Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha and happy Wednesday! It's been quite a week for me. Jarrod got home from three weeks of pre-deployment training on Saturday. I'm so happy to have him home and I love that my life feels somewhat back to normal even for just a short while. I better not get too used to it, though, because he leaves for more training soon and then he'll be heading off for his deployment at the beginning of March. (So you can look forward to lots of posts where I whine about missing my husband! And, whenever it arrives, you'll also get to see the beautiful necklace made of our fingerprints I ordered from Etsy.)

This week I started a new job after taking the past seven months off -- so things aren't quite back to normal, since we have to work around my new schedule. I'm working at the library on base, which is really the perfect job for me seeing as I love reading so much I have a whole blog about books! I was hoping I'd get to wear whatever I want to work, but the dress code is a uniform polo shirt and any pants except jeans. Sadly for me, all I owned until a few days ago was jeans. (If you've ever seen my WIWW posts before, I'm sure you know I LIVE in jeans and flip-flops!) Ugh -- khakis, I hate you! As always, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy to keep me accountable for what I leave the house wearing. It works!

01-31-12 WIWW and Waikiki
Remember a month or two ago when showed you my dilapidated old brown purse and told you I'd had my eye on a new brown purse at Target forever, waiting for it to go on sale or clearance? Well, for once my waiting did not pay off -- my beautiful bag never went on sale or clearance and then one day it just wasn't there anymore! I've had this poor purse since college and it's literally falling apart now, so I guess my next shopping quest will be for a new brown purse!

01-31-12 WIWW and Waikiki1

01-31-12 WIWW and Waikiki2

01-31-12 WIWW and Waikiki3

pleated poppy

Friday, January 27, 2012

Furry Friday

2012-01-26 16.47.31
Conan loves it when we get packages in the mail because they usually contain at least one present for him. Yesterday a box arrived from my mom, and Conan was thrilled to receive from within the depths of the package this new zebra-striped giraffe. Conan adores Giraffe and and has been toting him around everywhere.

On a sidenote, this is the first time I've ever sent a picture that I took with my smartphone to my computer. I'm so dumb when it comes to smartphones and it doesn't help that mine didn't come with any sort of instruction manual. I've learned what little I do know from a combination of dumb luck, Google and surreptitiously spying on other, more-saavy, smartphone users. Anyway, the point is that I'm proud of myself for this small smartphone accomplishment!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: "Ape House"

"Ape House" by Sara Gruen
First published in 2010
My rating: 4 out of 5

The first half of "Ape House," Sara Gruen's follow-up to her masterpiece, "Water for Elephants," captivated me. The most important characters in the novel are six bonobos -- a type of great ape similar to a chimpanzee -- who can communicate with humans through American Sign Language. I was fascinated by descriptions of how incredibly intelligent and human-like the bonobos are. Many of the awe- and aww-inspiring scenes with the apes are based on Gruen's own experiences with bonobos at the Great Ape Trust. Many of the characters in the novel are truly changed and moved by their time with the apes, just as Gruen was.

"Ape House" is predominantly told through the eyes of John Thigpen, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter. When the book opens, Thigpen is returning from a day in Kansas interviewing scientist Isabel Duncan at the Great Ape Language Lab, where he was one of the lucky few to get to interact with the six bonobos who live there. Upon returning to Philadelphia, John learns that supposed animal rights activists bombed the lab and set the apes free shortly after he and his crew departed. Isabel, with whom he'd felt an instant connection, was still inside the lab at the time and was critically injured. Soon after, the "liberated" bonobos appear on a rather horrifying reality television show called "Ape House." They are captive in an empty house in the Arizona desert filled with cameras, and rapt audiences watch as the bonobos display their intelligence by ordering food and other items from a computer in the house, as well as play, use sign language and have lots and lots of sex. When this becomes boring and viewership begins to drop, the sinister show producer tries to bait the bonobos into creating more drama. The results of this speak volumes about human nature.

I told you that the first half of the novel captivated me. But I wasn't as thrilled with the second half, which featured the bonobos on the awful reality television show, Isabel working desperately to find a way to free them, betrayals, breakdowns, poronographers, strippers, tabloid newspapers, a meth lab, evil Hollywood producers and a hotel and casino with the most irriating name ever: "Mohegan Moon." Many readers will probably come into "Ape House" expecting it to be like "Water for Elephants." The only similarity is that both novels feature animals with above-average intelligence who interact with humans. The plot of "Ape House" was gripping and horrifying enough to keep me glued to the pages, but it didn't carry me away like "Elephants" did.

