the level of descriptions in the book is strange and vivid, yet poignant. One of the things that really struck me is just the everyday events that occur that are made to seem normal like the kids having to go to Hitler Youth Meetings or having Jews paraded through their town on a regular basis on their way to concentration camps. It seems so strange to read about, but for the characters in the book it was a part of their life during that time.

I was initially hesitant to read this book because although I find WWII to be very interesting, stories that take place during this time period, and particularly stories involving the Holocaust, can be so emotionally draining to read sometimes. I was worried that this book was just going to be super heavy and depressing, but it ended up being much different than I expected. While there are definitely very sad and emotional moments, the overall story had a lot of of moments of happiness too. I wouldn't say it's one of my favorite books that I've ever read, but it's definitely a really good read. If you enjoy historical fiction, I'd definitely suggest putting it on your summer reading list!

That's all for me today friends, I've got lots of work to finish up before the weekend! I'm super excited because one of my best friends from high school is coming to Tahoe later today to stay with us for the weekend, and the weather is supposed to be beautiful. I'm looking forward to lots of sunshine, good food, girl talk, and time by the lake over the next few days! Hope your weekend is fabulous as well! Xoxo

Thursday, March 8, 2012

3 Book Reviews and a MAJOR change

The weekend is almost here friends! Just two more days of work to get through and then we're packing up and heading to San Fran for the weekend! <--(Can you tell I'm excited for this?!)

Anyway, you might wonder what's this major change that I'm referring to're just going to have to read on to find out!


One of my goals for 2012 was to read more, so today I wanted to share some reviews of books I've read lately. Originally, I was going to post about them individually, but I thought why not combine them into one giant review. Here goes!

After reading The Paris Wife back in January (which I loved), it inspired me to read something written by Ernest Hemingway. I decided to read The Sun Also Rises because that's the book he's writing during The Paris Wife. It took me a long time to get through this book, because honestly, his writing style just doesn't hold my interest the way some author's do. The book centers around a group of American ex-pat friends (well acquaintences might be more accurate) living in Europe, and the story takes place during the 1920's. Much of the book is set in Pamplona, Spain where the group has come for this big festival and to watch the bull fights, and I think that's a big part of the reason that I wasn't super in to the story. The whole bullfighting thing just really doesn't appeal to me, and Hemingway describes it in great detail. However, he's more sparse with describing the storylines between the characters, and basically it seems like everyone in the group is in love with this one girl who's there with them, Lady Brett Ashley. If you read The Paris Wife, you know that they make American artists in Paris in the 1920's seem like they're just drinking all the time, and this book is the same way. Basically people are just drunk and sad the entire story. The book basically describes the same tangled love triangle that occurred when the characters went to Spain in The Paris Wife. That's not to say it's a completely terrible story, and if you're interested in reading something by Hemingway, it's not a bad book. But for me, it just wasn't one of those page turning novels that gripped my attention.

 The next book I read was a recommendation from one of my favorite bloggers, Jenna at Eat Live Run. She's got great taste in books and I always get inspirations on what to read from her. She had the book How to Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre on her list of her favorite books from 2011 and I thought the description sounded interesting enough. The story is a memoir that follows the author as she moves back to her hometown after the death of her beloved grandfather and starts to help care for her widowed grandmother. I think a lot of people I know would be able to relate to Kristine; she's smart, she's gone to college, she's lived in New York, she's lived in Italy, and she's dated many different guys. But now she's in her late twenties, living at home, and trying to figure out her life. She ends up spending a lot of time with her grandmother who shares a lot of wisdom about love and the lessons that she learned in 60 years of marriage. What I loved about the story was the focus on the relationship between these two women, as it was really heart warming to see them grow and learn from one another. Kristine really has a lot of respect for her grandparents, and I think that's a value that is all to often overlooked by today's society. The whole Sex and the City psychobabble of trying to date like a man and all the relationship advice being doled out by Cosmo and the like today aren't really the keys to a lasting relationship, and that's what Kristine discovers through this book. I loved her writing style, and it's one of those stories where I was actually sad when the book was over. I'd definitely check it out!

And finally, I just finished reading this:

I'm sure many of you have heard of the Paleo diet, as it's become quite popular in the last year or two. Basically, the premise is that our bodies haven't evolved to deal with the heavy grains/dairy diet of modern civilization and that we were actually designed to eat diet similar to our hunter-gatherer ancestors that consists of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. I had heard a lot of talk about the Paleo diet, as it seems to be very popular with people who do Crossfit (something I've never done, but I know it's supposed to be a great workout!). In the beginning of the year when Cam and I always seem to get all focused on wanting to be healthy, I mentioned something about the Paleo diet to Cam and I guess it must have sparked his interest because a few weeks later he ordered The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet from Amazon and read it cover to cover in two days. He decided that it was something that he wanted to try, and I'll admit, I was supportive...but skeptical.

NO grains or dairy?

That means no bread, no cheese, no cookies, no ice cream, and basically none of the foods that bring a smile to my face. Ummm...I'm supposed to get on board with this? But Cameron was motivated to try eating this way because he sort of felt that he needed to make a little bit more of a drastic change than just cutting back on calories. Those of you who know my husband know that he's a bigger guy. He's 6'1'' and he was an offensive lineman when he played football in high school, and so he's never going to be some kind of waif. But he would like to slim down a little bit. The problem is, a lot of times he'd eat less than I would in a given day and not lose any weight. He'd used My Fitness Pal to get an idea of how many calories he was eating and even though he'd eat the recommended amount of a heavy grains/dairy diet, he'd pretty much stay the same size. He thought that changing what he was eating might be a good thing to try, and so he's' been pretty consistently eating a Paleo diet for the last month. And guess what? He's lost over 20 lbs so far! It's pretty incredible, and he seems to be feeling really good.

