Monday, August 1, 2016

July Books

July was another big month with books.  I read a LOT and I read 4 non-fictions (which is crazy for me!).  We went to the beach with Bech's family, and I think I knocked out 4 books on that trip alone!  Last month, I feel like a lot of the books I read were just so-so.  This month, almost every single one of them was amazing!

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line

I am a HUGE Veronica Mars fan.  I have watched the series multiple times and I saw the movie a couple of years ago.  When I heard there was a book series, I knew I needed to read it.

If you are a VMars fan, this series picks up after the movie.  Veronica is back in Neptune and working as a Private Eye with her dad.  You will love it!

If you aren't a VMars fan, I think it would probably still be a good read, but you'll miss a lot of references to the past and inside jokes.  I would suggest watching the series (it's only 3 seasons).  Actually, you should watch the series anyway.  It's one of my favorites.

Mr. Kiss and Tell

I had to read the next book in the series!  I actually listened to this book, thanks to a free Audible trial.  The reader for this is obviously a VMars fan, because she does a great job on all of the characters voices.

Both of these books are mysteries.  The first is about two kidnappings and the second about a rape case, so heads up, not light reading.  But in typical Mars fashion, somehow its witty, dark, and fast paced in the best way.

These Is My Words

My mom gave me this book about a year ago, and I just now read it.  Wow, SO good!

It's a diary of a young girl who lives out West during the late 1800's.  It follows her life as she journeys on two wagon trains and gets married and has children.  This book was incredible.  I love reading diary style books and I love reading about this time period.

The true mark of how much I like a book is whether or not I will reread it (I reread all of my favorites). This book is definitely a reread!

Giddy Up, Eunice

I have been waiting for this book for months now, and I got to be on the launch team for it.  But, of course, my book took forever to get up to Vermont so I read it a couple of weeks after it came out.  It did not disappoint.

I wasn't quite sure at first, though, what this book would be like.  Sophia Hudson, BooMama, is a hilarious author and blogger (I've been reading her blog for about 8 years).  Her first two books are memoir style, collections of personal stories.  But she did something very different on this newer book.  The whole book is about the relationships between Christian women in different stages of life. For a humorous author, that's pretty deep subject matter.  I was nervous about how Sophie would handle the topic.  Would it be too funny or light hearted?  Apparently she also struggled with this balance.

But she did it.  She somehow kept her tone and managed to write a really powerful book.  I would recommend this book to any woman, young and old.

“When the Holy Spirit in one woman recognizes and responds to the Holy Spirit in another woman, safe places become sacred places.”

Atlas Girl

My mom lent me this book a year ago as well.  I started this book twice, but put it down after a couple of pages both times.  She writes very Ann Voskamp-y, lots of incomplete phrases, flowery words, adjectives (oh the adjectives!), and I just wasn't so sure about that all at first.  But the third time, I just kept reading and I fell in love

There is so much going on in this book, so I don't want to say exactly what it's about.  But I guess the tagline is right--"finding home in the last place I thought to look."  Emily just tells her story--her brokenness, her healing, her family, her marriage--and it is just a really beautiful book.

“I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how this story will end. All I know is that there is a very real God whom my mother adores, and if she, in all her pain and suffering, can still radiate worship, how much more should I? He sees the little sparrow fall. He sees my mum dancing to the rhythms of his grace, and he sees me in all my anger trying to love him in spite of it all. So I will continue to trust, even if it means letting her go.” 

The Sound of Gravel

A friend gave me this book for my birthday.  It's the story of Ruth Wariner's childhood, growing up in the polygamist, fundamental LeBaron colony in Mexico.

This book is really interesting!  What I appreciated the most is how straight forward it is.  Ruth has left the colony and you see why through the story.  But at the same time, she doesn't put her spin on events or add her own commentary.  She simply remembers life and leaves the rest to the reader.

The Madwoman Upstairs

This was one of my favorites this month.  It's the story of Samantha Whipple's first year at Oxford University, in Oxford, England, where she is reading literature.  But at the same time, she's wrapped up in trying to figure out her father's will and whether or not he's left her a treasure of Brontë artifacts (because Samantha is the last living Brontë descendant).

The story is interesting enough on its own, but what I loved is how it's chock full of literary history and theory!  I don't know if someone who wasn't an English major or minor would enjoy that aspect as much.  This was Lowell's debut novel, and I can't wait to read her next book!

