Five Friday Favorites

This week I’m still reeling from watching “Gone Girl” in theaters; am excited to have finally finished the interactive novel “Ship of Theseus;” enjoyed making salmon cakes for me and the husband; and more!

Five Friday Favorites

1. This beauty guide: 3 Everyday Eyeliner Shapes

2. This movie: Gone Girl. I especially enjoyed reading this article about Gillian Flynn’s take on her “cool girl” speech from the book. That part really stuck with me.

3. This book: Ship of Theseus. (I FINALLY finished it!)

4. This song: Wonderwall by Oasis. What a perfect song to listen to during this rainy weather. Does anyone else instantly relate this song to that scene from “The O.C.” when Seth Cohen sweeps Summer off her feet?

5. This recipe: Naked Salmon Burgers with Sriracha Mayo

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Date Night Idea: Kansas Belle Dinner Train | Baldwin, Kansas

Kansas Belle Dinner Train
Photo courtesy Kansas Belle Dinner Train

Are you looking for a unique date night idea? Step into the 1940s via the Kansas Belle Dinner Train. This adorable dinner train starts in Baldwin, Kansas, which is about 30 minutes south of Lawrence, Kansas, and takes you through the beautiful surrounding fields for about three hours. The husband and I had a chance to enjoy a night out aboard the train this past weekend thanks to a Christmas gift from my mom and her husband. We got all gussied up (because where else can you wear a large hat if not aboard a train?), enjoyed a five-course dinner and experienced the Casablanca Express.

Kansas Belle Dinner Train

Kansas Belle Dinner Train
{Dress: New York & Company; Kimono: Target; Booties: Kohls; Purse: Marc by Marc Jacobs; Necklace: LC Lauren Conrad (Kohls); Hat: Ruche}

Kansas Belle Dinner Train

We went to one of their evening dinners on Saturday, which features a special murder mystery show. The theme to the show changes with each weekend. The evening we went the theme was the Casablanca Express: “As you flee across war torn North Africa, you have an appointment with murder. You may be a black marketer, a Nazi sympathizer, or at the mercy of both—wondering how you’ll ever escape Casablanca.”

The show was performed by two men from the Nebraska theater group The Likely Suspects. (Some of their shows are performed by actors from Theater Lawrence.) They were both very funny to watch (although one of the men laughed at his own jokes one too many times, in my opinion). But they didn’t put on the entire production by themselves, and instead enlisted the help of willing (or persuaded, if you want to look at it that way) passengers to play important roles. I was cast as Sam, the sassy waitress from Bogart’s Bar; and A.J. was cast as Leopold Dietrich, a German passenger. We attempted to solve the murder of one of the train passengers, which seemed an impossible task (there were too many suspects, and it was hard to pay attention to the storyline through all the laughter). We both thought I did it, because it sounds like something I would do, but alas it wasn’t me. It was A.J.’s “wife” Marlene Dietrich.

The best part was at the end of the night when everyone voted on their favorite actors. A.J. and I both walked away with second place for favorite actor and actress! I mean, we didn’t actually win anything, but still. We may need to consider switching careers.

The five-course meal featured a small appetizer to share (cheese, grapes, veggies); potato soup; the pre-ordered main course (I had grilled salmon and A.J. had prime rib); and dessert. Unfortunately, I have to admit that the dinner could have been tastier. The soup was cold, the steak a little fatty, and the fish a little dry. But don’t let that take away from our experience. The actors were fun and the atmosphere was delightful. Plus, where else are you going to enjoy a train ride filled with potential murderers?

Kansas Belle Dinner Train

If you’re looking for a fun and unique gift or date night, you should consider the Kansas Belle Dinner Train. The husband and I had a fabulous time, and fall was probably the perfect time to go because we got to see the beautiful colors of the changing seasons from our window seat. The three-hour ride on Saturday evening, along with the five-course dinner, coffee and tea, costs $65. (Pre-order a bottle of wine and request it be waiting at your table right when you get there. Trust me. The couple we sat with did this, and A.J. and I were beyond envious of their foresight.) There is also a two-and-a-half hour ride on Sunday that features a three-course dinner (and longer daytime views of the surrounding landscape) for $55. Visit their website for more information.


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My Style: Little Shop of Horrors

This past Friday, the husband and I ventured on over to Theater Lawrence to watch my favorite spooky musical of all time, Little Shop of Horrors. This 1950s sci-fi cult classic is about a florist with a heart of gold and the strange and interesting plant that finds him success in life. It holds a special place in my heart from when I worked on the makeup crew in my high school’s production way back when. It’s also just a lot of fun, and I was really impressed with our community theater’s rendition of it. (Read more about their production at

When attending fun events such as this, I like to sometimes go the extra mile and really dress the part. When Theater Lawrence put on The Great Gatsby, I pinned my hair into a bob and wore a sparkling headband and a flashy little black dress. For Little Shop, I went for this green polka-dot dress I scored from Ross earlier this past summer. The polka dots feel very vintage, and I love the rich green color, which was very fitting for a musical about a very hungry and blood-thirsty plant. (Theater Lawrence even sold a delicious green cocktail that they called Seymour’s Sipper.) Paired with a fun little floral headband, my favorite ruffled T-strap heels (last seen here) and my favorite lipstick at the moment, I think I put together a retro outfit that folks from Skid Row would be envious of!

