And just like that, it's Presidents' Day with all forward momentum aimed at Spring Break. This is a long stretch in the school year, and I'm ready for more sunny days and warmer weather. While we patiently wait for those, here are some recommendations for this week:
The Selection by Kiera Cass. Occasionally, my book club throws a YA book in the mix, and February is a good time to do that. This one was presented as a mix of The Hunger Games and The Bachelor. Based on that introduction and the cover, I was skeptical, (especially when I saw I could read it for free via Amazon Prime). However, I'm loving it. It's very YA, but it's a classic dystopian, romance series. I'm not ashamed to say (okay, I'm only marginally ashamed to say) I'm enjoying this one and definitely going to read the next two books in the series.
I recently worked on a project about reducing households' carbon footprints and then last week did an article with tips about starting a garden as a family. The result is that I'm really inspired to have a vegetable and fruit garden this season. This week I've learned a bit about the process and have started to plan where we'll set up beds and when we need to plant everything. Here are a few resources that I found helpful:
- 10 Steps to Beginning a Garden
- Vegetable Gardening For Beginners
- Why You Should Start a Family Garden
Listen to Brandi Carlile performing "The Joke" at the Grammys. She won two Grammys for "The Joke," and while it's obviously a great song, her live performance of it is particularly magical - no sound editing there, she just has a stunningly beautiful voice. Take four minutes out of your day and listen and watch. You'll be happier for it!
As part of my Oscars Cramming, my husband and I watched BlacKkKlansman this week (we rented it on Google Play). It's nominated for 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, and definitely lived up to the hype. It was at times hard to watch and incredibly heavy, but somehow still managed to make us laugh and have moments of levity. It's vintage Spike Lee and has left me thinking about it a lot this week. Tonight's technically a weekend night for many of us, so add this to your schedule!
With a week until the Oscars, I'm hoping to get one more best picture nominee in this week. Also, it's been a while since I've listened to new podcasts, so hoping to explore some of those this week. Send any recommendations my way!
When I first started this blog in May, I didn't know what SEO stood for, and yet, it kept popping up everywhere. After I finally learned what it was - Search Engine Optimization - I pretty much left my education on the topic at that. There were many pieces involved in starting a blog, and thinking at all about Search Engine Optimization felt overwhelming and too technical for me. Plus, amidst the many parts to put together, creating good content seemed like it should be the overwhelming priority.
Now that I'm almost nine months in, I figured it's time that I knew more on the topic. I've read a number of articles, gone through a free online course and played with some SEO tools. After doing that, my biggest takeaway is that good, consistent content is the best way to drive traffic to your site. That said, there are some things you can do to use SEO to drive targeted traffic to your site or business.
What Exactly is SEO or Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization is a marketing strategy focused on increasing a website's visibility in search engine results. While there are many ways to drive traffic to your website, the majority of traffic comes from search engines. As a result, improving your results in these searches can have a significant impact on driving visitors to your site or business. And even better, search engines drive targeted visitors to your site, which are the best kind to have.
As anyone who's ever done a Google search before knows, there are tons of results for pretty much any search you can think of. However, most of us don't look beyond the first ten or so hits. Results are ranked by search engines by relevance and popularity.
SEO is simply the discipline of understanding how search engines rank sites and then working to improve your site's standing in those search engine results. Effective SEO can lead to a significant increase in your website's or business's visibility.
How do search engines work?
Warning: this is going to be an extremely rudimentary explanation of how search engines work; I read and digested only the most basic understanding of this, desperately trying to grasp enough to help me with SEO. Here's what I've got.
Step 1, appropriately enough, is crawling. Search engines' first job is creating an index of all sites on the web, which is done through the process of crawling. The lingo seems to be that "spiders" or "bots" crawl the internet indexing all sites that they come across. I like to literally visualize spiders crawling through all the nooks and crannies of the internet and making a list of what they find, which I think is close enough to understanding what's happening when web crawler programs scan the web and index what they find.
