What I’m Reading: July-September 2016

10054335Rules of Civility

If the cover isn’t a dead giveaway, Rules of Civility is a Great Gatbsy-esk book set in the 1920’s. Every character is larger than life, so the whole book seemed a bit over the top to me. However, I really enjoyed reading it and would easily race through large sections in each sitting.

Despite all of their missteps and seemingly reckless lifestyles, I really enjoyed getting to know all of the characters. There isn’t much to say about the plot itself because the whole book is pretty much an intimate look into the life of a young woman and her circle of friends as they find their place in the world.

I know it seems weird, but I really enjoyed the Epilogue. Although it seemed like an after thought, it gave closure to a book that otherwise ended fairly abruptly. I wish the final chapter circled back to the scene in chapter one, instead of slapping in a “where are they now” type Epilogue.

However, overall, this was a great book to read while cursing through the Mediterranean!

 

51xzpo1-gl-_sx322_bo1204203200_The Stuff That Never Happened

I found this book on BookBub and was intrigued enough to purchase it. However, after reading it, I would not recommend it, even at a discount.

Reading The Stuff That Never Happened was like watching a marriage start on a bad path and continue further and further down. It’s pretty terrifying to see how quickly and easily a marriage can go from bad to worse, or even good to bad.

The author introduced a few characters to serve as voices of reason and guidance (friends, family members, a therapist, etc.) but sadly, there didn’t seem to be one ounce of good advice from any of them.

The ending was the most disturbing part of this book. The main characters apologize for their wrongdoing in the marriage and the author gives us an “all’s well that ends well” sort of ending. However, this new found marital foundation is based 100% on a lie. I know The Stuff That Never Happened is fiction, not a guide to marriage, but I couldn’t help but feel the author was using the characters and the story to promote a very selfish and unhealthy blueprint. In my opinion, the book ended with the couple adding one more lie to the fire, and yet the author’s tone is positive and upbeat.

If you feel like you just can’t die without reading this book, then PLEASE promise me you won’t apply any of it to your real life relationship!

 

the-coincidence-of-coconut-cake-9781501100710_hrThe Coincidence of Coconut Cake

This book got a lot of rave reviews, but honestly I’m not sure why. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake seemed more like a draft version of a story then a published book. Every aspect of it felt unfinished.

As far as the plot, it’s basically a You’ve Got Mail copycat but with a restaurant instead of a bookstore. There’s nothing unique, surprising, or interesting as far as plot goes.

The relationships in the book were pretty unrealistic, which made it nearly impossible to feel connected to the characters. The book starts with Lou and Delvin engaged, but there is never a believable connection between the two of them. The author is so concerned with making sure we know Delvin is the “bad guy” she forgets to actually convince us they are a couple. In the author’s portrayal of Lou and Al’s dating relationship (which is the majority of the book), you feel like you’re reading the same scene over and over again. The truth (that Al is the writer who ruined Lou’s restaurant) doesn’t come out until the very end of the book, and then is quickly resolved in the last two chapters. So basically you already know everything that will happen in chapters 1-25 just by reading the book summary on the back cover.

There are so many good books in the world, don’t waste your time on this one.

 

celeste_ng_-_everything_i_never_told_youEverything I Never Told You

Just because you loved The Lovely Bones doesn’t mean you will love Everything I Never Told You. Don’t let the summary fool you. The only thing these books have in common is the mysterious death of a girl. Everything I Never Told You is really the story of a family and the choices they make leading up to their daughter’s death.

Everything I Never Told You is a truly heartbreaking story. To me, the saddest part is that every tragic situation (and there are several) could have been avoided if the family members just talked about their fears, hopes, dreams and desires instead of keeping everything bottled inside.

Although there is a hopeful ending, most of the book is very sad. If you’re not a fan of sad stories, you should probably steer clear of this one.

However, if you can stand a sad story here and there, I would encourage you to give it a go. I am certain there are thousands of families out there just like the Lee’s. Their story challenged me to speak my feelings (no matter the perceived consequence) and encourage others to do the same.

 

41zc8idrpdl-_sy344_bo1204203200_The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life from a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook

After several months of sad and not so great books, The Real Thing was a breath of fresh air. It had been too long since a book was fun!

