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mama kat's writers workshop

6 Things I Want to Accomplish This Fall

Kat @ Mama Kat’s Losin It wants to know 6 things I’m hoping to accomplish this fall (it’s one of 6 prompts for her pretty much world famous Writer’s Workshop. It feels weird to make plans or goals in a year that has been notoriously filled with uncertainty and change – but let’s see if we can come up with 6 goals for a season known for change anyway.

  1. I want to make pumpkin bars this year. I’ve never done it before but I’ve eaten a lot of them and it feels like it’s probably in my wheel house. Have a favorite recipe? Throw it in the comments section below. Don’t throw actual pumpkin bars because it will just land on your monitor or phone screen and I don’t want to be responsible for that.
  2. I want to start a nature journal with my 6th grader. This one might be cheating because I’ve literally already gotten a book from the library about how to start a nature journal and dug up some sketch books in the basement and even started pressing a couple of leaves and a flower from a recent “field trip” to a local park. But if Fall ends and we haven’t put anything in our sketch books, I’d be disappointed. So I’m throwing it out into the universe for accountability.
  3. I want to try making homemade biscuits again now that I have biscuit cutters and stuff. It’s tough when most of my goals are carb based and supposedly we’re trying to eat healthy? The conflict is pretty crystal clear.
  4. I want to watch a bunch of Halloween themed movies with the family in October. I actually looked up a bunch that are streaming and ones that I owned and put a handful on my Google Calendar to try and make this actually happen. Cross your fingers.
  5. I want to drink a warm tasty beverage while cuddled under a cozy blanket and watch The Great British Baking Show or reading a cozy mystery. We’ll pretend that I haven’t been doing that all year anyway.
  6. I want to find an extra room in my house that I can escape to when my teenagers are being exceptionally loud playing video games online with friends or watching cartoons. Like I’m glad they are happy and being entertained but my house is basically never quiet and it’s starting to get too cold outside to hide on my front porch so we’re going to need to figure something out before I start shouting that children should be seen and not heard.

That’s my list – what would be on yours for this season?

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mama kat's writers workshop memes & carnivals motherhood

The Difference A Year Makes.

One of Mama Kat’s prompts for this week’s Writer’s Workshop is to look back on a blog posts from this time last year and compare how things are different now…

I know, right?

I don’t think 2019 Jen could even fathom 2020 Jen’s life and that’s okay because I wouldn’t wish it on my worst alternate reality self. But if we can’t giggle about it and pretend it doesn’t hurt then the Rona Gremlins win. So here’s a post I wrote back in August of 2019 just before school was about to start.

I was giddy with anticipation about the kids going back to school soon because as much as I love my kids, being with them every day all day for a whole summer can be tough.

Here are some of the things I was looking forward to doing:

I can’t wait to go to the coffee shop and just get something for myself and only spend like $5. Which I still do sometimes during the summer but it earns me a stink eye from the Offspring.

I mean, I’d still love to go to the coffee shop by myself but I would love it even more if I could go inside without putting on a mask, applying hand sanitizer and spritzing myself with holy water.

It goes without saying that I can’t wait to go to Target alone, right?

God guys, remember when going to Target was fun? I want to pretend I enjoy my trips there now but it’s not easy when people are standing too close to me, I feel guilty for wanting to peruse the dollar bins and I can’t drink a pumpkin spice frapuccino through my mask while shopping.

Though I’ll admit, shopping for office supplies still kind of feels like this.

I have these grand ambitions to start exercising again.

Siggggghhhh that would be awesome if I wasn’t still recovering from this sprained ankle situation. I have grand ambitions now to walk without limping. Besides I’ve always been terrible at exercise. So at least 2020 Jen won’t be lying to herself.

I am pretty stoked to spend a significantly smaller portion of my day listening to my children bicker about whatever video game they have ambitions to play together.”

Oh, I might actually get this one – once we’re all back on a school schedule there will be much less time for video games and arguing about video games. Huzzah!

I have not watched much in the way of grownup movies or television in months.

Man, same 2019 Jen, same.


