Monday, December 31

entertainment favorites for 2012.

My Favorite Movies of 2012:

  • Moonrise Kingdom - I love Wes Anderson films and this one did not disappoint.  I loved the colors, the costumes, and of course, the crazy situations and dry-wit dialogue.
  • Pitch Perfect - Confession:  I was an a capella stalker groupie in college.  I knew I would love this movie - Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Elizabeth Banks are great in it, the songs are really good, and it is freaking hilarious.  It even features a real University of Virginia a capella group, though not the one I was a stalker huge fan of.
  • The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins' books have turned some of my most reluctant readers into book lovers, and I loved the books myself, so I was very excited for the movie - especially since I was able to talk one of my fellow English teachers into going to the midnight showing with me.  The theater was full of past and current students which made it quite a memorable shared experience.

what are you doing new year's eve?

Maybe it's much 
Too early in the game 
Oh, but I thought 
I'd ask you just the same 
What are you doing New Year's 
New Year's Eve? 

Wonder whose arms 
Will hold you good and tight 
When it's exactly 
Twelve o'clock at night?
Welcoming in the New Year 
New Year's Eve 

Maybe I'm crazy to suppose 
I'd ever be the one you chose 
Out of the thousand invitations 
You received 

Oh, but in case 
I stand one little chance,
Here comes 
The jackpot question in advance:
What are you doing New Year's 
New Year's Eve? 

- Frank Loesser 

Sunday, December 30

beyond the aisle: my favorite posts of 2012.

Yesterday I shared the ten most popular posts at Beyond the Aisle from 2012.  They were the posts that had received the most visitors and pageviews, and the posts that have appeared the most on Pinterest!  In reviewing which posts you loved, I realized that we love the same celebrities, creating crafts to wear and to decorate our homes with, and that we love inspiration - beautiful ideas for talented people about how to add color and style to everyday life.  Many of my readers are currently plannings, but the name Beyond the Aisle reminds me that married life can be just as full of sparkle and romance as the wedding day.  In this blog, I want to share ideas to celebrate the ordinary and the extraordinary in our lives.  Here are my personal favorite Beyond the Aisle posts from 2012.

#10:  Inspiration for a Black and White Anemone Wedding

Usually it's all about the color around here, so collecting inspiration for a black and white wedding styled around one of my favorite fall flowers was a lot of fun and a nice change of pace.  More than a year after my own wedding, vintage details are still where my heart lies when it comes to event design.

#9:  A Manifesto

My "deep thoughts" on event planning, marriage, relationships and blogging about those things.  No matter what Mr. Q and I are working on, I believe that simplicity is best, family is something you make, and honesty with ourselves is key to happiness.

March is when I started to re-shape what Beyond the Aisle is all about, and I guess that's a process that will continue throughout 2013.  What began as a wedding planning blog when I was a bridesmaid in college has become a big part of my life, and I want it to reflect more of my lifestyle and interests.

Sunday Simplicity #101: sparkle and shine

"Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again."
- Bill Morgan, Jr.

for gilded new year's inspiration visit last year's sunday simplicity post

Saturday, December 29

december in instagram.

My favorite Black Friday purchase: an Elf t-shirt from Old Navy.
My students' chain of kindness for our Rachel's Challenge program.

Getting ready for Christmas... and Civil War reenactors getting
ready for the town Christmas parade.  Yep, I live in the South all right.

beyond the aisle: most popular posts of 2012.

One of my favorite things about being a blogger is being able to look back and see what was important to me over the course of a year.  I also love being able to see what was important to you, my readers.  Here are my ten most popular posts from 2012:

Why this particular Monday Clicks of Note post was so popular?  I'm guessing because of Beyonce and Blue Ivy.

I'm so glad y'all love Kate Middleton, and the Olympics, as much as I do - one of my favorite things about watching the daily coverage on television was spotting what Kate was wearing and looking out for affordable versions of her outfits.  I learned a thing or two about packing for a trip from Kate!

