The Last Jedi | Blogmas 2017

⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️ DISCLAIMER: My intention is not to spoil the movie for you, but spoilers are hard to avoid once you’ve seen and want to talk about it. You have been warned! ⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️ 

I recently saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi and loved it, but I’m still dealing with a lot of feelings. The severity of my emotions caught me off guard, and it wasn’t just because of Carrie Fisher’s death, although that sadness is still very fresh. This is the end of an era, a transition from the old to the new. I’m excited about the next generation of characters, but that doesn’t make the change any easier. When the twins reunited, Luke said the words “No one’s ever really gone” as he placed Han’s dice in Leia’s hand. From that point on, I couldn’t stop crying. That one poignant moment sums up my experience with this film. I know that’s a really short statement about a really big movie, but I honestly can’t bring myself to say anything more.

❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄

➡️   ➡️   ➡️   A R T M A S   ⬅️   ⬅️   ⬅️

F o u r   D a y s   U n t i l   C h r i s t m a s . . .

❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄

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– Lauren Michele ❤︎

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I’ve Lost My Touch | Blogmas 2017

My North Pole elf powers have taken a serious hit in the past few years. In 2016, I had to repurchase two gifts due to damage. This year, I received two damaged gifts and was only able to successfully replace one. The other was a handmade, custom item and arrived twice in terrible condition due to measurement issues; I chose to walk away with a refund rather than risk receiving a third defective product. Seriously, what has happened to me?? Gifting used to be my cup of tea, and now I can’t seem to climb out of the funk I’m in. I carefully observe the recipients so I can pick the perfect gifts; I make an airtight budget so I can save and spoil my loved ones; and I buy from trustworthy sources (eBay has disappointed me one too many times). I’m still satisfied with my 2017 gifts, but I can’t help feeling disappointed. On top of my misery, I can’t see Star Wars: The Last Jedi until Monday night. UGH!!! On the bright side, I have a day off (from my retail job) to relax a little bit. Even though I have a to-do list of work that has to get done, I will definitely be squeezing in some baking, Christmas movies, & reading. Happy Saturday!

❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄

T w o   D a y s   U n t i l   A r t m a s . . .

N i n e   D a y s   U n t i l   C h r i s t m a s . . .

❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄   🕯️   🎄   🎁   ❄️   ⛄

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– Lauren Michele ❤︎

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Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

I have waited all year for this movie! Part of my birthday celebration was seeing the first showing at my local theater. As a passionate Agatha Christie fan, I have thoughts both good and bad so settle in for a semi-bumpy Orient Express ride.

Many people had doubts about Kenneth Branagh’s portrayal of beloved detective Hercule Poirot. If you’re a doubter, I want to put your mind at ease. Mr. Branagh is hands down the best part of the movie. He kept the spirit of the Poirot we all know and love while adding humor and his own unique touch to the character. He is a constant source of smiles and laughs, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Overall the ensemble cast did not disappoint. Johnny Depp is fantastic as always (SPOILER) even though his part is short-lived. Michelle Pfeiffer and Penelope Cruz have some shining moments, and Dame Judi Dench’s monologue about little Daisy Armstrong made me tear up. Lucy Boynton and Sergei Polunin’s respective portrayals of Count & Countess Andrenyi are dark, a hidden gem that is impressive considering their inexperience. Josh Gad was good for the most part, but the chase scene involving Poirot felt awkward. The conflict between Hercule and Dr. Arbuthnot also felt clumsy. Daisy Ridley acted well, but I did not like Mary Debenham’s demeanor. In the book, she is polite and reserved which leads Poirot to suspect she might be the mastermind behind the murder; his suspicion makes little sense in the movie because Mary is much too bright and happy.

The book’s methodical layout is not perfectly suited for a movie. Some may find the added action irritating, but I understand the necessity to shake up the format onscreen. That being said, some of the clues got lost in the shuffle due to a speedier pace. As far as I remember, all the clues from the book were included, but they weren’t given the time they needed to simmer and encourage the audience to consider possible outcomes. Perhaps the extra, non-book stuff could’ve been trimmed to accommodate character interviews and clue discoveries, making the final reveal much more grand than it actually was. I also want to mention that I don’t remember Biniamino Marquez being named at the end. (SPOILER) The twist relies on the shock of twelve people being involved, each with a specific connection to the Armstrong family. The cast may seem large, but those who know the story well won’t miss anything, even if only one name is passed over. This goes back to details being muddled at the end. Murder on the Orient Express is one of the greatest stories ever written in the mystery genre. If you don’t lay it out correctly, you spoil the thrill and fun of the twists and turns.

