Open Letters pt. 2

Thursday, June 30, 2016

May 13, 2016

It's time for another round of Open Letters with Julie!!! I was sad to miss out on last month's link up, but I wrote my letters and I'm linking up this month! Here goes...

* * * * *
Dear Rod (the produce guy),

Do you know how much you look like Mr. Olivander? Do you know that the first time my Mom referred to you as "Rod" I thought it was because she thought you looked like Rod Stewart even though I had been trying to convince her that our produce guy was totally Olivander himself? No? Well you do and you do and I get excited every time I see you. Thanks!

Dear Donor of the British copy of HP #7,

You made my day a few weeks ago. This one doesn't match the others, but it's paperback and I listened to my Mother and bought it. I'm that much closer to being able to read the whole series. That bookmark from Italy that you left tucked in at chapter five was pretty neat too. I wonder where you are now and what you're reading. Are you FROM somewhere else or are you a world class traveler? Drop off 5 and 6 if you have them.

Dear Beth,

You'll probably never read this, but thanks for all your work at the church yardsale and thanks for needing a hand and letting my Mom volunteer me. It was my first time putting my servant hat on here in this new town and it did my soul A LOT of good. I know it was just sorting and hauling a bunch of JUNK, but I needed that. I meant it when I said I was happy to help. Happier than you'll ever know.

* * * * *

Be sure to hop over to Julie's blog to link up! 

Movies I'm Watching Again and Again

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

January 1, 2015 || What kind of picture goes with a post about movies? A shot of 3 of my favs watching one together. :)

I'm one of those people who finds a good thing and sticks with it for a long time. I've used the same face wash since I started washing my face. I'll always buy Smucker's Strawberry Spread, Welch's Grape Jelly, Jif Creamy Peanut Butter, and Hellman's Mayonaise. I've been reading Mary Higgins Clark since jr. high and will keep reading as long as she's writing. If his name is George I'll probably love him (my Ghiddu, Mr. Washington, and Mr. Whitefield happen to be three Georges I'm crazy about).

The same goes with movies. Ever since I was a little girl, I get hooked on a movie and I'm content to watch it again and again. My family likes to tease me about watching the same six movies all the time.
I never know when I'm going to stop watching one or replace it with another. It's just a quirk and one I didn't even think about until my youngest brother pointed it out to me. I don't do it on purpose and six just happens to be a number that my brother threw out there. Some movies stick around for years at a time, while others last for a couple of seasons. 

Renee asked what my current round up is, so here you go:

Last Love - This movie takes place in France where one young woman and one old man become fast friends. It's sad and touching and slow and quiet and perfect for just about any mood I'm in. 

Mostly Martha - This German movie is about a chef who finds her life turned upside down and I love it. Like Last Love, it's slow and sad and quiet, but it's perfect. It recently got removed from Amazon, so I won't be able to watch it for a while. 

How To Marry A Millionaire - Marilyn Monroe stars in this NYC based movie. It's the only movie I've ever seen her in and one I watched the first time because of New York. It's quirky and funny and the sets and costumes remind me of a time that I wish I could have seen first hand.

Desk Set - I discovered this one over Christmas break this last winter when we were had snow for a solid two weeks. It has a very similar feel to HTMM and that may be why I like it so much. It's teh story of a reference department (also in NYC) that is in danger of being replaced by a computer that is basically Google. Katharine Hepburn is fantastic in it. 

The Help - Skeeter Phelan is the one character from literature that I can relate to 100% of the time. She's tall and skinny, she loves words and cares about people, it took work to get her to be a lady, she's okay with the fact that her goals are different, and Emma Stone's rendition of her was PERFECTION. I read the book after finding it at a used booksale back in 2012 or 2013 and fell in love. I got the movie for Christmas several years ago and FINALLY opened it earlier this spring. I'll be watching it for a while. 

