Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: Insurgent

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Release Date: May 1, 2012
Pages: 525
Genre: Dystopian
Series: Yes!
Divergent (2011)
Insurgent (2012)
Untitled (2013)
Source and Format: Library; Hardcover

Summary (From Goodreads)
One choice can transform you--or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable--and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

"New York Times" bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian "Divergent" series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Thoughts on Insurgent
It's probably a good thing I waited so long after reading Insurgent to write this review, because I think my initial review would have consisted of one word: WOW.

Insurgent picked up right where Divergent left off, and did not stop for 525 exhilarating pages. If you thought Divergent was full of action, Insurgent kind of makes it seem like a Sunday afternoon nap. And I don't mean that to discredit the awesomeness of Divergent in any way, I just mean Insurgent really steps up the game when it comes to action. Like Kristi said, "What didn't happen in this book?!"

On top of all the action, Tris is dealing with several internal struggles. She's coming to terms with choices made in the first book, and she's also trying to figure out where she fits in this newly turned upside down world. These struggles cause some friction in a few relationships (including her relationship with Four...sad face!), and they also cause her to make even more ridiculous decisions that made me want to shake her a few times! But thankfully her self-conflict didn't make her any less of a tough chick. If anything, it made her even more determined to kick everybody's butt. I wouldn't want to be on homegirl's bad side!

I was also pleasantly surprised at the number of religious references in both Divergent and Insurgent. Subtle as they are, I am impressed an author actually acknowledged God in a dystopian book. Most dystopians do not even mention God, or if they do reference religion, it is some sort of perverted version of it. I like how Roth holds on to the notion of religion in this post-apocalyptic society, despite the personal struggles Tris has with it (like in the quote I shared yesterday). I think it adds an interesting element, and I'm interested to see how it plays out in the third installment.

And I can't write a review about this book without mentioning the ending. OMG THE ENDING. Let's just say that book three is going to be all kinds of amazing. Basically, if you're living under a rock and haven't picked up this series yet, put it on your to-do list for this weekend (or at least before October 22 when the third book comes out!). You can come back and thank me later. ;)

P.S. The Divergent movie is set to release in March 2014! Have you seen all the casting news coming out for it lately? Kate Winslet is slated to play Jeanine (perfection!), and Theo James landed the role of Four. For all you Downton fans, Theo is the guy who died in Mary Crawley's bed. Yep, that guy!

Memorable Quotes
"People, I have discovered, are layers and layers of secrets. You believe you know them, that you understand them, but their motives are always hidden from you, buried in their own hearts. You will never know them, but sometimes you decide to trust them."

"I am his, and he is mine, and it has been that way all along."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Words, Vol. 4: Veronica Roth

"May the peace of God be with you," she says, her voice low, "even in the midst of trouble."
"Why would it?" I say softly, so no one else can hear. "After all I've done..."
"It isn't about you," she says. "It is a gift. You cannot earn it, or it ceases to be a gift."
-Veronica Roth, Insurgent

Book Review for Insurgent coming tomorrow!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How We (aka Kyle) Refinished Our Breakfast Room Table

I hope you are in the mood for a mammoth DIY post today! If not, feel free to just scroll through the pictures instead, it should have the same effect. :) 

Ever since Kyle posted a photo of our newly refinished breakfast room table on Facebook, we received several questions about how we did it. So today I am spilling all the beans on how we gave our breakfast room table a new look, though I may have been slacking a little in the documentation department. This may not be a perfect step-by-step tutorial, but it comes pretty close. If you are planning a similar project, no matter what color paint or stain you want to use, hopefully this post will be helpful for you!

First, how our table looked before:

We received this table as a gift from Kyle's parents when we got married. It had been used for several years before we got it, but our poor newlywed selves really didn't care. We just needed something to eat on. And I have to say that I wasn't totally against the look of the table in the first place. It had that cottage charm that I really love, and just a few touch ups from the previous wear and tear would have been improvement enough for me. But like most men, Kyle wanted to do something radical, and since we won't have the table forever, I figured there would be no harm in going for it. 

So with this as our inspiration, we set out for Lowe's to get our supplies: 

And we got to work on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in October. Yes, that's how long ago we started. And yes, that is how October looks in Georgia. Like summer. And by we got to work, I mean Kyle did all the work and I took the pictures. Win-win. :) 

First, Kyle applied the stripper to the finished surface of the table (he used this brand from Lowe's). After waiting about 10 minutes to let the stripper set in, he then scraped it off with a metal scraper and wiped the table down with mineral spirits.   