At times The Real Thing reads a little like a news article, but that’s to be expected of a reporter. Although it’s not a Christian book, I completely agreed with almost every bit of advice offered. It’s a real common sense approach to dating, engagement and marriage. I was happy to see that so far, Sean and I have followed a lot of the advice without even realizing it.

More importantly than the advice, it’s just a fun read! The stories and the couples are really intriguing. After day 1, Sean got tired of hearing me say, “Let me read this section to you.” There were just so many stories I really enjoyed that I couldn’t help but want to share them! No matter what stage of life you are in (single, dating, married, divorced, widowed) I would recommend this book to you.

 

aviators-wife-pb-225-shadowThe Aviator’s Wife

In September I joined a book club. The Aviator’s Wife was supposed to be the book for October. However, two days before I finished it, they decided to push it to January. So much for trying to get ahead.

The Aviator’s Wife is a pretty slow read. However, because I knew basically nothing about the Lindbergh’s (except for Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight) there were times when I found myself wanting to read a little further or stay up a little longer to find out what would happen next.

Because we will never really know the truth about certain aspects of the Lindbergh’s story, there is no way of really knowing if the author’s portrayal was biased or dangerously close to the truth; but let me say, it sure as heck felt biased! At every turn Charles is portrayed as evil and calculated and Anne is portrayed as the innocent victim, tricked and manipulated into going along with Charles’ plans. Although many of Anne’s actions are FAR from innocent, the author is always quick to void her of any responsibility for her actions. Still there are many lessons to be learned about marriage and relationships from the author’s portrayal of the Lindbergh’s.

Writing about actual people in a half fact/half fiction context is a dangerous game, and I think the author’s literary choices pushed the envelope a little too much for my taste. But if you’re a real big history nut or just LOVE the Lindbergh’s, go ahead and give this book a shot.

Day 1 of Our 3-ish Days in Rome

I’ve been surprised by the number of times I’ve been asked why two months after we returned from our trip to the Mediterranean, I still haven’t blogged about it.

The answer is pretty simple: We had a WONDERFUL time, but a lot of things didn’t go our way and even though I put more time into planning this vacation then I did our wedding, there is a lot I would have done differently.

I’ve been hesitant to write anything because I don’t want to sound like a spoiled baby. The Mr. and I feel so blessed! We experienced things we had only dreamed of – things that many of our friends and family members have never and may never see with their own eyes. We actually visited places Sean will teach on later in the year. That is amazing!

But the thing is, many moments were not kittens and rainbows, and it’s hard to talk about our trip without that coming through. 

So…Why Rome…in July?

Even though my porcelain skin would make you think otherwise, I am a legitimate, Italian American. In High School I even qualified for a Sons of Italy scholarship. My great-grandparents immigrated from Italy through Ellis Island, and to my knowledge, no one from my family had been back to Italy since.

My brothers and I have always been intrigued by this mysterious part of our heritage and for as long as I can remember, we’ve wanted to go to Italy. We dreamed of going back to Italy together, but I got tired of waiting for everyone to get their act together and make the trip a priority.

Last January I found a pretty good deal on a Mediterranean cruise in the middle of July (perfect for Sean’s teaching schedule) that peaked our interest. As an extra bonus, the cruise started and ended in Rome! Naturally we added a few days to our vacation so that we could site see before we boarded the boat.

So without further adieu (and at the risk of sounding like a spoiled baby), I bring you Day 1 of our 3-ish days in Rome.

Arrival

What we did:

Like many US flights to Europe, we flew overnight and arrived in Rome around 9:30am. On the recommendation of the Lonely Planet Travel Guide as well as Rick Steves, we used the AirPort Shuttle, which ended up being a complete disaster! Our hotel was approximately 30 minutes from the airport. I estimated we would be at our hotel by 11:00 at the latest, but thanks to AirPort Shuttle we didn’t arrive until 12:30….and we had a Colosseum tour at 1:30.

When we arrived at our hotel, I hadn’t eaten since the 6am, American Airlines economy-class breakfast. I was past the point of hangry and well into sick, and the first thing I did after check-in was puke in the bathroom of our hotel room. Then I washed my face, changed clothes, and we were off to find the Colosseum.

What I would tell a friend to do:

Spend the extra money, risk being ripped off and get a cab upon arrival.

The Colosseum

img_1570

What we did:

The Colosseum was supposed to be a 15 minute walk from our hotel, but streets in Rome aren’t marked that well, the route wasn’t very straightforward, I had just puked my guts up, and I was in full panic mode, so….it took us a bit longer than 15 minutes. But by some form of a miracle we made it to the Colosseum a few minutes before our tour was scheduled to begin.

