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What I Read in June

Another good month of reading – mostly audiobooks, since I tackled an 850-pager that took up a good three weeks of my spare reading time, but a sacrifice I felt was well worth it!  My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).

Rich People Problems – Kevin Kwan

Rich People Problems is the final installment of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, a series of outrageously trashy novels that I have delighted in reading.  I read hard copies of the first two books, but listened to this one on audio.  I have to admit that the audio added a lot to the experience.  The Audible narrator did a great job pronouncing some of the words that were in different languages, and she had really good timing as far as dialogue and pauses for effect.  This series follow several ridiculously rich Asian families and the drama that inevitably ensues.  These guilty pleasures are downright fun!

Wildflower – Drew Barrymore

I listened to Wildflower on audiobook because the author Drew Barrymore also narrates.  I probably should have expected it, but she is extremely dramatic in her narration, which turned me off a bit.  I really enjoyed some of the stories she tells from her life – My favorite was about the filming of E.T. – but she jumps around so much, I was confused as to what she was trying to do with this book.  Some chapters are about her life and some chapters read as if they are letters to her children.  This was not a “bad” book by any means, but it was not what I expected.

Outlander – Daina Gabaldon

Whew!  This was the 850 page monster of a book I was talking about!  I had heard about this series from a lot of people – fans of the Outlander series seem to be outspoken ones, and I can certainly see why.  This was a time-traveling, bodice-ripping, epic adventure tale that was a lot of fun to read.  Forewarning: There are smutty parts, some of which made me pretty uncomfortable but by the time I got to them I was 400 pages in and committed.  While I liked the story and am looking forward to reading the next one in the series (perhaps on audio this time?), by the time I got to the last 150 pages, I was ready for it to end.  Then, Gabaldon drops a bomb (not literally) on the last page that left me wanting more.

Chemistry – Weike Wang

Chemistry was my June Book of the Month pick, and weighing in at a mere 224 pages, it was a perfect follow-up to Outlander.  In this story, the Chinese-American narrator (we never learn her name) who had always exceeded in all aspects of her life reaches a turning point where she struggles with her Chemistry PhD program, a boyfriend who wants to marry her, and her Chinese-born immigrant parents.  Most of the action happens inside her head as she tries to determine what she really wants in life and how to navigate her relationships accordingly.  Similar to Lab Girl and Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (reviewed here and here), Wang weaves in scientific descriptions that serve as metaphors for what is really going on.  Overall, Chemistry was an insightful and entertaining story about self-discovery.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – Fredrik Backman

I listened to this novella on audiobook (and it was under two hours long, if you have a short-attention span) because I recently read Backman’s A Man Called Ove (review here) and really enjoyed it. The story takes place in an old man’s mind as he talks with his son and grandson about life and aging. While you are reading, you feel as if you are aging right along with him as a result of the beautiful storytelling.  I was of course crying by the end of it (what’s new, right?).  My major takeaways from this sweet story were that life is short and that the time spent with people you love is what you look back and reminisce on.

Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah, the comedian that replaced Stephen Colbert as host of The Daily Show, is the author and audiobook narrator of his memoir, Born a Crime.  Noah describes his experiences as a colored (i.e. half-white, half-black) person growing up in a black family in South Africa during apartheid.  The title is derived from Noah being born mixed race in a time when relations between blacks and whites were illegal.  The content is serious, but he adds enough comedy to keep it light and easy to read (or listen to).  I hate to admit this, but I did not realize how recent apartheid was until I read this memoir, and I certainly did not realize how complex and sometimes arbitrary the legal system was in South Africa during that time.  Life was hard for black women especially as the reader learns through Noah’s stories about his mother.  If you listen to audiobooks, I recommend this one in particular – Noah’s personal narration adds a lot to his already amazing story.

Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?

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!

Friday Favorites

17F27-2-2When did my baby become a toddler??? She looks so big in this picture!  It is all happening too fast!  Despite the sometimes monotonous nature of childcare, babies pepper in moments of pure joy and excitement that make it all worthwhile.  Quick example: I came home after picking up dinner Monday after work.  Carla May didn’t nap great and had been fussy most of the afternoon, so I immediately drew a bath and prepared to eat my dinner on the back of the toilet seat during her bathtime (living that glamorous mom life! – Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this!).  Chatham offered to give her a bath instead so I could relax and enjoy my dinner.  While he was bathing her, she looked up at him and said, clear as day, “dada!”  Both of our hearts melted.

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

Sweet Potato – Bacon – Apple Hash


This easy hash is one of my go-to recipes, since I usually have all of the ingredients on hand and it is so quick to prepare.  I came up with this recipe back when Chatham and I were adhering to the Paleo diet, and I liked it so much that I have kept it in my repertoire ever since.  The recipe below is for one portion, so if you are feeding multiple people or want to prep multiple servings, just keep the ratios the same.


