Even though February is a short month, I was able to fit in three books: a rom com, a domestic thriller, and an ensemble-cast novel that gave me Love Actually vibes. I have a lot of thoughts about each one so let’s just go ahead and jump right in.
Party-girl LA socialite Piper Bellinger goes a little too far with hosting an illegal rooftop party as a way to save face after a breakup, which results in her wealthy stepfather finally putting his foot down. Her punishment? Learning the value of hard work and money by taking over her late father’s run down dive bar in a small coastal town in Washington. There, she meets Brendan, a rugged sea captain who is immediately unimpressed and wants nothing to do with the snooty girl in the impractical shoes. But the town is small and Piper and Brendan can’t seem to stop running into one another, leading them to realize that maybe their first impressions weren’t quite right after all.
I went in with high hopes for this one but ultimately wasn’t as impressed with it as I’d hoped to be. For an enemies-to-lovers trope, I thought the relationship twisted pretty quickly from hate to love, and I felt like the character growth was pretty shallow despite the fact that the book is 380+ pages (waaaaay too long for a rom com like this in my opinion). I found myself only moderately interested in the characters and their dynamic and this book falls pretty mid-range for me. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. It’s worth nothing that this book is definitely rated-R for some very very steamy scenes so if that’s not your thing, I would avoid this one. All that being said, I am very interested in reading the next book that comes out in March! It will feature two of the side characters from this book and based on what I know already I think the character development and depth of relationship is going to be much stronger and I’m already invested!
Nestled on the main street of a small town just outside of London, Nightingale Books has been a beloved haven for residents for decades. The owner, Julius, always had a knack for making people feel welcome and knowing just what books to recommend. It’s not until after his death, when his daughter Emilia inherits the bookshop, that it becomes evident just how much financial trouble the shop is in. Faced with some tough decisions about the future of the shop, Emilia can’t help but also see how big an impact her father and his shop had on so many people. As stories emerge of ways he impacted their lives, and customers both new and old come into the shop with their hopes, dreams, joys, and sorrows, the little world of Nightingale Books comes alive. Can Emilia really bear to part with it?
This book reminded me of Love Actually – it’s like the literary version of an ensemble-cast movie. There are a lot of characters and little subplots that all intertwine and connect to the bookshop in one way or another. Some storylines are given a lot of space to grow and develop, while we just see small snippets of others. It took me a bit of time to get used to the story jumping between subplots, and also to sort out the characters in my mind, but once I did I really enjoyed this book. The setting is completely charming: a quaint and cozy bookshop nestled in a small English village? When can I visit!? It is definitely a slower, character-driven plot so if you’re looking for a fast-paced or mindless read, this probably isn’t it, but I enjoyed all the unique storylines and how they wove together. I found the book to be both heartwarming and satisfying and my little book-loving heart savored it.
In a quiet suburban neighborhood in Melbourne, neighbors smile, wave, and politely exchange small talk. But how well do they really know what is going on in one another’s lives and homes? There’s Essie, who in a desperate act of postpartum depression, once left her first baby unattended in a park and is now a sleep-deprived mother of two. There’s Fran, who has been living for months with a pit of dread in her stomach that her world might unravel at any moment. There’s Ange, who hit the #jackpot with a hot husband who is a devoted father and does all the right things. And then there’s the new neighbor Isabelle: no kids, no partner, and an outlier for the type of person who chooses to live in this neighborhood. Is it just a coincidence that she is renting here? Or is her presence very, very deliberate?
I’ll tell you one thing: Sally Hepworth is climbing the ranks to becoming one of my favorite authors. I just never quite know what I’m getting into with her books and they all leave me spellbound! I flew through this book in half a day – I just couldn’t put it down. It’s not scary or gory or anything, just a true domestic mystery (I’d even call it a light thriller) with some surprising twists. I was invested in each storyline and uncovering the secrets inside each household – at one point my jaw even dropped! The characters are all flawed, but real, and it was really interesting to see how they all dealt with the complicated things happening in their lives. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would definitely recommend, especially if you enjoyed other books by this author.
My March stack of books is already piling up and I’m really excited about a couple of the reads. I have a good feeling that it’s about to be another great month of reading!
Sometimes I plan home projects months in advance, and other times, I dive right in when inspiration strikes. And on Friday afternoon, inspiration struck!
I have been hunting on Marketplace and in thrift stores for a dresser to upgrade as a gift for my sister’s baby nursery. While my search hasn’t found the right dresser yet, when I popped into a thrift store on Friday I found something else: two matching vintage wooden headboards. And instantly, I knew what my next project would be.
