Weekend Reflections and Intentions 09.15.2019

It’s been another really chaotic and busy week, trying to get back into the swing of things. I’ve been feeling pretty frazzled, trying to get everything figured out and organized for a bunch of parties and celebrations that are happening this upcoming weekend and next week. SO much to think about, I’m having a hard time actually focusing on anything.

I spent last Sunday night and Monday morning making this reading doll that I’m donating to my facebook book club as a prize for an upcoming readathon. I LOVE those readathons, but of course it coincides with THE WEEKEND OF INSANITY, so I’m not going to be doing much reading. But I was happy to make the doll for them! I really like how she turned out.

Annie got her stitches taken out on Tuesday morning. Apparently it was so crusted over they couldn’t even be sure they got every stitch out because it started bleeding so much again.

On Wednesday morning I had a very successful coffee gathering with a group of my friends! We drank lots of coffee and I made Shepard’s favorite sweet and salty chocolate croissants and some peanut butter banana bread. It was a ton of fun and awesome connecting with people after months of basically no contact. I’d like to try and do something like this maybe every two weeks. Hopefully my friends are up for that!

I was pretty drained after that and had a really lazy afternoon. It was our at home date night, but I had zero energy to make dinner, so Greg eventually asked if he should go get food. I finally got to try a curry from the new Thai restaurant and I thought it was pretty good!

I forced myself to just take a break from everything on Thursday. I realize that very little of my time seems accounted for this week, but mentally – it was a lot and I was a mess. Plus my back is still hurting from my weird dog cuddling twisting incident. It was rainy and dreary all week, and I decided I owed myself a day off to just chill. I spent a lot of time reading and resting and taking Annie on a couple of walks. And in the afternoon I ran her over to the groomer where she shaved out the giant mats that had formed under her ears from days of wearing tight gauze around her bloody head.

Greg and the boys were gone on Thursday night, so I broke my no working rule (though that IS the exception) and forced myself to make a lot of headway on a batch of witches. I finished them up on Friday and sold them all this weekend.

I had a long coffee date with another friend on Friday morning, which was great! Then I got my hair cut. My bi-annual cut. And then spent more of the day just trying to get my September organized so it can stop taking up so much space in my head!

Saturday was my big day! I left early in the morning and went to the Urban Farmgirl Main Street Market in Rockford, Illinois. There were 185 vendors there, and every single booth was amazing. You can’t say that about any other craft fair or market, anywhere! So many incredible things to check out. I didn’t end up buying very much, mostly because it was a lot of big things and I just couldn’t deal with trying to figure out the logistics of getting something larger all the way out to the car by myself. But there were oodles of incredible vintage treasures, handmade creations, super cute clothes, and fun household goods. I walked through every booth twice and had carne asada tacos and salted caramel cookie dough for lunch. It was a lot of fun!

Since I was already out for the day, I then went to FIVE TJMaxx and adjacent stores in the Rockford and Janesville areas. I picked up a lot of little gifts for random people on random occasions. ūüôā I also stopped at this amazing vintage store I really like in Beloit. And finished up at Kohls in Madison, just because I had to return a lot of things. It was an exhausting day, but I treated it as a super mini vacation and had a really great time.

Sunday Intentions

Another busy week ahead. A lot of prepping and then the fun happens. Monday will be errands, Tuesday and Wednesday will be cleaning the house and hopefully whipping up a small batch of Halloween dolls. On Thursday night I’m doing another sign painting class. Friday will be food prep and then a mini birthday celebration for my brother-in-law. Saturday morning I’m going to be running all over the Madison area picking up things for various parties. And then Saturday evening we’re having a retirement party for my mother-in-law. And Sunday morning is Caden’s birthday party. And Monday is Caden’s birthday. Birthday season is officially upon us and life is going to be insane for a few weeks.

I THINK I have all the details figured out for next weekend. I’m going totally against everything I believe in, and having about the easiest for me birthday breakfast party I could arrange where the only things I’ll actually have to “make” will be a bunch of bacon that I can cook a few days ahead of time, and sausage links that I can just cook up easily that morning. Everything else I’m buying already made. But it’s going to be good. No skimping for my almost 11 year old! I’ll have to make his school treat then after his party. And because he’ll be at school and Lego League for most of his actual birthday, we’re going to go out to dinner on Sunday to celebrate.

So my only real intention for the week is to stay on top of everything I need to do and not lose my sanity! I’d also REALLY like to get a few more dolls made by Thursday morning at the latest. Monday and Saturday I’ll be running all over picking up things I need for the parties, but I think I can make myself stay home and productive the rest of the week. And I have the sign painting class thrown in for a bit of fun. I broke out my rusty Illustrator skills and designed my own stencil this time, so I’m excited to paint it!

Unfortunately, I don’t have my meal plan figured out. But I need some freezer room, so I think we’re going to be eating from our frozen stock all week. It’ll work out.

Wish me luck, guys. It SHOULD be a really great week!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 09.08.2019

What a week! I’d say that the first week of September, the first week of school, was a roaring success. I loved it! I wouldn’t say we’re immediately back into a regular routine yet, but it’s been a good start!

Tuesday was the first day of school. They were both really angry about having to go back. The four of us walked together and dropped Caden at his school first and then Shepard. Unfortunately, it was raining the whole time and then started pouring right when we got to Shepard’s school, so it was a very hasty goodbye. I felt bad about that, but maybe it was for the best because he was really nervous and dragging it out any longer might have made things worse.

I think Caden’s only issue is that he just plain didn’t want to go back to school. He was also a little upset about how few of his 4th grade friends were going to be in class with him again. BUT he came home and announced that 9 of the kids that he was in class with from K-3 are in his 5th grade class, so he was really happy. I’m sure he wouldn’t admit to LIKING school, but it seemed to go really well for him this week. He’s excited about his new teacher and all the parties they get to have this year.

I didn’t realize this until we were walking and it came up, but I guess Shepard was upset about being the only 3rd grade class at his school. I thought this would be a selling point – the oldest kids in the school, they’d therefore be the coolest, right? But I guess he felt like maybe his class was dumb or left behind since all of the non-charter 3rd grade classes switch over to the middle school. He wants to be at the middle school too. I’m definitely a little worried about the transition for him next year, after an entire school year separated from 3/4 of the kids in his grade. But…I’ll have to worry about that next summer. At any rate, I think the first days went pretty well for him. He hasn’t wanted to talk about it. He hasn’t been as happy and excited as Caden. But I know he thrives being around his friends all day.

I spent the first day of school running errands. I didn’t really want to, but it was the only day it was going to work out. Plus it was a good distraction from worrying about how the first day was going.

Wednesday was picture day. They were both SO angry I made them wear button down shirts. Shepard was doing everything he could to get out of it. You know, a few years ago they were both clamoring to wear button shirts as often as possible to look like Daddy. Now it’s uncool.

Shepard said he was going to smile like this. I’m sure the photographer wouldn’t have let that be the final image, but I almost think I’d like it better than the blank stare we usually get. Caden was able to see his photo right away on a printed ID card, but he wasn’t allowed to bring it home. He said the teacher parted his hair and smashed it down against the sides of his head, so I think all my attempts to make it fluffy and cute before school were thwarted.

I spent Wednesday morning working and then took the cats to the vet for their annual check up. The vet commented again and again how healthy they look for their age, so I guess we’re doing pretty good! She thinks they both might have some sort of allergies/irritations, so they were given some shots to try and counteract that. But overall, they’re pretty healthy.

I never expected them to remember in the midst of all this new stuff going on, but they hatched a plan in the morning for Shepard to meet Caden at a certain spot and then they would walk to meet me at the library and we’d go to the farmers market after school. And shockingly, they showed up! They were giving away apple cider popsicles this week. It was so nice!

I was determined on Thursday to finally sit down and actually get a good chunk of work done. It was NOT a productive week. Well, it WAS, but not for doll production. I was just about finishing stuffing when I ran out of polyfil. I ALWAYS have a backup box in the basement, so I can’t believe I was out. I had to go to Beaver Dam anyway to spend some time with my mom and brother’s pets while they’re in Nebraska, so I just left earlier to go to Walmart and get more polyfil.

Caden came home happy again. Immediately got comfy with his seeds and book to hang out on the porch all afternoon.

He’s been reading a lot this week. In part because he lost screens for awhile. But he also seems to really be enjoying it again. He mostly stuck with graphic novels all summer, but he’s back into the bigger books again now.

