Monday, November 30

clicks of note: i'm going home...

get your week off to a colorful start...
  • If you watched this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, you may have spotted North Carolina string band Mipso. They describe themselves as " renegade traditionalists," and I'm loving their music.




Friday, November 27

holidays: Christmas flashback...

One of my favorite traditions for Thanksgiving Break is decorating our Christmas tree on Black Friday (instead of dealing with crowds at the mall). Having been raised by a Southern Living and Better Homes and Gardens loving mom, I've been decorating themed trees since high school. This week I've been looking back at my Christmas decorations from our first four Country Townhouse trees, and thinking about what this year's theme will be. I love seeing how we've combined some of our favorite decorations over the years - and how my photography skills have improved!

2011: Homespun with red cardinals, burlap, and kraft paper.
2012: Victorian theme (not that you can really tell?) with white poinsettias.

2013: Rustic with burlap, glitter stars, and chalkboard paint ornaments.
2014: Virginia theme with Colonial inspired plaid, cardinals, and gold ornaments.

Do you choose a theme for your holiday décor? 
What ideas are you loving this year?

Thursday, November 26

thanksgiving pin-spiration.

"Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel 
to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge 
you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” 
- Maya Angelou

Tuesday, November 24

literary junkies - november

Pink Heels Pink Truck

1. What are you reading right now? Tell us about it. I just finished reading an ARC of The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss that I received from NetGalley. The cover art caught my eye (I think my exact thoughts were "is that a unicorn t-shirt and where can I get one?"), then I saw the blurb that recommended the book to "fans of The Guild, New Girl, Scott Pilgrim, Big Bang Theory, Veronica Mars, or anyone who has ever geeked out about something." As a geek girl, I felt it was my duty to check this one out. If Stephanie Plum had a baby with Amy Farrah Fowler, the result might be Dahlia Moss, whose life is very much not together. When a random dude in a ship captain's hat offers her a job as a detective, she's too intrigued - by the money and the weirdness - to say no. 
"'I have a proposition for you,' he told me. Admittedly, that does sound like the kind of thing a life-changing person might say. It's right up there with 'It's dangerous to go alone - take this!' and 'You are the chosen one.' But a plastic bubble pipe really takes the edge off this sort of thing."
When investigating a theft turns into investigating a murder, Dahlia gets in way over her head and is sucked into the world of online RPGs. Admittedly, I was expecting to identify with a geeky main character a bit more than I did with Dahlia - she is a very different kind of geek than I am, with her Pokemon hat and RPG expertise. I loved the voice Max Wirestone gave Dahlia - wry, sarcastic, and more than a little bit insecure - and found myself laughing out loud several times at the zany situations she got herself into and her commentary on them. The humor, as well as the unusual mystery, kept me reading to the end. My favorite line was probably this one:
"It was fun to be an oddball. And it was even more fun to be an oddball on a mission."

2. Now that we're coming up to the holidays, are there any books you like to return to or remind you of childhood? I always like to put a display of holiday books on my classroom library shelf during the winter season, and one that will always be front and center is The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson. Even though it was a Newbery Honor book in 1959, it's not a very well-known children's book today. My third grade class read it and I fell in love with the story. The subject matter is fairly depressing - three fatherless children whose mother is hiding them under a Paris bridge are "adopted" by a gruff old homeless man - but it somehow reads like a fairytale and has a happy ending. 

3. Do you have any new books on your wishlist? I don't usually put books on my actual holiday wishlist because my family knows that when I want books I either get them from the library or download them onto my Kindle! I do have several relatives that like to get me Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmases and birthdays, and those are always appreciated although they usually go toward classroom books rather than my own pleasure reading. This season I'd love to receive (or use a gift card to purchase) physical copies of Mindy Kaling's new book,  Why Not Me?, Felicia Day's book, or Winter, the last book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

4. Favorite book you've ever received as a gift? When I was a kiddo, my parents ordered me the hardcover, complete version of all the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and poems. I was probably past prime Winnie-the-Pooh age at that point, but A.A. Milne's stories and poems are so full of nostalgia and goodness. I know that when I eventually have children of my own, that book will have a place of honor.

