Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Reviews: Not That Kind of Girl, The Snow Child and Friendship



Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham:
When I picked up this book, I was hoping for so many things: I was hoping that it would be just like Mindy Kaling's book. I was hoping it would capture the same feelings for me that watching Girls does: a hunger to watch more, maybe not in my best interest. Watching Girls is like watching a train-wreck - You can't look away, but at the same time, wonder if you should.  I had hoped that this book would paint a clear and brilliant picture of Lena Dunham. As an author, and as a woman who loathes her own twitter account, I am both intrigued and put-off by Dunham.  She's a little too smart, a little too crazy, a little too much like myself at my low times.  In the extras on Girls, she seems very in control of her career and her life, very unlike the Hannah-mess she portrays in Girls.

Sad news: this book only confirmed my worst fears about Dunham; she is JUST like Hannah. Over-analytical, a hot mess, the type of person who assigns the deepest meaning to the most meaningless events, Dunham barrels through this book (and her own life) fearlessly, like a toddler out of control, overtired and furious.  On on hand, it's brave to write about the unflattering years of your youth. On the other hand, this book really needed an editor who was brave enough to cut out the sometimes repetitive stories and endlessly sad sexual anecdotes and put the rest of the book into a logistical order.  There were times when I laughed out-loud, there were times I thought about throwing the book into a fire.  I appreciate her commentary on tonsil stones (I have them too!) and loved her wielding of colorful language when she leapt off a cliff into a lake in a moment of youthful stupidity and glory. When she was good, she was really good. 

 When I closed the book, I had no more answers about Dunham than I did before.  She remains a mystery; an intriguing, discombobulated voice of a generation that I can't stop listening to, even if I don't always want to hear.  Part of being an adult is knowing that while you may disagree with a person whole-heartedly, it doesn't mean you can't appreciate their art.







The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey:
Could the authors name be any more magical?  Not only does she have the name of an elven ice queen, but this book was the most delicious, wondrous little treat, my favorite of the books listed by far. I fell hard into it, totally losing myself in the myth and the wonder of this fairy tale for grown-ups.  The descriptions of this ice-cold Alaskan forest are so keen and crisp that I can feel the ice cracking between my teeth. Ivey weaves a beautifully epic tale of love, loss and magic, and leaves the reader never quite sure which area they are in at any given time. The characters were fleshed out and real, the landscape harsh and chilling, and the Snow Child...well, she will leave you breathless with her beauty and her brutally sad story. It's a story about marriage, friendship, and the fact that love doesn't always look the way you want it to.  This is the perfect read to welcome the holiday season, tucked safely under a blanket as you lose yourself in this unflinchingly lovely story.  When you open it's pages, its a small wonder that whorls of snow don't come tumbling out. 




 

  Friendship by Emily Gould:
Your conversations with your girlfriends were NEVER this dicey. Meet Amy and Bev, two terrible people and even worse friends to each other.  As they stumble their way through a life that is both ridiculously easy and terribly hard at the same time, we get to watch as they grow as individuals - and apart as friends. Emily Gould has obviously experienced both the decline of the adult female friendship and has experience working in the new world of content and blogs and - does this all even mean ANYTHING-ness.  I admired Bev and loathed Amy by the books end, but its safe to say that I loved the book through and through.  The plot is very lose and easy, with nothing big at stake, but that's why it's perfect. Female friendships are complicated and as we grow into adulthood, those friendships are routinely tested, the source of much happiness and stress.  There was a moment in the book where I actually clapped for Bev and said "That a girl!" Anti-heroines are hard to do without the reader turning sharply on the author, but I personally would love be Emily Gould's friend.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Grown-Up Christmas List


Aside from world peace, as that TERRIBLE song claims, there are a few other things I would like this year for my grown-up Christmas List. My gift coveting comes mostly from the glorious time-suck that is Pinterest, although thanks to some of the girls at my work, I have found a few other sites to linger too long over, drooling over bowls and bows and brushes.  What do I want this year?