We only have three bedrooms upstairs: one for Justin and I and one for each of our kids. Now that we’re having a baby, the older two will need to share so the baby can have the nursery. We went ahead and moved Vi into LJ’s room about two months ago just to see how the transition would go and they have both loved sharing a room! It’s been on my list to make a few small upgrades now that the room is shared, starting with matching twin beds, so finding a pair of cute wooden ones in good shape (and for just $15 each!) bumped this to-do project right to the top of my list! And bonus: my kids were already spending the weekend at my parents’ house so I was able to get started right away.
This blog post from about a year and a half ago shows how I transitioned this room from LJ’s nursery to a “big boy” room, but for the past two months the room has looked like this (mess and all, my kids always pull books off the shelves!):
Functional, yes. But a bit uninspiring for sure! My plan was to just get the twin beds in place and freshen up their bedding . . . but as it happens with so many of my projects, once I got into this one, it started spiraling into a bigger project. So now, the room looks like this:
First of all, I love the headboards! They’re simple and cute and I love that they bring a warm vintage touch to the space. I am not crazy about the metal bedframes on wheels that came with them, but they will work for now. The bedframes are meant to be used with a box spring but we wanted to keep the beds nice and low for our kids (plus box springs aren’t recommended for their memory foam mattresses) so we decided to create a version of a platform bed. Justin cut slats out of scrap oak wood and secured a 2-inch dowel rod to the center one for additional support. It worked like a charm!
For bedding, I wanted something coordinating but not matching. I found these sheets for Vi and these for LJ, both of which went well with matching mustard yellow comforters. I topped them off with matching striped throw blankets in different colors. It love how fresh and colorful it makes the space – perfect for little kids!
I also decided to change up the artwork. Vi has been calling this room “LJ’s room” despite the fact that she has slept here for two months. I thought by moving some of her artwork over (and all her clothes, so the dresser is now split!) it might help her feel some ownership in the space.
I also swapped out the vehicle artwork over LJ’s bed to better coordinate with the artwork over Vi’s. Now each side of the room really seems to better reflect its occupant.
In addition to finally painting the baseboards the same color as the wall, I also decided to squeeze in a final project of changing up the storage in the room. We had a wooden bookcase housing all their books and toys but unfortunately, once Vi’s bed was in place the wall space wasn’t big enough to accommodate it anymore. Instead of thrifting or building from scratch, I decided to opt for the quick and easy solution and bought a ready-to-assemble cubed cubby system to function as a combined nightstand/bookcase. It fits perfectly under the window and houses all their books and toys while freeing up the wall at the foot of Vi’s bed. It’s strange, because it’s the same amount of furniture in the room, but the placement makes the room feel bigger now!
While this is all I was able to squeeze into the weekend, I’ve decided to add a couple more projects to the list of updating this room. Even though eventually we’ll have to swap around rooms again (depending on the sex of the baby), that is at least 3 years down the road so I might as well make some small changes to make this room fun in the meantime, right?
Much as I love the curtains, three out of four are now blocked by either a bed or storage unit and it feels like visual clutter so I’m going to swap them out for blackout blinds. I also want to add sconces over the beds, a few book ledges on the wall by the closet, and I have a special idea I’m considering for the dresser side of the room. For now, I’m just excited for my kids to get home in an hour and see their new space!
Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Eider White and Nordic Bleu
I can think of no better day than Valentine’s day to introduce our newest little love – a baby set to join our family in August!
You may have noticed that things have been slow around here – I have only done a few small projects, haven’t read many books, and just have been quieter in general over the past few months. It’s all because of this sweet little one! I found out I was pregnant in early December and then had to focus my energies on holiday prep. We were able to get an early ultrasound (due to my history of ectopic pregnancy, it was a huge, huge relief to see baby growing in the correct place) then by the time the holidays arrived, so did my nausea and morning sickness . . . that lasted all day.
By far, this has been my roughest first trimester in terms of sickness. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s been challenging to say the least. Add on to that the pregnancy fatigue and keeping up with two very very active little ones – I really needed to step back these past two months and focus on my kids and my own health each day and let all the other little things slide.
Thankfully, I will be 14 weeks tomorrow and finally feel like I’ve turned a corner (and was mercifully feeling about 90-95% myself during our Disney trip!). My nausea and sickness is lessening, I’m able to eat more foods, and I feel like I have more energy each day. In both my pregnancies with LJ and Vi, the second trimester was my sweet spot so I’m very excited to have arrived!
