A few months ago (can it really have been that long already?) I shared my current and recent reads to you in a new format, linking up with my friend Anne’s Twitterature meme. I’ve read quite a bit since then!

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Here’s what I’ve wrapped up my summer reading with (in no particular order), in quick, tweet-like reviews of each book….

 

Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me?

by Mindy Kaling

Entertaining (and of course, funny) and quick (read it in one day thanks to a flu bug). Made me want to start watching The Office all over again as it gave a fun insider’s look at a show David and loved.


 

Me Before You

by Jojo Mayes

Riveting in a way I didn’t expect. Captivated my emotions with its great character development and unusual (compared to what I normally read) plot. I did not like the ending, but I do love Mayes’ book cover art.

 


The Discipline of Grace

by Jerry Bridges

Life-changing book to help solidify my theology and my daily walk with the Lord. Said my husband who’s not much of a reader: “We should read this every year.”

 


The Fault in our Stars 

by John Green

Sad, yes, but somehow oddly uplifting as well. This one had a twist I wasn’t expecting. I wanted to read it just in case I decide to see the movie, still not sure if I will. If I don’t normally like sad books, I like sad movies even less. The book was pretty powerful, not sure if the movie will do it justice.

 


The Happiness Project

by Gretchen Rubin

I love “stunt nonfiction” books. Had to remind myself that happiness is not my ultimate goal in life as I read this, but it was practically inspiring nonetheless. Lots of nuggets of wisdom that could be applied to my own life.

 


Eleanor & Park

by Rainbow Rowell

Captivating and eye-opening (in terms of what poverty looks like in a suburban teen’s life). I loved the style, the characters, the realism, and the emotion. A little raw at times for me.

 


Attachments

by Rainbow Rowell

LOVED this one. Loved the format (part narrative, part email conversation), the characters, the story. Would definitely read it again, and would enjoy seeing it adapted as a romantic comedy.

 


Small Blessings

by Martha Woodroof

Surprised by this one; I requested it to review through NetGalley and wasn’t really sure what to expect (I’ll be honest, I picked it partly because of the beautiful cover). The main characters were endearing and the story was clever, with a good twist. Loved the academic setting.

 


The Undomestic Goddess

by Sophie Kinsella

Super fun story– read like watching a cute romantic comedy. Much more likeable character than Shopaholic. She was still very flawed, but less annoying. Thanks to those of you who recommended this one last time. :)

 


 

Currently:

What are you reading? Did you have a good summer book list?

Thanks to NetGalley for providing Small Blessings. All book links are Amazon Affiliate links– thanks for your support!

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three favorite Bible study tools from GidgetGoesHome.com

There’s a stark difference in my day when I take time to give myself a hard reset and a fresh start by reading my Bible first thing in the morning. Ideally, I get up early and enjoy the quiet and solitude of a still house at dawn, but of course, with three kids, someone is often bound to be up early with me.

The season I’m in right now is all about surviving and making do. I might not get uninterrupted time to journal my heart out like I did before I was a mama but that doesn’t mean I can’t read a few verses, review some prayer requests, and center my heart on the Lord even on mornings where the chaos starts early.

Here are a few things that make me happy as I dig into the Word.

ESV journaling bible

1. My Bible

I’ve been using a Crossway journaling Bible over six years now, but just this year I upgraded to a real leather version with a single column of text instead of a double column (bottom right photo above shows compares the two). I feel like the text lines up with my notes better with the single column. I’ve always been a verse-underliner and love inserting interesting notes so this Bible is really perfect for me. I hope it lasts me for many, many years, and gets super worn with lots of notes. There’s nothing better than a worn, well-loved Bible.

micron pen for bible study

2. My pen

Thanks to my friend Susan, I finally discovered the best pen to use with this Bible, a Micron .25 mm. It’s a very fine point so that I can write tiny notes, it doesn’t smudge (she’s a lefty so that was key for her to find), and it’s archival quality. The other great idea Susan gave me was to use a new color each year. I started with brown, and I love how it writes, and how it, surprisingly, doesn’t show through the pages like I thought this kind of pen might.

inductive bible study bookmark

3. A little guidance

I’m so excited for my CBS class to start up in two weeks– I love having the homework to give me something focused to study in the Word (we’re studying Daniel and Revelation this year!). But I’m also reading through all the epistles on my own, and hope to continue that even when CBS starts as they provide such practical advice on the way I want to live my life… and also, there’s so much to underline and notes to transfer from my old Bible to my new one!

