Monday, December 31, 2018

No.202: My Latest Reads // December

This post contains affiliate links.


EDGE OF EXTINCTION #1: THE ARK PLAN by Laura Martin
My Rating: ★★

We read The Ark Plan for our homeschool read aloud.  It was described to me as "Jurassic World meets Planet of the Apes" and I think that's pretty accurate!  The first few chapters are slower, but quickly pick up.  And the end is a cliff hanger!  We have to order the second book soon.




INTO THE WILD by Jon Krakauer
My Rating: ★★★☆

An extended stay in the wilderness inevitably directs one’s attention outward as much as inward, and it is impossible to live off the land without developing both a subtle understanding of, and a strong emotional bond with, that land and all it holds. (84%)

You know the saying, It takes all kinds to make the world go round?  That's the phrase that kept coming to mind as I read Into the Wild.  Chris McCandless lived his life uniquely and while I would not necessarily make the same decisions, this book was able to somewhat explain his why. (As much as a third party can.)


CRIME SIGNALS: HOW TO SPOT A CRIMINAL BEFORE YOU BECOME A VICTIM by David Givens, Ph.D.
My Rating: ★★★☆

The most commonly experienced danger signs, however, are intangible feelings and suppositions that something is wrong. (2%)

Crime Signals is a good primer if you're new to criminology.  I was already familiar with much of the information, but the tips on child predators were particularly helpful.  This book was written about 10 years ago and I'd be interested to see what has changed in criminology since then.


NIGHT OF MIRACLES by Elizabeth Berg
My Rating: ★★★☆

When Lucille was a girl, a carnival came to town one summer and they had a ride called the Whirligig. You sat in some wooden contraption that jerked you here, there, and everywhere. One minute you’d be going forward, the next backward or sideways or tilted over so far you thought you might fall out. It was never still and you had no idea what might come next. That’s life. You’re born, and you get a ride on the Whirligig. (72%)

This book is the sequel to The Story of Arthur Truluv with a few of the same characters and a few new ones.  Definitely not as good as the first book, but a charming easy read.

TEN ARGUMENTS FOR DELETING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS RIGHT NOW by Jaron Lanier
My Rating: ★★★☆

...What if listening to an inner voice or heeding a passion for ethics or beauty were to lead to more important work in the long term, even if it measured as less successful in the moment?  What if deeply reaching a small number of people matters more than reaching everybody with nothing? (p.68)

I'm on a bit of a tech criticism kick lately, but don't buy me a tin hat yet!  One of my goals for 2018 was to learn to think for myself again: stop scrolling, pull out the books and wrestle with new concepts.  I wanted to make my own conclusions without being swayed by what everyone else thought.  Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now reinforces those ideas.  Not a perfect book - it rambles on a bit and I didn't fully agree on a few things - but lots to still think about.  Solid three and a half stars.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens
My Rating: ★★★★☆

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorry, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour. (p.71)

I've seen the cartoon versions of this story numerous times growing up, but have never read the original text!  At just over 100 pages, it's not an intimidating classic and the descriptions are much more vivid than the movies can portray.  A great fable to read in December.

THE MIRACLE OF FATHER KAPAUN: PRIEST, SOLDIER AND KOREAN WAR HERO by Roy Wenzl and Travis Heying
My Rating: ★★★★☆

The suffering of that first winter was overwhelming.  Many soldiers were in their teens and early twenties, not mature enough to deal with that level of misery.  Kapaun never yelled at the prisoners when in their weakness they let each other down; he led by example. (p.47)

I assigned this book to my sixth grader for school, but quickly realized that it was one I needed to read too!  Fr. Emil Kapaun was such an inspirational man and a great example for my boys.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT by Liane Moriarty
My Rating: ★★★★☆

She had always thought that exquisitely happy time at the beginning of her relationship with Nick was the ultimate, the feeling they'd always be trying to replicate, to get back, but now she realized that was wrong.  That was like comparing sparkling mineral water to French champagne.  Early love is exciting and exhilarating.  It's light and bubbly.  Anyone can love like that.  But love after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you've hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you've seen the worst and the best - well, that sort of love is ineffable.  It deserves its own word. (p.457)  

I'm probably one of the last people on Earth to read What Alice Forgot!  It found it easy to read, interesting and surprisingly thought-provoking.  I flew through it in days.

