Thursday, November 21, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 11.21.19

  • Anticipating the arrival of family for Thanksgiving - We are so excited to have Greg's sister and her family and Greg's mom coming to visit for Thanksgiving next week! Obviously, I can't wait to catch up with Jessica, Justin, and Grandma Lulu. That being said, and with full transparency, I am over the moon to have our 2YO nephew here for a few days! He is so delicious. Speaking of delicious, I plan to make this Eggs Benedict Breakfast Casserole on Wednesday afternoon and leave it overnight in the fridge. I'll pop it in the oven on Thursday morning (whip up the hollandaise sauce) and we will enjoy a warm and effortless breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.

  • Platform Sneakers - Finally. I'm so late to this party. You all have been dancing around in these kicks for ages and I've been missing out. I don't know what the hold up has been... These shoes are cute, functional, comfortable, and versatile. I ordered mine during a big sale here. I can attest that they are true to size. Come to find out, you can get (what I'm betting are the EXACT same shoes) on Amazon for almost half the price. Here are a couple links to my friend Miranda's Amazon shop: I think this pair is closest to the color (taupe) that I bought. I also love this color and I'm considering these black ones that look like leather.

  • Fleece-Lined Leggings - I wasn't sure about these when I came across them. I thought they would be unflattering with the extra fabric (goodness knows, I don't need any extra padding over the rump). I was pleasantly surprised to find they didn't add any noticeable difference and I was thrilled to discover that they are supremely cozy. I don't want to take them off! The high waist is flattering. The length leaves a little scrunching at the ankle (which I don't mind at all) --see photo above. They are true to size and offer some compression. They do have a little sheen to the fabric which would make them very easy to dress up with a tunic or long sweater --and I'm certain they will look fantastic on you curled up on the couch with that glass of wine in your hand too.
  • Groomed Eyebrows - Fun fact: I seldom leave the house without putting my eyebrows on first. My priorities are these, in order: clothing (pajamas count), coffee, eyebrows, brushed teeth. I've tried lots of products and I am in favor of mixing up your routine on a regular basis. Lately and for some time, my favorite eyebrow cosmetics are Benefit's Gimme Brow and Benefit's Goof Proof Brow Pencil. Each product comes in several shades between blond and black. You'll need to get some help at the counter to find the right "prescription" for your face. It will be worth your time. The second photo collage of my face shows naked brows (top left) and finished brows (top right). The bottom three photos are my steps: 1. Shape and fill in brows with the soft crayon side of Goof Proof (be gentle during the application; we're going for a natural-ish look), 2. Use the brush side of Goof Proof to smudge and blend the pencil marks (making them less harsh-looking), 3. Use the tiny wand of Gimme Brow (a tinted gel) to add definition and texture. Voilà! (Please be impressed by that grave accent. I had to do some research to figure out how to make my keyboard cooperate.)

  • Fabric Razor - Do you have one of these? Listen, if you wear sweaters (and who doesn't??), you'll need to pick one up. This handy gadget carefully cuts those annoying sweater fuzzballs off your knits and helps you carry your favorite sweaters over season to season without them looking too tired. I have had my little battery operated one since 2014. It's no longer available on Amazon but this one is similar, highly rated, and a reasonable price. I've seen them at Target too (near the irons). You should check and empty the fuzz reservoir* (I'm sure that's the technical name) as needed --several times per/sweater. Be sure to take it apart from time to time to clear the blades (my guard just twists off) and follow the directions to avoid damaging any of your clothes. I have been using mine seasonally for ages and have never pulled a hole in a sweater --but apparently it can be done. Don't be that ding dong --but do clean up those shabby cardigans! The only downside of using this device is that you'll have less sweater fuzzball picking to do when you're bored and stuck at that stoplight.
    *Handful of fuzz is from ONE sleeve

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 11.14.19

  • This Felted Wool Garland - I just found this today at Trader Joe's and had to sneak it into the post! I'm a huge fan of felted wool (as long as it's not touching my skin and making me itch). I love the colors in this garland and can easily imagine it making any space feel more festive this holiday season. The 9 foot strands are 100% New Zealand Wool and hand-felted in Nepal and sell for just $9 each. (They also had adorable trivets for $5/each! --A fun hostess gift this season?) As soon as I got home, I draped a garland on my plant table in the dining room and another over the mantle in the living room. They would be great in your tree too! Plus, I feel like having them out before Thanksgiving is not a "no-no" (even for those who feel strongly about the holidays taking their turn in line). Anyhoo... I found mine at The Metropolitan location and I hope you have an easy time picking some up for yourself!

