Guest Post: Suggestions For Reading Three Times Per Day

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

[this is the first guest post by one of my wonderful new guest bloggers!]

If you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you know that humans have certain needs that must be met in order to survive and thrive. Reading might not be on the original list, but it is on mine as an essential daily task.

If reading is so important. How can you prioritize it in your schedule to ensure that you are reading every day? I have three suggestions for how to fit reading in three times a day.

There are two stereotypes people have about mornings. One is the hurried, rushed person getting dressed as they run out the door. The other image is the lethargic person who can barely function and needs a caffeine I.V. drip to even get out the door.

What if I told you there is a better way? A better way that includes books.

I read a book called Miracle Morning that changed my life and how I view mornings.

The premise of the book is to start your morning out with intention. You complete a list of tasks each morning, and one of them is reading. For some people it’s five minutes, for others maybe you have an entire hour to read in the morning.

The point is to make time to read first thing at the start of the day. Our willpower is the greatest then, and a good book could give you the focus and direction you need for the rest of the day.

Maybe you’re not convinced about getting up to read. How about audiobooks on the way to work or while you are getting ready? Audiobooks are an amazing way to get your reading in on the go. You can listen while at the gym, in your car, or in your closet.

In the middle of day, you could carry your Kindle in your bag and find a few minutes to read. I see people in the grocery store all the time staring at their phone, which as a non-phone addict I find irritating. However, if you had to stare at a phone, why not make it a book. Kindle and Audible have mobile apps. It is possible to squeeze in a few minutes anywhere.

Finally, at the end of the day, I make it part of my routine to close out the day with a book. When my kids were younger, it was about reading to them. Now, I send myself off to bed with the treat of a good book.

I am a die hard paperback fan. So, I use this time to catch on library books. If my day ran late, I lay down with my headphone and audiobook, and let the narrator take me to dreamland.

This is only the beginning of all the ways you can fit reading into your day. Are you going to try one of the methods I suggested or do you have your own proven ways to get reading in? Either way, give a shout-out in the comments and let us know how you get your daily reading done.

Author Bio: My name is Marla Leigh from It is my pleasure to be here and share my great love of books with you. I love books of all kinds, but in particular nonfiction and juvenile fiction. I guess they appeal to the part of me that never grew up. I believe that books enrich every area of our lives, so I encourage you to read more. It is good for your brain, mental health, and overall health. I look forward to sharing some of my favorite reads with you and hope to hear about some of yours as well.

Edited by: Annie

50 Small Ways to Live More Intentionally and Thoughtfully

Monday, July 24, 2017

  1. Inscribe every book you give as a gift
  2. Send postcards when you go on a trip
  3. Do yoga every morning or every night before bed
  4. Write letters to your friends and family
  5. Listen to instrumental music while you work
  6. Carefully make playlists for every mood
  7. Send friends songs that remind you of them
  8. Send small gifts when it isn’t their birthday or a holiday--they mean more
  9. Donate things you no longer want
  10. Write slowly in your best handwriting sometimes
  11. Eat slowly and enjoy the food you eat
  12. Only watch shows that make you genuinely happy
  13. Go on spontaneous adventures
  14. Try the food you normally wouldn’t
  15. Teach someone one of your skills
  16. Recommend a movie or book to someone
  17. Donate blood
  18. Go outside every day
  19. Study early
  20. When you love someone, tell them
  21. Do the things you’ll regret missing out on
  22. Go to the museum
  23. See a movie in the theaters once in awhile, even though it costs more
  24. Buy something small and beautiful that you don’t really need
  25. Save your coins in a jar for something special
  26. Don’t dedicate time to things you hate
  27. Tell someone the truth
  28. Just enjoy the things that make you happy, not the things you think you’re supposed to enjoy
  29. Watch old movies and musicals
  30. Go see live music
  31. Walk outside after it rains
  32. Write about your life, write about the best things that happen to you.
  33. Text friends you haven’t seen in awhile
  34. Take a friend out for their birthday and pay for their lunch or coffee
  35. Take a weekend trip
  36. Make a playlist specifically for someone you care about
  37. Think before you say something that might be hurtful
  38. Enjoy being alone sometimes
  39. Invite your friends to do everyday things with you
  40. Tell someone when you miss them
  41. Get to know the friends of your friends
  42. Write down the best thing that happens to you every day
  43. Call people on the phone
  44. Write down your goals and work toward them
  45. Learn about other cultures through friends of other cultures
  46. Visit people who live far away
  47. Hang meaningful items on your walls
  48. Live simply, get rid of things you don’t need
  49. Keep a journal, or many
  50. Tell people why you love them, not just that you do

