Monday, March 2, 2015

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives

Gretchen Rubin is probably my favorite author of self-help books.  I loved The Happiness Project. I loved Happier at Home and now I absolutely love Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives.

Rubin has begun to feel a bit like a friend.  As she writes about her family, I found myself thinking, "oh, yeah, that's right....Jamie (her husband) does have health problems." "Are her girls really that old already?"  I feel like Rubin and I are catching up.

This time Rubin sets out to write about our habits. Although I view myself as a creature of habit, I am guessing that people who are not will still relate to this book.  

In fact Rubin is able to divide people into categories based on their behavior.  Although I wasn't ever sure I fell firmly into any one category, I could then see how Rubin counseled each category of people to be the most successful in accomplishing their goals and helping them develop habits that were helpful to them.

Rubin's book reads much like her previous self help books. I appreciate the variety of friends and family she shares with readers, which gives a more well rounded view of the topic of which she writes.

I finished this book a few weeks ago, and felt it spoke directly to me.  My mom is now reading it, and after she is done, I would like to pick it up again. I rarely re-read books, but Rubin's Better Than Before is one book I feel that I could turn to time and time again and always find something new to learn.

I can't wait until this one is released in a few days, and I'm already looking ahead to what topic Rubin will tackle next.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday Salon

I'm so excited that today is March 1, which means spring must be right around the corner. Another sign of spring is the local ice cream store opened yesterday. After the girls cleaned their room, we visited it as a treat.

Little Sister and her friend

I am enjoying a three day weekend since I had two nights of conferences last week at school.

On Friday Big Sister had surgery on a six year molar that never erupted.  The shot in the roof of her mouth was not a big hit, but I think the soreness and swelling are not much fun, either.  The goal is that by removing the gum covering this tooth, it will now erupt. If it doesn't there may be another surgery to remove it since they are worried the root will grow around her jaw.  This is just peanuts compared to chemotherapy and all the other stuff she has been through, but it still isn't much fun, and may be one of the late effects of the drugs she was given.

So, our weekend has been low-key with quite a bit of cleaning involved.

I did do a bit of reading, a bit of running, and also a bit of lesson planning.

Today I am hoping for more of the same.  I have enough leftovers to get us through today, and a few easy meals ready for supper this week.

At church today we celebrated three baptisms this year with a baby blessings reception.  I couldn't help but take a picture of the cake which I am still a little bit intrigued by. Very odd.

Despite the fact that there were three naked babies on the cake, my girls managed to eat plenty of it.

I'm off to enjoy the rest of my Sunday.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, too.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Five

I've had my Friday Five picks ready to go since midweek. And, I could have added many more than five things this week.  These are the highlights:

Gap Scarf - I feel like the daisies make the scarf look spring-like, yet I love the color combo, which isn't the traditional yellow. I'm still waiting for this to go on sale.

Bat Wing Top - from Dress Lily.  I ended up ordering this top, which cost me all of $11 including shipping. I love how it looks on the model, and am hoping I like it as much when I have my own.  At least since I only have $11 invested, I won't be totally upset if this gets handed down to someone else.

Athleta Top - I like the bright color of this top, which is now marked down to $34.99.  I'm not sure yellow is my color, since I am more pale than not, but it would definitely perk my exercise wardrobe up.

Pendant necklace - If there is one item I would buy from this Friday's Five, this pendant necklace from Nordstrom, is my choice hands down. It's not super expensive, and I could wear it with nearly everything.

Brianna Knight Dress from Garnet Hill - I told my mom I liked this dress and wanted her to see it.  She texted back that it was very dotty and had a low cut neckline. So.....I still like this dress, but would like it better if I had a different body. I bought a great navy blue dress years ago now that is pretty standard. I think it is perhaps the only dress I own, and would like to update this a bit.  I'm just going to have to keep my eyes open for a good replacement.

What things have caught your eye this week?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting

After hearing my youngest daughter carry on this morning about wanting more Shopkins, More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting by Serena Miller
has been a very timely read.

Serena Miller is not Amish, but has Amish friends and has close ties with the Amish community near where she lives.  In her interactions with them, she often marveled at how well behaved the Amish children were, and also how happy.

After talking with a variety of Amish parents, there are a few things that stick out:

* The Amish are taught to think of others first.  Their own happiness is secondary, and grow up seeing their parents put others' needs before their own.