UNTIL I SAY GOOD-BYE: MY YEAR OF LIVING WITH JOY by Susan Spencer-Wendel
My Rating: ★★★☆☆

The big questions rose before me: Where do I want to go? How do I want to live? What is the central message of my life? (10%)

That is the secret I learn more of every day. Not to want things I cannot have or cannot do. Remove the want, and you remove the pain. (80%)

I chose Until I Say Good-Bye randomly from the library because the title sounded promising.  This memoir is about a mother diagnosed with ALS and the year she spent traveling and living with intention.  It was equal parts inspiring and just painfully raw and sad.

____________________________

MY (FINAL!) READING IN NUMBERS FOR 2018
Total Pages Read: 23,048
Books Read: 72
Fiction: 41  //  Non-Fiction: 31
Kindle Books: 43  //  Paper Books: 29
Original 2018 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 443 // Current "to-read" total: 424

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

No.201: Intentions for Advent


the thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices...

I am SO ready for Advent this year.  As we enter the last days of 2018, I'm tired.  Weary from what's happening in our Church, from parenting struggles, from financial difficulties, from the everyday wear and tear of being in charge of so many moving parts.  Still, in the midst of it all, God is faithful.  He still shows up, showing His love for me, even when I'm feeling numb.

I want to record one example that just happened last week.  We recently received an L.L.Bean catalog in the mail and I looked enviously at all of the gorgeous fresh evergreen wreaths.  But bills need to be paid and presents need to be purchased, so I placed the catalog in recycling with the hope that maybe I could get one next year.  The very next day, we had an unexpected visitor: the small business owner that we hired last spring to install our front flower beds!  And what was she bringing to wish us a Merry Christmas?  An enormous, fresh evergreen wreath.  By my reaction, you would have thought she was holding a big check from Publisher's Clearing House!  I was so surprised and thrilled and overwhelmed, I probably scared her.  But what are the odds?  Something so small, something I didn't mention to anyone...and there it is, literally at my doorstep.

This Advent, I plan to slow down as much as possible, to ponder Christ and what it means to follow Him, and prepare for His birth in the simplest of ways.  I don't have fancy reading plans or devotionals or journals this year.  I just have open hands and an eager heart, letting Him lead me where He wants me.  Even in the midst of this hard season, God is here with me.  What a comforting thought. 

Wishing you a peaceful Advent season. XO

Monday, December 3, 2018

No.200: New Habits, Little by Little: Cooking at Home (November 2018)


Birthdays, an anniversary, holidays and broken appliances galore - November really kept us on our toes this year! 

Week 70 (cont.): 
Thursday, November 1: Mark had a work event so we made english muffin pizzas and salad
Friday, November 2: baked chicken breast with an oregano cream sauce and green beans

Week 71:
Saturday, November 3: white chicken lasagna soup
Sunday, November 4: leftover soup
Monday, November 5: the boys had Little Caesars between activities, the littles and I just had cereal at home
Tuesday, November 6: Election Day! tacos
Wednesday, November 7: eggs with biscuits and gravy breakfast casserole
Thursday, November 8: garlic-parmesan sausage and veggies
Friday, November 9: frozen pizzas

Week 72:
Saturday, November 10: Marine Corps Birthday! leftovers and cake
Sunday, November 11: Refrigerator Clean-out Night
Monday, November 12: the boys ate out between activities, the littles and I had popcorn and leftover pumpkin crumb cake (#sohealthy)
Tuesday, November 13: one skillet cheesy chili mac and salad
Wednesday, November 14: hearty beef stew
Thursday, November 15: chicken pot pie soup with homemade biscuits
Friday, November 16: M's Birthday and no power! out for burgers and cake

Week 73:
Saturday, November 17: frozen taquitos and chicken fingers (since we had to throw everything in the fridge away)
Sunday, November 18: we ate random things from the pantry after discovering that our cooktop isn't working (whyyyyy??)
Monday, November 19: Little Caesars pizza (cooktop still broken and we still haven't gone grocery shopping since the power outage)
Tuesday, November 20: porkchops and roasted vegetables
Wednesday, November 21: brisket tacos
Thursday, November 22: Thanksgiving! turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, squash, mac & cheese, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls, and lots and lots of pies
Friday, November 23: Early anniversary date! we had Mexican - nachos supreme and burritos

