Wednesday, November 28, 2018

November Reads

Hi Friends/Readers!
     I am so excited to share my November reads with you today! I played catch up with some Book of the Month picks, got my hands on the new Jodi Piccoult and read a great faith-based book too.

Ready? Set? Read!

1. The Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks: Yes, that Tom Hanks. Guys, I hated this book. Like it was hard to plow through it. I haven't read a book like that in a long time. Here's the thing, this is a book of short stories, which normally I love (David Sedaris, Sloane Crossley etc) but these were just boring to me. I was telling AJ about it and he asked what all the stories have in common or if there is a common thread (one of the most endearing parts about short story collections) and you know what I said, "Yes, all the stories have something to do with TYPEWRITERS." I'm not kidding, it's the truth. I didn't realize how crazy that was until I said it out loud. Maybe it's too literary for my taste and I'm missing something, but I don't think so. Tom, I love ya, but I was not a fan of this collection.

2. Fashion Victim by Amina Akhtar: I chose this book as a fun, spooky Halloween read but I didn't get around to it until November. Oops. I liked this book in the same way I liked Pretty Little Liars: Creepy, engaging, but also found it sort of outrageous and ridiculous. This book is about a fashion magazine and a creepy employee who is "dying" to fit whatever cost. This book is very violent but it made me want to keep reading. It's told from the villain's point of view so it's interesting. It definitely has Young Adult novel vibes, but overall, it was worth the read.

3. A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult: I've been waiting for this book for months! I am a major Picoult fan and this one did not disappoint. Now, it wasn't my favorite of her books (Nineteen Minutes and Leaving Time are my faves), but it features her beautiful, poignant storytelling and her masterful ability to get into the head of every single character. This book is about a shooting at an abortion clinic and it's told hour by hour backwards with vignettes about how each character managed to find themselves at the clinic that day. A warning---there are graphic descriptions of shooting/hostage situation that I found disturbing but there is also a tough scene about an abortion times it was hard to read. BUT...I would still overwhelmingly recommend this book. It's one that begs to be discussed and really opens the conversation about women's rights, politics, faith, freedom, class, sex, and ultimately, how women can be each other's allies. A heavy one, but a good one.

4. Ruthless by Bo Stern: My brother in law, Matt, gave me this book written by a pastor at the church he attended in Bend. This was a really great book about, as the cover puts it, knowing "The God who fights for you." This book is well organized and each chapter finishes the sentence, "The God who fights for you______." This book used scripture passages and bible stories (Stern previously wrote a book all about discovering God's character through the battles in the Bible and that theme is woven throughout this book too) to share essential truths about who God is and what that means for our lives. One of the quotes from the book I loved so much that I took a picture and wrote it in my journal: "We have mistakenly recast the idea of God's grace as something that eliminates sin rather than what it really is: the thing that activates forgiveness. Grace positions us within reach of God's mercy; it does not remove our desperate need for it." Truth bomb right there. This is a great little read if you're looking for a faith-based read this season.

5. Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand: This was such a fun read! I've read a few of Hilderbrand's books before, and they are a no-fail/good plot line/chick lit choice. This is the start of a series (the other ones are due out in the next few years, so no pressure to commit to a whole new series now) about a family shaken by the death of their patriarch, their unexpected travels to St. John's and the characters, experiences, secrets, and of course romance that meets them there. This was one I read late into the night because it has everything I like in a novel. it an award winning, incredible, recommend repeatedly, so dang good book? No. But it's fun. Perfect hot cocoa companion read.

Whew! Only one month left of 2018 left to read! Ahh! Here are my 2018 reads....hoping to get in at least a few more this year. I put stars by my very favorites. I was thinking about putting together a Top 10 list next'll be a hard choice!

Happy Reading, friends!
Savor Your Sparkle,
*1. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

