Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Back to School Washi Works

I needed some small centerpieces for a back-to-school event and am very pleased with how they turned out.

The vase is from Dollar Tree.  The tape is the Scotch decorative masking tape (not actually washi, but same idea).  The royal blue and white one (our school colors) was already in my stash, but I purchased the school-themed tapes at Office Depot/Max.  As I always do, I purchased the market bunches of flowers at Jewel.  They didn't have the best offerings that day, but I still think the centerpieces turned out great.

Best news?  It took only minutes to wrap the tape around the vases and to cut and arrange the flowers.  For ten centerpieces, I spent $10 on vases, $25 or so on flowers, and maybe $10 on tape (with plenty leftover).

I used to wash out and save sauce jars for floral projects, but I may hold back on the hoarding in favor of these $1 vases.  I have a large collection of washi tape and can think of all kinds of cool combos for wrapping a vase.

It's very satisfying to be able to see a project to cute completion without a lot of turmoil or expense.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Late Summer Snackshots

So there's a lot going on here and the color scheme and pattern of the packaging sort of suggest pet food, but this popcorn is delicious, addictive even.  It's not a low calorie treat.  You'll need a water or DC on hand because it's rich.  I polished off two bags and am now on a self-imposed break.  Available at Sam's Club.
PSA:  No!  Took one bite, took one photo, and then threw the bag away.  Shame on me for thinking mango, coconut, and caramel could create something harmonious.  Last time I saw it at Sam's, it was marked down to $1.98 for a giant bag. 

Click the Snackshots label below this post if you're interested in previous snackshots.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- July and August 2017

I ignored this writing space most of the summer so I have a lot of catching up to do.

Quick recape for my tens of readers:  I treasure the monthly ritual of choosing two audiobooks worthy of my credits.
I was very pleased with July's credit redemptions.  Both books had been on my radar, and I enjoyed both even more than I thought I would.  Michael Frank's The Mighty Franks invited me into a family very different from my own.  Families are complicated.  Love is complicated.  I admired Frank's ability to capture the complication and the love.  To paraphrase and revise:  they'll mess you up, your aunt and uncle.

Katherine Heiny's Standard Deviation was a gem.  Marriage is complicated.  Love is complicated.  Parenting is complicated.  They're all worth it though.  Heiny gets all the little details right -- a lot of yes, yes, yes-ing as I read.  I also liked how she managed to be smartly funny without being snarky.

The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton was a book I had been looking forward to all summer.  Despite a promising premise, this book was just not what I wanted it to be.  The writing is good, the characters interesting, but it wasn't for me.  The missing ingredient may have been hope.

Tom Perrotta's smart and witty books have offered me many hours of listening pleasure and Mrs. Fletcher was no exception.  I was a tad overwhelmed by the sex, porn, and MILF aspects of the book early on (as was my best friend who was also listening and texted "I am listening to Mrs. Fletcher.  Wow") but then I figured out what he was trying to do and thought he did it well.  I'd love to discuss Mrs. Fletcher and/or to eavesdrop on book club conversations about it!  

Want to know how I spent my September Audible credits?  Want to know why I am longer biting on the Audible Deal of the Days?  Want to know how audiobook listening is going without my lil green ipod?  Visit again as future posts will provide answers.

Monday, September 18, 2017

LFL Sighting -- Wilmette

On Labor Day, we enjoyed lunch and some beach time in Wilmette with family.  As we walked toward the beach, I spied a Little Free Library across the street.  We routed past the LFL on our return and I grabbed some pics.
I love the tiered roof and the Alice in Wonderland theme of this LFL.  I really appreciate the clarity of the instructions on top:  Take A Book  ~  Keep It  ~  Share It.  Often the LFLs instruct to "Take a Book.  Leave a Book."  I imagine that the take one/leave one phrase is intended to let you know that donations are welcome more than it is an admonishment, but I always think, "But wait, would it be okay if I took a book if I didn't have one to leave?"  So, I prefer the invitation on this Wilmette LFL, which seems to me like, "You can take a book.  Read and enjoy it.  Keep it if you want or share it with someone else."  If I ever realize my goal of installing an LFL, I'd like to send out that vibe.

And, let's say I was in need of reading material while in Wilmette on Labor Day ... what would I choose from this LFL?  I was heavily involved in the editing of a sibling's essay on Judith Guest's Ordinary People but never have read it beyond scanning for textual evidence for that essay.  There's a copy of P&P, but I own several already.  I smiled when I noticed that in addition to P&P, this library also had Curtis Sittenfeld's Eligible on offer.  I should have moved the two next to each other.  I'm thinking I'd go with S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders.  I loved that book hard in seventh grade and maybe I could "keep it" and "share it" with my sixth grader.  

Despite the kind invitation, I didn't take a book, at least not one from this LFL.  My uncle did send me home with a copy of Peter Davis's Hometown -- a book about the year the journalist spent in Hamilton, Ohio, which happens to be the hometown of my mom and uncle.  I grew up in the town right next to Hamilton but my high school and many childhood activities took place in Hamilton so it has plenty of claims on me.  Hometown is an older book and one I think I might appreciate at this stage in my life and at this distance (five hours away in Chicagoland).  With Hillbilly Elegy and Middleton, Ohio (not too far or too dissimilar from Hamilton) getting so much (well-deserved) attention this past year,  I'm eager to read Hometown.

I just had to include this photo of the beach.  Three of the five kids on the outing braved the frigid waters of Lake Michigan.  I'm at the point where my children are good swimmers and I don't need to hover at the beach but not at the point where I take that freedom for granted.  It wasn't a gorgeous day, drizzled for a bit and almost no sun, but I enjoyed sitting in a chair on the (shrinking) beach and chatting with my uncle and cousin.  Nice farewell to summer.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- May & June 2017

Two months and four credits.  I've listened to them all by now.  Very brief reviews to come.
Graeme Simpsion's The Best of Adam Sharpe Graeme Simpsion wrote The Rosie Project, which I quite enjoyed, and its sequel, The Rosie Effect, which felt like a novel-length episode of Three's Company-esque mix-ups but with more interesting, likable characters.  As for The Best of Adam Sharpe?  I didn't hate it and in fact enjoyed a lot of the musical references and laughed a few times.  However, I felt like I was reading the fantasies of a middle-aged man, especially when the story moves to France.  Unless that's your demographic, don't rush.