Step 2. Once the crawlers find websites, they then store information from the site in an index. This indexed information is then used to respond to search queries by creating a ranked list of results. The results are ordered based on relevance, as determined by an algorithm. While a lot of different factors go into the algorithm, they can mostly be boiled down to relevance and popularity - i.e., is the content on the page relevant to the search, based on key words, titles, subtitles, and/or images? Are lots of other credible sites linking to the content? If so, it's probably a good answer to the search query.
There's obviously more to how search engines work than that, but that's my very elementary understanding of it. Next, how to use this information to improve your site's ranking.
4 Easy Steps to Immediately Improve Your Website's Ranking in Search Engine Results
1. Know what your target market is looking for before you begin creating content
Content is still king. High-quality content will lead to improved rankings in search engines. One important way to ensure you're delivering good content is to begin the process by asking what your target market is looking for.
There are three typical queries that people make in search engines: (1) do queries - I want to do something; (2) know queries - I want to know something; or (3) queries for a particular place - I want to go to a specific business or location.
When creating content, think about your target market - what type of query might your target market make and how will your content be the answer to that question? Starting your process this way will help to ensure that you're consistently producing high-quality content that people are looking for and want to read.
2. Strategically Use Keywords
Keyword, like SEO, is a word that I hear and immediately get overwhelmed by. Keywords are an important piece of driving search traffic AND a whole area of SEO strategy and knowledge in and of themselves. That said, here are some easy steps that you use can use immediately to start being more strategic with keywords:
While you don't want your use of keywords to be forced or overstated, using them in these places throughout your content can lead to significant improvement in your results.
3. Have both internal and external links
One way to increase your site's perceived popularity, in the eyes of search engines, is by having both internal and external links in your content. Internal links are links to other pages of your site and are relatively easy to do. When working towards this piece, simply have the goal of creating good content, that is connected and is easy to navigate. Once you've done that, just add the actual hyperlinks and you're in business.
Less easy to implement but also important are external links, i.e. links from other pages, to your site. Adding to the difficulty of this part, all linking sites are not equal; rather, higher quality linking sites will have more of impact on your rankings than lower quality sites. For example, me linking your page might not be that important to the search engine's algorithm, but if the New York Times links to you, that'll bring a good boost. There are various strategies to try to get external links, but the same basic principle holds that good content will lead to good links.
If you don't have them already, go ahead and add internal links to your content now. As you go forward, have external links in mind and strategize ways you can begin building quality external links.
4. Use Image Titles and ALT Text
The pictures that you have on your site can have an impact on your ranking. To help maximize this impact, there are two easy things that you can do right now. First, give your image a title, ideally using keywords. Second, use ALT Text descriptors. DO NOT STOP READING HERE OR PANIC. ALT Text is simply a description of what the image is and it helps those web crawlers or spiders to better know how to index what is in your image. Ideally, use key words in your ALT Text. Note: I do my posts on Weebly, and there is a button on the image options where you can enter the ALT text. It is easy, user-friendly and not at all technical.
Ah, deep breaths. We have all made it through an introduction to SEO, and I've got a few action steps to immediately implement. Hopefully you do too and we'll all begin to see some results from this.
Up next, once I get the nerve, are some of the more complex pieces of search engine optimization. Meta descriptions, H2 tags and clean URLS, I'm coming for you!
One of the more tangible goals of this project was not being blindsided by the Oscars. Last year, I made it through about 20 minutes of the Oscars before I turned it off because I had neither seen nor HEARD of most of the nominees. It's hard to be invested in an awards show when you have no baseline knowledge of any of the players. As an aside, it's also hard to not feel like a complete outsider in that scenario - it definitely led to some introspection about the particular rocks I live under.
We're two weeks away from the Oscars, and, while I'm not ready yet, I'm already ahead of last year and am putting together a cramming plan.
To that end, here are the headlines of this year's Oscars:
With two weeks to go, I've seen one of the Best Picture noms, Black Panther, and two others that received nominations: Mary Poppins Returns (Best Original Music Score, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design) and RBG (Best Documentary Feature). To fill in the gaps, here's my preparation crash course:
To streamline the above "syllabus," here's a list of the Best Picture nominees, their trailers, their official synopsis from the Oscar's site and information about how you can watch them in the next two weeks.
