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Austin City Limits: The highlights.

Austin City Limits!

I went to Austin City Limits (ACL) – weekend two – over the weekend, and I still cannot stop thinking about how much fun I had!

Last year, my best friend Sheena came to Austin and we ventured to one day of the festival, both seeing it for the first time. We were there from open to close, and although it was fun, I wasn’t sure if I’d go back.

I’ve been to the Van’s Warped Tour a few times and also to Hangout Fest multiple times and both of those were much more organized and fun, I thought. But when I saw this year’s lineup for ACL – I knew I had to go, and I needed to be there all three days. I used the ACL Fest app to create a schedule and that helped me see all the bands on my list.

Friday

On Friday, I headed to the festival around 3:30, but after a debacle with my Uber driver, I didn’t get into the festival until 5:15 – Khalid was scheduled to start at 5:30, so I was BOOKING it to the Honda stage to see the start of the show.

I made it with time to spare, and he put on a great show. I saw Khalid earlier this year at Red Rocks, but I felt pretty distracted by the venue itself (and the crowd) that seeing him at ACL was a good idea. He played several of the songs from “American Teen”, and also sang “OTW”, “Love Lies”, and “Eastside”… and he also announced that his new EP would drop this Friday, October 19!

Khalid @ Austin City Limits.

Next up was Hozier, who I’ve never seen live, but have listened to plenty. I grabbed some dinner (the other great thing about ACL) and a seat far away so I could eat and listen. If you’re wondering, I got a lobster tostada and chips with green chile queso from Torchy’s – it was delicious!

Hozier also sounded fantastic live, and the place went nuts when they sang “Take Me to Church”. It was impressive.

Next, I knew I had to go to the Silent Disco – Sheena and I went last year and it was my favorite part. If you’ve never been to a Silent Disco before, you get a set of headphones upon entering. There are multiple DJs set up – in this case, three – and they are each playing on a different channel that you can tune into via the headphones.

I danced my legs off for about an hour before I treated myself to an organic strawberry lemonade, watched Paul McCartney perform a few songs, and made my way out of the festival.

Saturday

After getting there so late on Friday, I made an effort to leave a little earlier on Saturday. I got to the festival around 3:20, but it took a little more than an hour to get through the bag check line and scan my wristband.

I still had plenty of time to grab some food – a grilled cheese with fig jam from Burro – before seeing Marion Hill perform, which was a lot of fun.

Lil Wayne @ Austin City Limits.

Then, I headed to see Lil Wayne (the replacement for Childish Gambino) about an hour early – I wanted to get a good spot, which actually ended up being a giant mistake. I was in the middle, crammed in with so many sweaty people… but it was fun to see Lil Wayne (I saw him in New Orleans when he was touring songs from “The Carter III”).

He sang new songs, and took it all the way back to “Go DJ” – one of my favorites.

The headliner that night was Metallica, so I watched a few songs of their set – they sounded great – and there were tons of people there with Metallica shirts on. On my way out, I bought a Khalid shirt.

Sunday

Sunday was the biggest day on my schedule, and I’m not going to lie, I had the most fun. My allergies and a little bit of a cold were hold me down some on Friday and Saturday, but I woke up Sunday feeling much better and I was ready to roll!

I got to the festival around 2:30, in time to see Elle King and grab food (are you noticing a trend here?) – I got a vegan sandwich from Flyrite with tater tots and it was delish. Elle King was also refreshing and I made a mental note to buy some of her music.

Shawn Mendes @ Austin City Limits

Next up was Janelle Monae – I had her on my list as a “hope to see” her, but I ended up LOVING her performance and watched every minute of it! She sang all of her hit songs, complete with choreography and fun costumes. I was impressed. She ended her performance reminding everyone to vote, and said, “We’re about to change the mother fucking world!” Yes!!!!

And then it was the biggie: Shawn Mendes. He was the whole reason I bought a ticket for weekend two – and wow was that a great decision. I found a spot in the middle of the crowd, and he sounded fantastic! He sang some radio favorites, including “Stitches”, “Lost in Japan”, and “Treat You Better”, along with two cover songs. He even ran into the crowd (heavily surrounded by security, of course) and said he’s always wanted to play ACL. I loved it, and bought some of the songs I didn’t have once I got home.

Closing the night was Travis Scott, and he brought Shaq on stage – the crowd was excited and confused all at once. Many of his songs had gunshot sound effects, which was alarming, and I immediately left after hearing what I wanted to. I was surprised more people didn’t leave – I didn’t think artists were doing that anymore, and even though I am against editing expression, I didn’t feel comfortable hearing those sounds in a festival atmosphere. I don’t think I would have been able to tell if it was real or not.

The Silent Disco @ Austin City Limits.

All in all though, it was a fantastic weekend – so much fun and so much great food and music. It really reminded me why so many people flock from all over to attend their favorite festivals. We need events like these to feel free – free to have fun and express ourselves. It’s also a reminder of how great places can be – I felt really lucky to live Austin, a city that embraces creativity and progressive causes. I really needed those reminders, and I’ve been listening to music ever since I left Zilker Park. It truly was good for my soul.

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My ‘ Catitude’ strikes again…

The Cheshire Cat from “Alice in Wonderland”!

A few months ago, I wrote about a situation at my job where a coworker called me out for having a bad attitude (you can read all about it here).

In a nutshell, I have often been called out for having a bad attitude, and as of January 2018, I decided it was really annoying and I should probably do something about it before I really started standing in my own way.

Since then, I’ve made an effort to smile when I’d rather have resting bitch face; made small talk when I’d rather listen to podcasts in the comfort of my office; and I’ve taken deep breaths instead of blurting out my initial reaction.

It sounds really small, but these are big changes in my world.

A few weeks ago, an opportunity was presented to me at work. It was an opportunity that would mean more responsibility, working with new people, being a part of strategic decisions, and making more money.

So, I threw my hat in the ring.

But I heard that not too many people were excited to see my name – how could she think she could manage people when she’s so rude?

I understood their thoughts, but I was crushed. Even after all the work – and effort – I’d been putting in, I was keeping myself from moving forward in my career.

Granted, these were opinions coming from people that have never worked with me, but still. I had an honest conversation with my boss and asked her if it was a lost cause.

And I wasn’t just talking about the recent opportunity; I was also talking about my job in general. If I’ve ruined my reputation so bad by just a few things (writing short emails, not saying thank you fast enough, etc.), then it was time for me to find a new job and start over.

She said it wasn’t a lost cause, but I still needed to do more self-reflection on my attitude.

So, I’m working on that, and I also volunteered to give extra training presentations (for which some people openly said they wouldn’t attend), I’ve sent cheery and informational emails, I’ve blindly agreed, and I’ve picked up extra tasks.

Most of these things have gone ignored; emails go unanswered, trainings will be unattended, and people will likely still think I’m rude.

Perhaps my attitude will always be my struggle.

And hey, if I never get a promotion, well, that’s another problem for another day. But in all honesty, it hurts my heart that people think I’m “fucking rude” (that’s the phrase that was said to me).

Yeah, I can be a smart ass. But fucking rude?

I certainly am not out to hurt people, and I’m always just trying to do my work as efficiently as possible, which I understand can come off as short. I also understand that perception is reality, and I have to be careful with how my coworkers perceive me.

But the people who’ve said these things about me work in another state – they didn’t see that I cooked and delivered dinner for my coworker and her family when they moved into a new home, when I helped someone in another department write a lengthy email because she couldn’t get her thoughts down, or anytime I make the morning coffee because our administrator is bogged down with phone duty.

I’m not asking to be praised for these team tasks – it’s what people do for each other, and I want people to see me as helpful, not hurtful.

I suppose time, and continuous effort, will tell.

I know that at most jobs, you can’t really be your full self – but I’ve never had to work somewhere where I have to watch every word, pay attention to my facial expressions, and my emails. Is this adulting?

Watching: ’13 Reasons Why’.

I just finished watching season one of “13 Reasons Why”.

Please note, the following content may contain emotional triggers.

Early last year, I read Jay Asher’s popular YA novel, “13 Reasons Why” – you can read my full review here – around the same time it debuted as a TV series on Netflix. I heard about how controversial it was, how difficult it was to watch.

