Chesapeake Shores: episode 7.

I need one of those cardigans.

I need one of those cardigans.

At the start of the episode, it appears there’s a new guy in town and he doesn’t know what a “Lending Library” is, so there’s that. He’s chatting it up with Abby’s sister, and although doesn’t give his name, he says he cooks at Sally’s (the neighborhood spot).

Back at the house, Connor throws Abby’s phone into the lake. Uhh… while she goes to look for it (not sure why), her daughters stumble across the fairy garden their great grandmother built for them. Pretty cute.

Trace runs into Abby’s dad in town and is pretty pissed about him buying the place Trace wanted. Her dad asks what his plans were for the building, and Trace explains his ideas. Abby’s father then suggests they go into business together. But of course!!

Abby heads to Sally’s to meet with Wes and talk about the investigation – he admits that his girlfriend, now ex-girlfriend, was in on it as well. He says he’s lost his clients, his money, and his apartment – everything but their children. He’s basically begging for her help.

Back at the house, Kevin is still recovering in his makeshift hospital room and his fiancee is still at his helm. Everyone still pretty much hates her, and Kevin tells her he wants to change the wedding plans and get married in Chesapeake Shores – because where else?! Not going to lie, I wish they would break up.

At dinner, great grandma tells the family she’s going home to visit Ireland, and she’s suddenly developed an Irish accent, which is borderline annoying. However, at the end of last week’s episode, she was admiring the ring Trace found at the church weeks before – I definitely think these two things are linked, and I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.

Later, Trace is on the phone with Abby and invites her over… dun, dun, dunnnn.

At the house, Connor takes Kevin for a little drive, and naturally his fiance freaks out. Connor asks him about the wedding, and Kevin says he’s not sure when it’ll happen.

Meanwhile, Jess is on a little date, walking along the beach, and they are hunting for sea glass. The climax of this date is when she finds a red piece… until I realize that she’s totally on a date with the guy from Sally’s, the cook, the one who was chatting up her other sister, who has a CRUSH on him!

Dear God! He’s talking about his dream of working in other restaurants, and she asks him if he’d cook for her… tonight, and what, they can invite her SISTER! Daaaahhhhhh!

Back at Trace’s, he’s emotional, and he tells Abby that he almost killed his bass player. He was driving the two of them, late at night while it was raining, and says he took his eyes off the road for a second, and hit an oncoming car. He said everyone else was fine except his bandmate – that he may never walk again.

Trace is crying at this point… and then it goes to a commercial.

Back at the house, Connor asks Kevin what happened in Afghanistan. Kevin doesn’t say much, but he does say he hit an IED. They are sitting in a treehouse, and on their climb down, they both fall…

At the B&B, David (the date), cooks dinner and gets an awkward introduction to Jess’ sister – like, really awkward.

As great grandma steps out to head to Ireland, she tells Abby goodbye and hands her the ring – she tells Abby it was “meant for her” and she will explain the story later.

Connor races back to the house, apparently okay from the fall, and he’s screaming for help explaining that Kevin can’t move. Ugh.

Seriously, at the end of this episode there’s so much left unsaid! And the previews for next week say there are only two episodes left. WHAT?!

BBC: ‘The Admissions’.

Wahoooo! It’s Friiiiday! That first week back to work after a relaxing week off is sure a doozy, but I made it – my fellow vacationers made it, and I’m so ready for an awesome weekend ahead. I have still been reading a ton, and am really relishing my time spent at the library (I go at least twice per week) – I think the employees are starting to recognize me.

My latest read was one I stumbled upon, although I’ve read another book by this author before – it’s “The Admissions” by Meg Mitchell Moore. Here’s the scoop from Amazon.com:

The Hawthorne family has it all. Great jobs, a beautiful house in one of the most affluent areas of Northern California, and three charming kids whose sunny futures are all but assured. And then comes their eldest daughter’s senior year of high school . . .

Firstborn Angela Hawthorne is a straight-A student and star athlete, with extracurricular activities coming out of her ears and a college application that’s not going to write itself. She’s set her sights on Harvard, her father’s alma mater, and like a dog with a chew toy, Angela won’t let up until she’s basking in crimson-colored glory. Except her class rank as valedictorian is under attack, she’s suddenly losing her edge at cross-country, and she can’t help but daydream about a cute baseball player. Of course Angela knows the time put into her schoolgirl crush would be better spent coming up with a subject for her English term paper—which, along with her college essay, has a rapidly approaching deadline.

Angela’s mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real estate career where she caters to the mega-rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area. The youngest daughter, second-grader Maya, still can’t read; the middle child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and their dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few ill-advised moves put the Hawthorne family on a collision course that’s equal parts achingly real and delightfully screwball—and they learn that whatever it cost to get their lucky lives it may cost far more to keep them.

Sharp, topical, and wildly entertaining, The Admissions shows that if you pull at a loose thread, even the sturdiest lives start to unravel at the seams of high achievement.

At first, the plot seems like the one we’ve all seen before: well-to-do family puts too much pressure on their children to do well in school and in life that the kids hate themselves and are tired of living vicariously through their parents. Right?

That’s how things start out in this book, but I’ll hand it to the author – there’s a few really unexpected twists that kept this story rolling for me. Plus, the characters are easily likable; especially the dad and daughter. I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for something semi-lite; you know, something to ease you into your fall reading.

The other book I’ve read from Meg Mitchell Moore is “The Arrivals“, which is another story based around a tightly-knit family… and just when it seems like there’s going to be an empty nest, everyone comes back for their own reasons. I really enjoyed this book, which is why I was pretty excited to come across “The Arrivals” at the library.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Modern Lovers” by Emma Straub – it took weeks for me to get my hands on this one at the library! If you’d like to read along with us, feel free to chat it up on Twitter, SnapChat or Instagram @OrangeJulius7, post in the comments, or shoot me an email at Holly@thebitterlemon.com. The more, the merrier!

I hope you all have some fun weekends planned! I am definitely going to rest some, but I’m also planning on doing some serious cooking and baking, going to do a little clothes shopping, and I’ve got a season of E.R. I’ve been itching to watch. Catch it all on SnapChat and I’ll see you right back here on Monday!

Fall is official: Day 1!

Walk in the Park.

Walk in the Park.

At approximately 10:21 am today, the fall season will officially be upon us. So, you can all stop saying it’s too early for pumpkin-spice everything, and Halloween decor. Because it’s not, fall is HERE! In my house, the arrival of fall signifies a fresh start, and it also means turning off the AC and dragging out the crockpot. Who doesn’t love that? Here’s a few more things I’m looking forward to this season:

The food. As much as I love the light and fresh flavors of summer, there’s something to be said about the savory flavors of fall – just think about all of the colors that will be at the farmer’s market! There are certain recipes I cook up each fall, including turkey and bean chili, pumpkin mac n’ cheese, sweet potato soup, and hearty Mexican dishes fit for a football game (last year, I made enchiladas for the first time and fell in love). I also love making apple cider – right in the crockpot – as it smells delicious and tastes amazing.

The entertainment. Of course, I love fall television, and fall reading. But there’s also fall sports – football is back, and hockey season is upon us! Yes! There’s also some fantastic movies coming our way. Me, personally? I’m looking forward to the film adaptation of “The Girl on the Train”, along with four Hallmark Movies to be released during the month of October. And who doesn’t get a little excited for the Macy’s Day Parade come Thanksgiving??

The fashion. Even though it’s been a whopping 112 degrees in Austin this summer, my office has been around 60, so I’m well-past the stage of wearing scarves and flannel. But now I can do it without looking like an asshole. Flannel, boots and booties, scarves, jackets, faux fur, vests, and beanies, I’m on it.

The indoors. Okay, so maybe a little bit of outdoors, too. Afterall, now that it’s finally not hot as hell outside, a good hike would be nice, and I have yet to see the bats in Austin this year before it’s too late. But I also don’t mind the thought of closing the sliding glass door, lighting a few pumpkin candles, and cozying up on the couch and getting in some much-needed relaxing, while wearing my favorite slippers.

The holidays. Yes, I know the fall season is not officially the holiday season, but there’s Halloween (which I basically hate), and then we’re rolling right into Thanksgiving, Christmas, and so forth. This means time off from work, a reason to host parties and decorate the house, and you know, all the yummy food and drinks. Cheers!

What are you looking forward to this fall?

Hopping back into it!

Hello healthy life!

