BBC: ‘Landline’.

If you’re still at work today, hang in there – Thanksgiving is riiiight around the corner! I’m traveling today, which is a relief, because I always feel like the the days leading up to traveling are so hectic and crazy and then when I finally get on that plane, I can take a nap.

But anyway, let’s get into this week’s read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell. Here is the description from Amazon.com:

As far as time machines go, a magic telephone is pretty useless.

TV writer Georgie McCool can’t actually visit the past — all she can do is call it, and hope it picks up.

And hope he picks up.

Because once Georgie realizes she has a magic phone that calls into the past, all she wants to do is make things right with her husband, Neal.

Maybe she can fix the things in their past that seem unfixable in the present. Maybe this stupid phone is giving her a chance to start over …

Does Georgie want to start over?

From Rainbow Rowell, the New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park andFangirl, comes this heart-wrenching – and hilarious – take on fate, time, television and true love.

Landline asks if two people are ever truly on the same path, or whether love just means finding someone who will keep meeting you halfway, no matter where you end up.

This book had me at “TV writer”, so I was in pretty quick. But I also really liked the concept of this plot, primarily because I think cell phones have ruined us in ways we can’t get back, and I still wish landlines and answering machines were a thing. I hate being “available” 24/7.

But anyway… this is a fun read. It feels like a true story, minus the whole “magic telephone” thing, which even that doesn’t seem so crazy (oddly enough). The book takes a rather common problem: a longtime marriage beginning to fall apart, and adds a twist: the ability to time-travel via landline.

What happens is obviously up to the characters… and fate.

I read this book pretty quickly, and I liked it so much that I’ll definitely be reading some of Rowell’s other books: “Fangirl”, “Carry On”, “Attachments”, and “Eleanor & Park” – they all seem to have that slight, fantasy twist. And let’s face facts, I think we could all use a little break from reality every now and then.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder” by Carolyn Murnick.

Have a great Thanksgiving y’all! Tune in on Friday for a fun surprise 🙂

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Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving Eve, eve! Tomorrow morning, I’m hopping on a flight to get my travel on for the holiday break, and just perhaps, I’ll get my dose of freezing cold weather for a few days.

I don’t want to get too cheesy here, but the approaching Thanksgiving holiday definitely makes me think about what I’m thankful for, and this year, my list is a mile long.

I am so thankful for my mom, my friends, everyone I dance with, my kitty Blanche, and well, everyone who has a part in creating “The Daily Show” (this year just wouldn’t have been possible without that).

I am also just generally thankful for my health, my health insurance, and doctors, everywhere. I’m really thankful for my job, for all of my freelance clients, for all of the students who’ve taken my blog class, and for everyone who’s shopped in my Etsy shop – all of these jobs and projects have allowed me to clean up my financial mess, pay off a credit card, invest in hobbies I love, and even do some traveling.

It’s not quite the time to reflect on the entire year (we still have another month to go!), but this year, I’ve lost a lot of people. Some literally, some figuratively, some have cut me out, some I’ve cut out – but I know it’s all part of a bigger plan for each of us. If you’re in my life, it’s because I want you to be, and I’m really appreciative of you.

Of course, thank you for reading my blog. I have been in a weird space with blogging these past few months, partially because of time, and partially because I feel like sometimes this blog does more harm to myself than good.

I have started journaling as a way to get my thoughts out in an unbiased, totally unedited way, and it’s helping me in a way I didn’t expect. I don’t know if those words will ever see the light of day, maybe so, or maybe not. I just know that right now, there’s people watching my every word, and I’m not willing to provide food for their fights.

Regardless, this blog is here to stay. And hey, I am, too.

In the past, I’ve put so much energy into maintaining traditions when it comes to holidays, but I’m finally feeling like I’m coming into my own. I don’t have to do the same thing every year for the holidays – in fact, I can do whatever I want!

I’m not chained to locations, menus, houseguests, or expectant family members. I do what I want – it’s not the life I dreamed of, but perhaps that’s just because I didn’t know the option existed.

So yeah, tomorrow I’m bundling up (with the new John Green book in-tow), and I’m heading out for a few days to indulge, and upon my return to Texas, I’m SO happy to have some time off of work to decorate my apartment for the holidays, catch up on some TV, and work on my Etsy shop.

I hope you all have a fabulous Thanksgiving – I’ll be posting this week’s Book Club read tomorrow, and I’ve got a special surprise for Black Friday.

Cheers!

Watching: ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’.

Just saw this movie!

Yesterday afternoon, I saw a movie I’ve been eyeing for awhile, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson.

“Three Billboards” is the story of Mildred (McDormand), a passionate mother who is trying to push the local police to continue working on her daughter’s murder case. To spark their interest, Mildred pays rent on three billboards along a seldom-used country road to advertise her case.

The words she plots on the billboards puts Ebbing, Missouri into a tailspin – to say the least. But although what she’s doing is not illegal, the police are willing to do anything (and everything) they can to get her to shut up and remove the billboards.

Although it’s not directly related, Mildred and her billboards highlight the systematic racism within the town of Ebbing, solidified by the police force and their brutal actions (not to mention the words they say).

This movie was very dark, and although their were parts that made me laugh – I felt like the audience was constantly nervous-laughing, because it was so dark, and it was difficult to tell exactly what was going to happen next.

It’s obvious Mildred has never quite fit in, in Ebbing, and the brutal murder of her daughter seemed to harden her even more, creating an even greater distance between her and the town. The conclusion of the film (no spoilers) wraps this up nicely.

Although it was difficult to pinpoint exactly when this film took place, it has a timeless sensibility to it. After all, it’s not a recent problem for missing girls to be found murdered, have their killers on the loose, and for a police department to pick and choose who they go after based on race and/or relationships.

I cannot close this blog post without saying that parts of this movie were very difficult to watch. I had my hands over my face for probably 1/4 of it, and was on the verge of tears for at least half. It’s gut-wrenching.

But, it was well-done, and very unique. A recommendation for crime and mystery lovers.

Naturally, I saw this movie at the Drafthouse, so I treated myself to some fries and a salted caramel shake. YUM.

I was happy to go home afterward and make Christmas ornaments though, and get my mind out of such a dark place.

BBC: ‘The Art of Crash Landing’.

I hate being this person, but can you believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away?! Yikes! I actually have a Friendsgiving to attend tomorrow, so I’ll get an even earlier start on my turkey + cranberry only diet this holiday season (just kidding, vegan Gods).

Regardless, the holidays are always hit or miss for me, but I’m thinking this year is gonna be a pret-ty good time. More on this at a later date. Anyway, this weekend, I’ve got a few things to do in my Etsy shop (there’s several new items in there already if you haven’t looked lately), I’m going to see a movie, and I think I’ll treat myself to a pedicure while I’m out!

Meanwhile, let’s get into this week’s read from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “The Art of Crash Landing” by Melissa Dicarlo. Here’s the scoop from Amazon:

From a bright new talent comes this debut novel about a young woman who travels for the first time to her mother’s hometown, and gets sucked into the mystery that changed her family forever

Mattie Wallace has really screwed up this time. Broke and knocked up, she’s got all her worldly possessions crammed into six giant trash bags, and nowhere to go. Try as she might, Mattie can no longer deny that she really is turning into her mother, a broken alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t make.

