Products and Books I'm Enjoying in April 2020
Book Recommendations, Loving and Learning Lately

Loving and Learning Lately {23}

Products and Books I'm Enjoying in March 2020

Welcome to Round 23 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 may get a small percentage of any sale made at no extra cost to you.

Loving Lately

We got all our early spring seeds started this last weekend!
  • Like most of the Northern Hemisphere, the feeling of spring in the air has put a significant boost in my step, and I’ve been loving the surge of motivation I’ve been feeling lately to work on our yard, as well as do some spring cleaning. I’ve been helped along in my motivation by the fact that I’ve found a few great new resources:
    • Floret Farm: How did I not know about this before?! This blog is a wealth of information on growing flowers (especially for bouquets/cutting gardens), and I was super excited to read this week that they’ve partnered with the Magnolia Network to produce their own show, which will premiere later this year.
    • The Life at Cobble Hill Farm blog has been a fun, recent find—the author blogs about life on their small homestead, ways to be more frugal, how to make your dreams happen, simple living, and more. There are few blogs that make me want to go back to the beginning and read everything, but this is shaping up to be one of those.
    • I heard about this next resource from The Big White Farmhouse (another recent favorite blog!), and it’s been a huge help in motivating me to spring clean our house, as well as keep up with my resolution to finally be a better housekeeper once and for all. It’s a Youtube channel called Faith and Flour, and even though it’s mostly just a woman cleaning her house, I find it oddly soothing/inspiring to watch (plus I’ve picked up quite a few cleaning tips!).
    • So this last one isn’t new to me, but it’s worth passing along. Ever since reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits, I’ve subscribed to his weekly 3-2-1 newsletter, which is excellent. Basically, it’s an email that hits your inbox every Thursday that contains 3 ideas, 2 quotes, and 1 question, and every week I look forward to it. Seriously, it’s just good general motivation for life in all its facets, but especially if you’re into goal-setting or habit-building. Anyway, it’s free to sign up—-you just opt in to his list here.
  • Raven’s birthday is coming up, and with how much she loves to help us out in the yard, I’ve been looking into getting her more of her own gardening supplies. We already got her some kids’ gardening gloves from Target last year (similar to these unicorn ones they have now for $6), and now I’m thinking of getting her this highly-rated 4-piece gardening tool set (bonus: it’s just $17). I’m assuming since the pieces are made of real wood and metal that she can legitimately use them to help do work, which I like.
Ultimate Productivity Bundle 2020
  • If you’re wanting a boost to help you live more intentionally and feel like you have a better handle on juggling your time and responsibilities, check out the flash sale going on TODAY (3/11) and Thursday (3/12) on the Ultimate Productivity Bundle, which includes 73 resources (including 31 eCourses and 12 eBooks) for just $47. I’ve been a longtime fan of Ultimate Bundles and have bought several over the years, and they haven’t disappointed. Definitely worth checking out if this is something you’re wanting to work on!

Learning Lately

Current and Recent Reads

My current reading list has gone down *slightly* since last month (I’m *only* in the middle of 8 books rather than 11), but I’ll go ahead with the trend I started last month of just posting about the books I’ve finished lately or about the ones I’m more than halfway through.

Summerlost by Ally Condie

I read Ally Condie’s dystopian series Matched several years ago and liked it well enough, but I hadn’t read anything else by her since. This more recent release of hers is set in the present day and is a realistic fiction novel about Cedar, who has recently lost her father and brother in a terrible accident. Cedar and her family buy a fixer-upper second home in a small town with old family ties, and this book is about how she navigates her grief in her first summer since the accident. This was a sweet story about the grieving process and about growing up, and I especially liked how it had a (mostly) platonic friendship between Cedar and her new friend Leo. I’m not against romance in teen novels, but it was nice to have a book where that wasn’t what drove the story or the relationship between the characters.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

I was blown away by Krueger’s latest release, This Tender Land, and I was eager to pick up more by him. Ordinary Grace is the story of a particularly eventful summer in the life of a pastor’s family, and it’s told from the point of view of one of his sons. It was a summer full of tragic deaths in the community, and this novel is all about not just what happened and why, but also about the subsequent personal and family growth that came about as a result. This book was beautiful and had some wonderful moments in it–a solid 4-star read.

