Monday, March 28, 2011

Resolutions: 3 Month Check In

Can you believe that we're almost three full months into 2011? I think it's just flown by, but I am glad that spring is on the way. Yes, technically it is spring but there is still snow on the ground where I live. Ugh.

I thought that I would do a check in on my resolutions and see how I'm doing. And, of course, I have to share it with all of you!

Let's begin...

1. Be a better friend - I've got to keep in touch better, whether it be by phone, email, snail mail, text, Facebook, or smoke signals, I want to make sure that my friends and I are staying connected.
Well...I'm trying. I know I can do better and this resolution is a constant guilt trip whenever I think about the friends I need to catch up with. It's getting there but I definitely have more work to do.

2. Read more, particularly, I want to read more than just chick lit (yes, I am doing a Chick Lit Challenge, but this is new for me and it will expose me to more novels than I would have otherwise) I'd love to get away from the pretty much all fiction that I read and find some non-fiction to dive into as well.
I'm doing better with this one. I haven't read a lot of non fiction yet but there are a few on my shelves, patiently waiting for me. I have read a couple of books that have more "substance" to it, such as Water for Elephants and Half Broke Horses. Both are excellent so go out and get them right now! (Especially WFE because the movie comes out on April 22!)

3. Be more organized - my new place is still a mess and I'm not totally set up. I must change that as it is driving me crazy!
Again...this is a work in progress. When I left the bookstore it helped because I now have every evening free. This means dishes are (usually) done after supper. My bedroom, however, still looks like a bomb went off. It appears as though I fail miserably at putting clothes away. Accomplishing this resolution was helped when my mom came to stay with me for a weekend. It was great! We hung out and she helped me with some of the final touches. Great time :)

4. Keep track of the books that I read and have some sort of rating system. I can never remember what I've read throughout the year!
I'm getting better! Just recently I realized that I have a list and was not updating it. I'm now trying to do so right away, so this one is going well.

5. Learn to knit. Laugh if you will, but this is the power great novels have on me (Friday Night Knitting Club, excellent series!!!)
Success! I am not very good right now, but I have a lovely the works! When my best friend (@MarisaW87 on Twitter, by the by) read my original resolution post she told me that she knows knitting basics. We got together one Saturday and while she cooked supper for our girly shindig, I taught myself to knit. When the books I got from the library failed, I turned to You Tube (doesn't that seem hilarious?). It took awhile and it was pretty pathetic, but I did it! And I did it with a budgie staring at me too…

Twitter watching me knit. She wasn't too interested.

6. Enjoy life and stop worrying so much about money - there is no way that I can do a total flip and spend too much, it's just not the way I was raised! :)
I consider this a success as well. While I'm not going out and blowing all my money, I am more comfortable with shopping for clothing necessities (just bought an adorable brown jacket for work, along with a few other work clothes) as well as enjoying the occasional supper out. Next up is saving for a potential trip in the fall. Fingers crossed that happens!

7. Kick ass at work and not be scared and/or stressed out about being in charge of fundraising starting in March.
Fail, fail, fail. I had no idea how much I would be doing and looking after when my supervisor left on mat leave and it is stressing me out pretty much every day. I think my friends and family are sick of hearing me stress out. Sorry guys! The problem is not just still learning a new job or just looking after planning a Gala while also doing regular fundraising stuff. The problem is both of those things together. Ack! So far I’m surviving and apparently doing a good job (got a verbal gold star from the fundraising chair today, yay!) All that being said, May 6th (the night of the Gala) cannot come quickly enough!

8. Take at least one fundraising course at Georgian College starting in September, and I will not let it stress me out!
No work has been done on this yet, other than looking into what classes are offered in each semester. I’ve got to come up with some sort of proposal for the board so they agree to pay for it. I’ll keep you all updated!

9. Write a story. Just for kicks :)
Haven’t done anything with this yet either. Maybe the summer will provide some inspiration!

