Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Year in Review

As a lover of lists and bullet points, I've consolidated my year into little nuggets of info. I enjoy looking back at some of the high points over the last year and this is awesome to review year after year. (To read 2013 click here.)











How was your 2014?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Books I've Read

My good friend Jill wrote about the books she read last year and she kept a list the entire year! I thought it was such a great idea, that I decided to keep a list of all the books I've read in 2014.

My list is below and I'll comment on a few of my favorites afterward.

2014 Books I've Read

1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot*
2. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
3. Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
4. Never Con a Corgi - Edie Claire
5. Honeymoon for one - Chris Keniston
6. Catching the Bad Guy - Marie Astor
7. Trouble in Mudbug - Jana DeLeon
8. Finding Pride - Jill Sanders
9. Discovering Pride - Jill Sanders
10. Just This Once - Rosalind James
11. Scarlet Nights - Jude Deveraux
12. Louisiana Longshot - Jana DeLeon**
13. Lethal Bayou Beauty - Jana DeLeon
14. Swamp Sniper - Jana DeLeon
15. The Honeymoon Cottage - Barbara Cool Lee
16. The Big, Not-so-Small, Curvy Girls Dating Agency - Ava Catori
17. In Search of a Love Story - Rachel Schurig
18. Innocent in Las Vegas - A.R. Winters
19. Drive Me Crazy - Marquita Valentine
20. The Tycoon's Make-Believe Fiancee - Elizabeth Lennox
21. Life After Life - Kate Atkinson***
22. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling****
23. Beautiful On the Mountain - Jeannie Light
24. Swamp Team 3 - Jana DeLeon
25. The Color of Heaven - Julianne MacLean
26. Peaches Monroe Stardust - Mimi Strong
27. A Curvy Coldwater Christmas - Jenn Roseton
28. Butterfly Garden - Annette Blair
29. Gator Bait - Jana DeLeo
30. You Had Me At Merlot - Marley Gibson
31. How the In-Laws Wrecked Christmas - Fiona Gibson
32. Six Months in Montana - Pamela Kelley
33. Married for Christmas - Noelle Adams
34. Killer Christmas - Harper Lin
35. The Right Choice - Carly Phillips
36. To Helen Back - Susan McBride

*The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - This book was recommended by someone and was awesome! It's one of two non-fiction books on my list and it's about Henrietta's (involuntary) contributions to science and how HeLa cells helped develop the Polio vaccine and countless other major breakthroughs in science. Click here to read the summary on Amazon.

**Louisiana Longshot - This is the first in the Miss Fortune Series by Jana DeLeon. I really have enjoyed this series so far. It's about a CIA Assassin who is sent into "hiding" in rural Louisana. She must learn about the inner workings of life ina Southern small town and ends up getting involved in some crime-solving escapades while she's there. This series is funny, witty and kept me interested! Click here to read the summary on Amazon.

***Life After Life - This was recommended to me by my friend Amie and it certainly did not disappoint. I can't really do a summary justice, so I'll let Amazon do it for me: On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.
Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can -- will she?
Click here to read the summary on Amazon.

****Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - This is the other non-fiction book on my list. I've long been a fan of Mindy since her days as Kelly on The Office and love her show The Mindy Project. Her first book had me laughing AND tearing up. Her commentary on life, love, fame, etc. is witty and inspiring and I often find myself thinking some of the exact same things. Growing up as an Indian child in America also provides some excellent banter for her in this memoir. If you enjoy sarcastic and witty humor, you will enjoy this book. Click here to read the summary on Amazon.

Overall thoughts on my book list: First, I'm a little disappointed that there are only 34 on the list. I'm a voracious reader but lately my reading seems to have taken a backseat to other things like social media surfing and TwoDots playing on my phone before bed. One of my 2015 resolutions will be spend less time mindlessly on my phone and more time intentionally reading or learning. Don't judge me by my 34...okay?

If you are a reader, I encourage you to keep track of your books next year. It's great to look back on those books that made an impact on you...and then realize how forgetful your beach or vacation reading really is. :) (there are books I read on my honeymoon in the list above that I couldn't begin to summarize for one ear and out the other, I guess.)