So I guess the moral of the story is the more things change, the more they stay the same.

or…

The grass is greener on the vaccinated non-quarantined side.

or…

Wash your hands, kids!

or…

I can’t think about that right now, I’ll think about it tomorrow…

Categories
books memes & carnivals

WWW Wednesday | August 26th

It’s Wednesday so it’s time for WWW Wednesday. This is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words, where you answer three questions:

  • What did you recently finish?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Miraculously I actually have enough to update you with since last week to justify a new post! Anyone else feel like they are either reading a million things a minute or slogging through one book for months with no middle ground? Just me?

Last Read

I’ve finished four books since last week! I finished Prose and Cons by Amanda Flower shortly after my last WWW post. I’m officially obsessed with this series.

I also finished reading The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell with time to spare before the school year starts! This one picked up in the second half with more action happening and I’d finally settled into the writing style. I’m looking forward to discussing it with my daughter next month.

And I read two children’s graphic novels recently at the insistence of said daughter. Karen’s Roller Skates, a BSC Little Sisters book that brought me right back to my childhood.

And Stargazing by Jen Wang which was way deeper than I was expecting but luckily had a happy ending. It’s another amazing graphic memoir for tweens – highly recommend.

Currently Reading

I’m continuing to read way too many books at once. My book club is discussing section one of Calm the F*ck Down by Sarah Knight tomorrow. Then we’ll read section 2 next month.

Since I finished The King’s Fifth, I started reading The Ghost at Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, the second independent reader for our school year. I thought about waiting since I’m ahead of schedule but figured I aught to hold onto my momentum while I can. Especially in case my reading time diminishes once school starts.

I also started reading Homeschool Basics by my new idol, Kristi Clover, yesterday. I’ve been watching her videos on YouTube (among others) to get myself mentally and practically ready for this fall. So far this book seems like exactly what I needed. A mix of practical advice and encouragement.

And for my bedtime reading I’m absolutely devouring The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary. Like reading way way too late three nights in a row please send coffee kind of situation. Obsessed.

Next Up

I’m planning to start on book 3 of Amanda Flower’s magical bookshop series after I finish The Flatshare. Alternatively, I might read some of the other books I’ve been getting from the library. They have been sending them faster than I can read lately as all my holds seem to be coming through at once.

I am also keen to see what other books Beth O’Leary has written.


What about you? What books have you been spending time with lately?

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books books & reading memes & carnivals reviews

WWW Wednesday | August 19, 2020

I thought I’d hop in on WWW Wednesday this week. This is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words, where you answer three questions:

  • What did you recently finish?
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Last Read

The last book I finished was The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone

This book was heavier than I expected, but engrossing. I thought the premise was really interesting and the characters were so inspiring. We should all be Unlikelies.

Currently Reading

Right now I’m reading three different books. My book club is sloooowwwwly discussing Calm the F*ck Down by Sarah Knight over the rest of the year. We are not exactly overachievers lol but I’m excited to discuss the first couple chapters with them at the end of the month and the book seems super timely this year.

I’m also reading The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell which my daughter will be reading independently next month in our reading curriculum. I’m trying to stay one book ahead of her so that we can have good discussions.

And my current bedtime story is Prose and Cons by Amanda Flower, book two of her magical bookshop series. I’m kind of obsessed with this series and planning to deep dive into her backlist.

Next Up

When I finish The King’s Fifth, I’ll start reading The Ghost of Tokaido Inn by Dorothy Hoobler. I also plan to read Stargazing by Jen Wang soon – a graphic novel that my eleven year old just put in my hands. And I’ve already got the next magical bookshop book, Murders and Metaphors, on my nightstand.


What are you reading right now?

