April 28, 2017

Five on Friday | LBDI

We made it to Friday! Which means today is my last day wearing my little black dress as part of the Junior League of Harrisburg’s Little Black Dress Initiative. Quick background: the LBDI is a week-long fundraising and awareness campaign where JLH members commit to wearing the same black dress for five workdays to start conversations about and raise money for our organization’s focus, which currently is breaking the cycle of poverty. To learn more about this campaign, check out my personal fundraiser page, and to learn more about JLH, check out our website.

It’s been an interesting week, and I’m joining up for Five on Friday to share five things I’ve learned throughout this event:

1 // Wearing the same black dress for five days was limiting, but not in the way I thought. To be honest, most of my coworkers didn’t even realize I had the same dress on every day this week. It didn’t limit my confidence at work, which I had a concern that it might, but it did make me more careful with my time in the evening. I thought that having a pared-down wardrobe for the week would make getting dressed a breeze, but I had to put more thought into my accessories, plan my laundry so that my dress had time to air-dry before work the next morning, and be extra careful not to spill my coffee on it every morning!  

2 // I put a lot more thought into spending money. Leading up to LBDI week, Junior League members took place in an exercise where we planned a monthly budget based on poverty-level wages. While I’m not trying to appropriate anyone’s lifestyle, it was a good reminder that there are some very tough choices that some of our friends and neighbors have to make every day. Do I really need to order in lunch or buy a new pair of shoes to wear with my LBD, or would that money better be used donating to my own campaign? Exactly. I’m always on a budget, but this week, I tried to be as strict as possible.

3 // People surprised me. A friend from high school admitted to me that she thought Junior League was just another group of snobby women who get together, but after reading Wednesday’s post, her mind was changed and she made a donation to the campaign. If I can help just one person learn more about what we do with JLH, I’ve accomplished something. I’m learning to speak clearly and cohesively about JLH’s mission and why we do what we do, which is a goal I’ve set for myself.  

4 // Checking privilege isn’t always easy to do, but it’s something that must be done. I know that the phrase “check your privilege” is pretty buzzy these days, but it’s something that many of us need to learn to do. To live one week wearing the same dress is one thing, but to be sensitive to and accepting of the struggles that some people live with every day takes education and practice. The Junior League of Harrisburg has been discussing participating a sensitivity training offered by one of our community partners, and I hope it’s something we get to do. I think it would be such a great learning experience and so useful in how we interact with those around us.

5 // My family is so supportive and came through right away. I was so nervous that I wouldn’t meet my fundraising for this goal, but I’m so happy to share that I reached my $250 goal on the very first day due to the generosity of my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and husband. Having people who support my efforts and what I do makes me so thankful and so happy. While I’ve met my goal, JLH is still a little bit shy of our overall goal and I would be so, so appreciative if you would like to join me in donating {here}.

Despite my reservations, I’m so glad I participated in this year’s Little Black Dress Initiative. I learned quite a bit about myself, about my community, and stepped out of my comfort zone. A lot of work went in to planning this event, and I’m thankful to everyone who had a hand in pulling it off successfully. And a huge thank you to each and every one of you who took the time and shared your hard-earned dollars with an organization that means so much to me, and to the Harrisburg community. THANK YOU ALL!!!

April 26, 2017

The Little Black Dress Initiative

Happy Wednesday – we are halfway through the week, people! And that means I’m halfway through my Little Black Dress Initiative week, too! What is LBDI, you ask? It’s an awareness campaign and fundraising effort on behalf of the Junior League of Harrisburg where members wear the same black dress for five workdays in order to start conversations about and raise money for those in our community who need it most.

I’ll be completely honest, I had some big reservations about participating in this campaign. I’m not good at asking for money, and I get nervous when I’m put on the spot to talk about something, even when it’s something I fully believe in. The biggest reservation I had about participating was putting aside my privilege, which sometimes can be difficult to do. Let me break it down a little bit for you:

A living wage calculation shows the hourly rate that an individual must earn 40 hours/week in order to meet the basic living expenses of their family. For a single parent household with one child, the living wage in Dauphin County is $21.47/hour (source: Poverty in America, Living Wage Calculator, 2014). 