Week 74:
Saturday, November 24: post-holiday laziness at its best - we just ate random things from the pantry
Sunday, November 25: leftover brisket and roasted veggies
Monday, November 26: breakfast for dinner - crepes and apple slices
Tuesday, November 27: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night
Wednesday, November 28: garlic-parmesan sausage and veggies
Thursday, November 29: Mark worked late, so we had random things for the freezer and pantry
Friday, November 30: J's birthday! tacos

Friday, November 30, 2018

No.199: What I Learned in November

Linking up with Kelly's Quick Takes!

1 // WE MADE IT TO NOVEMBER 12th BEFORE TURNING THE HEAT ON.
I'm a little bit of a crazy person about this, but there's just this tiny sweet spot in Virginia where you don't need the A/C or the heat.  I take advantage of that electric bill savings for all its worth!

2 // WE HAD OUR FIRST SNOWFALL (AND FIRST POWER OUTAGE) ON NOVEMBER 15TH.
Don't laugh, northern states, but this is pretty early for us!  We probably got around four inches of snow and Mark and I had to shovel our long driveway in freezing rain.  Fun.  We were without power for 18 hours, but were thankfully more prepared than the last time

3 // KEEP YOUR HEAD ON A SWIVEL.  EVEN IN CHURCH.
We had an incident before mass at our church involving an unstable individual causing a disturbance.  Police were called and it left me very shaken.  (He was less than five feet away from my family.)  Mark and I have since had hushed conversations about worse case scenario plans.  It makes me so angry that you have to even think about these things in a place of worship.

4 // BEST MARRIAGE TIP AFTER 13 YEARS: LEARN EACH OTHER'S LOVE LANGUAGE.
We went probably seven years into our marriage before attacking this head-on and it's been life-changing for us.

5 // NEVER JUDGE A RUN BY THE FIRST MILE.
I tend to hate running during that first mile.  I come up with all the excuses - I'm tired, it's cold, I'm needed in the house, etc etc.  But if I manage to shut that voice off and get to mile two?  I'm golden!  My legs are loose, I feel great and I'm ready to finish the mileage I set out to do.  Funny how that works.

6 // "FRAGRANCE" IS A WORD USED ON PRODUCTS TO AVOID DISCLOSING CHEMICALS.
I'm still slowly working my way through Estrogeneration and coincidentally came across a documentary on Netflix called Stink! that touches on the same topics.  It really is mind-blowing to discover what exactly we're putting on or in our bodies.  The secrecy is astounding.

7 // YOU DON'T REALIZE HOW DEPENDENT YOU ARE ON AN APPLIANCE UNTIL IT BREAKS.
After the power outage, we discovered that our cooktop wouldn't turn on.  And shortly after that, our dishwasher died!  I've scrambled to find recipes that can be 100% cooked in the oven (did I mention a certain toddler shattered the lid to my slow cooker as well?!) and it's definitely helped me see all the things I take for granted.  I'll be so thankful to have my kitchen up and running again soon.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

No.198: My Latest Reads // November

This post contains affiliate links.

BORN A CRIME: STORIES FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN CHILDHOOD by Trevor Noah
My Rating: ★★★☆☆

My mom would always say, “My job is to feed your body, feed your spirit, and feed your mind.” That’s exactly what she did, and the way she found money for food and books was to spend absolutely nothing on anything else. (20%)

We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited. (27%)

The first thing I learned about having money was that it gives you choices. People don’t want to be rich. They want to be able to choose. The richer you are, the more choices you have. That is the freedom of money. (62%)

This memoir was a mix of humor and deep thoughts.  I love seeing life through someone else's eyes and this one didn't disappoint.  The last chapter about his mother and the domestic abuse she suffered was so powerful.  Solid three stars.

