What I’m Into Lately: (May 2014)

what i'm into lately

It’s hard to believe that the month is ending today. May was such a whirlwind of stuff happening just second to second. I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer’s monthly What I’m Into Lately series – here are some of the things that I’ve enjoyed amidst the chaos:


This month I finished two books, though to be honest, the first one shouldn’t count because I finished it on July 1st – but it was fantastic, so I’ve definitely got to include it in the list!

awrinkleintime***** A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – Having finished this book, I cannot help but wonder how have I never read it before. Good friends of mine agree, it’s a classic that I was bound to love and I cannot tell you how many people have told me that this was one of their favorite books growing up! I’m so glad I finally picked up a copy and read it for myself. I instantly fell in love with this series and this family. It’s equal parts coming of age story / amazing science fiction time / space travel story. The writing style is timeless and charming in the way that it kind of makes it feel like a beloved grandparent is reading it to you. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series! – Full Review –
the kitchen house**** The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (May Book Club) – I think this was a book that will stay with me for a long time. It was slow going at first and the subject matter often kept me up at night – maybe not the best night time reading because it’s a book you can’t help but dwell on. I became very attached to the characters after awhile which made the second half of the book fly in comparison to the first, as I became more and more concerned about how it would all end. Fascinating.

Right now I’m reading our June book club pick, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which won the Pulitzer Prize. It’s very long so I am starting it right away – I really just started reading it though so I haven’t quite formed an opinion on it yet.


We finally finished catching up on season 3 of Veronica Mars and have now seen the movie as well, which we both loved. Now that the entire show and movie are behind us, we’re trying to catch up on our DVR and watch all the shows we’ve been ignoring all Spring. We finished the last season of Castle and Suburgatory and are slowly working our way through the rest. I also just started watching The Last Comic Standing and enjoyed the first show I watched which I think was the 3rd audition week or something.

We recently rented a ton of movies over Memorial Day weekend. We watched The Nut Job with the kids which they liked but we border-line hated. It’s definitely one of those movies that was only made for the kids watching. We also watched the Jungle Book with the kids and of course the whole family liked that one.

For grown up movies, we rented This is The End which was funny in a terrible kind of way. Anyone sensitive to language, crudeness, violence or generally pervy man jokes will want to skip it. I will never look at Michael Cera the same again! We also watched Anchorman 2 which is also somewhat pervy guy humor but MUCH tamer. If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like the sequel. I forgot how much I liked the cast of the movie – Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, etc. Everyone did a great job. Lastly we watched Runner Runner with Ben Afflek and Justin Timberlake. It was a smart, fast movie with good acting and a compelling story but my husband and I both felt the ending left something to be desired.


molasses cakeI made this molasses cake on Wednesday for our book club discussion of The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I used a recipe the author included in the book that she actually devised specifically for the book after trying a few. The recipe turned out fantastic and the house smelled amazingly of molasses, ginger, cloves and cinnamon for several days. Everyone at book club gave it a rave review so if you read the book and see the recipe, definitely give it a try!

I’ve also been weirdly obsessed with Brussels sprouts which makes me laugh. I have been surprised at how my taste buds have changed as I’ve gotten older and the foods that I love now that I wouldn’t have touched with a ten foot pole as a kid.


Here are some links I would have shared in a Weekend Link Love this week:

This collection of videos of Dick Van Dyke dancing in Vine videos made my day.

I adored this post at Renegade Mothering: Hey, Hi. I want off your parenting team. I definitely want off of all of the teams!

21 Life-changing tweets from Maya Angelou. Clearly I have not been making the most of my own twitter account!

My mom got me hooked on this facebook game, Guess the Millennium – just a basic guessing game where you see a picture of some pop culture person, place or thing and have to guess what it is. Weirdly addictive!

What have you been into lately?