Here is my list, from the practical to the RA-DUN-CU-LUS.  And if the question is "Is this blog for your husband?" the answer is no. It's for everyone. (Enter wink here)  Poor Ryan at Christmas.



First of all, I'm not a big sweatshirt fan.  Sweatshirts look cute on other people, but due to small shoulders and an ample bust, sweatshirts make me look like a small town linebacker.  For this one though, I may make an exception.


Next up: scarves. I am slowly growing my scarf collection, which was long neglected. A trip to NYC helped that!  However, I still need these two scarves: one for when I'm living my LL Bean life...


And the other for when I need to be asked "Oh my gosh, is that Middle Earth on your scarf?" and I smile and nod "Why yes!" This is how I will identify future best friends, like a secret knock for nerds.


I WILL have mint or teal aviators by this summer. I will probably look ridiculous, like a hipster grasshopper, when I wear them, but I don't care.

 
 
On my dream list, these Kate Spade earrings. They would be the second Kate Spade item I've ever owned, but it's a lifetime of devotion that counts, right? Nicole and I have lusted over these together because they are like fun packed in an earring! Why go to a party when you can wear these and stay at home and read? The party is already where you are!


 Last on the fashion list: This pendant. It's rose gold, my current favorite color and the style of my curling iron. It's clear, so it would match anything it was put with. I feel like it's something Kate Winslet would have worn on the Titanic and that makes me need to own it, so that Leo may follow.



Next up, home decor: we are going to have a bit more space in our next home (closing on Dec 29th!), and so I'm already thinking of how I can go crazy fill it modestly with adorable decor.  I LOVE this bright shower curtain, although like Obama, I think Ryan would veto this the moment it came across his desk.




For LittleM's room, I'm thinking of trying to not do a THEME this time, but rather just have a tasteful room full of things we both love.  This is an internal struggle about how I make owls, Peter Pan and Star Wars work all together.  Either way, I think I need these Etsy canvases.



For our room, I would love to have a big sign like this above our bed. I have a sneaking feeling that my MIL might be getting me one this year. I think one in the bedroom and one in the living room would be perfect (with different sayings, of course.)  I like this one for the bedroom. I can look at it when Ryan explains why he can't EVER get his clothes to make it to the hamper and when he looks at me with confusion when I admit to blowing my nose in clean socks in the middle of the night. 

(Which then make it perfectly into the hamper.)



Last - this bookcase. It just "gets" me. I love the triangle shape and all the little nooks and crannies that it presents for storing books and knickknacks.





 This book bag, which spells out "Adopt".  This. Now. 



 Look at this manatee picture, just floating on a dictionary page. I need this to hang in a bathroom somewhere, where people doing their business can look at it and tilt their heads and go "Is that a manatee on a Dictionary page??"





Last, these bowls. Those tiny pink hearts, the way they make my heart flutter just thinking of how pretty different shades of ice cream would look in them.   (I actually did ask my Mom for these, which has thrown her into a mad bowl hunt. Sorry Mom!)


































Honestly, I have everything I could ever need and want with my husband, my beautiful baby and this wonderful new house that we will call our own in the New Year.

These would just be like sprinkles on the cake : )  Sprinkles aren't always needed, but they are fun sometimes.

As Karen says, "It's okay, I own it on Pinterest!"


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One Baby, Two Parents, Eight Hours in A Gold Minivan


About a week and a half ago, we packed up and headed out to good ole' Nebraska for our yearly Thanksgiving trip. You are thinking, Colleen is so flighty, she doesn't even realize Thanksgiving hasn't happened yet.  But no, I do know.  This year we decided to go to Nebraska early because we were putting our house on the market and we did NOT want to be there. I would rather live out of a suitcase for a week than live in my own house while it is being shown.   Not that going to Nebraska is ever bad.  If cozying up in one of my favorite houses ever, having all our meals taken care of and getting to see family and dear friends is wrong then I don't want to be right.



But I also really didn't want to be here during the showings. That way our house could be perfect and STAY perfect.  And it worked. I'll blog more about that later because there are exciting and stressful things happening!

But back to the drive - eight hours in the car with an 18 month old - what did that look like exactly?

