Thursday, January 22, 2015

Laurealism Library: Volume 3

My previous two Laurealism Library posts were very well received, so I plan on continuing to share what I've been reading with you. Here are ten of my recent reads, in the order that I read them.

For reference, the rating scale:
1- So many grammatical errors, I couldn't get past page one.
2- Skip it. I likely didn't finish it.
3- A solidly good book. If this is in a category you usually like, read it!
4- Must-read in your lifetime list.
5- All time, personal favorite books.

I also started including how the books rate on Goodreads, which may sway your opinions one way or another. Also please note, while this post contains Amazon Affiliate links, I purchased, borrowed or read every one of these books, and ratings are my own.

Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
Pick this up if: You need an easy-to-read, innocent love story.
Similar to: The Fault in Our Stars,  The Perks of Being a Wallflower
My Rating: 3/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.17/5
Notes: A sweet story, with good writing, but for me: not life-altering.

The Aviator's Wife, Melanie Benjamin
Pick this up if: You devour historical fiction.
Similar to: The Other Boylen, The Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Paris Wife
My Rating: 3/5
Goodreads rating: 3.86
Notes: I vaguely knew the story of the Lindbergh Family, but this book frustrated me because of this woman's relationship with her husband (though I realize it was probably common for the time.) This was also hard for me to read because I have a baby at home, and well, you know the history of the Lindberg baby, right?

Middlesex, Eugene Jeffries (Laurealism Book Club Pick)
Pick this up if: You need an eccentric literary novel to really delve into.
Similar to: I literally have nothing to relate this to (which is uncommon for me!)
My Rating: 4/5
Goodreads rating: 3.94/5
Notes: This was a beautifully written book, and very intriguing. I highly recommend if you haven't picked it up yet.

The Thirteen Clocks, James Thurber
Pick this up if: You want something that you can enjoy, but also read aloud to your kids.
Similar to: The Princess Bride
My Rating: 4/5
Goodreads rating: 4.08/5
Notes: This is a non-sensical story which requires imagination, but is written wonderfully. It was a lot of fun to read.

The Husband's Secret, Liane Moriarty (Laurealism Book Club Pick)
Pick this up if: You want a bit of dramatic chick-lit.
Similar to: What Alice Forgot, The Vacationers
My Rating: 3/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.88
Notes: Liane Moriarty is amazing at creating characters. Every single person her novels, you'll think you know in real life!

A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness
Pick this up if: You like a good fantasy novel, with a pinch of historical fiction
Similar to: The Magicians, Twilight
My Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.98
Notes: Witches, Vampires, Demons and time travel? Yes, please! I listened to this on Audible and was thoroughly entertained. Plus, this is sort of a book about a book, which is my favorite genre.

The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
Pick this up if: You want a longer read to really dive into, with very well developed characters.
Similar to: The Red Tent, One Thousand White Women
My Rating: 3.5/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.98/5
Notes: I think I would have come to like this book more if I'd had someone to really discuss it with, which is why it falls between a 3 and a 4. It was a little hard for me to get into, but complex and emotional. Which would likely be the same way I'd describe picking up and moving to Africa, so I suppose that's fitting.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness (Laurealism Book Club pick)
Pick this up if: You like books written in a child's perspective.
Similar to: The Glass Castle, Room
My Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.25/5
Notes: This was a completely creative book. I want to call it fantasy, but it was more dream-like than fictional. A quick, but meaningful, heartfelt book. And slated to be a movie, so you better pick it up before it hits theaters! Warning: Have the tissues nearby.

Pick this up if: You love historical fiction or you're looking for something for your book club. This book is so much better when discussed, because there are likely things other's would have picked up on that you missed.
Similar to: Hansel and Gretel, Book Thief
My Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.24/5
Notes: I tend to shy away from war-related historical fiction, but I ended up reading this for a book club I belonged to. I liked it well enough, until we discussed it... and then I loved it. This book has so many facets, so much depth and so many connections. It might even be worth a re-read.

Pick this up if: You like historical fiction related to art.
Similar to: The Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Swan Thieves
My Rating: 3/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.64/5
Notes: I wanted to read more Chevalier because The Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of my all time favorites. This didn't impress me as much, but it was still an imaginative book, that was easy and enjoyable to read. It's always interesting to imagine the story behind the art!