Gail Honeyman's Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine:  This novel is VERY FINE.  More layers than I anticipated.  Humorous but also hefty, it's an excavation and transformation story.  I want a sequel and highly recommend the audio version unless you hate Scottish accents.  Which, who could?  The Sunday of my college reunion weekend, one of my friends was facing a long drive home.  I told her to download this audiobook for company.  She texted me a few days later:  "Just finished Eleanor Oliphant.  Crying while I clean my bathroom.  I already miss that Scottish weirdo!"  Don't skip this one!

Kevin Kwan's Rich People Problems I've listened to all three books in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy.  They are fun even though the wealth/spending of many characters is staggering/disgusting.  Talk about a glimpse into a whole other world.  There are a lot of characters to keep track of and my cousin mentioned in her Goodreads review that it would have been nice to have a family tree to use a a refresher before jumping into the third book.  I agree.  Good news for new Kevin Kwan readers?  You can start now and keep going.  You won't have to wait between each book as I did.

Elin Hilderbrand's The Identicals Listening to Elin Hilderbrand's newest books is a summer tradition for me.  This year's did not disappoint -- probably my favorite of the past few years' offerings.  The Identicals tells the story of twin sisters and their sister islands.  It was fun to visit Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard in one book and I'm a sucker for a sister story.  Some good mother-daughter stuff in this novel too.

Come July 12th, I'll have two new credits to spend.  I'll keep you informed. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017


Often when I am tired, I remain on the couch and mindlessly scroll through Facebook.  Or, I get in bed and scroll through my three (count 'em) instagram feeds.  Maybe I'll check Goodreads one more time.  I used to try to catch up on my Twitter feed as well, but I got logged out and haven't felt like playing the login/password guessing game to log back in. 

What I should be doing at that point in an evening is going to bed.  I know it.  I know I'm tired, but I think I'm looking at my screens for one last something to finish or fill out my day.  Something to make me laugh?  Something to get annoyed about?  Something to make me feel less than?  Something to make me feel superior?  I don't even know.  What I do know is something I need to write on a post-it and leave on my screen/s:  What you're looking for is not here. 

It's not there.  So why peek at my phone when I'm out to lunch with my kids?  Why waste twenty minutes of reading or resting time checking Facebook?  Why not figure out how I really want to fill my days?

There's obviously much more to say about the way technology removes us from tangibility and connection, but I don't have the juice to say much more this evening.  Crafting a blog post is more satisfying than checking Facebook though. 

All of this is just to give you some context for my love for Courtney Maum's new novel Touch.  A trend forecaster is hired by a tech company and realizes that the trends she sees and her own desires prioritize touch over tech.  I loved how hopeful Touch was and really love Maum's writing.

Here's a gem of an insight.  Sloane Jacobsen, the novel's trend forecaster and protagonist, is checking in with her team of "snouts" all around the world to see what trends they are sniffing.  Here's her conversation with Rufus in New Delhi:

       "Okay, so it's a Pointless button.  It started as an app, and the app failed, but a guy here resurrected it.  You just poke and poke and poke at your phone, and eventually, after an unpredictable number of attempts, something completely random will emerge.  An image.  A sound.  A photo of a camel."
       "Discovery," Sloane said.  "Hope."
       "Well, yeah, exactly," said Rufus, who sounded like he was drinking something.  It was the middle of the night in New Delhi, the doughy part of the evening where your actual thoughts were weirder than your dreams.  Rufus was a programmer who slept during the day.
       "I mean, it replicates what we're all hoping, which is that something great and beautiful is going to come out of our phones" (231-32).

Something great and beautiful is ultimately going to come out of something other than our phones and screens.  Post-it:  What you're looking for is not here.

Read Touch with your book club.  Then, on your own, treat yourself to Maum's earlier (and also excellent) novel, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Snackshots -- June 2017

I first enjoyed these Coconut Bites at my parents' house.  Yum, I thought, but I wasn't obsessively thinking, "I must have my own bag in my own snack bin in my own house."

Then I spied them at Sam's Club last week and went ahead and secured my own bag for my own snack bin in my own house.

And just in case you think the my own thing is kind of repetitive, you should know that a) there is a bin in the pantry that exclusively houses my snacks & b) no one in my house ate a single Coconut Bite except for me. 

I ate every single bite, crumble, scrap, and loose seed on my own.  Here's what the Coconut Bites have going for them:  deliciousness, texture, the perfect amount of sweetness, the illusion of healthiness, and lots of coconut (I adore it, but I understand some cannot abide it).  Alas, the bites are also 150 calories for a half cup serving.  Eeks!  I didn't eat these as mindfully as I could have and definitely exceeded portion size.  They never made me feel gross or bloated, but I don't think I'll invite them back into my snack bin, tasty though they were.  If I were the sort of person who could just sprinkle a bit atop some 0% Greek yogurt, we might have a story here.  I'm not that sort though so I'll have to look back fondly on that one week that one June when I really enjoyed those Coconut Bites.

And that's my Snackshot for June 2017.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

End of An Era: No More Lil Green iPods

The era of the Lil Green iPod has ended.

In 2003 (or maybe 2004), I received my first (sort of Lil) Green iPod.  This iPod was my companion as I explored our new Chicago neighborhood, Lakeview/Southport Corridor, and a technological gem that allowed me to finally listen to audiobooks without a walkman or discman (and the ziploc baggie that held extra batteries and/or the next cassette or CD in the book).  I was in grad school at the time and so thankful for audiobooks for giving me an easy way to squeeze in books from outside the academic realm.  Some favorite listens from this iPod:  The Time Traveler's Wife, The Blind Assasin and I Am Charlotte Simmons.

I can't recall the demise of the first green iPod, but I know I received a second.  Significantly smaller than the first, Lil Green iPod #2 was my companion as I pushed my babies and toddlers around Lakeview.  I did a lot of walking as I tried to get my oldest to fall asleep already before I lose my mind and I couldn't have kept going without my audiobooks.  Some favorites from this iPod:  Lonesome Dove, Free Food for Millionaires, and Olive Kitteridge.

