Thanksgiving and My Birthday Weekend

Thanksgiving 2019 began exactly the same way every Thanksgiving of my entire life has began…watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on tv! Oh how I love watching the parade all warm and snuggly on my couch. I have memories of watching the parade with my parents when I was a little girl, alone when I was living in the city after I graduated from college, with Jon and our dog when we first got married, and now all snuggled up with Jon and our kids.

The Radio City Rockettes was the only time in the 3 hours they weren’t snuggled up against me on the couch 🙂

Pro tip: DVR the parade the night before so you can pass all of the commercials (except for the ET Xfinity commercial…loved it)!

Matching shirts for my kids:

We hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 19 family members at our house. I put a leaf on everyone’s plate saying “I am thankful for____.” Everyone filled them out, I bought a photo album for them, and each year we will add new leaves to our family album. An official new family tradition that I officially started and will be in charge of each year! At one point during the night I was in the backyard with Jon (he was smoking a turkey and a prime rib) and I happened to look into my house through our back windows. The sight of my extended family together eating and laughing in my home made me instantly tear up! There’s something so profoundly beautiful about growing up going to holiday dinners at other family members’ houses and then one day being the adult hosting in your own home with your own family. So special.

Matching turkey necklaces for my kids and their cousin:

I forgot to turn on the oven to cook the corn casserole and I forgot to take the beautiful fruit bowl out of the refrigerator but nobody cared.  Being together is what the holiday is about and my wonderful family so enjoyed all being together.  I loved hosting everyone and watching as memories were being made inside of our home.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

And just as soon as Thanksgiving ended, it was time to celebrate my birthday!

My birthday this year fell on a Monday. My family and I celebrated the day before.

I was woken up by both of my children kissing me on my cheek and whispering “Happy Birthday Mommy.”

Perfection.

Apparently my kids each picked out the wrapping for my gifts. My daughter picked out exactly what I would have chosen for myself, beautiful pink flowers. Nailed it!

Aaaaaand my dinosaur obsessed son picked out….

Amazing 🙂

My husband bought me a full year theater subscription to one of our favorite theaters! There’s nothing like watching live theater and now we have unlimited access to seeing all of the shows there as many times as we want for a year! We bought this a few years ago and it was so amazing. This year’s show lineup is fantastic and includes my favorite production of all time…The Sound of Music! Can’t wait for our year of fun date nights…the first one is in 2 weeks, we are seeing Oliver 🙂

After I opened all of my gifts, the 4 of us went out for breakfast to one of my favorite diners and we all colored pictures until our food came.

We then drove downtown and our first stop was to the filming location of my favorite tv show…Shameless! I have wanted to visit the Gallagher house for years and it was the perfect day. I had to pay the homeowner $5.00 to let me take a picture on her porch…worth it!

Kevin and V’s house is actually 2 doors down!

So freaking cool. While I was there one of the neighbors came out and asked if I wanted to take a picture with him or with Frank, lol. 2 other groups of fans also came to take pictures on the porches while we were there and we all discussed and pointed out places on the property where specific scenes were filmed. Such a fun experience!

If you don’t watch Shameless, WATCH SHAMELESS. You’re welcome.

Our next stop was Chinatown! Another place I have been wanting to visit for years! We had the best time walking through the stores, eating a delicious Chinese lunch at one of the top rated restaurants (Joy Yee), and exploring the grocery stores which are so culturally different from our own.

Frogs for sale at the grocery store:

If there’s a book store in the vicinity, I’ll find it even if I can’t read any of the words, lol!

I loved this piece of furniture so much!  I did NOT love how insanely expensive it was.

My favorite animal: peacocks. They are so fancy! I spotted this beauty on a random wall as we walked past.   Gorgeous.

We came home, sang happy birthday, ate birthday cake, and I was given gorgeous flowers hand selected by my kids.

A perfect, perfect day.

My birthday gift to myself is this gorgeous laptop tote (<—- affiliate link)! I’ve been wanting it ever since my favorite YouTuber Jeana got it. It’s the perfect size and it’s so beautiful! Now when I go into the library with my laptop, book, notebook, coffee, oatmeal, keys, and phone…random strangers hopefully won’t ask if I need any help, lol.

Birthdays are strange. As a kid, I absolutely loved them! The parties! The gifts! The cake! As I got older they started to lose their luster a bit as the age I was turning creeped up up up. Somewhere the joy of the day turned into focusing on the number of the age I was turning and those numbers weren’t so young and exciting anymore. Another year, another year older. Ugh.

