Category Archives: Personal

Books I Can’t Wait to Read

Hello friends! Today’s post is a bit of a catch up. I wasn’t able to post a WINTER TBR back in December but I still wanted to share some books I’m excited about before we get to my springtime reading list. After all, we just had an ice storm in Alabama (!) so I’m still curling up with my winter reads.

Here are some upcoming books on my list…

FICTION PICKS

Closed Circle Mystery

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

This was a Christmas present from my sister.

Steamy Romance

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

I’m currently reading the first in this series and already want to jump into the next.

Classics Reread

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Time to revisit this all-time favorite.

Young Adult Fantasy

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Intrigued by the 1001 Nights retelling aspect of this one.

NONFICTION PICKS

Relationship Development

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

I’ve taken the online quizzes but figure I should read the source material.

Memoir

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton

This seems like a good follow-up read to Just Mercy.

Your turn! Have you read any of these books? What did you think? And I’d love for you to share some of the books you plan on reading before spring comes in the comments below! 

P.S. You can follow me on Goodreads HERE. I also tweet the title/author of every book the moment I finish it HERE.

15 Random Facts About Me

Hello there! I thought it might be fun to share a few random facts about myself on this Tuesday afternoon. There have been a few new faces around these parts and it’s high time we got to know each other better! 🙂 

Below are 15 random facts about my life. Do we have anything in common? Go ahead and share a few facts about yourself in the comments, if you feel like it. I’d love to learn more about you!

Let’s get to know each other ✨

  1. I love when I have the opportunity to fly or take a train solo. It’s the perfect excuse to have some uninterrupted me-time! My ideal solo flight includes a new book, an in-flight movie or two, and some delicious snacks (like pretzels and peanut m&ms). On a train, I’m happy to just pop a podcast in my ears and stare out the window at the passing scenery.
  2. I recently read Heavy by Kiese Laymon and it’s easily one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. I feel like I’ve read so many memoirs by *~*writers*~* lately and most of them are kinda meh but this one and In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado will stick with me for a long time.
  3. During a rewatch of Gilmore Girls, I searched online for a list of every movie they mention in the show. My search proved successful and the list served as the impetus for rewatching some incredible films. So far I’ve tackled West Side Story, Rosemary’s Baby, Mommie Dearest, The Shining, Flashdance, and Bright Eyes. 
  4. Because my birthday is in October, I feel like I was into pumpkin-themed foods long before they were trendy. All sorts of snack foods are putting out pumpkin versions these days during autumn, but Pumpkin Delights will always be a tried and true OG with a special place in my heart.
  5. My perfect cozy night-in involves a dark and suspenseful television show (or a British period piece), popcorn, red wine, and a snuggly blanket.
  6. The thing I miss most about living in Miami, besides proximity to beaches, is empanadas. Empanadas are so delicious, cheap and convenient in South Florida and I was totally spoiled by working right across a parking lot from a ventanita that served them. 
  7. My cat’s favorite food is cheese. He will scarf down any type of cheese offered to him — from Kraft singles to fancy goudas. When cheese is out somewhere in the kitchen he will pat my leg with his paw to make sure I know he’s available for taste testing and then spin around in circles waiting for a sliver to be bestowed upon him. 
  8. While my real name is Elizabeth, I’ve gone by Beth for as long as I can remember and have never really thought of myself as anything else. When I was little, my family called me Peppy and now my nephew calls me Aunt Peppy — which is very sweet and such a throwback. 
  9. I met my husband in Bowling Green, KY when I was working at WKU and he was in grad school there. Although it’s possible we saw each other years before at a national speech tournament in Boston. 
  10. I started studying ballet at the age of 3 and danced through my freshman year of college. One of my favorite feelings in the world is leaving a warm ballet studio after a great class and walking outside into a crisp, dark evening. 
  11. I love watching YouTube videos about and following social media accounts of people who live at the northern reaches of the globe. I’ve even started to really romanticize the idea of 24 hours of darkness in winter and midnight sun in the summer. 
  12. Things that make me extremely happy: the smell of small health food stores/co-ops, true crime podcasts, hiking trails along big bodies of water, Little House on the Prairie, Monet and Degas, Dolly Parton, edelweiss, listening to the radio, vegan cupcakes, how it feels outside at night in those first few days of autumn and the first few days of spring, and the temperature under my quilt when my cat is under it too. 
  13. There’s really only 3 foods I won’t eat. I don’t like mushrooms or olives and will pick and flick them out of a dish with no shame instead of politely grinning and bearing it. I’m allergic to shrimp although I remember really enjoying it before having a reaction to it. I sometimes want to try my luck and see if maybe I’ve grown out of the allergy… 
  14. Places on my travel bucket list include: Maine, the Pacific Northwest, Rotterdam, Costa Rica, Scotland, rural Japan, the west coast of Italy, South Australia, Bonaire, and the Arctic Archipelago. 
  15. Sometimes when I’m really bored, I’ll Google Street View a city I’ve previously lived in to see if I can still get from Point A to Point B from memory. Recently, I remembered how to get from an apartment I lived in when I was 10 to the ballet studio I went to…which I think is pretty impressive considering I haven’t been back to that city in this millennium. 