A Star is Born
Here's the synopsis from the Oscar's page and other nominations it's gotten:
If you want to get this on your last-minute watch list, you might be able to find it in a local theater - it's playing at one in Memphis; you can purchase it on Google Play or YouTube for $19.99 (no date yet of when it will be available there for rent); or after February 19, you can get it at Redbox. I'm scheduling this for Friday, February 22!
Here's the Oscar's synopsis and other nominations:
You can rent BlackKklansman on Google Play, Amazon Prime or YouTube for $5.99. It's also available at Redbox for $1.75.
The Oscar's synopsis and other noms are:
Black Panther is available on Netfix. You can also rent it for $5.99 on Amazon Prime or Google Play, rent it on YouTube for $2.99 or rent it a Redbox for $1.75.
Here's the official synopsis and other nominations for Bohemian Rhapsody:
You can purchase Bohemian Rhapsody for $19.99 on YouTube, Google Play or Prime. It should be available at RedBoxes on February 12 and available to rent on Google Play and Prime on March 4. It's also showing at one of our local theaters, so you might still have a chance to see it on the big screen.
And the other nominations and synopsis:
The Favourite is a hard one to find right now. It'll be released on DVD on March 5. Google Play says that it's expected on February 19, but other than that it's not readily available before February 24. Add to that that it's not playing at any of our local theaters, and I'm putting this on the post-Oscars watch list.
And the details:
Green Book is still playing in many local theaters, so you should be able to see it on the big screen. It'll be available for purchase on Prime March 5 and likely available on Google Play on February 19.
Roma is available on Netflix.
Here's what you need to know about it:
Vice is still playing in many local theaters and should be released on DVD sometime in March.
Just getting through this step, I already feel more ready for the Oscars than I have been in the last 5 years. Plus, I look forward to seeing at least three more of the above movies in the next two weeks. A good challenge for some cold, dreary weeks. Hope you are up to speed and looking forward to enjoying the Oscars on the 24th!
It was a wonderfully uneventful week here. For whatever reason, it seems like we have more unusual weeks (sick days, holidays, special events, schedule changes, etc.), than usual ones. There's something deeply satisfying about a "boring" week where all the trains are running on schedule, more or less. Hope you can find some boring in your schedule this week too.
Here are a few recommendations for this week:
Note: this post contains some affiliate links. This means that if you make purchases, I might receive a commission. See disclosure page for more details.
I have fallen in love with Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series. There are 14 books in the series - the first is Still Life, so start there if you haven't read any of them. Her most recent book, Kingdom of the Blind, was published in November, and I'm finally get a chance to read it. All of the books center around the inviting Quebec village of Three Pines and the lovable main character, Inspector Gamache. The mysteries are engaging and will keep you reading, but I look forward to the books because each takes me back to Three Pines and its quirky residents. (I've also listened to quite a few of these, and they are perfect stories for audio books.) I'm not sure that I've ever stuck with a series for 14 books before, but for this one, I hope there are 14 more.
Ellen is back to stand-up for the first time in 15 years with her Netflix show, Relatable. It's about an hour long and worth every minute. There's not a lot to say about this except, it's really funny! We laughed. A lot. If you need some good, belly laughs, add this to your queue.
Jason Isbell's The Nashville Sound. I was introduced to Jason Isbell last year, when we got the opportunity to see him playing with his wife, Amanda Shires, in a small theater. It was one of the best concerts I've ever been to, and I've been working my way through his music since then. This week I've been listening to his most recent album, The Nashville Sound. I like the sound, no pun intended, but more than that, I like his storytelling. Start with "If We Were Vampires" and "Tupelo."
