2017 Reading Challenge…Complete!

Last January, I started a reading challenge on Goodreads to fulfill #100 on my 101 in 1001 list. I can officially say that I have completed it and then some!  My goal was to read 40 books this year and I have already read 50 with three months to go! It has been a while since I have posted my latest reads but there have been some good ones!

Some of these were extremely heavy books. Evicted by Matthew Desmond, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, and The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner all non-fiction books that tackled the tough topics of race and poverty.  All three are important books.

Obviously, it being summer I added a bunch of “summer reads” from some of my favorite authors that were just quick, fun reads.  I can almost always count on Lisa Scottline and John Grisham to give me exactly what I am looking for.  Another really great read that I devoured this past weekend was The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.  I will be looking for more books by her, for sure.

My other two favorites from this collection were Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I have read a lot of WWII historical fiction and just when I think I can’t read anything new about the Holocaust, I am surprised. Lilac Girls did just that.  And Brown Girl Dreaming; an incredible memoir written in poetry. I loved Jacqueline Woodson before and I love her even more after reading this book.

I expect my reading to slow down at this point, but I have a few books on my to-read stack that I plan on getting to before the year is done!




The Secret of Change is to Focus all of your Energy, not on Fighting the old, but on building the new. ~Socrates

During the summer I had an unexpected opportunity. I was on vacation in Idaho when I heard from the Executive Director of the A.C. Gilbert House here in Salem. For those of you not local, the A.C. Gilbert House is a children’s museum in a collection beautiful old houses down by the riverfront park. We have spent many hours there since Taelin was old enough to walk.
Last year, I did some contract work for them redesigning their field trip offerings. Little did I know that a small contract job would turn into something new and exciting. Starting this month, I am the Education Coordinator for the Gilbert House and will be working there three days a week while Taelin’s in school.
There’s a lot more I could write about this new adventure but if I’m honest the weeks before starting this job were occupied with great hesitation. August was kind of one long Sunday, with lots of worry and wondering about what in the world I was thinking. And since I’ve started and now in my third week we are just trying to get into a new routine.
Monday-Wednesday I will be at the Gilbert House between dropping Taelin off and picking her up from school. Thursday and Friday I am teaching at Taelin’s school. Tuesday and Thursday evenings I’m working at Taelin’s dance studio. I signed a contract with a blog to write four blogs posts a month, although I haven’t heard many details about this yet which I am increasingly okay with.
Oh, and my house will still probably need to be cleaned, laundry done and meals made. (Unless I could talk everyone in my house to eat cereal for dinner half the time.)
It feels big. Like really big. And overwhelming if I get too ahead of myself. Which I do all the time.
I don’t know what is going to happen with this space. I love writing so much. I feel so much more grounded when I write on a regular basis. I wish I had a grand plan for how I am going to make this all happen. But I don’t.
I’m going to try and be better about asking for help. There is never been a time I’ve ever asked for help that Joe hasn’t answered “yes” every time. I’m going to try and menu plan a lot more purposefully to make the evenings I work easier. I’m going to try and be present where I am, when I am there and leave things in the space when I leave.
I need to remember to build the new and not fight the old.  Fingers crossed.

The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook by Coco Morante

I was SO excited when I saw this book on the Blogging for Books list!  I have been using my Instant Pot quite a bit lately but I am always looking for recipes that I can try and possibly add to our favorites.

This cookbook has a lot of recipes but I found something about myself. I don’t like multi-step recipes for the Instant Pot. The whole reason I have an Instant Pot is so that I can put ingredients in the pot, set it, walk away to do something else before I need to serve dinner and then eat. Many of the recipes in the book have multiple steps where you would have to come back to the pot several times. Too much work for what I am looking for.

There are a couple of recipes I am very excited to try.  I would say though that the favorite parts of the cookbook, weren’t the recipes but the other information. There is a whole section at the beginning of the book that shared the different tools that are helpful.  For instance, I learned how to steam things using the Instant Pot.  I had no idea that I could use my steamer in there…now maybe it will be used for something other than a hat!

At the end of the book, there were several REALLY helpful charts about cooking times. Honestly, one of the biggest things I have been trying to do is convert the recipes I love but take a long time to bake. With the charts this book has, it made it much clearer how I can figure out cooking times.

I would rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.