At first, I'll admit I was very skeptical of this book/lifestyle. It just seemed SO extreme, and I tend to be very wary of anything like that. At the beginning of last month, I was like I'm totally fine eating Paleo-style dinners because that's usually what we eat anyway (aka some type of meat with some type of vegetable), but as far as my diet for breakfast/lunch, I wasn't really planning on changing anything. I really like my cereal/greek yogurt/granola/sandwiches/quesidillas/etc, and I figured I'd just keep that part of my diet the same. Cam definitely didn't push me to do anything that I wasn't comfortable with, and said it was fine for me to eat however I wanted, but he seemed really passionate about making these changes in his diet. He did encourage me to read this book so I could at least get a better understanding of the whole philosophy and why the Paleo diet thinks cutting out grains and dairy is important. So that's what I did.

I'm not going to try to recap the entire book as it's fairly long, but it's also very interesting. It breaks down diet from an anthropological perspective as well as a biological perspective and really goes into great detail about the human body. Obviously nutritional research seems to point in a million different directions and I think that most of the time group studies that show certain foods being good or bad for you are crap. What I liked about this book is that it instead examined things from a cellular level so you can get a better understanding of how your body works. Then in makes a lot more sense why certain foods are great for you and others can actually be really damaging. The book talks about more than just food, but it also touches on exercise and the importance of sleep in overall health.  And he makes a very convincing case, while making the book light enough that it's enjoyable to read. If you're interested in finding out more about eating Paleo, I'd definitely suggest reading this book first as it will give you a lot of good information.

So where do I stand on the issue now? I am in agreement that most grains/most dairy products in stores today are really not good for overall health and so I am, in a sense, jumping on the Paleo bandwagon in terms of how I eat at home. Yes, it is a little extreme. But at the same time being bloated, carrying extra weight, and essentially just destroying your body with excess sugar isn't exactly an appealing option when you think about it. A big motivator for me to cut out grains and dairy is my skin. I've always had oily, break-out prone skin and although I've tried different treatments, I know from experience that what I put into my body greatly affects how it looks. I'm tired of always having to wear concealer/foundation to cover up breakouts and I really want to see if making these changes in my diet will help clear things up in this area. So far, I've lost like 6 or 7 lbs in the past month, and I've noticed that I don't feel as bloated as I did after the holidays. However, losing weight is not my primary motivation in trying out this way of eating (although it is nice). I just want to try not putting crappy-processed foods in my diet for awhile and see how it feels (aka the major change I was mentioning in the post title!).

I feel like the road to nutrition is a lifelong journey of constantly learning and figuring out what's best for your body because I do believe that people are different and what works for some may not work for all. I still have much more research I want to do, and I'm not entirely convinced to cut out all grains and dairy forever, but I do think that they should be a much more limited part of your diet than the food pyramid makes them out to be. Regardless of how you feel about that, I think that pretty much everyone can agree that cutting out sugar and processed food out of your diet is a great thing, and I'm really happy that's what we're doing right now. I think there are a lot of great benefits that come from eating a Paleo diet, and while I'm not saying that I'm 100% Paleo, when we're at home, Cam and I are both trying to follow this style of eating pretty closely. I've still been trying to finish up some of the dairy in the fridge, like my string cheeses and yogurts, but after that, I'm going to stop buying them for awhile and see how I feel. What I've loved is that in the past few weeks our fridge has been filled with colorful fruits and veggies, and we're actually eating them all. I mean, we always bought fruits and vegetables before, but a lot of times we'd also get less healthy foods as well. And somehow the Nutella and ice cream would always get eaten every week, while the produce would sometimes spoil before we could get to it. Now that we've really cut out sweets at home, the amount of fruits and vegetables we're going through has dramatically increased and I love it! We both have a sweet tooth though, so we have been indulging in a little bit of dark chocolate here and there, but it's great to be able to eat a few small squares and be satisfied by that.

Now when we travel, that's' a little bit of a different story. We do travel quite a bit, so I can't use every trip as an excuse to go buck wild and just eat whatever I want all day, everyday. Cam and I are both looking at things reasonably enough so that if we do go out of town and want to get ice cream or get something from a bakery, it's ok. If we go back to France in the future, are we going to not eat any baguettes/brie/Nutella crepes? Umm no, we'll definitely be indulging there (I mean it's France...and also completely hypotheical as we have no plans to go there in the immediate future). If I travel, I want to try local specialities and enjoy myself through food. However, I want eating those things to be the exception, not the rule. Because we do travel so much, I really want to make sure what we're eating at home is healthy, so that way we can indulge a little when we go out. This past Sunday, Cam and I got gelato after skiing and it tasted SO good. We both talked about how sweets taste so much better when you're not eating them every single day, and you can be satisfied with a small instead of a medium or a large. It's nice to be able to enjoy those things every once and awhile, but realize that you feel so much better without them.

