Taking the high road… or hiding under it?

Is this what the ‘high road’ looks like? Cuz I should hang out here more often.

I had an entire blog post ready for today that looked a lot different than this one does. I was going to post screen shots of some text messages I received from a guy I went on a few dates with almost a year ago (the texts are just a few weeks old).

The texts he sent me were mean, and I was hurt. So, I was prepared to put him on blast – because that is what I have done on this blog every time a man treats me poorly.

Originally, I started this blog more than 10 years ago as a place to keep notes for a memoir I was writing (it has since been published). Over the years, this blog has undergone changes in the same way my life has – at one point, I was dating a lot, boy-crazy, and all I wanted was to be loved.

Things have since changed, and a large part of that changed was a result of how I’ve been treated by boys and men over the course of my life. Many men I’ve dated have later seen our stories here; they’ve gotten embarrassed and called me crazy, told me I was “Taylor Swift”, or that I’m just looking for attention.

I don’t like being told any of those things, of course, and I also realized that dating has never been worth it. I’m not here to bash men, and I am not out to be Taylor Swift. But looking back, I feel like those were just hurtful things said to me because I was simply presenting the truth. I know I am not alone in the way I’ve been treated by men, and it’s not okay that any women get text messages like the ones I am talking about today.

So, even after I drafted a post, I then saw an Instagram post (via Stories) from Color Me Courtney, and basically it was a message she’d gotten that said really mean things. And Courtney’s takeaway was, when you get hateful messages, don’t spread hate, spread love.

And that made me think twice about what I was about to publish on this blog. Would I just be putting more hate into the world? I don’t want that to be the vibe of this blog.

Honestly, that has never been my goal – I have only posted my personal stories so that other people can relate, and know they are not alone.

But maybe I don’t have to post texts and my wannabe reply to do that. Is it enough to just say that yes, even though I’ve been single for 5+ years and have only been on about two dates during that time, those dates still end up awful.

Those are the guys that are finding new ways to hurt me (i.e. texting my friends saying they actually liked them and not me).

Years of therapy has taught me that the reason I have dated so many assholes is because I have a history of not valuing myself, so I accept less than what I’m worth. I was hurt, so I attracted people who were also hurt; people that could (and did) take advantage of me in many ways.

Because of this, I often associate dating with being broken – that only the weak need a partner. This is something I know is not true for most people, but I have never dated someone while I’m feeling whole and confident.

And even in these years of growing and learning and feeling confident – I still end up with the mean texts and actions of rejection.

So, is that all it takes? Am I taking the high road, or am I just hiding under it? Am I doing women everywhere a disservice because I’m not being clear about this situation, or is that how it’s done properly?

If I posted the texts, the person I’m talking about would probably text me again and that’s not something I want. Or maybe the blog post would just say more about me than it does about him.

So, I’m leaving it at that: just a simple message to let you know that even approaching 33, 5 years single, I still cannot seem to get things right in the dating department.

And, I’m still okay with that, but I would be even better with it if I didn’t have to get texts about it 🙂

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BBC: ‘Bachelor Nation’.

I’m heading to the doctor this morning for my annual checkup and blood test. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know that last year, I (finally) faced my fears and got my blood tested for all sorts of things… everything turned out fine, so now I am happy to have a comparison and see how things are going. Plus, I’m really not scared! But, I’m still going to treat myself to a fancy pressed juice afterward.

But, wow have I got a T-R-E-A-T for you guys! It’s the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club and it’s juicy: “Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure” by Amy Kaufman. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

For fifteen years and thirty-five seasons, the Bachelor franchise has been a mainstay in American TV viewers’ lives. Since it premiered in 2002, the show’s popularity and relevance has only grown–more than eight million viewers tuned in to see the conclusion of the most recent season of The Bachelor.

The iconic reality television show’s reach and influence into the cultural zeitgeist is undeniable. Bestselling writers and famous actors live tweet about it. Die-hard fans–dubbed “Bachelor Nation”–come together every week during each season to participate in fantasy leagues and viewing parties. 

Bachelor Nation is the first behind-the-scenes, unauthorized look into the reality television phenomenon. Los Angeles Times journalist Amy Kaufman is a proud member of Bachelor Nation and has a long history with the franchise–ABC even banned her from attending show events after her coverage of the program got a little too real for its liking. She has interviewed dozens of producers, contestants, and celebrity fans to give readers never-before-told details of the show’s inner workings: what it’s like to be trapped in the mansion “bubble”; dark, juicy tales of producer manipulation; and revelations about the alcohol-fueled debauchery that occurs long before the fantasy suite. 

Kaufman also explores what our fascination means, culturally: what the show says about the way we view so-called ideal suitors, our subconscious yearning for fairy-tale romance, and how this enduring television show has shaped society’s feelings about love, marriage, and feminism by appealing to a marriage plot that’s as old as Jane Austen. 

Okay, soo… I have watched so many freaking episodes of “The Bachelor” (I don’t really enjoy “The Bachelorette”), it’s not even funny. I used to really love it, and then I just kept getting so upset when they wouldn’t pick the woman I thought they should pick… so then I swore it off… and then I watched Arie’s (horrible) season… all of that to say that the addiction is real, but why?

How does a reality show filled with champagne and tea lights hold such power over us, and how has it affected our expectations of romance?

And that’s why I was so excited to read this book! While I enjoy Tweeting along with millions of others during the show, I am not really familiar with the inner circle known as Bachelor Nation. Amy Kaufman really got an inside look, as she used to write recaps of the show, professionally… that is, until she got a little snarky and The Bachelor franchise shut her out.

So she set out to write a book, and used her connections to get the inside scoop from camera men, producers, and contestants. It. Is. Good. Shit.

Now, I’m not naive, so much of what’s in the book wasn’t a total shock, but it was nice to get confirmation of what I’ve been thinking while watching the show.

Reading this book, you’ll get the scoop on how the show chooses contestants, what it’s like to be a contestant, how all of the dates are planned, how the limo/introductions are planned, who gets paid, details on wardrobe and hair/makeup, and info on the Bachelor Mansion, plus more.

There’s even lots of info about specific contestants, infamous hookups and moments on the show, and a complete list of every season and it’s winner.

This book is like a giant box of Godiva truffles and I loved every bite of it. The thing is, what are we supposed to do after we’re handed such rich information? It doesn’t make me want to pick up watching the show, but I do think we have to consider the type of world we live in where people are willing to sacrifice so much for a drip of fame, and possibly romance.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who has ever watched “The Bachelor” – even just one episode. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty.

My guide to Denver, CO!

I’ve had a few days to marinate on my trip to Denver last week, and wow, it was a good one! I really needed a break from work, and well, from my life in general, and I’m feeling so much better.

I spent a good amount of time planning the things I wanted to do while in Denver (I like to plan, I admit it), so I wanted to share everything here in case you’re ever planning on heading to the Mile High City!

Getting there: Denver Airport + RTD A Line

I’ve been to many airports over the years, but you should know that the Denver airport is pretty massive. It’s the 18th busiest airport in the world, and the 6th busiest in the country! It took me at least 30 minutes to get from my plane to the baggage claim, so plan accordingly. When you’re flying out of Denver, I wouldn’t cut things close – stick to the 2-hour rule.

I planned to take the RTD A Line from the aiport to downtown and found out beforehand that the train is by the Westin Hotel – this helped a lot when I was making my way through the airport, because it never says “RTD” – look for the Westin signs instead. It’s a $9 ride all the way downtown, which is a steal. It’s a 38 minute ride, so again, plan accordingly.

Hotel: The Curtis

The A Line’s last stop is at Union Station and my hotel was just 1 mile from there. I picked The Curtis, owned by DoubleTree, because it was close to so many things I wanted to see. It was decently-priced, and very cute. It’s known for its fun-themed floors – I was on the Dance Floor, which I knew was fate, but other floors include Star Wars, Superhero, Hair, Rock n’ Roll, and Chick Flick – among several others. The bed was super comfy, it had a very modern bathroom, and they had Bravo, so basically, it was perfection!

