Thursday, October 22, 2020

Basement Re-do

If you've been following us for awhile, you'll know that we sold our house in April and moved into my parents' home since they've gone to Florida. We're paying rent but while we're here we are paying down our debt and it has been an adjustment downsizing but now that we are a few months into it, we are really loving the smaller space. It isn't tiny home small, but it is about half of what we had and we ARE a family of six so you know, it was tight to start. I feel like we've adjusted well and everyone has their own little space.  

We also got rid of a lot of things and honestly? I don't hate it. It has been so great for my anxiety to be around less stuff. 

In the effort to make it homey, we had to build a bedroom for us and Matt built me an office/craft room/library and it is maybe the best room I have ever had. I love it so much. Both of these rooms are in the basement after we hauled things in, we realized the floor needs to be painted. 

So we started that. It was a BIG job and in hindsight, I wish we had thought to do this before you know, we moved our stuff in because it would have been easier but no- we have a tendency to make everything harder on ourselves. It's just how we roll. 
Instead, this project consisted of doing one section of floor at a time, then moving stuff to do another section of floor. Admittedly, those two shelves in the back are SO heavy and we didn't do under those. We basically gave up but it is in a dark corner and we'll do it eventually. Probably. 
The floor was in great shape, it just hadn't been painted in awhile and who thinks to really paint a basement floor? We did it in our old house as we were selling just so it looked fresher and we were so surprised at how great it looked so we thought it would do the same here. 
We looked into other flooring options too but it just didn't make sense right now and we're on a budget so paint it is because our Menards rebate covered it. *Bonus*
Because I know someone will ask, this is the paint we used. I really don't know if it is satin or semi-gloss finish, I just know it is that brand, porch & floor paint, and in battleship gray. Which honestly looks more like a blue/gray in person to me, but I think it looks really nice. So this is the after (and no, we didn't sand the floor down because I don't care, I just wanted it painted, don't come after me HGTV) and it already looks SO. MUCH. NICER. 
Seriously, look how much bigger it looks! This is the view if you're standing in my bedroom doorway. We also painted the walls white so it just looked cleaner/brighter in here. 
Matt's little desk area is a million times cleaner now that he organized his shelf (he has baskets, you guys!), computer parts aren't all over the floor in "organized piles", tools are out to the garage, and crap that we don't need is actually gone. 
This is the doorway from my office. Matt said he isn't going to finish those walls so I need to just be OK with half done walls. Which, I honestly don't care at this point. I have a dresser there that stores our kid things I'd like to save, and my new filing cabinet that opens all the way. I know, I'm 38 and I just now got an actual filing cabinet, I feel like a real grown up now. It is just so much nicer down here. We kept the floor swept and mopped regularly but now that it is all one color it just feels cleaner. Is that weird? 

We even have our treadmill and recumbent bike down here in one area. I'm trying to talk Matt into us getting a small home gym thing because we actually have room for a smaller one. Nothing huge, but something a little more compact than the big ones. Maybe in the new year when everyone and their brother is trying to buy one, right? 

So that has been one of the things taking up our time lately. I have a few things I'm working on and Matt is working on making a door (or changing a pre-made one to fit the weird space) for under the basement stairs. One of the things I miss from our old house is the closet in my office. I stored EVERYTHING in there but it was especially great for Christmas gifts. I threw most things in there and then when I had time to wrap, I'd wrap and stack everything nicely in there and Christmas Eve would be all easy peasy. 

We do not have that here and it makes me wonder where the hell my mom store Christmas presents when were kids in this house?!

Anyways. Matt is fixing something up for me. But it'll be nice and double as the place to store mops (is there a good way to store mops?!) and then my wrapping paper containers. I have all of my gift wrap in these two huge containers and they are awesome, but odd size and I'm forever moving them around, so they'll go in this area. I'll share pictures when it's all done, don't worries!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Book Review: Prospects of a Woman

Happy Wednesday! It's hump day, I'm half way through this dumpster fire of a week and I realize I need to get things together for our family photos on Saturday. It's not that we're doing anything fancy, we are literally only going to JC Penney because it's inexpensive and almost no work for me. I have outfits picked and I'm just hoping they all fit. Cross your fingers, folks. 

