Wednesday, February 28, 2018

State Parks and Scenic Highways & Byways

You guys! If you know me at all you know one of my favorite things to do is to go on a road trip. I love State Parks, I love scenic highways and long roads, car snacks, music play lists, books, I love all of it. As soon as I saw a tour for these two books I had to get on it because this is my way of geeking out!

National Geographic presents..
State Parks and  Scenic Highways & Byways
Get your summer road trip organized and planned with these two books! National Geographic is the leader of amazing things to see and do so you know you won't go wrong. I always measure the greatness of a travel book by looking up places I know, mostly my home state, and if they picked the highlights there I'm pretty confident it's great across the board.

I live in northern Wisconsin, right next to Minnesota so I get the best of both states. In the Scenic Highways & Byways book I looked up the Great Lakes area because I've gone on a lot of the roads they've highlighted- all are amazing. In Wisconsin our favorite is the Apostle Islands Country drive but Minnesota is definitely the North Shore Scenic Highway. Easily. I've done a few of the other ones in Minnesota without even knowing it was considered a scenic highway, so that was pretty fun.

In the State Parks book, I was happy to see that Copper Falls in Wisconsin made the cut! It is an absolutely stunning park with a great loop to see several of Wisconsin's waterfalls.
Copper Falls, Wisconsin

I was just a little bummed to see that Jay Cooke and Gooseberry Falls in Minnesota are only listed in the "other great parks" column- those are must see if you come to Minnesota! Some of the other ones I haven't been too but have been on a someday list, maybe this summer we'll cross one or two off of our list! 

Overall? I was so impressed with these books. You get your money's worth with these and they would be perfect to throw into your bag as you set out on your road trip, you never know where it might take you. 

   

A Dangerous Game (EXCERPT!!)

I'll have the review for this book for you in a few weeks but today we're taking part of an EXCERPT tour so you can read a portion of the book yourself.

A Dangerous Game - Heather Graham
The third novel in the New York Confidential series by long-established NYT bestselling romantic suspense author Heather Graham. This is the author's romantic-suspense stream, in addition to her successful ongoing mass market paperback paranormal romantic suspense series.

Psychologist Kieran Finnegan is thrust into the middle of an investigation into human trafficking when a desperate woman shoves an infant into her arms and then flees...only to be murdered minutes later on a busy Manhattan street. Despite the fact that it isn't an FBI case, Special Agent Craig Frasier starts poking around, because Kieran can't stop thinking about the child and the victim. Their one lead comes through the pub, Finnegan's on Broadway. One of the waitresses also volunteers at a church outreach center, and had been in contact with a distraught young pregnant woman, whom she recommended Kieran to as someone who might be able to help her. When Kieran goes to the outreach center to do some off-the-books investigating of her own, she is approached by two women who are worried for their missing friend, and who reveal that they were part of a human trafficking ring that did business in babies. As Craig and Kieran delve deeper into the underbelly of NYC trying to find out more, the dangerous elements of the ring come to the surface, hoping to silence Kieran before she exposes them.


It was her fault, and she knew it. Craig was up early.

She’d finally fallen asleep. But knowing she’d kept him up meant that guilt riddled her. When he got up to leave and head into the office, she got up to start the coffee.

She pulled out her laptop. She had a desktop computer at work but had it networked with her laptop—it was a good setup. It had often enough saved her from having to go back into the office over a small detail—a note that one of the doctors might need, or even something that she wanted to reread herself to help her with a case they were working on.

She often interviewed and provided therapy for abused women—and occasionally men. It was certainly not in the same number, but there were men who suffered from abuse. One of her recent cases, Harold Lenin, was certainly that man—he’d been given black eyes by his wife, broken bones and tons of bruises. He’d kept silent through the years, a sad, cowed, little man. He was learning how to live again, recovering from his gunshot wounds.

He wouldn’t receive any more of them. His wife had shot him while they were up on the roof. She hadn’t been familiar with the gun and the kickback had sent her over the roof—and down thirty-five floors.

A lot of the people on the street that day had needed therapy, too.

Oddly and sadly, there were many such cases. They were also working on one case in particular now in which a man had snapped—and killed his wife. An all too common occurrence. As it turned out in depositions from neighbors and his own children, his wife had physically and mentally abused him for years, striking him constantly in the head. Apparently, for a few decades, he—like poor Harold—had just taken it.

His lawyers were still trying to plea bargain his case. Was it self-defense? He had finally slugged her back. He was a big guy; she’d fallen hard across the room, struck the edge of a credenza and dropped dead.

The reports issued by Kieran’s office would be incredibly important in what kind of punitive measures the man would face. He had killed his wife, and the prosecution was arguing it hadn’t been self-defense, not by the legal definitions that usually set someone free in a courtroom. And women and children were far more often victims of this kind of violence.

Her cases were often very sad, and frustrating. Kieran could usually work really hard and with tremendous empathy and still go home at night. But this thing with the baby…

None of the cases in their office at the moment seemed to have anything to do with an infant.

Ah. What about Melanie and Milton Deering?