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family fun motherhood photography wordless wednesday

wordless wednesday | pictures of june

When I look back on this time someday, these are the things I hope to remember. Not how Facebook was driving me crazy or how much I hate group texts or how much I miss that sense of normalcy that we’ve always taken for granted. I want to remember the beautiful moments that we found when we were forced to slow down and focus on home.

doodling along with some favorite illustrators on youtube - we love Studio JJK and Mo Willems!
doodling along with some favorite illustrators on youtube
what better activity to spend quarantine doing than baking my way through a new cookbook - these cheddar herb scones came out great
baking therapy for the win
making pinecone bird feeders with the kids really brought me back to doing this as a kid with my grandmother
making pine cone bird feeders like it’s 1992
finally painting again - it felt good to pull out my watercolors after a long hiatus
painting a watercolor meadow

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books & reading quick lit

What I’ve Been Reading Lately | June 15, 2020

How has summer been treating your reading life? I’ve found that quarantine life equals lazy mornings which results in staying up late reading most nights. So my nightstand reads are getting a fair amount of attention. Those are the lighter, fluffier reads that I trust not to make sleeping difficult.

My book club picks have been hit or miss. Most of them have had heavier subjects that my poor little quarantine brain hasn’t been able to deal with. But our May pick managed to hold my attention and I finished it in the nick of time.

I’ve also been reading some books with the kids. My daughter and I are reading Babysitter’s Club super specials together for a mother daughter book club. And my teenager has put a couple of good books in my hands after devouring them.

Here are the books I’ve finished in the last month or so.

  1. REALLY LIKED Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer | Finished 5/23 | I read this at the recommendation of my 14 year old and my husband who both loved it. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this – a fantastic blend of fantasy, action and sci fi starring an villainous but brilliant twelve year old. This is a fast paced read and a lot of fun. Looking forward to book two!
  2. LOVED Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng | Finished 5/30 | This book was a slow burn for me (pun intended) but the more I read, the more it grabbed me. The second half went by fast. I think the author did a great job peeling away the details at the right time. Very well done.
  3. LOVED Aloha, Babysitters by Ann M. Martin | Finished 6/2 | Read this with my daughter for a little mother daughter book club. I don’t remember reading it before actually so it was fun not knowing what was going to happen. I don’t remember Abby and liked getting to know her character. This super special had a lot of action and adventure and I loved the descriptions of Hawaii. 🥰🥰🥰
  4. REALLY LIKED Uprooted by Naomi Novik | Finished 6/7 | Howls Moving Castle meets Moana meets The Witcher. This reads like a dark, adult fairy tale and sweeps you away.

Right now I’m reading The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman and The Babysitter’s at Shadow Lake by Ann M. Martin.

What have you been reading lately?

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books & reading reviews top 5 tuesday

Top 5 Love Stories

The prompt for this week’s Top 5 Tuesday hosted by Bionic Bookworm is love stories or romances. This term can be applied to a lot of books and can mean different things to different people. From corset ripping to classic love stories and everything in between. Here are 5 of my very favorites.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen | This is my Gold Standard. All love stories will be compared to P&P at the end of the day. This is the classic romance I will recommend to everyone. Runners up for classic romance are Anne of Green Gables and Gone With the Wind.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell | This is my favorite young adult nerdy girl love story. I literally turn into a fangirl over this story. If you like it, you’ll want to be reading all of Rowell’s other books and anything by John Green or Becky Albertalli.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan | This book is a perfect combination of romance and wanderlust. It’s about picking up your life and starting over and has Scottish accents and bookish references for days. Colgan is a master at this genre so you can plunge her backlist for ages, then try Katherine Center for more love stories where the main character is figuring out her own life, too.

Cress by Marissa Meyer | If you are looking for a Rapunzel retelling set in a sci fi / fantasy dystopian setting (you know, like you do) then look no further! This is a couple of books into the Lunar Chronicles series that I recommend to anyone who will listen so if you haven’t read Cinder yet, start there. If you already know and love this one, then go read the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins | This a perfect sweet YA love story, perfect for fans of To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han or Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. It also falls into the Wanderlust category and is also part of a semi-connected series.


Which books would be on your list?

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books & reading top 5 tuesday

Top 5 Tuesday: The Alphabet Challenge | Books To Look Forward To in 2020 (U-Z)

In which I bend all the rules.

