New for Number Two

Feb 18, 2020

After my first son was born, I shared my fifty baby favorites (part one and part two). Registering had been so overwhelming, but I wanted to talk about the things I'd ended up loving. As we were preparing for our second baby, I realized that there was almost nothing that I felt like I had to purchase. We still have most of those fifty items and will happily use them again: the monitor, baby tub, car seat, and so on. We still had lots of baby clothes, too.

But there were still some things I wanted to buy, just because. So, I decided to share the fifteen "new" things we bought for number two! I was going to turn this into a So Obsessed With post but decided not to since I haven't used most of these products yet. Instead, it's just a little shopping post. Hope you enjoy!

When I was pregnant with my first, I saw so many posts recommending backpack-style diaper bags. I ended up being totally fine with the style I'd already chosen and didn't give it another thought... until now. I realized I'd want my hands completely free for both of my boys! I love the color and look of this bag and am so excited to use it.

Want to know where I've got lots of room for improvement with my second baby? Bottle feeding! I nursed my firstborn – and plan to do the same with my second – but I made the mistake of not introducing bottles soon enough. My son basically refused them all. I'm hoping for more success with this baby and bought these to try.

My firstborn barely used a pacifier – he had a WubbaNub that he liked it for a little bit, but it was more about the animal attached than the actual pacifier. Since every baby is different, we have a few pacies to try (one mentioned later in this post) – and I couldn't resist this clip. I got sucked in by the cute babies with them on Instagram!

I don't remember where I heard about this brand, but I made the mistake of joining a Facebook group for it. That was some insanity! I have no desire to build up a stash, but I did pick up one set (gown, hat, gloves, and swaddle) in their Black Friday. This boy has lots of hand-me-downs, but he needed a few special things of his own, too. 

Sorry not sorry, but I'm a sucker for baby products that look pretty. We had a few wood teethers for our firstborn and loved them... but I'm pretty sure at least one was lost to our dog. Struggle. My mom gifted me this gorgeous London swaddle from the same brand, and then I ended up browsing their website. The rest is history.

This might be my favorite thing on the list, solely for the story behind it. While on our beach vacation, my firstborn picked out matching stuffed animals for himself and his baby brother. He got a big one, which he's named BB (for Big Brother) and has legit become his favorite. And he can't wait to give the baby this matching mini one!

I saw this on Instagram and loved it. I'd never considered carrying a silicone place mat + pair of kitchen shears in our diaper bag for eating out, but it makes so much sense. My oldest still likes some of his food cut up, and it can be such a pain to do it. Scissors will make it a breeze! We should get lots of use out of this for both boys.

This isn't the first time I've mentioned this journal, which goes from pregnancy until age 18. I bought a baby book for our first and never filled it out. It just didn't focus on the things I cared about most! When I found these journals, I was sold. I got one for this baby, fell in love, got one for my firstborn and am slowly (but surely) catching up in it.

My mom had a custom Morgan Kelly quilt made for our firstborn, and I ended up using it as the background for monthly photos of my growing boy. When my mom found out I was pregnant again, she immediately mentioned having another quilt made. Here's a little peek at what we chose. It's perfect in his nursery, and I'm in love!

The idea of baby wearing appeals to me, but I didn't do it very much with my firstborn. We loved our structured carrier (an Ergobaby) and plan to use it again. But I wasn't a fan of the wrap I tried! I started researching other options early in this pregnancy because I have a feeling I'll need to be handsfree more often with my second.

In addition to a new Wubbanub, I decided to get one more pacifier option for this baby before he arrived. If he wants nothing to do with them, that's totally fine with me. Less work down the road when I'd need to end the attachment! But I wanted to be prepared in case he's the opposite and heard great things about this brand.

This was all my mom's doing! We went shopping for some baby clothes and a few other things, and I mentioned that the rocker/swing-type product we'd used with my first had been recalled. I planned to wait on buying a replacement until later, but she thought we should go ahead and get it. I bet I'll be thanking her for that foresight!

This is the only thing on my list that we haven't actually bought yet! We have a Chicco carseat and stroller, and our oldest hasn't used a stroller in ages. But that might change with the baby's arrival, and this gives him the option to stand or sit on the rear platform or bench seat + has an adapter that works with our car seat.

