Amanda Moments
December 10, 2015

Welcome to the holiday edition of the Golden Vlog! I cannot believe it’s already almost 2016. Crazy! I know I’ve been a little absent here lately, but life has been just bananas in the past few months. I explain a little bit about what’s going on in the video. And while I don’t have tons of time to devote to posting regularly here right now, I do love coming back for these vlogs. So let’s catch up a bit! Check out what’s been going on in my world in this month’s video blog.

December’s Prompts
-What did you do for Thanksgiving this year?
-What are your plans for Christmas?
-What is your favorite holiday treat or meal?
-What is on your wish list this year?
-What’s the best gift you have ever received?
-Do you put up a Christmas tree or decorate? Do you wait till after Thanksgiving or do it before?
-What’s your favorite Christmas song?
-Must-see Christmas movies?
-What are some favorite traditions that you and your family have?

 

Life w/ Mrs G & the Artist ~ Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin
Amanda Moments ~ Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Brave Love Blog ~ Instagram | Bloglovin | Twitter
Heaven’s to Betsy ~ Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
My Favorite AdventureTwitter | Instagram | Pinterest

 

The Lilac Linnet ~ Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Here are the rules:
1. You must follow your hosts on at least ONE form of social media to link up w/ us.
2. We want to see your face! How many times you roll your eyes, and if you talk with your hands! So link up a post featuring your VLOG answering this month’s questions! Please link up a post, not your blog’s home page, and be sure there is a VLOG (video blog) featured! This is the Golden Vlog after all 😉
3. Add the button below or a text link to one of the hosts to help us promote this crazy thing!
4. Spread the love! Go watch, listen and comment on other blogs and make some new friends! Share your links using hashtag #GoldenVlog on social media.

If you have any questions at all or want to be included on our monthly Golden Vlog Letter with next month’s questions, just email lifewithmrsgandtheartist@gmail.com.

*all links not featuring a vlog or this month’s questions will be removed!*


Life w/ Mrs G & the Artist

I hope you’ll join us again next month on January 14!

November 17, 2015

One year ago, I launched a new monthly linkup called Tell me About Your Town so that I could share all about the amazing things about my town and learn more about where others are from too. It’s been an incredible year, and I’ve so enjoyed writing about the crazy weather here, my favorite restaurants, local boutiques, free things to do in Fargo and more. I’m so thankful to everyone that has joined me in writing about your towns throughout this year! While this is the last month of the linkup officially, I definitely plan on telling you more about why I love Fargo, and I hope to keep reading about cool things where you’re from too! Last November, my very first co-host in this series was the lovely Rebecca Chapman, and I’m lucky enough to have her with me again this month to wrap it up. This month, our topic is the best memories from around town or meaningful places close to your heart. Perfect for reflecting as we enter Thanksgiving season!

So, what spots have meant a lot to me? Well, I’ve got some from where I grew up in Indiana, as well as some from my current town of Fargo.

-The now-defunct Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, Ind. This was the “cool” place to hang out after school and on weekends growing up, and my teenage self spent many a day in this mall with friends. I went on several dates there, and celebrated lots of birthdays at the Hacienda restaurant inside the mall too. After I left for college, they tore the mall down and instead put up a strip mall instead. True story: I still dream about the Scottsdale mall sometimes.

Spring Hill Camp, in Michigan, a place I went to for years as an early teen for church retreats. I met some awesome people there, and while we are no longer in touch, I remember a lot of them vividly. I developed a love of Cheetos there, learned the amazing game of “Moose”, and how to make a spoon stick to my nose.

My best friend’s basement and barn in Indiana. In that basement, we spent many nights sewing weird bags to use for cheerleading (I still totally have mine), practicing our partner stunts, watching Princess Bride and jumping on the bed. We also had joint Thanksgivings in that basement growing up with her family and mine. Later, she and I migrated out to the barn where her dad built a sweet top floor perfect for teenage girls to gossip and goof off in and host many a sleepover.

Room 403, Hallet Hall, Concordia College in Minnesota, aka, the room where I met my now-husband. My first impression when he knocked on my door in early 2005 was that he was wearing way too much hair gel, but I quickly looked past that and found this boy quite charming. Fun fact: The first time we kissed in this same dorm room, I may or may not have whispered, “I could so marry you right now.” (Hint: I did. And then when he said, “what?” I acted like he was hearing things and I never spoke such crazy things.)

