Lifestyle, What I'm Reading

Book Club Crashers // Finding Mrs. Ford

Finding Mrs. Ford cover, marina
My copy of Finding Mrs. Ford on location at the Watch Hill marina.

Today’s post has two parts: first I’m going to set the scene (trust me this is a scene worth setting) and then we’ll get into the actual discussion.

How I ended up in Watch Hill.

About a week ago I saw a post on @sarahkjp‘s page about an event with the Newport Ladies Book Club in Watch Hill. I showed my mom and after realizing she had the day off we figured we would go. I have a book club on Instagram but I had never been to one in person and it sounded like an entertaining night.

Then Monday rolled around and my mom and I rolled up to the Ocean House and it was stunning. I’ve seen it so many times on Instagram, and mostly from Sarah’s page oops, but wow. We were a little early and were planning on walking around outside when one of the people who worked at the Ocean House asked us if we were here for the book club and took us to the Secret Garden Champagne Bar. As soon as we stepped onto the deck someone handed us drinks and we found somewhere to sit so we could listen to Deborah Royce (the author!!!) talk about her book. I thought it was a little bizarre that they were already deep in discussion because we were half an hour early but I was too busy living what I can only describe as truly, my best life to think about it. Until two women came in a little later and I realized it. We had unknowingly crashed the book club only discussion. Kylie, if you’re reading this, I’m so sorry we crashed the group photo too!

The rest of the night was magical as well. We got to meet several of the ladies in the book club and talk to the author about her creative process. One question that had been in my head after reading this book was “where did she come up with the idea for the necklace?” To me it seemed like such a significant detail but I had never heard of a necklace like that before and it turns out, Royce had been given one by a former beau. Let’s just hope it wasn’t under the same circumstances!

It was such an unforgettable night discussing the book with the author, in a location that was central to the novel! I never knew such a thing could be on my book bucket list, but it has since been added and then crossed off.

veuve clicquot
A few moments before I realized we were book club crashers.

And now my thoughts on the book!

When I first read the book jacket I thought this was going to have a political plot but I was surprised to find out that it was more of political undertones and it focused on the idea of who a person is and more specifically what’s in a name.

I usually opt for historical fiction but this was a thriller through and through. I am not used to having such short chapters and the way Royce ends each chapter brought me back to when I used to read the Goosebumps books because each chapter had a cliff hanger than had me saying “oh just one more chapter”.

Mrs. Ford taught me a life lesson that I think may come in handy at some point in my life. While I never plan on having the FBI show up to my house, I may file away the “make them uncomfortable” tactic should I ever need it.

Royce is a very descriptive author. Prior to reading this book I had never been to Watch Hill, but when I arrived it was déjà vu. The same goes for her descriptions of Detroit. I felt immersed in the disco-era. One thing I didn’t pick up on until a woman in the book club brought it up was Royce’s skill in knowing when not to elaborate. There were a few scenes (the most poignant being the scene with the polaroid) where she had given just enough detail to get the point across.

This book also reminded me of a favorite that I read earlier this year. Like, Next Year in Havana, Finding Mrs. Ford tells a story by flipping back and forth between present and past. But there was one line that brought me back to Havana. Sammy, a Chaldean, is describing the political climate in the Middle East and mentions that Saddam Hussein may bring a good future. Which reminded me of all the discussions about Castro bringing good fortune to Cuba. It’s a comment that may go unnoticed but I think it hammers home the idea of choosing between the devil you know and the devil you don’t know.

This was a quick read so either run to the beach tomorrow or save it for next summer because it is the perfect beach day book!

At the end of our night Royce shared details of her next book with us and I can only say, Ruby Falls is already on my TBR list!

Happy reading!

xox,

Marissa

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Celebrating Two Years!

holding sunflowers
I was going to go to a local cupcake store for these photos but then I realized the sunflower festival was happening, so I grabbed my nearest seersucker dress and took my most “on brand” photos to date!

I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for two years now! It feels like I’ve been at this forever but it also feels like I just started yesterday. In this post I’m going to share a little bit about why I started blogging as well as answering questions that you guys had for me, so let’s get started!