If you’ve done any research whatsoever, you know that buying your tickets in advance allows you to “skip the line.” In reality, it works more like a Disney Fast Pass. You don’t have to stand in the SUPER long line, but you do have to stand in the “skip the line” line, which is still a line, and although it moves quickly, it’s not exactly short.

Then because we booked the (significantly cheaper) official Colosseum tour instead of one through a private company, once we made it through the “skip the line” line, we had to stand in a second line for a ticket counter where they exchange your tour confirmation for a sticker. We skipped this step. I’m actually still not sure how we were supposed to know this step existed. Instead, we showed up at our tour meeting point sticker-less.

Even though we had our confirmation print-outs, our guide refused to let us join the tour until we had the sticker, but because we were already inside the Colosseum there was no way for us to exit, join the line at the ticket counter, and come back in. So with the half-hearted help of another tour guide and after missing the first 10 minutes of our tour, we finally had our sticker and could join the group.

img_1546

There were about 50 people in our tour group and we were given headsets so we could hear our guide. Her English wasn’t that great and the tour didn’t cover very many sections of the Colosseum. Sean and I both agreed – our tour was a complete waste!

In short, we simply weren’t prepared for how chaotic a visit to the Colosseum can be! Every inch of space is packed with hot, sweaty and frustrated people all trying their darnedest to enjoy the moment and not pass out  – a lot like Disney World.

img_1564

What I would tell a friend to do:

Even though it’s a complete zoo, if you’re in Rome you have to see the Colosseum! Be sure to eat before you go, bring lots of water (or at least a bottle that can be refilled at the fountains inside), be prepared to be blessed with an opportunity (or 10) to practice patience, and give yourself plenty of time.

Even though I wouldn’t recommend the tour we chose, I REALLY wouldn’t recommend walking through the Colosseum without some kind of tour. You simply won’t get anything out of it and you will have no earthly clue what you’re looking at.

If you feel like you just HAVE to have a human tour guide, strike up a deal with one of the MANY private tour guides standing out front and negotiate your way to a good deal on a private tour.

If you’re fine with foregoing the human tour guide, purchase your entry ticket online ahead of time so that you can get in the “skip the line” line and then use Rick Steves’ audio tour. We can’t say enough good things about his audio tours and bonus – they’re FREE! I wish we would have done this!

img_1560

Post Colosseum

After we left the Colosseum, food was my #1 priority.

RECAP: It was approximately 3:00 and I had not eaten since the American Airlines economy-class breakfast served around 6am. That’s 9 hours folks!!!

After “lunch” I knew I had hit my limit and I simply could not go on. So we went back to the hotel and we both crashed.

Around 7pm I woke up feeling like a new person, ready to take on the city again. After a good 30 minutes of coaxing Sean out of bed, we set off to see the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.

The Trevi Fountain

img_1575

What we did:

Armed with our map from the Lonely Planet Guide Book, we set off in search of the Trevi Fountain. When we exited the Metro we spotted another couple with the same destination in mind, but they were using their smart phone to find it. We decided to join forces with them, but after 45 minutes of wandering with no fountain in sight, we set off on our own.

Around 9pm we FINALLY found the Trevi Fountain! To our complete horror, the entire area surrounding the fountain was PACKED with people. I wish I had taken a photo of the crowds. I found this one online which is a pretty accurate representation of our experience, except it was 9pm and not the middle of the day.

p1060015-small

I heard later on there was some kind of photo shoot that drew the large crowds, but blocks away streets were equally as packed so I’m not sure the photo shoot had all that much do to with the crowds.

After 30 minutes of feeling like we were at a concert pushing through gobs of people to get to the stage, we snapped a few photos, gave up on the idea of getting close enough to toss a coin in the fountain, and set off for the Spanish Steps.

img_1578What I would tell a friend to do:

Don’t be scared to ask strangers for directions and if it feels like you’re going the wrong way, reassess sooner rather than later. Also, mentally prepare yourself for large crowds at major sites no matter the time of day or night.

The Spanish Steps

What we did:

Even though it should have only been a 10 minute walk, it took us significantly longer to find the Spanish Steps. We blamed it on the fact that navigation has become a lost skill. We later found out we had a terrible map.

