Wednesday, February 27, 2019

No.224: My Latest Reads // February

This post contains affiliate links.
(P.S. I highly recommend Book Outlet!  Use my link for $10 off your first order of $25 or more)

My Rating: ★☆

Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty.  But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. (the first sentence! p.1)

I decided to change things up a little by reading a children's (maybe more accurately, a tween/YA) book.  The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a page turner about a mystery at sea and was so much better than I was expecting!  I enjoyed it so much that even my big boys are possibly interested in picking it up.  (Female protagonists are not their thing, so that's HUGE.)

My Rating: ★☆

I know this: I am weary of playing games, of the games I am asked to play in order to succeed as a writer.  These travels for a year are admittedly part escapism, a desperate plea for a sabbatical from expectations, pressure, noise.  I want to get lost in myself, I want to stop thinking so much of myself, and I want to see in the flesh how many people there are in the world and how many don't know me or, really, care about me.  I want to remember my smallness.  I want to be a prophet in the wilderness, shouting from jungles and deserts and foreign cities that we are all small, and to remember what a tiny place we each take up in the world.  Small might be insignificant, but it does not mean unimportant. (p.56)

I enjoyed this book, but it also solidified something I already knew about myself: I'm a homebody through and through!  I definitely don't experience the same wanderlust - some of her experiences gave me anxiety just reading about them, hah!  I do have a short list for travel someday, but for now, I'll just drink up the experiences of others.  (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

#10. TEARS OF THE GIRAFFE by Alexander McCall Smith
My Rating: ★☆

The Americans were very clever; they sent rockets into space and invented machines which could think more quickly than any human being alive, but all this cleverness could also make them blind. They did not understand other people. They thought that everyone looked at things in the same way as Americans did, but they were wrong. Science was only part of the truth. There were also many other things that made the world what it was, and the Americans often failed to notice these things, although they were there all the time, under their noses. (48%)

Tears of the Giraffe is the second book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.  I read the first book last year and enjoyed it, so after reading about Africa in At Home in the World, I thought I'd revisit Botswana’s premier lady detective, Precious Ramotswe.  Nothing ground-breaking, but a good story with charming characters.  Solid three stars.

#11. THE SNOW CHILD by Eowyn Ivey
My Rating: ★★★★☆

"Dear, sweet Mabel," she said.  "We never know what is going to happen, do we?  Life is always throwing us this way and that.  That's where the adventure is.  Not knowing where you'll end up or how you'll fare.  It's all a mystery, and when we say any different, we're just lying to ourselves.  Tell me, when have you felt most alive?" (p.258)

First of all, can we talk about this cover?!  So beautiful.  The Snow Child captured my attention from the first few pages and I was hooked.  The overall tone of the book is a little sad and melancholy, so it may not be a good fit for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

#12. THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE by Lynda Cohen Loigman
My Rating: 

Living together in the two-family house had always had its benefits.  When Rose first moved in, she had been grateful every day for Helen's companionship.  Helen taught her how to cook, how to sew curtains, how to bleed the radiator when it started getting noisy.  She told Rose where to buy fish and which grocer had the best produce.  The two of them had been inseparable back then, more like sisters than some real sisters Rose knew.  When the children came along, the cousins had each other for playmates.  There was always an adult around if any child was sick or wanted help with schoolwork.  And if either Rose or Helen needed something for a recipe, chances were that one of them had the ingredient the other was missing. (p.83)

According to Goodreads, I am definitely in the minority here, but I just couldn't get behind The Two-Family House.  The writing is fine but the story itself was very predictable.  I figured out the "plot twist" about 30 pages into the story and couldn't figure out if I was just clever or if it was intentional.  (Turns out everyone figured it out early.)  There were only a few characters that I liked and many more who were just rotten.  I don't could have been a great premise, but I thought it fell flat.  (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Last year, Mark listened to a podcast with Mike Ritland and was really impressed.  With our new puppy arriving in a few months, February was the perfect time to read his book and check out his advice.  Straight forward and easy to understand - I liked it and learned a lot.