But I read the book in just two days.

“13 Reasons Why” – the book and the series – is a story told from the perspective of Hannah, a high school student who killed herself. Before she ended her life, she recorded the 13 reasons why on a series of cassette tapes, and left instructions on how it should be delivered.

She intended for everyone who hurt her understand what they did and how it negatively affected her life. In the book and the series, we are “hearing” the tapes through Clay Jensen – a character that knew, liked, and worked with Hannah.

This is pretty much where the similarities between the book and the series stop. I completely understand that they had to adapt the story for TV, but it was really so, so different from the book.

No spoilers – but the book really doesn’t go into the details of Hannah’s parents or family life. It also doesn’t really get into the details of Hannah’s “friends” nor does it discuss their reaction to the tapes.

In the book, we simply get Clay’s reaction, and not much else (which makes for a perfectly complete story).

I’ll admit, the series was difficult to watch at times. The story is heartbreaking, and sadly, I know it’s not far from how many teenagers currently experience high school. I cannot explain how many times I’ve thanked the universe for not inventing smartphones and/or social media before I graduated from high school. I would have been miserable.

The one thing I disagreed with in the series is that… they don’t depict Hannah as having mental problems. I cannot sit here and say that everyone who commits suicide was mentally ill, but I also don’t think it’s something we can just say, well if we would have been nicer to that person, they would still be here today.

Again, maybe I’m wrong on this, but I would hate to think that people would watch the series and think a single date or encounter might end someone’s life.

The end of the series definitely left more to be desired, which doesn’t make sense for the book. But, there’s already a season two and I’ve got a few ideas what it will entail. However, I do think you have to be in the right head space to watch it. I binged it, and definitely needed to get outside and do something positive before going to bed.

Whether you watch the series or not, I know that no matter what – high school is tough. Teenagers go through a lot, especially today, and it’s not a bad lesson to learn that we should all treat each other a little better.

BBC: 2018 Halloween Reading Guide!

It’s October 1st, and what better way to celebrate the spookiest month of them all than with a list of books meant to scare the daylights out of you?! If you’ve been around these parts for awhile, you know that I don’t do too well with anything scary. What can I say? I’m a wimp!

stephanie

Guest Blogger, Mystery/Thriller Enthusiast Stephanie-Kaye Baker

So, I’ve enlisted a friend, who’s a fellow bookworm and she’s always reading something spooky… it’s Ms. Stephanie-Kaye Baker!

She told me she loves to read because it takes her mind someplace else for awhile. It also relaxes her – her exact quote was, “Let’s be honest, it keeps me sane so I don’t hit people. Ha!”

She also loves dogs and eating vegan food. Her favorite book is “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte. Her favorite book series is Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling.

Below is her extensive list of terrorizing titles for your pleasure, with book descriptions from Amazon.com:

‘Sharp Objects’ by Gillian Flynn

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.

‘The Blinds’ by Adam Sternbergh

Imagine a place populated by criminals—people plucked from their lives, with their memories altered, who’ve been granted new identities and a second chance. Welcome to The Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by misfits who don’t know if they’ve perpetrated a crime or just witnessed one. What’s clear to them is that if they leave, they will end up dead.

For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace—but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town’s residents revolt. Cooper has his own secrets to protect, so when his new deputy starts digging, he needs to keep one step ahead of her—and the mysterious outsiders who threaten to tear the whole place down. The more he learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway. It’s simmering with violence and deception, aching heartbreak and dark betrayals.

‘Final Girls’ by Riley Sager

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls: Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit; and Sam, the second Final Girl, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

‘Stranger in the House’ by Shan Lapena

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.

There’s a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good.

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won’t stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

‘Woman in the Window’ by AJ Finn

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

‘It Ends with Her’ by Brianna Labuskes

FBI special agent Clarke Sinclair doesn’t give up easily. She’s spent years tracking serial killer Simon Cross, forced to follow his twisted clues and photographs across the country. Clarke knows that Cross selects only redheaded women and that he doesn’t target another victim until Clarke discovers the previous one.

He’s never broken pattern…until now.

A girl has already gone missing in upstate New York when a second one is kidnapped—a blonde. The killer’s MO has changed, sending Clarke back to the drawing board. The closer she gets to the truth, the deeper she’s drawn into an inescapable trap made just for Clarke. Whatever Cross’s ultimate game is, it ends with her.

‘It’ by Stephen King

Note from the author: Really, anything by Stephen King

Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

‘Ink and Bone’ by Lisa Unger

Twenty-year-old Finley Montgomery is rarely alone. Visited by people whom others can’t see and haunted by prophetic dreams she has never been able to control or understand, Finley is terrified by the things that happen to her. When Finley’s abilities start to become too strong for her to handle–and even the roar of her motorcycle or another dazzling tattoo can’t drown out the voices–she turns to the only person she knows who can help her: her grandmother Eloise Montgomery, a renowned psychic living in The Hollows, New York.

Merri Gleason is a woman at the end of her tether after a ten-month-long search for her missing daughter, Abbey. With almost every hope exhausted, she resorts to hiring Jones Cooper, a detective who sometimes works with psychic Eloise Montgomery. Merri’s not a believer, but she’s just desperate enough to go down that road, praying that she’s not too late. Time, she knows, is running out.

As a harsh white winter moves into The Hollows, Finley and Eloise are drawn into the investigation, which proves to have much more at stake than even the fate of a missing girl. As Finley digs deeper into the town and its endless layers, she is forced to examine the past, even as she tries to look into the future. Only one thing is clear: The Hollows gets what it wants, no matter what.

‘The Haunting of Ashburn House’ by Darcy Coates

The ancient building has been the subject of rumours for close to a century. Its owner, Edith, refused to let guests inside and rarely visited the nearby town.

Following Edith’s death, her sole surviving relative, Adrienne, inherits the property. Adrienne’s only possessions are a suitcase of luggage, twenty dollars, and her pet cat. Ashburn House is a lifeline she can’t afford to refuse.

Adrienne doesn’t believe in ghosts, but it’s hard to ignore the unease that grows as she explores her new home. Strange messages have been etched into the wallpaper, an old grave is hidden in the forest behind the house, and eerie portraits in the upstairs hall seem to watch her every movement.

As she uncovers more of the house’s secrets, Adrienne begins to believe the whispered rumours about Ashburn may hold more truth than she ever suspected. The building has a bleak and grisly past, and as she chases the threads of a decades-old mystery, Adrienne realises she’s become the prey to something deeply unnatural and intensely resentful.

Only one thing is certain: Ashburn’s dead are not at rest.

‘Interview with the Vampire’ by Anne Rice

Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force—a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.

‘Helter Skelter’ by Vincent Bugliosi

In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his “family” of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the proportions of myth. The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era.

Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, and this book is his enthralling account of how he built his case from what a defense attorney dismissed as only “two fingerprints and Vince Bugliosi.” The meticulous detective work with which the story begins, the prosecutor’s view of a complex murder trial, the reconstruction of the philosophy Manson inculcated in his fervent followers…these elements make for a true crime classic. Helter Skelter is not merely a spellbinding murder case and courtroom drama but also, in the words of The New Republic, a “social document of rare importance.”

‘Hallowe’en Party’ by Agatha Christie

At a Halloween party, Joyce—a hostile thirteen-year-old—boasts that she once witnessed a murder. When no one believes her, she storms off home. But within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub.
 
That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the `evil presence’. But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double-murderer…

‘Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder’ by Joanne Fluke

Author’s note: More funny than scary but there are murders. This entire series is hilarious!

No one cooks up a delectable, suspense-filled mystery quite like Hannah Swensen, Joanne Fluke’s dessert-baking, red-haired heroine whose gingersnaps are as tart as her comebacks, and whose penchant for solving crimes–one delicious clue at a time–has made her a bestselling favorite. And it all began on these pages, with a bakery, a murder, and some suddenly scandalous chocolate-chip crunchies. Featuring a bonus short story and brand new, mouthwatering recipes, this new edition of the very first Hannah Swensen mystery is sure to have readers coming back for seconds. . .

