Uncommon Goods

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I recently got this Jane Austen print from Uncommon Goods and I’m obsessed! If you haven’t heard of Uncommon Goods before, it’s a Brooklyn-based company that features both unique designs and handcrafted gifts and focuses on environmentally friendly products. Half of their products are made by hand, most are made in America, and 1/3 of their products use recycled and/or upcycled materials.
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I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised when I received it to see that it was really great quality! I wasn’t sure what to expect but this print definitely exceeded my expectations. Aside from being excited to find a perfect addition to our home (my love of literature combined with my favorite author in a pretty print… doesn’t get much more perfect than that), with the holidays coming up, I’m looking forward to doing some one stop shopping. One of my favorite parts about holiday shopping is picking out the perfect gift for that special someone but sometimes that special someone is tough to shop for (anyone else’s dad hard to gift?) and Uncommon Goods has some really great gift ideas for men here and for women here (think handmade jewelry and fun DIY kits and see here for personalized gifts!).
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On a side note, I also have to admit that I still can’t decide where to put this… I got it for our guest room which we’ve been slowly redecorating but I can’t seem to part with it so it’s still in our bedroom!
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“If adventures do not befall a lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” – Jane Austen

Happy Friday, guys! Do you have any fun plans for Halloween? One of my favorite things to do on Halloween is to give out candy so we’ll probably hang out here tomorrow night but follow along on Instagram to see what we’re dressing Amelia as!

❤Britt

P.S.
Which display is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

May Book Club: Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey is a satire on the then very popular Gothic novel. It was the first novel that Jane Austen wrote, originally titled Lady Susan, but the last one published (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were both published after Jane’s death in 1817).
Northanger Abbey tells the story of Catherine Morland, a heroine in search of her hero by way of Bath, Udolpho, Northanger Abbey, and Fullerton. When she is invited to Bath with the Allens, her neighbors who owned much of the property in Fullerton, Catherine begins to have a respectable social life and meets her first love in Mr. Henry Tilney. It is in Bath that she also finds a not-so-true friend in Isabella Thorpe, though it is through Isabella that Catherine learns of The Mysteries of Ulolpho, an unwanted suitor in Isabella’s egotistical brother, and a timid but loyal friend in Eleanor Tilney.
However, because of Isabella’s brother’s gross exaggeration regarding Catherine’s wealth and status, she is later invited to stay with the Tilney’s at Northanger Abbey where she blissfully spends her time imagining The Mysteries of Udolpho coming to life, strengthening her friendship with Eleanor, and falling more in love with Henry Tilney. All is going well until Mr. Tilney discovers that Catherine is not really wealthy and she is rudely cast out of their home and out of their lives, to Isabella’s dismay and unbeknownst to Henry.

After seeing Sense & Sensibility last night at a local theatre with my Mom, I was inspired to write about Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey for my May book club choice. Even though it wasn’t my original choice and it’s not my favorite Austen novel, it’s the most recent Jane Austen novel I’ve read so I figured I should go with that… it’s also one that many people have probably not read, since it’s not one of her most famous works. I honestly have loved every one of Jane Austen’s 6 novels. Have you read any of them? What is your favorite?

I’ve actually been slacking quite a bit in my reading compared to the amount I read over the winter, but, right now I’m reading Fallout by Sadie Jones and next on my list is Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini, The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (I’ve loved every one of her books that I’ve read), The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman, Bossypants by Tina Fey, and The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (oh, and I’m also going to reread Sense & Sensibility). If anyone is interested, let me know and I will post some of my recommendations and favorites! Also, if anyone has any recommendations, I always love to find new books to read!

Also, has anyone ever seen The Jane Austen Book Club? It is seriously one of the cutest movies I’ve seen, not to mention it’s all about Jane Austen’s books and how they are still relevant in today’s world.

Jane Austen’s novels in the order that they were written (not published):
Northanger Abbey (originally Lady Susan)
Sense and Sensibility (originally Elinor and Marianne)
Pride and Prejudice (originally First Impressions)
Mansfield Park
Emma
Persuasion (originally The Elliots)

I hope you guys have a great weekend!

❤Britt

April Book Club: The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society

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The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society; Stanway House
Photos taken from Pinterest

The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society by Barbara J. Zitwer

The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society is really an uplifting tale about love, loss, and essentially, the importance of friendship. When Joey, a somewhat workaholic New York architect, gets the surprise chance to head the restoration of Stanway House, the cottage that inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan, she eagerly accepts and readies herself for her temporary move to England. She begins her trip by visiting and staying with her best friend from childhood, though they’ve since been a bit estranged, and finds that things are not necessarily just the way they were when they were younger, nor is Sarah what she expects. She discovers that rekindling their friendship is going to be much harder than they both anticipated and wonder if it is worth the time.

