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Watching: ‘Lady Bird’.

BFFs.

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!

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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 ABC.com. 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 Amazon.com:

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!

Bring on the cookie exchange!

Cookies for Santa!

I just searched through the blog because I was certain I wrote about baking Christmas cookies every year and didn’t want to bore you all with another one… but there wasn’t one for a long time! So, here I am, about to bake lots and lots of goodies for the season.

I have very fond memories of baking Christmas cookies as a child, so as I’ve gotten older, I always have the craving to do a bakeoff of my own. But every year, I get about 1/3 of the way into my baking and wonder WHY did I do this to myself?

It’s about that time I realize that my dad probably did most of the actual work when I was a kid, and also, I think we used pre-made dough (obviously, smart).

But I never truly learn, because then each year, I made a ridiculously long list of cookie and treat ideas, and half of them are intricate (peppermint snowflake cookies are never happening AGAIN) and just piss me off.

I was baking a pie last month for Friendsgiving when I came across the vast collection of Christmas cookie cutters I had in my cabinet – most of which were purchased last year. “What the hell was i thinking?!” I literally asked myself out loud.

Last year, I remember baking quite a bit, although I mailed most of the treats to other states. My friend Matt, along with his wife, were baking up some goodies last year when we decided to mail each other holiday treats.

They completely spoiled me and I was eating ALL of it during the season. It was fantastic. So, when Matt asked me if I wanted to participate again this year, I jumped at it.

I’m also having guests for a little party next weekend, so I’ll need cookies for that, right? And probably just some… to have… or to share at work? See? This is how this gets started…

However, I’ve vowed to myself to make nothing too complicated. No cookie cutter cookies!

I went through my Instagram and Pinterest accounts to see what recipes I might want to try this year, and I’ve come up with a tentative list. I won’t know which ones I’m making until I really get in there and see how difficult it might be, and even then I am guessing I’ll have some issues… but here are my ideas so far:

And while we’re on the topic of baking, I have been eyeing these recipes for Christmas Day:

And one MORE thing before I go! As you may know (if you’re following me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7), I’ve been using Blue Apron meal delivery (in addition to Green Chef) and I have SIX boxes of freeeeee food to give away!

If you want to try it, there’s no obligation to keep it – simply get the free box and try three recipes (two meals each) and see what you think. The holidays are a perfect time to try it since you’ll be able to skip the grocery store! If you’d like to get one of my free boxes, simply shoot me your email and the first six people will get a message from Blue Apron!

Just want some of the goodies I listed above? Hey, fill out the form, too and let’s see what we can do – I’m all about spreading some Christmas cheer this year!

Want to see how I do with the baking this weekend? Keep your eyes on my Instagram stories – I’ll likely start shopping on Friday and the bakeoff goes DOWN on Sunday! Wish me luck 🙂

Watching: ‘Floribama Shore’.

The cast of MTV’s “Floribama Shore”.

I know I’m probably one of ten people still watching reruns of “Jersey Shore”… so, when MTV announced an answer to our prayers for new material, I was pretty excited! That answer is none other than “Floribama Shore”.

“Floribama Shore” is supposed to be similar to “Jersey Shore” in that cast members are filling up a single house in Panama City Beach, Florida, but are locals from the Floribama Coast.

Having been to Floribama a handful of times, I can testify that its known for its uncanny ability to embrace the tacky side of Americana, while also celebrating the fruits of summer and beach life in the form of denim cutoffs, cold bear at any hour, and bare feet at all times.

And so, MTV has rounded up a cast of locals to celebrate this portion of the country and likely, humiliate them and everyone they know for our complete enjoyment. Here’s how MTV describes the show:

Set in the Florida Panhandle along the beach that stretches all the way to Alabama, Floribama Shore is the story of eight young adults who come to spend the summer in the hottest beach town on the Gulf Coast, Panama City Beach, to party it up and put the real world on hold for just a little bit longer. But each is armed with incredible life experiences and standing at a crossroads, whether it’s ending a relationship, tasting independence for the first time, or trying to escape the past.This coming of age story captures the very real thrill and angst of being young and trying to figure out the future with a group of people you’ll come to call family.

So, the cast!

There’s Aimee, who might be my favorite so far. She’s from Alabama, admits to always going barefoot and never getting a pedicure, and she is NOT going to play games. She’s a spitfire and I’d imagine we’ll see a fight with her at some point this season.

There’s Candace, who, so far, is pretty quiet. She seems to be the old soul of the bunch, but I’m not counting her out of any shenanigans just yet. Next is Codi, who has been quiet so far… And then there’s Gus, who is pret-ty full of himself, and I don’t think he’s ever been rejected. This is already causing drama in the house.

