Currently {Winter 2021}

Feb 26, 2021

I first shared my own version of this post last year, and I decided it was time for an update! As I mentioned before, thanks to Lauren from Bookmark Lit for the inspiration for this type of post. I've seen lot of variations on it, but hers inspired me to finally do one of my own. So, here's what my life looks like lately:


Currently reading: I haven't picked up a physical book in a week, but my plan is to read Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano next. If I keep repeating it, do you think my brain will finally make it happen? 

Currently audiobook-ing: I just finished re-reading A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas on audio, and I'm so excited to listen to Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore since it just became available for me at the library.

Currently recommending: Aside from the newest Sarah J. Maas, I adored Lauren Fox's Send for Me. I hadn't heard much about it before release, and it was my first five-star read of 2021. The writing was gorgeous!

Currently on hold at the library: After loving her work on Instagram, I requested All Along You Were Blooming by Morgan Harper Nichols. It's ready for me! I'm also waiting for The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan, a new release.

Currently pre-ordered: There are lot of books I could list, but next week I'll have Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson, An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn, and Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare in my hands.

Currently in my cart: Nothing, shockingly. 

Currently adding to my TBR: My most recent purchase was Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, which I wanted to read after seeing Annie B. Jones' rave review. I have soft spot for Australian authors, so I'm looking forward to it.

Currently NetGalley-ing: I was thrilled to get The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley for review.


Currently listening: Podcasts have been a go-to lately, and I've recently added 10 Things to Tell You to my queue.

Currently watching: I haven't been watching much lately, though I did have a movie night when To All the Boys: Always & Forever came out on Netflix. And I'll probably try to catch up on this season of This is Us soon. 

Currently eating: My mom's home cooking! It's one of the best thing about spending a week with my parents.

Currently drinking: My sister got me hooked on tea! Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Sunset is a favorite.

Currently wearing: I bought Madewell's Medium Transport Tote: Woven Leather Edition in a beautiful green that's now sold out. I broke my no-spend challenge for it, but I couldn't resist the sale + additional 20% off. 

Currently bookmarking: I loved this post about children and the passing of time on Em for Marvelous. And my favorite newsletters to slowly savor are from Emily P. Freeman, Kendra Adachi, and Annie B. Jones.

Currently coveting: These jeans, which are currently backordered until the end of May in their Taller sizes. Ugh.

Currently obsessing over: Olive & June's nail polish and manicure system. It's my new Saturday ritual. I've loved every color I've tried and just bought three from their spring collection, even though I wanted all six.


Currently celebrating: All the birthdays! Mine was the 1st, Kelly and my baby on the 7th, and Nick on the 29th.

Currently loving: Nick had to travel recently for work, so the boys and I came to stay with my parents. It was so fun to spend a week with them, and I was so thankful for all the help + the break from cooking! 

Currently looking forward to: Kelly is coming to visit this spring, and I cannot contain my excitement! I miss her.

Currently procrastinating: My meal planning goal. I have to remind myself to just start! Small progress adds up.

Currently accomplishing: I'm down to one Diet Coke per day and am walking 3x per week. Both are huge for me!

Currently researching: The Book of the Month picks for March so I can decide what I'll order.

Currently thinking about: Making our family yearbook(s). It's one of my 2021 goals, and I just finished watching Miss Freddy's course about it. Now I'm loosely scheduling the next steps to get the first album done.

Currently feeling: Tired. Who isn't, right? 

What's Currently going on in your life?

Quick Lit: January 2021

Feb 24, 2021

2021 got off to an interesting start for my reading life. I finished 20 books, which is one of my most prolific months in recent memory. But a surprising number of reads fell in the 3-star range, and there's only one book I'd rave about (not including my re-read). It's a bummer to not feel more excited overall about what I read! I have 21 reviews in today's post – my one re-read, the 19 new-to-me reads, and one book I did not finish but wanted to write about. It's a long post! If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST BY CHANEL CLEETON – If you set aside the need for plausibility, this was an enjoyable read. I loved Cleeton's first book in the Cuban saga, Next Year in Havana, but wasn't crazy about the second, When We Left Cuba. This one fell somewhere in the middle – it wasn't as frustrating as Cuba but didn't have the magic of Havana! There's a lot of drama, and the shorter length kept the pace moving. The romance(s) are in instalove territory, but I've come to expect that from Cleeton. My favorite part was the unusual time period and setting, which taught me something new about history. I So Liked It but could have nitpicked it to death if I read it in a different mood. Thankfully, I just wanted to be transported to another place and Cleeton delivered! 

