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Reviews

Book Reviews: California, Cults + Catastrophe

What She Knew – Gilly Macmillan: This falls in to the typical genre of books I lean towards – thriller with a lead female character who’s a little shady (a la Gone Girl, Girl on the Train). That being said, I enjoyed it enough, but it didn’t hold up against the others on the list which kept me turning the pages all night. The ending didn’t close all the holes and left you with an uneasy feeling.
Grade: B

Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequiest: Let me start by saying, I love Shauna Niequiest. She gets me, I get her and she is just wonderful. I love love loved her book Bread and Wine, which I’ve reviewed previously, so I was highly anticipating this book. However, it kind of let me down. There were great points that I totally related to, especially the main point of the book being present over perfect, but it seemed to kind of ramble/drag on. This would have been better in a series of blog posts or a chapter or two of another book.
Grade: B+

The Girls – Emma Cline: This book has been on my list for forever, finally became available at the library, and oh my gosh I devoured it! Set in 1960s California, the book follows a teenage girl who gets caught up in a cult that ends very very badly. I was fascinated not only with the cult, but also the transformation of the main character. If you’re interested in cults at all or just want a unique read that will pull you in, this is for you.
Grade: A+

The River at Night – Erica Ferencik: What I learned from this book: I will never ever ever go white water rafting in a remote location, especially on an annual girls trip – which is exactly the basis of this book. The book started out a little slow and I almost put it down, but then it started getting intense and I just couldn’t turn my eyes away from the horror. And it was literally that, horror. I couldn’t put the book down the last 100 pages, though I’m not sure it’s because I was enjoying it. It still freaks me out to think about it now.
Grade: B+

You can read all my book reviews here.

xo xo


Book Reviews: Mermaids, Macarons + TV Moms

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Mermaids in Paradise – Lydia Millet: This book is funny and spunky and totally surprised me with how enjoyable it was. I’ve always loved anything mermaids so when I heard about this one (a couple honeymooning in the Caribbean stumbles upon mermaids) it sounded right up my alley. It’s a little weird/sci-fi-ish, but still a fun, easy read. Warning: the ending is extremely weird. And if you read it, we must talk about it.
Grade: A

Talking as Fast as I Can – Lauren Graham: What a perfect stocking stuffer from Husband! I adore Lauren Graham and this book was no exception. She is so personable and quirky, and you can literally hear her voice reading the book to you. The best parts of the book were when she talked behind the scenes of Gilmore Girls and gave you juicy info like you’re an insider. However, if you haven’t watched GG or Parenthood, you might feel a little alienated reading the book.
Grade: A-

Paris My Sweet – Amy Thomas: Another great surprise Christmas gift from Mom! This book follows an advertising copywriter as she moves from NYC to Paris, and eats her way through the City of Light and all the sweets it has to offer. I love both cities and love desserts, so this book sounded perfect for me, as Mom said. (And it was!) It reads like fiction, but is actually non-fiction so the book also gives you loads of places to actually visit in NYC or Paris for the best macaron or cupcake or chocolate chip cookie or anything your heart so desires.
Grade: A-

Executive Presence – Sylvia Ann Hewlett: It’s often difficult to force myself to read these types of books instead of getting lost in a fictitious world, but I’m always glad when I do. This was a very practical book for anyone in the business world. The author shares the qualities of Executive Presence (EP), why they’re important, studies and stories to go with each, then tips for how to get better at each. I thought it dragged on just a touch, but overall I gained some good personal knowledge for my own EP.
Grade: B+

You can read all of my book reviews here.

xo xo


Discover NWA: MOD, Modern Ozark Dining

At the prompting of Husband,  I’m starting a new blog series for the new year.

Since my Discover Arkansas series was such a success, I’ve decided to narrow the focus a little bit and do Discover Northwest Arkansas/NWA. I’ve lived in this wonderful area of the state almost my entire life and want to share all of my favorite places with you.

I plan to do restaurant reviews, share itinerary ideas for out of town guests, explore events in the area and at some point make another Arkansas bucket list. If there’s something you’d like to hear about, let me know!

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For my inaugural post, I want to share my review of a new restaurant in downtown Bentonville – MOD, Modern Ozark Dining.

Via their website“MOD treats guests to a modern interpretation of the quality and simplicity of Ozark’s seasonal pantry. We enhance nature’s local bounty with our progressive approach to global foods and preparation techniques.” 

