Sunday, January 31, 2016

Month in Review: January

My year is off to a great start. I'm sticking to my resolutions. January was a pretty great month!

- I finished 12 books this month (1 audio, 7 paper, 4 Kindle). Three were eARCs.
- I read one of the books from my re-read challenge and 2 books by one of the authors from my new author challenge.
- I enjoyed both my YA Book Club and my Moms Book Club meetings.
- And Christopher and I read the Arctic picture book for the Reading Together Family Book Club.

- I started linking up with Julie @ Booking Mama for her Kid Konnection on Saturdays. It's been working well to time my Kid Lit posts to be every Saturday.
- I posted Top Ten Tuesday posts every Tuesday this month.
- I was asked to join the She Reads network of bloggers, so I will be reviewing one book per quarter for that blog. For winter I will be reading The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris.
- I started my SEO class, and so far it's going well.

- It's been a crazy busy month. I'm kind of stressed out. And I don't really want to talk about it. Moving on...

- I went to the gym 11 times this month! I am very happy with myself.
- As mentioned before, I signed up for the Savage Race in PA in June. Bring it on! And...Yikes!
- I am sampling a bunch of classes and exercise methods. More to come on that in February.

First time on ice skates. He did really well.

- We took Christopher ice skating, so then naturally we had to show him The Mighty Ducks (all 3 movies). And now he's obsessed with hockey. He wants to take ice skating lessons. That's not happening yet, so we've been playing a lot of hallway hockey in our house using Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle weapons and an inflatable ball. Christopher made it up, and it's been pretty fun.

Hallway Hockey. Christopher is playing with Donatello's bow.

- We attended Family Game Night for kindergarten families at Christopher's school. And while we all played separate games most of the time, we really enjoyed ourselves. And we introduced others to a couple of more geeky games: Castle Panic and Catan Junior.
- We went to our nephew's choir concert at Jim's alma mater.

Jim, Ben, and Me at Oak Creek High School after the concert.

- Christopher started swim lessons again at Princeton Club this time.
- Christopher lost his second tooth.
- Christopher is getting SO much better at reading. Jim and I are both blown away with how quickly he is advancing now. He reads to us nightly, and he's trying to get up to 360 minutes by February 19th, so he can earn a ticket to Six Flags. He's up to more than 200 minutes, so he's over half way there.

- We spend New Year's Day (and night) in Madison with some friends and their friends. We played a couple new board games with them, and Christopher got along well with their kids.
- We took Christopher to see Star Wars, and hopefully he didn't annoy everyone around us too much because he asked a ton of questions, and he's not very good at whispering. I'm so glad we saw it alone first.
- I'm watching Downton Abbey's final season. It's the only TV I have watched this whole season. I've been reading or writing mostly, but I am enjoying this little break.
- Jim and I took a home brew class, and then he bought the equipment to brew at home (my Christmas gift to him). He made his first batch right away the next day. We look forward to sampling it when it's ready in early March.

My sweetie-pie geeking out over his new hobby.

- We had our good friends from MN and MI come and stay over MLK weekend. We met them on the Jonathan Colton Cruise (JoCo Cruise Crazy 2) several years ago, and they're geeky and fun. We played a lot of board games all weekend long. We had a babysitter over each night to hang out with Christopher. It was so wonderful.
- I celebrated my birthday by taking off of work and reading almost all day. Jim and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch, and then all three of us went to see Kung Fu Panda 3 and had cake (homemade by Jim).
- I started listening to Modern Mrs. Darcy's podcast, What Should I Read Next? I'm not usually a podcast listener because it takes away from my audiobook time, but I am really enjoying this one.

I am looking forward to a new batch of books for February and the lengthening of the days. I am not looking forward to the brutal cold that is sure to come. But it's a leap year, so that's fun.

How was your month? What are you looking forward to next month?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Kid Lit: Surf's Up

I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Surf's Up by Katy Hudson

To be published on February 1, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Surf's up! Not yet, Dude! Books are boring! Not this one! Bro and Dude have very different ideas about how to spend the day at the beach. But as Bro continues to gasp and cheer as he reads his book (Moby Dick), Dude can't help but get curious. Before you can shout 'Surf's up!' both frogs are sharing the same adventure, that is, until they get to the beach. Newbery Medal Winner, Kwame Alexander, and Daniel Miyares have joined forces to give little listeners a wild ride.

