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Monday, June 22, 2015

A Summer Gathering Of Thoughts


I got this post idea from one of my favorite bloggers-- Elizabeth Foss. This summer, I am planning to blog once a week using this format, giving myself a bit of a summer break at the same time. I'll see you here each Monday from now until Labor Day. 






Loving... that our weekend was crazy busy but surprisingly fun. I thought this weekend would be all work and no fun for me, but it turned out to be, as I said before, surprisingly fun. Today was about recovering from all that fun-- and cleaning a house that didn't get as attended to as it might've had we not been in and out so much. 

Listening to... David Gray in preparation for his concert this week!! 

Clothing myself in... I am finally braving skirts and dresses, even though my legs aren't near as tan as I would like. I cooked Curt and his dad a nice Father's Day feast and threw on a cute cotton sundress minutes before it was time for lunch. When I did I suddenly remembered the loveliness that is throwing on a dress and hearing how nice you look when actually you were totally cheating because 1) it's so comfortable (it's like being complimented on wearing a nightgown) and 2) you don't even have to think of components for an outfit because the dress is the outfit. I forgot all about this particular brand of summer miracle. 



Reading... I tore through Elin Hilderbrand's new one, THE RUMOR, which was out last Tuesday. Perfect summer reading! I loved it! I also finished IN THE WOODS by Tana French, the first book in one of the series I wrote about last week. I am sad to say I didn't love the book like I'd hoped I would, which means I am not going to go through that series like I'd planned (too many other great books to get to!). 

This week I'm working my way through a She Reads book that we're not going to be able to choose (we have our reasons but suffice it to say this one won't appeal to a broad enough cross section of readers) but I am intrigued enough with where the author is going with it that I am determined to finish it. 




Bingeing on... The Missing, yet another BBC mystery show that I loved. It took me a few episodes to get into it-- figuring out who the characters are and the time jumps-- but once I started tracking with it, I was sucked in for sure. Great acting, layered characters, and so many twists and turns. (I streamed it off Amazon on Demand.)

Pondering... Whether I want to attempt to make Pioneer Woman's iced coffee, based on Modern Mrs Darcy's recent recommendation. It looks like an involved process and yet, I think it might be worth it. 




Cultivating a rhythm... We've got some travels coming up for various family members, which means all attempts at rhythm are futile. That's ok. It's summer. 

Creating... As I said before, I created a feast for Father's Day, which we are still enjoying (read: leftovers). I made this excellent barbecue beef and served it on sliders, served with slow cooked green beans, baked beans, pasta salad, and watermelon. We had oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip or white chocolate macadamia nut cookies for dessert (store bought so don't be too impressed). Curt loved having a nice lunch at home (more relaxing than going out) and since I had done most of the prep work on Saturday, I didn't have to stress out getting it all ready on Sunday. Today I created a loaf of banana bread out of some browning bananas. I added chocolate chips because that just makes it better. 

Giving thanks... for this season. I love every minute of it-- even the really hot minutes. Even the pop up thunderstorm minutes. Even the "I'm bored" minutes. Even "The dishwasher is full again?" minutes. Even the no bedtime minutes. It's all good. Because it's summer. 

Planning... trips. 

Looking forward to... trips. 


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Monday, June 15, 2015

Quick Lit: My (Perhaps Overly Ambitious) Summer Reading Plan


Last week I mentioned my "summer reading plan" which involves reading my way through several literary mystery series. This week, in honor of Modern Mrs Darcy's Quick Lit roundup, I thought I'd expand on that plan. I am currently reading the first book, Tana French's In The Woods, and was a bit chagrined to see that it is 592 pages!!!! This made me immediately wonder if my summer reading plan is a bit, um, ambitious. Alas, I am moving forward with it and we will see how it works out. I will sprinkle in some She Reads books and some contemporary favorites for variety so it's not all murder all the time. It's summer after all-- time for poolside and lazy afternoons spent reading the days away. At least, that's how it goes in my fantasy.

(Note: Click on each series to get to a list of the titles in order.)




The Dublin Murder series by Tana French




Zailer and Waterhouse series by Sophie Hannah




The Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson

I couldn't find a photo of all the titles together so I settled on the latest title in the series to serve as a representative image. 


The Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman


And finally, to the commenter who asked how I find book recommendations-- what blogs I read-- definitely click on this month's Quick Lit roundup for more recommendations than you can possibly get to. I read every single link every single month. (It's true. I do.) Also be sure and check out the She Reads blog network page for a plethora of blogs about reading and books! 


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Monday, June 08, 2015

A Summer Gathering of Thoughts


I got this post idea from one of my favorite bloggers-- Elizabeth Foss. This summer, I am planning to blog once a week using this format, giving myself a bit of a summer break at the same time. I'll see you here each Monday from now until Labor Day. 

