Living a Good Life

The Simple List: Holiday Hygge Edition + Mini-Gift Guide

Hello dear ones! I feel like I blinked the week before Thanksgiving, and now we're galloping towards Christmas. What happened?

Well one thing that happened was I won NaNoWriMo! It was my first time making it to the finish line, and I feel so good about completing a (very) rough draft of a fictional work for the first time. The plot holes are a mile wide, but that's what revision is for, right!?

Christmas at the Biltmore

I just rounded up some hygge holiday links and a mini-gift guide for my newsletter subscribers (are you on the list?), but since I haven’t had a chance to post here in a while, I thought I would share it in this space as well. First up is a short list of 5 cozy holiday favorites, including cookie baking tips, gorgeous Christmas lights, cozy bookish art freebies and a very hygge Pinterest board. Scroll a bit further down & I’ve also shared an assortment of highly giftable goodies for all of the people on your list. Enjoy!

1. The Biltmore at Christmas looks magical.

2. My recent writings on Houzz: 15 essentials for bakers24 simple pleasures + treats for your holiday countdown10 times to hire an architect.

3. The secrets to easier cookie baking. (Smitten Kitchen)

4. Freebie alert! Super cozy bookish art + bookmark printable. (The House That Lars Built)

5. Latest Pinterest board: Winter Hygge, oh yessss....

Pinecone Necklace

Mini-Gift Guide 2018

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed sharing it! 
xo Laura

October Quick Lit & Harry Potter Party Planning

Hello friends! It’s time for Quick Lit, where, joining with Modern Mrs. Darcy, I share a few of the books I've been reading lately. I have a nice stack of spooky October reads to share today — it’s been a good reading month! Up ahead we have a dark fairy tale, peculiar children, cozy minimalism, mysteries and one very unusual bookstore.

October Quick Lit and Harry Potter Party

And in other bookish news, my household has been very busy planning a Harry Potter halloween party — hence the Gryffindor banner and in-progress DIY chopstick wands pictured here (we used extra-long chopsticks, in case you’re wondering!). You can find some of the DIYs and ideas I’ve been pinning right here. Now, on with the list!

First, a pair of spooky YA titles perfect for getting in an October mood:

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

I’ll just say it: I didn’t want this book to end. The Hazel Wood is a dark and creepy fairy tale that begins in modern day New York, but soon detours into very strange country. This is officially YA, but it leans towards an older audience. The protagonist, seventeen-year-old Alice, and her mother have been on the run her whole life for unclear reasons — but having something to do with her grandmother, who authored a cult-classic book of very dark fairy tales. When Alice’s mother is kidnapped, she and a friend must travel to her grandmother’s fabled house, The Hazel Wood, to find out what has happened.

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

The third book in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series, this picks up with sixteen-year-old Jacob discovering a new ability, and culminates with an epic battle to save his fellow peculiars. I’d had this title on my bookshelf for ages, and it felt just right picking it up in October. After diving in I found out that Riggs has just released book 4 in the series, A Map of Days.

If you’d like to catch up on the plot quickly, may I suggest screening the Miss Peregrine’s film on a stormy October evening with popcorn and apple cider? I really enjoyed the film — even though it takes some major liberties (main character and love interest Emma has a fire ability in the books, but she was swapped with a peculiar who floats in the film).

Next up, three mysteries for every taste…

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

This title has been out since 2013, but somehow I missed reading it when it was first released — so I was thrilled to be reminded to pick it up when it appeared on my library’s recommended books shelf. Set in San Francisco just after the Great Recession, an out-of-work graphic designer takes a job as a night clerk in a 24-hour bookstore in a seedy neighborhood.

Soon, Clay realizes that more is going on in those stacks than first meets the eye, and he follows a trail of clues that lead him into a secret bookish society that has spanned the ages. I was whisked right into the story, and especially loved reading about this particular setting because I lived in San Francisco during those years, and it was a treat to revisit places I know and love. Anyway, he had me at magical bookstore! :-)

The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel

The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel

I’ve been making my way through the Station Eleven author’s back catalog, and I loved this earlier work. Disgraced and out of work journalist Gavin Sasaki goes to stay with his sister in Florida, and ends up investigating the mysterious circumstances surrounding a child who turns up with Gavin’s ex-girlfriend’s last name and bearing a striking resemblance to Gavin.

