currently, november edition

I published this post last week and then realized I didn't like it. So I took it down and redid it and now I don't feel so twitchy. Let's try this again.

reading: I'm currently between books at the moment which is making me feel very ungrounded as a person. I just finished a pretty decent novel about WWI.

watching:  The Blacklist. I never would've gone near this if a friend hadn't recommended it. It's a bit violent which is hard for my sensitive side and how prone I am to nightmares, but I am LOVING it. I never liked James Spader until this show, and now I adore him. He's the perfect evil genius. I've needed a bit of a break from the intensity, so we're watching The Great British Baking Show and I am enchanted as always. I miss Mary Berry and Mel & Sue, but Noel has grown on me and I giggle over everything he says. Also...he was Old Gregg!!!!! Does anyone know what I'm talking about or did I just have really weird friends?

listening to: just finishing Dr. Death and now I may never go to the doctor again.

loving: our Christmas tree. It's been up for a week now. Living my best festive life. Last year we moved in December and then travelled for Christmas, so I had approximately one week with my tree and it was *not* enough. I'm all decked out for Christmas this year with decorations in nearly every room. We bought a white tree and now I can never go back to green. It's like living in a magical 1960s fairyland, especially with all the Shiny Brite ornaments I found recently. Next year I'm putting a tinsel tree in the kitchen, mark my words.

ordering: Christmas puzzles because I've been craving a seasonal puzzle. That sounds weird, but it feels very real.

wondering: if I'm the only one who goes Christmas shopping and then gets distracted by kitchen towels with food puns for myself and then forgets to buy Christmas presents? I did buy some wrapping paper, which is in the ball park. Now I can wrap all the gifts I didn't buy!

excited for: Thanksgiving. And Christmas. And all the books I just requested from the library. And even though it already happened, all the snow we got last week. It was delightful. We went on a little trip out of town on Friday and enjoyed the snow and had bottomless hot chocolate with lunch. I miss the fall foliage but I never mind an early winter.

surprised that: it's been a year since we bought our house and a year since we almost filmed House Hunters. It's not because it feels like it happened yesterday, I swear it feels like it's been 10 years.

giggling over: 

Happy Thanksgiving! Please enjoy my favorite Thanksgiving video that I post every year. Watching it every year is like the Thanksgiving version of reading The Night Before Christmas.

"More like You're Welcoming."


recent reads

This group of books is quite a mixed bag. Some good ones, some awful ones. If nothing else, this is maybe my most controversial book post ever. Well, other than that time I loved The Royal We and EVERYONE FREAKED OUT ON ME. I am still perplexed by that. Moving on.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith--3.75 stars: This is an American classic and a most beloved book by many people I know. HOWEVER. I struggled with it for the first half. Not much happens. The dad is drunk, the kids are hungry, the mom is trying to find creative ways to save money and feed the family. But then! Francie gets older. WWI breaks out. Things pick up. I felt much more invested in the story. This is one of those books I've thought about a lot. There's so much to it, and it's one I feel is due a reread at some point in the future. I absolutely adored the historical aspect. It takes place in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn and depicts the life of the working poor. I found that absolutely fascinating. Overall, it's a good book. It's slow-going and full of lots of details, and honestly it's been awhile since I've read it so my memory is getting hazy. Like I said, I owe it another read to fully form an opinion since I felt like I didn't give it quite the attention it deserved. It feels like the perfect book for a PBS miniseries.

For fans of: historical fiction, NYC, The Glass Castle but milder

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery--4.5 stars: I started this book and could not get into it. It was cute, it was fine, but nothing really happened and I didn't care about the story. The first half is slow going. Jane lives in Toronto with her mom and mean grandmother. She's miserable. She suddenly learns her dad is alive and well in Prince Edward Island and not dead like she was made to believe. She spends the summer with him, and it changes her life. The second half finally started to hook me, and the last third sucked me right in. I was still thinking it would be a 3 star book, and the ending was so sweet (albeit rushed), that it completely won me over. It's such a sweet, innocent book about family, friendship, and a lot about homemaking. I just loved it.

For fans of: coming of age stories, Anne of GG, Emily of New Moon, flower gardens

Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was, and Who God Has Always Been by Jackie Hill Perry--5 stars: I'm hesitant to write this review because I'm afraid of mangling my words. I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea. Perry was a lesbian and fully embraced it. It felt more natural to her than anything else. Through a series of events, she became a Christian. She was made new. She still felt every bit like a lesbian even though she believed the Bible teaches against that. And how on earth do you reconcile that? The church teaching seems to be that if you're saved, you'll instantly become straight, and that is definitely not true. She argues that the end goal is Jesus, not heterosexuality, not marriage. Just Jesus. When we follow Him, we must deny sin. Every sin. Even sins that feel completely natural. Our identity is not in sexual orientation or marriage or anything but in Jesus. This book was incredibly powerful and beautifully written. She writes it as an encouragement to any gay person seeking God and also to heterosexuals seeking to understand that struggle. It was a privilege to be able to stand in her shoes through her words. I have so much respect for her for writing this book, and I could not recommend it more. It was incredibly loving and compassionate while declaring truth.

