What I’m reading…

At the beginning of the year, I was in a goal setting mood. I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I haven’t made time for many audiobooks lately – so I set a goal. I found a list of biographies on-line and I decided this year I was going to listen to three from the list. Not a very aggressive goal, I know, but a goal none the less. And now that I’m sitting at the beginning of March and have already accomplished my goal for the year, I’ll modify it and probably listen to one biography a month. But here are the first three I snagged off the lengthy recommendation list.

I’m not sure why this one was the first one that grabbed my attention on the list. I grew up knowing Agassi. My brothers played tennis as he was rising to fame and it was a name I was very familiar with. Hallie is heavy into tennis right now so we’re having a tennis moment and this book seemed appropriate. Having said that, I enjoyed this book. He was not a mentally healthy person while he was competing and the book makes that clear. He fought some serious demons and it no doubt effected his play. He is a colorful individual which makes for some fun anecdotes but he also has very colorful language – fair warning! This book was heavy on his competing years, I would have liked to have seen a glimpse of his current life – but perhaps once he left the spotlight years ago, he prefers to keep that part of his life more private.


Coming off of Agassi’s book, I was looking forward to another sports book. Most know Phil Jackson is a legend. Not to mention he has coached many legends. I liked this book, but it didn’t captivate me. I often can’t put my finger on why it isn’t captivating. The content is usually good so I would imagine it is external factors – perhaps it was the voice of the narrator, the projects I was working on while listening, long lags between listening. Who knows, but it was still good. I had already watch the Last Dance documentary so the details of the Bulls rise to fame was fresh in my mind. This book dives into more details about the Bulls and then of course moves on to the Lakers. Phil has influenced many greats and it comes across in the book that he is an old soul. For those that are passionate about the Bulls or Lakers – this one is for you.


Years ago Steve listened to a book called, “Disney Wars” that he loved. I remember starting the same book and the audio was glitchy on my download and I never went back to it. After reading Robert’s perspective in “The Ride of a Lifetime”, I would love to go back and try Disney Wars again.

I listened to this book with a very critical ear. This is one man’s perspective and it was written while he still managed the Disney company which means it was a little “rainbows and butterflies”. I’m sure this had to be vetted by the board, legal team and who knows who else in order to publish. Although interesting, it didn’t have the meat that I would expect of the President of Disney. I would love to read a memoir from him 10 years from now when he no longer has a gag order on what happened during his tenure with Disney. He lightly touches on a lot of things, but doesn’t dive deep into anything. Still a fun an easy read.

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What we’re reading…

Here’s what we’ve been reading lately:

The Nightingale – I read this on a recommendation from a friend and I was not disappointed. It’s based during World War II as it chronicles two sisters and how the they are each affected by the war in unique ways. One sister works to keep her young family alive and the other works to keep others alive. I’ve read plenty of books based on this time period but I loved the sisters vastly different perspective on the same war.

The Resistance – Hallie has read a couple books set during World War II and they are keeping her interest more than any other genre right now. (I remember going through a similar stage when I was younger and haven’t totally grown out of it!) She has read a couple from this author and this Christmas gift was her latest read and she plowed through it quickly – about a young girl who smuggles food and papers into the Jewish ghettos.

I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii –  This is a series of books based on historical events – told from the perspective of a kid  who lived to tell the tale. Hunter has enjoyed this series and his latest  book was the Destruction of Pompeii. I like that these books are based on history and each books is a little history lesson for Hunter.

My Weird School – Bennett is a great reader and enjoys the silliness in books. I’m not sure how many in this series he’s read, but he received two new ones for Christmas and he had them both read in three days. I’ve also caught him reading these books to Cannon and it won’t be long before he’s reading them on his own.


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A few of my favorite things…

Today I’m joining up with Melissa at 320 Sycamore to share a few of my favorites things. Now this may seem like an ecclectic bunch of items…and it is. But my favorite things span all my hobbies and interests including my family’s hobbies and interests. These are items that we’ve used and have used and loved for a while. Tried and true. The best kind of recommendation. (This post contains affiliate links, disclosure here)


A couple years back I took an online modern calligraphy class. In that class I was introduced to so many different styles of brush pens. I cannot be more clear – all brush pens are not created equally and if you don’t have a quality pen, it will be hard to be consistent. My very favorite brush pen is made by Tombow and they come in all sorts of fun colors. Because they are a brush pen, over time they brush will start to fray just a bit and then its time to replace them. It helps to only use the pens on really smooth paper (my favorite marker paper is made by Canson).


