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June 2014

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What It’s Like to Be a Kid

Letters to Daughter: Ice Cream Date • Little Gold Pixel

Letters to Daughter: Ice Cream Date • Little Gold Pixel

Letters to Daughter: Ice Cream Date • Little Gold Pixel

Letters to Daughter: Ice Cream Date • Little Gold Pixel

Dear Alexa,

You know, after you got a hair cut I barely recognize you anymore. It’s as if that layer of hair that once veiled your shoulder blades also veiled your personality. You have always been a firecracker, so I’m not saying you were dull before. It’s just that if you were a firecracker before, you’re the Fourth of July fireworks display now. You are loud explosion upon loud explosion. A barrage of light and noise and laughter and joy and tears and frustrations and elbow strikes that cause nosebleeds.

What I’m loving the most about your personality right now is you desire to be self-sufficient. I sit on my hands, willing myself to watch as your little fingers struggle to strap on your tap shoes. You let out whimpers when things do not come easily. “Lexa, don’t get frustrated,” I remind you. “Take your time.”

You are figuring out how to get yourself dressed, down to your underpants. When given a choice between a shirt and a dress, it’s always a dress. Sometimes you are Tinker Bell, sometimes you are a princess, sometimes you just twirl and dance and say, “Pretty dress!” But it’s always a dress if you have her way.

That’s how it was that we wore a dress on an ice cream date after dance class, just you and me, kid. You like to take your purse and wear your sunglasses, just like mama.

You chose watermelon sorbet. With strawberries, sprinkles, pink boba and oreo crumbles on top. You ate without getting even a drop on your pretty dress. You asked for a napkin when your hands got sticky. I had a flashback to the days when you wore a bib and needed constant supervision, when I held your spoon in my hand and guided it into your mouth. My baby is gone.

Letters to Daughter: Ice Cream Date • Little Gold Pixel

Letters to Daughter: Ice Cream Date • Little Gold Pixel

Instead you’re this dynamo. You run fast back home in your twirly dress and sandals, loud screams and abrupt mood swings. You were happy. Until you weren’t. You are “No!” and ughhhhhhh. My baby is back.

I try to explain to you why you can’t get your way on this one thing, at this very moment. I tell you to listen. I say, “Listen to Mama.” You turn your head away and ignore me, pouts for miles. We try again. “Did you hear me, Alexa?”

You turn your big brown eyes toward me, cup my face in your hands and say, “Mama, don’t get frustrated.”

Let’s take our time.

Love,
Mama

Letters to Daughter: Ice Cream Date • Little Gold Pixel


 

What Alexa’s wearing: The “princess” dress in the photos was c/o Persnickety. Alexa and I are both thrilled with it. It is what I consider to be an heirloom-quality dress (and it twirls). You can find the dress here. I think this one is ace, too. Sandals are thrifted Salt Waters.

Let’s Talk About Trendy Summer Shoes

Trendy Summer Shoes 2014 • Little Gold Pixel

We were going through a stack of old photos when I saw one of me, in high school, hanging out in the auditorium during a play rehearsal. I was wearing a flannel shirt and bell-bottom jeans, because this was the 1990s. The piece de resistance, though, was my beloved Jesus Sandals. I called them that because they were biblical in my mind — all straps, binding my toes, and barely any sole to speak of. Also when I wore them I felt like I could walk on water. Just kidding.

I’ve never been able to duplicate the awesomeness that was the Jesus Sandals. Certainly not this year, the year in which another high school staple — the Birkenstock — has reared its head again. I have a pair of faux Birks right now ($20 at Payless, and there’s a BOGO sale right now) that will do the trick. All manner of clunky sandals seem to be rising from the ashes of the 1990s for that matter, but I only endorse the Gizeh-style Birks, in case you were curious. The double- and triple-strap styles beg for socks underneath, and no, just no.

When it comes to summer shoe trends this year, I want to focus on two more sophisticated options. (I will still keep an eye out for the return of the Jesus Sandals. Someday, maybe.)

Trendy Summer Shoes: Pointed Sneakers

I can’t get enough of pointed toes. They waned in popularity for a few seasons, and I was suffering with all the rounded toes that tend to make me look squatty. Now I am mindful to pick up any pointed shoes I can find until Big Fashion gets its act together and realizes pointed toes elongate the legs and should forever and always be in style.