For fans of: a biblical perspective on homosexuality from someone who has lived it

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis--1 star: Rachel Hollis fans---look away. I don't have anything good to say, and trust me, I tried. I will be completely honest and say that I knew what I was getting into when I read this book. I hate self-help books---always have, probably always will. I've read plenty of articles about this book and before I read it I already felt as though I had. Maybe I went in with preconceived notions, but I also know that these things would have bothered me no matter what. I wrote a pretty lengthy Goodreads review eviscerating this book, and I've since calmed down a tiny bit so I will try to be kinder, but I have strong feelings for this book and make no apologies for it. I HATED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. Before we even get to the part about faith, this book drove me insane. I despise when bloggers/authors/internet people refer to everyone as "dear, precious friend! sweetheart! sweet girl!" UGHHH STOP. You are not my mom or my best friend or even my acquaintance. She brags nonstop. Her narcissism is borderline frightening. You will never convince me that she didn't write this book just so she could list all her accomplishments. She pretends to be a mess (one time she peed on the trampoline omg can you even!!!) but it's pretty clear she thinks she knows it all. Everything is about hustling. Listen, I live an anti-hustle lifestyle. I mean this in every sense: I don't run a business or #sidehustle and I also try not to hurry my way through life. If you ever see me create a vision board that isn't dessert recipes on Pinterest, please inquire as to the state of my wellbeing, and if I ever refer to my friends as my "tribe," that is all the proof you need that alien abduction is real because that is not me speaking out of my mouth. I thought her chapter on sex was completely unnecessary and inappropriate and her life advice is dangerous. It's ok to break promises to yourself. IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE UNTRUSTWORTHY. Running 3 miles in the middle of the night because you were too busy drinking with your friends all evening does not make you a trustworthy person. THAT is why you have stress vertigo, Rachel. Trust me, because I've suffered from it for years.

From a faith point of view (my blood pressure is skyrocketing now), DANGER RED ALERT.  The gospel IS! NOT! to love thy neighbor. That is a key element to Christianity and we are to put everyone before ourselves, but the gospel is God sent his son Jesus to die for us so that we may repent from our sins and be saved. Don't love and accept sin, but flee from it. Loving people, AS IMPORTANT AS THAT IS, does not save you. Only Jesus saves. Not works. Not striving. Not trying to take over the world. Not #lovewins. This book absolutely falls under what the Bible mentions in 2 Timothy 4:3. God is only mentioned when it suits Rachel's narrative, and that's about three times. We hear 700x more about running her lifestyle media company and all the celebrities she meets. See this? This is me being not impressed. If this book wasn't marketed as a Christian book, I would be a lot less passionate about this.

She says over and over that we make our own happiness. To some extent, I agree. We are as happy as we make our minds up to be. But she completely disregards the horrors that some people have experienced. She disregards depression and anxiety, which are real and crippling. She is the epitome of privilege and first world problems. I know there are people who eat up all the inspirational stuff. It's what works for them, and that is all well and good. We are all inspired by different things, and I really can see how parts of this book could work for some people. I can see why those people would enjoy this book more than I did. I also see a lot of problems.

At the end of the day, I think this tweet sums it up perfectly. Also, clearly I should've gone with my gut and done a whole post on just this book because I could go on for a few more months.

If you want a faith-based look at why this book is a disaster, Sheologians did an EXCELLENT series here.
If you want a secular point of view, this Buzzfeed article is great too.

For fans of: inspirational quotes, fat-shaming, Ted talks, stopping now before I get mean

Isaac's Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson--5 stars: Is it weird to fall in love with a book that meticulously depicts a hurricane from 118 years ago? Probably. And yet. I ate this up with a spoon. I practically salivated over details of barometric pressure and wind speeds. I am such a meteorology nerd, and books about it are not easy to find. Plus, it’s a testament to Larson’s ability to turn boring fact into a tantalizing and gripping story. This will not be a 5 star book for everyone. You have to find the science of meteorology somewhat interesting or you may want to gouge your eyeballs out with a rain gauge. I highly recommend reading it during hurricane season. By mere happenstance, I read it in conjunction with Hurricane Michael, and the two hurricanes were nearly identical. It made the book come alive for me in an entirely new way, and at the end of the day I think that was what caused me to enjoy it quite as much as I did. The book also follows Isaac Cline, the meteorologist in Galveston, in his life and career, but the parts about Cline are more of an afterthought as the books focuses mostly on the devastation of the hurricane.