Okay… Jeremiah. He’s the pretty boy, and although a few of the ladies love his looks, his attitude is not attractive. I’m not a fan of him as a person, but his douche-baggery is much-needed for a show like this.

Kirk has yet to say much, so we’ll see what happens with him. But finally, there’s Kortni and Nilsa, who are friends and both Panama City Beach locals. Kortni fires off episode one by pissing the bed, and Nilsa is a flirtacious force to be reckoned with!

So far, there’s been two episodes of the show, which airs Mondays at 10/9 central (although they aired one episode on Sunday night…).

It’s good stuff, y’all!

BBC: ‘The Hot One’.

Howdy! Even after taking Monday off work to recover from my holiday travels, this week was a bit of a struggle – am I alone here? Yikes! I think this weekend is my last one that’s sort of empty (as far as plans go) before all of the holiday parties and activities go into full swing, so I’ll definitely be taking advantage of that.

I’m planning on taking a few dance classes (naturally), getting lots of reading done (I currently have three books checked out from the library and they’re due next weekend), and I’m headed to the Drafthouse to see “Christmas Vacation” for the zillionth time!

Last year, they hosted a cheese pizza party with a viewing of “Home Alone”, which was a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to whatever surprises they have in store for this holiday favorite.

Anyway, let’s jump into this week’s book from Blanche’s Book Club! It’s “The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder” by Carolyn Murnick. Boy, that title just makes you feel warm and cozy, doesn’t it? Here’s the description from Amazon:

A gripping memoir of friendship with a tragic twist—two childhood best friends diverge as young adults, one woman is brutally murdered and the other is determined to uncover the truth about her wild and seductive friend.

As girls growing up in rural New Jersey in the late 1980s, Ashley and Carolyn had everything in common: two outsiders who loved spending afternoons exploring the woods. Only when the girls attended different high schools did they begin to grow apart. While Carolyn struggled to fit in, Ashley quickly became a hot girl: popular, extroverted, and sexually precocious.

After high school, Carolyn entered college in New York City and Ashley ended up in Los Angeles, where she quit school to work as a stripper and an escort, dating actors and older men, and experimenting with drugs. The last time Ashley visited New York, Carolyn was shocked by how the two friends had grown apart. One year later, Ashley was stabbed to death at age twenty-two in her Hollywood home.

The man who may have murdered Ashley—an alleged serial killer—now faces trial in Los Angeles. Carolyn Murnick traveled across the country to cover the case and learn more about her magnetic and tragic friend. Part coming-of-age story, part true-crime mystery, The Hot One is a behind-the-scenes look at the drama of a trial and the poignancy of searching for the truth about a friend’s truly horrifying murder.

…ok. So, I have to admit that I found this book on a book list (probably off Pinterest), and it sounded good, so I placed it on reserve. I clearly wasn’t paying too much attention because I didn’t realize it was a true story until I started reading it. Duh.

But yes, it’s a true story and even has an odd little twist involving Ashton Kutcher (as in pre-trucker hat), but still. It was an interesting, and downright creepy read, but I know there’s some true-crime lovin’ readers out there, and this one’s definitely for you.

The next book we’ll be reading is “Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital” by Sheri Fink.

After totally pigging out during Thanksgiving, I was really happy to get back into my vegan lifestyle this week, and I made two new recipes, Cincinnati chili over whole wheat spaghetti and “chick”-en nuggets made from bread crumbs and pureed chickpeas! I served it with mixed veggies and sweet potato tots and it was delish. I’ll be whipping up two more new recipes this weekend and I’m pretty pumped about it.

Have a great weekend, y’all!

BBC: 2017 Holiday Reading Guide.

Cozy up with a holiday read!

Well, Thanksgiving is over and it’s officially the holiday season! I have always wanted to read a Christmas-themed book during this time of year, but have never gotten my life together in time to do so… until THIS YEAR! Over the weekend, I picked up my first holiday book (a pick from last year’s holiday reading guide), “Winter Street” by Elin Hilderbrand. I read a book of her’s earlier this year, and I absolutely loved it – plus, I found out that “Winter Street” is actually the first book in a mini-series, so if I like it, there’s three more books for my list (I put the sequel in this year’s list). So, here goes:

“The Christmas Town” by Donna VanLiere 

Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.

When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?

