Last week Kristy and I taught our first round of Your Life, Your Memories, a new workshop in our photography series. The goal of our new class is to teach our students a system that enables you to continually sort, save and print your photos. The digital age has many benefits, but it also means that a lot of us have an overwhelming amount of digital photos and memories that we aren’t sure what to do with.
During our class, I talked about my favorite place to print photo books and square prints that are affordable and easy to display…Chatbooks! I first learned about Chatbooks a few years ago and I have been printing with them ever since. I am a little behind on printing my monthly books and teaching our class was a great reminder of what a simple process it can be as long as you keep it a habit.
I shared on Instagram that I was going to catch up on my books during our “staycation” and Chatbooks was kind enough to offer a discount code that I could share with my fellow photographers, friends, and blog readers. It $10 off your first Chatbooks order with the code: BOOKWORM that you can enter at checkout. My friend just ordered a set of 24 cardstock prints and they were around $9 with shipping after this discount!
I have been working away on sorting my images and I am excited to soon have some more Chatbooks prints and photo books on the way.
I order each photo book individually because I like to make them each month but there are also ongoing book series that you can set up that makes it automatic either from your social media accounts or from your favorite photos on your phone. How cool is that?!
The 5″x5″ prints are printed on cardstock and are the perfect matte finish. I love displaying them around our house and on my desk at work.
It is always so exciting to find that little turquoise envelope in my mailbox and it is so fun to actually have updated photos in our house to share and display. Our kids always enjoy looking through the books and we keep them right on a shelf in our kitchen so they are easy to access.
If you haven’t ordered from Chatbooks before, I highly recommend it! And I would love to hear what you get if you do! <3
February was a shorter month with a lot of reading packed in for me. I ended up reading a couple books that I just loved and quite a few that were just so-so.
I always find it interesting how differently we all react to the same pieces of writing. I even will respond differently to something depending on my mood, time of year, stage of life, etc.
As I share more and more about books I always want to be aware that my feedback is just that, my own, and you may have a completely different reading experience. I think that is with makes books and media in general so interesting to share about too, we all have such different responses. 💜
My full review of the Unhoneymooners can be found HERE.
Marriage-ology by Belinda Luscombe: A fascinating and relatable book about marriage that was easy to connect with and thought provoking. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (ARC releasing 5/21/19)
The Au Pair by Emma Rous: I enjoyed much of this but the ending just didn’t work for me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
My full review of The Au Pair can be found HERE.
My full review of Juliet’s School of Possibilities can be found HERE.
Little Lovely Things by Maureen Joyce Connolly: Heartbreaking and often difficult to read as a parent but amazing storytelling and a truly engaging read. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (ARC releasing 4/2/19)
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: A heavier read than you first anticipate that is full of important and timely topics…enjoyed seeing her process of self-love while dealing with many challenges…struggled with some of the choices of the main character. ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (ARC releasing 3/19/19)
I always have the best of intentions on school vacation weeks, but the reality is, not a lot gets done…While I love sharing on this blog, it isn’t my first priority my work time is very limited…but I love sharing what I am currently loving, so here is Coffee Talk Tuesday Wednesday!
Currently listening to:
I listen to a lot of podcasts during my commute and work time, which I haven’t been doing alone this week like I normally do. This means I haven’t been listening to many true crime podcasts because you know, they probably aren’t the best things for kids… 😉
But I have been catching up on one of my favorite parenting podcasts, The Best of Both Worlds and the boys have really been enjoying it too. Normally we listen to But Why but we are all caught up. We usually have a 20-25 minute drive if we are going into town which means the ride is long enough that there is some whining and asking “when are we going to be there?!” which means podcasts are the perfect distraction. We can usually listen to a whole episode roundtrip because many episodes are around 50-55 minutes.
We listened to the episode about Life and Household management systems yesterday and the boys were intrigued. They especially liked hearing about their bedtime routines, especially when they heard some of their kids go to bed at 9! I assured them they are a lot older…which may not be the case but it worked. We have an 8pm bedtime around here and I want to really appreciate that while it lasts!
I did start Over My Dead Body when I was folding laundry last weekend and I have enjoyed it so far.