My favorites are the Keds polka dots and the Blowfish skimmers, and I’m curious about the perforated styles, too.

Trendy Summer Shoes: D’orsay Flats

D’orsay flats are almost sandals. Half of the shoe is cut out, for crying out loud. As far as I’m concerned, they are a good sandal replacement, especially for women with higher arches or thicker ankles who are tired of poking extra holes into ankle straps. Added bonus: You look like you tried a helluva lot more than if you just wore sandals, and they’re actually easier to put on.

What are your favorite summer sandals? Are there any styles you refuse to wear?


 

Disclosure: I am using affiliate links in this post, which means I would make a small commission if you should click and buy. Thank you for supporting Little Gold Pixel!

Things I Want to Like … But I Don’t

Guilty Displeasures • Things Everyone Likes But I Don't • Little Gold Pixel

Let’s talk today about the things we think we should like because good grief, everyone else on the planet seems to like these things … but you just don’t. It could be anything. Food. Behavior. Sports. Entertainment. Clothes. I want to hear your deepest, darkest annoyances.

Or shall we call them guilty displeasures?

I’ll start.


1. Football

I almost feel anti-American saying that I dislike this sport. As if admitting to the world that this game — a bunch of huge men wearing bulky padding and tight tights and throwing a ball up and down a field — is not my idea of a good time, I will be ousted from the country immediately, deported on the basis of “she is not with us, so she’s against us.” I grew up in a football family. We had a history of watching the Kansas City Chiefs lose together. Tailgating was kind of fun, I guess. But then I would pull out a Babysitter’s Club book and read the entire time, completely oblivious to the ups and downs of the game. I wonder if my parents ever thought they wasted money on my ticket.


2. Sushi/Sashimi

It’s so pretty. Isn’t it? I want to love it very much, but I can’t get over the feeling that I’m chewing my own tongue. That’s what raw fish tastes like to me: Raw tongue that has been cooled in a serial killer’s freezer.


3. Socks

It’s like a really weak fairy is trying to strangle my ankles slowly, all day long. Similar to how Mitch Hedberg felt about turtlenecks.

4. Hot coffee

Dear Hot Coffee,
You taste so much better slightly chilled with two ice cubes.
Love, V


5. Photo-editing apps

I have a lot of photo apps downloaded on my phone. I try them out, loving them intensely for 15 minutes, then I never use them again. I wish this were a problem I reserved for free apps, but no. I’ve paid for some I never touch. Camera+, Over, Rookie, Typic, Flickr, Afterlight, A Beautiful Mess … all of them wasting space on my phone. I’m feeling the same way about Pippit. Is anyone else using Pippit? Please tell me I’m not the only one who hates it. (I will probably be excommunicated from the blogosphere for daring to speak ill of this “hip” app, but oh well.)


6. Westerns

I can’t tell you how many times I gave westerns a try, especially during my 100 Movies project. To quote myself: “I just can’t get into westerns. Maybe it’s a genetic thing. Maybe it’s a female thing. They just do not appeal to me.” Not only do they not appeal to me, they actively annoy me. I barely tolerated the third “Back to the Future,” and it was just a faux western. Maybe it’s all the dust. Maybe it’s all the brooding testosterone and heaving bosoms. Can someone please explain “Blazing Saddles”? Or “Bonanza”? What am I not getting?


 

What are some things everyone likes but you don’t? Please tell me I’m not alone on football.

10 Books to Add to Your Fall 2014 Reading List

 

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Confession time.

I get almost as much enjoyment out of adding books to my library wait list and my Goodreads bookshelves as I do actually reading them. It has become a calming ritual for me — logging into the library site, browsing the new titles, searching for ebooks and audiobooks, juggling my wish list and checkouts and clicking on the suggested titles. It’s a rabbit hole that is nearly as addictive as Pinterest … and infinitely more satisfying. I think it’s satisfying because I definitely eventually maybe will read these books. Whereas Pinterest — well, it sure does look pretty, doesn’t it?

In a recent book-clicking session I noticed a plethora of good books coming out this fall. To channel Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail, who say there’s something about fall that makes them want to buy school supplies (“I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils”), I would mirror that by saying there’s something about fall that makes me want to binge read in the school library.

Yes, I realize it’s June. That doesn’t mean we can’t anticipate. Pre-order. Wait impatiently. Here are 10 books that have made my “to-read” queue, and they should be in yours, too.