Have y'all heard of the Fyre Festival? I hadn't, but recently was seeing a lot of headlines, so I read a few articles about it. I have no idea how I missed this in 2017, but it's one of the crazier stories I've heard. The overview: the festival was promoted as a luxury music festival on a private island in the Bahamas with luxury accommodations and gourmet food. Through some impressive marketing and use of celebrity social-medial influences, it sold out almost immediately (5,000 tickets!), but when attendees arrived, they were housed in hurricane tents, served cheese sandwiches, and didn't see a single performance. It's an astounding fraud, and raises a number of (disturbing) questions about the power of social media. Hulu and Netflix have both done documentaries on this - I look forward to learning more. If there are any Fyre Festival attendees reading this, please tell us more!
Hope you enjoy some of these recommendations and have a good week. And please send any recommendations for next week (or next month) my way!
We love books in our house, and our shelves are overflowing with children's books of all kinds. Yet, we often fall into a rut of reading some of the same books over and over again. While these are great, there's a lot to be said for throwing some new material in the mix!
With that goal in mind, my kids and I took on the challenge of exploring new books and finding some new favorites. We combed the shelves of our library and local independent bookstore. Our only objective requirement was that the books we picked had to be published in 2018 or 2019. In putting together the final list, I threw in a few subjective requirements, only selecting books with sweet stories/meaningful messages; with engaging pictures; that my kids have asked to read again (and again); and that I enjoyed reading on repeat.
Using those fairly subjective categories, here's the list of 10 new books that we love and have happily added to our own reading lineup and our 2019 gift list:
Note: this post contains some affiliate links. This means that if you make purchases, I might receive a commission. See disclosure page for more details.
1. Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Blue is beautiful and simple. The pictures are stunning and engaging and tell the story of a boy and his dog. Each page only has two words (one of which is blue), yet the story of the bond between the boy and his dog is vividly portrayed. This book is great for younger kids, early readers, and dog lovers!
2. Giraffe Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith
Giraffe Problems is the story of a giraffe and turtle that are unhappy with their necks. However, once they meet and talk, they help each other to see the benefits that their respective necks have. It's silly and fun, but also has a powerful message about being comfortable in your own skin and finding beauty in being unique.
3. Don't Blink by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and David Roberts
Don't Blink has become our official last book of the night. The premise of the book is that the reader can stay awake as long as the book doesn't end; however, every time you blink, you have to turn the page. It's fun and interactive and has some optical illusion-like pictures that make your eyes spin a bit. It's a great way to end the day.
4. The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
One of my children got The Rabbit Listened for Christmas, and it immediately became a favorite. The main character, Taylor, builds a stunning tower of blocks, only to see it topple to the ground. A number of animal friends try to comfort Taylor in the way that they would want to be comforted, but nothing works until rabbit just comes and listens. My son likes it because he is marginally terrified of the bear that responds with angry roars, and I love the beautiful picture of empathy that it paints. I have filed away some lessons from this book, and hopefully I can be more rabbit like the next time my kids have a similar crisis.
5. The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
Kids and adults could stand to read The Book of Mistakes a few times every year. It's a beautifully and creatively illustrated book showing readers how mistakes can lead to some of the best ideas. The pictures blend together in a wonderful way that makes you want to read and re-read this. Plus, I love that rather than telling kids mistakes can lead to good things, Luyken shows them tangible ways that this is true. The Book of Mistakes is definitely one to own and pull out regularly.
6. The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee
Jon Agee's books are consistently funny and entertaining, and his newest one is no exception. The Wall in the Middle of the Book is full of his signature illustrations and wit, but also shares a powerful message with readers. The young knight is thankful for the giant wall that protects him from supposed dangers of the other side. When waters begin to rise on his side of the book, however, the knight is surprised to find that he is saved by one of the very creatures he believed the wall was protecting him from. This book is fun and exciting for readers, but also is anchored in powerful imagery - combination bound to make this a go-to favorite.
7. I'll Love You Till the Cows Come Home by Kathryn Cristaldi
This is a rhyming book about a family's unconditional and immeasurable love. The pictures and words are fun and a little silly, but the message is serious and beautiful. Plus, rhyming verse is always fun to read, particularly if you have emerging readers in the house. This is a great bedtime story - and perhaps a perfect Valentine's Day gift!