When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma. There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy, talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother, and it happened here. The harder Mattie digs for answers, the more obstacles she encounters. Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own.

Hilarious, gripping, and unexpectedly wise, The Art of Crash Landing is a poignant novel from an assured new voice.

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I came across this book. I’m pretty sure it was the image of this woman putting everything she owns into trash bags that got me hooked, though. And once I started reading, it was an interesting story that almost seemed like a piece of non-fiction. It was oddly relatable and very visual, which is really what makes me like a book.

This one is for fans of unique, non-cookie-cutter stories! The next book we’ll be reading for the book club is “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell. Have a good weekend y’all – stay warm (the “cold front” is bringing us 80 degree weather…)!

Dining at Uchiko!

The fantastic Uchiko!

Ugh, I’m mad at myself for not posting this earlier, but a few weeks ago, I was able to cross off yet ANOTHER experience from my Austin Bucket List: dining at Uchiko!

I discovered Uchiko, after seeing the original “Uchi” on an episode of “Food Porn” right when I moved to Austin and I hoped that one day, I’d get the chance to devour some of their top-notch sushi. Austin is home to Uchi and Uchiko.

Well, fate was on my side because… you may recall a few months ago when my friend Corey and I WON a “Saved By The Bell” trivia contest. Part of our prize was a giftcard to… *drumroll* …Uchiko!

It was meant to be!

Uchiko is a farmhouse restaurant, and they focus on using fresh ingredients – flying in seafood everyday from Eukuoka and Tsukiji markets in Japan.

Naturally, I was too busy enjoying the food to recall everything we ate, but here’s some of the things we had:

  • Yokai Berry: Scottish salmon, dinosaur kale, Asian kale, yuzu
  • Coffee Bacon: peach, apricot, onion
  • Ham & Eggs: katsu pork belly, yolk custard, espelette
  • Brussels Sprouts: fish caramel, lemon, chili
  • Kokumostu: toasted and fried milk, cereal, chocolate mousse
  • Seasonal Ice Cream: I believe we had cinnamon… it was so yummy!

We had at least three other items… but I probably had too many glasses of wine to recall their names. I DO know that everything was fresh, delicious, and impeccably presented. It was really a fantastic experience!

Tyson Cole is a partner and the chef of both Uchi and Uchiko – here’s his story from the Uchiko website:

Best Chef Southwest, James Beard Foundation 2011
One of the few American sushi masters, James Beard Award-winning Chef and Owner Tyson Cole is a passionate student of the Japanese tradition. Having trained for more than 10 years in Tokyo, New York, and Austin under two different sushi masters, he continues his path of study and experimentation each day at the restaurants in the Hai Hospitality family. Employing classical cooking techniques with a Pacific Rim perspective, Cole marries global ingredients with traditional Japanese flavors, resulting in inspired combinations of flavor, texture, color, technique, and style.

Cole became fascinated with sushi in his early twenties while working at an Austin Japanese restaurant and quickly dedicated himself to learning every aspect of the cuisine. Working his way up from dishwasher to head sushi chef, his dexterity with the knife led him to Austin’s top sushi restaurant Musashino. During an intensive traditional apprenticeship under owner Takehiko Fuse, Cole traveled to Japan to experience the cuisine firsthand while gaining technical skill.

Challenged by Fuse to learn the Japanese language, Cole moved on to train at Bond Street, one of the busiest sushi restaurants in New York City. In his last year at Musashino, Cole ran the restaurant in Fuse’s absence and began experimenting with new flavor ideas, influences, and ingredients. Opening Uchi in 2003 as executive chef and co-owner, Cole quickly garnered national attention, most notably a coveted spot on Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2005 list; a James Beard Foundation Award for “Best Chef: Southwest” in 2011; and a James Beard Foundation semifinalist spot for “Outstanding Chef” in 2016 among many other accolades.

Citing the newly easy accessibility of ingredients and flavors from across the globe, Cole continues to push the envelope with every bite, stating, “The cuisine I create is playfully multi-cultural, mixing the Japanese tradition with tastes that inspire me.”

Impressive, right?

The even COOLER part is – Corey and I still have two more giftcard to burn as part of our prize. Doesn’t get better than that!

Invisalign: Two weeks in!

My first 2 weeks using Invisalign!

Okay, I’m about two days shy of the three-week mark using Invisalign, but this will just have to do! I have been curious about Invisalign for the last year for a few reasons.

For starters, I’ve never had traditional braces and I cannot TELL you how many times my dentist has asked me if I’m interested in braces. No, no, and no… until I was.

My teeth aren’t that crooked. Instead, they are very crowded on the bottom and a little angled up top. It has never bothered me until recently. In fact, I often prided myself on the fact that I’d made it this far without orthodontic work.

But the truth is, I take a lot of care in the way I look. I’m not vain or superficial, but I do like to take care of myself, and I also like to experiment with new beauty trends (I just Derma-rolled for the second time ever last night), and I have a bucket of makeup and a tiny collection of face masks to prove it.

I wear makeup on most days – mostly to express myself and help boost my confidence. That’s all great, but I started to feel like my look was incomplete with my teeth. Sure, my nails look great, contour is on-point, lipliner looking fresh… but my teeth?

So, when I switched dentists because of insurance, I specifically looked for one that offered Invisalign. I asked about it immediately, slapped down the down-payment, and they got to work.

The first step was to have impressions taken of my teeth. These impressions were sent off to Invisalign and they made a computer simulation of the changes my teeth would go through from start to finish.

My dentist also took tons of pictures of my teeth, and of my face – she said I would see a slight change in my profile.

Once I approved of the way my teeth would look (according to the simulation), my dentist was able to tell me that my “treatment” would be six months, which is the minimum amount of time for Invisalign.

At my next appointment, my dentist applied some “buttons” onto my teeth – basically they are small raised pieces that help “lock” the Invisalign in place, and they help the teeth move a little faster.

She then had to shave down the sides of some of my teeth since they were so crowded – the shaving involved her flossing my teeth with sandpaper. Literally. It was an interesting and awkward experience.

Before she handed me my first set of trays, she told me I had to wear the trays at least 22 hours each day: sleep in them, only drink clear liquids with them in, and take them out to eat. I was instructed to brush my teeth before putting the trays back in.

She broke two pieces of bad news to me at that point: 1. The first two days of each tray are painful, and 2. My coffee intake would likely be reduced given that I couldn’t drink it with the Invisalign in.

Ohhhhh… I was visibly upset over this coffee news. You see, I usually sip on coffee from the time I wake up (6:30 or so) until around 10. But if I did that, I’d already be breaking the 22-hour rule with Invisalign.

“It’s only for six months,” she said. She didn’t GET IT.

But anyway, I snapped in my first trays and was on my way. And she was right, it HURT. That night, I had so much trouble getting the trays out, I skipped dinner.

Since then, though, it stopped hurting, and it’s very easy to get the trays in and out.