So, that's why you may have noticed a significant lack of baked goods here on the blog recently! I love to bake, so it's not something I'm swearing off forever, I've just decided that I need to do a lot less of it for now. I'm still a human who loves chocolate chip cookies and I will be baking again in the future, but it just can't be a twice a week thing like it's been in the past. Cam and I both love sweets, so if I make a batch of brownies, we'll end up eating them all between the two of us. And I'm not saying it's wrong to have a brownie once and awhile, but do I need to be consuming half a pan on a regular basis? No, I don't. I realize this post is already epically long and if you're actually still reading, I applaud you. I just try to be as open and honest as possible here on my blog about what's going on in my life, which is why I wanted to share where I'm at with all of you. I will be featuring some Paleo-style recipes over the next few weeks, and I'm excited about these healthy changes! Xoxo

PS: Speaking of books, while I was reading Cam's Paleo book, I suggested he read the Hunger Games...and he actually did! He got through the first book in like a day because he was so into it, which I thought was hilarious. Now he's just as excited as I am to go see the movie! Yay for reading :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Year's Resolution Check In

Happy March everyone! March is definitely coming in like a lion for sure as the wind is howling and it's currently snowing outside my window. I'm hoping the snow/wind are going to stop this evening so we can get some good time on the slopes this weekend. And then after that, I would honestly be fine if the snow went away and didn't come back until 2013. But...we'll see about that.

Anyway, since today is the first day of March, I thought it would be the perfect time to check in on some of those New Year's Resolutions I made back in January. Remember them? The goals that we all set starry-eyed when we're sipping champagne, watching the ball drop, and the coming year is yet to begin? They're easy to lose sight of after a few days or weeks, but my intentions when I came up with the list were good, and I don't just want to let them fall by the wayside. I've definitely done a better job of staying on track with some goals then others, but that's ok. Life is a work in progress, but I think just taking the time to check and see which ones I might need to focus on a little more is great for helping me make sure I accomplish them.

1. Get more sleep
I feel like this is an area where I'll never be a good as I'd like becasue I'm a night owl by nature, but Cam and I are working on it. If we didn't have to get up the next day, we'd go to bed at midnight or later but we're trying to work on getting in bed by 10 (or 11 at the latest). It definitely hasn't been happening every night, but last night I was in bed at 10:43 which is definitely an improvement for me! I'm really hoping to try just pushing it back 5-10 minutes each night until getting in bed by 10 is my new normal.
2. Read more
Again, I haven't quite been reading as much as I'd like, but I have read a few books so far in 2012. I am actually going to be posting a book review about my 3 most recent reads next week, so stay tuned for that! (And if you haven't read this book yet, you totally's awesome!)
3. Become a good skier
While I'm not exactly a good skier yet, I feel like I'm improving a little bit each time I go. The conditions in Tahoe have been terrible this year, and a few of our days on the mountain have been really icy. Last Sunday, it was really icy in the morning, and I pretty much told Cam after one run that I wasn't having fun and was probably just going to go chill in the lodge. He encouraged me to stick with it and do a few more runs, so I agreed. The conditions ended up improving and I had a really great time, so I'm glad I didn't quit. I'm excited to get in a few more good days of skiing this season!
4. Kick the sugar habit & eat cleaner
This is an area that Cam and I have both started to focus on a lot in the past few weeks. I'm not going to get into it too much today because I want to dedicate an entire post to it next week, but yeah, let's just say there are some major changes going on here that I'm excited about!
5. Take an international vacation (or two)
This is still happening, although I don't know where we're going or when...yet. The first half of the year is going to be pretty busy with visitors and more domestic travels including weddings and weekend trips to explore California. Things are still a little up in the air about whether or not we're going to be staying here or moving after Cam finishes his rotation in June. We're probably not going to find out until May at the earliest, and so we're just waiting to get all that stuff figured out first before we really think about seriously planning a trip. But one will happen this year...mark my words!
6. Learn something new
Ehhh, I've been lazy in this area. Still just pinning away without actually learning any new skills. Definitely need to work on this in the coming months.
7. Be a better blogger
This is also an area I'm still struggling with. My blog has grown quite a bit in the past two months, and I'm really thankful for all the new faces around here! I feel like I've been more active on commenting on other blogs as well, mainly because I realized that I really do enjoy when people comment on my posts and share their thoughts with me, so why don't I do that for others? I figure if I take the time to read someone's entire post and enjoy what they have to say, why not tell them? However, I still need to work on setting aside dedicated time for blogging and not let it interfere with other, more important, areas of my life like work, making dinner, spending time with Cam, etc. I'm still working to find that balance.
8. Be wise with our finances
Cam and I sat down the other night and took a good look at our account (which is an awesome tool btw!) and I appreciate that he really wants me to be involved and take an active role in our finances. I'm really thankful for his stewardship in this area of our marriage because it's definitely not my strong suit. I feel like I kind of justify some things in our spending by saying "well at least we're doing better than so-and-so" because overall, we really are doing pretty good. But I know we could do better. We talked about our goals for the future, with the largest one being buying a house, and what it's going to take for us to get there. We have money saved now, but we need to work on saving more because we want to be able to put down a good down payment without completely wiping out our savings. We talked about areas we can improve and I'm excited to work on doing a better job of staying on track in this area. The fact that I'm working from home is also helping our spending a ton because I'm not really using gas, going out to lunch, going to the mall on my lunch hour (because I totally used to do that!), so it makes it easier to justify taking all of our weekend trips.
9. Try out a new dinner each week
We've been pretty good with this so far, and a lot of it has to do with some changes we've been making to our diet (see #4). I'll be sharing a new (or rather a variation on a dinner we eat a lot) next week!
10. Be more green
This is one area I really wanted to focus on for 2012, and although I haven't done it so far, I'm planning on doing a series of posts for the month of March where I dedicate Fridays to talking about eco-friendly changes you can make in your everyday life. I'm really excited about this, so be sure to check back tomorrow!
11. Run a half marathon
This goal is definitely on hold for now. The desire is still there, it's just not realistic to start training when there's snow on the ground and I don't have a gym membership/I hate running on the treadmill. The roads around our house are crazy steep and windy, so it's going to be much more of a challenge to run. Once the weather does warm up, I'm planning on checking out some nearby trails and places to run where there are actually sidewalks. I think I'll be more motivated once the days are longer and it's not freezing out, but for now, running is just not happening. And that's ok with me.
12. Take my faith more seriously
This is another effort that Cam and I frequently talk about needing to make more of a priority. It's easy to let work and day-to-day things be the focus during the week, and then we go out of town so often on the weekends that we haven't really put a lot of effort into finding a church yet. But the desire is still very much there and I'm excited to continue to grow in this area.
(You can check out my original post here)
As you can see, I haven't accomplished many of my goals yet, and honestly, I think in all of these areas there will always be room for improvement. No one is perfect, and personal growth is a life-long journey. I just like checking in every now and then and reminding myself what I really want to be focusing my energy on and assessing what things are creeping in (Facebook, celebrity gossip, etc.) and filling my time that aren't important. Spring is such an awesome season of newness and I'm excited to keep working at this list in the months to come.
Happy March everyone! Xoxo

