Friday, January 30, 2015

Mini of the Month: January

Baked by Melissa is my favorite cupcake spot in the city because they always have something new. The mini is just the right size to get that sweet fix, but not feel too bad about doing it.

Each month they feature a cupcake of the month.  Chris and I try to find a time to grab a box and give the new flavor a whirl.  This month they featured a White Chocolate Crunch cupcake.  It was vanilla cake and icing with a cookie butter stuffing. The topping was white chocolate crunch and chocolate drizzle.

We both liked it.  I thought the topping was particularly yummy and loved the cookie butter stuffing.  I wasn't too surprised because vanilla cupcakes and icing are totally my thing.

Do you like white chocolate desserts?

Andrea :)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Best Picture Review: Birdman

Summary via Fandango:

A fading actor (Michael Keaton) best known for his portrayal of a popular superhero attempts to mount a comeback by appearing in a Broadway play. As opening night approaches, his attempts to become more altruistic, rebuild his career, and reconnect with friends and family prove more difficult than expected. Lindsay Duncan, Zach Galifianakis, and Edward Norton co-star in this black comedy from director Alejandro Iñárritu.

My Thoughts:

This was an abstract movie at its finest.  Super weird.  It was kind of all over the place really.  Very jumbled.  And it jumped around a lot.  I'm not even certain if there was really a point to it all, but I did love how it was filmed.  I can certainly see why it was nominated in cinematography.  There was a very unique feel to the way the camera angled on people's faces and followed people around.  I thought the editing and directing proved fantastic, but the story just wasn't my cup of tea.  I did wish that I had been able to see more of the Broadway show they were acting out in the movie.  It looked like a winner from the few scenes I kept seeing over and over again.  Michael Keaton and Edward Norton both performed well in the movie...particularly Keaton.  I didn't really think Emma Stone was so great though.  I'm not sure I would recommend this one unless you are more into the way it was filmed rather than the actual film itself.

Other Nominations:

Actor (Michael Keaton)
Supporting Actor (Edward Norton)
Supporting Actress (Emma Stone)
Directing (Alejandro G. Inarritu)
Sound Editing
Sound Mixing
Writing (Original Screenplay) 

Did you see Birdman?  What did it mean to you?  Or were you just confused the whole time like me?

Andrea :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands: THREE months!

We celebrated Christmas and a New Year on the way to three months together.  I made my name change Facebook official even though it likely won't change in real life for another few months since  there's this little thing called Super Bowl on the horizon...and I already have a couple of March flights booked in my maiden name.  Eventually, I'll get it all sorted out though :)

Date Nights

-Movie Night at home for NYE.

-Dinner and a Broadway Show.

-Dinner at Thalia's and Sinbad at Gotham Comedy Club - SO many laughs!!


My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

God's Not Dead
Saw this one on DVD on NYE.  
A little too unrealistic, though we did enjoy the basis for the film.
My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

22 Jump Street
Saw this one on DVD on NYE.  
A little too much...or maybe a lot too much for me.
My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

(Review here.)
My Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Elephant Man
(Review here.)
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

American Sniper
(Review here.)
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Chris' Rating: 3.5 out of stars


-Kentucky for Christmas...check out all the fun here!

-Boston to visit friends and meet their new little guy!

Notable Events

-Living Room is now furnished with a couch, chair, and shelves...hooray!

-Hung out with the Davidson's on New Year Day.

-Dinner with Nick and Julie who visited NYC for New Year celebrations.