Hannah already has her hands full trying to dodge her mother’s attempts to marry her off while running The Cookie Jar, Lake Eden’s most popular bakery. But once Ron LaSalle, the beloved delivery man from the Cozy Cow Dairy, is found murdered behind her bakery with Hannah’s famous Chocolate Chip Crunchies scattered around him, her life just can’t get any worse. Determined not to let her cookies get a bad reputation, she sets out to track down a killer. But if she doesn’t watch her back, Hannah’s sweet life may get burned to a crisp.

‘Amityville Horror’ by Jay Anson

The classic and terrifying story of one of the most famous supernatural events–the infamous possessed house on Long Island from which the Lutz family fled in 1975.

‘The Exorcist’ by William Peter Biatty

Originally published in 1971, The Exorcist is now a major television series on FOX. It remains one of the most controversial novels ever written and went on to become a literary phenomenon: It spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, seventeen consecutively at number one. Inspired by a true story of a child’s demonic possession in the 1940s, William Peter Blatty created an iconic novel that focuses on Regan, the eleven-year-old daughter of a movie actress residing in Washington, D.C. A small group of overwhelmed yet determined individuals must rescue Regan from her unspeakable fate, and the drama that ensues is gripping and unfailingly terrifying.

Two years after its publication, The Exorcist was, of course, turned into a wildly popular motion picture, garnering ten Academy Award nominations. On opening day of the film, lines of the novel’s fans stretched around city blocks. In Chicago, frustrated moviegoers used a battering ram to gain entry through the double side doors of a theater. In Kansas City, police used tear gas to disperse an impatient crowd who tried to force their way into a cinema. The three major television networks carried footage of these events; CBS’s Walter Cronkite devoted almost ten minutes to the story. The Exorcist was, and is, more than just a novel and a film: it is a true landmark.

Purposefully raw and profane, The Exorcist still has the extraordinary ability to disturb readers and cause them to forget that it is “just a story.” Published here in this beautiful fortieth anniversary edition, it remains an unforgettable reading experience and will continue to shock and frighten a new generation of readers.

‘Cross her Heart’ by Sarah Pinborough

Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job and her best friend Marilyn.

But when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him, too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it’s time to let her terrifying secret past go.

But when her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see, Lisa’s world explodes.

As she finds everything she has built threatened, and not knowing who she can trust, it’s up to Lisa to face her past in order to save what she holds dear.

But someone has been pulling all their strings. And that someone is determined that both Lisa and Ava must suffer.

Because long ago Lisa broke a promise. And some promises aren’t meant to be broken.

‘The Chalk Man’ by CJ Tudor

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
 
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.
 
That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago. Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

‘Double Whammy’ by Gretchen Archer

Author’s note: Another funny book but has crime.
Davis Way thinks she’s hit the jackpot when she lands a job as the fifth wheel on an elite security team at the fabulous Bellissimo Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. But once there, she runs straight into her ex-ex husband, a rigged slot machine, her evil twin, and a trail of dead bodies. Davis learns the truth and it does not set her free—in fact, it lands her in the pokey. Buried under a mistaken identity, her hot streak runs cold until her landlord Bradley Cole steps in. Make that her landlord, lawyer, and love interest. With his help, Davis must win this high stakes game before her luck runs out.

‘All the Missing Girls’ by Megan Miranda

Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.

‘Murder by the Slice’ by Mary Maxwell

Author’s note: Funny!
At this year’s school carnival fund-raiser, the obnoxious president of the Parent Teacher Organization is found stabbed through the heart with Phyllis Newsom’s own knife, with traces of incriminating frosting. Clearing her name will be no piece of cake…

‘Glazed Murder’ by Jessica Beck

Author’s note: The entire series is a fun read. There are murders and a donut maker helps solve them.
Meet Suzanne Hart, owner and operator of Donut Hearts coffee shop in April Springs, North Carolina. After her divorce from Max, an out-of-work actor she’s dubbed “The Great Impersonator,” Suzanne decided to pursue her one true passion in life: donuts. So she cashed in her settlement and opened up shop in the heart of her beloved hometown.

But when a dead body is dumped on her doorstep like a sack of flour, Suzanne’s cozy little shop becomes an all-out crime scene. Now, everyone in town is dropping by for glazed donuts and gruesome details. The retired sheriff warns her to be careful—and they’re all suspects. Soon Suzanne—who finds snooping as irresistible as donuts—is poking holes in everyone’s alibis…

***

There it is – 21 books to get you in the Halloween spirit! Which ones sound good to you? Are there books you’d recommend that aren’t on this list? I think I might pick up a few of the lighter ones… but I also have a copy of “The Final Girls” on my shelf waiting to be read. Happy reading, y’all!

‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ Tour!

Tour image from Red Rocks.

In May, I took a Bucket List trip to Denver, Colorado to see Khalid in concert at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre. While I was waiting for the show to start, I saw the image above flash on a screen promoting a concert in September.

“The Miseducation of Lauren Hill 20th Anniversary Tour”, the screen said. What???

Ms. Lauryn Hill, and specifically “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”, changed my life. In a previous blog post, I named it one of three most-influential albums of my life thus far:

The Fugees’ album “The Score” was one of my first tastes of hip-hop. I loved it, so when Lauryn Hill debuted her solo album, I was all over it. And wow. I would venture to say this album has had the most impact on me, musically, in my life thus far.

This was a popular one, selling 1 million copies in its first month (8 million copies in 4 years), and it remained in the top charts for 81 weeks. At the time, Lauren Hill was an icon, and her album was everywhere – even later being placed on several “Best Album Ever” lists.

But in 2000, Hill basically disappeared from the public eye, and stayed hidden for nearly four years. To this day, anytime I see her on TV, I’m shocked. I know that a lot of artists describe an album release as having a child, and she also had a REAL child, after her album release… and I think that album was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

Regardless, I respect her tremendously, and frankly, I don’t know where I’d be without “Ex-Factor”.

I LOVED “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” – despite the fact that I was in 8th grade and she was singing about things I knew nothing about at the time: abusive relationships, abortion, paving the way, and maintaining your values as a woman when society pressures us otherwise.

And yes, Ms. Hill did disappear from the public eye. I didn’t know it then, but even though her album received loads of accolades and awards (including Grammy’s, Billboards, MTV, and Vh1, among others) – it was the first hip-hop album ever to win Record of the Year at the Grammy’s, but it also received harsh criticism – people saying she didn’t even write the lyrics.

These musicians sued Ms. Hill and she settled for $5 million. Rumors swirled that she was racist, and that she’d lost control, mentally. In the few interviews she did, she said she felt trapped by fame, not being able to go public places. Her level of success was rare in those years.

…Which is why I was so shocked when I saw the screen saying she was back on tour. I knew I had to go because she may never tour again. So I looked to see where she was stopping on the tour, and Sugar Land was the closet option. Done and done!

After I bought my ticket, I dug through my remaining collection of CDs – those so meaningful I couldn’t get rid of them. I still have my original disc of “Miseducation”, but when I tried to play it in my car, most of the songs skipped. So, I got a new, digital copy, that I’ve been listening to. I still love all of the same songs I did 20 years ago, and listening to “Zion” gives me chills.

A month or so ago, Ms. Hill was in the news – a jazz musician went on a popular radio show and told the host (on air) that she didn’t write the lyrics to her album, that she only played different arrangements of those songs because she didn’t have the rights to the original versions, and he also noted a time when he auditioned for her and she demanded he refer to as Ms. Hill, among many other allegations.

Ms. Hill responded to him publicly, in an essay that addressed many of the rumors that have swirled around her for years – you can read it here.

I do not hate white people. I do, however, despise a system of entitlement and oppression set up to exploit people who are different. I do loathe the promotion and preservation of said system at the expense of other people, and the racist and entitled attitudes it gives rise to. The lengthy history of unfairness and brutality towards people of color, especially Black people, has not been fully acknowledged or corrected. The expectation is for us to live with abuse, distortion, and deliberate policies, meant to outright control and contain us — like we’re not aware of our basic right to freedom. I resist and reject THESE ideas completely. Like many Black people, I work to reconcile my own generational PTSD. I do my best to Love, pursue freedom in body, Spirit and mind… and to confront.

