Saturday, August 28, 2021

Book Review: Love You, Little Lady

Happy weekend! I am so screwed up on my days of the week so I woke up thinking today was Friday and I had to get my weekend planned out and organized. JOKE IS ON ME though because today is Saturday and I missed half of the things I was supposed to do yesterday because I thought yesterday was Thursday. 

How I'm allowed to adult and being in charge of four little humans is beyond me, to be honest. Ha!

Love You, Little Lady - Brett Young

There's something special about the love between a father and daughter. In Love You, Little Lady, award-winning singer-songwriter Brett Young writes a love letter to his daughter as he shares what it's like to hear her heartbeat, hold her for the very first time, and watch her take her first steps.

This heartfelt picture book is ideal for kids ages 4-8 and shares the wonder of becoming a new parent
the unconditional love dads and moms share for their children beautiful artwork, a heartwarming cover, and sweet rhymes inspired by Brett's lyrics. 
I have a solid rotations of music channels while I'm in the car and one of them is a country station so I actually know who Brett Young is. I also know the song that this one is inspired by and I am a sucker for songs about parenthood. When I heard this book was coming out, I was so excited and knew this was a perfect book to add to my little girls' library. 

If you are looking for the perfect book for a baby shower, gift for a new mom (or dad), or just need to add a new one to your library, this book is adorable. I loved the illustrations throughout, they are so colorful and reminiscent of everyday life, we enjoyed looking at those with the story. The story is really genuine and loving mixing the wishes every parent has for their child while also reinforcing the hope that the child finds their own way. I love instilling the confidence that your child is capable of forging their own way while knowing they have the support of their parents no matter way, that's the greater meaning of the story. 

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour! I highly, highly suggest picking this one up to include in your next gift or to add to your bedtime routine. 
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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Book Review: More Bad Days in History

I think it's safe to say I'm not going to make my Goodreads goal this year. I think I'm like 18 books behind schedule and yeah..... I have more on my plate than I can chew. I have a terrible habit of doing this but I'm really trying to get better. All of the task lists in the world isn't helping me right now. I just keep telling myself that once school starts I'll have basically 7 hours alone so surely I can get stuff done, right? RIGHT?! 

More Bad Days in History - Michael Farquhar

In these gleefully gloomy pages, you'll find a politically smeared George Washington, a cranky Colonel Sanders, a homicidal Saint Olga of Kiev, a cuckolded Napoleon, a flame-censored Steinbeck, a treacherous Douglas MacArthur, a weeping Einstein, an exasperated Charles Dickens, a humiliated King Henry II, and a faux-contrite Ted Kennedy. And that's just in July!

From the decadent palaces of ancient Rome to the modern Halls of Congress, this illuminating (sometimes disturbing) narrative features an almost endless array of misbehavior, amusing mishaps, and breathtaking misfortune over the ages and across the historical spectrum. Each less-than-red-letter day of the year is recounted in Farquhar's wry voice and comes with the enduring lesson The Wall Street Journal found in the first volume of this series: "Bad Days in History may offer consolation to the great mass of quotidian belly-achers . . . whose piddling misfortunes and regrets will snap neatly into perspective when set against [this] record of idiocy and disaster."

This surprising and sometimes heartbreaking collection of mayhem and malady will leave you amused, intrigued, and horrified by day after day of hilarious catastrophe.
I know we shouldn't get joy out of other people's bad day but honestly, some days I really need something and this book brought it. I also love good organization, so you give me a book organized by the calendar year and I'm going to sit my butt down and enjoy it. Sure, I'll be bouncing around the book looking at the birth dates of everyone I know, anniversaries, etc. because I'm morbid like that. 

