July 2015 - The Surznick Common Room

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Surznick Reads: July 2015


Happy Friday and happy end of July! Even though our July was absolutely spectacular, I love August because it means we're one step closer to September and FALL! (You know we love our Fall!)

Not too many books from us this month - we read way less on vacation than I thought we would. But here you go, our July reads!

Sarah's Reads!


Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
From Amazon.com: "When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it. In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments - the ones we want to pretend never happened - are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives."

This book was absolutely hilarious. After reading Fever Pitch last month, I really wanted something quick, easy, and funny and this book did not disappoint. The book starts with stories from Lawson's childhood and progresses throughout her life. For not knowing anything about her prior to reading this book, I feel like we're practically friends now (but I guess that's how memoirs work, right?) Her stories are so crazy that at times it's hard to believe they're true, but then she provides the photos as proof. I loved reading about everything in her life from extremely happy to severely tragic because even in the worst of times, she still expressed her stories with such hilarity. I'd highly recommend!

My Rating: 4 Stars


The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter
From Amazon.com: "Deep in the woods of northern England, somewhere between a dilapidated estate and an abandoned Victorian asylum, fifteen-year-old Jane Standen lived through a nightmare. She was babysitting a sweet young girl named Lily, and in one fleeting moment, lost her. The little girl was never found, leaving her family and Jane devastated. Twenty years later, Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As a final research project - an endeavor inspired in part by her painful past - Jane surveys the archives for information related to another missing person: a woman who disappeared over one hundred years ago in the same woods where Lily was lost. As Jane pieces moments in history together, a portrait of a fascinating group of people starts to unfurl. Inexplicably tied to the mysterious disappearance of long ago, Jane finds tender details of their lives at the country estate and in the asylum that are linked to her own heartbroken world, and their story from all those years ago may now help Jane find a way to move on."

It took me a little while to get into this book, but towards the middle it really started to pick up for me. The story bounces back and forth between present day and 1800's. The flashback chapters I found rather boring and raced through them to get back to the present day plot. I was most intrigued by the relationship that Jane strikes up with Blake as opposed to her piecing together the pieces of history. By the end of the book, I didn't feel like the conflict was ever resolved. There are definitely parts of the plot that could have been expanded on, but maybe the author's goal all along was just to bring her character closure and not really solve the mystery that's presented in the book summary. Overall, a quick and easy read once you get into it!

I received this book for review from Blogging for Books. Click to learn more about this book or the author!

My Rating: 3 Stars


Nick's Reads!


Moneyball by Michael Lewis
From Amazon.com: "Moneyball is a quest for something as elusive as the Holy Grail, something that money apparently can't buy: the secret of success in baseball. The logical places to look would be the front offices of major league teams, and the dugouts, perhaps even in the minds of the players themselves. Lewis mines all these possibilities - his intimate and original portraits of big league ballplayers are alone worth the price of admission - but the real jackpot is a cache of numbers - numbers! - collected over the years by a strange brotherhood of amateur baseball enthusiasts: software engineers, statisticians, Wall Street analysts, lawyers and physics professors ... In a narrative full of fabulous characters and brilliant excursions into the unexpected, Michael Lewis shows us how and why the new baseball knowledge works. He also sets up a sly and hilarious morality tale: Big Money, like Goliath, is always supposed to win...how can we not cheer for David?"

Phew, finally! I've been reading this book for what feels like forever. I originally chose it because I really enjoyed the movie, and I assumed I'd like the book, too. Well, needless to say, I went in with high hopes and was pretty disappointed. The book is essentially a statistical history of baseball. I'm talking choked out with incredibly detailed stats and play by play recounts of games and player careers. For 300 pages my brain hurt with numbers and math and history. That being said, I was able to hold on the the general "plot" of the book, (if you could say it even had one) so it wasn't a complete loss. The other redeeming factors were the epilogue and the afterward. I enjoyed those two segments so much that it almost made me reconsider all the judgements I had previously made about the book... almost. All in all, if you're a baseball fan, give this a try. If you're a baseball statistics freak, it's a must.

My Rating: 2 Stars

Have a great weekend!

Sarah & Nick

Autumn Dreaming


I don't know if it's the fact that our vacation is over, August is right around the corner, or the 90 degree heat we've had this week, but I'm kiiiiind of over summer at this point. I've been thinking about fall a lot lately. Dreaming of crunchy leaves, jeans and boots, and a trip to Southern Tier to pick up some Pumking.

