August 2019 Goals

It’s the last month of summer and I am giving myself a break! August is when I can reap the rewards of working so hard in June and July. It’s also a chance to let go and have some fun before September rolls around and life gets CRAZY. I’m particularly excited about August this year because there are so many exciting things on the calendar! My goals for the month are going to be short and sweet!

1 – Family First

This is kind of a weird month. Well, maybe not because I basically did the same thing last August when I went on a solo vacation to Minnesota. It’s becoming a tradition for me to go on a trip by myself every summer at the point when I’m desperately craving a break from nonstop mothering. This year it’s a really big one as I’m going to Texas for six days. So before and after that trip, I want to give as much as my attention as possible to my family. Greg and I are going away today for a few nights. And then once I’m back from Texas there will only be three more weeks before school starts! I know the pressure is going to be STRONG to jump right back into working after a few weeks off. But I want my highest focus to be on my time with the boys and doing everything we can think of to make awesome memories in our remaining weeks of freedom.

2 – Read like crazy!

It only feels appropriate that in a month when I’m taking a vacation purely to see authors and hang out with other book obsessed people, that I take my reading life very seriously! I want to read every chance I get this month and NEVER FEEL GUILTY about it. The number is really arbitrary, but for the fun of it I’d like to aim for 15 months this month.

3 – Enjoy Texas to the Max

I bought my ticket to Book Bonanza eleven months ago. This trip has been in the works for almost a full year and I can’t believe it’s only a week away! I’m really excited about it! I’m spending the first three nights in Grapevine for Book Bonanza. The whole thing is going to be so much crazier than I had anticipated. I’m a little worried that my introverted side is going to come out in full force and I end up feeling dumb or left out. But there are so many people attending alone and lots of meetups planned to make new friends. I want to at least be open to that possibility. Then to recharge from the fun, but sure to be insanity, I have two more nights in Dallas. My hotel is downtown and surrounded by coffee shops and Tex Mex restaurants, so I’m pretty sure I’m just going to chill out, read, and eat a lot of great food. It’s pretty hard to ruin a solo trip when I get to follow my own dreams and make all my own plans, but there were definitely some frustrating parts about my trip to Minnesota last year, so I’d like to avoid those pitfalls and just HAVE SO MUCH FUN.

4 – Prep and Plan a Ton of Dolls

So I can’t ignore work completely. My customers are counting on me! But I want to do a bit of soul searching and figure out how I want to proceed with my doll making in the fall. I had so much fun over the summer experimenting with some new colors and styles and looks. I don’t want to give that up for what is usually a solid four months of only making the obligatory fall to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas themed dolls. I still want to make those! But I want to leave room for other ideas too. Even though I might not have time to sew them right away, I want to prep out a huge pile of dolls to work on when I get back from Texas. Make sure I don’t lose those ideas.

And that’s it! Happy August everyone!

July 2019 Reflections

July is over! Where did it go?! These last few weeks really sped by, but we packed them pretty full. It was much more of a go go go lifestyle than I’m used to in summer. Though at the same time, we really haven’t done that many things I thought we’d be able to do. But dwelling on that will only make me feel like a failure and I don’t feel like I failed at all this month. It’s been a good month.

1 – Live by the mantra “No Extras”

Okay, I definitely failed at this one. I did cut my spending A LITTLE. But…PRIME DAY, you guys. I definitely indulged in a few book purchases, as well as some extras I didn’t absolutely need. I also went a bit crazy buying some new yarns for doll hair. It wasn’t great. But I also MAJORLY cut back on my in store purchases because I barely ever went to them.

2 – Work as much as possible to earn a break in August

I made 31 dolls in July. I didn’t have a very consistent work schedule, but probably averaged three full days a week of sewing, with a few hours here and there the other four days. I might have actually had more productive days than I have during the school year because I knew how focused I had to stay on work days in order to buy myself some freedom to do fun things with the boys the other days. I also had 27 sales in July, selling 32 dolls. For summer, that’s pretty great. Especially since none of those were holiday/seasonal dolls – just fun and creative dolls I made purely because I felt inspired to! I still don’t exactly feel like I earned a few weeks of vacation, especially since I didn’t adhere to my no spending rule. But…I want to enjoy my trips as much as possible and I’m not going to add on the pressure to sew any more until after I’m back from Texas.

3 – Enforce the no screens before noon rule

So, give an inch and they take a mile, right? ONE TIME I let them play early. Because a friend was over and she was upset about something and they were trying to cheer her up. I was really busy and just wanted them to leave me alone, so I gave in. And every single day since then they beg me allllll morning long to let them play early. SO FRUSTRATING. But besides that one time, I’ve stayed strong. I really wish they’d just accept it and move on with their lives instead of spending all morning every morning moaning about the rule. But…it worked.

4 – Go to at least 3 Madison dog parks

We went to two. And the second one was today. It was so hard to find the time! Plus it’s been crazy hot for most of July. I love the Madison dog parks, but it’s so hard to justify driving that far and not be able to run any errands or go into any restaurants or anything afterward. So earlier in the month we went to the Token Creek Dog Park. And today we went to one in Sun Prairie. BUT we took Annie with us to Cedar Lake on the 4th and we took her to a family reunion at a big park last week. So, four new places.

5 – Read my shelves, including at least 2 nonfiction books

I did read a few books from my shelves, but not as many as I had hoped to. I’m still madly trying to pack in my Book Bonanza authors, and those books are all on my kindle. I’d definitely like to stay focused on reading my actual books in the coming months.

6 – Make a wish list of things to do with the boys this summer

I never made a formal list, but we did come up with a few ideas here and there that we’d like to do before summer is over. Many of those we’ve already done! We went on an awesome two night vacation in Warren’s earlier this month, had a Madison foodie day with Grandma, and did a few local things. There are a couple of restaurants we’d still like to go to this summer, and a few outdoor things if the weather and time allows. But I think we’re doing a pretty great job of finding low key, yet memorable ways to spend our summer.

7 – Be intuitive to what I need – emotionally, physically, mentally

To be honest, I’ve had some emotionally rough days this month. But I’ve also had a lot of good days. I feel like I really hit my stride in taking proper care of myself and being alert to what I needed day by day, hour by hour. It definitely helped I had five friend get togethers! I had a great date night with Greg and we’re heading out tomorrow for a little getaway. I spent a few days hanging out with my mom, a few days with the other side of the family too. And I’ve done lots of fun things with the boys. The only thing I’ve really been lacking is substantial time to myself. But I’ve been making the most of the moments I can find. Today I was really itching to do something just for me, so I went to the antique mall to just walk around and hunt for treasures to add to my dolls. It was exactly what I needed. The only thing I’ve really been missing out on is solid chunks of exercise. I try to walk Annie when I can, but it’s hard to do in the hottest days. I should be doing things in the house, but…it’s hard. It’s really not the priority it should be. Survival is my only goal in summer!

That’s it for July! It’s probably one of the best summer months we’ve ever had. I usually try to give myself a break from sewing deadlines in summer, but I think having that outlet and direction to most of my days has been a really good thing. I start getting too emotional and anxious when I feel aimless. I really don’t have any regrets about the past month, and for summer? That’s AWESOME.

What I Read July 2019

It was a pretty good reading month! One delicious cookbook, one amazing nonfiction book that I think all women should be required to read, one beautiful book of poetry, three five star fiction picks, and a few good to okay reads. It was a nice variety! I’m excited to share them with you tonight.

