BBC: ‘Are You Sleeping?’

Greetings! It’s so cold in Austin right now – I’m writing this from the comfort of my couch after eating a hot bowl of homemade tomato soup with a grilled cheese (both vegan)! I’m also watching reruns of “The Hills”, and all I can really say is, thank YOU, MTV.

But anyway, I’ve got a ton on my mind, but I’ve also got a giant to-do list and lots of things ahead. I’ll just have to report back later. For now, let’s talk about the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club, “Are You Sleeping?” by Kathleen Barber. Here’s the official description from Amazon:

Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.

The only thing more dangerous than a lie…is the truth.

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father’s murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay.

The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.

When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.

I saw this title on a book list (probably from Pinterest) and as a fan of “Serial” (Okay, more like obsessed), I knew I had to read it. And there’s definitely a taste of “Serial” in this book – it was almost too close for comfort, but the plot kept me interested, and toward the end, it was very suspenseful.

I don’t usually do this, but I took a look at the reviews on Amazon, and just at a glance, it seems people really loved this book and thought Barber creatively ripped a story from the headlines. I’d have to agree – she started with something from pop culture – “Serial” – and added a twist to it, along with a personal side.

I should also add that I’m a pretty big scaredy cat, and this one didn’t bother me at all, so don’t be deterred if you don’t like scary stories. I’m recommending this book to all the fans from “Serial”, along with crime fiction fans.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will read is “The Dinner” by Herman Koch. I’ve had this one on my list forever!


Listening: ‘Platinum’ by Miranda Lambert.

A semi-oldie but a real GOODIE.

It should come as no surprise that I’ve been going through some tough times lately, and one of the most difficult things for me has been driving in my car – I cry all the time in my car.

I realize how pathetic this sounds, and it is frustrating for me because I’ve always enjoyed taking drives – just for the sake of it – especially when my mind needs clearing. But, as I’ve mentioned, things that once worked for me aren’t really working anymore, so I’m left searching for new solutions.

Which brings me to this 2014 Miranda Lambert album. I thought that maybe if I changed the atmosphere within my Jeep – I’d do a little less crying. So, when I went on my most recent library trip, I dug through their selection of country CDs.

I knew the songs from a total bad ass such as Ms. Lambert would help me.

I didn’t grow up on country music, but I came to love it the summer I left Indiana and headed South. I have always admired the soul behind the songs, and when country went “nautical”, I love dreamin’ about the beach while listening (and sippin’ a cold beer).

I have been honored to interview many country legends (ahem, Tracy Lawrence) including Ms. Lambert, during a nationwide tour when she was married to Blake Shelton. She remains to be one of my country favorites for her ability to stay strong, and show her true roots. I love that about her!

While I hadn’t heard “Platinum” in its entirety, I’d heard hits such as “Little Red Wagon” and “Automatic”, both of which I love.

You can’t ride in my little red wagon
The front seat’s broken and the axel’s dragin’
No you can’t step to this backyard swagger

My favorite song has to be “Smokin’ and Drinkin'” featuring Little Big Town – it’s totally nostalgic and has all the fixins of a perfect country song (smokin, drinkin, love, and campfires).

But even though Lambert and Shelton didn’t announce their divorce until mid 2015 – this record makes it OBVIOUS that things were on the rocks between them. Take into consideration the lyrics of “Priscilla”?

Priscilla, Priscilla
He’s always in high demand
How do you or don’t you get the love you want when everybody wants your man?
It’s a difficult thing being Queen to the King
And I feel ya

It’s a fun track, but I heard that and knew it had to be written about her marriage troubles (especially since Lambert was his mistress in a previous marriage).

My other two favorite songs are “Somethin’ Bad”, which is a duet with Carrie Underwood, and “Another Sunday in the South”, a hazy song about day drinkin’ and night fishin’ (what more could you want in life?!).

Overall, this is a fun, well-rounded album. I’ve been listening to it all week (and have not been crying), and I realized I needed to listen to the other CDs I picked up: one of Little Big Town and one from Chris Stapleton.

You’ll be seeing my reviews of those, too!

Invisalign: Past the halfway mark!

That’s right, I’m more than halfway done with my journey to straight teeth! Right now, I’m 50% done with my 8th tray (I have 14 trays total), so I’ve been at it for approximately 17 weeks. And I can tell a big difference in the way my teeth look – plus, it’s getting easier and easier to floss since my teeth are no longer as crowded.

Upon getting my Invisalign, I was worried about 2 things: the initial pain that comes with each new set of trays (I get a new set about every two weeks), and the fact that I would be drinking less coffee since you can’t drink coffee with Invisalign in.

I’m happy to report that the pain with new trays is tolerable – I often don’t take any pain medicine, and it usually goes away in one day. Remember, the teeth are only moving about 1 millimeter for each tray.

And yes, I have been drinking less coffee. On some days, I drink more, and that just means I’ll need to make up the time and wear my Invisalign longer.

The holidays were tough – having to navigate how to take the trays in and out at parties (I often took them out in the bathroom of course, and then would wait to put them back in when I returned home), and because of the “buttons” on my teeth (these were applied by my orthodontist to ensure the teeth would move correctly and quickly), I’m often worried about things sticking to my teeth.

