Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Great Alone

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah was my book club’s January selection.  I love Kristin Hannah.  I feel like she has really grown as a writer from what I perceived as chick lit to well thought out books.  She has expanded as I expanded my reading and as an adult reader she has consistently written books that I’ve adored.  I think I’ve only been disappointed once? Those are good odds!

The Great Alone is not what I would call light or a happy read.  It was dark, real and practically perfect for a January winter read.  It was dark, depressing and covered those emotions in the characters in the book.

The book is set in the 1970s and is about a family that moves to Alaska to start over AGAIN, because the dad needs a change.  He was a POW in the Vietnam War and he is not okay.  He clearly has what today would definitely be considered PTSD if not a host of other mental ailments.  He treats his family horrendously, and as his teen age daughter learns, beats his wife.

He is convinced that this chance to move to Alaska is what will make him better.  No one out there telling him what to do, living off the land, etc. etc.  They move to Alaska so unprepared.  They move in May and as soon as they get there everyone is talking about what to do to get ready for the winter.  Winter that according to the calendar doesn’t start until December.  But they learn quickly what winter in Alaska means.  They are woefully unprepared.  And the constant darkness? Spoiler alert:  It does not help his paranoia.

I read this book super fast.  I’ve struggled in my sleep deprived haze the last few months to barrel through brooks at the pace I’m accustomed, but this book was a very quick read.  I read it all on my phone and that may have had something to do with it.  I mean, I spend about 3 plus hours of my day nursing, and Adeline is not a calm nurser.  If I’m holding a book she is trying to kick it out of my hands.  She is funny, she demands constant attention.  As in, if you try to multi task while nursing me, even if my eyes are closed, I will try to disrupt you.  The phone is easier to hide from her but she still does her dardnest to knock it out!!!

Anyway, when we talked about it at book club, we had come across a series of questions and I wanted to post some here and answer them and invite others to answer them, as I know others have read this book too! So feel free to pick and choose if you’ve read the book, and if you haven’t I highly recommend it!

What aspects of the Alaska/homesteader lifestyle would you find the most challenging in the wild? How would you handle the isolation, the interdependence among neighbors, the climate? Would you have what it takes to survive?

I honestly would not be able to handle a lot of it.  I’m a wuss.  I do not hunt.  I do NOT like the idea of eating so much meat from having to depend on hunting.  I am not handy.  I cannot sew.  I also love electricity.  I am not someone anyone would want if the world was ending.  I also think that I could do okay in small bursts with isolation.  But for long periods of time I may not be able to handle it.  I think I can handle it now, because of social media.  But to eliminate ANY communication with people would be tough.  And limited books.  Eeek.

The Great Alone is set in the turbulent world of America in the 1970’s. Why do you think the author chose this time period? How did the world at that time, with the political unrest and kidnappings and plane hijackings, factor into the plot? Why do you believe the back-to-the-earth movement spoke to so many people in the seventies? Why did it speak to Ernt?

I think the time period helps the reader to understand the lack of outside communication, the ability to slip into new identities, no electricity, PTSD with no help, and the POW storyline.  All the doomsday news items helped Ernt ( the dad) delve into the paranoia he had about why they needed to be away from society and make their own way.

One of the issues highlighted in the novel is the lack of legal support for women in the seventies. Large Marge often makes the point that the law can’t help women like Cora, and Leni, even as young as she is, intuits that only Cora can save herself. Do you think that was true then? Is it true today? Does the law do enough to help battered women?

I think in some ways it is better and in some ways has not been fixed.  Shooting someone in the back does not go over well.  Even if he was attacking her daughter at the time.  I think people are more apt to believe women, but it is still EXTREMELY difficult for them to proceed in legal matters.

What is your favorite Kristin Hannah novel? Have you ever been to Alaska?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

5 Bookish Things I'm Loving Right Now

I'm back with the sixth installment of bookish things, that have caught my eye.  You can find my fifth installment here.  


We were gifted this adorable and so appropriate shirt from a cousin when I was pregnant.  We just got to bust it out! I couldn't resist a little photo op.  

