What I’m Into :: Summer 2015

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I wanted two things from our family vacation. TWO THINGS. I wanted a family photo and a Christmas ornament. Which I got. But I should have specified, it seems, because what I really wanted was a GOOD family photo where all four of us are looking at the camera and smiling and a beautiful and/or unique ornament that represented our week’s journey together.

*snort*

I got an ornament – a cheesy one with bears and the words, “South” and “Dakota.” And I got family photos. Lots of ’em. Just not many with all four of us (there are two) – and certainly not one where none of us look constipated, angry or confused.

SIGH. Oh well, at least I have these end-of-summer beauties as consolation:

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Yep, that’s my life these days! Constant chaos and sometimes pure exhaustion, days filled with tears and tantrums and hugs and giggles and silly faces. So many silly faces. It was a good summer and a hard summer, a fun one and a long one. In short? We were all ready for the school year to begin a couple weeks ago!

I realize it’s not quite the end of the month (when I typically publish What I’m Into posts and link up with my friend Leigh), but next week my blog will go dark as it goes under construction for a redesign. And I haven’t written a What I’m Into post since May. So – an early, end-of-summer version it is!

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What I’m Reading

This may be my most eclectic group of books yet. Here’s the best of what I’ve read this summer:

  • The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: For about five minutes earlier this summer, I caught a touch of royal fever. After using a photo of William and Kate in this post, I decided to watch the Lifetime movie about them. IT WAS ADORABLE, so I figured I’d read the book next. The book – which, as it turns out, was basically well-written fan fiction – was much longer and a little edgier than the TV movie. I liked it anyway – and really wish I knew how much of it was true to the actual William and Kate story!
  • On the Fence and The Distance Between Us by Kasie West: These books were two of the best contemporary YA novels I’ve read. Realistic, moving, funny – and great dialogue. I’m not-so-patiently waiting for West’s third book to be available at the library.
  • Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey: I put off reading this for quite a while after getting it. It was the last of the five-book series about siblings in Alaska, and I didn’t want to say goodbye. The last book was a solid finish to the series, and thankfully, Goodreads tells me that Pettrey is working on a new series.

Plus I have the latest books by Brad Meltzer, David Baldacci, Catherine Coulter and Janet Evanovich waiting beside my bed, along with Longing for Paris, Wild in the Hollow and Simply Tuesday by my friends Sarah Mae, Amber Haines and Emily Freeman. And while I can’t technically call Amy Poehler my friend, I am about halfway through her surprising, entertaining and enlightening memoir, Yes Please.

Oh, and I just got Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love, last week and I’m dying to crack it open and dive in.

I told you guys: I have a book problem!

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What I’m Watching

Last week I finally caught up on So You Think You Can Dance. Would you believe I’d let half a dozen episodes stack up on my DVR? And that doesn’t even count the audition episodes I simply deleted. WHo AM I? I don’t know, but please don’t tell Cat Deeley. I couldn’t handle it if she were disappointed in me and my fandom!

So what HAVE I been watching? Plenty. (I know. Shocker.) Here’s what’s taken the place of America’s favorite dancers, at least for a couple months:

  • Stitchers: A young adult sci-fi procedural on ABC Family. Creative and pretty and snarky. Basically, all my favorite things.
  • UnREAL: Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of The Bachelor? No, me either, but that didn’t stop me from watching this well-written, less-than-family-friendly drama on Lifetime.
  • Suits: So much anger and drama! Revenge! Secrets! And so many sharp suits! I love this show, season after season – and this one is just as good as previous ones.
  • Blue Bloods: This is the show Mark and I have decided to watch together on Netflix. It’s no Friday Night Lights, but we like it better than Heroes or West Wing (the other shows we tried together). (Don’t yell at me, West Wing fans. I’m going to watch it on my own!)
  • The Musketeers: The only thing this BBC show is missing are the lovely harmonies of Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting. Otherwise, it’s got all the Musketeer adventure, humor and dashing heroes and heroines you could ask for.
  • Miranda: My friend Amber said it, nonchalantly, “You know Miranda, of course, Mary…?” NO, I said. WHAT IS THIS SHOW OF WHICH YOU SPEAK? HOW HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF IT? Well, there’s no explanation for the latter, but I can tell you more about it now that I’ve watched nearly the entire series. It’s about a tall, awkward, delightful British woman and her awkward, delightful friends and family. It’s a half-hour sitcom in which the main character breaks out in song nearly as often as she addresses the camera. It’s hilarious and sweet and such fun – and you should watch it right away. (It’s on Hulu.)
  • Veep: I just watched the first season, and unless something changes dramatically I probably won’t see the rest of it for a while. (It’s on HBO, a station we don’t have, which limits options for streaming or online viewing.) Anyway. This show about a female vice president and her staff is irreverent and smart and biting and funny. Watch it if you like that sort of thing (but beware of a whole lot of HBO-rated language).