Maleficent - We rented this movie from Amazon several winters ago with a credit we had and proceeded to watch it two times before the rental expired. My Mom and I rented it and watched it by ourselves and loved it so much that we rounded everyone else up to watch it with us. It was that good. Since then, it's the movie I want to watch all the time. Our library has it, so I'll probably always have it on hold.

Bonus: Grantchester - is the TV series I can't get enough of. This BBC series is a spinoff of the book series by the same name. I love the first book, but each one gets worse and worse (spoiler: Sydney marries the German in the books and the writing kind of falls apart a little bit). I'm still not tired of the TV series and what they've done with it. I love Sidney and Geordie and the relationship they share. Sydney's character is to me what Mr. Darcy is to 99.9% of females over the age of 9. He's a clergyman who grapples with sin and takes it seriously, he likes jazz, he names his dog after his housekeeper's favorite word, and his best friend is breaking his heart.  Again, the time period really adds a bit of sparkle to things! This is the one movie on my list that isn't always appropriate, so if you decide to watch it,keep the remote handy because some of the themes and cases get a little too graphic (in my opinion) and  preview it before you gather your kids around to watch with you.

2 honorable mentions and 3 movies that the jury is still out on because I've only watched them once are 84 Charring Cross Road,  Canela, A Coffee in Berlin, Barbara, and Like Sunday Like Rain. 

And, you might be wondering what movies were on my list for YEARS at a time. A short run down: Beauty and the Beast, Remember the Titans, High Society, The Lake House, Annapolis, Roman Holiday, Glory Road, Inception, To Catch a Thief, Rear Window, Suspicion, Friendly Persuasion, Shadowlands, October Baby, We're No Angels, Sabrina, Babes in Toyland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...And, the list really could go on.

What's one of your quirks? 

What are some movies you've been watching again and again?

The Scenic Route: Summer Adventures (So Far)

Friday, June 24, 2016

I'm sad to say this, but it looks like my trusty point and shoot camera is dying. I recently uploaded some pictures from the geocaching my Mom and I did on Memorial Day along with a batch of shots I took during a little hike we took while my brother was at rehearsal one evening.

Some of them are blurry and some of them are a little wonky, but they're the pictures I took and they're the ones I'm sharing today!


This round of geocaching was inspired by the fact that we had a couple of travel bugs that we NEEDED to drop off. We haven't done much geocaching lately, so it took a little bit of effort to get everything together and out the door. It was Memorial Day which meant that there might just be people EVERYWHERE, so we would have to be careful.

Well, the first cache almost stumped us. It turned out that we were in the wrong area, but we looked and looked and looked. We use a GPS, but people don't always get the coordinates right which means that you put the GPS in your pocket and start looking anyway.

I kept waiting for a hobo to pop out of the bushes. We did run into two kids who were on the way to "a cool place to hang out", but other than that, we were all on our own. We probably spent most of an hour circling around and around on this trail before giving up and moving onto the next one.


As you can probably imagine, this spot was a little prettier and we did run into quite a few people who were out enjoying the day. We walked around trying to get the GPS to show that we were within 10 feet of the next cache when we realized that we were pretty sure a family of four and their dog were RIGHT ON TOP OF IT.

Thankfully, their dog kept running around trying to visit with people, so they decided to head home. As soon as they were on their way, we went over to where we thought it was and were stumped for the second time that day. We think the cache was discovered and removed by whoever found it. So, we moved on to the next cache which turned out to be the first one we were looking for.

After that, we found the rest of the caches and I stopped taking pictures. We were moving quickly and were eager to finish up and get home for some lunch. The day got off to a rough start, but we found three of the four caches on our list, which made us both pretty happy!

Our hike consisted of a short walk to a historical site that we had tried to find one other time. The last time we tried to find it we were short on time and gave up before figuring out where it was. Before my sister left for her trip to SC she said that she really wanted to find it this summer, so with a little extra time on our hands one night, my Mom and I decided to scout it out to save us all the frustration later.

I'm not surprised we couldn't find it. It was NOT where you would expect to find it at all. An apartment complex and little strip mall have gone in convincing tourists that they are in the wrong area. We followed the directions and sure enough, there is history buried behind all of our modern eyesores.