This commercial, it makes the photographer in me laugh out loud every time!
We are also very into our backyard bird feeders. I never realized how entertaining they could be but it’s been pretty great. We have them outside the back of our house which we can see from our kitchen and dining room which makes them very easy to keep an eye on. We have had all kinds of visitors, even some wild turkeys which were quite exciting!
This guide has been great for identifying our avian visitors and the boys have been keeping a chart to track which ones come by. Winter is such a great time to watch birds because they are so easy to identify with so little color around this time of year. We also have started to see some robins which mean spring isn’t that far away!
Currently shopping for:
I don’t love shopping for swimsuits(does anyone?) but we are going to Florida in April and I figured I better find something. I checked out the Target BOGO swim sale online and I struck out with one but I did find a suit that I really love! I am a one-piece kind of person and this suit is super cute. I am definitely more pear shaped and this fits well and has good coverage without feeling like too much of “mom suit”… For reference, I am a size 8-10 and I ordered a size large. It seems really well made and I like that the bra cups are sewn into the suit (I really dislike when they are the ones that come out and get all scrunched up).
That is all I have time for now but I will be back next week for more things I am currently loving. <3
“Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother, Danny, were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.
Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is smiling serenely and holding just one baby.
Who is the child, and what really happened that day?”
When I requested The Au Pair from the library, I was under the impression that this would be a domestic thriller. While it had mystery, it was more of a slow burn family drama with a rather unrealistic ending. There was also a fantastical element that just didn’t work for me. I did enjoy the concept of having the two narrators Seraphine and Laura tell this story while going back in forth in time.
While it was a slow build, I was initially drawn into this family mystery/literary fiction and enjoyed learning more as Seraphine started to dig into her families past. The setting was intriguing and reminded me a lot of the Lake House by Kate Morton which I loved.
There were many people to keep track of which made it a little tricky to connect some of the dots for a while but I was intrigued. The ending was just too implausible for me and left me feeling disappointed. This was a 3-star book for me because I did really enjoy the first 3/4 of this book.
I think it is very natural to wonder “how do they have time for that?” whenever you hear about someone devoting a lot of time to a specific hobby or activity. I am in my mid-thirties, which means many of my friends are in the same boat as me…we have kids, partners, busy careers and life just doesn’t have a lot of “downtime” right now.
A lot of us are also beyond the stage of baby and toddlerhood and are reclaiming some of our time and identities as our kids are getting older and more independent but that doesn’t necessarily mean life has slowed down at all. I do a lot of reading in the evenings but that free time is becoming shorter and shorter as our kids get older because their bedtime is now so close to when ours is..and I am sure in a few years, even later!
I have found that fitting more reading into my life doesn’t usually mean adding in long afternoons reading on the couch(although I did do that the other weekend and it was amazing) but more of finding smaller blocks of open time during my regular daily schedule.
It is easy to look at your calendar and not see a lot of free time but most of us have 10-15 minute blocks of times during our weekdays. I spend time waiting before my workout classes, before work meetings and appointments and in the car before I pick up the kids at school and when they are at a sports practice or afterschool activity. I have even read while waiting for a coffee or in line at the grocery store. All of this time really adds up and has been a great way to add in more reading time without having to adjust anything in a big way.
This means that I just need to be proactive and remember to put my book or Kindle in my work bag and then I am ready to read anytime there is some open space. I do have some friends that use the Libby or Kindle app and read right on their phones which is even easier because whoever forgets that. 😉
How do you fit in extra reading time? I would love to hear! <3
“Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah in this disarmingly honest, boldly political, and truly inclusive novel that will speak to anyone who has gone looking for love and found something very different in its place.
Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle-class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.
As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.”
Queenie took some time for me to get into because after reading the book summary, I was thinking this was going to be a lighter read. It ended up being quite heavy and covered quite a few issues that made this one quite a lot deeper than I initially expected. I was so happy to see that mental health, unhealthy relationships, feminism, and race issues were discussed openly and with great detail.
