Saturday, February 6, 2016

book review - Happily Ever After: A Novel

I'm finally getting back on my book review horse.  It's been a while.  Moving kind of threw me into a book slump.  I found myself so spent most nights that mustering the energy to binge watch Netflix was all I could do.  But now that we're unpacked, somewhat organized and half way settled I feel like I've finally gotten my book groove back.  Honestly, I think our new sheets have a lot to do with it too.  That and I have nothing left to watch on Netflix.  ;)

So, I'm getting back to the word on page and first up is Happily Ever After: A Novel.

I've mentioned before that I totally judge a book by the cover.  Sue me.  The cover is what draws me in every time.  This one looked fun and the design lover in me was like, "Oh, that's a pretty fantastic bed!"  Then I read the brief summary........Sadie Fuller is a fairly typical forty-six-year-old divorced mom - a little overweight, unlucky in love, and stuck in the suburbs with no shortage of responsibilities.  But Sadie is not like the other soccer moms on her block; while her daughter is at school, Sadie writes erotic fiction under the name KT Briggs.  And then I was like, wait whaaaaaaaat?  Then upon further inspection I realized that this is Elizabeth Maxwell's first novel.  Sold.  I'm a sucker for a great cover and an author's first book.  There's something about the first one.  I can't imagine the sweat, blood and tears that goes into writing, but I imagine it's a whole lot of emotions that goes into book numero uno.

I was intrigued by the premise of this book.  An erotic fiction author who doesn't tell anyone what she does for a living.  I mean you never really know what goes on inside someone's daily life.  So while reading erotic fiction isn't really my thing, reading about the life of someone who has such a big secret definitely piqued my curiosity.  And the whole time I was reading, I was wondering to myself if anyone I know has a similar alter ego.

The book itself really isn't super steamy in the's actually a little awkward at times in that department.  So if steamy scenes aren't your thing then no worries there, but if you blush easily then steer clear.   This story is more about Sadie finding herself more so than Sadie finding love.  And she's pulled out of a rather pathetic life slump in the most unexpected way when characters she wrote in a paranormal book she never finished writing actually come to life.   Yes, you read that right.  There is a little genre mashing going on in this here story friends.  And at first it had me having sideline imaginary conversations with the author where I was like, "Girl, are you serious with this?  Really, you're busting out two witches right here in the middle of this thing?"  It caught me off guard in a weird way at first.  It was a little like Bridget Jones meets Enchanted......are y'all following me here.......and it was odd at first.  But the more I kept reading the more it started to make sense.....weird sense.....but sense none the less.  And in the end while this story is a far cry from what I usually enjoy reading, I rather liked it.  It was entertaining and a nice change of pace for me. 

There was one quote that really stuck out for me, and I'd say it kind of sums up what this whole unorthodox story was really about.   "Joy can be elusive. Sometimes to achieve it, you must step out onto the street, even if you know you might be run over by a bus."  
I really can't agree more.  In life and in love, no matter how many times you've been burned you've got to get back up and keep trying.  Never settle.  And never resign yourself to a life you don't love living. 

You can find more reviews over in the sidebar.  What are y'all reading right now?

*Update - I've just discovered that Elizabeth Maxwell is also Beth McMullen, who has written a number of books…….but this is still the first book published under the name Elizabeth Maxwell.   ;)

Friday, February 5, 2016

How I Use Instagram

Hey friends and happy Friday!  I'm off and away early tomorrow morning for a quick weekend trip to my hometown in Southern California.  I'm pretty pumped about getting some good Mexican food and soaking up the 80 degree weather!  Oh and I'm excited to see my mom and dad too.  ;)   I'm actually heading there mainly to see my dad and help him out around the house for a couple of days.  He just had a knee replacement, and living alone after that kind of surgery isn't exactly ideal.   Anyhow…..feel free to follow along on Instagram……I'm sure I'll post at least one pic of what real tacos are supposed to look like. ;)  Seriously, I feel bad for people that have never eaten really good Mexican food……and you can hate me for saying this, but if you haven't eaten Mexican food in Southern California you don't even know what good Mexican food is.  Just sayin'.  #hatersgonnahate

Speaking of Instagram, my favorite place to hang out other than the ol' blog, I thought I'd share a few of the ways I use this social media outlet in my daily life.  I think it's one of the easiest and most interesting platforms to use……and it's even kind of replaced Pinterest for me.  Say whaaaaaaat?  

how i use instagram

Instagram helps me get dressed every day which seems crazy, but it's true.  I screenshot favorite outfits from the fashiongrammers as well as the clothing brands I love and follow.  And using an app called Screenshotter I organize my screenshots into folders.  