Prospects of a Woman - Wendy Voorsanger

Elisabeth Parker comes to California from Massachusetts in 1849 with her new husband, Nate, to reunite with her father, who’s struck gold on the American River. But she soon realizes her husband is not the man she thought—and neither is her father, who abandons them shortly after they arrive. As Nate struggles with his sexuality, Elisabeth is forced to confront her preconceived notions of family, love, and opportunity. She finds comfort in corresponding with her childhood friend back home, writer Louisa May Alcott, and spending time in the company of a mysterious California. Armed with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance, she sets out to determine her role in building the West, even as she comes to terms with the sacrifices she must make to achieve independence and happiness. A gripping and illuminating window into life in the Old West, Prospects of a Woman is the story of one woman’s passionate quest to carve out a place for herself in the liberal and bewildering society that emerged during the California gold rush frenzy. 
I am super excited to talk about this because though I'm not really a fan of historical fiction, every once in awhile I read one that really just piques my interest and that's exactly what this one did. I will tell you I went into this thinking maybe it was a little more romance but it really wasn't. It was still really good and I'm so glad I picked this one up. 

Taking place during the Gold Rush, we have Elisabeth who marries Nate in the hopes to escape poverty (and basically her parents checking out on her). All of those hopes are dashed because she finds herself with a man who is possibly MORE unloving than her parents were to her but even more poverty. They are going west and west at that time was a very different life than anywhere else in the world. In California in that time women actually had more rights than back east and that's an attractive piece of information for Elisabeth. The author does a GREAT job describing the wild west, you really feel the wildness and the general feel of what it was like during this developing time. 

Despite the more modern time out west, Elisabeth doesn't have it easy at all but she's determined and that's what carries her. We learn so much about Elisabeth and her past but we also see her expanding independence and that was the best part of this book for me. I won't tell you this book has no romance because it has some. I can't even really say it's romance so much, more like her sexual awakening... kind of? It is really part of her growing independence but I will tell you that if infidelity (or even the idea of it) is a trigger or deal breaker for you this book might not be for you. I normally don't like to read about that but Elisabeth and Nate were both deeply unhappy and have their own reasons for not divorcing when these things were happening and while I don't agree, I kind of understood it in a really odd way. Nate isn't my favorite but thinking of the time they were in, I understand his struggles but Elisabeth doesn't deserve a life held back because of his truths. 

Overall I really liked this one, definitely a 4 star read for me. The only thing keeping this back from a 5 star is I felt like Elisabeth was unlikeable at times and I struggled with Nate. Every other component of this book was so great and if you are a fan of historical fiction you will love this, but those who are partial to the Gold Rush period will love it even more. 

A huge thank you to PR by the Book and Wendy Voorsanger for having me on this tour and sending me an ARC for review. I highly suggest this, it would make for a great fall or cozy winter read for sure!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Leaves, Pumpkins, Kids with Knives

I feel like a moron posting about fall fun when it literally snowed last weekend and I'm angry about it. I strongly dislike snow and yet... I just feel like winter is coming far quicker than it should be. Sigh. 

We did play in leaves that one time, though. We've yet to go to a corn maze but if we get accumulating snow that seems kind of lame. I guess we'll always have our leaf pile. 

Our tiny leave pile. It didn't matter because Penelope and Lucy thought it was the greatest thing ever. 

We even got Olivia and Jackson to join in with the little kids for just a little while. Jackson mostly threw leaves on all of the girls and Olivia served as a referee of sorts. 
They tried making "leaf angels" but it mostly was a mess and they came into the house covered in leaves. 
We have to be even with everything in this house so even after I said we're all done, Lucy had to do it too and it made me think that being four is probably pretty great. 