The girl soon disappears again, and Anna, the child’s mother, is nowhere to be found. This novel was atmospheric and transporting in a way that reminded me of Station Eleven — next I’ll be reading Mandel’s The Singer’s Gun.

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

I scooped up this Book of the Month Club pick at my local used bookstore and gulped it down in two nights. It’s a tense, slightly creepy domestic mystery that unfolds the night after a bunch of mom friends drink wine around a backyard fire pit — and in the morning, one of them is missing, along with her young twins. This wasn’t my favorite of the bunch this month, but it captured my attention while I was reading it.

Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith

Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith

I was lucky enough to be sent an advance copy to review of this lovely title — and since my full review is still coming, I’ll be brief here. Suffice to say, this is a beautiful, relatable decorating book that offers real, practical solutions for those of us who feel trapped between wanting to simplify our homes and also embrace beauty and objects we love. A must-have for home lovers.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my reading life as much as I enjoyed sharing it. Let's do it again next month! And please feel free to share a link to your own reading list in the Comments.

Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading (And Loving) So Far This September

It's time for another edition of Quick Lit, where, joining with Modern Mrs. Darcy, I share bite-size reviews of what I’ve been reading lately. I am so excited about the books I'm sharing this month. We have inspiring handcrafts, an ancient Greek love story, balm for a divided America, and one very resourceful Marsh Girl.

Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading (And Loving) So Far This September

First, a pair of fiction picks I adored (for very different reasons):

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This lush story follows Kya, a sensitive, intelligent girl who has been abandoned by one after another family member until she is left alone to fend for herself in the wild marshes of coastal North Carolina. Called the “Marsh Girl” and shunned by folks in town as “swamp trash”, Kya must learn to make her own way. I wanted to stay out there, “way out yonder where the crawdads sing,” with Kya a little longer — even after turning the last page.


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller — Quick Lit September

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I finished this book and felt completely heartbroken (in the best way). The central focus of Achilles is a love story between Achilles and Patroclus. As I’ve heard the author, a classics scholar, tell it, this story is not meant to be a retelling of The Iliad, but an imagined backstory and complement to the Trojan epic. Since finishing this book, I read a review that complained the plot felt more YA than classical.

I agree that the story, told from Patroclus’s point of view, is a romantic one, but I can't help but wonder whether the same critique would have come up if the protagonists were not a same-sex couple. For me, the love story felt authentic, and the perspective breathed fresh life into an age old tale. I can’t wait to get my hands on Miller’s new book, Circe…maybe next month!


Next up, two nonfiction titles I loved:

Print Pattern Sew by Jen Hewett

Print Pattern Sew by Jen Hewett

I am relentlessly drawn to craft books, blogs, and enticing workshops — even though I don’t often carve out time to actually make the projects. Hah! Jen Hewett is one of my absolute favorite people to follow, and since she is a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s actually a chance I could take a workshop from her not too far from home. Her new book, Print Pattern Sew, is beautiful, and filled to the brim with clear instructions for projects featuring her trademark block prints. I’d love to come back to this one over my next holiday and dig into a few of the projects.


Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown — Quick Lit September

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

This was my first Brené Brown book, and I have to admit it was sitting on my shelf for a year before finally making the time to read it — and I’m so glad I finally did. With chapter titles like “People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.” and “Speak Truth to BS. Be Civil.” the messages in this slim book feel like exactly what our country needs to hear right now. If I could, I would totally beam this contents of this book into the heads of everyone on the planet!

Pro tip: the audiobook is read by Brené Brown, so that could be a great way to get it into your life — if you’ve ever heard one of Brené’s TED talks, you know her delivery is fantastic.

Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading (And Loving) This September

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my reading life as much as I enjoyed sharing it. Let's do it again next month! And please feel free to share a link to your own reading list in the Comments, or just share the title of one of your recent favorites — I would love to hear about it!

hugs, Laura

Moments of Beauty: A Peek Into My August Gratitude Practice

Hello my lovelies! Some of you may remember that last month I started a gratitude practice. We’ve all heard about the far-reaching benefits of gratitude (it’s been found to boost happiness, strengthen relationships and more) but keeping a gratitude journal can seem like just one more thing to do. Since accountability can help cement a new habit, sharing my list is a good way to boost the chances that I will continue making gratitude a regular practice in my life. Why don’t you join me?

Moments of Beauty: August Gratitude Practice

I had an idea that recording my list on twitter would be a quick and easy way for me to keep up with what had been a spotty-at-best practice, but after testing it out for about a month I’ve decided it’s not for me. Instead, I’ve been keeping a running list in my bullet journal, and I’ll share a segment here each month.

Here are a few little moments of beauty I captured this August…

Little pink baby cheeks and toes on a wee niece.

Finding independent bookstores wherever I travel. It feels like home.

Sand and sea as far as the eye can see.

Big wedges of watermelon on the deck, juice dripping down arms.

Being with so many favorite people, all under one roof.

Heirloom tomatoes from my mother in-law’s garden, carefully packed and driven all the way down the eastern seaboard.

5pm on the deck of our rented beach house, icy G&T in hand.

Finding a Little Free Library specifically for children’s books!

Learning to run.

Waking up at first light, dawn on the beach, just me and the dolphins.

Sunrise over the ocean, all quiet where the wild horses roam.

Fresh heirloom apples, first of the season from our favorite farm.

Honey bee crossing! Homemade sign declaring the presence of a thriving hive.

Saturday morning, fresh coffee, stack of cookbooks. Listing favorite recipes to make this fall.

Escaping town for the cool blue of the reservoir, lush green trees, lizard spotting with my son.

Finishing a book that feels so satisfying you can’t imagine picking up another one.

Camping with old friends. No cell service. Lots of stars.

Next steps: Look for themes to boost your joy.

Looking back at this list, I’m noticing nature, fresh seasonal foods, and books. (No surprise there, hah!) If you make your own list, reflecting on any themes that crop up can be illuminating: if there are certain things, people, or experiences that tend to light you up and bring you joy, why not make room for more of the same? Intentionally choosing to do small things that make us happy (and increase feelings of gratitude) is a wonderful way to gradually move your life into alignment with your truest callings.

What are you grateful for? Feel free to link to your own gratitude list in the Comments.

August Gratitude Practice

How I've Made My Days Feel More Abundant (And You Can Too)

I love fall something fierce, but the transition into this season can be a tricky one. To create a more intentional (and hopefully more pleasurable) early fall, I've been rethinking the way I approach my days. If you've been following me for a while, you know I've written before about the benefits of mapping your time — and if you're feeling pressure from all angles of your schedule, I still encourage you to start there. But when you're ready to dive in and begin to make real changes to the way you spend your time each day, I have a new tool for you to try (and a simple free download to go along with it).

How I've made my days feel more abundant (and you can too)

The zero-based schedule

If you've heard of zero-based budgeting, you're already familiar with the concept. If not, the idea is pretty straightforward: each month, you give each dollar a job to do. So instead of having "extra" money in your budget once bills and other necessities are taken care of, you give those extra dollars a place to go, too — it could be into a travel fund, college savings account, a donation to charity, or whatever you choose. 

So keeping a zero-based schedule, simply put, means accounting for every hour of your day...ahead of time. The night before, you get out a fresh planner page (more on that in a moment) or turn to a new sheet in your bullet journal, and fill in the tasks you know you need to get done at certain times — like doing the school run, starting work, and making dinner. Once the must-dos are written down, it's time to play a little...

How to make a zero-based schedule and experience more abundant days
Remember that if you don’t prioritize
your life someone else will.
— Greg McKeown

Firm deadlines (like appointments or meetings) tend to make it onto our schedules simply because they shout the loudest: we know someone will be mad or disappointed in us if we drop the ball, so we do our very best to come through.

But what about those seemingly smaller to-dos we quietly want, just for ourselves? 

In a zero-based schedule, you have the opportunity to pencil in pockets of time for your passions and big goals. For me, that's meant learning to run, reading more good books, and writing. For you, it could be knitting, taking an evening class, and playing roller derby. You know what it's probably not? Scrolling social media, mindlessly snacking, and online shopping. 