(Addendum: This post is up late today because I wrote the whole thing and then lost it. So then I had to go around and rant for a bit before I could get the gumption up to write it all over again. Must be a Monday...) 





Loving... Summer. School's out and my favorite season is finally here. 

Listening to... Chris Botti-- the concert was awesome and I'm trying to recapture it via listening to his music. (Not. The. Same.)

I will share this amazing clip from the concert. Hang in there and you will be glad you did. (It was much better live, as you can imagine.)




Clothing myself in... slouchy tees from Marshalls I bought with a birthday gift card-- at 7.99 and 12.99 respectively, these versatile tops with light colored boyfriend jeans are my uniform of late

Reading... Attempting to go through several series this summer-- all murder mysteries: Tana French's Dublin Murder series, Sophie Hannah's Zailer and Waterhouse series, Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series, and Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series. These have all been well-reviewed on the various book blogs I follow, and I do love a good mystery in the summer. All of these should keep me very busy. I have declared this to be my "summer of reading."

And for the kids, I really loved this list of titles-- definitely just blew up my library holds list! 

Pondering... this article. While I don't reach for my phone first thing in the am because it's usually on a charger in another room, this did get me to thinking about what I do reach for-- and how it reflects my priorities and my day.



Cultivating a rhythm... Can creativity be scheduled? This post has me thinking of how I can schedule my writing in the midst of a houseful this summer. 

Creating... How about wanting to create? This flag banner that looks easy and perfect for the Fourth.

I will also be creating banana muffins in the very near future because... old bananas are on my counter, which is a sign.



Giving thanks... for this, my favorite season, for a surprise working out (more on that later), for my husband, for time with my kids this summer. 

Planning... amending this list to reflect our family's needs, but definitely wanting to have some sort of screen time moratorium this summer. I don't want my kids' faces in their respective screens all the livelong day. This, by the way, was not something my mother had to worry about. Ah, simpler times.

Watching... (Speaking of screens, grin) Binged on Five Days, a BBC/HBO miniseries concerning a mother and her two children who go missing. The uniqueness of this show is that it is five episodes concerning five pivotal days in the investigation. Though it started slow for me, I found myself hooked and watched it all in one big (long) gulp. Also watching Wayward Pines and Aquarius. Aquarius is good, Wayward Pines is... strange. But I'm hopeful. 

Looking forward to... the Michael McDonald concert with my oldest for his birthday this week. He and I have a long running thing about Michael McDonald-- most recently inspired by this skit:



Can't wait to see the man himself!

More Links (Just For Fun)...



Love this printable-- I emailed it to my local UPS store, they printed it on card stock and I cut it to fit an existing frame. This isn't a great picture but it looks nice on a table in my living room-- and adds some inspiration as well! 

How to get rid of sour towels. I'm trying this as we speak. We have an, um, problem shall we say with  laundry getting left in the wash a bit too long. There is nothing worse (ok there is but go with it) than getting all clean in the shower and then drying yourself with a stinky towel.

Because I am not a decorator, this post was a wow for me-- just look at how changing the pillows and throws changes a room! (I told you I was not a decorator.)

And finally, this bucket list for summer has some fun items to cross off. Let's all try to hit as many of them as we can!


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Monday, June 01, 2015

A Gathering of Thoughts


I got this post idea from one of my favorite bloggers-- Elizabeth Foss. This summer, I am planning to blog once a week using this format, giving myself a bit of a summer break at the same time. I'll see you here each Monday from now until Labor Day. 

Loving: my summer walks. I am trying to build up the time I spend walking to at least an hour a day. It is both restorative and exerting at the same time.

Listening to: Brandon Flowers' new album pretty much nonstop. I didn't love this song until I saw the video-- it makes me smile. It's a good testimony to a marriage that lasts.



Clothing myself in: New skinny jeans I got at Loft for a mere $17 (gotta love half off clearance!). Pairing them with a couple of tunic-style shirts I got at Marshalls using a birthday gift card from my in-laws and wedge sandals. My legs are still just a bit too day-glo white to do shorts or skirts in public. Soon though, very soon. Many days at the pool are on my horizon.

Reading: Jen Hatmaker's new book, For The Love. I scored an advance copy and have read it and loved it. This is the first book of hers I've read. I found her funny, real, and right about a lot of things. I highlighted many, many lines. Go ahead and put it on your TBR list for next fall! I've also been listening to Jenna Blum's The Art of Fiction and recommend it for anyone who wants to write novels.

Pondering: Just what I can realistically expect out of our summer. Writing my 1000 words every day? Reading aloud to my youngest every day? Making light and easy meals consistently? Getting in a few trips? I want to relax and enjoy the summer but I also don't want to fritter it away. So I'm thinking about striking that balance.