8. Twinkle by Katharine Holabird and Sarah Warburton
By the author of Angelina Ballerina (still one of my all-time favorites), Twinkle tells the story of a young girl struggling through her first days at fairy school. She experiences many failures, frustrations, and setbacks, yet she perseveres and the book ends on a high note as she successfully masters a new spell. The story is a relevant one for young readers that are constantly trying new things, but I particularly love how detailed and captivating the pictures are. With so much going on in each picture, it's a book that lends itself well to being read many, many times. (Also, this would be a great birthday book for girls - purchase and wrap a stack of 10 and you'll be skipping to birthday parties on time this spring!)
9. Ninja Camp by Sue Fliess
Who doesn't dream of going to ninja camp and becoming a nimble, stealthy, and lightening-quick warrior? Those dreams are realized in Ninja Camp, where through rhyming-verse the ninja master instructs young campers and helps prepare them to be "Ninjas of the Night." It's light, fun, engaging, and great for young readers that are always ready for action. (This, too, would be a great birthday book!)
10. Square by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
The obvious sequel to Triangle, Square tells the story of Square as he pushes blocks up a hill all day. Circle sees Square's work and thinks he's an artistic genius. Square tries to let Circle know that he's not, but Circle won't hear it and only sees more genius after Square attempts to shape one of his square blocks into a circle for her. This book is sweet, funny, and simple, with uniquely Klassen illustrations. Plus, stay tuned for the release of the third book in the trilogy, Circle.
Good children's books are a great way to instill a love of reading in all members of your house. Plus, keeping your shelves updated helps add some excitement and variety to daily story times. These ten new books are already becoming favorites in our house, and I hope that they'll become favorites in yours too! Also, if there are other 2018 or 2019 books that your family loves, please share them in the comments below so we can all check them out. Happy reading!
This week has been a roller coaster of chaos in our house, but there's little evidence (beyond the piles of laundry, dirty floors, and empty fridge) of that this peaceful and beautiful Sunday afternoon. We're enjoying a little break this long weekend and looking forward to a trip downtown tomorrow to the National Civil Right's Museum followed by the MLK, Jr. celebration at the Memphis Grizzlies' game. Hope you're having a good weekend as well. Here are a few recommendations that might come in handy on a cold, and perhaps snowy, long weekend:
Note: this post contains some affiliate links. This means that if you make purchases, I might receive a commission. See disclosure page for more details.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. This is a beautiful and powerful book that has had me thinking all week long. My only complaint about this book is that it cost me a lot of sleep this week - I couldn't put it down and read it in about four days. The story is heartbreaking, thought-provoking, painful, and, somehow amidst all of that, hopeful. Read this one with a friend, spouse, or group because there is so much that you'll want to discuss.
I talked about the release of season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in a tv post a couple of months ago, but am just now getting to watch it. After making it through 9 out of 10 episodes, I love it even more than season 1. This season screams Amy Sherman-Palladino and reminds me of my favorite thing from the Gilmore Girls - lots of fast- talking, quick-witted, and quirky-but-lovable characters. It's a great show, and I'll be sad to finish off season 2 this week (although, if I can convince my husband, I might just re-watch the whole show starting at the beginning).
In the 90s, I could've sung every word of every Garth Brooks song (I probably still could for any songs written before 2000), but over the holidays I watched his televised Notre Dame concert and realized that he'd come out of his semi-retirement without me even knowing it. I missed the album he released in 2016, but there's a new album coming in 2019 that I won't miss. He's released the single "All Day Long" as a teaser, and while I feel certain this new album will never rival No Fences for me, I'm caught up and ready for it.
As is so often the case in January, my social media feeds are full of thirty day challenges of all kinds. Minimalism and organization are popular topics, particularly in my Pinterest feed, so I thought maybe I'd give it a try. But, then I realized that I didn't actually want to clean out my pantry or linen closet and was marginally offended that someone, a complete stranger at that, suggested that I should and needed to. Instead, I found this 30 Day Happiness Challenge. Admittedly, some of it feels a little hokey, but who couldn't use some extra happiness or kindness. Plus, the daily tasks are pretty low rigor and easy to complete, so I'm going for it. My guess is that approximately .04% of people that begin a 30 day challenge finish it, but I'll be following up in February with my progress. Today is day 1, wish me luck!
