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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Using a Skateboard as a Shelf :: Make a Personal Statement in Your Home Decorating

Looking to make a bold decorating statement in your home? Think outside the box and take a look around your garage for treasures!

My hubby was an avid skateboarder back in the day, and when we needed a shelf for a speaker in our living room, he suggested using one of his old skateboards that was just collecting dust in the garage.

The other half of this project, the shelf brackets, were also collecting dust in the garage. I had picked them up at Restoration Hardware on clearance for just $5 each several years ago, with the intention of doing something cool with them... well, they finally found their home! Check it out!

Skateboard Shelf Collage

I think this turned out SO awesome!

Please ignore the fact that the Meowna Lisa is not centered in the photo... I keep forgetting to fix that... :)


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Help your kiddo stay safe this Halloween with Stride Ride Racer Light shoes!

“I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Stride Rite. I received products to facilitate my review and thank me for my participation.”

Halloween Collage

Halloween is here! We have been doing some really fun Halloween activities and crafts over the past couple of weeks, and that has included wearing many costumes. My kiddo can't choose just one costume and went through a wardrobe change during her Halloween party over the weekend - she started as a princess and later changed into a "rainbow" (as you can see, rainbows have more freedom to run down slides than princesses in dresses).

Stride Rite Collage 1

People ask what she will be for Halloween, and I tell them, "Indecisive." :) She has asked to be a princess, a pirate, a mermaid, an owl... Today she dressed as a witch, and you should check out her awesome Halloween shoes - they LIGHT UP!!!!

Stride Rite Halloween Collage

So no matter what costume she chooses tomorrow night for trick or treating, she will be wearing those Stride Rite Starpower Racer Lights shoes! The shoes light up with every step she takes, so they make her more visible in the dark. We will also give the kids each a glow stick to wear around their necks so we can see them better, and we will carry flash lights for safety, but I am totally grateful for light up shoes!

My kiddo adores the light up component of the shoes, but she also calls them her "running shoes" (appropriately). She is extremely active, and she always wants her "running shoes" when we are headed out to play so she can run faster. Smart kid!

In my experience, Stride Rite means quality. One of the first pairs of shoes that we bought for her when she started to walk were Stride Rites, and they held up SO much better than the inexpensive shoes we had bought at our local superstore. They held up so well that even though she played hard in them, she outgrew them before they were worn out, so we were able to hand them down to someone else! The inexpensive store shoes wore out before she outgrew them. Stride Rites are awesome quality and are way worth the few extra bucks just because of their longevity!

Stride Rite Collage 2

Stride Rite shoes have a ton of light up and themed shoe options to go with any Halloween costume. Check out their Halloween shop HERE. They are offering themed shoes around some of the season’s hottest costumes like Spider-Man, Captain America, Star Wars, Disney Princess and Minnie Mouse. They carry several brands, including Stride Rite, Sperry Top-Sider, Keds, Saucony and Jessica Simpson.

Racer Lights™ by Stride Rite Starpower (Toddler) :: $52.00

Connect with Stride Rite ::
Shop their Online Marketplace
Like on Facebook
Follow on Twitter

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mario and Luigi Super Mario Brothers Crochet Granny Square Blanket Patterns

Mario & Luigi Granny Square Crochet Design Collage

Thanks to Pinterest, I stumbled upon a really cool Mario Brothers crocheted blanket that uses granny squares to make up the pixels. NERD ALERT! This is absolutely the coolest and most perfect geeky gift for my brothers! I am planning to make one for each of my little brothers (who are really 27 years old, but about 12 at heart) for Christmas. One Mario, one Luigi.

Each blanket requires 252 granny squares - seriously, why am I signing myself up for this? Yes, I am crazy to want to take on this many granny squares at once, and it may take me until Christmas 2014 or 2015 based on the rate that I crochet (and how easily I am distracted from projects with other projects.. oh look, something shiny on Pinterest...) but my brothers will LOVE them, so it's worth it (little buggers BETTER love them...).

I wasn't sure what colors I wanted to do, so I started playing in Excel (I'm a spreadsheet nerd) and came up with several options. Some are more old school colors, while some incorporate newer Mario color schemes into the old school 8-bit character.

I figure I might as well share the color options I came up with in order to hopefully save someone else the time it would take to do it themselves.

If you don't know how to crochet a granny square (it's simple), check out the great tutorial on The Purl Bee.

UPDATE 1/29/2014 ::
I've gotten a few questions about sizing of this blanket... my suggestion is to make a few granny squares of different sizes (2 row, 3 row, 4 row...) and then measure each square and multiply by 14 for the width and 18 for the length to see how large your finished blanket would be.

For a smaller throw, a 2 row granny would probably work fine. But if you want more of a bedspread size, you might need to go with a 4 row granny.

The size of your granny squares will depend on your hook choice and crocheting style (I crochet pretty tight, even when I remind myself to loosen up), so it really is a good idea to make a few samples and measure them to estimate your finished size.



Thursday, June 27, 2013

Recipe :: Healthy Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Lettuce Green SaladHere's the salad dressing that I've been using on my Arbonne 30 Days to Feeling Fit program.

:: Ingredients ::
Apple cider vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Minced garlic
Mrs. Dash table blend
Stevia, just a dash (totally optional, if you need to sweeten it up a bit)

I mix this in a half-pint sized Mason jar. My ratio is about 1/2 vinegar to 1/2 EVOO - ish. I just throw it together, so it's not an exact science.