On my two-week mark, I put in a new set of trays, and it hurt some (I took one dose of pain killers), but not as bad as the first one, leading me to believe the “shaving” was actually the issue.

I have 14 trays total, so I’ll be getting new ones about every two weeks. I expect to be putting in tray no. 3 on Thanksgiving Eve… which will make for an interesting Turkey Day.

So far, it’s been okay. It is a little annoying to have to take the trays in and out so much – I feel like I’ve cut down on snacking because it just isn’t worth the time and effort (in case you wondered just how lazy I was).

On the upside, I can already see the progress my teeth are making – and it looks great, even this early in the game! I also started using a whitening toothpaste in hopes of getting a bit of a brighter smile along the way!

I’ll keep you posted…

Thriving at ‘The Aftermath’.

We killed it!

Over the weekend, I performed in my 4th showcase that Dance Austin Studio hosts. After each performance, I’ve written about how I’ve felt and I realize what an important place dance has in my life.

This time was no different, in fact, I realized just how much I need dance and those I dance with to fulfill my life.

I started dancing in 6th grade, taking a jazz class at a small gym with one of my friends. We performed a few times, and I still recall flopping when we had to pull red boas from our partners’ leotards. It was cringe-worthy!

A year later, I tried out for the dance squad at my middle school – I didn’t make it, but made it the following year after practicing my smile and wearing lots of body glitter. I continued dancing throughout high school, I served as captain of a team, competed across the state of Indiana, and even choreographed a piece for my senior project.

And then I stopped dancing. I used writing as my form of expression, and while obviously I still am (and will always be) a writer, I started dancing again when I moved to Austin two years ago.

I feel like I’m really lucky that I ended up at THE best studio in the city – or maybe that’s all the proof I need that fate is real. Dance Austin Studio has challenged me physically and emotionally, and I’ve done things I never thought I would get to do: audition, perform on stage, and most importantly, learn from some of the best dancers in the industry on a regular basis.

Over the last two months, my life has suffered a whirlwind of changes. Many of my readers know that among the general hectic nature of my life, I recently went through a family emergency that flipped my world completely. There were days I was barely going through the motions of life, and I forced myself to dance.

I may not remember a single thing I thing I learned during those classes, but I know my classmates were there for me – even if they didn’t know it.

That’s the other thing about Dance Austin; it has truly become my family. While I had acquaintances at the studio last year, some of the ladies have really embraced me, invited me into their homes, and even included me in dance pieces of their own. I don’t know what kind of shape I’d be in without these people, these experiences.

For this showcase, “The Aftermath”, I performed in a Broadway Jazz piece. I have always had a secret wish that one day, I’d wake up and my life would be a musical – very much like the blue bird scene from “500 Days of Summer”. Taking broadway jazz was pretty much that dream, realized, and then I got to be a KILLER stepford wife on stage.

It didn’t happen without hours of practice in and outside of the studio; many nights I practiced in my living room wearing slippers while my cat watched with wide eyes.

I was also asked to perform in a contemporary piece with a message of women’s empowerment. It was very powerful and a true honor to get to dance in it!

This was my first time doing jazz in (obviously) several years; first time doing any “dressography”, and my first time performing two routines, plus in both shows! Whew!

But as we probably all know, the more challenges thrown at you, the more you conquer, and the more you ultimately learn about yourself. This weekend, I can say I learned that I CAN DO IT. I can learn something completely new amidst chaos, and smile through it.

So I owe a big thank you to all the ladies that danced with me, a thank you to Chi Chi – the owner of Dance Austin Studio, a thank you to Caitlyn – my instructor and insanely talented choreographer who put up with me being zombified for six weeks, and a thank you to the Ultraviolets for inviting me to share the stage with you as part of such an incredible piece.

February showcase, I’m coming for you!

Comparing cosmetic primers, II.

Happy Halloween! I am pretty excited for today – oddly – mostly because this means I can take a break from mass-producing Holly Golightly sleep masks for seasonal costumes, and because I love hearing “Thriller” on the radio constantly.

Several months ago, I posted short reviews about cosmetic primers I’ve tried. I got such good advice on new ones to try, that here I am, back after trying FOUR new primers! I’m curious to see what you guys think of this batch.

If you aren’t big on makeup or haven’t tried a primer, it is usually worn under makeup (particularly foundation) and provides a smooth base that helps the makeup stay on longer and look flawless. A primer can come in the form of a gel, spray, powder, cream, oil… it just depends on what type of product you like.

NYX Shine Killer

I love NYX products because they are so affordable, it makes it easy to try new things. The Shine Killer primer is a clear gel and I found it really helped control my shine throughout the day (I did use it along with the NYX matte setting spray).

Details:

  • Foundation primer that prepares skin for silky smooth makeup application
  • Lightweight, colorless gel creates an invisible layer that acts as a buffer to the outside elements
  • Helps makeup stay fresh and color-true for hours, lasting all day and well into the night
  • Moisturize your skin with a daily dosage of Vitamin E
  • Prep your face with this foundation primer before applying face makeup
  • Maintain a matte and fresh face all day

$13.99 for .67 ounces

Laura Geller Spackle Tinted Under Make-up Primer

Over the last year, I have been trying bits and pieces of Laura Geller’s collection and her products are wonderful! This Spackle (in “Champagne”) came in a gift set I got, which are always such great deals. It has a slight glow to it, so it’s perfect to wear under makeup or alone for a dewy look.

Details:

Revive and re-texturize your skin to achieve a flawlessly smooth finish with my Spackle® Tinted Under Make-up Primer in Champagne. This formula has the same features and benefits as the revolutionary best-selling Spackle®, but it shimmers with a champagne glow!

Made with natural plant extracts and the powerful anti-oxidants, White Tea and Centella Asiatica. These ingredients protect the skin along with Aloe Vera Gel. Spackle also helps the skin retain moisture, feel softer and look smoother. It is lush, incredibly lightweight and suitable for all skin types.

$32 for 2 ounces

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Pore Minimizing

I got a sample of this in one of my Birchboxs a few months ago and have been using it over the last few weeks. I love that it has a light tint to it – my skin has some redness (which I’m currently trying to derma-roll out), so I am always looking for FULL coverage products. I also liked the texture of this – it goes on smooth and has a dry, matte finish.

Details:

Smashbox’s Photo Finish Pore Minimizing Foundation Primer is an Allure Best of Beauty winner. It works for all skin types but is ideal for oily and combination skin. It pairs best with liquid or cream foundation. This primer is non-acnegenic and ophthalmologist tested.

Benefits:

  • Dramatically reduces the look of pores
  • Mattifies shine and controls oil all day
  • Smoothes and preps skin for makeup
  • Won’t clog pores or cause breakouts
  • Water-resistant, smooth-glide texture
  • Leaves a soft, even finish
  • Cruelty-free

Formulated without parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, oil, fragrance and talc. Vegan friendly.

$39 for 1 ounce

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Oil

I got this as a sample from the Company Cosmetics Store (I. Love. That. Place!) after buying a Smashbox set that had all sorts of goodies in it. This was my first time trying the oil, and frankly, I am still trying to figure out what I think of it. It definitely does not leave an oily finish, but I might save the rest of it to use during the colder months (like, in December maybe? #Texas) when my skin is dry.

