Category Archives: Light Pulp

BBC: ‘The Missing Hours’.

Today is the day! I’m heading west to Marfa, Texas after years of dreaming about it, and a few weeks of preparing for it!

But, I didn’t want to get behind on Blanche’s Book Club, so I’m sharing our latest read: “The Missing Hours” by Emma Kavanagh. Here’s the description from Amazon:

One moment, Selena Cole is at the playground with her children . . . the next, she has vanished without a trace.

The body of Dominic Newell, a well-respected lawyer, is found on a remote mountain road, blood oozing from the stab wound in his neck.

In the sleepy borderland between England and Wales, sheep outnumber people and serious crimes are rare. Which makes this Tuesday morning, with two calls coming in to the local police station, even more remarkable. Detective Constable Leah Mackay and her brother, Detective Sergeant Finn Hale, begin their respective investigations, but soon find them inextricably linked. And when Selena is found alive and unhurt twenty hours later, the mystery deepens. 

Selena’s work consulting on kidnap and ransom cases has brought her into close contact with ruthless criminals and international drug lords. But now, as Selena walks back into her life wearing a blood-spattered sweater, claiming no memory of the preceding hours, Leah can’t be sure if she is a victim, a liar, or a murder suspect. 

Leah and Finn delve into each case, untangling the secrets and betrayals—large and small—that can lie just beneath the surface of a life, yet unprepared for where both trails will lead.  

With engrossing characters, devilish twists, and evocative prose, The Missing Hours is that rare page-turner—as satisfying and complex as it is unpredictable.

I have always been honest in my book reviews, so it may not come as a shock to know that this book was too complex for a pool read. There were so many characters, and while the description only lists two missing persons – there’s several.

I hate to do it, but I’m not going to recommend this one – I almost didn’t blog about it at all, but I did read it, and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I miiiight have felt differently had I read it curled up on the couch instead of at the pool drinking spritzers, but it just didn’t hook me in like I’d hoped.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is “Leave Me” by Gayle Forman.

Follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 for Marfa updates this weekend!

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The Road to Marfa: Packing Notes.

I’m not quite packing this lite…

Since I’m staying in a trailer with AC, I am really lucky that I don’t have to pack bedding, a tent, or any super serious camping supplies. However, the things I’ve packed for this trip are definitely a little different than what I’ve packed for other trips in the past.

I thought I’d share some of the more unique items I’m bringing in case you’re planning a similar trip!

Road Needs

As I mentioned, I got a rental car for this trip (can’t trust my Jeep). On the on hand, I have peace of mind that I’ll actually make it to Marfa, but on the other hand, I’m missing out on the comforts of my own car – specifically, XM radio. And while, yes, I could have paid extra to get XM in the rental, I took it as an opportunity to load up on audio books and CDs from the library. I’m bringing:

  • “Anthem” – Hanson
  • “Backwoods Barbie” – Dolly Parton
  • “Collateral” – Phillip Phillips
  • “Jekyll + Hyde” – Zac Brown Band
  • “Memories: Do Not Open” – The Chainsmokers
  • “Music of my Mind” – Stevie Wonder
  • “Unorthodox Jukebox” – Bruno Mars
  • “The Very Best of Prince” – Prince
  • “Wilson Phillips” – Wilson Phillips
  • “First Women” by Kate Anderson Brower
  • “One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes

I also downloaded an app called Stop by Stop that helps you plan your stops for food and gas. There is a 4-hour stretch of nothing, so I am really thankful I can easily see when to fuel up! I am also going old-school and printing all of my directions just in case I lose service.

Food + Drink

I am packing snacks and drinks for the road, but am bringing plenty just in case all the restaurants are closed and I find myself in need! Here’s what I’ve got in my cooler:

  • Pretzels
  • Sour gummies
  • Trail mix
  • Thunderbird Bars
  • Popcorn
  • Homemade cookie bars
  • Melon chunks
  • Apples + peanut butter
  • Water
  • Canned green tea
  • Bottled coffee
  • La croix
  • Wine
  • Tequila
  • Lime wedges
  • Plastic cups, flask, reusable water bottle

Electronics

I am very much planning to unplug, but I am bringing my cell phone, a wifi hotspot (for directions only), and a flashlight.

Books + Writing

I’m not necessarily planning on sitting around reading, but El Cosmico (the campground where I’m staying) does have hammocks and fire pits, plus I might want to read before bed or if I’m hanging out in a coffee shop. So, I am packing a few books (listed below) along with my journal – I have been writing in it every day lately, and I know I’ll have lots of thoughts running through my mind this weekend.

  • “Blood, Bones, & Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton: I was being SO picky about books I wanted to bring along, but I picked this memoir off my shelf because it’s about a chef’s journey in finding purpose and meaning in her life.
  • “Loop Group” by Larry McMurtry: This is also from my collection, and I chose it because it’s about two friends who set off on an adventure out west.
  • “The Vanishing Year” by Kate Moretti: This one was a reserve I picked up about a woman living a glam life and she has all these secrets coming back to haunt her. It’s basically a suspense novel that has no relevance to this trip and I’ll likely keep it at the bottom of my stack.

