What I Read in May

This was a great month for reading – lots of page-turners and books I had been meaning to get to!  My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise). Have you read any of these? Are any of these books on your TBR list?

Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland – Dave Barry

It took me a few chapters to get into this book.  At first, it felt kind of like reality TV, enjoyable, funny, but kind of feels like you are rotting your brain, but as I got further into the book, I liked it more and more.  Barry explores some of the tourist-trap areas of Old Florida, like Weeki Wachi Springs, Cassadaga, and Key West, and shares his often hilarious arguments for why Florida is the the Best. State. Ever.

A minor critique: The author Dave Barry is not from Florida… He is from New York, so the title is not actually true…

Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler

I can see why some people might not like this book – the writing meanders a bit and most of the characters aren’t very likeable – BUT I really enjoyed it.  The story revolves around a young woman who moves to New York City and gets a job at a fancy restaurant (allegedly based on Union Square Cafe) despite having no qualifications.  The reader gets a peek at restaurant culture and the after-hours life of the restaurant service crowd.  Some of my favorite passages were Danler’s descriptions of wine flavors and histories.  This book reminded me a lot of Anthony Bourdain’s memoirs, but with a female perspective.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter – Scaachi Koul

This was one of my April Book of the Month Club selections.  One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter is an essay collection by debut author Scaachi Koul, a young Indian-American woman.  Her essays discuss her experiences as a woman, as a daughter of Indian-American immigrants, and as the girlfriend of an older, white man (who she affectionately refers to as “Hamhock”).  While her essays were often touching and more often hilarious, I do wish they had a bit more depth.  The essays mostly recounted how things happened and didn’t delve deeply into how she felt about those things or what the significance of those events was.  I suppose this book just left me wanting a little bit more.

A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman

I listened to this story on audiobook and loved it.  Ove, the main character, reminded me a lot of the main character in the 2008 Clint Eastwood movie Gran Torino, in that they were both grumpy, prickly old men who were very good people deep down.  Ove is an old-school guy in a neighborhood that is changing all around him.  A family of “foreigners” moves in and starts bugging him, and the story progresses from there.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I was in tears (what’s new, right?).  This story came out as a movie last year, so I am excited to see if the film lives up to the novel.

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Me Before You was one of those books in which it took me a chapter or two to get into the story, but once I was in, I was hooked – I finished all 369 pages in just 3 days!  This is a love story between a paraplegic young man and his eccentric caretaker.  It is hard for me to recommend this book to everyone, since it totally wrecked me at the end (like full-on ugly crying), but if you like extremely sad love stories, this one might be for you!  This is another one that was recently made into a movie that I have yet to watch.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan

I listened to this quirky mystery story on audiobook and really enjoyed it.  The protagonist is a young man who just got a job in a 24-hour bookstore in Silicon Valley.  He starts to notice some strange things about the bookstore’s customers and the books that they borrow and the mystery unravels from there.  I don’t want to give away too much, because piecing together clues as you listen/read is a delightful experience with this story.

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood – Janisse Ray

This book was a gift from my mother-in-law a few Christmases back and it had been sitting on my TBR shelf ever since.  I finally picked it up, and I am so glad I did!  Janisse Ray’s memoir of growing up in a junkyard in Southeast Georgia was fascinating.  Similar to Lab Girl (which I reviewed last month), the chapters alternate between first-person memoir and poetically scientific descriptions of the environment.  Ray writes masterfully about growing up with a mentally ill parent and takes the reader through her journey to becoming an environmentalist.

What have you been reading lately?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club(which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in this post, I get a free book. Thank you!


Monday Meme Round-Up

First, a real life meme:

Yes, this happened last night, one of those gross things you don’t think about before having a kiddo…  I discovered what had happened when Carla May tried to grab a piece of poop that started floating by (omg omg omg).

I remained (somewhat) calm, picked up the baby, sprinted to the kitchen, and quickly sanitized her with my Mrs. Meyer’s Lemon Verbena soap in the sink.  I whipped a diaper on that butt super fast and put her in her bouncy seat while I proceeded to scrub down the entire bathroom, throw away half her bath toys (all the ones with a squeaky hole where poo water could have breached) and the washrag, and bleach everything in sight.