Without getting into too much detail, I will share that my annual income from my first full-time job out of college was under $19,000. That breaks down to still be almost $2.00/hour above the Pennsylvania minimum wage, but I was nowhere near making enough to support basic living expenses. My company offered health insurance, which I took advantage of, as well as a 401(k), which I didn’t take advantage of because saving money was something that wasn’t happening at that point in my financial life. 

While I was lucky to have a job, I was even more fortunate that I have parents who were more than willing to allow me to move back in with them. I scraped by to pay my cell phone bill, car payment, student loans, and to feed myself, but I survived because I didn’t have to pay for housing. Did that make me feel less than adequate as an adult? Absolutely. It was embarrassing, and it made me feel like I didn’t have anything together. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have felt like if I didn’t have the help I did.

And that’s why I’ve been so hesitant to participate in LBDI. I’m the first to admit that I’m uncomfortable talking coherently and cohesively about bridging the gap between poverty and self-sufficiency. I’m uncomfortable asking my friends and family for money to support my fundraising efforts. I’m uncomfortable talking about the privilege and luck I’ve had in my lifetime that allow me to live in my home, put food on my table, and travel with my family. It’s time for me to put that discomfort aside, though, because the unease I feel in asking you to donate to my campaign is nothing compared to the distress of being hungry because there’s no money left for food, or the feeling of wearing a hand-me-down dress to work each day because there’s no cash left in the budget for clothes for mom after the kids are taken care of.

Would you please join me on my Little Black Dress journey through a donation to the Junior League of Harrisburg? Your donation will be used to fulfill our goal of breaking the cycle of poverty in the Capital Region by promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.

You can support me by visiting {my donation page}.  Your donation will go directly to support the mission of the JLH and will help us continue to deliver our community and membership training program.

Thank you to all of my friends and family who have already made a donation. And thank you to the Junior League of Harrisburg team who made this event possible!


April 5, 2017

Book Club | March 2017

It's that time again - book club time! I'm right on track with my goal to read 52 books this year. In March I finished quite a few books, some good, some not so good. So let's get to it - what I read last month (no spoilers!):

March 2017 Book Club | Reads and Reviews

The Assistants by Camille Perri

(3/5) The premise behind this novel is what any post-grad dreams of: finding a windfall that allows for paying off student loans in one immediate lump sum. However, for Tina Fontana, her windfall comes through an embezzlement ring that she creates with other young assistants at the gigantic media company where they work. It's a silly story, but the sheer amount of money that many of us owe from our college educations is all too real, and Tina and her girlfriends try to even the playing field a bit. This story is a quick beach read, but fair warning - if you have as many college loans as I do, you might get a little pissy when reading!

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

(3.5/5) Anyone who has ever worked in the foodservice industry as a server or bartender will relate to at least one part of this story. We follow Tess, new to NYC, as she works with the lifers in the restaurant world, as well as those who are "just here until something better comes along." I will say, though, that this book really has no plot. It's just tagging along with Tess as she explores a new life in the city - food, men, drugs. Or maybe it was just me and I was missing something? If you read it, I'd really like to know what you thought!

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

(4/5) I have to start by saying I liked this book so much more at the end than I did when I started it. It's a mystery that begins with Ava arriving back in New York after the death of her twin sister, Zelda. Almost immediately upon her arrival back at the family's vineyard, Ava begins to realize that her sister's death is just a bit too suspicious, just as Zelda's notes and clues start rolling in. As Ava made her way through the alphabet trying to figure out just what kind of game Zelda is playing, I found myself becoming more and more engrossed in the story. I'm looking forward to more from this new author!

