5 Ways to Make More Time to Read

Lately, I feel like I haven’t been spending nearly as much time reading as I am used to. Last year I read quite a bit, and it’s one of my favorite activities. The more I read, the happier and more fulfilled I feel, and the more relaxed I am. I feel very lucky that since a young age, I’ve truly enjoyed reading and have almost always made it a priority in my life.

Because I’ve been pretty busy, and am only getting busier, I am beginning to find that I need to make more time for books. Because it’s important to me and brings me joy, I definitely think it’s worth putting the effort into making time for it. Here are a few ways I’ve found make it easier to squeeze extra pages in throughout the day.

Get up earlier – this one is especially tough for me, but I always love starting the day with a good book (and maybe even some strong coffee). It sets the tone for a stress-free and happy day…for me, at least. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, it’s still worth it. This is definitely a habit I am trying to develop further.

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Art by Andrea Musso

Read while commuting – obviously this doesn’t work if you drive yourself to and from work, but if you take public transportation like I do, this is a great way to not only pass the time but to use it in an enjoyable way. I read almost always on my Kindle, so it’s really easy for me to read on-the-go. I even read on the Kindle app on my phone a lot of times on the train (particularly if it’s really packed and I don’t want to dig around in my bag). This gives me about 40 extra minutes a day of reading, which really adds up!

Read during lunch – I have been bringing my laptop with me to work to go to Starbucks and work on writing during lunch lately, but everyday I try to take about 10 minutes of my lunch to read. It’s a great way to decompress in the middle of the day and it makes me feel like I’m getting more out of the day.

Stop scrolling on social media – there are SO many nights where I go to bed with the intention of reading only to end up scrolling on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest for 30+ minutes. No matter how many times I tell myself I’m NOT going to do this, it happens, and then I regret wasting my precious time. Skipping the social media altogether (don’t even open those apps! It’s a rabbit hole!) will not only give you more time to read, but will cut down on screen time – which (in my opinion) is definitely a good thing.

Listen to audiobooks –  while I’m not sure if audio books count as reading (maybe they do?), listening to them is another great way to enjoy stories or to learn even if you aren’t physically reading. I’m not a huge “books on tape” person, but I do want to try to get more into them. Especially because I’ll be able to listen to them while walking around the city or while I’m at the gym, I think it’s worth a try!
I am slowly but surely trying to adopt these habits and make them a regular part of my life. Making time to read is definitely not always easy – after all, a lot of priorities, tasks, and goals come before that “leisure” time. However, doing so is important to me and I’m willing to put in the effort to make as much time as I can to delve into a good book day after day.

Easy Make Ahead Meal Ideas

Especially when you have a busy schedule, it can be tough to make a home cooked meal every night when you get home from work. I’ve learned that it is very easy to plan out delicious and sometimes intricate meals you’ll make when you get home from work each night at the beginning of the week, but it’s tough to actually stick to that plan. The last thing I want to do most nights when I get home is spend the time cooking and then I definitely don’t want to spend the time cleaning.

With that being said, I’ve discovered it is a lot easier to make things ahead of time that simply need to be reheated and cooked through on a weeknight. I’ve gathered some of my favorite make ahead meal recipes that are easy to make, don’t require a ton of ingredients, and that taste great.

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Buffalo chicken bake – this is a favorite, especially in the winter. I love it because it is a little bit spicy. I make it ahead of time, cooking it completely, and leave then reheat it in the oven in the next few days when we have it for dinner. It also makes great leftovers for lunch!

Taco bowls – these are a healthy alternative to regular tacos, and the best part is that you can make them ahead of time! I typically make the taco meat ahead of time and chop of most of the veggies the morning of and leave them in little covered prep bowls in the fridge (aside for things like onions that should just be chopped right before). Easy and yummy!

Stuffed peppers – I got this idea from my mom, because she cooks these all the time as a make ahead meal. The best thing about stuffed peppers is that you can sub any meat (ground turkey, ground beef, shredded chicken…) and also sub the other ingredients to suit your tastes. Make the filling ahead of time, stuff the peppers, put them in the fridge, then bake them in the oven before serving and you’re done!

