Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Club Friday-- Summer at Tiffany.

GoodReads Synopsis:  Do you remember the best summer of your life? New York City, 1945. Marjorie Jacobson and her best friend, Marty Garrett, arrive fresh from the Kappa house at the University of Iowa hoping to find summer positions as shopgirls. Turned away from the top department stores, they miraculously find jobs as pages at Tiffany & Co., becoming the first women to ever work on the sales floor--a diamond-filled day job replete with Tiffany blue shirtwaist dresses from Bonwit Teller's--and the envy of all their friends. Hart takes us back to the magical time when she and Marty rubbed elbows with the rich and famous; pinched pennies to eat at the Automat; experienced nightlife at La Martinique; and danced away their weekends with dashing midshipmen. Between being dazzled by Judy Garland's honeymoon visit to Tiffany, celebrating VJ Day in Times Square, and mingling with Cafe society, she fell in love, learned unforgettable lessons, made important decisions that would change her future, and created the remarkable memories she now shares with all of us.

My Thoughts:  This was such a cute book!  It was only 258 pages, and they were rather small with large print, so it didn't take very long to get through.  It was a really sweet story about Marjorie Jacobson's summer in New York City working at Tiffany & Co in 1945-- her first trip outside of Iowa!  I loved reading her descriptions about the city and Tiffany's and her reflections on the war.  If you're looking for a quick, light-hearted read, I recommend picking this one up!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bess.

I know that I've left you all hanging a little bit about Bess, and you haven't heard anything about us getting her on the blog or seen many pictures on Instagram since last week. And the reason for that is that sadly we don't have her anymore. I'm going to make a long story short because you really don't want the details and because it's still hard for me to talk/think about. But Donny says I need to write to help me get the sadness out, and he's right. Plus, I'm starting to get questions about her. So, I want to share what happened.
The minute we got back from Texas, we headed to pick up Bess from her foster home. We had gotten her crate, food, toys, blankets, you name it. We had some wonderful friends give us gifts galore for the girl. My parents came over that night to see her while Donny was in class.
But it became almost immediately apparent that she had some severe separation anxiety. She couldn't be left in her crate for any period of time without being destructive. Not the 20 minutes it took me to go to the Chick-Fil-A drive through for lunch one day or even the 10 minutes it took us to eat dinner in the house with her. Over night was a disaster. Half a day at work was a disaster. No matter what we gave her to keep her occupied in her crate, nothing worked. She pooped and peed in her bed, she drooled on herself, she screamed bloody murder, she tore up anything that was in the bed, and tried to claw and chew her way out. 
I felt so much guilt about leaving her when I went to work because I knew it was like torture for her. Her foster mom said that she had been used to being in a crate, but only with her four brothers. Plus, she was living in a house that had a dozen animals and two adults home with her all day. Everyone said there wasn't really anything to do that we weren't doing except let it happen and hopefully she'll adjust in a few weeks. But oh my word, the days we had her were such a nightmare that I couldn't possibly see doing it for a few more weeks. I couldn't see doing that to her for more weeks or to myself. I was already so stressed out that I didn't eat for almost two whole days, which is NOT like me. I spent more hours last week crying over her than I have for almost anything in my life-- it was that hard.
So, Donny and I made the decision that she really needed to be with a family where she wouldn't have to be crated all day and I took her back to her foster home. Donny had to go to class that night, so my parents came with me, and it was one of the saddest nights of my life and hardest things I've ever done.  I don't know how I would have made it through some days without Donny and my parents.  They were all SO incredibly supportive, and I'm so thankful for the wisdom and comfort that they gave me.  
Even now, several days later, I'm still very emotional about it. I know that it was the right decision to make, but I just miss her little face.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

From a Blizzard to Flip Flops.

Today's weekend recap post is actually from LAST week(end).  (This past weekend was fairly uneventful-- I didn't get out of my pajamas on Saturday, and it was heavenly.)

