Book Review: The Heart Goes Last + Who Do You Love

November 30, 2015


Hello reader friends! I devoured two novels this November and oh–they were exquisite. By complete chance, they were both love stories. And if you haven’t read a good love story in a while, I highly recommend a little romance to warm up the winter blues. It had been a long, long time and two in a row reminded me what I was missing.

If you are familiar with the authors, you might guess these books are opposites. This is true in some ways, but at their cores–they are about the same thing: love held and love lost over the course of many years.

Let me preface the Atwood review with the following caveat: Our lady Margaret Atwood is my favorite author and I’ve loved everything she’s ever written with my whole heart. There is no work in her very long list of works that I have not read and then rated with five golden stars due to incredible writing and story-telling. She is everything I’ve ever wanted a hero to be.

That said, my success rate recommending her novels to others gets a solid B-. Approximately half of my reader friends do not enjoy her books, which is truly fine with me. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I’m not a book snob. As long as you get lost in your vampire novels, historical fiction, or teen pregnancy memoirs–keep on reading. Try new things, but don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. That’s the point of art. It’s supposed to be subjective.

As always, all book reviews are spoiler free.

Happy reading.


1. The Heart Goes Last.

the heart goes last

If You’re Looking For: Science fiction, dystopian fiction, adult fiction, love story

If You Liked: The One I Love (film),  Oryx And Crake, The Handmaid’s Tale, Never Let Me Go

My Review: Every time I start a new Margaret Atwood book, I hold my breath and think– Will this be the one I won’t enjoy? Her latest novel is another dystopian tale, but with a lighter tone than The Handmaid’s Tale or the MaddAddam Trilogy (my favorites). Even though it’s still littered with dark and creepy moments, at its heart it’s a love story. A story about marriage and trust and sometimes hating your spouse because they’re kind of annoying. It’s also a cautionary tale, as most dystopian novels are, causing the reader to stop and temporarily panic every few chapters about genetic engineering. Contemporary, satirical, horrifying, and fun. Five out of five golden stars for pure entertainment.

Their Review: “A gripping, psychologically acute portrayal of our own future gone totally wrong, and the eternal constant of flawed humanity.” —Huffington Post

Quoted: “Powerful but insecure men don’t take well to rejection. Rage could result.”


2. Who Do You Love.

Who Do You Love

If You’re Looking For: Chick lit, fiction, escape, beach read, romance

If You Like: Rom coms, The Fault In Our Stars, The Royal We

My Review: I hate to call this book chick-lit (so does Jennifer Weiner), so my apologies to the author. It’s the only way I can think of to describe the tone and story without giving it all away. I’ve followed Jennifer on Twitter for years (she’s hilarious), but this is the first time I’ve read one of her novels and I’m so glad I did. Who Do You Love is her 12th book and has gotten a lot of press for its fresh and funny take on modern romance. It’s also a page-turner, a very “will they or won’t they” tale with fate seeming to constantly work against them. It’s a great story to get lost in, especially if you’re tired of heavy reads. Bonus: the sexy parts make you appreciate sexy writing done well. 4/5 stars for fulfilling its intended purpose. 

Their Review: “Overwhelmingly this is an affecting novel about how people carry the heavy burdens that came with their lives — and how they set them down so they can goon… Weiner draws her characters with empathy and nuance. We take the 30-year journey with them, and root for them along the way.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

Quoted: “Your first love is important. It’s part of your story. The story you’ll tell yourself, the one you’ll tell about yourself, for the rest of your life.”



Favorite Books

All Book Reviews

Minted + Weekend Links

November 27, 2015

Holiday Cards: Minted

It’s that time of the year again! The time when you make your family dress up in matching outfits so that you can bribe the kids to smile for a holiday photo while sweating profusely through your chiffon top!