Lil Green iPod #3 was a gift for Christmas 2012.  I know that because it is engraved on the back.  This iPod lived its life in Chicago's Western Suburbs and was my companion for five years of household chores.  LGI #3 helped me enjoy many an Audible Deal of the Day.  I've mentioned before that discounted audiobooks have often pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and give something new or different (to me) a try.  I was rewarded with great listens many times over on LGI #3.  Some favorite listens from this iPod:  Commonwealth, Cuckoo's Calling, Miss Buncle's Book (which opened the door to many D.E. Stevenson audiobooks), Ready Player One, and The Royal We.  I could go on and on with favorites from this LGI.  More available audiobooks and more access to reviews from Goodreads, social media, etc. made it easier to find winning listens for LGI #3.

I am thankful for all of my Lil Green iPods and all the stories they allowed me to experience while walking, washing dishes, doing laundry, and driving.  I wish I had photos of all three iPods but alas, there are just these two pics of LGI #3 (both books featured, by the way, were Audible Deal of the Days and both were excellent). 

LGI #3 still works with audiobooks owned since 2003, but the newest audiobooks downloaded from would not play as of a month ago.  I spent some frustrating time trying to troubleshoot with the folks at Audible and online tutorials, but ultimately, I threw in the towel and kissed it goodbye.

We're now in the era of the Lil Blue iTouch.  More later.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Picture Book Picks -- William Hoy, Oh Boy!

Last summer, my kiddos and I enjoyed several brief but informative summer evening read-alouds with nonfiction picture books.  Last evening, we reignited that tradition with two winning choices.

We hit it out of the park (pun intended) with Nancy Churnin's The William Hoy Story.  Hoy was an outstanding major league baseball player who also happened to be deaf.  His story is one of hard work, determination, and courage.  Very inspirational.  I teared up toward the end because I was so moved and, honestly, it's good for kids to see that kind of tangible evidence of the power of words and stories. 
The fact that Hoy played several seasons for the Cincinnati Reds (and grew up in Ohio, JUST LIKE I DID!!!) sealed the deal for me on the excellence of this story.  Didn't hurt that the kids and I were just at a Reds game two weeks ago when visiting family.  You can see in the photo above that Jez Tuya's illustrations are stellar.  So, in short, if you have children in your house, you should read them this book.  If you have young ball players in your house, you have to read them this book.  My kids are not all that little (11, 9, and 7) but loved it.

And if this one inspires you to read another excellent nonfiction picture book about baseball:  check out Brothers at Bat.

Our other nonfiction picture book was also great, but more nerve-wracking than inspiring.  Crossing Niagara:  The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin by Matt Tavares is one of those true stories that seems unbelievable (but isn't).  If you've ever visited Niagara Falls or are planning to visit, check it out.  If your own child is a daredevil, maybe skip it. 

We have two more nonfiction gems checked out from the library so stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Odyssey Soundtrack -- June 2017

I've told you before about how I choose one CD, and we listen to it in our minivan for months and months until we can't take it anymore

We all love Hamilton, of course, but my middle guy has requested a break, and after almost a full of year of driving the Hamilvan, I'm ready to grant him one.

We visited Target a few days ago (side note: self-imposed Target ban was for 2015 only) and I found some musical inspiration.
Look at the tracks below.  There's no Vanilla Ice or MC Hammer, but otherwise, this does seem an ultimate 90s Pop Hits Collection.

My daughter likes "Genie in a Bottle," a song she knows from an inferior version sung by a Disney star.  My middle guy keeps asking for "Rumpshaker" and my oldest, who has started sitting shotgun and thus has most DJ power, keeps going to "Motownphilly."  I kind of like "Poison" myself.  Now you know.

But wait, there's more.  This collection of Power Ballads is bringing me back to dances in my high school cafeteria, teenage summer drives with the windows down, and the smell of Drakkar Noir.

It's one gem after another but my hands down favorite is "Heaven" by Warrant.  I just love that song.  Always have.

You'll note that I am categorizing these two CDs as the June 2017 soundtrack.  As much as I am enjoying these blasts from the past, I think one month is going to do it for me.  I can see myself pulling those out again during longer road trips or playing at home during a party (if I were ever to host a party again).   

I will plan a follow-up post once my husband drives the Odyssey somewhere and realizes what I've done.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Grocery Flower Glory

I'm still buying grocery store flowers and arranging them at home.  Life's little pleasures and etc.  I've been particularly pleased with my latest arrangements.  I don't know the names of any of these flowers, but I like how they look with my Fiesta tablecloth and my Nora Fleming pineapple mini.

I liked this floral combo so much that I posed my latest BOTM Club read next to it and posted it on Instagram -- I'm @booksandcarbs.  The BOTM insta people (@bookofthemonthclub) commented "Gorgeous shot!" with two emojis so clearly I've had a real breakthrough moment in my bookish social media career.  As for the book?  I'm enjoying Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo very much so far, but I haven't had as many opportunities to read as I'd like.  Most of my reading has been listening and stealing moments on my iphone ebook.  Still getting adjusted to the new summer schedule of shuttling three kids to their activities.  Note my Nora Fleming margarita mini.  I promise that none of my driving around town involves drinking anything but Diet Coke. 

If you have more reading time than I, I'd recommend Taylor Jenkins Reid as a great author of summer reads -- her books are highly readable without lacking substance.  I'd start with Maybe in Another Life or One True Loves.
Back to the flowers though.  I attended a luncheon on Friday and because my birthday was closer to the honoree's than anyone else's at my table, I won the frame with table number.  I'm enjoying how perfect the framed 8 looks next to my grocery store flowers. 

Almost a week in, these flowers are still looking fabulous.  However, they smell fairly horrible now.  Something is rotten around the stems.  I can smell it as soon as I enter the kitchen (though I have been accused of being overly sensitive about scents).  And yet, I can't bring myself to toss them when they still look so good.  Would it help if I used those powder packets that come with flowers?  I usually skip that step.  Maybe someone who knows the names of these flowers could answer that question.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- April 2017

I was waiting for these two new releases on 4/25 and then snapped them up with my Audible monthly credits.

Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteredge ranks among my top ten audiobook experiences.  I liked the slim but powerful My Name is Lucy Barton (which I read in print) and am looking forward to its companion, Anything Is Possible.  On a whim, I recently pressed play on Strout's The Burgess Boys.  The reviews on it were just so-so and while it's not an uplifting book (at all), I enjoy hearing the Maine accent in narration and like getting a sense of Maine, a place with which I have no familiarity (with the exceptions of my son's Acadia National Park project, L.L. Bean, and the fact that Nancy Atwell--a writing guru for middle school teachers--and one of my brother's college basketball teammates are both from Boothbay Harbor, Maine). 