50 more facts about me (that I posted in 2015 — see! it’s been awhile).

Reading Year In Review

My Top 10 Books of 2020

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Eveningland by Michael Knight

Wolf by Wolf and Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Brazil by John Updike

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

2020 Reading Stats

I read 68 books in 2020 for a total of 24,298 pages.

The shortest book I read was I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya (96 pages) and the longest book was 11/22/63 by Stephen King (849 pages).

My average book length in 2020 was 357 pages.

The most popular book I read was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and the book I read with the highest average rating on Goodreads was In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado.

The first book I read in 2020 was The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen.

My last read of 2020 was Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick.

I read from many genres but tended to favor literary/contemporary fiction the most. And fiction books in general made up 80% of my reading. (A bit high for me!)

67% of the authors I read from identify as women, 30% men, and 3% non-binary.

What I Read in September

September was a wonderful reading month for me! I read an 850-page Stephen King novel and still managed to knock out 5 other books over the course of month. I read one 5 star book and the rest were 4 stars! Everything I read was entertaining and captivating — just what I needed in this millionth month of social distancing.

I try to keep my reading fairly diverse in terms of genre as my tastes run the spectrum. Excited to say there are no repeat genres this month! My reads included a historical fiction, a romance, a literary fiction, a memoir, a sci-fi, and a horror/thriller.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Where I got it: Passed along to me by my mom

What I thought: Honestly would love for my official title to be Book Woman. 🙂 This was a very well done and thoroughly researched historical fiction based on the Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s. We follow our main character Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry, as she delivers reading material to her impoverished neighbors in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. I adored Cussy and all the hill folk who came to rely on her deliveries — such a fun cast of characters to read about.

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Where I got it: The Book Drop subscription’s Books for Bubbly

What I thought: A great own-voices romance with a fun behind-the-scenes of a TV show premise. Although appropriately fluffy, it also dealt with some more serious topics that can go along with a life of fame (lack of privacy, consent on set, PTSD, etc). The main conflict might be difficult for some to buy–and I had my apprehensions–but by the end I thought it was handled well enough to win me over. This was a very enjoyable (and steamy) read! If you love the show Jane the Virgin then you should 100% give this book a go.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Where I got it: Audible

What I thought: I’m so happy this was chosen as the inaugural book for the Read ‘Em & Weep book club!!! I had seen a LOT of middle of the road reviews for this one from many Station Eleven lovers who felt this didn’t live up to Emily St. John Mandel’s previous work. Honestly, I was just planning on skipping it. But this was a rare instance of required reading saving the day because I absolutely loved it! I don’t recommend this book to folks who enjoy dipping in and out of novels. There’s just too much going on and too many characters to keep up with. I went in without reading any synopses (all I knew was hotel + ponzi scheme) which I think added to my enjoyment as I wasn’t waiting for anything to happen and was surprised when things did. 🙂 Overall – damn, can Emily St. John Mandel write.