I'm also ready to start filling my closet with some new items for fall. On my wish list this year is some new pants and blazers for sure. I was checking out Old Navy tonight because they currently have 40% off women's styles, so there are some seriously good buys on there right now. I rounded up a few things on my wish list, all under $30 with the 40% off! You can click each item to view the product! The sale is happening until 8/1!
Which are your favorites? Anything special on your fall wardrobe wish list?

xo, Sarah

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Stylish Pittsburgh


I love living in Pittsburgh 24/7, but I extra extra love it today because today is the very first Stylish Pittsburgh Day! This morning at 10 AM, Pittsburgh City Council Congressman Dan Gilman recognized the occasion, so you know it's official. They got a proclamation and everything!

The creative geniuses behind Stylish Pittsburgh are Niki Whittle and Tori Mistik. This day was thought up to celebrate the unique and diverse styles of Pittsburgh, to highlight the diverse neighborhoods, to celebrate local designers, and more! You can read more in the Post Gazette!

All day today Pittsburgh folk were sharing their stylish duds on social media with the hashtag #StylishPittsburgh. It was so fun to scroll through the hashtag on Instagram and see both familiar and new faces, and a lot of super cute clothes! It's so fun for me to discover new people through Instagram, especially people who share my love for fashion, blogging, and of course, Pittsburgh.

Below is my #StylishPittsburgh outfit of the day, and some other outfits I was loving today! All in all, I just thought this whole thing was too cool not to share. Don't forget to share your #StylishPittsburgh photo!

A photo posted by sarah (@sawissinger) on

Collared Top/Forever 21 (exact old, similar)
Tweed Skirt/Target (exact old, similar)
Glasses/BonLook (exact)
Leopard Flats/Saks Off Fifth (exact - 81% off right now!)
Bag/Target (exact in black, similar in tan)

A photo posted by Hi, I'm Kim! (@lifeonadot) on

A photo posted by Niki (@nikiwhittle) on

A photo posted by seaschelll (@seaschelll) on
You remember Christine from this post, right?!

xo, Sarah

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Wizarding World: Diagon Alley


Part 2 of our Harry Potter World adventures took us over to Universal Studios to visit Diagon Alley! Just as it is in Islands of Adventure, you need to walk through the entire Universal Studios park to reach Diagon Alley. Along the way, we soaked in some awesome "Old Hollywood" sites and charm, enjoyed some Duff Beer at Moe's, helped E.T. escape to his home planet, and completed our MIB alien identification training.


As soon as we caught a glimpse of the Knight Bus rising up in the distance, we knew we were in the right place. 


Diagon Alley was amazing, impressive, and intense. You are completely overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of the real Diagon Alley as you marvel at the detail and scale of the experience. Unlike Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, Diagon Alley has a great deal more to explore, with hidden alleyways, and multiple streets filled with shops and experiences. 


Your first glimpse down the main drag as you enter the alley is of the immense, literally fire-breathing dragon perched atop Gringotts - a site I will not soon forget!

Rides
Potentially the only drawback to the Diagon Alley part of the Harry Potter World experience is that there is only one ride. However, it's a doozy.


Escape from Gringotts: Like "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" from Hogwarts, this is a rollercoaster/simulator hybrid. This one, however, is a little heavier on the roller coaster aspect of it, and requires you to wear 3D glasses. We were incredibly excited for this ride, but sadly to say, we were a bit disappointed. It's not that the ride wasn't great, it was that there was some sort of mechanical failure during our experience, and we were stuck inside the ride for about 15 minutes. That chunk of down time really killed our mood, our expectations, and essentially ruined our judgement of the remainder of the ride. The one cool part, however, was getting to walk through the lobby of Gringotts and seeing the beautiful (and ginormous) chandeliers and all of the Goblins hard at work!

Photo via Chris Crockford
Photo via Chris Crockford

Food & Drink
Butterbeer, butterbeer, butterbeer! Of course it was every where you turned, and of course we enjoyed some more. In addition to butterbeer, we and our friends sampled some Fire Whiskey (think Fireball, but smoother), and some Butterbeer Ice Cream (think vanilla ice cream, with butterbeer syrup - yummmmm). 