Throughout the essay, Ms. Hill reminded readers that she is a mother of six, she paved the way for women in hip-hop and R&B (many artists, male and female, list her as one of their top inspirations), and of her groundbreaking past with The Fugees.

While I felt that she didn’t owe this explanation to anyone, it made me love and respect her so much more. This is a woman that was, and still is, before our time. I’m grateful that her art set the stage for me – for the music I listened to and to help me understand some of the things I’ve faced in my life.

So, tonight is the concert, and well, I don’t really know when the last time was that I was THIS excited. I have no idea what to expect (I’ve never seen her live before), what the crowd will be like, heck, I don’t even know what I’m going to wear yet. But I’m looking forward to living in her world for a little bit.

It’s funny how money change a situation
Miscommunication leads to complication
My emancipation don’t fit your equation
I was on the humble, you on every station
Some wan’ play young lauryn like she dumb
But remember not a game new under the sun
Everything you did has already been done
I know all the tricks from bricks to kingston
My ting done made your kingdom wan’ run
Now understand “l-boogie’s” non-violent
But if a thing test me, run for mi gun
Can’t take a threat to mi new born son
L’s been this way since creation
A groupie call, you fall from temptation
Now you want to ball over separation
Tarnish my image in your conversation
Who you gon’ scrimmage, like you the champion?
You might win some but you just lost one
– Ms. Lauryn Hill, “Lost One”

BBC: ‘Ghosted’.

It’s officially FALL, Y’ALL!

Cue the pumpkin patch pictures (say that 5 times fast), pumpkin spice lattes, flannel and plaid everything… I’ll admit I have always loved fall, but mostly because of the crisp air and, in a way, it’s the start of the holiday season.

Speaking of holidays, today I’m spending the day working on Halloween masks to stock in my Etsy store. I made these masks last year and sold almost 20 of them! I made the mistake of making them to order, which meant I was up until 4 am one Monday morning sewing, gluing, and packing handmade masks to ship.

It was stressful (although lucrative), so this year I’ve decided to make all of the masks at once and once they’re sold out, they’re sold out! I have enough supplies to make about 15 masks, so I’ve got a busy day ahead!

Anyway, Blanche’s Book Club breezed right through another book this week: “Ghosted” by Rosie Walsh – a title from our Summer Reading Guide. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.

Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened–there must be an explanation.

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

I was really excited to read this book because… let’s face facts: I’ve been “Ghosted” in the dating world many, many times. If you’re not familiar (then, lucky you), being ghosted is when the person you’re talking to just completely falls off the face off the earth. They ignore your attempts to connect, and it’s absolutely maddening!

This book talks about exactly that, but it’s much more, and loads more creepy. I read this book in a single sitting – I just had to know how the mystery would end! I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves a romance-mystery combo.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Blood, Bones, and Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton. If you follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 – you can see real-time updates on the books I’m reading, and today, updates on my Etsy Halloween masks!

Have a great Sunday!

BBC: ‘The Bucket List’.

Hey there! It’s about 11 on Tuesday night, and while I normally would be tucked in bed by now, I’ll admit I’ve got some nerves keeping me awake. In the morning, I’m heading to a dermatologist to have my skin examined for signs of cancer.

Right before I went on vacation, I was putting on my daily dose of lip liner when I noticed a tiny, dark brown freckle. I’ve got other freckles along my lip line, but I think this one is new and it looks darker than others. So, I made an appointment.

While a huge part of me thinks it’s nothing, I can’t ignore it. I’m almost embarrassed to say this appointment will be my first time getting a full “body scan” for any questionable signs. I figured this was as good a time as any to get a baseline, and maybe even a little education on what to look for. No one in my family has ever had skin cancer – in fact, my dad was the first person to have any kind of cancer – but I know that even those statistics can’t keep everyone safe.

Whatever happens, I’ll report back!

On that same note, Blanche’s Book Club read “The Bucket List” by Georgia Clark! Here’s the official description from Amazon:

Twenty-five-old Lacey Whitman is blindsided when she’s diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene mutation: the “breast cancer” gene. Her high hereditary risk forces a decision: increased surveillance or the more radical step of a preventative double mastectomy. Lacey doesn’t want to lose her breasts. For one, she’s juggling two career paths; her work with the prestigious New York trend forecaster Hoffman House, and her role on the founding team of a sustainable fashion app with friend/mentor, Vivian Chang. Secondly, small-town Lacey’s not so in touch with her sexuality: she doesn’t want to sacrifice her breasts before she’s had the chance to give them their hey-day. To help her make her choice, she (and her friends) creates a “boob bucket list”: everything she wants do with and for her boobs before a possible surgery.

This kicks off a year of sensual exploration and sexual entertainment for the quick-witted Lacey Whitman. The Bucket List cleverly and compassionately explores Lacey’s relationship to her body and her future. Both are things Lacey thought she could control through hard work and sacrifice. But the future, it turns out, is more complicated than she could ever imagine.

I read Georgia Clark’s “The Regulars” and I loved it, so I was really excited for this one. I will admit that part of me was super paranoid while reading this book – I kept wondering if I had the BRCA1 gene mutation.

But the other part of me just couldn’t help but get lost in Lacey’s world – there was high fashion, designers, hot guys, (dare I say it) saucy sex scenes, and some genuine romance sprinkled in. There was also friendship and some bits of – what felt like real life – it was a great balance. There was so much detail, I feel like this would make a great movie, and it could even be a series of books!

I’m recommending this book to anyone who wants to live life to the fullest, and to anyone who enjoys reading about life-changing events, although I would say that if you’re sensitive about breast cancer, this book may contain triggers.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Ghosted” by Rosie Walsh. Wish me luck!

What a stuffed llama taught me about self-care.

Labor Day weekend, I went to the outlet mall to catch some highly-anticipated sales. After almost shopping ’til I dropped, I stopped by a store I’ve recently come to love: Five Below. It’s a place you have to be in the mood to look, but everything is $5 or below.

I’ve bought some pretty cool things there in the last few months including a set of 20 fine-tip markers (for journaling), a bluetooth speaker, and a felt board. Okay, and some candy.

That night, I was looking for things to take with me on the beach vacation. During my browsing, I came across a giant metal bin of small plush llamas. Some were gray and some were caramel, and they all had little blankets stitched on their backs. They were so cute, and after picking one up, I discovered it was soft, too.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve been trying really hard to declutter my apartment – donating boxes of old clothes to Goodwill and selling random junk on eBay. I’ve been making progress and it’s helping.

I went on this decluttering spree after listening to a slew of podcasts on minimalism, convinced that I don’t need things to make me happy. And while true, there’s plenty of things that I don’t need, I’ve also learned that indeed, some things DO make me happy. My apartment is full of memorabilia, whether its framed magazine covers of my favorite artists, or scrapbooks full of ticketstubs, those are things I won’t ever give away.

I’ll never be someone who only has a bed in her apartment or stops buying people gifts – I’ll make my effort to declutter, and perhaps focus more on buying consumables or experiences, but that’s probably about it.

As I stood there at the bin of llamas, I found myself in the midst of a self-care crisis. Ever since my dad passed away, I’ve made an effort to do ONLY things that served me – even if it meant it may not be the best decision.

For example, I stopped forcing myself to go to a dance class just to burn calories. Yes, sometimes I feel good after working out, but honestly, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, I just want to go home and cuddle with kitty Blanche after work and that’s not something I’m going to deny myself.

When I went through my weird food phase – I told myself I would just eat whatever sounded good, even if it meant only eating fried cheese curds from Culver’s for dinner. During times of stress or grief, we must be kind to ourselves.

Earlier this year, I went through this same conversation when I was debating buying a cat stroller. Would people think I’m a loser? Would I look silly walking around my neighborhood with this stroller? And then I decided I didn’t care. If a simple $40 purchase made me laugh even once, and I wasn’t hurting anyone, then do it. And I did, and I’ve had many, many laughs while strolling Blanche around the neighborhood.

So, there I was, trying to talk myself out of buying this $5 llama, because I’m 33 and I shouldn’t be buying stuffed animals.