Chili or soupthere are so many soup and chili recipes out there to choose from, and I’m a big fan of these foods – especially in the winter. Many of these can even be made in the crock pot, and then the leftovers can always be frozen afterwards to eat at a later date. I like to make these with cornbread (chili) or homemade Italian herb bread, too!
Making meals ahead of time usually takes some work on Sunday and towards the beginning of the week, but I never regret it when I get home and barely have to lift a finger, but still don’t have the guilt of ordering takeout. Plus, most of these make big servings which allow us to take the leftovers for lunches, which is an added plus.

Great Gifts for Girls Under $30

Whether it’s a birthday, hostess, or “just because” gift, finding something great for a friend or family member can be tough. It’s even tougher when you aren’t looking to break the bank!

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Small accessories – everyone loves a little accessory that they can use time after time or throw in their purse as a go-to item, right? That is what makes these small accessories the perfect gift. One of my favorites are these little change purses. They are durable and so cute. I have given them as gifts and also have a few of my own that I stick in my purse and typically use to carry jewelry during travel or for gym trips. Another fun gift is cute socks – who couldn’t use a new pair? Phone cases are a another of my favorite accessories and gifts, I love being able to change mine to suit my mood, style, or the season. Finally, a tumbler is always very useful – I keep a bunch at home and a few at work to help me stay hydrated, or they’re great to throw a cup of coffee or tea in when you’re on the go!

Books – books are another great gift to give as they can be completely customized to fit the style and interests of any recipient. Plus, most people don’t usually buy themselves fun coffee table books, so they’re a gift that they are sure to appreciate! This book on ‘Beautiful Things’ is an instant favorite, or I love this ‘Besties’ book for a great girlfriend. If you know a dog lover, this book is perfect for them (I have a few friends that would love this!). Finally, this is a thoughtful gift for a friend that loves to cook.

Plants – plants are another fun gift that people won’t necessarily buy themselves. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods always have great plants that make the perfect hostess or “just because” gift, but I think including a cute planter is a cost effective and thoughtful addition to elevate the present just a little. West Elm always has the cutest ones (my mom and I both have the most adorable hen planters from there from a few years ago!). This giraffe planter is just eccentric enough to be a unique gift but is also insanely adorable. Also, for something uber cheap that doesn’t skimp on style, this pineapple base planter is an instant winner.

Housewares – housewares – particularly stuff for the kitchen – is always appreciated as a gift. And, since there are SO MANY cute options out there, you can’t go wrong. For instance, cutting boards are a practical but fun present given there are so many fun ones to choose from. Tea towels are inexpensive as well as useful or make a great decorative accent in a kitchen, making them a perfect gift. Finally, a set of app plates goes a long way for anyone that loves to host, and they will undoubtedly be used time after time.

With so many ideas to choose from, you truly don’t need to spend a ton to give something thoughtful, practical, and impactful. Girls of all styles, ages, and personalities are bound to love these picks and will use them for a long time to come – and they’ll be thankful for such a thoughtful friend 🙂

What I’ve Been Reading

I haven’t done a reading lately post in awhile, so I wanted to share three titles I’ve recently read. They are all VERY different from one another, and gladly they all got  (at least relatively) good reviews from me!

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Obsessed with this print from Etsy!

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close – I’d seen this book pop up on Amazon and Goodreads a lot, and I’d also read a few reviews on it so when it was available from the library, I decided to give it a go. Overall, my review of it is decent (3.5/5 stars) – but I definitely had mixed feelings on it once I finished. This is a book about a young married couple who moves from New York to DC so that the husband may follow his political aspirations. You follow their life and particularly read about their friendship with another young couple. I will say that while I was reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. I enjoyed the story and genuinely wanted to know what happened. But, after I was finished with the book I realized that the characters (in my opinion) were very frustrating and that not a ton actually HAPPENED in the book. Because I was enjoying it so much while reading it, I would cautiously recommend it to people – but all in all I did not get a ton out of the read.

Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris – this is another book that I raced through, but I have a better review for it overall. This book has gotten a ton of attention and after hearing about it on my favorite podcast, I knew I had to read it (for the purpose of full disclosure – I tried starting it on a plane ride after the holidays, but was too distracted and tabled it until a couple weeks ago). Anyways, I really liked it. This is a fast-paced and riveting story about a woman who meets a man, has a whirlwind romance, and marries him. Without giving too much away (because I think that’s easy to do with this book), let’s just say he wasn’t the man she thought the was. While this book wasn’t as scary/spooky as I thought it would be, it was still really twisted and kept my heart racing until the very last page. I highly recommend if you are a fan of books like The Good Girl or The Couple Next Door.

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens – I learned about this book through the 2016 NPR Book Concierge, and it seemed to have earned plenty of rave reviews, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did. I will say, I was a bit nervous because I am squeamish and wasn’t sure how gory this book would be as it shadows a woman in the process of giving birth. It was NOT overly gory or graphic, so if you have a hard time stomaching things like that (as I do), not to worry. This was a very short book but, in my opinion, was well written, told, and weaved together. It switches perspectives from the woman giving birth to that of the labor and delivery nurse, who is pregnant but not yet showing. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it if you’re looking for something short but meaningful.

Up next I am starting Nutshell by Ian McEwan – which I am really excited about! Follow me on Goodreads to see everything I’ve read and rated.

Love Stories to Read This Valentine’s Day

Last year, I wrote about some favorite love stories to indulge in around Valentine’s Day. This year, I wanted to provide some more – and what could serve as a more perfect Tuesday Pick-Me-Up anyways?

I dug back into my reading archives for some of these picks, but they are nonetheless great choices. Take a look to see if you should add any to your TBR list.

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Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – I know that I’ve blogged about this book before, but it is a great love story and is a perfect Valentine’s Day read. I am a huge Sittenfeld fan and love her writing style, and more than that I love the way she develops characters. It is impossible not to become invested in the storylines of the characters within Eligible, and you’ll be wishing for more at the end of the novel.

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand – I read this book a few years ago and loved it (I mean, I love all of Elin’s books, so this was no exception…but still). This book centers around a wedding, and what could be more romantic than that? This book is told from rotating points of view and really gets you involved with the entire family’s troubles, triumphs, and feelings – which I loved. This book has stuck with me and I definitely think it’s worth the read, especially if you’re looking for something light.

The One & Only by Emily Giffin – this is one of my favorite Emily Giffin books. It is definitely a “fluffy” read, but I thought it was a great story. It depicts the love story of a football coach in a Texas town and a gal that he’s known for quite some time. I devoured this book when it first came out and I thought the story was sweet and unpredictable.

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella – so I read this a seriously long time ago, but I still think back on it as a great love story – so that means something, right?! I like Sophie Kinsella books for what they are – something fun, humorous, and entertaining to read when you’re in the mood for something light. This book is a stand alone and is a hilarious story of a woman who is in a car accident and wakes up devoid of years worth of memories. She has a new life, including a gorgeous new husband, that she can’t remember anything about. Rebuilding her life and mind from there proves to be quite a journey, and it’s one you’ll enjoy reading about.
Those are just a few favorites – but there are so many there to choose from! I can’t think of many better ways to celebrate than diving into a good story, to be honest. I also have a few more love stories to read on my list – such as Emma by Alexander McCall Smith, The Royal We by Heather Cocks, and The One that Got Away by Bethany Chase.

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Girlfriends

Valentine’s day is just around the corner, and it’s the perfect time to show your best girlfriends how much you love them. You don’t have to have a significant other to celebrate, and even if you do have a boyfriend – it’s still nice to show your friends some love, too! Luckily, you don’t have to spend a to show them you care. Check out some of my favorite gift ideas for girlfriends this heart day! They are simple, sweet, and all make for the perfect pick-me-up!

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Pajama Set | Nail Polish | Monogrammed Hat | Lip Gloss | XO Candle | Notebook | Heart Socks | Tea Collection | Heart Keychain | Flamingo Card | Heart Mug

Weekly Pick-Me-Up: Favorite Podcasts

Maybe I am a bit tardy to the podcast game, but better late than never, right? I have been loving them lately! They are the perfect thing to listen to on my morning or evening commute or even during work when I am working on more tasky items and am looking to zone out.