Brunch: Syrup

After ditching my bags, I skipped over to Syrup! You can get breakfast, brunch, and lunch at anytime here, and feel free to inhale their many house-made syrups including butterscotch, khalua, blackberry, apricot, and coconut among others. I went for the waffle flight and washed it down with their Ultimate Bloody Mary. Delish!

Sight to See: State Capitol Building

I grabbed a Lyft from Syrup to the Colorado State Capitol Building. My Lyft rule while on vacation? If it’s around 1-mile away, I’ll walk it – unless I feel unsafe (like at night, or in a bad area), otherwise, I grab a ride. Most of my rides in Denver were around $4 ($3 ride + $1 tip).

I already live in a state that has an amazing, beautiful Capitol Building, but Colorado’s notoriously sits at 1-mile above sea level, specifically the 15th step at the west entrance, which sits at 5,280 feet above sea level. You’ll know the step, because it is engraved and the view from the step is impressive. If you catch it at sunset, you’ll be able to see the sun sink behind the Rockies.

Icon: Big Blue Bear

From the Capitol, I strolled right over to the Denver Convention Center – home of a Denver Icon: the big, blue bear. Officially named, “I See What You Mean”, artist Lawrence Argent created the bear and it was installed in 2005. It’s 40 feet tall, but adorable – this was on my must-see list, and I’m so glad I got to see it, because when it first came into view as I rounded the corner, I couldn’t stop smiling!

Meeting Spot: Union Station

After seeing a few sights, I walked back to my hotel for a little rest before getting ready to head back out for the night. When I bought my Red Rocks concert ticket in November, I also purchased a round-trip ticked on a CID shuttle that would take me from Union Station to Red Rocks and back. Before I get into it, I’ll say this was a solid way to spend $40.

Union Station has several restaurants, coffee shops, gift shops, and a cool-looking Terminal Bar. Even if you don’t eat or drink there, stop in just to see the decor – it looks like the train stations you’ve imagined/seen in movies.

I walked to Union Station, specifically to the Thirsty Lion, where there was a check-in for the shuttle. Upon checking in, I got a wristband (which earned me a free appetizer). I had around an hour to eat dinner, so I stayed there and enjoyed a few local beers and apps (I got a Cali roll and Calamari). I also dropped my debit card and someone immediately turned it in – which proves what I’d heard about Denver: everyone you meet is genuinely kind. 

The shuttle, which was a huge coach bus, picked us up around 6:15 – the doors at Red Rocks were scheduled to open at 7:30. The ride to the venue is around 15-20 minutes.

Event: Red Rocks Amphitheater

Ah-ha! The moment I’d made this entire trip for! Upon entering Red Rocks, there’s immediately breathtaking views. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The shuttle parked, and as we were told, we would still have a bit of a hike ahead of us, and we were to be back on the bus 30 minutes after the music ended.

I’ll admit it: the hike to the venue is not a joke. At 6,450 feet above sea level, Red Rocks is a little higher than Denver itself, and many people – travelers mostly – can suffer from altitude sickness if their bodies haven’t adjusted yet.

But hey, I made it to the top, and the line to get into the concert was LONG. It took almost two hours to get inside the venue, meaning once I got to the seating area, it was already dark – I don’t think I got to see everything you’re supposed to see.

Red Rocks is the only perfectly acoustic concert venue in the world… but honestly, I was not impressed with the sound whatsoever. It could have been the band’s fault, or technology, or weather… but it was nothing to brag about.

Speaking of weather, I read several guides on what to expect when you’re going to Red Rocks, and quickly learned that it might be a battle with the elements. Because of the geography, weather inside Red Rocks can change very quickly, and it will most likely be chilly. I wore a t-shirt, but packed a flannel shirt, jacket, rain poncho, and a hat – I wore everything. It was cold, raining, and windy for a majority of the night. Getting back on that heated bus was a blessing!

As far as Khalid, he sung his ass off. I hate admitting this, but I think the venue was a bit of a distraction for me. It was difficult to pay attention, but I got to see the entire show, and he sang all the songs from his album, along with three new songs, and some of his popular collaborations. He also said he’d be releasing his new album this fall.

I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t have a good time – I did; I’m still thinking about it. But, I don’t think I’ve ever waited in line for 2 hours to see a show. I would have liked to have been inside during the sunset. It was fun, yes, life-changing? No, but it was a night I’ll never forget.

Breakfast: Denver Biscuit Company

I got back from the concert around 1am, and had been up since 4 that day, so I went to bed hungry, but too tired to deal with it. So, when I got up, I knew I needed a feast. This is exactly why I headed to Denver Biscuit Company!

I started things off with an adult iced coffee (I believe it was called “Mom’s Iced Coffee), and I ate The Dahlia with a side of grits. So. Freakin. Good!

Experience: Botanic Gardens at York Street

From there, I walked off my feast and headed to the Botanic Gardens at York Street. I didn’t plan it, but the walk from Denver Biscuit Co. to the Gardens was so great – I saw Denver East High School (which looks like a university) and walked down York Street, where there were adorable homes with lush landscaping.

The Botanic Gardens are public, and take over 24 acres of land, showcasing flowers and plants from around the world. It was a beautiful day, and although I was incredibly sore from Red Rocks, I enjoyed walking around the entire place and seeing so many beautiful things. The gardens are divided up by region/type of plant. I loved their Japanese Garden, but my favorite spot was the Rock Garden, which showed plants and succulents that thrive in high altitudes. I’d never seen anything like it!

Rooftop Drinks: Avanti F & B

Rooftop view from Avanti F & B

From there, I needed to sit down, and I wanted to visit the Highland area of Denver. So, I headed over to Avanti F & B. Avanti is a collective eatery, meaning it’s basically a trendy, stand-alone food court. You can sit wherever, eat whatever (there’s 7 different restaurants), and drink whatever from the various restaurants and bars there. I got a local beer and a local cider (one at a time, ha) and sat on their rooftop deck for a view of the city. It was gorgeous!

I wished I would have been hungry, because the food options looked great – sushi bowls and fish tacos were a few of the things I saw at the tables nearby, but I was still stuffed from The Dahlia.

Dessert: Little Man Ice Cream

From Avanti, I walked to a place I’ve wanted to go for probably two years: Little Man Ice Cream. Little Man opened in 2008, and I saw it on an episode of “Haylie’s America” and knew I had to visit one day. This iconic ice cream shop stands proudly in a 28ft tall ice cream can, and serves homemade ice cream (and vegan flavors)!

The other awesome thing about Little Man is, they have a Scoop for Scoop program, meaning that for every scoop of ice cream served, Little Man donates a scoop of food (rice or beans) to someone in need around the world. To date, Little Man has fed thousands of people in 9 countries.

It was a difficult decision, but I got a scoop of banana pudding in a waffle cone… I ate every bit!

Dinner: Bar Dough

I stomped around the highland area for an hour trying to drum up an appetite because I had been looking forward to an authentic Italian dinner at Bar Dough for AWHILE. If you’re a fan of “Top Chef”, you’ll know why.

Bar Dough is located in a cozy neighborhood, and inside, it’s fresh and full of white marble. This is the place for top notch bar service (the bartender uses tweezers for straw placement), unique wines, and a unique twist on Italian cuisine.

I started things off with the castelvetrano olives, tried a few new wines, and went for it with a spicy clam pizza – let’s pause for a moment to honor thy dough.

Do yourself a favor, and use the oil they serve with the pizza. DEVINE. If you’re looking for a brunch spot, Bar Dough serves bottomless aperol spritz and I’m pretty sure there’s no other way to pretend you’re in Italy proper.

Coffee: Mercantile Dining & Provision

The next morning was my last moment in Denver, and I needed a real latte. I headed back to Union Station and stopped in Mercantile Dining & Provision. There were so many yummy things to choose from, but I went for the vanilla latte with the house-made almond milk… le sigh. It was fantastic – and it was the first time I’d had a latte with the sweetener served as a cube on the side.

