Tuesday, October 27, 2020

October Reads

 It's here: my October reads post! I read 5 books this month....a much anticipated new novel, a horror book, a look at modern American life and the anxiety it causes, a sweet feel good read with an odd premise, and a cute chick lit read about family ties. How's that for an assortment?? Reading is for every season but I do love a good cozy fall reading sesh.....anyone else?! 

Here we go! 


1. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult: Guys, I love my Jodi books. I've read nearly every one of hers and so I was thrilled when this one came out. I'm sad to report that it fell a bit flat for me. This book has a scattered timeline going back and forth between the main character's time in Egypt and her time in the US working as a "death doula." The information about the human body during death and preparing for death were a bit hard for me to read. Having up close and personal experience with death, obviously, certain things can be a bit triggering. This was for me. I liked all the descriptions of Egyptian stuff but this book was overall really jumbled and the metaphor of the "two ways" was sort of overdone. There's "Land" and "Water" chapters (2 ways) and the main character is pulled between 2 different realities for her life (another 2 ways). Also all the talk about death and the verge of death references is, you've guessed it, another crossroads and "2 ways." I am hoping Jodi comes back strong with a new book based on social issues, which I believe is where she really shines. 


2. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager: This was such a great book to read in October. This was a spooky ghost story with a very clever format. This book features a book within the book. The narrator explores the backstory of her father's successful horror book about her haunted childhood home and throughout her story, we are given glimpses into her father's book. I really loved reading both books at the same time. The whole time you're wondering---was the ghost story all made up? Or is it real? Without spoiling anything, the answer is, a little bit of both. This was a scary read and it was highly entertaining. 


3. Welcome To The United States of Anxiety by Jen Lancaster: I have read every single one of Jen Lancaster's books, starting when I was in high school, and meeting her at a reading in college in 2007. She typically writes humor based on her life and her work is whip smart and makes me lol. HOWEVER, this book did not fit into that category. Technically I suppose this book would still be considered humor, but it's so different from her other stuff that I was a bit disappointed. Jen's thesis is that the world is so chock full of situations that make us anxious that we were never meant to live this way. Yep. I'd agree. But....so what? There's a lot of facts and figures and while I appreciate Jen's transformation from a stauch conservative to much more liberal views, there's not much meat to this book. There's a ton of facts and figures but we're left with this notion (in my words) that I typed into my notes as I read "The needle for what's ideal is always changing so chill, sis." Umm, ok, thanks. I really hope Jen keeps writing but she goes back to her David Sedaris level vignettes. 


4. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman: This book was a DELIGHT. I chose this as my September Book of the Month pick and I am so glad I did. Backman is best known as the author of A Man Called Ove. This book also takes place in Sweden and the writing style is very similar to that book. A few things to note: The premise of this book is strange: a group of people at a house showing are taken hostage after a failed bank robbery attempt. The book dives into the lives of those together through flash backs of what brought this random assortment of people together in the first place. The cons: It took me a while to get into this book. I was pretty confused at first. I also hate the title and after reading this book, I chose a new one, "The Bridge" that in my humble opinion would have fit so much better. The pros: The twist toward the middle of the book got me good. I love when that happens! I really loved the way all the characters in this book are connected. This was such a wonderful feel-good read. It's a bit offbeat but very sweet. 



5. Always The Last to Know by Kristen Higgins: I saw this book at Target recently, added it to my library hold list, and it arrived just in time for Fall Break. This book was great. It's about 2 very different sisters (a wealthy/famous architect juggling panic attacks and raising her 2 daughters and a carefree art teacher with a love for big city life). They gather at their small Connecticut town after their father's injury requires him to need full time care. In the middle of it all is the mom, Barb, unhappy with her life and trying to decide the next steps to take. This book is told from the points of view of every member of the family. There's tender moments, romance, comedy, family secrets, small town charm, and more. I really liked this "chick lit" book.

Only 2 reading months left in 2020! 