THE SEARCHER BY TANA FRENCH – Although different from French's other novels, The Searcher is another atmospheric Irish tale that I was still thinking about long after closing the last page. The story was engaging, and I loved that I didn't predict its resolution. I liked that it dealt with a missing person because you weren't sure whether there was even a mystery to solve. Written in third person – and from the point of view of an American! – it was a departure for French. But I still felt like I recognized her style and enjoyed seeing her do something new. I thought the hero and secondary characters were well-developed, and there are questions raised in this book that would make it great choice for a book club. So much to discuss! It's a very slow novel, but I still So Enjoyed It

TEN RULES FOR FAKING IT BY SOPHIE SULLIVAN* – Give a contemporary romance an illustrated cover and an intriguing summary, and I've got to at least try it. I appreciated Sullivan's depiction of social anxiety, and I felt a lot of sympathy for the heroine. I was rooting for her as she challenged herself to make some changes in her life. I did, however, feel like the book could have been a lot shorter. I listened to it on audio, and I was continually shocked by how much I had left to listen to. It was so slow, full of inner monologue, and had too many conflicts happening right at the end. The romance needed more development for me because I wasn't invested in this couple together, which is never great when that's the point of the genre. I'm So Okay With It – a good story that got lost in the length. 

WINTERING BY KATHERINE MAY – Wintering is one of those books that's hard for me to rate. Author Katherine May uses the concept of winter to describe the fallow periods of life, difficult times where we must rest and retreat from the world. She explores her own personal winters, discusses what happens in the natural world during winter, and explores what other places and cultures do during winter. I loved the premise, which felt particularly fitting for the pandemic we are currently living through, and highlighted numerous passages. But I didn't connect to every element of the execution. It was more memoir than I anticipated, and I didn't always understand May's conclusions. I wanted broader research into the topic rather than anecdotal, privileged musings. I So Liked It

THE OTHER BENNET SISTER BY JANICE HADLOW – If there's a Pride and Prejudice retelling, chances are good that I'll want to read it. This book got off to a slow start, mostly because it covers the events of P&P through Mary's eyes. I appreciated what Hadlow was doing, but it didn't totally hook me at that point. Once it jumped forward in time, I couldn't put it down! I loved that the story went somewhere new while still feeling believable. It added a lot of depth to Mary, giving me the opportunity to view her character in an entirely new light and consider other motives for her behavior. The nods to Austen's other novels was a clever touch, and I felt Hadlow remained true to the time period and Austen's style (without forcing it). It was overly long, but I So Loved It for the creativity and character growth.

THE NATURE OF THE BEAST BY LOUISE PENNY – It's always great to be back with Gamache! If you'd told me back when I finished book four that I'd be saying that one day, I would have thought you were lying. I still do not like the town of Three Pines or most of its inhabitants, but I adore Gamache and the other members of the Sรปretรฉ. The discovery and history of the supergun in this book was very interesting. When I read Penny's note at the end, I was shocked to discover it based on real events and people! That made it even more fascinating to me. I liked seeing how Gamache still played a role in the investigation with his change in status, and I loved the glimpse at one of his past cases. I So Enjoyed It and am looking forward to see where Penny takes these characters next.

THE HEIRESS GETS A DUKE BY HARPER ST. GEORGE – As I wrote in my reading journal when I finished this book: Swoon, swoon! This was an utterly delightful read, and it wouldn't have been on my radar at all if it wasn't for Book of the Month. I loved the premise – a titled but penniless Duke looking for an American heiress that he can marry to solve all of his problems. Is this a little bit instalove? Yes, and I can't explain why it worked for me here when I'm so quick dislike that in other books. But I just loved that the hero works to prove himself to the heroine so that she can see he doesn't just value her for her money. I was majorly in my feels about it! The heroine got in her own way a little bit, and there are definitely some modern mindsets in this historical romance. But I can't lie: I So Loved It

YOU HAVE A MATCH BY EMMA LORD* – After loving Tweet Cute last year, I was so excited to read this release. It's a cute, heartfelt YA contemporary about family, secrets, and finding your way. Y'all, I have a lot of issues with these parents. Reading it as a parent myself, I was horrified by the way they handled some things. I thought it would have been better without romance since that took focus away from the more important story for me. I liked seeing the sisters trying to develop a relationship, with a few missteps along the way. That was my favorite part! But I expected the camp setting to be a bigger element, didn't feel like anything happened in the first half of the book, and thought the passage of time was wonky. I finished and felt that I So Liked It.

DARK OF THE WEST BY JOANNA HATHAWAY – I saw a few positive reviews for this YA fantasy that made me excited to give it a try. And the comparisons to two books I love – The Winner's Curse and Code Name Verity – sealed the deal. I think those are accurate comps because you're getting a historical-inspired world without magic and heavy on the political scheming. And did I mention the airplanes? There are some interesting family dynamics, as well as an enemies-to-lovers romance. I listened to it on audio and loved the narrators. However, it was occasionally hard for me to follow due to all the various kingdoms, alliances, and politics. Plus, the pace dragged a bit at times. I So Liked It but felt like I might have appreciated it more if I'd read the physical copy and referenced the map.