  • THE Amazon Coat - I managed to not order this coat last year when everyone and their brother were blogging about it --but recently decided that I still really loved the way it looked and for the price, would be worth checking out. I find this coat to be worth the hype. Despite (a very few) of the reviews, the coat I received is well-made and without flaws. I ordered it in Beige and couldn't be happier with my choice. Some have suggested that because of its bulkiness, you ought to size down. For that reason, I ordered one in a Medium (my typical size) and one in a Small. Because of the breadth over the shoulders and length of sleeves, the Medium was just right for me. It is definitely a bulky coat --I have to take it off when I'm driving because it fills up the front seat! The length is very flattering and I love the black zippers and ribbon details. The coat is so cute in person that my Pilates Besties each ordered their own when I wore it to class earlier this week (both selected Red --so cute)! 

  • Chai Tea - The actual teabag kind that comes decaffeinated so that I can enjoy sipping it all late-afternoon and into the evening after my coffee allotment has been met. Twinings makes my favorite and I always splash a little creamer in to make it even more indulgent. It smells and tastes like the season and is delightful.

  • Soup - It's Soup Season, yahoo! This Italian Sausage & Spinach Soup from Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer publication (circa 2010) is a go-to around here. It is so easy and packed with flavor. Many times, I have substituted readily-available Johnsonville Sweet Italian sausage, Swanson's (or some other) chicken broth, and/or whatever canned, diced tomatoes I have on-hand. We prefer subbing the brown rice, as it hold up better for leftovers --but that will increase the cooking time. The result is always delicious! Remember to buy some parmesan for garnish and a loaf of crusty bread to serve on the side!

  • My Foxy Slippers - My friend, Sara, gave me these delightful foxes on my birthday last year and I absolutely love them! They are perfect for chilly evenings and frigid mornings on our hardwood floors. What I especially appreciate about them is how cozy they are tucked up under a blanket with me on the couch. With my other slippers, I feel like I have to kick them off before bringing them onto the furniture and these are not like that because of the sock-like softness and pliability. Amazon offers lots of critters (the piggies are very sweet). They would make a great gift for yourself or someone else on your list this year!

  • This Kitty - Speaking of cozy critters... In addition to "Soup Season" it is also Richard Parker in His Hut Season. I love it. He's happy to be warm and I'm happy that he's not shedding all over the navy-upholstered chairs. Win-win.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 11.07.19

  • Little Getaways - I had the pleasure of enjoying an abbreviated beach getaway to Isle of Palms, South Carolina this past weekend with my 12 YO, three of her girlfriends, and their moms too! It was a whirlwind of a trip. We arrived to our very cute and amazingly located AirBnB on Friday night and had to scramble back to Charlotte in time for a 2pm soccer game on Sunday --but almost all of the moments in between were so fun! We spent our one full day having a lazy morning, enjoying a late breakfast, walking, playing, and reading on the beach for hours; then we cleaned up, had a delicious dinner out, and wrapped up our late-night with way too many break-and-bake cookies while watching a terrible movie in our pajamas. Perfection.

  • Fraiser Fir Season - November 1st marks the start of Fraiser Fir Season at the Jones Household and I'll be the first to admit that I might get way too excited about a scented candle --but seriously, THESE candles are worth the hype. I received my first Fraiser Fir a couple years ago from my sweet friend, Megan, and my holidays have been forever improved. To be sure, Thymes candles are pricey but you really don't have to burn them for very long and the (perfectly crafted) scent last long after you've blown them out. Do yourself a solid and pick one up. They also make great hostess gifts!