Details:

Smashbox’s Photo Finish Primer Oil is non-acnegenic and dermatologist-tested. Morning and evening application adds increased moisture in just four weeks. Not ideal for oily skin.

Benefits:

  • Preps skin for makeup
  • Moisturizes for seamless makeup application
  • Instantly absorbs and adds radiance
  • Reduces the appearance of dry fine lines
  • Blended with 15 lipid-rich plant extracts and essential oils including moisturizing jojoba + calming chamomile
  • Strengthens the skin’s barrier

Formulated without parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, oil, fragrance and talc. Vegan friendly.

What primers are you using? I am always looking to try new products!

Before I sign off, be sure to check out my Etsy SALE – today only – and you can get 15% off all items in honor of Halloween (and the Great Pumpkin, of course)! As always, there is free shipping on domestic orders.

Have a fun day, y’all!

Another year at the Austin Film Festival!

It’s the 24th Annual Austin Film Festival & Writer’s Conference!

That’s right – I’m coming off a weekend of volunteering at the Austin Film Festival for the second year in a row! After having such a fun and inspiring time last year, I jumped at the chance to volunteer again this year.

I am still nurturing my interest in screenwriting, but have made about ZERO progress on doing much with this interest. I don’t like using the excuse that I’m too busy – but things have been a little crazy lately.

However, I still made time to volunteer. I actually starting volunteering in the spring, going door-to-door passing out advertisements for the Austin Film summer camp for kids. My first official shift during the festival was for the Pitch Competition – where I volunteered 9 hours last year and had so, so much fun!

This year… it was a little more stressful. I hadn’t been at my shift very long when one of the judges needed a cup of coffee (specifically, a medium coffee with 2/3 coffee and 1/3 almond milk). I was sent on the errand.

Of course, the coffee shop in the building was closed. I went back to my station and was told to “go somewhere nearby”…little did my shift manager know that I don’t really KNOW what’s nearby. So, I ventured to the 3rd floor where I heard there was free coffee.

Indeed, there was free coffee, but no almond milk. Only little containers of half and half. So, I moved with a quickness outside. Two blocks away was a giant “Day of the Dead” parade, on top of the Film Fest crowd – everywhere was packed. The first two coffee shops I found were closed. Awesome.

Coffee shop number three was open… but with a huge line. I jumped in line anyway. When it was my turn to order, I was informed they were actually OUT OF COFFEE. How does that happen?

I said I would wait… and about 20 minutes later, I got my order and moved as quickly as possible back to my volunteer station. I apologized for how long it took, but my manager assured me it was ok.

Well, until I looked at my phone to see she’d sent me several frantic messages basically thinking I’d run off downtown with her credit card. Umm what? I confronted her about the messages and she was all, “Ohhh just ignore those!”

Meerkat Moonship!

Regardless, she stuck me on door duty for six hours leaving me uninspired, with tired legs. I don’t think I’d survive in Hollywood.

On Sunday, I arrived at my first-ever shift to volunteer at a theatre! During this shift, I took tallies of how many people were lined up to see the movies, and helped count them into the theatre. I also got to sneak into (with permission) the theatre to see one of the films and enjoyed a free Coke and some free popcorn! Fantastic!

The movie I saw was called “Meerkat Moonship”, created by Hanneke Schutte – who was present for the viewing. Here’s the official description from IMDb:

“Gideonette, a timid and visionary girl, lives with her parents in a small town. Her dad Gideon, battles daily to allay her fears about the curse of the Gideon de La Reys. Throughout their family history every Gideon de La Rey died in a freak accident at a young age. In order to prove everyone wrong, Gideon named his daughter – Gideonette. Although Gideonette has had to endure endless teasing about the curse, her dad has tried to convince her that they’ll both grow old. When he suddenly dies, her worst fears are realized and she retreats into a dark world where her imagination runs wild. Realising that Gideonette needs to get away from the curse her mom sends her to her grandparents. Here Gideonette meets Bhubesi, a deaf boy who’s ‘training’ to become an astronaut. While her grandfather builds Bhubesi a Moonship, the brave boy wins her trust and they embark on a curious journey of wordless friendship that helps her to realise she can’t hide from death. When fate hands her a final blow and her newfound strength is tested, she has to decide whether she’s going to let the curse consume her or defy it.

Gideonette, a timid and visionary girl, lives with her parents in a small town. Her dad Gideon, battles daily to allay her fears about the curse of the Gideon de La Reys. Throughout their family history, every Gideon de La Rey died in a freak accident at a young age. In order to prove everyone wrong, Gideon named his daughter – Gideonette. Although Gideonette has had to endure endless teasing about the curse, her dad has tried to convince her that they’ll both grow old. When he suddenly dies, her worst fears are realised and she retreats into a dark world where her imagination runs wild. Realising that Gideonette needs to get away from the curse her mom sends her to her grandparents. Here Gideonette meets Bhubesi, a deaf boy who’s ‘training’ to become an astronaut. While her grandfather builds Bhubesi a Moonship, the brave boy wins her trust and they embark on a curious journey of wordless friendship that helps her to realise she can’t hide from death. When fate hands her a final blow and her newfound strength is tested, she has to decide whether she’s going to let the curse consume her or defy it.”

This was a BEAUTIFUL movie! I even teared up a few times – ugh! I think people are really going to love the aesthetic of this film, not to mention the message. Wonderful!

All in all, it was another great year with the Film Festival, and yep, I know I’ll be back next year!

BBC: ‘What Made Maddy Run’.

Hey there! We’ve made it through another week, and you know what? This weekend is one of my favorite times here in Austin: it’s the Austin Film Festival and Writer’s Conference! I am volunteering this weekend, and it’s just a great time to see some of the best writers and creators come together and make cool things happen. I’m in need of inspiration, so this is coming at the right (write) time!

It’s also supposed to be a little chilly – FINALLY – this weekend (like, in the low 50s), even though it will warm back up next week. I’ll take what I can get; I am so tired of having my air conditioning running.

But, I’ve got a really fantastic, important book to discuss this week: “What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen” by Kate Fagan. Here is the official description from Amazon:

From noted ESPN commentator and journalist Kate Fagan, the heartbreaking and vital story of college athlete Madison Holleran, whose death by suicide rocked the University of Pennsylvania campus and whose life reveals with haunting detail and uncommon understanding the struggle of young people suffering from mental illness today. 

If you scrolled through the Instagram feed of 19-year-old Maddy Holleran, you would see a perfect life: a freshman at an Ivy League school, recruited for the track team, who was also beautiful, popular, and fiercely intelligent. This was a girl who succeeded at everything she tried, and who was only getting started. 

But when Maddy began her long-awaited college career, her parents noticed something changed. Previously indefatigable Maddy became withdrawn, and her thoughts centered on how she could change her life. In spite of thousands of hours of practice and study, she contemplated transferring from the school that had once been her dream. When Maddy’s dad, Jim, dropped her off for the first day of spring semester, she held him a second longer than usual. That would be the last time Jim would see his daughter.

