I have read so many great books over the past few months - I'm probably going to do a post with a big, long list of titles because there's no way I can catch myself up with a post for each!
The Overstory by Richard Powers is the latest book I read and feel compelled to write about. My brother-in-law recommended this book to me, and I am so glad he did!
This book has a lot of depth to it. It wasn't a book I sped through, and I was OK with that. For me, taking my time with the story and letting the messages sink in was important. I really feel altered by it and it's a tale I'll never forget.
The book opens on an Iowa farm. The story progresses into a heartbreakingly honest reflection on the preciousness of family and the traditions that are carried over time. Including the joy and/or burden that comes with both. The first chapter struck me hard. It certainly stirred up emotions inside of me that I wasn't expecting. I was sobbing over its simple beauty. I can still feel the words and see the farm with its grand Chestnut tree. While reading this chapter (and the ones to follow) I couldn't help thinking about the amazing things that can come from one seed. One seed, in whatever form it takes, can do incredible things.
As the chapters progress, you meet new characters in different settings who eventually start to cross paths with each other. Their passion for nature, and specifically trees, unites them in important ways, to do important work - many times putting their lives and reputations on the line. The way they believe so wholeheartedly in what they committed to do for the sake of all trees is inspiring - whether it was physically protecting them or helping people better understand how vital and special they are.
Upon researching some of the things shared in the book about trees (wanting to see if they were facts or not) I discovered one of the main characters is based on an incredible ecologist named Suzanne Simard. If you read this book, I have a feeling you'll pick out who I'm referring to quickly!
A message that I took away and intend to keep is to "Give in." There is a point in the book when there is a terrible storm and characters living in a tree to protest it being cut down are almost thrown to their death. One had more experience than the other, and upon seeing her partner struggling against the wind and rain, yelled, "GIVE IN!" A great reminder that can be used in everyday life. Speaking for myself, at least. Surrender. Go with it. Struggling isn't going to help. Give In.
Ultimately, this is a love story about trees and how we take them for granted. Trees are more amazing than I ever could have imagined. After reading this book, I'm an even bigger tree hugger. I look up. I look down. I notice. I take a deep breath and let the trees intoxicate me. Every tree I meet, I take a moment to appreciate. The trees on our property are used to me talking to them, but now one or more of them get a pat and encouraging word almost daily.
If you are a nature lover, a tree hugger, a person that cares about the well-being of our world, this book is for you. Ooze through it. Sit with it. And most importantly, hug a tree and a plant a seed before, during, or after reading it!
Closing Note Inspired by This Book: There are so many beautiful, extraordinary, simple, complex, tiny, huge things happening around us every single day. It's absolutely devastating that we can't take them all in at once. Appreciate them. Marvel at them. Give them a round of applause. Nature sprouts, lives, and dies - and we don't SEE it. Moments go by and we don't SEE them. Seasons go by and we don't SEE them. Years go by and we don't SEE them. And they're right in front of us. Happening to us. Thinking about this almost sent me into a downward spiral. Thankfully, it also gave me good perspective. We need to SEE as much as we can, even if that's not everything. It might mean slowing down for a second and being mindful in a world that just keeps going faster and faster, but we'll miss so much more if we don't ground ourselves in the present and give thanks.
If you know me, you know cooking is something I hate to do. Seriously, I can make myself do a lot of things...but cooking is an activity I do not enjoy at all. Enter: Home Chef. A life changer and saver.
The number of meal kit delivery services out there is getting kind of overwhelming. It's hard to choose which one you would enjoy the most, while being able to afford it. I appreciated that there was a wide range of per meal pricing among the choices so that hopefully anyone who is interested in something like this can subscribe. This guide specifically was very helpful in finding what would work best for us.
Our plan is weekly. Every Tuesday, we get four fresh meal kits for two delivered to us. Each meal kit normally includes a protein (meat or vegetarian/vegan) and fruit/vegetables. You get all of the ingredients you need, pre-portioned for you (this was key for me). The only thing you need to have on hand at home is olive oil. There is a recipe sheet (that is hole punched so you can keep in a binder) and usually 2-6 steps to assemble the meal. We normally choose 15-minute meals and oven ready meals, probably the ones with the least number of steps!
