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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Things I Love Lately

This is the last Things I Love for 2019... It’s been so nice to get back to the blog this year and carve out this simple time for myself writing my lists, sharing some recipes, and reflecting on the books I’ve read. Thank you for reading along!
  • Family - My family. Our family. Your family. All of the families in any composition. The holidays can be hard for so many people. Many of us have “complicated” relationships with family members. We all have loved ones we miss —especially during this time of year. While we needn’t wait to remind those around us how much we love and appreciate them —the idea of wrapping up the year and embarking on a new one certainly lends itself to reflecting on our relationships and taking stock of our blessings. This time with one another is a gift that I try not to take for granted. So hear this: I love you!

     
  • Snoogling (verb) - Through the holidays and all of the year, physical affection fills my bucket. Winter break means lazy mornings, pajama days, movie-watching, visiting family and friends... all of the situations that create opportunities for extra hugs, cuddles, and curling into our loved ones. So grab a blanket and get your cuddle on!


  • Snacking - This time of year is full of all of the yummy things! While I do enjoy sweets from time to time, my weaknesses are more on the salty, creamy, rich and crunchy end of the Sinful Spectrum. I love homemade ChexMix (that I grew up making with my cousins in my grandmother’s kitchen and now enjoy because my girl, Sara, gifts us this favorite). I completely overdid it this December on Neese’s Sausage Dip (which couldn’t be an easier crowd-pleaser). I dare you to have just one chip-full. For the fancier occasion, I could have made and devoured several of Half Baked Harvest’s Brie and Cranberry Pull-Apart Breads. Good grief! This one will delight the savory and the sweet cravings in every delicious pinch! We rang in our Christmas Eve (a day early —given our travel itinerary) with our traditional viewing of Die Hard and Piper made the cutest Santa Hat Brownies! Christmas wouldn’t be complete without my mom and sister’s homemade brittles. And nothing beats a beautiful cheese and charcuterie board (with Oregon honeycomb, pickled veggies, and marcona almonds served alongside a chilled glass of champagne)! Cheers to enjoying the season with every BITE!





  • People Who Work on Christmas - New this year, we traveled across the country on Christmas morning. It wasn’t exactly the way we planned it (flights were moved after booking) but it was fairly painless. From the Uber driver on the East Coast at 5:30am to the car rental agent on the West Coast upon arrival, everyone we interacted with was cheerful and friendly (and genuinely delighted by our little mint gifts).


  • H&M Sweater - I packed two of these for our trip out west and have been reminded how much I appreciate the simple details that make this cozy and affordable sweater one of my go-to items. I love the v-neck and I love the seam that runs down the front. Give it a French tuck into your waistband and you’re nearly set to go. They do run on the big side. I have one in orange (XS) and one in a darker brown (S) that for some reason isn't offered on this link (but the lighter brown looks tempting).
  • A Well-Received Gift - I could not have been more delighted to receive a sweet text from my friend Megan about how much her family is enjoying the gift of Rosemary Olive Oil that I delivered in the week leading up to Christmas. *such happiness* She had been drizzling it over tons of holiday yumminess and the most recent addition was to Oysters Rockefeller. Look at this! 
  • A New Year - It’s easy to love a new year —especially when your birthday falls within a week of ringing it in! I’m not one of those people who cringes at the idea of “another” birthday. On the contrary, I love my birthday. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ll celebrate just about anything (and my birthday celebrations typically last most of January). The fact that our youngest shares my birthday only makes it more special. While I do joke that I GAVE her my birthday (almost) 13 years ago —leaving me “forever 33” ...the truth is, I’m happy to be growing older and enjoying this life we’ve built. I honestly never imagined one so full and satisfying. I look forward to pausing throughout 2020 to think about and acknowledge all of the “Things I Love...” —whether it’s a book, a recipe, a lipgloss, a hug from my kid, a date with the hubby, the kindness of strangers, or something that made me giggle... I hope if it makes you happy, you’ll read along. Cheers to 2020!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