You don't have to use an app to do this, but I've just found that the Screenshotter app makes it so easy.  In terms of what outfits I screenshot to save, I usually like to save those outfits where I have something similar looking in my closet, so that I can recreate that look without buying something new.  Or maybe I'll save an outfit that pairs colors or patterns together that I really like and have never thought to put together.  Occasionally I save photos of pieces that I'd like to add to my wardrobe at some point.  I'm slightly obsessed with Draper James.  I mean what's not to love about Reese Witherspoon?! 

how i use instagram

Having easy access to these photos on my phone makes outfit planning super easy.  

I also screenshot and save inspiring design images.  And what I love about a screenshot from Instagram is that I have the source info saved in the comment section, so if I want to go back later to look this image up on my computer I have all the info necessary to find what I'm hunting for…..unlike Pinterest where half the time a pin will send you on a wild goose chase.  I've found that even when the big glossy magazines re-gram something they will usually give proper credit to the designer and photographer, so that when I screenshot the image I have all the correct information.  

how i use instagram

I also love Instagram because it's the one place where I find it easy to keep things organized.  I'm really bad at updating the pages and project galleries on the ol' blog…….I'm trying to get better at that.  But I find with Instagram it's really easy to organize the photos I share with hashtags.  

I have a hashtag for recipes and meal ideas…..some of which I only share over there and never put them on the blog. 

The hashtag #fifthhousetravels is one I've used for years… you can get caught up on the places we've visited, and we can easily create vacation photo books.  The printicular app, which I've mentioned before, is still my favorite way to print Instagram photos.  

Just about every new blog post gets grammed and shared using this #ofhblog hashtag, so if you're someone who checks in every now and again that hashtag is a great way to get caught up quickly. 

I've been using the hashtag #designingnumber6 to share the design, decorating and behind the scenes decor related photos of the new house. 

I even have a hashtag for outfit posts…….where you'll quickly see just how obsessed with leopard, plaid and the color red I actually am. 

You can also take house tours using #ourfifthhouse or #oursixthhouse.  I really do love Instagram and have found it to not only be a fun place to hang out with you all, but it's also a great resource for so many things……….looking for healthy meal ideas, new hairstyles, artists to follow……'s all there!  Blogging will always be my first love……as I think I'm ultimately too wordy and crave something more than a sentence or two in a comment area……but Instagramming is definitely a close second for me.  What about you all?  Do you love Instagram as much as I do?  What's your favorite form of social media? 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

trip report - a romantic weekend in savannah

Savannah, Georgia is one of those southern cities I'd always heard was a wonderfully charming place to visit, and after spending the weekend there I can see why.  Now that the hubs and I live in Charleston, SC and are only about 2 hours driving distance from Savannah, finally planning a trip to visit this city we've heard so much about was inevitable.  And I foresee a return trip in our near future........and next time I plan to bring a U-haul.  ;)  #vintagefindsgalore

Savannah  - Trip Report - Romantic Weekend in Savannah

It's rare when something is all that it's been cracked up to be, but after spending a weekend in this city I totally get the hype.  It really does ooze southern charm from the architecture and cobble stone streets to the collard greens and cheese grits.  It's a great city for a little romantic getaway.....especially if you're a history lover.
Savannah  - Trip Report - Romantic Weekend in Savannah

Where we stayed? 
We couldn't decide on a hotel for the weekend.  There are so many great places from which to choose.  So rather than forcing ourselves to choose one for the weekend, we opted to stay at a different hotel each night.

Friday night we stayed at The DoubleTree in the Historic District which is a great location, walking distance to City Market shopping and dining.  The lobby is gorgeous! 

The Doubletree Hotel Savannah Historic District

I fell in love with the library room.  Blue on blue on blue is a really good look in my book.