Their meal kit selection is VAST. We have been on our subscription for probably approaching three months and we haven't eaten the same thing twice! And we've loved almost everything - of course there were a handful of misses - but that's to be expected. When you like something and have the Home Chef app, you can leave a star rating and mark the meal as a favorite. For the ones you don't like, you leave a star rating and skip the "favorite" part! Super helpful for when we're ordering kits in the future.
The biggest benefits of using a meal kit delivery service have been:
Joel and I have really enjoyed Home Chef. If it were a multi-level marketing scheme - we'd be brainwashed salespeople! Neither of us mind cooking dinner now, because we know it will be simple and delicious.
We get promo offers once in a while. If you are interested in trying Home Chef, reach out, I'd be happy to share the info when we get it!
I am always on the search for a good podcast to listen to, so like to share when I run across a good one. My latest favorite is the thriller, Shipworm.
None of my regular go-to podcast had any new episodes that struck my fancy, so I scrolled down to Apple Podcasts' most popular. Rarely do you make a random choice and have it work out, but this one captured my attention right away.
It is very suspenseful and extremely wild (I realized this after I tried to give Joel a recap and ended up talking for way too long, but felt every detail was necessary). Without giving too many details, the premise is a doctor is unknowingly implanted with an undetectable device and starts hearing a voice. The voice gives direction on what the doctor needs to do to complete a very specific mission. He had to follow all of the directions exactly, or his family would be in danger. The story introduces you to many different characters and locations throughout. Many being important pieces of the puzzle.
I myself was very surprised at my feelings towards "the voice" by the end and think you might be, too.
I believe this podcast is fairly new and they called it the "first of its kind feature-length audio movie." It was just that. Very good visual descriptions so you could create an outline of people/places and color it in from there. It was around two hours, perfect for a long, continuous drive so you can listen all the way through - trust me, you'll want to.
With the local library closed due to COVID, and not wanting to (or being able to) shop at a bookstore, I really started to miss my fiction books. We have a lot of nonfiction books at our house because typically that is the only genre we buy physical copies of. But I was getting tired of those. I needed a good, made up adventure to get lost in.
We had many lame “adult” things come up near the end of Summer that strapped us financially, so I was diligently saving up for a Kindle on the side. I wanted to be able to access whatever books I wanted, whenever I wanted. I told my sister what I was thinking about, and she went on watch to find me a good deal. Fortunately, “Amazon Prime Day” was coming up soon, and on the first morning I had several options to choose from in my text inbox from her!
I was able to get a great bundle deal on a Kindle Paperwhite, case, and charging wall adapter. It was hard to be patient waiting for it to arrive, even though it just took a few days!
I got the latest model that is waterproof (because reading in the bathtub is a thing for me) with 8GB storage. It was shockingly tiny when I got it, but it’s the perfect size. I haven’t gotten into Audible yet, but Joel has, and this model can connect to Bluetooth and offers Audible access. There is no glare, so it feels like you’re reading a paper book. It holds its charge for a long time as well. You have easy access to what you’re currently reading and can add titles to your “Wish List” as you come across books you want to read in the future.
A couple of my favorite features are:
I must add a disclaimer that I do not encourage the use of Amazon. Getting a Kindle is one of the very few exceptions I have made. Continue to show up for your local retailers and bookstores when you can. Part of me feels super guilty for buying this product because it requires me to purchase Kindle books through Amazon going forward, but we’re all human, and sometimes we just want what we want. If you know a way around purchasing books through Amazon for the Kindle – I’d love to hear from you! And if you are wondering why I’m anti-Amazon, Click Here.
We are living in extremely turbulent times. The Black Lives Matter movement is at the forefront, as it should be. Being a White female, I’ve chosen to dive deep into looking at my privilege and unconscious biases during this time in order to become a better ally.