At the beginning of this journey, talking made me uncomfortable (it does give me a little bit of a lisp), and I stopped showing my teeth when I smile. It just looked too weird with the buttons and the trays – even though it’s clear, you can tell there’s something happening. But, I’m getting used to it – honestly, my teeth are looking very straight and I’m pleasantly surprised each time I look at them (often while flossing).

Outside of cosmetic reasons, I wanted to make it easier on myself in my efforts to keep my teeth clean and stain-free. My bottom teeth were so crowded, they stained easily (again with the coffee). Also, I was hoping Invisalign would improve my overbite – it’s not terrible, but it was starting to negatively affect my gum health.

The good news is, Invisalign’s technology predicted that it would improve my overbite by reducing it by 2 millimeters. As of my last checkup, my overbite has been reduced by 4 millimeters!

Once I’m done with my trays, I’ll be wearing a bottom retainer 24/7 for 6 months and then I’ll switch to just wearing it at night. I’ll also have some shaving/filing done to my two front teeth to make them even with my other teeth.

The only thing I don’t like about Invisalign is how often I have to brush my teeth – mainly because it means a lot of teeth-brushing in public restrooms, which ultimately grosses me out. I could also go without the monthly payments, but both of these things are temporary and very worth it. I’m really excited to see how my second-half of the journey goes!

BBC: ‘The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street’.

I know I usually post these things on Friday, but since I’m working from literally NO content calendar at this point – and am just blogging whenever I feel like it, I’m just going with it! I finished reading this book yesterday, so I thought I’d go ahead and talk about it 🙂

So, the latest read for Blanche’s Book Club is “The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street” by Karina Yan Glaser. I saw this book on Instagram – I follow several book lovers and I use Instagram as a way to keep up with new books coming out, along with books I want to add to my reading list. When I saw this one, the description said something along the lines of, “You’ll fall in love with this family”… I did no other research and simply added it to my reading list.

I have a bad habit of doing this, don’t I?

I placed this book on my library reserves list and picked it up on my way to the airport a week ago. I was in a hurry so I shoved it into my carry-on and didn’t look at it until I was aboard the plane and ready to read. When I opened the book, it was obvious this book was not… for adults. Ha!

Upon further inspection, the library sticker said “Junior Fiction”…which I’d never heard of. It was not so easy or too easy, and there were chapters, and as I read it, there was a semi-complex plot, and it held my interest. Since I don’t have kids, and am really never around children, I don’t really know what age group this would be best for. Here is the official description from Amazon:

One of The New York Times’  Notable Children’s Books of 2017: “In this delightful and heartwarming throwback to the big-family novels of yesteryear, a large biracial family might lose their beloved brownstone home, but win it back with an all-out charm offensive.”

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home. 

Some of the customer reviews said it was good for middle grade readers. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it! There was a B-plot not mentioned in the above description, and it had a slightly darker tone, which made me read the last half of the book very quickly.

This is book 1 in a series – book 2 is slated to be published in September of this year, and it’s called “The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden”.

I definitely enjoyed reading this book, and if you do have children in that “middle grade” range, I’d be interested to see what they thought of it!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Are You Sleeping” by Kathleen Barber.

Meditation: Day 21.

Words of wisdom.

I’ve been wanting to try meditation for years, but I always assumed it was something I just couldn’t do. But I knew when I set my goals for 2018, I had to do something to practice regular meditation – I’m 100% sure my sanity depended on it.

Truth be told, I could have gone without the second-half of 2017. I had a few major blows in my personal life and it’s taken a toll like I’ve never experienced. I’ve spent the last 14 years of my life analyzing the romantic relationships I’ve dabbled in, and then turned around and hoped that I could offer some kernel of advice to you all.

Over those years, I’ve come to learn that heartbreak completely sucks. It’s all-consuming and hurts to the core. But I’ve also learned that just about any distraction [including, but not limited to, drinking excessively, picking up new hobbies, getting a revenge body, getting a pet, killing it at work, meeting new people, etc.] can mend the wounds of a bad relationship.

But the dish I’ve been served? It may as well be poison. It’s got nothing to do with romance and everything to do with seeing the true colors, even after 32 years.

This hurts like hell.

All of my usual cures just don’t work. Tears take over on my drive to, well, just about anywhere. My drive to work on my Etsy shop has subsided; my desire to blog has all but died. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store for the first time in a month (I’ve been living off ingredient delivery services).

And that’s just not me – it’s not even close.

It’s safe to say that stress, anxiety, and depression have finally taken their toll on my mind and body. That fact was driven home when I suffered a panic attack right before the holidays. I knew I had to do something in 2018 to find the other end of this funk.

I consulted my online networks, and even asked around at work, for advice on any meditation apps. I knew I was going to need guidance and something to hold me accountable. Here’s the advice I got in return:

  • Headspace, Calm, Bhuddify, Simple Habit, & Insight Timer

A few days into the new year, I downloaded the Calm app and the Headspace app around 4am one morning during a bout of insomnia. I’ve been using the Calm app ever since!