Here’s the deal – it’s a prix fixe menu with fresh ingredients in a modern space. I’ve been dying to check it out ever since it opened. Lucky for me, I actually won a dinner for 2 (and Razorback basketball tickets, woohoo!) on Facebook so no harm, no fowl. We had heard it was “an experience”, but we weren’t sure if it would be pretentious, not enough food, etc.

Here’s my review via photos –
(Spoiler: we loved it!!)

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img_2055[Not a big wine selection, but a good mix of cocktails. Next time we will try the signature G&T]

F I R S T  C O U R S E 
3 appetizers to share

img_2058Hot Coal Roasted Onion Ravioli – I can’t entirely remember what this is except that it had cheese in the middle and toasted breadcrumb like things on top. I do remember the waiter said it’s not actually pasta, but the flavors and the different textures were perfect together.

img_2059Corn Hushpuppies – I loooove me some hushpuppies, and to be honest, you can get better ones next door at Pressroom, but these were still pretty tasty albeit a little fancy for a hushpuppy.

img_2060Brandade – Again, not entirely sure what this is, but this was the best appetizer of the three. First of all, the sourdough bread from Little Bread Co. in Fayetteville was a DREAM. Seriously, I’ve been thinking about it all week. I could eat just the bread, but husband loved the sauce you dipped it in as well – it was cheesy/potatoey/oily and delicious.

S E C O N D  C O U R S E

I’m not sure how this happened, but this was our favorite course of the night and I didn’t get any pictures! Shame on me. But it was just that.stinking.good. This course was a departure from the prix fixe. In addition to the set menu, you can add on additional sides. We added two things –

Breadbasket – Two types of bread from Little Bread Co. that were simply divine, and a housemade spiced butter that melted in our mouths.

King Crab Wontons – This. This is what we will remember from MOD. These wontons were simply incredible. They had a housemade sweet and sour sauce drizzled on top that enhanced all the flavors and had you licking the bowl for more. If you go, and these are on the menu, pay the extra money and add them!

T H I R D  C O U R S E 

img_2064Dry Aged Sirloin – We both chose the sirloin for our entree (because when are you ever going to turn down free steak?!) However, there were 3 options to choose from: 1 meat, 1 seafood and 1 vegetarian. I’d say we chose wisely. The steak was cooked perfectly and the surrounding veggies (celeriac, truffled potato pave and grilled romaine) were delicious, even down to the dried cherries on top. If we had only had this to eat, we still would have been extremely happy.

F O U R T H  C O U R S E

img_2066The dessert was probably my least favorite of it all, but it was honestly exactly what I needed. I didn’t need anything heavy and this little bite of lemon sorbet on a gingersnap cookie (or so I think it was) was so refreshing.

Overall, we decided together this was the best meal we’ve had in Bentonville hands down. The service was impeccable. The atmosphere was clean and modern. And most importantly, we loved every single thing we ate.

I honestly can’t wait to go back and try a new menu. They switch it out about 4 times a quarter, with the 4th being the “best of” the previous 3 menus.

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Of course, as long as they don’t get rid of the King Crab Wontons, we will be back.

xo xo


Food Picturebook: LA

Typically when I go on a trip, I follow up with a Picturebook blog post sharing all my photos and trip highlights.

Since I just did an LA Picturebook in July after my last work trip, I decided to switch this one up a bit. I ate some amaaaazing food on this trip at some amaaaazing restaurants and I just had to share so you can enjoy them too (and so I can remember these places for trips to come!)

Enjoy a look at my latest LA trip via my delicious meals. #FoodPorn

S U G A R F I S H 

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My coworker would not stop talking about this place since the second we learned we were traveling to LA. “We HAVE to go to Sugarfish in Santa Monica.” So we did, straight from the airport. It was packed and a 45 min. wait (the perfect amount of time to get some shopping in), but it was totally worth it. I’m not an adventurous sushi eater, but oh my gosh it was divine. It was easily the freshest sushi I’ve ever had; I had a blue crab roll and a cucumber roll. Most people get the “Trust Me”, where they bring you all different kinds of sushi and you just, well, trust them it will be delicious. Next time, I think I’ll go for it.

Oh, and did I mention this place is a celebrity hot spot?? So you know that makes me like it even more ….