In the last year or so, stores have embraced mermaids and unicorns, and llamas, too – it is my personal belief that the world, in general, is in such turmoil, that we’ve turned to imaginative, glittery beings to distract us from all things grey and bleak.

My dad loved animals – especially farm animals – and goats and llamas made him laugh. I’ve stopped myself from buying many llama trinkets, from drink coozies, journals, t-shirts, and a phone case, there’s cute “no drama llama” stuff everywhere. Even one of my freelance clients had photos of a lama trek for me to edit, and I found myself getting a good chuckle.

And so, I decided to treat myself to a stuffed llama. Why not? No one had to know about it, and if it makes me smile, then what’s a small little toy going to hurt? I picked out a grey one, with a teal and pink blanket on its back, and magenta feet and ears. After much thought, I named her Laverne.

After a few weeks with Laverne, she’s become a good cuddle buddy. I know stuffed animals are often meant for kids, but when I thought about it, my dad brought a tiny squirrel beanie baby with him to the hospital. He liked having something to hold in his hand.

After surgery, he couldn’t have the beanie baby – everything in his ICU room had to be approved – so his girlfriend knotted a hospital washcloth for him to clutch. My dad was later admitted to a different facility, where I was told he pestered his roommate by tossing the squirrel over to his side of the room (very much something my dad would do).

Every year, my mom and I buy Christmas gifts for seniors in a nursing home who have no one to buy them presents. One of the most coveted items is a stuffed animal, and my mom and I spend countless hours trying to find animals that are just the right size for hugging and made of soft fur. I suppose a stuffed animal can provide comfort to just about anyone.

So, even though my appetite has picked up and I’m slowly getting back into my dance and yoga classes, I’m happy I bought Laverne. If that makes me a little weird, well, it wouldn’t be the only thing.

If it’s going to make you happy, and won’t cause harm, I say go for it.

BBC: ‘All We Ever Wanted’.

I got back to Austin yesterday afternoon, took a quick nap, and headed to teach my first blog class of the semester! It was a busy day, but I always enjoy meeting new students. I have today and tomorrow off work, so I slept in this morning and am just getting things moving. It’s supposed to rain this afternoon and I think most of tomorrow, so I might be getting things done indoors… I do have two books to read before Sunday…

Speaking of reading, Blanche’s Book Club plowed through the latest pick, “All We Ever Wanted” by Emily Giffin. Here is the book’s description from Amazon:

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

This book was on my Summer Reading List, mostly because I liked that it was set in Nashville and it seemed like it had something to do with social media.

As the book description says, the family is well off, and something happens that tarnishes their picture-perfect life and just might ruin things for their son. In an interesting way (and without giving anything away) this book touches on racism, classism, and sexual harassment/assault but still remains easy to read, and fitting with the author’s usual style.

Emily Giffin has written dozens of books, and they’re rightfully popular (and I’m just now realizing I haven’t ready many of hers).

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves social media (especially if you’ve made a mistake on it), if you love romance novels with a twist, and of course if you enjoy Emily Giffin’s books!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Bucket List” by Georgia Clark (also from my Summer Reading List). Follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 and get live updates as I read this one – especially today and/or tomorrow.

Pensacola: My favorite places.

Sweet Pensacola!

I got to Pensacola, Florida on Saturday afternoon for some serious fun and relaxation in one of my favorite vacation spots! While packing for this trip, I realized that I’ve managed to vacation in Pensacola dozens of times over the years – it’s small, there’s enough to do if you’re looking for it, but it’s perfectly acceptable to be on your own time.

And the sand is white and cushy. It’s fantastic. So, I’ve rounded up all the places I always have to go to when I come to Pensacola – I’ve had so many memories here with my family and many friends, and I’m sure there’ll be many more memories in years to come.

Peg Leg Pete’s

Peg Leg Pete’s is off the main drag, near Margaritaville, and it’s the kind of restaurant you’ll likely see in any beach town. It’s made of wood, decorated with license plates, and it’s got way too many choices of fried seafood. Order the oysters rockafeller, get a beer, and head downstairs for live music.

Flounder’s

Flounder’s is across the street from all of the hotels on the beach, and I always sit outside because you get to stick your toes right in the sand. It’s got ocean decor out the wazoo and they serve frozen drinks in souvenir cups.

Crabs, We Got ‘Em

This place is damn near magical! A friend of mine suggested it during a vacation many years ago, and we went there for brunch and they have live music, it’s right on the beach, and they serve these cornbread muffins with honey – so good! If you’re feeling frisky, order a Crap Trap! Gone fishing? This place will cook your catch at your request and serve up all the appropriate sides.

Native Cafe

Native Cafe is a hole-in-the-wall where the surfers hang out after the tide rolls out. It’s simple, artsy, and they’ve got pancakes the size of your head. If you’re around in October, order the pumpkin pancakes. Otherwise, go for the blueberry.

Hemmingway’s

A restaurant honoring Hemmingway himself, this is a little more upscale than the places I’ve mentioned above. It looks like an upscale beach house and has great indoor and outdoor seating. You must order a mojito – they’ve got all different flavors – and they are fantastic.

The Boardwalk & Alvin’s Island

I know Alvin’s Island is… everywhere, but I absolutely love hitting it up. I love scouring through all of the tacky beach souvenirs for as long as possible – I have many a Pensacola item, and it never gets old! The boardwalk is small, but it’s got some cute shops and makes for a nice stroll, post-Hemmingway’s.

Lazy Days

Okay, so Lazy Days is not a place, but it’s the cabana company that apparently only hires young, great-looking dudes that are kind and here to serve (for a small fee and tip, of course). I love spending my days lounging on the beach, reading and watching the waves, and it feels super luxurious to have someone adjust my umbrella every few hours so I don’t get burned.

I love discovering new places, but there’s something really comforting about returning to a place year after year. I love rolling into town and seeing the Pensacola Beach sign, and setting up shop every morning on the beach for a day of relaxation. There’s really not much planning that goes into a vacation like this one, and it’s also not too expensive. Whenever I leave, I always feel recharged – and that’s the best kind of vacation there is!

For my dad.

My dad and me.

As many of you know, my dad passed away on February 3. This has been the most trying time of my life – and although I haven’t felt comfortable enough to share much about my dad, I’m really thankful I have this outlet, and people who read it and can related to the story of my life.

Truthfully, the story of my dad’s death isn’t unlike many others – he was blessed to be surrounded by family as he took his last breath, and every single one of us got the chance to tell him goodbye. And that is something I will be forever grateful for.

There was also a lot of emotional, family drama – and that is what makes this loss so tough for me – on top of it being my dad.

My dad wasn’t someone who ever wanted a big show, so we paid our respects to him at a small chapel in Ringgold, Georgia, a week after he died. There were friends and family there to share stories and pictures of him, and even during that short time, I learned a lot about the person my dad was and the time he spent on earth.

Even though it was a special day and I’m grateful to have been able to be there with my family, I knew I wanted to honor my dad in my own way when I felt the time was right. I wanted to honor him by doing something he loves: fishing.

So, this morning, my lifelong best friend and I rose before the sun and met Pensacola’s best fisherman, Captain Kenny Way at the marina. With beer and a go get ’em attitude, we set sail.

Or, Captain Kenny started the boat and we were OFF!

We caught bait first, then moved on to snapper (red and black). We caught around 15 snapper. And then we used one of the snapper as bait to catch a 7-foot bull shark! You can see the video on my Instagram stories @Orangejulius7 


I’d informed the Captain ahead of time that I wanted to take a few moments to toast to my dad, and it was my honor to write something that I felt captured my dad’s spirit, but also offered some closure to myself, and hopefully to my friend, and maybe even Captain Kenny.

I brought along a few coins to toss into the ocean, and some fresh flower petals to sprinkle on the water – a signal to other boaters that we’d honored a life well-lived. Here’s what I wrote:

When I was little, I had a blue Mickey Mouse tackle box. It came with all the appropriate tackle for a skilled fisherwoman – for which I was not. Regardless, I had the matching fishing pole, and my favorite piece, was a Mickey Mouse bobber. It was designed to look like an inner tube, with Mickey Mouse sitting in it, his big yellow shoes flopping over one side. 
 