21 consecutive days of meditation!

So far, I’m really enjoying it. I am still trying out all of the free content on the app, which includes several different guided meditations, a meditation timer, a breathe bubble, various music, and bedtime stories. I have tried all of these, and I’m considering doing the paid subscription soon.

Now, I’ll preface the rest of this post by saying that I do not think I’ll be “cured” with meditation alone. I am currently looking (and financially preparing) to see a therapist regularly to help me work through some of what’s happening in my life.

But I also know that it’s good for me to take a few moments to myself each day, get some good breathing in, clear my mind as best I can, and gain some perspective.

I want to make it clear that I’ve never really tried to meditate before I opened this app. I didn’t even know much about it. So, the first few attempts at it were…interesting. Even keeping my eyes closed for the entire 10-minute session was a struggle.

But I quickly learned that meditation is not about perfection; it’s a practice just like yoga (and I’ve been working each week to better my yoga). It’s not necessary to get mad at myself if I can’t keep my eyes closed or if my mind starts to wander – that’s what it’s done for 32 years and old habits DIE HARD.

There are some days I feel really good and into the meditation, and some days, all I have time for is a few minutes of regulated breathing and I’m onto my next thing. But it all helps!

Meditation started from several different religions around the globe, with some of them on a mission to clear the mind in order to make way for communication with God. Other religions seek meditation as part of the path to Enlightenment.

Even just 21 days in, I am starting to understand and adopt the ideas of mindfulness that can help reduce stress in my everyday life. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in accomplishing so much in one day – we see stress as normal, when it’s not healthy or normal.

What’s resonated with me the most is the observation that I let what happens to me completely take over my emotions and determine my happiness, or my sadness. On the flip side, things can change in an instant, and you just never know what direction your luck will take you. In other words, “This too shall pass.”

It may as well be my new motto.

I’d say, so far, so good. I’m really proud of myself for including this new practice into my every day life – and I hope what they say about 21 days (that it becomes a habit) is true, because I know this is a habit that won’t hurt me.

Aside from meditation, another goal of mine was to cut back on social media. I’ve basically cut out Facebook and stopped looking at and posting Instagram stories. I’ve also cut back on mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Twitter, and it’s led to a lot less social comparison (which is basically me wondering how everyone is ALWAYS on vacation) and a lot more time to read and actually meet a goal (I’m in the middle of my first screenwriting class).

I set lots of goals for myself this year, but those two really dealt with my mental health. It’s going to be slow-growing, but I’m looking forward to seeing what’s around the corner.

BBC: ‘Career of Evil’.

Greetings from Harlingen, Texas! I flew in last night and am heading back to Austin in a few hours. I’m writing this from the airport, which smells like a giant toilet, so there’s that (no offense, Rio Grande Valley).

I have MUCH to discuss about Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read: “Career of Evil” by Robert Galbraith. So, let’s not waste any time!

“Career of Evil” is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series and it’s also the final one that’s published. Because of this, I’ve had it sitting on my shelf for the better part of a year, waiting for the perfect time to read it, because I just didn’t want to accept that this series would be over.

But, as I was reading chapter three, I got distracted and did some Googling. Turns out, J.K. Rowling (“Galbraith” is her pen name for this series) had recently announced the title for the fourth book! Although there is no publishing date, fans anticipate it will be soon. She also said she had ideas for 6 MORE books!

This news made it much easier for me to fly right through this book. I absolutely love these! My favorite thing about them is how visual the writing is – I feel like I’m put right in with the characters and can almost hear their voices.

If that doesn’t sound psychotic enough for you, I even bought myself some cranberry-orange scones and made tea while I read. There’s nothing quite like pretending you’re in London attempting to solve the case with a private detective and his secretary! Before I get in too deep, here’s the official description of the book, from Amazon:

Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott.
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible–and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on one of the suspects, Strike and Robin delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…

I won’t give anything away, but I will say that this one definitely had a more personal twist to it, which I enjoyed. Here we are, in book three, and I am still wondering if anything will ever happen between Robin and Strike (whom I imagine to look like Gerard Butler)?! I was more emotionally invested in this book, and it made me that much more thankful that we’ve got a fourth one on the way.

At least a year ago, BBC announced there would be a TV series based on these books but then I never heard much about it. Upon further investigation, it looks like we’ll be able to watch the series (which is based on all three books) this summer on Showtime – YES!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Vanderbeekers of 41st Street” by Karina Yan Glaser. I’m actually about to go read some of it now…

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Watching: ‘Lady Bird’.


Thursday night I joined a friend to see “Lady Bird” – we were especially excited after all the hype it got at the Golden Globes last weekend and wanted to catch it before it left theatres. I’d heard a little bit about it, and saw the film’s writer and director – Greta Gerwig – on an episode of “Watch What Happens Live” a few weeks back.

Here’s the official scoop on “Lady Bird” from IMDb: “Christine ‘Lady Bird’ MacPherson is a high school senior from the ‘wrong side of the tracks.’ She longs for adventure, sophistication, and opportunity, but finds none of that in her Sacramento Catholic high school. LADY BIRD follows the title character’s senior year in high school, including her first romance, her participation in the school play, and most importantly, her applying for college.”