This summer for our womens’ small groups we did some inductive Bible studying. I created a pretty little bookmark using some of the questions that our leadership team put together for a simple way to read the Bible and study it inductively. I laminated these for my girls and me to keep in our Bibles, always handy for us to use as we read the Word– to not just gloss over what we read but to really extrapolate some tangible takeaways from it.

I wanted to share it with you, too! You can click to download the PDF of the  inductive bible study bookmark.

Linking up with Amy of MomAdvice for 3 Little Things. :)

What are your favorite Bible study tools?

Affiliate links included. Thank you for your support!

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my first stitch fix

{Warning: awkward modeling photos involved here!} I’ve been observing Stitch Fixes from the sideline for a while now on friends’ blogs, and finally decided to go for it. A self-confessed non-shopper, I’ve been exploring the idea of finding my own style a little bit this year.

I finally read (and loved) The No-Brainer Wardrobe, bought some awesome new hangers, and most recently, asked David if we could pretty-please add some clothing money to August’s budget for requesting my first Fix. I figured I would consider it as a sort of fall-is-coming hurrah (I hate for summer to end but I’m trying to cozy up to fall as a second fave)– like back-to-school personal shopping for mom.

So what is Stitch Fix? Here’s how simple it was.

  • I signed up and filled out a fun style profile. I also updated my Style board on Pinterest so my stylist could see what kind of things I liked (Stitch Fix has lots of boards to look through to get ideas).
  • I was careful to actually request styles/items I would actually wear. Thanks for that tip, Anne!
  • I scheduled my fix to arrive, and it did– a few days early actually!

When the pretty box arrived, just opening it was fun and exciting– I especially loved the outfit suggestion cards that gave styling ideas for each item.

I’ll show you what I received and share a few thoughts on the experience, and I’d love to get your opinion on the pieces my stylist (I have a stylist! How fun is that?!) picked out for me. Vain disclaimer: I left my makeup in Northern California so you get to see me model au naturel {cringe}.

my first stitch fix!

Item #1: Alexa Embroidery Detailed Tank by Skies are Blue

I love the embroidery details on this one, but I wasn’t crazy about the shape on me or the polyester fabric. I might have convinced myself to keep it though if it wasn’t white. Between my cooking (gotta remember the apron!) and my kids’ messes I can’t brave all-white right now.

I think this one’s a no go.

stitch fix henley

Item #2: Trinidad Chevron Striped Henley Blouse by Fun2Fun

I love the style and chevron design of this one. It will be a great one to carry me into fall, too.

(Also, let’s pretend those sleeves are rolled up evenly like they were the first time I tried this shirt on, and that it’s not so wrinkled, k? Thanks.) ;)

This one’s a keeper!

stitch fix skirt

Item #3: Daniela Geo Print Maxi Skirt by Tart

Cute design, fun fabric. Holy expensive. My stylist picked reasonably priced (for higher-end than I’m used to) pieces for me other than this one. I still can’t figure out why this skirt was priced at over a hundred dollars. Never in my wildest dreams could I justify spending that much on an everyday piece of clothing, as much as I might like it.

Sadly, no on this one.

stitch fix blue tank

Item #4 Kahlo Embroidered Solid Tank by Le Sample

When we saw the photo card with the outfit suggestions for this one, David and I both thought my stylist hit the nail on the head with this one, matching my style to a tee. It’s a little dressier than my normal everyday tank-and-shorts combo with the lovely embellishment, unique cut and nice fabric, but it’s still casual enough to be something I could wear any day.

My only concern is finding the right bra for it as my strapless bra works great with the back but does something funny to the front as you can see in the left photo.

All in all, this was my favorite item of the fix and it’s a definite keeper.

The fifth item was the pair of earrings pictured in the top photo. Very cute, but I realized for the cost, I would rather buy something from Noonday Collection or something handmade, so I won’t be requesting any more jewelry from Stitch Fix in the future.

Overall, this was a super fun experience, especially for someone like me who literally get a headache from scouring the racks for too long. Since I most of my wardrobe is made up of acquired handmedowns (which I love) or basic items from Old Navy or Target, I felt like this was a really grown-up splurge for me. One thing I was disappointed in was that all the item were made in China. For the price, it would be nice to see something American-made.