-Wedding Thank You Notes are DONE...Praise the Lord! :)

Andrea :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Best Picture Review: American Sniper

Summary via Fandango:

As the story opens, we meet carefree brothers Chris (Bradley Cooper) and Jeff (Keir O'Donnell) Kyle as they work the Texas rodeo circuit. They're cowboys through and through, and despite being notably older than the usual enlistee, Chris pays a visit to his local recruitment office and decides to become a Navy SEAL. Later, at the firing range, he draws on his hunting lessons with his stern father to become an expert marksman. A booze-fueled barroom chat with pretty brunette Taya (Sienna Miller) soon leads to wedding bells, and following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Kyle is deployed to Iraq for his first tour of duty. There, his reputation as a sniper who never misses makes him a legend among his fellow troops and earns him the moniker "The Devil of Ramadi" from his enemies. With a substantial bounty on his head, Kyle makes it his personal mission to take out a sadistic Iraqi soldier known as "The Butcher" as well as an elusive enemy marksman with a skill to rival his own. The closer he gets to achieving his goals during repeat tours of duty, however, the more fellow soldiers he sees die and the further he drifts from Taya and their two children back home. It all leads up to a tense rooftop gunfight in a raging sandstorm -- one that convinces the sniper once and for all to make his family his top priority. Unfortunately, all is not well as Kyle struggles to make the transition back to civilian life, but he discovers that helping his fellow veterans is an effective way to do good and make peace with his wartime experiences.

My Thoughts:

Ever since I saw the previews for this movie, I was so excited to see it.  I love movies that are based on real people.  And this one looked particularly intense.  I was literally counting down the days until it was released.  It did not disappoint.  I thought Bradley Cooper was a great fit for the role though I'm not so sure he should have been nominated for Best Actor based on some of the other films I have seen this year.  Perhaps he got the nod based on name recognition.  He did a good job with the role, but I just wouldn't put him in the Top 5 for the year.  But back to the movie itself.  While I thought the sniper part of the movie was interesting, the thing that really drew me in was the time in between Chris Kyle's tours.  This was the first war movie I had seen that really got into the nitty gritty of that in-between time.  It was real...and raw.  And I imagine quite true for many of our veterans and active military.  I was sadden that Kyle's work with the PTSD community was cut so short.  What an incredible solider and legacy.  Definitely recommend this movie to anyone.  One of the better war movies I have seen for sure.  I actually have plans to read the book as I have heard that it goes into even more depth about his post active duty life.

Other Nominations:

Actor (Bradley Cooper)
Film Editing
Sound Editing
Sound Mixing
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Have you seen American Sniper?  Read Chris Kyle's book?  Thoughts?

Andrea :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review: The Promise of Stardust

Here is the synopsis of the book from Goodreads:

Matt Beaulieu was two years old the first time he held Elle McClure in his arms, seventeen when he first kissed her under a sky filled with shooting stars, and thirty-three when he convinced her to marry him. Now in their late 30s, the deeply devoted couple has everything-except the baby they've always wanted.

When an accident leaves Elle brain dead, Matt is devastated. Though he cannot bear the thought of life without her, he knows Elle was afraid of only one thing-a slow death. And so, Matt resolves to take her off life support.

But Matt changes his mind when they discover Elle's pregnant. While there are no certainties, the baby might survive if Elle remains on life support. Matt's mother, Linney, disagrees with his decision. She loves Elle, too, and insists that Elle would never want to be kept alive on machines. Linney is prepared to fight her son in court-armed with Elle's living will.

Divided by the love they share, Matt and Linney will be pitted against each other, fighting for what they believe is right, and what they think Elle would have wanted resulting in a controversial legal battle that will ultimately go beyond one family . . . and one single life.

What an incredible story!  Truly every aspect of this book made me think.  The author made it easy to put yourself in each character's situation.  It was so complicated, but at the same time quite simple.  I really enjoyed reading the book.  I thought long and hard about what I would want done if I was in Elle's situation.  And I even talked it over with my know, just in case.  I told several friends about this book during the couple of weeks I was reading it.  It really consumed me, and I was always curious to see how others viewed the matter.  Definitely suggest picking it up next time you really want to get investing in your reading.  Several heavy topics - alcoholism/child abuse, abortion, quality of life, miscarriage - come to the surface, but each instance provides a situation well worth thinking through on your own!  Big thanks to Mia over at The Chronicles of Chaos for recommending it to me!!

Andrea :)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Elephant Man

I wanted to see this show for one reason.  Bradley Cooper was starring as the Elephant Man.