This is usually our story, but as I am recently with child and extremely lazy–we decided against the usual rigamarole and simply set up a tripod in our hallway instead. The whole process took about ten minutes, which is roughly seven hours shorter than last year’s multiple photoshoots with gracious friends who had to listen to my son scream about wind.

The picture isn’t amazing, but it was so much easier. And a pretty accurate portrayal of what we look like circa 2015. Austin even had the time to take out the background noise, which in retrospect makes it look like we’re taking a church directory photo. Enjoy.

Christmas Card

As per usual, Minted was our first choice for holiday cards. They make any photo look good and have something for every style and budget. I spent hours deciding between my 58 favorites, ultimately choosing something simple because A) simple is good and B) I needed to go to bed.

Minted believes that great design lives and thrives in the hands of independent artists that people do not have access to through traditional retailers. They use technology to allow consumers to discover great creative talent, making Minted a place where artists can learn, gain exposure, and build their businesses.

Shop + Our Card


Every Thanksgiving Ever

Problems Only Book Lovers Understand

The Helpers

Adele Being The Best

Mark Your Calendars


Happy Friday.

Holiday Card: Minted

The First Trimester: There On The Couch She Lies

November 24, 2015


October 7

Everyone tells you to absolutely not take a pregnancy test before your missed period, but I like to waste 40-60 dollars just in case science is wrong. This time was no different. I took a test three days before my period, two days before, one day, and then on all the days after. Four days later, it was still negative and I was feeling some emotions. Namely:

1) Confused. Where is my period? Why does my period never cooperate?

2) Annoyed. Now I have take Clomid again. Clomid is dumb. I hate Clomid.

3) Fine. We’ve only been trying for two months and this is the first round of medicine. No big deal. Eva took six months and Waylon took a year. I can wait.

If you are new here, I take a drug called Clomid to have my babies because I have the ovaries of a grumpy old man. It’s fine. Women, many of them my friends and family, have had to endure much worse.

And so I gave up. I bought a box of tampons, called in another prescription, and focused on getting through the next month. I never really thought the drugs would work the first time anyways.

A day later I was packing a picnic dinner when I realized nothing sounded good enough to eat. No sandwiches, no snacks, and especially no desserts. This is very unlike my normal self who specializes in sandwiches, snacks, and desserts. It is exactly like my pregnant self, who only craves McDonald’s chicken sandwiches and hot meals.

Weird, I thought weirdly. Weird, weird, weird.

And so I did what you do when faced with potentially life-changing news, I put on a show for the kids and ate a stringed cheese. Then I ran to the upstairs bathroom, took a test, and went into my bedroom to change. When I came back into the bathroom to throw the test away, I looked down and the stick was faintly positive. I called my friend Heather immediately to analyze and she said, “You’re pregnant, dummy!”, just like she did after I tested positive for Eva and didn’t believe it.

Then I took another test just in case and lo and behold, I was with child.


Austin was surprised too, especially since I’d been stomping around the house discussing my “special time of the month” for days (his favorite topic!). After I told him, we hid from the kids and danced around the basement, giddy with the delusion that maybe this was going to be so much easier than the first two times.

We took a picture and blurry little video after the kids were in bed to commemorate the occasion. Happiest kind of night.

October 10

Is this real????

October 20

There is nothing in my body that doesn’t feel like swine flu. I cannot type any more sentences.

October 22

So sick and tired and tired and sick and have I mentioned I AM ILL. I forgot about this. Or rather, I remembered being sick but forgot how bleak it is to rest your head on the toilet bowl after losing the third meal of the day. It’s okay though, I’ve already cried about it fifteen times which is a nice, insane release. See you never.

October 23

Two kids constantly asking for cheese sticks is a nice distraction from the unrelenting nausea that follows me around the house like a bad ex-boyfriend. Don’t worry though, the kids have seen enough Daniel Tiger episodes today that it’s like they are being parented by an other, nicer mom. A mom who takes trips to the clock factory and makes vegetable spaghetti instead of a mom who takes trips to the bathroom and makes boxed macaroni and cheese for every meal. Bless their confused hearts.