My Thoughts:
This book is perfect for book lovers! Anyone who hasn't want to put down a book with enjoy sharing this adorable tale with their children. Two frogs are supposed to go surfing, but one frog cannot put his book down. The story of a man trying to catch a whale is too good to wait. While they make their way to the beach, that frog continues reading, and his comments about the story get the other frog interested in the story. So much so that he ends up reading when they get to the beach.

The drawings were cute. The language was simple. The story was just so great. I read this book alone, but I will definitely need to read it with my son as he's a book lover too. I think he will appreciate the story.

My Rating: 4 Stars

I'm linking up with Booking Mama today for Kid Konnection. Every Saturday Julie hosts this link up for all things relating to children's books.

Friday, January 29, 2016

How well does my son know me? A birthday survey.

I saw this survey on Facebook on Monday night, and I knew I had to post it today in honor of my birthday. In addition to asking Christopher these questions though, I thought it would be fun to add my own answers and see how often they matched.

So here they are...answers to 23 questions about me, as answered first by me and then by my 5.5 year old. Let's see how well he knows me!

1. What is something your mom always says to you? 

Me: "Just a minute." Christopher always complains that whenever he asks me for something, I always have to finish what I'm doing first.

Christopher: "One minute."

2. What makes your mom happy? 

Me: Reading (let's see how many times I can give that answer)

Christopher: Keeping my job.

3. What makes your mom sad? 

Me: Christopher and Jim fighting.

Christopher: Losing my job.

4. How does your mom laugh? 

Me: When Jim tickles me.

Christopher: Come on. Can we stop doing the feelings?! Doing this... (and he made a crazy face.)

5. What was your mom like as a child?

Me: Very shy. Although I think Christopher will probably say something about me fighting with Uncle Sam.

Christopher: I have no idea.

6. How old is your mom? 

Me: As of today, I am 36.

Christopher: 36. 37 soon. I mean 35. You're going to be 36 soon. 

Note: I wrote my answer as of the date of the post, my birthday, but I asked Christopher the questions on Tuesday night.

7. How tall is your mom? 

Me: 5' 5.5''

Christopher: I...That's a hard question. That's not my answer! (He saw me typing.) Umm. 100 inches.

8. What is your mom's favorite thing to do? 

Me: Read (that's 2)

Christopher: Read.

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?

Me: Read (and 3!)

Christopher: Read.

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? 

Me: ??? I really have no desire to be famous.

Christopher: Reading. (and then he laughed.)

11. What is your mom really good at? 

Me: Planning playdates?

Christopher: Reading. (another laugh)

12. What is your mom not very good at?

Me: Apologizing or admitting I am wrong (just ask Jim)

Christopher: Trying to stop me from yelling at Daddy.

13. What does your mom do for a living?

Me: I am an IT Business Analyst. Perhaps Christopher will recall that I work on a computer.

Christopher: Work on your computer.

14.What is your mom's favorite food? 

Me: Apple pie and pizza (although I am very picky about my pizza)

Christopher: Pizza! (He had to think about that one for a while.)

15.What makes you proud of your mom? 

Me: ??? He might say something about a time I actually remembered something. I have a terrible memory! I could remember everything until I got pregnant. Now I have permanent baby brain.

Christopher: Because you don't read sometimes. (Laughter from both of us.)

16. If your mom were a character, who would she be?

Me: Belle? because she loves reading (does that count?)

Christopher: I don't know because you watch some movies I don't know. Ariel.

17. What do you and your mom do together? 

Me: Read! Play games. Watch movies.

Christopher: Play.

18. How are you and your mom the same? 

Me: We're both control freaks. We both like to have a plan. We both can't help pointing out the faults of others. We're both very competitive. We both love books. 

Christopher: We both wear glasses!

19. How are you and your mom different? 

Me: Christopher loves video games, and I hate them. The obvious...he's a boy, and I am a girl. He is creative like Jim. He is very sensitive. 

Christopher: That you're a girl, and I'm a boy.

20. How do you know your mom loves you?

Me: I tell him every day. I give him lots of hugs and kisses. I do a lot of things for him. I spend time with him.

Christopher: You tell me sometimes. At bedtime.

21. What does your mom like most about your dad? 

Me: I love how passionate Jim is about his interests. I love his Charlie Brown pessimistic nature (even when it drives me crazy). 

Christopher: That he does cool stuff for me.

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go? 

Me: The movie theater.

Christopher: Library!

