Wednesday, April 30

On Wednesdays We Wear Pink [Mean Girls Link-Up]

I got very excited when Angela from Hairspray and Highheels, Kendra from Simply {Darr}ling, and Paige from A Dose of Paige announced that they would be hosting a one day only Mean Girls themed link-up in honor of the 10 year anniversary of the movie. I was already in college when Mean Girls came out, but it was instant love, and I still find myself quoting the movie all the time. Usually inappropriately. Usually at work.  I decided to use Polyvore to put an updated twist on the movie's main characters, from Cady to Mrs. Norbury to the Plastics themselves - along with some of the most quotable lines from the film in glorious .gif format.

Cady Heron

Mean Girls: Mrs. Norbury

Mr. Duvall: Did your teacher ever try to sell you marijuana or ecstasy tablets?
Kevin Gnapoor:  What are marijuana tablets?

Mean Girls: Regina George

Gretchen Wieners

Mean Girls: Karen Smith

"Welcome to the North Shore High School winter talent show.  Let's heart you make some noise!  All right, settle down." - Mr. Duvall

Mr. Duvall: I will keep you here all night!
Joan the Secretary:  We can't keep them past four.
Mr. Duvall: I will keep you here until four.

"I just wanted to say that you're all winners.  And that I couldn't be happier the school year is ending." - Mr. Duvall

Tuesday, April 29

Book Review: Nashville Sweetheart by Rachel Hauck

In Rachel Hauck's Nashville Sweetheart,  we meet Aubrey James, the daughter of beloved Southern gospel singers who were killed in a tragic accident.  Aubrey has hit some bumps along the way while paving her own road as the "Queen of County Soul."  She's taken on a grueling tour, she's just become the unwilling queen of the tabloids with her bandmate's decision to sell her secrets, and she collapses from exhaustion right after her wealthy boyfriend's over-the-top onstage proposal.  Feeling overworked, betrayed, and lost, Aubrey decides to break her no-interview policy and set the record straight about her career and personal life with a local Nashville morning show.

Sports reporter Scott Vaughn is at the top of his game when his producers throw a curve ball - with the show's entertainment reporter on maternity leave, he gets drafted to spend the summer on diva duty.  Scott gets to witness firsthand Aubrey's decision to start fresh and handles tough questions with kindness and wit.  Even though her record label expects her to keep making predictable country hits, she feels pulled back toward her gospel roots and wants to write her own material.  While her fiance's mother wants her to keep the family name out of the press, she wants to come clean with her fans about her personal struggles.  And although she's spent years achieving her wildest dreams, she longs for the spiritual piece of the puzzle that is missing.

The format of the book is unique - in addition to the story's alternating first-person narrative, the text includes snippets of Aubrey's discography, artist bio, schedule, interview transcripts, and e-mails, making it more of an epistolary novel.  I read the story as an e-book, and did have some issues with the formatting - often, the only indication of a switch from Aubrey's narration to Scott's was the character's name in plain text between lines.  It was easy to overlook and I often got confused about whose thoughts I was reading.  I also got confused by what seemed like random bold, italicized text until I realized that structure signaled a scene change.  I think a true paragraph break or even starting a new chapter when the narrator or scene changes would have added clarity, and that may have been an issue with the e-book format rather than the actual manuscript.

Nashville Sweetheart was a quick, entertaining read - Aubrey and Scott were both likable narrators and I found myself rooting for them as their friendship and potential romance developed.  I could definitely see this book being adapted to the screen and found myself trying to cast the characters as I read.  I liked that even though the storyline included a lot of minor characters, including Aubrey's staff, Scott's co-workers, and three very different families, Hauck included enough detail and characterization that I never got confused about who was who.  I related to Aubrey's journey away from her faith due to the challenges in her life and to her struggle to get back to the spirituality she once had.  And having visited Nashville last summer, I loved being able to recognize real neighborhoods and places in the story, from Belle Meade to SoBro to the stage of the Ryman Auditorium.  I don't think you have to be a county music fan to enjoy this book, but it definitely didn't hurt.  If you're a fan of chick lit with a deeper message about what's really important, I think you'll enjoy this slice of the diva life.

Disclaimer:  I received a free ebook copy of Nashville Sweetheart as a member of BookLook Bloggers in exchange for writing this objective review.  I received no monetary compensation for this review and all opinions are my own.