2 slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces

1 sweet potato, washed and chopped with skin on

1 apple, washed and chopped with skin on

1 handful of raisins, any kind


Fry up bacon pieces in a pan until they are close to done.  Without draining grease, add sweet potato and apple.  Stir, put the lid on the pan, turn the heat down to medium, and set the timer for 10 minutes.  Check every few minutes to stir.  When you have 5 minutes to go, add the raisins and stir once more.   Put the lid back on.  When the timer beeps, your hash is ready!  Sometimes I’ll drizzle honey or salt on top, but usually the hash is flavorful enough without any additional seasonings.

My sister thought this photo of her enjoying this dish would make it extra appetizing for you. 🙂


Emerald Coast Organic Co-op

The Emerald Coast Organic Co-op is one of my favorite clubs around and one day, I will write a post on how it works and how I meal plan based on what veggies we get each week.  Basically, we get a bin of organic fruits and veggies every other week that we split with a friend (the bins are huge!).  The produce is always delicious, and we get it at a big discount from what we’d pay in the store.  Co-op membership also forces me to try out new vegetables that I might not otherwise purchase, which is fun!


Living a Facebook-Free Life

I gave up Facebook for Lent this year and really enjoyed the experience, so I ended up deleting my account for good.  I love looking at photos of my friend’s vacations, weddings, puppies, and babies, but I can get all of that on Instagram without having to deal with the drama of reading people’s status update rants.  I read an article this week that reaffirmed my decision that I would recommend reading if you are on the fence.  The author did not give up Facebook entirely, but made it much more difficult for himself to log on and gained valuable insight in the process: Want More Time? Get Rid of the Easiest Way to Spend It 

Seaside Excursions

This weekend, Mellie, Carla May, and I went out to Seaside, which you may remember was one of our planned excursions on our Summer Bucket List.  Since Carla May can make it a max of 3 hours between naps before getting cranky, we made it a quick trip and knocked out all of our favorite stops as soon as we got there.

I mentioned in my post on Wednesday that I keep a list of books I want to buy, and then wait until I am at an independent bookstore to purchase them.  Nine times out of ten, that bookstore is Sundog Books.   I picked up several paperbacks, including Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, and Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan, to add to my TBR stack, as well as a few BabyLit Board books for Carla May.  Have you read any of these yet?

Next, we hit up Central Square Records, which is conveniently located upstairs from Sundog.  Carla May was demanding a lot of attention at this point so I did not get to browse, but my sister bought a few vinyl records, including one of their “Mystery Grab Bags,” an assortment of records wrapped in brown paper for $7 that you don’t get to open until you purchase.  She was excited to find a Styx album and a few Spanish albums inside (she is fluent in the language and just got back from studying abroad in Spain).

Afterward, we took a walk through the beautiful artsy square right behind Seaside square.  It is not as highly trafficked as the main square and is 10 times prettier, so I always make a point to walk through.

We finished our visit with Carla May’s first gelato at Heavenly’s, and it certainly lived up to its name.  I got coconut, and Mellie got banana and nutella.  Carla May got multiple bites of all flavors and absolutely loved it.



How was your week? What brought you joy?


A Peek Inside My Bullet Journal


I’ve talked about bullet journaling in the past and promised to do a more in-depth write-up of how I use the bullet journaling system in my life.  Well, here it is!  What I love about bullet journaling is that you can really adapt it to your needs.  There is a basic framework, but at it’s core, it is a blank notebook and a writing utensil that can be utilized however you best see fit.

If you’ve never heard of bullet journaling or have but aren’t really sure what it means, check out the below intro video from the inventor of the system.

Now, I’d like to share with you how I’ve adapted this system to meet my needs.  Rather than starting with a “Future Log” and list-style monthly layouts, I have printed actual calendars and washi-taped them into my journal.  I’m a very visual person, and it helps me to see the days and weeks laid out like a normal calendar.  I use pink ink for my blog content planning, red ink for Alabama Football games, green for things I might do, and black for most everything else.  I thought I was going to run a marathon and had written out a loose training plan for that in blue ink, but I have since changed my mind (still on my list of things I’d like to do, just not this year!).


My daily pages are a bit different than the original system, as I like to plan things out by time and also have room for notes, habit tracking, meal planning, photos, and stickers.  My layout changes to fit my needs, but since Carla May was born, I’ve used the layout below.  The top left portion is my to-do list and the top-right portion is my habit-tracker and meal planner (yes, when Carla May was a colicky baby, I had to remind myself to shower!).  The bottom portion of the page is my hourly tracker, divided into columns.  In the first column I tracked both my and Carla May’s sleep – the blue hatch marks are Carla May’s sleep and the black hash marks are mine.  In the next column , I tracked nursing and pumping, and the final column is for appointments, notes, photos, or anything else that I might need to remember.  When Carla May was first born, I had another column tracking wet and dirty diapers, but once I knew she was normal, I quit tracking that.