I struggled a bit with being frustrated with Queenie and some of her choices regarding men and dating but that was my own reaction. Queen seems like a relatable read for someone in their 20s as it is a coming of age story and Queenie learns a lot through trial and error. I enjoyed seeing her process to self-love and although I could not relate to all of it I think this will be a hit with a lot of readers. Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for an e-copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
“At 28, Stephanie Land’s plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer, were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly.
She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told: the stories of overworked and underpaid Americans. Of living on food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) coupons to eat. Of the government programs that provided her housing, but that doubled as halfway houses. The aloof government employees who called her lucky for receiving assistance while she didn’t feel lucky at all. She wrote to remember the fight, to eventually cut through the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor.
Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients’ lives-their sadness and love, too-she begins to find hope in her own path.
Her compassionate, unflinching writing as a journalist gives voice to the “servant” worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is Stephanie’s story, but it’s not her alone. It is an inspiring testament to the strength, determination, and ultimate triumph of the human spirit.”
Memoirs are one of my favorite kind of non-fiction books to read. I learn so much from reading about other people’s perspectives and I love being able to have a glimpse into a world that I might previously have not known much about. I recently shared a list of some of my favorite memoirs here. I was very interested in reading Stephanie’s Land book Maid and was excited when I found it on the “new releases” table at the library the other week.
Memoirs are also a very hard thing to review because they are someone’s personal story. I would like to say that while this book didn’t entirely work for me, I appreciate Land sharing her story and there were very powerful parts of it.
First, I think it can be deceiving when a book is compared to another book as powerful as Evicted and could potentially set your expectations unrealistically high. Evicted is touted as one of the most powerful non-fiction books on poverty in America and Maid is really a story of one person’s experience in this situation. I think they are both important but it might be good to differentiate between those when starting this one.
Stephanie Land did not have an easy start in life and I think it is important to recognize the privileges that we are given (or not), just by the families and environments we are raised in. Many of the choices I was able to make in life were directly correlated to being born into a certain situation which really was just the luck of the draw.
As a child I was given the “gift” of education, I had people who supported and believed in me and I grew up in a home where my basic needs like having safe housing, healthy food and proper clothing were not something I ever needed to worry about. I do not think that means that someone cannot succeed without that, or that life will be a smooth ride if you have those things, but I do believe it is something that has to be part of the equation when talking about these topics.
There is a cycle of poverty that is very hard to get out of, and I appreciated that Land took on this issue in her writing. I think that there is a huge misunderstanding of things like subsidized housing and childcare, food stamps, and free healthcare and I appreciate that her story shares a perspective about these things that many may not have encountered before. I would have loved to hear more about these things and less about the details of the lives and homes of the people she cleaned for but really did not know at all.
I try very hard to not pass judgments on situations that I have not been in myself and unfortunately this is where this book really did not work for me. I have not been a single parent so I can only imagine many of the challenges that single working parents face. Land’s story was powerful enough without passing judgments on the people she cleaned for or came across in the grocery store.
“Living with illness or pain was part of my daily life. But why did my clients have these problems? It seemed like access to healthy foods, gym memberships, doctors and all of that would keep a person fit and well. Maybe the stress of keeping up a two-story house, a bad marriage, and maintaining the illusion of grandeur overwhelmed their systems in similar ways to how poverty did mine.”
This kind of thing really turned me off and I struggled with this part of her writing. There are so so many challenges that people face, no matter their socioeconomic level, and this just felt like a total disconnect for me…I always think it is okay to vent and share the challenges that you face, but I struggle with a lack of empathy or ability to have perspective on how choices also play some part on the path of our lives.
Because there really was a lack of reflection and discussion this book felt very whiny to me. I don’t want to belittle someone’s significant challenges without having walked in their shoes but there was just too much emphasis on why other people’s lives were better without the addition of some introspection from Land herself. I also often wished for more background information which I think would have made this writing so much stronger. I applaud Land for putting herself out there and I am so happy to hear of all she has done to better the lives of herself and her children.
Happy Friday! I hope you had a great week. I am excited about (hopefully) having a low key weekend after this being a fairly hectic work week due to the kids being on school vacation next week. We don’t have any big plans for vacation but we are hoping to get outside as much as possible and hopefully meet up with some friends for a couple of play dates. I am also hoping to catch up on some reading, blogging, and sharing as I have felt a little behind the last couple of weeks.
