What I Read July 2020

Whew, I’m behind! July was a terrible reading month for me, which is why I’ve been dragging my feet about writing this review post. I was so distracted by everyday life and just could not seem to get into any of the books I tried. It was a struggle. I only read nine books and the first half of them were not that great! But I did find a couple of fantastic ones, so check them out!

The Twin by Natasha Preston
Rating: 2.5 stars

Ivy and Iris are 16 year old twins who went to live with separate parents after their divorce six years prior. When their mom dies in a running accident Iris comes to live with Ivy and their dad and is acting shady and mysterious, refusing to discuss their mom or her old life, determined to jump right in with all of Ivy’s friends. Ivy is determined to figure out what’s going on with her. I’m going to start out by saying – do not read this book. It’s not worth it and the bizarre cliffhanger ending (with no sequel) will infuriate you. The entire story seemed to just be a lot of talking in circles about Iris’ “off” behavior and not a whole lot actually happening. I stuck with it because I assumed Ivy would have redemption by the end of the book and (spoiler) she does not. It pissed me off, to be honest! I do NOT recommend.

Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon
Rating: 2 stars

Technically this book was a DNF for me, but I didn’t give it up until 75% in so I’m counting it in my totals. So it’s a book about an anxious and uptight guy, Jordan, who is trying to hold together a romance book club that is quickly losing its members. He meets Rex in the bookstore and is immediately turned off by some of his comments and challenges him to read the books for himself before he makes judgements. Rex joins the book club and the two men are instantly attracted to each other. This book…ugh. It has so many plot holes. What I really couldn’t stand was how it kept jumping back and forth between points of view from paragraph to paragraph with no rhyme or reason. It was SO poorly edited, if edited by a professional at all. I couldn’t take it anymore. The plot sounded so promising, but the lack of polishing was just too much for me.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Rating: 3 stars

I’ve been in such a reading rut that I decided the best thing to do would be to pick something in a different genre than what I’m typically drawn to. Historical fiction has never been my sweet spot, but I’ve really liked all the Jojo Moyes books I’ve read and this one came so highly rated (though also with a lot of controversy), so I dove in. And honestly, I was pretty disappointed in the whole thing. Alice meets Bennett and his father and moves from England to Kentucky to marry him, but soon discovers she doesn’t really fit in and doesn’t love the life of leisure that is expected of her. An opportunity arises to join a group of packhorse librarians, riding books out to all the rural houses in the area. The book is about Alice and the other librarians and how much resistance they meet with what they do. All in all, I thought it was just so boring. I didn’t get enough depth in Alice and was frustrated by how prudish and closed off she seemed for the majority of the book. I wanted her to actually feel things instead of just shutting down. I kept expecting the book to take a turn and really grip me, but it never did. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time powering through it.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Rating: 4 stars

Luc is the son of a washed up celebrity who abandoned him when he was a toddler. They haven’t seen each other since, but it doesn’t stop the press from following Luc around and continuing to destroy his reputation. About to lose the only job he was able to secure he begs a well respected acquaintance, Oliver, to be his fake boyfriend for a couple of months to help gain back the respect of his lost donors. Oliver is also in need of a companion for a large family event so he agrees to the arrangement and they begin to spend time together so secure their cover, even though almost all of their friends know the truth. I enjoyed this book. Luc grew a lot during his fake relationship with Oliver and Oliver was such a stand up worthy guy it was hard not to love him. It still took me forever to read – I just cannot concentrate on books anymore. But I liked this one a lot.

Engagement and Espionage by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is the first book in a spinoff of the Winston Brothers series. It really needs to be read after Beard Science, the third book in that series, to get all of the great character development and back story. I think the main reason I enjoyed this book so much was the nostalgia factor of going back to the Winston brothers’ world and spending more time with Cletus, my favorite brother. The premise of the book was trying to solve a mystery surrounding all of the unique local suppliers to the Donnor Bakery. Cletus of course gets involved and he and Jenn concoct a plan to get to the bottom of what’s going on around town. It was fun and cute and just made me happy to revisit everybody. I still haven’t even finished the all Winston Brothers books, so I’ll have to move back on to them soon!

Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the reimagined retelling of what happens to the real Jo March in the year between writing the first and second half of her beloved book, Little Women. I mostly chose this book because the cover is so beautiful. And I was curious to see what the authors would do with this story. I’m not a hardcore Little Women fan, but I imagine those that are might not be thrilled by this book. It pokes fun at a few things in the original story and of course takes some creative liberty in what happens with the characters in their “real” lives. To be honest, most of this book was maddening. Jo is so stubborn and frustrating and refuses to just let herself love and be loved. SO much of the story is just Jo bemoaning how difficult it is to write a proper sequel. It was quite stressful to feel that nonstop writer’s block with her! I enjoyed how it ended, but wish a little more romance had been interspersed throughout the rest of the book because I was rather fed up with it all.

The Player Next Door by K. A. Tucker
Rating: 3.5 stars

Scarlett moves back to town she grew up in twelve years after she left, and finds herself living next door to the boy she was once in love with, but hurt her deeply. He’s hoping to reconnect in friendship, but her heart is guarded against letting him in again, even though she can’t stop thinking about him. This is clearly a very predictable story, but it was still sweet and I enjoyed it.

Hate Thy Neighbor by S.M. Soto
Rating: 5 stars

This is the first book I read all month that I didn’t want to put down. Enemies to lovers romance novels are usually a win for me, it’s one of my favorite tropes. This was just released and sounded intriguing, so I snapped it up. It didn’t disappoint! Olivia moves to a new city and immediately makes an enemy with her surly yet gorgeous neighbor Roman. With no explanation behind it, Roman immediately hates Olivia and does everything possible to thwart her attempts at friendship. This is my one and only complaint about the book. Roman said a lot of pretty cruel things to Olivia in the first half of the book and it’s hard for me to forgive a leading man for being such a genuine jerk. Rude? Fine. But downright cruel? It’s not a turn on. Anyway, both characters seemed to have a lot of depth and I thoroughly enjoyed how the story progressed!

Heartstopper Vol. 2 by Alice Oseman
Rating: 5* stars

It’s been a nine months since I read the first Heartstopper and was so upset to realize it wasn’t a single volume! It took quite awhile for my library to get the second one for me, but it was worth the wait. Coming back to this sweet budding romance between gay Charlie and sexually confused Nick was such a treat. It’s a very fast read with few words, but incredibly emotional comic drawings! It continues to amaze me how much feeling can be shown in the graphics. I adored this graphic novel and can’t wait to read the third!

Weekend Reflections 08.01.2020

This has been a really emotionally taxing week. I’ve been working through a lot and it’s left me a bit of a mess. I won’t get into all the details, but I’m trying to climb my way out of the pits. It would just be a lot easier if each day wasn’t bringing on new battles!

I believe I mentioned in my last post how I’d been suffering from one of the worst headaches of my life. I think stress is a big part of it, but being too tense on my morning bike rides is probably the main culprit. It’s SO discouraging to me how every time I get excited about some new physical activity that I think will finally change my life around, it causes a new negative issue with a different part of my body, kind of rendering all the benefits null. I’ve been loving my early morning rides so much that I never take a day off from them. But it’s wreaking havoc on my neck and shoulders so I finally forced myself to stay home on Tuesday, for the first morning in the month since I started. I was so angry at myself because I don’t want to start giving in to lame excuses and taking more and more mornings off without a really valid reason. But a whole lot of people told me that breaks are necessary and not to be so hard on myself and on Wednesday morning I actually started feeling a lot better. Now I’m trying to alternate long bike rides with shorter ones every other day. I’m still pretty tense and have a constant lingering headache, but it’s not as bad as it was last weekend.

I listed some dolls last Sunday as well and had more people than usual upset with me that they missed out on a doll they wanted. I had one customer in particular quite angry with me for having a restock a day earlier than I had mentioned “probably” having one to her the week before. (Which I genuinely forgot about, otherwise I would have given her a head’s up.) This is a frustrating aspect of owning your own handmade business that continues to wear me out. I avoid conflict like the plague. I hate having people angry with me. But I also really, really thrive on having my own creative freedom to make whatever I want, whenever I want, with zero outside pressure on me to perform to somebody else’s standards. Which is the main reason I almost never take custom orders and I refuse to make duplicate dolls. But I get tired of trying to explain that to upset customers, especially when so many other handmade businesses depend on making duplicate items as their main source of income. I just don’t want to do it that way. And I wish I didn’t always have to justify that to other people. The whole ordeal really messed with my motivation to start new dolls this week. I did end up making six, but it’s been hard to get myself to sit down and actually work.

We had therapy on Tuesday. It went shockingly well a few weeks ago, so we stupidly assumed it would go well again. It didn’t. At all. I won’t get into it, but it was a pretty sucky day. Fortunately our next session will be in person for the first time with this particular therapist. I think it will go better that way. Virtual therapy with a kid who can just walk out of the room whenever he pleases is just a recipe for disaster.

In positive news, however, I started reading the book The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron. It’s about the enneagram – something I hear about all the time in my online circles. I’ve owned the book for quite awhile, but only finally picked it up because a small group of online friends invited me into a buddy read discussion with them about it. And I honestly think this is going to be the book that will make a bigger impact on my life than any other. One of the first chapters talks about one of the personality types that fits Caden to an absolute tee. You are not supposed to typecast your kids – or try to tell them what they are until they’re old enough to understand all of it, like late teens. But seriously, this was Caden. And it opened my eyes to an understanding of who he is that I have never, ever been able to grasp before. I was uncontrollably crying while I listened (I’m doing audio and physical book) to that chapter. I’m working on getting Greg to listen to it asap so we can maybe finally understand what’s going through Caden’s mind all the time and why he acts the way he acts. And maybe really come up with an effective plan to help him – FINALLY.

