family fun photography wordless wednesday

ww: butterfly facepaint @ the fun fair!

pretty as a butterfly

books & reading nightstand

Nightstand 2013: May

It’s kind of amazing that May is nearly over already with summer following quickly behind. The end of another month means it’s time to check in with the ladies at 5 Minutes For Books and share the books that are currently on my nightstand or have been there recently.

Since we last nightstanded together, I read the following books:

  1. Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster – Finished April 30, 2013 – I love pretty much everything Jen Lancaster writes and this was no exception. Funny, poignant and full of the wit and the fantastically crazy stories you’d expect from her.
  2. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (May Book Club Pick) – Finished May 9, 2013 – Epistolary novels are always a bit of a gamble, in my opinion. Breaking away from a traditional narrative can make it hard to get immersed in the story, but Where’d You Go, Bernadette did a great job providing a story you’ll find yourself lost in way into the late hours of the night. I found myself relating to Bernadette a lot, which was a little bit scary for awhile there, but it also kept me rooting for her and her family. This is a great look at mental illnesses both perceived, ignored and real – and a story that shows the complexities of families, marriage, neighborhoods & the world. For a “book of letters, emails and memos” this book packs a pretty big punch. – Full Review
  3. The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen – Finished May 18, 2013 – I think in some ways I enjoyed The Runaway King even more than the first in this series. Sage aka Jaron’s wit and humor is as well written as ever and his character is going through a bit of personal growth while trying to save his kingdom from certain peril. This book packs adventure, coming of age, a touch of romance & a lot of humor between it’s pages. I highly recommend this series!

Right now I’m reading Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver – book two in the delirium series. I was a little hesitant to read this one due to the major bummer of an ending in book one, but I have to say I’ve really been enjoying it and I’m already starting to anticipate book three as I get closer and closer to the end of the book.

Next up I plan to read the following books, which make up the remainder of my Spring Reading Thing Challenge:

  1. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (June Book Club Pick) “On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, 11-year-old Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life–the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.”
  2. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart – Why have I not read this one yet? I’m not sure, so let’s remedy that! “Nine-year-old Nicholas Benedict has more problems than most children his age. Not only is he an orphan with an unfortunate nose, but he also has narcolepsy, a condition that gives him terrible nightmares and makes him fall asleep at the worst possible moments. Now he’s being sent to a new orphanage, where he will encounter vicious bullies, selfish adults, strange circumstances – and a mystery that could change his life forever. Luckily, he does have one thing in his favor: He’s a a genius.”
  3. Vixen by Jillian Larkin – “Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination. Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they? Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . . Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . . From debut author Jillian Larkin, Vixen is the first novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic new series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . when anything goes.”

After that I’ll be getting started on my personal summer reading challenge – click here for more details!

What books are you reading?

family fun mommy & me monday photography

Mommy & Me Monday: Carousel at the Bratfest


Yesterday we went to the Bratfest, a Madison tradition which celebrates all things bratwurst and really, an excuse for a carnival and delicious food. Apart from all the yummy brats and fair food, the kids most enjoyed riding on the carousel. I went on to make sure that little BB didn’t fall off her horse but I was so impressed by how well both kids did. She was absolutely enthralled with the whole thing and I was glad to be able to get a couple quick up close snapshots.


A small part of me was worried that MM might be too young to ride alone but he did great and totally didn’t need me there, though he was thrilled to share the experience with me.


Daddy took lots of pictures from the sidelines, using this cool burst photo feature which meant that I edited like 100 pictures from the day. These were his two best shots from the carousel.


Hope you are all having a great Memorial Day!

Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?
Hosted by Krystyn at Really, Are You Serious?

op ed

Too Much Of a Good Thing.

I recently switched grocery stores. I had nothing against the store I was going to – they have a massive selection and their prices are stellar, but it’s also very crowded despite being open literally 24/7 and they only take cash or debit card. Not a big deal, but you know, there’s that. I still thought I was in love with my grocery store and it wasn’t until one random weekend when things changed.

We were driving past a grocery store in the next town over that I’d kept thinking about checking out and we had a bit of time to kill so I asked hubby to pull into their lot and see what the fuss was all about. The only thing I really knew about the store was that their commercials state that someone will bring your groceries to your car for you. I’m an able bodied momma and didn’t think that could be necessary but I was intrigued.

The store was like a breath of fresh air. Much smaller than the store I’ve been going to with prices that are affordable, if not as excellent as the store I’d been going to. Their selection was very good, but smaller than my current store. And yet… I kind of liked that. Sometimes it is overwhelming to walk through a bread aisle that has like 50 varieties to choose from. Does anyone really need 50 choices of bread of yogurt? Surely 10 is sufficient. I made mental notes as we walked through and found that we could definitely shop here and still get all of our favorite brands or something very similar.

So I decided to challenge myself to give this new store a shot, to get used to the layout and see if I’d still be happy with them a few weeks later. So far, the answer is a resounding yes. I love the smaller layout and found that less choices actually does make my life a bit easier. They still have more than enough variety for me but not to an overwhelming degree. I love that it is less crowded than my old grocery store and though I think I am spending a little more money it’s still within my budget. Plus, they really do walk the groceries out to my car each time. Is this necessary? Not at all – but the small act of generosity, mixed with a calmer shopping experience and friendlier employees makes going to the grocery store a little less stressful and with a three year old in tow, I’ll take any help I can get!