Fredrik Backman's Beartown.  Quick Backman recap:  Adored A Man Called Ove.  Not super into My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry.  Really liked Britt-Marie Was Here.  Very, very excited to listen to Beartown.  I love community stories, underdog stories, and, most of the time, sports stories.  Plus, it's about a hockey team.  We live in a hockey crazy town, and for years my attitude was, "Good for you, not for us."  Then, my son begged and begged, and we let him play hockey.  And then the next year his big brother wanted to play too.  They just play for teams at our local YMCA (which has a super cool, old school outdoor rink) so it's not too time-consuming or crazy intense, but it is SO FUN to watch them and I'm so glad they're experiencing the camaraderie and challenge of hockey.

There have been quite a few tempting Deals of the Day on Audible of late as well so I am sitting pretty with listening fodder.  I started listening with my ipod set at 2x about six months ago, and the increased speed has allowed me to listen to even more audiobooks!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Snackshots -- April 2017 & Important PSA

For my April snackshot, I'm sharing the Buffalo Chicken Dip I purchased at Sam's Club.  I know what you're thinking, "Oh, I have a great recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip."  The thing is that if I made your recipe, I'd have to really acknowledge all the fatty ingredients that contribute to the dip's deliciousness.  And then, because it was "fresh," I'd have to really make a commitment to eating dip every day before it spoils.  There's a generous expiration date on this tub of dip (preservatives mixed with the fatty ingredients, I presume) so I don't have to binge.  Two or three times a week, I can zap a couple spoonfuls on dip in the microwave and enjoy with a few gluten-free crackers or tortilla chips. 

And, now, the first-ever Snackshots Public Service Announcement.  Do not bring this giant container of Jelly Belly jelly beans into your home.  Of the 49 flavors, I would estimate that I genuinely enjoy the taste of, maybe, 17 of them.  However, I made myself eat whatever assortment I scooped, including Buttered Popcorn (barf) and Coffee (not for me).  I couldn't stop eating the beans even though I only enjoyed one out of every three beans I tried.  They made me feel gross and yet I kept going back for more.  My children did not impose similar restrictions on themselves with two results.  My daughter would simple spit out jelly beans she did not enjoy, and it was fun finding them on the tablecloth and kitchen rug.  My oldest was picking and choosing without shame and thus, there was nary a red jelly bean (red is your best bet for a decent flavor) to be found once we were about halfway through.  The good news is that we're at the end.  This period of self-loathing, sickness, and disappointment is over. 

Since we're talking food, I thought I'd also share the progress I've made with the Instant Pot I ordered.

Finally, I've already told you about my love for Nora Fleming serving pieces.  Nora Fleming has a new utensil crock out on the market that I've been using as a vase for my grocery story flowers.  I love it because it makes it easy to enjoy my minis day-to-day instead of just when entertaining.  How cool is that?

What's your snack of choice these days?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Local LFL Sighting!

My neighbor invited me to walk with her after school drop-off this morning.  The result was 8,000 steps logged by 9 am, great conversation, and a Little Free Library sighting.

I've already told you about the LFL I saw in Hilton Head, the first one I spotted in LaGrange, and then the other one I found in LaGrange.  And now, I've found a second in my town of Pleasantville (aka Elmhurst, IL).  I've only driven by the first Elmhurst one I spied, but I'll take a walk there soon.  The second one has an adorable shake-ish roof and is fully stocked!  The door is slightly damaged, but there's a rubberband to help with securing it.
As ever, I played my little game:  If I really needed a book to read, which of this LFL's offerings would I choose?  Drumroll please.  I think I'd choose The Shack by William P. Young.  I haven't seen the movie, but the book sounds intriguing.  Fans of A Man Called Ove would probably be tempted by the hardcover of My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman.  I didn't love that one, but I seem to be in the minority there.  Lots of good choices for kids in this LFL.  Owl Diaries, The Princess in Black, Frindle, and the beautiful Sarah, Plain and Tall.  Still thinking about whether I'd like to have my own LFL. 

As ever, I welcome your LFL sightings and stories.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Ritual Updates

I love my bookish rituals each month.

You already know that I look forward to spending my audiobook credits each month.

Let me catch you up on the other bookish rituals.

I love choosing a Book of the Month Club title each month For a while there, I was choosing more than one.  However, it's fair to say there is a BOTM Club pile-up on my shelves so those days are over.  I've also found that these are buzzed-about books that are often part of one-day ebook sales and/or easy to reserve at the library.  I'm currently enjoying Startup -- I'm not a millennial, a tech gal, or a New Yorker/Brooklynite, but it's fun to read about the scene and to have sympathy for the book's old lady (36, ahem) who's juggling career, kids, debt, and marriage woes. 

I also peruse the Literary Guild selections each monthThough there are often books on offer that I would enjoy reading, my choices are rarely among the three curated monthly selections.  Those tend to be books that don't appeal to me (AT ALL) and the discounts for additional books don't kick in unless you start with one of those three selections in your box.  Makes it easy to click "skip my monthly credits" at the beginning of each month.  The selections refresh on the 15th of the month so I always check back.  However, a few months ago, a book I was super excited about was a monthly selection.  I boxed up Jennifer Ryan's The Chilbury Ladies' Choir and Jane Harper's The Dry.  Although I am very close to my saturation point with WWII novels (not forever, just for a bit), I did like Ryan's story of community, family, romance, and friendship set in the wartime English countryside.  It's told through letters and journal entries -- all of which are way too long to be believable, but which tell a good story.  Haven't cracked the spine of The Dry yet.

I get my fix for free when I choose my Kindle First selection each month.  I've mentioned this perk before:  if you have Amazon Prime, you can choose one free Kindle First selection each month (a month before the book is published).  To be honest, I don't always read these books in a hurry (or ever), but there's nothing to be lost (except five minutes of my time) by choosing one.  Last month, I chose Laura McNeal's The Practice House (which sounds kind of creepy but also kind of good).  I surprised myself this month by selecting A Small Revolution by Jimin Han.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report -- March

You know what is a lot easier and far less intimidating than writing a blog post every once in a blue moon?  Writing a blog post every day.  I'm going to try to get back into that habit as it's much more liberating.  When I wait so long between posts, there's too much pressure and everything I don't/won't blog about (for example, politics and world affairs) weighs me down and the whole endeavor feels pointless and petty.  When I blog every day, it's easier to remember that the point is to practice writing for writing's sake (and my own sake) and put a little something out there in the world. 

