Sunday, November 26, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately: Late October through late November

I'm one book away from reaching my reading challenge goal of 31 books for 2017! I haven't read as much as I had hoped to recently, but with winter here and  lots of time indoors, I hope that changes. Here are the last three books I read. 

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I have read nearly all of Brown's books and I love her work. I read this book really quickly and walked away with some good messages. It's kind of hard to describe the message, so I will share this quote from a book summary: "True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” 

Brene wants the reader to think about the following: 1) People are hard to hate close up. Move in. 2) Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil. 3) Hold hands. With strangers. 4) Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart
Yes, sometimes doing these things can be really difficult but I think she is trying to get readers to at least try to accomplish them when they can. 

And here is another quote that appears in the book multiple times: "You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great."-Maya Angelou 

Everyone should read this book and then read it again (which I'd love to do again in the future). It is timely and has an excellent message that we all need to hear. I gave it a 4 out of 5 mainly because I felt like she could have expanded on certain topics a bit more or provided better examples in some parts of the book.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was my book club read for the month and we just had an excellent discussion last week! 

I really enjoyed Picoult's writing style, the plot, and the different character perspectives. I also appreciate that she tackled a very tough and timely topic (race) in this way and it made for a very interesting book club talk. The story was sad, but overall, I walked away with a new perspective and still think about the book quite often. It reminded me of how I felt about reading Evicted. Good books should offer a new perspective on the world and provide empathy for people in your life like the characters you read about in books. I highly recommend this book! Go get it from your local library or independent bookstore and read it!

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Smith shares stories of how humans look for meaning and find it in every day life. It could be through their religion, community, work, volunteering, and so much more. She believes there are four pillars in every day life that relate to meaning: 

1. Belonging: being in relationships where you are valued and you value others
2. Purpose: using your strengths to serve others
3. Transcendence: your sense of self fades away and you feel connected to a higher reality. (For me this comes from looking at paintings or being in nature)
4. Storytelling: the story you tell yourself about yourself. 

My favorite story was about a Vietnam War veteran from Milwaukee who had PTSD and was heading down a negative path in life. He turned it around when he started a coffee shop named Dryhootch and he found meaning and purpose from running this business. He also found a supportive community and connected with other fellow veterans. 

I enjoyed the message this book had to offer and it made me think about my own path to finding meaning in life. I find it through volunteering (even feeding baby birds made me feel like I had so much purpose and meaning); being a wife, cat mom, daughter, sister, friend; work, blogging, and more. Smith says that finding meaning takes effort and I agree. It changes from year to year or even month to month. It has a different definition for each of us and that's ok. 

Disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

My Everyday Life [Week 46]

The week started out with a crazy for avocado kitty yelling at me because he wanted to lick the shell.
 A delicious breakfast full of nutrients because I had a job interview later that day.
Any guesses where my interview was? It's a part-time job in a place I visited a lot as a child and still do as an adult. I was offered the position later in the week!
 His and hers pasta. The pesto from Trader Joe's was delicious!
I was pretty sad and angry on Tuesday. I got into a battle (in Spanish and English) regarding what land was ours vs. a condo development behind us. I am glad I spoke up because I knew we owned part of the woods behind us and the developer wanted to tear them down up until our property. In the end, all that matters is that a few phone calls later, I took care of business and our trees are still standing.

It may seem silly to some that I got upset, but the woods are a natural barrier and home to so many animals I love. The privacy they offer are one of the reasons we loved this house. We have so many varieties of birds, hawks, squirrels, turkeys, possum, deer, and other animals that show up back there.
I made a new friend at a conference two weeks ago and she recommended this PBS series. It was really good!
 All lined up and waiting for me to come out of cleaning the bedroom and bathroom.
 We took a trip to Chicago yesterday!
A warm cup of coffee and a few snacks hit the spot after we got off the train.
 We took a bus to the Shedd! It was our first time there.
 So many cool creatures to check out!
Including this guy. Between his open mouth, head, and orange color, it just reminded me of Trump.
 That was a shark behind us!
 I love frogs and we saw some pretty tiny ones yesterday. This one was so pretty.
We had a late lunch at Native Foods Cafe! It's a plant-based restaurant and I was in heaven with the selection. The fact that I could eat whatever I wanted made it really hard to choose a meal.
I decided on the Native Chicken, Bacon, and Avocado club sandwich with a giant side salad (which I proudly finished). Craig had a delicious meatball sub! I was very impressed with our meal and wish we had one closer.
Our last stop in Chicago was the Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza. This was my second or third time there and I have been talking about getting back there for years. 
Craig says I just wanted to get mulled wine, but that's not true! I like how the vendors, sights, and smells remind me of the amazing Christmas markets I visited in Switzerland when I lived there. 
 I also love that they have vendors come from Germany and other parts of the world!
I'm just getting things in order around the house today because I start a new job tomorrow! I am naturally nervous, but excited!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week! Pardon a turkey and eat veggies instead. :)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Creating Calm Amidst The Holiday Chaos

We're in that joyous and slightly maddening stretch of the year where the calendar is overflowing with holiday parties, celebratory dinners, and family get-togethers.
For the most part it's fun, but sometimes all the activity can leave me feeling exhausted, like most people. In those moments, it's especially important to me that our home feels like a retreat from all the busyness.
Scent is one of my favorite ways to create a calm, restorative atmosphere, so I'm thrilled that Mrs. Meyer's is bringing back my favorite seasonal scents: peppermint, orange clove, and Iowa pine. 
I find the peppermint especially soothing during those times where I'm fighting off a holiday-induced headache. One sniff is like snuggling up with a warm peppermint mocha! Cheerful orange clove is a great stress reliever, and crisp Iowa pine instantly puts me in tune with nature and in the holiday spirit.
Now you can experience the magic of Mrs. Meyer’s for free with this Holiday Set from my friends at Grove Collaborative.
When you place your first order of $20 using my link, you'll get:
  • Free Holiday Mrs. Meyer’s hand soap
  • Free Holiday Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap
  • Free Holiday Mrs. Meyer’s multi surface spray
  • Free Grove seasonal kitchen towel
  • Free Shipping & 60 Day VIP Trial
Existing customers, click here to get a free set of Grove walnut scrubber sponges. They make tackling holiday pots and pans so much easier!

