Tuesday, May 31, 2016

ABC Reads: May Review

Today is the day to link up your ABC Reads!!  Here's a refresher on the terms of the challenge in case you missed it previously:

What does the challenge entail?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  There are 26 letters of the alphabet and Mia and I challenge you, during the course of 2016, to read a book that starts with each letter.  For example, Atonement (A), The Bell Jar (B), Catching Fire (C), and so on.  Makes sense, right? You don't need to go in order - if you want to start with S, go for it.  On the last day of each month, we'll host a link-up for you to share your ABC Reads.  We will award one point for each letter you review AND a bonus point for linking up with us!  At the end of the year (or when the first participant reviews a book beginning with each of the 26 letters), the winner will be awarded a $30 Amazon gift card.  So, what do you say?  Do you accept our ABC Reads challenge?

All the books I read this month centered around dramatic family events and involved lying - some more innocently than others.  I really enjoyed two of the books I read this month, but could have passed on the other.  I completed the following letters: E, G, and W.  Here are my thoughts...

Everything I Never Told You by Cynthia Ng

The story takes place in 1970's Ohio. Nath, Lydia, and Hannah are all unique children. This isn't surprising after learning about the past of their parents - James and Marilyn Lee.  James was born to immigrant parents fortunate enough to find work at a school that James was permitted to attend despite his racial difference.  He meets Marilyn as he begins his career as a professor at Cambridge.  She was a student turned lover...and then a baby came along.  The story takes place about 15 years into the future as Lydia has just turned up missing (and quickly found at the bottom of a nearby lake).  It is certainly an interesting look at family dynamics, interracial relationships, and the power of one's past to shape their future.  There are several flashbacks that help build the story of James and Marilyn all while trying to solve the mystery of Lydia's possible murder/suicide.  I thought the book was well written and provided great insight into a number of intriguing family issues.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

I had a really difficult time getting into this one, but once it got started I was bit more interested.  To Kill A Mockingbird was far and away better than this sequel of sorts.  Definitely suggest only reading it and stopping.  The Finch family becomes entirely too convoluted in the sequel.  And to add to the devastation, you immediately discover that Jem has passed away.  I really think this was a book that Harper Lee never intended to see the light of day.  I'm sad to say it probably would have been better that way.   

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I finished this mysterious family drama novel over the holiday weekend.  It was a quick read because it drew me in from the start.  I did manage to figure out the twist at the end a tad before it was revealed, but I still really enjoyed the mysterious nature of the book.  I loved the map of Beechwood Island (a private island where the family spends their summers) and the family genealogy chart at the beginning of the book.  Initially, I kept flipping back and forth to make sure I had each character in the Sinclair family straight.  Definitely an interesting bunch of folks!  I would recommend reading this one to pretty much anyone!    

Which letters did you cross off your list this month?

Andrea :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

On Being Content

Life can be a waiting game in many ways.  When you are a kid, you can't wait to be one year older so you can do this or do that.  As a tween, you are anxious to grow into that mature age of 16 and get your license.  Then, you can't wait to go off to college and set all your own rules and have freedom.  At some point the newness wears away and you begin longing for a career or a mate to share adventures and experiences with throughout the years.  Eventually, you want to start a family.  And somewhere along the way, you realize how much you should have relished that time as a five year old when the worst thing that could happen in a day was also something you likely wouldn't remember the following week.  And no life altering decisions were waiting for your yay or nay.

Why is it so difficult to find contentment in my current stage of life?  This is a question that has kept me up at night often throughout the years.  I think it's because being content isn't always easy especially in our comparison heavy culture.  It takes dedication to live in the moment and enjoy each day for all it brings.  At least, that's how I often feel.  Regardless of how I envision or plan or anticipate life will go...there are always twists and turns that take that preparation and throw it right out the window.  I'm learning that my methods alone are faulty.

I have found that I need to rely on God fully in order to feel that sense of contentment - and ultimately, happiness.  One way to do that is to trust that He knows best for me.  He opens windows when He closes doors.  He has a plan for my life.  And it's a great one.  Better than any I could dream up on my own.  But the first step is mine.  I have to commit to wanting that life even if it's not what I had in mind.  Or more importantly, in line with the time frame I had in mind.  He knows.  And He will provide.  He simply asks that I be willing.  Being content filters directly from giving up control.  From ceasing to prepare for the unknown.