What are some memorable books you read this year?

A quick shout-out! Today is M's birthday. Happy Birthday my love!! :)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Recap

I hope your Christmas was wonderful. Ours was busy and full and great!

We started our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve. Some of the women on my mom's side of the family always gather together for breakfast on Christmas Eve at Cracker Barrel. We enjoyed this year and it's great to see some of my favorite family members. The photo above is my mom, my sister and me in the "store". :)

My family has always done our big food-gathering-and-present-opening on Christmas Eve, so they came over to our house and we commenced eating and opening presents. We normally do heavy appetizers and snacks for the "meal" so I prepared a few appetizers along with a selection of Christmas sweets I'd made. My Christmas "Bark" was a hit this year and I think I'll make it part of my normal Christmas baking from now on. I am so blessed and I got so many wonderful gifts including these shoes I've been swooning over for months, a trip for M and I to the Grove Park Inn, 4 cardigans, workout/running gear, the cake stand we registered for and didn't get for a wedding gift and other fun things. It was a great night!

M and I woke up early on Christmas day and exchanged gifts to each other. M got me a gorgeous pearl necklace that I wanted and I got him some sunglasses he'd been eyeing. We also did stockings...and set a ridiculously low budget for them...which caused us to each get creative...and a bit ridiculous with our stocking stuffers. :)

Photo isn't really relevant to the recap...I just thought it was cute. :)

We headed to M's parents' house to open gifts and eat breakfast. I loved watching my niece and nephew open their gifts and my niece got a GoGo My Walking Pup that I remember my sister getting when she was little. I played with it...probably more than my niece did. HA!

We then made trips to my grandparents' house in Columbia for lunch and then spent the afternoon with my dad's extended family outside of Columbia. We made it back home around 6pm...exhausted! It was a long day!

Our Christmas weekend ended with a family gathering Saturday night with my other grandparents. I really enjoyed having something like that AFTER Christmas because it gives you something to look forward to after Christmas Day is over AND you don't have to move schedules around and potentially make people mad because usually no one has other plans 2 days after Christmas. It was great!

Finally, I ended the weekend by putting up my Christmas stuff (much to my surprise). Usually I want to leave it up as long as possible but this year, I was just ready to put my house back together. My decor had already been up a month and a half, so I was okay with taking it all down. Now, I'm finishing up the last of the Christmas bark and watching a few episodes of Peaky Blinders before bed. Thank goodness I'm off Monday and I can get a few other things done around the house.

I hope you all had wonderful Christmases! Have a great day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Merry Christmas y'all! (Well, technically, I'm writing this on Christmas Adam...Adam before Eve. Christmas Adam before Christmas get it.) But I probably won't have time to blog any more before the big day, so I'll leave you with my traditional Christmas blog post. :)

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:10-14
I hope you all have a wonderful, joyous and very merry Christmas. May your days be full of happiness and your nights be full of thankfulness. May you find peace, joy and hope this Christmas and may you be surrounded by love.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Songs I Loathe

I love Christmas music...I really do. One might even say I'm a bit obsessed with it.

However, there are some Christmas songs that just need to stop. Either they annoy me, infuriate me or make me sad...and no one wants to be any of those things at Christmas. Below are some of the Christmas songs I loathe.

1. Merry Christmas Darling
Vom. I'm already not a huge fan of Karen Carpenter's voice...but this song is just melancholy and boring and monotonous. There's no build-up or song dynamics. I always change the radio station when I hear this song play. And the radio stations seem to think this is one to play A LOT. :(

2. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Pretty much any version of this song is sad to me, but Frank Sinatra's is the saddest. Not sure why, but this song is just depressing.

3. Happy Xmas (War is Over)
I'm not anti-Beatles or anti-peace. This one just annoys me. The same melody and rhythm over and over again can really grate on your nerves.

4. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
I don't loathe this song as much as I loathe a particular version of it. Which one? The Bruce Springsteen one. I know it's live but his voice is just awful in this.

5. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
Ugh, just stop. This one shouldn't be considered a Christmas song anyway.

6. Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
This one infuriates me and annoys me. Double whammy.

What Christmas songs would you be happy to never hear again?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Adorable Christmas PJs

Whether you say puh-JOHM-uhs or puh-JAM-uhs, getting and receiving these at Christmas seems to be the norm. I know a lot of families that give pajamas as a gift every single year. I usually always manage to get some form of pajamas (by the way, I pronounce it like puh-JOHM-uhs) when the Christmas holiday rolls around.

Luckily, retailers understand the necessity of a good pair of Christmas pjs and have started carrying some of the most adorable prints for adult and kid alike! Some of my favorites are below.

Holiday Stripe Pajamas for the Whole Family
Here are some matching pjs for the whole family (cat and dog included!) if you're into that kind of thing. Shop
These little girl pjs are so cute!!

Y'all know I'm a flamingo fan. So flamingos with ear muffs and leg warmer pajamas? YES!!
For your man. Everyone needs some Christmas Vacation pajamas.

As Michael Scott would say, these are for "Classy Christmas".

I love this nordic/fair isle pattern look! I wish they made these in adult sizes. :)
 Does your family give Christmas pajamas?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Company Christmas Parties

This past Friday was M's company Christmas party and mine was the Friday before. I'm going to recap the highlights of each party below.

It's worth noting that we both wore the same outfits for the parties (like the last year) because I wanted to get my money's worth out of my dress. :) 

My company Christmas party was at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It was a cool night and there was a photo booth! 

(Some of my coworkers and me at the party.)

My company party is a bit less formal as far as the schedule goes and they have heavy appetizers set up buffet style. There really isn't any sort of "program" but they have a DJ and dancing as well. 

M's party is more scheduled with a cocktail hour, program/awards portion, sit down dinner, entertainment and then a live band and dance floor. Every year, M's company goes all out! This year was no different...

The entertainment this year was Cirque du Soleil! It was the show Cirque Dreams and it was really awesome! I've seen another Cirque show before and this didn't disappoint! M's party was in a different city about an hour from where we live so we got a hotel room and made a mini-getaway out of it. 

We both reflect on the good and bad parts of both and it would be awesome if we could combine certain parts of both parties...but we like having a bit of variety in them both. 

Now that both of our company parties are over...we have family parties to attend! 

Happy Monday!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Splurge vs. Steal: Holiday Look

I've been kind of in a one-sided love affair with leather(ish) leggings. It's one-sided because I realize that leather pants (or really leather anything on the bottom half of me) doesn't love me back. But that's okay, I can admire from afar, right?

One of these outfits costs around $1570 and the other around $180. Can you guess which is the "splurge" and which is the "steal"?

If you guessed that the steal was the one on the're correct!

I love this look for a holiday party or get-together...or even just a nice dinner. The leggings with same colored pointy-toed shoes elongate the legs and the fun sequin tank and bright blazer add a touch of festive color.

How'd you do? Did you guess correctly?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiday Mantle Ideas

I love my mantle this year, but I'm always aspiring for something even better. This year I wanted to incorporate my snowman luminary thingys but next year in a (hopefully) larger house I'll have more display room. Here are some great holiday mantle ideas.

Soft Palette Christmas Mantel
nesting instincts: colorful mantle
pretty mantle
{Christmas Home Tour} Burlap and velvet stockings, Barnwood framed chalkboard, and glitter nativity. #Christmas #holidaycraft #DIYHoliday
Hipster Holiday. Love this for holiday decor. I just saw Hollis on the new morning show Home and Family :) and she has some fab ideas...I had to check out her pinterest! I have a fireplace like this...where do I find trees like these, need to look into it.
Elegant Homes Decorated For Christmas | ... decorations elegant interior theme christmas bedroom decorating ideas
All via Pinterest. Do you normally decorate your mantle or is it more functional?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Four Fun Facts

After yesterday's rehashing of my high school days, I figured y'all would DEFINITELY want another weird, yet slightly pathetic personal post today...right? (I might need a biscuit to sop up that sarcasm.)

