Friday, March 29, 2013
Simple tools and supplies that serve the primary purpose of creating or organizing make me really terribly happy. My pegboard sent me over the moon. I'm still obsessed with the drawer full of food coloring in my kitchen - though I'm embarrassed to say it's twice as full now! And I really love that I can put my hands on pretty much any size envelope in a variety of Paper Source colors in my home office at any time.
So it shouldn't be a surprise that I was pretty ecstatic about this shipment from ULine a couple weeks ago. We don't do a ton of printed orders for RV Parties, but we do enough that I could finally justify purchasing real shipping materials. A lot of our items can be shipped in bubble envelopes, which can be purchased very reasonably through Amazon or Sam's Club. I am still working through the stash of two sizes I bought last fall.
Finding the perfect boxes was a little trickier. The ideal box would be able to hold invitations (usually 5 x 7) and a few other party goods without needing a lot of packing material. I also wanted to get two boxes in graduated sizes so they could be nestled inside of each other for safe cookie shipping.
I read on a variety of craft blogs about people who used Uline to buy shipping supplies but was surprised that many of them transitioned to Amazon for boxes. While I'm a devoted Amazon shopper, I was unhappy with their options for boxes. They weren't organized, the sellers didn't look reliable and the quality occasionally received terrible reviews.
I decided to stick with ULine for this commitment - there are no small orders! I chose 7x5x3 and 8x6x4 for the smaller boxes, plus one sweet order of 10x8x2 which had to be designed especially for our projects. Wide and flat - it is so perfect for cupcake wrappers, water bottle labels and cupcake toppers with an occasional banner!
The prices at Uline were beyond reasonable, though it is expensive to ship a lot of cardboard. I paid $45.21 total for 75 boxes (about 60 cents a box) and will probably never need to buy boxes again for business or pleasure.
I'm so glad it's Friday, and I'm so glad there is beer in the fridge. It's been that kind of a week - busy, productive, a little crazy but for surebusy. I mean, the best thing I have to blog about on a Friday is cardboard boxes. It's definitely time for the weekend. Beer me.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
When your friends are pregnant, you do crazy things like shop at IKEA for a long while and eat burgers and milkshakes.
Actually, I can't blame it on my friends at all. IKEA was on my list of things I really wanted to do while in the DC area, and it happens to be a really easy place to stroll, shop and catch up with friends. Finley is just barely tall enough to play in the childcare area, and the IKEA in Maryland is generous and gives one whole hour of free care. (The Virginia one? Only 30 minutes. Apparently that IKEA doesn't understand the correlation between preschoolers and shopping success.)
KC friends that have still never been to an IKEA, please hold tight till 2014 because it is worth all the fuss. I buy the weirdest things there that I love - frames for parties and my walls and the dish scrubbers I swear by. This trip I also grabbed a set of cutting boards that I think are far too cheap but will work in a pinch. Plus, they cost less than $4. I wanted a bunch of their summer outdoor entertaining items, but there wasn't enough room in the suitcase.
After we shopped, we drove literally down the road to Bobby's Burger Palace. It's a burger restaurant owned by, obviously, Bobby Flay. The tables are practically bar height, and they even had high chairs that were perfectly sized. I love this pic that Rach took of Braden because I know he's smiling at Emily's husband, Ryan. He was totally enamored with Ryan, probably with some keen baby sense that he's going to be a great dad this summer.
Because I missed my friend Jennie, I ordered the special of the month, the Chicago Burger. American, sweet relish, banana peppers, celery salt, onion, tomato and pickles on a burger. It was really great, and I probably horrified the table by ordering it medium.
Yes, at BPP, that burger is pink all the way through, and it was amazing. For the record, if you and I go out to eat for burgers, you order yours well done, and then you don't like how yours tastes, I will not listen to you. Obviously, it doesn't taste good. You asked for them to destroy your meal before it even arrived at your place.