So far, so good, right?

What have you been up to so far this summer?

Summer Plans

Monday, June 20, 2016

May 30, 2016
I was at an end of the school year party that my church hosted for the kids in their co-op a few weeks ago when Kristi asked me about my summer plans. She was the first person to bring that question up this year and I stumbled as I tried to come up with an answer. For the first time in YEARS, I don't have solid plans. I'm too far away from the ranch and Alice's and Wendy's to let working for them shape my summer. I came up with something to tell Kristi and then steered the conversation to be about her plans for the summer.

For days after that, the question and my answer were bugging me. It dawned on me that I can honestly say that I don't really have plans for the summer and that I just needed to be okay with that. Summer is here and it will look different, but it will also be very familiar.

I'll be working in my garden. I'll be making countless batches of cold brewed coffee, sweet tea, and lemonade. I'll be eating ice cream and going geocaching as much as I can. I'll be keeping house and cooking meals and running errands. There will be cook outs and late nights and quiet mornings on the patio. I'll have my camera handy so that I can capture things I want us all to remember. I'll spend evenings shooting hoops with my brother and afternoons touring with my sister. When I don't know what to wear, I'll reach for my summer uniform even if I already wore it once or twice that week.

I'm hoping to go swimming at 25 because I never did while I was 24. I'd like to put the fire pit that we got on sale last fall to good use. Maybe we'll finally have Kevin and Joan over and get a game night group going a few times each month. The dogs next door will bark and bark and I'll say their names in an attempt to get them to stop. I'll work on my summer reading list and jot down titles I want to read in the fall. I'll go for walks and bike rides and do just about anything my brother and sister come up with.

These are the kinds of things you take with you wherever you go. I'm here and I've brought them with me. It turns out that I do have plans for this summer after all.

What about you?

Spring Reading Recap

Monday, June 13, 2016

Many of you have seen my posts on social media or have emailed back and forth with me about what we're currently reading. We've talked A LOT about Narnia and Dorian Gray and Salinger, but mostly I just keep saying something like, "I'll be posting a full review really soon." Since then, I've even gotten started on my summer reading list.

Here's the post I've been promising. It's the one with some highlights from the books I've had my nose in this spring. The books aren't in any particular order. This isn't a comprehensive list of everything that I read, but it covers quite a bit of it.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - This was my first real glimpse into the fiction of Lewis. I grew up watching the movies. My Mom bought me the entire paperback set when I was in third grade. Over the summer before my fourth grade year, I read "The Magician's Nephew" and then I also read "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" at some point. Then I stopped. I've been promising myself that I would read the entire series sometime.

It just so happened that I read it during Holy Week and I'm so glad that I did. The whole allegory category has always made me squirm in my seat. I think it's cheesy and cliche and entirely unhelpful. Basically, the idea of people trying to tell God's story without Him makes me very uncomfortable. HOWEVER....This spring, I learned exactly why people love and admire Lewis so much. It wasn't cliche. It wasn't cheesy. It wasn't unhelpful and reading the entire series for myself did not leave me feeling uncomfortable at all. Reading these books was like having hot coccoa in your grandfather's study by a roaring fire. He sits across from you, or maybe you're snuggled up on his lap, and you spend hours going over the tales from a make-believe land. The stories are all made up, but the smile on his face and the light in his eyes tell you that there's something in them that changed his life.

Some books come at just the right time. Reading the Narnia series during the Holy Week of 2016 was the right time. I was feeling displaced and happy and completely wrapped up in God's grace. I had no idea that a few kids, a lion, and a bunch of talking creatures could help me to see the wonder of Christianity. So many of you have been asking what I thought and this barely even begins to cover it.

The Long-winded Lady by Maeve Brennan - This was new to my library's catalog, so I gave it a go. I've been dedicating more time to this kind of writing and have found that I love reading it too. There aren't any real rules, so everyone's style is very different. Brennan's style was really annoying at first. I stuck with it and I'm glad I did because it got to the point where I had to force myself to put this volume down. She is blunt and seems to know exactly what she is trying to say. So many of her pieces end in a way that is neither neat nor tidy. Somehow, it always works.