* The Amish don't focus on material possessions, and the absence of television helps in freeing them of the desire to want for things. They are happy spending time together and can find ways to entertain themselves.

*The Amish children Miller observed ate whatever was served at meal times.  The parents also eat whatever is served, without criticizing or expressing their dislike for any food. They are also a part of daily food preparation, and as I have noticed with my own children, if they help fix the food, are more likely to eat it themselves.

* Amish children understand that they are expected to obey their parents.  Parents are firm in their discipline, and expect their children to do what they say.

* There is a lot of good, common sense advice in this book. There are several little tips that I wish I had known years ago when my children were younger.  And, unfortunately, there are no "do-overs" in parenting.  I loved Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, but More Than Happy by Serena Miller is more applicable to my own life and child-rearing philosophies. This is a parenting book that every parent needs to read.

Read Alikes: 
Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick:  The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna
Due out: June 2, 2015

Product Description taken from Amazon:

A memorable coming-of-age story and love story, laced with suspense, which explores a hidden side of the home front during World War II, when German POWs were put to work in a Wisconsin farm community . . . with dark and unexpected consequences

The war has taken a toll on the Christiansen family. With food rationed and money scarce, Charlotte struggles to keep her family well fed. Her teenage daughter, Kate, raises rabbits to earn money for college and dreams of becoming a writer. Her husband, Thomas, struggles to keep the farm going while their son, and most of the other local men, are fighting in Europe.

When their upcoming cherry harvest is threatened, strong-willed Charlotte helps persuade local authorities to allow German war prisoners from a nearby camp to pick the fruit.

But when Thomas befriends one of the prisoners, a teacher named Karl, and invites him to tutor Kate, the implications of Charlotte’s decision become apparent—especially when she finds herself unexpectedly drawn to Karl. So busy are they with the prisoners that Charlotte and Thomas fail to see that Kate is becoming a young woman, with dreams and temptations of her own—including a secret romance with the son of a wealthy, war-profiteering senator. And when their beloved Ben returns home, bitter and injured, bearing an intense hatred of Germans, Charlotte’s secrets threaten to explode their world.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


This past weekend I was hunkered down on the top bleacher of an all day volleyball tournament for Middle Sister.  Usually I sit with the other parents, but I had brought along a few books to read, and once I started Her by Harriet Lane, I didn't need anyone else around.  I was totally entertained.

Emma and Nina take turns narrating this story.  Emma's life centers around her chidren, both still toddlers, which at times seems overwhelming.

Nina has one daughter, Sophie, from her first marriage, and presents herself as fashionable, a bit above Emma's social class.

And yet, Nina continues to watch Emma from afar, insinuating herself into Emma's life.  

Her intentions appear good on the surface, but there is more to Nina than what we initially see.  It is obvious that Nina knows Emma from years ago, but while Nina recognizes Emma, Emma has no idea at all that she has once met Nina.

One of my friends suggested that Emma is perhaps a bit self-absorbed, which I at first attributed to her status as a young mother, but after a few days of thinking about these characters, feel that Emma's self absorption has always been a part of her character.

It seems that Nina is always there to help out - when Emma loses her wallet, she finds it and returns it. She stands in for her daughter and babysits for Emma's children so Emma and her husband can have a night out together.

And yet, there is always something a bit sinister and devious that lies just underneath everything Nina does.

I had been warned prior to reading Her that the last three pages were infuriating.  However, I didn't find them that way at all.  I was wishing for more resolution than what is given, yet there is a certain skill to creating a novel that ends with such a question mark that readers are eager to discuss what each of them envisions the ending to be.

And, as I thought a bit about this novel, I couldn't find any ending more appropriate than the one Lane chose to write.

This is a good book club selection and will provide plenty of talking points to start a discussion.

Read Alikes:  Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes

Monday, February 23, 2015

Happiness For Beginners

Katherine Center's novels are some of my favorite kinds - women's fiction with a few chick lit moments thrown in.

Helen, divorced for just a year, and trying to put her life back together, signs up for a wilderness survival course at the suggestion of her younger brother Duncan, who enjoys tormenting his big sister a little.

As she sets off, she discovers that her brother's best friend, Jake, is also going on the same survival course.  Helen agrees to give Jake a ride, and she ends up enjoying Jake's company more than she ever imagined.  