Overall, I enjoyed the writing in this movie – it was much more comedic than I expected (I laughed a lot), and the wit was very on-point. There were definitely relatable aspects to this film: small-town girl wanting to get out and explore, family pulling together to make things happen, teenage angst, wanting to fit in, and young love. I can see why lots of people loved this movie.

But there were two things that really bothered me about it. For starters, the movie was said to have taken place in 2002 (said by Gerwig herself and in the movie’s description), but there was very little in the movie to give us a timestamp. In fact, many of the cues we were given were incorrect. The first thing I saw was Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” was playing on the radio. This song came out in 1995. As a very huge Alanis fan, I know radio stations were not putting “Hand in My Pocket” in regular rotation in 1995.

The next clue was Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash” being a favorite song among Lady Bird and her friends, was also on the radio, and was also played at prom. “Crash” was released in 1996 – again, I used to fucking LOVE Dave Matthews Band, so don’t mess with 90’s pop music here, okay? A coworker said she disagreed with me because she didn’t discover Dave Matthews until college in the early 2000s. Okay, but fact is fact. The song was popular in 1996, and yes, you COULD argue that Lady Bird lived in a small town, so things were behind the times, but the audience still needs to be given context for that, because it looks incorrect and that makes me think Gerwig doesn’t know her shit. It was bothering me the entire movie.

You know what else? I got into my car after work on Friday and was flipping through radio stations and stumbled across Sirus XM’s channel, 90’s on 9… and who was on? Gerwig! She was playing all the songs that inspired her… FROM THE 90’S. Hmm!

The other issue I had with the film was that it didn’t follow a story arc. There was no real emotional pull for Lady Bird – I didn’t really care whether she got into the school of her choice or not. There were no real stakes. We were never told what her dreams were, aside from her saying she wanted to be “a writer in the woods”. You have to care about the characters or else there’s no real point; no emotional investment.

After hearing Gerwig on the radio, where she said she grew up in 2002 in Sacramento (the same as Lady Bird), I’d venture to say this was based on her life, which is partly good and partly bad. We can be inspired by what we’ve known and what we’ve lived, but sometimes we’re really bad at telling our own stories.

At the very least, it was funny, and I enjoyed a veggie pizza and a chocolate peanut butter shake while watching, so you can’t go wrong there.

Today, I’m settling in for a cozy, yet productive weekend. And, if you’re in the mood to shop, I’m having a SALE in my Etsy Shop this weekend (15% off everything + free domestic shipping), as I’m trying to clear out my 2017 inventory and make room for 2018 goodies!

The Bitter Lemon’s Winter TV Guide!

Every night is a TV night.

Last week may have been everyone’s first week back to work, but it was also a week FULL of TV show premiers, and I’m in heaven. Seriously, every single night there was a new show or a new season starting, and this is what I’m dubbing the most wonderful time of the year… So yeah, I’m OD-ing on the extra-trashy, and I don’t give a damn. If you’re with me, read on my friends.

“The Bachelor”, season 22 (ABC) – Reality Drama

Did you choke when you read “season 22”? I did. This is a terrible show, but we all keep watching. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t NOT watch when I found out the bachelor would be Arie Luyendyk Jr., 36, after his dramatic place in Emily Maynard’s season (which I rewatched during Christmas break, because obviously). The show premiered last week, but you haven’t missed much if you’re tuning in tonight – you can also watch full episodes on Airs Mondays at 8/7pm C. 

“My Big Fat Fabulous Life”, season 5 (TLC) – Reality Drama

Season 5 picks up right where season 4 left off: With Whitney heading on tour with the Fitness Marshall. But the preview for season 5 makes it look like a lot has changed for Whitney, including a new man, and possibly a wedding? The show premiered last week, but there’s still plenty of time to uncover this mystery! Airs Tuesdays at 8/7pm C.

“The Challenge”, season 31: Vendettas (MTV) – Reality Competition

Yes, season 31! I have never been much of a fan of “The Challenge” – I was more of a”Road Rules” person, but I watched last season, “Champs vs. Stars” and it was good enough to keep me interested. “Vendettas” brings together people that hate each other and the interesting twist is that its contestants from any reality show, including “Big Brother”, “Ex on the Beach”, and “Geordie Shore”. It’s every player for themselves, and as we all know, there will be new vendettas created as the season continues. Airs Tuesdays at 9/8pm C. 

“Catfish: The TV Show”, season 7 (MTV) – Reality Drama

Yep, “Catfish” is baaaack! People are never going to stop catfishing each other and I hope this show is always around to bust the suckers. It’s another season with Nev and Max out to discover the real person behind the computer screen, and even just one episode in, it’s obvious this season is going to have some unexpected twists. Airs Wednesdays at 10/9pm C.