Sadly, there were no 5's on this list. Here's hoping I find a few more for next time! What have you been reading? Would you recommend it?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Books is my friends

Henry and I just had the most adorable conversation.

He snuck into our bed after we tucked him in. 

"Oh my there's a Henry hiding in my bed!"

"Hehe, yeaaaa... I'm sneaky like a ninja turtle."

So I walked him back to his bedroom. 

"Can we read a book?" he asked, a question I decided years ago I would never say no to.

And so we read The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which my mom gave to us for the holidays.

I've recently decided that my favorite genre of fiction is "books about books." And a children's book about books? Even better.

After we were finished I said to Henry, "I really liked that book. Did you?"

"Yes, me too."

"I really like to read too. There are so many good books in the world, how can we read them all?" I asked him.

"First, we can put them in a pile," he told me, "Books is my friends."

Books is my friends, too, kid... books is my friends too...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! From our family to yours!

Card (c) Laurealism created at Snapfish. Photo (c) Tiny Bubbles Photography.

Friday, November 28, 2014

2014 Gift Guides

Gift Guide posts are one of my favorite parts of blogging. I love scouring my favorite sites for fun items to share with you. This year I've divided the content into four categories: Young at Heart, Organizer, Book Lover and Munchkins. I hope I help you check some of the names off of your list!

Click image to enlarge. (c) Laurealism
1. Lawn Dice | $50 | Amazon or UncommonGoods | Spring will be here eventually
2. The Martian | $10 | Amazon | Who hasn't imagined life on Mars?
3. GoPro Drone Quadcopter | $429 | Amazon | What? You might totally win the lotto!
4. RC Helicopter | $20 | Amazon | Amazingly affordable fun
5. Bocce Ball Set | $45 | Amazon | This games needs to make a comeback
6. Magnetic Voice Recorder | $15 | Amazon | Well, this could be fun
7. Perpetual Calendar | $17 | Amazon | A cute way to keep up-to-date
8. Shower Squid | $36 | UncommonGoods | Everything you need at an arm's length

Click image to enlarge. (c) Laurealism
1. Retro Pens | $9 | Amazon | Quite the stylish stylus
2. Wine Preserver | $10 | Amazon | What do you mean leftover wine?
3. Snack Attack Storage | $8 | Amazon | Stores snacks and dips to-go
4. Nesting Mixing Bowls | $50 | Amazon | Pretty and practical
5. Nesting Food Storage | $35 | Amazon | Time to organize the tupperware drawer!
6. Wooden Desktop Clock | $29 | Amazon | Wood you tell me the time?
7. Journal | $24 | Urban Outfitters | Record your world
8. Lip Butter | $13 | Amazon | Assorted flavors. Pomegranate, please!
9. Refillable Travel Perfume | $10 | Amazon | Travel-sized spritzing
10. Felt iPad Case | $10 | Amazon | Doesn't your iThing deserve to be cozy?

Click image to enlarge. (c) Laurealism
1. Books | $4-$23 | Amazon | Books for a book lover? Imagine that!
    The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry | A book about books? You know me too well.
    All the Light We Cannot See | Historical Fiction hit of the year
    Big Little Lies | Surprisingly Insightful chick-lit.
    Tequila Mockingbird | Cocktails with a literary twist. Yes, please!
    1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die | You'd better get started.
2. Novel Teas | $15 | Amazon | English breakfast tea tagged with literary quotes
3. Felt Mini Journal | $15 | Amazon | A cozy place for your favorite quotes
4. Sprout Bookmarks | $7 | Amazon | No green thumb needed
5. Literary Scarf | $34 | UncommonGoods | Wrap yourself in Jane Eyre, among others

Click image to enlarge. (c) Laurealism
1. Julia's House for Lost Creatures | $13 | Amazon | Adorable story and illustrations
    Ki, Koo! | $11 | Amazon | A sweet introduction to haiku, and the seasons
2. Bubble Gun | $6 | Amazon | Seemingly endless bubble fun
3. Magnatab | $20 | Amazon | An interesting spin on an etch-a-sketch
4. Jellycat Cordy Roy Animals | $25 | Amazon | 2014 was Chinese Year of the Horse
5. Nerf Bow Blaster | $20 | Amazon | Can you say Katniss?
6. Story Cubes | $16 | Amazon | A creative way to encourage storytelling
7. Family Dinner Game | $10 | Amazon | Dinner conversation inspiration!
8. Castle Tent | $20 | IKEA | Black Friday Discount: $14
9. Break the Ice | $10 | Amazon | A throwback game that'll work for many ages.
10. Rainbow Maker | $25 | Amazon | Sometimes you'll want to make your own rainbows

So, what's on your wish list this year?