20151116_224545-01

Similarly, the common area between Hallet Hall and Erickson Hall, aka, the spot where shortly after meeting, we migrated to so that we could keep talking into the wee hours of the night because my dorm had stupid curfew rules about boys in girls’ dorms past 10 p.m. Cal and I  instead talked until 3 or 4 a.m. in those crappy orange chairs, and if I had to pick a spot where I figured out this kid was really special, it was there. Sad news: This area is now defunct. The dorms got a much-needed makeover and now there is a coffee chop and meeting rooms there.

Our couch in our apartment. Not gonna lie, my favorite spot in our town is totally our couch, and yes I realize that does make me sound like a hermit. But really, is there anything better than snuggling on a soft couch with a fuzzy blankie and your husband? No? I rest my case.

brick and meWe don’t have this couch anymore, but it lasted many years!

Amanda Moments

Giveaway!

Rebecca and I are both giving away one surprise gift themed to our hometowns. Our boxes will be filled with little goodies representing Fargo or Nashville. One winner will receive each box, so there will be TWO total winners! Enter to win below! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you so much to every single person that has participated in this linkup, whether as a co-host, reader, commenter or linkup participant. I’ve loved sharing about my town with you all.

November 12, 2015

It’s time for the November edition of the Golden Vlog! This month, we’re talking about our jobs — our first jobs, current jobs, worst job, dream job and more. Watch my video below to learn about what I do for a living and that one time I did something really silly during work.

November’s Prompts
-What is your current job?
-What was your very first job?
-Growing up, what did you want to be?
-If you could have any job in the world, what would you do?
-What job would you definitely NOT want to have?
-Is there a certain profession that you admire a lot?
-What qualities do you think makes a good leader or boss?
-What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you at work?
-What advice would you give to current students now?
-What was the worst job you ever had?

 

Life w/ Mrs G & the Artist ~ Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin
Amanda Moments ~ Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Brave Love Blog ~ Instagram | Bloglovin | Twitter
Heaven’s to Betsy ~ Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
My Favorite AdventureTwitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Here are the rules:
1. You must follow your hosts on at least ONE form of social media to link up w/ us.

2. We want to see your face! How many times you roll your eyes, and if you talk with your hands! So link up a post featuring your VLOG answering this month’s questions! Please link up a post, not your blog’s home page, and be sure there is a VLOG (video blog) featured! This is the Golden Vlog after all 😉

3. Add the button below or a text link to one of the hosts to help us promote this crazy thing!

4. Spread the love! Go watch, listen and comment on other blogs and make some new friends! Share your links using hashtag #GoldenVlog on social media.

If you have any questions at all or want to be included on our monthly Golden Vlog Letter with next month’s questions, just email lifewithmrsgandtheartist@gmail.com.

*all links not featuring a vlog or this months questions will be removed!*


An InLinkz Link-up


Life w/ Mrs G & the Artist

Please join us again next month on December 10!

December Prompts
-What did you do for Thanksgiving this year?
-What are your plans for Christmas?
-What is your favorite holiday treat or meal?
-What is on your wish list this year?
-What’s the best gift you have ever received?
-Do you put up a Christmas tree or decorate? Do you wait till after Thanksgiving or do it before?
-What’s your favorite Christmas song?
-Must-see Christmas movies?
-What are some favorite traditions that you and your family have?

November 3, 2015

It’s with some sadness that I post this reminder about the very last Tell Me About Your Town linkup topic. I’ve loved hosting this series and sharing more about my city with you all. I’ll likely keep sharing, actually! I just need a break from the responsibility of hosting a regularly scheduled linkup.

And so, I really do hope that you will join me for the final month. This time, the topic is best memories from around town, or meaningful places close to your heart. It’s a pretty fitting topic as Thanksgiving is coming up on us, and will help us reflect on the places that have meant a lot in our lives. This month, it doesn’t even have to be all about the same town. Perhaps you want to jump around the country or world and talk about the locations that served as backdrop for important times in your life.

Whether memories from growing up like the orchard where you used to play and build tree houses, the movie theater where you had your first kiss, the spot where you got engaged, the room you were in where you you and your bestie became BFFs, the surprising spot you maybe learned a valuable new life skill, or the table you and your family gathered every holiday. Any setting with meaning we want to hear about.

Got photos of these places? Please share them! And if you don’t have photo evidence, that’s OK; just share your heart.

This month, the linkup is on November 17, and the co-host is Rebecca Chapman. We’ll also be hosting a sweet little giveaway, so don’t miss it! Grab the button, write your post, come back and link up!

Amanda Moments

Will you be joining us?

