What I’ve Read Lately: March 21, 2022

Remember a million years ago when I blogged regularly and you guys could expect to see what I was up to on a regular basis? I freely admit, this blog has been seeing less and less action for awhile now, especially since I started teaching my seventh grader full time – but I still love you guys and our little bloggy-verse. I thought I’d kick it old school with Anne’s Quick Lit link up thing – a day late and a dollar short per usual. Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading over the last month or so.

Thanks to this homeschooling thing, my reading life has been very eclectic. Most of the books I’m reading are out loud for literature class, reading ahead for my 7th grader’s independent reading and Magic Tree House books that we read in the morning to start the day light and breezy while I drink my coffee.

I read Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops on my Kindle mostly in spurts while the kiddo did independent work or took long bathroom breaks. It was a nice diversion but honestly a little off putting as the author doesn’t seem to particularly like any of these people and I spend a fair amount of time in bookshops – at least I did pre-Covid anyway.

Adam of the Road was one of those independent readers that takes place during the middle ages and tells the story of a minstrel’s son who goes on quite the adventure. It was a great fit for our history and literature curriculum – plenty of adventures and it really put you in the middle ages.

The next independent reader she’ll be starting is Catherine, Called Birdy which was honestly awesome. Catherine is the very rebellious and independent spirt daughter of a local knight and now that she’s like fifteen or so her dad is working on getting her married off. She is not pleased.

Since her older brother has encouraged her to start keeping a diary to work on her writing skills and maybe keep out of trouble, this book chronicles her adventures in trying not to tie the knot and a year in her life, also in the middle ages.

We read The Great and Terrible Quest together which centers a lot around looking for the Holy Grail but it’s also mostly a story about life in a local abbey during the reign of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

I read Head Over Heels as my bedtime read – a recent pick from Book of the Month and honestly it deserved more like 3 1/2 stars. I actually really enjoyed deep diving into the world of gymnastics the Olympics, a topic which honestly I have no experience in. But it also got super preachy and tied up way too neatly. The main love interest felt really one dimensional and I think Simon Cowell would agree if I said it all felt a little self indulgent. Or I’m an ass.

The last read aloud we finished, apart from the Magic Tree House books, was The Second Mrs. Gioconda. It’s all about how Leonardo DaVinci ended up painting the Mona Lisa but it’s also about the life of his apprentice, Salai – who is frankly awesome. This book was great. I love E.L. Konigsburg and everything by her that I’ve ever read basically.

And the last book I read for my own damned self was Well Matched, the third in a series by Jen DeLuca that has become one of my favorites. They all center around a little local Renaissance Faire and the people of the town it’s held in. This one was just as awesome as the two before it – it made me swoon and cry and cryswoon and all that. I highly recommend the series.

It sure sounds like the end of my reading month was easily the most enjoyable. I don’t entirely disagree. Right now we are kind of just settling into some new books and I don’t have much to say about any of them yet – so I’ll save those thoughts for another day. Feel free to follow me on Goodreads if you want to keep up with my reading life in between scattered blog posts!

What’s Your Sign?

I’m double dipping in the writing prompts at Mama Kat’s this week because I went and got intrigued by both of them and I’m bad at making choices. But the two are completely unrelated so they each get their own post. Yay?

So let’s talk about Zodiac Signs. Being a Capricorn, I honestly am skeptical about Zodiac signs in general (see what I did there?). No, but seriously, just like fortune cookies, I think horoscopes in general can be made to sound right to anyone. And yet…

I have to be honest, the Capricorn Zodiac does line up pretty well for me. Let’s break it down.

Starting with the image above: I am definitely cautious, almost to a fault. I don’t consider myself very ambitious, but I am practical and practically speaking, being relatively successful is important. That said, I’m not all about them dollar bills and I don’t care about titles. I’m almost anti-ambitious. Having to worry about commissions and shit will make me want to leave a company.

I am definitely responsible and reliable. This could also be attributed to being a first born, raised an only child, or just you know how I was raised. I care about being on time, I take my responsibilities seriously, I have more alarms on my cell phone than most people would probably consider healthy.

