Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Review: The Sound of Gravel

I've been in a book hangover this week and so now I must share with you the book that did me in: 

Memoirs like this just don't happen everyday. Can you imagine pointing pen to paper and sharing your most private worries, your most traumatic experiences and the scariest, saddest moments of your life? Or what about reliving moments where you were scared, lost and worried? All of these things happen to Ruth, all before she is a teenager. 

The daughter of a polygamist, Ruth is lost among a sea of her family's life- she is one of over 40 siblings, most of whom she doesn't know exists until she is older. She learns at a very young age that without her help, her mother would not be able to handle her siblings, 2 of who are developmentally disabled.  They live in a dirt house with no electricity and have to navigate life with a "father" who divides his time among his multiple wives...

Because they live the polygamist lifestyle, Ruth's mother lives in Mexico, but once a month they make the illegal trip back to the States to gather food stamps and social security checks.

And when Ruth suffers unspeakable abuse from her stepfather, her life becomes even more of a struggle. 

There are things that Ruth, her siblings and her mother have to experience that I can't imagine anyone having to endure. But amazingly, Ruth becomes this amazing mother figure to her little sisters and brothers and she is so observing to those around her, which makes her this smart, empathetic and perceptive person that I would just die to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with. 

Because of her ability to survive, to care for her loved ones and for gaurdian angels like her grandparents, she is able to change her life...which at one point faced an outcome that could have been much, much different if Ruth wasn't the brave, smart girl that she was born to be... 

Read it. 

Currently, I am trying to get out of my slump by listening to Pretty Girls on audible and reading The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. I'm also slowly taking in Joyce Carol Oates' The Lost Landscape, which is unsurprisingly beautiful. Next up is When Breath Becomes Air and For The Love 

And P.S. I totally didn't mean for my most perfect Kate Spade travel coffee mug to make it into both of the pics in this blog. It was complete happenstance, but a completely cute coincidence that I'm not even sad about. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

The One Where We Go to The Critic's Choice Awards

There was this one time that my mom and I put our happy little behinds on a plane and escaped to California together. It was all of the magical things you think of when you dream of a getaway with your mom.

I've never been west of Salt Lake City, so just the trip alone was amazing enough. I have major wanderlust and am constantly of dreaming about the next opportunity I will have to travel. I love airplanes, I love people watching, I love going places I've never seen before.

California was a whole new ballgame. People were so so nice, but you can tell that life is just different out there. I was definitely not in Kansas City anymore.

Our first stop was Venice Beach, where we stayed right near the ocean and I stumbled upon the most adorable little book store. I don't know how that happens, but little bookstores always have a way of finding me when I am on vacation. It's a little twist of fate that always brings me to my happy place.

Snapshots of California will always give me a warm fuzzy feeling. I loved the beautiful orange trees the most. Burbank was beautiful. In another life, that would have been my place. We saw a taping of the Ellen- Dierks Bentley and Sean Hayes were there, totally fun!- and I loved walking around Burbank. We took a Lift over to Hollywood and stayed just love enough for me to see Marilyn's hand prints but then I was ready to get the heck outta Dodge. It was way too commercialized and touristy, almost like a mini version of Times Square. 

I enjoyed sitting in quiet restaurants or on the beach with my mom the most. This was the first and only trip we've ever taken with just the two of us, so it was a rare treat I wanted to make sure I made the most of. 

Okay, if I am being honest, we all know that the highlight of the trip was going to the Critics Choice Awards. I promised myself I would play it cool, and for the most part I did.  But when Petra walked by my table, I did squeal. My mom has not watched Jane the Virgin but I happily gave her the run down before we went because I knew they would all be there. Petra was a dream. But nothing prepared me for meeting Gina Rodriguez and Brett Dier. 

They were so incredibly friendly and you could tell they were so happy and honored to be at the Critic's Choice Awards. Gina and I chatted about how cute Mateo is and how he makes her want to have 10 of her own babies. I told her how much I love her inspiring and upbeat Instagram posts... I might have gotten a little mushy but you know what? I don't even care. They were gems, I tell you. Gems. 

Everyone we met was just so friendly and nice and HAPPY. Butterflies got the best of me and I didn't walk around too much, I just wanted to soak it all in. I happily watched from afar and saw Amy Schumer and Jennifer Aniston and Sylvester Stallone. Grae Drake from Rotten Tomatoes and CNN was a dream boat. She was so nice and my mom and her acted like long lost sisters. 

The whole night could not have been more perfect. There are so many random, funny things, like getting in the more important line at the awards show and accidentally walking in with Mayim Bailik until we finally found the right entrance... 

