READ THIS! {The Night Circus}

This afternoon, I want to share with you my review of this month's READ THIS! novel, The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.

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A novel that I resisted reading for a long time, due to my wariness of any description including magicians, I am so sad that I let my pre-judgments get in my way. This is a novel that weaves a tale of love and passion, among one of the most intricately detailed settings that one could ever imagine. The Night Circus is heartfelt, breathtaking, and will transport you to a world that you will dream would really appear before your eyes. Morgenstern makes us hope that Le Cirque des Rêves would appear in our hometown and that we may be able to experience it's power, if only for an evening.

Amazon describes the novel as this:

"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart."


And it certainly opened up my heart and my senses, as I followed the story with eager anticipation. This story is not written in a singular time period, instead jumping back and forth between two distinct periods of time, until we see the stories collide before our eyes. Did you enjoy this or did you find it harder to keep up with what was happening in the novel? And if you could pick your favorite part of the circus, which tent would it be? I wouldn't be able to wait to see the clock or the memory tree - and how magnificent they would each be in real life. Did you find yourself bored with the story, or were you as incredibly enchanted as I was? I'd love to hear your take on this!

And now, I would like to introduce next month's READ THIS! novel. When I was younger, my mother instilled in me the importance of reading, and cultivated my love for books - making me the voracious reader that I am today. In her honor, as this month celebrates her as a mother, and her as a woman (her birthday is in a few weeks!), for May's READ THIS! novel, I chose The Flame Alphabet, by Ben Marcus.


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Amazon describes the novel as this:

"In The Flame Alphabet, the most maniacally gifted writer of our generation delivers a work of heartbreak and horror, a novel about how far we will go, and the sorrows we will endure, in order to protect our families. A terrible epidemic has struck the country and the sound of children’s speech has become lethal. Radio transmissions from strange sources indicate that people are going into hiding. All Sam and Claire need to do is look around the neighborhood: In the park, parents wither beneath the powerful screams of their children. At night, suburban side streets become routes of shameful escape for fathers trying to get outside the radius of affliction. With Claire nearing collapse, it seems their only means of survival is to flee from their daughter, Esther, who laughs at her parents’ sickness, unaware that in just a few years she, too, will be susceptible to the language toxicity. But Sam and Claire find it isn’t so easy to leave the daughter they still love, even as they waste away from her malevolent speech. On the eve of their departure, Claire mysteriously disappears, and Sam, determined to find a cure for this new toxic language, presses on alone into a world beyond recognition. The Flame Alphabet invites the question: What is left of civilization when we lose the ability to communicate with those we love? Both morally engaged and wickedly entertaining, a gripping page-turner as strange as it is moving, this intellectual horror story ensures Ben Marcus’s position in the first rank of American novelists."

While this may seem like a strange choice to honor my mother this month (if my words were toxic, my parents wouldn't have stood a chance), as a child one of my favorite books was, and still is, The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson, about an epidemic that killed everyone over the age of 12. I read this book more times than I could count and The Flame Alphabet seemed as though it will have a bit of the same spirit in it. I cannot wait to get into it and I do hope that you'll read along with me!

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DIY: Map Coasters

Happy 2nd First Date Anniversary to me and Josh! In honor of how much Josh and I love maps, I decided to continue my coaster making adventures (see my other latest ones here) with an addition of map coasters to our home! 


Making these is so easy! First, gather up your supplies: 

cutting board
x-acto knife
tiles
maps
mod podge
acrylic spray
corkboard
gorilla glue


Then, measure out the tiles onto the maps, cutting a larger square area around each map section you want for your coasters. 
 




 
Using mod podge, adhere this sheet to the tile, and set aside to dry. Repeat this for each tile.
 





 
After all of the tiles have dried, turn each over and remove the excess paper with an x-acto knife. 
 




 
Then, turn the tile back over and put another coat of mod podge over the top of the map.
 




