5.25.2017

Ten Books for Summer Reading (five I would recommend, and five I am looking forward to!)

Like last year, Memorial Day weekend totally snuck up on me. It feels different here in the Pacific Northwest, because summer weather usually comes after Independence Day and our kids don't get out of school until late June. However we are having what looks like a week long stretch of summer weather right now and apparently I was on the ball with my recommendations last year at this time. So here we are again! 
These are my top five recommendations for summer reading (choosing from books I've read since last May), as well as five summer reads I hope to get around to in the next couple of months. I chose them based on their 'by the side of the pool/in your beach chair readability' - mostly good thrillers or fun dramas, perfect brain candy. (You can click on the Amazon ad for my affiliate link and the text links are to my previous reviews.)
Books I've read and would recommend for summer:

The Couple Next Door by Shari LaPena was un-put-down-able for me! This thriller about a couple who's baby goes missing while they are drinking with the couple next door gets a little ridiculous, and you have to suspend some disbelief, but it's a wild and satisfying ride.

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid was my first book by this author and it did not disappoint. It's sort of a 'Sliding Doors' themed book as we see how the main character's life unfolds in two different realities, had she made different choices. This was a favorite of mine from last summer!
The Dry by Jane Harper is a pretty recent read for me, but it's a perfect summer pick with it's hot, Australian farm country atmosphere - in addition to being a smart and suspenseful thriller.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon is the perfect YA summer read, with a little bit of heft. There are important themes to ponder on family and immigration, but it reads so easily and is so adorably romantic, like a good YA should be. 
Maybe this is cheating a little, because I read Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld more than a year ago, yet somehow left it off of last year's summer reading list. I'm rectifying that now and HIGHLY suggest this modern take on Pride and Prejudice by one of my favorite authors.

Last year I got around to three of the five summer books I was looking forward to, and I hope to better that ratio this time around. I think I'm at an advantage already, since the first two I've had from NetGalley for awhile now and DEFINITELY plan to read and write dedicated reviews.
Books I'm looking forward to reading at the pool:
Yep, another by Taylor Jenkins Reid! The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo sounds like such a departure for her usual material: chick lit with some heft. This story of an actress in the 1950's sounds full of glamour, scandal and romance. Even though I'm just starting this one, it feels reminiscent of Beautiful Ruins - an all time favorite book, which is also a wonderful summer read that I recommended last year, too.

I quite literally squealed with joy when I saw a new novel by Gabrielle Zevin was being published this summer, and requested an ARC of Young Jane Young IMMEDIATELY. Her novel The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is another all time favorite and I'm waiting to savor this one a little closer to it's publication date in August.
If The Almost Sisters is anything close to Gods in Alabama (which would also be a great summer read: a little family drama, a little mystery and a little humor) I will be VERY pleased. 
I saw this on Modern Mrs Darcy as a hot summer release that people will be talking about and the description of rekindling first love, as well as the cover, made me add it to my summer list straightaway. 
A new David Sedaris! I have been trying to listen to more audiobooks lately and none of them are living up to Sedaris' unparallelled comedic narration. I can't wait to listen to him tell stories from his personal diaries this summer as I watch the kids splash in the pool. 

For more summer reading lists, and there are SO MANY, check out the links I recommend below!
Buzzfeed Quiz
Elle
Make America Read Again
Modern Mrs Darcy 
Novel Visits
Sarah's Book Shelves

5.23.2017

Everyday Life and Menu Plan (Plus Chicago eats!) 5.23.17

I'm a little late on my usual menu planning because I spent most of yesterday getting groceries in the house, doing laundry and just enjoyed being ALONE while the kids were at school. Don't get me wrong, we had the most wonderful trip with them and I'll likely put a photo dump post up soon. But, I need to charge my introvert batteries. In the interim, I shall do a food photo dump! 

Our first night we ate at one of our favorite Chicago steak chains, Wildfire. It's been so long since I had my beloved peppercorn filet and I devoured the spinach and kale salad, which is definitely a new-to-me addition to the menu, and an excellent one. They also have a great kids menu, and it was a perfect welcome home dinner.
On our second day in the city, we just ate lunch at the aquarium and then hit up Granite City Brewery near our hotel, of which there are none in our neck of the woods and I wish there were - it's similar to Wildfire in that it has a nice atmosphere, great food selections (and beer) for adults, while having a robust kids menu. Sadly I didn't take pictures, but my pulled pork waffle and black cherry old fashioned were delicious.

