Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What I Read in February

Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty // I had high hopes for this book. I loved the title, I loved the cover, I loved the premise. But, it fell a little short for me. There were parts of the book that I really enjoyed, but overall it seemed to drag. It took me a little while to finish it because I didn't find the story to be that compelling, and I didn't particularly like the characters. I can see that this is one of those books that some people would really love, but it just wasn't that for me. 3 stars

Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches // Sometimes a book hits you at just the right time, and for me, that was this book. Adjusting to life with two kids under two has been challenging for me, but I found this book to be so helpful in changing my perspective and embracing these crazy days. I ended up reading this book in one day (it's short!) and found myself underlining and starring sections that were what I really needed to hear in that moment. Unlike some parenting books I've read, this book did not overdo it on the personal anecdotes; it was straightforward and really refreshed my spirit. If you're in the midst of mothering little people, I highly recommend this book! 5 stars

Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife // I'm working through a big stack of books I received for Christmas, and amidst all of the parenting books was this book on marriage I had asked my mom for. This is one of the better books I've read on marriage: it's a book of letters Barbara Rainey writes to her daughters in response to wide variety of questions about marriage. The format of the book made it so enjoyable to read, because it was so personal and relatable. The advice in the letters was straightforward and biblical, and I really enjoyed reading this! I should also mention that this book is absolutely beautiful; there are gorgeous illustrations throughout the book, and it's definitely the type of book you could keep out on your coffee table. It would make a great gift! 4 stars

Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard // This book kept popping up all over my social media, so I decided it was time to read it. I'm so glad that I did. Jennie Allen does a really good job of writing about the struggle that many of us face in feeling that we are not enough, which leads us to trying to prove that we are, when really we just need to understand that Jesus is enough and is the only one that will ever satisfy us. I really loved the second part of the book where she talks about Jesus being the one who can bring us rest, who can truly satisfy us, and who can be enough for us even in the midst of suffering. This was a really great book, and I highly recommend it! I did receive this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review. 4.5 stars

Run // I'm going to sound like a broken record here for a minute: another Ann Patchett book that I really enjoyed! This book takes place within 24 hours, but somehow she doesn't make it feel rushed or cheesy. The story took several twists that I was not expecting, which I really enjoyed, and again, her writing is beautiful. What I have come to really enjoy about Ann Patchett's novels (aside from the writing), is that all of her stories are so different! I never know what to expect when I start one of her books, but I'm always pleased.  4 stars

Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline // I was so intrigued by the title of this book, because that's exactly where I am: long days that feel full of seemingly small things. While I definitely agree that there is deep spiritual fruit to be found in this season and these tasks of motherhood, I don't agree with the premise that we can replace spiritual disciplines and time in prayer and the Word with the tasks of mothering simply because this is a busy season of life. Because of that, I didn't connect with the main theme of the book, but I did really appreciate how this book emphasized that these often mundane tasks are actually significant in the lives of our kids and our families. I did really enjoy several of the chapters in this book, and I thought the author did a good job of helping give an eternal and spiritual perspective to the ordinary tasks of motherhood. I did receive this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review. 3 stars

The Wicked City // This was my book for book club this month. I've read most of Beatriz Williams' books and have really enjoyed several of them, but this one wasn't my favorite. The story takes place during the Prohibition era, which really interested me because I haven't read much during that time period. The story seemed a little disconnected and random throughout the book (though she did tie things together at the end), and it also seemed so long. I was ready to hurry up and find out what happened to all of the characters, which tells me I didn't love it. I also found it difficult to read, partly because of the Appalachian dialect and partly because of the narration. Not my favorite, but not horrible. 3 stars

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World // I think I may be the last person on earth to have read this book, but better late than never! I had low expectations for this book, despite all of the hype over the past several years, but I was presently surprised to find that I really enjoyed this! Bob Goff is a fascinating man, and he has some pretty incredible life experiences that he shares in this book. I was captivated by the way he lives his life and the detail to which he recounts it in this book. This book is really interesting, funny (I read a couple of passages aloud to Caleb and we were both laughing out loud), and thought-provoking. 4 stars

Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman's Inspirational True Story // I really enjoy reading memoirs, so I picked this one up. The author tells her story of being horribly bullied throughout her childhood. It was very surprising to me to read the extent of the things she suffered at the hands of her classmates. The bullying deeply affected her, which is evident even in the detail to which she recounts specific instances of being bullied. I found the writing a bit weak, and the book did seem to drag on a little. This was not a favorite of mine, but it could be a good resource for teachers or maybe for parents whose kids are being bullied.  I received this book for free from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my review. 2 stars

Disclosure: Affiliate links are included, so if you click on any of the titles above and purchase the book(s), I may receive a small commission. Thanks for supporting the blog + my reading habit.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Top 10 Books of 2016

What are you reading these days? I've been reading a lot more non-fiction lately, and I kind of love it. It was one of my reading resolutions for the year to read more non-fiction, and I'm happy that I'm at least off to a good start! Sometimes it's hard to figure out what to read next, so I thought I would share my top 10 books that I read in 2016. The first four are the books I gave 5 stars to last year (I am extremely stingy on handing out that last star!), and the other six are the books that I found I enjoyed reading the most. I didn't pick books that were the most literary or well-written; these are just the 10 books that I really, really enjoyed reading, and I think you might, too. 