Donny and I had plans to fly to Texas on Thursday, February 13 to spend the weekend visiting with his family. But, snow had plans to fly into NC and ruin our trip. Thankfully, we fly with standby tickets, so changing our flights is usually not a problem. So, we decided that we had to move our departure up by a day to get out before the snow hit. We got up at 4am on Wednesday and made it to the airport to catch a 7:35am flight. Only a few mechanical issues, one plane change, one super-anxious husband, and two hours later, and we were in the air! And just in time too because snowflakes started lightly falling as we were taking off.

We got on a flight!
The best thing about flying is the Jamba Juice in airports!
Our flight was pretty unexciting after we got through the turbulence due to the snowstorm that was rolling in. And I did want to murder the group of teenagers in the cabin for not letting me nap very long, but whatever... We made it to Dallas where it was a balmy 55 degrees compared to the 20 degrees back in NC.  Donny's mom and her husband picked us up at DFW, and we promptly headed to the best place on earth-- aka Taco Cabana!!  (Donny was very thoughtful and suggested we go there instead of his favorite-- Whataburger.  :))
Since we flew in a day early, we really didn't have any plans for the next 24 hours, but of course there are plenty of people that were happy to come hang out with us!  Including Donny's BFF since middle school, Richie and his wife Akasha.  They're such fun people to hang out with, and they took us out to dinner that night.
  I was SO tempted to try the calf fries since I've heard they're really delicious, but I just couldn't do it.  And if you don't know what calf fries are, google it...
Thursday, we went to Donny's favorite place in the whole world, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (which will NEVER be Globe Life Park in our house).  
And then to his second favorite place, Whataburger.
That afternoon and evening was spent visiting more family and friends.  And perhaps poking a little fun at our NC friends and family, who were getting 6-8" of snow while I was enjoying my flip flops in 60+ degrees!
Friday was Valentine's Day, but we also didn't have a whole lot planned before after lunch.  So while Donny went to "run errands" for his sister, I got a quiet morning to myself in his grandparents' house (where we stay when we go to TX) since they were gone too.  We went to pick up his mom at work and take her to lunch and then to see Winter's Tale.  I was a little disappointed in it.  I knew it was a fantasy story, so I was ready for the fantastical nature of it, but it was just too cheesy for me.  And it turned out to be a very different story than what you think it is about halfway through.  I'd say it's worth a redbox, but not a theater visit. 
Friday night, Donny and I had a romantic dinner at a delicious Italian place.
Lobster ravioli-- mmmm... so good!
Then we went to the Liberty Hotel, where Donny had booked us a room for the night!  It was so nice to sleep in a big, comfy bed as opposed to the small, creaky one at his grandparents' house (not that I'm complaining since they provide it to us free of charge, of course...).
He also had a bottle of wine chilling and a dozen roses waiting for me....
I may or may not have had an inkling that such a surprise was coming...  But it's only because I know how thoughtful Donny is, so I wasn't surprised that he wanted to do something nice for me on Valentine's Day.  He's such a keeper.  :)

Saturday, we woke up and had a delicious hotel breakfast.  I loved that their waffle iron makes waffles in the shape of Texas!!  
This was the day that we had planned on going south to visit with Donny's dad's side of the family.  But our first stop of the day was the Red Caboose Winery and Vineyards in Meridian, TX on the way to his grandpa's house.  After checking out their website, I really didn't expect much.  But boy was I surprised at how nice this place was out in the middle of nowhere!  Since I'm not a huge wine lover, I didn't participate in the tasting, but Donny really liked their wines and ended up buying a bottle.
Then we started making our rounds to his grandpa, his dad and sister, his aunts and uncles and cousins, etc.  When we got to his dad's place, their chihuahua had just had puppies a few weeks ago!  Oh my word-- these little guys were SO tiny and so cute!!
We were out in the country, so there weren't just puppies-- there were all sorts of animals everywhere.  Including one that will be Thanksgiving dinner...
Sunday, we went to church at Donny's old church, where everyone loves him and is always so excited to see him.  Then we had lunch at Taco Cabana (again!) with some ladies I love so much and miss all the time...
Along with Donny's "little brother" (from Big Brothers/Big Sisters), Victor.
We had a great afternoon with them before heading to Lake Whitney where Donny's mom lives now.  But first, we had to stop at the Gone With the Wind Museum!  I was so disappointed that this place wasn't open yet since GWTW is my favorite movie ever.  But look at the murals!  They were so amazing...
Sunday night, we went to see Donny's mom's new place near Lake Whitney, and she made us Mexican food for dinner!  It was a real family event because all of their kids and their significant others (minus Tracy, Donny's sister), her parents-in-law, and one grandchild were all there.  That was thirteen people.  And that's just their immediate family.  Thirteen people is more than the entire extended family on my side!