Fall Book Preview 2014


miniaturistThe Miniaturist
Aug. 26

Blurb excerpt: On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office — leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin. But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist — an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways.


stationelevenStation Eleven
Sept. 9

Blurb excerpt: One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.


fallingintoplaceFalling Into Place
Sept. 9

Blurb excerpt: On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.  Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? The nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. 


illgiveyouthesunI’ll Give You the Sun
Sept. 16

Blurb excerpt: Jude and her brother, Noah, are incredibly close twins. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude surfs and cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and divisive ways.


roomsRooms
Sept. 23

Blurb excerpt: Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family — bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna— have arrived for their inheritance. But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls.


How to Build a Girl
Sept. 23

Blurb excerpt: It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde — fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer — like Jo in Little Women, or the Bröntes — but without the dying young bit.


nphNeil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography
Oct. 14

Blurb excerpt: Sick of deeply personal accounts written in the first person? Seeking an exciting, interactive read that puts the “u” back in “aUtobiography”? Then look no further than Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography! In this revolutionary, Joycean experiment in light celebrity narrative, actor/personality/carbon-based life-form Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life.


Glory O'Brien's History of the FutureGlory O’Brien’s History of the Future
Oct. 14

Blurb excerpt: Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way … until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions — and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.


shopaholicShopaholic to the Stars
Oct. 21

Blurb excerpt: Becky Brandon has stars in her eyes. She and her daughter, Minnie, have joined husband Luke in LA — city of herbal smoothies, multimillion-dollar yoga retreats, and the lure of celebrity. Red carpet premieres, velvet ropes, paparazzi clamoring for attention — suddenly Becky has everything she’s ever wanted. Or does she?


Waistcoats&weaponryWaistcoats & Weaponry
Nov. 4

Blurb excerpt: Gather your poison, steel tipped quill, and the rest of your school supplies and join Mademoiselle Geraldine’s proper young killing machines in the third rousing installment in the New York Times bestselling Finishing School Series by steampunk author, Gail Carriger. Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style — with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course.


What do you think? Do any of these books sound good to you? Which books would make your fall reading list?

Disclosure: I am using affiliate links in this post, which means I would make a small commission if you should click and buy. Thank you for supporting Little Gold Pixel!

Funny Things Kids Say (They Grow Up So Fast)

Funny Things Kids Say • Little Gold Pixel

It all goes so incredibly fast. These words were uttered so often when I was pregnant that I stopped hearing them. But they are irritatingly true. So much so that I look at Alexa almost every day and think, “What the …? What happened to my itty baby, and who is this kid in front of me?”

It’s not just that she’s a kid and doing kid stuff. It’s that she’s a kid whose personality both matches mine and rivals mine. We are cut from the same cloth, but sometime in the middle of the night, when I wasn’t watching, she has sewn new fabric, new embellishments, new buttons, new zippers to this cloth. It’s not the same cloth anymore. It’s her cloth now.

The best part about Alexa’s blossoming personality is having real, actual conversations with her. And this kid cracks me up on a regular basis with her observations and humor. Here’s a sampling of some of the funny things she’s said lately.

When I impersonate Captain Hook:
“You’re not the sneaky snook! You’re my mama!”

When she was trying on tutus:
“I have a monkey tail now!”

When dropping her off at school one day:
“I wanna go to Hawaii. Please. I don’t want to go to school. I want to go to Hawaii.”

When an older girl acknowledged her by calling her a little baby:
“I’m not a little baby. I’m Alexa.”

When she asked me to sing the water song:
Me: What’s the water song?
Alexa: It’s a song I made up with my mouth. (singing) ‘Water, water, water.’

Apropos of nothing:
“My foot is very dangerous!”

To the door (after a footstool stopped it from shutting):
“Hey! Watch where you’re going.”

While watching the (very trippy) Lego movie:
“Hey, don’t freak me out, man!”

When she asks for something without saying please:
Me: What’s the magic word?
Alexa: Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!

Oh, man. The funny things kids say. There are so many more where that came from, but this mama doesn’t always have the presence of mind to capture all the little moments. It’s better to live them, right? And to celebrate my baby little girl on a daily basis.

I was given the opportunity to create a personalized video on Stanford Children’s Health site that captures these small moments. What makes your kid extraordinary isn’t just the epic stuff. It’s the little things. The small moments that maybe only you see — and quietly celebrate every day. Click here for a peek at my video (it brings a tear to my eyes).