I spent a little time this week slowly switching over to fall decor. I don’t plan on putting a lot of things out – we just don’t have shelf or counter spaces to change up decorations anymore. But I LOVE swapping out fresh blankets and pillows. I’ve been stocking up on fall candles too, and lighting them at every opportunity. And I switched over to my fall mugs. I thought I had more than this! I’ve been on a roll finding cute Halloween mugs in stores lately, but I don’t want to take those out until October.

Midday Friday everything went downhill when I went to check on the pets and while I was trying to cuddle with Gracie on the couch I twisted my back and pulled a muscle that hurt SO BAD. I was in immobilizing pain the rest of the day, rendering myself completely useful other than reading this amazing book. Strangely, at about the exact same time, Caden was at recess playing gaga ball and pulled a muscle in his groin. I guess they gave him a heating back to set on his lap for a few hours, but it wasn’t helping so he ended up coming home early. It seemed to scare him to have such a weird pain, more than the pain itself bothering him. He just took it easy the rest of the night too.

I was proud of myself for sticking with my 4:30 cut off time for sewing every day this week. I think it’s the healthiest boundary I can choose to start living by regularly. It gave me so much freedom in the evenings to do housework and read. The problem, though, is that I wasn’t actually getting nearly enough time to work before 4:30. Too much running around this week. So I had to put in a 12 hour day yesterday and FINALLY finished up my first batch of fall dolls for the year. I really liked how they turned out!

Greg and the boys were at Cedar Lake for the day, helping bring in the docks. Caden ended up staying in Beaver Dam for the night. I was hungry for some type of tasty and filling snack, and ended up making this peanut butter popcorn. It is SO GOOD. Shepard wasn’t very enthused after his first few bites, but I loved it. It was a good end to the week.

Sunday Intentions

I’m hoping to get back on top of things and start writing separate weekend posts again. I gave up over the summer because I never had that much to be intentional about in the week ahead. I was just trying to survive. But September is all about getting back on top of things – PLUS I need a place to be accountable for keeping up with my meal planning!

This week is all about falling back into a more normal routine with hours during the day to actually work. Though it’s still a slightly busier than normal week. I’ll need to run errands on Monday. Tuesday Annie gets her stitches taken out. On Wednesday I’m going to throw a coffee gathering at my house, open to anyone who wants to come. I haven’t actually asked anyone yet, but I hope it will be successful. And on Saturday I’m going to a big vintage market in Illinois.

My highest intention for the week is to make two smaller batches of dolls. I’m going to make a few apple themed dolls first and then my first few Halloween dolls. I think if I can stay on task I can get them done.

My second intention is to connect with a few friends again. Hopefully with this coffee morning! Otherwise, make some plans with a few people in the coming weeks. As much as I often feel like giving up all my hopes and dreams of amazing female friendships, I don’t actually want to give up. I’m ready to give it another shot.

Meal¬†Plans¬†(I’m¬†not¬†set¬†on¬†exactly¬†what¬†days¬†these¬†will¬†be¬†served,¬†but…an¬†approximation)

Monday – Rotisserie Chicken from Costco and Roasted Vegetables

Tuesday – Jamaican Jerk Chili (without the beans)

Wednesday – Spicy Peanut Noodles with Leftover Rotisserie Chicken

Thursday – Cheddarwursts/Leftovers

Friday – Jalapeno Popper Pretzel Crust Pizza

Have a good week!

September 2019 Goals

Well, we’re down to the final few hours of summer vacation. I know about midday tomorrow I’m going to be thrilled to get back to a normal routine with so much more time to myself to actually work and get things done. But it’s really hard to shake that first day of school anxiety, even if I’m not the one going to school. I have no reason to be nervous about this school year. Caden’s basically an old pro at middle school by now. A few of his best friends are in his class. He’ll be fine, even if he’s not happy about being there. Shepard is in his last year at his charter school and it’s the year where they basically do nonstop awesome things. He’s the life of the party around his friends and once he’s back in the thick of things he’ll be so happy. But change is still hard. Even if it’s not as significant as the years when they’re changing schools and entering unknown territory. I’ve been trying so hard to distract myself today and do basically anything besides think of tomorrow. As hard as summer is on me, the end is always sad.

I’ve also been racking my brain today on which goals I should focus on this month. There are always a million to pick from. But September is such a hard month as we transition back. I don’t want to pile too much on my plate as I’m also transitioning back. Plus, September is always a crazy busy month for us too. It’s filled with a lot of amazing things that can be so much fun. But it can also be really overwhelming if I’m not rested and organized and both physically and emotionally prepared for it. So I’ve decided to focus on that and choose my goals around things that will help me feel more on top of my life, rather than add anything extra that might be impossible to achieve.

1¬†–¬†Meal¬†Plan¬†Every¬†Week

Honestly I think all food related aspects of having my kids home all day over the summer is what overwhelmed me the most. They were grabbing snacks ALL THE TIME. They were looking for more food five minutes after dinner was over every single day. They were complaining about what was on their plates at every meal. They (ahem, Caden) were refusing to do ANYTHING to learn how to serve themselves breakfast or a healthy alternative to a bag of chips or pieces of candy. It wore me down like nothing else because it was so essential to our life (obviously) and I just could not keep up or keep them happy and I finally just plain gave up. I don’t think I made more than one or two real dinners a week in the last two months. This last week and a half we’ve gone to restaurants or gotten take out almost every single day. This is clearly not a healthy or sustainable way to feed your family. SO. I will start with meal planning. It will take away all the last minute stress of trying to pull a meal together. It will make me actually excited about what I’m going to make since I can pick the meals myself and look forward to them. It will help me grocery shop better. It’s really just the easiest thing I can do to bring stability back into our evenings and a whole lot more peace to my life.

2¬†–¬†Watch¬†Less,¬†Listen¬†More

I really love to watch tv while I work. But I’ve noticed this past month when I’ve mostly been watching Queer¬†Eye, that I’m so distracted by the show (how can you look away?! They’re having so much fun!) that I’m really not being very productive! I always have a ton of podcasts available to listen to, but ideally I’d like to start trying audiobooks again too. I think I could really increase my productivity if I took away that extra visual distraction. Not ALL the time. But most.

3¬†–¬†Read¬†Atomic¬†Habits

I really need to add in some sort of reading goal every month, just because it’s fun for me. This month it feels like I need to challenge myself a bit more and start reading books that could inspire me to be a better person. I’ve heard great things about this particular book and it feels especially fitting for September.

4¬†–¬†No¬†Working¬†on¬†Weeknights

I’m not going to go crazy and say no nights or weekends. Though honestly every Saturday in September is already booked, so I don’t have a ton of available weekend time to work anyway. But I DO think I need some sort of work/life balance and the best way to do that is to establish a cut off time for myself those five days a week. I’m thinking maybe 4:30, about when I’d start making dinner. If for some reason the guys are all gone for the night and I WANT to work, then it’s allowed. But I’d like to give myself the freedom to do whatever I darn well choose in the night, even if it’s just laundry and dishes. And guilt free too. It’s not like most of the workforce is coming home after their 8-10 hours and feeling like they still need to be working the rest of the night. Just because I’m surrounded by my work doesn’t mean I always need to be paying attention to it. This is a boundary I’d really like to try and keep.

5¬†–¬†Take¬†Care¬†of¬†Me

One thing I’ve really noticed in the last few weeks is how little joy I have. Sure there have been plenty of fleeting moments of happiness and contentment. But I want to feel joy all the time. I want to be the best person I can be without feeling like I’m killing myself over it. I want to take a break if I need one and not feel an ounce of guilt. I want my worth to stop being determined by the way other people treat me. I want to find a reason to be happy with who I am and what my life is from within myself. And really the only way I can think to do that is to start taking a whole lot better care of myself. Move more. Eat less, eat better. Rest when I need it. Laugh with Greg. Be more lighthearted with my kids. Find time to see my friends. Play hooky. Or work really hard if that’s what’ll bring me the most joy that day. I mean, my “work” can be insanely fulfilling when I’m not overwhelmed by it. I’m not proposing that I shirk all my responsibilities this month because there are a lot of them and everything would fall apart if I stopped caring. But I want to be extremely in tune to what I NEED every minute of every day. I want to live the best life I can make for myself. And if I consider my own needs first maybe everything else will just fall into place.

I think that’s enough for September! Happy first day of school!!

What I Watched August 2019

It hasn’t felt like the most interesting month for tv. My list is relatively short this month because I haven’t been working/watching as much as usual.

TV¬†–¬†Alone

Sex Education

I actually rather enjoyed this somewhat odd show. Though I think I mentioned it in last month’s post too – it’s a little alarming to me how normalized sex is in high school on tv. I hope that’s not how it really is.

