Sunday, January 15, 2017

December Books

It's the 15th, and I am just now finishing up this post!  My final set of 2015 books.  I ended up reading about 100 books this year.  I hate that I didn't do these posts from the very beginning, because I now love keeping track of what I have read (and my thoughts on the book!).  I did just start bullet journalling, so I will have complete lists from now on.

The Long Way Home

This was a reread, but one of only a few rereads from 2016.  This book came out right before Gil was born, and I loved it then. But I hadn't picked it up again, and I wanted to close out the year with it.  Louise Penny is one of my favorites.  I actually finished this book on the 31st, which was a perfect ending to the year.

I think this is book 10 in a 12 book (for now) series.  I can't really say much about it, because you have to read the books before it.  But, oh, so good!  One of my favorites.

The Doldrums

Another middle level book.  There will be lots of these this coming year as I try to stay on top of recent releases and figure out what I want to teach from.

I enjoyed The Doldrums a lot.  I think if you liked A Series of Unfortunate Events or The Mysterious Benedict Society, this would be a fun book to read.  This book is on some awards lists, and I think there will be a follow up as well.  Archer, the main character, is the grandson of famous explorer who are presumed dead.  His parents are terrified of anything outside of the norm, but Archer is dying to be an explorer and find his grandparents.

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

Another middle level award winner.  Not the best middle level book I've read this year, but a page turner.  If you know a middle level reader who likes suspense, this would be a good recommendation.    Victoria is a student in a picture perfect world.  She likes to be the best, always.  But she starts noticing that people are going missing and decides to figure out what is happening to them.  Lots of "march to the beat of your own drum" messages here.

Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor

I have always been a fan of Rick Riordan.  I think he does a great job at getting kids excited about history and mythology!  Magnus Chase is his newest demigod hero, a son of the Norse god Frey.   In this book, Magnus Chase is searching to find the lost hammer of Thor.

Warning to parents, as Riordan's characters grow older, they deal with more complex issues.  If you have a younger reader who really wants to read the Magnus Chase books, I would read it alongside them, so that you can talk about any themes with them.

What She Knew

This book is being compared to Girl on a Train, which I suppose is a far comparison.  But that comparison made me doubt the narrator a lot, and that is far from the case with this book.  What She Knew is about the kidnapping of an 8 year old son and the mom's search to find him.  I thought it was really good and definitely a page turner.  But I didn't think that unnecessary elements were added just for the sake of suspense, which is the case with a lot of other similar books.  I liked this book a lot.

The Accidental Tourist

My (in my dreams) best friend, Ann Bogel, recommended this book on one of her podcasts.  It's about a marriage that is falling apart after the death of a child.  I've mentioned before that I don't need an intense or fast paced plot.  I really enjoy more beautiful writing or good character development.  This book delivered in the character department.  I really enjoyed reading it.

That being said, I don't feel the need to read more Anne Tyler, so maybe I didn't love it that much?  Any Anne Tyler fans out there?

The Reader's of Broken Wheel Recommend

This was a fun and quirky read.  Sara travels from Sweden to a SUPER small town in Iowa to visit her pen pal, who died right before she came there.  She ends up opening a little book shop and trying to make readers out of all of the residents of Broken Wheel, Iowa.  The town falls in love with her and create an elaborate plan to get her to stay.  Not the best book I've read this year, but not too bad.


After hearing this talked about my Ann Bogel multiple times, I finally gave it a try.  And goodness was it good.  Imagine Great Gatsby meets Jane Eyre.  I could not put this book down.  It's a chillingly beautiful story.  I am sure I will reread this at some point in the future.

Alright, that's the last of my 2015 books.  This month is already looking like it will be a little slower.  I am doing the 2017 Reading Challenge, and I am upping my classics so that will mean a little less reading (because they often take longer to read).

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Christmas 2016

I'm going to jump on the bandwagon with one of those caveats:  LOTS OF PICTURES AHEAD!  

Seriously, though, I tried to slim down the amount of pictures.  I really did.  But this blog is basically my digital scrapbook, so this is the best I could do!

As Jack likes to point out, the boys got THREE Christmases this year.  They opened some presents from Bech and me the Thursday before we flew to Mississippi.