As you can see below, I also quit tracking nursing – April 2nd is actually the day I stopped tracking it altogether.  Carla May is a great eater and was gaining weight just fine, so I didn’t see the value in tracking that anymore.  I’ve actually just stopped tracking her sleep in the last few weeks, too, but recording it all was so helpful back when we were still working on sleep training.  On fussy days, it is such a relief to go back and look at how far we’ve come!


Another thing that is great about bullet journaling is the ease of creating “collection” pages.  If you think of something you’d like to track or take note of, it is simple to open to the next blank page and start writing.  One of the collection pages I use the most is my book tracker.  On the lefthand side, you can see how I track the books I read, and on the righthand side is a printed out page showing the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2017 Reading Challenge, where I have selected books that I would love to read that fit into the categories that Anne Bogel provided on her bookworm blog.  What can I say? I love a good reading assignment!


I have all kinds of collections pages throughout my notebook – packing lists, meeting notes, lists of blog posts ideas, and my personal favorite collection – books to buy whenever I am at an independent bookstore.  If I hear of a book I’m interested in, but don’t need to read immediately, I jot it down on my list rather than ordering it from Amazon.  The next time I’m at an independent bookstore, I purchase as many of these as I can find (or as many as I can afford, whichever comes first).


I will typically draw in a month’s worth of daily pages at a time and separate each with washi tape along the edge of  the page.  Collections pages typically go on blank pages in between months.  The washi tape helps me locate collections as well as determine where months end and begin within my bullet journal.


For you school supply junkies out there, here are the materials I use:

  • Leuchtturm 1917 A5 Dotted Notebook – This is the gold standard bullet journal notebook.  Any kind of notebook will do, but this one works perfectly with its numbered and dotted pages, index, two ribbon bookmarks, back pocket, and elastic close.  Every once in awhile, they go on sale on Massdrop, and I’ll usually stock up.
  • Pilot Precise V5 Retractable black pens – I just love these.  They write really smoothly and no ink bleeds through the page.  The rectractable version is nice because you can use only one hand to get started writing, whereas I need two to open a pen with a cap (the things you never think about before babies, right??).
  • Staedtler Fineliners – I mentioned these in my Friday Favorites post last week and I still love them for when I need to add color.
  • Moleskine Pocket sized Ruled Journal – I keep one of these tucked in my bullet journal at all times for my notes for work.  I often take work phonecalls from home or on the go, and it is nice to have all of those notes in one place rather than scattered amongst my personal notes.  When I finish one of these, I write the date on the front, stick it in my desk drawer, and pop a new one into my bullet journal.  I’m a big fan of these little notebooks in general and give them as gifts a lot – they make great stocking stuffers!
  • Stickers and Washi Tape – I usually keep my eyes peeled at Target for when stickers and washi tape are on sale and always do a quick cruise of the $1 section.  I have scored some great finds this way.  I had a giftcard to the Lara Casey Shop recently and purchased the Cultivate What Matters stickerbook pictured above and have been really happy with the design, colors, and quality of those stickers as well.

If this is something you are interested in, I recommend you check out Instagram for some great bullet journal inspiration – go down the bullet journal rabbit hole by searching #bulletjournal or #bujo.

Do you have a bullet journal?  Would you like to?  Did your methods of planning and organization change when you had kids (or got a dog)?  I’d love to hear about how you organize your life!  




Friday Favorites

Tropical Storm Cindy came through this week, so we did not have any exciting adventures outdoors.  Instead, we hung around inside with the doggies and went to bed early – who doesn’t sleep better with a little rain?


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

Creating a Livable Community

My father-in-law wrote a wonderful article in this week’s Beachcomber stressing the importance of making Destin a nicer place to live rather than just advertising for more and more tourists, which is what our local Tourist Development Council has been doing.  Give it a read here.

Staedtler Fineliners

I had been hearing about these pens for awhile, as they are a favorite of the Bullet Journal community (post to come on bullet journaling), and when I saw a multipack on sale at Target, I bit the bullet (hahaha) and bought them.  The colors are vibrant, the writing is smooth, and the carrying case is so cute and convenient.  I am definitely a fan!

Rockabye Baby!

I learned about Rockabye Baby! from an Instagram friend who has a son the exact same age as Carla May (her blog is here).  Rockabye Baby! is a music production company takes parents’ favorite music (think Grateful Dead, Beyonce, Metallica, Bob Marley, etc.) and records it as children’s lullabies.  We have really enjoyed listening to these, our favorites so far being “Proud Mary,” “No Woman No Cry,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Badfish,” “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” and “China Cat Sunflower.”  Even if you don’t have kids, you should check these out!