BEING MORTAL: MEDICINE AND WHAT MATTERS IN THE END by Atul Gawande
My Rating: ★★★

Death, of course, is not a failure. Death is normal. Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things. (3%)

This is the consequence of a society that faces the final phase of the human life cycle by trying not to think about it. We end up with institutions that address any number of societal goals—from freeing up hospital beds to taking burdens off families’ hands to coping with poverty among the elderly—but never the goal that matters to the people who reside in them: how to make life worth living when we’re weak and frail and can’t fend for ourselves anymore. (25%)

As our time winds down, we all seek comfort in simple pleasures—companionship, everyday routines, the taste of good food, the warmth of sunlight on our faces. We become less interested in the rewards of achieving and accumulating, and more interested in the rewards of simply being. (42%)

Technological society has forgotten what scholars call the “dying role” and its importance to people as life approaches its end. People want to share memories, pass on wisdoms and keepsakes, settle relationships, establish their legacies, make peace with God, and ensure that those who are left behind will be okay. They want to end their stories on their own terms. This role is, observers argue, among life’s most important, for both the dying and those left behind. (84%)

It's been a while since a book has deeply impacted me like this one.  Such an important topic!  As I read, I started thinking about plans for myself someday as well as conversations I'd like to start with family members.  I also now know the questions to ask when we have to make difficult decisions on treatment options.  Highly recommend.

THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL GIRL by Rachel Simon
My Rating: ★★★

There were two kinds of hope: the kind you couldn’t do anything about and the kind you could. And even if the kind you could do something about wasn’t what you’d originally wanted, it was still worth doing. A rainy day is better than no day. A small happiness can make a big sadness less sad. (86%)

I read this book right after Being Mortal and kept making comparisons between the two.  This fictional account about individuals with disabilities had many of the same themes: dignity, respect and as much independence as possible.  It was heartbreaking and sad, but finished on a positive note.  It also inspired me to learn some American Sign Language.

SOMETIMES I LIE by Alice Feeney
My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

We are all made of flesh and stars, but we all become dust in the end. Best to shine while you can. (14%)

Some people appear happy on the outside and you only know they’re broken inside if you listen as well as look. (90%)

After a few heavy books in a row, I like to change things up.  Psychological thrillers are like palate cleansers for me - they are quick reads that you can't put down.  Sometimes I Lie did just that for me; I finished in two days!  The quality of this one was just okay for me though.  There was a rape scene that was pretty graphic and the ending twist was confusing and not as great as I was expecting.

THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. FIKRY by Gabrielle Zevin
My Rating: ★★★☆☆

They had only ever discussed books but what, in this life, is more personal than books? (7%)

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a sweet story for anyone who loves books.  A quick read with some quirky characters, it wasn't what I expected but I liked it anyway.  Three and a half stars.



GLOW KIDS: HOW SCREEN ADDICTION IS HIJACKING OUR KIDS - AND HOW TO BREAK THE TRANCE by Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D.
My Rating: ★★★

Yet as screens glaze children the world over, parents either ignore the problem or just throw up their hands and sigh, "It's just the way kids are today."  But kids haven't always been this way; it's only been six years since the invention of the iPad - and in that blink of time, an entire generation of kids has been psychologically impacted and neurologically rewired. (pg.5)

Have you ever read a book that you needed right at that moment?  With Christmas on the horizon and gift decisions to be made, Glow Kids was that book for me.  Kardaras presents scientific study after scientific study and it really rocked me.  My gut feeling was proven in a little over 300 pages!  Needless to say, my Christmas shopping list is a little different after this book.  I'll definitely be thinking about this one for months (years?) to come.

____________________________


MY 2018 READING IN NUMBERS
Books Read: 63
Fiction: 37  //  Non-Fiction: 26
Kindle Books: 39  //  Paper Books: 24
Original 2018 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 443 // Current "to-read" total: 424

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

No.197: Safe Skincare // My First Experience with Beautycounter

I received free product in exchange for a review, but as always, all opinions are my own.

UPDATE: This week Beautycounter’s Black Friday Sale is 15% OFF sitewide, and FREE shipping on orders over $50. It’s a great time to try clean beauty for yourself or gift to a loved one! My friend Stephanie is offering my readers an additional $10 coupon on top of the Black Friday sales when you shop through her website!  Happy shopping!

I blame my dear blog friend Stephanie for my latest rabbit hole.  She recommended a book called Estrogeneration and oh my word, it's both fascinating and slightly terrifying!  I'm working through it in small chunks, but it's already made me very conscious about what products I'm using and what I choose to buy going forward.  (This is a separate, but good article that touches on some of things I'm learning in the book.)  