If you'd like to give zero-based scheduling a try, I created a really simple Daily Planner PDF for you to download, print, and enjoy:

Download the Daily Planner PDF

On the left side is space to record a basic hourly plan for your day. On the right side are boxes to jot down any habits you're currently tracking (glasses of water, exercise, reading, etc.), gratitude, and notes for tomorrow. You absolutely do not need to use this every day (or at all!) but I've found it quite helpful for creating a more intentional day when I really need it.

photos: Gaelle Marcel

Quick Lit: August Picks

Welcome to another edition of Quick Lit, where, joining with Modern Mrs. Darcy, I share a few of the books I've been reading lately. This month I have six titles to share that I love (and hope you will, too).

Quick Lit August Picks

August has been a good reading month, in more ways than one — I got in extra reading time on our beach vacation to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, and I happened onto a string of fantastic books that I plan on keeping on my shelves for a long while. Unless, of course, I'm shoving them into the hands of a friend and insisting they read this now. Hah!

First, three titles I would recommend to anyone:

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

What I most love to read about in World War II novels are the ordinary domestic details of life on the home front in Britain during the war — and Dear Mrs. Bird has got that in spades. Despite taking place in London during the Blitz, the focus of this novel is squarely on the everyday life of its delightful heroine and her small circle of friends and family. Emmy desperately wants to be a Lady War Correspondent, but instead ends up typing up the advice column for a women's magazine, and volunteers in the call center of the local fire brigade at night. The tone reminded me of I Capture the Castle and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in all the best ways. Utterly charming, this is a novel I zipped through and wished I could keep reading forever.

I'll Be Your Blue Sky.jpg

I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos

This is the August pick for the Modern Mrs Darcy book club, so I was already planning to read it — but it moved to the top of my reading pile when I spotted a copy with not one but two "staff pick" stickers on the cover while browsing The Island Bookstore in Corolla, North Carolina. This is an uplifting, beautifully written novel that feels like a beach read with soul. Set in the 1950s and the present day, it follows the intertwined stories of two women navigating love, life choices, and loss. Blue Sky House is a character in itself, a lakeside cottage that became a stop in a secret relocation system for women fleeing domestic violence in the 1950s.

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan

Don't say I didn't warn you: this memoir by the author of Glitter and Glue and The Middle Place will break your heart. This was the first Corrigan I've read, and I immediately felt like scooping up all of her previous work because she is so obviously a kindred spirit. Tell Me More is about family, motherhood, marriage, and the deep bond between friends, told in a series of stories about the 12 hardest things she is learning to say. 

Next up, three titles that I thoroughly enjoyed, but might not be for everyone:

The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Teenage girls suddenly discover they have the power to shoot lightning from their hands. What happens next is nothing less than a complete restructuring of the powers that be. This is a strange, intense story, masterfully told. Be advised: there are several very graphic, violent scenes that sensitive folks will want to skim over. That said, this is sci-fi that I think even readers who don't usually dip into this genre could enjoy. And with so much to talk about, this would make an excellent book club pick.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I read the first half of this book and set it aside for about a month before coming back to it — to be fair, it clocks in at over 500 pages! But when I did come back to it, I flew through the rest of the book, and I'm so glad I did. Adichie is a keen observer of cultural differences, racism, class, national identity, and hair (to name a few). The protagonist of Americanah is Ifemelu, a smart, independent Nigerian woman who comes to America to do postgraduate work, and ends up starting a popular anonymous blog called “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black." Equal parts wise, funny, and painfully true, as soon as I put this book down, I knew I would be an Adichie fan for life. 

 

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

This is historical fiction set in Albany, New York, and Washington, D.C., at the outset of the Civil War, featuring a smart, determined midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon. There are a few gruesomely detailed scenes of battlefield surgeries (*cough* amputations *cough*), so if you are squeamish about blood, this may not be the book for you! I read this as we traveled through Washington, D.C., and loved reading about the early days of the city (in the novel, the National Monument was only partially built) with the real thing right in front of me. It was also fascinating to learn about how the war influenced the advent of modern medicine — what seems like common sense today (like washing hands between patients) simply wasn't done, and the effects of unsanitary conditions were horrifying.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my reading life as much as I enjoyed sharing it. Let's do it again next month! And please feel free to share a link to your own reading list in the Comments.