Andrea :)

*Post inspired by the weekly prompt found on The Figment.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Favorites

It's Friday!!! YAY!!!  I am always ready for the weekend.  Who doesn't love more time for all their favorites, right?  Today, I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you some of my favorite things.


We stumbled upon W. Kamau Bell's United Shades of America a couple weeks ago...and have been really intrigued by this series.  Kamau is a black comedian that has volunteered to put himself in some uncomfortable situations to bring insight into a wide range of cultural and political issues.  So far, we've seen him interact with the KKK, spend some time with prisoners and the police, and expand our understanding of the immigrant population.  You can find episodes on CNN.  It is some of the most interesting TV we've watched in some time.


I'm back on the scrapbook train!  I took a big break from Michael's after our wedding, but I was in there recently and the scrapbook bug has bitten me again.  I have A LOT of catching up to do so this is great news!  Looking forward to gearing up those creative juices again...

Chris and I are planning to run the NYRR Queens 10k next month so we have been getting in a few training runs.  I had a great time being a race supporter for Chris a few weeks ago.  He ran a 4-miler in Central Park.  I was able to catch him near the beginning on that rainy morning.  And, of course, I was there just before the finish cheering him on to completion!  He did an awesome job.  I am so proud of him!


I recently reacquainted myself with the vast land of podcasts.  Maybe it has something to do with getting back to running.  Maybe.  Anyway, I just finished Serial - Season Two.  Definitely recommend it for a closer look at the mess we call our military.  I found many parts of it to be completely fascinating.  Journalist Sarah Koenig and her team takes a deep dive into the case of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl who willingly left his post in Afghanistan during the summer of 2009 and was subsequently captured and held in captivity by the Taliban for nearly five years. Certainly worth a listen!

Theater - my true NYC love!  The Tony nominations were released a couple weeks ago so we have been planning and plotting when to see which shows.  Fortunately, we snagged tickets to Hamilton and checked it off our list in early January.  I'm fully expecting a sweep there...and rightfully so!  We have several plays on our to-see list though - The Father, Blackbird, and The Humans.  Definitely excited to see as many as we can before Tony night!!!

What are you loving these days?

Andrea :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

I'm a Survivor....Fan!!

I've seen every single episode of Survivor...ever.  Yes, for 32 seasons (roughly the past 16 years of my life), I've been watching.  And that is true fandom because there was no DVR for this gal back in the early 2000's. I suppose it is officially my favorite show.  Or at least the one I've watched the longest!

I thoroughly enjoy the psychological aspects behind the motto of Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.  It is fun to get to know the different personalities and methodologies for the players each season.  And occasionally revisit old friends when former players are brought back for special reunion seasons.  It might be a hard sell for a newcomer with the abundance of reality TV available these days, but I'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Probst and Survivor!

Tonight, four finalists will face off for the title of Sole Survivor: Kaoh Rong.  The cast of 18 players were dropped off in Cambodia and divided into three tribes - Brains, Brawn, and Beauty - at the beginning of their 39 day journey to win the prize.  The four that remain are Cydney (original Brawn tribe), Aubry (original Brain tribe), Michele (original Beauty tribe), and Tai (original Beauty tribe).  Each of them have certainly held their own and made bold moves throughout the season.  Cydney turned on her original core alliance at just the right time and Tai did the same to that same alliance group a few episode later.  Michele has stayed strong bouncing around without any true protection for quite some time now...and won a critical immunity challenge a few weeks ago.  Aubry, some might argue has been a strategic mastermind and is a clear winner, but I think she has some stiff competition...particularly since she has been in the majority alliance throughout rather than having to fight from the bottom to survive.

However, it is tough to flat out predict a winner at this point because the finale will have two more eliminations before the final two individuals face the jury to make their case for being named winner.  My gut tells me that it will be two women in the final.  Tai has played quite an interesting game making him an ideal candidate to sit with one at the final vote, but I just think the ladies will find a way to dominate the end game.  As I mentioned, I would be fine with any of the remaining players winning as they have all played remarkably different, but uniquely equal games in my opinion.  If I had to pick one person to win, I think I would select Michele.  She was in some real tough spots and managed her way out of them while remaining extremely likeable (despite speaking truthfully in difficult situations).  She always seemed at ease when working angles and likely doesn't have many enemies on the jury.  I think Cydney or Aubry wouldn't be afraid to take her because they both seem to believe they are much more worthy of winning.  Needless to say, I'm excited to see how it all shakes out tonight!