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: The Paris Wife

Bonjour friends! 

I am back from Arizona, and although I had a fabulous time with my friends, it feels great to be home (and reunited with Cam and Lola). I do have lots of photos to share from my trip...once I get around to loading them on my computer that is! Now that I'm back, I'm also really looking forward to making some updates to the blog, as well as sharing some new recipes, photos of our place, and other fun things, so stay tuned over the next few weeks!

But on to today's first book review of 2012! 

One of my New Year's resolutions was to read more, and I wanted to start the year off with a book that's been on my list for sometime--The Paris Wife. Written by Paula McLain, it's a beautifully written piece of historical fiction that grabs you right from the beginning. The story is told from the perspective of Ernest Hemingway's wife, Hadley, and it takes place in the early years of his career. The 1920's are such a fascinating time to me, particularly American ex-pat artists living in Europe during that time, and I think that's a big part of the reason I loved this book. It's evident McLain (who btw is a University of Michigan alum, GO BLUE!) did a lot of reasearch for this story as the events that take place are based on biographies, historical accounts, and letters and feature many other noteable figures from the day like Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, etc. (If you enjoyed Midnight in Paris, you will LOVE this book!) However, she does an amazing job of fleshing out these historical figures and really bringing their love story to life through her detailed writing and well-crafted dialogue. I got so caught up in the story and the characters and their lives, and just really loved the book overall. 

The book also made want to start reading some of Hemingway's writing, so yesterday I started The Sun Also Rises, which is one of the books he's writing during The Paris Wife. So curling up with my Kindle to read more of that is on my agenda for tonight...along with catching up on episodes of the Bachelor. 

What can I say, I'm a very complex individual. 

I also wanted to give a quick shoutout to my sweet momma because today is her birthday! 

So glad my bangs grew out...blah
Last year, my family was in South Carolina visiting for her birthday, and I'm so sad I can't be in Michigan to celebrate with her today. But she's definitely in my thoughts, and I might even bake something tonight in her honor. I'm so blessed to have the most kind, generous, patient, and loving mom in the whole world and I hope that she has a wonderful day! :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book Review: Secret Daughter (SO good!)

I have a seriously AMAZING read to share with y'all, perfect for curling up on the couch with a cup of tea (or glass of wine...just sayin') and just losing yourself in the story. The book is called Secret Daughter and it's written by Shilpi Somaya Gowda; I heard about it over on one of my most favorite blogs Eat Live Run (the lovely Jenna does tons of book reviews and she highly recommended this one) and I was very intrigued by the description. The story follows two families; one lives in India and they give a baby girl up for adoption, while the other family lives in San Francisco and they adopt the baby. Much of the story takes place in India, and it was fascinating reading about how different it is from the United States. I love books like this where two story lines weave together and the author does a fantastic job switching back and forth to keep you engaged. I think what I loved most about the story is that it had really wonderful character development; everyone is very complex and real, and I found my feelings towards certain characters surprisingly shift throughout the story. I feel like this is a book that is easy reading like a chick lit beach novel, but it's definitely a little heavier in terms of the subject matter in a good way. I'd highly recommend it! :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Review: The Devil in the White City

Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope that y'all had a great Labor Day; Cam and I had a fantastic weekend exploring Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, and I'm really excited to share the photos with you (because I took a lot of them). However, I'm still in the process of getting them on the computer, so in the meantime I wanted to share a review of an incredible book that I had the pleasure of reading this weekend.

Since we spent a lot of time in the car over the past four days (and since Cam did basically all of the driving) I had a chance to devote some time to reading, yay! (I didn't have much of a choice because you get zero cell reception in most of rural Wyoming, but it was fine because this story was awesome and kept me totally engrossed!)  The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson is an extremely well-written story, but the crazy part is that it's a true. I like to alternate between reading fiction and non-fiction, and after the Hunger Games series, I was on the hunt for a good non-fiction read that would hold my interest. The Devil in the White City was published in 2004, so it's not new, and it's actually one that I had been meaning to read for awhile since we own it (and Cam loved it), and I thought it would be the perfect read for this weekend. Boy was I right!

