Summer Is.

Summer Is. 

Applying sunscreen to wiggly limbs and scrunched up noses. Weeknight events. Brushing through salty, wet ocean hair. Sweaty brows. Endless pool cleaning. Traffic on the streets. Rushing shoppers in the grocery stores. Beach accidents. Road accidents. Friends in town. Workload amplified. Dinner on the run. Humidity. Windows closed tight. Lines at the state parks. No parking spot to be found. Endless drying of bathing suits & beach towels. Buckets of sand brought home; the long lasting souvenir.

Summer Is Also.

Cheap sunglasses. Bike rides to the playground. Traffic on the weekends inspiring stay cations.

Endless blooms in the yard. The too short hydrangea season.

Refreshing iced La Croixs. Beers on the beach. White wine swimming among quickly melting ice cubes.

Movies on the beach. Lightening bugs. The smell of fresh cut grass. The sweat from cutting the all too large lawn. Refreshing showers and the smell of clean skin and the feel of soft, clean hair.

Trips to the farmer’s markets. Bounty of tomatoes, lettuce, peaches, berries, watermelon, cucumbers, squash and zucchini.

Fun food groups of summer including gelato, funnel cakes, salt water taffy and fro-yo.

Advertisements

The book I’m currently raving about.

Today I’m over at the Washington Independent Review of Books with a 5-book round up for middle grade readers. Check out all my reviews here, but let’s discuss my favorite of the group, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

The story is about a misunderstood witch, Xan, who helps abandoned babies left in the woods. She accidently feeds one of these babies moonlight which gifts the child with magic, even an experienced witch like Xan finds this magic hard to handle. Quickly Xan realizes that she must raise the child, whom she appropriately names Luna, to keep her and everyone safe from her powerful magic.

As Luna grows, Xan does her best to teach her how to handle magic but she soon realizes the girl is much too young to handle her strong magic. Xan decides to cast a spell on Luna binding her powers inside her only to come to surface once the girl turns 13.

The world that Barnhill creates quickly emerges you and is so beautifully written you will find yourself seeing this world in great detail in your imagination. Not since Harry Potter and Hogwarts have I been so engrossed in a fantasy world.

There’s so much to this book, I sometimes find it hard to describe, but don’t let that make you a hesitant reader. Barnhill carefully holds her readers’ hand and guides them through the world of a friendly swamp monster, miniature dragons, paper birds and the sorrow all surrounding the town of Protectorate.

This is a great book for a parent-child book club or for childless adults who love a good fantasy.

To find out what else is on my nightstand, let’s connect on GoodReads.

 

Where I find great books.

In order to be an avid reader, you’ve got to have a steady stream of books to be read.

That’s how I keep my reading, flowing. Sure, there’s been a few times when I’ve been so hungover from a book, I haven’t been able to move on. But generally, I’m ready to pick up the next once I’ve finish and written my online review.

To have a great TBR (to-be-read) list you’ve got to have inspiration and spots to find your books.

I use the GoodReads app to keep track of the books I want to read. Before GoodReads I actually used Amazon’s list feature. I am much happier with the GoodReads feature.

We all know there’s Facebook literary groups, apps and pins to this topic. I thought I’d compile a list of people and places that I solely use for new suggestions.

Modern Mrs. Darcy Blog

Like most of the book web world, I wait for her summer reading list. This year, I’ll be tackling a few that she recommended.

My book club

Definitely my favorite group of ladies and I usually walk out of the room with a list of great books that I can’t wait to put on order from the library.

Reese Witherspoon

I started following this lovely lady on Insta because I just admire her classy, southern self. Then I learned while having her in my feed that she recommends great books too. She uses the hashtag #RWBookClub and she likes entertaining reads for sure. P.S. she’s directing the HBO series Big Little Lies based off one of my favorite books from Liane Moriarty.

Author binging

Sometimes when I finish a book and am unsure what to read next, I start binging on that certain author. No, I’m not joking. I did this with Ruth Ozeki, Erika Robuck, Liane Moriarty and Mary Kay Andrews. From this I have learned that I either love that author or sometimes it’s just the subject matter that I enjoy.

Local libraries

We all know you can go into the library and ask for recommendations. I can’t say I’ve ever done this, but what I do do is head straight to their “browse” collection. In my home state our libraries have a “browse” collection that is not allowed to be renewed or placed on hold. If you’re standing there and it’s available, you’re just a lucky reader that day. I know these are for the most popular books so I know I’ll find at least something there.

What are your favorite ways to find new books?

I dabble…

What can I say? I’m a dabbler.

I love having hobbies and love them each passionately.

I read. I write. I paint. I sew. I garden. I bike ride. I organize. I bake. I make jewelry.

If I were to include my teenage years to that list would be much, much longer.

One of my all time favorite thing to create would be home decor crafts, especially holiday items. Pieces that are stored for a majority of the year until their time comes. I like the specialness of a good holiday piece.

