The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: An addictive modernized telling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice

the lizzie bennet diaries

I kept hearing people talk about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries online but for some reason never looked into it seriously until last week when hubby was out of town and I was thus bored and in need of distraction. Two crazy days later I had watched the entire series and was unabashedly in love with it.

The LBD is an online modernized adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – told through youtube videos, tumblr pages and twitter conversations, all compiled for your viewing pleasure here. Told largely from the perspective of Elizabeth Bennet (obviously), the series does a really cool job of taking the original story and bringing it to a modern era. Some previously small characters get a much deserved reworking – some even become a different creature or relation all together.

I think they did a really great job balancing staying true to the original story but also making it make sense in a modern era. The girls are more focused on their education and careers rather than just on their love lives and other aspects of the story are changed up a bit while still keeping in theme. They also do a great job of making reference to things from the original book in a quirky way and sort of jabbing at that fourth wall a bit.

And okay, honestly apart from the wonderful story telling and creative use of social media, I think the thing that makes the show SO compelling is the amazing cast. Ashley Clements who plays Lizzie is amazing in this role. She is endearing and hilarious and basically amazing. I think her career is going to sky rocket soon. Her sisters on the show, Jane (played by Laura Spencer) and Lydia (by Mary Kate Wiles) embodied their roles perfectly and I would say brought them to another level entirely. The other two sisters from the book are reinvented in the web series as cousin Mary (played by Briana Cuoco – sister of Kaley Cuoco from The Big Bang Theory) and Kitty is… actually a kitty.

Another stand out performance is Julia Cho who plays Charlotte – a character who really doesn’t get a lot of fleshing out in the book, in the web series she is probably one of the Top 3 characters on the show. Julia is another actress that I see going really, really far in her career. And of course, Darcy. Oh Darcy – Daniel Gordh was amazing in this role and his chemistry with Ashley Clements was off the charts. Despite not actually being shown for most of the series, his character is definitely one of my favorites.

I could go on and on and on – but I think you get the idea. This show is a must see for Jane Austen enthusiasts and anyone who thinks they could maybe possibly by a Jane Austen enthusiast, maybe. I really can’t recommend it highly enough!

Ready to watch? Check out the first diary entry and prepare to be too busy for cooking or cleaning or socializing or coherent conversation for a few days. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Already watched the LBD and in withdrawals like me? Next up is Emma Approved, coming soon!

memes & carnivals things I learned this month

The 13 things I learned in August.

things learned in august

Tomorrow is the last day of August! I’m joining Emily at Chatting at the Sky again this month and sharing the things I’ve learned in the last month. I’ve really enjoyed this new monthly tradition – I hope you’ll play along, too!

  1. I learned that the Milwaukee Airport kind of puts the other local airports to shame. Or at least, I learned that I really like the Milwaukee airport. Seven words: Kids play area next to our gate.
  2. I also learned to pay closer attention to the boarding time on plane tickets when planning layovers.
  3. I learned that the Higgins Armory museum was one of the first all steel and glass curtain-wall structures built in America.
  4. I learned that my daughter can pull off plaid and leopard print in the same outfit.
  5. I learned how to make pickles.
  6. I learned that the Baby Ruth candy bar was named after President Grover Cleveland’s daughter, Ruth Cleveland and not Babe Ruth as I had always assumed.
  7. I have learned a LOT about the first twenty or so first ladies, reading Secret Lives of The First Ladies by Cormac O’Brien. I’m only about 1/3 through the book but really enjoying it.
  8. I learned that someone’s love interest on Pretty Little Lairs might be A. Again.
  9. I learned that dumping chia seeds into my iced coffee and stirring does not provide the desired result / texture at all.
  10. I learned that the Lizzie Bennet Diaries are so good that I can watch the entire series on two days.
  11. I learned a new pizza dough recipe by Ree Drummond.
  12. I learned that I’ve been using the wrong plunger in the bathroom. Among other things.
  13. I learned that google maps can show you the inside of the Tardis.

