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Birthday goodies!

Happy birthday girl.

That’s right, I celebrated a birthday earlier this month. While I don’t like to make a big scene about my birthday, I was really excited to be surrounded by cakes, balloons, and I even got sung to, twice! Lucky, lucky girl right here.

I usually spend my birthday with reflection heavy on the brain, but this year, I lounged by the pool and sipped on a peach + wine slushee (get the recipe here). And honestly, I got some pretty cool gifts! I know, I know, that’s not what birthdays are about, but I thought I’d share some of my favorites in case you’re looking to shop for someone on your list.

Laura Geller Summer Goddess Collection – I have gotten a few Laura Geller samples in my monthly Birchbox and continue to be impressed with the quality of this makeup. So, I was pretty amped to get this four-piece collection of full-size products! It comes with Spackle Tinted Make-Up Primer in Champagne (sheer soft gold), Baked Body Frosting Face & Body Glow in Tahitian Glow (mélange of swirled tan, cream and pearly pink), Dramalash Maximum Volumizing Mascara in Black, and Fifty Kisses Lip Locking Liquid Color in Beige Bite (rich nude).

So far, I’ve used the bronzer and the lip color – both I love. The bronzer is the perfect mix of color and highlighter, and even helps to cover redness. The lip color is good for every day, and stays on ALL day with a matte finish. I love it! You can purchase this collection at Ulta.

Q&A a Day 5-Year Journal – This was such a surprise gift, and kind of just what I needed without really knowing it! I’ve always had trouble keeping up with a diary, or a journal, but I’ve read so much recently about the benefits of doing so. This journal is good for five years, and provides a simple question for you to answer each day. This means you can keep a record of your years, but with less of a hassle – I love it! I started writing in it a week ago, and I’m excited to keep it going and then look back at my entries. You can get this journal on Amazon.

Rhinestone Trinket Box – Earlier this year, I met my mom and best friend in Vegas. For my birthday, my mom surprised me with a small, sparkly trinket box in the shape of a fortune cookie, which she bought in Vegas (this isn’t the exact one, but it’s really close). It’s gold, which goes with pretty much everything I own, not to mention that I love keeping my fortunes – especially if they have my lucky numbers on them.

Girl and Dragon Malbec – As a wine lover, any occasion for gifts brings an opportunity for wine. I will always drink wine, and if you’re ever in questions as to what to get me, it’s wine. I will never get enough and I’m always look to taste something new. So, I was pumped when I got a bottle of Girl and Dragon Malbec, which had a cool label (because of course), and later, I found out they’ve won loads of awards. I drank it with homemade vegetarian lo mein and it was scrumptious. You can purchase a bottle on their website.

“The Year of Voting Dangerously” by Maureen Dowd – I don’t often ask for books or buy books because I borrow so many from the library. But this book in particular, has been on my list, and isn’t available at the library. Here’s the description from AmazonTrapped between two candidates with the highest recorded unfavorables, Americans are plunged into The Year of Voting Dangerously. In this perilous and shocking campaign season, The New York Times columnist traces the psychologies and pathologies in one of the nastiest and most significant battles of the sexes ever. Dowd has covered Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton since the ’90s. She was with the real estate mogul when he shyly approached his first Presidential rope line in 1999, and she won a Pulitzer prize that same year for her penetrating columns on the Clinton impeachment follies. Like her bestsellers, Bushworld and Are Men Necessary?, THE YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY will feature Dowd’s trademark cocktail of wry humor and acerbic analysis in dispatches from the political madhouse. If America is on the escalator to hell, then THE YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY is the perfect guide for this surreal, insane ride. …And now I can officially add it to my reading list!

Miss Spa facial masks – Much like wine, face masks are another thing I can’t get enough of. If you’re ever wondering what I’m up to, the chances are very likely that I’m sitting in my bed, watching trashy TV, with some sort of clay, sheet, or bee venom mask on my face in hopes I’ll wakeup with radiant skin. Don’t stop believin’! When I was gifted a STACK of Miss Spa facial masks of different varieties, I was excited to add them to my stash. You can get them on Amazon.

Perhaps these awesome gifts I got can serve up some ideas for someone in your life, or heck, maybe you just need to treat yoself. Cheers!

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BBC: ‘Hillbilly Elegy’.

Ugh, I know I said I was reading “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough… and I definitely started reading it, when I realized I had to take another book back to the library within just a few days!

Just to note, I have had my Austin library card for exactly 1 year now, and I haven’t ever had an overdue book or a late fee, and I plan to keep it that way. So, I had to switch things up and read my library book, “HillBilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance, first.