Once she arrives at the cottage, she falls instantly in love with it and meets the handsome but jaded and widowed groundskeeper and his teenage, daughter to whom she takes an immediate liking and is surprised by her feelings for both. Meanwhile, she happens upon a group of women, the J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society, who have been friends for years and swim in the lake near Stanway House daily, no matter the weather. From them, she learns about herself, life, love, and ultimately, the value and meaning of true friendship.

This book made me think about my own friendships and re-evaluate how much I value each and every one of them. I have had the same group of girlfriends since Freshman year of college (some of us since high school), and though we’re all on different paths in our lives, I know this will be us when we’re older! We’ve all had our share of ups and downs and we’ve all been there through all of them. We all need someone we can depend on… I’m lucky to have many!

Though I’ll admit that the plot line was a bit predictable, it was a really good read, especially if you’re enamored with all things English like me 🙂 I liked this book because, while I do like fiction and a good love story, I also like when the author has done his or her research and historical elements/facts are included and woven throughout the story. Just because I like to be swept up in a good fictional novel doesn’t mean I don’t like to learn a thing or two while I’m reading as well!

Have a great Friday, guys, and thanks for reading!

Let me know if you have any suggestions for next month’s book club! Right now, I’m reading a novel by Sadie Jones (review coming soon) and The Mortal Instruments series (love it!) and am open to any other suggestions (I will not be doing either of those books for May’s book club post)!

❤Britt

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March Book Club: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Ok- so as much as I’ve been enjoying planning events and everything else that goes along with being the MOH in two weddings (see photos from my sister’s wedding last weekend), I have to admit it has been really stressful too. And while I wouldn’t change anything about this time in my life for the world, as I’m so lucky to have these girls in my life (and to have them want me in their lives) and more than honored and excited to be a part of their special days, I definitely need to work on my attitude and mechanisms for coping with stress. Right now, poor Joe has been getting the brunt of it and that is horribly unfair to him and to our marriage. I desperately need to get back into yoga!

So, I’ve been reading a lot lately. As in devouring book after book, reading around 4 a month lately (which is a lot for me, especially when I hardly have the free time to read one a month… and it doesn’t help that Joe isn’t a big reader)- but that is what I’ve been doing in all of my free time lately, to just get away. And now here I am confessing all this to you guys (sorry, but thanks for listening!). I haven’t even been applying what I’ve read, just moving onto the next book… something that, aside from my terrible attitude lately, has made me realize how much I need to start to slow down and reflect (something I usually do at Sunday Mass but I don’t even think I’ve been doing that justice lately). Well, here’s my latest reflection… I guess you have to start somewhere 🙂

This book is basically a compilation of letters between Juliet, a passionate English writer living in London whose claim to fame was making people laugh during WWII through her weekly column for the Spectator under the pen name Izzy Bickerstaff, and various friends and acquaintances. The letters begin in the direct aftermath of the war, when everything and everyone is still broken and battered and after the publication and success of Juliet’s first book, Izzy Bickerstaff Goes to War. She receives a letter from a man from Guernsey, Dawsey Adams, who tells her about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and she is immediately interested in knowing more about it.

Meanwhile, Juliet has been offered the chance to write an article for the Times about “the practical, moral, and philosophical value of reading” and is working on coming up with an idea for a new book. When she learns via her correspondence with Dawsey about how the literary society and reading essentially got them through the German Occupation, she decides to learn as much as she can and include their story in her article. Thus begins her correspondence and friendships with the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

This is one of the best and most inspiring works I’ve read in a while. I loved how it highlighted the beauty and wonder of human resiliency in general but specifically after the Second World War. It was an interesting, touching tale of life after WWII, life during the German occupation of Guernsey, and even some depictions of the war while at the same time a lovely, light-hearted read. It really makes me realize how lucky I am and also that I probably shouldn’t be complaining about silly things when I have so much to be thankful for.

Have any of you read this? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. If you have, what did you think? Did you like the letter-style writing? I didn’t think that I would but after the first few letters, I found it easy to follow and even found myself enjoying the style, maybe even more so than a regular chapter book. I think it made it a bit more intimate.

Any ideas for April?

Have a great weekend!! Thanks for reading!