Telling the kids was a pretty fun experience. They took a while to process, but now they understand and are so excited! They talk about the baby in my belly a lot and it’s been fun to have that excitement to share with them since last time LJ was so little he didn’t really understand he was getting a sibling until she arrived. I think it also helps that with this baby, I’ve started to show early and already have a little baby bump they can see. LJ wants a boy and Vi wants a girl – and for the first time, we are planning to find out in advance! I have never wanted to, but Justin has always wanted to so it felt like time for him to get to decide. 😉
We are excited and can’t wait to welcome this new little love in August!
Before leaving, I want to acknowledge that I know announcements like this can be painful for some to read. Re-sharing these words I wrote in our pregnancy announcement for Vi: “While we are so excited for this new little life, I know that for many, announcements like this are bittersweet at best and agonizing at worst. A huge part of my heart goes out to all who are enduring the pain and struggles of pregnancy loss or infertility. I have felt the feelings of injustice to be denied what I most wanted, the ache of empty arms who long for a baby to hold, and the sting of another person’s happy announcement reminding me of what I had lost. It is a pain that no one should have to endure and my heart breaks for all who experience it. If you are struggling with infertility or loss of a baby, I know there’s nothing I can really do or say to take away the grief and ache of longing, but I want you to know I acknowledge you and am sending you love and holding you tight in my prayers. I hope that our journey gives you hope that your story isn’t finished.“
We just got back yesterday from our vacation to Disney World – it was not only our family’s first trip to Disney, but it was also our first true family vacation as a family of four! Due to the pandemic, the only traveling we’ve done with the kids over the past two years has been to visit and/or vacation with family so it was really fun to have a trip for just the four of us to enjoy.
I know not everyone who reads this blog is interested in a family vacation recap, but after sharing some of our trip on my Instagram stories I’ve already had people reach out to me with questions, so I thought it would be best to write up a big post of our trip to use not only as a way of keeping these memories for myself, but also to serve as a resource for anyone else planning a Disney trip with little ones. If that’s not your thing, feel free to skip this post!
This post is a bit long and I share quite a few details and pictures, but I wanted to quickly note that I mostly took videos while we were there, so I don’t have pictures of everything. I also have more pictures of Vi than LJ because whenever we split up, I was usually with Vi, and LJ is constantly in motion and it’s hard to get a good non-blurry picture of him right now!
One more note: we scheduled this trip around a work conference that Justin was attending at Disney, which was extremely helpful for our budget since his travel and lodging (which was a room that fit all of us) was reimbursed. We stayed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and it was a great choice for our stay – it had restaurant options available for reservation or mobile order (we exclusively did mobile order there), a game room (more on that later), and the monorail actually goes through it which provides super easy transportation to other resorts and a couple of the parks.
Day One: Disney Springs
One thing I would do differently in the future is choose a later flight. Our flight left at 6 am, meaning we had to get up at 3:30 am to shuttle to the airport from our hotel and catch the flight. While it did mean we got to Orlando by shortly after 8 am, it was not necessarily worth having a really tiring day and sleep deprived kids and adults. But all that to say, we arrived in the morning on Wednesday and took a shuttle from the airport to the resort. We couldn’t check in yet, so we just dropped off our bags and headed back outside to the shuttle bus stop to head to Disney Springs.
Disney Springs is not an actual park, but it’s a huge area with tons of shopping and restaurants, as well as a few shows and rides. It’s free to get in, and we spent our day walking around checking out shops (the Lego store and of course, the Disney store were the biggest hits for my kids to look around!) and rode a few small rides (they had a little train ride and a carousel that we rode). We had lunch reservations at the Rainforest Café and that was a really fun, unique experience! The whole restaurant feels like you’re in a rainforest and there’s even a simulated “storm” that happened while we were there. We loved it!
Because of our super early morning flight, we were all pretty worn out by 3 pm or so, so we grabbed a little chocolate treat and headed back to the shuttles to check in to our hotel room. We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the room and resting up for our first park day.
Day Two: Magic Kingdom
One perk of staying at a Disney Resort is that you get early access to the parks; even though the park opened at 9 am, we were able to get in at 8:30. While Justin was at his conference, I walked with both kids across the street to Magic Kingdom (he joined us later). We got a stroller rental and headed in to start riding rides!
I won’t give you a play-by-play of the day, but I will say that we rode the following rides: “it’s a small world,” Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Dumbo the Flying Elephant (just Vi), Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan’s Flight, Haunted Mansion, Magic Carpets of Aladdin (just Vi), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Tomorrowland Speedway (just LJ), and Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. We also watched a few shows: Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor, and Enchanted Tiki Room.