Matt and I had a kid-free weekend awhile ago and it was SO great. We did pretty much nothing but I don't even care, it was great. The kids all went to the grandma and grandpa's house which is THE place to be in the fall if you are a fan of pumpkins. I have never seen pumpkins carved like theirs, or even the quantity, so I'm glad our kids are into it too. 
Jackson is not a fan of pumpkin guts and I honestly can't blame him at all. I hate carving pumpkins, it really is not my thing but he likes everything after guts removal. 
Lucy was ALL ABOUT this and excitedly told me all about the weekend when she came home. 
Olivia's has a cat and it looks SO great!
Penelope couldn't wait to tell me she played with KNIVES! And it was SO MUCH FUN. I wish you could have seen her enthusiasm about knives. 
I'm really grateful my father in law took photos of all of this, including their pumpkins all together. 
Our front steps are going to be poppin', I'm just saying. I love them all so much. 

Alright, I have some more book reviews for you this week but I might even get some more Strand updates for you.. maybe. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Book Review: You're Pulling My Leg

I know you're like me and you're thinking about the holidays, and that means getting together with people. This year is clearly different so maybe you're keeping it to your small family, either way- entertainment is key. I feel like everyone drifting to their phones ruins basically all of the fun. I've got a solution!

You're Pulling My Leg (Junior) - Allen Wolf

Have you ever eaten too much pizza? Gotten gum stuck in your hair? Surprised a friend? You'll laugh out loud as you and your friends and family try to fool each other with hilarious stories from your lives as you play this storytelling game.

After you choose a question, the secret flip of the coin tells you if your answer should be true or made up. When you hear a story, vote points on if you think a player is telling the truth or pulling your leg. You'll win points if you're right but lose them if you're wrong.

Think you can bluff your friends and family? Don't let them fool you! Score enough points, and you win!

This game book features cards with over 600 questions and instructions on how to play this game in person or over a video call with two or more people.

I feel like we ALL have that one family member that has all the jokes, right? They would make a great storyteller to get the game started! In this game you only need two players but you can have as many as you want. You earn points by correctly voting on whether someone is being honest OR if they are pulling your leg. Players can vote on a story by putting fingers down (1, 2, or 3) and the first person who gets to 21 points wins. The fun part about this game is you can even do it online if you're doing a zoom gathering, which would be really fun.  

The book that I have is the junior version but there is an adult version (which would be fun, am I right?!) There are 225 cards to play through but three options on every card so you can play this game many times and it will never get old, especially if you change out your players. 

Example of a card? Card 54 wants you to tell me about a time you thanked someone OR a time when you forgot to do something OR (wild card) players wearing green on their clothing lose 3 points. 

I had a great time playing this a couple of weekends ago (I won because obviously I know everything) but it was so easy and so fun. Someday we'll get to have birthday parties again and this would be GREAT for teens, but since we're living online mostly, you really can play this over Google Hangouts or Zoom. I know school has already started but if you are a high school teacher this might be a fun activity to break up the monotony of information heavy lessons. 

The author has a LOT of games on the website so if you are looking for gift ideas, you can make a great game night basket for someone. I have to also say thank you to PR by the Book for having me on this tour and also Allen Wolf ensuring I have a copy to play along with! 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Book Review: Lola Koala's Travel Adventures (Children's Literature)

I know I normally don't post on the weekend but I have SO many review books I need to talk about so you might be seeing more of me, even on the weekends. Today (and tomorrow) I am sharing some children's literature, which is a favorite in our house. 

Lola Koala's Travel Adventures 

Join Lola Koala as she travels the globe, teaching your little explorer important language skills along the way. Children will love lifting the flaps to answer questions as they find clues that will help them to figure out where in the world Lola has traveled to this time!

If you have been around the blog for a while you'll know that my Lucy, age four, is in speech therapy for apraxia and possibly other issues. She's been in speech therapy for about a year now and though we've seen some improvement, she is still difficult to understand if you aren't around her regularly. Even I struggle to understand her sometimes. 

We try to use the skills her speech therapist uses when she's at home for consistency and that has been really helpful. It seems like her little brain moves much faster than her mouth can and it will come out as gibberish. A technique we use frequently is to have her slow down and we ask her yes/no questions. Sometimes we'll ask her clarifying questions such as, who is sitting at the table, what color is Jackson's shirt, which fruit would you like? Instead of open ended questions, which are sometimes hard for her, we give her three or four answers to choose from and that helps her stay focused on the question. 