And just like that, our trip was over, and we were back at the airport at the crack of dawn ready to head home! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Club Friday-- The Wolf of Wall Street.


GoodReads Synopsis for The Wolf of Wall Street:  In the 1990s Jordan Belfort, former kingpin of the notorious investment firm Stratton Oakmont, became one of the most infamous names in American finance: a brilliant, conniving stock-chopper who led his merry mob on a wild ride out of the canyons of Wall Street and into a massive office on Long Island. Now, in this astounding and hilarious tell-all autobiography, Belfort narrates a story of greed, power, and excess that no one could invent.  Reputedly the prototype for the film Boiler Room, Stratton Oakmont turned microcap investing into a wickedly lucrative game as Belfort’s hyped-up, coked-out brokers browbeat clients into stock buys that were guaranteed to earn obscene profits—for the house. But an insatiable appetite for debauchery, questionable tactics, and a fateful partnership with a breakout shoe designer named Steve Madden would land Belfort on both sides of the law and into a harrowing darkness all his own.  From the stormy relationship Belfort shared with his model-wife as they ran a madcap household that included two young children, a full-time staff of twenty-two, a pair of bodyguards, and hidden cameras everywhere—even as the SEC and FBI zeroed in on them—to the unbridled hedonism of his office life, here is the extraordinary story of an ordinary guy who went from hustling Italian ices at sixteen to making hundreds of millions. Until it all came crashing down...

GoodReads Synopsis for Catching the Wolf of Wall Street:  This continuation of his Wall Street Journal bestseller, The Wolf of Wall Street, tells the true story of his spectacular flameout and imprisonment for stock fraud.  In this astounding account, Wall Street’s notorious bad boy—and original million-dollar-a-month stock chopper—leads us through a drama worthy of The Sopranos, from his early rise to power to the FBI raid on his estate to the endless indictments at his arrest, to his deal with a bloodthirsty prosecutor to rat out his oldest friends and colleagues—while they were doing the same. With his kingdom in ruin, not to mention his marriage, the Wolf faced his greatest challenge yet: how to navigate a gauntlet of judges and lawyers, hold on to his kids and his enraged model wife—and possibly salvage his self-respect. It wasn't going to be easy. In fact, for a man with an unprecedented appetite for excess, it was going to be hell.  From a wired conversation at an Italian restaurant, where Jordan’s conscience finally kicks in, to a helicopter ride with an underage knockout that will become his ultimate undoing, here is the tale of a young genius on a roller coaster of harrowing highs—and more harrowing lows. But as the countdown to his moment in court begins, after one last crazy bout with a madcap Russian beauty queen, the man at the center of one of the most outrageous scandals in financial history sees the light of what matters most: his sobriety, and his future as a father and a man. Will a prison term be his first step toward redemption?

My Thoughts:  I both loved and hated these books.  Jordan Belfort starts out the first book talking about how he's a changed man, and all he really wants is for his children to respect him and not make his same mistakes.  Then he goes on for about 500 pages describing in some unbelievable detail about the complete insanity that was his life.  Amounts of drugs like you wouldn't believe, sex with more women than he could count, and just excess beyond what you could imagine.  But what I never heard from him was remorse over these actions.  It really sounded to me like a middle-aged guy trying to remember the good ol' days.  But the good ol' days make for one fascinating book-- one that I could NOT put down.  Every page brought more and more ridiculousness, and I couldn't stop reading it.  