What I've Read Recently | November 2019

Here we are again at nearly the beginning of January and I'm just getting around to telling you 
about what I read (and chose not to finish) in November. 
Better late than never?
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
From Goodreads:
This magnificent novel juxtaposes geographically distant places, brilliant and playful reflections, and a variety of styles, to take its place as perhaps the major achievement of one of the world’s truly great writers.
What I thought: 0/10 (Listened to on Audible)
I couldn't even finish this book! Ugh. First translated to english in 1984 and winner of the Los Angles Times Book Prize for Fiction, it is rated over 4 stars (out of 5) on Goodreads by more than 300,000 readers. Obviously, I'm not clever enough to "get it." The story (if you could call it that) is about infidelity and the writing jumps around all over the place. The only think you can count on is being annoyed by the author's philosophical musing that litter the pages and try to spoon feed the reader a specific interpretation of the events. I didn't care about any of the characters and they certainly didn't care about one another either.

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore
From Goodreads:
Over the twelve short weeks of summer, these three strangers will meet and grow close, will share secrets and bury lies. And as the promise of June turns into the chilly nights of August, the truth will come out, forcing each of them to decide what they value most, and what they are willing to give up to keep it.
What I thought: 6/10
This was a solid "Beach Read" but the trouble was, I wasn't at the beach when I read it which may have left me longing for a bit more substance in the story. Told from the point of view of three people living on a small island during peak tourist season, there's lots of quintessential settings brought forth on the page (loved that) and the character development was good, given the brevity of the book and the number of voices in the story; however, it dragged in some spots and in the end, felt a little too "Hallmark Movie" for me. This book is for those who love a breezy read, (To be clear, I sometimes do enjoy a breezy read myself. I guess I just wasn't in the mood this time.)

The Huntress by Kate Quinn
From Goodreads:
From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel, The Alice Network, comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.
What I thought: 9/10
I loved this book. I've read my share of WWII historical fiction and have been a fan of most of it. What I found to be special about The Huntress were the strong female "leads" and the fascinating female villain. This book explores a dark and upsetting aspect (as if there were any other kind) of the Nazi program of which I had been ignorant. Additionally, I learned of the Soviet Night Witches --a remarkable and very real all-female regiment of the Red Army lead by Marina Raskova. This book was told from the point of view of three main characters and Kate Quinn does so masterfully. 

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
From Goodreads:
Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.
What I thought: 6/10
This is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy that had been on my "to-read" list since early 2013! I love a good vampire/witch story and this one had its moments. There was a lot here to sink your teeth into (pun totally intended and presented to you without shame) in terms of story detail and weaving a web to support the forthcoming story (big build into what looks to be a war between witches, vampires, and daemons all living among humans). Having said that, the "romance" and relationship angst between many of the characters came across thinly in both dialogue and internal thoughts. You know how everyone loves Star Wars but if you just concentrate on the dialogue then it's kinda laughable and juvenile? Yeah, that's how this felt. Which is to say, I will definitely watch the television series and might pick up the next installment, Shadow of Night, someday (perhaps 6 more years out?).

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
Adapted from Goodreads:
Anne Gallagher grows up in America with her Irish grandfather. After his death, she returns to his childhood home to spread is ashes and is pulled into another time. She finds herself in 1921. Ireland is teetering on the edge of war. Upon awakening, Anne finds herself hurt, disoriented, and under the care of Dr. Thomas Smith, guardian to a young boy who is oddly familiar. Mistaken for the boy’s long-missing mother, Anne adopts her identity, convinced the woman’s disappearance is connected to her own.
What I thought: 8.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
I really enjoyed this book! I listened on Audible and the narrator was exceptional. If you liked Outlander, I imagine you would like this too. Both are time-traveling Irish stories --but please don't let that be a turn-off for you either if you've never read any of the Outlander series and are immediately disinterested in "sci-fi time-traveling." To be honest, I didn't care for the Outlander series. (In book form, that is. I did enjoy the first few seasons of the television series.) What the Wind Knows was romantic and rich in storyline and the historical happenings of the time. I learned so much about the Ireland in the early 1920s as tensions grew with Britain. This story is heartbreaking and passionate and told beautifully. I hope you pick it up!