Monday, April 28

clicks of note: tell me i'm not going home...

get your week off to a colorful start...


  • Sony is the king of beautiful, colorful, and innovative advertisements - remember the bouncy balls spot for the Bravia?  Now they've filled a volcano with eight million flower petals to promote Sony 4K.  The song featured in the video is called "Berlin" by RY X.




Sunday, April 27

sunday social: pet peeves

1. What is your biggest driving pet peeve?

Currently it's drivers from North Carolina passing on the right on our northbound highway. Do you see my Virginia tags and town sticker? I live here.  If I'm slowing down, there's a reason - I know where the dangerous curves are and where the police like to park their cars and wait for speeders.

2. What is your biggest blogging pet peeve?

I'm an English teacher, so unfortunately I tend to be very picky about spelling and grammar. If you're going to engage in writing in English as a hobby, please take the time to proofread your work. If you know that grammar and spelling are not your strong suits, pick up a copy of The Elements of Style, use your spell check button, or enlist a friend to give your posts a once-over before you hit publish.  Knowing how karma works, though, I've probably made at least one spelling, grammar, or punctuation error in this post.

3. What is your biggest shopping pet peeve?

Spoiler alert:  nothing is ever available in the store...

When I find something adorable and perfect for my wardrobe and the store/website has every size except mine in stock - this happens to me all the time with both clothes and shoes. Why don't retailers stock more of the most common sizes?  They're definitely going to have more size 12 women come into their stores than size 0 women, right?

4. What is your biggest general pet peeve?

The first one that comes to mind is faculty meetings - sometimes I think the only reason we have them is because our administrators think we have to (maybe someone higher up is telling them we do have to).  So much of what is discussed in faculty meetings could be easily communicated by e-mail.  Small meetings where everyone is working together toward a common goal can be great, though, and our administrators have put together some really interesting breakout sessions on teacher workdays.

5. What is your most irrational fear?

Moths.  I know in my brain that they are pretty much no different from butterflies, which I love, but I feel in my heart that they are evil. 

sunday simplicity.

Friday, April 25

my april in entertainment

my april in entertainment
books i read

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy - I picked up this book, set in Afghanistan and narrated by a young girl, at the school book fair, and really wanted to love it.  Trent Reedy is an American soldier who served in Afghanistan and was inspired to write the story by a girl he saw who had a cleft palate.  Reedy does a good job creating a realistic view of a modern Afghani family - the main character, Zulaika, who is taunted for her appearance by cruel boys and occasionally her own family members, lives with her father, brothers and sisters, and her father's second wife.  Her father is a contractor who is building a new school now that the Taliban has left their village, but Zulaika has never been allowed to attend school herself.  New opportunities present themselves to Zulaika - her mother's former teacher begins secretly tutoring her in reading, and the American soldiers who have come to town suggest that their doctors could repair her mouth.  She is torn between wanting better for herself and being loyal to her family, who are busy preparing for her sister's wedding to a rich businessman. While it has some interesting elements and Zulaika is a very relatable character, the story moves very slowly and I didn't get really interested in it until some terrible things happened to raise the stakes for Zulaika and her family. 

Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice - Another book fair pick I had high hopes for, as the cover definitely makes it look like something my boys would love.  The cover art, along with the back cover copy, made me hope for a great outdoorsy novel I could recommend to students who've read and loved books like Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain.  The main character Erik, lives in New York state and has just learned to hunt alongside his best friend.  They are anticipating their first hunting trip when Erik's parents, both National Guard soldiers, are deployed to Iraq.  Erik is sent to live with his grandparents in North Dakota - quiet, reserved Oma and stern, stoic Big Darrell.  Their reception doesn't exactly make Eric feel welcome in their home, and he decides to run away and survive on his own with a stray hunting dog.  Unlike Erik, many of my students are experienced hunters and Scouts, and I think they will be judgmental of some of the rookie mistakes he makes when it comes to survival.  Ultimately, this isn't really a survival story or a hunting story but the story of reconciliation within a broken family.  