I wanted to share some of my favorites here as a fun Tuesday pick-me-up. There are SO many out there that I am dying to find more to listen to, so if you have any recommendations, let me know!

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What Should I Read Next? – as you probably know by now, I’m an avid reader, so this podcast is perfectly. It is narrated by Anne Bogel, who runs the (awesome) blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy. She has some great guests on there, all of whom provide her with a list of what they’re currently reading, three books they love, one book they hate, and what they’d like to add more of in their reading lives. From there, she makes some book recommendations. I love hearing what she recommends and what others are reading, and I also like to hear what people haven’t enjoyed reading. This is very entertaining if you love to read, so I would definitely recommend checking it out!

Awesome Etiquette –  this is a podcast narrated by Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning, descendants of the manner queen Emily Post and both employees of the Emily Post Institute. While you are probably thinking this seems like a boring idea for a podcast, it’s actually really interesting as they field tricky questions on how to handle sticky situations with grace, most of them being easy to relate to. I am a stickler for manners, so I really enjoy this podcast and think that both narrators speak with eloquence and have great personalities.

Accused – I listened to this podcast over the past couple weeks – there are only about nine episodes – and loved it. It was funded and created by the Cincinnati Inquirer newspaper, and it is the story of the unsolved mystery of Beth Andes, who was a young woman brutally murdered in the area in 1978. This was truly a riveting story and I thought that it was very well put together, and not to mention the passion with which everyone involved developed for the story is amazing. It is narrated by Amber Hunt, who did a great job explaining everything and keeping it interesting (I haven’t listened to Serial yet, but it’s on my list!).

Watch What Crappens – okay, so this podcast is HILARIOUS and if you love reality tv and especially Bravo and the Real Housewives, it is a MUST listen. I just found it last week and I’m already obsessed! There are also over 300 episodes, so I’m excited to dig into some as I get into my busy season at work. Ben and Ronnie basically debrief listeners on the happening of recent Bravo show episodes and are so funny in doing it. From imitations to poking fun at the “characters”, it is a light and funny thing to listen to when you’re in the mood for a laugh.
Also, for what it’s worth, if you are a fan of the Bachelor or Bachelorette, Barstool Sports has a hilarious podcast called Coming Up Roses about each episode. I am not watching this season, but if you are, I highly recommend it.

Jodi Picoult Books

So as I’m writing this, I just finished Jodi Picoult’s newest book, Small Great Things, just hours ago. Wow. It was honestly one of her best (I will get into it more below, so keep reading!). In reading this novel, I was thinking about all of the Jodi Picoult books that I’ve read. She’s had so many, and I’ve read a ton of them over the years (I think I first started reading her when I was in middle school!). She is an author that I really admire because each of her books teach me something, which is attestation to the hard work she does researching the topics she writes about. Also, I really admire her for how eloquently she writes about heavy topics that many authors would shy away from. She is clearly very smart and has a wonderful way of weaving together a story.

I wanted to share my general thoughts on her books that I have read. At first, I was planning on ranking them (favorite to least favorite), but when I was trying to map out the list, it was far too difficult. This is for a few reasons. First of all, all of her books are so different – tackling different topics with different themes and learnings. Also, I’ve read these over a span of 10+ years, so that makes it hard for me to truly remember how I felt about each of them after I read them. So, I decided to just highlight what stood out to me about each book (good or bad). I did roughly separate them into “tiers”, in no particular order within each.

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THE BEST OF THE BEST

My Sister’s Keeper this was my first Jodi read and I was completely enamored by it. In fact, I vividly remember being at the mall and dying to get home to read more of it (nerd alert, I know). This is also the first book I remember ever reading with varying narrators, which is a style I love. I think the reason I loved this book so much is because it centered around a close-knit family – which I could relate to, as my family has been very tight. Also, it was an interesting read because it was so incredibly difficult to “side” with one character. This book revolved around a controversy that nearly tore a family apart, centering around the terminal illness of one of the sisters and the need expectation of the other daughter to medically contribute to the treatment of her sick sister. The situation was so complex and – quite honestly, sad – that it was impossible not to empathize with almost everyone involved. This book also had a huge twist ending (I know a lot of readers were very upset by the way the book ended), but I loved it because I was genuinely shocked. I had been very excited for this book to be made into a movie, but I loved the book much, much more than the movie. I highly recommend this to anyone who has not read it who wants to get involved in an intriguing and gripping story. It is probably in my top five favorite books ever.