Cultivating a rhythm: This week is about getting through our last week of school-- which includes field day, my last lunch duty rotation, and a last day of school musical production-- and then the rhythm of our lives is about to change big time. No more daily routine, no more morning school runs, no more afternoon carpools. Two of mine have already finished so my days alone are gone for a few months, but it's a welcome change that we are all looking forward to. I, for one, am looking forward to not packing lunches!!



Creating: Peppermint Brownies thanks to the recipe in the back of a book my daughter read, which she has now declared one of her most favorite books ever. If you have a daughter around the age of 10, you might want to check out The Forget Me Not Summer.

Giving thanks: for six healthy and (mostly) happy kids. I can take that for granted so easy and I shouldn't. Each one of them adds so much to my life. My word for this year is ABUNDANCE and one thing I've learned is this abundance of children has enriched my life in so many ways.

Planning: all the books I am going to read this summer. This shall be the summer of reading. For me at least. I have so, so many books to get to. It's a bit embarrassing. Talk about abundance.

Looking forward to: a summer of concerts-- Chris Botti is this coming weekend, Michael McDonald is the week after that, then David Gray later in June, with plans to also see Toad the Wet Sprocket and Brandon Flowers before the summer ends as well! Can. Not. Wait.


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Friday, May 29, 2015

What I Learned This Month


I am linking to Emily Freeman's monthly "What I Learned This Month" roundup. 


Walking is good for the soul. It's even better if you take your camera along. It's not just that I capture great photos of nature-type stuff, it's that with my camera in my hand I'm more likely to look for it.



You should listen to your husband. He knows you better than you know yourself sometimes. There was an event about an hour and a half from our home that I mentioned wanting to go to. But as the event neared I rationalized that it would be better if I stayed home. There was lots to do, we hadn't had a lot of family time of late, yada yada. My husband gave me that knowing look and said, "You need to do that." And right then and there he got on his phone and made the hotel reservation. The next morning, before I really could register what was happening, I went. I ended up having the best time, met some great people and was so completely happy I went that I had to thank him for pushing me to go.



Just because you feel a certain way a certain day, you probably won't feel that way forever. On low energy, bad mood, edgy, no motivation, listless days it's ok to listen to your body and ease up on yourself. Chances are if you rest and take stuff off your to-do list without beating yourself up for being a loser, you'll more than make up for it the following day. (Ask me how I know.)


Listening to Disappearing World by David Gray (my favorite) in a rare moment home alone is a restorative thing. Also finding out that Annie Lennox covered Downtown Lights by The Blue Nile (my other favorite) is a gift you can give to yourself again and again.





(You're welcome.)

Speaking of musicians...
Dan Rather's series of interviews with musicians called The Big Interview is fascinating no matter who the musician is. I was as riveted by the interview with Kenny Rogers as I was by the one with Josh Groban. Musicians are creative people and hearing their journeys, wisdom, and inspiration is good tv. (I find these interviews on my AXS cable channel. But if you don't have cable, many of them can be found on the good ole You Tube.)

Speaking of tv...
I really, really like shows by the BBC (Broadchurch, Grantchester, Luther, The Fall, Call The Midwife etc.) This is both wonderful and awful. Wonderful because they're so good and awful because I remember my father watching shows on PBS done by the BBC and thinking he was 1) old and 2) weird. Who wants to listen to a bunch of Brits talking? Come to find out, I do! Apparently I've now reached the "old and weird" phase of life.



Finally, life is short. Of course we all know this. We don't need to "learn" it. But sometimes we need to be reminded. When this happened in my home church, though I didn't know the woman it happened to, a dear friend was supposed to be meeting her for dinner that very night. Her last text to her was "happy hiking." As you can imagine, my friend was pretty wrecked and the tragedy felt that much closer to home. My friend and I went out to lunch after the funeral and talked about the many things we want to do differently, more urgently, than ever before.

Life is short. What do you need to do that you're putting off or too scared to do or keep forgetting to make happen? Maybe today we could all honor this woman's legacy and go do whatever it is. In that way this tragedy will feel just a little less tragic. Though I don't know her, I've heard a lot about her from our mutual friend. And I get the feeling that's exactly what she would want.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What Worked For Me This Week



Sometimes it's good to take stock of what worked this week instead of dwelling on what didn't. 
Here's what worked for me this week... 



The newly bloomed magnolias-- they aren't just gorgeous, they smell so good. There is one part along my walk where the scent just floats on the air. That makes the walking worth it! 



And speaking of walking... Walking worked for me this week. It's funny how some weeks I'm more in the mood to do one form of exercise over the other. This week was all about walking and listening to audiobooks. I finished up Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and moved right onto Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal. Another thing that worked for me this week? My Audible membership! 



