Sunday, April 28, 2013

My First Adult Furniture

Before you have visions of vibrating beds let me explain the title of this post.  According to the Urban Dictionary website, adult furniture refers to the pieces a young twenty-something purchases after graduating from college.

Well, let's see ... it's been a decade since I graduated college (Oy!) and I am now in the thirty-something category. Needless to say, it took me a little bit longer to get my first adult furniture.  After first inheriting my husband's "bachelor furniture" and then picking up many "transition" pieces (code word for cheap) that have all been subjected to food stains, dog hair, and baby spit-up (man, we sound like slobs) it was high time to get some real stuff.  We decided to start with the all-important king of any living space, the couch (or sofa as my mother would term it).

The search began earlier this year with a good-intentioned trip to JC Penney's.  We were there for a total of 7 minutes when we realized it was a total bust ... and for many reasons.  I really can't talk about it.  It was that bad.  Let's just say the flashbacks of being draaaaaagged through nauseatingly lit department stores as a small child combined with the oddly inappropriate BLARING of techno music and a lack of service was enough to have me running out of the place in tears.  Instead, I had a fit of hysterical giggles and we had to leave.  Oh yeah, and the furniture was terrible.  JCP, what the heck happened to you???

Our journey then led us to the other extreme of furniture scavenging ... Pottery Barn.  Ironically, we lasted an identical 7 minutes in this store as well but for very different reasons.  Too much frill.  Too many toothy saleswomen breathing down our necks.  Too many expectations that we simply had no interest in living up to.  So sorry PB but the Giras just can't conform to your perfect-ness.

It was at this point that we faced what we knew all along.  The only store we KNEW would be the right fit for us was Crate & Barrel.  Simple.  Modern.  No fuss.  Us.  We tried putting it off because the only store in our area is almost an hour away and we are just plain lazy.  Yes, I said it.  L-A-Z-Y.  Sad, but true.  But we sucked it up and made a day of it and of course found the perfect couch.

Our tushes and my adult ego have been happy ever since.

Couch: Crate & Barrel Davis 2-Piece Sectional in Graphite
Flowered Pillow: Homegoods (old)
Striped Pillows: Target (here)
Throw: Homegoods (new)

The new couch reignited my inspiration for our family room and I found some other fun goodies along the way.

Flowered Vase: Homegoods (new)
Hourglass: Homegoods (new)
Fake Plant: Homegoods (old)

Next up for this room:
  • A collage of wall hangings using ceiling medallions - has anyone done this???  HELP!
  • A newly constructed (and much prettier) return air register cover - hubby's working on this one...

I'm going to go curl up on my new couch and act like a real adult now.

Friday, April 19, 2013

No Fault Here

John Green is nothing short of brilliant.  His approach to writing teen literature goes far beyond any other author of the genre that I can think of.  I am so grateful that I took the time to acquaint (submerge) myself with his novel, The Fault In Our Stars.  A story of young love so beautifully written I was in a constant state of awe.

Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters lock eyes on one another during a cancer support group meeting for teens. Definitely not the typical location for meeting your first true love but this is in no way your typical teen love story.  The bright but painfully sheltered Hazel (better known as Hazel Grace) quickly finds a deep connection with the brutally handsome and witty Augustus (better known as Gus).  Opposites in many ways, these two are unlikely magnets and thrive on conversations about books, video games, quirky philosophies of life, and of course, living with cancer.

The novel takes Hazel and Gus on a journey to Amsterdam to meet the estranged (and severely alcoholic) Peter Van Houten, the author of Hazel's favorite book, An Imperial Affliction.  However, the trip becomes more than just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Expectations are crushed, truths are told, realities come forth, and the love between Hazel and Gus intensifies and becomes almost immeasurable.

Green takes the stereotypical "cancer story" and flips it on its head.  He creates characters that are so raw and vulnerable you can't help but feel the story and emotions behind them.  This is not so much a story about kids dying from cancer as it is about kids living with cancer and what it feels like to fall in love.  The perfectly written passages of crass remarks intertwined with gut-wrenching and beautiful insights are what make this novel memorable.  Green creates a powerful blend of both the humor, pain, and beauty of being dealt a bad hand in life.

