Books

Books: Girl, Wash Your Face

I wasn’t going to read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. Something about all the hype surrounding it turned me away. Then I spotted it on a shelf near the children’s section of the library while on my weekly visit with the girls and seized the moment.

It was a quick read, which, in all honesty, is about the only reason why I finished it. Some of the chapters were somewhat relatable and enlightening. Some of them made me strongly dislike this woman. When Hollis writes about real, hard-hitting topics like suicide and serving as a foster parent, the message is compelling. When she writes about “achieving the goal” of purchasing a $1,000-handbag, she seems petty and clueless.

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At the beginning of the book, she attempts to lay out a platform of lifting other women up instead of tearing them down. That’s a concept I can definitely rally around, despite the fact that I’ll admit I’m kind of tearing her down right now. I’m aware of that, but I also believe in expressing my honest opinion of the things I read. They can’t all be the best thing ever!

A few chapters into the book, I was feeling beaten down by her for enjoying Diet Coke and getting a little winded running a mile on the treadmill. She hasn’t had a Diet Coke in years (never mind the fact that she slams non-fat lattes like they’re going out of style) and she runs marathons. I have nothing against lattes and marathons, but Hollis makes it sound like her way is the only way.

At the end of the day, this book didn’t live up to the hype. In fact, most of it kind of annoyed me. I wanted reading it to feel like chatting with a good friend, but it didn’t feel that way at all. I still do not ever feel that time spent reading is wasted. Even if the book isn’t great, or doesn’t uplift or intrigue me, I still believe it is worthwhile to have read someone else’s thoughts, ideas, and stories.

 

 

 

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In My House

Sweater Weather (All Under $35)

This morning when I drove to work, the thermometer on my car said it was 1 degree outside. Yes, 1, people! It’s officially sweater weather in western South Dakota. While I’m not a fan of freezing cold weather, I do enjoy a cozy sweater and here are four beautiful ones. I ordered the first one over the weekend and am holding off on the others for now, but someone out there should definitely purchase them soon. Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week?

Sweaters

1. I ordered this sweater online this past weekend because I love the deep green. I hope it arrives in time to wear for Thanksgiving and it will be great through the holiday season. (Banana Republic) 2. Loft is my go-to for comfortable sweaters that take me from work to play to church and back to work again. This light blue is gorgeous. (Loft) 3. The cheerful bright yellow and ruffles on this sweater caught my eye. (Halogen for Nordstrom) 4. I love how the sleeves on this sweater add feminine element to an otherwise basic black top. (J.Crew)

Adventures

My Apologies to Every Single Person in the West Side Starbucks Last Saturday

Sometimes I feel like I’m really rocking the motherhood thing. Then my toddler, dressed like a fluffy white snow owl, trips a lady carrying a laptop computer and a cup of coffee. Just like that, I’m one of those people. You know, the kind of people letting their kids run mad in a public place.

Last Saturday while my husband was working, I tried to take our four-year-old and 18-month-old trick-o-treating in downtown Rapid City. It was cold, windy, crowded, and not worth it for three or four Tootsie Rolls, so I decided to abort that mission and take the girls for hot chocolate and cookies. The nearest place with easy parking and a public restroom was Starbucks on the west side of town.

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I got the girls settled at a table with the most adorable owl-shaped cookies and their Starbucks beverages of choice: Hot chocolate for the eldest, white milk for the youngest. Everything was going so great. I was sipping my vanilla latte and patting myself on the back for raising such little angels who can go out for an afternoon coffee break without losing their stuff.

Then my youngest got restless. She started to climb around on her seat, throw her cookie, and then run around the Starbucks seating area. The more I tried to rein her in, the wilder she became. My oldest picked that precise moment to spill her hot chocolate so as I scrambled to clean up that mess, I turned my head for just a moment. (Classic mom mistake). I heard a crash, then hysterical crying. My little one had run into a young woman carrying a laptop. The woman dropped her laptop and my daughter hit the floor, where she immediately started sobbing.