Any book is made better by a giant box of Hot Tamales, no?
The book takes place in Chicago at the end of the 19th century and it alternates between the tales of two men, one being the mastermind behind the Chicago World's Fair and the other a psychopathic serial killer. Sounds kind of strange, but Larson does an amazing job of piecing together thousand of historical details and he retells them in such a way that he really keeps you hooked. His writing is extremely descriptive and so although there are just a few small black and white photos in the book, you can very clearly imagine the grandeur of the fair that the book centers around. I think that it really shows you what a person is capable of accomplishing when they set their mind to it, both for good and for evil. 

The story also made me think a lot about how much life has changed in the past 100+ years. At that time, people traveled many miles specifically to come see this fair, and it's many wonders, such as electric light bulbs and a giant ferris wheel, must have seemed so unbelievably incredible to them. It also really demonstrated just how easy it was for people to go missing (and just how long it took for people to notice they were gone) back before cell phones and the Internet. There are definitely parts of this story that are gruesome, but not unnecessarily so. Larson is truly a master story-teller who deftly unravels the events in such a way that, although it's a little disturbing at some points, you want to keep reading to find out what happens. He weaves these two narratives together so intriguingly that it's like you're reading a fictional thriller instead of a historical account, and it's really amazing to me that both the completion of the fair, as well as the murders, actually occurred. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys history, and it is a must for anyone that lives in or loves the city of Chicago as that's where the story is set and the book goes into great detail about it's amazing history. This is a book that you will not regret reading friends! 

Have a lovely week, vacation photos will be up soon! xoxo

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

**Spoiler alert: If you haven't read the Hunger Games series yet and you don't want to know what happens you probably shouldn't read my review...but I highly suggest this series, so go read them, and then come back and read my thoughts!**

Well, I finally read the Hunger Games series. And you know what? I really liked them! I know that this is a series of books, written by Suzanne Collins, that many of my fellow bloggers have read (and I had heard many good things), but I wanted to share my thoughts, so here they are. Although these books were a little bit different then the type of books I normally gravitate towards, I felt that the story and the characters pulled me in right away. These books are quick reads and I found that I was really engaged in the plot the whole time, as there were lots of twists and turns (although some were a little predictable). For those of you not familiar with the series, it centers around a female protagonist (what up high school English terminology!) named Katniss Everdeen, and it takes place in the country of Panem, a society that develops after the fall of the United States and is divided up into twelve districts. I found the setting to be really interesting because while this book is supposed to be taking place in the future, a lot of the time when you're reading the story you feel like it's taking place in the past due to the fact that a lot of the districts are impoverished and lack the technology that we have today. The twelve districts are ruled by the Capitol and in order to keep the people in line, the Capitol holds an annual event called the Hunger Games where each district has to send one girl and one boy and basically they put all these kids in an arena and they have to fight each other to the death until there is only one remaining victor. Sounds kind of weird right? I know, but I promise it's good. (Although when I was reading my Kindle while Cam's parents were here and they asked what I was reading and I told them it was a book about a game where kids have to fight each other to the death, I think they were kind of weirded out...)

The first book, The Hunger Games revolves around this annual event as the title suggests and you follow Katniss through the grueling challenge of the Games. In order to chose which kids have to go, they draw names, and when Katniss's little sister's name is drawn, she volunteers to take her place. The boy that gets chosen from her district is the baker's son, a boy named Peeta, and early on a love triangle is formed between Katniss, Peeta, and Katniss's friend and hunting partner Gale. The book chronicles Katniss and Peeta's struggle to survive during the games, and it ends with both of them surviving, much to the Capitol's dismay, due the fact that they were about to go all Romeo and Juliet and just kill themselves rather than have to decide who lives, so the Capitol decides to save them both. I really enjoyed the first book a lot, and although it's kind of science fiction-y, I actually really enjoyed the descriptive details, and I thought that it did a good job laying the groundwork for the other two books.

The second book, Catching Fire, shows what happens after the Games are over, and you'd think that life would go back to normal, but it doesn't. Katniss's and Peeta's actions in the arena were seen as being defiant of the Capitol and the authorities are pissed because as a result there are stirrings of a rebellion among some of the districts. In order for the Capitol to demonstrate their authority, they decide that for the next Hunger Games, they will have only people who have one previous Hunger Games represent the districts, which means Katniss and Peeta have to go back in to the arena once again. At this point you're a lot more connected to the characters and this book really demonstrates the horrors that a controlling government can inflict on it's people, and then it further draws you in to this love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale and I'll admit, I was curious to know who she would ultimately choose. At the end of this book, Katniss somehow makes it out of the arena alive however that District 12, where she's from, has been destroyed at there is a full-blown revolution taking place.

The third and final book in the series, Mockingjay, was a somewhat more grim and depressing than the other two books for me, as it really delves in to the pain of war. I know that this book didn't get as great of reviews on Amazon as the first two, and I think that's because when you've become so invested in the characters, on some level you want everything to wrap up in a neat little package, for the bad guys to be defeated and to see more of the love story, but that's really not what happens in this book. During much of the story, Katniss and the rest of the rebels are living in an area called District 13, and I thought it was interesting how it also had a very controlling government, the very thing they were fighting against. A lot of people die in this book, and at some points I wondered whether there would even be a happy ending. However, I personally like how the story wrapped up, and although I would have liked a little more detail about what happened after the war ended, I think that is purposely left up to your imagination. Katniss does end up choosing Peeta, and while I wasn't exactly surprised by that, I would have like to have known a little bit more about what happened to Gale. However, I think that Suzanne Collins was trying to make this book less like a Twilight-romance, and more about Katniss's struggle for independence.