It’s time for Top 5 Tuesday hosted by Bionic Bookworm and we’ve finally made it to the last week of the alphabet challenge! Today’s post starts off wonky from the bat because there are 6 letters. Then it gets weirder because it’s comprised of the letters U, V, W, X, Y, and Z. I mean, really.

This week I chose books releasing in 2020 that I would like to read. Some have already been released and some come out later this year. All are something to look forward to which is a nice thing to have right about now.

Note: I chose a mix of book titles and author’s names to make my list and got even more creative than that for one letter.


Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener came out in January. Wiener is being described as the Joan Didion of start-up culture in this coming of age memoir in the Silicon Valley start up tech industry.

“In her mid-twenties, at the height of tech industry idealism, Anna Wiener—stuck, broke, and looking for meaning in her work, like any good millennial–left a job in book publishing for the promise of the new digital economy. She moved from New York to San Francisco, where she landed at a big-data startup in the heart of the Silicon Valley bubble: a world of surreal extravagance, dubious success, and fresh-faced entrepreneurs hell-bent on domination, glory, and, of course, progress.

Anna arrived amidst a massive cultural shift, as the tech industry rapidly transformed into a locus of wealth and power rivaling Wall Street. But amid the company ski vacations and in-office speakeasies, boyish camaraderie and ride-or-die corporate fealty, a new Silicon Valley began to emerge: one in far over its head, one that enriched itself at the expense of the idyllic future it claimed to be building.”

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim comes out in August so we’ll be waiting awhile for this one but it sounds worth the wait.

Ever since she can remember, Vanessa has been able to see people’s fortunes at the bottom of their teacups. To avoid blurting out their fortunes, she converts to coffee, but somehow fortunes escape and find a way to complicate her life and the ones of those around her. To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai.

After her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa sees death for the first time. She decides that she can’t truly live until she can find a way to get rid of her uncanny abilities. When her eccentric Aunt Evelyn shows up with a tempting offer to whisk her away, Vanessa says au revoir to California and bonjour to Paris. There, Vanessa learns more about herself and the root of her gifts and realizes one thing to be true: knowing one’s destiny isn’t a curse, but being unable to change it is.”

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry came out earlier this month and Jenny Lawson is discussing it with her blog’s book club which is how I first heard about it. The Salem witch trials tie in was what caught my attention though.

Set in the coastal town of Danvers, Massachusetts, where the accusations began that led to the 1692 witch trials, We Ride Upon Sticks follows the 1989 Danvers High School Falcons field hockey team, who will do anything to make it to the state finals—even if it means tapping into some devilishly dark powers. In chapters dense with 1980s iconography—from Heathers to “big hair”—Barry expertly weaves together the individual and collective progress of this enchanted team as they storm their way through an unforgettable season.

Helmed by good-girl captain Abby Putnam (a descendant of the infamous Salem accuser Ann Putnam) and her co-captain Jen Fiorenza (whose bleached blond “Claw” sees and knows all), the Falcons prove to be wily, original, and bold, flaunting society’s stale notions of femininity in order to find their glorious true selves through the crucible of team sport and, more importantly, friendship.

The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry comes out next week and yes I’m aware how completely this book neither starts with the letter X and that the author’s name doesn’t either. Guys X was hard and after a couple of days searching, I settled for X appearing anywhere in the title and eventually found a book that met that criteria AND looked like a book I would even read! I call that a win. Here’s the description:

Bridget Jones penned a diary; Roxy writes letters. Specifically: she writes letters to her hapless, rent-avoidant ex-boyfriend—and current roommate—Everett. This charming and funny twenty-something is under-employed (and under-romanced), and she’s decidedly fed up with the indignities she endures as a deli maid at Whole Foods (the original), and the dismaying speed at which her beloved Austin is becoming corporatized. When a new Lululemon pops up at the intersection of Sixth and Lamar where the old Waterloo Video used to be, Roxy can stay silent no longer.

As her letters to Everett become less about overdue rent and more about the state of her life, Roxy realizes she’s ready to be the heroine of her own story. She decides to team up with her two best friends to save Austin—and rescue Roxy’s love life—in whatever way they can. But can this spunky, unforgettable millennial keep Austin weird, avoid arrest, and find romance—and even creative inspiration—in the process?”

