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Reviews

Book Reviews: Into the Water, Into the Countryside + Into Small-Town Texas

 

My Italian Bulldozer – Alexander McCall Smith: What a fantastic, easy-to-read, fun book – especially as you’re on a train traveling throughout the Italian countryside. Thanks to Mom for buying it for me to take to Italy, as it was absolutely perfect. It’s a quirky read about a food writer going through a divorce who just needed to get away and get inspired. It’ll leave you salivating for a trip to Montalcino.
Grade: A

Option B – Sheryl Sandberg: I’ve already written an entire blog post about this book, so I’ll keep this short. This book rips you apart, then helps put you back together again. I want everyone to read it – especially if you’re grieving or if you’re close to someone who is.
Grade: A+

The Magnolia Story – Chip and Joanna Gaines: If you’re a fan of Fixer Upper, you’ll be a fan of this book. It gives you an inside look at the Gaines’ story – from their first date to their first call from HGTV and everything in between. It’s an interesting, refreshing love story that makes you fall in love with Chip and Jo even more. (And I didn’t even think that was even possible.)
Grade: A

Into The Water – Paula Hawkins: From the writer of Girl On The Train (one of my favorite books of 2015), I was a little skeptical about this one. I wasn’t sure how she could possibly follow such an incredible debut. Yet, she did. Though not quite as thrilling and page-turning as the previous, the story and characters were still terrific. I was thoroughly entertained throughout and pleasantly surprised. Her next book will definitely be on my list.
Grade: A-

You can read all my book reviews here.

xo xo

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Kicking the Shit Out of Option B

As you know, I typically do book review posts with short commentary on books I’ve read and give them a grade. I love sharing what I’m reading and inspiring others to read more as well.

However, sometimes there are books that are just so eloquent and inspirational, they deserve their own post. First of which was Carry On, Warrior, which you can read here. And now, Option B by Sheryl Sandberg.

I read Sheryl’s first book, Lean In when it came out several years ago and loved it. I blogged about it in my book reviews in 2013 and gave it an A, saying it had inspired me to lean in and take more control of my career. I knew then Sheryl was a remarkable, passionate woman and someone to follow.

Fast forward to her new book, Option B. Not only do I still believe she is a remarkable, passionate woman, but I’m convinced her writing is changing peoples lives all around the world, something I’ve always aspired to. And I say that, because her writing changed my life back in 2013 and again in 2017, and I’m just a simple 20-something girl in small-town Bentonville.

Option B is about facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy. It sounds like it could be a cheesy self-help novel, right? Completely wrong.

She opens the novel by sharing the story of her husband’s sudden death while on vacation in Mexico, and having to travel home and tell the kids their father wasn’t coming home. I read this on a train in Italy and had to literally stop myself from just losing it. It was so real and so raw and so emotional, and I could feel it all.

The thing about this book is, though it rips you apart, it then helps put you back together again. As she was telling her story of grief, it opened up all the wounds of my own grief from a few years ago when my Dad died. But then it put me back together again. Not only could I relate to so many things she wrote (like, the elephant in the room or using journaling as therapy), but she also gives very practical advice on how to build resilience and find joy again. She validated all of my feelings and reminded me I wasn’t alone on this journey of grief, even 3.5 years later.

I want everyone to read this book. Especially if you’re grieving or if you’re close to someone who is. And if for any reason you can’t afford it, I will buy one for you.

“Life is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B. This book is to help us all kick the shit out of it.”

xo xo


favorites, round 7. [walmart edition]

Things I love and want to share with you, so you can love them too.
[And yes, I do work for Walmart, so I especially want you to know about these awesome Walmart finds too!]

BIG BUDDHA: Did you know Walmart carries Big Buddha shoes and bags?! Until recently I had no clue, and now I own 3 pairs of shoes. Okay let me tell you about them – the sandals in the top left picture are so stinkin’ adorable and comfortable. I’ve seen a ton of these look-alike sandals in different retailers, but these are the most affordable at $13.

And I’m obsessed with the heels in the bottom right corner. A coworker started the trend and of course, now we all wear them on the same day all the time (case in point above). You can’t see the heel, but it’s short and chunky and totally in style. I bought them in black and tan, obviously, because they’re only $11.

The bag, pictured above the heels, is also Big Buddha and sent by my sis this morning! I love to send my family my WM finds and she sent us this one. I’ve literally almost bought this bag multiple times, but not sure why I haven’t. They have multiple colors/styles in-store.

CACTUS PLATES + BOWLS: Top right are these adorable cactus plates I found in-store for $1.50. I immediately bought two, then went back a few days later and bought two more. They’re plastic so very lightweight, but perfect for a Summer get-together, yeah?? Also worth mentioning are the amazing Better Homes and Gardens melamine plates. These are heavier and very nice. I buy their new Summer styles every year and always get compliments on them.

AVIA TANKS: Aren’t these tanks great? I’m sure you’re starting to see a trend here … when I find something I like that’s affordable, I buy in multiples. Since I’ve started exercising more it’s more fun to buy workout clothes and these are perfect. They are breathable, come in multiple colors and are just $7 each.

FADED GLORY DRESS: Okay so this is not a great picture of the dress, but I wear it ALL THE TIME. It’s sleeveless and so comfortable. It’s long enough for work, but cute enough for weekend. I just purchased another one in black. You will see me in these allllll Summer and definitely in Italy. Unfortunately they are out of most sizes in-store and online, but search your store just in case! It will be worth it, especially for only $7 each!!

OZARK TRAILS: Oh, Ozark Trails, how I love thee. (pictured top left with the sandals) We all know the Yeti trend, and yes we jumped on the bandwagon at first too. Until we found Ozark Trails at Walmart. It is EXACTLY the same as Yeti. I mean exactly. And I can say that for certain since we have both. We now have 3 coozie cans (pictured), 4 tumblers and most recently the cooler. It keeps my beer extra cold and my coffee extra hot, and I am a happy camper.

What is your favorite Walmart find?

xo xo


Book Reviews: A Lover, A Wife + A Handmaid

 

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff: There are only two reasons this book gets A minus – it starts a little slow and it’s a little too long. But everything else about it is just fabulous. It is a truly epic and fascinating love story that takes you on a ride with no clue of the final destination. Told in two parts – Fates is from the husband’s perspective and Furies is from the wife’s perspective. The latter infinitely more interesting and has a shocking twist.
Grade: A-

What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty: I’ve read several of Liane’s books, and I absolutely adored this one. It’s a tragic plot – she hits her head and has seemingly forgotten 10 years of her life, including her kids and her failing marriage – but it’s also so endearing. She sees her current life through a totally new, un-jaded lense and vows to get her marriage back on track. It’s cute, it’s easy, and it makes you thankful for what you have.
Grade: A

Wearing God – Lauren F. Winner: Highly recommended from a friend, I’m passing along this recommendation to all of you. This is a thought-provoking book about metaphors of God – though not the ones you immediately think of such as King or Shepherd, more like Clothing, Laughter, Laboring Woman… intrigued yet? This is a great book to read with a friend and discuss together. It will probably make you feel uncomfortable, but I promise it will also give you a new perspective on God.
Grade: A
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood: I vowed to read this book before I watched the show on Hulu, and I’m so glad I did. Oh.My.Gosh. This book AND the TV show are absolutely incredible. It’s creepy and weird and will make you cry and will make you gasp, but it is such a good story. I’m so glad Hulu has taken it over so well and expanded upon the book, because I finished it and was dying for more.
Grade: A

 

You can read all my book reviews here.

xo xo


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!

*** 

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!!)

img_2053
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