October 30, 2015

So yeah, I’m probably breaking the mold by not listing Christmas as my favorite holiday (and Christmas is great and all), but for the past several years, I’ve just really gotten more into the Halloween spirit than anything.

Why?

why halloween is the best

-SCARY MOVIE SEASON. In my house, it’s always scary movie season, but it’s really elevated to a new level in the month leading up to Halloween. For the last several years, I’ve watched Final Destination 1 and 2 on Halloween itself and made a point to watch a ton of new-to-me scary movies leading up to Oct. 31. Last year, I did a self-imposed scary movie challenge, and this year I’m making a point to watch ALL of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchise movies.

-Scary TV show season too! I love that several networks dedicate the month to scary shows and movie marathons. Our DVR really piles up quickly this time of year. Aside from movies, I’m also enjoying new seasons of Ghost Hunters, Paranormal Witness and My Haunted House. I also hear there is a live exorcism on Destination America tonight, and you can bet I’ll be checking that out.

-There are no social norms dictating present-giving. I mean, I do love giving and receiving gifts, but Christmas really does a number on my wallet. And since I’m a cheapo, I like that this one is a free holiday. I don’t get trick-or-treaters at my apartment building, so I don’t even have to buy candy (other than for myself anyway, mwahaha!).

-It’s a pretty stress-free holiday as an adult without kids. No big family meals to plan or traveling expected. At most you get to plan a costume and maybe host a party, but it’s just as easy to not do anything at all, or join in others’ festivities.

-You can act like a kid for the day and dress up however you want. Free reign to channel my inner cat — score!

-It’s smack-dab in the middle between my birthday and my husband’s birthday, giving us even more permission to feel special and make it an excuse to celebrate and indulge.

-There is so much free candy to be found.

-The decorations are so much fun. I love the cobwebs, fake spiders, skeletons, witches that cackle when you walk by, mummies, pumpkins, etc. Sure, Christmas decorations might be prettier, but they’re way less fun.

-The weather is usually pretty great. No snow yet, but it’s still chilly enough to be able to snuggle up with some cider and a fuzzy blankie into the couch.

-Black cats.

Do you like Halloween?
What’s your favorite scary movie? (and I do really hope you said that in your head with the Scream voice.)

October 28, 2015

Scrolling through Facebook the other day, I saw a Buzzfeed post pop up in my feed called “22 Reasons Fans Are Obsessed With The Walking Dead.” I imagined reading it and sharing it with a message like, “So much yes! This is why I also love TWD!” But no, instead it was just a hodge-podge list of direct quotes from other people just saying that they love the show, not WHY they love the show. Sigh. So I decided to make my own list with actual reasons why I really do love the Walking Dead.

12 reasons i love the walking dead

-It’s gory, but in a satisfying way, not in a gruesome, relentless way. I really love the blood and guts, and this show does it well.

-At the same time, it has so much heart. For a show about zombies, man, do these characters cut deep. They’re relatable. You love some, you love to hate others. You see the gamut of real human emotion from them. You feel their struggle, you can see their pain. You celebrate their victories and cry over their losses.

-At the same time, it’s kind of bad-ass. Daryl, Michonne, Rick, Carol, Maggie, Abraham, hell even Carl have had many moments when they kick some serious zombie or bad-guy butt.

-The plot is quite beautiful. The story is just woven so well together and there is a lot of story to be told. It’s really much more than a show about zombies. It’s a story of hope, family, relationships and the will to survive.

-It doesn’t forget to show moments reminiscent of times you thought TWD had forgotten about…like awkward teenage romance and dinner parties with new friends that you don’t quite trust.

-The show’s creators wrote it in a way that thought long-term. So many shows these days have a clearly limited lifespan, and you can tell in late seasons they’re grasping to stretch out the plot. I have no doubt that this show could continue on for many more seasons and not become stale.

-It keeps you on your toes. The second you think the show becomes predictable, they throw you for a loop.

-Every season is just as good as the one before it. I truly don’t think there has been a bad season yet.

-I feel like I have a much better grasp on how I might survive a real zombie apocalypse should one ever happen thanks to this show.

-I like how widespread this show reaches. It’s fun watching it along with the rest of the world and being “in the know.” I watch some other really obscure TV shows and have no one to talk to about those, so it’s great to have a network of others that also watch TWD. It also makes me feel the need to watch new episodes immediately so I don’t catch any spoilers.