I chose to listen to the audio version of this novel and it was superb.  Kate Rudd's reading is impeccable.  She was able to capture the voice of Hazel in a way I probably wouldn't have in my own head.  Her witty cadence reminded me much of Tina Fey (weird, I know) but in the same breath she was able to express the tender and honest thoughts of Hazel just as effectively.

This is yet another example of YA literature that is enjoyable for adults.  Sometimes I think YA novels are smarter, fresher, and more relevant than adult novels.  The Fault In Our Stars would indeed be one of them.  Because of the extensive vocabulary, I would recommend this book for high schoolers and above.  This won't stop me from adding a copy to my middle school classroom collection but I predict only my more "seasoned" 7th and 8th Graders will truly understand and appreciate its content.

For more information about John Green and his novels visit:

Have you read this novel or any other works by John Green?  I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.  Do share!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I Did It: Wipe-Off Menu

DIY projects must adhere to the following criteria if they are bound to stand a chance in my Wanna-Be-A-Craftstar world:

  • Child-like Ease: I have no time/patience/tears to waste on artsy-fartsy frustration
  • Cheap: Seeing that I am liable to make at least 3 mistakes per project, this one is important 
  • Chic: Regardless of my refusal to put too much energy into a project, I am a brat and still expect the thing to be stylish and mod
  • Husband-Friendly: "HONEY!  I found this GREAT idea on Pinterest!  Will you build it for me?!"

With that being said, the following project was perfect for me.  I have to admit though, as easy as this was, it was actually my second go at it.  The first time I made this menu I used a background paper that was too busy and my alphabet sticker choice was lame-o.  It irritated the heck out of me and thus, DO OVER!  I'm much happier with this version.

Wipe-Off Menu
(Click HERE to see original Pinterest link)

1. Any 12 x 12 frame will do.  I chose this one from Target.

2. 12 x 12 scrapbook paper of your choice.  I really love this one.

3. Alphabet stickers (similar here) and a Vis-a-Vis marker (here).  

4. If this will be sitting on your counter, a sturdy frame stand is needed.  I couldn't find anything strong enough at the store so my hubby was gracious enough to build one for me.  However, this may work.

And .... Badda Boom, Badda Bing!

I love this because it keeps me organized and frazzle-free when dinner time rolls around
Just wipe off with a damp towel and reuse again and again and again!

I'm always on the hunt for easy (but CUTE) projects that fit my DIY For Dummies criteria!  What crafts have you got up your sleeve?  Do share!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Just Can't Get Enough: April

Lots of upbeat tunes running through my ears this month.  I'm still craving soulful rock, 80's influences, and southern blues.  I'm certain I always will.  Take a listen!

1. Keep On Swinging by Rival Sons: Yes, puh-lease!  This song simply ooooozes coolness.  Every time I listen to it I feel like a bad ass.  This is what rock should sound like.  Always.  The singing is delicious.  Note-to-self: Download more Rival Sons and listen to it every day for good music health.  

2. Panic Station by Muse:  This is one of those bands that just keeps getting better and better.  I'm obsessed with their fresh 80's flavored sound.  Everything sounds so tight.  This song has certain guitar pieces that remind me of Bowie's Fame which of course makes me love it even more.  And the horns!  God bless horn sections (especially in alternative rock songs).

3. Anna Sun by Walk the Moon:  There is something so quirky and jolly about this song.  The video is delightful in every way - so loose, effortless, and nerdy-cool.  Me likey.

4. Can't Let Go by Heidi Newfield: I don't typically "do" country.  When I first heard this song, "country" didn't even come to mind.  All I heard was this achy bluesy sound which I've been gravitating toward a lot lately.  Newfield's sexy tone creates a yummy melody with the perfect amount of grit and sass.  Yee Haw!

5. Stompa by Serena Ryder: This song is just plain infectious.  The lyrics are simple.  The beat is simple.  There's nothing complicated here but I think that's partly why I enjoy it so.  I can't help but bounce along and "Stompa my feet."    

