Counting Down to 2015

December 31, 2014

We are hours away from welcoming the new year and saying goodbye to 2014. It's been quite the year. There's a lot to be thankful for: our new site and brand re-design, Sally's engagement, our brother Scott's engagement, two successful moves, Blue Moonbeam turning one, some great trips, our friends who welcomed new babies, etc. But there were also some all time lows that happened over the past twelve months. I think I speak for both Sally and myself when I say that we are more than ready to say hey to 2015 and start the new year with a fresh start.

 

To celebrate the calendar turnover, Sal and I are going to be having a fun night with friends…one of our besties is hosting a night in with a yummy dinner, drinks, and karaoke. We’re in charge of bringing dessert (homemade ice cream and cookies for sandwiches!) and a salad. Homemade ice cream you say? The big sister and future brother-in-law gifted me with an ice cream maker and recipe book from a famous San Fran ice cream shop for Christmas and I’m a little too excited to make my first batch of sweetness. This type of NYE is totally in line with our homebody style and we can’t wait to make merry and get happy.

No matter who you’re spending tonight, we’d like to wish you all a cheers to the new year…may your night ringing in 2015 be full of kisses and wishes for good resolutions. Have a safe and happy night!

P.S. Don’t forget that today is the last day to get $50 off your purchase from Ellie Jay Jewels when you spend $200 or more! Use the code “APOT50” to redeem!

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Toast Talk

December 30, 2014

I didn't realize it had been so long since the Toast Talk that shared my latest reads until I went back and looked...July 21?! I think that since five months have passed between then and now means that it's time for another update on the titles that have been keeping me engaged and staying up extra late. A little secret: I like to do these recaps as much for you guys (in hopes that the "recommendations" are welcome for your own bookshelves) as I do for myself (it makes me think back on each story and what I liked about the writing, characters, etc.). If you all have any recent books you have read and loved - and I hope that you do - please share what they are so I can add them to my growing "must read" list!

 

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: Both Grace and Hitha – two voracious readers – recommended this trilogy and since I’m not one to shy away from a storyline that surrounds the supernatural (I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and read the Twilight saga) I tore into the first of the three novels by Harkness and couldn’t put it town. Somewhat similar to the aforementioned tales of magical being, this storyline is about witches, vampires, and demons (a new being for me!) that all exist among each other in plain sight of humans. Unlike the other tales, there is a scientific nature to the story that really hooked me…for the first time, I could picture how it could be possible for all the creatures to be a real part of life. Don’t laugh – just read the book if you’re into history and magic. There’s also a nice little love story. I’ve been putting off getting the other two books (Shadow of Night and The Book of Life) before I read through all my other iPad library purchases but I can’t wait to see where the story goes sooner rather than later.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman: This book was both interesting and torturous for me at the same time. Waldman writes about Nate and his love affairs (obviously) and his inflated since of self as he is living in New York and freelance wiring while patting himself on the back for selling his first book. Most of the story is about his relationship with a girl named Hannah – she’s a writer like he is and one of the first women he has dated to challenge and engage him on an intellectual level. But the way he treats this woman…it’s just awful. I don’t know if Waldman was meaning to make female readers associate with or detest Nate but I wanted to reach through the pages and slap him several times. Ultimately, I’m glad I read the novel because it was a reminder of how painful relationships can be if we let them. It was also nice to read a twentysomething “romance” from male perspective.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: I had heard good things about this story but had no notion of what it was about. I think I was expecting a documentary-style tale rather than the fun plot about Rachel, an American-born Asian, dating Nick, a native of one of Singapore’s top families. The young couple go to Singapore for a wedding and Rachel has no idea what she is in for – Nick’s family (which she has never met and knows nothing about) is crazy rich, full of crazy gossips, and they are crazy manipulative of the romance he has with “un-worthy” Rachel. Having been born in Singapore himself makes Kwan the perfect narrator for this scandalous and fun read. So happy there’s going to be a sequel to this fun and easy novel!

Gemini by Carol Cassella: Gemini is one of the constellations of the zodiac – the name is Latin for “twins” and the story is associated with twins Castor and Pollux in Greek mythology. So, knowing this before even starting the book, I was wondering how the “twin” aspect would come into play. Cassella tells two stories at once – one about a modern-day intensive care doctor working to save a Jane Doe patient who is hanging onto life but impossible to identify and another about a young girl growing up in rural Washington state and how her childhood and adulthood was formed by her summertime friendship with a Seattle city boy. I don’t want to give away the connection between the two tales but I will say that the reason for the name comes into focus in an unbelievable way (truly) and that I really enjoyed the descriptive writing and dual narrative voice.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn: I’ve read Gone Girl and talked about Flynn’s other novel, Dark Places, in this post – but Sharp Objects is very different from her other two works. This is Flynn’s first novel and it is dark and twisted as her second books. Unlike the others which alternate chapters to be from perspectives of different characters or during different time frames, this one is told from the voice of Camille – a beautiful but deeply troubled journalist sent back to her small hometown of Wind Gap, MO to cover a string of child murders. Camille’s family is as bizarre as her town and the characters in it…as a reader you come to learn more about Camille, the sad self mutilation this is a permanent marker of her sick childhood, the closer you get to uncovering who is killing the young girls in this small community. I don’t know how Flynn does it, but her endings are always so shocking and insane and she literally saves them for the final pages. No matter how much her stories make my skin crawl, the writing and endings make them enjoyable and memorable (even though I have to sleep with the lights on when I finish).

