What I’m Into: April 2017

April. proper noun. Its showers are supposed to bring flowers. We’ll see.


It’s cliche, I know, but where has April gone? I blinked, and now I’m mystified as I write May on the calendar. It’s been a mixed month – spring is slow in coming, and there have been some anxiety-inducing decisions stretching through this month. But Christ has risen. Though it’s easy to make that cliche, the magnitude of it has been hitting me in this Easter season. We are saved. We have hope. Our lives are worth celebrating.

Here’s what I’ve been loving this month.


The Four Loves – C.S. Lewis. There’s a reason that this is a classic. C.S. Lewis expounds on the four types of love (affection, friendship, erotic love, and charity) and why they are all important. The charity chapter was most mind-blowing to me. A favorite quote: “All who have good parents, wives, husbands, or children, may be sure that at some times – and perhaps at all times in respect of some one particular trait or habit – they are receiving Charity, are loved not because they are lovable but because Love Himself is in those who love them.” There are so many of these in this slim book – I need to read it again, soon.

The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown. I adore this book. That’s in no small part because I listened to the audiobook, and Edward Hermann (the grandpa in Gilmore Girls) has the perfect voice to narrate this blend of history and rowing strategy and narrative. I am now half in love with all of the hardworking, dedicated boys of the 1936 crew team, and joining a rowing team has never had more appeal.

The Sun is Also a Star – Nicola Yoon. Recommendations for this book are all over the place, and I was a little scared to read it because I didn’t know if it would live up to the hype. It did. It chronicles one day in the life of Natasha and Daniel, two very different immigrant teens who meet on the streets of New York. Their story was unlikely and beautiful and heartbreaking and reminded me of how much our actions matter and influence those around us.

Very Married – Katherine Willis Pershey. This book is a sort of marriage memoir, with reflections on the beauty and struggles of lifelong commitment. Each chapter covers one aspect of marriage and offers stories, musings, and advice. I would love a bit more depth and length – sometimes it felt like Pershey just touched on a topic before moving on – but it was helpful to hear very real stories about married life.

Mosquitoland – David Arnold. In this book, a young girl runs away from her dad and stepmother in “Mosquitoland,” and boards a bus in search of the mother she left behind. It didn’t quite meet my expectations, but I did adore the characters, especially the friends Mim made along her journey. The empathetic, real portrayal of mental illness is also powerful.

Winter – Marissa Meyer. I finally finished the last book in the Lunar Chronicles. I’m glad to be done reading the series and know how it ended… but it seemed like Meyer was glad to be done writing the series, too. Overall assessment of the series? Great and fun and clever. Overall assessment of this installment? Meh.

Counting by 7s – Holly Goldberg Sloan. Willow, a super smart and socially awkward preteen, learns one day that her parents have been killed in a car crash. This book follows the unlikely generosity that helps her survive. The story is tender and sweet.



Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Though this movie was a good deal creepier than my highly sensitive self expected, I loved the magical twist on 1920s New York and the subtle references to the world of Harry Potter. I’m curious what they’ll do with the sequel!



Spotify Daily Mix. I just found this Spotify feature, with individualized playlists that combine songs you’ve liked with other music of a similar genre. Yay for not making decisions.

The original version of this song got stuck in my head after every Zumba class (which is problematic when you only know 7 of the words…). But I have to admit, I love the Justin Bieber in this remix…



This video makes me laugh.

Olive green pants. I struggle dressing for spring in Minnesota, when boots feel too wintery but it’s still 38º on morning bus duty. These have given me a springier option than my constant black pants. Pseudo-neutrals for the win.

Salsa dancing. Adam and I finally tried out our moves at a dance this month. We are, well, not Latin. But it was fun!

Black Coffee & Waffle Bar. Leslie Knope would approve of this place. They understand the necessity of adequate whipped cream.



Participating in a panel of new teachers at my alma mater. We spoke to student teachers about the hiring process. It was fun to hear the perspectives of a few teaching friends, and it also reminded me just how much I’ve learned in the short time that I’ve been teaching.

Dress shopping. I am lucky enough to get to be a bridesmaid in a college friend’s wedding this fall. We picked out our dresses this month, and I am now even more excited for their wedding!

Taking a family trip to Chicago. My sister had her final grad school interview over Easter weekend, so my family drove to the windy city to spend the weekend with her. We packed our little vacation full, walking over 20,000 steps each day. Highlights include the Tilt window at the John Hancock observatory, the beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium, the mummy exhibit at the Field Museum, and the limo ride we took when we were too tired to walk back to our hotel. (Yes, you read that right. We rode in a limo. We were not at all chill about it.) We also fully recommend the CityPass, a booklet of tickets for the most popular museums and experiences in the city. It made everything, especially the long lines at the Willis Tower observatory, faster. We finished off the weekend by celebrating Easter at Moody Church, which had a full orchestra and choir for the occasion.