Clothing

I didn’t give clothes much of a thought other than for utility, and I packed a mix of things because I do think it will be cooler at night and I’m planning to hit up some bonfires, and will be outside searching for the Marfa Lights. So, I packed a baseball hat, a sweatshirt, a rain jacket, and oversized pajama pants in case I need to use the outhouse in the middle of the night. I also packed shower shoes along with slippers for wearing inside the trailer.

Linens

El Cosmico provides linens, but I did pack my own towel, and washcloth just in case. I also packed a blanket to bring with me to bonfires and for catching the lights.

Toiletries

This isn’t a trip where I’m stressing over makeup and hair, but instead I packed a First Aid kit, antibacterial gel, sunscreen, aloe gel, bug spray, baby wipes, toilet paper, kleenex, lip balm, and… I couldn’t consider this a getaway without packing a few clay face masks and a travel tube of sunless tanner.

So yeah, I think that about sums it up! I have been packing all week and just sort of tossing things in a pile as I think of them, but I feel prepared. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about WHY I’m taking this trip and what I’m hoping to gain from it.

The Road to Marfa: Famous Road Trips.

Photo from Super 169.

Road trips have been a part of American history since they were possible – “Every American hungers to move,” wrote John Steinbeck. Whether it’s a trip mostly for the destination, or a trek just for the sake of it, road trips do something to the soul.

I have been very lucky in my life to take many road trips – some alone, some with great friends, and some with a meowing cat in the backseat (or hissing over my shoulder at the oncoming traffic).

I’m very familiar with the roads from Indiana to Louisiana, many routes through Florida, and have ridden in the car countless times through Kentucky and into every corner of Tennessee. I have reveled at otherwise boring sights – passing through Birmingham, Alabama (the only highlight of a 15 hour trip), the faded T-Rex in Tennessee alerting passersby of Dinosaur world, and the coming and going of familiar restaurants and pit stops that so quickly become comforts of the road.

One of my most memorable road trips was from Austin, Texas to Oklahoma City – it was nothing but tall rock, cattle fields, and pickup trucks barreling down dusty farm roads – I felt like I was living in a Nicholas Sparks’ novel, aside from the occasional casino that would pop up every twenty miles or so.

Because road trips are such a part of being American, they’re a part of our literature, and our culture. And I wanted to share some of those more well-known road trips here.

On the Road

“On the Road” by Jack Kerouac is a classic literature piece that really captures the spirit of the American road trip. Published in 1957, the most famous road trip in American literary history features two friends: Sal Paradise (really Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty criss-crossing the country during the 1940s, including a trip south of the border. According to a map of their travels, they likely would have driven right through Marfa!

Traveller

In 2015, country artist Chris Stapleton released “Traveller”, an album he wrote after taking a soul-searching road trip. In 2013, Stapleton’s father died, and he’s told multiple news outlets that he needed to regroup. So, his wife bought a 1979 Jeep and they flew to Arizona and spent 10 days driving it back home. Stapleton has said that the album’s title track was inspired by seeing the sunrise over New Mexico.

National Lampoon’s Vacation

In 1983, we were introduced to the charming Griswold family when they pack up their station wagon and head across the country to the Walley World theme park and partake in many adventures. Today, this movie remains to be a classic, and an interesting reminder of what life on the road was like pre-smart phone.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

We were graced with “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson first as a 2-part series in “Rolling Stone” in 1971, and then it was released as a book in 1972. It became a movie in 1998. It is a story based on two road trips Thomson took to Las Vegas on journalism gigs. Aside from the road, there’s lots of drugs and hallucinations, and although it’s difficult to decipher the real from the imagination, it makes for a memorable tale.

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

While this 1997 hilarious film (it’s one of my favorites) doesn’t revolve around a road trip, it’s vital to the plot. Lifelong friends Romy and Michele decide to travel from Los Angeles to Tucson for their high school reunion where they plan on fooling their old classmates with a detailed story about their post-high school success, complete with fancy rental convertible and home-sewn outfits. Somewhere along the road, they concoct their story, and get in a pretty nasty fight. It’s funny, relatable, and their road trip puts them in a classic diner with memorable one-liners.

Paper Towns

In 2008, John Green graced us with “Paper Towns” in book form, which later became a movie (in 2015). Set in Orlando, Florida, “Paper Towns” is the story of Quentin Jacobsen — a less-than-popular high school senior, who has spent a majority of his life being obsessed with his next-door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman (the legend).

“Margo Roth Spiegelman, whose six-syllable name was often spoken in its entirety with a kind of quiet reverence. Margo Roth Spiegelman, whose stories of epic adventures would blow through school like a summer storm…”

Quentin has only admired her from afar, until she steps into his room one night in need of his help with a revenge mission. He’s as close to her as he’s ever been, but before his ultimate dreams come to fruition, she’s off on one of her adventures, leaving the town wondering where she went.

But just like before, she leaves clues behind. Quentin and his friends go in search of her clues, heading on a man hunt (in a soccer mom van) across the country to find their six-syllable, legendary classmate.

Crossroads

I mean how can I even consider leaving out Miss Britney Jean Spears and her on-screen debut in 2002?? I cannot. It was not a great movie, possibly not even a good one, but it involves three teenage girls taking a road trip across the country (in a convertible) in search of themselves. Aw.