I started my week making a batch of donut muffins, with my newfound plan of always having breakfast foods on hand. Of course everyone ate them all in the first day, so it didn’t last! I did go to Costco, however, on Wednesday and picked up quite a few easy options. Not exactly healthy, but some weeks you just need to roll with it. This was our last week of getting free school meals, so my efforts will need to go up a notch next week.

On Monday I made carne asada on the grill. It was my first time grilling such a large cut of meat and it worked pretty well! I’m still not really a fan of steak, but I will eat a bit of it if it’s on a taco. Everyone else loved it.

Chicken wings on Tuesday. This dry rub is amazing. It will most likely show up in my next Friday Favorites!

The rest of the week I kind of gave up cooking all together. We had a Costco rotisserie chicken on Wednesday and on Thursday we ordered Mexican and ate it with Greg’s parents on their deck. I did make this beautiful chocolate ganache tart for dessert, though! It was fun making a fancy dessert – that used to be the only kind I made! Now I just make cookies or brownies, whatever is fast and easy. Yesterday Greg was finally able to pick up some of his things from work, so he also grabbed a Qdoba family meal for lunch. And tonight he’s getting Chinese because that’s Caden’s favorite and he always gets so disappointed when we pick up food from other places.

I continue to pick through my garden every morning to get the next few ripe tomatoes and peppers. I was really excited about that purple bell pepper! I thought none of my pepper plants were the same, but I keep getting so many weirdly shaped long light green ones on multiple plants. I’m not even sure what they are, I just cut them up and throw them into whatever I’m making that day.

I also had my own therapy session on Friday. Some weeks our talks are pretty surface level and some weeks they get a lot deeper. This week we talked a lot about body image and just trying to focus on being healthy rather than what you look like. It was a pretty triggering conversation. It’s frustrating to me how I’m exercising an hour, sometimes more, every single morning and it doesn’t seem to be making a difference yet. I have never consistently exercised and definitely never more than 15-20 minutes tops! It seems like I should be feeling and seeing progress! There are days I feel stronger – on the bike – but every day activities like walking around? It’s can still be so hard, which is pretty infuriating! My body continues to deceive me and I can’t seem to get out of this downward health spiral no matter how hard I try.

Anyway! It’s been a rough week. But maybe the kind of week I needed. It’s really helped to remind me I need to take better care of myself, every aspect of it. This weird pandemic season of life has been so, so hard. But it’s not all bad. I think I’m growing. I have a LONG way to go, but I’m giving it my best effort and I feel good about that.

Weekend Reflections 07.26.2020

Another week behind us in this weird pandemic existence. It’s been such a stressful week as we try to make a decision on what to do about school in the fall. Weighing the pros and cons of going full virtual versus a split week for Caden and a four day in person week for Shepard has been really overwhelming. Every time I feel confident in our decision somebody throws out another perspective I hadn’t considered and then I doubt our choice all over again. (Or it’s validated!) We haven’t turned in our final decision yet – we have until Friday – but I’m about 95% sure we’re going the all virtual route. I’m not happy about it. It’s going to be HARD. But it’s the only way I can guarantee my children will be as safe as possible. And other kids and teachers and our family as well. I wish I knew what all virtual will actually mean in terms of a time and workload commitment, but I guess we’ll find out in five weeks! I really hope a vaccine will come out soon and we won’t have to do this for an entire school year. My brain can’t even handle thinking about that possibility right now. Being home, all of us, all the time…it’s rough.

We visited the puppies on Monday! I liked how both of them immediately climbed into my lap and settled in. In reality, owning a dog that wanted to be held all the time would drive me absolutely insane. But it’s pretty sweet to visit them and have them cuddle up!

I had a farmers market pick up scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. My first in about a month. Instead of doing a grocery pick up as well I decided to go in a couple of stores, but it ended up being incredibly stressful. I normally only go in stores in the early mornings – in pandemic life AND in regular life. So I wasn’t prepared for how busy it was going to be. Then I had to make an extra stop because Caden was out of sunflower seeds and he can’t survive a week without them (he kept texting me “MY LIFE IS OVER!!!!). Then I had a very low tire and had to learn how to refill it for the first time. By then I was pressed for time on my Trader Joe’s run, which was supposed to be an extra special treat. And then I barely made it to the market on time. I was so upset that the one thing in the week I was really looking forward to turned into such a stressful disaster. I really miss when shopping was fun.

The boys have been fighting so much this week. They always fight a lot – because they refuse to EVER be apart from each other. But it’s seemed even worse than usual this week. I suggested a small field trip to the dam on Thursday after dinner. I somehow keep thinking a change of scenery will do us all some good, but it often makes their moods even worse. Caden calmed down, but was uninterested in the adventure aspect of the trip. Shepard enjoyed walking through the river until a giant spider landed on his hand and then he was traumatized. But Greg, Annie and I still thought it was fun to get out of the house and do something different for a little bit!

On Friday Greg surprised me by asking his parents to babysit for a few hours so we could have our second pandemic date night. We ordered Chili’s and went to a park to eat and walk around. I just picked the park on a whim from google maps and it turned out to be such a beautiful surprise! I’m definitely looking forward to walking around there again soon.

I didn’t take any pictures, but on Saturday morning my friend invited me over to walk around some trails near her house. I probably scared her a bit with how enthusiastically I jumped on that opportunity! It was really great to see a friend in person – it’s been almost two months since my last outdoor friend visit. And it was fun to walk around in another new and beautiful place too! Annie came with me and loved the adventure.

This morning I took the boys back to my parents’ again for another puppy visit. Six days was a long time between visits! They were both pretty sleepy today and much more interested in sleeping on the ground instead of us. But it was cute to watch them!

I biked all seven days this week for a total of 45 miles! I’m still loving it! There are certainly a few mornings here and there where I’m dragging my feet a bit more just because I’m not used to getting up early and immediately leaving the house. I much prefer getting up early and enjoying some peace and quiet at home before everyone else wakes up. But these bike rides are totally worth it. I love the days I’m out early enough to catch the pre-sunrise, but I get so frustrated at how poorly my phone captures the beauty! I’m pretty tempted to bring along my real camera, but haven’t done it yet. I bought a mirror so I’d feel more comfortable on the busier streets (though let’s be honest, “busy” in a very small town at 5am usually means I see three cars at most), but I can’t figure out how to secure it properly so it actually stays up. I also bought some bike cleaner and lube to try and learn how to take better care of it, but haven’t gotten around to learning about proper bike care yet either. The only downside of biking is that even though I’m in an upright pedal position, I’m still apparently tensing my neck and back quite a lot. I’ve been having daily headaches from it and today is one of the worst I’ve ever had. I still think it’s a worthwhile trade off, but I wish it didn’t happen at all.

I haven’t done quite as much sewing this week, but still managed to finish nine more dolls. I’ve been binging the show Manifest while I watch and I’m really into it!

I didn’t put a ton of effort into food this week. It’s just one of those things that I really care about or it’s the neverending responsibility that breaks me. There is rarely an in between!

We had a big batch of hamburgers, hot dogs, green beans, and pretzel buns on Monday night. Greg really likes the burgers from Butcher Box. This is the first time I tried their hot dogs and I didn’t like them at all. But I’m pretty picky about what kind of hot dogs I like and these didn’t fit the criteria. But now I know!

I used my new little espresso maker and try and replicate the salted caramel iced latte I always get at my favorite coffee shop. It was pretty close! I have determined that making full espresso drinks is actually a lot of work (lol), so I only have one every few days. I don’t even drink regular coffee every day, but I like to have the option!

I needed to use up some farm eggs I had bought on a whim before they expired, so I tried out this magic custard pie recipe one night. It was really good! I don’t normally make non-chocolate desserts, so it was fun to have something really different.

We ordered pizza and a calzone on Wednesday night. I love those calzones SO MUCH. They’re just amazing.

After my stressful shopping adventure I decided to try out an improvised cocktail using my new fancy maraschino cherries and liqueur. I don’t usually drink at all because I’m not so fond of alcohol and it’s not great for my liver problems! But I wanted to give it a shot. And….still not my thing (lol). But the cherries taste AMAZING on ice cream.

I used my farmers market produce and a couple things from the garden to make some fresh pico de gallo. I’ve been eating a lot of the tomatoes mixed with cut up string cheese, pepperoni, olive oil, salt flakes and fresh pepper. So good! And I used the zucchini to try a new brownie recipe, but was disappointed it ended up just tasting like chocolate cake. I’m not a chocolate cake fan.

Looking ahead, I can’t believe it’s already the last week of July. Normally I’d be thrilled that summer is officially 2/3 over, but I’m trying to really soak up these outdoor opportunities while I can this year. Now that we’ve decided to keep the boys home for virtual learning, I’m really dreading winter and those long cold months of truly feeling trapped. I need to make the most of these days while I can.

It feels like another busy week, with appointments or something on the calendar every day. Most of those will only be an hour or less of my time, but it still feels like a lot. Especially with how headachy and stressed out I’ve been lately. I’d love some truly lazy days, but I don’t think they’re going to happen.