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Where I got it: Books and Crannies

What I thought: A very short read, but it packed a lot of insight and important topics into 96 pages. Shraya explores how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl. She proposed how we might re-imagine gender for the twenty-first century and cherish what makes us different. I appreciated the vulnerability and honesty and am happy to have this little powerhouse of a book in my collection.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Where I got it: Library

What I thought: What a wild ride. I thought this would be the perfect book to kick off the fall season and I wasn’t wrong. In case the title didn’t clue you in, this book is centered around the Kennedy assignation. A portal to the past has been discovered and our main character, Jake Epping, is tasked with traveling back to stop Lee Harvey Oswald. However, the portal can only deliver time travelers to one specific day in September of 1958 — no matter how many times they pass through. So the book really kicked off in the perfect month for my reading experience. Then, the first half of the book follows Jake as he tries to stop a tragedy from occurring on Halloween night — more perfect fall vibes! After that first mission, the book slowed down and took it’s time getting to the fateful day in 1963 which was my reasoning for knocking off half a star. But the ending was worth the journey!

 When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Where I got it: Library (Library Book Club pick)

A truly terrifying story. I encountered several reviews prior to reading that warned to go into this one expecting a horror and I agree. The thriller classification might throw off expectations a bit. However, I didn’t have the same issues with pacing that others had (maybe because I just read an 850-page Stephen King so this felt remarkably speedy in comparison lol). I also had no problems with the romance thrown into the heart of this otherwise creepy book — this is a genre debut for Cole who normally writes romance — it didn’t feel out of place and it was well-executed. Overall, a super relevant book thematically and an enjoyable reading experience.

What was the best book you read in September? 

P.S. Check out some of the other books I’m hoping to get to this season!

FALL TBR

Hi guys! Today’s post is going to be my FALL TBR! (TBR = to be read, aka a list of books I want to read soon.) I post my seasonal TBR lists as a way to get excited about all the books I want to read over the coming months. And with the September sunshine glowing and the pumpkin spice making it’s triumphant return, it’s safe to say fall vibes are upon us!

So, without further ado, let’s jump into the TBR…

FICTION PICKS

Own Voices Romance –

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

This new release romance was sent to me by The Book Drop.

Book Club Pick – 

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

A story about a ponzi scheme, written by the author of Station Eleven.

Time Travel – 

11/22/63 by Stephen King

A whopper at 849 pages but I’ve heard it’s one of King’s very best.

Literary Fiction – 

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

I’m a sucker for family dramas told over decades and this one spans five!

New Release –

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

After Homegoing, Gyasi’s books are an auto-buy for me! Picked this one up as soon as it came out.

Contemporary Classic – 

Brazil by John Updike

I’ve been wanting to read a book set in Brazil and choosing one by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author felt like a safe pick.

Young Adult Sci-Fi –

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Continuing on with the second book in this series.

Saw the Movie – 

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

I finally saw this movie recently and loved it. Excited to revisit the story (and Italian villa).

NONFICTION PICKS

Memoir – 

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

The book itself is tiny and cute but the story packs a punch as it explores a trans artist’s relationship with masculinity.

True Crime – 

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

This one sounds fascinating and is an important piece of American history.

Over to you! Have you read any of these books? What did you think? And I’d love for you to share some of the books you plan on reading this fall in the comments below! 

P.S. I read a total of 22 books from June – August and read everything from my Summer TBR except for The Aviator’s Wife.

5 Ways to “Clock-Out” When You Work From Home

*This post may contain affiliate links.*

Working takes a lot out of you, and a job can be very demanding some days. You must take the time to rest and recover so that you can return to your duties the next day full of energy and motivation. But it can be difficult to transition from a work mindset to a recovery mindset when working from home. 

Below are four of my favorite ways to “clock-out” after a long day of work and signal to my mind and body that work is over and rest has begun. Setting aside this leisure time right after I wrap up for the day is crucial for me to enter the rest of my evening in a state of calm. Then, I can return to my desk the next morning feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. 

1. Pull out the Coloring Books

One way to relax after a long day of work is to grab your favorite coloring books and put your feet up. Invest in a variety of books from https://www.pennydellpuzzles.com/coloring/ so you can mix it up and choose different designs to work on. You’ll be creating a masterpiece while allowing yourself to rest and relax. Coloring is an activity that’s fun and beneficial for kids and adults alike. It’ll take your mind off all the stress and strain from your workday almost instantly.

