Friday, January 31, 2014

Five on Friday (1)

For the first time in ever, I decided to join in the fun and link-up at The Good Life for Five on Friday!
1. After all the cold weather and ice, things are starting to get back to normal. But just for fun, here's one more photo from our yard from Wednesday afternoon.
3.I kept hearing over and over how much I would love Downton Abbey, and finally gave in to temptation. I borrowed the first season from a friend and while I'm only 4 episodes in, I am loving it just as much as I hoped.

3. With all the crazy cold weather we've been having I thought it was finally time to try the pin above. While my version my not have been as pretty, and the ice cream melted pretty quickly, it was still amazingly delicious.
Hot Chocolate & Peppermint Ice Cream Float
4. For years I've been driving by Mitterndorf's on the way from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, and I finally had the chance to stop in and try it. I had their soft shell crab platter, and it was exactly what I was expecting (in a good way). It is a bit out of the way to stop by normally, but I'd be more than happy to stop there again on the way back from New Orleans.
Soft Shell Crab
5. I've spent years of refusing to upgrade my phone, but I finally did it and am now the owner of an iPhone 5C. Of course that means I lost my unlimited data plan, but so far that hasn't been an issue. I've been avoiding downloading apps so far, except for Twitter and Instagram which are basically required, but if you have any suggestions for apps I should look into please let me know!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I'm in the Gardens

Last week I wrote about my trip to California, about how we didn't see to do much except visit family and eat good food. Except one thing we did manage to fit in was visiting the Huntington Gardens. I'm told I've been there before, but this was the first time where I've been old enough to remember. And since these photos don't really require a lot of description, here's a glimpse to help transport you.
In the Chinese Gardens
A giant tree
My brother and his girlfriend with koi
In the Japanese gardens
Rock gardens
With Georgina Duchess of Devonshire
Me and Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire
In the herb gardens
A pomegranate bonsai tree
With the mountains in the distance
When was the last time you found yourself at a public garden?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Novel of Honey, Love, & Manners

The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch
: January 28, 2014 by William Morrow & Company
First Published: April 1, 2013
Sugar Wallace is moving to New York City to start her life over. She knows no one in NYC, except of course her bees, but that doesn't stop her from quickly befriending everyone she meets. Sugar is the type that wants to fix everyone she meets (and is able to!), yet she doesn't realize that her own life also needs fixing.

There's a timeless feel to this whole story. And while you know it takes place today, it could just as easily take place 50 years ago. There's just such feeling of old time nostalgia throughout. The book also feels a magical, and while they are a few specific magical elements, even without them there's just an aura of magic.

The book might be a little predictable, but that's almost expected with a book like this. But even so, there were a few moments that were unexpected.

I think this story could had the potential to be too saccharine-y sweet and over the top, and while at times it got close, it still had a lot of depth. I loved all the characters from Sugar, to the mysterious Theo, to the sweet Ruby, to even the bees, and part of me wishes I could jump inside the book to spend time with them. The whole book reads like a cool drink on wraparound porch, and I feel almost lucky that I had the chance to be there.


Disclosure: I was provided this book through TLC Book Tours. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sneaux Day