I read this quote in Annie Dillard's book The Writing Life and promptly created this image for sharing. I sent it directly to a few writing friends, who all politely thanked me but I could tell they weren't feeling it the way I did. Then the next day I just got this urge to send it to an acquaintance, so I did. Minutes later I got the most heartfelt thank you-- saying it was exactly what she needed to hear at that moment. 

Maybe you need to hear it too, whoever you are... 

And speaking of writing, I am really enjoying the new book I am writing. I like the story, the characters. That is a good feeling. I sincerely hope one of these days this story makes it into your hands. 



A day that is filled with one child's prom and the other child's test for her driving permit is a busy day indeed. The kind of day you both celebrate and dread as a parent. These are my middle kids... but no one has told them they are middle children yet, it would seem. Trust me when I say no one's going to overlook them! 


When you intend to make a recipe that was on the back of a bag but then accidentally throw the bag away, you can always go to the store and snap a photo of the bag with the recipe so all is not lost. (And if you would like to try this recipe, it was very good and quick and easy to throw together. Just a warning: it's spicy. So either ease up on the chili garlic sauce or, if your people love spicy, heap it on.) 


And speaking of recipes... Sometimes the best thing you can do on a Monday is spend the hours it takes to plan meals and make a grocery list, then spend the time to get all the items. My week has gone so nicely because all the items for these meals are present and accounted for. 

What worked for you this week? 

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Quick Lit: Read Alouds For Kids


For this month's quick lit I thought I would share some titles I found in an old notebook that I had jotted down to read aloud to my kids. Since I haven't read any of these I am not vouching for them, just saying to put them on your radar and see if they would be a fit for your child. I thought perhaps some of you could put them on hold at your local library or independent bookstore!


Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett 

When the Germans attack their Romany encampment during World War II, Andrej and his younger brother, Tomas, flee through a ravaged countryside under cover of darkness, guarding a secret bundle. Their journey leads to a bombed-out town, where the boys discover a hidden wonder: a zoo filled with creatures in need of hope. Like Andrej and Tomas, the animals—wolf and eagle, monkey and bear, lioness and seal, kangaroo and llama— have stories to share and a mission to reclaim their lives.




The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton

Ten-year-old Persimmony Smudge lives a boring life on the Island in the Middle of Everything, but she longs for adventure. And she soon gets it when she overhears a life-altering secret and suddenly finds herself in the middle of an amazing journey. It turns out that Mount Majestic, the rising and falling mountain in the center of the island, is not really a mountain - it's the belly of a sleeping giant! It's up to Persimmony and her friend Worvil to convince the island's quarreling inhabitants that a giant is sleeping in their midst and must not be awakened. The question is, will she be able to do it?





Bigger Than A Breadbox by Laurel Snyder

A magical breadbox that delivers whatever you wish for—as long as it fits inside? It's too good to be true! Twelve-year-old Rebecca is struggling with her parents' separation, as well as a sudden move to her Gran's house in another state. For a while, the magic bread box, discovered in the attic, makes life away from home a little easier. Then suddenly it starts to make things much, much more difficult, and Rebecca is forced to decide not just where, but who she really wants to be. Laurel Snyder's most thought-provoking book yet.



The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill

When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his crazy aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for a long time. . . .

When he arrives, three astonishing things happen: First, he makes friends-not imaginary friends but actual friends. Second, he is beaten up by the town bully; the bullies at home always ignored him. Third, the richest man in town begins to plot Jack's imminent, and hopefully painful, demise. It's up to Jack to figure out why suddenly everyone cares so much about him. Back home he was practically, well, invisible.

The Mostly True Story of Jack is a tale of magic, friendship, and sacrifice. It's about things broken and things put back together. Above all, it's about finding a place to belong.




Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime 

Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known. 

Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.



A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere---shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears---but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster. 

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town . . . and her mother's broken heart.




A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff 

Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born.  And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever.  However, these encounters hold the key to Cady's past and how she became an orphan.  If she's lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent. 

Lisa Graff adds a pinch of magic to a sharply crafted plot to create a novel that will have readers wondering about fate and the way we're all connected.




All The Answers by Kate Messner 

What if your pencil had all the answers? Would you ace every test? Would you know what your teachers were thinking? When Ava Anderson finds a scratched up pencil she doodles like she would with any other pencil. But when she writes a question in the margin of her math quiz, she hears a clear answer in a voice no one else seems to hear.  

With the help of her friend Sophie, Ava figures out that the pencil will answer factual questions only – those with definite right or wrong answers – but won't predict the future. Ava and Sophie discover all kinds of uses for the pencil, and Ava's confidence grows with each answer. But it's getting shorter with every sharpening, and when the pencil reveals a scary truth about Ava's family, she realizes that sometimes the bravest people are the ones who live without all the answers...

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