 It actually went GREAT, which was the opposite of what I was expecting.

 We left at 5:25am, exactly 25 minutes later than when we wanted to leave. Our goal - always - when we drive to Nebraska is to get as much "dark driving" in as possible.  It's great to "miss" the towns of Ft. Morgan and Sterling and just start your day at the awesome Julesberg rest stop.  We figured if we could log two hours in the dark before LittleM got up, that we would be good to go. *Laughs* Oh, idealistic parents. That means getting up at 4am, showering, packing, loading the dogs, feeding the dogs, then waking up baby, changing his diaper, giving him milk, loading him into the car and then leaving in an hour.  Like I said, we took 25 extra minutes, but it could have been worse.

The dawn was pretty. So pretty is made me want to throw up and never see it again.



Too bad our morning planning was all for naught:  LittleM was WIDE AWAKE at 5:25am and like "Hey guys, this is weird, what's going on?" The sun rose while he was awake. I fed him a banana and a cereal bar from the front seat as he chatted happily with himself.  Around 9am, he fell asleep and we gunned it.  Our driving with a baby theory is this - when he is out, no stopping. Log as much time as you can when he is unconscious. That's two less hours in the car that he has to deal with, and two less hours that you would potentially have to put up with crying from the back.  The problem with this theory is that sometimes I have to pee.

And every time we stopped the car, guess who popped up like a daisy?

Ryan and I took turns driving, riding in the passenger seat and then sitting in the back next to LittleM, reading him books and playing with toys.  Honestly, he's a pretty cute travel companion and was just snug as a bug in those pjs. Footy pjs are the BEST.



We stopped the Julesberg reststop just before he passed out and let him crawl around the informative library area, which was full of sweet old ladies who kept trying to give us used books and fawned over LittleM. "He's so cute - is he yours?"  It was asked so nicely it was enough to keep me from being snarky and saying "Nope, we totally just kidnapped him from a McDonalds. Do you think it's okay?"  Instead, I just nod proudly. "Yup! All ours!"  We changed him into some light cotton clothes for the ride (I myself was rocking some serious leggings for my own comfort) and changed diapers, and took the doggies out - they were just grateful that we didn't leave them at home.  *Sigh* It's so sad how their status has dropped since LittleM came along.

After he had stretched his legs and had a snack (those applesauce pouches are seriously the bomb, ya'll), we made it all the way to Gothamburg before we stopped for lunch.  Since we are in Nebraska, we HAVE to eat at Runza, otherwise my husband will have a cheese and cabbage related meltdown.   What is a Runza, you may ask? It's a delicious looking roll stuffed with cabbage and cheese and meat. I say looking because I ALWAYS ask Ryan for a bite of his and he always gives me one and I ALWAYS am like, "Oh yuck, that's right. I don't like these."

 (Runzas are also notorious for giving you the Runs-zas, a joke that never stops being funny.)

They do have great hamburgers and fries though. Look at LittleM rocking his red Nebraska shirt AND eating part of Daddy's Runza. He totally loved it, truly his father's child through and through.



After Runza, we sort of gunned it through the middle part of the state, decided AGAIN that we will stop at the Kearney arch the next time we drive through. (This is like the 8th time we have decided that.)  We stopped at another rest-stop, this time letting LittleM run around a grassy patch that gave me visions of snakes rising out of it's neutral shades and went on our way.  Marriage confession: on our car trips, music is always an issue. Ryan likes to listen to his back-logged list of podcasts, which detail anything from role-playing games to x-box strategies, Ted Talks to a story about some old guy from some old war in some weird country doing something special. (Seriously, it's like all of them.)

I, on the other hand, really want to SING when I drive, and I really like to sing through entire musicals since it makes the time pass. Chess? Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat? Don't mind if I do - just wait until you hear my amazing vocal take on Pharaoh. Les Miserables? No problem,  I'll be Javert, you be Jean Valjean, okay? Nevermind, I'll be both, it's going to be Tony-worthy. 

