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Fascinating Finds

Friday, September 18, 2020

This weekend we'll be spending all weekend waiting for my brother Alex and my sister-in-law Alex to arrive on Sunday. They are staying the night here with us Sunday, and then we'll all caravan up to West Virginia on Monday. We're headed there for the Alexes' baby shower!  

I also have some exciting news coming Monday! Stay tuned. 

Here's what I have for you this week: 

- With fall comes (allegedly!) cooler weather. Some of our favorite recipes that are perfect for fall are brown butter sauce (good on anything, not just ravioli), this sheet pan dinner, and these pumpkin muffins

- Venus has never been my favorite planet (that designation goes to Jupiter), but after I started teaching the Ray Bradbury short story "All Summer in a Day" which takes place on Venus, I've always been drawn to stories about that planet. Astronomers recently reported that there might be a sign of life on Venus.

- I have to admit, I have literally NEVER listened to a podcast until this week. I am not really an auditory learner, so I never thought podcasts would be for me. But my friend Drew (one of my best friend's, Sarah, husband who shot our beautiful wedding video) and his friend Jake started a podcast all about movies, and it's great! Check out Reel Takes with Drew and Jake

- The novels shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize were announced Tuesday. Four of the six are from first-time writers, and four are from women. 

- The Coronavirus has officially reached its arms of destruction into the holiday season. 

Some posts you may have missed:


- When it comes to home decor, trust your taste.

- Quick ways to make your home look tidy.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Cozy Mysteries

Wednesday, September 16, 2020


For this week's What I'm Reading I wanted to talk about a specific genre of books that I've been enjoying lately: cozy mysteries. In case you don't know what a cozy mystery is, it is a mystery that usually features an amateur sleuth, and the murder usually happens "off screen" -- that is to say it's not violent or graphic. For a longer explanation, read this article. If you've ever seen the show Murder, She Wrote, you have enjoyed a cozy mystery. 

While I have certainly read some cozy mysteries in the past, I have been reading a lot more of them lately because I joined the latest Litsy Markup Postal Book Club on my favorite app, Litsy. I have talked about Litsy a lot in the past, and if you haven't joined yet, you should! Although I have been part of Litsy for over three years now, I have only in the past several months become really active. In late spring, I saw information about a "Markup Postal Book Club"; in essence, participants group together in groups of four people, the group selects a theme for the books they will read, each member chooses four books to propose, and the other three members vote on which of the four will be that person's book. At the end of the month, the first person on the list passes their book to the second person, the second person to the third, and so on. As each person reads, she makes notes in the book based on her thoughts, ideas, or opinions. This goes on for four months so that each member reads every other member's book, and then you get your original book back. (Often, book club members will also send along other fun treats, gifts, and surprises.)  My book club started in July, and I have read three novels now. I will receive the fourth (and final) one at the beginning of October. I am already missing my book club, and it's not even over yet! My group decided to read cozy mysteries, so I have enjoyed three of them in the past couple months, plus one I found to read on my own. It's been a really fun study over the past few months, and I would recommend any of these books!


Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron (BookshopAmazon
This book (which is the first in a series) features Jane Austen as an amateur sleuth. It will not surprise you to hear that this was my choice for the book club! Don't let the idea that it's written in "old" English deter you; it's actually a fun read. It got a little slow at times, but overall it was a really fun story, and I will definitely be reading more of the series. 

Still Knife Painting by Cheryl Hollon (BookshopAmazon
This was my August read and is also the first in a series. It features a protagonist named Miranda Trent and takes place in eastern Kentucky (not too far from where I'm from in West Virginia), so that's why I voted for this one. There were some things I thought became boringly repetitive, but I was hooked enough to want to know who did it, and I did not find the ending predictable.

A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley (BookshopAmazon
I really enjoyed this book, which was my September read. Like the others, it is part of a series and features two protagonists: a mystery writer named Camilla Graham and her apprentice Lena London. One of the best parts of this one was that there is a mystery within the mystery, and there will be, I assume, overlap into the next novel.  


Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver (BookshopAmazon
Any book that includes the line "All other considerations aside, it would be quite embarrassing to be murdered" is definitely a book I know I'll enjoy! This book is the second in a series featuring a protagonist named Amory Ames. Accidentally, I read this one before the first, but I'll double back and read that one before I read the subsequent ones. You will especially like this book if you like historical fiction, as this series takes place in England in the 1930s. 

If you like a good mystery but don't really want to read books that are graphic or contain a lot of bad language or involved police procedure, cozy mysteries are definitely for you. 

And, incidentally, if you are feeling a lack of connection right now for whatever reason and really enjoy books, please consider joining Litsy. I have found a nice community of people there -- especially doing this postal book club -- that have made me feel less alone as we have been stuck at home and Joe has been traveling for work. 

If you read any of these books, let me know. I'd love to discuss! 

Summer 2020: The Bright Side of Disaster

Monday, September 14, 2020

At the end of Summer 2016, I wrote a post dedicated to some of the books I'd read that summer, sharing some of my favorite quotations from each. I did the same thing in 2017. And, after not being able to do so in 2018 and 2019, I decided at the beginning of this summer I'd start again this year. This is that post!

If Summer 2016 was "The Summer We Read Austen" and Summer 2017 was "More Alive and Less Lonely" (and Summer 2018 was "The Summer I Got Married and Changed States and Jobs" and Summer 2019 was "The Summer I had a Baby"), then I think Summer 2020 can best be called "The Bright Side of Disaster," for that's what reading was this summer: the bright side of the disaster that has largely been 2020. 

Here are some of the books I read between Memorial Day and Labor Day that had pieces and parts that spoke to me. Instead of sharing summaries, I'll share some of my favorite quotations from each book, and if those speak to you, maybe you'll want to read the whole book!

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman (BookshopAmazon
*Don't read this until you read its prequel Beartown


"The truth always has to stick to what actually happened, whereas the lie just has to be easy to believe."

"It is divided in the way that all worlds are divided between people" between those who are listened to and those that aren't."

"Everyone is a hundred different things, but in other people's eyes we usually get the chance to be only one of them."

"It's hard to care about people. Exhausting, in fact, because empathy is a complicated thing. It requests us to accept that everyone else's lives are also going on the whole time. We have no pause button for when everything gets too much for us to deal with, but then neither does anyone else." 

"Being a mother can be like drying out the foundations of a house or mending a roof: it takes time, sweat, and money, and once it's done everything looks the same as it did before. It's not the sort of thing anyone gives you praise for." 

"We rarely take our anger out on those who deserve it; we just take it out on whoever is standing closest."

"My dad used to hit me if I so much as spilled a  bit of milk. That didn't reach me not to spill milk, it just made me afraid of milk."

"Our spontaneous reaction is often our most stupid."

"It's always so easy to say what everyone should have done when you know that what they did didn't work."

"We will say, 'Things like this are no one's fault,' but of course they are. deep down we will know the truth. It's plenty of people's fault. Ours."

"An ordinary life is long if you live it together with someone else."

"Sometimes good people do bad things out of good intentions, and sometimes the reverse happens." 

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell (BookshopAmazon

"The weren't bad books. They were books you didn't enjoy. It's not the same thing at all. The only bad books are books that are so badly written that no one will publish them. Any book that has been published is going to be a 'good book' for someone."

Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel (BookshopAmazon


"Happiness is not a zero-sum game. It's the only case in which the resources are limitless, and in which the rich can get richer at no expense to anyone else."

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser (BookshopAmazon

"She still hadn't worked out how 1950s housewives had done it, but she suspected it involved far more ignoring of the children and far less guilt in doing so."

"How much nicer the world would be if people who didn't know what they were talking about would keep their mouths shut."

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus (BookshopAmazon

"All of Fright Farm's success is based on how much people love to be scared in a controlled environment. There's something deeply, fundamentally satisfying about confronting a monster and escaping unscathed. Real monsters aren't anything like that. They don't let go."

The Longest Day of the Year by Kim Wright (Amazon


"... a woman's first and truest calling is to live her own life."

"It's occurred to me that whatever age you happen to be at the moment, you're all the other ages you've ever been too."

"Our minds are kind. They rewrite our lives even as we are living them, editing out the parts that are too painful to accept."

"If you live your life right, all the best stuff comes at the very end." 

