What I’ve Been Loving and Learning Lately {2}

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Welcome to Round Two of this new little series I started to compile all the things in life I’m loving and learning lately, from the books I’m currently reading to the products I’m loving to the shows I’m watching (which, spoiler alert–won’t be very many or very exciting, since I’m not a huge t.v. watcher). If you happened to miss my first installment of the series, you can check it out here. Note: There are some affiliate links in this post, which means I get a small percentage of any sale made at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting To Love and To Learn!

Loving Lately

  • My new account with Personal Capital. If you’ve been a longtime blog reader, you probably already know I’m a bit of a personal finance nerd, and one thing I know for sure is that I love me some detailed financial spreadsheets (yeah, I’m THAT brand of weird!). I’ve been tracking our expenses for years with Mint, but after hearing for some time about Personal Capital (which is also free, by the way), I got curious and signed up. And you know what I LOVE about it? While I’ll stick with Mint to help me make my monthly budget and see how I’m staying on track with that, I LOVE Personal Capital’s focus on investments. This year Matt and I did a lot of juggling around of old retirement accounts so that they’re finally in line with how aggressive we were wanting to be investing-wise, and Personal Capital is MUCH better at showcasing your investments, tracking your net worth, and helping you see where you can be better at investing than Mint is (plus you can also use it as an expense tracker, if you want that feature, too). Anyway, I’m definitely a new fan!

  • This Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water, which I started giving to Mathias to help with his discomfort from pent-up gas bubbles. Now I’m wondering how I went through Raven’s whole newborn stage without it! (Funny story: someone actually gave us some as a baby gift with her, but I was too nervous giving her anything that the doctor hadn’t specifically prescribed, so the bottle expired. Oh, the difference of being a second-time mom!) We’ll definitely be relying on this for the next little while to help us through his more fussy spells, as it seems to calm him down pretty much immediately.
  • The Libby App, which we’ve been using on Matt’s tablet (the only smart device either of us own because we’re weird and old school like that). Basically it’s totally reignited Matt’s reading life again (because though he loves reading, he was basically relying on me to pick up any new books for him to read since he never goes to the library). With this app, he can put holds on his own books without needing to worry about anyone picking them up, and I can use it for the times when the library doesn’t own a physical copy of the books I want to read. We’ve both been reading more as a result!

Learning Lately

Current Books

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

I technically included this in the last roundup, but as I’d literally read only about five pages, I didn’t have much to say on it. Now that I’ve finished it, I just wanted to point out that though Backman can obviously WRITE (I mean, I never thought I’d love ANY book about hockey), I didn’t love this one nearly as much as I did Beartown (which came thisclose to getting five stars from me, which is a very difficult thing to do). I think one reader on Goodreads said it best by pointing out that this book felt “emotionally manipulative” because he kept dramatically building up EVERY SINGLE LAST THING the entire book and making you think one thing was going to happen, but then switching at the last minute. It was a bit exhausting (and depressing). That said, the book still managed to get 3.5 stars because it read quickly, had well-developed characters that made you think twice before you labeled anyone “good” or “bad,” and had some thoughtful insights as to some hot issues in our world today. That said, if there’s a third book coming out, I’m not sure I’ll read it…unless I just can’t help myself.

Real Moms: Making It Up As We Go by Lisa Valentine Clark

Sometimes you just need a quick read with a hefty dash of humor that shows you that you’re not alone in this crazy business known as parenthood. What I liked about this book was that Clark shows you that she knows the stakes in motherhood are high, but that she also recognizes the absolutely ridiculous things you have to go through to get there (toddlers that make you fear they’ll be future dictators, kids getting into all sorts of shenanigans while you go to the bathroom for “just a second,” etc.). Clark is an LDS author, but very little of this book is geared toward members of the LDS church (other than the last chapter)–all in all, it mostly reads like a series of often hilarious, sometimes poignant essays that you might find on your favorite motherhood blog. It got 3.5 stars from me for being relatable and funny and a quick read, though not much in it could be called particularly earth-shattering.

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

I read somewhere (probably on Goodreads) that this was a lighter version of Me Before You, which is an apt description. While I gave this a solid 3 stars because it read quickly and had some fun little nuggets that lent it the *slightest* grain of depth, it still wasn’t a standout for me (though it was totally adequate as a summer reading pick, when my standards for what I read are quite a bit looser!).

Deliberate Motherhood by The Power of Moms

Parenting books historically have always kind of freaked me out since so many of them seem condescending in their tones or make you think you’re going to totally screw up your children if you don’t follow their advice exactly, so I’m always a bit wary of trying out any new ones. Luckily, 30 pages into this, I’m already feeling like it will be a relatable and enjoyable book, albeit probably not one that will give me any earth-shattering revelations on how to parent from hereon out. Sometimes you just need a reminder of what the big picture is with parenting, and I think that this will deliver on that.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

This is the third and final installment in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series, which I had to wait awhile before I could get my hands on (though thankfully not the 6 months that the Libby app originally predicted!). I’m currently about halfway through, and though it’s been enjoyable, I actually think I might like the second book in the trilogy the best, which has never before happened in the history of me reading trilogies (but I guess the author still has around 150 pages to change my mind!).

Links Worth Sharing

  • Since I seem to have a major problem with stress baking lately, I’ve been making cookies AT LEAST once a week, which is how I came across this gem for Oatmeal Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies that’s simply delectable. Admittedly, it’s pretty similar to this recipe that I posted of my father-in-law’s family recipe for his boys’ favorite cookies, but it’s *just* different enough in texture and taste to merit a shout-out.
  • An oldie but goodie from one of my most-loved blogs a couple years ago: How Giving Away 1,000 Books Made Me Love Reading Again. Being a bit of a recovering book hoarder myself, I appreciated the author’s thoughts on how sometimes, owning LESS of the thing you love can make you appreciate it even more. (One other trick I’ve learned? Giving away my books to very specific people who I think will love them is an EXCELLENT way to pare down my own collection AND match a great book to the right person. Win-win.)
  • I’m starting to put together my Assigned Reading list for the next school year, and one book I’ll likely be putting down for my Personal Development column will be Deep Work, which I’ve heard a lot of good things about (and which I very conveniently bought for Matt for Father’s Day this year). I loved finding this article, which mentioned it specifically—If It’s Important, Learn It Repeatedly. Lots of good reminders there.

On the Blog

One Year Ago: Our Front Living Room Mid-Process (+ Before/After Pics)

Two Years Ago: Traveling w/ Kids: It’s Not Awful, But It IS Different

Three Years Ago: When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan

Four Years Ago: Four Ways to Use Zucchini (Beyond Bread!)

Five Years Ago: Thoughts on Not Wearing Makeup

Six Years Ago: Back 2 School (My First Day of Teaching!)

Seven Years Ago: Change It Up Challenge: Before/After 10 Lbs.