Which is where this book comes into play. I read a LOT with my kids! Olivia and Jackson mostly read on their own (which I love to see) and I am book recommendation central for them. Penelope (5) is an emergent reader so she's learning letter sounds and we're working on sounding out words. Lucy though, she is all about the story. She wants to be engaged and she likes to be involved so a lift the flap book is absolutely perfect for her. 

The story is about Lola Koala going on an adventure and you have to use picture clues to guess where she is going, all the while you are learning about this new and exciting land. 
Each page has a series of four questions, each with it's own flap, and your child picks the answer based on the four pictures on each flap. It's pretty easy, but for children in speech therapy or struggling with reading comprehension, this is teaching them basic beginner context clues. Even if you have a kiddo who isn't struggling on any of this, this is such a great book to keep in the car to keep them entertained, throw it in your purse or diaper bag to look at while running errands, or even use in a gift. 
Lucy had a great time going through this book and she can't wait to bring it to show her speech teacher! I'm glad it is a sturdy board book because she's hauling it around everywhere so at least I know it'll hold up for awhile. It's only 22 pages and great for ages 2-6.

Thank you to PR by the Book and Dr. Tinita Kearney for sharing this book with me for review. Lucy is having the best time with it and I'm so glad to see her so engaged in a new book. You can purchase your own copy of Lola Koala's Travel Adventures (also your child's very own passport booklet or set of postcards) on LolaKoalaExplorer's website. You'll find plenty of FREE resources including grade level resources, games and activties, and ways to connect home and school- perfect for all of the parents currently participating in virtual school looking for new things to do. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Book Review: The Outlook for Earthlings

Happy Wednesday! I keep thinking it is Thursday or Friday and that is just... depressing. Such a let down. The kids don't have school for the next two days which is nice but... if I don't get a decent nap in either day I'll probably end up crabby. I'm just saying. 

The Outlook for Earthlings - Joan Frank

The Outlook for Earthlings traces an unusual, difficult friendship across a lifetime, between women of stunningly opposite natures. Melanie Taper is timid, compelled to obey and venerate authority. Yet in unguarded moments she demonstrates such deadly insight into human foibles as to suggest a strength that has, for dark reasons, deliberately hidden itself. Scarlet Rand, by contrast, is rash, willful, and impatient of reverence of any stripe. Scarlet is shocked by Mel's passive reserve; despite her obvious gifts, Mel is—bafflingly—self-erasing. Mel's saintliness maddens Scarlet—because finally and most troublingly, Scarlet disbelieves it. Their friendship suggests to each a final frontier, a saving sanctuary. Yet at its core, a pained impasse soon becomes evident: each woman takes a secret, moral offense at the other's inmost nature—and choices. Living out these differences—against awareness of the illness which is slowly destroying one of them—proves an ultimate challenge. In each, a reckoning must occur. The Outlook for Earthlings examines what women want, amid conflicting layers of need. It ponders beginnings, endings, and Virginia Woolf's declaration that good angels must be killed. It considers the limits of friendship—and of the act of witnessing. At its heart, it asks how we may finally measure a life—and who should do the measuring. 
Wow, OK, I'm not even sure what to write about this or what to talk about that doesn't really give away the best parts about this book. It is definitely a literary fiction so if that is your jam, this is one you are really going to enjoy. It's not very long (just over 200 pages or so) but it covers a lifetime. I think we are all at the age where we start looking at relationships we've had, and lost, or thought we lost who have come back, and what they meant to our greater life. I know that I have friends that have gone through the good, the bad, and the ugly, but also everything in between. The boring, the shame, the sorrow, the nothing. 

Which is what this book is. 

The author does an amazing job describing everything and everyone, so much so that you can easily visualize this as you go, and I felt like that was important to the story. The story itself is about Scarlet and Mel, and their friendship over the years but it is really about all of us, how we change over time. The idea that friendship is like marriage, albeit a little different. The arc of a marriage is excitement/fun in the beginning, trouble/difficulties arise and people drift apart a bit but come together again, and you settle into a kind of comfortableness. It's the same as friendships, particularly with Scarlet and Mel. 