The next day was full of crisscrossing the suburbs, and when in my husband's hometown, it's a MUST to visit Lake Forest Food and Wine. They've moved locations since our last visit, and it's kind of tucked away - but worth seeking out. Their Italian sub is the absolute best, and I also love the turkey and havarti on sourdough. 
Afterwards, the other must do is a trip to Sweets for a little something - usually a dark chocolate ladybug (their name for a turtle) and the kids got chocolate covered pretzel rods and a chocolate covered Twinkie! 
To cap off our suburban eating, it's always easy to find our absolute must when going home: PORTILLOS. I got the Italian beef, and my husband and kids devoured their Vienna beef hot dogs.
As if that wasn't enough indulgence, there was an Oberweis nearby and we went for milkshakes: the best in the WORLD - not hyperbole.
The last day was filled with a trip to the mall to walk and stretch our legs after a day in the car, because it was really chilly and rainy. But we did hit up Garrett popcorn for some Chicago mix before heading to the wedding. The kids were impressed: caramel corn AND cheese popcorn?! And, yes, it's a shame we didn't eat pizza on this trip. However, we do regularly get our favorite (Lou Malnati's) shipped to us and the only other place that was easy to get to with the kids was Giordano's and I'm not the biggest fan. Hopefully when we return, we'll have time to take the kids to Pequod's or Uno's or even our favorite late night delivery joint, Chicago's Pizza. So, yep, last night we had pizza at home!
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, and now Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking - be sure to check out all the great weekly food inspiration!

5.16.2017

May Library Haul (and another trip!)

I can't believe our trip to Chicago is almost here! (Hence no real menu planning this week.) This is a slightly different kind of trip, with much more time sitting on the airplane and zero pool sitting/cocktail time. So. I decided I would try and get through some backlist titles I've been meaning to read. Most of these I got on my Kindle as well, since I always put both physical and digital on hold to see which comes in first and so I can bounce back and forth to read on the go.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley was a recommendation on What Should I Read Next that sounded right up my alley (family drama) and an author I feel like I should read.
A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner is still in my stack because it's a Choice Reads that I can renew for another month, and probably will because the digital copy is still on hold and I don't want to bring any physical books on this trip. Maybe I'll get around to it later in the month...
Brown Girl Dreaming is another one from the Choice Reads shelf and will definitely be my Newberry book for May!
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver has been on the to-read for a WHILE. One of my favorite books of all time is The Poisonwood Bible and I have enjoyed several of her other books. Although, the last one I tried was The Lacuna and couldn't get into it - but, I'm hoping this one, also recommended on WSIRN and by my friend Hillary, will get some Kingsolver back in my life.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that follows a lot of bookstagram or book Twitter. The latest in this YA fantasy series hit the shelves last week and the internet was in full freak-out mode. Of course I wanted to see what the fuss was about, so I hope to get to that later this month.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough was another book with so much hype - specifically regarding the crazy ending. It was literally marketed with the hashtag #WTFthatending. And I read this one already and, yep, that pretty much sums it up - review forthcoming!

NetGalley/ARCs:
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Atchenberg 

Other Digital Books in the Queue:
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (another backlist on the TBR for awhile!)
On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Tiny Little Thing and A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin


Audiobooks in the Queue:
The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls (long overdue read, and I heard her audio was excellent!)
The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir Ariel Levy
Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders

And, of course I still have my Book of the Month selections piling up from last month, along with the book I got on Independent Bookstore Day, eep. As always, I look forward to any commentary and suggestions! 


5.11.2017

My Experience with Radial Shockwave Therapy (The Final Chapter in my Plantar Fasciitis Story)

Someone recently asked me if I stopped writing about running on this space because I became more book focused. How I wish that was the case! I certainly wrote about books on the regular when I focused more on running and fitness, and had planned to still write race reports or anything running related that struck my fancy. Alas, other than discount codes, I've had nothing to share sincemy injury update in September. So, even though I feel like I talk about my plantar fasciitis ad nauseam, I suppose I haven't written about it for awhile. 

Now that I am healed (ahhhh!) I thought I would share the treatments I went through and what worked for ME. This is an important point because, as a teammate pointed out, the plantar club is HUGE and we could probably talk about the different things that worked for us until the end of time. And the causes and ways in which it manifests can vary greatly. For me, I'm pretty confident that training for a half marathon on completely worn out shoes caused my injury: I didn't want to search for a new shoe model when my tried and true model changed for the worse. (I understand the need for constant improvement and innovation, but WAH.) And the way my injury presented was a little unusual for plantar fasciitis: I didn't have the traditional tenderness first thing in the morning, nor any pain while running - my pain came in the evening after a day on my feet. 

