Featured Slider

The Things that Feel Like Home

Home means a lot of different things to me.

I obviously have the biggest sense of home at my own house but I also feel at home in other ways too... so I totally got the warm and fuzzies when I read Jen at Not Entirely Perfect's post about things that feel like home to her.

It got me thinking about how many homes I've had over the course of my life and how I managed to make them all feel homey, even when I knew they weren't going to be my "house" for very long.

So no matter where I live, here are the things that always make me feel like home:

It feels most like home when Fall and Christmas decorations are out. Maybe it's the candle scents that remind me of my grandma Cheryl, maybe it's the twinkling lights or the friends and family that always stop by... but whenever the seasons roll by, I am always overcome with the sense that I am exactly where I am meant to be.

It feels most like home to me when I am curled up with a good book in my "reading chair"

When I get to enjoy a good cup of coffee and watch the sun rise

It feels like home when I get to see my kids playing in the backyard or riding their bikes.

It feels like home when my closest friends and I sit in the living room, smiles on our faces, wine glasses in hand, figuring out life's problems and shamelessly gossiping. (Guilty pleasures but you know you do them too!)

I feel most at home in my kitchen. That is where a lot of my memories are from growing up here when my grandparents owned the house. In the kitchen, sitting at the counter bar, stealing sour watermelon slices from the candy jar and drinking virgin daiquiris with my Grandma Cheryl, talking to my aunts about their boyfriends. That kitchen counter was where I learned how to paint my fingernails, when I first caught a glance at the cute Roup boys who lived down the street (one of whom ended up being my husband!) and where I would curl up with a book in the guest room during thunderstorms.

I feel most at home doing DIY projects with my husband... My favorite project so far has been the kitchen shelves and the new back splash. Next up on our list is redoing the bathrooms!

I feel most at home when it's quiet and we are enjoying a game of Uno or Phase10 while watching t.v. in the basement.

When there's something warm in the oven on a cold night.

When there's the sound of the kids laughing downstairs, playing together.

When friends stop by randomly.

When my yard looks lovely and my plants are all alive and blooming at once.

When the wind blows the hammock to and fro.

When the people inside the house make it feel safe, sound and happy.

Make makes you feel at home?

Show Us Your Books: August

It's Show Us Your Books time! Every time this post comes around I am always completely shocked that another month has gone by. 

This month was a great time for books and for being a bookworm in general. Some of my girlfriends and I are finally getting serious about starting a bookclub, which has me feeling all of the happy feels. Also, I had the most perfect of bookish day dates with a fellow bookworm last weekend. We drove near and far around Kansas City looking for great bookstores and we hit pay dirt: 

We found the KC Public Library's book sale at the City Market where we snagged current best sellers (in HARD back!) for $2 a pop. I was seriously walking around grinning life a goon.

Then we wandered over to Mission , KS and found Rainy Day Books, which I have been dreaming about visiting for a long time only to find out that it was closed. I shamelessly pressed my nose up against the glass longingly looking at all of the books calling my name. We made up for it by visiting Proposero's Books, which has the most eclectic collection of vintage books I've ever seen. SO much fun. We also fit in some amazing food and coffee along the way, because basically, you can't have a bookworm date without food and coffee. It was the best of days. 

My bookworm day haul: 

There were alot of beautiful books this month and I couldn't help but play around and have some fun for my bookstagrams (@thatiswhatshereadreviews

Because hubs has been begging me to binge Netflix with him and put up the laptop for once, I am keeping this review pretty short, so  forgive me if I'm too vague but here's a mashup up what I read in August: 

The Edge of the Orchard - Listened to this on audiobook and really enjoyed it. I listed this in my July as well because they overlapped. Oops! Still a great story if you feel like some Americal history. 

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo - This is like cotton candy for the soul. I love Amy Schumer's wit and no bullshit cantor. Her stories are sometimes a bit too crass and I can't tell if she's really telling the truth or just telling a story for the shock value but I still enjoyed her stories about her family and rise to fame. She really doesn't take herself seriously and I felt like I was just having a gab sesh with a girlfriend. An easy read to pass the time. 

Siracusa- My favorite read of the month. Two couples, a vacation in Italy, two secret affairs and one dead body. Lots of great scenes. A definite thumbs up from me. 

The Regulars- Pass. 

Happy Family- I listened to this on Audible. It was a little blah for me, A family sage wrought with secrets, illicit pasts and sad marriages. I give it a "meh." 

Alice & Oliver- I bailed on this one. I know, that's terrible, but it was just too sad. 

It Ended Badly- A cute and campy mash up of short stories describing history's most ill-fated romances. I enjoyed it! 