When we finally found the Spanish Steps, we discovered we could not climb them or even get that close to them. I thought maybe they closed them down at night, but after some further research I found out they’re actually closed 24/7 for renovation. So we stared at the steps from behind this see-through, makeshift wall and then headed back to the hotel.

img_1580

Sean was border-line outraged that we walked all that way to see some steps. I kept trying to tell him they are a big deal, but my reasoning fell flat. I’m still not really sure why the Spanish Steps are a big deal. I should probably look into that. Either way, we can now say we saw the Spanish Steps.

What I would tell a friend to do:

Find out how the renovation project is going. A few weeks after we returned home I read that during the day you can take an alternate route to the top of the stairs. So if that’s the case, then make sure you go during the day. Definitely make an effort to go so that you can say you saw them, but don’t expect much from the whole Spanish Steps experience.

Day 1 Consclusions

Travel Lessons from Day 1:

  • The transportation process from the airport to the hotel sets the tone for the trip. Spend the money to make it as seamless and stress free as possible. Vacations are supposed to be fun. Spend the money to make sure it starts on a good note.
  • Avoid pre-scheduled tours on day 1 of your vacation. If your schedule absolutely forces you to book an organized tour on day 1, schedule it for late in the day. This ensures you have PLENTY of time to take a nap, shower, eat, find an ATM and get acquainted with your surroundings before you absolutely have to be somewhere. Even if we had picked the 3:30 Colosseum tour instead of the 1:30 Colosseum tour, it would have made a world of difference.
  • Ask for directions as soon as you feel lost. There is no reason to wander for 45+ minutes when the streets are packed with people who are happy to help you out.
  • If you’re in a touristy area, expect crowds ALL THE TIME! No matter what time it is, just expect you will have to face the crowds. If you accept it ahead of time, it’s easier to handle.
  • If your map is causing frustration, get a new map! A little bit of a spoiler here, but on Day 2 of our 3-ish days in Rome, a stranger gave us a new map and it made all the difference in the world. Turns out, our Lonely Planet map totally sucked. Find a kiosk and get a map specifically designed for tourists. It will most like include everything you need to know.
  • Give yourself PLENTY of time for EVERYTHING! On Day 1 everything took 3 times longer than it should have – no exaggeration! As we spent more time in the city it got better, but if you try to pack your first day with sites and activities, you will probably end up very frustrated and disappointed.

What I’m Reading: April-June 2016

If you missed it, you can check out what I read at the beginning of 2016 here.

I didn’t read nearly as much in April, May and June as I did in January, February and March, but in April I did something I had never done before – I abandoned a book. I got about 1/2 way through B.J. Novak’s book One More Thing and I decided I couldn’t take one more page.

My previous theory was that you have to read the bad books to make you appreciate the good ones. All of my reader friends (who were much more avid readers than me) totally disagreed. Their opinion is that there are so many great books out there, there is no reason to waste your time reading a bad one. I decided to take a chance on their methodologies. It was hard…but I survived. Does it get easier to abandon books after you do it a few times? Please say yes!

So now on to what I actually FINISHED reading…

 

Station_Eleven_CoverStation Eleven

Last Christmas Sean wanted to buy me a new book as one of my gifts. One of my avid reader friends recommended Station Eleven but the bookstore was out so Sean went with Orphan Train instead. When Sean told me the premise of Station Eleven I was intrigued so I made a mental note to circle back to it.

I’m glad I did! I usually don’t connect with dark, post apocalyptic novels, but I liked this one. I’m sure it will be made into a movie. The author does such a great job of skipping through decades of time and through the stories of multiple characters, that I got over the setting and tone quickly. I loved watching the character’s stories come together.

The thing I didn’t love was the ending. The book just kind of stops. It’s quite possible the author was leaving the option open for a second book, but I hate when authors end the first book poorly for the sake of a sequel.

Despite the ending (or lack thereof), I would recommend Station Eleven. It’s unique and makes you really consider what the world would be like if a flu outbreak like the one in the book really did happen. I think our new reality wouldn’t be too far off from the one the author describes.

 

51sQMLOSuaL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgEight Hundred Grapes

BookBub introduced me to Eight Hundred Grapes when the Kindle version went on sale for $1.99. I thought Eight Hundred Grapes was my first introduction to Chicklit, but an avid reader friend (who believes in abandoning bad books) told me it’s not Chicklit. Even though no one can seem to determine the book’s genre, I loved the book!