And there you have it! What are some of your favorite books, movies, or even songs that reference life on the road? I’d love to hear them! Tomorrow, I’m talking what to pack, or at least, what I’ve got piled up ready to go…

The Road to Marfa: The Sights.

Teepees at El Cosmico. Photo from Texas Lodging.

While I have never been to Marfa, Texas, I have been doing lots of research to figure out some things I want to do while I’m camping there this weekend. Yes, I said camp. I’ll get to that…

What I’ve found is that, while Marfa is sort of a town known for being small and weird and remote, there’s enough to entertain just about anyone for a few days. I’ve put together a list of possible activities:

Lodging: El Cosmico

I mentioned camping, but it’s more like glamping, as I’ve booked my stay at the most well-known place in town, El Cosmico campground. There are safari tents, yurts, teepees, and vintage trailers. I’ve got a reservation in a trailer, so I won’t quite be one with the elements, but I’ll still be using the outhouse and the shared shower. It’s going to be rough enough.

Must-see: Marfa Lights

During the 19th century, ranchers, Apaches, and meteorologists reported seeing strange lights along the horizon, with no source in sight. Today, the mysterious lights draw tourists from across the country. The real kick? They are only seen about 15 times a year, and are often described differently by anyone who sees them. Marfa has an open field where light-seekers gather each night hoping to see the ghostly orbs.

Art: Chinati Foundation

I guess you could say the Chinati Fountain was where it all began, since minimalist artist Donald Judd created his art installations that made Marfa an art mecca worth traveling for. His art philosophy was to be one with nature, and between his cement boxes and reflective sculptures, many have said his work is memorizing.

The draw: Prada Marfa

Many people are drawn to Marfa by its 2005 art installation of a Prada store front – but it’s not actually IN Marfa – it’s 40 minutes outside of the city. Don’t worry, I’ve got to see it – but it will add an extra 2 hours to my trip home. From what I’ve heard, it’s quite a sight, so I’m looking forward to it.

Dinner: Cochineal

I’ve heard mixed reviews about the food in Marfa – some people say it’s impressive, others say you’re so hungry that you’ll eat anything. But everything I’ve heard about Cochineal sounds great – the food, the drinks, the atmosphere – and apparently they have vegan items!

Drinks: The Capri

The Capri is located inside Thunderbird Hotel, known for the movies filmed there. I’ve heard great things about the food, and even if it’s subpar, it sounds like the scenery is worth a visit.

Shopping: Freda

While El Cosmico appears to have an impressive provisions shop, I’ve heard Freda is the place to get envious souvenirs, including unique jewelry. I’m there!

Coffee: Frama

This coffee shop is not only inside the Tumbleweed Laundromat, but it also has a menu made entirely of Scrabble tiles. Say no more.

And that’s my list! Am I going to do ALL of these things? Maybe. Here’s the thing about Marfa, and West Texas in general, the locals are on their own schedule. Many, if not all, businesses do not operate under regular business hours. Some tourists have said there are nights when no restaurants are open, so there’s that (I am packing plenty of food).

The other thing is (and I’ll get more into this in a later post), I’m really trying to go with the flow for this trip. I’m not going to have cell service, wifi, or TV – there is a single radio station – so I’m just going to sort of wander and do whatever. If that means resting in a hammock at El Cosmico all afternoon, then that’s where I’ll be.

Tomorrow, I’m talking about famous road trips!

The Road to Marfa: A History.

Photo of the Marfa Welcome sign from ‘The Local Palate’.

Early Saturday morning, I’m taking yet another trip that’s been on my bucket list for many years and am heading west to Marfa, Texas.

Marfa’s slogan is, “Tough to get to. Tougher to explain. But once you get here, you get it.” Before I take to the road, I’m going to attempt to share all of the reasons why I’m heading to this small town, what I’m going to do there, and what I’m hoping to get out of it, all this week on the blog in a series I’m calling, “The Road to Marfa”. I hope you’ll join me.

Today, I want to talk about how Marfa came to be.

Marfa was established in 1883, and served passesrsby as a water stop and was the freight headquarters for the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway. It has been said that the wife of a railway executive was reading “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyoder Dostoyevsky, and named the town after one of its characters.

Another version of the story claims that the town was named for the character Marfa Strogoff in Jules Verne’s “Michael Strogoff”.

Marfa is at the junction of US Highway 90 and 67 in the northeastern part of Presidio county. To the north are the Davis Mountains, to the southeast the Chisos Mountains, and to the southwest the Chinati Mountains. Marfa lays semi-protected within these escarpments on a great highland plain known as the Marfa Plateau. It sits at an altitude of 4,830 feet above sea level in a semiarid region.

Photo from the ‘Dallas Morning News’.

By 1885 Marfa had one or two saloons, a hotel, and a general merchandise store—Humphris and Company. Poker bets in the saloons were often made with deeds to town lots. Traveling salesmen stayed at the St. George Hotel, who came by train, established their headquarters in the hotel, and from Marfa made stagecoach trips to Shafter, Fort Davis, Valentine, and Presidio to show their wares.

In 1886 Marfa was now home to churches, a school, and a newspaper. C. M. Jennings began publishing the “New Era”, the town’s first weekly newspaper. Over the years, it changed hands several times until the weekly finally merged with the “Big Bend Sentinel” under the management of T. E. Childers.

