Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review: Gone Girl

One of life's biggest challenges is finding extra time in each day. And once we realize we have a spare second to relax, how do we use that time? More recently than ever I've picked up reading again. When it becomes an elective pastime instead of school curriculum, we can find things that we enjoy and read for leisure. I tend to stray off the bandwagon until a novel has long fell off the radar from when it first came on the scene, and one I had been hearing a lot about Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. The cover image is slightly intimidating with frail, red lettering and a black background. Was I setting myself up for trouble? Would this book be disturbing and keep me up at night? It was worth a shot to at least begin reading to see if it sparked any interest. And as the days went by and I got deeper and deeper, I couldn't stop. I was actually sad when I turned the last page, but looking back I am pleased that I spent that sought after extra time reading this tale.

I don't want to give too much away, especially to those who are considering to read Gone Girl. It is one of those stories where you bounce back and forth from side to side, hearing the tale from two narrators, who just happen to be husband and wife. It is easy to follow because each person alternates chapter by chapter. It begins with the love story of how the duo met in the Big City (NYC). Then, flashing forward to the hot, southern backdrop of the Mississippi, Amy Dunne goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. The reader is questioning "who done it?" over and over again. It is difficult to speculate even though we all have our theories; Was there a motive for Nick Dunne? Did he want to escape his marriage? Is it someone from Amy's past? You end up playing games in your mind like a game of chess, when really the easy answer isn't always the right and obvious one.

I was most impressed by the author, who gives all readers the capability to step into the mind (and shoes) of both Amy and Nick. The way their thoughts are articulated really put you in the brain of the character. I found myself struggling to choose between "Team Amy" and "Team Nick," but the manipulation of each chapter made me teeter on a balance beam. In a sick and twisted way, you felt like you knew them and justified their reasoning. You begin to understand their thought processes and anxiously await the answers. And when the reader hits that epiphany of what has happened, everything makes sense.

So if you are looking for a quick and exciting read for the end of the summer, please pick up Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. I was so intrigued by the author that I have began to research more of her novels and cannot wait to see what else is in store.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Facing Our Faces

At what point in our lives do we face reality? I mean literally face it - that we are aging everyday. And although we may be one more day the wiser, what about our skin? Are we doing what we can to prolong the inevitable? That as we get older, so does our skin. And particularly the look and the feel. When is it okay to decide to take preventative measures and slow down the natural course of aging?

I have never been one of those people to use anything more than SPF 30. Hell, I'm lucky if I use 15. Like most of us, we enjoy building that summer glow as we bask in the sun and pray for a cloudless day. Even after my last annual trip to the dermatologist; I didn't need a little old (but adorably sincere) man stress the importance of wearing a tee shirt as I sit next to the pool. "You have an over abundance of beauty marks on your shoulders, arms, and chest. Make sure to use that SPF 50!" Okay doc, thank you so much (in my head I'm laughing and thinking yeah, right)! Aren't they called beauty marks for a reason?! Now I'm really starting to believe they are equivalent to the rings inside a tree trunk. Every ring equals another year of life. Maybe the more beauty marks we have, the more "wise" we are? However we try to spin it, we need to keep in mind that we're not suffering the consequences now, but we may in the future.

Getting back to my initial proposition: what is the right age to anti-age? The answer is really up to the individual. I'm not going to sit here and say that I regret slabbing baby oil on my body as my only means of protection as a teen. I may have waited until 27 to start taking new measures, particularly for my face, but here are some of the best products I've used (some of which I currently include in my daily regimen). It's true, the price of healthy skin can start to accumulate, but it may just save us the trouble later on. So I will do what I can with what money I have and hope that the future me will say thank you.

Facing Our Faces

1. Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturizer - Around $7.00 a bottle, this lotion was my go-to for majority of my life. Oil-free is one of the key components I look for, not to mention it's acne fighting ingredients. However, as I've gotten older, I've realized I may not need to focus on acne and more about the preservation of my skin.

2. Hawaiian Tropic Face - This is a newbie that goes for $9.99 and has really made a splash this summer. I literally had to order from Amazon because I failed to find it in stock at several pharmacies. It's light-weight feel is perfect for summer and also protects your skin with SPF 30. And the smell is delicious! Whenever I know I'm going out into the sun for long periods of time, I use this as my moisturizer. 

3. Estee Lauder Collection - A line that has literally stood the test of time. I was introduced to Estee Lauder by one of their most loyal customers (and one of the most beautiful), my mom. Found in almost every department store, these lotions can run more expensive than the drugstore brands, but most people swear by the long term effects. 

4. Loreal Revitalift Double Lifting - I discovered this in CVS in the fall of last year, interested in the packaging and wondering if it works. For about $18, this lotion claims to firm and tighten the appearance of your skin using both a moisturizer and gel. I definitely can agree that it aids, however you seem to run out of the gel much faster than the moisturizer. I ended up only using this around my eyes after I apply my regular moisturizer in the morning. 