Normal People by Sally Rooney
From Goodreads:
At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular while she is lonely and intensely private. A strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers. Later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. 
What I thought: 8/10
I loved the writing in this book. The pace was exceptional and I found the character's interactions with one another to be honest and believable. The tension between the characters came through clearly in the passages. I was captivated by Connell and Marianne's relationship. This is not your typical love story. Some might hesitate to classify it as "love" at all --but that's what I'm calling it. I appreciated how Rooney made me feel uncomfortable at times. This story doesn't make you feel good. I found it to be a provocative puzzle about friendship and growing up. Again, I would describe it as a love story but no one would say it was romantic. Normal People was both refreshing and disturbing as it unfolded through the perspective/psyche of these characters. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 12.19.19


  • My People - The girls are out of school after Friday and it can't get here soon enough. I love when they're home and we can all enjoy relaxing mornings and lazy days. We're heading to see family and friends for the holidays and there's lots to do before now and then but I believe we'll have fun getting it done (and believing is half the battle). HA!


  • Middle School Band Concerts - Ok. To be fair, chances are I would not "love" just any middle school band concert --but to be clear, I most definitely LOVE to see our flute and French horn players perform with their peers under the direction of their very talented music teacher. They'd hate for me to post pictures of them playing --but you can trust me that they are not only talented --they're super cute too!
  • Getting my cards OUT - It almost didn't happen this year... I wasn't feeling super inspired and the thought of putting a bunch of effort into a photo session seemed overwhelming to all of us. We managed to put a silly little something together and there was absolutely zero prep needed. I'll share next time. The important point right now is that they're all addressed, stamped, and out of my house!


  • The Practice of Medicine - Y'all... I acquired a little head cold over Thanksgiving: lots of congestion, low fever. It lasted a few days and then dropped into my chest. I developed a sore throat and cough. The cough kept me (and the Mister) up for a few days but then it went away and the cold moved back up to my head. I hadn't been feeling well at all --but not bad enough that I couldn't still do All. Of. The. Things. Friday rolled around and it was Greg's holiday work party. The night was freezing and wet. The party was fantastic. I mean, fan-tas-tic. I had a LOT of fun. All day Saturday I felt miserable --but chalked it up to all the Friday Fun I had (if you're picking up what I'm laying down). Anyhoo... Saturday night was nearly unbearable. I couldn't sleep at all because of the pain and pressure in my FACE. Ugh. Went to Urgent Care on Sunday afternoon, got diagnosed with a sinus infection, got on the meds (and the treatment plan), and now I'm felling so so so much better! Yay for doctors! Yay for medicine! Super Yay for sinus rinsing systems (for real)!
  • Zabar's Cinnamon Babka - Some of our favorite friends brought this to us after their visit to New York. OMG. It's unreal. It's not a hyperbole when I say that this little loaf of loveliness is bursting with yummy! It's been over a year since we first enjoyed the treat and we were all so thrilled to have received another delivery this last week! I didn't know you could order this online and now that I know, it might become a problem.


  • Brunch with friends - We enjoyed the most indulgent brunch with some of our best friends this weekend. The four of us + the five of them = a good time. Always. The festive atmosphere, amazing food, excellent wine, giggles, and shared love made it all the more delightful. Reach out to your loves, set a date, plan a gathering, spend some good time with one another. So good for the heart. 
  • Homemade treats - I usually try to put something together over the holidays for our friends. One ambitious year I embroidered jar tops and then filled the jars (with what, I don't even remember). I usually make many trays of Easy Toffee and package that up. Last year, I was gifted a jar of homemade rosemary olive oil by our babysitter-extraordinare. I loved it so much that as soon as I ran out, I asked her for the recipe and using the huge rosemary bush in our backyard, I whipped up another jar for myself (adding just a little garlic this time). I blogged about making it at the time and considered making a huge batch to gift this season. Guess what?? I got it done. Delivery will happen over the next few days. Check. Do you ever make gifts? What are your favorites to gift and to receive?