In 1900 the population of Marfa was 900. Eventually the town had literary clubs, fraternal organizations, telephone service, and a bank.

Marfa’s population reached 3,909 in the 1930s, and in the 1940s, the government housed the Chemical Warfare Brigades, and soon built a prisoner of war camp nearby. Marfa Army Air field was also created near town, and when all of these military camps closed, it hit Marfa economically.

In 2016, Marfa’s population was 1,747.

The Stardust Motel sign in Marfa, Texas.

Until the 1970’s, Marfa was best known for the ghost lights and the film location for James Dean’s final picture the “GIANT”, also starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Dennis Hopper. The classically beautiful Hotel Paisano, served as the center of activity during the making of the movie.

In 1971, Donald Judd, the renowned minimalist artist and sculptor, moved to Marfa from New York City with the intention of permanently installing his art. He purchased several acres in Marfa, including the buildings of Fort D. A. Russell, and established galleries for contemporary art.

Before Judd died in 1994, he’d acquired an army base and filled it with art, which is open for tourists.

These beginnings eventually led to Marfa’s growing reputation as an artists’ community, and support for the visual arts has been carried on by the Chinati Foundation and other groups. Various art museums and galleries attract creative spirits as well as tourists and have garnered international attention.

In 2009, The New York Times started publishing several features on Marfa – the art, and the food scene. At the start of 2013, the internet freaked when Beyonce visited Marfa and posted pictures on her social channels. Natalie Portman, Robert Pattenson, and Jake Gyllenhaal have also made the trek to Marfa.

Remember how Marfa claim it’s hard to get to? It’s about 3 hours from El Paso, Texas, near the Texas/Mexico border. It’s about 7.5 hours from Dallas to Marfa, in fact, the nearest city is 170 miles away, and it’s in Mexico.

Talk about remote!

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about what there is to actually DO in Marfa.

Sources: Visit Marfa, Texas State Historical Association, NPR

BBC: ‘Dumplin”.

For the past couple of weekends, I’ve had this really weird feeling of not knowing what to do with myself. I don’t know if it’s because I usually have a lot of things planned, or what, but to avoid that, I made a “weekend to-do” list hoping to avoid that lost feeling.

I think it helped – I got a lot done yesterday (some errands and some things around the apartment) and to reward myself, today I’m going to the pool with a giant grapefruit margarita (and a book).

But, I’m thrilled to tell you about the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club, because it’s such a fun one; it’s “Dumplin’” by Julie Murphy.

A few months ago, I read “Ramona Blue” by Julie Murphy and I loved it so much, I looked up all of her other books and started following her on Instagram. The library had a copy of “Dumplin'”, so I immediately added it to my reserves list. Here’s the official description:

For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel with the most fearless heroine—self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson—from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.  

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does.

Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

Before I get into it, I’ll say that I kept referring to this book in my mind as “Puddin'”; sometimes even WHILE I was reading it! And then I would think, how would someone get a nickname “Puddin'”, out of “Willowdean”? And then I just thought about how crazy it was that I couldn’t get the title of this book right.

Until I sat down to write this blog post and I see that INDEED Julie Murphy has just released a book called “Puddin'”, that is the companion to “Dumplin'”. Weird, right?

But anyway, “Dumplin'” is all stereotypical things Texas: small town, big hair, beauty pageants, Dolly Parton impersonators, and lifelong locals. I pretty much love all of these things, and Willowdean, or Dumplin’, is just as lovable. Here’s a few quotes I took note of while reading:

  • We’re not off a highway or any major route, so it’s the type of place that can only be found by those who want to find it.
  • For a moment, the pageant makes sense, and I get why my mom devotes half of her life to it and why most of the girls in this city dream of gowns and spotlights when the sky is heavy with stars.
  • To my mom, powdered iced tea is almost as bad as the possibility of being left behind in the wake of the rapture.

I started this book thinking it would revolve around the pageant. And while it does a little, it’s more about Dumplin’ growing up, and balancing being a teenager in a small town, along with her friends and crush.

This book is laugh-out-loud funny, and I’m recommending it to anyone who loves all things Texas, or YA novels.

It’s sort of funny that I read the book now, as I’m preparing to take a road trip to Marfa on Saturday! In the book, the fictional Clover City is located close to Marfa and mentions one of its draws: the Marfa lights.

Anyway, I’ll be talking ALL about Marfa basically all week right here as I prepare for my travels. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Missing Hours” by Emma Kavanaugh.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Celebrating 20 years of ‘Sex and the City’!

Photo credit: HBO – one of my favorite scenes from the series.

This week, fans of “Sex and the City” have been celebrating its 20th anniversary – can you believe it?

HBO’s iconic series debuted in 1998, when I was in 8th grade. We didn’t have HBO at my house growing up, so I didn’t come across the series until I was a junior in high school, when I went on a college visit to Miami of Ohio.

It was 2001, and I saw an episode on DVD – I’m pretty sure I fell asleep before the episode was over. To be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about dating when I was 17, and I certainly knew nothing about sex.