Will I do another Stitch Fix? I’d definitely like to. It’d be a fun thing to ask for money towards for a birthday or special occasion. If you’re interested in trying it, I’d love it if you used my referral code which will help me earn Stitch Fix credit. (And I’ll try to work on less awkward poses next time, too.) ;)

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norcal camping-9

Almost thirty years ago, my curious baby brother (that’s him, above, not a baby anymore) wandered from our campsite in Pismo Beach, CA next door and into to our camp-neighbor’s motorhome. He was fascinated with the RV because it had a steering wheel for driving right inside (we had a trailer at the time)!

It was a fateful meeting, because not only did that family return him and become our dear friends, but they invited our family to join them at their summer camping spot, Lake Almanor, up in Northern California. We did so that very summer and then continued to camp there with the same crew of friends every year of my childhood.

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The summer after I graduated high school, leg in a cast from a bad car accident, I visited the lake for the last time. It’s a bit off the beaten path, and David and I had never been as a couple through all my college years and our eleven years of marriage. Many of the lake crew have kept going (including my parents, off and on) but my brother and I, living the farthest away, hadn’t been back in years– fifteen years to be exact for me.

Until this year.

norcal camping-1

From four main families our numbers have grown. Of my generation, we all have families of our own now except for two of the younger brothers. And this year, fifteen years later, we finally (almost) all got back together at the lake for a reunion of sorts and a wonderful week of camping at one of my favorite places.

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Back when we were kids, we thought we “owned the place” at that campground. There were just six of us– five girls and one boy, plus a few younger brothers. We acquired more lake friends over the years, but that was our main crew. This year, David counted thirty-eight of us, and that was missing a young family of six who couldn’t make it.

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I saw the lake through new eyes this year, as we introduced our kids to our old traditions like milkshakes in town, putting pennies on the railroad tracks (with gum, of course), ice cream at the camp store, catching crawdads, and the most beautiful sunsets (the ones you see here are all unedited).

So today, as I reflect on what a beautiful time we had there (even despite LOTS of rain one day, and one sick kid), I thought I’d share a few photos with you. We were traveling on 10 on 10 day after all. Only today you get a few more than ten. ;)

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This trip also marked the maiden voyage of our little tent-trailer! We are in love! And of course, ahem, now we know where she leaks (and have hopefully since fixed that).

Sharing bits of our childhood with our own kids is one of the sweetest things about building a family. Watching them embrace traditions that I grew up with made my heart feel full, and as I got to experience one of my most favorite places in the world after such a long hiatus, I was reminded anew of the wonder of creation and the gratitude for this life I’ve been blessed with.

And on a related note, as I’ve said before: camping with young kids– it’s definitely not easy, but oh, how we love it.

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our family's first home

I finished grad school in the spring of 2006, and that fall I stayed on at my university as a part-time lecturer in Spanish. I also found out I was pregnant that fall. I continued my teaching job until a few weeks before the spring semester ended, when Gigi was born.

I was never so career-driven that I wanted to pursue full-time teaching (not that the California budget made that a possibility anyway) or PhD, much to the disappointment of a few of my professors. I knew I wanted to stay home with my baby girl.

But I’ve always been an academic. I probably would have considered going back in the fall to teach one class a semester (every autumn I’m drawn to school supplies– bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils, anyone?– and books and curriculum and learning) if we hadn’t moved out of state, where I had no university connections.

It was there, in Colorado, where I first settled into officially being “at home.” I joined a wonderful moms’ Bible study and enjoyed days full of analyzing my baby’s schedule, making baby food, researching cloth diapers and green living, documenting milestones, and learning about home management, organization, and productivity.

When I finally decided I needed an outlet for expressing other thoughts, findings, book reviews (besides just the family photo updates that were regularly posted on our family blog), I also discovered that the blogosphere wasn’t just a place to park my soapbox (which I’ve long-since abandoned anyway), it was a real, live community.

The blog community was a place where I could be home-based but also well-connected, and exposed to ideas, deep conversations, and inspiration,  my academic mind stimulated and my new-mama heart encouraged. I really fell in love with blogging, and connecting over the enigma that is the internet with other kindred spirits who tap down thoughts and click publish.