Back to Bobby's Burger Palace, no one ordered their burger "crunchified" with potato chips on top. It wouldn't have been the best with my combo, but I did want to see it done!
We had sweet potato fries and regular fries, plus milkshakes (the pregnant ladies made me do it!). I liked the sweet potato better, which is the second time that happened to me recently. Only mildly annoying because I used to be snooty and rant about how they were all the rage and I didn't like them.
Oh and speaking of being wrong, I also was incorrect about what a black & white milkshake is. I swore it was one thing, hoping Rachel wouldn't ask the server to see if I was right. She obviously asked, and I was obviously wrong. Here's one thing I was right about - it was delicious.
Do you know what it is? Without googling it? Just be sure you know so that when you swear you are 70% sure, you'll be ready.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
This could be actually a post called "how we are SURVIVING winter" actually as we shovel out from another snow storm again with about 7 inches in my neighborhood. It appears April is just less than a week away according to the calendar, but it's tough to tell by looking outside. It was a crazy winter (especially with six weeks of intense surgery recovery), but the kind I love. Here's some of the things that helped us survive this year - and my plans for next year.
- My new Hunter Boots. I started pining for Hunters back in 2010 when I went to England/Ireland and walked forever and ever in the rain. My stepmom found me a pair in a gorgeous pair in Lagoon in December, and they have been getting a lot of wear since then. I don't (yet) have the fleece liners for them, but I have loved their fail-proof way of keeping my feet dry. If you're not outside very long or moving around a lot, they also keep my feet pretty toasty. Rachel is thrilled I don't talk about how much I want them anymore. I'm thrilled that they make my feet so happy and bright.
- My neighbor with a snowblower. For three snow storms in a row, I start shoveling out front and he comes along and finishes the driveway within ten minutes. It's perfect timing really. I'm very grateful because he does the part at the end of the driveway that I hate with all the snow piled on from the main road.
- The soup swap! It was not only a fun party, it filled my freezer with deliciousness that has made cold weather days that much better. Totally plan to do it again next year!
- Gary Lezak's weather blog. Even though it crashes often, it has been a totally awesome way to keep up with the adventures in KC weather. And the comments are crazy and fun to read too!
- FIVE snow days! We are extremely lucky that students will only be making up one snow day. The superintendent is adding 15 minutes to each school day for the next nine weeks which translates into a time for silent reading at my building. I love an excuse to read during the day!
- A long puffy coat. While I'm occasionally jealous of people with the very expensive versions of these long puffy coats, my Lands End coat has been a dream this winter. It's like a blanket that you wear outside. My mom, sister and I all purchased them at 40% in Chicago for Jennie's wedding, and I'm a huge fan.
- Sorel boots! Several friends have them, including my pal Vicki in Serbia who now swears by them. About a month ago, Mom and I were shopping at Nordstom when we stumbled across this pair of boots on the sale rack. In her size. And in purple! It was like they were meant to be. She tells me all the time how great they are, and I'll be saving my pennies because I hear they are often on sale at the Nordstrom Anniversay sale in July. I thought I wanted the tall ones, but I think between the Hunters and the other tall boots I have, I really just want this shorter and easy to slip on pair like my mom's!
- An ergonomic snow shovel. Probably if I wanted to buy one this winter I wouldn't have found one. But shoveling is actually hard work! I'll either need this or a boyfriend to shovel for me (only kidding a little).
- Winter workout gloves. Belle and I managed to walk about 40 miles so far this year and the only thing I feel like I'm missing is gloves that keep my fingers warm and allow me to grip the leash. And if I could also have tech friendly winter workout gloves so I can choose my podcasts without taking off my gloves, well, that would be just simply amazing.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Going to post about my trip to Virginia in an order that makes sense to me and the things I want to remember. These photos are from my last night in Virginia (Thursday) and accompany my new favorite instagram of all time that you can see here. After a yummy homemade risotto at home, the boys were squirrely, and we were putting off party prep for a little longer so we took a trip to Pinkberry at Tyson's Corner.