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron (BookshopAmazon

"Had ever a great family been so determined in bastardy?"

When Life Gives You LuLuLemons by Lauren Weisberger (BookshopAmazon


"Emily led her by the arm to the kitchen table and poured her a glass of cold white wine. 'Shouldn't you be making me chamomile tea or something?' 'Oh, yes. Tea really helps everything.'"

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (BookshopAmazon


"If this isn't hell, the devil is surely taking notes."

"This old lady's much too herself to be anybody else underneath."

How It All Began by Penelope Lively (BookshopAmazon


"This is how children learn to read, why they do so. You reach them through stories, you lure them with story."

"But who knows their own child? You know bits -- certain predictable reactions, a handful of familiar qualities. The rest is unpenetrable. And quite right too. You give birth to them. You do not design them."

"She read to discover how not to be Charlotte, how to escape the prison of her own mind, how to expand, and experience."

"This happens to me all the time. Things seem like a good idea until suddenly they're not."

"Stories are like the ... currency of connection."

"We push back and forth till the sky goes fully dark. Till it turns the color of goodbye."

"My mother once told me the most disconcerting part of being a parent is that you never get to settle into it, that your child is constantly being replaced with another version you don't recognize."

Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum (BookshopAmazon

"Even back in my fairy-tale days, I never liked those inevitable opening words -- once upon a time. Their bookend -- happily ever after -- at least made sense to me. The main character ended up happy forever. That was a no-brainer and nonnegotiable, the absolute bare minimum we could expect from a good story." 

"I'm hardwired to try to make other people feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations -- which is both my favorite and my least favorite thing about myself."

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith (BookshopAmazon

"No matter how long it's been or how far you've drifted, no matter how unknowable you might be, there were at least two people in the world whose job it was to see you, to find you, to recognize you and reel you  back in. No matter what."

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck (BookshopAmazon

"A familiar peace hit him. Happened every time he was with books."

The Mothers by Brit Bennett (BookshopAmazon


"All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around in our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stole and passed around before its season." 

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum (BookshopAmazon

"... language seems inherently and irrationally optimistic; we just assume people understand what we are talking about. That we are, as the idiom goes, on the same wavelength. In my experience, we are not." 

The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center (BookshopAmazon

"I ate, drank, and slept motherhood. That was the thing about it. It was so unbelievably hard, and the learning curve was so steep that there was no way to do anything but figure out how to do it."

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley (BookshopAmazon)

"I suppose we all carry around different versions of ourselves."

I hope you find something on this list you will enjoy! If you are somewhat overwhelmed and don't know where to start, may I recommend the following:

A happy read -- The Fifth Avenue Story Society (BookshopAmazon

A book that you won't want to put down -- The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (BookshopAmazon

A great young adult book -- What to Say Next (BookshopAmazon)

A quick read -- The Longest Day of the Year (Amazon

And remember, you can find an ongoing list of my book recommendations here.  

Fascinating Finds

Friday, September 11, 2020

I hope everyone has had a good week! Our big plans for the weekend involve watching West Virginia (finally!) play football tomorrow. (We won't be watching Michigan, though!) Also, today is the fourth anniversary of Joe and my first date! We are thinking we might take Bert out this evening for an early pizza dinner to celebrate. (And it sure beats where we were this time last year.) 


Here are some interesting articles and stories I've collected for you this week:

- Here is a link to a beautiful poem about 9/11 by poet Billy Collins. May we never forget.

- These are the most stylish face masks, according to Vogue. 2020 is weird. 

- 16-year-old Dara McAnulty has become the youngest writer ever to be longlisted for the UK’s most prestigious nonfiction award, the Baillie Gifford prize, for his book Diary of a Young Naturalist, which he began writing at the age of 14.

- A new movie adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca is coming to Netflix October 21. It's hard to believe anything could be as good the Hitchcock classic starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier (which received 11 Academy Award nominations), but I'll give it a go for sure. You can check out the trailer here. (How terrifying is Kristin Scott Thomas?!)

- Proof that God doesn't always answer prayers exactly how you'd expect! 

- A defense of one of Jane Austen's most exasperating characters. 


- The moon is rusting, and it's our fault. 