23. How old was your mom when you were born?

Me: 30

Christopher: 30!

Have you done this survey with your kids? How well do they know you?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Review: Happy Again

Happy Again (This Is What Happy Looks Like #1.5) by Jennifer E. Smith

Goodreads Summary:
Ellie O'Neill and Graham Larkin fell hard for each other when a misspelled email address unexpectedly brought them together. Now, over a year has passed since they said goodbye with the promise to stay in touch, and their daily emails have dwindled to nothing. Ellie is a freshman in college and has told herself to move on, and Graham has kept himself busy starring in more movies, as well as a few tabloid columns. But fate brought these two together once before—and it isn't done with them yet.

In this sequel novella to This Is What Happy Looks Like, Jennifer E. Smith revisits two beloved characters to tell the story of one magical night in Manhattan. When Ellie and Graham come face to face once more, can they get past the months of silence and the hurt feelings to find their happily-ever-after again?

My Review:
This novella was pretty good. I bought it while I was still reading This Is What Happy Looks Like because I was so in love with the characters and their adorable romance. Unfortunately, what I loved best about the book was Graham's voice, and the novella doesn't have that. It's written entirely in Ellie's point of view. And rather than continuing their romance where we left off, the story begins with them having lost touch with each other.

Why do authors have to make things fall apart only to come back together in sequels? And this wasn't even a full sequel. I enjoyed reading it because it was more of the characters I love, but I was disappointed that there wasn't more HAPPY in this book, given the title.

I really wanted a full sequel instead of just a novella. And I wanted more than just a snippet of happiness. This "book" just left me wanting more.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book Review: Second House from the Corner

I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Second House from the Corner by Sadeqa Johnson

To be published on February 9, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Second House from the Corner centers on the story of Felicia Lyons, a stay-at-home mother of three drowning in the drudgeries of play dates, lost pacifiers and potty training who occasionally wonders what it would be like to escape the demands of motherhood. But when an unexpected phone call threatens to destroy her life, Felicia is forced to return to her childhood home where she must wrestle with an ex-lover and long buried secrets to save the family and home she loves despite the daily challenges.

Felicia Lyons is a character who mothers can identify with and laugh along with. You can't help but cheer for her in Johnson's engaging and well-written novel.

My Review:
This book is definitely chick lit, but it is heavier than I was expecting. Felicia is a stay-at-home mom living the ideal life in the suburbans. She has everything she always dreamed of, but she has kept her past hidden to get it. Suddenly, the past is catching up to her in the form of an ex-boyfriend and her childhood best friend.

I should have hated Felicia because she's so insecure. But we're all insecure when it comes to mothering. Her day to day trials were just so relatable. From the first chapter when she was losing her cool with the kids in the bathtub and sneaking off to the movie theater, I was completely sucked in.

After that she makes bad decision after bad decision, but like watching a B horror movie and wanting to scream, "Don't go in there!" I just couldn't stop reading this book. I was routing for Felicia, and I needed to know what was going to happy even though I knew it would get uglier before it got pretty again.

Johnson's writing style is so compelling. The chapters are short, and I found myself wanting to read just one more chapter again and again. I need to check out her other book. I really enjoyed this book and Felicia, especially the voice in her head. I think we all have that.

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #9: Oldest Books on My TBR

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week is a freebie, so I decided to share the oldest books on my TBR list. I started using Goodreads in August 2013, and right now the oldest book on my TBR was added in February 2014. That means I'm doing an OK job of reading the older books on my list or maybe I am just good at cleaning out my list.

Right now there are 299 books on my TBR list. Here are the oldest 10 in the order they were added.

Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

Added on: February 23, 2014

I have heard great things about this series, and now that the third book is coming out in February, I really need to read this series.

Sorcery & Cecelia (Cecelia & Kate #1) by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Added on: April 4, 2014

I added this book after reading about it on The Deliberate Reader. I'll get to it sometime. I have been hesitant because middle grade can be hit or miss with me lately.

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Added on: June 13, 2014

I'm so excited because I now have this book thanks to my Secret Santa! I will definitely make time for it soon.

The Siren by Kiera Cass

Added on: June 13, 2014

I must have been going through my recent 4 and 5 star reads looking for other books by new favorite authors when I added these two. Now that this book is being re-published, I'll wait for the newer version.

There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos

Added on: June 19, 2014

I don't remember this book or why I added it, so I probably won't make it a priority any time soon. Have you read this book? Tell me why I should read it please.

