Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Book Wrap-Up

all cover images are from amazon.com

Hey, y'all! :)

This was a fun reading month, filled with fun stories. So, let's just hop right in and talk about these books I read in February!

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

This was a fun and happy little read I got for Christmas this past year. It was great to read during February, and even though the ending felt a little far-fetched for me, I still really enjoyed it.

For my full review, click here.

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Oh. My. Goodness.

I really really really liked this one, y'all. Red Rising is a dystopian story set in Mars, about a guy named Darrow (LOVE that name) who, after experiencing the worst a caste system has to offer, decides to set a plan in motion to change everything. It's Hunger Games meets Ender's Game meets a little bit of Lord of the Rings with some of the battles.

I absolutely loved this first book, but I don't think I'll be continuing the series. I started the second book this month, but set it down because it didn't interest me as much as the first book did, and it almost reminded me too much of Ender's Game at the time (and I really, really want to read Ender's Game). Maybe I'll pick it up again once the third book comes out next year so I can marathon the series.

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

This one was just a lot of fun. It's a jet-setting adventure that takes place in Paris (a place I absolutely love) and Istanbul (a place I don't know as much about, but I'm curious about now). I really liked the main character - Avery felt real, and her reactions definitely made sense with what was being thrown at her.

I loved the characters and setting, but the plot felt a little muddy for me, mainly at the beginning and end of the novel. I was still so confused about what exactly the main organization was that I really don't see myself continuing the series. However, it was still a fun ride, and I'm glad I got to enjoy the cities the characters visited.

What did y'all read this month? Let me know in the comments! :)

(P.S. If you want to see what I'm reading now - and what books I'm totally excited for - check out my Goodreads!)
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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snow Week


What a week this has been, y'all.

On Sunday evening, after Mom and Dad and my good friend Isaac and I had our epic Shovels & Rope weekend, it was as though ALL the snow came down on Franklin. We usually get a big snow around January/February, and since Mom and I missed the first snow in January while we were in California (btw, I'm glad I was there instead), I was actually excited to see some really good snow in my hometown.

Little did I know that the snow would stick around all week. I feel blessed to be able to work from home, but I have a ton of respect for folks who had to get out in the icy weather, including my Dad, doctors and nurses (I have a few nursing friends), my friends currently in college, and the people who work for the state who salt the roads (including one of my best friends' dad and a family friend of ours).

Last year, I documented the snow day I had while I was a senior in college. I was going to do the same thing on here, but I had no idea that the snow would last as long as it did. (On a side note, my alma mater basically canceled class for full and half-days all week. Awesome!)

So, I thought I'd write out the highlights of this week and share them with y'all. :)

  • The snow is gorgeous. I've only seen maybe five inches in my whole life, I absolutely love the way it looks. The picture above is through my bedroom window.
  • On Tuesday (international pancake day!), Dad actually closed work due to weather for the first time in years, so we enjoyed pancakes and bacon that day. It was AWESOME and I loved every minute of it.
  • I've just had a lot of fun with my family this week in general. And I've gotten some writing work done. Yay!
  • Oh, and I discovered that Nashville in the snow is really, really pretty.

If there's ice where you live, please drive safe and stay warm!
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Monday, February 16, 2015

The Shovels & Rope Weekend

press play to listen while you read.

This past weekend is one we've been planning over the past couple months or so. Mom and Dad were able to buy these concert tickets, and since we had an extra, I invited one of my good friends over (who I actually used to work with during my year at my college radio station!) to go to a concert on February 14th at the Ryman Auditorium performed by the rockabilly band Shovels & Rope.

Our adventure began with a great dinner at Noshville, then progressed over to Barista Parlor Golden Sound for coffee and dessert. I've raved about Barista Parlor before on this blog, and my thoughts on the new location are no different. The atmosphere is so much fun, and the coffee is fabulous (I ordered a blend with Apricot notes). I also finally got to try one of their homemade pop tarts!



Then, came my very first visit to the Ryman Auditorium in a Nashville. Known as the "mother church" of Country music, this converted church has to be the coolest concert venue I've ever been to. The entire building is gorgeous, from the layout to the vintage elements to the epic historic aspects that make this place a "must-do" if you ever want to visit Nashville. I just couldn't believe that I'd never been there before that night.