Some past posts you may have missed:



- A book that we could all use

Have a great weekend! 

What I'm Reading Wednesday: The Fifth Avenue Story Society, Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Mother-in-Law

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

As I mentioned in my last post, I am launching two new features this fall, the first of which starts today! It's called What I'm Reading Wednesday where I plan to share -- surprise! -- what I've been reading lately. 


The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck (Bookshop.comAmazon) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


In this novel, five people -- four of whom are strangers -- receive mysterious invitations to a weekly story society. Their friendships grow as they share their lives and problems. 

Admittedly, I am a sucker for anything related to a story society. I didn't know anything about this author or her previous works when I checked this out of the library. After reading (and loving) it, I realized it was published by a Christian publisher, and I appreciated that the Christian themes were well done and not cheesy like they can sometimes be. This book made me cry at times, made me look at my husband with new eyes, and made me think about the story of my own life. If you're looking for a well-written, uplifting book, this is the one. 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Bookshop.comAmazon) ⭐⭐⭐

This novel tells the tale of a young girl named Kya who is, person by person, abandoned by her entire family in the shack in which they live in the marsh of North Carolina. She is shunned and mistreated by everyone in the nearby small town with two exceptions, a married African American couple who, although mistreated themselves, help Kya. Two different young men from town fall for the mysterious Kya, and then one of them turns up dead. The novel alternates between two timelines, telling the story of Kya's past as well as the current murder investigation. 

I put this novel on my holds list at the public library because the world has been raving about it. I have friends and acquaintances who loved it, and it got high reviews on GoodReads also. But, to be honest, for the entirety of this book I kept thinking that I must be missing something. I kept reading, thinking at some point I would discover why people were so enamored with this book. However, it never happened. I didn't mind putting this book down; I wasn't really drawn in at all. However, I did find myself wanting to know what happened to the main character, Kya, and I was surprised by and contented with the ending. It's not a memorable book of the year for me, but it was a solid read.


The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth (Bookshop.comAmazon) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I have read a few other novels of Sally Hepworth's and enjoyed them all. This novel tells the story of Lucy, a young woman who has had a contentious relationship with her mother-in-law, Diana, since she began dating her husband. Diana is found dead of an apparent suicide; her family believes it is due to her breast cancer diagnosis. But an autopsy finds no cancer. As law enforcement investigates further, homicide is soon suspected. The police feel that Lucy has a strong motive, and she becomes a suspect. 

This novel is compelling and drew me in from the beginning. One of its strengths, I believe, is that it is told from both Lucy's and Diana's perspectives, so there is a very blurred line between heroes and villains. I admit at the beginning I found Diana to be appallingly unlikable, and I definitely sided with Lucy; however, the more I read from Diana's perspective, the more I understood why she made some choices she did. Because of that, I thought about people in my own life whose actions and words I sometimes completely fail to understand and began to have a little more compassion. As I read in another book recently "... language seems inherently and irrationally optimistic; we just assume people understand what we are talking about. That we are, as the idiom goes, on the same wavelength. In my experience, we are not." (What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum)

Other Recent Reads
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley (Bookshop.comAmazon) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center (Bookshop.comAmazon) ⭐⭐⭐

One Day in December by Josie Silver (Bookshop.comAmazon) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum (Bookshop.comAmazon) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson (Bookshop.comAmazon) ⭐⭐⭐



Post contains affiliate links.

Summer 2020

Thursday, September 3, 2020

I can't believe that we're already at the end of summer. Summer is my most favorite season of the year, and it's hard for me when it goes away. Admittedly, I am ready for the 90+ temperatures to fizzle out to more manageable 70s, but I am not ready to face the winter that is quickly approaching. I also love fall, with the cooler weather, beautiful leaves, great smells, and ... football. As with everything this year, the football season will look completely different, and for Joe and me, we don't know what this means for our lives. Football has been a huge part of our whole relationship (we've been together five college football seasons now), and we are known for sometimes hooking up a second TV in our living room if Michigan and West Virginia are playing games at the same time. With the Big 10 not playing games this fall (insane) and the participating conferences limiting their seasons to conference games-only, things are looking remarkably different, and we have no plan to handle this right now. Yes, we'll still get to see some games, but we all now it won't be the same. Perhaps most depressingly, my mom, aunt, uncle, Joe, and I had tickets to the now-cancelled WVU vs. Florida State game here in Atlanta that was supposed to take place this weekend. I am heartbroken. 