General Tips + Capturing Memories

  • Traveling solo: Many people questioned about my plan to travel alone. However, I’ve done it many times (wrote a guide on it here), and it sounds cheesy, but traveling alone is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. I live alone, and although I even do lots of things by myself, going to a new place is completely freeing. I met new people, but I also learned a lot about myself, and it felt like one giant reward.
  • Packing notes: I bought a little backpack before my trip and used it along with a tiny wallet purse everywhere I went. It was perfect for the concert, but also for all of the walks and places I went during the day.
  • High altitude: I wasn’t too bothered by the altitude, but I packed an empty reusable bottle that I always kept full with water. I also brought packets of Emergen-c, which helped before the hike at Red Rocks.
  • Being present: I made it a mission to be present on my trip, and not be on social media or checking email too much. I brought a book with me, but I found it so nice to just observe everything around me everywhere I went.
  • Videoshop App: I took pictures, but I also wanted to create a video of my trip because I knew it would be special to me (it’s the video at the top of this post). I used the Videoshop app to string together clips I made.

And that’s that! I am so happy I was able to make this trip and see everything on my list. All in all, Denver is a pretty cool place – one I’ll remember for a long time.

BBC: ‘Educated’.

Friday is here! I’m back in Austin after my Bucket List trip to Denver – don’t worry, I’ve got a post coming soon of everything I did, travel tips, and what to pack, on the way! I went to Gaby Dalkin’s Cookbook signing last night, and today’s Friday, so I feel like I’m still high on life, and I’m not mad about it!

The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club strays a little bit from the usual, so let’s get into it! It’s “Educated” by Tara Westover. Here is the official description from Amazon.com: Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills” bag. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged metal in her father’s junkyard.

Her father distrusted the medical establishment, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when an older brother became violent.

When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. There, she studied psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal world events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes from severing one’s closest ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

…Intense, right? One thing this book doesn’t mention is the influence of religion, and Tara’s family was mormon. She states right in the beginning of the book that it’s not to be taken an opinion on the Mormon faith, but you’ll probably develop one as you read it.

I can stand in this wind, because I’m not trying to stand in it. The wind is just wind. You could withstand these gusts on the ground, so you can withstand them in the air. There is no difference. Except the difference you make in your head.

Even after marinating on this book for a few days, I am still in awe of how successful Tara became all on her own – not having had any sort of formal education and then kicking ass in the Ivy Leagues? Wow.

I know I have talked a little bit on here about modern medicine – and about the confusion and struggles my family had when we found out that my dad wasn’t receiving medical care of any kind before he had surgery. So, parts of this book hit home – the sheer fact of simply ignoring major signs and symptoms of illness, and just using energy and essential oils to cure anything. It’s… a different thought process, that’s for sure (and I’m not saying it’s a bad one).

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I’m recommending it to anyone who loves memoirs/true stories, and/or if you love reading about alternative living and religious cultures.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll keep saying it: follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to see more in-depth chats and thoughts on books from the book club – I’ve been known to provide real-time thoughts and reveal my book stacks #BookNerd

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure” by Amy Kaufman.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week for a Denver trip recap!

My Bucket List Trip is here!

Denver, Colorado.

The chances are likely, that as you’re reading this, I’m on my way to, or have already arrived at my Bucket List Trip destination: Denver, Colorado.

But why Denver for a Bucket List Trip? I’ll explain.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to take a trip to a city I’ve never been to and see a concert. So, when a band or a musician I like goes on tour, I always look at the entire list of the cities they’re visiting to see what might work for a possible Bucket List Trip.

Several years ago, I booked a Bucket List Trip with my best friend to Las Vegas to see John Mayer. I bought our concert tickets and was ready for the trip of a lifetime.

And then John Mayer had to have surgery on his vocal chords, and he cancelled his tour. I refused to believe it until I checked my email and saw the refund from the ticket company. My friend and I still went to Vegas, and we had a blast, but it didn’t end up being one off my Bucket List.

As many of you know, I’ve been going through it (what I would consider Hell) since September, when my dad had brain surgery to remove a mass. He passed away in February, shortly after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

I am still very much in pain, and sometimes it feels worse than it did the day he died.

In November, after my dad’s surgery and diagnosis, I saw on Twitter that R&B artist Khalid was going on a new leg of his tour. I’d wanted to see him so badly, but the tickets were always so expensive.

I looked at the stops on his tour, and yes, he was coming to Austin, but he was also performing at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre – a place I have ALWAYS wanted to see a concert. If you’re not familiar with Red Rocks, it’s the only natural acoustically perfect concert venue in the world. Basically, it’s at the bottom of a canyon, and the pictures look insane.

The tickets for the show went on sale just a few weeks after I saw the tour list, and I vowed to get myself a ticket. So, on a Saturday morning between dance classes, I locked myself in a dressing room at the studio and purchased a ticket for the show at Red Rocks.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre; photo from Denver.org.

At the time, I had no idea I’d be grieving, no idea that I would so desperately need a vacation, but alas, here we are, and I’m so thankful I’ve planned this trip for myself!

But I’ve been waitin’ all year to get the hell up outta here
and throw away my fears.
– Khalid

I started listening to Khalid about a year ago. I heard his single, “Location” on the radio during my commute to work and I liked it so much, I wrote it down in my phone.

Months later, I took a trip to Indianapolis to see friends, family, and a guy I liked. Well, one of my friends refused to see me, my family lied to me, and the guy turned out to be an asshole with a house straight out of an episode of “Hoarders” (and recently confessed to my best friend that he actually liked her all along). 

I couldn’t get out of Indiana fast enough. When I got to the airport, I decided to download “Location” and I had it on repeat for a few days. Slowly, I started buying other songs off his album, “American Teen”, and before I knew it, I was listening to the entire album on a loop.

In September, when I flew to Chattanooga to see my dad before his surgery, I was listening to his album to comfort me while I was hysterically crying in the airport:

I cried for my entire Lyft ride to the airport, through security, and once I got to my gate, I found a corner and cried. I cried so hard that someone from TSA came to talk to me to see if I could calm down.

The truth is, how could I be any semblance of okay after what had just happened? In just four days, I’d received the news about my dad AND all of this drama that comes along with my dad’s side of the family had come crashing into my face.

I felt alone; I feel like I don’t have anyone rooting for me; and I was scared shitless that I’d never hear from my dad again. I knew one thing for a fact: I wouldn’t be getting updates from his partner anymore.

Two things stopped me from crying for my six hours of travel home: my trusty Khalid album, and the Dallas Cowboys’ burger kiosk at gate A21 in the DFW airport. It’s the second time I’ve eaten there, both times I was upset, and both times I’ve abandoned my vegan lifestyle to get the Cowboy Blues burger and it is so worth it.

It’s cheesy, but music has always comforted me, and it’s something my dad and I had in common. He loved all sorts of music, and my very first concert was with my parents, seeing one of my dad’s favorite bands, Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs.

So yes, I’m AMPED to see Khalid, and I’m as equally excited to see Red Rocks… I will probably cry over stimulation overload and I’m okay with that.

The thing about Red Rocks is that there’s always a 99% chance of rain given its location and natural setup. Part of planning for this trip meant reading lots of guides and other blogs from people who’ve been to Red Rocks before. From that, I learned what kind of shoes to wear, and what to pack: an empty water bottle, warm clothes, and a rain poncho.

The concert is rain or shine, and many times it does rain, and the concert keeps going. But sometimes, they cancel it. And I will be damned if this turns into another John Mayer/Vegas/Non-Bucket List trip!

I’ve kept this trip very close to my heart – I’ve only told a few people – because, well, this trip is for me. I’m traveling alone, as I often do, and I’m experiencing this on my own. So many people I know have been to Denver already and I wanted to keep things new to me – sometimes it puts a damper on things when people share their experience with a place before you even get there.

Ever since my dad’s passing, I’ve been very aware of my own mortality. I’ve always felt some sense of pressure to live life, and do things, and don’t regret a moment… but that feeling is very amplified as of late.

I’m also very aware of people around me and what they’re doing with their life: whether it’s planning and taking trips, or building a business, or having a family… I’m just here, and I feel like I’m being left behind. So, this trip is coming at a perfect time – a time when I feel like I need to just get out there and live, and do something I have only dreamt of doing.

