Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Quick Lit - September

I've been doing these Quick Lit posts for over 3 years and this is the first time I haven't had mine up by the 15th!  A variety of factors and out of normal weeks (including going to a Backstreet Boys concert last week which took more than 24 hours from my week, in terms of driving, going, and catching up on sleep!  I WILL continue to find ways to mention them where it's least expected.).

Despite the weird weeks, I have gotten a decent amount of reading time in, largely thanks to our older son being back in school and our younger son taking 3 hour naps during the school day.  The introvert part of me LOVES this.  I feel more like me when I am reading consistently and getting some real quiet time. 

I am (late) linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy.  I'm on Goodreads here and Instagram here, friend me on either if you are interested!

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald
I really enjoyed this historical fiction, set almost entirely at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, that had shades of The Time Traveler's Wife.  Joe works for the railroad in the 1930s and is surprised to come across a woman who seems out of place in the main concourse of Grand Terminal.  She doesn't look like she's from around here.  As Joe figures out the mystery around this woman, Nora, he also has his job and, eventually, World War II to deal with.  I wasn't sure where this book was all going to go but I really enjoyed the reading experience. 3.75 Stars

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
I've read a couple "bookish" books this year.  This one about a bookseller named, obviously, Nina, who likes her predictable life with her routine and schedule.  Then the father she never knew died and left her a whole extended family she didn't know about.  Her life isn't quite so predictable now.  I related a lot to her bookish ways as well as her like for planning and routine.  Also a good reminder that it's good to throw that all out the window at times.  3.25 Stars

The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis
I read a decent amount of historical fiction in the past month and almost all set in NYC!   The Chelsea was a hotel for artistic types for decades (and looks like it was recently reopened after a renovation) but this book is largely set in the 1950s.  A writer, Hazel, and actress, Maxine, befriend each other while entertaining troops during World War II and their paths cross at the Chelsea too.  It covers 1940s-1960s and the careers of Hazel and Maxine.  It was interesting and mostly fun. 3.5 Stars

Recursion by Blake Crouch
I was surprised by how much I liked Dark Matter a couple years ago and knew I was going to read the author's newest.  I don't read much sci-fy but Dark Matter was so engaging!  This had similar beats and feel as Dark Matter, about False Memory Syndrome - people have VIVID memories of lives they aren't living - but maybe could be if they had made a few different choices in their past.  But where did these memories come from?  Covering multiple viewpoints, it was a little trippy and confusing, but a solid read. 3 Stars

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
This is YA and maybe the first YA I've read where I've thought "Maybe I'm getting too old to be reading YA."   Reagan is a bit a rebel and is following her BFF, Lilah, around as Lilah does a summer concert tour (think maybe Taylor Swift, in her early country years).  And Lilah has an opening act who is a cute boy.  So romance is going to happen.  It was fine, I probably would have really enjoyed it...half my life ago...  2.75 Stars

Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen
Another historical fiction set in NYC!  This is the book I bought myself at a bookstore on Mackinac Island back in June (I am going to write about that trip...eventually).  I was leery it was a bad purchase choice but I ended up enjoying it.  Set when Cosmo magazine was getting a lift in the 1960s under a new editor...who knew nothing about magazines.  It follows the assistant (to the) editor as she adjusts to life in NYC and her new job.  I've read very few episode of Cosmo but the behind the scenes of the magazine world was interesting.  3 Stars

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
This book was a delight - only about 100 pages of correspondence between a writer living in NYC with a bookseller in London.  They wrote letters back and forth for decades and it was just so lovely to watch their friendship develop across the ocean, even though they never met in person.  I really enjoyed how the writer would say it's just easier to have the London bookseller get her books, rather than make the trek out herself.  Everyone who orders things online understands except they were doing all this via mail where it would take weeks or more between the request and the receipt!  4 Stars

Loving my Actual Neighbor: 7 Practices to Treasure the People Right in Front of You by Alexandra Kuykendall
I've really enjoyed her two previous books about Loving my Actual Life and Loving my Actual Christmas so I knew I was going to pick this one up.  It's not the same format as the previous two but covers 7 different ways of loving your actual neighbors - as in the people living next door, across the street, etc.  Seeing as we've had new next door neighbors for over 6 months I have yet to actually meet...this was maybe a good read for me.  3.75 Stars

The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel
More World War II fiction (poor planning on my part that I read so much historical fiction this close - usually I'm better at spreading it out!).  A young woman lives with her husband at a winery in the Champagne region of France during World War II.  The Germans' occupation affects them and their champagne more than I realized and they have to find small ways to fight back.  The story bounces between World War II and a woman around 40, recently divorced, who is visiting her Grandma in France when they take a surprise trip to the Champagne region.  I'm always amazed at all the parts of World War II I had no idea about before I read a fiction book (based on fact).  This was another one of those. 3.5 Stars

