Saturday, September 29, 2012

New TV Review: The New Normal

NBC
The New Normal is the third show that Ryan Murphy has introduced that I'm absolutely hooked on.  (He also created Glee and American Horror Story.)

Premise:  Bryan and David are a loving, successful gay couple in LA who want to have a baby.  They choose Goldie, a single mom, as their surrogate, meet her hilarious and adorkable daughter Shania, and battle her crazy right-wing grandmother, Jane.

I can't say enough amazing things about this show.  It's clever, funny, fast, and NOW.  So far I've watched all three episodes, and I like each one of them progressively more.  The cast is sharp.  I don't feel like it's overly political or pushes a specific agenda (despite its overall premise and cast); it just shows how hateful and wonderful the world can be, through the eyes of this unique American "family".  I highly recommend the 3rd episode, "Obama Mama" as a reference to show you exactly why I love this show.

Oh, and Nene Leakes is actually turning out to be a pretty good actress.  I really hate to admit it, but she has become a muse of Ryan Murphy and has appeared in two of his series.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

#StyleMeSeptember ... I suck at this!

So I haven't done well with following along with outfit posts every day.  I was traveling for a week with work, so I just kind of did what I could.  Here are a couple... I got a lot of compliments, too!  It made me realize that the days I put an effort into planning and accessorizing an outfit, people notice.

If anything, this has made me think more before I get dressed.  Clothes can help you blend in, but they can also help you get noticed in a good way.

Topknotted

Take a Risk

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chicago... and Puppies

I was traveling for work (yet again!) and found myself in Chicago.  I stayed at the Hotel Sax, which is next door to the House of Blues and in a fabulous area to be near tons of restaurants.  It is a very modern hotel, and I liked the large bathroom, even though I only stayed a night.

For dinner, I met up with coworkers at Shaw's Oyster Bar.  Shaw's actually has two restaurants in one, the Crab House (more upsale, fancy seafood) and the Oyster Bar, which is noisy and bustling.  We loved the Oyster Bar!  They only serve what is in season, which is very cool.

I'm not a big fan of seafood.  But feeling brave after Nova Scotia, I tasted the Blue Crab Fingers and some amazing crabcake sliders.  The crabcakes were phenomenal, probably the best I've had, and the bread for the sliders was delicious.  Yum!

The next day, I headed to Soldier Field for work... with puppies.  You see, I was volunteering for a dog adoption event, which was totally amazing.  There were about 70 dogs available, and I think 40 were adopted.  It was crazy to see how happy these dogs were, and I teared up watching them walk away with their new owners.  They won't be going back to a kennel, they're walking into a HOME!  I loved it!


I hope everyone gets their new pets from a shelter; there were so many purebred beauties and adorable mutts available.  I can't even imagine what life was like for them to be abandoned.  I went home and brushed/hugged my Cally cat a little extra!



Friday, September 21, 2012

Gleek Peek: Britney 2.0

source
I'm loving Glee this season already!  I'm so into the characters... the storylines are just starting out, but there's something about this year that has me hooked like the very first season.  The honesty is back, and the productions are better than ever... it's not radio cloning, it's GLEE.

I love Unique and Marley especially.  Great talent and great actors!  I also love Rachel's new potential love interest... so much steamier than old Finn.  I want to see what happens!  Even Kate Hudson's character is deep.

I'm surprised at how smoothly the show has transitioned, especially bouncing back between Lima and NYC.  There are a lot of regulars from last season missing, but I'm starting to think that has kept it fresh.  It really is a bold new Glee.

Songs I'll Download:  "(You Drive Me) Crazy" Mashup, "Everytime"

P.S.  Way to go FOX on the brilliant Glee Britney tie-in during all of the PR for X Factor!  Perfect timing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Food About Town #2

More foodie adventures in middle Tennessee!

Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant: This local hangout has three locations, and the nights with live music require reservations!  Duke and I were able to grab dinner there, and it was delicious.  I love the decor and ambience at the location in the heart of downtown Franklin.  We highly recommend the BBQ.
Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Bar Louie:  This Gulch spot was great for a working lunch!  I had some sliders, but I think the appetizers were the best... loaded tater tots and warm pretzels with dipping sauces.  I really liked their drink menu though, so I need to get back there for an evening sometime.
Bar Louie on Urbanspoon
Saffire:  I went here for lunch with my friend Stephanie, which is more casual than dinner at this restaurant in Franklin's famous The Factory building, but I couldn't get over how good it was!

