books links photography

What I’m Into Lately: January 2014


It’s kind of hard to believe that January 2014 is already coming to a close – like didn’t this year JUST start? Aren’t we still shakily recovering from ringing in the new year (and by that I mean, letting our children stay up WAY past our their bedtime and then being forced to get up with them the next morning only to discover that we are way too old for that crap and they annoyingly don’t seem any worse for the wear)? 31 days later and I don’t know about you, but I’m still recovering.

So while I ignore the morning in the comforts of a puffy robe and a second cup of coffee, let’s gossip about all the books, tv shows, movies, etc. that we’ve been into this month. I’m linking up again with Leigh Kramer to share what I’m into lately.

What I’ve Been Reading:

I read four books this month, which for me is like a major deal, but to be fair, two of them were awfully short – though still really great reads:

  1. Freakonomics by Steven Levitt (January Book Club) – I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Very interesting, whether you agree with them and their findings or not. – Full Review –
  2. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – I thought the premise of this book was fascinating and the plot kept me intrigued throughout. I also felt the book was attempting to do an AWFUL lot and that it occasionally read as cheesy, over done and sometimes predictable, but being a young adult novel I can kind of over look the predictable aspects. All in all, I think it was a very funny and satirical look at the commercialism and typical coming of age issues that young girls are faced with, in the midst of a very atypical story.
  3. Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman – This was such a fun, quick read. terrific illustrations also. I’m looking forward to sharing it with the kids.
  4. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle – I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this story as much if I weren’t such a huge fan of the BBC series, Sherlock, but since I can’t (yet) go back in time and unsee the show, I’ll just have to base my feelings of the book around the fact that I’ve seen the show also and thus knew the major plot points. However, the original story is actually quite a bit different from the tv show’s version and there were things I genuinely liked about each. I didn’t really care for the middle part of the book where they leave Sherlock and Watson to further explain the back story of characters that I won’t name here, cause you know, spoilers. But at the same time, I think the backstory was necessary so overall, I did enjoy the book and I’ll definitely be reading more of Doyle’s Sherlock stories soon.

Right now I’m kind of reading three books at once but mostly just one. I got randomly sucked into Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz, which the show on LIFETIME was based on, somewhat loosely. This may be one of the rare instances where the tv show is a bit better or at least feels more cohesive and thought out, but maybe that’s because I saw it first? Not sure, either way I cannot seem to put the book down in a guilty pleasure sort of way.

Movies We’ve Watched:

Most of the movies we’ve been watching lately are old school children’s movies of the past – we’ve been doing a lot of family movie nights with the aim of giving our kids a “proper education” – i.e. Mary Poppins, Shrek, The Emperor’s New Groove, Night at the Museum – all massive hits and massively enjoyable. In particular it was really cool to see Dick Van Dyke dress up and act like a an old guy in Mary Poppins and then see him actually be an old guy in Night at the Museum. He is always such a great actor to enjoy in general.

TV Shows I’m Fangirling Hard:

I don’t feel I can properly begin this segment without squealing uncontrollably over Sherlock. This may be the best show on television which makes it all the more brutal that we get just three episodes a season and then seemingly ages in between said seasons. Like everyone else in the world, I’ve really been enjoying this season – just as massively enjoyable as the previous ones. I’ve been spending a lot of time with this coffee mug:


I know, right?

When I’m not being utterly and thoroughly Sherlocked, I’ve also been enjoying:

American Idol – Is anyone else so, so, so pleasantly surprised with this season of American Idol so far and we’re still in the audition round which I usually delete because I just cannot deal with all the  drama. They’ve done such a good job keeping that to a minimum and the judges are just so amusing and wonderful to watch. I feel like they really took to heart the major complaints that I guess I wasn’t the only one making and are really delivering an upbeat, honest, funny show.

Under the Gunn – I’m still on the fence about this show but I enjoy the mentors they’ve chosen and well Tim Gunn and I think I’m a big enough Project Runway fan in general that I’m likely to stay interested in keeping watching the show even if the premise is a bit dubious to me. It kind of feels like Project Runway: The People Who Couldn’t Make It Onto the Actual Show but it’s still fun to watch.

I know Doctor Who isn’t actually on yet but I’ve really been enjoying the snippets and teasers we’ve gotten so far online and I’m preemptively really excited about the next season. We’ve also been watching more of the Tom Baker era series on Netflix and I continue to adore him.

