Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Review: The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig


The Garden Intrigue
By: Lauren Willig
  • SBN-13: 9780525952541
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/16/2012
  • Series: Pink Carnation Series, #9
  • Pages: 400


First off, this is the ninth book in the Pink Carnation series, so there may be some spoilers to previous books. 

Eloise and Colin are hosting a film crew at the house, where they are filming an awful regency movie. Colin can't stand having the film crew trod through his grounds but he was outvoted by both his sister, Serena, and enemy, Jeremy. Eloise is on edge because she is offered a teaching position for the fall... back in the U.S.

In France, however, Augustus Whittlesby continues to surreptitiously woo Jane Wooliston, who is having none of it. His mission throws him into the constant presence of Emma Delagardie, an American connected to the Royal family, in order to discover the machine Napoleon plans to use to invade England. There is lots of misunderstandings between the Augustus and Emma, leading to anger and hurt and Augustus must face the choice between his mission and the woman he loves.


If you haven't read the Pink Carnation series and you enjoy historical fiction, you really should stop what you are doing and go get the first book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. It's a delightful series that chronicles English spies during the time of Napoleon and a modern day History student doing dissertation research in England.

Once again Lauren Willig has set up her characters wonderfully, we see another match made amongst the spies and Eloise's relationship with Colin starts to become rocky as her time in England starts to wind down. 

I love the juxtaposition of the historical (well, not technically historical) stories against Eloise's story. Although the spies move much quicker, whole relationships form and end within one book, whereas Eloise moves much slow, I like that her story connects the series together. 

In The Garden Intrigue, I liked learning more about Jane and her role in the network, even though she is still not the main character. While I enjoyed seeing her again, I do wish she could be a little more human and less ethereal. Augustus' character contrasts her nicely since even though he lauds himself as a seasoned spy, he still falls prey to his heart- much like the poet he "pretends" to be ;-) I hope we see Augustus and Emma again back in England. I'm also anxious to keep reading just to see how Eloise's relationship progresses- I love Colin and want to see them happy together! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014


I want amazing pictures of our little girl! Beautiful pictures! And lots of them! 

Pictures that I can print on canvas and let them surround us in our home. 

I feel like I really missed out by not getting newborn pictures, although we were really way to busy to do them (C-section recovery, moving across the state, blah blah blah). 

So I've started looking into some local photographers, and I would love to support them.... but have you seen how expensive it is to purchase the digital images? I'm not interested in having them print pictures for me, I want the digital images so that I can print them, post them online, put them in my photobook creations. But if I want good pictures several times a year, it would cost me a fortune to do that!

Because of the expense of purchasing digital images, my husband and I are looking at purchasing a DSLR, figuring out a good lighting set-up, taking some classes and figuring it all out on our own. It will definitely be a very large upfront cost, but if we stick to it and do it right, it will save us a lot in the long run. I hate not supporting local photographers, especially since so many do such great work, but I just can't stomach paying $150+ for just a few digital images, not including the sitting fees. Especially in the DIY-culture that we are a part of.

We've both always wanted a DSLR but we could never justify it enough. Now we look at our little girl and think how could we not spend our time and money documenting her life. 

So now I have another goal to add to my list of things to do right now! Learn about saving retirement, buying a house, and how to take and edit beautiful photographs. Ready... set... go!

If anyone has any advice on what cameras to look at (we're thinking one of the Canon Rebels?) or where to get some good information, please share!! I'm all ears, well, eyes.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby


Nick Carraway narrates his past relationships with the mysterious Jay Gatsby, a reclusive and wealthy man who holds extremely lavish parties at his mansion. Gatsby uses his relationship with Nick to gain access to the lost love of his life, a woman already married. Gatsby and his love begin an affair, but her husband becomes aware of it as Gatsby urges her to leave her husband and stay with him. Tragedies unfold as love triangles break up into pieces throughout the course of an evening, leaving everyone heartbroken.


So I've never reviewed a movie before, and I definitely don't claim to be a movie critic, but I just wanted to share some thoughts on the new movie The Great Gatsby. I just received it last week from Netflix, I know I'm so behind the times but that's what a baby does to you. I had wanted to see it in theaters but hubby did not and so I didn't push it.

Anyways, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a gorgeous movie. I loved the the cinematography and the glitz and glam of the 1920's costumes and sets. The whole way through it, I kept thinking how the cinematography reminded me of Baz Luhrmann films... and sure enough, after it was over I checked it, and it was directed by Luhrmann! Do I know directors or what? He's the only one I can recognize though just by watching the movie. I haven't liked all of his movies (Strictly Ballroom), but I like most, especially Moulin Rouge.

I also enjoyed the movie because I finally felt like I understood the appeal of the story. I read the book back in high school, and either from my age or the actual book, I just never connected with storyline. I didn't understand why I should care about any of the characters and their lives were just so shallow and vapid that I didn't care what happened to them. As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, it bothered me that I didn't understand the appeal of this classic, but after seeing the movie, I think I get it. I should probably give the book another try now since I am a little older and I've seen the movie.