Once all of the tiles have dried, use acrylic spray to place a clear coating over each map.
 




 
When the tiles are dry, measure against a piece of cork and cut down to approximate size using the x-acto knife.
 



 
Adhere the cork to the tile using as much gorilla glue as necessary.
 




 
Set tiles aside to dry and fully adhere to the cork bottoms, placing a heavy object over the tiles if necessary.
 



 
After a the cork is fully secure, remove the excess cork around the base of each tile. And then, voila! You've made your own map coasters! 
 




 
I absolutely love this project - how easy it was and how much meaning such a simple project holds. Each map is from a place that we have been together and that holds a special meaning in our hearts. Have you made anything sentimental lately? Do you love adding this type of decor to your home as much as I do? I'd love to hear from you!

PS. Sorry for the spacing issues in today's post - I'm hoping to get that fixed later in the day! Also, please stop by this afternoon for my review of April READ THIS! book, and the introduction of next month's!

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Sunday Drive {Garden Cottages}

Good Morning! I hope you are enjoying a beautiful weekend, and looking forward to a wonderful Sunday! To go along with this great Springtime weather we're having, I thought we'd take a Sunday drive past some beautiful garden cottages. Will you join me?




                                                                          Source: bhg.com via Sara on Pinterest


                                                                                 Source: bhg.com via Sara on Pinterest


                                                                                Source: flickr.com via Sara on Pinterest


                                                                                  Source: planetoddity.com via Sara on Pinterest


                                                                                       Source: bhg.com via Sara on Pinterest


Wow - what beautiful cottages! And those gardens! There's something about Spring that makes me wish I could plant a garden - and I cannot wait until one day when Josh and I are able to plant a garden filled with fresh veggies and flowers. My favorite is the third one - the lush garden and the beautiful sloping roof - swoon! And I can just imagine how amazing it would be to swing open those french doors and enjoy the garden with a cup of tea and a great book on a sunny day. Which one is your favorite?

Have a wonderful day!

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Happy {Golf} Weekend!

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This weekend, Josh and I are heading out to the golf course with some friends for the first time this season! It won't look quite like the picture above (although wow, I wish it would), but I am so, so excited! I've never actually golfed on a real, full course, but I can't wait to be out there and get a feel for it and hopefully by the end of the season, I'll be much better! 

This weekend, we're also planning on enjoying the nice weather and going back to the restaurant where we shared our first date, because on Monday it will have been 2 years since that night! I am so excited for a fantastic weekend, and I hope you are too! It's been an awesome week, and here are some of my favorites to share with you this Friday...

Must-see trailer for the new movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Struggling to come up with a Mother's Day gift? This guide might help you out!

This beyond incredible kitchen from House Beautiful via A Life's Design

I don't really drink bourbon, but if I did, this would be the only way 

These inspirational home and garden makeovers will make you swoon

And finally, how amazing does this chicken piccata recipe from 2 Sisters 2 Cities look?

Have a fabulous weekend!

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Organized Bathroom Bliss

A little while ago, I showed you what our bedroom/closet/bathroom area looked when we first moved in - empty, overstuffed, and in need of something on the walls. Next week, I'm going to finally show you how everything looks all together, but before then, I want to share with you what goes on in our bathroom storage. 



For almost 8 months, our bathroom cabinets looked like these two pictures. Nothing could ever be found, cabinet doors didn't always shut properly and I don't even want to tell you how many things have been lost due to dropping it in the toilet from the over-toilet cabinet. So finally, after way too many months of dealing with this, I decided to do something about it. 

First, I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and snagged these two metal drawers. They were a little more than I had wanted to spend, $19.99 for one and $14.99 for the other (before my coupons), but in case we find ourselves needed storage that is seen, I decided to go with the prettier looking drawers.

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Then, I set to work tackling the cabinets. I took everything out, figured out what was old (why did we have 5 opened toothbrushes for the 2 of us?) and what should be kept, and created a large bag of throw-away items. After removing all of the crap, it was amazing how much space we had to work with. 