Before I jump in, though, I just wanted to clarify my rating system again. I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last few months and have decided to become a lot more forgiving in what I’ll rate a book. It’s really become clear to me how much ratings and positive reviews affect the success of a book and I don’t want to be part of a negative group of people that brings a book down unless I genuinely hated it. As a small business owner who depends on high ratings to draw in more customers, I would be devastated if the people who bought my dolls left me anything less than a 5 star review when I put so much of my time, heart, and soul into my creations. The same is true for authors – or at least the majority of them. So I want to be a little more willing to look past parts of a storyline that maybe just didn’t agree with me and give a book a rating I think it probably deserves. As always, I reserve the special 5* rating for the books I absolutely adore because they touched my heart, made me laugh, made me cry, and I’d definitely read them again. If I really loved a book I’ll give it a 5. If I liked a book and didn’t find anything significantly wrong with it I’ll give it a 4. If I thought a book was just okay, but I didn’t have a problem finishing it, I’ll give it a 3. If I hated a book, but still finished it, I’ll give it a 2. And that’s really as low as I’ll go. I feel like some people (I pay a lot of attention to reviews, particularly those of people I follow on goodreads and on podcasts and facebook) take pride in how harshly they judge the books they read. And I don’t want to be that kind of person. Authors are real people and they deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the very hard work that goes into not only writing, but publishing their written words.

Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook by Perre Coleman Magness
Rating: 5* stars

This may very well be my favorite specialty cookbook of all time. I was absolutely tickled to randomly come across it at Half Priced Books. A whole cookbook about pimento cheese?! Incredible! I LOVE pimento cheese. Growing up in Wisconsin, it’s definitely not a thing around here. I’d never even heard of it until I tried The Pioneer Woman’s recipe on peppers (it’s delish) just a couple of years ago. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. I also recently tried the recipe from The Happy Cookbook and loved it with all the spicy extras. But this cookbook! I marked down almost every single recipe as being something I wanted to try. Just the number of variations alone is exciting. But all the additional ways you can use the cheese really sounded great. I immediately gathered a bunch of smoked cheeses I had open in the fridge to create the Smoky Bacon Pimento Cheese – and proceeded to scarf down a ton of it on fresh farmers market bread. Another huge draw is that I believe every single recipe had a beautiful accompanying photo – the best part of any cookbook. Honestly, I am so very excited to use this cookbook again and again. Highly recommend if you love pimento (or any) cheese as much as me!

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
Rating: 4 stars

Amy Harmon is another Book Bonanza author, so her books have been on my radar a lot in the last year. Even though her book Making Faces is one of the best books I’ve ever read, I kept dismissing this newest release because it’s historical fiction – a genre I tend to avoid unless a book is getting a massive amount of buzz. I finally got around to reading the description and realized it was set in Ireland, my favorite place in the world, and decided to give it a shot. Overall – a beautiful and well written story with a tiny bit of fantasy around unexplained time travel. Where the book lost me, however, was how in depth it got about the political climate in Ireland around 1921. I can’t stand reading about politics. Apparently even in my beloved Ireland. It’s definitely essential to the story, but just wasn’t for me. It took me a pretty long time to finish this, but I loved the sweeping saga of love and family and staying connected throughout time.

Loving Mr. Daniels by Brittainy C. Cherry
Rating: 3 stars

I was on a roll with teacher/student romances last month – and this is another Book Bonanza author – so I picked it up. The difference with this book compared to the ones I read last month is that this was a romance between a high school teacher and high school student. Most definitely off limits – not just frowned upon. I had very mixed feelings on it. Ashlyn is a 19 year old senior whose twin sister just died and she’s sent to live with her estranged father and his new family. On the train to her new life she meets Daniel and they have an instant connection. Until they realize he’s her teacher. I really struggled with finding things to like about Ashlyn. Yes, she was grieving and grief makes you act in unpredictable and perhaps childish ways. But she was so snotty! And Daniel. Yes, he seemed like an adorable hero with plenty of his own grief – way more than anybody should have to live with at that young of an age. But I couldn’t get past how little he tried to protect both Ashlyn and himself with their forbidden romance. Basically the only thing I liked about this book was the new family. I loved them. So overall – not that great of a book.

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan
Rating: 3.5 stars

More mixed emotions on this one. I read it very quickly, but I had some serious issues trying see Elouise as anything more than a crazy annoying child that is obsessed with making the world bend to her wishes. But the story was packed with summer nostalgia of working a high school job in a small town. I did find it a bit unbelievable that so many of the high schoolers in such a tiny town were so fluid in their gender identification. MAYBE that’s how things are now – but I kind of doubt it. It just made everything a bit too convenient. At any rate, as annoying as Lou was, I really adored how everything came together in the end.

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
Rating: 5 stars

If you’re looking for a truly realistic love story between two amazingly written characters, this is it. I loved Josh and Kristen so much. They meet through their best friends, Kristen hires Josh to help her out with some carpentry for her business, and they become the greatest of friends. They both long for something deeper, but know it can never happen – Josh wants kids and Kristen’s about to get a hysterectomy. I admit I was a little bit surprised at just how much Kristen’s periods and bleeding issues featured in the book, but I appreciated how true to life that actually was. Not some steamy romance where everyday things like that just somehow don’t exist. I was definitely frustrated that the entire thing keeping them apart could have been figured out if Kristen had just STOPPED KEEPING HER SECRET. It’s infuriating sometimes when a single sentence could clear up everything. But then you probably wouldn’t have a book. Anyway, this story is shockingly emotional, but I loved it so much.

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed this nuanced look into the relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. This is the first book I’ve read by Sally Hepworth and it was so well done. The subtleties of the family dynamic and relationships felt so realistic. The book itself goes back and forth in time from the perspective of both Diana and Lucy. I believe this book is marketed as a psychological thriller, but you won’t be getting any insane twists and turns. It’s just interesting enough to keep you reading. I really enjoyed it.

Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski
Rating: 4.5 stars

As you might know, I really struggle with nonfiction books. I WANT to read them. I can’t stop finding and buying more that sound life changingly incredible. But if they’re not abundantly interesting, relatable, and easy to read – I barely ever get past the first chapter or two. This started as one of those books, but I kept hearing so much buzz that I didn’t want to give up on it. And I’m so glad I didn’t! This felt like the kind of reading every woman alive should be given. It discussed stress and adequate rest, and well, burnout, better than anything I have ever read before. There were so many visualizations in the book that helped me understand things that have only ever been vague concepts before. BUT, there is also a lot of science in this book. That’s the point – using science to prove these concepts. And I don’t like reading about sciency things. Fortunately, there was enough other stuff to keep me intrigued. And while it did take me two months to finish, I’m so very glad I did.

The Summer of Chasing Dreams by Holly Martin
Rating: 5* stars

This was the perfect happily ever after book to read on a stormy summer day with nothing else to do. I loved it so much! Cover designer Eva is bequeathed a large sum of money after her mother’s death and she decides to use it to take a round the world trip, checking things off a list of her mom’s dreams. She books everything through a company that will provide an escort to keep her safe and on task during her travels. By a twist of fate she ends up traveling with Danish hunk, Thor, who she feels an immediate spark with. And together they travel the world. I wasn’t expecting so much exciting adventure in the pages of this book. It was such a joy to read. I’ve loved all of Holly Martin’s books and this one was especially sweet with such wonderfully endearing characters! It was a perfect summer romance.

