books links what I'm into Lately

What I’m Into Lately (May 2015)

the king does not look thrilled at the prospect of having a pet dragon in his castle
BB’s acting debut as The Glum Princess – this is the end of the play, so she isn’t glum anymore.

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately. I love this linkup because it encompasses all my interests and serves as an excellent mind dump – and I get to click over and see what a bunch of other cool bloggers are into, potentially finding new books, movies, tv shows, songs, recipes and more to check out. Here’s what’s been going on in my world:

What I’m watching

We finally got around to watching Sons of Liberty which we recorded on the DVR like seriously months ago but it was so worth the wait and even better than I thought it would be. One thing I took away from the miniseries (aside from, dang, Sam Adams was hot) is how little I actually knew about the period in time. I grew up in New England, I’ve taken the walking tours around Boston, I know all the little Revolutionary War catch phrases and thought that all equaled being well versed in that time period but actually watching it play out – I found myself going “oooohhhhhh” a lot – or “what? when did that happen?” or “How the heck did we ever win this war?” Point is: I highly recommend.

We rented The Wedding Ringer, Captain America: Winter Soldier, The Giver and Penguins of Madagascar last weekend in anticipation of the long weekend for dh and the beginning of summer vacation for the rest of us.

  • The Wedding Ringer had its moments but was a little over the top on the raunchy humor for my liking (and by a little, I mean…).
  • Captain America 2 was a solid improvement over the first movie. Cap has a little more personality now and the story line was perhaps more interesting because we’ve been watching both Agents of Shield and Agent Carter so there was a lot of story line that I was already privy to and such.
  • The Giver was interesting but felt really slow to me – maybe it’s because it was already so late by the time we put the movie in or maybe it’s because I realized halfway through that I don’t think I ever finished reading the book. But the pace just felt off to me and I often wished they would hurry up and do something already.
  • Overall Penguins of Madagascar was really good. I still prefer the original Madagascar movie but there’s nothing really to complain about with this one and it had some pretty hilarious moments. A solid family film.

What I’m reading

I read two very different books this month:

  1. ***** Yes Please by Amy PoehlerFinished May 3, 2015 – This book was all the things. Funny and insightful and also funny. Aside from being an awesome writer, comedian and actress, Amy Poeheler is also an amazing person with a lot of great stories to tell. Whether you know and love her from SNL, Parks and Recreation, hosting award shows with Tina Fey or anything in between – you are sure to love all the stories she has to tell. And honestly, I think it’s a good book even if you have somehow never managed to see anything she’s done (who are you??) – she has lots of funny insights and stories just from your typical growing up and experiencing LIFE kind of situatiions – so yeah, something for everybody.
  2. 22557272**** The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins Finished May 13, 2015 – I had a love hate relationship with this book. It was fascinating and kept me compulsively reading it but the content is preeeettttty heavy and I mostly read in bed at night before going to sleep – I often thought, “Why am I reading this? I’m going to have horrible nightmares after this.” But like any good mystery, I had to know “whodunnit” – and I’ll admit, the ending surprised me. I think I must have suspected everybody in the book at some point, so I’d say that’s a sign that the author did a good job!

Right now I’m reading a few different books, mostly because I’m having a hard time settling into any of them – not really for any fault of the book. I’m about halfway through May B. by Caroline Starr Rose which I’m contemplating reading out loud to the kids. I also just started reading the next book club pick, Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer. On my kindle I’ve been slowly reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman which I can’t decide if I’m enjoying or not – truthfully, this may be the lynch pin explanation for why I’m reading three books. I think I want to like it more than I actually am. But with the series coming out on SyFy, I feel some weird sense of obligation to read the book so I can watch the show guilt free.

In my kitchen


I appear to be on a monthly box subscription kick. I took advantage of a couple of trial offers and ordered a subscription to both Naturebox and Try The World. I can’t convince myself to subscribe to things like Book Riot or Julep or Loot Crate because I don’t actually need any of the things in those boxes and certainly don’t need them every month (that said, any of those would be awesome gifts if you are feeling generous). But we do need healthy snacks and we will absolutely eat, use and be grateful for a few fun cultural treats each month. And since both companies allow you to cancel at any time, I decided to try a little splurge and see if we liked them.

What I like about Nature Box: It’s only $19.99 a month for 5 full sized bags of snacks – and you can create your own list of which snacks you want in each box so you don’t have to get a snack you didn’t like last time AND you can make sure you get ones you did. From a realistic perspective – in the world of healthy snacks – this is a reasonable deal and I think paying a few extra dollars to have access to some snacks I might not have picked up in the store is worth it. These will be nice to have to make sure we always have some healthy snack options.