I personally found the whole idea of the Hunger Games being televised to the whole country and people enthusiastically following along with every detail of this grusome event to be easy parallel to draw with today's constant stream of reality television, and it kind of makes you question whether it may be destructive. All in all, I enjoyed this series of books and I'd highly recommend them if you're looking for an exciting read. Plus, they are making the first book into a movie that comes out next March, and I'm really excited to see how they bring this story to the big screen. Jennifer Lawerence is playing Katniss, which I think is a perfect choice, and then I think the rest of the casting is really interesting as well. Here is a shot of her from the forthcoming movie, but in my opinion, this is one where you should definitely read the book first! xoxo

Have you read the Hunger Games series? 
What did you think? 
Read any other good books lately?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Blueberries, Borders, and a Book Review!

Happy Thursday everyone! I've got a few random things to talk about (but they all tie together with the alliterated post title right?) but before I dive into that, make sure you check out my guest post today over at Sweet Tea Serendipity! I know I mentioned it last week, but be sure to take a look because it features two super delicious Nutella recipes that you do not want to miss! :)

On to today's topics, with the first being the most! Earlier this week, I was browsing foodgawker (standard) and I happened to stumble across this recipe. It sounded extremely intriguing as I adore blueberries, cinnamon, and goat cheese, and I decided it would be the perfect afternoon snack. Now I was fresh out of baguettes and since this isn't Paris where I can just stroll to the nearest boulangerie, I decided to use the Ezekiel bread on hand. (Plus it made my snack a little bit more nutritious!)

Everything you'll need to make this delicious little snack...
The recipe calls for enough stuff to make a larger quantity, so I basically just used the ingredients/proportions as a guideline, and pretty much just eyeballed it and adjusted until the goat cheese mixture tasted good. (Which in my case was a little more honey, a little less nutmeg) Spread your sweet cinnamon goat cheese on your toast, top with the blueberries, and BAM! The perfect snack.

What I love about it is that it's so perfect for August aka that time of year when you're trying to soak up every last drop of the summer but there's a feeling that fall is right around the corner. (My Southern ladies are probably thinking umm no, it's still 100 degrees out, but here in Colorado it's definitely starting to get a little cooler at night!) I love the combination the fresh flavors of summer you get in the sweetness of the blueberries and the tang of the goat cheese with the warmth of nutmeg and cinnamon. It's the perfect snack for when you're just hanging out and lounging this:

I could really go for some blueberry cinnamon goat cheese toast...MOM!
And don't worry, we've fully come to terms with the fact that our puppy literally looks like an 100 year old man sometimes. It's cool. Moving right along, the other night Cam and I went up to Borders to check out their big store closing sale.

It's definitely sad for me to see Borders closing up it's doors because it's a business that was started and headquarted in Ann Arbor, MI. (Actually the headquarters was right across the street from where I used to work) I have fond memories of sitting and reading in the Borders on State St and Liberty in Ann Arbor, and I know that it's something that will truly be missed by the community there.

As for the sale, most of the stuff was 20% off, so not super deeply discounted yet. I'll definitely be checking back over the next few weeks though and hopefully I can snag a few new travel or cookbooks!

 And speaking of books, I am way overdue for a book review! I recently finished the book "The 4-Hour Workweek" by Tim Ferriss, and for whatever reason, this book took me FOREVER to read. Like way way longer than it should have. I had heard some good things about the book from friends and I was intrigued by the premise, so I downloaded it on my Kindle before we moved to Colorado. The thing with any self-help type book (whether it be focused on money, nutrition, fitness, or just life in general) is that they always make some really good points and you can usually pull some helpful nuggets of information from them, however, most of the time, those points could have been summed up in about 15 pages. That means the rest of the book is either just repetitive, taking tangents too far, or is just a bunch of fluff, and I felt that T4WW definitely fit this mold. I actually started out really not liking the book because I felt like the author had kind of a cocky tone, which rubbed me the wrong way. However, I did feel that he had some good ideas and there are definitely things about the book that are extremely motivating. Basically, his premise is that the majority of people in America work really hard for 40 years with the idea that they're going to retire and do all these different things and travel and experience life. His point is that why put your life on hold for all that time when you can redesign your lifestyle so you can start enjoying your life now instead of wasting away in a cubicle? He talks about different ways you can structure your career so that you have the time and freedom to travel and do things now and stop putting off all those experiences for the future, which I think that's a really good point. He talks a lot about the idea that people have the misconception that they need to work and save up millions before they can travel or do certain things, but his point is that it's not really the money, but it's more having that time and freedom and once you have that, you can do a lot of really crazy cool things for much less than people think. So I will admit, I did like a lot of the things he talked about and it really makes you kind of re-examine your priorities and think about things in a new way. However, just like any self-help book, I do think that he oversimplifies a lot of things he talks about, such as how easy it is to set up an online business or work remotely, as well as underestimating some of the costs of foreign travel. Another big issue he repeats over and over in the book is to do everything possible to free up your time, and he discusses everything from cutting conversations short with coworkers to outsourcing any task you have, big to small, to a Virtual Assistant firm in India. So one of my main issues with the book was that I felt like he spends so much effort trying to free up all his time, but for what? When you finally succeed in having all this extra time you don't have good relationships and people to share it with? He also talks a lot about taking all these mini-retirements throughout your life instead of just waiting until the end of your life (which I think is a good idea), but he talks about going to China for 6 months, and then going to South America for awhile, and then going to Europe for a year, and I feel like he kind almost takes the tone that people who don't do things like this are basically cowards who are too afraid to do anything other than what's conventional. Now, don't get me wrong, I love travel as much (probably much more) than the next person, but as I was reading the book, I kind of felt like hey buddy, the reason that not everyone just picks up and leaves for a foreign country for months on end is not because they are scared but because they might actually like their life here in the US, and oh I don't know, actually want to spend time with their family? Throughout the book, he just talks about taking all these trips, which yeah, that's awesome, but at the same time his life just seemed very empty and his reasonings all seemed kind of selfish and that irked me. At the end of the book he did redeem himself a little bit because he addressed some of these points and talked about the importance of service and continual learning which I thought was good, but I felt like his logic was a little scattered. So all in all, I'd definitely recommend the book because it is very thought-provoking, however, you just have to be wise enough to pull out the things that are applicable to your life and leave the rest.