What's sparking your musical fancy this month?  I LOVE discovering new tunes so do share!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Girl Power

Have you ever read a book that felt good for you?  Just like eating an apple improves one's nutritional state, this book improved my knowledge and appreciation for women's history.  This book was good for me.  It was enlightening to say the least.  Its complete education of the trials of the modern American woman made me think.

Really think.  

As Gail Collins led me through the recent female journey, I found myself swimming through a mix of different emotions and feelings: pride, sadness, anger, shock, reflection, wonder, and much unsettling.  I truly love this book for making me learn and feel and think so much about a topic that is ... me. Since finishing this book I have been trying to organize all those emotions and thoughts into a single space but it's difficult.  The best way I can encompass the heart and soul of this book is through the beautiful song, Woman In Chains by Tears For Fears.     

Collins begins the journey post WWII when the majority of women were found living their lives solely for their families and playing the role of the perfectly happy housewife.  This was a time when it was absurd to wear "slacks" in public and snagging a husband was the first priority of college rather than earning an education.  However, change was bubbling at the surface.

Collins crosses us over the threshold of change with the invention of The Pill and the onslaught of the Civil Rights Movement. This was the most interesting and educational part of the book for me.  I had no idea how closely women's rights and civil rights mirrored each other at that time.  Both groups were fighting to be seen, heard, and treated as an equal.  

The book then moves into the next chapter of female history when women's liberation almost became trendy and the feminist was as powerful (and stereotyped) as ever.  This may have been most evident with the poster child for women's rights, Gloria Steinem.  Despite the fact that Steinem was one of the most powerful and respected spokeswomen for the movement, she was often identified by her attractive looks.  She did not fit the stereotypical mold of the homely, frumpy feminist and unfortunately that often times overshadowed her hard work and contributions to the cause.

Then the 1980's and 1990's slammed the door on old-fashioned women roles and found females dominating the work force in areas like business, science, and engineering - all previously male driven.  It was at this time that the female race was confidently shouting, "Women can do ANYTHING!" (Damn straight!) Yet that affirmation quickly turned into, "Women can DO IT ALL!" (Ugh. No thanks.)  This is the part where my unsettled feelings began to sink in.    

It was around this time that the idea of the "Power Mom" took hold and I think women in America began to feel the pressure of living up to an ideal that was just plain impractical and in my opinion, unhealthy.  It was (and still is) common to find women constantly trying to find the balance between motherhood, career, and themselves.  I think women often ask, "Who am I?"  It seems attention is mostly given to two categories: the career woman OR the stay-at-home woman.  There is so much more to a woman than just that and juggling the two is not easily decided, nor should it be.

Collins closes her book with the fact that despite the enormous strides women have made over the last 40 years, they have yet to find the answers to all female suppressing issues.  We live in a country where females run for president but they cannot feel at peace with their attempts to simultaneously raise a family and maintain a career. This is both fascinating and sad to me.  Perhaps when this country catches up and supports the importance of motherhood on our society as a whole, women will feel more confident about their roles and the decisions they make.  Things like paid maternity leave, which the U.S. is one of four countries in the world that does not mandate this (sick and wrong) and mandatory childcare support would lessen the on-going burden women face when trying to balance a family and a job. 

I finished this book a week ago and I'm still thinking about it.  It was similar to taking a great history class in college. I want to learn more about the amazing path of the American woman.  Therefore, I've decided to add another Collins book to my to-read list: America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines. I'm completely engrossed in this topic and Collins is an engaging professor.  I can't wait to read more and get fired up once again.

Have you read this book or any other books by Gail Collins?  Have you read anything recently that felt good for you, your brain, and your emotions?  What was it and why did it hit a chord with you?  I'd love to hear what literary gems are leaving you thinking long and hard after the last word.  

As always, do share!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Birchbox: March

WOW!  Talk about a HUGE difference between last month's Birchbox and this month's.  March was a total score compared to the snooze fest from February.  I had oodles of fun with this month's box and liked just about everything in it.