5. Favorite book centered around the holidays? I look forward to seeing everyone else's responses to this question, because I always want to read books that take place during the holidays, but the ones I find always seem to be so cheesy. I will have to go with a classic, and it's probably cheating because it's a short story, but I try to read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol or at least watch a movie adaptation every year. I played Mrs. Cratchit in a really inauthentic elementary school musical play version of the story (seriously, I think my performance was based on Miss Piggy's portrayal of the character, but I was ten, so there), but ever since then, it's been one of my favorite stories. It's definitely become more meaningful to me as I get older and understand the element of looking back on one's choices with the possibility of regret. Also, Roanoke does a "Dickens of a Christmas" celebration where the downtown streets become faux Victorian London for the night, with carolers and actors and carriage rides, and it's always fun to visit - this year the city has added an outdoor ice rink in the park!

What have you been reading lately? Come link up with us at 
Pink Heels Pink Truck and Life with a Side of Coffee!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an ARC of The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss free from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, November 23

clicks of note: dream about the time i had with you...

get your week off to a colorful start...

  • How amazing is this cover of The Proclaimers' "500 Miles"? How weird is it that it was featured in a Budweiser commercial? How ready are y'all for Thanksgiving? Discuss.





Sunday, November 22

sunday simplicity: a blessing for wedding

"Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days."

- from "A Blessing for Wedding," Jane Hirshfield

Monday, November 16

clicks of note: you're standing here beside me...

get your week off to a colorful start...

  • Sam Beam, a.k.a. Iron and Wine, teamed up with Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell, and the result is absolutely gorgeous. I'll be linking up with Musical Mondays at My So-Called Chaos.





Friday, November 13

#5FandomFriday: Favorite Seasonal Foods

5 Fandom Friday is a weekly prompt challenge hosted by The Nerdy Girlie and Super Space ChickThis week's #5FandomFriday topic isn't specifically geeky, but it's a great topic for autumn - favorite seasonal foods. You can see the upcoming prompts here at the Female Geek Bloggers community.

  • Butternut squash ravioli - Panera's version of this dish is so good that I'm determined to make my own. I love that this Williams-Sonoma recipe uses wanton wrappers instead of homemade pasta!
  • Apple rosemary pork loin - Breeze made some crock pot pork loin with apples and onions last year for Pumpkinfest and I have been dreaming of that dinner ever since. 
  • Pumpkin pie oatmeal - I posted my recipe for a healthy fall breakfast back in 2012 and it's still my favorite. On days when I don't wake up early enough to cook, I stir a spoonful of canned pumpkin into instant oatmeal and add pecans and Craisins. Fall in a bowl!
  • Apple cider doughnuts - In college, it was a tradition to go apple picking at Carter Mountain Orchard, which is famous for their apple cider doughnuts. My friend Debbie served them at her wedding!
  • Pumpkin streussel - I discovered this recipe in college when I needed a dish for a potluck harvest dinner, and it has become a favorite at my family's Thanksgiving celebrations. SO good, and it's made from a boxed yellow cake mix!
What are your favorite fall foods?

Thursday, November 12

Book Review: Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

I must admit that what drew me to Eric Lindstrom's Not If I See You First was the cover art - it's bright and colorful, and incorporates Braille lettering, and I haven't read very many YA books with characters who are blind. The narrator of Lindstrom's novel is Parker Grant, a sixteen-year-old whose world has been turned upside down twice: the first time was the car accident that killed her mother and left Parker blind, and the second was her father's recent death, which may or may not have been an intentional overdose of prescription pills. On top of having to deal with losing her dad and having to adjust to her aunt's family moving into her home, Parker's having to cope with hundreds of new kids at her high school. Two schools have combined, and the new kids don't really know how to deal with Parker - the colorful scarves she wears as blindfolds, the sarcastic-slogan buttons covering her vest, or her blunt way of dealing with people she doesn't know well. It doesn't help that one of those new kids is Scott, the same guy who totally betrayed her trust in middle school by breaking her first rule: never take advantage of her blindness (and rule number infinity is NO second chances). Parker's hobbies are running (secretly), and giving advice in the school courtyard with her best friend Sarah, Lucy-from-Peanuts style. No matter how much Parker keeps running, though, she can't run from the feelings she still has for Scott, or from the grief she hasn't really dealt with yet.