At the offices of Fuller and Miro, they were also working with a scary pair—a murderer and his bride. The question was just how much the bride knew about the murder—and if she had participated.

Yes, looking at it all, Kieran felt a bit overwhelmed by the number of bad cases on the books right then.

But nothing that might have to do with a baby.

Her newest case was Besa Goga. Her crime had been biting. She’d bitten the cable man. At the rate cable men actually showed up in the city of New York, it might be unusual that more people didn’t strike out in one way or another.

How had the woman known about their office? 

“Who were you?” Kieran wondered aloud. “Why me?”

And then she wondered how the baby was doing.

Fine! The baby was going to be fine! 

She looked at her computer again and then emailed Drs. Fuller and Miro, asking them if they could think of anything at all that might help figure this out.

Of course, maybe it wasn’t that much of a dilemma. People knew about Fuller and Miro—they were rock stars in their chosen field. Not that being celebrated by your peers meant anything to the general public, but the doctors were known for their talents and the way they helped law enforcement. Word of mouth. In the same way, people knew about Kieran. She had managed to get her name in the paper a few times—she felt lucky the police had helped her avoid the media last night.

The thing was, they weren’t out there in the same way as true stars or personalities—actors, musicians, artists, performers—but neither were they any kind of secret.

So what did that mean? Had that woman just known that getting the baby to someone in that office would guarantee police—and help?

Why not just head to a police station?

Kieran yawned.

It was Saturday. She could go back to sleep.

She headed to her room and crawled into her bed.

Two minutes later, she was up again.

She showered and dressed. She was tempted to call Craig, but she absolutely refused to allow herself to do so. No sense driving him crazy at this point, too.

She had the thought that it was too bad that—at this moment—the apartment was almost spotlessly clean. She might start cleaning spotlessly again. No, she would find something else to do.

But it was Saturday. For many places in the downtown area, it was a slow day.

But, Finnegan’s was a popular pub, the kind of place people were willing to take the subway or cab to reach, even on a weekend.

Perfect.

She would go to work!

She headed into the bedroom for her jacket and purse and then paused. She’d left the television on.

And she was staring at a reporter who was talking about the murder. And the baby. And she suddenly found herself sitting at the foot of the bed.

Watching.

Even though there was nothing the reporter could say that she didn’t already know.
********

Doesn't that sound so good, you guys? Heather Graham is a really solid author and I've yet to read something from her that I didn't love. Do yourself a favor, order the book and read along with me so that by the time I do my review you can see if you agree with me.
   

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Fried thoughts.

I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed and fried lately. Like I can't form a coherent thought and I have no idea what to share with you, but I feel like I should be sharing something. So here are some things bouncing around in my head.

  • I had therapy today and she gave me some interesting things to think about. One being my belief that I'm not supposed to be here, that my soul or spirit (at least part of it) has crossed over and it's why I feel empty, like I'm just in the wrong place. She asked me if I thought some of that passed into Lucy, given Lucy's tendency to stare at me like she knows a secret about me. It's unnerving at times though I'm getting better about not being creeped out about it now. But I thought that was an interesting thought, what happens to us when we die? I wish I could have brought back some information for you all. And me. 
  • She wants me to make a list of "I Am" statements, divided into two columns: negative and positive/neutral. It doesn't matter how small they are, make my list and we'll talk about it. Maybe I'll do that and share with you, too. 
  • On Friday I get to speak in front of the medical community near me about my AFE and what my life after it has looked like. I have this fear that they want me to be Pollyanna and "it's so great and I am so blessed" but that isn't true to what my experience has been. I'm trying to turn my negative into a teaching tool for them so that the next mom has more support than I did. If it changes anything, I'll consider it a success. It's really strange but I don't care what my family thinks about me but I really want my doctors to be proud of me. Is that odd? It feels odd. I want them to look at me and think, "we did the right thing" because I'm doing something worthwhile not just because kids supposedly need a mother. 
  • Raising a daughter is harder than I thought it was going to be. I'm finding that I'm having to catch myself and not guide her towards choices and decisions because it's what I would choose, or because it would be easier for me, or because I think I'm right. I am having to constantly tell myself to let her choose, let her make mistakes, stop saving her and it's really hard. 
  • Did I tell you I have an eye appointment in April? I feel like my eyesight is getting worse and worse by the week and I'm finding that I need to wear my glasses more and more, not just for driving anymore. Today it was so bright out I had to use sunglasses and I realized I couldn't see anything and it got me wondering can I get cute sunglasses with prescription lenses? I bet those cost a pretty penny. 
  • My birthday is coming up and I feel like I want to make a wish list just for fun. Or to drop Matt some serious hints. I get to do something kind of fun on my birthday but more on that later. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Week in the Life.. snow.

You guys, I was so hoping we'd get through winter without much snow. I thought the end was actually near. 

But I live in northern Wisconsin and I should know better. 

We've gotten hit with three "storms" which really aren't storms they just dumped a decent amount of snow on us. One day last week the roads weren't plowed so my mom couldn't get here. I was by myself the entire day and yikes. Every time I start feeling like I can do it by myself, I'll be OK, a day like that comes and I'm reminded that no, it's best that I don't. I don't want to talk about it but just know I spent a lot of time that night crying at how far I've gone down as a mother. Thank god I have therapy this week. 