I am excited to introduce you to my friend Sarah today! Sarah and I met in an online pregnancy message board/group when I was pregnant with our second child and she was pregnant with her first. At the time she as living on the west coast but had been married in Vermont and was photographed by the same wedding photographer as we were (the same connection I have with my friend Kristy) which felt like such a fun coincidence.
We connected again when she moved to Vermont just a couple of years ago and now are friends in real life too. Sarah and her family are amazing skiers and she juggles a challenging career while also doing so many amazing outside adventures which is so inspiring to me! At our last get together we drank coffee and walked around Target discussing books and podcasts, I mean how much better could it get?!
I hope you enjoy learning more about Sarah today. <3
Hello! My name is Sarah. I live in northern Vermont with my husband, our two children (ages 6 and 4), and our two elderly labrador retrievers, Summit and Ellie. I am an emergency room physician, but in my off-time, I love to ski, hike, bike and, of course, read!
When I was growing up, I was always that kid with her nose in a book. And I was a true child of the 80s – my favorites were Sweet Valley Twins, The Babysitters Club, R.L Stine, and Christopher Pike. High school kept me pretty busy, and I found myself reading less, and even less so when I went off to college, medical school, and residency. When I finally finished my training and felt like I could join the land of the living, my husband and I started a family. So here I find myself staring down the barrel of middle age and finally catching up on lost time! My nightstand might reflect this ambition — haha!
What is on your nightstand for books?
SO MANY BOOKS. Usually, I don’t have this many books all stacked up, but we are preparing to go away for winter break, so I have a few extra set out that I may pack for our trip. I’m currently trying to make up my mind between The Wife Between Us, The Woman in Cabin 10, Sometimes I Lie, and This Is How It Always Is. I love fast, suspenseful reads that I can’t put down, especially on vacation.
The main book I am currently reading is The Devil in the White City (I told you I was catching up on lost time!). I am enjoying the parallel storylines, though admittedly some parts of this book have been so disturbing, I have been tempted to just put it away for good! So many friends have recommended it, so I’m keeping it for now. I am also slowly making my through Duct Tape Parenting, which was recommended to me by my hairstylist (who also, I like to joke, serves as my life coach). It really helps remind me to stop meddling and let my kids be independent and start taking responsibility in the home.
I’m a bit of an old school reader on this one. My husband has a Kindle, but I’m still reading regular old books. This is partly because one of my favorite things to do is find and collect good books to read from consignment shops and used book stores. I have amassed quite a collection, and I don’t think I’ll ever run out!
What are you listening to?
I love to listen to podcasts on my commute to work or when out for a run. I am not much of an audiobook reader, but my favorite podcasts are EM-RAP (Emergency Medicine Reviews and Perspectives – nerd alert, haha!), Unladylike, On Point, Forever 35, This American Life, and The Longest Shortest Time.
What else is on your nightstand?
My nightstand also holds a few extra sundry items. One is Palmer’s cocoa butter, which I use on my lips before bed. The texture is smooth like lip balm, and the smell is heavenly! I also love to use Badger Lavender & Bergamot Sleep Balm on my face and neck before bed. It smells wonderful. Additionally, I have a small lavender-scented candle from Pelindaba Lavender, based out in our former hometown of Seattle, which I like to burn sometimes before bed. And finally, I have a small hand-painted tile I bought on our honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, which I use as a coaster.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Gen!! xo
“A charming, life-changing fable that will help you rethink your whole approach to time, priorities, and possibilities.
Riley Jenkins is in trouble. An ambitious, hardworking consultant in her late twenties, she’s used to a lifetime of nearly perfect evaluations – until she gets a terrible performance review from her boss. How is that possible when Riley does everything her clients want – including answering emails 24/7 – faster than they expect it?
That’s precisely the problem: she’s spread too thin. Despite her insane hours and attention to detail, Riley can’t produce the thoughtful work her clients expect. Now she’s been given thirty days to close a major deal, or she’s out. Meanwhile, her personal life is also on the edge of disaster, with her boyfriend and close friends losing patience with her chronic unavailability.