WHAT MADE MADDY RUN began as a piece that Kate Fagan, a columnist for espnW, wrote about Maddy’s life. What started as a profile of a successful young athlete whose life ended in suicide became so much larger when Fagan started to hear from other college athletes also struggling with mental illness. This is the story of Maddy Holleran’s life, and her struggle with depression, which also reveals the mounting pressures young people, and college athletes in particular, face to be perfect, especially in an age of relentless connectivity and social media saturation.

I added this book to my reading list after seeing Kate Fagan on an episode of “The Daily Show”. The book sounded fascinating, although heartbreaking. I was able to get the book just a few weeks later, and I immediately did something I probably shouldn’t have: I looked up Madison Holleran on Instagram.

And there she was: a seemingly perfect college athlete, a woman I likely would have thought had her life – a beautiful life – all tied together. But obviously that’s not entirely true. And now, her public Instagram profile serves as a bit of a time capsule – even the picture she posted in the last moments of her life is there – neatly filtered and edited.

We’re all guilty of it: we put things into the public that we are only OK with people knowing. When I was reading this book, I blamed this on social media. But, once I was finished with the book, I went back and read some of Fagan’s earlier work and she made a great point: humans have been editing their outward “look” for years – even when we’d write letters to each other, we would only mention the things we wanted people to know.

Remember AOL messenger? It’s going away this December, but I know I made myself look different online – even through AOL. I would put away messages alluding that I was out, partying, leaving my computer idle for days, when in reality I was sitting in my dorm room watching “Sex and the City”.

Of course, Maddy Holleran was going through much more than a social struggle. She was suffering from a mental illness, and was really feeling the pressures of college, on top of being a sought-after athlete. Here are some of the lines from the book I took note of:

  • Many coaches believe these moments are forks in the road, and that choosing to push through the pain – in whatever form that pain comes – is what creates champions.
  • …the more polished and put-together someone seems – everything lovely and beautiful and just as it should be – perhaps the more likely something vital is falling apart just offscreen.
  • Comparing your everyday existence to someone else’s highlight reel is dangerous for both of you.
  • Digital life, and social media at its most complex, is an interweaving of public and private personas, a blending and splintering of identities unlike anything other generations have experienced.
  • And nothing turns enjoyment into dread faster than obligation.

I’ll be honest, there were times I felt sick while reading this book. Partially because I knew what was coming and I had mixed feelings about reading it, and partially because I found a lot of myself in Maddy – and that’s scary.

I think there’s a lot to learn from Maddy’s story, and that’s probably why her family let the author in so much – so other families wouldn’t have to suffer from a similar tragedy.

Despite the darkness of this book, I absolutely loved it. The way it was told was respectable, true, and easy to read. I am recommending this book to my social media lovers, and my true-story obsessors. This is one you won’t be able to put down.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Art of Crash Landing” by Melissa DeCarlo.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

My first two months on Etsy.

Always craftin’.

At the end of August, I opened up my Etsy shop: The Bitter Lemon Shop. I have always thought about opening up an Etsy store, not because I have an abundance of things to sell, but because there are times when I really enjoy creating things and I always get really excited when they turn out as I’d planned.

For years, I’ve kept a Pinterest board with DIY projects that I hoped to get to “someday”, and in August, I finally had a window of time and started making earrings. They turned out cute, so I decided to put them on Etsy and see what happened.

Like most people starting an online adventure, it seems like when you publish your first blog or post that fist item to sell, the world is going to shift. And then… there’s silence.

I’d heard about this happening with lots of Etsy sellers – that you work so hard to create an inventory of products and take pictures, write thoughtful descriptions… and then you never make a sale.

But it didn’t take long before I made a few sales, mostly from people I knew. But hey, a sale is a sale, and it was good practice on simply using Etsy to see how things work.

Before I knew it, I had several orders, and then I had a slight frenzy when shoppers caught sight of one item: my Holly Golightly sleep mask – a popular Halloween costume accessory, especially now thanks to “Big Little Lies”.

I sold 30+ of the handmade sleep masks, staying up very late (one night i stayed up until 4 am) to hand-sew each item.

I’m proud to say I’ve made it through my first “Holiday rush”, and I didn’t even mess up any of the shipments, which is a MIRACLE.

So, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned about Etsy so far – I’m sure this won’t be the last post about this side hustle, business-venture of mine.

Use the Etsy app. The app is easy to use, but most importantly, I get an alert on my phone when someone makes a purchase (it sounds like a cash register), and when someone messages me. This is super important and I know I won’t go online and check my store every day.

Respond to customers. Quickly. A few weeks after I opened my shop, I heard a radio host talking about how she once had an Etsy shop and she hated it because she didn’t make any money and it was more about customer service. Hmm… well, yeah, most businesses – especially small businesses – ARE all about customer service.

We are at the mercy of our customers, because if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have a reason for a shop. As for not making money, I would venture to say she didn’t have a good enough product, because my revenue has surpassed $500. It’s nothing to quit my day job over, but it sure isn’t “nothing”, especially for a side gig.

Most of the time, customers don’t message me. If they do, they just have a question about the product or arrival. 9/10 times, they are really nice and DO want to make a purchase – so I do try and respond within the hour. You never know what other products they are looking at in order to make their decision.

I’ve found that this is what helps me make sales and get 5-star reviews. I’ve had customers tell me how grateful they are that I simply replied and did so with kindness. What’s up Etsy sellers? Respond to your customers!

I do have a professional background in marketing and I know how the average person shops – they do a lot of research, and making contact is one of the last things people do before pulling out their credit card. So reply!

Price it right. A lot of items on Etsy are expensive. Which is okay – if you’re using fine materials. I disagree with adding in a bunch of labor costs to your item. I figure out my prices by looking at materials and shipping costs (I offer free domestic shipping), and also how much I would pay for a similar item. I ask around, too, or look in stores to see what they are charging for similar items. I’m not going to charge someone double just because it takes me a day to make it – people will move right on over to Amazon. Now, don’t make things cheap – price them at what they’re worth; a price you feel comfortable with. You don’t want to give things away, but don’t rob the customer either.

Be honest with yourself. I have a 3-day window from the time a customer places the order until I have to ship it. I make items to order – I do not have a shop or a place to store ready-made items. So, be honest – don’t put 1-day turnaround if it really takes 4. People will understand, and they don’t want to be tricked.

Create a system for shipping. I don’t have a room, or really even much space, to dedicate to shipping. But, I do have a method to how I create labels and pack my items so nothing gets mixed up. It probably isn’t an issue when you have one or two orders, but trying packing 14 boxes for shipment – it’s a process!

Give customers a reason to come back. I know customers do NOT have to shop on Etsy – in fact, it’s been years since I’ve purchased anything on Etsy. But I know I need to get sales – not for money, but because Etsy displays the number of sales you’ve made – and if it’s a low number, people aren’t going to have confidence in your shop. So, I’ve been giving each customer a coupon for a percentage off their next order. I want them to come back – whether to shop, or to see what new items I’ve got in the store.

