Amy Beth

Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

For our March pick for the 2015 Reading Challenge, Chris and I decided to read a book from the category “a book published this year.” I chose A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.

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I chose this book because generally speaking I love a good fantasy. Magic, adventure, usually a bit of mystery and suspense. Many of my favorite books of all time are fantasies. But I think it’s important to note that they are all children’s fantasies. I’m often a little wary of more grown up books in this genre because I feel like they tend to include a lot of violence, or sex, or both. I’m not usually interested in including too much of those subjects in my brain space. It’s precious space.

With that said, I recommend A Darker Shade of Magic with reservations. It’s a pretty fascinating story. Four Londons, all with varying shades of magic. One has been consumed and lost to the power of magic, one tries to control magic (and the rest of the city) through force, one enjoys a magic that is in harmony and at peace, and the other has lost all traces of magic. The doors between these worlds were closed long ago and now only a few people are born with enough magical ability to make the journey between worlds. The protagonist of the story, Kell, is one of those rare people. He serves as a courier between the royal families of each London, and the action of the story centers around what happens when a dangerous item from the lost London is allowed to slip through into the other worlds.

Like I said, it’s a fascinating story and I found it hard to put down. I stayed up too late several evenings in a row while reading this. However, it is pretty violent at times. Lots of blood and slashing of throats and bodies being possessed by evil magic and what not. My only other criticism of the book is that I feel like there were several instances where the author made mention of a detail that felt like it was going to be important to the rest of the story, but ended up going nowhere. It was a little frustrating because I could see where the story could go with the detail, and it would have been pretty interesting, but instead it was just dropped. I suppose those loose ends could be leaving the door open for a sequel, but it’s my understanding that it was not published with that in mind. As it was, it just felt a little sloppy.

Overall though it was an enjoyable book, and I’ve officially read as many books as I read in all of last year, so that’s a victory! We’ll be taking a break from the challenge in April so Chris can catch up on his March pick. (The recent biography of Steve Jobs, which turned out to be rather huge.) I have a few books in mind that I might read as extras though, so I’ll be sure to give a report if I do!


2015 Reading Challenge Reviews

Friday, April 24, 2015

These Days // 16

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This week has flown by! I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t had to write this post I would have forgotten all of it.

Here’s what’s happening these days…

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watching: Charlie and Poppy interact more and more. Charlie, while always kind to his little sister, has always been pretty cautious and hands-off with her. I feel like this week he has finally started to feel a little more comfortable with her, as evidenced by these pictures of the two of them next to each other. Those have been really hard to get up until this week.

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making: my favorite spread yet in my Project Life album. Be looking for a post about that in the coming weeks!

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cheering: for the racers in the soap box derby. Last weekend our town had it’s first coaster car race on main street and we walked down to see the action. It was a lovely spring day and a fun little outing. Charlie was a bit disappointed that he couldn’t ride in the cars though…

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growing: grass in a tiny pot. We got one of those grass growing kits at Target last week and have been watching the little shoots of grass pop up all week. I’m impressed at how fast it’s grown!

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loving: how alert and interactive our little girl is getting. Smiles are coming all the time these days, and she’s always trying to add to the conversation with her coos and gurgles and grunts. She can get pretty noisy!

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Coffee with Caitlin


P.S. Here are some posts from the archives that you may have missed:
1. Parmesan Tilapia – one of our favorite quick and easy weeknight dinners
2. The one where I finally finish up our gallery wall
3. Some good reasons to consider cloth diapering

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Yogurt Berry Bark

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I am perpetually hunting for new healthy-ish snack ideas. This would happen to anyone whose three year old asks for a snack every hour. So one day I came up with this idea for some yogurt berry bark. It was simple to put together and a nice quick kitchen project for Charlie to help with.

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Measuring isn’t necessary with this recipe. Just throw some tasty berries in a bowl of yogurt and stir. We used plain yogurt with a spoonful of sugar. I’m sure many other flavors would be just as good.

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Make sure to cut up the berries a bit to get all that juicy flavor mixed into the yogurt.