I heard about this book on Instagram (I am always keeping my eyes open for books to add to my reading list), and I added to my library reserve list immediately. After months of waiting, I got it – and then of course had to read it within just a few days – which was actually not an issue because it was so good. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

While this book was published before the 2016 election, there are many, many clues within this book as to why Trump eventually won (despite what we now know about Russian involvement). Right after I finished reading this book, I started looking up reviews for it online and saw a mix – many people loved it, while lots of people said it didn’t represent the people it claims to.

But the author, Vance, says he’s not trying to make assumptions about large groups of people – merely stating what he knows about his family, and those he grew up with.

And if what he’s saying is true, I can 100% understand why Trump is our president now. It doesn’t make it any less sad, or difficult to deal with, but at least now I know. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the culture of various people, and/or politics.

Now, for real, the next book I’ll be reading is “Head for the Edge, Keep Walking” by Kate Tough. I swear!

BBC: ‘Rest In Power’.

I heard about this book, “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin” when Trayvon Martin’s parents appeared as guests on a recent episode of “The Daily Show”. They’d taken their story, which started when Trayvon was born, and put it into print for all to read.

And I immediately added my name to the reserve list at the library. It took a few months for my name to be at the top of the list, but it finally happened, and I read a majority of this book in one day. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Trayvon Martin’s parents take readers beyond the news cycle with an account only they could give: the intimate story of a tragically foreshortened life and the rise of a movement.

On a February evening in 2012, in a small town in central Florida, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was walking home with candy and a can of juice in hand and talking on the phone with a friend when a fatal encounter with a gun-wielding neighborhood watchman ended his young life. The watchman was briefly detained by the police and released. Trayvon’s father—a truck driver named Tracy—tried to get answers from the police but was shut down and ignored. Trayvon’s mother, a civil servant for the city of Miami, was paralyzed by the news of her son’s death and lost in mourning, unable to leave her room for days. But in a matter of weeks, their son’s name would be spoken by President Obama, honored by professional athletes, and passionately discussed all over traditional and social media. And at the head of a growing nationwide campaign for justice were Trayvon’s parents, who—driven by their intense love for their lost son—discovered their voices, gathered allies, and launched a movement that would change the country.

Five years after his tragic death, Travyon Martin’s name is still evoked every day. He has become a symbol of social justice activism, as has his hauntingly familiar image: the photo of a child still in the process of becoming a young man, wearing a hoodie and gazing silently at the camera. But who was Trayvon Martin, before he became, in death, an icon? And how did one black child’s death on a dark, rainy street in a small Florida town become the match that lit a civil rights crusade?

Rest in Power, told through the compelling alternating narratives of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, answers, for the first time, those questions from the most intimate of sources. It’s the story of the beautiful and complex child they lost, the cruel unresponsiveness of the police and the hostility of the legal system, and the inspiring journey they took from grief and pain to power, and from tragedy and senselessness to meaning. 

While reading this book made my heart break all over again for Trayvon, for his family, his friends, and for the live he didn’t get to live, it opened my eyes to a lot of new details I didn’t know before: like just how secretive the Sanford Police Department was to his family; and how many of the “facts” in the case simply don’t add up.

A friend of my questioned why I was reading this book. For one, I am very sensitive to racial injustice, and it is one of the topics that gets me most fired up because to me, it is very obvious that we are surrounded by institutional racism, and I feel it is my job as a woman with white privilege to speak out against what I know is wrong.

But I also know that even at his core, Trayvon is innocent. He was victim-blamed, despite not being armed at all, his school records were subpoenaed even though he was a minor, and many people talked about his past – maybe he stole this or maybe he smoked weed. But walking while black is not a crime, and he died for it.

I am very thankful for Trayvon’s parents for having the courage to write this book, along with the bravery to continue to fight for justice for their son, and for many, many others who have fallen in the name of unjustified violence. Although we still have a very long way to go, the conversation is forever changed, and I know Trayvon will never be forgotten.

I absolutely would recommend this book to anyone, especially if you didn’t pay attention to this case (or any that followed). The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “My Year With Eleanor” by Noelle Hancock.

I hope you have a fun, fantastic weekend – make it a great one, and do something good for someone else! I’ll see you all on the flipside!

Are we… (gulp)… ‘Millennials’?

Always with the iPad.

Always with the iPad.

Man, Millennials get ssuuuuch a bad rap, but really, why? Several month’s ago, I started listening to the podcast “Millennial“, and I found myself really being able to relate to the concepts being talked about. Although I’ve never identified myself as a Millennial, I started to wonder, wait… am I one?

Oddly enough, there’s no exact date range to classify as a Millennial or not – many research groups and news outlets have different dates. The term “Millennial” was coined in 1987 by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe.