Untethered: This was okay, but too slow to really keep my interest. I thought the storyline was promising: What would you do if the child you loved was only bound to you by your marriage to their biological parent? As as stepmother to Alli, Char doesn't quite know her place. She just knows that she loves her step daughter as if she was her own flesh and blood. But when Allie's dad suddenly passes away, the ties that bind Char and Allie were tested. Like I said, great premise but it didn't follow thru like I had hoped. 

Here's what I'm Currently Reading:

Oh and Reese asked me to share what she read in August too: 

Happy Reading!

And don't forget to read my Autumn Must Reads List! 

My Autumn Reading List

This list needs no introduction because we all know how wonderful it is to sit on the couch with a good book, with the cool autumn breeze coming in through the windows, a blankie on your lap, a hot cup of coffee with salted caramel creamer... fuzzy socks, James Bay on Pandora... a Yankee Candle Pumpkin Buttercream candle... 

Where were we? 

Oh yes, reading. Sorry, I drifted off an Autumn la la land for a minute there. 

The temps are finally going to dip below 75 and that means it's my favorite time of year. The perfect atmosphere for reading on the couch. Here are the many, many books I hope to get my hands on this Fall and you should too!

Karolina's Twins by Ronald Balson - Inspired by true events involving childhood friends who survived the Holocaust together, this is a story told in retrospect of the secrets and sacrifices two young women made and how those decisions effected the generations that came after them. 

The Wangs of the World by Jade Chang (One of Entertainment Weekly's Most Anticipated Titles of 2016) A rich Chinese immigrant family, a cosmetics empire....and a financial crisis. Which of the three doesn't belong? Family matriarch Charles Wangs wants to gather his children reconvene in New York to recover from losing their fortune. But with a wife still obsessed with her 1,000 count sheets, a son wound tightly in a love affair with a woman in New Orleans and a daughter who refuses to give up her Manolos in California, it's going to be quite the challenge. From their foreclosed home in Bel Air across the country, this promises to be a family saga full of wit and charm. 

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett - How does one kiss send an earthquake through the next 5 decades? Two families thrust together because the parents join their children into one blended mashup (gee, this sounds familiar) in hopes of living the life they've always dreamed. You know, one where the two people who are married actually like each other. The children grow up together, forming unbreakable bonds and kinship. Everything is fine until one of the siblings, Franny, begins dating a famous author, who, upon listening to Franny tell the stories of her childhood, decides to base his next novel on her family. Secrets, pasts long buried and old grievances will come to the surface and rewrite the history that the family had once thought was a perfectly happily ever after... 

The Story of a Brief Marriage by  

Leave Me by Gayle Forman- Let's be honest- if you are a mom, a wife, a woman with responsibility and obligation, there are times when you think about missing your exit and keeping your foot on the gas pedal in order to have just a few more minutes to yourself. You are so caught up in to-do lists, schedules, work and life balance that you've stopped noticing the world around you. That tunnel vision is large and in charge in Maribeth Klein's life. She's just like us- tired. So tired in fact, that  she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack. Once she realizes that her recuperation from the heart attack seems to be an inconvenience to her family, she actually does keep the metal to the pedal. She packs her bags and leaves in order to get a clear view of her life and what it means to be a woman, a mother and claim back the life that she let go to shambles. 

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman a forbidden love story, tropical St. Thomas and historically famous artist Camille Pissarro; the Father of Impressionism. This story has all of the right ingredients: an amazing account of Pissarro's mother Rachel, a strong willed young girl who dreams of living in Paris, but instead, is married off to a much older man and forced to stay in her small, tightly knit community. Until her arranged marriage is suddenly over and she finds herself meeting the eyes of Frederick, the nephew of her late husband. That look will set the course for Rachel's new life... 

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue - It's 2007 and Cameroonian immigrants Jende and Neni are barely surviving with their son in Harlem. Until Jende gets a job as a chauffeur for a rich executive. Their lives take a turn for the better, especially when Neni even finds work for the family in their summer home. All is well...until the financial stability of the world is rocked and cracks form around the couple and their employers. Trust is challenged and the facades they were depending on start to crumble. Can their life in American, their marriage, their future, survive? 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - Imagine being asked "Are you happy with your life?" before being knocked unconscious, only to awake and find that the life you had is gone and replaced with a mysterious world where nothing you had before exists... Imagine being Jason Desson, who once was an ordinary college physics professor but now, is apparently a genius who has achieved something impossible and now is dealing with with its scary aftermath. This mystery is going to be the perfect October read, filled with dangerous foes and dark, terrifying battles. 