❤Britt

February Book Club: Lost Lake

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Kate has spent the last year basically asleep after she retreated deep inside her mind following a tragic event. On the morning she “wakes up,” her daughter finds a postcard addressed to Kate from years ago that she’d never received from her great aunt Eby. The postcard was from Lost Lake, the land Eby and husband turned into a lakeside getaway, and the last place Kate can remember being truly happy. On an impulse, she and her daughter decide to take an impromptu road trip, unbeknownst to her controlling mother-in-law who they are supposed to be moving in with that morning, and rediscovers her love of life while finding herself and an old flame along the way.
In Lost Lake, Allen weaves a magical tale of life and love and loss, of finding your inner child, and ultimately, happiness. Through perfectly coincidental critical circumstances and crossroads in every character’s life, each of them finds happiness with the help of one another, and they all come out on top.
I’ve loved every single book I’ve read by Sarah Addison Allen. She writes magical realism, a delectable combination of a touch of fantasy and magic and everyday reality. Her books provide the perfect getaway read, not too heavy but not too light. Her writing is beautiful and makes you feel like you’ve read an intelligent piece of work while keeping the material light enough and interesting enough to make for a quick read and one you won’t want to put down until you’re finished!

Did anyone else read Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen this month? She also published a free short story as a prelude to Lost Lake in the Kindle store! If you read it, what did you think of it? Have you read any other works by Sarah Addison Allen?

Some contenders for next month’s book club:
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini
The Guersney Literary and Potato Peel Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

Does anyone have a preference or another suggestion?

❤Britt

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Book Review: THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW by Matthew Quick

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The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick c/o HarperCollins Publishers

“Whenever something bad happens to us… something good happens- often to someone else. And that’s The Good Luck of Right Now.” (p153)

There seems to be a theme brewing for 2014, at least for me, slowly evincing itself in what I’ve read these past two months- balance.

In The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick, also the author of The Silver Linings Playbook, tells a tale about the struggles of a middle-aged man dependent on his mother after she passes away from the “brain-cancer squid.” The story begins with Bartholomew Neil after the loss of his caregiver, exceedingly unsure of his identity especially after pretending to be Richard Gere for so long for the sake of his sick mother, and his path in life. So, he begins writing letters to the actual Richard Gere, telling the story of his life as it progresses, post-tragedy.

While not overly emotional, Bartholomew’s story tugs at just enough heart strings to make him endearing to the reader. I was taking this journey with him while drinking my coffee in the morning and into the wee hours of the night, reading just “one more” page again and again to get to the next letter, the next revelation of events. The non-traditional cast of essentially homeless and misfit characters, including a brother and sister who’ve had an encounter with aliens, a grief counselor, and a self proclaimed ex-priest, unexpectedly find a home in each other. They all have their own secrets to hide and they’ve all figured out how to pretend in their own way that things are normal and that everything is OK. When we inevitably discover that everything is not as it should be or what we think it is, we also learn that it is also OK to not be OK and that you can’t pretend forever.

The ending, though not necessarily fairytale-like, left me satisfied and happy with the evolution of the characters and plot. Everything comes full circle in the end, the perfect way to end a story beginning with such uncertainty and developing even more as the plot progresses. A friend of mine recommended this to me and though initially I wasn’t sure it was something I would have chosen on my own, I’m really glad I gave it a chance. This was honestly one of the best books I’ve read in the last few years. I highly, highly recommend it.

There were some parts that forced me to think about uncomfortable situations, about real life events, happenings, and circumstances that many of us are either lucky enough to be sheltered from in our every day lives or block them from our thoughts as they are mostly unpleasant, but Quick never dwelt on anything for long. Any mentioning of any unpleasant back story was just enough to get me thinking about how much these characters had to deal with and how lucky I am, even on my worst day. But, maybe that’s what Quick intended, maybe that’s The Good Luck of Right Now.

Happy Friday guys! Is anyone doing anything exciting this weekend? We have a pretty relaxed schedule and I’m really looking forward to it!

❤Britt

P.S.
For anyone following along for this month’s book club, we’ll be talking about Sarah Addison Allen’s Lost Lake next Friday!

Shop The Good Luck of Right Now & The Silver Linings Playbook:

January Book Club: The Tao of Pooh

The Tao of Pooh & The Vinegar Tasters
photo of The Vinegar Tasters from Wikipedia
Above: In The Vinegar Tasters, Lao-tse is smiling while tasting the vinegar (an allegory for the Elixir of Life) because to him, life is sweet.

