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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 2.27.20

I Really Needed This Today: Words to Live By - This book of inspirational quotes --each supplemented with a brief backstory, reflection, or reaction by Today show co-host Hoda Kotb, was a recent birthday gift from a great friend. I'm not even a Today show watcher and I love this book! Kotb writes in the introduction, "There's a significant need for things that bring us together instead of pulling us apart. This book is for everybody... [These words are] meant to teach, inspire, entertain, and sooth us. Couldn't we all use a reminder that there are many more things we have in common than things that make us different?" The book contains 365 entries and would be an excellent addition to anyone's nightstand.


Dermot Kennedy - Finally! I first blogged about my appreciation for the music of Dermot Kennedy back in January after being introduced to him through a girlfriend. When I went to look him up, I discovered that he was touring the U.S. and would be performing in Charlotte soon. Well, the show was this week! I had an amazing time with some amazing friends as we danced and sang along with Dermot. If you haven't yet given him a listen, here's another chance: You're welcome! Even if Dermot isn't your thing, consider an outing for a live music soon.


"Tsundoku" - Tsundoku is a Japanese word that I found out about today and I immediately fell in LOVE with the concept! Tsundoku is the practice of buying more books than you can read. Did you read that?? It's a practice --like yoga --but maybe different... Anyhoo, I'm going to interpret the collection of small piles of books littered throughout my household as an aspirational achievement toward mastering the practice of Tsundoku. Any other Tsundoku senseis out there?

{via Gihad Mansour on Behance)
V-Neck Tunic Sweater - I found this sweater at Walmart several weeks ago and picked it up. At the time, it was on the clearance rack for $11. I've worn it at least 10 times since then and I love it. It's a great color (also available in other colors online), it's soft, it's perfect with leggings, the slightly bloused sleeves are a lovely touch, and it's now marked down even further online to just $9! I'm 5'6" and bought one in a medium. It completely covers my rear with the front hem landing a good 8 inches above my knee.


Purity - Well... not literal purity. I love Philosophy's Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser. I've tried a lot of facial cleansers and for your average gal, this one tops them all. I may stray from time to time as I get swept up in the fad of the moment but I always come back to Purity because nothing is as gentle and yet so exceptional at getting all the makeup and grime off my skin. You can find Purity (about $24/8 oz. bottle) at Ulta, Sephora, and NordstromWalmart and Amazon are selling twice as much (16 oz) for about the same price. This price difference brings up a good question: Do we trust Walmart and Amazon to be selling the same product at a fraction of the price? Or is that too good to be true?



Thursday, February 20, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 2.20.20


  • Thoughtfulness - My birthday happened last month. Should be no new news for those who read along regularly --as I remind people as often as possible leading up to and then for the entire month of January that we have reason to celebrate. HA! Unbelievably, today was the first opportunity I had this year to spend some time with one of my favorite people. Sara presented me with a gift she'd been hanging onto since early January. And it was THIS. Come on. Stop. It's perfection. Love the sentiment, love the little foxy's face, love that the fox reference calls back to an amazing friendship weekend spent with dear girlfriends (#foxtribe), and I especially love the thoughtful selection and time she put into making me this sweetest gift. Love. (If you happen to be in Charlotte on March 9th and want to learn how to cross-stitch, one of my favorite companies, Skillpop, is offering a beginner workshop and as of this morning, there are 4 seats left.)


  • Talking Teenagers - We're in the thick of it: 7th grade and 8th. (Enjoying almost all of it so far.) The hubby travels, the squirrels have many after-school activities and a lot of homework. Plus they have a growing social life to live with their friends on and offline. We try to sit down to dinner when it's possible and we're grateful that it happens 1-2 times a week. We have an unspoken "no devices during family dinner" policy and look forward to checking in and catching up. Just the other day, our youngest brought out her Chat Pack (which we hadn't used in a long time) and we were all reminded what a fun and useful tool this little box of wide-ranging questions can be. I pulled out 3 cards by chance to set up this photo. They read, Whenever you are having a bad day, what is the best thing you can do to help cheer yourself up?, If rain could fall in any scent, what scent would you want it to be?, and Most people have a favorite story or experience that they love to share with other people. Here's your chance: What's your story?. You can see from this random sampling that the questions are sometimes silly and sometimes door-opening to an actual conversation. It's interesting and sometimes eye-opening to discover where the prompt leads. If family dinners are impossible, these might also be a fun thing to keep in the glove box for moments between here and there or on the nightstand for an exchange before bedtime.