I’ve also had the uncommon [to me] fortune to see four movies in the theater this summer. Four! Of course, that hasn’t kept me from whining [at least to myself] about not seeing the new Mission Impossible movie (or the entertaining-looking Man from UNCLE) yet, but it has kept me from having the nerve to complain out loud.

You know. Until now.

WOMAN IN GOLD - 2015 FILM STILL - (L-R) RYAN REYNOLDS, HELEN MIRREN, and DANIEL BRUHL - Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky  © 2014 The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved.

Anyway. A few words about the movies I did see:

  • Jurassic World: I laughed so much, you guys – but I’m just not sure it was supposed to be funny…
  • Inside Out: Fascinating, touching, intricate and highly entertaining to both my daughter and me. I can’t wait to watch it again!
  • Woman in Gold: A little slow (read: no car chases or superheroes, IF YOU CAN IMAGINE) but very, very good. Based on a true story, it was about a woman trying to reclaim her family’s property that was stolen by Nazis during the war. As usual, Helen Mirren was lovely. And I remembered how much I really like Ryan Reynolds.
  • Ant-Man: I hate to be punny, but this was a much smaller move than the other Marvel films. And yet it was funny and sweet and still reasonably exciting. I liked it a lot.

I love the beginning of the school year more even than January when it comes to fresh starts. So I’ve been trying harder than ever to get my stuff together and organize this family. It’s going…so-so. I’m sure we’ll get it all figured out by May. Heh.

So that’s some of the fun stuff I was into this summer. In case you missed it, here are some of my favorite posts:

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On this blog:

At other places

Now, tell me: What were YOU into this summer?

 
Read more What I’m Into posts at Leigh Kramer’s blog!

WFMW: A Solution for My Book Problem

WFMW: Short Stories

Something really sad happened this week. I returned three novels to the library – unread. Unread! And I just returned them!

{Yes, you’re right. We SHOULD pause for a moment of silence here. Sad, sad silence…}

If you’re wondering why on earth I would have done such a crazy thing, it’s because — as I mentioned on Facebook earlier this week — I have a book problem. Right now I have books I have to read (for work, for my accountability group and for my small group) and a whole stack of books I want to read. Five (FIVE!!!) books by authors or in series I read and adore became available at the library at once. Plus two books that everyone and their sister has read and raved about – available. It’s like the library is out to get me!

So those other three books? Well, I wasn’t nearly as excited to read them and with the other stacks waiting for me, I knew I simply wouldn’t find time for them. SIGH.

What am I supposed to do? I love to read. I really do. It’s pretty much my favorite thing to do. Ever. Always. But life just doesn’t always allow me the luxury of hours spent immersed in a story. So my stack of books gets taller and great novels get dusty or buried or, worst of all, returned.

I think it’s time for a new approach to reading.

Enter my new favorite thing {drum roll, if you please…}: short stories!

Lately I have been LOVING short stories. Novellas are good, too, but they are such an in-between length that I often feel shorted, like I’ve missed half a story. Short stories, however, aren’t just short books. They are intended to be brief and seem to be better at having everything a reader needs in a small package. Um. By “package” I mean words and pages, people. Minds out of the gutter!

(Unless you’re reading romance, and then I suppose that’s where your mind was meant to be.) (ANYWAY!!!)

The beauty of short stories – other than the reduced amount of time required to complete one – is that I don’t have to keep track of a storyline in between moments stolen to read. If I finish one short story and don’t get back to its book for a few days, I don’t have to skim the last pages to refresh my memory. I just start over with the next short story.

Some of the short stories I’ve read recently include:

I’m still reading Five Enchanted Roses. I started reading it because a college friend of mine wrote one of the stories, but I’m reading the rest of it because I love twisted or fractured or revised fairy tales (and Beauty & the Beast is one of my favorites)! So far I’ve read two of the short stories with a Beauty and the Beast theme — one about pirates and mermaids, and one based in a jungle. If you like unique takes on fairy tales, too — and if you have a long book problem like I do — you should try this collection of short stories!

Short stories work for me right now!

Do you have a book problem? Do you like short stories?