Thursday, December 12, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 12.12.19


  • Old Navy Jacket - I love, love, love this camel-colored sherpa jacket from Old Navy. It's super cozy and I feel almost as cute as Fozzie Bear when I'm wearing it! I bought mine on sale for about 40% off and I'm sure they're running any number of sales between now and Christmas; however, they are almost sold out (sorry) but do have MEDIUMS left in stock (which is what I' wearing). 


  • The Holiday Shop at Children's Theatre of Charlotte - I've been volunteering with The Children's Theatre of Charlotte ever since we moved to North Carolina. The event that hooked me that first year is still my favorite. We just wrapped up this year's event which runs annually, the week after Thanksgiving. Thousands of gifts are purchased, wrapped, and organized over many months of volunteer hours, then we open our doors for hundreds of little shoppers between the ages of 2-10. Each shopper comes with a list of loved ones and a budget (about $10-$20). They are paired with a volunteer "Elf" who takes them into the secret shopping room and helps them select special presents for their family and friends. The children are so happy to be able to choose gifts for mommy, daddy, siblings, and pets (among others). Many shoppers come through our line on scholarship (funds raised through CTC's "Sponsor-a-Child" fundraiser in the fall) and are able to leave with a bag full of gifts they would otherwise not be able to afford. I'm telling you --it is a busy and tiring week but also so rewarding and worth every effort to pull it off. This year was the 47th! 

    A few of my very favorite volunteer elves.
  • Knives Out - Oh my goodness! What a great time! Our whole family loved this movie. It's a light, funny, thoughtful mystery that captures your attention and carries it along for a fantastic ride. The characters are outrageous but not over-played, the plot will keep you engaged and surprised, and the warmth of the story comes through in a delightfully surprising way. See it.

    {Photo via Washington Square News}
  • Uncle Bobby! - My little brother is here! Yahoo! It's always a treat to have Uncle Bobby in town. He's smiling 90% of the time. As long as you have eggs in the fridge, he's happy. He never met a sink of dishes he couldn't conquer (without prompting). He loves Richard Parker (maybe even more than we do). His favorite phrase is, "Do you need any help?" He shleps all of the bags all of the time. Also, he's the best company as I drag him all over town getting things checked off my to-do list. 

    ("One Trip Bob" There are SIX bags in his left hand.)
  • Elf in the OPEN - What I mean is, our girls are well-aware at this point that Elvis Peppermint Kate Jones does not actually fly back and forth to the North Pole every night and that his movement around our home is reliant on mom and dad remembering to shift his position at some point between sleeping and waking. But the squirrels (my forever nickname for the girls) continue to appreciate the tradition of him. With our flipped schedules these days (Greg and I are usually in bed before the girls head upstairs), Elvis commonly moves in the morning hours over a cup of coffee. If, for some reason (the only reason: we forgot) he doesn't --it's met with understanding and a whisper, "We're going to look for Elvis soon..." I'm also happy to be done with the idea that a little elf visits my kids every day in December so he can spy on them and then fly back to Santa in order to tattle. Did anyone else struggle with this part? I don't know... we certainly chose to buy the doll and book all those years ago... but then it started to feel like a shitty manipulation. Am I'm overthinking it? And on that note, of those of you who heard, "If you don't believe, you won't receive" --Are you telling your kids this same thing? 