  • Amazon Fresh - I mentioned this a couple weeks ago as "Amazon Prime" but have come to distinguish that the service I am in love with is actually called Amazon Fresh. If you're logged onto your Amazon account (and it is set up like mine is) then under the search bar in a tiny font on the left, there is a drop down option called "Fresh" --THIS is what you're looking for (if you like fresh groceries delivered to your doorstep in paper bags within the 2-hour free delivery window of your choosing, that is). With a Prime membership, there is no delivery fee; however, Amazon will add a suggested tip which you can choose to edit or remove (I do hope you'll not remove it completely). 


  • JR Watkins Dish Soap - Remember when I changed my toothpaste and I was all jazzed about making little changes like this to get out of possible "ruts" we might not even realize we're in? Well... still good advice BUT I have learned that not every change is a good one. I tried a new dishwashing soap and it was no bueno. The dishes were still getting cleaned but my sponge was so stinky! Ew. Not all dish soaps are created equal. I am back to my favorite and I will not be straying anytime soon. J.R.Watkins is where it is at.


  • My Bed - Listen, I loved the opportunity to get away with Mr. Jones last week and am so very grateful for our annual trip to Cancun with some of the most fantastic folks from all over the country and all the many parts of our 22-year-life with his amazing company. But... damn. MY bed is cozy and it felt so very delicious to fall into it on Thursday night last week! If you're considering a "mattress in a box" --we definitely recommend them. We bought one years ago for the guest bedroom and after enough people raved about it, we spent a night on it ourselves. The next day, we ordered one for our bedroom and following that, when the girls traded up their twins for queens, we bought the same type. (All of ours are from Costco. I think we have 2 Novaforms and a Simmons version.) Even if you're not shopping for a new mattress, I hope you treat yourself to some quality sheets, perfect-for-you pillows, and your personal winning combination of blankets/comforters/quilts. Cheers to a blissful bed!


Friday, February 14, 2020

What I've Read Recently // January 2020

Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand
From Goodreads:
Follow New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand back in time and join a Nantucket family as they experience the drama, intrigue, and upheaval of a 1960s summer.
What I thought: 7/10
There're a lot of storylines woven throughout this novel. I found it to be entertaining and engaging. If you're a fan of Hilderbrand already, you're going to love this book. While I would still categorize it as a "beach read" --it was meatier than most. I enjoyed the cultural touchpoints that were woven throughout the story: Women's Movement, Vietnam War, Chappaquiddick, the Moonwalk, Woodstock... While the characters were interesting --each of three sisters dealing with their own various problems (Blair: feeling sidelined from rewarding work to stay home and raise twins and suspecting her husband is having an affair; Kirby: reeling from a dark secret and trying to navigate an interracial relationship she knows her family would not approve of; and Jessie: struggling through puberty, heartbreak, and missing her brother who is fighting in Vietnam), a mother who blurs her desperation of missing her son with alcohol, and a grandmother who has a secret of her own... there was a lot in the pages but ultimately, I didn't really fall in love with any of them.


Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett
From Goodreads:
One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles.
What I thought: 6/10
This book was challenging. Despite its cheerful cover art, which I assumed suggested a fun and perhaps off-the-wall story --it was actually very dark. I found that I struggled to pick up and when I did, I was left feeling sad. I tried talking to friends about it the process of getting through the story and found that what kept be going is that I did end up caring about Jessa (main character) and really wanted her to climb out of her grief. I craved some happiness for her. Don't get me wrong, I didn't need rainbows and butterflies --but I definitely needed a little ray of sunshine to peek through the storm. This book is raw. It's uncomfortable. Ultimately, I'm glad I kept turning the pages. It's a good story that is told vividly and with an honesty that makes the reader squirm.


The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
From Goodreads:
Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched [her cabin mates] sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she—or anyone—saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.
What I thought: 4/10
I picked this book up because I enjoyed Sager's other work, Lock Every Door which I very much enjoyed and reviewed here. Unfortunately, The Last Time I Lied was not nearly as enjoyable. I thought the story was thin, the character's decisions were not all that plausible, and because the story felt so tedious to get through, the ultimate twist felt like a trick instead of a delightful shock.