Anyway, Steph recently became a Beautycounter Consultant and offered to let me try a few of their most popular products.  With my new knowledge of the dangers in American skincare from Estrogeneration, I jumped at the chance to try!  I was also excited because with all of the hormonal craziness going on with me right now, my face is a mess.  I have faithfully used the products for the past three weeks and I'm already a fan.  I tried the Cleansing Balm, the Adaptive Moisture Lotion, the Brightening Facial Oil and the Balancing Facial Mask.  While it hasn't taken away all of my acne yet, I do see an improvement.  And my skin is so soft!  I'm impressed.  

A few other interesting things to note about Beautycounter:
+ They are a full disclosure company and every ingredient is on every label.
+ Over 1,500 chemicals and toxins have been banned from their products.
+ The company's ultimate goal is high performance without compromise. They stand by the promise that their products really work!   


The four products I tried are all paired in a Holiday Kit for a limited time and would make a gorgeous gift for Christmas.  (Or put it on your own Christmas list!)  The bottles are beautiful and because you only use a small amount each time, they last for awhile.  Definitely worth the investment.

One more thing: if you mention The Big White Farmhouse sent you, Steph will give my readers a shipping refund on your first order.  You can shop here.  I can't wait to hear what you choose!   

Thursday, November 8, 2018

No.196: Around Here in November

This post contains affiliate links.

WEARING //  my cool weather favorites on repeat, now that Virginia finally has a chill in the air: my L.L.Bean pullover, Athleta hoodie and J.Crew quilted vest.

MAKING // new soups or stews for our weekly Soup Night.  The original idea was that it would help with the grocery budget, which hasn't really happened.  Silver lining: there is something so cozy about having Mark and the boys come home from activities to something warm on the stove.   

BRAINSTORMING // presents.  We have six birthdays in the fall, so I generally have to dig deep for good Christmas ideas afterward.  I sat down the other night and got a good start on the kids, but could not come up with quality ideas for extended family members.  I have to get my act together!    

READING // Being Mortal (SO good!), Don Quixote (humorous and easier to read than I expected) and Estrogeneration (both fascinating and terrifying).

STARTING // a 30-day running streak on a whim. Five days later, I'm having second thoughts, hah!  My main concern is injuring myself with the increased load, so I think I'm just going to it play it smart and go by feel.  The end result may not be exactly how I envisioned it, but I hope it helps me get back into a routine in time for winter (when I usually hibernate).  

SELLING // my 75th piece of clothing on Poshmark!  I'm really enjoying this little side biz, even though sales have suddenly dropped to a trickle.

LISTENING // to Up and Vanished, although Season Two is a little less exciting to me than the first one.  I just found a new podcast called Someone Knows Something that I hope to start soon.  Cold cases are fascinating to me.

ADMITTING // defeat as I finally concede that the past few months have totally kicked my butt.  The breaking point was yesterday when I received an email from our photographer, letting me know that the memory card holding all of our family photos was corrupted and she lost everything.  It's not really her fault and they're just photos, but it hurt and I cried.  I'm waving the white flag.  Fall, you win!  Looking forward to slower days ahead.    

Monday, November 5, 2018

No.195: Intentions for the Beginning of November


My oldest ran his first 5K with me yesterday and we had so much fun.  I wasn't feeling great, but managed to keep up and only lost to him by 30 seconds.  We're both excited to run another one together in the spring.  There's nothing like a race to reignite my passion for running!  With my hormonal issues and fall just being a crazy season, running felt like a chore and I started to dread it.  I'm thrilled to get back into it - I feel more like myself already.        

INTENTIONS FOR THE BEGINNING OF NOVEMBER

  • vote!
  • keep up with a 30 Day Running Streak
  • order birthday gifts for M, J, and P (and then we're done for another year, whew!)
  • start ordering gifts for Christmas
  • start thinking about what to do with the kids for Advent
  • catch up on snail mail correspondence
  • make 10+ sales on Poshmark
  • organize all of the kids' summer clothes and put in their appropriate bins
  • decide on a cookie for the co-op cookie exchange party
  • organize Sophie's closet
  • make homemade granola
  • finish reading Estrogeneration
  • read 50+ pages in Don Quixote

