Saturday, June 27, 2020

Blackberry Cobbler

James spent the week at the beach with grandparents so Will and I have had a lot of time to find some fun by ourselves. He was signed up for tennis Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and after his Wednesday session, we headed out to a local you-pick farm for some blackberries!

We came home with over two gallons of blackberries. I put half of them in the freezer and have been scrambling to use the other half! First up, and most obvious to me, was a Blackberry Cobbler! I polled Facebook and the winner was a suggestion to use The Lady and Sons recipe. Paula Deen is always a winner over here so Will and I whipped up her SUPER EASY cobbler recipe. It is a PEACH cobbler recipe that we just adapted. Here's the original.

1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups self rising flour
1 cup milk
blackberries (we just used enough to fill the 9x13 casserole dish)

1. Preheat oven to 350*.
2. Put butter in casserole dish and pop in oven to melt.
3. While butter is melting, stir flour and sugar together. Slowly add milk and continue to stir to prevent lumps.
4. Pour batter directly over butter. Do not stir.
5. Add blackberries. Do not stir.
6. Bake 30-45 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream!

Monday, June 1, 2020

What I'm Reading! May Books

Welcome to June! It feels so hard to believe it's already JUNE, but it also feels like it should be August, right? We are getting into somewhat of a groove around here now that summer has officially begun. I've been getting up and exercising every morning because of all the sitting we are now faced with doing. I get a walk in (as early as my night-owl body allows because, y' is hot already!) and then I do a 30-minute Beachbody workout to round it out. It's made me feel a LOT better. On my walk, I've been listening to an audiobook. I'm normally a car-listener, but since I rarely ever drive anymore I had to adjust! Ok, on to books for May!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I don't know why this one called to me at the end of April/beginning of May, but I re-read The Hunger Games and LOVED it again. I need to get moving on the sequels and grab the prequel, but I haven't done anymore than the first one for now. If you've never read it before, it focuses on a "game" that is played each year in Panem, a dystopian, post-apocalyptic America. The country is now divided into 12 districts, and each year a boy and girl are chosen to participate in what amounts to a murderous, barbaric, Olympics. It is an honor and a privilege to be chosen in the richer districts, but the poor districts see through the facade of the tradition. Katniss, a girl from district 12, takes the place of her sister when she is chosen. Katniss is literally fighting for her life. It's a really great dystopian book, if you're into those. (If you are, I'm sure you've already read it!)

Mister Rogers Neighborhood: A Visual History by Melissa Wagner, Tim Lybarger, Jenna McGuiggan, and The Fred Rogers Center
Ohhh, this book. Who else loved Mister Rogers as a kid? This was a biography that centers MOSTLY on the show itself. The book is HUGE with gorgeous photos. It was a beautiful story of how the show came to be and is full of interviews with people who were cast members or friends. The most interesting thing about Mister Rogers, to me, is that he was SO authentic. Who we saw is really who he was. Was he a great leader and boss and businessman, yes. Did he use his power and authority in a disappointing way? No. The fact that a skeleton has never come out of his closet speaks so highly of him to me. What a one-of-a-kind! The other thing that I found incredibly interesting was how he put the show together. Watching it as an adult, it seems so SLOW compared to other kids' shows. That's completely and totally intentional. He uses pauses to allow the kids to think about things and really because that's how a conversation works - there are pauses for pondering and listening. He would write each week's show (each week had five shows that fit together to teach complete lessons) and then have a child psychologist look over it to be sure he was pushing out a truly educational show. If your kids haven't watched Mister Rogers, it's on Amazon Prime. Will LOVES it and James will still sit down and watch if it's on. What I love about it is that it isn't seen as a "baby" show by them because it's not widely watched by kids their ages. They also LOVED Daniel Tiger so in contrast to that cartoon, this seems more grown up!

The Honey-Don't List by Christina Lauren
I'll start by saying that this was not my favorite Christina Lauren book. (Christina Lauren is an author duo, not just one person.) This story was about a married couple who star on an HGTV-ish show. Behind the scenes, though, things are FALLING APART. They've just released a book about marriage and they can't even be in the same room together. On their book tour, their assistants, James and Carey are forced to go with them so that they can hold things together for the couple. While this wasn't a bad book, I've just enjoyed other books of theirs more. I didn't really connect with the characters and I didn't like some of the decisions they made. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. I'll read others that they've written!