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Works for Me Wednesday :: Giving Up on Perfect

It’s time for Works for Me Wednesday. I’m looking forward to your tips, tricks, ideas and inspiration! If this is your first time linking up with WFMW here, PLEASE read the guidelines I shared in this post. Highlights include linking your specific post, not the front page of your blog, and making sure to include a link back to this site in your WFMW. Thank you!!

10 Things I Learned about Friendship from USA’s Playing House

10 Things I Learned About Friendship From Playing House

I like TV and [some people say] I watch a lot of TV. And I really love talking to people about TV. I like a lot of different types of shows, some dramas and lots of comedies. And, FINE, plenty of procedurals, some that you might consider “old-people shows.” (I only watch one of the NCIS shows, okay?! Just one of them! I’m not old!)

But the show I have raved about more than any other this year is Playing House on USA.

Playing House is a half-hour sitcom about two best friends. Written by the show’s stars (Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham), this show is the best portrayal of friendship I have ever seen. St. Clair and Parham have fantastic chemistry and a solid grasp on what makes female friendships tick. And the rhythm of their banter is so natural that nobody’s ever surprised to learn they are long-time best friends in real life, too.

Also? IT IS HILARIOUS.

What’s it about? In short, one friend is pregnant and finds out her husband is a cheating weirdo. So her best friend quits her fancy job in China, moves back to their small hometown in Connecticut, and moves in to help raise the baby. Strangely enough after a description like that, hijinks ensue. I laugh so hard every time I watch it, but honestly, it really does have a lot to teach us about friendship.

10 Things I Learned about Friendship from Playing House

1. Real friends are well aware of each other’s craziness.
The pilot opens with Emma giving a presentation to her Chinese clients, while a text and phone call from Maggie remind her to wrap it up and get to the airport. Even though they’re separated by miles, they know each other so well that Maggie is well aware that workaholic Emma is running late and Emma knows without a doubt that the sound she heard through the phone was headstrong Maggie using power tools to assemble a crib in the middle of the night.

Then when Emma finds Maggie using power tools in the middle of the night AGAIN, she talks her off the ledge (okay, a ladder) and then rounds up friends to help complete the anxious mama-to-be’s to-do list.

2. Sometimes real friends love you so much it hurts.
Yeah, this is in the show. Face-punching. And hedgehog cupcakes. Are you sold yet?

hedgehog cupcake

3. Real friends are familiar with your comfort zone – and will push you right out of it.
Whether it’s forcing your friend to watch Silence of the Lambs (a funny scene in episode 2, but definitely NOT on my personal list of good friend characteristics!!), encouraging her to stand up to her ex-husband, or helping her through that last push in childbirth, good friends will stretch you.

4. Real friends will get in your space – or your tiny playhouse.
At various times in the first season, Emma and Maggie track down the other one and find her hiding (and crying) in the backyard playhouse. And even though it’s awkward and uncomfortable (and possibly dangerous since raccoons are holed up in the house at one point), the friends climb right in with each other to talk and encourage and listen and comfort. It’s a beautiful metaphor and also a funny visual. Because, you know, big people in a little house…it’s funny!

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5. Real friends will go the extra mile when you need them.
The premise of the show is a big gesture of love, really. Emma quits her job to move across the globe the the hometown she’s successfully avoided for years, just to help Maggie raise her baby. But every episode shows the friends helping each other out, proving that the big gesture was not out of character for these friends at all.

6. Real friends will fight for you.
When Maggie goes to the hospital to deliver the baby, Emma is right beside her. She knows her role as Maggie’s support system, cheerleader and advocate, and she will fight anyone who gets in their way.

And when Maggie decides she wants an epidural after all, Emma is determined to make it happen:

M: Is that okay?
E: Oh, you’re gonna have whatever you want. I don’t care. I’ll go Shirley MacLaine on these people.
M: Shirley MacLaine? From Steele Magnolias?
E: No. Terms of Endearment, honey. Terms! Of! Endearment!

7. Real friends will make you face the truth.
Poor Maggie. Who could be strong in the face of four pounds of delicious cheese, man? Who?

8. Real friends are committed.
Whether that means commitment to being honest about hairstyles, to sharing the burden of raising a newborn, or to a bit, friends will COMMIT. Even if that bit brings out the Bosephus in a girl…

9. Real friends know what you’re capable of – even when you don’t.
You guys. This show is so stinking funny, with two weirdos and their weird families and weird friends acting like crazy people in a way that feels totally real and normal. But in the episode where Maggie finally delivers her baby? I SOBBED LIKE THAT BABY. Seriously. You need to watch it. Now. Go! I’m not even kidding.

playing house baby

10. Real friends make sweet, sweet harmony.
Well, really. Can you honestly resist a little bit of Kenny Loggins? Of course not.