October 25

October 26

Ate 17 pizza goldfish for lunch if anyone is keeping track of my nutrition.

October 27

I have been infected with a head cold. Patient zero doesn’t seem too sorry. Yesterday she hid my keys in a bag of potatoes. I can’t take NyQuil, something I mention to anyone within a mile radius. Honestly I’m so sick of hearing myself complain that I’m considering selling my phone for pizza money. Please pray for my husband who no can no longer find any clean dishes, clean clothes, or clean children after 18 hour shifts at the hospital.

October 30

Rose: Put on real clothes this morning to attend Waylon’s preschool Halloween party.
Thorn: Threw up in the bathroom while Eva ate marshmallows covered in glue.
(Could have been worse).

October 31

I don’t want to be dramatic, but if I don’t eat a salad covered in french fries covered in ranch dressing in the next 24 hours I will die.

November 1

Already at the point in the pregnancy where every road sign, every obituary, every inanimate object on the living room floor holds a name possibility. Looked into my make-up bag this morning and read Fat Lash Mascara. Not bad.

Austin hates every name I love, part of our really fun marriage dynamic. If this baby is named by June, it will be a miracle.

November 3

Things I Can’t Handle On Any Emotional Level: NPR human interest stories, diaper commercials, Pixar movies, heartfelt Adele songs.

Just thinking about the ending to Toy Story 3 is too much to bear.

November 4

Whenever I’m in a state of emotional duress, I find myself coping with mental checklists. An inner monologue of questions if you will. For example: Are you sad? Why are you sad? Are you mad? Why are you mad? Are you anxious? Make a list of all the reasons why. It’s as if my brain is going into safety mode. A carefully calculated assessment to find root causes and possible solutions.

It’s happening all the time now. Mostly when it’s quiet; in the bathroom or in the car. And every time I’m surprised. Like, oh–you’re here again? I guess I didn’t notice everything shutting down.

The root cause is always the same. The baby, a baby, my baby–taking over in every way. First goes the body, then the mind.

November 5

Finally watched Inside Out. Cried 50% of the time as Pixar intended.

November 9

10 weeks today. Pregnancy glow or 47 filters? You decide.

November 10

Headed to California. What do you call a pregnant lady, a four-year-old, and a toddler boarding a plane? Actually, let’s not finish that joke.

November 20th

As it turns out, taking two young kids on a solo trip across the country while pregnant is possible. It’s also really hard. I’ll be recovering until April. The good news is that while I’m still dry heaving on a regular basis, the nausea is not constant and for that I am grateful.

November 23rd

Saw the baby today in a due date ultrasound. They didn’t give me a picture and I pretended not to care. I thought that maybe the third time this would be less magical, but I have found the opposite is true. Even though it is hard and gross and exhausting, pregnancy is beautiful. It is holy ground.

I will never have a pregnant Angelina Jolie body, something I had to reconcile years ago, but I am strong. I have made two babies with a uterus once deemed a failure. I wake up grateful and fall asleep dreaming of the day we’re all here.



There is a time and place to lament pregnancy sickness and joke about the turmoils of motherhood, but I’d like to take a moment for thankfulness and a quick prayer for my fellow women waiting to be mothers. I stand with you in your journey to motherhood. You are strong. You are brave. You are not forgotten. 

First trimester with Eva

California // 2015

November 23, 2015

IMG_7689 IMG_8057


Hello! We are back from ten days in California. If you missed how and why we went, you can find those answers here. In short, a fairy godmother paid for Waylon’s ticket, Eva is still free, and we went to reconnect with some of our best friends who recently moved home to the West Coast.

We started our journey in the Baltimore airport where I checked our suitcase, secured a gate pass for Austin, and begged for an extra seat on the flight for Eva (praise). Then I got us some Quiznos for dinner before hysterically crying in front of our fellow passengers as Austin exited the premises. It was unflattering.