The Nix by Nathan Hill - What does the Democratic National Convention, an estranged mother and a small Iowa town have in common?  Samuel, a struggling writer, is about to find out. Because apparently, the mother who walked out on him as a child is also the same woman on the news who is being portrayed as a militant radical, shown throwing rocks at the presidential candidate. How those two can possibly be the same woman is what Sam vows to find out. And what better way to find out a person's true past than to write their biography?

Today Will Be Different  by Maria Semple - From the author of Where'd You Go Bernadette, this quirky and hilarious novel about Eleanor Flood promises to bring the same punch and humor as Bernadette, which has me signing up even before I read it's description. Semple's characters are wry, unique but also strange and I can't help but feel a kindred spirit in Flood, who just wants to have a nice, normal life. She vows that today will different. Today, she will shrug off her insecurities and be the mother and wife that her son and husband need her to be. No more lazy Eleanor. Except now life has different plan, one where her husband has up and gone, her son has a mind of his own and someone from her past shows up with a story that's going to make a lot of people very uncomfortable. 

Mischling by Affinity Konar - I have been in a book hangover with anything WWII related ever since reading Sarah's Key so this book holds a promising reprieve. Identical twin sisters Pearl and Stasha are prisoners of war at Auschwitz, with their parents.It's 1944 and in their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood. Until one of them disappears...

The Mothers by Brit Bennett - This promising debut novel has me giddy with excitement. Young love, a small town and big secrets. I know I have a pattern with these types of storylines but I promise, these won't ever get old. The setting: a contemporary black community in California. The characters: A rebellious 17-year old, a pastor's son and an unborn child. See, I told you it'd be interesting!  

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena - We can't all be Mrs. Kravitz, lurking behind the curtains and witnessing every indiscretion that goes on in the neighborhood. But that witness is exactly what Anne and Marco Conti are going to need when a terrible crime occurs and fingers are pointed at them. How could that happen? To everyone else, the couple is the idealistic pair, with their perfect lawn and angelic baby. However, nothing is perfect and the couple soon realizes that the other is keeping dark secrets that no one saw coming, even the people who live right next door. 

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer - Never turn down the opportunity to laugh at yourself, which is exactly what comedian Amy Schumer does in this snarky, tongue-in-cheek memoir about her sexcapades, her rise to the top of entertainment and her life as a quirky young girl with jokes no one else gets. 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead- Growing up on a plantation was anything but easy. Added to that, growing up as a young girl, coming into womanhood would have presented a whole other slew of challenges. That's where you'l find Cora, an outcast, who struggles to find a place in her family's life. Until a new slave arrives and tells Cora about a movement going on she never dreamed could be real: the "Underground Railroad," and she is instantly overcome with a sense of purpose. These tails of what slaves endured during pre-Civil War American are rich, haunting and staunch with bravery and grit. 

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick - I've been captivated by Kendrick ever since Up In The Air and Happy Christmas and especially because of her wickedly funny banter on Twitter, so her memoir is hands down something I will devour page by page. 

Happy Reading!

Follow along as I review and react to my list: 

My Favorite Reads of Summer 2016

I can't believe the summer is over. Honestly, I am even a little relieved. I consider myself a die hard Autumn girl. The only thing I really like about the summer is how tired my kids get after a long day at the pool. And all of the coconut scented things, of course.

Maybe if I was the kind of woman who got that sun-kissed, olive  skin look after spending the afternoon poolside, but all I ever get is an arch of freckles above my upper lip that looks like a mustachio. I also don't "glisten" with sweat. I am a puddle. It's just not a cute season for me.

However, I do appreciate the sunshine, gardening and laying in the hammock watching my husband mow the lawn. And spraying the kids with the garden hose. And ice cream.

Our summer was pretty lazy. Lots of trips to the pool, a weekend of camping, and mostly just trying to find ways to spend fun time together. I was really focused on getting a lot of reading this summer so I wanted to share my favorite summer reads. The best books of the summer were hard to pin down so I am going to limit myself to picking just 6 but if you check out all the reads from the entire summer, you will understand how hard it was for me to pick.

My Favorite Summer Reads:

One True Loves - It must have been the summer of love for me because I fell for this love story. Hard. Mushy, sad, and all of the things. Your teenage crush heart will love you for it. 

The Girls - The perfect hot summer read. It's dangerous, it's secretive and a total guilty pressure. 

Sweetbitter - The food and wine descriptions alone had me at "I'll have the Pinot." 

Siracusa - Affairs, Italy, a dead body and once again, really good food. 

Eligible - A modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice...it was everything I hoped it would be. Nice and fluffy but still hit all the good parts. 