Save me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
Just earlier this year I read another food memoir by Ruth Reichl - that one about the start of her career as the restaurant critic for the New York Times.  This one follows her critic years when she took over Gourmet magazine in it's final ~10 years.  I've never read Gourmet but I enjoyed food memoirs and books set in NYC.  It was a strange coincidence that I read two NYC magazine world set books so close!  I enjoyed this one, she's an excellent writer and it's always interesting to read about lives different than my own. 3.75 Stars

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear
September feels like a good time to read a book about good habits, as we try to set some good ones for the new school year.  I've read other books on habits and this one wasn't so radically different than those BUT it was an engaging read and plenty of worthwhile things in here.  There are plenty of aspects of my life that could be improved with better habits.  4 Stars

Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty
I read another review of this book that said the last 15% redeemed the whole book for her and I agree with that.  A woman loses her Irish twin brother at the age of 16 and in the same year she starts getting mysterious mailings from something called "The Guidebook".  It seems like too big of a coincidence that they aren't related so she follows along with these sporadic mailings which culminates in a retreat ~20 years later.  She's trying to figure out what this Guidebook is about as well as still not over the unresolved mystery of what happened to her brother.  I think this book could have been easily edited down another 100 pages and still left with a good book with less filler.  But the ending was good. 2.75 Stars
You've Been Volunteered: A Class Mom Novel by Laurie Gelman 
I read the first Class Mom book two years ago, before Luke had started school and found it SO fun.  This one picks up 3 years later, when the kindergartners are now in 3rd grade, with a reluctant and snarky class mom who is also volunteered to coordinate and oversee the 5th grade safety patrol.  It was just a really fun read that made me glad I've never been volunteered to run something like that but also that her version of being a class mom sounds like fun.  3.5 Stars

Read with Luke
Ada Twist and the Perilous Pants by Andrea Beaty
Our reading time has really been cut down with school and we've mostly been reading picture books so this is the only chapter book we finished in the last 30 days.  We both really enjoyed Ada Twist and Iggy Peck and Rosie Revere picture books but the chapter book fell a little flat for me.  It was mostly about science that went over my 1st grader's head and it just wasn't easy for me to read.  Maybe he would like it better if he read it to himself when he was at least familiar with solid, gases, liquids, etc.  2.5 Stars

What have YOU been reading lately?  Have you been pleasantly surprised by more reading time with kids back in school?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Summer Life Energy List

It's been a bit since I was regularly blogging.  I hate using the word busy but I will say, obviously, that blogging hasn't been a priority the past two weeks.  Last week was an extra short week of school with Monday off for Labor Day and Friday off for diocesan in-service (teacher meetings/training). So even though that made for a crazy week, it gave us a longer weekend to go up to the lake and bring home the jet ski for the summer!

It feels like a bit of a stretch to still be calling this time of year "summer" with school having started almost a month ago and Labor Day past.  But we've hit over 90° this week and I am currently typing this in the AC because outside is just hot and muggy.  Even though it's mid-September.  Summer can't seem it make up its mind if it's here or not (when we were pulling out the jet ski it was 60° and overcast, the weather has mood swings).

Since we don't consider summer over until the jet ski is home, now feels like about the right time to reflect on the summer.  I had meant to do this last week but the time just didn't work out but today's 88° heat index feels more appropriate anyways!  I did one of these in May for spring and it was interesting going back to read these to see how much has changed and how much hasn't!

Summer 2019 Life Energy List
1) Getting in time to read (after working out and showering) before the boys were up.
2) Actual real quiet time, when the house was quiet (super rare).
3) Getting in a morning run before it got hot.
4) Sam sleeping through the night (we had A LOT of sleep problems from him this summer, we blame teeth).
5) When the temps were bearable enough to turn off the AC for a few days.

6) Fresh berries on sale.

7) Doing some bonus fun outing with the boys every week.
8) Using my planner, it saved me a lot of thinking this summer!

9) A freezer full of ice cream and/or popsicles.
10) When I could mostly stay off my phone during the day.
11) A habit of reading books to Luke as soon as Sam went down to a nap.
12) Getting Sam down to just one nap a day, made scheduling easier!
13) Putting aside to-do lists for family bike rides; we missed those last summer!


14) Going to bed early.
15) Taking care of back-to-school shopping before the last minute so we could really enjoy Luke's last week at home with us.
16) Target drive-up order pick-up.  I've mentioned this multiple times but SO HELPFUL.
17) Getting an actual date with Matt; one we've been talking about for months!
18) American Ninja Warrior in the evenings with Luke - always nice to have a bribe to get bathtime to go well and quick.
19) No school alarms, no before school rush and after school stress, no homework, no lunches to pack.
20) Seeing morning glories on the backyard trellis when I open the kitchen blinds in the morning.