  • Hot from the oven chocolate and almond croissants - Chilly weekend mornings sometimes call for special treats and Trader Joe's has you covered with their frozen chocolate and almond croissants. The hardest part about making these simple treats that will delight your family (and any guests visiting over the holidays) is remembering to take them out of the freezer the night before! Let me assure you, your loved ones will be impressed and delighted by you when you pop these out of the oven!

  • Bittermilk's Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour - We love this cocktail mix so much that you can count on us having a bottle or two at any given time. The Smoked Honey is perfectly festive this time of year. You'll find the flavor to be slightly tart and smokey. If you are hosting a book club, ornament exchange, dinner party, or just enjoying a cozy evening at home, treat yourself to equal parts Bittermilk and your favorite whiskey shaken with ice and served over a fresh highball of ice. Add an orange twist and you've elevated your bartender status to Mixologist-level. #youfancy (Feel free to adjust the amount of mixer if you like stronger or less-sweet cocktails.) One bottle makes an average of 15 cocktails (or maybe 12 in our house).

  • Deep V-neck Sweater - I saw this sweater at the Gap a few weeks ago and got really excited because I've been wanting to find a soft, cozy v-neck in a light camel/beige color. I tried it in my normal size (medium) and was pretty let-down. It was ridiculously big and looked rather frumpy. It wasn't until I got home that it occurred to me to try it way sized-down. (Go ahead, judge. I wasn't firing on all cylinders, I guess.) Anyhoo... I ordered it in an XS and BINGO: I love it. It's great untucked with a pair of jeans but mostly, I have found myself wearing it tucked into a few of my skirts. The material is thin enough (still so warm and soft) and the hem is "smooth" enough that it totally works tucked into an A-line skirt. Very cute. (Yes, I do say so myself.) The price online is $70. I've never actually paid full price for anything at the Gap because they are constantly running sales. If it's not 40% off on the day you try the link, try again the next day and it probably will be. ;)

  • Amazon Skirt - Speaking of skirts... this is one example of what I'm talking about with the sweater above. I bought this skirt in black from Amazon over the summer and wore it with t-shirts, tank tops, and sandals or wedges. It has transitioned nicely into fall paired with the Gap sweater, long-sleeved t-shirts, and my chambray button-up --all tucked in. I think the skirt works best with your top tucked. It has an elastic waistband, cute tortoise shell button (non-functional) down the front, and the pockets and pleating are very flattering.  It's $18 and so far I have only spot cleaned it. I would not recommend putting it through the dryer. I would recommend picking one up in black and possibly a second color (all of them look very cute)! It comes in "juniors" sizing. The medium fits like a 6.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 10.31.19

  • Kindred - The hubby and I had the pleasure of celebrating a friend's recent nuptials in Huntersville last weekend. The drive is about 30 minutes north of Charlotte. Since we were heading up there on a Saturday evening for the festivities, we thought to start our night at the critically acclaimed Kindred restaurant in Davidson beforehand. We had both been there on other occasions but never for dinner and never together. We had excellent cocktails, an amazing meal, and so much fun. Look how funny I found my cocktail to be (photo below). Getting there might be more effort than the typical date night warrants --but the dining experience will definitely be worth it if you make the journey. (Our Uber was about $30 and the luxury of not driving was priceless because like I implied, they offer many amusing beverages.)