This is as tortuous to Ryan as a podcast about lancing a fictional elf-dragon are to me. This is why we have invested in earbuds.  We talk for most of the drive, but it's okay to love each other enough to not listen to our choice of music or podcasts for an hour or two while the baby sleeps. Also, I bet my voice sounds AWESOME with my headphones in. I could be in someone else's STOOORRRYYY....

Our last stop was a Dairy Queen in Lincoln Nebraska, where we laughed at their interesting take on a twist cone:



Yeah. We laughed for like ten minutes.  It's so sad in so many ways. The concept is there, but the execution...

Then, a half hour later, we were at my in-laws house and LittleM got to run around their huge backyard to his hearts content.  As you can see by the picture, he was absolutely thrilled to be out of the car.


"I'm smelling the flower. Aren't you happy people?"


But then again, isn't that how we all look when we have been in the car for eight hours?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Late Halloween Tidings from a Very Cute Yoda-Turtle


It's a little late, but Happy Halloween!  Too late? Okay. I'll take it anyway.  This Halloween completely snuck up on us.  I had just gotten back from NYC, felt like a took a deep breath, and then it was Halloween Eve, and I was like "Oh. We have a costume, right?"  It was the plan for my sister to buy LittleM's costume this year, but since she was in Europe most of the month I felt like that was too much, not to mention - costumes are expensive! I was looking at some adorable ones on Pinterest and when I followed the link, I would be dismayed to see that they were 80.00 and up.   I was like, "Uhhh, no, that's for ONE DAY." and then I realized that I had just uttered my least favorite sentence of all time when I was a wedding florist.

Luckily, our wonderful church family provided, just like they always do.  We were given not one but two costumes for Halloween, and with a few minutes to spare after work one day, I wrestled LittleM into his first costume of Halloween Day and we were off to Trunk-or-Treat at Gethsemane Lutheran School, where Sarah is Principal.  The shoes did not make it.



It was super fun, and our little Turtle - who busted the zipper on his costume like a koopa boss - had such a good time looking in all the trunks. I couldn't believe how much he had changed in a year.

Last year:



This year:






















Oh, I'm not getting teary eyed or anything over here. Nope, that would be lame. *Sniffle*  I would also like to point out that he was wearing a turtle shirt under his turtle costume so he is pretty much going to be President someday.

The good news is that the candy tax is still at a very high 100% at this point, but at least this year LittleM got some delicious puppy chow AND a Kashi bar. That is a pretty big get for him!  (Mommy and Daddy very much enjoyed his Reese's Pieces and Almond Joys. When people would be like "Does he like Nerds?" Errr..sure!)

We visited our flamingo friend and her garden gnome. Their costumes were awesome. I voted for them for best trunk, but I'm a little biased.




After our Trunk Or Treating adventure, we rushed home to get all changed for our Halloween Party at Katie and Dave's house.  I wasn't sure what to be, since my previous best laid plans had been half-hearted at most and then I was faced that morning with "Oh, I better get a cartoon costume together." I was thinking "what is my favorite cartoon character that isn't an animal OR the kind of costume that will make other people cringe?" (I saw plenty of those earlier in the day.)   After awhile, I finally remembered one of my favorite cartoon heroines of all time: Coraline!

I dashed onto Instagram and five minutes later I was good. I got some blue hair chalk and a ripped yellow child's poncho and I was good to go!  We took a group picture as we headed out the door and when I looked at it I was like "My hair doesn't even LOOK blue!" 

Argh, hair chalk money wasted and also the bathroom looked like a smurf threw up all over the place. #neveragain



Only, no one knew what I was. "Are you a...."  Homeless doll?  Wet zombie girl? Goth mannequin heading out in the rain?   It was sort of a costume fail, but at least I was something I loved. Besides, I could never compare to the amazing costumes at the party, most of them homemade by Katie because she's ridiculous. 

LittleM and Daddy got into the cartoon costume mode and went as the world's cutest Yoda and Annakin Skywalker, before the mask, I think?  Ryan was vague on the details as he asked me to draw a scar on his eye, but like who can be bothered with the who's who in the Star Wars world. I know who Yoda is. I'm good, and I laugh at Ryan's terrible awesome jokes like when LittleM was crawling away from us at the party and I asked "Is anyone going with him?" and Ryan shrugs and says "He was alone on Dagoba. He'll be fine."



