Thursday, August 27, 2015

Stephanie's Clifford's Everybody Rise

In my quest to read two books a month for 2015, I agreed to read and "chatterbox" about Stephanie Clifford's book Everybody Rise. Knowing that it wasn't necessarily going to be my kind of book, I went into 2015 knowing full well that not everything I read would become a fast favorite. It's par for the course, right? Either way, I also went into the new year acknowledging that new reading material would expose me to new authors, new writing styles, and (hopefully) new vocabulary. Reading books, whether given to me for reviews or chosen off of my Amazon wishlist, would be good for me and enrich my life in a way that only books can. :)

With that being said…

Everybody Rise is the story of Evelyn Beegan's rise to the top of the social ladder. A new hire in NYC, she works for People Like Us and her job is to recruit as many of the elite class as she can. Along with a new wardrobe, she has to put on a facade to prove that she belongs – this means weekend trips to the Hamptons and many, many social events. While Evelyn finds herself more and more engrossed in this new lifestyle, her home life is crumbling. Her father is being investigated by the grand jury for stolen money. If he gets indicted, what will her friend's think? Will she still manage to be successful?

Stephanie Clifford provides a book
 description for Everybody Rise.

I have to say that at first I was very turned off by Evelyn's lifestyle. Even the author seemed a little to posh for me to be reading. While I do love the idea of buying a beautiful dress for new social events every night of the week, I didn't like that Evelyn was pretending to be someone she clearly was not. Purchasing perfume so that you have a particular scent associated with you? Come on!

It became obvious as I continued reading that Evelyn had clearly learned many of her (bad) habits from her mother. For example, Evelyn and her mother convinced Evelyn's father that Evelyn needed money for rent so that she could move to a safer part of town when really she just wanted new clothes for a social event! Who does that? What 20-something goes out into the world, does all of the social events, and then comes home to ask daddy for money? Clearly Stephanie Clifford comes from a very different social class than myself…

All in all, by the end of the book, despite any outrage and anger caused by the book, I actually began to enjoy it. Without saying too much, I felt like Evelyn finally began to find her place in the world … and it wasn't necessarily where she thought it would be.

Stephanie Clifford reads from Everybody Rise.

While I'm not sure I would read any other books by Stephanie Clifford, Everybody Rise was definitely an interesting look at the American dream and what happens when a 20-something's dreams are fulfilled (imho – too soon). It is also a cautionary tale to remind us to carefully consider who our friends are.

So should you read it? Do I recommend it?

Yes and no. I don't agree that it is a must, but if you can get into it, go for it.

Let me put it this way: If you have the choice between buying it, borrowing it, or not reading it at all, I would put it in the borrow category. It's an ok read if you are bored or attempting a challenge (like me), but I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase and read it.

What are your thoughts? Have you read Everybody Rise yet? Is it on your must-read list? I'd love to hear what you think!

Buy Everybody Rise here.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Flight from ATL to LGA

ATL airport @ 6:30AM

Last Thursday Justin and I woke up at an ungodly hour of the morning (2AM) to meet up with my in-laws and get to the airport 2 hours early for our 6AM flight to LGA. We were all excited about going through security because we had pre-check listed on our flight tickets – only to discover that the pre-check line wasn't open yet and we would have to remove our shoes, belts, liquids, and laptops anyway. :( Oh well. 

Of course that was only the beginning. It turns out food places didn't open until 5AM (no breakfast for the hungry … or sugar-highs for the tired) and then when we boarded the plane, there was some sort of hydraulic light that came on in the cockpit meaning we were stuck on the tarmac for an additional 30 minutes. Argh.

When we finally took off, I found myself highly entertained the entire trip … even without the internet to keep me company. This blog post is a summary of what I did … in the wordless form. :)

7AM sunrise

sun reflection on clouds (Forgive the dirty glass – I blame Delta.)

Engine + clouds 

The clouds were almost a landscape themselves…

First views of land + water! (since take off that is.)

Beautiful NY(?) landscape – 20 minutes out from landing…

So excited!

All of the taxis! #HowYouKnowYouAreInNYC (#OrAreThoseBuses?)

Getting closer…

Arrival to LGA @ 8:49AM

And just for fun…


haha. When was the last time you had this much fun on a flight?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Holiday Inn: Historic Downtown – Charleston, SC

image from IHG

Destination: Charleston, SC
Date: July 2015
Hotel: Holiday Inn
Brand: IHG
Elite Status: Spire
# of travelers: 2
nights: 1

Hotel & Brand: Making the Decision

Every year for my birthday, Justin and I travel to Charleston, one of my favorite US cities. I love the combination of beach + city, and the food found here is so so so good! Having spent a lot of money traveling during the 4th of July holiday to Savannah, Justin and I knew that for this getaway we would have to go light on spending. Having just recently opened up the IHG and Chase Sapphire rewards cards, we knew we had plenty of points to stay for a free night at any hotel of our choosing: the biggest question was where did we want to stay?