“The Mistletoe Inn” by Richard Paul Evans 

Signing up for a writing retreat to assuage a broken heart after one too many romantic disappointments, 32-year-old Kimberly Rossetti looks forward to meeting a favorite writer and bonds with a fellow aspirant who gives her insight into her writing while gradually revealing his dark past.

“Winter Stroll” by Elin Hilderbrand 

The Quinn family celebrates their most dramatic Christmas yet in this enchanting sequel to Elin Hilderbrand’s bestselling Winter Street. 

Christmas on Nantucket finds Winter Street Inn owner Kelley Quinn and his family busily preparing for the holiday season. Though the year has brought tragedy, the Quinns have much to celebrate: Kelley has reunited with his first wife Margaret, Kevin and Isabelle have a new baby; and Ava is finally dating a nice guy. But when Kelley’s wife Mitzi shows up on the island, along with Kevin’s devious ex-wife Norah and a dangerously irresistible old fling of Ava’s, the Inn is suddenly overrun with romantic feuds, not to mention guests. With jealousy, passion, and eggnog consumption at an all-time high, it’s going to take a whole lot more than a Christmas miracle to get the Quinns–and the Inn–through the holidays intact.

For readers of Richard Paul Evans and Greg Kincaid comes The 13th Gift, a heartwarming Christmas story about how a random act of kindness transformed one of the bleakest moments in a family’s history into a time of strength and love.

After the unexpected death of her husband, Joanne Huist Smith had no idea how she would keep herself together and be strong for her three children—especially with the holiday season approaching. But 12 days before Christmas, presents begin appearing on her doorstep with notes from their “True Friends.” As the Smiths came together to solve the mystery of who the gifts were from, they began to thaw out from their grief and come together again as a family. This true story about the power of random acts of kindness will warm the heart, a beautiful reminder of the miracles of Christmas and the gift of family during the holiday season.

“Christmas at Little Beach Street” by Jenny Colgan 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… and the perfect moment to escape to a charming English village! From the beloved author whose novels are “sheer indulgence from start to finish” (SOPHIE KINSELLA) comes a delightful holiday story — funny, heartfelt, romantic and packed with recipes — perfect for the winter months. – In the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne, the Christmas season has arrived. It’s a joyous time for family, friends, and feasting, as decorations sparkle along the town’s winding streets and shop windows glow with festive displays. And in Polly’s Little Beach Street Bakery, the aroma of gingerbread cookies and other treats tempts people in from the cold. – Though Polly is busy keeping up with the demands of the season, she still makes time for her beekeeper boyfriend, Huckle. She’s especially happy to be celebrating the holiday this year with him, and can’t wait to cuddle up in front of the fireplace with a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve. – But holiday bliss soon gives way to panic when a storm cuts the village off from the mainland. Now it will take all of the villagers to work together in order to ensure everyone has a happy holiday. – Full of heart and humor, Jenny Colgan’s latest novel is an instant Christmastime classic.

“Mr. Dickens and His Carol” by Samantha Silva

Laced with humor, rich historical detail from Charles Dickens’ life, and clever winks to his work, Samantha Silva’s Mr. Dickens and His Carol is an irresistible new take on a cherished classic.

Charles Dickens is not feeling the Christmas spirit. His newest book is an utter flop, the critics have turned against him, relatives near and far hound him for money. While his wife plans a lavish holiday party for their ever-expanding family and circle of friends, Dickens has visions of the poor house. But when his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, he refuses. And a serious bout of writer’s block sets in.

Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace in his great palace of thinking, the city of London itself. On one of his long night walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets the mysterious Eleanor Lovejoy, who might be just the muse he needs. As Dickens’ deadlines close in, Eleanor propels him on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition, and love. The story he writes will change Christmas forever.

…Ta-da! There are SO many books out there with Christmas plots at the center. Got one that’s not listed? I’d love to hear about it (although I may not get to it until next year…). I hope your holiday reading is festive this year!

Black Friday: SALE in my Etsy Shop!

Check out the sale!

That’s right, I’ve having a 3-day sale in my Etsy shop! Today is the biggest discount at 20% off, Saturday is 15% off, and Sunday is 10% off – and all items get shipped for FREE! You can’t beat that!

Plus, I have some gorgeous, hand-painted ornaments with gold leaf detail, and the price is perfect, especially with the sale. You should definitely check them out!

It’s a one-stop shop for gifts, jewelry, ornaments, home decor, stocking stuffers, and a super-cute fox cozy for your coffee or tea mug!

Hope to see you in The Bitter Lemon Shop!

BBC: ‘Landline’.

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

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

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

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

And hope he picks up.

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

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

Does Georgie want to start over?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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