There you have it! Etsy has additional resources for succeeding in your shop – a message board, tools, and even a podcast, but I have yet to tap into any of these resources. I’m going to try a few new things over the holidays and will also continue to post new items and sales on my Instagram account (@Orangejulius7), but so far I’ve found that sticking to traditional business and marketing tactics has worked quite well!

Watching: ‘IT’ (original).

Saw this movie almost 30 years later.

Saturday night, I ventured to a Halloween costume party where there was a viewing of Stephen King’s original “IT” film that originally aired as a TV series in 1990.

If you know me at all, you know that it’s very rare for me to say a sentence like the one I just did. I basically hate Halloween. I’m THE definition of a scaredy cat – everything terrifies me. I’m scared every day, even in the summer.

I don’t like masks, random people knocking on my door (especially children wearing masks), and I even have to cover my eyes during scary movie previews. I know, I’m a wimp.

Truthfully, I used to LOVE scary movies…until I moved into an apartment by myself. Then, the fun and games were over. A few years ago, a guy I was dating invited me to his house to pass out candy during Trick-or-Treat. I agreed, because I liked him, but I was pretty terrified at the prospect of seeing masks all night.

I do like true crime, particularly because I like crime investigations and reporting. I know, it’s not really logical, but that’s the things about fears – they aren’t often based on reason or logic.

And so, I got invited to this “IT” watching party and I didn’t want to decline the invitation because, well, when people try and be friendly I think I should do a better job of accepting that into my life. I could use more genuine friends.

So, I put on my trusty Holly Golightly costume and headed out (I brought my pillow and blanket just in case I needed something to shield my eyes). The party house was completely decorated – even the lemon bars had little candy cleavers stuck in them!

After about an hour of snacking (jalapeno popper mummies, deviled eggs, and pumpkin-shaped Rice Krispie Treats…), we watched “IT” – which I’d been told was pretty cheesy.

I’ve seen the previews for the newly released “IT”, and those alone were terrifying: the music, the clown, all of it. But the 90’s version? I totally handled it. IT. ha.

“IT” was released as a novel in 1986, spent 14 weeks on the top-seller list, and aired on TV as a two-night miniseries, starring Tim Curry as Pennywise the clown. The story goes that surrounding a group of murdered children, a group of school kids start seeing this clown around town, particularly near the damn, in the sewer, or even in the drain of their bathroom sink.

Once they think the terror is over, he comes back to haunt them almost 30 years later (which makes the timing of the new adaptation that much more creepy).

Naturally, the movie isn’t reeeaally about a scary clown – it’s more about imagination, growing up, and a loss of innocence.

All-in-all, I’m glad I watched the movie. It was cheesy, I even laughed at several scenes… but I still slept with my bathroom light on that night.

Some things never change…

BBC: ‘The Identicals’.

Hey, hey! We made it to Friddaaayyyy – this week has been crazy busy! I’ve been cranking out Holly Golightly Sleep Masks for my Etsy Shop. I’m thankful they are selling, but man, it’s a lot of work!

Anyway, I’m so excited to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “The Identicals” by Elin Hilderbrand. Here is the official description from Amazon.com:

Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She’s inherited her father’s rundown house on Martha’s Vineyard, but she can’t hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking. 

Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.

Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She’s also inherited her mother’s questionable parenting skills–Tabitha’s teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode–and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion. 

One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.

After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands–and lives–to save what’s left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they’d outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.

…This book was like a modern-day “Parent Trap”, and of course it focuses on two adults, not children. I absolutely LOVED this book! I read it almost in a single single sitting. It was completely an escape, thanks to Hilderbrand’s delicious details about Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (neither of which I have been), including sparkling rose, farmer’s market jams, and lobster pot pie.

I would recommend this book to my rom-com lovers, and/or anyone looking for a sweet summery escape before winter hits us all with depression.

The next book we’ll be reading in Blanche’s Book Club is “What Made Maddy Run” by Kate Fagan (!). You’re going to want to read this one with us… Just saying!

Countdown to Christmas!

We’re a week away from this annual tradition!

Yes, I know, we’re not even to Halloween yet! And trust me, I am so not one of those people that puts up a tree early or listens to Christmas music all year long. I follow the wait-until-Thanksgiving rule… But, the Hallmark Channel does not follow that rule.

And I love the movies on the Hallmark Channel; it’s my guilty-not-guilty pleasure. Each year, the Hallmark Channel shows only holiday movies beginning at the end of October all the way through Christmas. It’s sort of annoyingly fantastic.

This year, the holiday movie marathon, also known as “Countdown to Christmas” begins next Friday, October 27. This Sunday however, they are showing a preview of what’s to come, hosted by Candace Cameron, Jodi Sweetin, and Lori Loughlin (airing Sunday evening at 10/9c).

But, I thought I’d round up a little preview of my own (with help from the Hallmark channel website). The titles in green are the ones I’m particularly looking forward to. Let’s DO this:

MARRY ME AT CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Oct. 28, 8/7c
Stars: Rachel Skarsten, Trevor Donovan
Organizing a Christmas wedding is a true treat for bridal boutique owner Madeline Krug. She loves the challenge of finding the perfect dress for the bride and orchestrating an exquisite event. What Madeline didn’t expect was to be swept off her feet by the bride’s gorgeous brother, movie star Johnny Blake. Jonny came to the quirky town of Fool’s Gold to support his sister — not to fall in love. Yet Madeline is the most extraordinary woman he’s ever met. Planning the perfect wedding leads to candlelit dinners and strolls through snow-covered streets. Madeline finds the real Johnny even more captivating than her celebrity crush. Will the action star be brave enough to take on the role of a lifetime?

CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL OF ICE
Premieres: Nov. 4, 8/7c
Stars: Taylor Cole, Damon Runyan, Wendy Crewson
Those years of law school pay off for Emma but not in ways one would expect. When she finds out that her beloved ice-sculpting contest, part of her hometown’s Christmas festival, has been canceled, she springs into action. Determined to keep it going, she enlists sponsors and artists. Nick, the town’s ace artisan, isn’t interested in competing this year, but Emma wants him as her teammate. Considering what she’s managed to accomplish, Nick is impressed and signs on. As Emma and Nick work together, she realizes there’s more to life than legal briefs. And transformed by Emma’s can-do spirit, Nick is invigorated, too. They just might have a shot at winning this very special Christmas contest — and a lot more.

MISS CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 5, 8/7c
Stars: Brooke D’Orsay, Marc Blucas
Holly Kuhn (D’Orsay) is on her annual mission of finding a majestic specimen for The National Tree. While searching for the perfect Christmas fir for the Washington, D.C. Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony, Holly receives a letter from a boy detailing why his town boasts the most beautiful evergreen. Holly travels to the boy’s quaint New England town, where she meets his handsome uncle, Sam McCary (Blucas). Sam owns the land from which it grows and is a protective steward. It holds such deep meaning for Sam that he’s not about to let it be chopped down even for such an honor. Still, Holly finds herself falling for Sam, and they discover the magic that this perfect tree can bring, just in time for the holidays.