I feel like this book is PERFECT given the current climate we are in as a country, we're seeing lifelong friendships and even family being torn because of polarizing political views. The story delves deeper into the meaning of not just being a friend but a good friend. It talks about how sometimes we have to look past a person's choices (even if they are completely questionable and you know you are totally right), maybe the relationships they choose, or even the way they move through the world. 

I loved that even though the girls grow up together, go their separate ways and do vastly different things with their lives, and when they come back together they are happy to see each other but.... they do the thing we are all guilty of, they start the mental conversation with ourselves completely judging them instead of asking how you can support them. Which is the moral of the story. The way we get there in this book is beautiful and something so many can identify with in our own lives in some respect. 

I also think this is going to make a wonderful book club selection, especially if your club is all women, because so many conversations will happen around friendship. It might even encourage you to find your best friend from elementary school, who knows? 

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour but also Joan Frank for sending me a copy of her book!


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

October (almost) wrap-up

It is really crazy to think October is already half way done. I have done so many things in the last month it was kind of overwhelming to go through it all. I didn't even include all of it here, I'll save that for another day!

Way back in June 2018, I did a boudoir shoot and it was definitely a learning experiences for me. I had a lot of feelings immediately after but also the more time that went by, the more I seemed to have. In 2019 I took part in a little mini group for the session about body positivity and started digging into some of the reasons why I feel the way I do about my body and self. Certainly, lots of it requires more work than something this group could cover and I get that. I've since spent some more time really thinking about it. 

One thing though that I really have a hard time getting past is my abdomen. Never mind that it is totally not functioning the way that it should be and that's frustrating. Everyday though, when I wake up and I get dressed, I see my floppy tummy and I see my c-section scar. It isn't the fact I have a scar that bothers me, instead, it is a visual representation of trauma. I have something on my body that everyday reminds me of the trauma I have been through and it's panic inducing for sure, but it is also really scary. It reminds me that I have no control. 

And control is a big thing for me, I really don't do well if I don't have it in my personal life. 

So when I saw an opportunity to participate in a RAW session for the same studio, I figured what the hell? Why not? You had to apply and worst case scenario, I won't get picked. 

Turns out I was picked. I had a short session with Emily and honestly? I got so much more from that one and I felt beautiful. Sure, all of my lumps and bumps are visible. I've got no makeup, my hair isn't done, I'm wearing a stretched out bra, a tank I wear to bed normally, but also my most comfortable underwear, and I felt more like me. I know my boudoir photos are beautiful... but that isn't me. I don't even own lingerie... or matching bra/panties even. I don't wear much makeup and I never wear heels. But these? These photos were me and I loved it. I'll share more another day, maybe when my photos are live on their end... maybe. I'll share this one though, easily my favorite. 