In other news, with all of the snow, that means it needs to be shoveled. 
 Jackson informed me that next winter he's going to shovel for money. I told him he better practice this year so he's at least good at it. 

Last week I also had easily the worst MRI experience of my life. I was supposed to get an MRI of my left hand which I think my Rheumatologist is convinced is not Raynaud's but an injury or some other reason. Spoiler, it's Raynaud's because my hand is structurally just fine. But they never did get a contrast MRI because they couldn't get a line in me to inject the dye. Five tries later, where all five burst my veins, I went home in tears and exhausted. 
 And my left hand still turns purple. 
 My cats are assholes. This is Stumpy. Stumpy has now taken to drinking out of the toilet because he refuses to wait his turn at the water bowl. But I think there's something wrong with him because recently he's decided he isn't using the litter box, he is going to take a man sized poo wherever he feels like it. I don't know if he's sick or if it's a dominance issue? We got rid of one cat, Ginger, because four was too many. I hate to get rid of Stumpy because he's weird and my favorite, but good gravy, I can't be dealing with this. I'm falling apart just fine on my own. 
 Then we have Lola who, now that Ginger is gone, believes she's the queen of the household. She is pretty, though and she's so fluffy. I wish she were more like Stumpy and aggressively wanted attention but now. She does not care for me rubbing my face in her fur. She hates it. 
 I realized I never shared a picture of my new purse and wallet with you! I've gotten so many compliments on it. I have waited for so long for this baby, I'm thrilled with it. My friend Jessica from Twigs & Needles made it and she makes the best stuff. 

I am running into more day to day issues with short term memory loss and it's so frustrating. I've gotten beyond my, "I don't need to write that down, I'll remember it!" phase and now I'm into the "what exactly does my note even mean?" phase. 
If anyone could figure out what this means, that would be helpful. It's been a couple of weeks and I still have no clue. I'm leaving it in my planner in case it comes to me in the middle of the night and I don't revert back to the "I don't need to write it down, I'll remember it!" phase. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Where I Live

I am blown away by this book.

Where I Live - Brenda Rufener

This evocative debut YA novel tells the story of Linden, a homeless teen secretly living in her high school. Together with her makeshift family of close friends, Linden struggles against the hardships of her past and begins to shape a bright future. Perfect for fans of Jennifer Niven and Nicola Yoon, this is a stirring novel about overcoming all odds. 

LINDEN ROSE HAS RULES FOR SURVIVAL.

1. Prevent the in-class nap.
2. Never carry too many belongings.
3. Avoid looking the part. 

Her rules guarantee no one discovers her secret–that she’s homeless and living in the halls of her small-town high school. Her best friends, Ham and Seung, have formed a makeshift family, and writing for her school’s blog prevents downtime. When you’re homeless, free time sucks. Despite everything Linden’s burdened with, she holds on to hope for a future and a maybe romance with Seung.

But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, the damage hits too close to home. Linden begins looking at Bea’s life, and soon her investigation prompts people to pay attention. And attention is the last thing Linden needs. 

To put a stop to the violence, Linden must tell the story. Even if it breaks her rules for survival and jeopardizes the secrets she’s worked so hard to keep.


In this book we follow high school senior, Linden Rose, as she navigates her last year of high school while homeless. She's only homeless if you don't consider her home, the school, an actual home. She has an entire process to stay under the radar, of how to get into the building after hours, and what to do if she can't. It's a heartbreaking look at the reality of a lot of students among us. She was able to be a mini adult after the murder of her mother and she didn't want to get sucked into the foster care system so this was her next best option.

Not only is she juggling homelessness but she's also a teenager, which is hard enough. She's got her best friends Ham and Seung, and she starts to develop feelings for Seung. But things aren't as easy as they seem because Seung is coming into his own, too.

There is a parallel story with Bea, the girl who bullies Linden, in which she's a total witch to Linden but true to bullying form, she has her own problems which probably makes her the way she is. She's dealing with teenage domestic violence and when we find out the story behind all of that it's kind of surprising and shows how we misread people all of the time.

But before we know it, Linden is forced to be honest with her friends and school and she has to decide if she's willing to trust people with her secrets. Can she open up in time to save her friendships and herself?

I'm giving this book a solid 4.5 stars. It was well written and if I had to be critical I felt like we almost veered too much into Bea's story and it got a little long. But once things started unraveling I really got into it again and found myself rooting for Linden all the way.

Where I Live will be available on February 27, 2018 but you can pre-order it now!

   

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Flute, markers, and deception

I haven't been very good at documenting my adventures in parenting so I'll play catch up here. 

So way back in January Olivia had her first band concert at the middle school. She chose to play the flute and we made it clear that if you were going to take up an instrument you were going to play it all three years of middle school. 

To get our money's worth and all of that. 