But to be honest, my tendency to hyper schedule and organize my life stems from the fact that I’d be useless without those tools. If my phone didn’t chirp every day to tell me to pick my kids up from school, I probably wouldn’t show up.

I do consider myself an introvert. My husband disagrees. He is definitely more introverted than me, but I still think I lean towards introversion. I’m not shy, but I definitely prefer small groups and spending time with myself and my thoughts.

I think I am both caring and open-hearted. I consider taking care of my family and friends monumentally important. I get really wrapped up in the emotional well being of fictional characters. I cry during yogurt commercials. That stuff.

I don’t know that I’d call myself nosey, but I guess I probably am just as nosey as most people. I spend a fair amount of time worrying about John Mayer’s love life or wondering when a cousin will get married.

According to this post, I don’t get overly tempted by purchases, and have a gift for investing and saving. Yeah that’s not true. It sounds a little bit like my husband but not me.

They also think my home looks like it belongs on HGTV and that I never lose things – both of which are FALSEGTV. My husband and I are both “pile people” and our clutter reflects that. I definitely feel calmer when the house is cleaner but apparently I don’t know what’s good for me. And I can lose car keys that are literally in my hand, so…

Some Classic (Famous) Capricorns include:
John Legend, Bradley Cooper, Kate Middleton, Liam Hemsworth, Michelle Obama, Ellen Degeneres

I adore basically all of these people so if that means that I’m similar to them and we could all be BFFs, then I might be willing to lie about the whereabouts of my car keys.

Cosmopolitan says that I love gardening and DIY at home. Apparently I love being at home and doing useful, practical things. That news is hilarious to me. I am notorious for looking for ways to leave the house, I have the opposite of a green thumb (I’ve killed a cactus), and I am less than handy when it comes to most DIY. I do have a pretty impressive garden in Animal Crossing though.

Now Cosmo, also says that Capricorns have a big desire for instant gratification and I think that definitely applies to me. I tend to get discouraged when dieting because I want results yesterday and when I see a donut commercial on tv, I am mentally halfway to the car, en route to Dunkin Donuts.

Astrostyle has a fun list of faves and dislikes for Capricorns.

Favorite Things: Business cards, goals, official titles, being in charge, exclusive clubs, “leg sports” like soccer or track, motorcycles, leather
What You Hate: Quitting, shouting in public, careless mistakes, traveling without an itinerary, doing things “just for the heck of it”

Okay so I do love making business cards but I get really frustrated with them because every time I’ve printed a pack, some important info on the card becomes obsolete. Also I’m a homemaker and have little business printing business cards.

I have zero interest in “leg sports” or exclusive clubs.

I will agree that traveling without an itinerary drives me a little south of bananas. I’ve been known to make a binder or two for vacations. I’m not very spontaneous and I’d definitely prefer not to shout in public, though as a teenager I didn’t have that problem at all.


What’s your Zodiac sign? Do you think it describes you well? Go to comments section to tell me all about it.

MY WORD FOR THE YEAR: BLOOM

Truthfully, I find the whole “word of the year” thing a little hokey. New Years Resolutions are made to be broken – a whole year is too long to commit to in normal times, nevermind in the middle of a never-ending pandemic. I’m going to change 800 times between now and next December, as will my priorities.

But sometimes I like to do things even when they are hokey and I love contradicting myself. Also I love words. I like that a word that can be reinterpreted and encompass several goals, ideas, and values.

This year the word BLOOM really jumped out at me. I read through a list of word suggestions and thought about what I wanted from this year and what I thought would be worth focusing on. After the doozy that was 2020, I wanted to think small and focus on myself and my family.

  1. I want to continue learning to be patient in the present, to bloom where I’m planted instead of my tendency to only think about the future and consider new changes that might fix everything or just distract me from now.
  2. Like most years, I want to eat healthier and move more. To nurture my body and make the best choices I can in a given moment.
  3. I also want to be tender with myself, to be forgiving and give myself downtime when I need it and indulgence when necessary.
  4. I want to find beauty when the world feels ugly. To focus on the bright little moments, the dandelions in the pavement.
  5. To celebrate everything and everyone. I want to lift others up, and lift myself up, too.
  6. I want to continue eliminating the unnecessary and focusing on what brings me and my family joy. I’ve really enjoyed how simple a lot of aspects of our life have become after being forced to scale our routines back. I want more of that weeding out process.
  7. I want to grow mentally, too. To continue learning alongside my daughter, to try new things, and be creative whenever possible. I want to literally paint flowers and to learn everything.