5 Things I Learned in May.


This has been an incredibly long, complex, extraordinary, surprising month. It seems like we’ve been kept on our toes from start to finish, with an occasional blessed moment to catch our breath, so surely in all that chaos, I’ve learned a thing or two, right?

I’m linking up again with Emily at Chatting at the Sky to share what I’ve learned this month, big or small. If you are playing along, let me know so I can see what you’ve been learning!

  1. 10300709_10100385519048946_6689172972386795212_nI learned how to make a bun in my daughter’s hair for ballet. It’s been a long learning curve because she won’t tolerate me trying to use bobby pins or anything but I’ve found some great easy bun maker type things at Target and H&M – one is kind of like an O shaped sponge that you wrap the hair along and then ideally secure with pins. The other which we’ve been using more lately is a sort of oval with hole in the middle that you slide the hair in and then wrap the pony tail up and then curl the ends to turn it into a bun. I’m describing it terribly but I’ve found that this method holds the hair more securely with less finagling need. These along with our favorite bun cover that hides sloppy work.
  2. sidingI learned that the stucco siding on the front of our house was not stucco siding or even faux stucco siding. It’s actually chip board and it was in rather bad repair. After planning to patch a hole that a woodpecker put in the siding, my husband found that there were other previous holes that were never fully patched but just covered with metal and after much deliberation and backs and forths we finally decided to have all the chipboard removed and replaced with vinyl siding. By the time we found a company to hire and got everything measured, estimated and sided – the crew came out within a week and finished the whole job in four hours!
  3. I learned how to make molasses cake. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom for our book club, I made the cake using the recipe she included in her book and it came out awesome! During the book club meeting, we actually got to talk to the author on speaker phone – a first for our club! It was very cool to hear her talk about her writing process and how the story came to her, and the steps she took to turn her ideas into an actual story! It was very inspiring.
  4. 10420106_10100402501086806_7816854944531898645_nI learned that my son is a terrific public speaker at just eight years old. During his class concert yesterday, some of the kids went up before the song to announce the song title and a little background info. Of all the 2nd and 3rd graders who went up, my son was the only one I could perfectly understand and the only one who seemed able to read all the words written down. Later that night at his class play, he had one of the lead roles and I was so impressed that he had memorized all his lines (he was the only one with more than two or three lines that had to have it all memorized) and was speaking into the microphone loud enough that everyone could understand him. Proud momma moment!
  5. 10011478_10100349273480356_272690665_nI learned this month that my daughter can count to 100. What? When did that even happen? She has learned so much over the past year and her kindergarten evaluation went very well. She seemed to really impress the teacher and perhaps more impressively the teacher could understand everything she was saying. Anyone who knows my soft spoken, mumble-prone daughter knows what a big deal that was! This gives me a lot of confidence that she is going to do well next year. I’m very interested to see what the next school year brings.

What did you learn this month?


Simple Summer Goals: 3 Things We Really Want To Do

summer must list

Summer Bucket Lists are a common occurrence in the mommy blog world and I love what they stand for but dislike the notion of trying to cram 157 “moments” into one summer. I think at the end of the day, our kids have an amazing summer whether we cross off all those items or not. But I love the idea of getting their input and finding out what is actually important to them. It’s rarely the things I would expect.

I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop again this week as one of her prompts was “What you’re most looking forward to (or dreading) this Summer.” I asked everyone in the family what three (3) things they most want to do this summer. Here’s what they said:

10294422_10100398852628346_1427639036687687798_nBB, Age 4
1. She wants to play outside. When I asked for something more specific she said she wants to ride her bike.
2. She wants to watch Strawberry Shortcake. I kind veto’d this one because she watches Strawberry Shortcake every day so she said she also wants to read lots of books. How can I say no to that?
3. Lastly, she wants to go to the beach.

Her list seems completely doable to me. I want to try and focus on helping her learn to read more sight words, keep our outside as much as possible and yes definitely go to the beach!