All this to say that your mileage may vary, but I felt that sharing my experience with radial shockwave would be of some value to anyone who might not have heard of it, or is debating this treatment option. But first let's recap all the fun stuff I did in the months prior! From mid June to September:
  • 2 weeks off exercise completely, followed by...
  • 4 weeks of no running, only elliptical and cross training 
  • night splint
  • daily icing, rolling, stretching and neural flossing
  • prescription lidocaine cream on my heel
  • new shoe model (grumble) 
Good ol' night splint...

These things got me feeling much better after two to three months, but not great. Easy runs didn't make my foot hurt too bad at night, but incorporating speed or any distance beyond three miles made things hurt again. I was TIRED of boring easy and short runs. So I caved to...
  • orthotics
Yep, at the end of last year I shelled out quite a bit of flexible spending money for custom orthotics. Thankfully, they were easy to get used to and I ran with them for a good two months and yet... Nothing really changed. That's when I talked next steps with my podiatrist. I ruled out cortisone injections straightaway as it seems more a band-aid than a fix, and we did discuss PRP injection (where your blood is taken and the plasma is spun out and injected to the injured area). But that seemed too invasive for my level of injury and part of what might help PRP work is the injection actually hitting the heel bone to stimulate healing, which can also be accomplished with the radial shockwave therapy. Since it involved the least risk and was non invasive, I elected to shell out a bunch of this year's flexible spending on...
  • RADIAL SHOCKWAVE 
High level overview: the doc uses a wand like tool to massage the area with high frequency SOUND waves (not electrical shocks) that target the damaged tissue, breaking it down, and stimulate the bone in order to facilitate inflammation and healing. I was not permitted to take any NSAIDs for the duration of treatment and for six weeks afterward. For most practitioners, as with my doc, you schedule three 20 minute treatments one week apart.
In February, I scheduled three consecutive Tuesday evening appointments. Those 20 minutes consisted of taking off my shoes and one sock and then lying face down on the exam table while my doc massaged my heel to find 'hot spots.' Basically, when the shockwaves started to really hurt (for me it varied from an intense ache, to a burning feeling) he would leave it in the bad spot until the pain would dissipate or go a little numb and then he'd move on to the next spot until he covered all areas of my injured heel. Obviously, this wasn't pleasant and the machine is rather loud, but it only took 10-15 minutes to complete (at least for one foot). Then he did a couple minutes of calf massage on that leg, which felt LOVELY after the attack on my foot. 

After my first appointment, my foot felt a little numb that night and then I had some pretty intense DOMS the following day or two. Then things kind of settled into my normal pre-treatment state and it would be time for a second, and then the third treatment. With each consecutive visit, it took him longer, and increased sound wave speed, to find 'hot spots' and it hurt less. Yet I still felt the same after a day on my feet and wondered if I spent way too much money on nothing. However, he assured me that even though some people feel pain relief as early as the first treatment, the magic really happens in the 6-8 week window of healing. 

And, lo, almost EXACTLY 6 weeks after my last treatment, I started walking around at night and catching myself not feeling as much pain, and eventually ZERO pain. He encouraged me to continue running, as it would not affect the results. So I still took it easy, and was still stretching and rolling my foot regularly, along with wearing my orthotics - and I STILL do. At one point I was bemoaning the time and money that I thought I wasted on the orthotics, but I think that wearing them as my foot repaired itself might have been just the magical combination my body needed. 

I began to add some intervals to my runs, and all felt well. Then I added mileage, and all felt well. Then I ran a race (!) and ALL. FELT. WELL. I'm back up to long runs of six miles and doing some speed (a relative term) once a week, too. I was really pleased to keep my pace under an eleven minute mile for the Tenacious Ten given all the stopping to hug/chat up so many people along the course, and given how long I've been out of the game. Although, I have zero race plans for the rest of the year, other than to just build up my base and ENJOY. Not that I was in a slump, but this whole injury thing has really made me super happy about getting out for a run.
For anyone who read this far, thanks for following along and if you have an injury and any further questions about radial shockwave, ask away!  



5.08.2017

Everyday Life and Menu Plan 5.8.17

Spring has FINALLY arrived! We even got a rather summer like day earlier this week and I celebrated with this season's first iced coffee outside with a book.