The other day I ran into our old grocery store to grab a few things and found myself overwhelmed by the crowd all over again. I’d sort of acclimated to the chaos of the store after shopping there regularly for a couple of years but now that I know what else is out there, it was off putting. The gigantic parking lot that was always crowded apart from a few times a day suddenly seemed ridiculous when the small lot of my new grocery store always has plenty of spots. No longer acclimated to their level of crazy, the difference was obvious.

So, this all has me thinking about that phrase too much of a good thing. It seems to be a seriously problem here in America where we have too much junk food, too much crap television to watch, too many things to spend our money on, too many activities to enroll our kids in. We are a society that always clamors for more, more, more but I think it would be very healthy for us all to do less, less, less. Maybe less variety would be very good for us.

Maybe the problem that American Idol is facing is not just poor judging choices but simply the reality that they are no longer the only fish in their pond and that America and the world is struggling to keep up with the fifteen singing competitions on television. Some may watch all of them with glee, but most people are going to choose one or the other at some point and the ratings for each show will reflect that. I think the problem with their ratings is that they still expect to match the ratings they saw when they were starting out on top.

Maybe the reason that so many people are facing financial troubles is because commercials and retailers are telling us that we need more when we don’t. When there is so much out there to buy, our choices don’t seem as excessive as they are because there is still so much out there that we haven’t bought yet. I know there are also more serious problems like unemployment and a high cost of living, but many of us would be able to save a lot more money if we simply spent less – myself included.

What do you think?

Do you ever find yourself suffering from too much of a good thing?

family fun photography

beautiful and resilient

flowers that bloom in spite of my lack of green thumbs


  1. (of a substance or object) Able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.
  2. (of a person or animal) Able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.

In spite of my complete lack of green thumbs, this pretty plant just keeps on keeping on – it is currently the only plant that is blooming and possibly thriving with no thanks to yours truly, I’m sure. Further research has revealed that their virility is not the least surprising:

They are called a Luscious Berry Blend of Lantana camara – according to Wikipedia, “West Indian Lantana has become popular in gardens for its hardy nature. It is not affected by pests or disease, has low water requirements, and is tolerant of extreme heat. It is a favorite species of butterflies, and used in butterfly gardens in the United States.” It’s also apparently considered an invasive species – a really pretty invasive species, so it has something in common with my daughter.

sorry, this seat is taken
sorry, this seat is taken

Proven Winners says “If you are looking for a tough plant it’s hard to beat lantana. Lantana are heat tolerant, use little to no supplemental water in the landscape, will tolerate less than ideal soils and usually don’t need to be deadheaded. If you are looking for a plant that will thrive on neglect, lantana is the champ. Lantana come in many shapes, sizes and habits. Check size and habit information for the specific variety you are choosing to make sure it fits your needs. Lantana can be trimmed back at anytime to shape or to promote increased branching.”

Important Note: The leaves of lantana can be toxic to animals, so remind your puppies and ponies not to consume them.

"Remember Doc, the lantanas are not bananas."
remember Doc, the lantanas are not bananas

Book Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

where'd you go bernadetteThis month my book club is discussing Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, a story that is told through emails, invoices, memos and just a touch of narrative from Bernadette’s daughter, Bee.

Here’s a description from

“Bernadette Fox has vanished.

When her daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Ms. Fox is on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces.

Which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together an elaborate web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveals a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades. Where’d You Go Bernadette is an ingenious and unabashedly entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are, and the power of a daughter’s love for her mother.”

Epistolary novels are always a bit of a gamble, in my opinion. Breaking away from a traditional narrative can make it hard to get immersed in the story, but Where’d You Go, Bernadette did a great job navigating those rough waters and the result is a story you’ll find yourself lost in way into the late hours of the night.

I found myself relating to Bernadette a lot, which was a little bit scary for awhile there, but it also kept me rooting for her and her family. This is a great look at mental illnesses both perceived, ignored and real – and a story that shows the complexities of families, marriage, neighborhoods & the world. It really illustrates that idea of there being two sides to every story and how our actions can have far bigger consequences than we might imagine. For a “book of letters, emails and memos” this book packs a pretty big punch.

Well written, funny and insightful – I would happily recommend Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple to anyone looking for a really great story to lose themselves in.

family fun

What I’m Into Lately: May 20, 2013

mommy & me

Mommy and Me Monday at Really, Are You Serious?Sweet cuddles with my little girl in between the hustle and bustle of our day. Woke up this morning to a mattress that got soaked by a leaky diaper, a rushed morning trying to get the boy to the bus stop on time and then a morning spent researching the best way to clean mattresses and the cost of a new one just in case. Then ballet lessons, lunch, too easily distracted puppies and all the other normal daily things that take up my time. But in between all of that, I have to focus on the small, little, very good things like cuddling with my little girl. Plus it meant having a picture to share @ Mommy & Me Monday this week! Score!