My birthday is March 10, and this book covers a story in which a famous nude was hacked with a meat cleaver. I mean, I could give you more context for that to make more sense but that sentence alone makes you want to read this book, am I right? I also really love the one for my anniversary on June 12, aptly titled, "Unholy Matrimony, Part 3: With This Ring, I Thee Dread", about a prince who very much didn't want to get married but had to, literally never had sex with his wife and only had dinner with her once a year. I mean... good grief. If you're a fan of the daily calendars with fun facts, you'll love this because it's a meatier version of that. Not quite short story level but also longer than quick facts, this is an entertaining read for sure. The entire time I was going through this I kept thinking a high school history teacher would LOVE this and it would be a fun way to start class everyday, with a crazy fact of history. While this is the second installment of Bad Days in History, this was highly entertaining and now I need the first book, and eagerly anticipate the next one! 

My husband and I had a good time going through this and if you're bored at home and are staging a low key date night, order some take out and pass the book back and forth looking for the best one to share, I promise you'll get some laughs. You'll feel guilty for laughing sometimes, but not enough to quit because this book is just too good. 

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for having me on this tour! 
This post contains affiliate links. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Summer winding down with or without us

The worst part of summer is watching the end come so quickly. I feel like it flew by this year, and that we hardly did anything, and that's definitely our fault. We just let work and other things get ahead of us doing fun things. I've been trying to squeeze the last bit of fun into this last two weeks as I can. I know that fall, winter, and spring doesn't really get packed with fun things, not to say we're sitting at home bored though. We always seem to be on the go, but it isn't the kind of go you look forward to doing, you know? It's just stuff you do, places you're kind of obligated to be.  

Already our calendar is filling up with dance, swim lessons, driver's ed, band performances, school commitments, doctor appointments, etc, but not much room for fun. Summer has always been our fun season, so the fact we haven't done a whole lot of fun is really bumming me out. Next year? Next year I'm planning fun all over the place. Just you wait. 

The week we came back from Iowa we still had a couple of days to put some fun into, so we decided to go to the Como Zoo in St. Paul, MN. It's a free zoo, we like to go at least once during the summer and we haven't gone since 2019 because of the pandemic. You have to make reservations though so it's a bit harder to plan since we're a solid 2.5 hours away, so it isn't like we can go on a whim- it's a whole day of planning. 

I'm so glad we did it though because we had a great day. I'll be honest, the zoo isn't as nice as we remember it, and it is probably because of the pandemic. Lack of visitors = lack of donations = not as many funds for aesthetic upkeep. The animals all look well and cared for, I will say that. The other bummer? No Como Town (a small amusement park area), no animal shows (the little girls were hoping to see the seals), and of course we go on a day it's tremendously warm so the majority of animals were hanging lazily in the shade. 
Lucy was living her best life though because during our entire trip to Iowa, all Lucy wanted was a giraffe. I have no idea where the love of giraffes has come from, but it's intense and no matter where we went, she asked about a giraffe. Of course, we couldn't find a giraffe anywhere, including the zoo we went to in Iowa! One of the first areas of Como Zoo that we went into opens back up to the outdoors and there's a small gift area with, bum bum bum..... a GIRAFFE. Matt beelined it to the store, purchased a giraffe, and that my friends, is the face of a very happy girl. 
Penelope really liked this gorilla. She was pretty interested in his feet and how similar (but also different) they were to hers and she kept hoping he'd wake up and interact, but he was far more interested in his nap and honestly, I was wishing I could take a nap, myself. 

After the zoo we went to an outlet shopping center called Albertville, spent the rest of the money we had on school clothes for four kids (that isn't cheap and that outlet mall is far bigger than it looked from the road). I was exhausted by the time we were done but I managed to rally so we could go to a weird space/alien restaurant with a small arcade. The kids had a fun time, but Matt and I sat there like overtired vegetables. 
The next day we took a drive to Port Wing, Wisconsin, which is where Matt went to school. He showed the kids his old school (which was very tiny, especially considered the high school here or even just the middle school), we went to Twin Falls, and got back into the car. 
We ate lunch in Shell Lake, Wisconsin, and I managed to find a scrapbook store (I haven't been inside of an actual scrapbook store in 10 years!!) and I remembered how much I loved scrapbooking and how I really need to get back into it. Another summer bucket list item was a sunflower field. Last year was the year of dead sunflowers, so this year I told the kids I'll get it together for us to go when they are still alive. 