Hope you enjoy some of these recommendations and that you have a good Martin Luther King Day. If you have any recommendations for what I should be reading, watching, listening to, or doing/learning, please send them my way either in the comments below or via email: email@example.com. And, as always, thanks for reading!
Now that I read a number of blogs, I see a few topics that seem to come up regularly. One of those topics is face and skincare and the many things associated with it: what products to use, what routines to follow, what should you do and how often should you do it, etc., etc. Seeing so much of this, I was curious whether this buzz was solely focused on product promotion and sales or whether a good skincare routine can actually make a difference to the health and appearance of your skin.
My daily skincare routine has been the same for many years and it's pretty simple (might want to grab a pen): splash cold water all over face in the morning; repeat in the evening. However, as I age, I'm beginning to note some things about my skin that don't look as healthy as perhaps they could (i.e., bags/lines under eyes, pores that are large, and, most recently, the appearance of milia on my forehead). Plus, I'm increasingly concerned about protecting my skin from the sun and warding off skin cancer. With all of that combined with the prevalence of skincare talk, I was motivated to research and create a daily skincare routine. Even so, step one for me was determining how important a routine really is.
Daily Skincare Routine: How Important Is It?
It seems universally accepted, from WebMD to The New York Times, that there are a few things that we should all be doing on a daily basis to care for our skin. There are tangible benefits and important preventative care that can come from the right routine. The benefits of a good routine include: keeping your skin looking and feeling healthy, keeping your skin balanced, preventing acne and blemishes, preventing wrinkles, and protecting your skin from the sun and elements (note: full list of articles referenced is listed at the end so you can go directly to the experts for more details).
To be fair, these sources broadly define caring for skin - i.e, drinking water, eating right, getting plenty of sleep, minimizing stress - in addition to things like cleansing, toning, and exfoliating. Even so, it seems like this is a debate that has long since been decided: daily skincare matters, and the right daily routine can help protect your skin, make you feel better, and make you look better, both in the short and long-term.
What to Include in Your Daily Routine
While it seems that everyone is in agreement that a daily routine is necessary, there's much less consensus on what should be included in that routine. I've read "must-include" lists that have 10 or more steps, and others that include a multitude of words that I know nothing about - antioxidant serums, masks, eye creams, boosters, exfoliating rubs, etc. Given that I'm starting at the most basic of levels and that I don't want a time-consuming routine, one that will require a hefty investment, or one that will send my skin into shock, I put together a routine with nothing but the bare essentials.
Before getting into the steps I included, it's worth briefly noting some of the broader skincare steps that the experts consistently included as really important in maintaining healthy skin. First, it seems that staying hydrated is one of, if not the, most important steps you can take to ensure that your skin is healthy. Second, eating well - especially omega-3 foods, fruits, vegetables, and grains - plays a major role in keeping your skin in balance and healthy. Finally - and we've all got the life experience to support this one - sleep is a major factor in keeping your skin healthy.
Those three things - hydration, nutrition, and sleep - are major categories in and of themselves, so I'm not really tackling them with this project. Yet, I'd be missing a major component of this article to not acknowledge how important they are in caring for your skin. Hopefully, I can tackle those in the future, but for now, baby steps.
The Daily Routine
Wow. There are a lot of potential things to include in your daily routine, and depending on the source, every last one is essential. Being a very low-level beginner at this, I pulled out the steps that appear on all lists and seem to be pretty unanimously in the category of "you should do this every day." Here's the routine I landed with:
Once per day:
Once a week:
A couple notes about this:
- per WebMD, a good wash once a day is all that you need (although there's plenty of debate about this). I do the full routine in the morning so that I get the sun protection for the day. In the evening, I rinse my face with warm water and leave it at that.
- The weekly exfoliation doesn't seem as essential as the daily routine above, but I decided to go a little crazy and add that one on.