My biggest goal this week is to get more on top of having pre-prepared snacks and meals around the house. We continue to have breakfast arguments every single dang day, though my struggles are usually with Shepard because he’s just not happy with whatever we have on hand or whatever the school gave him and he loves to make sure I know just how enraged he feels about it. Caden’s pretty much given up, he just won’t eat anything and I don’t even really care anymore. But like every struggle we have, I get sad or upset about it and then I pull myself together and figure out a way to do better. And as frustrating as this whole neverending food debacle is, the food making is still my responsibility so I need to try harder.

Have a great week, everyone!

Weekend Reflections 07.19.2020

This has been such a busy week around here! Probably the busiest we’ve had in months. Lots going on and many, many photos to share!

Last Sunday I was feeling pretty down and wanted to do something fun and different to brighten my spirits. It was the first somewhat cooler day we’d had in like four weeks, so we decided to go to the Token Creek Dog Park. It’s one of my favorite Dane County dog parks, and one of the two closest to our house. We hadn’t been there at all yet this year, so I was excited to get out and explore. The boys were not very cooperative, but I’m never surprised by this anymore. They don’t like doing anything outside of the house. So Greg and I tried our best to just ignore them and had a fun time walking around the park while Annie checked everything out and then we had a picnic before going back home.

Unfortunately, later that night Annie started acting a little off. We assumed she just got a bit overheated at the park, even though we weren’t even there for more than half an hour and she didn’t do that much running. But it was in full sun and she has long dark hair, so it still seemed like a logical conclusion. But on Monday she was clearly feeling worse, spending most of the day walking or sitting with her head hanging off to the side, not eating anything, and almost no energy. On Tuesday it was even worse and in the afternoon she started vomiting all over the house. Her stomach was pretty empty at that point, so it was mostly just bile, but then the blood started coming. I called the vet and was able to get her in immediately so I rushed her over and then spent two hours in my car waiting for the verdict. Her x-rays and blood panel came back fine, so at least it wasn’t anything that needed surgery. But we also really have no idea what happened, other than she PROBABLY ate something at the dog park. I took her back home with a bag full of meds and by the end of the night she wasn’t even walking anymore, Greg had to carry her around. It was pretty scary, especially after my mom’s dog passed away with similar symptoms just a few months ago.

I woke up Wednesday morning to a pretty horrific poop explosion in the family room and Annie still obviously feeling pretty awful. But with each day and each dose of medicine she’s been feeling a lot better. I wouldn’t say she’s 100% quite yet, but her appetite is back and she seems much more like her old self. I’m so glad I was able to get her to the vet so quickly because I’m not sure we would have had the same results without all the medication.

While the whole situation with her this week has been scary and sad, I’m also just really bummed that we probably can’t in good conscience go back to that dog park again. I’m pretty wary of going to ANY dog parks at this point because she probably just ate a random weed or something which could very well be growing all over the place! I purchased an annual pass when we were there on Sunday and I briefly felt elated that I now had another option of something fun and free to do that would get us, or at least me and Annie, out of the house every week or so. And then a day later that option was taken away. It really sucks!

I continued on with my early morning bike rides every day this week. Actually, there were two days that I had to postpone because of rain or storms, which is really annoying because I can’t tell those things are actually happening until I’m standing outside ready to leave! But I still got a ride in all seven days, which has been great! Earlier in the week my legs were really tired and then around Thursday it was like I suddenly graduated to a level of being just a bit stronger and it all came easier to me. But then it got super humid and gross, so yesterday and today’s rides were pretty short. I’m hoping to make up for it with an extra long ride tomorrow morning.

I’ve made twelve new dolls this week (one of my photos does not want to upload!) and had a restock on Wednesday, selling out within minutes. I’ve really been having so much fun now that I limit myself to making three at a time, completing a batch every day or two. But I still struggle with feeling like I’m not making enough or not making them fast enough. At the same time it’s like I literally do not know what else to do with myself anymore, so sewing is practically my whole life. It’s probably not very healthy. But it distracts me from feeling utter despair over the state of our world and our lives right now.

I was pretty on top of meals this week. I’m trying to get back in the habit of actually caring about what goes into my body, as well as using up as many random ingredients as I can before they go to waste. Most days I enjoy the challenge of seeing what I can cobble together. I made a delightful grilled bbq bacon jalapeno and roasted garlic pizza earlier in the week. We also grilled steak kebabs and I made roasted garlic and bacon mashed potatoes – my first time ever making mashed potatoes and I didn’t even use a recipe, but they were great! We had a giant pretzel from Milwaukee Pretzel Company for dinner that night I took Annie to the vet. I made a blueberry honey simple syrup for coffee drinks, though I honestly can’t taste the blueberry, so it was a bit disappointing. I also tried out my new espresso maker a few times. I need some practice making “official” drinks, but it works pretty well! I tried a new granola recipe that I really like because it’s the first one I’ve made that doesn’t taste too sweet. I have a lot of problems eating anything even remotely sweet in the morning without getting a massive headache, so I finally found a winner. It’s great with fruit! We needed more freezer room for our latest Butcher Box, so I made some banana bread, but with a gluten free flour mix this time. (A large chunk of our main freezer is filled with frozen bananas.) So good! Especially the third I made for me topped with lightly salted walnuts.

I forgot to take a picture of the actual meal, but last night I made a grilled Turkish chicken that we ate with curried rice, fresh tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers (all from the garden!), and a Greek yogurt garlic lemon sauce. For dessert we had fresh cherries topped with a mascarpone whipped cream, fresh mint leaves, and shaved dark chocolate. YUM. Caden told me multiple times over the evening that it was the best meal I’ve ever made.

On Thursday the boys and I went to meet my mom’s new puppies, Herbie and Ollie! She knew she was getting Ollie since he was a few weeks old, but Herbie was an added surprise. They are SO CUTE. Ollie is very snuggly and Herbie seems a lot more interested in playing. The boys were in love and back on a campaign to get their own puppies.

On Friday night Greg and Caden had a camping trip in his parents’ backyard. It was a reward for Caden FINALLY cooperating at therapy this week. I was concerned Shepard would be really upset about being left out, so we planned a fun night together too. We picked up some Burger King and then went over to play with the puppies some more! We plan on going over every few days whether they want us there or not so they get used to us!

We made it back home with just enough time to make popcorn and ice cream and watch A Dog’s Purpose together. Shepard listened to the audiobook recently and wanted to see the movie. Then in the morning we went on a short bike ride together. It was really fun! It’s pretty hard to get the boys to spend any individual time with me when they’re both home and distracted by their screens, so we should probably plan to split them up like this more often.

Today is my sisters-in-law’s birthday, so Greg and the boys went to Chicago to meet one of them for lunch and a walk around the botanical gardens. I wasn’t yet comfortable going into a major metropolitan area when I knew I’d definitely need to use public bathrooms multiple times, so I opted to stay home. I spent most of the day sewing, doing laundry, and cleaning. Which feels like a really dumb use of my rare alone time, but it’s so refreshing to clean a room and actually see it stay clean for a whole day, instead of just three minutes until Shepard grabs his next snack that half ends up all over the floor. I also picked up some Mexican for lunch. I love getting food from the place in town because it’s definitely enough for two very full and delicious meals! I added chile toreados to my usual order today and it was a great spicy addition eaten with the flautas.

Besides all the Annie stuff and one terrible night with the children, it was a pretty good week overall. I’m hoping this next one is a little bit quieter, though!

Weekend Reflections 07.11.2020

For the first 99 days of quarantine I was writing nightly instagram recaps of what I did each day and how I felt about everything going on. It was quite a cathartic ritual for me to process this extreme change in our daily lives on a much smaller and more personal scale than a long public blog post. My favorite thing to come out of that exercise was realizing just how much I do in a single day. I’ve always been cursed with constant feelings of “not enough” and it was so helpful to see that even though it felt like my entire life was reduced to just cooking and cleaning and cooking some more, I was still living a very full and productive life, even though it wasn’t exactly what I wanted or what I was used to. I stopped doing those nightly posts around the time I went into a store for the first time in three months. Quarantine was officially over about a month before that so it started to feel silly to keep counting the days after I had been doing a lot more regular pre-coronavirus activities. (Though going into one store a week isn’t exactly “a lot!”) I also started feeling like the days were becoming very monotonous and my mental health was taking another dive, so it was better to stop doing those nightly evaluations when I couldn’t think of anything positive to say anymore. I want to always be honest about what’s going on with me, but I also don’t want to come across as being whiny and ungrateful all the time.

In the last few weeks since then I’ve been pretty quiet on social media. I’ve been quiet in real life too. Summer is always the hardest season for me for so many reasons and it all just feels so amplified this year after already having the entire family confined to the house for three months before summer even began with three long months ahead of us and still no guarantee that any part of life will go back to normal come fall. It’s really overwhelming to this extreme introvert who only thrives when she gets a ton of alone time and space to exhale. Being caught in the middle of so much familial conflict and screen time noises and always having so many demands on my time and energy to cook, clean, and again cook – it’s really starting to get to me. I feel so trapped. I’m irritated with everyone all the time. I struggle to even know who I am anymore outside of these bizarre new circumstances we live in.

Fortunately, I am a fighter. And even though I’m prone to wallowing in despair more often than I should, I also like to problem solve and work on finding solutions to make at least my own life easier and better. Unfortunately, most of the solutions I’ve come up with in the last month have had unexpected negative consequences because my life is invariably linked to the three humans (and three pets) that live with me. Which is really frustrating. But I’m doing my best to just keep moving forward because what other choice do I have?