10. Keep up with this blog all year - and beyond.
I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job so far! I try to post at least once a week so you all have something new and fresh to read. I’m also doing something a little different and will be doing three blog tours in the next few months! I’m really excited about this. Stay tuned for my reviews!

How have all of you been doing with your resolutions? Let me know! I’m pretty proud of myself, but I know I have a ways to go with some of them. I’ll update again in another three months…hopefully!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Just Finished: "Spin"

Good evening on this snowy March day! Yes. Snow in March. Welcome to Canada! This particular morning was pretty brutal as it took almost 20 extra minutes to get to work, no fun. So, I am now relaxing and watching Morning Glory.

I also have to tell you all about this book I just finished the other night. If you follow me on Twitter (@KaleyS23 if you don't!) you'll know that I stayed up MUCH too late the other night finishing a book...Spin was that book. The book came out in December of 2009 and it was one of those books I would always see on the shelves and think about getting. I was at the library last weekend and happened upon it when wandering through the stacks, so I thought...why not?

Here's the synopsis from Chapters:

Katie Sandford has just gotten an interview at her favourite music magazine, The Line. It's the chance of a lifetime. So what does she do? Goes out to celebrate -- and shows up still drunk at the interview. No surprise, she doesn't get the job, but the folks at The Line think she might be perfect for another assignment for their sister gossip rag. All Katie has to do is follow It Girl Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop (and complete the 30-day program without getting kicked out), they'll reconsider her for the job at The Line.
Katie takes the job. But things get complicated when real friendships develop, a cute celebrity handler named Henry gets involved, and Katie begins to realize she may be in rehab for a reason. Katie has to make a decision -- is publishing the article worth everything she has to lose?
To be honest, I didn't have high hopes for this book. A 30 year old boozer who clearly doesn't realize how much her drinking is completely and utterly screwing up her life? It could have gone so wrong...however, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was annoying that she didn't realize that she was quickly becoming an alcoholic but she had one of those fantastic literary "journeys" while following Amber into rehab.

As I mentioned, this book was written by a Canadian author. That was one of the things that I really loved. What kind of surprised me, though, was the fact that there wasn't any mention of any Canadian cities or icons or anything. The major city Katie lived in was called The City. And the little town where she went to rehab wasn't mentioned either. The fun thing is that I think I kind of figured out where the novel took place. How? you ask? Well, let me explain. Even though the author is from Montreal I thought that the novel likely took place in Ontario (it's the province I live in so I feel like I can say's where everything seems to be set in Canadian literature, movies, and television shows. It's probably all Americans think there is in our country!) There was also something else that tipped me off. When Katie goes off to rehab she mentions that it is in a teeny tiny town near where she grew up. She says that her hometown is near a Santa's Village and my first thought was Bracebridge! Of course rehab would be in Muskoka. Wouldn't you want to get cleaned up while looking at a view like this:

That's what I thought.

To summarize the above ramblings...I loved that the author is Canadian but wish the novel had had more Canadian aspects to it. Maybe that's unreasonable, but I think that we, as Canadians, need to celebrate our culture and not make our stories so ambiguous that they could be taking place in the US. Thoughts?

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. The characters are great, the writing is well done, and the story has just enough little twists and turns to make it interesting without being a rehab roller coaster. Not only all of that, but this was a debut novel! Fantastic. I am going to have to look into finding Arranged, McKenzie's second novel. I actually almost bought it a few weeks ago when it was on sale and am now wishing I did. I'll find it and let you all know how it is!

Well, the movie is over and I'm not sure how much I absorbed...what does that say about the movie? Or me? Not sure, but I do know that it is time for bed. Night all!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March Chick Lit Review: "Playdate"

Hello all! Sorry I've been MIA has been super crazy. Nothing like still getting used to a new job (been there six months), my supervisor going on mat leave, and trying to plan a gala. Ack! But, never fear my faithful followers, I am here with my third Chick Lit Challenge Review!

