June 17, 2015

Summer Bucket Lists

A few weeks ago our oldest came home talking about the summer bucket lists. Turns out they had a big art project to create one that will come home on the last day of school. After a few minutes of talking with both boys, I realized that for the first time they really had opinions about what kind of things they wanted to do this summer.

Or at least, that they were ready to tell us those opinions.

This was a minor epiphany for me. For years, we've been doing what my husband and I thought the kids would like to do, but it's only been recently that they started expressing their opinions about these choices. From clothing to what we pack in their lunch-they are ready to tell us what matters to them.

So this summer the kids get to help us decide how we spend our days.

We talked and we wrote and came up with a big list of things to do as a family this summer. Some of these are straight from the boys and some are things that the adults chose. This will be our first full summer in New England, and there are things we've just never been able to do with the boys before because of where we lived. It's all fun stuff on this list because I didn't want to clutter it up with the *shoulds*. We should paint the guest room. I should transplant some hosts.

Those have their own list in my Google Docs. They have no place on the fun list that now sits in our living room. I wrote all our plans out on our oversized chalkboard in colorful chalk. We look at it every day and the boys are thrilled to be thinking ahead about our weekend plans. Frankly, it helps the grownups have something to look forward to as well!

One thing I didn't write on the actual list, but is my grownup summer goal:


We all read that article a few summers back about the mom who was never in the picture. I swore I would do better, and with the advent of the "selfie" I have gotten a little better. I realized that I also need to be better about pictures of other grownups. Pictures of all four of us. Pictures of the kids and the grandparents, but also my husband and I with our parents and siblings. Pictures of us with our friends, not just the kids with their friends.

I never change the profile picture on my social media accounts, because it's only once every year or two that I like a picture of myself enough to put it up there. For goodness sakes, my hair is a different color and twice as long now as it is in the picture on this very blog! (Ahem, Laura…I'm going to need you again!)

In case you need a little inspiration, here's our list for this summer. The picture above, by the way, is from this past weekend when we crossed off not one, but TWO items from this list.

Cheers to summer 2015!

Go to the Beach
Get Ice Cream
See Dinosaur Footprints
Visit both sets of Grandparents
Check out the Pratt Center
Visit our best friends from Oklahoma in their new house
Go fishing
Visit the Butterfly Farm
Ride on a carousel
Strawberry picking
Blueberry picking
Go to a carnival
Find a waterfall
Visit a farm
Go to the Dr. Seuss Garden
Visit a museum
Catch fireflies
Make s'mores
watch a movie outside
See Fireworks
Play in the sprinkler
Have a picnic
Go to the zoo and aquarium
Make homemade snowcones
Star gaze
Have a water balloon fight
Go to the lake
See a movie in the theater
Mini golf
Make a sandcastle
Go on a surprise trip

What are your plans for the summer?

June 15, 2015

Quick Lit (June 2015)

Popping in to post a few book reviews that have been languishing in note form for ages. 

This is just a highlight of what I've been reading since my last book review post. In fact 3 of these books came out in April just before my birthday and I ran right out to buy them on release day. Happily, they were all as good as I expected. 

You can always find me on Goodreads if you'd like to see everything I've been reading lately. And I promise to be around here a little more often as well :) 

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

The long anticipated sequel to Garden Spells, Allen brings us back to the Waverly sisters 10 years later. The always unusual Waverley family is even more unusual during the lead up to the first frost of the season and this year is no different. Claire wrestles with a new kitchen venture, Sidney is balancing her own worries while watching her daughter navigate high school as a Waverley. Allen weaves a gorgeous blend of magic and small town life, and this is a worthy sequel to the original tale. If you haven't read Garden Spells though, start with that one before this as it truly is a sequel. (I won a copy of this through a Goodreads giveaway, but my review is my own. I would definately purchased my own copy if I hadn't won that one.)

Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James

St. James is one of my favorite authors right now, perhaps because the books she writes are like nothing else I've read. All her books are set just after World War I in England and are a blend of ghost story and mystery. Ellie Winter, the heroine of The Other Side of Midnight is a pyschic who is thrown back into a world she thought she left behind when  her former best friend and rival, Gloria Sutter, is murdered. Feeling both a duty to the dead and a fear that she might be next, Ellie searches for the killer.
The reader is transported to 1920s London by St. James' amazing sense of place (rivaled only by the first few Maisie Dobbs books I would argue) and the supernatural elements never feel ridiculous or jarring to the story. The interplay between skeptics and believers within the book itself add a grounding touch. If you are interested in the time period or historical mysteries this is one to check out-even if you don't think you like "ghost" stories. 

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This would be my hands down recommendation for a summer beach read. Bex is an American exchange student at Oxford University where she quickly gets pulled in to the social circle of Prince Nicolas. It's William and Kate re-imagined, but it is never silly. Funny, moving, thought provoking (you will have ALL THE FEELINGS about paparazzi after reading it). I will be shocked if I make it through the summer with out re-reading this one. 

Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
This was the book I HAD to have on release day! This is a time slip novel, where there is action in both the present day and 17th century France, with two romantic storylines to resolve. The connection between the two is a diary that is written by Mary Dundas, the historical heroine and is decoded by Sara, the modern day one. The historical story covers another aspect of the Jacobite rebellion that Kearsley had not written about before, and she slips several Easter Eggs in for long-time readers of her books. An interesting twist to the modern story was that Sara had Asperger's. I felt like Kearsley did a good job of showing it as an aspect of Sara's character but not feeling like that's all her character was.

So what's am I reading now? I'm almost done with Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil by James Runcie and I'm listening to the audiobook of Medal for Murder by Frances Brody on my commute to work. 

Now it's your turn-what are you reading? If you need inspiration check out the rest of the Quick Lit posts at MMD

February 28, 2015

March Reading Challenge


Every Saturday this year the boys and I have gone to the library together. I often pop over there during the week by myself to pick up a hold, or browse the stacks without small, sticky hands pulling on my sleeve, but the weekend visit is for all of us.

We stock up on books and movies to get us through the never ending snow days. I pick up a new mystery or try something from the new arrivals shelf.

Today I was preparing my list of books from my giant to-read list on Goodreads and I realized something. I already have a TON of these books, most of them sitting on my Kindle. I'm in the habit of snagging something I've been wanting to read when it goes on megasale, or adding a book when I order dog food or some other necessity from Amazon.

Then a due date nears and I turn back to my big stack of library books.

Today is the last day of February. I am almost finished with the only library book I have left at home, and there are no holds likely to come in soon.

This March I'm going to challenge myself. I am only going to read books that are already in my house or on my Kindle. Frankly, I think I really need to focus solely on my Kindle! (I did something similar last year but couldn't quite give up my library books). Next week I'll share the books I'm starting with.

Tell me I'm not the only one with this problem! Anyone want to join in? 

February 24, 2015

February Reading Roundup

Being stuck inside with all this snow has at least been good for my reading. I'm even a few books ahead on my goal for the year on Goodreads! It might also have something to do with the fact that all my library holds came in at once. I think I need to spend March playing catchup on the stacks of books in  my house and on my kindle that I've been ignoring because of looming due dates. Tell me I'm not the only one who does that! 

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

A group of my dear friends from our last assignment are doing a long-distance book club and this was our first selection. It was perfect for discussion, for both plot and literary devices. The book follows multiple stories from the 1960s Italian set of Cleopatra to a present day Hollywood production office, and eventually winds them all together. I loved seeing the way everything interconnected in the end.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

The Princess Bride is one of my all-time favorite movies and this charming book was a love letter to the  movie and all those who made it. Elwes tells the tale of how the film came to be, filming and it's eventual cult status. He interviews other cast and crew members, shares fun tidbits of filming that you can see when you watch the movie and more. I guarantee you will immediately want to go re-watch the movie as soon as you finish! (We did, and now I send me boys off to school every morning with "Have fun storming the castle!")

Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross

I've been hearing about the Julian Kestrel mysteries from several of my favorite writers for years now, and I'm so glad I picked this up. The first novel finds Julian a guest at a very awkward engagement party at a country house, where pride and arrogance war with the truth when a murder takes place. He has to unravel the family secrets before he can find the murderer. Kestrel is a regency dandy on the surface, but so much more below and he makes for a unique take on a regency sleuth. The writing felt like a smart, updated version of Georgette Heyer. Great start to a series (though sadly the author passed away a few years ago, and there are only 4 Kestrel novels).

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

I was craving Allen's sweet southern magic when the weather turned really cold this month, and picked this up from the library. Gentle as always with a happy ending of course, but not as engaging as the other Allen books I have read. Kate needs a place to recover after the death of her husband, and a chance postcard leads her and her daughter to Lost Lake, a resort run by her great aunt Eby. Here Eby helps them heal, and they help remind Eby of just what she (and Lost Lake) mean to the community.

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

Possibly my favorite book this year (so far) and it was a chance find at the library- I picked it up solely because of the cover! Set between the wars in England, Amory Ames is tired of her marriage to playboy Milo and when her former fiancé Gil shows up asking for help, she says yes. A trip to the seaside turns deadly and she must work with Milo to clear Gil's name. In doing so, they must also figure out what's happened to their marriage. The writing is sparkling, the mystery was just right and I'm so glad that a second in the series is coming out this fall. And it turns out that Ashely Weaver is a librarian-what more could I ask for?

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This book is everywhere lately. I first read about it a few months ago, and patiently worked my way up the very long library waiting list. While interesting, I won't say this was life changing for me. Some aspects were really practical and I can easily see myself putting into practice (new ways to fold clothes and storing all like items together rather than spread around the house) but others I'll never agree with-her take on books for example! The idea is that you only keep what brings you joy and that you need to go through everything once and get rid of everything that doesn't. Some of it is a little loopy to be honest though I suspect part of that is the translation and the cultural differences between Japan and the US. On the other hand…it does make me want to clean out my kitchen cabinets. Who else has read this? I'm dying to discuss it!

What have you been reading lately? 

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February 22, 2015

Weekend Reading

We're digging out from yet another storm, but February is almost over. Just the fact that March is that much closer to spring gives me hope for next month, despite the fact the March weather is really still messy and unpredictable. I'm clinging to signs of green wherever I can find them, and indulging in books set in warm places. (Currently reading the Vish Puri mystery by Tarquin Hall-set in India. I can almost feel the sunshine!)

What I think we all really need is a breather and a chance to remember a time when our lives didn't revolve quite so heavily around the weather forecast!

Here are some of the articles that pulled me out of my snowy bubble this week:

I don't think I managed to see any of the nominated films, but I'm still excited to watch the Oscars tonight.

With my husband traveling quite a lot this month, cooking has been pretty basic for me and the boys. These Middle Eastern Spiced Turkey Sliders from Pink Parsley look perfect for shaking up our routine.

Why I bring my Boys to the Ballet: This post from The Mom Edit strikes right to the heart of my hopes and worries as the mother of boys.

Simple but genius menu planning from Breanne at A Vintage Moment. (She is also running a giveaway for a copy of Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, once of the cookbooks I am most looking forward to reading this year!)

On Burnout. Anne from Modern Mrs Darcy shares what keeps her from going over the edge of burnout. Good stuff in the comments too!

Photos from my instagram feed (you can find me there @hearthandhomefront)

January 14, 2015

Quick Lit (January 2015)

Between snow days and a whirlwind trip without kids (two flights worth of uninterrupted reading time!) January is off to a great start, book wise. Today I'm sharing short reviews of my latest reads and linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit (formerly known as Twitterature). Pop over to her site for more suggestions!  You can also check out what I'm reading or adding to my enormous to-read list over on Goodreads, and say hello while you're there!