The term didn’t quiet stick, and this generation was often referred to as Gen X, Gen Y, or the Echo Generation, or even the Me Generation, or the Peter Pan Generation. “Millennials” has become a more popular term for this group of people as of late.

Generally speaking, a Millennial is someone born in the early 80s – the mid-90s. Technically, I fall into that category, as I was born in 85. Instead of age, Millennials have been categorized by their traits, their work habits, their political views, and the way they consume… well, everything.

On the negative side, Millennials are said to be lazy, narcissistic, and job-hoppers. On the other hand, they have been described as open, liberal, fans of equal rights for minorities and LGBT, self-expressive, and upbeat.

While Millennials have been pegged as job-hoppers and made fun of for their desires to find purpose in their work and make a positive impact, research shows that Generation X and Baby Boomers want that, too! Millennials still have goals to master work-life balance, become senior leaders, and become experts in their field.

Politically, Millennials are the biggest group of independent voters than any other generation. Typically, they support bigger government, they are split on abortion, but very passionate about allowing immigrants into the United States.

In general, Millennials are known as trendsetters and influencers, so business want to know exactly what they want so they can create just THAT. The one thing that’s really got marketing experts a buzz is that Millennials see right through advertising. They are more likely to buy a car than a house, they read extensive reviews before making a purchase, and they value authentic companies.

So, are you a Millennial? I took this Buzzfeed quiz and it says I’m 80% Millennial – because I will probably never own a house, never have a family of my own, the internet is essential to my daily life, and I before recorded TV binges over live television. Cheers!

On the Pew Research quiz, I got a 78 – how’s that for consistency? Consider how often you watch TV, use social media, your political views, how you were raised, what you’re looking for in a career, and how you view different societies of the world. I’d love to know if you consider yourself to be a Millennial.

I’m honestly not really into labels, but if you want to call me a Millennial, sure, go ahead. I certainly hold many of the traits and characteristics of a Millennial. Now that I’ve done a little bit of research, I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

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‘Mariah’s World’: Got Me Feeling Emotions.

Hey girl, hey.

Hey girl, hey.

Hey, hey! Wow, last week was pretty huge in my little corner of the world. It was my first week at a new job, and we have a new President. I also went to Mexico for the second time in my life, but I had my first taste of panchos, ate roasted street corn, fresh fruit seasoned with chile, and took tons of beautiful pictures in the streets of Progresso.

Since last week, I now work in a pretty emotional, controversial line of work. While this work is meaningful to me, I’ve learned quickly just how important it is to keep those things that bring me happiness nearby.

Now, I try not to get too political here, and I won’t today, but I know many people are sad, or scared, about the times ahead. I get it, and I’m hoping you’ll take my same advice. Keep doing the things you love. Whether its reading romance novels, or watching true crime shows, or maintaining a garden. Do it.

I think sometimes its easy to get caught up in all the work we have to do – work for our country, the causes we care about. But in order to tackle those things, we need to be in good spirits; we need rest, we need to be healthy – we need to be at our best in order to give our best.

And so, last night I watched another episode of “Mariah’s World” (along with an episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta) and took a nice long bath. These things are important, too!

Ok, so let’s get into the episode!

Mariah is still on tour in Paris, and she’s casually sitting in bed reading fan mail. As in literal letters, which Mariah didn’t know people actually did! Fans, they’re just like us! Wait…

She is talking to Stella about how James had to go home and she wishes she had more time to spend with him, but she doesn’t, and that’s just how it is.

Tanaka got an MRI to find out exactly what’s wrong with his leg, and as he awaits the results, you can tell he is DEVASTATED. He finally realized Mariah is with James, and he can’t even dance away his cares.

On the next flight, the entire drama about the tour bus with the kids comes up again. Lawd. Anthony has basically spent a month ignoring Mary Ann after he basically threatened to quit if he had to stay on the bus with a kid.

The next stop on the tour is Amsterdam, and Tanaka finds out he has a cracked kneecap. He needs to rest for four weeks. So, no more tour for Tanaka! The bigger issue is, if it doesn’t heal properly, it will be another 6 months, and that could be the end of a career.

When Mariah gets word (right before the show), she’s terrified that he’s leaving the show and going home (but whyyyyy).

So, the team comes up with the idea that they need to cheer him up and should bring him on stage for a lap dance when Mariah sings “Touch My Body”. It was a litttttle awkward, even for me, sitting in my apartment by myself.

Mary Ann finally approaches Anthony and tells him (kindly) how much he hurt her because she respected him so much. He understands and apologizes, and all is well.

Later, the gang heads out to a place that sells pot brownies and space cakes, since weed is legal in Amsterdam. Mariah gets a nice chocolate cupcake – laced.

While everyone is obviously having a good time, Mariah decides to prank one of the dancers by hopping into bed with him while he’s sleeping – fully clothed – and then waking him up to think something more happened.