Although our summer, like everyone's, was very different this year, we did have the opportunity to do and celebrate a few fun things between June and now. 

First, Joe and I celebrated our second anniversary June 9. We took Bert and went to an early dinner at local family Italian place near us to celebrate. Instead of gifts, we decided to buy a family pass to Stone Mountain to enjoy it as a family this year. 

Then we had a special Father's Day Weekend for Joe. This was his first FDW with an outside-the-womb baby, and we made the most of it by making Joe a special breakfast, taking him hiking at Stone Mountain, taking him out for pizza, enjoying a special brunch, and making him a special dinner. He is our favorite dad!





Bert got to go to the pool for the first time and seemed to like it okay!



In July we visited Joe's parents at their home on Mullett Lake in Michigan. We were so lucky we had great weather that week and got to enjoy several days out on the boat! Bert was great on the boat, and we all had a really fun time!





Our biggest event of the summer, Bert turned one on August 4! ONE!!! On the day of his actual birthday, Joe and I took him to Build-a-Bear to build a special birthday bear, then we got Chick-Fil-A and had a special lunch in the park, and then we took him to get his first ice cream. I think Bert had a great day! Then the Saturday following his birthday, we had a little cookout at our house for close by family and friends, and we are very blessed that Bert has so many people who could come and celebrate him! He also got his first bites of cake!









I hope that you, too, found some ways to have fun this summer. I am looking forward to a hopefully happy fall! 

Speaking of fall, this fall I will be launching two new regular weekly posts: one on what I'm currently reading and another on fascinating finds from around the internet. Stay tuned, and I hope you will enjoy! 

Bert's Birthday

Monday, August 3, 2020



Today is the very last day of Bert being zero years old. 

Tomorrow he will be one. 

I know all mothers must think and say this, but wow -- I honestly cannot believe it's been a whole year since Bert was born. We've been through so much: labor, his birth, his health complications after birth, a stay in the children's hospital, acclimating to life at home with a new baby, home improvements, yard work, library story time, Joe working out of town, new friends, and, of course, this pandemic. We've gotten into familiar routines and schedules only for those routines and schedules to be completely changed two days later as Bert grew quickly. We've experienced a mysterious fever and a mysterious head lump. We've driven to West Virginia and back four times, plus from West Virginia to Michigan and back once. We have been exhausted by lack of sleep, frustrated with whining we couldn't determine the source of. We have overflowed with joy at Bert's first smile and his first laugh, and we've cracked up at his farting, his hilarious noises, and his goofy life choices. 

I don't really know much more about being a mother than I did this time last year, but what I do know is that you are never ready to have a baby. If left up to Joe and me, we probably wouldn't have had Bert because it was the wrong time, the wrong place we were living, the wrong job. But luckily, it wasn't up to us, it was up to God, and we got the best little boy at the best possible time. 

I've read two things in two different novels recently that really struck me as I prepare for Bert to turn one. 

"But who knows their own child? You know bits -- certain predictable reactions, a handful of familiar qualities. The rest is unpenetrable. And quite right too. You give birth to them. You do not design them."

- Penelope Lively, How It All Began

"My mother once told me the most disconcerting part of being a parent is that you never get to settle into it, that your child is constantly being replaced with another version you don't recognize." 

- Julie Buxbaum, Hope and Other Punchlines

My little boy, whom I met as a newborn baby, is about to cross the first line into being his own person, not my little baby. I will have to prepare myself to meet my new Bert tomorrow. 

On Saturday Bert will be joined by some family and friends for a cookout in his honor. But tomorrow, Joe and I will quietly celebrate Bert's first year, just us three. We will think back to everything that has happened to us this year -- everything we have survived -- and be so grateful for everything God has done for us this year. 

If you'd like to read the story of Bert's birth, you can find it here: Part 1 and Part 2

Pictures of Bert's first birthday and his first birthday cookout to come!

Thank you to everyone who has loved, cared for, and supported our family this year. We love you. 



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