Other reviews seem mixed on whether the story and characters stay at surface level, or if there are deeper messages. I lean toward the second. Although the plot circles around the missteps of a young, engaged couple, the book is much more about family dynamics. Why is it no matter how old we are, when we’re with our family, we are 10 years old again? Like last fall when I completely lost my sh** and started screaming at my brother in the checkout line at Kohls. So to all the other people who reviewed this book and said the characters were too crazy to be realistic, I guess you are just a better person than me.

 

515p3OrN1KL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The Nightingale

Friends, let me introduce you to The Nightingale, the first book that ever made me cry. There really should be a warning label on this one so you don’t end up like me – crying uncontrollably in the break room at work. The last chapter was so brutal I had to stop multiple times because my eyes were so teary that I couldn’t see the words on the page (or screen in my case). So that goes to show just how much the story and the characters sucked me in.

I was invested from page one. In fact, I read the first 100 pages in one sitting…which is also rare for me. I just can’t say enough about how engaging the story is.

The giant downfall of this book in my opinion is the literary style (or lack thereof). The words and phrases chosen by the author seemed like they were written for a child’s book. I realize this makes me sound like a literary snob. Trust me, I’m not, you’ve seen my reading list.

Still, even with that downfall, I would highly recommend the book because the plot is just so darn engaging. I can’t give it high enough praise. It kept me on my toes every step of the way.

 

511fHAqYd-L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Four Season in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World

It was one extreme to the next reading Four Seasons in Rome after The Nightingale. Like I said, the story of The Nightingale was AMAZING, but the writing style was dreadful. Four Seasons in Rome was the complete opposite – the writing style (like everything Anthony Doerr writes) blew me away, but the story was a complete snooze fest.

So to sum up, this book taught me that I’m incredibly shallow. I value a good story much more than a good writer. Sad day.

But back to Four Seasons in Rome. I (like pretty much everyone else) read Four Seasons in Rome because I fell in love with All the Light We Cannot See. Oh, and if you’ve been hanging out on here long, you know the Mr. and I are GOING TO ROME in a week! It seemed like this would be a slam dunk, pre-trip book to not only feed my excitement (read “obsession”) for the trip, but maybe reveal some of Rome’s hidden gems that we needed to add to our itinerary.

I think it’s important for you to know WHY I picked up the book because that may have a lot to do with why I didn’t really like it. I wanted to, but I didn’t. Basically I was just bored. Oh so bored! Maybe if I had kids and maybe if I had already been to Rome I would feel differently, but I don’t and I haven’t and I’m a shallow reader, so there you go.

Stitch Fix #3 – June 2016

IMG_1478When it comes to Stitch Fix, I’m a quarterly girl. That’s why you don’t see a box review every month. I get a box each season and for me (and our finances), that’s enough.

In case you’re curious, here’s what I kept form my first and second fixes. Last month I also experimented with Golden Tote.

But back to my first love…Stitch Fix.

For my third fix, I was pretty specific. I asked my stylist for clothes for our up-coming trip to the Mediterranean. What??? You didn’t know we were going on a Mediterranean cruise??? You should check out this post and this post.

IMG_1481

So now to the good stuff…what was in my THIRD box?

Dear John – Finnegan Roll Cuff Chino Short – $58

When I peaked at my shipment (yes, I’m one of THOSE people) I was a little thrown by these shorts. They looked like they were pale pink. But once I actually saw them in person I realized they were bright pink and white striped.

IMG_1489

Bottom line, both me (and hubs) surprisingly LOVED them. Oh, and they fit like a dream – perfect length and very comfy.

IMG_1488

However, I just don’t need another pair of shorts right now. I really only need 2 or 3 pairs for my current lifestyle, and I’m close to triple that number. Also, you may (or may not) be surprised to learn that I won’t be wearing shorts that often on our vacation. Even though it will be HOT, apparently they don’t really do shorts in Europe. So there’s that.

Status: Returned

 

Market & Spruce – Sam Hi-Lo Short Sleeve Tee – $44

IMG_1499

Ok, so I know what you’re thinking because I thought it too. $44 for a grey t-shirt!?!?! You have GOT to be kidding me Stitch Fix!!! Well, spoiler alert: I KEPT it! I know, I know, I know! Who have I become? Well, I’ll tell you – someone with the most versatile, comfortable shirt in the whole world, that’s who!