I have a love hate relationship with toys. With 5 kids we’ve had so many toys come and go. Some toys I think are going to be a hit and they end up sitting on the shelf collecting dust, while other toys are used over and over again with every kid. Magformers are the favorite toy in our house. We were originally given a set as a gift and we’ve added to the set over the years. Unfortunately, they are pricey. In fact the price might deter you from purchasing – but I’m telling you – the kids love them. And the more you have, the more they can build with them. They can stick to your fridge and make patterns. At times I’ve had them in my church bag and they would stick them to the metal chairs in front of us. Bottom line: We’ve had them for 5 years and they’re still played with just as much today as they were 5 years ago.


 If you’re up for some cheap holiday fun – pick up some of these Holiday Specs. They are paper glasses that transform Christmas lights into fun holiday shapes. It is such a simple idea, but it’s really quite magical and entertaining. They have all sorts of shapes, and it’s fun to experience all of them. Whether you’re driving the neighborhood or enjoying the tree in your living room – this will add some fun. The best way is to buy a variety pack so you can see several shapes. Buy some for you, drop some off at a neighbors house, buy a few more for you so your kids stop fighting over them!


If you know my husband Steve, you know he’s as traditional as they come. Black suit, with black socks, with black shoes. About a year ago he decided to go “wild” and start wearing colored/patterned socks with his suits. This was a big leap for him! But he hasn’t turned back. My favorite men’s sock is Stance. They have some crazy wild patterns but they also have some moderately wild socks and that’s where we’ve landed. 🙂 They have different fits for their socks but they all seem to be a little heavier and more cushion than typical dress socks.


I get asked this question all the time – my favorite place to print books (blog, photo, special event, etc) is blurb. I’ve printed with a lot of companies and Blurb.com is the best quality for the money. They often have promotions so I typically finish a book and then sit on it until they have a good promotion – which has been about monthly. As it gets closer to Christmas they’ll have some 40% off and even a 50% off.


I typically don’t like any books that have moving pieces/pop ups that my child will ultimately rip and ruin. Robert Sabuda books are the exception – and for our family they’re special occasion books which are supervised. I was introduced to Robert’s work while studying graphic design in college and his use of white and negative space in his pop-ups is mind blowing. I marvel as to how he designed these books. We have a couple of his books but every Christmas eve you’ll find us reading Twas the Night Before Christmas (Steve’s family tradition) with our Robert Sabuda pop-up. Really, any of his work is amazing. You won’t be disappointed.


This is a staple for the church bag and roadtrips. Each kid as their own board and everyone is happy that way. We have multiple versions but my favorite is the scribble and play version – we have three of them. It comes with some extra writing tools and when you write on it it’s rainbow. I suppose I should admit that I often steal my kid’s board at church and practice my handwriting with quotes from the lessons and talks!


I bought these for Steve as a gift a couple years back and he fell in love. So much so when I wanted to borrow them earlier this year for a three day school field trip with Hallie – he kindly declined my request and he got me some for mother’s day. I loved them on the school field trip, I loved them even more on our long summer road trip. I use them all the time. Steve has the wireless, I have the wired because they were cheaper. You can imagine my disappointment when I got a new phone with the lightning port and no headphones jack! I tried the little lightning port adaptor and it didn’t work consistently and I lost control of adjusting volume and pausing from the headphones itself. Luckily, Bose is willing to exchange them (for a cost), which is better than having a pair of fairly new, expensive headphones that are no longer compatible.


Woodworking is in my blood and although I have many tools that are near and dear to my heart and could write a whole favorites post on that alone – this little tool packs a might punch. It’s used on every project. Literally. You may think you have no need for this, but you do! It’s an accurate way to measure small areas and it locks into place to make sure measurements stay even. And it has a little built-in level which comes in handy.


This is a book I read a while ago – then read it again and it’s one I think about often. The pursuit of finding what’s most important in daily life and making that the priority. Of course, I have to keep reading and referencing it because life gets jumbled and busy in no time, but this book will make you think. It’s makes you evaluate what’s working and what’s not working. Love it.


We love playing spikeball – and we think we’re way better than we are. When my family gathers we log so many hours playing this game. We’ve ruined countless patches of grass in the process and we’ve learned it’s best played at the park!