Other shows I’m still watching and loving: Castle, Bones, Melissa & Joey (they’re finally together!!!), Reign, Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother (love the mother), New Girl, 2 Broke Girls (so funny), The Mindy Project (OMG!!!!!) and probably other stuff, too.

Awesome Stuff I Read Online:

These are the things I would have mentioned in a Weekend Link Love roundup today aka I spent a lot of time on buzzfeed this week:

Time-Traveling Amazon Reviews of Next Season’s Doctor Who – Are there any better fans than Doctor Who fans? I think not.

The Sherlock Guide to the UK – Makes me want to take a field trip like immediately.

Literary Valentines for the Romantic Reader – I kind of adored these madly.

Peter Capaldi used to be in a punk band with Craig Ferguson – this made my week.

Little Girls Design Amazing Super Hero Costumes – this is just amazing.

Lastly some videos that are must sees:

family fun

8 Things I Learned in January


One of my favorite blogging carnival / meme / events that I discovered in 2013 was Things I Learned This Month hosted by Emily at Chatting at the Sky. This is a tradition I look forward to keeping up with in 2014 – I love looking back over my month and remembering all the great things that happened, as well as the bad, and thinking about what I learned from it all – good, bad, silly, wise. Even better, I get to see what a lot of other clever ladies have been learning, too!

So here are the things I’ve learned this month:

  1. My garage is a very dangerous place. I hurt myself in the garage three times in the past month, largely because it’s kind of cramped and crowded and also because I’m ridiculous. The second injury resulted in a sprained foot that still hurts when I move it in certain angles, over two weeks later.
  2. I learned that sometimes it gets so cold in Wisconsin that they have to cancel school so that our little ones don’t get frost bite while waiting for the bus for seven minutes. I think we’ve had more “Cold Days” in Wisconsin than snow days since I’ve moved here.
  3. I recently learned that Peter Capaldi, aka the New Doctor was once in a punk band with Craig Ferguson, aka my favorite late night tv host and Scottish Rebel. I feel as though I must have known this at one point but up until Capaldi became the New Who it didn’t matter. Now I am ridiculously pleased with the information and hoping it means lots of Doctor Who interviews in my future. Loving his new outfit by the way.
  4. I learned that Witches of East End, the tv show on Lifetime, is based on the books by Melissa de la Cruz, a young adult author who I was already quite familiar with. I could not resist reading the first book and already I am surprised by how much of the story is totally different but I’m still enjoying it.
  5. I learned that what American Idol really needed, all this time, was Harry Connick Jr. J Lo and a new set of people producing and making decisions probably helped, too, but mostly, Harry Connick Jr.
  6. I learned that sometimes the best way for me to be comfortable in a noisy, crowded, hectic situation is to find some area to put myself in charge and sit out the storm – especially if it’s a storm of 6-12 year old boys. AKA I enjoyed the Pinewood Derby a lot more this year than last.
  7. I learned an awful lot about what baby names say about your parents, their upbringing and education and your potential future prospects and a whole lot of other unrelated things that economics can tell us in Freakonomics by Steven Levitt.
  8. I learned that there is a new antisocial nerdy British weirdo in my life and his name is Sherlock Holmes. I’m not sure when it happened, but I am utterly SHERlocked and I’ve noticed a trend – antisocial nerds are apparently my “thing” – and frankly it all started with my handsome husband.

What have you learned this month?

mama kat's writers workshop motherhood

6 surprising things about motherhood.


One of Mama Kat’s writing prompts for this week’s Writer’s Workshop this week was:

4.) List 6 things you do as a parent that you swore you would never do.

Truthfully, I don’t remember making a lot of hard and fast claims about what kind of parent I would be, but here are six things about my parenting methods / about being a parent that surprise me:

  1. I cannot tell you the number of times I have uttered those tired, cliched parenting come backs like “Because I said so!” or “By the time I count to 5…” or “Don’t make me turn this car around!” They may be cliched but they mostly work and sometimes you are too frazzled and tired to be clever.
  2. I have literally watched my babies while they are sleeping just to make sure they are still breathing – something I used to think was like a joke people made about weirdly nervous mothers – and by babies I mean I still do this sometimes and they are four and seven.
  3. I have always been a very paranoid mother. If there is a safety device, we’ve used it. A precaution to be taken? We took it. If there’s a weird fear you have, I probably have it, too. I’m surprised I’ve never bubble wrapped my children sometimes. I don’t remember being a big fat scaredy cat before children so I’m assuming it’s their fault.
  4. I have developed a strange language for speaking to my children so that they will listen and understand what I want. For instance if I loudly declare: “Circle touching!!” in a sort of maniacally sing-song voice as my kids are getting out of the car, they know that they are to step out of the doorway and put one hand on the gas cap cover of the car which is both out of the way of fingers getting smashed in car doors and a physical acknowledgement that they are to remain touching the car until I tell them otherwise. I’ll take that award for Mother of the Year now.
  5. I don’t think I ever realized I wanted to be a stay at home mother before I had a child of my own. I’ve always assumed I’d have some obnoxiously time consuming job, I just never would have guessed that it would involve changing diapers, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and reading story books to a small girl child wearing a tiara and plastic glass slippers and a boy child pretending to travel through time and space. I feel blessed to be able to stay home with my kids, but it also surprises me that I volunteered for the job.
  6. When I was a kid, the grown ups around me all seemed to be so old and to have it all together and know exactly what they are doing. Now that I am roughly the same age as a lot of those “grown ups” were back then, I am surprised at how not together I feel and how often I still feel like I’m winging it. And I get the feeling that this may never change. I still remain surprised that I am considered an adult by and large and that supposedly I have all the answers now.


What things surprise you about being a parent / grown up?

Mama’s Losin’ It

family fun photography wordless wednesday

ww: story time

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books & reading nightstand

Nightstand: January 2014

my nightstand

It’s the fourth Tuesday of January and that means it’s time to share with you all the books currently on my nightstand, either literally or figuratively. I’m linking up with the ladies at 5 Minutes For Books to write about what I’ve been reading this month and what I’m planning to read next.

So far this year I have finished the following books:

  1. Freakonomics by Steven Levitt (January Book Club) – Finished January 12, 2014 – I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Very interesting, whether you agree with them and their findings or not. It made for a very lively book club discussion about a very wide array of topics. – Full Review
  2. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – Finished January 23, 2014 – I thought the premise of this book was fascinating and the plot kept me intrigued throughout. I also felt the book was attempting to do an AWFUL lot and that it occasionally read as cheesy, over done and sometimes predictable, but being a young adult novel I can kind of over look the predictable aspects. All in all, I think it was a very funny and satirical look at the commercialism and typical coming of age issues that young girls are faced with, in the midst of a very atypical story.
  3. Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman – Finished January 24, 2014 – This was such a fun, quick read. Gaiman writes a really fun story and the book has terrific illustrations to accompany it. This was one the whole family loved and it made a great read aloud this weekend with the kids.

Right now I am reading A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes novel by Arthur Conan Doyle because I cannot get enough of Sherlock Holmes right now; and I’m also reading The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, which my book club will be discussing in February.

So what’s up next?

Well I’ll definitely be reading some more Sherlock Holmes stories and the March book club pick is American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I also have Fangirl and Eleanor and Park, both by Rainbow Rowell staring wistfully at me from my nightstand and kindle and I just downloaded Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz, which the tv show on Lifetime was based on. Those are the books most likely to be devoured next but my reading can be unpredictable so you never know.

How about you? What are you reading right now?

What's On Your Nightstand


Book Review: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt

freakonomicsMy book club just met to discuss Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, a book that has been around for ages but I have somehow avoided reading up until now. I think I assumed this book would be dry, boring or simply not something that would interest me. Needless to say, I was wrong!

Another example of why I am thankful for a book club that continually pushes me outside of my literary comfort zones!

Here’s a quick description of the book from

“Economics is not widely considered to be one of the sexier sciences. The annual Nobel Prize winner in that field never receives as much publicity as his or her compatriots in peace, literature, or physics. But if such slights are based on the notion that economics is dull, or that economists are concerned only with finance itself, Steven D. Levitt will change some minds. In Freakonomics (written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt argues that many apparent mysteries of everyday life don’t need to be so mysterious: they could be illuminated and made even more fascinating by asking the right questions and drawing connections.”

First off, this is a very readable book and I read it much faster than I would have expected. The extended / expanded edition contains a bunch of extra articles and blog posts that they’ve written since their book was originally published which makes the book look larger than it is really.

I found the book to be nowhere near as dry as you might expect and ocasionally laugh out loud funny or thought provokingly interesting. The authors touch upon subjects that would be of interest to most people like the actual effects of good or bad parenting, how to detect if a teacher is helping her kids cheat on state exams, why drug dealers still live with their parents, why crime rates dropped unexpectedly and what a baby name might tell you about said baby’s parents and the baby’s expected life.