Next came the sanding. He sanded the large surface area of the table with an electric sander using 5 different grits of sandpaper (80, 100, 120, 150, and 220), and sanded the edges by hand. 

When sanding, make sure you have the appropriate protective gear on, like eyewear and a mask. Or in our redneck case, aviators and a bandana. :)

Kyle continued to sand the surface of the table with the power sander until everything was nice and unfinished again.

Then it was time to paint! To prep for paint, Kyle sanded down the table legs and the slats under the table with some 220 grit sandpaper. We painted the slats under the table first and sealed off the edges of the table with a little bit of painter's tape. We used blue tape for this part of the project, but by the end of everything we were definite Frog Tape converts. Frog Tape works SO much better, y'all! But that's another post for another day. 

It only took two coats of paint for the table legs to start looking fabulous again! #howyoudoin  

If you have a young and curious puppy like we do, be sure to let them supervise from the safety of a window inside the house. Doc was insistent on "helping" Kyle the entire time. ;)

After giving the paint a few hours to dry, Kyle flipped the table back over to start staining the top. We used Minwax Wood Finish in Gunstock for our stain. To apply the stain, Kyle smoothed it on with a paintbrush and then wiped it down with a cloth. You can repeat as many times as necessary to get your desired look, but since we didn't want it too dark, Kyle only did two coats of stain.

While we were letting the stain set in, we took a break for the night and drove to Hampton, where Kyle and I worked together as summer camp counselors, to attend a send-off party for our former boss (I wanted to include this bit since I didn't blog about it before and I want to remember it). Paul and his wife, Robin, were about to move to New Zealand and wanted to say goodbye to everyone. It was so much fun going back and catching up with those crazy people! When you spend an entire summer 24/7 together, you definitely start to feel like family. Below I think Robin was telling us how they were going to get their Blue Weimaraner, Kora, over to New Zealand via plane. Poor thing was going to be stuck in quarantine for a few days once she got to NZ (hence my wide eyes and open mouth)! I can't imagine Doc having to do that. 

Here we are with Paul and Robin, our former bosses and great friends. They have been living it up in New Zealand for a few months now and we sure are missing them! 

Ok so after this day, I kind of fell off the picture-taking bandwagon for the project. Blogger fail. But thankfully, the process for refinishing the chairs was pretty much the same as the process for the table. Just the taping off for painting part took much longer to get around all of those chair backs (that's when we started using Frog Tape). As for sealing everything, Kyle used Rustoleum satin spray-on poly to get a nice even, protective coat on the wood surfaces. 

So to make up for the lack of picture-taking during the process, here a few more pictures of the entire finished product:

Overall we are really pleased with the way it looks, though we are having some trouble with the paint chipping on the chairs and table legs. We probably need to seal them with something as well. Other than that, we think she's a beauty! Now to plan curtains, accessories, and a better rug to make the room come together. Any ideas are welcome!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Anniversary Dinner at South City Kitchen

Happy first day of spring, everyone! I have to be honest, today I just can't stop smiling from ear to ear. Yesterday was a BIG day for us in the Fenton household, a day that makes me so excited for our future. A day that we have prayed about for years. When the time is right, I will be sure to share the goodness with y'all. I can't wait! In the meantime, today's post is all about the yummy goodness that was our anniversary dinner at South City Kitchen a couple of weekends ago.

Since we want to save as much of our hard-earned moolah as we can for our trip to California, we didn't do much for our anniversary this year. We didn't give each other cards or gifts. I know, womp womp. But what was lacking in the gift department, definitely was not lacking in the food department. You know Kyle and I don't miss the chance to go out for a celebratory meal. This year, at the recommendation of a few coworkers, we went to South City Kitchen in Midtown for our anniversary dinner.

South City is located on a narrow street right across from Opera Nightclub, where apparently there was a prom going on since we saw prom kids everywhere that night. Prom season starts so early in Atlanta! But anyway, we're hoping that was why parking was so expensive. South City doesn't have its own parking lot, and every public lot we went to was at least $15. But maybe I'm being naive about Atlanta parking and that's how it always is. Just a heads up if you are in the Atlanta area and want to try out South City sometime.  

Now for the important part, the food! We got a basket of bread before our main dishes came out, except this wasn't just any bread. It was some of the most delicious cornbread and biscuits we have ever had. Even Kyle, not a cornbread person, raved about the cornbread. It was a great foreshadowing of what was to come. Kyle ordered the shrimp and grits for his main dish, and I got the shrimp and mussels. We love us some southern seafood dishes. I don't know what I was expecting, but my shrimp and mussels dish was a little spicier than anticipated, but overall it was very good.