For fans of: weather, just weather, honestly if you don't get tingly when you see a storm is approaching this book may not be for you

Northhanger Abbey by Jane Austen--5 stars: Oh my (five) stars, this book was DELIGHTFUL. I'd heard it was all gothic-y, so I envisioned a somber, bleak book. How wrong I was! It was actually hilarious. I laughed out loud more than once, which is so refreshing because that's not what you expect in a super early Victorian novel. Leave it to good 'ol Jane to satire a gothic novel...the Onion before her time! Catherine Morland is invited to spend a few months in Bath with some family friends. She goes to balls every night with her friends. She attracts a guy that reminds me so much of Mr. Collins and had me in hysterics over his cringey antics. It was like reading about prom but 200 years ago. Will he ask me to dance? Is he engaged to be married? Is the muslin on my gown going to snag? I wonder if I'll get a ride in his carriage after???? Oh my word, so funny. Human nature doesn't change. Catherine is 1800s Michelle and embarrasses herself constantly. She reads so many books that she starts to lose sight of reality. I'm telling you, this book is a joy. I would have hated it in high school because the sentences are so long and dense and wordy, and it would have been one of those can't see the forest for the trees sort of thing. It's always an adjustment to read books from way back when, but the writing is SO GOSH DANG ELEGANT. Jane is a master of words and wit and human nature, and lemme tell ya, I did not hate that Henry Tilney character she thought up. Wink face. 

For fans of: reliving prom, The Bachelor but more modest, awkward moments

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton--2 stars: Ughhhhhhh this book was one of the most disappointing books ever. Kate Morton is one of my favorite modern authors. I can't put her books down and the twists are usually genius. But this one was pure drudgery. I kept pushing, hoping things would change. They didn't. I was bored out of my ever-loving mind. I kept waiting for those mind-bending twists. None. It reminds me of that Michael Scott quote about starting a sentence and not knowing where it's going and hoping he figures it out. One of the things I enjoy about her books are the different time periods and POVs, but this time it became disorienting. Most of it took place in the 1860s, but I quickly lost track of the characters. Many were introduced and their story lines never really fleshed out. Many were superfluous and just distracted from the point. And the point? I don't really know. It all centered around Edward Radcliffe, some eccentric painter trying to paint his masterpiece using his model who he's obsessed with. His model is super shady and no one knows exactly who she is. Something about a robbery and then he got really sad. That's it. That's the whole story. 500 pages of people speculating on what happened and talking about Radcliffe and his tragic life with rarely any new information--a lot like watching the news. There really wasn't much of an ending at all which I found Highly Annoying, and the one tiny piece of closure was something I almost wish I didn't know. It's very possible that you could love this book. A big aspect of that was the focus of art history which is something I have zero interest in. I honestly don't know if it's me and the frame of mind I was in as I read it or if my points are valid, but it just did not work for me this time. If you read it, I want to know your thoughts!

For fans of: reading a book you dread picking up again, art history--so much art history--art history coming out of your ears, tortured artists, Dickensian London

I'm linking up here today. I've never done this link up before, but I happened to publish a book post today so why not! 

Life According to Steph


if you give a man a drill

If you give a man a drill, he'll put the new-to-you table together.
Once the table is put together, he'll notice the tiles underneath are dirty, so he'll probably scrub them.
When he's finished, his wife will hang some pictures on the wall behind the table to complete the look.
She'll realize she needs some picture frames and go to Hobby Lobby.
After she gets frames at Hobby Lobby, she'll meander over to TJMaxx and use her gift card on Christmas decorations.
When she gets home, she'll frame the remaining pictures and hang them over the coffee bar and put a Christmas tree centerpiece on the new table.
Once she's finished in the kitchen, she'll get ready to hang some pictures in the living room.
She'll walk to the guest room where she stashed pictures waiting to be hung, and realize the closet needs to be reorganized.
She'll probably pull all the old boxes out, sift through them, and re-stack them inside.
When her husband sees the pictures on the wall in the living room, he'll realize the couch is too far from the TV.
He'll move the couch while the wife picks up the renegade toys underneath.
Once she has the pile of toys she thought lost forever, she'll realize the toys need to be organized.
An hour after dinner's ready, they finally sit down to eat, minds abuzzing with ideas.