S W E E T   B U T T E R 

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Okay, so this was another one my coworker kept going on and on about, and guess what, it was amazing. She definitely has good taste. This was an adorable breakfast and lunch spot in Sherman Oaks. We sat outside and enjoyed the Cali weather, a cappuccino, avocado toast and pumpkin pancakes. Is that perfect, or what?! They also had a mega drool-worthy dessert case. (I might have purchased a few things for later … and yes, they were delicious.)

M A L I B U   F A R M 

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I stayed an extra day after my work trip to hang out with one of my high school besties, who now lives in LA. She took me to this incredible lunch spot in Malibu. It sits on the new Malibu pier with absolutely stunning views. We had the perfect seat, on little couches overlooking the pier and sea. We drank mimosas, ate nachos and chatted just like we were back in high school. Unfortunately it was pretty chilly and overcast while we were there, but I will definitely be back and if it’s sunny, you might have to pry me from this place, mimosa in hand.

J O N  &  V I N N Y ‘ S 

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So this one has quite an interesting story and is my favorite on the list. About 3 years ago, I read an article in GQ about this new LA restaurant Jon & Vinny’s. Something about the article captivated me – maybe the fact that they deliver pizza AND wine?? Regardless, I sent it to my friend and asked her to please go for me. Well, here we were 3 years later trying to decide on dinner and we remembered the article. We had to go. It was a Sunday night around 6pm, so we didn’t think it would be too busy. HA. Little did we know, they are full with reservations every.single.night. Like, always full. The only way we would be able to get in is if we waited and someone didn’t show up for their reservation. We decided to take our chances.

In the back of the restaurant is this adorable, tiny little wine store called Helen’s with bottles ranging from $15 to $800. We made our way back there to get a glass of wine while we waited and hoped for a table. We stood back there for over an hour and met two of the most interesting, talkative people. It was amazing and fascinating and felt so LA. Just as we were finishing up our convo with the ex-pro golfer who was trying to hide from his family, the hostess told us she could seat us if we could be in and out in 40 minutes.

So we took the challenge, ordered a salad, a pasta and a pizza to share and never looked back. Words can’t even describe how amazing all three were. Sadly this was the only photo I took before inhaling it all, but take my word for it – if you are in LA, you have to go to this place! Just don’t forget to make a reservation!

I N – N – O U T

And of course, I would be remiss if while talking about food I didn’t share my food porn, drool-worthy photo of a California staple – animal style cheeseburger from In-N-Out.

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‘Ya hungry yet?

xo xo


Book Reviews: a Play, a Thriller + a RomCom

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I’ve been in a reading rut lately.

It seems like forever ago when I read the three books in this review because I’ve been failing miserably to find my next book. I started and stopped four books that I just couldn’t get in to, and then just gave up and fell back into my latest TV binge, Suits.

Then, the book gods blessed me with three new books in one week, and I’ve been devouring them. So, I decided to do my book review with only three books instead of my typical four, so I can start fresh with my new books.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling: I was so nervous about this one! I was afraid it would totally ruin one of my all-time favorite series, but I loved it! It takes a bit to get into the flow since you are literally reading a play. But once you do, and you immerse yourself again into the fantastical world of HP you will fall in love with the series all over again.
Grade: A

Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter: This one falls under a typical, go-to genre for me – mystery thriller with a female lead, a la Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Good Girl, etc. While I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it. There were some very dark themes in the book that I wasn’t prepared for (torture, rape) and were written about in more detail than I would prefer. If you like darker thrillers, you would probably really enjoy this.
Grade: B

The Hating Game – Sally Thorne: This one was given to me by a friend out of the blue so I knew absolutely nothing about it, and sometimes those are the best. I often build up books in my head so much that they don’t live up to the expectation. Well, I loved this book! It was such an easy, fun read that follows two work enemies who end up anything but enemies. It’s a very cute, playful love story with a sexy edge.
Grade: A+

xo xo
You can see all my book reviews here.
 