But by the time I went to college, I’d scrounged up all of the available seasons on DVDs and brought them to Louisiana. The episodes made me laugh, and I started to see why so many people loved the show so much – they spoke so honestly about dating, and in college, I really needed that.

My DVDs also came in handy when I applied to get a new roommate during my second semester of freshman year. The only open bed available was with someone who’d scored a room alone – she was probably REALLY disappointed when I showed up with my boxes of crap on a random weeknight.

Until I showed her my SATC collection and told her she was welcome to watch them anytime. We watched loads of episodes together.

It’s difficult to believe now, but SATC changed the dialogue about sex  and dating, and it was one of the first shows (aside from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) that put single, career-driven women at the forefront.

It also carved a larger path for sex columnists, given that SATC’s main character has a weekly column titled, “Sex and the City”. I quickly became a fan of Natalie Krisnky’s writing, who was the sex columnist for Yale’s campus newspaper until 2004.

I also wrote the relationship column for the LSU paper, and while that was not the start of my publishing career, it gave me a place to vent about my dating troubles, and gave me confidence to start this blog, and eventually publish multiple books on the topic of love, sex, and relationships.

Based on the best-selling novel by Candace Bushnell, SATC gave us four women that were relatable, yet far enough out-of-reach that we could drool over their fashion, apartments, and exclusive access to New York City.

In the span of six seasons (from 1998-2004), Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte became our best friends, even if only digitally, we related to their love, loss, fun, and fights.

The best part? The writing is timeless. Over the years, SATC episodes covered first dates, baby showers, breakups, and marriage, and even dipped into more serious issues such as cancer, abortion, miscarriage, infidelity, interracial dating, and sexual identity.

No matter the topic, the tone of the show was always hopeful – that we can get through just about anything with the support of our friends and the relationship we ultimately have with ourself, and that’s a lesson that never comes too late.

As part of a week-long celebration, the E! Network has been playing all of the SATC episodes, and although I have the entire series on DVD (I was gifted an entirely new set after wearing out the first set), it’s fun to just turn on the TV and see all of the episodes I’ve watched countless times – I could probably recite most of them.

For this post, I was trying so hard to think of my all-time favorite episode, but it changes depending on what I’m going through at the time.

Right now, I can definitely relate to “A Woman’s Right to Shoes” (season 6, episode 9) when Carrie attends a baby shower and is asked to remove her Manolos – they get stolen, and she gets “shoe shamed” when she asks for a new pair from the hostess.

I have also always loved “Hot Child in the City” (season 3, episode 15) where all of the women face something from their childhood – whether it’s scooters and sunbathing or getting braces.

Just a few episodes later, in “Cock a Doodle Do”, Samantha goes to WAR with transsexuals on her block – it involves eggs and lots of yelling, but eventually they makeup and throw a rooftop party.

I never really did like any of Carrie’s boyfriends, not Berger or The Russian – I only like Mr. Big. One of my favorite episodes with him is “I Heart N.Y.” (Season 4, episode 18) when he’s getting ready to move to Napa. There’s pizza in an empty apartment, and several references to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and it’s perfect.

SATC also gave us some epic one-liners, including:

  • When real people fall down in life, they get right back up and keep on walking.
  • Being single used to mean that nobody wanted you. Now it means that you’re pretty sexy and you’re taking your time deciding how you want your life to be and who you want to spend it with.
  • They say nothing lasts forever; dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.
  • I am someone who is looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.
  • Maybe the best any of us can do is not to quit, play the hand we’ve been given, and accessorize the outfit we’ve got.

I will probably spend a large chunk of my weekend watching SATC without regret. But I’d love to know, what were some of your favorite moments of the show? Or, did it change your life in some way? Give you confidence for a career move? Help you meet new friends?

Let me know in the comments! Have a great weekend everyone!

BBC: ‘A French Wedding’.

Happy Humpday! It’s been such a weird week for me… Sunday night, Austin got a very unexpected storm – it was around midnight and my power kept going out and then coming back on… Probably not a big deal, but every time it would come back on, my stove would beep.

I didn’t fall asleep until at least 2am, so when I had to go to Dallas for work on Monday, I was exhausted. I am not lying when I say I was in bed asleep by 8:30 Tuesday night.

Yesterday, technology was completely against me. I was all ready to get loads of work done, when my laptop kept giving me the beach ball of death for more than two hours! I even restarted it several times and deleted lots of old files thinking that was the issue. I gave up and moved over to my iPad, and even IT was moving slow and some of my apps weren’t working. So, I worked from my phone… Ugh.

Anyway, let’s get into the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club (which I read entirely at the pool) which is “A French Wedding” by Hannah Tunnicliffe. Here is the description from Amazon:

Max is a washed-up rock star who’s about to turn forty and feeling nostalgic for his university days. All he says he wants for his birthday is to host his old friends at his house in the French countryside for a weekend of good food and reminiscing. But he has an ulterior motive: Finally ready to settle down, this is his chance to declare his undying love to his best friend, Helen.

Max’s private chef, Juliette, has just returned to her hometown after a nasty breakup and her parents’ failing health move her to sell her dream restaurant in Paris. Still reeling, Juliette throws herself into her job, hoping that the peace and quiet it offers will be the perfect cure for her broken heart.

