Less Than Challenge

Living life with less than…

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Weekend Recommendations

With all the heat we’ve been experiencing in Upstate New York over the last week, I’ve spent very little time at home (in my sweltering hot, attic level apartment) and thus I’ve had very little time to blog. But before this weekend comes to an end, I wanted to take a moment to share a few of my favorite things of late. If you’re looking for something to watch, read, or listen to, these are my current recommendations.

(Readers beware, the songs and videos included below are not so family-friendly.)

WATCH: Orange is the New Black (brand new on Netflix)

If you take only one recommendation from this post, let it be this one. In the last week, I’ve watched all 13 episodes of this new Netflix show, and I have been completely captivated. It’s funny and sad and entertaining and surprising and thought-provoking all at the same time. Season 2 cannot come soon enough. I’m no TV critic so I’ll let a few reviews do the rest of the talking, but please, give this show a try.

The Great Orange Is the New Black Is Suddenly the Best Netflix Series Yet (Grantland)
Obsessed Report Card: Orange Is the New Black (Glamour)

LISTEN: Magna Carta Holy Grail – Jay-Z (listen for free on Spotify)
Not gonna lie…my interest was definitely piqued when Samsung and Jay-Z announced this new album during the NBA Finals. I had the good fortune to get my hands on a copy right after it came out, and while I can’t say I love every song, there are a few I’ve been playing over and over again on repeat. I’d recommend listening to it all at least once, but if you’d like to start with my favorite songs, try these:

Lean In

READ: Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg (get it at your local library, or on Amazon)

I know I’m a little behind the times on this one, but I am about a quarter of the way into this “feminist manifesto” by the COO of Facebook, and so far I’m very intrigued. While I don’t necessarily find myself agreeing with every point that Sandberg makes, a lot of what she says is very interesting. I do find myself thinking more deeply (if not any differently) about women and work as I read.  And with a book like this, isn’t that kind of the whole point?

Now that I’ve finished Orange is the New Black, I’m going to need some new things to keep me entertained until season 2 debuts. If you’ve got recommendations to share, be sure to leave them below!


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A Bachelorette Change of Heart

You may recall, I kicked off LTC’s Favorite Things a few weeks back with my thoughts on The Bachelorette. At the time, I foolishly decided to root for Michael G. because we went to the same college. Pretty much immediately thereafter, he turned into this crazy, “you can’t handle the truth” lawyer type and I was instantly ready for Des to send him home.

To avoid any spoilers for those of you who are behind on your DVR, I won’t say any more about Michael. And that’s fine because I’d much rather focus on my new favorite bachelor: Zak W!!!

Truthfully, I liked Zak from his very first, shirtless appearance on the show. But over the last few weeks, he’s really proven himself to be a serious charmer. So cute, so nice, so funny. Seriously, what’s not to like?!

I’m not convinced that Zak will make it to the end, considering my theory that Des is already completely in love with Chris, and the previews for the next few weeks are utterly and completely confusing, but if I were The Bachelorette, I would be giving Zak every rose for the rest of the season.

Have you had a change of heart yet this season? Which guy is getting your fan love now?

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LTC’s Favorite Things: A Few Good Books

I was recently asked for some book recommendations, and I happen to have recently finished two really great titles in a row. So, of course, I wanted to share with all of you!

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple

Why I Loved It: This book is just plain funny. I actually listened to the audio book, rather than reading a physical copy, and I found myself frequently laughing out loud. I also could not wait for an opportunity to listen to more – in the car, on a walk, during my lunch break, while doing the dishes – I basically took every opportunity possible to devour this story. Bernadette is a brilliant, sweet, crazy woman who disappears days before a family trip to Antarctica, under the most bizarre and hilarious of circumstances. The characters in this book are a mix of charming and repulsive, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at Maria Semple’s portrayal of them all. The audio book narrator was perfect for the job, so if you’ve never tried an audio book before, this would be a great one to get you started. In any case, if you’re looking for something smart, sweet, and a little bit snarky, add this to your reading list today.

The Night Circus

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern

Why I Loved It: If someone had told me before I picked up this book that it was the story of a fierce competition between two magicians set in the late 1800s, there is no chance I would have committed to reading its almost 400 pages. Books about the supernatural are really not my style, but somehow this story captivated me from beginning to end.  Yes, it’s set hundreds of years ago, and yes, it’s basically about magic, but somehow that all worked even for a realist like me. In the end, this was a book about dreams and friends and stories and love, and magic just gave it some context. If you’re looking to get lost in something special, you’ve got to give this one a try. On top of the great story, this was one of the most well-written books I’ve read in years. Between the beautiful language and the wonderfully unique story, this is definitely a title no book-lover will want to miss.

Want to keep up with what I’m reading on the regular? Follow me on Goodreads and leave me some new reading recommendations below!

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Introducing LTC’s Favorite Things

First things first: LTC = Less Than Challenge. For simplicity’s sake, it just seemed like time to give the blog its own acronym.

It also seemed like time to institute a new feature to share my take on the books, movies, music, and shows that enrich my less than lifestyle. And so I introduce to you…LTC’s Favorite Things!

In case you’re wondering what pop culture has to do with the Less Than Challenge, here’s one of many possible answers…

If there is any situation in which I find it practically impossible to stick to a budget, a diet, or a schedule, it would be a night out with my girlfriends. Even a simple happy hour can wreak total havoc on my will to live on less. But pop culture has the potential to provide plenty of entertainment for pennies in comparison to a night out on the town.

Acknowledging this simple fact, my friend Tara and I have instituted weekly Bachelorette-viewing parties in an effort to hang out more while splurging less.  So far, it’s been pretty successful. We’re trying to feast on healthy snacks (and wine) and we’re spending less than $15 a week on our little get-togethers. On top of all that, I’ve somehow become an actual fan of The Bachelorette – something I never expected to say.

So without further ado, I give you the first of my favorite things:

The-Bachelorette-Season-9-logoWhat: The Bachelorette, Season 9

When: Mondays, 8/7c on ABC

Why: I’ve always been a fan of reality love competitions, but I felt like The Bachelor franchise took itself wayyyy too seriously for my liking.  Then I started watching this season, and it was a lot more fun than I anticipated. I still reserve the right to change my mind about this when we get to the fantasy suites and marriage proposal part of the show, but for now, Des is a cutie pie, and I have been totally sucked in to rooting for (and against) her many suitors.

Fun Fact: I learned this week that not one, but TWO of this season’s eligible bachelors are graduates of my alma mater! One of them was sent home on the first night, so I won’t even mention him, but the other, Michael G., is still going strong! According to this bio, Michael’s life path has been remarkably similar to my own fiance’s, so obviously I’d say he’s marriage material. On top of that, he’s very anti-Ben, so we have that in common too. I’m not confident that Michael will make it to the end, but he’s definitely got my vote for my now.  Go Irish!  🙂