Thursday, August 27, 2020

August Reads

 It's my last month of 2020 summer reading! I know that once school begins, my reading takes a major hit. Boohoo! I read some great ones this month....all over the board in terms of genre! 

My TBR stack is getting big. Is there anything better than closing the page on a great book and having another one ready to roll?! 

1. The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine: As you know, Liv Constantine's book, The Last Mrs. Parrish was one of my very favorite books of 2018. A sister duo writes under this pseudonym and they are masters at writing twisty thrillers. This book was great! It's about a woman who gets blind-sided when her husband leaves her for a younger woman who appears to want to become her and take over her life. NOTHING is as it seems and the end had me gasping! This is Lifetime movie-ish and I am here for that! 

2. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: This is a must read book!! This book follows a young African American couple just beginning to launch into successful careers when tragedy strikes: the young man is accused of a brutal rape that he did not commit. What follows are a series of letters between the couple as they navigate this horrific reality and their new marriage is tested. Later, the husband is released but the world he left behind before prison is no longer what it once was. This is a beautiful, tragic, deep book that explores marriage, race, class, love, friendship, poverty, and policing. I devoured this book in just a few days. It is excellent. 

3. Open Book by Jessica Simpson: I have been on the library wait list for this since February! As someone who grew up in the Britney/Christina/Jessica/Mandy/98 degrees/BSB/N SYNC generation, I found this book fascinating. Jessica is SO open, vulnerable, and honest in this book. I had no idea about her struggles with addiction, her tense relationship with her dad, and how her life has been since leaving the teen pop spotlight. I even wrote down one of her quotes that I liked: "Pain is where all the tools are." She writes about how through challenging experiences, Jessica learned how to come out stronger and with better coping and life skills (Can I get an amen?!). Also: I kind of always thought John Mayer might be a tool. Status: Confirmed. (Even if I love his music) This is a great autobiography if you were a 00's teeny bopper lik me.  

4. That's My Son by Rick Johnson: The tagline for this book is, "How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Men of Character." This book was just ok for me. I loved some of the practical lessons like positive disciplining, using biblical principles to teach lessons etc. This book seems more geared toward single moms as it emphasizes the need to find a positive male role model for your son and the unique perspectives a woman can provide for her developing son. However some of the (I believe to be unintended) sexism was not appreciated. The book seems to imply that moms can live vicariously through their sons. I can't wait to watch my son achieve his dreams....but that doesn't mean I can't achieve mine. There was also a slight "boys will be boys" section that I found problematic. There is no doubt men and women are different and have differing strengths and weaknesses, but newsflash: Men. Can. Control. Themselves. To think otherwise is offensive to both genders. Ahem, steps off soapbox. I was not anticipating this reaction to a sweet Christian book about parenting! 

5. Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner: Jennifer Weiner, popular chick lit author, shares her autobiography by diving into writing, feminism, motherhood, weight loss, dysfunctional family relationships, love, and modern life. There were a few sections I really enjoyed, particularly about Weiner's struggles to earn respect for her work in the "women's fiction" category. However, this book dragged on for me. Is it fair to say there wasn't enough "meat" here for a long autobiography? Yes, Weiner has led a very interesting life (her mother came out as a lesbian when Jennifer was an adult, she found love a second time later in life, she writes frankly about miscarriage and motherhood etc.) but this book was just sort of blah to me. I think the fact that there are a handful of essays and articles that Weiner has previously published peppered throughout proves there's not quite enough here for a whole book. 

6. The Night Swim by Megan Goldin: This book was the perfect book to round out my summer! I chose this as my August Book of the Month. This is about a host of a popular true crime podcast (already interested!) who relocates to a small coastal town to research a recent crime. Once there, she is stalked and pressured to solve an older crime. This one has shifting view points and definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. There's graphic descriptions of rape and violence, so be prepared for that. If you like Dateline, you will love this book. I love a small town with dark secrets!