Thursday, December 5, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 12.5.19


  • Cousin Love - We had so much fun last week hosting Greg's sister and her family for the Thanksgiving holiday. Of course, we loved having Grandma Lulu here too --but there's definitely something special about having a 2YO squish in the house! He was full of love and adventure, giggles and curiosity. He was generous with his hugs and kisses and always found a cozy lap. We already miss him so much!


  • Holiday Cards - Receiving holiday cards from across the country is a highlight of the year. Having moved several times during our marriage, we have had the pleasure to meet so many wonderful friends from coast to coast. With social media, we do get a peek into one another's lives from time to time --but I love the tradition of snail mail and opening the envelopes to see who's inside. This year feels like a crunch with December rolling in so quickly on the heels of Thanksgiving. I usually try to put something clever together for our annual card but inspiration was late in coming... It was a scramble and I'm happy to say that cards have been ordered (finally). I'm satisfied with the result. We shall wait to see if anyone else is. LOL! Here is my absolute favorite card (from 2016).


  • Twinkling Yard Lights - Another highlight of the season is enjoying all the lights that decorate the yards in every neighborhood. I always think to myself, "Why don't we have these up all year round? They look so beautiful and festive..." But then I remember also thinking, come early February, "Wow! Where did the time go? I supposed we should take the lights down now... and I think the dried up tree might be a fire hazard... perhaps we should make some time to undecorated it and get it out of the living room." (Just kidding. We always have our tree down by late-January.)


  • Advent Calendars - I love an advent calendar and so do my girls. This 12 day version from Trader Joe's looks like it might be a total winner! For $20 you get to try Winter Citrus Hand Cream, Coconut Body Butter, Rose Facial Oil, Brown Sugar Body Scrub, Cranberry Cider Shimmer Body Wash, Blueberry & Acai Facial Scrub, Enrich Face Lotion, Charcoal Face Mask, All-for-One Shampoo/Conditioner/Body Wash, Exfoliating Sugar Cube, Warm Vanilla Body Butter, and Pomegranate Lip Balm. Pick one up if you have a chance and start your party no later than December 14th to get through the treats before Christmas!


  • Sparkly Hair - Call the dentist and make an advance appointment. My husband is so sweet that this next bit might give you a cavity just reading it. I am WAY overdue to touch up the color in my hair and cover my greys. I'm not entirely sure why this has been such a challenge of late --I have a box of dye under my bathroom sink right now (and I'm so practiced at applying it --it literally takes only 15-20 minutes added to my typical routine). The delay has been, in part, to the fact that my bangs are helping to mask the heavier grey areas at the temples and hairline. Anyhoo... I was standing in the kitchen a few days ago with the light blasting in through the window (and clearly onto my crown of wiry grey sprouts) when Greg, standing beside me, declared, "I know you'll cover them over and that's totally fine too --but I just want to say that I really love your sparkly hair." Good grief. The sweetest. I might have caught diabetes from his comment. When I do get around to coloring my hair, I will use this because it's so easy!


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Things I'm Thankful For Thursday // 11.28.19

  • Family - My sister-in-law and her family arrived early yesterday morning and my mother-in-law came yesterday evening. We are so happy to have a houseful for the holiday and grateful that they flew across the country to spend it with us.


  • Friendliness - People who naturally and consistently make eye-contact and smile at others throughout the day have a special place in my heart. Throw in a "hello" and I'm liable to get weepy. 
  • Coffee - I'm thankful for coffee. I'm especially thankful for my husband who preps the pot before bed in the evening and has a steaming cup waiting for me when I come downstairs every morning. 

  • Clean Laundry - Our dryer broke last week. I'm thankful for the functioning one at our friends' house down the street! They generously offered the use of their set until our new one arrives tomorrow. Black Friday, y'all... good for appliances. A bonus to lugging the wash back and forth is the extra time throughout the day that I get to visit one of my favorite families. 
  • Holiday Jammies - If loving these $16 Walmart pajamas is wrong, then I don't want to be right. These are so soft, it's unreal. I think they're some kind of velour with a little stretch and give. I love the red piping at the collar and cuffs. These will draw extra hugs from all of your family members --even the surly teenagers will want to be close to you again. They run true to size (check the chart in the link).


