April: Books Plus

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it weird to proceed as normal and yet needing to proceed as normal when possible.  Asking myself things like:  Is it okay that I’m just posting my random lists of what I’ve read and blathering on about puzzles? Is that just more annoying than usual?  I know we’re all experiencing such varied emotions and in different waves, but hopefully you see something here that might serve as a happy little distraction…and hopefully not fuel for rage…unless you want to spiritedly debate the new Jessica Simpson book.

My Reads

➕ Sali Hughes’s Our Rainbow Queen
A collection of photographs of Queen Elizabeth’s wardrobe choices that I won from a giveaway by Lyndsey and Kayla surprised me by teaching me a lot more than I would have thought and making me smile with the author’s voice, which blended humor and respect in a lovely, light way.
I think the title says it all? Thank you to Stephanie for loaning me this beaut!
➕  Alexander McCall Smith’s The Sunday Philosophy Club
I enjoyed the cozy and meanderingly thoughtful parts typical for McCall Smith, but I vastly prefer his 44 Scotland Street books for their fantastic cast of characters and even more of Edinburgh, and found this one lacking.
➕  Jen DeLuca’s Well Met
The Renaissance Faire background saved this otherwise bleh to me romance.
➕ Kerry Winfrey’s Not Like The Movies
Waiting for Tom Hanks is the book that made me realize I don’t hate all rom-coms in book form. Thank you, Kerry Winfrey.  I’m more of an Annie, so I do like that one a bit more, but this book, about the love story between two secondary characters in the first book, absolutely delivers. Think the good parts of New Girl, lots of coffee and pie, and thought-provoking family dynamics. Thank you for my e-copy, Berkley!
➕  Emma Lord’s Tweet Cute
I wasn’t going to pick this one up because YA romance is not my thing and I had no interest in anything that had to do with Twitter.  Oh, how wrong I was.  This has allllll the wonderfully satisfying You’ve Got Mail vibes and all the cozy food that I’d like recipes for ASAP. Consider me shocked that this will likely make it into my favorites for the year and I’ll definitely be buying a copy at some point when hopefully money isn’t so worrisome because it’s a keeper in my book.
➕  Jessica Simpson’s Open Book
I know people are raving over this one, but for me there’s a childishness to her that makes me both feel sorry for her and also painfully uncomfortable/annoyed. That immature vulnerability also means it’s a true tell-all, though, so if you’re interested….the teacup overfloweth. It left me feeling sad and kind of icky, a word I’m using even if I don’t like it.
➕  Katie Fforde’s Wild Designs
A British love hate romance with plenty of gardening sprinkled in. Distracting enough, though nothing I’ll be raving about.
➕  L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables
Thought I’d take advantage of Audible’s free audiobooks and listen to the Rachel McAdams narration I hear about so often. Confession: The first part of this book stresses me out and I like the next two in the series better. Send your hate mail with pieces of toilet paper, please.
➕ Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Have you heard of this one? It’s quite good. (Truly, though, I think it’s one of the best book ever written. I wish it didn’t have the cliched reputation it does because I think that takes away from its genius. I’m amazed every time I read it.)

New To Us Top Toddler Reads

➕  Adam Rubin’s Dragons Love Tacos
One you hear about all the time for a reason.  This is a fun one, plus it makes Maeve really want to eat tacos.
➕ Tim Hopgood’s Singing in the Rain
These illustrations are so vibrant and beautiful, plus who doesn’t love this song and movie?
➕ Chris Haughton’s Don’t Worry, Little Crab
I wrote a lot more about this one earlier, but, gosh this one is special.  I adore the message of pushing yourself through something that seems a little scary in order to discover something amazing and it’s fantastically done through Haughton’s skills (he’s an auto-buy, I’d say). Thank you to Candlewick for our copy.

Podcasts

Greta Johnson has been doing a fantastic job during this time.  The episodes on movies and books and baking have that perfect balance for me of not ignoring what’s happening in our world, but focusing me in on little things that can bring happiness.
Be prepared to be fully charmed by Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway chatting about food.
Indiana Adams was one of the co-hosts of the Coffee and Crumbs podcast, which I loved, and now she’s doing this project on her own.  It’s purposefully short and like listening to your most bubbly friend tell you about what’s new with little moments of depth sprinkled in there.