I add about 2 teaspoons of minced garlic (again, this is a total estimate - I just scoop a couple globs out of the jar with my finger), a few good shakes of Mrs. Dash, and literally a tiny sprinkle of Stevia, cause that stuff is strong. I sometimes forget the Stevia all together, and I don't really miss it.

The only problem with using the mason jar is that it takes a moment to get the lid off of the jar after shaking it up, so the oil and vinegar start to separate, and the garlic starts to sink before I can get the lid off to pour.

I have 2 suggestions for an upgrade.

I just purchased this one:

...and Anne uses this one:

I just picked mine up at Target the other day, but haven't used it yet. It gets great reviews on Amazon, but I almost wish I had ordered the one Anne has because I love the built in whisk. It doesn't have very good reviews on Amazon, but Anne loves it.



Thursday, June 20, 2013

I'm Shrinking!

No Beer... oh the humanity!
Earlier this year, I decided that it was high time to lose the weight I had gained since getting pregnant.

My kiddo is 2.5, so I can't really call this "baby weight" any longer.

I've tried all kinds of diets. Low carb. Calorie counting. Cabbage soup (yummy for about the first 2 days, then it is torture). Weight Watchers Points program and Core program, at different times.

WW Core worked pretty well in the past, so I gave it a try again. But this time, I just couldn't kick my sweet tooth, and couldn't fight the carb cravings I was having. I never felt "full" or "satisfied" - this led to giving in to those pesky food cravings, which sabotaged my whole plan. No bueno.

In mid May, I went to lunch with my friend Cheri. She was slim, radiant, and energetic. *jealous* I was chubby, washed out, and exhausted.

I already knew her secret. She had told me once before about how she successfully changed her eating habits and got healthy and fit, but at the time, I wasn't ready to hear it. I was blinded by hot wings and bagels and pasta. But this time, I was desperate really ready to listen.

Cheri is an Arbonne consultant. She used their nutrition products to put herself on the path to a more healthy lifestyle.

At first, I was skeptical, but this time, I was desperate to get on that path, so I listened more openly. I decided to give it a shot. 30 Days to Feeling Fit, sign me up.

The program consists of meal replacement protein shakes (plus some other goodies) and a food plan that focuses on fresh, real, whole, lean foods. No fast food, very little processed food (if any), water and herbal teas.

And no beer. *bloodchilling scream*

No, not forever. *sigh of relief* Just for the first 30 days. I thought this part would be agony...

But really, the point is to give your body 30 days of really healthy stuff, to kind of program it to crave the healthy stuff instead of the crap.

30 days. I can do this.

I'll be honest, the first couple of days was a tiny bit difficult, and it took a good week to get the hang of the food program. The hubs helped me by cleaning off an entire shelf of the pantry so that my special healthy food items could have a home, and that helped a ton.

After that initial push and learning curve, it has been so easy. Seriously.

I no longer have cravings for bread, pasta and baked goods. They are in the house, but I just pass them by. I make healthy choices when we go out to eat (our dining-out has decreased dramatically since I started this program), and am always conscious of what I'm putting in my body.

I've been using the My Fitness Pal app on my phone to track my food (and, as a result, calories) so that I know what's working and what's not.

As of today... DAY 30... I've lost 12 pounds. 

12 pounds down!
I just ordered my second 30-day supply of Arbonne goodies, so the plan is to keep on trucking until I lose all of the "baby weight" that my body has been so reluctant to give up. Plus the "happy marriage weight" that I've gained since our wedding.

I have a long road ahead, but because of the results I've seen so far, I'm extremely determined.

I won't lie, this program isn't cheap, but it's so worth it. Especially since our grocery/dining-out bills have shrunk along with my waistline. I think it has about balanced itself out, financially.

But even if it hadn't, this is worth it. This is the first time I've been on a "diet" that has worked and is not discouraging or difficult. It's easy, HEALTHY and effective.

Now I just need to get my lazy butt in gear to exercise. Can you imagine my results if I was doing more than just taking 30 minute walks a few times a week?

Swimsuit season, here I come!


Monday, May 20, 2013

Beer Tasting Notes :: Epic Brewing Brainless on Peaches

I was so excited when my hubby sent me a picture of the souvenirs he acquired for me during his trip to meet his new coworkers at Boulder Beer in Colorado! Here's another one from the bunch:

Epic Brewing Brainless on Peaches Belgian Style Ale
This beer did not dissapoint. Oaky, dry white wine overtone mingled with very light sour peach and Belgian yeast. Smells sweeter than it is. Not overly peachy, just an essence in the finish. Gets sweeter and more tangy the more you drink it.

Color me peachily impressed.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Beer Tasting Notes :: Dogfish Head 120 Minute Imperial IPA

So does everyone remember the hype about Pliny the Younger? Raise your hand if you stood in line to sample that fabled ale at any point during its ultra-limited release in NorCal. I personally didn't. I wasn't planning to even sample it, but stumbled upon it during Sacramento Beer Week. You can read my tasting notes here

So yes, it was a lovely beer. A very lovely beer. It was a joy to drink it, and I do wish that it wasn't quite so mythical and rare. 

However, I have a beer to share with you that is damn near equal (dare I say BETTER) than Pliny the Younger, and is much more available. Check it out:

Dogfish 120 Minute IPA
Sweet, oh so sweet! Beautiful fruity hops! Comfortable warm alcohol that relaxed my body from the inside out. Very balanced and just beautiful. Very impressive.