Yep.  The one and only Bradley Cooper.  I had the highest of expectations.  THE highest.  Maybe that was my problem.  I'm not sure exactly, but I didn't like it.  I mean, I knew the story.  I was familiar with the idea that Bradley Cooper wouldn't be in the same type of role that he commonly plays, but something was just off for me.

First of all, I was expecting some make-up and indication of deformity as the Elephant Man.  There was none.  Just regular ole Bradley Cooper...tight abs and flowing locks as usual.  This made it very difficult for me to imagine that he was a repulsive, smelly blob of a half human.  I needed more.

Don't get me wrong, Cooper was phenomenal in his acting.  How he managed to keep his mouth curled and twisted while talking is beyond me.  Not to mention how he walked and kept his arm and hand in character flawlessly throughout the nearly two hour performance.  Amazing.  No doubt there.

It's just that it wasn't believable for me.  Maybe my imagination was shot that day.  Or perhaps, I wasn't anticipating having to use it quite as much.  Either way, I wasn't a fan.  It's rare for me to not like a show, but this one just didn't do it for me.  And I was sad because I so badly wanted it to rock.

On a positive note, the cast that visited with fans outside the stage door were a very friendly bunch.  Particularly Alessandro Nivola. Shockingly friendly for an absurdly cold night.  I was way past freezing when the man of the hour graced us with his presence.  Surprisingly, he began making his way around the wider than normal circle that enclosed the stage door exit.  I was ready with my playbill and camera, but Bradley Cooper only seemed to stop for iPhone photo ops.  Such is life.  I did manage to get my playbill in front of him before he charged past my section though.  In the end, that was good enough for me this time. 

Andrea :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands: Asking our Bridal Party

Now that we had set our date and determined our location, we were ready to ask our bridal party. 

Chris had been ready to ask his groomsmen since before he proposed to me.  In other words, he was set and had been for sometime on who he wanted to stand alongside him on our big day.  It was not near as easy for me. 

I knew from the beginning it would be a large wedding party as Chris had his mind made up on six wonderful fellas.  I truly ran the gammut of emotions with trying to figure out my side.  I struggled for quite some time on the number.  I had always imagined having four ladies stand up with me.  Of course, I had never in a million years imagined being slightly over the age of 30 in this dream world where I stood up with four ladies beside me. So, needless to say, I was stressed...a lot.  I had lived a lot of life in these 30 years.  And whether it was a good or a bad thing, I'd never really had a BEST friend.  Well, except for my brothers.  But they aren't that wouldn't work.  Or could it?  Enter even more of a complicated dilemma.

To make a far too long story short, after much agony and even a few sleepless nights, I selected a mix of ladies that had a strong influence on my life at one point or another throughout the years.  And they would all be bridesmaids.  Plain and simple.

Once they were selected, I began to work on the cards that I would either send or present to them when I asked them to be a part of our bridal party.  Of course, Chris just called or texted his buddies.

I loved every single moment of making these cards.  It was a true labor of love.  In fact, at one point during the process I said to Chris, "I feel like I was made for this."  Evidently, I enjoyed the creative liberty to the max.

Who knew scrapbook paper and stickers could bring me so much joy? :)

Inside of the card complete with a personal message to each lady on the bottom.

I was able to present three of them in person, but had to mail the others.  It was so fun to see the expression on my friends' faces as they accepted the role.  And my oldest pal, Michelle, sent me the sweetest text response after receiving hers. So fun!

All smiles with Reba and Amanda after my first official ask :)

Oh, and after additional thought, I moved forward with asking my brothers to be my Men of Honor.  I was SO happy that I did this.  It was what I wanted in my heart from the beginning, but was initally afraid of being too outside the box.  Turns out that noone really even noticed any difference.  For all the brides out there, just follow your gut and heart...whatever you want/decide is most likely the right choice.  Don't do something just because you think it's expected.  I learned this lesson early...and was SO glad!!