Mariah’s twins have a birthday coming up and the tour is taking everyone to South Africa. There is a very sweet moment when Mariah brings her kids on stage with a ton of blue and pink balloons and sings “Always be my Baby”…awww!

After the show, everyone is on the bus and the wine is flowwwwing, and Mariah and Tanaka come so close to kissing like five times.

And that’s the end of the episode! I’m pretty sure next week is the finale, although it wasn’t advertised as such. However, basically it shows Mariah unsure of whether or not she’s going to marry James, and then she’s running on the beach with Tanaka… hmm!

The time is now.

The choice is ours.

The choice is ours.

On Tuesday, I posted a 12-Step Guide on how to cope if your presidential candidate lost that night. In all honesty, I didn’t expect to actually be the one needing it.

But when I attempted to fall asleep Tuesday night, around midnight, I couldn’t help but think about all the things in my life that may change: would my 401K be affected? The amount of annual taxes I owe? Would I have access to my choice of birth control or should I get an implant before January? Would my insurance rates change? My deductibles? Will there really be a wall at the edge of my state? Will my risk of being shot and killed in public increase? Will it still be safe to fly and/or travel overseas? Will there still be free press?

Frankly, I don’t know the answers to many of these things, and I suppose we will all be finding out soon enough. I’ve had my candidate lose before, and it sucks, big time.

But this election was emotional. There was so much hate and drama and sometimes, it seemed like it would never end. But when I voted, I wasn’t necessarily voting for a person. I was voting for the things I believe in – to my core. I was voting for equality – for myself, for my gay friends, for my non-white friends, for immigrants.

I was voting for my right to choose what happens to my body. I do not want any man grabbing my genitals without my consent (and my consent is never happening). I am not okay with rape. And I am not okay with a man, especially a man who does not know me, making decisions about my reproductive health.

So, when the results were tallied, I wasn’t upset about the person. I was scared for myself; scared for minorities, scared for women; scared for our country. The results put clearly – in red and blue – what we already knew: that making America “Great Again” really means moving backward, and taking away the rights of progressives. And now, we know that a lot of Americans cannot wait for our rights to be stripped; our bodies taken advantage of; and literal walls to be built between us. We’re one step away from a field of ovens.

And it’s terrifying.

But, I’ve spent a lot of my life being scared. And I’ve found that being scared makes me do things I probably wouldn’t normally do. And when you’re put out of your comfort zone, growth happens.

We cannot live these four years in fear. Now is not the time to be silenced. So, where do we go from here? I say, we keep working for the rights we so desperately want. Whether it be on a local, state, or national level – we can still get to work.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

With that said, I’m on the hunt for causes I can be a part of. Here are some things I’m thinking:

  • Volunteering at Planned Parenthood – info here
  • Volunteering to help victims of domestic violence
  • Getting involved in local politics
  • Becoming a Reading Partner – info here
  • Volunteering and/or donating to a Boys & Girls Club – info here

If you have any additional participation, volunteering, or donating ideas, I would love to hear them!

Having said that, though, don’t think that making a difference has to come in giant projects or overtaking commitments. Frankly, talking helps. Finding people you can share your beliefs and passions with spurs positive action.

Other things I’m doing to cope? Watching less news. I will never blame the media for this and will always stand up for the rights of the press and the jobs that journalists do. However, I’m limiting myself to just a few minutes of news in the morning, and that’s it. I don’t want to watch long,  repetitive news programs that will probably stress me out.

I will also be limiting my time on social media, particularly Facebook. I have already deleted my Facebook app, which cuts down on mindless scrolling that leads to unnecessary stress.

What will I do with all my extra time? Well, aside from volunteering, I can spend more time reading, and of course, watching “Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party” on VH1. No, seriously.

And I’m not trying to make light of the situation, but I do know that we’ll get through this, and we can do it cooly and in a way that helps others, while helping ourselves.

#ImStillWithHer

Podcasts I’ve been listening to, Part V.

It should come as no surprise that I’m still obsessively listening to podcasts, particularly during my 9-5 M-F gig. This last month, I’ve really been crazy about some of these – thinking about them even after the podcast is over. It’s a little insane, but I just love hearing all of these stories. Here’s what I’ve been listening to recently:

Undisclosed. In short, here’s the description of “Undisclosed” from the website: “The Undisclosed podcast investigates wrongful convictions, and the U.S. criminal justice system, by taking a closer look at the perpetration of a crime, its investigation, the trial, and ultimate verdict… and finding new evidence that never made it to court.”