The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi

Added on: June 19, 2014

This book is familiar to me, and I'd really like to read it. There are just so many books to get to!

The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern

Added on: June 24, 2014

I have seen this book on the shelves at the library since adding it to my list. I've almost checked it out, but again...middle grade. I need to get out of my middle grade funk, and then I can get to these books. I'm not ready to give up on them yet.

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Added on: June 25, 2014

This book is on my list for March. I think it was Grace at Rebel Mommy Book Blog who recently listened to this book and recommended the audio, so I'm hoping to find that at the library. This book keeps popping up on people's blogs, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Added on: July 1, 2014

I'm also going to be reading this book in March. Someone mentioned that this was their favorite book, so I'm excited to finally read it. Gayle Forman hasn't been the best author for me, but I'm still willing to give her a try.

The Orphan Sister by Gwendolen Gross

Added on: July 21, 2014

I am a sucker for twin books, but this book is about the un-identical triplet. How have I not read this book yet? I am so intrigued re-reading the description. Has anyone read this one?

What are the oldest books on your TBR list? Have you read any of these books? What should I read next?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Reading Together Topic #1: Arctic

Today I'm linking up with Sheila at The Deliberate Reader, Jessica at The Quirky Bookworm, and Carrie at The Lion is a Bookworm for the first post in the Reading Together Family Book Club.

One of my goals for the year is to read at least all of the picture books selected for this book club. I had high hopes of how this month would go with Christopher. I checked out the selected book and a couple of the other Arctic picture books recommended by Sheila, and I planned to have a fun morning book club with Christopher. That didn't really happen.

Our morning started off well. I showed Christopher a picture of the world on my phone, and we talked about where the Arctic is on the map. He actually knew already. And he knew about Antarctica as well. Although he thought people didn't live in either location.

Then we read In Arctic Waters by Laura Crawford. The beginning of the book is written in the style of The House That Jack Built only with Arctic animals. Christopher recognized the pattern right away.

The story changes in the middle and has sort of a silly ending, but we both enjoyed it well enough (3 stars). I didn't realize narwhals were real animals, so that was kind of fun to find out.

There is an activity at the end of the book, but I couldn't get Christopher to do it. I also couldn't get him to discuss his favorite animal from the book or entice him to draw some of the animals. And of course reading the other books didn't happen.

Oh well. We read something new, and we got to discuss the Arctic for a couple of minutes. I still call it a success. Maybe we'll do better with the next topic. I'd like to include Jim as well.

Are you participating in this book club? Have you ever wanted to have a family book club?

If you want to read more about this month's topic or want to link up your own post, do it here.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

YA Book Club: January Recap

I was a couple minutes late for book club this time, and right when I got there Annie pulled out a present for me. She wanted me to open it before our table got cluttered with dishes. I'll be honest. I was kind of confused for a minute. I couldn't recall why she was handing me a present. Then I remembered that my birthday is next week. How did it get to be January 20th already?! (Now it's January 24th.) Yikes! I'm almost 36.

Anyway, Annie and Sarah bought me this AWESOME bookish sweatshirt. It says "If you can read this, I was forced to put down my book and re-enter society." I LOVE it! And I really needed a new hoodie. I am probably wearing it as you're reading this post.

The Book
Annie suggested this month's selection after seeing it mentioned in several places. It was already on my TBR list, so I quickly agreed. Sarah was instantly on board after reading that it was an artistic romance.

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

The Venue
We went to The Olive Garden. Somehow we keep ending up there for my birthday month and half birthday month. Apparently we need our Italian fix every 6 months. It was wonderful as usual.

I ordered the cheese ravioli with meat sauce and the chicken with gnocci soup - my favorite. Annie had minestrone soup and salad. And Sarah chose the salad and ravioli di portobello with alfredo sauce.

I forgot to take pictures.

The Book Discussion
We all really enjoyed the book. I mentioned again how unique and different I found the story. Sarah had actually thought about being a medical illustrator when she was younger. How wild is that?! She said she'd like to draw from cadavers, although like Bex, she said she'd probably get sick.

Sarah disliked the Zen Center aspect. She thought it was mentioned too frequently with not enough meat to the Zen elements. I said I didn't really notice because I plowed through the book in only two days.

I mentioned that the sex scenes were exceptionally good. Annie and Sarah agreed. Although I didn't love how casual Bex was about sex with her earlier boyfriend. I have issues with YA books setting bad examples for teenage girls.