Another thing to note, if you are sitting downstairs, the restaurant is really loud. There's a lot of people eating in a small-ish space. I felt like I was shouting at Kyle at times as we were talking over our food. As the crowd thinned, the noise subsided of course, but if you are looking to have a romantic dinner with intimate conversation, this isn't really the place. Thankfully that's not what Kyle and I were really looking for, so we didn't mind.

We finished things off with the key lime cheesecake, which was served in a small mason jar. I loved the presentation on this!

So what about y'all? Have you eaten at any really good restaurants lately? Or are you just excited it's finally the first day of spring? I for one am glad we can officially kiss winter goodbye!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

For Meemaw

One year ago today, I found out that my grandmother (my mom's mom) had lost her eight-year battle with Alzheimer's. I don't know why I haven't written about this yet, but a year later I think I am definitely in a place where I can. I think Meemaw deserves to be remembered in this little corner of the internet, and I will do my best to put into words what 23 years with the most loving grandmother has meant to me.

One of the things I loved about Meemaw was how genuinely excited she got whenever we came over to see her. Her face would light up as she exclaimed our name, and she would wrap us in welcoming arms, giving us a kiss on the cheek. She certainly didn't hide her love for her grandchildren. Some of my favorite memories growing up took place with Meemaw, laughing with my family over a dinner of her always delicious spaghetti casserole.

Needless to say, her joy for life was one the hardest things to see go when the symptoms of her Alzheimer's worsened. To see that light in her eyes disappear, to know that she no longer knew our names. I felt like I had to say goodbye to my grandmother a long time ago, and at the time I don't think I was mature enough to comprehend how heartbreaking it really was. Looking back now, I can see it. And it breaks my heart to write about it now.

But even in the darkest of situations, the light of Jesus still shines through. And that light in this situation came through my Pawpaw. If you were to ask me who my hero was, I wouldn't hesitate for a second to say it was Pawpaw. And it's all because of the example he provided as he loved Meemaw with a fierce love throughout her illness.

My Aunt Carol actually wrote an article shortly after Meemaw passed last year that beautifully illustrates how my Pawpaw cared for his beloved wife. I thought I would share a snippet of that with you since I couldn't have said it better myself:

"On a daily basis he fed, clothed, changed soiled diapers, bathed and attended to my mother’s needs. He had to take precautions for her safety by locking doors, putting away anything that was potentially dangerous, remaining largely confined to his home. Because of the confinement, gone were the days of regular exercise, gardening, or traveling. Gone, too, were the countless precious conversations that pepper the days in a marriage of a man and a woman. However, throughout her illness, Dad took my mother to church every Sunday. Several members of his church community commented to me that Alex was an inspiration as he lovingly and compassionately tended to my mother."

"As you may well know, Alzheimer’s disease changes the personality of the sufferer. They become easily frustrated, agitated and even aggressive. My father had to transact all his daily activities not knowing if she might turn irritable and unreasonable. Amazingly, he carried out of these everyday jobs with composure, grace and understanding. He knew not to take the difficult moods of my mother personally, recognizing the progression of her illness. I can only tell you that I, my sisters, our husbands and children witnessed my father’s faithful guardianship of my mother and saw it for what it was – a beautiful expression of agape Christian love."

"When dad called to tell me of Mother’s death I told him how honorable I thought he was. He tearfully replied in a matter of fact way, 'I enjoyed every minute of it.' By which he meant that it was his pleasure to serve his wife in her greatest hours of need and to serve the Lord who had done so much for him. It was eight years of difficult service joyfully accepted. What an example to which to aspire!"

It makes me tear up everytime I read that, because it is so true. I have never seen a more selfless man. God says that he works everything together for the good of those who love him, and I believe the good that will come from Meemaw's Alzheimer's is a generation committed to loving their spouses in the way that Pawpaw loved his. Loving each other even when it gets difficult. Even when you may not get that love in return. A generation committed to unconditional, godly love. 

In conclusion, we miss you so much Meemaw. Your memory continues to be treasured in our hearts, and in the godly legacy your marriage to Pawpaw has left behind. We miss you more than you can ever know!