Writing these lists at the end of a season helps me say goodbye to what we are leaving behind and to move onto the next season.  I have more of these little rituals than I previously realized but they all help the seasonal transition.  Here's to fall and maybe slightly more fall like temps soon!

Spring 2019 Life Energy List

Friday, September 6, 2019

Looking Back at August

I can't start every one of these talking about how shocked I am that it is another month, as if the calendar is surprising me by doing what it's always done, but I am, yet again, surprised we are at September.  Summer is (almost) completely over, our jet ski is coming home soon and that always marks the real end (as opposed to the first "fake" ending when school starts or the second "fake" ending at Labor Day weekend).

We were home more in August than any other month of the summer, but still fit in one and a half lake trips, two trips out of state, and a whole bunch of prep for back to school.  Man, that is a process.  Now that school is fully back in session I am finding our days much more structured and actually more free time for me!  With Sam still taking a 3 hour nap on most school days, I am reading more and actually, most weeks (not this one) blogging more.  Luke is doing well at school even if our mornings don't have a solid routine and the afternoon to bedtime hours are a bit crazy.   I think Sam enjoys having Mom and the toys all to himself but then is also always happy when Luke is back home too.  It's been an adjustment but it's been good too.

Looking back:
1 year ago: Thoughts of a First Time Kindergarten Mom (this still makes me cry rereading it)
2 years ago: Drive-In Love (one of the things I miss most about our pre-kids lives is how much more we went to the drive-in)
3 years ago: Turning a Door into a Head Board
4 years ago: Every Month I'm Cupboard Painting
5 years ago: The Bathroom is DONE!!! (basically)
6 years ago: It Hurts to Grow Up...
9 years ago: California!!

1) Sam picking out book at Half Priced Books when redeeming summer reading prizes!
2) Luke picking out books at the library.  I am always thrilled when my boys go for books on their own!
3) Sam and a stick in the backyard.  As he does.
4) Warren Dunes State Park day trip!  The boys enjoyed it and it wore them out!
5) Butterfly in the backyard!
6) Ice cream to celebrate Sam's adoption day!
7) Morning glories.  I take a lot of pictures of them.
8) Luke volunteering to be helpful and clean grapes!  Sometimes this happens!
9) Canoeing the Pigeon River, it was a lot of work but also a lot of fun.  Maybe more fun when Sam is a little bigger.
10) I grow these every year but I've never had a spotted one before!
11) Perfect late summer afternoon in the backyard!
12) Sunset from a rooftop bar on date night!
13) Checking out (again) our new downtown park, fantastic views, even got an article in USA Today!
14) More of the new park, it's pretty cool and has been busy both times we've gone.  Nice to see so many people downtown!
15) Perfect golden hour at the lake.  One of my favorite times of day there!
16) The start of sunset at the lake, I try to watch these every night we are there, almost always beautiful!

Books finished: 14  (did I finish 3 of those on August 31st, helping my numbers?  Yes I did.)
Miles ran: 77.3
Currently watching: Slowly finishing up American Ninja Warrior (we've started watching all episodes with Luke and it's hard to find time for them when he doesn't watch tv on school nights!).  Matt and I are about to start The Good Place season 3 which just got on Netflix.

Most read post this month: Quick Lit and then Back to School Routine
Luke's current favorite song: For reasons completely unknown to me, he likes this Fish Heads song Matt introduced him too.  BUT Luke also says he likes Backstreet Boys a lot so that redeems his music tastes for me!

September brings a Backstreet Boys concert for me, a race Matt & I are running together, and hopefully fine tuning some school routines!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Mixed Drink Monday: Coconut Lime Spritzer

We have reached the end of another summer of mixed drinks!  I've made less than any previous summer but still found some good ones and enjoyed them all!  Every year I think this will be the last year I do this, but then by the end of the summer I'm already thinking of what I'd do differently the next year and finding more recipes. 

This is a drink I heard mentioned on a podcast, immediately paused my workout (and the podcast) to look up a recipe on Pinterest, and then made a few days later.  For all the planning I usually do in APRIL for these posts, it's rare I get one made so fast.  But I like coconut and I like lime and I really like the other spritzer recipe I've made here (remade it again for our lake vacation!).  I knew I would be making this.  Also helpful that I always have limes and lime juice on hand in the summer and I could make the coconut simple syrup easily too. 

I do a lot of coconut and lime flavored drinks and this is just a delightful combination of two of my favorites.  It feels light to drink and very simple to make.  I also like that I can easily make a non-alcoholic version for Luke because he likes having special drinks sometimes too.  This was a fantastic way to end this summer of drinks!