Early in December, Pottery Barn Kids put all of their stockings on sale for half price.  I still didn't have stockings for the boys (I have just been using some red velvet Pottery Barn ones that I bought years ago for Bech and me), so I jumped on that sale.  Here is Jack modeling his new stocking.

And, of course, they're Fair Isle!

I stuck with the four gift theme: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.  This is Jack opening up his "want"--Lego Scooby Doo Haunted Mansion.

And Gil is opening up his something to wear.  He loves to wrap a towel around himself like a robe, so I bought the boys matching Cat & Jack robes from Target.

We flew out two days later.  We spent our time between New Orleans, Brookhaven, and Jackson, and got to see all of our family!

The first night we spent in Brookhaven, and Jack and Gil got to see a big surprise at Bella and Doc's house...NARNIA!

In my parents house, there is a small children's den that leads onto a sun room.  My parents had an old wardrobe converted and then made the sunroom into a playroom.  Now you walk through the wardrobe to get into a really cool playroom.  Jack and Gil (and their baby cousin, Anne Douglas) LOVE it!

A sign waiting to welcome the grandchildren.

The art corner

The reading nook

Looking in through the wardrobe doors

We spent a coupe of days with Bech's family, some time with my family, and then back to Bech's family for the last bit.  Here's Jack, chowing down on some pancakes in NOLA.  Doesn't he look SO old here? 

And here he is wearing Bech's mom's reindeer outfit that she wore when she was five!

In Brookaven, we checked out some amazing Christmas light displays.

And opened some presents early.

We ate our Christmas Day dinner on Christmas Eve Eve (stick with me here, things get a little tricky).  Then we opened presents on Christmas Eve day, before going to church that night.

All the cousins on the stairs on Christmas morning (well, you know, Christmas Eve morning).

And then opening their stockings (my mom might have taken advantage of that same Pottery Barn Kids stocking sale, too...).

This is the first year that Jack has really really wanted a specific present...Lego Jokerland.  Here he is opening it (and then being told that he could not put that together until we were back in Vermont!).

Gil didn't want anything specifically, but he did have a lot of fun opening presents!

And he cried some...that's just Gil...

We might be a tad Star Wars obsessed...

My brother-in-law took this cool shot from the foyer.  Actually, Dave is pretty much the reason that we have any Christmas Day shots.  I think it's because it's his daughter's first Christmas.  Thanks, Dave.  I am the worst at remembering to take pictures.

After a full day of opening presents, eating a yummy brunch, and playing with toys, we headed to our church's Christmas Eve service, one of my favorite parts of Christmas every year.

After church and a quick stop to a family friend's house for a party, we headed up to Jackson for another Christmas.

Dave is married to my sister, thus Dave was not there to take pictures at my in-laws.  You will notice pretty quickly.  I'm just proud I remembered to snap two pictures!

Jack and Gil both had a blast opening presents, checking out their stockings, eating brunch, and playing with new toys.

We stayed for one day after Christmas and then headed home last Tuesday morning, bright and early. We had a great trip, full of Target, Sonic, CFA, and lots of family (and maybe a sushi dinner thrown in...).  We did get a walking pneumonia diagnosis for Jack the day after we came back.  Not the best welcome home present!  But he's better, we're unpacked, and this semester officially started today!


Friday, December 30, 2016

5 on Friday

Christmas break is almost over, which means I am about to head into my toughest semester.  I will be student teaching 5 days a week and then going to three night classes...whew!  But it's only 4 months.  I can do anything for 4 months, right?

I want to post about Christmas down south (and maybe catch up on Thanksgiving and the fall!), but I'll start with my favorite...5 on Friday!

O     N     E

I know I have mentioned this before once or twice (okay, fine, like every time I post), but I am obsessed with Modern Mrs. Darcy's What Should I Read Next podcast.  Besides just getting a slew of new book suggestions, I have also learned a lot about myself by her book descriptions.  I realized that I like realistic fiction.  It can have a touch of mysticism or fantasy (L'Engle, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tana French), but I don't really want or need a thriller.  I like plots that are slow and beautiful.

I think that preference pours over into my choice of movies and television shows.  One of my favorite shows is Gilmore Girls.  While the talking is fast paced, the plot isn't.  It even verges on the mundane, at times, but the characters and their development is so captivating.

Enter in my new favorite show:  This Is Us.