Your kid is extraordinary, too. Show them how much you enjoy every moment together by creating a special video of your own! It’s super easy and only takes a few minutes.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

10 Things That Remind Me of Summer

[alpine-phototile-for-pinterest src=”board” uid=”littlegoldpixel” board=”season-summer-breeze” imgl=”pinterest” dlstyle=”medium” style=”gallery” row=”5″ grwidth=”800″ grheight=”600″ size=”600″ num=”25″ highlight=”1″ max=”100″]

The images above are from my Pinterest board Summer Breeze. Click each photo to go to the individual pins.

They say the problem with drugs is that you are always chasing that first high, the rush of something new and exciting and the memory of how it made you feel. I think you can say the same thing about summer memories. If Pinterest is to be believed, you’re probably making your summer bucket list right about now, trying to cram in all the activities you associate with summer, most of those activities rooted deep down in your childhood years. That first taste of the summer drug.

I have summer memories from adulthood, for sure, most of them very much ocean-based because I moved to the beach after I graduated college. I’ll always be nostalgic for running into the ocean in Myrtle Beach with drunken abandon after the bar finally closed. And there’s nothing like watching the sun set in Big Sur or adding layers in Malibu as the chill sets in.

But for this list, let’s dig down deep. Let’s tap into those earlier summer memories.

1. Fireworks

After a full day of swimming at the lake, we’re back at the campsite. The tent’s up. The adults are grabbing beers from the cooler, quickly securing them inside koozies to keep the heat out. Campfire is going. It’s time to pull out the fireworks and watch the boys do the delicate dance of lighting, waiting to make sure the flame catches, then darting away before the inevitable BANG.

2. Hanging on the jungle gym till dark

At the elementary school a block from our house. I arrived with my best friend, the girl whose imagination matched my own and we would write books or create radio shows but not today. Today was too beautiful to be inside. Instead, we would talk and gossip and sing, all while hanging upside down on the monkey bars. Other neighborhood kids would come and go, but we staked our claim on the bars, and we didn’t leave till we knew our parents would be wondering about us.

3. Fireflies

A roadtrip to Indiana. We are staying with friends of my parents, and their backyard is enormous, lush and green and teeming with fireflies at dusk. Us kids raise around, trying to catch one with our bare hands. I secretly hope we don’t so the moment won’t end.

4. Midnight drives

Summer vacations always seemed to start in the middle of the night. Def Leppard on the radio, windows rolled down. It didn’t take long to fall asleep to the sound of “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”

5. The smell of chlorine

It’s the city pool, where I spent the majority of my time as a kid. They sold Jolly Ranchers for 10 cents and played “Hey Jude” on the regular. We took turns daring one another to jump off the tall diving board. The only time we had to get out of the pool was to pee and for adult swim, which felt like it took forever.

6. Picking mulberries

Walking with Dad to the mulberry field that wasn’t far from our house. We picked the sweet, succulent fruit till our fingers and lips were stained red, then took home our spoils. They didn’t last long. Where can a girl get some mulberries nowadays?

7. Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen

Slip-n-Slide is out. The hose is kattywampus, shooting rogue rainbows of water into the damp grass, creating pools of mud. Mom is lying on the banana chair, getting some sun. Music echoes out of the giant boombox next to her.

8. Dairy Queen ice cream

Softball game is over. Win or lose, it’s time to hit up the DQ and get a cone. It’s a rite of passage. If you choose a Mr. Misty over ice cream, we probably can’t be friends.

9. Sleeping under the stars

The family reunion is under way at a lake in East Texas. Us “cousins” (how are we really related, anyway?) set up cots outside and tuck ourselves into our sleeping bags. It is scary but exhilarating to be so free. No roof over our heads. Our tummies full of catfish and Big Red soda. Our eyes exhausted from swimming all day. We pass out before we chicken out and head back to our families’ respective tents/campers.

10. MTV music videos

Wearing a wet swimsuit, take a break from swimming by heading into the house. I shiver in the air conditioning. I quickly take comfort in a dry towel, then sit on the floor and zone out to videos on MTV. Sledgehammer.

I’m curious — what kinds of summer memories do you have from your childhood? Do you plan to pass any of them along to your own family? 