#14. THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah
My Rating: ★★★☆

"How long have you lived here?” Mama asked. “Ten of the best years of my life,” Large Marge answered. “Life in the bush is hard work, but you can’t beat the taste of salmon you caught in the morning, drizzled with butter you churned from your own fresh cream. Up here, there’s no one to tell you what to do or how to do it. We each survive our own way. If you’re tough enough, it’s heaven on earth.” (9%)

Another book based in Alaska!  I've been on the hold list at the library since last August, so was pleasantly surprised to get the email saying it was my turn.  I don't know how to accurately describe my feelings on this one, though.  While it was well written, the domestic abuse was very difficult for me and it just felt so depressing.  The Snow Child and The Two-Family House also had a sad/melancholy tone and I may have unintentionally hit a breaking point with The Great Alone.  Still worth the read, but I need something cheerful next!  3.5 stars.


Books Read: 14
Pages Read: 4,304
Fiction: 9  //  Non-Fiction: 5
Kindle Books: 2  //  Paper Books: 12
Original 2019 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 424 // Current "to-read" total: 433 (I'm going in the wrong direction, hah!)

Monday, February 25, 2019

No.223: Five Favorites for February

This post contains affiliate links.

As you know, I've been spending a lot of time washing dishes by hand lately.  To pass the time, I usually prop my phone on the windowsill and listen to podcasts.  However, this month, I discovered "Booktube" (people who talk about books on YouTube) and I've been sucked down the rabbit hole!  I've just scratched the surface here, but these are my three favorites:
  1. Lucy the Reader: She first won me over with her British accent, but kept me listening due to her love of classic novels.  The way she describes these intimidating books is so inspiring!
  2. Helene Jeppesen: Helene has similar tastes to me in terms of genres, so I've enjoyed hearing her reviews.  Her Danish accent is so awesome too.
  3. Merphy Napier: Merphy reads differently than I do (more fantasy/science fiction) but I find her interesting and entertaining.  Her approach is very real and down-to-earth.
One of the cool gifts that I found for Mark's birthday was a St. Michael carving made all the way in Ukraine!  The turnaround time was very reasonable, the workmanship is beautiful and Mark loved it.

I've finally found a natural deo that works for me!  Lume deodorant was developed by a doctor and is aluminum and baking soda free.  It hasn't stained my clothes.  The only "con" is that after years and years of wearing an antiperspirant, I'm not used to sweating and I definitely do when working hard.  But there's no stink, so that's good, right?  We'll see what happens during a sticky Virginia summer.

I plan to talk about this more in a future post, but I somehow managed to reduce my coffee intake by about 75% this month.  (A huge change, since I was up to three or four cups a day!)  I still craved a warm beverage, though, so I started drinking tea!  My current favorite is country peach passion with just a tiny bit of honey.

For history, we read through The Year of the Horseless Carriage: 1801.  The cover looked underwhelming but boy, was I wrong!  So many great stories in this one little book as well as a great introduction to Napoleon.  My kids really enjoyed it.

Monday, February 18, 2019

No.222: Intentions for the End of February

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” 
― C.S. Lewis


  • write those letters!
  • order new moisturizer
  • make bone broth
  • start a compost pile (100LT #85)
  • start making shopping/to-do lists for dog needs
  • add five new pieces to my Poshmark closet
  • decide what I want to read for Lent
  • celebrate our 100th day of school in a special way
  • introduce a little Shakespeare into our homeschool
  • research costs for resealing the driveway (get quotes?)