We barely made it but you know what? They were alive! We went to a different maze this year and it wasn't nearly as nice as last year's. At least last year there were props to take photos on and then a look out area... this place.... nothing. Literally nothing. Also, we were the only people there so it felt very horror movie-ish. The field was in Sarona, Wisconsin and if you have younger kids and need a five minute activity to stretch your legs? This is probably the stop for you. If you want more of a leisurely stroll with pretty views and fun photo areas? Go to the one we did last year for sure. I'd send us there again but then the flowers would for sure be dead. Maybe that should be our tradition. HA! 

I'm trying to decide if we do something this weekend or not, but I do have our corn maze/pumpkin patch weekend marked off already! It felt like fall the other day here and oy... I'm just not ready. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Strand Six: Iowa Vacation

I know I normally break our vacation wrap up posts with a couple so they aren't so long, but for the sake of time and the ridiculous list of things I have one week to get done... you're getting it all now. 

Before I go further though, everyone has asked us, "why Iowa?" and the simplest answer is..... we needed to cross it off our map. We have a goal of seeing as many states together as we can and we've done a bunch around MN/WI where we live, except Iowa. It's always the drive-through-it state but you guys- we need to collectively stop dissing Iowa. Iowa is fun and Iowa isn't getting the respect it deserves. 

We took off on Friday and I was so damn sick. No, I wasn't Covid sick, I was adrenaline crash sick. The night before was ROUGH and I won't get into that, but just know that as parents, Matt and I are dealing with a lot and it's a constant barrage of stuff and frankly, that Thursday was just really almost too much for me. Well, I guess it was because that Friday my body was like, "girl- you're done". I was on the verge of throwing up the entire day (and the next), I was in and out of consciousness, I felt like it took everything in me just to sit up straight in the car, my stomach hurt so bad and I had the worst headache. I was awful and I very much do not recommend going on a road trip in these conditions. Anyways. The show goes on, as they say. 
We stopped at Minnesota's Largest Candy Store in Jordan, Minnesota. If you've never been, it's worth the stop, the kids absolutely loved it. 
We then hauled it to Blue Earth, Minnesota to see the Jolly Green Giant Statue Park, and this was so pretty. Not only is this little town really pretty, but they have little Sprout statues all over and you can do a little scavenger hunt to find them all. I'm sad we didn't have enough time to do that. We had to hustle to get to Des Moines, Iowa because that was where we were exploring first. 

We ended up getting to our hotel late (for Pep and Lu) and our hotel was just the worst. It really was. It literally smelled like garlic bread and not even good garlic bread. Ugh. 
The next day we went to Blank Park Zoo, which was a really great little zoo. We saw a ton of animals, the zoo was incredibly well laid out and clean. It wasn't the biggest zoo we've gone to but it was worth our trip. 
After the zoo we decided to go on a train ride, mostly because Penelope asked for one. We drove to Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad & Museum because we had tickets for the Fraser Train. We got there a little early, so we explored the museum and got to climb onto a train. The museum isn't near as cool as the one we have local to us, but what they had was a little bit different so it wasn't a total waste. The train ride though? Beautiful. 
We went over a bridge and I'm not kidding, in the fall this would be STUNNING. The views are beautiful but I can say that is the highest up off the ground I've ever been while in a train!
For dinner, we took a chance on the Drake Diner (which Jackson later discovered was home to a couple of murders and I'm telling you, knowing that know makes me feel strange). The food was great and the decor/restaurant was beautiful. It's a cool little gem in the middle of a neighborhood. 