And then 6 years ago one of my dearest friends passed away and suddenly everything changed.

All of the sudden my birthdays started to feel special to me once again. The sobering reality that my dear friend will never again celebrate a birthday, will never grow old, and will never again experience any of life’s beauty hit me and it hit me hard. Suddenly growing old felt like such a precious gift and one that I will never again take for granted. Yes that number goes up up up…and I’m so very thankful that it does. I feel blessed to celebrate another birthday and even more blessed to be celebrating surrounded by so much love.

I miss my friend fiercely, especially around this time each year.

Birthdays (and life in general) should be celebrated. I look for the beauty in the day to day and it’s always in there somewhere! This past weekend was truly a beautiful weekend filled with love, family, delicious food, Gallaghers (!), presents, and laughter. Next weekend will include more birthday celebrations with my parents and with my 3 best friends.

Truly thankful for it all.

Dunkin Donuts Gift Card Giveaway Winner:

Congratulations Mistysbookspace!  Email me your address within 48 hours (bookcoffeehappy@gmail.com) and I’ll toss a gift card in the mail for you!  Enjoy 🙂

Thanks so much for allowing me to share bits of my personal life with you.  You can read about my last year’s birthday celebrations here.

My next blog post will be book focused! What I’m currently reading, the books I recently received, and more 🙂

Xo,

Jenny

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One of the Best Books I’ve Ever Read

I knew just from reading the synopsis that I would love this book but I had no idea that it would gain a coveted spot as one of the best books I’ve ever read (quite possibly THE best book I’ve ever read).

If you haven’t yet read this book, you MUST.  Today.  It’s such a beautiful book in every way and I absolutely loved reading it.

I laughed, I sobbed, and I felt everything in between while reading this beautiful story. This book took me on such an emotional roller coaster…I absolutely loved it.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A dazzling, multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple–still madly in love after forty years–recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they’ve built.

When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that’s to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she’s not sure she wants by a man she’s not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents’.

As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt–given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before–we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons’ past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.

Spanning nearly half a century, and set against the quintessential American backdrop of Chicago and its prospering suburbs, Lombardo’s debut explores the triumphs and burdens of love, the fraught tethers of parenthood and sisterhood, and the baffling mixture of affection, abhorrence, resistance, and submission we feel for those closest to us. In painting this luminous portrait of a family’s becoming, Lombardo joins the ranks of writers such as Celeste Ng, Elizabeth Strout, and Jonathan Franzen as visionary chroniclers of our modern lives.

My Thoughts:

(Disclaimer: I will never post spoilers in my reviews HOWEVER the comment section is completely fair game to discuss any and all specifics including spoilers)

5 Stars

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I spent all summer not so patiently waiting for my turn to read this book. It had been on my radar since last spring and I couldn’t wait for it to be released! However, I ultimately made the classic booknerd mistake and the release date (6.25.19) somehow slipped right through my fingers! Ugh! I was innocently shopping at Costco when I made the unfortunate discovery that this had been released. I took out my phone on the spot and immediately went straight to my library’s website to gain my place on the waitlist. #43. Awful. As you know, I’m a proud minimalist and reaaaaally didn’t want to buy a copy…so #43 on the list for me it was.

Ugh.

I checked that website allllllll summer for updates and slowly, slowly, slowly my name moved up on the list.

**If I would have known how much I was going to love it, I would have just bought the book :)**

It was a happy day indeed when the library called to tell me that my copy was waiting! I wasted no time and started reading that very night.

This review is tough for me to write. How can I put into words how much I absolutely LOVED this book? Hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read. In my entire life. And I’ve read A LOT of books 😉

Warning: This book is LONG. Almost 540 pages. Don’t let that intimidate you! I would have happily read 600 more pages once I finished. How can some 200 page books draaaaag on and yet this 540 page book was completely effortless to read?

The writing in this book was simply beautiful. She was able to tell stories from so many different points of view throughout so many timeframes and continuously connected all of the stories, characters, and timelines together. That takes some major literary talent. Everything about this book absolutely blew me away.

Fans of the television shows “This is Us” and “Parenthood” will LOVE this book. I often think that certain books would make excellent movies but this one would be an AMAZING television series! Or…a book series. There are so many rich storylines and so many colorful characters. I firmly feel as though I’m not ready to say good-bye to the Sorenson Family quite yet.

There were numerous nights when I stayed up way too late reading this book and numerous mornings when I woke up early just to read.  I finished reading last night and have not stopped thinking about these characters (the sign of an amazing book).