Hello healthy life!

Whew! It has been MONTHS full of stress, budgeting, cutting corners, adulting, working on the weekends, and all sorts of other non-fun things, and I’m happy to say that it’s finally, pretty much over. CELEBRATE!

I paid off my taxes, got my driver’s license and Texas plates, and even took Blanche to the vet for a checkup, and then I went on a much-needed beach vacation where I ate fried foods and drank lots of beer. It was incredible, and although I’m not thrilled to be back at work, I am happy to be back to a life I like: one with a friendlier budget.

My tight budget unfortunately involved eating more processed foods, and in return, I wasn’t feeling great. So, I’m happy to say that I’m back to organic, fresh foods, and it’s happening at the perfect time! The dance studio where I regularly go is having it’s showcase in six weeks, where I will be perforning a stiletto routine.

And so – this six weeks I’m hitting the dance studio hard, and I’m also eating as healthy as possible in order to hit the stage in November feeling confident and well.

Truthfully, I enjoy eating healthy. I think healthy foods are delicious, and I’m often too cheap to eat out. Plus, I enjoy cooking. My true weakness? The snacks at work. There are always chips, cookies, muffins, and other indulgences in the office that I don’t keep at home.

To combat this, I stocked my pantry with healthy snacks I enjoy such as almonds, individual packs of dried fruit and nuts, and organic popcorn. I’m making it a priority to pack these types of things in my lunch box so I can crunch on them instead of greasy chips or sweets. I know it’s still going to be a challenge, but once I get started, I think I’ll be okay.

I was also worried about the fact that I JUST discovered a vietnamese restaurant across the street from my apartment – it’s delicious and inexpensive. However, I looked up the nutritional value for my normal order: a vermicelli noodle bowl with grilled shrimp, and a side of egg rolls.

According to My Fitness Pal, as long as I swap the side of egg rolls for spring rolls (which aren’t fried), I’ll actually be eating something pretty healthy. If you’re not aware, one of these bowls is simply rice noodles with raw veggies and a choice of meat. There’s a small side cup of oil, but I mainly just use sriracha as a “dressing”. If you can get your chopsticks on one of these things, you will thank me. I swear.

The other side of this, is alcohol. I pretty much stopped drinking during my budget crisis for two reasons: 1. I couldn’t afford it, and 2. it was doing nothing for my depression. I’m not going to sit here and say I won’t enjoy a glass of wine on a Saturday night, but I won’t be doing any drinking during the week, or excessively at all. I’m in it to win it, folks – a rejuvenation of the mind, body, and soul.

Of course, I’ll be documenting my journey along the way, and if you’ve got any tips for me, I’d love to hear them!

The Bitter Lemon’s Fall TV Guide!

Who's excited for Fall TV!?

Who’s excited for Fall TV!?

After crafting, what I would consider to be, a pretty robust Fall Reading Guide, I knew I couldn’t just sit here and act like I’m sitting around the apartment reading all the time. You know I LOVE watching TV! While the summer was packed with some fantastic reality seasons, I’m proud to say that scripted television is making a comeback this fall (cheers for the writers). So, I’ve gathered up the shows I’m setting my DVR for in the coming months, and I hope you’ll join me.

“Bull” (CBS) – Legal Drama

This is a new show (many of the shows I picked are new, as I usually don’t watch scripted television)! Here’s the scoop from CBS.com:

Bull stars Michael Weatherly as Dr. Jason Bull in a drama inspired by the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw, the founder of one of the most prolific trial consulting firms of all time. Brilliant, brash and charming, Dr. Bull is the ultimate puppet master as he combines psychology, human intuition and high tech data to learn what makes jurors, attorneys, witnesses and the accused tick. Bull employs an enviable team of experts at Trial Analysis Corporation to shape successful narratives down to the very last detail. They include his quick-witted former brother-in-law, Benny Colón, a lawyer who acts as defense attorney in the company’s mock trials; Marissa Morgan, a cutting-edge neurolinguistics expert from the Department of Homeland Security; former NYPD detective Danny James, the firm’s tough but relatable investigator; haughty millennial hacker Cable McCrory, who is responsible for gathering cyber intelligence; and Chunk Palmer, a fashion-conscious stylist and former All-American lineman who fine tunes clients’ appearances for trial. In high-stakes trials, Bull’s combination of remarkable insight into human nature, three Ph.D.’s and a top-notch staff creates winning strategies that tip the scales of justice in his clients’ favor.

Premieres Tuesday, September 20 @ 9/8c

“The Voice” (NBC) – Singing Competition 

“The Voice” is now in its 11th season, and each season I SWEAR I’m not going to watch it, and then I do. Why? Because it’s usually good, it’s just very time-consuming. But hey, I’ve got time! The Blind Auditions – what the show is known for – started Monday night, but there’s still plenty to see, especially since it’s the first season featuring Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys as judges, alongside Adam and Blake, which should be pretty entertaining.

Look for “The Voice” on NBC on Monday and Tuesday nights, but watch out for bonus Wednesday episodes.

“Conviction” (ABC) – Legal Drama

Another new show, and shockingly, another legal drama (#SorryNotSorry)! Here’s the description from ABC.com:

Hayley Atwell is playing a lawyer and former First Daughter Hayes Morrison. She is best known for her wild teenage years in the White House and proclivity to wind up on TMZ. But a cocaine bust is one misstep with consequences this former First Daughter can’t dodge. Luckily Hayes’ powerful mother, Harper, along with her occasional fling and former boss, Wallace, offer an ultimatum – jail time, or run New York City’s new Conviction Integrity Unit. Never one to be controlled, Hayes decides to use the opportunity and her brilliant legal mind to challenge the status quo. Alongside her eclectic and intelligent CIU team, Hayes will do whatever it takes to discover the truth, fighting for those overlooked by a flawed and fractured system.

Premieres Monday, October 3 at 10/9c.

“Secrets and Lies” (ABC) – Crime Mystery

Season one of “Secrets and Lies” brought us two things of glory: the beautiful Ryan Phillipe, and the Twitter feed for his character’s flashlight. While “Secrets and Lies” was fantastically creepy, I wondered how on earth we’d get a second season, given the crime was solved at the end. But, ABC has found a way: it’s a new crime, same detective – CORNELL (dun, dun, DUN!). Here’s ABC’s description:

In season 2, Kate Warner fell to her death from a 12-story building, but this was no accident, all evidence points to this being a homicide. Detective Andrea Cornell is brought in to root out the real killer. Her prime suspect is Kate’s husband, Eric Warner. Join Detective Cornell as she digs up secrets, exposes lies, and brings to light the truth of this tragic and senseless death.  

“Secrets and Lies” premieres Sunday, September 25 at 9/8c.

“Frequency” (CW) – Time-Travel Drama

This one is very out of my comfort zone, and I don’t even think I’ve ever watched anything on the CW, but there’s a first time for everything. Here’s the description of “Frequency” from Wikipedia:

In 2016, NYPD Detective Raimy Sullivan discovers that she is able to speak to her deceased father Frank Sullivan in 1996 via his old ham radio. Her attempts to save his life trigger the “butterfly effect”, changing the present in unforeseen ways. To fix the damage, she must work with her father across time to solve a decades-old murder case.

Premieres Wednesday, October 5 at 9/8c.

“The Great Indoors” (CBS) – Comedy

Okay, so I’m not a huge fan of Joel McHale, but the plot of this one just sounded so perfect for me, so I hope it ends up being great! Here’s the scoop from CBS.com:

Joel McHale stars in this insightful and timely comedy about a renowned adventure reporter who has spent his life exploring the edges of the earth. Now that he’s taken a desk job in the digital department of the magazine, he must adapt to the times and his new world. He’s struggling to grasp the lingo of online click-bait and listicles, but his real challenge is in understanding his staff of millenials who write about the great outdoors but never actually set foot outside.

Premieres Thursday, October 27 at 8:30/7:30c.

“Pitch” (FOX) – Sports Drama

This show seems different, and I’m really curious to see how it turns out. Here’s the description from The New York Times:

Fox has done everything it can to make Ms. (Kylie) Bunbury, who plays the first woman to reach the big leagues, a plausible Major League pitcher. This includes having her learn how to, well, pitch.

But she’s got plenty of support.

Major League Baseball has enthusiastically signed on to the project, providing what its executives describe as unprecedented access to a running TV show.