THE STAR-CROSSED SISTERS OF TUSCANY BY LORI NELSON SPIELMAN – Stories about sisters are one of my book hooks, so I couldn't resist this Book of the Month selection last year. Although it was a little cheesy at times, I thought it was still an engaging story about a group of second-born daughters affected by an age-old family curse to never marry. I love the way Spielman explored how a belief about someone (or yourself) can shape who they are, how they live, and what choices they make. I thought that was the most thought-provoking aspect of the story. The Italian setting made me long to go on a trip with my bestie, and the characters' growth won me over by the end. I So Enjoyed It, though I hate at least one secondary character with a fiery passion for what she did to her sister.

EDUCATED BY TARA WESTOVER – I have a controversial opinion about this much-hyped and beloved book... I have a lot of Questions. This was an incredibly compelling read that had me on the edge of my seat while listening. It almost felt like fiction because I was always wondering, what will happen next?! I have no doubt in my mind that Westover suffered abuse and grew up in a toxic household. However, I didn't fully believe some aspects of her story (especially the medical situations) because the details truly didn't make sense, at least as described in here. 

This was the kind of memoir that made me fully aware of the fact that one person's truth doesn't always represent the full scope of a situation. I couldn't turn off my thoughts – They're off the grid but have a computer and a cell phone? Someone survived these burns without medical attention? They're uneducated but three of the children went on to earn PhDs? And that's just a fraction of what was running through my mind. I appreciated how Westover turns to her old journals, neighbors, and even her siblings to corroborate her story. But it was also disconcerting to be told they remembered (or she'd written about) an event differently than the way it was depicted in the book. 

It's not often that I am so conflicted about book. It's gripping and hard to put down, and I admire Westover's resilience and do believe that she's suffered trauma. But I'm not sure she's always the most reliable narrator and feel the memoir might have been better with more time/distance from the events. I'm So Okay With It

WAITING FOR THE NIGHT SONG BY JULIE CARRICK DALTON – This book's cover first caught my attention, and the summary appealed to me because it had hints of Where the Crawdads Sing (but in a contemporary setting). This dual timeline story was interesting but ultimately tried to do too much. It packs nature study, climate change, immigration, coming-of-age, and a murder mystery into one story. Although Crawdads succeeded at blending multiple genres, this would have benefited from a clearer focus. If there had been more character development and a little less time spent on topical issues, it would have worked better for me. There were fast-paced moments where I couldn't put it down, and I did like the mystery's resolution. I So Liked It but wanted more from it

THE SURVIVORS BY JANE HARPER – Although I enjoyed the books I've read previously from Harper, I wouldn't have picked this one up if it wasn't a Book of the Month selection. However, it started out strong – the setting was so atmospheric! Harper vividly described this coastal town, the threat of bad weather, and both the appeal and danger of the tides and caves. I wasn't sure if I was more afraid of the natural world or the killer inhabiting it. And then... the reveal. It was frustrating and so unsatisfying. I was so irritated at the end that it made the book's other weaknesses, such as lack of development between characters, more obvious. It became the most memorable mystery I've read from this author, simply because it made me so angry. Sadly, I'm So Over It.

GOOD APPLE BY ELIZABETH PASSARELLA – This book hadn't been on my radar, but I loved the cover and the subtitle, Tales of a Southern Evangelical in New York. Passarella's faith was deeply important to her and grounded everything she wrote. She didn't just call herself a Christian because she'd always gone to church; it was about a deep relationship with God. I loved reading about it! However, the essays overall were a mixed bag and the book lacked direction. It felt like reading all her opinions on various topics (marriage, parenting, miscarriage, politics, faith, life in New York, and more), and some felt like TMI or bothered me (like her anger/temper). I'd also argue that she isn't a "Southerner in New York" – she's a New Yorker who is from the South. I was So Okay With It.

MEET ME IN BOMBAY BY JENNY ASHCROFT* – The first half of this book was painfully slow for me, and I wasn't invested. I thought I knew exactly where the story was going... and then I was wrong! That's when I started to feel more engaged and couldn't put it down! Though much of the book takes place in England, I can see why it has drawn criticism for being a romanticized depiction of colonial India. The setting could have been moved to England entirely without drastically affecting the plot (and thus eliminating the problematic element). The draw for me was the question of "Will they find their way back to one another?" because I really cared about that conflict. I So Liked It by the end, but I might have DNF-ed early on if I didn't feel the need to stick with it longer to write a fair review.

THE WIFE UPSTAIRS BY RACHEL HAWKINS – A retelling of Jane Eyre that's a domestic thriller? I had to have it! The hype put this book on my radar, but it was the premise that convinced me to buy it. I loved how Hawkins turned this Gothic romance into a modern mystery, full of untrustworthy characters and dramatic twists. If you're familiar with the inspiration, I don't think you'll be truly shocked by anything in this story. And yet, it was still worth reading (in my opinion). The Southern setting of Birmingham, Alabama, was a nice bonus for me since there were elements that felt familiar. The short chapters kept the story moving, which gave it a great pace. It was an addicting read, even though it was pretty predictable. I So Enjoyed It and loved that the audiobook had multiple narrators! 