My dad was very much a skilled fisherman, and we went fishing many times – I have him to thank for catching the most fish nearly every time I venture out, even if I’m the only female in sight. But there’s two fishing trips that stick out in my mind:
 
The first was a very early morning trip. Early mornings are a necessarily evil when fishing, and my dad took that very seriously. On this particular morning, we had a bit of a drive – heading from our family home in Columbus, Indiana to a lake near Camp Atterbury. My dad had already planned our stops – because that’s the kind of man he was, a planner (sometimes to a fault) and he liked the journey just as much as the destination – donuts and coffee for breakfast, then a later stop on the side of the road to pick up live bait: worms that came packed in black dirt. 
 
Once we got to the lake, the sun was barely rising. I was sleepy, still, and too young for coffee. But it may as well been noon for my dad – we unpacked on the sandy bank, and he threaded my first worm, and reminded me how to properly cast my line – the Mickey bobber flying through the air, landing with a splash on  top of the water. 
 
“Now, when Mickey goes under, reel it in fast,” he said. 
 
So, I stood still and quiet, wondering if any blue gill were seeing the bait, while my dad doctored his line. There we stood, side by side, waiting for something big. The air was crisp and the water was so still, it looked like clean glass. I didn’t know it then, but it was likely the first time of many that I’d get swept away in an Indiana sunrise. It was all so peaceful. 
 
So peaceful in fact, that my eyes glazed over, and then next thing I knew, Mickey was going under and my dad was shouting – “Reel it in, Holly! You’ve got one!” I tried to pull and get my line back in, but it was too late, and I felt so awful that I hadn’t been paying attention. 
 
But thinking back on this moment now, it’s a perfect picture of my dad and I – he, focused and driven, no matter the circumstances, and me – willing to participate, but distracted by the scenery. 
 
When I was in college, my dad invited me to celebrate the holidays in a cabin nestled in the mountains on the Tennessee/Georgia border. It was a small mountain town – one that seemed like it was made for locals, but was likely all tourists. The cabin had a large porch that overlooked a small creek, and a few fishing poles we could borrow. 
 
My dad was determined to fish in this creek, so he bought a can of corn for bait – trout often mistake them for salmon eggs. We baited our hooks and my dad instructed me to cast upstream, so the line would move downstream with the current. I did as I was told, and we quickly discovered a major problem – trees really close to the riverbank. 
 
If I remember correctly, we didn’t even come close to catching a single fish, simply because our lines kept getting caught in the winter barren trees. My dad untagled every line I cast – yet another thing about my dad – he cleaned up a lot of messes for me. He’s stood up for me numerous times – when no one else would – and he introduced to me to the cureall of every breakup: watching “Swingers”. 
 
Since my dad’s passing, I’ve spent countless hours thinking about his life and legacy; what his life meant, what his death means, and how I’ll ever find closure in the numerous questions I have about our relationship. Through memories shared with me, those of my own, and personal items willed to me, I’ve gathered a few new tidbits about the man that he was and the life he lived. 
 
Despite all of my questions though, I know that my dad believed that every person has a story. He believed this to be so true, in fact, that he worked as a reporter (focusing on sports) for many, many years in order to share those stories. It was a job not many would do, in a time when there was no internet, interviews happened face-to-face, and tape recorders were rare. My dad wrote his pieces on a typewriter, after taking notes on a yellow legal pad. He was a beautiful writer, spicy, willing to tell the ugly truth (even at a conservative paper), and he did it for very little pay. 
 
My dad was a fan of the underdog – he was critical of the star players, overrated coaches, and wanted to get the real story from the bench warmers. He loved making people laugh, and perhaps his ability to converse with just about anyone, made it easier for him to share stories – whether in print or with locals at The Olympia. 
 
He was fascinated with the unknown – he had a curiosity for just about anything, and would obsessively throw himself into his latest interest. He was brave, sharp, and he did things his way (and only his way).
 
I have absolutely no doubt that witnessing all of this has very much shaped the person I am today – and will forever be. But I also know that I have to continue to craft my story, too. During these last six months, I’ve realized a lot about myself, including the fact that the unknown can be… terrifying. But it can also be rather exciting, once you embrace it. 
 
Today, I want us to take something familiar – physically speaking, these Presidential coins willed to me – and toss them into the unknown – the depths of the gulf. Consider it a way to throw your comforts, your faith, your purpose, into the great unknown: the future. Send with it a wish for yourself, a wish to keep crafting your story – whether to share, to keep, no matter if the result is picturesque or candid, planned or impromptu. Some stories are well-planned, but some simply happen…
 
It’s impossible for us to immerse ourselves into the unknown without love. My dad loved many things – fishing trips to Bull Shoals Arkansas with his dad and brothers, small towns, Red Vines, chess, Natalie Merchant, rescue cats, and reciting movie lines, among many other things. He loved people, too, and I feel really lucky that “I love you” was one of the last things he said to me, and I to him. 
 
I’m offering these petals as a symbol of love and peace. 
 
Finally, let’s toast: To family, friends, and finding comfort in the unknown. May the ones we’ve lost watch over us from their heaven – for my dad, I hope its on a lake, filled with delicious bass. 

BBC: ‘Dopesick’.

Hey there! I’m heading to the beach tomorrow, and I have noticed a very strong pattern in myself over the last few years. Whenever I’m getting ready for a trip, the days (and usually the entire week) before I leave is completely INSANE.

That’s the thing when you work freelance, have a digital job, and manage a blog – you have to do ALL the work that was originally going to be done while you’re sitting on the beach! So, this week I’ve basically been doing double the work, telling all (11!) of my freelance clients that I’m heading out of town and cramming in last-minute projects, and writing blogs to publish next week while I’m laying in the sand.

Don’t get me wrong – no complaints here – it just seems like no matter how much I prep, part of me is always running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Amidst all of the craziness this week, I had books to read as they were due back at the library. I had no problem getting through this latest one quickly, so let’s hop to it. I’m talking about “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America” by Beth Macy.

In this masterful work, Beth Macy takes us into the epicenter of America’s twenty-plus year struggle with opioid addiction. From distressed small communities in Central Appalachia to wealthy suburbs; from disparate cities to once-idyllic farm towns; it’s a heartbreaking trajectory that illustrates how this national crisis has persisted for so long and become so firmly entrenched.

Beginning with a single dealer who lands in a small Virginia town and sets about turning high school football stars into heroin overdose statistics, Macy endeavors to answer a grieving mother’s question-why her only son died-and comes away with a harrowing story of greed and need. From the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, Macy parses how America embraced a medical culture where overtreatment with painkillers became the norm. In some of the same distressed communities featured in her bestselling book Factory Man, the unemployed use painkillers both to numb the pain of joblessness and pay their bills, while privileged teens trade pills in cul-de-sacs, and even high school standouts fall prey to prostitution, jail, and death.
 
Through unsparing, yet deeply human portraits of the families and first responders struggling to ameliorate this epidemic, each facet of the crisis comes into focus. In these politically fragmented times, Beth Macy shows, astonishingly, that the only thing that unites Americans across geographic and class lines is opioid drug abuse. But in a country unable to provide basic healthcare for all, Macy still finds reason to hope-and signs of the spirit and tenacity necessary in those facing addiction to build a better future for themselves and their families.

This book was outstanding! I’ve read many addiction memoirs, so I was really looking forward to seeing things from a more holistic view, and this book DELIVERED. Macy’s reporting is flawless, and I cannot imagine how long it took her to research, conduct interviews, and then cull everything down into this book.

The book is told through the stories of families who’ve lost a loved one from opioids. There’s information from every angle, from addicts, dealers, doctors, drug companies, and pharmacies… and frankly, the whole thing was quite creepy. It made me scared to trust prescription meds – although I’m already skeptical and rarely even take Tylenol.

It’s interesting, because there’s definitely fault on doctors and drug companies, but I also feel a certain way about how we (society) have responded to opioid addicts. This book made me want to judge less and learn how to administer narcan.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who’s interested in the opioid crisis in our country, but also to anyone who’s known an addict, and for anyone who loves reading true crime and investigative pieces. This is a must read!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “All We Ever Wanted” by Emily Giffin. Have a great weekend!