Why I Started Blogging

Here’s a little known fun fact: this is actually my second blog! I was inspired to start one because I used to read a blog about physical therapy school and I tried to start one about being a pre-PT but it didn’t last. I wish I could remember what the name of it was but those posts have been deleted and I transformed that blog into Sunflowers and Seersucker.

I started this blog because I was inspired by bloggers like Kate from Lonestar Southern and Lucy from Daily Dose of Prep. I wanted a place to document my style and share my thoughts and I’m so glad I started! Blogging has become such a fun part of my life and I’m glad I have a space where I can document what I’m doing so I can look back on it later!

walking with sunflowers
Probably checking to see if I have any bugs on me.

The Lessons

Something you may realize is that all of these lessons are centered around a common theme. I apologize if you end up thinking it’s repetitive but here we go:

Be authentic.

All of my favorite bloggers show their day to day life alongside the “highlight reel” that is Instagram. From sharing her hair loss and wig wearing journeys to showing viewers her husband’s broken toe, Dani (@daniaustin on Instagram) is the queen of keeping it real.

I personally believe that everyone who blogs should incorporate lifestyle into their pages if you blog/post on Instagram. I think keeps things interesting while also showing people that life isn’t meant to be perfect. We’ve let social media take over so much of our daily lives that it’s time to learn to laugh at ourselves.

Don’t niche down.

If you’re trying to make it big blogging, you probably shouldn’t listen to this piece of advice because every podcast I listen to tells you to find a niche and they have at least 10x the amount of followers that I have, BUT, if you’re blogging as a hobby write about everything that interests you!

People aren’t one-dimensional, so play to all of your interests. I love picking out cute outfits so I started this blog to share my closet, but I also love reading. So once I found out there were book blogs and #bookstagram I wanted to share my reading list too. It’s easy to get caught up in making things fit your niche but you’re still sharing something valuable it just might not be what someone was expecting. For example, I don’t follow any instagram accounts dedicated to making smoothies (although I do love looking at smoothie bowls) but when someone shares a good looking smoothie I usually screenshot it.

The numbers don’t matter.

This is such a hard one! For the past few weeks I’ve been staring at my follower count on Instagram just willing it to hit 1000. But so much of Instagram just isn’t real!

Real talk: when I first started trying to grow my Instagram I joined a Facebook “likes” group. You could comment on a daily likes thread and you and 99 other people would go like each other’s pictures. Sure my likes went up but I didn’t have anything in common with these people, they weren’t interested in my posts and I wasn’t interested in theirs except for the extra like. Not to mention it was stressful. I was always checking to see if a thread had been posted because I wanted to keep up my number of likes. And you had 12-24 hours to complete all the likes. I can’t even tell you how many times I wrote “oops sorry Instagram won’t let me like anymore posts right now” just because I didn’t have the time/energy to go down the list even though it’s a pretty mindless activity.

So next time you find yourself playing the comparing game, tell yourself that whoever you’re comparing yourself to may be using other sources. It wasn’t just small bloggers who are in those groups, some bigger accounts are there boosting engagement too!

Focus on the people.

This is social media we’re talking about. Not thing I want to focus on going forward is making real connections. I’m going to comment on more posts that I find interesting and ask people questions about how they’re doing. I want to find authentic engagement, I want people to comment on my posts because they think it’s interesting or they’re giving recommendations.

I recently joined @bloggersliveboston and I can’t wait to start meeting some New England bloggers! I haven’t been able to make it to an event yet but I’m looking forward to making connections really soon!

girl with her back to camera holding sunflowers, in front of sunflower field
They don’t even look real!

Answering Your Questions

And now to your questions! I had a lot of similar themes so I tried to tie them together but if I missed your question, comment below/send my a DM and I’ll answer it!

How I grew my followers?