I remember the first time I was ever in Louisiana, in August, driving across a bridge and seeing the sign "Bridges May Freeze in Cold Weather," thinking it was ridiculous. After all, as hot as it was in the summer, there's no way it could get that cold in the winter. Especially knowing it was never this hot in California, and we never had snow by the beach. Except in 2008, it did snow.
December 2008
And again in 2009.
Snow on my car the following morning
December 2009
And yet again, in 2010.
Snow on my car
February 2010
Except despite what these picture may prove, snow isn't that common in Louisiana and until this stretch it hadn't snowed since the 1980s. And we haven't had any snow since 2010. Which is why everyone was so excited when snow was predicted last Friday, and all the schools were closed.
This was my car before leaving work...over an hour later I'm not even halfway home
My car before leaving work Friday
Except it didn't actually snow. Instead there was frozen rain with freezing temperatures, and those bridges I mentioned, they did freeze. Unfortunately for me I still had work Friday morning. Knowing that all the schools were closed I had imagined that the roads would be empty. But I didn't factor in the bridges. From where my house is there's 3 ways to get into town, each involving bridges. Except Friday morning, two of those bridges were closed, which turned my normal 30 minute commute into one of 2 hours.
Ice in the backyard, Saturday Morning
One the way home I was under the impression that was still the only bridge open, as was everyone else. Which meant I waited 2 hours trying to cross it, until hearing on the radio that they were closing that bridge to salt in hopes of being able to reopen it. But turns out there was a second bridge, the one furthest out of the way for me, still open. That meant I had to turn around and go all the way back into town to get back to it. All in all, I got home after 4 hours of driving, which means my daily commute which is normally under an hour both ways, was 6 hours long!
24 hours later this is what the interstate still looks like
The Interstate, Saturday Morning
Even Saturday morning they still hadn't managed to reopened everything, but thankfully by Sunday things seem to be back to normal. So yes, while it might not be real snow depending on where you live, we did still get our fill in Louisiana. And yes, bridges definitely do freeze in Louisiana!

EDIT: I wrote this post originally on Sunday thinking this was our one snow storm for the year. I definitely wasn't expecting to be at home today because of snow. No way was I going out in it again after last Friday's craziness. The snow and ice is supposed to stay around till tomorrow afternoon, so we'll see if we leave this house tomorrow either. But for now, here's a look into our backyard today, around 4pm.
It's starting to stick! #sneauxday

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Movie Review

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
I have fuzzy memories of seeing Clear and Present Danger growing up, so officially this wasn't my first Jack Ryan movie. But even so, I knew little of what to expect with this aside from the obvious fact that it was an action movie.

Overall though it wasn't bad, but it isn't one I'd rave about. I did like Chris Pine and Kierra Knightly in this, and think if they hadn't been in it I would have felt quite differently by the end.

Overall, I don't necessarily regret seeing it, but don't see myself ever making a point to watch it again.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mailbox Monday (62)

It's the start of another week, which means it's time to be linking up at Mailbox Monday to share the books I've recently added to my bookshelf.
Mailbox Monday
From Paperback Swap
Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell
I may not have loved The Carrie Diaries that much, and I may not be watching the new tv series, but still... I love Sex and the City too much not to continue with the series. This book finds Carrie living in NYC for the first time, and it's also when she first meets Samantha. It probably won't be the best book I've ever read, but still, I can't wait to finally start reading it.

From TLC Book Tours
Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman
This is a chick lit-type book with the exact opposite premise of Summer and the City. Instead in this it's a thirtysomething woman moving from NYC to the suburban countryside. While there she tries to figure what exactly she wants from her life, and what sacrifices she might need to make with her career, family, and friendships along the way. Being where I currently am in my life, 9 months from my 30th birthday, trying to decide exactly what I want to be doing with my life, I feel like this book is coming at the perfect time.

Do you find yourself wanting to read books that relate to what you're currently going through or would you rather find a book so different from reality that it's more of an escape? And what did you find in your mailbox this week?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole

Splintered by A.G. Howard
: January 1, 2013 by Amulet Books
Series: Splintered #1
I had forgotten I listed this book as one of my "Can't Wait to Read in 2013" until after I started reading it. But once that realization hit, I remember thinking how I loved the idea of an Alice in Wonderland retelling or somewhat sequel. Plus it had such a gorgeous cover. I'm actually a little surprised I had forgotten about it, since I only picked it up when my book club decided to read it.

This books seems to have gotten quite hyped lately, especially since the sequel was just released. I definitely went into this with high expectations, but I'm not quite sure they were met. I can't quite explain why, except that something about the book didn't quite click for me.

I actually enjoyed the first parts of the book, before Alyssa travels to Wonderland, which is the opposite of most people. I think once we were in Wonderland everything was too chaotic, and so much happened that it was hard to follow. I found myself lost in sections, needing to reread it, and still not quite understanding what was going on.