Dandelion Dust

I've always enjoyed Karen Kingsbury in the summer.  Her books won't win any academic awards, but they are still enjoyable to read.

This book is about a young couple who feels like everything is perfect in their family.  But then...duh duh duh...something changes and everything about their lives is up in the air.  I read in the forward that there is now a movie out, so I may look at my local library for that.

Jane Steele

Oh, what a fun read!  This book is a variation of Jane Eyre, or, as one reviewer describes it, a very meta take on the classic novel.

Jane Steele is constantly comparing herself to Miss Eyre as she tells her story, growing up with a French mother, going to a horrible boarding school, and disguising herself to try to win back her family estate.  It is clever and funny and a delightful read, with a lighthearted darkness about it (Is that possible?  Can that even be a thing?).  I loved it!

The Forgetting Time

I was a little less into this book.  It's about a boy who seems to be remembering a past life.   His mother connects with a psychiatrist who has studied past lives and they work to figure out who the little boy is.

This book is a page turner, and I couldn't put it down.  But when it was over, it was just, well, over.  If you like more suspenseful books, I would say this is a book for you.

The One-In-A Million Boy

I have become more than a little obsessed with Ann Bogel's podcast, What Should I Read Next.  One of the results of this obsession is that I have been analyzing my reading habits--what do I like?  Am I a plot girl? A writing style girl?  Would I rather have beautiful prose or a suspenseful story?

I am realizing that if the story is beautifully written or has compelling characters, the plot doesn't have to be super fast paced.  This book is a great example.  It's about the death of a young, quirky, perhaps OCD boy and the effect of that loss on those around him, how it changes them.  It's a slower read but really sweet.

Brown Girl Dreaming

As you can see in the picture, this book won all sorts of awards and for good reason.  This is a book of poems about Jacqueline's childhood.  She is born in Ohio, moves to Greenville, South Carolina, and finally to Brooklyn.

Her writing is simple but beautiful.  I loved the style of this book and really enjoyed reading it.

Next month will be a much slimmer month, book wise, but I have been able to knock out most of my summer reading list thus far!

I would love to know if y'all read or have read any of these and what you think!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trip Down South

We spent two weeks in early July back down South.  We got to go to the beach with Bech's family and stay in both Brookhaven in Jackson, so lots of family time!

We flew into Jackson and hopped in the car the next day to spend a long weekend at the Beach Club in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Bech was able to come last minute so he flew into NOLA and drove over with his brother.  

Which means I flew by myself with both boys.  It was as bad as it sounds.  Actually, it really wasn't, but it definitely wasn't a fun experience.

We all had the best time at the beach!  Gil is a big beach fan, and Jack prefers the pool (mostly because he can practice his swim skills!).  They went to bed completely wiped out every night.

And of course they loved getting lots of time with grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

When we got back to Jackson, we spent the rest of the time back in forth between it and Brookhaven.

This is the first snow cone that has been only for Gil.  He only ate half of it (is he even my child???), but he sure is cute here.

Jack on the other hand ate his in 5 seconds then begged for some of mine.

Also that is an old soccer jersey from a team my brother coached.  Also known as Jack's favorite new shirt.  Forget designer duds, just give him jerseys.

Jack's favorite Brookhaven tradition is making donuts with my grandmother.  It's my great-grandmother's recipe, and my Nana has been making them for us since as long as I can remember.

One of my favorite Brookhaven traditions is spending as much time as possible on the front porch, at least when it's cool enough.  My parents live in a victorian house built in 1904 that has a large porch out front.  I drank coffee there every morning while the boys ran around.  And on this night, mom and I made drinks and listened to Anne Bogel's What Should I Read Next podcast (obsessed much?).

We were even able to visit with some cousins who drove in for the day.  Tricia and I both think Millie and Gil look alike, so it was fun to have them side by side!

Doc (my dad) took us all to a Mississippi Brave's game one night.

It was SO hot, but these boys loved it!  Gil would pump his arms up and down or clap every time something good happened in the game.  And Jack was so serious about it all.

I drove up one day to meet my bed friend Courtney, her husband, and her son for lunch at the Council House Cafe (where I had the best BLT of my life).  I loved getting to meet Baby Matthew for the first time!

I love this picture.  Just a snapshot of Gil trailing after my Nana while she waters the plants.  I was lucky enough to have a great grandmother until I was 14, and I love that my Nana and Papa are able to be a big part of my little boys' lives!

