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DIY: A Beginner's Guide to Subway Tile

I don't have a lot of hobbies beyond reading but if I had time to choose another, it would be DIY for our home. I can't tell you enough how much joy I get from living in this house. It is a dream come true for me. Christopher and I have so much fun thinking of more ways to make it more "us" and doing DIY projects together. And when I say "together," I mean I find the pins on Pinterest and he does the rest. My hubs is nothing if not handy with projects and so we make a great pair! 

Our kitchen is small but still a natural gathering place every time we have friends and family over. It was missing a little extra touch that would make it more "kitchen" like and because it's one of the first rooms people see when they come in the front door, I felt like it needed something extra. I started looking at Subway tile installation on Pinterest and I just knew that was the perfect thing we needed. When we moved in, there was no  back splash in the kitchen, just drywall. We also have beautiful, custom made cabinets that my grandpa had made when he lived here, so I didn't want to change them, but we knew we needed to do something to lighten up the room. We started with a beautiful, very subtle, light blue/gray in on the walls and that made a huge difference!  

Installing the back splash was a lot of work, but overall, a pretty easy project especially considering we have never done it before. If you are back splash super star, please give me some tips and feedback because our guest bathroom is up next! 

We had about 17 sq feet to cover. Here's what we did: 

1) Thanks to "Cliff" at Home Depot, who was our tile installation guru we found an easy starting point: SimpleMat - a very sticky adhesive  that eliminates the need for mortar. After washing the drywall and letting it dry, we stuck on the SimpleMat on the wall. 

2) Christopher then cut the tiles as needed but they came in chucks, he only needed to cut the pieces to fit up against the wall and around the edges. We borrowed a wet saw from someone to cut the tiles. 

3) We chose a dark gray, pre-mixed grout. I wanted to get that "Farmhouse" style look but if you wanted a simpler design, you can choose a stark white grout. They have several colors to choose from.

4) After letting the grout sit for a couple hours, we scrubbed it off using a sponge. It took about 2 or 3 times to get it completely clean. 

Easy and Inexpensive: We got everything we needed from Home Depot. The tiles were only about $3.00 per sheet. Along with the SimpleMat, Grout tools, the whole project cost about $150. Honestly, this simple change made a huge different and we are so happy with how it looks! 

Show Us Your Books May Edition

Show Us Your Books is here, get your Goodreads account ready because you'll want to be adding these to your "To Read" list! 

May seemed like a crazy month but now, looking back and compared to June, May was a breeze! I managed to read a TON, thanks to the hammock I got as a mother's day present, which has this magical pull it seems to put on me, makes me forget any household chores that need to be done and holds me captive and makes me lay down and read. I can't say I hate it. I also read poolside while the kids swam close by a couple of times, which is always so fun. Summer reading is my favorite- a little sun on my shoulders, the kids are always having fun and I get to just lay back and read. It's the best of all things! 

I've put the books I read in May into 2 groups: First, that ones I would very highly recommend and am still thinking about, weeks after finishing them: 

I posted my review for Sweetbitter last week, so be sure to check out my full review. It was a really, really good read, guys. Totally not a typical "girl moves to the big city and meets a man" tale. Tess literally has no idea, no street sense, no friends or family to help her, she just decides to move to NYC. She gets a job at a popular restaurant and totally sucks at being a back waiter. But not for long, because she works her ass off to learn the ropes and is soon scaling the ranks and climbing the ladder that is cut throat restaurant scene. The writing is hot, daring and gritty. There is a ton of food porn in this so if you love learning about great wine and luxurious food, this is it. 

Favorite quote: “Any business transaction—actually any life transaction—is negotiated by how you are making the other person feel.” 