The Heirs by Susan Rieger

I have started being pickier about the books that I am reading for Blogging for Books after a couple of books that I didn’t enjoy very much…and boy am I glad I did.  I waited for awhile to find a fiction book that sounded really good and The Heirs was a great pick.

The story centers around Rupert Falkes, a father and husband who has died, leaving behind a widow and five sons.  There is an inheritance that has been counted on by several of the sons and the whole thing gets thrown into disarray when another women comes forward claiming she has two sons fathered by Rupert. The story unravels from there, revealing little by little that Rupert Falkes isn’t necessarily the man his family thought he was.

There were some very unlikable characters in this book. The idea of somebody being owed an inheritance is foreign to me so the shallow behavior brought about because of the entitlement some of the characters felt was a turnoff. I don’t know if that was the author’s intent or not, but the characters were all so well-developed it was hard to not have an opinion about it!

I gave this books 3 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.

How many more times can you see Beauty and the Beast? One more.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a well-known professional theatre located in Ashland. We have never been and so when I was working on my 101 in 1001 list, #32 was to go the festival. Last week, Taelin and I took a little overnight trip to Ashland and saw one of the plays at the festival this year, Beauty and the Beast.

Why Beauty and the Beast? Well, Taelin’s voice teacher has worked at the festival before and this year he is one of the musicians for Beauty and the Beast. I was thankful that he was able to get us discounted tickets (because they are not cheap) and we made a little girl’s trip out of it.

After meeting for lunch and getting our tickets, Taelin and I went to the local independent bookstore Bloomsbury Books. It was an amazing little bookstore and since we were there….

We spent a good hour there and left with some books that we just couldn’t resist. I would like to say for the record that this pile could have been a lot larger.  I was reserved in my purchase.

After we left the bookstore, we went to check into our hotel and after a mandatory nap, Taelin went swimming and I read poolside. Talk about it officially feeling like summer!

After some downtime, we got ready for the show. They gave ample warning that it could get chilly since the show doesn’t start until 8:00 and the theatre is outdoors, so we made sure to dress in layers and we even took a blanket with us. I had no idea when the doors opened but Taelin was so excited we got there VERY early.  So early we had no trouble finding parking or being able to snap a picture in front of the outdoor theatre.

(As an aside, you may have noticed the boots making many appearances in photos. I got them a few weeks before the end of school for $3. She seriously wears them everywhere.)

The doors were finally opened and we found our seats. I was impressed with how roomy the seats were, both for behinds and for legs. Because we were outdoors, we were able to have drinks and snacks, which was nice. We both had pretzels and bottled water but there were a lot of different options. As we were waiting, Taelin’s voice teacher waved to us and Taelin was giddy! She knew someone on the stage!

The show started on time and, from the first moment, grabbed our attention and didn’t let go. It was the Disney version, so the story was familiar but there were many added songs and a few twists that were unexpected. All in all, it was a great experience and I know it will not be our last visit to Ashland. In fact, I am trying to figure out how I can squeeze a show in when we go on our road trip in August.

Not that I am an expert, obviously, but I would highly recommend The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. If you are wondering what else is playing right now, you can visit their website here!

This Month I Read…June 2017

This month was another great reading month! Three of the books I read this month were written by authors I have read (and loved) before. The other three were brand new to me. Here’s what I thought of them all…

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins was a mystery/thriller that was full of twists and turn. If you are afraid of drowning, you should not read this book. The story centers around a woman that is found dead at the bottom of a river. Hers is not the first death connected to the river that runs through the town and as the story unfolds, you find out just how connected the other deaths are. I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

White Fur by Jardine Libaire was a book that I received from Blogging for Books. You can see my review of it here!

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson was an absolutely beautiful book. I have been a fan of Woodson’s writing for many years; my first introduction being a children’s book. This story starts with August returning to Brooklyn after many years of being away and running into an old friend on the train. The encounter sparks the memories of four girls growing up together in the 1970’s. This is a coming of age story that should not be missed. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh was another favorite of mine this month. One of my top five favorite books was written by Diffenbaugh so when I saw this book, I grabbed it immediately. I didn’t love it as much as her first novel but I still loved it. Letty is a teenage mother that, for years, depended on her mom and dad for support to raise her children. Her world changes when her parents decide to return to Mexico and she has to step up. Letty and her two children, Alex and Luna, are hard not to fall in love with in this story. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Language Arts by Stephanie Kallos was a book that I bought on Independent Bookstore Day and really wanted to love. Charles Marlow is the main character that the story follows both in present day and in flashbacks to his childhood. Charles is a high school language arts teacher at a pivotal point in his life and we watch as he tries to find a path for himself. The story was a bit tedious at times and I didn’t love it all that much. My friends agreed. I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Behind My Eyes by Li-Young Lee was a short poetry book I found at the library. I chose it for no particular reason other than I liked the title. It is not hard to see that Lee’s own story inspires his poetry. Of the four sections in this book, I enjoyed the poems in the third section the most. I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Have you read anything lately that I need to add to my to-read list?  Let me know in the comments!