-It doesn’t feature big-name actors. It’s obvious that some shows capitalize and rely on certain celebrity cast members to draw an audience and I really like shows that give other guys a chance and relies on a solid story and good acting, not just big names. Norman Reedus (aka Daryl) is probably the biggest name on this show, and the only others I even knew of prior to it was Tyler James Williams (aka Noah, aka the kid from Everybody Hates Chris) and Jon Bernthal (aka Shane, who was in The Class).

-Someone was smart enough to create “The Talking Dead” to follow each new episode to critique and analyze TWD, and it is such a great way to keep my TWD high and absorb everything that had happened. Chris Hardwick is an amazing host.

Do you watch The Walking Dead? Why do you love it?

October 26, 2015

For this month’s Solidarity Sisters program, I was paired with Stephanie from the Wife Mommy Me blog, and she was such a gracious and kind person. She’s been blogging far longer than me, so I loved the chance to pick her brain. She helped me update my categories, which has been a task on my to-do list for many months. For our final week’s challenge, Stephanie had the genius idea to pair up for a joint fall-themed Currently post! So to kick off the week, we are joining Becky over at Choose Happy to share what’s going on in our lives this fall.

LOVING

Amanda: The new fall TV shows. It’s just so fun seeing which ones catch on and even which ones flop. I adore curling up on the couch with a blankie, cider and a kitty. I’m totally into the new Limitless show — it’s the surprise of the season in my book. I’m also enjoying the Last Man on Earth, Walking Dead,  Fargo, and The Muppets. I’ve already given up on The Bastard Executioner and Blood & Oil though.

Stephanie: Fall is when all my favorite shows come back from a summer hiatus. Nashville, Scandal and The Good Wife are a must! I’ve been watching Nashville and Scandal from day 1 and spent the bulk of this summer binge watching The Good Wife so I could watch it live when it returned this fall. I’ve picked up a few new shows too – Blood and Oil (I know Amanda gave up but I haven’t yet. I’m hoping it doesn’t disappoint me!), The Affair and Homeland on Showtime and I’m slowly working myself into Gilmore Girls. I’m on season 1 episode 3.

WEARING

Amanda: Scarves! I’m slowly embracing the start of fall with sweaters and scarves, but I’m still refusing to wear boots or jackets yet. I’m a summer lover and am trying to delay winter as much as I can!

Stephanie: Layers and sweaters and all the cozy pieces I couldn’t wear in Texas. James got me a Ohio Home T-shirt and I pretty much wear it any chance I get. It’s the softest t-shirt in the world. Like Amanda, I’m wearing scarves too and have been toying with the idea of getting CJ and I matching ones this Fall. Is that too much? … didn’t think so!

PLANNING

Amanda: My scary movie marathon for Halloween. I love scary movies, but I’ve only seen the recent ones lately. This year, I want to watch ALL the Freddy and Jason franchise flicks, so I just made a list of all the movies and have lots of watching to do. There are like 20 movies on the list! So far, I’ve made it through the first three Nightmare on Elm Streets and first three Friday the 13ths. They’re all really bad, but in such a great way.

Stephanie: The last details on Connor’s party that’s on Saturday. I can’t believe he is going to be 3 on Friday! How in the world is that possible! I’m also already thinking of Christmas party ideas for MOPS. I volunteered to plan our December play date and MNO and I have all these ideas (per the norm) and I can’t wait to celebrate the holiday with my group.

EATING

Amanda: Enjoy Life Soft Baked Snickerdoodle cookies. I just did a major haul at Natural Grocers and tried a bunch of new healthy snacks. These babies are clear winners! I also tried a Japanese sweet potato for the first time I got from there, and it was all sorts of delicious. I also got sucked in by their marketing to reserve an organic Thanksgiving turkey, and I’m actually really excited about preparing my first turkey this year!

Stephanie: Fiber One Bars in Pumpkin and Cinnamon Coffee Cake. On mornings when we have to be out of the house early, I’ll grab one of those, a banana and my coffee and hit the road. The Cinnamon Coffee Cake ones are so good. Like so good I could eat them for dessert.

READING

Amanda: I recently finished The Martian, and it was AMAZING! Since then, I picked up How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, and am actually a little disappointed. It’s stranger than I was expecting. Next up: Fates & Furies for book club.

Stephanie: A month of so ago, I shared my Fall reading list and in true bookworm fashion, I’ve read 5 out of 6 books listed. I need to read Go Set a Watchmen still but haven’t been able to get into the book so far. I put that and All The Light We Can Not See on the back burner and am currently reading For The Love by Jen Hatmaker. I need to read 5 books by December 31st to reach my goal of 40 books this year. I’m thinking from here on out, I won’t be reading anything too heavy.