I'm stepping back up to the plate with a softball ... a backdated Audible Monthly Credit(s) report.  Here's how I spent my March audiobook credits...

Blue Sapphire by D.E. Stevenson -- I've been working my way through D.E. Stevenson's books (this Scottish scribe wrote many novels) for six years now.  I find them very soothing, particularly as listens.  They are old-fashioned and narrated with melodious Scottish and British accents.  Blue Sapphire is not the one to start with though.  It's all over the place (abandoned storyline about the mystical powers of a blue sapphire, hints at insider trading, glossing over of disturbing implications of mining) and hasn't aged as well as some of Stevenson's others.  Not my favorite.  If you're intrigued though?  Start with some of my favorites, like Miss Buncle's Book (and then its many sequels) or Listening Valley.  

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso -- I was glad I listened to The Woman Next Door because I would not have been able to properly pronounce some of the names on my own.  At the same time, I wish I had read it in print as there's a lot to ponder with this one.  This novel is about female friendship, race, marriage, and the shadow of Apartheid.  No easy, happy endings here, but definitely hope.  Funnier than I expected, but parts are very serious and difficult to read.  I now have a soft spot for these two difficult neighbor women.

I haven't spent my April credits yet.  There have been some great sales and Deals of the Day so I'm well stocked with listening material.  Plus, I have my eye on a couple of books that release on 4/25. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lil Project for a Lil Old Lady

I turned 42 last week and moved one giant step closer to lil old ladyhood ... at least in terms of my lil projects.

The situation in our kitchen was that every time I needed a pen, I could get my hands on a sharpie, a broken pencil, or a lemon sparkle gel pen.  But a black Bic or blue Papermate?  Keep dreaming, sister.  I was coming up empty-handed even though I had purchased packages of pens in recent memory.  Black hole?  Thievery?  I don't know.  Point is:  no pens when I needed them.

About once a week, I find an excuse to dine at a delightful spot called Egg Harbor.  When you sign your credit card slip at the EH register, you use a pen that is dressed up as a flower.  Cute, but more importantly, not a pen with which you are likely to abscond.

Confident that a pen dressed as a flower would not end up in my sons' pencil bags, I purchased the necessary items at Hobby Lobby a few weeks ago.  Then, I thought to myself, "This can be a little birthday gift from me to me."  The cost of materials was minimal, but the time spent making the flower pens (also minimal) was a way of treating myself.  

This bouquet of flower pens is super cute now lives on my kitchen desk.  I'm writing my grocery lists, checks, and lunch box notes like a boss.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

No Stars From Me -- Goodreads Freeloader?

I signed up for Goodreads in 2011 and did nothing with it.  Around 2013, I figured out that there was a Goodreads app for iPhone and became a regular user.

My favorite Goodreads feature is the ability to keep track of the books I want to read.  For a couple years, I tried typing titles into a note on my phone.  Over and over, I'd lose the note (or a child would delete it) and poof would go months of book ideas.  Now, if I hear about a book from a friend, read about a good one in a waiting room People, or see something intriguing in a #bookstagram pic, I can just open up Goodreads and log the title into my app as "To Read."

My least favorite aspect of Goodreads is how difficult it is to "unfriend."  Every once in a while, someone (whom I don't know personally) will friend me.  At first, I would say yes in order to be nice, only to find that this individual seemingly did nothing all day except for comment/like other people's reviews and repeatedly post about books in genres I avoid (fantasy, for example).  Another gem of a Goodreads stranger/friend would review a book and then re-post that same review 10-12 times.  All that was clogging up my feed, but it's NOT EASY to unfollow someone, especially through the app.  (Disclaimer:  If I know you personally or our reading tastes are similar, I'm not looking to shake you.) 

The feature of Goodreads that stresses me out is the rating system.  I don't like giving the books a star rating at the end.  Too much bullshit to work through.  Am I being too kind?  Too harsh?  Am I prejudice against certain genres/types of books?  Am I rating on my experience reading that particular book at that specific moment in my life?  Or, am I supposed to evaluate each book within the context of all the books I've ever read?  I know, I know, don't overthink it, you're not on the Pulitzer selection committee, Megan.

Can I admit that I also get irritated by other people's ratings?  People who say perfectly pleasant things about a book that they finished reading and then give it two stars?!?!  Two stars?!  I guess for me, if I liked a book enough to finish it, then that book is better than two stars?  If it's only a two-star book for you, why are you spending time reading it?!  Some people are consistently stingy in their book ratings, and I admit to thinking, "Well, okay then, book snob."  But then, I'm actually the book snob because what I'm really thinking is:  "Well, okay then, you wanna-be book snob.  Who are you to give out these stingy ratings when I read over a hundred books last year and am much more generous in my ratings?"  But maybe I'm an easy grader.  And, of course, every reader, regardless of number of books read, has the right to rate a book as he/she sees fit so who am I to get all pissy about other people's ratings?!  And who gives a shit about these ratings anyway?!  See, how I can spiral with this Goodreads star system?

I gave myself a gift at the start of 2017:  I'm writing up little blurbs about the books I finish, but I'm not giving them a star rating.  It feels liberating.  But am I freeloading?  Since I often check the average ratings of books when deciding what to read.  Whether or not I'm a freeloader, not rating books has enhanced my Goodreads experience.  How about you?

Author's Note:  You know a post is boring when you start it on 3/8 and don't circle back and force yourself to finish it until 3/14.  Please don't rate this post.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Snackshots -- March 2017

Haven't posted a Snackshot in months.  I found these Fisher Nut Exactly Snack Bites at my local grocery store (Jewel).  My best snacks always combine salty and sweet, and these little bites are tasty.  I joined Weight Watchers in January (I do this every winter -- an ongoing cycle of winter weight loss in preparation for summer weight gain), and I like that two snack bites are 1 Smart Point.  That's not really a bargain as the bites are small, but the Smart Points system is very punitive when it comes to treats (many small treats are 4 points each) and it's nice to have something sweet without breaking the point bank. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Audible Monthly Credit(s) Report

As you know, spending my monthly audiobook credits is a cherished monthly ritual for me. 