I was a little disappointed that right after I grabbed a Nancy Drew for the 8 year old to read, I read an article about the racism in Nancy Drew books.  Ugh.  I haven't looked at these books since I was a kid and clearly didn't recognize it back then, but as a parent who is raising children to fight against that, it's disheartening.  Unsure, how she will feel about this book, but we may be having another frank discussion about books and racism soon.


My eight year old LOVE puzzles.  And needs a challenge.  I came across this puzzle at Barnes and Noble when I was picking up a gift card.  I couldn't resist.  They also had a YA one and another genre that I cannot recall at the time.  


I mentioned these socks in my last post, but I had to snap a picture of them on the child!!!

4.  This book review of The Tenant by Katrine Engberg has me interested in checking out the book! It looks like this author has a series (and we all know how much I love a good series!!!).  I added it to my TBR on goodreads and when I finish my current library pile I plan on checking this author/series out!

5. Reading with Adeline! I am trying to make a habit of sitting down in her bedroom and reading books until she gets bored/cranky once a day or so mid-day.  The following pictures are the books we got through until she was fussy one day recently.

 This is a cute book and I liked the colors and illustrations.

 I do not care for the Croc book but I do love me some hungry caterpillar!
She was trying to touch the black and white book.  By the middle of Go Dog Go, she was done! She wanted to go!

What bookish things are you loving right now?

Friday, January 17, 2020


This week has been a blur.  Finally out of the growth spurt and I got a couple 2 hour stretches of sleep again this week.  So maddening when she had been sleeping like 5 or 6 hour stretches.  I've said it before but I do mean it this time, we have to work on getting her into her own room.  I think she can put herself back to sleep at the 2 /3 time if I wasn't right next to her.  We also need to get blinds for her room and our room so naps can be longer.  

My favorite pictures from the week:

The high of my week was volunteering in the school library.  I really enjoy my time in there talking to the students and recommending books.

The low of my week was constant exhaustion.  The usual.

Meal plan for the week was I've already had to change up my monthly meal plan because of things popping up/ grocery store woes! It's okay though, we can roll with the changes.

Monday - Vodka Cream Pasta ( I LOVED THIS but the rest of my family was so so) crusty bread/butter and a salad
Tuesday -  Roasted sweet potatoes, scrambled eggs, toast and cantaloupe
Wednesday -  Cheesy Taco Soup , baked potatoes, cantaloupe
Thursday -  Chicken sandwiches, cantaloupe, and salad
Friday - cheesy taco soup leftovers, baked potatoes...

The best money I spent was on Burts Bees lotion and oil.  It smells so good!

What I’m listening to a few of Alyssa Milano's podcasts.  I'm still trying to decide if I like them or not.

What I’m watching I started watching the Aurora Teagarden movies on Hallmark that are based on the Charlaine Harris books! Also saw the first in the movie series of the Chronicles movies and Murder She Baked.  I may have a problem.

What I’m reading: Winter Solstice by Elin Hilderbrand

My plans for the weekend include working on the puzzle Isla got for Christmas, reading, watching movies and staying away from the 4-7 inches of snow coming our way.

What are you watching/reading/listening to?

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Day in My Life

I always love being a voyeur into other peoples daily lives and last week I got inspired to try to keep track of what a day in my current life status looks like.

12:07 am - Adeline wakes up to eat.  I nurse her and then fall back to sleep.

2:15 am - Adeline wakes up to eat.  I nurse her and as I put her back down I hear a little critter in my attic.  Needless to say I felt like I never fell back asleep until the next feeding.

4:07 am - Adeline wakes up and I nurse her again.

Approximately 6:30ish my husband apparently forgets himself and turns on the light!!!! In our bedroom and promptly wakes me up.  My alarm was set for 7 but every precious moment of sleep counts!! About 6:50 Adeline wakes up, so I change her and go to the bathroom thinking I'd be feeding her right away but she was okay to sit in the bouncer while Isla helped me get her breakfast and lunch around and a pot of coffee on.

7:10 Adeline nurses while I drink a cup of coffee and Isla gets dressed and ready for school.  Then she entertains Adeline while I get dressed.