Side note: I absolutely loved all of the Chicago references! Street names, places, etc. All of them just added to the wonderful experience of reading this beautiful story.  I currently live in a suburb of Chicago but did live in the city for 8 years.  Best city in the world.

This was Claire Lombardo’s debut book…I can’t WAIT to see what she will write in the future. What she was able to accomplish in 1 book is something many authors never achieve in their entire careers.

Brilliant.

Bottom Line:

Truly one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Xo,

Jenny

Did you read this book?  What did you think?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Click the image below to order the book through my Amazon affiliate link.  When you order through this link, I receive a tiny commission. Thank you for your support, Xo

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Reading at the Ronald McDonald House and My Car Accident

A few months ago, I was contacted by a wonderful company called Balloons asking if I would like to participate in a Back to School event which they were hosting at the Ronald McDonald House in downtown Chicago. I immediately said yes and that I would love to hold a storytime for the kids staying there and also for their families.  For those who don’t know, I was an elementary school teacher for 14 years and I currently lead a storytime twice a week at a local play cafe.  Aaaaand obviously I have a passion for reading 😉

If you aren’t familiar with the Ronald McDonald House and all that it offers for families, here is a brief description from their website:

We exist so families can get better together. Helping a sick child fight their illness takes a huge emotional toll on a family. Adding a financial strain can make it all almost too much to bear. We help address those problems, whether it involves providing housing near a hospitalized child, furnishing a place to rest within the hospital, or bringing free healthcare to children in under-served areas of Chicago.                                                                                    

I was prepared to have a nice experience at this event.  I was NOT prepared to have a magical experience at this event.  Magic is the only word I can use to describe the beauty of that night.

On Saturday August 17th, I headed downtown and was honored to participate alongside face painters, a magician, live music, arts and crafts, etc. for the children and their families who were staying at the Ronald McDonald House.  The event itself was amazing, the families were amazing, and the entire experience for everyone involved was amazing.

I was absolutely blown away by the beauty inside of that building from the incredibly kind staff, the wonderful amenities, and the beautiful families.

My puppets (Shelley and Manu Manu) came with me:

I brought TONS of books with me to read:

It’s hard to express exactly how much doing that storytime meant to me.  I met amazing children, some of whom were able to participate using words and some who weren’t.  Some who seemed to be the picture of health and some who moaned from being in pain. I read them stories about dinosaurs, pigs, and dancing dogs.  I brought a mermaid puppet, a dragon puppet, and lots of stickers.  I sang songs.  I hugged parents who were crying and listened to their stories about their children and what led them there.  I watched as not only the littlest people in the room but also their whole families were momentarily taken away from whatever pain they having while enjoying magical stories that I was able to provide.

Books have a magical way of allowing the reader the briefest escape from reality, even just for a few moments.

(Photo Credit: Balloons)

(Photo Credit: ZShare Photovisions)

(Photo Credit: ZShare Photovisions)

Other Event Highlights included Balloons keychains for each child:

Backpacks filled with school supplies for each child:

(Photo Credit: Balloons)

(Photo Credit: Balloons)

Click the following link to watch a 1 minute video from the event (Video Credit: ZShare PhotovisionsRabble Dabble, Balloons,)

View this post on Instagram

08/17/2019; @rmhccni X @balloons.us ———————————————— 66 Families, 15 Volunteers, Magicians, Story-Tellers, Face-painters, Arts & Crafts, Live Music & more. The ultimate back to school party✊🏼 • It means the world to us, to have had the opportunity to bring smiles to these families’ faces this past Saturday. Thank you @rmhccni for letting us come hangout! ———————————————— For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Ronald McDonald House Charities, they focus on helping sick children fight serious illness by providing housing near the child’s treatment center. They also take the emotional & financial strain away from these families by providing proper health care, free of charge. 🎥@zshare_photovisions 🎥@rabbledabble

A post shared by BALLOONS® (@balloons.us) on

After the event was over, we were given a tour of the amazing and beautiful facility.  Admittingly I was seeing most of it through the tears in my eyes.  What a special place this is and I had absolutely no idea all that this amazing organization provides.  If you are looking for a meaningful way to volunteer your time, I would HIGHLY encourage you to reach out.  What a beautiful place this is in every single way.

Stunning Meditation Room:

When a child comes to the Ronald McDonald house, they are able to choose a toy from their incredible toy closet:

I left with tears in my eyes and gratitude in my heart.