What I like about Try the World: I have serious wanderlust and often wish I could get up and fly to Argentina or Madrid or Glasgow. Unfortunately, this is not a feasible life choice. I get my fix through movies, pretty instagram accounts and food. My favorite part of a trip to world market is picking up fun foods that you won’t find in most American grocery stores. So this totally fits the bill of being a splurge that won’t break the bank. And these boxes only come every two months so I can feel a little better about the slightly high price tag ($39 a box if you subscribe month to month). Though truthfully, the quality of what we’re getting seems worth the cost.

I’m not sure how long we’ll stick with either subscription, but I’m having fun trying them out.

Working Out & Playing Hard

Since I’m only working weekends this summer, I’m trying to recommit myself to going to the gym and exercising more frequently. I have called upon my favorite walking buddy and we’re putting in some serious steps. Cross your fingers that I stick with it because I have no good reason not to! My favorite way to track my steps these days is with the S Health app on my Galaxy smartphone. It’s free and already in my pocket. I know there are plenty of free apps out there to help you count steps and calories and more.

I also got in a good amount of steps at the bowling alley this afternoon. My kids are signed up for Kids Bowl Free at our local bowling alley – we just paid $4 for their shoe rentals and got to bowl two games. Since my 5 year old still needs a lot of help bowling, I got in a lot of steps helping – and the kids got some exercise, too. We’re also planning to go to places like the zoo and the local botanical garden where walking a ton is sort of implied.

On the blog(s)

Best of the web

  • Joanna wrote about trying out slow parenting. Her thoughts really resonated with me. “As an adult, I just move at a faster pace than they do, and I’m also not great, generally, at relaxing, even on my own time. So, when Anton stops to examine a bicycle pedal or spots an ant on the ground or Toby walks slowly and dreamily down the block, I instinctively tell them to c’mon and come along.”
  • We filled out this Last Day of School printable at The (Reformed) Idealist Mom and the kids really loved it. I like how the mix of quick answer “fave” questions and the questions that you mull over seemed to dig out some real, thought  out answers instead of just the first things that pop into their mind.
  • Roo’s recent post about how dad’s don’t babysit is a long time rant of mine. Why do we assume that our husbands are invalids or incapable of running the ship without us? They might have different priorities and time tables but they are every bit as capable and should be considered a valuable member of Team Home Life. I’m grateful to have a husband that cooks and cleans and cares for our kids and does a good job, but baffled that this seems to be considered “rare”.
  • I loved this list at Bustle of 12 childhood book characters that empower young women. There are some of my childhood favorites on this list and a few new to me books that I added to my TBR list to check out. This list may or may not have partially inspired my list of books to read out loud to the kids this summer.
  • Have you seen Stop Here. This is the Place. yet? It’s a combination of photos and stories from two mom friends, Winky Lewis and Susan Conley that captures one year of their lives as mothers – and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

What have you been into lately?

books & reading family fun motherhood

Summer Reading Update: Perhaps my 5 year old will be doing the read alouds.


After I read them chapter one of Betsy-Tacy and Tib and we had dinner and watched a movie together (Penguins of Madagascar), BB curled up on the couch and started reading me Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown. My mind was blown, yet again, listening to her read. Private school looks good on this kid – she was tackling words that I did not anticipate her being able to read but barely paused to consider.

There were a few of those tricky English words that don’t follow basic pronunciation rules at all that I had to help her out with – tricky vowel sounds and such – but that still left her 90% of the words that she didn’t need help with. And she was accurately expressing the right emotions for what was happening like a read aloud champ. I remember MM’s teacher making a similar comment about his reading – in the second grade.

For some reason, I never questioned that MM is brilliant and smart beyond his years and destined for greatness – but BB keeps her smarts closer to her chest, or at least she has up until now. Now, we’re all holding onto our seats and bracing ourselves for the smartest kid we’ve ever encountered – for a girl who can read chapter books in kindergarten and probably secretly knows how to do long division as well. She’s probably already teaching herself basic chemistry in her spare time while working on her acceptance speech when she wins the presidential election in 2046.

Get ready. She’s coming for you.

books IRL meme

ww: geek in training

my five year old, decked out in her favorite fairy wings, curled up on the couch reading Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown with basically no assistance from me
my 5 year old, decked out in her favorite fairy wings and her Minnie Mouse t-shirt, curled up on the couch reading Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace – with basically no assistance from me – the vocabulary and reading skills on this girl are remarkable. Clearly we’re doing something right.


books games grammar links movies

GEEK OUT: 5 Things You Won’t Want To Miss.


Some things worth geeking out over:

A multi-fandom character alignment chart: Trying to understand your D&D character better? Or creating one from scratch and not sure what alignment they should fall into? Holland at Geek and Sundry has you covered.