Vi also did a princess meet and greet and was so enamored with Rapunzel and Tiana!
LJ is not really a thrill seeker, so he did not like the rides that spun and went up in the air (Dumbo and Aladdin), meanwhile, Vi absolutely loved those! LJ is over 40″ and could have ridden more, but he preferred the “all height” rides anyways so we just stuck together most of the day. We found that Magic Kingdom by far had the most rides for the ages of our kids, so we chose to spend a little extra and add the Genie+ option for this day. Basically, Genie+ is paying $15 per ticket holder for lightning lane access. Once we purchased, we were able to select the next available timeslot for one ride at a time and skip nearly all of the line. This did involve a little strategy (we picked the most popular ride we wanted, Peter Pan’s Flight, first thing at 7 am when the timeslot reservations opened) and then chose future rides based on timing, not necessarily proximity, for the rest of the day. And in one case, we split up and LJ and Justin did the Speedway while Vi and I did Dumbo. Justin and I both agreed it was worth the extra money and having to occasionally backtrack through the parks to save literally hours in line and get to everything we wanted to do in one day. (Note: There are two rides at each park that are not included in Genie+ and you need to purchase individual lightning lane passes for if you want to skip the line. They’re the most popular rides, but at this particular park, they were both ones we weren’t interested in so it didn’t matter). We used lunch, shows, and less popular rides as fillers in between our timeslots and it worked great! We also stumbled upon two parades, which was super fun!
We did also purchase the automated bubble wands you see everywhere at the park and even though they were insanely overpriced, they kept our kids entertained all day in the stroller and in lines (you do sometimes have to wait about 5-10 minutes using genie+, and there was one ride we didn’t use genie+ and waited about 30 minutes). They used them every day in the parks and they were so fun!
We had planned to go back for naps in the afternoon, but Vi napped for about 30 minutes in the stroller and in my arms during the Tiki Room show and LJ was able to power through so we did the whole park in one go. LJ did have a meltdown for about an hour at the beginning of the day (we’re still not exactly sure why it started, chalking it up to loss of sleep and overstimulation) but the bubble wand purchase got him turned around and both the kids had great attitudes the rest of the day! We headed back to the hotel around 5:30 for dinner and early bedtimes for all of us.
Day Three: Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom was the one park we took a shuttle bus to, so we got on the first one in the morning and headed over to take advantage of our early access. We did not purchase Genie+ for this day, so once we got inside and got our stroller rental, we headed back to Pandora to ride Na’vi River Journey. We walked straight through to the ride (there was no line at that time!) and hopped on. I love this ride – the bioluminescence is so cool! We went from there to the Kilimanjaro Safari ride (HUGE hit with the kids!!) and then walked the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.
Animal Kingdom basically felt like a day at a really awesome zoo. It was not as heavy on the rides – we just did the Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safari, Rafiki’s Planet Watch (we took a train out to a little section where there is a petting zoo and a few other activities, although we just did the petting zoo), and Vi and I did the TriceraTop Spin two times. Justin and LJ were in line for Dinosaur but it temporarily closed for some quick repairs and they didn’t end up waiting. It still felt like there was plenty of other non-ride things for our animal-loving kids to enjoy!
After the safari and walking the Gorilla Falls trail, we unexpectedly caught a trained bird show that happened right where we were waiting for Justin to pick up his lunch mobile order. It was awesome! We split this day up into two and after doing Pandora, Africa, and lunch, we headed back to the hotel for naps. When we returned, we watched the show It’s Tough to Be a Bug! (not sure I would recommend this for littles; it ended up scaring LJ and the rest of the trip he kept saying he did not want to do the Bug show again) and headed to Dinoland (we skipped Asia altogether). We unfortunately did not catch Festival of the Lion King show because the line was too long, but I’m still glad we did not do Genie+ this day, as that is the only thing we would have used it for.
The kids spent well over an hour playing in The Boneyard, which is a gigantic playground in Dinoland with tons of climbing structures, slides, and a big excavation site for digging. They loved it and would have stayed even longer if it wasn’t dinnertime.
Overall, it was another successful day at a great park!
Day Four: Rest Dayat the resort
This was a flex day for us – if the weather was warm enough for the water park to be open, we might have gone, but it wasn’t warm enough and honestly, we needed a chill day without planned activities. Justin was at his conference all morning and the kids and I rested, watched TV, and played in the hotel room. We rode the monorail to explore the Polynesian resort and grab lunch, then headed back for naps. LJ slept for like, 3 hours, and Justin took Vi down to the pool once she woke up and they swam while LJ kept sleeping.