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

(2.5/5) This story about high school mean girls gone too far was somewhat disappointing to me after really, really enjoying Abbott's novel "You Will Know Me," which I read last summer while sitting at the pool. It just seemed so ridiculously unreal to me - high school cheerleaders drinking with their coach, affairs, and a murder - it was all so much. Still, I finished the book and was left with so many questions. I wanted to know what happened AFTER the story finished; there was so much more to be told.

We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley

(3/5) Have you ever read a book where you absolutely despised the main character? That's how I felt about We Could Be Beautiful. Catherine West (great name, though) is a very wealthy woman living in NYC. She spends her time visiting with her senile mother, competing with her younger sister, and worrying about getting older. So when a new man appears, she falls head over heels for him and quickly becomes engaged. But her new fiance, William, is hiding a secret and Catherine has to decide if that secret is worth uncovering and living with, or if she wants to keep it hidden and finally become happily married. I finished this story pretty quickly, but there were so many times that I wanted to reach through the pages and slap Catherine for her bratty attitude. But hey, if the author's goal was to give us an utterly unlikeable main character, she absolutely succeeded! 

So, that's where I'm at after March's reading list. If you've read any of them, what did you think? I always love hearing what others thought of books I might've completely disliked or absolutely loved.

I'm currently struggling through June by Miranda Beverly-Whitemore and I have Anna Kendrick's book up next. Any suggestions for what to read after that? Let me know!

March 29, 2017

April Fitness Challenge

Starting in April, I’m pushing myself to complete a fitness challenge – take 25 classes in 30 days at the studio where I take barre, cycling, and yoga. While it might not sound like a lot to many, for me it’s a big increase in what I’m currently doing. I typically take two classes each week, which are great for helping me maintain my current fitness level, but I’m not really pushing myself or getting any stronger. 

The reason I chose this particular challenge for myself is because I find that I’m most successful in a group class atmosphere. It’s so much easier to get out of bed on a Saturday morning if I know there are 20 other people waiting to hit the barre and start off their weekend on a healthy note. Plus, I’ve really begun to enjoy indoor cycling, which is something I never thought I would say! The combination of the cardio, strength training, and stretching that the group classes bring to my life is exactly what I need right now.

I don’t plan on changing my diet, but I will be weighing myself and taking some measurements to see what happens throughout the next month. And if I’m being completely honest, I’m hoping that making it through this challenge will help me cement some workout habits that I can carry into the warmer weather. 

To kick off this challenge, I purchased an extra pair of workout capris from Athleta, another awesome tank that doesn’t ride up when I’m in downward dog, and two extra sports bras. Having pretty new workout gear is a good motivator for me, especially because I hate adding extra laundry to my already annoying laundry schedule. 

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this awesome challenge is made possible in part by my mom and mother-in-law, for gifting me with gift cards to the studio! With unexpected home repairs recently, I don’t have a ton of spare cash, so I’m so appreciative of their thoughtful gifts. 

If you’re in the Harrisburg area, come out to a class with me at H2L studio – the more, the merrier!

March 27, 2017

Weekending | Prom Dresses + Spring Cleaning

Is it just me, or is this year flying by? I cannot believe we are in the last week of March. It always seems like there's so much to do and time is just slipping away, right? Or maybe that's just me. 

Even though the weekend went too fast, I did manage to get quite a bit accomplished! Although overcast, Saturday was the first real taste of spring with temperatures in the low 70s, which melted that last little bit of snow we were still holding on to. 

Also on Saturday, I was lucky to be part of the first ever Prom Possible event with the Junior League of Harrisburg. So what is Prom Possible, you ask? It was a one-day pop-up shop where local high school girls could come and pick out a prom dress and accessories for their upcoming dance. And why? Because as many of us know, prom can be quite an expense, and unfortunately not everyone is able to afford it. 

Through the generous donations of dresses, jewelry, hair certificates and dry cleaning expenses by local friends, family members, and businesses, JLH was able to provide many local high school girls with the perfect dress! This {link} provides little more information about the event from our local ABC station.