5. Algenist Firming & Lifting - This is definitely one of the most pricey products I've used, almost $100 a jar, but it lasts a long time and you don't need to use much. Since adding this to my morning and night routines, I've noticed my face looks firmer and less sunken in (as I've continued to drop lbs on Weight Watchers). I have oily skin and I really don't see this effecting breakouts. Also, most firming creams separate a morning cream and night cream which can tend to increase your cost so using this for both is beneficial. 

I'm curious to see what other suggestions you may have out there. In the end, I believe women should choose to prevent aging when they deem it necessary. There is no set age because we are all exposed to different amounts of sun, pollution, etc. I just happened to start over the past year and I'm already seeing the positives. Let's face it, it is OK to age, as long as we stay smart about it and true to ourselves. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Happy Half-a-Century Meredith (aka SolelyMer) !

When I was little, I couldn't stand the mini-me trailing behind me in every step I took. "Are you twins?" "You look like twins" "Really, you're not? Who's older?" The years would pass, and our nappy hair would continue to grow longer and knottier. Sure, we all had our tantrums as children growing up with sisters. Pulling hair, stealing each other's barbies (and popping off their heads), "borrowing" clothes (or wearing the same outfit on purpose). But as we got older, the age gap of two years seemed to close. This little sister of mine was no longer little - she had matured into the young woman that she is today. I have watched her grow from her ear-piercing screech to an eerily identical (and nasally) interpretation of Britney Spears. In all seriousness, Meredith is one of the most beautiful people I know inside and out and today is her birthday! Not just any ordinary birthday. SolelyMer is 25! A whopping quarter of a century. I know this sounds intimidating, especially to spring chickens such as herself, but she has no idea how her 25 years of life have impacted mine.

Firstly, I need to thank Meredith for massively improving my sense of style. It would probably be non-existent if she did not step in and demand that I stop wearing clothes that did not flatter my curvier figure. Before I would go out, I would seek her stamp of approval (which I almost never got on the first attempt). Let's just say some of us need more guidance than others! Meredith has always had that instinct of what works and what doesn't. Her eye for fashion and beauty was self-taught and is always evolving.

Second, and more importantly, she has ALWAYS been there for me. Even when I moved to Buffalo for 2 1/2 years, even when I was over 600 miles away, I knew I could count on her. I realized that relationships, even if you don't talk everyday, can still be just as strong and loving as any other. She is basically my twin, after all, so we must have that 6th sense. Whenever I need advice or a jolt back into reality (considering we all know how OCD I can be), or just a hug, I know I can count on Meredith. The past couple years have definitely had their ups and downs, a few tests of our own strength, and we have been able to stick together through it all.

She has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I've ever known, and I would do anything to make sure she is happy. I will be there for her in all of life's moments, as she was there to fluff my gown and hold my bouquet when I said "I do."

So Meredith, I hope you have a Happy Birthday and are enjoying the beach and sun in Wildwood today. Thank you for being the best sister and friend I could ever asked for. I am proud that we are family and today celebrates you and only you! Love you!

Here we are as kids, nappy hair and all :)

On my wedding day, how coincidental we are on the same sides <3

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Happy Birthday Rocksters!

Today my little man (and by little man I mean cat) turns 3! For my fellow cat lovers, or pet lovers in general, we know how important our fur babies are in our lives. I can't help that I am obsessed with his little face and whiskers. Rocky may only be three years old, but I have enjoyed every minute watching him grow from a time where he used to fit on top of the cable box without a foot or paw dangling over the side.

I may be a little bias, but Rocky is one good looking cat. Although Jay believes in his heart that Rocky is really a tiger - when we signed the lease to our apartment, we had to include the details of our pet (breed, color, etc). Jay jotted down without hesitation, "orange with black stripes." Now either Jay is colorblind, or he really believes that our feline friend is a tiger. Either way, Rocky has been the best addition to our family and one of the best things we took out of Buffalo.

So, Happy Birthday to my sweet little Rocky. Here's to three years of life and many, many more!

These are a few of my favs, from the first year we got him. :) Meow!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Are We Who We Say We Are?

Ahh, young love. We all remember what it's like when we first start dating someone. The constant butterflies, the need to be with that person at all times. And if we're not, we're either thinking about them, texting them, or calling. Getting to know someone is usually the best part - we find out things in common, favorite things, dislikes, phobias, habits. But are we really getting to know them?

I admit, when Jay and I first started dating, I wanted to seem a lot more interesting than I really am. I definitely was more laid back and "go with the flow." I was always up for new adventures and taking risks. Sneaking into the wrong (but closer) section to the field at the Yankees game. Walking into the VIP of just about any venue. On the outside I seemed cool and collected, on the inside I was paranoid as hell that we would get caught. But I did it anyway because I wanted to impress my man.