Also-- if you're doing a lot of online shopping this year, you may want to check this post out!

Oh, and full disclosure: I'm an Amazon Associate. And total Amazon Prime addict as well, which you likely see reflected above!

Happy shopping :)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Let's be thankful for mornings.

Thanksgiving, of course, makes us think about the things that we are thankful for. 

I'm thankful for my life: and everyone and everything in it. I could write an endless run-on sentence of thankfulness. But I probably wouldn't really be telling you anything you couldn't surmise for yourself.

So instead of counting my blessings, I'm choosing to find the good in something that I didn't recognize the good in before:


I can't do mornings the way I'd like. I'd love to jump out of bed, ready for the day, and immediately be able to tackle my children with energy. I'd love to spring from my bed: shower, unload the dishwasher, put in a load of laundry, do a morning sweep of the floors, all while preparing a nice hot breakfast for my family.

But I can't. I just can't. It's exhausting. Instead my mornings are:

6:30- Alarm goes off: an alarm I set the previous night. I was probably inspired by whatever book I was reading/Netflix show I was bingeing on and stayed up way too late. I always go to bed thinking, tomorrow is going to be amazing. I'm totally going to rock at life tomorrow. I'm actually going to shower in the morning and blow dry my hair for once. I'll even have time for makeup. The drop-off lady at school won't know what hit her. And then that damn alarm sounds, and I'm like eh, maybe tomorrow. And I turn it off.

Ultimately, I get up when I have to, which is usually when my husband is trying to leave the house for work without a baby or small child attached to him. The remaining three of us scramble to get fed, dressed, and out the door in time to get to school/speech/etc. Sidenote: coats, hats, gloves, shoes and socks are especially difficult in the mornings. By the time I dress child #2, child #1 has removed most everything I've already wrestled him into, and it's just a really long cycle. Really, long because I probably didn't manage coffee yet.

But you know who does rock mornings?? My children.

The moment they hit consciousness they are wide-eyed, balls of energy. Energy that can't be contained in those tiny bodies.

Henry will likely have a series of unrelated, unending questions, more so than any other time in the day. They must build up in his little head while he sleeps, and he can just now get them out. Anything he wants he asks while jumping. Please can we!? Please can we!? Please can we has pancakes/play dinosaurs/get monsters???

And William seems to wake up thinking that he didn't successfully explore every drawer and cabinet yesterday, so he dives head first into that task, opening anything he can open, and pulling everything out. I can only imagine what goes through his head: This box of pasta? Miraculous! Like nothing I've ever seen! Let's dump it on the floor and examine every glorious piece! Yes! Glorious! But what is this? Cupcake liners! I pull one out and there is still another one to pull out! And another one! And another one! It could be a tiny hat! Or a tiny boat! Or... oh! I bet I can rip this into more pieces than that napkin I shredded yesterday. He's the tiniest tornado I've ever known.

So lately, I've been wondering: How can they wake up every single day filled with such excitement, while I'm silently asking: can everybody just stop talking and be still for 10 minutes? I need to pull myself together.

And I think I have an answer: Their world, everything and everyone in it, is still so new to them. Henry didn't know yesterday that Grammy is Mommy's mommy. Or that a wrench is a wrench. Or that a pilgrim is a pilgrim and not a cowboy. 

And William probably doesn't remember having ever seen snow. So he needs to sit at that window: Face, nose, snot, spit and hands smeared against it and take a solid ten minutes to squeal, shriek and check it out.

And so on an average Monday, while my day likely entails things I've already seen and done hundreds of times before, these precious littles still have so much to discover and learn.