After boarding the plane and resuming a normal facial expression, I realized two things: 1) Maybe this was a bad idea and 2) No one has ever eaten Quiznos and not regretted it. Lucky for me, I did not get sick, Eva held it together 85% of the time, and Waylon spent the entire flight staring out the window in pure amazement. He must have said, “I can’t believe we’re up in the air on a plane,” fifty times.  +500 points for the four-year-old. You can have anything you want for Christmas.*

Once we landed, our friend Heather met us at the baggage claim with open arms and drove us to her home in Tustin where we immediately fell into a sleep coma. The rest of the trip can be found in the pictures: day trips, beautiful beaches, Spanish missions, and amazing food. If you haven’t blocked me from Instagram and Snapchat yet, bless you.

Not pictured: Four-year-olds fighting, unrelenting exhaustion, and late night trips to Trader Joe’s to get tamales and Thanksgiving flavored chips.

The truth is the trip was very fun but it was also really hard, which is not something I mentioned much on all those Instagram posts. That’s kind of the problem with social media, isn’t it? If you say too many hard things, you’re complaining. But if you’re just running the highlights, your life is perfect/fake. Something we all continue to figure out but rarely talk about because it’s boring.

As for solo flying with two young kids, all that worry was for nothing. Or rather, my low expectations paid off. We got a whole row on the plane for both flights, and while Eva was draining, she wasn’t terrible. Waylon was so excited about being on a plane for the first time, that he could have gone five more hours.

Things People Said Would Be Hard That Were Actually Fine –> Kids and ears popping on the flight, kids and the airplane bathroom, kids and the three hour time change

Things I Thought Would Be Fine That Were Actually Hard –> Going through airport security smoothly, uninstalling and reinstalling car seats a bunch of times, being without a co-parent for ten days

Travel Tips Passed To Me That Were Helpful –> Low expectations, ask for support in airport, ipad, more ipad, dollar store toys, ipad, snacks, ipad

Thank you for all the tips and support passed on along the way. A few of you asked for app suggestions for kids to pass time in your travels. A list of what we use included below.

Hey California, we’ll be back.

(Next time with baby daddy and more tequila).


*amount must not exceed $50 USD

All photos taken with iPhone camera and edited with the VSCO app.

KIDS APPS (for 5 and under)

Youtube Kids
Paint Sparkle
Toca Doctor
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Play At Home (Paid)
Elmo Calls (Paid)
Toca Hair Salon
Nick Jr.
Toca Kitchen Monsters
Toca Hair Salon (Christmas)
Disney Junior Appisodes
Endless Numbers
Endless Reader
The Wheels On The Bus
Sago Mini Friends
Endless Wordplay
The Big Moving Adventure
ABC Alphabet
Drawing Carl
Forest Flyer
Mr. Potato Head
MP Weather
Toca Band
Netflix (Paid Subscription)
One full episode of Calliou, Curious George, & Doc McStuffins (Paid)


California Suitcase + Weekend Links

November 6, 2015

This is not my suitcase

Four days until my kids and I hop on a plane to the West Coast. We are excited and have started packing about a week early due to impatience and minor paranoia. So far I’ve got warm weather clothes, essential toys, and my floppy hat. Also going in my bag is some new make-up, which is probably for the best since my mascara was about two years old and we are headed to the land of endless youth and lip injections (Orange County).

My friend Jess actually asked me to try out some of her make-up line which was perfect timing. She sent eyeliner, mascara, and lip gloss. Three things I desperately needed. I love them all, especially the eyeliner which rolled on much better than the cheap Maybelline pencil I was using. Thanks friend!


Shop + Favorite


Weekend Links

After watching Going Clear (you need to watch it), this book is going to be a must.

Sesame Street introduces character with autism.

Let Girls Learn, a powerful essay by Michelle Obama.

The Mindy (Parenting) Project.

Alternative password security questions.


Happy Friday.