True to her word, she practices daily. Excessively. If I had to imagine what the first gate of Hell sounds like it has to have the soundtrack of a flute to it. It's just... it grates on your nerves. Possibly the worst instrument ever for someone with auditory processing disorder, if we're being honest. 
 I remember way back at the beginning of the year the band teachers warned us it would sound like dying cats but by January we'd be able to identify actual sounds. True to their word, the first couple of months was ROUGH and I was worried she was actually going to fail band and I didn't know what they do for kids in that boat. 

But the day of the concert she came and she was so prepared. You can pick Olivia out as the kid clutching her hot pink band folder. We had to do her hair that morning, we had to go pick out a dress, Matt had to bring her to school because she didn't want her hair to get messed up. 

It really struck me how old she is. How we are so close to her being independent of me, closer to the time where she'll not need me as much. 
 They did so well and I found myself tearing up the entire time. I was so proud of her, of all of the kids, and I wish I had brought tissues. I went up to get a picture afterwards but had to wait because she was mobbed by other girls congratulating her on how well she did and how pretty she looked. I was only able to get a quick snap before she left us for her friends. 

And that's how it goes, isn't it? 

I am never left in that somber mood for long because inevitably, something happens to balance it out. 
 On this day, Lucy found markers. 
 Penelope encouraged her to put on "makeup". Thankfully it's washable and with some soap and mild scrubbing she was good as new. She's much better about the markers now. 
 I have to share this one because Penelope looks like the sweetest little thing here. What you don't know is that it was 9 p.m., two hours after her bed time, and she was telling me there were Bergens in her room. For those who have no idea, Bergens are from the movie Trolls and they are the bad guys, they eat trolls. I had to explain that no, no Bergens are in her room, and she started laughing and ran upstairs. It is never a dull day with this one. 

Being stuck in the house the majority of the week means I don't get out to the stores much so I've turned to online shopping to get what I can. It definitely has it's perks, the convenience is kind of great. If only I can get all of my groceries at a reasonable price, but I'm certain my mailman might kill me. 
 Because any given DAY it looks like this.  It's not MY fault that Amazon sends things in multiple boxes. I'd like to know how they make money from free shipping and sending stuff out in separate boxes, if we're being honest. But on this particular day Matt was actually home and greeted the mailman who says, "I see Sara's been shopping again." 

You TRAITOR. 

I had to tell Matt that I am dependent on mail as my only entertainment. So send me letters! Fun packages! Something. 

One of those boxes contained this beauty. A retro, hand turn mandolin! I bought it with a gift card I had gotten and I love it. 
I've only used it to cut potatoes for potato chips cooked in my air fryer, but I have an urge to slice all of the things. It's surprisingly soothing. What should I make?! It comes with three drums and can go in the dishwasher. I'm ridiculously excited about this entire thing. 

Alright, so that's a decent recap of life lately. Tomorrow I'll likely have another book review for you. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Restlessness.

One of the symptoms of depression and anxiety that I experience the most is restlessness. I feel fidgety, I have a hard time sitting down. But I don't know what to do so I am often found wandering around my house looking for something to do. Or eat.

Except I don't really want to do anything and I'm not hungry.

I do something and eat at the same time.

I'm exhausted and I hurt so exercise isn't a go to. I try to reserve that for when I'm so angry I feel violent, I use it to burn my energy.

So I start something and quickly grow bored. Then I sit at my computer and waste time on Facebook. Or here. Like now. But then I don't feel productive so I get up and go back to what I had started, often a book or a scrapbook page, and I make a real effort to pay attention, stay focused, just do this thing.

Except that I can't.

So I wander some more.

Every day of my life is this way and I'm not sure how to fix it. I want to be content doing nothing, but content doing something, too.

I am so frustrated.

Breathe in.... hold it!

I forgot to tell you about how my visit with the Pulmonologist went this past week. Remember when I told you I had to take a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT)? Well it turns out my test was "abnormal".

So abnormal that I get to do it again!

We didn't get into the nitty gritty of it but one of the first numbers in the control test was 300, pretty alright. The second time you do the test is with the help of an inhaler basically so the number should never be less than the first test.

Mine was 116.

He's sure that that means the test wasn't done correctly; therefore, he is reluctant to give me any kind of assistance not knowing what my true numbers are. But since I have symptoms of some kind asthma (like when I exercise my chest hurts, I have a wet cough, and I can't take a deep enough breath) he gave me Albuterol for my inhaler. I'm probably butchering the spelling of that, but that's what I've got. The two times I've used it since I have noticed a marked difference in how I felt and breathed so I don't know, maybe this is something I need in my life.

The good news is my insurance covered the entire cost of it so that was pretty nice.

I go for my second PFT and follow up right after it in March so it'll be interesting to see what comes of that.

Also this last week I went to Rheumatology again and my blood work continues to confuse everyone. Symptom wise, I have tenderness in joints and I display a lot of the things on the Rheumatoid Arthritis checklist except my blood work and (so far) I haven't had an inflammation. I'm continuing my Methotrexate for all of that so maybe that's why, but I'm starting to feel moderately better. I still feel like I have the flu all of the time but it isn't as severe as it was this time last year, so I feel like we're moving in the right direction anyways.