The verdict: 120 Minute wins the battle, in my opinion. It's more readily available, though pricey - but well worth the cost for the effort put into it - continuously hopped during a 2 hour boil, then dry hopped daily in the fermenter for an entire month, then aged for another month on whole leaf hops.* Seriously, Dogfish put an amazing beer forth in 120 Minute.

I don't want to discount PTY, but its rarity definitely puts it behind the running for me. PTY is gorgeous and tasty, but my chances of sampling it again? Who knows! And my chances of sampling 120M again? 100%.

Bravo, and thank you, Dogfish Head!


*Source: BeerAdvocate

Monday, May 13, 2013

Easy Mother's Day Craft :: Use a Child's Painting to make a Card for Mom (and Nana and Grandma)

I hung mine on my cork board in the kitchen - I LOOOOVE it!
My kiddo loves to paint. Watercolors are her chosen medium.

I went to our local newspaper office and purchased an "end roll" (last bit of paper left over from a news run - but it's actually a TON of paper!) for just a few bucks, and we've been using it as watercolor paper. She has so many paintings that I don't know what to do with them all. Seriously, this kid LOVES to paint.

I have photographed most of her paintings, so when the time comes, I can recycle them... or, I can upcycle them! Today, I had the brilliant idea to use a couple of her paintings to make cards for Mother's Day for myself, my mom (Nana) and Jim's mom (Grandma).

For my card, I used a sheet of white card stock, scissors, a hole punch, yarn, and a painting. I simply cut a section of the painting down to about 7.5x10, laid it on top of the card stock, punched holes all around, and then sewed them together with yarn. SO. EASY! Look at how it came out:

For Nana and Grandma, I simply cut out a piece of each painting, cut into a shape (heart, rectangle, etc). I then punched two holes at the top and ran a piece of yarn through each hole and tied it in a bow so that the card could be hung. I used a purple sharpie to write "Happy Mother's Day" on each. Again, SO EASY, even a Dad could to it... *wink*

This could easily be done for any occasion. Which means I'll be saving ALL of Lily's paintings so I can upcycle them for special occasions!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you moms out there! Hope you had a lovely day!



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Beer Tasting Notes :: Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon Russian Imperial Stout

As you know, my husband is my hero because he brings me beery gifts. Here's another from the Colorado trip.

Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon Russian Imperial Stout
Pitch black with a tan head. Heavily roasted malt flavor, almost burnt. Bitter chocolate, espresso beans, molasses and licorice. Very boozy and warm going down. Complex and tasty stout


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Boulder Beer :: Our New Home Away From Home

I am super stoked to share that my hubby is now the West Coast Territory Manager for Boulder Beer

We are so excited and feel very fortunate to be asked to join such a great team! I say "WE" because they don't just get Jim, they also get me, the beer-event-display-design-goddess. I LOVE making our tables look awesome, intriguing and approachable at brew fests and tasting events, and Jim and I totally love talking to people about the flavors of the beers they are sampling, so I am stoked to be back in the game!

It is also totally awesome that I have tried and enjoyed several Boulder beers. Here are links to my tasting notes:
Never Summer Ale
Shakenbake Rye IPA (collaboration with Knee Deep)
Kinda Blue Blueberry Wheat
Hazed and Infused Dry-Hopped Ale
Mojo Risin' Double IPA
Obovoid Oak-Aged Oatmeal Stout
Honey of a Saison

Check out the awesome new video from Boulder Beer! 

Jeff Brown's comment at the end had me cracking up! Bahahaha!

I am SO excited to be a part of the Boulder family! This is going to be a blast!



Sunday, April 28, 2013

One of the benefits of being married to a Beer Man... beery gifts!

Check out the photo that my hubby just sent me from Colorado!

souvenir beers from Colorado

These are my souvenirs from his trip!! Oh blessed be the craft beer gods and goddesses for making so many interesting and tasty brews!

:: The Beery Gifts ::
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project Surette Provision Saison
Odell Brewing Tree Shaker Imperial IPA
Crabtree Brewing Berliner Weisse Ale
Funkwerks Saison

Stay tuned for tasting notes on all of these beers once they make it home to California! I'll link above as I post the notes, for easy reference.



Monday, April 22, 2013

Celebrating Earth Day :: Making Small Changes that add up to Big Mother Earth Hugs

Earth-Day-Dana-Gray (1)
Earth Day art by Dana Gray
Happy Earth Day!!

What did you do to celebrate Earth Day Weekend?

My plan on Earth Day weekend always includes being outdoors as much as possible. Luckily, my kid loves being outdoors as much as I do, so my hubby and I spent a lot of time doing yard work while Lily played. Our favorite hummingbird, who has chosen our trees as her property and chases off other birds, chirruped at us all day. I need to make her a feeder soon...

Our happy little painter.
earth day painting

We did spring cleaning in our greenhouse (which is a huge enclosed covered patio with an "indoor" tree growing inside). Things were SO overgrown, so it was a ton of work. But it really does look so much better! Still a lot to do, though.

Time to wake up the gnomes!
Happy Earth Day!

I was inspired by Anne's craft idea post, so we rode our bikes to the craft store to get some pony beads so we could make sun catchers. Lily was SO enthused when I opened the window the next morning and showed her that I had hung the sun catcher! She swung it like a pendulum, and was just so pleased! Definitely a hit!

Enjoying the colors.
earth day sun catcher

And we participated in the local Great Cloth Diaper Change event, which was pretty fun! I had to bribe Lily with fruit snacks (her kryptonite) to pose for the photographer who was volunteering at the event.