Jackson, MS, has the BEST children's museum.  Seriously, it's right up there with The Magic House in St. Louis.  We were able to go there our last day (our flight was late afternoon).

The museum had a visiting Thomas exhibit.  Jack loved it, and I was hoping we were rekindling our Thomas obsession.  So far, he hasn't pulled out the trains since getting home...Oh well, there's always Gil!

We had a quintessential last day in Jackson: Children's Museum, lunch at Beagle Bagle with Uncle Hunter and Nina (Bech's mom), and then popsicles at Deep South Pops with Uncle Blaise and Bella (my mom).  And when you are an extremely messy little boy, you have to eat your popsicle shirtless!

It was a great trip and we are already missing our family!  But we have over a month left of summer, so time to tackle our Vermont summer bucket list!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

My first stitch fix!

I am jumping on the Stitch Fix bandwagon!

I have been intrigued by Stitch Fix for a while now, but I wasn't sure it was for me.  I never get anything unless it's on sale.  I didn't think I would like it because I would have to pay full price and, even in the lowest range, more than I normally pay for clothes.  But a friend had a referral link that would give me $25 off my first fix (plus I still have some bday money!), so I went for it!

I am SO not a fashion blogger.  I have no idea how to stand or what to do with my hands.  I just feel awkward in front of the camera.  So no judgement, okay?

If you don't know what Stitch Fix is, basically it's a style service.  You sign up, let your stylist know your sizes, your preferred prize range, and what you are looking for.  You can link a pinterest board and your instagram so that she can get more of a feel for what you like.  Your stylist will send you 5 items (it can include jewelry, shoes, etc.).  You pick out what you do or don't want and send back the rest.  You have to pay a $20 styling fee, but it's waived if you buy at least one item.  Plus, if you buy all 5, you get 25% off the whole order.

I told my stylist that I like solids and stripes.  I need items I can wear student teaching.  I need some flats.  And a fun summer top would be nice.  I also linked my pinterest board to my account.

Um, wow, my stylist totally delivered!  Here are my items:

41Hawthorn-Kassidy Faux Wrap Dress, $68

I have mixed feelings on this dress.  I like the length and I like how modest it is.  I don't love the pattern.  I like the way it fits and it would be great to teach in.  But for $68, I need to love it.

Verdict:  Return

Liverpool-Anita Skinny Pant, $78

Brixon Ivy-Elmar Embroidered Cutout Blouse, $64

DV8-Abbey D'Orsay Flats

I was super lazy and just put three items on together.  I'm not sure my stylist meant for this shirt with these pants (she showed them with white jeans in the picture), but I like them together.  I think they will great for student teaching.  This shirt can easily work for fall, winter, and spring--so the whole school year!

These pants were love at first sight for me.  They have pockets and a zipper like jeans, but they fit almost like leggings.  And I love the cutouts in the sleeves of the shirt.

The  I love the color, but I'm not digging the pointy toes.  And the style of them means I can't wear them with tights in the winter...a big no no in frozen Vermont!

Here's an action shot.  Perfect for carrying kids around in!

Verdict: Keep top and pants, return shoes

Skies are Blue-Deprimo Cutout Back Top, $48

This is probably my second favorite item from the fix (after the black pants).  It's a loose, linen top which will be so fun for the next couple of months.  In fact, I think I'm wearing it tonight out with some friends!

I love the stripes and I love how light it feels.  I also love the cute cutout in the back.

Verdict: Keep

Pretty good for a first fix, right?  I don't think I'll do another one right away, but I definitely want to try again, maybe around Christmas.  The items are pricier than what I normally buy, but they are also better quality than what I normally buy.  I have to admit, I was tempted to buy all 5, because they all work and then I would get 25% off.  But I just don't LOVE the shoes and dress enough to pay that much for them.

If you want to try a fix for yourself,  click through this referral link!

Friday, July 22, 2016

5 on Friday!

I have been completely MIA lately.  We traveled to Mississippi for two weeks (just got back Wednesday night) and have been trying to soak up every minute of summer.  So here's what's up this week:

O     N     E

Already, I am LOVING this 5 year old age.  Jack is hilarious and witty, polite and (mostly) obedient.  He has been a joy.  And traveling with him?  So good!  I would say that the only times I had to correct him were because I couldn't watch Gil (who was not fun to travel with) and help him with whatever he wanted at the moment.  Other than that, he was great!