But when Max’s friends arrive, the introverted, dreamy Juliette finds herself drawn out of her orderly kitchen and into their tumultuous relationships. A weekend thinking about the past spurs more than one emotional crisis, as the friends take stock of whether they’ve lived up to their ideals. Together for the first time in years, it’s not long before love triangles, abandoned dreams, and long-held resentments bubble over, culminating in a wedding none of them ever expected.

I’ve had this book on my list for awhile, and I finally picked it up because I needed a light break from the crime fiction I’ve been devouring. I also thought it would fulfill my craving for anything even close to the royal wedding.

This was the perfect pool book, and it offers some serious escapism in the form of beautiful scenes and very delicious-sounding food.

I will say that this book talks briefly about cancer, and if you’re anything like me, cancer is a trigger at the moment (I feel like it’s everywhere), so I’m just putting that out there, just in case.

Regardless, this was a fun summer read, and still has me craving fresh seafood dunked in clarified butter…yum!

I am recommending this book to anyone who loves romantic memories, or to anyone looking for a French escape!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Dumplin'” by Julie Murphy. Follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to get up-to-date book reviews and reactions.

Watching: ‘The OC’, Season Two.

Blue like the sea… the o-sea…

You might recall that earlier this year, I’d never seen a single episode of “The OC”, but I watched season one, and after receiving a surprise copy of season two in the mail, I plowed right through season two.

Before I tell you anything else, here’s the description of season two from Amazon: Hook up with what’s coming down as the Core Four romances of Ryan-and-Marissa and Seth-and-Summer may (or may not) go from very over to very on, Sandy and Kirsten face choices that could trainwreck their 20-year marriage, felon (and Ryan’s brother) Trey gives Newport living a try, Julie’s lurid past comes back to haunt her, and other new hunks and hotties become part of the coastal scene. Live. Laugh. Lie. Cheat. Grow. Share. Connive. Love. In California’s beach paradise, they do everything under the sun.

…So… yeah. After watching season two, I can say it was WAY better than season one. Season one was a nice, sweet introduction to this group… and season two was basically a slap in the face, “Hello, welcome to crazy!” This is where stuff really starts to fall apart.

The season begins with Seth in Portland after he set sail… but arrived at his destination via Greyhound. It takes some convincing from Sandy and Ryan, but obviously Seth returns to the OC unscathed, and just in time for a new school year to begin.

We are also watching Ryan’s relationship, and his life in Chino, as he awaits the birth of his child… that is until his baby mama starts suspecting something is awry with Ryan, and she tells him she lost the baby.

I KNEW she wasn’t going to end up having the baby on the show, which is half-true, as we later see she does indeed have it, but Ryan doesn’t know. I have to applaud the show writers here for not just cutting off this plot line, and I’m curious to see if it ever comes back up in the later seasons.

Ryan comes back to the OC, as predicted – this show wouldn’t be a thing without him and his unrefined drama.

Sandy has someone from his past reappear, an old love, as her father is looking for her and she arrives in town under disguise from the FBI. He comes reeeeal close to cheating, and his wife has her own little crush, which results in a slew of heavy drinking, an alcohol-related car accident (which she somehow walks away from) and a trip to rehab.

THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.

Ryan briefly dates someone new, until he finds out she’s related to the Cohens, and this heads down the path of a DNA test, adoption, and then she’s virtually killed off the show when she buys a one-way ticket to Chicago.

Ryan’s brother also finds himself in the OC after he’s released from prison. Naturally, Sandy is there to pick him up and invites him to stay in the pool house. Nothing says trouble like this… drugs, theft, and guns? It gets bad.

But the Cohens are always around to solve everything with a basket full of bagels, and/or a ridiculous order of takeout Chinese.

Regardless, by the end of the season, two people are dead, and I’m not lying when I tell you I purchased the final two seasons within five minutes of the season ending. DAMN.

So, there’s that! I am halfway through the series, and I’m hoping my DVDs will be delivered this week – I can’t stand these cliffhangers!

BBC: ‘Almost Missed You’.

Rolling right on through my library reserves… If you follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 you know that I picked up two crime fiction novels two weeks ago, both about missing persons. That’s the risk you take with, what I like to call, the Russian Roulette of Reserves.

Of course, it’s like, way less risky… given that the worst thing that’s happened to me is two crime fiction novels in a row, but I’m dramatic. So, let’s get to it!

The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Almost Missed You” by Jessica Strawser. Here is the official description:

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach―just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

As the suspenseful events unfold through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a page turning story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

Nothing like having a buzz on the beach and coming back to the hotel to see that your family is missing! As mentioned, this book flips between perspectives, which is sometimes confusing, but it works here.

Around the 100-page point (this has been my assessment mark lately), I started to wonder where this was going. I was into it, but I didn’t feel invested in the characters… until about 14 pages later, and my jaw was hanging. After that, I read it fairly quickly.

I’m recommending this to modern true crime lovers, and also anyone that has a fascination with Craiglist’s Missed Connections… weird, but you’ll understand why if you read it!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is “A French Wedding” by Hannah Tunnicliffe (I chose this one to read before reading my next crime fiction book) purely because I’m still on a high from the royal wedding.