The next morning, the husband will notice a spot on the table that needs some touch-up paint.
Then he'll notice the front door needs to be painted, too.
So, he'll paint the door yellow.
The wife will see the fall wreath on the door and wonder what kind of Christmas wreath they should hang.
Then the wife will see her Christmas decorations from the day before and clear a spot in the living room for the Christmas tree that will be put up in the next few weeks.
The wife will see her twinkle lights around the living room window and think that they'll look so much better in the dining area where the new table is.
She'll probably hang the lights around the kitchen window instead, where she'll sit at her new table to admire them.
While she's looking around, she'll realize the that while they worked on the house, the baby took a purple crayon to the tile floor.
So, they'll scrub the floor.
While they're scrubbing around the table, they'll notice how much nicer it would look with new chairs around it.
And chances are, if they order new chairs, the man will ask for a drill to put them together.


scenes from october

October is one of my favorite months of year. I bet you've never heard anyone say that before!! This particular October was not my favorite. It wasn't bad, just one of those months. You know.

But!!! It was so freaking beautiful. I looked out my kitchen window the other day and gasped. More than anything, I wanted a window over the kitchen sink and beautiful trees outside. We looked at one house two years ago that, admittedly, I still think about sometimes. The kitchen was the stuff out of magazines, and there was a giant orange maple tree in front of the kitchen window. I love my house, but I still think about that kitchen. That house was in no way right for us and in a terrible area, but I thought I'd never find such a perfect set-up as that kitchen with the window and the tree.

Then I looked outside the window while doing the dishes the other day and realized there is and ENTIRE GROVE of  maple trees in my backyard. Somehow that escaped me until the leaves turned. Granted, my kitchen is a hot mess right now, but ONE DAY it will be amazing. I hope. Possibly. We'll see. But for now, this view!

I always try to take as many walks outside as I can at the end of October so I can soak in all the beauty. I took Gracie on a little October hike the other day. Which brings me to a funny point--a hike is generally recognized as a trek up a mountain or something of that nature, whereas in central Ohio where the highest hill is a speed bump, a walk in the woods is our version of a hike. Whatever, I'll take it. It was GORGEOUS.

I had grand visions of carving pumpkins and having glowing jack-o-lanterns on our porch on Halloween night. Instead, it's been raining for days, so all we had was the little one Gracie and James carved the other week that sat inside for awhile. And we never made it to our friend's house to trick-or-treat with them because Gracie woke up sick and the rain continued. But that didn't stop her from dressing up like Minnie! James made us grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, and everything turned out just fine. Plus, to be honest, I'm not really a Halloween person. I just like the costumes. And the candy. So no harm done!

Now it's November 1st, it's cold and rainy, my favorite candle is burning, and my favorite movie White Christmas is on. We stayed home from Bible Study since Gracie is still battling a cold, but she put on her Minnie dress and sparkly shoes and is dancing to the movie. So basically I'm full of hope for a better month.

Don't be alarmed if my Christmas tree is up within the week.


a white girl swoons over fall, and other anecdotes

1. Right before we went into contract on our house last October, I got cold feet. Before accepting the 50 millionth counter offer, I needed to see the house one more time. I thought I would know one way or another as soon as I walked in the house. I didn't. I walked around and eventually sat down in the living room still unable to decide what to do. I looked outside, and a vintage John Deere tractor drove down the street. I could see the combine harvesting corn in the field across the street. It thrilled me to my very core and suddenly I couldn't imagine NOT living here. I've been anxiously awaiting October again now that we live here, and it has been delightful. There are always tractors driving down the road, the huge maples are turning orange, and it's just so pretty. My backyard is stunning right now and I'm just so grateful.

2. I literally pulled my car over to take a picture of this scene on the way to the grocery store. Something about it makes me want to move down to the holler in Tennessee and learn how to play the banjo.

3. This week has been a train wreck. Hilariously so. Horribly so. Just so dumb. It's gotten a bit better, but it hit a fever pitch by Tuesday. After spilling my coffee for the second morning in a row, I decided it was time to get out of the house. Last week, my friend sent me a picture of multi-colored bottle brush trees at Hobby Lobby, because she thought they looked up my alley. How right she was. I figured Christmas decorations were SURE to turn my week around, so off we went. I found the trees and other 1960s-inspired decorations and snapped them up. Gracie and I walked around the store three times, her request. I started to feel a little better about life.