The Leaky Cauldron: The food here was very similar to the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, but since the interior of The Leaky Cauldron is featured a bit more prominently in the movies, it was a cooler experience. We were able to recognize the layout and decor of the place (like where Arthur Weasley pulls Harry aside to talk to him about Sirius Black escaping from Azkaban). 


Shops
It's safe to say that the bulk of activities to do in Diagon Alley center around shopping. That being said, shopping and attractions seem to bleed into one another quite a bit. We didn't have time to explore everything, but here are a few of the places we did get to enjoy:


Ollivader's Wand Shop: We entered Ollivander's just thinking it was a shop where we could browse and potentially purchase wands. Little did we know, we were also attending the "wand chooses the wizard" show with about 20 other park guests. During this show, Ollivander selects one attendee ("a wizard with much potential!") for the wand choosing. I don't mean to brag, but... OLLIVANDER PICKED ME! I'M NOT A MUGGLE AFTER ALL!

Here's a rather dark video of me finding THE PERFECT WAND (vine with a phoenix tail core, in case you're curious.) Prior to finding the wand that was meant for me, I had to try a couple others and caused a bit of mayhem (not caught on tape, unfortunately.) The whole experience was so awesome, but I still had to pay $47 to keep the dang thing (seriously, Universal?) The coolest thing about the wands, which we briefly mentioned in the previous post, is that they are interactive. You can take them to different storefronts in the Wizarding World and MAKE MAGIC HAPPEN. Enough said.



Weasley's Wizard Wheezes: This is a super fun store to explore. So much of it is set up just like in the film, from featuring products like Puking Pestules, to seeing Umbridge riding a unicycle while carry cauldrons on tight rope high above. 


Borgin and Burkes: No sooner did I say, "I wonder if they have a Knockturn Alley here somewhere" did we stumble right into it. Cold, and dark, this was very interesting to explore. In here we of course went into the famous Borgin and Burkes to see skulls, dark magic tools, the Death Eaters' Vanishing Cabinet, and tons of other great gizmos and gadgets. Our friends purchased awesome Dark Mark tattoos to sport on our last day at the park too!


Attractions
Marvel at the giant fire-breathing dragon, snap some pictures of Hagrid's flying motor cycle and side car, cool off in the dark and mysterious Knockturn Alley, enjoy a puppet/magic live show on stage, and use your wand to make magic happen in a storefront window! Like I said earlier, Diagon Alley has loads to explore, and it would be easy to do so for an entire day.


We truly had such a fantastic time on this trip. I'm so glad that we finally got to fulfill our dreams of feeling like true wizards and share the experience with friends as well. If you have any questions about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, be sure to let us know because we'd LOVE to talk about it forever and ever!


Vacation's not quite over yet though! Soon we'll share more about our visits to Charleston, South Carolina and Raleigh, North Carolina on our 1,200 mile road trip home from Orlando! Stay tuned!

Sarah & Nick

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Wizarding World: Hogwarts & Hogsmeade


"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live," said Albus Dumbledore, and I couldn't agree more. Nick and I have been dreaming of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios for years now, so this summer we made those dreams a reality! With friends eager to join us and vacation time waiting to be used, we made a spur of the moment decision a few months ago to book a flight, order our park passes, and hop aboard the Hogwarts Express to Harry Potter World!


There is no way this blog post is going to do our trip justice, because we had the best time we could possibly have. I've never felt so much like a true Gryffindor in my life and I think I would be happy spending every day sipping butterbeers in Diagon Alley, talking about last night's quidditch match, and practicing new spells to annoy the Slytherins. I'll have to keep thinking about how to make those dreams come true, but for now I'll recap Part 1 of our three-day HP adventure for you - enjoy!


Hogwarts & Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure)
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is located in two different Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Hogwarts and Hogsmeade are in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios. If you have "park-to-park" passes, you can ride the Hogwarts Express to visit both parks on the same day, however, we just spent two days in Islands of Adventure and one day in Universal Studios.


When you walk into Islands of Adventure you have to trek through the entire park to get to The Wizarding World, but as soon as you see the snow covered roofs of Hogsmeade and Hogswarts Castle in the distance, it's alllllll worth it.

Rides

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: This ride was the very first thing we did at the park and it was AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING. Oh hey, did I mention, amazing?! This 3D simulation/roller coaster hybrid is inside Hogwarts, so not only do you get to experience an incredible ride, you also get to see inside the castle that you've dreamed about living in for years now.