  • Thyme & Table - Are you familiar with this Walmart brand? I'm hardly ever in Walmart and this week I visited to browse the holiday offerings. While I was there, I perused many aisles and came away with the awesome pajamas (above) --as well as some other fantastic finds. These measuring cups and spoons match my kitchen perfectly. I love the brass utensils too. 


  • Better Homes & Gardens Acacia Serving Pieces - I also spent a lot of time in this aisle talking myself out of buying everything. These heavy wooden pieces are gorgeous, in person. This tray with brass handles was very tempting (in case anyone reading this needs Christmas ideas for me)... but I came away with the cake stand instead...


  • Candy Canes - Simple and festive. I piled a bunch on the my new cake stand and set it up by the front door. I also added a sweet ceramic house that's also a (battery operated) votive holder and a little flannel tree that I found in the ornament section. (The house was $5 at Walmart --but not available online. Here is a similar one from Target, a red one from Walmart, these from Crate and Barrel, and cute speckled one from Kohl's.)


  • Sales - Benefit is offering 25% off and free shipping in case you want to treat yourself to a new eyebrow system. Gap is offering 50% off (code BLKFRIDAY) and an additional 10% off (code BESTEVER) in case you want to pick up one of my favorite sweaters. The Body Shop has 40% off and free shopping if you're still considering the amazing Japanese Camellia Cream
  • Kringle - This authentic Racine Danish Kringle is amazing. These usually make an appearance at Trader Joe's in the weeks leading up to the holidays. This year did not disappoint. Almond is my favorite but Raspberry is pretty great too. The crust if perfectly buttery and flaky and the filling is a great balance to the pastry. Please pick one up if you see this. Trader Joe's sells these for about $7; However, I've seen them at specialty shops for as much as $26. No worries if you find them too early --just keep them frozen until the night before you're ready to enjoy!

Monday, November 25, 2019

What I've Read Recently // October 2019

I do realize that it's nearly December and I'm blogging about what I read in October... Apparently, I need to pull my nose out of the books sometimes and take some time to share my thoughts.

The Storyteller's Secret, by Sejal Badani
Adapted from Goodreads:
A NY journalist is struggling as her marriage unravels after her third miscarriage. She travels to India seeking answers to questions regarding her mother's past that have influenced their strained relationship. Through her courageous grandmother’s heart-wrenching story, Jaya discovers the legacy bequeathed to her and a strength that, until now, she never knew was possible.
What I thought: 6.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
I listened to this book on Audible and found the narrator to be supremely annoying at times. I owe much of my negatively-slanted take to that fact; however, I also had a hard time with the stubbornness of the main character (Jaya) with regard to her interactions with her mother and with her husband. Admittedly, I have a hard time enjoying books when I don't *like* the main character. Happily, this book had another central character: Jaya's grandmother, Amisha --and I loved her! The overall story was sweeping and beautiful, part of the book is set in a place and time that I know very little about. I absolutely enjoyed getting to know Amisha (and her faithful friend Ravi) during British occupied India.


I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life, by Anne Bogel
From Goodreads:
A collection of charming and relatable reflections on the reading life. This book leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today.
What I thought: 8/10
This was a fun book to read and it would make a terrific gift for any avid reader in your family or circle of friends. I myself, received this book as a gift some time ago and finally have gotten around to reading it. Because it is a collection of thoughts/themes arranged by chapter, it is definitely a book that does not need to be consumed in one take. Each chapter stands alone and includes insightful, often funny or clever takes on being "a reader." I enjoyed all of the chapters but found chapter 8, How to Organize Your Bookshelves, to be a highlight. This would be a great nightstand book that you could turn to when you need a few pages to settle into before sleeping.