I will say that after all of the excitement of Prom Possible on Saturday, I kept Sunday really low-key. I tested out my new Instant Pot by making barbecue pork, and it turned out so well! I can't wait to try more instant pot recipes, so if you have some please share your favorites.

I also worked more on my spring cleaning, which is finally starting to get somewhere! I keep saying I'm going to work on my wardrobe, but that seems to be really difficult for me so I started with books, candles, linens, and office supplies. I managed to get rid of five entire bags of junk that we no longer need and I'm looking forward to continuing with the purge later this week.

Also something to look forward to this week - Jason and I are taking a little trip to Annapolis! Neither of us have ever been and it's not too far for a short vacation away. If you've ever been and have places we must see, food we must eat, or things we must purchase, let me know! Happy Monday, friends!

March 17, 2017

Five on Friday | Favorite Soups

Happy Friday, friends! We made it through another week! If any of you are on the East Coast, I hope you survived our fun little March snowstorm. Right now, it’s hard to believe Spring is right around the corner! You better believe I used this last little bit of winter and my time snowed in to enjoy some of my favorite soups. And for this week’s Five on Friday, I’m sharing some of my favorite recipes:

1 // Chicken Corn Noodle (recipe via My Kitchen Addiction)

This is my all-time favorite, especially when my mom makes it. It’s perfect when served with saltines. And this is probably sacrilege to some, but good chicken corn soup absolutely DOES NOT have hard-boiled egg pieces in it! That’s the perfect way to ruin a delicious soup, in my opinion 

2 // Slow Cooker Loaded Potato (recipe via Cooking Classy)

I had the most incredible potato soup at a local restaurant last week. It was made with fingerling potatoes, which were the perfect size and softness. But this crock pot recipe is a good substitute for at home!

3 // Tomato Basil with Parmesan (recipe via le creme de la crumb)

Make this with a grilled cheese and you’ve got yourself the perfect comfort meal for a snow day!

4 // Vegetable Beef (recipe via Taste of Home)

This is an old standby that my mom makes pretty frequently. It’s so easy to make with frozen vegetables and a roast! 

5 // Slow Cooker Broccoli + Cauliflower (recipe via Recipe Runner)

I tried this one for the first time last week and the recipe was good, but I’d tweak it a little bit by sautéing the garlic and onions before putting everything in the crockpot to add a little more depth to the flavor of the soup. Also, I used sour cream instead of greek yogurt because it was what I had on hand, and it worked perfectly.

And okay, let’s be honest. Just because winter is basically over doesn’t mean I’m going to stop making soup anytime soon. Share your favorites with me!

March 15, 2017

The Secret to Stress Free Packing and Travel | Book Review

Packing. One of the worst parts about taking a vacation, amirite? If you're anything like I used to be, it's all about cramming every possible space in your suitcase and carry-on with every possible item you may need. Long before my flight attendant days, I was a notorious overpacker. 
The First Step to Becoming an Efficient Packer and Traveler | Line Up and Wait

Actually, even at the beginning of my time as a flight attendant, I was an overpacker. I remember showing up for what we called a "stand up" overnight (or a high speed, or a CDO [continuous duty overnight]), which basically means the crew works the last flight into a city at night and the first flight out in the morning. The crew is on duty the full amount of time (typically about 8 hours), but they are given a hotel room to rest. Well, on my first CDO, I had a bag full of clothes, makeup, books, laptop...and used nothing of it. I brushed my teeth, threw on some sweats and a tshirt and crashed for about three hours. I pulled my uniform back on in the morning and was ready to get back to Houston to really go to sleep in my own bed in a few hours. So that entire long story goes to show you that I still have overpacking tendencies, despite my experience of living out of a suitcase!

In my years of flying, living out of hotels, moving frequently, and traveling for work, I've come up with quite a few tips and tricks that work really well for me. However, there's one non-negotiable secret that I think everyone should follow. And that would be...

Buy a quality suitcase that is built to last!