This month's choices were easy.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is buzzing all over the place -- especially in the world of audiobookers.  I've had many incredible listening experiences involving a single narrator and am thinking my head might explode when I begin listening Lincoln in the Bardo with its cast of 166 narrators.  Added to all of that, I live in the Land of Lincoln, have/had academic interests in female friendship and democracy in nineteenth-century America (that included Mrs. Lincoln), and welcome the opportunity to immerse myself in a different moment in presidential history.

Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is is even more buzzed about than Lincoln in the Bardo.  I finished it this morning.  I loved Frankel's writing and loved being with Claude, Poppy, Rosie, and Penn as they navigated difficult (woefully inadequate adjective) terrain.  No easy answers here but lots of good questions, including one which Penn asks about whether we want things to be easy for our kids (only paraphrasing since I listened and can't easily locate exact quotation).  I'm definitely still processing.  Tons to unpack here in terms of secrets, gender, family, narrative/storytelling, parenting, and the comforts and limits of binaries.  Another friend is poised to finish soon so I'm hoping we can discuss it. 

What's on your March listening list?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Non-Fiction Inspiration

Turns out I've read a lot of non-fiction and memoirs in 2017.  Too many to bore you with in one post so I've rounded up a few that I will loosely categorize as inspirational.

Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love 
by Katherine and Jay Wolf 
This book came highly recommended by a reader (and all around awesome person) I trust.  I ordered a copy over the summer but then shelved it because it sounded too darn depressing -- a young wife and mother suffers a horrible stroke.  I cracked the spine early this year since I promised myself I'd stretch more with my 2017 reading.  Katherine and Jay Wolf take turns telling the story of Katherine's stroke and the many months of therapy and healing.  I was so inspired by the way this devastating, almost-fatal stroke tested and strengthened their faith.  Who can argue with the power of hope?

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear 
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat, Pray, Love.  Never read it and don't plan to.  Gilbert, whose Eat, Pray, Love was wildly successful, was writing (and publishing) for years before that book thrust her into the spotlight.  I bought Big Magic during an ebook sale and am VERY GLAD to have read it.  Gilbert's insights into the creative life are incredible.  She writes in a conversational but confident manner.  I'd have loved to have read this book when I was writing my dissertation as she has many wise things to say about how suffering and martyrdom don't have to be a part of the process.  I never own it and say:  I'm a writer.  Were I to own it, this book would be even more valuable as it captures what is magical about creativity in a very reasonable, accessible way.

Side note:  It is possible that some big magic is happening in my life as I look back at my 2017 reading and note that I've read several books about writing or writers.  Gail Carson Levine's Writing Magic:  Creating Stories that Fly is a writer's guide for young people that includes exercises and prompts.  I'm not motivated to do them, but I can see classroom applications.  I read three memoirs by writers that included discussion of, surprise, writing itself:  Jessi Klein's You'll Grow Out of It (funny, insightful), Sarah Hepola's Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget (honest, sometimes dark, inspirational), and Lee Smith's Dimestore: A Writer's Life (honest, beautifully written, rooted in place/time).  We'll see where all this writerly inspiration leads.

Settle for More
by Megyn Kelly
I'm not much of a television news viewer but since I didn't live under a rock during 2016, I was aware of Trump's attacks on Kelly and thus curious about her.  I bought Settle for More during a post-holiday ebook sale.  I have to say that I was inspired by Kelly's incredible work ethic and her willingness to make major changes in her life.  She also had some things to say about vulnerability in friendship that I am still thinking about.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

This Slob's Progress

My default setting is slob.  Because I appear somewhat organized and on-top-of-things out in the world, people often imagine that I have a tidy home.  With lots of sweat, hustling, angst, sighing, yelling at my family, and at least one full day, I can make it appear as if my home is (somewhat) tidy.  Day to day, I have struggled to maintain even a semblance of order.

Until now.

Thanks to Dana K. White's How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind, I have actually developed one good habit and had one a-ha moment.  It's a wonderful thing to read something wise, try it out, and actually see results.

First, the good habit:  doing the dishes every day.
I was not on top of the dishes.  In fact, any time I hosted anything and guests tried to help me with the dishes, I used to think, oh stop already, I'll deal with these tomorrow.  I was not one of those folks who couldn't head to bed with dishes in the sink.  Plus, I told myself that I should not run the dishwasher unless every single square inch was filled.  The timing never quite worked out though.  I'd often end up with a full load of dishes and at least another load and a half that I would need to handwash by the time I actually addressed it all.

Dana White tells us slobs (and she is writing the book for people like me, not for the already-tidy Tinas out there) to start by doing the dishes every single day.

So, I've been doing that.  Running the dishwasher every single night and emptying it in the morning.  Yes, I am not always running a giant full load, but it's not as empty as I thought since, with this new system, I've actually had room to fit some of the larger items I used to handwash (colanders, mixing bowls, etc.)  And, because the loads aren't giant, the thought of unloading is a lot less daunting, just like White promised me.

I know you already-tidy Tinas might be thinking, "Well, duh, washing dishes every day is a no brainer."  Good for you.  I'm just catching up.

Second, the a-ha moment:  focus on visible clutter.
Dana White recommends focusing on visible clutter.  She doesn't reference Marie Kondo, but the gist is instead of trying to Kondo your home and cull every single drawer and closet, you should focus on areas of visible clutter and go from there.

I had a corner of the dining room that was full of crap.  Boxes of Christmas decorations and wrapping paper and a big bag of Cub Scout shit (not actual feces, mind you, I'm not that slobbish/demented).  In the foyer, I had two boxes of Cub Scout popcorn that had been sitting there since November.  So, guess what, I moved the decorations to the basement where they are stored.  Then, I moved the Cub Scout popcorn to the pantry.  The pantry was a little crowded so I spent ten minutes working on it.  I consolidated some items, took a few things out of bulky packages, tossed a few expired items, and then easily found room for the popcorn.

On to the kitchen counters.  Having started to get the dishes under control, I was enjoying having clear counters near the sink.  How great would it be, I fantasized, to have clear counters to the right of the oven?  Maybe I could put my knives in a cabinet instead of on the counter?  Guess what?  I could.  All I had to do was open a cabinet, clean out the spices there (most of which were expired), change the height of a shelf, and voila, knives hidden but accessible!