What did you learn this month?

family fun photography

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…


Last night was the Cub Scout ice cream social. Going out after supper for ice cream and playground fun in the middle of the week? We don’t do that kind of thing often, even in the summer, so it was a pretty big treat for my littles and a nice way to mark the end of the summer and get ready for another school & scouting year. Both kids filled up on yummy chocolate ice cream with all the toppings and ran around the playground with absolute abandon. The weather was that perfect balance of warm – not the slightest bit hot or cold – a perfect night.

I got a new phone yesterday (we bought one used off of a friend so that I could upgrade early) and I figured this was the perfect chance to try out the camera on the Samsung Galaxy SIII – maybe you can’t tell the difference in quality from my old S2, but just to put it in perspective, each of these pictures I only took one shot and especially in the bottom picture, she was rocking like crazy. Did I mention I took these with my cell phone?? Technology has come a LONG way, my friends!

We are all really excited here for the start of another school year. This morning we are going to meet BB’s 4K teacher and next week (Tuesday for him, Wednesday for her) the school year officially starts. We’ll be keeping busy between both kids being in school, and me doing the newsletter and website for MM’s cub scout pack, in addition to all of the things I already do (shut up, I totally do stuff) and I’m looking forward to the changes to come in our routine.

My goal: exercise more, preferably daily, ideally by taking the dog for a walk in good weather ; do my shopping ALONE and maybe clean the house sometimes.

What are your goals for the fall season?

Are you excited about / enjoying the school year?

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

I think mine is probably cookies & cream or peanut butter cup.

books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: August 2013

It’s hard to believe that the month is almost over. In less than a week BOTH of my children will be IN SCHOOL. This is craziness! For roughly three hours each weekday I will have the house to myself (unless you coun’t the dog) while BB is at 4K and of course MM will be starting second grade. We are all super excited (and a little nervous). This last week of summer vacation has been filled with peanut butter and honey sandwiches, PBS Kids shows, discovering and devouring The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in two days and, occasionally, reading.

Anyway, the last time we talked nightstands I was reading  The Selection by Kiera Cass. Similar to the LBD, after discovering the series I became obsessively hooked and read every book out in the series as fast as humanly possible. I am a sucker for a good love story and this one was a complicated doozy – almost as complicated at Elizabeth and Darcy’s.

All in all, I’ve read four books since my last nightstand post:

  1. The Selection by Kiera Cass – Finished July 24, 2013 – This book just sucked me in and refused to let go from the first page. Though the writing is fairly simple (YA book), the story is fascinating and the characters are even better. I downloaded the following book, Elite and her novella, The Prince before even finishing this one. – Full Review
  2. The Prince a novella by Kiera Cass – Finished July 25, 2013 – It was really interesting to get a chance to get to know Prince Maxon a little better and see the Selection through his eyes. There were a few funny moments when you see his reaction to something that you remember America going through – and it’s a nice quick read – it took me an hour to finish the story.
  3. The Elite by Kiera Cass – Finished July 27, 2013 – Good lord, I could not put this book down. I am really enjoying this series and anxious for book three.
  4. Moranthology by Caitlin Moran – Finished August 20, 2013 – I think I enjoyed this book even better than her last. With a variety of topics, this book is hilarious and insightful, but mostly hilarious. Interviews with famous musicians, reviews of Downton Abbey and Sherlock and stories about her marriage and childhood and everything in between. If you like Caitlin Moran, you will LOVE this book. If you don’t know who Caitlin Moran is, but you like Tina Fey or Jen Lancaster or The Bloggess – you will LOVE this book. – Full Review

In between starting and finishing Moranthology, I tried reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr to discuss with my book club, but I honestly couldn’t seem to get into it at all. It’s a very long, very descriptive and gruesome book and frankly just not what I was in the mood to read. So I decided to sit out this month’s book club and instead finished Moranthology and LOVED it.

Right now I am reading a bit of non-fiction but also relatively light reading: Secret Lives of the First Ladies by Cormac O’Brien. describes it thusly:

“Your high school history teachers never gave you a book like this one! Secret Lives of the First Ladies features outrageous and uncensored profiles of the women of the White House—complete with hundreds of little-known, politically incorrect, and downright wacko facts.”

For those following along with my summer reading challenge, I would need to somehow finish the book I am reading now and one other title before the end of the month to finish my personal challenge. This seems highly unlikely, especially thanks to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries completely taking over my life for the past two days, but I am still proud of all the reading that I have gotten done this summer and looking forward to making some new fall reading goals.