IMG_1498

Ok, so before you get all judgy, I did a little research via a Stitch Fix buy/sell/trade Facebook group…yeah, I’m a part of one of those. Just stop with the judgy eyes already.

IMG_1500

So, here’s the deal, in the world of Stitch Fix, this shirt is ALL THE RAGE! Everyone wants it and those who start the “$44 for a t-shirt??” post are verbally slashed to the point of death and then shunned. So I was quietly skeptical. Then I tried it on. Of course I loved it, and then somehow I just decided to bite the bullet and pay the astronomical price.

BEST. DECISION. EVER. I have ZERO regrets! I have already worn this more times then I can count. It goes with basically everything and it’s so easy to dress up or down. Dear Sam Hi-Lo Tee, I’m a believer!

Status: Kept

 

Skies are Blue – Keagan Knit Dress – $68

When we peaked (and I say “we” because I took screenshots on my phone of all the items and texted them to Sean and basically forced him to engage in dialog about them) we were positive this dress was a keeper! Love at first sight!

Then I tried it on, and we were both like, “hmm…”

IMG_1503

IMG_1511

So here’s the thing, it’s SUPER soft, love the pattern, colors, and cutout in the back. BUT the dress was too short and too tight on my mid section. I was tugging at it all through the photo shoot and at the same time trying to convince myself I really did love it. I even tried it on with the big, floppy vacation hat I told you about.

IMG_1509

Although this dress could pass as a vacation dress, it would be of no other use because it’s a smidge too short for work. I just couldn’t justify it, and I didn’t really enjoy wearing it.

Status: Returned

 

Papermoon – Sheydon Trim Detail Blouse – $44

IMG_1490

IMG_1493

Not much to say about this blouse. It was just kind of meh. You know? Nothing special. Didn’t hate it, but didn’t love it. Plus, I just bought a navy blouse that is very similar. So really no need for this one.

Status: Returned

 

Pixley – Annette Printed Tulip Hem Maxi Skirt – $58

IMG_1496

When I peeked, I wasn’t crazy about the pattern of this skirt and I was unsure about the cut. When I tried it on I was certain I didn’t like the pattern but I LOVED the cut. Check out a close up of this pattern, doesn’t it look like a woman screaming?

IMG_1494

Still, I almost kept it just because at the time it was the closest thing to perfect I had found for our day at the Vatican. If you don’t know, the Vatican has some pretty strict rules. Your knees and shoulders have to be covered, which for females is challenging to do without looking like a Season 1 Duggar, fundamentalist Mormon, or a fashionista who is 5 minutes away from heat stroke.

In the end, I’m glad I passed on the screaming woman skirt, because I did find the perfect Vatican dress a few weeks later at TJ Maxx – for half the price of course. Keep your eye out for a glimpse of that dress in a future post.

This skirt taught me to embrace the tulip hem, and to not settle for good when you have over a month left to find great.

Status: Returned

 

So there you go, my third box.

Even though I only kept one thing, I was really happy! This was by FAR the most personalized box I’ve received yet.

Also, if you’re considering signing up for Stitch Fix, I would LOVE it if you used my referral link! If you do, I get $25 off my next order!

I Cheated on Stitch Fix with Golden Tote

Have you heard of Golden Tote? I’m finding most people haven’t. It’s like Stitch Fix (and you know how much I loved my first and second fix) but with a little bit of a twist.

You can find out exactly how Golden Tote works here.

Now to the good stuff!!!

Why did you cheat on Stitch Fix with Golden Tote?

Since I’m a quarterly subscription girl, I wasn’t due for another Fix for another month. I heard about Golden Tote, was intrigued, happened to be thinking about it minutes before they posted their May boutique (they post a new boutique the first Monday of every month), and just decided to go for it.

One of the biggest differences between Stitch Fix and Golden Tote is that Golden Tote has an all or none rule so you have to either keep everything or send everything back. Because I just lighted my wardrobe to only items I LOVE, I found it pretty hard to believe that I would LOVE all 5 items in a large tote. You can sell or trade items you don’t like in a Golden Tote Facebook group, but I would prefer not to add more clothes to the growing pile that need a new home.

So even though it’s slightly less cost effective, I ordered the small tote, which includes one item you select from Golden Tote’s boutique and one surprise item.

How much did this affair cost you?