Some reviews called Gruen's "Ape House" characters trite, underdeveloped, stereotypical and formulaic. I can see where they're coming from. Others said "Ape House" was predictable. I can see that, too. But I learned a lot about bonobos (a word I'd never even heard before opening the novel) and I finished the book in three days because I was so mesmerized by the plot. I definitely recommend picking it up -- just don't expect it to be the same as "Water for Elephants."

Before I leave you, I do have an interesting tid-bit. I saw on Gruen's website that Ellen Degeneres has bought the movie rights to "Ape House." I think it would make a pretty good movie, but in the novel Gruen tells us more than once that all apes used in the entertainment industry are juveniles, most of whom have been taken from their mothers in the wild. If that's the case, where are the bonobos for the movie going to come from?

(Image Source)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha and happy Wednesday! My outfits this week are ok... someday I hope to tell you that my outfits for the week were fantastic and stylish and I loved all of them! But, alas, I'm not quite there yet. This week I tried to wear a few things I hadn't put on in a while, like the beaded orange racerback tank top and my skinny jeans. I'm still up in the air on skinnies -- I think they look great on some people and the pair I have is really comfortable, but I'm not convinced that they do anything to flatter my shape. A bright spot in the week was receiving an adorable new necklace I ordered from Etsy and I absolutely love it! As always, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy for What I Wore Wednesday.

01-20-12 Valentine's Cards1

01-20-12 Valentine's Cards

01-22-12 Painting
I wore this to a Mai Tais and Monet get-together with some of the other wives in my husband's squadron. We drank wine (not mai tais) and each painted a hibiscus flower. It was a good time and I recommend participating in one of these alcohol-and-art gatherings -- which seem to be popping up everywhere -- if you get the chance.

01-22-12 Painting1

pleated poppy

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review: "The Son of Neptune"

"The Son of Neptune" by Rick Riordan
Originally published in 2011
My rating: 4 out of 5

As far as page-turning potential goes, I would give this book a 10 out of 5. I tore through all 513 pages in under three days, a feat I haven't attempted since the days of "Harry Potter" new releases. This book is the second in "The Heroes of Olympus" series, a spin-off of the widely popular "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" five-book collection.

Since this is the seventh Percy Jackson book, I don't want to give too much away and spoil the suspense of the previous novels, which I'm hoping I can convince you to read. They're about a group of teenagers battling evil and saving the world. Sounds a little Potter-esque -- and it is -- but what sets Riordan's books apart is the element of Greek -- and in this book Roman -- mythology. The ancient Greek and Roman gods are alive and well and they reside at Mt. Olympus, which is currently perched above Manhattan. But a dark, terrible being is threatening to rise again and destroy both the mortal world and the godly one. It's up to a group of demigods -- kids who have a godly parent and a human one -- to save civilization. (Percy Jackson is a son of the sea god Poseidon -- Neptune in Roman culture -- in case you were wondering.)

Riordan's books are packed full of adventure, a smidge of romance, and some sarcastic writing and PG-rated humor. The world Riordan has created is one of prophecies, quests, strange weapons and even stranger monsters and beasts. The plot will keep you turning pages, but riding along with Percy Jackson and crew to save the world is also a learning experience. The Percy Jackson novels are like a crash course in mythology. Did you know that Minerva McGonagall from Harry Potter is named after the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva? Did you know that the planets are named after Roman gods? Have you ever wondered what Styx means?

My only gripe about these books is that Riordan's writing can sometimes seem less refined than other young adult authors like J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins or Stephanie Meyer. Granted, the Percy Jackson books are probably geared toward a slightly younger audience. But it bugs me to no end when Riordan uses amateurish devices to create suspense. It's common for a character to be on the verge of revealing some big secret or clue, only to be interrupted at the last second. I think that's totally unneccessary -- the fascinating plot is enough to keep readers glued to the pages.

I strongly recommend checking out the Percy Jackson series. Anyone who's ever been curious about Greek mythology will enjoy the books. And so will fans of Harry Potter, Eragon and the like. The books are super-fast reads, fun, interesting and full of vivid, fantastical descriptions to get your imagination going. Plus, you'll probably learn something!

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Easy & Cheap Paint Chip Valentine's Day Cards

I've been inspired by all the creative uses people seem to find for those free paint chip cards at home improvement stores, and I thought it'd be fun to turn the many shades of red and pink paint chips into Valentine's Day cards. To create this simple project, which has endless possible variations, you'll need:
-a couple free paint chip samples
-pre-made cards or some cardstock
(I got a pack of 8 sheets of cardstock for 99 cents at Target)
-a hole puncher
-craft glue

Punch some holes in each shade of paint chip you want to use. I had a handy little plastic doodad that was perfect for keeping the various colors separated. It works best to punch your holes from the back, non-colored side of the paint chips.