I also read a review where they complained that they couldn't connect with the characters, and that they hated both of the love interests. This is something I don't think I would have been able to articulate, but I think that might be part of what bothered me with this.

I did love all the references back to original, which even though I haven't read, I have seen enough movie versions to identify a lot. I also loved the ending in that it reminded me of one of my favorites episodes of Buffy & Angel.

Overall, I did still enjoy this, I just feel a little let down by it. I know the sequel is out now, and while I'd still pick it up, I almost feel that this book's ending would be enough for it to stand on its own.


Today I'm linking up with Blonde Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Are You Hungary?

Degrees of Courage by Shari Vester
: June 19, 2012 by Mill City Press, Inc.
I couldn't help but be intimidated when this book arrived on my doorstep. The book was huge, and I wasn't quite sure how I would find the time to read it. I always was pretty positive this wouldn't be one I would enjoy, and with so many pages ahead of me I thought I was in for a long ride. But then I started reading, and actually found myself pleasantly surprised.

Degrees of Courage tells the story of 3 generations of women living in Hungary from the early 1900s to the 1970s. I knew nothing about Hungary's going into this, and while I wouldn't call myself an expert nowt, I know far more than I ever would have expected. Of course a lot of this is do to sections that went into detail about events in Hungary's history that read almost like a textbook. Part of me understands why it's there, after all I'd imagine most people going into this don't have a background on Hungary, but I thought it was a little much. I think that with slightly less information it would have made an even bigger impact, since with so many details a lot of it got lost.

But while I did enjoy getting to learn about Hungary, it was the story of the women I really enjoyed. Each one has such a unique story, and I thought it was interesting to see what changed from generation to generation and what stayed the same. Part of me does think this story could have worked broken up into books about each one, but even so I found the way the narration flowed from one to the next almost seamless.

I am glad I stuck this one out, since overall I enjoyed my time spent with this (and trust me, there was a lot of time there). I definitely wouldn't say this is a light read, but if you're at all curious about Hungary's history in the 20th century I would definitely recommend this.


Disclosure: I was provided this book through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Whose Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf

The Wolf of Wall Street
I'll see Leonardo Dicaprio in pretty much anything he's in. (Just reference my reviews of J. Edgar and Django Unchained.) So I knew no matter what I wanted to see this. Even if I was a movie I probably wouldn't have gone to see otherwise.

Yes, it was over the top. But that was definitely the point of it all, and Leo did it justice. It was just a hard movie to watch because everyone in it is such an awful person. Even the FBI agents, who are the good guys here, are shown as having a depressing, doldrums life compared to the excess in Leo and his friends'.

Is this a movie you need to run out at see? Probably not, especially if you haven't seen it by now. But it's still one I'm glad to have seen, at least so now I know what everyone else was talking about.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I'm Going Back to Cali

I realize that posting has been quite light these past few days, but I do have a reason behind the madness. I spent last week home in California, and am only now getting back into the swing of things. Looking back on our trip, we actually didn't do a whole lot. Instead it seems everyday were we spending the day catching up with a new relative. And most times it was over a delicious meal. So I can't help but share a few shots from some of those delicious California meals.
Caprina E Carciofi Pizza
One of our first nights we went out for pizza at Michael's Pizzeria. This was their Caprina E Carciofi, which has pesto, artichokes, goat cheese, and I believe potatoes.
One food item I always try to make happen on trips to California is fish tacos. You just can't really find them in Louisiana. This time I had them at the Huntington Gardens, and while I wouldn't necessarily list them on my all time favorite fish tacos, they were pretty delicious.
While in California, I had my first taste of a cronut, which is a cross between a donut and croissant. While it was really good, I can't say it quite lived up to my expectations for them.
Lunch at Super Mex #finallyrealmexicanfood #homeinCA
Another California staple I always try to make happen is good, simple Mexican food. This was a shredded beef taco at Super Mex. It's kind of funny because it really only is meat, cheese, beans, and lettuce, but it's something that really doesn't compare to Mexican in Louisiana.
Grilled Chicken Pesto
For something new to me, we went to The Iron Press, whose specialty is waffle sandwiches. I had their chicken pesto, which was a lot of fun.