4. AND THEN WE GOT HOME. Dun dun dunnnnnn. The kitchen pipes were clogged. The sink was filling up with water. We don't have a garbage disposal (yet), hence CRISIS. Plus I had a stack of dishes to do. I called James and freaked out because anything plumbing-related is a 5 alarm emergency to me, no matter how minor. I rarely call him at work, but it was the third time in 3 hours he had gotten a frantic call from me. He could sense my impending unraveling and packed up to work at home for the rest of the day. Thank goodness he did, because as soon as he got home, I tripped over a toy and went flying through the air, feet over head. I don't know exactly what happened, but my knee slammed into a wire basket and then the floor. It hurt SO BAD. Within minutes, it looked like a golf ball was trying to break through my kneecap. I didn't even know knees could look like that. My first thought was that I had knee cancer, and God made me fall just so I would inspect my knee and see the massive lump. THIS IS HOW MY BRAIN WORKS. It's not normal. Once it started getting bigger I talked myself off the ledge and accepted that it was from my fall. James immediately took the rest of the afternoon off because I hit Threat Level Midnight after several dumpster fire days and a two week headache that wouldn't quit.

He fixed the pipes and carved a pumpkin on the front porch with Gracie while I sat on the couch with a cup of coffee he made me and a bag of frozen green beans on my knee that was twice the size of normal. It turned out ok! And while I know he'll probably never be able to take off work like that again for a bad day, he picked the right day to do it because WOOF.

5. And then the pain from my knee kept me up all night, which was convenient since I had a full day planned Wednesday. Gracie had to get her flu shot which I was unreasonably stressed about. I have major doctor anxiety, and it's even worse when it's for my child. We all survived and then spent a fun afternoon at the library. Books make everything better.

6. Here are some more pictures of a frosty October morning. I will not apologize for adoring every second of this. Fall is like an avocado...it's perfect for exactly 30 seconds before everything rots and dies. LET ME ENJOY THIS.

7.  Our good friends who go to church with us and live near us have a 5 year old boy with spina bifida. He's absolutely PRECIOUS, and he and Gracie love playing trains and cars together. His grandpa made him a school bus Halloween costume that fits with his wheelchair. It's gone viral. His mom submitted it to the local news, and the next day it was picked up by most major news networks. The fun thing is, Gracie and I spent the afternoon at their house last week, and I watched his grandpa make the costume. Who on earth knew it would be all over the internet within 24 hours? His mom Megan has been doing multiple interviews every day with various websites and news stations, and when I drove past their house today I saw the news filming them. It's just so fun to see. They're the best family and they've been through so many hard things. Blake has a major surgery coming up soon, and I'm glad they've had this distraction. Seriously though, watch that video and tell me he's not the cutest thing ever. 

8. Someone I follow on IG liked a post that referenced this article that was linked in their bio (you know that rabbit trail, don't you?). I don't agree with everything in this article, a lot of it made me roll my eyes, and I'm annoyed at the constant use of "village" and "tribe," but I love the underlying theme and find some comfort that I'm not alone in this feeling. Moms aren't supposed to do this alone. The burden of being everything for your child can be suffocating. Sometimes I long for the days of generations pasts, when all the neighborhood kids roamed together and the moms were neighbors and friends and spent their days together. Obviously it wasn't perfect and there were other issues, but that's so lacking in society today. It's hard to be a mom. It's hard to not have family around or a neighborhood full of other families to support you. I say all of this as someone who is not a people person. Moms needs people. I have slowly found people who love and help me, but often it feels like people rely on social media to stay connected, and moms don't sit at their kitchen tables together and walk next door to visit while the kids play. They're too busy Instagramming their renovated kitchens and kids in their Etsy outfits and #hustling. I don't know if I'm making sense. Maybe it's just my deep love of Leave it to Beaver coming out. 

8b. I feel like this is related in a way, so I guess I'll confess. I read Girl, Wash Your Face and HATED it. Thoroughly hated it. One of the worst books I've ever read. Don't @ me. I'll write more about this another time. I don't want to #hustle and #dreambig, I just want to raise my kid and have some friends and not take over the world. I know I talked about this kind of thing recently, but I've been having more and more thoughts. Better go fill up a vision board with images of June Cleaver and 1950s suburbia.

9. I've been having some strange dreams lately. One involved working in an office with John Mayer. We played pranks on each other. On the way to church Sunday, I started describing the dream from the night before to James. I told him I was on vacation in Paris, when suddenly these bad guys were after my friends. I went to go find them. As I was rehashing it, I realized I was basically describing the plot of the movie Taken. And I was Liam Neeson. Naturally.

10. I've had a lot more to say than I thought would, but that's what happens when I write only once every two weeks. Here's another fall picture. This farmhouse on my road has a green roof and shutters, and it always makes me think of Anne of Green Gables.

You know, Anne had some lovely things to say about Octobers ;)