When I started my first non-family-photo-album blog, I chose the name Gidget Goes Green, enjoying the alliteration and fun use of my childhood pseudonym of choice, along with my new passion to research and write about green living.

But very shortly thereafter (maybe a month later?), I changed the name– I wanted to broaden my writing topics, and I realized that most everything I wanted to write about related in one way or another to the home. Not just to the physical walls and roof, but to a heart of hospitality, to the elements of homemaking, to the place where we gather to love, and eat, and discuss the deeper issues of life.

jane austen quote about home

Last week I read an old-ish post by Emily Freeman that I really loved and was struck with resounding feelings of yes, when I read these words:

Home isn’t either beautiful or not, happy or sad, full or empty. Home is both and home is and, whether home is church or family or a cul-de-sac. Home has good parts, hard parts, marvelous and miracle parts. Home is where we celebrate and where we grieve, where we are broken and healed, hurt and made whole again.

It’s a more-eloquent version of how I’ve described the idea of home before, and it’s a beautiful description of the place where we each come back to over and over and where we welcome others in and show them who we really are.

Someday, I may change the name of this little blog, who knows. But my hope is that it’s always a virtual reflection of what a real home is– the both and the and, a place that welcomes and nourishes, inspires, and fosters community.

And so thanks for being here. You are most welcome. 

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nothing stays the same

Parenting advice can be annoying, right? But one thing I’m never afraid to share with new moms (and remind myself about) is this:

Just when you get comfortable with a rhythm, routine, stage or phase, something changes.

(The same goes for rhythms, routines, stages, or phases you’re uncomfortable in, too, They usually don’t last forever.)

Some regions have a similar mantra for the weather: If you don’t like the weather here, just wait five minutes. 

The weather is much more steady here where I live. It generally ranges from 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, all year long. Parenthood, on the other hand, sometimes feels like an ongoing series of transitions, and those steady plateaus in-between often feel too short for comfort.

I’m in one of those transitions right now. I had recently been extolling the glories of afternoon quiet time to some friends of mine. Summer had been great, an even more productive time for me than normal for writing and blogging stuff. We would play all morning and then after lunch the kids would each go in their separate rooms (Gigi in mine) for naps or Quiet Play Time. I would have a couple of (mostly) blissful hours to myself to do things like eat a complete meal in peace, surf Instagram, read a few chapters, or do some writing.

Then. We finally took Hallee’s paci away last week (cue music of doom: duh-duh-duh).

Let’s just say on the first day, after a pretty good night (surprisingly) when Daddy made the The Call, I texted him with the desperate, and dramatic, words: You killed naptime. 

I knew it was time. I wasn’t blaming him per se. But seriously, my afternoons as I knew them, seemed OVER.

We’ve had lots of crying. Poor Hallee is hoarse (I think she and Gigi are naturally prone to a raspy voice, especially during bouts of lots o’ crying). And I’m praying her through this, and trying to focus on the nice, cuddly moments, instead of on the throwing-board-books-at-the-door moments.

psalm 27

It’s been a week now. We’re still in transition. But things are improving. I may or may not have bribed my kids to have a good quiet time today. Desperate measures, I’m telling ya. Because my kids are different people when they get the rest they need. And today we needed a restful reset.

(I keep telling myself that if I had to suddenly alter the way I’d slept for my whole life, it would be a bit of a shock. That helps me be more compassionate and have more grace with her.)

So here we are, coping with the new normal. Which will, naturally, change again soon I’m sure… probably in the next few weeks when we go camping and road-tripping, or in a month or so when school starts.

Of course, we all know how fleeting childhood is, so none of this is really surprising to me. It’s just another one of those reminders to take a deep breath and remember it’s just a season, which, in turn, reminds me that the sweet, beautiful moments are fleeting as well.

So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
~Robert Frost

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3 little apps making me happy

Today’s edition of 3 Little Things features a few favorite new apps I’ve downloaded to my phone. These are all great for simplifying and streamlining various aspects of life. {Playing along with Amy of MomAdvice again!}

1. IFTTT 

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this one– it stands for “If This Then That”– and basically, you use and create “recipes” where your phone does something for you after you do something. I’m using the recipe where whenever I post a photo on Instagram, IFTTT tweets that photo as a full photo that will show up in my Twitter feed instead of just posting an Instagram link.