That's how we ended our first full day in Des Moines. We were exhausted but got to hear a dance party in the hotel parking lot for three hours in the middle of the night. Loved that. :/ 
The very next day we had to get up super early because we had tickets for the 9-12 slot at the Science Center of Iowa. This was a pick from the big kids because they really get into science things, but it turned out being a huge hit for all four kids. I can't hate that. Easily the best areas were the Build It area (you can make a building and see if it withstands an earthquake) and the area with circuits. Penelope really enjoyed circuits and making things turn on/off. 
We ended up getting through the entire science center in about two hours so we had some time to kill before we would need to eat lunch so..... we decided to check out a local bookstore! This is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do in a new town, and this one did not disappoint. 
Storyhouse Bookpub was the cutest little shop I've been in. We spent quite a bit of time (and money) here and I just wanted to hang out all day. The owner and her employer were literally the sweetest people, and gave us a little scavenger hunt around this up and coming neighborhood. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday so lots of shops weren't open, but Penelope was determined! She had to find a specific book in each store and have her sheet marked off. She went right up to store employees to ask questions, get her sheet signed, etc. You have NO IDEA how proud she was to get her sticker at the end showing she's a super reader. For real, you guys- this store is amazing. 
Also? Iowa has these awesome murals all over and I could have spent entire days just looking for these. But I love this picture because it's everyone's personality and there's Pep with her scavenger hunt sheet! 
Also? I got so many pictures of our family, of Matt and I, the kids, etc. I really wanted this vacation to count. 

After wandering around, we had about an hour-ish drive to Columbus Junction to see the Swinging Bridge Park, home of the Lover's Leap Bridge. We found it easily enough, had some disagreements on how to get to the bridge, finally deciding to take this weird little path which wasn't a fun one to walk. 
We did get a view of the bridge and doesn't that look like a fun one? This one definitely counts as our adventure card of this trip. 
When I tell you this was a swinging bridge? I am not lying to you. This damn thing swung side to side but also up and down and was the scariest bridge I have ever been on. It didn't help that the people behind us started being complete assholes, knowing full well that we had four kids on this bridge. So that was fun. 
We saw this at the end. Fun. 
We were on the way to city #2, Dubuque. I need to pause though and tell you that Des Moines was maybe the prettiest city I've ever been in. Everything was so clean, everyone was so nice and helpful, I really was sad we had to go, but it made me excited for Dubuque. 
We only had one full day in Dubuque so I knew we had to make it count! I knew during my research of Dubuque that I wanted to find some of these murals and we only got photos of a couple but there were SO MANY. If you are traveling through Dubuque, I so highly recommend you drive around and find them. 
I mean, how bad ass is that? I wish more cities had things like that, tap into the artists of your city! 
First up for Dubuque was the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium. It's similar to the aquarium we have where we live (though that is solely focused on the Great Lakes), so I know going in that we would really love this and we did. 
We ended up getting there a little early, so we found a little walkway and decided to just watch the morning wake up over the water. It was really beautiful. 
The museum/aquarium was absolutely worth our time and money. We did everything this place had to offer and the kids were bummed by the time we were done. 
Afterwards we were going to get lunch, and I had found Shot Tower Inn online, and it was SO GOOD. It wasn't without drama though, I wanted to take the kids to take a picture of the mural and some guy, presumably picking up an employee from work, started screaming at me he was going to tow our vehicle away. I yelled at him for being an asshole and then, because I can be petty, proceeded to stand there within his view until the place opened for lunch (we had gotten there like 7 minutes early). We said something to our waitress, who made sure we weren't actually towed, and tipped her really well. She was the nicest and this place was pretty great. 
Next up? The Fenelon Place Elevator! I'm all about an inexpensive, quirky thing to do and for $4 a person, you too can ride on the world's shortest and steepest railroad! 
It goes incredibly slow, has a great view at the top, and the neighborhood at the bottom is full of fun little shops. 
We also found a Little Free Library! We didn't find anything for us that day, but it was cool to visit anyways. 
I inadvertently found a bookstore I had wanted to go to while in this neighborhood, too. When we road the elevator back up, we drove to the bottom and found some parking right out front and went in. 
River Lights Bookstore is beautiful. Again, Olivia and I bought a stack of books we don't need but you know.... buy local, am I right? 

We were going to try to go see some caves but in the end decided maybe the kids were wearing out. Our last stop for the whole trip was always meant to be Effigy Mounds National Monument
We literally had no idea what it was before we went and I'll be honest, we only saw three. The three at the start of the trail. 
This was something that Jackson had wanted to see and we realized it was one of the "special sights" places on our map that you cross off as you see, so it was a double bonus. What they don't tell you is the trail to see these? 