I also hate paying retail for holiday items. In fact, I refuse. If there’s something I see that is seasonal that I can’t make myself I will wait until after that holiday to get it at 50%, 60% or even 75% off the original price. As soon as I come home I make myself put it away in it’s appropriate holiday storage box. Next time that holiday comes around I open the box and say “Ah! I forgot I bought that!” and that my friends it magic to me.

Right after Christmas this year, I had been crushing on all things vintage red truck carrying a Christmas tree. Since that season is typically busy I never got around to making anything red-truckish. After the New Year I broke out my watercolors and painted an item to stash away for next year.

Below is a before and after image of outlining my watercolor. It really takes it from flat to POP. If you’re a dabbler like me, add a little outline to make your work a little more professional.

IMG_4104

A day trip to DC (with kids)

IMG_4242-1

I’m all for getting out-of-town for the day. When I saw my kids spring break pop up on the calendar I started brainstorming.

We decided to hit Washington D.C. for the day. When I say we, I mean my six-year-old decided. While he was learning about the presidents during the month of February he  quickly decided that good ole Abraham Lincoln was his favorite. His teacher told him about the Lincoln Memorial and jumped on the idea to take the kids.

For this trip we decided to keep things simple by going just for the day and by parking at the metro station outside the city and riding it in. This saved us money since we didn’t have to book a hotel, eliminated the stress of driving the city and added to the experience big time!

Transportation. 

Riding the metro was fun for us all! I personally love people watching. The kids loved absolutely everything about the metro. Adding to their transportation experience was using a taxi once during the day and an Uber. It blew the kids mind that mom used her phone to summon a car and we hoped in it. Seriously, they are still talking about it.

Landmarks.

Truth be told, on this trip my kids were 4 and 6 years old. Did it really hit them that the monuments we saw were symbols to our country? Not exactly. Were they blown away at the massiveness of some of them? Yes. But, I know that it was memorable and once they learn more in school about history it will hit them.

Once off the metro at the Smithsonian stop it’s just a short walk to the National Mall area. One of my favorite things about this city, is how wide open it is and how much green space there is. The kids could easily take off running at the many large grassy areas.

Here we hit the World War II monument, Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

At this point we knew it was time for a taxi to get to our next destination. We had this in our plans and budget thinking we would get more out of the kids if we gave them a few breaks from walking.

We grabbed lunch near the White House and met up with a family member who lives in the area.

Visiting the White House was a quick, easy visit. Lots of security and I have to say it’s the only place that made me a bit nervous. Sure there was plenty of security guards around, but we visited a few days after there was a shooting incident at the Capital and I noticed a few protesters utilizing their 1st Amendment, and felt like a quick visit was perfectly fine.

Another short walk from there we visit the Renwick Gallery, which was suggested to us to visit with the kids. It’s a free museum and had an amazing exhibit called, Wonder, at the time which ended up as the perfect first art experience for the kids. We all can’t stop talking about this place! You can find out more about it here.

Before our trip, I did check the hash tag feed for this gallery to see if other people brought their kids to it and I saw plenty did, so I felt better bringing ours there. When we walked through it was packed with kids taking it in.

Washington D.C. Zoo

We decided to hit the zoo because it was about 2:30 p.m. and after a coffee and cookie break our kids were still feeling awesome! We’ve been here before but it’s so big we didn’t hit the entire thing. We decided to see that side this time. Great, great free zoo.

This was by far one of the best day trips we’ve been on. I can’t say enough about this city. It’s clean. Everyone we spoke to was so friendly and helpful. It’s kid and family friendly. It’s got tons of green space. Pedestrian and bike friendly. And there are so many free things to do!

Memorial Journal

Confession: My mom passed away suddenly a little over two years ago. I’ve slowly been dealing with my grief over this time period, but this post isn’t about me. It’s about my two kids. My mom’s only grandchildren. The kids she took care of while my husband and I worked outside of the home.

When this tragedy struck my family my children were two and four. Still in diapers. Still babies in my eyes. My son, the oldest, remembers more about my mom. She took care of him since he was an infant. He has a longer list of memories with her but recently he mentioned that he couldn’t remember somethings about her.

My husband and I have made an effort to keep her memory vivid in our house for us and especially for our kids. Photos of my mom are everywhere. We speak about her a lot. And we tell the kids stories. We want them to remember her forever. She was, after all, a huge part of their lives.

When my son mentioned he doesn’t remember somethings it gave me a swift kick in the butt that I needed. Right after I lost my mom I ordered a notebook. A notebook from one of those photo gift sites. I added photos of my mom to the front. Since then, it has been collecting dust. Over this time period my daughter grabbed it and stuck stickers on every single page. I was surprised she had that much patience and I was happy with it, because it’s something my mother wouldn’t have minded.