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks- I had no idea that it was written by a English woman who was born in 1929. It is fantastic. If you haven't read it, don't wait any longer. It's cozy and fun and Banks is quite the writer. I can't wait to read the others. I especially have my eye on "The Mystery in the Cupboard".

As Time Goes By by Mary Higgins Clark - I never miss a Mary Higgins Clark release. I beat her this time around, but I enjoyed it all the same! She'll always be my favorite.

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff - I was never exposed to Salinger in school. I read "The Catcher in the Rye" one summer after finding it at some library booksale. Then, I read "Franny and Zooey" last fall. Both books left me moved and shook up and even stunned. For every moment that I agree with the characters, there are twice as many moments when I want to scream at them and throw the book down. Salinger knows how to get me riled up. I don't know what it is, but he is the one author whose work makes me really interact with the text without even realizing that it's started. Having a similar Salinger story as Rakoff, I found her book to be AMAZING. She is beautiful. She made it in New York City. She is a reader and a writer and she truly cares for people. Her job with Salinger was one that caught her by surprise and reading about these kinds of surprises is a real treat.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - This book deserves a post of it's own. I finished it in April after spending most of a year reading it. I despised Scarlett, laughed at Rhett, cried over Mr. O'Harra, and couldn't quite figure Melanie out. The language and themes of this book kind of shocked me. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't what I found. The whole time I kept wishing that the book was longer. Seriously. It's a classic for a reason and now I know why.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqeuline Woodson - Though Woodson is around my Mom's age, her story really resonated with me. In this book, Woodson tackled two genres at one time: memoir and poetry. She writes about moving to Greenville, SC from somewhere in Ohio only to move to New York City. Her life in Greenville was the kind of life I was always curious about. I heard about Nicholtown. My grandparents had several different women who did "day work" for them over the years. We called them housekeepers and I know that I always thought of them as our friends. Woodson's story belongs to so many people. Though we were separated by decades and by invisible lines, parts of it even belong to me.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - Jessica read this book and convinced me to dive into it too! She was right. It starts out sooooo strange, but you stick with it. I finished it in two days because it sucked me in. It reminded me a lot of Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby". Like Fitzgerald, Wilde has a way with making characters come alive. It's going on my list of favorites.

What have you been reading lately?

What's one book that you're hoping to read this summer?

I'm linking up with Anne's Quick Lit series.

The Aim of Grace

Friday, June 10, 2016

June 3, 2016

Yesterday, Amy and I were chatting in the comments of one of her posts and she said some words that reminded me of what God has been teaching me as of late. It's a theme that keeps coming up, so  it's time that I share it with all of you!

Amy said this, "...I'm often reminded that even when we stretch ourselves the Lord continues to fill in the gaps."

And she was right. There is so much that can happen at any given moment. There is so much that IS happening at EVERY given moment. Some of it is wonderful. Some of it is predictable. And some of it is enough to make you want to crawl back into the bed and start over. Whatever is happening, has happened, or will happened, we Christians have a hope in our God that truly is beyond belief.

Our God stands with grace in hand. His people need His grace and He gives it to them as they need it. Grace isn't something we can store up. Grace is granted to us. No more and no less than we need.

A few weeks ago, the familiar passage from 2 Corinthians where Paul talks about God's grace being sufficient came up while the pastor was preaching his sermon. It's been on my mind ever since. God's grace didn't make the hard thing disappear. What God's grace did was give Paul the strength to press on and the humility to know that God was at work.

The same is true for me and for you and for all of God's people. The aim of God's grace isn't to make our lives easier or happier or more comfortable. It doesn't make us perfect. It doesn't make conflicts with difficult people disappear or grant us the ability to deal with them in a way that will keep them from blowing up at us. And it dawned on me that THAT is good news. The good news of God's grace is that it is granted to us to keep us walking with and depending on God.