This will go down in my history as one of the most amazing, smile inducing, memorable trips of my entire life. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Book Round Up

Who is ready for a great list of books? Me, that's who! With coooooold temperatures to keep me inside plus a long trip ahead of me next week, I need to make sure I have plenty of books to help pass the time. Here's a mash up of books that have caught my eye this week that I think you will all like too! 

Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny : Pleasure, commitment, deceit, loss. These are the ABCs of love and here is a intricate story of numerous women and how they cope with loving men who are either unavailable, cruel or all around not "the one." I feel like this should have been a book I could've read in my early twenties but nevertheless, it's always encouraging to me to read other women's stories of woe in the love department so that I know I am not alone... 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend: Imagine having a pen pal and you travel to their hometown to meet then, and when you arrive to meet your friend, you discover that she has passed away. Most of us would turn around and go back home, but not Sara. She decided to open a bookstore in the tiny town that Amy lived in and she makes much more of a difference for its citizen than she could have ever imagined. 

Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor - Described on Amazon as a "deft, funny, and big-hearted novel about second chances" this book is a different story line than what I would usually read but it just caught my attention. What piqued my attention is the comedic side that it has...a funny account of a single mother who lives with her child and her gay friend who has hit a career stumbling block and she's given a unique opportunity to work with an eccentric poet and translate his latest work. Sounds kind of fun, right? 

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner - I am a sucker for memoirs. I become totally engrossed in other people's stories and this one, I have a feeling, is going to hook me. Ruth Wariner is the the 39th child of her polygamist father and her life is as far from typical as you can imagine. She tells the story of her life in the polygamist cult and turning her back on the things she knew were wrong in her family's lifestyle. After her father is murdered by his brother in an attempt to further his position in the church, Ruth's mother marries another polygamist. Shuffled back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico and numerous homes trying to survive, Ruth begins to think about what life and a future would look like if she was brave enough to escape her family...

The Secrets of Midwives  3 generations of midwives and the youngest is secretly pregnant. And the longer she tries to keep the secret of her baby's father, the more secrets from her mother and grandmother's past keep emerging... I have started to read this book before and can't for the life of me remember why I didn't finish reading it. Every time I see it on Goodreads, I always think it's a story I would love so I just need to buckle down and finish it.  

The Good Good-Bye by Carla Buckley  This had me at "family tension and ER thriller." As much as I love Forensic Files and 20/20 I don't know why I don't read more thrillers. I love a good family drama too. I've been trying to read The Pocket Wife for a couple weeks and I just haven't been able to get into it so maybe this cliff hanger will get me in the mood. Two college roommates, who are also cousins, lay unconscious in the hospital and their family members await news of how the fire that injured them was started.

So there you have it, six great books to get you started on your new year reading list. This week, the temperatures are suppose to plummet into the teens and I can't tell you I am happy about it. So I'll be inside, tucked deep into the couch reading and cuddling with the kids. 

This time next week, I'll be on my way to sunny California for a trip to with my mom to the Critic's Choice Awards and the Ellen Show. Excited doesn't even begin to describe what we are feeling, just in case you were wondering! 

Happy Friday! 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Year of the House

The most exciting thing I am looking forward to in the New Year is our home.

When we bought this house last August, I was just so over the moon about living in my grandparents' home that I didn't care what it looked like. It could have had purple velvet wall paper and shag carpet and I wouldn't have cared one bit. We really didn't changed much because the house was amazing to begin with.

This was taken the day we moved in. We've since painted the walls gray, which I love in a room that has such great natural sunlight. 

Hard wood floors, stone fireplace, finished basement...there isn't much to mess with. However, I have been dreaming of a couple of things for this house... 

Here's what we are looking forward to for updates in 2016. 


I was so caught up in the kids' rooms that I kind of forgot about ours. Currently, we have white walls and no curtains...but this year that will definitely change. I want a dark paint on the walls, possibly a navy or gray... with some bold prints on the curtains and pillows. Call me crazy but a white faux fur rug and matching night stands too, with a bench at the foot of the bed, like in the pin above. A gal can dream, can't she? At least I grew out of the pink canopy stage that lasted embarrassingly into my late teens.


The family room has a great start but it needs a little love and attention. We need to find a way to mount the TV on the wall while also hiding all of the cords because OCD. I also want to do a bolder color theme downstairs because of all neutral colors upstairs. 