My little lady in her adorable Sauconys.
earth day cloth diaper change

Aside from one major meltdown after a little friend's 2nd birthday party, we had a truly lovely weekend.

So I would like to leave you all with a few ideas to consider for making your lifestyle a little more green.
It really is easy to make a few small changes in the way we do things to help love our Earth.

  • Recycle! It's so important!
  • Purchase reusable grocery bags - or make your own!
  • Use reusable lunch bags - I use Planet Wise brand.
  • Use cloth diapers - I recommend Thirsties or Charlie Banana.
  • Use cloth menstrual pads - read more about what I think of these by clicking here.
  • Switch to cloth napkins - I have made a few sets for myself and have rescued sets from thrift! They are awesome!
  • Grow your own fruits and veggies, or shop at local farmer's markets. This reduces carbon waste in transporting food from far away. Eat organic when possible - pesticides are awful for our environment and our bodies.
  • Upcycle clothing, disposable containers, and more into reusable goods and craft projects!
  • Reuse! Thrifting not only helps to reuse things that have been cast aside by someone else, but it saves you money too!
  • Natural cleaning products - use vinegar and baking soda to clean your house and wool dryer balls in your dryer. Also, dry laundry on a clothes line in good weather.

Hopefully you will feel inspired to make greener choices based on some of those suggestions. I have found that being "green" really is easier than I expected!



Saturday, April 20, 2013

One for the Birds :: Earth Day Crafts to Celebrate Wildlife

pamper your wild friends this Earth DayWith Earth Day around the corner, we are resolving to reduce our carbon footprint, to reuse and repurpose what we can, and to recycle and compost our waste.

We plant gardens and trees, clean and beautify rivers and streams and celebrate the wonder of the flora around us.

But what about our furry and feathered friends?

My family's little piece of the pie is right off the freeway and in the middle of a boring little neighborhood, but at any given moment, especially in the spring, there are buzzing bees and dragonflies, butterflies and hummingbirds, finches, quail, robins and jays and nesting doves.

We have a very happy (and thanks to the little old lady next door - well fed) colony of squirrels that terrorizes the dog as well as raccoons and possums that walk the fence line.

How can I not show my wild kingdom some love on Earth Day?

I scoured pinterest for the very best ways to spoil the wildlife. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Gelatin (or suet) birdfeeders (fancy gourmet for the birds) 

2. Fancy Bird Café Feeders (super cute feeders made from kitchen dishes) 

3. Easy DIY bird feeder from a toilet paper roll (just did this yesterday and the birdies love it! and so did my 3 year old!) 

6. Yarn Scraps for Bird Nests (Save all those scraps when crafting and let the birds build fancy nests.)

8. Build a Bird House - 49 great pictures to get you inspired 

9. Hummingbird Nectar Recipe (National Audubon Society recommends NO red food coloring, honey or other artificial sweeteners!) 

10. Build a Bat Box (Brown bats can eat up to 1000 mosquitos an hour!! Go Bats!) 

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Great Cloth Diaper Change :: Earth Day Weekend 2013 :: Sacramento Event Information


Attention all Sacramento Area cloth diapering families!

Tomorrow is the Great Cloth Diaper Change!

3909 Bradshaw Road
Sacramento, CA 95827
Saturday, April 20, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM (PDT)

RSRDGCDClogoJoin us and help to break the 2012 Guiness World Record for the most cloth diapers changed at one time! Last year, we succeeded in setting the new world record of 8,251 qualifying participants at 189 locations on 4 continents! The 2011 record was 5026 simultaneous cloth diaper changes!

Click HERE to get your free Eventbrite ticket for entry to the event.

The event is sponsored by Kissed by the Moon, an online cloth diaper and eco-friendly product shop, locally-based in Elk Grove, California. Thanks, Tami, for all of your hard work!

Hope to see you at Safetyville!


Beer Tasting Notes :: Hangar 24 Orange Wheat

Here's a wonderful beer that I first tasted at this year's Capital Beer Fest.

This is a perfect summer beer, to be savored while basking in the sun by a body of water, covered in tanning oil (your body, not your beer), and listening to some awesome summer tunes.

Hangar 24 Orange Wheat: Fresh orange aroma, earthy wheat malt flavor with a lightly tangy and dry finish. Pretty balanced, but more on the dry side. Crisp, lively carbonation. Very refreshing.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Make your own Sun Catchers :: Supervised Craft for Kids for Earth Day {or any day} :: Can the Earth Catch the Sun?

2013 Earth Day Sun Catcher Collage2

Can the Earth Catch the Sun?

You bet!

While the oven was hot when we did our Recycled Earth Day Crayons, we thought we would do another one of our favorite repurposing crafts. Sun catchers!

These sun catchers are made from melted pony beads - so easy, and so fun!

Sun Catcher (2)

We chose to use Earthy blues, greens and whites to celebrate Earth Day, but the awesome thing about this project is that you can make them for any holiday, event, mood or season by just changing the colors you use!

Sun Catcher (3)

Place the oven-proof containers on a cookie sheet, and put it in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until melted. Once these cool, they pop right out of the container. Drill a quick hole at the top and string some fishing line, and you have a lovely little Earthy sun catcher for the window.

Granted, these aren't perfectly accurate depictions of the planet :) but it is art... and the beads have taken some liberties!

Sun Catcher (5-2)

This is another Pinterest find. Can you tell that I am hooked?

Sun Catcher (5-1)

"These are going in the playroom," I was told. Fine by me!