What’s currently going on in your world?

I really adore the Solidarity Sisters program that Susannah puts on and totally encourage you to give it a go! The next round is open for sign-up on Susannah’s blog now — just click on the button below and join:)

 

SolidaritySister

 

October 20, 2015

As I’ve told you before, winter hits Fargo longer and harder than any other season, which makes getting outside tricky sometimes. We also live in a northern prairie, which leaves lots to be desired in terms of scenery. That being said, we’re a hearty bunch up here and do our best to be active as much as we can, and we do have some pretty places to do it! That’s the topic for this second-to-last Tell Me About Your Town. Please join Mar and me in sharing your town’s outdoor offerings.

The linkup info, button and rules are below, but first, about Fargo!

Growing up in Indiana, I was outside all the time. Climbing trees, jumping in a pile of leaves, playing with my Skip-It in the driveway, sneaking out of the house hanging with friends, swimming at the pool, playing tennis, snowboarding in Michigan, ice skating in downtown South Bend. Now that I’m an adult and live in the tundra though, I do way less outdoors, which is probably a bad thing. But when I tell my hermit self to shove it and force my butt outside, I always love it. It’s just nice being in nature, isn’t it? It centers you and reminds you how beautiful our planet can be.

These are some of my favorite spots:

Lindenwood Park // Fargo has some really nice parks, but Lindenwood is always my favorite. It has so much to offer for the active or the lazy (like me). I like going there just to walk Brick, take photos, bring my nephews to play or have a picnic. It’s where we took our engagement photos!

P1030345

My neighborhood // Of course I’m biased, but I do like my neighboorhood a lot, and even though it’s kinda residential, it can be quite pretty. When I don’t feel like driving to the park, I stroll the sidewalks around my apartment with the husband and/or dog.

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fall trees

By the river // Any place by a river is pretty, right? Our Red River ain’t much to look at, but a few spots are lush and green. The area by the Hjemkomst Center (a museum dedicated to a Viking ship and old Norwegian church) is great to rent kayaks, and one day I even came face to face with this little lady:

deer

The fro yo table // I adore fro yo in the warmer months here, and one of my favorite things to do is savor my icy treat outside for some good sun and people watching. I just fit in probably my last trip just the other day!

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Thunder Road // One other thing I love doing in the summer is playing mini golf, and Thunder Road is the best place to do just that in town. You can play some holes outside, hit up the batting cage or race around in go karts.

Downtown // Our downtown is really great. Our city has spent a lot of money to revitalize it and it has a sort of “old world charm” about it. I like window shopping all the boutiques down Broadway or stopping in somewhere to grab a bite and eat outdoors, weather permitting. Rhombus Guys pizza has a great rooftop patio. Speaking of downtown, I just got word that we approved an ice rink there, and this year the first farmer’s market was held for afew hours each Saturday too.

Snowboarding nearby // OK fine, I don’t do this anymore, but I could! I used to love getting out and snowboarding. The nearest spot to do that here is in Alexandria, Minnesota.

 

Amanda Moments



Next Month (the LAST Month!)
Please join me again next month — and LAST month! — for the next installment of Tell Me About Your Town! The topic will be best memories from around town/meaningful places close to your heart, and the co-host will be Rebecca Chapman. A nice Thanksgiving-esque topic to reflect and wrap up this series. We’ll also be hosting a sweet little giveaway to mark the occasion, so don’t miss it! Mark your calendars and come back on Nov. 17 to link up!

Let me know if you want to be added to my monthly email reminder!

October 16, 2015

I mentioned recently that I devoured The Martian. No, I didn’t eat the Looney Toons character; I mean, I read the entire book by Andy Weir, cover to cover, in a day and a half, which very well might be a record for me. Now that I’ve read the book and just saw the movie, I’m comparing the two here for you!

the martian book vs movie

The Book

(This part was written just before I saw the movie so that it wouldn’t influence my writing of recalling the book. No spoilers in this section; you’re safe.)

I typically like to read in lots of tiny chunks of time. That was my intent with The Martian! But from chapter 1, I was hooked and literally could not put it down. I tried a few times so I could do more productive things like laundry and the dishes, but it kept eating at me that I had to know what happened next, so I picked it back up. This is easily the best book I’ve read since Gone Girl. Hell, those two are probably tied for best book I’ve read, ever, as an adult (because there’s stiff competition with my beloved Boxcar Children as a young lass and my obsession with Danielle Steel as a teen).