This was an easy craft inspired by my friend Riley.  Independence Day is one of my favorite celebrations and I love rustic style, so it was the perfect addition to the country townhouse.

Friday, December 28

blog loves: december.

Every month I like to spotlight a few of my current blog addictions.  Here are the blogs I can't stay away from this December... full of style and inspiration for everyday life and special occasions!
  • Rosie Molinary is an author, teacher, and adoptive mom, and reading her blog has changed the way I write this one.  She teaches about body image in her professional life, and she gave me the courage to leave the house without makeup.  I have also really been touched by reading about her adoption journey with her son, Happy.  I even shared her article on raising media literate kids with my students' families in my weekly classroom e-mail - Rosie is a big deal to me!

Thursday, December 27

shopping guide: the prettiest 2013 calendars

I am a little bit crazy about finding the perfect calendar every year.  If I have to look at the same thing every day, I want it to be beautiful, stylish, and functional.  Here are some of the prettiest 2013 calendars to suit almost every personality.

For the traveler...


Little Low Studio A New Tribe Calendar
Small Adventure Houses of the World Calendar || Rifle Paper Co. Cities Calendar from Paper Source

For the design junkie...

Paper Source Foil Embossed Desk Calendar || Modern Printed Matter Flora & Fauna Calendar

Wednesday, December 26

mini holiday home tour & how i display christmas cards

I hope that all of you had an absolutely fabulous holiday celebration!  Before we move on to thinking about New Year's Eve plans, I wanted to share a few last snapshots of our Christmas decorations and  how I display holiday cards in our country townhouse.

Here's our finished Christmas tree with gifts wrapped and ready to go to Mr. Q's family celebration.  Yes, that is A Christmas Story gift wrap - we found it at Jo-Ann Fabrics and HAD to have it because watching the movie together on television while opening gifts is a Quinn family tradition, so we knew they'd flip for the wrapping paper with pictures of Ralphie, his little brother, and the famous leg lamp!

Since I've been using our favorite ornaments to illustrate my blog posts this month, here's one last favorite - another student gift in the form of a super-cute icicle snowman.  It adds so much sparkle and is great for bare spots on the tree.

One of our new traditions (started last year) is using a cake stand from my growing collection to display Christmas cards - it reminds me of the Victorian tradition of having a place for guests to place their calling cards in a home's entry.  This year I let the cards we received do double duty as a centerpiece!  The cute bunny card (that's Edgar) on top is from my friend Debbie's letterpress, Studio Ten15.

Here's a new project I'm proud of - one of those things that pops into my head as a finished product, leaving me to hunt down the materials to make it a reality.  Remember the circles I'd cut from last year's cards?  This is the idea that was percolating for them.  A little baker's twine, a hole punch, and a few pieces of strategically placed washi tape (both from A.C. Moore) later and I had a garland for our room!

Monday, December 24

clicks of note: merry christmas, happy holidays

get your week off to a colorful start...


Sunday, December 23

sunday social.

Sunday Social

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
I LOVE ice cream!  I alternate between mint chocolate chip, rocky road, and moose tracks.

What is your favorite smell?
Apple cinnamon - so cozy.

What is your favorite TV commercial? (Past or Present)
My all-time favorite is the Volkswagen "Pink Moon" spot that introduced me to Nick Drake's music:

Since I'm an advertising nerd (it's a big topic in eighth grade English!), some others I think are great:  the "Dear Sophie" Google commercial pretty much breaks my heart (in a good way) every time I see it.  I have been told I am the Target "so much glitter" lady.  I am also a fan of the Volkswagen "the Force" commercial - the kid playing Darth Vader is related to one of our local radio deejays.

What is your favorite day of the week?
Friday - for the nerdiest reason ever:  it's library day at work.  I love seeing my kids get excited about books and taking time as a class to just chill out and read.  Teachers usually get out a bit early on Fridays if our work is done, which is nice, and I don't have to worry about planning lessons or grading papers for the next day.  Friday is usually a "date night" for Mr. Q and I, which I love.