7:45 I throw a load of clothes in the washer and then we hang out in the living room.  Isla reading, me scrolling fb, drinking coffee and eating a muffin and Adeline laying on her play mat until we leave to take Isla to school.

8:21 We are out the door and on our way to get Isla to school.  We were running early but Adeline was acting like she needed a nap and so we just got in the car to go because she was fussy.  We drop Isla off and then I take a round about way home to continue her nap.

9:00 We are home and Adeline wakes up immediately.  I nurse her and she acts cranky so I try to put her down for a nap.  I make avocado toast with Everything but the Bagel seasoning and eat it, with a Hallmark movie on, while she yelled/cried for a bit and then put herself to sleep.

10:22 she woke up but was still tired.  I nursed her and she ate/slept on me for a bit and then we 'talked' with each other for a bit and then went to her room so I could go through and sort through some more clothes of hers that are too small.

12:09 I nursed her again.  When I was done I was starving, so I warmed up leftover mashed potatoes and chili from earlier in the week and ate that with a touch of sour cream and cheese.  Then Adeline played in her jumpy thing and on her mat for a bit and I switched/folded laundry.  Then she laid down for a nap.  I was exhausted so I finished watching a Hallmark movie and then I read some of my book.

2:29 She woke up and I nursed her again.  Then I switched the laundry again and folded more laundry and put it away.  Then I cleaned the top shelf of the fridge and rearranged some stuff.  Then I  got some stuff out on the counter for dinner.

3:40 We left to go get Isla from school.

4:20 We were back and I pre heated the oven and got meatballs on the tray and pots out for dinner before I needed to nurse her.  Then I finished making us dinner which consisted of meatball subs, refried bean dip (utilizing leftovers from earlier in the week) and chips.  After dinner I cleaned up the kitchen and swept the floor and then I fed her again at 6:05. Then she was getting kind of cranky so my husband went to put her in pajamas and I decided I should probably get in the shower.

7:07 she was still cranky so I fed her for just a bit, then I tried to trim her nails and I cut her.  So that upped the drama.  I got her in bed about quarter to 8.  We were letting out 8 year old stay up later this week to watch the first half hour of the Jeopardy Greatest of All Time Championship.  So then we watched that together and put her to bed at 8:30.

8:30 -     I ate some garlic hummus and pita chips and watched a recorded show "Brad Paisley thinks he's special,"and read some of my book until I went to bed shortly after 10pm.

10:20 Before I could even fall asleep, Adeline woke up and needed to nurse.  I fed her and then finally went to bed.

Hopefully, very soon we will be back to longer sleeps at night! She had been doing 5 hour stretches.  I need those back!!!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Library Haul!

Our library updated their system in the Fall last year and gives us wonderful tidbits like how much money we saved by going to the library ( I was at $967 and change from July on, but let's be real, I would not buy all of those books!) an easier to navigate website and we no longer have to pay 25 cents for holds.  This is life changing for me.  I've been able to put a bunch of books on hold and then walk right in and be out in under 5 minutes with the baby, because they are all up front for me.  Woohoo.  The 8 year old needed some new books and I saw this article about books for 2nd and 3rd graders who are advanced in reading and so I requested 7 of them and we picked them up last night!

Let's ignore the bad photo.  I deleted the wrong photo off my phone and I'm too lazy to take a new one / edit this one.

She is thinking about starting The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald first.

Description: The best con man in the Midwest is only ten years old. Tom, a.k.a., the Great Brain, is a silver-tongued genius with a knack for turning a profit. When the Jenkins boys get lost in Skeleton Cave, the Great Brain saves the day. Whether it's saving the kids at school, or helping out Peg-leg Andy, or Basil, the new kid at school, the Great Brain always manages to come out on top—and line his pockets in the process.

I'm thinking that I will be reading some of these before they need to go back as well!  Book Scavenger and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library particularly look good to me.

Description: Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

In this cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Night in the Museum, Agatha Award winner Chris Grabenstein uses rib-tickling humor to create the perfect tale for his quirky characters. Old fans and new readers will become enthralled with the crafty twists and turns of this ultimate library experience.

