What I’m Into Lately: August 2014

coffee love

We’re two weeks into the school year and slowly finding our rhythm. BB has adjusted to life as a kindergarten girl like a champ and MM is slowly getting used to the heftier workload that 3rd grade at a private school demands of him and I’m slowly accepting that my son is horridly unorganized and absent minded. We’ve got a long weekend ahead of us to enjoy all of the things we love when we’re not doing the weekday grind. Hopefully it recharges us and leaves us ready for another week!

I’m linking up again with the lovely Leigh Kramer to share the things I’ve been into this month: like books, tv, music, and great online reads.

BOOKS I READ:

  1. ***** One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde – Finished August 10, 2014 – I was absolutely blown away by this book which is impressive when you consider it is 6th in a series. The fact that the author was able to surprise and delight me in book six is really rather remarkable. There are so many elements to this book (and this series) that it seems impossible to describe but I particularly loved the descriptions of Bookworld and also the description of experiencing the real world for the first time through a Bookworld character’s eyes.
  2. **** Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch – Finished August 27, 2014 – I really enjoyed this one. I didn’t know much about Rachel Dratch before reading this aside from “that funny girl on SNL” but her stories both made me laugh and truly resonated with me. From the cool tidbits about her time on SNL to stories about her dating life and family life, this had a little bit of everything.
  3. *** Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home by Joss Whedon – Finished August 28, 2014 – The artwork in this graphic novel is beautiful and of course I enjoyed getting a glimpse into what happens to all the main characters after the series finale, but the overall storyline was very difficult to follow and overall I just felt it didn’t compare to the television show, not that this is surprising really.

I Am MalalaRight now I’m reading I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai which my book club will be reading at the end of September. It’s actually the UW Go Big Read selection so I’m just one of an enormous amount of Wisconinites reading it right now. If you haven’t heard of this book here is a description from goodreads.com:

“When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.”

TV SHOWS I’M MARATHONING:

We’ve been watching Scandal on Netflix this month – totally late to the party but loving it. We just watched the first episode of Season 2 today and I’m SOOOOOOO anxious to find out what happens next!

I’m also watching Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model and we’re still loving The Colbert Report and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson who we will miss a lot when he leaves the show at the end of the year. ::sobs:: We’re at a lull right now otherwise as we wait for the Fall season to begin which will really be any minute now.

MUSIC I’M JAMMING TO:

Lots of girl power music this month. These are three songs I’ve been listening to borderline obsessively.

LINKS I’M LOVING:

9 Signs Your Daughter Might Be a Mean Girl: I was relieved to see that my daughter seems to be in the clear so far.

Back to School: The 70’s vs. Today: So I’m not quite this bad but I totally busted out the bento boxes this year.

I thought age 4 would be better. I was wrong. I seriously could have written this one.

Building Your Own Pergola: Part One. The hubby and I are kinda sorta talking about doing this.

What are you into lately?

Required Reading: August 29, 2014

fangirlingjen

Things online you must read this month:

How Rainbow Rowell turned a bomb into a best selling novel at buzzfeed.com.

‘Frozen’ Director Jennifer Lee to adapt ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ at EW.com – finally!!!

This French supermarket came up with a brilliant way to reduce food waste at Elite Daily.

Mat Honan at Wired liked everything on Facebook for 2 days and the results were fascinating.

Alton Brown presents A Meal Fit For a Doctor for your next Who Viewing Party.

10 Books That Have Stayed With Me.

bookish

This bookish tag has been making the rounds on my Facebook page and I loved it so much I decided to post it here, too.

Here are the rules:

List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and do not think too hard. They don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just books that have affected you in some way.


(In no particular order…)