Sun Catcher (6)

I think that they are perfect.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Make your own Recycled Crayons for Earth Day :: Color the Earth Green {and Blue!}

2013 Earth Day Crayon Craft Collage

In our house, we like to draw.

My big man (who is already 3 and a half!!) likes to write notes, do homework, make lists, and plain ole draw draw draw!  He does this with pencils, chalk (all over the bricks, sidewalk, house, gate...much to his Da's dismay), and pens, and of course, crayons!

So, I thought a wonderful way to celebrate Earth Day, April 22nd, would be to make our own Earth crayons.

I was inspired by an image on Pinterest, so I can't take credit for originality.....but wow! Did we have fun! This is also a nice quiet activity that can be done anywhere...we spread out on the carpet while watching Pooh.   

Little hands make quick work of peeling crayon wrappers. I had hoped that we could use sun power to melt the crayons, but it rained today and ruined my plans. Luckily, the oven can do the same thing, so about 12 minutes at 230 degrees and you have new crayons from old and broken ones.  A beautiful way to recycle!

Big Man says he is going to share these with his friends; maybe Te and Mow, Jakey and Vee and another special little Lily flower who likes to hug trees, collect acorns and draw, too!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Celebrate Earth Day 2013 :: Recycled, Upcycled and Reusable Home Good Patterns {Pinterest Round Up}

Earth Day Craft Collage 2013 - 2-1

Are you crafty? Do you want to hug the planet by reducing your contribution to landfills? Do you like to upcycle old clothes and linens into reusable goods? Do you have an unbelievable stash of fabric and yarn that you've been hoarding and really need to destash??

Good, me too.

To celebrate Earth Day, I scoured Pinterest to find the best tutorials for reusable goods that can replace disposable goods in our homes.

Replace your paper napkins, paper towels, plastic baggies, plastic (and paper!) shopping bags, sponges and disposable swiffer pads with lovely, fashionable, long-lasting, reusable cloth!

It really is easy, and does SO much for our planet! Also, can you imagine how cute you'll feel with all of your awesome stashed fabric ACTUALLY IN USE?! I'm so excited!

1. Sandwich Cozy (doubles as a placemat!)
2. Mitred Corner Cloth Napkins (I've already made 2 sets using this pattern, and I LOVE it!)
3. Lunch Box Cloth Napkins (alternative corner method if the mitered corners intimidate you)
4. Knotted Reusable Lunch Sacks (no more brown bagging it!)
5. Crocheted Reusable Kitchen Sponge 1 (fancy looking sponges)
6. Crocheted Wash Cloths (to replace paper towels/sponges)
7. Crocheted Reusable Kitchen Sponge 2 (super basic sponges)
8. Crocheted Reusable Face Scrubbers (to replace the disposable cotton rounds)
9. Upcycled T-Shirt Shopping Bags (out with plastic bags!)
10. Crocheted Market Bag (I hear the farmer's market calling my name...)
11. Reusable Kitchen Towels (designed to act like a paper towel roll!)
12. Reusable Coffee Cozy (stop wasting those cardboard ones, and look fashionable at the same time!
13. Reusable Fleece Swiffer Pads (so easy, only need scissors! no sew!)


Monday, April 15, 2013

Books Everyone Should Read :: via Grammarly & Information is Beautiful

I ran across this great book cloud on Grammarly's Facebook feed last week (original image can be found here), and I thought the list was fantastic (with the exception of Twilight - that just doesn't fit into this list in my opinion)!

I decided that I wanted to take the time to type it out in list form so that it is easier to read.... and so that I can keep track of what I've read (in bold).

I'm competitive, what can I say? 
Books Everyone Should Read via Grammarly

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
All Quiet on the Western Front
Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The
Animal Farm
Anna Karenina
Anne of Green Gables
Atlas Shrugged
Bell Jar, The
Blood Meridian
Brave New World
Brothers Karamazov, The
Chronicles of Narnia, The
Clockwork Orange, A
Cold Comfort Farm
Color Purple, The
Confederacy of Dunces, A
Crime and Punishment
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, The
Da Vinci Code, The
David Copperfield
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Don Quixote
Ender's Game
Farewell to Arms, A
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Fountainhead, The
Glass Bead Game, The
Gone with the Wind
Good Earth, The
Grapes of Wrath, The
Great Expectations
Handmaid's Tale, The
Harry Potter
Heart of Darkness
His Dark Materials
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The
Hobbit, The
Invisible Man
Jane Eyre
Kite Runner, The
Leopard, The
Les Miserables
Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, The
Life of Pi
Little Prince, The
Little Women
Lonesome Dove
Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Rings, The
Love in the Time of Cholera
Madame Bovary
Master and Margarita, The
Memoirs of a Geisha
Midnight's Children
Name of the Rose, The
Of Human Bondage
Of Mice and Men
Old Man and the Sea, The
On the Road
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Oscar and Lucinda
Picture of Dorian Gray, The
Prayer for Owen Meany, A
Pride and Prejudice
Remains of the Day, The
Remembrance of Things Past
Road, The
Scarlet Letter, The
Sense and Sensibility
Sound and the Fury, The
Stranger in a Strange Land
Stranger, The
Tale of Two Cities, A
Tess of the D'Ubervilles
The Jungle
Thousand Splendid Suns, A
Three Musketeers, The
Time Traveler's Wife, The
Tin Drum, The
To Kill a Mockingbird
Unbearable Lightness of Being, The
Vanity Fair
War and Peace
Watership Down
Wind in the Willows, The
Winnie the Pooh
Wuthering Heights

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Rory Gilmore Book List & Reading Challenge :: How Many Have YOU Read?

