June 24, 2016

friday favorites #26: week of june 24, 2016

I think I'm settling pretty comfortably into an every-other-Friday Favorites pattern! Here are some things I've been enjoying over the last couple weeks:

1. Cleaning

If you know me, you know cleaning is never one of the top things on my to-do list. But last weekend, the bug hit me, and I'm so glad it did! I moved into my house almost three years ago, and I still had several boxes that I never unpacked. So I did it. And I rearranged. And I hung pictures. And my parents came to haul out my old electric stove that's been sitting there ever since my dad put in my gas stove last summer. Now I'm loving my back storage room--and so are the cats! I should have done this months (years?) ago.

2. So Delicious Chocolate Coconut Milk "Ice Cream."
I have been completely craving ice cream lately, but I'm still basically dairy free. (I do goat and sheep cheese, but no cow dairy yet.) At Walmart last weekend, I decided to see what kind of diary free treats they might have--and I found this! It still has some ingredients I'm not crazy about, but I can live with them. At $5 for a pint, it's expensive, but it's SOOOO worth it for a treat every now and again! And no, it doesn't taste like ice cream, more like a fudgesicle ... but I can live with that!

3. Eggs
Eggs may seem like an odd choice for a favorite, but bear with me! Eggs are not allowed on AIP, the diet I began in September in an effort to reclaim my health. It worked wonderfully (I know, a full post about this is needed!), and I'm feeling better than I've felt in years. Early on in the reintroduction process, I tried eggs, and it didn't go well. But I recently tried again, and eggs have become my new best friend, especially since it's too hot to turn on the oven most of the time. So I'm praising God for better health and for the incredible, edible egg!

4. Spotlight
I've wanted to watch Spotlight ever since it first started generating awards buzz. It showed up on Netflix two days ago, and I watched it right away.

It. Is. Fantastic.

The plot centers around the Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the extent of the Catholic Church's priest abuse coverup. In some ways, it reminded me of All the President's Men, and that's definitely a good thing. The film is rated R for language, and it includes some very uncomfortable discussions about molestation. But I also think it's a film worth watching.

5. Mended Hearts series by Varina Denman
This week's book recommendation is actually a series: Jaded, Justified, and Jilted. These novels tell the story of a small Texas town, dealing with issues like unplanned pregnancy, abuse, infidelity, mental illness, and corruption within the church. I know that makes this series sound like a serious downer, but it's really so good! I read all three books this week, not because I had to (I'm on a tour for Jilted but not the other two) but because I wanted to. This is some excellent writing! You can check out my review of Jilted (the others will soon follow) here.

As usual, I'm linking up with Erika, Christina, and Karli. What are some things you've been enjoying this week?

June 16, 2016

six weeks with morrocco method

For a while now, I've been searching for a solution to my ever thinning hair. I have the double whammy of Hashimoto's disease and PCOS, both of which can cause hair loss. I've also been moving toward the natural side of things as I attempt to reclaim my health. When I saw an ad for Morrocco Method on one of the blogs I follow, I decided to check it out. I could find nothing but rave reviews (which actually made me even more skeptical), but as it was cheaper than Monat, the shampoo brand I'd been using with some success, I decided to give it a go. I settled on the Healthy Hair Starter Package. At $69, it's a good chunk of change, but I thought it would give me the best taste of what the company had to offer.
Day 1: Used "Earth" shampoo, Diamond spray conditioner, and Blood of the Tiger gel. Shampoo smells horrible. My hair dried much faster than normal today. It also seems dull and lifeless. I also used my normal hair spray to finish off my style--not sure I could go without hair spray on a rainy day like today.

Day 10: My hair is a nasty grease ball. It has been ever since Day 2. I've rotated the shampoos like is recommended, but my hair never feels clean. They talk about a "detox process" on their website, so I guess that's what is happening to me. But YUCK! I'd throw in the towel if I hadn't paid so much for the system. So I'll stick it out for my month, I guess. Also, I should note that I'm not using any product anymore except what came with the system. And I should note that we took our yearbook staff picture for this year's yearbook today ... so the grease will be immortalized.