It's worth noting the traffic and construction I endured for two years in Virginia is now complete and the EZ Pass express lanes made this visit downright pleasant. We could be at Tyson's in like ten minutes. It usually took two to three times that long before on the Beltway.
Home from Pinkberry, Rachel wrangled the boys into pajamas and was shooing them into their room when Brady found the Peter Pan book and plopped down onto one of the beanbags in the living room. He just sat and waited for someone to read to him. So I obliged, obviously.
It's a long Golden Book version, so Rach advised I abridge as I read, though I could have sat there all night with Brady's face on my leg and his arm wrapped around me so he could get closer. These are precious moments accomplished only with books as Braden mostly just snuggles his mama. Several times over the week I read to the boys and got Braden's undivided attention, and it's the best feeling in the whole world.
This last night and the last day on Friday were super sad. Sure, we had a killer RV Parties' party for Finn's fourth birthday. But it was my last time in the house on Sycamore where I lived for two years and where Rachel has lived since 2008. I visited for the first time in the fall of 2008 and then again in the spring of 2009 as I prepared to move there later that summer, and the house is full of so many wonderful memories. Rach is preparing to move so very soon and will still be my business partner and partner in crime wherever she goes, but that house is just significant. I loved living there.
So I cried when she dropped me off at the airport on Friday night. And then she cried driving home after dropping me off. I already miss that house and the memories we made there. Thankfully they are documented in great detail on the blog and in blurb books. And that's all I can write now without crying more, though I will probably cry again when they move out for real in the coming weeks.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Before I came to Virginia, I had a busy weekend of FUN. On Saturday, we watched the K-State Wildcats lose a heartbreaker to our in-state rival, again. Then we went up north of town to Justus Drugstore to celebrate Anne's upcoming big birthday!
It was absolutely worth the hype, and I loved every single bite. I was a little intimidated by the prices before we went. But the good news is that the beer was really reasonably priced, and I had a wonderful entree, part of an appetizer, two beers and homemade coffee icing (with tip!) for $50. That seemed like a great deal for an incredible meal! I would go again for someone else's special occasion.
We did eat really late into the night. For parties bigger than four you can only get a reservation at 5:30 or 8:30. The five-thirty time seemed really early, but in retrospect for a dinner that takes several hours, that would have been okay too. We had to wait for the basketball game to be done!
I was definitely still full the next morning when I arrived at brunch for St. Patrick's Day so I started with lots and lots of coffee. My pal Amy put together a fun group of guys and gals for an Irish celebration at Remedy in Waldo. It's owned by one of my high school classmates, so it's a good thing I finally got in to try it out.
I, obviously, wore my lucky St. Pat's shirt and eventually drank one Belfast Bomber after starting with mimosas, french toast and hash browns. I did NOT have the corndogs yet, so I need to go back really soon. I'm perfectly content to stay in just one bar or restaurant with good people, food and drinks, as seen twice this weekend at Justus Drugstore and Remedy. I was a little tired at the end of it, but well fed and happy!
Monday, March 18, 2013
I knocked this out in an evening and an afternoon. In some ways, it was messier to do a month at one time. Way more stuff everywhere. But it was also easier because I got in a groove and had all the photos ready to go. And it went quickly because I could reach all my tools so easily on my sweet new pegboard!
Now that I'm two months into this project, I know a lot more what I love and what works to make it fun to put together.
- I love writing on the photos directly. I use a ZIG Millennium pen, and it breaks every rule I ever made when I scrapbooked in my previous life. But there's so much pretty white space I can label! It also works great on the "polaroid" prints I ordered from Persnickety Prints.
- I love the Martha Stewart file labels that are in each layout with the dates. Normal little supply that I grabbed months ago at Staples for another project.
- I love using the same colors and patterns in each of the layouts. I've got a handy stockpile of supplies that match, and I grab what works for each week. I'm going to run out of this supply stack in March, and I'm eying something awesome for the next few months. I don't use a ton of supplies so another pile of supplies would probably last at least three more months.