Whiskey Kitchen:  I've heard nothing about good things about this place, and I LOVED the cocktails I tasted there during a recent work happy hour in the Gulch.  I thought my Basil-Berry Lemonade was fantastic, and I tasted my friend's delicious Blackberry Bellini.  We also ordered appetizers, which were delicious.  The place was packed, even early on a weekday, so that tells you something.
Whiskey Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Verago:  We went to Verago for dinner after drinks at Whiskey Kitchen.  I'm not a huge sushi fan, but this place was awesome.  I had the Korean BBQ Roll, which I loved!  There's plenty of options and fusion for those who aren't into sushi, and there are both raw and cooked sushi options available.  I think it would be the perfect place for a girls' dinner out or date night.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Project Runway... 3 episodes to catch up on! #TeamDmitry

Lifetime
Yikes!  I'm way behind on Project Runway.  Since you've probably already been watching, I won't bore you with the details.  I'll just recap where I stand with the designers.

Lord & Taylor Challenge: I didn't get to watch!  The video online expired!  FAIL.  But based on the runway photos (before I saw the results!)  My favorite was Dmitry, least favorite Alicia and Elena.  Result?  NO ONE was out!  I agree with Christopher... why did the judges decide to save someone this episode?

Starving Artist: The teams for this challenge were rigged.  Seriously, Project Runway.  Too predictable.  But going in, Fabio, Alicia, and Gunnar are my least favorite designers.  So I kind of figured one of them would go home.  Elena is impossible all-around.  On the runway, my favorite team was Sonjia/Christopher/Gunnar, least favorite Dmitry/Elena/Alicia.  Result?  I think Gunnar did the best overall, and Christopher was good to recognize that.  Sonjia did a nice jacket, but I think Gunnar deserved it more.  I agree with Alicia going home, she just wasn't going to win.

It's All About Me: I actually really liked this challenge.   I love the idea of creating your own fabric, like you can on Spoonflower.  In terms of cultural heritage, I wish there was a Korean designer... I would love a modern take on the hanbok!  I also liked that the designers got to see their loved ones; it's such a cutthroat competition, being able to see them let down their guard a little was nice!  I really liked Dmitry's look the best (rocking illusion jacket and print!), even if it is a bit "prim", and Melissa impressed me with something different.  Ven's was my least favorite.  It just looked cheap, though I thought Tim was too hard on him.  Result?  Dmitry won, and Gunnar was out.  It was probably time for Gunnar to go, though he grew on me.

I'm Team Dmitry now, by the way.  This season isn't as clear to me as some others, but for now, that's where I am.

I've also been thinking, what if this show was more like Fashion Star, where we were able to buy the clothing we love?  I want to buy some of these pieces!!! And honestly, the Project Runway designers eventually go on to create things I can't afford.  I want a piece of the design!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book Review: The Paris Wife

Looking to meet new friends in the area, I was this.close to joining a book club.  I actually bought the book for my Kindle, but never joined the club.
source

After reading a bunch of books for business, it was time for a "fun" read.  The Paris Wife by Paula McLain was already paid for, and it was a bestseller, so I dove right in.  The book is written from the point of view of Hadley Hemingway, first wife of Ernest Hemingway.

My review?  Mixed.  It was an easy and engaging book to read, and I kept using Wikipedia to read the histories of these real-life (but fictionally portrayed) characters.  Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and more!  What an interesting time to be alive, exploring Europe, and living in a time where people of little means could still live fabulous lives.

But at the same time (spoiler alert!) the book made me incredibly sad.  It actually made me greatly dislike Ernest Hemingway.  I read a couple of his books in high school, but didn't know much about his life until I angrily dove into Wikipedia while reading this novel.  His treatment of Hadley just made me furious, and it hurt me so much I texted my boyfriend Duke to vent about it!