This won't be my last post on California, but without doing a lot and just spending time with friends and family I actually don't have a ton of photos. But sometimes, that's exactly the type of getaway I need.

When you spend time at home are you sometimes surprised by how little you go out to do?

Monday, January 20, 2014

January Blog Love

I'm excited to announce my newest sponsor Carolynn of Kitty Adventures.
Kitty Adventures
Each month I like to spotlight my favorites posts from my sponsors, and honestly had a hard time doing so this month because there were so many posts I thought should be here. So while I'm listing these three posts as my favorites for the past month, I highly recommend you check out all her other posts that I wasn't also able to highlight.

Our Biggest Fight
"My husband and I have been married for just over a year now! Isn't that exciting? I've definitely learned a lot in this year. One thing I've learned (and knew, before marriage) is that communication is extremely important. But after marriage, I've re-learned that communication isn't just important, it's crucial! Without it, hilarious and amazing misunderstandings abound! One person says something, and then the other person totally does not understand the premise or even the words, causing the message to be totally twisted and misinterpreted. If you are in any sort of relationship, I'm sure you can relate."
Here Today, Gnome Tomorrow
"He arrived looking rather cute. I let him hang out on my bookshelf for awhile and watch all the shenanigans that my husband, friends, and family participate in. I even played a prank by hiding him..."
Knitting Storage

If you want to look into sponsoring From L.A. to LA, be sure to check out my sponsor page.

What are your favorite posts from around the blogosphere this past month?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mailbox Monday (61)

I didn't have a chance to post last week for Mailbox Monday, which you can definitely tell with the amount of books I'm sharing this week. I can't even remember the last time I had a mailbox this big. But alas, picking up so many books also means I have to manage to find the time to read them as well.
Mailbox Monday
From Paperback Swap
A Wild Affair by Gemma Townley
Years ago I read Genna Townley's The Importance of Being Married and thought it was awfully adorable. But I didn't realize until recently there was a sequel. Hopefully when I read it, the parts of the first I've forgotten come back to me, and I enjoy this just as much.

For Review from France Book Tours
Marie Antoinette's Head by Will Bashor
The is a non-fiction book about Marie Antoinette's hairdresser. I always seem to enjoy non-fiction books I read, but never feel like I read enough of them. So I'm definitely excited to get into this.

For Review from TLC Book Tours
Three Souls by Janie Chang
Another type of books I enjoy, but seem to rarely read, are books that take place in China like this one. It's a historical fiction and seems to have a touch of fantasy, which makes me really curious.

At The River's Edge by Mariah Stewart
Last year I read two others in this series and really enjoyed them both. There's some so comforting about romance-y novels like this. Yes, you know exactly what to expect in them, but sometimes, that's a good thing.

Won from Beyond the Aisle
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
When Heather read this book, I couldn't help but be intrigued, which is why I was so excited when I won her giveaway. This is a YA historical fiction that takes place in London in the early 1900s. From everything I've heard from Heather I'm really going to love this one, so hopefully it lives up to my expectations.

From my Mom
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
I know so many bloggers who really seemed to enjoy this one, so when I saw it sitting with my mom's books I couldn't help but bring it back with me. Knowing how many others felt about this one, I'm hopefully that I feel similar, even though it isn't necessarily the type of book I'd read otherwise.

Borrowed from my Brother
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
My brother read this recently and absolutely loved it, and he wanted me to read it as well. I have read a few Barbara Kingsolver books, and while it has been a while do remember enjoying them.