I recently formed a reading club called the Litwits, and though we have only had 2 meetings, I am LOVING this group! It is so great to spend time with other readers!

At our last meeting we discussed a book/reading list that has surfaced on the internet that is being attributed to Rory Gilmore. Yes, THAT Rory Gilmore, from the show. So what if she is a fictional character? This is a pretty great list! 

Sure, there are several listed that do not interest me, but there are many that DO interest me. Because I am a total book nerd myself, I decided that I needed to have my own Rory list on my blog so that I can keep track of what I've read (in bold). There are a number of books on this list that I own, yet haven't read, so they will be easy targets. 

So here it is, in all its glory... 

The Rory Gilmore Reading List

1984 by George Orwell
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Archidamian War by Donald Kagan
The Art of Fiction by Henry James
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Babe by Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter Duffy
Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
Bridgadoon by Alan Jay Lerner
Candide by Voltaire
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman
Christine by Stephen King
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
The Collected Short Stories by Eudora Welty
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Complete Novels by Dawn Powell
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père
Cousin Bette by Honor’e de Balzac
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber – started and not finished
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Cujo by Stephen King
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Daisy Miller by Henry James
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
David and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.D
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Deenie by Judy Blume
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx
The Divine Comedy by Dante
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Don Quixote by Cervantes
Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhrv
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Eloise by Kay Thompson
Emily the Strange by Roger Reger
Emma by Jane Austen
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Ethics by Spinoza
Europe through the Back Door, 2003 by Rick Steves
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Extravagance by Gary Krist
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore
The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
The Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1 of The Lord of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
Fletch by Gregory McDonald
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
George W. Bushism: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President by Jacob Weisberg
Gidget by Fredrick Kohner
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Godfather: Book 1 by Mario Puzo
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Alvin Granowsky
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
The Gospel According to Judy Bloom
The Graduate by Charles Webb
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Group by Mary McCarthy
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
Henry IV, part I by William Shakespeare
Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare
Henry V by William Shakespeare
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris
The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
How the Light Gets in by M. J. Hyland
Howl by Allen Gingsburg
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Iliad by Homer
I’m with the Band by Pamela des Barres
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy
It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Lady Chatterleys’ Lover by D. H. Lawrence
The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Love Story by Erich Segal
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Manticore by Robertson Davies
Marathon Man by William Goldman
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Mencken’s Chrestomathy by H. R. Mencken
The Merry Wives of Windsro by William Shakespeare
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion by Jim Irvin
Moliere: A Biography by Hobart Chatfield Taylor
A Monetary History of the United States by Milton Friedman
Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret
A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister by Julie Mars
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh
My Life as Author and Editor by H. R. Mencken
My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult – read
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen
New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Night by Elie Wiesel
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – read
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John P. McGowan
Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night/Come Back to Sorrento, Turn, Magic Wheel/Angels on Toast/A Time to be Born by Dawn Powell
Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Old School by Tobias Wolff
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan
Oracle Night by Paul Auster
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Othello by Shakespeare
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
Out of Africa by Isac Dineson
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Donald Kagan
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
The Portable Nietzche by Fredrich Nietzche
The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill by Ron Suskind
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 
Property by Valerie Martin
Pushkin: A Biography by T. J. Binyon
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Quattrocento by James Mckean
A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
Rapunzel by Grimm Brothers
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad by Virginia Holman
The Return of the King: The Lord of the Rings Book 3 by J. R. R. Tolkien
R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
Rita Hayworth by Stephen King
Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry Robert
Roman Fever by Edith Wharton
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
Sanctuary by William Faulkner
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
The Scarecrow of Oz by Frank L. Baum
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman
Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965 by Dawn Powell
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A Separate Peace by John Knowles - my dog is named after a character in this book (Phineas)
Several Biographies of Winston Churchill
Sexus by Henry Miller
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Shane by Jack Shaefer
The Shining by Stephen King
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton
Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Small Island by Andrea Levy
Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
Snow White and Rose Red by Grimm Brothers
Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World by Barrington Moore
The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Julia de Burgos
The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
Songbook by Nick Hornby
The Sonnets by William Shakespeare
Sonnets from the Portuegese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
A Streetcar Named Desiree by Tennessee Williams
Stuart Little by E. B. White
Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
Swimming with Giants: My Encounters with Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Anne Collett
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Term of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
Time and Again by Jack Finney
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 by Sylvia Plath
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Unless by Carol Shields
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyers
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico (Thirty Three and a Third series) by Joe Harvard
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Walt Disney’s Bambi by Felix Salten
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
We Owe You Nothing – Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews edited by Daniel Sinker
What Colour is Your Parachute? 2005 by Richard Nelson Bolles
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane by Henry Farrell
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion


Monday, April 8, 2013

The Truth About Cloth Menstrual Pads

If you are one of my male readers who is normally here for the beer stuff, I’m warning you right now – STOP READING and come back for more beer stuff later. The following is GIRL TALK, and you WILL be grossed out. Cheers!

(Did the gentlemen leave yet? Ok…)

Helloooo, ladies! Let’s talk about menstruation!

(…if the gents hadn’t left before, they sure as shit have now!)

So, down to business.

I have a confession to make. In several parts.

One. I use tampons. Stop the mother-freaking presses! Yes, yes, I know, so do millions of other women. But I feel guilty about it. Every time I flush a pipe mouse (did you know that’s what plumbers call them? With their cute little tails… clogging pipes…) down the toilet, I feel like I am polluting the environment.