 

While driving home, I was so caught up in my thoughts and reflections on the incredible night that I had just been a part of and suddenly this happened…

Ugh.

I’m ok and so was the person in the other car.  I was sore, emotionally shaken, and a bit lightheaded for a few days afterward.  I still have a scab across my chest from where my seatbelt dug into my skin.

It could have been SO MUCH WORSE.  I’m extremely thankful.

My SUV is still being repaired and as of today, they estimate I will have it back in about 10 more days. It is pretty messed up.

Most importantly, my kids weren’t in the car.  When the police officer at the scene noticed that I had 2 car seats in my backseat, he asked if my children were in the car at the time of the accident.  I started sobbing out of gratitude when I said that they were peacefully sleeping at home with my husband.

I refuse to allow the awful ending to be the event which outshadows the beautiful beginning of that night.  It really was such a special and meaningful night…

To say that I was emotionally drained from EVERYTHING last Saturday night once I got home would be a gigantic understatement. My husband came outside and met me in our driveway to hug me as I sobbed.

A huge thank you to Balloons for hosting and inviting me to participate in such a meaningful and beautiful evening.  I was so incredibly honored to be a part of it.

Count me in for next year…although I just may have someone else drive 😉

Xo,

Jenny

This blog is my favorite hobby and I would so love your support!  Here are ways you can help my blog to GROW:

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Printers Row Lit Fest 2019 Recap, Date Night With My Husband, and a VLOG!

I am an only child and have always loved spending time with myself.  I literally CRAVE alone time and savor it whenever I can carve even a tiny bit of time for myself.

This past weekend was the Chicago Printers Row Lit Fest (read more about this special event HERE) and obviously I had to attend.  Although it’s a very family friendly event, I had visions of myself aimlessly walking amongst the books, talking with authors and publishers, and just enjoying a day alone in the company of my fellow literary lovers.  I knew from the start that this was one event I was going to enjoy allllllll alone.

And that’s exactly what I did 🙂

I had posted live stories from the event throughout the day on Instagram but this one basically summed it all up in 15 seconds:

I had planned on attending the 2 day event on Sunday but a view of my weather app told me that the rain might make that a bit tricky.  So late Friday night I made the last minute snap decision to attend on Saturday and I’m so glad that I did.  The perfect weather made for a glorious day of walking around in the most beautiful city in the world.  I love you so much, Chicago.

My daughter had a birthday party, my son had a basketball class, and my husband took care of it all so that I could head downtown and enjoy some alone time.  I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning excited for my very own city adventure!  I packed myself a healthy lunch (I’m a healthy eater and usually end up packing my lunch ahead of time when I attend events like this where I know the food will most likely not be the healthiest of choices), grabbed my coffee, and drove straight to the city.

1 hour later (I can’t remember the last time I spent an hour in the car by myself and I sang at the top of my lungs the entire way.  Loved it.) and I was there!  I found a random parking lot, paid $25.00 to park my car, and immediately headed into the endless sea of literary heaven.  All alone.  So happy.

My favorite booth of the entire fair was the Open Books booth.  They had literally THOUSANDS of books on tables for sale for $2.00-$3.00!  There were SO many people walking and picking up books to buy and as books were picked up, they were immediately restocked with different titles by the nicest lady.  Her and I had the most lovely discussion about our favorite books!  She explained how she volunteers at the warehouse now that she is retired and I told her the thought of that is basically my version of heaven.  I didn’t catch her name but she promised to check out my blog…if you are reading this, a special hello to my new friend! I actually went back to that booth THREE separate times because the stock was literally changing every second!  THE.  BEST.

A highlight of the day was meeting Francie Arenson Dickman (read my review of her wonderful  book HERE).  She’s just as sweet and adorable as I imagined she would be.  I also loved stopping by the Midwest Writers Association/Windy City Historians tent and chatting with Cyndee Schaffer (read my review of her interesting book HERE).  Cyndee, it was so nice seeing you!  It was such fun for me to be at such a big event like this one and to personally know a few of the authors.

Throughout the day, I met such lovely authors, publishers, bookstore owners, and fellow book lovers like me.  Hello and welcome to all of my new blog readers!

There was a Marie Kondo consultant helping people tidy up their lives! Read my review of her life changing book HERE!

Everyone loves the Lit Fest. Apparently even dogs…in backpacks?!? I took this picture to show my kids and expected, they loved it 🙂

I’m a HUGE advocate of breastfeeding and this book made me smile. There really was something for everyone there on Saturday.