SHIPPED BY ANGIE HOCKMAN – I'd seen this described as a cross between The Hating Game by Sally Thorne and The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, which is a huge reason I picked it up. I love both of those books, and I can absolutely see those comparisons for Shipped. I loved the hints of hate-to-love that showed how easily people can misinterpret one anothers' words and actions. The cruise ship setting was a delight, and I learned about ecotourism, and which was a nice bonus. I felt like the romance played out in a very enjoyable way. The secondary characters were a nice bonus, and they added to my investment in the story. Is it the most memorable rom com I've ever read? No, but I did find it very engaging and So Enjoyed It. I flew through it once I started!

THE EX TALK BY RACHEL LYNN SOLOMON – I was really expecting to love this one, but it didn't quite hit the spot for me. The heroine got on my nerves, which I somewhat attribute to disliking the audiobook narrator. Something about her tone was so melancholy to me. Once I returned that format and picked up the physical book, things improved. I knew that the premise of the story involved a lie and thought I'd be able to accept it, but I found it a lot harder to get past than I expected. The fake dating aspect wasn't the problem – it was the fact that these two radio hosts were blatantly lying to grow their audience, gain advertisers, and raise funding. It definitely colored how I felt about the characters and their relationship. I So Liked It in a lot of ways, but I did have some reservations.

NONE SHALL SLEEP BY ELLIE MARNEY – I had to pick up this psychological thriller by the author of a Sherlock Holmes-inspired YA series that I love. I'd been a little hesitant, however, because it's described as Silences of the Lambs meets Sadie. That sounded so creepy! Set in 1982, two teens – a serial killer survivor and a US Marshal candidate – are recruited by the FBI to interview juvenile killers. They are told to focus on cold cases, but that plan was pretty much DOA. As I've come to expect from Marney, it was hard to put down! She excels at building tension. It was dark and not for anyone squeamish. Some of the descriptions... *shudder.* I So Liked It, but there are many on Goodreads who've raved it. For me, it won't live on in my memory now that the thrill is gone. 

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE BY JANE AUSTEN – Listening to Pride and Prejudice on audio, with Rosamunde Pike's lovely narration, was the perfect way to kick off 2021. If I was forced to choose my favorite book of all time, I think it would be this one. I collect copies of it, can't resist retellings, and adore the movie adaptations. It was the starting point for my obsession with all things Jane Austen! I don't think I will ever get tired of this story, even though I know what will happen. I still feel so invested in it, and each re-read introduces me to something new to love about Austen's writing, the characters, and the plot itself. I'm So Obsessed With It and thankful for the comfort of an old favorite.

MAKE UP BREAK UP BY LILY MENON* – [DNF REVIEW] I don't typically write DNF reviews but am sharing a few thoughts since I got a copy for review on NetGalley. Make Up Break Up is the adult debut of well-known YA author Sandhya Menon. The book focuses on two rival app developers, and I struggled to sympathize with adult business owners who spend so much energy sabotaging each other. It was so unprofessional and juvenile! The heroine is on the verge of losing her business, and she was in complete denial + continued to dig herself deeper. The immaturity of people the heroine and hero made me feel like I was reading the worst kind of YA novel. Because I felt like a judgy old lady while reading, I had to put it down. There may be growth by the end, but I couldn't handle anymore.

What have you been reading lately?

*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.

Tales & Tiger Lily: January 2021

Feb 19, 2021

My sister recently joined bookstagram as @talesandtigerlily. Her name is Caroline, and Tiger Lily is her adorable sidekick (pictured above). Since she's discovered a love of reading, I've had the best time talking about books with her. Be sure to check out her introduction post to get to know her better. Once a month, you get a new installment of Tales & Tiger Lily. In each post, she reviews three of her favorite reads from the previous month and ends with a list of everything she read with ratings (and links to reviews, if applicable). 

Recapping the Rest of Caroline's January Reads:
Memories by Lang Leav | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Home Body by Rupi Kaur | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ.5 • Review
The Lost Manuscript by Cathy Bonidan | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ • Review
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ.5 • Review
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ • Review
Outlawed by Anna North  | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ • Review
The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ • Review
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ.5 • Review
Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
The Ruin of Kings and The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ • Review
Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ (not pictured)

Her top three from the month:

“Character is destiny, according to Shakespeare. And yet our bodies, above all our faces, are so bound up with how others perceive us, one might say that, especially for a woman, they are just as powerful an influence over our destinies. Our faces influence the perceptions others hold of us, and those perceptions influence, in turn, our character.” 

I picked up this book months ago because I loved the cover. After sampling it, I really wasn’t sure and decided to put it back. However, my sister listened to From the Front Porch podcast, and someone highly recommended it. So, of course, I bought Crossings last week at the store. 

