Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Baby Books to Make a New Mom Cry

Now, I don't actually mean that in a bad way. Some of my favorite baby books so far have been the sweet, sentimental ones. And thanks to the postpartum hormones (WAY crazier than the pregnancy hormones, in my experience anyway!) my eyes were rather leaky while reading them to my little man. Whether I was outright bawling, just getting a little misty-eyed, or something in between is directly related to how far removed I was from delivery when I read them. Proceed with caution if you're trying not to trigger the waterworks (is such a thing even possible?!), but I highly recommend all of these wonderful books for any little one's library.

by Liza Baker, illustrated by David McPhail

by David Van Buren, illustrated by Tim Warnes

by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw

by Nancy Tillman

by Melissa Marr, illustrated by Teagan White

by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

by Don Freeman

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Bookish Decorating Project for the Nursery

I can't believe my son is 3 weeks old already! I know that is not really a lot of time, but it just feels like it's flying by already. As my due date approached last month, I kept myself busy with projects around the house and I had some serious nesting going on. One of my favorite projects was decorating the nursery. I knew from the beginning I didn't really want to do a "theme" where we bought perfectly coordinated sets from a baby store, but I definitely wanted to add some bookishness to his room.

I mentioned a while back that I wanted to do this wall art project and frame pages from favorite childhood books of mine and my husband's. But in the end, I had a really hard time tracking down the books my husband remembers and I truthfully couldn't come up with a favorite of my own -- I remember loving story-time with my parents, but there wasn't any one book that stood out in my memory. So, since an unofficial animal theme seemed to be forming anyway after we chose the bumpers for his crib, a lamp for the room, and received an adorable bookcase at our baby shower, I decided to go with three different children's books/series that feature animals: Make Way for Ducklings, Humphrey the elephant, and Paddington Bear:

Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey

Humphrey books, by Sally Hunter

Paddington Bear books, by Michael Bond
(Top two frames)

Paddington Bear books, by Michael Bond
(Bottom two frames)

I am thrilled with how this project came out and it really was very simple. I already had the frames because I got a great deal on packaged sets back when I first started hanging pictures around our house and still had a bunch leftover. This nursery project actually filled up the remaining frames I had, so that was a few less piles of "stuff" laying around our house which is always good! Then all I had to do was buy extra copies (some new, some used) of books I already bought for the baby and knew had artwork I loved and would fit in the frames. I tore out the pages I needed, trimmed them to size, framed them (some with mats, some without), and hung them up.

My Dad was quite impressed with the project and had me send him these pictures so he could show them off (in addition to baby pictures of course -- he's afraid the people at his office are going to start avoiding him!) I highly recommend this project for any book lover looking for easy DIY wall art for a baby's room -- or any room! And the best part is that you get to go book shopping first :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Where I Disappeared To...

I can't even count how many times I said to myself, "OK, today I will post a baby update..." and it just didn't happen. Someone so small sure keeps me busy! So here I am, finally sharing the happy news of our little man's arrival:

Our first day home -- my favorite picture of us :)

I actually went into labor at 3AM on my due date -- of course I didn't really think it was the real thing at the time, but as the night wore on, it became clear that it was indeed "baby time" as my husband liked to call it. He wasn't born until the morning after my due date, but everything went rather smoothly as far as giving birth goes, so I won't complain. My recovery hasn't been nearly as bad as I feared it would be, but having a newborn has definitely been an huge adjustment -- a wonderful one, but not always easy.

I had a week with both my mom and husband home with us followed by another week with my mom when my husband went back to work. This is my first week home alone with the baby -- I will admit I was really nervous, but we are doing well so far. He's a pretty happy baby unless he is wet or hungry and he loves to snuggle. I already can't picture my life without this little one and we just love him to pieces :)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts #3


1. I have surprised even myself by how much I enjoy reading comics and graphic novels. I never thought they would be for me, but some of the ones I have tried so far have been seriously compelling and I am totally hooked. And I fly through those bad boys, so the library has been really great for exploring this new genre without breaking the bank -- or my book buying budget/resolutions for the year.

2. I've actually completed a bookish decorating project I've been meaning to do forever! And I'm halfway finished with another project for the baby's room -- just waiting on a few more supplies. I will share photos soon :)

3. Part of me really wants to dive into Drums of Autumn, the next Outlander book for my re-read of the series, but I think I need to take a little break and squeeze in some other books while waiting for our little one to decide it's time to arrive. It's less than two weeks 'til due date now, so it could still be a while or it could be any day now -- there's really no telling!