Kitchen Stuff Too Cool to Pass Up

kitchenstuff3

We’ve had a string of bad luck in the kitchen. Things are breaking left and right. It’s as if our entire collection of plates and cups and bakeware woke up one day and was like, “That’s it! We’re done.” The dishes are gathering like lemmings to jump out of the nearest inconvenient hand or fall off a ledge. They are just biding their time until the opportune moment arises. A slight slip of the grip, a brief distraction, and SPLAT.

The first few deaths were traumatic. A roast chicken went to waste because the bakeware exploded like a suicide bomb. We had to put up Hazmat warnings and keep Alexa from crossing the barricade until the coast was clear. Now the incidents are less dramatic, more of a whimper than a bang. The latest was a plate that emerged from a 45-second pleasure cruise in the microwave with a slow, sad crack.

I know the rest of the dishes want to put out of their misery, so I’ve been looking behind their backs for their replacements. It’s not like the plates were ever any good at anything except overheating, anyway, so our next plates could only be an improvement.

In the meantime I’m easily distracted by pretty things. That is the catchphrase of this blog, after all. “All the shiny things.” All the non-suicidal kitchen things. Only happy kitchen items need apply.

I haven’t found a replacement for the dishes yet, but I found some other cool kitchen gadgets and goodies. Behold:

10 Cool Kitchen Gadgets and Goodies • Little Gold Pixel

So, a word to the wise: I realize that spending $500 on candy jars (1) is out of control (but the jars are oh so cool). But it would be crazy not to buy a cherry pitter (2), considering how much I love cherries but hate spitting out pits. I love the kitchen conversion chart (3) because I can never find the right measurement when I need it. Hello palm-tree cookies (4)! Polka-dotted flatware (5) is subtle and pretty.

10 Cool Kitchen Gadgets and Goodies • Little Gold Pixel

It may be over-the-top for some, but I would love to wipe my hands on an octopus dishtowel (1), wouldn’t you? We go through honey like it’s free in this house … it so isn’t … but I would much rather look at this honey jar (2) than the squeezable bear one more time. How cute are the ice-pop molds shaped like fish (3)? I need a damn good coffee mug (4) for my damn good coffee. Sneaking a treat out of a cactus cookie jar (5) might be worth the calories.

P.S. Even more pretty kitchenware.

What about you — have you seen any cool kitchenware recently that you just couldn’t pass up?

Disclosure: Some of these links are affiliates. Thank you for supporting my blog!

How to Cope When You Can’t Remember Names

Can't Remember Names • Little Gold Pixel

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but what the heck. I’m pretty sure you’ve noticed if you’ve known me for any amount of time.

I am the worst at remembering names.

Well, maybe not the worst. Still, I have a fairly bad track record. A high percentage of the time I can’t remember names of people I’ve met only peripherally or offhand or in passing.

Forget about introducing me to more than one person at a party. Or saying hi on the first day at a new job. I’m telling you, there are people I’ve met at work several times, for several years. They know my name, and it’s well past the date when I can feign ignorance without seeming … well, ignorant.

There are so many tricks for remembering names. Forbes has a pretty good top 10 list. Cup of Jo brings up a good idea by visualizing someone you already know who has the same name.

But what should you do if all these tricks fail you, as they have for me? I rarely forget a face. But the names? Let’s just say mnemonic devices do not work for me when it comes to names, only when it comes to planets. (My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas … RIP, Pluto.)

Sometimes you just have to admit that you can’t remember names. In which case, I deploy one of these four methods.

4 Coping Skills When You Forget Someone’s Name

1. If in a group, rely on someone with a good memory. Take a quick aside and quietly ask for a name prompt. I happen to have a friend with a photographic memory, and while yes, I’m super jealous, I’m also grateful that I can rely on her elephant brain for help.

2. Smile and carry on the conversation without mentioning the other person’s name. You’d be surprised how rarely you actually need to know someone’s name in the course of a conversation. And, while you’re chatting, use your powers of deduction. If you’re lucky, someone else will walk in and say “Hi, Person!” At this time deploy your mnemonic device of choice and pray that this one sticks.

3. Offer a handshake. If you keep seeing the same person in social settings, and you’ve both smiled back and forth but neither of you seems to know the other’s name, you can take the initiative to say, “Hi, I can’t remember if we ever formally met. My name is _______.” The other person will instinctively reciprocate.