So yeah, first woman in the MLB. I’m in. The show premieres Thursday, September 22 at 9/8c.

“Project Runway” (Lifetime) – Fashion Design Competition

While season 15 started last week, there’s still plenty of time to hop into the chaos that is always “Project Runway”, featuring original hosts Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, along with judge Zac Posen. Season 15 features a new bunch of fresh, hungry designers, along with new challenges each week, all fighting for the ultimate prize: money for a collection, along with all sorts of other massive prizes.

“Project Runway” airs Thursdays at 9/8c.

“Divorce” (HBO) – Drama

You guys. I have been WAITING for this show to start foreeevvveerrrrrr! Here’s the scoop from HBO.com:

Sarah Jessica Parker returns to HBO in the new comedy series,Divorce. Parker stars as Frances, a woman who suddenly begins to reassess her life and her marriage, and finds that making a clean break and a fresh start is harder than she thought.

Other series regulars include Thomas Haden Church, Molly Shannon, Talia Balsam and Tracy Letts. The series, currently in production in New York, was created by Sharon Horgan. It is executive produced by Horgan, Paul Simms, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alison Benson and Aaron Kaplan.

Premieres Sunday, October 9 at 10/9c.

Chesapeake Shores: Episodes 5 & 6.

The whole gang... minus Trace :(

The whole gang… minus Trace😦

Helllooo! I’m not sure if any of my readers are keeping up with “Chesapeake Shores”, but I’m really enjoying this series. I wasn’t able to watch last Sunday’s episode on time (I had my toes in the sand), but don’t worry, I’ve got the recap right here!

Episode 5

Remember, we left off with two pretty big things: something unknown has happened to Kevin overseas, and Trace’s former bandmate is in town and wants answers.

At the start of the episode, Abby is on her way to court for the custody of her daughters – Trace sends her a sweet text message on her way there.

Back at Trace’s house, his bandmate is still trying to convince him to come back to Nashville. She says he can stay at her place, and he’ll be able to see John – whoever that is. He still doesn’t seem to be interested in coming back though, and she’s pissed.

In court, it’s finally revealed that Chesapeake Shores is located in Maryland! Anyways, Abby fights back and also asks for full physical custody of her daughters, which the judge seems shocked by, so they recess for lunch.

Back on the beach, Trace seems to be looking at different properties – for what reason, it is unknown at this point.

At lunch, Conner is with Abby and the family as they wait to go back to court, and he’s ultra saucy telling the family what could happen once court is back in session. Abby’s dad gets a call that Kevin has been found – he’s injured and on his way to a hospital near Germany, but they don’t know how severe it is yet.

Back in court, a ruling for temporary custody is granted: the kids spend summers in Chesapeake Shores, and the remainder of the year in New York with their father, unless Abby and her ex can work out an agreement.

Meanwhile, Trace is looking at a pretty big piece of property, but the real estate agent tells him he would need all cash and a 60-day escrow in order to get it. That doesn’t seem to be an option for him, so he says he’ll get back to her.

He meets back up with his bandmate and tells her he’s willing to do the duet album, but he has to have the money upfront, and it has to be the last thing they do together.

“We’ll see about that,” she says.

And even though he seems aggravated, he says he will need a few weeks in Chesapeake Shores before heading back to Nashville. She asks him why, and he tells her he wants to open a place for people to hear real music, and put a recording studio in it.

She kisses him (!) and he pulls away, and tells her this is strictly about business obligations. YIKES.

On the way home from court, Trace is on his motorcycle behind Abby and her dad. They pull over and tell him the news about court; he says he’s on his way to the bank for a loan. But at the bank, he seems hesitant to walk inside.

At the end of the episode, he’s sketching plans for the building he wants…

The previews for episode 6 show Kevin coming home, and an introduction to… Kevin’s fiancee. What?! Guess we’ll see…

Episode 6

At the start of the episode, a woman appears in Chesapeake Shores and announces herself as Kevin’s fiance… obviously the family is shocked to hear this, and says they’ve been engaged since May, despite Kevin not mentioning it when he was home for July 4.

She tells the family that Kevin will be completing his recovery in Chesapeake Shores… in the family home. Because, why would he recover anywhere else??

Georgia, the fiance, starts the official setup -turning the family dining room into a hospital room, complete with equipment, as if she’s done it before.

Meanwhile, Trace is talking with his mom, and tells her a little bit about his plans for the building and the upcoming album. It’s obvious they’re not close, but definitely friendly. He asks her to dinner the following night.

At work, Abby’s boss tells her there’s a “Fed” waiting for her. Upon entering her office, he tells her he’s from the Department of Justice. He starts asking her why she had boxes shipped from her previous office, and wants to know what’s inside them. He says there is an FCC violation, so she leaves the room to call her attorney, and calls Connor.

All of this while Connor is in line to take the BAR exam…

Abby informs the Fed she’s lawyering up, and he tells her he’ll be in touch.

Kevin arrives home on the ambulance, and it literally looks like they tossed him into the ambulance directly from war and drove him through the ocean to arrive at Chesapeake Shores.

Abby gets word that the Fed has interviewed some of her coworkers in the New York office, and lest we forget that Milly was/is sleeping with her ex – do I smell revenge?

At the house, Kevin seems like there’s major issues… as in, PTSD or some other mental issues. He seems really out of it, and it’s almost difficult to watch.

Trace finds out the property he wants sold for asking price, and it seems like there’s some sort of rift between him and his father over it – though vague.

Back at the house, the family doesn’t understand why Kevin isn’t under more strict medical care (no joke), but decide to just keep by his side. The family isn’t impressed by Georgia and her cold demeanor.

Kevin’s mom has a pret-ty heated discussion with Georgia outside – they know they got off on the wrong foot, but Georgia tells his mother that crying his weakness, and basically tells her that SHE is the reason he went to war. Yeeouuuwch.

After taking the BAR, it appears Connor has found himself a little girlfriend despite what a jerk he acts like. It’s a woman from his study group, and I can definitely see this storyline going somewhere.

Trace is having lunch with his mom and dad, and his dad tells him Abby’s dad is the one who bought the property he wanted – HMM…

They show the previews for next week’s episode and it shows Trace confessing something serious to Abby… yeep!!

Hand-Picked: Fashionable holidays.

Baton Rouge's first Fashion Week!

Baton Rouge’s first Fashion Week!

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s time for the week’s final installment of “Hand-Picked” – it probably won’t be the last time ever for it, because, well I only went through maybe 1/4 of all the little mementos I have stuffed in boxes in my tiny apartments. But nonetheless, I do hope you’ve enjoyed all of my memories this week! I’ll be back to my regular posting next week, and this gave me a few days to unwind (very much needed) and think about the next direction for the blog.

Okay, first picture (above) is a few pieces I kept from Baton Rouge’s first Fashion Week, hosted by the one, the only Ryan Auld! Ryan was a contestant on Project Runway, and while he didn’t win during the standard season, he was later a contestant on Project Runway All Stars, where he completely knocked the socks off everyone and WON!

One cool thing about Ryan is that he’s from Louisiana! I actually met him while he was still in college, studying fashion at LSU. He was winning fashion competitions then, which is how I met him, because I wrote a story on him, and he got to study in Paris due to his winnings. I later ran into him again – as we unknowingly lived in the same apartment complex. He told me then that big things were happening for him, but he couldn’t tell me what. It was Project Runway.

The other cool thing about Ryan is that he is a two-time cancer survivor. Plus, he makes amazing clothes, and now he has a store in San Antonio. I have had a great time following his career, and cannot wait to see all the cool things he does in the future.

A merry Christmas party!

A merry Christmas party!

There are many cool perks to being a bartender, and one of them was the annual Christmas party. This particular party was always dressy, and included bottomless drinks, of course. That particular year, I loved the dress I bought – white and black color-blocked satin, with leopard-print heels. I even got my makeup done; and had asked my date by rewriting the words to “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” and leaving it in a Santa hat outside his apartment. We had a blast!

Just a few...

Just a few…

This is about 1/4 of the tickets I’ve got from John Mayer concerts – this is the downfall of digital tickets; that there’s nothing cool to show for it unless you print it. But, as John Mayer would say, we’ll remember it by seeing it with our own eyes.

Did it.

Did it.

In 2012, a few attorneys I respected started a team for Race for the Cure. This was prior to my sheer hatred of anything benefitting the Komen Foundation, but giant, pink margaritas were at the finish line, so I was in. My best friend had come to Baton Rouge to visit, and we did the race together. I’d never done anything like that, and it was fun!