I love two-thirds of the movie, but the ending is a disappointment. Things can surely get better from here so I hope Kenneth Branagh is giving the chance to continue the series, perhaps with a book that has less adaptations. I truly believe he can do great things with Poirot. The final scene hints at a sequel based on Death on the Nile. How great would that be?! 😄

🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boSSSZpAkyw&t=25s

🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂 🔪 👨🏻 🔍 🚂

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– Lauren Michele ❤︎

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Rogue One | Blogmas 2016 🎄

❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄

Merry Christmas & Happy 2nd Day of Hanukkah!!  I hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday.  My day started at church this morning.  Afterwards, my family ate at Sizzler and saw Rogue One.  I’ve been waiting on pins and needles to see this movie.  I felt like the only person in the world who hadn’t seen it, and the rave reviews were driving me insane.  We didn’t choose the best of theaters so the screen was dirty, but that didn’t dampen the experience.  I absolutely loved the film!  There were numerous amazing Rebel vs Empire fights, familiar faces like Bail Organa and Darth Vader, & awesome new characters like Cassian Andor and Jyn Erso.  Can we just talk about freaking Donnie Yen?!  His fighting scenes as Chirrut Imwe were off the charts.  WOW!  If you know me, you know that my favorite part of Star Wars will forever be the droids, and K-2SO is no exception.  LOVE. HIM.  The sass was abundant, and I could not stop laughing. (SPOILER) It was sad that everybody on the Rogue One team died, but it felt like the only appropriate ending considering the circumstances of the mission.  They died because of the Death Star, the very weapon they were fighting to stop.  A noble sacrifice for the good of the galaxy!

❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄

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– Lauren Michele <3

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I Saw Frozen For the First Time | Blogmas 2016 🎄

❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄

1 DAY UNTIL CHRISTMAS (I know it’s the 25th, but this was supposed to go up on the 24th so just roll with it)

❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄

I can’t apologize enough for my absence.  To make up for lost time, I’m going to be blogging through Hanukkah.  I will call it “Blogukkah.”  Genius!  I have a good excuse for not blogging this week.  I worked myself into the ground and got the flu.  I had the worst day of work possible Tuesday, and it went from bad to worse once I got home.  I spent both my days off resting and reenergizing for my last two shifts before Christmas.  I hope you follow my art blog and Youtube channel because I’ve been active on both those platforms all month long.  I’m not sure why I haven’t been posting as often for Blogmas this year.  I think it has a lot to do with my retail job.  I’ve felt like such a grinch and haven’t done anything outside of working.  No spirit and no fun means no good material for your reading pleasure.  I do have something to share with you tonight so let’s jump right in.  I watched Frozen for the first time.  I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️❄️

Have you composed yourself?  Alrighty then!  I’ve heard a lot of different perspectives.  People loved the movie.  People liked the movie.  People hated the movie, some only because of the ridiculous amount of attention and hype.  I didn’t want my first viewing experience to be ruined by someone else’s opinion so I waited and waited and waited until the right time.  I’m glad I did because I was pleasantly surprised.  I knew the music would be good, but other than that I had no expectations.  I ended up liking it much more than I thought I would.  The animation is beautiful, and the characters are charming.  Idina Menzel’s voice is beautiful as always, but Kristen Bell’s voice stunned me.  WOW!  I love the end (SPOILER) when Kristoff is available to save Anna with an act of true love, but she ends up being saved by sisterly love.  That is a refreshing twist.  It’s adorable how Kristoff’s gruff exterior is slowly melted by Anna’s quirks.  I could watch an entire movie with him, Sven, & Olaf.  Those three crack me up!  I highly recommend this film if you love Disney, but wait until your mind is clear from the bombardment of other opinions.

❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄

VLOGMAS – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUvowXnQBLryeHcwz801Rsx7d1upOgV8k

❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄

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❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄ 🎅🏻 🎄 🎁 ❄️ ⛄

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– Lauren Michele <3

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You Can Make a Difference

🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍

You might be thinking “I don’t hold a position of power.  How can I be effective and help eradicate prejudice?”  You can talk and keep the conversation going in a civil manner.  You can also take action.  That doesn’t mean becoming a one-person revolution.  It can be as simple as looking someone in the eyes and smiling.  I want to share a story with you that furthers my point.  Read until the end and keep an open mind. :)

Thank you NikkieTutorials for sharing!  Why is Natasha Howell’s story important?  The tragedies that have taken place are heartbreaking, and our reactions dictate the future.  Reacting in anger and causing a divide changes nothing.  If each and every one of us does our part to treat people with kindness, those small puzzle pieces will create a chain reaction and fit together to create something big.  Perhaps I’m a bit naive, but I truly believe the people who care about unity outnumber those who allow prejudice to affect their attitude.  You might be one person in a big world, but it is better to make a difference in at least one person’s life rather than stand by and do nothing at all.

🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍  🌏  🌎  🌍

I want to share a video that was posted on Facebook today.  It made me cry, but it also made me happy and hopeful.  You might know Candace Payne as “Chewbacca Mom.”  In this moment, it doesn’t matter what your personal opinion is regarding her claim to fame.  What matters is that she continues to use her newfound platform to make people smile.