Ahhhhhhh. It was promptly followed up by a thunderstorm, the likes of which I can't remember in almost thirteen years of living in Seattle. Yet was still small potatoes compared to the most average Midwestern storm. It was, however, certainly like nothing the kids had ever seen, and it was fun to see them geek out over the lightning. It also made our rhododendrons explode the next day.
We also celebrated my youngest turning seven! 
Normally we take a trip to the Great Wolf Lodge for the kids' birthdays, but this year will be a slightly bigger trip to Chicago next week, with a visit to the Shedd for our aquatic fun. For more immediate gratification, we took them to dinner and a movie over the weekend (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was excellent) with cake and presents on their actual birthdays, of course. Big brother is up this week with the big ten, double digits, a decade... Time to distract myself with menu planning!
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, and now Beth Fish Reads weekend cooking - be sure to check out all the great weekly food inspiration!



5.04.2017

Books I Read in April

The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron
You can read my NetGalley review here!

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
This story about an experiment to raise children communally was oddly captivating. There are 9 couples and one single mother in 'The Infinite Family' project, plus the ten children, so it was kind of hard to keep everyone straight and I pretty much gave up on trying. Though, that was fine because I found the main character, Izzy the single mother, so very unique and compelling. Following along as she navigated her relationships and this crazy situation made for a great journey. It would also make for a great book club read, with a LOT to unpack on family values. 

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
I was surprised at how much I loved this book! I have seen varying reviews and thought it might be too heavy, too political, too cerebral, or boring (since it's described as beautiful writing, and that can sometimes be a red flag of 'boring' for me). It took a few chapters to get my bearings, as I thought the initial character introduction meandered and the tone felt almost clinical. Then as I warmed to the style and had a feel for the world Hamid was building, I dove in and hardly looked up from the pages for the two days in which it took me to read. It IS beautiful, gorgeous even, but not boring at all. It manages to feel so very real, like a memoir, and yet so unreal and dreamlike. I had zero problems with the magical realism element, and I'd hate for it to turn anyone off from the book, since it is not at all heavy handed - just a means to an end for telling this story of immigrants. A heartbreaking story in ways that I did not expect. Again, an amazing juxtaposition of the very real way we relate to the world and each other, while being absolutely fantastical. I haven't highlighted this many passages since one of last year's favorites, The Mothers
"..Nadia had taken one look aty Saeed's father and felt him like a father, for he was so gentle, and evoked in her a protective caring, as if for one's own child, or for a puppy, or for a beautiful memory one knows has already commenced to fade."
"..in contrast the city's dark swaths seemed darker, more significant, the way that blackness in the ocean suggests not less light from above, but a sudden drop-off in the depths below."
This is definitely going on the best of the 2017 list.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Talk about a novel feeling like a memoir... Anyone related to a black victim of negligent police violence could probably change a few names in this novel and it would reflect his or her life. Angie Thomas has done the hard work of putting those who read The Hate U Give in that friend or relative's shoes. The bones of the story reminds me a great deal of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which was heavily based on his own experience of leaving the Indian reservation to attend a better (white) school. Thomas' novel feels a little less grounded in reality when it comes to the white suburban school she travels out of the 'hood to attend, in that I think she is giving white people too much credit. But each of her friends, and myriad family members, serves a purpose to get her message across (not at all in a didactic way) and it's an indelible one. This novel should definitely be required reading for... everyone.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Another Newberry award winner to check off my list! I read this the same month that I re-read Charlotte's Web with my son and, hoo boy, some tears have been shed. And since I was reading both, I invariably did some comparison's in my head and found Terabithia lacking that extra special something that makes you want to hug the book and keep it on your shelf forever. Perhaps it was because I didn't read it as a kid and it didn't give me overwhelming feelings of nostalgia. Either way, it is still a classic, gut wrenching, coming of age story that confronts death and how much of life is out of our control.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
So, I'm trying to listen to more audiobooks and the ones I've enjoyed have been memoirs read by the author. (Mainly, Tina Fey's Bossypants and anything by David Sedaris.) When the description of Lawson's memoir started with 'for fans of Fey and Sedaris' - I immediately downloaded it from Overdrive. The early parts of the book about her crazy rural childhood I found the most compelling, and there are definitely laugh out loud moments throughout. But, I kind of lost steam at the umpteenth story of angst between her and her husband, where the hyperbole goes into overdrive. Her writing is great, but for me it works best in small doses - like maybe best suited to....a blog? So, I will continue to check in occasionally at The Bloggess, but I don't think I'll be picking up Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things. Also, I DO think Lawson did a great job narrating her own story with great humor and I loved that she sang each chapter title.