Queer Eye

WHY did it take me so long to start this?? It is maybe one of the best tv shows of all time. So many happy cuddly feelings. I love it so much. The first season almost killed me, though. I binged most of it in one day and cried during every episode. The fab five just seem so genuinely kind and happy and are just having the best time of their lives helping other people find the joy in their own best lives. I had to start slowing down on watching, however, because the emotional hangover from each episode was REAL. I love it, but one or two a day is about my limit now.

The Bachelorette

Did this really end in August?? I wrote it down, so it must have. I’m pretty unimpressed with how everything ended after such a ridiculous drama filled season. All that angst and Hannah ends up alone. Also, WHY did she pick Jed over Tyler or Peter? It makes zero sense.

Jane the Virgin

Finally finished. I like how it concluded. I still wish they had never brought Michael back, but I guess they resolved that little thread too with his newfound life with Charlie.

Bachelor in Paradise

I keep thinking I don’t care about this show and then I get sucked back in. A few thoughts. Demi has such a totally different personality than what she showed on Colton’s season. I don’t understand why so much of the season had to be devoted to her gender fluidity and support, when she essentially acted exactly like Jed – but so much worse because she was still in a relationship when she went to paradise! But he gets attacked for it and she gets applauded. I just felt so bad for Derek who seems like a genuinely really great guy. Also, what terrible editing on Blake. I was cheering for him HARD on Becca’s season last year. He seemed like such a great guy and now he’s such a player?? It’s a little disturbing. John Paul Jones. Ugh. I mean, I get that he’s maybe entertaining. But he’s also just so gross! He’s always burping and throwing up and laughing hysterically over nothing. I don’t like him. I’m also very sick of Caeylynn. And we are not getting nearly enough Wells, who is seriously the cutest of all bachelor related people ever. But I started following him on instagram and am getting my fill over there. Such a cutie. And engaged to Sarah Hyland?!

The Other Two

I had two episodes to finish up and really liked it. This turned out to be an unexpectedly warm hearted show. I liked it a lot.

TV¬†–¬†Together

Veronica Mars

I wasn’t that impressed with this reboot season. I just don’t really like Veronica. Did she always have such a rigid and sarcastic personality? She seemed to think she was so much better than everyone and I kind of hated her for it. But still, did she deserve that ending??? Maybe that means if another season comes along someday she can get hot and heavy with Leo like she did in that dream. ūüôā Max Greenfield for the win!

Barry

We’ve watched about one and a half seasons now. I really liked it at first because it was so funny watching Barry try to fit in with normal people. I’m not that into it anymore. I just don’t particularly like any of the supporting characters and Barry’s personality is now also pretty rigid. I guess I prefer softness in my favorite tv characters?

Fleabag

I loved this! Well, again, I really liked the first few episodes the most. What a bizarre show! It’s definitely funniest when she’s looking into the camera and making telling faces. I’m not sure how much I like the serious undercurrent of grief. We’ve only watched the first season so far, but definitely one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in awhile.

Movies

Searching

Okay, so I appreciated the unique way this movie was filmed. But that doesn’t mean I actually wanted to watch the entire length of the movie in that format through their laptop. It was kind of weird. But an interesting movie. I’m glad it had a happy ending.

Five Feet Apart

I’ve been putting this movie off forever because I knew how it ends. Except, I can’t exactly remember, but I think it ended a little bit differently in the book. At any rate, I also had to wait to watch it when I was prepared for something that was obviously going to be sad. I wasn’t a fan of the Cole Sprouse casting choice, but he surprised me. I can really only see him as Jughead and he did come off with those same vibes at the start of the movie. But he impressed me as it went on. I liked it.

What I Read August 2019

August was a big month for reading! I always figure that in September I need to focus most of my time getting back to work and routine, so August is like a last ditch excuse to read as often as I want. I set a goal of 15 books, thinking I’d have so much time to read while I was in Texas that it wouldn’t be a problem. It didn’t work out that way, though, and I read more than half of them in just the last 10 days or so. I ended up just meeting that goal by throwing in a handful of middle grade graphic novels. Which was kind of cool because Caden read them all immediately after me. He usually flat out refuses to read any book I recommend to him, so I’ve stopped doing it. I guess those biases don’t apply when it’s a graphic novel. Anyway, I actually ended up with 16 books, though I technically finished the last one at 2am today (September 1st), after being up with Shepard massaging his cramping foot in the middle of the night. But that last book ended up being my favorite, and it officially is released this week, so I wanted to get it on my August list so you can pick it up sooner rather than later! Overall, it was a pretty diverse genre month, though maybe a little heavy on the romance/love story side. About half of the books were middle of the road and half of them were really great.

Savaged by Mia Sheridan
Rating: 5 stars

I really enjoyed this part mystery/thriller and part romance. Trail guide Harper is asked to help with an investigation involving two murders and a “wild man” who is a potential suspect. Lucas has been living in the mountains for 15 years with only minimal contact from one of the murder victims. Harper, Lucas, and the supporting characters were so well written. The story was so sad, yet hopeful. It was unique and interesting and kept me reading at every available chance.

How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway
Rating: 3 stars

If you’re experienced with the world of internet dating and are burned out by too many jerks and want some sort of fictional justice, this book is for you. If you have zero experience with internet dating and don’t really care about it at all (like me), you’re probably not going to find this book particularly exciting or interesting. I enjoyed the main character and her strong group of female friends. I was so uninterested in all the online dating stuff. And that’s the whole book. This is a book I probably should have just set aside because I found almost no enjoyment from it, but it’s not because the book was bad, it just didn’t interest me.

Maybe This Time by Kasie West
Rating: 3.5 stars

I’m always excited to see a new Kasie West book come out (I LOVED P.S. I Like You) because they’re guaranteed to be a solid yet tame YA romance. They’re sweet, they’re fun, they’re not overly complicated. This was about Sophie, an assistant florist with lofty dreams to escape her small Alabama hometown to become a New York fashion designer, and Andrew, son of a famous chef who is in town for a year to help Sophie’s best friend’s father’s catering business. I enjoyed the book, but found it frustrating that even though they all lived in this small and boring little town, the three teenagers only saw each other every month to couple of months when they came together for a big event that required both catering and floral arrangements. I wish there had been a lot more interaction and development over the rest of the year, though I also obviously understand why it was formatted that way. I liked the book a lot more as it progressed, particularly in the final few events. This wasn’t a favorite, but it was enjoyable.

A Five Minute Life by Emma Scott
Rating: 5* stars

Wow, what an emotional rollercoaster. I’m warning you now, this book will take you on a ride. But it was so beautiful. Thea was in a car accident that gave her a type of brain damage that only allows her to be awake and have memory in five minute spans before she resets and starts over again. Jim is a loner with a stutter who becomes an orderly at the sanitarium where Thea lives and becomes captivated by her. Everything about this book focuses on love and living life to the fullest and never giving up on those closest to you. It was such a fantastic read. My only regret is the cover that makes this book feel like it’s going to be so much less than it is.

The Prenup by Lauren Layne
Rating: 4 stars

This was a fast and fun light hearted book about two people who marry to get their inheritance and green card, respectively – and then don’t see each other for the next 10 years until one of them wants to get a divorce. Before the divorce can happen they realize there’s a clause in their prenup that requires them to live together for three months first. I did find the whole thing to be a bit ridiculous – why be so worried about immigration coming after them in the final three months of their marriage, but not in the entire ten years beforehand? It also took me a long time to start to like the main character, Colin. There’s a difference between attractive brooding and a character that says and does so little that he’s downright boring. I’ll also admit that I thought this was going to be a pretty sexy romance that I felt like reading while I was at this mostly romance author book convention. In the end, it is VERY PG. Which is totally fine! I love YA like that. This book just wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I still enjoyed it as a fun palette cleanser.

44 Chapters About 4 Men by BB Easton
Rating: 3 stars

I’m not sure what to make of this book. So. It’s a mostly true memoir of BB Easton’s three ex-boyfriends and her husband. I saw her on a panel at Book Bonanza and was intrigued by the concept and picked it up to read right away. The premise of the book is that she’s bored with her married sex life and decides to start writing down the memories she has of her past boyfriends in an online journal which she then leaves out for her husband to find. It’s a psychological experiment to see how he’ll react – either get incredibly angry, or up his game. Honestly, knowing that most of what she wrote about is true made me fairly uncomfortable! I can’t imagine being so explicit about my past and assuming my husband would be turned on and eager to impress in the same ways. It’s kind of bizarre to me. And kind of mean? I read the book very quickly and was definitely most interested in her actual happy ending with Ken – not the three boys she left behind. But as a whole…it was just hard for me to really accept simply because it was true. BB also wrote four full length books about each of them and I’m definitely curious to read the one about Ken. But I have zero interest in the rest. It’s kind of a weird thing to write a memoir about.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
Rating: 5 stars

This was the perfect suspenseful thriller I needed to break up the string of romance books I read this month. It was quite the page turner! A well written story that was interesting, creepy without being terrifying, and still full of heart. This has definitely been my favorite Riley Sager book thus far. Highly recommend!