I read The Martian because I love sci-fi movies and TV, but I had never actually read any sci-fi books, so I thought it was high-time to change that. Everyone was raving about The Martian on Goodreads, so I figured it’d be a good one to start with.

I was a little worried though for two reasons: 1) I heard it was more of a real-life tale rather than dramatic aliens eating your guts-type thing, so I was scared it would be boring, and figured Mark Watney would just sit around contemplating the meaning of life with all his time up there. 2) I also heard there was a lot of lingo and sciency-math stuff, and as a writer, I just can’t math, so I was afraid my head would hurt trying to understand the book.

I was wrong on both accounts! 1) Yes, it’s true that it’s much more plausible than an alien gut-eating fest, but it was far from boring. Mark had to use every second to try and survive and devise a way to get back home. He had no time to sit around thinking about the meaning of life! Though he did watch some ’70s TV before bed most nights. 2) Yes, there are a lot of math and science lingo, and yes it was all over my head, but it wasn’t distracting at all. I glazed over the numbers, but I still found his problem-solving ability fascinating.

What I loved most about the book was his sheer will to survive. I am convinced that if it were me stranded on Mars, I would just give up. It’d be way easier to just surrender and die than fight, but to Mark he just kept on. I admire that. Not only that, but he did it in such a relatable and endearing way. His character is funny. He finds the humor in even the shittiest situation (literally. he talks about poop.) and made the best of what he had. A lemonade into lemons guy. But he was also human, as evidenced by his accidentally gluing his hand to his helmet in one Macguyvering scene. No one’s perfect. I appreciated that the author kept Mark relatable.

Even though all Mark had was himself up there and lots of NASA gadgets, it did not get boring for even a second. The suspense of just wondering if and how he’ll make it out was enough to power me through the entire novel in one weekend. The final scene was really intense too, guys. Like, edge of your seat. I could see the scene playing out in my mind as I was reading it. Like, I don’t even need to see the movie; I already saw it, because the book was that well-written.

As I write this, I am beyond stoked to see the movie. Just reading the book, I know that Matt Damon was cast perfectly for the role of Mark. I am really excited to see how they translate the rest of the book into movie form.

The Movie

(This part was written just after I returned from the movie)

Hmm. Ugh, this pains me to say that I wish I loved the movie more than I did. I so badly wanted to love it. I think the problem was the book was so outstanding to me that I then held the movie to the same standard. I was expecting it to be just as spectacular. And it was good, but it was no book, disappointingly. I also have read nothing but great reviews about the film, so I do think I was set up to have too high expectations. Way to go, media.

The roles were cast very well. Of course Matt Damon did great, but doesn’t he always? No surprise there. I was particularly impressed by Donald Glover, who just totally rocked it as Rich Purnell. So glad to see they kept his character and role in the plot intact from the book to movie. Annie the media relations gal, played by Kristen Wiig, lacked the sass she had in the book and was sort of a flat character that anyone could have played (no fault to Kristen Wiig; she acted just fine, I think this was a writing issue). Michael Pena played a great Martinez and kept that same lovable funny guy persona that he has in everything. Kate Mara surprised me since I actually liked her in this role. I think I was still holding on to a grudge from when she was in the first season of American Horror Story though.

I really feel like Mark was more relatable as a character in the book. We really got to know him and hear him think. The diary-style format assisted us knowing him on a more personal level and we could relate to his thought process and appreciate his humor. While they kept some semblance of his humor in the movie, we missed a lot of the other nuances of his personality in the film. And I get it — when you have a story to tell in a shorter amount of time, you skip the small things. I accept that.

From the trailer alone, it looked like the only difference would be that they gave Mark a family, which wouldn’t have been surprising because families make characters easier to sympathize with. But that did turn out to be clever editing; Mark Watney is still a cool single dude with no backstory other than having parents and living in Chicago just like the book.

I had heard that the movie stuck pretty closely to the book as far as major plot points. And in ways, yes. On a very high level, it was the same. I mean, there’s a dude stuck on Mars who grows poop potatoes and tries to overcome all odds to survive and get back to Earth. He find some stuff to help him do that, NASA helps, the old crew steps back in and … well I’ll stop there and save the good stuff for the spoiler section below. But whoever said it was just like the book is on drugs or clearly didn’t read the book. There were a few major plot points just completely missing or changed from book to movie.