I'm heading into my 36th birthday in a few weeks and it's so strange to think I am going into it with a litany of health issues. Never would I have expected to be dealing with all of this at this point, maybe in my 50's or something, but not now. I definitely feel older than 36. Much older.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The View From Rainshadow Bay

If there was a reward for book who has a cover that does not match the plot, this would win hands down!

The View From Rainshadow Bay - Colleen Coble

After her husband, Jack, dies in a climbing incident, Shauna has only her five-year-old son and her helicopter charter business to live for. Every day is a struggle to make ends meet and she lives in constant fear of losing even more than she already has.


When her business partner is murdered, his final words convince Shauna that she’s in danger too. But where can she turn? Zach Bannister was her husband’s best friend and is the person she blames for his death. She’s barely spoken to him since. But right now he seems her only hope for protecting her son.



Zach is only too happy to assuage his guilt over Jack’s death by helping Shauna any way he can. But there are secrets involved dating back to Shauna’s childhood that more than one person would prefer to stay hidden.



In The View from Rainshadow Bay, suspense, danger, and a longing to love again ignite amid the gorgeous lavender fields of Washington State.


I'll start by saying I'm giving this one a solid 4 stars. It's got a slow burn romance, but the suspense/thriller aspect of it is what carries this book. You wouldn't expect, judging by the cover, that we would have four dead within the first 100 pages, but the author comes out swinging as the Grim Reaper. She slows it up a bit, almost too much, for the rest of the book where we try to piece together seemingly random clues to find out what happened to all of these people. We find that deaths that have happened aren't what they seem, the past will always come back to haunt the present, and by the time we get to the whodunit, I didn't see it coming. I had an alternative theory that ended up not being it at all and that was a good surprise.

We have Shauna, still reeling from her husband's untimely death, front and center in the death of her good friend Clarence. She knows for certain it wasn't a gas leak but rather a bomb that blew up his home and killed him in the process. Grappling with that we have another death rather quickly which leaves Shauna in clear danger, forcing her to rely on Zach- her husband's best friend but who she also blames for his death because Zach was the only other person on their climbing trip. When her house is destroyed, and random clues that don't fit just yet but feel like they are connected, it's clear that there is a larger motive at play which leave Shauna and Zach to piece together because local law enforcement isn't great. Can they figure out who is at fault for all of this? What do all of these random clues mean?

Overall it's a pretty solid book, rivals something you'd expect from maybe Sandra Brown or even a lighter fare Nora Roberts, it has a great suspense plot to it. I feel like some of the strings left hanging like the police side of it was a bit of a let down. All of these higher up law enforcement were called in and we don't really hear much. We also meet so many characters, sure to be a distraction and get us wondering who the killer is, but I feel like the snippet of story introduced for them didn't go anywhere. I'm not saying this book should be any longer, in fact I would cut some chunks out to bring it down a bit, but it was a solid read. Once the murders happened and clues start piling up, I was sucked in and wanted to know what was going on.

If you're looking for a cozy mystery to get through the doldrums of winter, this would be a good pick.

   

Monday, February 19, 2018

18 months

I know I say it every month but it doesn't feel like Lucy can be 18 months already but then I think cripes, it's only been 18 months?!

I'll admit Lucy is maybe my favorite baby out of all of them simply because she is so easy. She's all about a meal, she loves to be snuggled, she likes to help and follow directions, she loves to play toys. She's really a textbook easy baby, what you would all want your first (or last) baby to be like.
We've decide she is Penelope's twin, my mom and I have a hard time telling the difference between Penelope's older photos and Lucy's current. It doesn't help that Lucy is wearing all of Penelope's old clothes so I can't even use that as a clue. 
She has the best personality out of all of them, a really good mix. She's got Olivia's sweetness and need to help/follow the rules, Jackson's quiet nature but love of snuggles, and Penelope's dramatics. 
I can't even lie and tell you that during the day I don't have a favorite because I do: Lucy. Lucy is SO MUCH EASIER to handle and deal with than Penelope. Penelope is a bull in a china shop, high demand, bossy, and has now taken up hitting so that's fun. Lucy just goes with the flow and is content to play Little People all day with small breaks for meals. 
Her favorite thing right now is to imitate whatever Penelope is doing, good or bad, except that she will actually listen to the word "no". 
On Tuesday she goes for another check of her heart murmur since it's still there and strong as ever. Better safe than sorry. My only real concern for her is the fact she doesn't talk. At all. All of my other kids were saying some kind of words, babbling at the minimum, long before this point so I don't know what my next step is. I have a call into the Birth to 3 program for a speech evaluation but I'm almost afraid to call her back and schedule it because I'm in denial that there might be something wrong. She can hear us just fine, and every once in awhile you hear what kind of sounds like "yeshhh" for "yes" but she does it so quietly you can hardly hear her. Sigh. But man... you can't help but love this baby, she's the best of everyone combined.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Scrappy Saturday: Almost finished a book!