I wanted to plan my own activities and make this trip a complete getaway. So, aside from the concert, I do have a list of restaurants and breweries that I want to indulge in, and I’ve got a few sightseeing things on my list. I also treated myself to a fabulous hotel right in Downtown Denver. I’m looking forward to a true adventure.

For the sake of being present, I’m keeping the social media documentation to a minimum. I plan on posting a few Instagram pictures (@OrangeJulius7), but will be staying off other channels.

I’ll tell you all about it when I get the chance.

BBC: ‘Sometimes I Lie’.

We made it – we made it to Friday! I have been feeling so sluggish, and have still been recovering from either a cold or terrible allergies. I am looking forward to the weekend for so many reasons – getting a hair cut/color, heading to a friend’s birthday party, first pool day of the season, and the premier of “Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance”!

But I’m also excited to share with you the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “Sometimes I Lie” by Alice Feeney. Here is the description from Amazon:

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

This book just came out in March, and I had been waiting on the reserve list at the library ever since! This book was on every “must read” list I saw at the beginning of the year, and the book’s description had me hooked.

There is always a moment before an accident when you know you are going to get hurt but there is nothing you can do to protect yourself.

I will admit though, that I haven’t read many psychological thrillers (that I can recall, at least), aside from “Girl on the Train”, and this book did remind me of that in certain ways.

But! “Sometimes I Lie” has SO many twists – it seems like almost every chapter left me sitting there with my jaw hanging open. If you follow me on SnapChat (@OrangeJulius7), you probably saw my reaction when I finished the book earlier this week – I was stunned.

I also loved that this book was very visual; I would not be shocked if this becomes a movie. I also wouldn’t be shocked if there was a sequel.

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves psychological thrillers and/or mysteries. It’s also worth noting that this story takes place in the winter, near Christmas – so if you’re someone who likes to read books in season, put it on your winter reading list.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Educated” by Tara Westover. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

How to celebrate the royal wedding!

Photo from: The Cut.

The royal wedding – between Meghan Markle and Prince Harry – is May 19th, meaning it’s just 10 days away and I’m so excited!

I will admit, I haven’t been following this couple as much as I did when Kate Middleton and Prince William were getting married in 2011. I just love Kate Middleton – I’m not quite as into Meghan, but I also haven’t been paying much attention.

That may all change when I settle in to watch “Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance”, which premiers Sunday night on Lifetime (8pm/7pm CST). This is a 2.5-hour drama (but of course) on the history of the couple and their relationship. THANK YOU, LIFETIME – even though it’s hard-telling how much of what will be shown is true.

Who cares. I’m here for it.

So, after we all watch the Lifetime movie, then we’ll just have a few days before the actual wedding. BBC put together a “Non-Brit’s Guide to the Royal Wedding” – and dropped this useful nugget:

The ceremony will take place at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, 21 miles (34 km) west of London, at noon local time on 19 May. That means that if you want to watch from North America, you will have to tune in at 7:00 EDT.

…That means 6am central time.

But, early mornings call for coffee… or perhaps English tea in your fanciest teacup! Don’t worry, I’ll get to the festive foods and snacks in a moment… but first. How to watch the wedding and all the coverage:

CBS

Gayle King and Kevin Frazier will kick things off at 4 a.m. ET and a two-hour special, Royal Romance: The Marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, will air later that night at 8 p.m. ET/PT. You can also watch a live stream on CBS.com

NBC

The Today Show will have hosts Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Megyn Kelly, and Kathie Lee Gifford positioned at “a special vantage point” overlooking Windsor Castle for coverage beginning at 4:30 a.m ET.

ABC

Good Morning America will start special coverage at 5 a.m. ET with co-anchor Robin Roberts and World News Tonight‘s David Muir. The network will also stream the five-hour broadcast online on ABCNews.comGoodMorningAmerica.com, their mobile apps, and social platforms.

…You may also check at your local movie theatres, as many are showing all of the coverage and the wedding at 10 am. You can visit this website and type in your zip code to see if there’s a showing in your area.

Now let’s talk food. The actual meal being served at the wedding is being kept under wraps, but salmon was a part of the meal at William and Kate’s wedding, and has been a part of royal weddings in the past. So perhaps a bagel and lox would be in order while watching.

It is a well-known fact that Harry proposed to Meghan while they were making a roast chicken (!), so perhaps the menu will include a nod to that moment.

They have said the cake will be an elderflower cake with buttercream.

Thinking of throwing a viewing party? I found a complete guide here, that includes where you can buy edible cupcake toppers of the royal couple, royal masks, themed tea bags, and even t-shirts, among many other things.

After all my research, I think I am going to watch the live coverage at home, in my pajamas. I’ve considered having a viewing party, but I’m not sure how many people want to join me at 3am. I will, however, have coffee or tea out of a real teacup, probably make some mimosas, and will definitely be getting some croissants or other fancy pastries to eat.

What are you all planning to do for the wedding? I am looking forward to it and would love to hear how you’re thinking of watching it.

BBC: ‘Little Fires Everywhere’.

I’m kind of liking this book review on Sunday thing… I’m taking a break from a DIY project (decorating a jacket) and making some jewelry (you can watch it all on my SnapChat @OrangeJulius7) to tell you about the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club.

It’s “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng. Before I go any further, here is the description from Amazon.com:

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. 

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

…I am all about a book that has all things picture-perfect, but under the surface, they’re not really so perfect. That’s one reason I knew I had to read this book – that, and the fact that it was on every book list for 2017 as the book you HAD to read!

I fell for it, and I’m so glad I did, because it was full of twists and turns, and it kept me coming back – I fully enjoyed this book!

If you go to Celeste Ng’s website, you can download a guide for book clubs! I downloaded the one for “Little Fires Everywhere” and found out that the book is set in the same place Ng grew up: Shaker Heights. The book club kit also includes a 90’s playlist, which includes a song from Alanis Morissette. Amazing!

I’m recommending this book to fiction lovers, especially those who love a little mystery, and/or family-esque drama.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Sometimes I Lie” by Alice Feeney. Also, I know I mentioned it before, but I’ve been doing lots of book discussions on my SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 – so follow me there if you want to talk books (or crafts, jewelry, makeup, cooking…)!

Invisalign: The retainer phase.

Yesterday morning, I had an appointment at my orthodontist’s office at 8:15 to remove all of my Invisalign attachments and get fitted for retainers. That’s right, my teeth are straight after six months of using Invisalign!

In the pictures above, those are more of the “after” – I took the one on the left after leaving my appointment yesterday, and the one on the right is at my half-way mark. Below are some “before” pictures.

They took some more “official” before and after photos at the orthodontist, and I’ll share them when I get them, but these pictures above actually say a lot. When I decided to get Invisalign, it was a quick decision made after years of being asked by every dentist if I’d ever considered braces.

My upper teeth were generally straight (at least at a glance), but my bottom teeth were very crowded and crooked – you can see it a little in the last picture. But my overbite was so bad, my bottom teeth never really showed… and it didn’t really bother me. Until it did.

For many years, I prided myself on not having had braces and that my smile was generally nice-looking. But during the last two years, I’ve started taking better care of my skin and using better makeup to get a different look. And when it was time to put on the lipstick, my smile just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of my face.

So, when I went looking through my phone and social media accounts for “before” pictures to share here, I noticed a few things: 1. I don’t take many pictures of myself, and 2. Many of my pictures, especially from 2015 to present-day, are with my mouth closed.

Pre-Invisalign, my two front teeth started to bother me. They were turned in toward each other just enough to cause a little bit of a shadow, and they’d worn down to fit my bottom teeth – like the outline of a roof. It was enough to keep me from showing my teeth in pictures, and likely in life.

The other half of this is, I have had loads of dental work over the years. My cleanings are always rough, and I’ve spent lots of money buying expensive toothbrushes, flossers to fit under crowns and between my crowded teeth, and finding the right mouthwash that won’t affect my gum cells (it’s an issue).

