Monday, March 25, 2013

My Etsy Wish List: March

Etsy has really developed into one of my go-to shopping places. My thinking is, why pay for something generic that's made in China when I can have a one-of-a-kind handcrafted piece instead? Here are a few of the Etsy items I'm drooling over this month.

This shop has the most feminine, romantic initial necklaces I've seen. I will definitely be acquiring one in the near future -- I just have to decide which of the gorgeous designs is my favorite!
(Etsy listing)
I really want this personalized print to hang by the door in our new home!
(Etsy listing)

"I'm a little teapot, short and stout."
(Etsy listing)

This shop has a bunch of lovely pottery, but this little heart jar really caught my eye.
(Etsy listing)

This just screams spring to me, and it's actually made by someone in France!
(Etsy listing)

This is perfect for Conan -- he loves his (gazillion) squeaky toys and never intentionally destroys them like some of his friends. This is one of the many prints I'm considering for our new guest room.
(Etsy listing)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Review: "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker"

"Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" by Jennifer Chiaverini
First published in 2013
My rating: 3 out of 5

(image source)

Elizabeth Keckley was an amazing woman -- bright, strong, courageous, selfless, fiercely loyal and extraordinarily talented at her craft of dressmaking. Born into slavery, at 38 Elizabeth finally raised enough money to purchase her freedom and her son's, then made her way to Washington, D.C., where she quickly became the top dressmaker to Washington's elite.

She was in the nation's capital to witness the historic election of Abraham Lincoln, and Elizabeth's sterling reputation as the best mantua-maker in Washington soon gained her a role as the new First Lady's personal dressmaker. Through the war-torn years of Abraham Lincoln's presidency, Elizabeth became a close family friend to the Lincolns and eventually grew to be Mary Lincoln's closest friend and confidante.

I really enjoyed the parts of this rooted-in-fact novel that were about Elizabeth, who in her long and eventful life witnessed the making of so much history first-hand. But a good deal of the novel wasn't directly about the great and fascinating Elizabeth but rather often and repetitively about Mary Lincoln and her myriad problems. This portrait of Mary Lincoln paints her as vain, naive, thin-skinned, whiny, meddling and impulsive, complete with reckless spending habits and wild mood swings. She makes a good foil for Elizabeth, whose calm, confident, rational manner is so different, and I understand that her work for and friendship with Mary Lincoln was a defining part of Elizabeth's life. But, while the book claimed to be about the immensely likeable Elizabeth, I thought it instead focused too much on the rather annoying and frustrating -- and somewhat pitiable -- character of Mary Lincoln.

While it was definitely well-written, I found "Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker" to be a bit boring and hard to get through. I'm typically not a non-fiction fan, and the play-by-play of Civil War battles was on the dry side. I know it's possible for a mostly true story in novel form to be a page-turner because Laura Hillenbrand's WWII tale "Unbroken" was. But Chiaverini didn't have as much success making Elizabeth Keckley's story into a gripping novel. Still, I learned a few things and I definitely have a new appreciation for that kind-looking black woman who appeared by Mrs. Lincoln's side in the movie "Lincoln."
I like to have visuals for things I'm reading about in novels, so of course I had to find a picture of this stunning quilt, which Elizabeth Keckley is said to have made of leftover scraps from Mrs. Lincoln's dresses. There's a dark eagle in the middle with the word "liberty" underneath, and a golden eagle on each side of the quilt. It looks quite a bit different than I imagined from the description in the book -- so lovely! And apparently it's on display at a museum here in Ohio. Hmm... road trip? (image source)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Furry Friday

conan last chemo_edited
Conan was such a brave boy at the vet on Wednesday. Here he is with his daddy, awaiting his last chemotherapy treatment. He got a special celebratory dinner of nearly a pound of steak mixed with some chicken and broccoli -- yum!
lily knitting_cropped
And here's Lily, helping me knit a little shawlette yesterday.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha from Ohio! It's been a pretty uneventful week... lots of mortgage paperwork, some snow, some rain. We did take a weekend excursion to visit my grandma and my aunt, uncle and cousins in Indiana. We hadn't seen them in over three years so I was very excited! And for the occasion I actually tried something new -- leggings! I know I'm totally behind on the leggings trend, but you really don't need leggings in Hawaii and I was just kinda unsure about them anyway.

The last time I wore leggings I was in third grade and they had stirrups that went under my feet. Not to mention I've been rather traumatized of late by all the girls who've decided to wear the modern skin-tight version of leggings as pants. I really don't need to see every curve, nook and cranny of your backside, thank you very much! But worn with a dress, they were actually a fairly comfy, warmer version of tights and I have to say I'm a tentative fan!

As always, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy to share my outfits. Happy Wednesday!
pleated poppy

Friday, March 8, 2013

Furry Friday

Our part of Ohio woke up to about 4 inches of snow Wednesday morning. It's snowed plenty in the month we've been here but it's never really accumulated, so we had to go outside and take full advantage of all the white stuff!
I don't think Conan missed the snow one bit while we were in Hawaii, but he did have fun eating it and frolicking around!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What I Wore Wednesday

Aloha from snowy Dayton! It's hard to believe we've been in Ohio for a whole month now. We're still adjusting to this new place -- which is quite different from Hawaii! -- but I think once we finally get moved into our new home we'll be a whole lot happier.

Though I most definitely miss my flip-flops and tanks tops, it's been fun to play around with my wardrobe and create some new *winter* outfits from new purchases, clothes I wore regularly in Hawaii and old sweaters I'd had shoved away for the past several years.