A Love Letter from the Girls Who Feel Everything by Brittainy C. Cherry and Kandi Steiner
Rating: 4 stars

Brittainy Cherry has been on my radar as another Book Bonanza author (they’ve really taken over my reading life the last few months!) and author of Loving Mr. Daniels which I read earlier this month. I was intrigued by this slim book of poetry – different from both author’s romance novels. I read it in a single very short sitting and probably would have benefited from picking it up time to time for a more impactful reading experience. But I’m antsy to up my book totals for this month and was happy to read it all at once! Anyway, I still struggle with much like Rupi Kaur’s poetry, a single sentence can be given a few line breaks and then it becomes a worthwhile publishable poem. I read poetry VERY rarely, and if it makes an impact that’s all that should count, right? But sometimes it just feels a little too easy. At any rate, I really enjoyed these poems. I couldn’t relate to many of them because they were very obviously about past relationships and men who have hurt them. But the universal feeling of betrayal and rejection is widespread and I could definitely appreciate the emotion behind them. If you do like Rupi Kaur’s poetry, I think these would be a great book to pick up with a similar writing style!

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
Rating: 2 stars

I did not like this book. Let me save you the trouble of picking it up and tell you that the entire book is about fighting the logistics of dating a super famous British boy bander. With a lot of struggle thrown in because the heroine is twice his age and mom of a tween girl who idolizes the band members. I kept reading because I somehow expected something to change and the book wouldn’t literally be a same reiteration of the same idea paragraph after paragraph, chapter after chapter. I was actually about to DNF around 40% when something intriguing happened, but it was barely ever brought up again. I did not like Solene. She felt entitled and lived a life of luxury to begin with that was so far from most people’s reality. I liked Hayes, but I didn’t feel like he was genuinely given that much personality. I wish I hadn’t wasted five days of my reading time finishing this book.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Rating: 5 stars

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much I would like this book. I don’t particularly like reading about teenage moms because the assumption is that they really don’t have their lives together and the whole book will revolve around that particular struggle. I picked it up anyway because it’s about food and a love of cooking and that line of story will always pull me in. And honestly, I loved this book. It was genuinely inspirational how together and positive the character Emoni was. I fell in love with her unconventional little family and her supportive friends. Her take on motherhood and being there for her daughter while still finishing high school, working, and participating in a rigorous culinary arts course kind of put me to shame! It was a beautiful book and I’m so glad I picked it up.

What I Watched July 2019

We’re in the dregs of summer when nothing good is on tv anymore. And considering I really need good tv to keep myself motivated to keep sewing every day, it’s been a struggle! There have been a few good things shows here and there, but nothing that exciting. I can’t even say that I’m super excited for fall tv to start because the majority of my favorite shows just ended or are ending soon! Hopefully there will be some great fresh new options.

TV – Alone

Big Little Lies

The second season was so good! Meryl Streep was fantastic in her role of Mary Louise. I never expect to be wowed by an older actress, but she really played this character so perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed the second season as much as the first.

The Bachelorette

Ugh. LUKE. Get off my screen! Seriously, this season has been so messed up. The finale is tomorrow and Tuesday, so I guess I should really wait to recap this when it’s over. I’m not sure who I want her to end up with. They haven’t previewed any of the guys getting on one knee, so maybe she ends up with nobody. I think I’m rooting for Tyler, but Peter also seems like a very sweet and genuinely good guy. If she picked one and the other ended up as the next bachelor I think I’d want her to be with Peter because I’d love to see a lot more of Tyler!! I don’t think Peter could pull off being a bachelor. Jed either.

Carpool Karaoke

I thought this show was going to be so great because I love the segments James Corden occasionally does on his show. But the actual Apple TV series feels so scripted and fake, that it’s not that fun to watch. I’ve enjoyed the episodes with celebrities I love, but had zero interest in the people I didn’t know.

Dead to Me

I binged this in two days while working. I liked it! There was nothing shockingly incredible about it, but I liked the characters and the story and that very little of the show was devoted to the grieving children! No offense to my own kids, but I really prefer to watch shows that don’t give too much attention to the kids.

iZombie

I cannot wait for this to end. I really don’t even know what’s going on half the time. Though it seems like just maybe they’re going to end with a cure for the zombies and everyone goes back to being human?! I really, really hope that’s the case!

Jane the Virgin

Okay, so this season is growing on me. It’s always been a nice show, just kind of ridiculous being based off of the craziness of telenovelas. I’m sure they will give everyone a happily ever after they deserve.

Younger

I am SO not feeling this show anymore. Liza and Charles are so awkward! Why is Josh still always around? Is he really her true love?? I mean, I like Josh a lot, and they solved his wanting kids problem by giving him a kid and a baby mama who doesn’t want to be with him as anything other than a co-parent. So maybe they’re setting them up to find their true love after all? I don’t even know what I want anymore.

Sugar Rush

After what felt like a three year gap, they just released a second season! I only watched one episode of it so far, but it was fun as always! I love baking shows. Especially ones like that where people try to do their best. Not absolutely stupid ones like Nailed It where people are rewarded for doing horrible.

Sex Education

I just started this yesterday, but got three episodes in. I’m not sure my take on it yet. It’s okay. I’m a little alarmed at how sexual teenagers are always portrayed in high school on tv. Is that what real life is like?! Has real life become like that because tv always makes it seem like that’s the norm? I really hope not.

TV – Together

You’re the Worst

This is literally the only show Greg and I watched together this entire month. We just finished the final two episodes last night. It’s a show I really liked as a whole, with characters I despised. Honestly, I hated Gretchen. I’m not sure there was any point in any season where I liked her. She was truly the worst character to watch in the final season. I loved seeing how much Jimmy changed by the end. Edgar was such a great supportive character. Lindsay…I hated her, but also like watching her. I LOVED Paul and Vernon. And I could have definitely done without Becca. I’m very happy with how it ended.

Movies

Eddie the Eagle

I’m still riding the wave of my Taron Egerton obsession after seeing Rocketman last month. I wanted to see this film he did a few years ago with Hugh Jackman. It was good. Inspirational. No singing, to my dismay (lol).

Spiderman: Far From Home

This was great! I really enjoyed it. Well, I liked it all except for how low energy and blah Zendaya was. Everything else about it was awesome. It was fun to have another movie we could go see as a family.

Murder Mystery

I started getting desperate for things to watch and had to start resorting to lame Netflix options. This was not great. I really hate movies where long married couples spend the entire time arguing with each other. Real life is enough about that, I don’t need to see it on the screen.

Secret Obsession

I watched this last week and had to just look it up to remind myself what in the world it even was. To be fair, this was probably the best Netflix movie I’ve seen in awhile, just because it had some suspense. I watched it because I really liked that main actor from Under the Dome. It felt like it should have been a book instead of a movie, but it wasn’t awful.

Swiped

THIS movie is awful. Definitely do not waste your time. It was so, so bad. As much as I like all this new Noah Centineo on Netflix, I do not like seeing him as the skeevy bad boy. He’s so much sweeter in the other movies they made with him!

Please tell me of any new or old tv shows you can recommend! I’m getting desperate!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 07.28.2019

It’s been another really busy week with a lot of highs and lows. Also another week that felt really balanced between laid back at home work days and out and about memory making days. That’s one thing I really like about summer – the ability to try and balance it all out most of the time. Of course that can get overwhelming too, when I’m not as productive as I’d like to be. But I think the boys are having a pretty good summer and that’s what it’s all about it.

I was up early last Sunday and spent an hour or two finishing up some sewing room organization I started weeks ago. I’ve been really getting into being more creative with my doll hair – blending a lot more colors and textures for a look that’s unique to my artistry. But more options means more yarn – a lot more yarn! – so I had to do a bunch of rearranging to make room for it all. I love it!

