Tuesday, July 28, 2020

What I'm Loving Lately

It's been a bit since a What I'm Loving Lately post and I always feel my mood lifted after I write these posts. Even the smallest things (guys, there's a $1 Walmart find on this list) can bring joy! What are YOU loving lately?

1. Exploring Utah: This is such a cool state! It's been fun this summer exploring outdoor activities around. Some we've done lately: Tracy Aviary, Memory Grove, Porter Rockwell Trail, Ashton Gardens, lots of parks, Wheeler Farm, Farm Country at Thanksgiving Point, Jungle Trail in Corner Canyon, Farmers Markets. On our list: ski resorts, Antelope Island, Red Butte Garden, Ogden Nature Center, Hogle Zoo. What else is a fun outdoor Utah activity??

2. Netflix finds: Here are some things I've been watching lately--
*Virgin River-This is a cute show like Hart of Dixie (even the grumpy old school doc is played by the same actor) about a young doc moving into a small mountain town. There is a baby loss story line that was sort of triggering so be warned. 
*Trump: An American Dream-This is a 4 part documentary chronicling Trump's early years and his rise to the presidency. If you aren't a fan, this will confirm your beliefs. If you are a Trumper, please watch this with an open mind and learn a bit about the character of the man who leads our nation (spoiler alert: Yikes). 
*Say I Do: Surprise Weddings-This is the most darling show! It's just like Queer Eye but with weddings! 3 guys help a groom surprise his bride with a dream wedding. It's just a sweet show if you like makeover shows, weddings, and happy endings.

3. Raccoon Rumpus: One of our friends had this game and I bought it for Hank. It is such a cute game! I want to be a family that plays lots of games and this is a great first one. You roll 2 dice and they show a color and a clothing item (shirt, pants) and you "dress" your raccoon accordingly. If you roll the "underwear," though, all your outfits need to be put back. The first person to have 5 outfits wins.

4. Epicure: My friend Katie recently became a consultant for Epicure and I had never heard of it before but now I am a fan! Epicure is a kitchen tool and food company that sells seasonings, spices, and meal kits with clean and flavorful ingredients. Some of my faves: SPG (salt pepper garlic), spinach and ranch dip mix (yes I'm still doing my weekly veggie trays!), banana bread mix, the steamer, and I love the little meal pouches. Add fresh ingredients and dinner is done! With all this extra time at home, it's been fun to experiment more in the kitchen.
This could not have been easier: I marinated chicken chunks and onion slices with the ranch mix and olive oil overnight. Then added bacon between the chicken and onion, and hubs popped these on the Traeger. A winner dinner! 
a little slice of banana goodness and an iced coffee. Perfect afternoon pick me up! (Ignore my utensil choice lol). 

5. Divider Tray: I found this divider tray for $1 at Walmart and I love it (and so does Hank!). It's dishwasher safe and it's so nice to have the little spots to split up the food for his meals. We call it his "airplane tray" and he loves it!

6. Archer Farms Trail Mix: I love love love the fun flavors and selection of Target trail mix. Trail mix is one of my very favorite snacks. I spotted a few different kinds last time I was there and this neopolitan one is so so so good. Highly recommend!

7. Toddlerhood: This age is so fun. Hank says things every single day that make us crack up. He is funny, caring, and his little personality is just shining through! He loves to dance, Daniel Tiger, and balls of all varieties. He also LOVES to play outside. We are all potty trained (except for sleeping) and I'm so proud of my little man.

8. Folklore: I cannot even tell you my excitement that Taylor Swift was releasing her new album less than a year after "Lover." This is, without a doubt, my favorite of all of her albums. Every track is amazing. It's more mature, thoughtful and folksy than her other stuff but features poignant lyrics and that classic Taylor style I love. It is so so so good and I've been listening on repeat.

Lots to love lately! We'll just be over here savoring every last drop of summer!

Savor Your Sparkle,

Sunday, July 26, 2020

July Reads

It's here....the most epic book post EVER! I read 9 books this month (hello summer during a Pandemic) and have so so so many thoughts to share with you! This was a reading month for the books, ha! Settle in, grab an iced tea, your library app, and let's review, shall we?? 

I am also including the list of all of my 2020 books at the bottom of this post with stars by my faves! 

1. One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London--This was my June Book of the Month club pick and it did not disappoint! This is about Bea, a plus sized model who agrees to be the star of a series that is pretty much exactly like The Bachelorette. She's the heroine we are rooting for and while silly at times, (it can definitely be classified as "chick lit") this one also had a really sweet message. I raced through it because I couldn't wait to find out who would receive her "final rose." The ending was perfect. This is a fun, cute read and you'll especially like it if you consider yourself part of "Bachelor Nation." 