14. Design Dua Nap & Pack Bassinet and Stand ($180 / $70)
This was at the very top of my "I want this but know we don't need it" list. We have two travel cribs (a bassinet style and a pack-and-play one), so I couldn't justify splurging on this beauty. And then! I found all of it (bassinet, stand, sheet, mattress) barely used on Craigslist for 75% off retail price. Major happy dance would be an understatement.

As I mentioned, I struggled with bottles with my first. Since I didn't go back to work after my maternity leave, I didn't give much thought to pumping. And when I finally tried it, I gave up after a few failed attempts. I'm determined to try again with this one and have heard such great things about this manual pump. I'm hopeful!

Any other baby product recommendations? 
I'd love to hear about them!

Quick Lit: January 2020 (Part 2)

Feb 14, 2020

Welcome back to my mini review round-up! Yesterday, in Part 1, I talked about nine of the 17 books I read in January. Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on six more of those books! At the end of this post, I briefly mentioned the two re-reads I did on audio. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

A PERFECT HERITAGE BY PENNY VINCENZI – I read Vincenzi's Spoils of Time trilogy back in college and adored it, and I've always meant to read more from her. Because of that series, I was expecting this to be a historical novel and was surprised when I realized it was contemporary (with a small historical component). Maybe it's because I love makeup, but I thought it was so fun to fall into this book about a businesswoman trying to revitalize a dying British cosmetics company. As I would expect from Vincenzi, there was a ton of drama, more than one affair, and lots of characters to follow. But the shifting POVs worked for me, and I found myself racing through this one. The characters were so engaging, even when they weren't likable. I'm just a sucker for fast-paced saga! I So Enjoyed It.

BEHOLDING AND BECOMING BY RUTH CHOU SIMONS – I haven't read Simons' previous books, but I am familiar with her work from Instagram. When I saw this at the bookstore while on vacation, I couldn't stop admiring the gorgeous artwork. My mom bought me a copy, and I finally sat down to read it (instead of just looking at the art) in January. The writing was lovely, but I do think Simon's art is what makes this book special. Such lovely imagery throughout! I liked the overall theme of everyday worship and how she wrote about it, but I didn't feel like anything was explored in much depth. However, I do recognize this was more of a devotional / coffee table style book than anything else. I So Enjoyed It for what it was, even if I wanted just a bit more from the writing itself.

ATOMIC HABITS BY JAMES CLEAR – With goals and habits on my mind lately, I decided to give this popular non-fiction book a try. Y'all, I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did! Clear has a straightforward, effective writing style. I finished reading it really quickly, but I can tell it's the type of book I'd like to own so that I can re-read, highlight, and take notes. Clear builds on others' research, but in a way that felt very practical. I appreciated that he focused on how to actually implement strategies to "build good habits and break bad ones" rather than spend tons of time on research and theory. And he did provide plenty of examples, charts, and additional references for further exploration. I So Loved It and can't wait to put it into practice in my own life.

THE STORY GIRL BY L.M. MONTGOMERY – As a huge fan of Montgomery, I'm slowly but surely reading my way through her backlist. The Story Girl has an interesting structure – an adult male narrator looking back at his childhood, which I don't think I've seen Montgomery do before. Sadly, I had a hard time connecting to any of the characters. The summary and title sound like Sara Stanley (known as The Story Girl) will be at its center, but she lacked dimension for me. How many times and ways can I be told that she's a gift storyteller?! This felt like a collection of short stories – every chapter had some type of group adventure/conversation + Sara telling everyone a story. Not my favorite Montgomery, by far. I was only So Okay With It but decided to read the sequel, too. 

THE GOLDEN ROAD BY L.M. MONTGOMERY – Even though I wasn't a fan of the first book, I still wanted to give this a try. I already owned a copy, Montgomery is one of my favorite authors, and it was short enough that I knew I wasn't committing a lot of time to it. Well, I'm sad to say this one was equally boring to me. I cannot overstate how annoying it was to be repeatedly told that Sara was an amazing storyteller. WE GET IT ALREADY! It didn't help that the scenes meant to illustrate this fact just sounded mediocre to me. And it still read like a short story collection, which just doesn't really appeal to me personally. I can't say for sure if I would have enjoyed this more as a child, but I don't think so. I was So Okay With It and don't plan to ever re-read it, even as a read aloud to my kids.