The Assistants by Camille Perri- This one will be on my top recommendations for a while too. Tina Fontana is an assistant who works for a big name corporation as the CEO's main go-to-girl. Her boss makes millions and she doesn't even make 6 figures. So what happens one day when an expense report for her boss gets mess up and she receives a reimbursement check in her name? Does she deposit it into her own account or let accounts payable know about the mistake? Does she use the money to pay off her student loans? What if no one finds out? Chances are, a man who makes that much money, who puts new golf clubs and trips to the Cape on his expense reports and writes them off as "business" won't even notice if Tess takes the money. What if someone catches her? And then, even worse, what if that person who catches her wants in on the action and blackmails her into making their own money, illegally? All of these "what ifs" add up to a pretty great read about how far we will let money take us and whether or not we're too hungry for the finer things in life to do the right thing... 

Favorite quote: "Go ahead and underestimate me some more, I dare you." 

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld- A modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Do I really need to go on? Jane and Liz, plus CrossFit, Yoga and texting. I just can't tell you how fun this book is. And Darcy is still Darcy, dark and broading but surprising, sweet and forward. There's mansions, travel and heartbreak. I literally read over 100 pages in an afternoon and barely noticed the time passing. It's a must. 

Favorite quote: “There’s a belief that to take care of someone else, or to let someone else take care of you—that both are inherently unfeminist. I don’t agree. There’s no shame in devoting yourself to another person, as long as he devotes himself to you in return.”

Now on to my second set of books: I loved most of these books and still recommend them but they just didn't grab my attention as much as the others. Still all worthy reads:

The After Party - I am a sucker for 50s era so I loved the descriptions of the clothes and enjoyed the relationship between Cece and her husband, Ray. I also loved Cece's discovery of motherhood and how much she loves her son, Tommy. The plot really revolves around Cece and her best friend Joan, a self - destructive party lover who sleeps around and treats Cece terrible. Even though Cece is devoted to her friend, has helped her out of numerous unsavory situations and covered for her even as rumors swirl about her slutty behavior. I wanted Cece to forget about Joan from the very beginning and grew frustrated with her as she repeatedly obsessed about Joan's whereabouts. It took too long to figure out why Cece and Joan were so tied together., but when the author finally reveals why their bond is so strong, you forgive her that it took so long.  For the most part, this was a good weekend read but  I wanted to know more about her life as Cece and herself and not so much about her self absorbed friend. 

A Girl's Guide to Moving On - I listened to this on audio and maybe it was the reader's habit of ending everything the characters said in a question but this was a hard no for me.  It's basically about Nicole and her ex-mother-in-law, LeAnne, who are moving on after separating from their cheating husbands. It has Lifetime movie written all over it and with lots of canned quotes. 

Girl Underwater - I also listened to this via audio C.D. and it passed the time really well. There's a plane crash that leaves two young people, both swimmers on a collage swim team with 3 young boys as the only survivors. They are stranded for 5 days and there is a lot of emotion and strife that goes on during those 5 days. The books goes back and forth between chapters, sometimes describing their 5 days stranded in the mountains, other times flashing forward to life after the crash. It's a little too YA for me but there was great narration and character building so I enjoyed it.  Read my full Goodreads Review Here. 

Miller's Valley - I would still recommend this, although it moved a little slow and focused more on issues rather than action but I enjoyed the story it had to tell. This was on my summer's reading list and I was given a copy via NetGalley so I definitely wanted to get it read and I am glad I did. My own community has been effected by "dam" drama and flooding so the problems in the book resonated with me. I really really enjoyed the drama within the main story's family, especially the introverted and home-bound aunt and the troubled brother. Worth your time to pick this up and definitely consider as a book club read because there are many different topics to discuss! Read my full Goodreads Review here. 

One fun thing about these books this month is that I tried to captures some fun images for my That's What She Read Instagram account: 

Thanks to Jana and Steph for another great Show Us Your Books link up!

Book Review: Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

If you've seen me raving about a certain book on Instagram, Twitter or my new best friend, Litsy (Follow me @JenniferJR) there's a really good reason why. 

Because this little gem is amazing, simply put.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler- It's set in New York, with lots of wine and food mixed in. Really, there's everything to love about that combination. 