Here is a link to a news report from Saturday night which shows highlights from the day I attended. He said there were 100,000 people there!

https://cbsloc.al/2WmvTUM

After 3 hours of walking from booth to booth, eating my healthy turkey sandwich by a beautiful fountain, and reading the backs of more books that I would have thought humanly possible…I was on my way back to the suburbs.

My husband sent a text saying that my daughter was sleeping at her friend’s house, and I immediately texted him back suggesting he find someone to watch our son so him and I could have a date night!  A special thank you to my in-laws for the last minute babysitting so Jon and I could enjoy some time together.  A lovely ending to a lovely day. As I said on Instagram, “Last night’s dinner included 3 courses, high heels, and the only food I had to cut and 1 potty break I had to take were for myself.  Love date nights with my husband.”

And now that my glorious day is behind me, I have already been Googling trying to find the exact dates for next year’s Lit Fest.  Apparently they haven’t been announced yet but whenever that weekend in 2020 will be…you’ll know where to find me 🙂

Want to see what I came home with from the fest?  Here’s a quick VLOG:

What did you do this weekend?  I hope it was a fun one!  Any of you attend Lit Fest?

Xo,

Jenny

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Weekend Plans: Printer’s Row Lit Fest

This weekend marks the 35th anniversary of the Printer’s Row Lit Fest and I can’t WAIT  to attend!

You can learn more about the Printer’s Row Lit Fest HERE.

The Printer’s Row Lit Fest prides itself on being the “largest free outdoor showcase in the Midwest” and it’s AWESOME.  On Sunday I will be taking myself on a special date downtown and will spend the day meeting authors, browsing books, listening to speakers, watching demonstrations, and so much more all in my very favorite city (Chicago).  I wonder what treasures I will come home with?!? As a bonus, the Midwest Writer’s Association and the Windy City Historians will have a tent and I’m excited to stop by and say hi (read about the first time I met these lovely groups of people HERE).

Check out this video to see Lit Fest highlights from 2 years ago:

The last time I attended the Printer’s Row Lit Fest was in 2004 and I absolutely loved it.  My best friend and I went specifically to listen to Julie Andrews speak about her new children’s book that had recently been released.  I am a HUGE Julie Andrews fan (The Sound of Music is hands down one of my all time favorite movies) and listening to her speak was pure magic.  I cried. 🙂 I’ll never forget the kids in the front row holding up a poster that read “Please be our nanny!”  So, so cute.

I will write a recap blog post all about the Printer’s Row Lit Fest once I’m back but if you would like to follow along on my adventure, I will be posting live to my Instagram stories throughout the day on Sunday!

I’m A Chef and My Kids Want Buttered Noodles Giveaway Winner:

Thank you to everyone who entered the I’m A Chef and My Kids Want Buttered Noodles Giveaway!

Congratulations Jana H (My absolute favorite meal is crab cakes! I’d love to check out some new recipes!)!  Please email me your mailing address to bookcoffeehappy@gmail.com!  Enjoy your new cookbook 🙂

If you didn’t win this one….fear not!  I have some wonderful giveaways scheduled throughout the summer.  Stay tuned 🙂

What are your plans this weekend?  Anything exciting?  Are any of you going to Lit Fest?  If you do and happen to see me there…please come say hi!  I’ll be the one aimlessly walking around with a gigantic smile on my face.  I’m so excited!

Xo,

Jenny

8 Ways You Can Help Support Book Coffee Happy:

1. Subscribe with your email address to my blog (scroll all the way to the bottom of this page on mobile devices OR check the top right of this screen to enter your email address)

2. If you already have a blog, please “follow” mine

3. “Like” my Facebook page (and please comment on, “like”, and share my posts)

4. Follow me on Instagram

5. Follow me on Twitter

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Click the image below to order the book through my Amazon affiliate link.  When you order through this link, I receive a tiny commission. Thank you for your support, Xo

GREETINGS FROM THE POLAR VORTEX and a Book Review: The Light Between Oceans {M.L. Stedman}

When my husband and I were dating, I lived in a condo in downtown Chicago. One night, we had tickets to a comedy club called Zanies to see Gilbert Gottfried perform.

We walked there and it was the absolute coldest either one of us had ever been in our entire lives. I remember my legs going completely numb through my jeans as we were walking. It was probably only a 4 minute walk and by the time we got there we were both literally chilled to our bones. Our faces were bright red, we had no feeling in our fingers, and I was convinced my toes would stay numb forever. After the show, we hailed a cab and enjoyed the warm and lovely 1 minute ride back to my condo. One of the smartest financial decisions we have ever made 🙂

11 years later and my husband and I still use the term “Zanies cold” to describe the weather. As in, “It’s cold outside today! Almost Zanies cold!” or “Oh come on, it’s not that cold. It’s nowhere near Zanies cold!”