Have you read any of these books before? And what did you find in your mailbox this week?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Post Holiday Blues {Giveaway}

I feel a little bit like things are starting to settle down and get back to normal, but I'm not quite sure I'd like it. Part of me wishes I could hit rewind and start over from my birthday reliving all of October, November, and December. Unfortunately, that isn't quite possible, but I do have something that will hopefully help you transition back to reality. I'm happy to let you know I'm participating in Dara's January giveaway at Not in Jersey, and hopefully a few prizes will have you ready to take on January!

Myself, and her other sponsors, have come together to giveaway to offer a range of prizes including a $30 gift card to Target or Starbucks (your choice!).

You could also win a canvas from Easy Canvas Print, a company I'm obviously found of since I ordered my wedding canvas from them.
Our Wedding Canvas
In addition, you could win an LED Teeth Whitening System from Smile Brilliant and copies of Is God Real or Pretend? by Jennifer Horsman and Brady Needs a Nightlight by Brian Barlics. To enter please use the rafflecopter form below, and good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, January 9, 2014

From the Pacific Theater

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Eppstein
: January 13, 2014 by W. W. Norton & Company
Originally Published: March 11, 2012
Through the years I've read a lot about WWII, except I think this is the first I've read that dealt with the war in Japan. Which is a bit ironic in a way, because my own grandfather fought in Japan in WWII. While I've always known that, I've never given much thought to what it must have been like, or what actually happened there till reading this book. (Again ironically the B-52 Mitchell bomber, which my grandfather flew in, is flown by one of the characters in this book.)
Seymour Gibbs and Okinawa Villagers - 1945
My grandfather (front row, center) in Okinawa, 1945
The book starts with two chapters before the war, the first in New York and the second in Japan, that set the scene for what's to come. In these chapters we meet 5 specific characters, and from then on each following chapter focuses on a specific individual and how the war has impacted them. But each time we're only given a window into a single, short moment, and it's only together they tell an entire story.

It is an interesting way to tell a story, and while it could be confusing, I thought it flowed beautifully. There are parts you you almost expect, but that's because it's written in a way that it builds towards something specific. And while you don't leave the story with everything tied up in a pretty bow, you did at least by the novel's end have a feeling of completeness about each of the characters.
December 1945 Holiday Card from US Occupation Forces in Japan
From my grandfather's WWII mementos
I think this book spoke to me in so many ways, partly because of my family history, but also because I've been to Japan. I'd recognize certain districts of Tokyo that I'd been to and recall them in my mind. Except what I didn't realize till later is that Tokyo was almost destroyed during the war, so the Tokyo I visited in 2008 has almost nothing left from before the war.

There is a bit of sadness and awful events in this, but that should be expected in a book about a war. Instead though, the part that brought me to tears wasn't a moment of sadness, but at the novel's close when a character looks back on an almost perfect moment, before everything changed, before the war.


Disclosure: I was provided this book through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Project 365: Wrapping up 2013

Yes, I did it! I completely my Project 365 and managed to take a photo every single day in 2013. To start, these are my final photos of the year, and afterwards I'll be posting my thoughts on the process.
Lunch at Canes
December 28, 2013 - 362/365: Lunch at Cane's.
Playing Carcassonne
December 29, 2013 - 363/365: Playing Carcassone with the boy.
Chili for Dinner
December 30, 2013 - 364/365: Chili for dinner.
Champagne & Ice Cream
December 31, 2013 - 365/365: Ending the year with a glass of champagne and a bowl of peppermint ice cream. Coincidentally, this matches day 1 of my project where I had grapefruit juice in our toasting glasses. Talk about coming full circle.
Grapefruit Juice
January 1, 2013 - 1/365: Glass of Grapefruit Juice to Ring in the New Year

I've been wanting to complete a Project 365 since before I started blogging, and am I little in awe I managed to pull it off. Especially on my first try. I was sure I was going to miss a day, and have to try again in 2014 to achieve it, but I kept at it. I do think my photography improved over the course of the year, which I think you can see by comparing the two photos above from the first and last day of the year. Of course, some of that was due to my new DSLR, but I definitely couldn't have pulled the year off without having access to my camera.