I was tagged by Kali in her Four Fun Facts post and like Kelly, I'm a sucker for lists. :) Here we go!

4 Fun Facts
Four names that people call me other than my real name
  1. Apes

  2. Liz (or Lizard) - by my parents only

  3. Aprilanne (all one word) - by family

  4. Lirpa (my name backwards) - friends

Four jobs I've had
  1. Hostess/To-Go Server at Chili's Bar & Grill (I worked there and STILL love that restaurant!)

  2. Assistant Public Relations Coordinator at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher

  3. Worship Arts Assistant at a church

  4. Digital Communications for an Accounting Firm (still here!)

Four movies I've watched more than once
  1. Stepbrothers

  2. Pride & Prejudice

  3. Legally Blonde

  4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Four books I'd recommend
  1. Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen

  2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

  3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling

  4. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

Four places I've lived
  1. Columbia, SC

  2. Charlotte, NC

  3. Wilmington, NC

  4. Fort Mill, SC

Four places I've visited
  1. Ocho Rios, Jamaica

  2. San Juan, Puerto Rico

  3. Chicago, IL

  4. San Antonio, TX

Four places I'd rather be right now
  1. Home

  2. Not at work

  3. Charleston, SC

  4. Home or Not at Work

Four things I don't eat
  1. Celery

  2. Seafood

  3. Lettuce

  4. Asparagus

Four of my favorite foods
  1. Macaroni & Cheese

  2. Mexican food

  3. Japanese Hibachi chicken

  4. Chocolate

Four TV shows I watch
  1. Reign

  2. The Mindy Project

  3. New Girl

  4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Four things I'm looking forward to this year
  1. Christmas!!

  2. Buying a new house (well, in 2015)

  3. Making travel plans for next year (vacations)

  4. Holiday parties!

Four things I'm always saying
  1. "He's a good boy." (Talking about Hewitt to M)

  2. "Dead."

  3. "Oookkaaayy." (With a weird laugh)

  4. "Than ju." (When I do my Guadalupe voice and say thank you.)

Four people I tag to answer these questions
I'm doing the lame thing and tagging everyone! I'd love to see your answers! Comment with a link if you do it. :)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

When I Was in High School

Thanks to Steph @ Life According to Steph for the post idea!

I graduated high school in 2003. My high school was one of the 13 in my city (large metropolitan area) so it wasn't a large school by any means. (4A school amongst a sea of 4A and 5A schools all over Charlotte.) There were about 300 or so in my graduating class. I liked to think that I had a lot of friends in school. I did have close friends, but I liked to hang around different groups of people. I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activies like JROTC, The History Club, NAACP Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes amongst others. I also did a few "pageant-like" events in high school.

All of these pictures are going to be really low quality. These are iPhone photos of actual pictures. (an the only ones that I have in my house currently) The age before digital photography became the norm. :)

I was really in JROTC...which is kind of a shock to some people now when I tell them. I guess I don't really strike some as the military type? I loved JROTC and did very well in it. It afforded me the opportunity to miss class sometimes (drill meets, community events, color guards, etc.) and I got to go to interesting places. I was part of the color guard for area sporting and community events as well. I was also the female (unarmed) drill team commander. This was so much fun! I got to coordinate and choreograph drill routines for all of our unarmed exhibition drill teams. This kind of military drill is different from the other kind of drill team that waves flags at football games. This is military precision marching and step routines. I also ended up being one of two Battalion Commanders at my school. (The program was large enough to be considered a Brigade.)

Part of JROTC every year was the Military Ball where JROTC units from schools all over the city converged in one location for a prom-like dance and ceremony. My 11th grade year I was voted Military Ball Princess and my senior year, I was voted Military Ball Queen.