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - I know, I am late to the party.  I'd been waiting for this one to come out in paperback to purchase since I was pretty sure I'd want my own copy, but I gave in and got the e-book instead after several students informed me that I had to read it.  Despite being almost too smart and witty to seem completely like real teenagers to me, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters are completely lovable characters who meet in a support group for teenage cancer patients and survivors.  Hazel's cancer is in her lungs; Augustus' was in his bones.  They quickly get sucked into each others' worlds the way teenagers often do - trading favorite books and movies, telling childhood stories, and having dinner with each other's families.  When Hazel realizes that Gus is really falling for her, she tries to resist his advances, comparing herself to a grenade that could go off at any time.  She wants so badly to spare him from the pain she knows is an inevitable side effect of being in her life.  I couldn't put this one down, and got completely sucked in to Hazel and Gus's biggest adventure.

Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer - I wrote a little bit about this series in my Literary Junkies post earlier this week.  Fun, futuristic fairytale retellings with a healthy dose of teen-friendly romance provided by two young couples: cyborg mechanic Cinder and Prince Kai from the Eastern Commonwealth, and French vegetable farmer Scarlet and street fighting soldier Wolf.  Post World War 4 earth lives under the threat of the lunar colony, whose residents have developed seemingly magical powers to control bioelectricy - to humans on Earth, they seem like psychics and can be overwhelmingly persuasive.  The Lunar Queen wants power, and these four rebels, along with an ex-convict spaceship captain and Cinder's saucy android best friend, threaten to take it all away from her.

movies i saw

Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier - I have been a total geek for comic book movies since high school, and while I've been loving Marvel's Avengers movies, the first Captain America movie was not my favorite of the pre-Avengers Assemble first wave.  I loved Chris Evans as Steve Rogers and Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and enjoyed the period setting, but got distracted by the many Indiana Jones and Star Wars visual references.  I liked Steve more in the Avengers movie, where he had some great one-liners and Chris Evans did a great job portraying Steve's struggle to adjust to life in the modern world and to taking a leadership role amongst a group of very gifted individuals.  In The Winter Soldier, Steve is living in Washington, D.C. and working for S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow.  He starts to question whether the organization he works for is being honest with its operatives, and why it would withhold certain information from team members, and soon Steve and Natasha have exposed major corruption within the organization that goes all the way to the top.  This movie seemed to feature much more hand-to-hand combat than the other Marvel films so far, and the storyline seemed the most realistic - aside from Steve's superhuman powers, an amped-up villain, and some futuristic technology, the major conflict seemed plausible.  I loved that this was the closest thing we've gotten so far to a Black Widow movie, that Nick Fury and Maria Hill were back, and noticing lots of little geeky details like the arrow necklace Scarlett was wearing.

This Is the End - finally got around to watching this movie when it aired on cable; it's full of my favorite young comedians as exaggerated versions of themselves so I was pretty sure I'd enjoy it.  Seth Rogen and his friends are at a crazy party at James Franco's house when the Apocalypse begins, and their true personalities are revealed while they fight to survive.  There are a lot of references to the projects these folks have worked on together before, from "Freaks and Geeks" to Pineapple Express, and the plot gets more and more ridiculous as time passes and things go from bad to worse.

television favorites

Total Divas - my guilty pleasure show!  In case you are too high-falutin' for the E! network, this is the show about the women wrestlers of the WWE.  Despite growing up in a city heavily populated by rednecks, I have never watched a single wrestling match - shows with titles like "Raw!" and "Smackdown!" and commercials featuring dudes in underwear hitting each other with metal chairs don't exactly appeal to me.  I am pretty sure that when I saw the commercials for Total Divas last year, my first thought was, "that looks even trashier than the Kardashians."  I wanted to see the train wreck.  And now I can't stop watching it.

Thursday, April 24

the boy behind the blog: mr. q's turn to post!

It's time for the second fun new link-up I'm joining this week!  The Boys Behind the Blog is a monthly link-up hosted by Mal Smiles and Never the Same Spice Twice to give bloggers a chance to get the guys in our lives more involved in our blogs.  I was initially hesitant to ask Mr. Q to participate (I think he's convinced that I have an Internet addiction), but he didn't mind at all!

1. Your significant other’s blog; a blessing or a curse?  I would say a blessing 97% of time.

2. Do you read your wife's blog? No.

3. What is one thing you can do better than anyone you know?  It would have to be a multitude of things in conjunction with each other.  That's what makes us individuals.

4. What is your favorite TV sitcom from the 90's? Fraggle Rock.

5. If you were opening a small business or shop, what would it be? What goods or services would you sell?  A bike/coffee shop, since most of the time you want coffee either before or after cycling, and in the winter people could come in for coffee and get interested in cycling.