It's pretty neat to think I've almost finished a scrapbook already. 
 I forgot all about these Fourth of July photos, they were not long after I had Penelope. I looked so great, I had lost baby weight and looked so happy. It's strange to see that person and realize it's me. I've talked often about feeling like I'm in someone else's body and it's things like this that confirm it for me. 
 These were from the summer of 2016, right before Lucy was born. 
 That picture of Matt and I is the last memory I have. It's the strangest feeling to scrapbook things pre-Lucy because the memories aren't there. It's hard to write about things you can't remember. 
And one of the oldest set of dance photos I had yet to scrapbook for Olivia. My little flamingo. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Photowall and Bedroom Makeover

Since moving into our house four years ago, almost five, we have updated and painted every single room. Except our bedroom. I've been at a loss because I didn't know what I wanted to do, the room is kind of small so I didn't know where to put things. It's a god awful shade of dirty blue right now with the ugliest wallpaper on the lower half of the wall.

It's just bad.

So a few weeks ago I was approached about Photowall prints and I was immediately intrigued because I had been looking for some kind of art to put on the closet wall, and I wanted it beachy but not cheesy. I already had a lot of moody black and white stuff downstairs and in our room I really want it to be calming and relaxing. So I went through and decided that instead of uploading my own photo (I had one from our recent trip to Florida), I found one of their stock photos that I really loved more. The bonus? The colors in it matched a pallet sign I had made months ago and my comforter.

Win.

So I ordered it and it arrived within a week. I was pretty impressed at how quickly it came. I ordered a canvas (you choose the size you want) wrapped onto a wooden frame. To keep shipping costs low the frame comes for you to assemble, with really easy to follow instructions. To say easy? Means even I could do it.
 Our first step was to lay the canvas down, add your frame pieces...
 ... have your husband do it so you can take photos....
... and voila! Your frame is assembled within five minutes!

You guys, the end result? STUNNING.
Photos do not do this picture justice. It came with the wall mount hardware too, which made it easy to get up onto your wall .
I tried to take some side photos so you can see how the canvas wraps around the frame beautifully,
but also so you can see the detail. From afar the water almost looks 3D. It's so pretty and it looks so great up on my wall.
The best part is its on my side of the room so it's the first thing I see, but it's also the first thing someone would see coming into our room. Those are the colors I want around my room, this picture is going to be my makeover inspiration!

But let's talk ugly- this wallpaper!
There is just so much of it and I know I don't have the time or patience to remove it, which is why I haven't done anything yet. It's even got a slight shimmer to it. *shudder* Can I just paint over it? I don't care if the wall ends up textured as I'm painting it a sand color so it would be kind of cool to have the texture but... do I get brave and just paint over it? What do I do??

If you're interested in doing your own art print, or choosing something out of their extensive catalog, you can get a 20% discount using code StrandUpdateCampaign2018 during the next 30 days. It's such a great deal and a pretty great company with fantastic customer service should the need arise. You can upload a photo you've taken of some great scenery, your kids, whatever and have it printed on canvas to whatever size you need. OR you can be like me and decide to leave it to the professionals because they clearly know what they are doing. There are SO many amazing images to choose from, I had it narrowed down to 21 and then kept trimming it down until I decided on this one.

Have you redone your bedroom? Any advice for me? Should I go with a blue blue or a sea blue/green for the top half of my walls?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

F*ck Love

This one was something I first saw on a Facebook ad, but then someone was raving about it. I already have another book by this author in my to-read pile so I bought this one impulsively, and I'm sure glad I did.

F*ck Love - Tarryn Fisher
Helena Conway has fallen in love.

Unwillingly. Unwittingly.
But not unprovoked.
Kit Isley is everything she’s not—unstructured, untethered,
and not even a little bit careful.
It could all be so beautiful … if he wasn’t dating her best friend.
Helena must defy her heart, do the right thing, and think of others.
Until she doesn’t.

The first chapter of this book does not do the rest of the book justice which is odd because the entire book is based on the dream she had, which is the first chapter. I wanted so much more out of that dream, but I guess we get what we get so let's not throw a fit. Helena finds herself having a dream of her life in the future and she has a Pottery Barn-esque home, she has two kids, and she has a husband... who happens to be her best friend's current boyfriend. Which is weird, because that's definitely against all girl code, right?

Well since the dream Helena starts seeing Kit differently. She changes up her life because her dream said she'd be really great at art so she starts taking art classes, trying to push her life towards the dream. Nothing is ever that easy though, so when she waffles, Kit is angry and wants her to pursue him, make her love known. Then when he waffles, that's what Helena wants Kit to do. It's a constant push and pull through the whole book and you almost get annoyed like, shit or get off the pot, folks! But a baby gets involved and everything has bigger consequences, so do they make it? Does true love really win out?

Here's what I loved, the humor. My god, this is my kind of author. Helena's character takes selfies for everything and on page 45 we read:

"I groan. Suddenly, I need to throw up again. Instead, I take a selfie. My hair is globbed up on one side of my head, and there is mascara streaking down my face. I put the photo in an album called Mortifying Emotional Moments, and I title it Soggy Napkin Note."

HA!

Another excerpt I liked and I think I texted it to at least 4 friends telling them they need this book is on page 59:

"There are definite, solid lines in life that should never be crossed. Developing a crush on your best friend's boyfriend is one of them. Showing up to his job frequently and drinking his fruity cocktails is another. I don't like him as much as Kentucky Fried Chicken, but hell if that boy didn't look at me and tell me I was pretty...excellent."