When I decided on booking the Holiday Inn, I have to admit that I thought if you booked with cash + points, you still received points for your stay. Since IHG was running a promotion to give you double the points (plus with Spire elite status I get 100% bonus points), I felt that staying with IHG would be a lucrative way to save money and earn points at the same time. Unfortunately, with any awards stay, I realized, you do not get points. However, the thought process behind this was mainly why I choose to stay with IHG. Plus, I was still trying to figure out how Chase Sapphire points could be redeemed… more on that in my next hotel stay post. :)

After picking the IHG brand to redeem points with, I had to decide between the downtown location, the river locations, or spots closer to the beach. One of the best things in life is waking up at a hotel on the beach, but given that IHG did not have that option for Charleston, rather than staying a few miles from the beach in a hotel where I would still have to drive to the ocean, I opted for either the more scenic views (near the river) or the downtown location. The deciding factor then became Justin (who preferred downtown) and the best use of points (which, as it turns out, was downtown where we could redeem our points at a higher value – 35,000 for approx. $250/night instead of 35,000 points for approx. $150/night at the riverview location).

The cobblestone streets in Charleston are beautiful…

Getting There & Parking

Justin and I were so busy all the way up until this trip. We were ready for a weekend getaway – looking forward to delicious food and a gorgeous view of the beach. I went to work with Justin on his half work day – Friday – and we left from there around noon to make the 6 hour drive stopping only once at the mall for me to get a haircut. When we finally arrived at the hotel, Justin pulled up beside the door and a valet helped us unload our car. Then we went to check in. As a heads up, valet parking at this hotel is $16/night and there is no self-park option unless you use city parking on the streets.

A few other options for getting there:
• Amtrak + taxi ride, which IHG shows will cost $40 from the Amtrak station.
• airport + taxi ride, which IHG shows will cost $30

The Lobby & Checking In

The Holiday Inn hotel lobby is pretty simple without much decor. You can expect tile floor and a million brochures along with the front desk staff who appear as nice and helpful but really don't do anything to go above and beyond their call of duty. When we checked in, even with the highest elite status available in the IHG program, we were still not offered bottled water, free breakfast, extra points, a snack, or even a room upgrade. *shrugs* Perhaps it's because we used reward points? Anyhow, at least they had our room available and ready for us…

Image from TripAdvisor

Room & View

Justin and I didn't have much time to get settled in since we arrived so late and had reservations at FIG. Nevertheless, we found our accommodations to be typical in size and extraordinarily bland in decor. We did not receive a room with a view (aside from the valet parking area), but our room did have a large tv, a desk, drawers, an extra chair beside the bed, and a small bathroom. Honestly, this hotel screamed "easy to clean" rather than comforting and being a "home away from home".

Hotel Property, Amenities, Free Breakfast, Etc…

Justin and I didn't get around to exploring much of the hotel, so I don't really have a whole lot to share in this section. :-/ The hotel was very basic without too many outdoor areas and even the inside felt a bit cold and unwelcoming (imho).

As listed on their site, this hotel offers:

• an outdoor pool
• a fitness center
• on-site laundry facilities
• same day dry cleaning
• free wi-fi

Breakfast here costs $12/person for the buffet, so Justin and I found we could go out to eat (Toast, anyone?) for a cheaper and more enjoyable experience. There was free coffee in the lobby though to get Justin through until we had completed the 10 minute walk to downtown Charleston to our chosen restaurant.

Location & Price

When I originally booked this hotel, I expected an easy walk to downtown Charleston (or at the very least – a trolley like the Hampton Inn Downtown Charleston has). Instead, after putting on high heeled shoes and attempting to walk to dinner that first night, I discovered the walk was much further than I had anticipated and ended up having to purchase $12 flip flops in downtown Charleston just so that I could make the trip back. (Clearly I wore the wrong shoes, so I recommend learning from my mistake rather than attempting it yourself!)

Even though the hotel was in walking distance to downtown, I recommend staying at the Hampton Inn or Courtyard Marriott on Meeting Street (for chain hotels) to be that much closer since the prices are about the same as the Holiday Inn. (Plus, having stayed at the Hampton Inn two years ago, I can tell you that I love that particular hotel!)