2. Take A Warm Bath

You may also want to put taking a warm bath on your list of ways to “clock-out” after a long day of work. It’s your chance to unplug from technology and relax your muscles and brain from thinking. Put some bubbles in your bathtub and grab your favorite book that you can get lost in for a while. You might also want to put on some soothing background music and meditate while you’re soaking in the tub. You’ll feel like a new person when you get out of your bath and you’ll feel in a calm frame of mind. It’s an excellent way to relieve any stress you’re feeling in your body as well.

3. Watch A Movie

Another idea for how you can “clock-out” after work is to watch a movie. Pick one based on what you’re in the mood for and will keep your attention. It can be entertaining to watch a favorite movie of yours or to pick a new one that you haven’t seen before. Make a delicious snack or dinner and curl up on the couch in your comfortable clothes and a warm blanket to help you relax. You may even end up dozing off or falling asleep if you’re that tired and worn out. Nothing wrong with a nap!

4. Go On A Walk

You may not think of exercise as relaxing, but it is if you choose the right activity. Going on a walk is an excellent way to burn a few calories, reduce your stress, and calm a racing mind. Call up a friend so you two can catch up about what’s been going on in each of your lives. It’ll be relaxing to spend some time in nature and have someone who cares about you on the other end of the phone. You’ll feel so much better after getting in some steps and being able to get anything that’s bothering you off your chest to your friend.  

5. Read A Book

You might also want to consider reading a great book. Perhaps there is a novel that you have been recommended but you haven’t managed to get around to just yet. Or, maybe there’s a book that’s been on your shelves for months but you haven’t cracked the cover yet. Perhaps, you have read some beautiful short sayings and now you’re interested in discovering the source. Whether you’re learning about a different part of the world or escaping into fantasy, books are the perfect way to relax and escape.

But I want to hear from you! What are some ways you “clock-out” when working from home? Are there any aspects of working from home you’re struggling with?

P.S. Need one more “clock-out” idea? How about an at-home workout. 

SUMMER TBR

Hi guys! Today’s post is going to be my SUMMER TBR! (TBR = to be read, aka a list of books I want to read soon.) I thought it would be fun to start posting seasonal TBR lists as a way to get excited about all the books I want to read over the coming months. And with the sun shining outside my window and a massive longing to ditch work and head to a beach somewhere, it’s safe to say summer is upon us!

So, without further ado, let’s jump into the TBR…

I’m going to start with my fiction picks and then jump into the nonfiction. This is a 60/40 split which I feel is pretty spot-on with where my reading preferences currently lie. I also incorporated lots of different genres so there would be a little something of everything I personally enjoy reading!

FICTION PICKS

Contemporary Fiction – 
Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

Nothing says summer like a story set on a deserted island.

Science Fiction –
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

This is an older title that I’d love to get to this year.

Dark/Hard-Hitting Contemporary Fiction –
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Ordered this one from Books and Crannies!

Horror – 
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

I love reading Horror in the summer — it’s a throwback to my youth when V.C. Andrews and the I Know What You Did Last Summer books reigned supreme.

Young Adult Romance – 
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

A little fluff in the summer never hurt anybody.

Historical Fiction –
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

I loved this author’s book Alice I Have Been so when I spotted another of her titles at a thrift store I had to pick it up.

NONFICTION PICKS

Memoir –
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

I love reading memoir no matter the season and this one has been getting so much buzz.

Political Nonfiction –
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

This book was recently recommended to me and looks extremely powerful.

Mountaineering Nonfiction –
Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar

Honestly my favorite nonfiction genre…so I had to include something from this category!

Historical Nonfiction –
A Magnificent Obsession by Helen Rappaport

…and rounding out my list with a dose of the British monarchy. Perfection!

Over to you! Have you read any of these books? What did you think? And I’d love for you to share some of the books you plan on reading this summer in the comments below! 

P.S. Check out some of the books I own. 

September Playlist

Do you want to take a peek at what I’ve been listening to lately? I’ve shared my SEPTEMBER playlist  below!

Admittedly, I usually turn to podcasts when looking to fill moments of silence. But lately I’ve been trying to be a bit more balanced with what I pop into my earholes! It’s not that I don’t like music, it just takes so much work to find music I LOVE. Whereas listening to a podcast or NPR just feels like a sure thing. (Hello, yes…classic enneagram 9 here. Nice to meet ya!) 