We spent most of Sunday at a family reunion near Milwaukee. It was at such a pretty park, filled with trees, a huge pond, and walking paths. We brought Annie with us and it was a fun day talking to relatives we haven’t seen in awhile! We were also able to connect with Melissa for a little bit and give her some birthday presents. Even though I was DEAD TIRED by the time we got home, I went out and ran all my errands for the week, sneaking by without needing to take the boys with me once again! I’m getting very good at it this summer! Though it did occur to me that they’re probably old enough I could just leave them home and run out by myself during the day. But I’m not so sure I trust them together for more than a very short amount of time. Next summer, hopefully.

Monday was a big work day, finishing up a custom order Anne of Green Gables and Diana set an internet friend asked me to make. She sent me a whole list of literary themed dolls she’d like to see me make in the future. That’s not really the direction I’d like to go with my dolls in general, but I’m contemplating it!

On Tuesday morning we had a park playdate with a friend and her kids. The weather was so beautiful! We decided to bike there. Only my second bike ride since my broken ankle and I survived it! When I tried in May it took me a full two weeks to stop feeling the pain. Maybe it just wasn’t as rigorous of a ride this time, but maybe I’m also still hopefully getting stronger! I brought a batch of scones and she brought a box of donuts and we all had a really good time!

On Tuesday night we had a big date! Guster was in Milwaukee again (they seem to ALWAYS be touring since we seem to see at least one concert a year!) and I gave Greg tickets for his birthday. I let him pick the restaurant too because I always pick. He went with a pizza place a block or two away. We didn’t have to wait and were seated around the pizza oven where we could watch the chefs make the pizzas. It was fun and really delicious!

The traffic was terrible, so we thought the whole thing would be rushed, but we ended up with plenty of time to just chill in the theater before it started.

The concert was great! My only complaint is that this is the first Guster concert we went to where people stood up for the whole thing. I am adamantly against standing concerts! My feet were so sore from standing up all day on Sunday at the reunion, so I sat down during songs I didn’t know as well. I could still see between the bodies. 🙂 It was a late night, but a really fun one!

Wednesday was kind of a bummer day because I got an ingrown toenail removed. I’m embarrassed to say it’s the same toenail that I visited the podiatrist for an entire year ago. At the time we decided to wait it out and hoped it would get better. It was infected for a very, very long time, to the point I was too embarrassed to bring it up again. But I finally had enough when the infection went away and it was very clear it wasn’t going to fix itself. I assumed the procedure would be fast and easy and wasn’t prepared for how much the numbing agent they shot into my toe was going to hurt! Shepard wanted to be in the room with me to watch, so he was getting a kick out of my cringing and wrenching away from the pain. Ouch. But then it all went fine and I’ve just been trying to take it easy the last couple of days.

Thursday was split between sewing and cleaning and prepping food for my party on Friday.

And Friday night I had a taco party! I’m not sure the emotional turmoil over planning a party is worth it for me in the end. I can’t stand putting myself out there knowing I’m going to feel rejected when people can’t, or don’t want to, come. Plus the pressure of cleaning the house when nobody else wants to help me out with it. So much anxiety. But it turned out to be a really nice time. Because I messed up which days she was visiting Wisconsin, my friend Dianne was in town for it. And a couple other friends came and some of their kids. We had way too much food, but it was a perfect amount of people and a really nice way to relax and enjoy each other’s company on a summer Friday night.

I spent Saturday finishing up eight dog and cat themed dolls. They were a hit and seven of them sold within three minutes of listing! The eighth sold a few hours later. It’s always so validating when they sell quickly! But it also really adds on the pressure to make more STAT. Greg and the boys were gone for most of the day, so it was just nice to have the house to myself finally, so I was able to read and take a nap after they were finished.

And today has been pretty lazy! I only went out to have lunch with Dianne before she flew home. I have a few things I’d still like to get done today, but I have a feeling it’s not going to happen. I’m so tired!

Sunday Intentions

Well, this is the week all the fun stuff really picks up. Monday and Tuesday are free – I need to do some household things and hopefully finish two more dolls I started this morning. But then on Wednesday Greg and I are going on a two night getaway to one of our favorite places. I’m looking forward to lots of time to just read and relax! Then next weekend my brother and his family will be in town and we’re keeping the days open to spend time with them. And later that next week I’m off to Book Bonanza!

My intention for the week is to try and stop letting my emotions rule my life. Sometimes I really hate how deeply and intensely I feel EVERYTHING. Nothing rolls of my back, nothing is ever forgotten. I’m not the greatest at actually expressing my emotions, but they overrule my thoughts and really dictate whether I’m going to have a good day or bad. I want to have good days. But summer is a trying time.

That’s about it! Have a great week!

Saturday Reflections 07.20.2019

If I haven’t written in awhile it’s usually an indicator of one of two things – either I’ve been genuinely too busy or I’m struggling. Last week I was busy. This week I am struggling. Summer is really starting to weigh on me. I feel like I’m not allowed to say that because in many ways it feels like summer has barely begun. They’ve been off of school for six weeks, but they’ve only been off of summer school for just over two, and most of those two weeks were taken up with 4th of July festivities and a spontaneous mini vacation. This past week is really the first one that has been “normal.” And it’s been a tough one.

My biggest struggle is the most obvious – lack of alone time. I’ve been a stay at home mom from day one, but it’s never felt particularly easy on me mentally. These last three years once both boys were in school full time have been AMAZING. I have days to myself to work and get things done, but still have the benefit of flexibility and being around when they need me. It’s the perfect mix for nine months of the year. Then summer comes around and the lack of routine and predictable hours to myself to recharge basically do me in. It’s not even that the boys really need me that much anymore at 10 and 8. But the weight of responsibility for them doesn’t go away! They still need to be fed and monitored to make sure they’re not sneaking too many snacks. They still expect to be entertained or constantly given things to do or ideas of ways to spend their time. I still need to constantly be breaking up fights and trying to enforce punishments when things get out of hand. And on top of it all – they’re staying up later at night AND waking up earlier than they ever did during the school year! Meanwhile I’m still going to bed at the same time and waking up a tad bit later than I used to, so I almost never have any break from them. Or at least a break from the responsibility and need to be ON all the time.

While I am desperately needing more time to myself, I’m also struggling with friendships. Again. (As always?) Or lack thereof. I don’t know how to stay in touch with people. And if we’re not in touch I feel like we’re not really friends. I’ve been fairly busy this summer – much busier than in years past. It’s making me a lot more compassionate and understanding when my friends are also busy. At the same time – can’t we all make getting together a higher priority? And then when I do see people just by running into them by accident, I am so horribly awkward. I want to just be close to people without all the embarrassing and stilted small talk. And you don’t reach that level of familiarity with someone unless you actually do the work and spend time with them. And NOBODY has the time! It’s an endless cycle of craving connection with other women so desperately, putting myself out there to try and schedule something, almost always getting rejected – or at least feeling rejected – and then I crawl back into my shell and give up until the loneliness gets so strong that I try again. I somehow thought it would be easier as my kids got older. It’s not. Everyone is busier than ever. The mom guilt is strong in not wanting to miss anything our kids are doing. And then we’re all too tired after work and family time to muster up any remaining energy for each other. The hardest part for me to make peace with is that I feel like I’m alone in this loneliness.

And of course in summer with kids home there’s also just the lack of freedom to really do the things I want to do when I want to do them. During the school year I’d usually go out and run errands twice a week. I love errands! Now, I have to bring them with me and they’re HORRIFIC in stores. So we just don’t go. I’ve been needing to go to Costco for two weeks now and I just can’t bring myself to go when it means bringing them with me. I’ve actually managed to avoid shopping with them this entire summer – until we stopped at Target the other day. All I needed was dog food! And they spent the whole time in the store wrestling with each other, Caden taking Shepard’s hat and throwing it around, fighting over the cart, running into people and knocking stuff from the shelves. It’s absolutely ridiculous how they act in a store when they’re “bored.” And that was one store for one item!