- There was a strong emphasis on warm water in most every article that I read. Apparently, cold water won't tighten your pores and hot water will dry your face out. Lukewarm it is!
- There also seems to be an emphasis on how to dry your face after washing it: "pat" and "dab" come up a lot. At this point, I'm so focused on gently dabbing my face dry that I can't even remember how I used to dry it.
- There's lots of talk about finding the right products for you. I haven't gotten into any of that - I went with the mildest versions of everything for a normal skin type and have been happy so far. I'll share below what I'm using, but this is far from a full product review. I'm happy with what I have, but haven't done any experimenting with products.
So, I'm on day nine of implementing the above routine. First, I really enjoy it. It only adds about 2-3 minutes to my morning routine, but it makes me feel a little more together in the morning and my skin definitely feels better. I *think* that my pores are already looking better and my overall tone looks healthier, although it's a little early for all of that. Regardless, I enjoy the routine, I feel better, and my skin is decidedly healthier.
If you don't already have a routine in place, I highly recommend adding it, and I hope that some piece of this can help you create one. If you have any additional steps that you consider to be "must haves" or that you really enjoy, please share them!
The products that I'm using are below. Note: this post contains some affiliate links. This means that if you make purchases, I might receive a commission. See disclosure page for more details.
Here are the articles I used for this post that you might want to check out for more details:
Building Your Perfect Skincare Routine
How to Build a Skincare Routine
6 Things You Should Do For Your Skin Everyday
5 Reasons You Must Moisturize Your Skin
In What Order Do I Apply My Skincare Products
The Exact Regimen You Should Be Following For Your Skin Type
We had a couple days of blue sky and sunshine, but our default weather the last week or so has been mid-30s and raining. It's not been my most energetic or active week, as my body seems to be taking cues to hibernate. Even so, there were a few brief flashes of productivity. Here are a few recommendations from those moments:
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak. (Zusak is the author of The Book Thief, an all-time favorite for me). Bridge of Clay is Zusak's most recent book and it has his trademark storytelling and characters. The story follows the lives of five brothers, the Dunbar boys, as they make their way in the world on their own and live in the shadow of the looming mystery surrounding their father's disappearance. It took me a little while to get invested in the story, but I fell in love with the writing from the first page. It'd be a great book for a vacation week - as it's pretty long and not the quickest read - or for a book club discussion. And, shout-out to my husband, who gave me this delightful read for Christmas!
Singin' in the Rain. Our beautiful, historic theater in town - The Orpheum - does a movie series. This week they showed Singin' in the Rain, which I'd never seen. With the exception of the drawn-out New York scene, I loved every minute of it, and seeing it on the big screen was magical. This is a classic movie that is a must-watch, particularly if you love some good dancing!
By the Way, I Forgive You, Brandi Carlile's most recent album. I love Brandi Carlile, but haven't listened to any of her recent music. In keeping with our household New Year's resolution of regularly listening to new music - and Disney or Story Pirates- produced doesn't count - I listened to a few songs off this album this week. I didn't make it all the way through because I fell in love with "Most of All" and "The Mother" and just kept listening to them over and over. I especially related to "The Mother" and find it to be a really powerful and beautiful listen.
AllRecipes Dinner Spinner. Meal planning makes me break out into a cold sweat. But, the people in my house want to eat every day and, if hungry, can be real terrors in the grocery store. As a result, planning meals for the week and getting the ingredients for them in one weekly grocery trip is an essential part of making our week flow smoothly and efficiently. I hit a rut with this process this week and sought backup in a meal-planning app. I started with Mealime, which is highly rated, but it wasn't a good fit for us - a little too complicated for both my cooking skills and my kids' palates. I settled on the AllRecipes Dinner Spinner app - there are lots of great meal ideas, they can all be made in around 30 minutes (allegedly), there are many kid-friendly recipes, and you can immediately add items from the recipes to your grocery list. For now, it is curing my meal-planning blues.
Hope your 2019 is off to a good start. And, please share any good recommendations of what to read, watch, listen to, know, or do. The more suggestions the better!