Let's see.. we went to see alpacas! If you are friends with me on Facebook these aren't new, but I love them anyways. 
I am so glad we finally made the trek to Frosty Ridge Alpacas in Duluth, Minnesota! Easily the nicest husband/wife duo, a very cool little farm, and a pretty nice gift shop area too (I bought a magnet and a little alpaca for my desk). 
I learned a lot about these super furry (and soft) creatures and the baby loved me. As did the white one behind it. Penelope and Lucy LOVED them and would have stood there petting and feeding them all day. We didn't stay long because it was close to the end of their day, so we did leave after about 45 minutes or so. Olivia didn't come because she went with a friend to go apple picking, so we were a group of five that day. After leaving the alpacas, we decided to go to Enger Tower in Duluth because Penelope asks to go see the "castle on the mountain" so we went. 
It was ridiculously busy and I hate traffic, I hate looking for parking, I hate people who just skateboard through parking lots like morons, and I hate when people panic when parking or getting out of their spot so they freak out and stop.... half way out of a spot so now nobody can do anything. If you panic when parking, parallel parking maybe isn't for you. I'm just saying. 
Penelope and Lucy both made it up all five stories of steps and Penelope would have gone more if there was anywhere else to go. I barely made it and I stood up there for maybe a solid minute before I wanted to come down because there were SO MANY people up there and germs. Hard pass. I hustled down a lot faster than I went up. 
I wasn't feeling well that day, physically or mentally, so Jackson kind of hung back with me because he's a good kid like that. 
We decorated the house for Halloween! It is a terrible picture but the upper windows have eyes and the porch have (handmade) teeth. The little girls love it! I also have a spider and a spider web to put up but it has been so windy and I'm afraid it would blow away. I'm also not 100% sure where it is going to go or how I will get it there so... eventually. 
What else? Oh! I participated in a two day virtual conference, the Champions for Change Summit for MoMMA's Voices. I went as a representative for the AFE Foundation and it was great because I got to "meet" other AFE survivors and hear more about their stories and just different things they've done, or would like to do, since their AFE. 
I had a lot of anxiety going into it and I don't really know why? It isn't like I had to talk or anything but maybe it was just the not knowing what to expect? 
I will say that I learned SO MUCH about other post-partum issues and I learned that there is such a thing as bereavement doulas- did you know that was a thing? 
I really had a good time and I'll say by the end of the second day my little brain was feeling fried, I think I went to bed not long after! I hope I can participate in things like that again and I hope I can do more as a maternal mortality and morbidity advocate. 
There's our little AFE group! 

I'll leave you with some statistics and information that has really stuck with me: 
  • Each year, 700 women die from pregnancy related causes and 2/3 of those are completely preventable. 
  • The CDC has a new Hear Her Campaign (I highly suggest you watch that video) and not going to lie, it really triggered me because I could be in any of those videos. 
  • In the Merck for Mothers session we learned that the United States is 1 of only 8 countries where maternal deaths are INCREASING. The United States is also 55th in gender equality. 
So just think about that. We all know someone who is pregnant, trying to be pregnant, or just had a baby, and how many of those women know any of this? We say having a baby is pretty safe but is pretty safe good enough? I feel like the United States could, and should, be doing better than we currently are. I hope someday we do. 

What have you been doing the last few weeks? 

Friday, October 9, 2020

Book Review: Family in Six Tones

It's FRIDAY!!! Thank goodness too because I'm over this week. I've really been in a weird funk/fog the whole week and I really don't know why that is. I started a book for the weekend, the kids are going to see their grandparents so it will be just Matt and I. I'm hoping to basically do nothing but read and sleep. It's kind of hilarious that those are my goals at this point in my life. 

Family in Six Tones  

Lan Cao & Harlan Margaret Van Cao

After more than forty years in the United States, Lan Cao still feels tentative about her place in her adoptive country, one which she came to as a thirteen-year old refugee. And after sixteen years of being a mother, she still ventures through motherhood as if it is a foreign landscape. In this lyrical memoir, Lan explores these two defining experiences of her life with the help of her fierce, independently-minded daughter, Harlan Margaret Van Cao.

In chapters that both reflect and refract her mother's narrative, Harlan describes the rites of passage of childhood and adolescence, as they are filtered through the aftereffects of her family's history of war, tragedy, and migration. Lan responds in turn, trying to understand her American daughter through the lens of her own battles with culture clash and bullying. In this unique format of alternating storytelling, their complicated mother-daughter relationship begins to crystallize. Lan's struggles with the traumatic aftermath of war--punctuated by emotional, detailed flashbacks to her childhood--become operatic and fantastical interludes as told by her daughter. Harlan's struggle to make friends in high school challenges her mother to step back and let her daughter find her own way.
If you are looking for a timely non-fiction, this is what you need to pick up. I am always interested in books centered around immigrants simply because I can't speak to it at all and I think the value of listening to someone else's story is that we can learn...and hopefully do better as humans. I was really immersed in this one and I think you'll find this fascinating. 

In Family in Six Tones we have two very different stories of the same experience, which is what makes this book magical. We have alternating chapters as we move through the story and I love that because you can almost hear the differences in their voices as you go, it makes you feel you're sitting in their living room hearing this. 