Finale by Stephanie Garber
Rating: 3.5 stars

Let me begin by saying that I’m really not a fan of fantasy or anything magical when it comes to books. It’s okay in small doses, but it’s never my first, second, or third choice when it comes to picking up a book. But I was looking for something different and figured it was time to finish up this series. And I liked it. But I also found myself reading it as fast as possible to just get it over with. The magic and extremely colorful details were so distracting to me. It’s unique in a story, for sure. But it was hard for me to stay focused when things were always changing and I was never sure what was real and what wasn’t. I also kept mixing up the magical abilities of this series with ACOTAR – a reason I don’t like to read fantasy series – so many details to keep straight! There were also just SO MANY MIND GAMES. The action was fast paced and the characters were all over the place. I think it was a fitting end to the series, but I’m also glad to be done with it.

Love Online by Penelope Ward
Rating: 3 stars

Okay, I have to admit I was pretty judgy about this book in the beginning. A lonely, but also super rich and hot guy, finds himself looking for porn one night and comes across an intriguing and beautiful cam girl. He immediately becomes attached to her and uses his money to buy more and more of her time every night for private chats – where all they do is talk to each other. The reason I read this book in the first place is that I got it in a grab bag from Book Bonanza and it’s called “Love Online” which led me to believe it would be more of an email/chat kind of romance and not of the video variety. Anyway, this isn’t a literary masterpiece by any means. But I actually did enjoy it and liked the way it concluded so perfectly. Realistic? Probably not. A little creepy if it were real life? Of course. But it was a nice little escape that I read very quickly.

El Deafo by CeCe Bell
Rating: 4 stars

This is the first of many books I picked up to power through at the end of August, trying to meet my personal goal of 15 books for this month. This seemed to be the most popular and well loved of the books I found at the library, so it was my first choice. And I liked it! It’s clear from the start that it’s a memoir of when the author had meningitis as a child and became deaf. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it never even occurred to me that people had varying levels of deafness. Something I found most interesting, but also still can’t really grasp, is that with her hearing aids Cece could HEAR, but she still couldn’t really UNDERSTAND people without also reading their lips. Overall, the book was definitely interesting to me, but also fairly repetitive. This is written as a children’s book, but I’m not sure it’s something either of my kids would be interested in enough to follow through on. But overall, a really nice graphic memoir on a subject that everyone should know more about.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really fun graphic novel about a 12 year old girl who finds herself when she joins a roller derby summer camp. Again, this was a subject matter that I knew very little about and it was interesting to learn more. I think it would be a great book for all kids to read as it teaches awesome lessons about friendship and perseverance even when things are hard.

Pilu of the Woods by Mai K. Nguyen
Rating: 4.5 stars

I really liked this fast and very simple, but poignant look at what it’s like to bottle up your feelings and how harmful it can be in the long run if you do. The illustrations are beautiful and done in a limited color palette that made the whole book full of autumnal glory. The words are very limited – I do wish there had been more conversation instead of so many “…” bubbles. But it was sweet and a little sad and perfect for a short read.

Introverted Mom by Jamie C. Martin
Rating: 3.5 stars

I picked this up at the beginning of the summer, sure it would help me survive. Unfortunately it took me until the end of the summer to finish. On one hand – I actually finished it – something that doesn’t happen very often with the tons of amazing looking nonfiction books I buy but never get around to reading, or at least finishing. On the other hand – it wasn’t exactly enthralling. I liked it for sure. Some of the chapters really hit home as I consider myself on the extreme side of introversion. But there were also a few chapters, particularly those about living in the midst of needy toddlers and babies, that I just skimmed through and didn’t find that relevant to where I am in my life right now. Overall, I think this is a good resource if you’re introverted and a young mom. It gives you permission to be yourself and tells you that you are more than enough just the way you are. Sometimes I’m surprised by how many people are supposedly extroverted in the world, because I’d guess 90% of the people I know are introverted. None of this stuff is shocking because nobody is ever challenging me to be different. But if you ARE surrounded by extroverts, this might be the perfect life affirming book you need.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
Rating: 4 stars

This is the kind of book you need to read in its entirety before you realize just how good it is. A story of three women over the course of about 60 years. Edith who takes great pride in her famous pie baking skills, but also wants zero recognition for it. Her sister Helen whose only goal in life is to make great beer to the point where she becomes estranged from everyone who loves her after convincing her dying father to leave his entire inheritance to her. And Diana, Edith’s granddaughter who also finds herself passionate about beer making after a series of unfortunate events in her youth. Honestly, this book did not sound all that interesting to me. I’m not particularly fond of books without any sort of romantic storyline. This is also very, very much about beer. I don’t like beer at all and know nothing about it (though I know a lot more now!). But I do live in Wisconsin and I’ve lived in Minnesota, and this book just has a general midwestern coziness about it that made me keep picking it up again and again. I really enjoyed the main theme of finding your passion in life and living for it, but never forgetting to love and support the ones who have loved and supported you. It really was a great book.

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Rating: 4.5 stars

First of all, do yourself a favor and read this wonderful graphic novel in OCTOBER. That’s really the only time to read it and get maximum enjoyment. I was trying to figure out which of my graphic novels to end with this month and all of them except this brand new one looked too depressing. Rainbow Rowell is always a delight and I was happy to read another winner. I really enjoyed this sweet and nostalgic graphic tale about two teenagers working their last night at at a beloved pumpkin patch. It was cute and fun and just gave me all the warm feelings. Read it! In October. ūüôā

Well Met by Jen DeLuca
Rating: 5* stars

This was the perfect end of summer read. I adored it! A 25 year old recently dumped woman moves in with her sister and niece to help out for a few months and finds herself roped into joining a summer long Renaissance Faire. She’s immediately thrown off by the rigid and cranky English teacher in charge who seems to feed into all her insecurities. Until Faire starts and he slips into his flirtatious pirate persona and treats her like his beloved. I will say that the first few chapters felt pretty slow to me. But trust me, keep going. This book was the perfect love story between characters who are flawed and struggling, but find what they need in each other. It was so sweet with plenty of swoon worthy moments. I loved it!

August 2019 Reflections

We did it, guys! We survived August! Whew, what a month. It really flew by, but the things I did at the beginning of the month feel like a lifetime ago, so I guess it actually dragged on. I was busy! A mini vacation with Greg, a string of days with my family, my six day vacation in Texas for Book Bonanza, a ton of daytime activities with my kids, prepping for school, and ending with Annie’s bit up ear fiasco. A lot happened! I’m glad I kept my goal list pretty short. Overall – I think I did okay. Honestly, the best that I could.

1¬†–¬†Family¬†First

I almost didn’t even feel like I had a choice in the matter, but the boys really did come first during all of our days together. I kind of went MIA in the evenings, trying to either work or read. I haven’t spent much quality time with Greg. But I put the kids first and really tried to make every day special in some way. Even if it was just going to a park or walking to a local coffee shop for ice cream. We did SOMETHING together just about every day. And that feels like a summer well lived to me.

2¬†–¬†Read¬†like¬†crazy!

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have set a goal of 15 books for the month because I was frantically trying to cram in more than half of those in the last week and a half. Why do I instantly rebel against so many goals I set for myself, but things like this I absolutely cannot let go of? Maybe because reading is fun?? 15 was a lot, though, in the midst of everything else. But I did it! I actually read 16. Though I sort of a little bit cheated by adding in a handful of graphic novels. Middle grade graphic novels at that. After August I’ve hit 99 books for the year. The pressure is really on for whatever book I pick next when I hit my goal of 100!

3¬†–¬†Enjoy¬†Texas¬†to¬†the¬†Max

I did my best, I really did. I was so worried about missing out on things at Book Bonanza that I was constantly walking back and forth between my room and the conference center to just be part of the exciting book lovers’ paradise. I do regret not trying a little harder to make friends with people and for getting a little too obsessed with exploring Grapevine on the third day instead of just doing all the BB stuff. But I had fun nonetheless! The Dallas half of my trip wasn’t the greatest – it was SO DANG HOT. But I had a lot of time to read and rest and just relax, which was the point of that half of the trip anyway. My favorite thing was checking out all the amazing food at their farmers market.