The best part of my life lately has been going on an early morning bike ride almost every single day. I started about two weeks ago and it quickly became the favorite thing I do. I’ve never, ever been a person who enjoyed exercise. But apparently I’ve just never found the right thing to connect with. I’ve also struggled greatly since breaking my ankle two and a half years ago and getting plantar fasciitis every single time I make a commitment to start walking more. Amazingly, biking doesn’t hurt my feet nearly as much as walking and my ankle seems healed enough (finally!) that it doesn’t hurt at all. My legs certainly get tired when I’m out – probably because I can’t seem to go a day without it right now. But the only lingering effects I have are feeling calmer mentally, feeling less restless physically, and sleeping more soundly (though so far not for longer lengths of time). There are ONLY POSITIVES. Okay, there are actually some negatives, like this morning when apparently one of our pets decided to open the French doors and go wake everybody up while I was out. All three of them get so hyped up when they see me ready to leave the house so early in the morning. It’s really annoying! Both Rory and Annie know how to open those doors to get upstairs if they work at it long enough, but the blame was still placed on me. My biking every morning also means that I’m too tired to go on our regular morning family walk, so those have just disappeared completely. Greg will often still take Annie, but he prefers to go on his own than try to force the boys to go with him when I’m not also trying to make them follow through on this four month long ritual. It really bothers me that I found something I’m enjoying SO MUCH with so many health benefits both mentally and physically, but it still means other things then fall to the wayside as a result. But I’m trying to just focus on how happy it makes me and go with that feeling for as long as I can! I really like going early because there aren’t many other people out (though surprisingly still quite a few at 5am in a very small town!), the streets are free of cars, it’s much cooler out, I can usually catch the sunrise – though my options for seeing it on a more rural road (for a better photo!) are pretty limited – and it’s just a great way to start the day.

I’ve also been taking a lot of joy in my garden this week! We’ve harvested all of our radishes, a big bouquet of broccoli, one huge cucumber, a variety of hot peppers, and our first two tomatoes. I usually check for ripe produce every morning after my bike ride and it always surprises me to find at least one new vegetable ready to pick every day. I’ve always loved the idea of gardening, but am terrible at following through on them. Since we don’t have much else to do with our time these days we’re really taking good care of it and I love seeing the fruits of our labor!

After a month of being more productive sewing dolls than I have in years, my sewing room was a bit of a disaster. I also had this corner that I used to use when I was bullet journaling and doing devotions every morning and night, but haven’t really sat down and used in probably a year. I wanted to make it more useful to who I am right now so I finally went ahead with a project I’ve been toying with for a long time – making my own drink station!

It took awhile to perfect how I wanted it to look, but I’m very happy with the results! Since I’m really the only one that uses it I decided to have a more minimalist look with only two mugs out at a time, even though I have quite a collection. If I’m ever allowed to have friends over again I’ll add in a fun mug tree display. I was also happy to finally find a good place to display this adorable little pebble family art that my best friend gave me.

The real winner of all my hot drinks is this Cosori electric kettle that my mom gave me for my birthday last year. I use it multiple times a day for tea or coffee. It’s amazing.

I usually drink more tea than coffee, so I picked up a fun spinning tea bag display to make it look a lot more organized. And of course some tasty syrups that I like to add to cold drinks.

My beloved little pour over pot is what I used most often. The Moka espresso pot is the only thing I couldn’t actually use IN my drink station area, but because I still wanted the ability to make fancy drinks I actually ordered a small real espresso maker. I haven’t taken it out of the box yet, but I’m antsy to set it up and give it a go! I will be a full on barista by the time people are allowed back into my house for visits!

Coffee grinder because I’m hoity toity and only drink coffee from freshly ground beans. My ember mug is my favorite for tea since it tends to take me so long to drink a mug. And a recent addition – a milk frother which is a total game changer. I actually whip up my regular creamer in there and it’s amazing. I also used it for salted caramel cold foam on top of a cold brew the other day.

The main addition was adding in a cute mini fridge! While I of course just wanted it for looks and convenience of having all my coffee items in one room, it also solved the problem we’ve had since quarantine of having more stuff shoved into our main fridge than we technically have room for. It’s amazing how much more space has opened up now that I took all my extra things out of there! Plus we have room for Greg’s soda again – he had to sacrifice that space awhile back. And of course space for my emergency chocolate supply!

I also bought this really cute set of three shelves to add some layering and dimension to the drink area instead of just shoving it all on top of the table. I ran out of things to display by the third shelf so I grabbed a rainbow of my favorite books and added this delightful candle which smells like blueberry pie.

Once the drink station was complete I spent another couple of days reorganizing and slightly rearranging my entire sewing room. The biggest difference was changing the direction of the table. My main reason for choosing to put it there is that I wanted to find out if I could carve out some space for an exercise glider I’m thinking about buying in a few months when it gets too cold and icy to do anything outdoors again. I think it’ll definitely fit, but for now I’m really enjoying how spacious the room suddenly feels! The table definitely looks more like a workspace now rather than any type of welcoming entertaining space, but who knows when we can entertain again so I need to make the room work for what I need now and this is perfect! I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time in the last few days just staring at my beautiful room!

I also managed to make seven (one not pictured, I’m not that bad at math!) dolls in between everything. It feels like a bit of a disappointment after making at least 15 a week in the last month, but still better than nothing!

I have had some pretty decent alone time this week, so I shouldn’t complain too much. Greg and the boys went to his grandparents’ house on Sunday so I had about eight hours to myself, which was very much needed! I treated myself to some local Mexican food, which we haven’t ordered since Mother’s Day, I believe. So good! Their chile relleno is my ultimate comfort food. Then on Friday I had a grocery pick up, but made a point of ordering myself some lunch from Canteen for pick up as well. Remember right before all this started and I declared it my mission in life to hit up every taco restaurant in the Madison area? Canteen is definitely at the top and it’s been my favorite curbside pick up place I’ve tried because you can easily order online and the directions for pick up are very clear on where to park, who to text, and they rush it right out. They also have the most amazing arbol salsa, which I prefer to eat with their wagon wheel duritos instead of chips. Yesterday I had carnitas and barbacoa tacos and both were so delicious.

As for other food adventures this week, I haven’t been that energized about trying new things – it’s too hot. But after the millionth morning of the boys arguing that they hated the school breakfast food (another solution that has almost only caused more problems) I tried out a new recipe for chocolate peanut butter muffins that don’t have any flour or grains in them. I was really impressed by how well they turned out, but I probably wouldn’t make them again because it required a 1.5 cups of peanut butter and 3/4 cups of cocoa powder. That’s a lot of relatively expensive ingredients! The only really big dinner I made were grilled chicken shawarma and spicy potato and tomato skewers with a roasted garlic sauce. We did run out of propane halfway through cooking, but it was worth the wait! And on Friday we went to the in-law’s house and they ordered food which we ate out on the deck. Today I also made some pretty tasty grilled raspberry jam, bacon, jalapeno, and havarti sandwiches, but I forgot to take a photo.

Well, this is quite a reflection post, so I’ll leave you now with this photo of me holding up this cute rainbow unicorn bottle I bought a few weeks ago when I went into TJMaxx for the first time in 3.5 months! Happy weekend!

Friday Favorites #12

Happy Friday! I have a fun list of new favorite things this week that I think you’ll enjoy. It’s trickier to try out new products when I’m not going into stores that often, but I still have my ways! I see in editing this that I really should have made a whole separate post just about migas considering how passionate I am about them (lol). I hope you guys can find something new to try from this list!

Food Stuff

MIGAS – So this is one of my favorite breakfasts and something I’ve been eating quite often lately. Oddly, I’ve never been a fan of eggs, but if you make them spicy and salty they’re pretty darn delicious. I’ve even gotten the boys to eat them and they NEVER eat eggs! It’s a pretty fast and easy breakfast because all you need to do is scramble an egg (or two), mix in some Mexican cheese, and throw in some crunched up tortilla chips at the end. Then top it with your hot sauce of choice, flaky sea salt, and cracked pepper. I also really enjoy popping all that on a good tortilla to make a migas taco! That’s how the boys eat them. You can obviously do any combination of cheese/sauce/chip/etc. But this is what I use for the PERFECT plate of migas:

  • 1 scrambled egg (it multiples quickly with the cheese and chips)
  • VV Supremo Chihuahua Cheese – I am OBSESSED with this cheese. It’s the only cheese we use for any Mexican style foods. I usually buy the giant bag at Costco. I was feeling pretty depraved those first few months of quarantine when I couldn’t get my hands on it!
  • Pasqual’s Cantina Original Southwest Tortilla Chips – These used to be pretty hard to find, but now they seem to be readily available in pretty much any Madison area grocery store or Target. They’re not my favorite salsa chip (though they are Greg’s), but they taste AMAZING with eggs.
  • Mezzetta Habanero Hot Sauce – I don’t think there is any other food product in my life as beloved as this. I first found it at a Festival Foods in Bloomington, MN that I just happened to stop at after work one day. And that was it for me – true love. It’s the perfect hot sauce. Definitely spicy, but such an incredible flavor. There were some sparse years there where it was pretty hard to find, but now I’m able to buy it by the case from Amazon. I probably have at least twenty different open bottles of hot sauce in my fridge on any given day, but this is my go to for eggs because I can really slather it on without it being too hot to handle.
  • Maldon Sea Salt Flakes – Okay, so I’m also obsessed with this. I put flaky sea salt on just about everything. It makes everything you eat just sing with perfection. Try it if you’re not already. Try it on ice cream! And definitely on eggs. And tomatoes. And roasted vegetables.
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper – I’ve never liked black pepper. But Greg adores it, so for his birthday this year I gave him a set of pepper mills and a couple different varieties of peppercorns. Now I’m a true convert. It adds such a wonderful depth of flavor.
  • La Tortilla Factory Yellow Corn and Wheat Tortillas – I’m also a corn tortilla convert as of whenever I started going to fun taco restaurants a year or two ago. I can’t do flour tortillas, I just hate them. But corn? So good. I’ve tried a bunch of different grocery store varieties, but this is what I keep coming back to. Though I didn’t realize until recently that they’re corn AND wheat, so that was a bit of a disappointment when I was trying so hard to be mostly gluten free for awhile there. But the addition of wheat means these tortillas are basically indestructible. They will not be falling apart on you! I used to buy them at Woodman’s, but when quarnatine started and I couldn’t get any pick up slots I ended up buying them directly online. I ran out just around the time I went back into Woodman’s for the first time a few weeks ago, but they didn’t have them anymore, so I just ordered another box.