The other "pageant-like" thing I did in high school was the Carrousel Pageant. This was sort of like a pageant for each high school in my area. They selected a Queen and a Runner-Up. It involved the typical pageant activities like career-wear competition, interview questions, talent competition and evening gown. I didn't win Carrousel Queen, but I did come in second place as the runner up. :) My talent was singing (of course) and I sang the song "Only Hope" by Mandy Moore, popularized in the movie A Walk to Remember. This photo is me and my mom.
Other things about me in high school:
- I didn't go to any of my school's actual proms. (I went to Military Balls instead.)
- I was heavily involved in my church and church's youth group, which ultimately turned into a job at a church for about 5 years.
- I wasn't into partying/drinking/drugs and didn't even have a boyfriend in high school. I was very much your typical goody-two-shoes girl.
- I also was sort of a teacher's pet. :)
- My best friend is high school is still one of my best friends to this day. We often look back on what we wore and wrote in high school and cringe. Yes, cringe.
I often wish I could go back to high school having all of my adult knowledge and wardrobe. Kind of like Josie Grosie...but then I think, life is so different now (even just 11 years later) that I don't know how I would do. There seemed to be more innocence at that time...before cell phones were popular and technology was as big as it is now. This is before MySpace really hit it big. Before teenagers were jaded and non-plussed...but that's just old April talking. :)
Do you reminsce on your high school years? Tell me about them!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Grown Up Christmas List

First off, I know the title of my blog is a sub-par Michael Buble song, however, it very accurately describes what I give to my loved ones around the start of November each year.

In case you haven't picked up on it yet from reading my blog, I try to be very organized and I'm a big planner. I play by the rules (always) and definitely consider myself more Type A than anything else. (I think most of that explanation was a nice way of saying that I'm a control freak.) But I also know what it's like to have no clue what to get someone for Christmas. So every year since I was about...maybe 20 or so...I've given my parents a visual (and often virtual) Christmas list.

Now, I always list a lot of gift options they can choose from so there is an element of surprise...but it's a controlled surprise. (a Type A's favorite phrase) I usually always put my Christmas list in PowerPoint so that I can provide sizes, colors and links to buy, if necessary. I've caught a lot of flack over the years from friends and family when they find out that I make PowerPoint presentations for my family for my Christmas list.

I get that this seems very materialistic and greedy, but really, it's just me trying to make the most efficient use of your time and money...because you know exactly what to get me and it's exactly what I want. There's a weird feeling that you have to get over when you make a Christmas list and that is feeling guilty and greedy. The thing is...unless you have a "no gifts" family, they are going to get you why not ask for things you really want or need?

Have I received gifts that weren't on the list? Absolutely. Have I loved any of these non-list gifts? Absolutely. Have some been weird gifts? Absolutely. My family will never only get me exactly everything on the list...there are always a few wild cards thrown in there and that's okay. Bottom line, I try to make things easier for others by giving them ideas.

Do you make a Christmas wish list? How do you do it?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Weekend/Holiday Recap

Ah Monday. It's always hard to go back to the "real world" after a long or holiday weekend, isn't it? I hope those of you in the US had a wonderful Thankgiving weekend. I definitely did! Here's a recap in pictures. :)

I've blogged about it before...but the more beige (or shades of white, tan and yellowish) the Thanksgiving food is, the more Southern you are. :)  These were Thanksgiving leftovers the next day. Yum!

M and I wanted to get a picture with Hewitt and also incorporate the infamous turkey hat this year. Hewitt was less than enthused. As a matter of fact, I want to zoom in on his face, just for your viewing pleasure. It's so accurate. He hates to be held and he hates wearing clothes or accessories.
I'm a horrible dog mom.
Another one of my favorite parts of the Thanksgiving weekend is the abundance of football games, plus rivalry weekend. This was the spread to watch my beloved Gamecocks on Saturday. We were going for a 6 game winning streak vs. Clemson but lost this year. Oh well, it would be uneven to have to start counting on another hand anyway. On the bright side, my Saints won decisively on Sunday vs. a team that I usually loathe. :)
One of the last things on my Christmas decorating to-do list was to do a wreath. I got all of the pieces and put it together on Saturday. Of course, instead of taking a normal wreath picture, I figured I would make it a little more interesting... :)
Hope you had a great weekend (holiday or no holiday). It is time to (officially) commence the Christmas season so I will be taking advantage of some Cyber Monday sales to get the last 2 Christmas presents for people on my list and then I'll be D-O-N-E. :)