First I have to tell you that the fact that this book exists is a great story in itself. Author Stephanie Danler was a waitress in a popular eatery in the West Village, when she pitched her book idea to a customer. That customer happened to be a publisher, who was blown away by the story and thus, Danler was given an unprecedented 6 figure two-book deal by Knopf Publishing. It's basically Cinderella in author world. There was a lot of build up and hype over this and the book totally lives up to it. 

It's the story of Tess- a brave yet scared and clueless 20-something who moves to New York, not to "be somebody" like many others who flock to the Big Apple to make something of themselves, but really, just to live and be in charge of herself. She gets hired at a popular restaurant and immediately gets eaten alive by her co-workers. The servers, bar tenders, back waiters and chefs at this restaurant are veterans of the fast paced world of restaurant work and Tess has to work her ass of in order to stay afloat. 

The first half of the book was like all of your favorite shows in one: Naked and Afraid, Hell's Kitchen, Chopped and the Bachelor. Because you just know everyone is sleeping with each other when they work until midnight and then party all night afterwards. 

There's an air of mystery or almost illusion in the way Danler writes that was magical to me. I love stories that make me think "Did that just happen?" and then when I reread more carefully, I understand the gravity of the scene. I love that subtle intensity, which is the biggest oxymoron, but there literally are times where you have to read between the lines to get to the meat of the story. 

Tess notices the bartender, Jake and is sucked into this weird vortex with him and alpha-server, Simone. There's a lot of drama as you go back and forward, trying to decide if Jake is someone you want to make out with or knee in the groin and whether or not Simone is friend to admire, or an enemy to avoid. 

After a lot of studying and practice, Tess emerges as a woman who takes the veil off her own eyes for once. She knows the ropes, stops taking shit, pushes her limits and starts asking herself for more, which I think is so empowering for women. It's quite the transition. The language and writing in Sweetbitter is powerful. 

For one, I've never wanted to try truffles and oysters more in my entire life. The descriptions of the food are amazing. Second, the book was sexy and dangerous, but not in a dime store paperback way at all. It was hot, but in a smokey, corner-of-the-bar way where things are happening right in front of people but they aren't paying attention kind of way. 

Sweetbitter is the first book that has really made me stop, drop and read in a long time. I literally didn't do anything besides try and figure out more time to read. That meant reading poolside, staying up until 1:00 a.m. and sneaking into the hammock and reading while the kids zonked out in front of Netflix after long days at the pool. A bookworm has gotta do what a bookworm's gotta do. 

Step outside your comfort zone and order up a helping of this book, because you'll be asking for seconds. 

Sunday's on the Phone with Monday

Let's talk about a wonderful novel, shall we? I just so happen to have one to share with you: 

I have always been a follower of family drama, probably because I am at pro at the sport by now, but mainly, because I love discovering the emotions that fuel the human condition. And families have it all: trust, love, hatred, unconditional ties, forgiveness and time. And this book has all of that.

About the book: Claudio and Matilde are a couple with 3 daughters, one of whom needs a new heart and another who is adopted. Claudio goes to great depths to keep his family together but sometimes that means keeping secrets at the risk of hurting the same people he wants to keep close. The characters are all impossibly unique. Just when you think you've got them figured out, the author digs a little deeper and explains their emotions in a way that is totally engaging and intriguing:

A little about the author: Christine Reilly lives in New York City. She has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Dalton School, and Collegiate School. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University and her Master’s degree in writing from Sarah Lawrence College. 

Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday is her first novel.  I got an amazing chance to interview Christine about some of the thoughts and motivation behind her story and she really inspired me in my own writing. 

First, I want to know a little about the inspiration behind Claudio and Matilde. They are a great couple, I love how easy they fit together, but at the same time, you can see as they age, they are almost a little too comfortable? Did you know that was going to happen as you wrote the story?
There's the saying "write what you know," but there's also "write what you want to know about," and I've found that with fiction I almost always tend to steer towards the latter.  I'm very curious about what I haven't lived through.  I am lucky to have parents who've had a long and wonderful marriage, as well as both sets of grandparents, so I've witnessed it, but I'm inexperienced with the private and firsthand side of such a relationship.  So part of the fun with writing Claudio and Mathilde's relationship over the years was examining what that relationship would be like.