Books I’m planning to read next include:

In general, my nightstand is starting to get way, way crowded again but my brain is a bit hazy on all the titles so I’ll save them for a longer list on another day!

What are you reading right now?

family fun photography travel

Camping at Governor Dodge State Park: Summer 2013


We just got back from a weekend camping trip at Governor Dodge State Park in Dodgeville, WI. I think I probably say this every time, but this was definitely our best camping trip to date. Between the kids getting older and our family learning what kind of things we like in a camp ground and camping trip, we seem to be figuring out the formula for a great trip.

This trip seemed to have all the ingredients for a great weekend:

  • The weather was absolutely beautiful, if a bit too hot towards the end of the day. On our last camping trip I was too cold when trying to fall asleep – that was definitely not an issue on this trip!
  • The camp site was perfect – plenty of space to set up our tent and just enough privacy between camp sites. The ground was great for putting stakes in the tent and there was plenty of nature for the kids to play with.
  • The park had dozens of hiking trails of varying length. After dinner on Saturday we hiked the Stephens Fall Trail which leads to a small waterfall. It was just challenging enough to feel like we’d gotten a workout but easy enough that our four year old and seven year old were not too winded. There was gorgeous nature everywhere – I may have gotten a bit distracted taking nature shots (see collage below).
  • We did a great job packing food for this trip. We had a personal goal to not go out to eat during our trip and we met that goal easily by packing plenty of food we liked. I made sure we had a variety of things to choose from so we couldn’t get too bored and worked hard to think every meal through. Though we had a few mishaps (one of our mason jars cracked when trying to heat milk in a pot of water), overall the meals went really well and the only thing we bought was some ice cream after lunch on Sunday as a small splurge.
  • The cookie s’more – an absolute essential for camping in our family.
  • I looked up a lot of activities beforehand but didn’t try to itinerary the trip too much. We tried to play the trip by ear and do the things that worked in each moment and this worked out wonderfully.
  • This campground had the perfect playground just a few campsites away from ours – this was not entirely by accident. I studied the campground map carefully when selecting our site and I’m so glad. The playground was just the right size for our kids and in great condition. There were benches and a picnic table in perfect proximity to the playground equipment so we could sit and relax but still be very close by.
  • Right next to the playground was the bathroom & shower which were in very good condition for a campground. I was equally grateful to have a bathroom so close to our campsite, too!
  • Just a three minute drive away was a beautiful beach which we visited Sunday morning after breakfast!


The nature was truly inspiring on this trip – flowers, trees and sky – everywhere I looked I found beauty.


After not quite enough sleep (we haven’t yet mastered getting the kids to fall asleep at a reasonable hour and I don’t sleep well anywhere) we woke up and made coffee and splurged on little bags of sugary cereal that I’d bought especially for the trip. At home it’s all about healthy cereal so the kids were outrageously excited about this and Dan and I loved enjoying some childhood favorites together.

While we packed up the tent and gear (we only stayed one night this time) the kids made fairy houses and played other games using sticks, rocks, leaves, etc. around the campsite. I spent a little time lingering with them while they played and LOVED seeing their imagination come to life. Why do we buy kids toys again?

Once we were packed, we headed to the beach. Wisconsin beaches are, of course, on lakes and they can be hit or miss. Usually miss. We’ve been to a few good ones since moving here but Governor Dodge was, by far, the best yet. Soft sandy beaches, relatively clean water and a good crowd of mostly families.

The sand was just damp enough to easily build sand castles with not too many tools needed. Dan showed MM how to make a sand turtle with just his hands and MM made friends with another kid there who was building a “sand lake” with a connecting river – they spent a lot of time working on that while BB relaxed next to me digging in the sand with little aim other than to dig and enjoy.

Both kids got to do some swimming with daddy and when lunch time rolled around we cleaned up and found a nice shady picnic table where I assembled some peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches for everyone along with a few snacks. After lunch we had that ice cream I mentioned and then we headed home.

Overall it as a short and sweet kind of trip – we felt truly relaxed as we drove back to the house. Sometimes being one with nature for a little while is just what the soul needs to end a busy and hectic summer before beginning a busy and hectic school year!

family fun

The girl I am today.