Shovels & Rope were absolutely incredible. The floor was literally rumbling during certain songs they played. Their stage presence is something you could feel, even rows back from the stage. The concert was an absolute blast, and I would definitely go see them again. I definitely recommend their music; I'd say their sound is a mix between The Civil Wars and the Avett Brothers, with a good dose of rock to keep things interesting.

I had originally heard about this band from my mom, who'd been a fan of them for months now. We have similar tastes in music, so it wasn't hard for me to jump on the bandwagon, too. To go even farther back, we actually know one of the directors of "The Ballad of Shovels & Rope", the documentary about the band that really set their work in motion.



Going to this concert definitely made want to come back to the Ryman. The atmosphere was amazing, and I can't wait until my next visit! :)


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Friday, February 13, 2015

Daytripping: Columbia & Florence & the Alabama Chanin Workshop

Hey, y'all! :)

Today, my mom and I embarked on an adventure. It involved waking up at 6:15 in the morning, before the sun even rose, and later involved a Pumpkin Spice latte and starting a sewing project in another state.

This is the story of that day trip. And these are some Instagrams from Mom and I.

Part 1: Columbia


The reason why Mom and I got up so early was so that we would have the time to try out a coffee place we'd never visited before. It's called Muletown, and it's a really fun little coffee shop. If you're in the area, I recommend stopping by here for a latte and a blueberry muffin. Plus, it's across the street from the Puckett's down there!

Part 2: The Alabama Chanin Workshop @ Florence

After we stopped by Muletown, we drove the next hour and twenty minutes all the way to Florence, Alabama to the Alabama Chanin studio. It's a beautiful drive from Middle Tennessee across the Alabama state line.



Once we got to the studio, we got to learn - from Natalie Chanin,  the founder and seamstress behind the studio and great handmade clothes - how to sew "reverse applique" style, where you sew outside a pre-painted guide into two layers of fabric, then cut a hole in the top layer to reveal the fabric underneath. Alabama Chanin clothes are very well known (in fact, Rosanne Cash loves her pieces!).



We learned the sewing techniques to get us started on our respective kits/projects (I started on an infinity scarf, and Mom got a t-shirt kit), and then, it was time for an amazing lunch. The Alabama Chanin studio also doubles as a restaurant, and I had the best fried bologna sandwich with habanero chips. 



Oh, and beverages were served in mason jars. I drank sweet tea out of mine. Yes, I am from the South. ;)

And then Mom and I sang along and air-guitared to Green Day and Journey all the way home. :) Great memories all around.

Mom, Natalie Chanin, and I

I hope y'all enjoyed reading about this little adventure! :)
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

An Instagram Roundup of a Whole Lot of Coffee


1. I am obsessed with my Minnie and Emma phone case. It reminds me so much of California and Florida, and it makes me super, super happy. (Plus, I love anything monogrammed. ;] )

2. I am still loving espresso. I've had so much fun experimenting with different flavors for our Nespresso machine. My current favorites are Vanillo (vanilla), Caramelito (caramel), Mint Chocolate, and Hazelnut.

3. Blog planning is fun. These are my tools of the trade: a blog planner by Heart and Arrow Design (which has made planning out posts for a full week so easy; plus, I love that it's by a blogger for bloggers!), and 365 Blog Topic Ideas: For the Lifestyle Blogger Who Has Nothing to Write About by Dana Fox of The Wonder Forest (I use this as a reference to jump-start my blog writing if I don't have an idea already).

4. Mom and Dad and I went to Puckett's last week, and it was so much fun, as per usual. Their breakfast is the absolute best, and their coffee is some of the best I've ever had. Definitely stop by Puckett's if you're in Middle Tennessee!

5. Harvey is adorable.

6. This is my favorite issue that we've done at Think Magazine so far. If you want to check out the magazine, check out Focus Press here.

7. Did I mention how much I've been loving espresso lately?

8. One of my favorite lunch places in Franklin is Puffy Muffin. They have the best soups and casseroles, and the ginger tea (pictured here) is a fabulous tea punch that I get pretty much every time I come there to eat. They also have a great bakery filled with sweet and savory things.