The Assistants -  I love meeting characters that make me feel like a slightly better person. Or even better, when you feel good about fighting for the "underdogs" of the world and they end up on top.

I feel like I have to put this out there: There are far, far better books to be had out there this summer. Honestly, I know this is just a tiny little tip of the iceberg of the amazing work that I could have gotten my hands on these past couple of months but there is just never enough time.  

Now, bring on the salted caramel and pumpkin scents, the leggings with over sized sweatshirts, the falling leaves and the dewy mornings of autumn! 

How this Unorganized Mom Stays Organized

How do I plan to conquer this school year?

That's the million dollar question and if anyone has a viable answer, I'll pay them even more than a million Washingtons.

It seems like I start every new school year with gusto. I am organized. I am equipped with planners, folders, containers and a smile. But then by the end of the quarter, I've lost my momjo. We start missing papers and the book log is long lost. Now with two in school I am seriously vowing to do better. I am not saying I have unrealistic expectations, I am not a cookie cutter mom. Last school year, I had to have my friend break into my house, grab the homework on the table and take it in to school for my son. Because, life. And working out of town most of the week means I can't always drop everything and rescue my forgetful kid from another missed assignment. But that's what mom friends are for right? And seriously, mom friends are definitely going to be on my list of must haves for making this year go right.

Here's what I am going to need in order to survive the school year, one missed snack at a time:

The ultimate planner: I have been a strong and steady Erin Condren Life Planner user for 5 years now and I love them. But I've only ever just used the month spread. This year, I am going to expand and start actually using the weekly days so that I can really break down what's going on. And now that other brands have caught on to the planner craze, Hob Lob and Michaels have all these great little stickers, clips and inserts that I think are so handy and cute. I am going to start putting in reminders for library days and give myself a heads up for "Work Out Wednesday" each month so my kids aren't the only ones having to do jumping jacks in flip flops because I forgot make them wear tennis shoes.

Waking up early: My coffee, my book and my peaceful view of the old, friendly walnut tree in our backyard. I need these moments in the morning to gather my thoughts and make sure that I am not running around crazy, trying to get last minute things done. 

Command Center: I'm just going to lay it all out there. I am completely unorganized. I am scattered brained and my attention span is something left to be desired. However, if I having a "landing spot" for the things I need to keep track of, I will be much more likely to be able to keep track of the papers, permission slips and to do lists that are sure to pile up this school year.

I bought the Wire file baskets, dry erase calendar and skinny cork boards from Amazon and picked up the hooks and inspiration quotes in a paper pack from Hobby Lobby. This allows me to still quickly "dump" the kids stuff into their baskets but it's organized and in a central location. I think it's important to display any accomplishments and good papers the kids have for them to see each day too. 

Mom squad: This is my most helpful tip: Rally your troops. Make friends with the other parents in your kids' classes so that you are not alone. I don't know where I would be without fellow parents who I can text in a moment of panic for early dismissals, after school help, homework deadlines, projects, treats, etc. It takes a village. Scratch that, it take a whole frickin' town to do this stuff! 

So bring it on, school year 2016!

5 Must Reads for the Back to School Mom

How do we prepare for out littles going into the next grade, for putting up the pool bags and replacing them with backpacks waiting to be unpacked of their bursting loose leaf papers? It's such a transition, from not caring about bed time to bed time being the most important time of the day... 

This year, my littlest is off to kindergarten. I don't even know how that happened. Just yesterday, I was buying leggings for her chunky little baby legs on Etsy and now...she wants jeans from Justice and her PBTeen backpack is the best thing to happen since Christmas. 

The big kid is off to great places...third grade. I am so excited for him because that's really the grade where I remember big things happening and learning about the world and how it works. He'll be reading some of my favorites like Charlotte's Web and Percy Jackson... It's such an exciting age.   

I think the hardest thing for me about my kids going to school is the handing off of the baton. At school, everything I have tried to teach them-about respect, kindness, when to be silly and when to be calm- it all gets put to the test. And yes, they are not perfect, I don't expect them to be. But now there are witnesses who can attest to whether or not my children are what I secretly fear them to be, actual little tyrants sent from the clouds to torture me. But, I digress. I know they are just fine and they really never mean any harm. My kids are by far not the best children but let's just say I have been lucky enough never to be at the mercy of a Target aisle meltdown. Probably because they know I would quickly walk away and act like they weren't even mine. They'd know we could just meet up in our meeting spot- the boxed wine aisle. I've taught them well. 

But how do I get through the panic in my chest when I realize these children aren't really aren't just mine? They are their own people now.

