Wednesday, July 28, 2021

What's Up Wednesday: July 2021

Welcome to What's Up Wednesday for July. As always, I'm linking up with Shay at Mix and Match Mama and Sheaffer at Sheaffer Told Me To to talk about what we've been up to lately.

For the past number of months, I've started my post with a quick update as to where things are Covid-wise as our province has been under quite a number of restrictions. I'm not going to do that today because except for wearing masks (and distancing and reduced capacities), things are feeling much more normal here. YYYYYAAAAAYYYY!!! I mean there are a few things we aren't able to do yet, like attend church in person, but in general, things feel better. I will definitely be covering more about this in my answers to the questions so read on for a somewhat "normal" What's Up Wednesday.

image from here

What we're eating this week... We're eating all the food to use up our CSA veggies before we leave on vacation! I made Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls on Saturday, we had delicious grilled veggies on Sunday, and we had amazing baked veggies last night. We're all about the vegetables over here this week!
We've also been enjoying PC Sparkling Water this summer. I am the only one who likes the pink grapefruit and we all love the lime. Sam is big into the lemon. It's definitely been a summer treat for sure!

What I'm reminiscing about... Since the kids are finishing up two weeks of swimming and tennis lessons, I've been spending my mornings at the pool. There are a TON of little kids so I'm reminiscing about those pool days with my little kids.
These are all from the summer of 2014 when Sam was five and Rachel was three and I didn't know if they'd ever put their faces in the water, let alone manage to figure out actual swimming!

What I'm loving... I'm loving how normal this summer feels!!! I'm also LOVING that I've been able to hug a few friends lately. After seventeen months of only hugging Dave, Sam, Rachel, and my parents, it's been soooooo exciting to hug a few other people!!! We're all doubly vaccinated so THANK YOU SCIENCE!!!

What we've been up to... The kids have had camps, they attended VBC at our church, they've had a couple of weeks of swimming and tennis lessons, we've gone INTO the library (because it's open again!), Sam has had baseball, and we're just enjoying our summer! 
What I'm dreading... Unlike the past sixteen months, right now, I'm not dreading anything!!! This is such a GREAT place to be!!!

What I'm working on... My summer goals! I made a list of goals for July but I'm realizing they need to turn into summer goals instead because I'm just not making much progress on some of them. You can read them here if you want.

For the past few days, I've also been working on packing and getting ready to go on vacation! We're headed to Saskatchewan to see my parents and we can't wait!!!

What I'm excited about... This!!! Is it possible that we might actually get to go to a Blue Jays game this summer?!?!?!?!?!
image from here

What I'm watching/reading... Well, as you might have gathered, I've been watching Sam and Rachel at swimming and tennis and Sam at baseball. That really doesn't leave time for a lot of other watching :) However, I have managed to read a lot, thus far, in July. I'm currently trying to finish Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey before we leave for our trip. You can click on the "Addicted to Books" tag at the right to see all my book related posts.
Sam pitching at baseball

What I'm listening to... I've been listening to the sound of the bat hitting the ball, balls bouncing on the tennis courts, and splashing. A lot of splashing :) As I write this post, I asked the kids to clean up the Lego in the basement, which means that they've been quietly playing with Lego for half an hour and so I'm also hearing the sound of them looking through the Lego bricks for specific pieces. Hopefully, eventually, they'll actually clean up the Lego, but for now, I'm not going to complain!

What I'm wearing... Pretty much all Rachel wants to wear this summer is denim shorts. She inspired me to buy a pair and I bought a bright red t-shirt to wear with them because I thought it looked really summer-y. I also saw this pineapple shirt on a number of blogs and made it my third purchase on Amazon this year! Hahaha! Totally worth it though, because I LOVE this shirt! I also bought new sunglasses because mine were so scratched up it was hard to see through them. I'm excited because I managed to find an actual glasses case too so when I'm not wearing my sunglasses, they're in the case. Yay!!!

Since our restrictions are lifted, I was able to finally get a haircut for the first time in four months on Monday so I feel so much better!!! Rachel got her first haircut in a year. Yikes.

What I'm doing this weekend... Enjoying happy hour on deck with my parents! Possibly, sleeping in the tent in Mom and Dad's backyard! Reading and eating a lot of good food! Whoooo hoooo!!!