4¬†–¬†Prep¬†and¬†Plan¬†a¬†Ton¬†of¬†Dolls

This did not happen. Well, I did make 12 dolls for the shop. And I decided to take on 3 custom orders because so many people keep asking me for them. But then one of those custom order recipients decided to complain and argue with me that I did not use red thread on her doll’s nose (it was “burgundy,” she claimed), making it clash with her RAINBOW hair and dress. I apologized that she wasn’t happy about it and explained how I have only used one shade of red crochet thread for years and years and definitely did not accidentally use a shade darker for her doll (as if I even had any!). The whole ordeal upset me so much and basically turned me off from ever wanting to make custom dolls again. They’ve never been my favorite, but it’s nice to make people extra happy with something that has special meaning just to them. At any rate, I reallllllllly wanted to have a batch of fall dolls ready to list on Tuesday morning after I walk the boys to school. It’s not going to happen. There’s just no way. I haven’t even started and don’t want to spend every waking minute the next two days working. I’m frustrated, but I don’t know what I could have done differently to end this month on a better note. I’ll just have to make up for it in September, somehow.

And that’s it!

Saturday Reflections 08.31.2019: Otherwise Known as the Week that Broke Me

I know nobody wants to read posts where I just whine about hard life is. And this was a HARD week. So I’ll try to keep things brief. Mostly because I realized it’s the last day of August and I have like five end/start of month blog posts to write this weekend and maybe it would be a more productive use of my time and energy to focus on the happier posts.

Anyway. Last week of summer. Time to cram in as much as possible or say you’ve done enough and chill out. We kind of had both. On Monday we did need to get a few groceries, but I chose to run those errands at stores we don’t normally go to like Trader Joe’s. Stores I love, but aren’t exactly convenient. Our main objective was to end up at Popeye’s to see what all the hype is about with their new chicken sandwiches. We got there at 10:45. There were probably at least around 100 people waiting between the indoor line and the drive thru. Everyone was buying bags full of sandwiches – like 20 per person. It was crazy. I felt like such an idiot for being there too! But we drove all that way and I wanted to see it through. The verdict? I definitely liked it, but I think because I just like Popeye’s chicken. It’s so flaky and crispy. The spicy sauce? I couldn’t taste it at all. It was just a very thick chunk of chicken (I’m anti thick chicken) and pickles. But I ate it all. The boys liked their tenders. I was just so mad at myself for not remembering to buy myself a biscuit in the midst of the chaos. Popeyes has THE BEST biscuits. But there was no way I could wait in that line again.

On Monday night Caden had his first Lego League meeting. He did it last year and really enjoyed it, but was really against doing it again. I think because he’s just rebelling against all things school. But it sounds like the whole thing is much more organized and focused this year and he came back really excited about.

Once again I forgot to take a picture of said playdate, but on Tuesday morning we biked to a park and had a really nice donut picnic and playdate with some friends. The weather was gorgeous and it was a really fun time! One of Shepard’s friends came back home with us for the rest of the day and I vaguely worked on some sewing room organization. I planned to do all this fall doll making over the week and I didn’t even start. So much else going on.

I had planned to do something fun on Wednesday, but the boys were treating each other so horribly, and nobody could get rewarded for that behavior. We had a tense and stressful day followed by a very busy night. We walked to the farmers market and library and then went to Shepard’s school for orientation. After his we went to Caden’s. They unloaded their supplies and talked to the teachers. I was so exhausted by then so we ended up at Culver’s for dinner.

Greg was working in Chicago on Wednesday and had a late night, so after Culver’s we picked up Annie and went to the dog park because it was still so nice out. I guess I’ll probably regret that decision forever because five minutes in she got briefly attacked by a dog at the gate who basically shredded her ear. We didn’t even realize right away until another owner pointed it out to us. At that point there was blood everywhere. She said she had some sort of medical powder at home to stop the bleeding, so we followed her back to to her house, but it didn’t work. We went back home and sat in the driveway for an hour trying to figure out what to do. A neighbor also had that powder so she helped us try to cake it on, but nothing was working. We called a vet in Sun Prairie that was still opened and they suggested cornstarch and wrapping up her head so she couldn’t shake it anymore. That was basically a disaster. At this point it was dark, we were all covered in blood, Annie was so stressed out, and Greg was so mad at me for not confronting the owner of the other dog. It was all so chaotic and even though that dog obviously did the damage, I was also the one who didn’t stop Annie from running at him when he ran into the park. I mean, all the dogs run to see every new dog that shows up. I’ve never really thought twice about it unless it’s a dog I know is extra rough. But I guess I learned my lesson and that if it’s a dog I don’t recognize I should always, always call her back to me.

We put her in her kennel overnight to contain the bleeding and it appeared to have stopped overnight. Until we let her out and she started shaking her head again and the blood started gushing again. I was able to get her into the vet right away, though, and left her there all day Thursday while they worked her in between surgeries. Want to know the absolute worst kind of torture you can put me through? Make me wait all day long for a phone call. Ugh. I cannot relax or commit to doing anything with my time because I’m so paranoid about not getting the call. It was such a stressful day.

Meanwhile, Caden broke Shepard’s glasses on Wednesday, and of course the eye doctor isn’t open on Wednesdays, so we had to wait until Thursday to get them fixed. They were beyond repair this time so they informed me we had a warranty and they fixed him up with brand new frames. Whew!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Caden was sick on Thursday morning. He threw up twice, which is really rare for him. But I think it was maybe just something he ate? He was STARVING by noon and so angry with me for not letting him have anything besides toast and crackers and a banana. A lot of people have been angry at me this week. It’s been real fun.

I finally was able to pick Annie up late afternoon. The vet wrapped her head really tight with super sticky gauze and Annie was FREAKING OUT about it. I think it was really pulling her hair and she was just so confused. I was told she would be really groggy the rest of the night, but she was actually in such a state of panic she was practically hyperventilating and nonstop crying the entire night. It was so stressful.

On Thursday night we were all supposed to go to Ponderosa with Greg’s parents before they took a little vacation, but only Shepard and I went since Caden had such a rough morning. We wandered around Walmart afterward because I didn’t want to face going home yet.

They told me I could take the gauze off on Friday because the bleeding would have surely stopped by then. But as soon as I started unraveling it Annie started violently pulling her head back to help it go faster and ended up ripping a ton of her hair out, and irritating her ear enough that the blood was just pouring out again. Which makes her shake her head nonstop because it’s wet. There was blood everywhere, again, and I just totally lost it. Most of the week felt like one crisis after another with no break in between. My emotions are messed up enough on the last week of summer, with feelings of guilt over basically everything. Plus Greg implied, maybe not on purpose, but that’s still how I interpreted it, that I wasn’t doing enough with the boys, or giving Annie enough exercise. THAT did not go over well when I’m sacrificing so much of myself and my work time and my sanity to try and give them the best summer every single year and then to find out that my own husband thinks it’s not enough. There is only so much of me to go around and I was at my wit’s end. Annie spurting blood everywhere around the house was the straw that broke me.

But I got it together. I went to Walgreen’s and bought more gauze. Then I may have gone through the McDonald’s drive thru and sat in the parking lot slowly eating a sausage biscuit to give myself five extra minutes to breathe before going home and facing everything again. I wrapped her back up with the new gauze – nonsticky – and she seemed much happier.

We went to my mom’s for a few hours after that to just hang out with the dogs in the yard. More beautiful weather to enjoy.

Today I needed out of here. DESPERATELY. I was planning to have a fun day out and about on one of the first days of school, but realized most of my week is committed to other things already and there’s no way I could wait until the following week. Before I could leave today, though, my fitbit broke. Because OF COURSE it would break this week. My fitbits always break, usually around the one year mark and then I get a replacement just under the warranty. This has been my favorite fitbit (the Versa), but it broke after only nine months! I contacted their support and already have a replacement on the way, but still – just one more thing to deal with.

So I finally got out of the house a little later than planned and enjoyed a day of browsing through all of my favorite stores. I bought a couple of new fall candles, had lunch at Chipotle, tried out the new pumpkin spice cold brew (I liked it near the end when the foamy part finally started mixing in with the coffee), and slowly meandered through a couple of bookstores. It was a nice day that I really needed.

And that was the week. I’m so glad it’s over. Now to just survive two more days of all of us being home and no specific plans before school starts Tuesday. I feel a little more mentally ready for it after escaping today.

Cheers to the end of summer!