Quick-Review Collection

Sometimes it takes too much time and effort to write a long review. I don't review every book I read, often because of this. However, I want to share everything I read, and a bit of what I think. So, here is a quick review of all of the books I've read recently that don't have their own full review on my blog. (This idea is inspired by Janna at Literary Quicksand, and personalized for my own style)

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
A book that is complicated and action packed and hard to describe. It makes complicated science fascinating and comprehensible and will keep you on the edge of your seat. 5 stars because, though it wasn't flawless, I never wanted to put it down, and I kept gasping in surprise. 

Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

A tiny, impactful book. As is often the case, some of the essays were better than others. I loved the ones at the beginning of the book, and several later on weren't quite as interesting to me, though still worth reading. A great part of the current feminist canon. Sarcastic, sharp witted, eye opening. 

Grayson by Lynne Cox

5 stars for the story itself. An absolutely amazing true experience of humans and nature interacting in a beautiful way. Informative and eye opening to some things I never knew about ocean life and sea creatures, topics that already strongly interest me. Lynne's experience is incredible and I loved reading about Grayson's interactions and movements with her. Never realized how adorable and fascinating a baby whale could be.

2.5 stars for the writing. Her writing style really isn't my favorite. Her sentences are very short and choppy. She overuses rhetorical questions at times. The many passages about communicating to animals via her thoughts were a bit cheesy and overdone. Some of the details seemed too specific to be remembered that clearly after decades (lengths of animals, specific numbers, etc). Other passages describing the beauty of nature and the sights around her were beautifully written.

However, I absolutely read this for the story of a baby whale and a swimmer interacting together in the ocean. It was uplifting and sweet and beautiful. It's a short book and worth the day of reading it'll require.

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Such a sweet story with an adorable ending. Probably even more appealing for fans of Star Wars who would relate to the references as well as the writing. Only 4/5 because 50 pages isn't enough Rainbow to satisfy me, and because it just made me want to read Attachments (one of my favorite books ever) for the 5th time.

Sex Object by Jessica Valenti
I loved this. Hard hitting, powerful, entertaining, easy to read, funny, horrifying, personal, thought-provoking, important, and relatable. I could add more adjectives if anyone needs convincing. A fast and impressive book to read if you have any interest in feminist essays. 

Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak by many writers

Some of these managed to be incredibly poignant, touching or funny in just 6 words. Some didn't. You can read this in about half an hour and it's worth that time. This is pretty darn cute and feels like a great connection of so much humanity. Most of the time I wanted and needed more from each "memoir" to actually feel satisfied. 
Also, one of my past professors has one in here, which I discovered while reading.

The Blue Fox by Sjon

Tough one to rate. Super fast read, such a short little book. The prose and wording are absolutely beautiful. There were many lines that amazed me. This isn't a book about intriguing plot though. There is a small story here, about a few different characters. But it's really about the writing itself and how it depicts animals, nature, humanity, and death combining. It's quite beautiful, and also strange and bizarre and mysterious and moving.

Into the Light and Away From the Dark by Aleatha Romig

4.5/5 and 5/5
This book and sequel are fantastic and hard to describe without giving much away. A woman wakes up, without sight, in a strange place, with no recollection of the stories she's told are the truth. Sounds cliche, but everything is completely insane and unexpected from there on out. It's quite a ride. 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Something this incredible, impactful, striking, simple and true should be read by everyone in the world. If this was global required reading I guarantee we would live in a better world. 
I was just discussing so many of these topics yesterday, and last week, and last year. Adichie amazingly describes exactly what I often think or talk about, and the things I know thousands of other women think and experience every day. 
This put a tear in my eye and resonated so deeply. Amazing. And worth the thirty minutes or an hour or two of reading for anyone.

We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson

4/5 [audiobook]
I didn't love the narrator for the audiobook, but that didn't impact my enjoyment of the story itself. This wasn't as good as the other Shirley Jackson books/stories I've read, but it was still really great. Merricat is an awesome and bizarre voice for the story, the plot is engaging, and the ending is unexpected. It's not scary or horrific, but it's very dark and macabre. 

The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne

This graphic novel has some of the most beautiful illustrations I've seen. The story is a sweet and emotional take on the classic tale of Peter Pan. It could have been much longer, in my opinion. Anyone who likes reading graphic novels and likes Peter Pan will love this new release. 