What I'm looking forward to next month... It will be our last month of summer break, with a lot of time spent in Saskatchewan, so I'm looking forward to seeing my mom and dad for the first time in a year, and then more time at the pool when we get back.

What else is new... When I bought the pineapple t-shirt on Amazon, I also bought packing cubes. We're using them for this trip so I get to see what I think of them. Do you use packing cubes? What do you think of them? I think I might have used them incorrectly, so give me your best packing cube tips.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Dave Also Reads Sometimes

Dave here, jumping in for a guest post. It will come as a surprise to no one that Natasha is an avid reader, and you might easily assume that she tends to read a bit more than I do. However, the size of this gap trench yawning chasm was not apparent to me until Natasha told me in March that she had read fifty books since the start of the year. Intrigued, I decided to figure out how many books I had read, and I came up with a total of... wait for it... four! Not forty, not fourteen -- FOUR.

Inspired -- and more than a little embarrassed -- I decided to up my reading game, and see how many books I could read over the next several months. I am happy to say that, while I have not exactly embarked on any readathons since then, I have managed to significantly increase my total over the past few months. To mark my progress so far, I've decided to share a few highlights with you. 

The Andromeda Strain (Andromeda, #1)

I remembered enjoying this one as a teenager (along with other Crichton best-sellers like Jurassic Park and Congo), and thought it might be interesting to re-read it in the midst of the time of coronavirus. I have to admit that, although there were some intriguing aspects to the story -- the cutting-edge computer technology of the late 60's, the fits-and-starts progress of the scientists' investigation -- on the whole I felt disappointed by the story. Without giving away the ending, let's just say that I wish that COVID-19 was as easy to vanquish as the Andromeda Strain.

If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir

I received this book for free from the PJ Library program; although the program is primarily focused on distributing Jewish-oriented books to kids, they recently started sending out books for parents, too. This book is a woman's memoir of her years spent studying the Talmud (a massive collection of rabbinic writings, gathered from generations of Biblical study). While there were parts of the book that I found pretty dry -- the Talmud is primarily an intricate set of legal arguments, and the author is an academic at heart -- on the whole I really enjoyed it. Kurshan drew interesting parallels between esoteric rabbinic arguments and significant events in her own life, such as getting divorced, re-married, and having kids.

Doppler falls into the surprisingly popular "quirky outsider decides to break away from Scandinavian society and embark on an adventure" genre (see also A Man Called Ove and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared), in this case befriending a baby moose and living in a tent for a year. Although the story tends to meander somewhat (in a potentially moose-like way?), it made for a fun read, on the whole, and the author shared some tongue-in-cheek observations about Norwegian society.

This is an unusual murder mystery, in that it is abundantly clear quite early on both who was murdered and who committed the crime. The suspense comes from the gradual reveal of exactly what led to the crime, getting to know the characters, and a lengthy exploration of the aftermath. This was a re-read for me as well (I first picked it up several years ago), and it definitely held up to a second reading. Even though I knew how the various plot lines were going to turn out, I enjoyed the journey of getting there, and rediscovering the complexities of each character.

Great Big Sea is one of my favourite Canadian bands, and their lead singer, Alan Doyle, is more than a long-haired, sea shanty-singing front man. He is also a songwriter, occasional actor, and author. All Together Now is a collection of stories he gathered as lockdowns and quarantines began last spring, and it became clear that we wouldn't be gathering in person any time soon. Although the quality of the stories was somewhat uneven, there were a few that were really hilarious, and overall it was a fun, light read which gave me a new perspective on Doyle's career with Great Big Sea.

That about covers the highlights from the past few months. A few other honourable mentions are Yiddish for Pirates -- which I haven't finished yet, but features a Yiddish-speaking parrot (who is indeed also a pirate) as its protagonist -- and Coraline, a fairy tale by one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman. For those keeping score at home, my reading total for the year is up to an almost-respectable 17 books. I might drop by in January to fill you in on the rest of my reading for the year; until then, I'll return you to our regularly-scheduled programming.

Monday, July 26, 2021

I Spy: Week 29

Once again, I did not get my I Spy post done for Saturday so you are getting it today. And make sure you come back tomorrow because it's a special guest appearance on the blog, covering one of my favourite topics. Oooooooo -- the suspense!!! :) But for today, I'm linking up with Lysha at A Camera and A Cookbook for her I Spy Challenge.