Savor Your Sparkle,

Leslie 

Here are all my 2020 reads with stars by my faves: 

 1. The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

2. The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
3. *Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
4. Over the Top by Jonathan VanNess
5. *Teach Like Finland by Timothy D. Walker
6. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
7. *Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
9. *Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
10. Finding Chika by Mitch Albom
11. The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James
12. *Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
13. The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters
14. *Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
15. *True Crime Addict by James Renner
16. The Ingredients of Us by Jennifer Gold
17. You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
18. Rushing Woman's Syndrome by Libby Weaver 
19. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
20. The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver
21. *On the Bright Side by Melanie Shankle
22. *One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
23. The First Time by Colton Underwood
24. Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston 
25. *Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling
26. *The Paris Hours by Alex George
27. The St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets by Annie England Noblin
28. *The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup
29. Girl Logic by Iliza Schlsinger
30. *Harry Potter and the Half Bloos Prince by JK Rowling
31. *Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crossley
32. *Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin
33. The Honey Don't List by Christina Lauren
34. Ghoster by Jason Arnopp
35. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
36. *One to Watch by Kate Stoyman-London
37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by JK Rowling
38. One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus
39. *Stand All The Way Up by Sophie Hudson
40. *The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin
41. Here for It by R. Eric Thomas
42. *A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
43. The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton
44. Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman 
45. *The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine
46. *An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
47. Open Book by Jessica Simpson
48. That's My Son by Rick Johnson
49. Hungry Heart by Jennidfer Weiner
50. *The Night Swim by Megan Goldin 
51. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
52. *27 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
53. *The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi
54. Beach Read by Emily Henry 
55. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult
56. *Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
57. The United States of Anxiety by Jen Lancaster
58. *Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
59. *Always the Last to Know by Kristen Higgins 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Day in the Life Fall 2020

 Hi! It's been a bit since I've done a Day in the Life post! I decided to do one in this season for memory's sake. It's so fun to look back at these other Day in the Life posts. Want to check out old ones?

September 2018

October 2017

February 2017

September 2016

(Guess I skipped 2019?!) 

Ready to spend a random Monday with me?? Here we go! Get ready for picture overload!



I wake up between 5:00 and 5:30. I usually stay in bed until 5:30 no matter what time I get up. I peruse the 'gram, check email, look at the headlines etc.  

I make the bed (I always do this right away), do my hair, and head downstairs (in loungewear) and cook up some scrambled eggs and read about 10 pages of this great bible study I'm doing, "Rest Assured." AJ is downstairs watching the news and having some coffee. I love our short morning hang outs. I head back upstairs around 6:30 and do my makeup, get dressed, and say good morning to Hank! AJ gets him up on school days and gets him dressed. Hank enjoys his milk watching Paw Patrol in our room. 





Hank likes slow mornings! Hank loves sitting around, watching TV, and sipping his milk. He gets mad when I tell him it's time to get in the car for school around 7:15. Sometimes he eats something at home, but today he's not interested in eating yet so I pack a granola bar for him to eat at school. 

And we're off! I love the beautiful view on Mountain View (and yes, I'm at a red light). I drop my sweet boy at school around 7:45 (that's early for me, it's normally closer to 8:00ish) and then hit up the Sbux drive thru.

While I wait, I listen to my new fave Podcast, Be There in 5. And score! I ordered a grande americano (with almond milk and sugar free cinnamon dolce) but they are out of grande cups so I get a venti. I hope the kids are ready for my energy after that bad boy! I also get a venti iced water. I'm trying to really hydrate lately and shoot for 60 oz. during a work day. And people, please, wear a mask in a drive thru! The employees wear ones to keep us safe, we owe them that same respect (soap box). 

School time! I work on some lesson things for today and draft my weekly newsletter. I start my newsletter on Mondays so I can add to it for the next few days as things come up, and then schedule it to be sent on Thursday mornings. I don't like inundating parents with reminders so I try and consolidate my communications to once a week. 