What is your favorite way to waste time?
Reading blogs - although that's not really a waste, because I always learn something, but it can take up a big chunk of my day if I'm not careful!

What is your favorite article of clothing? (Feel free to show a picture)
This pullover sweatshirt from Target - it has a shawl collar, so it looks kind of fancy.  It's my go-to on weekends and teacher workdays.


“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and 
warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a 
talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” 
― Edith Sitwell

Thursday, December 20

7 winter break dates and outings for couples or groups

When we were kids, it was perfectly acceptable to spend the two weeks of winter break in our pajamas, playing Super Mario Brothers and watching Christmas movies on cable.  Now you are a grown-up, and spending your winter break on the couch is not so rewarding (although a few days of hibernation can be a great way to recharge).  Your days off are an opportunity to have fun and stay out late - take advantage of them!  Here are a few of my favorite fun things to do with my husband, family and friends during my time off.

1.  Community holiday celebrations/parades
  • Local Christmas celebrations can be cheesy in the best kind of way, and going with a group of friends makes even the simplest of festivals or the shortest of parades a lot more fun.  This Friday, Mr. Q and I are planning a trip to Dickens of a Christmas with my best work friend and her husband.  Who can resist chestnut roasting, carriage rides, jugglers, face painters, and high school theater students giving A Christmas Carol their best shot?  Um, probably Scrooge is the answer to that question.
2.  Choral and dramatic performances
  • When I was in college, one of my favorite holiday traditions was going to see the Baptist choir's traditional candlelight Lessons and Carols performance in our school's Gothic chapel.  Those of you who live in college towns probably have a wealth of holiday entertainment options to choose from!  City dwellers can catch a local performance of Scrooge or The Nutcracker, and even those of us who live in rural areas can usually find a friend's church play or dance studio recital to attend.  I think I like those small, homespun productions the best - I can really appreciate the time and effort that goes into putting together a performance on top of everyday responsibilities!
3.  Ice skating
  • I've always dreamed of visiting New York at Christmas time and going ice skating in Rockefeller Center, but until then, there's ice skating at the loal Civic Center.  You can pretend you're in an episode of Glee.
4.  Cooking class
  • Enrollment in a cooking class is a Christmas gift I'd love to receive - as a young wife I've been trying to hone my cooking chops, but I end up falling back on a few favorite recipes most weeknights.  I'd love to learn how to make something really exciting, like sushi, but I think taking Mr. Q or a group of friends along would really make a cooking class more fun - then we could combine our skills to prepare a feast!  Groupon and other local deal services offer discounted rates on cooking classes fairly regularly, or for a more budget-friendly option, choose an appetizer, main course, side dish, and dessert from a brand-new (or library-borrowed brand-new-to-you) cookbook.
5.  Museum/Gallery visit
  • One thing I do not make enough time for in my everyday life is visiting all of the cool museums and art galleries in the area - why let tourists have all the fun?  Most museums and galleries list their current exhibits on their websites, and museum/gallery stores are full of neat last-minute holiday gifts.
6.  Movie date
  • While I'm sad that The Great Gatsby didn't make it's originally-announced Christmas debut (we'll have to wait until May), Skyfall, The Hobbit, and Silver Linings Playbook all look good to me, as do This is 40 and On the Road.  For more serious fare, the Impossible, about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, looks amazing.
7.  Christmas shopping/DIY-ing
  • Christmas shopping can feel like a chore, but I have found that making a list of all the people you need to buy or make gifts for and knocking it out in one day can be really rewarding.  Grab your significant other, BFF, or mom, and make it your shared mission to find fun gifts for everyone on your list.  Some of my favorite places to find unique gifts are Pier 1, World Market, and Books-A-Million; Mr. Q and I also try to shop local small businesses as often as possible.  If DIY gifts are more your style, get all of your supplies together and start an assembly line!

