Favorite Books of 2017 (So Far)

This year I set out to read more and binge watch less. 

I read all the articles about how much time we spend watching TV, how many books I could actually read in a year... and realized I didn't need to rewatch the entire Gossip Girl series for the fourth time. Don't worry, I've still made time to rewatch seasons of Top Chef, catch up on all the episodes of Younger and finally see Moana, but I've also been devouring some really good (and really average) books thanks to the Des Moines Public Library. 

Since setting myself this little goal, I've read 18 books (most via the Overdrive App on my Ipad.)

Below are a few of my favorites, with a couple notes about what made them stand out as super. 

I actually listened to Lindy West read this one. It was so sad at times I wanted to hug Lindy and tell her she's doing ok. But then she exhibits such bold, bad ass strength I want her to hug me and tell me I'm doing ok. All the feels.

I remind myself of many quotes from this book, daily. Jen Sincero is direct with her advice, saying what you already know, but in a way you won't soon forget. 

I just want to be friends with you, Jessi Klein. This book was funny, relatable and honest: three qualities I look for in a book and a bestie. 

This complicated character touched me. A quick read with lots of sliced up, smart writing. 

What to say when you don't know what to say

Sure, love letters are fun to send when your sister is pregnant, your aunt got a promotion and your college roommate just finished grad school. But what about the friend who lost her brother, your mother-in-law who just spent way too much time in the hospital or that neighbor struggling through a hot mess of a job loss?

Here's the truth: It's hard to know what to say when things are hard. 

I find myself sitting over a blank notecard, trying to write the "right" message. The fact is there really isn't a right thing to say, but I have a few tips.

  1. Be Honest
    Emily Post and I agree on this point. Just "say what you truly feel." 
  2. Keep it Brief
    We do not want to dwell on the bummer, so let's keep our message to our saddened friend honest (as we just discussed) and concise. Shoot for 3-4 sentences of kind-hearted words.
  3. Don't Try to "Understand"
    We've all experienced pain. We've all been through a break up, a break down or an arm break, but everyone experiences despair in their own way. I know it's tempting to say "I totally know what you're going through" (and believe me I've done it more times that I would like to admit). As humans, and ones who feel enough empathy to send notes in the mail, we are inclined to relate to each other, but in this case, let's just be supportive and leave the "understanding" to a IRL conversation. 
  4. But Offer Specific Support
    Close your note with a specific, personal offer. "I know it won't mend your broken heart, but I'd love to bring over some wine and a hug soon." 
  5. Grief Has No Expiration Date
    Yes, it's important to send a timely note. Any of us who have lost someone we loved, suffered through an illness or dealt with any kid of heaviness, well, we know that there's no absolute end date for the pain of it. You had a hard time putting into words what to say to a friend who is suffering? Send a note now. People say "it's the thought that counts" for a reason. Because it's true. If you send a message from your heart, it'll be heartfelt.

I've pulled together some of my favorite cards for those hard-to-say situations below.
Click on an image to take you to the home of these super talented, thoughtful greeting card makers. 

Free Stuff: It's National Beer Day!

So I might love red wine, but there's nothing like a cold beer on a hot day.  

Some of the greatest #nomadlyweds road trip memories include sipping local beers with my husband in places I never thought I'd be. You know, places like Port St Joe, FL with the tastiest beer from Tennessee or the elusive No Name Pub. Beers on the beach in Puerto Rico, at a Giants game, at an actual roadhouse in South Dakota and a brewery in Missoula with beers named after fishing flies. We've had some of my favorite conversations with each other and with strangers over a cold one. 

To celebrate a warm day, and a day that just so happens to be NATIONAL BEER DAY, raise your favorite brew and toast the return of the sun. 

FREE printable tags to tie one on. I mean to add to your favorite six pack. 

Cheers!

March Favorites

In like a lion, out like a lamb? I think March went the other way. The end of this month has been a bit of a crazy ride (for so many people I know... Is there something crazy happening in the Universe right now?)

But here's what I loved in March:

Spotify

I spent a whole lotta time bobbing my head to my “Discover Weekly” playlist this month. Whether it was with my headphones plugged in at the local Panera (enjoying a cinnamon crunch bagel, obvs) or in the car on one of our many trips to Iowa City these past two weeks- I’ve been jamming to the musical picks the Spotify mix masters put together for me. Current finds that are on repeat: the new Drake, Solange and HAIM.

Corks for College Illustrations

Kevin and I had the pleasure of chairing one of our favorite events supporting one of our favorite causes here in Des Moines: The I Have a Dream Foundation. IHDF is giving children in our community access to books, academic support, mentors and, most of all, helping each child and their family dream big for their futures. This past week’s event raised $49,000 for this incredible organization. (And my illustrations were all over it- which makes me so happy)

plugged in books.jpg

FreelanceWritingGigs.Com

I’m trying to practice my writing skills- and the best way to do that is to write more and maaaybe find a few additional ways to get myself in the freelance game. This exceptional site posts paid writing gigs, daily. Occasionally you're taken to a dead end Craigslist ad, but if you're looking to get yourself out there and write more, this list is well worth a regular visit. [Wouldn't it be fun to write for sites like Brit and Co, The Everygirl, Being Boss or Create + Cultivate?]

Solange

I love Lemonade, you guys. But let’s just talk about Solange for a minute. Because if you haven’t listened to "A Seat at the Table" on repeat, you’re totally missing out. 

Bellweather Rhapsody
By Kate Racculia

Found through the “try something different” collection on Overdrive, this murder mystery was a nice little book to escape into. If you’re a classical music lover the descriptions of orchestral music in this book will make your heart sing. A story about twins called Alice and Rabbit, this book was a bit dark, with flowery descriptions that brought the aging Bellweather Hotel, and the characters occupying it, to life in such a lovely way. And I'm happy to say I'm well on my way to reading more books this year. Finally.

Pullman Bar and Diner

We spent some unexpected time in Iowa City this month, which wasn't for fun, but it did give us a few opportunities to eat at one of our very favorite spots: The Pullman. Anything on the menu is a hit, but I recommend the fried chicken or the cheeseburger. (And if you're lucky enough to snag a bar seat at brunch, get the egg sandwich.) The nicest staff, the most chill place, the tastiest food. 

I wish we’d have taken before and after photos of this incredible product. I might talk with my hands a little too much, especially when on my second (or third) glass of wine at a party. I might have gestured a bit too boldly and spilled some serious wine on my shirt and my husband’s (favorite) sweatshirt. After a few minutes of panic, the party hostess handed me this tiny spray bottle filled with miracles. They were right- easy as 1, 2, 3. And like magic, his WHITE sweatshirt looked like new. A must have for anyone who is a hand-talker who loves the red, red wine. 

What did you love in March?