Book Reviews: Wine, Tears + More Wine

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When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi: This book will wreck you. But it is oh so worth the read. It is such a beautiful, true story about a 36-year old neurosurgeon whose world is immediately changed when he’s diagnosed with lung cancer. In his autobiography, he explores the meaning of life and death with such a unique perspective it will make you examine your own ways of thinking, and it will most definitely make you shed some tears.
Grade: A

Eight Hundred Grapes – Laura Dave: This is one of those easy breezy reads you should take on vacation – especially if you’re vacationing in wine country. It was light and fun, but had more depth and twists than I expected. It will make you want to drink wine, have a house on a vineyard and follow your dreams.
Grade: A-

Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn: I really did not like this book, and I really don’t know why I finished it. Maybe because I loved Gone Girl so much (same author), and I was just hoping it would turn a corner and get infinitely better, but it didn’t. It was dark and twisted and not my cup of tea.
Grade: C

Bread & Wine – Shauna Niequist: I.am.obsessed.with.this.book. I seriously could  read it all over again right now. The author shares life stories and intermingles them with her favorite recipes. I felt like I was in her kitchen, living life with her, breaking bread and drinking wine. She is so honest and transparent, and shares her faith in such an amazing way. I can’t wait for her new book to come out, Present Over Perfect.
Grade: A+

xo xo
You can see all my book reviews here.


My Top 5 Shows of 2016 So Far …

It’s the golden age of TV, people. And I’m loving it.

We’re halfway through 2016 and we’ve already had some incredible TV shows. And the exciting part is, there’s still so much more to come! I will definitely do another post about upcoming fall premieres I’m excited about, but for now, here are my top shows of 2016 so far.

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The Good Wife, Final Season (CBS)

The Good Wife was overall an incredible show, and will definitely go down as an all-time favorite. However, after Will died then Kalinda left, it kind of lost its way. I wasn’t as interested and just kept watching to watch, but they really picked it up in the final season. It had the excitement of the episodic cases again, and the sexy allure with Jeffrey Dean Morgan they’d been missing since Will. While I didn’t love the finale, I still give the season two thumbs up. Cheers to Alicia Florrick and Mr. Big.

150316-news-peoplevojThe People vs. O.J. Simpson (FX)

I am still surprised by how much I was enthralled in this show. Since I was very young when this happened in RL, I didn’t remember all of the details of the case or the specifics of the trial, so it made it that much more dramatic. But even if I had known everything that happened, this show still would have pulled me in. It’s a classic drama with terrific acting and great storytelling. You won’t be able to stop watching, and will still hold your breath while waiting for the jury’s verdict.

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O.J.: Made in America (ESPN)

This is definitely one of the best, if not THE best, documentary I’ve ever seen. Comprised of 5 episodes at an hour and a half each, it goes into tremendous detail, but not once do you feel like it’s dragging on. This is a complex story and this documentary tells it so well. I was truly fascinated hearing about O.J. as a “Football god”, understanding the backdrop of race relations in LA and listening to present day interviews from the lawyers, jurors and journalists. I enjoyed watching the drama first, then watching this to see all the nitty gritty details.

orphan blackOrphan Black, Season 4 (BBC)

This is a constant favorite of mine and always makes my end of year lists, so if you STILL haven’t watched it, you clearly don’t value my opinion. Its one of the few shows where I can’t take my eyes of the screen because I’m so hooked the entire episode. Tatiana Maslany, playing multiple clones, is truly one of the most gifted actress I’ve ever seen. Next season is the last, and you can feel a deliberate storyline leading to answers, which I appreciate.

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The Affair (Showtime)

This one is kind of a cheat, because we haven’t finished this season aired in 2016 yet. We flew through season 1 and just started season 2, but thought I’d add it to my list anyway. This show is thrilling and intense and captivating in such a unique way. The cinematography is beautiful and the storytelling is fascinating as you see extremely different perspectives both sides of the affair. Wonderfully done, and I can’t wait to finish the season.

mr-robotBONUS: Mr. Robot, Season 2 (USA)

Okay, okay. I haven’t seen this one yet, but it airs TONIGHT and I’m so so excited. Since we finished season 1 we’ve been dying for more. And as husband said, we know it will be incredible, so it needs to be on the list.

Also ….
Currently Bingeing: Veep, The Affair, The O.C. (for the 100th time)
Summer Guilty Pleasure: The Bachelorette (#TeamLuke!)
Next on our Watchlist: Game of Thrones (seasons 3-6), Love (Netflix original), Homeland (season 4-5), The Americans, American Crime

What are you currently watching?
xo xo