9. Last, but not least, Starbucks has put heart-shaped check boxes on their coffee cups. This is the most adorable thing I've seen them do with their drink cups; it's subtle, but it's a sweet detail that makes me super happy when I see it. (Can they do this all the time?)
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Monday, February 9, 2015

What to Wear on Valentine's Day

Hey, y'all! :)

So, Valentine's Day is coming up. SO much happens on that day: giving out candy and cards, spending time with loved ones, enjoying the excitement (and all the red and pink!), and - my personal favorite part - celebrating my grandfather's birthday! I love this time of year, just because most everyone is so positive and happy. I see Valentine's Day as the perfect time to celebrate and love everybody, whether that's a best friend, a significant other, or a family member.

Regardless of whether or not you have plans for the day, I put together four outfits that'll fit whatever the day has in store for you. :)

What to Wear on Valentine's Day



Outfit #1: The LBD

This entire outfit centers around any little black dress you may have. LBDs are so incredibly versatile, and there's a style out there for everybody. Pair your LBD with red or pink shoes and fun statement earrings to take your look into date night or girls' night.

Outfit #2: Candy Pink

The bright pink dress makes for a fun outfit that can take you into a wide variety of occasions, from parties to nights out. Pair this bright dress with neutral flats and jewelry.

Outfit #3: Spun Sugar Casual

Not planning a night out on Valentines' Day? No problem. Get festive for the day with your favorite pair of jeans and sparkly flats. Add a pale pink t-shirt and statement necklace for a casual look that would be great for a fun Saturday brunch and/or coffee with your girls, your family, or your significant other.

Outfit #4: Warm n' Fuzzy Night In

Want to stay in and watch some romantic comedies? This outfit will be perfect for that. Pair a fun sweatshirt with comfy jeans and comfy slippers. Then, just pop some popcorn, pull up Netflix, and get the Valentines' party started!

What are you wearing this Valentines' Day? Let me know in the comments!
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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Philippians 4:13


To say I had a busy week this past week was an understatement.

I took on a couple of really neat writing projects that were both entertaining and challenging. I had never written scripts before, but I wound up having fun with both projects, and was excited to try something new. Was it worth the effort? Oh yes. I had an absolute blast helping out with the production of one of the scripts (my church's youth group performed it for a Valentine's banquet they put on every year, and they did a FANTASTIC job!), and I loved spending time with my church family along the way.

When I look back on my busy week, I think of Philippians 4:13. I also think of the quote I've seen floating around Pinterest: "it always seems impossible until it's done." Whenever I've worried about something - no matter what it is - I always find that leaning on God helps me out. This week, I've learned that it's great to challenge yourself, but it's also great to seek out new ways to serve others.

I hope y'all have a happy and wonderful Sunday!
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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thoughts on Pages #15: Girl Online


Girl Online by Zoe Sugg (better known as Zoella on YouTube) is a coming-of-age novel that's received quite a bit of buzz over the past few months (I'll be talking about this buzz at the end of my review, but just know that it has nothing to do with what I thought of the story itself).

This book was an interesting one. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but I did find some things about it that irked me just a bit.

(There may be spoilers in the "My Thoughts" section of this review.)

Storyline

"From YouTube sensation Zoella comes a debut coming-of-age novel that perfectly captures what it means to grow up and fall in love in today’s digital world. Girl Online is the first book to be published by Keywords Press, an imprint under Simon & Schuster dedicated to today’s digital stars.

I have this dream that, secretly, all teenage girls feel exactly like me. And maybe one day, when we realize that we all feel the same, we can all stop pretending we’re something we’re not. That would be awesome. But until that day, I’m going to keep it real on this blog and keep it unreal in “real” life.

Penny has a secret. 

Under the alias GirlOnline, Penny blogs her hidden feelings about friendship, boys, high school drama, her quirky family, and the panic attacks that have begun to take over her life. When things go from bad to worse at school, her parents accept an opportunity to whisk the family away for Christmas at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. There, she meets Noah, a gorgeous, guitar-strumming American. Suddenly Penny is falling in love—and capturing every moment she spends with “Brooklyn Boy” on her blog.

But Noah has a secret, too, one that threatens to ruin Penny’s cover—and her closest friendship—forever.