The last thing Riley wants, at a stressful time like this, is to attend a women’s leadership retreat with some of her colleagues. But she can’t get out of her commitment: a weekend in New Jersey at some silly-sounding place called Juliet’s School of Possibilities.
Yet before long, Riley is surprised to find herself intrigued by Juliet, the lifestyle maven who hosts the conference. How does a single mother of two, run a successful business while acting as if she has all the time in the world? The answer may lie in one of Juliet’s Zen-like comments: “Expectations are infinite. Time is finite. You are always choosing. Choose well.”
By the end of this story, you’ll join Riley in rethinking the balance between your present and your future, between the things you have to do and the things you want to do. Like Riley, you can free yourself from feeling overwhelmed and pursue your highest possibilities.”
March 12th, 2019
Time Management, Self-Help & Personal Growth
I love Vanderkam’s nonfiction books about time management and this is her first novella. In Juliet’s School of Possibilities, Vanderkam incorporates her knowledge and expertise into a short fable about a woman named Riley who is “spread too thin”. I wasn’t sure how this would work but I was definitely intrigued and it ended up being a small book that packed a big punch.
In a society where “busy” reigns supreme, Vanderkam’s books are a wonderful reminder about how we get to choose how we spend our time and energy and this book is such a fun spin-off. We meet Juliet who shares profound wisdom and helps Riley rethink this balance.
“I don’t have time’ means ‘It’s not a priority.’ We always have time for what matters to us.”
This book is a quick read but it one that I think back to all the time. I love the idea that we are in control of our time and we choose what we prioritize and how we react to the chaos life can sometimes throw at us. When I am having one of those days where I feel I am feeling rushed and stressed, I think back to Juliet and how she would react.
“Expectations are infinite. Time is finite. You are always choosing. Choose well.”
Hello! I hope your week is off to a good start. This is the last week of school before the kids have February vacation so I am getting in as much work time as possible. We don’t travel during the winter due to Lucas having a family business that is directly related to cold weather…So we will be having a staycation and are hoping to get together with some friends and play outside as much as possible.
The boys are much more independent now and much easier in many ways than just a couple of years ago, but we are also experiencing lots of sibling drama and competition so being home all day can be rough! There is always something getting easier and something getting harder when it comes to parenting. 😉
Currently listening to…
After commenting last week that Lucas hadn’t listened to many podcasts besides Serial, he seriously made up for it in the last week! He finished Bear Brook and up to date with The Cold Podcast (a new episode comes out tomorrow!) I am so excited to be able to talk about it now in “real time”. We aren’t watching any shows together right now so it is fun to have something else to discuss.
I have listened to quite a few true crime podcasts during the last month and these two still get my vote for the best ones out there right now. I am also still listening to The Teachers Pet which I find fascinating and heartbreaking, especially with how poorly the case was handled and how differently this would have been treated if that had happened now.
I have heard amazing things about Crime Junkie and I am planning to start that one next!
We have been making a lot of soups lately, especially on lazy Sunday afternoons. We made Creamy Tuscan Garlic Tortellini Soup this past weekend and it was amazing! I love soups that are rich and filling and this was perfect. The cannellini beans and (rotisserie)chicken made it rich and filling and it was the perfect one-pot meal.
I like to work on my book reviews and blog first thing in the morning before the kids are awake. I love throwing on a sweatshirt and coming downstairs to drink my coffee in peace and quiet, there really is not a better way to start the day! We have early risers so usually, I have until 5:45 for this so I try and make the most of it.
My favorite open front hoodie is from Old Navy and is so cozy and perfect for lounging around the house or throwing on over a tank top and yoga pants in the spring or fall. It is the perfect length (butt covering) and just so comfortable to wear. I am a size 8-10 and I have a medium in this.
My Scout Junque Trunk. I have this in the back of my car and it the perfect way to keep things from sliding around (including groceries). It is so sturdy and easy to wipe down and can also be folded up for easy storage. I love all things Scout and this comes in handy all the time!