 

❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

– John 3:16

❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

– John 15:12

❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

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– Lauren Michele 😘

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Tips For a Better Holiday Shopping Experience

(Image Source: http://www.metro.us/news/black-friday-don-t-forget-about-small-business-saturday/tmWmkx—efUBgYqtPMYDk/)

Happy faces??  I think not!!  I am sure I’m not the only one who hates crowds, especially around Christmastime.  I love shopping, but holiday crowds are in a league of their own.  I want to share the tips I have learned from my experiences in hopes that your stress level will decrease and your holiday spirit increase.  Let us proceed with the merriment!

1.  It is never too early to start Christmas shopping.  Sometimes the best deals show up after Christmas.  Why not get a head start?  The only thing you will have to worry about is a good hiding spot.  ;)

2.  Make a budget.  Know what you have to spend and shop accordingly.  Keep track of your money every step of the way.  Before shopping, I make a list of anticipated prices; I round up each price (e.g. $15.35 would be  $16) and add fifteen dollars for tax and shipping.  Always overestimate and expect the unexpected.  Bonus: It feels good to finish shopping and have money left over.

3.  Have your loved ones write down what they need/want.  A list will eliminate guesswork which takes precious time away from shopping and other holiday tasks.

4.  Adding to #3, make a list of what gift(s) you are getting for each person.  This way, you only have to spend time finding the best deal for specific items instead of wandering the internet with no light at the end of the tunnel.

5.  Do not be afraid of the interweb!  The internet is your best friend if you want to avoid crowds.  Also, you get to shop in pajamas and sip hot chocolate from the comfort of your home.  Nothing wrong with that!

6.  If you are concerned that an online store is sketchy, use a website like scamadviser.com or consumeraffairs.com.  You can also type the name of the business and the term “legitimate” into your web browser’s search engine for results containing reviews.

7.  If you are worried about online shopping costing more due to shipping, fear not!  You will be pleasantly surprised at how many online stores offer low shipping prices or free shipping, especially during the holiday season.

8.  The websites I visit first are Amazon and eBay.  Those are two good places to start if you want to dig and find good deals.

9.  My main tips for handling an eBay auction are as follows: Be online for at least the last five minutes of the auction, continuously refresh the page, wait until the last few seconds to bid, and bid at least one dollar above the price (e.g. if the price is $30, bid $31).  This isn’t a surefire way to win, but you will have a better chance of avoiding being outbid and winning.  And yes, I have won an auction with this plan.

10.  The Google Shopping tab is a good tool to use for finding the lowest prices for products.

11.  If you find coupon codes, use them!  I know this sounds like an obvious tip, but I am 100% certain there are people who have made purchases without realizing that there was a great coupon code available.  Not all coupon codes are valid so some trial and error may be involved, but it is worth it.  At least try!  One way to get coupon codes is to make a free account with the website you are shopping on; most online stores send a discount to new members.  Another way is typing the name of the store and the term “coupon code” into your web browser’s search engine.  The first few results are usually the most reliable (e.g. RetailMeNot or Groupon).

12.  Adding to #11, coupon codes and discounts are great, but make sure you do some math before checking out.  Discounted products could allude to higher tax and shipping cost.  Full price is not always the enemy.

13.  Another good way to compare prices is “checking out.”  Basically, I start to check out on two or more websites with the same item but only go to a certain point.  I do this in an attempt to find out the exact tax and shipping costs and calculate the cheapest total.

14.  I know there is a rush that comes with shopping for loved ones during Christmastime, but be patient.  If you rush, you might miss out on some great deals and/or accidentally go over budget.  Do not give in to impatience and accept the first price you see for the sake of feeding your excitement.

15.  On the flip side, if you find a ridiculous deal and your gut says act fast, do it.  Certain deals come once and only once.  Experience is the best tool for gauging if a deal is good or not.  That’s right!  The more you shop, the more you know.  ;)

16.  When in doubt, remember why you are shopping.  You want to put a smile on the faces of your loved ones and show them how much you care.  That is all the motivation you need to complete your mission shoppers.

My 2015 budget was $266, and I had three people to shop for.  I bought my first two presents and felt pretty good about where my budget was at.  Then, a shopper’s worst nightmare came true for me: I realized that I had accounted for $40 I did not have.  DUN DUN DUUUN!!!  That number may seem insignificant, but when your piggy bank is a source of income and a budget your lifeline, $40 is a make or break amount.  I had a complete meltdown: tears, screaming, the works.  After my less than stellar adult moment, I regained composure, put on my thinking cap, and did some more research.  Currently I have all but one gift purchased and am well under budget.  A Christmas miracle in November!!  Once I purchase my last gift, I will have spent $194 total for six gifts, received $80 for outside contribution, and be $152 under budget.  Keep in mind that the six gifts I bought for three people could easily be six gifts for six people.  I hope this gives you a visual of how the 16 tips listed above are effective, especially when money is tight.  Also, they are functional year-round.  Happy shopping!

(Image Source: http://giphy.com/gifs/christmas-lights-tree-jPVMA8hVPEl6E)

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