Coming from someone who is extremely Type A, complete with anxiety, high stress levels, and a tendency to become overwhelmed quite frequently, The Tao of Pooh was a much needed antidote to the poison that was my stressed-out condition post-holidays. This book very often elicited audible sighs of relief from me as I read and learned that it is OK to just “let it go” (Frozen, anyone?)! I don’t think I could have read this at a better time (even though my sister gave it to me almost 3 and a half years ago when I was totally overwhelmed right before my wedding!) as I desperately needed a mental makeover after this year’s busy holiday season and with all of our upcoming events this year; I needed to learn how to relax and just “BE”. And that I did (at least in theory!).

Lao-tse, the father of Taoism, believed that happiness was living in harmony with the Tao. Hoff elaborates, “To Lao-tse, the world was not a setter of traps but a teacher of valuable lessons. Its lessons needed to be learned, just as its laws needed to be followed; then all would go well… What he saw operating behind everything in heaven and earth he called Tao (DAO), “the Way.” Therefore, instead of being high strung and submitting to the constant demands of this busy world, to live a happy life, one must instead submit to Nature and live in harmony with everything surrounding it.

Another major characteristic of Taoism is Wu Wei, which literally means “without doing, causing, or making.” Because I’m usually the queen of “I’ll be happy when…”, one of my goals this year is to live more in the moment and to be present wherever I am; to stop stressing about everything and just letting things happen as they will, accepting that I can’t control it all. Hoff says we need to learn to work with our own Inner Nature and in doing so, we will be happier, more content, and become wise. He explains that in our rush to always look busy, to always be doing something or going somewhere, we are actually missing out on life, even if we think we’re experiencing all life has to offer by cramming in as many activities as possible into a day’s time.

In The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff does a brilliant job of introducing, highlighting, and illustrating the somewhat difficult to understand principles of Taoism through the familiar world of the beloved Winnie the Pooh. This book has already become a bible of sorts for me, especially when I need to remember that the important things in life do not include material things. Though I am severely oversimplifying Taoism here, the basic principles of living in harmony with Nature and finding your own inner peace, both essential to finding happiness and contentment, are guidelines to which we should all adhere.

Did anyone else read this book or have you read it before? If so, let me know what you thought of it! If not, I highly recommend it. I loved it!

I hope you all have a wonderful Friday and a quiet, relaxing weekend!

❤Britt

Shop:

Michael Kors

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This scarf was a gift from my sister-in-law and I absolutely love it! It is perfect for cold, winter days, which means it’s perfect for me with the weather we’ve been having lately. Over the weekend it was in the teens here! I love this pop of red in an otherwise mostly neutral palette… I think I need some more red in my life! It’s such a strong color and it goes with so much! Also, I’m still loving my monogrammed bangle 🙂
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jeans- Paige Denim (similar), shirt- J.Crew, sweater- Madewell, booties- Sam Edelman, scarf- Michael Kors (similar), clutch- South Moon Under (similar), sunglasses- Ray-Ban

Ok, guys, so I’ve really been wanting to start a book club on the blog and what better time to start than the beginning of a new year? I’ve been meaning to read The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff for a few years now (yes, seriously) so I thought that would be good choice to start off the year as the author says, “it’s about how to stay happy and calm under all circumstances.” Do you have any other suggestions? I’m thinking we decide on a book by the first week of each month and talk about the book on the last Friday of each month. What do you think?

Have a great Monday everyone!

❤Britt

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Blue Ribbon Dress

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This is the perfect dress for really hot days. It is strapless, it isn’t too tight, and the material doesn’t stick to you or make you hotter than you already are. I also like this dress because I feel like it is another one of those that you can dress up or dress down. It looks great with flip flops and a hat for beach days or summer barbeques but you can also add heels or jazzy flats (and a cardigan for the office) to take it up a notch.
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dress- Lilly Pulitzer (also love this maxi style), flats- DV by Dolce Vita via Piperlime, necklace- BaubleBar, bracelets- Sequin via Nordstrom and J. Crew, midi ring- Nordstrom, sunglasses- Ray-Ban

Can we talk about what we’re reading this summer for a minute? I’ve been reading a series called The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch and I have to say I’m really enjoying it so far. I’m on the second book now (out of 4) and while it can be a bit predictable at times, I think it’s still a pretty good read (and actually includes some factual information about the time period and profession of the main character which is neat). Next on my list is either Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper or the Beautiful Creatures series. Do you have any recommendations? What is on your summer reading list?

❤Britt