2.  Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows by JK Rowling: Guys. I did it. I finished reading the Harry Potter series and watching all the movies. And yes, they were all new to me! I missed the Harry Potter train in my younger days and decided this was the year to hop aboard. Ok, the series was masterful from start to finish. And oh my word, for a "kid" series, the messages are truly profound and deep. Dumbledore is like my spirit guide. I will say (don't hate me, HP people), this was not my favorite book in the series. Here's why: I love the formula in the other books--Harry getting ready to go to Hogwarts, reuniting with Ron and Hermione, a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, hijinks, showdown with Voldemort etc. and repeat. Deathly Hollows does not follow the formula at all. It's dark, twisty, and much more mature than the other books. The sense of the war about to be waged hangs over the whole book, and Ron, Hermione, and Harry have their friendship and spirits tested. There are also some really dramatic and sad parts (Dobby). The epilogue had me smiling ear to ear, though (and maybe shedding a tear or two as well). I feel like while this book is very different than the 6 books before it, it does deliver a suspenseful ride and served as a brilliant way to wrap up the entire series. 

3. One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus--This was my least favorite read of the month. I ordered this book right after I finished One of Us is Lying (which I liked). This is the sequel to that book and is really similar about someone trolling the high school with cryptic texts and secret sharing. I love a good teen read or show (hello Pretty Little Liars, I'm looking at you), but this book just felt really juvenile to me. I can see how this would be a hit in the 15 year old crowds. Also, sidenote, this book made me terrified about the ways technology can be used to bully and manipulate. Thank goodness we have like 20 more years till Hank will want a phone, right??? (Oh Lord, be near in the teenage years). 

4. Stand All The Way Up by Sophie Hudson--I ADORE Sophie Hudson and I was so delighted by (or "tickled" as Sophie would say) this book that I DM'd Sophie and told her so. And she wrote back! I have read all of Sophie Hudson's books and this one might just be my favorite one so far. Sophie's writing reads like a hilarious memoir (think David Sedaris) meets gospel truths (think Beth Moore), as well as a splash of soulful Southern Grandma (like if Paula Deen wasn't racist). Stand All The Way Up deals with topics like Sophie's mom dying, her struggle with her health and weight loss, and one of my favorite chapters was the hilariousness of Sophie volunteering as a cook for a summer camp. Sophie will make you think, laugh, connect, and learn how to Stand All The Way Up and face tough stuff with a smile and grace. 

5. The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin----See this book pictured with a glass of rose and cup of pistachios? This was my view for 3 straight evenings where I read from about 10-midnight to finish this book. I LOVED this book. Emily Giffin has been one of my favorite authors for a long time. I've been on the library waitlist for this book (it is brand new) for about 4 months since I first heard it was coming out. This books takes place just before and just after 9/11 in New York City. That backdrop was fascinating because it felt like I was reading historical fiction (well, yeah, I guess it was), but I remember that day in my memory as well. The love story in this book was so well written and I found myself rooting for the main characters so wholeheartedly even though the leads were so deeply flawed. So what's the premise (I promise this isn't a spoiler): A heartsick woman , Cecily, falls hard and fast for a handsome stranger. Things move fast. Then 9/11 happens, he goes missing, and in her search to locate him in the chaotic aftermath, well, there's someone else desperately searching for him too. Nothing is as it seems. AHHHH.....it was so good. While a bit unbelieveable at times, suspend your logical side, and get lost in this suspenseful, sweet, romantic tale. I'd highly recommend it. Note: This book does not have good reviews on Goodreads. People felt that Giffin trivialized 9/11. I didn't think so at all. I will say none of the characters are completely likeable/worthy to root for BUT I still really enjoyed this book. So....keep that in mind, you wouldn't want to be friends with any of these people, but they sure are fun to read about. 

6. Here For It by R. Eric Thomas---This is a short book of essays by R. Eric Thomas, a humor and pop culture writer for Elle. Thomas is hilarious and his takes on life as a gay black man are poignant and relevent. However, even though I liked this book, I didn't love it. Between Sloane Crossley and David Sedaris, I have high standards for books of essays. There were definitely points where I laughed out loud and I would jump at the chance to chat with R. Eric over lattes and bagels. One of the most interesting parts of this book is how he encounters and celebrates fitting in a myiad of worlds: the Christian community. The Black Community. The gay community. The writing community. This bok is a window into R. Eric's mind and it was a fun place to explore. But? Like I said, good, not great. 

7. A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler----This book was excellent. I remembered this was a Book of the Month selection a while ago and I regretted not choosing it. AJ read this one before I did and he really liked it. I decided to proceed after his recommendation and I am so glad I did. If you are looking for a fiction book exploring racism and privilege in America, PICK THIS UP. The title refers to a community with older smaller homes eclipsed by the new building of McMansions. There's tension, naturally, and it relates to family dynamics, race, entitlement, the environment, policing, and justice. At the center of all the drama is a young interracial teen couple. This book is shocking and tragic. It sort of felt like if Desperate Housewives was deeper and spoke to ignorance and greed in suburbia. This was one of the best books I've read this season. 