Not If I See You First is Lindstrom's first novel, and it's a great addition to the lineup of contemporary Young Adult literature. It took me a few chapters to realize one thing that makes the book's narration very different from most other YA books: telling her story in the first person, Parker being blind means there is no long description of what any of the characters look like, and that Parker's assessments of the people around her are completely based on their personalities and behavior.  It was refreshing. Parker's voice is very clear - she's a girl who is tough because she has to be, who doesn't take crap because she can't afford to, to the extent that even her friends have forgotten how vulnerable she really is. She's so real that I forgot the author was male until I looked back at the cover. The other characters - from Sarah and Scott to Parker's student aide Molly and bristly cousin Sheila - are all well-developed and multi-dimensional, which isn't always the case in YA. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Eric Lindstrom comes up with next!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an ARC of this book free from the publisher through Netgalley program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, November 11

lately in entertainment.


Miranda Lambert's "Roadside Bars and Pink Guitars" Tour at the Berglund Center - Mr. Q surprised me with tickets to this concert, which featured a lineup of all female country artists including my favorite pink guitar player. Opening acts were Courtney Cole, who reminded me of a country Zooey Deschanel but whose voice I didn't love, and Clare Dunn, who has a powerful Bonnie Raitt style voice and rock sound - she plays a Fender, so I loved her pretty much automatically. The first headliner was Ashley Monroe, who is in the Pistol Annies with Miranda, an amazing songwriter and a great singer in her own right - she has a delicate sound like Emmylou Harris or Allison Krauss. Miranda and Ashley brought out Angaleena Presley for a few Pistol Annies songs, and Miranda's other special guest was Patty Loveless, who was pretty much my country superhero growing up. The concert was about a week after the news about Miranda's divorce from Blake Shelton made headlines, and she did make a few short comments to thank the audience for supporting her, but otherwise she rolled through her set, and I thought her voice sounded fantastic.


Paper Towns by John Green - After reading and enjoying (and by enjoying, I mean weeping over) The Fault in Our Stars and its movie adaptation, I wanted to check out more of John Green's work. Paper Towns has a lovable main character and quirky cast of minor characters all searching for the elusive and exciting Margo Roth Spiegelman, who turns out to be (spoiler alert!) not that great of a person. For me, Paper Towns was just okay - a few great John Green lines surrounded by a lot of pee humor. I might have liked this one more if I'd read it as a high school senior.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee - I was really looking forward to Harper Lee's original novel until all of the "Atticus Finch is racist" stuff hit the fan right before its release date. This is another book I might have appreciated much more during another season of my life - particularly my third year of college, when my total daddy's girl self was grappling with the fact that my father's bad habits were literally killing him. To me, Atticus' backwards beliefs about race weren't all that shocking - I've heard many an ostensibly wonderful Southern person spout ignorant trash as they got older. My favorite character in Go Set a Watchman was Uncle Jack, who I didn't remember at all, and who gave Scout the same advice I often need to remind myself about making a life in the South: "the time your friends need you is when they're wrong, Jean Louise."

Warrior, Scoundrel, and Rebel by Zoe Archer - And now for something completely different: I read a review of the Blades of the Rose series on a friend's blog and thought it sounded fun, and then saw that all of the books are free on Kindle Unlimited. These books are like a cross between The Mummy and The Mortal Instruments - The Blades of the Rose is a society of scholars, inventors, and adventurers who travel the world saving precious magical relics called Sources from the Heirs of Albion, who want to use them to make Britain the most powerful empire in the world at the expense of native cultures. Each book in the series focuses on one of the Blades and his or her love interest as they face all sorts of death defying dangers, and there are some very steamy romantic scenes - I thought Outlander made me blush. It's not without its flaws and cliches (I almost gave up on the whole series when the Native American character turned out to be a shapeshifter), but the stories are a nice escape from reality.