DSC_6313MM, Age 8
1. The first thing he told me was that he wants to go to his best friend’s house 100 times. I have no idea if this is feasible but I will try to schedule a lot of play dates this summer.
2. He also wants to go to the zoo. I think there is very little chance of this not happening.
3. Lastly, he wants to go to summer camp. Both kids are going to one week of summer camp via the school district. He’ll be going to solar system camp this year and should have a blast.

20140126_181159Dan, Husband
1. After rolling his eyes at me and trying to explain that he doesn’t care what we do this summer and that I’m silly, he finally conceded that he would like to go for a hike at one of our favorite state parks. I might never have known that if I hadn’t asked – so there!
2. Other than that, he says that he wants to go on a road trip and
3. See his family and both of those things are already planned so basically he’s very easy to please.

meAnd lastly, me, Jen
1. I want to make a vacation journal for our summer vacation. Ideally I want all four of us to keep a journal of the trip, have the kids draw lots of pictures and Dan and I take lots of pictures which I will then turn into a photo book.
2. It’s not a big goal but I will be devastated if we don’t go to my favorite bakery back home and eat delicious baked goods and drink an amazing cappuccino. Whenever we’re back home, for me half the goal is to eat all the amazing food that we can’t get in the midwest. It’s the little things.
3. In general, this summer I want to keep active, whether that means going for daily walks, taking up a new fitness activity like perhaps pilates or swimming with the kids. I want to be up and moving as much as possible.

That’s it! What things are you hoping to do this summer?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Summer Reading: 5 books I own, 5 books I want.

summer reading list 2014

I haven’t stuck to a reading list in awhile and the growing stack of unread books on my shelves and on my kindle are proof of this. I like a certain amount of freedom in my reading but I think it’s good to add in some structure now and then to keep things moving forward. As summer rolls around and bloggers, schools and libraries everywhere start curating their summer reading lists, I feel I’d be remiss not to add mine to the proverbial pile.

We’re looking at a jam packed summer that will likely have me e-reading more than not, so I’m focusing my 2014 Summer Reading List on 5 books on my Kindle and 5 books I’m seriously considering downloading to my kindle. I make no promises, obviously, and have little intention of trying to read all ten of these. I just like to give myself a wide selection. Anyway, here are some of the books I’d like to read this summer:

5 Books I Own


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – My book club is reading this next month and I’m hoping to finish it in time for the discussion. It’s a LONG book but sounds really good and it’s been getting a ton of press (you know, like winning the Pulitzer Prize – no big).

Requiem by Lauren Oliver – The last in a series that I bought awhile ago and then forgot I hadn’t read. One of many dystopian serials I’ve been reading in recent years. This one is about a society that considers love a disease.

Twisted Sisters by Jen Lancaster – Would a summer really be complete if I didn’t read a book by Jen Lancaster? I think not. It’s about a psychologist with her own tv reality show who helps people become their best selves while struggling to earn her family’s respect. Obviously hilarity ensues.

Reached by Allie Condie – Another dystopian series that I need to finish. In this series, the government pretty much chooses your entire life for you. They statistically determine your perfect spouse, career, etc. A momentary glitch showed the main character a glimpse at another life and…

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes – I bought this one at the recommendation of Anne @ Modern Mrs. Darcy. The story moves from France 1916 during WWI to a century later following the lives of two women putting their beliefs to the test. Whatever happened to the girl you left behind?

Books I Want


Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan – A comedic memoir on parenting from a stand-up comedian. This has been getting a lot of press and reading the introduction online, I’m definitely hooked. I think my husband and I would both like this one, so obviously I should buy it right?

White Girl Problems by Babe Walker – A friend mentioned this one on Facebook and it sounds like something I’d like. After landing herself in shopping rehab, Walker wrote a memoir revealing the gut-wrenching hurdles she’s had to overcome in order to be perfect in every way, every day.