So that’s all to say, I took a lot of care to select songs that resonated with me and I plan to jam to them all month! Maybe you’ll like ’em too! Give it a listen and let me know what you think. xoxo 

 

P.S. Pop any suggestions for my October playlist in the comments below. I’m slowly but surely expanding my repertoire beyond FM radio and old mix CD’s from a decade ago. Please and thanks!!

The Best Souvenirs

Now that summer is coming to an end, and all the travel that goes along with it, I’d love to know…Did you pick up any fun souvenirs on vacations this year? 

When I was a kid, souvenirs felt like SUCH a necessity. Visiting kitschy shops at beaches, amusement parks, and roadside attractions felt like a cruel joke if I didn’t at least get to select ONE item to come home with me. The allure of some magnet with my name on it or a toy representative of the past day’s adventure too difficult to resist whining about.

Nowadays, souvenirs fall into that careful balance of knowing I don’t need any additional tchochkes cluttering my home, but also wanting to take out an insurance policy on fleeting travel memories. With that in mind, I’ve developed a few categories of purchases I employ when looking to commemorate a trip…

Little things to tuck in a memory box, like a postcard or patch, are a go-to of mine. Not a huge investment, so I feel ok that it’s only going to be admired in those days I’m feeling extra nostalgic and pull down the box to sift through my collection of random ephemera.

But I don’t mind splurging on a high-quality consumable. A bottle of wine local to the area that can be uncorked months later. A lotion with a scent to transport me back to our travels. A candle from a sweet seaside shop or a box of local chocolate from the corner store.

And speaking of chocolate, let’s go ahead and put cooking ingredients in a category all their own. Something like a beautiful bottle of local olive oil, whole bean coffee from a cafe you fell in love with, or a couple teeny tiny jars of spices that easily tuck in your backpack. I also love this as an option if you’re tasked with bringing back a goodie for a co-worker or family member. A friend of mine gifted me a little tin of paprika she bought on a trip to Hungary and I thought about her and her adventure every time I sprinkled it in a dish for months to come.

Finally, there’s what I consider the daily item. These I reserve for truly special trips. I want to be transported to those memories frequently, so something like a piece of jewelry or a scarf fits the bill. For a lower budget option, I would go for something like a coffee mug or a small print I can transport carefully home and frame. Basically an item that I can seamlessly incorporate into my daily life…not one that is emblazoned with the city or attraction I visited. Those seem like a good idea in the moment, but then get shoved to the back of a closet.

Which of these categories do you normally go for? Have your own strategy when it comes to souvenirs? Let me know in the comments below! xoxo

P.S. This would be a fun way to commemorate your trip once you’ve returned home!

The Purchase that Saved the Summer (+ a cocktail recipe)

When we moved to Alabama, I was so excited that we’d have a backyard. Coming from a big city, where it was starting to feel like we were living on top of our neighbors, I was excited for the extra space. Our first summer here, we hung out in the backyard a bit. Did some grilling, sat outside chatting with friends, even planted a few things. But the mosquitoes were pretty horrendous. In a true case of “the grass is always greener,” I started to miss our screened-in balcony in Miami.

But this summer we showed up with an action plan! We splurged on a pop-up tent (more like a pop-up gazebo…this thing is pretty huge) that offers a bit of protection from all the bugs. It’s proven to be the perfect place for eating dinner, reading a book on a lazy afternoon, and just CHILLING. We’ve even run an extension cord from our kitchen on a few occasions so we could hook up a box fan. Hello, GLAMPING!

Do you hang out outside in the summer? Do you have a porch, a stoop, or do you just head to the park? Let me know in the comments below.

Wherever you’re chilling, this drink would be the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing summer’s evening. Enjoy!

Cocktail Recipe:

Ingredients –
– 1 bottle of Prosecco 
– 1 cup Limoncello
– 1 cup raspberries, muddled & for garnish
– 2 lemons, for garnish

Instructions – 

At the bottom of a wine glass, muddle approximately 4-5 raspberries.

Fill each glass half way with Prosecco, then fill the remainder of the way with Limoncello.

Garnish with fresh sliced lemon and raspberries before serving.

P.S. Other summer faves are linked HERE.