Description: A hidden book. A found cipher. A game begins . . . .

Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold's attackers make them their next target. 

Have you read any of these books? What do you have checked out from the library?

Friday, January 10, 2020


We have barely survived the week back into real life after the holidays.  So tired! Mixed with growth spurt and multiple wake ups and having to get the 8 year old to school, this week has been busy! Today I am volunteering in the classroom, picking up a Target Drive Up order, and preparing for the horror of snow/cold/whatever that is coming our way, which is funny when right now it is 48 degrees????

My favorite picture from the week:

The high of my week was volunteering in the school library! My mom officially retired at the end of the year and in January she's hanging with Adeline a few times so I can volunteer at the elementary school again! This week I was in the library on Tuesday and then helped put together the Friday Folders in the 3rd grade class.  Next week I am going to volunteer in the library again.

The low of my week was lack of sleep and an 8 year old who apparently has forgotten how to listen and follow directions! OH MY LORD.

Meal plan for the week was  so for 2020 I am trying to get back into meal planning a month ahead.  This has always helped us safe money on groceries and it makes me less crazy than asking weekly what people want for dinner.  I'm also trying to use one of our cookbooks a month, going through it and trying recipes from them.  If we decided we like nothing from the cookbook, might as well get rid of it! Especially since we get most of our 'new' recipes from the internet! For January, I'm using my Rachael Ray 30 minute Meals Cookbook.

Monday -  Chili for Veg Heads aka Vegetarian Chili topped with tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream   (This is pretty much the recipe I used.  I got it from her cookbook that ive had for a gazillion years.  We used 1 red pepper, 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 1 tablespoon 1 cumin, half an onion diced, I used beef broth, left a few seeds of the jalepeno in, and used regular vegetarian refried beans) My 8 year old liked it but said she'd only eat it if she had sour cream because it was just a bit spicy for her.
Tuesday -  Italian Mini Meat Loaves, mac and cheese (kraft not the recipe here) and a salad ( ANOTHER family winner.  My 8 year old ate about half of her mini loaf and said she'd try another meat loaf that had cheese in it.  My husband loved it and I felt for a meat loaf, it was pretty good.  No sauce needed.)
Wednesday - Garlic Roast Chicken (this recipe calls for 6 garlic cloves and the cookbook calls for 4)  and mashed potatoes --- this was just okay
Thursday -  Meatball subs, refried bean dip w/ chips 
Friday - Chili and baked potatoes

The best money I spent was on lunch with my mom? She watched Adeline on Tuesday and we split a salad and sandwich from a local restaurant.  So yummy.

What I’m listening to back logged podcasts.  Especially ones dealing with Iran.  Ugh.

What I’m watching Hallmark movies that I didn't watch before the holiday!

What I’m reading: The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

My plans for the weekend include wondering if the weather is going to be as horrible as they are making it sound.  Our taco dinner with friends got rescheduled AGAIN and Isla and her friend are supposed to be models for a local studios camera class.

What are you watching/reading/listening to?

Thursday, January 9, 2020

My 2019 Book Stats

Time for my 2019 Reading Recap. This may be slightly inaccurate as it is based upon my faulty sleep deprived memory! Here is 2018's recap.

How many books read in 2019? – 88! Which was 8 more than 2018.  My goal for 2019 was 52, so I succeeded that goal!

How many fiction and non-fiction? 5 non-fiction and 84 fiction books.  Which is less non-fiction than the year before, and I have been trying to read more non-fiction but with my pregnancy brain, it just wasn’t in the cards last year.  I did read quite a few fiction books based on true accounts!

Male/Female author ratio? 14 men and 51 women.  Quite a few authors I read a couple of their books this year.

Which author was new to you in 2019 that you now want to read the entire works of? I would say either Marie Benedict who wrote, The Only Woman in the Room, that I read or Julia Watts who wrote, Quiver.