I also would rate guys based on food. Are they worth sharing my nachos or pizza? No? Keep it moving, fella.

Another reason I love this book? One of the characters suffers from an Amniotic Fluid Embolism during the birth of her baby, and SO DID I. I just about peed myself from excitement because it's a real thing and I'm thrilled to pieces to see if mentioned in a book.

Things I didn't love about the book is hands down Della. She was the WORST and I hated her more and more by the end. I almost wish there was some kind of epic show down between the three of them at the very end, and epilogue even. Something. Muslim's character was oddly thrown in here and I guess he's a character from another book who just happens to make an appearance but I hadn't read that book so him as a character was odd and confusing. I almost want a book just on him because he's kind of bizarre and scary.

Overall? I'm giving this one 5 stars. I know, I don't do it often, but it's warranted because this made me want to buy everything from Tarryn Fisher, and I couldn't put it down. It's a fun read.
   

A Shade of Blood

I'm not even kind of ashamed to say I bought through book seven of this series because that's how much I'm loving this.

A Shade of Blood - Bella Forrest
Edward doesn't appreciate me cheating on him with Derek. 

Having been delighted by the bestselling debut, A Shade Of Vampire, readers are begging for more. In A Shade Of Blood, Bella Forrest transports you deeper into a unique, enthralling and beautifully sensitive story. Prepare to be lost in its pages...


When Sofia Claremont was kidnapped to a sunless island, uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet, she believed she'd forever be a captive of its dark ruler, Derek Novak.

Now, after months of surviving an endless night, the morning sun may soon rise again for Sofia. Something has possessed Derek's heart and he offers her a gift no human slave has ever been given in the history of his cursed island: escape. 

High school, prom and a chance to move on with her life now await her. 

But will she be able to forget the horrors that steal her sleep away at night? ... or the feelings that haunt her for that tormented prince of darkness?

Let's just get to it. So at the end of book one, Derek decides to let Sofia and Ben go back to the human world. They leave, Sofia has regrets, Ben is angry, Derek is sad. Sofia and Ben try out a relationship but blah, Ben SUCKS, and Sofia doesn't have anything with Ben like she did Derek. Ben knows it, so before he knows it, Vivienne has come to convince Sofia to go back to The Shade and chase away the darkness from Derek and she goes. Vivienne is captured by Hunters but Sofia goes because she told her friend she would. Ben decides he's sick of waiting around, he is going to get revenge, so he joins the Hunters. 

But wait, what? The leader of the Hunters is WHO? (Actually I kind of saw that coming). By the way? This book makes me hate Ben even more. You ignore Sofia for years knowing that you were keeping her on the back burner so you can slut around and then call her up when you're ready? No it doesn't work that way, jerk. #teamDerek

Meanwhile, Derek is dark y'all, and Sofia came just in time! Derek decides he has to court Sofia all over again and base it on trust so he brings her to his sanctuary, which ends up being an old lighthouse. Inside is the entire history of The Shade and Sofia learns just how dark things once were and how evil Derek can be. Still, she's convinced he can be better. She decides to visit the area that holds the humans of The Shade and she realizes that though Derek is a vampire, humans are his responsibility too and the conditions and fear they live in are unacceptable. My guess is that the key for The Shade's survival is going to be to get humans on the vampire's side, that's what Sofia's role is going to be. I don't know for sure, but that's my guess.

Don't forget about Lucas-gone-rogue. He's discovering that word is out about him and he's on the run. He decides his only way to survive is to join another Coven, The Oasis, which is the enemy of The Shade. The families have been at war all of this time, though subdued, but when we find out who Ingrid Maslen is? WHOA.

GAME CHANGER, LAMBS.

I'm fully in for book three, I can't get enough of this series.
   

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Cruel Prince

I'm trying really hard to read books as they come into the house, but if you saw the state of my organized, but chaotic, bookshelves, you would roll your eyes at me and ask what part of that is actually true. But this book is one that I have read nothing but over the top, amazing, unbelievable reviews for and when it went on sale on Amazon I splurged (on a hardcover!!) and man.. I need to be a little more discerning to glowing reviews.

The Cruel Prince - Holly Black 

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.


Alright, lambs. It's been awhile since I have put something in the DID NOT FINISH category but I'm doing it. I got to page 204 out of 370 and decided I have wasted enough of my life on this book. This book is easily the lamest faerie book I have ever read. Let this be a lesson to us all to not buy into the hype of a book. Just because a bunch of 16 year olds' are raving about it doesn't make it great, it (at best) makes it mediocre.

The magical elements of this book aren't even thought through well enough (A faerie can only glamour a mortal, but not each other, how lame is that? Totally a useless tool.), the cruel prince himself (Cardan) and then mortal (Jude) supposed "romance"? No. No, absolutely not, not even by a tiny long shot.