        If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
        • to think about: how can I be more of a creator than a consumer?
        • finish taxes
        • open a separate Christmas account
        • start thinking about a dog! (big things happening in April!)
        • order a shampoo bar (100LT #84) (I purchased this one)
        • order photos for the first month of my #100dayproject
        • catch up on snail mail correspondence (still so behind)
        • leave thoughtful comments on at least 20 blog posts 
        • figure out Valentines for the kids to pass out at co-cop (we went with the classic chocolate/sticker combo)
        • make a plan for Poshmark (starting back slowly, but I had five orders, so not too shabby!)
        • finish at least one book that has been sitting on my "currently reading" list for months

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

        Friday, February 15, 2019

        No.221: The Good List // Vol.06

        (totally unrelated photo that I found of my oldest from almost 12 years ago)

        My fourth grader had the first stanza of this poem by Isaac Watts in his dictation book last week.  When I shared it on Instagram, a kind follower recommended that I read the whole poem.  (Thanks, Lauren!)  She described it as hauntingly beautiful and that's so true.  Copying it here to remember.  

        Hush!  my dear, lie still and slumber,
        Holy angels guard thy bed!
        Heavenly blessings without number
        Gently falling on thy head.

        Sleep, my babe, thy food and raiment,
        House and home, thy friends provide;
        All without thy care or payment:
        All thy wants are well supplied.

        How much better thou'rt attended
        Than the Son of God could be,
        When from heaven He descended
        And became a child like thee!

        Soft and easy is thy cradle:
        Coarse and hard thy Savior lay,
        When His birthplace was a stable
        And His softest bed was hay.

        Blessed babe! what glorious features -
        Spotless fair, divinely bright!
        Must He dwell with brutal creatures?
        How could angels bear the sight?

        Was there nothing but a manger
        Cursed sinners could afford
        To receive the heavenly stranger?
        Did they thus affront their Lord?

        Soft, my child: I did not chide thee,
        Though my song might sound too hard;
        'Tis thy mother sits beside thee,
        And her arms shall be thy guard.

        Yet to read the shameful story
        How the Jews abused their King,
        How they served the Lord of Glory,
        Makes me angry while I sing.

        See the kinder shepherds round Him,
        Telling wonders from the sky!
        Where they sought Him, there they found Him,
        With His Virgin mother by.

        See the lovely babe a-dressing;
        Lovely infant, how He smiled!
        When He wept, the mother's blessing
        Soothed and hush'd the holy child.

        Lo, He slumbers in His manger,
        Where the horned oxen fed:
        Peace, my darling, here's no danger,
        Here's no ox a-near thy bed.

        May'st thou learn to know and fear Him,
        Trust and love Him all thy days;
        Then go dwell forever near Him,
        See His face and sing His praise!

        I could give thee thousand kisses,
        Hoping what I most desire;
        Not a mother's fondest wishes
        Can to greater joy aspire.

        Tuesday, February 12, 2019

        No.220: TBR Tuesday // My Latest Haul from Book Outlet

        This post contains affiliate links.

        I just received an order from Book Outlet and wanted to share the newest books on my nightstand!  Disclaimer: this box wasn't just for me!  My big boys bought a book each and I also found two books for Easter baskets.  So I'm only half-breaking my promise from January, hah!  P.S. If you go through this link, you'll get a $10 off coupon towards your first Book Outlet order of $25 or more.

        Amazon | Book Outlet
        C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity is on my list to read this year and I'd really like to collect this particular edition of his works.  So when I saw The Dark Tower and Other Stories for less than $5, I snatched it up.  The reviews I've read about this book are mixed and it's definitely outside my genre comfort zone.  We'll see!
        The description: This collection of futuristic fiction includes a breathtaking science fiction story written early in his career in which Cambridge intellectuals witness the breach of space-time through a chronoscope - a telescope that looks not just into another world, but into another time.

        Amazon | Book Outlet (I can't find it on the website now, so I must have gotten one of the last copies!)
        I read In the Woods last month and Hannah said the second book was better and her favorite.  I'm anxious to read it and see if I like it enough to continue on with the series.
        The description: In the “compellingˮ (The Boston Globe) and “pitch perfectˮ (Entertainment Weekly) follow-up to Tana French’s runaway bestseller In the Woods, itʼs six months later and Cassie Maddox has transferred out of the Dublin Murder Squad with no plans to go back—until an urgent telephone call summons her to a grisly crime scene. The victim looks exactly like Cassie and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used as an undercover cop. Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl, but, more important, who was this girl?