You can lightly draw a design on your card like I did, or just freehand it.

Working with a couple inches at a time, squirt a very thin line of craft glue onto your cardstock and lightly press paint chip dots onto the glue. Don't use too much glue and don't press too hard or you'll have unattractive globs of glue spurting out from behind your dots.

And that's it! It was so fun, quick and cheap to make these bright, festive cards for my special Valentines!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review: "The Paris Wife"

"The Paris Wife" by Paula McLain
Originally published in 2011
My rating: 5 out of 5

In "The Paris Wife," Paula McLain brings to life author Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson. She also conjures amazing images of 1920s Chicago and Paris, the movers and shakers of the "Lost Generation," the dramatic bullfights of Pamplona and the very tangible betrayal and heartbreak that ultimately came between Ernest and Hadley.

About two-thirds of the way through the novel, I looked up an online biography of Ernest Hemingway and was pleasantly surprised to see that every major event in the novel actually happened just the way it was written. It seems to me a risky endeavor to try to accurately fictionalize history -- where's the suspense when the outcome is already known? Ernest was married four times, so we already know at the outset that the wonderful, magical romance he and Hadley have will not last. But it seems McLain's goal was to stick to the facts while digging deeper emotionally, to supplement the biography of Hadley with emotions, actions, thoughts and feelings. She does this beautifully, and the result is a page-turner.

Shortly after WWI, young Ernest and 28-year-old Hadley are introduced by a friend at a party in Chicago. After a short courtship and quick wedding, they set off for Paris so Ernest can devote himself to his writing, earning money as a foreign newpaper correspondent and working on his own short stories and novels on the side. Ernest's career begins to take off with the help of notable authors like Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson and F. Scott Fitzgerald. For a time, life for the Hemingways seems perfect. But there's always something a little dark, a little morose, a little unsettled about Ernest. And Hadley, despite being Ernest's biggest champion, struggles with the feeling that she's losing her sense of self. Eventually, even as Ernest experiences his first major publishing successes, his marriage begins to crumble.

I loved everything about this book -- the atmosphere, the places, the characters, the drama, the factual nature of the story and even the name Hadley! I was entranced by this novel and I'm excited to read whatever else McLain has to offer. Happy reading!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha and Happy Wednesday! My outfits aren't anything spectacular this week --  with my husband gone for pre-deployment training I didn't get out of the house all that much. I went to watch the Broncos playoff game Saturday with some friends but I was decked out in Broncos gear for that, and after their pitiful showing I'm embarrassed to be seen in blue and orange right now! As always, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy for What I Wore Wednesday to keep me accountable for what I wear when I actually do leave the house!

01-16-11 First Socks
I wore this outfit to a job interview. I hard a terrible time picking out something because the last "real" job I had was when I was a newspaper reporter and copy editor almost four whole years ago. Along the way I've gotten rid of a lot of my workwear as I outgrew it -- both literally and fashion-wise. This skirt and pair of heels are some of the last vestiges of my "real" job days!

01-17-11 WIWW1

01-17-11 WIWW
Ah, this outfit. It was a big fashion leap for me to pair a turquoise necklace with a fuschia shirt. Normally I'd wear more neutral silver jewelry with something so bright, but I think it works. Unfortunately, while the outfit looks reasonably good from the front, the back is a hot mess!

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Happiness Project, Part 2

Back at the end of November, I told you in this post about a magazine article I'd read that proclaimed we could all feel more content by New Year's simply by writing down three positive aspects of each day for two weeks. I decided to give the project a try and thus began filling up a notebook with lists of happy things.

I found that, as I got into it, I began to look forward to the ritual of reviewing my day, picking out the positives, and then selecting the three best things. Admittedly, there were times when I struggled to even come up with one good part of the day, which had the opposite effect and made me feel even more down in the dumps.

But overall, I really enjoyed the project and actually kept at it for the entire month of December; my last entry was on January 2. It's fun to read back through the list and remember the fun little things that happened each day. I think I may find myself a cute notebook and continue the project, although perhaps I'll write down five positive things about each week rather than keeping up with daily entries.