My other goal for downstairs: A sliding barn door. Thanks to an amazing addition off of the back of the house, we have a rustic "play room" that I envision someday will be maybe a bar area for the adults or a game/room for the kids and I'd like to find a stylish way to section that area off from the main family room. Here's what I am hoping for:


 This is CJ's favorite area of expertise so I will let him take the reigns on this project. We have a lot of potential in the front and back yards. I can't wait to see what he comes up with. 

Guest Bathroom

Even though part of me wants to keep the bathroom exactly the way it is because it takes me back in a time warp, it's time for an upgrade. Except for a new shower, the bathroom looks the same as it did when my grandparents lived here and I have a lot of memories of snooping through my step-grandma's Mary Kay makeup as a teen. But I'd like to see a new vanity, lights and paint in here. I LOVE the idea of white subway tile. There are also some tutorials on Pinterest on how to stain existing wood vanities darker so that would be interesting to try out. 

So that's the start at least. I think I might give CJ a heart attack if I add anything else to the list.  I'm excited to decorate the walls and just ordered our family pictures for the dining room. I also ordered a collection of snapshots from all of our travels over the past 2 1/2 years for the hallway that I am really excited about. We have a skyline of Brooklyn and the beaches at Jersey Shore and Ft. Lauderdale, plus mountains in Colorado and historical buildings from Philadelphia. I think they will look so great!

Here's to our first year in our dream home! 

Thursday, December 31, 2015



And yes, in case you were wondering, it was impossible to choose, but alas, here I am trying to nail down some of the top nine moments and snapshots of 2015. That's one fantastic problem to have! 

In no particular order - but the first one really takes the cake: 

1) Our Trip to Colorado. It was what dreams were made of... except that one of the kids had to poop on a mountain, someone got stuck in the seat belt during the drive and that flat tire in the middle-of-nowhere, Nebraska. But those are just the little details. As a whole, taking our kids on vacation this summer was definitely the highlight of the year. Hiking up to Dream and Emerald Lakes in Estes Park, CO was a memory I will never forget. More importantly, I hope our kids always remember it too. 

2) We also managed a great family snap shot while at a wedding in Colorado, which with 7 of us is always a task. 

3) Hubs and I getting a little vacation to ourselves at Lake of the Ozarks- the perfect place to end the summer. 

4) Home.

5) Not just this snapshot, but every moment spent laughing with my two best friends was a highlight of the year for me. They've grown up so much in 2015. Their personalities shine, their strong suits are flourishing and we are really getting the groove of this thing called life together. 

6) The day that Reese made. Her 5th birthday was a creation all her own, and she took us on quite the adventure. First, she took us to a movie, then Panda Express and to the mall to get her ears pierced, and then, only to prove she truly is my daughter, we perused the isles of Target with Starbucks in hand. We ended the day at "the giant ice cream village" and it was the most perfect of days. 

7) In October, I wore glittering, gold Badgley Mischka and helped one of my dearest friends say "I Do" and it was pure magic. Crazy, unpredictable, loud and fun- just like it always is with my gals. 

8) One of my favorite things- couch sitting and goofing off with the Rs. We did this a lot through out the year, Reese telling her funny knock knock jokes and Ryder Googling random facts to impress us. If you ever want to know why the chicken crossed the road or how many satellites are currently sending X number of beams down to earth, my kids probably have the answers. 

9) This was a great day- Halloween. Reese wanted to be a crazy cat lady, which was amazing all on its own because I myself am an aspiring crazy cat lady, plus it was the cutest costume, EVER. The best part of the whole day is when she asked me to be her "Favorite cat" and at first I thought, "no way, I am not cool enough to pull off dressing up with my kids, I will look like a dork." But then I looked at my crazy cat lady, with her big blue eyes and I couldn't say no. Some liquid eyeliner, a few whiskers and a cat headband later and away we went. She even took home first prize at the costume contest. Epic.  

There aren't enough posts or photo collages that could do this year any justice so I will just say that my cup, my heart, my home, my everything, where it runs, is running over the expectations I have and what I think I deserve. It's so much, so much love and smiles I can't even explain it. Even the worst of days start again with a fresh slate again the next morning and that's what  I keep remembering- that's what helps keep me grateful. 