        Amazon | Book Outlet
        This one has been on my Goodreads to-read list for a few years.  I don't know too much about it, but I generally like to go into books that way.  Just started it yesterday and so far, so good!
        The description: Brooklyn, 1947: In the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born, minutes apart. The mothers are sisters by marriage: dutiful, quiet Rose, who wants nothing more than to please her difficult husband; and warm, generous Helen, the exhausted mother of four rambunctious boys who seem to need her less and less each day. Raising their families side by side, supporting one another, Rose and Helen share an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic winter night.
        When the storm passes, life seems to return to normal; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and the once deep friendship between the two women begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy. Heartbreak wars with happiness and almost, but not quite, wins. Moving and evocative, Lynda Cohen Loigman's debut novel The Two-Family House is a heart-wrenching, gripping multigenerational story, woven around the deepest of secrets.

        Amazon | Book Outlet
        Another one from my Goodreads TBR list.
        The description: On a foggy summer night, eleven people--ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter--depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are the painter Scott Burroughs and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.
        Was it by chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something more sinister at work? A storm of media attention brings Scott fame that quickly morphs into notoriety and accusations, and he scrambles to salvage truth from the wreckage. Amid trauma and chaos, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy grows and glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, morality, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.

        Amazon | Book Outlet
        This book is written by same author as Being Mortal, one of my five-star reads from 2018.  Being Mortal really resonated with me, so I'm sure this one will be awesome too.
        The description: In gripping accounts of true cases, surgeon Atul Gawande explores the power and the limits of medicine, offering an unflinching view from the scalpel's edge. Complications lays bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is - uncertain, perplexing, and profoundly human.

        Your turn!  What's on your nightstand right now?

        Friday, February 8, 2019

        No.219: The Good List // Vol.05

        a little list of things I noticed this week

        a welcome break from the frigid cold with temps in the high 60's
        warm sunshine on my (pasty white) skin
        listening to the children's laughter outside
        pick up football games in the front yard
        celebrating the birth of the love of my life
        quick rounds of a fun new card game
        slow starts in the morning
        the sound of bacon crisping in the kitchen
        this inspiring talk about anti-fragile faith (worth listening to the end - I cried!)
        steaming mugs of peach passion tea
        going to bed with everything in its place
        tiny movement on the scale in the right direction (thank you, no sugar challenge)
        a second, much more affordable, opinion on a necessary home repair
        cracking open a brand new book and being sucked in from the first few pages
        a roof over our head and food in our bellies
        an extraordinary ordinary life

        Tuesday, February 5, 2019

        No.218: New Habits, Little by Little: Cooking at Home (January 2019)

        It took us until the end of the month to get our act together, but we're bringing big Sunday dinners back!  Everyone pitches in - some cook, some set the table, some fill the drinks - and then we sit around our big dining room table, eating and chatting about the week ahead.  Such a nice way to celebrate the Sabbath and round out the weekend.

        Week 79 (cont.):
        Tuesday, January 1: pesto parmesan chicken with jasmine rice and salad
        Wednesday, January 2: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night
        Thursday, January 3: brats and salad
        Friday, January 4: cheese pizzas from the grocery store

        Week 80:
        Saturday, January 5: cheesy southwest chicken lasagna rolls
        Sunday, January 6: Epiphany! perfect pot roast
        Monday, January 7: breakfast for dinner - pancakes
        Tuesday, January 8: tacos
        Wednesday, January 9: oktoberfest sheet pan brats with roasted vegetables
        Thursday, January 10: leftovers
        Friday, January 11: out for burgers

        Week 81:
        Saturday, January 12: creamy chicken tortilla soup
        Sunday, January 13: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night
        Monday, January 14: roasted chicken thighs and veggies
        Tuesday, January 15: I was sick, so Mark brought home french onion soup for me and pizza for the kids
        Wednesday, January 16: Mark made homemade pepperoni and supreme pizzas
        Thursday, January 17: creamy chicken tortilla soup (again!)
        Friday, January 18: shrimp egg rolls