But why would I spend $450 on a bag that just gets my things from point A to point B? Because you want your things to arrive intact. The job of your suitcase isn't to look pretty (but it's a nice perk!), the job of your suitcase is to get your belongings from point A to point B so that they show up clean, safe, and unbroken. The bag protects its contents from rain, snow, falls, you name it. So your suitcase shows up at baggage claim and it's looking a little worse than it did when you dropped it off? Cool. It's taking a beating so that what's inside - what really matters to you - is intact. Even the best suitcases will get scuffed, scratched, and generally worn. And that's completely okay. A quality bag will look even better as it ages and you can save yourself so much cash by investing in a good suitcase instead of replacing your lousy one after every trip.

I highly, highly recommend TravelPro (any of their crew lines are great, I've had mine since 2009 and in my time in the industry it's been on and off airplanes thousands of times as checked and carry-on and it's still going beautifully). Tumi is also a wonderful brand, and they stand by their products. Hard-sided suitcases might seem like a good bet, but I see them broken more frequently than any other kind. My TravelPro is an older one with only 2 wheels, but it's perfectly easy for me to drag it behind me, regardless of what it's filled with. And it's light, so I can lift it into the overhead, up the subway stairs, or into my trunk, regardless of how much shopping I did while traveling! So if you do one thing when it comes to travel - especially semi-frequent travel - BUY A QAULITY BAG!

Now, as far as packing the bag? I'm going to leave that to a pro, Hitha Palepu, author of the new book How To Pack. This short little information book is filled to the brim with ideas on exactly what to bring with you and how to pack, depending on your type of trip. Hitha's own blog, HithaOnTheGo.com, is a great resource for all kinds of travel queries, but her book narrows down one of vacations biggest stressors: packing. She talks about pre-packing, choosing the right style of clothing, adding accessories to change up a look, what sort of toiletries are must-haves, how to edit your beauty routine for travel, and the big part: making the list and how to actually pack for maximum space. Hitha's book is a cute extension of her blog, and would make a great gift for any new college grad who might be moving into a new job that requires a lot of travel. Definitely check it out! But first - get yourself a quality suitcase before your summer vacations start up!

I received a copy of How To Pack at no cost via bloggingforbooks.com. If you're a blogger who loves to read, check out their selection! As always, opinions are my own.

March 13, 2017

Monday, Monday | A Poodle Pawty

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend! My weekend was very low-key, which was just fine with me. I had grand plans to work on my closet clean out project that has been going on for the last, oh, five months or so, but that just didn't work out like I wanted it to. I can't explain why, but I always get to a certain point in my decluttering/purging/KonMari-ing and I just get stuck. It's a weird sort of overwhelmed, but mostly just a frustration with how much excess I have and how disorganized I feel. Has anyone else had similar feelings while doing a major wardrobe purge? If you have and you've made it through to the other side, help me out and share what worked to push through! 

Although I failed in the clothing department, I did manage to pare our sheets down to two sets per bed! It might not seem like huge accomplishment, but if you knew how many sets of sheets (and mismatched fitted/flats) we had in our house, you'd realize it's a pretty big one! We were basically out of storage space for linens and our "office" had become the room where bedding went to die. So it was a double win - I got some office space back and we donated at least four full sets of sheets and will give the other six or so mismatched sheets to the Humane Society. Even the doggies win!

And speaking of winning doggies...

Happy 7th Birthday Karma! Our big poodle turned seven on Sunday, so of course we threw her a Perfect Poodle Pawty! Born as part of a St. Patrick's Day litter of 12, Karma's been used to crazy and chaos her whole life, and today wasn't any different. Her best friends Kinsey and Sig were in attednace, along with her cat friend, Meowtown. 

For the doggies, McDonald's cheeseburgers were served. The humans were lucky enough to get wings, roasted vegetables, tots, and a delicious birthday cake. Poor Karmy didn't get to have mom and dad around for her big day, though, because they're living it up in Florida right now. I guess that just means we'll have to celebrate again when they return!