4. My plan to read ahead for the next two months of book club got thwarted with all the busy-ness of preparing for the baby. I did start the May book last night in the hope that reading it before the baby comes will mean I actually know what is going on when I attempt to attend the meeting after he's born (in what is likely to be a very sleep-deprived state!)

5. The frequency I need to do laundry because only a limited number of clothing items fit my pregnant self is kind of annoying. I really don't want to buy anything else with so little time left, but I guess this will be good practice for when the baby spits up, pees, etc. all over everything -- frequent laundry is just part of the deal I suppose. On the plus side, since starting to organize all the clothes, bedding, etc. we got at the shower, I've learned that you can fit a LOT of baby things in one load.

6. I really love these applesauce scones and these pumpkin scones. I like having a scone with my breakfast, so I usually skip any sort of topping or glaze and sub in whole wheat flour -- this totally does not work for dessert recipes, but I do it all the time for scones, muffins, and quick breads without any trouble.

7. Speaking of scones... my pastry blender is probably one of my favorite (and most used) kitchen gadgets. I usually only make pie once a year at Thanksgiving, but it's so helpful for making scones, biscuits, and the topping for crumb cakes.

8. Despite the fact that I keep talking about food, I can't say I've had any crazy cravings while pregnant. I make sure I am eating enough for me and the baby, but things are getting crowded in there! Having a tiny person squishing all my insides doesn't really make me want to go to town on snacks or sweets -- not that I don't have them at all, because I definitely do, but I haven't had the roaring appetite I had expected. Though I'm now pretty convinced that pregnancy and parenthood is all about the unexpected.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

March Madness 2015: Wrap-Up


So it turns out I was a little over-ambitious after all! I was on a major reading roll in January and February, but a baby shower, out of town guests, and lots of preparations for our little one meant I was busier in March than I had accounted for. The middle of this giant pile got a bit neglected, but I did end up reading 8 of the 16, plus three audiobooks and one children's book I've been wanting to read for my Banned Books Challenge -- And Tango Makes Three.


I finished Voyager -- woo hoo! -- and read the James Thurber collection as well as all of the remaining Y: The Last Man comic collections. I started Paper Towns for book club, but was only a couple chapters in at the end of the month. My husband's work schedule has been super busy, so a lot of days I went on my daily walk (Dr.'s orders!) alone and zipped through two Lisa Scottoline mysteries -- Look Again and Don't Go -- and a short story collection on audio. Something tells me audio as well as shorter, easier books (like the graphic novels and children's books I've been gravitating toward) are going to be the new normal around here for a while.

I hope you read something good last month!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Show Your Shelves Some Love Challenge: March Update + Free Book Sources


My main source for free books I can add to my collection is giveaways -- I regularly enter Goodreads First Reads giveaways and other contests on blogs I follow and have won quite a few over the years. When I was blogging and reviewing more regularly, I also entered contests and filled out request forms through the ShelfAwareness Pro newsletter. I've since unsubscribed as I don't feel I qualify as a reviewer anymore (and I also don't want the pressure of release dates hanging over my head -- I have enough to read as it is!) I still love their Reader newsletter though and think it's a great resource for finding out about new books. I occasionally download a freebie ebook from Amazon, but it's not my preferred reading format, so most of them are just sitting there unread. 

And while I (obviously) don't get to keep them, I do love all the free books from the library. Sometimes I get in the mood to try a new genre or author and (especially now with this challenge!) I don't want to spend a lot of money cluttering up my shelves even more, so my library card has really come in handy. I especially love borrowing digital audiobooks because it's so convenient to do from home and I have absolutely zero desire to own audiobooks the same way I own print books. A lot of people think Overdrive is a pain, but I've had no issues. My wishlist on my account is overflowing and there is always something available for immediate borrowing. And the waiting lists aren't usually too long for anything else I've had my eye on. Well, except for super high profile books like The Girl on the Train where I am currently #82 in line, but they have a bunch of copies, so it always goes faster than I expect. They even have an easy system where you can recommend your library purchase a title and if they do, you get notified by email and have the opportunity to borrow it first. So awesome.

On to my March update! I'm still holding strong overall, but must admit that my exceptions are probably the only reason I've been able to stick to my goals. I still have a bunch coming in, but it's mostly books for the baby and I'm quite happy with my ratio of new acquisitions vs. books read from my shelves.