This novel is genre-bending and has a little bit of everything. It is historical (on the brink of Nazi occupation in France), with fantasy, romance, and mystery. Crossings tells the story of a German-Jewish bookbinder tasked with binding a manuscript called Crossings. He reads the manuscript against his client’s wishes, and uncovers a story consisting of three narratives. As the stories merge, it really becomes a tale of how two lovers were separated by ancient law. 

Crossings is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. The book can be read in two ways: conventionally (from first to last page) or by following the Baroness sequence, which begins on page 150. I bought the audio (with multiple narrators) as well, wanting to have more of an experience while I read. I chose to read by following the Baroness sequence, jumping around the book. This made it so much fun. I was sucked into the story immediately, wondering how the characters and events would come together. 

If you are looking for something completely unique, I highly suggest reading Crossings. As a debut novel, I am blown away by Landragin’s prose and creativity. I can’t wait to see what he writes next. | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

“In the mirror I saw my reflection, a face marked by lines and age. A face marked by the persistence of hope, tragedy, abandonment, and grief. I reminded myself I was a woman who maintained strength through everything.” (This quote though. A mantra for all of us.) 

The Removed tells the story of the Echota family—a Cherokee family dealing with grief. Their son, Ray-Ray, was killed 15 years ago in a police shooting. What the reader sees is the devastating aftermath of loss. Each family member has their own set of struggles. The book leads up to the final event of their annual bonfire, marking the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death. 

The story is told from multiple POVs, and we uncover each family member’s present day struggles. The mother, Maria, struggles with grief and taking care of her husband, Ernest, who has Alzheimer’s. Their daughter, Sonja, lives a life of solitude and has romantic obsessions. Finally, their youngest son, Edgar, turns to drugs to deal with the pain. I loved all of the characters, and I found myself excited to turn the page to hear more from each of them. The pain they experienced was raw and emotional. 

The book contains a lot of Cherokee folklore, and much of the story blends the real and the spiritual. I can see how this may not be every reader’s taste, but I personally loved it. The Cherokee traditions and beliefs passed down through generations brought the book to life. This is a story of racism, devastating loss, and grief. But to me, the most important aspect—it is story of what it means to come home. It also offers hope and redemption. I felt for each character, and I truly adored hearing their stories. 

Hobson blends the harsh truths and struggles of a modern day Cherokee family with beautiful legends and beliefs. Parts will feel real, other parts will lead your mind to into an imaginative, dreamlike state. In my opinion, it was masterfully done. I loved it, and I will definitely buy a regular copy of this book when it is released in February (yes, I know that is extra). If I really love a BOTM pick, I want the real copy. | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

“You know, there’s a lot about ourselves that we can’t change—it’s just the way we’re born. But some parts of us are shaped by what we see. And how we’re treated by other people. How we’re made to feel.” 

The Push tells the story of Blythe Connor, a new mother to her baby girl Violet. She wants to be the type of mother she didn’t have—one who will nurture and care for her. However, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter. Her husband dismisses her concerns and says she is imagining things. As her son is born and she develops a wonderful connection with him, she feels like things could be better—that maybe they can be a happy family. But something devastating changes Blythe’s life in an instant. 

I could. not. put. it. down. I was hooked, I and felt so invested in Blythe. There is a lot of great character development in that we see what Blythe went through in the past with her own mother. I love stories involving how our past shapes us and how people deal with trauma. 

I could fully enjoy this book because I am not a mother. I’m not sure I would have liked it if I had children of my own. The Push is a lot darker than I thought it would be. I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and at times, this book made me question that desire. Lol. Just kidding. But kinda not. 

If you like dark dramas that are bit disturbing, this book is for you. I don’t usually give any content warnings because I like to go in blind. If you’re a sensitive reader, I’d check out Goodreads for more specifics. | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ.5

2021 Family Bucket List

Feb 15, 2021

Similar to 2020, one of my goals for this year is to cherish the people I love. I know the common recommendation is to set goals that are specific and measurable, but not everything that I want to do in my life has an end date. Some of the things I want to cultivate are things that will always be a little bit in progress. Now, the broad goal does have plenty of specific mini goals associated with it. But I rather than do those tasks in isolation, I like to think about them in terms of the bigger picture. That's how I'm able to stay motivated and make progress!

My cleaning routine isn't just for the sake of having it – it's a way to cherish the people I love by making sure the space we live in is inviting and cared for. I'm not planning a birthday party because I have to do it or want to impress others. Instead, I'm asking myself, "What will make my boys feel seen and cherished on their special day?" Tying the smaller, more specific goals into the bigger one helps me tap into the purpose behind it all and to see some less-desirable things as an act of love rather than a chore to complete. And it helps me rein in the "shoulds" that can sometimes make me feel like I've failed or forgotten something.