The young woman was incredibly gracious. Apologizing (it totally was not her fault) and trying to make sure my little one was OK (she was). Fortunately her laptop was, too, I think. I quickly gathered my crew and booked it to the car, apologizing desperately as I high-tailed it out of the building.

I was embarrassed. I was mad at myself for taking my young children to a place where others were trying to have a quiet afternoon, and, above all, I doubted my ability as a mom. In the days following, I realized that the only person judging me that day was me.

In most circumstances, this one included, we as mothers are our own toughest critics. Everyone in the coffee shop was kind. In fact, there were two other moms enjoying a coffee date with their school-age children who were behaving a little on the wild-side, too, and no one seemed to mind. It made me realize that these interactions are an important part of teaching our little ones social skills.

So I’ll probably still take my little ones out in public by myself sometimes. I’ll probably still tear my hair out occasionally when doing so. And I’ll probably be embarrassed again at least a time or two.

To the kind young woman my toddler tripped, thank you for being so gracious to this frazzled mom. I owe you a Starbucks. And maybe a new laptop.

Adventures

All 50 by 40: Tennessee and Arkansas

Some of my favorite trips are the ones I go into with no expectations. My expectations for Memphis were fairly simple: Visit Sun Studio, stop at Graceland, sleep in past 6:30 a.m., eat some barbecue, and enjoy a romantic anniversary date with my husband. It met all those expectations and then some.

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Sun Studio was my favorite place in Memphis. There’s something about setting foot in such sacred ground where Elvis, Johnny Cash, and others began creating the music that I love and that would influence pretty much every rock musician from that day forward. Our tour guide was super cool, entertaining, and informative so that certainly didn’t hurt.

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Throughout Sun Studio are pieces of original recording equipment, records, radios, and of course a lot of photos. The tour guide played a lot of original music as he explained the history of this magical place. It was so cool.

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We also toured Graceland. While not as inspiring to me as Sun Studio, it was definitely cool seeing Elvis’ home. I learned a lot more about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

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We toured Elvis’ living room, dining room, airplanes, and even the Jungle Room. Sadly, I forgot to photograph the latter. I think I was just distracted by that much green shag carpet.

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Graceland was built in the 1930s. Elvis purchased it when he was in his early 20s and already an international star. The inside of the home is oh-so-1970s which was tacky and cool at the same time.

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Elvis was only 42 at the time of his death. He had achieved such over-the-top stardom, yet seemed to long only for spending time at home with his family. The tour definitely sparked a lot of conversation between my husband and I about what his life must have been like.

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Memphis was a great, laid-back place to take in a little history and a lot of barbecue. On our last night, we toasted our fifth anniversary at High Cotton Brewing Company. Then we took in some great live music on Beale Street.

Fifth Anniversary

We stayed at the Sheraton in downtown Memphis, a short walk or trolley ride to Beale Street and other area attractions. Notable meals we ate were ribs and catfish at Westy’s, to-die-for barbecued pork shoulder at Rendezvous, and some yummy steaks and oysters at 117 Prime. The food scene in Memphis was great and my barbecue-fan hubby definitely enjoyed.

Beale Street

As far as Arkansas goes, we merely drove across the Mississippi River to look around, so I don’t have much to say about that state. Sorry for the lame review, Arkansas. Maybe we’ll meet again another day. This end this trip with just four more states to visit before I turn 40 and almost five years to do that. I’m feeling confident that I will accomplish this goal.

The Updated List

Alaska

Michigan (I have been to airports)

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Books

Books: Educated

Educated was another book I grabbed off the shelf at my local library when I was there with my kids. I read a few pages right away that evening and was instantly hooked. Tara Westover grew up in rural Idaho. She never attended school and didn’t have a birth certificate.

Despite the odds stacked against her and parents who are adamantly against higher education, established medical care, and any government involvement, Westover obtains a decent score on the ACT and gets into Brigham Young University. Rather than being proud of her, her parents try anything they can to keep her away from her pursuit of higher education.