I'm definitely happy to have the project behind me. There were definitely days when realizing I hadn't taken a picture all day that I'd feel the need to eat dessert just to have something to photograph. Maybe without that justification, I'll have less dessert in 2014?

I'm definitely not planning a Project 365 for 2014, and in fact didn't take a single picture the first two days of the year. But I would still be up for attempting a project 365 at some other point down the line, since overall I did have a lot of fun doing it.

Have you ever attempted, or completed, a Project 365?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Novel of the Great War

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson
: December 31, 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks
I'm almost afraid to start this review because it's another that I can't imagine I'll do justice to. Reading this book, I couldn't put it down. I stayed up late to read it, but even more impressive (since I can't ever remember doing this!) I woke up early to keep reading it. That night I dreamed of the book, and that day I couldn't help but relive specific scenes over and over in my head. And don't ask my husband about the lunch we had together where I ignored him because I HAD to keep reading. As soon as I finished it, I was ready to turn it over and start from page 1.

Lily Ashford is the daughter of The Earl and Countess of Cumberland. Her mother wants nothing more than for her to be settled and married, but when war breaks out Lily feels a call to do something more. She leaves her home, family, and all she knows and winds up in France to serving as an ambulance driver for the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. This is also the story of Robert Fraser, the son of a dustman and a laundress, who goes on scholarship to Oxford and works hard to become a surgeon. While most of the story is told from Lily's point of view, they are a few chapters where we hear from Robbie and those were my favorite.

I feel like I haven't read a lot of books that take place during WWI. And yet that isn't quite true because some of my favorite series growing up, The Betsy-Tacy Series, Anne of Green Gables, and The All-of-a-Kind Family, all end with a book that takes place during The Great War. But this is the first one I remember reading as a "grown-up," and one where it's a single book instead of the end of a series.

In case you couldn't already tell, I absolutely loved this book, and have a feeling it will be one that stays with me for a while. I did read that the author is planning a follow-up to this for 2015, and while this book doesn't need a sequel and I'd be more than happy with just this single book, I can't wait to be able to check in on Lily and Robbie.


Disclosure: I was provided this book through TLC Book Tours. All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Last Christmas

I feel like everyone's already moved onto New Year's Eve, and even Valentine's Day, but yet here I am recapping a belated Christmas. I actually didn't take that many pictures this year, and most of them have already been posted on the blog for various reasons. But I couldn't help but write one big post with everything in single place.

It actually felt like Christmas was pretty low-key this year. We spent Christmas Eve at home, where the boy and I had a lazy night on the couch watching Love Actually. Then the following morning over a cup of coffee (for me) and a glass of milk (for the boy) we opened the presents for each other.
My Christmas necklace!
The boy tends to always buy exactly what I'm looking for, but I try to make sure there's a bit of a surprise by giving him several options to choose from. That way I never know exactly which of those he'll choose. This year was no different and I was gifted both towels and a new pillow from Pottery Barn, as well as my newest obbession, with the Frozen soundtrack. Of course, he still had a surprise for me with a new necklace which I never would have guessed.
Christmas Presents
We then went over to my in-laws' house where everyone had stacks of presents waiting for them. My stack is actually on the far right, with the boy's next to it. Our niece and nephew's stacks are what you see in the background.
Christmas Presents
I definitely received far more gifts than needed and definitely felt a bit spoiled in the process. Some of my favorites, apart from the necklace and soundtrack from the boy, are my serving bowl in our china pattern and my new cookbooks.
Another Christmas tradition I've inherited is having scratch off tickets in everyone's stocking, with a bit of a competition to see who can win the most. This was the first year I wound up winning, with close to $50 scratched off.
Christmas Dinner
Once everyone had finished opening, we sat down to a dinner with gumbo, tuduken, and several over sides and finished off the meal with a slice of my peppermint cake.
Slice of Bundt Cake
All in all it was a great day, one where I definitely came away feeling a bit spoiled. Overall a perfect way to end 2013.