One year ago: Rum Slush
Two years ago:
DIY Margarita Mix (a summer staple in my fridge)
Three years ago: Island Mimosas

Four years ago: Fruity Rum Fizzes
Five years ago: Strawberry Margaritas and Orange Julius

Coconut Lime Spritzer
yield: 1 serving with plenty of coconut syrup leftover
Coconut Syrup
-1 cup water
-2 TB sugar
-1 TB coconut extract

-2 TB coconut syrup
-juice from one lime or about 2 TB
-8 oz (1 cup) sparkling water
-1 TB rum (optional)
Coconut Syrup
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat just until the sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and cool before using.  Store covered in the fridge.

Fill a glass with ice.  Add coconut syrup, lime juice, and rum (if using).  Top with sparkling water.  Enjoy!

Source: slightly modified from Oh So Delicioso
In the summer I aim to make a new drink every week and share them all here, good or bad!  See them all in chronological order by following the "Mixed Drink Monday" tag here or check out my favorites by scrolling down to "Mixed Drink Monday" on my recipes page

Friday, August 30, 2019

Things I Like - August

My monthly round-up of 5 things I'm liking, with a few affiliate links sprinkled in.  Thanks for helping support the blog! =)  See more here!

Sometimes I am full of ideas for these monthly posts.  Other times, like this month, I start wondering what the heck I've been liking that I haven't already shared?  I haven't bought any clothes since May (I am really impressed with myself on that one) and really haven't been doing much shopping at all besides groceries and Luke's uniform.  I always end up scrolling through our recent Target and Amazon orders to try to figure out what I've actually bought besides food!  I did get a necklace for my birthday I was going to share but then couldn't find it on Target's website (and I had already recycled the tag).  Then I remembered ALL THE WORK I put into figuring out Luke's lunchbox this year.  Really, more work than I ever expected to put into figuring out a lunchbox.  So this list is mostly a lunchbox edition. 

1) Library Stamp
I can usually figure out a few things I'm looking to buy myself until it's time for a birthday or Christmas list.  Then I suddenly draw a complete blank.  It took me longer than it should have to get some ideas to Matt (BESIDES the Backstreet Boys concert ticket "he" bought me.  I'm super excited about that one, it's coming up!) 

I finally came up with a library stamp that has my name on it (among other ideas).  I've only used it on one book so far and I might be picky about what books I actually stamp (I might change my mind and get rid of some eventually!) but it is fun to have.  I like to think I don't have many books, until I counted them all.  I do.
2) Palmer's Cocoa Butter Cleansing Oil
I've been slowing working on expanding and improving my face skin care.  Not getting any younger!  This is my newest purchase, an oil cleanser I use before another cleanser.  This one helps remove make-up, particularly waterproof eye make-up.  It smells good and has been very effective.  And it hasn't made my face any oilier, if anything it dried it up the first time I used it but has been balancing better since!  I still have more products I'd like to (slowly) add to my routine but this one was a helpful next step.

3) LunchBots metal lunch box
I mentioned in this post that the $26 lunchbox I bought Luke for kindergarten barely survived the year.  He managed to break both clasps by May so it wasn't staying all the way shut which did not help keep all the compartments sealed.  So I went on the hunt for a metal lunch box that (hopefully) would be harder to break.  I was sale stalking this one for a couple weeks before it went on sale for Prime Day and I immediately ordered (with that dollar credit for digital music because I will ALWAYS take that if I'm not pressed for time). 

We're only 12 days into the school year but so far his lunch box is holding up.  There aren't the clasps to break like on his last one and I think the compartment sizes work better, at least so far.  The compartments aren't each sealed (which is where the next two items come in) but so far, we are good.  Fingers crossed this one lasts longer than just one school year!

4) Stainless Steal Snack Container
This is what I bought to use in Luke's lunchbox for runny things.  Things like pretzels and his sandwich are fine in the non-sealed compartments but I can't send applesauce or dips just in those.  This fits in one of the larger compartments and the lid seals well but is easy for him to get off.  I looked at SO MANY options for this, trying to find something that would seal but still fit.  It's more than I wanted to spend but much more eco-friendly than buying individual servings of applesauce or fruit.   (When I pack things that are just a little damp but not runny - like blueberries, grapes, or carrots, I just line one of the smaller compartments with a silicone muffin liner.)

5) Mini Condiment Containers
You wouldn't think a lunchbox would need so many separate pieces!  (And we haven't even touched on the actual lunch box, reusable water bottle, or ice pack!)  I also bought these cute little containers to hold small amounts of dip.  I've been using them mostly for ranch (for carrots) or mustard (for salami) and I've never needed all 4, not even 2, but they are perfect for little amounts of dip and if the leftover goes bad we're not out much at all. 

What have YOU been liking lately?