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Spread it out on a cookie sheet topped with parchment paper.

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And top with some melted chocolate. Of course!

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Lick that chocolate melting dish clean!

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Freeze for a few hours and break it up into pieces.

Charlie found this snack to be a bit too hard to eat after freezing, so it didn’t quite fix my snack-time woes. But I enjoyed it!

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Blogs I’d recommend to my sisters

Even though I don’t really feel like a grown up most of the time, when I look at my life objectively it is decidedly grown up. I’m 30. I have two kids. We own a home and a “family car.” And the majority of the blogs I read reflect the fact that much of my life revolves around my identity as wife and mom. I read about quiet time activities for toddlers and healthy dinners in 20 minutes and organizing cleaning supplies.

I’m also a big sister. And my two little sisters are decidedly hipper and cooler and, well, less mom-like than me. So while many of the blogs I follow would not interest them, there are a couple of blogs I read on a regular basis that I routinely think, “I should share this with my younger, cooler sisters!” But then I never do. So this post is essentially a round up of the things I think my sisters would like to read. (Here you go, sisters!)

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1. Yes and Yes

This blog has tons of great posts for women who are just starting out on the whole grown-up thing. From tips on how to make your rental cute on the cheap, to guides on traveling the world, to how to dress cute in the freezing cold winter (especially helpful for my Chicago sister), this blog talks about all kinds of things that my sisters would be able to relate to. The blog also has a fascinating series called “True Story” in which she interviews people who have experienced interesting or amazing things. It’s answers to all the questions you would like to ask, but feel like would be rude to bring up. It’s a great way to gain a better understanding of the variety of people out there in the world.

Some posts to get you started:

2. The Sugar Box Blog

I am woefully out of touch when it comes to movies and TV and the people who are on those screens. Ask me who my favorite actor and actresses are and I’ll say Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. or Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Because I like Mary Poppins and You’ve Got Mail. Never mind that those movies are 50 and 15 years old.

However, my sisters are much more on top of these things. They actually watch movies every once in a while. And I think they would really enjoy all the fun fangirl posts over at the Sugar Box. This blogger has managed to meld her love of cooking desserts and watching TV into a business, and even with my limited knowledge of which handsome-faced actor is who, I find her posts to be really entertaining, and they’ve given me some good recommendations on what to watch next if I should ever find the time.

Some favorites:

There are probably a few more blogs that would appeal to a younger, hipper woman, but these are my current favs. I hope you like them too!

What about you? Do you have any favorite blogs that you would recommend to your younger sisters? Share in the comments!

Friday, April 17, 2015

These Days // 15

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Hello, friends. Here’s what’s happening these days…

answering: why? All. Day. Long. It is Charlie’s favorite question. He likes it so much he doesn’t even care what the answer is. Because he’s just going to ask it again. A sample conversation:

Me: Charlie, it’s time to put away your toys.
Him: Why?
Me: Because it’s almost bedtime.
Him: Why?
Me: Because it’s getting dark outside.
Him: Why?
Me: Because the sun goes down at night.
Him: Why?
Me: Because God made it that way.
Him: Why?
Me: God is supposed to be the answer to everything! Can’t you just be satisfied?!

trying: a new routine. We’ve been working on bringing a bit more structure to our days. I started implementing new after-breakfast and after-lunch routines this week and so far it’s been going well. It get us out of our pajamas, give us time for school and play, and builds in a little time for cleaning up the house as well. Somedays that’s all that gets done, but at least it’s something.

learning: more letters. Our new routine has given us a regular school time and Charlie’s been doing so well on learning his letters. Someday soon I plan to do a post sharing all the activities we’ve been doing.

reading: “The Journey” by Mary Oliver. My husband shared it in his newsletter this past week and it left me nodding and murmuring things like, “isn’t that the truth.”

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

leaving: you with these pictures my husband took, because you can’t have a blog post with out pictures, and I didn’t really take many good ones this week. I feel like they capture life around here so well.

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Enjoy your weekend!