Who knows when they'll be back though? We're expecting a whopper of a storm here in Central PA tomorrow, so they might have to hold down the fort in Florida for a few more days as we wait for this big snowstorm to make its way through our area! 

The potential for this huge snowstorm is actually the reason I'm at work today - I'm trying to get ahead because I have a feeling I won't be in the office at all on Tuesday and there's lots of work to be done. In an industry that never shuts down, it's nice to have the flexibility in my position to change a few things around so that I can still get my work done in an efficient manner, even if the office is closed due to this alleged 18" of snow that is headed in our direction!

But hey, maybe this whopper of a blizzard will trap me in my home all day on Tuesday...faced with nothing but my closet that needs to be cleaned out. Maybe that's just all the message and motivation I need to get it done :)

Have a great Monday, friends! If you're in the area of the storm, do you have any special plans to prep? 


March 10, 2017

Five on Friday | Two

Happy Friday, everyone! Aren't you glad we made it to the end of another workweek? I was supposed to fly down to Florida this weekend, but decided to save the money and stay home instead. My parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins will be having lots of fun, though, I'm sure! Instead I'll be continuing my massive closet clean out and hopefully taking lots of items to the consignment shop and listing a few on Poshmark. I've done a pretty good job of cutting down on buying clothing, but after months of chipping away at this project, I don't feel like I've gotten anywhere. It's probably time to play 100% by the Marie Kondo rules and just do it all at once. We'll see what happens!

Anyway, I'm excited to be joining in with this week's Five on Friday virtual party...because hey, everyone loves a good party. With that said, here's what I'm loving this week!

1 // Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray

We finally decided on a paint color for downstairs! We picked up ten samples and I couldn't decide which one I liked the most. After many hours of Pinterest searching, I decided I wanted to try Agreeable Gray, so Jason went out and bought the sample and it was love at first swatch. Now I have to decide what finish I'd like and what white would look best for the trim. Too many decisions, am I right?

2 // Jeopardy

Does anyone watch this show as religiously as I do? I mean, I know my parents are as equally as obsessed as I am (where do you think I get it from?), but this has got to be the best game show on television. Seriously, I don't feel any smarter watching The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars makes me depressed that I have zero rhythm. Plus who doesn't like a little friendly competition when you're shouting out "Who is Bruce Springsteen?" with your spouse on an average Tuesday night?

3 // Coconut Oil

I know I'm so late to the party with this one, but I finally started using coconut oil as a makeup remover and moisturizer recently. I've been having some weird skin issues which I will share all about in a post next week, so I've really pared down my skincare. Although I'm not crazy about the scent, the oil works really well as a moisturizer. I just need to remember to use a small amount, or my pillow ends up a greasy mess in the morning!

4 // Athleta Chatarunga Leggings

These soft workout leggings have been a staple in my closet for ages. I recently ordered a pair of cropped leggings and will probably have them hemmed at the Athleta store near me (shoutout to Kait for telling me about this awesome perk!) so that I have something to wear during indoor cycling that is a little cooler than my full-length chats. I know, I know, I just said I wasn't clothing shopping as much anymore. But in my defense, I sold all of my Lululemon leggings recently, so I'm down to two pair for the gym. And I need to workout more frequently than that, so the leggings are for my health, I promise.

5 // Prettiest Poodles

Just look at this gorgeous little face - gosh, I love her so much I could just squeeze her all day! Kinsey's best friend Karma is spending a few days with us, so I'll be basking in poodle love all weekend. What could be better?

Have a great weekend, friends! Does anyone have any great plans?

March 9, 2017

Recipe Box | Ravioli Lasagna Bake

In honor of me getting myself together enough for meal planning, I'm bringing back this recipe that was pinned countless times before I somehow managed to screw up most of my old blog posts. This ravioli lasagna bake is the perfect Friday meal for Lent season - just use cheese ravioli, add a side salad and your dinner is complete. A meal this simple leaves more time for Netflix, so what are you waiting for?