    "This cocktail is hilarious!"
    Scallops a la Plancha
  • Optimist Hall - With a day off of school this week, I finally took the girls to Optimist Hall (located at 1115 N. Brevard Street). If you haven't been there yet, it's definitely an outing that should be added to your list. The building, a 147,000-square-foot redevelopment of an old gingham mill is now Duke Energy office space and an impressive food hall that includes some retail (Archer Paper, Pet Wants). The restaurant tenants open at the time of this post include: The Dumpling Lady, Undercurrent Coffee, Zukku Sushi, Bao and Broth, Honeysuckle Gelato, Papi Queso, Village Juice Co.El Thrifty, and The Spindle Bar. If that already sounds like an impressive list, get this --here's a list of what's still to come: Aix Rotisserie, Fonta Flora Brewery, Ava Neopolitan Pizzeria, Suarez Bakery & Barra, Billy Sunday, Felix's Handmade Empanadas, Botiwalla Indian Street Grill, Boxcar Betty's, Velvet Taco, and Mezeh. (Wow. Maybe we should agree to meet there daily until we've had a chance to sample all the goods?) As for the space, the brick, hardwood floors, and exposed duct work are original but the fresh coat of paint, big windows, and abundance of plants creates a bright, open, and inviting feel. They have ample seating options both inside and outside. The girls and I hit it on a Monday afternoon and the weather was sunny and warm. We were delighted to run into a handful of the girls' teachers and several neighbors and friends. Great minds...

    {photo via Charlotte Business Journal}

  • "Weekend Plans" Art Print - We picked up this gem a few weeks ago for G's room. The print is by Shawna Koontz and it couldn't be more perfect for our girl(s). In case you can't see the text on the front of the book in the photo below, it reads "How to Smash the Patriarchy". Art prints are a versatile, affordable way to decorate. This 11x14 print was about $20 and the frame was on sale at Michael's for about $15.

  • A Backyard Oyster Roast - Ahhh! I love oysters and I love them best freshly steamed with friends gathered around a backyard table in the fall sunshine. What a treat! Our friends sourced their oysters from Porcupine Provisions in Charlotte and they were exceptional! 

  • Effortless Entertaining - On that note of gathering your friends together... A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing DeeDee Dalrymple tell the story of how she came to the idea to write her workbook/instruction-manual Effortless Entertaining. Both her presentation and guide book are packed with great tips, menus, resources, and stories. The idea that I find myself coming back to is this: inviting friends/family into your home is a gift. Specifically, DeeDee says, "Dinner is not a performance. It's a gift of friendship. Entertaining is about enjoying family and friends, not pursuing perfection." In reframing the starting point (from "putting on a perfect evening for your guests" to "enjoying a warm and genuine evening with your friends") she changes the energy and focus of the whole affair. In theory, this will help us all to move past any misgivings/stress around the idea that we have to prepare a perfect meal, have a spotless home, or be polished, well-practiced hosts in order to pull off a successful dinner party. We don't even have to strive for that --in fact, we should not. Instead, according to DeeDee, we just need remember and "appreciate that our friends are excited to be together in our homes... They'll arrive with open hands to receive our gift of hospitality." Don't wait until you think everything will be perfect; everything will be just right because you've extended the invitation.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 10.24.19

  • Sunglasses - I have been INFLUENCED. My friend Miranda has posted about these sunglasses and I finally checked them out. (If you enjoy a good giggle, please follow Miranda on Instagram and do check out her STORIES --always a Thing I Love.) Anyhoo... back to the shades: These SOJOS Fashion Round Sunglasses for Women are big fun (literally). Not only that, they are well-made and only $14. The frames come in black, tortoise shell, clear (with mirrored lens), black marble, and green. I ordered green and I'm so happy I did! They are a dark forrest green and look almost black (photo below) unless you're in bright light or sunshine. For some reason, the green pair are not listed with the other choices in the link above --but you can find the green frames with this link. They fit really well despite being an over-sized style. I usually have some trouble keeping my sunglasses from sliding down my nose. These are comfortable and stay put. 

    '74! It was a good year!

  • Stainiac - Discovered this gem a loooong time ago and only just rediscovered it a couple weeks back. Stainiac from theBalm is a simple little workhorse for your cosmetic bag. Just a tiny dab or two of this bright pink potion rubbed into the apples of my cheeks help make me appear more fresh-faced and healthy. Then a swipe across each lip to give some natural-looking color that doesn't look like I'm wearing any lipstick (and it lasts for hours). Do start with a small amount and play with it to get the look right. It's easy to over-do it with this stuff and you don't want to end up looking like Raggedy Ann. 