There's been a lot of stretching going on. And most days it's great, please hear that. I write these things to let you know what's happening with me and to encourage you through the times when you might need to be reminded of truth. On those days when we're sure that this is as far as we can stretch, He's there with the grace we need not to break and crumble and give up. Every time.

"...He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

5 More Things About Me pt. 2

Thursday, June 09, 2016

May 14, 2016

*I like cereal dust and I never get mad that someone only left that in the bottom of the cereal bag. My favorites are the dust left behind on Frosted Shredded Mini Wheats and Frosted Flakes.

*I LOVE the smell of boxwoods. It's super comforting and reminds me of swinging on the porch swing with my Granny. It's even better if the air happens to be slightly chilly after a long hot day.

*Taking tests is my biggest weakness. I have TERRIBLE test anxiety and it doesn't seem to have gotten any better with age. Spontaneous tests are actually one of my biggest fears.

Just this week I went in to transfer my license which required me to pass the written exam. I didn't realize that that was going to be the case and I didn't pass. When I took the PSAT back in high school, I got a phone call telling me that test day had been changed and I needed to come in. I didn't do very well on that one either and it was just a PRACTICE test. 

*I often plan reading lists for myself, but then other times, I just read whatever looks good for months at time. You can check out my summer reading list if you haven't already!

*Foreign Films are my pick nine times out of ten. Two of my current go-to movies happen to be foreign films. (For those of you who are wondering, they are a French film called "Last Love" and a German film called "Mostly Martha".)

On that note, I usually have about six movies that I watch again and again for a while. I've been this way my whole life. I can think back to times of my life and usually remember the movies that were on rotation.

That's me. 

What's something that I might not know about YOU? 

Do we have any of these things in common?

April Picture Walk

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

My sister and I have this thing that we like to do. If we have a few hours where neither one of us have anything that we have to do, we'll choose a spot and go for a leisurely walk with camera(s) in hand. One of our most recent walks happened back in April and I've had the pictures sitting in my draft folder ever since.

The day came in the middle of a stretch of surprisingly warm days. The promise of summer was in the air and the sun on our skin reminded us that spring was quickly coming to an end. We started where we always do. Then we meandered to the ice cream store where we bought a cupcake (which happened to be pumpkin) and a scoop of birthday cake ice cream with fudge sauce to share. We took our treat down to the water where we sat on the rocks with our spoons and a couple of napkins.

We stayed close to the water throughout our walk and it made for some great shots. We talked and laughed and watched the geese and the seagulls and the dogs and it was just another day in April. We ran into my old science teacher on the docks and visited for a few minutes before continuing on our way back to the car. He and I didn't always get along back when we saw each other every day, but his face was familiar and seeing it seemed to be a little more of what I needed.

It's June now and my sister JUST got back from another trip to South Carolina. Spring turned into summer while she was gone. I can't wait to see what's next.

What's something you and someone you know like to do together?

Summer Stack 2016

Monday, June 06, 2016

I started planning my summer reading list back in February. I've swapped some titles since then, but this is a list I've had some time to look forward to. As I've done over the last two years, I'll update the post with short reviews on each book as I have read them. The books in bold are the ones that I'm currently reading.

This year I've had my eye on several classics, a handful of light hearted books, and only three works of non fiction. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get through all of the titles on my list, but I'm certainly going to give it a try!


Brooklyn by Colm Toibin // I stayed up a little later than usual to finish this book last night. It's the story of a young Irish woman who gets the opportunity to make a life for herself in Brooklyn sometime in the middle of the 20th Century. Toibin does an amazing job at developing this story to be one that young women today can still relate to. This book will be with me for a while. Each of its four sections left me wanting to keep reading but needing to stop and catch my breath. It's a novel without any real crisis or mystery and yet it is the kind of books that makes you connect with the main character to the point where you start feeling what they are feeling. It took reading this book to help me realize that even though I've moved WITH my family, what I've been going through for the last six months or so is nothing other than homesickness. For that alone, I owe Toibin a lot.