Then, I looked at the spice rack/utensil caddy that the previous owners of our home had installed right behind the stovetop.  Worst place ever to store spices (near the heat) and I was sick of looking at all my utensils.  There is a long drawer directly under the stovetop.  It was filled with stuff it didn't need to be filled with.  I went through the drawer and tossed a few items and found new homes for others.  Next thing you know, I have all my utensils in a drawer right where I need them.  Then, I yanked that grease-stained caddy off the wall.  I need to figure out what should go there instead, but I appreciate having the blank canvas waiting.

There are still plenty of visible clutter areas in our home, but I have started to address them, and because I can actually see the results of my effort, it makes me want to continue.  Like Dana White said would happen.  Smart lady.

I could go on and on about this book, but if you are not an already-tiny Tina, I recommend reading it.  White is funny, likable, down-to-earth, realistic, wise, and practical.  This book was much more life-changing for me than another with that phrase in its title.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Audible First-in-a-Series Sale

I love sales and not just because of the sale prices.  When facing a curated collection of offerings, I end up finding a few things that push me outside my comfort zone.  Something about the sale price makes me take more risks in my selections.

Audible's current sale is the First-in-a-Series Sale.  All the offerings are, surprise, the first in a series.

Here's a brief look at what I chose and why...

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig -- The publisher's summary pulled me in on this choice:  "When a widowed rancher hires a housekeeper to help with his three young sons, he finds her to be cheerful and competent. Yet she is concealing a colorful and infamous past. Filled with humor and hardship, this novel sings with what the author calls 'a poetry of the vernacular.'"  I'm in.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson -- I'd certainly heard of Chains and Anderson.  I chose this piece of YA historical fiction because it tells the story of a slave in colonial New York City in 1776.  I have read many novels about slavery (as well as actual slave narratives), the vast majority of which are set in the South.  I was intrigued by the setting and historical moment here.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson -- This novel has been on my "I'll Thank Me Later List" for years.  Perhaps I'll be more likely to press play than to crack the spine.

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman -- Widowed garden clubber in NJ joins CIA with Barbara Rosenblat narrating?  I've got eight hours for that.  

The Winds of War by Herman Wouk -- The reviews on this one are unbelievable, especially considering that it requires almost 46 hours (!!!!!!) of listening.  Not sure when I'll be in the mood for that many hours of a WWII novel ... I like that this one gives a lot of insight into the American Homefront as most novels cover (and very rightly so as there are so many stories to be told) the war in Europe.

The Best Man by Kristan Higgins -- I've already told you that I'm on a Kristan Higgins kick.  Can't wait to press play on this one during a tough or crazy week. 

There are plenty of ways to listen to audiobooks for free, of course, but I don't mind paying because it allows me to download to my old-but-perfectly-sized-for-listening ipod.  The audiobooks I purchase are truly a cross-category investment for me:  mental health, entertainment, fitness, and housekeeping.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Breaking Sam's Club Beverage News

I joined Sam's Club two years ago and have been very pleased with the selection of merchandise, the hours (Plus members can get in during the 7 o'clock hour instead of waiting until 10 freaking a.m. as at Costco), the proximity to my home (five minutes), and their Coca-Cola fountain (with good ice!).  The latter is important as I like to end my shopping trip with a large, cheap drink -- a pleasure that Costco robbed from me when they switched their fountain over to Pepsi.

I scooted over to Sam's early this morning and, as ever, held up a styrofoam cup to be scanned at checkout.  "Oh, did you know we switched over to Pepsi?" said the cashier in a very nonchalant way, as if that news would be either positive or neutral.  The most fitting word for my feelings in that moment:  despair.  Despair that would have turned into the fiery anger born of betrayal had I not looked over at the fountain and determined that Diet Coke was still on offer, along with a bevy of new beverage choices.

Excuse the blurry pics.  As I've said before, photographing soda fountains makes me feel like a creep.  Sam's Club is now offering Your Club. Your Choice as the signage above illustrates.  

Here's what I'm feeling...
Relief.  Diet Coke is still available and my addict's heart can rest easy.

Admiration.  I respect Sam's for not fully selling out by accepting whatever enormous incentives Pepsi seems to be offering these days.  (Ahem, Costco.  Ahem, Frisch's Big Boy).  Also, even though I don't drink them, I know of many who passionately love Diet Mountain Dew and Diet Dr. Pepper.  Glad to see those choices included.

Confusion.  There are some wacky offerings on this fountain that I would never drink.  Two varieties of Tropicana.  Sunkist Orange.  Sobe Lifewater.  Canada Dry.  A Raspberry Brisk Iced Tea (is that necessary with the regular iced teas in their own dispensers?).  A specialty Mountain Dew.  Something I can't recognize and that the photo is too blurry to make out.  I'm scratching my head at these choices, but not necessarily complaining since they have not replaced any standards.

Also, I said to myself, "Megan, you are perhaps out of touch.  Living in your bubble in the neighboring town of Pleasantville, you shouldn't assume that everyone has a loving/addictive relationship with Diet Coke just because you and many of your peers do."

I did some research.  A 2010 NBC News piece lists the top three sodas as Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and Pepsi (in that order),  A 2016-17 list from (can't attest to reliability of this source) ranks them Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Diet Coke with Diet Pepsi in the seventh spot.

So, yes, Diet Coke is incredibly popular, right up there with the perennially loved full-sugar colas.

The other feeling, then, is Suspicion.  Regular Pepsi fills 3/24 spots on the Sam's Club fountain.  Diet Pepsi fills 1/24.  Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi (?!?!) fills 1/24.  Whereas, Regular Coke fills 2/24 spots and Diet Coke, the second or third most popular soft drink, fills a mere 1/24 of the fountain. Hmmm.

Concern.  If after one shopping trip, I find that the Diet Coke tap has run dry and I can't get my 89 cents worth ... I don't know how to finish that without looking like a complete psycho.

I'm curious if each spot on a 24-tap fountain is carefully planned and negotiated on the corporate level or if it varies by store.  Or, if it's kind of haphazard arrangement.  Was my Sam's Club arranged on the whim of some Pepsi-loving beverage distributor?