Small Great Things – I chose to write about this book second since I just finished it. This is an amazing story that I was very excited to read from the moment I learned what it would be about. The story begins by depicting the life of an African American labor and delivery nurse, Ruth, who has been in the field for over 20 years. One fateful day, she is told she cannot care for a newborn baby because his father, a white supremacist, does not want a black person touching his child. When tragedy occurs, Ruth is blamed and arrested, beginning an intense trial. While the issue seems to center around race, Ruth’s public defender does not want to broach the sensitive topic in the courtroom. The story is a definite page turner – I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen, so I raced through the book – only to be sad when it was over because it was that good. I already miss the characters (well, most of them) and this book made me admire Picoult more than I already did for touching upon the extremely timely yet taboo subject of racism in America in today’s world. She wrote about it with so much grace. I particularly enjoyed her author’s note at the end of the book, which is not to be missed.

Nineteen Minutes – this book centers around a school shooting, and oddly enough I read this the same week that the Virginia Tech shooting occurred. This is a highly taboo topic – probably even more so now in the aftermath of Sandy Hook and the various other tragic shootings that have happened than in 2007 when it was originally published. To be honest, the details of this book are very blurry for me, but I distinctly remember not being able to put it down while reading it on family vacation. This novel tackles tough issues that will leave you heartbroken for what the characters go through, sometimes in surprising ways.

The Tenth Circle – this is another book I remember reading on family vacation, and it was another that I couldn’t put down. The unique thing about this novel is that it uses both comic book illustrations to highlight the themes and occurrences within it, and it also weaves in themes from Dante’s Inferno that are all relatable to what’s happening throughout the story. I learned so much about living as an Eskimo in this book (sounds random, but it is actually something very interesting to read about!) and I love how this book centered around deep-rooted secrets and the sacrifices and changes people make for their families. I would actually love to reread this book now, as when I read it I was much younger and I think now as an adult I could take a lot more away from it. Regardless, I remember it as a book that left me reeling.

The Pact – oh my goodness, this is one of Jodi’s most unforgettable books. By far. And I personally think this book includes the sweetest love story out of any of her writing that I’ve read. But, it’s so much more than a love story, believe me. This book revolves around a young love story – teenagers that grew up as neighbors, and their families were best friends through it all. As their romance grew, so did their apparent willingness to do anything for each other – not excluding the unspeakable. This book touches upon hot-topic themes: teenage suicide, love, friendship, family, and depression. I love how this book spotlights the lengths we’ll go to for those that we love, barring the consequences. Also, I thought that the author did a great job detailing the inevitable split this put between the two families that were once as close as family. (this book was also made into a Lifetime movie, but – duh – the book was better).

Vanishing Acts – I think that this was the second Jodi Picoult book I read, and it has stuck with me ever since. This is another novel that touches upon the secrets we have that we didn’t even know were ours, and how to deal with them once they touch our lives in a way we never could have imagined. I think that theme resonates a lot more with me now than when I originally read the book. Another reason that I loved this book was because it kind of put things in a “full circle” perspective as the main character, Delia, is trying to make sense of new learnings about her own childhood and upbringing as she herself is raising a little girl. She is faced with the question of what it means to be a good parent and explores the lines in which she, at one time, believed she would never cross – but then begins to think differently. This was a compelling read that will leave you, again, empathizing heavily with the characters involved.

House Rules – this was one of Picoult’s later books that I read when I was in college (I think). I learned a lot from this book, as it is about a character with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is something I had little knowledge of before reading the book. I know I mentioned it at the beginning of this post, but I truly admire Picoult for the depth of research she does on the topics she writes on. People sometimes assume that with fictional books, little to no research is required. While this sometimes is true, it is certainly not with these books. Picoult does no disservice to her readers as she goes to great lengths to immerse herself in the topics to give an accurate and realistic account of what she is writing about. If I recall correctly, I believe she put in endless hours of shadowing an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome in writing this book, and her dedication is reflected. In this book, the main character, Jacob, is accused of a heinous murder in his hometown. Since he has autism, it brings a whole new dimension to his character and to how he and his family handle the accusation and trial. This highlights the hardship that the family goes through to simply fit in within the community and what they must do to prove the innocence of their child. This was undoubtedly a page turner that I would recommend to anyone.