{Flowers from Meemaw's grave, March 2012}

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Today Kyle and I are celebrating our third wedding anniversary! And on the side, we are also celebrating that this is our last anniversary with one of us being a full-time student. Cheers to THAT, y'all! We are two months away from Kyle realizing one of his biggest dreams, and you can bet that has come with a lot of hard work, stressful decisions, uncertainty, and frustration, but also a lot of JOY. I have learned so much these past three years being married to Kyle, and I thought I would put a little spin on that for our anniversary post today. Kyle and I are both going to share three things we've learned about each other since we got married, which means Kyle will be making his first ever appearance on the blog today! He must really love me to agree to that. :) So here goes nothing!

1. He has an incredible servant's heart.
One of the many reasons I fell in love with Kyle when we were dating in college was because of the way he treated me. He would always go out of his way to make me feel special, and there is one example that continues to stick out in my mind to this day. Whenever we would eat in the dining hall at UGA, he would ALWAYS take my tray for me when it was time to leave, in addition to his own. I know it seems like a minor thing, but just seeing him walking to the tray drop-off with both trays in hand, insisting that I let him do it, reassured me that he approached our relationship with a servant's heart. And even though he's not perfect, he's continued to strive for that throughout our past three years of marriage. When we lived in Augusta, he would wake up every morning and make my lunch for me before work, he gives Doc a bath everytime he needs one because of my allergies, and he diligently takes care of our finances. I just love him so much for all the things he does for our family.

2. He is going to be an AWESOME Physical Therapist.
Ok so this one is kinda cheating, since I already knew this about Kyle before we got married. But as we have journeyed together through PT school these past three years, every day I am more and more convinced that Physical Therapy is what Kyle was born to do. It just comes so naturally to him, and I love to see how happy it makes him to be able to help people in this way. I think that is his desire above everything else, to build relationships with people and show them the love of Jesus through Physical Therapy. I cannot wait to see the amazing things God is going to do through his career!

3. His obsession with Star Wars (and Mountain Dew, for that matter) goes a tad bit beyond obsession.
Yes, this is also something I knew about Kyle before we got married, but the extent to which he really loved the Star Wars franchise I did not know. Back in high school he became the proud owner of a Storm Trooper helmet, and since we got married he has added the Star Wars Cookbook and a Darth Vader spatula to his paraphernalia collection, among other things. Whenever we watch the movies together, we could probably watch them on mute and he would still know every word. I actually gave him The Pioneer Woman's Star Wars movie quiz way back when and he aced it without me even giving him the choices. Oh, and I'm pretty sure the day this was announced was the best day of his adult life. Even though I've sufficiently embarrassed him now (he says I haven't), there's no doubt I still love my Star Wars nerd to pieces!

1. She sleeps more than 8 hours. 
Lesley Anne told me when we started dating that she couldn't sleep more than 8 hours a night. Well that was pretty much completely wrong. If she falls asleep on the couch at 9 o’clock and then doesn't get up until 8 the next morning, last I checked that added up to 11 hours. 8-11 = more than 8 hours sleep. Wait, wha? But its ok, because she looks beautiful when she is sleeping. Except that time she fell asleep in the front seat of the car on the way to Charleston. That was just funny!

2. She is someone that I can't live without.
Every morning when I leave for work, I get a little sad that I have to leave Lesley Anne and Doc behind. I think about what it might be like if I didn't have her around, and I get sick to my stomach. I love her so much that I can't stand to think what it might have been like if we had never met. She is the reason why I miss home when I leave in the morning. She is the reason I am excited to come home at night. And she is the reason why it suits me just fine sitting at the house on a Friday night with my family!

3. She never gets tired of supporting me.
Lesley Anne is always writing blog posts bragging about me and giving people info on my journey through PT school. Sometimes I feel like she is talking about someone other than me because I don't feel like I could live up to some of the things she says. But I know it is because she loves me so much and is proud of me. That makes me so grateful because she deserves so much credit. I wouldn't be where I am without God leading me and giving me provision, and so much of that provision that he has given me to get through school is her. She does the everyday things that need to be done so I can focus on school, like cooking, cleaning, and making that money! But more importantly, she constantly lifts me up and encourages me, tells me that she is proud of me, and believes in me. Without that I might have tapped out a long time ago. I love her so much and can’t thank her enough for believing in me.

Wow, that got mushy pretty quick! Sorry we put you through that. But if there's any day you are going to get mushy, your anniversary is a pretty good day to do it I guess. We are going to celebrate tonight by watching our wedding video and sipping on some sparkling wine, then we are going out for a fancy schmancy dinner in the city on Saturday. Here's to a fabulous fourth year of marriage ahead!


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