Another Random Reading Update

It's time for another random list of books I've been reading and my musings on them. This list is going to be a long one. I've been reading a ton instead of sleeping lately. Please let me know what I should read next!

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Having loved The Nightingale, I finally gave in and read All the Light We Cannot See. It had been recommended to me multiple times and I have no clue what took me so long to read it. Haunting is the best word I have for it. The beauty taken and the beauty distroyed during WWII are illuminated in a tale of beauty being preserved. The novel follows the story of two children throughout the war; one a blind Parisian girl who flees to a picturesque seaside town and the other a German orphan made into a solider. One is hiding while and other is seeking and they both are fighting. I keep going back to haunting. Read The Nightingale. Then read this! Go!

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Having throughly enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, I decided to continue with my Pulitzer Prize winning kick. I go back and forth on this book. There were sections of it I loved. It was raw and beautifully written. Then it got verbose or took seemingly senseless turns. This bad boy is long too. I would recommend it, overall. It is a beautiful coming of age despite repeated tragedy story that had me engaged for far more than it lost me. Theo looses his mom in a tragic accident. The book follows him as he bounces from place to place, looking at how a single day colored each move in his life.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman 

Per usual, I found this book based on a list of novels turning into movies. This one cut me deep. A young woman falls in love and follows her new husband to a remote island off the Australian coast. They are the only inhabitants and he is the lighthouse keeper. After one pregnancy loss after another, they are both broken. This book nails the desperation, the protection, and the psychological trauma that follow loss. This young couple take extreme action which, as someone who has suffer loss, is not too much of a stretch to understand. I have been recommending this book to anyone and everyone. But, if you've experienced pregnancy or child loss be warned. It might be a more difficult read. 

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby 

Funny Girl was downright fluff compared to my other reads of late. It follows a young, new to London girl and the journey the of curmudgeon company she joins take to making it big. It was light, quick, and interesting. If you're looking for a more mindless read that's full of whit, this is a good pick.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

I have no clue what lead me to State of Wonder.  It was on my phone when I had no other books to start so I went for it. It's a light, rediscovering oneself type book set in the Amazon. Marina struggles with her identity as an Indian American, a doctor, and a woman as she journeys into the Amazon to chase down a coworker and a former mentor. The novel explores her own questions of who she is while looking at the morality of exploration and experimentation. 

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Yah... about this book. I'm rather proud of myself for finishing. It had random side stories, got super harsh at times, and was altogether not very compelling. 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Wow. This was a gem to find. This is Celeste's first novel and I cannot wait for more. The story follows the individual tales of a family trying to piece together the mysterious death of their daughter/sister. It grapples with loss and grief for both her death as well as the paths not taken in each of their lives. This is another must read as far as I'm concerned. 


Supporting a Friend After a Miscarriage

My husband and I are a member of a club that no one wants to be apart of. It's a rather secretive club, because not many talk about their membership. We lost our first child. I miscarried our sweet surprise. I'm not going to go into details. This story, like everyone's story who has lost a child, is sacred. And I want to focus on something else today.

I decided to share this post nearly six years after our loss due to the loss of a friend of a friend. My friend reached out to asking how to support the bereaved. Because of the deeply personal nature of pregnancy loss, it is often kept quite. When people do share the people who should be a wonderful source of help suck at responding.

I cannot blame them. We suck at responding to death in general. I'm a Bereavement Coordinator for a Pediatric Hospice. Believe me...our whole society is just awful at responding to child loss. It's almost like people think it's contagious. And peoples' varying understandings and feelings towards an unborn child? Well that just makes people say stupid things...or run and hide.

I shared my pregnancy with very few people. Those nearest and dearest to my husband and me knew. And they tried to share in our loss. One dear friend said something so simple to me; "I hate this. I wish I could be there." Others were more at a loss and said some pretty unhelpful and even hurtful things. And I do not blame them at all.

What I learned was that the pain is continual and changing. It simmers after awhile. Then things bring it back up. The first twelve weeks of my second and third pregnancies were excruciating. Seeing other kiddos that are the same age of my first can be fine or can be a gut shot

All of this is a round about way of saying that when someone shares their loss with you, it is a moment in which you can be an amazing source of peace or another weight. Its also is to say, that everyone is different in how the grieve.

Here's what I wish people would know about how to be a source of peace:

Talk! But mind your words.

You're not going to know what to say. That's fine. You're going to be nervous. That's fine too. Please just say something. It can be as simple as "I'm sorry." But radio silence is hurtful. Also, please avoid cliches or large statements of faith or destiny unless you are echoing sentiments that the bereaved has already expressed. I know that hearing "it wasn't in God's plan" made me want to hurl or punch someone. I understood this comment was based on someone trying to rationalize what happened, their own pain, and to put it in the perspective of our shared faith. But no. Please just no.

Offer tangible support...or even just give it without asking.