What I’m reading:

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver – I just started reading this last night. I really loved the last book but I’ve been avoiding this one truthfully due to the horribly depressing ending of the first book – I knew the beginning of this book, if not the entire book, was likely to be a bit of a downer. I wasn’t wrong, but I am anxious to see where the story goes and I am enjoying Oliver’s writing style and the world of her novel.

Movies worth watching:

I went to see The Great Gatsby yesterday with friends and although I really loved the movie, the ending was pretty depressing. If I’d read the book (bad English major, I know) I would have known it was coming, but since I hadn’t I kept waiting for things to get better and then they never did. Still, it was a beautiful movie to watch and I’m glad I saw it. Over the weekend we also rented Lady & The Tramp 2 (not very good to be honest, but the kids enjoyed it) and Hyde Park on Hudson which was slow to get into but about half way through it picked up and had some pretty funny and interesting moments. The actors & actresses involved were all fantastic it’s just a bit sleepy in the beginning.

Weekend Highlights:

Saturday is honestly a bit of a blur – I looked at Facebook to remind me of what we did and found only a picture of flowers that I took while hubby was up on the roof replacing some shingles. That night we watched the Doctor Who season finale which was of course fantastic and answered all sorts of questions and then raised even bigger ones – per usual. I think one of the highlights of the episode for me was River Song finally getting a bit of closure with the Doctor.

more flower pictures

Sunday we stumbled upon a beautiful kitchen table, made of all wood, on sale for $90. They only had the floor model left and sold it to us for $70. It had a few light scratches but they are not very noticeable and I’m sure our kids will do worse to it soon. Even better, it fit perfectly in our truck assembled and looks beautiful in our dining room, giving us a little more room in all the places we wanted it to, without being gigantic. After getting everything set up, I ran off to the movies with friends – as I was leaving we were having a freakishly windy / rainy thunderstorm that got pretty dicey for about 10 minutes but then settled down again and by the time the movie was over it was beautiful out again. AKA – pretty typical Wisconsin weather. That night hubby and I watched the SNL finale – so many amazing cast members are leaving after this season, but they had some really nice send offs for them. Next season will be interesting!

Items of Note:

I bought an apple fritter today and nobody was injured, so I’m calling that a win.

What I’m Looking Forward to:

I’m hosting book club this month and I’m looking forward to the discussion. I get to nominate three books to vote on to read in two months and I’m excited about all three of my picks – it’ll be fun to see what the group chooses!

what are you into these days? Let me know in the comments below!

family fun high five for friday photography

High Five for Friday: May 17, 2013


It’s been one of those mornings. Momma woke up on the wrong side of the bed today and I’ve been struggling to find my good temperament so we can get on with our day. I knew the cure for rainy day blahs was a good cup of coffee and a little power of positive thinking! Thank god it’s Friday – I can cling to the promise of a weekend coming and join Lauren Elizabeth and all the lovely bloggers participating in High Five for Friday this week.

Want to join the fun? Just share five good things from the past week and maybe some pictures to go with. Here are mine…

1 – coffee, thank god for coffee on grouchy, rainy mornings like these. My CBTL coffee maker is still going strong and making me a happy momma each morning!
2 – listening to little BB “read” me stories -whether she has memorized the words or is just making it up as she goes along, listening to the sweet lilt of her voice and the inner workings of her imagination is priceless.
3 – we had some truly beautiful weather this week, taking BB and Doc to the park Monday morning was such a nice treat. The temperatures have been all over the place lately but most of this week has seen beautiful Spring weather.
4 – looking at the pictures Dan took at the cup scout camp out last weekend. I know these are technically not from the past week, but I haven’t gotten to share them yet and they bring a smile to my face – the boys had a great time. Isn’t that a cool little teepee fort?
5 – s’mores at last night’s Den meeting – he got marshmallow everywhere! Every time he tried to get some off, he just ended up with more somewhere else. Of course his loving mother laughed and took pictures. A nice treat on a beautiful Thursday night.

Have a great weekend guys!

family fun motherhood photography

On the size of the universe and those big blue eyes.

Every time one of the kids gets a hair cut, they seem to instantly get older. BB had a massive growth spurt in my mind after her haircut last weekend and I’m noticing it more and more each day now. Adorable hair cut, huge blue eyes that could make or break your heart and a wiseness beyond her years.

She is amazingly clever and witty these days, and surprising us all with little jokes and insights. Maybe she’s always been this witty and we’re just starting to notice.

Yesterday we went to one of our favorite coffee shops together and I took out an apple sauce pouch for her, as I often do. Her face lit up and she exclaimed, “Go go squeezes are my favorite in the UNIVERSE!”

I laughed and asked her how big the universe was. She held out both arms about as wide as she is tall and said confidently, “This big.”

So fitting – to a three year old, the universe is pretty much a bubble that they alone fit inside of – it’s kind of their defining characteristic.

Meanwhile, I’m still in awe that my three year old says words like “universe” and seems to have developed a sudden understanding of addition and subtraction when we weren’t looking. We may be in for it with this one.