Yes, Invisalign would give me a more confident smile, but it also would ease my dental visits. About a week after my halfway mark, I had a regular dental cleaning scheduled… and it was a breeze! I still can’t believe how little scraping there was and how much easier it was for the hygienist to floss between my bottom teeth. To boot, my overbite had decreased much more than even my Invisalign model had predicted.

If I’d have known how easy straighter teeth would have made my dental cleanings, I would have gotten them years ago.

Over the course of wearing Invisalign, people are quick to say what they’ve heard about it or their opinions on it. Many people said, “Well, your teeth weren’t really crooked to being with.” Maybe not to them, and that’s nice, but this was about me, my confidence, and my teeth! My case was only a 6-month fix, which is short in terms of braces, and it also cost the least amount possible. But, I still did it, and now my teeth are aligned.

Some people told me they heard Invisalign doesn’t hurt. For me, that was not the case. It’s the same as braces, you just down’t have to deal with wires or wax – all of the trays hurt for at least the first day or two of getting them, and my last two trays probably hurt the worst. Although all of it was cured with an over-the-counter pain medicine.

At my appointment yesterday, I got fitted for my retainers, which I will wear all the time for the next six months. After that, I’ll only wear them at night. The retainers look very similar to the trays, but are made of a thicker, harder material.

I also got my front teeth fixed. When they straightened out, the bottoms of them were not even at all – it was very obvious. So, my orthodontist filed some of them down, but ultimately use a composite material to build one of my teeth up and resemble the other one. She even gave me a mirror so I could watch and she made sure to get my approval. It turned out so natural looking!

I’m also happy to report that I’m finished with all of the payments – I paid 1/3 of it with money from my HSA, and used my own money (not a credit card) to pay for the rest of it. Wahoo!

When it’s all said and done, it was totally worth it. The six months flew by, and I’m happy that I did something for myself. There are so many people out there who have opinions on what we can and can’t do to improve our appearances, and what it says about us, but I’m still sticking with the motto that if it makes you feel good, and isn’t hurting anyone else, than you do you!

The Writer’s Retreat!

On Saturday, I packed a backpack and headed about 40 minutes outside of Austin to Elgin, Texas, where New Republic Studios is located. I was going to my first ever Writer’s Retreat, and it was also the inaugural Writer’s Retreat hosted by the Austin Film Festival, where I’ve been volunteering for the last two years.

I have always wanted to go to some sort of writing retreat, and I was excited about this one because it was just a day event, so I could test the waters. When I registered, I got an email saying to just pack my writing supplies, lunch, and any snacks – everything else would be provided.

I feel like I always have so many ideas in my head for things to write, but I’m not very good at just sitting down and bringing it to fruition. This is a problem many writers face, especially if we’re doing other things to pay the bills (there’s no shame in that game) and/or if there’s no deadline or reason to write, other than to satisfy our minds. We are all guilty of putting ourselves and our needs last, right?

The thing is, one of the major projects on my mind involves my dad, and I’m still very emotional about it. I know that is a big reason I’ve been putting it off. I’m so emotional, in fact, that the entire WEEK leading up to the retreat, I felt anxiety and grief. I finally just had to keep telling myself that this retreat was for me, and if I went and didn’t feel comfortable working on that particular project, then I didn’t have to – I have so many other things I could work on. I also reminded myself that I was under no obligation to stay the entire time. If the retreat wasn’t beneficial to me, then I could leave.

So, I packed up my laptop, notepad, journal, pens, headphones, and lots of snacks, and headed on my way. The little road trip to Elgin was a treat in itself. I am a sucker for scenery, and some of these tattered curves seemed straight out of a Nicholas Sparks’ book – there were dusty roads, cattle, and rolling fields of bluebonnet. I even spotted a cardinal perched along the road!

When I got to New Republic Studios, I was impressed. I’ve been to movie and sound studios before, but this was such a neat setup. It’s right along the Colorado River, and has multiple studios for filming.

The schedule.

Upon checking in, we got a schedule for the day, and there was free cold brew coffee and snacks. A few different people welcomed us, and talked about the day, and how important it was that we were carving out this time to work on our craft.

Then, everyone sort of went their own way and got to work. Some people went to an optional improv hour, and others (including me) went to write. I chose a spot outside – it was such a beautiful day, and I feel like I don’t get outside enough.

I worked on my project about my dad for as long as I could, and I also worked on my blog some, but I spent hours just journaling. I started writing in my journal in October, when I felt like I couldn’t turn to my blog as an outlet, and I stopped writing in it about three days before my dad died. I think I was scared to even go there – but I filled many pages on Saturday!

I sat outside almost the entire day – moving to a shady spot in the afternoon. I’d packed a small blanket so I could sit in the grass, and that was nice.

However, one of the people who is affiliated with Austin Film Festival, was at an outdoor table for most of the day, and spent that entire time talking and laughing to a few other people. I don’t know if anyone else was bothered by this, but I definitely was. It’s really difficult for me to concentrate on my work when I can hear other conversations.

This was a Writer’s Retreat, not a talking retreat, and this was someone who had just given us a speech, “You are a writer, no one can write the story in the way you can.” And here he was being so loud that he even said, “Sorry if we’re being too loud,” but then continued to talk! How about not being sorry and simply being quiet?

I put in my headphones and listened to music for a little bit, but then I realized, what is the point of me sitting here with my headphones in? We all paid to be here, and I could sit anywhere with headphones in. So, I packed up and left about 30 minutes early. I’d gotten all I was going to get out of that day.

All in all, I really enjoyed myself. But I would encourage the Austin Film Festival staff to be more respectful to those of us who need a quieter environment.

I couldn’t help but think about how much it takes for some people to write. I have had this blog for more than 10 years, among other blogs I’ve had, and am always doing something that involves writing. And maybe I’m a rare breed, but I do feel like many writers will go out of their way to avoid actually sitting down to write.

This is something Stephen King talks about extensively in his memoir, that writing is something you just have to DO, even if it means locking yourself in a room and doing it, and it often doesn’t look like anything fun or glamorous.

I met so many people at the retreat who were scared to even call themselves writers – because they hadn’t been published or hadn’t had a movie made… it takes work! And even sometimes, the result might not be what you planned.

It certainly does help to have retreats and environments that support writing and creativity. But sometimes you’ve got to make those spaces for yourself, or you’ll never get it done.

After the day at the retreat, I felt relaxed, like my mind was a bit clearer. And that is something I haven’t felt in a really long time. I’m so thankful for that.

BBC: ‘Searching for John Hughes’.

Howdy! I’m feeling so relaxed this morning – finally – after a pretty rough week, but I went to a retreat yesterday, which I’ll write more about later. Today, I’m excited to share the book Blanche’s Book Club just finished!

I’m talking about “Searching for John Hughes” by Jason Diamond. Here’s the book’s description from Amazon.com:

For all fans of John Hughes and his hit films such as National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, and Home Alone, comes Jason Diamond’s hilarious memoir of growing up obsessed with the iconic filmmaker’s movies—a preoccupation that eventually convinces Diamond he should write Hughes’ biography and travel to New York City on a quest that is as funny as it is hopeless.

For as long as Jason Diamond can remember, he’s been infatuated with John Hughes’ movies. From the outrageous, raunchy antics in National Lampoon’s Vacation to the teenage angst in The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink to the insanely clever and unforgettable Home Alone, Jason could not get enough of Hughes’ films. And so the seed was planted in his mind that it should fall to him to write a biography of his favorite filmmaker. It didn’t matter to Jason that he had no qualifications, training, background, platform, or direction. Thus went the years-long, delusional, earnest, and assiduous quest to reach his goal. But no book came out of these years, and no book will. What he did get was a story that fills the pages of this unconventional, hilarious memoir. 

In Searching for John Hughes, Jason tells how a Jewish kid from a broken home in a Chicago suburb—sometimes homeless, always restless—found comfort and connection in the likewise broken lives in the suburban Chicago of John Hughes’ oeuvre. He moved to New York to become a writer. He started to write a book he had no business writing. In the meantime, he brewed coffee and guarded cupcake cafes. All the while, he watched John Hughes movies religiously.

