What we’re reading these days, January 2014


It’s reading round-up time again!  I’ve got several books in progress, but with the holidays and all, I only finished 2 in the last month.  But, since I read at least 3 books a day to my almost-4-year-old son, so I thought I’d include some of our current favorites here, too.

Organizing Solutions for People with Attention Deficit Disorder by Susan C. Pinsky. I loved this practical approach to organizing for anyone who struggles with clutter. In a nutshell: drastically cut down on your stuff, hire help where you need it (lawncare, house cleaning, etc.), & remove barriers (open shelving, no lids, put stuff where you use it even if that means owning multiples, like toilet brushes, laundry hampers, etc) #annerecommendsit

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett.  Short stories and essays from one of my favorite authors! Worth the read for The Getaway Car and the story of Parnassus bookstore alone, but I was fascinated by her story about trying out for the LA Police Academy.

Babyberry Pie, written by Heather Vogel Frederick and illustrated by Amy Schwartz. I’m sure we especially love this book because we have a baby in the house, but it’s a sweet bedtime story with fun illustrations. #andpie

Cars Galore, written by Peter Stein and illustrated by Bob Staake. Just a basic rhyming book for your car-loving kid, but the funny illustrations really make it great.

Lumpito and the Painter from Spain, written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Dean Griffiths. Both Spain and dachshunds hold a special place in my heart , so I really hoped this book wouldn’t suck when my son pulled it off the shelf, excited about the dog with paint on its nose. I was not disappointed! #picassolovesdoxies

Would You Like to Play Hide & Seek with Lovable, Furry Old Grover?, written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin. Grover gets increasingly frustrated as he discovers that hiding in the pages of a book isn’t the easiest thing to do! #80sclassic #favoritemuppet


Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy


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The Bobsleddies, Part 2

Photo Credit: [rotten apple] via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: [rotten apple] via Compfight cc

Yesterday I started my mini-Best Of series with a list of my top 5 most-read articles from 2013.  Today I’m highlighting some of my favorites from the year, even if they didn’t get read the most.

My post about Christmas morning at my grandparents’ farm when I was a kid.  Somehow my (surprisingly tech-savvy) grandma found this post and asked me to read it to everyone in my extended family before we started opening presents this year.

My goal setting posts.  Here’s a good one reviewing my August goals — I had a baby in late July, so my August goals were things like “take a nap everyday.”  I love reviewing my goals monthly and coming up with goals/projects that make a concrete impact on my happiness in a relatively short time span.

Sisters in Spirit: Forgiveness was all about the struggles of forgiving myself when I feel like I’ve royally screwed up as a parent — yelled, spanked, and utterly missed the mark when trying to design a punishment that fits the “crime” of a squirrelly three-year-old.

My posts on running/weight lifting/etc. were pretty slim this year, but this one I wrote at 33 1/2 weeks pregnant makes me smile.  I am so proud of myself for continuing to stay active throughout my pregnancy.  I do actually enjoy exercising, so that helped, but since this is my second kid, I knew it would be a lot easier to exercise before the baby came than after!  (5 months post-partum, I can attest to the truth of this statement.)

I loved writing about reading this year!  I know it pushed me to read more than I would have normally, even after my extra reading time during maternity leave came to an end.  I talked about some of my favorite books of the year (Bread & Wine and The Art Forger) in my October Twitterature post.

I got back into scrapbooking this year, using the Project Life system.  (For the uninitiated, it’s basically an album + photo pocket pages + a “core kit” of color-coordinated cards for filling in dates, writing down memories, etc.)  My favorite part was the little Project Life baby book that I created, since I knew there was no way I was going to keep up with a traditional baby book for my second child.

What was your favorite thing you wrote (or read) on a blog this year?

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Best Of Beauty School Dropout – “the BOBSleDdies”

Photo Credit: [rotten apple] via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: [rotten apple] via Compfight cc

For the last week of 2013, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of my favorite and most popular posts of the year — a “Best of” series, so to speak.  I’ve been jokingly referring to it as “the bobsleddies” in my head ever since I wrote out the abbreviation BOBSD (Best of Beauty School Dropout) in my blog planning notebook.