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth
Psychological thriller! This is the only one I read this month. I hadn't ever read any of Sally Hepworth's books before, but I will read more. I didn't love this story, but I did LOVE her writing style! Lucy and her family are home one night when the police show up and tell them that her mother in law, Diana, has committed suicide. In the days following, we find out that the suicide was staged and that she was actually murdered. The story moves back and forth between past and present, told by both Lucy and Diana. I loved how the story unfolded and couldn't put it down. I wasn't a fan of how she wrapped up the story, but it did make sense. I didn't see it coming at all (Jennifer, you would've figured it out by chapter 2, I'm sure!). I'll be looking for more of Sally's books ASAP! This is worth the read if you even tame psychological thrillers. It wasn't clear who did what, but it also wasn't scary. 

All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
Oh, this book. All Over But the Shoutin' just about broke my heart! Rick Bragg tells the story of his own upbringing with an alcoholic daddy who didn't stick around and a mama who worked herself to the bone and did the best that she could for her family. Rick worked from the ground up to get where he is now (flip to the last page of your Southern Living each month) and had lots of heartache along the way. The most haunting thing about the story, to me, is that he has worried his whole life that his daddy's dna will someday wake up inside of him and he won't be the person he wants to be. His marriage ended and he has never had children because of the worry that he is his daddy's son. The love he has for his mama is beautiful. My favorite part of the whole story was him taking her as his date to receive his Pulitzer Prize. She'd never really left home before and he took her to New York City. This is definitely worth a read, especially if you're from the south. If you're not from the south, this is a good peek into what it looks like to be poor in rural Alabama (could be Georgia, though!). 

I'm almost finished with a few others so June is shaping up to have a great list of books as well! (Yes, I read multiple books at a time. It's the number 1 thing that slows me down, but I can't not do it!) I hope you're enjoying reading this summer!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

What I'm Reading! April Books

We continued into April with just a handful of books after a heavy-reading month in March. April got BUSY with work so I wasn't able to sit as much. 

Saltwater Kisses by Krista Lakes
This one was an EASY read about a girl who wins a vacation but the person going with her cancels at the last minute and she decides to still go on her own. A beach emergency puts a stranger into her path and sparks begin to fly. As a joke, they get married on the island, knowing that it wouldn't legally uphold once they returned to the U.S. What Emma doesn't know is that she's just "married" the U.S.'s most eligible bachelor and what Jack doesn't know is that someone recognizes him and sells a photo of their union. The story unfolds as Emma realizes who Jack is and is thrust into a spotlight she didn't ask for. It was a cute book (it's the beginning of a series) and I would probably read another in the series if I could borrow it from the library, but it wouldn't be one I would spend money on. It was a super quick and easy read. It is, however, rated R, so use caution.

I'll Be There For You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller
Ohhhh, I have all the opinions about this one. First of all, can we just discuss the CRAZE that Friends is causing these days? All these college and high school kids that are SO obsessed with it need to SIMMER DOWN. We watched it at 8pm on Thursday nights BEFORE you could DVR anything. I can remember having to call home and ask someone to record it for me if I wasn't going to be home in time! HA! So this book was REALLY good. It has stories that I had no idea about before and gave a very in-depth look at how the show came together and was created. However, it felt SO. LONG. I would read a while and then put it down for a few weeks. It was just long. If you're a Friends fanatic, it's a great one! Just know that it's packed full and will take a little while to get through.

Verity by Colleen Hoover
Woof. Ugh. Ack. I cannot describe this book appropriately without you seeing my facial expressions. I am in a book group on Facebook and literally everyone AND THEIR MAMA was raving about how awesome this book was. I finally started reading it on Kindle Unlimited and I was quickly pulled in. Hoover is an EXCELLENT author. The story was interesting and compelling. I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened next. I could NOT put this book down. Lowen is a washed-up author who has gone bankrupt caring for her mother as she died. She is asked to come into her agent's office and is present with an offer to complete a series for uber-famous Verity Crawford who has had a car accident and is no longer able to work. She goes to Verity's home and stays with her husband and son in order to read her manuscripts. While there, she discovers an unpublished autobiography that holds CHILLING admissions of horrible things she has done over the years. Then, things begin happening that make Lowen wonder what kind of situation she's in. I can't share more without revealing too much, but I had NIGHTMARES at night after reading this and I thought it was HORRIBLE. I am in the minority according to the Facebook world, but I hated it. Now, that said, Colleen Hoover is an AMAZING writer. Someone told me the other day that every other book of hers that they've ever read they LOVED so I will not give up, but this was far too intense for me. (And I will literally read ANYTHING.) Just read with caution if you do. Also rated R for SURE.