Ant-Man - Y'all know by now that new Marvel movies are basically a religious experience in the Quinn household, and since we are trying to save money for a house we're visiting the theater very rarely. Ant-Man was definitely worth the trip - I wasn't sure I could buy Paul Rudd as a superhero, and even though I never forgot it was Paul Rudd onscreen I still kind of fell in love with his character's storyline. I also really loved Evangeline Lily as Hope Van Dyne, a strong kick-ass scientist businesswoman whose father, it turns out, has a very legitimate reason for not wanting her to become a hero in her own right. The final fight scene was absolutely awesome, there were plenty of Marvel Easter eggs, and Michael Peña's character Luis provided just the right amount of comic relief.

Only Lovers Left Alive - I felt like watching a vampire movie right around Halloween and stumbled across this total gem starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as beautiful creatures of the night who are trying to survive without killing humans. The problem is, pollution and disease have rendered most human blood poisonous to vampires, so they have to be very careful about where they get their "good stuff." It is very much an art-house take on vampires, with lots of scenes that are just weird music playing or Tilda and Tom's characters (Eve and Adam, natch) staring at each other. I was totally okay with that. They're busy being ridiculously good-looking and reminiscing about knowing Byron and Shelley when Eve's train-wreck sister Ava (played by Mia Wasikowska, perfect casting) shows up - ravenous for human blood. Also, Christopher Marlowe is a vampire and he's Eve's BFF, so if you were ever an English major who smoked clove cigarettes this is probably the vampire movie for you.


Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp - How did I miss out on Wet Hot American Summer the first time around? After finally getting on board via Netflix, I knew I wasn't going to miss the series. This movie has everything: bad wigs, Jon Hamm, send-ups of every 80's teen movie, good jokes, puberty, Chris Pine acting out the plot of The Doors, and the talking vegetable can's origin story (RIP, Gene).

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is better than ever right now - Iain De Caestecker could basically play James Bond after his performance in the season premiere, I truly believe that Elizabeth Henstridge should win some sort of Emmy for her portrayal of Agent Jemma Simmons trapped on a hostile planet in "4,722 hours." This show is at it's best when it's totally fun one minute (Agents May and Morse planning an attack in Mandarin) and totally angsty the next (that character the other characters and/or the audience has grown to love and trust? Always going to turn out to be evil).

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend - If you are not watching this show yet, get on Hulu and catch up RIGHT NOW. The main character, Rebecca, has a (there's really no other way to put this) mental breakdown where she starts taking advice from a butter commercial, quits her Fancy New York Lawyer job, and moves across the country to the California suburbs after running into her summer-camp high school boyfriend Josh Chan. Aside from the fact that she's basically a stalker, Rebecca is making new friends and finding a happier life on the West Coast. Did I mention it's a musical with numbers like "The Sexy Getting Ready Song" and "Settle for Me?" I love shows that don't take themselves seriously at all.

Tuesday, November 10

Halloween Recap: Our Adventures as Cap and Peggy...

Even before it came time to make plans for this year's Halloween celebration, I knew exactly who I wanted to dress up as this year: my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe character, SSR Agent Peggy Carter. Peggy is a fair-skinned brunette, which makes things a little easier for me, but more importantly, she is a total action hero. Since I'm a nerd, my Halloween costumes have been verging more and more into the realm of cosplay over the past few years as my quest for accuracy gets a little bit out of control. Today, I wanted to share my Peggy Carter costume with you, because I really loved how everything turned out and had a blast celebrating Halloween with my friends as Agent Carter.

This is the movie still I used most of all for hair and makeup reference. While  Googling "Peggy Carter makeup," I found out that Hayley Atwell has shared Peggy's exact lipstick and nail polish on Twitter. I couldn't resist picking up OPI nail polish in "Cinnamon Sweet" even though I don't usually wear red makeup. I was a little more hesitant about the red lipstick - I wasn't sure I could pull it off, and the real deal (Besame's "Red Velvet") is definitely more expensive than my usual drugstore picks. Then I discovered something really cool: Besame makes lipstick matchbooks! They're less of a shot to the wallet and seemed like a great way to try a color before investing in the full-sized version, plus the little matchbook is adorable.