Over the course of the next three weeks, Helen does her best to stay alive, dealing with blisters, elk, and the many other hazards that become part of her daily life.  And, she is forced to watch Jake, whose happy personality draws everyone to him, become a magnet for every girl in the group.

And Helen realizes she is jealous.  And possibly in love.  

Except even when she and Jake seem to be getting close, he tells her that a relationship isn't possible.

I kept reading as quickly as I could to see if Helen would finally find happiness with Jake, but Happiness For Beginners provides more than just a simple love story.  Both Helen and Jake have their own tragedies to deal with from their past, and Center's latest novel is a great way to spend an afternoon.

As always, I am anxiously awaiting her next novel.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Salon

This weekend has been a rare (and much needed) two days full of reading and finishing up some books.

Yesterday's volleyball tournament provided time to do quite a bit of leisure reading. And, today, in between grocery shopping and laundry, I have again been able to sit down and enjoy some time to read.

Part of this is because my girls all decided to hang out with my mom this afternoon, and the house has been quiet and peaceful. That is a rare occurrence.

Yesterday was my mom's 69th birthday. We surprised her with an ice cream cake, and she surprised me with a pillow that she had specially made to include important places in our lives.

We have already tested it out on our couch, where it works quite well.  

This upcoming week is full of busyness: two late nights of conferences, a doctor appointment for two of my daughters, a mid-week Lenten service and meal I am organizing and serving, a class I am taking, and the regular piano lessons and volleyball practice.  This past weekend was the state wrestling tournament, and despite the fact that my husband is currently sick and sleeping on the couch, I am glad he will be able to help out with some of the craziness.

And, just as I was about to post this, my mom got the news that her second brother, Loren, passed away after a three year battle with cancer.

The girls and I are remembering our trip to southern Colorado to visit him in June of 2011.  I'm glad they have happy memories of him.

Here we are on a gator ride in the high desert.  Probably the highlight of our trip, and something we will always remember. I'm also thankful that Loren is not suffering, and is now home with his Savior.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Five

This week's Friday Five seems pretty focused on shirts.  I will admit that since it's almost March (amazing!), I am thinking a little bit about spring clothes.  There are plenty of cute things to drool over.  Here's five highlights of my week of internet browsing:

I already have too many t-shirts, but most of them I wear to exercise. I need just a few nice t-shirts I can wear out in public.  This Nelson Mandela T-Shirt at the Gap right now is one I think would be fun to own.

I've been sitting at volleyball games watching Middle Sister's team, but what I've been noticing is the Spyder Jacket that seems to be a staple for us moms.  Every mom there who owns one raves about it.  They come in a variety of colors, and seem to be "the thing" right now - often replacing a heavy winter coat.  At this point of winter, I'd love to replace a heavy winter coat.

This shirt is at Garnet Hill right now. I don't think the picture really does it justice - especially pairing it with those shorts- but there are a few more colors to choose from, and since I'm in the mood for spring clothing right about now, would love to add this to my wardrobe.

I am loving this color green, and since spring is right around the corner (I hope), feel this vest just calling my name.  However, it's a little pricey, so I will just love it from afar.  

This top might not seem exciting, but I love navy and white together, and the combination just seems to be a staple for spring and summer.  

I'm looking forward to seeing more cute spring clothes in the upcoming weeks.  There are some great outfits!

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Sarah Weeks So B. It is a go-to novel that I recommend to many students.  I was lucky enough to get to hear her speak, so I am always anxious to read what she publishes.

Honey is Weeks' latest novel.  Although short in length she packs in a good story for fourth-sixth grade readers.

Melody and her father live in a small town in Indiana.  Although Melody's mother died right after she was born and it has always been just her and her father, Melody wishes she knew more about her mom.

When Melody overhears her father calling someone honey, she and her friend, Nick, decide to figure out who the mystery woman is.

A dog named Mo also narrates part of this story, as he recalls part of his life as a puppy.  What he most remembers is the happiness he felt with the couple who adopted him, and how he was taken away by someone else.  Now Mo is in Royal himself, living with the owner of the brand new beauty shop.

Weeks' novel weaves many strands together into one good story.  As an adult, I could find a few questions I had and a few criticisms about the story line which I felt didn't stand up to my scrutiny, yet my fifth grade daughter absolutely devoured  Honey, loving every word. Since Weeks' intended audience is children, I will defer to my daughter's assessment.