THE SWEETEST CHRISTMAS 
Premieres: Nov. 11, 8/7c
Stars: Lacey Chabert, Lea Coco, Jonathan Adams
When struggling pastry chef Kylie Watson (Chabert) learns she’s made it to the finals of the American Gingerbread Competition, she thinks her competitive spirit has finally paid off and hopes the publicity will help her jumpstart her new café. There’s just one problem — the oven she’s supposed to use breaks down right before the contest. Determined to enter, she reaches out to Nick Mazannti (Coco), her old boyfriend from culinary school who gave up his dream of being a pastry chef to take over his family’s pizzeria. Nick allows her to use his industrial pizza oven at night to craft her ambitious gingerbread confections. As the two reminisce about the dreams of their youth, their romance is rekindled. But just as Kylie is on the cusp of taking the grand prize — and embracing true love — things get complicated when her ex-boyfriend takes drastic steps to win her back. Kylie realizes she must embrace the Christmas Spirit or risk losing both the contest and her new love.

ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 12, 8/7c
Stars: Alexa PenaVega, Carlos PenaVega
Weeks before Christmas, interior designer Laura is sent to her hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico to remodel a landmark hotel. As Laura is kept busy with the renovations, her 8-year-old daughter Nicole is introduced to the art of salsa dancing at a local dance studio. Laura is surprised to find that the studio’s owner is Ricardo, her old high school sweetheart and former salsa dance partner. When Laura and Ricardo reconnect, sparks fly on and off the dance floor. The beautiful Christmas traditions of New Mexico become the backdrop for spirited dancing and unexpected romance.

COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 18, 8/7c
Stars: Danica McKellar, Neal Bledsoe
Allie Richfield is at a crossroads when she lands a job as house manager for the exquisite Ashford Estate in the Virginia countryside. While preparing the place for sale, Allie plans one final Christmas Eve gala for the Marley family, though they seem to be a family in name only. There’s Kip Marley, who never met a party he didn’t like; Robert, the handsome but all-business executor of the estate; Sloane, who arrives with her two young children, sans husband, and the 90-year-old matriarch, Pippa, a spitfire who doesn’t want to put the house up for sale at all. As Allie is inserted into the home and the lives of the Marley family, she finds herself drawn to Robert — even as Kip pursues her. Can she navigate her suddenly complicated love life, while helping mend family feuds and maybe teaching all the true spirit of Christmas?

A GIFT TO REMEMBER
Premieres: Nov. 19, 8/7c
Stars: Ali Liebert, Peter Porte, Tina Lifford
An accident between a sweet bookshop worker and a handsome stranger leaves him without his memory. Determined to help him figure out who he is, she finds herself stepping outside of her comfort zone. In the process, she discovers taking risks can sometimes lead to the greatest rewards.

WITH LOVE, CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 22, 8/7c
Stars: Emilie Ullerup, Aaron O’Connell
Ad executive Melanie is teamed up with uptight coworker Donovan to come up with the ultimate Christmas commercial for a new cell phone. To complicate matters, Donovan is also Melanie’s Secret Santa recipient. When Donovan mistakenly assumes another co-worker is his Secret Santa, Melanie must work to show him that she’s the only Santa for him.

THE MISTLETOE INN
Premieres: Nov. 23, 8/7c
Stars: Alicia Witt, David Alpay, Casey Manderson
When aspiring romance novelist Kim Rossi is unceremoniously dumped by her soon-to-be-published romance novelist boyfriend, Kim takes stock and decides to take a leap. She signs up for a romance writing retreat at a quaint Vermont Inn shortly before Christmas, where a top romance novelist is scheduled to attend and read the work of one lucky writer. Shortly after arriving, she crosses paths with Zeke, whom she initially finds to be intrusive and, naturally, ends up being her assignment partner. Worse yet, her ex is also at the retreat. Despite these bumps in the road, Kim steps outside her comfort zone and plunges into the writing exercises, surprising herself. Equally unexpected is the attraction that seems to be building between her and Zeke that promises to take her down a road she never imagined traveling. Based on the book by Richard Paul Evans.

FINDING SANTA
Premieres: Nov. 24, 8/7c
Stars: Jodie Sweetin
Jessica was delighted to start running her New England town’s Christmas events after her mom died. The main event is the parade on Christmas Day when the jolly man in red greets the crowd. For the last 30 years, Henry, owner of a famous Santa School, played St. Nick. When Henry falls ill, and everyone else he has trained is already booked, Jessica’s in a predicament. The only possible replacement is Henry’s son, Ben, an Uber driver who never wanted to follow in his father big black leather boots. Desperate, Jessica sets off 200 miles north to find Ben and lures him to town by hiring him to drive her back. The trek is daunting; the real Kris Kringle makes it around the world easier than Ben and Jessica on their return. Still, once Ben dons the red suit, he feels the spirit of Christmas — and soon begins to realize he may have found the new, real-life Mrs. Claus.

THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN
Premieres: Saturday November 25th, 8/7c
Stars: Dermot Mulroney, Danny Glover, Joan Cusack, Kimberly Williams-Paisley
David Baldacci’s No. 1 New York Times bestseller comes to Hallmark Hall of Fame: A journalist embarks on a cross-country train ride at Christmas having no idea this journey will take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart as he rediscovers people’s goodness, holiday magic, and a love he thought he’d lost.

Note: I am especially excited about this one since this book has been on my reading list for a YEAR now!

SWITCHED FOR CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Nov. 26, 8/7c
Stars: Candace Cameron Bure
Just because they are identical does not mean these twins even like each other. Estranged twin sisters get together for an obligatory pre-Christmas lunch, a year after their mother died. Both women are unhappy and frustrated with their own lives. Though not close, each is envious of the other’s life. What’s a twin to do but take advantage of this? And who would be the wiser? They do what any identical twins in need of new outlooks would do — they swap lives until Christmas Day. And by doing so, each woman discovers the true meaning of her life and gains a deeper perspective and appreciation for what she already had.

CHRISTMAS IN EVERGREEN
Premieres: Dec. 2, 8/7c
Starring Ashley Williams, Holly Robinson Peete, Barbara Niven, and Teddy Sears

Snow globes can have a magical, mesmerizing sway over those who concentrate on them. No one knows that better than residents of Evergreen, Vermont. In this bucolic burg, where families have lived for generations and take care of each other, there’s a belief that if you wish upon the snow globe in the local café, that wish will come true. The only catch is the wish must be completely sincere. When the town veterinarian wishes that this will be her most romantic Christmas ever, she figures that will happen with her longtime beau. Stranded in an airport, she befriends a businessman and his daughter, who had made her own wish on the snow globe. The magical Christmas they share turns out to be more than anyone wished for.

CHRISTMAS AT HOLLY LODGE
Premieres: Dec. 3, 8/7c
Starring: Alison Sweeney
Sophie Bennett begins a new holiday tradition of spending every holiday at the Evergreen Inn and Ski Lodge, which she inherited from her parents. Evergreen Inn is a special place filled with people who cannot make it home for the holidays or who have had such wonderful experiences that it has become their home-away-from-holiday-home. This Christmas, Sophie will meet an unforgettable family, and her own life will be forever changed.