Have you heard of #TwitterFiction? Authors all over twitter were crafting stories in the form of 140 character tweets, letting followers help them to craft a masterpiece. BuzzFeed wrote about a story Lemony Snicket wrote for #TwitterFiction Festival 2015. Two other authors whose stories you might want to read: Margaret Atwood and Maggie Stiefvater (my favorite).

These grammar grumble mugs at The Literary Gift Company might just be everything. If I didn’t already have entirely too many coffee mugs, these could be my new perfect set. See also: This website is probably worth book marking if you buy me gifts. See also: Buy me gifts.

Speaking of grammar, here are 10 grammar myths that the folks at Mental Floss think should be debunked and discarded or at least better understood. The next time you want to put a grammar snob in check, consult this list.

GeekMom just saw Tomorrowland and shared her thoughts about the movie and whether or not you should take your kids to see it. I am always on the look out for a “family movie” – i.e. a movie that is both enjoyable for kids and adults. This looks promising.

books & reading family fun summer reading

Our Summer Reading List

One of my personal goals for the summer is to read some great books out loud to the kids. We’ve got a lot of great possible read-alouds lying around – here are some of the books I’m planning to read to the kids some classics that I read and loved as a kid and a few new to me stories as well – also, The Hobbit which Dan has been reading the kids on and off for a couple months now.


Pippi Longstocking | May B | Little House in the Big Woods

The HobbitOtherwise Known As Sheila the Great | Johnny Tremain

The True Confessions of Charlotte DoyleIsland of the Blue Dolphins | Sophie Mouse

after thought: I’ll probably read Emily at least one Betsy Tacy book also.

– edit – I’m not sure if I’ll read May B to the kids or not. I’ve started reading it to myself and although I’m enjoying it and think it would sound good out loud, I’m unsure about the material being appropriate – will have to see how certain events play out and then decide. Anyone else read this to their kids? Thoughts?


And six books I’m hoping to tackle this summer:

Nobody’s Cuter Than You | I Regret Nothing | Paper Towns

Shine Shine Shine | Big Little Lies | The Heir

My list is shorter because my books are longer and I know myself – I probably won’t even finish all of these, but they are the ones I’m most excited to read.

What’s on your summer reading list?

family fun motherhood

School’s out for summer!


Today was the last day of  school – which is so surreal. It really does feel like just yesterday we were enrolling them in a new school, completely nervous and unsure if we’d made the right choice, completely in denial that both our kids were old enough to be in school full time. Just yesterday, it was their first day. Seemingly. But the year has flown by and been chock full of new experiences, mostly good. The kids have learned  lot and so have we!


MM was admittedly nervous about starting  a new school and sad about leaving old friends behind but he’s made many friends at his new school and he’s being academically challenged for the first time in his life. It’s been fascinating to see the subjects he struggles with and which ones he excels at – it’s not always the ones I expect. The small school size seems to suit him well – he has friends across several grades and I can tell he likes knowing everybody – after just a few short months we all knew the majority of the families in the school and felt comfortable and “at home” there – such a great feeling, it made it easier to focus on learning (and for me to focus on my new job).

MM learned how to write in cursive, he learned more about the phases of the moon and about rocks and minerals and land forms. He learned how to take Cornell notes and how to read a map; he’s learned multiplication, long division and fractions. He’s read several wonderful books and written some basic book reports – some favorites included Mr. Poppers Penguins, Frindle and the Magic Tree House Books. And I’m only scraping the edge, really.


BB learned how to read with the help of the Super Kids – she went from being able to recognize her name to being able to read pretty much any story she wants to – she already understands  the concept of figuring out a word based on context which pretty much unlocks all of vocabulary for her.

She can count to 100 and understands basic addition and subtraction. She can tell time and recognizes the different coins. She knows her full name, address and phone number and has learned some independent skills that help her to navigate the school day without me. She has absolutely loved kindergarten and has blossomed in a way that blows my mind.

It’s crazy to think how early their summer vacation starts (it will end early, too – in mid August) but I’m looking forward to a few weeks of having summer to ourselves before the rest of the city gets out of school and we have a lot of fun things planned in the coming months – swim lessons, camping trips, visiting family and hopefully some lazy days, too. 

What are you looking forward to this summer?

I’m excited for less alarms on my phone for a few months!

mama kat's writers workshop

TIMEOUT: 10 things I’m putting on notice.


