Hello Stranger!

Goodness, it’s been quite a bit since I’ve blogged. Working and handling everyone’s summer schedule kept my hands full for a bit there, so blogging took the back burner. I haven’t stopped reading, crafting and cooking by no means.

I will start with summer reading, because I have read many excellent books since May. Here goes…

Outlander, Diana Gabaldon- Wow guys, this series is heavy, and I tried to read them back to back, but had to pause for a bit after the second one. Heavy in content, in detail, and in length, and heavy in LOVE. Romantic, heart-wrenching, laugh out loud, LOVE- in it’s very dark and light goodness. This series is a must-read, in my opinion.

Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon- see above, stick with it, it’s worth it to keep going, just take a break between novels…

In the Dark Dark Wood, Ruth Ware- The title is much scarier than the story, but very entertaining, even if it’s a bit predictable. Excellent descriptive writing, I felt like I was THERE.

The Curated Closet- Fun, and helpful, if you’re stuck in a style rut and want to make more calculated wardrobe decisions. While I can appreciate minimalism in theory, it is difficult for me in practice.

A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline- Inspired by Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World, this story is dynamic, interesting, and lovely. Kline captures so well the human need for connection. A little depressing though, fair warning.

The Dollhouse, Fiona Davis- This was fast, fun and very twisty. I thought I knew the ending, but was pleasantly surprised.

Short Stack Cookbook: Ingredients that Speak Volumes, Nick Fauchald- I drooled over all the photos, but did not make anything at all before I had to return it to the library. Inspired by good and simple ingredients, and yummy photos, I think it could be a pantry staple. But all it was for me was an excellent escape flip book.

The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware- So THIS one was better than her first. It was twisty in a way I could not predict. And the description of the scenery was most excellent. I felt trapped right there with her, freezing and feeling paranoid and set up.

I Found You, Lisa Jewell- Wow, now if I had to tell you to read one mystery from this list- this would be it. Her characters are so real, so knowable, and the mystery is not predictable. You follow a young foreign bride, a single mother, and a man with amnesia found on the seashore. Great, great twisty book.

Every Wild Heart, Meg Donohue- It was a little vanilla and boring at times. Maybe because I was reading some good, darker mysteries for a bit there, but I kept wanting this one to get darker.

The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy- I listened to the audio version of this one. It made my heart ache for her. For love that she needed, for forgiveness, and the experiences she had to endure, just tough. But I guess we all follow our counterfeit gods in one way or another.

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley are Changing the World- This one is kind of factual and boring. The investor process was a little shocking to me, but ultimately I read this as the news of Uber’s founder & CEO, Travis Kalanick, resigning over allegations of the company culture of sexual harassment. I lost interest.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends, Rob Lowe- I don’t (or I should say, didn’t) know very much about Rob Lowe, only that he’s my favorite actor in St Elmo’s Fire. I didn’t watch the West Wing, but reading this makes me want to binge-watch it. While it is not a tell-all, it’s a fun little Hollywood glimpse at what some well-known actors are really like off-screen, and the Hollywood process in general.

A Perfect Obsession, Heather Graham- Good, but a little too much “weak female, strong rescuing man” characterization.

Salt to the Sea, Ruta Sepytys- This fictional story is based on the real-life tragedy of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, and follows four refugees trying to escape war-torn Germany 1945 in the midst of a Soviet advance. It is engaging for both young and old readers, and I would highly recommend. If you like The Book Thief or Echo, you will love this.

Dreamland Burning, Jennifer Latham- Another fantastic and engaging mystery that also explores racial prejudice and entitlement from a teen point of view. Modern-day Rowan discovers skeletal remains during a home renovation and starts digging into the past to solve the mystery. Enlightening the journey is the story of 17-year old Will, and his experiences in a segregated town, leading up to the 1921 Tulsa race riots.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean, Jenny Han- I love this series. The goody-goody high school student in me loves this, because goody-goody Lara Jean can break out with some bold decisions from time to time and it’s so fun to read. Start from the beginning with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and enjoy every sweet second.