I’ll kick things off with the 5 most popular posts of the year.  Tomorrow I’ll dig into the archives for some of my other favorite posts. And don’t forget to check the http://beardcareshop.com site, you will find the best beauty tips.

1. What’s on your bookshelf?

2. Cooking School: Slow Cooker 101

3. What I’m Into, October 2013

4. Cooking School: Asian Cooking Toolkit

5. Merry Christmas to YOU — a giveaway! (giveaway now closed — sorry!)

I was really happy to see that my Cooking School posts seem to be resonating with people.  I put a lot of thought into coming up with topics that might help people who want to learn to cook or expand their cooking skills a bit and to keeping it really accessible to newbie cooks who might not have a lot of kitchen gadgets or experience using (or access to) unusual ingredients.  (PS, if you have any requests or suggestions for posts in that series, I’d love to hear them!)

I also loved that two of my most popular posts were from link-ups.  I have made so many new blog-friends this year (and even met Shana in person!) from participating in link-ups.  I’ve tried several, but my favorites are Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature, Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into, and Vodka & Soda’s Humpday Confessions.  Oh, and I can’t forget One Community, the photoblogging link-up that I co-host with Kelli and a rotating assortment of other photography loving friends.

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Twitterature, November/December 2013

twitterature dec 2013

An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie’s background investigation for a real estate transaction leads her to discover a terrible wartime secret of the people of small village in Kent. Full of plot twists and interesting characters! #gypsies #violins #dirtysecrets #zenophobiaisbad

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. This book of holiday-themed essays and short stories was a mixed bag. His personal essays were good, but the others were awful. He’s going for dark humor but the topics are so extreme that they weren’t funny to me at all. Read Me Talk Pretty One Day instead. #skipit #theoppositeofholidaycheer #deadbabiesandpointlessamputationsarentfunny

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. The grown-up version of The Fault in our Stars, with quadriplegia instead of cancer.  This book puts you inside the heads of the characters (although I didn’t like the changes of narrator throughout) and really makes you think about what you would do in their situations.  #morethanaromance #morethananeuthanasiabook

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  This book is full of practical advice about how to communicate with your kids to build up their confidence and make them more independent. It’s not a wishy-washy discipline book, it’s a guide to interacting with respect (going both ways) and teaching kids how to be problem solvers. #nomoreyelling #itneverworksanyway

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy



The winner of the big giveaway is Christina Moss!  The Project Life mini album and mini kit is already making its way to her in British Columbia.

The One Community photoblogging project continues in 2014!  The January link-up opens on January 5.  The words for January are treasure, silver, resolution and winter.  I always love seeing everyone’s photographic interpretations of the inspiration words.

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What’s on your bookshelf?


A few days ago, Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy wrote a post about how she loves to sneak a peek at other people’s bookcases whenever she is visiting their homes.  That spawned her idea for people to take pictures of their bookcases and share them!  I have barely managed to read a page since my last Twitterature post, so I figured this would be a good way to write about my love of reading without actually having to give up my precious sleep time to read.  (Priorities, right?)

After having my piles of books completely take over my nightstand for years, I finally gave in a few months ago and switched it out for a bookcase.  We don’t have a ton of storage space in our house, so I limit my book collection to what will fit on these shelves.  (Except for our cookbooks — they have their own bookcase in the kitchen which deserves its own post!)


On the top shelf, I’ve got parenting books and some of my favorite novels, along with a big binder full of Parents as Teachers handouts.  Highlights:  The Wonder Weeks, Blue Highways, The Cleaner Plate Club, 100 Years of Solitude


Next is my non-fiction shelf — gardening, money management, marriage, triathlon, photography, Flylady, and Craftsman-style home books all make the cut.  I also see a rogue cookbook and crafting book, which should be in other places.  Highlights: The Meaning of Marriage, New Rules of Lifting for Women, and You Just Don’t Understand Me: Women and Men in Conversation.


The third shelf is the landing pad for my current to-read pile (And The Mountains Echoed, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk), as well as some random junk that I seem to have shoved there and forgotten about.  Below that I’ve got travel/regional America cultural anthropology books, a few religious books, a couple of favorite books from college and law school, and a pile of Runner’s Word and Vegetarian Times magazines.  Highlights:  Ruby Slippers (fans of Sarah Bessey really should read this book by Jonalyn Grace Fincher), State by State, and Getting to Yes 


Last but not least, we’ve got the crafting book shelf.  I have significantly culled my collection from its former glory, and only kept my favorites.  Highlights: All the Nancy Bush sock books, the Mason-Dixon books, and the Last-Minute Gifts series.