All that to say, sometimes life feels like a meme.

Anyway, here are some heckin doggo memes to start your week off right:

My dogs are still shaking from last year

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[awareness intensifies] thx 4 following @chaos.reigns_ 🙏

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Smol Doggo doin a thing (everything is so fun I'm glad to be here)

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Friday Favorites

This week, I had my first overnight trip away from my baby girl.  I went to Tallahassee Tuesday night and then Orlando all day Wednesday (and then back Wednesday night.. it was a long day) for a Florida Wildlife Federation committee meeting (which is why there was no Wednesday post this week, sorry!).  I missed her a lot, but Chatham and Lottie took good care of her while I was gone and sent me LOTS of pictures!  Here are some cute ones:

Here are some more things that brought me joy this week:



This week, I refreshed the front flower bed for Springtime by weeding and planting some more flowers and filler in the front flower bed.   In the backyard, our tomatoes, peppers, peaches, and hydrangeas are doing so well this year.  Our potted plant near our entryway, however, was not.  I picked up a trio of pretty trailing flowers at Lowe’s and replanted.

Gardening is a hobby I picked up when we bought our house a few years ago, and it has already been so rewarding.  My mother-in-law is an amazing gardener and has been helping me turn my brown thumb green.  I’ve found that working in the garden and getting my hands dirty is incredibly soothing and therapeutic, and being able to eat fresh vegetables from my yard is an added bonus.

Dunking Dad

This week, we went to a fundraiser to reopen the Destin pool.  There was a car wash, snow cone stand, rummage sale, and dunking booth all raising money out at the old YMCA site.  From what I’ve heard, the Emerald Coast Fitness Foundation needs about $20,000 to open the pool, so donations are still being raised (more info at this link).  A community pool will be such a nice resource for our city.

I found out when I got there that my husband and public servant Chatham would be in the dunking booth!  You could purchase a ball to throw for $1, or pony up $25 to just press the button and be assured of a dunk… Needless to say, I ponied up the cash!


Catana Comics

One of my favorite comic strips is Catana because I can relate so much to the female character.  The artist draws comics of her and her boyfriend and they are just so sweet and cute.  Here’s one of my favorites:

How was your week?  What brought you joy?


Monday Meme Round-Up

In this week’s special edition of Monday Meme Round-Up, I’d like to share with you the star of many homemade doggo memes and now the star of this month’s Beachcomber Pet of the Issue – our very own Hayduke Morgan!

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Here are some more good memes starring good boys:

Pupperino doin a faste (wow I love the beach this is very nice)

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Doggo doin a thing (finally a news story I'm proud of)

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Friday Favorites

Carla May is finally sitting up on her own!  We have been practicing on my bed so that she has a soft landing when she (inevitably) face plants.


She is also grabbing my hands and pulling up to standing.  Which is a great advancement, BUT she was also pulling up on the side of the Pak n Play and dive bombing over the edge.  Luckily, I was always there to catch her!  Needless to say, we lowered the mattress…


Here are a few other things that brought me joy this week…

Alligator Pear Chips

Alligator Pear Tortilla Chips are my absolute favorite chips, and they are made locally in Pensacola.  The name comes from the company’s recipe using avocado oil (avocado = alligator pear – It makes sense if you think about it!).  They are delicious and come in many yummy flavors.  My husband sells them at The Local Market, and I eat so, so many of these chips.  They are a great vehicle for salsa, queso, guacamole, and bean dip.

Fresh Haircut

I went to see my hairdresser Amanda this week and loved what she came up with!  She is amazing with color and is a balayage superstar (Balayage is when the stylist paints the color onto your hair).  She brightened my hair up on the ends for a summery look but blended the roots so that it is still low-maintenance.

Catching up with Amanda is a real treat, and I always leave the salon feeling like a new woman!

Instagram Story Face Filters




I was wondering when Instagram would take the plunge and totally knock off Snapchat…. Well, it finally happened.  I have a Snapchat account, but never used it much.  I have mostly just stuck to Instagram.  I can already tell we are going to have fun with the face filters!