I also made up cute little packages to "ask" our ring bearer and flower girl.  Both were just two years old at the time so the real ask was to their parents.  Fortunately, their respective parents were one of Chris' best men and one of my brothers.  We were so excited to have them all as a part of our special day!

How did you ask your bridal party? 

Andrea :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands: Determining the Location

Deciding on a location wasn't nearly as easy as setting the date. Let's consider the options.

1 - We currently live in New York City. Great place for a wedding...if you want to spend a fortune!

2 - We spent much of our time dating in Albany where Chris lived for the past several years. We'd been to several weddings in this area. It could work. It would still be somewhat costly, but not nearly as much as NYC.

3 - Vermont. We had been there every year together for a fun little trip. It is gorgeous in the fall. Chris had every intention of proposing there...darn snow storms! It was possible, but far fetched.

4 - Kentucky. This one was tricky. We ruled out my hometown quickly because the nearest airport is 2 hours away. Planning from afar is already complicated enough without accounting for an additional four hours of drive time on each trip back. One brother lives in Lexington and the other in Louisville. I had lived in both cities for roughly six months each. I wouldn't say I know them well, but I'm familiar enough. And they would have lots of benefits for all the out of town guests we anticipated for the big day. Oh, and the looked to be ideal. You can see where this is headed, right? :)

Ultimately, we decided we would get married in Kentucky. And for the record, Chris was SO excited about our decision. Surprisingly, much more than me. To be honest, I was overwhelmed. It was not an easy decision for me...and actually foreshadowed much of the next few months of my life.  When it came to anything about our wedding, decision making simply was not my strong suite.  I often wished it was someone else's wedding because then I envisioned I would have had no problem making decision after decision and coaching them through it all.  For some reason I found that when it was my own, it was different.  Much different than I ever imagined.  However, once I started researching locations and setting appointments for our mid-February trip to KY, I felt a bit better.

We spent one day looking at venues in Lexington. We checked out Rabbit Creek Inn, The Barrel House, and the Griffin Gate Hotel.  We really liked the Rabbit Creek Inn. We also knew that Keeneland would be open in October so it would allow for guests to check out some live racing over the course of our wedding weekend. We liked that idea.

Rabbit Creek Inn would be perfect for a summer wedding!

Loved this staircase inside the Rabbit Creek Inn!

The Barrel House was a fun venue, but not the right fit for us.

Gorgeous property at Griffen Gate in Lexington.

The next day, we ventured all over Louisville. Since it was a Sunday, we weren't able to get many in-person meetings like we had in Lexington, but we were able to wander around the Galt House, Kentucky Derby Museum, and West End Baptist Church on our own. I had a bit of a meltdown in the car before we headed inside our last stop of the day - the Hilton Garden Inn. I was starting to feel overwhelmed, again...but I pulled it together and by the end of the day we had decided on our top choice.  Little did we know it would be less than two months before the wedding until we had an official walk through of the place under our belt.  Fortunately, the website had a really cool 360 degree viewing feature!  Oh how I don't miss the struggles of long distance wedding planning!

West End Baptist Church on a snowy February 2014 day.

So, we had set our date - 10*18*14 - and determined our location - Louisville, KY...specifically with a church wedding at West End Baptist Church followed by a reception at the Kentucky Derby Museum.  Our next step was asking our bridal party...

Andrea :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

#MarriedMaitlands: Setting the Date

Long before Chris proposed to me, we had discussed an ideal time of year for our wedding.  We knew we wanted to get married in the fall.  And, naturally, I had begun to narrow down the weekends for one that would be best for us when the time came. 

I have a thing for even numbers.  Maybe I'm weird.  Maybe I'm a tad OCD.  Maybe I just like symmetry.  Regardless, I was convinced the wedding date would be best in October....month 10.  I reviewed the Saturdays in October 2014 to discover the following options - 4, 11, 18, and 25.  I quickly ruled out the two odd ones and was left with either 10-4-14 or 10-18-14.  I would have been happy with either.  After a little further reflection (our first date was on 4-17-10), I realized that getting married on October 18 would mean we had dated for exactly four and a half years before the big day.  It was settled.  We were getting married on October 18, 2014. 