A really neat recipe I spotted in their is one where when you drive by a certain point, it will text someone. The app calls that one “text my wife when I leave work.” If I’m doing a bad job explaining this app, just download it (it’s free) and you’ll figure it out. ;)

2. ZipList 

A friend recently told me about this and I’m super excited about it. I’m using the web browser version to create my grocery list, both from my own mind, and from recipes– I can open a recipe I find on Pinterest for example with the Chrome extension (they also have buttons you can install in other browsers), and then it will import the ingredients and then I can select which items on it to add to my list.

I can save recipes in there, and, it also shows me what items are on sale at stores nearby (I inputed what my favorite stores to shop at are). Once I create my list, I just login on my phone app and there it will be! You can also print the list out, which might be helpful when I have a really long list. Membership/app are free, although there are ads to navigate around.

3. SheReadsTruth

This is a new free Bible app put out by the ladies at SheReadsTruth. I’m really excited about it because it has their plans built in (some plans are free, some aren’t), and it has a community aspect, where women can comment on the plans. The interface is simple (and beautiful) and it’s easy to share verses/passages.

What apps have you discovered lately?

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I took these on the 10th, but am just finally getting them posted. It was a great day to document the beauty in the ordinary– a simple morning at home with my younger two (Gigi was my parents’ house), a quiet afternoon, and then our church beach night (one of our favorite weekly summer traditions), with the bonus of some wonderful time spent with a blogging-friend-turned-real-life-friend and her sweet family.

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ten on ten button

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summer reading challenge-1

We’re about a month into summer, and since school got out, boy has reading clicked on a deeper level for Gigi.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that right around the end of the school year we found out Gigi was farsighted, and needed glasses. She’s been reading and writing fine, but all this time she actually had a hard time seeing up close.

So maybe it’s the glasses that helped her really dive into reading chapter books, or maybe it was also the challenge I presented her with as summer began.

(We’re still using our summer learning plan as a guide but we’re not totally adhering to it every day.)

At the end of first grade, Gigi was able to read chapter books but also a little lazy and unfocused with them. Giving her a specific challenge helped her have some motivation to start a book… and finish it. Now, she’s been devouring books– staying up late to finish with a flashlight and reading in the car.

She’s been so excited to start new books that she has still had a hard time sticking to one at a time (where on earth could she get that from??). I keep telling her that when she’s older like me, she can read lots of books at once. But I’m trying to encourage her to stick to one at a time to help her comprehension.

I still have to remind her to actually pick up a book and read because she’s easily distracted (by Legos, her desire to play with friends, etc), but she’s not longer putting up a fight most of the time.

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The challenge

I told Gigi if she read fifteen chapter books, she would earn a $15 gift card to Barnes and Noble. Lucky for her, her two grandmas said they would each match that. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

summer reading challenge 2014

I’m now certain that she will surpass my challenge, no problem (and I’m excited to see how many books she ends up finishing this summer). I originally planned to print out and hang up the list, but I think she enjoys going on my computer to type the books into the Word document as much as she enjoys finishing a book. ;)

Finding books at the right reading level

Since Gigi is mostly homeschooled, I didn’t have an exact reading level given by the school to go off. I emailed her reading teacher from the learning center and got a few recommendations based on what they had read in class. The first books she was interested in reading on her own were the American Girl books, so I did a little research and found that they were about a 5th grade reading level.

From there, I researched other books that were about the same reading level, but were a subject matter that a 2nd-grade girl would be interested in. The trick I’m learning, from other moms of advanced readers, is that sometimes it’s hard to match reading level with content appropriateness. We’re not really there yet but that’s something I want to be aware of– so that I don’t end up with her reading Flowers in the Attic in 5th grade like I did (seriously? That’s supposed to be an appropriate kids’ book??).

And I’m trying to steer her towards more classics than fluff (like those rainbow fairy books she always gravitates toward at the library– those are off-limits for now, until she’s ingested some of the good stuff).

great chapter books for grades 2-5

Here are the books I ended up setting up as valid for the challenge. I’m sure there are lots more great ones to add to this list (I’d love to hear ‘em if you have ‘em!).

I’m so proud of what she’s already accomplished. The more I get to know how God made Gigi, the more I see that likes to rise to a challenge… and she also loves earning rewards.

How do you encourage summer reading? What books would you add to my list?

This post includes affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

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