The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia
From Goodreads:
From a beguiling voice in Mexican fiction comes an astonishing novel—her first to be translated into English—about a mysterious child with the power to change a family’s history in a country on the verge of revolution. Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable. The Murmur of Bees is a heartfelt work of historical fiction with a touch of magic. 
What I thought: 8/10 (Listened on Audible)
As usual with Audible --now that I always preview the narration by listening to the sample, I very much enjoyed the story that these voices brought forth. The pacing of the reading was perfect with the way the story unfolded. I'm confident that reading Segovia's words from the page would also be an amazingly enjoyable experience --she writes with such beauty and richness. The Murmur of Bees is the story of a lifetime and the tale cannot be rushed. Simonopio found an easy entrance into my heart and I'm sure he will find his way into yours as well. However, if you need a "page-turner" or a lot of bold action, this is not that.



Money Rock: A Family's Story of Cocaine, Race, and Ambition in the New South by Pam Kelley
From Goodreads:
Money Rock is the gripping story—by turns action-packed, uplifting, and tragic—of a striving African American family, swept up and transformed by the 1980s cocaine epidemic. This epic account begins in 1963 when Belton Lamont Platt (who would come to be known as Money Rock) is born in a newly integrated North Carolina hospital to Carrie, an activist mother. It ends with Belton’s sons, three of whom die violently as teenagers, and one—his oldest—who’s trying to transcend a criminal past in a world where the odds are stacked against him.
What I thought: 7/10
This story is as much about Platt as it is about Charlotte. Calling Charlotte my home now, I was caught up in the unveiling of the historic decisions (social, racial, political, and economic) that created the affordable housing epidemic we now find ourselves in. While Charlotte has long considered itself to be a progressive city --its practices and policies have grown from segregation and the disenfranchisement of its citizens. Reading like a novel, Kelley is able to interweave the story of one man's journey from Boy Scouts and ROTC to drug kingpin and from incarceration to spiritual fulfillment. The book is a great blend of narration and fact that shines a light on the interconnectedness of generational poverty and incarceration.


Raising Financially Confident Kids by Mary Hunt
From Goodreads:
It's natural to want your kids to have a secure future. But when it comes to teaching the next generation how to handle money, parents are failing.
What I thought: 7/10
I bought this book after an enlightening conversation with a new friend who is also raising two kids, similarly aged to mine. She mentioned the "Salary Plan" and I had so many questions! Her family's plan was born from Hunt's main idea (enhanced by a couple other authors) and fleshed out over time as they began down this path. Here's what you need to know: Hunt's book is dated. Some of her core recommendations are no longer easily applied ("only ever pay for things with cash"). Overall, the book had too much why and not enough how --but I hope that doesn't dissuade you from picking up a copy. The premise is excellent and the main idea critical: We need to do a much better job educating, preparing, and helping our kids practice to become smart financial decision-makers. This book offers simple and good advice: Start giving your kids more financial responsibility and ownership so they can learn from mistakes while the consequences are small, they can experience the rewards of working-toward/saving-for important purchases, and understand that we shouldn't be providing for their every want or waiting on the sidelines to rescue them (with loans or handouts) at the drop of a hat. This would be an ideal read when your kids are 8-9 years old --but odds are it's not too late to start adopting some of these ideas now. The Jones Family will be implementing some version of the Salary Plan very soon. 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Things I Love Thursday // 2.6.20

