Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Free Stuff We Adore!

Don't you absolutely love when something is free? In the past, I have received free magazine subscriptions for Vogue and Marie Claire and almost died of joy. So, you can imagine my happiness when I stumbled upon a book giveaway on author Julianna Baggott's (/Bridget Asher/N.E. Bode) blog. You can read the giveaway rules for yourself, but it's pretty simple. You buy Bridget Asher's newest book on Amazon, email her secretary (see rules) your emailed receipt, and she will mail you (no shipping charges) Asher's The Pretend Wife, for absolutely free!
The Pretend Wife: A NovelThe Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted: A Novel
So you get two books for the price of one! I did this and received my copy in the mail just yesterday. It was even signed!

I'm looking forward to reading these in my leisurely time this summer. I will keep you updated about my reviews!

Don't worry, it will be filled soon!
Where else would I store my free book but on a free bookshelf? I found these beautiful bookshelves next to the dumpster outside my apartment complex. I know what your thinking, but some paper towels and a little bit of all surface cleaner later, my shelves were good as new. Don't they look darling?

I'm a big believer in recycled furniture, nearly everything in my apartment comes from Craigslist, thrift/antique stores, estate/garage sales, or from family and friends. I also got this bookcase for free several years ago from a family I babysat for:
From trash to treasure! A grad student's dream!

Finally, I know I mentioned this on an earlier post, but I was pretty thrilled with these free business cards for my blog. I only paid about $5.00 shipping and handling.
Cute Right? 
In other news, I have added Amazon Associates to my blog. If you see a picture of a book, album, movie, or other product, you can click it and be directed to the Amazon page where you can buy it. I have gone back and edited some older posts to include this just to see what it looks like. It should make for easy, one-click shopping, but if nothing else, the pictures are pretty!

Before I leave, I wanted to include pictures of a couple more things I adore:

Here's to the best things in life being free!
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

PS- We hope you can still join us at The Porch here in Lake Charles, LA for our fiction reading on Friday at 7pm!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

5K Day! + Other Exciting News

Today was our big 5K for Free to Breathe! Brendan and I have never run a 5K before, so this was all new to us. We woke up to a text from Missy at 6:48am asking if we were ready yet. Our leisurely plan was to wake up at 7:00am, oops? We ate a breakfast for champions of hard boiled eggs that I made last night. I definitely felt I had the energy I needed to make it through 3.2 miles. The day was nice but muggy, and the race got off to a good start. I was excited about my fancy number bib (lucky 13) and the microchip I got to wear on my ankle to record my time. Our MFA all star team included ten people, and together, we raised $500.00 (not including the $200.00 we paid to run, which also goes to the organization's efforts to find a cure for lung cancer).

I really appreciate donations from Leslie Huling, The Diebitsch Family, Sharon Egan, and Erica McCreedy who helped me raise $100.00  and fulfill my personal fundraising goal!

I had to power walk through parts of my first 5K, but finished at 39 minutes. Brendan finished in 26 minutes. Our team captain, Vanni Thatch, placed 3rd in her age group. Overall, this was a very good experience, we got up early to exercise and raised money for a great cause. We both decided that we would do it again! Just let us know when the next 5K is.

Here is a picture of our team, the MFA All-Stars:
MFA All-Stars left to right: Nancy, Jessica, Jason, Me, Allie, Mila, Missy, Kevin, and Brendan. Front: Our team captain, Vanni.

Another first, Brendan and I are proud to announce that we will be giving our first public fiction reading:
This coming Friday, April 1st at 7:00pm
at The Porch Coffee House and Cafe
located here in Lake Charles at 4710 Common Street.
You can find an official press release here.
We will each be reading a short story, so come and enjoy some story telling and the lovely atmosphere of The Porch which serves coffee, food, and also boasts a full bar. 
If we had books, these are the pictures we would choose for our book jackets. It's good to have dreams.
Stacy Lynn Austin
Brendan Egan

We hope that you can attend!

Finally, I mailed off my 13th job application today, and I was number 13 in the 5K. Could be a sign of good things to come.

Here's to exciting news!
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Beauty All Around Us

I can be prone to occasional bouts of the blues. Brendan and I are good about keeping each others' spirits up though, and we're lucky to have each other. If one of us feels down, the other stops what they are doing and thinks of something to do to cheer the other up. Today, to beat my blues, I wanted to go on a walk and take pictures. Luckily, Brendan knew just the place to take me and we headed to Perkin's Ferry Park here in Lake Charles. We may have trespassed a little, but the results were some beautiful pictures and a much needed day of exploration in the sun. Enjoy the best of my little photo adventure below:

This guy tells Brendan and I that "Nothing is biting."

I've always had a thing for buttercups :)

I love the shape of these sweet, delicate flowers.

Proof that beauty is found in the most unexpected of places.

I love the shape of these leaves. The world is truly spectacular!

Just ask this little guy.

Sometimes it's comforting to think: we have everything we really need.

That's not to say there won't be some thorny spots!

But if we take time, we can find the calm in our everyday world.