Interestingly, there was a part where Lan talks about the challenges she faced in school and not fitting in because the culture was just such an immense challenge. She came to America in the Vietnam War era, so tensions are already high so she's facing extreme racism and bullying, and now she's just trying to get lunch. Nowhere near the level of her situation, but I remember being around 9 or 10 and we had moved from Florida to Minnesota. You wouldn't think that would be an issue but kids made fun of my accent or make me say words so they could laugh, and take away my things until I said them. I had no idea what hot lunch or cold lunch meant so for days I had no lunch because I didn't know what to do. The milk used to come in these bags and I had no idea what to do and nobody would show me. Children are particularly cruel and I know some parents laugh and say "kids will be kids" but they forget how even those type of things stick with a person their whole life. So Lan has that kind of thing in addition to the horrors and trauma she endured in her birth country. 

She goes on to be successful and have a child, Harlan. It is HARD to parent a child when you have trauma and PTSD that you haven't dealt with. It's hard to do it while you're in the middle of dealing with it. It isn't like you can hit a pause button on being a mom, so we make mistakes and just hope they weren't bit ones. Harlan struggles between wanting to be a normal American teenager and her mom, and all of her experiences that get in the way of their relationship. Lan's childhood and memories of that have made her...  kind of paranoid, worrying of every scenario possible. The likelihood of those experiences having in suburbia America is slim to none, but Lan is so worried and it affects Harlan. 

I won't go into anymore of this but I found myself understanding Lan as a mom but I also understand Harlan because I have a teenager and between hormones and adjusting to teenager life and I'm having to loosen the reigns a bit. It's hard under the best circumstances, I can't imagine what it was like for these two. I absolutely loved this, I feel like we could all get so much for this. Even if all you get is a sneak peek at the process of coming to America, I'll take it. I hope you walk away with seeing the racial and cultural disparities immigrants and even American citizens face when they aren't cookie-cutter white. It's heartbreaking and it shows how far we have to go. I also think this would make an interesting read for upper high school or even college students as part of a curriculum, so many great conversations could be centered around this. 

I have to say thank you to FSB Associates for having me on this tour and sending me a complimentary copy for review. 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Book Review: Christmas Ever After

It's not that I'm trying to rush us through 2020, I'm just trying to rush us through 2020. Christmas is my favorite holiday but I hate that I'm not super excited about it. If you follow me on Instagram you'll see I'm starting to get my card list organized but I think it is really just because I know I'm going to move at snail speed doing anything this year so I may as well start early so I don't get overwhelmed. A great way to get started early? Read a Christmas book of course!

Christmas Ever After - Karen Schaler

While promoting her next novel, a Christmas love story, author Riley Reynolds is caught off guard when she’s asked during a live national television interview how she can write about romance when she still hasn’t found “the one” herself. Scrambling for an answer, she quickly answers that she has had great love in her past and that love inspired her novels. Little does she know that this one offhanded remark will turn her world upside down. Three of her ex-boyfriends see the interview, and each, believing she’s talking about him, shows up for her Christmas Camp book event at the Christmas Lake Lodge, determined to rewrite his happily-ever-after with her! Over the festive weekend, Riley’s old boyfriends compete to win her heart, pulling out all the stops while planning the most romantic Christmas dates on the planet. Despite herself, Riley starts falling for each guy- again-but for different reasons. As Riley revisits each relationship and discovers more about herself, she embraces the magic of Christmas and finally finds true love and her own Christmas ever after…

Bonus Content: Christmas Ever After includes delicious original Christmas recipes and fun holiday crafts and activities.

I will just start and tell you that this is a solid 4.5 stars for me but I also want it to be turned into a Hallmark movie. If anyone from Hallmark is reading this, you need to scoop this up for a movie because this was fun from the start all the way to the finish. I could not put this down, I found myself smiling throughout and laughing quite a bit. 