I snapped this picture at the Atlanta airport during our layover.  Chewbacca book bag? Check! Tintin book? Check!  So of course, this calls for laying on the airport floor to get some reading in.

T     W     O

Our summer CSA from Intervale Community Farm has been incredible!  This week, we got lots of flowers, two basil plants, parsley sprigs, scallions, onions, lettuce (mixed greens and a head of romaine), squash and zucchini, chard, unlimited green beans, and tomatoes.  Local, organic produce for $17?  That's a great deal!

I've already got basil growing like crazy on my back porch, so I decided to make a big batch of pesto.  I shared this on instagram, but when I make pesto, I freeze it in this silicon mini muffin pan.  When it's frozen all the way, I pop it out and throw it in a freezer bag.  We use it all winter long for pizza, chicken, and pasta.

I'm quite partial to Ina Garten's pesto recipe.  I don't add walnuts, so I just double the amount of pine nuts.

T     H     R     E     E

Thursday night, we went to our first Summervale of the year.  It started back up two weeks ago but we were gone.  Summer vale is down the street from our CSA pickup.  It's a community event with live music and food vendors, plus a face painter.  The kids can run around and I can drink Citizen Cider with friends.  Win win.

Is anyone surprised that Jack is Harry Potter, yet again?

F     O     U     R

I took these pictures a few weeks ago but haven't shared them yet.  For Christmas, my grandparents gave the boys a pass to Shelburne Museum.  We went for the first time on Jack's birthday, and we are obsessed!  We've already been three times and I think we are heading there again tomorrow morning.

We always end up spending lots of time at the Owl Cottage.  It has crafts for the kids, lots of toys, and dress up!  Jack looks like a member of the Hamilton cast here.  

Gil wanted to get in on the dress up action too.

F     I     V     E

I turned 31 at the beginning of this month.  I decided that for my birthday I wanted to pick strawberries and eat wood fired pizza with some friends.  It ended up being a perfect afternoon/night.

We went to Norris Berry Farm in Monkton for strawberries and Folino's for pizza.

So that's what we've been up to in Vermont.  I just uploaded lots of Mississippi pictures so I will post on that soon!

Friday, July 1, 2016

June Books

Whoa, June was a crazy month for reading.  I read 12 books!  I should add that none of those are non-fiction (which takes me twice as long to read) and several are "fluff" books (Murder, She Wrote, I'm looking at you).  But I really enjoyed some of these!

The Knockoff

Oh, this book was just delightful!  Anne Bogel suggested this on an episode of What Should I Read Next, and I thought I'd give it a try.

It is such a fun read.  I loved that it was fairly clean (some language).  Knockoff is about a woman who comes back to her job as editor-in-chief at a fashion magazine.  She took a 6 month leave because of breast cancer, and when she gets back to her old job, there is a new, young upstart who is trying to change EVERYthing.  It's interesting, funny, and a bit silly (but in the best way!).

If you want a deep book, this will not be it, but if you just want fun, grab this one!

The Cuckoo's Calling

It's no secret that I love Harry Potter (did you see my boys' Halloween outfits?), so I decided it was time to read Rowling's detective series.  

I am super intrigued about Rowling's use of a pseudonym with this series.  According to the internet, this book originally sold only 8,500 copies.  But then the story broke about who the author really was, and the book jumped an absurdly ridiculous amount (up to the #1 kindle book at the time).  But I haven't read anything implying that she unmasked herself intentionally, making me wonder if this book would have just floated along, unread and unpopular.  

But it shouldn't, because it was really quite good.  The Cuckoo's Calling is no Harry Potter, but it isn't meant to be.  It's grittier and meant for a much older audience.  I didn't find the characters quite as lovable.  But I thought that her use of dialogue is really strong.  And the actual plot itself (an assumed suicide being reinvestigated) was really  interesting.  By the end, I couldn't put it down.

There are two more books in this series, but I'm not sure yet if I will read them.  I definitely enjoyed this first book, but I have heard the others get a little rougher.

Tiny Little Thing

Ah, yet another book suggestion from What Should I Read Next.  This book is part of a set, but they don't have to be read in order.  They all deal with a set of sisters, the Schuyler sisters (not to be confused with Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy--bonus points if you get that reference) living in the wealthy, New York crowd of the 60's.