The One by Kiera Cass – Do you guys remember when I devoured all the previous books in this series in like two days? The latest book in the series just came out and I’m rabidly anxious to get my hands on a copy. It’s sort of like a dystopian royal version of The Bachelor and I’m obsessed.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – This one may get picked for book club this summer (crossing my fingers for an excuse to buy it).  Another literary pick getting a lot of press, centered around a bookstore that is more than it seems…

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – Now that I’ve read and adored Fangirl and Eleanor & Park, this one is next on my Rainbow Rowell Must Read Now List. It’s an epistolary love story centering around a company that monitors all internal email conversations. MUST READ NOW.

So that’s my list – what are you hoping to read this summer?

5 more tips from your favorite 4 year old fashionista.


1. Don’t be afraid to wear all the things. You can rock Minnie Mouse, Sofia, Hello Kitty and (on the backpack) Disney Princesses and chic ballerinas all in one look. Pro tip: Wear shoes that keep the best parts of your socks visible!


2. Add a touch of femininity to a foxy leopard print sun dress with pink ribbons and a touch of nature. Bonus: Vibrant colors can make up for a lack of spring flowers in your yard.


3. Make your own rules. The world can call them jelly shoes / jellies – if you want to call them ice shoes, go for it. Don’t be afraid to tell your mother she’s wrong. Every. day.


4. I’m all about the hard and soft. And it doesn’t take a lot of work to achieve this look: A pink braid subtly tucked to one side makes every look a little fiercer, effortlessly.


5. When getting your nails done, don’t feel the need to “choose” – can’t decide on a color? Get both. Want all the bling? Get all the bling! This is no time for being practical, so relax.

Share your favorite fashion tips in the comments below!

weekend link love: may 23, 2014


The above picture should serve as an indication that month finally found her May Flowers after all. The weather was so absolutely beautiful yesterday that I had lunch with my husband outside in just a tank top and didn’t run back to the car for my sweater. Seriously guys, that’s like momentous.

Weather like this does wonders for my mood – I was on cloud nine yesterday despite a rough morning and finding out that our optometrist plans to do nothing to fix / replace my glasses after they literally snapped in half for NO obvious reason roughly 6 months after buying them…


Luckily I already had a backup pair. Cross your fingers that the good weather and my good mood continue into Memorial Day weekend. While we wait for the BBQs and long weekend to begin, here are some of the best things I found online this week.

Have a great weekend guys!

A Dream Home: 5 Things I’d Want in Mine


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

4.) Describe your dream home.

There are some things I love about our home. Our giant backyard just beckons you to run outside and play. We live in a great neighborhood and MM’s very best friend lives right around the corner – our back yards actually touch, making impromptu play dates super easy. Our washer and dryer are just absolute tanks that make getting a lot of laundry washed quickly pretty feasible. We just replaced our refrigerator about a year ago (finally) and it’s gorgeous and efficient.

But obviously there are things I would change if I could. I think everyone has ideas in mind of how they would improve their home if money was no object or what they want to look for in their next home.

Here are 5 things I’d want in my “dream home”:

1. More curb appeal. I’d love to give our landscaping in the front yard a real overhaul and eventually replace the siding on our home. Bonus points if I can somehow have a front porch with a swing. Short term goal: Replace the chip board siding on the front of our home with vinyl siding, eventually redoing the whole house and saying goodbye to the annoying woodpecker in the neighborhood.

2. Built in reading nooks / bookshelves everywhere. We are big readers and there never seems to be enough space for all the books. I would love a cozy nook with natural light to read by, but I’d settle for simply more bookshelves.

3. New counter tops. I love the look of this wooden counter top and it sounds like such a cool idea, but I’m not sure if we’d actually go with wood or not. I’d seriously consider it though. I also love the idea of white cabinets with an antique sort of feel but hubby strongly disagrees so this may never happen. I would love a slightly less generic looking kitchen someday though.