Do you have sisters? Did your relationships in your own life help you to imagine the relationship between Lucy, Natasha and Carly? 
Actually, no- I have two brothers.  Like Lucy, I am the middle child.  I have always been fixated on the idea of sisters, and I write constantly about them.  I also think that I am every character in my book.  

Who was your favorite character to write? 
Jane.  I also wrote most of her scenes last, when I was 25.  I wrote the rest of the book mostly between ages 22 and 24.  

Jane's had many facets and dark thoughts, was it difficult to develop her character? 
Yes, but I've always had a dark side.  I think all humans do.  I found accessing it through Jane to be therapeutic.  So Jane, thank you.

My note: I am so in love with this answer. I agree about having a dark side and that's why writing is such a brave and fearless art to follow, because you really do have the chance to put it all out there. 

What books influenced you as a writer?
So many -- I read all kinds of books.  Some of the authors who have influenced me the most are Jennifer Egan, Truman Capote, Vladimir Nabokov, Toni Morrison, Tim O'Brien, James Baldwin, Amy Bloom, Maile Meloy, and Jeffrey Eugenides.

What are you reading right now? I'm always reading multiple books -I like to read both fiction and nonfiction at the same time.  I just finished Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff.  I was a fan of hers since I read The Monsters of Templeton many years ago.  I'm also reading The Younahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Di Sclafani, White Girls by Hilton Als, The Mare by Mary Gaitskill and Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik.  

Is there a message in your novel that you hope readers will grasp?
Not a message, but a word -- "always."

Sunday's on the Phone to Monday is available in print, audio and e-book. Get your copy now!

How to be a Good Friend to a Mom Who Has Anxiety

It's not that I don't want to sit with you in the bleachers at our kids sporting events. It's just that I can't. Does that statement really make sense? It does to me and that's how I know I have anxiety. It's as simple and as complicated as that. It's just one example but there are many situations where my anxiety holds me back. Social get-togethers, crowds, restaurants... 

Here's what I do know about being a mom who has anxiety. I need a safe place. I need a circle of fellow moms who know what I'm going through and can help. But first, I need to be able to say, "This is me" without feeling ashamed or threatened. Because insecurities. And fear of judgment and ridicule. Because I haven't been the best person and have a past that I am afraid people will judge me over. These are all things that send me right back to the couch just when I thought I would be able to go out and conquer the world today. But I know what I need so I just need to embrace it. 

Walking up to sports events gives me shortness of breath, red hot cheeks and thousands of thoughts all at once: What if there is no where to sit? What if the wind is blowing my shirt against my stomach? What if I can't find one of the kids? 

And once the games starts, am I cheering at my kid too much as they walk up to bat? Or what if I am not yelling enough? What if people catch me checking my phone and think I am not paying enough attention? 

As I wrote that, I said to myself "I guarantee no one is going to be paying that much attention to you." I know this. But when anxiety takes hold, there's a ringing in my ears that I can't cancel out and I can't listen to the voice of reason in my head. 

Having anxiety is like having someone yell in your ear 24/7 while you're trying to focus on someone who is looking right at you but you can't understand what they are saying. It's like having an itch that is impossible to scratch or like having a door bell ringing that won't ever stop. It's having something pull on your hands in one direction and your feet in the other.  Did you ever play that game when you were a kid where someone poked you in the chest incessantly until you could name 10 cereals in a row? It's like that, only all of the sudden, you can't remember one single type of cereal. 

Here's the thing about being a mother and having anxiety. I need help. I need a buffer system  so that I can enjoy the wonders of being a mom while also being in a safe place that lets me live in the moment. Always thinking about the next moment and all the what ifs makes it impossible to live in the moment. 