        Week 82:
        Saturday, January 19: philly cheesesteak stew (we used regular bowls and bought crusty bread for dipping)
        Sunday, January 20: we lost power in the wind storm so went out for burgers
        Monday, January 21: chicken cordon bleu casserole
        Tuesday, January 22: breakfast for dinner - scrambled eggs, bacon and homemade cheddar, ham & chive biscuits
        Wednesday, January 23: take-and-bake pizzas from the grocery store
        Thursday, January 24: balsamic chicken veggie bake
        Friday, January 25: Panera copycat french onion soup

        Week 83:
        Saturday, January 26: sheet pan mini meatloaves with potatoes and green beans
        Sunday, January 27: ham, mashed potatoes, bacon brussels sprouts and rolls
        Monday, January 28: T's patron saint's feast day! meatball subs and chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches
        Tuesday, January 29: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night
        Wednesday, January 30: Mark worked late, so we had grilled cheese sandwiches and popcorn (#random)
        Thursday, January 31: tacos

        Monday, February 4, 2019

        No.217: Intentions for the Beginning of February

        "Winter may be beautiful, but bed is much better." - Toad

        P.S. Did you hear that Google+ is shutting down?  From the e-mail: "If you've used Google+ for comments on your own or other sites, this feature will be removed from Blogger by February 4th and other sites by March 7th. All your Google+ comments on all sites will be deleted starting April 2, 2019." 


        • to think about: how can I be more of a creator than a consumer?
        • finish taxes
        • open a separate Christmas account
        • start thinking about a dog (!!)
        • order a shampoo bar (100LT #84)
        • order photos for the first month of my #100dayproject
        • catch up on snail mail correspondence
        • leave thoughtful comments on at least 20 blog posts
        • figure out Valentines for the kids to pass out at co-cop
        • make a plan for Poshmark (I put it on the back burner last month and need to refocus)
        • finish at least one book that has been sitting on my "currently reading" list for months


            If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
            • No Sugar (so far so good - Mark and I are trying to go without it for 90 days!)
            • start preparing for taxes
            • wrap Mark's birthday gifts
            • catch up on snail mail correspondence (so behind on this - sorry for the delay, penpals!)
            • photograph and list all remaining inventory for Poshmark
            • finally finish my winter cross-stitch project (ugh, still not done - I've definitely chosen books over handiwork)
            • check Home Depot for a snake plant (I've been avoiding going anywhere unnecessary in this frigid weather - see you in the spring, HD) 
            • buy a bag of potting soil
            • propagate my Christmas cactus (100LT #76)
            • research shampoo bars (I found a few options on etsy)
            • deep clean the living room (vacuum the couch!)
            • start a separate Christmas fund and determine amount to save (Brooke's post really inspired me to get this started - I'm hoping for much less stress this fall)
            • keep closer track of how much we're spending in groceries (those quick trips for "just milk" really do add up!  we're spending more than I realized and need a plan to reduce that)

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

            Friday, February 1, 2019

            No.216: The Good List // Vol.04

            a little list of things I noticed the past two weeks

            The full moon was absolutely beautiful and as usual, this lame photo just doesn't do it justice.  Out here in the country, it gets dark - I mean, dark dark - at night.  I've come to enjoy the extra light that a full moon brings every month.  

            These ginormous shoes belong to my son!  He's growing faster than I can keep up.  I can't believe how quickly my chunky little baby turned into this almost-teenager who is just about as tall as me.  Those old ladies at the grocery store are totally right: the days are long, but the years are short.

            I had to scrape the car before heading out and noticed this design in the frost.  So beautiful!

            This post from Kristine Levine was so good.   Over the years, we have been the humbled recipients of such generosity and I need to be better about intentionally seeking ways to do the same. "When you give the best you have, it does more than feed an empty belly, it feeds the soul."   I want to give the best I have.

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