This month's novel takes care of one of the two debut authors that I have to read to complete the Challenge. I was originally concerned with trying to find a debut author because it could end up being quite tricky. Luckily, Samantha over at Chick Lit Plus has these handy blog posts that give us ideas for this part of the Challenge. I was reading the first of these posts when I came across Playdate and was very happy. Why? you ask? Because I had received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher at my old bookstore job. Score!

I am finding something interesting with the books I'm choosing for the Challenge...I'm not totally overwhelmed by them, and I'm not really sure why. I wonder if it's maybe because I'm analyzing them a bit more in preparation of writing reviews or they just aren't winners. I'm not saying that I dislike any of them and I would still recommend them, but they're not my favourites. With Playdate I think it was the main story that I just couldn't relate with. Here's the synopsis from Chapters:

Inside their picture-perfect homes, the residents of this quiet California suburb are not at all what they seem.
Lance is a former weatherman, now a buff yogi, stay-athome dad, and manager of his daughter's Girl Scout troop's cookie distribution. Belle is his precocious and quick-witted daughter. Darlene is a classic Type A work-a-holic, she has little time or patience for the needs of her husband and daughter
And just down the street are Alec and Wren. Alec, a womanizing businessman, is also the financial backer-and sometimes more-behind Darlene's burgeoning empire. Meanwhile, Wren is a doting mother and talented yogi, ready to lay down the mat for a quick session with Lance.
As looming Santa Ana winds threaten to turn brushfires into catastrophe; Playdate proves that relationships are complicated and the bonds between families, spouses and children are never quite what they seem. What happens next door, beyond the hedges, in the romper room and executive office-it's all as combustible as a quick brushfire on a windy day.
I can usually relate somehow to most characters, but I just couldn't quite find the link with Lance, Darlene, Wren, and Alec. I think part of the reason was that I went in assuming that Darlene was cold hearted and didn't care one single iota for her family. That's not the case. After just 30 some odd pages, what you thought you had figured out about a character has completely changed.

One part that I didn't quite get was the focus on the Santa Ana winds. I suppose Adams was trying to make it seem like another character but it was lost on me. It provided a way for Belle to grow at the end of the novel, but other than that I just saw it as a way for Lance to talk about his former profession as a weatherman. Also, whenever I hear "Santa Ana" the scene in The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Jack Black pops into my head. That scene is much sweeter than the "firenados" in Playdate. But I suppose that's just me :)

Lance and Darlene have uprooted their daughter, Belle, and their lives and moved to a new city to follow Darlene's dream. Between this and the fact that the adults all seem so completely self absorbed, I really felt sorry for Belle. I can imagine that it is hard to be the new kid and worry about your parents' marriage. Plus, she had to wear her Girl Scouts uniform to school! Talk about squashing individuality.

I am finding it very difficult to say why I didn't love this novel without giving anything away. So. Let me just say that there are certain life choices characters make in some books that I just can't get behind, especially if they don't seem to have a good reason. There was also one character who really grated on my nerves and who I thought would raise bloody hell once she found out one of the dirty little secrets. I will say I was disappointed in that, though I'm not sure why.

I did really like one of the underlying themes of the novel - the role of the stay at home dad. This novel examined the stigma attached to being a "househusband" which I found interesting. I hadn't really thought too much about stay at home dads and what they must have to deal with everyday from their male peers. The question Lance kept getting asked was, "So, what do you do all day?" My mom stayed home with my sister and I until I was in grade eight and I loved it. Probably not as much at the time, but I can look back and I really appreciate what she did for us and the fact that she was always there for us.

I'm sure this review seems like a real downer. No, I didn't love the book. Do I feel like I wasted my time reading it? No. Would I recommend it? Sure, but not to buy. If it happens to turn up at your library or in a box full of free books, go for it. I can acknowledge the fact that I'm not one to love this kind of storyline (even Emily Giffin's latest book, Heart of the Matter gave me trouble and I LOVE her) and that others will. I think if I come across Adams' next book I will pick it up, and I think that says something.

Has anyone else read this book? Let me know what you thought if you have. Are there any particular plot lines that you just do not enjoy reading? Until next time...happy reading. Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day! :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Glitz, Glamour, and...Argyle?