The total cost for a small tote is $64, so each item costs you $32, which is pretty great for designer pieces. Just for comparison, the large tote is $150, so each item is around $30 each. These same types of clothes can run you $50-$100 each through Stitch Fix. Golden Tote’s pricing is very comparable to Nordstrom Rack pricing, without making you dig or scroll for a great find.

Did you enjoy it???

I’m so glad you finally asked! Here’s what I got…

IMG_1430

CHOSEN ITEM: Pleated Polka Dot Top

I chose this top because it’s totally “me” – I just can’t get enough stripes and polka dots and black and white (and teal) are my jam! I also chose it because it’s very versatile. Not only can it be easily dressed up for a client meeting, but I can dress it down with jeans for a normal day at the office or dress it down even further and pair it with shorts for a summer BBQ.

This pick was a pretty safe bet. It’s totally inside my comfort zone and something I would pick up off the rack so not a huge shock that I LOVE it!

SURPRISE ITEM: Fun2Fun Summery Floral Top

IMG_1439

When I saw this top in my tote it was love at first sight. Sadly, that love turned to like when I put it on. I know, I know, I know…I’m only supposed to keep items I LOVE and I didn’t LOVE this shirt. But I liked it and I needed a new top for a retirement party at my mother-in-law’s school later that week. Plus, if I decide the shirt needs to go, I can sell or trade it on the Facebook group.

So I kept the tote.

What do you think of my first Golden Tote experience? Feeling brave enough to give it a try?

What I Realized About Adult Friendships

When I was in 6th grade we made the first family move that I can remember. Looking back, that move sparked what would be 12 years of consistent transition. I went to three different middle schools; moved to a new city my first day of high school;

250794_504220297732_1995_n

576794_10150843114131621_1197296468_n

started college in Florida; finished college in Texas; and spent summers working at youth camps across the United States.

1923599_544399616808_2975_nI made a lot of friends during those 12 years. Some of those people I am still in close contact with today and others I’m not. I knew from the beginning of each of those friendships that our time together was limited to a few months or maybe a few years.
It’s just the nature of being in your late teens and early 20’s. Everyone is in transition and your circle of friends is constantly changing.

1936769_988337481684_5445582_nDuring those 12 years making friends was simple. I chose the people I wanted to spend my time with and then had as much fun as possible with them. Then when our days in the same place ran out our friendship changed. If we kept in touch, great! If we didn’t, that was ok too. We were grateful for the memories we shared and the role we played in each other’s lives and that was enough.

Six months after finishing college I moved to Colorado to start my first “real job” and I joined a brand new, grassroots kind of church. There were no more than 25 adults who attended, but people were moving from all over the country to be a part of it. It was an exciting time!

But most exciting of all were the friendships that little church was bringing into my life.

IMG_5712In my mind, because we were all committed to staying in Colorado Springs for a long time, these new friendships wouldn’t be like my old ones…these would be forever friendships!

Now that I had my “forever friends” I actually felt bad for my college friends who got married when they were 23. How sad that they had wedding albums filled with pictures of bridesmaids, groomsmen and guests who were now strangers.

Thank goodness that wouldn’t be me! Instead, I would get to experience all of those big life moments with my forever friends. One day my forever friends would adopt my future husband like he had been there the whole time and then we would all live happily ever after in true Biblical community, the way God intended for it to be.

It sounds silly now, but that is what I really thought adult friendships would be like.

Fast-forward three years to 2013.

IMG_5220Most of us in the forever friend circle did in fact still live in Colorado Springs. Some of those friendships were still growing and strong, but to my surprise, others were starting to fade away. Frustrated but determined, I was unwilling to accept the fact that life was taking some of us in different directions even though most of us hadn’t changed our address.

IMG_0653Somewhere in the middle of all that Sean and I started dating. I was disappointed when things didn’t play out the way I envisioned in my fantasy. Everyone who met Sean was kind and welcoming, but there just weren’t enough opportunities for Sean and I to spend quality time with my friends during our 2 years of dating/engagement.

When Sean and I started planning our wedding I insisted on a small and simple affair. Even though many of my forever friendships were not what they once were, I thought our wedding just might be the thing that brought everyone back together. That’s what weddings are for, right? It would just take one great party for everyone to decide to put things back to the way they were.