Annie - 5 stars
Sarah - 4 stars
Me - 4 stars

The Non-Book Discussion
Sarah wasn't feeling well, so we ended our meeting a little earlier than usual, but we still crammed in a lot of topics.

- Sarah's recent visit to CA - where she got her cold
- Annie's dad's retirement
- work, work, and more work - not so fun but necessary
- how reading/working at Starbucks doesn't always go so well
- board games: Flash Point, Codenames
- talking to kids about drinking alcohol
- the most disgusting food to throw up: McDonald's chicken nuggets
- my SEO class

Next month we will be reading...

We Were Here by Matt de la Pena for our meeting on Wednesday, February 24th.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Kid Lit: Too Many Carrots

I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Too Many Carrots by Katy Hudson

To be published on February 1, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Rabbit has too many carrots, which overtake his house. When he tries to move in with friends, more chaos ensues. Will Rabbit learn to change his selfish ways?

My Thoughts:
This book was super cute. I loved the story and the drawings. Rabbit has a problem. He's loaded his house full of carrots, and he has no where to sleep. His friends are nice enough to offer to let him sleep with them. The problem is that Rabbit's carrots keep ruining everyone else's house. In the end, Rabbit learns an important lesson.

My son and I both really enjoyed this story. The morals of friendship and sharing can never be overdone in children's literature. This book is definitely worth reading with your preschool and early elementary aged kids.

My Rating: 4 Stars

I'm linking up with Booking Mama today for Kid Konnection. Every Saturday Julie hosts this link up for all things relating to children's books.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Book Review: In Place of Never (YA)

I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

In Place of Never by Julie Anne Lindsey

To be published on February 2, 2016.

Goodreads Summary:
Can the truth set her free?… 

A part of Mercy died the summer her sister tragically drowned. Now Mercy has a chance to discover if Faith’s death was an accident—or murder.  Her first step is to confront the lead suspects: a band of traveling gypsies—the last people who saw her sister alive. But Mercy finds an unexpected ally in Cross, the soulful musician in their ranks. He’s a kindred spirit, someone who sees into her heart for the first time in, well, forever. Yet stirring up the past puts Mercy in danger… 

Suddenly someone is shadowing Mercy’s every move, making her even more determined to uncover the facts. With Cross by her side, she is ready to face it all, even if that means opening up to him, knowing he may one day leave her. What she discovers is a truth that rocks the foundation of her small river town—and a love worth risking everything for…

My Review:
The story in this book was interesting. Mercy is still grieving over her sister's death three years ago, and she's determined to uncover exactly what happened before she heads off to college. The traveling sideshow that was in town the summer Faith died is back in St. Mary's, West Virginia, and Mercy is certain they know something about what happened to Faith. She and her younger sister, Prudence, team up with a new member of the show, Cross, to track down what happened.

I enjoyed the characters, especially Prudence and Cross. And the romance between Cross and Mercy was fun to read, but there was something off about the writing in this book. It was kind of choppy. Plot elements kept coming out of nowhere to surprise me. Not in a good way though. More in a "what is happening here" and "did I miss something" kind of way. I'm pretty sure I didn't miss anything though.

I'm not sorry I read this book, but I'm a little disappointed because I really wanted to like it more. The mystery did keep me guessing until the end, but the clunky writing style made it hard to lose myself in the story.

My Rating: 3 Stars
Understand my ratings.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Re-Read: The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Goodreads Summary:
In California's central valley, five women and one man join to discuss Jane Austen's novels. Over the six months they get together, marriages are tested, affairs begin, unsuitable arrangements become suitable, and love happens. With her eye for the frailties of human behavior and her ear for the absurdities of social intercourse, Karen Joy Fowler has never been wittier nor her characters more appealing. The result is a delicious dissection of modern relationships.

Dedicated Austenites will delight in unearthing the echoes of Austen that run through the novel, but most readers will simply enjoy the vision and voice that, despite two centuries of separation, unite two great writers of brilliant social comedy.

What I Remember:
Since reading the book in 2006, I have watched the movie many times. It's one of my fall backs when I'm looking for a good chick flick. I probably watch it about once a year. I was very surprised when I started reading to see how different the movie is from the book. I basically remembered nothing from the book version of this story.

My Original Rating:
I read this book before I started using Goodreads to rate books, but it must have been at least a 4 since I kept it all these years. I planned to read it again. Although until now I don't think I ever did. Probably because the movie came out, and I watched that instead.