- I love stamping! Just a little bit with clear stamps I have to mount on a block and use. But it makes me feel so cool.
- I love the four photo slots. That's definitely my favorite of the page protector layouts that I have because it works so perfectly for four instagrams, either printed as polaroids or trimmed down from 4 x 4 squares from MPix. I bought another refill pack of assorted, but that one is totally my favorite.
And I just wanted to point out this little layout up close...the big pocket on the left has lots of memorabilia from my trip to Atlanta, and the little card can be pulled out so you can read the journaling on the back and see everything that's tucked inside the pocket.
You can see January over here. I find myself flipping through it regularly when I sit at my desk and admiring it. I definitely don't know if I could do this every year, but I'm so excited to do one whole year this way. I like the crafting and having a place to put all the instagrams I love.
Friday, March 15, 2013
My next cookie in the 2013 challenge was from the March 2012 issue of Martha Stewart Living. I tore it out last year and saved it to make sometime, and that sometime finally rolled around. To remind you again, the cookie challenge is to make the recipes I already have in my house! Shelves full of cookbooks and piles of recipes torn from lovely magazines.
These bar cookies/blondies were delicious. I had to buy the almonds at Trader Joe's and I "borrowed" the Irish whiskey from my pal Kate because Lord knows a whole bottle of Jameson would go to waste in my house. At first I wasn't sure they were done enough, but eventually I decided they were a perfectly chewy and dense. They should not be consumed in large quantities right before bedtime because there is lots of coffee in them too. I was wired last night!
If you like coffee and especially Irish coffee, you'll love these. My glaze doesn't look like Martha's (apparently royal icing is the only kind of frosting I can do!), but they are a perfect St. Patrick's Day treat! Also, you don't even need a mixer. I made them all by hand.
Chewy Irish Coffee Blondies
2 sticks unsalted butter, plus more for pan
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups packed light-brown sugar (my blondies were dark because I only had dark-brown sugar)
3 tablespoons freshly ground coffee
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds, skin on
For the glaze
1 tablespoon melted butter, warm
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1. Make the blondies: preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9-by-13 inch baking pan, and line with parchment so that it overhangs on all sides. Butter parchment. Whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda.
2. Melt butter, and pour into a mixing bowl with brown sugar, ground coffee, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine. Stir in eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Pour batter into pan, and sprinkle with almonds. Bake 27 to 30 minutes, depending on how chewy you like your brownies. Mine were chewy at 27 minutes. Let cool completely!
3. Make the glaze: whisk together butter and whiskey. Gradually whisk in confectioners' sugar until glaze is thick but pourable. Use a spoon or a pastry bag, drizzle glaze over blondies in a rough crosshatch pattern***. Let glaze dry 1 hour. Cut blondie into 2-inch squares.
*or in my case, just try to get as much glaze on the blondies as possible. stupid frosting tip and bag.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Before we begin, let me address a couple of housekeeping notes.
- Yes, I'm aware google reader is going away. I've had a hilarious number of gchat and phone conversations, tweets, emails and text messages about google reader. In many ways, this is really exciting because it means all of our bullying has paid off, and many of you listened to Rachel and me as we told you over and over to read in google reader. We will find something else that works just as well, and we will find it before July 1st.
- The Veronica Mars movie is really going to happen. I love the Veronica Mars series, and this makes me just so very happy. Also, I'm getting a t-shirt.
- True story from yesterday: one of the women in the front office called me Veronica. Maybe she was obsessively following the updates on kickstarter and the Veronica Mars movie (2.7 million right now!). More likely she was confusing my name with the other TL, Monica. I've only worked here since July 2011.
- Justin Timberlake is literally the best ever. Dear internet, thanks for acknowledging his awesomeness this week. And as Rachel points out, how awesome do you have to be to be married to him? I guess Jessica Biel is probably awesome. Only four more days till we own his new CD...