But I rationalize with myself. I tell myself, “hey, it’s just like poop, right? I mean, they’re flushable! If I had one extra snack today, I’d have pooped about the size of a tampon… and this flush water goes through heavy treatment… so, therefore, tampons are FINE for the environment…”

Rational thinking for the win.

However, in reality, I have no idea whether or not my rationalization has any truth to it, and I’m kinda scared to research it because I am just not ready to try a menstrual cup (yet) so I have to keep on keepin’ on with the tampon rationalizations.

Don’t judge.

Two. I use cloth pads. And I LOVE THEM. I hear you thinking “Whaaa?” No really, they are fantastic!

However, I don’t use them alone. I still wear tampons. And I don’t wear the pads without a tampon. Yes, I have to wear both. Because I CONSTANTLY and CONSISTENTLY forget to change my tampons and end up leaking, and who wants that to happen at WORK? Not me. So I double up.

But here’s the thing. Though I rationalize myself out of thinking that tampons are bad for the environment, I can’t do that with pads. They aren't flushable. In my mind, they are similar to disposable diapers (though I’m sure there are different components in each), and I've actually researched how bad disposable diapers are for the environment… and yes, I cloth diaper, if you didn't know this already.

So cloth pads it is.

Don’t judge.

Three. I am telling you this because I want to convert ALL of you to using cloth pads. (YOU being the ladies, cause really, if any dudes are still reading, I’d be really floored... and a little impressed)

Why cloth? Because they are SO much more comfortable than disposables. The environmental part is a total bonus, as well as the cost savings over time, but those aren't the real reasons that I want to spread the good word about cloth pads. The truth is that I fricking HATE how chafey and uncomfortable disposable pads are, even the pantyliners that feel like “cotton” or whatever – I can’t stand any of them. They were obviously designed by men who have never worn them and have no clue as to how horribly awful they really feel. Cloth pads feel just like underwear – soft, comfortable, invisible. I almost forget the pad is even there. Which sucks when I also forget about my tampon, and feel that burst of leakage that signals to my brain to RUN (which is nearly impossible to do with your legs pressed together to keep the flow at bay), terrified of red stains on my pants, only to be reminded once in the bathroom stall that I did, in fact protect myself with a comfy little puffy cloud of security.

Don’t judge my brain’s moments of forgetfulness. I blame the proverbial “mommy brain” for this.

Four. I wash my cloth pads with my clothing. My hubby was grossed at first, but he got over it once I reminded him how many times I ran jeans through the wash with huge spots of period leakage, and he never batted an eyelash then, so what’s the big deal now.

Rational thinking for the win, again.

Plus, they can be soaked in a bucket of water first, rinsed in the garage sink to get most of the red out, then run through the laundry. It REALLY isn’t a big deal. Trust me.

Alright, so whether you are convinced about cloth pads or not, I double, no, TRIPLE DOG DARE you to try just one cloth pad for just one day during one period. There are really inexpensive ones on Etsy. Just try it. It will change your world and rock your panties.

Cheers ladies! Thanks for listening. Go forth and wear cloth!

P.S. If you can't tell by the photos, my favorite cloth menstrual pad brand is Charlie Banana.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tony Detroit's Photography on Instagram

I'm not a heavy Instagram user, however there is one user in particular who always commands my attention with his amazingly vivid and visionary photography.

I urge you to go take a look at TonyDetroit's photography on Instagram. His photographs capture the lost, abandoned, forgotten, and very wild soul of downtown Detroit. I find it so utterly sad yet extremely intriguing that a major city in America could be left to crumble and decay in this way...

Here are a couple of his photographs that particularly gripped me:

He has an eye for capturing the character of broken inanimate objects and transforming them into things of haunting beauty.

His photos speak volumes. They speak of broken dreams, sadness of spirit, neglect of former beauty and grandeur. They speak to the core of our beings, rocking perception and punching it into reality.

This is a broken city in a broken economy. This is a reality that can happen anywhere, even in the good old U.S. of A. It is heart wrenching and frightening, but with an ironic and ethereal beauty that can't be ignored.

Please take a few minutes to check out his gallery on Instagram. I hope his photos move you in the same way that they move me.



Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book Review :: The Sunshine When She's Gone by Thea Goodman

The Sunshine When She's GoneThe Sunshine When She's Gone by Thea Goodman
My Goodreads rating: 1 of 5 stars

I received this book for review from the PR company who is promoting it. My best friend Anne and I both read The Sunshine When She's Gone. Neither of us liked it nor understood the motivation of the characters.

In the press release, the PR company refers to this story as a farce. Neither Anne nor I were able to find the humor/farce in this novel. Other reviewers have referred to this book as a satire, yet I find nothing satirical in the writing style or content.

It is a well written text, indeed, but it doesn't read like a comedy, which is what a farce or satire is meant to be. It reads like a serious dramatic novel with a highly improbable and unbelievable plot. The writing style does not convey that this is a tongue-in-cheek look at a couple and circumstances that are meant to be funny.

Also, based on the author's interview on NPR, I don’t get the impression that she meant this to be a farce or satire at all - she seems to give real emotions and characteristics to these people in an attempt to make them really real, but then builds a completely unreal set of circumstances around them. If she truly meant this to be a farce or satire, don't you think she would have been sure to express this in her interview?