{originally published November 2012}

This week for meatless Monday I made a very, very easy ravioli bake. I've made this from two different recipes and eventually made my own little version. It's so ridiculously easy, I almost feel guilty for claiming I actually made dinner...I mean, come on. You don't even have to cook the ravioli before putting the entire pan in the oven!

Ravioli Lasagna Bake - An Easy Weeknight Dinner! | Line Up and Wait Blog

Ravioli Bake
adapted from Emily Bites and Kraft

{1 package/25oz} frozen ravioli (I used the square ones)
{8oz} low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese 
{1 jar} chunky marinara sauce
{1/2 cup} water
shredded Parmesan to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400*
2. Mix together sauce & water and layer 1/2 of mixture on the bottom of a 9x13 pan
3. Layer ravioli over the sauce. I ended up with 3 rows of 6 frozen raviolis
4. Top the layer with 1/2 of the shredded cheese
5. Repeat the sequence one more time - sauce, ravioli, cheese.
6. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes until the cheese on top is starting to brown and bubble up.
7. Top with shredded parmesean cheese and enjoy!

March 8, 2017

Book Club | February 2017 Reads

In 2016 I kept a list of books I’d read in the back of my planner and used a very fancy system of asterisks to note which books I really, really liked. This year, I decided it would be more fun to keep track here, complete with mini reviews. So, for those of you who may be looking for your next read, here are five of the books I’ve read so far this year:

1 // The Secret History by Donna Tartt

This book by the author of The Goldfinch takes the number one spot, just because I so thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a long one (my copy was nearly 600 pages), but so worth the read. This debut novel follows the story of a small cohort of classmates at a small college in New England before and after tragedy strikes. I’m a sucker for any books that are 1) set in New England, 2) involve a group of students at a prep school or college, and 3) are psychological thrillers. If you’re a fan of those topics, I highly suggest this book. I haven’t read the Goldfinch, but I’m adding it to my to-read list after reading The Secret History!

2 // Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

So this book is somewhat hard to share without giving away too much. It's a very interesting psychological thriller that is told from the point of dual narrators. To keep the spoilers off the blog, I’ll just mention the book involves an affair, a sneaky friendship, a mysterious past, and some terrifying nightmares. So you want to read it, right? Yes! And just wait until you reach the end!

3 // The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

I think this little autobiography has been read by most of my friends recently, so of course I had to pick it up. Disclaimer: I have never seen an episode of Chip and Joanna’s HGTV show, Fixer Upper, but I do follow them on social media and love looking at photos of their beautiful renos. For those who are fans of the show, I think you’ll get much more out of the book than I did. The story of how they met and started their business was cute, but I really wanted the inside scoop on how they work together on the homes and all of the craziness that goes into flipping a residence. Nevertheless, I liked learning more about Chip and Joanna and will have to sneak over to my parents’ to watch a few episodes on their cable TV!

4 // Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

This is a cute little book from the Madame Chic series by The Daily Connoisseur blogger Jennifer Scott. It describes what Jennifer learned about Frenchwomen from her study abroad experience in Paris, but also shares little anecdotes about her life in California. The author shares everything from her advice on creating a Parisian “ten item wardrobe,” to how to handle stressful situations without flying off the handle. It’s a short read and reminded me of Emily Post, if Emily had lived in 21st Century Paris. 

5 // Lucky You by Erika Carter

I had really high hopes for this novel about three friends who for one reason or another decide to live off the grid for 12 months. The premise of the book seemed so great – a cabin in the woods, living off of the land, confronting all of the issues that got you into this situation – but the story fell flat in actuality. There wasn’t much character development, and the story skipped months ahead without filling in the blanks. It was an easy read, but I wouldn’t recommend it. 

Also, for those of you who haven't joined Book of the Month Club yet, I highly recommend it! I’ve enjoyed every book (aside from one!) that I've received from this once-monthly book shipment. It's opened my eyes to new authors and different genres that I'm excited to explore more. If you join via this link it’s $9.99/month and you get a sweet little book tote with your first book. So get on that and we can chat about more books next month!

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