Summer Bucket List (and my screen time philosophy)

School is out and we've already hit up two pools, two ice cream stores, two parks, the Y (complete with time on the rock wall), and the library, of course. Summer reading is in full swing! To that end, this weekend I purchased two tents for fifteen bucks each on Amazon and declared them summer reading nooks.

The rule is that they are for reading, writing, drawing or coloring only. It's basically my attempt at curbing electronics more, since I don't have terribly hard and fast rules about screen time. My philosophy is you can play with your devices if you've checked off the requisite daily tasks: your room is clean, a page from your math workbook is done, you have done some other activity for at least an hour, and it is after lunchtime. The only struggle is with the first two items which, ironically, take the least amount of time. Making them wait for screens until after lunch/other activity for an hour minimum is kind of a gimme, since we leave the house by 9:30 almost every morning to go to the Y for at least an hour or two before lunch. 
Today at the Y
On top of that, we usually go to the pool, beach or park afterward and don't end up at home until at least 3 o'clock. Once they've exhausted themselves out and about for the day like that, I have ZERO problems with them playing even two hours straight on the X Box or Kindles. But, that's just me, you do YOU. And, I gotta keep it real, I have caved to just requiring one hour of non-screen time in the tent prior to allowing the kids to play with devices in them. Oh well, I figure it's another screen free hour I wouldn't have gotten out of 'em otherwise and they are getting more fresh air...

And to break up the monotony of the daily trip to the Y, pool/park/beach, tent time - here's this year's aspirations:
  • Try one new hiking trail and also do the Big Four hike
  • Go bowling
  • Go to the movies
  • Play mini golf
  • Teach the kids the art of making friendship bracelets
  • Hit up a farmers market
  • Annual summer road trip (we're going to stay for a couple of nights near Mount Rainier this year)
  • Go blueberry picking and make blueberry dump cake
  • Make smores
  • Picnic at a new-to-us park
  • Visit Woodland Park Zoo (and hopefully see new baby giraffe!) as well as Point Defiance Zoo
  • Visit MoPop
  • Visit the Bellevue Art Museum
  • Visit Pike Place and the new waterfront market
  • Try a new restaurant
  • Make frosé
  • Make a new cocktail recipe
  • Take a blog break
As for that last task, I think I'm putting the weekly meal posts on the back burner for the summer. I've been feeling repetitive and I'm making an effort to NOT make an effort in the kitchen this summer! I will still be posting from time to time, definitely monthly and ARC book reviews. 
Yesterday at the pool, ahhhh.
Anything I should add to the bucket list? Do you have a summer to-do list? I'd love to see it in the comments! Happy summer y'all.


June Library Haul

Anne Bogel's podcast is KILLER for my TBR pile... On a recent episode she talked classics, and I realized that I have never read A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. I adored the movie, but it's been a long time, so I hope to read it and watch with fresh eyes. 
I've been reading Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo with my son, and now I'm re-reading it to get the whole picture, since I missed out on the nights my husband was on bedtime duty. And it's my Newberry book for the month!
Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith is a book I took note of earlier this year, as it was on the PNW authors shelves at Elliot Bay Bookstore and it's been making the rounds on social media lately with the release of the paperback. It's set in my neck of the woods, too, and sounded intriguing. 
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham is a very compelling sounding dual timeline historical fiction YA, and another book mentioned on the What Should I Read Next podcast, as well as her summer reading guide. I also have Killers of the Flower Moon (a nonfiction account Osage Indian murders) from a recent Book of the Month box, so I hope to read them back to back.
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai has been described as similar to Dark Matter and more lighthearted, which made me put it on hold immediately.
It's been awhile since I paged through a new cookbook, and Naturally Nourished by Sarah Britton looks like a good one!
And as I was returning some books for my kids yesterday, I discovered Beartown by Fredrik Backman on the lucky day shelf! I'm pretty far along in the queue for the digital book (see below), but I had to grab it. I didn't love A Man Called Ove, but I keep hearing raves about this, and that it's a departure from his other work. I guess that's what I'm reading next, and as always, I look forward to any commentary or suggestions! 

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais

Other Digital Books in the Queue:
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry


Everyday Life and Menu Plan (6.19.17)

My husband was out of town for most of last week, so there was no real meal planning. We DID get in a nice summer date night before he took off.

And the week prior, we had an excellent day hiking to Mason Lake.
This week was also the end of our first season of flag football.
And it was the beginning of a new fun summer art subscription box! (Check out Kelly Kits - this was really fun.)
I also read what is sure to be on my list of favorite books for the year, and you can read my full review here.
This week is all about the final week of school and kid shenanigans! Which reminds me that it's time to come up with an updated summer bucket list. For now, I'm working on my grocery list...
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie Menu Plan Monday - be sure to check out all the great weekly food inspiration!