CHRISTMAS ENCORE 
Premieres: Dec. 9, 8/7c
Stars: Maggie Lawson, Brennan Elliott
A struggling actress is cast in her last off (off) Broadway show – a modern take on “A Christmas Carol” – before giving up her dream and moving home. Instead, she finds romance with her director and a renewed passion for her craft and the city. But when the historic theater loses its lease and the show is set to fold, she and her cast mates are need of a Christmas miracle.

THE CHRISTMAS SHOP
Premieres: Dec. 10, 8/7c
Anna works for a New York City real estate development company that is trying to buy an old building in a prime location, hoping to flip the property for a profit. Unfortunately, there is one tenant holding out—-the owner of an old-fashioned Christmas shop. Anna has been hoping for a way to step up in her job, and finally she’s been given the golden opportunity to take point on this assignment. Anna approaches the Christmas Shop’s handsome owner, Michael, who is not only protective of his family’s legacy but appreciates what the holiday means to everyone. But with sinking profits, Michael finally gives in to Anna’s attempts to change his mind. Anna will spend one week working in the store, and after that, if she doesn’t realize why this shop is so important, they can talk. When Anna’s company finds out about what’s going on and her career is on the line, she is forced to make a choice, one that will change her forever and make this one of the best Christmases she has ever had.

FATHER CHRISTMAS
Premieres: Dec. 16, 8/7c
Work-obsessed Eric Randall, chief technology officer of a major tech company in Kansas City, is laid off two weeks before Christmas. Divorced and the father of three, this will be Eric’s first Christmas alone with the kids. His ex-wife, Marie, encourages Eric to postpone a job search and instead make Christmas a true family holiday. Unfortunately, he’s better with computers than children. With baby Max strapped into a backpack, Eric is determined to build a sled with son Liam, no small feat for the math-challenged boy. Eric also gets roped into volunteering at daughter Chelsea’s junior cotillion class. At least her teacher, Kate Moore, is lovely. Kate teaches Eric some dance moves, and Eric realizes he’s avoided relationships by burying himself in work. Though enthralled with all old-fashioned romance, Kate finds a lot to like in this digital-age dad while Eric learns that family time does not need to be restricted to Christmas.

CHRISTMAS CONNECTION
Premieres: Dec. 17, 8/7c
It’s not easy being Henry, the only child of divorced parents. Every Christmas, he’s flown cross-country to be with his dad. Because he’s 8, a flight attendant looks after him from gate-to-gate. Henry instantly takes to the engaging Megan, who wears a Santa hat while helping him write a letter to the jolly guy. Megan promises to mail it to the North Pole, but slips the note to Henry’s dad. Henry has already decided Megan and his dad would be a great couple. And with all of the sophistication of a little boy, he tries setting them up. It turns out that Megan has no plans for Christmas dinner. Naturally, Henry invites her over, giving the adults a chance to see that they are perfect for each other.

CHRISTMAS GETAWAY
Premieres: Dec. 23, 8/7c
Travel writer Emory has never had a traditional Christmas. Although her free spirit makes her the perfect travel writer, a surprising breakup with her boyfriend takes her personal life back to square one. Hoping to spend the holiday relaxing and recovering, Emory takes the picturesque Christmas vacation planned for the two of them, alone. Through a mix up on the rental site – or maybe a little Christmas magic – Emory is forced to share the cabin with a handsome widower, his young daughter, and mother-in-law. What begins as an annoying inconvenience blooms into a romance she never knew was possible, and a Christmas they will cherish forever.

A ROYAL NEW YEAR’S EVE
Premieres: Dec. 30, 8/7c
That first kiss of the New Year is special: It’s supposed to signify that special person with whom we’ll spend the next year, and possibly, forever. So it’s wise not to squander those affections. When everyone else just puckers up to the nearest set of lips, Robin has always kept her wits — and her mouth — to herself. An established photographer at a lifestyle website, she’s assigned to work on a New Year’s Eve story with a new hire, Todd. When she confides in Todd that she has never kissed anyone as the clock strikes midnight, he sets about to correct this, by finding someone for Robin to kiss at the magic hour. His theory is a kiss is just a kiss, and she should enjoy the moment. Ultimately, they are both right. Todd finds a man for her to smooch, and Robin does find the right man. And guess who fits the bill?

Comparing makeup finishing sprays.

I haven’t written much about it, but I’ve been experimenting more with my makeup lately. It’s a fun way to express myself, even at my desk job, and I love trying new products – and okay, I really enjoy watching makeup tutorials. It’s oddly calming!

Loved this one for everyday use.

At first, I was hesitant to spray my face in hopes of setting my makeup and helping it last longer. I mean, that just doesn’t seem right. But, lots of people say it works, and why not try it? It’s taken me months to try multiple brands and types – I like to get a complete opinion! While I tried to test different kinds, I also have to stick to what I like, but who knows, maybe you’ll find one you like or have one you can suggest to me! Here goes…

NYX Matte Finish Makeup Setting Spray

This was the first setting spray I purchased. I’ve used NYX products before, and like them, and you can’t really beat the price tag. The bottle looks small, but I usually just need one or two sprays a day and I’m good to go.

Honestly, even with nothing to compare this to, I loved this product. I have always had a problem with my makeup settling into my skin by lunch time, or even fading by the end of the day. This stuff makes my face bullet-proof. Even after a day of work and dance class, my makeup looks good!

I bought this one at Ulta and when I checked the website later, it has 4.5 stars out of 5 – sounds like a winner to me!

Setting spray with SPF.

$7.99 (NYX), for 2.2-oz bottle 

Coola Face SPF 30 Makeup Setting Spray

I got this in one of my monthly Birchbox shipment, and it made for a great setting spray while traveling. I used this anytime I was going to be outdoors, including an outdoor protest/rally, a music festival, and outdoor volunteering – all hoping to get a little extra SPF on my face.

It worked fine as a setting spray – it does have a slight “sunscreen” smell, which doesn’t bother me, but I know it’s not for everyone.

It set my makeup, but I’m not sure I would choose this for everyday use unless my job required me to spend lots of time outdoors. It doesn’t take much though, so purchasing a bottle would probably last you awhile.

$36.00 (Coola), for 1.7-oz bottle

Ulta Matte Makeup Setting Spray

Coconut scented!

I get my hair cut and colored at Ulta, and Often used the 20 minutes under a cap to shop (yes, I’m roaming the aisles in a cape, clear cap, with red dye all over the place). I came across Ulta’s makeup line and saw this matte setting spray had a special feature that sold me: coconut scented.

I know it’s small, and really, no one is getting close enough to my face to smell it, but I can smell it when I spray it on and that’s all that matters. The price was great, and it’s on-par with NYX as far as quality.

I don’t wear a ton of makeup, but I do wear enough that needs to be looking good at the end of the day. This one does well keeping my makeup in place, while keeping shine under control.

$10.00 (Ulta), for 3-oz bottle

So far, I think the NYX is my favorite, but I will probably keep trying new brands. I haven’t tried any of the aerosol setting sprays, so maybe that’s next. I do have a Smashbox primer/setting spray that I have yet to try (not sure how I feel about 2-N-1 products). But let me know what makeup setting sprays you like to use and maybe I’ll give them a try!