The plot is completely unbelievable and the characters are horrid, shallow people, especially the wife. Time and time again over the past couple of weeks since I finished the book, I've tried to put myself in the shoes of the characters in an attempt to understand why they made the decisions they made. But none of them make sense.

What father in his right mind would hop on a plane to another country with a newborn, virtually no supplies, and not contact his wife in 3 days time (except for one voicemail, in which he lied about their whereabouts)? What mother in her right mind wouldn't freak out when she discovered her husband and baby were gone and couldn't get her husband on the phone (over the course of almost 3 days) to confirm their whereabouts?

I am the mother of a 2 year old, and Anne is mother to a 3 year old and a 7 month old, so we know full well how it feels to be overtired, overwhelmed and at wit's end. We know how it feels to be angry and frustrated with our spouses for waking the baby, or not doing the laundry, or not saying the right thing. But neither of us can relate to these characters, especially with the wife, who seems to have these real, caring feelings for her family, but then makes selfish and disgusting choices that in no way back these feelings up and make her utterly detestable.

As mothers, my friend and I both agree that if we hadn't been able to contact our husband (or mother in law) to determine the whereabouts and well being of our child after even a single day, we would be out of our minds with panic, not out gallivanting and drinking with friends and sleeping with ex boyfriends after a full 2 days of ignoring reality. This character pines for her child on one hand, but then turns around and ignores those feelings in favor of a stiff drink (and a stiff something else...) Ridiculous.

I think that the author has a strong writing ability, but this story is awful and her talents have been wasted on this novel.

Also, I am at a loss to understand how this book made Oprah's book of the week list. Totally scratching my head on that one.

View all of my Goodreads reviews


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Introducing The Litwits: A Reading Club for Drinkers {Sacramento, CA}

Hello, my name is Jessica, and I am a Litwit.

I was an English major in college. I'm not that fond of math, I have a crappy memory when it comes to history, I'm totally not into politics or government, and dissecting animals in high school Bio totally icked me out. But I love to read and I love to write, so studying English just made sense. 

Also, I was a little naive when it came to how College Studies could translate into Real Life, so I just chose what sounded like fun. Looking back, I probably should have pursued some kind of earth science... just not physical biology, ew.

I'm obsessed with grammar. I get unbelievably annoyed when I find errors in published newspaper and magazine articles (trust me, it happens more frequently than you'd think). I find myself mentally correcting the Facebook statuses of my friends. One of my favorite Facebook pages is Grammarly. Nerd.

I collect books. I have almost as many books as I have articles of clothing (I thrift, so I have clothing in spades). I stamp the edges of my books to make them prettier and to claim them as mine. Geek.

I also love throwing parties and bringing people together. 

Oh yeah, and good food, beer and wine are staples in my life. There's that too.

It's only natural that these interests led me to start a Reading Club.

Over the past several years, my friends Jeanna, Anne, and I have tossed around the idea of having a book club. We flirted with the idea once or twice, but we never really dove in and made it happen. Recently, the prospect came up again between Anne and I while we were at a brew fest with my friend Carrie and her gals. 

The best ideas are hatched while drinking craft beer.

All of a sudden, it seemed like all of my ladies were talking about wanting to join a club. So it dawned on me that maybe there was a reason that I was hearing this from so many angles. There was a muse at work. So I took the initiative to launch The Litwits Reading Club

I wrote up a quick document outlining my idea, and emailed it to a selection of my fellow bookworms. Some of them invited their fellow bookworms. Everyone was excited. So then, as if meant to be, the idea of the Litwits became a reality.

We had our first meeting last night. Our inaugural group: me, my mom, Anne, Jeanna, Meghan, Claire, Marisa and Bethany. There are several other ladies who are planning to join in as their schedule allows, but I can already tell that this is going to be a very fun and lively group just based on how easily our discussions flowed last night. 

To get the discussion rolling, each of us suggested a few favorite or recently-read books, which I will write up and share in the next couple of days. We discussed what we like to read and why. Some of us read to escape (Fiction), some of us read to learn (Non-fiction), and sometimes we find ourselves reading something in between (Historical Fiction). We are a perfect blend of insightful and thoughtful readers, which will make for an awesome discussion group.

It turns out that we are all crafters as well. So this may just become a Reading and Drinking and Eating and Crafting Club. Be still, my beating heart!

We drank wine and cider and ate amazing snacks. Just to tempt your tastebuds, here's what we ate: guacamole & pita chips, goat cheese & basil & tomato dip with crackers, chocolate covered pretzels, eggplant dip, fresh watermelon, cranberry oatmeal tuxedo chip cookies and Ghirardelli chocolates. Drooling yet?

I would like to thank my Muse for giving me the nudge to bring this together. I owe you a beer, Muse. This is going to be epic.

Call me a nerd, call me a geek, 
call me a Lover of the 
English language and written word. 
Or just call me a Litwit. 
That would be just fine.


Weeds are Flowers, too... in our home, Nature is Magical

Finding wildflowers is one of my great joys in life. But many wildflowers are considered weeds by most people, which is really a bummer to me.

Today I came across this beautiful, and so-pertinent-to-my-life, quote by A.A. Milne.

"Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them."

I love it so much that I decided to put it on a photo I took of a dandelion fluff that Lily handed to me one day in the front yard.
Weeds are Flowers, too, once you get to know them. A.A. Milne - on Wildflower Sunshine
I made this photo look more dreamy using the Photo Funia app.

The dandelion is considered a pesky weed by many, but in our home, they are Fairy Trees and we embrace them. What a magical way to look at nature.