In the long, this is for fans of “Serial” – particularly season one’s case of Adnan Syed vs. The State of Maryland. “Undisclosed” was started by a woman named Rabia Chaudry, a friend of Syed’s, offering additional information on the case that “Serial” did not. Here’s the scoop:

“We started the podcast in April 2015 with a detailed examination of the State of Maryland’s case against Adnan Syed. We intended to revisit the case from the beginning, looking at all available evidence. Not only what was presented in Serial, but new evidence that we uncovered in our investigation. As attorneys, we pride ourselves on looking dispassionately at facts, analyzing those facts, and applying the appropriate law in our analysis. Our goal is to get to the truth of what happened on January 13, 1999.”

Ms. Chaudry has also written a book, “Adnan’s Story”, which will be featured in Blanche’s Book Club in the coming weeks.

In season two, “Undisclosed” covers the case of Joey Watkins, who is in jail for a felony murder that took place in 2000. If you’re missing “Serial”, you really need to plug into “Undisclosed”.

Millennial. Soooo, I’m pretty obsessed with this one. Like… listened to it day and night and whenever possible. I listed to all 28 episodes within just a few days and I’m anxiously waiting for a new one.

As explained by its host, Megan Tan, “Millennial” is a podcast about the things we don’t get instructions for – maneuvering your twenties. And no, I’m not in my 20s. I’m in my 30s. And I wouldn’t ever classify myself as a millennial. But I FEEL this chick so hard! Sounds weird, but you know what I mean.

She talks a lot about what it feels like when you graduate college and start job hunting; and once you find that dreamy job… it’s not so dreamy, and you start getting your side hustle on, and you fall in love with it, and then you’re working ’round the clock because you’re 9-to-5ing it and you’re 5-to-9ing it and then you experience burnout and…. YES, this is the story of my life, and apparently lots of people are feeling it, because hundreds of thousands of people are listening to this y’all.

IT’S SO GOOD.

Accused. Shocker, another true crime podcast (I can’t help myself). “Accused” is put together by the Cincinnati Tribune, and it covers the murder of Elizabeth Andes. Here’s the scoop:

When Elizabeth Andes was found murdered in her Ohio apartment in 1978, police and prosecutors decided within hours it was an open-and-shut case. Two juries disagreed. The Cincinnati Enquirer investigates:
Was the right guy charged, or did a killer walk free?

I’ll be honest, there’s not that many episodes, and I’ve already listened to all of them, but it’s well-produced, and it does a good job of looking into every lead up until the end.

Pantsuit Politics. I heard about this podcast while listening to another podcast, believe it or not. The concept is pretty simple – it’s hosted by two women, one from the left and one from the right, and they talk politics – and it’s civil and smart. Here’s a little bit about the hosts (from their website):

Sarah Stewart Holland (from the left) is a professional blogger and social media consultant. She has always loved politics, although her political opinions have changed drastically over the years. She worked in politics and on Capitol Hill before moving back to her hometown of Paducah, KY, where she is currently running for City Commission. She is happily married and the mother of three sons. Sarah likes her bourbon on ice, her romantic dramas with a British accent and her iPhone fully charged.

Beth Silvers (from the right) is a human resources executive and yoga teacher.   After practicing law for six years, Beth decided to move into the business world.  Her love for politics has been building for about a decade, and she’s loving the community that’s emerged around Pantsuit Politics.  She’s married with two daughters and is addicted to cooking, M&Ms, watermelon, and bad reality shows.  

Of course, they’ve covered all of the debates from this election, along with other happenings, but the podcast has been going strong well before this election season. In the off-season, they talk political news and often feature interviews. It’s good stuff!

I’m currently looking for new things to listen to, so if you’ve got ideas, put them in the comments pretty pleeeease!

Weekend at the Alamo (Drafthouse).

Emily Blunt in 'The Girl on the Train'.

Emily Blunt in ‘The Girl on the Train’.

I read “The Girl on the Train” a few months ago, and I just loved it (read my full review here) – and I was counting down the days until the movie adaptation made its way to theaters. But, I’ll also admit I was a little bit scared. It’s no secret that this story is jarring, and violent. Luckily, I had someone to see it with me.

We went to the Alamo Drafthouse, which is where I’ve seen every single movie since moving to Austin. Not familiar with the Drafthouse? It’s your typical movie theater, but it has comfy chairs and tables… and waiters, because there is a full menu and adult beverages. It’s pretty fantastic and I don’t know why anyone would see a movie any other way.

I did have a beer and a burger with this movie – and it helped to ease my nerves a little. So, the premise of the movie is this: (don’t worry, I will alert you before mentioning any spoilers) Rachel, the girl on the train, watches a couple from her train seat. She starts to idolize this couple, as they appear to have a beautiful life and be deeply in love.

Her obsession with the couple and their home derives from the fact that she used to live just a few doors down from them; with her now-ex-husband. He still lives there with his new wife and their baby.