The Last Book Party, by Karen Dukess
From Goodreads:
A propulsive tale of ambition and romance, set in the publishing world of 1980’s New York and the timeless beaches of Cape Cod. 
What I thought: 7/10
The characters were mostly likable. The setting was richly described. This was an easy book to read and I got through it very quickly. There were lots of references to other books --always a bonus. However, I didn't think there was anything particularly special about this story and I don't think it rises to the description of a "coming of age" novel. Without giving too much away, I will say that "the middle" came quickly --I was surprised by the actions of the protagonist and the turn in the story. This would be a good one to put on your summer book list.


The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
From Goodreads:
A dark and twist-filled psychological thriller about a woman who stopped speaking the night her husband was murdered and the psychotherapist who treats her 6 years later.
What I thought: 8.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
So many great twists and turns. I loved being surprised. The characters were interesting and the plot was engaging. I didn't want to put this one down (or get out of the car, as it were). The narrators were excellent but the story would be solidly captivating in print too. I definitely recommend this book if you like mystery/psychological thrillers.


Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive, by Stephanie Land
From Goodreads:
Stephanie Land's memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America.
What I thought: 6/10
Where to start? I really wanted to like this book and I found that it did offer personal and moving insight into the cycle of poverty in America. Stephanie Land was successful in proving that freedom of choice is a privilege in many ways; however, as a person, I found Stephanie to be judgmental, jealous, and perplexing. For example, one passage reads, "Living with illness or pain was part of my daily life. But why did my clients have those problems? It seemed like access to healthy foods, gym memberships, doctors and all of art would keep a person fit and well. Maybe the stress of keeping up a two-story house, a bad marriage, and maintaining the illusion of grandeur overwhelmed their systems in similar ways to how poverty did mine." WHAA?? Am I reading that right? Upon receiving a surprisingly big tax refund, and while living in a mold-infested apartment that is making her daughter very sick, she decides to buy herself a diamond engagement ring. Being the crazy plant lady that I am, I was also dumbfounded by her admission that she helped herself to some cuttings of a client's plants because she liked them and wanted her own. Really? Just ask. There were certainly good passages and I came away with new understanding --for which I'm grateful. In the end though, I find myself thinking, "Whatever Stephanie... I'm glad you finally got to Missoula --though, I fail to understand your obsession with that idea."


The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by Ryan J. Stradal (Author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest --which I thoroughly enjoyed and blogged about here.)
From Goodreads:
A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate and the secrets of making a world-class beer.
What I thought: 8.5/10
I so enjoyed nearly everything about this book. It was solidly entertaining. It felt like "home" in a way that good food feels comforting. This book was about women who endure heartache, troubles, and setbacks but keep moving forward. Stradal's books make me proud to be from strong, matriarchal, midwestern roots and they make me miss my grandmother.


Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
From Goodreads:
A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward. Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family.
What I thought: 9/10 (Listened on Audible)
This book was a lot --and I want you to want to read it. It was heavy and brutal and so very beautifully written (and performed by the narrators --who were excellent). There was poetry and ugliness in nearly every passage. It captured the essence of grief with raw honesty and refused to pull any punches. The story was sorrowful and simultaneously full of love. Both the voice of JoJo and and that of Leonie were captivating.


Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me, by Adrienne Brodeur
From Goodreads:
A daughter’s tale of living in the thrall of her magnetic, complicated mother, and the chilling consequences of her complicity.
What I thought: 7/10
"Don't ever forget that you and I are two halves of one whole." This is what Adrienne's mother, Malabar, reminds her throughout this story that begins with Malabar's breathy confession that her husband's best friend, Ben, has just kissed her. Adrienne becomes Malabar's confidant as she is manipulated by her mother into becoming a key player in the distractions and guise that keep Malabar's and Ben's spouses in the dark. I found it extremely readable and was impressed that the author was able to retell the story without anger. Instead, she gracefully crafted a beautiful and somewhat tragic tale of a dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship. 

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. VoilĂ ! (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.