Summer is for reading, am I right?! Here's what I've read in the last month or so and what is on my immediate TBR list.
Tangerine: A twisty, toxic relationship between two college friends unravels in mid-century Morocco. The setting here is the star. Morocco is a fully fleshed out character in the story and really enriches the plot. A good psychological thriller. If you need likable characters or hopeful endings, this may not be for you.
Crazy Rich Asians: SO. MUCH. FUN. A great book to pick up before seeing the move, out August 15. This book is told from several points of view of various wings of an indescribably wealthy family based in Singapore. This is the first of three books in a series and I definitely plan on picking up the next two.
The Last Time I Lied: Best thriller I've read in a long time! I love the mystery/thriller genre but I'm particular about the ones I read: they can't be too dark, I don't want to feel like it's something that could happen to me, no gross murder-y stuff with kids, etc. This was perfect summer mystery reading. Emma goes to camp at 13 and the 3 other girls in her cabin disappear one night and they have to shut down the camp. Now an accomplished artist, Emma is invited back to the re-opening of the camp to teach art to the campers. Shenanigans ensue.
If You Only Knew: I listened to this on audio and I loved that it was read by the author, Jamie Ivey, whose podcast, the Happy Hour is also a great listen. This is the story of Jamie's growing up years and the shame she carried from some of the decisions she made and how she came to find freedom in Christ. It was a great listen.
I'd Rather Be Reading: This may be the book I am most excited to read next! Anne Bogel is one of my favorite podcasters and bloggers and she has a new book coming out September 4 all about what it means to be a reader and love books. You can pre-order the book and no matter where you pre-order it, you can submit your order info and get some fabulous bonuses from Anne and her team. You can read all about them here. As part of Anne's launch team, I am excited to receive a copy of this book to read and review for all of you ahead of the publication date so stay tuned for that!
I thought this would be a fun idea for a post on my best purchases this month. June was my birthday month so some of these items fall under the category of "things people bought me" but you get the idea. Here's what I would buy again in a heartbeat!
Lake Pajamas: One of the aforementioned gifts received and oh. my. stars. these are in fact the world's softest, most comfortable pajamas. Save your pennies and treat yourself to these!
Crazy Rich Asians: Reading this now and loving it so far. It's a little more intimidating than I thought it would be because its long and features a vast array of characters but I'm about a quarter of the way through and everyone who has read it, raves about it!
Packable Straw Hat: Honestly, I haven't worn this yet but owning it makes me feel more on trend, haha. I'm planning on taking this to Arizona next month and wearing it at the beach this coming week. I'll report back. (BONUS: The hat comes sized which is great if you have a large head like me, hello M/L option)
Target Bathing Suit: I can't get over the cost of this suit! It's 34.99 and fits soooo well. I had almost given up on finding a quality one piece at a reasonable price, but I decide to give this a try after seeing it on laurenebown's instagram. It's a dream, cuter in person than online, and I ordered a medium, FYI.
Summer is in full swing so I'm sharing a list of our favorite summer activities on the blog. I hope this inspires you to fill your summer days with fun and is something you can refer to and add to all season long.
Library (checking out books and movies, storytimes, and clubs--just discovered our library has a chess club!)
Slip n' slide
Chalking the driveway
Baking (box mixes or scratch--your kids will love it either way)
Painting with watercolors
Nature walk (walk the neighborhood and looking for leaves, worms, etc.)
Build a fort and watch a movie
Science center/children's museum
Mall (this doesn't have to be expensive--spring for a kids soda or ice water and just walk and window shop)
Cosmic kids yoga
Journaling (click over to my instagram and see the journals we made)
Y'all. Here's the thing: I have never loved summer. Even as a kid, I had a low level anxiety about how we would fill our time without the structure and boundaries that school created. And that still exists as an adult and even more so now that I am a parent. And I've decided this year as we close the books on another year of preschool that I'm going to try and implement a flexible summer schedule to lead us through our days. I have a lot of friends who have already clicked out of this piece because they love summer and throwing the schedule out the window and that is fine. I wish I were more like them but I am not, so I have to put things in place to keep me sane. Now of course there will be beach days and days this goes completely out the window but I am excited to fall back on it as much as I need to.
So here is how we are divvying up our days this summer:
Outside time or errands/activity ( This might include playing in the yard, going to library or science center or running necessary errands.)
Rest time/ naptime
TV time (no shame in my TV game)
This is obviously not rocket science. But there is power in having it written out and posted somewhere I can see. It shines light on how we will spend our day. I also have a running list of activities that my kids love so I can refer to those when I am stuck on how to fill that mid morning "activity" block. Come back next week to see what some of those are.
Do you love summer or loathe it? (Click here to listen to an episode of my podcast with my sister about our differing views about summer)
This past November LAS and I took a weekend trip to Asheville and I feel like we made the most of our 48 hours. When I have free time or vacation time, I often get anxious trying to make perfect use of the time and worry that I'm wasting an opportunity. So I am proud to report that our trip to Asheville, while obviously not comprehensive, was pretty perfect for us.
Flew in to Greenville and stopped along the way to visit our cousin who is school near Greenville.
We settled in to our Air BnB which was AWESOME! It was located in West Asheville and so close to all we wanted to do. It was a basement walkout with the owners living upstairs. The space was perfect for two--a small living room, bathroom, and bedroom. You can rent it here. I cannot recommend this rental enough--they even had robes and a white noise machine, which we are so used to hearing on the kids' monitor, it felt like home.