As always, I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy to share my outfits. Happy Wednesday!
 Coral and turquoise was one of my most often-worn color combos when I was dressing for summer every day in Hawaii. When I saw this 3/4-sleeve coral jersey-knit cardigan I knew I had to snag it!
 I'm not sure how I feel about these gray boots. I bought them for $5 at Old Navy last spring, before we even knew if we'd be moving to a cold place. I was excited to finally get to wear them, but then I had a hard time matching them up with an outfit. Gray should be no different than any other neutral, but I just felt everything I tried them (including this) with would look better with my brown boots. Maybe it's just that I'm not used to seeing gray when I look at my feet?
 This lovely-colored hooded American Eagle sweater is one that had been boxed up while we were in Hawaii. I'm sure it's glad to finally see the light of day again!

Also, I got a long-overdue haircut and highlights this week! I last had my hair done in September, before Jarrod got back from Afghanistan, and it was definitely time! I only got a trim, since Jarrod has been begging me to try growing my hair out. We'll see... I'm not sure the best time to attempt that is heading into a hot, humid Ohio summer!
And this sweater is one of my new purchases -- I got it on my shopping spree at the Banana Republic Outlet before we left Hawaii. I love the button details on the shoulders!
pleated poppy

Book Review: "The Map of Lost Memories"

"The Map of Lost Memories" by Kim Fay
First published in 2012
323 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

I'm a big historical fiction fan, but I tend to only pick up novels set in America or Europe. Kim Fay's debut novel, "The Map of Lost Memories," which takes place in Shanghai and Cambodia in 1925, was definitely a bit different from my usual fare. But different is typically good, and a new setting and a fresh voice made for a refreshing change of pace -- and I learned a few things, too!

She's not yet 30, but Irene Blum has devoted years of her life to Seattle's Brooke Museum of Oriental Art and is almost single-handedly responsible for its rise to prominence. Irene -- with her savvy, her skills at acquiring hard-to-find pieces and her passion for ancient Cambodia -- is the obvious choice to replace the museum's elderly curator upon his retirement, so she's absolutely flabbergasted when the museum's trustees pass her over for the position -- in part because she's a woman.

Now Irene has something to prove -- to the museum trustees, the world and herself -- and she sets about gathering the pieces and the people for an expedition deep into the jungles of Cambodia in search of a priceless ancient artifact. Irene possesses a map that she hopes will lead her to a set of 10 copper scrolls on which the history -- and mysterious downfall -- of the Khmer, or ancient Cambodians, is said to be inscribed.

Fueled by spite at the Brooke Museum trustees, Irene plans to take the scrolls to American and use them to cement her reputation in the museum world. But she needs help to find the uncharted temple where the scrolls are rumored to be hidden, and a rather motley crew comes together to join Irene on the treasure hunt -- the wife of a Communist party leader, the assistant curator of a museum in Cambodia, a Shanghai nightclub owner and a former Cambodian prostitute. Cultures and ideals clash, and in this novel of secrets, each player has his or her own motives -- and plans for the invaluable scrolls.

"The Map of Lost Memories" was a bit of a slow starter for me, partly because I have essentially no knowledge of Cambodia and I had to get my bearings in a book filled with names, words and customs that were new to me. But I kept my phone by my side to look up pictures of unfamiliar things mentioned in the book (like Cambodia's Angkor Wat -- one of the the largest religious monuments in the world) and before long I was immersed in the Orient in 1925.

I enjoyed journeying to a new land out of my normal element and, while I found Fay's writing to be a bit slow-moving at times, she provided lots of color and atmosphere to the story. Her debut novel was a pretty good read, and I'd check out her next book if it happens across my path.

Happy reading!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hello, March...

Hello, March... where did you come from? I'm not sure where February went, or for that matter September through January! But, March, I'm glad that you're here. Some exciting things are happening this month!

1. We will be closing on our house March 25! Buying a house is quite a process headache migraine but I know we picked the right one and we just can't wait to move in! We're living in lodging on the Air Force base right now -- and have been since the beginning of February. Basically we're living out of the suitcases that we took on the plane with us from Hawaii, and we're ready to have all our stuff back! Not to mention lounging around on our new furniture purchases (king bed!), decorating and enjoying having a home of our own!

2. Conan's last chemotherapy treatment is March 13! Cross your fingers that he has a very, very long (like forever) remission! This picture was taken earlier in the week when Conan apparently decided he needed to Google something.

3. Spring, of course! A month+ with the majority of each day spent in sweats, long-sleeve shirt, hoodie, socks (at least one pair) and slippers is enough for me. I desperately miss walking around barefoot all day long! I'm told that March is the month the weather starts to warm up here in Ohio and I'm more than ready!

4. I recently discovered two contemporary pianists -- Helen Jane Long and Alexis Ffrench -- whose lovely music just seems to embody spring. It sounds bright and fresh, and it's the perfect accompaniment to knitting with a cup of tea by my side. Or today since it's rather frigid and dreary (come on, March!), Ghirardelli hot chocolate and a box of Thin Mints. Anyway, if you like classical music even a little bit, give these two pianists a look!

5. We'll be spending Easter in Indiana with my grandma, aunt and uncle, and two cousins. I'm so excited -- it will be the first Easter we've spent with family in five years! (Not being able to see family at the holidays -- especially Christmas -- was one of the few drawbacks to living in Hawaii.) I'm already scouring Pinterest for a cute, festive dish to take along.

6. And here's something bad about March: changing time. Hawaii doesn't change time, and it was so nice to skip that mess for three years! Who doesn't love "falling back" in October? But "springing forward" in March sucks. I must have my eight hours of sleep a night! (And yes, I know that statement makes it quite obvious that we don't yet have kids.)

I'm expecting March to be a month of fun times, somewhat warmer weather (hopefully?!), and moving into our new home. Welcome, March! (Now get busy with that sunshine...)
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