That said, this book isn't one that I can recommend without caution. He waited about 200 pages to put the main character into a compromising situation, but then he did and things got too graphic for me. He didn't make that his default, but those three or four times that he went that route with her will mean that I can't just put the book into people's hands and say, "READ THIS!". (June 9, 2016)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (TAKE AS MUCH TIME AS YOU NEED) // So far, I've read quite a bit of this one and I'm loving it. There are a ton of words that I have never encountered before which makes me feel like a kid again. Aside from that, he is hilarious. I've turned into the person who holds nothing back when they read and isn't afraid of subjecting those around me to listening to a short snippet (so, far it's just been my family). This book offers many occasions for "you've gotta listen to this!".

On a side note, this book was mentioned in The Lake House when Alice's assistant takes to reading it. His experience with it made me even more excited that it was on my list. Then, when I got to A Window Opens, I found it mentioned several times there too. I may or may not have received a few spoilers from that Alice's supporting characters. Hopefully they didn't give too much away. (July 20, 2016)

The Lake House by Kate Morton // I've tried Kate Morton before and just couldn't get into her style. This time around, something was different. The story flips back and forth between the 1930's and 2003. It's full of twists and turns and keeps you guessing. There was one point where things started to drag a little bit, but then, they picked right back up again. I won't be surprised if this is my favorite book of the summer. I can't seem to stop talking about it and recommending it to people. (June 20, 2016)

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway // I had this in the wrong section. It's actually a collection of non-fiction essays about the years the Hemingways spent in France. He writes about his writer friends, his favorite spots, life, and the way things were. I loved some of the essays, could have completely skipped others, and found some to be so-so. It was a great look into the mind of a man that I've only heard about second hand thanks to his friendship with Fitzgerald. Starting with some of his non-fiction may have just been a better introduction than his fiction. It was always blunt, vulgar at times, and always got right to the point. Overall? If you love Hemingway, you'll appreciate this book. It's less about Paris and more about certain people, so don't read it for Paris. If you plan to read it for the people, be prepared to want to take Hemingway aside in order to ask him why he would ever write these things about his "friends". I think he is obsessed with shocking people. I'm glad I read it, but I'm also glad to have moved on. (August 13, 2016)

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan // I read this with my bookclub after looking forward to it for quite a while. It was the cover that originally caught my eye! At first, I settled in and wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it. I understood the main character, but didn't particularly like her or agree with her decisions. Egan's writing reflects her magazine background. The book, though it is full of tough issues that many of us can relate to, is super light hearted. You feel like you're reading a blog or a magazine article the whole time. Alice (the main character) has a super close relationship with her father and he is a NUT who reminded me of my Grandma Bingo.

I finished the book just as the sun was setting and the whole evening has an essay in the making going on in my mind. I cried in the parking lot and sat there in silence thinking about Egan and Alice and life. I love it when a flippant book turns around to shock me with really getting to me. It's 3 1/2 - 4 stars, for sure. (July 19, 2016)

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee // We have a story that goes with To Kill A Mockingbird. That book is my Mom's favorite novel of all time. When I was growing up that was the book she would suggest every single time I asked her what I should read next. I started that book a hundred times, but it wasn't until the summer of 2014 that I finally read it. Needless to say, I wondered why I had waited so long!

When I found out about GSAW, I had mixed feelings. I preordered a copy for my Mom and because of THAT she read it. She didn't love it, but I'm not sure that she hated it either. I wasn't 30 pages into GSAW before I told myself two things: this is a POSSIBILITY of what happened after TKAM and maybe it's best to think of it as a stand alone novel that isn't even tied to TKAM. Both ideas kept me from thinking things about Scout and Atticus that I didn't want to think. TKAM is perfection. GSAW changes things up and takes the characters places I never thought they would go when I read the original book. I'm glad I read it and while I don't blame you if you never do, I think you'll be glad if you do too! (July 21, 2016)

Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech // Sad to say that I started this one, read less than 30 pages and ditched it. It was crud that made me put it down. :( (August 4, 2016)

The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf // I loved this book. I was expecting it to be dark and depressing, but it wasn't. It's the story of a group of people who have boarded a ship that they took from England to South America where they will be spending "the season". The majority of the book is set in South America and is the story of their adventurous vacation there. I read it during the hottest days of this summer which proved to be perfect. Great introduction to Woolf! (July 30, 2016)

Mermaid Moon by Coleen Coble // My thoughts on this book range from being totally crazy about it to pursing my lips and squinting my eyes in wonder about just how plausible certain turns of events were. I LOVE the way Coble weaves food and setting into her novels. The setting is perfection. I've never actually BEEN to Maine, but one of my good friends lives there and posts gorgeous pictures allllll the time. It's gone from a state I couldn't have cared less about, to a place that I'd love to visit some day. Reading this book was a pretty decent way to make an imaginary trip! 

As far as the mystery goes...That's where it gets sticky. There was one instance where the characters knowingly and willingly tamper with a scene that has the potential of being a crime scene. I'm pretty certain in real life, they would have stopped what they were doing and called in the police. Coincidence plays a pretty big role in one of the major plot points. I'm thinking Coble went that route just to make introducing certain characters a tad bit easier as well as to lead her readers astray with some details that aren't as important as they would be inclined to suspect them to be. 

Overall, I give this book three stars. She stumped me on a couple of the character's identities and histories, but I did predict the outcome of the biggest mystery. I enjoyed the extra bits that go into a book even if I did find some of the most crucial elements to be lacking. (August 20, 2016)

Sweetland by Michael Crummey // Second strike...This book struck out with the continual use of one word that I just can't handle. I skipped ahead because I really wanted to read the story, but it turned out that the word was one of his favorites and wasn't a habit he learned to drop. So, I abandoned this one too. (August 6, 2016)

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

The Mare by Mary Gaitskill // Third strike...I guess I didn't research my list very well this year. I abandoned this one too. I've heard wonderful reviews of this book and Gaitskill. Apparently, she and I won't be meeting in the pages of her books. Hopefully this is the last of the books that I abandon for a while! (August 6, 2016)


The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr  // I expected this to be a book of essays that were penned during the time Doerr spent in Rome and while writing All The Light We Cannot See. I don't know how I got that idea (I'm sure it was from someone who was reading it), but it was there making me look forward to getting into Doerr's head. It turns out, it's not nonfiction or essays, but a collection of short stories. I read a few and then decided to abandon the collection. I loved ATLWCS and Doerr's style in it. That said, I may revisit this book someday, but I won't be surprised if I never do. (June 30, 2016)

Rediscovering Holiness by J.I. Packer // If you read ONE book off of my summer reading list, this is the one you should read. Packer has a way of putting things that help them to make REAL sense. The kind of sense that changes things. He brings his love of living and reading and learning to his writing which may be part of the reason why he is able to affect me the way that he always does. Rediscovering Holiness is basically a handbook on what it is to imitate Christ. I mean it...If you know what it is to read the Bible or hear about Christ or cling to verses like Romans 8:28-29 and then ask God to lead you and guide, then this book will change things for you too. Packer uses Scripture to show you what has been before your eyes the whole time. (July 26, 2016)

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch // Wendy's wtiting is super conversational. Reading this book was a lot like pulling up a chair and sitting down to chat with her over a cup of tea in her bookstore. For that, I loved her! She didn't hold anything back as she wrote about the process she and her husband Jack went through as they started up a used bookstore in a town of 5,000. Once the story about the bookstore's opening was told, she switched over to tell its story. This part of the book was about what it's like to run a used bookstore for years. It was about the donations and the people and the town itself and the comings and goings of them all. For the moste part, I really enjoyed that part too. A little more discretion would have been nice.