Day 11: I used the Zen Detox Masque tonight. Honestly, it felt like I was slathering mud on my hair. BUT, after I rinsed it out and my hair dried, the top of my head felt so much less greasy! I'm not going to shampoo tomorrow--it's Saturday, and I don't need to go anywhere--so we'll see where things stand on Sunday. I also watched a bunch of Morrocco Method videos on YouTube tonight. I probably should have watched them long ago--lots of helpful information about brushing and using that weird rubber massager that came with the kit!

Day 15: Got my hair cut today. As usual, my stylist washed it and then styled it with lots of product afterward. After using Zen Detox, my hair felt way less oily, but now it feels downright dry. Hope I'm not taking a step backwards ...

Day 30: So I took a major break from posting, but this is SO. WEIRD. My hair has become super curly! I've always had natural curl, but this is ridiculous.

I decided to continue beyond the initial month because I still had shampoo left. It's now been six weeks. So, what are my thoughts? I think my hair is healthier. The curls have backed off some, and there are times that my hair still feels greasy. I now wash every 2-3 days instead of every day. (On the off days, I still get my hair wet in the shower, I just don't wash it.)

What I haven't noticed is a slowdown in hair loss or new hair growth--two things I am positive were happening with Monat. So I'm still on the fence. I like Morrocco Method (except for the smell, which isn't terrible, but it's certainly not pleasant), but I'm not sure if it's the answer I've been looking for.

June 10, 2016

friday favorites #25: week of june 10, 2016

1. Lois & Clark
I started rewatching Lois & Clark while I was yearbooking.

I got completely hooked ... to the point that one night, after watching about four episodes, I dreamed I was planning my wedding to Dean Cain. It is seriously the celebrity crush that never dies!

I'm currently in season three, and I'm loving it! Also, watching Lois & Clark just brings to light how much the TV landscape has changed in the last 20 years. For example, Lois & Clark don't sleep together until after their wedding; in fact, Clark is a virgin when they marry. When was the last time a TV couple saved sex for marriage? I can't think of any examples. (I'm sure they're out there--so let me know in the comments if you think of one!)

2. NBA Finals
I'm absolutely 100% pulling for the Golden State Warriors. I couldn't care less about the NBA during the regular season, but I always enjoy watching the playoffs, and I just love the Warriors!

Game 3 wasn't much fun to watch (you Cavs fans probably disagree with me), but hopefully it gave the Warriors the push they need to wrap this thing up in two more games.

3. Reading for the INSPY Awards

I can't really talk about these books yet, but I'm immersed in the five selections I'm reading as a judge for the contemporary romance/romantic suspense category of the INSPYs. When I do INSPY reading, I try to block off a chunk of time when I can read one whole book, so I can just immerse myself in the author's world. (It helps that I'm a very fast reader!) You can see the short listed books in all of the categories here. I've read many of them, and I can't wait to find out which books win!

4. Gardening
I know, I know--this was a favorite last time. But I'm SO enjoying my plants!
Please ignore the grass that so obviously needs to be mowed and the weeds that need to be pulled!

I even had my first cilantro a few days ago!

This week, I decided to branch out in my gardening, and I purchased some hostas (and a couple other plants)! They came in the mail today, so I know what I'll be doing this weekend!
Here's hoping I can be more like my father than my mother when it comes to keeping plants alive! (My track record isn't so good.)

5. Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin is one of my top three authors. I absolutely devour everything she writes, and her latest book, Anchor in the Storm, released last month. It is fantastic. Set during World War II, it follows a young pharmacist who uncovers a drug ring that seems to be centered around the pharmacy she works at. Plus, there's great romance. Here's part of what I said in my review:
Anchor in the Storm is a book that will captivate you from beginning to end while transporting you into the fascinating world of Boston during World War II. I loved every second I spent reading it, and I almost wish I could start it all over again!
Go here to see the rest of my review.