Gluten Free Turtle BarsThis is a really simple and super delicious gluten free dessert. I made them last week (minus the nuts because nobody would have eaten them except me) as directed in a 9×13 pan and they were good, but also kind of dried out. I noticed on the pinterest page I found this on there was one of those speedy videos and the lady made it in a square 9×9 pan instead, so I tried the recipe again yesterday like that and it was SO much better. Same cooking time and everything. They’re really tasty! Oh, and – surprise – I added flaky salt to the caramel layer. Don’t skip that.

Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough Chunks – I’m not a huge ice cream eater, but when I do eat it I want it to be totally overloaded with extra yummy things. I have a lot of nostalgia around cookie dough in particular because we went to Dairy Queen so often when I was a kid and I always, always, always got a cookie dough blizzard. I saw these cookie dough chunks at Target last time I was there and they didn’t disappoint! I realize that yes, I could very easily make my own cookie dough chunks for ice cream, I’ve done it plenty of times in the past. But sometimes you just want EASY. I got the peanut butter chocolate chip ones at Target, and I got the regular chocolate chip variety in my Woodman’s pick up order today.

Apparel Stuff

Ililily Face Mask – A few months ago I figured out how to make my own face masks like most of the country and they worked out okay. When it became apparent that masks are just going to be a regular part of life for awhile I started ordering different styles and brands. This one was a bit of a splurge, but it turned out to be the one I like the most. It’s PRETTY, it has adjustable ear straps so you can fit it perfectly to your face, and it stays in place so you don’t need to keep messing with it. I bought a second one and those are the only masks I use in my once a week errand runs. I pair them with a filter just to be extra safe, but I’m not sure it’s necessary.

Modcloth Simplicity on a Saturday Tunic – This is my all time favorite shirt. I now have it in six different colors. They just released it in green (I’m wearing it in a photo further down) and I think it’s my favorite! They have a very flattering fit, seem well made, hold up well, and are a great canvas for a long necklace or fun earrings.

Coffee Stuff

Honey Bee Mug – What’s a favorites list without more coffee things?! I’ve had my eye on this mug for awhile, but it always sells out almost instantly. But they seem to restock every few weeks and you can sign up for notifications on when it’s available. I was finally able to snag one and I absolutely love it. It’s probably one of the most gorgeous handmade mugs I’ve ever seen.

Brew Bike Cold Brew Kits – I normally make my own cold brew (almost exclusively using this Grounds and Hounds Sunny Day Blend), but this summer I can’t seem to get my ratios right so I stopped making it. I happened upon this Brew Bike brand and decided to give it a shot, buying the chocolate and the brown sugar cinnamon blends. I really, really like the chocolate one! I’m not a fan of cinnamon in coffee (but love it in tea!), so that one doesn’t appeal to me as much, but it’s good enough to drink. These pouches are quite a splurge since each package only makes five servings. But it’s a fun treat for a super hot day.

Stainless Steel Straw Set – I originally found the Strawesome straw set on an independent bookstore’s website a few months ago and picked it up for myself. Then I checked out the website to see how many different sets they have. I just think they’re super cute and fun! I always use them with my cold coffee and tea drinks.

Household Stuff

Easy Dose Laundry Detergent – Okay, so here’s something that is actually super useful and not just a splurge item. I’m not sure how long this kind of laundry detergent has existed, but it’s definitely new to me. And it’s AWESOME. The bottle is so much smaller than a big jug of normal detergent (which is important since our laundry room is also Greg’s office right now) and you only need to squeeze the bottle one time for the perfect dose! No mess! I don’t think I’ll ever go back to another kind of detergent after this!

What I Read June 2020

June was a pretty terrible reading month for me. I didn’t DNF many books, but I probably should have! Everything was just okay. I did finish one really great nonfiction I had been reading for awhile and I had one highly rated thriller, but just three weeks after reading the book I couldn’t tell you a single thing about it before going back to read my review! I realize telling you none of these books were very good certainly doesn’t encourage you to finish reading the post (lol). But…most of these books probably just weren’t for me, or not for me at this time. So keep an open mind! And definitely pick up your own copy of Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire!!!

Flow by Kennedy Ryan
Rating: 2.5 stars

I read this short prequel because I wanted to read the original book, Grip, after it was highly recommended by an author I trust. And honestly, it just did not appeal to me. There was nothing really wrong with it, but I was bored. I read a decent amount of Grip afterward and felt the same way, finally DNFing it. It just wasn’t for me.

Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Rating: 3 stars

In this book super surgeon Sloan needs a nanny asap for her six year old twins. Rafe comes to her at just the right time and they immediately feel a connection. And things progress, naturally. I liked this book because Rafe was such a perfect guy for the role he was needed in. He had literally no flaws. So he was also a bit boring. I thought overall this was a cute story that kept my interest, but there was nothing spectacular about it.

Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker
Rating: 5* stars

Jen Hatmaker is an absolute delight. Her books are poignet yet so hilarious. She tells tons of personal stories to show how human she is and loves to laugh at things that definitely weren’t so funny at the time. I’ve enjoyed all the books of hers that I’ve read before, but this is by far my favorite. It really is a glorious guide on how to fully embrace being who you were meant to be. She talks about the different personalities people have and how it is totally okay to just live quietly in your own lane taking care of the people closest to you. It’s also okay to have huge dreams and want to change the world. We were all created differently but we were all created RIGHT. Each chapter delves into a different part of yourself and how you can learn to freely accept who you are, unapologetically. The whole book was uplifting and inspirational. I loved it!

Where the Blame Lies by Mia Sheridan
Rating: 4.5 stars

Josie is a college student who is abducted in the night and held captive in a warehouse for ten months where she becomes pregnant with and births her captor’s son before she manages to escape. Eight years later she is consulted by the police for information on a copycat case. I really enjoyed this book. It went back and forth between the current timeline and the ten months she was held captive, changing point of view between Josie and the detective on her case, Zach. Josie and Zach of course have a strong connection to each other, but unlike some other books that felt very unbelievable at how quickly you could go from being raped and tortured and then jumping into a sexual relationship, these characters went eight years between events so it felt a lot more believable. I was definitely kept guessing for most of the book and enjoyed the fast pace.

The Girl in the Love Song by Emma Scott
Rating: 4 stars

Thirteen year old Miller shows up one night in Violet’s backyard looking exhausted and in need of a good meal. The two instantly become best friends while fighting back a secret love for each other. Most of this book takes place when they’re seniors in high school and eventually jumps forward a bit at the end. Overall, I liked this novel, but I also felt it got a big bogged down with unnecessary plot points. I also had a hard time believing two teens were so desperately in love with each other when they didn’t spend any time together. I liked watching how their relationship changed over the years, but wish there was just more of the two of them. Emma Scott has a great knack for writing deeply emotional love stories so it’s worth a read.

One to Watch by Katy Stayman-London
Rating: 3 stars

This was a tough read for me. Bea is a plus size woman with a popular fashion writing career. After tweeting about the lack of body diversity on the tv show Main Squeeze (a Bachelor copycat) she is cast as the lead in the next season. The rest of the book is watching Bea compete on national tv for the love and happily ever after with one perfect man. Unfortunately, she is quite possibly even more obsessed with her size and shape than the men she is with. As a plus sized woman, I can totally relate to everything Bea was feeling. But does that make for a good book? Does it help that much of the book is composed of tweets, chats, podcasts, and articles either bashing her as a plus size woman or at least constantly talking about it? Can’t she just be A WOMAN? I understand the whole point of the book was to encourage body positivity, but for me it had the opposite effect. This book did not make me feel better about myself at all. But besides all that, it was interesting to “watch” a whole season play out, very much like it probably does in real life reality shows. I had just as hard a time picking out the right guy for her as I do when I’m watching it on tv!

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Rating: 3.5 stars

I usually steer very clear of ghost and supernatural stories, but I’ve read all of Riley Sager’s other books and decided to give this one a shot. And…it was okay. For something marketed as a thriller, this was incredibly slow. Maggie is a 30 year old woman whose entire life has been overshadowed by a book her father wrote about their twenty days of living in a haunted house when she was five. After her father’s death she finds out that he still owned the house and it now belongs to her. She goes back to the house determined to figure out why they really left after such a short period of time. The book alternates between chapters of her father’s book and her current situation. There were definitely some creepy moments. I didn’t read much of this at night because I’m easily spooked. I was intrigued enough to power through, but this was definitely the book I liked least by this author.

Lucky Caller by Emma Mills
Rating: 2.5 stars

The characters in this book really annoyed me. Honestly, what is the point of writing a book if you’re never going to let the main character have a voice? Nina has feelings for a boy, and it’s obvious there is some sort of past between them that went a bit beyond friendship. But she won’t talk to him. She won’t ever give him any of the thoughts she so desperately wants to say. It happened over and over and over again and it really ticked me off. There was ONE beautiful short little scene and the rest of this book was boring or frustrating. It could have been so much more. Not recommending this one!!

Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams
Rating: 2 stars

One day Daniel overhears Nadia (a stranger to him) talking to a coworker in a park and is intrigued by her. Soon after, he realizes she’s on the same train as him – at least on Mondays and sometimes Tuesdays. Not wanting to look like a creep he decides to leave her an ad in the Missed Connections portion of their newspaper and believing that she is that girl she writes him back. Spoilers ahead – this book infuriated me. It was missed opportunity after missed opportunity. They kept just missing each other by a minute or two for almost the entirety of the book. The book itself wasn’t bad, but the romance books I love are the ones where the main characters constantly interact. This does not happen in this book. I was so excited about the premise, but didn’t realize how ridiculously long the wait would be to even have them MEET. Not worth the read, in my opinion.

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins
Rating: 3 stars

After her mom dies and three years of foster care (all of which is extremely glazed over as being unimportant), Edie finds herself living with her wealthy aunt, uncle, and cousins for the last six months before she starts college. Despite her full intention of only focusing on her education, she finds herself equally drawn to her childhood best friend Sebastian – who happens to have a girlfriend, and the charismatic player Henry who she’s convinced is only pursuing her as a personal challenge, not because he actually likes her. Edie’s feelings about each boy are all over the place. And honestly, it was pretty hard to root for either of them. I hate books where one of the characters needs to cheat because their chemistry with the new person is “that much truer.” I also hate books where the main guy is also a womanizer. I didn’t really want Edie with either of them. It took me awhile to get into this book at all because of those hangups, but about halfway through I started enjoying it. I still have a lot of mixed feelings all around, but it was an okay read.

Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Rating: 3.5 stars

Megan is an aspiring stage director who finds herself needing an acting credit to be admitted to her prospective college. She ends up being cast as Juliet in a class Romeo and Juliet play starring opposite her ex-boyfriend/best friend’s boyfriend/boy she lost her virginity to. Megan’s a huge flirt and goes through boyfriends left and right with the self made assumption she’s just a stopping ground before they find their better half. Then she meets Owen, someone who challenges that belief and makes her realize she deserves to be more than she’s given herself credit for. To be honest, I really didn’t like the first half of this book. It’s hard to imagine being as confident and flirty and ready to just dive right in physically with any hot boy as Megan is. I liked Owen, but I wanted more of him. Much like the book before this one, I took serious issue with the fact he also had a girlfriend (albeit one he never saw who lived in Italy) for most of the book. The second half got a little deeper into why Megan felt the way she did about herself and I was really invested by the end.

June 2020 Reflections

I think about writing all the time these days. But I never actually sit down and do it. It’s become abundantly clear that I can’t commit to posting any of my normal “content” with any regularity anymore and I constantly feel bad about it. I feel like if I can’t even keep up with those easily structured weekly posts, I shouldn’t jump in with anything random or different in the meantime. Which is pretty stupid considering I’m writing this blog mostly for my own enjoyment, so I can do what I want, right?! Right.

I did a quick search to see when I last wrote a monthly recap and it was November, so my inability to stay consistent happened long before the pandemic life set in. I’ve really been struggling a lot since November, trying to figure out who I am and what I want to do with my life. November is when I went to the Hope Writers conference and was re-energized with a deep and longing desire to pursue a writing career, something I gave up midway through college. By the end of December I cancelled my Hope Writers membership because the pressure to write for profit was too overwhelming. There are so many days where I’m just trying to survive (moreso now than ever!), I can’t handle trying to build a platform to launch an eventual writing career when I’m not even sure that’s exactly what I want. But giving up that dream – again – has made me really hesitant to write at all anymore. But I miss it. So here I am again, unpolished and prone to rambling. Ready to reflect on June!

June has kind of sucked, to be honest. It’s probably my least favorite month. Summer begins and long days of challenging parenting stretch out before me. Allergy season is at its worst and going outside makes me miserable. I’m usually mourning the loss of my beloved routine, but trying to make the most of a new routine so I don’t just sit around wishing the summer away. This year, though. Oh, this year. We’ve already been home all together, Greg included, for three and a half months. We have no idea what will happen with school in fall and we have no idea when Greg will go back to the office. So there is REALLY no end in sight and I’m struggling with it A LOT right now. I’m not finding many reasons to be optimistic and hopeful anymore. This is just my life now, indefinitely. And some days I really, really don’t like it.

It was actually a relief to finish out the school year after three months of trying to make this cobbled together online curriculum a success. There was a lot of sadness around the end as well. It was Shepard’s last year at his charter school and he missed out on so many amazing opportunities that were saved up for the final months. It was Caden’s last year in his school (technically he’s not leaving the building next year, but still) too. He loved his teachers so much. They both had such great friendships that really fizzled out after the first month of being home and trying to stay in contact via messenger. Like kids all over the world, they were robbed of some great memories in those final months of school and it was hard for me to just let those things go. I’m so sad for them and all they missed out on and all they’re continuing to miss out on now.

We were signed up for summer school before everything shut down and much to the boys’ annoyance, we kept them signed up even when we found out classes would still be held virtually. I thought it would be a good distraction for them and it would give me a little more time to do my own thing without constantly needing to entertain them. Oh, how wrong I was. That first week was SO stressful. They had all these big craft projects that required hours of work and me needing to keep digging through all my random boxes of supplies to build these projects together. And don’t get me wrong, it was actually really fun to do something creative with both of them, the three of us working together. But it was overwhelming to me how much time it took up – and that was just for one of their classes! There were also a few mix ups on which classes they were actually in. Eventually I sorted it all out and we dropped Caden out of two classes and Shepard out of one and now they’re both just in two classes and it’s all much more manageable. But this past week? I don’t have a clue what they did each day. If they needed help, they went to Greg. Or they just didn’t do the lessons, I don’t even know. There’s only one week left, so we will get through it.

I also signed the boys up for free breakfasts and lunches from school for seven weeks this summer. After countless arguments, mostly with Caden, about food in the last few months I thought it would be such a relief to get those extra meals (or at least snacks!) coming in that I wouldn’t have to think about or cook. What I wasn’t prepared for were the daily arguments about who is going to actually go to school to get the food. Shepard insists on knowing what’s on the menu before he’ll go, even though we’re getting the food no matter what it is. And pretty much every day he starts whining that “it’s so disgusting!” and refuses to go get it. The same meals that he was eating every single day when school was in session (or at least paying for…) he refuses to eat now. I’m eating most of their school lunches because I hate to let the food go to waste. Caden’s pretty good about eating whatever it is, but it’s not nearly enough to fill up him, so I still have to make him food anyway. The real challenge is trying to figure out what to do with four cartons of milk every day when none of us drink milk. I HATE wasting it, but I’m throwing most of it away because we just don’t have the fridge room to spare for something we don’t even want. Anyway, I realize I sound incredibly ungrateful for this free food – but I’m not. I just didn’t know it was going to cause more problems than it solved. And that’s on my kids.

One bright spot in June was having the opportunity to hang out with our nephew/cousin Hudson for a couple of days. It did cause some strife between Greg and I because we had to basically give up all the social distancing rules we’ve been trying so hard to enforce because two year olds don’t know how to keep germs to themselves. I thought the risk was worth it, but we did have to do a lot of reevaluating that week. Some days it seems like that’s all we’re doing. The world opened back up in the middle of May, but it’s only getting more dangerous out there. Weighing the risks and benefits of every single decision we make has really been stressful. We’ve just kind of had to come to terms with the fact that we’re still going to be as safe as we can be, but we have to open back up to the world a little bit at a time and respect each other’s choices. We’ve seen family more often and in closer proximity. I’ve shopped inside of a couple of stores for the first time since early March. Greg went to his great uncle’s funeral. The guys went to the pool for the first time this weekend. We have no plans to go to any large gatherings or events, probably for the rest of this year. We’re wearing masks when we go into buildings. We’re still just seeing family in outdoor settings. But we’re trying not to feel so completely confined to our home the way that we were March through May. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Oddly enough, I’ve actually been super productive with doll making this month. Around the end of May I was so stressed out trying to keep up production while also balancing all my family’s needs that I decided to take an indefinite break away from it. But it took me about two days to realize that I can’t walk away from my business. I NEED it. I just needed it in a more flexible way. In stepping back for about a week I figured out a new system that has been working crazy well for me. I only make three dolls at a time and I’m under no pressure to photograph and list those dolls until I have enough saved up that it feels worth my time to do all those listing steps. I love this new system because I’m seeing constant results, finishing three new dolls every 1-2 days. It also gives me more freedom because I’m kind of obsessed with making batches of similarly themed dolls and feeling like I have to list those dolls all together for the greatest impact. But now I’m finally free to make all these totally random themed dolls I always think I’m going to make but never actually have time for because they don’t fit into my larger picture. Now there is no larger picture! I also don’t have that stressful time crunch to finish dolls by the perfect time of day for photographing so I can list them immediately. Honestly, all these little changes have worked together to create the perfect production style for me. And I’m kind of addicted to it. I’m sewing all the time. I’m having so much fun with it. I’m being creative and reveling in doing something I feel so GOOD at, when everything else in my life seems to be falling apart. Granted, I could probably still step back a little bit and work on putting those other pieces back together. But…it’s hard to do that too. I like to be good at things. I like to have something that’s just for me. And I like a good distraction. Continuing to crank out these dolls every day has been awesome for me. Also – I don’t call it “work” anymore. I think I needed to call it that for a long time to try and justify why I gave it so much of my time, and why I was still staying home even though my kids were in school all day. But I realized I don’t need to justify myself to anyone anymore. This is just something I do because I love it. Yeah, it brings me in some extra money. But it’s a choice and an outlet and it brings me a lot of joy.