Bathing suits + body image.

Cute suit!

I remember the first boy/girl pool party I went to. I was in 8th grade, it was the summer of 1998, and I wore a navy blue two-piece from Limited Too. It was a halter top that had turquoise piping and the bottoms were little shorts.

I don’t remember being particularly nervous or worried about my appearance – I’ve always had an average body type, and have never stressed too much about what I eat (especially as a kid).

The first time I remember being aware of my looks was in high school. I was on the dance team and rumors rippled through our squad that the traditional uniform included a cropped top.

The rumors were true. It was a royal blue long-sleeved mock turtleneck leotard cropped top – fitted, with sparkles. There was a matching mini skirt, but we mostly wore black “dance pants” – the shiny black flair pant with a v-cut at the waist.

I spent many a night at home, watching TV while doing reps on an ab roller. I am certain I did likely hundreds of reps – but I was also 14 – and carving out a few abs wasn’t an issue then, especially on top of our grueling practices each week.

I didn’t gain weight until college – I lived up to the “freshman 15”, if not 20 pounds or higher. Many of my favorite clothing items no longer fit, and I felt disgusting. But I also felt low, and eating felt good.

While I got things a little under control over the years – I didn’t really understand the whole picture until after graduating from college. My first reality check was when I decided to do a “detox” – it was a 14-day plan designed to reset the body by cutting out caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, red meat, and excess salt and sugar.

I started looking at food labels and quickly realized that everything I’d been eating was terrible for me. I made my own brown rice, beans, and grilled chicken. By day 3, I was having a “healing crisis” – properly withdrawing from my daily cycle of caffeine and alcohol. It wasn’t unlike me to drink coffee from the time I woke up until lunch, then have a diet coke, and then back on the coffee until I went home, where I would drink wine.

The thought of this makes me cringe.

After the detox, I felt much better and I changed my eating habits. Soon, I joined a boxing gym, and had a strict diet – I was in the best shape of my life. Over the years, I’ve done the Paleo diet (I went strong for 3 months), low-carb, vegetarian, and vegan.

I quit the boxing gym when I moved to Austin (even though there is a franchise near my apartment) and joined a dance studio. The dancing classes aren’t as rigorous a workout as the boxing was, so I know my body has softened.

And over these last few years, I’ve developed a little bit of low self-confidence about the way my body looks. In general, I feel okay each day and I like how most of my clothes fit (it has taken me years to get rid of clothes that don’t make me feel good).

But… swimsuit shopping? Ugh. As a kid, I remember going swimsuit shopping with my mom – and she hated it – but I never understood why. Now I do.

It’s less about my body and more about what’s available to women with curves. Last summer, I realized it was official: I could no longer get by with cheap string bikinis. So, I threw all of mine away.

Last year’s suit!

And thus, the search for the perfect bathing suit began.

I quickly realized that I needed to search for suits in size large or XL, even though I am not those sizes. I’m typically a small/medium, a 4/6. But I guess if you have a C bra size, you’re a large.

I also came to see that the suits offered in “my size” were mostly just plain black and/or looked like they were for women much older than me – brandishing skirts or ruffles – I didn’t want that.

I eventually found a 1-piece at Old Navy that I liked. It had everything on my mental checklist: underwire, adjustable straps, fun pattern. It was $35 and it was the only suit I bought (and owned) last summer (here’s a similar one).

This year though, I was determined to build up my swimsuit wardrobe. I wanted at least one suit that was “luxury” – I was tired of buying cheap suits that wouldn’t last and didn’t fit that great. I also needed additional suits for my upcoming beach trip.

The Aerie Tie Back One Piece!

At first, I looked through all of the suits I liked on my favorite fashion bloggers on Instagram. Giant mistake. While their suits were cute, nearly all of them were made for women that were stick-thin, with no breasts.

These suits had no lining (what? This should not even be allowed), no cups, no underwire, and often no coverage on the butt. Great!

I ended up at American Eagle, a place where I feel like I should not be shopping, but they’ve done me well. I discovered that, not only do they not use traditional models, they also feature actual customers on their site.

This sounds simple, but it’s actually amazing when you’re shopping for a suit – I could see how the suit would look on a body similar to mine, and there were even comments that included women’s height and weight, and this was just amazing!

I ordered two suits online, one basic (a solid one in olive green that was voted as a best-seller) and one sexy, more risque one. I debated on this one, worried it might be too much skin for me, and then I thought, “No, I’m 33, and I shouldn’t be ashamed of my body, my cellulite” and just bought it. Also, and my larger-chested readers will understand, but when you have bigger breasts, nearly everything looks “sexy” – it could be a crew neck, hell, a turtle neck, and people are going to find your body distracting. Yes, that’s me rolling my eyes!

The Aerie Plunge One Piece!

Anyway… Would I go running down the beach in it? No. But it’s definitely cute and I’ll be perfectly fine wearing it while lounging in my cabana.

When the suits arrived at my apartment, I was nervous to try them on. But alas! The basic one fit perfect – it was smoothing in the front, and even though it didn’t have an underwire, it was supportive. The back is completely adjustable with a lace up, which looks neat, too. If this suit were offered in brighter colors, I would buy more.

The other suit (the Aerie Plunge One Piece) fit as I suspected – it was skimpier than my usual attire, but hey, it was cute – light pink and navy in thick stripes. I thought it would be cute with denim shorts.

With two new suits, I was feeling good. But there was still that “luxury” suit I wanted. I lucked out and got the American Eagle suits for around $30 each.

Becca Crochet Deep V One Piece

I was eyeing two suits at Nordstrom, but the universe quickly decided for me when one sold out! The other one – a mauve crochet lace one-piece by Becca that was sheer in all the appropriate places – was still pretty expensive, but if I wore it for a few summers, it would be fine. But then… it went on sale, 50% off, and I got it for $70.

I’d seen many pictures of different-sized women wearing it, and it was flattering on all shapes and sizes. I’m happy to say that it looked great on. The color would look much better with a dark bronze glow (for which I have been applying sunless tanner), but hey, all the more reason to lounge in the sun (slathered in SPF, of course).

I got myself a swimsuit coverup – this was another thing I cleaned out of my closet. I noticed that all of my “swimsuit coverups” were actually just old sundresses that I wore to tailgates in college. Cute then, not now. So, I treated myself to an ACTUAL swimsuit coverup, from Old Navy. I picked the pattern hoping it would match my beach tote and a few various sandals.

My swimsuit coverup from Old Navy!

I don’t know if I’ll ever be satisfied with the way my body looks – it’s much too easy to see other women that look different and I sometimes wish I were thinner or more toned (aren’t we all guilty of this sometimes?) – but I’m slowly learning to appreciate my body for all its done for me.

After all, a different body type doesn’t necessarily mean better – we are all made different, and our bodies react differently to all sorts of things.

I am more concentrated on eating healthy to stay alive and well, and also doing exercises that help my mind and my mental health. If my body tones in that process, great.

Regardless, I know I’ll be comfortable in my bathing suits, either by myself at the pool with a book, or surrounded by my friends at the beach who aren’t judging me or what I’m wearing.

Cheers to having fun in the sun, no matter what type of body you have and what suit you’ve got to wear!

BBC: 2018 Beach Reading Guide!

So, perhaps I’m a little late in creating Blanche’s Book Club’s Beach Reading Guide, but I’m heading to the beach on Saturday, and juuuust in case there’s anyone out there that hasn’t ended their summer yet, I thought I’d round up some quality beach reads for your vacation tote.

I’ve spoken, or written, about many times some of the best moments of my life. One of those moments was in Pensacola, Florida, sitting in a lounge chair on the beach with all of my toes stuck in the white sand, sipping on a beer while reading a Nicholas Sparks’ novel. I will never forget it

A beach read is different than a “summer read” for me – it’s got to be fitting for a vacation… a complete getaway. And it’s got to be something without a complicated plot, because I am very much a beach boozer. So here goes…

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Here is the official description from Amazon:

Debut author Sally Thorne bursts on the scene with a hilarious and sexy workplace comedy all about that thin, fine line between hate and love.