I could go on, but you get the idea. All these ideas and goals all feel like the word BLOOM to me, so I’m running with it. Even if it’s cliché, if it helps me to focus on these things that feel important, then it’s worthwhile.

The past year has made decision making incredibly tiring and difficult – the pros and cons of simple things like buying milk today and sad choices like cancelling vacations or not seeing grandparents. So this year I’m walking into January knowing that things aren’t going to get better right away but that I’ve proven I can handle what’s thrown at me and that I can thrive and bloom where I am planted.


Do you have a word of the year or a new years resolution? Tell me all about it in the comments section!

You know I’m linking up (late) with Mama Kat’s Writers Workshop. Today I answered the prompt: Write a list of 7 ideas to make this your best year yet. Head to her blog for more prompts and participants.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

We’re already halfway through the month of January and my reading life for 2021 is in full swing, thanks to homeschooling and bedtime reading. I’m joining along with Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy to share what I’ve been reading over the last month.

Books I’ve Finished Recently

Calico Bush was one of our last read alouds and I still have mixed feelings about it. We loved most of the book and got very wrapped up in the lives of the characters. But I’m still shook over one section of the story that I think was too intense and graphic (and tragic) for the target audience of the book.

Only the Name Remains was probably my least favorite homeschool reader and definitely my daughter’s least favorite this year. Compared to all the other books we’ve read, it was dry and dragging, which is tough to acknowledge when trying to read about a difficult part of history. It just didn’t breathe the story to life for us.

Murder, Served Simply was book 3 in the Amish Quilt Shop series. I’m obsessed with the author and series and conveniently I got to read this Christmas tale of murder and meddling parents and love triangles during Christmas vacation.

Banner in the Sky is the book my 6th grader is reading right now. It was slow to start and I was initially worried it would be a slog, but it quickly swept me away to the Swiss Alps and earned a 5 star rating from yours truly.

What I’m Currently Reading

Right now we’re reading Betsy and the Emperor aloud and we’re both hooked on this story of Napoleon’s enprisonment on St Helena. The title character is delightfully sassy.

I have been hearing endlessly good things about the Brave Writer program and the creator’s book, The Brave Learner so I bought her book to check it out and so far so good. I really appreciate her viewpoint on education and I’m looking forward to picking up some tricks and tips.

I’ve been reading 10 Things I Hate About Pinky at night before bed for the past few nights. The author is a favorite of mine and I was hooked from the premise which is reminiscent of 10 Things I Hate About You.

I’m prereading Homeless Bird right now before my 6th grader starts it next month. It’s an intense plot, but so far I’ve found it very readable. I’ve only gotten a few chapters in though. It’s basically about an arranged marriage gone horribly wrong.

We started reading Soft Rain during our morning basket time at the suggestion of a friend and fellow homeschooler, after commiserating over our lack of enjoyment of Only the Names Remain. So far I’d definitely agree that this is a much more enjoyable narrative to read about the topic of the Trail of Tears. This morning my daughter even begged for one more chapter, always a good sign.


What are you reading right now?

6 Keto Recipes Rocking my January.

I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s World Famous Writer’s Workshop this week. All the cool kids are doing it. Head to her blog to see more posts about the following topics this week:

1. Share a favorite recipe you’ve been loving lately.
2. Write about what helps you stay motivated during these unprecedented times?
3.  Write a blog post about something that made you smile this week.
4. Write a blog post inspired by the word: enough
5. Write about the last argument you witnessed (could be a silly one)…did you take a side?
6. Share a memory about something you did as a child that made a family member angry.