Oh, the Oscars. I've been watching them (usually alone) and choosing my own picks for the last few years. Sometimes one of my roommate's would watch them with me, but this year I decided I was having a party! It's the first time that I've had my own place and a lot of friends available in the city to come watch with me.

Now, you're probably wondering where the heck the argyle comes in to this Oscar party. My living room has an argyle wall...yep...and it is amazing. And yes, it was a lot of work and I love my mom for doing it for me! My best friend loves it too and way back in the fall suggested that I have an argyle theme party. Once awards season started I had a light bulb moment. Why not combine the two? So I did :)

I threw myself into the planning of this party (if you recall from my post on Happy Ever After, I thought I might want to be a wedding planner so it shouldn't be a surprise that I love throwing parties). It was a small affair, partly because of space and partly because of available possible attendees, but I thought it was pretty damn perfect - though I suppose I'm biased. I sent out ballots to my girls, got all sorts of candy, and assembled wicked awesome swag bags. Observe these photos of the highlights of the night:

My sister's Amazing Cake; Swag Bags and Candy; Score Cards for Dresses; Me with a "Fizztini" 
Isn't my sister's cake great? Not only did it look fantastic (took her three hours!) but it was also delicious. The "Fizztini" was also my sister's creation. She had to create a mocktail for her mixology class and she got a great mark since she created such a tasty drink. In case you're curious and want to try it out, this is what's in it: Sprite, Peach/Mango fizzy drink (from Zehrs/Valu Mart here in Canada), white grape juice, and vodka. Delish. I'm also very impressed with my swag bags, as I coloured the argyle pattern myself. *pats self on back* I was so happy that my friends liked them and their special prizes as well. Each bag had notepads and notebooks with their initial, and a magnet picture frame (complete with a picture of us, of course). Each girl also got a little something extra, personalized to them. These included a colouring book, teeny bottle of vodka, and scrapbook supplies. I figured if the celebrities were getting great swag bags, my friends should too! Enough bragging about my awesome party...onto the main event!

I did alright with my picks, but I'm annoyed I didn't trust my gut and pick The King's Speech to win Best Picture and Best Director. Oh well. In total I got 11 of the 24 right...not bad really. Haven't seen that one yet, but am looking forward to watching it eventually. Of the Best Picture nominees I had watched The Kids Are All Right, Inception, The Social Network, and Toy Story 3. All great films, and yes, I cried watching Toy Story 3 and I do not usually cry at movies! I'm also looking forward to watching Black Swan and, I think, 127 Hours. It might be painful at times but I think it'd be worth it to watch. What did you guys think of the winners? Pretty predictable, wasn't it? Thoughts on the hosts? I love Anne Hathaway and thought she was adorable as ever. James Franco didn't help too much, but he was probably very nervous. Bad call, I think, in having a nominated actor also be a presenter. I'm happy that Natalie Portman won best actress (and how cute was she, all pregnant and glowing?) and am beyond excited that Colin Firth won for best actor.

And, of course, the most important part of the evening...the Red Carpet! There were some very questionable dresses - what the h was up with all the one shoulder dresses, especially on Mark Ruffalo's wife??? Some dresses we couldn't quite decide on - Anne Hathaway's red carpet bustle-riffic dress, and Amy Adams' sparkly high necked wonder with the emerald bling. We loved Mila Kunis in the lovely lilac, and the tangerine dress on the slim and gorgeous Jennifer Hudson. Check out Cosmo's website, as they had a lot of the same favourites as us. However, our favourite dress of the entire night?

The adorable Hailee Steinfeld! How cute is this fourteen year old? Perfect age appropriate dress. We couldn't get over the sparkle, the headband, and the hairdo. So sweet.

Overall, we all had an awesome evening. I'm so glad I was finally able to have an Oscar party and that some of my best friends were able to enjoy it with me. Thanks for coming ladies! Next year we'll have a snazzy party :)