The kids arrive and they share their "Weekend News" (they are all dying to tell me about their weekends anyway, so I just build that sharing time right in), calendar, and I teach a math lesson. We are making subtraction equations out of pictures. Before I know it, it's time for my class to go to STEM class and recess. I drop them off and get to work emptying their weekend folders and grading those papers as well as some from math today. I love being alone in my classroom for a little mask break! I eat a protein bar and get as much grading done as I can in an hour. (And how cute are those pumpkin earrings a student brought for me?!). 
The kids have snack when they get back from recess and then it's a quick journal prompt, then centers for the next hour. I am doing word making with my group today. The other students (when they're not with me) are getting time with our literacy aide, writing our poem of the week (this week it's a pumpkin poem), reading, doing a math sort, and logging onto Lexia. 
12:40, it's finally lunch time and I am hungry! I have a teriyaki chicken bowl (leftovers from last night). 
Back to class! The kids and I read our story of the week, a non-fiction story about animals. I read it to them, then we choral read, then they read it with a partner. Tomorrow we will dive deeper into the story, today was just for reading it. We have a bit of time before recess, so the kids continue centers work while I call kids to my table for a sight word assessment. I enter their scores when they are at afternoon recess. There's only 30 minutes left before we have to clean and pack up so we do an oral phonics lesson and the kids end the day on our online literacy or math program. 

Home time! I arrive home around 4:30 just as AJ comes home with Hank. He had a fun day at school, ate all his lunch, and didn't have an accident. Woohoo! I check the mail and see this cute stamp I ordered arrived. I'm hungry so I snack on some pretzels and this veggie tray I made on Sunday. Hank has some pretzels too.
We all change and head down to the basement for a speedy 25 minute workout. Today I focus on abs and arms with weights instead of cardio. I really didn't want to workout but I always feel good when I'm done! While AJ and I workout, Hank drives around the basement in his Paw Patrol car. He loves zoomin' around! Hank and AJ head to the backyard to play catch while I plate up dinner. I did all the prep for Mediterranean bowls on Sunday (see the recipe HERE). While I plate up dinner, I also pack bowls for AJ and I for Tuesday's lunches. Hank doesn't love quinoa so I make him some mac and cheese with veggie straws and raisins. 



We clean up dinner and I have a bunch of over ripe bananas so I make a baked oatmeal that we love. It's so easy. Hank helps me stir it up. 



It bakes at 350 for about 30 minutes. We turn on "Spookley The Square Pumpkin" on Netflix for Hank (he LOVES this) and I go upstairs to quickly shower (but not wash my hair. I SO do not have time for that everyday) and get in my cozy fall pjs. 
Spookley ends, the banana oats come out of the oven, and at about 7:30 we head upstairs. Hank has earned a dance party (he gets one for good manners and no time outs in a day). He cracks us up with his dance moves. His signature songs are "Chicken Nugget Dream Land" and "Baby Yoda." Yeah, toddler music is crazy, guys. Haha. I read him his nightly bible story, and he chooses another book. AJ rocks him every night and I go downstairs to start drafting this post. Hank takes longer than usual to get to bed. He keeps wanting to go play. By 8:00, though, he's out. He's a tired little man. 

From about 8:00-9:00, AJ does some grading and school work and I watch 90 Day Fiancee and CNN (I love Don Lemon!). I pop some popcorn (probably an unhealthy portion size) and snack on some of these freeze dried dark chocolate blueberries. They are so good! I also do a load of laundry and switch it to the drier. I'll fold it in the morning. I'm too beat tonight. 


After watching CNN, I decide the world is messed up and we need a palate cleanser, so watch an old episode of King of Queens together and head upstairs around 9:30. I read for about 30 minutes and then it's lights out! I am one tired lady! That is actually a very typical day for us during this season of life! Thanks for joining along! 