Sure, there are two trails, a two-miler and a four-miler meant for a more "rugged" experience. The two-miler? Is not for out of shape folk. It's not for anyone with a bizarre leg malady we're still getting worked out, and it's not for a toddler who also seemingly has the same thing but the beginning stages. 

To sum it up? We made it .7 of a mile up the mountain before saying screw it and going back down. 
Looking at this it freaks me out because that is a straight down drop off behind Olivia and her legs kept giving out (it's a whole thing, we don't know what it is, we're in the middle of trying to figure it all out). Lucy had to be carried for awhile because her leg was giving out and she was in pain. Jackson had to hold me up. Only Penelope was ready to climb the mountain, and she let us all know repeatedly that SHE is just fine and SHE could do the whole thing, no problem. 

Penelope is not the motivational coach anyone needs. Unless being shamed by a six year old is what drives you, of course. 

We then drove like 5.5 hours home. It was late when we got home, the last two hours were ROUGH. The kids were all asleep, Matt and I had the music cranked so loud and nobody heard a thing. It was crazy. Was our summer vacation over? Nope! Tomorrow? We play local-ish tourists. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Book Review: The Apology Project

 I can't even tell you the last time I've had this many posts in one week, but here we are! I'm not going to get cocky and say I think this is going to be a trend because I'm learning how to say no and let things go. (I'm doing it really slowly, but just shut up, I'm making baby steps.)

The Apology Project - Jeanette Escudero

Life is about to get complicated for Amelia Montgomery, a prominent litigator in Chicago. She’s been fired for not compromising her principles in a high-profile case and then punching her partner in the nose for the misogynistic comment he made in retort (not her finest moment). Leaving a career that gave her purpose, Amelia can only ask, What next?

Let it be better than her epic failure of a fortieth birthday party: an open bar full of no-shows except for John Ellis, a total stranger and the new associate at her ex-firm. As it turns out, though, he’s very good company—and a wake-up call. With the help of John and a lot of champagne, Amelia considers the people she’s wronged, from old besties to former boyfriends to coworkers. Amelia resolves to make amends—to those who really deserve it.

One apology at a time, Amelia’s looking at the choices she’s made in the past, the new ones she’s making with John, and those she’s making for herself. What next? Maybe a second chance she never expected. 
I have seen this one all over Instagram and the title alone drew me in. I think the concept of people apologizing for being an absolute piece of garbage of a human is pretty out of most people's realm, and honestly? It happens so infrequently that when people do apologize, it immediately gets awkward. Right? Suddenly, neither of you know what to say so you're left nodding your head until someone breaks the pause to leave. You know how it is. Also, I think people feel like if they apologize they are somehow admitting that they as a person are terrible and forever unworthy, which isn't the case. That person just did something really awful/dumb/hurtful/rude/etc, it doesn't necessarily mean they should be tossed to the wind. 

I could speak a lot about apologies. I could even give you a list of people I think owe me an apology, and I can give you a list of people I really should apologize to. I think I will too, because this book kind of drives home the reason for an apology and how it's good for the other person but it is also good for you. I think we can all remember a time where we did something bad, or sad something terrible, and we've thought about it over the years. Apologizing lets that go, and what a weight lifted from you it would be, right? 

That's the journey Amelia goes through in this book. She "retires" from her job as a high powered lawyer because the job was threatening to violate her morals and choices were made. While it's hard to look at the situation as a positive, Amelia soon finds out that she has made no friends despite her professional accomplishments. Enter John, the new guy at her old law firm who suggests she apologize to the people she feels she's wronged in some way. Over time, the list evolves, Millie learns a few things, but with every new lesson learned another one pops up. Having to face some hard truths about herself as a person, this is Millie's journey into becoming a better person. 

Of course, we have some romance in there, for good measure. 