Now, we just had to figure out where the celebration would take place. Stay tuned to discover how we decided on Louisville...nearly 800 miles from our current location in NYC and 130 miles from my hometown.

Andrea :)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Book Review: Eyes Wide Open

Here's a synopsis of the book from Goodreads:

A horrible family tragedy that may not be what it seems . . .

A past encounter with an infamous killer turns deadly today . . .

An ordinary man must risk his own family to find the truth.

Jay Erlich's nephew has been found at the bottom of a cliff at Morrow Bay. It's all just a tragic suicide, until secrets from the past begin to rear up again. Did a notorious killer, jailed for many decades, have his hand in this?

Years ago, Jay Erlich's older brother, Charlie, a wayward child of the sixties, set out for California, where he fell under the sway of a charismatic but deeply disturbed cultlike figure. Tragedy ensued and lives were destroyed, but as the decades passed, Charlie married and raised a family and lived a quiet, secluded life under the radar. Yet the demons that nearly destroyed him never completely disappeared.

When Jay heads out west to help his grieving brother, he is pulled back into Charlie's past—and begins to suspect that his nephew's suicide may not have been that at all. With eyes wide open, Jay puts his own life at risk to uncover the truth, a quest that goes beyond the edge of madness and a family haunted by a secret past . . . and into the depths of evil.

Drawing on two real-life experiences from his own past, Gross has crafted a richly personal, yet utterly terrifying tale of two brothers, one successful, one wayward, trying to bridge the gap of what tore them apart.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was a page turner for sure.  Toward the middle of the book, I simply could not put it down.  I just had to find out what was going to happen next and how it was going to change the course of Jay's life in the process.  This book is very well written.  I enjoyed the psychological thriller aspect of it as well as the mystery of trying to discover who killed Evan.   Knowing that it is semi-based on real life experiences just made it all the more intense.  And just as a fair warning it doesn't completely end when you close the back cover.  There is some closure at the end, but things aren't left totally clear cut.  I definitely recommend reading this one!

Andrea :)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The New Year is Here!

It is hard to believe that 2014 has come and gone already.  Sometimes it felt like the shortest year of my life and other times it seemed like time couldn't possibly pass any slower.  Much of last year revolved around planning our wedding and getting settled into our new life and apartment.  Lots of transitions, but in the best possible way.  You can check out my 2014 recap if you missed it yesterday.

Today is all about 2015 though.  A new year means new goals...and for me, a new name.  Well, as soon as I can get around to filling out all those pesky forms. I am a very goal oriented person so by sharing my goals here, I hope to have some accountability on them.  I updated my goals from last year yesterday and realized I didn't do so well.  I guess that's what happens when your boyfriend proposes on December 30...and you spend most of the year planning for an October wedding.

1 - Read through the Bible! I am making a commitment to myself to see this one through...finally!  It has been on my to do list for ages...and the time has come.

2 - Focus on my health and nutrition.  I'm no spring chicken anymore.  Consequently, what I put into my body matters...a lot.  I am determined to work on creating more balanced meals.  And, of course, exercising on a consistent basis.  My plan is to use this blog to keep me in check.  I want to recap each month with my progress in this area.

3 - Have fun.  Enjoy life as newlyweds.  Go on fun date nights.  Plan a vacation or two...or three.  Just generally live it up while we figure out life together in this first full married year!

4 - Do more things for me.  Read more.  Finally get around to taking those improv classes.  Finish the scrapbooks that I have been working on for the past few years.  Make more creative stuff.  Write.  Volunteer and/or donate to causes that move me.  Take a class or two.  Set personal records in the 10k, Half Marathon, and Marathon distances.

5 - Redesign this blog.  Make changes for the better in this creative space...both aesthetically and regarding content.

6 - Find my passion.  Dig deep to figure out what it is that makes me tick.  Discover how I can make an impact.  Leave an impression.  And once I find it, follow it.   

Andrea :)