Westover describes the tragedies that come from her parents’ views against established medicine. She details her father’s paranoia over Y2K and his preparations for the end of days. Her ability to overcome her background is shocking and powerful.

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Westover’s story of overcoming great odds to obtain a doctorate from Cambridge is inspiring. Her success is not without sacrifices. She reminds us that sometimes the people we want to love us are the ones who hurt us the most.

I kept going back to the fact that someone who had little to no education up until the age of 17 could not only write a book, but could write a book as amazing as this. Westover’s writing is, at times, so painfully honest and thought-provoking. This is one of the best books I have read this year. It would make a great book club read.

 

 

 

 

Food

Roasted Squash Soup

I love squash soup, but I have never made it myself. My mother-in-law gave us some lovely squash so I decided to whip up a batch of this beautiful comfort food this past weekend. Even my squash-hating hubby enjoyed this soup.

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I started by cutting a large squash in half and scooping out the seeds.

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I drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and roasted for nearly an hour.

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Allow the squash to cool for a while before scooping out the good stuff and putting in a blender. At this point, an immersion blender on the stove top would work as well.

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As I puréed the squash in batches in my blender, I added chicken broth, sautéed onion and garlic, and maple syrup. I seasoned it with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

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Maple syrup adds a comforting sweetness to the soup. I then simmered the soup in a large pot on the stove until we were ready to eat dinner. I used an entire 32-ounce box of chicken broth, but you can add the broth gradually to ensure you achieve the thickness you want. Vegetable broth could be used to make this an entirely vegetarian dish.

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Before serving, I drizzled a bit of olive oil over the soup and sprinkled each bowl with a bit more nutmeg.

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Recipe:

  • 1 large (or a couple of small) squash
  • 32 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon nutmeg (plus more for sprinkling before serving)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

 

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds
  • Drizzle each half of squash with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place each half of the squash face down on a large baking sheet.
  • Roast the squash in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Let the squash cool for at least 15 minutes before scooping out of the peel and into the blender.
  • Purée the squash in batches, never filling the blender more than half full at a time. It will expand as you blend.
  • As you blend the batches, place the puréed squash in a large pot on the stove.
  • Simmer for about 15 minutes, adding more broth as needed until the desired consistency is achieved.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with nutmeg and serve!
Adventures

The Lost Sock

A few nights ago, I got upset with my husband for losing one of my socks in the laundry. In my defense, he has a history of losing my socks when he does a load of laundry. In his defense, he was helping with laundry so why was I being so high-strung? In both our defense, it’s pretty awesome that the only thing we had to fight about that week was a lost sock.

After telling him he needs to pay more attention and insisting he help me look for the sock for nearly an hour, I found it. I didn’t want to tell him where because it was in my closet, tucked in a pair of my pants, completely my fault and not his at all. Embarrassed and humbled, I swallowed my pride and admitted my mistake.

In nearly five years of marriage I have learned that life is not always going to be perfect and that’s OK. Even as I was losing my mind over this dumb sock, I could tell how ridiculous I was being. Isn’t that the worst? When you’re being ridiculous and you know you’re being ridiculous, but you can’t turn it off?

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There are some things that just don’t matter. Read: Lost socks. I was clearly taking my stressful work week and parenthood-induced exhaustion and pouring all of that emotion into an epic search for that sock. Seriously. It wasn’t even a new sock.

In quite a few of my blog posts, I write about cutting ourselves some slack. That message is a reminder to myself as much as it is to any of you, readers. Sometimes I have it together. Sometimes I’m throwing a toddler-style tantrum because of something as inconsequential as a sock.

Fortunately, most of the time I don’t mind admitting I made a mistake and, most of the time, my husband is quick to forgive. We could laugh about this situation almost immediately. I’m thankful for that. Almost as thankful as I am to have my sock back.