Proof that growing takes a bit of bravery!

Where I am.

It takes patience to notice the good blossoming around us.

Where I would live if I were a frog.

From Brendan's camera. I stole his t-shirt, but he stole my heart :)    

Here's to forgetting all your troubles!
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

Friday, March 18, 2011

Colors of Spring Stir-Fry

No plans for dinner this Saturday night? Remember the stir-fry recipe from Lola & Zoe's first ever blog post? Well, here's another stir-fry, more spicy than sweet this time. Brendan created it, I helped him cook it, and we were both beyond satisfied with the results of this simple, one hour from start to finish stir-fry.

Here's how to do it:

  • In a medium sized pot, boil brown rice covered. 
  • mince 2 tablespoons ginger and 5 cloves of garlic.
  • chop 1 yellow onion.
  • use a wok with a cover and put 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of the wok.
  • cook garlic, ginger, and onion in the wok on medium/high for 3-4 minutes. 
  • chop 1 cup baby carrots and 1 cup celery, add to the wok. Stir. Turn up to high heat.
  • add 1/2 cup water + 1/2 teaspoon salt or use vegetable broth instead. Cook 5 minutes, covered.
  • add 1 cup cauliflower florets and 1 cup broccoli florets and 1 chopped yellow bell pepper and the white part of 3 chopped green onions. Cook 4 minutes, covered.
  • uncover. Add soy sauce, ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste (we made it super spicy!) Add juice of 1 lime. Cook until the liquid starts to thicken. 
  • Add your favorite stir-fry sauce as preferred, we used House of Tsang Classic Stir Fry Sauce. Cook an additional minute. 
  • Serve over rice and garish with green part of chopped green onion. 
Colors of Spring Stir-Fry! Delicious and Nutritious!

Estimated Prep/Cook Time: 1 hour. 
Deliciousness Factor: 4 out of 5 stars. I loved the beautiful presentation of this colorful stir-fry which features yellows, oranges, and greens. What beautiful colors in the spring pallet! The ginger and celery tastes absolutely delightful in this dish, and I love the healthiness factor. Brendan loves the variety of veggies and says that every bite is a little bit different. He didn't miss meat in this vegetarian/vegan dish.

In other news, Graham and Maisie have made it safely to Goa and I'm pretty much beyond jealous. However, Maisie caught a bad stomach virus and then Graham was running a high fever, but the antibiotics they brought with them came to their aide. They were in Goa, left for awhile (not sure where they went), and then returned to Goa. It looks like a gorgeous place with beautiful, majestical beaches. I haven't heard from him in awhile and am hoping to get a call or email within the next few days.

Meanwhile, I've had a productive week grading, spring cleaning, and writing. I will be working on my short story collection (thesis) most of the weekend, and might have an opportunity to check out William Lusk Coppage's poetry reading in Lafayette on Saturday.

Here's to healthy dinners and happy weekends!
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How to Be the Perfect Wedding Guest (and Look Good Doing It!)

Anyone who knows me well me can tell you that I love to practice good etiquette. Growing up, my favorite columns to read in the newspapers were Dear Abby and Ask Ann Landers, and admittedly, I read etiquette books for fun and have a grandmother who taught me the importance of practicing politeness. I just attended a beautiful wedding in Chicago, IL as Brendan's date, and I thought a blog post would be a great forum to answer questions that wedding guests may have (right in time for the spring/summer wedding season too!). Here are my sure and steadfast rules to being the perfect wedding guest:

Step 1: RSVP
When you are invited to a wedding, there will be a response card in the invitation, which guests are expected to fill out and return in the addressed and stamped envelope provided. Sometimes, the card even asks guests to select what they would like to be served for dinner. Fill out the card and send it back in a timely manner. It's that simple. Failing to do so is rude. Not only does it make it impossible for the couple to plan for their big day, it also comes off as dismissive. These people are including you in one of the most important days of their lives, so at least give them the favor of a reply (and don't waste their stamp money!). If there are food options, check one. Do not complain or write in what you wish was being served. If you cannot attend, write in a message such as, "We feel honored that you thought to include us and will be thinking about you on your big day!" Simply checking unable to attend comes off as a bit cold.

Step 2: The Gift
Most couples register for wedding gifts and include this information and links to registries on wedding websites. As a guest, you have the option of shopping from the registry and having your gift mailed directly to the couple in advance of the wedding. I recommend this because if you bring the gift to the wedding, not only do you have to travel with it, but the couple must travel back with it (if they are married in a city they no longer reside in). Additionally, it is usually parents who end up transporting gifts from the reception to the couple's home, which can be a hassle. Plus, I have even read instances where wedding gifts were stolen from a gift table.

Another option you have is writing the couple a check, which many people prefer. Be sure to put it in a card and write a thoughtful message. You can mail the check in advance or bring it to the wedding and leave it on the gift table (there is usually a basket for cards). I would be wary of putting cash in an envelope because of the issue mentioned above. A check is safer.

If you are unable to attend the wedding, you should still send a gift. It is a nice gesture and a way to acknowledge a major event in the lives of your friends.