    PREVIOUS INTENTIONS

    If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
    • finish painting the headboards and add the topcoat
    • decide on a rug for the front hallway
    • send out Halloween packages (I sent books to my two littlest buddies)
    • finish reading Estrogeneration
    • get the generator serviced (at over $700, this one gets pushed to the back burner until after Christmas.  Fingers crossed we don't have a blizzard anytime soon!)
    • call to have someone look at the dishwasher (we had the septic tank serviced instead)
    • increase Poshmark inventory to 85+
    • take out and work on my quilt using Memere's fabric (100LT #13)
    • buy lightbulbs for the dining room chandelier
    • look into supplements (I ordered magnesium and have a list of others to consider too - thanks for all of your help, blog friends!!)
    • give myself lots of patience and grace as I continue to fight through this hormonal mess (a work in progress, but I'm feeling better)

    What about you?  What do you hope to accomplish in the next two weeks?

    Friday, November 2, 2018

    No.194: What I Learned in October

    This post contains affiliate links.

    1 // THERE ARE SEASONS OF PRODUCTION AND THERE ARE SEASONS OF REST.
    I am definitely a do-er.  I like being productive and feel most like myself when I'm juggling multiple balls in the air.  (#crazylady)  But for whatever reason, I'm in a season of rest, of just trying to keep my head above water.  I'm fighting for my physical and mental health.  I'm in a season of quiet.  It's not my favorite, but I know it's necessary.

    2 // MAGNESIUM IS AMAZING.
    Magnesium was recommended to me to help with my hormonal issues, so I bought this stuff.  My new evening routine is a teaspoon of magnesium with a Nuun tablet (which helps with hydration and electrolytes), mixed in cold water.  I can feel a huge difference already!  I'm less agitated, my heart races less and it's made PMS symptoms almost non-existent.  Incredible.

    3 // PICKING OUT CHRISTMAS PHOTO CARDS IS FUN.
    It's that time of year again!  I had so much fun choosing photo cards for my Basic Invite post and I'm anxious to pin one down once we get our family photos back from the photographer.

    4 // BIRTHING SIX BABIES HAS GIVEN ME WEAK HIPS.
    As I have improved in my running and picked up speed, I've also noticed an occasional ache in my groin/thigh/bum muscles.  After a little research, I believe the issue stems from my hips, which is crazy because who gets a runner's injury in their hips?!  Apparently this gal.  I need to be better about adding specific exercises to my routine every week.

    5 // IT'S FUN TO DREAM, BUT LIFE HAS A WAY OF BRINGING YOU BACK TO REALITY.
    I've been in homemaking mode around here, dreaming about decor and improvement projects, making mood boards and wishlists.  And then reality sets in - we had our septic tank serviced ($$$), we got a quote for the generator repair ($$$) and we have some dental work ($$$).  Throw in six birthdays and Christmas and all those home decor dreams went up in flames, hah!  Oh well.

    6 // CHALK PAINT IS FOOLPROOF.
    The little boys have my childhood headboards in their room, but they were looking pretty beat up.  I bought this chalk paint and have been slowly working on them (I just have the sealing left to do!) all month.  I'm hooked!  The paint is so easy to apply, washes off with soap and water and doesn't stink.  If a coat looks streaky, you just add another layer.  So easy!

    7 // TWEEN BOYS EAT A LOT.  AND IT'S ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE.
    Enough said.  I'm afraid for my grocery budget.

    Your turn!  What did you learn this month?

    Thursday, November 1, 2018

    No.193: New Habits, Little by Little: Cooking at Home (October 2018)


    Fall is finally here!  We've officially instituted our weekly Soup Night and unintentionally started a breakfast for dinner night too.  We're just as busy as ever, but slowly falling into a routine.  Praise God for that!   