And finally – work. I’m still trying to work a mostly full time job while also keeping my kids happy and filled with fun memories of time spent together. Which means I need to do the bulk of my sewing at night and on weekends. And that’s a lifestyle I don’t like to maintain. It’s leaving very little room for reading or resting or walking Annie or just having any kind of fun. I’ve become the kind of person that feels like an utter failure if I’m not doing something productive every minute of every day. And I don’t want to be that kind of person! Especially not in summer. But work isn’t going away and I need to fit it in when I can. I’m just getting really burned out from it all.

Anyway! Vent portion of this post over. Time for reflections.

I spent last week with the boys on a spontaneous vacation to Three Bears Resort in Warrens. It was a really fun time! But I’ll write more on that in a separate post.

Last Friday we spent the afternoon and evening with the in-laws, visiting with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law who were just there together for the evening. Unfortunately, after three days of vacation – and even more strongly – four days without significant Daddy time – Caden was an absolute nightmare. So once again I got to just be the bad/mad mom – the only persona I’m allowed to have at family gatherings because the pressure to behave is always too dang much for Caden to handle. I had to take him home and he lost all screens for a week, which definitely contributed to this week being especially hard. When Caden has lost the only thing he cares about he has zero incentive to even try to be good.

On Saturday morning I got up super early to go grocery shopping before it got busy. I also went to the farmers market for the second week in a row and didn’t actually get out of the car and go in. The week before was because of storms. This time it was in a different location with a terrible parking situation and I couldn’t find anywhere to go. The crowds going in were so big that I eventually gave up. But it’s really frustrating to keep going to something I really love and not being able to actually do it! I didn’t even try to go today.

On Sunday I met my mom and we went to the annual Swan Park Craft Fair in Beaver Dam. I didn’t buy anything, but it was still fun to walk around. Then we did some grocery shopping together and had an early lunch at Cousin’s. In the afternoon Greg took the boys back to his parents’ house so I could take a nap and then Caden ended up sleeping over while the rest of us went to a friend’s birthday party at the pool. It was so oppressively hot that I left early. The terrible heat wave this week is definitely not helping my mood!

On Monday morning I had to go pick up Caden, so Shepard and I stopped at the dog park on the way, but it was way too buggy. We got Caden and then checked out the Beaver Dam dog park. I told my mom we were in town so she invited us over there for awhile where we sat outside with coffee and cinnamon rolls while the dogs enjoyed the fresh air. And then in the afternoon we went back to BD again for my sister-in-law’s early birthday celebration.

On Tuesday the boys decided they wanted to have a “rock and junk sale.” Willow was having a three day long lemonade stand in her yard, so they thought it would be fun to join in with their own table of goodies. I just let them go ahead and do whatever they wanted as long as I could keep working and didn’t need to help. I felt a little bad that nobody actually wanted to stop and shop, but they seemed to have a good time. Until they came in and Caden went totally ballistic again over something. Meltdown worse than Friday’s, but without the audience. Then they both left to a sprinkler/water activity thing at the library. Greg took them to BD again for dinner and I went to my friend’s house late at night for a bonfire. THAT was a nice end to a very rough day.

Wednesday was our big fun day of the week. My mom joined us and we went to Madison for a “foodie day.” We started at Manna Cafe to get some fancy iced lattes. I fell in love with their coffee back in December and January and haven’t had a chance to get back since! I’d still like to eat there someday, but it’s always so crazy busy. That’s a big turn off for me.

Next we stopped at the Wednesday farmers market. It was SO HOT. I didn’t take any pictures. But the produce variety has really gotten a lot bigger since the last market I’ve been to! We bought a lot of things. Then headed to Hurt’s Donuts in Middleton. This is the second time we’ve been there and the second time we thought the donuts weren’t that great. Though they have tons of crazy flavors and the boys just pick the most boring ones! I had a salted caramel with chocolate drizzle which was great – I just should have waited to eat it… I didn’t because it was so hot I knew it would melt. Maybe not the best place to have gone, but at least after trying it twice I know we’re not really missing anything!

We went to the Mustard Museum next. We usually go every summer because the boys LOVE trying out all the mustards. Caden eats mustard every day, so he loves having a chance to find unique kinds he’ll love. This year we went with a dill mustard and an extra extra extra hot horseradish mustard.

Despite eating and drinking all morning, we were hungry for some real food so we tried out this new restaurant called Bartaco. They serve everything family style/ala carte and it was really fun to pick a bunch of random things off the menu. Shepard’s meal was the chips and salsa and some plain corn. Caden picked chicken soup and Mexican corn, but they got my instructions wrong and just gave him a plain corn too. I was hoping to try the Mexican one! My mom had an Asian slaw and fresh pineapple. And I had the carne asada and mojo pork tacos. I honestly think they were the best tacos I’ve ever eaten. They really only had meat and sauce on freshly made tortillas, but the flavor was outstanding. I can’t wait to go back again! I did buy a bottle of their habanero sauce because it was so amazing.

We finished our day out with the stop at Target. I was planning to go to Costco too, but I knew we couldn’t handle it. I wanted to stop at the Columbus farmers market too, but it was just too hot. It was a busy, but really great day!

The only interesting thing we did on Thursday was go stand in the rain for the peach truck to come so we could buy boxes of blueberries. I spent the rest of the day sewing.

On Friday there were some extra relatives in town so we went over for a quick lunch and Jenga game. I was kind of reaching emotional breakdown status in the afternoon, so Greg took the boys to hang out with my brother for the night. If you’ve read this whole thing you’ve noticed that he really does take the boys out fairly often and I DO have some time to myself. But it’s always at night and it’s never predictable. I mean, it’s better than nothing for sure!! But my brain is pretty much shot by night and that’s when I’m madly sewing anyway. I miss having daytime hours alone. Productive brain awake hours.

And today I was supposed to go to a craft day, but it was cancelled so it’s turned out to be pretty free and open. I’m trying really hard to force myself to just relax and not worry about doing anything unless I absolutely feel like I want to. That being said, I think I’m going to go read!

Weekend Reflections and Intentions 07.07.2019

It’s been quite a week! Every day seems to last about five days long, yet summer is also flying by. Officially, our summer only started on Wednesday because Tuesday was the last day of summer school. We’ve fit in so many things already!

I spent most of Monday stressfully trying to figure out what to do with all of my overripe peaches. The 25 pound box was hard as a rock on Thursday, I force ripened some to make peach crumble on Saturday morning, and then they were all ripe to overripe by Sunday. If your life doesn’t match up with the ripeness schedule of your box of peaches you’re in big trouble! I think next year I seriously need to find someone to just flat out split a box with me. Then it’ll be less stressful. I was feeling pretty lazy this year and used most of my remaining peaches for salsa. Unfortunately, it was only good for a day and one of the people I made a bowl for wasn’t home to give it to that night.

It was a really hot week! While we did get a new air conditioner this spring, it only cools the lower half of our house. We have a window unit in our room, so Shepard fell asleep in our bed every night and then Greg moved him to his room when he came up.

On Tuesday I tried to just relax and soak up my last day home alone for the next two months!

Determined to jump right into my goal list for the month, we left early Wednesday morning to go to Token Creek Dog Park. We’ve only been to it twice before and that was before I broke my ankle. It’s a really nice enormous field with a hilltop in the middle and woods around the edges. Despite the early hour it was already SO hot, but the bugs were a lot less annoying than at the dog park in town. I’m really hoping I decide on a few solid favorites this summer and continue taking Annie to dog parks in fall when things cool off and the trees start changing. It’s probably the most exciting way for both of us to get some fresh air and exercise. This one is definitely a contender because it’s one of the closest – about 25 minutes away.