Station Eleven // The library classified this as science fiction (something I never read), but I heard rave reviews of this book so decided to give it a try. To be completely honest, I kept anticipating that I would quit reading it. But once I got about 50-75 pages in, I was surprised to find that I was really enjoying it! In the beginning of the book, a flu pandemic hits and civilization as we know it comes to an end. The book moves back and forth between different characters, both before and after the pandemic, and it is so fascinating. This is incredibly well-written, and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. Once I finished the book I had to tell Caleb all about it. I highly recommend it! Even if this is not your typical genre that you enjoy reading, you might be surprised (like I was) and really love this one! 5 stars.

Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits--to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life // I love Gretchen Rubin's books, and this one was no exception. It was a really interesting read on how we make, keep, and break habits. There were interesting tips and tricks and also fascinating chapters on personality types and tendencies. I kept reading different parts out loud to Caleb, and we actually had a few conversations about what I read and learned. I loved this book so much I wrote an entire blog post on it, which you can read here. 5 stars!

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books // This book combines two of my favorite things: literature and food. The author cooks her way through her favorite books, so that each chapter is a story and recipe inspired by those books. Think: a soft-boiled egg from Emma, breakfast sausage from Little House in the Big Woods, clam chowder from Moby Dick, etc. This was a brilliant idea for a book, and I absolutely loved reading it. 5 stars

Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice // This book is part of the Austen Project--modern retellings of Jane Austen's works. This is the first book of the Austen Project that I've read, but I believe next I will be picking up Emma by Alexander McCall Smith!  Pride and Prejudice is my favorite Jane Austen book and one of my favorite classics. It's no surprise, then, that I absolutely loved this book! I thought Curtis Sittenfeld did an excellent job putting the same characters from Pride and Prejudice into a modern day setting. I couldn't put this book down and stayed up way too late finishing it. 5 stars!

Lilac Girls // This was our book club pick for September, and I really enjoyed it! It's a long book, and I was excited to have a book that I could really sink into and enjoy for a while. This was that book. It's the story of three different women during WWII: one American, one German, and one Polish. I've read a lot of WWII historical fiction, but this was the first time to read one with the perspective of a Nazi. It brought different things to light, and I really enjoyed the added dimension. In the author's note at the end of the book, I found out that much of this story was based on true people and events! I loved finding that out, which made the book even better. Highly recommend! 4 stars

Bel Canto // This was the first book that I've read by Ann Patchett, and I get the hype! The writing was impeccable, and the story was so unique. In some ways it reminded me of Station Eleven, just because the plot itself was not something that I thought I would enjoy. But once I got a few pages into it, it completely drew me in, and I didn't want to put it down. 4 stars

I Capture the Castle // I heard about this book on a podcast and was surprised that for being such a classic I've not heard much about it! The book is the journal of a 17 year-old girl whose poor family lives in a falling-apart castle in England in the mid-1900's. The narration reminded me somewhat of Anne from Anne of Green Gables, with snarky, honest observations and witty conversation. I really enjoyed this book, and if you haven't heard of it or read it either, pick it up! 4 stars

Along the Infinite Sea // This book is two stories in one: a woman who finds herself in a bind in the 1960s, and also a woman in pre-war Europe who has a Nazi husband and a Jewish lover. The book details how these women's lives and stories collide, and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. This is my favorite of all of Beatriz Williams' books that I've read, and I highly recommend it! 4 stars

The Paris Architect // I have always really enjoyed reading historical fiction, and this was no exception. Unlike many of the World War II historical fiction books that I've read, this was actually about a French architect who was unsympathetic toward Jews. The first chapter was quite difficult to read because of that, but beyond that I really enjoyed this book. The story was unexpected and well-written. I won't give anymore of the story away, but it was a good read! 4 stars.

What Alice Forgot // I've read several of Liane Moriarty's books, and this was by far my favorite. It was our November book club book, and I could not put it down. The story is about Alice, who wakes up thinking she's 29 and pregnant, when in reality she's 39 and has three kids and a falling-apart marriage. We had a lot of fun discussing this book during book club, and everyone really liked it. Definitely worth picking up! 4 stars

Disclosure: Affiliate links are included, so if you click on any of the titles above and purchase the book(s), I may receive a small commission. Thanks for supporting the blog + my reading habit.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

On Losing 55 Pounds // Postpartum Weight Loss

I've been thinking about writing this post for almost a year now. The journey of postpartum weight loss is different for everyone, but for me it was a huge struggle. I'm passionate about good food but self-control is not one of my strengths, so losing the weight I gained during my first pregnancy was not a walk in the park. As I'm now faced with trying to lose all of the weight from my second pregnancy, I thought I would share my story and a few thoughts for those of you that may be walking this same road of losing weight after baby.