One new book per month -- 0/3

January-March:
* Thanks to my rules/exceptions, I still haven't used any of my new book allotment for the year -- I have a few spring titles in mind that I'm saving up for though :)

Gift card purchases -- 2

January/February:
The Rosie Effect, by Graham Simsion (hardcover)
Angels in the Dark, by Lauren Kate (ebook)

Giveaways/Freebies -- 2

January/February:
* Won an ARC of The Silver Witch, by Paula Brackston from Goodreads
* Won Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman from Book Riot

Review Books -- 1

January/February:

Books for baby -- 66

January/February:
* 3 received as gifts

March:
* 60(!) received as gifts
* The Berenstain Bears We Love Our Dad!, by Stan & Jan Berenstain
* Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McClosky

Cookbooks -- 6

January/February:
* Love Bake Nourish, by Amber Rose
* 5 America's Test Kitchen books (on clearance!)

Library Book Sale Books -- 4

January/February:
Those Who Wish Me Dead, by Michael Kortya

March:
* Frog Music, by Emma Donoghue
* Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, by Chris Bohjalian
* TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann

Used Book Store Credit -- 2

March:
* The Sunday Philosophy Club, by Alexander McCall Smith -- I received the 3rd in this series as a Christmas gift, so I've been trying to track down the earlier books
* The White Woman on a Green Bicycle, by Monique Roffey -- this Orange Prize shortlist nominee caught my eye

Book Club Books -- 0
January-March:
* Still borrowing from the library, except for the April book which I already own.

Year-to-date:
TOTAL new books purchased from monthly budget: 0/3
TOTAL books purchased/received (exceptions): 17 + 66 for baby
TOTAL books add to TBR: 10
TOTAL books read from my shelves: 13

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts #2


1. I finally finished Voyager! I've only been reading it since Christmas Eve. This is what happens when I decide to re-read a series with 1000+ page books, but don't want it to be the only thing I read for months. I could read a lot faster if I read Gabaldon exclusively, but it would also take forever until I could crack the spine of a book by another author, so I guess I can live with the snail-like pace -- sure to become even more snail-like in a few more weeks!

2. It figures that as soon as I signed up for a read-a-thon (because I was on such a reading roll...) that my reading pace would immediately slow down. Things were just too crazy with preparing for the baby shower and having family and friends stay with us. Not to mention starting to sort through, wash, and put together ALL THE BABY THINGS. There is some serious nesting going on over here. But I've regained a bit of my reading mojo this week and am going for a strong finish to March Madness -- I've so far read 7 books from that giant stack I posted, mainly the comic collections.

3. My best friend's mom and aunt got us the cutest bookcase for the baby's room which is now filled with all the books we got at the baby shower -- something tells me baby is going to need more bookcases, just like his Mommy :)


4. I knew my best friend had included a note in the invitation about helping to build baby's first "library," so I was really good about not buying any books for him myself. Yet. But now that the shower is over, it's my turn to pick out a few favorites to add to the collection and I'm super excited about it. The books I remember best from childhood are for when he's a bit older, but will that stop me from getting some of them now? No, probably not.

It's my turn to pick out books :)

5. I knew that diaper cakes were a popular baby shower thing, but what I failed to realize was just how many creative people there are amongst our friends and family who would make us these creations filled with baby goodies -- we got no less than five including this bookcase diaper cake:


And while the others are not bookish, I still have to share photos, because they are all seriously awesome -- it was painful to have to take them apart!

Diaper ATV

Diaper bike

Washcloth cupcake tower & lollipops

Onesie bouquet

6. When asked what kind of cake I wanted for the baby shower, most people would think I would pick a sheet cake flavor that could be iced and decorated. Nope. I requested crumb cake. I love my Grandma's recipe and she was quite amused by my request, but graciously agreed to make an extra large one for the party which was delicious, as always. These four other recipes are also amazingly good.

7. I am officially less than one month from my due date -- how is it that time seems to go so fast and so slow at the same time? I hear that does not change one bit after the baby is born though, so I guess I should get used to it!

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That's it for my (mostly) baby shower edition of Bookish and not so Bookish Thoughts -- what have you been up to this week?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts #1


I always love reading these posts, so I thought it was finally time I joined in! Click on the badge above for more info.

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1. I have finally joined the 21st century and upgraded from my shitty flip phone (yes, they still exist) to a smartphone. I think my aunts, grandma, and mom might now be among the last holdouts.

2. I am not very good at taking selfies -- it took a lot of tries to get this shot. I'm not a big fan of being put on display, but I thought I should have at least one bump shot on record here.


3. I really want to do this bookish project for the baby's room -- I'm debating between favorite childhood books or a book of nursery rhymes. I think a trip to the used bookstore is in order.

4. I'm finally driving again! Very little and only locally, but I'm no longer afraid I'll get light-headed and pass out on a short trip, so I've been trying to get out and about on my own on occasion. What destination have I gone to more often than any other? The library, of course. Priorities.