Because it’s on the way home, we stopped in at Mounds for Annie to pick out some treats. I’ve always wanted to bring her into a pet store like that! I think she was having some sensory overload. The boys thought it was really cool, though!

We were back home by 9:30 and it was a VERY long first morning of the no screens before noon rule. They were at least pretty good natured in their complaining, but they also wouldn’t leave me alone. We’ve really only had two days of the rule being in place, but I’m still optimistic that it was the right choice.

Greg was home early and came with us to the farmers market. Annie came too, though it was crazy hot by then. I bought a loaf of bread and some cheese. They were doing a brat fry fundraiser and Caden had a hamburger. Shepard bought a ceramic pot that he was able to paint and will be able to pick up this week after it’s been fired.

The 4th was a good day! The weather seemed so iffy all week. Actually, we were getting random short storms almost every day. Fortunately, they held off until afternoon so we were able to go ahead with our plans to visit Cedar Lake.

Because it was just going to be us and Greg’s parents and grandparents (there are usually many more extra relatives and kids at these parties), we decided to bring Annie along. She loved it. And it made the day a little too chaotic. Within ten minutes she somehow managed to break apart her pinch collar and took off. I was screaming and chasing her and she never even looked back. I literally had just told the boys the day before at the dog park that I bet she wouldn’t be a runner anymore because she always stays so close to me at dog parks. She decided to prove me wrong. Luckily, Greg caught her. It could have been a much worse outcome.

The three of them were having the time of their lives playing in the water. Annie never left the depth where she could still touch the ground. Maybe if she hadn’t been on a leash she would have tried swimming, but she already proved she can never be trusted! We also managed to break her retractable leash by submerging it into the water, which meant I had to hold her on her four foot standard leash the rest of the day. She was so hyped up about being there, but also wanted me to be right next to her and kept getting fully wet and then running back and shaking it all over me. It was fun to see her happy, but stressful to maintain that for the entire day.

I was switching back and forth between the beach and further up the hill under the shady trees where it was a bit cooler. The weather really was great for the first few hours before the heat overtook it!

The boys were having the time of their lives just swimming and playing on the tubes. They were getting along so well and having so much fun! Another reminder that the simplest of plans are what make them happiest. They did some tubing out with the boat too. I don’t go on the boat rides anymore because I can’t stand the blasting sun.

Annie and I spent the last few hours trying to cool off in the shade. It was a really nice time! Worth missing my beloved once a year fire station fundraiser cheese fries.

The rest of the day didn’t turn out as well, thanks to Mother Nature. We stopped in Beaver Dam to get some fireworks to do at the in-law’s house right when the first storm rolled in. We waited it out and the guys went to pick up some Culver’s for an easy dinner. We tried to do a few at their house, but the post-rain humidity was deathly! I had to continue holding Annie on her leash for another three hours because she kept terrorizing the cat. We went back home with half hearted plans to go watch the fireworks, even though Greg and I didn’t really want to. But, how can you say no when they’ve been so good all day? Unfortunately, more storms hit right when the show was about to start. There was a ton of confusion on if they would be postponed or not. I think most people at the actual park eventually assumed with pouring rain and nonstop lightning that it wouldn’t happen. We gave up and went to bed. And then we HEARD the whole show as we were trying to fall asleep. Oh well. It was terrible timing, but still overall a really good day.

I thought everyone would sleep in on Friday, but no deal! They LOOK tired, but they were wrestling and attacking each other all morning.

Shepard and I decided to make some beignets. He’s been wanting to do it since we saw them make beignets on The Chef Show. That show is seriously just a wealth of food making inspiration. I think we’ve created something from almost every episode! I was watching one of the last episodes this morning when they were making and eating breakfast tacos – I was so insanely jealous. I think I’m going to watch the season all over again and actually write down all the ingredients they use for the more complicated recipes.

This is how many we had left after we already ate our fill! I thought they turned out okay. Not really as good as I had imagined. I’d like to try the famous ones in New Orleans someday.

I’m not sure what I did the rest of the day other than make pizza!

Saturday was another fun family day. I woke up really early and decided to go to the farmers market because it’s been a long time since my last visit. Unfortunately, storms struck AGAIN and I never even got out of the car. I waited out the thunder and lightning at a grocery store, but it was still raining too hard to stop at the market. If I was just heading home afterward I probably would have risked it, but I didn’t want to be wet the next few hours.

I met Greg and the boys at the theater and we watched the new Spiderman movie. It was really good! We had lunch at Portillo’s before coming home and spending the rest of the day just relaxing.

Today, amazingly, it was in the low 60’s when I got up! So we packed up the cats in their stroller and took the pets on a long walk around town. It was so nice! I wish every morning was like that. The boys were being extra cooperative, even cleaning out my car the first time I suggested it, in hopes of me not enforcing the noon rule on weekends. The rest of the day has just been very chill. Overall – a pretty great week!

Sunday Intentions

Oh, I just remembered what I did on Friday – spent THE ENTIRE DAY doing research, trying to plan a spontaneous vacation for the boys and I when I realized this upcoming week is basically the only one until the end of August that we don’t have some random plan on a Tuesday or Wednesday that would interfere with having a midweek trip. This is something I really wanted to do with them this summer, and just hadn’t gotten around to figuring out the logistics yet. After entertaining a ton of different options, I ended up going with the hotel that started my search in the first place – two nights at Three Bears Resort in Warrens. I’m really excited about it! We’re leaving on Tuesday morning and coming home on Thursday night. I think it’ll be a lot of fun and great opportunity for long lasting memories together. Most of the time I’m totally fine with being the unfavored parent, but sometimes it feels good to be the one that can do something spontaneous and special with them. Plus it gives Greg a few nights to himself, which NEVER happens. Annie’s even going to go on her own mini vacation to Grandma’s, so Greg won’t have to deal with her.

Since that trip is basically our whole week, there’s not much time for anything else. I started some dolls last night, which I intended to finish today, but I’m not making much progress. Hopefully I can get them done by morning since I won’t have time to work the rest of the week. I also need to do a bit more research and figure out something we can do on Tuesday before our 4pm check in time. Despite only living an hour away, we don’t spend much time in the Dells, so surely there is something unique we can check out before heading further north.

So my intentions for this upcoming week? Have fun, be patient, make memories. I want to totally go with the flow and let the boys dictate how we spend our time on the trip. I realize I’m very lucky to have the option of doing things like this and I want to make the most of it.

Have a good week!

July 2019 Goals


Time for July goals. I’ve been struggling with this – mostly because I have so many abstract ideas of how I’d like this month to play out, but feel like putting them all out there is just going to set myself up for failure. I’m fortunate in that July and August are almost always completely open to whatever I want to do. It seems like I should really take advantage of that and not force myself to buckle down and feel like I NEED to do anything. I’m very good at staying on task the rest of the year, why not live it up a little in summer? At the same time, I like having goals. I like working toward accomplishments that I can be proud of. The more unstructured I am over a stretch of time, the more stressed out and frustrated I get with everything. So, goals need to be made. And if they’re not met? It’ll be okay.