- Spring break starts tomorrow at 3 pm. Phew.
Last Saturday we hosted a party for our sweet friend Emily. Another K-State Alpha Chi, she lives in Maryland. We were friends in college (sorority for life!), but we became super close when I lived back east for a couple years. Her little baby boy is due in June and will be born in Annapolis, only the cutest city ever. And home of Jimmy Cantler's Seaside Inn where I learned how to crack crabs and my mom bought me my favorite coozie.
Anne, Erica and I hosted the shower at Erica's house with sweet nautical and baby CRAB decorations. We sincerely hope the baby isn't crabby. You better believe there are another forty pictures of the decorations from the party, but I'm going to hold on to those a little bit longer. We're going to be featured on Hostess with the Mostess next month (squeal!), and I love the suspsense. Until then, you can dream about these cookies.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Please excuse the quality of the photos, I was busy zumba-ing and the only access I had to photos was one I stole from my friend Christa's facebook page. You know, Christa Dubill. We're pretty much besties after this event last Friday night! Just kidding, but I know she won't mind.
I met Christa with my Junior League group back in September, and we've been planning our big event for seventh grade girls since then. It was originally scheduled for Friday a few weeks ago but was rescheduled thanks to tons of snow in the KC area. And then finally, after months of planning, thirty-five seventh graders and about fifteen adults gathered for an evening of fun, conversation and reflection!
The format for the night was super fun. As the girls arrived, they started make collages about themselves. This is a great sponge activity - it can last as long as necessary and soak up the time. A very good first activity because the girls were early!
There was camp food (chili, cornbread, s'mores cupcakes), and the groups of girls went to three different sessions throughout the night. It was supposed to be like CAMP - the counselor/table captain took each group of girls to the different activities but mostly just cared that they had a fun time. They wrote and talked about support systems, their hopes and dreams, made friendship bracelets and got to know other great ladies of all ages! The volunteers were just as awesome as the 7th graders.
There were two breaks during the night - zumba and getting rid of their dirty laundry. They wrote something that holds them back on a piece of clothing and hung it on the clothesline around the back of the room. Boys, self esteem, challenges at school, etc. My personal favorite piece of dirty laundry? "AFRAID OF FLYING." Well, that could hold you back.
Zumba was so fun too, but it made me feel out of touch. I'd never heard this Thrift Store song that made the girls go crazy at the end. Apparently I haven't chaperoned a school dance in a while...
I enjoyed planning and coordinating the event with Christa and the women in my leadership institute group. It was our "project" for the institute, designed to teach us about planning events, leadership etc. I had a totally unfair advantage because I'm really comfortable with seventh graders. I talk to them every day!
It's important I write about how much I love middle schoolers. Because I also helped host a party on Saturday afternoon, and sometimes people say, why don't you just quit your day job and host parties? That sounds pretty fun, but my day job is also pretty awesome. The seventh graders left telling us how much fun they had, and they couldn't wait for next year. It feels really good to plan something that middle school students enjoy.
Monday, March 11, 2013
In my office at home, there is a tiny sliver of wall between my favorite Expedit Ikea Bookshelf and the window. I'd been eying craft bloggers awesome pegboards for their supplies for a while, and I really wanted one for my office. I had the kind folks at Nuts & Bolts cut it down to size, I spray painted it white, and my friend Jon installed it for me on Sunday afternoon. He was worried about how much weight it would need to hold. Thankfully craft supplies aren't heavy, and I'm nowhere near the 70 lb. max.
The hooks my mom provided. She had all these extra at her house, and the bag she gave me was marked from some long ago garage sale, "$2 - 34 hooks." I played with the various sizes till I found ones that held all my punches, ribbons and tape. I put a framed quote that came from my last order from Elise in the top right corner - it says, "Creativity is the ability to make or think or see or hear something that did not exist before." The minibooks are hanging at the bottom - one completed so I can grab it and flip through and one still to do.