Tomorrow I will wrap up my What Am I Reading? series with May's books. Hope you're reading some amazing books. Please share with me!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What I'm Reading! March Books

So March is when the world hit the brakes. Our schools ended on March 13th and we began sheltering in place the next day. I had ALL THE FEELINGS in March. I couldn't sleep, I wasn't eating great, I couldn't focus on anything. It was just a MESS. However, I did read a TON of books this month. FIVE of them were Audible books, though. HA! I needed someone to read to me, I guess!

Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
This one feels like SUCH a long time ago. I gave it 3 stars. It was a cute book about a girl who is waiting for the perfect man to come along and sweep her off her feet. (Tom Hanks is who she considers is perfect - the man he plays in all of her favorite movies - he doesn't actually appear in the books.) However, while she's waiting someone else comes along and shakes her up. It was a cute, easy rom-com and it has a sequel coming out that I will likely read. It wasn't my favorite, but was EASY and that's what I needed. It would be a perfect beach book.

Congo by Michael Crichton
Here I go again with my Crichton obsession! (I don't have any more of these coming up so you're safe from them for a while!) Congo is an excellent story, in my opinion. It does closely follow the movie in many ways, if you've seen it. Deep in an African forest a group of American geologists suddenly go missing. Their co-worker, Karen Ross, is sent to Africa to try to find them. She coerces Peter Elliot and his gorilla, Amy, to join her. Amy has been drawing things that they cannot understand and Peter thinks taking her to the Congo may unlock something for her. I really enjoyed this book!

A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs by Ben Garrod
This was another Audible Original which was more of a podcast and less of a book. It was full of dinosaur facts and figures and elaborates on a lot of things we learned as a kid. It was well-done, but not necessarily my favorite and unless you're SUPER into dinosaurs, I'd pass on this one.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
The boys and I started the Harry Potter series on Audible last summer and we have sloooooowly been working our way through all of them. Unfortunately, because we are never in the car anymore, we haven't had much time to finish these! We did finish Goblet of Fire back in March and I think James declared it his favorite so far. I'm really excited that the boys are getting to be old enough to finish up the series and watch all of the movies!

Open Book by Jessica Simpson
Ohhhh. I didn't know what to expect with this one. Jessica Simpson was such a bubblegum airhead when we watched her show back in the early 2000s. Bless her heart, y'all. She's come a long way AND had a really rough (celebrity) life! From being molested as a child to her problems with alcohol, she laid it all out on the line! Now, I am curious whether all of it was true because Nick Lachey's wife called her out in a lie she supposedly told in an interview, but she did not make herself look good in this book. If she's lying, it wasn't to make it look prettier! I really enjoyed her tell-all. If you were a fan in your teen and college years, it's definitely worth a read!

Don't Miss It: Parent Every Week Like it Counts by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy
This was a QUICK listen on my Audible app one afternoon while I was cleaning the house. Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy are leaders from Orange, the curriculum our church uses for children and youth activities. I've attended two of their conferences and had the privilege of meeting both of them in person. They are wise leaders! This particular book was all about the time between birth and graduation and how we need to be sure we are making every second count. There are many books that spin off of this one for parenting the stages, but this is the central one that pulls it all together. We use an app from Orange called Parent Cue that will tell you exactly how many weeks you have left at home with each child (it's RUDE and painful to see that number!) as well as topics you should be covering with your kiddos each week in order to make the most of your time.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Hmmm....this tell-all by Carrie Fisher was INTERESTING. It was mostly narrated by the author and I enjoyed listening to it. Carrie shares all about the time surrounding making Star Wars and coming into stardom on her own. ALL the drugs and alcohol, poor decisions, and she even answers the question of whether her alleged affair with Harrison (Carrison?) Ford was real. I enjoyed it! It was interesting to learn about all of the behind-the-scenes goings-on.

