January 19, 2017

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

A great middle grade book with similar themes to To Kill a Mockingbird
I've had a copy of Wolf Hollow sitting on my shelf for MONTHS.

One great review after another came in and I kept not getting to it.

Then, I posted a photo of it on Instagram just before Christmas as one of the books I was hoping to get to over the break, and someone suggested that the audio was excellent.

Well, that was all the encouragement I needed and after months of postponement, I listened to the whole thing in two days.

And everyone was right - it was SO good.

It's been a while since I listened to a middle grade novel, and it was just such a treat.

This one is set in World War II, but the war is very distant background to the story.

Instead, the focus is on Annabelle who lives in a small town in Pennsylvania.

Her life is very ordinary, with a loving set of parents and three rambunctious little brothers, and a quiet life on their farm.

But then, Betty Glengarry arrives in town, coming to live with her grandparents, and for whatever reason, she takes an instant dislike to Annabelle and starts threatening her (and the threats aren't idle either - within a day or two, those threats escalate into physical violence).

Fortunately, Annabelle isn't on her own - a man named Toby is keeping an eye on her.

Toby is a WWI veteran and he's considered fairly strange by most of the community, but Annabelle's family has treated him kindly, letting him live in one of the smokehouses on their property, and they aren't bothered by his unkempt appearance and the fact that he almost never speaks. No one knows much about him or what happened to him during WWI, but everyone mostly leaves him alone.

But Annabelle isn't the only one who discovers that Toby's watching Betty's bullying unfold. Betty also finds out that he's lurking around and if she didn't like Annabelle, it's NOTHING compared to how much she appears to hate Toby and when a terrible accident takes place in the community, Betty attests that Toby was the perpetrator.

Annabelle doesn't believe this for a second, but when Betty goes missing, everyone is sure that Toby's behind it, and it's up to Annabelle to try to prove his innocence.

I love a book where you don't know how things will play out, and this was exactly that, up until almost the last pages.

Annabelle is the most likable character, with a lot of gumption and courage, but she's also only eleven and she makes some missteps in her attempts to deal with Betty's bullying and later to prove Toby's innocence that make her very real.

The audio version was terrific, and listening to it was a completely immersive experience - I felt like I was right there in the hills of Pennsylvania, wondering who was at fault and who to trust.

When I was writing this post, I looked at a few reviews and noticed that there has been a lot of comparison between Wolf Hollow and To Kill a Mockingbird, which, frankly, never even crossed my mind, but now that it's been mentioned, I can absolutely see some similarities. It has that same rich character development, family ties, and conflicts between justice and prejudice.

If you're looking for something wonderful to read, I highly recommend this.

And I can hardly wait to see what Lauren Wolk writes next.

January 18, 2017

A New Lunch Go-To

An easy and delicious lunch you can toss together in five minutes!

Back in April, I wrote this post about my lunch time routine and how I was roasting a bunch of vegetables at the beginning of the week for easy lunches during the week.

My favorite for the past year (actually, more like the last three years) had been roasted vegetables with hash browns, sausage, spinach, and a fried egg, topped with feta.

And then I got pregnant and very quickly it sounded like the WORST thing on the planet. I don't think I've eaten that combo one time since July.

Mainly, I ate a very balanced lunch of cold cereal through the summer and fall.

Then in November, I suddenly discovered salads for lunch.

And I am completely obsessed with them. Whenever Bart's home, we both make one for ourselves and every time, we're both all, "THIS IS THE BEST LUNCH THERE EVER WAS."

An easy and delicious lunch you can toss together in five minutes!

I make a batch of croutons every couple of days and a bottle or two of homemade ranch dressing every week week or so, so those are ready to go.

I also almost always buy lettuce in those three-packs, and after years of watching my mom do it, I've finally adopted her good habit of chopping it all up and washing it so it's ready to go (this is what actually got me started on eating salads for lunch - I'd chopped way too much lettuce for a salad and it was just sitting in the fridge ready to go when I was scrounging around for lunch).

After that, it's a quick matter of tossing in the turkey and lettuce, adding chopped tomatoes, avocados and pepperoncinis, then topping the whole thing with croutons and ranch dressing.

Bart sometimes adds cucumbers to his, but I rarely like cucumbers raw (actually, I don't really love pickles either), and sometimes I'll sprinkle on a little feta, but generally it's pretty much the same thing every day.

Maybe someday I'll get tired of it, but that doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon.

And it's definitely a big step up from a bowl of cereal.

An easy and delicious lunch you can toss together in five minutes!

January 17, 2017

An $8 Problem Solver

Cute black floral maternity dress

Cute black floral maternity dress

Cute black floral maternity dress

Cute black floral maternity dress

Cute black floral maternity dress

When we lived in London, I wore tights CONSTANTLY.

I had a couple of maternity skirts and dresses I liked, but with the cooler weather there, tights weren't really optional (in fact, one time I walked home from church without tights on and I seriously felt naked compared to everyone else on the street).

I bought about six pairs of tights at Primark in London for something like one pound each.

But by the time we got back to the states, all the wear and walking on those tights meant that every single pair had holes in the toes and so I threw them all away.

Then we moved to Arizona, where not much of the year is tights weather, and I never replaced them.

But then with this pregnancy, I had a few dresses that really called for tights and after weeks of cursing my underbuying tendencies every time I went to get dressed, I finally grabbed a pair at Target (I just got regular non-maternity ones in a size up from my normal one).

And voila! Suddenly my closet seemed twice as big.

It's kind of amazing how many wardrobe problems $8 worth of tights solved for me.

Maybe next time I identify a closet hole, I won't wait two years to do something about it (but let's be honest - I probably will wait two years).



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