Quick Lit: August Book Picks

Moments of Beauty: July Gratitude List

We've all heard that gratitude can do us good — expressing a thankful appreciation of what we receive has been shown to boost happiness, improve health, strengthen relationships, and help us deal better with adversity. In an effort to develop my own gratitude "muscle", I've started keeping a gratitude list. But instead of writing a list on paper, I'm tweeting gratitude. Since I nearly always have my phone within reach (for better or for worse...) this has actually felt easier than past attempts. I've simply been recording the little moments of beauty and meaning, as they occur to me.

Each month I'll be sharing my list on the blog, and I invite you to do the same if you feel inspired to join in. Now, on with the list...

Moments of Beauty: July Gratitude List

In July I am grateful for...

Trader Joe's coconut cold brew on ice in my favorite blue mason jar.

Having a child old enough that I can bring a book to the park — and actually sit back and read.

Knowing there are wise women like @corrigankelly out there in the world sharing their gifts.

Spending a summer Monday morning learning magic tricks with my son.

Afternoon sun, making everything it touches gleam like liquid gold.

Running for 20 minutes — without walking once — for the first time ever.

Picking flowers from our front yard to press: California poppy, rose, lavender, and sage.

Enriching my life (and my reading list) with the bookish community that is the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club.

Ice-cold beer with a wedge of lime, a fresh stack of books from the library, and the whole weekend stretching out ahead.

Beautiful silver-haired lady riding her bike - fast! - by the shoreline, pure bliss.

Our Sunday night agenda: Quick pickles, grass-fed beef burgers on the grill, watermelon for dessert. Yes.

All the July tomatoes.

There are over 25 (what!?) Little Free Libraries now in my hometown. One of these days I’ll take a walking tour of all of them.

Standing in my kitchen, snap the stem away, inhale: the scent of tomato vines brings me right back to my grandfathers garden.

Peeking into all of the beautiful front yard gardens in my neighborhood. Summer flowers abound.

Finding a fairy door, carefully constructed and complete with spiral staircase and deck, attached to the side of an oak tree.

The moment my husband comes home, hops off his bike, and unloads a secret treasure trove from his bag: piles of juicy, perfectly ripe stone fruit from the farmer's market.

photo: LUM3N on Unsplash

What are you grateful for? Feel free to link to your own gratitude list in the Comments.

Moments of Beauty: July Gratitude List

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

The cusp of August is a good time to hit the pause button. To help us find more time to sink into simple summer pleasures — like reading good books, eating popsicles on the porch, and collecting seashells — I've collected 50 favorite ideas for making life a little easier, and a whole lot sweeter. The tips are divided into four sections: Simple Travel, Simple Food, Simple Home, and Simple Lifestyle, so you can scroll right to what you need most in this moment. Enjoy! xo Laura

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Travel

1. No matter how long the trip, challenge yourself to pack only one bag. If you want more specific guidance, I love Tsh's post on what she packed for a week in Tuscany.

2. Travel with just two pairs of shoes if possible: one pair of sandals, and one pair of comfy sneakers.

3. Keep makeup and jewelry super low-key. For example: for a summer trip I pack this tinted moisturizer with SPF, mascara, lip balm, and one necklace. That's it.

4. Load some audiobooks onto your phone or tablet for kids to listen to on the plane or on long car rides. (Obviously, this is great for grownups, too.)

5. When possible, opt for a rental house or apartment (or even a house swap) instead of a hotel. You can use the laundry, make breakfast at "home", and generally feel more like a local.

6. Plan one "main event" per day, maximum. And leave plenty of wide open space, too. This is even more true when traveling with kids.

7. If you will be traveling internationally, download a few helpful apps before you go, like Google Translate (language translation) and Converter+ (currency converter).

8. Get inspired by reading fiction set in the location you are visiting.

9. If you have kids, consider bringing along a foldable scooter — especially if you're going somewhere with lots of walking!