This weekend, and pretty much until it gets too hot, I’m planning on being at the pool. And when it’s dark out? Parked in front of my TV – summer is here, y’all!

BBC: 2018 Summer Reading Guide!

Memorial Day has come and gone, and that means it’s officially summer! I went through the archives from Blanche’s Book Club and was SHOCKED to see that I’ve never offered a Summer Reading Guide! Shame on me!

I always offer a Fall Reading Guide and a Holiday Reading Guide, but if you’re anything like me, I read tons of books in the summer months because I’m out by the pool or heading on beach vacations. So, I’m really excited to share 9 NEW books that are perfect, light reads for days by the pool, afternoons on the beach, or even just an hour on the patio. Let’s get into it!

Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen

I’ll be honest, I saw the cover of this book on the shelf at the library and it caught my attention enough to stop and read the back of it. Here’s the description:

During the heady years of the tech boom, incorrigibly frank Sophia Young lucks into a job that puts her directly in the path of Scott Kraft, the eccentric CEO of Treehouse, a studio whose animated films are transforming movies forever. Overnight, Sophia becomes an unlikely nerd whisperer. Whether her success is due to dumb luck, savage assertiveness, insightful finesse (learned by dealing with her irrational Chinese immigrant mother), or a combination of all three, in her rarified position she finds she can truly shine.

As Scott Kraft’s right-hand woman, whip-smart Sophia is in the eye of the storm, sometimes floundering, sometimes nearly losing relationships and her health, but ultimately learning what it means to take charge of her own future the way the men around her do. But when engineer/inventor Andre Stark hires her to run his company’s investor relations, Sophia discovers that the big paycheck and high-status career she’s created for herself may not be worth living in the toxic environment of a boys-club gone bad. 

This book is already out (order it here) and is getting good reviews! I am always a fan of reading about women in tech – go figure.

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

I am SO excited for this one! Author Lauren Weisberger brought us “The Devil Wears Prada”, along with other goodies, including a favorite, “Last Night at Chateau Marmont”. Here’s the description:

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Weisberger returns with a novel starring one of her favorite characters from The Devil Wears Prada–Emily Charlton, first assistant to Miranda Priestly, now a highly successful image consultant who’s just landed the client of a lifetime.

Welcome to Greenwich, CT, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.

Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly’s ex-assistant, does not do the suburbs. She’s working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

Karolina Hartwell is as A-list as they come. She’s the former face of L’Oreal. A mega-supermodel recognized the world over. And now, the gorgeous wife of the newly elected senator from New York, Graham, who also has his eye on the presidency. It’s all very Kennedy-esque, right down to the public philandering and Karolina’s arrest for a DUI–with a Suburban full of other people’s children.

Miriam is the link between them. Until recently she was a partner at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. But when Miriam moves to Greenwich and takes time off to spend with her children, she never could have predicted that being stay-at-home mom in an uber-wealthy town could have more pitfalls than a stressful legal career.

Emily, Karolina, and Miriam make an unlikely trio, but they desperately need each other. Together, they’ll navigate the social landmines of life in America’s favorite suburb on steroids, revealing the truths–and the lies–that simmer just below the glittering surface. With her signature biting style, Lauren Weisberger offers a dazzling look into another sexy, over-the-top world, where nothing is as it appears.

A continuation of “The Devil Wears Prada”? YES. PLEASE. THANK YOU. This book comes out June 5, and you can pre-order it here.

The Bucket List by Georgia Clark 

I read Georgia Clark’s debut novel, “The Regulars” last year and loved it – so I’m excited to see how the new book reads. Here is the description:

From the author of the critically acclaimed “lively and engrossing parable for women of all generations” (Harper’s Bazaar) The Regulars­ comes a deeply funny and thoughtful tale of a young woman who, after discovering she has the breast cancer gene, embarks on an unforgettable bucket list adventure.

Twenty-five-old Lacey Whitman is blindsided when she’s diagnosed with the BCRA1 gene mutation: the “breast cancer” gene. Her high hereditary risk forces a decision: increased surveillance or the more radical step of a preventative double mastectomy. Lacey doesn’t want to lose her breasts. For one, she’s juggling two career paths; her work with the prestigious New York trend forecaster Hoffman House, and her role on the founding team of a sustainable fashion app with friend/mentor, Vivian Chang. Secondly, small-town Lacey’s not so in touch with her sexuality: she doesn’t want to sacrifice her breasts before she’s had the chance to give them their hey-day. To help her make her choice, she (and her friends) creates a “boob bucket list”: everything she wants do with and for her boobs before a possible surgery.

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

Featuring the pitch-perfect “compulsively delicious” (Redbook) prose of The Regulars, The Bucket List is perfect for fans of Amy Poeppel and Sophie Kinsella.

This book is already out and you can purchase it here.

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli 

After reading “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” and LOVING it, anything Becky Albertalli releases is going to be on my reading list. This book is a double win because it is the sequel to “Simon”. Here is the description:

In this sequel to the acclaimed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—now a major motion picture, Love, Simon—we follow Simon’s BFF Leah as she grapples with changing friendships, first love, and senior year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.

She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high.

It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

This book is already on shelves and you can get it here.