I encourage that if you are looking to support someone who has lost a child, be there. Drop by with coffee, even if she doesn't want you to stay. Watch her kiddos while she lays in bed or goes for a walk. If she gets pregnant again, ask her how she's holding up. Saying, "please let me know if you need anything" is nice. But it puts the person in the situation to think of what kind of help she needs. It makes her rethink even asking and weigh the burden it will put on the helper. I've found its better to say, "I'd love to stop by with dinner. Is tomorrow or Thursday better for you?" Or buy a bottle of wine and doorbell ditch. You may not be sure you can keep your shit together while visiting. If you don't think you can, it might be better to take the silent strike approach.

Please be patient.

Months on, we might still be in a fog. We might still have days where all we can do it get out of bed. We may neglect our friendships to an unreasonable point. Please don't stop trying. It takes time to get yourself moving again. And it takes even more time to have the energy to return to all of what life looked like before. In some ways, having fun and doing things you love seems disloyal. It can be emotionally draining to be happy and then feel guilty about being happy. Please keep asking. And please don't take it personally when we say no.

Remember with us. 

I would have been 36 weeks pregnant with our son while being a bridesmaid for a dear friend's wedding. The dress was bought with my pregnant belly in mind. One of my sweet friends, also a bridesmaid, pulled me aside and asked me how I was doing when she saw me staring at that damn dress. She simply said that she didn't know what it felt like, but she was sure it sucked. And she was sad with me. She remembered what should have been and was willing to talk about my baby. That moment meant the world to me.

If you know that your friend has named her child, talk about him or her by name. Consider calling or dropping by coffee on your friend's due date. Remembering important dates speak volumes to us.

I found these cards by Dr. Jessica Zuker. I cannot speak highly enough of them. There is a different moment in my grief process where I would have been so thankful to receive each of them. I hope that I will be able to support others with these sediments if anyone else confides in me their membership in the world's crappiest club.


Fifth Birthday Photos with Elizabeth Cavagnaro Photography

Last time we were in San Diego {when we did these adorable Smash Cake photos} we snuck in an early Fifth Birthday shoot for Emma with Elizabeth Cavagnaro Photography. These suckers were low key, shot at my dad's house, and taken in a lot of wind. The poor balloons did not survive the million cacti my dad has well. And still, they are wonderful!

The dress Emma is wearing is from H&M. She picked it out herself. I think it perfectly captures who she is at five. She wears dresses as often as possible, her skinny little legs are always covered in bruises from all the adventures she takes, and she's certain she is the heigh of fashion with her mismatched socks.

This girl is full of personality. She is so confident and is always making new friends. She is fiercely loyal, especially to her daddy.

This kid. She is all things pink and sparkly. Her favorite color is fuchsia with sparkles. She loved every minute of ballet and thinks dress up should always involve glitter and crowns. But she's also rough and tumble. She loves to explore, plays just as well with boys as girls, and has not met a person she didn't make a friend. She could live all day on bubbles, sunshine, and pretzels. 

I see so much of the best of my husband and I in her. She always wants to know why. She is handy with a hammer and screw driver. Emma is compassionate and feels deeply for others. She is silly and a total jokester. She is also both easily distracted and hyper focused. She is a perfectionist to a fault. She wants to know what her day is going to look like the moment she wakes up. Its so humbling to see your struggles in the personality of your child.

In the last year, Emma grew into the roll of big sister with more grace and love than I could have every hoped for. She genuinely loves her little brother. She is so patient with him as he destroys in an attempt to play with her. Oh how she hugs him! She walked into Pre-K with little fear and emerged even more confident and capable than when she started. She added lots of ballet moves, if not a ton of grace, to her repertoire. She went on her first big family vacation and cannot wait to explore more of the world. I am beyond thankful to see her grow and change day to day.


11 Scrap Busting Projects {or use up all your small scraps!}

I have this emotional battle that rages inside me each time I cut into fabric. It goes something like this: Should I keep these scraps? Yes!!!! You can never throw away fabric, no matter how small of a piece. No!!! You have too much crap and clutter already. You don't need more scraps that you'll never use!

Tell me I'm not alone!

I've been working on reining in my scrap hoarding a bit. I've recently got rid of some of the lower quality fabrics, ridiculously small pieces, and fabrics that just don't speak to me anymore. Now I'm trying to sort through what I really might use vs. what I'm just deluding myself with. So I've started looking for scrap busting projects. Here's some of my favorites I've found:

I love, love, love Simple Simon and Co's Quilt as You Go bib tutorial! You can check out my versions here.

Crazy Little Projects has an adorable Pouch and 5 Minute Key Fob tutorial. Both are perfect for scraps!

My Sunglass Case Tutorial is very scrap friends. It's a quick sew that makes a great gift for friends!

I want to make these beautiful luminaries from Blythe Ponytail Parades for every party!

These Fabric Scrap Bracelet at Saved by Love Creations look like a great project to have kiddos help out with!

I love these little hearts. They are perfect for parties or kids' rooms. I need to make some for a summer mantel!

Making Home Base has a great West Elm Knock Off that is just perfect for those precious scraps you want to display.

See Kate Sew used 50 different fabric scraps to make this amazing map!

Smaller made cute little braided necklaces with her scraps. I think they would be great for a girls (little or all grown up) sleepover!

Made Everyday's fabric scrap flowers are great for grandkids to make for Grandma's birthday!