Murder Mystery party!

Murder Mystery party!

Many years ago, I was party of a Mardi Gras Krewe for a short period of time. One of the cool things they did each year was a Murder Mystery Christmas party – I’ve never gone to one of those, but I’d always wanted to after that Murder Mystery weekend episode of “Saved By The Bell” – no, seriously. My character was Sandy, and I was a lifeguard. I wore a whistle, and lots of bronzer, and was carrying sunscreen. I was NOT the murderer.

Hoorah for writing contests!

Hoorah for writing contests!

When I was in college, The New York Times hosted a writing contest for college students, which asked contestants to write about an aspect of their college experience. I entered, and although I did not win, my piece was featured on The New York Times website, which was a very proud moment for me. I have entered many-a-writing contest, and probably will continue to do so (I’m actually working on another entry this weekend), and they are always an interesting challenge.

So sweet!

So sweet!

My best friend’s sister gave me this note – and I thought it was too sweet not to post! And yes, she IS a good friend and sister!

Cheers to the weekend, guys! I’ll see you right back here on Monday!

Hand-Picked: Better late than never…

I wish this would have scanned better!

I wish this would have scanned better!

Whew! I’m so sorry I’m just getting around to posting this, and it’s almost Friday, when a new post will be up, but yesterday was a crazy day and I barely even made it home before midnight. So, yes, I know this picture above is hardly legible.

But, when I found this note, it’s the whole reason I thought about doing this series in the first place. It’s a letter from a guy I went to high school with, Evan, and I had a crush on him for what seems like FOREVER! I’m actually just now sort of getting over him, which probably seems crazy, but hey.

So I found this note in my filing cabinet; it was handwritten by him, but it has no date on it. I’m pretty sure it’s from college, but I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, it says that he hopes all is well with my boyfriend (so I was obviously dating someone at the time), and that if my boyfriend isn’t treating me right, to let him know.

He also says, “Thanks for taking this shirt” – so I was obviously bringing a shirt to someone? I also don’t know why I don’t remember this better! I blame it on the alcohol.

Notebook cover.

Notebook cover.

This is another one of my “notebooks” I kept with a friend, obviously in 1999, which was the latter-half of my 8th grade year. I do love the glitter on the cover, but I don’t understand Ben Affleck.

A sweet thank you!

A sweet thank you!

After I started my class, “Blogging for Beginners” at LSU, I was asked by many different groups to speak on blogging best practices. It has become one of my favorite things – teaching and speaking to others about my passion for blogging – and now my course is offered at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as online.

So pretty!

So pretty!

When I was in college, one of my best friends and her husband moved to San Diego. I’d never been, but flew there for Thanksgiving and we had a BLAST! For starters, San Diego is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. We also went to Balboa Park, ate a delicious dinner (complete with caramel apple martinis), and even got to see “The Grinch” as a play. In Balboa Park, they do not play when it comes to this annual production – they turned the entire theatre area into Whoville, and it even snowed inside the theatre! I bought a little Grinch doll while I was there, and place it inside my Christmas tree each year. It is one of my favorite memories.

Old loves.

Old loves.

Yep, I still have my od iPod (the original) and my Blackberry. My iPod definitely doesn’t even turn on anymore, and it was loaded with 10K songs that were lost on a computer during a hurricane. I was able to listen to it for a little while afterward, but it was eventually just too old. If anyone knows how to get it to work again, I’d owe you FOR LIFE.

Ah, I will be an advocate for Blackberries until I die. I only recently switched to an iPhone (within the last two years), when it became necessary to have apps and be able to blog better from my phone. But my heart is still with the Blackberry, and I’m not ashamed!

I’ll have the final batch of “Hand-Picked” goodies for you, right here, tomorrow!

Hand-Picked: Tulle skirts & big cities!

In front of the Real World Chicago house.

In front of the Real World Chicago house.

The summer between my junior and senior year in high school, I went to Chicago with my best friend and our moms. We got makeovers, went shopping, visited the front door of the house featured in Real World, season 11, Chicago (which aired in 2002, and was taped during the September 11 attacks), and we also saw John Mayer, with Guster as the opening act.

It was not the first time I’d seen him perform live, but it was my first (of I think a dozen) concert with him as the headliner. He was not very popular at the time, and the convert was in sort of an open parking lot area. It was the first I’d ever heard his song, “Comfortable” [above] – and it is a moment I will never forget.

LA map.

LA map.

I went to Los Angeles, California, for the first time the summer before I graduated from college. I went by myself, stayed at a hotel downtown, and it was the longest flight I’d ever been on. LA is a city of dreamt of since I was in 5th grade, and I have always wanted to live there. I’d gotten a contact through a story I wrote for my journalism course, a guy who owned a public relations company for independent artists. I told him I was heading to LA for a few days to check it out, if he wanted to meet.

He agreed, and I met him and his wife at The Knitting Factory in West Hollywood to see one of the bands he promoted. I took the metro from my hotel to West Hollywood, and saw Mann’s Chinese Theatre. I was in awe.

Thinking back on it, it was a pretty daring thing for me to do all of the by myself, and perhaps not smart to meet someone I didn’t really know. But, it all worked out, and it was a memorable trip. I did the Hollywood walk, and took the Hollywood Homes tour. It was everything I’d hoped it would be!

So sweet!

So sweet!

About four years ago, it seemed like pretty much everyone I knew was getting married. I was in a few weddings, and attended many others – all fun. But there was one weekend that I literally went to one wedding on a Friday night, got up early the next morning, and flew to Florida for a bachelorette weekend. I’d missed night one of the festivities, but the ladies had rented a very Real World-esque loft (complete with colored lights in the shower) and we spent the days on the beach, and the nights out. It was a complete blast!

Invitation from a fancy New Orleans wedding I was in.

Invitation from a fancy New Orleans wedding I was in.

Ah, wedding season. Looking back on it, it was pretty fun, although expensive. But I think now, pretty much everyone I know is married. We should just drink and eat cake anyway, right?

Happy birthday to me!

Happy birthday to me!

Again, you can tell it’s 2003 because of my Tiffany’s… and my terrible haircut. Ha! Truthfully, my 18th birthday (and the summer surrounding it), was a little rough. But, my best friend lit the candles and sang me Happy Birthday a little after midnight, and all was good. And by the way, the cake was German chocolate… my favorite.

Senior prom!

Senior prom!

I remember a very popular senior told me during my junior year that wearing a big, fluffy dress was “not the senior thing to do”. She wore a mermaid dress, and well, I wore a big, fluffy one. But I loved it, and even though I had to ask my date, and I think we didn’t really get along, I had a blast stomping around Circle Centre mall in this thing. After wearing it to prom, and later to a sorority formal, I took lots of pictures of it, and donated it to the Cinderella Project, which allows girls to choose from donated gowns, and alter them if they choose. While I love it the way it is, I think it would look cool shorter in the front, and long in the back. I will never know the fate of the dress, but we sure had some good times.

Hand-Picked: Toga time.

Sorority recruitment (left); toga mixer with my big sis (right)

Sorority recruitment (left); toga mixer with my big sis (right)

Just in case you weren’t here yesterday… here’s the scoop on “Hand-Picked”:

I’m really excited to share a special series with you this week, “Hand-Picked”, because it’s exactly that: hand-picked memories in the form of photos (actual ones that were developed), notes, ticket-stubs, and other random findings I’ve kept over the course of my life thus far.

These are mementos I store in decorative boxes on shelves in my coat closet, and at times, I pull them down and spend hours looking through them, and remembering some of the best times in my life. What’s below are real, original things from my life, my home, and they have not been edited. They are not presented in any particular order, as I’m not that organized. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do, and perhaps you’ll start to travel down your own memorable past.

 

Holler for 8th grade yearbooks.

Holler for 8th grade yearbooks.

Yep, I still have my middle school yearbooks laying around! I started going to dance classes when I was in 7th grade, and made the school dance team in 8th grade. It became a big part of my life then, and all the way through high school. I took a 10-year break, and am right back in it! I will actually be performing on stage for the second time this year, in November!

Best card ever!

Best card ever!

Remember when “Awkward Family Photos” were popular? What happened to that? This is a birthday card one of my best friends, Angela, got me!

Another mixed CD...

