Date Night Idea: Painted Kanvas | Lawrence, KS

Painted Kanvas

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. –Vincent Van Gogh

For my 29th birthday (yea…I’d rather not talk about it…) I wanted to step outside my annual dinner-out-with-friends and try something a little different. So I decided to unleash my inner Parisian artist at Painted Kanvas in Lawrence, Kansas.

Painted Kanvas Logo

Painted Kanvas, right off Wakarusa and 15th St., is a locally owned paint and wine studio. The concept is simple: For $35, you walk away with a painting you create with your own hands. With provided canvas and paints, an experienced instructor leads you through the steps to create the painting of the evening.

Because I planned on having 15 to 20 people help me celebrate my birthday, I was able to reserve the studio for a private party (you need a minimum of 10 people) and pick the painting we would work on. In high school, I was obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh so I chose to recreate his infamous “Starry Night.” And although most of my friends cursed me for picking such a “difficult” painting, it was a blast to put together and I thought that everyone’s interpretation of this classic piece was amazing!

Starry Night
{My rendition of Starry Night.}

Starry Night
{My husband’s rendition of Starry Night.}

That was my favorite part about this whole setup—seeing everyone’s artistic interpretation. Even though none of us had picked up a paint brush since high school, we surprised ourselves with how much artistic talent we actually possessed. And while most of us took the process seriously, a couple of my friends just had goofy fun with it. Take my husband for example: He turned his moon into The Man on the Moon then added a horse getting abducted by a UFO to the landscape. I can’t explain his sense of humor.

For private parties, you’re allowed to bring your own food, arrive early to set up and then buy from the bar all night long. Ask friends to arrive early as well, so as to settle in with some drinks before the instructor gets started teaching the two-hour class. Our instructor was fun and super helpful. And even though it’s not a paint-by-numbers situation, she was able to deconstruct each step for us in a way that made sense.

Private parties are not your only option at Painted Kanvas. Check out their calendar to find out which nights are open to the public and which are scheduled for private parties. The calendar even showcases which paintings are scheduled for each night. Pay at the door, grab a drink, pick up a paint brush and unleash your creative side. This is a great place to go with your girlfriends and it would also make for an amazing date night. I definitely plan on going again.

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Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King


3 1/2 STARS

11/22/63 by Stephen King is the second King book that I’ve “read” (hello handy dandy audiobook). Stephen King’s books are perfect for audiobook—they read like a script thanks to the abundance of dialogue and action. Plus, his books are super lengthy (at least the ones on my reading list are) and as someone who always carries around a book in her purse, I particularly hate toting heavy (i.e. lengthy) books.

Unfortunately, I wish I had read this book instead of listened to it. Despite the length (and overall time commitment) the narrator’s voice got on my nerves and his performance was too over the top for me. To make matters worse, I couldn’t connect with any of his female voices. They sounded too stereotypically…feminine. So even though the female characters were likely well-written, his voice prevented me from rooting for any of them—especially Sadie, arguably the most important one.

Here is the setup of the book: Al Templeton, the owner of a diner and secret time traveler, is friends with Jake Epping, a high school English teacher. In Al’s pantry hides a rabbit hole to the 1950s. Stricken with cancer, Al burdens his friend Jake with a secret time traveler’s mission: Stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and change the world.

I was immediately hooked, as I am an absolute sucker for anything time travel related. When people argue whether Star Wars or Lord of the Rings is the greatest trilogy of all time, I insist that it’s actually Back to the Future. (I mean, duh.)

As always, Stephen King tells the story well and continues to keep things interesting. But seeing as how it was more than 800 pages long, there were definitely parts in the story that could have been cut—many in fact. It takes well over two-thirds of the book to really begin to dig into the Kennedy assassination, and that was the most interesting part of the story. The majority of the book is about Jake’s time spent in a small Texas town where he takes on the pseudonym George Amberson, enjoys the quaintness of small town life, becomes an adored English teacher and falls in love with the tall, klutzy and southern librarian (Sadie). This was a cute story in and of itself, but not what I signed up for when taking on this mammoth of a story.