Note the four blond adults staring enraptured at an animal spouting water…that’s us.



We also got matching tattoos. They were temporary.

Attending a concert at Orchestra Hall with friends. One of our favorite double date couples invited us out on the town for a birthday celebration, and we loved eating dinner and listening to enchanting music with them. Ravel’s Ma Mere l’Oye, or Mother Goose, collection is dreamy.

Finally, as always, teaching. We finished off our final session of parent-teacher conferences and are on the last leg of our year. I have no idea how we will fit in everything left to cover. None. We are currently finishing up a public speaking unit. I’ve learned even more about my students by listening to them share about items that represent them – it’s a good time of year for a reminder that they are complex human beings. My Advanced kids are also practicing mock debates. So far, the most memorable thing they’ve learned has come from a debate we watched to study technique. One of the debators said that television can be a positive influence because Cookie Monster teaches us that “cookies are a sometimes snack, not an always snack.” I have since heard this line once a day. I am clearly an influential teacher.


What have you been into this month?





Remember. verb. “To have in one’s mind an awareness of something that one has seen, known, or experienced in the past.”

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Fall is here. The school routines have found us. I’m awake before the sun now, and I wear mascara every day. We fell easily into these rhythms. It feels like what we’d always done. (It is.)

Already, the easy breezy days of summer seem long gone. They were sweet, full of ordinary surprises. Sometimes I fear that I will forget them. The memories will disappear from my head, poof, like the definition of cosine and the way to fold a fitted sheet. So I write them down, just as I send myself reminder emails of online resources and copies to make. This is my to-do list: do not forget these moments.

I toted books to the park most days. I used to live minutes from the one with the lake. I brought lemonade and a blanket and, in the pages of a mystery, stopped fighting the quiet gift of rest. Teens playing Pokemon walked by, and I peeled back the layers of memory lying over the grass and walking trail: walking with the boy when our relationship was young, running long laps around the lake, eating sugar-laced beignets, following my brothers on rented bikes, paddleboarding at sunset.

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We slept outside on the dock one weekend. The air was clear and cool, and scattered stars kept us awake. We found constellations, and talked sleepily as sisters do, and listened in the pauses to the chatter of two teenage boys on a dock further down. We curled up under our sleeping bags and drifted off to the lullaby of shooting stars and waves against shore, the one composed just for us. I woke early, to bright sun and a lake shining like glass.

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We went sailing one afternoon, on the bowl of a lake. I sat near the bow, ducking as the boom swung and tripping over the keel every time we tacked. The boy sat in the stern calm and confident, framed by blue sky and blue lake and blue polo shirt. We’d talked of going sailing, just us, for years. When we finally did, I wanted to freeze time, bottle it, to return to sun and sweetness on lonely winter days.

We drank iced tea and ate tuna tacos at our favorite restaurant, up the shore on Lake Superior. When we were no longer hangry, we tripped down the steep shore, climbed rocks, skipped stones, snapped pictures. The water was clear enough to drink. Stones – heart-shaped, striped, perfectly round – loaded our fists, just as they did 17 years ago when we looked on the same shore together.


I hold these moments as I look at the end-of-summer sunshine out the window. It reminds me there is still time left: time to go outside, to wander, to rest. So I strap on skis during our last lake weekend, even if the water is cold and the air colder. I bring my book to our tiny patio after school. I walk through parks, avoiding the geese headed south, on Sundays. The slow, sweet moments return. I won’t forget them.

First-Year Teacher: Survivor Edition

First-year teacher. noun. A title given to teachers who are brand new and just figuring out how on earth to do this teaching thing. See also: Ms. Christenson.

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My kind of survival.


So this great thing happened last week.

It’s called spring break.

I KNOW. Even though I’m not in college, I still get spring break. These are the perks of being a teacher, y’all. Because after working for all of 3 weeks, I was exhausted and more desperate for a break than the kids.

Why was I so excited about spring break, you ask? Allow me to list the reasons.

  • Having a teacher work day so I could do important things like: Have time to get iced chai before arriving at work. Update bulletin boards. Organize files. Plan stuff. Regain sense of order.
  • Getting to NOT be a teacher. For an entire 9 days. Thus gaining back 95% of my brain space.
  • Flying to DC!!! Seeing the boyfriend!!!
  • Walking through museums and getting to take my own sweet time and NOT being the person who’s shushing/rangling/managing all the kids on all the tours
  • Eating lunch OUTSIDE for an HOUR with the boyfriend (not for twenty minutes in the staff lunch room, nice as the other teachers are)
  • Wearing leggings! And jeans! And Converse! On days that aren’t Friday!
  • Being awake enough in the evenings to do things like host parties! Go to concerts! Run through the National Mall! Go to restaurants just for dessert at 10:00! Watch an entire movie! Eat birthday dinners until 11:00 pm!
  • Celebrating my sister’s birthday with donuts and cheesecake and concerts with my family
  • Having brunch with the whole clan (how often does that happen?) and thrifting with people who do things like try on/accidentally split acid-washed jean shorts at the seams

What loveliness.