Once I got to the second book, it focused more on his rise and fall in the stock industry as well as his efforts to provide assistance to the FBI and US Attorney.  I got the sense that he was more introspective about this time in his life than his party years, even though he was still continuing to make some truly stupid decisions.

Overall, I really enjoyed the books, and I'd definitely recommend you read them for the pure entertainment value.  But don't expect a book with a great redemption story.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Olympics, Stuffed Faces, and a Puppy!

Friday, I worked later than normal, after running some errands and grabbing dinner, we barely made it home in time to see the Sochi Opening Ceremony!  (And then it took them 45 minutes to get to the actual ceremony, but whatever...)  I thought it was really great.  Russia has some fascinating history, and it was fun to see how they displayed it.  Of course they minimized the dark parts of their story, but who doesn't.  It was beautiful-- the dancing, the music, the fireworks.  Just gorgeous.
Photos from nbcolympics.com and espn.com

Saturday, we got up and went to the NC mountains.  We had lunch at Countryside Barbecue, and if you're ever near or east of Asheville, NC then you really must eat there!  It's owned by my friend Katie's parents, and it was so good.  I'm kind of particular about my barbecue, and this was SO delicious.  I met Katie's dad and sister almost immediately upon walking in, and they sent us both a complimentary appetizer and dessert!  They were incredibly nice to us, as was the rest of the wait staff, who didn't even know that we were VIPs.  Haha.

The best home-fried potato chips I've ever had.
I love when I get my own pitcher of tea!
Chocolate peanut butter cake.  Holy wow. 
Pig Greetings.

After we left the restaurant (completely stuffed, btw...), we went on to our next stop, which was the real purpose of the trip-- to visit with and adopt this sweet girl!  
We went to visit with her and another puppy, but ultimately decided that she was the one that we would adopt.  We wanted to bring her home immediately, but with our trip to Texas coming up this weekend, we didn't want to take her out of her foster home and then immediately leave her for five days.  So we will pick her up next Monday!
She's so tiny and sweet!  She was a little nervous at being out where there were so many people (at the adoption fair), but that didn't stop her from giving me kisses!  She was very comfortable being held by us both, and the lady at the animal rescue says she's very playful and sweet.  I can't wait to bring her home!

On our way home from Marion, we stopped and saw Monuments Men.  I really don't know how it happened that I hadn't been to a movie in all of 2014 until this weekend.  But this was my first movie of 2014, and it was kind of a dud.  I really shouldn't have expected much when I couldn't get through the book (and we all know that books are better than their movie 99% of the time...).  But I thought the fantastic cast could salvage the story.  And they did a little, but not enough.  It felt so rushed, like you couldn't wrap your head around one thing before it was time to move on.  And by doing that, it felt like nothing really happened.  Very disappointing.  
I'm hoping to go see Winter's Tale this weekend, maybe with Donny's mom and sister.  I had totally planned on reading the book before seeing the movie until I saw that it was 768 pages.  So that's probably not going to happen.  I don't know why, but I'm having such a hard time reading any new books recently.  I have probably a dozen library books at my house, but none of them are catching my attention.  I started Sophie Kinsella's I've Got Your Number in hopes that it would be a quick read and get me back into the reading groove.  Unfortunately, I've only read about seven pages in the past week.  But lucky for me, I've got some good reading time coming up this weekend with air travel.  So I'm hoping that I'll get back in my swing again.
Sunday was rather uneventful.  We went to church, came home and watched more of the Olympics while Donny did homework and I took a nice long nap.  This week, however, is going to be very busy.  Not only do I have to get ready to be gone for five days, but now I have to also get our house ready for a puppy to arrive before we leave.  (All with snowmageddon predicted for the day before we depart.)  Sounds fun, right??  :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Whole30 Verdict.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that Donny and I did the Whole30 in January.  Last Friday was our last day, and it was amazing.  It's totally changed how and what I eat and my perspective on food.  I know a lot of you have asked me questions about it, and I've tried to answer them when I got them.  But, I also know that I'm SO bad at responding to emails, so I decided to write this post to describe my experience with the Whole30 and hopefully answer some questions I've gotten.