Overall I have to say that the price ≠ quality in this case. In my opinion, you would get more for your money by staying at the Charleston Riverview Holiday Inn hotel over this one even if you have to drive into the city and pay for parking. Plus, you get a view…

Every visit to Charleston should include a gorgeous beach sunrise!

Overall Review
★★★ (average)

One of my first stays at an IHG hotel in Panama City Beach was wonderful, but I'm slowly losing that "loving feeling" the more I stay at other IHGs around the east coast. They all seem to be pretty basic and scoring very high on the average end of hotels. I'm grateful to find them in so many cities and reasonably priced, but I often find myself wishing they would do something just a little extra to make our stays more worthwhile and enjoyable. By taking the initiative to provide a room with a view or making me aware of shuttle service could have taken my stay from "I'm never staying here again" to reconsideration. However, they did not do that. And because of this, in the future I will most likely choose a different IHG, a privately owned B&B, or the Hampton Inn if I stay in the downtown Charleston area again.

Your Turn

Have you ever stayed in a hotel in downtown Charleston? What are your thoughts on the IHG branded hotels? Are my expectation too high? Do you agree that IHG hotels are boring and bland or have I just been visiting the wrong ones? Feel free to voice your opinion below!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Make-Up & Skincare Monday

Over the past few weeks I've received a few new skincare products to review that I'm going to share with you now.

First, let's talk about the Dickinson's Refreshingly Clean Cleansing Cloths. I love how large these cloths are. They almost remind me of baby wipes; they are super soft and very moist. The product leaves your skin feeling hydrated and refreshed, perfect in hot weather. The one downside I found was the smell. For being "odor free", I found it to be … not. Is that a double negative? … The product has a very distinct unpleasant odor. It's not like lemons or anything refreshing either; instead it smells like moldy paper. Or maybe witch hazel (whatever that smells like!). In the end, I'm not sure if I would buy these in the future. I don't really use face wipes that much, but if I could have these without the strong smell, this would be what I'd use.

Next up, I tried the Vaseline Intensive Care Spray Moisturizer (the aloe soothe version). For someone with dry skin who hates applying lotions (greasy feeling ftl), this was kind of a miracle spray. To test the waters, I first tried it on my dry, cracked heels. Within seconds of rubbing the product in, my skin already looked better, healthier, and happier! Woot! The product is very light on your skin and more wet feeling than greasy, so you feel like you can touch other things right after using it. It has a nice light fruit/floral smell that disappears within seconds. And best of all, the spray cap turns to the left and right so that you can "close" the product when you are done using it to prevent accidental sprays! While I'm not sure yet if this will be a keeper in my super-light skincare routine, I definitely feel like Vaseline has put together a worthwhile product that makes moisturizing easier when you are on the go as often as I am!

One of the products I was most excited about trying was the Oz Naturals Sea Infused Herbal Moisturizer. Shortly after trying their under eye cream last month, they invited me to join their reviewer program and review some of their other products. The Sea Infused moisturizer was my first sample product from that program. I wanted to try it because it's the summer and who wouldn't want to try sea infused anything during the summer? The product comes out like a smooth, thin lotion and smells a bit like sunscreen, which isn't my favorite. And if I use it on my face, I immediately have to grab one of those cleansing cloths to wipe and keep my face from looking and feeling greasy. Overall, as much as I wanted to love this product, I think I will have to keep looking for a great face moisturizer.

After trying all of these moisturizing products, you would think my post would be over, wouldn't you? Except not. Tomoson hooked me up with New Radiance Naturals and their Anti-Aging Eye Gel. Having tried so many others in the past, I wasn't sure whether I would like this product or not. After a few weeks of diligently putting the product on every night, I came to discover that, like many of the others eye care products I've received to try over the past few months, this product was amazing and reduced the dark circles under my eyes quickly and dramatically (as in one use). My only complaint was the smell. It comes out of the bottle in small doses perfect for under eye application, and the product is so smooth and silky feeling. It is not drying to your skin nor is it greasy feeling. My skin felt super hydrated after using, almost like I applied a lotion. I would definitely recommend this product for those searching for an under-eye solution!

Finally, I got to relax and try the Sinful Colors Professional nail polish in southern belle. Be-u-ti-ful. It is definitely a gorgeous dark pink that looks fabulous now, but I imagine it will look even more fabulous in the fall. (Does fall scream dark colors to anyone else?) The brush makes it easy to apply a thin, smooth coat of paint to your nails, and it dries super quick reducing the chance you will get nail polish anywhere you don't want it.