Hexies have been my favorite uses of scraps lately. I'm slowly but surely (really just slowly) cutting into a ton of scraps I've hoarded from dresses I made my daughter over the years. I hope to have a hexie quilt to gift her when she graduates in high school (good thing I have 13 years to get this done!). I've done a whole round of up Hexie projects if you need some ideas!

I've got a whole Pinterest Board devoted to scrap projects!


Ten Simple Ways to Save Money When Throwing a Party {with Evite}

This post is sponsored by Evite
®. All opinions and content are my own. If you have any questions, check out my Disclosures Page.

We normally throw one big bash a year around our parts. That's partly due to my introverted ways and partly due to finances. I've slowly been collecting tips and tricks as to how to throw a fun party on a small budget. I think a big part of that is letting go of the Pinterest comparisons and instead throwing the kind of party I want. Hopefully it will help us be a bit more social!

Here are ten ways simple ways I've learned to help stay on budget with a party:

1. Shop your house:

My son and daughter's rooms are filled with wonderful things to use for parties. They have tons of cute little baskets and buckets that make wonderful, functional decorations for food tables. Plus I own a million picture frames that can easily be reassigned for a day to help with decor.

Rather than coordinate everything and use prefect serving plates at my daughter's first birthday, I just went with what I had. I used some vintage Pyrex that my Grandmother-in-law gifted us, CorningWare that were wedding presents, and even our everyday mixing bowls. Does it look perfect? No, Was it functional and free? Yes!

2. Know what to get at the Dollar Store (and what to avoid):

The Dollar Store is kind of like a treasure hunt. There's some fantastic stuff in there. But you have to work your way through the junk or bad deals to find it. Check prices elsewhere before automatically getting it at the Dollar Store. I've found things like colored paper plates and silverware are usually a score, but party favors are most often similar price for better quality at Target.

Raining Hot Coupons has a whole article on what to buy and what to avoid at the Dollar Store. Her list looks like a pretty solid starting place.

3. Schedule parties around meal times:

One of the biggest ways to save on parties is cutting down on your food costs. If you do a lunch or dinner you end up serving appetizers, a main course and sides, and dessert. Schedule a morning party and serve donuts. Or have an after dinner party and do desserts only. Non-meal time parties really help me keep my budget under control.

4. Know when to stop at the Dollar Spot:

Is it just me or could you spend $100 at the Dollar Spot too? Knowing when to walk away is really important. Sure, 10 little milk bottles would be adorable holding flowers. But at a one year old's birthday all the kids would rather break the glass and eat the flowers than admire their beauty. Just because its $1 doesn't mean you should get it (or ten of it).

5. Buy with future use in mind:

Want a fancy mason jar drink dispenser? Will you use it a couple times a year? Then it might be worth the expense. But buying large items just for one party doesn't make sense. If I have to buy things, I try to think of ways to use it in the future (storage in kiddos rooms, etc).

6. Go digital with invites:

I still love a good paper invite for major events like weddings. Other than that, I prefer a digital invite. My iPhone is smart enough {i.e. enough of a stalker} to read the details of the invite and automatically add it to my calendar. Less paper clutter and an automatic calendar event? Sold! When using digital invitations I use Evite for two reasons. 1. They have a huge selection of invites for whatever I'm up to. And if they don't have what I want, I can create an image and make a custom Evite. And 2) I think it's way easier to RSVP for guests than other sites. You don't have to log in or create an account if you don't want to. That's huge for me.

I have a bucket list for party themes. I checked a big one off last year with my daughter's Pink and Purple Donut Birthday. A S'mores bar now at the top of my list. And this Evite is beyond perfect for it! Maybe I'll get my act together and have an end of the summer bash!

7. Borrow, thrift, and garage sale hunt:

I am the queen of borrowing for a party. Do you have an adorable galvanized tub that you aren't using? Better bet I'm asking to borrow it. And I'll return it with leftover cake or a Sonic gift card to say thanks. If I plan out far enough ahead, I also try to check out my favorite thrift stores and a few garage sales for what I need.

8. Take advantage of free venues:

I get the desire to avoid a lot of people in your house. I don't want to spend three days cleaning just to have it completely destroyed in five minutes. But I'd much rather spend three days cleaning than pay for renting out a venue. What I really love is hosting kiddo parties in my neighborhood park. It's free, has built in entertainment, and is close and convenient for shlepping stuff to.

9. DIY isn't always the cheapest way to go:

For some, DIYing is therapeutic. For others, its the bane of their existence. When deciding if you want to DIY, I always suggest including your time into the equation. For some, time doesn't matter. Its about saving the money. For others, precious time is worth more than just buying decorations for Party City. Know what's less likely to make you curse the world and go with it.

10. Shop after holiday sales:

I try to plan my kiddos' party themes well in advance. This lets me take advantage of several post holiday sales. Some Halloween clearance candy looks like Halloween candy. Others look the same as all the other candy- just way less.

Another thing to keep in mind is you can spray paint nearly anything. A horrifically awful Christmas charger can be spray painted and turned into the perfect serving platter. Spray paint covers so much!

What do you do to save money on parties?