Another mixed CD…

Apparently I made my then-boyfriend so many mixed CDs I had to label them by month! Looking at the songs now, I remember why I loved making these so much – I really tried to make them a true MIX and find different stuff to put on their. Austin and I both loved Marc Broussard:

And even went to see him live after we broke up (I’d gotten us tickets when we were still together), which was super awkward. We pretty much fought the entire drive there, got drunk at the concert, and then fought the entire way back the next day.

All sorts of goodies here!

All sorts of goodies here!

On the left, the bark-heart, is something my very first boyfriend (when I was 16) put on my doorstep one night – so cute! On the right, top, is my high school ID. The fact that we had to have IDs is comical to me, and its construction is really shitty, which makes it even better. Bottom right is my name tag from Ritter’s, one of my favorite jobs ever, and if there was a Ritter’s in Austin, I’d be working there. I really love that place!

...so sweet...

…so sweet…

In college, and for a little while afterward, I worked as a bartender, and met some pretty awesome people. One of my coworkers left Baton Rouge to volunteer in The Peace Corps. We were growing close when he left, so we wrote each other, and I sent him a few packages. I definitely feel like I missed the boat with this guy – he’s smart and really handsome – and he was off learning and doing all of these things to grow his knowledge of culture and I feel like I probably was beneath his intelligence level, and thinking about some of the things I said to him makes me sad. He’s married with a baby, and I will always wish him happiness.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Celebrating Halloween behind the bar! My coworkers called me “Hollywood”, so I ironed the letters on the back of my outfit, and the bar’s name on my hat. I always hated working near Halloween because patrons would come in the bar with masks on – and that is my biggest fear ever. Scariest mask I served? Donny Darko. YIKES.

The decision-maker.

The decision-maker.

This came in a birthday card I got a few years ago, and it’s one of those square-things that has the numbers on the inside, and you pick a number, count it out, and then ultimately your fortune, or your future is on the inside. A Justin Bieber future forecaster is all I needed!

A letter from my pen pal.

A letter from my pen pal.

I started learning French in 8th grade, at school, and as part of the program, we got pen pals in France. My pen pal and I shared a love for the Backstreet Boys, so she often sent me covers of the French-version of Teen Bop, along with general pictures and info about her life there. All of her letters were on colorful stationary, or decorated with sequins. I have kept them all!

Yes, those are TAPES.

Yes, those are TAPES.

I got a video camera for Christmas, I think my senior year in high school, and I used it to pretty much document everything, as you can see. I don’t have the camera anymore, but I saved the tapes – even though now I have no way of watching them… smart.

I’ll see you all tomorrow for a new batch of “Hand-Picked” goodies!

Hand-Picked: The good ‘ole days…

Hello out there! I’m on vacation this week – that’s right, a REAL vacation without my computer, and complete with my toes in the sand, frozen mojitos, and the company of some of my best friends. However, there’s no way I’d leave my favorite readers hanging!

I’m really excited to share a special series with you this week, “Hand-Picked”, because it’s exactly that: hand-picked memories in the form of photos (actual ones that were developed), notes, ticket-stubs, and other random findings I’ve kept over the course of my life thus far.

These are mementos I store in decorative boxes on shelves in my coat closet, and at times, I pull them down and spend hours looking through them, and remembering some of the best times in my life. What’s below are real, original things from my life, my home, and they have not been edited. They are not presented in any particular order, as I’m not that organized. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do, and perhaps you’ll start to travel down your own memorable past.

So young!

So young!

This picture is from the summer between my graduation from high school and me leaving Indiana for Baton Rouge. It was 2003, as you can clearly see from my Tiffany’s heart pendant necklace. This was my boyfriend at the time, and if I’ve ever had to say there was one that got away, I’d venture to say it was him.

I’ve written many a blog post about him; he was smart, athletic, and a family-man, and damn, doesn’t he look cute? He still lives in Indiana, and his married with children. I haven’t spoken to him since 2003 (I saw him that winter, but we didn’t speak), but I sure hope he’s doing well. It was the best summer of my life.

Handwritten thoughts.

Handwritten thoughts.

In 2008, I’d just graduated from college. I’d be lying if I told you I remembered EXACTLY what this handwritten piece of awesomeness is, but I do know that my friend at the time, Mollye, had set me up on a date with a guy, it didn’t work out, and then she dated him, and we got into a pretty big fight. So, it’s probably about that.

Abercrombie life.

Abercrombie life.

For a few years in college, I worked at Abercrombie & Fitch. At the time, of course I hated it, but in all honesty, I met some awesome people there, and we had a lot of fun. We also got to wear overpriced flip-flops to work, and use a Polaroid camera for whatever we wanted – and clearly, we took great pride in our denim walls. Nothing turns me on more than a pair of distressed denim. No, seriously.

I'm so lame.

I’m so lame.

I dated this guy, Austin, in college, and as you can see, he was graduating (and moved from Baton Rouge to Dallas). I was practicing what I wanted to write in his card, and I’m not sure HOW I started calling him “Prada”, but I did and I got him a pair of Prada sunglasses for graduation. We sort of tried the long-distance thing for a little bit, but obviously that didn’t work out for several reasons. He is now married with children, and as far as I know, he still lives in Dallas.

A rather embarrassing tradition...

A rather embarrassing tradition…

I’m not sure how this got started, but whenever I went out and got drunk, I would attempt to write “20 Things I Did Tonight” – probably so I could recall them the next day, or 10 years later, like I am right now. I have stacks of papers like these, and some of them even have wristbands and random bumper stickers attached – you know it’s a good night when there’s physical evidence. This list is… interesting, and I am not sure what “Blue Hurricane” is, but it sounds disgusting!

High school graduation.

High school graduation.

This is a card a classmate wrote to me for our high school graduation. I thought it was so sweet, and written on such professional cardstock, that I kept it. He is still kind, successful, and probably still writes sweet things on thick paper for the people in his life.

Nothing says love like a mixed CD.

Nothing says love like a mixed CD.

The man I loved was moving to New Orleans, and it was ultimately the road to our demise – minus the fact that he was a lying, cheating, asshole. But, I made him a mixed CD anyway, and I think I made a copy for myself because it was so good. I mean who can resist a little David Gray?

Seriously... it's funny now, right?

Seriously… it’s funny now, right?

Yes, you read correctly, my dorm room was infested with termites, as kindly informed to me via this note, from my new roommate, Michelle. It was my freshman year, and I’d just moved in with Michelle, and I came home from studying one night and found this taped to our door. The story was pretty traumatic for Michelle, and LSU actually didn’t have a dorm room for us, so we stayed in a hotel for a few days, which was pretty nice if you ask me…

 

The top secret notebook!

The top secret notebook!

In 8th grade, I kept notebooks with my girlfriends (lots of girls did this) – instead of writing and folding notes back and forth we sent a notebook back and forth. This was in 1998, and I really like how it says on the front “Do not open or ELSE!!” I’ve read the contents of this notebooks and am actually quite surprised that Leslie was my friend – the letters I write to her are pretty lame, and I’m often complaining about homework (imagine that) and attempting to write in French (we shared French class). Also, 90% of the notes are written in highlighter, or sparkly gel ink – God love the 90s!

I hope you enjoyed day one of “Hand-Picked”! Please come back tomorrow for an entirely new batch of memories – the good, the bad, and… the old!

BBC: ‘If I Forget You’.

This was my first book I put on reserve at the library! I felt like it was cheating to do that, so I refrained, but week after week, this book was checked out and it was starting to do two things: 1. Make me think the book was really good, and 2. piss me off.

So I put it on reserve, and got it two weeks later. I also now have the MAX number of reserves: 5, and I try to keep it at five… it kind of feels like a gamble, since I never know what book is going to be ready next. I know, I’m really living on the edge here.

I originally saw this book, “If I Forget You” by Thomas Christopher Greene, on a reading list and thought it sounded so good. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Twenty-one years after they were driven apart by circumstances beyond their control, two former lovers have a chance encounter on a Manhattan street. What follows is a tense, suspenseful exploration of the many facets of enduring love. Told from altering points of view through time, If I Forget You tells the story of Henry Gold, a poet whose rise from poverty embodies the American dream, and Margot Fuller, the daughter of a prominent, wealthy family, and their unlikely, star-crossed love affair, complete with the secrets they carry when they find each other for the second time.

