Products and Books I'm Enjoying in 2023
Book Recommendations, Loving and Learning Lately, Products I Love

Loving and Learning Lately {49}

Products and Books I'm Enjoying in July 2023

Welcome to Round 49 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.

I used to do these every month, and then I was pretty good to do them about every month, and then…this year happened 🙂 I’ve been working on this post forever, and it just kept getting longer because I kept reading more books and finding more great products and deals that made my life easier.

So I finally decided to just stop adding to the ever-growing list, start another round-up that I can work on for next month (or the month after), and share this one with you now.

I’m not going to slam you with Black Friday deals today, although I will share a couple below because they were things I was glad to find myself.

Here’s the list of (some of) the things I’ve been loving and learning lately:

Loving Lately

  • Both my husband and I LOVE games, and we’re so excited that our kids are finally getting old enough to “graduate” beyond Candy Land and play some games that WE actually enjoy playing, too. One of our favorites is Cover Your Assets, which is a card game that my 8-year-old begs to play every time we go to Grandma’s house. I’d been planning to buy it for our family for Christmas this year anyway, and I was thrilled to find it at the lowest price I’ve ever seen – just $9.99 for Black Friday. I’m seriously considering buying multiple so that I can gift one or two as well.
    • Other games my kids AND my husband and I love to play: Spot It (even my 3-year-old can join in, and he LOVES it, and it’s a STEAL right now at $3.99) and Play Nine (which is a great way for my kindergartner to practice his numbers)
  • This might be a weird thing to include on a round-up of things I love, but both Matt and I LOVE the automatic pencil sharpener we bought for our kids last Christmas. Our kids are constantly pulling out colored pencils to do art with, and it was getting very, very tedious to 1) try to hand sharpen everything, and 2) deal with the automatic sharpener getting jammed because you usually aren’t supposed to sharpen colored pencils. However, we read a review of THIS sharpener–which does support colored pencils–and were intrigued by the very enthusiastic reviews. Now that we’ve been using it for a year, we totally get it — this pencil sharpener has basically revolutionized pencil sharpening around here, and I don’t think I’ve needed to sharpen anyone’s pencil or fix a bad sharpening job a single time since purchasing it. It automatically stops sharpening once the perfect point is reached, it doesn’t eat pencils, and you never get any weird, uneven sharpening jobs. Seriously, if you need a pencil sharpener upgrade, this is the one to get, and it’s almost 50% off today for Black Friday.
  • I know most people won’t really think much about organizing until January, but it’s been on my mind constantly since I started my Minimalist by 2024 Challenge. While the act of radically decluttering down to the essentials has made it so that I rarely “need” an organizer, I have found that for a few areas, spending some money on a well-designed organizer has really helped. Two areas in particular: my bathroom drawers and my office desk drawer. I wanted a see through divided organizer that was really heavy duty and that wasn’t super shallow, so I tried out this divided organizer for my bathroom stuff (hair elastics, claw clips, little tubes of moisturizers, etc.) and for dividing all my batteries in my office drawer. The system has worked out beautifully! I can clearly see at a glance exactly what we have and find exactly what I need, and because I only have the essentials, they’re not overstuffed.

Learning Lately

Since it’s been so long since I’ve done one of these round-ups, I’m WAY behind on posting about the books I’ve been finishing. I’m planning on doing a post later this year on all the family read-alouds we’ve done this year, so I won’t include any of those on the list today, which should at least make it a *little* less long 🙂

Recent Reads

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

It had been a long time since I’d read a contemporary fiction book that I liked so very much — I don’t often give five stars to fiction new releases (because I find them so often to be depressing; filled with profanity, sex, and violence; and completely written with some kind of political agenda in mind). However, this book! It was like an author finally realized that “Hey, some people just want a great story with great writing, and I don’t need to worry about trying to teach a million little lessons in there.” The premise of this is weird — an octopus that can communicate with the humans that work at the aquarium? just go with it– but this story was delightful. Heads up that there is some profanity in it, but not excessive amounts (if my memory serves me well).

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

WHOA, talk about a personal finance book that actually comes along and says something different than every single other personal finance book out there! Most books on finance talk about the HOW or the WHAT, but this one talks about the WHY behind our financial choices and mindsets, and boy, is it powerful! It was also entertaining and filled with a ton of memorable real-life examples from various public figures and companies, which I always enjoy (as those tend to stick better in my memory). This is one I definitely plan to revisit.

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

This is one that I actually tried to read years ago and gave up on (see this post on 9 Books That I Abandoned), but because I’ve continually seen it referenced over and over again in the simplicity/minimalism sphere, I decided to give it another shot and see if I could get over the issues with the author’s tone that I had before. Well, I’m still actually in the middle of this one (it’s definitely not as compellingly readable as some, so I have to kind of push myself to want to pick it up), but I am getting some definite gems from it and have something like 25 highlights already on my Kindle edition, even though I’m only about 40% into it. All in all, I think I’ll be able to see why this is such a classic by the end, but in the future, I’ll probably just go back and revisit my highlights rather than wanting to read the whole thing again.

Someone Else’s Shoes by JoJo Moyes

I’ve gotta say, although JoJo Moyes’s books are rarely super memorable for me, she does know how to write fun page-turners for sure! This one came up as a Book of the Month selection several months back and I was in the mood for something lighter, so I chose to use my monthly credit on it. And the story delivered just what I wanted — fun chick lit (with a little over-the-top heist thrown in for good measure) that made for a highly enjoyable binge read over the course of about a day.

The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler

I am very selective about what kinds of parenting books I read, but this one intrigued me because it went beyond just parenting — it pointed out that so many of the books on families on the market talk about DYS-functional families, but very few (if any) were looking at what made families thrive. This one combines business strategies, military intel, and so much more to talk about very specific ways to strengthen your family life and bring more happiness to your personal relationships. Excellent read, and this one would make a fascinating book club pick.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

The idea of this one was dynamite — it talks all about the Swedish practice of “death cleaning,” or drastically down-sizing your possessions once you hit about 65 years old so that your loved ones won’t be burdened by your stuff — and then it talks about some specific strategies on how to get started, how to help your older loved ones to not put this off, etc. While the idea was amazing, I found that the execution was just so-so for me. It might have been due to a simplistic translation, or maybe not, but I found that I liked the idea of this one a lot more than I enjoyed the read itself.

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

I’d never read this business classic on productivity before, but I’ve been hearing about it for years and years. When this short read came up as available on my library reading app, I decided to give it a try, and wow, does it pack a punch! This fired me up to totally revamp my flower farm plan the very same weekend I finished it, and it also is largely what lit the fire under me to go for my Minimalist by 2024 Challenge. Well worth your time if you need a kick in the pants to get some huge looming tasks done.

The Do-Over by Lynn Painter

Lynn Painter writes YA romances, and even though the romance genre is an area I tread lightly in, I’ll still dip my toe in it every now and then if I find an author whose style of it I enjoy. And Painter’s style I definitely enjoy! Sure, her books are basically remakes of all the classic chick flick rom-coms, but her novels are so funny and the stories just so fun and easy to read that I’m totally willing to look past the fact that all her books basically just follow the classic romance tropes to a tee. Anyway, this one is reminiscent of the movie Groundhog Day, as the protagonist has to relive the same terrible Valentine’s Day over and over again. Hilarious yet heart-warming. Heads up for profanity, though.

And that will do it for this time! What have you been reading lately? Any great deals for Black Friday that are worth passing along?

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