A lot of growth has happened. I’ve discovered that even though I think I’m extremely open and accepting, I have caught myself several times thinking thoughts that were not OK. That were based on stereotypes. That were voices of past conditioning. That sometimes came out of nowhere with no evident root. Instead of beating myself up about it, I’ve asked myself why I think that way and promise myself going forward that I will look at the same person or situation with different eyes.
To intensify my growth in this area, I have sought out external resources to help expand my mind. This is where Unlocking Us comes in. I’m late to the Brené Brown bandwagon, but I’m glad I finally hopped on. She deserves all of the praise she receives. If you haven’t experienced her wisdom yet, I encourage you to. She delivers thought provoking content and guidance largely based on research and science in an easy to digest way. She’s not super polished, she messes up, she swears – but I’m assuming that is why she appeals to so many people. She doesn’t try to be perfect – something I keep working at but can’t seem to master.
Taking advantage of the increased downtime COVID has created, I took on renovating our family cabin. This meant many two hour trips to and from Lansing. Listening to the Unlocking Us podcast was something I started to really look forward to. Brené brings on a wide variety of guests that touch on different topics. When the Black Lives Matter movement was surging, she did a few episodes tied to it. Two episodes I particularly enjoyed were her interview with Laverne Cox, a Black, Transgender advocate and actress, and “Brené on Shame and Accountability.” There are others focused on the Black experience I still need to listen to that I am very excited about.
I’ve also learned a lot from other interviews she has done, one in particular with Judd Apatow. He’s known to be a funny guy, but he offered some really interesting and insightful thoughts about so many different topics. Brené has a gift of getting people to be very vulnerable. The way he opened up was beautiful and unexpected. I took away a lot of valuable things to consider that I've never really thought about before.
The biggest thing I’ve taken away from Brené is this: “I am here to get it right. Not be right.” This moment in history is giving us all such a humbling opportunity to do difficult but important internal work, as well as have uncomfortable, informative conversations with others. Be open right now. Be gentle with yourself. Listen. Learn. Act. Identify your role in helping marginalized groups of people around you. If you are coming from a good place, don’t be afraid to mess up or be wrong. You want to get it right so you can be of better service, be a better advocate. Easier said than done, I know, and the road may be long, but if you feel strongly about something, you've got to stick it out and do the work.
Are you a Brené fan? What content from her should I check out?
I have struggled with acne my whole life. I continue to try different ways to battle it. I believe a lot of my issues are hormonal, and some have gotten better since my doctor identified my hypothyroidism, but that hasn’t solved everything. I still get minor breakouts, but now they’re pretty isolated to my monthly cycle.
I’m not normally one to be influenced by “influencers” on Instagram, but there are a few I trust and respect. Jenna Rammell (@jennaskitchen on Instagram) is one of those people. She shared a product called “PMD Clean” with a 40% discount using her code, which made it really reasonable for me to purchase. She swears by it and it helped her with a difficult skin condition. Here’s what it looks like:
According to the website, it is a “smart facial cleansing device.” It has four different vibration settings, the front has soft bristles (to cleanse), the back has smooth ridges (to massage in serums). It is designed to provide a deep clean while lifting, firming, and toning facial skin/muscles. Which, even though I don’t want to admit it, I need. I don’t ever want to go the Botox route, so I was intrigued by the more natural way to take care of my skin. My favorite part (though I have many) about this product is that it is odor-resistant, antibacterial, hypoallergenic, and waterproof! I like the fact that bacteria doesn’t nestle itself into the device…spin brushes and washrags and OUR HANDS can harbor bacteria…which is really gross when you think about it.
I feel like I just walked out of a spa every morning and every night. It’s therapeutic, it forces me to slow down, and the vibrations are relaxing. I stick to my skincare routine now because I want to use the PMD!
Using it is simple and gentle. Splash your face, put your cleanser on, set a vibration mode and wet the PMD, scrub in circular motions with the bristle side, splash to rinse. I then do a toner followed by a serum. To apply the serum I rub it around my face and massage it in with the ridged side of the PMD. My skin always feels SO clean.
Right now I can only afford basic skincare items (think WalMart level quality) but I hope to upgrade eventually. I think higher quality products paired with the PMD will be extra effective.