2. When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Whalen
*3. Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan
4. Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker
*5. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
6. Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
*7. The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell
8. Parent Hacks by Asha Dornfest
9. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
10. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
*11. Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hagar and Barbara Pierce Bush
12. Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
13. Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado
14. The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert
15. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
*16. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
*17. Sugar by Kimberly Stuart
18. Achtung Baby by Sara Zaske
*19. The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sara Pekkanen
20. Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
*21. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
*22. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
23. Mindless Eating by Brad Wansick
24. Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins
25. Our Father by Pope Francis
26. Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
*27. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
28. Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
29. You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfled
30. This is Me by Chrissy Metz
31. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
32. The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir
*33. Calypso by David Sedaris
*34. We're Doing It Wrong by David Michael Slater
*35. Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
36. The Better Mom by Ruth Schwenk
*37. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
38. The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon
39. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
40. There Are No Grown-ups by Pamela Druckerman
*41. Educated by Tara Westover
42. The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
*43. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
44. The People We Hate At The Wedding by Grant Ginder
*45. I'll Be Gone in The Dark by Michelle McNamara
46. People I Want to Punch in The Throat by Jen Mann
47. Hello Sunshine by Laure Dave
*48. My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
49. When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger
50. From Scratch by Allen Salkin
51. Ghosted by Rosie Walsh
52. Heartland by Kimberly Stuart
53. All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
*54. Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
55. By The Book by Julia Sonneborn
56. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
57. Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
58. The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
*59. The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
60. Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon
61. The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle
*62. Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins
63. An Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
64. Fashion Victim by Amina Akhtar
*65. A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
66. Ruthless by Bo Stern
*67. Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Teacher Fun from Kindergarten Crate

This post sponsored by Kindergarten Crate

I have something so so so fun to share with you all today! So fun, in fact, that I may have squealed with joy when mine arrived in the mail. Meet....Kindergarten Crate! This awesome subscription box service hooks up teachers every month with a crate full of FUN! Are you ready to see the amazing items in mine this month?!
Each crate includes a Teacher Treat and this one was so so so good. These are gourmet dark chocolate pretzel balls. I added a handful to my cup of Halo Top last night. Such a perfect sweet treat and dark chocolate is my fave indulgence. 
This is a great peppermint essential oil spray from The Blissful Teacher. I looked up their products and they have the cutest line of essential oils made just for teachers with the cutest names. This one is "Recess Duty Relaxation." 

Each kit has a theme and this month's is Family Traditions. This is a writing prompt sheet for kids with writing lines and a picture space and are you ready for the best part?? COPIES ALREADY MADE! 

This is a cute monthly magnetic calendar and a treasure chest themed sticker reward chart. I will be using both of these things this week. 
I am so pumped for this read aloud, "Shante Keys and The New Year's Peas." I've read this book before from the library and am excited to own it now and add it to my classroom library. It's the perfect read for teaching about family traditions.

The remaining two items are my most favorite, though! First up, a literacy center. Yep, the whole center. This comes with a plush dice with pockets on the sides (I've never seen one of these before!) and a word list of cards to put in the dice. The kids roll the dice, then choose a card that rhymes with the word they rolled. We can kick it up and make it a memory match game too. How fun is that?! I now have a center ready for a parent volunteer to run on Wednesday. Done and done.

We've been really fortunate this year with not many inside recess days but the weather is getting cooler and make no mistake, they. are. coming. I have a few games and puzzles but definitely need a few more. This is a world map puzzle in a mini bag so clean up is a breeze. First rainy day and this bad boy is coming out.
In addition to all these goodies, the Kindergarten Crate comes with an instruction sheet explaining some of the box items and sneak preview of next month's box.
The Kindergarten Crate can be ordered as is (kinder level) or there are also Pre-K and 1st grade level boxes. Guys, this is SO FUN! Every month you can get  a read aloud, a class activity, a teacher treat, fun prizes, seasonal supplies, and a few times a year, even a T-Shirt.

Being a happy teacher is important. And make no mistake, these teacher tools are making me an even happier teacher! If you're interested, use code SUNDAY to get 10% off your first order! Click HERE to order! And Pssst! Want an exclusive preview of next month's box?! The theme is SNOW DAY STEAM!

Happy Teaching! Savor Your Sparkle,

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Thanksgiving Weekend

Hi There!
     We had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend (that's still going....Hello weekend!). We were so fortunate to have our family together and AJ's mom and dad came into town and we had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents house. It was a lovely time!
great table scape, Allnatts! 

 AJ's family came into town Sunday and they watched Hank while AJ and I worked Monday and Tuesday. Those two days of school just flew by and I enjoyed making "Pilgrim Butter" with my class again. It was super nice to have family in town and I was so grateful to AJ's mom for making dinner those two nights! On Wednesday, we hung out and relaxed and did some prep for Thanksgiving (I made 2 new recipes: cranberry orange sauce and parmesan artichoke sourdough studding. Yum!).
Hank loves hanging with Grandma and Grandpa

my gentlemen
I love this Hank pic

That afternoon AJ and I went out and did some Christmas/Birthday shopping for Hank, and we went to see A Star is Born and then to dinner at Pizzeria Limone. I love date nights!!
Ok, I liked this movie. Lady Gaga is so talented, but it wasn't exactly uplifting. Still, it was well done. 
Thanksgiving morning I woke up early with a cold/congestion and I ended up taking a morning nap! AJ and I went to visit Hadley, got some coffee, and decked out the house for the holidays! See ya pumpkins, hello Christmas! We are doing a sort of low-key decorating situation this year because having an 11 month old is all about damage reduction. Ha! We are skipping a big tree but I don't really mind. We got ready to head to my family's house in the afternoon. We had a great time chatting and feasting!