Do you watch any reality competition shows?

Andrea :)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mom's Surprise Birthday Party

Surprise parties are THE best!!  The insane amount of planning and organizing (and lying) that goes into it can be daunting, but the end result is SO much fun!! After much debate and discussion, we ultimately decided to attempt a double surprise party weekend for Mom.  Our first surprise involved just our immediate family.  McKinley invited Mom and Dad over for a game night with him and his roommate, JK.  This is a fairly common occurrence so certainly no red flags there.  What Mom didn't know is that Jordan and his crew along with Chris and I would be hiding in the kitchen waiting to jump out and surprise her upon arrival.  Worked like a charm!

Mom was no doubt surprised...especially since she had called me just a few minutes before while I casually pretended to be enjoying a relaxing weekend at our apartment in NY.  I'm good, friends! Put me on the surprise squad ANY day! :)  That Saturday afternoon all the siblings just hung out and entertained the kids.  I worked with Brinley and Landon on being quiet as a mouse when we surprised Grandma and Grandpa.  They did awesome while we waited to spring the surprise!

It was a lot of fun to play games and just hang out that night.  We told Mom we were planning to go to church with her and take her out for a family lunch the next day.  Surprisingly, she didn't ask a ton of questions.  We all thought we were in the clear.  She didn't suspect a thing.

And we were right!!  Church was great.  Mom was extremely happy to have us all there together - a rarity these days!  We got some fun family shots outside the church before the rain began.  At that point, we headed over to Old Hickory for our second surprise.

The hostess group was a little lacking on the subtleties and nearly gave us away, but the New Yorker in me took over and just barged through to the banquet room.  Mom said she thought we might have invited her sister to join us, but she never expected to see a whole room full of family and friends.  Since I was in the group that arrived with her, I didn't get a look at her facial expression.  The pictures say it all though.  Mom was absolutely thrilled to be able to visit with so many wonderful people for the afternoon.  We were all relieved we managed to pull it off - a feat we had doubts about from the beginning!

Have you ever planned a surprise party?  How did it go? 

Andrea :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My Favorite Princess is FOUR!

Chris and I made a trip to Kentucky this past weekend to surprise my mom for her 60th Birthday.  There is a post to come with all those fun and exciting details, but one of the secondary events that occurred while we were in town happened to be a little impromptu birthday party for my niece!

I can't hardly believe that little Brinley is now a big four year old!  She is definitely one of a kind - such a smart, independent, and funny little gal.  I loved having some time to play and interact with her in person this weekend.  Our time together is never long enough, but it sure was fun to hang out with the little lady that made me an aunt!  Fortunately, it won't be long before we see her again!  Can't wait til next time!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my favorite PRINCESS of them all!!  
I love you, Brinley!!

Andrea :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Our April Date Nights

It would have been impossible to fit one more event into our April calendar.  Lesson learned as we proceed with caution with summer approaching!  We did have TONS of fun during our insanely busy month though!  We hosted my parents for a few days, hit up a slew of movies at the Tribeca Film Festival, and saw a thought-provoking show with friends who were visiting the city.  In the midst of all the fun, our date nights prevailed!  I set up a double date with friends of ours while Chris planned a surprise weekend getaway for us!

Back in April of 2010, Christopher and I had our first date at Brother Jimmy's on Lexington and 31st so it was only fitting that I booked our double date at that location.  We had fun rehashing the story of that night with Rachel and Lionel as well as chatting about a whole array of things from Survivor to FitBit Mania to sports/books.  It was a great night together with friends we have both spent the past few years getting to know individually.  We all met at a Bible Study group about three years ago.  As it turned out, Chris and Lionel worked in the same area and meet for lunch from time to time. And Rachel and I ended up in a book club together!  It's rare that we spend time with couples that we both know equally well so that made for an extra fun night.

Chris did an amazing job of putting together a fun weekend trip to Mystic, Connecticut.  Click HERE to see all the fun we had at the aquarium, Olde Mistick Village, and walking around the historic downtown area.  We had a fantastic weekend away, but Chris really blew me away with the ultimate adventure date during this trip.  He planned a penguin encounter for us at the Mystic Aquarium.  We were able to spend an hour learning all about the African penguins that are on exhibit there as well as pet and play with our own little penguin friend!  I wrote all about the experience HERE.  It was such a thoughtful and fun-filled date!

What is your ultimate date night?

Andrea :)