Award-winning and influential YouTube vlogger Zoe Sugg delivers a heartfelt coming-of-age novel that perfectly captures the highs and lows of first love, friendship, and growing up in the digital age."

(From Amazon)

Characters

The main characters are actually quite well-written, especially Penny. Her actions make sense for her age (she's 15-16), and she's believable. Her anxiety is also handled very well and with great care, and it's nice to see that her family is very supportive of her and make sure that she's okay whenever she's in stressful situations.

The side characters are nice, but are okay in terms of any kind of development. We only really get to meet and get to know Penny, her family, Elliot (Penny's best guy friend), Noah (the boy she meets in New York), his family, Meghan (Penny's childhood best friend who's been acting different these days...read: mean) and Ollie (Penny's high school crush).

The romance is very, very sweet on the page, and I was grinning at a lot of moments in this book. :) That being said, though, the way it panned out felt a little hard to believe.

Setting

The story takes place in Brighton, England (where Zoella actually lives) and New York City. I enjoyed both of these settings, and thought they were written quite well.

There was one thing that irked me, though. One character is from the South, and she talked about Charleston, South Carolina. However, it was spelled "Charlston" in the book. I'm wondering if this was a typo, or if this is how they'd spell it if it were a city in England? (If you're from the UK and are reading this, let me know in the comments, please? :] ) That was really the editor in me nitpicking, though. I really did enjoy the setting.

My Thoughts

Okay. I know that many authors write what they know, and I understand that it's a good idea to do so (in fact, I've followed that principle in short stories I've dabbled in/written). However, I kind of had a feeling that this would be taken literally in Girl Online...and sure enough, I was right. 

Girl Online is about a girl who starts out writing a blog, which takes her on grand, but crazy adventures. Zoella also started out as a blogger...see where I'm going? (Also, YouTube is involved in the story in a huge way, which I'd called from the beginning). This same thing happened with Beneath the Glitter, written by sisters and YouTubers Elle and Blair Fowler, but even more so.

The story itself was a lot of fun to read. In fact, it read like a romantic comedy for the first 3/4 of the novel. However, the ending (about the last 80 pages or so) felt so, so rushed for some reason. Maybe it was the twist ending? 

Overall, I give Girl Online by Zoe Sugg four photos on film out of five. It was a fun, easy read, and I have a feeling that younger audiences will really enjoy it, too.

My Extended Thoughts on Ghostwriting

I wanted to keep this separate from the main review, just because I don't think that the news surrounding this novel affected the way I viewed at the story. In fact, I read it after all of the news came out that this book is partially ghostwritten.

Now, according to the article I linked above, Zoe created the characters and story, but I'm not sure how much of the plot was ghostwritten. Regardless, I don't have a problem with ghostwritten novels; if a personality or celebrity needs help in writing a project like a novel, it totally makes sense to hire that help. I feel like the only reason this is really gaining such massive press is because of Zoe's popularity on YouTube. I can understand younger girls thinking that Zoe didn't "write" the book, but I'm also glad that the press I've is explaining that ghostwriting is perfectly normal and actually commonplace. Personally, I'm just happy that Zoe at least came up with the characters and story. 

Did you read Girl Online? What do you think of the practice of ghostwriting?

Also, if you want to see what I'm reading right now and what I'm into, come on over to my Goodreads page! Also, feel free to leave any recommendations in the comments. :)
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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Let It Be Love

Whenever I feel stressed about something - a project, a busy schedule, whatever - I find that prayer, reading my favorite verses (or reading through one of my favorite books in the Bible), and Christian music are great pick-me-ups and help me feel so much more at peace.

Yesterday, while I was working, I found this amazing song by Family Force 5. I found it in a playlist on Spotify, but when I did, it made me so happy.