5. There's a bit more of a story behind Henry the elephant I shared a picture of the other day. Back when we were dating, my husband was being silly one day and started saying he "loved me more than the biggest elephant." Why? I don't know, but it was silly and adorable and it stuck. For his next birthday, I got him a little elephant magnet as part of his gift that we still have on our fridge almost 10 years later. So at Christmas this year when the first two baby gifts we received were Henry the elephant and a clothing set with elephants on it, my heart pretty much melted. NO ONE else even knew this story, so those first two gifts are extra special to me.


6. Though now that people DO know the elephant story, we've had to make sure they don't go crazy and get us elephant everything. My mother- and aunt-in-law sent me a photo of this elephant humidifier when they were out shopping. No. Just, NO.

7. Other than the adorable elephants, the best gift I have ever received is this Snoogle body pillow from my brother and his girlfriend. I am convinced it is the only reason I still sleep well (almost) every night at 7+ months pregnant. I'm 33 weeks today, so we've got 7 weeks left, give or take.

8. I love seeing my brother get so excited about the baby. He's always texting me to see how things are going and was counting down until my ultrasound appointments. At Christmas, I figured the Snoogle was probably his girlfriend's idea, seeming like the kind of thing a woman would think of, but he indignantly told me, "well, she ordered it, but it was MY idea."

9. In terms of exercise, I still feel a bit like a shadow of my former self, but have to remind myself of how far I've come lately. I may not be doing the 50 lap swim workouts of the first 4 months of my pregnancy, but I can now walk 45 minutes straight at a much improved pace when we go walking at the local middle school. It's a far cry from those mid-pregnancy weeks when I could barely hobble down the hall without my heart pounding out of my chest, feeling light-headed, or both. I am so grateful our town has this free program where there are hours Monday to Friday you can walk laps indoors at the school in the winter. We don't have a treadmill and walking circles inside my house isn't the most appealing idea, so having this opportunity so close to home couldn't be more perfect.

10. My (non-surprise) baby shower is next weekend. Unconventionally, it's actually going to be at my house, because at the time it needed to be planned, we had no idea how I would be feeling and no one thought it was a good idea for me to travel with the issues I had been having. So it was going to be at my house or not at all, so my house it is. I'm really just looking forward to seeing everyone, especially my best friend who I haven't seen in four months and is flying up for a long weekend.

So, yea, clearly my thoughts are baby-related these days! Occupational hazard of growing a human being :)

Monday, March 2, 2015

March Madness 2015 Sign-Up

Hosted by Cedar Station

A reading March Madness is much more my style than your traditional basketball March Madness! I'm a little late with this sign-up, but when I read Alysia's post yesterday, I knew it was the perfect read-a-thon to join for my last month before baby. Who knows if our little guy will be early, late, or right on time, but with a due date of April 23rd, March is definitely the last month I would consider joining any sort of blogging event like this. And I've been on a reading roll lately, so it'd be nice to keep it going a little longer. My reading choices often change depending on my mood, but here's what I have queued up at the moment:

Isn't Henry the cutest? A baby gift from my brother's
girlfriend, he's been on my nightstand since Christmas

Now that I actually look at them in a giant pile, this number of books looks slightly insane for one month, but I actually think I have a decent shot of reading them all. The bottom six are the remaining installments of the comic collection Y: The Last Man that I started last month. I flew through the first four, so I don't think the final six will be all that time-consuming either -- they are so addictingly good though, I might not want them to end!

Above those are the last two mysteries by Sara Blaedel that have been translated into English so far. I'm no mystery aficionado, but I was in the mood and decided to read The Forgotten Girls last month. It had been so long since I read a mystery, but I really liked it and promptly went back and read her first English translation Call Me Princess and borrowed Only One Life and Farewell to Freedom from the library. So far, Blaedel's books have also been fast, addicting reads for me.

Then we have Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan, a new release I've had my eye on and requested from the library (published as The Girl in the Photograph in the UK). I will likely read this one first because it has a shorter loan period.

Unremembered, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and Paper Towns are for the next few months of book club. (And I grabbed Unremembered's sequel Unforgotten in case I want to continue with the series.) If I manage to read these three, I will have no reading schedules or deadlines to think about until the summer. YA books also tend to be faster reads, so I am hopeful I will be able to get ahead of the game.

Than I have two more short books from the library I couldn't resist borrowing. Forgotten Bookmarks just looks like a lot of fun. And Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated by James Thurber is one I picked up after loving a short story of his I listened to as part of an audio collection.