Once LJ woke up, we headed to the game room downstairs and the kids had an absolute blast playing all the arcade games that they see other places but we always say no to – ha! It was a fun little treat and a great way to entertain everyone fairly inexpensively (a $25 ticket card was more than enough to keep our whole family entertained for over an hour and play everything we wanted to!) Then it was dinner and another early bedtime for us!
Day Five: Epcot
We originally planned to split Magic Kingdom into two days, but when we were able to do everything we wanted in one day, we changed this ticket to a day at Epcot, which we could ride the monorail to. We did not do Genie+ for this day, but we didsplurge on individual lightning lane tickets to skip the lines for Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Both rides are incredibly popular with very long lines and both were ones we thought our kids would enjoy . . . and we were mostly right about that haha.
Vi is obsessed with Frozen and I loved watching her face during the ride – she was enchanted! But it is a boat ride and we sat in the front row and didn’t realize there is a drop that does splash you more than we expected. LJ really didn’t enjoy that part (honestly, I didn’t love walking around with a wet butt for an hour afterwards either), but overall the ride was still really cool and definitely worth it! Ratatouille was also super fun, but it’s 4D and there is one part that startled Vi pretty badly and she was in tears for a while until I could assure her it isn’t real and she was able to calm down for the rest of the ride. She’s usually not afraid of jumpy things, so we were surprised that this affected her so much.
Other rides we chose were Journey into Imagination with Figment, Living with the Land, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Spaceship Earth, and Soarin’ Around the World. For Soarin’, there was a 4o” height requirement so we did a rider swap – Justin and LJ went (LJ loved it!), then I could skip the line and go by myself once they were done so someone was always with Vi. Vi really enjoyed Nemo so we rode it again while Justin and LJ waited in line for Soarin’.
Epcot doesn’t have a ton of toddler rides, but we enjoyed walking through World Showcase and grabbing snacks throughout the countries. There were a few shows we caught as we walked around – The Jammitors (three guys dressed up like janitors playing drums on garbage cans) and another culturally-specific drumming show in Japan, both of which the kids enjoyed. There’s also a pretty sizable model train display in Germany that LJ especially loved.
We also spent time in the ImageWorks play lab after riding Journey into Imagination and there is a big aquarium after the Nemo ride that the kids loved exploring.
We didn’t break this day up into two because Vi fell asleep in the stroller again and so I just hung out with her while LJ and Justin did Spaceship Earth – LJ wanted to ride it because it looked like a giant golf ball but Justin said LJ actually thought it was really boring once they were on it. We ended up leaving around 5 pm and got to say goodbye to Goofy on our way out!
We headed back to the hotel for dinner, and then the next morning we headed to the airport to catch our flight home. It was an exhausting, but very very fun vacation full of memories I will cherish for years!
A Few Random Notes:
-With the exception of the Rainforest Cafe, which we made a reservation for, we exclusively did mobile orders for meals. It was more convenient for us, because we could just order for when we were hungry rather than try to guess when we’d want to eat and make an advance reservation. If you do want to make reservations, make them EARLY! You can make them up to 60 days early I think and most places were booked when were were there.
-We did not pay for any character dining or character experiences. There weren’t as many characters out and about as Justin and I both remember from our childhoods (it used to be that you walk around and they were just roaming everywhere!) but we did get to see several in passing. We spotted Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Joy (from Inside Out) and Elsa (but dressed as the Frozen 2 Elsa, which Vi didn’t understand haha), as well as the characters in the Magic Kingdom parades. As mentioned before, Vi also did a princess meet and greet and saw Rapunzel and Tiana.
We also got to see a few of the characters in the character-dining restaurants as we passed by even though we didn’t actually eat the meal there (character meals are way more expensive than other meals). It was enough for us to feel like we got a good share of character sightings without paying extra money for them!
-We packed a ton of snacks in our luggage and took lots of snacks into the park each day. We also took our kids’ water bottles and filled them up at water refill stations – this saved us a lot of money on snacks and drinks in the park!
-I found this website incredibly helpful when planning our trip. They have a ton of very specific blog posts covering various situations and strategies for maximizing a Disney trip, and they had a toddler-specific one for each park that was huge in helping me plan our days.
-We did not try to do everything and kept this more low key. Our kids are so young, they don’t know the things they “missed,” they just know the things they did. LJ likes to try to avoid stepping on cracks because they’re “lava” – it takes longer to get places, but that’s ok. We just let it happen. We allowed time for breaks to look at random things or go back to do favorite things again. At this age, flexibility was really important for our family and that helped this be a really good trip full of great memories!