I’ve been jotting notes in it here and there. Creating a memorial journal for my kids. Collecting memories, thoughts and events that involved my mom for my kids to have. This is something they can treasure and have to remember her and to go to when they miss her or feel like they can’t remember fun things about her.

Here’s a list of events I plan on covering:

  • Birth stories (how my mom was involved in it)
  • Holidays
  • Birthdays
  • Special things about her house
  • Special things about our house
  • Her hosting style
  • Her cats with my kids

Call it a memorial journal, call it a memory book, the name doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get to relive these wonderful memories through pen and paper. My kids will have something hand written by their mother about their grandmother.

When summer reading goes wrong.

You know the drill. You find yourself in the spring yearning for the warm, summer months waiting for longer days, watermelon and for your summer tan. Along with all those fun things, you’re also gathering your summer reading list. You could be picking the brain of the employee at your local independent bookstore, browsing GoodReads or asking your close friends.

No matter your source, creating the list is also mapping out your summer. Mapping out where your brain will be living. Mapping out what topic you will dive into. Let’s face it- It’s exciting!

I was so excited to create my summer reading list. And I kept it light and reasonable. I knew which ones I really, really wanted to read and I added a few extras incase I was ahead of schedule.

But what happens when your summer reading goes wrong?

What happens when life takes over and your books sit dusty on your nightstand? 

It took my summer reading list dissolving to make me realize my seasons of life. Summer is when I push my kids bedtime back an hour to enjoy a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. It’s when I’m in the garden cutting flowers for a vase with my daughter. It’s when I’m chatting with my great friends at the beach rather than having my nose in a book.

I live in a coastal town. We have three prime months to live it up and boy do we play hard. By the time the kids are put to bed, I usually shower off the day and head straight to bed.

And you know why? Because summer isn’t my reading season. You know what else? I’m totally cool with it.

I know that this fall my book club will start meeting again and I will find my usual spot with a cup of tea and my lovely books.

Maybe summer is your season to read! We all have such different lives. What is your summer season like?

5 Books for Your Adventurous Elementary-Schooler

I’m over on the Washington Independent today with 5 book reviews perfect for your elementary-schooler!

These titles are perfect to grab this week for your young reader to enjoy this weekend or during the upcoming holiday breaks! Having trouble with your kids getting interested in reading? Follow these steps: read my reviews, order one that is similar to their interest and read it with them!

Happy reading!

Book Review: What Alice Forgot

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

whataliceforgot

 

  • Cost- $16.00
  • Category- Fiction
  • Page Count- 496
  • Star Rating- 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommend to a friend- YES!

 

Synopsis: Alice awakes from a fall during her spin class to a room full of strangers. Or are they? After being taken to the hospital she realizes that she can’t seem to remember many things except that she is a newlywed to Nick and is pregnant with her first baby. Yet, her husband isn’t at the hospital waiting for her or calling to check on her. It is then revealed that she is suffering from a great deal of memory loss, a great deal as in 10 years of her life.

Things I liked: I was hesitant about this book at first. I thought it be yet another simple easy-to-read fiction. I assumed it was just another, as I call them, “beach read” with nothing to take away from it just pure entertainment. Happy to report, I couldn’t be more wrong. This book made me think about my life in so many different ways. Who doesn’t compare one’s current self to the younger self we were ten years ago? Ten years younger without the increased amount of stress, without the aging worries, without ten years of debt, without ten years of making or trying to have children, a lot of life happens over ten years. And what about if all those memories and life lessons were just gone one day?

Would your younger self approve of your current self? Would you even like yourself? What decisions would you find yourself regretting? What things have you lost over that time period? What new things are you happy with? These are all questions Alice finds herself not only asking but having to live in a very blunt way.

The author takes each of these personal lessons Alice goes through and makes you feel them right along with her. You’ll find yourself annoyed with her, feeling sad with her and contrarily routing for her. Prepare to be emotionally invested in this novel.

I will avoid any spoilers but the ending was just magical.

Things I didn’t like: The beginning was a bit slow and then I was completely hooked. You won’t be able to put this book down once you’re about half way through. Also, there’s one character (the adopted grandmother) that is a narrator throughout the book that I found confusing. I’m not sure if it was necessary to make this character a narrator as after I finished I couldn’t understand her role.

A mom’s DIY Halloween Costume.

What to wear when you’re a working professional and a mom for Halloween?

Tough question, I debated for weeks! We had a Halloween Costume Contest at my office and I knew I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a silly costume. I tried to do a group theme but we all couldn’t agree. At the last minute I declared I was going solo and was inspired by several posts and came up with this creation: An Instagram Selfie Lover.

20141103-093857-34737882.jpg

 

All I needed was cardboard, paint and patience. It was fun to use throughout the day and a lot of people got a kick out of it. I flipped through a magazine and found the profile picture very easily. That was a last minute personalization. Since I work in the marketing department it was perfect for the office. Although I didn’t win the contest, I was proud of my paint job.

Easy & office appropriate!