Saturday Reflections 08.24.2019

I’ve decided that the best way to stave off the end of summer depression is to stay really, really busy. I was having a pretty rough time last weekend looking at the very long two and a half week left before school starts. And for the record – I was NOT depressed because summer was coming to an end and I want it to last forever. No, I was feeling the stress and anxiety and guilt that comes with feeling like we didn’t do enough fun things, while also just desperately wanting to school to start so life can go back to normal and I can actually GET STUFF DONE. It’s not even that my kids are so much in my face and needing my time. It’s the extreme mental drain of having to constantly break up fights, enforce rules that should be no brainers after three months together, but somehow aren’t. It’s the NEVER GIVING UP on trying to convince me to change the screen time rules, three months in. It just sucks the life out of me and I’m so, so, so over it. But, my goal for the month was to put them first, so I’ve tried to keep that in mind and stop worrying about my own stuff. Now we’re down to 1.5 weeks. I can do it.

Last Sunday was Shepard’s half birthday. That was another thing adding to my stress because I wanted to try and make it special for him, without going overboard. I tried to ask him if he wanted to go anywhere or do anything and he just kept telling me he wanted $1000 to buy something (not something in particular, just “something”) on amazon. When you get that response to your question over and over again, it kind of makes you not really want to do anything at all. So I did the one thing he eventually admitted to wanting – his favorite homemade pizza. We had that for lunch and then he spent the afternoon at Grandma’s house and I think he just played games with Greg the rest of the night. Very low key.

I had a very early doctor’s appointment on Monday morning getting my toe checked to make sure the procedure was a success. After checking all my vitals the doctor was in the room for literally two seconds to tell me it was fine. Such a waste of a trip to Beaver Dam! Though we got a few groceries and some donuts before coming back home where I spent the rest of Monday working on custom order dolls and just generally trying to get my living spaces back in order. I unpacked all the books I shipped myself home from Book Bonanza. They’re so pretty!

On Tuesday we walked to Sharrow’s, a coffee shop/pharmacy/gift shop down the street. The boys got ice cream and played checkers while I got a coffee and browsed the shop. It was a nice little outing! The boys went to Grandma’s again that night and Greg and I checked out a restaurant that I’ve been wanting to go to for like five years. It was okay, I don’t think we’ll be back. But it was nice that we finally took advantage of one of our kidless nights.

Wednesday was our really busy day. I worked all morning and then we decided to check out Mullen’s Dairy Bar in Watertown for lunch. We ordered so much food, but it was pretty tasty. I’d like to go back there again someday just to get a fancy ice cream.

Then we went to the roller rink – it was the one thing Shepard really wanted to do this summer that we hadn’t done yet. Going that day at that time ended up being a bit of a mistake, though, as there were three buses filled with daycare kids there. It was mass chaos. Caden’s a pretty poor skater and wanted to use a training bar, but they were all taken. Shepard kept complaining that his feet hurt. All in all they probably spent about ten minutes skating around.

Next we went back home to get Annie and walked to the farmers market for their special dog week. I finally got a chance to try a coffee from the coffee truck (it was awesome!), Caden picked out a basket of raspberries, and Shepard bought caramel corn. Annie got a pumpkin peanut butter ice cream treat and a cup full of regular treats. She was acting like a crazed maniac around all the other dogs there, so it was a VERY chaotic trip.

As soon as Greg got home on Wednesday I zipped off to Madison to have a beautiful, wonderful, amazing night of retail therapy. (lol) I think that’s one of the hardest parts of summer, even if it sounds really dumb. I LOVE shopping. Even just grocery shopping. And I love to do it ALONE. I’ve actually managed to go almost the entire summer running errands by myself, often at 6am on Saturdays. But it’s never relaxed or fun – just a necessity. It felt so dang good to go out on my own for a night. And it was totally guilt free because Greg and the boys were at their first kids D&D game. The only annoying thing was that I was so tired. I only got four hours of sleep the night before, plus spent the entire day driving and walking around already. But I treated myself to my first new fall candles of the season at TJMaxx and Marshall’s, got groceries, and meandered Target for awhile. It was glorious.

I had a pretty chill Thursday while the boys had three of their friends over for most of the day. I did have to take Shepard to the eye doctor to get his glasses fixed after the neighbor kid accidentally jumped on his face on the trampoline the other night (and also gave him a bloody nose). My mom came over in the afternoon and we all went to the dog park for awhile. Then we went to Cercis to have a soft pretzel for dinner. It was a good time!

Greg picked up the boys and then my mom and I, plus Cindy and her friend, went to this sign making class at the restaurant. It was so much fun!! It felt so awesome to do something creative that wasn’t doll making. Not that I don’t love doll making, but it was a good reminder that I can find even more joy spreading my creative wings a little. The whole class was so much fun and I’m SO happy with how my sign turned out! I’m definitely signing up for the class again in September. And maybe October. And…maybe just every month. I loved it.

Friday, we stayed home. I worked all day, finally. The pressure is really on to get fall dolls started, though I’m finishing up a few others first. And I’ve been getting so many custom orders! Which I don’t like taking. But I also feel horrible turning away. It’s about that time of the year when I can be justified in saying no, though.

And today. So…let’s just say it was another full day of feeling forgotten and rejected and absolutely stupid for thinking my friends respect me and then finding out that they actually don’t. WHY IS FRIENDSHIP SO HARD? But, to stay positive, my friend Deja DID come over and we had a great morning of crafting and catching up with each other. I finally got around to making this awesome rainbow cloud wall hanging! I saw something similar just hanging on a wall of a crafter’s instagram story at one time a few months ago and the idea really stuck with me. When I was doing a bit more research a few days ago I realized that this is a pretty common craft these days. But I was excited to have carried it out all on my own. I had to do a little wall rearranging in my sewing room to find a place for it – and my new sign – to fit, but I think it worked out well. I really should have spent the day making dolls, but it was worth it to follow through on something FOR ME that I’ve been wanting to do for a really long time.

And that’s been the week! Definitely some negative emotions trying to weigh me down. But staying busy has helped. It gets everyone in a better mood to leave the house for a bit. It also relieves my guilt of feeling like I’m not doing enough with them. But it’s also left very little time to actually work, and that’s stressing me out. But, ONE MORE WEEK. I will survive.

Early August Festivities

Well, I told you guys all about Book Bonanza and my trip to Dallas the other day, so now it’s time to catch you up on everything that happened before that trip. It’s been such a busy month!

Greg and I spent the first few days at the Secret Cottage – a beautiful little place we discovered a few years ago.

This was our third visit there – we first went for my 30th birthday, then again for our 11th anniversary. We’re talking about going again in January for our 20th anniversary of being together – mostly so we can officially say we’ve stayed there for every season! It’s gorgeous at any time of the year, but I bet it would be especially cozy in the dead of winter with the fireplace and snow covered trees surrounding it.

We were only there for two nights, but it was such a wonderful break from reality. I think it’s the first vacation we’ve ever taken where we seriously just chilled out and did basically nothing. We only went out once to get lunch because I hadn’t packed enough food. It was such a nice trip!

Right after that, Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson came to visit! They spent the first day hanging out at our house. I think this was the first time ever that Hudson didn’t take a really long time to feel comfortable with us. Maybe he finally knows who we are from visit to visit?! He was having so much fun exploring everything and trying to pet the cats.

We went to the pool for awhile. The water was pretty chilly, so Hudson just hung out on the edges. It was quite a challenge getting the three of them in a photo together – impossible to get them all smiling!

We had a pizza and snack party afterward. Hudson is just the cutest!

Midpost PSA to tell you if you’re looking to make your own cold brew at home, this is a fabulous combination. (I should write a post on coffee soon!) I really prefer to buy cold coffee drinks at coffee shops and wanted to up my game at home this summer, making my own instead of buying the premade jugs of cold brew. I’ve been trying out a lot of different brands, especially the fancy brands that make a specific blend for cold brewing. This Sunny Spot by Grounds & Hounds has been my favorite by a mile. It’s so good. It’s even better with this new Nitro Creamer. If you’re local, I found it at Woodman’s. Unfortunately when I went there a few days ago to buy another bottle, they were all expired. Hopefully they’ll stock some fresh ones!

We spent that Sunday at my parents’ house to celebrate Timmy’s birthday a few weeks early. It was a beautiful day with lots of time outside.

Annie was feeling very jealous of all the attention Hudson was getting. She definitely likes to be the baby of the family!

Greg saying goodbye to Hudson. ūüôĀ

On Monday morning all of us, except Greg, went to the State Fair! The boys and I got there a few hours earlier than everyone else and walked around the mostly deserted park checking out some of the animals.

We normally start our annual fair visit with a bag of apple cider donuts. But Shepard was feeling especially hangry and couldn’t wait until 9:00 when that side of the WI products building opened. So they settled for kringle slices instead.