1. Nick Chavez Sulfate-Free Shampoo:  I had no clue what sulfate-free shampoo was until I looked it up.  Supposedly it cleanses color-treated hair without being too harsh or stripping.  I really didn't notice much difference but then again I don't pay much attention to shampoo.  Just clean my hair please.  This was nice but it had a slight chemical smell (ironic).

2. Nick Chavez Paraben-Free Conditioner: I'm very careful with conditioner because I have baby fine hair and not a lot of it.  If I use too much conditioner I'm liable to look like a wilted flower.  Therefore, I only used a pea-sized amount of this stuff and it was very effective.  I actually liked it more than the shampoo.  I would only use it a couple times a week though.

3, 4, 5. Caldrea Body Lotion: A very nice lotion that soaked into the skin completely and quickly without leaving that annoying sticky/filmy feeling.  Now let's discuss the scents I received:
~ Aloe Water Apricot: This smelled like an old lady ... in a bad way.  I should have guessed from the name alone.
~ Tea Olive Lime: Crisp and clean but overall not entirely memorable.
~ Coconut Fig Leaf: I was instantly transported to a sandy beach vacation on a tropical island.  Sold!  Best scent of the three by far.

6. MAKE Matte Finish Eyeshadow: I received this little cutie in Cement which is a great gray hue with a hint of green.  Very wearable and long-lasting.  Good stuff.

7. MAKE Face Primer SPF 30: This was my favorite product this month.  I use moisturizer but have never experimented with primers.  I loved it!  It kept my skin soft and the best part was it created a nice base for my make-up.  My make-up looked better with this underneath.  Coolio.

8. Madewell Nail Emery Board: Adorable!  I love the large size of this nail file as well as the Grandma-Chic floral pattern.  Delightful!

Click HERE for last month's Birchbox review.

For those who subscribe, how did you enjoy your March Birchbox of goodies?  Any suggestions for other good primers out there (I'm very interested)?  How do you feel about the new wave of sulfate-free products?  A must or just a phase?  Would love to hear your opinions.  Do share!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Dinner: Toddler & Hubby Approved

It's a home run when everyone at the dinner table falls in love with an entire meal.  With a two-year-old and a picky husband, this does not occur all that often.  Don't get me wrong.  My husband is not a whiner by any means and eats what is given to him with very little (none) feedback.  My two-year-old is a champ when it comes to eating and has been known to pack away meals like a 250 pound linebacker.  And although I'm not Paula Deen, I can manage a decent meal without too many complaints.  However, it is a rare event when I hear simultaneous "humming" from these two. That's what happened when I made this combo and it was oh so yummy if I do say so myself. 

Parmesan Chicken Nuggets (original recipe)
Start to Finish: 30 minutes
Makes: 8 servings

1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-in. pieces
honey mustard dressing, optional (substitution)

1. Place butter in a shallow bowl. Combine the bread crumbs, cheese and salt in another shallow bowl.  Dip chicken in butter, then roll in crumbs.
2. Place in a single layer on a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes until no longer pink, turning once halfway through.  Serve with honey mustard dressing if desired.

*I substituted the honey mustard dressing because my daughter loves it.  I also only used one baking sheet instead of two (lazy) and upped the bake time to a total of 20 minutes.

Greek Three Bean Salad (original recipe)
Start to Finish: 25 minutes
Makes: 10 servings

2 cups frozen cut green beans, thawed
1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 oz,) cut wax beans, drained
1/2 cup sliced red onion (altered)
1 can (6 oz.) pitted ripe olives, drained
1/2 cup julienned green pepper
1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumber
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (addition)
3/4 cup bottled Greek vinaigrette
1 cup (4 oz.) crumbled feta cheese

Combine the first eight ingredients in a large salad bowl.  Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to coat.  Chill until ready to serve.  Sprinkle with cheese and serve with slotted spoon.

*I altered the amount of red onion because I think it can be a bit over powering if too much is used (a.k.a. bad breath).  I also added cherry tomatoes because I add them to EVERYTHING.  Afterwards, I realized that garbanzo beans and/or salami would be superb mixed in as well.

If you're in a Greek phase like me, check out this other scrumptious (and very similar) salad.

What are your "go-to" dinners that make the entire dinner table happy?  Do share!