Overall? I liked this one, it would be a 3 star for me. I had a hard time sticking with it in the beginning because Amelia really is unlikeable. She actually is for most of the book and I can tell why nobody wanted to be around her. Unpleasant is an understatement. She's harsh, unforgiving, and no-nonsense, but she also doesn't take into consideration that people have lives and feelings outside of the bubble she's in. The fact John was able to see through a lot of that was honestly a true testament to his interest. Of course, is it even a romance if we don't have some drama that slowly brews and we can all see it coming, threatens to end them for good and then we have an ending? It definitely wouldn't be and this book doesn't short us on that. While the climax was something we could all see from a mile away, it almost felt like a relief when it just happened. 

It's definitely a timely book with the #metoo movement included as a theme throughout, with a nod to cancel culture, it was almost too much at times. I do think the book was very thoughtful in presenting the art of an apology, and why we do it, and if you aren't so sure yourself, you'll learn right along with Millie. 

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for sending me a copy for review! If you're looking for a fun little book about learning to be the bigger person and saying sorry when it's due, with a dash of romance, this is definitely your next read. 
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Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Book Box Subscription Coming Out My Ears. Literally.

Like the mature adult I am, I am not going to take full responsibility to the shame I am going to show you. To be fair, we can blame Covid and shipping delays, and I'm going to lay a lot of the blame on them. Way, way back, months ago, Once Upon a Book Club ran into delays because of shipping delays, more Covid, customs delays, etc. Thankfully they were super great about communication on this, but I didn't think anything of it. I don't mind if my box comes a little late, I'll survive. God knows my shelves are full of unread books I've yet to get to- I won't be without reading material.  

All fun and games until the boxes started coming in, and coming in they did. Because I receive both the young adult and the adult box because I have serious FOMO and need help. Now I have a predicament on my hands. Also my shelves, and floor. Send help. 

I can't even tell you what the box theme for any of these are, that's how out of hand things have gotten. I am pretty sure this is the Madame Moustache box, featuring the novel Betting Woman by Jenni L. Walsh. I'm on the fence with this one, the cover doesn't draw me in but it is getting pretty good reviews, so we'll see!
The box featuring Reset by Sarina Dahlan is one that at least my oldest daughter in interested in. Normally I'm not big on fantasy or dystopian, but the line, "Can you love someone you don't remember?" is all I need to read to be all in on this one. 
Again, this is one right up Olivia's alley, Daughter of Sparta (Daughter of Sparta #1) by Claire Andrews. This is getting really great reviews on Instagram, it's the retelling of the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo. To be honest, I am rusty (to say the least) on my Greek myths, so I'd really be going into this with fresh eyes. The cover DOES look great, so I'm excited to get into it. 
I'm a sucker for a special box. You tell me it's a limited edition and I'm going to give you my money. I'm practically throwing it at you. A Bridgerton box? TAKE MY MONEY. 
I had no idea what would be coming in the box so when it finally came I had to calm down and get in the right mindset to open it all up and just hold back from ripping it all open. The first book, The Duke and I is signed by Julia Quinn. 
The series is getting exclusive, limited edition covers and I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. We also received The Viscount Who Loved Me and An Offer From a Gentleman
I also recently received the box for Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon. I'm excited about this one because I've liked some other books Nicola has put out, so I've got high hopes for this one. 

I bet you think that's the last of my shame, right? Uh, no. 

This one came this week. Sisters of Resistance by Christine Wells, a story inspired by Catherine Dior (sister of the more famous Dior), a WWII historical fiction novel many say is interesting and grabs you from the first page. To be honest, historical fiction isn't my go-to genre and anything from the WWII era isn't the top of my list because everyone has done it and I'm over it. We ought to ban WWII era books, at least for a little while. Give us literally any other era, there are so many to pick from! I'm going to give it a try though, so stay tuned! 

Alright, I swear to you, that is all of the boxes I have from Once Upon a Book Club that I have yet to get to. It's so out of hand, it really is. Which one would you pick first? 

If YOU want to try out Once Upon a Book Club, you should use my referral link HERE and we will both get $5 off once you place your first order! 

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