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand has written SO many books, and I’m behind the game having only read one (but it was really good); some book reviewers have even dubbed her the “Queen of Summer Novel” – what?! Her new book sounds vvvvery promising:

From New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand, comes a novel about the many ways family can fill our lives with love…if they don’t kill us first. 

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

But it’s going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom’s famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect. Featuring beloved characters from The Castaways, Beautiful Day, and A Summer Affair, The Perfect Couple proves once again that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer beach read.
This book is released on June 19 and you can pre-order it here.

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

So, I feel embarrassed to say that I’m 99% sure I have never read a book by Emily Giffin. Argh! I have seen the covers in bookstores over the years and I just feel like they are usually about babies? I don’t know, BUT this one sounds so good! Here’s the description:

In the riveting new novel from the #1 bestselling author of Something Borrowed andFirst Comes Love, three very different people must choose between their families and their most deeply held values. . . .

“A gripping, thought-provoking journey.”—Jodi Picoult

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also like the fact that it’s set in Nashville – so many of these types of books only take place in New York or Los Angeles. This book comes out June 26, but you can pre-order it here.

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

I haven’t read anything from Jo Piazza yet, although her books have been on my list! This one sounds fitting for the times…

From Jo Piazza, the bestselling author of The Knock Off, How to Be Married, and Fitness Junkie, comes an exciting, insightful novel about what happens when a woman wants it all—political power, a happy marriage, and happiness—but isn’t sure just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it.

Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.

Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.

A searing, suspenseful story of political ambition, marriage, class, sexual politics, and infidelity, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is an insightful portrait of what it takes for a woman to run for national office in America today. In a dramatic political moment like no other with more women running for office than ever before, Jo Piazza’s novel is timely, engrossing, and perfect for readers on both sides of the aisle.

This book comes out on July 24, and you can pre-order it here.

Playing With Matches by Hannah Orenstein 

This book is about matchmaking… and it’s written by a matchmaker! It sounds fun (and funny) – here is the description:

In the tradition of Good in Bed and The Assistants comes a funny and smart comedy about a young matchmaker balancing her messy personal life and the demands of her eccentric clients.

Sasha Goldberg has a lot going for her: a recent journalism degree from NYU, an apartment with her best friend Caroline, and a relationship that would be amazing if her finance-bro boyfriend Jonathan would ever look up from his BlackBerry. But when her dream career falls through, she uses her family’s darkest secret to land a job as a matchmaker for New York City’s elite at the dating service Bliss.

Despite her inexperience, Sasha throws herself into her new career, trolling for catches on Tinder, coaching her clients through rejection, and dishing out dating advice to people twice her age. She sets up a TV exec who wanted kids five years ago, a forty-year-old baseball-loving virgin, and a consultant with a rigorous five-page checklist for her ideal match.

Sasha hopes to find her clients The One, like she did. But when Jonathan betrays her, she spirals out of control—and right into the arms of a writer with a charming Southern drawl, who she had previously set up with one of her clients. He’s strictly off-limits, but with her relationship on the rocks, all bets are off.

Fresh, sweet, and laugh-out-loud funny, Playing with Matches is the addictive story about dating in today’s swipe-heavy society, and a young woman trying to find her own place in the world.

This book will be released on June 26 and you can pre-order it here.

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

This title sold me alone because I have been ghosted soooo many times and it’s the worst thing ever, when it comes to dating. Finally, a book on it! Here’s the description:

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

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

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

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

This book comes out July 24, and you can pre-order it here.

There’s my round up of summer reads! I’d love to know what books you’re looking forward to, or what books you’ve recently read that I should add to my list. Happy reading!

BBC: ‘The Husband’s Secret’.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend! I took a dance class yesterday, did some serious outlet shopping (I got so many beauty products – ahh!), and have been working on a few new items for my Etsy store (there is currently a big sale happening, check it out here). I am about to pack a cooler and head to the pool for the afternoon, but I wanted to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club with you!

I actually read most of it at the pool last weekend, so if you’ve got similar plans today, this may be the one for you – it’s “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty. Here is the official book description from Amazon:

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read…
 
My darling Cecilia,
If you’re reading this, then I’ve died…
 
Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not only the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. And then imagine that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…
 
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. But that letter is about to change everything—and not just for her. There are other women who barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they, too, are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

This is the 4th book by Moriarty that I’ve read, and she must have a successful formula, because all of them have been great reads (although “What Alice Forgot” remains to be my favorite).

I will admit this was a little slow to start – but once things got rolling, I read the book almost in one sitting. There are many twists and turns and my jaw was hanging!

My mom read this book and then gave it to me and once I read it, she asked if I stumbled across a letter that said “Read this when I die” but the person was still alive, would I read it? Um, heck yes I would rip it open right away, no questions asked.

What about you?

I would definitely recommend this book if you’ve read Moriarty’s other work and liked it, or if you are a fan of “suburban fiction” with a mystery twist.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Almost Missed You” by Jessica Strawser. Don’t forget to follow me on SnapChat for updates on books I’m reading (I have been doing 100-page updates and library hauls), Etsy shop creations, and general Blanche snaps 🙂 @OrangeJulius7

I hope you all have a great, fun and safe Memorial Day Weekend – be on the lookout for some summer reading recommendations right here later in the week! Cheers!

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!