Lastly, we have the doorstop that is Diana Gabaldon's Voyager, but that one I am already over 800 pages in, I just want to finish it! I'm still ahead of the game for Kay's Outlander Reading Challenge, but am anticipating a lull once the baby arrives, so I'll take as much of a headstart as I can get! It's also likely I will read something on audio while doing chores and things around the house, but I don't have anything picked out yet -- it will depend on what is available from my library when I get the opportunity to listen.

So, is 16+ books over-ambitious? Maybe. But considering that I read a total of 41 in January and February thanks to the types of books I've been in the mood for lately (comics, audio, & shorter books in general), I don't think it's terribly unrealistic. Whatever I manage to read, I'm planning to enjoy my last few weeks of quiet reading before the chaos of adjusting to life with a newborn begins!

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Are you joining any challenges or read-a-thons this month? What books do you have queued up to read next?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Show Your Shelves Some Love Challenge: February Update + Book Budget


The February topic for the Show Your Shelves Some Love challenge is book finances. Before this challenge I never had a book budget. I wasn't putting myself in the poor house, but I definitely could get easily carried away. Amazon deals, Half.com, gift cards, credit card points, bargain bins, cheap used bookstore finds, splurges at my local indie store -- I just love buying books. But with so many still unread it was time for me to make a conscious effort to curb the influx. And besides, I'm running out of shelf space!

So by joining this challenge, this is the first time I have ever set a book budget for myself and decided on one new book per month. That may not seem like enough to a lot of avid readers, but the challenge doesn't count gift card purchases or freebies and I also allowed myself a few exceptions, so my budget is a bit more flexible than a strict 12 books for the year. I thought I slipped up in January by buying two books (1 print + 1 ebook), but forgot they were both bought with a Christmas gift card, so I'm technically still ahead of the game. 

To keep myself accountable, I'm going to share a breakdown of my budget and exception categories. I'm trying to not take advantage of the loopholes too much because I still want to focus on actually reading the books I own and not adding to my TBR too much. Spending less is an important aspect of this challenge, but certainly not the only one!

One new book per month -- 0/2

* Since gift card purchases don't count, I haven't used my new book allotment for January or February yet :)

Gift card purchases -- 2

The Rosie Effect, by Graham Simsion (hardcover)
Angels in the Dark, by Lauren Kate (ebook)

Giveaways/Freebies -- 2

* Won an ARC of The Silver Witch, by Paula Brackston from Goodreads
* Won Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman from Book Riot

Review Books -- 1

* Psy-Q: Test Yourself with More Than 80 Quizzes, Puzzles and Experiments for Everyday Life, by Ben Ambridge -- I haven't accepted any new review books in quite a while, but this one was just too intriguing to pass up.

Books for baby -- 3 received as gifts

* I'm being good because I know my baby shower is coming up. The three gift books were an early shower gift from a relative who won't be able to attend. So excited to start a "library" for our little guy :)

Cookbooks -- 6

* Bought Love Bake Nourish on Half.com for a really great price
* Splurged on five new cookbooks from an America's Test Kitchen $5 clearance sale. Most of them are of the quick & easy variety which is the only kind of cooking (if any!) I might be able to manage for a while, so I couldn't pass up that deal.

Library Book Sale Books -- 1

Those Who Wish Me Dead, by Michael Kortya

Used Book Store Credit -- 0

* I'm still doing very little driving by myself, so I haven't been taking any leisurely visits to my favorite used bookstores like I used to. I'm trying to save most of my credit for the baby once I do get a chance to go shopping though.

Book Club Books -- 0

* So far I've been able to borrow from the library. I'm trying to read ahead so I don't have to think about any deadlines for a few months after the baby is born -- I already read March's book and have April, May, and June ready to go.

TOTAL new books purchased from monthly budget: 0/2
TOTAL books purchased/received (exceptions): 12 + 3 for baby
TOTAL books add to TBR: 5 (would have been 6, but I already read one)
TOTAL books read from my shelves in 2015: 12

I've also been reading library books like crazy! Since I'm limiting my purchases, my library card has been getting some serious usage -- 27 books so far this year! Library books are neutral for this challenge, but if I want to read more of what I already own, I probably should aim for a little bit better balance. And if you're wondering how the heck I've read so many books in just under two months, I've recently gotten hooked on graphic novels and comics, so I've been flying through those. Plus I've been gravitating toward shorter books in general and have even read a few kids' books that have caught my eye -- I love reading all kinds of books :)

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Do you have a book budget or any book-buying goals/limits for 2015?