One of the writing prompts in Mama Kat’s basically world famous writer’s workshop this week was:

6. List 10 people, places, or things you’d like to give a timeout to.

Luckily, my angst is in full swing today so coming up with ten things to send to the penalty box shouldn’t be much of a problem (btw: the penalty box is apparently also known as the “sin bin” according to the team trivia game I went to last night – the more you know…). Here’s my list today:

  1. literallySinus allergies. Sinus pressure. Allergies. Feeling like my head might literally explode. It’s the worst. TIMEOUT for sinus allergy pressure, please and thank you. Stay in your room until you feel sorry for what you’ve done or until everything outside is dead again.
  2. Justin Bieber. And Miley Cyrus. I’m grouping them together because I suspect they might in fact be the same person (and I’m not the only one) and both are equally in need of a ten year long timeout.
  3. Paper clutter. I know that it’s existence in my home is really my own fault but it doesn’t make me want to shove it all in a rubber room any less. I’d like to sentence paper clutter to an eternity in a bonfire, stat.
  4. Restaurants that don’t serve dessert. Seriously, what point are they trying to prove? Is it that hard to sell me a darn cookie?
  5. Cold weather in May. We’re halfway to June, it’s not allowed to be cold anymore. Stop making me have to debate the merits of wearing a jacket – I don’t want to wear a jacket EVER AGAIN, Mother Nature.
  6. la01dInsurance Companies. My job would seriously be 80% easier if insurance companies either stopped being jerks or just disappeared altogether.
  7. McDonalds. I ordered a crispy chicken sandwich with a Dr Pepper at the drive thru and was asked if I wanted beef or chicken. Ummm? Seriously? I re-specified my order 3 times and still got something different than what I actually asked for. Ridiculous.
  8. The Mommy Wars. They’re done, guys. They were never even real tbh – I’m pretty sure they were made up by self help books and prozac to make us all feel worse about ourselves. Pro tip: We didn’t need any help.
  9. Ink jet printers. And all other technology that seems to be made by the devil for the sole purpose of driving me absolutely insane. Also? Being the only tech savvy person in the room? That is on time out, too.
  10. The questions: “Mom, what’s for dinner?” “Can I play minecraft?” “Can I watch tv?” and “any other statement that begins with “mmmmmmmmmmmmmmooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmm.” Ya done.

What would you like to put in time out today?


family fun photography

Kangaroos and Giraffes and Bears: Oh my!

Subtitle: Getting up close and personal with the wildlife.

sub subtitle: Seriously. We were all up in their business.


We took a class field trip to the Timbavati Wildlife Park in the Dells on Monday. We’ve never been before, so we didn’t really know what to expect. It’s kind of like a zoo. There are animals and a small train – and some of the animals you can feed! But this is not like any “petting zoo” I’ve ever been to. This was the most up close and personal kind of animal experience I’ve ever had.

When is the last time you fed a giraffe? I can now say, “quite recently” but I’m not sure I ever want to again.


That would be the giraffe’s long black tongue, curling around a carrot stick which he would then stick in his mouth.

Basically: To feed a giraffe, you are going to get licked. And possibly disgusted for life. The kids were all equally “ewwwwwwww” about it. Can you blame them?20150518_100606c


Once its tongue was back in its mouth, it was pretty cute again and we were all like “Melman! You’re so cute!”


And then this happened:


And there was much squealing and giggling and “ewwwww”-ing once more. We also saw:20150518_101357


A few of them had little joeys in their pouches which was nothing like what it looks like in Winnie the Pooh. I don’t know why, but my brain really has always assumed there was a pocket involved but I didn’t see one on any of these kangaroos so I feel like Kanga owes me an explanation or two.

I did see what I’m hoping was a baby kangaroo wiggling around inside a “pouch” on the momma kangaroo. Otherwise, she should get that looked at because you never know, I guess. Kids are always sticking weird things in weird places.Kanga-and-Roo-character

Other adorable things seen:


These bear cubs looked and behaved so much like the bear cubs from the movie Brave that it was borderline uncanny.


They were possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Like I’ll take two. The tour guide was incredibly brave around all these animals, which I guess comes with the territory but seriously he was petting lions and tigers and bears – oh my! No joke.


If you could take any wild animal home as a pet (reality not included), which one would you pick? I’ll take a couple of those bears and a baby bobcat for good measure.

books games links technology tv

Weekly Geekly: 5.15.2015

Guys, has this week been long and draining for you, too? The closer we get to summer vacation, the harder the weeks seem to be – like oh my god, do I really have to pack your lunch again?? Luckily, that last day of school is quickly approaching AND it’s Friday AND I have the day off from work. So either I’m going to get a lot of chores done or Netflix is going to  get a lot of action today. But first…

Did you know you can explore Google Maps in LEGO form? (via Mental Floss)

OR: Find out how to become a better Dungeon Master before the next D&D night. (via The JK Vision)

Have you seen these 10 best spin off shows for TV nerds? (via Geek and Sundry)

I loved this article about how Amy Poehler is making herself uncomfortable. Also I love Amy Poehler. (via Fast Company)

Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is going to be a series on SyFy. Here are 11 things you should know and the exclusive trailer! (via BuzzFeed)

I’m reading the book now in preparation for the show – you can get a Kindle copy for $2.99 right now on Amazon!

What are you geeking out over this week?