“Project Runway All Stars”, season 6 (Lifetime) – Reality Competition

I’ll admit it, “All Stars” isn’t necessarily my favorite form of “Project Runway” (not a fan of the hostess and judges), but it’s still a fantastic competition and I love seeing the contestants from former seasons back in action. This season has some of the BEST competitors, including Joshua McKinley, Kelly Dempsey, and Fabio Costa. It’s “Rookies” (those who are first-timers on “All Stars”) versus “Veterans” (those who’ve competed on “All Stars”) this year and I can already see lots of drama coming. Airs Thursdays at 9/8pm C.

“Revenge Body With Khloe Kardashian”, season 2 (E!) – Reality Drama

Everyone knows Khloe is the best Kardashian, right? I absolutely loved season 1 of this show, as you get to see people transform their lives, and tbh, Khloe isn’t really on the show that much. It follows participants as they try to lose weight, get fit, and gain confidence. Most of the time, they’re going through a breakup or hard times, and the journey helps them, mentally. I love it! Airs Sundays at 10/9pm C.

“Siesta Key”, season 2 (MTV) – Reality Drama

Ugh, the little rich bastards are baaaack! I’m actually shocked that a second season was ordered here, but I’m here for it. That means more drama with Alex and his “friends” – everyone is returning from season 1, plus a new additions: Canvas, Tarik, Hannah, and Paige. Whew! Premiers Monday, January 15 at 10/9pm C. 

“Summer House”, season 2 (Bravo) – Reality Drama

I have been ready for season 2 since the second season 1 ended. I freaking LOVE this show! It feels like an insider’s look into the Hamptons, and that’s what I need. The gang from last summer is all here, but there’s a few new houseguests in the mix, and that brings a whole load of new drama. I cannot. freaking. waaaaait. Premiers Monday, January 22 at 10/9pm C.

The Winter Olympic Games, PyeongChang (NBC) – Sports

After the weekend drama in the women’s ice skating competition, we already know there’s going to be some REAL life craziness in the Olympic games. Plus, I really enjoy watching the opening ceremonies. The opening ceremony will be aired Friday, February 9 (likely at 8pm) on NBC.

“Music City”, season 1 (CMT) – Reality Drama

The chances are likely that I’m going to spend my life looking for a replacement for “The Hills”. That’s why I got sucked into “Siesta Key” and although it didn’t completely fill the void, it helped. But now, there’s another chance… and that is: “Music City”, created by Adam DiVello (same guy who created “The Hills”) and it’s premiering in March on CMT. This show looks so good! It follows a group of people looking to make it in country music in Nashville (but of course). I’m all for it. The show premiers on Thursday, March 1 at 10/9pm C. 

…If you didn’t think I was a TV junkie before, now you know! What shows are you looking forward to these next few months? My DVR has room…

BBC: ‘Let it Snow’.

After nearly two weeks off from work – I’ve officially survived the first four days back (it was not without struggle)! We’re here and I’ve got a really great book to share with you all: “Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances” by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

This book has been on my list for at least a year as part of my mission to read all things John Green, and ta-da! Just like that, I have.

“Let it Snow” is a compilation of three short stories (each about 100 pages or so) that are all slightly connected. The connection? A massive blizzard! Here’s the official description from

A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

Now, I definitely wanted to read this book before the holidays, but such is life, and I read it this week instead. But hello, Bomb Cyclone or whatever the heck it’s called – it’s timely without even planning for it! If you’re snowed in currently, go ahead and download this little gem today, because it’s got all the Waffle House references (i.e. scattered and smothered hash browns), holiday references (the collectible Christmas village), and the nostalgia of teenage, holiday romance. It’s really quite perfect.

Of course, I really enjoyed John Green’s story, but this book also introduced me to two authors I hadn’t heard of.

Maureen Johnson has written a ton of books, including three series sets: The Shades of London Series, The Scarlett Series, and The Blue Envelope Series. She’s also written several stand-alone books such as “Girl at Sea” and “Devilish“, among many others. I am adding some of these to my library list!

Lauren Myracle has also written a good array of books, including some for middle school readers and some young adult novels. She’s written “The Infinite Moment of Us” and “Kissing Kate“, and has also authored a four-book series completely made of text messages!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is “Career of Evil” by Robert Galbraith – sure to be a goodie if you’re reading the Cormoran Strike series!

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend – stay warm if you’re in the path of the bomb cyclone thing… I am not, but i may as well be, because I’m not planning on leaving the house. I’ve got waaayyy too much TV to catch up on and my bed is just too comfortable. See you next week!

2018, I see you! #GOALS

Tackling goals with flannel in tow.

This is IT – it’s the last day of 2017, and wow, what a year it has been! I wish I had some sort of epiphany to write here, some sort of something to be able to explain to you why I’ve been a little less open about my life since October, and why I’m still not quite sure what “The Plan” is for this blog.

Right now, my plan is to write when I feel I have something to say, and for the first time in the 10 years of having this blog, that means I’ve got no schedule, no content calendar. It’s time to roll with it. But what I DO have a plan for is 2018. My list of goals for 2017 was quite hefty, and it served me well, so I’ve got an entirely new batch of goals for this year. Here goes:

Raise the Standard. I have always strived to live my best life in the things I do and the goals I set, but I have done a really bad job of evaluating those I choose to put into my life. That ended in 2017. I don’t care if my life has less people in it – I want quality over quantity. I’ve been blown away by the amount of cool people I’ve met since I moved to Austin, but I’ve quickly learned that “cool” or “nice” doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be a part of my life. Only I know what (and who) is best for me, and I’ll do everything I can to protect the life I’ve created for myself.