One of the things we did last year, for the first time, was make a family bucket list of 20 things we wanted to do in 2020. The list had to be tweaked a bit due to COVID-19, but we did complete our updated list. It worked so well for us, and we wanted to do it again. Having a plan made for better adventures and wonderful memories. I loved what we did in 2020, what we postponed, and what we talked about wanting to do to make this year's list: 

1. TRY: a pick-your-own fruit farm. 
2. PLAY: mini golf. 
3. READ: a family devotional.
4. EAT: rainbow popsicles. 
5. MAKE: a home project list. 
6. CREATE: a family photo album.
7. RIDE: on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.
8. SEND: happy mail to a friend.
9. TEACH: our boys something new.
10. TAKE: family photos for our baby's first birthday.
11. CELEBRATE: our 10th anniversary.
12. ENJOY: a New School Year's Eve celebration.
13. EXPLORE: a botanical garden.
14. WATCH: a movie at a drive-in theater.
15. SEE: animals -- at the zoo, an animal sanctuary, etc.
16. TRAVEL: somewhere new.
17. SPONSOR: a child through Compassion International.
18. VISIT: LEGOLAND in Atlanta.
19. GO: on a hike. 
20. HAVE: a water gun fight.

My criteria were basically identical to last year – 1) mostly free things with a few expenses that will be worth it, 2) relatively easy to do with a one-year-old, and 3) specific but still flexible. The items we had the most difficulty completing last year were the ones that required us to go somewhere specific (particularly if they were only an option in a certain season). And with COVID-19 in mind, I tried to focus on things that can be done at home or outdoors. We'll see how 2021 pans out, but I'm excited about the memories our family will make.

What are you hoping to do this year?

20 Big Boy & Baby Faves in 2020

Feb 11, 2021

I recently shared my 2020 obsessions at the end of the year. In the process of compiling all of my favorite things, I kept thinking of items that my boys have loved (or that I've loved for them). So, I wrote them all down for their own So Obsessed With post! I didn't add any books, but I'm planning on sharing a list of board/picture/chapter books we've loved lately in the next month. For today, 20 of our big boy and baby obsessions in 2020:

My big boy is four and a half, and these are a few of his favorite things from the past year:

Our animal lover is obsessed with anything from Schleich. He got a barn for his third birthday, this research station after having his appendix removed, and a dinosaur station for Christmas. He plays with these for hours!

2. BookRoo Subscription (~ $20/month)
Last year, my parents got him a picture book subscription. He loved getting a "kangaroo box" and opening the wrapped books. We tried something different this year and already canceled because BookRoo was much better.

While on a beach vacation in 2019, my mom bought him a larger version of this puppy (that size is discontinued now) and it hasn't left his side since. He named it "BB" for "Big Brother," and it's his special stuffie. 

We didn't move him from the crib until he was three, and he went from that to a full-size bed. I didn't love traditional bed rails and found these bumpers searching online. We love them and would highly recommend them.

The socks I used to buy at Target were always too low or too high. I tried Amazon next and found these ankle socks. They're perfect, and my son loves the grippers on the bottom so he doesn't slip on our hardwoods.

Since my big boy started preschool this past fall, we've been working on the alphabet and phonics more frequently. We love having these magnetic letters to practice and play, and the box keeps them perfectly organized.

We don't use the iPad often, but I do love having some apps downloaded for long car rides. This is our personal favorite – and my son's, too! He loves the different games and seeing characters from his favorite TV shows.

We love this thing! We own so many animal figures, and our big boy loves to do "animal figure setups" all around the house. He will load up his Luggy and take it to whatever location he's got in mind. Functional and adorable! 

9. Honey Bee Tees ($20-24)
I've mentioned this brand before because we've shopped with them for the past few years, but I had to recommend this small business again. The animal designs appeal to our big boy, and I love that they're simple and understated.

We started family game nights in 2020, and our big boy loves them. There are board games he loves, too, but these card games are fun for all of us. Our favorite is Crazy 8s, which the card holder often comes in handy for.

Our baby just turned, and these are some of his favorite things from the past year:

It felt like we were constantly cleaning the high chair we'd used with our first, so I wanted to replace it. We love this affordable one, especially with the Yeah Baby Goods accessories that improve its functionality.

Our nursery is often one of the colder rooms in our house. Most sleep sacks were too short for our tall baby, but these have been perfect. We have both the thin (1.0 tog) and thick (2.5 tog) version and have loved them.

I wanted a mat under the baby's high chair to help with all the mess once he was eating solids, and this wipeable and water resistant leather option came highly recommended. I can see why, and I would recommend it, too. 

This seemed dumb until our baby had a horrible diaper rash. Research led me to try calmoseptine ointment, which is amazing but thick and hard to apply. The brush saved the day, and now we use it all the time.

Although I only used this for the first four or so months after he was born, we used it every single day. He didn't nap well in his crib but loved being held, and this allowed me get things done and kept my hands free.

Once the baby was sitting independently, we wanted to be able to bathe him at the same time as his brother without constant reminders to be careful. This allows them to play together in the water and keeps the baby safer.

Our big boy wanted to ride on the stroller with his brother, and I loved that this had the option for a bench seat. I found one on Facebook Marketplace in great condition for an amazing price. We use it all the time and adore it!