The weather we are having here today makes “Zanies cold” feel like a tropical vacation.

Greetings from the Polar Vortex!

Its absolutely crazy here. Our entire state has shut down. Schools have been called off, stores are closed, mail service has been canceled, garbage pickup has been canceled, etc.

Melting ice outside has caused water to leak into our kitchen and family room. We currently have towels everywhere, fans blowing on our carpet, and a family birthday party this weekend for both of my kids which now needs to be relocated from our home to our kids’ favorite local restaurant. Thank goodness they are able to accommodate all of us so last minute!

Yesterday my son and I ate lunch in the car after I finished leading storytime. I had packed us sliced grapes which had frozen from sitting in the car by the time we went to eat them!

Here’s a fun new fact that I learned last night:

Apparently when the temperature goes into these frigid numbers, it causes the materials used to build the house to contract.  As the heat warms the inside of the wall, it  simultaneously warms the outside of the wall and the materials inside of the wall contract.  It causes a very loud noise!

***DISCLAIMER*** I actually have no idea what I’m talking about and the above paragraph is extremely likely to be completely wrong. I read a ton of online articles about this topic somewhere around 2:00 AM and that was my takeaway…but science is not my strong suit, lol.

What I DO know is that the noises were HORRIBLE. For about 2 hours in the middle of the night, random loud BOOMS kept me awake every 10 minutes. The only thing that calmed my fears (after getting out of bed to check that everything was ok) was reading on our local town’s Facebook page about all of my neighbors experiencing the exact same thing at the exact same time! I swear nobody slept in Buffalo Grove last night…except for my husband. He slept peacefully through all of it. *insert eye rolling emoji here.*

Today my kids are home from school and my husband is home from work. We are warm, we are safe, and we are together. I stuck my head outside of our back door this morning just to see what it would feel like and my lips immediately started to tingle!  Even our dishes are freezing to the touch inside of our kitchen cabinet.  This is crazy.

Current scene in our kitchen as I blog this.  Note the giant coffee next to my computer!  It will need to be refilled at some point soon.  I’m so exhausted today.

Our heat is working just fine but our EcoBee (affiliate) couldn’t even comprehend all of this madness to report it to us this morning, lol.

Yikes.

One great thing about being trapped inside of the house during temperatures like this is the ability to escape into a book.  I’m not sure how much escaping I’ll be able to do today with both of my kids here, but fingers crossed I’ll be able to read for at least a little bit later on!

I posted this on Facebook last week:

It made me think of my own question and one of my all time favorite books immediately came to mind.  This older book turned out to be one of the best books I have ever read….unfortunately with one of the most boring beginnings of any book I have ever read.

thelightbetweenoceans

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A captivating, beautiful, and stunningly accomplished debut novel that opens in 1918 Australia – the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who make one devastating choice that forever changes two worlds.

Australia, 1926. After four harrowing years fighting on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns home to take a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written debut novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

My Thoughts:

(Disclaimer: I will never post spoilers in my reviews HOWEVER the comment section is completely fair game to discuss any and all specifics including spoilers)

This book is a PERFECT example of why sometimes you just need to push through even if you’re not 100 percent in love with the book that you are reading.  I absolutely hated the beginning of this book…it was so boring.  I kept thinking, “Ok.  I’m giving this 10 more pages and then I am giving up”.  I pushed through, kept reading, and…WOW.  This book turned out to be one of the most beautifully written and moving stories I have ever read.  In my entire life.

I read this book years ago and I still think of these characters and their choices often.  As a mother, this story spoke directly to my heart.  It’s such a complicated story with so many fascinating points of view.  My feelings about certain characters completely changed as the story unfolded and I COULD.  NOT.  PUT.  THIS.  BOOK.  DOWN.

In fact, I remember I was reading this book while receiving a pedicure.  There was a television playing a very loud movie that nobody in the salon was paying attention to. I may or may not have asked the salon owner if she could please turn it off so that I could give this fascinating book the attention it so rightfully deserved.

Bottom Line:

One of the most boring beginnings of any book turned into one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, wonderful and memorable books I have ever read.  YOU MUST PUSH THROUGH.  And then thank me.

Stay safe and stay warm, local friends!