Whew, that was a long post...but you know me, I tend to ramble! But get excited for tomorrow because I've got a special themed week of dinners that I'm pumped share with all of you...see ya then! :)

I'm so excited I can barely stand it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday/Book Club: The Help

Happy Wednesday Y'all...I actually dragged my butt out of bed this morning to go to the gym, so in the spirit of productivity, I'm killing two birds with one stone for today's post. It's been awhile since I've done a book review, so that's my topic for today, but I always wanted to link up with Jamie over at "This Kind of Love" for What I'm Loving Wednesday because I absolutely LOVED this book. The title of the book is "The Help" and it was written by Kathryn Stockett; it was definitely one of the best books I've read in a long time. The story is set in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960's, and it focuses around the white woman and black women who work in their homes. What I found so interesting about the story is that it showed a side of the civil rights movement that I had never really thought about. Many of the events during the Civil Rights era that people tend to think were more dramatic and revolved around men, whether it was some heinous act committed by the KKK or a powerful speech by Martin Luther King. In contrast, The Help was very female driven, and it focused more on the engrained attitudes and strict social codes of the time as opposed to a specific event such as a black male students getting to attend a white university in the South. One of the things I loved about the book was how the story was told from the points of view of three very different characters in the book. It made the story so engaging and it allowed you to really be transported through their stylistic voices that the author used when each character was speaking. At the heart of the story is this extremely odd dynamic that existed between blacks and whites in the South where a black maid would essentially be a part of the family and raise the children of the househousehold, but whites still viewed blacks as being inferior. There is this strange mix of love and devotion that whites have for the blacks because they grew up as children who were raised by a black maid and they have their own kids raised by black maids, however, blacks are also viewed as unequal and dirty. I think that Kathryn Stockett does an excellent job of putting this strange relationship into words and distilling that human experience for the reader. Also, as much as this book was about civil rights, but it also really focused on woman's rights and how their role in the world was also changing so drastically at this time. In Jackson in the 1960's, it was very much still women were supposed to get married and not work, so the fact that Skeeter (one of the 3 main storyteller's in the book) had ambitions beyond this default future was odd. I thought that the fact that the as she was writing her book, she was corresponding with this high-powered senior level female editor out in New York City (who was Jewish to top it off!) as she was just a stark contrast to demonstrate that life wasn't this backward in all parts of the country. This is a book that really pulls you in, and makes you feel, and I'd highly recommend it. (Also, they are making it into a movie that comes out later this year...the cast looks awesome, so I'm really excited to see that once it comes out!)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What I'm Loving Wednesday!

Happy Hump Day everyone!! For some reason this week seems really long already, so I thought linking up with Jamie at This Kind of Love (love her blog!) and doing a happy blog post about things that I'm loving right now would be the perfect thing to perk me goes...

1. My sweet husband comes home tomorrow! He's been over in the Netherlands for work for the past two weeks, and I'm so ready to have him back!! I wish I could have gone with him (boo work!), but here are some pretty pictures he sent me the other day from his trip:

He's been busy busy using his smarty pants engineering skills on a wind farm!
 2. I know I'm a little late to get on this bandwagon, but I got my first pair of Tom's Shoes a few weeks ago, and I love them!! I'm wearing them today, and they are super comfortable, and I love the philanthropic vision of their company. I got the classic olive canvas ones, because I thought the color would be versatile and not show dirt:


So now that I have one pair, I am dying to get a few more...I'd really like some red ones (with the rope soles!), some wedges (I need these), and I'm DYING for some glittery ones!

3. When I was in Charleston this past weekend, I ended up getting two of these solid color strapless maxi dresses from Forever 21. I normally don't buy multiples of something unless I really love it and it's a great deal, and this maxi dress definitely fell into both of those categories! It's very very light (we're talking borderline sheer), which will be perfect for the hot summer days that are rapidly approaching. (Actually the temperature gauge in my Jeep said it was 90 degrees when I went to go take the dog out at lunch, so I'm pretty sure summer is already here!) I got the dress in black and teal, and the best part is they were only $10 a piece! Talk about a steal! I plan on wearing these around all summer, and since they're very simple they can be easily dressed up or down with a scarf or jewelry.

That's not me, it's the model from the Forever 21 website...confusing I know...ha.