  • Tanning without the sun - My first job (in high school) was working at a tanning salon. I started as a "Bed Cleaner." It really was as gross as it sounds: wiping wet and sometimes crusty sweat off of fiberglass tanning beds. Also, people stink after tanning because of aforementioned sweat, close quarters, and indoor tanning lotions. I also folded towels, vacuumed the salon, emptied waste paper baskets, and restocked the tanning lotions --I mean, accelerators; tanning accelerators. I had a uniform. Along with minimum wage, I also got to tan for free. Eventually, I worked my way up the ladder to "Tanning Technician" (selling memberships and deciding how many minutes was a "safe" session to prevent the client from burning --but also feel like they were getting their money's worth). Clients liked to feel "prickly" and "taught" after a tanning session so they knew the bulbs were baking them sufficiently. We sold little heart-shaped stickers. Clients used a sticker, placed carefully, on their usually naked body, that would leave behind evidence of their darkening skin. I never used the stickers but I carry lots of evidence on my skin that proves how well the bulbs worked. *sigh* These days, we know better. I love sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats. I love cover-ups and umbrellas. However, I still also love a "golden glow" and have been conditioned to feel "healthier" with a little color on my legs and arms. Thankfully, I can achieve this sun-kissed coloring (within a week or so) with a little effort, a few bucks, and 3-5 extra minutes in the shower. I've been using Jergens Natural Glow Wet Skin Moisturizer (medium to tan) off and on for years. Things I love about it: the price ($9), the fact that you can find it anywhere (Target, Amazon, grocery store), the color builds over time, it's hard to really "mess up" --resulting in streaking and drip marks, it doesn't stain my clothing or sheets, using it leaves my skin feeling more supple. A thing I don't like about it: when I forget to wash my hands after application (more often than you'd think *another sigh*), it leaves behind this regrettable stain between my fingers. Tips: exfoliate beforehand --especially elbows, ankles, knees, and toes *knees and toes* (please tell me y'all started singing along too) scrubbing aggressively with a coarse washcloth is better than nothing, remember not to dry off before you apply --you should be dripping wet from the shower, wrap your hair in a towel before you begin, when you're done applying, pat your skin dry --paying attention to your feet and ankles (drips of water down your legs will result in streaks hours later), wash your with hands with soap afterward. {wow. i had a lot to say about Jergens.}


  • Fur Babies - Pets are amazing. Richard Parker is a joy --when he's not meowing at the top of his lungs outside our bedroom door at 3am. For those of you not in the know, Richard Parker (named for the tiger in Life of Pi) is our 23 pound Ragdoll cat. He spends every morning on my lap as I sip coffee in my pajamas atop the couch trying to solve the mysteries of the universe --or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. He is simple. He is friendly. He is always warm and soft. He's devilishly handsome. He doesn't ask for a lot from anyone and we love him so much. 


  • Colgate Optic White Toothpaste - I've been on the Crest Train for decades. It's what we've always used. I don't spend any time thinking about it, I just buy Crest in bulk --usually at Costco. A few weeks ago, I went to visit a great friend in Texas. I carried-on for my flight (please be impressed). Without a travel-size on hand, I arrived toothpasteless. Amy hooked me up with a nice fresh tube of Colgate Optic White in a snazzy red box. Wowza. Super refreshing. Maybe it's just nice to have a change? I don't know... what I do know is that I FEEL like my mouth is cleaner and my breath is fresher. When's the last time you thought critically about your toothpaste? Like I said, it may just be the change that is refreshing. In any event, I'm glad to have tried something different. 
  • Akeelah and the Bee - You've seen the movie, right? Circa 2006. Lawrence Fishburne. So good. If you're lucky enough to live in Charlotte, you have an opportunity to experience the stage production at The Children's Theatre between now and February 16th. Please don't miss this show. It's outstanding. Not only did I have the pleasure of seeing it last weekend --I also got to usher the show with these two lovelies: 


  • Hints of Spring - It snowed this week --for like a minute. Then the temperatures climbed to the low 70s a day or two later. Today it rained. This weekend we will dip into the 40s. "If you don't like the weather in Charlotte, wait 5 minutes" is something I've heard several times over the last 7 years. I'm actually not complaining. I like variety. I wish the globe were healthier --no doubt. But here's what I'm loving: hydrangeas the size of my head (actual quote from City Stems). On my counter. Do you regularly add fresh flowers to your home? I feel like I go in fits and spurts. This time of year, it's so nice to grab a little "farmer's bunch" from the grocery store or Trader Joe's to brighten up the kitchen. I do need to be better about this.


  • A little "I love you" - As I sit here typing up the final edits on my post for this week, I literally just received a text from my brother: "Love you! I hope you're having a good day." Such a simple and easy way to bring a smile to the face of someone you love. Here's your nudge to do the same for someone you love. ***Since writing this post yesterday, I've heard some devastating news about a good friend who lost her father last night in a tragic car accident. My heart is with her and her family. Let's promise not to put off telling our people how much they mean to us.***
As always, thanks for reading along.