How was your week?  What brought you joy?


Colicky Newborn Survival Guide

Having a newborn is really, really hard.  Having a colicky newborn straight up sucks. Not to mention the fact that new mom hormones cause you to switch in mere minutes from pure amazement at this tiny being you’ve created to uncontrollable sobbing because you are just so, so tired (and this cycle repeats all day).

17E15-1-2Having had no experience with newborns before our daughter Carla May was born, Chatham and I would often ask each other in the thick of it, “Are all babies like this?”  (By this we meant crying constantly if not sleeping or being fed.)  “Of course,” we’d say, anything to keep ourselves from breaking down.  Looking back, our daughter absolutely had colic, no doubt about it.

For those of you who may not know, colic is “a frustrating condition marked by predictable periods of distress in an otherwise well-fed, healthy baby.”  Basically, it is a situation in which a healthy baby cries for no reason during the first few months of her life. This period is often called the “fourth trimester,” in which some babies are not quite ready to face this big, scary world and crave the safety, warmth, and comfort of mommy’s tummy (who can blame them??).

Surviving (and I don’t use that word lightly) three months with a colicky newborn taught us a lot about parenting and a lot about each other.  Through trial-and-error we learned the preferences of our tiny human creation.  Each day got a little better and a little better until the colic stage was finally behind us.  We are stronger as parents for having gone through the experience together, and our baby girl is now as sweet and happy as can be!

Anyway, I wanted to share with you some things that helped us tremendously to get through the fourth trimester without breaking our spirits:


17E15-1-4Many of you will go to the Dockatot website and look at the price tag and say, “HELL NO!”  Trust me on this, you cannot put a price tag on sleep.  The Dockatot is basically a big pillow nest with breathable side rails that holds your infant snugly in place.  It prevents your baby from startling herself or rolling over and waking up.

The first few nights at home with Carla May, we put her down to sleep in the bassinet by our bed that had a padded mattress in it that seemed pretty comfortable to me.  Apparently it wasn’t as comfortable as it looked – Carla May did not sleep one minute the first three nights at home.  Thankfully, the fourth night Chatham remembered the Dockatot and shoved it in the bassinet (fit perfectly).  If  my memory serves me correctly, I believe we got a five hour solid stretch of sleep that night (!!!!!).

The Dockatot has been incredibly helpful in getting CM to nap in places other than our home.  We went to a party one night and brought her with us (this was at the very end of her colicky stage when she started sleeping well at night).  We set up her Dockatot and white noise machine in their guest room and put her down at her regular bedtime. She slept peacefully, and we got to enjoy visiting with our friends!  I’ve mentioned before how I bring CM to work with me three days a week.  Naps would not be possible without the Dockatot set up in our conference room.  AND I’ve forgotten it at the office and had to drive back to get it before bedtime only one time!

Mom Tip: For the first few months, CM had a lot of diaper blowouts because she had such skinny legs.  We covered the Dockatot with a muslin swaddle to protect it, since the Dockatot cover is so difficult to take on and off.

Exercise Ball

When I was pregnant, I replaced my office chair with a big exercise ball because it felt more comfortable to me.  I suppose Carla May got used to the rocking and bouncing motions while she was in my belly, because when she came out, bouncing on the exercise ball was the only way to keep her from crying (if she wasn’t eating or sleeping, anyway).

I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was when I discovered her liking for being bounced.  I also can’t tell you how many hours I spent on that thing, but I would estimate 12-16 hours per day for three months.  People ask me, “How did you lose your pregnancy weight so quickly?”  Oh, approximately 1260 hours of bouncing on an exercise ball holding a fussy baby.  I wouldn’t recommend it….

Baby Bjorn Bouncer

17E15-1Quick Question: If your baby cries when you put her down, what do you do when you need to take a shower?

Answer: Just don’t, duh!

Another Quick Question:  What do you do when you have to pee?

Answer: Put her in the Baby Bjorn!

Honestly, the Baby Bjorn is something you will love, and your colicky baby will tolerate.  Carla May would put up with sitting in the Baby Bjorn fuss-free for a maximum of 15 minutes, but if you haven’t gotten off the exercise ball all day long, those 15 minutes of time for yourself are crucial!