Xo,

Jenny

Did you read this book?  What did you think?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

It would really help me if you could follow/subscribe to my blog.  Also, please “like” my Facebook page ,  follow me on Twitter, and follow me on Instagram!

Local friends, I run a storytime every Tuesday and Friday at Whimsy Play Cafe in Buffalo Grove, Illinois from 10:00-10:45! Bring your kids (6 months-5 years) for stories, songs, puppets, and lots of fun. Price is included in your child’s admission, no need to sign up. If you are a blog reader, please be sure to introduce yourself!  I can’t wait to meet you and your little ones. 🙂

Click the image below to order the book through my Amazon affiliate link.  When you order through this link, I receive a tiny commission. Thank you for your support, Xo

Birthday of a Book Blogger

My birthday was yesterday and the entire perfect weekend was filled with fun, love, and joy.

Friday was spent with my favorite shopping partner, my mom!  We had our annual visit to our favorite craft and gift fair and it was glorious as always. It happens over my birthday weekend every year and it’s such a fun way to start off the weekend.

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I came home with such treasurers!  4 unicorn hair bows for my daughter, 3 bags of beef jerky for my husband, a new set of fancy sheets for our bed, and a new scarf for me because I can’t ever go shopping without buying myself at least 1 new scarf.  Scarves are  favorite accessory of all time although by this point I own way too many and I really need to stop buying more. Can’t. Stop. See this post for more details on the background of my obsession: The Ultimate Throwback to my 20’s and Early 30’s Book Series

I bought my son a custom Mickey Mouse CD where the characters sing each song using my son’s name.  The man at the booth told me that the characters will say or sing his name for a total of 70 times throughout the songs on the CD!  I wish I had taken a video of the look on my son’s face when we were driving yesterday afternoon and he heard the CD.  “MOMMY!  Mickey knows my name!” “MOMMY!  Goofy knows it too!”  Best $22.00 I have spent in a very long time.

Another booth had these gorgeous handmade wooden boxes, hand painted mason jars, and different types of flowers.  So many colors, so many sizes, so many sayings.  I spent a LONG time choosing the perfect combination and I could not love it more:

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We came home from the craft fair and soon were off to the biggest event of the day…my daughter’s school talent show!  She was one of the youngest in the show and while she was up there dancing, I watched in awe through the blurred vision from my tears.  Her confidence amazes me.  She did a solo act!  She nailed it, she looked beautiful, and the best part…she had so much fun.  There are those special moments as a parent where you can literally feel your heart bursting with pride and love and Friday night was a perfect example of that for me.  Aaaaand now I’m crying as I type this.  I love being a mom so much.

How sweet are my in-laws?!?

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Saturday proved yet again that nobody has better friends than I do. It was pouring outside, it was freezing outside, and there was traffic. And yet…my girls were determined to take me downtown so the 4 of us could have a city day in honor of ME! I offered numerous times to change our plans but they simply wouldn’t hear of it. So they picked me up and downtown we went (over an hour drive) into the most gorgeous city in the world. I lived in downtown Chicago for 8 years before I got married and a piece of my heart still lives there. My favorite city in the world. It’s gorgeous all year round but during the holidays the whole city absolutely sparkles. It’s just so magical down there. We shopped, we laughed, we ate. A perfect day.

Rain didn’t stop us:

4 Jewish girls with 1 stunning tree:

Grand Lux Cafe for dinner:

I came home after the kids were in bed and noticed this note on my daughter’s door (apparently she hid my presents under her bed):

Sunday morning on my actual birthday my husband and I were woken up quite early by 2 very excited children singing “happy birthday”. They climbed into our bed as I was still half asleep and my birthday began with homemade cards, balloons, gifts, and a unicorn cake. Perfection.

My daughter’s gift blew me away as it does every year. She is the most thoughtful little girl I have ever met. She had Jon take her to a bookstore, went to the new release table, and picked out the book with what she thought had the prettiest cover. As surprised as I was to receive this gift, she was even more surprised when I told her that Liane Moriarty is one of my favorite authors and I’ve been DYING to read her new release!!! In fact, I commented on that just last night when my friends and I were at a bookstore in the city! How did she know???  Mothers and daughters just have that special connection 🙂 Have any of you read this yet? She also bought a Junie B. Jones box set for her and I to read together. She told me that she wanted me to have some new books to put on my blog 🙂 Sweetest girl! A perfect gift. Truly touched my heart.