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors

For this look, I attempted to give my hair vintage-style curls. I pinned the simple tutorial that I used, via The Beauty Department, here. It didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted it, but I was still impressed. Better luck next time, eh?

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors


Dress: Ross Dress for Less; Cardigan: Gap Outlet; Heels: Steve Madden: Purse: Gap Outlet: Belt: Maurices; Headband: Icing; Earrings: gifted

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Five Friday Favorites

This week, I’ve found myself obsessed with a new fashion trend, and am once again hooked on the Gilmore Girls. What are some of your favorite things this week?

Five Friday Favorites

1. This guide to layers: The Beauty Department’s Language of Layers. I’ve always wondered how to talk with my hair stylist about layers. This guide was super helpful!

2. This fashion trend: jogger pants. When did these become a thing? I love it. They look comfy and chic. Which color should I get; beige or black?

3. This recipe: Open-Face Croque Monsieur

4. This song: Chandelier by Sia. I’ve always enjoyed this song (the music video, especially) but I particularly adored the performance to this song from this week’s Dancing with the Stars (a show I don’t even watch), danced by Maddie Ziegler and Allison Holker, my all-time favorite female dancer from So You Think You Can Dance.

5. This BuzzFeed article: 13 Charts All “Gilmore Girls” Fans Will Understand. It’s very fortunate that Netflix has released the entire series of Gilmore Girls at the same time that I have been going through the series via rented DVDs from the library. So many articles have been written in adoration of this show, and this might just be my favorite one. Who doesn’t love charts? (And who doesn’t love Jess? Team Jess all the way.)

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Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1Q84 Cover


First published in three parts and originally printed in Japanese, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is a book that sounds fascinating: Set in 1984, a ruthless assassin named Aomame starts to notice small changes to the world around her. She soon realizes she’s become transported to an alternate universe, which she later names 1Q84. Meanwhile, an aspiring author named Tengo takes on a ghostwriting project that involves him with a mystical cult. Their stories eventually converge and the mystery begins to unfold. Intriguing, right?

Wrong. This was one of the most boring books I’ve ever read.

Well, not read, I guess. I listened to 1Q84 on audiobook. And I’m glad I did. This beast of a book—at nearly 1,000 pages!—did not deliver an enticing story. Instead of creating a multilayered plot that drew me in, I continuously zoned out during my morning commutes. It constantly repeated itself (no wonder it was so long) and delivered a mediocre “mystery” with an anticlimactic ending. Aomame, the “ruthless assassin,” makes Inspector Gadget look like a savvy adventure series. And the major emotional draw for the entire book is the love she feels for a man whose hand she once held in elementary school, and whom she never saw again. That’s right folks. She fell in love with a man in the third grade. Not really a man, I guess. A boy. She has spent the last 20 years of her life pining for a 10-year-old. Gross. Apparently, not one single man she met in all of her life compared to the boy she fell in love with 20 years ago.

On top of that, the literary device of a parallel universe that really attracted me to this novel was completely wasted. The changes Aomame notices around her when she switches worlds don’t affect her past life in any way. And the cult that Tengo finds himself entangled in is as tame as a kitten. And did I mention that the book is nearly 1,000 pages? At that page length I expected an epic tale of love, war and mystery. What a letdown. I do not recommend it.

Stray Observations
Some spoilers ahead

• Can I reiterate this once more? It was nearly 1,000 pages! That’s more than 45 hours in audiobook world! Edit yourself, dude.

• There’s no way Tengo’s ghostwritten novel, Air Chrysalis, would have become a best seller. Just saying.

• What was the deal with the faceless fee collector? I had to listen to 20 minutes of him berating Aomame and Tengo’s door, never to hear from him again or discover the purpose of his presence, which must have ate up at least 50 pages. Was he Tengo’s dead father? And if so, what was the point? What was the point of the whole story, really?

• How have these two characters clung to that one moment in a grade school classroom for 20 years? The strongest crush I had in grade school involved me saving a pair of scissors my crush had borrowed from me. I preserved them in a Ziploc bag. But then I needed to use the scissors for a class project, so the next day I took them out of the bag. Then my feelings for this boy waned the following year because we no longer shared the same teacher. And also because we were in grade school!

• Who are the Little People? Why did Murakami never spend more time with these mystical creatures? That would have made a much more interesting novel—much more interesting than sitting around with Ushikawa for a third of the book as he investigated Aomame and Tengo, uncovering information about them we already knew.

• I will say this for the book: Reading 1Q84 made me want to read the classic novel its title was based on, George Orwell’s 1984. I have even gone so far as to buy a copy of it from my local used-book store, The Dusty Bookshelf. (My favorite place in Lawrence.) So there’s that. Thanks 1Q84.

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