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

                       2) A person’s undoing

                       3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

I love an office scandal! Sounds lighthearted but interesting enough for a beach read, and I’m excited to see what else Thorne writes in the future.

SERIES: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Thanks to Netflix, I’ve heard so much about this book series, and I want to read it SO bad! Here’s the books (listed in order) in the series and their descriptions:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

P.S. I Still Love You

Given the way love turned her heart in the New York Times bestselling To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, which School Library Journal called a “lovely, lighthearted romance,” it’s no surprise that Laura Jean still has letters to write.

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

Always and Forever

Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

…Don’t these books sound delightful? I feel like I could read these all in one sitting… with a nice crisp wine spritzer!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I’ve read one of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books before and it was SO good! I was relieved to see that she’s published several, and it looks like this one will be just as riveting as her others. Here’s the official description from Amazon:

In this entrancing novel “that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all” (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

“Heartbreaking, yet beautiful” (Jamie Blynn, Us Weekly), The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is “Tinseltown drama at its finest” (Redbook): a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it costs—to face the truth.

Nantucket Series by Elin Hilderbrand

I read somewhere that Elin Hilderbrand is the Queen of Summer Reading, so there’s no way I can craft a list of beach reads without including her on it! I’ve read two of her books so far (she has so many) and look forward to reading many more. Here are the books in the Nantucket series (listed in order) with their descriptions from Amazon:

A Summer Affair

Claire has a problem with setting limits. All her life she has taken on every responsibility, assumed every burden, granted every request. Claire wants it all–and in the eyes of her friends, she has it: a devoted husband, four beautiful children, even a successful career as an artist. So when she agrees to chair the committe for Nantucket’s social event of the year, she knows she can handle it. Claire can handle anything.

But when planning the gala propels her into the orbit of billionaire Lock Dixon, unexpected sparks begin to fly. Lock insists on working closely with Claire–often over a bottle of wine–and before long she can’t ignore the subtle touches and lingering looks. To her surprise, she can’t ignore how they make her feel, either. Claire finds the gala, her life, and herself spinning out of control.

A Summer Affair captures the love, loss, and limbo of an illicit romance and unchecked passion as it takes us on a brave and breathless journey into the heart of one modern woman.

The Castaways

Greg and Tess MacAvoy are one of four prominent Nantucket couples who count each other as best friends. As pillars of their close-knit community, the MacAvoys, Kapenashes, Drakes, and Wheelers are important to their friends and neighbors, and especially to each other. But just before the beginning of another idyllic summer, Greg and Tess are killed when their boat capsizes during an anniversary sail. As the warm weather approaches and the island mourns their loss, nothing can prepare the MacAvoy’s closest friends for what will be revealed.

The Perfect Couple

It’s Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer-the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom’s wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate.

But it’s going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom’s famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect. Featuring beloved characters from The Castaways, Beautiful Day, and A Summer Affair, The Perfect Couple proves once again that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer beach read.

Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon

This is the first time I’ve heard of Hannah McKinnon, but she seems like an author I would really enjoy. Here’s the description for “Mystic Summer” from Amazon:

A chance run-in with a college boyfriend puts a young woman’s picture-perfect life in perspective in this warm-hearted and lyrical novel—from the author of The Lake Season.

Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for.

But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.

McKinnon has also written “The Lake Season” and “The Summer House” – and both of these would make great beach reads, too!

There you have it; my beach picks for this year! Did you read any that would make good beach books? Let me know in the comments!

Beach vacation beauty

Yesterday, everyone said goodbye to summer, but… summer is a state of mind, right? I’m heading to the beach on Saturday, so I’m spending a good chunk of my spare time this week prepping and packing for a sandy getaway.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I don’t go to the beach without my makeup bag. In fact, I like bringing new makeup to try on vacation – I usually bring fun stuff that I wouldn’t wear to work (although that’s up for debate).

When I go to the beach, I like to wear makeup that’s light, has a natural look, and has an SPF.

During days on the beach, I don’t wear a full-blown look, but instead I usually wear a tinted sunscreen for the face and I just got some mineral powder that has SPF 45 by Peter Thomas Roth.

At night, that’s when I pull out all the fixins for a beachy-bronze look, and this year, I put together one that’s mostly using Bare Minerals products topped with a cream blush and strobing cream. Below are all of the products I’m packing and tips for achieving the look:

Dawn Patrol Classic Primer by COOLA (SPF 30)

Nothing wakes up our skin like the crisp dawn air and cool water of an early morning surf. Keep that fresh-faced feeling and look all day with our latest innovation, Dawn Patrol SPF 30 Classic Makeup Primer. Our silky-smooth formula provides a multitasking base for radiant skin and flawless makeup application. A proprietary blend of Honeysuckle, White Lily and Iris Stem Cells instantly enhances overall skin quality, while our signature Plant Protection and broad spectrum SPF 30 shields and protects skin from damaging UV rays. Can be used alone or before foundation for flawless skin protection with the perfect photo finish!

This is a clear gel primer that leaves a matte finish – If you’ve never tried COOLA’s products, this is a good place to start.

BareMinerals Matte Foundation (SPF 15)

I have been using BareMinerals for a few years now and I love their Mineral Foundation combined with the Illuminating Mineral Veil. I was really excited when they came out with a matte version of their foundation and I love the way it looks on the skin.

I use the shade “Fairly Light”.

BareMinerals Bare Radiance

I got this in a set that had blush in it as well. Here’s the official product description: A nude look is always classic. And we all could use some extra glow. This lustrous amber sheen is multitalented – you can wear it over or under your bareMinerals, or mix it right in. You can even put it on your lips and eyes. Wherever it goes, it brings out your natural brilliance before you even say a word.

For me, a little goes a long way, but I use it under my cheek bones for a light contour and along my hairline.

MILK Lip + Cheek in Perk

I used to never wear liquid blush, bronzer, or highlighter, but I have so many samples of the stuff I had to break sometime. And I’m glad I did, because it looks so pretty! I got this one by Milk in my Birchbox and I love the coral color: Perk.

Get creamy cheek and lip color in a single stroke. Easy-to-apply, Lip + Cheek Stick provides buildable, blendable blush and lip color with Milk Makeup’s Milk Melt Technology for instant and seamless absorption. Mango butter, and avocado oil intensify its richness—just layer on for bolder color.

MAC Strobe Cream

You can use this highlighting cream just about anywhere on the face, but for my beachy look, I dabbed it on my cheekbones, bridge of the nose and cupid’s bow.

Quick Pro Portables (Sculpt & Glow) by Pur

Although these little travel palettes are for contouring and highlighting, I used them for my eye shadow in this look. Over the last year, I’ve stopped looking at makeup for what it is – you can use shimmery eye shadow as a highlighter or vis versa.

Skinny Liquid Eyeliner (black) by Eyeko

I love a liquid eyeliner and this one makes it easy to get a perfect straight line. I only used this on the top lip for this look.

Always Sharp Waterproof Kohl Liner by Smashbox

I’ve been using a tiny brush and colorful eye shadow on my lower lash-line for a fun look. I found the perfect teal eyeliner – “Cabana” – for my beach look and it goes on so smooth.

Revlon Colorstay Brow Mousse

This stuff is like mascara for the brows… I use it in dark brown.

Total Tease Waterproof Hydrofuge Mascara by Covergirl

Sei Bella Perfecting Lip Pencil

My favorite nude lip pencil – I love it so much I have several of them to keep everywhere I go.

NYX Velvet Matte Lipstick

Even though this has a perfect matte finish, it’s creamy and almost moisturizing. I am using “Beach Casual” for this look, and it’s my go-to nude lip combo.

Makeover Essentials Shimmer Powder Brush (Bronze)

I love using this on my collarbone and shoulders, because it’s a shimmery bronze that makes me look tan and accentuates my bone structure – i.e. skinny in a brush!

Sunscreen Setting Spray SPF 30 by COOLA

Another layer of SPF for me, please! I love to set my makeup with this, especially on days when lunch at the beach is happening.

And there it is, my beach bronze look, complete with layers of SPF! What are some of your go-to products for vacations?