Aaaaaand my 2.5 year old son’s gift for me. He picked it out all by himself:

I don’t particularly care for trucks but guess who does…

Amazing.

And the balloon he bought for me. We’re Jewish, lol.

My sweet little boy.  LOVE!

My husband’s gift was exactly what I ask for every year: something fun for us to do together as a family. So in a few weeks, the 4 of us will be spending the night at Great Wolf Lodge in a suite and we all can’t wait! Perfect.

I’m over wanting fancy purses or expensive jewelry for my birthday. Quality time with just the 4 of us is EXACTLY what I always want and that’s exactly what yesterday consisted of.

The 4 of us went out for breakfast (my favorite thing. I always LOVE going out for breakfast and we try to do it at least once per weekend). I ate lox, drank coffee, and watched my daughter get the hiccups from laughing at my son who was shoving banana slices directly into my mouth with his sticky syrup fingers.

Our next adventure was Legoland! We spent hours riding rides, building with Legos, watching 4D movies, and so much more. It’s so amazing there and a perfect way to spend the day.

There was one point where the kids were playing together on the climbing structure and they were laughing so loudly. I turned to my husband with tears in my eyes and told him what a perfect day it was.

Rainforest Cafe for lunch. We sat by the gorillas, bought toys in the gift shop, and my kids loved every second.

Home for a unicorn cake and singing happy birthday with 2 excited kids on my lap the whole time.

How gorgeous is this cake???

It was so delicious.

And then…the day switched. My birthday was over and suddenly HANUKKAH was here!

Our menorahs. Jon and my daughter made hers when she was 1 and him and my son made his last night while I was downtown! Both were Hanukkah presents for me. I cried when my daughter gave me hers and all of these years later I cried when my son gave me his. So, so special.

My daughter’s has melted wax all over it from it’s many years of use and with each new bit of wax, I love it even more because of it’s memories. The year that Jon and I got married, I bought us a gorgeous silver traditional menorah that we used for a few years. Once my daughter made this one, it’s the only one we’ve used since. And now we have 2! One parent holds 1 kid while they light the candles while the other parent holds the other kid while they light the candles. And to the kids, picking out the candle colors is always part of the fun. I love Hanukkah so, so much.  Always have.

When I was a little girl, my parents used to wrap all of my presents and put them out for me on the first day. Each night for the eight nights, I was allowed to choose one gift to open. I remember making charts and obsessively thinking about which gift I would open that night during the school day. Should I open the big silver one tonight or save that one for tomorrow night and open the tiny pink one tonight? Thoughts such as this would consume me for the entire eight days and it was so much fun. I always knew that it when I had my own kids, I would absolutely continue this tradition. Jon and I have done this for kids since my daughter was born. Whichever gift she would put her hand on when she was a baby was the one she “chose” for that night! Now her choices are a little bit more strategic. My son absolutely loves opening gifts but doesn’t quite understand why he is only allowed to open one each night, LOL.

This year, things were a bit different. My daughter has been begging us for years for a hamster and this was the year that my husband and I decided to make her dreams come true! She’s been telling us for months that she has this vision where she would come downstairs to all of her gifts and one of them would have holes poked in it… and she would open that one right away because her hamster would be waiting to meet her! So we did exactly that. See video below (make sure your sound is up). ***the hamster was wrapped up like this for only about 2 minutes before the box was opened***

 

I’m trying hard to keep my kids and their names off of my blog for privacy reasons so I’m not going to share the video of when she came downstairs. Just know that it was amazing and a moment that none of us will ever forget.

Welcome to our family, Fluffy Rose!

Birthdays in my 20s were filled with alcohol, body glitter, dancing, leather pants, bars, and hangovers. Birthdays in my 30s were filled with learning to celebrate while holding new roles in my life…first as a new fiancee, and then as a new wife and finally (twice!) as a new mom. Birthdays in my 40’s are now filled with the 3 most important parts of my life: love, family, and friends. It’s about surrounding myself with the people that I love the most and who love me right back. It’s about taking the time to reflect upon my life and how much I truly am able to celebrate all of the day to day beauty it contains. If you would’ve asked me 10 years ago where I saw myself today…I’m exactly where I have always wanted to be. Married to the love of my life and a stay at home mom to my 2 beautiful children. Admittingly I never envisioned the hamster in this scenario but I’m welcoming the new addition 🙂

The very best part of the entire weekend? As I was about to make a wish and blow out my candles, I was struck with the realization that there was truly nothing I wanted to wish for.

I already have everything I could ever want.

Xo,

Jenny

A very Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate!

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