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
An amazing take on the feminist essays/memoirs I've been loving so much lately. Lindy's perspective as a fat woman, as a comedian, as a feminist, is so bold, hilarious and raw. I couldn't put this down, I never wanted it to end. I would read probably anything she ever wrote down, grocery lists and diary entries included. Her voice is amazing. She also doesn't give a shit about anything, which is fantastic.

Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli

I haven't read anything quite like this, or anything on this topic. And I have no idea why! This is so important; anyone with a political opinion or thoughts on social issues should read this tiny book about immigration and children.  An amazing and important book. This taught me so many things, and reinforced the beliefs I already had with more facts and more real stories. 

Recommended Recipes

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Who says this blog has to be about books only?! A quick little collaborative post featuring a few of my favorite recipes and a few of my friends' and family members' favorites as well. Looking for something new to make? Look no further.

1. Basil Pesto Chicken Pasta 
Link to the recipe here!

2. Stovetop Mac & Cheese
Link to the recipe here!
I love making homemade mac and cheese because it's the best food in the world but I hate the boxed kind. This is my starting recipe, which works well. I use various combinations of cheeses, and usually add buffalo sauce and some chicken or vegetables.

3. Grape Salad
1 cup of sugar
1 package of philadelphia cream cheese
1 container of sour cream
1 package of cool whip
1 bag of washed and dried grapes
*Combine all ingredients (except grapes) and then add grapes when mixture is smooth and thick*

4. Cereal
(recommended by my smartass dad)
In case your readers don't know how to make it. Find a bowl, spoon, milk, and of course the cereal. Put as much cereal in the bowl as you'd like and add milk to almost covering the cereal. Eat.

5. The best salad you can make (my favorite, at least)
Combine all of these ingredients...
Spinach, dark lettuces, soft goat cheese crumbles, craisins, small diced apples, chopped pecans, rotisserie chicken, and balsamic vinaigrette or a similar light dressing.

6. Chocolate Crinkle Cookies 

Link to a recipe here!

7. Slow Cooker Crack Chicken
This is one of my favorites, as well as my family's back at home. If you have a slow cooker it's incredibly easy. I don't put bacon in mine, to get rid of some unnecessary calories, but it's great any way. Leftovers also go great in wraps, on salads, or just by itself. 
Link to recipe here!

8. Avocado Pesto Pasta
Recipe for the pesto here!

9. Oreo Balls
Here's an example recipe!

10. Flawless Taco Dip
Here's one recipe among millions of great ones the internet has to offer.
(I also make one on my own that's healthier, by combining plain low-fat Greek yogurt, some salsa, taco seasoning, and a little bit of sharp cheese)

11. Homemade alfredo or tomato sauce over pasta
This is one my culinary school sister loves the best. One example recipe for fancy alfredo sauce here.

12. Gnocchi Skillet
This is my Ma's favorite, and one of my favorite foods to have at home.
Combine your favorite chopped vegetables in a skillet. We use bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini and sometimes others. Add chicken sausage chopped into thin slices, as well as some olive oil. Sauté everything together. Then add cooked gnocchi and a can of diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and top with parmesan cheese. 

13. Polenta
Polenta is a culinary gift for mere cooking mortals. Here are some tips for cooking it correctly.

14. Pan-Seared Pork Chops
Another of my sister's choices, pan cooked pork or steak. One possible recipe here, which includes a citrus dressing.

15. Brown Sugar Meatloaf
Meatloaf might not usually be your jam, but this recipe makes a really good one. It's the recipe my mom uses and I can vouch for its deliciousness.
Here's the recipe.

16. Egg rolls
Yes, homemade egg rolls seem like a daunting task. Yes, it also requires a lot of work. These are worth it. My mom and stepdad make these for special occasions and they're pure heaven.
Recipe here!

17. Zucchini and Crumbled Sausage Tart
This is one of my favorite meals in the world. Do yourself a favor, though, and add some fresh mozzarella slices or another little cheesy component.
Here's the magical recipe.

For all of the best cooking infographics for beginning cooks, check out this wonderful post from a blog called Quick Easy Cook.  

Book Review: The Gypsy Moth Summer (+ Giveaway!)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro

From the publisher:
It is the summer of 1992 and a gypsy moth invasion blankets Avalon Island. Ravenous caterpillars disrupt early summer serenity on Avalon, an islet off the coast of Long Island--dropping onto novels left open on picnic blankets, crawling across the T-shirts of children playing games of tag and capture the flag in the island's leafy woods. The caterpillars become a relentless topic of island conversation and the inescapable soundtrack of the season.