General rule is that guests have one year to send a gift, but in my opinion, why wait. Send the gift before or closely after the wedding.

Step 3: Being a Guest
Being a guest is pretty simple, but there are a lot of elements. First, one must decide what to wear. Make an effort to look nice. Women should NEVER wear white under any circumstances. White is reserved for the bride and honestly, if you wear white, you will look tacky. Obviously, if the dress is white but has a large pattern on it like big black flowers, that is totally acceptable. Solid white: not acceptable. Not even with a shawl. I've seen women wear a shawl over a white dress and end up taking it off. Just save that dress for a different event. Personally, I do not wear black to weddings. I think black is a depressing color, but there is no formal rule against it.

Here, Brendan and I model our wedding attire. Brendan also wore a jacket (not pictured). I love this bright blue dress that I picked out from Modcloth. I dressed it up with silver heels and a silver clutch,  a pearl necklace and earrings,
and these adorable hair clips I found at Walgreens for just $3.99.

Next, show up to the ceremony on time and silence your cell phone.

Step 4: Reception Rules
Have fun. Why go to a wedding and sit in the corner or leave early? Get out on that dance floor and stay there! This is, after all, a celebration. Enjoy your time with your friends and visit with the couple (just keep in mind, they have a lot of people to visit with, so don't tie them up for too long). Don't get plastered at the open bar. Weddings are nice (usually family oriented) affairs, so behave accordingly. How much fun should you be having? At least this much:
Step 5: Saying Goodbyes
Be sure to thank the couple for inviting you and let them know what a fun time you had. Usually, people spend about a year planning a wedding, so acknowledge their hard work and tell them what you loved specifically. If the parents hosted the wedding, thank the parents too and let them know you really had fun and appreciate being included.

Obviously say congratulations to both the couple and the parents!

Don't leave your favors on the table. Someone spent time and money making them, so be sure to take them with you!

Well, there you have it, wedding etiquette 101. And now, another sweet picture of Brendan and I.
Is this post partially an excuse to post cute pictures of us? Probably.

Here's to being a gracious guest!
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe

The Best Of Dear AbbyBest of Ann Landers: Her Favorite Letters of All Time

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

From Novel to Film: A Book and Movie Pick

While taking a break from all this thesis work, Brendan and I stumbled on a filmed titled Never Let Me Go based on the novel (published in 2005) of the same name by Kazuo Ishaguro. It was surprising to me that I had never heard of the novel not only because I read and loved Remains of the Day by Ishaguro, but also because it is speculative fiction/science fiction, which definitely falls into one of my favorite fictional genres. As for the movie, it stars Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley (one of my favorite actresses), so it also surprised me that this film, which was released in 2010, had been so off my radar. Of course, as Brendan points out, it was first released in the UK (and Lake Charles never gets smaller budget films), so I suppose it makes sense.

Never Let Me GoThe film is classified as a romance and a drama, and it is those things, but it also paints a portrait of a disturbing world, one that in some ways doesn't seem so much different than our own. The movie begins in the late 1990s, where Kathy is finally confronting the future that has haunted her her entire life. She was made for a very specific purpose, and though she is only 31, she has watched already her two closet friends, Tommy and Ruth, die from fulfilling their "purposes." The present of the film is grim, but then we are taken back to the 1970s, to Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth's childhood at what looks like an ordinary boarding school, until you realize something is not so ordinary at all. As Kathy looks back on her life at school and her adolescence in the free world, the audience is in for a treat. The cinematography is beautiful, the dialogue often unforgettable, the story haunting and devastating. I felt totally engrossed with this film. It left me with so many questions that I had to buy the book the next day.

{Never Let Me Go}NEVER LET ME GO BY ISHIGURO, KAZUO[paperback]on 31 Aug -2010The novel is 288 pages, but a fast and riveting read. I finished it in two days and couldn't stop talking about it, or reading passages outloud to Brendan. The book gives a much more detailed, intimate view into the lives of these characters. It portrays beautifully and subtly what it means to be human. Specifically how people must cope with the circumstances they are given, how friends save each other, how the mistakes we make can lead to irreparable damage, and how time and our knowledge of it influences our lives. This is an emotional, powerful read, which will leave you questioning the world you live in. I haven't been so pleased with a work of speculative fiction since Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. A reader must be prepared to indulge in all the little moments that Kathy reveals, but the payoff of taking the journey with her is worth every digression.
The Handmaid's Tale (Everyman's Library)

Sometimes, I have a "the book was so much better than the film" reaction, but I was very happy with the film adaptation. And while some things were changed, I actually thought some of the decisions made for the screenplay created more tension. I'm a huge fan of the ending line of the film and was quite disappointed not to find it in the novel. This was a good screenplay, on par with the novel to film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange.

A Clockwork Orange (Two-Disc Special Edition)A Clockwork Orange
If you are looking for a great pick for movie night or a spectacular read (or hopefully both), I recommend both these works wholeheartedly.

Here's to art in all its forms.
<3 Stacy, Lola & Zoe
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