Notable Differences Between the Book & Movie

There were several differences I noted between the book and movie. For one, they gave Mark a really random love of ketchup in the movie. And two, they renamed Venkat Kapoor, the head of NASA who was an Indian man it the book, to Vincent who was a black man. Chiwetel Ejiofor did a good enough job playing the character, but I was puzzled why they changed his name and race when everyone else was the same as far as I could tell.

!!!!SPOILER ALERT SECTION!!!!
The biggest plot change from book to movie, in my opinion, was that in the book, Mark loses communication with NASA after he accidentally leaves a saw propped up against his worktable as he’s making modifications to the rover before packing up the Hab before his journey to the Ares IIII site, and with Pathfinder down, his only way to communicate with NASA again is to get to that site. Of course, there’s also the suspense of us knowing another big storm is brewing on Mars, but NASA has no way to tell Mark that, and then said storm delays Mark’s journey since the solar panels don’t charge as quickly, and his rover gets stuck in a sinkhole-type thing. Oh the drama!

In the movie? None of that. His rover prep and mods go well, he never loses communication, the journey across Mars to the new site is totally uneventful and all is splendid. Ha.

Well, they do make a point of showing us Mark’s scrawny, dirty body and worn-out attitude though. With his rationed potato diet, he’s lost weight and that’s a point I don’t remember from the book. Well thought out on that one, movie guys.

Earlier, when the air lock detaches and busts open the Hab, it was another much more simple affair in the movie. They did create a nice explosion with some special effects, but once Mark slaps duct tape on his helmet (and I also missed Mark’s remark about even the brightest minds at NASA can’t improve upon duct tape that was in the book), he just strolls in the Hab and switches out for a new one and we’re back to sunshine and rainbows. In the book, it took him days of throwing his body against that air lock to flip it over multiple times and get close enough to the Hab to safely get new gear. And all that also happened with no NASA communication so Mark was on his own until he got to the MAV many months later.

The budding romance between Johanssen and Beck is also significantly downplayed in the movie. In fact, it’s almost non-existent, except for an awkward helmet kiss at the end and then a little diddy about their life together in the credits.

Speaking of Beck, in the book, he is the one to jump from Hermes and space-save mid-air Mark. In the movie, that’s the plan, until Lewis takes over that job in a final act of heroism as commander. K, this change did actually make sense with the story and I thought was more plausible given the character development in both mediums. Good call, movie guys.

The ending aside from the Lewis interception was mostly the same. It was edge-of-your-seat suspense if their plan will work. Amazing watching that play out just as vividly as it did in my mind. And they did acknowledge Mark’s smell in the movie too, which I appreciated. After that though, the movie showed Mark back on Earth teaching future space students. I loved the addition of this ending. I love movies neatly wrapping up loose ends in a happy little package. Another win for the movie on this one.
END SPOILERS.

In summary

The book was AMAZING. The movie was good, and as a standalone film, is great. The acting and production were spot-on. But as an overall piece, as a viewer/reader, the movie pales in comparison to the book. Had I never read the book, I’m sure I would have loved the movie. The book exceeded my expectations so much that it kind of ruined the movie for me.

Have you read or seen The Martian? What’s your take?

October 14, 2015

As I mentioned previously, my hair has thinned drastically since I went off birth control a year ago. I tried lots of things to make it less obvious, from supplements to special shampoos to a hair cut and none did anything noticeable. I became so self-conscious about it and hated my hair so much that I stopped wearing it down entirely. For the past few months, I’ve been pulling it back or pinning it up just so no one would see how bad it had become. I became so frustrated with not being able to do anything with it, and I really missed wearing it down, but I just couldn’t. It looked thin and limp and pathetic.

My doctors did say they see new growth (finally) coming back in, but it sure is taking its sweet time growing out. I was sick of waiting, so I decided to do something drastic. I got extensions. I think the below pictures speak for themselves.

before and after extensions

What a big difference, right? I feel so good about my hair again and I feel so much freedom in being able to wear it down. Extensions were foreign to me, and I’m still getting used to them, but I can say with confidence that they’re worth it as I wait for my own hair to grow back in again.

Going into this, I had NO idea what to expect. None of my friends have extensions, and the only ones I’ve noticed on others before looked terrible — you know, those DIY clip-in ones that you can totally tell are fake. I was terrified about that. But as you can see, these actually look natural and blend in.