My Thoughts on the Book:
I really like the characters in this book. But that's basically all there is...a lot of characterization and back story, not a lot of plot. I liked that the book was written in the royal "we". And I did enjoy how each month focused on a specific character (whoever was hosting that month), but until the last two chapters there just wasn't enough action in the present day story.

I am very impressed with how true the movie is to the original characters and story even though the movie changed a lot. The characters ages were all adjusted (except Prudie). But the movie writers were able to take all of the interesting bits about the characters and pull them into the main plot line. I have to say it: I like the movie so much more than the book.

Of course I love the Austen elements of the story. Although I really should read all of the books. I probably would have enjoyed the bookish discussion more if I was intimately familiar with the book details.

My Re-Read Rating: 3 stars

My Thoughts on My Original Rating:
I read this book when I was still a fairly recent transplant to Milwaukee and shortly after we'd bought our new house and moved to a different suburb. All that to say I didn't have a lot of friends. Around that time I also tried starting a book club, which wasn't very successful. I think I loved this book so much in 2006 because of the friendships and the book club aspect. I know I was drawn to it because of the Austen theme, but in that time of my life I think the characters appealed to me a lot despite the lack of plot.

Favorite Quote:
"The great thing about books was the solidity of the written word. You might change and your reading might change as a result, but the book remained whatever it had always been. A good book was surprising the first time through, less so the second."

The Verdict:
I'll be donating this book to the library. I think I'll stick to the movie in the future.

This book was read as part of my 2016 re-read challenge.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

3 things I don't mind spending money on

I am a fairly frugal person, and I am often looking for ways to save money. But there are three things that I spend money on without guilt. I won't ever skimp in these areas unless Jim or I somehow end up unemployed. (Knock on wood.)

1. Plane Tickets

I moved to Wisconsin almost 14 years ago from Buffalo, NY. But I am close with my family, especially my mother and my sister. It's better that we don't live close to each other for reasons I won't get in to. But it is still hard to not see my family very often. Therefore, we travel to see them as much as possible. And that adds up to a lot of plane tickets.

We save some money because Jim doesn't always go with us to Philadelphia to visit my sister and her family when it's between holidays. But for the major events, i.e. Thanksgiving, we all fly to Florida, and it does add up.

But whatever it costs. It's always worth it, and I am very thankful that we have the means to travel often. Having only one child definitely helps cut down on the cost as well.

2. Babysitters

We have babysitters A LOT. Even when we don't go out. We host a monthly game night with a bunch of friends, and we almost always have a babysitter just come and play with Christopher and put him to bed, so we can both socialize and play games the whole time.

We also love to go see movies in the theater, so we get a babysitter at least once a month for date nights as well. It's nice for us to have some time out as a couple. And we've been very lucky to find a few really wonderful babysitters who love Christopher and who he loves to have over. I think given the choice, he'd have a babysitter every night!

We also have used babysitters for full weekends when we want to go out of town. And while the cost is pretty high, it's great for occasions when we want to go to a board game weekend or a wedding and we don't have nearby family to watch Christopher.

Again, no matter the cost, it's always worth it to me to have some time away, and to get someone to entertain Christopher while we're doing the things we love.

3. House Cleaner

When we moved 3 years ago, I thought Jim would do more of the house work because he'd be at home more since his job was only 7 minutes from our house. That didn't happen. I found myself nagging him a lot to clean the house. Or there would be mold growing in the bathrooms before I finally got around to cleaning them. I just hate cleaning. And so does Jim.

I must have complained to a couple of friends because they admitted to having house cleaners. That was all I needed to hear. We hired someone right away, and we have not regretted it. Our cleaner comes every other Monday. It forces us to pick up the house at least that often. And it's so nice to come home to a clean house. She's even learned that we like to sleep with different blankets, so she makes the two halves of our bed separately.

I absolutely love not having to vacuum, dust, and clean the house. And it's really improved our marriage. I no longer have to nag least about cleaning.

What do you spend money on guilt free?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #8: Top Ten Books I've Recently Added To My TBR

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

I follow a lot of blogs, so I read a lot of reviews. You all give me great suggestions. ALL. THE. TIME. I have way too many books on my TBR list, but here are the last 10 books I added to my TBR list.

The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan

I added this book after reading Julie's review over at Booking Mama. I thought this would be a good book selection for my kindergarten moms book club. I've added it to my list of ideas for our March selection.