4. When we were in Charleston this weekend, I took Lola to Camp Bow Wow for the night and I'm obsessed with this place. That's right, Camp Bow Wow is a day camp/overnight camp for dogs. I'm pretty sure that someone like me aka someone that loves their dog like it's their child is their target demographic because while I realize that this is just a fancy kennel, I think that all of the adorable branding and just the whole concept is awesome. Growing up we always had family watch our dog when we went out of town, so I was leery about the idea of taking Lola to a kennel in the first place. However, Cam and I travel a lot, and we don't have family lives within 5 states of us, so there are going to be times that we're going to have to board Lola. However, taking her to Camp Bow Wow I don't feel bad at all about leaving her because she loves it! She is very social and she loves loves loves to play with other dogs, and when she's there she gets to do it all day. I took her there for daycare the other day because they make all first time visitor do a trial day of daycare. When I came to pick Lola up, they gave me a little report card called the Doggy D-tails about how she did, and lets just say that my child is an overacheiver because she got 5 tail wags for her day at Camp Bow Wow which is the best you can get! (Yes, I do realize how ridiculous this all is, I'm fine with it.) When we took her there for the night in Charleston, she seemed to have a really great time again, and what's neat is they have webcams in the dog play areas so we were able to watch her playing from my laptop at the hotel. Camp Bow Wow is a franchise and they have them all over the country, so I'd highly recommend taking your dog here!

5. I'm currently reading "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett and it's excellent so far! I'm almost finished, so I'll do a review as soon as I'm done...

 6. I've been on a big Greek yogurt kick the past couple of months. When mixed with some fruit, it's an easy breakfast to grab when I'm running out the door, and it has a lot of protein, calcium, and nutrients. (Strawberry is my favorite, and it's only 120 calories!) At first I liked Chobani brand Greek yogurt, but they're kind of big and for me, it's a lot of yogurt to eat in one sitting. I've tried a few different brands, but so far my favorite is Voskos Greek yogurt. Great flavor, great texture, and they are blended, so it's not all soupy the way some fruit on the bottom yogurts are.

7. I am loving blogging right now! I am lucky to have my friend Wendi in my office who also likes to blog (check her out her blog Earth Wind & Fire!), which is encouraging and gives me someone to bounce ideas off of. I love reading all the new blogs I've started following, and you can check them out in my blogroll. I love logging in and seeing that I have a new follower or comment, so if you are enjoying my blog, it would really mean a lot if you started following me, and I'll follow you back (if I don't already!)...thanks!! :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Water for Elephants

Last night, I finally went to go see the new movie, Water for Elephants! I say finally like it's been years, when really this movie has been out less than a week, I was just dying to see it! I had been wanting to read the book for awhile, so I finally broke down and did it back in January when I got my new Kindle. I loved the book. The story takes place in a Depression-era traveling circus, so that unique setting was perfect for Sara Gruen's extremely descriptive writing style to paint some beautiful mental images for the reader. The book definitely has some intense themes, but I thought it was a moving story, and it's the type of book that just really allows you to use your imagination because her writing is so descriptive. So when I heard they were making it into a movie, I was so excited, especially because Reese Witherspoon is one of my absolute favorite actresses. Overall, I thought the movie was good...but not great. Not as good as the book, but then again, I feel like it's hard for a movie to be as good as the book because you already have your own preconceived notions of how the characters look in your head, and then it's annoying when they change up the story line, as they always do when adapting a book into a screenplay. To me the biggest thing with the movie that was different than the book was the fact that they took the whole story line of the older Jacob Jankowski out completely. In the book, the chapters alternate between what's happening in the 1930's and the present, where Jacob is in the nursing home. I feel like Gruen did an excellent job of candidly describing the challenges that go along with aging, and it only makes his flashbacks of his life as a young man more poignant by contrasting it with him as an elderly man. In the movie, they basically just showed him as an old man in the beginning, he started telling his tale, and then they didn't show him as an old man again until the end. I was hoping they would have given the movie more of the Notebook treatment where they actually flash between the characters at the different points in their life. I think it would have made the film much more powerful. As far as the casting, it was just alright for me. I feel that sometimes when you have big starts in a film adaptation of a book, it's hard to see the celebrity as that particular character because you just think of them in other ways. That how I felt about Reese and RPatz, they were both just ok. I think I just imagined Marlena much differently in the book, so while I love Reese Witherspoon and I think that she did a decently good job in the role, her strength to me is much more romantic comedy. And then Robert Pattinson is not at all how I imagined Jacob Jankowski in the book, and honestly, he's just not that great of an actor in my opinion. I did think that Christoph Waltz was well cast in the role of August, because he really is able to strike that balance between charm and just pure viciousness. According to my hubby (who I dragged to the movie with me), his sort of schizophrenic personality that wavers between the guy that's gregarious and likable and a person who's unstable and violent is very similar to the role he played in Inglorious Bastards. (I fell asleep during that movie so I have no idea) Although in my mind, I really pictured August as Billy Zane circa Titanic, just very debonair with a dark side, and Christoph's wasn't quite as smooth to me. So overall, it was a pretty good film, but I'd highly recommend the book if you haven't read it yet!

However, the thing that I did really love about the film was Reese Witherspoon's whole look in the movie, she was gorgeous. Her 1930's hair, makeup, and wardrobe were spot on and she just really looked fabulous. I loved the light blonde hair with the waves and big curls, and then she wore a couple head scarves throughout the movie which I thought were really cute. I also loved the great bias cut dresses she wore throughout the movie, her wardrobe was super feminine and elegant. But my favorite thing about her look was her makeup; I love loved the smoky eye she was sporting in some of the scenes, definitely going to try something like that soon!

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