4. A laundry room that doesn’t suck to be in. I’m being a little picky here but doing laundry in a dark, unfinished basement with poor lighting and cramped space is not my favorite. I’d love a laundry room on the first floor of the house instead of the basement and if it could be pretty, I surely wouldn’t complain. My husband did work hard to give me some counters and shelves to store and fold in our laundry area though – baby steps!

5. Moments of whimsy. I’m a sucker for little details that make a house feel like a home and help to make childhood a little more magical with minimal effort. This one we might actually do if I ever remember to take the time and actually do it! Other examples of whimsy: a beautiful garden path, fairy gardens, backyard scrabble.

What would be in your dream home?

5 minute fixes: For toy clutter, kids artwork & more!

5 minute toy storage fix

Confession: Organizing my kids toys is a soul sucking task that I ignore as long as possible.

Do I like the disaster that they live in most days? Nope, it drives me slowly insane. But sometimes it seems like any solution I attempt to give them to better organize their things is only going to last for a few days at best before they break it, lose it, ignore it or worse. But I keep trying anyway because the alternative is anarchy.

We bought the wooden pantry style organizing cabinets photographed above a few years ago. All the toys the kids like to play with downstairs get corralled into these cabinets – one for each kid – and then we shut the doors and forget about what would happen if you opened the doors. Like everything falling out or me having a stroke. My husband grew up with a similar system and everyone survived – no cute baskets or bins required.

But after several years of this awesome ignoring method of coping, I was absolutely itching to get in there and organize it. The clutter levels were starting to drive me loony and there were a few things just dying for a nice basket to live in or a giant something to store all the loose papers and “treasured” artwork that was piled and jammed into every nook and cranny and no longer seemed to be contained by the cabinets. Nothing was sensibly stored with anything and I had had enough.

So. I went to that place with the giant red hypnotizing bullseye that seems to inherit half my husband’s paycheck every month and tried to focus on the prize, within budgetary reason. I ignored the gorgeous wicker baskets and storage systems with all the doodads and went simple. I bought eight (8) small plastic bins with lids for 80 cents each (score!).

Then I went home and worked some voodoo magic. Now I know I called this a 5 minute project, but the truth is this next part took more like two or three hours. But if your kids aren’t future hoarders it might take you less time and if you just hand them the bins and make them do all the heavy lifting, then it really is only about 5 minutes and eight dollars of your time.

So the boring bit: I went slowly through each cluttered, crazy shelf and organized all the little bits into bins, the bigger bits by type and the paper stuff by either a pile to deal with later or a pile destined for the recycling bin. It took forever, because my four year old insisted on “helping” but the end result was that picture above so I’m calling it worth it until they wreck it again.

Sidenote: There are no before pictures because nobody needs to see that disaster.

Each kid got 4 bins and a new lease on life. I got some sanity. But we weren’t done yet.

Another 5 minute fix: Organizing coloring books & artwork

coloring carts

Problem # 1 – Even though I practically filled our recycling bin with paper stuff, we still had a veritable mountain of beloved art projects that had no home.

Problem # 2 – The kids coloring books and magazines were threatening to burst out of the three drawer plastic cart that had been holding them and all the stuff that should have been in the drawers ended up getting piled on the whole cart because of the tight quarters (and lazy).

Solution (Easy) – I bought a second one. It was like $13 so not terrible but maybe not the bargain of the century but it was a FAST and SIMPLE solution that solved both problems.

I went through the drawers and divided it up so that each kid has their own cart and each drawer has a purpose. I even Super Geek Momed out and made handy labels for each drawer so the kids (i.e. the four year old) has a reminder of what should be in each drawer. I am 80% certain they will ignore this but at least I tried, right? And – they look adorable.

labeled drawers

How do you corral the clutter?

Bragging on my eldest child for just a moment.