Eventually the story circles back to the main subject of Harvey Oswald and JFK, and the plot gets exciting once again. Unfortunately, King’s handling of the cause-and-effect related to time travel, or rather “the butterfly effect,” was—again—not what I was hoping for. Without meaning to spoil anything, let’s just say King introduced paranormal elements that conflicted with the usual paradigm of time travel. It was still intriguing, just not what I was hoping for.

All in all, a fun read—as long as you have the time to spare.

Stray Observations
Some spoilers ahead

• I think my favorite part about this book was the basic history lesson. I guess I didn’t really know a whole lot about JFK. (It’s a wonder I graduated high school, really.) So taking an in-depth look in such a way was a whole lot of fun. I mean, maybe Kennedy wouldn’t have prevented the war in Vietnam—maybe that was inevitable—but it sure is interesting to contemplate the possibilities.

• I also loved King’s attention to detail regarding the rules for time travel in this universe. The rabbit hole always starts at the exact time and place. You can bring objects back with you to the present from the past, and then when you visit the past again, the object still exists. Also, every time you visit the past it creates alternate timelines.

• The purpose of the “Yellow Card Man” was a little confusing. I’m still not sure if I fully understood his purpose and where exactly he came from. Who would take up that job? Does it have health benefits? Dental?

• I would again like to stress that I really didn’t like the way this book handled “the butterfly effect.” Instead of taking an honest look at what might have happened if Oswald had never assassinated Kennedy, we glimpse a dystopian future where the world has suffered from nuclear warfare—the more extreme a change to the past is (from talking to a stranger to saving someone’s life), the more unstable our timeline becomes. And while this is interesting, I would have much rather seen King’s ideas for what a world with a living Kennedy would have actually looked like—sans paranormal elements. But I guess that’s not the story King wanted to tell.

• Even though I didn’t love Sadie as much as I think I would have if I didn’t have to experience her through the audiobook narrator’s awful voice for her, I definitely teared up at that ending. That was beautiful. Nice job, King. Nice job.

• Finally, have you heard that Hulu is adapting this book, and that they’ve cast James Franco as Jake Epping? Ugh. I love James Franco, but he is not Jake. I really don’t like this.

But I’ll probably still watch it.

*Bows head in shame.


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Rewatching Dirty Dancing Havana Nights

Dirty Dancing Havana Nights

Today, I would like to take this time to revel in one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasures: Dirty Dancing Havana Nights. Do you remember this movie? I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. This 2004 flick flew under the radar—it was in theaters during the same time as The Notebook, so you were likely preoccupied with the profound realization that Ryan Gosling is hot, hot, hot. No worries. I completely understand.

But if you DO remember this movie, then you and I have a lot to reminisce about. Although its existence is entirely unnecessary, (A sequel to one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time? No thank you.) I love this movie. Not only did it give me something to watch during college on my used DVD player when I was procrastinating on a project, this campy reimagining of the 1987 classic was just plain dancing fun.

Recently, I was flipping through my cable channels on a boring Friday night when I discovered that this movie was just about to start. So much for going to bed early! I texted my roommate from college and we proceeded to watch it together way into the wee hours of the morning. (Thank god for unlimited texting.) So go ahead. Rewatch this gem with us. You won’t regret it.

First things first, the soundtrack to this film is so much fun.

Who knew that the Black Eyed Peas were alive during the 50s! Listen to it whenever you’re in the mood to move your hips.


Meet Katey

Instead of taking place at an upstate New York resort in the 50s, this movie takes place in Havana on the cusp of the Cuban Revolution. Eighteen-year-old bookworm Katey moves to Cuba with her family. It’s a strange new world to her, and she’s not so sure about it.


Until…she meets Javier.

And of course they have a movie-style meet cute. He drops her drinks when waiting on her and her classmates. Her new rich snobby friends call him a racial slur. Then he gets yelled at by his boss, even though it was a minor accident. Weren’t the 50s fun?!