    Week 66 (cont.): 
    Monday, October 1: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night
    Tuesday, October 2: pasta with homemade meat sauce
    Wednesday, October 3: roasted chicken thighs and veggies
    Thursday, October 4: pulled pork quesadillas
    Friday, October 5: paleo chili

    Week 67:
    Saturday, October 6: homemade burgers and fries
    Sunday, October 7: leftover chili
    Monday, October 8: breakfast for dinner - crepes
    Tuesday, October 9: one pan autumn chicken dinner
    Wednesday, October 10: french onion meatball subs
    Thursday, October 11: My Birthday! burgers and fries from our favorite local spot, cheesecake
    Friday, October 12: tortellini soup with italian sausage and spinach

    Week 68:
    Saturday, October 13: Birthday date! Mark and I ate at a little Mexican restaurant - steak fajitas and nachos supreme
    Sunday, October 14: "perfect pot roast"
    Monday, October 15: D's birthday! Burger King and cheesecake after CCD
    Tuesday, October 16: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night
    Wednesday, October 17: tacos
    Thursday, October 18: breakfast for dinner - eggs, bacon and cheddar, chive & ham biscuits
    Friday, October 19: cheesy brats and curly fries

    Week 69:
    Saturday, October 20: sheetpan chicken legs and roasted veggies
    Sunday, October 21: white chicken lasagna soup
    Monday, October 22: garlic-parmesan sausage and veggies
    Tuesday, October 23: we had Wendy's after having our family pictures taken
    Wednesday, October 24: frozen pizzas and salad
    Thursday, October 25: one pan autumn chicken dinner
    Friday, October 26: breakfast for dinner - crepes

    Week 70:
    Saturday, October 27: "perfect pot roast"
    Sunday, October 28: out for burgers after evening Mass
    Monday, October 29: we packed sandwiches and chips to eat in between the boys' activities
    Tuesday, October 30: chili dogs with this sauce
    Wednesday, October 31: Halloween! tomato soup and jack-o'-lantern grilled cheese sandwiches

    Wednesday, October 31, 2018

    No.192: My Latest Reads // October

    This post contains affiliate links.

    BIRD BY BIRD: SOME INSTRUCTIONS ON WRITING AND LIFE by Anne Lamott 
    My Rating: ★★

    There is ecstasy in paying attention.  You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness, a sign that God is implicit in all of creation. (p.100) 

    Anne Lamott is a bit of a quirky writer, but I liked this book from her about writing.  While I'm not a fiction writer nor do I have any aspirations to someday be published, there were still plenty of inspiring moments.  I also have a handful of new tips to share with my kids as they mature in their writing too.

    THE QUEEN OF HEARTS by Kimmery Martin
    My Rating: ★★

    “The other thing that I loathed was the complete inability of most people to think critically. They accepted as gospel all kinds of things without ever objectively examining for themselves why they so fervently believed them.”

    My dear friend Shelly sent me her copy of this book in the mail and I couldn't wait to get started!  She described it as Grey's Anatomy in book form and I found that to be a pretty accurate description.  I liked the first half of the book better than the second half, but it was well paced and I flew right through it.  Solid three stars.


    THE STORY OF ARTHUR TRULUV by Elizabeth Berg
    My Rating: ★★

    He stops his rocking to look over at her. “But what we need are readers. Right? Where would writers be without readers? Who are they going to write for? And actors, what are they without an audience? Actors, painters, dancers, comedians, even just ordinary people doing ordinary things, what are they without an audience of some sort? “See, that’s what I do. I am the audience. I am the witness. I am the great appreciator, that’s what I do and that’s all I want to do. I worked for a lot of years. I did a lot of things for a lot of years. Now, well, here I am in the rocking chair, and I don’t mind it, Lucille. I don’t feel useless. I feel lucky.” (53%)

    The Story of Arthur Truluv is a sweet book about a new widower who befriends a hurting teenage girl.  It's sort-of reminded me of A Man Called Ove, but with a much less curmudgeon-y main character.  I flew through it in days.  This book also made me miss my grandmothers so much.

    CALLING ME HOME by Julie Kibler
    My Rating: ★★

    The heart is a demanding tenant; it frequently makes a strong argument against common sense.

    Calling Me Home is the author's response to learning a piece of not-well-known family history: her grandmother once fell in love with a black man in a time when a relationship was both forbidden and dangerous.  It's was one of those books that was just so incredibly sad and heart-breaking, but in the best way.  I cried at the end and I rarely do that.


    ____________________________

    MY 2018 READING IN NUMBERS

    Books Read: 57
    Fiction: 34  // Non-Fiction: 23
    Kindle Books: 34  // Paper Books: 23
    Original 2018 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 443 // Current "to-read" total: 425

    Tuesday, October 30, 2018

    No.191: Five October Favorites

    This post contains affiliate links. The Five Favorites linkup has been suspended indefinitely due to lack of interest, but please feel free to comment your faves in the comments!