What do you eat?  This is probably the #1 question I got from people.  The simple answer is protein, vegetables, nuts, and fruits.  No grains, no sugar, no dairy, no legumes or seeds, and no processed foods.  A typical day for me looked like scrambled eggs with some sliced almonds in a lettuce wrap with bacon and a banana or other fruit and some no-sugar-added orange juice.  For lunch most days, I had some chicken salad (made with homemade paleo mayonnaise) with sliced red pepper and/or cucumbers and an apple.  Donny frequently ate leftovers from dinner or a salad with Trader Joe's chicken sausage.  Dinners were some sort of meat and vegetables.  Some favorite dinners were pork chops with roasted Brussels sprouts, spaghetti squash "spaghetti" with meat sauce, chicken tenderloins with roasted zucchini and squash, and meatballs.
Do you feel better?  100% yes.  Before the Whole30, I had horrendous heartburn multiple times a week.  I only had it once at the beginning of January and not a single time since.  Once I figured out how much food I needed at each meal, I could get from meal to meal without feeling hungry in-between.  And, my energy levels were sustained throughout the day-- not rapid rises and falls.  I could definitely tell a difference in my quality of sleep.

Is it hard?  Yes and no.  I definitely underestimated how tired I would get of being in my kitchen.  It's a LOT of prep and work, and sometimes I felt tied to the stove.  (And it's possible that on a few nights, we got Chick fil A instead of me cooking...)  And I desperately wanted a cupcake.  And cheetos.  And a diet coke.  But I just KNEW that I wasn't going to eat those things.  Having good alternatives to eat and not having bad stuff in your house is key.  I know it would've been a million times harder if Donny wasn't in it with me.  And fortunately for me, I don't quickly get bored with food.  So, it was pretty easy for me to eat the same breakfast and lunch most days.  It was harder for Donny since he isn't a fan of too much repetition.  Once we got into a rhythm and I had some things pre-prepped, it got easier.  Meal planning also makes life a LOT easier on the Whole30, although I failed at doing this a lot.  Meal planning also helps to figure out how much food you need-- and it's a lot more than you think.

So what now?  Other than the benefits I talked about above (no heartburn, less indigestion overall, better sleep and energy), I lost 7 pounds.  Donny lost 8, despite the fact that he kind of abandoned the Whole30 after about 25 days.  It's totally changed the way I view food and the way I want to eat.  Now that we're done with our Whole30, I'm still cooking paleo, still eating my carb-free lunches and high-protein breakfasts.  The only thing I've really added back in are sweets.  Supposedly, the Whole30 will help you kick your sugar cravings, but not me.  I craved sugar for the entire month (and might have cheated near the end).  But I refuse to beat myself up over the fact that I let myself have some sugar in moderation.  It IS important to me to start my day off well, so I'm not going back to doughnuts or goldfish and diet coke or McDonalds biscuits for breakfast.  At the VERY least, my breakfast is going to be healthy and get me started on the right foot for the day.  We do go to dinner with family or friends at least once a week, but that's my "cheat meal."  Although I still have to be careful because after training my body by eating well and getting rid of its tolerance to yuckiness, a greasy (but delicious) meal can really do a number on my tummy.

Resources for the Whole30 or Paleo?  The best resource I can recommend is the Hartwigs' book, It Starts With Food.  The corresponding website (whole30.com) is fantastic.  There are FAQs, grocery lists, and forums that are monitored by moderators to answer your questions.  My favorite recipe blogs are The Clothes Make The Girl, Stupid Easy Paleo, PaleOMG, Brittany Angell, The Spunky Coconut, and Just JessieB.  The lovely Kelly of My Little KGB also provided a GREAT help and some fantastic recipes.