LOVEBOAT, TAIPEI BY ABIGAIL HING WEN – After reading a lot of historical fiction in January, this seemed like a light, fun way to end the month. This story follows Ever Wong after her parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan for the summer to study at Chien Tan, a cultural program to (primarily) help her learn Mandarin. I loved learning more about a new-to-me city and culture. I thought the heroine's struggle with her identity + her parents expectations was really well done, too. That being said, I did feel like a lot of stuff was packed into this story in a way that often felt dramatic but without a lot of depth. At 432 pages, I had issues with the pace. And the romance was too complicated (and rushed) for me. But overall, I So Liked It and would be curious to see what Wen writes next.

In January, I also re-read two books via audio. The first was My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman. This was my first Backman, all the way back in 2015, and I have a special place in my heart for it. Listening to it was a treat – I'd forgotten a ton of what happened! I think it might have been hard to follow in this format for a first read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it as a re-read. I'm still So Obsessed With It. The other book I re-read was What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I was a lot less emotionally invested in it this time around than I was on my first read. It just felt like something was lacking! It's a great premise and Moriarty executes it well, but something was a little off for me. I think I'd still give it a So Enjoyed It overall, but I'm not sure I'd recommend this format (the narrator wasn't my favorite) or suggest it as something to re-read. Still fun, just fell a bit flat.

What have you been reading lately?

Quick Lit: January 2020 (Part 1)

Feb 13, 2020

Happy February! I set my Goodreads goal to 100 books this year, which I would typically surpass. However, based on my reading the year my oldest was born, it might be more of a stretch with a new baby. Because of that, I wanted to start the year off strong and try to get ahead on the goal! I'm excited to say that I finished 17 books in January, and I'm reviewing nine of them in today's post. the rest will be in Part 2 tomorrow! Also, I wrote two individual reviews in January for books I read last year: Lovely War by Julie Berry and My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

HEADLINERS BY LUCY PARKER* – The perfect first book of the year and decade! Parker does hate-to-love so well. I always believe the animosity but can see the attraction underneath it all. Sabrina and Nick are rival TV news anchors who are forced to work together to revive a sinking morning show... or else. With their careers on the line, the stakes were raised. It added the perfect amount of tension to the story! I thought the newsroom was a fun shift in setting from previous books in the series, and the suspicious events added a nice hint of mystery (and comedy!). Parker consistently writes amazing romances with well-developed characters and just enough drama. I'm So Obsessed With It! PS: I'm a sucker for cameos of previous couples and am happy to report you'll find some here.

THE REAL JANE AUSTEN BY PAULA BYRNE – As a huge Jane Austen lover, I can never resist buying anything associated with her. Whether it's non-fiction about her life or fiction loosely related to her works, I'm sold. I've had this particular book on my shelves since 2013, and I put off reading it because I honestly expected it to be boring. I was so wrong – this was fascinating! I loved how Byrne used objects as a jumping off point for exploring key themes in Austen's life. I learned so much! It will enrich the novels for me on future re-reads. Additionally, I was able to borrow it from the library on audiobook and highly recommend that format. The narration was excellent, and I found that I genuinely looked forward to listening and didn't want to turn it off. As you might guess, I So Loved It.

MEG & JO BY VIRGINIA KANTRA – When I first saw this book, I was intrigued by the idea of a contemporary Little Women retelling. But why only two sisters in the title? That's because a sequel, Beth & Amy, is coming! The first book, however, does focus on the two oldest March sisters. It's a dual POV, which I enjoyed. Aside from the opening scene when the girls are younger, everyone is an adult in this story. And I actually thought that was a great decision on the author's part! It was a modern, fun take on a beloved classic. By focusing on their lives as adults rather than their childhood, Kantra was able capture the spirit of the source without doing a scene-by-scene re-creation. It felt more inspired by rather than a strict retelling, and that's a win in my book. I So Enjoyed It!

PARENTING BY PAUL DAVID TRIPP – Tripp is the author of one of my favorite devotionals, and I'd heard equally wonderful things about this book. I haven't read many parenting books at this point, but this one intrigued me since it focused on "14 gospel principles that can radically change your family." Rather than a list of tips and tricks for raising children, Tripp focuses on giving you a biblical perspective of parenting. He focuses on the big picture, and I didn't realize how much I needed to hear what he had to say. It occasionally got repetitive and did give me moments of, "Okay, this sounds great – but how do I actually live this out?" in a practical sense. But overall, I So Enjoyed It. I highlighted so much and will return to it when I need to be reminded of this wisdom.