  • Frilly Skirt - Ready for a giggle? This playful little number is called the "Arjungo Women's Floral High Waist Ruffle Flaired Boho A-Line Pleated Skater Mini Skirt" on Amazon. Honestly. That's bananas. Despite the ridiculous name, this skirt is a winner! It came onto my radar because of someone else's post and I'm so sorry I can't remember who highlighted it... but I'm so happy she did. This $18 skirt is quickly becoming a staple. I ordered a small because of the elastic waistband and was a little worried that it might be too short; however, even sitting at the narrowest part of my waist, the hem hits just a few inches above my knee. Perfect. (Again, I'm 5'6" and typically wear an 8 in pants or a 6 in dresses/skirts --as long as they are A-Line.) I've worn this skirt with a little white t-shirt (tucked, white tennies), a button-down henley (untucked, sleeves rolled and scoonched --it's definitely a real word, tan booties), and with a cozy crew-style sweater (next favorite thing mentioned below, white tennies). If you order this, plan on wearing it with a slip. It comes in 17 different colors/patterns and I have my eye on the Caramel color next.

  • Cozy Crew-Style Sweater - This versatile number is from H&M. It's $30 and I chose "Beige Melange" (pictured below on the model and above on me). Follow this link to see the other colors available. I'm loving the Yellow but I tend to have a hard time pulling off that color (I'm convinced that it washes me out in the face and makes me look a little ill.) The sweater is soft and warm. I love the neckline. I ordered a Medium. 

  • Tasty Bite Pouches - You guys. These are so easy. They're so delicious. Tasty Bite makes Indian food so accessible and is our go-to side dish several days a week. My favorite quick dinner is shredded rotisserie chicken, rice, a side or two of Tasty Bite, and a little naan (don't bother baking your naan, just cut it into quarters and toast it in the toaster). This is dinner served in literally 4-5 minutes. They are "saucier" than the packaging might suggest so plan to "sop up" the liquid with rice, naan, or just scoop with a spoon. Odds are, you can find these pouches at your local grocery store in the International aisle. (Our selection is pictured below and the selection I typically keep in the pantry is pictured below that.) If you can't find them at the grocery store, then look for them at Target, Walmart, or order them from Amazon. An excellent and mild choice to start with would be Madras Lentils or Jodhpur Lentils. These are mild in terms of spiciness. Our family loves Coconut Vegetables and Vindaloo which are on the spicier side. Look at the pouches, they'll indicate the heat level. Please try these. Even just warmed up (in the microwave for 60-90 seconds) and served in a bowl, these simple dishes are full of flavor and so satisfying. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Recipe Review | Milk Street's Southeast Asian Chicken Salad with Cashews & Coconut

I've blogged a little about my subscription to Milk Street Magazine because the publication is excellent. Not only is it full of terrific, global recipes covering the spectrum from simple to exotic (ingredients, preparation, flavors), it is absent of ads and packed with super "readable" content. I love sitting down with a new issue and simply reading it from cover to cover. Today, I'm sharing a recipe that has become a family favorite: Asian Chicken Salad with Cashews & Coconut. This brightly flavored salad is well suited for warmer days but the rich flavors, generous portion of tender chicken, and easy of preparation make it a regular feature around here no matter the season. I hope you'll try it too.

Southeast Asian Chicken Salad with Cashews & Coconut [Printable Recipe Link]
via Milk Street, July-August 2019
25 minutes, Serves 6-8
What you need:
1/3 cup unsweetened wide-flake coconut
2 Fresno or jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced (you can see from the pics above that I used jalapeños instead of the red Fresnos)
3 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
2 medium shallots, halved and thinly sliced
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie)
1/4 medium head green cabbage, cored and shredded (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup roasted cashews, roughly chopped
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil, torn
2 cups lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
What to do:
  1. In a small skillet over medium, toast the coconut, stirring frequently, until light golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine half of the sliced chilies, the garlic, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl, mix to coat the shallots and chicken and let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cabbage and toss with your hands to combine, gently rubbing the dressing into the shreds. Add the remaining sliced chilies, the cashews and coconut, then toss. Add the basil and cilantro and gently toss again.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 10.17.19

  • This moment - On the back porch on a late Sunday afternoon, listening to the rain, enjoying a book, sipping wine, in my cozies, with a lap full of Geneva. Bliss. (And totally wearing the Athleta sweatshirt AGAIN... Also wearing some new leggings from Zyia that I'll test a few more times in my workouts before deciding if I'll recommend them here. So far, they're excellent for lounging!)