It should also be known that Rachel is an alcoholic, and sometimes it seems as though her drinking is what has built a seemingly low life around her: no friends, no real home, no job, and no real purpose. That is, until, she sees something happen with her ideal couple, all the way from her seat on the train.

Then, she starts a small investigation inside herself as to what could have happened to the couple, and why? But before she can get very far, she’s approached by police and investigators, and they need her alibi, because something really wrong has happened. The problem? Rachel’s drinking has gotten in the way of her memory, and now she’s in deep – but she’s about to get herself in even deeper.

So, okay, I’d already read this book, so I pretty much knew what to expect when going to see the movie. And I’ll say, the movie really brought the book to life – although there were some parts that were definitely more sensationalized, for film’s sake.

However, there were a few themes in the movie that seemed obvious, but I didn’t notice them while reading the book. I don’t know if I just didn’t notice them in the book, or if they weren’t there, and were added into the film. These themes are:

  • Alcohol

Yes, obviously Rachel is an alcoholic, so there is lots of drinking throughout the movie. However, there’s also things outside of the drinking: such as, what people around her think of her drinking – from strangers on the bus and people in the park. Her ex husband also tells her that her drinking is what got him fired from his job – which turns out not to be true. Alcohol is also used as a truth serum, as Rachel is offered it many times in order to tell stories or act a certain way.

  • Memories

The memory is an interesting thing; and sometimes our mind does us favors by altering the way we remember things – which is huge in the movie. In Rachel’s case, she often relies on others to tell her what happened, because she was usually to drunk to recall. However, what if they’re not telling the truth? Then her memory has to make itself up – and she’s technically remembering things that didn’t happen. This really hit home for me. I’ve definitely had my ways with alcohol, and have had many nights where I need to stitch things together in order to remember them. I’ve also been “that girl”, drunk in public, and unaware of my surroundings. Seeing these parts of the movie was jarring to me.

  • Guilt, Blame, and Manipulation

Whew! This one is a difficult one for me. But all of the women featured in this story are in manipulative relationships – and I’d say the saddest part is, many of these seem like typical relationships. There is a lot of blame – blame on Rachel that she couldn’t have children; blame on her for her addiction; blame on the wife because she was too tired to have sex; guilt for the story line with the baby… and a lot of this hit very close to home for me. I’ve been in too many relationships like this, and it’s so damaging. It was very difficult to watch.

  • Women as Meaningless Objects

Another difficult topic here, but I noticed sex was a bigger theme in the movie than what I noticed in the book. And a lot of the sex was just physical – in fact, taking a women into the woods to have sex is so demeaning to me. That’s where people burn trash. And by the things said during those scenes, I’d venture to say the man didn’t give any shit about the woman involved. There was a lot of this attitude that women are basically expected to be sex servants, and that was very difficult to see. And frankly, a lot of what I saw were things women have to constantly worry about, but men do not: walking alone, riding public transportation, being out after dark, being drunk in public, having non-consensual sex, being pregnant, having an abortion, raising children… the list goes on.

None of this is meant to bash the movie, as I thought it was a really great adaptation of the book. However, it was difficult to watch; perhaps my mind was able to only focus on certain things when I was reading it. I drove home from the theatre a little unnerved, and was happy once I got home safe. It’s not a movie I would ever watch again; as it hit me to the core. But, would I recommend seeing it? Absolutely.

Hmm...

Hmm…

Sunday night, I went right back to the Drafthouse to watch the second presidential debate! Before the first one, I saw that the Drafthouse, along with many other restaurants and bars were showing the debates and I thought that sounded like a lot of fun. After all, a presidential election only comes around every four years, and this is one for the books.

And what better place to watch this spectacle than in a movie theatre with beer and burgers? However, my nights during the week are pretty busy with dance classes and my blog class. But a Sunday night, I can handle.

I was happy to see that upon arrival, there were booths set up to help people register to vote, since the deadline is TODAY! I thought this was so neat! Once I got into the theatre, there were little American flags at each seat, and they were playing the “pre-debate coverage”. An employee came out to explain the rules – clapping and cheering were allowed, but no negative comments or shouting, and yes, we could use social media!

All-in-all the experience was fun. I got to eat a giant pretzel (with queso) and hard cider with about 100 strangers and watch this crazy spectacle of a race. Needless to say, we all had a good laugh. My blog class falls during the next debate, so I’ll have to DVR it – if it even happens, right?

Already thinkin’ ’bout fall fashion…

That’s right, forget summer (not really), ’cause I’ve got fall fashion on the brain. I’m totally blaming “The Real Housewives of New York” for this. Did you guys see last week’s episode?