When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I practice mindfulness during everyday tasks like doing dishes or washing my hands. Mrs. Meyer's rich, creamy hand and dish soaps make it easy to stay present in the moment, and I love that they're a healthy addition to my home. 
The Grove kitchen towel feels like such a treat to use, too. It's perfect for streamlining a busy kitchen, since you can use it to dry dishes, drape it over bread dough while it's rising, and even grab hot cookie sheets out of the oven. It also works like a charm with Mrs. Meyer's multi-surface spray for whisking away messes on the stove or counter.
Another way that I bring order to my home this time of year is by using Grove Collaborative. Grove ships my favorite natural household products like laundry detergent, paper towels, and toothpaste to my doorstep on my schedule. No more rushing around stores and fighting crowds! It really helps me feel organized and on top of things which is essential during the holidays.
Once you submit your first Grove order using my link, you'll also be signed up for the free 60 day VIP trial. For 60 days, you'll save even more with free shipping, free gifts, price matching, exclusive sales and personal service — perfect if you're trying to stretch your holiday budget! 
I should warn you that last year, Mrs. Meyer's seasonal scents sold out quickly. This offer is only available through Sunday, November 19 or until the sets are gone, so don't miss out! Here's how it works:
  1. Sign up for Grove Collaborative here. You will receive the Holiday Set for free when you sign up!
  2. To receive this offer, your order needs to be a minimum of $20. Choose the combination of products and scents you love and receive your first box within a few days.
  3. You made it! Click Finish & Pay and place your order.
Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, nor was I offered free products in exchange for my post. I was offered a discount on the kit featured above and I will receive referral credits if you purchase through my links. Thank you for your support of the blog!

Monday, November 13, 2017

My Everyday Life [Weeks 43-45]

I made vegan rice krispie bars with the pumpkin flavored Dandies and they turned out perfect! 
Yup, this was me a couple of weeks ago and in fact, this past weekend too. I've been discovering new family names and locations. It is so much fun!
 I read this article at the doctor's office and it was so good!
 Tried this locally made juice.
I was reading the latest VegNews magazine one night and when I turned to this page, I was shocked! A photo I posted on Instagram made an issue! There's my little kitty Tanzi famous in a vegan magazine.
Hi albino squirrel! We call him "Al." Not very creative, but it works. He's still hanging around and so cute.
 This was pretty good!
 Had a delicious lunch with the girls at one of my favorite restaurants.
 These were really unreal. I will order more from Vitacost soon.
 One of my black and white photo challenge pictures.
Day of the dead yoga at a new studio. It was a great experience.
I finally attended the wonderful Festival of Books this year! I was so happy to be around fellow book nerds. My former boss gave a great talk at it too! (Hi Jennifer).
This was one of the best Half Price Books finds I've had in a while. Stories about my lighthouse keeper ancestors are written about in here and so helpful to my genealogy research.
 I would definitely purchase these again.
After he talked about it for days, we finally made it to Chipotle. Yes, I realize Chipotle is not that unique, but Craig had a medical procedure and couldn't eat for about two days so he was famished and all he wanted was a sofritas burrito.
 Love this quote (and Picasso). He definitely knew his purpose. What's yours?
 This is how I have felt about yoga, hiking, reading, and ping pong lately.
 I have made time for yoga and it's been wonderful. I need to go again soon.
 Another impressive (and free) class thanks to ProHealth Care.
Went to a seminar and met so many kindred spirits and inspiring women. It was one of those days where it felt so great to connect with others face to face.
Before a much needed haircut. I was trying to grow out my hair a little bit, but it got dry and stringy on the ends so I knew it was time to get to the salon.
 I always ask for curls as my style since I can never get them as cute myself. My hair appears way shorter than it is in real life.
 YUM! This place is one of my favs.
A delicious cous cous falafel bowl at Naf Naf grill. The staff member who helped me was so sweet and let me try the two spicy sauces. They were yummy!
This reminds me of Thusa. I worked with her in California and we used to have lunch nearly every week. I think she knew I was a bit sad out there and wanted to help me feel better. She accomplished that so naturally just by being a sweet person. Unfortunately, she lost her life a couple of years ago to an illness and was only in her 30's. She used to say this and I teared up thinking of her when I saw it at the store.
David's Tea finally came to Wisconsin and I purchased a small bag to try it out. This flavor was nice. I drank it on my way to see this lady...
 Drank that tea on my way to see my adorable and talented mama at a craft fair. I surprised her!
Found an adorable blue bird (makes me think of happiness and Gretchen Rubin) and some beautiful smelling soap.
 Great documentary!
Went rock climbing again! I still get a little scared in the beginning. We timed ourselves up a wall this time and tried a few new areas.
Finally stopped by a new bar/liquor store in Pewaukee. I picked out these two bottles to try. Hoping they're good!