Products and Books I'm Enjoying in April 2019
Book Recommendations, Loving and Learning Lately, Products I Love, Reading

Loving and Learning Lately {11}

Welcome to Round 11 of this little series I started of all the things in life I’m loving and learning lately! Here you’ll find everything 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. or movie watcher). If you want to check out past editions of the series, click here.

Note: There are 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

  • I got my “Big Fat Check” today from Ebates for $91.71, which was a nice little surprise. (That total came through referral credits and all the online shopping I did for Christmas, if you were wondering.) In case you’re not familiar with it, Ebates is a free service you can sign up for which will give you cash back for shopping online (anywhere from 1% to 25%). I always recommend to people who sign up for it that they use the toolbar extension, which you can install to your internet toolbar and that will alert you anytime you go to a retail site how much cash back is available that day. I don’t buy a ton of stuff online (I don’t buy a ton of stuff, period), but whenever I do shop online, I ALWAYS go through Ebates. It’s money I wouldn’t see back otherwise, so why not? (And if you go through my link and use Ebates on your next online purchase, you’ll get a bonus $10 back.)
  • Raven is really starting to say some truly hilarious things lately. I’m still trying to record some of them in my Motherhood Diaries project, but I’ve been much more successful recording them soon after they happen on my Instagram account. For some of the latest gems, you can check out my IG here.
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  • Since reading Off the Clock (more on that below), I’ve been tracking my time every day and noticing some fascinating things (like that I spend over two hours every day nursing the baby, and that doesn’t even count time I spend feeding him solids. What?!) I’ve also been thinking a LOT about time management in general lately and how that looks for me right now, which makes me seriously tempted to purchase the latest bundle being offered by Ultimate Bundles, which is all about time management and productivity and which becomes available next week on February 20th. Anyway, at the very least, just know that there will definitely be a post in the not-so-distant future all about the millions of thoughts I’ve had swirling around my head on time management lately.
  • I have a hard time with winter every year, but this year has felt particularly hard in some ways (I blame my back pain/problems for a lot of it, as it’s meant I can’t even exercise like I’m used to). But! In the good news department, I finally have found a pretty amazing hand/body moisturizer so that my skin isn’t totally cracked and dry and hurting all the time (and that’s significantly helped my daughter’s super sensitive skin, as well). It’s one that was recommended (and given) to me by a close friend, and it’s been incredibly effective, especially when we remember to use it every day. It’s called Renew lotion (by Melaleuca) and though it’s a bit pricey, the big bottle lasts a LONG time.

Learning Lately

Current/Recent Reads

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam

I know Vanderkam’s been publishing books on time management for quite awhile now, but she only recently came onto my radar when she interviewed me for an article she was writing about sharing goals in a public forum. Since then, I’ve started following her blog and decided to pick up this recent release of hers on somewhat of a whim when I was searching for something to read on our tablet while nursing the baby. I had no expectations going in (which probably worked in the book’s favor), but I LOVED this one. Not only did it encourage me to start tracking my time (something I’ve never done before), but I loved all the concrete strategies for managing my time in a way that would legitimately add a lot more value to how I spent my hours. I’ve heard from some people that are big Vanderkam fans that this book has a lot of repeated info from her other books and her blog, but as I’m completely new to her stuff, it really resonated with me and proved a fabulous starting-off point in me learning to manage my time in the best way possible (and this coming from someone who thought she was pretty good at managing her time as it was!). Final Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars

My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich

I picked this up because I heard it described as being happy and more light-hearted but still smart, which is a combination that’s actually been a bit challenging for me to find. Unfortunately? I didn’t feel like this one lived up to the “still smart” at all. Although the story was a fun idea and the main character–a legitimately decent person and a widow with a sad past–was very likable, the writing fell pretty flat for me. Too much “telling” and not enough “showing,” and I felt like there wasn’t a lot of depth to the majority of the characters/story at all. I’m fine with fluffy stories, but I have a harder time letting go of my need for really solid writing. Final Goodreads Rating: 2.5 Stars (However, lots of other readers have been perfectly delighted by this one, so if you’re looking for a lighter read, this might float your boat just fine.)

Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve by Lenora Chu

Parts of this were a bit on the slower side, but all in all, I found this a totally fascinating look at how China views the education of their youth VERY differently than we Westerners do (and the pros and cons of that viewpoint). Some parts of this were almost unbelievable and a bit shocking compared to what I’m used to, but there was a lot to think about here, both in terms of ways I (and the American system in general) can improve my own kids’ education, as well as the gratitude I feel for living in a country where everyone has access to free public education through high school. If you like comparisons across cultures and have an interest in education, you might also find this worth reading. Final Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars

Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith

Smith’s first book, The Nesting Place, made a surprise appearance on my Best Reads of 2018 list because I find myself thinking about concepts from it over and over again as I continue to try and make our new(ish) home truly “ours.” Since I loved her first book so much AND I’ve been a fan of the minimalist movement ever since it first started getting national attention several years ago, I was super eager to get my hands on this new release. My verdict? While it did have some useful information for sure, I didn’t love it as much as her other book, maybe just because much of the information seemed a bit repetitive to me and/or was stuff I’d already read a ton about before. I did pick up some important decorating rules of thumb though (that will forever influence how I decorate in the future), so this one ended up with a solid 3-star rating on Goodreads.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience by Sheryl Sandberg

This book has been on my radar ever since it first came out, but I was hesitant to pick it up…I was worried it would trigger my HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) self by relaying details of other people’s tragedies that I might then internalize and find myself thinking about over and over again, but so far, it’s been a transformative read, not only in helping me to be able to deal with the pressures and adversity of my own life, but also in giving me some great tips on how to reach out to others going through hard times. Honestly, I wish now I would have picked up this book when I first heard about it, just so I could have been practicing all these things all along the way, but now has been as good a time as any to learn these concepts. I anticipate this could very well be another 5-star read (though I’m only about 25% of the way through it). 

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

After reading The Snow Child (which also made it onto my list of best reads of 2018), I knew I wanted to try out more of Ivey’s work, so this seemed a natural choice to check out. And, in a beautiful convergence of fate/destiny/happy chance, it was one of the first books recommended to me when I reached out to 5 different readers for book recommendations as one of my 101 in 1001 goals. I’ve literally just started this book though, so it’s too early to make any judgment calls yet. I will say that epistolary novels are often hard to do really well, but after seeing Ivey’s talent in Snow Child, I think she’ll probably be able to pull it off.

***I also finished Ethan Frome and Never Split the Difference since last time, but since they were spoken of extensively in this post on my self-assigned reading for last term, I won’t go into any more details here.

And that’s a wrap! What books are you in the middle of lately? Any products that are saving your life your winter? I’d love to pick your brain!