Here's the song:


And here are the lyrics:

"I've never seen a soul set free
Through an argument 
I've never seen a hurt get healed
In a protest
But I've seen sinners turned to saints
Because of grace
It's love, love that lights the w
Love that lights the way

Let it be a heart wide open
Bigger than the words we've spoken
Let it be a heart for the broken
If we're gonna light, light
Light the way
Let it be love, let it be love, yeah
Nothin' but love, nothin' but love, yeah
Let it be love, let it be love, yeah 
It's love that lights the way

It's not about the stand we take
But the grace we give
It's not about the name we make
But the life we live
Heard about a King who sat down
Took my place
True love gave His life away
It's love that lights the way

Let it be a heart wide open
Bigger than the words we've spoken
Let it be a heart for the broken
If we're gonna light, light
Light the way
Let it be love, let it be love, yeah
Nothin' but love, nothin' but love, yeah
Let it be love, let it be love, yeah 
It's love that lights the way

Stronger than every fear
Comfort for all the tears
It's where the war is run
And it has overcome
Louder than the loudest shout
Deeper than the deepest doubt
We'll watch the walls fall down
We'll watch the walls fall down

Let it be a heart wide open
Bigger than the words we've spoken
Let it be a heart for the broken
If we're gonna light, light
Light the way
Let it be love, let it be love, yeah
Nothin' but love, nothin' but love, yeah
Let it be love, let it be love, yeah 
It's love that lights the way

It's love that lights the way

Yeah, Love that lights the way"

(from azlyrics.com)

I absolutely love what this song talks about. Regardless of what happens, God gave all of us the great gift of salvation, grace, and His love, and that's ultimately what matters.

If you're having a stressful week, I hope this helps you out!

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Anticipated Movie Releases

Let's talk movies, y'all. :)

I've been seeing trailers pop up all over the place over the last few months, from theater screens with friends to YouTube links. Some I'm slightly skeptical about, but others, I'm SO pumped for. In this post, I want to talk about the latter.

Jupiter Ascending

You know those action movies that just look really cool? This seems to be one of those movies. I have a soft spot for sci-fi/adventure stories, and this one actually looks like it'll pretty good. The cast also looks good, too (Eddie Redmayne is currently one of my favorite actors right now, too...it'll be interesting to see how he plays the villain).

Seventh Son
I also have a soft spot for medieval fantasy. This one looks excellent already, and the fact that it's a book-to-movie adaptation is exciting, too (even though it's gone through significant changes, like aging up the protagonist, a title change, and other such things). It almost reminds me of "Stardust".

The Fantastic Four


I had to plug in the trailer. It's that good.

I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS, Y'ALL. I actually didn't mind the first version of this movie, but I am so pumped to see how the reboot comes together. Plus, I'm excited to see how everyone being younger (around mid-20s, I'm wildly guessing) affects the story, too. AND the cast looks fabulous already!

Really, the best part of this trailer is that you see hints of things that pass by in seconds: the hint of the flash of the Human Torch, the hint what happens in the fateful science experiment/radiation exposure, the hint of Thing arising from rubble, and the hint of Mr. Fantastic's elastic arm outstretched. Very cool.

What movies are you excited for this year?

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Monday, February 2, 2015

A Five-Product Face

While I was browsing through blog posts on my Bloglovin' feed, I found this post by Allison Anderson on how she would do a "5 Product Face". I absolutely LOVED this idea, so I thought it'd be fun to create one of my own.

This set is actually based on what I wore while I was in Southern California (where desert temperatures can really dry your skin), and it all worked really well. :) These days, I'd use this formula if I had to be somewhere quickly, or if I slept late.


A Five-Product Face




1. Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream - This is the BB Cream I've been using for years. It's easy to find, wonderful to use, and can be layered up if need be.

2. Too Faced Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar Palette using "Butter Pecan" - This is a warm tawny color that I'd wear all over my eyelids (with primer, but that can be skipped if I really need to run out the door).

3. Too Faced Lash Injection Mascara - I'm actually on my fourth tube of this stuff. Fourth. That's how much I love this mascara; it's the only one I've seen that truly doesn't flake off or give me panda eyes by the end of the day.

4. Benefit Gimme Brow - These days, I've been all about defined brows, but I don't use pencil at all (plus I've had one too many bad experiences with wax...I had a pretty bad allergic reaction to some oil used after I had my brows groomed). So, I tame my brows using this brow gel, and I'm happy with the results. It's nice to use in a pinch, too.

5. Benefit PosieBalm - I owned LolliBalm first (which is kind of a lavender/orchid-tinted balm), and then picked this and BeneBalm up after I absolutely loved using the former. PosieBalm has a very sweet pink tint that's versatile and goes with everything.

How would you do a five-product face?
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