The best things my fellow moms and my friends can do is just to know...and to just be. Just be there for me. Just be kind. Just be patient. And if I come to a get together with my accidental RBF (resting bitch face), just know that I am nervous and inside, I'm actually a really happy person. Resting bitch face is not my real face. It's my anxiety face.

My greatest wish is that I'll surround myself with people who love me and there will always be someone to greet me with a smile when I go to the kids' events or where ever else I must go. 

I need to remember that life takes off whether I am ready or not and that just because I don't get a text back right away or if a couple of friends got together without me, it's not because they don't like me.  I know that seems silly and I almost erased that but I had to keep it because it's true. 

I am going to stay where I am comfortable. This whole "live outside your comfort zone" makes for a cute meme or whatever but it just doesn't work for me. I feel safe on the side lines or in my personal space bubble. There are some people who make me really uncomfortable and their negative vibes just don't have to be a part of my orbit and that's okay. 

If I turn down an invitation to a party or ask a bunch of questions before I actually do come, please be patience with me. 

If I arrive somewhere looking frazzled or annoyed, just give me an couple minutes and I'll be fine. Don't start with "what's wrong" or "You don't look like you're having fun!" because I promise, I am trying to get there. I just take longer than others. 

And the most important thing I can do is to give the same back. I'll always have a smile and a seat next to me ready. As long as I don't trip and fall on my way to the bleachers. Because I worry about that happening a lot. 

12 Must Read Books for Summer #BookRoundUp

Pack your beach bag, we are going to the beach! 
I live in Missouri so by beach I really mean public pool but it's close enough. On the off chance that we do make it to the beach this summer, I'll have plenty of books to keep me company. Summer is the perfect time to read in my opinion. Long nights, plenty of sunshine and kids who are occupied by the pool with lifeguards to watch over them. I'll be close by, nose in book, tan lines and all. Here's a round up of all the books I hope to tackle this summer: 

Given a B+ by Leah Greenblatt in Entertainment Weekly, this book promises to be intriguing and thought-provoking. A man is walking down a country lane. A woman, cycling towards him, swerves to avoid a dog. In that moment, their future hinges. There are three possible outcomes, three small decisions that could determine the rest of their life. What versions of their life will unfold? You don't have to guess. You get to read along as the author describes 3 completely different versions of the story. Kind of reminds me of those "choose your story" Goosebumps books where you would skip forward to certain chapters. I'm sold. 

1950s Texas Glamour. Enough said, am I right? Cece is a devoted friend of Joan and will do anything to keep her close. Through Joan, Cece gets a glimpse into the thrilling world of the rich and elite. Joan's life in the social scene is glamorous all right, and apparently dangerous as well. Dun Dun Dunnnnn..... 

Northern California, 1960s. It's summer and a lonely and thoughtful teenager sees a group of girls in the park and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. When she decides to become one of the group, she seals her fate and plummets into a web of unthinkable violence. This is going to be the perfect book to read during a summer thunderstorm. 

My two favorite bloggers from Jana Says and Life According to Steph talked about this book on their Podcast, Armchair Librarians and I knew I had to pick it up. In a Detroit neighborhood, blue collar men are disappearing. The wives, left behind to pick up the pieces and build lives that look a lot different from the ones their husbands promised before they left, are wondering the why and the how of their husbands' absences. Will the same fate await these mens' sons who will soon also feel the mysterious pull to leave? 

Two mothers both stricken with the devastating loss of their children. These deftly interwoven stories offer a picture of mother and daughter finding strength in themselves and each other in the face of tragedy.  

An uninvited party guest, a stolen kiss and a whole lot of secrets. All of these ingredients are mixed into a cocktail of lies, affairs and deception. Oh yeah, and then someone in the family falls in love with a writer who decides to use  their drama as the basis of his new novel. People are going to be pissed... 