Then Shepard and I got grilled cheeses. I’ve reached the point where I can’t eat anything remotely sweet in the morning or I have a massive headache all day long, so grilled cheese was perfect!

We found Hudson! And he had already found a donut.

Caden wanted to get a baked potato. That reminded me that he LOVES baked potatoes, but I never, ever make them. Poor deprived child!

We split up for a little bit because they wanted to watch the pig races and we didn’t want to sit in the sun for that long. Shepard was already being pretty difficult about everything at that point. The whole day was really very up and down. Caden was FANTASTIC. Shepard was really testing my last nerve. There was a lot of either miscommunications or simple ignoring of when I thought we were going to be meeting back up with everyone after brief splits, which was extremely frustrating to me. A lot of wasted time on our part, thinking they were coming to us, when they were instead just doing something else without letting us know and we had to go hunt them down. It’s hard going to events like that as a large group. It’s hard for me to accept that not everyone is like me in the way that they think and go about life. But…yeah. Let’s just say I had a really good time with Caden. I think maybe next year Shepard can stay home and have a Daddy day!

I think the cream puffs were Hudson’s favorite treat!

The boys and I finished our day (at like 1pm lol) at the super crowded building that sells our favorite beef sticks. I also finally found a coffee option that sounded good to me. The boys had a great time looking at all the hot tubs for sale – until Shepard became infuriated that I wouldn’t buy one. Because we totally have the set up to just buy an enormous room sized hot tub and stick it in our house. ūüėõ

We said our goodbyes to Hudson who was off to find a place to take a nap. We won’t see him again until possibly late October.

Finished up our fair visit with Shepard getting some cotton candy – what he wanted from the minute we arrived. I was disappointed to realize that once again I filled up on all our regular foods that I didn’t have any desire to spend the money on something unique. NEXT YEAR.

After fair day, I was just super busy getting packed up for Dallas and trying to make sure Greg and the boys had enough food at home for easy meals to last them while I was gone. It was a very chaotic two days!

Back at home this week, I’ve just been trying to get settled back in. I still haven’t been feeling the greatest, plus just SO TIRED. I thought I’d come home from my solo vacation feeling relaxed and rested, when the opposite was definitely true. I’ve tried to lay low this whole week. We did go grocery shopping asap on Wednesday morning, followed by some school haircuts. I’m not particularly thrilled with either of them, but at least I know Shepard’s will grow out looking really cute! Caden fought tooth and nail to have a haircut at all and you can barely notice a difference. But…that’s what he wanted. And I said I’d be respectful of their personal body choices.

Otherwise I’ve just been working! I finished up six new dolls this morning and took two custom orders that I’ll start working on tonight. I’m happy to be back at it, but also really feeling the pressure to make as many as possible as fast as possible. There are basically just two weeks left of summer and my goal was to keep prioritizing my family and making the most of the days we have. But honestly…I want September. I want school. I want regular schedules. I want quiet days. I want to only make lunch for myself. I want to take naps where I don’t have to be in the next room with one ear open to any shenanigans that might occur. Summer is EXHAUSTING. But it’s almost over and I think I can survive. Hopefully. ūüôā

Book Bonanza

We’re already halfway through August and I have so much to catch you guys up on! But I’ll start with my most recent excitement – a trip to Book Bonanza in Grapevine, Texas!

Book Bonanza is an event that started last year, created by my favorite author Colleen Hoover, her sisters, and her team at The Bookworm Box – a bookstore and subscription service that Colleen also founded and uses as a tool to donate thousands upon thousands of dollars to charity. I wasn’t aware of Book Bonanza until it was actually happening last year and I was SO jealous. I definitely jumped at the chance to go this year – buying my ticket last September and preparing for it in the following eleven months! If you read my monthly book recaps you’ll notice I’ve been VERY heavy on Book Bonanza authors the last few months, trying to make sure I fit in as many of the most highly recommended books that I could before I had a chance to meet those authors in person.

The event this year (and all future years) was held at the huge Gaylord Texan Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. There were around 150 attending authors and close to 2000 attendees. It was a massive event, but SO well organized and thoroughly planned out. There were multiple facebook groups (attendees and those planning to go solo) with plenty of opportunity to meet people ahead of time, talk books, and really get hyped up about everything. This was my first time in Texas, so I decided to really take advantage of the trip and added on a few days in Dallas afterward to do some exploring. After eleven months of planning and paying attention to everyone’s insane game plans for getting author signatures and all the other prepwork that went into this event, I was actually feeling pretty apprehensive about the trip by the time I left. But all in all, I think it turned out pretty great!

I was able to take an uber to the hotel from the airport with a fellow solo attendee to cut back on costs (one time lol) and was really excited to able to check into my hotel a few hours early. After a little bit of exploration I decided to eat at their Riverwalk Cantina. It was a Mexican restaurant that was entirely enclosed, but also had a river running through it, giving you the appearance and feel of sitting outdoors at an adorable little cafe. Their chips were so tasty! The brisket tacos were good.

Book Bonanza didn’t officially begin until Friday morning, but we were able to check in and pick up our swag bags on Thursday afternoon. They also had a smaller version of their bookstore completely set up, where basically everyone immediately ran to after checking in! That began my weekend of standing in lines. SO MANY LINES. The cool thing is that everyone was just so happy and excited to be there, that the atmosphere was fun and friendly. I didn’t really make any new friends – I also didn’t even try – but it was great to have that camaraderie and be surrounded by so many book loving kindred spirits.

I realized pretty quickly I really should have brought more snacks! There were technically nine different dining options inside the hotel, but I only ever walked by three of them – two very expensive sit down restaurants and more of a convenience store type place. I wasn’t hungry enough for a full meal, but also didn’t want to skip eating all together, so I picked up a turkey sandwich (that was gross) and an enormous peanut butter Texas sized cookie. My original intention for the night was to head out into Grapevine and explore a little. But I knew I was too tired for that, so I thought I’d just read in my room and rest up for Friday. But there was just so much excitement going on in the halls, that I kept going back out to just walk around and soak it all up. And check out the bookstore a few more times!

Friday morning kicked off with a welcome panel of authors that have had their books made into movies or tv shows – Colleen Hoover (Confess), Caroline Kepnes (You), Anna Todd (After), and E. L. James (50¬†Shades). After that everyone split up and chose between six different options of author panels each hour for the next three hours. The first one I went to was called “ROMCOM,” which was pretty funny. The only author I had read from that group was Avery Flynn. Next I went to “Giving Us the Giggles,” which was hysterical. I hadn’t read any of those authors – but I plan to! I finished with “Redeeming the Bad Guy,” which turned out to be a much more serious discussion than I was expecting. I really enjoyed the panels – and doing something other than looking for author signatures. My only regret was that I should have chosen to go to panels with authors I already knew, rather than choosing by topic alone. I might have had more fun with it. Though I did really enjoy seeing how many of the authors seem to be genuine real life friends with each other. I guess it never even crossed my mind that writers seek out other writers and form some great friendships!

After the panels was a two hour block for lunch – which most people took to stand in line for the first signing block at 2:00. I got in line for lunch, which turned out to be a sandwich that looked a whole lot like the one I bought the night before. So I took it to my room to eat later (which I never did) and chose instead to go back to the Cantina for their lunch buffet. Allllll the chips I could eat. Actually, very few people were in the restaurant and I felt like the waiters were all staring at me, so it was kind of a very uncomfortable meal. But it was delicious!

The line was already so ridiculously long by lunch time (many people also skipped the panels to get an earlier place in line), that I gave myself a little break and didn’t join the line until 2:45 – when I expected everyone would be in the room by then. Nope! The line snaked through the entire convention center and the entire indoor river area. It was insane. I was least interested in getting author signatures – when I went to my first book signing last summer (Colleen Hoover’s), I felt so awkward and stupid, it was an experience I never really wanted to repeat. And then I came to Book Bonanza, where this was like the whole point. I honestly would have probably skipped it entirely, but I had a few books preordered from authors and the only way to get them would be to face the crowds! The more popular authors went by a wristband system, so you got a numbered wristband and then waited for your number to be up – ensuring only about 15 people would be standing in a line at a time. Of course the two authors I whittled my list down to – because of the preorders – had long waits. I ended up walking back and forth to my room multiple times during the block.

I was about ready to give up, when in the final ten minutes the volunteer for Penny Reid let me stand in her line, even though my number wasn’t anywhere close to being called. I love Penny’s Winston¬†Brothers series, and two of her newest books in the Dear¬†Professor series. I was really excited to get to meet her in person – and get my photo with Cletus, one of my all time favorite book characters!