Handle with Care – in this book, it shadows a family with a young daughter – Willow – who is plagued by brittle bone disease, which requires the mother, Charlotte, to provide full-time care for her child. This story touches on many of the themes Picoult is known for: family issues, hardship, and finding a delicate balance over the line between right and wrong. While the family struggles with the financial burden that having an ill child puts on them, they decide to instigate a lawsuit for wrongful birth in order to receive a settlement that will make caring for their daughter in the long term more feasible. Not only does this cross the ties of longtime friendships, but it also forces the parents to state that if they knew during their pregnancy about their daughter’s condition, they would have terminated the pregnancy. This book touches heavily on the “what if’s?” of life and not only what those mean but the large effect that delving into them can have on relationships and our lives as a whole. I love that I not only learned a great deal about the disease in this book from reading it, but also the large-scale personality that Picoult gave to the main character, Willow. This book is certainly not devoid of twists and turns that will leave your jaw dropped, either, making it an overall fantastic read.

ALL AROUND GOOD READS

Change of Heart – this was one book I debated putting in the first “tier” of choices from Picoult, so it really could go either way. All in all, it was a great read and was an incredibly complex story where the characters were closely knitted together in an unlikely way. The story recounts a brutal murder where the convicted felon learns that the sister of the little girl he killed needs a heart transplant, and he wants to redeem himself by providing it. This prompts the question: should this little girl receive the heart of a killer? The tangled web of connections doesn’t end there, either, as there are countless weird occurrences that make you think divine intervention is playing a part. This book uses metaphors and does a great job teaching you about the medical procedures surrounding the procedure of a transplant. I think this is one of Picoult’s love it or hate it books, but I loved it and would recommend giving it a try.

The Storyteller – this was another of Picoult’s book that came out while I was in college, and I read it shortly after its publication date. This book broaches the topic of the Holocaust, shadowing not only a young adult, Sage, who recently tragically lost her mother but has a grandmother who is a survivor of the Holocaust and a new elderly friend who admits he was an SS officer and is seeking help in ending his own life. When Sage is faced with this information, she has her new friend investigated accordingly, and she finds out more than she expected. I liked this book because not only was the subject matter interesting and eloquently written about, weaving together stories that you would not expect, but it also included flashbacks as well as present day narration and accounts.

Mercy – this is one of Picoult’s earlier novels (it was published in 1996), but I think it is a great one that explores a wide range of themes. This story revolves around two cousins, one of which helps his wife commit suicide per her request, and the second begins having an affair with his wife’s assistant. After the “murder” of the first one’s wife, a trial ensues and it is the talk of a small northeastern town. This book explores the dynamics of a marriage and the boundaries we are willing to cross for those we love, similar to some of Picoult’s other works. I will say that this book is not as fast paced and maybe not as gripping as some of her other novels, but you will still reflect on it as a great story once you finish it.

Salem Falls – I distinctly remember this book taking me awhile to get through back when I read it (during college, I think), but it was still a great story that I will keep with me. This book is off the beaten path, as the small town it takes place in, Salem Falls, has a group of women who practice Wiccan spells – similar to witchcraft. A school teacher who lost his good reputation flees to the town and seemingly fits right in, working at a local diner. However, he is soon in the hot seat once again, accused of brutalities towards women in the town. This book centers around violence and sexual assault, and the power of sex and violence in today’s world. While this book was certainly fast paced and interesting, the ending was a little bit predictable, which is unusual for Picoult’s books.

Plain Truth – this is another book that got off to a slower start, but was a good story all-in-all. This story focuses on an Amish teenager who is accused of having a baby only to smother it to death in a barn. After being disowned by her parents and vehemently denying that she ever even bore a child, a case and trial unfolds. I found this book interesting as it explored the Amish culture and the norms of their life, which provided new learnings for me. I genuinely enjoyed the characters in this book and thought that it was an interesting storyline that left me guessing.