Project 52: Week 26-morning

Week 26 and we are exactly half way through the Project 52 photo challenge. I will be the first to admit that I haven’t done so well with this challenge. I got behind and haven’t caught up all the way but I am trying! If you have subscribed the blog (and if you haven’t yet, you should) you have probably noticed that I have been post-dating some of the weeks I missed.

But, I am not behind this week.

There is a story to this picture. Sometime in the middle of the night, before this picture was taken, I left my comfortable bed because it had been taken over by a 75 lb dog and a 52 lb kid. I had been trying to get back to sleep for awhile when I final realized that it was going to happen and I moved myself to the couch. After I woke up, I grabbed the book I was reading and read for awhile. Eventually the aforementioned dog and child came out looking for food. I took care of that and then heading back to the couch and my book. Just before I sat down I thought, “I should take a picture of the sun coming through the trees for my word this week!”

It was a good idea but there was a problem. I was still in my pj’s and it wouldn’t be polite for me to go outside and take a picture in my pj’s. So I grabbed my phone, lined things up a little bit, snapped the picture and settled in and read for another hour.

What a great morning that was.

White Fur by Jardine Libaire

White Fur by Jardine Libaire is a book unlike anything I have read in awhile. It grabs you right at the beginning and then has you racing through to figure out what in the hell was going on at the beginning.

Jamey Hyde is a Yale student and heir to a family fortune. Elise Perez didn’t graduate high school and grew up in the projects. They meet, fall in lust (often) and change each other’s lives in ways that neither of them could have ever suspected. Jamey’s family, of course, doesn’t approve of Elise and Jamey reacts accordingly.

This book is set in the ’80 and I get the feeling that the New York 80’s party vibe was supposed to come screaming through. What came through seemed to be very much what I have read in other books and have seen in movies, all the say, I have no idea if it’s at all accurate.

While I am no Mother Theresa, there was a lot of abrupt sex scenes in this book and there was excessive cursing. I got used to it about a third of the way into the book but it took me awhile before it stopped shocking me.

Overall, I liked the story. I read it in a couple of days, some of it poolside, so I think it could be considered a quick summer read. At least that’s what it was for me! I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.

Beach time!

After the craziness of the end of the school year and the dance recital (which involved people staying at the house), I was so grateful that I had booked two nights for us to go to the beach. On Father’s Day, we packed what we needed and headed an hour west to Neskowin. Neskowin is home to one of my favorite beaches but we haven’t ever stayed overnight because it is so close to home.

Not long after we got to the beach house, Joe and Taelin changed into their swimsuits and were down on the sand.

Those are my people. I love them. A lot.

My mom and dad, who still live in Montana, were visiting and my sister and her husband came down from Seattle for the weekend. My sister had to head back to Seattle that night so we made it easy on ourselves when deciding on dinner. We started a fire on the beach and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. Not your typical Father’s Day dinner but it worked.

You can see we brought the dog for her first trip to the beach and I think you could say she loved it. Actually, what she loved most was chasing seagulls. We have never seen her run so fast or listen so poorly. The girl actually got herself in a bit of trouble when she went barreling into the ocean towards a rocky edge that had seagulls sitting on it. We are lucky she was able to get herself out of trouble and back on land.  She was exhausted afterwards.

I taught Taelin the art of reading at the beach and I would have gotten a picture of that but I wanted to be a good model for her and keep reading myself. It’s my responsibility.

It was also my responsibility to make sure there was enough food to eat while at the beach and I decided that one way to make that happen was to buy a giant Costco cake and take it with us. It was a good call as you can see my sister and daughter looking pretty comfy and cool…with their chocolate cake.

When you look at this picture it almost looks like there is sun shining and I guess there must have been but for the most part it was pretty cloudy/foggy. But, we still had an amazing time and I can’t wait to spend more time at the beach!