  • Date Night at Dogwood - Located in Sharon Square by Southpark Mall, this is one of our favorite spots to end the evening (or spend all evening) when we have a date night. I have enjoyed dinner in the restaurant a few times and lunch on the patio once --but nothing comes close to bellying up to the bar and letting Bryan Lorusso make you a cocktail (or many) designed to delight specifically YOU and based on your preferences. You might consider taking an Uber or taxi --I'm confident you'll want to sample several creations.

  • St. Anne Tote - I got this Barrington bag (first photo) at Christmastime in 2016 and blogged about it before. Now, almost 3 years later, I continue to use it OFTEN. (I added the tassel from Noonday Collection. No longer available but similar here and here.) It has held up so well. It looks like fur but it's not. The print is vinyl and the straps and bottom are leather. This bag is a workhorse. I take it on every trip because it's a great carry-on that I can fit tons inside: magazine, kindle, light sweater, beverage --in addition to all of my regular purse items. I have been tempted in the past 3 years to order another. There are so many variations on the website and you can customize and create the exact style you like. This new print (second photo) has me so tempted but I haven't seen it in person yet so... still undecided. I like that it's similar to what I already have but not the same. Would be a great option for you if you've been thinking of getting "The Bambi" but haven't pulled the trigger. What do you think?

  • The sound of a candle with a wood wick - Have you ever burned a candle with a wood wick? I only recently found out this is a thing. (Am I totally late to this party?) I have to say, I find the gentle crackling noise really suits the cooler weather we've been enjoying. It's literally adding another layer or texture to the enjoyment of a lit candle: scent, warm glow, and a natural sound effect too! Bonus. I made mine at The Candle Bar in Charlotte but you can find wood-wicked candles almost anywhere (again, late to this party) so choose your scent and let me know what you think. Amazon, Target, Walmart 

  • Merida Flounced Midi Skirt - This skirt from Anthropologie is just right to transition into fall. I love the colors and the print. The camel/beige and wine colors against the navy background are perfect and I love the birds. (It's also available in a black, textured, "window-pane" fabric that looks cool.) The skirt is lined and moves well. I think it's feminine and flattering. You could dress it up with a blouse and heels or dress it down with a chunky sweater and booties or boots. I think it would even be great with a white T and sandals, come spring. I happened upon it in the mall --giving me the advantage of trying it on before purchasing which is good because it does not have an adjustable waist. I found the skirt to be "true to size." As I've mentioned before, I'm 5'6" and 140ish. I typically wear an 8 in pants but can size up or (much less often) down depending on the fit and maker (sorry that's not super helpful). I have a smaller waist and generous hips. In A-line dresses and skirts, I'm usually a 6 (because "Pencil" or slim-fitting is not my jam). I bought the 6 in this skirt and it fits great. Check out the reviews at the link to see what others had to say about the fit. And BEST: it's on sale for $80 and they're offering 25% off that price ("for a limited time") bringing it down to $60! As of today, they have it in sizes 2-14.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What I've Read Recently // September 2019

Here's a list of what I finished in September. Cheers to all the book-lovers who are as excited as I am that the cooler temperatures might be calling for more time cozying up with a delightful sip and a good story! 