If you have any questions please ask-- I'll do my very best to answer them!  And if you've got some good paleo recipes, I'm always looking for good ones!  :)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl Weekend.

Most of our weekends so far this year have consisted of us sitting on the couch reading books, me cooking Whole30 foods, and going to church only to come home and sit some more. They've been incredibly relaxing, don't get me wrong, but they haven't been anything worth writing about. But this past weekend, we actually got out of the house and had a little fun! Not having the Whole30 leash around me felt like freedom!  Even though we weren't 100% compliant in January and we're still eating paleo now...  (I'll have a full results post for our Whole30 sometime this week, I hope, along with answers to a bunch of questions I've gotten about it.)

Friday, I spent the day at a continuing education seminar bored out of my mind.  It never ceases to amaze me how lawyers can take fascinating topics and make them so tedious and boring.  It makes me wish that trial lawyers taught continuing ed-- those folks know how to entertain captive audiences.  But the good part of the CLE was that I was done for the day around 3:30.  So, I went shopping for a bit before coming home.  Our receptionist recently brought in some of the Love Spell scented lotion, and it's quite possibly the best scent ever created.  So, I had to go buy some for myself-- and lucky for me, they were running a sale of 5 products for $30, so I stocked up.  And took a nice, long bath later that night.  Heaven.  

Saturday, I had a lot of grocery shopping to do for our Super Bowl feast, so I ran my errands early in hopes of avoiding the crowds.  My plan failed-- Trader Joe's, Harris Teeter, and Whole Foods were all packed!  Sephora at the mall, however, was virtually empty.  And thanks to some gift cards, I picked up some fantastic new products: Soap & Glory Hand Food, which is seriously the best hand cream I've ever used; Fresh Sugar Advanced Lip Therapy Treatment, because this winter has been brutal on my skin and lips, and Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Lovelight, just because it was pretty.

I did still get in some reading Saturday afternoon.  I started reading Monuments Men this weekend in preparation for the movie, but I was having trouble getting into it.  So, I decided to take a break to read Catching the Wolf of Wall Street, hoping that it would quickly suck me in so I could read it quickly.  Alas, it has managed not to capture my attention very well either, despite me not being able to put down his first book.
Perhaps the problem was that my grandmother bought us the Season 4 DVD of Downton Abbey!  So, we spent quite a bit of time watching the rest of the show.  And now we have to wait for a YEAR to see Season 5!  :(
Sunday after church, we went with some friends to our favorite pre-paleo restaurant, where I had my first bread in over a month in the form of a bacon cheeseburger.  And it was delicious!  It was so nice to be able to go out again and hang out with friends over a good meal.
We decided not to go anywhere for the Super Bowl.  Instead, we stayed home just the two of us, and it was lovely.  I made Donny his favorite Spicy Sausage Dip--
But that dip isn't my favorite thing, so I made some other paleo-friendly foods, including chicken nuggets with buffalo ranch dipping sauce and paleo "queso".  It was all very, very good.  I was really shocked at how well the queso turned out!
Of course, being the sugar lover that I am, I could NOT pass up the opportunity to try a Gigi's Stuffed Cookie when I saw the advertisement.  O.M.G.  This was maybe the best thing I've ever eaten in my life.  Two chocolate chip cookies filled with the Gigi's cupcake icing?  HEAVEN.  It was only by a miracle of God that I didn't eat the whole thing last night.
I didn't particularly care about the football game itself, although I did enjoy watching people who think Peyton Manning is god-like being put in their place.  I saw this circulating around twitter and laughed for quite a while!
I wasn't incredibly impressed with most of the commercials this year.  The sexy cows and Stephen Colbert were funny, the soldier coming home made me teary, but I agree with just about everyone that Budweiser won the night with the Puppy Love commercial. 
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