That's a wrap on my August reads!
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 
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 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Mediterranean Bowls

 I am so excited to share this recipe/concept with you today! I am always on the hunt for super easy prep ahead meals and these Mediterranean Bowls did not disappoint! The best part about these is that they are so versatile. I made a vegetarian version this week but how good would these be with This slow cooker Greek beef?!

I got the inspiration for this recipe from a few different places----

Pinch of Yum Quinoa Bowls

Beauty Bites Mediterranean Bowls

Delish Greek Power Bowls

Are you ready for the recipe???

1. Make quinoa (or rice!), put in bowl

2. Top as desired

3. Enjoy! 

Really, though, just add whatever you like!

Here are some topping ideas. I put stars by the ones we used. 

*black olives
kalamata olives
Tzatiki sauce
*sun dried tomatoes
cherry tomatoes
*diced cucumber
*baby spinach
red onion 
pita chips
*roasted red peppers
olive oil drizzle 
Greek yogurt (with some lemon juice mixed in, yummmm) 

For our version, I made a version of the roasted red pepper sauce from Pinch of Yum. It could not be easier--I just put a 16 oz. jar of roasted red peppers, the juice from a lemon, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup olive oil (I used a few dashes of TJ's roasted garlic olive oil too), and some garlic and put it in a blender till smooth. SO good!

There you have it! Mediterranean Bowls! I did all the chopping and  made the red sauce and the quinoa on Sunday. These only took 5 minutes to get on the table on Monday evening.


Savor Your Sparkle,


Saturday, August 15, 2020

This & That

 Guys. It's been a minute (like a lot of weeks) since I've blogged! Why? It's Back to School, baby! I've stewed all summer about school starting. I have thoughts, lots of 'em, but I'll keep them to myself on this blog. I will say, it's nice being back with colleagues and back in my classroom happy place. This year will be different. There is zero doubt about that. I've really missed teaching, though. And I've said this over and over: I will never take a "normal" back to school experience for granted ever again. 

Oh, and pro tip: I follow a social media account, Love, Teach and she recommended putting a drop or two of essential oil in your mask and it's delightful. A friend sent me a "pumpkin patch" oil and my mask now smells like a crisp fall morning, a dash of cinnamon, and a PSL and it makes wearing a mask for 8 hours a day semi-tolerable. Anyway, Hank is back to childcare 3 days a week and he has Grandma and Grandpa days 2 days a week. It's been an adjustment for all of us having been all together chilling for 3 months. Pandemic life is weird. Especially for those of us who have young children and work with young children.  

Love a teacher out there! I've gotten a few care packages (including these awesome disinfecting wipes and mask set) and notes of well wishes from friends and family as we jump into "Pandemic School"  and it means SO much to me and warms my heart. 

First Day of school excitement!! 

Hank loves long walks! 

Some exciting things in the midst of returning back to real life: We got a new car and our yard is complete! So the lease on our current car was up this fall and we decided we wanted to turn it in and switch to a purchase. AJ and I spent the morning at the dealership last week and while we intended to purchase the car we currently have, it ended up being the same cost to purchase a year newer one. Done and done!  

Our yard has been a step by step process. To the left it what it looked like before we moved in and below is what it looks like now (from the same vantage point!).  We expanded our patio in March (a week before the world closed!) and then our neighbor behind us finished their retaining wall in June, then our fence was put in during July. The last step was sprinklers, sod, and landscaping. Finally on Thursday we came home from work to find it finished! Woohoo! I am thrilled to have all major house projects done for 2020! I am so thankful we found our home and moved this year. It's been so great for us. 

I was going to save this find for a "What I'm Loving Lately" post but decided to share it now instead! My parents bought Hank this cute giant cloth coloring mat from The Modern Cloth Co. You need to use washable Crayolas on it but when you're done, just pop it in the washing machine and it's all clean again. Hank loves this cute ocean scene. 

I really miss my 2 guys during the week after spending so much time with them for the past 5 months!. Luckily, waking up early, packing lunches (3 a day! Lord help me), actually doing my makeup (!), and returning to my classroom again sort of feels normal in a world that feels anything but! Keeping this quote in mind as we dive into the unknown....

Have a great week ahead! 
Savor Your Sparkle,