  1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: I read this after graduating college and I’d been feeling a bit down about everything. I’d done some things I was less than proud of, disappointed a few friends and was not sure where I would be going in life. Lots of uncertainties. This book was very therapeutic for me. By the time I finished reading it I found that I liked myself again. I was truck by Scarlett who often did things that others would disapprove of and maybe even she disapproved of some of it but you still root for her and she still rises to the occasion and remembers that tomorrow is another day.
  2. Lamb by Christopher Moore: This was my first Christopher Moore book and probably his best. It was also the first book that I loved so completely that I gushed about it to everybody and made my friends read it immediately. I think I learned more about religious history from this book than anywhere else in my life so if I’m horribly mistaken about anything it’s Biff’s fault.
  3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I’m one of those weird people who never sat down and read this book until I was a grown woman with kids. Boy was I missing out! I can still remember the first few chapters seeming so stiff and old fashioned and then suddenly something shifted in my brain and it was just amazing and I kind of wished everyone spoke like a Jane Austen novel. How can anyone read about Darcy and not be permanently affected.
  4. Harry Potter by JK Rowling: Aside from being one of the most popular books in the world for kids and grownups alike; aside from having sort of grown up while reading these over the span of several years; aside from the obvious, this book was a major part of my early relationship with my husband. We bonded over our love of the books and I can still remember working the release party for the last book at the bookstore where we both worked.
  5. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: The first book in a long line of sequels, Jasper Fforde blew my mind pretty early on but more impressively, he continues to blow my mind with each book. I have a very difficult time describing this series but basically it’s chock full of literary references, traveling through dimensions, illegal cheese, mysteries, evil giant corporations and love. These are complex books that suck you in and make you feel like you have lived through an epic adventure by the time you are done reading.
  6. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh: This is a book that I read and loved as a kid and then got to share with my son recently. We all watched the movie with Michelle Trachtenberg, too, and loved it. This book really resonated with me as a writer and sort of reclusive introspective type. I adored Harriet as a kid and continue to adore her now that I’m a grown up.
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: I read this in college. It was probably the first dystopian story I ever read and it’s stayed with me for a long time now. From the grim aspects of the book to the random sparks of humor. This book is a masterpiece.
  8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows: This was one of the first books I read along with the book club that I joined a few years ago and it’s still one of my favorite book club selections. It’s also one of my favorite epistolary novels (a book written as a series of letters) and the main reason I keep trying new ones. This story made pretty much every member of the club want to travel to Guernsey immediately and I’d still pack my bags immediately at the chance.
  9. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner: I’ve read and loved a lot of Jennifer Weiner books. She has characters that really draw you in and become real to you as you read and writes about very universal topics for we women readers, but Goodnight Nobody deserves a spot on this list if only because after reading it I cannot read Goodnight Moon without thinking of this book and feeling a touch of melancholy when I get to that page.
  10. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld: One of the first teen dystopian novels I read, in a long line of many, many. If you like The Hunger Games or Divergent or any of those books, you have to read the Uglies series immediately or you aren’t really in the club. For me this was the one that started it all and the one that set the precedent for the following. I am sure someone else can point to another earlier book that defies this statement but it was my first and thus it’s quite special to me.

I fear I am missing major books but in the spirit of rule following, these are my 10. I am noticing a lot of strong female characters in this list – that might be the only true defining thread there. Other books that are just jumping and screaming to be mentioned: Anne of Green Gables, The Red Tent, A Wrinkle in Time, Fangirl, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and easily a dozen others but you get the idea.

What 10 books would be on your list? Tell me in the comments or share them on your blog (and leave me a link so I can check them out!)

10 Things I Learned Watching Reality TV

lessons from reality TV

I’d like to pretend that I’m one of those people who only watches lofty, educational programs on PBS and BBC but the truth is I’m an equal opportunity television enjoyer-er and yes I’ve watched my share of reality television. I think that statement means something different to everyone. Some people who say they watch reality television are talking about shows like Hoarders and Say Yes to the Dress. Some are watching Ducky Dynasty or Dancing With the Stars. Some are totally joking and would never.

My personal preference for reality television is competition style shows that give you a glimpse into different careers and hobbies. I was a big fan of TLC’s Trading Spaces back in the day and loved me some What Not To Wear. I still watch Project Runway religiously and I swear I’m watching America’s Next Top Model because I’m a photography buff. I’m also into cooking shows like Food Network Star, Cupcake Wars and Food Truck Road Trip though I watch those more sporadically. And though I know reality television is considered fluffy substance-free stuff, there is a lot to learn from these shows if you ignore the drama and pay attention.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned while watching reality tv:

  1. If you want to win something, you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and go for it. Take chances.
  2. If you are struggling to do something – step back, reevaluate and Make It Work! There is always another solution.
  3. When people say “I didn’t come here to make friends” they are going to be a storm cloud of drama. But a lot of the time they really were hoping to make friends. Be nice.
  4. Florian hates red velvet cupcakes, so stop it guys. Maybe watch an episode of a show before appearing on it. Also use natural ingredients. Red food dye is not a flavor.
  5. If it’s an unconventional challenge, don’t use fabric. If they wanted you to sew a dress out of fabric, they would have sent you to Mood. Follow directions.
  6. Rules for having your picture taken: Find the light. Work your angles. Smize. – that means don’t look dead inside, guys. My five year old can do it, so can you.
  7. Something something pitch something something pentatonics something something cabaret something. Dawg. Translation: Sing well if you are on a singing competition. Maybe take music lessons.
  8. Ignore the drama and focus on your craft. Be nice to people and they will probably be nice to you. Don’t be a jerk.
  9. Not everyone is destined to be a star. This is okay. This is normal. They aren’t looking for the Super Nice Person Who Tries Really Hard – but those character traits will be stellar for your real life.
  10. Have fun – if you aren’t having fun doing it, we won’t have fun watching it. And also – why do something that brings you no joy?

Mama Kat challenged us to share 10 things we’ve learned from reality television (as one of 5 prompts for this week’s Writer’s Workshop). Are you playing along? Let me know in the comments section below!

What’s your favorite tv show?

Mama’s Losin’ It

D.C. in 4 Hours: Walking the National Mall

DC-monument2

We only had about four hours to spend exploring Washington D.C. and we were traveling by foot the entire time. According to my pedometer, we put in over 10,000 steps in D.C. mostly just walking the National Mall. We fully intend to come back to D.C. and stay for a weekend at least so that we can do it right because there is so much we didn’t get to see. That said, we had a great time.

Map it: If you are planning a trip to D.C. I recommend looking over a map of the area, especially the National Mall, and figure out what you and your family want to see most. We walked the mall and saw the Washington Monument, The World War II Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and everything in between.

We also briefly visited the Smithsonian Castle and even more briefly walked through The Natural History Museum (sadly just as a way to cut across the street and be in air conditioning for a few minutes). If we’d had more time, I would have spent the whole day exploring all the different Smithsonian Museums which are all FREE!

Pro tip: If you don’t have all day, I recommend hitting the Smithsonian Castle which has lots of mini exhibits from all the other museums, giving you a taste of all the museums in a fraction of the time.

DC
1 – sitting in front of the Lincoln Memorial 2 – Standing in front of the Washington Monument 3 – Reading names on the Vietnam War Memorial 4 – Admiring the Washington Monument from afar 5 – The infamous Lincoln Memorial statue!

The kids were such troopers that day, keeping up with us as we eagerly walked the mall to see all the different memorials. Dan and MM were really impressed with the Washington Monument – Dan was marveling at how the bricks on the monument are actually a slightly different color almost halfway up as they ran out of money building it and had to regroup. My favorite thing was definitely the Lincoln Memorial which I’d looked forward to finally seeing after the first day of our trip. I think BB most liked the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, not that she understood the importance of it. She honestly just liked the pretty reflections.

The in between moments:

Aside from all the big exciting things we saw, here were some of our smaller moments and memories of Washington DC.

1. We parked outside of the city and took a train into D.C. The hardest part of this process was trying to find the ideal train station to park at. Most of the cities around D.C. are quite urban and the first one we went to was both difficult to navigate and kindaaa sketchy. Another reason to just get a hotel in D.C. proper next time?

tantrum

2. By the time we walked the length of the National Mall and got to the Lincoln Memorial, BB was absolutely exhausted and not happy about the crowds either. She needed a time out before we continued walking and I was worried that we’d pressed our luck walking the whole way. Luckily she perked up and we all made it back to the train station in one piece! Bring water bottles and stay hydrated or consider getting tickets for one of those tour buses.

ducks

3. There was a random piece of fencing in the reflecting pool and ducks were hanging out around it. While I marveled at how absolutely normal the city was with all the same amounts of construction, disarray and litter that you’d find in any major city, BB simply thought it was a bridge that she should walk on so she could go say hi to the ducks. She was very disappointed when I refused!

whitehouse

4. After leaving the Vietnam Memorial, we kept walking to see the White House. We were coming from behind but had been hopeful for a good view. This was about as good as the view got. If we’d had any semblance of energy at all, we might have tried to walk around and see the front but we were low on energy and time and had to settle for this view and keep walking for the train station.

DC-monument

5. Most of our pictures on this trip obviously were of the kids but MM did offer to take this picture of Dan and I so that we could be in a picture, too. I think it came out really good!

It was a long day with a lot of walking and a few moments of disappointment – mostly when we realized how little we’d actually have time to see, but we enjoyed our afternoon in D.C. and can’t wait to go back and see everything else!

