Listening

IMG_4249On the drop-off commute with the 11yr old:

Moo by Sharon Creech

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

(Listening to library copies through the Overdrive app)

Quick car trips with both girls:

NPR’s Wow in the World science podcast

(New 20-minute show twice a week)

My daily news fix:

NPR’s Up First

(Because 15-20 minutes is my daily limit ūüėČ)

Do you have anything new and fun I should tune to?

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Quilting Update

I decided to reverse applique the door for the quilt!

I used a chalk pencil to define my stitch line, then pinned the door to the back (door right side to block wrong side). I used an embroidering stitch on my machine, then cut out the outline from the block. (photographed clockwise)

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The doors will not be uniform in size or location, which I think will add charm to the Christmas village that I hope to create.

 

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?

 

Garden Update & Cashmere!

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Somehow I missed the opportunity to photograph the raspberries loaded down with beautiful ripe berries, but they were wonderful while they lasted. I think the birds got to them quicker than me! We have quite a bit of new growth so we are hoping for more berries next year. I need to research pruning to make them easier to access. We have been gifted a volunteer tomato plant in appreciation from the birds also.

The tomato garden is growing great with a few volunteers also. Depending on spacing, we let some of them grow. Sometimes the best producing cherry tomatos are volunteers! We grew tired of the radishes, especially when the weather got warmer and they were spicier, and haven’t picked what remains. The girls wanted lots of cucumbers so we planted two more vines this past weekend in that bed also.

The earliest bed we planted began with turnips, which we harvested completely. Zucchini is now flowering. We are starting to see some fruit and the flowers are gorgeous. We planted a row of zinnias between the zucchini and the cucumbers. After that is a row of bush beans and more cucumbers. Did I mention we love cucumbers?

The rains have slowed and we now have these brief afternoon thunderstorms, enough to give everything a quick drink and make the air really muggy.

As a side note, so much cashmere yarn is on sale at Jimmy Beans wool! I bought a bit of the Lotus Cashmere Fingering for some Christmas gifting. Have you used this brand?

 

Finding My Summer Groove

These first few weeks of summer have been chaotic for us as we try to create some structure in the day for the kids, because my husband and I both work full time.

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We have challenged the girls to take more responsibility keeping the house tidy (and their rooms especially). Each week I post an “I’m bored” list of ideas for them to be creative as well as some chores I would like them to do. We have tried an allowance in the past and were not successful, so the reward for the responsibility is experiences. We go out for ice cream, get pedicures, go to a movie, etc if we are all working together well and keeping the house clean.

I don’t like cleaning with harsh chemicals because I don’t enjoy the smell, and I especially don’t like the kids being exposed to them because they want to help our family. Each week I mix some of Young Living’s Thieves Cleaner in a spray bottle and it makes it easy for the kids to spray down the kitchen or bathroom.

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It is also easier to keep the house clean when I get rid of clutter, and I tried to overhaul our house last month. I was not 100% successful following my list. I went down a rabbit hole reading The Curated Closet and got off track in my own closet, AND it took a full week to finish cleaning out the garage. So while I got rid of the quantity I wanted to meet the challenge, there are several areas that continue to need work. It feels good when you finish a room! (At least that’s what I’m telling myself.)

How is your summer going?

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?