Hot Chocolate 15K and 5K Seattle Coupon Code for 2018 (2019 UPDATE!)

**UPDATE FOR 2019: I'm not sure what it will be, but you can start using SEAANDREA19 for next year's free item!**

As I head off to help out at the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K booth for the Rock n' Roll Seattle Expo, I figured now was as good a time as any to share the deets for the upcoming season's freebie! I'm pretty excited about this one, since I wear my extra swag hat from FIVE seasons ago ALL. THE. TIME. Plus, I like the understated look:
Make sure to use the code: SEAANDREA18 to get this hat added to your goodie bag when you register for either the 15K or 5K. As usual, the swag does not disappoint - this season we're back to a pullover!
And if you run the 15K, there will be an awesome city specific medal to add to your collection, which I think might convert to a key chain - I'll update with a picture soon! 

And, new this season, RAM Racing is rolling out a legacy program - if you're running the race for a third year in a row (or 5th, or 10th) you'll earn yourself some PERKS: a specialized race bib, commemorative pin, discounts and more. Check out the details here.

The race is Sunday, March 4th 2018, the perfect time of year for some really excellent hot chocolate. Hopefully I've tempted you to join in the fun and get yer free hat!  For some extra incentive, here are my recaps from Seattle, Seattle AND Chicago. If you are not in the Seattle area, check out a Hot Chocolate race near you in the following cities:

  • Atlanta
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Minneapolis
  • Philadelphia
  • San Diego
  • Seattle
  • St. Louis
  • Nashville
  • Las Vegas
  • Tampa
  • Scottsdale
  • Columbus
  • Indianapolis
  • San Francisco


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (A NetGalley Review)

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Atria Books (June 13, 2017)
Description from the publisher:
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

What a treasure we have in Taylor Jenkins Reid. Her novels are so compelling and readable, and although they may seem fluffy, they have always made me think. She creates vivid characters and places them into such thought provoking situations. Maybe in Another Life had me thinking: if I could do my life over again, would I make different choices? One True Loves certainly makes you think about just that: is there only one true love for each of us? They are really great conversation starting novels, putting yourself in the character's shoes. Her latest is somewhat of a departure from her previous contemporary women's fiction, with a throwback, old Hollywood narrative. But the thought provoking themes are still present. What stayed with me from this novel was the struggle of the LGBTQ community, female empowerment, women's roles and how those roles have changed over time. 

Evelyn Hugo and her journey of empowerment is absolutely captivating. I felt as if she were a real celebrity and I was indeed reading a memoir. Although I couldn't imagine a more riveting tell-all, which means there's got to be one out there, as the truth is usually stranger than fiction. Until then, this exquisitely complex character can fill that void. Reid peppers Hugo's dialogue with some stellar witticisms and keen observations.

'I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, considering both how beneath me this opportunity was and how lucky I was to be given it. It's a hard business, reconciling what the truth used to be with what the truth is now.'

It grabbed me right from the beginning. The mystery of why Evelyn chooses inexperienced Monique as her biographer is the immediate mystery. Then, as she tells the 'pulling up her bootstraps' beginning of her Hollywood story it feels so real, I was absorbed immediately and had to learn more. Reid recently shared her favorite Hollywood memoirs and I would be surprised if many of those early Hollywood stars didn't face similar struggles. There are short flashes back to present day Monique dealing with the separation from her husband, while she interviews Evelyn and struggles with how this 'big break' will affect her current job and career. But the bulk of the story is Evelyn reminiscing as she weaves her way through Hollywood, and her many husbands. I think that there might have been one too many husbands, making things slightly more complicated than necessary. Yet they each played a role and none of them in the way it would seem on the surface. Yes, there is a grand love story. In fact, I would argue there are at least three, and not in the way one would assume from the title. Reid portrays such genuine relationships in her writing, illustrating perfectly that the love of your life can come in many different forms: romantic, or otherwise. 

The last section, including the reveal of Monique and Evelyn's connection, was packed full of surprising wallops to my heart: terrible and wonderful all at the same time. It is reminiscent of some of my all time favorites like Beaches and Beautiful Ruins, one of very few books where I had misty eyes and a huge grin on my face as I read the last sentence. It would make for an excellent and absorbing beach read. However, in true Taylor Jenkins Reid fashion, it's just as suited to the gravitas of a whiskey drink and a good cry. 

Many, many thanks to Atria books for the opportunity to read an advance copy for my review!