Garden Spells-Sarah Addison Allen

Allen weaves magic into all of her stories, but it is the kind of gentle, believable magic that we all can connect with. In Garden Spells, Claire Waverley has her very structured world turned upside when her rebellious sister Sydney returns home with a daughter of her own. The three learn to trust and support each other, and make peace with their special gifts. This is one of those books that I started reading, and the next thing I knew I was 100 pages in! There's a sequel coming out soon too…

Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody

Kate Shackleton takes on her first professional case as a private investigator when a friend from her days as a nurse in WWI asks her to find her missing father. As she goes deeper into the mystery, Kate struggles to create an identity for herself, rather than just her husband's widow. While the tone is very different, Brody's England post WWI is just as evocative as the one Jacqueline Winspear creates in her Maisie Dobbs mysteries. It's the first in a series, and I'm looking forward to reading more.

Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen

Her Royal Spyness is back! In this outing, Lady Georgiana (35th in line to the throne!) heads to America with her mother. A typical 1930's English country house murder mystery transplanted to Hollywood, with a nice blend of humor and romance. A solid mystery (I didn't figure it out too early) and always fun.

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie

The second book in the series, this is another set of short stories. This time covering a wider time period, but it moves Sidney's sleuthing further into the Cold War, which is an interesting side note to his growing romance with a German widow. The Masterpiece Mystery series called Grantchester premieres this weekend and is based on the series, so I'm very curious to see how it is adapted for tv.

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

This was originally published years ago under a different name, but Kearsley's new American publisher re-released it this past year. In the early 1900's an actress named Celia Sands disappears on the night she is to premiere a play written for her by her famous playwright lover in Italy. In the modern day, another actress named Celia Sands is asked to star when the playwrights grandson revives the infamous play. There are mysteries in the present and the past, as well as romance and like every other book I've read by Susanna Kearsley,  I couldn't put it down and was totally bereft when I finished.

Beauty by Robin McKinley

I don't know how I missed reading this when I was growing up! A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I read this one for the Young Adult Book and Movie Club with Jessica from Quirky Bookworm (you should join in!)  It was lovely and such a fun escape-I'm so glad I finally found it.

Next up…Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter! I'm only about half way, but loving it so far.

What are you reading right now? 

January 9, 2015

Making the little moments special

This week isn't just the start of the new year for our family, but a whole new direction for us. My husband left the active duty Air Force at the end of the last year. While he will still be flying with a National Guard unit part time he will be spending most of his time now as an airline pilot.

This means new airplanes, trips to training and a whole new batch of acronyms for all of us to learn.

We spent the last year focused on getting to the end goals of new house and new jobs, forgetting to look back at how much we accomplished in the meantime.

Rather than make resolutions, I just hope to be kinder to myself in the New Year, and a big part of that this year needs to be celebrating the little milestones and moments, even the teeny tiney ones. I'm a list maker. The thrill of crossing something off is always there for me, and is a good chunk of my motivation some days. Stopping for just a few moments beyond the time it takes to cross something off the to-do list acknowledges the effort it took to get there, and I don't do that nearly enough. It's cross something off and move on to the next thing in almost the same breath.

So in that vein, this week the boys and I have been celebrating. We picked up cupcakes to celebrate the first day of school in 2015 on Monday. Today we had hot chocolate with breakfast because it's an unexpected snow day.

Neither the hot chocolate nor the cupcakes are that unusual to be honest. We often have them as a treat after school or when we randomly need a pick-me-up.

Stopping for just a moment and assigning them a reason though, no matter how tiny, gives us all a moment to breathe and smile. Who can argue with an excuse to smile more often?

How do you celebrate the little moments? 

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