These guys are my life.



The party was wonderful - such good food (Katie always goes above and beyond with party food) and good conversation and I about lost my cool when Katie's son made his way into a very challenging position with a chair.  Our party had such cool creative costumes: my friend Amanda went an incredible reindeer from Frozen, there was a magician, a hipster Ariel, a tutu-d Batman and a perfect Daphne from Scooby-Doo.



Look at that awesome Frozen crew!

Also, can't forget the strange doll-faced hobo wearing a yellow poncho in the corner.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Fairytale Giveaway and a Chance to Join the Author Street Team!


Hi friends!
 
Did you know that I do giveaways all the time for my amazing Author Street Team?  All you have to do is sign up and you are good to go!
 
 I've given away a Kindle, an Alice in Wonderland mug, two necklaces, gourmet strawberries, signed books and a chance for a readers name to be in the final Elly book.  If you want to sign up, you can either enter your information here under the "Sign up for the newsletter" button, or you can tweet, comment, Facebook or email me and request to be signed up! It's that easy.

With that introduction, I'll go ahead and introduce the
awesome contest for you this month! I am giving away the best of the YA fairytale and mythology category, six books in all - and six chances to win. These are stories and authors that I admire, truly the gems of my genre.

The books I'm giving away are:




Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Unenchanted by Chanda Hahn
Towering by Alex Flinn
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I know what you are thinking - how do I get my hands on these fantastic books? I'll tell you! There are six ways to get six entries in:

- Post on Facebook about The Wonder: a review, a picture of your cat sitting on the book, a status update about the book with a link to the Amazon page, a smiley face with an arrow pointing the Book, a picture of you making "Queen-y" face - basically, whatever you would like to say or show about the book, do it!
- Post a review on Amazon or Goodreads
 (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22703968-the-wonder or http://amzn.to/1wT3oO2)
  - Tweet about the book or become a Twitter follower (https://twitter.com/ColleenBlooms)
- Become a blog follower of The Ranunculus Adventures (http://ranunculusadventure.blogspot.com/)
- Post a Tumblr Pic, Blog Review or any sort of social media blast
- "Like" any reviews for Queen that fit your fancy on either Goodreads or Amazon!
Once you do these things, simply send me a link via ANY social media and the number of entries (this goes on the honor system), and you'll be entered to win the books!

 Six books means six winners, and I'll ship the books directly to your house!

Thank you so much for being a part of my career and my dreams. I'm endlessly thankful.


(And thanks to longtime blog readers for putting up with my sometimes weird straddling of writing career and home-life. It's much appreciated.)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A NYC Day: Rockefeller, Aladdin, Magnolia and Grand Central


Bam! The next morning we walked around the corner to a delicious little bodega called Cafe Nova for a NYC bagel breakfast. By the time we came back to the hotel, Sarah was there, fresh off her red-eye flight and soon we were all ready to head out for the city. Our girls trip was complete!

 

Sarah encouraged us to get a MetroCard so that we could hop on and off the subway at will. It worked perfectly, and after about 20 rides, I felt like I was finally getting the hang of it.  Sarah would tell us which train to get on and then I would follow them. The subway is not my favorite thing - I kept begging for taxis and was promptly refused. I just find it so icky and claustrophobic and weird. Some subways were nicer than others, something Liz confirmed ("You rode the 1??".)  Even if I just wanted to claw my way to the surface, with it's clean-ish air and sky, it's good to have friends that shove you through a turnsile lovingly encourage you to do the things that are outside of your comfort zone, even if you do have to do them again and again.


To be honest we did so many things that day that remembering all of them is almost impossible. Everywhere we turned, there was something to see.  Upper East Side to Downtown, there is no place in the city that doesn't have a staggering view of what truly may be the center of the universe.


First we started out waiting for a cupcake walking tour that we had bought over Groupon that ended up being cancelled and no one told us. So that was stupid. Luckily, there was a pretty farmers market going on in Union Square, so we took that in and moved on, after cursing our lost cupcake tour and buying some stuff at Forever21, which we totally have in Colorado.