Let's Play iSpy 2021 

 {backyard (Summer) – quarterly pic}

We've had so much rain this summer that our backyard is very green and a little overgrown. It's been too rainy to get a lot of yard work done. Oh well, I love how green and lush everything is!

{road sign}

There has been so much road construction this summer that we often see orange warning road signs as we drive/walk/bike. This one is at the end of our street.

{strip (no, not that kind!)}

Dave offered to (partially) strip for this prompt (hahaha!!!) but I decided to show a picture of this strip of wall instead. There is where we record the kids' heights on their birthdays (and half birthdays).

{lazy day}

You know it's a lazy day when Rachel hasn't washed the hair chalk out of her hair yet and is reading on the couch. There really wasn't a lot going on this day and it was a good thing!

{your choice}

There is a bed of flowers with a plaque that we pass on our drive to the pool. On Friday, Dave and I walked by there so we could read the plaque. The information was boring (something about residential neighbourhoods) but I was really intrigued by this speckled iris.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

My Personal #24in48

This past weekend I held my own #24in48 readathon. This is the readathon where participants try to read for 24 out of 48 hours. The official one isn't being held this summer, but I like to get a lot of reading done in a short chunk of time so I held my own. It's kind of like a guy from our church who has run four marathons by himself during Covid because he misses running actual marathons -- it's kind of like that for me, without the running! Hahaha! Anyways, on with what I actually read.

Dark in Death (In Death, #46)

I've been doing a re-read of the last books of the In Death series. While I have read the first books many times, the last ten or eleven books I've only read once or twice. So I started reading them again last week and have already devoured six of them. The In Death books are easy reads for me, and a good readathon book because they keep me interested.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Despite the fact that this is an older book, I hadn't read it yet. It make me want to drink lots of tea (although I really only like black (and some herbal) tea)! I loved this story and I loved how it ended. And I was almost finished with it when I started my readathon so only read the last 150 pages or so during my official #24in48.

Last Summer at the Golden Hotel

This book was a fun summer read. Without giving too much away, I LOVED how it ended. It also made me want to spend a summer in the Catskills! This was a fun family drama without being too crazy.

Leverage in Death (In Death, #47)

Yes, I read another JD Robb In Death book. This one made me think about what I would do to save my husband and kids. It was a hard one to read in some ways, although still not too heavy.

The Black Flamingo

I didn't realize that this book was a novel told in poem form. It was so good and I highly recommend this story about a gay teenager who finds his gender expression fits best by dressing in drag. As with World War II books (stick with me here!), I am so intrigued by all the different stories there are to tell about the LGBTQ2S+ experience. ("All the different stories" is how this relates to WWII, in my head.)

All Together Now: A Newfoundlander's Light Tales for Heavy Times

I LOVED this book. However, if you are not Canadian, or not a Great Big Sea fan, you may not love this book. However, any book which talks about the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Tim Hortons, and traveling on the London Tube is a winner in my book! When I finished laughing my way through this book, I made Dave read it. And he's not necessarily a reader and he read it in two days.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters, #3)

I was happy to read the third book in the Brown Sisters trilogy. I like how Hibbert writes neurodiverse main characters. This is another blind spot in my reading and I would like to remedy that.

The Lost Apothecary

Okay, you know how when a book is so hyped up that by the time you actually get around to reading it, it kind of falls flat. Remember how The House In The Cerulean Sea lived up to the hype for me? Well, this book did not live up to the hype. I thought it was good, but really, I feel like it was just cloaked as a more literary murder mystery book. I don't understand why everyone loved it. If you loved it, please let me know why. I didn't hate it -- I just don't understand why everyone is so excited about it.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy

This is another book which I want Sam to read. I thought it was so good. I loved how Acho set up his chapters with a hook to get you interested, a "Let's Rewind" piece to explain some of the background, a "Let's Get Uncomfortable" piece to point out the issues with whatever topic he had introduced, and then a "Talk It, Walk It" section getting into what we can individually do to change things. I am so excited to read his version of this book for adults.

I also read about fifty pages of Stamped From The Beginning but since I didn't finish it, I'm not reviewing it here.