Mal Smiles

Wednesday, April 23

wedding wednesday: bridesmaids in white

Last year, I started exploring the history of bridesmaids wearing white to match or complement the bride's gown.  It's a look that works particularly well in spring weddings, and, whether the bridesmaids wear matching dresses or an assortment of frocks, can give a wedding a uniquely bohemian look.  Here are some of my favorites from around the web.

I love how unique each bridesmaid's dress is in this wedding party - maxi dresses, midi dresses, and sundresses in various shades of ivory and white, with brightly colored flowers and loose boho hairstyles - does it get any more hippie chic than this?

With a bride in ivory ruffles, bridesmaids in lace-trimmed white sundresses really stand out - the baby's breath bouquets are another great way to tie in the white color scheme.

How gorgeous are these long, vintage inspired bohemian gowns?  The bride still stands out since her dress is more structured and formal than her maids' flowy styles.

Gorgeous long dresses, matching wraps, beautiful curled hairstyles and classic rose bouquets unite this elegant wedding party.

I love the sheer lace on these bridesmaids' skirts - and the way the bride's white bouquet and flower crown makes her stand out.  What an ethereal wedding look!

Tuesday, April 22

Black and White for Spring

Well, my dears, it's the week after Easter, which, if you're Southern, means your white shoes and clothes have finally come out of storage. This week, I'm inspired by pretty a-line dresses, mod-inspired details, French everything, and pairing white with a hefty dose of its polar opposite.  

Black and White for Spring
View this set on Polyvore

1. Madewell striped dress  2. Old Navy eyelet dress  3. Old Navy striped ponte dress
4. Old Navy pointelle sweater  5. Old Navy graphic tee  6. Merona floral scarf from Target
7. Merona colorblock ballet flats from Target  8. Kate Spade sunglasses from Nordstrom
9. J. Crew Factory lace tank  10. Merona geometric hinge wallet from Target

Linking Up With:
Style Sessions at Style Elixir
Casual Friday at Two Thirty-Five Designs
Passion 4 Fashion at Rachel the Hat
Three-Fer Thursday at Perfectly Coutured

Monday, April 21

what i'm reading [literary junkies link-up]

This week I am excited to be joining a few new-to-me link-ups.  I love linky parties because they are such a great way to connect with bloggers who have similar interests but very diverse viewpoints.  I have learned a lot from visiting and participating in link-ups and met some great blogging friends!  The first new link-up I'm going to be featuring is Literary Junkies, hosted by Life With a Side of Coffee and Pink Heels Pink Truck.  As a book lover, I couldn't resist!

1. What are you reading right now? Tell us about it!

As a middle school teacher, I consider it part of my job to read a LOT of YA books so I can make recommendations to my students, and my students know that I am a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy - "the weirder the better" is my reading motto.  I'm currently reading the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer - fun fairytale retellings set on a post-WW4 Earth whose citizens have colonized the moon, developed cyborg technology for accident victims, become reliant on androids for mundane tasks and menial labor, and fallen victim to a devastating plague.  I have had a thing for fairytale retellings for years, and  I really enjoyed the first two books, Cinder (a Cinderella retelling set in China) and Scarlet (Red Riding Hood set in France).

2. Divergent, Hunger Games, or Twilight. Which do you prefer and why? (If you’ve never read them which do you think you’d prefer?)

Out of the three series, I think I prefer the Hunger Games books - without their success, I don't think we'd have this current wave of YA dystopia (including Divergent) that I love.  I actually enjoy what a flawed character Katniss is - it's kind of refreshing to have a main character who can be selfish, depressed, and occasionally bitchy and still drive a story's plot toward a satisfying resolution.  I got the most emotional over the Divergent series - I did cry when I got to the ending of Allegiant.  The Twilight books just didn't do it for me and I didn't finish the series - though I would totally get behind a spin-off about Alice and Jasper if Stephenie Meyer ever decided to write it!

3. TV Series Based on Books: they start out very close to the book to draw in the fans but then will start to separate themselves by changing things and adding characters. What are you thoughts on this?

When I think about TV series based on books that I've watched, two very different shows come to mind - Christy, which was one of my favorites as a kid, and The Walking Dead, which I've gotten sucked into now.  I hadn't read Catherine Marshall's novel when Christy was on -- since it was way, way over my reading level at the time! -- but when I finally read it in college I was surprised by how many stories the television producers were able to spin off from the characters and setting of the book.  I ended up buying the series on DVD to rewatch and love how they took some of the story's minor characters and really gave them their own lives while being true to Marshall's characterization.  As far as The Walking Dead goes, I started watching that show before reading any of the graphic novels and I think it's good that the storylines have separated because it keeps both formats interesting.