If Jay asked me tomorrow to sneak into anything, even a movie theater - I would deflect. And probably cause a scene if he tried to force me. He knows how I am now, and nothing inside of me has really changed. I'm just letting him see how I really feel. The real me. Without my hidden agenda of keeping the cool factor.

This exact thought really got me rationalizing - who are the people we fall in love with? Are are we ourselves but in a different form? My friend tells me, "It's like Chris Rock says - we begin by dating a representative of the person." And you know what? I actually agree. There is too much at risk in the beginning. You don't want to freak that person out because maybe you're a little OCD about locking the apartment door as soon as you get in the house. Maybe you like peeing with the bathroom door open, regardless of the time. Maybe you insist on checking to make sure the door is locked before going to bed. Even if you're husband says it's locked and assures you it IS locked. We don't show all of our habits because we don't want to scare men away. And if that's just us, do men do this too? I will more than likely ask my husband later today, but I can almost guarantee that they do..

I just want to note this disclaimer if my husband reads this - Jay - I am who I say I am. It's not that I've changed, I've just let you see every side of me. I'm sure there are things you kept from me in the beginning as well, and that is OK. We probably wouldn't be here, 4 years later (one of which being married, well, almost one year in September) if we didn't keep those little nuisances to ourselves. You first met me as a 22 year old girl, who is now a 27 year old woman. I've been through quite a bit in my life and I knew what I wanted. And that is you. So either you take this creepily or hopefully love me more. In the end, you have me, along with the good and the bad,  and most certainly the true me.

Here's a throwback (note the timestamp) of a time where I'm sure we cut a few lines to get into the bar at the W in Hoboken, NJ. ;)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Solo Week Recap

Well, I survived a full week without my husband. I have to admit, I thought I'd get more done. But the extra time really is insignificant - we find other things to do (or not do, like work out everyday for example), and that's just the way it is. Seven days flew by much faster than I could have ever imagined. And here I am again, lounging on the couch. Jay's feet are up on the ottoman and Rocky is perched in his kitty condo. Our normal Sunday evening is back in full effect.

I still need to hold myself accountable for the goals listed in the beginning of Jay's trip. Whether or not I accomplished them all is one thing, but I got close.

1. Write a new post everyday - I was able to hit 4 out of 5 weekdays. Tuesday was quite the struggle to motivate myself in just about anything, but I am extremely proud of the content and my stories shared. I love the whole experience of blogging - even just getting the words out is good enough therapy for me.
2. Workout everyday - 3 days of Physique 57 and 1 day of cardio. Again, Tuesday lagged success. 
3. Visit my family one or two nights - Check here 100%! Now, they are off to Wildwood for a week so we won't see them for a bit.
4. At least one dinner date with friends - Sunday night I met 3 friends for dinner at Cuban Pete's in Montclair, which if you are ever in that area, PLEASE go there for dinner. Best seafood paella I've ever had, and the atmosphere makes you feel like you're on at a local gem on a tropical island 
5. Cook something new - I made the frittata again, does that count? :)
6. Clean - If you count waiting  until the Saturday morning before Jay got back, mission accomplished. I did a major vacuum session as well as spruced up the place. He came home and noticed how clean it was, so I'll take it.

With Jay's return, I realized something about being on my own for an extended period of time - It's not that we, being solo, have more time to get things done. The amount of time doesn't change, the minutes of the day don't actually extend. We try to utilize them in a different way, but in the end, a week is only a week. And besides the increase of talking to myself out loud to kill the silence, I was still in the same habits and routine of a normal work week. Now I'm just happier to do them with my special someone :)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Getting Ready for the Vineyard - Loving LOFT

When most people think Ann Taylor, they think mature clothing for the middle-aged. However, LOFT has really earned itself the right (at least in  my book) to say that they have transformed their image to young, career-oriented yet fashionable women who also look for a great deal. 

Granted, I only tend to shop there when it's at least 40% discount or more, but right now they are having a 50% off sale and I couldn't help myself but to snatch up the below 5 items. All half off and perfect for my annual Delinko trip to Martha's Vineyard.

Martha's Vineyard

From left to right starting on the top:

Lou & Grey Tile Stitch Sweater - was $54.99, now $27.50
Cropped Linen Open Jacket - was $74.99, now $37.50
Eyelet Sleeve Cardigan - was $54.99, now $27.50
Beach Halter Dress - was $34.99, now $17.50
Spaghetti Strap Chambray Romper - was $54.99, now $27.50

My grand total came to $137.50, but low and behold I had a $20 gift certificate that I had earned from my LOFT card. $117.50 plus free shipping? Not too shabby.

Check it out for yourself, you won't be sorry :)