The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis- I think this is a school read for most kids who have a religious education, so I’m probably the world’s oldest reader of this. It’s Satan talking to an apprentice on how to defeat Christianity, and it makes you think. It goes to some pretty dark, surprising places. If you are praying for a closer walk with God, this would be interesting to read.

The Case Against Sugar, Gary Taubes- Very factual and boring, and the way he presents it makes it sound like we’re doomed and have already doomed future generations.

The Residence, Kate Andersen Brower- Stories about the White House, how it’s run, and the families that reside there are endlessly fascinating to me. I loved this insider look and detailed description from so many staffers during so many decades. I listened to the audio version and especially enjoyed new accounts of the Clinton, George W Bush, and Obama eras.

What have you read this summer? Anything I need to add to my already-packed holds list?

 

April Reading

As spring blossomed, I heeded the call to be outdoors this month (allergies be damned, ha). We spent several weekends at the lake, adjusting the dock and cleaning up after the flooding, and just enjoying some longer evenings spent with friends, riding bikes and playing in our neighborhood.

I had running on the brain, with the half marathon, and read a couple of cookbooks about running nutrition and whole foods- Run Fast/ Eat Slow and Nourishing Meals.

I also listened to Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli on my walks. It was narrated by John Ritter, a voice I adore. Stargirl is a girl who is misunderstood, who marches quite literally to the beat of her own drum. I loved it and can’t wait to enjoy this one again with my soon-to-be-middle-schooler.

I’ve been wanting to read When Breath Becomes Air for awhile now. Being so popular when it came out, it was hard to pick up at the library. And in forgetting to reserve it online, completely forgot about the book. A couple of months ago, when reading yet another glowing review, I finally pulled the trigger and got on the wait list at the library. Of course, the advantage in waiting is that the library has many, many copies now and the wait was not long. The book was hopeful, and sad, and lovely, and just everything I wanted it to be. (Well maybe not, I knew the ending, but if I didn’t- I would hope for some magical cure, happy-ending optimist that I am.) The medical jargon was a little over my head, but broken down enough that I got the gist of what was happening to Paul. I certainly read it more with the focus of Lucy and how she must feel to navigate this journey, rather than Paul. A true must-read, as many reviews have advertised.

I also read Running by Cara Hoffman. I had mixed feelings about this one. The story is centralized around a young girl orphaned very young, and raised unconventionally. She ends up hustling for money and squatting around Europe. Parts of the story were shocking, and seemed to amount to a miserable existence. Just when you think the abandonment and hopelessness would triumph, hope peeked around the corner and you realized that she was living the life she wanted. So maybe as an observer, I just don’t understand the appeal of the lifestyle, and that’s why I was a bit distracted and uninterested as a reader.

Have you read anything wonderful lately?

 

Summer Reading Plan

With the school year ending, I’m not going to lie- I am very excited to see the end of the reading log for the kiddos. We love to read! However, the requirement to log in a certain amount of time a day truly steals the joy.

So this summer, the reading plan is very loose. I am taking them to the library on Fridays, to let them pick anything they want. They have their own library card, and I let them usually choose 5-10 books. And together (bedtimes and car trips mainly) we will try to read a few chapter books.

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These are some of the ones I’m looking forward to sharing this summer:

The Boxcar Children

The Courage of Sarah Noble

Red, White, and Blue

Hattie & Hudson (not chapters but so beautiful)

Bellyache

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And for me-

The Woman in Cabin 10 and In a dark, dark wood, in thriller preparation for The Lying Game (coming out July 25!)

More of the Outlander series

Pure, White, and Deadly 

Always and forever, Lara Jean 

Echo

And some other new releases that I heard about on Bookpage: How to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in Essays and Mrs. Fletcher: A Novel

Do you like to make a plan for yourself and your kiddos?

10 Thoughts on the end of Elementary School

At the middle school meet and greet, just about everyone who spoke said the words “Don’t worry, you’ll make it through this.” Worried, check.