After I made it through the initial story about the bookstore itself and read a few pieces about unique customers and experiences, I was pretty much done. I 
kept reading until the end, but I think I would have been just as happy to have stopped reading after about 150pages or so. The parts that I liked, I REALLY liked. But, the parts that I didn't, well, they were the kind that you have to make yourself read. (June 25, 2016)

The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney // I never made it to this book. My library didn't have it and I want to make sure it's a book I'd like to own before I jump out and buy a copy. (September 1, 2016)

Have you read any of the books on my list? I'd love to hear about them!

What is on your summer reading list?

Past Summer Reading Lists:

From A New Garden

Friday, June 03, 2016

June 3, 2016

I just came in from working in the garden. I have a fine layer of dirt on my face, one wet knee, and the sore spot I get between my shoulders from stooping is talking to me again. This morning seemed like the perfect time to check my plants, do some weeding, and set the sprinkler up. I filled a little bucket with a few weeds and worked a little bit more on clearing out the clumps of dead grass that are along the edge of the garden.

My work out there started about a month ago. I began the way I always do, sitting in my chair dreaming about what should go where. Making that decision is the hardest part. When the weeds started popping up, I took a hoe to them and knew that it was time to get a few steak knives and a bucket of some kind. Now, with bucket and knife, I go out about once a week or so to collect any weeds that I see.

In the meantime, I've been leveling out the soil and planting. I'm still trying to figure out what will go where, but so far, I've planted zinnias, cucumbers, chives, and peas. I have four cuttings of mint in a vase of water on the kitchen counter so that they will send out some roots. I've filled the window boxes with petunia seeds and the old barrel planter with a packet of wildflower seeds. I'm looking forward to going over to Suzanne's to learn more about gardening in this area. She's promised me some herb starts and I think those will do well in the little raised bed.

There's a big hole in the very middle of the garden and everyone keeps asking me when I'm going to fill it in. I haven't filled it in yet and I don't know what I'm waiting for. I'll get around to it eventually. Maybe when I decide what should go there. I've hauled my two little watering cans, my small metal table, my fencing trellises, and my garden markers here from my garden at the other house. The watering cans and table have homes in this new garden now and my sister helped me set up one of the trellises. And it's actually starting to look like a garden.

Every week, something new turns up reminding me of the people who tended this yard before me. There were tulips and pansies and some phlox. Now the snapdragons and a white rose bush and a plant I can't identify are doing their thing. The leftovers of last year's alyssum that came up in the window box outside my bedroom started blooming this week.

It's June and gardening season is here. They don't feel like "my" garden or "my" yard yet, but I expect that they will pretty soon.

Pantene VoxBox

Thursday, June 02, 2016

I recently received another voxbox from Influenster. This particular campaign involved reviewing one product from Pantene that was hand picked for each reviewer.

The product they chose for me was Pantene's Level 5 Maximum Hold Hairspray. I don't use hair spray all the time, but when I do I know exactly what I'm looking for. This hairspray is one that I would buy again!!!!

I have long hair (it reaches mid back), so if I want my curls to really hold up, I need a hairspray that is going to do some work. That said, I don't want my hair to turn to straw or to be held so tightly that it doesn't have the freedom to move around a little bit. Pantene knows how to create a maximum hold that sets the curl without making your hair look like a wig!

The next important factor is smell. Pantene's products usually smell pretty good. This one didn't have me LOVING the smell at first. It doesn't smell bad, but it wasn't a scent that I could put my finger on. After a few hours I realized that it was a smell I liked even if I couldn't identify it.

And lastly, the can has to be one that will spray well and predictably. This can is one of those. It is big enough that it's not going to run out on you, but small enough that it's manageable. The nozzle sprays where you expect it to and isn't in danger of popping off.

So, thank you, Influenster! I've discovered a product that I will be buying again! Pantene Level 5 Maximum Hold Hairspray creates the look I'm after, smells nice, and comes in a nice can.

To learn more about Influenster or to sign up, be sure to email me ( and I'll get you a referral link!

*I received this box from Influenster for review purposes. All thoughts are my own honest opinion.