4. You fess up. Just flat out tell the mystery person that you are terrible with names, and would they mind sparking your memory? It helps to be the teensiest bit apologetic, but try not to feel awkward about your bad memory. If you absolutely must justify yourself, say something vague, like “Forgive me; I’ve been working so hard my brain is fried.”

Where do you fall? Are you good with names or do you turn to a memory device for help? Do you have any tried-and-true methods for saving face when you forget a name? Please share in the comments!

I’ve Been Reading: 20/60 Book Reviews for 2014

Book Reviews 2014 • Little Gold Pixel

This is an occasional series that chronicles my quest to read 60 books this year. Book reviews 2014: take two. Let’s see how it went, shall we?

I’m going to come right out and say it: This was mostly a dud round. I picked far too many “eh” books. I abandoned one book, which is something I rarely do. Usually I stick it out till the end, some odd literary guilt creeping in and keeping me in a word prison. These few books slowed me down, and I’m now seven books behind pace to finish my challenge this year. I need a pep talk to speed-read. Or a vacation. Or a ton of audiobooks. Or all of the above.

One thing is for sure: I need to stop cramming an entire book into a Sunday afternoon. For one thing, family time suffers, and H and Alexa are left to knock on my preoccupied skull, hollering, “Hello!? Is there anybody in there?!” For another thing, that huge chunk of reading pretty much knocks me out of commission until the next weekend. It’s a vicious reading cycle.

(The links lead to the full reviews I wrote on Goodreads. Do you follow me there? You should!)

P.S. Read my first 10 book reviews 2014 post here.

Book Reviews 2014 (20/60)

Book Reviews 2014: 20/60

Anomaly / Krista McGee
File under: Dystopian, Christian, gee-whiz
Plot: Thalli feels all the emotions she shouldn’t in The State, a society created by scientists after a nuclear war.
Review: Just as I would think this book was getting clever, it beat me over the head with religious propaganda.

A Life in Men / Gina Frangello
File under: Literature, travel, coming of age, kill me now
Plot: Woman with cystic fibrosis outlives her life expectancy, but it’s not for lack of trying.
Review: It’s hard to care about such an unsympathetic character, who pretty much destroys everything she touches and openly welcomes death.

The Wonder Bread Summer / Jessica Anya Blau
File under: Literature, summer read, travel, adventure
Plot: Highly improbable things happen when a college student steals a Wonder Bread bag full of cocaine in 1983.
Review: It’s a wild, hilarious ride, with a few life lessons along the way.

Turn Around Bright Eyes / Rob Sheffield
File under: Music, memoir, god-awful, didn’t finish
Plot: Man is “saved” by karaoke.
Review: Too bad this was a memoir instead of a novel because author doesn’t seem to realize how uninteresting he really is.

Panic / Lauren Oliver
File under: Y.A., coming of age, suspense
Plot: Small-town high school graduates join an underground game of daredevil challenges, and a huge sum of cash awaits for the winner.
Review: Author redeems herself (after the ho-hum “Delirium” series) with a smart and touching tale of trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life.

Call Me Zelda / Erika Robuck
File under: Fan fiction, literature, historical, love story
Plot: Psychiatric nurse gets tangled up in helping Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Review: Surprisingly more than meets the eye, this novel really comes around full circle with a satisfying plot for the protagonist herself.

The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca / Tahir Shah
File under: Travel, memoir, Morocco
Plot: Writer decides to take his family out of the London rat race by moving to a slower-paced life in Morocco.
Review: This is an endearingly naive and extraordinarily well-written memoir that reads like a novel and introduces you to the mystique and idiosyncrasies of a different culture.

Luminary / Krista McGee
File under: Dystopian, Christian, OMG why am I still reading this series?
Plot: Thalli looks for nuclear-fallout survivors outside The State.
Review: I know this series is bad for me, but much like Thalli, I just can’t stop myself from doing stupid things.

Black Moon / Kenneth Calhoun
File under: Dystopian, literature, horror
Plot: Insomnia becomes an epidemic, and the afflicted grow violent toward those who can still sleep, targeting and killing them as they doze.
Review: If you’re looking for a riveting, beautifully written book that will make you question what it means to be human and exactly how fragile our humanity is … look no further.

Dear Killer / Katherine Ewell
File under: Teen, crime, psychological thriller
Plot: Teen girl is actually London’s most notorious serial killer, and then she starts making mistakes.
Review: Author fails to deliver on what could’ve been a really good premise by not patching holes in logic and essentially murdering the ending.