Flight of the Hippogriff: This was the kid/family friendly roller coaster just outside of Hogwarts. It was fun to see Hagrid's hut and an awesome life size Hippogriff. We used this little ride as a stepping stone to build up Nick's roller coaster nerves.


Dragon Challenge: This roller coaster is a little like Lightning Racer at Hersheypark (for our fellow PA readers!) Now, Nick has always been super terrified of roller coasters, but I think it's safe to say that we successfully converted him on this trip! We warmed up with the Flight of the Hippogriff ride and went straight on to the Dragon Challenge. He was looking pretty terrified at the offset but by the end he was all about it. It's a "leg dangling" ride (not sure if that's the technical term or not...) and was easily one of the funnest rides in the park. We rode it a total of 3 times: Once on the blue (Hungarian Horntail), once on the red (Chinese Fireball), and once more on the blue. There is some debate among our friends over which one is better, but here in the Surznick household, we're bigger fans of the blue side!

Food & Drink

Butterbeers!: Need I say more, really? Okay, I will. There are a ton of places to get butterbeer in Hogsmade, but we most often went to the cart outside Hogwarts. You can purchase your butterbeer either cold (like a soda) or frozen (like a slushie). We went frozen every time with no regrets.


The Three Broomsticks: We stopped into the Three Broomsticks for lunch (and to escape a massive downpour that left us soaked to the bone!) There aren't any meal options that are clearly vegetarian, but the staff was very accommodating and let us create a "veggie platter" with any three meat-free items. We also split a Pumpkin Juice, which was super yummy and would be a great drink for autumn. Think cinnamon pumpkin spice latte, in juice form.

Shops

Honeydukes: Stop in to pick up some chocolate frogs or Bertie Botts Every Flavoured Beans! Or just admire all of the colorful confections like we did!



Ollivander's Wand Shop: We didn't end up going inside this Ollivander's (there's another in Diagon Alley), but this is where you would go to purchase a wand or see the "wand choose a wizard" show (more on that in our next post!)


There are a few other shops that look like true Hogsmeade shops, but are actually just park merchandise stores. One of the coolest things about each of the storefronts is that if you purchase an interactive wand, you can actually make magic happen in each storefront window!

Attractions

The Hogwarts Express: Though we were unable to ride the Hogwarts Express without park-to-park passes, we still snapped some photos and I chatted up the conductor! He's a super friendly guy, make sure you say hi!


Beauxbatons & Durmstrang Show: No theme park trip would be complete without a little bit of live action entertainment. Passersby got the opportunity to watch dancing presentations from the lovely Beauxbaton ladies, and some intense tumbling from the Durmstrang dudes. You can catch a video of the Beauxbatons on Instagram!

Have we convinced you that Harry Potter World is a vacation you NEED to go on? Well don't worry, we have even more coming in our next post where we'll recap Diagon Alley! Stay tuned!


Sarah & Nick

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Polka Dot Romper


I recently shared some of my favorite rompers for the summer, but this one is the newest addition to my closet!


Zaful, an online one-stop shop with a huge variety of cute clothes, recently offered me the opportunity to try out one of their rompers. With nearly 500 rompers and jumpsuits to choose from it wasn't exactly an easy decision, but this blue and white polka dot one-piece caught my eye.


I absolutely love the way this romper looks on the model (so chic!) The pattern is gorgeous, I love the long sleeves, and the slight ruffling on the shorts is super cute. On my 5'3" frame, however, the romper just doesn't fit quite as well. I think that's just the general theme with rompers - they're definitely not one size fits all.


In my case, the waist doesn't hit right place and the shorts are a bit long - this is definitely made for someone several inches taller than me, with a much longer torso. Regardless, I was still determined to make this romper work for me because the print is just so beautiful! I pulled up the elastic waist and let the top drape a little. I'm also considering removing the ruffles to make the shorts shorter. The ruffles are much more subtle online and I think removing that extra bit of length will make the romper more flattering for my height.


Polka Dot Romper\c/o Zaful (exact)
Purse\Target (exact old, similar)
Wedges\Target (exact old, similar)

In addition to rompers, Zaful has so many dresses, tops, jackets, bathing suits, you name it. I basically want to transport the entire site into my closet. Below are some more Zaful items that I'm loving!

one / two / three / four
five / six / seven / eight / nine

Which are your favorites? Everything shown is under $35! What do you think about the ruffles on this polka dot romper? Yes? No? Keep me posted!


xo, Sarah