It is also the summer Leslie Day Marshall—only daughter of Avalon’s most prominent family—returns with her husband, a botanist, and their children to live in “The Castle,” the island's grandest estate. Leslie’s husband Jules is African-American, and their children bi-racial, and islanders from both sides of the tracks form fast and dangerous opinions about the new arrivals.

Maddie Pencott LaRosa straddles those tracks: a teen queen with roots in the tony precincts of East Avalon and the crowded working class corner of West Avalon, home to Grudder Aviation factory, the island's bread-and-butter and birthplace of generations of bombers and war machines. Maddie falls in love with Brooks, Leslie’s and Jules’ son, and that love feels as urgent to Maddie as the questions about the new and deadly cancers showing up across the island. Could Grudder Aviation, the pride of the island—and its patriarch, the Colonel—be to blame? As the gypsy moths burst from cocoons in flocks that seem to eclipse the sun, Maddie’s and Brooks’ passion for each other grows and she begins planning a life for them off Avalon Island.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This book dealt with themes and topics (family, race relations, outsiders, young love) I've read tons of times in so many different books and stories. However, it tackled these subjects in a context and format I've never encountered before. You may not think that a moth invasion on an island, with a wealthy family returning to the area would be the outline for an interesting and entrancing fictional story, but it was. The writing here shines, and lends the book it's hard-to-resist charm and emotional value. 

The island setting of this book is unique and absorbing. By creating this closed-off atmosphere the author intensifies any drama and issues that occur. Everything is confined to a small space and in the open for anyone to see. Not to mention, the island has a distinctly split system. One half is notably wealthier and better-off than the other. This fact also serves to heighten tension and form alliances. The moths act as a symbolic and behind-the-scenes backdrop to the story, which is really about wealth, race, love, and prejudice. It's all put together very well to create an engaging story. 

Add it on Goodreads!
Buy it on Amazon:
The Gypsy Moth Summer: A Novel

I received this book in exchange for my honest review through TLC Book Tours. For the rest of the tour click here.

I am able to give away one copy of this brand new book (US/Canada only)! Please enter the giveaway below and stay tuned for the winner to be announced soon.

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Book Review: The One That Got Away (+ Giveaway!)

The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes

From the publisher:
Meet Abbey Lahey . . .

Overworked mom. Underappreciated publicist. Frazzled wife of an out-of-work landscaper. A woman desperately in need of a vacation from life--and who is about to get one, thanks to an unexpected tumble down a Nordstrom escalator.

Meet Abbey van Holt . . .

The woman whose life Abbey suddenly finds herself inhabiting when she wakes up. Married to handsome congressional candidate Alex van Holt. Living in a lavish penthouse. Wearing ball gowns and being feted by the crème of Philadelphia society. Luxuriating in the kind of fourteen-karat lifestyle she's only read about in the pages of Town & Country.

The woman Abbey might have been . . . if she had said yes to a date with Alex van Holt all those years ago.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

This is a great summer beach book. It's sweet and fun and romantic, and easy to read. The main character, Abbey is a charming narrator, who brings lightness to her experience. Her countless mishaps and failures are funny and relatable for anyone who feels out of place in high society encounters. 

This isn't a serious, intellectual, hard-to-get-through book. It's a contemporary novel that offers one possible answer to the timeless question: what if? As someone who ponders this often, Leigh Himes' take on the answer interested me. 

This is a book you could get through in a couple days. It's very girly, and very beachy, filled with high fashion and envy-worthy wealth. Essentially perfect for anyone who wishes they could wake up one day with a super fine, super rich husband, and a closet full of amazing clothes. 

The book is predictable; don't expect twists and turns. I assumed from pretty early on how it would likely end, though the small encounters and events throughout were perfectly unexpected and original. There are plenty of overused cliches and commonplace expressions used. However, the overall writing is good, holds interest, and doesn't really allow for periods of boredom. Again, this is a book that markets itself very well. If the synopsis interests you, so will the rest of the book. 

Book links: Goodreads, Amazon
I received a copy of this book through TLC Book Tours. Check out the rest of the tour here.

If you're interested in winning a copy of this great summer book, please enter the giveaway below (US and Canada only)! A winner will be selected in a few days. 

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