And now, a little timelapse of how it all came together. I didn't have a tripod, so it's not exactly perfect. But you get the idea. I'm just excited I figured out how to do the timelapse!
Thursday, March 7, 2013
All of the beautiful calendars I love feature very fancy designs and lovely typography which makes them a little expensive. Last year I waited till the Paper Source ones went on sale in early March (they are already on sale this year), and put a very bright and fun one in the kitchen.
This year I didn't love the design as much, and I didn't want to wait that long, so about a month ago I designed my own calendar for the kitchen. I used some of my favorite photos my mom and I took in Europe and formatted them in the a pattern by Paislee Press. MPix had a sale on large scale prints a couple weeks ago, so I ordered it in 16 x 20. It came quickly, and I put it in a very inexpensive low profile frame from Hobby Lobby so it won't get in the way of the cabinet. Done.
I purchased the kit from Paislee Press back in November and gave several framed calendars as Christmas presents. I used a couple different patterns, and the ones I gave away featured square photos with the months directly below each photo. I liked that pattern because you could use Instagram photos or vertical or horizontal prints.
This one is perfect for me because pretty much every day I wish I was back in Europe. Also, I'm terrible about leaving the cabinets open so this makes me try to remember to close them so I can see the calendar. I think I'll definitely visit this project again at the end of the year for 2014!
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
After completing and loving my holiday minibook, I decided I was ready to tackle another small scale scrapbook project. Project Life was designed by one of my original scrapbook heros, Becky Higgins, as a way to document what's happening in life without a ton of crazy detail and embellishment.
Most people do a double page spread of 12 x 12 for one week, and that was my original plan. But then I read more and more blogs where people wrote about being "behind" on their Project Life albums, and I didn't want that to be me! I considered doing one 12 x 12 for each week, but then I saw Kelly Purkey's Project Life in this small binder, and I was sold. That's what I wanted to do! Each little page is about 6.5 x 8.5 tall.
Unlike the minibooks, Project Life didn't take off quite as quickly for me. I purchased some cards and papers online that I wanted to use from Paislee Press. But I had a tougher time finding a balance with the colors and patterns not always matching the photos and streamlining everything together. Now I look at it all together and think it flows well, so I'm unsure why I was so worried.
This little album is part of redoing how I record the story. Sometimes things are best told in a blog post and eventually kept in a Blurb book. Other times, an instagram photo is a better way to share. For example, I find that's my favorite way to share sugar cookie photos, I didn't enjoy blogging about them very much anyways. I also like that the albums allow me to tuck in memorabilia from shows, movies, and photos that I didn't blog or instagram.
So here is January in Project Life. You can see my favorite spread of the month at the bottom. I loved this Friday night with my mom and sister in Leawood, so that's a special page to me. And the next week was very ordinary, but all the food was round! I love the blend of iPhone photos, instagrams and my regular camera. I find myself flipping through it regularly, and I'm already almost done with February.
Monday, March 4, 2013
On Friday, I met some friends at happy hour at a restaurant nearby. I've been before to brunch and dinner, but this was my first happy hour. It's only available in the bar, but the food deals are fantastic and so yummy. You have to get there early to get a table, especially for a group of five - we were there before five.
I ordered a beer, a Caesar salad, and a phenomenal burger and fries. I also tried some of Jon's fried chicken and the gnocchi with short ribs entrees at the table looked incredible.
The weird part was at the end of the meal, and I've been mulling it over since then. My total was $19.20 (the beer was regular price) with tax, so I put $25 cash in the folder and handed it to the waitress. The two other couples paid with credit cards, and the waitress soon returned with their folders but not mine.
At this point, I should have said something. I did not indicate at all that she should keep the change, but she did. Basically about $6 and a 30% tip. I should have said, "Did you have change for me?" but I was in the corner and a little uncomfortable speaking across the table to correct the waitress. I recently heard on a special on restaurant etiquette on KCUR, and they mentioned that a waitress or waiter should never say, "Do you need change?" but always just provide it.