10. If you need help unplugging, think about bringing a separate camera. If you're using your phone's built-in camera, you're a lot more likely to start scrolling social media after you snap that picture.

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Food

11. Make no-cook dinners a regular thing. Think juicy heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and prosciutto. Or this summery salad that's been on our summer table at least once a week.

12. Bring a pizza and drinks to the park on a Friday after work and eat while the kids play in the golden summer evening light.

13. Make a big batch of cold brew and keep it in the fridge. If you're feeling fancy, make a homemade vanilla simple syrup to stir in.

14. Pretend your oven doesn't exist. Cook on the grill instead.

15. Stash a few picnic essentials (reusable plates, cheese knife, bottle opener, blanket) inside your cooler, and stash the cooler somewhere easy to grab on the go.

16. Get to know the farmers at your local farmer's market or farm stand. Play favorites. Be a regular. They'll give you the best stuff.

17. Make big project cooking (e.g., making jam or homemade tomato sauce) easier and more fun by inviting friends over for a big-batch cooking party. Everyone has fun, and everyone comes away with good food to stash away in the pantry. It's a win-win!

18. Pick a signature summer drink to serve to guests, and stick with it. It can be as simple as Arnold Palmers or a nice selection of La Croix sparkling water.

19. Use cotton bandanas as napkins: they're cheap, colorful, and washable.

20. Use mason jars for iced water, cut flowers, and candles. I'm partial to these blue jars.

21. When anyone asks, "do we have any dessert?" watermelon & popsicles are always the right answer. 

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Home

22. Go barefoot. A shoes-off indoors policy feels summery, to be sure, but it also keeps your floors cleaner.

23. Roll up the rugs. (See above.)

24. Try line-drying your laundry outdoors. The sun on a hot day can dry them in less time (and for less $$) than your dryer, and actually helps get white clothes whiter.

25. Get all the decor you need from the farmer's market and the beach: a vase of fresh flowers, a scattering of seashells, a bowl of perfectly ripe peaches.

26. Have a swap party with friends to trade clothes, toys, or books.

27. Make cleanup easy with strategically placed baskets. Keys, phones, flip flops, library books, Lego bricks — all of those little things strewn about right now could just as easily be dumped into pretty baskets.

28. Hang hooks for sandy towels outside the house.

29. Stash board games and decks of cards in a prominent spot — they're more likely to get used if they're not hidden away.

30. Stock up on favorite movie snacks to make at-home movie night feel extra special.

31. "Heart" favorite photos on your phone and set a reminder on your calendar to print favorited photos once a month.

32. Once you've printed your summer photos, put them somewhere you can enjoy them. It doesn't have to be frames: pile them in a shallow bowl, clip them to a clothesline, or stick them on the fridge.

33. Listen to great podcasts or audiobooks while you clean the house or fold laundry.

34. Prioritize which cleaning tasks make you feel like your house is clean. This is highly personal! For me, it's the bathroom sink, kitchen table, and floors: as long as those three zones are sparkling, I feel like I have a clean house.

35. Wash all the laundry in cold water.

36. Need new patio furniture, camping gear, or play equipment? Check Craigslist or a local buy nothing group first.

37. Set up a super-simple screen-free activity zone for kids stocked with supplies they can use without supervision. Think colored pencils, washable markers, paper, glue sticks, and collage materials for arts & crafts. Other favorites in our house are kinetic sand and homemade play dough.

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Simple Lifestyle

38. Use a French market basket as your everyday bag — it holds all the things, and looks chic doing it.

39. Stock your bag with a few key tools of summer: sunscreen, snacks, water bottle, and a wide-brim hat.

40. Leave the car at home. Walk or bike to neighborhood errands instead.

41. Speaking of bikes, put a basket on your bike and a crate on the back, so you can tote home groceries or library books.

42. Plan each week, not each day. Kendra, aka, The Lazy Genius makes a good case for this in her summer routine podcast episode.

43. Make comfort your top priority when it comes to clothes. 

44. Take a trip to your local public library, for more than books. Free museum passes, audiobooks, a tool library, seed saver's exchange, board game rentals, knitting groups, community events ... you may be surprised to learn how much is offered!