So in retrospect, I'd have to give this book a favorable review, because I was so interested in the people and the time period, and I became so emotionally tied to it... but at the end of reading it, I didn't feel satisfied.  I wanted things to be different, and I'd hoped for something better in the end.  Instead, it just made me sad.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Gleek Peek: NEW SEASON!

I was simultaneously excited and terrified for the newest season of Glee.  With so many cast members graduating, how would they pull it off?  But I really think they've done a good job of weaving the story together.  I also love the tongue-in-cheek references.  It's fast and clever, like older Glee episodes!

It's interesting to see how the Glee kids are dealing with their newfound popularity at school, and Rachel in New York (with Kate Hudson as evil dance instructor).  I also love the new cast members!

I can also tell they've increased production value, which is pretty cool.  I don't have much to say, because you really have to watch this season premiere to understand it.  But I have a feeling this season will be better than the last!

P.S.  Sam's impression of Taylor Lautner?  Awesome.  Brittany thinking Unique was Mercedes with a haircut?  Priceless.

Songs I'll Download: "Call Me Maybe", "New York State of Mind", "Chasing Pavements"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Big Cedar Lodge

A business trip recently took me to Branson, Missouri... and Big Cedar Lodge!

Ozark Beauty at Big Cedar
I couldn't get over the place... it's this piece of log cabin paradise in the Ozarks.






The views of the lake, the activities (from horses to boats to hikes), and the decor, it's classic.  At first the taxidermic decor scared me a little, but I felt incredibly comfortable and at home.  There's great food available too, and plenty of ways to relax and take it all in.

My Buddy Bear

I hope we have more business events at Big Cedar... or maybe someday I'll head back for a little retreat.    :)

P.S.  As I drove through Arkansas, I spotted the famous Duggar family used car lot!  LOL


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Style Me September: The Budget Edition (and a giveaway!)

So my friend Caroline challenged me to do a September style challenge, Dean Street Society's monthly Instagram set... every month, this awesome website puts out a daily fashion guideline to follow to build your outfit around.  I missed the first few days of the challenge, because I was on a pre-planned vacation and the list comes out last-minute at the end of the month.

I also realized I don't like to get dressed on weekends... LOL.  So I'm participating as it suits me, I suppose!

This week, I posted four outfits, what I wore to work Tuesday-Friday.  And unintentionally, this was a week of bargain outfits!  I've been finding lots of interesting finds at random places, and the results are showing.
"Made for Braids": Colorblock tee (Walmart, <$10), vintage brooch as necklace (Grandma's), Old Navy skinny jeans, Toms wedges

"Grey or Gray": Old Navy leopard cardigan, Forever 21 necklace, Gap jeans, Flats from Payless (<$15)


"To the Knee": Cardigan (Target, <$7), Necklace (Italian, a gift), Pencil Skirt (Target, <$20)

"Pearls Please": Tee with Layer Detail (Walmart, <$10), Forever 21 Necklace, Gap jeans

P.S.  Caroline is hosting an awesome giveaway here... enter to win a gorgeous statement necklace!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nova Scotia: Lunenburg and Mahone Bay

For our last full day in Nova Scotia, we took in historic Lunenburg near our inn. We kicked off the day with a horse and buggy tour, heading up and down the colorful hills. We loved the beautiful Lunenburg Academy, the bright colors and intricate designs on the houses, and the relaxing pace of the ride. We both remarked that people in Nova Scotia truly take pride in their homes, and you always saw renovations and repairs happening.


We also couldn't get over how wonderful and NICE everyone we met seemed to be. Nearly every other tourist we met were Canadian, and pairing this trip up with the one we did in Montreal in 2008 reinforced the notion to us that Canadians are just super-pleasant people to be around. We felt safe everywhere we went, and one guy even told us that in his town, everyone parks their cars with their keys in the ignition!

After the carriage ride, we had lunch at the Salt Shaker Deli, a recommendation from our innkeepers. We were not disappointed; the flatbread pizzas were so fresh and delicious!

We followed lunch up with a trip out to take some photos at Blue Rocks, a little fishing village outside of Lunenburg that is truly rustic and un-touristy. It was like walking into a postcard. And since it wasn't too far away, we were also able to visit the shops we saw the previous day in Mahone Bay!