If not, Bethenny threw a birthday party for herself at her fabulous Hampton’s home (so jealous) and it was an outdoor BBQ, complete with Skinny Girl Moscow mules and roaring bonfires. Everyone was in their sweaters and Joan of Arctic Boots…and it was simply lovely!

Need.

Need.

Fall is definitely, DEFINITELY my favorite season, and I have always loved fall fashion. So, of course I cannot stop thinking about this red and white flannel jacket Bethenny was wearing at the party.

After searching for it online for hours, I found out it’s from Forever 21, but of course, these episodes were taped last fall, so I couldn’t find it anywhere online to actually purchase it. But fear not, because I will have my eyes peeled for something similar from now until October.

In a later part of the episode, Bethenny and Carol arrive for Brunch, and Bethenny is looking so chic in her over-sized white sweater and knee-high moccasins. I saw that style of boot a lot when I was working in the mall last fall, but they look way cuter on Bethenny than anyone else I saw.

I found a pair that I love, but of course, they’re from Free People, and a mere $400. When I have nothing else to spend my money on, I’ll be traipsing around Austin in these boots, with a margarita in one hand and the other arm reaching for a hot dude with a man bun.

Dream big, y’all.

I already bought the red and navy Buffalo Checked loafers (pictured above); they were on sale for $30 (down from $110) at J-Crew, and I cannot wait to slip these babies on (I mean, aside from wearing them around my apartment while dancing to James Bay).

Don’t get me wrong, I love summer – strictly for the white jeans of course, but fall looks are just so…cool and cozy.

In other news, it was brought to my coworkers’ attention earlier this week that whenever they plan after-work events, I do not attend.

I’m not doing this to be mean, but the truth is, I’m becoming less and less a social person as I get older. And I’m not even mad about it. The other thing is, there are lots of things I like to do after work that does not involve work folk.

Right now, I go to a dance class right after work Monday-Thursday. And next week, my blog class kicks off, so I’ll have that one night each week. I also like to read, blog, and sometimes I have freelance work to complete.

A coworker told me it wasn’t healthy that I was so busy; why don’t I just “relax” after work? But the thing is, going to dance class or reading a book ARE relaxing to me. Those are the things I want to be doing, and they help me relieve stress from my very challenging job.

Maybe there will be one day when my day job fulfills most of the things I’m looking for in life. But that day is not today, and it’s not tomorrow, and until then, I’ll be spending my evening hours as I please (lately it means plugging my laptop in on the balcony and sitting beside a citronella candle while I blog and listen to podcasts).

So, speaking of freelance work, I need help writing a good pitch letter. Are any of my readers good at this? If so, is there any way you could send me some pointers or examples that have worked? I’ve got ideas up my sleeve and I’m ready to pitch to some popular online magazines. So, please send any tips, tricks, cheap ploys, or examples to me at holly@thebitterlemon.com

Thanks y’all – now, onto that fall countdown!

How Starbucks broke my heart.

Done with Starbucks.

Done with Starbucks.

This has nothing to do with cups. It doesn’t even have anything to do with what’s inside the cups.

Let me start by telling you just how much I used to love Starbucks.

It was a lot.

As I type this, I’m sipping coffee from a Starbucks mug. In fact, when I made my coffee this morning, and reached for a clean mug, I realized that more than half of the mugs I have in my apartment are from Starbucks. There are even tumblers and travel mugs, too.

Books from the Starbucks’ CEO are on my shelves. I have a Starbucks gold card with my name printed on it that I earned in 2010 after many years of soy lattes. It’s been a staple of my life for many, many years.

It’s not necessarily because of the delicious way they press a machiatto, or their addictive hot chocolate. It’s that, plus a lot of other things I once loved about the coffee giant. I loved the atmosphere. The culture.

I hated it when people would bash Starbucks for selling CDs or having special terms for their sizes — all of that boiled down to the culture of Starbucks. The fact that it was based on that feeling you get when you’re in a fine coffee house in Europe and all the little things add up to this one, giant feeling of pure perfection.

And there was this other thing about the culture; the fact that the money I spent on delicious coffee was going to other good things like great benefits for the employees, and fair wages for the farmers who nurtured the beloved coffee beans from around the globe (Starbucks is 100% ethically sourced).

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Blake MyCoskie, the founder of Toms Shoes, speak on how he created his business. He said when Toms Shoes began, he realized just how much people love to buy something if they know that their purchase makes them a part of something great.

That’s how I felt about Starbucks. It really pissed me off when people would bitch about the price of coffee at Starbucks — we weren’t paying for just the brand, we were paying for those benefits, fair wages, and that moment you get when you get that first sip of the peppermint mocha.