Favorite book read in 2019? Overall, I’d say Becoming by Michelle Obama, but I REALLY enjoyed a lot of books I read.  I surprisingly gave 18 books 5 stars including Becoming.  The others that I’d recommend after thinking about them more are Ohio by Stephen Markley, The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth, Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, Before we Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the Word by Ashley Herring Blake, The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen, The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict, and Quiver by Julia Watts.

Least favorite? The Hampton Connection by Vincent Lardo, Maid of Murder by Amanda Flower, and The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish. 

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why? The Alice Network and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I really wanted to like both of them and plan on giving them another chance at a later date.  They just weren’t what I needed at the time. 

How many pages did you read? 28,952

How many books from the library? 53, which is 3 less than last year.  I focused on clearing off some bookshelves in the spring of books I already owned, but still a lot from the library.   

How many books read did I purchase? Quite shocking for me, but of the ones I read last year I only bought 2 in 2019 for book club I think. However, 16 were purchased in other years.  Mostly from fill a bag day at the library.

How many were gifts? 5 I think.  3 were from Christmas in 2018. 

How many borrowed from others? None.

How many were given to me for reviews? 2

How many books read on kindle
? 1, Sister’s First.

Any re-reads? Boxcar children and Little House on the Prairie books that I read with my daughter. 

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading? United States, Japan, Canada, France, England, Australia, Singapore, China, Syria, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Austria

from a spark of light 

What states did you go through the page in your year of reading?  Ohio, Illinois, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Massachusetts, California, North Dakota, Wyoming, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Michigan, West Virginia, Tennessee, Washington D.C., Wisconsin, Florida, Mississippi

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation?  Ayesha at Last, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, and Front Desk

Which author did you read the most of? 3 Sarah Addison Allen, 3 Sarah Dessen, 4 Nancy Coco, 4 Amanda Flower, and 4 Louise Penny.

What was your best reading month? July when I read 15.

What was your worst reading month? October I only read 2 books.

Top Ten Reading Moments of 2019

- Finishing the Little House series as a read aloud with the fam.
- Visiting the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum.
- Reading 15 books in one month!
- Introducing the Boxcar series to my kiddo.
- Watching my child get super excited for library trips.
- Recording my kid’s reading on goodreads with her and plotting out what book she should read next.
- Reading together with both of my girls.
- Watching the newest version of Little Women in the theatre.  Little Women is one of my favorite books from childhood!
- Volunteering at the elementary library and seeing kids excited about reading and learning about new books and seeing how awesome the library is at the school!
- Putting together a 12 pack of books for my best-friends newest baby.  One book a month for the first year.

2019 Reading Goals - Revisited

1.    Read 52 books.  I read 88!

2.    Read more books on my shelf. Continue donating so my living room book case looks better.  I read 21 books that were already on my shelf and then I donated them! (Not counting the Little House books in this!)

3.    Try to do our family read aloud 5 out of 7 days a week.  This did not work.  After I was pregnant, it was hard for me to focus and then we finished the Little House books and we just kind of stopped.  I read books together with the 8 year old but we didn’t do the family read alouds.  We are talking about doing Charlotte’s Web together but now she wants to read Little Women and that would just be the two of us.

2020 Reading Goals
1.   Read 60 books.
2.   Read more books from my shelf and clear them out.
3.   Write more about what I read.

How many books did you read this year? Did you complete your 2019 reading goals? What are your goals for 2020? Which author did you read the most of? What was your most recommended book? Any you couldn't finish?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Currently January

Starting out 2020, here is what's up currently...

Reading:  The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

Loving:  that my mom is retired and I am able to utilize her baby watching services and volunteer in the oldest child's school again!

Feeling: so tired! Glad I am not working.  Also, glad to have the holiday season behind us! 

Anticipating: the weekend and not having to go out into the world twice a day!

Grateful: I am able to stay home, volunteer, and keep our household running smoothly.

Working: purging/cleaning/decluttering our house.

Listening: podcasts.  I'm so far behind anything current.  Have been enjoying Season Three of Slow Burn.

Watching: I have a back log of Hallmark Christmas movies to get me through the winter!

Wishing: that we can get a summer trip planned!

What are you reading> What are you loving?