What are your favorite things to do with your days off from work?

Wednesday, December 19

let go of perfect and enjoy the season.

Several bloggers who I follow have posted recently about the importance of taking care of yourself, both mentally and physically, this holiday season:  Rosie Molinary posted about being ready to deal with insensitive comments made my family members, Tara Whitney posted about preparing for a less stressful and less wasteful season, and Megan from The Fresh Exchange posted about committing to be in the moment.

I think that the older we get, the more mixed our feelings about the holiday season can become.  As an adult, it can be difficult to get excited about watching It's a Wonderful Life for the 25th, or 30th, or 40th time.  On top of that, the older we get, the more likely we are to suffer loss around the holidays.  As longtime blog readers know, my father passed away on Christmas Day during my fourth year of college.  We were going through the motions of Christmas last year as it was, and the next year finding joy in the Christmas season felt like a battle.  It meant holding my mother and Mr. Q and my best friend close to me and keeping a distance from the trappings of Christmas that were too close to my father's memory.

It's taken six years to feel excited about the coming Christmas season instead of feeling dread and worry that some unpredictable something- "I'll Be Home for Christmas" at the school band concert, for example- would send me into a downward spiral.

Even for those who don't have any specific stressor associated with the holidays, they're a stressful time!  We spend our precious moments rushing to stores to find the perfect decorations for our home, the perfect cards to send, the perfect gifts to give.

I think finding joy is about letting go of perfect.

As I decorate my home for Christmas, I remind myself that I'm not decorating for the sake of pretty pictures on this blog, but for Mr. Q and I to feel the Christmas spirit, and so the best-loved ornaments from our childhood go right on the tree alongside the color-coordinated new ones.

As I participate in the holiday activities at the school where I teach, I remind myself that I am there to support my students.  But I still stand close to the door so they won't see my cry if it happens, because the reality that losing a parent at Christmas could happen is not a reality I need to thrust upon children.  I play Christmas music in the classroom and we read Christmas poems and have a cookie party because they want to have a cookie party and for the first time, I never feel that catch in my heart.  I just feel loved and feel like giving love.

As I write my Christmas cards, I stop trying to come up with the perfectly composed, poetic holiday message, stop reminding myself that people know I'm a writer and expect good writing, and instead focus on what words will make the receiver smile.

As I shop for gifts, I remind myself that it's okay that I don't have a set list, and I'm not sure what to get each person on my list.  I start thinking of ways I can give the people I love my time, my encouragement, and my gratitude.  I buy a few silly Christmas t-shirts for myself while I'm out.  I feel festive.  I don't feel perfect, but I sure do feel joyful.

Tuesday, December 18

blogger day of silence and support for sandy hook.

The website in the button is Newtown Youth and Family Services, Inc., a licensed, non-profit, mental health clinic and youth services bureau that provides programs, services, activities, counseling, support
groups and education throughout the Greater Newtown area - visit THIS PAGE to make a donation.

The United Way of Western Connecticut in partnership with Newtown Savings Bank has created the 'Sandy Hook School Support Fund' that will be able to provide support services to the families and community that has been affected - visit THIS PAGE to donate to the
Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

Monday, December 17

clicks of note: dear santa...

get your week off to a colorful start...

  • If you're a New Girl fan, you heard Fitz and the Tantrum's holiday song, "Santa Stole My Lady" at the end of this year's holiday episode.  You can download the song for free at the band's website.





Sunday, December 16

sunday simplicity #99: winter glow

We shall find peace. 
We shall hear the angels, 
we shall see the sky 
sparkling with diamonds.
- Anton Chekhov 

As a teacher, as an American,
as a human being,
the people of Newtown, CT
are in my thoughts and 
prayers this Christmas.

Saturday, December 15

my 12 favorite christmas movies

"You'll shoot your eye out" card from feb10design on Etsy

12. A Christmas Story
I had never watched A Christmas Story until I started dating Mr. Q and spending Christmas Eve with his extended family - they watch it together every year before opening gifts.  OH FUDGE!