17E15-1-3Muslin swaddles are soft and beautiful and multipurpose and blah, blah, blah…  BUT if your colicky baby is also a squirmy worm who busts out of traditional swaddles like a tiny Houdini, you’re gonna need to get something a little stronger.  I actually call Swaddle-Me’s “baby straight jackets” because that is exactly what they look like and how they function.  The velcro is fool-proof, so even sleep-deprived parents can swaddle baby up tight without having to desperately look up YouTube instructional videos in dead of night (yes, we did this).

Tommee Tippee

On our baby registry, I asked for a starter pack of the most highly-rated baby bottles out there.  Unfortunately, Carla May refused to drink out of that particular type of bottle.  I asked around and a friend recommended we try Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Anti-Colic bottles, because they feel similar to a real breast for the baby and prevent baby from swallowing as much air as other bottles.  Finally, we found a winner!  They have a ton of parts which is annoying for washing and assembly, but since CM takes only four or five bottles a week, this was not a big issue for us.


I have been a big fan (haha) of Dohm machines since before I even got pregnant.  The Dohm is a box fan that emits pure white noise that drowns out any background sounds.  Chatham and I have had one in our bedroom for as long as I can remember.  We got one for Carla May’s nursery and one for my office conference room/nap station.  The Dohm, in addition to the Dockatot, create consistency that make for much better naps.

Freezer Meals

Before you have a baby, I recommend making as many meals as you can in advance and then freezing them, because you never know if your newborn will let you put her down long enough to make dinner.  (And if you aren’t expecting, make a bunch of freezer meals for a new mom you know!  What a great gift that would be!)  In my “nesting” phase of pregnancy, I made and froze about 20 dinners.  When Carla May was born, I was so glad that I had options in the freezer that I could throw in the oven or the crockpot in my 15 minutes of Baby Bjorn time..


30At one point the in our first month home with baby, Chatham said to me, “Marilu, you cannot survive on coffee and wine alone.”  The argumentative part of me wanted to say, “Watch me!” but the reasonable part of me knew he was right.  At that point, I tried to take better care of myself.  This included taking Carla May on a walk in the stroller every morning, taking my gummy vitamins, and trying to eat healthier.

For reference, here are some nutritionally dense foods you can eat with one hand while bouncing on an exercise ball: apples, spoonfuls of peanut butter, whole wheat Ritz crackers, glasses of milk, string cheese, cashews.  Also, drink LOTS of water!

The most important things for your mental health  are to keep your head up, stay as positive as possible, and ask for help!  The first few months with a colicky newborn are so, so hard, but they also go by really fast.  It helps to know that you are not the only one who is going/has gone through this.  One day you’ll look back and laugh (or cry? or both??) at this special and insane time.

Monday Meme Round-Up

My favorite memes from the last week… Enjoy!

Doggo doin an innocence (I'm a good boy for life I promise)

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I got you little buddy

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Friday Favorites

Carla May has been trying to sit up on her own this week, and Hayduke has been testing her balance.  I have gotten a lot of laughs from watching.  I hope you do, too:


Here are a few more things that have brought me joy this week:

Book Darts

I saw these on Anne Bogel’s Instagram and ordered them immediately.  Never again will I re-read an entire page to figure out which paragraph I was on!  Think of all the time you can save!!!

Found where all my book darts were hiding.

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Elle Little Headbands

My friend Letitia sews and sells beautiful handmade women’s accessories.  She recently came out with a line of wire headbands.  I didn’t realize how terribly my other headbands function until I tried on one of these.  The wire holds the band in place and allows you to style the ends however you like.  She has so many fun colors and patterns available, including several Rifle Paper Company fabrics.


Check out her store here.  I bought several headbands and have already gotten a lot of use out of them (and they make great gifts, too!).

The Handmaid’s Tale

Image result for the handmaid's tale hulu

Most of the time movie/show adaptations of books leave much to be desired.  This is not the case with Hulu’s new series based on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a book I re-read and reviewed back in March.  The series is only five episodes in, but it is already capturing the creepiness and haunting tone of the book. Some of the scenes were so powerful, they actually left me close to tears (then again, I am close to tears a lot these days, so that may not reveal much… #momlife #hormones).  Elizabeth Moss from Mad Men plays the lead character Offred, and her performance has been spot-on thus far.