Though his original biography of Hughes has long since been abandoned, Jason has discovered he is a writer through and through. And the adversity of going for broke has now been transformed into wisdom. Or, at least, a really, really good story. 

In other words, this is a memoir of growing up. One part big dream, one part big failure, one part John Hughes movies, one part Chicago, and one part New York. It’s a story of what comes after the “Go for it!” part of the command to young creatives to pursue their dreams—no matter how absurd they might seem at first.

I believe I saw this book on a used-book blog, but then I could never find it in the library or at the bookstore, so I asked for it for Christmas, and my mom got it for me 🙂 John Hughes has written my favorite movies ever: “Home Alone” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and he also wrote “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, which is always a favorite come Christmastime.

No matter the movie’s plot line, I have always enjoyed his depiction of life midwest – mostly spotless, beautiful, and featuring characters that are out to prove their worth.

In “Searching for John Hughes”, Diamond takes things a little further – he pretty much lives his life through Hughes’ movies. Sound sad? In some ways, it is. But he sets his goal to write Hughes’ biography, and in a way, that becomes his purpose.

I took note of a few quotes I liked while reading:

  • His movies offered the sense that things were supposed to be normal where I grew up, that the road could get bumpy, but ultimately it would get better.
  • And that is what makes Ferris Bueller the patron saint of bored suburban youths: He isn’t the quarterback. He’s handsome, but hardly a classic hottie, and he doesn’t have a car. He’s bored going from home to school all the time and just wants something a little more.
  • I had this theory that if you lived in the suburbs long enough they have to give you a Volvo station wagon, the way they give you a watch after you’ve been with a company for 15 years.
  • I was looking for Hughes, but subconsciously I was starting to understand why I felt such a deep connection to his films, and also why I’d decided writing his book was my destiny: I wanted to live in a John Hughes film.

But, he also does what a lot of writers do – they ignore their purpose and do everything they possibly can to ignore it. In Diamond’s case, he considers buying and running a restaurant, despite not knowing much about the food industry, and he even undergoes professional training to become a rabbi – all to avoid sitting down and actually writing.

This is probably the only thing I didn’t enjoy about the book – I kept getting frustrated that Diamond just didn’t DO something. He kept avoiding reality, and it happened more than once. I suppose the reader is feeling the same way Diamond did, but obviously we know he eventually gets published.

On the brighter side, the book is full of nostalgia for the midwest; and for the characters and scenes in Hughes’ movies. It’s a good little trip down memory lane. Because of that, I’m recommending this book to all Hughes fans, but also anyone who grew up in the Midwest (especially if you dreamed of becoming a writer), and anyone who loves 80’s movies in general.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng. If you’re reading it with us, discussions (along with cooking and other shenanigans) are often on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

Pedometer: Week 2.

Getting those steps in!

So two weeks ago, I got a giant news flash when I started wearing a pedometer given to me as a part of the United Healthcare Motion program. I found out, I don’t ever walk… like at all. During week 1, I walked 18,599 steps.

For week 2, I really wanted to amp things up and try to hit 10K steps at least one day. So, on Monday I took three long walks during my work day, which was nice. I could blow off steam and get some sunlight. I went to my usual two dance classes on Monday night, and when I went to bed, I’d gotten 8,091 steps – compared to the 2,954 steps I’d gotten the previous Monday.

I continued taking walks during the day all week at work, and I started parking my car further away and took the stairs instead of the elevator, and it was working – and I could also feel it in my legs and feet.

On Thursday, I took a mile-long walk at lunch, and then did my usual three-class Thursday, and I got 11,252 steps. When I’d hit 10K, a little trophy came up on my pedometer, and I earned $1 toward my health insurance. I was also so as hell when I laid down to go to bed that night.

I haven’t hit 10k since then, and I’m feeling much less obsessed over the pedometer today. For week 2, I got 47,607 steps in total – more than 2x what I got in week 1.

Here’s the thing: yes, I think it’s important to move and take steps, but it’s annoying and stressful to me to constantly be worried about how many steps I’m getting.

I make an effort to eat healthy and generally active, but I feel like an idiot when I’m marching in place while heating up my lunch in the break room just for the sake of satisfying an app. Is marching in place really that much better for my health than just standing in place? Also, what is the stress and obsession doing to my body?

I also simply DON’T like wearing the pedometer. It’s ugly, and well, it’s spray-tan season, so how is that supposed to work? There are issues, people.

I have also noticed that walking around my apartment complex in the evenings is not really gaining me any social points. I don’t have a baby or a dog or a husband, so me just taking laps around my little neighborhood just makes me look like a creep and/or a robber. Because of this, I am looking into purchasing a pet stroller for Blanche… because then it will look like I have a better reason for walking – my child, my cat, obviously.

We can just blame it all on this pedometer – this dollar-earning pedometer.

So, I don’t know. I am still wearing it today, and have two dance classes to take tonight, but I haven’t taken any walks today, and I don’t know if I will. I’m so obsessive over everything else in my life that I just don’t know if I have room for this one. We will see.

Speaking of obsessions, I just added 15 NEW listings in my Etsy shop – and I’m currently having a sale, so head over there if you’re in the market for new jewelry!

Meanwhile, I’ll be on “Magnolia Watch” all week – my Louisiana Magnolia bush has at least six buds on it (more than I’ve ever seen) and I’m constantly looking outside to see if they’ve opened. I love the scent!

…Stay tuned…

BBC: ‘Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda’.

What? A blog post on a Sunday?! Yes, I’m living a little, y’all! Actually, I saw the movie “Love, Simon” last night after finishing this book earlier in the week, and I just couldn’t wait any longer to share how awesome it is!

I’m going to get into the book first, and then I’ll talk some about the movie. PS. The last two movies I’ve seen were based on books, and I think that’s just how it should be from now on.

Anyway, so it’s “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli. Here’s the description from Amazon: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Incredibly funny and poignant, this twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming out story—wrapped in a geek romance—is a knockout of a debut novel by Becky Albertalli.

I hadn’t heard much about this book until I started seeing the previews for the movie, but I found out that it was (and still is) a very popular YA novel. So, when I stumbled upon it in Half Price Books, I bought it and pretty much expected to love it. And I did! Here’s a few quotes I took note of while reading:

  • Someone can trigger your sexual identity crisis and not even have a clue they’re doing it.
  • But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.
  • So when the school day ends and nothing extraordinary has happened, it’s a tiny heartbreak. It’s like eleven o’clock on the night of your birthday when you realize no one’s throwing you a surprise birthday party after all.

I think a lot of books, especially YA novels, have depictions of high school, but they aren’t always right. This one brought me there – in the good ways, and bad, and especially in the way of that high school crush. It’s all encompassing, and if (when) it goes south, it can seem as if your entire world is crumbling.

To top it off, Simon is a very lovable character, and you’ll be rooting for him before you know it!

So, when I finished this book, I immediately looked to see the movie, “Love, Simon” was showing in Austin. I was in luck and bought a ticket to see it Saturday night (last night) at the Drafthouse. Yesterday, I drove nearly 30 minutes to get to this particular theatre, but when I got there, I didn’t see it on their marquee.

Great movie!

My ticket said it was in theatre 7, so when I walked to theatre 7, it definitely said “Super Troopers 2”. So, I found an employee and showed them my ticket.

“Yes, you’re in the right theatre,” she said, and started typing into a computer. A few minutes later, she said it was some sort of server malfunction and she apologized that no one contacted me, but “Love, Simon” was not showing at that theatre.

I can’t be too mad, because the Drafthouse staff was really nice and they refunded me my ticket with no hassle, and gave me a pass for a free movie of my choice.

So, I went back to my car and started searching to see if it was showing anywhere else. Luckily, there was a showing one hour later, at a theatre about 10 minutes away. Off I went!

Upon arrival, this AMC was definitely in a MALL. I have not been to a mall since 2014, and I was having serious flashbacks and PTSD from my retail days. There was a Spencer Gifts inside, and I didn’t even know those places still existed! There was also a Cheesecake Factory where I saw lots of high schoolers dressed up for prom.