I put the new drawers into the cabinet first, slowly filled them up, and then worked my way from there through the rest of that cabinet and the other one. I placed lesser used items in the bottom drawer and the top shelf of the hanging cabinet, making sure to keep things like medicine and band-aids, along with my hair dryer, well within reach. After only about an hour, our very crowded and messy bathroom cabinets finally look like this:


Sorry for the blurry pictures, the lighting in the bathroom isn't great!
Things are now easy to find and pretty to look at! I still cannot believe all of the useless stuff that I had in there - from old half used lotions to makeup that I hadn't used in years. It's so much nicer knowing how organized this area is now! 

Has the spring cleaning bug bitten you too? Cleaned out any spaces lately? What do you use for storage in your bathroom? And are you battling excess product like I was? I'd love to hear from you!

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DIY: Braided Headband (& How I Learned To Sew)

Good morning and happy Thursday! Are you loving the new blog design as much as I am? I love the funky pattern and the purple - my favorite color! I'm also loving my new Facebook page - and how easy it is to access it, and other social media pages, through the buttons at the right! Today, for my first post-re-design post, I want to share with you this awesome braided headband that I made.



I found this great tutorial on Pinterest ages ago and it led me to this tutorial at Make It and Love It. I've wanted to make these headbands since October. Yes, since October when I bought my sewing machine. Except to do so I had to actually learn how to use my sewing machine. I tried once, and failed miserably, but this past weekend, I sat down at our dining table, YouTube Videos and sewing machine in hand, and figured it out.


First things first, I had to learn how thread the machine and wind the bobbin, and figure out all sort of other sewing terminology that I had never heard. For awhile, I tried to make sense of what this very nice lady was trying to teach me. Except that her machine looked a little different and when it came to inserting the bobbin, her's came from above not the side, and it was too much for my meager sewing knowledge to handle. After trying to find someone else, anyone else, who might have my machine, I finally got smart, took out the Singer Tradition CD that it came with, and finally learned what to do.






Learning to thread this sewing machine was liberating (Susan B. Anthony just turned over in her grave) and I was beyond thrilled to have finally figure it out. Nash was really excited for me too.


Ok, mostly he just got freaked out every time I pressed on the pedal, but still, he stuck by me while I figured out how to use the machine. Then it was time to actually start the project. For materials, I grabbed 2 stretchy cotton t-shirts (I could have just used one, but I wanted the contrasting colors) and a pair of scissors. I picked up the t-shirts at Hobby Lobby for about $2 a piece since I didn't want to cut apart any t-shirts that I already owned. And I already had the thread in the machine, so I didn't need anything else.



I cut strips from the t-shirt at approximately a 1-inch width.




I laid my five strips next to each other and then on top of each other so that I could sew all 5 pieces together. The Make It and Love It tutorial advised that you could also super glue it, but learning to use my sewing machine was much more important. And I think it will last longer.




Then, it's time to start braiding. I tucked the sewn end of my headband under the sewing machine to keep it stable and, following the tutorial, I braided the headband, separating it into 3 and 2, alternating and braiding it as I went.





Before long, I had braided the entire headband, and also littered all of the placemats with bits of t-shirt. I brought the final ends together and sewed across them to keep them in place.


Then I looped into a circle like a headband, measured it around my head to decide on length and sewed over it again to keep it in place. Then, I trimmed off the excess fabric left at the ends. 



And then, voila!, you're done!  


I'm so happy with the way this turned out - it's the perfect gym sweat accessory. I also have shirts in blue and green that I'm going to sew up to use as well. The tutorial that I used also suggested putting another piece of fabric in place over the ends, but I only plan on using this for the gym, so I didn't feel like I needed to do that. 

Have you made anything with your sewing machine lately? Also a sewing machine newbie? I'd love to hear about it! 

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