So I'm going to make an effort to be more grateful for mornings and the childish excitement that goes with it. I'm going to try to wake up excited for them. Because really, shouldn't I be absolutely thrilled that I'm getting to rediscover the magic that is this world, every day-- through my children?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Literary Baby Shower

A couple of weeks ago I helped host a baby shower for my sister-in-law, and I couldn't have been more in love with the theme: Children's books.

We decorated every table according to a book or author: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, The Giving Tree, Babar, Winnie the Pooh and Eric Carle. The best part? The parents-to-be got to go home with a lot of the decorations (books and stuffed animals) to fill their baby's library and nursery.
Here's the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Table complete with coconuts.
I was also seriously in love with the cake.
Amazing Cake by Sugar Monkey in Naperville. And the cupcakes were AMAZING.
We played a literary scramble and present bingo, had guests guess the baby's sex and arrival date on a giant calendar and my two favorite ideas...

Family Bucket List Scrapbook: For this we supplied each table with a bunch of cute paper and markers and asked guests to create a bucket list item for the family (go fly a kite, go to Disneyland, visit Mount Rushmore, etc.) We are compiling all the pages into a scrap book, so as the family checks off an item on the bucket list, they can include pictures and such to remember everything. What a great way to record memories!

Guest Artwork for baby's room: How adorable is this idea? I used one of these free printables to create a giant canvas that I ordered from Snapfish.
Printable (c) Kori Clark
I then asked guests to turn their name into a children's book title. I didn't get a picture of the finished product, but here are some of the great ideas: Green Eggs & Anne, Where the Wild Tetricks Are, The Very Hungry Jess. I just loved how it turned out!
I'm still swooning at this canvas... I want one for myself!
Guests went home with bookmarks and flower bulbs to plant now for Spring Blooms. And the parents-to-be did pretty well in the present department. This baby will enter the world with a lot of love surrounding him (or her!)

For the record, I guessed boy to arrive January first. No matter what, I can't wait to snuggle and read to that little nugget! Auntie Lauren loves you already :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

William the Pooh

My baby boy is one, and we had a blast helping him celebrate his first birthday earlier this month with a Winnie the Pooh theme.

In my next life, I think I'd like to be a children's room decorator and party-planner. Because, there's nothing more fun than a good children's theme.

I loved all the "Classic Pooh" details on this one. And it worked out well because I could use pumpkins and apples (something that is very in-season!) for decoration. And I think William enjoyed himself as well. Especially that cake!
Please note the Disney Font Banner.
Cake by Creative Cakes, Cookies by me! 
Welcome to Tetrick Acre Wood!
Make a Wish baby bear!
This fun toy is a Ybike Walk and Ride-on Buddy
The details:
Easy pooh-themed food labels!
Tigger Tails, Rabbits Garden and Kanga's Pouches
Pooh Gummy Favors with adorable label by A Party Studio
Pumpkin Decorating Station, acorn treats and more fun details.
From Michaels:
DIY Chalkboard Banner
Burlap Runners (to hold monthly pictures)
Mini Clothespins
Letter "W"
Decorative Baskets

From Amazon:
Chalkboards (great to have on hand for quotes for various parties, dinner menu, etc.)
Honey Bear Containers (Red and Yellow Gummy bears from Albanese)

Questions about anything? Just ask! Happy Party Planning!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

And never the same love forever

There is an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote:

There are all kinds of love in this world
but never the same love twice.

I've always like that quote. Because the love that you have for your children is different than the love that you have for your spouse, is different than the love that you have for your parents, is different than the love that you have for you best friend, and on and on and on.

But I want to elaborate:

There are all kinds of love in this world
but never the same love twice
and never the same love forever.

Because love changes, doesn't it?

Mark and I had a love-at-first-sight experience. The circumstances of the first couple of times we ran into each other were most certainly fated. I imagine Fate as a sort of person, nudging us together when we came near one another. I certainly wasn't in love with Mark after the first time I saw him, but I knew something was happening, the cogs of our future were set into motion. Love was about to happen. And that's a sort of love isn't it? The knowing that comes before?

Then there was the love I felt when he said I love you, for the first time: the excited, spill your heart out sort of love.

There was the love I felt when he was down on his knee in front of me, proposing: a deliriously happy sort of love.

There was the love I felt when I heard his voice quiver with his vows: it was the we-know-each-other's-secrets sort of love. A comforting love, one to be relied on forever.