Of course all of the “answers” in this book are just statistical probabilities and not hard and fast truths. I’m sure there are lots of exceptions to the rules and probably other angles at which you could look at some of these questions as well that might result in different answers. But I loved the overall concept of the book: the idea of looking at a question differently and not taking information at face value is definitely a useful thing to keep in mind.

The book definitely brought about a lively and interesting book club discussion. I’d say by and large, most of the members of my group enjoyed the book at least a little. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s been on the  fence and considering reading it.

Have you read this book? What  did you think of it?

arts & crafts family fun motherhood photography

Love birds: A quick paper craft idea!

lovebirds-long lovebirds-square

I’ve got a quick and easy craft for you – perfect if you are stuck inside with the little ones and on the brink of going crazy waiting for dinner time to roll around. Make and Takes just posted a terrific tutorial for making love birds garland – all you need is some paper, scissors and crayons!

I cut a couple of sheets of basic printer paper into lengthwise strips (just fold the paper in half lengthwise and cut) – so two sheets of paper made four garlands. Once I had cut and folded my paper to their specifications, I traced a freehand bird shape on each one and then let the kids cut the shapes out, warning them to not trim the beaks and tails too small (so they don’t fall apart).

I almost cut my four year old’s garland for her but she insisted on doing it herself and you know what? She totally did great! I forget sometimes how big she is getting and have a real tendency to over-baby her. These kiddos are capable of so much more than we give them credit for!

I think all our birds came out great – it’s always fun seeing the differences in each kids’ artistic methods and creativity – and by the time we were done, it was time to make dinner! Score!

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Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


fangirlI am fangirling you could say over Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Everyone who is friends with me on Facebook saw that made abundantly clear when I spent 24 hours absolutely lost in the book, only coming up for air long enough to spazz out about it online for a few minutes before diving back in (okay and a few times I fed my children and acknowledged my dog, briefly).

This is a pretty appropriate book I think to respond this way to as the subject matter is all about being so hooked on a book that you would choose it over reality, but it’s also about SO MUCH MORE.

I feel like this book was tailor made for me – like the author looked into my soul and spilled the contents out on paper through the narrative of one Cather Avery, a girl with severe social anxiety, who is utterly devoted to the fandom of the Simon Snow series which will sound very much like Harry Potter to basically everybody.

When she’s not busy being a twin sister and shutin, she’s writing legendarily famous fanfiction that many people claim is better than the original. Oh also – she just started college to be an English Major and is kinda scared out of her mind at the prospect of living somewhere new and not sharing a room with her more outspoken, fun loving twin. And did I mention the social anxiety? It’s a fairly crippling problem throughout the book for her.

In many ways, this is your fairly standard coming of age story / love story. Certain aspects read as predictable in the way that if the author didn’t write it that way it simply wouldn’t work because this is how it goes. But the characters are so original and soooooo modern and so deeply formed that you can’t help but root for them, especially Cath. And I have left out SO MUCH about the plot because if I told you all the amazing, I’d basically be sitting here telling you the whole story.

This book reminded me of what it’s like to be a college student, a teenager, a girl in love for the first time, a writer, a daughter, a reader, a nerd, an often extremely anxious person – luckily not to the extreme of Cath, but enough that I read her struggles and totally “got” it and felt I understood her deeply. This book also taught me a lot of things that I didn’t know and opened me up to worlds and ideas I hadn’t yet considered. And it made me want to read some  fan fiction, like, immediately.

This book makes me want to blather on incessantly and shove copies of the books in peoples faces and just stamp my foot and wait for them to be done reading so we can all collectively go, “I know, right??????” together and then probably all retreat back into our own respective corners and over think whether or not we’ve made enough eye contact and how many minutes has it been since we spoke and did we lock the car door? I can’t remember but I’d probably better get up and check just to be sure…

Anyone else fangirling hard over Fangirl? Squealing and commentary totally welcome in the comments section.

This was cross posted at Jen’s personal blog.

family fun photography

Recipe for a perfect morning.



  • 1 delicious latte
  • 2 adorable children on their best behavior
  • 1 good friend to catch up with (and her two adorable children)


  1.  Mix ingredients until mommy reaches a state of bliss.
  2. Repeat as needed.