Music

All the happy music lately.
➕ Taj Mahal’s “Queen Bee”
➕ PARTYNEXTDOOR’s “Loyal”
➕ Moon Taxi’s “Hometown Heroes”, “Two High”…actually, Moon Taxi in general
➕ Lake Street Dive’s cover of “Rich Girl”

TV and Movies

➕ Knives Out
This movie was sooo good. Both my husband and I are still raving about it to the no one who can listen. Think Agatha Christie, Clue, etc. and the coolest house sets  (woot woot, Massachusetts).
➕ McMillion$
This docuseries of the fraud of the McDonald’s Monopoly game is so compelling and full of colorful characters.
➕ The Imagineering Story
I’m already fascinated by the genius of Disney’s Imagineers and this show has me all the more so.  Obviously Disney fans will love this, but anyone interested in the stories of how iconic things actually get done and the push and pull between creativity and business…this is one to watch. I loved all of it!
➕ The Mandalorian
It’s fun being back in the Star Wars universe, although anyone else find the soundtrack tough? We haven’t finished yet.
➕ Parks and Rec
If you let a mouse rewatch The Office, he will ask for Parks and Rec. Also, coming off of the last seasons of The Office, I always ask myself: Is Parks and Rec better overall? If you compare standout episodes how do they fare? Overall cast? Best of cast? These are the important things I am asking myself.  Also, I’m really looking forward to the new episode they’re putting on tonight. We’ll be watching after eating waffles and bacon.
The Secret History of the British Garden
Monty Don plus Britain’s gardens and countryside views…I mean…

What’s Not Working For Me

➕ Enter everything COVID-19 is doing here.
➕ Troop Zero
I kept hearing about how heartwarming and sweet this one is, and I do think the idea of it is fantastic, but the execution left me feeling really bummed out and not feeling that hopeful for the kids.  This just felt deeply sad to me.
➕ Staying in a treat yo’ self mindset.
I think I might have initially used this crisis as an opportunity to say to myself, “Well, why not? You’ve got enough going on.”  I need to stop that way of thinking, especially since we have no idea how long this will go on.

Working For Me

➕ The official best chocolate chip cookies ever= sourdough chocolate chip cookies.
Some of you might know that my husband and I have for years been trying chocolate chip cookies recipes looking for our favorite.  It was previously the one from Bouchon, but it is now, without even a shadow of a doubt, sourdough chocolate chip cookies.  The recipe for it is in a saved Instagram story if you want to open up the heavens and sing. Oh, and we’ve recently discovered that if you freeze the dough and then bake, they’re even better.
➕ Finding random things that make me smile.
This blooper of Jimmy Stewart.  I mean, how charming is he?  This kid dressed as Kylo Ren performing “Bet On It”. Who knew this worked.
➕ People sharing their creative talents.
Have you seen this collection of TV show creators telling us what their beloved TV characters would be doing during COVID-19?  See also all of the celebrities like John Krasinski who are taking on fun new projects to entertain us.
➕ Becoming a puzzle master.
Hi, my name is Erin and I have never done a puzzle in my life prior to social distancing.  My spatial skills are, shall we say, low, so puzzles just frustrated me.  Consider me a changed woman. I have repented, I have seen the way, there is nothing like that rush of finding the right piece.  Maeve knows to cheer “woo! woo! woo!” every time I get a piece because I AM RIDING THAT PUZZLING HIGH.  Also, we only have two puzzles in the house, soooo I’m eyeing some.  Do I pick Jane Mount’s book illustrationHarry Potterthese super cute animals….LondonBeauty and the Beast…how much time do you think I’ve spent browsing puzzles? Especially trying to find ones in stock?
➕ Pretending a bit of normalcy for summer.
I had summer in my head as a stopping point for all of this, although now I see that’s not likely.  I’m still trying to plan on making it feel a little normal, though.  One way or another we’ll make use of these adorable water shoes for Maeve (we got her the floral ones).  We’ve also found that these sunglasses work really well for her- they’re flexible, so they don’t snap (they’ve been tested thoroughly ; ) ) and have a strap that you can keep on or remove as needed.
➕ Toys with staying power.
I am annoyingly particular about Maeve’s toys. I don’t like kids having tons of toys (shall I start writing my treatise?), so I try to be very careful about the ones we choose.  These Sibley bird cards we got Maeve for Easter have been a huge hit.  If your kid likes watching birds or you’re hoping to inspire a love of nature in them, these are wonderful because they can grow with your kid from being sturdy identification cards, to teaching matching, to eventually becoming a memory game.  Plus, it’s hilarious to hear them say the bird names.  Maeve also can’t get enough of this magnetic doll set (basically sturdier paper dolls).  They are so cute and I think would work well for a lot of ages. This funny faces set looks fun, too, as does the animal play scene.  We also just picked up the Hearth & Hand doll treehouse thanks to my excellent Facebook Marketplace skillz (I just got randomly really lucky) and we’re all obsessed.
➕ Letting opposites co-exist.
For my mental health, I’m reminding myself that it’s okay to know that things are absolutely terrible and still try to find happiness in our little bubble. What coping skills are working for you?

Please do join in however feels fitting to you!


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