THE GIVER OF STARS BY JOJO MOYES – Moyes and I have had a roller coaster relationship. She's written some of my all-time favorite books, and she's written a few that I've DNFed. So, I wasn't sure what to think when her latest release was announced. The setting and storyline – Depression-era Kentucky + horseback-riding librarians – was totally up my alley. It felt like such an unexpected choice for Moyes, but it didn't take me long to fall in love with this story. The time period, setting, and the female friendships worked so perfectly. I was caught up in the drama, so invested in the various characters, and couldn't wait to see how Moyes would wrap it all up in the end. It got off to a bit of a slow start, but then I was racing to finish by the end. I So Loved It and am thrilled that was the case!

ROSS POLDARK BY WINSTON GRAHAM – I bought this audiobook on sale a few years ago and hesitated on listening because I wasn't ready to commit to such a long series. But after watching the last season of the TV adaptation this month, I figured it was time to give it a try! Overall, I liked this story and the setting. It was fun to mentally compare it to the first season of the show, too. However, I struggled with the way time passed in the story and wanted more character development. The mining aspect didn't interest me, and it sometimes focused too much on secondary characters who didn't have a clear purpose. I loved the narration, but the book itself was a So Liked It. It felt like a book worth the time I spent reading it, but not a series that I needed to commit to further.

THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE BY RUTA SEPETYS – From the moment I picked it up, I was swept up in this story. I loved the Spanish setting and the time period because I learned so much that I didn't know. The short chapters and multiple POVs kept the book moving quickly, and I didn't feel any confusion as it jumped around. I did, however, end up skimming over all the quotes/excerpts added throughout. I appreciate the research Sepetys did and can see they were meant to add context, but they seemed largely unnecessary to me. But with all that worked for me, I can only give it a So Okay With It. Why? There was a time jump near the end that I absolutely hated. For me, it took away any climactic tension and left me feeling like the book just fizzled out at the end. Such a bummer!

SAINTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS BY J. COURTNEY SULLIVAN – After loving Sullivan's The Engagements, I had high hopes for this one. And it started off really strong for me! I liked the hook presented in the 2009 storyline and then the jump back in time to explore how these sisters got to that place. As the book progressed, I found almost every single character so frustrating – but was still engaged in the story and in Sullivan's writing. And then. Ugh! The last quarter of this book just tanked it for me. Open endings are hard to pull off, and this one wasn't satisfying at all. I found myself wondering "What was the point?!" and that's never a good sign. I've debated the rating endlessly! It's not quite a full So Disliked It (2) but I'm not really So Okay With It (3) either. So, there you go...

DANGEROUS ALLIANCE BY JENNIEKE COHEN – When I saw this book described as An Austentatious Romance, I was intrigued. Unfortunately, this was a situation where invoking Austen's name did the book a disservice. The Regency heroine is obsessed with Austen's fiction, but the novel itself isn't a retelling of those works. However, referencing Austen in the subtitle made this book's faults all the more glaring. There was barely any chemistry in the romance, and the characters needed more development. Most disappointingly, there was nothing clever in the writing! The plot itself resembled one of Ann Radcliffe's Gothic novels more than anything you'd ever find in Austen. I'm barely So Okay With It, and that's me being generous because I felt more critical due to the Austen angle.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

What have you been reading lately?

A Match Made in Heaven

Feb 11, 2020

Happy (almost) Valentine's Day! Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is a love freebie. When I was pondering whether or not I wanted to participate, I finally thought of the perfect idea. Today, I'm sharing 10 popular romantic tropes and highlighting my favorite book that uses it. And, as a little bonus, I've included a quote from each book that exemplifies said trope. So, let's dive right in:

1. Fake Dating:
Act Like It by Lucy Parker

“Are you seriously suggesting I conduct some sort of faux-mance with Richard Troy
 in the tabloids, for the sole purpose of getting a few more bums in seats?”

2. Second-Chance Romance:
Don't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

I wish I'd had some warning. Someone of his significance shouldn't be able to simply walk back in without fanfare, without a buildup. It reminds me of that line about death just being another room.
Lucas was dead to me and yet he's in this room. It's impossible.
I mean, I've always known it could happen. But after twelve years, you're convinced it won't happen.

3. Hate-to-Love Romance:
The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

“So, if you're charming, what would Bobbie consider an asshole?”
“There's one right now.”
I follow his nod and find a reflection of myself in a window.
He's quick with the comebacks, I'll give him that much.