I’ve tried a few different ways to grow my followers so here’s the rundown:

  • In the Facebook groups I was talking about earlier I have also participated in follow for follow threads. So I would put my link down and then you would either have to follow everyone or pick a certain number of people per thread and follow them. If this is the route you’re going to try to grow followers I would definitely recommend the latter. While following everyone will get you more followers, it’s better long term wise to pick people that have similar interests to you!
  • I’ve also done a few loop giveaways. I did find these to be beneficial as I always gained a ton of followers and only lost a few in the days after the prize was announced. My advice if you’re trying this method: find giveaways that match your/your followers’ interests and make sure the giveaway account unfollows you before the prize is announced. Matching interests is important with the authenticity factor, for example I don’t think too many of my followers would want to win a gift card to Game Stop but they may want to try to win a gift card to Lilly, especially when After Party Sale season comes around (if anyone wants to do this as a giveaway hit me up it sounds like a good idea!). And as for the unfollowing factor, it’s easier for people to unfollow you if all they have to do is go down a list of everyone that participated in a giveaway 😉
  • I have had some luck recently with my new and improved authentic engagement strategy. It is a slower process than the methods above but I’m okay with that! All that’s required for this one: comment on people’s photos! People that you follow and people that you don’t! Think like Oprah: you get a comment, you get a comment, everyone gets a comment. The important thing here is don’t just say “cute” make it meaningful, make it something you would want someone to comment on your page. Although I’m definitely guilty of throwing some “so cute girl”‘s around too.

Advice for new bloggers?

Have fun with it! This is your corner of the internet so share whatever makes you happy! Think of what interests you and share that. I am a firm believer in “your vibe attracts your tribe” so share what makes you smile and you’ll find people with common interests.

Biggest thing I’ve learned?

The biggest thing I’ve learned is definitely apparent throughout this whole article but it’s important so I’ll say it again: stay true to yourself! At the end of the day if you’re happy that’s all that matters! I actually just finished a book that is about social media and staying true to yourself and while the post is still being typed up, it was a good reminder that sometimes social media doesn’t feel social at all.

girl in sunflower field
Cheers to 2 years!

And so you have it! What have you learned from having a blog?

This dress is from Banana a few summers ago so here is a similar style from Tommy Bahama! Unlike mine, it has pockets which always seem like the best thing when it comes to dresses. I tried to find cheaper alternatives but it’s the end of the season so you’re best bet is looking on Poshmark!

xox,

Marissa

Lifestyle, wellness

Wellness Wednesday: Plant Based PVD

Happy Wednesday!

Today’s Wellness Wednesday is going to be all about a really cool restaurant I went to a few weeks ago: Plant City PVD. I recently became a vegetarian (I gave up meat for Lent and then just never went back) and so I’m always looking for new alternatives. While a plant-based diet is not for everyone, there are definitely some health benefits to eating less meat when it comes to heart disease and diabetes. Just being conscious of how much or what kind of meat you have can improve your risk of certain diseases. Click here to learn about a flexitarian diet.

I saw Plant City PVD while I was looking around the Providence Flea and I was intrigued. I was even a little confused on whether “plant-based” meant the whole place was vegetarian. They have a market, a coffee counter, a burger restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, and an Italian restaurant all wrapped into one. We decided on Italian and I really wanted to get the meatballs but I still had no idea if plant-based meant plants-only. When the waitress came back she told us everything in the building was vegan! Can you imagine?!

So good!

And so I ordered the meatballs! I will definitely be heading back to Providence to get it again, although next time I’m trying the pepperoni pizza! So if you’re in the Ocean State and looking to try something new you need to try Plant City.

You have my word, even though they don’t use quotes on the menu, everything is vegan!

Bonus points for any place that has cute signs in the bathroom!

xox,

Marissa

What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: The Dirty Book Club

I picked this book up because it sounded like movie Book Club and it was on the $5 table at Barnes and Noble, an impulse buy at it’s finest. It looked like I started my own dirty book club as I walked to the checkout with The Dirty Book Club and Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. When the cashier scanned both of my books I said, “I don’t know why it looks like I read 50 Shades of Grey” and she didn’t even crack a smile.  But I think I’m funny and that’s all that matters.

When I first picked this up I read the author’s name and thought “Lisi Harrison… I’ve heard that before”. It wasn’t until I started reading it I realized it was the same Lisi Harrison who wrote The Clique series. The Clique books were some of my favorites to read, my school didn’t seem nearly as cool as Octavian Country Day and I loved reading about the Pretty Committee. Which caused my expectations of this book to soar. 