Thanks for taking a tour of my bookshelf!  Were you surprised by anything you saw?  What are you reading these days?

P.S. If you enjoy this kind of photo link-up, I’d love for you to join the One Community photo link-up that I co-host on the 5th of every month.  One Community is a monthly photo project in which participants photograph their lives and communities with inspiration words in mind. The goal is to both showcase similarities and differences in our communities worldwide – and bring us all closer together in understanding through art. The words for December are: needle, chair, pillow, and speech.

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Twitterature, October 2013


Now that I’m back to work part-time, I’m not able to read quite as prolifically as I did while I was on maternity leave.  However, I still managed to finish three books in the last month because I started two of them several months before.  Here are my quick “twitter-like” reviews:

The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  The coming-of-age story of a young woman who grew up in the foster system and fluently communicates in the Victorian “language of flowers” but lacks all relationship skills. I got really frustrated by the main character, but when I finally finished the book, I was pleasantly surprised with the resolution of the story.  #readtotheend #worthit

The Art Forger, B.A. Shapiro. This novel takes you inside the world of working artists, the pursuit of artistic recognition, and the people who are obsessed enough with art to steal it, as told by the artist-turned-forger. #quickfunread #wellresearched

Bread & Wine, Shauna Niequist. This series of essays about friendship, hospitality, and community are so well-written, and the recipes that go with each essay look amazing. This book inspired me to start a new moms group at my church. #sogood #imlatetothisparty #iwanttoeatallthethings


Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy!


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Twitterature, September 2013

twitterature sept 2013

Among the Mad, by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs tracks down a madman threatening to release poison gas in London after World War I. With everything going on in Syria, I was intrigued and horrified to read Winspear’s descriptions of death by poison gas.

Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith. Fans of JK Rowling rejoice! I hated The Casual Vacancy, but this mystery novel is excellent. Rowling’s character development and storytelling are as good as ever, and there’s enough unexplored backstory with the main character to turn this into a series.

Help, Thanks, Wow, by Anne Lamott. One Thousand Gifts for the spicy believer. This is a quick read on the essentials of prayer with Lamott’s characteristic wit. Not too much political stuff if that’s turned you off from Lamott books in the past.

Keepers, by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion. I should probably discontinue my Cooking School series and just tell everyone to buy this cookbook. I expect many of these recipes to become “keepers” in my house, too.

Call The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times, by Jennifer Worth. I haven’t watched the BBC series, but I loved reading about life in a working class neighborhood of post-WW2 London through the lens of a young nurse training with nuns to become a midwife.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s Twitterature.


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Twitterature: August 2013


Quick, twitter-like reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.


7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.  Yes, it’s another one of those life-experiment stunt books, but for a good cause: reducing excess in possession, spending, stress, technology, etc. to make more room in your life for God. #sometimespreachybutinspirational


Crooked House by Agatha Cristie.  You won’t recognize the detective in this mystery, but the suspense and plot twists are classic Cristie. #notpoirot #notmarple


Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.  The zany characters and unexpected plotline make this fun, light novel a page-turner. #antarctica #frustratedgenius #russianmob #seattle

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature (August 2013 Edition)

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Twitterature & nursery pic!

twitterature-graphic1Today I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to tell you about the books I’ve been reading this month, in 140 characters or less.

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs investigates the mysterious death of a controversial artist and his eccentric high-society family. I love how she weaves a mystery into a little-known piece of post-WW1 England.

The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler.  This book applies success hacks from biz, econ, & military to families.  Good read, but probably better for families with kids over 5.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In other news, I finally got the pictures hung in the nursery. It only took me three tries to get the last picture to hang even with the others.  (Sheesh.)  There is a rocking chair on the other side of that little table, and a dresser with changing pad on the other side of the chair.  It’s harder than you’d think to take a picture of a small room!


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Just a quick post to let everyone know that the winner of the Happier at Home and Happiness Journal giveaway is Rhonda!  Thanks for playing, everyone.

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