After our drive, we headed back to the Lunenburg harbor for a sailing adventure! We hopped aboard the Eastern Star to head out onto the water. It was my first time on a sailboat, and the constant tipping was something to get used to, but I was in love with the view of the harbor and town from the water. It was pretty cold (especially since we were used to the warm weather in the South!) but definitely an experience to remember. We warmed up at the Grand Banker Bar & Grill for dinner before heading to the inn to pack.

We were sad to leave our lovely room at the end of it all. We couldn't use our phones, and our Wifi was spotty, so this was a trip where we really unplugged from our "real" lives and just traveled on a whim. I can't get over how well I slept, how happy I was, and just how casual we were able to be. The breakfasts at the inn were delicious, and we enjoyed sharing tips and stories every morning with people. It got to the point that folks would recognize us out in Lunenburg and wave!

Nova Scotia was the perfect getaway for two busy professional gals to get away from it all and step into a postcard world of lighthouses and lobsters. We couldn't have asked for anything more!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Nova Scotia: The Lighthouse Route

We spent a whole day road tripping the South Shore, taking in the breathtaking Lighthouse Route. Our first stop was all the way to Yarmouth in the west, where we took in the gorgeous Cape Forchu Lighthouse and coastline. We ate at the Mug Up Tearoom there, sitting outside with an amazing view. The bread pudding with homemade caramel was unbelievable... Our joke was 'Put some bread pudding in Yar-MOUTH!'

From there, we headed to Pubnico and stumbled across an adorable Acadian village 'experience' where we learned about the early settlers to the region. There was a tiny little lighthouse there too! They pointed us towards Dennis Point Wharf, where we were able to see a real-life fishing port, one of the busiest they have. We asked what people in the area do outside of tourism, and everyone responded that fishing was truly the occupation int he area!

After Pubnico, we ventured out to the remote Sandy Point Lighthouse, which sits in the water. We didn't stick around long, because there happened to be a wedding going on! But we loved seeing all of the homes along the scenic coastline.

We then ventured on to Liverpool. The Fort Point Lighthouse looked like a little house! It was very small and a quick stop along our journey, but it was worth it to see the incredible homes. We both picked out "our" houses there!


Our last stop along the Lighthouse Route was Mahone Bay... we didn't see an actual lighthouse, but we saw the adorable Three Churches area and noticed some shops we wanted to revisit.

Back in Lunenburg after a long day on the road, LD was feeling pretty brave... so when we had dinner at the Old Fish Factory, she ordered a fresh steamed LOBSTER! Neither of us knew what to do with it, but after a little instruction she demolished it like a champ. I even tasted some, and not being a fan of seafood it was actually really fresh and delicious. I do think that having such a fresh, local lobster spoiled us for life.

We were on the road for quite a bit, but with the frequent stops it didn't feel like it at all. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, and the fresh air was invigorating.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nova Scotia: Peggy's Cove & Lunenburg

Recently, I went on a trip to Nova Scotia's South Shore with my friend, LD. We have a tradition of doing an annual trip, and now that we no longer live close to each other it feels like a great excuse for a reunion!

We flew into Halifax around lunchtime, picked up our rental car, and hit the road! LD booked a lovely B&B in Lunenburg (The Ashlea House) but we decided to stop at picturesque Peggy's Cove on the way. We had a great lunch at The Sou'wester by the lighthouse, including some yummy lobster dip! Lobster was always on the menu this trip.  You could even get it at gas stations.


After Peggy's Cove, we checked into our gorgeous home away from home. Ashlea House has a rich history (boardinghouse, brothel, you name it!) and the owners are the nicest people. We loved the three-story home, and the daily breakfasts with our fellow travelers were really fun... So much more personality than boring chain hotels! The house had porches, plush living rooms, and even a cupola and 'widow's walk' on top.  We also had a friendly mascot to show us around... Schooner the Toller dog!


And to top it all off, we had a walking path direct to the waterfront and all of Lunenburg's local restaurants and shops. Our first night, we toasted over a bottle of prosecco at Trattoria della Nonna, one of the nicest spots in town. (The orange building is part of the colorful "UNESCO Fresco".)  The food was outstanding, and the ambience was great to kick off our first day in Nova Scotia.

Trattoria della Nonna is the orange building in the middle.

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