Oh, ya'll, this show is incredible.  I was talking about how good it is with another girl, and, when someone else asked what it was about, we just really couldn't give an answer or explain.  It's just the story of a family, but it is told so beautifully.  I guess there are some exciting plot things that happen, but what's more interesting is how everyone responds to those events and to each other.

T     W     O

I am a huge Christmas money hoarder.  My birthday is in July, and it is not uncommon for me to still have Christmas money left over by the time it rolls around.

This year, though, I have already spent some!  I have been reading about FabFitFun for a couple of months, and I really wanted to try a box.

They just came out with the Editor's Box.  I went with this option, because I could actually see what I was going to get.  

I got my box in yesterday, and I love it!  My favorite item is definitely my blanket scarf.

T     H     R     E     E

This has been the Christmas break of sickness.  I had a short bout of either the flu or the flu-like virus.  Bech had the stomach bug.  And now Jack has walking pneumonia.

I knew he wasn't feeling sick when he disappeared one afternoon and I found him asleep on Narnia (more on that in a later post!) at 4:45.  I tried to wake him up for dinner, but he wanted to sleep.  He slept from 4:45 until 7 the next morning!

He's on antibiotics, and he moved up from a nebulizer to an inhaler.  He's on the mend and will hopefully be better for school next Tuesday!

F     O     U     R

Jack has flown a TON in his short life, and Gil has already flown a bunch too.  But, other than one trip to San Diego, Jack didn't fly from 10 months until 3 1/2.  That age is just SO tough to fly with!  And of course, that's right where we are with Gil.  Gil doesn't want to sit in our lap or a seat...he just wants to move!

A friend (thanks, Ashley!) recently mentioned that they bought a plane ticket for their (then) almost two year old and brought his car seat on the plane.  Well, Gil is now over two so this was his first flight with his own seat.  We decided to do the same.  

Y'all.  GAME CHANGER.  Gil is an incredible car traveler and does great in his car seat.  The same was true for flying.  He fussed a little, and we had to stop him from kicking the seat in front of him.  But other than that, he did pretty well.  The car seat made a ton of difference.  Until he's a little older, I think we will always fly with our car seat.

Head's up, though, you do need to double check that your seat is aircraft approved.  Only one flight attendant asked me, but I was glad I had googled the night before where exactly that approval was located on the car seat.

F     I     V     E

Everyone's doing it, so I decided to make a best nine collage of my 2016 instagram pictures.  

I always get so tickled at these things, because Bech gets the most likes!  With the exception of the second picture and the last picture, Bech is in every one.  Well done, Bech, well done.

Do y'all find that to be the case?  That people like a picture more when you or your spouse is in it?

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!  We have some fun plans for NYE that I am excited for!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

5 on Friday

Whew, long time no blog.  I've been keeping my book posts up to date because they are a great resource to look back on.  In the craziness of this semester, the blog has fallen by the wayside.  But I am writing this post on a Thursday, and, as of right now, I only have one more assignment due!  I'm taking a Praxis test next week too, but it's the ELA one (and, thanks to my incredible ELA content professor, I feel VERY well prepared!).

So I am celebrating by posting, and it's my favorite type of post...5 on Friday!

O     N     E

As I just mentioned, I am almost done with this semester.  It has been so hard, but I have also loved it.  One thing that has helped me get through this semester is the wonderful people I get to learn with and from!

This is one of my classes at a local Pho restaurant.  Seriously, I have an incredible cohort.  There are 8 of us doing the middle level MAT, and I think each of my fellow classmates is pretty incredible.  I am so thankful for all of our group texts and social events.

T     W     O

It's December, which, in Vermont, means SNOW!

Last year, we had a really mild winter.  I was sort of thankful for that.  It's nice to not be totally frozen all winter.  But I missed the snow!  I am glad that we have already gotten some snow here.  It's snowing a little today, and we have snow on the forecast for this weekend and next week.  Vermont is just magical looking all covered with snow.

Plus, it never hurts to have a white Christmas!

T     H     R     E     E

A couple of days before Thanksgiving, Bech and I had a cocktail party for some church friends.  Bech made rosemary gimlets, and I laid out a cheese board (complete with baked brie!).  Friends brought more appetizers and drinks (and no kids!).

We had the BEST time.  We have a great group of church friends, but we haven't gotten to spend a lot of time all together this fall.  The guys do guys nights, and the girls do girls nights (which is almost always just an excuse to drink margaritas and eat nachos together #nachoaveragechurch).  It was wonderful to just spend time all together.