My Experience

First, I had to find the right place to get my extensions. I knew of several salons that offered them, but I found one in particular that specialized in hair loss solutions for women going through medical challenges (such as alopecia or cancer). I wanted someone who “got it” and knew what they were doing. This wasn’t just a fun beauty enhancement for me. This was my last-ditch effort to not go off the deep end, emotionally, about my hair. (And yes, I know I’m being dramatic. For the record, I acknowledge that it must be even harder for women going through awful things like cancer, but for me personally, I needed something to make me feel pretty again, because I just felt really ugly and down about myself like I never had before.)

Luckily, April at Final Touches in Fargo, was the perfect person for me. Because this is her specialty, she really knows her stuff. She gets it. She’s sympathetic and she wants to help make women feel beautiful again.

We had an initial consultation, where she explained why my options were, what to expect, offered more advice about how to naturally get my own hair growing back in quicker and let me ask a bajillion questions. She felt my hair, heard my story, and said that I was a great candidate for tape-in extensions.

She told me about the other kinds, but after hearing about how the others worked and felt, I agreed tape was the way to go. She swatched my hair and noted my shade so she could order my new hair in my exact current color. I told her that I didn’t want anything drastic. I just wanted something to make my hair look like how it used to before it thinned. No high-end European hair, no highlights, no curls, no long length. Just enough to blend in well so I could wear it down without looking pathetic (see above before photo).

For reference, this is what my natural hair used to look like before this birth control mess:

engagment pic

When the day come to get the extensions in, I was so nervous. I was scared I’d still hate them. I was scared you’d be able to see them. I was scared it would hurt. I was scared they wouldn’t look natural. But I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

That morning, April washed my hair because it needed to be super clean before applying the extensions. I got blow-dried, then she pinned everything up so just a little was left down near the base of my neck.

The extensions themselves are real human hair, but they’re treated and cut into small sections about an inch wide, with adhesive at the top, kind of like double-switch tape. With each bit, she peeled off the paper and applied the sticky side of the hair to my own hair. There are about four rows of hair that were applied at the back of my head and two rows on the sides. She left a nice layer on the very top of my head free so that it would cover up the tape.

during extensions

The extensions came in pretty long — I think she said they were 16 inches. Once all the sections had been applied, she cut them down to the length I wanted, which was just a bit below the shoulders, and added some subtle layers and face framing to blend it. Then she styled it all, and that was that!

after extensions

Now that they’re in, I love them. In fact, I think they look better than my hair ever did before!

I can still wash, comb and style my extensions; I just have to do it more carefully than without them.

This application should last for anywhere from 1 to 3 months, depending how fast my hair grows out and how well I care for the extensions (frequent washing breaks down the adhesive, so I’ll try to do it only a couple times a week). Once they start getting loose or visible as my hair grows, I’ll go back in and April will take them out with a special solution that gets rid of the adhesive, then re-apply them. I can wear this same batch of hair about four times if I care for it well. That should get me a full year’s use of them if all goes perfect, though it likely will be more like 9 months.

Sleeping with them is a little awkward because I can feel the tape parts pressing against my head on the pillow, so I just arrange my head till I find a good spot to lay. Though it’s weird, I did sleep well enough in them, so that’s good. April did say that with some of the other kinds of extensions, sleeping can be much more uncomfortable.

Otherwise, going about my daily business, I do feel them in but it’s not too distracting. There’s a slight pull because the hair is hanging on to my roots, but the more I wear them, the more I get used to it. I can pull it back into a loose pony, but I can’t wear it up high or else the tape pulls up, and since it’s supposed to lay flat, that just doesn’t work very well.

There is one piece that is close enough to my ear on one side that I can’t tuck it behind my ear, so I think I might have her remove that one. Although I do love all the volume of hair, I may also get one less layer on the bottom in back next time so it’s less to worry about and is closer to my usual thickness anyway.

She did say that the very first time is kind of a trial to find out how it feels, how to best care for it, and how I like it done. Now for the re-application in a couple months I’ll be better able to tell her how I prefer it.

My hope is that after this batch is no longer usable, my hair will have grown out enough on its own to not even need them anymore. I do not want to have to wear these forever; it’s more of a short-term solution so I don’t hate myself as I wait for my own hair to grow back. In the meantime, I’m very thankful that this solution does exist and works so well, and that April was so talented to apply them beautifully.

It’s really nice to have hair that makes me feel confident again, and overall, the experience has been great! Now I just wait and see how long these last, what the re-application process is like and how long it takes my hair to grow back.