    1 // UP AND VANISHED PODCAST
    Sometimes I get a notification on my phone from the Stitcher app that recommends a podcast I may enjoy.  Up and Vanished was a recommendation and thanks Stitcher, you were right!  I started with Season One, about a 30-something single high school teacher who disappears in a small southern town.  I was hooked and blazed through the episodes.  Currently on Season Two and enjoying this one too.  The woo-woo aspect definitely is creepy though.

    2 // HONEYCRISP APPLE BUTTER
    Talk about fall in a jar!  We were gifted a jar of honeycrisp apple butter and it was so delicious.

    3 // "I LOVE LUCY" RERUNS
    When we chose "I Love Lucy" as a family night show, the kids were skeptical, but quickly became fans.  Most of the jokes are just as funny and it's 95% clean, which is rare these days.  The kids have become so into it that Sophie and TJ now frequently play "Lucy and Ricky," complete with dress and tuxedo jacket.  Hysterical.  

    4 // LEATHER BOOTIES FOR FALL
    As usual, I'm super late to the trends!  I used some of my Poshmark earnings to finally buy myself a pair of Toms booties.  They are SO comfortable and cute too.  I love them. 

    5 // PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
    Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are one of our fall staples.  We've made them four times so far and they're gone in minutes!  #bigfamilyproblems  They taste best the day you make them, so I don't feel too too bad.

    Wednesday, October 24, 2018

    No.190: Sending Christmas Photo Cards with Basic Invite

    This post is sponsored by Basic Invite, but as always, all opinions are my own.

    If you've read here for any length of time, you know how passionate I am about snail mail.  With abundant technology, it seems to be a dying art, but I'm not ready to let it go!  With Christmas right around the corner, this time of year is a good time for everybody to join in on the fun.  So when Basic Invite invited me to check out their custom holiday cards, I couldn't say yes fast enough!

    It was a family affair as we browsed Basic Invite's options and chose our favorite cards.  Everybody had a favorite!  Here's what we picked:

    ASHLEY'S CHOICE

    I chose the Vintage Bouquet Christmas Card, which is so me.  Clean, simple and so beautiful, right?  I played with complementary envelope colors and picked a deep berry color, named Cardinal Shimmer. 

    SOPHIA AND TJ'S CHOICE

    The Jolly Print Christmas Card is such a cute one.  We were able to adjust the colors of the words, "Holly Jolly," adding a little blue to match the boys' pajamas.  I love how this one turned out.

    MARK'S CHOICE

    Mark went back to his Lone Star roots (and I guess ours too as Virginians) with the Southern Hospitality Christmas Card.  Simple and it lets the photo stand out.  I really like the fonts used on this one.

    THE BIG BOYS' CHOICE

    The three biggest boys picked the Cheery Elf Christmas Card.  They didn't like the word "cheeriest" and changed it to "merriest" instead.  I love that it was took less than a minute to easily make the switch.  The boys also chose a colored envelope called Sorbet.


    A few other cool things about Basic Invite:
    • Almost Unlimited Colors // Basic Invite has over 180 different colors to choose from!  Once you select a design, you are able to change the color of every little detail, making it completely unique.  I also love that you can see your changes immediately as you go.
    • Custom Samples //  Basic Invite allows the ability to order a sample of the actual card you created, so you can see exactly how it looks before investing in a bunch.  It's a great way to feel the paper quality and see the colors.
    • Over 40 Different Colors of Envelopes // There are over 40 envelope colors available, which is one more way to make your card or invitation a little more unique.  All of the envelopes are also peel and seal, so you don't have to lick a single one!
    • Address Capturing Service // Basic Invite also offers an address capturing service that allows customers to simply share a link on social media to request their friends and family’s addresses.  This information is then stored in the customer’s account and can be selected during the design process. Recipient address printing is offered for free on all Christmas card orders.  How cool is that?!

    If you're in the market for Christmas photo cards, I highly recommend Basic Invite!  And bonus: right now Basic Invite is offering 30% off with the coupon code, HOLI30.  I can't wait to hear which design you pick.


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