I just have to remember that their teachers are also women I consider to be dear friends and I know they are kind-hearted people who will chuckle when my kids "say the darnedest things" and call me if they really have a problem. I trust them to give my children grace but to also set standards that will pull the best out of them. 

The most important thing I know in my heart is that all the other mothers out there are having mixed feelings as well. We are all relieved that summer heat and boredom is over, but also sad that another few months of relaxed schedules has come and gone. We are all excited for the challenge and invigorated by our "organized command center" Pinterest pins and our promises for meeting homework deadlines...and I think a little relieved that even though we know our attempts at organization are probably fruitless... that we will all be just fine in the end. At least, that's my hope anyway. 

As I always do when I am feeling anxious or like I am alone on my own little island of worry, I turn to a book for comfort. For the stories of other mothers who have been there, done that, or had it worse, and even reading about moms who have it way better is sometimes still fun and makes me smile. That's what got me thinking about this list of books for us moms to read during the back to school season. 

Here's a short list of stories that give me more perspective, or just a giggle right when I need it most as I stress about my kids going back to school and growing up faster than I ever imagined they would. Hope you enjoy!  

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - A bunch of crazies who throw fits, compete against each other and throw food. And the kids are awful too. This twisted account of what happens with parents who have Type A personalities (on steriods) start competing in the PTA Olympics is addicting. I couldn't put it down. It's also becoming a mini series with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, which is going to be amazing! 

Where'd You Go Bernadette  - Just a mother who may be losing her mind and a daughter that is sweet, smart and can only begin to imagine what her mother is up to next. 

Prep - Just exactly how far will certain kids go in order to get into the best schools? You'd think an acceptance letter is worth more than a winning lottery ticket. This will make your stress over the next bake sale seem like child's play. 

Five Days Left - A mother fighting a terminal illness, a middle teacher who has adopted one of his students... just a really heartfelt story that is good for the soul. 

The Glass Castle This is one of the most poignant memoirs I have ever read. it just really stuck with me- a young girl and her siblings are forced to basically raise themselves in dire poverty because of abusive and neglectful parents. Wells eventually leaves her family and becomes a successful writer but its her perseverance and hopeful attitude that makes me admire her and her story so much. 

As I finished this, I was pelted in the face with a mini marshmallow from a PVC pipe marshmallow rifle. Is it August 17 at 8:00 a.m. yet?? 

Show Us Your Books: July Edition

I read some great books this month! I only wish I could have read more! 
My favorite by far was One True Loves, read my review from last week here 

If you have read any of these, please let me know what you think! 

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid -The first book to make me cry this year so far. It was the mushy, over the top love story that actually didn't make me cringe, because I usually think some love stories are just too mushy for me. But this, this was perfect. One woman, two men...one she thought she had lost forever and the other, the one she never thought she would love... like I said, it sounds like a Nicholas Sparks wishy-washy love story but it's actually really beautiful. 

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty - Moriarty is the author of some of my all time favorites so I bought this without even reading the synopsis. So far, it's blah and just a lot of set up for whatever big mystery happened at an ill-fated barbecue. Whatever happened better be good because I am over half way into the book and it's a lot of build up and the anticipation is killing me. For as long as it has taken for this book to get to the good part, it better be worth it... I haven't finished so no spoilers but let me know if it's worth it! 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware This is a great mystery read for the summer! I LOVE a book where you are not quite sure if you can trust the protagonist but you have no choice when they are the only one telling the story. I couldn't tell if Lo was drunk, confused for just plain crazy. But man can she really make a scene. I loved this crazy, twisted book. It's full of lies and really fast paced.  

The Children by Ann Leary  (Read my full review here)  This will be the book remembered as the book I wanted to hug. Such lovable, sweet, clueless characters that you just have to take under your wing. I really enjoyed this one- family dramas are always a favorite. 

The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier (audible) I am listening to this story about a couple in the 1800s who try and make a life in the swamps of the frontier...trying to survive with a large family and a wife would can't stay out of the booze. I often read books where the man or father in the story is the problem so this is actually an interesting twist. All James Goodnough wants to do is grow apples and his wife, well all she wants to do is make "jack" with the leftovers. It's interesting and funny without trying....but also sad to watch the struggles of what many families had to go through at that time in our country's infancy. Great read! 

Here's my list for August. The first three are all NetGalley finds, so I am anxious to get started! I have heard a lot of buzz about Siracusa thanks to Liberty and Rebecca at All The Books and when it was a choice for Book of the Month, I had to grab it too. 

Happy Reading! 
What's the best book you read in July? 

 Need more book ideas? Head over to Steph and Jana's blogs for a great list of what other bookworms read in July!