This book was slightly dramatic as I remember The Clique books to be, which is odd because it covers everything from cheating husbands to pot brownies. It was however a great read and the perfect book to bring with you to a beach.

While I enjoyed it I think I would have rather it focused more on the original members or on the bonding between the next generation. While there was a lot going on, I finished it and still felt like I was missing something. There’s little talk of the actual book club and how the new members got closer.

While we do see personal growth in a number of the characters, whether it’s actually reading that month’s pick or signing in pen, it feels like we’re following the Downtown Beach Club and not the Dirty Book Club. While each of the characters were independent of each other they blended together for me. If it wasn’t M.J., I had to remind myself who was who.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted and dramatic read this is one to have. While I felt like the relationships between characters fell a little flat, it was a good read for a day on the beach.

Happy reading!

xox,

Marissa

Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: The Enlightenment of Bees

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, The Enlightenment of Bees by Rachel Linden is the perfect mix of self discovery, a love story, and an honest reflection about voluntourism. This story is well thought out and each theme plays out very well and compliments each other. 

This story starts out with a proposal gone wrong and follows Mia on her journey to find herself. After a six year relationship, she realizes she had been in a relationship that forced her to compromise rather than fostering her growth. But it’s not just her love story, Nana Alice and her best friend Rosie also find themselves looking for love. 

As for the voluntourism aspect, Linden does not shy away from addressing the savior complex. If you’re not familiar with it it can be easily explained by @barbiesavior on Instagram. This book brings up two really good points about changing the world:

  •   It’s a two way street. You can’t go into a different culture and assume you’re the only person of value, you need to build a community.
  • finding where your passions meet the worlds needs

It’s a hard discussion to have, but this book definitely paves the way for the discussions to happen. As someone who has always wanted to do a volunteer trip abroad this has made me realize that without the community aspect no real change can be made. 

Another important lesson from this book was that the refugee crisis does not stop at the border. The true test comes as people are trying to acclimate into their new lives. 

There was one thing that was totally lost on me, the bee analogy. Bees are scattered throughout the text and I’ll be(e) honest I was confused. Until, I couldn’t take it anymore, I felt like they must mean something for them to show up that often. So I turned to Google and saw that bees represent community, brightness, and personal power. Well played Linden, well played.

If you’re looking for a thought provoking read that has a seamless storyline, this is your next pick.

Happy reading!

xox, 

Marissa

What I'm Reading

Summer Reads

You can read my full review of these books here:

These reviews are coming soon:

  • The Enlightenment of Bees
  • Last Year in Havana

Let me know what books you bring to the beach in the comments!

xox,

Marissa

wellness

Wellness Wednesday: Make a Run for It

Hello hello!

Today’s Wellness Wednesday is a track workout and I have included a few different options so you can pick whichever one you feel the most comfortable with. Just remember you should do some type of dynamic warm up before hitting the track.

I wanted to share different running workouts because I spent 6 years running cross country and track and some days I miss it. After running a 5k a few weeks ago I thought, I should really train for these things. In the hopes that I will use these workouts in preparation for my next race I figured I might as well share them here!

Option 1

While I ran track for a very long time I hate running on tracks. To me, the endless circles are boring, I’d rather have a change of scenery. But since that’s not always an options, I’ll give you a workout which is all about a chance of pace.

  • Jog 100 meters
  • Run 200 meters
  • Walk 100 meters
  • Repeat 4 times

I’ve always liked these types of workouts because the constant changing gives me something to think about other than “how much longer????”. If you want to add some distance, repeat the whole thing two more times and you are practically at a 5k!

Option 2

If you are going for speed this is the workout for you. While this was a workout I couldn’t stand in high school it definitely helps improve split times. Another team in our league had shirts that said, “to run fast you must run fast”, and while we always rolled our eyes when we read it it’s true. If you want to get faster, you need to practice faster.

  • 12 x 400 meter sprints
  • Take a two minute rest in between each 400
  • Take a two-five minute rest in between each mile

You can calculate split times here. If you are training for a 5k, put in the time you’d like to finish it and select 400m for the split times and you are good to go!