If you are a fan of Christmas, THIS IS YOUR BOOK, because I don't know that the author could have included anymore Christmas into it. We have Christmas Camp on Christmas Lake, Santa is everywhere, and I absolutely mean everywhere, and everyone is literally bursting with Christmas cheer is a bizarrely comical way. Completely ironic for Riley, who isn't a fan of the holiday after her dad passed away and took her Christmas cheer with him. Riley is clearly having the worst luck and after a TV appearance gone wrong, she feels a lot of pressure for this camp to go well and above expectations and to put out her next novel about a Christmas romance that blows away her last book failure. 

Easily the best part? Sure, the romance is fun and I liked it, but this is like Scrooge but with romance. She is visited by her ex-boyfriends and learns about what went wrong but also how she can do better. I loved Luke though, he's the down-to-Earth guy charged with running this camp and working with Riley, but he doesn't get a great first impression of her. He definitely has a sense of humor throughout and that's what keeps his character moving forward for me. 

Overall, I really liked this one. I would definitely read more from this author and I am so glad this was my first Christmas book of the season! The best part? The author is donating a portion of each book sold towards support libraries and independent bookstores! Of course, your local bookstore should be the first place to look for this gem, but in a pinch Target, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon carry it as well. A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and Karen Schaler for having me on this tour (and the sweet note in my book, Karen)! 

Monday, October 5, 2020

Book Review: The Silent House

How was your weekend? Mine was pretty good but went by far too fast. I feel like we are at the point of year that I really just need to sleep. Maybe I was supposed to be a bear because the idea of eating voraciously all summer and sleeping through the entire winter sounds like a dream, to be honest. 

The Silent House - Nell Pattison

But the Hunter family are deaf, and don’t hear a thing when a shocking crime takes place in the middle of the night. Instead, they wake up to their worst nightmare: the murder of their daughter.

The police call Paige Northwood to the scene to interpret for the witnesses. They’re in shock, but Paige senses the Hunters are hiding something.

One by one, people from Paige’s community start to fall under suspicion. But who would kill a little girl?

Was it an intruder?

Or was the murderer closer to home?

I don't have to tell you the entire premise of this book made me jump at it. If you don't know me in real life, you don't know how much of a wuss I am. I can't do scary movies, scary costumes, you will never see me in a haunted anything, and I don't like scary books. I've passed this trait down to my children, but Olivia is the worst because she obsessively is locking windows and doors because the idea of someone being in our house at night puts her and I on edge. I think of the plan I would have should that happen, like what if they've killed Matt and I have to somehow get as many kids as I can and get out? What if I have to hide in the house to call 911, where would I do this? 

I'm in therapy, you guys, so I'm working through this. 


I really felt like this book was calling to me. Like fate was calling my name and waving this in front of me, so I had to do it. You know I had to. 

What. A. Ride. Seriously. If you are a fan of the Crime Junkie podcast or just solving murders and stuff, this is the book for you. We have a family who are all deaf. They wake up, a little girl is dead- bludgeoned to death and it is awful, with it all taking place in the middle of the night. 

Now imagine someone being in your home, while you sleep, murdering someone, and YOU HEAR NOTHING. 

That thought alone freaked me out. Anyways, the police need help communicating with the family so they call in an interpreter, Paige, to assist. The deaf community is rather small so she knows the family but doesn't know them, until she realizes the little girl murdered has a connection to her sister. The entire book is Paige trying to unwind this mystery herself because all of the family look good for it, there is circumstantial evidence, and the police have to really solve this because people in the community want answers. The only problem is Paige just knows something doesn't add up. 

I will tell you I thought I had this figured out around the middle/last quarterish of the book but NOPE. Not even stinking close and good gravy. It is bananas and people are deranged, lets put it that way. I absolutely loved this one, and it has made me do more checks on windows and doors, no joke. If I had to give a critique I would say it reads a little slow. I would have liked the pace to go a little faster, because once I thought I figured it out I was going to set it aside. I'm glad I didn't because I was totally and completely wrong, obviously, but I'm telling you to keep with it. 

Thank you to HarperCollins360 for sending me a copy to review, I'm a lucky duck and they rock my socks for sure.