This is pretty new, but I also started biking this month. Thanks to my CBD oil, my plantar fasciitis actually seems to be doing a lot better, but I still can’t push it too hard on the walking or I relapse. But I need to do something active to counteract all the sitting I’m doing every day. Biking just might be my thing. It’s good exercise, but also fun! And I go alone so I can do it at my own pace. I have a love hate relationship with my beach cruiser bicycle, but I’m trying to see how reliably I can commit to this exercise before I seriously consider buying a different style of bike. I’ve only been biking every day this past week, but it’s been a highlight of my days.

Overall, June has been pretty rough. I feel like all four of us have been unraveling. We rarely have good days on the same days, which really sucks. It’s hard to imagine continuing to live like this for much longer. I miss time alone SO MUCH. I miss quiet rooms. I miss cleaning and having a space actually stay clean for more than five minutes. I miss shopping for fun. I miss eating at restaurants and going on dates. I miss planning vacations, especially the ones I take alone. I miss looking forward to fun events because there’s not anything to look forward to anymore. I miss seeing my friends and actually feeling connected to people face to face. I miss seeing my kids have fun with their friends instead of running away from the neighborhood kids in fear because of how hard we pushed the social distancing rules back in March. I also miss feeling like Greg and I are participating equally in our parenting roles. You’d think it could be more equal when we’re all at home all the time, but it hasn’t been the case. The boundaries have become even more blurred this month as the boys are constantly interrupting Greg while he works to deal with their technology problems. He’s helping them all day long and then he spends all night playing with them or watching tv with them. I cook for them. I clean up after them. But I rarely feel connected to them because they always just want him. He’s buried under the weight of their constant expectations and I’m left feeling like the outsider and relegated to the role of chef and house cleaner with no real connection to anyone. I feel like a failure ALL. THE. TIME. It’s been hard. I’m still searching for bright spots, but it’s becoming more and more challenging to reach those silver linings. Hopefully July will be better.

Friday Favorites #11

Welcome back to Friday Favorites! It’s been about three months since my last Friday post and I’m ready to jump back in. It felt a bit inappropriate to write about my new favorite things when all the pandemic stuff started up and then it was hard to FIND any new favorites when I was never leaving the house. But I finally sat down and looked through all the new things I’ve ordered and tried since then and compiled a nice little list for you guys. Maybe you’ll find a new treat to try out too!

Coffee:

  • Bri McCoy’s Homemade Starbucks Double Shot Recipe
    Bri is one of my favorite instagram follows. She’s always got so much energy and spunk! She also has a ton of great ideas for recipes and new drinks to try out. Early on in quarantine she posted a video about her homemade Starbucks double shot and I immediately had to find a way to make it for myself. Iced coffee drinks are my favorite to order when I’m out and I’m thrilled to finally have a great way to make them at home for just a fraction of the cost.
  • Bialetti Moka Espresso Maker
    Until I saw Bri’s video I didn’t even realize stovetop espresso makers existed! I just assumed I’d never be able to make a cool latte at home because I’d never invest in a true espresso maker just for the rare indulgence. Well, you don’t NEED a huge espresso maker, you just need one of these little guys! I originally bought a cheaper 6 cup version and it leaked, but I really enjoyed the taste so I decided to upgrade to a true Bialetti moka pot – but the 3 cup version which is the perfect size for a single pint sized iced drink. Technically I bought a teal one (no longer available on amazon) because I want everything possible to be in COLOR. I’m in love with it!
  • LavAzza Decaf Espresso
    When I first started making myself iced double shots I was drinking them every day. And then something crazy happened – I stopped being able to sleep at night (lol). It actually took me quite awhile to realize it was the intense amount of caffeine I was drinking every day. I’ve never in my life felt that caffeine had any affect on me until I started drinking these. So I decided to try out a pre-ground decaf espresso mix, expecting something I didn’t grind myself to be rather subpar to the “real” stuff. But this coffee is fantastic! It’s the only thing I use in my moka pot now. It’s delicious and turns out perfectly every time.
  • Black Lives Matter Coffee Blend
    Brandywine Coffee Roasters is my all time favorite place to order coffee beans. It tastes miles above anything I’ve ever gotten anywhere else. (Though Grounds & Hounds is also really delicious!) My most recent favorites have been this new Black Lives Matter variety and the Social Distancing blend they released a few months ago.

Eat:

  • Dorothy’s Comeback Cow Brie
    In the first month or so of the stay at home order I was pretty desperate to find ways to get good food to the house. I started ordering from all different kinds of cheese companies. Some were good, most were not. Then one night when I couldn’t sleep I got a random facebook ad for Dorothy’s Cheese. Brie is pretty much my favorite – if it’s a good one – so I HAD to try it out. I originally bought one of each of their two flavors, but this Comeback Cow was the true winner. The key is leaving it out until it gets really soft and spreadable before you eat it. And then it’s amazing. Definitely the best brie I’ve ever had. I’ve bought it a couple more times since then and gifted it to a lot of my friends. If you like brie, this is definitely worth trying out!
  • Crunchy PB&J Trail Mix
    I’m not sure I can call something a favorite if I just tried it for the first time an hour ago. But…this is really good. I bought it last week to give to my father-in-law for his birthday, but was intrigued enough to buy it again this week for myself. I’ve never been a fan of any trail mix – peanuts are definitely not one of my favorite nuts to eat by themselves. But I’m trying to slowly get back in the habit of eating more nuts (I’ve lost MANY of my good habits these last three months!) so I gave it a shot. And…it’s so good. If you LOVE sweet and salty things (I live for them!) you need to try this mix.
  • Perdue Chicken Breast Chunks
    I picked these up at Costco back in February for the first time. I like to always have some sort of chicken nuggets on hand for quick meals, but usually don’t really enjoy eating them myself because they’re…fake-ish. But these are not. They are so good! Especially made in the air fryer. Definitely my favorite nugget. Perdue also makes a really good gluten free nugget, which is the one we’ve been eating the last few months because it’s actually available at our little Pick n Save.

Outdoor Fun:

  • Inflatable Pool
    We’ve been very committed to staying at home as much as possible the last three months and plan to continue in the same way for the rest of summer. Which meant we really needed to find more things to keep the boys active and happy at home. We debated for a long time over whether we could get them a pool or a trampoline – the two things they seemed most excited about. We actually landed on the trampoline because we felt like getting a real pool would be too much of a risk factor when we can’t fence in our yard and neighbor kids sometimes get a bit too curious about our stuff. But at the time the trampoline was just a preorder for some unknown future date, so I was still on the lookout for some sort of inflatable pool to splash around in that wasn’t too tiny and lame for their sizes. I had in stock alerts set on a couple of different brands and this is the one I ended up being able to snag. I think it’s perfect! I actually think they like the pool more than the trampoline…

Cook With:

  • Calphalon 7 Quart Pan
    How do people with large families cook meals in a single pan? I struggle so much with just cooking for the four of us! Granted I usually aim to make enough of a meal that it’ll last for at least the next day’s lunch as well, but still. Pans are never big enough! Until this one! Not counting my new grill and recent air fryer purchases, I almost exclusively cook meals on the stovetop. I was using another large pan most of the time, but the bottom nonstick surface was so scraped up that I finally decided to ditch it and get something else. I was assuming I was buying something the same size, but I got it in the mail this week and it’s significantly bigger – and PERFECT. I made two pounds of tikka masala in it the other night and it looked like I was cooking a small meal for just two of us, the pan was so big. Also, I bought this from Target for a lot cheaper, but it says it’s sold out now.

Skincare:

  • DRMTLGY Acne Spot Treatment
    I’ve tried a lot of spot treatment gels over the years. And this is the one that actually seems to work. I definitely recommend trying it out if you struggle as well!
  • No Pore Blem Primer
    I’m always trying to find a better primer. I tried this one on a whim a few months ago and I really like it! My only issue is that I’m to the bottom 1/4 of the bottle and it’s really hard to get it out. But other than that it works great!

Read:

  • Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker
    My reading life has been really up and down the past few months, but I have these three solid nonfiction recommendations that I thought were fantastic. Jen Hatmaker’s is the most recent one I read and I loved it so much. It’s a great motivational book to just BE YOU. It gives you permission to live whatever kind of life you want to live because you are made to be you and that is enough. I loved this book.
  • The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton Morgan
    This was the most wonderful book to read during a stay at home order and in May when you’re starting to think about getting your garden in order. It was such a beautiful look at two celebrities and how hard they fought to live the life they wanted to live – out of the spotlight and on a large plot of land where they could grow their own food, fix up their own house, get close with the locals and their businesses. It was really great.
  • Untamed by Glennon Doyle
    Short and interesting essays that pact a huge emotional punch? This is the book! I loved it!

Watch:

  • Robbie
    We’ve watched a lot of tv lately. Most of the shows were just okay, but I really enjoyed this one. I’m maybe a bit biased because I really love Rory Scovel, but I thought this show was so funny! Give it a couple episodes and I think you’ll really enjoy it too. And it’s on youtube, so anybody can watch it if they have internet!