After dinner scratch it's! A tradition! 

My parents gave Hank a set of 100 balls....he was in heaven! That gift is staying at Grandma and Grandpa's FYI, haha. 
 After dinner, Libby and I headed out to some stores for a lil Black Friday shopping! I will say....I am a fan of the 6-8 Thanksgiving evening shopping. We shopped off some of our meal and then came home for pie, so I'd say that's a good deal. We hit up Ulta (which was pretty crowded) and Old Navy (half off the whole store!). We found some good stuff!

In his coat waiting for mommy and daddy to load the car
asleep on Aunt Libby
 So Hank skipped his afternoon nap on Thanksgiving because this boy is an EXTROVERT and does not want to miss a moment of socializing. He stayed awake chatting and playing until around 9:00 when he finally crashed! You could tell he was fighting sleep but the little man was exhausted. I packed him his jammies so he slept the whole way home and then went right into his crib when we got home. It's an exhausting life being a social butterfly!

Friday morning, I did a Clicklist pick up and AJ's parents headed home to Oregon. We are looking forward to everyone being together again in just a few weeks for Hank's birthday! I took Hank for a walk Friday afternoon and now it's Friday evening and I'm just enjoying a glass of wine and reading a good book (look for my November book post next week!)
What a fabulous Thanksgiving we had. We are thankful.

Savor Your Sparkle,

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Oh my goodness, guys, I have meant to blog all last week. I felt "some kinda way," as the kid say today, and I had some thoughts swirling. Thoughts about the holidays, grief, loss, motherhood, just life stuff. I feel like sometimes I let myself go back to those NICU days with Hadley and just sort of feel it all over again. I think for me it has been healing to pause and sit with it all for a while and not be afraid to remember. Life has moved on, as it absolutely should. But sometimes that's scary. Sometimes I panic that I'll forget parts and pieces even though I know deep down I never will.  Each time I sat down to articulate my thoughts about this Thanksgiving season I kept coming up short (My dream is to retreat to a cabin for a few days, drink mug after mug of coffee, don my comfiest pj's and just write write write, but ya know, life, so I'll write when and where I can get it in!). So today, you'll get these jumbled up, messy, 2018 Leslie thoughts on years' past thoughts (how's that for an Inception moment?) AND a thankful list...

In typical ENFJ fashion, I love memories, nostalgia, and reflecting. Fortunately, holidays are the perfect marker of time and invitation to look back. In fact here is my 2017 Thanksgiving post, my 2016 Thanksgiving post, and finally, my 2015 Thanksgiving post should you care to check those out.

It's easy to get bogged down in all the to do's, scheduling, and even wrapped up in the festiveness of it all (and I love me some festiveness), but in slowing down and reflecting on where I was at the past 3 Thanksgivings, and various seasons of the past few years, one sentence keeps coming up over and over for me: You've come a long way, girlfriend. I think in our culture it's looked down upon to celebrate ones successes, but forget that, I'm proud of where AJ and I are at.

The thing is, you all have been with me through it all, so you know the backstory, you've seen the underside of the tapestry so to speak. You know it hasn't been all sunshine and roses. But in many ways, those tough times make the "I'm thankful"more poignant, more dramatic, more true, honestly.  It's been a journey. Heck, it still is. Every second. The work of healing has made me aware of both how delicate and precious life is on one hand, and how strong, tough, and persistent humans can be on the other hand. And I don't know what you've got going on in your life, but I know every single one of us has been through some things and in case you don't hear it from anywhere or anyone else, let me tell you: You've come a long way, baby. So now, let's enjoy those traditions, savor the moment, and relax through slow mornings and late nights, through feasting, and delightful gatherings of family, and friends. There is so much to be thankful for....every day, but especially in this season.  And in true Leslie fashion, I present to you a "by no means comprehensive or in order of importance, some big, some little Thankful" list....

I'm thankful for....