Savannah Trip Report  - The Doubletree Hotel Library Room  - Beautiful blue bookcases

The second night we stayed at the Bohemian on the Riverfront.  This was my favorite!  Everything about this hotel was fantastic from the gorgeous paintings and decor throughout, to the rooms and the rooftop bar.  I loved every single thing....every single detail....including the location as you're walking distance to everything. 

the Bohemian hotel - Savannah - Romantic Weekend in Savannah
I really loved all of the exposed brick in the building.

the Bohemian hotel - Savannah - Romantic Weekend in Savannah

Where we ate? 

We ate at The Olde Pink House the first night for dinner.  We'd heard so much about it and given that it dates back to 1771, we didn't want to miss this place on our very first trip to Savannah.  Like many old southern mansions it's "haunted", but we didn't have any encounters.   ;)

We were pleasantly surprised to find out that they had a gluten free menu!

The Olde Pink House - Savannah

The food was good, probably the best collard greens I've ever had.  And we brought our own bottle of wine to enjoy with dinner.  *There's no corkage fee for your first bottle.*  We only brought one, but I just wanted to let you all know in case you visit with a large group.  ;)

The next day, thanks to a lot of your suggestions on Instagram and Facebook, we basically ate our way through the city.  My waist line is very appreciative.  ;)   The hubs and I both loved Zunzi's,
which is a counter service style, casual place to eat.  They offer gluten free options too!

The portions are ginormous, so I'd recommend spliting something.  It's a great place to eat on a warm sunny day.  And don't worry about the moves really fast.

Hands down though the most memorable food experiences for us were at the rooftop bar at the Bohemian where we ate gluten free duck wings, and they were so good we ordered another round.  Um, yeah, they were that good.  Plus the atmosphere up there is so great overlooking the river.  Even if you're not staying there the rooftop bar would be a fun place to stop in for drinks and apps.

Gluten Free Duck Wings

We also loved our dinner at A.Lure.  They have lots of gluten free options.  My hub went bananas for the gluten free corn bread.  And I have three words for you - goat. cheese. grits.   Best grits I've ever eaten in my entire life.  Seriously!  I'd go back there in a heartbeat.

What we did? 

Besides eating.........we did a lot of walking around.  The weather was absolutely perfect for a weekend in January.  We kind of lucked out in that regard.  We walked along the riverfront, stopping in The Shrimp Factory to grab a couple of to-go cups of the infamous Chatham Artillery Punch which dates back to colonial times.

History holds that this very punch was served in 1791 at a ball in Savannah to honor George Washington.  And apparently President James Monroe called this punch "suave and deceitful".  I'd have to goes down easy but is very strong.  ;)

Chatham Artillery Punch

*The Historic District in Savannah has no open container laws, so you can grab a plastic cup to go walking around..........which is odd but fun.  ;)

Again thanks to your helpful suggestions, we popped into a bunch of great shops.  I really liked Clutter, a consignment store full of treasures for the home, which was a short drive from the Historic District.

And The Paris Market was absolutely gorgeous inside and out!

The Paris Market Savannah

This store was filled to the brim with inspiring displays and pretty things for the home.......but I dug the little bakery area the most.  Rustic wood floors, bentwood chairs, cognac leather and sweet marble topped tables......what's not to love?!

As inspiring as a weekend trip to a charming southern city can be, what I loved most was time away from the chaos of regular life with my favorite person in the world.  Parenting middle school aged kids is.......well, it requires a healthy balance of patience and stamina......and as a married couple it's easy to get distracted with all the daily life stuff and not stop to connect.  The best part of this weekend was being able to complete a sentence without being interrupted.  And if I'm being totally honest, as much as I love my kids and would throw myself in front of a train to save them, I kind of loved just being me for the weekend.  It was nice to hang up my mom hat for a couple of days and just be a girl in love with a boy.  That's how this whole thing started in the first place.

If you've been thinking of visiting Savannah, go for it!  It would be a great little city for a girl's trip too, and I can't wait to go back again.  Next time I'll be ready and prepared to bring home some larger finds.  You could easily spend more than a day just checking out all of the great antique shops and consignment stores!  And this city is not lacking for great food!  Plus, what I personally found to be so great was that so many of the men and women that work in this city's restaurants, hotels and shops are quite knowledgeable on the history of Savannah, so pretty much every place we visited we learned a little something new.

If you're looking for more Savannah recommendations, check out all of the comments on this Instagram post!  And if you like getting real time peeks at what's going on behind the scenes, check me out on Snapchat (ourfifthhouse).

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