So I went home and was a little annoyed. I'm a good tipper and would have left 20%, and I was pretty annoyed about the principle of the matter. Tara encouraged me to complain, so I put together an email with my concerns. Sure, it's only $2, but still...
The owner/manager responded later Friday night, "I checked with your server, and she realized her error. Some guests choose to tip on the regular price of their food, not the discounted price, so she made an incorrect assumption. She apologizes and will not make that mistake again. She has turned in $2 to the manager and you are welcome to stop in anytime to pick it up."
So essentially, I was in the wrong and maybe cheap as well. I definitely wasn't going back for the $2 (embarrassing!) so I replied that the $2 could go in the tip jar or returned to the server. She replied cheerfully enough, thank you for bringing it to our attention.
Now I want to know. Do you tip on the regular price of the meal or the happy hour price? With groupons, I'm always careful to tip on the full amount, but I wouldn't normally with a happy hour special. Also, do you expect the waiter or waitress to automatically bring change? If you worked in food service, what did you expect and do? And are there other restaurants in our fair city where you've had a similar experience? Let me know because I was feeling all around foolish on Friday night.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Short month but four snow days, so I read three books this month.The funny thing about each of these books is that they were books I read several hundred pages at a time. As soon as I was into the heart of each of these books, I couldn't stop. I stayed up super late finishing two of them and skipped a couple things I was supposed to be doing to finish the third.
This is why I read fiction - I want to lose myself in a book. Sometimes I can make myself work really hard at nonfiction (reading two pieces of nonfiction right now, actually), but I will always always love fiction and spend more time with the characters someone else dreamed up. Plus, the books this month took me to three of the most interesting settings that I can't resist - an Indian reservation, England and rural Appalachia.
The Round House won the National Book Award in 2012, and I almost didn't read it. My three week dance with the book from the library came after I had started and stopped another National Book Award finalist, and I wasn't sure I could do it. Plus, I heard the book critics on NPR, and they said it was intense. I'm SO glad I picked it up, and I will go looking for other Erdrich books now! I'm fascinated with stories from reservations, and the teenage boy's mother is violently attacked in the first pages of the book. It's a story about healing, revenge, innocence, and life on the reservation, and I read it so fast. The words are perfectly assembled. It deserved to win and was intensely powerful.
Me Before You I already told you to read back here when I saw Jojo Moyes speak. If you loved Last Letter from Your Lover, then you should totally read this. If you didn't love it, you should still read this. It was our book club pick for February, and it's probably the closest we've come to a 100% approval rating. And pretty much everyone cried at some point during the book, so you've been warned. I can't say toooo much about it without giving a lot away, but the characters are just the tops.
Related, you should read this funny article about putting tooooo many letters in words. I'm sooooo guilty. Yet another reason I'm thankful for my Atlantic subscription. This article about "Why Are Romantic Comedies So Bad?" is also awesome and references two of my favs as examples of ones that are not bad - Moonrise Kingdom and Silver Linings Playbook.
Flight Behavior is Barbara Kingsolver's book from 2012. I haven't read any Kingsolver since the Poisonwood Bible, but she's also excellent with words. Set in rural Appalachia, it's the story of a woman about my age with two (adorable) kids and a life she didn't really pick. At first, I didn't like her. But within fifty pages, I gave her a lot more grace for how stuck she felt. She discovers a misplaced environmental phenomenon and the story takes off from there. It's got a strong base in ecology and global warming, and as a bonus I learned a lot about lambs. One of the most powerful passages is when an environmental activist is telling her about how she can save the earth - don't eat out, don't drive places, don't buy new clothes and shop secondhand, fly less - and they are all things no one in rural Tennessee can afford anyways. It gave a whole new perspective to some of the privilege associated with saving the earth, and I was satisfied with the ending.