Plus, the baked brie did not hurt.

F     O     U     R

I am almost completely done with my Christmas shopping!  Woohoo!

I know Christmas shopping is stressful for some people, but I really enjoy it.  The only part that is stressful is paying for it all.  This year, though, I tutored a girl for the PSAT this fall, and put all of that money aside so that I could pay for most of the Christmas presents.  It worked out really well.

And it's perfect timing, because we head to Mississippi a week from Saturday.  We are all SO excited.  I am extra excited because this is Gil's first flight to have his own seat.  I am going to bring his car seat with us and have him sit in it during the flight.  Has anyone else ever done that?  Any tips?

F     I     V     E

I've written before about my love for Advent.  I love this season right before Christmas. 

Last year, we read through this book (by Ann Voskamp) together, and we are doing it again this year.  I love this book so much.  There have been a few nights where I am holding back tears as I read the final paragraph.  I can tell a huge difference in Jack's comprehension and engagement with the book this year.  He is listening and is talking about it afterward.  

If you are looking for a way to prepare for Christmas with your kids, I would highly suggest this book!

There we go.  Five very random things!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

November Books

Another month, another list of books.  I have really enjoyed doing these post, because I can go back and see what I read each month (and can make recommendations to others!).

The Blackthorn Key

The Blackthorn Key is on the DCF list of books, a Vermont award for children's literature.  A classmate read it for an assignment and loved it, so I decided to give it a try.

It was really good!  It's about an orphaned apothecary apprentice who gets caught up in a string of murders in London.  The book is full of chemistry, codes, and mystery.  Maybe not what most adults would want to read (unless they teach ELA), but I would definitely suggest it for middle schoolers!

The Mysterious St. Benedict Society

I needed to pick a book for class (and I could pick whatever book I wanted).  I asked for suggestions on Facebook and got some amazing ones.  And then I saw this in the library and caved.  I had been wanting to read it for some time now, so I figured this was a good excuse!

The main character, Reynie, is an orphan (this is the month of orphaned main characters!) who joins up with three other exceptional kids under the care of Mr. Benedict.  The kids are sent on a mission to figure out what is going on at the Institute. 

This book was a really fun read.  It reminded me a lot of A Series of Unfortunate Events, although not quite as clever.  I think a child who enjoyed puzzles and clues would really enjoy reading this book.  Here is my book companion I made for class (in case you decide to read the book).

Emily of New Moon

I am a HUGE Anne of Green Gables fan.  Goodness, I even named my son after Gilbert Blythe!  But for some reason, I have never read beyond the Anne series.  Recently, I heard a guest on What Should I Read Next talk about the Emily of New Moon series.

I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved this series.  It was like seeing an old friend again.  I read these three on my kindle and I just could NOT stop reading.  

Emily is a little like Anne.  She's an orphan, living on PEI, and she loves to write.  But she is different than Anne, still feisty, still a touch dramatic, but maybe more of a realist.  I still think Anne-girl is my favorite, but Emily is now a close second.

Emily Climbs

The second book in the Emily series is a lot like Anne's second book.  Emily goes to the high school in a neighboring town.  

Emily's Quest

And the series finishes up with this book.  I will say, I enjoy the Anne/Gilbert story a little more than what goes on in this book, but I did still love it.

Seriously, if you are an Anne fan and you haven't read these books, please do!  You will thank me...

Boy in the Moon

This is another book for school.  Ian Brown chronicles what it is like raising his son Walker, who has a severe disability.  This book is raw and real and a really beautiful read (look at that alliteration!).  It is non-fiction, but it reads like a narrative, so I enjoyed it.  I loved this book.

The Marvels

Oh, this book!  This book was my second favorite this month, after the Emily series, of course.  It was written by the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

What is amazing about this book is that the first half is only pictures, but somehow, you get a whole story out of the pictures.  And then there is 200 pages of a story, which happens 90 years later.  This book is so beautifully done, and the story is captivating.  I literally didn't put this book down while I was reading it.

Rum and Razors

Another Murder She Wrote mystery to close out the month.  Okay, so this book isn't going to win any awards, but it sure was a fun, light read.  

So that's what November looked like.  December will involve lots of traveling and family, so who knows how much reading I will get done!