That’s my favorites list! There’s a whole line up of blogs sharing their favorite things with 320 Sycamore. Go check it out and see what else needs to be added to your Christmas list! 😉

Monday, 11/12:
12 on Main
Finding Lovely

Tuesday, 11/13
Lil’ Luna
Hello Allison
Creations by Kara

Wednesday, 11/14
Lolly Jane
Melody Warnick


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We had a beautiful day. We spent the morning jumping from one Halloween parade to the next and then we gathered with our neighborhood and friends this evening to celebrate. This picture tells how Briggs felt about it.


Our little Yoshi go-cart cruised around on his scooter with balloons trailing behind him and he couldn’t have been more happy. He’s finally old enough that his little legs could handle walking/scooting the whole time. I pushed an empty scooter all night – I was sure he was going to putter out, but he proved me wrong.

I know Halloween is low on many people’s holiday list – but I love it (minus the candy!). We are in our prime weather season so walking around during a beautiful evening is welcomed. Sharing that walk with friends is even better. Then we show up to all our neighbor’s houses and every house is a welcome and happy greeting. What’s not to love?!

Steve and I sat on the couch (which are pushed extremely close together while we continue working on the house), with costumes and candy wrappers littering the floor and wondered how in the world it’s already November?? Our fall has blown past us and with Halloween behind us, we’re in full blown “holiday” season. Can’t we just have another October? Is that too much to ask?

Sidenote: We picked up this Globber scooter (aff) on clearance after last Christmas and gave it to Briggs for his birthday. He was turning two and maybe a little young to figure it out, even though it has three wheels and much easier than the razor scooters (although Cannon has loved it and used it a lot). About a month ago – he finally figured it out and he now loves it. It’s so funny to watch his little legs push along, so low to the ground. It makes me think he’s ready for the balance bike! 



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Puzzle time…

Someone has discovered a love for puzzles. He’s often sprawled out across the floor with as many as three puzzles at a time. Really, he only knows how to do one puzzle – a Learning Journey spelling puzzle where you you make little four piece puzzles that have a picture and spells the word. We’ve had it since the older kids were young and over the years we’ve lost several pieces but there’s still a lot of letters that form a complete puzzle.

I had no idea he even knew how to do puzzles until I saw him one morning working his magic. Of course he likes to pull out bigger puzzles too even though he can only do this one. It won’t be long until he’ll be able to do them all.

I love watching his little mind work.




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What we’re reading…

Sideways Stories From Wayside School: Bennett is reading one of my favorite books as a child. He found the sequel Wayside School is Falling Down in the closet over the summer and read it only to learn it wasn’t the first book. What I like about this book for his age is it has really short chapters. This is great for young readers because they can read a four page chapter and feel accomplished and feel as though they’re making progress in the book. The chapters are also a little silly in nature and it plays right into his humor.


Frindle: Hunter needs a little more prodding when it comes to reading and it’s not because he isn’t good at it – he struggles to find books that interest him. He’ll get several chapters into a book and not want to finish it. I used to get frustrated because he had a long list of unfinished books. But I can’t blame him – there are plenty of books that I start and don’t have interest in finishing. We’ve started a new school year and we have new reading routines so I’m hopeful we’ll find some books that he loves. He found Frindle in the book closet and he’s a couple chapters in and loving it.


All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook: This is a book we picked up through Scholastic book club last year. I haven’t read it but Hallie seems intrigued. A boy is raised in the prison (where his mom is housed) and gets out every day to go to school. We’ve had some good talking points as Hallie asks questions about what she’s reading. It’s not realistic on any level, but it makes her think outside of what she’s familiar with.


Me Before You: I have been cruising through audiobooks lately as I’ve switched my music to books as I work around the house and complete household tasks. I just finished Chasing Slow – for as high as the reviews were – I was expecting more. But it was an easy listen. I then moved on to Me Before You. I saw the movie a while back and came to realize it was one of three books in a series. I was about to jump into book #2 – but decided to start at the beginning (despite having watched the movie). I’m halfway through and so far, the movie has been true to the book. I suppose I could’ve watched the movie again and started with book #2!


The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life: Steve bounces between business and fictional audiobooks. He is a big Warren Buffett fan when it comes to business. I think he’s listened to it at least three times before – but business is something he never grows old of learning more of and this book has plenty of gems to think about.



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