Whew! Well, that was March. I'm almost caught up!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

What I'm Reading! February Books

Continuing my What I'm Reading book reviews, I'm picking up today with what I read in February, before the world ended.

The Lost World by Michael Crichton
I continued my Michael Crichton fix with The Lost World. This one is also SO good. This book follows Ian and Sarah Harding as they visit the island that Jurassic Park was NOT on. It is very, very different from the movie, in my opinion. I did enjoy this one a lot. If you love Jurassic Park, you need to read this one as well.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
This was our January Book Club pick this year and I am on the fence about it. Did I enjoy it? Yes, BUT. Ha! I loved it because while I was reading it, my mom, sister, and I went to Savannah for the day and did a Midnight tour. It was SO GOOD. The tour guide picked us up at the Savannah tourist center and because it was the first Saturday in January and rainy, it was just the 3 of us!!! We couldn't have planned it better. If you want to go to Savannah without the crowds, do it in January. She took us to all of the important scenes from the book, we toured Mercer House, and we ended the day with a long stroll through Bonaventure cemetery. It was all so interesting! The book was very interesting, though. The first half of the book, Berendt is introducing all of the characters he met while living in Savannah. The second half of the book follows the murder trials of Danny Hansford, the young man that Jim Williams is on trial for killing. Overall, the book felt long-winded to me, but the writing is compelling and there are so many parts that are just funny. Savannah is full of interesting people and stories.

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn
Going into this book, I thought I was going to hate it. I'm not sure why. I ended up REALLY loving it. If you like a psychological thriller, try this one. Anna Fox is a recluse with agoraphobia who enjoys watching her neighbors out her windows. She is an alcoholic whose husband and daughter no longer live with her. New neighbors move in across the street and Anna sees something shocking happen. But does she? Who is telling the truth? Who is lying? Who can you trust and believe? I was mistaken up until the very end. Have any of you read this? What did you think?

So that was it for February books. So far, this year has felt a little like a dud for me in spite of really liking many that I've read. The Michael Crichton books were not new ones for me and of my new ones, nothing has captivated me. I've done a lot more reading and have LOTS more to go, but I'll keep you posted! I'll be back tomorrow with my March books.

Monday, May 25, 2020

What I'm Reading! January Books

It has been SO LONG since I've done a book review! The first few weeks of "Shelter At Home" status, my mind was WILD. I couldn't concentrate on reading, I couldn't sleep at night, I wasn't eating. I would say about 3 weeks in some of that shifted (it helped when Eddie began staying at home, too) and I have been able to focus on some projects around here as well as some reading. I am still not pouring through books at a high volume, but it has increased tremendously.

One thing I will share is that my Kindle is one of my favorite purchases EVER. I got a Kindle for my birthday 10 days after James was born and I loved it. About a year ago I got myself a new version of the Kindle Oasis. It's their priciest model, but it has back lighting (my original model Kindle isn't lit - I had to use a light to read) and this one is WATERPROOF. Game changer. So I have been reading in bed at night to fall asleep instead of watching TV like I have always done for YEARS and I've been floating in an extra large baby pool and reading there as well. The pool has been MAGICAL. The boys have "quiet time" (AKA - Mama gets quiet time) for an hour every afternoon. I usually use 30-45 minutes of their quiet time for reading and floating if it is hot enough and sunny. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. That gets me outside in some solid Vitamin D about 3-4 times per week. The rest of my outdoor time I'm usually in the shade. 

Since it's been a WHILE since I've shared what I'm reading, I thought I'd start back at the beginning of January and just get caught up. 

Love Does by Bob Goff
This one is really so good. Bob Goff is just a great guy and a fun story teller. He tells stories throughout this book that lead back to Jesus and what the Bible teaches us about love. I have the book, but I listened to it on Audible. It was a great audio book and Bob reads it himself. There's a kid version to and my two LOVE it.