In a Nutshell

Three to read: The Wonder Bread Summer, The Caliph’s House, Black Moon

Three to avoid: Turn Around Bright Eyes, Luminary, Dear Killer


 

So there you have it. Twenty down, 40 to go. Wish me luck! What have you been reading lately? I’m always on the lookout for a good book …

⇒ Linking up this post with Modern Mrs. Darcy, where there are a ton more reading recommendations.

5 Tips for a Happy Marriage

“Look at this — the evolution of a relationship.”

He and I were at a party, young newlyweds curled up next to each other, practically sitting on each other’s lap, hand in hand. Our hostess was gesticulating wildly at us, a sudden realization hitting her.

“Look at you guys. Young love.”

She feigned a sigh of bliss. Then she pointed at another couple, sitting on opposite ends of a couch.

“See this? That’s two years into a relationship.”

She laughed.

“And this,” she said, waving her arm back and forth to her husband, who was sitting across the room, “is five years of marriage.”


 

16 Year Anniversary • Little Gold Pixel

The Dynamic Duo, circa 2011

Today H and I celebrate 16 years of marriage. It seems like so many years, and yet they went by in a blink of an eye. I can’t recall whether the couples at the party are still together. I wouldn’t be shocked if they weren’t because over the course of our marriage, H and I have seen the dissolution of many friends’ relationships. I’m sure many thought ours would dissolve, too. We married so young. I was 19, he was 20. There were whispers that I must be pregnant (I wasn’t).

I’ve been asked one question over and over again: What’s your secret?

The answer: There are so many. It’s the little things. It’s the big things. It’s the impossible. It’s the simple. It’s the excruciating times. It’s the blissful times.


 

Little Gold Pixel

For example, there is the case of the egg muffin. H made some delicious egg muffins last weekend: turkey sausage, kale, eggs, cheese. They are the perfect breakfast because they require literally zero effort. Just grab and go.

We were down to the last few, and H left one for me. Upon seeing it in the fridge, I put it back, thinking, “I’ll leave that for H. He’ll be hungry when he gets home.” This happened back and forth for three days, neither of us eating that damn delicious muffin. Neither of us wanting to deny the other the chance to eat it.

“Are you ever going to eat that muffin?” he finally asked me.

“I left it for you,” I said.

He chuckled. “I left it for you, too.”


5 Tips for a Happy Marriage • Little Gold Pixel

5 Tips for a Happy Marriage

This list is based solely on our own experience, and in no way is it exhaustive. It also assumes that you are head-over-heels in love (l-u-v) with your partner, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Because, as The Beatles sang, all you need is love. 

  1. Be communicative. And when you think you’re done communicating, do it some more. Try not to go to sleep angry. Hash it out. Do not let issues lie beneath the surface. That’s how people lose their minds.
  2. Be considerate. Leave each other the last muffin, for crying out loud. Put your partner’s needs/wants at least equal to your own, if not ahead of your own as necessary. Give and take, push and pull. Think of your marriage like an ocean. There will be times when your priorities will be on top, and there will be times when your priorities are on bottom.
  3. Be silly. Let your guard down and just be a doofus. Do not hold back any aspect of your personality. If you aren’t comfortable with your partner, who will you be comfortable with?
  4. Be intimate. It’s important to remember the romance.
  5. Be realistic. It’s important to also forget the romance. Life happens. You will get bogged down in the day-to-day, and you have to know that every day of your marriage will not be rainbows, unicorns and sunshine. Sometimes it will rain. These are the times you have to remember that this is life. It’s not a fairy tale. Do not mistake infatuation with love. Your partner’s job isn’t to make you happy or romance you every single day. Have unconditional love, be kind. Reference back to the first four tips for a happy marriage. You will get through the bad times, in sickness and in health. Till death do you part.

 

Little Gold Pixel

You might be wondering about our current seating arrangements. Are we still sitting next to each other on the couch? Did we defy the “evolution of a relationship”?

Sure. We sit next to each other, sometimes almost on top of each other!

Also …

We sometimes sprawl out. And sometimes we’re across the room from each other.

The tether that ties us together is resilient. It allows for a lot of slack, and yet it can bounce back to bring us closer and closer together.


 

See also: Our 13th anniversary, our 14th anniversary