How was your week? What brought you joy?


Scenes from Our Weekend

We had a busy, busy weekend and a very special one celebrating Chatham’s first Father’s Day as a dada!

On Friday at the office, Carla May was having a ball in her pack n play.  She loved standing up and giving me “kisses” through the mesh.


We started swim lessons on Saturday, and I was sure that Carla May would just love it, since she gets so excited for bathtime or any other activity that involves water.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.


There were about 30 pairs of parents and babies in the class.  Carla May kept getting mistaken for a boy since her swimsuit is blue (I guess they didn’t notice the ruffle butt? Grrr).


She was excited initially to get into the pool, but as soon as the coaches had me lay her on her back, all hell broke loose!  She was screaming and kicking and struggling, but luckily she was in good company – most of the babies in the class had the exact same reaction.


In between exercises, she would cling to me like a little koala bear.  I probably have bruises behind my arms from how tightly she was grasping me with her tiny little fingers.  It was actually pretty adorable.


Chatham came to join in on the fun and try on Carla May’s sunglasses.  I may make him get in the water with her next week.


She was so happy to get out and sooo pitiful.  She went straight down for a three hour nap when we got home… she was worn out!!!


Chatham has started a new exercise routine consisting of running to Dewey Destin’s Snowballs (about 3 miles from our house) and then walking back after he has a snowcone.  It was super pretty out this weekend, so Carla May and I drove over after his run and joined him for a snowcone.  She loved her first taste of ice and pure sugar, of course!



Since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped by and visited Chatham’s grandmother afterwards.  She is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, and she always keeps plenty of toys around for the great-grandbabies.


Sunday was Father’s Day, and Carla May surprised Chatham with a wagon full of gifts and a mouth full of words – she said da-da!!!  The rest of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.


How was your weekend?  Did you do anything special for Father’s Day?


Monday Meme Round-Up

A couple good doggo memes and a kitter to start your week of right…

I'm gonna go ahead and say they all did flipping great. @memes

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prepare to die (thx for following @chaos.reigns_)

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Friday Favorites

We had a great week this week!  My sister Mellie, Carla May, and I went up to the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center on Wednesday for a tour with some of our friends with the Florida Wildlife Federation who were in town.  Neither Mellie nor Carla May had ever been to the Center, and it had been a good 8 months since I had been, so we all had a wonderful time visiting with the staff and the animals and seeing what new things are going on.


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

My Sister is Here for the Summer!

I mentioned this in my post on Wednesday, but I am so excited that my sister Mellie is living with us this summer!  She studied abroad in Spain all spring semester, so it had been quite awhile since I had seen her.  She is interning this summer at Nokuse Plantation studying gopher tortoises.  Here is a cute shot of Mellie before she left for her first day:


Date Night with my Husband

Chatham and I went to a wedding in Alys Beach last weekend and had a blast.  Now that we have a kiddo who goes to bed between 6 and 7 pm, we don’t get to be out and about much after dark, and especially not with just the two of us.

Right after we parked the car and were walking in, my shoe broke!  The footpad separated from the wedge and the shoes were no longer wearable.  It takes almost an hour and a half for us to drive from our home in Destin to Alys Beach in summer traffic, so there was no way I was going back.  I considered walking in barefoot, but decided that I am already Alabama enough…  The wedding was supposed to start in 10 minutes at this point, so I told Chatham to go ahead and I’d figure something out. Luckily there is ONE store in Alys Beach and they had ONE pair of wedges available.  I sprinted over to the Alys Shoppe barefoot, paid WAY more than I would prefer to on sandals, and shimmied into the wedding right before the bridesmaids began walking down the aisle.  Whew!  Despite this minor hiccup, we ended up having a fabulous time (and I got so many compliments on my cute new shoes!!).


Long Strange Trip

long strange trip

Chatham, Mellie, and I have been watching Long Strange Trip all week (only one episode to go) and it is utterly fascinating.  Long Strange Trip is a documentary series on The Grateful Dead streaming on Amazon Prime.  The series delves into the history of the band and how their music and fans have evolved.  Band members share their stories and commentary throughout the show, and there is a ton of never-before-seen footage.  I have learned so much about the band, about the music production process, and about the jam band culture that The Grateful Dead inspired.  It is interesting to learn how jam music was first created by The Dead and compare that to the music and performance styles of jam bands still touring today, like Widespread Panic, Phish, and String Cheese, bands of which The Dead is probably their biggest influence.

There is also a soundtrack to the series streaming on Apple Music that I have been listening to all week long.

How was your week? What brought you joy?