Get more Involved in the Local ZTA Chapter. A sorority sister in Austin was kind enough to invite me to observe a day of recruitment at the end of the summer, and it was really neat to see! It was refreshing to see so many young women coming together for a cause they feel passionate about and I was inspired by their drive and positivity. I’m not sure what ways I can help this year, but I’m willing to try!

Don’t Wait for Tomorrow. In 2017, my motto was “Just do it”, and it really served me well – it got me to schedule all of my medical appointments, take my first blood test (ugh, I know), book flight tickets, and ride a questionable roller coaster. I don’t regret a BIT of it! In 2018, I’m reminding myself to be present, that I only have today, and tomorrow isn’t promised. Don’t wait. Just get it done.

Attend an Estate Sale. I have always enjoyed digging through clearance bins for a great deal, hitting up thrift stores for unique finds, and I love spending hours in Goodwill just browsing through the racks. I’ve never been to an estate sale and I just want to see what it’s all about – and let’s face it, see if there are any good jewels or fantastic art.

Write, just to Write. For a few years, I have had a small fear in the back of my mind: if I’m writing for this blog five times a week, when will I have time to write, just for the sake of writing? And in 2018, I’m taking advantage of my need to be a little less public. I suffered a major blow in 2017 when I realized just how much information I was putting out into the world, and it was providing a peephole into my life for people that don’t deserve to see it. Because of this, I’ve started a journal (an actual paper journal) where I can write exactly what’s on my mind and it’s likely that no one will ever see it. I’m writing just to work on my craft, and that’s for my eyes only.

Treat Yoself. I’ve worked really hard the last two years to pay off debts and put aside money to save and money to travel. And I’m finally at the point where I can treat myself some. Part of this means more travel and life experiences, but part of this is much smaller than that. For years, I’ve had issues with buying nice things and then if I do buy them, I never use them! It could be a nice perfume that I never use because I can’t stop thinking about the cost – it’s silly. I’ve finally started “using up” my nice beauty products on my shelves, or actually wearing the nice shoes in my closet. YOLO!

Take a Road Trip to Marfa, Texas. I’ve been wanting to head to Marfa for a few years now – it’s a small town in West Texas known for its art installations. It’s about a 6-hour road trip, and I’m already dreaming of the tumbleweeds and adorable bed and breakfasts. Let’s hit the road!

Pay off two more Credit Cards. I paid off my first (and with the highest interest) credit card in 2017 and I’m on a roll – I’ll be able to pay off another one before March. I’m not going to lie, I have checked my $0 balance at least five times in a celebration of victory. I’m slowly making my way to living debt-free!

Less Time on Social Media + Less Social Comparison. Social comparison has always been a thing. But damn you, social media, now we’re able to see everything about people we knew, know, and DON’T know at all! Parts of it are cool, but honestly, it’s detrimental, and no offense, but I need to be doing other shit with my life. Social media is literally my 9-5 job, so I’m aware I can’t just quit the stuff. But I can stop mindlessly scrolling and wondering about a random person’s vacation or wardrobe. It’s ridiculous. So I’m putting a time limit on my social media use. I’m not quitting it, but I’m also not going to be sucked into it this year. No, no!

Meditate + Show Up for Yourself. I started going to yoga regularly toward the latter half of 2017 and I’ve slowly been able to work on my breathing, focus, and balance. This year, I want to take it a step further and begin practicing meditation. I want to be a little more present for myself instead of just going through the motions. I’m currently on the hunt for a good app to guide me through meditation – if you have recommendations, please share!

Don’t try to Please Everyone – It’s Going to be Okay. I know I pissed some people off in 2017, and well, that’s never going to change. I cannot please everyone, and frankly, that’s not what I was put on this earth to do. Next? But really, I put a lot of pressure on myself to smooth things over as fast as possible, when sometimes, it just can’t be done. And that’s going to have to be okay.

…And I’ll be livin’ this dream with you. 

-Khalid, American Teen

…So, what goals are you setting for yourself in 2018? I’d love to hear them! Happy New Year everyone!

BBC: ‘Sourdough’.

Hey there! It seems sort of pointless now to keep apologizing for not writing on a more regular basis like I have been for so long. I really can’t explain much else aside from simply saying that I feel like the last 3 months of 2017 really knocked the wind out of my sails.

Even in the last week, I recovered from the flu, and then had to take my kitty to the vet, and we’ve both been in bed watching season one of “The OC” (for the first time). But things are coming together, and I even got to work on my list of 2018 resolutions today! Look for those on the blog by Jan 1!