45. Take advantage of the early sunrise to jump out of bed and do something just for you: a sunrise yoga class, a walk with a friend, or time to work on a soul-project, like that novel you've been dreaming up.

46. Plan intentional breaks during your workday to do something that feels deliciously summery to you, whether that means treating yourself to an iced coffee or kicking back to read a good book.

47. Take an evening neighborhood walk after dinner. It's a wonderful way to feel like your evening has a little breathing space.

48. Stay up late to watch the Perseid meteor shower.

49. Keep a simple gratitude journal. It doesn't even have to be on paper — I've been recording mine on Twitter!

50. Hang a hammock inside your house, just because you can.

 

Photos: rawpixel, Daiga Ellaby, Debby Hudson & Alex Radelich via Unsplash

50 Ways to Simplify Your Life This Summer

Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading (And Loving) So Far This Summer

I'm on a mission to get more good books into my life this year, and to that end, I've been sneaking in reading time wherever I can find it. Part of what has been working well for me is being a part of this bookish community, and listening to Anne Bogel's delightful podcast, What Should I Read Next. If you're at a loss for what to read, or simply want to spend more time around fellow book lovers, I'm telling you, check these resources out. You won't regret it. Now for the books...

Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading (And Loving) So Far This Summer

Today I'm joining Modern Mrs. Darcy in sharing a few of the books I've been reading — and loving — so far this summer. In early June, my little family took a trip back to the east coast, which meant I've had an extra-helping of reading time this month. So I have six titles to recommend! Hooray!

First, three titles I would recommend to anyone:

This Is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick

This Is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick

This nonfiction book had been on my radar for a while, so when I recently stumbled upon a signed edition at my local used bookshop, I snapped it up. As I read the introduction, I found myself nodding along with everything Warnick had to say about always being on the lookout for the next "perfect" place to live. So much of our identity and happiness is tied up in our sense of place, so what happens when you're not thrilled with where you're living? This Is Where You Belong gives us practical tips — like walking instead of driving, and getting to know your neighbors — that can help root us more deeply in our communities, and boost our happiness in the process. 

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown

I read this for the first time a few summers ago and loved it so much that I'm reading it again — and I rarely reread. This perfect summer book is about a cook who is kidnapped by a female pirate, and it's filled with good (if bizarre) food, swashbuckling, high seas adventure, and romance. And I love that it's written by an author who lives in my town, a fact I didn't even realize until after I got the book home!

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell

After reading my first O'Farrell novel (This Must Be the Place) in book club, I was hooked. I Am I Am I Am is a memoir told through seventeen brushes with death, and it had me so spellbound that I neglected making dinner, and in fact hardly looked up from the book until it was over. And can I just say how gorgeous that cover is? Read it

Next up, three titles that I thoroughly enjoyed, but might not be for everyone:

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods (The Themis Files trilogy) by Sylvain Neuvel

I'm not a science fiction junky, but every once in a while I find a sci-fi book that grabs me and won't let go — the last one I read that fits this category (smart writing, mind-bending plot) was Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. In this trilogy by debut author Sylvain Neuvel (the third installment was recently published), giant robot body parts from outer space are discovered buried on earth. At first, no one knows what they are or how they got there — the first person to find one was a young girl named Rose, who rode her bike into a hole and landed in a giant metal hand. Rose grows up to be a physicist, and works on putting these parts together to make something... Whether this something is good or very, very bad quickly unfolds in this unputdownable series.

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

I adored this family saga from the author of Maine and Commencement about two sisters who journey from their small village in Ireland to America in 1957. One sister ends up the matriarch of a large family; the other, a cloistered nun in rural Vermont. Family secrets, lush writing, and revelations about the human spirit abound.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This book has been talked up everywhere, but for some reason I didn't feel confident that I would enjoy it. So I'm grateful I spotted it on my mother in-law's bookshelf just at the moment I needed a new book in my hands — because I loved it. This is compulsively readable literary fiction, with characters you can root for and a twisty little mystery. Ng offers an insightful perspective on belonging, adoption, culture, the lure of perfection, and what makes a family.

 

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my reading life as much as I enjoyed sharing it. Let's do it again next month!