My Audio Book Dilemma (and Review of Lincoln in the Bardo)

A few years ago, I listened to my first audio books when I took a solo road trip. Bossypants was excellent, yet Code Name Verity was not as excellent from an audio book standpoint (more on that later) and I haven't really picked them up since. At the time, I thought my only opportunity to really listen was in the car without kids. Now that they're both in school, that's changed somewhat, and I also came to the realization that I can listen while grocery shopping, while doing dishes, laundry, etc. just like I do with podcasts. Specifically, the beautiful and literary feeling S-Town really convinced me to give the medium another go. 
However, my dilemma with audio books is that I have a proclivity for leaving things to my imagination. For example, I want my kids to read Harry Potter books before they see the movies because I believe it's important to first have the experience of conjuring Rowling's amazing world for yourself. This is going along just fine with my older child, and hopefully my younger one will be on board. It's the same with movies - if there's a book involved that I'm interested in reading, I probably won't see the film until after I've read the original work (like Brooklyn). 
Now, I absolutely respect opposing viewpoints on this one! My husband claims the opposite and actually saw the Harry Potter movies first - GASP. He says that it enhanced the reading experience and that there's still quite a bit of engaging your imagination muscles, even if you have some preconceived visuals. (Another side note, my husband is in the audio books are 'cheating' camp, and I am not - here's some science on that. But, again, you do you!) When it comes to audio books, though, I'm afraid that the narration an actor brings to the book will place a voice in my head that I didn't conjure for myself, and... That bothers me. 
Also, as was the case with Code Name Verity, major visual plot points can be missed in an audio book. I certainly don't want to spoil what ended up being a wonderful story - suffice it to say that I switched to the print version half way through and thankfully had the print in front of me. If you've read it, you know of what I speak.
So! I initially solved this dilemma by starting with memoirs read by the author. (I am curious if there are indeed any memoirs NOT read by the author out there, which would be weird...) I already thoroughly enjoyed Bossypants and listening to many of David Sedaris' stories on various NPR podcasts - I figured this was a no-brainer. Alas, I didn't love Jenny Lawson's book, nor Ariel Levy's. The more I thought about it, other than Bossypants, I really don't gravitate towards memoir.

So! I caved to some fiction with Lincoln in the Bardo since the buzz around this book really seems centered around the audio version, and I could listen to Nick Offerman read the phone book. Thank goodness, because now that I've finished it... I would say that the phone book might have been as stimulating to me. Is it a novel? Is it a play? Is it an annotated history book with some maudlin storytelling thrown in? Is it esoteric poetry for Civil War enthusiasts? I paged through the print version at the library the other day and I'm glad I listened to it, because the way it is written is rather like a screenplay and there are over 164 characters. There's no way I would have picked it up. Or if I had, I wouldn't have finished it, as I did with the audio. The dramatization of the (164!) characters helped me keep them straight, to a degree. There is a great deal of quoted material, and it felt like pages upon pages of a boring history book, with all sorts of completely useless bits: the conflicting weather reports on the day of the party at the Lincoln home, the weather the day of Willy's funeral, the color of Lincoln's eyes (how many ways can people say grey-brown? A LOT.), commentary on Lincoln's appearance (so many ways to convey: ugly) and his demeanor (which belied said ugliness). There were so many pages dedicated to outside sources, I wonder what would have been left standing of this noveI without them. As for the fiction, it felt meandering and lacked any kind of real plot or urgency until the very end, which was indeed poignant and captivating. I concede that I also loved the character development of Bevans and Vollman, as well as the thought provoking way in which the dead affected Lincoln. Yet none of this was enough for me to actually like the book overall. If atmospheric, introspective and cerebral are your jam? This is the book for you! For a lovely, haunting and ENGAGING novel about the afterlife, I would recommend The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier. 

So! Now I am not sure where to turn. I know Lincoln in the Bardo is not a typical novel, so I am not ruling fiction out completely. Maybe I should give some thrillers or mystery a try, since I don't usually gravitate towards the genre in print and wouldn't read them otherwise? Still, I think I can continue down the memoir path, and just keep ticking off all the titles I've meant to read over the years. I have started The Glass Castle and so far, SO GOOD! Maybe I need to steer away from the comedic and focus on backlist memoirs with a proven track record. I also might try Erik Larson on audio. The Devil in the White City is one of my favorite books, and I've been meaning to read more of Larson's work. If anyone has listened to Dead Wake or In the Garden of Beasts, let me know! This is the part where, if you've read this far, you give me your favorite audiobook titles that aren't literary fiction: HELP.