4. Parallel Universe Romance:
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

"I know there may be universes out there where I made different choices and they led me somewhere else,
led me to someone else. And my heart breaks for every single version of me that didn't end up with you.”

5. Marriage of Convenience:
Roomies by Christina Lauren

I swallow a gulp of air and push the words out in a rush: “I was thinking thatwecouldgetmarried.
Calvin sits back, surprised.
You,” he says quietly, “want to marry me? For this?”
“Not indefinitely, but for a year or so. I mean, until your run is up and then... we can do whatever we want.”

6. Friends to Lovers:
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

“You know what I think the trick to dealing with family is? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.”
 “What?” I said, spreading strawberry jam on my toast.
“Marrying your best friend.” He wiped his mouth with a napkin.
“You marry your best friend, and at family gatherings you deal with your shitty relatives together.
You laugh about it and have each other’s backs.
Share looks and text each other from across the room when everyone else is being an asshole.
And nobody else really matters because you have your own universe.”

7. Falling for Your Best Friend's Sibling:
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

If he was playing me, I was played. If this was just a teenage conquest of his friend's big sister, I was conquered.

8. Roommate Romance:
The Flatshare by Beth O' Leary

Of course, I still haven't actually met my flatmate, which I acknowledge is technically quite weird,
but we've started leaving each other notes more and more often now –
sometimes I forget we haven't had these conversations in person.

9. Royalty Romance:
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

I fell in love with a person, not a prince; the rest is just circumstance.

10. Road Trip Romance:
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

It took Edward Nicholls about fifteen minutes after he had left Danehall estate
 to question what the bloody hell he had just done. He had just agreed
to transport his stroppy cleaner, her two weird kids, and an enormous reeking dog
all the way to Scotland. What the hell had he been thinking?

Can you recommend any books that use these tropes?
Hate to love is my personal favorite from the list!

So Obsessed With: The Mini Edition #7

Feb 7, 2020

Some of my favorite posts are ones where bloggers highlight the products they're loving lately or the things they're currently coveting. I love this kind of content so much that I started highlighting my loves and lusts with So Obsessed With posts. So, here are eight things I'm so obsessed with lately:

I found this on Everyday Reading's blog and suggested it to my parents as a Christmas gift for my son. We've gotten three boxes so far and adore them! My son loves getting mail and the surprise of unwrapping two new books every month. The selections have been great so far, and I love cultivating my son's love of reading.

In the fall and winter, I'm always in the mood for soup. I meal plan every Sunday, and you're guaranteed to find at least one soup on our menu. I've got some standby favorites in rotation, but this is a recent find that's earned a spot on that go-to list. The combo of cheese, baby gold potatoes, and spicy sausage is a hearty, delicious win.

My sister got a sample of this cream from Sephora and loved it so much that she convinced me to add it to my Christmas list at the last minute. I'm so glad I trusted her! It's thick and leaves my skin feeling so moisturized – but never greasy and hasn't caused any breakouts. The smell isn't my fave, but that's my only complaint. 

Another brand sells a similar product with rave reviews, but I could not justify spending $80 on a product that I'd rinse off my face after twenty minutes. When I found this peel, I couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that it was $7. It had to be terrible, right? WRONG! I've only used it twice a week for a month or so, but I'm obsessed.

My parents have this toaster in another color, and I've coveted it for ages. It's just so pretty! Well, my parents gifted me one last year, and I'm kicking myself for leaving it off my list of 2019 obsessions. It sounds ridiculous, but I legit look forward to making my bagel every morning and smile every time I see it on my counter. A small, simple delight!

After doing some shopping at World Market last year, I'd earned some reward money that was expiring soon. When I was browsing online, I stumbled upon this kettle. I've been drinking more tea lately but have been using my Keurig to heat water. It wasn't a great solution, and this has been so much better! It works well and looks beautiful.

If you read my Christmas wishlist, you might remember that I was on the fence about getting AirPods. I liked them in theory but 1) didn't love the look and 2) was terrified of losing them. Welp, I'm officially obsessed. I know they wouldn't be ideal for everyone, but they've made it even easier for me to listen to audiobooks.

One of my goals for 2020 is to revitalize my faith through daily time with God. I'm trying to read through the Bible in one year! My research led me to this app, and I love it so much. The app is beautifully designed, daily notification keep me on track, and the videos throughout help me understand key themes and put everything into context.

What have you been loving lately?
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