-"That kid"---There have been a few of them over the past decade and each and every one of them has made me question my decision to unlock my classroom door each morning and do it all over again. #realtalk But...."that kid" has made me a better teacher. "That kid" has made my heart burst and break over and over again. "That kid" has made me stay up way past my bedtime mulling over strategies and reaching into my bag of tricks. "That kid" has pushed me to think in a new way, be empathetic, and seek out answers that might not come as easily to me. The hope that "that kid' will know I loved and cared is a hope I pray never to lose.

-Boot Camp---I love working out at this place. I might have more of a love/hate relationship with class where there are a ton of burpees or running involved, but I love the community of the gym, I love that I've pushed my body into doing new things, I love that after 2 years (minus a few months of pregnancy/recovery), I still truly enjoy going. I might not be where I want to be weight-wise, but I feel stronger and healthier after each workout at the Boot Camp Gym.

-The Leaf Rakers Society ----Did you know Starbucks has a (not so) secret Facebook group that was started by Starbucks this fall to celebrate all things Fall/ Pumpkin Spice related? Well, the group has kept going and has sort of morphed into a holiday appreciation zone. I love it. I love the new drink ideas, the community of fellow "Buckys" fans, and the continued genius of a company that basically lets their willing customers do marketing and promotion for them. In this era of divisiveness online, The Leaf Rakers is, as my sister puts it, "The purest thing on the internet."

-Halo Top----I've recently re-discovered the amazingness that is this low calorie ice cream treat. It's so yummy and guilt free! I like the vanilla bean flavor with a drizzle of honey and some crushed pecans. That is truly something to be thankful for.

-Hank Laughs----I mean, is there anything on planet earth better than listening to the sounds of laughter emanating from your offspring?? I certainly can't think of anything.

-Our Parents/Siblings who love Hank as deeply as we do----Hank has no idea how loved he is. If he grasps even a fraction of how much he is adored and cherished, he will be overwhelmed. I feel so fortunate that Hank has a supportive and loving family. And selfishly, it's so nice having the support for AJ and I as new parents. Family means so much and it makes my heart soar to see Hank so well loved.

-Bitmojis: I absolutely love finding the perfect one to send to family and friends. They truly do make Bitmojis for every occasion. My mom and dad have one and theirs look just. like. them. It's so funny. I decided to get real and "aged" my Bitmoji a bit by giving her (it? me?) slight under eye bags. Ha! It may seem goofy, but it's another way to connect to loved ones, even if you're just sending along a silly "Have a nice day" text.

-Reading: I know I say it every month in my book posts, but reading is truly a gift in my life. I love that with recommendations from real and internet friends, and my library card, I am never without a good book. If you are not a reader, I promise it's just because you haven't found "your" book or book genre yet. Try it. For all my 2018 books so far, click HERE.

And finally, I am, of course, grateful for my incredible (and hilarious!)  husband who puts up with my personal brand of crazy, my faithful and kind girlfriends who I can always be myself around, the chance to be a mommy twice, and to have the opportunity to get to parent this incredibly sweet, spunky little man. I give thanks for the boundless grace of God and the wonder of His love. But before this sounds too much like an Oscar speech, I also want to point out I am also so very thankful for a damn good shiny gel manicure. I told you this list was in no particular order (shrug emoji).

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Thank you for reading.
Savor Your Sparkle,

Monday, November 12, 2018

Harvest Salad

I am so excited to share this recipe with you today. I made this for the first time last week and we've already had it 3 times! It's easy, seasonal, delicious, and the perfect dish to meal prep.

I roasted the sweet potatoes and carrot chips in advance and just kept them in the fridge. If you want to saute your apples, you can do that in advance too. That's really the only cooking needed in this salad so once that's ready to go, dinner can be on the table in 5 minutes.

Harvest Salad

Cast of Characters:

-1/2 bag of carrot chips (they typically come in 1 lb. bags)
-2 sweet potatoes peeled and diced
-Mixed salad greens
-Apple slices (you can leave them regular or saute them in coconut oil and cinnamon and a bit of lemon juice. I've been adding a tbs. of pure maple syrup too!)
-Crisp Honey Apple vinaigrette (Smith's Private Selection kind is my fave, but you could really use any dressing. I was thinking a honey mustard one might be yummy to try).

To roast the sweet potatoes and carrots: place on parchment paper and toss with a tbs. of olive oil, salt and pepper,. Roast for about 40 minutes, flipping/stirring halfway. Let cool and refrigerate if you're meal prepping. I microwave it a bit before putting it on the salad.

Assemble to your liking and enjoy the fresh flavors! Even my meat and potatoes hubby is a fan of this meal.

Enjoy and Savor Your Sparkle,