Even if we don't pick it for book club, I'll probably check it out because it sounds like a cute and fun read.

The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt

After reading Tiff's review at Mostly YA Lit, I put this book on my TBR list, and I almost bought the Kindle book because it's only $1.99. But I have a ton of eARCs on my Kindle app right now, so I decided I need to get through those before I add anything else.

But this book sounds really good. I love contemporary YA books with a little more substance to them, and her review definitely made it sound like I would enjoy this book. I'll hopefully get to it soon.

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

I am not entirely sure what this book is going to be, but it's Rainbow Rowell, so I need to read it as soon as it comes out. I'm guessing it will be an ebook only, so I'll have to buy it once it's released.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

This book sounds really different and interesting, and it's pretty short. I added it to my TBR after reading Steph's review at Smart Dames Clever Books.

It's another book I'm going to suggest to my moms book club. We have a length restriction, and it's been really hard to find books under 300 pages to suggest.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

I was inspired to read (well most likely listen) to this book after listening to Modern Mrs. Darcy's second episode of her new podcast, What Should I Read Next? I hadn't heard of Brene Brown, but this book sounded most interesting to me.

We'll see if I actually listen to this book. Sometimes I can be a huge procrastinator with non-fiction.

The Lost Husband by Katherine Center

In that same episode of her podcast, Anne mentioned books that fall into "the sweet spot" because serious literature and fluff. I linked over to her post about these books, and I found this one that looked intriguing. I have already read and enjoyed 3 of the 5 recommendations that fit this category, and the 5th was already on my TBR list.

I am also recommending this book to my moms book club.

Strike by Delilah S. Dawson

While reviewing books I read in 2015, I remember that Hit was supposed to be a sequel, so I looked to see if the sequel was listed in Goodreads yet. Sure enough, it was.

I enjoyed the first book well enough, so I added this book to my TBR. I won't necessarily read it ASAP after the release, but I'd like to get to it sometime.

Zero Day by Jan Gangsei

I added this book to my list after reading Jen's review at YA Romantics. I have enjoyed the few political YA books that I've read recently, so I thought I should check this one out.

And it has alternating POVs, which is one of my favorite writing styles.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

Grace at Rebel Mommy's Book Blog wrote a really good review of this book last week, and even though I don't usually read this type of book, I'm determined to check it out.

She assured me it won't be too scary.

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

I haven't had the best luck with Gayle Forman yet, but I am always intrigued when an author crosses over from YA to Adult or vice versa. So when I saw this book listed on Waiting for Wednesday last week by Tiff at Mostly YA Lit, I decided I had to check it out.

The adult plot sounds VERY interesting to me. I would suggest this one for my moms book club too, but it's too long. I'll have to read it on my own.

What have you added to your TBR recently?

Monday, January 18, 2016

YA trope I'm sick of

Last month I did the Unpopular Opinions Book Tag, and I couldn't think of a popular book trope that I'm sick of. This past week I finally came up with one!

Well, it's less of a trope and more of a character element, but I'm going to share it anyway.

Chuck Taylors.

Seriously, do authors think teenagers don't wear any other type of shoe? I was reading two books last week that mentioned characters wearing these shoes. One guy. One girl.

I didn't even know what a Chuck Taylor was until after reading The Fault in Our Stars. I had to Google it to find out that that even meant Converse All Star. Who actually calls them Chuck Taylors? Am I the only one who wasn't aware of this term?

That's it. End brief rank.

But am I curious. When did this trend start? Has anyone else noticed the overuse of this shoe in YA books?

Side Notes:

1. There's actually a book about the phenomenon of Chucks. Perhaps I should read this book.

2. There's a YA book with a character named Chuck Taylor. I may need to check this book too.

And that's the end of my weirdest post yet. :)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Morning snuggles...enjoying them while they last

I mentioned before that Jim took away Christopher's iPad in early December. We actually haven't given it back yet. Other than on the airplane to and from Buffalo right after Christmas, it's been in a drawer collecting dust. Surprisingly, Christopher hasn't asked for it very often.

It used to be part of our morning routine that Christopher would get up before his alarm went off and watch the iPad in his room until it was time to get dressed for school. Now, he's been either sleeping in until his alarm or coming into our room to snuggle. It's been a while since he's done that.

Normally it's only 10-15 minutes before my alarm is supposed to go off, but I don't mind at all letting him crawl into bed with us for a little bit...for two reasons.