Option 3

This one is a long one but it was another one of my favorites in high school because things are constantly changing. And it will get you 4 miles once you are done.

  • 400 meters
  • 800 meters
  • 1200 meters
  • 1600 meters
  • 1200 meters
  • 800 meters
  • 400 meters

Be sure to take a slow jog or a walk in between your sets!

That’s all I have for you today! Let me know your favorite track workout in the comments!

xox,

Marissa

Style

Make a Statement

pineapple earrings
The cutest pineapple earrings from SUGARFIX by BaubleBar. You can find them here.

Hello friends!

Before we get into today’s style post I just wanted to share something exciting: today is the second anniversary of Sunflowers & Seersucker! While my first blog post went live on August 28th, today is the day I created an Instagram and started sharing on my corner of the Internet! If you have any fun ideas for posts on the 28th let me know!

Statement earrings are always a good idea. While I tend to wear pearls every day, I also don’t shy away from the fact that sometimes you need to grab attention. And while pearls complete most looks, sometimes you just need something flashy.

Today I’m sharing my favorite SUGARFIX earrings because while I love BaubleBar, I am definitely balling on a budget. You can click on any of the pictures to be brought to Target’s website.

palmetto earrings

Nothing screams summer quite like palmettos which makes these a great summer earring. Whether you’re vacationing in the tropics or trying to bring the sunshine to you, these are a must. They also have a cute blush pink which really brings out the heart shape.

lobster earrings

I may just be the only New Englander who doesn’t like lobster rolls but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate these earrings. If you’ll be spending anytime on the Cape, in Maine, or anywhere in between this summer you’ll probably want to add these to your cart.

beach themed hoops

Palm Beach anyone? The bright colors and seashells make these a must for a tropical vacation! My favorite touch is definitely the starfish.

bright fringe earrings

If you’re looking for something bold, look no further. These fringe earrings are perfect to add a pop of color to any look. They also come in lilac and black if you’re looking for something more subdued. While they are a little more laid back in color, they still add the perfect finishing touch.

Let me know which pair is your favorite!

Stay stylish!

xox,

Marissa

Photos of the earrings are not mine and belong to Target!

Uncategorized, wellness

Wellness Wednesday: Bodies Alive

Today’s Wellness Wednesday is a little different than usual. While we’ll still be talking about the human body, it’s not in the way you may be expecting.

This Sunday I was at the Museum of Science in Boston/Cambridge (the museum is actually split between Boston and Cambridge) and I got to see the Body World exhibit and it was amazing!

I went to see Bodies: The Exhibition when I took anatomy in high school and now that I have taken two more years of anatomy I feel like my appreciation for the human body and traveling exhibitions has only grown.

One thing that really amazed me about Body Worlds was that it was educational beyond just the bodies. They had rooms dedicated to different body systems and would include education about how to remain healthy through diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices in each section. As someone who just learned about workplace ergonomics one of my favorite parts was the video about adjusting posture while sitting at a desk and a model about proper lifting technique. I may be on summer break but it was a great way to review some key concepts from last semester!

A section on cataracts. I had no idea Monet and Degas both had problems with vision and it was interesting to see what they saw vs what they painted.

My favorite part of the exhibit besides being able to look at the bodies was the section on centenarians. Body Worlds featured a few people who have made it to 100 years old and had them speak about their lifestyles. While diet and exercise was mentioned, they centenarians also talked about their role in society. One woman discussed how important it was for her to be able to still be an active participant in her life, she still volunteers in her community and spends time with friends and family.

I had to feature this one on the blog! Mobility is medicine!

When you leave Body Worlds you can pick up a chip and pledge to make a lifestyle choice that will improve your quality of life. I was happy to see “exercise more” had a ton of pledges but since mental health is just as important as physical health, I pledged to stress less.

“Eat less sugar” was another popular one and if we weren’t in peak ice cream eating season I may have put my chip there…

But let’s get to the good stuff! The bodies! They are preserved through a process called Plastination and were absolutely amazing. It’s no secret I am a huge nerd when it comes to this kind of thing but they were breathtaking. You could see each of the muscles so clearly and the bodies were posed in such interesting ways, I could go on and on.