50mm Camera Lens

I’ve recently started using a real camera rather than just my phone (THANK YOU to my sister-in-law Jane for the hand-me-down Nikon D3100!).  Last week I picked up a 50mm lens, and it makes a world of difference in my photos.  See how Carla May’s face is clear in the two photos below, but the background has a great blurred effect?  That’s the 50mm lens working its magic.



Mother’s Day is this weekend, so all of the grocery stores have beautiful flowers available this week.  I hardly ever see peonies at the grocery store but saw some gorgeous pink ones at Whole Foods last weekend and just had to indulge.  Fresh-cut flowers are one of those things that seem like a silly purchase when you over-analyze, but actually bring so much joy relative to the amount you spend.  I get an instant boost of happiness every time I pass a vase of fresh flowers, especially peonies.


How was your week?  What brought you joy?


Weekend with “Granny Calamity”

My mom finally made it in town this weekend to visit.  She is an artist living in Mentone, Alabama.  She works a lot and the drive is long, so she doesn’t make it down very often but we were glad she did.

I was joking with my mom about how she has never made the six-hour drive quicker than eight hours.  She was bound and determined to prove me wrong this time and told me that she wasn’t even drinking water on the road so she wouldn’t have to stop for bathroom breaks.  She was on track to get here in just five and a half hours.  I was blown away by what good time she was making… and then I got a phonecall from her on the side of the road….

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Broken alternator!  Luckily, she was only 40 minutes North of Destin.  She got a quick tow to the Niceville Pep Boys, and Carla May and I picked her up there.  We have decided that she is just not meant to make the trip any faster.

After picking up “Granny Calamity” (her new grandma name – this changes on a regular basis, but this week she is “Granny Calamity,” a little long for a baby to say in my opinion, but I digress… where was I?)… after picking up mom from the auto repair shop, we had dinner at Ciao Bella in Niceville.  “Granny Calamity” is vegetarian and Ciao Bella has great veggie pizza options!

While we were enjoying our pizzas and salads, our little bandit snatched up an entire loaf of bread from the center of the table to gnaw on.  I swear this child would rather be eating than doing anything else, and I have yet to find a food that she will not eat.

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We spent most of the weekend enjoying the beautiful weather at the Seascape in Miramar Beach.  The water was so blue and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky.

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I got a new 50 mm camera lens on Friday, so we played around with my camera and got some decent shots!

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Carla May loves playing peek-a-boo and gets a kick out of anyone who peeks out from behind the camera, so it is pretty easy to get good photographs of her.

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She is such an expressive baby and clearly shows her emotions on her face (she gets that from me – I do not have a good “poker face”).  I am constantly cracking up at some of the looks she makes.

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My mom had never been to a Whole Foods before, so we swung by there to pick up some of their empanadas and vegetables for lunch.  They also had beautiful peonies, which are one of my favorite flowers, so I had to treat myself to those as well.

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Mom and I ate lunch on the deck, soaked up the sun, and caught up with each other while Carla May was napping.

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When Carla May woke up from her nap, we took a walk to Pompano Joe’s.  I had pinned a towel across the top of CM’s stroller to keep the sun off of her, but the breeze picked up and kept blowing the towel around.  She thought this was the funniest thing ever.  Her belly laughs were the perfect soundtrack to me scrambling to keep her shaded as the towel whipped all over the place.


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By the time we finally made it to the restaurant, the wind was blowing pretty hard.  It’s only about a mile walk, but seemed much longer with the headwind.  We had planned to have a cocktail and stick our feet in the sand, but decided instead to sit on the streetside porch with the building blocking the wind.  Pompano Joe’s has all kinds of porch-sitting options.

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Our walk back to the condo was quick with the tailwind.  The rest of the weekend was spent making veggie spaghetti and relaxing.

The weather was beautiful, my mom made it down and back in one piece (although not in less than eight hours bahahaha), and we had a wonderful weekend visiting and catching up.