My mom got the baby this incredibly soft blanket before he was born, and it's our favorite one to tuck around him in the car or stroller. I'm secretly hoping he'll become as attached to it as my big boy is to his stuffed puppy.

The baby sucks his thumb, but there were a few months early on where he favored pacifiers. Once he officially ditched them, I attached toys/teethers to the few clips we'd purchased and attach them to the car seat or stroller.

My first never took a bottle, and I knew that I didn't want that to happen with our second. I wanted other people to be able to feed him, too! Thankfully, he loved these bottles, and I loved the freedom they gave me.

February 2021 Goals

Feb 9, 2021

February is a special month in our house because it's full of birthdays: mine, our baby's, my bestie's, and Nick's! I'm sharing my monthly goals a little later in February than I typically would, so we've technically already celebrated three of those fourth birthdays. But no matter! It's still one of my favorite months in the year, despite the fact that it's usually full of gloomy weather. It snowed in Georgia on Saturday night, and the last time it did that was the day our second was born. We celebrated his birthday on Sunday, so it was a sweet little moment of dรฉjร  vu.

I made good progress on my January goals! While I didn't check everything off my list, I saw results and that's the biggest motivation for me. I've got good momentum going into February, and I'm excited to tackle the two things I missed + introduce a few new mini goals into the mix. Introducing change a little at a time works for me. 

On My Calendar:
– My 32nd birthday
– Celebrating our baby's first birthday
– Valentine's Day with my boys
– Nick's birthday
– A few doctor's appointments

Currently Obsessing Over:
– The 1 Second Everyday app is such a delightful way to record our days. I can't wait to do this entire year!
– I'm currently re-reading the ACOTAR series on audio before the next book, A Court of Silver Flames, comes out on February 16 and remembering just how much I love this world and these characters. *sigh*
– I will now be ordering all my masks from Ann Taylor LOFT because they're the most comfortable ones I've worn. 
– My husband and bestie gifted me this Pride and Prejudice and this Anne of Green Gables for my collection. 

Yearly Goals:
(These should stay the same all year, so I'll just do month-to-month progress reports!)
– Read a devotional every morning.
– Do Soulspace meditation every night.
– Blog 2x per week.
– Complete the Contentment Challenge (Q1). 
– Maintain monthly photo organization + daily delete.
– Use the 1 Second Everyday app.

January progress:
– I'm reading Jesus Calling for 2021 and only missed four days in January.
– I did Soulspace for 60% of January. But it is a brand-new habit, so inconsistency is to be expected!
– Yes, I blogged at least 2 times every week.
– I'm doing good with my no-spend challenge!
– Done! I love the daily delete, and Miss Freddy's class (see below) made monthly organization even easier.
– I recorded a video for every day in January, and we already love watching it back.

Revisiting My January Goals: 
– Watch church online every Sunday. / I only watched the online service one Sunday. I think I may try listening to the podcast version of the message every week? I'm not sure, but I'll figure it out.
Only drink one Diet Coke per day. / This is part of my goal to make healthy choices. While I didn't have perfect progress in January, I'm so proud of myself for succeeding for 70% of January. My track record was stronger at the end of the month than the beginning, so I hope to continue to see improvements here in February. 
Complete Eleven Months in the baby's journal + take monthly photo. / Done. I'm so happy there's only one monthly photo left to take + only yearly updates in his journal from this point forward!
– Complete Eleven Months in the big boy's journal. / I procrastinated on this goal, so I'll carry it into February. 
Cull 2020 photos and videos from my phone. / I can access my entire photo/video library from the OneDrive app on my phone, so I culled everything prior to 2021 on my camera roll down to about 300 favorites.
Make our 2021 family bucket list. / Done! I'll share this year's list in a blog post later this month.
Prepare for the baby's first birthday in February! / Everything that was on my list got checked off.
Watch Backup Bootcamp course. / I watched the entire course, making notes on what I needed to do. 
– Break down my meal planning goal into action steps. / I forgot about this goal, so it's on February's list.
Blog about my 2021 personal and bookish goals. / I shared my personal goals and my bookish goals.

My February Goals:
– Walk 3x per week.
– Complete Eleven Months in the big boy's journal.
– Celebrate our family's February birthdays.
– Break down meal planning goal into action steps.
– Read a cookbook (Dinner: A Love Story). 
– Make a list of pantry staples and go-to meals.
– Complete Backup Bootcamp course.
– Watch Family Yearbook course. 
– Write a discussion post.
– Send happy mail to a friend.
– Start journaling weekly.

Do you have any goals for February?

'I knew that I had her in my corner.'

Feb 8, 2021

Yesterday was my best friend's birthday and my baby's first birthday! What could be more perfect than celebrating two of my favorite people in the entire world on the same day? When I first told Kelly I was pregnant and due in February, she immediately said, "That baby is going to be born on my birthday!" I was due on the 12th – right in between my own birthday (the 1st) and Nick's (the 29th). I figured the baby would arrive on a day all his own, but she always he would arrive on the 7th. And she was right. (She always is. Except when I am.)