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli came out in February and I’m itching to read it. I loved The Upside of Unrequited and this one sounds easily as good.

YES

Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone) Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.

NO

Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.

MAYBE SO

Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural crush of the century is another thing entirely.”

Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman came out earlier this month and the cover caught my eye right away. The description sealed the deal and I quickly added the book to my Amazon wishlist and this post.

Judy never intended to start wearing the dog. But when she stumbled across her son Teddy’s old baby sling during a halfhearted basement cleaning, something in her snapped. So: the dog went into the sling, Judy felt connected to another living being, and she’s repeated the process every day since.

Life hasn’t gone according to Judy’s plan. Her career as a children’s book author offered a glimpse of success before taking an embarrassing nose dive. Teddy, now a teenager, treats her with some combination of mortification and indifference. Her best friend is dying. And her husband, Gary, has become a pot-addled professional “snackologist” who she can’t afford to divorce. On top of it all, she has a painfully ironic job writing articles for a self-help website—a poor fit for someone seemingly incapable of helping herself.”


We did it! We finished the Alphabet Challenge and shared 26 books worthy of your TBR list!

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family fun mama kat's writers workshop

Writer’s Workshop: Homeschooling, Week One

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It’s Thursday so it’s time to link up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. How has your week been?

Here are the different prompts to choose from this week:

1. Attempt a craft or recipe you saw on Pinterest, how did it turn out?
2. Write about how you keep busy during a “quarantine.” Is your daily schedule affected much at all?
3. Show us a place you love to visit.
4. List 5 frivolous things you don’t want to live without.
5. Write a blog post inspired by the word: new


I figured I’d take this time to update you guys on how our “quarantine” is going because that’s all we’re talking about anyway.

This is week two of Hiding at Home for us and Week One in homeschooling with the kids. Our school is doing a trial run of their virtual learning plan starting today but the past few days we’ve been making up our own home learning plan.

In the mornings we have art class which meant doodling with authors Mo Willems and Jarrett J Krosoczka, both are local artists and authors from Massachusetts aka our old hometown and both are probably responsible for some of your kids favorite books. I’m grateful to them for taking this weird scary time and making something fun for kids and parents to look forward to. The kids draw along while I drink a cup of coffee and work on becoming human enough to home school.

Next the kids work on English which has so far involved them each working on a creative writing story. My ten year old is working on a short story about a girl who moves to a new school where students are disappearing when they go to the bathroom?? My thirteen year old is writing a story about a guy in space who has lost his memory and there appears to be an evil computer involved maybe?

For reading they are reading independently and writing me book reviews about the chapters or books they are finishing. They’ve been reading The Descendants Junior novelization, Emily of New Moon, Ban This Book and some Minecraft book. I’ve been explaining to my thirteen year old the difference between a book report and a book review and spoiler etiquette.

Math has been on Khan Academy and these Disney multiplication printables from Artsy Fartsy Mama for my ten year old.

Science and social studies have been more hands on for my part. After lunch we have watched educational YouTube videos and documentaries on Disney Plus. I highly recommend Crash Course for middle school and high school and Sci Show Kids for elementary. We also love National Geographic Kids. Some topics we learned about include astronomy, climate challenges for animals and the Westward expansion of the US.

I also signed both kids up with Duolingo so they can learn Spanish and French from home. Now all four members of the family are using this to learn a foreign language and I have to say we all love it. That’s not an ad or sponsored thing, I’m just letting you know that I recommend it. I have been learning German and brushing up on my French with Duolingo for awhile now and it’s the easiest learning a language has ever been for me.

Meanwhile my hubby has been working from home since Monday which involves a lot of typing and meetings and saying, “Shhhh!” and drinking coffee. I think it’s been going okay – you can’t beat the commute at least.

Overall, we continue to be in a pretty good place. We’re healthy and have enough food and the worst I can say is that it’s hard to get time to yourself when we’re all here all day. That and I’m tired of cooking dinner but I’m trying to reserve takeout for desperate times.

How are things going where you are?