It wasn’t just the bodies that were on display, they had the nervous system and plastic replicas of the heart and all of it’s arteries and veins. The nervous system had to be the wildest thing for me because I was able to just stare at the brachial plexus I had learned about in class and look at in our cadavers but there it was laid out in front of me connected to all of the other nerves in the body.

I know not everyone may want to actually see the bodies so here is your warning: the donors are below!!

Could you imagine being the person to set this up?

That’s it for my review of the exhibit itself but I encourage you to keep reading below and learn about how these companies get the bodies. It’s an important discussion to have so let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Something important to keep in mind when looking into these types of exhibits: where the donors come from. In our anatomy class our professor mentioned that while these traveling exhibits are informative they don’t always get their bodies in the right way. Body Worlds’ donors come from people in Europe and the United States who have agreed to donating their bodies to medical students and the general public to learn from. Body Worlds is even stricter with their donations now after discovering some of their bodies were coming from Russian human trafficking rings. In an interview with NPR the founder of Body Worlds said, “What I certainly never use for public exhibitions are unclaimed bodies, prisoners, bodies from mental institutions and executed prisoners.” The key phrase here is public exhibitions. The founder of Body Worlds has admitted to selling unclaimed bodies for educational purposes. These bodies come from Chinese medical schools and have no written confirmation.

Bodies: The Exhibition is another story. The spokesperson for the company openly admits the bodies on display are unclaimed. The founder of this traveling cadaver company used to work with Body Worlds and then created a rival. This is the exhibition I had seen in high school and while it was one of my favorite field trips I had ever gone on, knowing that these bodies may not have been acquired in an ethical manner makes me cringe. But at least they are honest about not being able to verify who was donated to them.

So what can you do with this information? Weigh the options. Both companies have some shady deals going on, whether it’s the bodies they display publicly or sell to medical schools they both obtain bodies in an unethical way. If this is something you are really interested in seeing you just have to decide if you’d rather look at the bodies that were donated or if you are okay with seeing bodies who were not willing but the company is upfront about the means of getting them.

All of the information on donors to Body Worlds and Bodies: The Exhibition came from two NPR articles from 2006. While it is older information, this is the most trustworthy website I could come across.

I’m a huge quote person so I loved that there were quotes about life scattered throughout Body Worlds.

That’s all I have for you this Wednesday! Stay tuned next week for a more traditional Wellness Wednesday post!

xox,

Marissa

What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: Pursuits Unknown

Always carry a book in your bag! It gets you through long rides on the T and the long wait for your food.

 Today I am sharing my first book review from BookSparks! I shared in June that I was accepted as part of the #booksharks team and now I get to share my thoughts on the first ARC I have received!

I was instantly intrigued when I read the description. While science fiction isn’t my go-to I often think I can communicate with my dog telepathically so it seemed super interesting. The description also mentions a disease called “Disorientation” which is much like Alzheimer’s and I thought a human/dog search team that goes after missing people seems like it would be right up my alley. Add in the fact that one of the people who goes missing is a famous scientist and I was hooked.

While I enjoyed the storyline, the narrating style wasn’t for me. I felt like I was coming in in the middle of a series, it’s a science fiction/alternate reality kind of story and at the beginning I had trouble figuring out what kind of world we were living in. It was also difficult to keep the characters straight, I had a similar feeling to the third Crazy Rich Asians book where there is a lot happening and I need to take the time to remember who everyone is.

However, this was a really quick read. I feel like I flew through it! The story was compelling and I was intrigued the whole way through to figure out what the answer was. There were a lot of pieces to the puzzle to be fit together but overall it was a good read.

Reading the author’s note at the back I discovered she wrote this as part of NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month was something I had taken part in when I was in high school and I loved that that’s where this idea was born.

Overall, I would say that if you love dogs, science-fiction, a good mystery, or any combination of the three this book is worth picking up. For me it was more of a stylistic thing that didn’t match up for me so it’s worth a try! You’ll never know if you don’t pick it up!

Happy reading! Let me know what’s in your TBR in the comments!

xox,

Marissa