Penny told me that she loved my braids and my earrings, which is why she wrote about watching me creepily. Anyway, most of the attendees were there just to get those author signatures. Everyone had carts full of books. I only ended up bringing three books from home – and then didn’t even attempt to get them signed. I can understand the excitement of seeing authors you adore, but it was hard to muster up enthusiasm (for me) to talk to people I haven’t read before. While I was waiting I did get a few authors to sign a Book Beau I had bought (it’s a padded book case), but every single one of them asked me what my favorite of their books was and I had to hem and haw and finally admit I hadn’t read them. AWKWARD. I was more than happy to skip the signing blocks on Saturday. It’s just not my thing.

Right after the signing, there was an event called Rocking at Book Bonanza, which was basically another signing with only 26 of the authors in a different location. We were all given a free autograph book for that one, so I stood in line for the book and promptly went back to my room! The evening ended with a Q&A session between Colleen, Anna Todd and actor Hero Fiennes Tiffin and a showing of their movie After. It was a late night! But I was excited to see the movie since it only lasted about a week in the theater here. Everything that made me so incredibly angry about that book did not come through in the movie, so I’m definitely interested in continuing the series to figure out why it’s such a phenomenon!

So, I kind of played hooky from Book Bonanza for most of Saturday. The only thing on the schedule was a four hour signing block, another bagged lunch which I assume would be the same turkey sandwich, and then another four hour signing block. I had no interest in any more signing attempts, so I had a somewhat lazy morning and then took the first available shuttle bus into downtown Grapevine to do a little shopping. It was already SO HOT by then. I’m trying not to be annoying about this because obviously it was Texas and it’s August and it’s just going to be hot. I knew that. Clearly. But it didn’t take away from how hot it actually did feel. I’ve never felt so disgusting and sweaty and suffocatingly hot in my life, every day that I ventured outside. It was awful.

I walked through Grapevine’s indoor farmers market and their small outdoor one. It was fun to see all the stuff, but also depressing because I would have loved to have bought some salsas and hot sauces, but I just didn’t trust the airline’s ability to not break a glass container in my suitcase. I went into a couple of stores and bought a few spices at a spice market. I finally had a very late breakfast of this amazingly delicious sugar donut – fresh from the fryer – and a mocha at a coffee shop (that was not good). I only lasted two hours before I was more than ready to hop back on the shuttle and go back to the hotel.

I took a little break back in my room and then spent some time walking back and forth to get boxes from BB’s shipping station, pack up all my books and swag, and go back to ship it all out. I forgot to take a photo of all my stuff before I packed it up, and I don’t have it yet at home, so I’ll have to add that on later! I ended up with quite a stack of new books – most of which were free. I even ended up leaving eight free books behind because I was pretty sure I’d never read them, so why pay to send them home? I still had a lot of time before the evening festivities, so I took an uber to a Mexican restaurant I had researched. It was good. I picked that one because it was across the street from an enormous mall – making the price of my uber ride a little more worth it. I walked the whole mall, but nothing was unique or special about it. Kind of a waste of an afternoon, honestly. At least I got some good food out of it.

At 6:00 there was a cocktail party put on by Passionflix. I stopped by to see what it was and got a small plate of cheese and crackers. I wasn’t really in the mood to try and mingle with strangers – most of which had buddied and grouped up after standing in so many lines together. I went to my room again and finished the night at the closing ceremonies and karaoke night. This was a charity event, and in the end it raised $80K which was split between multiple causes. Once the ceremony was over, the authors did karaoke and eventually anyone could participate. I stayed about another hour until I figured that was enough!

Anyway, I really had a great time on Friday, but for obvious reasons felt pretty disconnected on Saturday. I’m definitely glad I got to experience it and be at such a fun event, but I’m also not sure it’s something I’d do again. Next year they’re changing the scheduling up a bit and having it over three days, which does sound intriguing. But two years in a row would be a lot. This was an expensive trip! The hotel alone – yikes! (But worth EVERY PENNY to have a room to myself to relax in!) Book Bonanza has opened my eyes to the possibility of seeking out OTHER book conferences and events, though. My original uber friend was telling me about a few that she’s been to where it’s almost all panels and speaking. I think that might be more my thing! I’ll have to look into those possibilities in the coming years. ūüôā

On Sunday morning I packed up and ubered to my next hotel in downtown Dallas. I planned to store my bag and go exploring, but I was actually able to check in already at 10:30! My first stop was a walk to the Dallas Farmers Market. They have a permanent indoor building which is all smaller restaurants – one of my all time favorite things to seek out in larger cities. And because it was the weekend they also had an outdoor market set up, also with many actual meal food booths. Very little produce! And a crazy number of stands that just sold infused waters and juices and teas. Texans at least know the importance of staying hydrated in that heat!

I got a mango juice outside that was divine and after three walks around the building landed on jerk chicken sliders from a Caribbean restaurant inside. That was by far the best meal I ate on the trip. It was so spicy and SO delicious. I picked up some macaroons to eat later, though I’ve realized for the second them they really just don’t appeal to me.

I went back to my hotel afterward and picked up a fresh watermelon infused iced tea from the attached coffee shop. It was really tasty! Then I finally took a nap – the only nap I took the entire trip! I somehow thought this vacation was going to get me so rested up. No such luck! I honestly felt so icky and crappy the entire trip. I know I’m showing you a lot of good food pics, but most of my meals I only ate about half of. I’m not sure if it was simply the heat or I was actually sick, but physically it was a really rough trip.

In the evening I went for a walk about six blocks around my hotel and saw the JKF Memorial and some other downtown sites.

I was stuck again with not feeling great, not being particularly hungry, but not wanting to just skip another meal since I was already only eating like one meal a day, so I stopped at this wing place I had researched ahead of time. I only ate a few bites – really should have just skipped it.

Monday was my last full day and I was bound and determined to try and suck up my heat wimpiness and make the most of it. For breakfast I had a cold brew at the hotel.

I took a walk to the famous cattle drive sculptures. That was cool to see!

Next I took an uber to the Bishop Arts District of Dallas. I was under the impression this was going to be a long street filled with unique shopping opportunities, but in actuality it was just a single block with a handful of stores that weren’t set to open for another one to two hours later than when I got there. There was no way I was going to just sit outside that whole time, and I didn’t want to wander too far, so I stopped at the first restaurant I happened upon. I thought I was going into just a coffee shop, not a sit down place, but figured I might as well stay once I was there. I had banana bread french toast with fruit.

The shops ended up being a disappointment. There was one local artist place that I waited an extra hour for it to open and bought a couple of 4×6 prints. The main reason I wanted to go to that side of town in the first place – for a unique bookstore and a grilled cheese restaurant – were rendered pointless since I had just eaten something else (and was feeling really sick) and the bookstore didn’t open another two hours. So I picked another random place online and ubered to an antique store, also assuming there would be other places nearby to check out. Nope! That one was on the side of a highway! I was totally over exploring in the 112 degree heat at that point and went back to the hotel.

One of the first restaurants I had researched was called Wild Salsa. I was so excited when I realized it was only a block from my hotel. I realllly wasn’t feeling up to it, but it was my last chance to eat there, so I headed over on Monday night for dinner. I have to say I’ve had way better Mexican food in Madison for a whole lot less money. I just went back to the hotel for the rest of the night. Though I should point out that my Dallas hotel had a giant bathtub and I had brought a bunch of pampering things, so I was plenty happy to have the time to just chill out and relax. It’s just hard to shake the feeling of not doing enough, when I’m on a vacation to see a place I’d never been to before.

I had zero ambitions about doing anything else on Tuesday morning, so I went to the airport three hours early and just walked and walked and walked. I picked up this honey butter chicken on a jalapeno biscuit from Whataburger and it was the second best thing I had to eat on the trip – shocking!

The rest of my day was very long, but mostly uneventful. It was one of the worst plane rides I’ve ever been on – I honestly was on the brink of a panic attack because it was so flippin hot and I felt like I was suffocating. The airplane couldn’t counteract the heat from however long it was sitting in Dallas. That combined with the turbulence made for a pretty miserable flight. But I rewarded myself with a stop at Home Goods and Marshall’s before coming home to my family! They were all very excited to see me. I missed them too.

And that was my trip! I’m really glad I went and I did genuinely have a good time. But I really have no desire to ever go to Texas again, especially not in summer. It also reminded me how much more joy I find in vacations with outdoor spaces to breathe and appreciate beauty. Big cities are SO not for me. It was a great break from reality, though, and is really going to help launch me through these final weeks of summer. Solo vacations are the best!