Everyday Life and Menu Plan 6.5.17 (and my new lunch staple)

It's been a blessedly boring week around these parts, without much to recap. Therefore, I thought I'd share my recent favorite for lunch.

Having a veggie burger for lunch is not an earth shattering revelation, but the ways in which they can be utilized was a revelation for me. I had been using leftover dinner veggies or roasting some specifically for lunches to have with brown rice and a fried egg. Now I when I don't want to prep for lunches ahead of time, I can just heat up these Dr. Praeger's patties and break them up over rice, quinoa, or even into some scrambled eggs or on top of avocado toast - endless possibilities! I do highly recommend these veggie burgers as the seasonings are top notch, and compared to other brands, they have more vegetables than grains. In addition to Prager's, Trader Joe's has so many fun flavored ones (like the Masala ones we use for tacos) that can add variety to what can be the most ho hum meal of the day.
Also, as summer is on the horizon, I think we might start instituting a weekly sandwich and side salad night in addition to our weekly pizza night to change things up and cook a little less!
  • Monday - Pizza
  • Tuesday - Thai Sticky Chicken Fingers with Roasted Broccoli and Brown Rice (a favorite from Iowa Girl Eats)
  • Wednesday - BLTs with Sides from the Deli (part of making warm summer dinners easier!)
  • Thursday - Chicken and Veggie Kebabs with Hummus and Cous-Cous (we just throw mushrooms, red onion, tomatoes, zucchini, and red pepper on skewers along with the chicken and coat it with olive oil and a sprinkling of grill seasoning)
  • Friday - Pesto Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Sun Dried Tomatoes (a staple from Damn Delicious)
  • Saturday - Date night!
  • Sunday - Turkey Chili Taco Soup (super tasty and easy recipe from Skinnytaste)
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie Menu Plan Monday - be sure to check out all the great weekly food inspiration!


Books I Read in May

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
The hype and marketing surrounding this book has served it well. I don't know if I would have been curious enough to read it without all the social media chatter over the hashtag #WTFthatending. Trying to figure it all out was rather fun! Had I gone into it not expecting something crazy, the main character's unending stupidity and repetitive destructive behavior would have probably driven me to give it a one star rating. Alas, it was entertaining and definitely a surprise ending. Although so completely outlandish that I can see someone throwing the book across the room upon completion...

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
It's been a while since I read a sweet, heartwarming YA story and this fit the bill. I liked that it wasn't a love story where the hot guy takes the length of the book to figure out how great the main character is - he's got her number from the beginning. Ostensibly, she also seems accepting of her body from the beginning. Yet, clearly she deals with insecurity about her body and how it affects the way she sees her relationship with her best friend and said boy, as well as dealing with her mother's own insecurities. I thought Murphy created complex characters and relationships that rang true of teen-hood. I'm eagerly anticipating the movie version, and will likely read the sequel.

The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir by Ariel Levy
I'm beginning to wonder if memoirs are just not my jam... I have been trying to get into more audiobooks, and I think memoirs are well suited for listening, especially when read by the author. There were a few parts where I chuckled, and certainly felt a gut punch of sadness for the losses Levy faced. However, calling it a tale of overcoming loss seems misguided. I'd say 75% of the book is her life story: about her upbringing, career and love life - certainly interesting material. The self realization and 'overcoming' after she loses her baby and, eventually, her spouse seems hurried at the end. Though there were a handful of searingly accurate and beautiful bits of writing, overall I felt it detached and clinical.

The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
This was probably the most complex fantasy world building I have ever read. A futuristic planet plagued by seismic activity is controlled by people with the gift to move earth, yet they are reviled and revered in equal measure (kinda like X-Men). It took me awhile to get my bearings and immerse myself in it, but I'm glad I put in the work for the payoff of masterful narrative plotting. Jemisin also infuses the novel with much to think about on themes that affect us in the real world: motherhood, slavery, feminism, LGBTQ, and the environment Now that I understand this world, I think the subsequent books will go down a little easier. Though, I'm guessing she's the kind of author that will always make you work for the payoff and it may be awhile before I'm ready - definitely not summer reading material...

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This was my Newberry honor pick for this month (among many other honors that have been bestowed upon it), and honestly, there isn't much I can add to the plethora of already glowing reviews. I have never read a book written in verse, and it was jarring at first. Yet, once I got the rhythm of it, I couldn't put it down. I could FEEL that South Carolina air, the splash of water from the 'johnny pump' in New York and taste allll the food - so beautiful and evocative in so few words. And I will leave my review at these very few words, other than to add - READ IT.

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy's quick lit - check it out here!