In case you missed it yesterday, here is the official stack of books I read during the readathon, along with my official time on the timer. Since I didn't read all of Stamped... or all of The Tea Girl... they are standing up to show I only read parts of them during the readathon.
So, would you ever do a #24in48 readathon? Or a marathon of another sort? Are you intrigued enough to check out any of the books I read? Do you have a convincing argument to change my perspective on any of the books (I'm looking at you The Lost Apothecary.)? Let me know below!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

I Spy: Week 28

It's been a bit of a week. Not in a bad way, mind you, just in a "I didn't get my usual Saturday post written until yesterday" kind of way. As always, I'm linking up with Lysha at A Camera and A Cookbook for her I Spy Challenge. The challenge for me this coming week is to get my post done for Saturday. Hahaha! Also, I struggled with some of the prompts this week, so bear with me :)

Let's Play iSpy 2021


Last week the kids were able to attend a small, in person, VBS (Vacation Bible School) at our church. Thus, a lot of my pictures come from that. It was a really small group so I was able to run errands, blog, or sit and read while the kids participated. It was heavenly. Rachel enjoyed making me this painting on a piece of paper towel, which was "torn" from the roll.


It's not officially "newsprint" but this fake stuff sure makes the fish and chips seem more authentic. This is from a food truck date Dave and I had on Friday night. And it made me want fish and chips from England which are actually still served in real newsprint.


One of the VBS projects was to make mandalas out of objects from nature. I missed getting a picture of this on the day it was made but I loved how pieces of nature "connected" to make a beautiful piece of art.


One morning the kids made prayer flags. I loved how the hung flags "curved" through the trees. (This may be one of the prompts I struggled with!)

{your choice}


I did my own #24in48 readathon this past weekend. It's the readathon where you try to read for 24 hours in a 48 hour period. The official readathon isn't being held this summer, so I did my own. This was the final stack of books I read. I will be writing a post for tomorrow (I hope) with my thoughts on these books.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Midway Through July And What I've Read

Well we're midway through July and I thought I would have done a ton of reading by now, especially since the kids were in full day camps last week. However, I haven't. Too many other things have been grabbing my attention lately, which is okay, but let's just say my TBR pile isn't getting smaller. Thus, this weekend, I am doing my own #24in48 -- the readathon where I read for 24 hours out of a 48 hour period. I usually read between eight and twelve books during these weekends so that will help my TBR considerably :) The official #24in48 isn't happening this summer, but I'm doing it anyways!!! Hahaha! #booknerdalert Sam will be joining me for most of it so I guess I technically won't be reading on my own.

All that aside, here is what I've read thus far in July...

With the Fire on High

I've been on an Elizabeth Acevedo kick lately. Her books just suck me in. They are about people overcoming the perceived (and real) odds to learn how to thrive. I love how strong Emoni is and her story of learning to trust herself was so powerful. While Acevedo's other books are written in verse, this one is written in really short chapters so that was different. (And made it easier to say, "just one more chapter" many times while I was reading!!!)

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

I have heard about this book for years and just never read it. It is such a powerful story of loss and depression and poverty and beauty and fighting to be who you are. I really didn't expect this book and that made it all the more beautiful. I was crying by the end and rooting for Julia to succeed.

The Poet X

Warning, this book will suck you in and it will be hard to put down. You will stay up way tooooo late reading it because you just want to know what happens next. Xiomara is struggling with faith and how to use her voice so that her parents, especially her mother, will hear her. I was crying during parts of this book because it was heartbreaking. But it was so, so good and I am definitely an Elizabeth Acevedo fan. Read her books. Just make sure you set aside a couple of hours when you start one, because you won't want to stop reading it.

Signs Preceding the End of the World

This is a book which I found out about when looking for some alternatives to American Dirt. I think I didn't understand this short novel. It's written almost as poetry and I think there is a lot going on in the book which I don't get. It's like Shakespeare -- if you can understand all the references, then the story has more meaning. I don't understand all the references and the book is half novel, half myth, so it's hard to tell what is reality and what isn't. I would say of all the books I've read in 2021, this one stretched me the most in terms of how literary, and figurative, it is.

Apprentice in Death (In Death, #43) Echoes in Death (In Death, #44) Secrets in Death (In Death, #45)

After taking a long break from the In Death series, I decided to read the last ten books again. The next book comes out in September so I want to be ready for it! These books really are such easy reads so I read the first three books over a span of about 24 hours.

So that's what I've read thus far in July. Hopefully my readathon goes well this weekend and I'll be back on Monday (or maybe Tuesday) with another book review :) Until then, what are your comfort reads? Which books (or author) do you turn to over and over again? For me, it's definitely Nora Roberts romantic trilogies and her In Death series.