Anyway, let’s just get to the book! I lied and totally haven’t read the book I promised you, but I’ve got something else instead: it’s “Sourdough” by Robin Sloan. Here’s the description from Amazon:

In his much-anticipated new novel, Robin Sloan does for the world of food what he did for the world of books in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her―feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

Leavened by the same infectious intelligence that made Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore such a sensation, while taking on even more satisfying challenges, Sourdough marks the triumphant return of a unique and beloved young writer.

I’m all about a book that combines technology with food – and this book made me HUNGRY when I read it! I particularly just wanted to get a giant loaf of sourdough – and coincidentally some arrived in my Blue Apron box that week (a recipe for grilled cheese on sourdough) – so that’s when you know the stars have aligned.

This was truly a fun read, and I’m recommending it to my techies, my start-up lovers (and the haters, too), and foodies alike.

Next week, I promise, we’ll be reading “Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances” by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

I hope you all have a FUN and safe New Year’s Eve – and I’d love to hear what you’ve got planned for 2018! Cheers!

You guys, it’s Christmas!

I need all of my presents to look like this.

Okay, so not quite yet but it’s almost here – and man, I feel like it creeped up on me this year even despite the early arrival of Thanksgiving. Oh well!

Tomorrow is my LAST day of work in 2017 and I could not be more ready. Y’all, I’m exhausted. I am looking forward to some much-needed sleep and relaxation and self care for the remainder of the year.

A few weeks ago, I was editing a book for someone and she wrote in said book that traditions are often things people don’t want to do, but it’s an easy way to force people to partake. Like, well… it’s tradition.

I suppose so, but I like all of my traditions. They are small, such as, waiting until Christmas morning to open all gifts (always starting with the stockings first). There are always nuts and an orange in our stockings (a tradition my mom’s family has always practiced), aside from small gifts. It has slowly become a tradition for my mom and I to make a stew on Christmas Day, too.

I’ve spent the last two Christmases in Austin and I’m looking forward to a third! I’ve got all sorts of things planned: Mozart’s, the American Girl pop-up shop (!), the state history museum, Miracle on 5th @ Eleanor’s, the gingerbread village @ The Four Seasons, pedicures, and of course, lots and lots of Christmas movie watching! I even got supplies to make apple cinnamon rolls, from scratch (send prayers)!

Once Christmas is over though… it’s me and the couch for a solid six days. I’m not going to get into it here, but I need a break. Some real rest.

Not to mention my AT&T U-Verse receiver is half-working and AT&T said I have 10 days to watch all 100 hours of precious recordings and toss it (they sent me a new one), so it’s absolutely necessary for me to be glued to my TV until 2018.

I hope you all have a fabulous holiday! I’ll be posting a few more times before the year is over, but just in case you don’t stop by beforehand – Merry Christmas (ya filthy animal)… and a Happy New Year!

BBC: ‘Watch Me Disappear’.

Howdy! I’m currently on my couch, winding down after a weekend packed with holiday goodness. I went to some holiday markets (saw the best handmade goodies), enjoyed some sushi, sake, and yakitori (for the first time), bought and wrapped aaaallll of my gifts to donate to a nursing home (an annual tradition), and even stumbled upon the cutest brunch spot ever (where I ate aged meats and kale)!

Of course, I crammed some chores in there as well – I had to clean and get all of my laundry done in preparation for family arriving this week, and I went grocery shopping (x2) to get my fridge full for all the cooking and baking that’s about to commence!

But still, there’s a book from Blanche’s Book Club to be discussed! This week, we’re talking about “Watch Me Disappear” by Janelle Brown.

Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. Her body was never found, just a shattered cellphone and a solitary hiking boot. Her husband and teenage daughter have been coping with Billie’s death the best they can: Jonathan drinks as he works on a loving memoir about his marriage; Olive grows remote, from both her father and her friends at the all-girls school she attends.

But then Olive starts having strange visions of her mother, still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he understood about his wife. Who was the woman he knew as Billie Flanagan?

Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, but also about themselves, learning, in the process, about all the ways that love can distort what we choose to see. Janelle Brown’s insights into the dynamics of intimate relationships will make you question the stories you tell yourself about the people you love, while her nervy storytelling will keep you guessing until the very last page.

I was so, so excited to read this one – and had to wait awhile to pick it up at the library. It was a little eery at first, but it quickly becomes quite the page-turner as you’ll want to help solve the mystery of Billie’s location.

I loved it and am recommending it to my mystery and crime lovers – a very fresh take on the genre. The even MORE awesome part is that Janelle Brown has lots of other books to indulge in!

The next book we’ll be reading is “Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances” by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

PS. I know I’m going to be cooking and baking a ton over the weekend, so I used that as an excuse to buy only frozen dinners… excuse me while I go eat endless mac n’ cheese…

My top 5 beauty products.

I’m obsessed with beauty products!

I don’t know if you know this about me but I LOVE beauty products – skin care, makeup (!), self-tanners, cellulite creams, hair treatments… you name it, I probably have 4 bottles of it in my cabinet. It’s a bad addiction, but it’s a fun one.

I’ve been trying to find a way to share more of my favorite products (or even the things that are NOT my favorite) without it being a giant sales-pitch (I am not sponsored by anyone). The thing is, I’m always trying new things. Even if I like a product, I’m still open to trying other brands just to see what’s out there.