We took a full week off this past week - we traveled to Michigan to visit family and completely unplugged. I can't say enough about how much this did for our psyche and, now that we're back, our productivity. We were burnt out in profound ways, but a week of good rest, doing nothing productive, and just enjoying each other and family and friends has brought us into 2019 with a new energy. Also, two weeks with no routine for a 2 and 4-year-old has given me new and loving eyes for the routine that sometimes feels monotonous and exhausting, but gives shapes to those long days. We're back at it today and everyone seems happy about it!
One of the great thing about some time off was that I got some extra opportunities to explore some Conversationalist threads. Here are my recommendations from this wonderful week:
I got One Day in December from our book club Christmas book swap. Admittedly, the synopsis sounded a little too gooey and contrived for me - girl makes eye contact with boy while riding bus, girl falls in love with boy in those moments, girl spends rest of her life looking for boy. BUT, it was a perfect holiday read and a beautiful love story. It was quick, easy, and sweet. I highly recommend it as a read to put a little spark in your January!
I was also skeptical about seeing Mary Poppins Returns. Among other things, how could anyone fill the gargantuan shoes of Julie Andrews? And, how could we revisit the storyline without repeating it? Too much to ask of any movie and no reason to mess with the perfection that is Mary Poppins. And yet, I LOVED everything about this movie. The story was a perfect one to reconnect us with Mary Poppins and the Banks Family, the cast was amazing - there are even wonderful interludes with Meryl Streep, Dick Van Dyke, and Angela Lansbury, and the music was catchy and great. I went with my daughter and my in-laws - all three generations loved it. Go early and often!
Some of our family started talking about a Kacey Musgraves concert over the holidays, and I was embarrassed to note that while the name sounded familiar, I couldn't name a single song of hers. My husband did a quick search to pull up a couple of hits only to find out that her most recent album, Golden Hour, was #3 in NPR's "Best 50 Albums of 2018" list. Who knew? (Well, apparently millions of people based on her album sales, concert tour, and downloads.) We did not, but purchased Golden Hour and have been listening every chance we ge. The whole album is good, but my favorite is "Rainbow" and Joe's favorite is "Space Cowboy."
I learned a little this week about the history of New Year's Resolutions - did you know that humans have been making such resolutions for 4,000 years?!? A tradition that dates back to the Babylonians, but perhaps is best summed up by one authors categorization of this practice as "a triumph of hope over experience." Source: Westacott. It's an intriguing practice and an interesting study in human nature. I enjoyed reading more about the history of it and getting some tips to keep resolutions from this How Stuff Works three-part article. Based on what I learned, I'll be making a refined, clearly stated list and publicizing it ASAP!
Just when I've finally started to write 2018 instead of 2017, it seems like the year is about to be behind us. This past year has been one filled with much transition for me and a happy outcome of that transition has been this blog. I've so enjoyed the things I've learned so far from writing this blog, and, even more than that, I've enjoyed the many connections that I've made through this community - both increased connections with old friends and family and new ones I've made with readers I've met along the way. Thank you for going on this journey with me and for making the project worthwhile!
We've got a week of excitement and travel ahead, and while I'm looking forward to unplugging from all areas for a few days, I'm already excited about getting back to it in 2019. The Future Conversationalist calendar is completed through the end of February, and I look forward to a few content surprises in there as well!
As I close out the year with The Future Conversationalist, I couldn't help but peruse where it's been in its first six months. I remember well writing, We're Not Doing Papers Anymore, laying out the vision but with many questions about where it'd go from there. Just Venmo Me helped change the style of the blog, as I got lots of feedback that the style of the post - light but informative - struck the right tone. Trying to apply that feedback, I had so much fun writing 5 Podcasts for Kids, which ended up being the most popular post so far.
I've made plenty of mistakes and have been off schedule more than I've been on it, yet it's been a fun and successful start. Genuine thanks for reading, for discussing the content, for suggesting ideas, for providing feedback, and for generally being a part of the Conversationalist community. I'm incredibly thankful for the opportunity to do this and look forward to getting at it again in 2019. Until then, hope you have a very Merry Christmas and New Year!