We went downtown and did a little shopping including the Battery Park Book Exchange (hello used books and champagne!), Asheville Bee Charmer, and Malaprops Book Store.
In trying to find a dinner spot we accidentally ended up at the New Belgium Brewery--it was a delight and there was a Taco truck called Belly Up that made for a great, quick dinner.
Though the Biltmore on Sunday was wonderful, we both agreed that Saturday's activities were tops. We started the day at Biscuithead for breakfast which was without a doubt, the best meal we had in Asheville. We waited in the cold for probably an hour and it was worth every chilly minute. We enjoyed a gravy flight, a ham and egg biscuit with a fried green tomato and more gravy for LAS, and a fried chicken biscuit with egg, slaw, and sweet potato jam for me. HEAVEN.
We let it warm up a bit before heading to hike Catawba Falls--it was an easy hike with breathtaking scenery. Changing leaves and sweet creeks created the perfect Fall wonderland for these season-less Floridians. The Falls themselves were awesome and worth a look any time of year.
Saturday wrapped up with dinner at Tupelo Honey Cafe which was delicious. Grilled okra y'all. That's what you need to know.
We started Sunday by checking out of our airBnB and high tailing it to Hole, a doughnut shop. The doughnuts were so good and different from your typical Dunkin, Krispy Kreme, local donut shop. They were so light and airy and they had a limited assortment of interesting flavors.
Then we went to the Biltmore and it was magnificent. I wanted to go to the Biltmore but LAS wasn't so sure until two sweet ladies in the line at Biscuithead convinced us that we had to go. We got the audio tour which really enhanced what we were seeing by providing some background information. The house and it's history reminded me of an American version of Downton Abbey. Decked out for Christmas, it was especially gorgeous. I would love to go back in the spring or summer because we loved the gardens and it would be fun to see those in full bloom. If you're in the Asheville area I highly recommend a day at the Biltmore. There was a ton to do and after 5 or so hours we had to go catch our flight but we could have stayed and seen more.
Things on the list for next time:
Sierra Nevada Brewery
Omni Grove Park Inn
One of the things I love to do is read. I go through dry spells where I have nothing to read or don't have the time but when I get my hands on good books, I'm ravenous for them. My husband will routinely give me the side eye and be like "slow down, it's not going anywhere." He's the type of reader who remembers EVERYTHING he reads, which is great. I don't always, because I'm often catching a few minutes here and there and I'm a fast reader. But that's neither here nor there...
Now on to my recent reads.
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
This is by it's own subtitle, "a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice," which could really go any which way given how beloved Austen's original is. I loved this book--the retelling of P&P is modern but also very true to the original. You know who each character is (many of them share the same names) and I can visualize scenes from Pride and Prejudice as Sittenfeld retells them in modern day Cincinnati. I highly recommend it. Also, it's a quick read. I finished it within the week.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Ok, so I finally read this book after so. much. hype. I hate that, because I rarely feel like books live up to that hype and unfortunately I felt the same about this one. Don't get me wrong, I devoured it. Like read it in 3 days. The way it's written makes it quite the page turner and I genuinely cared about the fates of some of the characters but it was darker than I expected and when I was done I just wasn't as excited about it as everyone else seemed to be. I am wanting to read another of Moriarty's books to see how I feel about a different one. I know a lot of people have read all of her books--is there one you loved best?!
Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Ella Macneal
This is the first in a series of mystery/spy novels set during WWII. I loved this book. Totally in my wheelhouse--mystery & historical fiction, winning x2. Maggie Hope is the main character (who presumably continues her adventures in the subsequent series' titles.) and she is an American raised, English born woman in her twenties living in London during the start of WWII. She ends up with a job in the Prime Minister's office and gets embroiled in some espionage. As a result in this book she makes a career shift to spy work. It was a great read--fast paced, again, likable characters, and a couple of good twists. I've already reserved the sequel, Princess Elizabeth's Spy at the library and plan to dive in soon.
If you love podcasts, like me, I highly recommend "What Should I Read Next." It's a podcast by Anne Bogel, blogger at Modern Mrs. Darcy. She interviews people and asks for 3 books they love, 1 book they hate, and what they've been reading lately. And then based on their answers she provides them with 3 recommendations. It's delightful to hear people talk about books and why they love them and I always pick up on a couple of titles I would not otherwise have heard of. I also think about what my answers would be if I were on the show...
Next up on my "to read" list...
Mama Always Put Vodka in the Sangria! by Julia Reed.
I can't say enough about how much I love Julia Reed--she is one of my most favorite authors and she is funny and Southern and brilliant and I want to be her when I grow up. Her memoirs/essays are always entertaining and remind me of what's best about my own Southern heritage.
We are loving this sweet, new Easter tradition at our house! The Funny Bunny is a lot like your favorite Christmas elf who keeps an eye on behavior in preparation for the Easter Bunny's visit.
There's a great book that teaches the kiddos all about the Funny Bunny and his job and the bunny leaves little notes and surprises for your little ones. I love the idea of using the Funny Bunny to encourage good habits, gently remind them of things they should or shouldn't be doing, and incorporating scripture to keep the focus on the true meaning of Easter! So many great options for your family.
Today our Funny Bunny brought some confetti eggs and they were a hit to say to the least!
To get your own Funny Bunny, visit The Primrose Shop at 2804 Corrine Drive Orlando, FL 32803 or call 407-447-4621