Poor MM. I seem to inevitably blog about his darling sister a lot more than I blog about him. It’s partly because she’s home with me for more hours and requires MORE of me in nearly every way. He is becoming more and more self sufficient as he gets older and she continues to be a very demanding four year old girl. Also shhh… she’s often more fun to photograph and a large portion of my posts here revolve around pictures. So.

It’s not his fault. He’s a funny, handsome, charming, sweet, intelligent boy with gorgeous blue eyes and a great smile. He poses patiently for pictures and, like his father, he excels at pretty much everything he sets his mind to excel at. He is a beloved student to every teacher who has met him, he works hard and plays nicely and aims to be friends with everyone he meets. I’ve compared him to Olaf from Frozen a lot and though my husband and I like to joke that it’s because Olaf tends to overstate state the obvious, the truth is that is not why MM reminds me of him.

Like Olaf, MM sees the best in everyone. MM is truly an eternal optimist. Every moment is the best moment and every person is his friend. He is unfailingly nice and kind a quiet hero to the people around him. He is wise beyond his years and often seems to understand things on a deeper level than his age would suggest. Undaunted by his age and size, MM believes the world is full of amazing opportunities and that hard work and kindness are all he needs to succeed in the world.

Now, yes, I’m exaggerating. Though Olaf never seems to be in a bad mood, my son is not perfect. He can sulk and whine with the best of them and, no, he isn’t always nice to everyone (just ask his sister). He is tender hearted and his feelings are easily hurt, so every now and then you witness the happy bubble burst – but he bounces back quickly after each sad moment, his smile never far behind.

I hope he never changes. I know hard times will come his way as they do for all of us – harder than anything he could imagine at eight years old. I know this world is going to test his spirit and that some of that optimism may fade as he gets older, but I hope he can hold onto most of it and that he will always be the kind, smart, charming, intelligent, caring, optimistic, friendly, hopeful boy that he is today.

MM, you are cursed with a sister who seems to be effortlessly posing for pictures at every moment and captivates the attention of everyone she meets. It may seem like she is the center of the universe sometimes or at least the center of my camera’s attention most days, but know that I love and adore you equally and that you make me so, constantly proud.

weekend link love: may 16, 2014


It’s hard to believe that another week has come and gone. This was kind of a crazy week and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved to see the weekend come again. There are still several hours until Friday turns into Friday night – if you are trying to whittle the hours down, here are a few things to distract you while you wait.

Are you watching Convos With My 2 Year Old on youtube? They are three episodes into season 3 and the episodes continue to be hilarious. Coco and BB have a LOT in common, which only makes the show funnier for me. Loved the latest episode.

This bourbon pecan pie with dark chocolate at Joy the Baker looks so good! I want to be a pie baking super hero, too!

A cup of toasted coconut cold brew coffee from A Beautiful Mess would go perfect with that pie, don’t you think? I’m super intrigued by this whole Toddy thing – anyone tried it before?

How gorgeous is this DIY office desk made from IKEA kitchen components? I love my desk actually which my husband made for me with his BARE hands. I think what I’m really digging about this desk (apart from the cleverness) is how clean it is! Someday I will have a clean office desk, for approximately twelve seconds.

This is How I Feel at Neon Fresh is one of my favorite Friday rituals – the first one this week is exactly me except replace leaving the curling iron on with “is the door locked / garage door open / etc” – every time!


american idol spoilers ahead

read at your own risk!

I was so disappointed to see Alex Preston voted off this week though I had a feeling it was coming. He’s been my favorite for most of the season (and the only one this season that I’ve bought any songs from on iTunes) but he doesn’t make as much noise as Caleb and Jena who have also done very well this season (Jena with her amazing vocals and Caleb with his showmanship). Though I’ll be genuinely happy for whoever wins, I had been hoping Alex would make it to the finale – although many have pointed out that the 3rd place contestants often do very well for themselves and that he may be lucky to not get locked into an Idol contract. Only time will tell.

Till then, here are two favorite recent performances (above and below).

 Have a great weekend guys!