How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen

I expected more from this longform essay on reading and writing and the impact of literacy on the author’s life than I got. Considering this was not long, it felt like it was all over the place–rather than a tightly formed essay that covered one central topic (maybe two), I felt like I got a messy smattering of disjointed thoughts, some of which got weirdly political. In general, you can pass this one up, though there were a couple of good quotes.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

This was my fourth Moriarty novel, and I’ve learned a few things: 1) Her books are page-turners, so if I want a book that I know I will finish within a few days, she’s a good author to go to. 2) I have issues with her writing style, though I can often overlook it when I get caught up enough in the story. My biggest beef? She treats serious subjects–domestic violence, abuse, suicide, etc.–with a too-light hand, and you can tell they’re basically just plot fodder rather than having the book be about real growth through them. Does that make sense? Anyway, this one was fine to pass the time, though I wouldn’t say it’s a must-read. Three stars.

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

I picked this one up because of the intriguing premise (plus I like that it’s a historical fiction NOT set during the time of one of the world wars)–this is basically the story of a 17-year-old Chinese-American girl during the early 1900’s who starts writing an advice column in the local paper under the pseudonym ‘Miss Sweetie.’ However, as her columns get more political and progressive–she starts speaking out against the racism in the town, she starts encouraging women to go against social norms–she starts facing threats of detection, which could end everything for her. While the overall premise was a good one and the plot was okay, I felt like the author tried to take on too much with one novel, and I also struggled visualizing literally almost anything or anyone because there was so little imagery in the book. Three stars.

Thrifty and Thriving: More Life for Less Money by Victoria Huizinga

Huizinga is a frugality and simple living blogger, and I largely picked this up because I’ve found that I need regular doses of frugal inspiration to keep me on track with our financial goals (even though, admittedly, I rarely learn anything truly “new” in any of them). This one had some good reminders in it, and it also had some strategies for saving money that, while I was familiar with them, I had never tried. Did this book change my life? No. But it did what I needed it to do, and so for that, I give it 3 stars.

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

I’ve been wanting to do a read-aloud with my oldest (who’s almost 5) forever, and this was finally the first one we’ve done together. While I was hoping she would enjoy our time together, I was unprepared for how much she really loves it and begs for me to “just read one more chapter.” Maybe it’s because I waited long enough so that she can really “get” most of the story, but this has been such a sweet experience for us, and I’ve loved that it’s given us lots of built-in opportunities to talk about important things like friendship, about the circle of life, and so much more. My only beef? She is now starting to say things like, “Why do we vacuum up the spiders in our house? Maybe they’re just trying to be our friends!”

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist

In general, I’m a fan of Niequist’s work, where she deals with various aspects of life in bite-size essays that often revolve around faith, food, and family. To me, it doesn’t matter that theologically, we aren’t exactly the same—I just appreciate the humanity of her work, and how she manages to find the optimism and beauty and grace in everything from the ordinary to the hard. Even though her later books have definitely been a bit tighter and a bit better-written, I’ve still been enjoying this. It will probably get a 3.5-star rating when all is said and done.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

I didn’t add this to my TBR list for a long time, but when it just kept getting more and more hype and positive reviews, I decided I might as well give it a try. Gottlieb is a therapist, and this is a book that talks about some of her patients and their growth as they continue meeting with her, it talks about her background and work and insights as a therapist, and it also talks about her own experience with therapy from the other side, when she became a client of the quirky but lovable “Wendell” after a particularly hard breakup. I keep remarking to my husband that reading this has been like getting a bunch of therapy sessions for free, which has meant that I’ve gotten a lot of insight from reading this, but that some of it hasn’t always been comfortable to sit with (especially as I’ve been dealing with anxiety a bit over the past couple years). I have enjoyed this quite a bit though, and it’s pretty rare that a book can be equal parts funny, relatable, AND insightful. My only real beef? The plethora of profanity, especially when she talks about certain clients. This will likely be a solid 4-star rating.

Blog News

  • After nearly a year, the blog is finally syncing with Bloglovin’ again! If you don’t already follow me there, you can do so by clicking here.
  • Soooo…I’m currently in the process of setting up a second blog. (Don’t worry—I’ll still be posting here!) For awhile, Matt and I have wanted a blog to document more of our quest to making our homestead dream happen now in the suburbs, so this new blog will just be a lot more focused on things like our backyard flower farm experiment, growing and preserving our own food, saving up for more land, living the simple life, etc. I’ll let you know as soon as I have it all set up so you can see if that’s something you’re interested in!
  • I finally figured out how to let you see an example of the kind of newsletter I only send out to subscribers so you can see if it would be a good fit for your inbox. Check out this first issue of the blog newsletter, and then if you haven’t signed up yet to be on my email list, click here!

And that’s a wrap! Do you have any resources (blogs, Youtube channels, etc.) on homemaking or spring cleaning or homesteading worth passing along? I’d love to hear them! (As well as what you’re currently reading, of course!)