I tried on the lipstick a few times before Halloween and was surprised that it didn't look totally crazy on me. I didn't do a lot of other makeup - just a little more powder than usual and a hint of blush to mimic Hayley's porcelain complexion, and a dash of Falsies mascara. I used Cosplay Complexion's hair tutorial on YouTube to achieve the 1940's pulled-back look (combs are kind of amazing, especially when paired with Freeze It hairspray) and victory roll (the secret, I found, is to use a lot more hair for the bangs than you think you'll need!).

Accurate, movie-style Peggy Carter costumes are quite expensive, but I found a decent olive green uniform - the "Wartime Officer" costume made by a company called Smiffy's and available from Amazon. It had some patches sewn on that I was afraid to attempt removing but could probably be done with a seam ripper, a mock collar and bowtie that I pinned to look a little more like Peggy's necktie, and real buttons rather than velcro. I snagged a couple of my school's gold eagle reward pins (our mascot) to stand in as SSR lapel pins for the weekend (one of the perks of being a coach, I suppose).

I was thrilled to find brown t-strap shoes with a kitten heel at Peeble's (they are Aerosoles), and I also decided that I needed a toy gun, primarily just so I could recreate my favorite action pose from Captain America: The First Avenger. Do you know how hard it is to find a toy gun these days that isn't a ridiculous color or shape? Thanks, Dollar General, for keepin' it real.

I also have this personal belief that Peggy Carter could lift Mjolnir, but that's just me. I originally ordered the costume in a size large and it was very oversized in the shoulders and arms. The medium was a bit snug but much more flattering overall - if I wear it again I will probably take the time to hem the sleeves. For a 100% polyester suit, it seemed quite well made and I'm tempted to incorporate the skirt into my fall wardrobe.

Since I was Peggy, Mr. Q pretty much had no choice but to be Captain America, a.k.a. Steve Rogers, for Halloween - honestly, it didn't take much convincing, especially when his work buddy decided to be Hawkeye...

Which led to this ridiculous(ly awesome) photoshoot in their warehouse. Your tax dollars at work, America. We ended up going to two Halloween celebrations, so I decided to try a different spin on Peggy's uniform on Saturday night. I paired the jacket with a brown a-line skirt that I already owned, and ended up preferring that look to the olive pencil skirt that came with the costume.

Josh went for a Halloween bike ride that I think will become a neighborhood tradition - it's no motorcycle, but with Captain America's shield on his back I thought he looked pretty cool (and so did a lot of small children who were out trick-or-treating). One of the highlights of the night was a friend asking who I was supposed to be and his friend saying, "Did you not see the Captain America running around? She's Agent Carter! She has her own show and everything!" Even if people didn't always recognize my costume, I knew my value ;)

My last pose request of the night was recreating the famous WWII kiss in Time's Square - and I have to say, I like it a lot better with Steve and Peggy! I hope that you all had a great Halloween and enjoyed this peek at our shenanigans.

Monday, November 9

clicks of note: just take my hand...

get your week off to a colorful start...

  • Tori Kelly's "I Was Made for Loving You," featuring Ed Sheeran: sweet, acoustic guitar-driven goodness.





Sunday, November 8

Tuesday, November 3

Fall 2015: Oak Buff

Somewhere between camel and mustard lives a fall color that is a throwback to the 1970's: Pantone calls it Oak Buff, and it's definitely on-trend this season, whether your style is rustic, modern, or glam. This familiar, cozy and warm fall color looks fresh and perfect for fall on everything from bohemian rugs and midcentury modern ottomans to a new plaid shirt. Disclaimer: Stitch Fix links contain a referral code. Thank you for supporting Beyond the Aisle and the fashion musings of a small town girl ;)

Fall 2015: Oak Buff
1. The Limited faux gem earrings 2. Stitch Fix plaid shirt 3. Ruche Sunny Skies hip belt 
4. Cost Plus World Market Jaxson ottoman 5. Betty glass candle holder from CB2 
6. Old Navy Pixie ankle pants 7. CB2 geometric play rug 8. Woven backpack from Ruche

Oak Buff inspiration:

Monique Lhullier via Livingly | Photographer Daniel Faro

Are you adding any new colors to your wardrobe this fall?

Hello Monday at More Pieces of Me