Also, Mad Men was so very Mad Men before Mad Men.

Why hello there, Betty (January Jones)! Greetings, Pete (Vincent Kartheiser). Is that you, Roger (John Slattery)?


Then we see Javier dance.

Just…yum. I can’t tell you how many “Salsa Nights” I went to at various clubs during college just in the hopes of meeting my own Javier. The man can move those hips.

Even more gyrating. Cuba!

I don’t know why this song is so catchy, but damnit, it is.


Well, that escalated quickly.

Remember how Katey met James, a decently nice boy who appreciated her book smarts? Remember how gentlemanly he was? Well, turns out it was all a rouse. (That, or the writers decided that, if she’s to end up with the boy from “the wrong side of the tracks,” it’s probably better if they turn James into a racist and—just for safe measure—a rapist.)

Siiiiiiiiigh. As you can tell, I find this storyline a little out of left field. Oh well. She stands her ground and runs off into the arms of the beautiful Cuban boy who has stolen her heart (and ours).


Dance montage! (“That’s a box.”)

So, Katey decides that James is a class-A jerk (which he is) and decides to help the super-cute Javier earn some cash to make up for the pay he lost when she accidentally cost him his job. (The 50s strike again!) And even though she may not yet realize it, she just wants to spend some one-on-one time with the boy because, let’s face it girl—You’re a smitten kitten.

Dance Movie Clichés

So naturally, they decide to enter a dance contest to earn some extra money! Better start practicing to loosen those hips, little lady. Javier’s got some teaching to do.

And guys…Guys! If they mix what he knows—how to feel the music—with what she knows—structured ballroom moves—they could win! Don’t you just love cliché dance movie moments? I do. I really, really do.


But Javier’s not her only teacher. Cue cameo!

If Katey’s going to pull this off, she needs help from the one man who’s wise beyond his years. Aging Patrick Swayze! (RIP) But here’s my one question: Is he supposed to be Johnny Castle from the original movie, which takes place five years later? After the Cuban Revolution, did he move to the Catskills and age backwards? Or is he supposed to be some distant relative of Johnny’s? OK, that’s more than one question, but I need to know all the things about Johnny Castle.


Who knew that projectors could be so hot?

But back to the One True Pairing: Javier and Katey are watching old tapes of Katey’s parents back in their ballroom days on a projector screen in a musty garage. They decide to practice dancing in front of the screen, and Things. Get. Hot. It suddenly transitions from pretty, flowing ballroom moves to straight up grinding. Get it girl.


The Best Scene in the Entire Movie

Finally it’s the day of the dance competition! The choreography to this is a lot of fun, and during the routine the couple shares their first kiss. I watched this movie with my college roommates a lot back in the day, and what I remember most are the squeals that emitted from one of my roommates mouth every time Javier and Katey share their first kiss.




We usually rewound the scene and rewatched it a couple of times in a row.

Wow, we were nerds.

Fun Fact

In the original cut of the film (as shown in a deleted scene on my DVD), the couple kisses earlier than the dance competition, but the studio cut that scene, making THIS their first kiss. And I have to say, I like this SO much better. It’s like the dance brought it out of them, and they just couldn’t keep their lips off each other for one more second.

I really wasn’t lying when I said I love dance movie clichés.


Superimposed Patrick Swayze

Was Patrick Swayze super busy or something? They clearly filmed his scene at the dance competition on a different day than they filmed any of the other dance competition scenes. Nice try, editing room. Nice try.


El Beso De Final

No lie: I learned all of the lyrics to this Spanish song, sung beautifully by Christina Aguilera. The song takes place after Katey and Javier perform at their final dance competition. They didn’t win, but the Cuban Revolution has started and Javier is excited about the potential for his country. (Hate to break it to you Javier, but you probably should have followed Katey to America.) Regardless, I love this song. It’s about sharing that final kiss with the person you will always love; it’s absolutely heartbreaking. (Also: Foreshadowing!)