But the movie theatre had tickets available for “Love, Simon”, so I was glad and also realized I haven’t been to a non-Drafthouse theatre in more than two years. Concession stand? How do those work? It took me forever to settle on food, as I was really hankering for the cauliflower buffalo wings at the Drafthouse. But I decided on soft pretzel bites, chocolate covered raisins, and a Cherry Coke Zero.

When I got to my seat, it was a Lazy Boy! Seriously, it had the leg rest and everything. There was also a bar right outside the theatre, so patrons could bring wine and mixed drinks in.

Anyway, the movie itself was so good! It was definitely different from the book in that if you hadn’t read it, it was still good, but if you HAD read it, there were still some surprising twists. The characters (they left a few out) were mostly how I’d imagined them, and some of the lines seemed like they were pulled directly from the book.

I will admit it, I almost cried a few times, but overall, the movie made me feel happy and excited about life. Cheesy, but true!

I’m recommending this book to anyone who loves YA novels, and to anyone who’s looking to feel nostalgic about their high school experience. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Searching for John Hughes” by Jason Diamond.

A Review: bareMinerals skincare!

Photo Source: Fashion Jackson

I admit it: I am a beauty and skincare JUNKIE! Beauty and skincare products are one of my favorite ways to spend money; I’d much rather buy new products than clothes or…well, anything. If you’ve been a blog reader of mine for awhile, you know I’m also a bargain hunter.

However, over the last two years I’ve been trying to test more luxury, pricier items when I can – because I’ve noticed that sometimes it’s worth it. To me, this is different than buying an expensive, designer purse or shoes, because it’s not about a name, but it’s about the quality of the ingredients and what it does for your skin, or perhaps your confidence.

I should go ahead and mention that this post is NOT sponsored. If bareMinerals would like to sponsor me, you know where to reach me 🙂

But anyway, it took me a really long time to even try bareMinerals makeup – remember when they first came out with the infomercials? I have always loved makeup, and I love the look of makeup. I’m never going for a “natural” look – because I have blemishes and redness that needs to be covered. Because of that, I thought any sort of “natural”, “mineral” makeup wasn’t for me.

And some of it is not. However, once bareMinerals started increasing their makeup line to include liquid foundations, concealers, and even bold lip colors, I started paying more attention. So, two Christmases ago, I asked for a bareMinerals starter kit – and I got it! It was a little makeup bag that had the primer, the signature bareMinerals mineral veil and the powder foundation, with their signature brush for applying.

I absolutely loved it. It offers full coverage and it makes my skin look so smooth without feeling heavy. Because I am an Ulta Platinum Rewards member, I can earn points (which equals money) on anything I buy at Ulta. So, I always keep an eye out for any sales on bareMinerals or any of their “kits”. Because of this, I’ve tried their eyeshadows, liquid lipsticks, lipglosses, bronzer, and blush, and have loved ALL of it.

So, when I saw they were offering skincare – I jumped on it! I was actually able to purchase a sampler kit using my Ulta Reward dollars (plus, it was on sale), and I later bought a second kit at TJ Maxx for just $10. If you’re a TJ Maxx regular, they often have the bareMinerals’ starter kits (for the makeup).

So, let’s get into the skincare! The kit I bought from Ulta is called “Glow to Go” ($52), which includes travel sizes of the Pure Plush Gentle Deep Cleansing Foam, SkinLongevity Vital Power Infusion Serum, Brilliant Future Age Defense & Renew Serum, Bare Haven Essential Moisturizing Soft Cream, and a sample of the SkinLongevity Vital Power Eye Gel Cream.

The kit I bought from TJ Maxx had the Pure Plush Gentle Deep Cleansing Foam, Oil Obsessed Total Cleansing Oil, and Clay Chameleon Transforming Purifying Cleanser. I believe it was a holiday package they put together, and I just couldn’t pass it up!

I have been using these products for a few weeks now, and I’m excited to report my findings.

Pure Plush Gentle Deep Cleansing Foam

Here’s the description from Ulta: Enliven your skin every time you cleanse with a burst of plush, cushiony lather. This creamy formula facial cleanser refreshes your skin, lifting away makeup and impurities, while the crisp, scent of grapefruit* invigorates your senses. Infused with elderflower and rosemary extracts, plus mineral-rich sea salts, this daily cleanser leaves skin feeling exceptionally pure, freshly revitalized and comfortably smooth. *Naturally derived fragrance

It’s what’s inside that counts:

  • Mineral-rich sea salts: Cultivated from the waters off the coast of Brittany, these sea salts, rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium, help purify and refine the skin.
  • Elderflower: Known as the herablist’s cosmetic tree, this small, white flower has been used for centuries to beautify the complexion and soften the skin.
  • Rosemary: A fragrant herb known to help cleanse and soften the skin.

This was the first product I tried. First I will say, they are NOT lying about that grapefruit scent and it smells so good! I have used this a few different ways: in the morning right when I wakeup, at night to take off all my makeup, in the shower using my Clarisonic Mia, and just at the skin using warm water and my fingertips. It is creamy, and it has a thicker texture (think: Neutrogena’s deep clean cream cleanser).

Don’t be fooled by their mention of sea salts – this is not a scrub or an exfoliator. It does, however, leave the skin feeling smooth. Plus, a little bit of the cleanser (about a dime-size) is all you need. This is my favorite of the three cleansers! It’s $22 for a 4-ounce bottle at Ulta and is rated 4.5/5 stars.

I’m only using Ulta for this review because you can earn free points for shopping there, AND the sellers on Amazon looked shady.

Clay Chameleon Transforming Purifying Cleanser

Description from Ulta: Transform your cleansing ritual with this beautifully innovative clay-to-cream facial cleanser that combines the benefits of purifying Brazilian red clay and mineral-rich sea salts with the soft comfort of a cream. Enriched with papaya and bamboo extracts, the formula works to gently remove impurities and help detoxify, to leave your skin feeling pure, soft and supple. This skin-enlivening formula is infused with the scent of bergamot and mandarin* to help uplift the senses each time you cleanse. *Naturally derived fragrance

It’s what’s inside that counts:

  • Mineral-rich sea salts: Cultivated from the waters off the coast of Brittany, these sea salts, rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium, help purify and refine the skin.
  • Brazilian red clay: This naturally vibrant red clay helps to purify and improve skin’s clarity.
  • Papaya: Recognized as a good source of skin-loving vitamins and minerals.
  • Bamboo: Known for its strength, elegance and amazing resilience.

 

This cleanser is red from the red clay, and it has a texture of a detoxifying mask (almost identical to the Active Charcoal Mask from Origins). Once you put the cleanser on your face, add a little water, and start cleaning, it turns into a white, milky lather. I have been using this one mostly in the mornings, but I’ve heard other beauty bloggers say it’s good to use on weekends to detox the skin.

This cleanser is also $22 for a 4-ounce bottle from Ulta, and it has a 4.5/5 star rating.

Oil Obsessed Total Cleansing Oil

Desription from Ulta: Immerse your skin in this ultra-lightweight facial cleansing oil for a comforting cleansing experience. Oil Obsessed Total Cleansing Oil glides on to your dry face to effectively – yet gently – dissolve makeup and impurities. Just add a little water and this sensationally elegant oil transforms into a weightless, milky emulsion that easily rinses away. Infused with the uplifting scent of Lavender and Tangerine,* this nurturing blend features borage, sunflower, bilberry and cucumber oils, plus mineral-rich sea salts to leave your skin feeling silky soft and smooth. *Naturally derived fragrance

It’s what’s inside that counts:

  • Mineral-rich sea salts: Cultivated from the waters off the coast of Brittany, these sea salts, rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium, help purify and refine the skin.
  • Bilberry: Grown in Europe and handpicked in the wild underbrush, the oil of Bilberry is valued for its skin soothing properties.
  • Borage: The oil derived from the seeds of the bright, purple flower is known to soothe and nourish the skin.
  • Sunflower: Significant to Native Americans as a source for nutritional, medicinal and ceremonial practices, the emollient oil contains skin-loving vitamins and omega 9 to help nourish skin.
  • Cucumber: The lightweight oil from the cucumber fruit helps nourish and hydrate skin while encouraging resilience.