1 – Live by the mantra “No Extras”

So I’m going to Book Bonanza in just over a month. It’s going to be a really expensive solo vacation. I need to seriously cut out ALL extra spending this month to save up and prepare and allow myself to go on this trip without any guilt or worry. I need to muster up some discipline and say no to all the random things I pick up for myself at my favorite stores and online shops. I want to cut out business purchases too, unless it’s something I genuinely need in my day to day operations – not like an order of new fabric just because it’s pretty. It helps that the boys will have to come with me any time I want to go somewhere starting tomorrow, so that’ll definitely cut back on actual trips to stores. I’ve been thinking it’d be a great time to start doing online grocery shopping too – where we won’t even have to step foot into the stores and avoid spontaneous purchases. (Kids want A LOT of things!) And online things…better to not even look. Delete those sale emails before they ever get opened!

2 – Work as much as possible to earn a break in August

Same as #1 – the more money I can make this month, the better. If the boys are outside playing with friends and we don’t have any other plans for the day, I want to be working. Sewing IS my job and I can’t be so laid back about it. Not this month. My goal is to really try my hardest and feel like I earned at least a solid two weeks of vacation time in August.

3- ENFORCE the No Screens Before Noon rule

I wrote up all the components of this new rule last night and hung it on the fridge. Shockingly, the boys seemed totally fine with it. They thought it was hilarious that one of the suggestions for things to do in the morning was “Do something fun with Mom.” Their response? “You’re not fun! You don’t even know how to run!” So apparently running is the epitome of a fun time. My goal is to really stay strong with this and hopefully after the first few days they won’t even think to ask me to change my mind. I’m considering forcing myself to stay away from screens in the morning too… It would certainly encourage me to get a whole lot more done.

4 – Go to at least 3 Madison dog parks

I’m sure it’s probably the same everywhere, but the Columbus dog park is SO ridiculously overrun with mosquitoes right now that it’s miserable being there. And if last year is any indication, the mosquitoes will still be there and even worse, well into October. That’s not the reason I want to go to Madison, it’s just a good nudge to try someplace new. I’ve been wanting to take Annie to new dog parks all year and could never find the time. At least with the boys along it’s more of an adventure for all of us. Plus we can pack picnics and make a whole morning of it.

5 – Read my shelves, including at least 2 nonfiction books

My TBR shelves are really full. I want to start working through them and weeding out the ones I don’t want to keep around forever (and make room for more new ones!). I’d also really like to finish the two nonfiction books I started last month, Introverted Mom and Burnout. Maybe if I set a goal of reading at least a chapter a day from either of them? Before my fiction?

6 – Make a wish list of things to do with the boys this summer

Hopefully this will happen tomorrow! I don’t want to be super ambitious, but I do want to get a solid list of things we can do before school starts. It’d be nice to get the boys’ input so there are things on the list they’re actually looking forward to and not just things that I think sound fun.

7 – Be intuitive to what I need – emotionally, physically, mentally

So this is pretty abstract. But I usually know what I actually need to be happy and healthy and more often than not, I ignore it to power through with whatever feels most pressing on my to do list. While I DO want to keep making a lot of dolls this summer, I also want to rest and read and enjoy my kids. I’d like to learn to be more in tune to my needs AND feed them.

What I Read June 2019

My goal for June was to only read books that delighted me. I wanted stories that would bring me joy and laughter, without having to think too hard. Interestingly, I ended up reading about a lot of mental health struggles. But for the most part, I really enjoyed most of the books I picked up.

Kissing Tolstoy by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars

This was a delicious rom com of a book that I read in a single evening. College student Anna finally gets into a Russian Lit class she’s been dying to take for the last two years, only to find out her hot professor is actually the mysterious man she ran away from in a restaurant months earlier. Luca, the professor, is enamored with Anna but determined to ignore and push her away as both a student and a woman. From what I can understand, this book was written in weekly installments for fans through Penny Reid’s newsletter. With that in mind, I think it could have used a bit more editing and some clarification behind the handful of Luca chapters and what kinds of things he was going through. But the Anna chapters – most of the book – were an absolute delight! The story was funny and smart and the perfect tingly escape from reality. Loved it!

The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad by Cookie O’Gorman
Rating: 5* stars

This is another delightful book that I read in a single day. I’m so bummed it’s only on kindle because I really want the paperback to add to my shelf of books I’ll re-read again and again. Honestly, this book was definitely predictable, but it was also so much fun. 17 year old Sadie is known for being the ultimate good girl. At the retirement home where she likes to hang out, she made a Carpe Diem list of things she’d like to do to be more of a bad girl. Her best friend and life long secret crush finds the list and together they enroll the help of his twin brother – her arch nemesis and well known bad boy – to coach her on breaking rules and branching out a little. While the title of this book is quite literal in terms of the story, I really wish it had a sweeter name instead of implying Sadie is really going to be a “bad girl.” This is a totally PG rated YA romance that made me swoon.

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Rating: DNF

I really wanted to love this book. I made it 45% in and I just couldn’t read a page more. There was nothing wrong with it, per se. I just wasn’t connecting with it. Something about the very quirky characters, yet told in third person point of view, made it feel oddly impersonal. The internet tells me third person POV is the most common in all storytelling, but I don’t think that’s true in like 90% of the books I read. It felt very off to me. Anyway, I might consider picking it up again in the future, but I’m determined to only read books this month that absolutely delight me and as adorable as the two main characters seemed, it just was not hitting the spot.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Rating: 3.5 stars

I was so excited about the premise of this book – you know how much I love a good epistolary novel. While I definitely enjoyed it overall, it took me a really long time to get into. There was a lot of build up for what turned into a very slow and gentle romance. And there’s nothing wrong with that! It just wasn’t what I was expecting, or necessarily wanting in this month of only reading delightful things. As a whole, it’s still pretty weird to think that any man and woman would agree to a living arrangement where they share a bed and flat, but only for their half of the day. But the supporting characters are all skeptical enough about the arrangement, that you end up being okay with it. I really liked Tiffy and Leon and how they were both so genuinely kind and supportive of each other.

Pen & Ink: Tattoos & The Stories Behind Them by Isaac Fitzgerald
Rating: 4 stars

I randomly saw this book somewhere online and was highly intrigued so I immediately got it from the library. It’s a look at some of the interesting tattoos people have gotten and a brief story behind them. I love the glimpses into the lives of strangers and what made them decide to get sometimes completely random and sometimes filled with meaning permanent inking on their body. The foreword explains why they decided to do the tattoo drawings in ink (art is art), but I think this book could have been SO much more compelling with photographs. Then again, I LOVE photography as my favorite artistic medium, so maybe I’m just bias. The drawings of the tattoos kind of left a lot to be desired, but the brief stories – written by the people with the tattoos – were incredibly interesting. It was a fun book to just sit down and read in an hour as something totally different from the types of things I usually read.

Eleanor & Grey by Brittainy C. Cherry
Rating: 5 stars

This was a beautiful story about finding hope and love in the midst of grief and sorrow. Trigger warnings for sure with loss of a parent and loss of a spouse. The first thirty or so percent of the book is the sweet and budding friendship between high schoolers Eleanor and Greyson as Ellie is about to lose her mother to cancer. The story picks up again sixteen years later when she is hired as a nanny to Grey’s two daughters after the loss of his wife. I guess, presumptuously, I assumed this book was mostly going to be a steamy romance. It was recommended highly in my Book Bonanza group which is almost all romance authors. I grabbed the book and started reading without even knowing the synopsis. A steamy romance book this was not! Which was fine. It was beautiful and paced in a way that made sense and gave the characters a chance to truly discover their feelings for each other. I really enjoyed it.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Rating: 3 stars

I have many mixed thoughts on this book. It was slow. It took me forever to read. I almost DNF’d it multiple times. The writing style was somewhat detached and skipped over so many details of the characters’ lives that I felt like I was missing out on so much. But the writing itself was beautiful and poignant. There was a chunk of the book that I really loved. And then it got dark. Ultimately, (sort of a spoiler) despite what was written on the very last page, the message I took from this book is that if you have a family history of mental illness, you are doomed and any offspring you create are also doomed to a life of hardship and pain. The second half of this book was so depressing. I wanted to finish it and I’m glad I did, but it never reached that uplifting turn I was so sure would come. This book really didn’t fit in with my June theme of books that delight me, but I also don’t think it’s one I’ll forget anytime soon.