After all, I can chose to spend my money on whatever I please. And the same people complaining about overpriced coffee and anti-Christmas cups are the same people who shop at Wal-Mart (known for its low wages and poor working conditions) and eat at Chik-fil-a (right-winged, anti-gay). Two companies I gave up years ago.

Even Toms Shoes is aligned with right-wing activist groups (although MyCoskie has issued an apology for it), and even Starbucks has it’s problems.

Last week, a friend told me Starbucks’ products were full of GMOs, and not only that, but they donated $70 million to fight GMO-labeling laws.

Umm, what?

My quest to be healthier started about four years ago, with regular fitness, detox, and healthy eating. I’ll admit, I haven’t always bought the organic craze, and I understand how difficult it is for companies to migrate from using GMOs — they are everywhere. Thanks, Monsanto.

Not familiar with GMOs? GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, and they are created when the DNA from other plants, animals, and bacteria are injected into cells of another group, say, a plant seed. That seed then can grow despite being sprayed with pesticide, poison, or whatever. GMOs weren’t around at the dawn of time, so it adversely affects those who eat them — humans and animals alike. Here’s a good article on the basics of GMOs.

So, Starbucks is a part of the Grocer’s Manufacturer’s Association (GMA), along with several other giants like Coca-Cola, Clorox, Proctor & Gamble, etc. And the GMA is supporting anti-GMO-labeling laws. These laws make it okay for companies to NOT mention that their products are chock-full of GMOs.

Starbucks claims that forcing a company to put something on their label affects their first amendment to free speech.

Oh, Starbucks, you sneaky little bitch! You KNOW how much free speech means to me! But I also believe I have a right to know what’s in the food I eat. And the latter of those beliefs has an effect on my health, and perhaps, on my life.

There are two main things that bother me about Starbucks going arm-in-arm with Monsanto (home of GMO pesticide, complete with government ties):

  1. I was tricked. This entire time, I thought Starbucks was a GREAT company. And to make matters worse, even Starbucks is saying all of these GMO-labeling accusations are false, that it’s the GMA fighting the fight. No, Starbucks, no. You don’t get to play that game. If you’re guilty, fess up.
  2. I have no control where my money goes. For years, I thought my money was supporting the causes I care about, only to find out that it’s been going to support Monsanto.

When the Chik-fil-a fiasco happened, a former coworker told me that she would never boycott a company just because of the founder’s beliefs or what they supported — “There’d be nowhere to go,” she said.

I disagree. There ARE companies out there that do good; that believe the same things I believe. And it’s my right to spend my money where I choose. If we don’t stand for something, what are we living for? Honestly.

And if I’m being honest, I will say that the whole part of using GMO milk and selling baked goods sprinkled with poison, bothers me LESS than the whole $70 million to support anti-GMO-labeling.

When I go into a store, I can make a choice as to buy an organic chicken that’s eaten a GMO-free diet. Or, I can get the cheap shit. That is my choice. I can even still go to Starbucks and get a plain coffee with a splash of coconut milk and I can walk out GMO-free. But that sale goes to support something terrible. And I just cannot live with that.

So, I’m in the process of finding a new coffee shop to love. One that serves delicious drinks, and doesn’t support GMOs.

It’s minimal, but in addition to boycotting Starbucks, I’ve signed a petition in hopes that one day, Starbucks can make the switch and support GMO-labeling. You can sign it, too!

Want more info on Monsanto, GMOs, the GMA, and where to find a decent coffee shop? Here you go:

Pic of the Week.

Let the obsession begin.

Let the obsession begin.

When my mom was in town a few weeks ago, she treated me to one of my favorite things: TV on DVD. We went to FYE and I ended up with another season of the Mary Tyler Moore show (love it), another season of The Hills (obsessed), and the first season of House of Cards.

I had yet to dabble into the cult series.

I started watching the first couple of episodes right away, but I did what I usually do when I “watch” TV — I didn’t actually watch it. Instead, I blogged, started a craft project, and cleaned my kitchen. Rarely do I ever actually sit and watch something on TV.

But, lately I’ve had a few free hours on my hands, so I asked my house guest (see last week’s post) if he wanted to watch — actually watch — it with me. He did, so we’ve started season one and after two episodes, we’re HOOKED.

I hope FYE has season two in the next day, ’cause I’ll be there.

I don’t want to spoil the season for myself, so don’t worry about any giveaways, but House of Cards is a Netflix series that debuted in February 2013. It follows Frank Underwood (played by the awesome Kevin Spacey), a democrat from South Carolina, who is the House Majority Whip.

From the start, he gets looked over for the Secretary of State position he was eyeing, and he’s determined to do everything in his power to seek revenge on those who crossed him.

Uh, sounds like the recipe for a PERFECT TV show!

I even heard President Obama watches it, so score another one for the big guys. What shows are you binge watching?