The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
From Goodreads:
A dazzling, multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple--still madly in love after forty years--recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they've built.
What I thought: 6.5/10
While I thought the characters were mostly interesting and I loved reading about an older couple who were still crazy in love with one another after decades of marriage and raising four daughters, the pace felt a little slow at times. This was a big undertaking --the story includes tons of dysfunction, a lot of back and forth between characters at various times, and deals with important/heavy themes (grief, depression, secrets, illness, alcoholism, infidelity). I felt the toxicity of the relationships between nearly every family member was overdone. Other reviewers compared the book to binge-watching a family drama series and I find that analogy hits home with me. I was engaged and invested in finding out how all of these people end up muddling through their challenges but this book might be too much drama and not enough fun for a lot of people.

The Cactus, by Sarah Haywood
From Goodreads:
For Susan Green, messy emotions don't fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She has a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic, and an "interpersonal arrangement" that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan's greatest fear is realized. She is losing control.
What I thought: 7.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
The narrator was excellent and I enjoyed the story very much. It felt a LOT like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine; however, the plot was significantly different. The metaphor of the cactus was a nice touch. If you read and enjoyed Eleanor, I think you'll like this too --but probably not as much. If you think you might just read one, I would strongly suggest you read Eleanor over Cactus. If you haven't read either but would like to read both, start with Cactus and then read Eleanor. {Geez. Tammy is so bossy.}

Rust & Stardust, by T. Greenwood
From Goodreads:
Camden, NJ, 1948.
When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth's, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he’s an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute—unless she does as he says. 
What I thought: 6.5/10
This was a difficult read. Having two young teens made it hard to turn the pages at times. I found out about halfway through that the story was true. The brutal details about what happened to Sally Horner would haunt anyone. I thought the writing moved well through the account of what happened --it was compelling and strong. However, as mentioned, the content was challenging because it was so exceptionally heartbreaking. 

Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo
From Goodreads:
It thrills us and torments us. It controls our thoughts and destroys our lives. It’s all we live for. Yet we almost never speak of it. And as a buried force in our lives, desire remains largely unexplored—until now. Over the past eight years, journalist Lisa Taddeo has driven across the country six times to embed herself with ordinary women from different regions and backgrounds. The result, Three Women, is the deepest nonfiction portrait of desire ever written.
What I thought: 4.5/10
Ugh. Where to begin? After finishing this book, I'm left wondering, what was the point? Because I had read a few critical reviews of this book before jumping in and I understood that it was the result of eight years of research, I was under the impression it would be an examination of the female perspective from different experiences and points of view --and that somewhere in the storyline/re-telling of at least one of the three women featured, the reader would be able to identify, connect, or empathize with her sexual desire. Not so.
When I could get past the overtly graphic details and into the thoughts/motivations/justifications of these women, I ended up feeling sorry for them --which made me feel like an asshole for somehow missing the meaning and worse, judging them. Thankfully, with Maggie's story, there was more to grab ahold of --details that elicit a response that makes sense. She was a kid. Knodel was a needy, insecure, adult in a position of power who, to varying degrees depending on in whose story you find more truth, did more than "take advantage of" but definitely victimized Maggie. His crime has gone unpunished.
The writing is good at times with imagery and a turn of phrase that strikes home --but it's also confusing because the distinction between whose voice is on the page is blurred beyond any clarity. Is it Sloan/Maggie/Lina telling their story? --Or is it Taddeo shaping the narrative and projecting her agenda on the reader? If you pick this one up, I'd love to know your thoughts!

The Girl He Used to Know, by Tracey Garvis Graves
From Goodreads:
What if you had a second chance at first love?
Annika Rose like being alone. Except that, actually, she doesn't like being alone at all. The Girl He Used to Know is an uplifting novel full of surprising revelations that keep you turning the page. Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes, Gail Honeyman, Jill Santopolo and Sliding Doors.
What I thought: 8/10
I really enjoyed this book. Though it used a well-loved storyline trope (first love, rekindled), I found the protagonist to be original and her perspective made the story feel fresh, interesting, and endearing. The detail of the setting added an emotional touchstone that made the story resonate more deeply and seriously for me --especially having read it in September. If you're looking for a quick and enjoyable love story, add this one to your list!