Two teenage girls with a lust for chaos and rebellion...something different and thrilling to mix up my reading list. I heard about this book from @bookriot's All The Books podscast with Liberty and Rebecca and I know it's going to be a good one. 

A 29 year old recluse, a sprawling Connecticut lake house and a blended family with secrets to be unveiled. I'm thinking yes. 

You know I have to have a memoir on my list and both Entertainment Weekly and Emma Watson's book club recommend this one so on to the reading list it goes.  This is Maggie's account of her life with Harry Dodge. Described as "a rigorous exploration of what iconic theorists have said about sexuality, gender, and the vexed institutions of marriage and child-rearing," this sounds like an intense read but definitely worth it. 

"Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?"  I will always read Liane Moriarty. Her others, like The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies are among my all time favorite reads. This looks to pack the same mysterious yet quirky punch, which I love. Looks like it involves a group of friends and parents and something happens one summer that changes everything. Intriguing and fun, this is definitely one of my most anticipated reads of the summer! 

Liberty from BookRiot described this book on Litsy " like Showgirls in a restaurant in the best way."  What will Tess do when she moves from her mundane life to New York and discovers the enthralling co-workers she meets at her new job? This book promises "discovery, enchantment, and the power of what remains after disillusionment."

This is my "fun and flirty" read for the summer that I think will go perfectly with a poolside view with the kids splashing in the back ground. Two characters are teeter todering between adulthood- marriages, mortgages, the whole bit- and their enchanting younger days where they were band members and lived a much faster lifestyle. I love books about life in the before and after stages. Bonus: its setting is in my favorite neighborhood, Brooklyn. You've got a winner in my book! 

Show Us Your Books

Show us your books! How do these months keep going by so fast?!

Life According to Steph

My favorite read of the month: 

Heart of Glass by Wendy Lawless 

I can't say enough about Wendy Lawless and her amazing writing. This memoir about her 20s in 1980s in New York City is pure magic.

.I never knew I could love a memoir as much as I loved Chanel Bonfire but Wendy Lawless' second storytelling is as honest, raw and observant as her first. I can't choose a favorite. 

As someone who shares Wendy's experience with an unstable childhood, her stories of loneliness, questioning her parents' choices and wondering where she fit in, Heart of Glass was like looking in a mirror. 

This memoir is a fast paced account of Lawless's life as a struggling actress and the road she trudged to get to a safe place in her life. She is young, open and adventurous, way more brave than I could have ever been but at the same time, she's got a vulnerable side of her...her heart gets broken, she breaks hearts, she breaks herself...and the reader is just along for the ride. 

I love how easy it is to read as Lawless goes through the scenes of her twenties, like she's just sitting across the couch from me, telling me the stories that make up her life. You feel all the feels, as they say. 

Sunday's on the Phone to Monday

This is a great story, lots of stories, actually. It's hard to pinpoint where to begin telling you about where it starts and who it's about but there's really alot to explain...Claudio and Matilde are a couple with 3 daughters, one of whom needs a new heart and another who is adopted. The characters are all impossibly unique. Just when you think you've got them figured out, the author digs a little deeper and explains their emotions in a way that is totally engaging and intriguing. A very unique read! Stay tuned for my upcoming post on more about this book PLUS an interview with the author, Christine Reilly! 

The Flood Girls

A classic story of redemption: Woman drinks and sleeps her way through her small town, breaking up marriages with just about every firefighter in town. She also ruined her relationship with her mother...who's about the funniest characters I've ever read about. 

Rachel is hoping to mend broken bridges while following the 12 steps program in AA and the lessons she learns while doing so really pulled at my heart strings. There's also a teen named Jake, who is once again, one of the best characters ever! He's so sweet and unique. 

There's just a little bit of everything in this book, drunks, softball, trailers, bars, murder. And love. It's just an all around great story. 

Started: Where'd You Go Bernadette and Eligible

Hubs scored me a pretty awesome hammock for mother's day and in case you're wondering, no I hardly moved from that spot on Sunday :)