11. How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
I'm talking the animated, 1960's, Boris Karloff version; I try to pretend the Jim Carrey version never happened.  This one has become a renewed favorite of mine since I started teaching; my department has a whole mini-unit where we have the kids analyze the text for figurative language and literary devices, then put the Grinch on trial using persuasive techniques.

10. White Christmas
Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen in a Christmas classic about WWII veterans turned producers who help save their General's Vermont bed and breakfast by putting on a show with a sister act.  The songs are so catchy, the colors are so bright, and the comedy-of-errors story is definitely from a simpler time.

9. The Muppet Christmas Carol
True story:  I played Mrs. Cratchit in a fifth-grade production of A Christmas Carol.  Forget about being loyal to Dickens; the Muppet version is the one that comes closest to that elementary school play.

8. A Charlie Brown Christmas
When the Cha Cha Slide says, "Charlie Brown," I dance like the kids in this movie.  Is that what you're supposed to do?

7. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
My friend Susie's #1 favorite movie.  I think my favorite character is Yukon Cornelius.

Coffee Holder from The Plaid Scottie on Etsy

6. Elf
You'd have to be a cotton-headed ninnymuggins to not enjoy the tale of Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrel), a human adopted and raised by the elves in Santa's workshop who decides to travel to New York to find his real dad.  I love Elf because it's adult-funny but family-friendly, and takes on Christmas movie tropes (claymation animals, saving Christmas by believing in Santa) in an affectionate way.

"All I want for Christmas is you" banner from hawhorneave on Etsy

5. Love, Actually
Practically all of my favorite British actors and actresses - Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley - explore what it means to be in love at Christmas in a set of intertwined storylines all set in London.

4. The Santa Clause
It's cute, it's funny, it's heartwarming.  I love that the elves are played by kids.  I love the magical snow globe.  I love the line, "that's okay, Neil, you were just denying your inner child."  I watch this one every year and it never gets old- I think it was a classic as soon as it came out.

3. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
My dad's favorite Christmas movie.  Every time my parents decided I was old enough to watch one of the National Lampoon movies, I would realize just a little bit more that we were the Griswolds, right down to the Christmas trees too big to fit into the house.

2. The Holiday
"Hello, big dollop!"  I think this is my favorite movie, period.  My favorite chick flick, at least.

1. It's a Wonderful Life
My favorite Christmas movie.  One of my fondest memories is begging all my friends to go see the late-night showing at the college theater and ending up going with a bunch of guys - and my friend Travis basically saving my life when I slipped on an icy set of brick steps.  Much like George Bailey pulling his brother out of the icy pond.

Friday, December 14

holiday gift guide #4: the guys

Here's a little inspiration as you shop for the most difficult person on your list...

What are you getting the special guy in your life this year?

Thursday, December 13

holiday gift guide #3: the geeky girl

  • For her wardrobe: ModCloth cat sweater and Fred Flare reading glasses
  • For her blu-ray player: How the Grinch Stole Christmas from Amazon
  • For her desk: Darth Vader Lego minifig alarm clock
  • For fun: Geek Battle game and astronaut ice cream
  • Her Christmas card: Retro card
  • For her nails:  OPI nail polish in "The Living Daylights"


Wednesday, December 12

2013's color of the year: emerald green

Color experts Pantone have announced the Color of the Year for 2013:  Emerald, and I'm realizing how little green there is in my wardrobe and my home decor.  Emerald is my birthstone, but I am very picky about shades of green.  This season's Emerald items?  Lovely and chic with a luxe vibe.  I'm going to be changing the whole I-never-wear-green thing.

1. Merona colorblock sweater from Target  2. Old Navy sweater knit gloves  
3. Anthropologie statement necklace  4. Modcloth daisy ring
5. GAP driving moccasins 6. C. Wonder ikat serving platter

Check out other bloggers' emerald inspiration!