Written in lyrical prose, If I Forget You is at once a great love story, a novel of marriage, manners, and family, a meditation on the nature of art, a moving elegy to what it means to love and to lose, and how the choices we make can change our lives forever.

This book is set in New York, and provides a beautiful background for a rather interesting story. The characters, Henry and Margot, are very likable, and their story is unique. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I’ll say that their story is told by both of them, and sometimes it overlaps, but it moves pretty quickly, and it’s unexpected. But I wouldn’t recommend it for the non-romantics.

I checked out GoodReads to see what the reviewers were saying about it, and it was completly mixed because of the romance factor. I warned you!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Admissions” by Meg Mitchell Moore. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the blog comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

I am leaving for vacation this weekend; a real vacation without my computer. But, I’ve got blogs in store for you, still, and they’re a pretty special treat! So, see you here on Monday; have a great weekend!

‘Kidding’ in a world of ‘Adulting’.

I simply cannot.

I simply cannot.

I don’t even like the word “Adulting” – it sounds funny, and it also makes it seem like I’m not accepting the fact that I’m a grown-up, or doing things people my age do. If I’m being truthful, I think I’ve done adult-like things for many years.

Afterall, I’ve had a job since I was 16, and have always found more enjoyment in staying in rather than going out. I get joy out of being productive on the weekends, and I feel good about myself for setting the coffee pot each night before bed (sometimes even on the weekends), and I maintain a pretty hefty filing cabinet where I keep bills, taxes, and medical records. I’m an adult!

But, the past three weeks have sent me into a tailspin of responsibility unlike any other, and it’s a world where I definitely don’t fit in.

It started with the sheer fact that my Louisiana inspection sticker was going to expire at the end of August. I’m well-past the point where I should have registered my car in Texas, and gotten an inspection here, but my Louisiana plates don’t expire until October 2017.

But, if I didn’t get a new inspection sticker, I was going to get pulled over, so something had to be done. I looked up inspection stations, wrote down a few addresses, and figured I’d go on my lunch hour one day that week. And then, for whatever reason, I was thinking about my driver’s license. When was the last time I had it renewed?

I reached for my purse, and looked. EXPIRED.

Great. So, I’m living in Texas, driving on an expired out-of-state license. That’s no good.

So, I spent about three hours on a Sunday night sorting through my filing cabinet looking for all of the forms of identification I would need, including but not limited to two bills with my Texas address from within the last 90 days, my passport, my social security card, proof of insurance, and a form I filled out. I piled it all in a file folder, and headed to the DMV around 7 am the next day.

The DMV opens at 7:30, so I really felt like I was ahead of the game, given that it’s less than 10 minutes from my apartment. But when I arrived, the line was from the door, all the way to the street (about two blocks in length). Damn.

So, I got in line and sipped my coffee. A few minutes later, an employee sorted the line according to why people were there. Luckily, the line for a new license was rather short. He told me to get rid of my coffee, so I stuffed it in my bag and went to my waiting area.

I only had to wait about an hour, but once I got to the station, the woman informed me that I couldn’t get a license until I got my car inspected and then registered. Awesome.

So, I went to work, and then headed to the inspection station during my lunch break. The guy at the counter told me it would be a three hour wait. Awesome, but no.

I went back to work and told my boss what was going on, and asked if I could work remotely the following day in order to knock out some of these to-do items (you cannot get an inspection, registration, or a license on the weekend).

So, the next morning, I camped out at the inspection office and worked while my car got inspected. Once it passed, I drove to the registration office in Travis County, which is located next to a senior citizen’s activity center. The building is about as big as a bathroom, and you just go in and pull a number and wait.

My number was 43; they were on #8.

So, I worked until my number was called. When I got to the counter, of course I didn’t have the proper forms, and I needed my insurance company to fax over the declaration page (whatever that is). So, I pulled a new number, filled out my forms, and called my insurance.

When I got back to the counter, my Louisiana insurance didn’t meet the Texas minimum. I had to either call my insurance and up the liability coverage, or switch it to Texas. I stepped outside, called, and made the switch. Then, got the new policy faxed over, and got back in line.

Four hours later +$197 later, I walked out of that office with Texas license plates and a receipt for registration. I went back to work, and was feeling pretty accomplished. All I had left to get was my driver’s license, and everyone said that was the easiest step.

The following week (last week), I left work early to head back to the DMV before they closed. When I arrived and said I needed a license, the guy warned me it would be a three hour wait. So, I worked, and did some reading. About 2.5 hours into my wait, an employee came up and wanted to make sure I had all of the right paperwork.

Passport? Social security card? Two recent bills? Registration? Inspection? Yes, yes, yes! I had everything and I was about to bounce on out of there! Until she took a look at my out-of-state license and saw that it was expired (by six weeks).

“Sorry, we actually can’t help you today, you’ll have to take the written test and the driver’s test in order to get a license, and you can’t take it today because we’re closing.”

She highlighted a sentence on a manila envelope and handed it to me.

Uh, excuse me? I’m 31 years old and I have to retake the driver’s test? As in paralell park and hands at 10 and 2, and the hand-over-hand crossover turn method? What?

I wanted to sell my goddamn car. Who the fuck is Texas, and what the hell am I DOING here? All because I let my license expire (which I know is wrong), now I was having to pay the ultimate price, of not only having to study and take the written exam, but then to take the driver’s test, on top of having to take more time off work to sit in the waiting area (even driver’s exams are first come, first serve).

I went directly home, and got into bed. When was I going to find time to take these tests? It had to be soon, as I didn’t like driving on my expired license (Google told me it could result in an arrest if I got pulled over). What if I didn’t pass?

 The same lady who told me this terrible news said they would be open on Labor Day. I thought it was weird, and possibly untrue, although I was too bad to inquire further. So, I spent a portion of my holiday weekend reading the Texas driving manual, and taking practice tests.

I didn’t really think the Driver’s License office would be open on Labor Day, but I couldn’t not go see. So I got up at 6am and made my way there. They were closed, of course.

So, I got up at 5am on Tuesday, made it to the branch by 6, and got in line amongst many 16 year olds hoping to get their licenses, too. As far as I was concerned, we were in this together.

This particular DMV is one of the popular locations in Austin, given that it’s the only ones that take walk-in drive tests. According to my teenage line leaders, the wait to schedule a road test is at least six weeks. The other problem? The online scheduling system doesn’t work; so you still have to show up, and wait in line if you ever want to get behind the wheel.

Some of my line friends had been camped at the DMV since 1 am that morning in hopes to be one of the people to take a road test – they only take the first 20 each day.

Around 6:15 am, a police officer came outside and announced that starting NOW, this location would not accept walk-ins for road tests. You had to schedule an appointment, so if that’s the reason you’re here, leave.

The dreams of many were crushed in that moment, and the sun had yet to even rise.

I wasn’t planning on taking the road test that day, I just wanted to get the written and the vision done, because those were the things I needed to pass in order to even schedule a road test (which apparently wouldn’t happen until December).

So, I stayed, and befriended the two teens in line near me. We still had another hour and change before the doors opened. And we did what anyone does in times like these: we shared our frustrations with the DMV.

The guy beside me had scheduled his road test, so he had an appointment, just not for that day. So, he was going to see if he could take it early. And the girl said, she was in the office on Friday and they didn’t say anything about having to schedule an appointment. There was 15 years between us, but we were equals.

The police officer came out several more times within the hour, demanding that we leave unless we were there for other reasons than a road test. Since most of the line had left (including those that had been there since 1am), that put me very close to the front.

Because of this, I only had to wait a few minutes to get processed – paperwork complete, vision test passed, thumbprints, photo, fees, and signatures. And then, it was time for the written exam, which was a mix of road signs and legal questions (have you ever heard of intoxication manslaughter??).

And then, the woman told me they could probably squeeze me in for a road test. Sweeter words have never been spoken, given that I’d surrendered my Louisiana license so I had nothing to prove myself, and probably shouldn’t be driving.

So, I got processed for the road test and my car got inspected… and then I was assigned someone to ride with me, complete with a clipboard, and we were off. I completed a backup test, the parallel parking, several right and left turns, and a few 4-way stops.

In the end? I passed. “You know how to drive,” said my passenger.

As for my line friends? They both got to take the road test that day. I will probably never know if they passed, but I’ll remember the day I felt 16 again, nervous about the driving test, while simultaneously knowing that the DMV is the place where being an adult totally sucks.