My friendship with Kelly has been one of the very best things to come out of blogging. I will always be glad that talking about books on the Internet led me to her. I have been lucky in my life to have wonderful friendships. Some have lasted for only a season and a few ended dramatically, but I have learned something from each and every one. While I didn't love everything about Big Friendship by Ann Friedman and Amintou Sow, this quote stood out to me:
If you prioritize only your romantic relationships, who is going to hold your hand through a breakup? Relying on your spouse to be your everything will definitely undo your marriage. No one human can meet your every single emotional need. If you only prioritize your kids, what happens when they’re grown and living far away, wrapped up in their own lives? Or if you only prioritize work? Wow, that’s too sad to even contemplate.
In honor of my bestie's birthday, I decided to share my favorite female friendships in books and what they taught me about friendship. And since her birthday is the 7th, I've naturally got seven besties to highlight:

1. Lily and Trix in Pretty Face and Making Up
“Whenever I need help, you're there. It was one really shitty page in what I hope is a very long book for both of us.”

The Lesson: Celebrate the friend who can forgive you and "stretch" with you as life brings changes that shift the foundation of your friendship. Whether it's a bad boyfriend, a new job, or a big move, the best friend sticks around for all of it. Find someone who, like Lily, says, “We're forever, you and me.” And means it.

2. Kristin and Sloan in The Friend Zone and The Happy Ever After Playlist
“My job is to help you with your crazy. Make you the best, most magnificent crazy you can be.”

The Lesson: Never let go of the friend who knows exactly what to say to make you flustered, joins in your crazy scheme, gives you a pep talk, and isn't afraid of a hard conversation or a little tough love. The friend who's been licking the inside of a chip bag with you since sixth grade and is willing to put on a disguise to spy on your ex.

3. Laurie and Emily in If I Never Met You
“Laurie had thought Dan was the source of unconditional love in her life, but actually it was Emily: she wasn't going to turn round and say sorry, she'd found a new Laurie.

The Lesson: A good friend will tell you it's a bad idea to fake a relationship with a co-worker, but a best friend will approve of the plan once she vets his attractiveness. And if your friend confesses that she's afraid a man won't love her if gets to know the real her, it's a great time to remind her: “But I got to know you, and only loved you more.”

4. Anne and Diana in Anne of Green Gables
A bosom friend — an intimate friend, you know — a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will, too. Do you think it’s possible?”

The Lesson: The best friends balance each other out. Sometimes a daydreamer needs the grounding of someone more practical – and someone more steady needs some spice brought into their life. Also, if you (accidentally) get your underage friend drunk, you'll need to save her baby sister's life to get back in her mom's good graces.

5. January and Shadi in Beach Read
“[Falling's] the part when you can't believe the person standing in front of you both exists and happened to wander into your path. It's supposed to make you feel lucky to be alive, exactly when and where you are.
“You're wrong that you never saw that with me. [...] That's how I felt when I found you.”

The Lesson: If your friend texts you "I need you," get there immediately. And when you get there, read the room. Does she need a shoulder to cry on? Distracting small talk? Shit-talking the person who hurt her? Show up when it matters. Also, make sure you tell your friend how much she means to you. Don't take her for granted!

“Zuzana was the best friend she'd ever had, and she didn't want to lose her.”

The Lesson: You have to be willing to open up and tell your story if you want to take a friendship from "we have fun together" to "I'd follow you into another world." Even if sharing involves confessing, in all its unbelievable detail, that an angel tried to kill you in Morocco. And when someone opens up to you? Be ready to listen. 

7. Bryce and Danika in House of Earth and Blood
“But she was the one person I could be myself around and never feel judged. The one person that I knew would always pick up the phone, or call me back. She was the one person who made me feel brave because no matter what happened, no matter how bad or embarrassing or shitty it was, I knew that I had her in my corner.”

The Lesson: Best friends will leave a mark on your life, even after they're gone. Loving someone means you might get hurt – there's no guarantee they'll always be there. The bond between friends is a choice, a heart connection, but the reward of a best friend is always worth the risk whether they're in your life forever or for a season.

And, just for kicks, here are seven things Kelly has taught me during our friendship:
1. There's probably a movie or TV quote for every moment in life.
2. Sometimes you need to be assertive and say what's on your mind. 
3. The library exists; not every book needs to be purchased.
4. You can do hard things... like trek up a muddy hill on a cold, windy day.
5. England is so much better with your best friend.
6. Be thoughtful – get on the plane, send the care package. People remember.
7. A best friend will let you ramble and go with you on every Journey.

I'm so thankful for her and for all the books out there that remind me of how to be a friend and what a joy it is to have one. There's no one I'd rather drive in Atlanta traffic to get, and I can't wait for our 2021 reunion! 

What's your favorite fictional female friendship?
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