NOT MY FAVORITES

Lone Wolf – this was the first Jodi Picoult book that I didn’t love, as I found it pretty slow-going and not as emotionally driven as many of her other works. This was a story about a son that is called home after a conscious separation when his father and sister are in a bad car accident and are ejected from the vehicle. While his sister is by and large okay, his father is left in a vegetative state. The son must make the decision of whether to keep his father alive or pull the plug, a decision only made more difficult by the fact that they had parted on poor terms after the son confided in his father that he is homosexual. Because two of the main characters are distressed young adults in this novel, in my opinion it gave the book a more dramatic and less relatable feel than many of Picoult’s other stories. This book did have a twist ending, but all in all it falls low on my list of must-reads from the author.

Sing You Home – this is probably my least favorite Jodi Picoult book that I’ve read, as I found it super boring. It is hard for me to even recall the specifics of what this story is about, as it really did not resonate with me after reading it. In short, the story follows the life of a woman named Zoe who has suffered several hardships. She throws herself into her job of being a music therapist and begins pursuing a friendship that blossoms into more and gives her a great amount of joy. However, she fails to receive the support she would have expected from her love ones, and the story develops from there. The themes of this read are family, love, loss, identity, and personal development. This story wasn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean it is not for anyone – it certainly had it strong points.
Leaving Time – this was Picoult’s most recent book prior to Small Great Things, and I thought it was very slow and kind of hard to get through. While the premise of the story is interesting – centering around a young girl whose mother disappeared after an accident and the help she enlists in a psychic as well as a private detective in the hopes of finding her mother once in for all. The mother’s journal is used in helping connect clues to finding the woman, transporting the reader to elephant sanctuaries, teaching about the lives of elephants and weaving that into the story of this child searching for her mother. Like I said, I found the book to be dry and less than entertaining, but that’s just me – for the record, it got rave reviews.

An Easy Way to Keep Your Feet Soft in the Winter

The winter definitely takes a toll on my skin, specifically on my feet. My feet can tend to be dry throughout the entirety of the year, but it gets about ten times worse in the winter. Ugh. It’s gross and uncomfortable, and it’s not made any better by the fact that I hate wearing socks and stay loyal to flats, even in the cold weather.

Thankfully, a few years ago I found a solution that helps keep my feet soft all year long, particularly in the winter. It’s a really easy remedy that works great. All you need to do it is a bucket to put warm water in, shaving cream, Listerine, hand dowels, socks, and lotion or foot cream. Take a look below for the steps to take, and keep in mind that this takes about 35-40 minutes to do.

-In a bucket, combine equal parts warm water and Listerine.

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-Lather shaving cream on the dry parts of your feet.
-Soak a hand towel in the solution and then ring it out.
-With the shaving cream on your feet, wrap the wet towel around the bottom of your feet and let it soak for 30 minutes (this is a great time to sit at your computer and get some work done, to watch tv, or to read a book!).
-After time’s up, use the towel to rub your feet firmly to get the shaving cream off as well as some dead skin.
-Dry your feet well…don’t forget in between your toes.
-Apply a generous amount of lotion or foot cream (I love this one!) and put on some socks – preferably fuzzy ones!

And that’s it! Super easy and very effective. I originally found this remedy posted by Mommy Medicine.

Gallery Wall Art Inspiration

Ever since we moved into our current apartment this past July, I’ve been dying to put together a gallery wall. We have a large wall in our hallway that it would look so good on, but I sadly haven’t gotten around to it yet. I posted over on DoItYourself.com about how to design the perfect gallery wall, and now I am just collecting art, photos, and decorative pieces to put my own together.

I have a few art pieces that I want to include, but I still need a few more. I also want to frame some personal pictures to include on the wall – I’m really going for a mix! With that being said, I’ve been shopping around for the perfect art prints to include. I’ve rounded up some current favorites via the link below. If you’re looking for some decorative inspiration, this is the perfect place to start!

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Lobster Art | Oliver Gal Canvas | Dachshund Art | Mason Jar Art | Chocolate Art | Champagne Poster | Ginger Jar Print | Watermelon Art | Beach Weenies Print