Between taxes, vehicle registration, driver’s licensing, check engine lights, it’s been months of way too much responsibility. And sometimes, I joke that I’m just a teenager still, given my love for Justin Bieber, glitter, and cats – but after all this? Being a kid isn’t so bad. And so, I bought myself a backpack – with a cat on it, and the cat is wearing big pink glasses and mascara. And I wear it to my big girl job, and I’m going to keep doing it.

Because life is about balance and if there’s all these boundaries and rules, where’s room for the fun?

“We ain’t never gettin’ older…” -The Chainsmokers

BBC: Fall Reading Guide.

Books to cozy up with this fall.

Books to cozy up with this fall.

I have always wanted to read certain types of books during particular times of the year, and I’m sure to some degree, we all do it without realizing it: reading light, marshmellow books in the summer, and heaver, darker books in the winter. But I’ve never paid attention to reading guides or actually planned to read certain books ahead of time. But this year, I’m on my game!

I’ve found 15 books that looks awesomely interesting – many of which are new releases – so when it’s raining outside (here in Texas), or it’s too chilly outside to even bother (for my Midwest and Northern readers), you’ve got a good reason to stay indoors.

1“Darling Days” by iO Tillett Wright – You guys. My jaw dropped when I saw this book was coming out. I have a bit of an obsession with activist iO Tillett Wright, and I cannot wait to see what she’s got to say in her memoir. From Amazon.com:

Born into the beautiful bedlam of downtown New York in the eighties, iO Tillett Wright came of age at the intersection of punk, poverty, heroin, and art. This was a world of self-invented characters, glamorous superstars, and strung-out sufferers, ground zero of drag and performance art. Still, no personality was more vibrant and formidable than iO’s mother’s. Rhonna, a showgirl and young widow, was a mercurial, erratic glamazon. She was iO’s fiercest defender and only authority in a world with few boundaries and even fewer indicators of normal life. At the center of Darling Days is the remarkable relationship between a fiery kid and a domineering ma—a bond defined by freedom and control, excess and sacrifice; by heartbreaking deprivation, agonizing rupture, and, ultimately, forgiveness.

Darling Days is also a provocative examination of culture and identity, of the instincts that shape us and the norms that deform us, and of the courage and resilience it takes to listen closely to your deepest self. When a group of boys refuse to let six-year-old, female-born iO play ball, iO instantly adopts a new persona, becoming a boy named Ricky—a choice iO’s parents support and celebrate. It is the start of a profound exploration of gender and identity through the tenderest years, and the beginning of a life invented and reinvented at every step. Alternating between the harrowing and the hilarious, Darling Days is the candid, tough, and stirring memoir of a young person in search of an authentic self as family and home life devolve into chaos.

This book will be released on September 27, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

2“Leave Me” by Gayle Forman – I’ve never heard of this author, but the description made it sound so different, that I had to add it to the list. From Amazon.com:

Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention–meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.

Surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: she packs a bag and leaves. But, as is often the case, once we get where we’re going we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from herself and those she loves.

With bighearted characters–husbands, wives, friends, and lovers–who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing the fears we’re all running from. Gayle Forman is a dazzling observer of human nature. She has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head on and asks, what happens when a grown woman runs away from home?

This book was released YESTERDAY, so it’s hot off the press!

3“Today Will be Different” by Maria Semple – I picked this book mostly because of its author. Maria Semple wrote “Where’d You Go, Bernadette“, which I absolutely loved, and I am always keeping my eyes open for her next book… and it’s finally here! From Amazon.com:

Eleanor knows she’s a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won’t swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action-life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother’s company. It’s also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office-but not Eleanor-that he’s on vacation. Just when it seems like things can’t go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret.

TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT is a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living.

This book will be released on October 4, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

4“The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling – I know this one isn’t new, but I got it for my birthday and knew it was just going to be too serious of a read for summer, so I’ve saved it for the chilly months. From Amazon.com:

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations? A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

5“Dear Mr. M” by Herman Koch –  I chose this one purely based on the description, and it makes me want to check out the other books by Herman Koch. From Amazon.com:

Once a celebrated writer, M had his greatest success with a suspense novel based on a real-life disappearance. It told the story of a history teacher who went missing one winter after having a brief affair with a beautiful student of his. The teacher was never found. Upon publication, M’s novel was a runaway bestseller, one that marked his international breakthrough. That was years ago, and now M’s career is fading. But not when it comes to his bizarre, seemingly timid neighbor who keeps a close eye on him and his wife. Why?
 
From alternating points of view, where no one is to be trusted, Herman Koch weaves together an intricate tale of a writer in decline, a teenage couple in love, a missing teacher, and a single book that entwines all of their fates. Thanks to M’s novel, supposedly a work of fiction, everyone seems to be linked forever, until something unexpected spins the “story” off its rails. With ever increasing tension, his signature sardonic wit and world-renowned sharp eye for human failings, Herman Koch once again spares nothing and no one in his gripping new novel, a barbed performance that suspends readers in the mysterious space between fact and fiction. 

This books was released YESTERDAY, so maybe you’ll be one of the first ones to read it!

6“99: Stories of the Game” by Wayne Gretzky – Hockey season hits in October, and I am pretty pumped for it to get here. So, why not celebrate by reading a book from one of the best? From Amazon.com:

From minor-hockey phenomenon to Hall of Fame sensation, Wayne Gretzky rewrote the record books, his accomplishments becoming the stuff of legend. Dubbed “The Great One,” he is considered by many to be the greatest hockey player who ever lived. No one has seen more of the game than he has—but he has never discussed in depth just what it was he saw.

For the first time, Gretzky discusses candidly what the game looks like to him and introduces us to the people who inspired and motivated him: mentors, teammates, rivals, the famous and the lesser known. Weaving together lives and moments from an extraordinary career, he reflects on the players who inflamed his imagination when he was a kid, the way he himself figured in the dreams of so many who came after; takes us onto the ice and into the dressing rooms to meet the friends who stood by him and the rivals who spurred him to greater heights; shows us some of the famous moments in hockey history through the eyes of someone who regularly made that history. Warm, direct, and revelatory, it is a book that gives us number 99, the man and the player, like never before.

This book will be released on October 18, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

7“The Regulars” by Georgia Clark – While the cover of this book is cute,  the description reminds me a little bit of a modern-day “Heathers”, “Mean Girls”, or even “Jawbreaker”… see for yourself! From Amazon.com:

Best friends Evie, Krista, and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls, with average looks and typical quarter-life crises: making it up the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent. Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well…gorgeous. Like, supermodel gorgeous. And it’s certainly not their fault if the sudden gift of beauty causes unexpected doors to open for them.

But there’s a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades for these modern-day Cinderellas, there’s just one question left: What would you sacrifice to be Pretty? Wildly irreverent, blatantly sexy, and observed with pitch-perfect wit, The Regulars is fresh “compulsive reading from a bright new voice” (Brenda Bowen, author of Enchanted August) in fiction, perfect for fans of Jennifer Close and Kevin Kwan.

8“Swear on This Life” by Renee Carlino – As a writer, I am definitely drawn to books about writing and writers, but this one sounds good for the masses, too. From Amazon.com:

From USA TODAY bestselling author Renée Carlino (Before We Were Strangers), a warm and witty novel about a struggling writer who must come to grips with her past, present, and future after she discovers that she’s the inspiration for a pseudonymously published bestselling novel. When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J. Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio. That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending. The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

9“Still Life” by Louise Penny – This is the first book in a series of many, that is often recommended on one of the podcasts I listen to: “What Should I Read Next?” I have this one on my shelf already, but was waiting for a rainy day to start it, as it is a mystery series said to be very similar to the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbrath. From Amazon.com:

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces–and this series–with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.

10“Everything We Keep” by Kerry Lonsdale – This book was on the Wall Street Journal’s Bestseller List, and it sounds so good! From Amazon.com:

A luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keep explores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.

As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.

