Welcome to Round 47 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.
- My husband and I have tried to be very mindful the past few years of the kinds (and number) of toys we bring into our house, simply because we don’t want to just be building up clutter and getting things that will only be played with a few times before they’re forgotten. As research has shown, “open ended” toys that allow for a lot of creativity and different types of play are the best options, which is why we decided to go for this wooden train set for our boys this last Christmas. (We also got this extension pack to go with it, as well as this special viaduct bridge and these additional cars.) We’ve been wrong about some of our toy choices in the past, but we sure weren’t wrong this time — that train set has seen nearly daily use since Christmas, and the enthusiasm hasn’t waned in the slightest. Both boys are eager to pull it out every day, and they’ve actually been playing together much better lately, maybe just because they’re both working on similar goals but at different ends of the track 🙂 Matt and I both agree this is one of the best toys we’ve ever bought our kids!
- For years, we’ve gotten almost our clothes exclusively from Old Navy because I use my favorite credit card hack to get everything for basically close to free. However, Old Navy hasn’t had great choices when it came to nicer dress pants for my boys, and the ones they did have tended to be pretty pricey per pair. I’d known about The Children’s Place for years but hadn’t tried them out, but when I saw they were running some killer sales before Christmas, I looked into their inventory and found exactly what I was looking for — a three-pack of dressier pants for toddler boys (in navy, khaki, and black) for more than half off the original retail price (AND always with free shipping!). I’ll still use my Old Navy card hack when I can, but now I know a great second option whenever Old Navy doesn’t have what I’m looking for. (That exact multi-pack of pants isn’t currently on sale for the same price I got it for, but if you’re looking for something similar, keep checking back — they’re always running good sales.)
Current and Recent Reads
Sometimes you read just the right book at just the right time, which is exactly what this one was for me. We had been living in our new town for almost two years, and I still felt like an outsider and wondered if this would ever really feel like somewhere I could put down roots. Reading this book, which is a collection of a lot of the research that’s been done recently on place attachment and how to build community and how to love where you live, was just the motivation I needed to put in MY part in making this town feel more like home. And you know what? I’ve totally done a 180 these past few months when it comes to how I feel about living here. I can acknowledge that it’s not perfect and that there are still things I struggle with or wish were different (like the fact that there are no sidewalks), but now I can also say that there’s a lot of love and that I’m definitely feeling a much greater sense of community and support than before. Seriously, this book was paradigm-shifting for me, and I still think about things I learned from it all the time. A definite recommend, especially if you’ve recently moved or will move soon.
Grip of the Shadow Plague and Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull
We’ve continued to read the Fablehaven series out loud as a family, and I’ve gotta say, they have just kept getting better. It took me awhile to personally get into the stories, but man, by book four especially, I was ALL in. This is a fun, clean fantasy series that has a creative plot line and some twists I definitely didn’t see coming. We’re currently in the middle of the final installment, and I’m eager to see how it all wraps up!
Ugh, this is one I shouldn’t have bothered finishing, but I kept pushing through because so many of the reviews talked about how uplifting the ending was and how fun reading it was. I’ve always been fascinated by the different Asian cultures and love reading books by Asian or Asian-American authors, so when I saw this crop up on my radar, I thought it was worth giving a shot, especially when I saw that it was getting some buzz early on. While the premise was intriguing (generations of Vietnamese women have been cursed by their ancestor, who left her arranged marriage and married for love), the actual play-out of the plot was…not great. There were sooo many characters to keep track of (none of whom was likable at all), everyone was acting ridiculous, and the family drama just got annoying because everyone was basically acting petty and selfish. I also didn’t love that the author couldn’t seem to decide if she was going for slapstick comedy or a serious book that tackled serious issues, so this ended up skewering that line awkwardly. Not a recommend at all.
I got this as a free add-on through being at “BFF” status through the Book of the Month club because it was one of their top books of the year. (Book of the Month upgrades you to BFF after you purchase 12 months of credits, and when you’re upgraded, you automatically get two free books a year — one during your birthday month, and the other from their round-up of top books at year’s end. If you end up going through my referral link, you can try it out — with no future obligation — for just $5 for your first book, which always includes free shipping and which is always a hardcover.) I used to swear off all romances just on general principle, thinking they were all fluffy and ridiculous, but as I’ve struggled more and more in the past few years with reading “heavy” fiction, I’ve found that the latest crop of clever and fun romances has been a great escape. This one features two people in the STEM world–one a professor, the other a grad student–and the unlikely way that they are brought together. This definitely relies on some fairly common tropes (like enemies to lovers, pretending someone is your boyfriend who isn’t), but the science background and decently developed characters makes this one worth reading. I flew through this in under 24 hours, so that alone shows you how much it worked. Heads up for an open door scene near the end.
Links Worth Sharing
Radical Mindset Shifts to Declutter Your Whole House This Year by The Minimal Mom
Like many people, January always gives me the massive urge to declutter everything in sight, especially with all the new stuff we acquire over the holidays. I’ve long been a fan of The Minimal Mom, and this recent YouTube video of hers is GREAT to put on in the background as you’re going through your house working on decluttering because she goes room by room and suggests tips and strategies for drastically simplifying each space. (If you’re looking for more decluttering inspo in the new year, you can also check out the round-up post I did on my favorite books on decluttering, organizing, and simplifying.)
The Master Your Money Bundle from Ultimate Bundles
I’ve long been a fan of Ultimate Bundles and have bought quite a few over the years, which have always well been worth their value (and then some). Basically, the team over at Ultimate Bundles gathers some of the top ecourses, ebooks, digital printables and more from well-known content creators and then “bundles” all of it together for a very limited time at one fabulous price. There is so much good stuff in this particular bundle, from financial planners to inexpensive meal prepping menus to how to save $1,000+ on your next Disneyland trip. This bundle contains 18 eBooks, 25 eCourses, 1 Membership Site, 18 Printables, 4 Templates, 1 Webinar, and 4 Workbooks, all for $47 (with the value of everything totaling over $2,500 normally). You can check out all the included resources HERE to see if it’s a good fit for you.
What are some things you’ve been loving lately?