But then Sunday came. Boo. I hit what Teach of Love, Teach blog fame calls The Sunday Afternoon Megasad Life Hole.

I had already had slumps toward sadness in moments of the weekend. I had cried before getting on the plane. (I always do.) I had flown home to snow and an empty apartment. I had one afternoon of desolate napping and Internet surfing. And that was before everyone left.

Once Sunday afternoon quieted, I was stuck to the couch, feeling alone and hopeless and full of dread about returning to school. No matter that I had just returned from a wonderful trip to DC to then spend the weekend having fun with my family.

This is the suckiest feeling. I want to enjoy teaching! I want to be excited about seeing my students! I want to think “Yay! I get to talk about a subject I love today!” But on Sunday afternoon, my thoughts were more of the following gloomy variety: I think I’m bad at this. We’re going to have to start from square one with behavior management, aren’t we? How am I qualified for this again? Do I really need a job?

And then I read this post where I discovered this phenomenon had a name. I realized that I am not the only one who gets weary just thinking about Monday morning. It does not make me a bad teacher. And there is something I can do about it. Other than pray for miracles. Though that never hurts.

Here’s my own list of amazingly awesome mood boosters, for Megasad Sundays or Mopey Mondays or Terrible Tuesdays or whatever day of the week I need a reminder that my life is going to be okay.

  • Go for a walk. Or a run, if feeling ambitious.
  • Read an actual book
  • Do a quick yoga routine.
  • Clean the apartment using Mrs. Meyers peony cleaning spray while listening to One Direction.
  • Flip through old vacation photos.
  • Call someone near and dear.
  • Journal
  • Read a favorite Psalm
  • Bake chocolate chip cookies.
  • Try making a new recipe.
  • Do an easy craft. (Redo the chalkboard? Paint some polka dots? Letter something? Pull out the coloring book?)
  • Watch a favorite chick flick
  • Write a letter
  • Meal or outfit plan for the week. (Am I the only weirdo who finds joy in “jammin’ on my planner,” as Leslie Knope calls it?)
  • Go to the library and camp out with a few magazines.
  • Play the Ellie Holcomb Pandora station
  • Make plans to get coffee with someone.
  • Draft a blog post.
  • Paint my nails with something sparkly.
  • Watch Parks and Rec.
  • Wander through the Art Institute, the Conservatory, or another favorite free place
  • Find the “Bang Bang” Just Dance video on YouTube. Dance to it.
  • Take a 20-minute nap
  • Make hot chocolate
  • Browse the Pinterest board of my favorite things

Oh, and the biggest one of all: quit overanalyzing and assuming the worst. Because even if you have a Megasad Sunday, it doesn’t mean that you will have a Megasad Week. (Case in point: this week has been surprisingly not sucky, even after all that angst.)

Here’s to more intentionality and joy, to fewer Megasad Sundays and clouds of dread.


Anything I missed? What are your favorite get-happy activities?


Hibernate. According to Dictionary.com. “To spend the winter in close quarters in a dormant condition; to winter in a place with a milder climate.” Or wishing to be in a milder climate.

Baby, it’s cold outside.

No, for real.

Well, at this second it’s not so bad. But last week, it was legitimately as cold as Antarctica. And Mars. It was disgusting. I’m trying to forget it ever happened. However, because I am a Minnesotan, I know it will probably happen again.


Image via sewlikeinparis.com

And when it does happen, I personally don’t want my Facebook feed to look like a whiny version of Accuweather, nor do I want to inflict my woes on the people around me. They, too, cannot leave the house without freezing their butts off, and you can only say “I’m so dang cold,” so many times before there is no more frozen-butt solidarity to be gained.

So here’s the plan: I underwent a major Project Distraction throughout break. I plan to continue it until I thaw out sometime in the spring. Want to join me? Here are the activities that I have found make hibernating a smidge more tolerable. Granted, these are tailored for a homework-less Christmas break in small-town Minnesota, but the general principle applies anywhere.

Make stuff. Like a scarf, or a canvas slathered in acrylic paint, or cookie dough. Especially cookie dough (you need an extra layer of fluff to keep you warm, remember?)

DSC_2451My first knitting creation ever. Focus on the scarf, not the subpar picture of me.


Acrylic on canvas, created by me

I would post a picture of cookie dough, but none of it survived long enough to be photographed. Use your imagination.

Read books. Though please, skip the only okay ones and use winter to treat yourself to the hold-your-breath and stay-up-until-2am books. If you’re on break and slightly nocturnal like me, you’ll be up until then anyways.