Also? I don't picture Cardan like everyone else, my first vision of him resembles King Joffrey from Game of Thrones, he certainly behaves like it. I also don't like Jude whatsoever. Honestly, if I was a faerie, I'd probably try to murder her as well. She's got this cocky attitude and doesn't respect that she is, in fact, lesser than a faerie when you're in their world. All of the things that make us human make us completely useless and powerless against them in every way. You can fight all you want but they have more tools in their arsenal than you do. The kicker for me is that even by half way through the book I expected to read about this supposed romance, have more of a plot aside from Jude wanting to best Prince Cardan the most, but nothing. At what point in the book do you decide you're done with world building and you're going to give us a reason to continue reading? I know it's the first in a series so there's some buildup that needs to happen but this was just too much. I felt like the author was going off on tangents but wasn't confident enough to let one of them be the main plot of this book so she'd back track and start somewhere else.

Let's put it this way, I've been more excited about self published books with terrible editing than I am for this one. This also marks one of the incredibly few times where I won't pick up book two because I feel guilty. In fact, this book is worthy of a donate pile or even (I know, it's harsh) a trash pile. That's how much I didn't like the first 200 pages of this book.

   


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sensory play when it's too cold for your eyeballs.

If you are anything like me, the worst part of winter for someone who hates nature and outdoors, is that it is too cold to go outside. I know there are really great moms who put on winter gear and play in the snow with their toddlers. They take them for walks, get them used to the elements, and they don't hate their life while doing it. 

I am not that mom. 

I strongly dislike the cold, the wind, the snow. I am not meant to live in northern Wisconsin, yet here I am. I'm stuck here because my husband loves his job and I have this goal of all of my kids having a home town, graduating from a school system they've been apart of since preschool. Having friends that they know into adulthood, and all of that. 

I parent by guilt and by making up for what I didn't have, basically. So far that's worked pretty well. But there are times like now, when I'm basically stuck at my house and I feel guilty because Penelope and Lucy are getting a "lesser quality mom" than Olivia and Jackson had and I feel terrible. Some days it isn't so bad, some days it feels like it eats me alive. 

On this day, the natives were restless so I did what any mom ready to go insane would do. 
 She brings snow into the house and puts it in a little container to play in. Break out the mittens girls, because we're going to build a snowman. In the dining room. 
 It was a super fun idea for a full ten minutes and then all hell broke loose over a tablespoon and a bowl. 
 I couldn't just produce a second of these items, it had to be THAT blue bowl and THAT purple tablespoon. 
 I tried hard with a pink shovel. 
 While we were supervising the "sharing" I realized that Penelope was scooping snow into the kinetic sand container so that got ruined. My yard had a bunch of pink kinetic sand waiting to be cleaned up in the spring. 

Who am I kidding? That stuff will probably blow away or disintegrate right there, I have never swept my patio. 
Lucy just wanted to eat it which brought more concern because I did not check the snow quality and we have a dog. You do the math. It worked out because as I said, hell broke loose and the snow fun was over within ten minutes anyways. 

Where the Wild Cherries Grow

Sometime I get books in the mail by surprise, this was one of them. It's always a mixed bag, sometimes they aren't something I'd normally pick (like this one) but end up being unexpectedly good.

Where The Wild Cherries Grow - Laura Madeleine

I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before. It was like tasting for the first time. Like discovering colour . . .

It is 1919 and the war is over, but for Emeline Vane the cold Norfolk fens only are haunted by memories of those she has lost. In a moment of grief, she recklessly boards a train and runs from it all.

Her journey leads her far away, to a tiny seaside village in the South of France. Taken in by cafe owner Maman and her twenty-year-old son, Emeline discovers a world completely new to her: of oranges, olives and wild herbs, the raw, rich tastes of the land.

But when a love affair develops, as passionate as the flavours of the village, secrets from home begin blowing in on the sea wides. Fifty years later, a young solictor on his first case finds Emeline's diary, and begins to trace a story of betrayal, love and bittersweet secrets that will send him on a journey to discover the truth...


Alright, this book reminds me of Little Women, kind of. That's what I kept picturing as I read this. We have Emeline, who picks up and leaves her life at just 19, and her family assumes she's died. It's post war, it's chaos, anything could have happened to her. In an effort to find out, they hire solicitors to figure out what happened to her so that they can take care of present day estate issues. The story flip flops between Emeline and the man charged with finding out her fate, Bill. The more that bill digs into history, and Emeline's diary, the more he's convinced she is still alive despite her story. Secrets are uncovered, history isn't what it seems, and despite what he's hired to do, Bill continues on. I can't really give you more without revealing Emeline's fate, but I will tell you if you love the history flip flop, if you love secret love stories and root for the women to change the course of their life, this book is for you. Absolutely.

My only complaints? Some of the story is a bit slow, the descriptions of the lands of France are time consuming and cumbersome. We get it, it's gorgeous, does it warrant repeating often? I don't think so. It's a slow moving mystery and my favorites are the ones that are fast paced and have you gripping the book in suspense. This definitely isn't that, it's a slow burn. Overall I'm giving this one a 3 1/2 stars. It was beautiful, I loved the fate of Emeline and how we discovered it, my only quips are the slowness of the pace and some of the redundant descriptions. I almost chose to not finish it but my curiosity won out.