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5 Little Happiness Boosting Ideas.

this is how we do

Lately I’ve been feeling weighed down by the little itty bits of every day life. The kids and marriage are great, I have wonderful friends, my family is doing well and the weather is gorgeous. The mental checklist of “Big Happy Things” can be checked and double checked. So the blahs are coming from the little things – the ruts and routines that we fall into and repeat daily because we haven’t asked ourselves why recently.

So I’ve been taking baby steps towards cutting out any ruts that aren’t working as a routine for myself or my family and reevaluating those itty bitty details of daily life. How can I cultivate habits that build me up instead of slowly draining me. Here are some of my ideas.

  1. Clutter for me is often a big culprit to my over all mood. Sometimes, when a room has gotten out of control, I can feel my mood darken just by walking into it. Piles of clutter are an unfortunately common occurrence in our home (yours too?) and though I’ve never found a way to eliminate it entirely, I do try to find new ideas to tackle certain areas and improve their functionality. A new basket to hold the 8,000 remotes in the living room, a bulletin board to hang up all the random schedules and important school information. Or even just finding an actual home for the things in our house which seem to be nomadic by default.
  2. Drama shows are addictive but as someone who tends to get highly absorbed by the lives of the characters in these shows, sometimes there are just too many fictional people to worry about. Lately I’ve been gravitating towards comedies and I’ve been slowly cutting down on shows that don’t make me laugh / leave me feeling happy, like the dramas that have been too dramatic and are weighing on my soul. If you are flipping through your DVR and feel any animosity towards watching a backlog of shows that have recorded, give yourself the freedom to walk away. 
  3. Similarly, read something happy. There is plenty of time for lofty literary fiction or thought provoking non-fiction. If you need a lift, I highly recommend reading something funny. I love all the new celebrity / comedian memoirs that have been coming out lately and picked up a copy of Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch at the used book store this week. The first pages of the book instantly made me smile – just what the doctor ordered!
  4. Listen to an uplifting song and if possible, dance. Liven up mundane chores or long commutes with music that makes you happy. If the morning DJ on your daily commute irritates you, stop listening to the station and find something else. Take a break from paperwork and have a mini jam session until your head is back in the game. I recommend: Katy Perry, Meghan Trainor or Iggy Azalea these days but I’m guessing you already have a few songs in mind of your own.
  5. If all else fails, get outside and take a walk or do some laps at the gym. Exercise is a great mood lifter even though up until the workout, it usually feels like a terrible idea to me – I never regret getting in a good walk. Bonus boost: listen to those uplifting tunes while you walk or find a good friend to walk with you. Then it feels less like exercise and more like a break.

These are just a few of my favorite ways to lift my mood.

What are your favorite tricks for getting happy?

First Day of School: Kindergarten and 3rd Grade!

first day

Monday was their first day of school. It was a morning full of firsts – her first day of kindergarten, their first day at a new school, my first time being a mother of two school aged kids with more spare time on her hands than she knows what to do with. 

Despite my grievances about waking up so early, we were all up on time, dressed and fed and had time to spare for mommy to take an incessant amount of pictures of her babies before the first day of school. I used these cute printables from Modern Parents Messy Kids. My pictures didn’t come out very readable so I included a handy translation in the photo above.

kindergarten

Remember when we were moving halfway across the country and I was seven months pregnant with my 2nd child? Remember when we bought our first house and were frantically putting baby gates everywhere because she was learning to crawl up the stairs but couldn’t get back down? Remember sleep training and homemade baby food and potty training (you know, yesterday) and strollers and … How is this girl of mine already five years old, in school full time – a big, brave, resilient kindergarten girl?

She was all smiles Monday morning, all bravery. She painstakingly picked out that first day of school outfit – mommy had no say in the matter aside from “You absolutely have to wear leggings with that dress because it’s too short even though this is literally the first time you’ve worn it.” I knew better than to ask, “Really? Those leggings?” On a grown woman like myself, this outfit would send me to the looney bin but she is working it out like a fashionista champ. 

That morning she wrote down that she wants to take care of butterflies when she grows up. I had a hard time turning that plan into two words so I ended up helping her spell out “a butterfly take care of” – and then realized that wasn’t really a coherent thought but her attention had waned and we moved on.

BB had a fantastic first day of school – all smiles from beginning to end, if a bit completely exhausted by 3pm. She made new friends, adores her teacher and had no reservations today either when I dropped her off for day two. Mommy had a few moments over the past two days of “What am I supposed to do with myself? Where are my babies? I don’t know what to do with my hands!” but mostly we’ve both been okay.