If I still haven’t convinced you that Playing House is “totes kewl” (it makes sense if you’ve watched the show!) and must-see TV, then you probably need to watch the entire first season to get right. Lucky for you, USA is playing all 10 episodes this Saturday before the second season begins on Tuesday, August 4. Or you can watch on the USA website or on Hulu.

Who are your favorite TV best friends?

When You Feel Like Leaping with Joy

When You Feel Like Leaping with Joy | via givinguponperfect.com

We’ve entered a new phase in our house this summer. We’ve graduated from animated Disney movies to live action Disney movies. Which is basically just a fancy way of saying Annalyn and I have watched no less than three – count ’em! THREE. – High School Musical movies.

You guys, they’re not actually THAT bad. And, thankfully, the same seven-year-old who keeps bugging me to find the fourth High School Musical at a Redbox or the library also not-so-secretly likes watching Elmo with her baby sister.

And, let’s not forget, it gives us gems like this:

You guys. This scene was, by far, the most cheese-tastic one of all! Zac Efron singing (and dancing to) “Bet On It” made me laugh so hard! I mean, it is ridiculous. Right? I’m not alone in this, am I?

But as I tried to contain my giggles (so as not to offend the daughter) and ended up snorting instead (because REALLY. Just watch it!), I wondered why I found it so laughable that a teenage boy might need to dance out his feelings.

Okay, yes, fine. This particular situation might not be so realistic. But haven’t you ever felt emotions so big that you couldn’t contain them? Feelings so strong you want to put them in a song? A situation so intense you just need to dance it out?

Maybe not. Maybe your feelings don’t come with the urge to belt Broadway tunes and flash jazz hands, but maybe they do beg to be shared somehow – in a Facebook post, from the rooftop (or the front porch), with a “Hallelujah!” or a “Yeehaw!”

When that happens – when you have such great news, such relief or pride or gratitude or just plain JOY – don’t play it cool, friends. Shout it out and share it with us! The world could certainly use a little more leaping with joy, couldn’t it?! I promise not to let a single snort escape, no matter how you choose to celebrate.

After all, how could I, when I’m doing leaps of joy of my own today?

Even though the official release of my book is still five months away, I’m excited to reveal the cover to you now! You can actually pre-order the book on Amazon, too. Can you believe it??!!

I’ve been so nervous to show you the cover and reluctant to show my excitement…

…because the actual launch is still so far away
…because it’s not just MY book and I didn’t write THE WHOLE thing myself
…because lots of people write books these days
…because I don’t want to brag
…because because BECAUSE!

But then I thought about young Zac Efron really COMMITTING to that song in High School Musical 2 and his jubilant leaps at the end of the most ridiculous song. And I decided that just maybe I was the one being ridiculous. That just maybe you all would want to celebrate with me. That just maybe it’s time to let the joy, joy, joy that’s down in my heart out to play.

So … YEEHAW and HALLELUJAH! My book has a cover and a home on Amazon!

Choose Joy final cover

Do you have any good news to share today?
How can we celebrate with you today?

Photo source

16 Children’s Books about the Library

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At my house, we love the library. And books. And reading. Basically, we’re pretty big book nerds around here.

But I know that’s not the case for everyone. Okay, actually, it’s not the case for Mark. And while this list of children’s books about the library might not help him, it might help the kids in your life get a little bit more excited to visit the library and find a book to bring home!

I got the idea for a list of books about the library after Annalyn and I happened to check out a couple picture books on this topic. But while I knew books about the library probably existed, I had no idea there would be so many! I found books about how libraries got their starts, about librarians, about animals who love the library or live in the library.

Really, SO MANY books about animals and libraries! Which is strange, you know, considering the fact that libraries don’t typically allow animals inside. (Well, except the one that had a cat. That one’s based on a true story, so I guess it’s possible.)

Anyway. Here’s a list of 16 books about the library. Because the library and books and reading work for me!

16 Books About the Library | via givinguponperfect.com

16 Children’s Books About the Library

What gets your kids excited about the library?

 
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Works for Me Wednesday :: Giving Up on Perfect

It’s time for Works for Me Wednesday. I’m looking forward to your tips, tricks, ideas and inspiration! If this is your first time linking up with WFMW here, PLEASE read the guidelines I shared in this post. Highlights include linking your specific post, not the front page of your blog, and making sure to include a link back to this site in your WFMW. Thank you!!