As usual, I'm linking up with Erika, Christina, and Karli. What are some things you've been enjoying this week?

June 8, 2016

stranded: netflix edition

Well, this month's edition of Shay & Erika's "Stranded With" totally snuck up on me. But seeing as I'm all about Netflix (and Hulu, and Amazon Prime), it didn't take me very long to pick my three shows for the Netflix edition :-)

1. Friends

I have a long history with Friends, which premiered when I was in junior high. (Don't do the math ...) When my mom caught me watching it, she banned it, and I basically stayed away from it until college, when I caught an episode here and there. Back when I had cable, I'd often watch an episode or two on Nick at Night before going to bed. I ended up buying the whole series a couple years ago ... but now that Friends is on Netflix, it's just too easy to binge! My sister is currently watching for the first time, and we often chat about what she's seeing. Today, she finally (FINALLY) got to one of my very favorite episodes: "The One Where Everybody Finds Out."

Anyway, if I was stranded on a deserted island, I'd definitely want to have my Friends with me!


I mean, of course! If I'm stranded on a deserted island, why not watch a show about people stranded on a deserted island? Besides, I would love to experience the series again--I haven't watched since it aired, and I'm sure there's a ton I've forgotten!

3. Friday Night Lights

Because becoming stranded might be the only thing that would actually get me to finish this series! (I've tried. Multiple times. And I've liked what I've seen. I think I'm stuck in the middle of season three, but it's been two years since I watched an episode.)

Now my honorable mentions--these almost made the cut:

  • NCIS
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Psych
  • Monarch of the Glen

What three Netflix shows would you want to have access to on a deserted island?

June 4, 2016

read with us: a book we'd previously abandoned

It's June 4, and I'm finally getting around to posting our May book check-in! Some people *cough* Val & Steph *cough* didn't have their reviews written by the end of the month, and then when they did all come in, my computer was tied up streaming the NBA Finals. Yes, I'm one of the few people in the US who doesn't have ABC. Thank goodness ESPN is streaming the finals! (I'm a Warriors fan, by the way. Not during the season--I pay ZERO attention to the regular season--but definitely during the playoffs.) Anyway, on to our books!

Our category this month was Books You've Previously Abandoned.

A Singular & Whimsical Problem by Rachel McMillan
Becky says: When I saw this category, I thought, "Yes! This is when I will finally read Pride and Prejudice!" See, I started reading P & P as a junior in high school, but I got bogged down in the middle and didn't finish. True confession: I love all of the Austen adaptations, but I've never finished reading one of her books. "But May will be my month!" Wrong. May is the month when my yearbook is due to the publisher. May is the month when I purposely don't line up many book reviews because of said yearbook deadline. May is the month when reading for pleasure (or watching TV or doing practically anything except yearbook) doesn't happen. So how on earth could I find time to read Pride & Prejudice?

I couldn't. I didn't. Instead, I read a novella (a very, very short novella) that I'd started before Christmas: A Singular & Whimsical Problem by Rachel McMillan.

A Singular & Whimsical Problem introduces readers to Merinda Herringford and Jemima Watts, female detectives in 1910 Toronto. In this novella, the duo is hired by the wife of one of the city's prominent businessmen ... to find her missing cat. As they search for the cat, they stumble upon corruption and danger while getting into scrape after scrape after scrape.

I'll be honest: When I initially got this novella (which I won in a giveaway), I immediately started reading ... and then gave up after about 10 pages. I just wasn't that interested. But then I read the first full-length Herringford & Watts novel, The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder, and I was completely charmed. I knew I should give A Singular & Whimsical Problem another chance.