One year and one month after our wedding day I finally came to terms with the fact that my master plan had failed. Since the wedding, we had spent very little time with the group of people I thought would be my forever friends and from that group, very few of them had spent much quality time with each other.

By accident, Sean and I started making a completely new set of friends, most of whom we didn’t even know on our wedding day. I had mixed feelings about it. I liked the new friends but at the same time I felt incredibly guilty for investing in new friendships when my old friends still lived 15 minutes down the road.

For 12 years of my life I was able to let friendships gracefully fall away as new ones made their way into my life; but for some reason I thought once I was an adult, as long as I stayed in the same city, I wouldn’t have to be constantly changing friend groups anymore. When I finally faced the fact that some of my adult friendships had fallen away just like many of the friendships from previous stages of my life, it destroyed me. I’m much better now, but for a few weeks, it was a heart wrenching thing to face.

The thing I realized about adult friendships is that they are just like childhood friendships, high school friendships and college friendships. They come and they go. You chose the people you want to spend your time with and then have as much fun as possible with them. If you end up staying close friends for years and years to come, great! If not, that’s ok too. Be grateful for the memories you shared and the role you played in each other’s lives and let that be enough.

From now on, I’m not going to concern myself so much with finding and keeping friendships that will be there forever. If I do, I know I’ll continue to miss out on getting to know some awesome people who are in my life today.

 

 

Vacation Purchases I’m Most Excited to Use – PART 2

If you haven’t checked out Part 1 of the Vacation Purchases I’m Most Excited to Use series, you definitely should!

We’re three months away from setting sail on our Mediterranean cruise and before we go, there are a few more purchases I want to share with you.

7PC Anpress Packing Cube Set

61o2wgad2pL._SL1000_Purchased From: Amazon

Price: $20.93

A friend told us about packing cubes. I had no idea these were a thing, but apparently they are all the rage in the world of travel. Not only do they keep your clothes organized and wrinkle free, but they somehow magically allow you to pack WAY more in less space! Because I wasn’t ready to pay $40 for a set of top of the line plastic bags, I bought this off-brand set instead. When they arrived I immediately used them to pack all the clothes I intended to bring on our trip. Sure enough, EVERYTHING fit in these cubes and consequently, everything then fit nicely into the new-to-me rolling duffle I told you about in part 1 of this post. A few weeks later I bought a set of Eagle Creek packing cubes for Sean for only $16.95!

 

Samsonite Eye Mask and Earplug Set

1439165Purchased From: Kohls

Price: $6.99

In part 1 of this post you heard me talk about the importance of getting some sleep on our overnight flight. My new eye mask and earplugs were yet another purchase made to help with that. The eye mask has already served me well on several nights when Sean is trolling Facebook on his iPad while I’m trying to sleep.

 

Adidas Neo Lite Racer Slip On Shoes

350-100154195-847__1Purchased From: Costco

Price: $24.99

This purchase has #girlproblems written all over it. Finding fashionable shoes that you can actually walk in all day is like finding the holy grail. I’m not saying I found the holy grail when I found these shoes, but I got close enough to stop looking. Plus, they were less than $25 at Costco! I already wore these on a day trip to the zoo followed by several hours of mattress shopping and both the shoes and my feet held up really nicely!

 

Eagle Creek Liquid Bag

downloadPurchased From: Sierra Trading Post

Price: $3.50

Since I already told you about my #girlproblems, I should definitely share my #firstworldproblems. I HATE having to remember to buy quart size bags every time we travel. Plus if the bag breaks or one of you liquids explodes, let’s hope you remembered to bring an extra bag for the flight home. I told you #firstworldproblems. A few years back I bought a reusable plastic travel bag at Walmart but the slider at the top was so crappy that it broke in half after one flight…not even a whole trip, just one flight. When I saw these for less than $4 at Sierra Trading Post I immediately put two in my cart.

 

20 UV-Tanning Sessions

UntitledPurchased From: Groupon

Price: $36

Even though I’m half Italian, I did not get what I call “the good skin.” If you want to see what “the good skin” looks like, look up Joshua LaSelva on Facebook. I’ve found that a few weeks of tanning (along with really good sunscreen) goes a long way in preventing a miserable sunburn. Plus, it’s nice to not look  like a ghost in our vacation photos.

So there you have it. These are the purchases I’ve made thus far. Right now there isn’t a plan for a part 3 of this series, but there is still a lot of shopping time left before our trip, so stay tuned.