Yesterday I talked about the girl I used to be:

Twenty Something Jen spent her college vacations working at an Independent bookstore in Massachusetts, flirting with her future husband. She loved layers, John Mayer, Gilmore Girls reruns and the Harry Potter series. She shopped clearance racks for most of her wardrobe and was addicted to coolattas at Dunkin Donuts.  She loved Doctor Pepper and hated peas with a passion. She had freedom and flexibility and hated waking up early and loved staying up late to read. She saw movies in the theater as often as possible and loved to get together with her besties on her days off to play card games and drink cheap wine.

me and the kids 2013

The girl I am today is similar and different from Twenty Something Jen. I still hate peas and getting up early, but now I’m obsessed with latte miels and san pellegrinos. I still love John Mayer and a good clearance rack but I see most of my movies on DVD now and though I love to stay up late reading, I can’t stay up as late as I used to. Thirty Something Jen comes with less flexibility and freedom. I have two kiddos whom I love dearly and a husband I cannot imagine living without. They are at the center of every plan and decision that I make. And although I love a good sale, Thirty Something Jen tries very hard to only buy clothes that I absolutely love – so I shop less from clearance racks and more from a place of strategic wardrobe planning.

Thirty Something Jen loves discovering new-to-me shows and obsessively watching them marathon style. Doctor Who and 30 Rock and Drop Dead Diva are new obsessions that Twenty Something Jen didn’t know about at all. Thirty Something Jen has broadened her world of books, and discovered a lot of genres I never knew I’d like. Historical Fiction and memoirs are a new favorite of mine, in addition to dystopian novels, light mysteries and anything that will make me laugh.

Twenty Something Jen had a lot of ideas about the world. She was a firm Cat Lover, snooty about cars (wanted to drive a Jeep Liberty or a Mazda Miata) and imagined going into a career in journalism. Thirty Something Jen owns a giant crazy dog, drives a Buick Grandma Car and dreams of owning a Subaru and although I love journalism, I don’t really see it as a dream job anymore. Thirty Something Jen likes eggplant and rhubarb and other plants with funny names.

Thirty Something Jen is living a life I’d never thought to dream of in my early twenties. I have spent my mothering years learning to open myself up to new experiences and accept change more easily. I never considered myself un-open to change until I learned to embrace it. I probably thought I knew everything until I learned about all of the things I’d never known.

Thirty Something Jen knows I have a lot left to learn and I can’t wait to discover all of the lessons in store for me.

books & reading work & the economy

The girl I used to be.

As a reward for making good progress with potty training, I took the kids to the bookstore this week to get BB a new book (::does happy dance::). Side note: I LOVE that the prospect of a new book excites my children as much as it does me. If there was any question about whether these kids take after their parents, this fact firmly settles the debate.

In addition to the book she chose, I wanted to get her a book about using the potty to kind of keep the momentum going – but I was having a hard time finding any so after circling the children’s section several times, I broke down and asked a sales person – a hip twenty something who knew all the books and loved all the books – you could tell just by standing near her that she loved her job. I should know. I used to be her.

me and hubby circa 2005

I met my hubby while we were both working in a bookstore during college. It was a rom/com story for the ages with an Indie Bookstore serving as the backdrop. After graduating, I managed the children’s section at said bookstore until hubby and I got married and started a family (not necessarily in that order). Point is, having worked in a bookstore for years, finding books in a book store is kind of a point of pride with me so I don’t ask for help often, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Potty training = desperate measures indeed.

Anyway, the sales girl helped me quickly and I found exactly what I was looking for. While I had her time, I decided to ask about good chapter books for boys. I know a lot of good ones but not being “in the game” anymore, I figured there was a good chance I was out of the loop and she did have some great suggestions for some newer titles I hadn’t heard of yet (Galaxy Zack is officially on MM’s wish list).

Of course like any good bookseller, we spent awhile chatting about books and general likes and dislikes (somehow we started talking about Doctor Who, because, well, have you met me?) and standing there talking to her and watching her get so passionate about book recommendations reminded me of my years working her exact job. Oh, I miss it.