Unfortunately, I'm still not a fan of this novella. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but it's not as witty (or downright hilarious) as The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder. In fact, aside from the characters being the same, it doesn't feel anything like the novel. My two favorite aspects of the novel, the footnotes and the excerpt quotes that begin each chapter, are not present in this novella, and I miss them.

Another oddity is that A Singular and Whimsical Problem takes place during The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder. It just seems like a strange way to introduce the Herringford & Watts series. So here's what it comes down to: I am all in when it comes to McMillan's Herringford & Watts novels. But the future novellas? I think I'll skip them. 3 stars.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Susan says: This month I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  This is a fabulous book...full of descriptions of places and situations I have never seen or experienced, but so beautifully voiced that it almost seemed familiar.

The book tells the story of two young Asian Americans, a Japanese girl and a Chinese boy. They meet 1942 in an elementary school in Seattle, where they become fast friends, despite the extreme hatred of the Chinese father toward the Japanese. The boy does not understand his father, and they can barely communicate.

Other very interesting characters, such as Mrs. Beatty the school lunch lady, and Sheldon, the jazz saxophone player who worked the street corner playing for pocket change, play important roles in the story.

The book begins in 1986 when Henry Lee, now an adult with a grown son, sees a Japanese parasol that has been stored since the 1940's in Seattle's boarded up Panama Hotel. In a series of flashbacks, we learn about him and his sweet friend, Keiko Okabe and their families. The Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes and were held in internment camps, and Henry and Keiko make promises to each other which were impossible to keep.

I heartily recommend this book. The scenes described in it will remain with you long after you close it. 5 stars.

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
Steph says: You know what makes finishing books hard? Moving and graduations. Did I finish my book? Nope. Will I finish it this month and read another one? Yes. This month I got half way through Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. I had started it previously and put it down because packing and the aforementioned moving at the end of last month. I picked it up again this month and absolutely love it. Shauna believes that life happens around the table. Her philosophy is simple: don’t worry about looking perfect, just invite people into your home. “I’m not talking about cooking as performance, or entertaining as complicated choreography of competition and showing off. I’m talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just for a few hours, from the crush and cruelty of the day.” One of the best things in life is cooking with love for the people you love. She and I have this passion in common. She weaves tales of her life in with recipes from those stories. You can almost hear the searing of meat in the pan and laughter of loved ones.

I’m reading this book once straight through and then I’m going to go back and try the recipes.  I’ll keep you posted over at my blog of how those go (when I actually get settled and have time to cook again). 5 stars (for the chapters I’ve finished so far….)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Val says: This month, I read two books in the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer – Cress and Winter. Rather than reviewing those, though, I’m going to focus on the first book in the series, Cinder.

The Lunar Chronicles reimagines several well-known fairy-tales and places them in a futuristic setting.  (If I had to identify the genre of these books, it’s probably YA/Sci-Fi. But don’t hold that against them.) Cinder, the title character of the first book, is the reimagination of Cinderella…as a cyborg mechanic in New Beijing.  I started this book last fall, read a few paragraphs (literally, that was all), and thought, “Nope. I’m out.”  But I’d already bought the kindle version, so it just sat there, waiting.  Then, this winter, I happened to be between books and checked out what I had on my kindle. Lo and behold, there was Cinder.  I decided to just give it another glance, and I am SO GLAD that I did! Within a few pages, I was hooked. Each book in the series introduces new (and eventually, beloved) characters that increase the enjoyment factor exponentially. At times, the series is somewhat reminiscent of the Hunger Games, but MUCH more lighthearted.  The stakes are still high, but it doesn’t quite feel as real and heavy as the Hunger Games trilogy does.  Overall, I give Cinder (and all the other books in the Lunar Chronicles) 5 stars and would HIGHLY recommend them to anyone looking for a fun and engrossing summer read.

If you've read any of these books, we'd love to know your thoughts! Be sure to join us again at the end of the month--we're reading books we've already read.

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