There's another Sam's Club about twenty minutes away so I'll check out their fountain next time I'm in that area.  I'll be asking my parents and sisters to check their respective Sam's Clubs and will follow up with another edition of fountain drink dissertating when I have something to report.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Gallery Wall--Children's Artwork

Over a year after a renovation project that transformed our underused living room into a library, we have started looking for appropriate furniture for the space.  Though I know what I like, I decided it wouldn't hurt to have some design experts take a look.  Did you know that most furniture stores will send someone to your home for free?  They take measurements, snap photos, ask questions, and then follow up with ideas for how to lay out the room with their store's furnishings.  You are under no obligation to buy anything.  Two Pottery Barn designers visited on Friday, and I am proud to say they were impressed with my various gallery walls (or were good liars!).

I realized that though I shared pics of the fishy gallery wall in my son's bedroom, I hadn't shared the others we've done.

A couple of years ago, we filled an empty wall in our family room with the artwork the kids had created in school and in a beloved after-school art class.  About six months before the "installation," I started buying Studio Decor brand frames at Michael's whenever they were on sale (and when an extra 20 or 25% off could be taken off sale prices).  I chose black frames with off-white mats and placed the artwork inside as best I could.  Sometimes I could only highlight one part of a piece.

I don't have an expert tips for getting it all on the walls.  I traced the frames on wrapping paper and tentatively taped everything to the wall.  Still, my husband and I did some changing as we went.  He has a decisive personality when it comes to this sort of thing, which is helpful.

End result is a wall that is personal to our family and has great pops of color.  Is it a lot of nails in the wall?  You betcha.  You're either okay with that or you're not.  I figure we're stuck with this for a while (though I can always change out what's inside the frames).  I'm not planning to move ever again, but if I do, I trust I can find a good painter who can also fill all those holes.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Odyssey Soundtrack: August 2016-February 2017+

I've posted about the music we listen to in our minivan several times before.

Ever since August, we've been all about one thing in the Odyssey:  Hamilton.  The kids and I know all the songs.  Our love grows with each listen.  

Our faves ...
Mama loves "It's Quiet Uptown" and "Burn" (the line about Icarus!!!) and all of King George's songs.

My eleven year-old son was a big fan of "Cabinet Battle #1" and then became obsessed with "The Room Where It Happens."  Now, "The Election of 1800" is his jam.

My middle guy is into "Cabinet Battle #1" and "The Room Where It Happens."  But, he wants to make it clear, those choices have nothing to do with his big brother's preferences. 

My daughter sings it all but especially likes "Aaron Burr, Sir."  And "The Room Where It Happens."

So in the van where it happens, it's been fun to share this music together and to talk about what happens in the songs.  My middle guy is always asking good questions:  Why isn't Aaron Burr in the room where it happens?  Was Thomas Jefferson glad that Hamilton wanted him for President?  How did that comma change the meaning?  Okay, he didn't ask that last question, but I'd love to break it down for him.

It's also been fun to see the reactions of our carpoolers.  With one exception, they've been intrigued by the music and interested in learning more about the story.  Cool to hear my kids try to explain the context for different songs.

In case you're wondering, we have the "clean" version of the soundtrack.  It's not squeakily so, but I don't feel my children are being corrupted.
My hubby doesn't fully share in our Hamilton passion (in part because he isn't in the Odyssey day-to-day like we are), but he did take note of it and secure tickets for us to take our oldest to see Hamilton in Chicago for his birthday (and my early birthday) back in January.  We LOVED the live performance.  It helped to clarify who was doing the singing in some of the songs.  Tears were spilling from my eyes during "It's Quiet Uptown" and "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story."  Such a wonderful experience.  I loved everything except the signature cocktail (avoid) and the price.  I am hoping to find reasonably-priced tickets (ha!!!!!) to take the other two kids to see it as well. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book Binge -- Boy Band Girl Fan

I enjoy a good Netflix binge as much as the next person.  For me, that means watching 3-4 episodes of one show in a week.  I have a fantasy that one day I'll find a show that I'm so obsessed with that I'll start walking on the treadmill to justify watching more episodes.  For now though, any binge behavior takes place on the couch, usually while folding laundry. 

I listened to Goldy Moldavasky's Kill The Boy Band over a month ago.  It's a funny but DARK novel about a boy band, The Ruperts, and their fangirls.  I liked the sharp writing and insights into fangirl culture and female friendship.  I think it would be a great book club selection.  Quick read with lots to discuss.

Kill The Boy Band brought to mind two other novels that involve male performers and their female fans.

And so, I present to you, a new blog feature, the first-ever Book Binge ...
Allison Pearson's I Think I Love You is the story of Petra, a teenager from Wales, and her obsession with David Cassidy in the mid-70s.  This novel captures the old school fangirl (was this a word then?) playbook of fan magazines, letters, and clubs.  Like Kill The Boy Band, I Think I Love You is also a story of female friendship.

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne is a novel for anyone who's ever wondered about Bieber Fever and the like.  This novel focuses on the boy fueling all those fangirl fantasies and made me feel compassion for its Bieberesque protagonist.

Kill The Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky takes fan culture into the age of social media, evidencing the powerful influence of Twitter, blogs, and fan-sourced information.

Any college students in need of an essay topic?  Read these three books and have at it.  

Monday, February 13, 2017

Semi-Homemade Valentines

I've written before about the cute stuff you can make with Avery's online design tools.  Here's how we used labels for this year's valentines.

My daughter wanted to give out heart-shaped sunglasses with her Valentines.  I showed her the options on, and she chose this cupid emoji for her labels.  Adjusted the size, customized the text, printed at home, and stuck them on some leftover envelopes.  She made quick work of writing her classmates' names on the envelopes (a task that seemed tortuous for her brothers at that age) and then put the sunglasses inside.  No cards, just envelopes with the non-edible treat inside.

Less focused on tomorrow's festivities than his sister is, my middle guy didn't much care what he passed out tomorrow.  I wasn't interested in an weeknight Target trip so we turned to label land.  He rejected all the traditional Valentine graphics on the Avery site but was tempted by a sea scene.  We came up with a cute(ish) saying and pressed print. 

We stuck the labels on pieces of cardstock (I'm a craft hoarder so I have that kind of stuff around).  I also had a package of cute pencils (again, hoarder) so we washi-taped (craft hoarder) the pencils on top.  No envelopes for him.

No one from Avery paid me to write about their labels for my tens of readers.