Call Me God: The Untold Story of the DC Sniper Investigation by Jim Clemente, Tim Clemente, and Peter McDonnell
This is sort of cheating because it's not actually a book - it's an Audible original. It plays out more like a podcast than an audiobook. It was INCREDIBLY well done. If you recall the events of the sniper shootings around Washington, D.C. back in the early 2000s, you might be interested in this one. It is narrated the whole way through, but provides accounts from a multitude of people - FBI agents, police officers, the families of those officers, victims' families, etc. SO well done. I was very impressed. I listened to this on the way home from St. Simons late one night and every time I got to a traffic light I got a little uneasy!

Independence Day: Resurgence by Alexander C. Irvine
Meh. That's how I felt about this one. Just ok. If you don't know me well, you may not know that I am a closet sci-fi weirdo. Anything where animals go crazy (see several others below), I am all over. I loved Independence Day, the movie, when it came out years and years ago and I re-watch it every summer. I got this one on Audible a few months back and finally got around to listening to it in January. It's the novel based on the movie sequel that came out a few summers back. It was ok. Nothing great, nothing terrible. It follows the movie exactly and to me the movie was just ok. I loved that many of the original characters are back and that it's a true sequel, not a remake. I didn't love it or hate it.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
I am a HUGE Michael Crichton fan. I realize his writing isn't for everyone, but Jurassic Park is definitely one that I think most people can enjoy. Straying from the movie in some ways, the book follows Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler who are taken to Isla Nublar by John Hammond to see his "biological preserve." Obviously, what ensues after is animal chaos. The book can obviously go into much more detail (the raptors play a larger part in the book than in the movie and several characters don't survive the island). If the movie is a favorite and you haven't read the book, do yourself a favor!

Caldera by Larry LaVoie
Following my science-fiction trend in the early part of the year, I read Caldera which had been on my Kindle unread for a while. This one is about a super volcano and the political corruption that can occur when natural events transpire. (Hmmm....) I wanted to really enjoy this one, but it fell a little flat for me. This story flips between the view point of a few different characters - Carlene Carlson, an assistant to a Yellowstone volcanologist and Jason Trask, a USGS volcanologist. Trask and Carlson find evidence that Yellowstone is going to erupt, but they begin being targeted to quiet their findings. The story twists and turns as they try to uncover more evidence and reveal it to people who can alert those that need to know. It wasn't a bad story, it just didn't hold my attention.

I'll share February's books tomorrow. I'd LOVE to hear suggestions for you about what I should read. You'll see over the next few days that I will read almost anything. I don't have a particular genre that I gravitate to. What are you reading?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Summer Reading List...

I rarely do this to myself anymore because I'd rather just read what I'm feeling like reading at that moment, but I have some books that NEED to be finished up this summer because I'm trying to lighten my load (I have too many books...I know, I know...I'm running out of room). So here's the list of what I'm planning to read this summer. I thought I'd share and update with what I've finished at the end of each month. (More blogging during this quarantine summer break? Maybe?)

1. Mister Rogers Neighborhood: A Visual History by Tim Lybarger
2. Find Your Path by Carrie Underwood
3. The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler
4. A Time to Kill by John Grisham
5. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
6. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
7. The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews
8. Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams
9. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
10. Furious Hours by Casey Cep
11. The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth
12. Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
13. The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand
14. Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
15. Laugh it Up! by Candace Payne
16. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
17. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
18. Watching You by Lisa Jewel
19. Beach Read by Emily Henry
20. When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger
21. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
22. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
23. River of Kings by Taylor Brown
24. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
25. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
26. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
27. Disney's Land by Richard Snow
28. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory 
29. The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand
30. Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
31. The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook
32. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
33. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
34. Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
35. The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
36. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
37. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
38. The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler
39. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
40. Montana Sky by Nora Roberts
41. The Bromance Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
42. The Girl Beneath the Sea by Andrew Mayne
43. The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess
44. The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan
45. The Honey Don't List by Christina Lauren
46. The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
47. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
48. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
49. The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle
50. I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Yes. Fifty books. It's daunting, I know. But I sort of figure if I'm not working much AND we can't really go anywhere or do anything I'll have lots of time on my hands, right? It will be just like sitting poolside at the Y if I'm sitting on my porch watching the boys play in the baby pool. Right? RIGHT???! I'll keep ya posted AND let you know when some of these get placed into the Little Free Library if you're local. *wink*