Ending Rewrite

My college roommate likes to “rewrite” endings to movies if she finds the ending unsatisfactory. For this film: “They go to America, become dance pros at a resort in the Catskills, die in bed together, old and happy a la The Notebook.” Seems legit.

What’s your go-to guilty pleasure movie?

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My Style: The Importance of White Basics

White Blouse 1

Nothing is quite as simple as a white button-up blouse. It’s such an effortless piece that always classes up an outfit. Take this look for example. I’m wearing casual-looking ankle boots and jeans, but the white blouse somehow makes the whole look feel a little more professional. What a powerful article of clothing!

Fortunately for me, I scored this loose-fitting blouse from H&M a few months ago at a remarkably reasonable price (this one is no longer for sale, but you can find similar-looking blouses from H&M here and here). If you are looking for classic pieces to last you a long time, this is a good place to splurge. Decide what looks best on you—structured or loose-fitting—and find a blouse that works best with your style.

Amp the class factor with bold accessories. I adorned this look with my new and fabulous Michael Kors watch, which was a Christmas present from the husband, (Thanks husband!) and my favorite chunky necklace from a Banana Republic outlet store.

White Blouse 2 White Blouse 3 White Blouse 4

White blouse: H&M; Jeans: Joe’s from Saks Off Fifth; Boots: Kohl’s; Belt: Target; Earrings: Kate Spade; Necklace: Banana Republic Outlet; Watch: Michael Kors; Purse: Coach Outlet

What are some of your favorite pieces of clothing to create a more professional-looking ensemble?

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2014 Book Roundup

2014 Book Roundup

Well, 2014 has come and gone, and I can already tell that 2015 is going to be an even better year. I can just feel it. 🙂

During the holidays, I’m sad to admit that my blogging got away from me. But I’m back, and I would like to take a post to look at what I read in 2014. I surpassed my goal of 35 books (thanks to my inclusion of audiobooks) and read a total of 36 books. But what would I like to change about my reading habits this coming year? First, let’s look at what I read in 2014.

1. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell****
2. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn****
3. Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks***
4. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald**
5. Both Sides of Time by Caroline B. Cooney*
6. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell****
7. Serena by Ron Rash****
8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott*****
9. The Walking Dead: Book One by Robert Kirkman****
10. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut**
11. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume***
12. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green*****
13. One for the Money by Janet Evonovich****
14. Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates****
15. Looking for Alaska by John Green***
16. The Maze Runner by James Dashner**
17. I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star by Judy Greer***
18. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan****
19. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini****
20. Under the Dome by Stephen King****
21. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed****
22. Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews****
23. Landline by Rainbow Rowell****
24. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (Read my review here.)*****
25. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Read my review here.)*
26. French Lessons by Ellen Sussman***
27. Ship of Theseus by Doug Dorst****
28. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan****
29. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert (Read my review here.)****
30. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams***
31. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper****
32. 1984 by George Orwell****
33. 11/22/63 by Stephen King****
34. Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckhoff***
35. The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn***
36. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta**

My Favorite Books: Little Women; The Fault In Our Stars; The Marriage Plot

My Least-Favorite Books: Both Sides of Time; 1Q84

Audiobooks: Under the Dome; 1Q84; French Lessons; Dad is Fat; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; 11/22/63; The Leftovers

Book Club Books: Serena; Breakfast of Champions; Eleven Kinds of Loneliness; Crazy Rich Asians; The Marriage Plot; This Is Where I Leave You; Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

Classics: This Side of Paradise; Little Women; Breakfast of Champions; 1984

I’m pretty pleased with my list and believe it to be fairly well-rounded. I tackled four classics and read a variety of genres, from contemporary and memoirs to non-fiction and short stories. Being a part of a book club definitely helped me get to books I otherwise wouldn’t have picked up. Next year I think I’d like to read even more classics…let’s say six…and a couple more pieces of non-fiction.

Are you happy with your 2014 reading list? What’s on your 2015 must-read list? Happy reading!


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