Dan and I both agreed halfway through the month of December that we needed to jump start our diets in the new year. We’d both been living that 2020 Slump Life and eating like a couple of unguarded six year olds at an ice cream buffet for basically a whole year and being actual probably grown ups we knew we couldn’t do it indefinitely. Since quarantine life continues whether we like it or not, it was time to stop acting like life has no rules anymore.

Dan has had tremendous luck with Keto in the past so it was no surprise that he chose to jump back on the well working wagon. And after a couple of years of cooking for his diet, I felt capable this time around of joining him, for at least a month.

There are different types of Keto lifestyles, I’d say ours falls somewhere in the Lazy Keto / Dirty Keto corner. He’s much stricter about his carb levels than I am, but I’ve still managed to do enough in the last two weeks to keep myself from cracking and to keep my sugar level at a much more manageable state. I’m shocked at how few calories I’m consuming when I stick to it and keep enough fat and protein in my diet. So far so good. Here are some of the newer recipes and old favorites that are making this whole thing work for us.


THE BREAKFAST SMOOTHIE

I decided early on that I wanted to find a way to make a breakfast smoothie that was Keto friendly because like 48 hours before starting the diet I had one of the best smoothies of my entire existence at a local coffee shop and I was heartbroken that I wouldn’t be able to drink it again anytime soon. True story, I’m a real piece of work. So I started with this recipe at thebigmansworld.com and tooled around with different flavors and combinations and eventually settled on the following stupidly simple recipe:

Jen’s Keto Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter or almond butter if that’s your bag
  • 1 cup of Quest chocolate protein powder (it has a less carbs than other powders I looked at. I’ve used Olly, too and only used a half serving to cut down on carbs)
  • cinnamon to taste

Directions

  1. Add half the almond milk to your blending device of choice and then the remainder of the ingredients. Then add in the rest of the almond milk.
  2. Blend until all ingredients are well mixed in and it’s the desired consistency.

Sometimes I add powdered instant coffee, too.


EGGS AND BACON Y’ALL

Thanks to my terrific husband working from home, most days he makes me some variety of bacon, eggs, and cheese. Sometimes he scrambles, sometimes they are fried. I am seriously digging this breakfast for lunch life and it’s an easy Keto friendly meal.


KETO ZUPPA TOSCANA

I’ve been making this slow cooker Keto take on zuppa toscana for ages now and I honestly prefer it over the potato version. This recipe subs in cauliflower instead and the result is very tasty. Multiple members of the family have informed me that it’s one of their favorite meals. You can use fresh or frozen veggies and whatever level hotness you like in a sausage. Seriously I make this even when nobody is dieting.


TACO PIE

I was perusing this article on Good Morning America last week and was super intrigued by the Taco Pie recipe. We usually just throw our taco meat on a salad and enjoy our quick taco nights but I felt like trying something new but relatively easy and this was just the ticket. The whole family dug into it and my husband and I immediately started dreaming about how to reimagine other meals in this quichey pie dream world. Tonight I’m going to turn another family favorite, hamburger casserole from Cast Iron Keto, into a Hamburger Pie.


KETO NO BAKE CHEESECAKE

But what about dessert, asks every sweet tooth in the room. I said a lot of big talk early on about how I wasn’t going to succumb to silly fake desserts while doing Keto this month and I made it about one day under that notion. We have found a few Keto ice cream bars and pints that hit the spot, but this no bake cheesecake recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen was lick the beaters good. Like where have you been all my life let’s get married and live in creamy, cheesecakey bliss forever good. And it was so stupidly easy to make that it kind of felt like maybe things will be okay after all. This one still definitely qualifies as a sometimes treat, but what a treat it was.


KETO CHEESE CRACKERS

I’m also still loving this awesome keto cheese cracker hat trick. I found the recipe at kaseytrenum.com and it’s so simple guys. I just cooked up a huge batch today. Each “cracker” is one slice of cracker barrel sized cheese, so three crackers is equal to 1 ounce of cheese. That’s it. This time I sprinkled half with her quasi spicy spice blend and the other half I used garlic powder, basil, and a little parmesan cheese for good measure.


Anyone else living that Keto life? I’d love to hear about your favorite go to recipes in the comments section!

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?