Monday, December 28, 2015

Best Books of 2015

The only thing I regret about the books I read this year is that I didn't read more. There are many fun memories and Netflix shows to blame for that, so I am not complaining. But if I had to name my favorites, here is my list: 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff-  
This was a doozie, and I know I am not the only person who was left moved by it- it's been at the top of all of the best reads for the year. Lotto and Matilde are a beautiful couple with their whole lives ahead of them and they're madly in love. Their story isn't anything out of the ordinary...they marry young and struggle as Lotto pursues his acting career, and later, his dream to become a playwright. First, you get Lotto's point of view of their life and then, Matilde takes over the narrative and the shocker of the novel is that their versions of their life together are two completely different stories...and the reasons why are riveting

Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - My runner up for the favorite of year the year, probably because it made me fall in love with historical fiction again, which I have strayed from in the past couple of years. Just like Sarah's Key, this book was beautiful and so well written, it was if you were right there in France, in the cold bitterness of the war. It's just the way Hannah writes that makes you really live with the characters, which makes it easy to feel for them and understand why they did the things they did and how they survived. 

The Girl On The Train - The perfect "Gone Girl" fix for 2015. This book was the perfect "horror" or thriller fiction because the story wasn't just strange and mysterious but so was the writing. Sometimes I felt like I myself was hallucinating, not just the characters. But I won't say anything more because it's a cliff hanger that needs the reader to be in the dark. 

The Husband's Secret- This was actually a book I had given up on a couple of times but because I really like her others (Big Little Lies and What Alice Forgot) I decided to give it another chance, and I am so glad I did. I think that Liane Moriarty is just a rare gem because she writes these romantic comedies with such great twists that it's like Carrie Bradshaw Meets Olivia Pope. You can beat that match up. 

Ruby by Cynthia Bond - This is the most memorable because it was so dark and the imagery really stayed with me. In one word, it was haunting. The whole story just really stuck with me and there were parts of the narrative that stunned me and I really just can't get it out of my head.  

And for the BEST book of 2015, the award goes to ...

Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg

I can't even begin to describe this book. I know It is certainly not rare for a book to make me cry. But this, this book made me bawl. I listened to it on Audible and I listened to certain parts over and over again. 

The characters in this book live in a small town in Connecticut. They are torn apart when a fire takes the lives of  several of their loved ones and suddenly, instead of the wedding they had all been planning for, they are planning funerals. It's just a beautiful story about human beings and family. About people that we all know in our own lives, whose stories had me thinking, "Oh God, how I know that feeling." 


All I want to do now is reread these stories, but maybe I will give it a little more time. For now I'll just troll the "you might also enjoy" recommendations on Goodreads. 

The new year may start off a little slow in the book department thanks mostly to a couple of rooms that still need painting in the house and the fact that I've discovered Jane the Virgin, The Making of a Murderer and Transparent and the binging struggle is real... and there are mountains of new toys and crafts thanks to Santa that are begging to be played with. 

Here's to 2016! 

For more amazing lists, checking out Life According to Steph and Jana Says' Link Up today! 

Life According to Steph 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Lights, Camera, California!

Let's take a break from books for a moment and focus on the next best thing: Movies.

There are a couple reasons we need to give movies some time to shine. 

First, I feel like the movie version of books get a bad rep. Usually, that's true. A lot of movies have been huge disappointments for me. Most notable: P.S. I Love You. I can't even talk about it. But there are some movies that are just made more beautiful because of the visual aspect the movies add. Call me cliche, but just look at The Notebook. If you did some research, you would be amazed how many movies were originally books.  

Secondly, movies are my mom's most favorite thing in the world (besides me of course). The gal knows her stuff too. She can rattle of the best of the best and loves to follow the films that are getting the most buzz. 

She's actually so in love with movies that she's made a name for herself as a movie critic on local news channels, hosts an annual film festival and scored herself a spot with the Broadcast Film Critics Association, which is the network behind the Critic's Choice Awards each year.

Which also means she gets to attend to the Critics Choice Awards show every year and dines with with the stars of the year's best movies. She's fancy, I tell ya. And guess who gets to be her date this year? You guessed it, this gal. 

That means Santa Monica, here we come! We're going to the Critic's Choice awards and the after parties AND we're stopping by the see our best friend, Ellen. 

Going to see a live taping of the Ellen show is something I never dared to imagine would happy to us and I am beyond excitement. I am checking their taping schedule everyday to see if they've updated the calendar so we will know who will be there for the show we are at. Talk about anticipation! 

Anyway, I wanted to share what movies my mom has chosen for THE movies to see this season and which ones she's predicting will be the big winners. 

Here are the trailers from her picks, enjoy! 

The Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio 

The Danish Girl with Eddie Radmayne 

Joy with Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper 

And Her Best Picture Prediction: Spotlight
Starring Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton (plus many more) 

So yes, to say we are excited would be the understatement of our lives. 
And don't even get me started on the fact that this year, the Critic's Choice Awards includes television so all my favorite TV stars are going to be there as well. STOP. 

That's a whole other post! 

California, baby! 
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