Before going out on the town (or to babysit) I touched up my hair with my NuMe curling iron and I was ready to go! Feeling beautiful and confident is what it's all about, right?

Have you tried any awesome skincare or make-up products recently?

* I received these products for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are 100% my own. Thanks Influenster, Tomoson, and Oz Naturals! :)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Fun

What dreams are made of…

As much as I love you all (and I do! dearly!), Justin and I had to go visit with his family in New Jersey/NYC and Boston this weekend. Terrible life, right? Don't worry though! I will be back on Monday posting again! I hope you all have a fantastic weekend! :)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Story of Jeffrey MacDonald & A Review of Fatal Vision

In February 1970, Jeffrey MacDonald, a doctor and green beret, woke up in the early hours of the morning in his Fort Bragg apartment in North Carolina to the screams of his wife and children being murdered by hippies who were chanting "Kill the pig!" and "Acid is groovy!" Having been hit with a baseball bat and stabbed multiple times with a knife, Jeffrey MacDonald lost consciousness. When he awoke again, the killers were gone and his family was dead.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wordy Wednesday

Edisto Island, July 2015

I just love looking back and providing my mid month review. No idea how you all feel about it though. It's kind of fun seeing where I am at and where I've come from looking back month-by-month. Here's where I am and what I am up to this month–

Listening to: TribeTyler.

I first found out about his youtube when he posted his proposal video and it went viral. It was beautiful and very well done – everything I would want in a youtube video and truly an inspiration to me. (If he can create magic with a camera, then maybe one day I will be able to too…) Ever since I saw that video, I've been following his vlog daily as he documents his 20s.

Remembering: and watching video throwbacks recently posted online (on facebook of course!) of my trip to NYC in March 2001. It's crazy seeing how young everyone looks … and the twin towers that fell on 9/11! Insane! Plus, it's kind of fun hearing the tour again. There's a lot I remember, but there is also a lot that I have forgotten.

Planning: Recently, I've been using Native, an app I downloaded on my phone that is free for 2 months using coupon code pizzainmotion if you sign up before August 31st. Native helps with travel planning as you are instant-messaging with a travel planner/concierge. So far, Paul has helped me find a hotel for NYC and Boston, looked into cheap travel for me between the two cities, and helped me research breakfast restaurants at the Hartsfield airport that are open before 6am. While I could definitely do all of this on my own, it's been so nice having the advice of a travel agent. The price tag (without the 2 free months) is a bit expensive, but for what you are getting, it's a very good service and one I would definitely consider using in the future.

On a side note, we are also (still) looking into travel to Europe. Right now we're considering flying to NYC and taking Norwegian (with their super cheap $300 flights) to Copenhagen right after Christmas to celebrate the new year in Europe and stay for ~2 weeks. Of course I'm incredibly indecisive and perhaps I'd rather go next year in July closer to my birthday? *shrugs* The point is: we're going. Someday. If I ever make a decision.

Anxiously Awaiting: I'm sooo looking forward to seeing an amazing view of NYC and I'm ready to see my travel planning put into action.

Interested to Know: what life will be like when my nephew is born. The time is coming!

Keeping A Secret: This blog post was written a week in advance (the 13th) since I knew this week (17-21) was going to be crazy busy for me with packing and getting last minute travel things figured out! Eek!

DIY'ing: nothing at the moment. Can't a girl have a break? ;-)

Reading: Captive by Ashley Smith. It's the true story of a woman whose life was changed after she was held hostage when a criminal broke out of jail, shot a judge, FBI agent, and court secretary in the early 2000s.

Here's a look back at the books I have read so far in 2015:

• the After series by Anna Todd
• A Lion In Paris by Beatrice Alemagna
• I Sold My Soul to the Devil For Vinyls … Pitiful, I Know on Wattpad
• Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
• Refinery 29 by Piere Gelardi and Christene Barberich
• Frites by Anne de la Forest

• Summer Rain on Wattpad
• Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer
• How to Travel the World on $50 A Day by Matt Kepnes
• Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

• No Capes on Wattpad
• The Bro Code on Wattpad
• He Wanted the Moon by Mimi Baird

• Cookie Love by Mindy Segal
• Sweetapolita by Rosie Alyeah

• Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren
• Salsas & Moles by Deborah Schneider
• Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson
• Seven Spoons by Tara O'Brady

• All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

• Fatal Vision by Joseph McGinnis
Color Mixing Recipes for Watercolor by William F. Powell

• Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

What's going on in your life? Anything exciting?