1. He won't want to do this for very much longer

It kind of nice having him so near. He starting to resist kisses and hugs during the daytime hours. Sometimes he whispers random questions to me. It's funny to hear the kinds of things he's thinking about. Other times I rub his back or stroke his arm. He's like Jim that way. He really likes to be touched and to have his back scratched. He's definitely a Kelpin!

2. He often falls back to sleep.

My alarm goes off 15-30 minutes before Christopher's depending on the day, so if I let him climb over me to sleep in the middle of the bed, then I can sneak out without waking him up when my alarm goes off. A little extra sleep definitely does him some good. We all know how important sleep is to everyone, but especially growing kids.

And on the weekends, we both get to keep sleeping (although admittedly I don't get to sleep as late now as I did when he'd watch the iPad) long as he doesn't start grinding his teeth. Eww! I can't stand it when he does that. I'm waiting to hear back from the dentist about whether he has an obstructed airway. We need to get him to stop doing that before the rest of his big teeth come in.

Do your kids like to snuggle in bed with you? Do you let them? When did they grow out of this behavior?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Book Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like (YA)

This Is What Happy Looks Like (This Is What Happy Looks Like #1) by Jennifer E. Smith

Goodreads Summary:
If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds. 

Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs? 

My Review:
This book was so cute! Graham Larking, teenage heart-trobe movie star, accidentally sends an email to Ellie O'Neill in Maine. Thus begins their long distance friendship. Neither reveals their name, so Graham is about to be a normal boy instead of a movie star. Then he convinces his director to take the movie to Maine once their small town deal for North Carolina falls through.

The book is told in alternating chapters that almost overlap. I loved the transition between chapters when you could see a glimpse of the same scene from the other point of view. I loved Graham so much. I felt for him. He couldn't go anywhere or do anything without the photographers following him.

Ellie was a little harder for me to like. She was witty and fun in email, but kind of a spaz once they met in real life. Once the reason for her weirdness about Graham's fame was revealed, I forgave her a little bit and got into their romance a lot more.

This book is a pretty typical contemporary romance, but the seaside town and the famous person romance worked really well for me. I also enjoyed Ellie's relationship with her best friend, Quinn. Their drama was realistic, and I appreciated Ellie's belief in the value of friendship.

Before I even finished this book I bought the novella sequel on Amazon. I was very disappointed to find that there wasn't a full sequel out yet. Is there going to be one? I want to read more about these two characters!

My Rating: 4 Stars
Understand my ratings.

I read this book as part of my new author challenge. I loved Jennifer E. Smith's writing style, characterization, and plotting. I need to check out some of her other books. Which one should I try next?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Do you give half stars? Here's why I don't.

Before blogging I only rated books on Goodreads. And since Goodreads only allows whole stars, I never really thought about half stars. Sure I occasionally struggled with rating a book, but I was really only rating books for my own reference, so I could remember what I read and what I liked.

Now that I blog, I post my reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble after the review goes live on this site. All three rating systems only allow whole stars, so I've made it a policy to only give out whole stars here on my blog. I don't want to deal with adjusting ratings, and here's why.

It's not just as simple as always rounding a half star up to the next whole star rating.

Let's look at the books I've read so far in 2016.

I gave 4 stars to The Things We KeepEverything I Never Told You, and The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, but these books were on different levels in my mind.

If I did give out half stars, I would have rated these books as follows:

The Things We Keep                           4.5 stars
Everything I Never Told You              3.5 stars
The Anatomical Shape of a Heart      4.0 stars

Why did both 4.5 and 3.5 end up as 4 stars?

Because in my mind a 4.5 star book can never be a 5 star book. To me, a 5 star book is flawless. The perfect book for me. And a 4.5 star rating implies that I did find something wrong with the book. That some small element didn't work for me. In The Things We Keep it was some elements of the ending.

As a general rule I do tend to let other half star ratings round up when I settle on my final star count for my reviews. I am OK with this inconsistency.

I don't often run into the issue of half stars, so I'd rather interesting that it happened with 2 of the 4 books I've read so far this year. Usually I have a star rating in mind soon after starting a book, and I am comfortable with that rating right up to the end. But when I do encounter books where I cannot decide on a rating, I often wish that I did give out half stars.

Do you give out half stars? How do you convert those ratings to whole stars for Goodreads or other sites? Am I the only one who rounds down 4.5 star ratings?