3rd grade

This year he starts 3rd grade and he has had his reservations about starting over in a new school but his amazingly friendly, outgoing personality will take him far. The curriculum this year is likely to be quite a bit more challenging than what he’s used to but so far he’s risen to the occasion. Going into the new classroom he actually already knew four or five of his classmates from karate class and I think this is helping a lot. 

The first morning he was pumped up about getting back to a routine and more importantly getting to hang out with his friends every day, even when mom wants to be boring and do nothing that day. His only real moment of hesitation was when I asked him “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as we filled out those signs and he teared up, not knowing exactly what answer to give. I assured him there was no wrong answer and he eventually settled on rocket scientist because obviously.

He’s already successfully completed his first day of homework which was mostly reading and memory work but the memory work is new to him and I was very proud and impressed with how well he did with it. Crossing my fingers for a challenging but engaging school year for him!

Both kids have really great teachers and seem excited about the school year. We’re crossing our fingers that the new school will continue be a good change for our family!

When do your kids go back to school? 

What do you do with your hands when your kids aren’t there to pull you backwards and sideways through the supermarket?

 

twitterature: mini book reviews for July 2014

twitterature

I’m linking up with Anne @ Modern Mrs. Darcy to share some mini twitter style reviews of the books I’ve been reading over the last month or so. She calls this fantastic idea Twitterature! If you want to play along just post book reviews that are roughly 140 characters or less – as if you were posting the review on twitter. I don’t think Anne actually counts them so don’t worry if you go over a little! The idea is just that they are quick and easy reviews for the busy reader (i.e. us).

I’m sharing four books today that I’ve read since my last Twitterature roundup. I’m cheating a bit because some of these books I read in late June and early July – you don’t mind, do you? I didn’t get to link up in July as we were on vacation and I didn’t want these terrific books to feel left out.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve read in the last month or two:

15844362The One by Kiera Cass

Momma’s Rating: 5 stars

This series turns me into a book junkie with a literary itch. Every. time. I read it obsessively in three sittings. There is a feeling of hope and optimism that radiates from this story, which is rare for a dystopian series but much appreciated.

#theendingfeltrushed #Iloveditanyway #TeamMaxon4sure #thedystopianroyalbachelor

18209454Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas

Momma’s Rating: 4 stars

Read just like an extended episode of Veronica Mars, but it didn’t feel like you had to have seen the show to enjoy the book. A natural transition from the screen to the page and the story really pulled me in. I definitely plan to continue reading the series.

#butseriouslybringtheshowback #marsmallow4life #imisspiz #somuchsnark

13538873Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan

Momma’s Rating: 4 stars

Read like a Rainbow Rowell book from a male perspective with lots of computer programming / social media stuff – good character development. I thought the contrast of old technology and new was really interesting and the story itself was compelling. Parts of the story felt formulaic but not in a bad way.

#mybookclubwassplitonthisone #notsureifilikedtheendornot #longhashtagsarehardtoread

8131227One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

Momma’s Rating: 5 stars

6 books in and the author is still able to surprise and delight me – amazing. There are so many elements to this book (and this series) that it seems impossible to describe but I particularly loved the descriptions of Bookworld and also the description of experiencing the real world for the first time through a Bookworld character’s eyes.

#willtherealthursdaynextpleasestandup? #confusionabounds #clevercleverclever

Right now I’m reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, finally!! Why did nobody tell me to read this book yet? LOVE!

What have you been reading lately?

tbt: 3 Things you have to do in Amish Country, Pennsylvania

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While we were in Pennsylvania indulging in all things chocolate and roller coasters, we had to stop by Kitchen Kettle Village in Lancaster AKA Amish Country. Dan’s parents have been doing this Hershey Trip for years and Amish Country is always a required stop.

While you are there, there are three very important things you have to do:

1. Have lunch (or dinner) at the Plain and Fancy or the Bird-in-Hand. Assuming you can handle a communal meal filled with more delicious foods than you can possibly eat.

2. Go to Kitchen Kettle Village and stock up on jams and preserves and whoopie pies and any other foodstuffs or knick knacks that make your heart sing. There are plenty. You should have enough jelly to last you a year when you leave or you aren’t doing it right.

3. Take nostalgic pictures of your kids at Kitchen Kettle Village so that after several years you can make collages that make your ovaries swoon.

turtle-thenandnow

wagon-thenandnow

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