Savor Your Sparkle,

Leslie 








Monday, September 28, 2020

That Fall Feeling

Hello hello. 

   I haven't done a picture update in a while so I'm doing that today. I love keeping our memories in this little space on the internet. It's officially Fall (and no, not like that means pumpkin stuff is out, but it's like actually fall weather-wise) and I adore this season. I love the decorations, the crisp air, the seasonal events, and yes, I like that the fall is a sign post that holly jolly Christmas fun is just around the corner. But also, the Fall can feel hard. I hate it when the days get shorter and it feels like 10pm right around dinner time. I can start to feel that teacher fizzle from the high energy go-go-go of the first weeks of school catching up with me. And this year, man, this year it alllll just hits differently doesn't it??


 I was trying to express to AJ the other night what this season feels like and the word I landed on was heavy. The Pandemic feels heavy. On one hand I am so totally over it and ready to move on, but on the other hand, I know that numbers don't lie and the higher than ever case counts are alarming. It's scary. Also politics. Very heavy. (Insert the wide mouth emoji here). The world (our country in particular) feels broken. Damaged. I know better than to think that we will be this divided forever but DANG. So yeah, heavy feels about right. But when things feel too heavy, I have to remind myself that maybe I'm not meant to carry it all. In fact, I know I'm not. But sometimes feeling a bit of that weight can be a good thing. It creates awareness that what we do and say matters and that while I know who holds this whole thing up (God, in case you were wondering), we can all do our part to carry some of that heavy for each other too. That is a long and winding way of saying, I see your heavy too and sis, it's totally possible to live with "The fall brings out my happy/basic/extra self/give me all the pumpkin spice everything and how freaking cute are baby pumpkins" and also "Yikes. Dayyyyyummm. 2020, what else you think you're gonna pull?" at the very same time. (But keep in mind, despite the despair that creeps in my heart when I watch the news or the *literal* lack of actual light in our days, Fall also means the return of Reeses pumpkins, the return of some of my TV faves,  crunchy leaves, and infinity scarves ..anything really to lighten the load, I'll take it!). I was meaning to write two separate posts this week, a photo update and my little musings on how life feels uncertain and unknown but this is my dang blog and I'm just doing 1 post this week. See: "heavy." 

Remember that country song, "These are My People?" I always think about that when I see a pic of my little crew. These ARE my people and they are my everything. We've been going on lots of walks and adventures. 



I visited Hadley. I just love spending time with her. 


To say our Traeger has been getting a workout lately is an understatement. We've done flank steak, meatloaf, chicken kabobs, apple cobbler, burgers, and this weekend, a giant brisket. We've got pork belly and chicken wings on the docket next! 


We visited the Zoo! 



We ordered some photos on canvas for our front hallway. I think they look so good! We also took off the front of Hank's crib. He loves his "big boy bed." He is getting so grown up! 




School is going well. Someone please remind me how exhausted I will be the first month or so of school. Every single year I forget how those first few weeks are (Like I want to be in bed at 8 pm sort of tired). My class is cute and I pray we can stay healthy and together all year. I got a Donor's Choose funded this month with all sort of holiday teaching goodies including all these gingerbread themed books! So fun! Also, how amazing is technology?? My kids had a zoom call this week with the Ogden Nature Center and we got to see some cool animals and get questions answered live! I need to remember how awesome technology can be because we watched The Social Dilemma last week and I was about ready to throw my phone in a river. (I highly recommend the movie. We already know what technology is doing to us but I believe it pays to hear it over and over). 



Speaking of Neflix....GUYS. GUYS. This was just a little half hour thing on Netflix's social media platforms (I thought it was on actual Netflix and kept refreshing like an idiot), but we watched this Friday and it was so perfectly adorable. I love revisiting the Banks Family! 

I've also been doing plenty of this.....


Check out my September Reads HERE

Well that post got super duper long. That's for reading along. May we all find some light and let down some of our heavy. 


Savor Your Sparkle,
Leslie