Those were some of the best years of my young adult life and I LOVED that job – I loved my co-workers and my customers, the smell of strong coffee and the creeky old floors. I loved giving book recommendations and making displays of books I thought would sell well. Of course the job I had was a little different from hers – I worked at an independent book store in a building that used to be a factory that had a restaurant inside with a glass dessert case and a New Age section that sold tarot cards and jewelry. The Indie Bookstore is a dying breed – a magical retail world where you can make your own displays and change your mind about the store layout without getting approval from corporate (though you might need to ask Gloria). From what I’ve heard, the Big Box Stores (also now a dying breed) don’t have that kind of flexibility and freedom. Displays come from corporate and the coffee is from Starbucks.

But still. There are books. And book lovers. And coffee. Some of my favorite things. I sometimes talk about going to work in a bookstore again and being that girl again. But I wouldn’t be QUITE that girl. That girl that I was had the flexibility of working long and varying hours and her boyfriend worked at the store so it kind of was her social life. This girl will want Mothers Hours and won’t budge on that matter. This girl may love and live and breathe books, but she loves her family more.

This girl also has a lot of varying dreams and ideas for the future. I may get a job in a bookstore. I may try to write full time. I may get a job copy editing or try and get a job at the kids’ schools. I may do something else entirely that I haven’t had a chance to dream about.

But if I can find a job where I am surrounded by book lovers, where I can feel a little bit like that girl again, I will be a happy woman indeed.


Book Review: Moranthology by Caitlin Moran

moranthologyOne of my new favorite genres is the Funny Memoir / Bloggish Book. Think Jen Lancaster, Tina Fey, Jenny Lawson, Mindy Kaling. Those books. They aren’t the literary masterpieces that your book club will obsess over. There is no mystery to figure out, no heart breaking plot development to overcome. No, in these books the goal is to be entertained – to laugh and think “me, too!” and wake your husband up in the middle of the night because you can’t stop laughing and you need to share the funny with someone immediately.

Caitlin Moran is kind of my new hero. I fell in love with her writing style when I read How to Be a Woman last year and I was eager to read her newest book, Moranthology which is a collection of things she’s written covering a massive array of topics, such as:

“Caffeine | Ghostbusters | Being Poor | Twitter | Caravans | Obama | Wales | Marijuana Addiction |Paul McCartney | The Welfare State | Sherlock | David Cameron Looking Like Ham | Amy Winehouse | Elizabeth Taylor’s Eyes | Michael Jackson’s Funeral | ‘The Big Society’ | Big Hair | Nutter-letters | Failed Nicknames | Wolverhampton | Squirrels’ Testicles | Sexy Tax | Binge-drinking | Chivalry | Rihanna’s Cardigan | Boris Johnson – Albino Shag-hound | Party Bags | Hot People| Transsexuals | The Gay Moon Landings | My Own, Untimely Death”

Oh and Doctor Who. Basically it’s like this book was written just for me. I enjoyed this book so much that when I tried to put it down to read this month’s book club book, I failed miserably, gave up and went back to this instead. Which might say more about The Alienist by Caleb Carr than it does about this book, but really – it says enough.

Interviews with famous musicians, reviews of Downton Abbey and Sherlock, meeting the 10th Doctor, and stories about her marriage and childhood and everything in between. This is a great book to settle down with at the end of a long day of potty training and never ending summer days and just unplug and unwind with.

If you like Caitlin Moran, you will definitely like this book and if you have never heard of her, you still might like this book. And if you don’t like Caitlin Moran, why are you reading this review?

family fun photography

A morning walk at the botanical gardens.

botanical gardens

Yesterday we went for a walk at the botanical gardens. This is one of my absolute favorite places to walk. With a constantly changing and growing variety of plants, flowers and wildlife to photograph (by wildlife, I mostly mean butterflies and birds and my children) while getting in a good walk, I always see something new. No two walks at the gardens are the same – and when the weather is frightful, they have an indoor conservatory to enjoy!

We spent about an hour walking the outdoor gardens, dodging sprinklers and gardeners, snapping pictures of our favorite flowers and children. The next time I get to visit, it will likely  be fall foliage getting photographed, but my husband just told me last night that I have somehow never taken him to the outdoor gardens – weather and time has apparently always gotten in the way, so I am going to have to remedy that soon!

Where is your favorite place to take a nature walk?