But, when I started writing about all of the cosmetic primers I’ve tried, a reader wanted to know about other products I’ve tried. It’s taken me awhile, but this is my START. I’m very critical – so right now I’ve got five products that I love and have even bought multiple times… as in, I’m sold, I’m not trying other brands. Done. So here they are!

  1. Impress Manicure – When I agreed to get my Invisalign, I knew it would be an extra monthly expense for a little bit (I’m paying for it myself). To help, I vowed to give up professional  manicures. Instead, I started buying press-on nails to keep my nails looking nice without the cost. After trying several brands, the Impress Manicure continues to WIN – big time. These nails are a natural, short length and they require no glue. One set lasts about 10 days, and it costs around $5-$8! I’ve found them at Walgreens, and the grocery store, but you can also get them online. I swear by these!
  2. Essence Forbidden Volume False Lash Mascara Top Coat – This is a top coat you can add on top of any mascara and it has the little fibers that extend each lash. This stuff makes for a pop! I add it to all of my mascaras and I love it – plus, it’s $4. I got mine at Ulta, but I’m sure you can find it other places where Essence makeup is sold.
  3. Glamglow Thirstymud Hydrating Treatment – I love finding bargains and cheaper solutions when necessary, but I also have come to realize that sometimes, it’s just worth it to shell out the cash for seriously AWESOME products. So far, all of the Glamglow products I’ve tried have blown my mind and I’ve even gotten comments on how fresh my skin looks – given my sleep regimen, this is a miracle! The Thirstymud treatment is a like a thick moisturizer, it smells like coconut, and you basically put it on before bed and wakeup to smooth skin. After trying a sample of it in my Birchbox, I bought the entire kit: the face wash, a blackhead mask, and the full size jar of Thirstymud. Complete GAME CHANGER.
  4. Bath & Body Works Aromatherapy Body Wash & Foam Bath – I hadn’t been inside a Bath & Body works in at least 6 years when I randomly wandered into the one at the outlet mall a few months ago. They were having a “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” sale, plus an additional 25% off, so I caved and bought three bottles of this stuff (in three different scents: Happiness, Stress Relief, & Sleep) and all of them smell so good. But what I love most about them is how much they foam up! I use them as bubble bath and on my loofah during a shower. It’s fantastic and now I’m always watching for the next big sale to restock.
  5. Sei Bella 3-in-1 Eyebrow Pencil by Melaleuca – Melaleuca products are made of only the good stuff, which means no parabens, no chemicals, no carcinogens… all of my household cleaners are from Melaleuca and I try their beauty products all the time. So far, my favorite product is their eyebrow pencil – it has a brush, a pencil, and a blender all in the same place! It goes on so easy, it self-sharpens, and it’s affordable at $15 (for members).

And there you have it! What products are you swearing by lately? As I get more “favorites”, I’ll report back!

BBC: ‘Five Days at Memorial’.

Hey, hey! It finally got chilly in Austin last week (yes, it even snowed!), and I’ve been SO paranoid that this would be year #3 of having the Christmas Mouse come for a visit. Blanche started meowing at my coat closet door on Wednesday, and ever since then I’ve been so paranoid (not to mention I had a nightmare about a mouse flying out of the closet, and then woke up convinced there was a mouse on the kitchen floor – it was a dust bunny).

I proactively set mouse traps, and spent a good part of 2017 scouring my place for any holes that would allow unwanted guests – and filling said holes. I was confident, but it’s starting to slip. I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t sleeping with my hallway light on tonight.

I need sleep. And this weekend was set not up to not be forgiving in that area… wah! But, ’tis the season, right? I know everyone is busy as heck this time of year.

So, let’s slow things down a bit and talk about this week’s book from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” by Sheri Fink. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina – and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice.

In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs 5 days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and maintain life amid chaos.

After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several of those caregivers faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. 

Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.

In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.

I heard about this book on a podcast and I was sold when I heard: true story + Hurricane Katrina. This book uses sold investigative journalism to look into the days leading up to a criminal investigation in one of New Orleans’ most historic institutions.

It’s a glimpse into public health and the issues any hospital would face as a storm approaches – Do they stay or go? What about the patients? How could they logistically get everyone out safely and in time? What if the weather alert is really nothing to worry about?

The questions get deeper when you start to consider patients on life support. Will the generators hold up? How long might we be without power?

But the real question the doctors inside Memorial hospital faced in those five days were moral questions of life, death, and ethics.

This story is a chilling one, but it’s fantastically written. I’m recommending this to my true crime lovers, any students of public health, and all who love the great city of New Orleans.

The next book we’ll be reading is “Watch Me Disappear” by Janelle Brown.

I stayed up late last night baking cookies and finally watching “Home Alone” for the first time of the season. I was able to bake everything I wanted… minus the meringues. This is my second attempt ever making them and I can never seem to get the texture right. Anyone got any advice? I miiiight try it one more time before i just give up – they just look so pretty in the pictures!

Anyway, I’ve got another packed week ahead, but I’m going to try and squeeze in some more holiday movies before the holiday season flies by!