4. You’ve just been recruited to help a movie studio bring your favorite book to the big screen. What’s the movie and who are you choosing to play the main characters?

My favorite books, Jane Eyre and The Time Traveler's Wife have already been made into movies - the first several times!  My favorite book that isn't a film yet is probably Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, and I think with the premise of that book (everyone has plastic surgery at sixteen to become perfect-looking) it would be best to cast unknown actors so people aren't thinking "how am I supposed to believe this movie star is ugly?"

5. Going back to the above question, do you keep it word for word the same or do you use this chance to change little things you thought would make the book better?

It's been several years since I read the series, but I'm sure a lot would have to be cut for time - they are long books!

6. After you finish a physical copy of a book do you keep it for a reread, put it on a shelf to collect dust, donate it to Goodwill, or do you just not purchase physical copies of books?

It depends on the book - middle-grade books and YA that's not too racy goes to my classroom library, books I'll want to read again go on the shelf in my office (and don't collect dust for too long), and books I didn't enjoy enough to read twice or don't think will be a good fit for my students go to our local Paperback Exchange so that I can get some new-to-me books for free!

Pink Heels Pink Truck

clicks of note: i love you more every day.

get your week off to a colorful start...






Sunday, April 20

sunday social: essential 5's...

1. 5 songs you'll listen to the rest of your life
  • The Beatles - "Get Back"
  • Billy Joel - "My Life"
  • Tracy Chapman - "Give Me One Reason"
  • Alabama Shakes - "Hold On"
  • Johnny Cash - "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

2. 5 things on your bucket list
  • Publish a novel
  • Own a house
  • Visit New York City
  • Visit California
  • Run a complete 5K

3. 5 celebrities you'd love to hang out with for a day
  • Ellen
  • Tina Fey
  • Amy Poehler
  • Mindy Kaling
  • Ellie Kemper

4. 5 things you always carry in your purse

  • Cell phone (current wallpaper is from Breanna Rose)
  • Lip gloss (current favorite: Neutrogena MoistureSmooth Color Stick)
  • Hairbrush
  • Glucose tablets in case my blood sugar drops
  • Wallet (driver's license, debit card, insurance card, and library card)

5. 5 books on your reading list
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

6. Share the last 5 pictures on your phone

Here are my answers to this survey from last year.

sunday simplicity: Easter morning

Friday, April 18

my spring and summer bucket list

Last Friday, I chaperoned four sweet girls on our grade-level field trip to Washington, D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival.  Somehow, our conversation turned to "bucket lists" and as we went through the monuments, memorials, and museums on the National Mall we all started adding things to ours.  We concluded our visit with a walk through the Butterfly Pavillion at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, where we each got to channel our inner Disney Princess by having butterflies land on our hair.  I wanted to share a few of the gorgeous butterflies we saw with you today, along with an idea inspired by the girls - my "bucket list" of things I want to do this spring and summer!

  • Donate my winter clothes and streamline my warm-weather wardrobe
  • Plant a container herb garden
  • Movies to see: Captain America 2, Divergent, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Muppets Most Wanted
  • Read books actually written for adults (during the school year I read almost all YA)
  • Go biking on the Greenways with Mr. Q
  • Make s'mores in the fire pit
  • Learn to ride a Stand Up Paddleboard

  • Get my girlfriends together for brunch
  • Visit the Virginia Safari Park at Natural Bridge
  • Visit the local butterfly garden and aquarium at the Science Museum of Western Virginia
  • Movies to see:  Belle, Days of Future Past, The Fault in Our Stars, 22 Jump Street.
  • See Delta Rae at the Harvester Performance Center
  • Join a Pure Barre or Zumba class
  • Visit King's Dominion with my best work friends

  • Attend Festival in the Park
  • Movies to see: Wish I Was Here, Lucy, Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Rent a boat and spend a day on the lake with friends
  • Visit Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens
  • Watch fireworks on Independence Day
  • Pool date with Jess

What's on your to-do list for this spring and summer?  
What are you most looking forward to?

Linking Up With:

A Harvest of Blessing