There was the love I felt when he held our sons for the first time: a proud sort of love, knowing fatherhood had hit him full force in just a second or two.

The love I have for my husband hasn't stopped evolving since that very first moment when we locked eyes. It's becoming more complex, more solid and more meaningful as our life together unfolds.

Sometimes I wonder if Fate, who began pushing us together eight years ago, ever checks in on us. I imagine she pats herself on the back. I knew it, she thinks. Those two were meant for love.

26.1119° N
97.1697° W

(Our fated coordinates)

Monday, October 6, 2014

One Year of Will

Happy. Serious. Independent. Easy-going.

That's my William.
(c) Tiny Bubbles Photography
One year ago, I was going to bed with contractions that had a little more kick to them than the rest of my Braxton-Hicks. I was calling my brother saying, "you're on call. Tonight may be the night." He'd get another call 3 hours later. "Yep, going to need you to come over and watch Henry. It's go-time."

I was waking my husband saying, "You remember that bag I told you to pack before your went to bed? You have to actually pack it now."

My brother and sister-in-law arrived and I remember my brother saying something like, "This isn't at all how I'd imagine it, I thought there'd be running and screaming."

And then we were in the truck on the way to the hospital. The truck that, no exaggerating, has ZERO shock absorption. Have you had a baby? Just imagine a contraction while riding a horse, because that's how it felt. If you haven't had a baby, I have no words to relate the uncomfortableness of that particular situtation. To the truck's credit: I believe it helped me dilate a centimeter or two, so by the time we arrived at the hospital, I was already at 4.

I cried in the hospital parking lot. It was most likely the hormones, but something about I'm not coming out of that building, until this baby is on the outside of my body, just scared me to tears.

Mark napped. There were some mild contractions, some painful contractions, and the time I accidentally pressed the holy sh!t emergency button instead of the nurse call button (which was, on a whole, reassuring because there were a lot of people there rather quickly.) 

There was a lot of, "Would you like us to break your water? Would you like an epidural?" 

And a lot of, "No seriously it hurts, but not bad enough to need it to stop yet."

There was one contraction that I didn't think I'd make it through. It broke my water and we called the nurse. I was prepared to say, "Okay, I'll take the drugs now." But I was interrupted by another contraction, a contraction that had the added oomph of, okay I need to push. 

"Let me just check, you likely didn't progress that quickly," (hand where the sun doesn't shine, it's funny how you seriously don't care whose hands are where at this point) and a, "Oh wow, yep that's a ten!" (To this day I'm choosing to take this as a complimentary rating, as opposed to a measurement.)

And all of sudden... lots of nurses running around... lots of frantic-ness. I vaguely remember hearing someone whisper to someone else-- her doctor just scrubbed in for a c-section.

There was one push. A practice-push if you will, monitored by a doctor not my own. (But she seemed great!)

And then the doctor was there. 

"I thought you were in a c-section?"

"They caught me just in time."

"Tell that other woman I'm sorry. Seriously, will you? She's probably so mad at me."

There was another push.

Stirrups out. Husband's face is white.

"One more push and he'll be here."

"I'm sorry, what? Is that even okay? I thought babies weren't supposed to come too quickly, we just started."

A sort of smirk from the doctor. "It really is fine. Just push."

That slimy, alien-octopus feeling.

And then there was William.

Little William under the bright lights of the big world. The star of his show. 

I remember being slightly shocked that he was a whole new baby. A whole new person. I held him for a moment and then he went to vitals and clean-up.

Mark looked at me and said, "Babe it happened so fast there was no-where for me to hide." (He prefers to be up near my face during the whole baby-birthing thing.)

"Are you sure you're okay?" the doctor asked.

"I feel fine. I'm just can't believe it's already over."

"Everything looks fine, you should be happy that it went quickly," he replied. But what he really should have said was: 

"It's only just begun."

William, I pray for so many things for you. It's a good thing that I pray through my heart because I wish for you more than I have words to express. I look forward to seeing you every day, as you grow into your person. I hope I remember, when you are full grown and towering over me, the smiling little nugget that I will pull out of bed tomorrow on his first birthday.

Happy birthday, William Marlow. One year down, little man. Your adventure has just begun.
(c) Tiny Bubbles Photography