8. The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton--Remember Sophie Hudson from book #4? She recommended this book on the Amazon shop for her podcast. Here's the deal with this book-- Will it end up on my favorites list? No. Will I recommend it to friends? No. Is this one I'll remember? No. But....Was it entertaining? Yep. Cute? Yep. Did it have Hallmark movie vibes? Oh yes it did. Sara is a small business owner who lives in New Orleans, but is called back to her hometown on the Alabama coast after the sudden death of her grandmother....who happens to own a cute and quirky little Inn. Yep, you guessed it. Sara inherits the Inn, befriends the local small town characters, learns secrets about her grandmother's early life, and surprise! Falls in love. See? Hallmark is written all over this thing. This was a quick, cute read. Nothing more, but not a regretable way to spend a few hundred pages. 

9. Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman--AJ and I binged watched this Netflix series in 2 evenings. Right when the show ended, I ordered this book. I never ever say this, but: the show was better. This is the true story of Deborah Feldman who grows up in a very strict Hasidic Jewish home in Brooklyn. She enters into an arranged marriage at 19, and slowly realizes this is not the life she wants for herself. The book is about her opression in the community, her awakening, and her eventual rebuilding of her life on her own terms. I didn't know much about the Hasidic Jewish community and found it to be very interesting. Deborah Feldman is truly brave (to envision a better life for herself and then to share about it so publically). BUT....the show is so much better! In the show, the main character, Esty, runs away to Germany to escape and find her mother. She makes friends. Loves her body. Falls in love with music. And then her husband and her sketchy cousin arrive in Germany to find her and bring her back. So suspenseful, right?? The book really only covers her time in the community and wraps up with her leaving. It's all super sad and fascinating at the same time. But if given the choice? Settle in with the show (it's 4 one hour episodes).  

That's a wrap on July reading! Clearly books are both a hobby and form of self care/coping for me during this wacky and wild summer. Thank goodness for page turners, right?

Savor Your Sparkle,

Here are my 2020 Books so far 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 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Home & Family

Hi Friends! 
   I titled this post "Home & Family" because those two words are basically our life in a nutshell recently! (So essentially this is a Life Lately post just gussied up with a different name).

 Before I share some recent pictures, I just have to share, guys. I am having anxiety about this school year and the state of the world. Even when outcomes can be difficult to hear, sometimes that not knowing space can be the hardest. I wish there was a simple response, a clear answer. But we (teachers, parents, the community) need to have faith and trust that we want the very best for our children.
Photo from Happy Teacher Revolution

One of my favorite parts of my job is that now, 12 years in, I know how to begin the school year. I know what to label, what to copy, what to prep, what to teach first and for the better part of a decade, I've gone into the building in August and simply done it. This year, though, I'm like shrug emoji/big eye emoji and I suppose I need to be "flexible," "adaptable," and "have a growth mindset." All things I teach my students but that I, the teacher, struggle with. My how the tables have turned. I know this, though: When this all passes (and it will, right? Right? RIGHT?), I will never again take for granted a "normal" start to the school year. I don't know about you but I take so much for granted. The truth is, I'm not about to make this global pandemic about me and my classroom. I guess all that to say---Keep trying, boo, we're all new to this current reality. And here's a pretty picture from my walk today because #zen. 

Let's start with FAMILY---Last week AJ's parents came to visit. They hadn't seen Hank since February and they couldn't believe how much bigger (and chattier) he got! We had fun walking the gardens at Thanksgiving Point, visiting the Farmers Market, going for walks, relaxing, BBQ'ing on the 4th etc. AJ and I relished that for the first time in a LONG time, we were able to have a little date night. Earlier this month, we celebrated my dad's birthday in the driveway. These are weird times but it's nice to see one another. 

Hank was thrilled to roll down this hill (it turned into crawling, no matter, he loved it!) 

Hank's face in this SLAYS me! 

Everytime I take a photo with a sunbeam I know it's Hadley saying, "I'm here too!" 

Now, HOME----AJ's dad is super handy (he's made us so many wood pieces, including our dining table!) so he helped out a ton when he was here last week. He and AJ installed cabinets in our laundry room, painted an accent wall in our bedroom, put up a shelf in the garage, and other things! The work is beginning on our fence too! Woohoo! 
I love decorating this little side table in our entry way. 

HobLob has fall out (and some Christmas TBH) and I nearly cried when I saw it 

I have a different "o" for my home sign each month and my MIL brought me lots more options to add to my collection. So fun! 

This color is "Rain" by Sherwin Williams and I just love how it turned out! Our old house had a blue wall behind the bed and I just loved it, so I wanted to recreate it here. I think blue is so soothing in a bedroom. 

In other news, Hank trying out his new bike, my hubby being obsessed with his new smoker (send me your fave Traeger recipes!)  and HAMILTON have brought me immeasurable joy lately. Much like Alexander himself, my little Hank is "Non-stop" and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

If you have not seen this masterpiece, reconsider your life choices, get Disney Plus, watch it, then message me. Deal? 

Savor Your Sparkle,