I have never tried an oil cleanser before, so I don’t really have anything to compare this to. However, I will say that this is light, and not greasy. I have used it to remove my makeup and also just as a cleanser when I’m not wearing makeup. Either way, it’s really gentle on the skin and leaves it soft. I have only used it with my fingers, but am tempted to put the oil on a cleansing mitt or a cotton pad.

This is $30 for a 6-ounce bottle at Ulta, and it has a 4.5/5-star rating.

Bare Haven Essential Moisturizing Soft Cream

Description from Ulta: Embrace your skin in silky-soft, lusciously nourishing moisture. Powered by Intuitive Mineral Moisture Technology, Bare Haven Essential Moisturizing Soft Cream replenishes essential moisture to normal to dry skin, reviving overall resilience and suppleness and infusing an extraordinarily super-smooth feel. This comforting soft cream moisturizer effortlessly blends into skin to help enhance a natural, healthy-looking glow. Plus, a blend of peptides, ceramides and amino acids to help soften rough texture, while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The subtle notes of Bergamot and Eucalyptus* add to the sensory experience to gently enliven and awaken your senses. *Naturally derived fragrance.

It’s what’s inside that counts:

  • Intuitive Mineral Moisture Technology: All of bareMinerals moisturizers are infused with Intuitive Mineral Moisture Technology to help replenish your skin’s moisture reserves and diminish rough texture, dryness and visible signs of aging.
  • St. John’s Wort: A bright yellow flower named for St. John the Baptist, shown to help defend against signs of damage and dry, dehydrated skin.

I have been using this in place of my usual moisturizer and this stuff makes me feel like I’m at a spa. It smells so fresh and it’s light in texture… I love it! I will mention that I do not have dry or oily skin – pretty much in the middle. This provides the perfect start to my skincare routine (after I wash my face, of course). I also realized that I haven’t mentioned…bareMinerals does not test on animals, and many of their products are vegan.

This is $35 for a 1.7-ounce jar (a little goes a long way) at Ulta, and it has a 4.5/5-star rating.

Brilliant Future Age Defense & Renew Serum

Description from Ulta: An innovative serum that contends with the early signs of aging and renews your skin’s natural luminosity. Clinically shown to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Benefits:

  • Dermatologist tested. Non-comedogenic.
  • Mineral manganese
  • Vitamin C
  • Chai hu extract
  • Target the early signs of aging
  • Renew radiance
  • Combat the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles

This has a nice scent to it, and it’s light. I’ve never used anti-aging serums, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I’m going to keep using it, and see if I notice changes. I do like the texture, and it makes my skin feel smooth. Also, the bottle says to use 3-4 pumps, but I get by with 2 (always saving when possible!).

This is $55 for a 1-ounce bottle at Ulta.

SkinLongevity Vital Power Infusion Serum

Description from Ulta: This dynamic, first of its kind infusion is designed to revive and help maintain your skin’s most vibrant look of health, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. With bareMinerals patented Long Life Herb Extract at its core, this formula helps to promote skin’s vitality, replenishing it with moisture and reawakening the look of youth. Skin is left feeling empowered, renewed and fortified, with enhanced resilience and a glowingly healthy look.

  • EMPOWER. Unleash your skin’s vitality and radiant luminosity.
  • REPLENISH. Nourish your skin with essential minerals and hydration to reveal softer, more supple skin.
  • RENEW. Diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and uneven skin texture to promote a youthful look.
  • FORTIFY. Give your skin the resilience to help defend itself against future signs of aging for a healthier looking complexion.

It’s what’s inside that counts:

  • Long Life Herb: Legendary herb shown to help defend against signs of aging. Specially cultivated from the vitamin- and mineral-rich herb grown on Okinawa, known as “the island of long life”.
  • California Poppy: A bright and brilliant flower native to California known for its resilience and ability to thrive in harsh conditions.
  • Lempuyang ginger: A root traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicines and Indonesian Jamu herbal medicine.
  • Skinmimetic Technology: Inspired by the properties of youthful skin, bareMinerals combined Long Life Herb, California Poppy and Lempuyang ginger extracts to create bareMinerals SkinMimetic Technology – a leading edge complex is designed to help protect your skin against visible signs of aging and damage, to promote your most radiantly youthful appearance.

Ugh, I feel really bad for saying this, but this is probably the first real anti-aging product I’ve used. I am really lucky to have young-looking skin, even despite all of my sun exposure over the years. Except for eye creams and products that simply have an anti-aging element, I’ve never really sought out an anti-aging product. I have been using this in the morning (it is recommended to use it at night, too, I just haven’t gotten there yet) and it’s very light, which I love. It also makes my skin feel smooth!

You just need 1-2 pumps to cover your face and neck. This is $38 for a 1-ounce bottle at Ulta, and has a 4.5/5-star rating.

SkinLongevity Vital Power Eye Gel Cream

Description from Ulta: bareMinerals SkinLongevity Vital Power Eye Gel Cream is powered by the patented benefits of mineral-rich Long Life Herb to support vitality and replenish moisture around the eye area for a more youthful look. With added antioxidant benefits of California poppy plus lempuyang ginger help protect against the damages from environmental stressors, and help brighten the appearance of skin. Experience smoother, stronger and more radiant-looking skin. Results you can see and feel in as little as 14 days.

The sample I got was pretty small – I got two uses out of it – so I don’t want to talk too much on this, but I will say this was a soft, light cream. Some eye creams I’ve used are heavy and almost pull on my skin. Not this! I definitely want to try the larger size so I can see how it works over time.

This is $32 for a .5-ounce jar at Ulta – a little goes a long way!

This may seem like a lot, but bareMinerals has SO many other skincare products that I want to try. Here are a few that I’m watching (far sales, free gifts with purchase, double-point days, etc.):

  • Smart Combination Smoothing Lightweight Emulsion ($35, 1.7oz)
  • Blemish Remedy Acne Treatment Gelée Cleanser ($20, 4.2oz)
  • Pure Transformation Night Treatment ($60, 0.15oz)
  • Skinsorials Mix. Exfoliate. Smooth. Add-To-Cleanser Skin Polishing Grains ($22, .88oz)
  • Skinsorials Dirty Detox Skin Glowing & Refining Mud Mask ($35, 2.4oz)

BBC: ‘The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore’.

It’s not even 11am and I’m only the struggle bus for the day – issues at the office, and y’all KNOW how little tolerance I have for that #WhyDontIWorkForMyself

Anyway, I’ve got another book to share with you from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore” by Kim Fu. Here is the description from Amazon.com:

From the award-winning author of For Today I Am a Boy, a gripping and deeply felt novel about a group of young girls at a remote camp—and the night that changes everything and will shape their lives for decades to come

A group of young girls descend on Camp Forevermore, a sleepaway camp in the Pacific Northwest, where their days are filled with swimming lessons, friendship bracelets, and camp songs by the fire. Filled with excitement and nervous energy, they set off on an overnight kayaking trip to a nearby island. But before the night is over, they find themselves stranded, with no adults to help them survive or guide them home.

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore traces these five girls—Nita, Andee, Isabel, Dina, and Siobhan—through and beyond this fateful trip. We see them through successes and failures, loving relationships and heartbreaks; we see what it means to find, and define, oneself, and the ways in which the same experience is refracted through different people. In diamond-sharp prose, Kim Fu gives us a portrait of friendship and of the families we build for ourselves—and the pasts we can’t escape.

Apparently I’m just going to read books about getting lost in the wild among hungry animals and questionable plants… but really, I was pretty excited to add this one to my list, and I sadly have to admit that I was disappointed.

Part of me thinks I just didn’t connect with the characters enough, and it was very much a book about characters and less about them getting stranded at camp (although this is about half of the book).

The portions about them surviving camp were nearly horrifying, which I liked. So, I enjoyed the parts about survival, but not so much the backstory of the characters.

For that reason, I don’t feel comfortable recommending this book! It wasn’t terrible, but it just wasn’t my jam.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli.

And just in case you’re wondering, I finished out yesterday with 8,091 steps – almost 3x what I had last Monday!