Parental Guidance by Avery Flynn
Rating: 3 stars

Hockey player Caleb has a bit of a PR nightmare on his hands and is forced by his coach and the team’s publicist to join a dating app where his mom will pick his match. Zara is a miniatures artist who spends every waking minute working. Her best friend convinces her to join the app because it’ll help out her dad with his new dream of becoming an actor while also improving her sex life. Overall, I thought the premise of this book could have used a lot of work. It was so obviously just a half hearted attempt at something original, but the consistency with everything related to the the app/company, the improving of image, the parental involvement, etc. was really weak. That being said, it was still a cute and fun book with very likeable main characters.

Kissing Galileo by Penny Reid
Rating: 4.5 stars

After reading Kissing Tolstoy earlier this month, I was very excited to learn that Penny Reid was right about to release her next weekly newsletter installment written book. I really enjoy the falling for your teacher trope, though it’s not forbidden in this series – I have no idea if that’s true in real colleges or not. At any rate, this was another fun and genuinely enjoyable book that I wanted to drop everything for to keep reading. I loved Emily’s character, I liked Victor. I liked the additional storyline surrounding Victor’s huge weight loss and body image frustrations. I do think there’s an obvious downside to releasing a book chapter by chapter – there are things brought up early in the book that are never referenced again, which is a little irritating to me. If it had been released as a book only it might have flowed a little better. But other than that, I really liked this one.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett (re-read)
Rating: 5* stars

Re-reading a favorite book is like a sweet visit with an old friend. I’m so glad I decided that re-reading books was definitely worth my time this year. I was really craving an escape that was guaranteed to give me all the feels. This one takes place during the summer and felt like the perfect fit for this month. And I loved it every bit as much as I did the first time around. I think Porter might be one of my favorite book boys ever. At least in YA. He is kind and sweet and funny and so very attentive, remembering everything about Bailey and using the knowledge to demonstrate how much he likes her. As always, I adore a book that begins in an anonymous online/written friendship, though it plays a pretty small role in this story. This book makes me so happy and I highly recommend it if YA is your genre.

The Peach Truck Cookbook by Jessica and Stephen Rose
Rating: 4 stars

I pre-ordered this cookbook the minute I heard the owners of Tree Ripe Fruit were releasing it. It conveniently coincided with being delivered two days before the peach truck made its stop in Columbus. I read through it right away and was interested to hear the story behind the truck and see how passionately the owners feel about peaches and connecting people with fresh, ripe fruit. There were a large variety of recipes, but I honestly felt a little too overwhelmed to actually make any of them. Not that they were hard or anything. I just wanted to stick with all the usual things I do with my 25 pound box. I’m not really sure how often I’ll reach for this cookbook – probably only once every summer before the truck comes. But it was nicely written with a lot of great photographs and ideas.

The Other Side by Kim Holden
Rating: 2.5 stars

It was really hard to decide a rating for this book. Honestly, it is SO depressing. It’s about depression and the point of the book is to bring more awareness to what it’s like to be depressed and suicidal. With that in mind, it certainly achieved its purpose. But it was a tough read. It was definitely tied up nicely in the end, which I wasn’t so sure was going to happen. But it was a slog to get there. I was so angry at all the characters and the decisions they made to not let simple truths be told – things that could have helped Toby SO MUCH if he just knew. There’s nothing wrong with the writing, I just did not like this book very much.

Beauty and the Professor by Skye Warren
Rating: DNF

I really hesitate to add this DNF book to my monthly recap. I made it about 40% in and just couldn’t take it anymore. I was drawn to this book because it had great reviews and because the author is going to be at Book Bonanza and I’m madly trying to read as many authors as I can before I go. I was intrigued by this one because I love Beauty and the Beast retellings and the next day it happened to be free on amazon, so why not? But first of all – this is straight up erotica. Which is fine, sometimes I might be in the mood for that. But most of the time I want a whole lot more emotional connection and substantial plot building before you jump right into things on the first page. It was pretty ridiculous. After reading a lot of fluffier books this month, I was ready to set it down and move on.

June 2019 Reflections

We’ve officially survived 1/3 of summer! I think overall, June went pretty well. It definitely helps to have the boys in summer school, giving all of us the structure we really need. I definitely felt guilty when I saw so many people I know going on trips and taking their kids to do really exciting things every day. We were more in survival mode over here. I’m sure I’ll do my best to give us some grand adventures in July and August, but for June I really liked the simplicity of every day being pretty much the same, with a weekly walk to the farmers market and lots of nighttime swimming at the pool. My kids really thrive on simplicity. I’ve learned my lesson time and time again in past summers that when I think taking them somewhere is going to be amazing, they usually end up hating it. It doesn’t stop me from trying, but it does help me not feel so guilty when we go weeks without anything “special.”

I only had four goals for June and I’m not sure I really did that great at accomplishing them. But…it’s summer. Here’s a quick recap.

1- Read like it’s my job!

I only managed to read 11 books. I gave up on two. One of the 11 was a cookbook and one was a pretty short book I read in an hour or less. I really did try to only pick out books that brought me joy, however. It was just hard to find the time and the justification to read a lot. The garage sale took a massive amount of my time the first half of the month and work swallowed up the second. I really wanted to read two amazing nonfiction books that I felt would set me up for some better mental health this summer, but I rarely sat down with them. They will probably be added to my July goals.

2 – Have one awesome fresh start clutter clearing garage sale

We did it! I think it was actually really successful too! We priced everything so cheaply because we truly just wanted to get rid of it. The last day we did fill a bag for $1, which cleared out probably 2/3 of what we had left after the first two days. The only downside is that it’s now been over two weeks and we still haven’t finished cleaning up from the sale. Greg took all the remaining clothes to Goodwill immediately that day. And he’s slowly been cleaning out the piles and piles of empty tubs. But some of the tables are still set up, all of the books, most of the random household stuff. We’re maybe going to donate it to the preschool garage sale in town, but it’s still a matter of packing it up and bringing it over there. It feels like too much work.

3 – Embrace the chaos

I feel like I did well at this. Though I might only feel that way because I’m having a relatively good day TODAY. I know I’ve had my share of emotional meltdowns too. It’s hard having everyone home almost all the time. It’s harder having all of them home and feeling like I have to spend my entire day making food and cleaning up after them because nobody can be bothered to help me no matter how many times I ask. Clearer rules and more emotional fortitude on my part need to be woven into our days to make the rest of summer a success.

4 – Designate Writing Wednesdays to work on my Hope*Writers course

Ugh. Fail. AGAIN. I think I did one video lesson earlier in the month. And I wrote one blog post beyond my usual weekly/monthly posts. Not great!! Wednesdays ended up being really busy out of the house days. But that’s not really an excuse. I just decided to devote most of my time to other pursuits. I’m not sure assuming I’ll find any real writing time during the summer is a good idea. Obviously I hope to! But I think forcing myself to have a solid day devoted to it is something I should wait until fall for.

I’m not as concerned about sticking with my goals in summertime, but it’s still nice to have them to try and guide my time and energy. June felt like kind of a bust, but I have some good ideas stewing for July!