There is also a PMD Microdermabrasion tool I recently purchased (because there was another really good sale). This tool takes my routine to the next level. According to the website, "It combines Patented Spinning Disc technology with Perfectly Calibrated Vacuum Suction to leave skin looking fresh and radiant. Weekly treatments reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, blemishes and enlarged pores." I am definitely starting to notice big changes with the addition of this tool. It's very easy to use and I'm done in minutes. This is kind of gross - but I love seeing how much dead skin gets buffed/vacuumed by it!
I’ve noticed the acne I do get disappears faster. It’s still a little too early to tell if these items are firming my skin, but I do feel like they have given me a bit of a glow. And I feel better about myself. Even though they haven’t completely “fixed” everything, just knowing that I’m taking the time to care for my skin in this way, and taking time for myself, makes me feel good.
PMD Beauty has sales all the time, so if you want to treat yo'self when it comes to your skincare routine - I highly recommend this company!
The show may have given me a complex, but I’d watch it all over again!
I’m way behind in watching the series Dexter. We haven’t had cable in years, so it wasn’t until the show popped up as an option on Netflix that I even remembered it was a thing. I had heard it was good. I tried starting it a couple of times but was scared I’d get scared (which happened). I couldn’t stomach the violence. Then finally it took. I tell you what, Michael C. Hall just has the gift of reeling you right in. (I was a huge fan of his before watching Dexter because of the show Six Feet Under on HBO if you remember that.)
If you don’t know what this show is about – it is centered on a vigilante serial killer named Dexter. His father, a cop, knew at a very young age that Dexter had psychopathic tendencies, and in order to help him have the most normal life possible, developed a “code” for him to live by. That code includes only killing people who deserve it. An eye for an eye basically.
Dexter himself is in law enforcement as a renowned blood spatter analyst with the Miami Metro Homicide Department. This gives him an upper hand in a lot of ways. He can get inside details on people who are on his radar. He can either place or remove people from the radar of Miami Metro. And if needed, he can tamper with evidence to change the outcome of a case.
As the seasons progress, Dexter gets closer and closer to being able to have a truly “normal” life with a family and routine and all of the things we often take for granted. When things get really good, I found myself yelling at him to just stop while he was ahead! But, sadly, that never happens. But there wouldn’t be a show if he lived responsibly now would there?
I, and I assume others who watched, got really attached to Dexter and also to his sister, Debra. Weird fact that I found out while researching them – the actors who play these characters were actually married to each other in real life for a period of time! Anyway – the cast is great and the show introduces new characters each season depending on the main plot. One of the hardest episodes for me to watch (I was sobbing in the middle of the night by myself in the dark) is when Dexter’s wife passes away (I won’t say how). The other was the very end of the final episode of the series. The closing scenes focused on Dexter’s and Deb’s relationship. It’s brutal.
For being a serial killer, there’s just something about Dexter that I fell in love with. He was trying to navigate being a good human like we all are – just on a different plane than most of us are familiar with. And because he’s killing “bad guys” and technically doing good, the vibe of the show is a lot different than one that focuses on a serial killer just killing for the sport of it.
Overall, this series gets a 10/10 in my book. Lots of action and cliffhangers that make it very binge worthy. I’m actually glad I got to watch it on Netflix so I didn’t have to wait for the next episode! People obviously get killed but most of the time the scenes aren’t terribly gory. I will warn you – you may start to look at people around you differently. I’m talking specifically about strangers. There was a period of time (and still a little bit now) that I thought everyone was a serial killer and everyone I loved was going to die at the hand of a serial killer in a totally bizarre way. Including myself! But I’m here to write a review about Dexter – so far, so good!
We all have our guilty pleasures, right? Well, mine is Jeffree Star. I’m somewhat obsessed with him (along with millions of others). He’s a YouTube personality, best known for his work in the beauty, modeling, and song worlds. He’s become such a public figure and mogul that he has his own make-up and merch line!