 
  From there we decided from there to head over to Rockefeller Center, which has the world's largest subway entrance, approximately the size of a Colorado mall. I love 30Rock, both the location and the show.  I was crossing my fingers that I would run into Liz Lemon and we would become forever best friends, but it didn't happen.   I could have watched the ice skaters falling down all day, but from there we had another destination - St. Patrick's Cathedral, right across the street. 


Unfortunately, it's under construction, so a lot of it's magnificent beauty was covered by scaffolding. Still, the awe and size of it wasn't lost on us, and I lit a candle in the sanctuary to thank God for all our incredible blessings this year, mostly for one little guy who I was already missing. There were hymns being played on the gigantic organ and we all hummed right along.  

A little bit of spirit, right there in the city. I loved it.


After that we had a sad, expensive lunch at a depressing restaurant that was across the street from the Carnegie Deli, which had a tremendous line. Silly Midwest girls fell right into that trap and paid the price for it - 20 bucks for a miserable turkey sandwich.  After that, we headed to Grand Central Station, which is always guarnteed to take your breath away and unlike our lunch, didn't disappoint. 


The statue on top of Grand Central is my favorite. It's so iconic.


 Inside of Grand Central, we found the famous Magnolia Bakery, which was one of the stops on our cancelled cupcake tour, so we went ahead and had one. Sadly, Liz was right. It was totally overrated and actually not very good at all! And it's a cupcake, for crying out loud!   I'll take Katie's or my sisters cupcakes over those ones any day.

Also, I may have dropped it on my sleeve, so it didn't look very appealing for the picture. Bleh.


From there, it was on to the NYC Public Library, one my favorite places in NYC, complete with a Guttenberg Bible! (Ryan would have lost his mind.)



The ceiling there is divine - books and biblical art, all in one place? I'll stay forever. 


Outside of Grand Central - did I mention we did A LOT?


After the library, we decided to head back downtown to get ready for our Broadway show, which was Aladdin.  We put on our NYC dresses and headed out: mine was a thrift store find for five bucks, a first for me. Katie did my hair in a cute up-do and we headed out for our girls night on the town.

 (This picture was taken in our hotel elevator, which was cotton candy pink, constantly pumping with house music and smelled like a Victoria's Secret exploded.)


    I've now seen three Disney Broadway musicals and I can say that they rank in this order: The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and then the Lion King. They were all spectacular.  Aladdin was exactly like the movie: big, cheesy, beautiful and exploding with color and sparkles. I can't even convey the sparkle factor of this musical. It's like a Swarovski crystal threw up on the stage for every single costume and musical number. "A Whole New World" was absolutely dazzling, with a magic carpet ride against a sea of stars and a big white moon. I didn't take this picture, but shows you how beautiful the scenery was. Every scene in the palace had these gorgeous lattice backgrounds that just took my breath away.


The man who played the genie was incredible, and his insatiable energy took the show to new heights. On the other hand, when he was gone from the stage, the show seemed to deflate a bit.  Jasmine on the other hand, well, at least she was pretty. After the show, we headed out into Times Square which was bursting at the seams with tourists. This, more than anything other than Ground Zero, had changed the most since I had seen it last.  It's bigger, it's brighter and it's actually cleaner than I remembered it. It was also totally nuts.


I took this picture of Katie taking it all in - her face conveys the wonder and the insanity of it all.  However, the best part of this picture, unnoticed by me until Karen pointed it out is the TOTALLY RANDOM MARIO in the background.  

Why is he there? What is he doing? I love that he's just chilling.  

That sums up Times Square pretty well.


We ended the night at Junior's, known for the best cheesecake in New York (as I am reading this, I see that a lot of this blog has been pastry related. Lest you judge, may I tell you that we walked like 20 miles a day and that should even things out. Hopefully.). The sign didn't lie. I'm not a cheesecake person and even I could taste that it was the BEST EVER.

And that wrapped up our New York night. I've never been happier to fall into a bed.
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