I could NOT put this book down!  Seriously, it's about 350 pages, and I finished it in less than two days.  And it's not a mystery or a thriller/suspense novel (although there are some aspects of those genres).  It's just a really interesting story.

This book isn't particularly beautifully written and is definitely on the lighter side.  But it is a fun summer read.  I am going to look into reading the rest of William's books.

Broken Harbor

I've been a Tana French fan since her first book, In the Woods.  She has a new book coming out this fall, and I realized, while looking at her books on Amazon, that I somehow missed one of her novels somewhere in there.  

Broken Harbor is her 4th book in this series.  I use the term "series" lightly because the books really can all be read as stand alone novels.

I am a big fan of French's books and this one did not disappoint. It's about the murder of a family in a suburb in Ireland.  One aspect of French's work (which isn't for everyone) is a sort of "magic."  There is always an aspect of her mysteries that isn't explainable.  Also, I would add that her books have a little more language and gore than I'm normally a fan of, but it's not too bad.

I couldn't put this book down (literally, I read it in one day while we were on vacation).  I can't wait for French's newest book!

Wednesday Wars

Amanda S., I owe you all sorts of apologies.  You have been telling me for a year to read this book and I kept putting it off.  But then when Anne Bogel mentioned it, I knew I needed to read it. 

This book is just perfection.  I can't tell you the last time I enjoyed reading a book so much!  Holling Hoodhood is a 7th grader in Long Island, NY, during the Vietnam War.  This book deals with school, friends, girls, the war, family, and Shakespeare.

I don't want to say much else.  You should read it.  I know it's a kids book, but you won't regret it.  It is just wonderful.

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

I feel very "Eh" about this next book.

Let me say this first--It is a tough time to release a WWII novel.  A book has to be pretty incredible to compare to All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale.  And this book, nope, not incredible. 

The story was okay.  The characters were interesting.  But it was depressing and not very redeeming.  I wouldn't suggest this one.  Read All the Light instead.

All Dressed In White

And now for something complete different...

Listen, I love me some Mary Higgins Clark.  She's super predictable, but at least I know what I'm getting into.  She never disappoints.  

This is a book in a newish series.  If you like predictable and clean murder mysteries, this is a great read/listen (I checked out the audiobook).  I do, and I enjoyed it.

Maisie Dobbs

Several people have recommended this series to me, so I finally decided to give it a try.

I started out with the first book on CD, and I was not a fan.  It was slow and boring.  But, instead of giving up, I decided to read the actual book--much better!

I am still undecided about whether I will read any more of the Maisie Dobbs series.  It's pretty slow, even if I did get more interested as I kept reading.  And I don't love Maisie as a detective--she doesn't hold a candle to my beloved Armand Ganache or Jane Marple.

The Gilded Years

This was a really interesting book.  It is historical fiction, based on the life of Anita Hemmings.  Anita was the first African American student to graduate from Vassar College, but no one knew she wasn't caucasian.  

I couldn't put this book down.  There is a lot of historical fiction out there about the civil rights era and the time period after the Civil War.  But this book is set during the 1890's, and I haven't read a lot about the African American experience during that time.  

The writing isn't particularly incredible, but the story is.  I would suggest this one.

Majoring in Murder

And now, to completely embarrass myself, I am sharing my secret favorite series.  Yes, there is indeed a Murder, She Wrote series.  Yes, it is as cheesy as you might imagine.  And yes, I love it.

Look, we don't need to talk about the plot of this book.  It's enough for me to admit that I read it, but it should still count in my list of books for June.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

This book was another light and delightful read.  It's basically a You've Got Mail story but trade out the bookstore aspect for a chef and a food critic.  

It's sweet, fun, and not too heavy--a perfect summer read!

The Unimaginable

One last book to round out the list.  I read about this book on a blog, and I didn't really care for it.  I didn't dislike it, but I didn't like it either.  It was a story about a girl who moves to Thailand to teach, then joins a sailboat crew during her vacation.  The ship gets taken over by Somali pirates.  

So if you are into fast paced stories, go for it.  But don't expect super deep characters or dialogue.

Alright, there you go. 

July should be another full month, reading wise.  Here's what's on my list:  Giddy Up, Eunice (I'm almost done with it), Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Oh, VMars, you big marshmallow, I've missed you),  Jane Steele,  The Forgetting Time, The Madwoman Upstairs, and Before We Visit the Goddess.