Pain Relief:

  • FabCBD Oil
    I’ve been on a never ending quest these last eight months to find some sort of way to heal or at least manage my plantar fasciitis pain. There are so many days that I can barely even walk. Which REALLY SUCKS. I feel like I’ve tried pretty much every option there is and nothing really helps. But then I decided to give CBD oil a try. I did research into a bunch of different top companies, and Fab is finally what I picked. I’ve only been using it about a week and a half, but I’ve already noticed a change in my foot pain. I’m not sure I can ENTIRELY attribute it to the CBD oil, but I believe it’s at least part of the reason why I’ve finally been getting some pain relief.

Smell:

  • 7th Street Salvage Candles
    I am a candle addict. They bring me so much joy. I love seeing the warm flickering light, but when you find a scent that just fills the room with a delightful smell – it’s magical. I very carefully curate which scents I put in which areas of my house and only light them when I’m going to be in that spot for a significant amount of time and can enjoy the full experience. And because of that, I’m willing to pay more for something that delights my senses and will last a long time. These candles fit the bill. In my first order I chose a large Picket Fence and a variety pack of smaller ones. I LOVE the Picket Fence scent. It’s so wonderful! I also really like the Library Ladder scent, which I’ll eventually buy in a large size for my reading area. I also recently bought the new summer scents, Rolling Pin and Button Jar. I use Button Jar when I’m sewing. I’ve really liked all the ones I tried so far, so I don’t think you can go wrong!

What I Read May 2020

My reading life in May was very much like it was in March. It was so hard to find anything that truly caught my attention. Though unlike in March when I was DNFing left and right after only a couple of pages, I kept trying to stick with the books this time not giving up until I was over half done and just couldn’t take it anymore. It did not make for a great month of reading – so much wasted time! But I definitely found a few winners that I did stick with to the end and am excited to share with you what I chose!

My Favorite Souvenir by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland
Rating: 4 stars

This was a sweet story with a slow burn romance. After being dumped by her fiance, Hazel decides to go on her honeymoon by herself and finds herself stranded in Colorado in a snowstorm with no way back home. She happens across another stranded traveler and they hit it off and decide to travel by car around the country, picking up souvenirs at each stop. It was sweet and fun until the inevitable obstacle was thrown in her path when she arrived back home and had to face her ex-fiance and the truth about her traveling companion. I enjoyed this book, though got a bit irritated with Hazel and how confused she was about which guy to choose when the choice was so obvious. It seemed to drag on quite a bit near the end. But overall, it kept my attention and I liked it a lot.

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
Rating: 4.5 stars

This could be read as a standalone book, but I think you’d get a little bit more out of it if you read Abby’s other book, The Friend Zone, first. I really loved The Friend Zone and was excited to get this one in my hands. And believe it or not, I actually liked this one more. Maybe because the dog Tucker is a big character in the book! In this book, Sloan is still grieving the death of her fiance, two years after his motorcycle accident. She comes across a dog who doesn’t appear to have an owner and ends up loving his companionship only to have his owner, Jason, eventually call her back. Jason’s out of the country and they form a great friendship over the phone and when he comes back they figure out a way to share custody of Tucker and things progress from there. The thing about this book (and the other) is that Abby Jimenez isn’t afraid to touch hard topics and really get deep into them. This isn’t a quick fall in love and happily ever after story (despite the title!). You’re going to really get into why the couple will or won’t work. It’s not exactly light, but I still loved it.

The Best Mistake by Cookie O’Gorman
Rating: 3.5 stars

I made the mistake of waiting awhile after reading this to write my review. And…it wasn’t particularly memorable. Mistaken identity leads to a college senior propositioning the wrong brother into helping her have one wild night of fun before her college career is over. This book was fun because it was about a lot of brothers. The first in a series, I believe. I liked the characters, but this didn’t have the same swoon factor that other Cookie O’Gorman books seemed to have, maybe because the premise itself didn’t exactly appeal to me. I liked it enough, but definitely not a favorite.

The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane by Kate O’Shaughnessy
Rating: 4.5 stars

Halfway through May this is only the fourth book I managed to finish. I decided to drop yet another book I was halfway through to try out this middle grade I saw highly recommended from a trusted source. And – I really liked it. I guess I have a thing for lonely tween girls who go on quirky journeys across the country! In this one Maybelle is a precocious eleven year old who convinces his neighbor and temporary caretaker to drive her to Nashville for a singing competition where she’ll finally be able to meet her dad. As always, hijinks definitely ensue. I took this down half a star simply because it had a pretty slow beginning. Enjoyable, but nothing really intense to catch your interest. I plan on passing it along to Caden again, but I’m not sure there’s anything that’ll catch his interest in the first third of the story. Anyway, I really liked this book and the ending was fantastic.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Rating: 4 stars

This is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. A group of housewives decide one day to form a book club to discuss their favorite crime novels right around the time a stranger moves into the neighborhood. Over the years a couple of unexplained and mysterious things begin happening, but nobody will believe that Patricia, the main character, is telling the truth about something very disturbing she witnessed the neighbor doing. The group eventually comes up with a plan to involve their husbands but all of their husbands turn against them, and eventually they turn against Patricia. The original book club dissolves as more people come back together with their husbands as participants and everyone pretends life is fine. There are so many parts of this book where almost nothing is happening. You never get that close to the characters, which really bothers me. It occurred to me that this book is written by a man and I read very few novels by men, so maybe that’s why I wasn’t quite getting the depth of character I kept waiting for. But every once in awhile something absolutely insane would happen and then I’d be spurred back into action and didn’t want to put the book down. It was definitely a journey. Overall I really enjoyed the book, I just wish it felt a bit more personal.

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
Rating: 3.5 stars

This was a sweet and highly predictable book about a woman who is obsessed with classic rom coms and has been waiting her whole life for her own Tom Hanks to show up. But when he does, she refuses to believe that he’s the one. I enjoyed the book, especially all the nostalgia for those movies I loved growing up as well. But the CONSTANT talking about them and her insistence of having her own Tom Hanks moments got to be a bit much. I wish she could have let some of it go and just lived her own story instead of obsessively trying to decide if he could be the one for her. Overall, it was a quick and cute read, I just didn’t love it.

100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons
Rating: 5 stars

This was a really beautiful book about a girl who loses her sight (temporarily) and a boy who has lost his legs. Tessa is a poetry blogger and having a really hard time dealing with the loss of her sight. Her grandparents decide to hire Weston to help her with her typing and he begs them not to tell her about his prosthetic legs so she can learn to accept him as a person, rather than immediately with sympathy the way most people do. The story flips between both characters’ points of view and between the present time and three years earlier when Weston lost his legs. I loved this book because it is so full of hope and optimism and learning to see past your imperfections or limitations and realizing that you still have the world at your fingertips. You still have your LIFE. And most importantly, you are still worth love. I loved this book and its message, though I did find it to be slightly unbelievable that a 13 year old boy could be so insightful. I have an 11 year old boy and he would most definitely not lose his legs and then fight with everything in him to still have a normal life. It felt like all the boy characters in the flashback chapters were crazy wise beyond their years. It made for great insight, but not necessarily believability. But besides all that, it was really wonderful.

What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter
Rating: 4.5 stars

As usual, I’ve searched out another great YA novel about a hidden/mistaken identity that takes place online while the characters also interact in person. Though in this circumstance the girl, Halle, is completely aware that Nash is HER online Nash from the very beginning. Which makes for a really lengthy book filled with teenage angst. While the constant deliberating on whether or not she should come clean got a bit old, I really enjoyed the rest of the book and the subject matter. Halle and Nash are both YA book bloggers and there is so much celebration for the YA world in this story – my favorite! (Though there is also a lot of criticism for adults that read YA, which was definitely off putting as an adult reader who ADORES YA.) Halle spends so much of the book trying to draw the lines between who she is in real life and the persona she puts on for her massive following. It was interesting to read about since I’ve SLIGHTLY dabbled in those feelings myself when I try to keep this blog’s instagram going (and am failing miserably). Anyway, it was exactly the kind of book I always love and I definitely really enjoyed it!

The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton Morgan
Rating: 5* stars

I picked this book up because I follow Hilarie Burton Morgan on instagram and really liked her in One Tree Hill and White Collar. (And I REALLY loved Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Good Wife and was fascinated to learn only recently that they were married with kids!) The book sounded intriguing so I thought I’d give it a shot. And guys, I ADORED it. This is the first time I’ve ever read a memoir and couldn’t put it down. It was such a beautiful look at an imperfect relationship and the love that held them together while they fought for their dreams. It was also a really interesting look at famous actors that have no desire to live the Hollywood lifestyle. I was continually impressed by Hilarie and how hands on she was about creating the life she wanted. It was inspirational and beautiful and made me cry multiple times. My only grievance is that it ended fairly abruptly, before their wedding actually happened – although wedding pictures were shown in the photo section. It was just an odd missing component to their lengthy love story. But overall…I’m highly recommending this one, especially if you like one or both of the actors!

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young
Rating: 3.5 stars

In this book we meet Ava who is flying home from her friend’s funeral and comes across a very rude Scottish man at every turn. Her and Caleb immediately start bickering about everything and she is constantly lamenting how rude he is. I really wanted to love this book because the hate to love trope is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, this also followed the path of people who hate each other immediately jumping into bed together because their undeniable physical only attraction for each other. That annoys me. I like a love – both physical and emotional – that is hard won and deeply earned. I guess I won’t get too into the details, but these characters kept saying what they didn’t want in their significant other and then accepting those things anyway. It frustrated me. I definitely still enjoyed the book enough to keep reading it, but I wish it had fit a bit better with what I was hoping for.