If you have a free evening, I recommend this movie! It could definitely be a good date night movie! Unfortunately I watched it during the day so hubby didn't have a chance to watch it with me (he goes to bed too early anyways) so I don't have his take on the movie.

Directed byBaz Luhrmann
Produced byBaz Luhrmann
Douglas Wick
Lucy Fisher
Catherine Martin
Catherine Knapman
Screenplay byBaz Luhrmann
Craig Pearce
Based onThe Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
StarringLeonardo DiCaprio
Tobey Maguire
Carey Mulligan
Joel Edgerton
Isla Fisher
Elizabeth Debicki
Jason Clarke
Music byCraig Armstrong
CinematographySimon Duggan
Editing byMatt Villa
Jason Ballantine
Jonathan Redmond
StudioVillage Roadshow Pictures
Bazmark Productions
A&E Television
Red Wagon Entertainment
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • May 1, 2013(New York City premiere)
  • May 10, 2013(United States)
  • May 30, 2013 (Australia)
Running time142 minutes[1]

**copied from Wikipedia**

Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Review: The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey


The Total Money Makeover
By: Dave Ramsey
  • ISBN-13: 9781595555274
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/10/2013
  • Pages: 272


Dave Ramsey outlines his financial plan to a wealthy life in this book. He has 7 baby steps, that if followed, he says can get you out of debt and on the fast track to a better life. The 7 baby steps are not easy, but they are simple.

1. Save $1000 and put it away as an emergency fund! This will protect you from going further into debt as you work through the baby steps. 
2. Begin your debt snowball- list all of your debts, excluding mortgage, in order of smallest to largest. Pay minimum payments on all of them except the smallest debt, attack that one with every penny you have that isn't necessary to your survival. Once that debt is paid off, put all of the money you were paying into the first debt into the second smallest one. And so on until you are debt free, excluding your mortgage. 
3. Finish your emergency fund of three to six months of expenses. This allows you to cover emergencies in case there is an injury, illness, unemployment, or major repair that was expected. This is not to be used for wants. 
4. Invest 15% of your income into retirement savings. Do not rely on social security for retirement, even if you get some, you will be eating Alpo in your retirement. You need to plan for retirement now. 
5. Save for college. Dave recommends an ESA (educational savings account) invested in a growth-stock mutual fund. If you max out that, then look into 529s for college savings 
6. Pay off your home mortgage! Imagine life without this payment! Now put all you can into paying it off. Dave recommends only 15 year mortgages (it's the only debt he allows, although he still prefers the 100% cash plan). 
7. Build Wealth. With a well-stocked emergency fund, no debt, retirement and college taken care of--- you can now build your personal wealth! Yay! Money is good for... fun! to invest! and to give! 


Recently my personal mission has been to become a responsible adult. I've always been on the more mature side, even as a kid. However, since having our own child, I just feel like I'm still not there yet. There is still so much that I don't know and so many decisions that I need to make and I just don't know the right answer. Part of my worries are about money- both my current budgeting and spending, as well as planning for the future- a house, retirement, college, etc. I don't want to make the wrong decision.

My husband and I have very little debt. We paid off his student loans within several months of them kicking in. We do have a car loan but we are almost done with that and it was a 0% interest loan, which is why we were able to pay off the student loans so quickly. However, I do enjoy spending money when I probably should have been saving more of it. We now want to buy a house and there is no way we are close to having a 20% down payment. But I digress......

My parents did Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University classes several years ago, so I had heard his name being thrown around before. I read this book in order to get a feel for what is recommended to do with our money. I really like his plan, although we may not follow it to the letter, we will probably get a 30 year mortgage. I think the principles of his plan are good... live on less than you make, invest and save everything you can, some sacrifice now can pay dividends later, "live like no one else so later you can live like no one else." Dave Ramsey's plan is very no-nonsense. It is not a get rich quick scheme, his plan will take years and years of hard work but it can pay off. However, sometimes it does sound like he is trying to sell his plan a little too hard. For example, there are testimonials from people who followed through on his baby steps and now find themselves much better off than before they started the plan. While inspiring, these can get a little annoying when you just want the information, plain and simple. Since I already knew the basics of his plan and was on board with it, his sales tactics sometimes bothered me, but that shouldn't detract from the principles in this book. 

I highly recommend this book if you want ideas on how to better your financial situation. His baby steps make it easy to see what you need to be focusing on at this moment. If all of American could stop it's reliance on debt products, I do believe we would have a better, more mature and responsible, culture. Nothing good should come too easy, we need to work for what we want.

This was one of my favorite quotes from the book, it came towards the end after he talks about building your wealth:

Another paradox is that wealth will make you  more of what you are... If you are a jerk and you become wealthy, you will be king of the jerks. If you are generous and you become wealthy, you will be more generous. If you are kind, wealth will allow you to show kindness in immeasurable ways. If you feel guilty, wealth will ensure that you feel guilty for the rest of your life.
I'm not sure why that spoke to me so much, but just loved the reflection on money. It is amoral, it only gains a characteristic when we give it that characteristic. We need to build wealth, but not so that we can have anything we desire, but so that we can be and do good. For us, our families, and our communities.