Worried about exposure. Is my baby ready for middle school in the smartphone/ social media age? Am I?

Worried about discipline. Am I ready to hand over the reins and let the relationship be mostly teacher/student? For this will require discipline for myself as well.

And while the weight of middle school is threatening, we have the joy that is SUMMER VACATION already upon us. (pool! beach! sleep! relaxed art projects! no reading log!)

She brought me a list of chores she thinks she can do to earn some extra spending cash this summer. (She thinks cleaning a bathroom is worth $10. We’ll see.)

She sleeps past 8 o’clock most days now, craves it, and getting those extra hours was a joy that I remember as well.

Think of what I can do with those extra 2 hours between gym time and work time when I don’t have to be waking, feeding, and ushering to school!

The 5th Grade Walk. The teachers line the halls and cheer as the 5th graders parade out to the parking lot on the last walk out of the school. Tears, thankfulness, relief that my youngest has a few more years at that school.

This is the last year my girls will be at the same school. Logistics nightmare will be our reality this fall.

Need to live in the moment. Have I bought enough sunscreen?

 

 

 

 

Minimalism

Minimalism is so buzzy these days, from instagram to several of the blogs I follow and books I have been reading. Certainly it’s not a new idea, but it is new to me. New because college and for several years after, I moved around every year or two and I just didn’t have time to collect THE STUFF. But with kids, and staying in the same place now for a bit, I have accumulated so much STUFF. So much that the house that we bought and thought we would never fill, is filled to the brim. That’s where this minimalism game I found comes into play, and I decided to play it this month. So for every day of May, I will give, donate or throw away that day’s date of items (May 1 is 1 item, May 2 is 2 items, etc). I decided to start with a list of where THE STUFF accumulates to give myself a jump start on this culling process.

  1. change jar to the bank
  2. coats
  3. ratty dog toys
  4. old computer equipment
  5. winter gear
  6. playdoh/ junk cabinet
  7. old holiday decor
  8. wrapping paper
  9. yarn
  10. hats
  11. baby blankets
  12. the freezer
  13. junk drawer
  14. socks that don’t have matches
  15. art supplies
  16. kids’ bathroom
  17. cups
  18. books
  19. clothing- me
  20. clothing- my husband
  21. clothing- the kids
  22. toys
  23. office junk
  24. my bathroom cabinet
  25. the hairbow box
  26. grocery store bags
  27. the pantry
  28. more toys
  29. laundry room storage
  30. the garage
  31. the garage (so messy it deserves two days)

It’s so exciting to think I will be almost 500 items lighter as of June 1st! Have you tried anything like this before?

New Beginnings

Currently:

Intro to Middle School 101- We are feeling left out already and middle school doesn’t start until next year. Our daughter has had multiple briefings and tours of the school, and decisions have had to be made based on information they have given her alone. But Parent Night is finally this week! Which, I assume, is to tell us that we need to butt out. I’m not ready!!

Unicorn sleepover party planning- So in an effort to feel more “in control” we are pouring our energy into planning the best 11th birthday ever. So far, that means the parents will be banished to the bonus room while the 11-year-olds have the run of the place.

Listening to Star Girl, by Jerry Spinelli & narrated by John Ritter. Ah, a comforting voice. Come and knock on my door, friend 🙂

Struggling to reduce sugar, wheat & dairy. It makes me feel so much better! So why do I struggle? Two words- Easter Candy.

Search for the best new kicks for the half marathon. I am currently running in Brooks Adrenaline. I need support, but also love cushioning, and run wider than narrow. (Basically, I’m an elephant.) Thinking about Asics Gel-Cumulus or New Balance 1080. Any recommendations?

Coming off Church Retreat High. We had a lovely weekend in Montreat, North Carolina with our church family, learning to pray and watch for God to “Break In” our every day lives. Our youngest is on such a high, we caught her pretend-play teaching the children’s message to her stuffies, mimicking the youth pastor at the end “Let us go to God in prayer, repeat after me…” So cute!

Cheers to new beginnings!