What makes me an odd, and maybe surprising, fan of Jeffree’s is the fact that I am not that into make-up. I don’t wear much. I don’t watch tutorials. I don’t pay attention to the latest trends. But, I like Jeffree. He makes me happy! The way he presents himself, his life, and his reviews are thoughtful and entertaining. You don’t have to be a make-up lover to love him. My favorite parts about him are that he is completely over-the-top in everything he does and has such a good heart.
You can tell very quickly that because of his hard work, we has gotten pretty darn RICH! Lambos, Gucci, Birkin…he has the best of the best. I am normally disgusted by this type of behavior and “reckless spending,” but for some reason the way Jeffree presents it is different. He’s not rubbing his wealth in anyone’s face. He works hard and plays hard and is SO generous to those around him. He pays it forward tenfold. You can tell giving back to his fans and those he trusts is truly what brings him the most joy.
In getting to know Jeffree, I’ve also gotten to know about another YouTube personality named Shane Dawson. Side Note: I am probably SO behind in discovering these guys because they’ve been around forever, but oh well, I’m a 34 year-old woman! Jeffree and Shane have such a beautiful friendship with each other. I’ve watched their relationship and bond grow stronger through their videos and it is heartwarming. They bring a lot to each other’s’ lives.
The reason I mention Shane is because he filmed a YouTube series following Jeffree and himself as he becomes curious about the beauty industry. Both want to expose some beauty world secrets (Shane is really into conspiracy theories) as they work to develop a special line of make-up and merch for Shane (which is ultimately Jeffree’s way to support Shane. Another Side Note: I’ve been keeping up with the success of Shane’s merch, which just launched in October, and he SOLD OUT on the first day.
Below is a link to the kick-off video in their series about the beauty industry. If you need something to make you laugh, I recommend looking these two up on YouTube and diving into their work. I dare you to not let them win your heart!
I’ve been on a Zoey Deutch kick lately (she is just the cutest) and ran across a 2017 movie she was in called The Year of Spectacular Men. I was charmed.
After looking into the movie and cast a little further after watching it, I learned that Zoey’s mom is Lea Thompson, who acted as her mom in the movie as well as directed it. The lead was Madelyn Deutch, Lea’s daughter and Zoey’s sister! A family affair. I thought they looked alike!
Anyway, the movie is about Madelyn (Izzy) who is kind of a train wreck. She’s just trying to find her way, figuring things out through a series of mostly failures. Especially with men. Your heart really starts to go out to her because she has such a good heart and intentions. Her mother and sister play a big part in helping her navigate her troubles, providing a really strong base of love and support. Their side stories also add some humor to the movie.
It’s a very relatable movie. All of us have felt “lost” at one point or another in our lives, and although it’s difficult in the moment, we start to find our stride. It takes a little longer for some more than others to find that stride, but they get there. I know most of the best personal growth I’ve experienced came from long stretches of really ugly, confusing, wild times in my life. Everyone finds their peace in their own way. The ending was really thoughtful and one of my favorite parts.
I watched this movie and the movie suggested below on Netflix! Hope you enjoy.
If you end up really liking Zoey, another movie that I watched and loved is Flower.
I thought I’d branch out a little bit from what I normally share on this page and talk about something else I enjoy – sweet treats!
I feel compelled to share about my most recent dessert of choice because it’s SO GOOD. And it’s made in Iowa, an extra perk.
Over the Fourth of July weekend we had a yummy lunch with my mother-in-law. For dessert she had two options - cheesecake and ice cream sandwiches. I normally would go for the cheesecake (because, cheesecake), but I chose the ice cream sandwich to try something new. Now I can never eat a regular, rock solid ice cream sandwich ever again.
Let me introduce you to Thelma’s Handmade Ice Cream Sandwiches based out of Des Moines. According to their website, “Each of our signature treats is handmade for peak deliciousness.” And that’s the truth!
My favorite right now is the sugar cookie with strawberry ice cream sandwich. Both the cookies and the ice cream are somehow soft, which only science can explain. You can tell it’s handmade – it doesn’t have a “processed” taste to it and it literally feels like you’re eating something your grandma just handed you fresh from the kitchen.
TRY THESE! So good. Get your fill while the weather is still warm.