When I was pregnant with Madeleine I gained a little over 50 pounds. I had a really challenging first trimester which prevented me from keeping up with any sort of exercise routine, but I also know I ate way more carbs and sweets than I should have. People (and my doctor) made comments about my weight gain, but I honestly felt helpless to do anything about it because my cravings for both the quantity of food I wanted to consume and the types of food I wanted to consume seemed so out of my control. I had a long and difficult birth with Madeleine, so it was a while before I was up for even the littlest amount of physical activity. At my 6-week check up my doctor told me I needed to wait an additional few weeks to heal before I could start exercising. When I finally healed, I started running but only kept that up for so long. I honestly didn't do anything too structured to try to lose the weight: we tried Whole30 (and failed miserably!) and I tried counting calories, but neither of those was sustainable for me. Like I said, I seriously struggle with self-control, and I just didn't want to change how I was eating and sacrifice my normal diet.

It took me four months to get within 15 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight, but it took another six months for me to finally lose those last 15 pounds and hit my goal. I lost an additional 2 pounds to lose a total of 55 pounds in 11 months. And then I found out I was pregnant two weeks later. My second pregnancy was more challenging than my first, and even though I was throwing up a lot in the first trimester, I was constantly starving and eating everything in sight. Again, I made poor eating choices because I felt so miserable, and I couldn't keep up with any exercise. In my second pregnancy I gained 55 pounds.

My recovery after Cora's birth (her birth story to come at some point, I promise!) has been so much easier than with Madeleine. I've been out walking already, and it feels so great to be moving and exercising! I've lost 20 pounds so far, but I have a long way to go. It's really daunting to be back in this same spot looking down a long road of trying to lose so much weight and working to fit into my normal clothes. It's easy to feel discouraged when I compare myself to other young moms who seem to lose the weight easily. It's easy to make healthy choices one day, only to have a rough night with little sleep and give into the temptation to eat three cookies the next day. It's easy to feel depressed when I feel like I have nothing wear. It's easy to feel like I'm never going to get my old body back, so what's the point. It's easy to feel bitter about the toll childbearing takes on my body, instead of joyfully giving of my body for my children. I think it's probably safe to say that I'm not alone in having these feelings. Pregnancy, childbirth, life with a newborn, life adjusting to multiple kids - these are all very real and very hard things, and losing a lot of weight after and in the midst of them is challenging!

I once read that self-control is just empathy with your future self, and that's really ringing true for me right now. It seems like I just lost 55 pounds, so I remember so clearly how both the struggle and the success felt. It's a little easier for me to make healthier choices this time around. I'm motivated to make exercising more of a priority. I have no idea if losing 55 pounds this time will take less than or longer than 11 months, but I'm trying to be patient with myself and the process. I've been thinking a lot about this passage, which I read in Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches this week:

"...realize that your body is a testimony to the world of God's design.
Carry the extra weight joyfully until you can lose it joyfully. Carry the 
scars joyfully as you carry the fruit of them. Do not resent the damages that 
your children left on your body...your body can more fully praise God having 
been used for His purposes. So don't resent it, enjoy it."

Monday, February 6, 2017

Cora's Nursery Inspiration

We are this close to being finished with Cora's nursery, but I thought I would share some of the ideas that inspired me along the way! 

The feel of the room: I wanted a bright, airy nursery with lots of white and pops of bright colors. 
I found all of these nurseries to be so pretty and cheerful.
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6

Pops of color in storage & decor: I had my heart set on those sheets, and I knew I wanted baskets in the room for storage. I was also thinking about having a dreamcatcher instead of a mobile.
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9

Art for the gallery wall: This tends to be the hardest thing for me... I am so picky! I loved the look of the type on these prints, and I also liked the idea of bringing in some fruit prints to the gallery wall.
1 // 2 // 3 // 4

So there you have it - the overall look and feel I was going for, along with some of the specific pieces I had my eye on! Once Cora's room is all the way finished, I will be sharing photos here!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Galentine's Gift Guide

Galentine's Day and Valentine's Day are right around the corner! Below are a few ideas of gifts for your favorite gal pals, because who doesn't love a good reason to celebrate friends with heart-themed gifts and chocolates?

A simple heart mug for her morning coffee.

The prettiest pink polishes for her at-home manis + pedis.

jewelry dish to keep on her bedside table.

pretty necklace she can wear every day.

A delicious-sounding lip scrub for her next date night prep.

card to tell her how much you appreciate her friendship.

A trio of heart socks to keep her toes warm.

A set of chocolate-covered pretzels. Because, chocolate. 

The cutest Galentine's gift box, all ready to ship to your bestie.