I'll leave you with some of my favorite entries and the recommendation to give this quick and easy little happiness project a try. :)

*Watching the super-close overtime ending of the Broncos game with Jarrod and yelling at the TV together.
*Trying peppermint tea with honey for the first time after seeing it in a movie. Why didn't I think of that?
*Basking in the sun and watching the rainbows form as Jarrod (looking quite attractive) tried out his new surfboard.
*Actually being cold for a change and remembering that living in a place that's usually 85 degrees in December is really not such a bad thing.
*My brother finding out he was accepted to Colorado State University. I'm so excited to have a fellow Ram in the family!
*Visiting my friend Veronica's blog and seeing that she'd posted a picture of herself with the Hawaiian-made yarn I sent her for Christmas.
*Watching one of my new favorite movies, "Bottle Shock." It makes me want to become a wine drinker.
*Watching Conan attempt to open his Christmas presents.
*Making our favorite penne dish for dinner and subbing in some of Jarrod's homemade sausage for the chicken. Absolutely delicious!
*Watching the last sunset of 2011 from Waikiki Beach.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha, Wednesday friends! I hope you're all settling nicely into 2012. I'm working on my New Year's fashion resolution to only buy and wear clothes that make me feel -- as Clinton Kelly put it -- "fabulous!" It's a daunting task, but I spent extra time selecting my outfits this week and I did feel good in all of them (the ones you get to see, anyway!). As always, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy to share my outfits for What I Wore Wednesday.

01-04-12 Mom's B-day Scarf

01-10-11 WIWW

01-10-11 WIWW1

01-10-11 WIWW2

pleated poppy

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Book Review: "The Stupidest Angel"

"The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror" by Christopher Moore
Originally published in 2004
My rating: 4 out of 5

"The Stupidest Angel" was unlike any book I've read before. I kind of expected that, after the lady checking me out at the library told me she could never get into Moore's books because of his very sarcastic writing style and wished me luck. Now I can see where she was coming from. Don't be fooled by the childish drawing of the halo-clad angel on the cover!

If you're easily offended by things like swear words, scrotums, sex in graveyards, marijuana, murders, and angels of God portrayed as complete nutcase morons, please -- I beg you -- avoid this "tale of Christmas terror." If you believe you possess the open-minded, somewhat sick sense of humor needed to enjoy Moore's writing, read on.

The "stupidest angel" in the novel is Raziel, who has been selected from above to perform for one earthling child a Christmas miracle. Little Josh Barker has just witnessed the murder of Santa -- or, rather, evil small-town developer Dale Pearson who in a drunken rage attempted to shoot his ex-wife for stealing his Monterey pine trees to give to poor families and found himself on the wrong end of her shovel, all while dressed in a Santa suit -- and he prays for the dead Santa to come back to life. From Josh's mouth to Raziel's ears! Sadly for Josh and the small town of Pine Cove, California, Raziel is hardly heaven's most competent angel and his presence unleashes mayhem, complete with brain-sucking zombies hell-bent on finding the nearest IKEA store after their gory meal.

Moore's writing is all at once funny, clever, sadly realistic, biting, offensive, witty and often nonsensical. If nothing else, Moore is memorable. I won't soon forget this "heartwarming tale" -- which did indeed have a happy and surprisingly heartwarming ending.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite passages from the novel:
"I'm working in here, so things are a little messy."
A little messy? An understatement on par with calling the Bataan Death March a nature hike -- it looked like someone had loaded all of Gabe's belongings into a cannon and fired them into the room through the wall.

(image source)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday: New Year's Resolution Edition

Aloha, Wednesday friends! Participating in What I Wore Wednesday these past few months has really helped me get to know my wardrobe better and has kept me accountable for what I leave the house wearing. Plus, I've gotten fashion inspiration from looking at all the other bloggers' posts each week. I'm grateful for those things, but I want to take it a step further in 2012.

The other day I saw an episode of "What Not To Wear" in which host Clinton Kelly put forth these words of fashion wisdom: "If it doesn't make you feel fabulous, if it doesn't make you feel beautiful -- get rid of it!" So simple, so obvious, and yet... so many of us don't put this advice to use in our own closets. This year, I resolve to really think about the clothes in my wardrobe and -- especially -- the clothes that I'm buying. If it doesn't make me feel pretty, confident and stylish, it shouldn't get a spot in my closet.

12-31-11 Waikiki Sunset

12-31-11 Waikiki Sunset1

12-31-11 Waikiki Sunset2

pleated poppy

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello, 2012!

It's the new year! Today I hung up my calendars, said goodbye to our Christmas tree and made room for my new elliptical. I was slightly wistful welcoming in 2012 this year --it seems like 2011 just whizzed by and was gone before I even got settled in! Nevertheless, I did make time to jot down a few goals for the new year:

1. Read more nonfiction books.
2. Stop saying "I told you so."
3. Knit my first garment and pair of socks. (Sigh... this was on last year's list too!)
4. Worry less!
5. Exercise. Now that I have my brand-spankin'-new elliptical, I don't have any excuses.
6. Make it through Jarrod's six-month deployment to Afghanistan in one piece!

I wish you all the best of luck in conquering your 2012 resolutions!
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