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham: I bought this, along with the below title, in hardback when I was re-doing my room and needed some fresh books for my side table. I knew that from what little I knew of Dunham that I liked her…I also knew that there was an air of controversy surrounding this biography/memoir and wanted to see for myself what all the “fuss” was about. Here’s what I’ll tell you: I get the fuss. There were parts that made me think, “Why did you have to write that?! Omg omg omggggg.” But if you take in Denham’s memories and recounted stories for all their weirdness and don’t judge or point fingers or slowly shake your head, you’ll see what I did – a ton of really intellectual and profound nuggets of writing about how Lena feels and felt about being a woman, an outsider, a creative, a lover, a sister and daughter, etc. There were parts I underlined and paragraphs that rang so true for me – I didn’t have to personally relate to her life thus far at all to enjoy reading what she’s “learned.” I give this one a slow clap and highly suggest it.

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso: Even though this is written by Amoruso – CEO, Creative Director and founder of Nasty Gal – it’s not intended to be a biography/memoir like the above. The girlboss herself wrote the book to offer insight and advice on succeeding while being yourself and working extremely hard. What makes it such an amazing read (which it is) is how Amoruso weaves her own story – from childhood all the way to the early stages of Nasty Gal on eBay to its current seat as the fastest growing retailer in the country – into the mix of honest entrepreneurial wisdom. She tells us we aren’t special and that luck is idiotic, but explains that letting your freak flag fly and being serious about finances are equally important when it comes to being a #GIRLBOSS. I wanted to highlight this thing front to back but am currently letting Sally borrow it before I re-read it a second time and do just that. I love that it’s not about a roadmap to getting rich or being in fashion but owning your future and whatever that path and profession might be. Read it.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: Sally passed this along to me while we were home for Christmas and I finished it in 2.5 days. I don’t know if I was really bored or if the story was just really good – so I’m going to say that both factors contributed to the speedy read. That useless information aside, I did love Ng’s story of an “Oriental” American family living in conservative Ohio in 1977. The family’s second child and eldest daughter Lydia goes missing and is later found dead, at the bottom of the lake across from their home. Ng takes us through each family member’s perspective and relationship with Lydia and as a reader we start to grasp the secrets she kept from her family and why. This is much more a story of family dynamics and the racial divide of the late 70s than a murder mystery. You find out how and why Lydia was killed but not before you understand how a family that didn’t “fit” in their community also didn’t fit together at home.

Serial, Season One hosted and produced by Sarah Koenig for NPR: I know this isn’t a book but Sally and I listened to podcast series that’s on everyone’s lips during our drive to Kansas City and back to Dallas for the Christmas holiday and it managed to completely hook our attention while also keeping us awake for the 8 hours there and back. If you haven’t heard about the series, you live under a rock. Kidding. The big picture summary is this: a murder trial in 1999 sentenced a 17-year-old in Baltimore, Maryland to a life in prison. He was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend. 15 years after the trial, a family friend was still puzzling over how such a confusing story with so little evidence could have put a seemingly “golden child” behind bars and she brought the case to Sarah Koenig. Koenig spent a year researching every aspect of the case, its evidence, the trials, and every person connected to the crime (including the alleged murderer) and condensed her findings into 12 episodes. I could explain what made the case worthy for her to take on and what makes it so interesting to listen to, but I’d rather you listen to the first podcast (you can listen to and download them all here) and see what you think! Sally and I loved it.

*The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton: Similar to Anna Karenina, I tired getting into this novel and failed. There’s nothing I hate more than giving up on a book so I’m going to revisit it again – hopefully when I have a long flight or a nice stretch of lazy ready time to devote to getting hooked on the story. My biggest hurdle with it is that it’s set in 1860 and the style of speaking and conversations (as well as the way the story is being written by Catton) is hard for my brain to take in. Has anyone read it and loved it?

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Merriest Christmas

December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! This really is the most wonderful time of the year...at least for us. We hope that all of you have been holly and jolly, merry and bright, cozy and warm, and enjoying this seasonal time with friends, family, or both. Once all the presents are unwrapped, the cookies are devoured, and you've listened to as many repeats of "All I Want for Christmas is You" and "Last Christmas..." as possible - it's great to focus on what this holiday is all about - the people you spend it with.

 

Cheesiness aside, we hope you all had a great day!  xx

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