11“American Dreamer: My Life in Fashion & Business” by Tommy Hilfiger – When I think of Tommy Hilfiger, I think of 90’s fashion. But truth be told, he is one of the best American designers of our time, and has been able to capture the spirit of our country in his classic lines of clothing. And his book finally tells his life’s story, and I am pretty excited for it. From Amazon.com:

Few designers have stayed on top of changing trends the way Tommy Hilfiger has. Fewer still have left such an indelible mark on global culture. Since designing his first collection of “classics with a twist” three decades ago, Tommy Hilfiger has been synonymous with all-American style—but his destiny wasn’t always so clear. Growing up one of nine children in a working-class family in Elmira, New York, Tommy suffered from dyslexia, flunked sophomore year of high school, and found himself constantly at odds with his father. Nevertheless, this self-described dreamer had a vision and the relentless will to make it a reality. At eighteen he opened his own clothing store, parlaying his uncanny instinct for style into a budding career as a fashion designer. Through decades of triumph and turmoil, Tommy remained doggedly optimistic. To this day, his approach to commerce is rooted in his positive view of the world.

American Dreamer brims with anecdotes that cover Tommy’s years as a club kid and scrappy entrepreneur in 1970s New York as well as unique insights into the exclusive A-list personalities with whom he’s collaborated and interacted, from Mick Jagger and David Bowie to Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. But this is more than just a fashion icon’s memoir—it’s a road map for building a brand, both professionally and personally. Tommy takes us behind the scenes of every decision—and every mistake—he’s ever made, offering advice on leadership, business, team-building, and creativity. This is the story of a true American original, told for the first time in his own words, with honesty, humor, and the insatiable appetite for life and style that proves that sometimes you have to dream big to make it big.

This book will be released on November 1, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

12“Love Her Madly” by Elizabeth Lee – Okay, we all do it, right? I totally judged this book by its cover, and then I read the back of it, and thought it sounded eerily good! From Amazon.com:

Fans of Kimberly McCreight’s Reconstructing Amelia and Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl will devour this stunning debut novel about two college girls whose friendship implodes right before one of them disappears. Told in first person by the girl left behind, Love Her Madly is a fascinating exploration of the twists and turns of an intense female friendship gone awry.

Glo never expected to become best friends with a girl like Cyn. Blonde, blue-eyed, and a little wicked, Cyn is the kind of girl other girls naturally envy—yet, surprisingly, she embraces Glo like a sister after they transfer to the same tiny college in Florida. With a fresh start at a new school and Cyn as her best friend, Glo finds what she has been waiting for her whole life: excitement, acceptance, and the joys of female friendship.

Until she and Cyn fall for the same guy. It’s Cyn who talks Glo into sharing Raj. Half the time he’ll be Cyn’s boyfriend, the other half he’ll be Glo’s. Glo reluctantly accepts the proposition—how can she say no without jeopardizing her friendship?—and for a while, everything goes smoothly. Until Glo realizes that she doesn’t know her BFF as well as she thinks. Until the simmering tension between Glo and Cyn boils over during a study abroad trip to Costa Rica. Until Cyn disappears into the jungle of a secluded island, leaving Glo searching for answers.

Until, seven years later, Glo spots a familiar pair of blue eyes behind a sweep of blonde hair in the streets of New York City. Is it really Cyn, or is the guilt of survival catching up with Glo? And has Glo told us everything we need to know?

13“We Know it Was You” by Maggie Thrash – I love a good mystery series, and this is the first book that kicks things off. From Amazon.com:

Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars in acclaimed author Maggie Thrash’s new Strange Truth series. It’s better to know the truth. At least sometimes.

Halfway through Friday night’s football game, beautiful cheerleader Brittany Montague—dressed as the giant Winship Wildcat mascot—hurls herself off a bridge into Atlanta’s surging Chattahoochee River. Just like that, she’s gone. Eight days later, Benny Flax and Virginia Leeds will be the only ones who know why.

This book will be released on October 4, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

14“Don’t I know You” by Marni Jackson – It’s been a long time since I’ve read fan fiction, but this book takes it to a new level, and with a twist. From Amazon.com:

What if some of the artists we feel as if we know―Meryl Streep, Neil Young, Bill Murray―turned up in the course of our daily lives?

This is what happens to Rose McEwan, an ordinary woman who keeps having strange encounters with famous people. In this engrossing, original novel-in-stories, we follow her life from age 17, when she takes a summer writing course led by a young John Updike, through her first heartbreak (witnessed by Joni Mitchell) on the island of Crete, through her marriage, divorce, and a canoe trip with Taylor Swift, Leonard Cohen and Karl Ove Knausgaard. (Yes, read on.)

With wit and insight, Marni Jackson takes a world obsessed with celebrity and turns it on its head. In Don’t I Know You?, she shows us how fame is just another form of fiction, and how, in the end, the daily dramas of an ordinary woman’s life can be as captivating and poignant as any luminary tell-all.

This book will be released on September 27, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

15“What Light” by Jay Asher – Given that this book takes place around the holidays, you should time it just right, as in, just before Blanche releases her Winter Reading Guide. From Amazon.com:

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other. 

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love. What Light is a love story that’s moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

This book will be released on October 18, 2016 (Pre-Order here).

…And there you have it, Blanche’s Book Club’s official fall reading guide. Don’t worry, we’ll be throwing in some surprises along the way. Think there’s something we need to read? Leave it in the comments!

Chesapeake Shores: episode 4.

Who's the new chick in Trace's life?

Who’s the new chick in Trace’s life?

The previews from this week’s episode looked emotional, and within the first few minutes of it, the family gets a call from their son, Kevin, who is deployed, and he tells them it’s going to be his last deployment. His phone cuts out when he tries to explain why, although the family is relieved.

Abby is finally heading back to work in Baltimore, and as she’s running out the door, she confesses she still hasn’t told the girls she’s planning to move to Chesapeake Shores. Hmm…

Meanwhile, a girl with some big ‘ole dreads heads over to Trace’s house, and she even walks right inside… but he isn’t home. This should be interesting.

Abby arrives at her new office, and it’s definitely not the New York high rise she was working at in New York. She’s overdressed, and there’s a yoga ball instead of a chair at her desk – not quite her cup of tea.

Back at Trace’s, he comes home to find this girl sitting on his bed. And he is piiiiiiised. He immediately raises his voice at her, “I told you NOT to come here and you think it’s a good idea to just show up here?” She explains that HE’S the one who left Nashville, where he had a life. He gets his things, and leaves, telling her she can’t stay.

Jesse runs into her, as she’s looking for a place to stay. Her name is Lee, and Jesse is a little starstruck, as Lee was a singer on Trace’s last album.

The Patriarch of the family seems disappointed that, even though it’s summer, the family isn’t spending much time together. At work, Abby introduces herself to her new staff, and it’s super formal, and kind of awkward.

Although Jesse is admiring Lee from afar as she is singing at the Inn, Jesse knows Lee is probably in town to see Trace, and she needs to tell Abby… but how?

Abby arrives at Trace’s after work, apparently he’d sent her a text about needed to show her something. He hands her a wedding ring, that he found in the floorboards of the church he’s working on. He suggests she give it to Mick,, since he’s on the board of the historical society.

It’s kind of an awkward moment, and she suggests going to brunch on Saturday so they can start making up their missed time. But he tells her it’s “not such a good idea” and gets out of her car.

Meanwhile, Conner and his mom are having a pretty nasty fight at his apartment after she makes a sly comment regarding the fact that his father pays the rent.

When Abby gets home, her dad is building a playhouse for her girls. She quickly gets a call from Conner and explains what just happened between him and their mom.

When Abby gives her dad the ring from Trace, her stepmom takes a look at it and seems emotional… hmmm!

Abby’s sisters pull her aside to tell her about Lee in town to see Trace; and she doesn’t seem upset at all. She tells the ladies that her and Trace are just friends, so it’s no big deal.

Lee and Trace are sitting around a fire, and it comes out that they were given an advance from a label to produce another album, before he left. He says he returned the advance, and she says it’s not about the money, the label wants them to record the album.

He also drops that he “almost cost someone their life”…uhhh WHAT?! She says he needs to forgive himself, and it’s pretty much left at that.

Across town, Abby is laying in bed thinking about what she said to her sisters. It’s obvious she feels a little different about Trace than she’s led on (duh). Later that morning, outside of Sally’s, Abby sees Trace’s truck and goes inside. He’s there with Lee… and it’s awkward.

But Lee knows they dated and she later asks Trace what happened; she knows it’s one of the reasons he won’t come back to Nashville. “Is it really that hard to choose?” she asks him… and he doesn’t have much of an answer.

At family dinner, the house phone rings… a call about Kevin. Their father says it was a PR officer saying they needed to stand by, because they lost communication with Kevin’s troop. …And the episode is over.

Cannot wait for next week’s episode!