Image via Goodreads

My favorite break read. Definitely worth staying up until 2 am.

Memorize the song “Let It Go,” from Frozen. Randomly belt it out and feel no shame. While you’re at it, contemplate how in the heck the girls from Frozen survive without wearing gloves. (The easy answer: they’re animated. But really. This is a movie about winter. I would appreciate a speck of realism.)

Watch lots and lots of What Not to Wear and marvel at how many atrocious outfits there are in this world. For the overachievers, do your own What Not to Wear on your mom’s closet, tossing the sweaters with saggy armpit syndrome and creating outfits with actual accessories.

Wear some really atrocious outfits yourself (because you are never leaving the house and do not need to cultivate a professional vibe or even look attractive). This look can include such as flannel pajama pants that drift above your ankles and charmingly showcase inches of fuzzy socks. This look fits best if you have extra-long legs, and is most suited for environments with really chilly wood floors.


Do a workout video. It will make you nice and warm (and sweaty). YouTube has free ones, so you don’t even have to venture outside to buy one. (And don’t even think about running outside, even if you do miss it.) If you’re brave, try one from Blogilates, my winter workout go-to. Warning: the workout lady is chipper and talks incessantly even when she should be wracked with pain because she’s made you do a ridiculous number of wacko Pilates moves. However, as my sister says, “At least she’s nicer than Jillian Michaels.”

Sit in the snow and read a book. Just kidding! Only crazy people (ahem, like my family) do that.


Pray really, really hard for spring to come soon. This is my favorite option of all.

Thankful (edition 2)

Thankful (edition 2). adjective. Defined by me as what we celebrate on Turkey Day. Also my emotion for the following things.


Image via Pinterest

1. Kindred Spirits

I am surrounded by so many great people. Kind, funny, fabulous friends invest in my little life by watching movies and eating lunch and sitting in chapel and having fits of laughter while praying and talking about futures and feeding encouraging words. You are, as Anne Shirley says, kindred spirits, and I love you for it. And I’m sorry I’m often not a good friend in return. With my git ‘er done mentality, I often forget that the rock stars around me are as worthy of time as my to-do list. Friends, I’m thankful for you, and I want to work harder at showing it.

2. Stars

As I drove north for break, I was greeted by black skies and bright-burning stars. They proclaimed, “Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere,” and I loved them for it. At school, the night sky is wimpy, colored pink or navy or charcoal gray. On a clear night, a whole six stars might wink at you. In the country, night is thick and black. Countless stars streak across the sky. It’s stunning, and it’s one thing I miss as a city dweller.

3. Peanut butter


Image via Pinterest (surprise, surprise)

Peanut butter is an all-star. It plays well with others, pleasing the varied company of bananas and grape jelly and chocolate. It can hold its own when scooped straight from the jar (please tell me I’m not the only one who does this). It is delicious in all forms, from the natural stuff made with nothing but nuts to the highly processed, sugary junk. It can top bread and pancakes and ice cream and crackers and most of the worthwhile carbohydrates. It nourished me every morning of high school. It is a key ingredient in Peanut Butter Captain Crunch (or so they claim). It’s pretty much the best thing ever.

4. Kids

I love middle schoolers. Right now, I get to hang out with them all day long on Tuesday and Thursdays. It’s awesome. Exhausting. But awesome.

Those kids are hilarious and awkward and sweet and sincere and trying so darn hard. They simultaneously make me want to give hugs all around and pull all of my hair out. I would not like to be in their shoes. Actually, you could not pay me enough to go back to eighth grade.

This is me in middle school. Not my favorite season of life.


But I made it through the awkward years, and I want to tell these kids, “I survived and you can too!” I want to inspire them to actually give a rip about school and learning and being a good person. Or at the very least, get them to do their homework and read a book every once in a while.

I also adore children of the smaller variety.

On our first morning of Thanksgiving break, my sister and I got to go hang out at our old school and make pumpkin bread with the kindergarteners my mom teaches. (We also ate pizza with my dad and sang happy birthday to my little brother and saw great people. But that’s beside the point.)

Brita and I had four messy little munchkins who licked their hands and spilled sugar (and licked that off the table, too) and crinkled their noses at smelly pumpkin from a can. Could I handle that energy and messiness every day? No way. I prefer teaching kids who are capable of stirring without splattering the table and their neighbor and themselves with pumpkin. But our little group was precious and enthusiastic and way fun. They also reminded me how much I love little dudes, which I sometimes forget in the big-kid world of college.

5. The Nimbus 2000 (This is my car, for those who have not yet been acquainted.)

I know nothing about cars. Case in point: I tried to check my oil before driving home, and a nice boy stopped and helped me because I looked so clueless. (How do you get the hood open, again?) But even with my lack of vehicular knowledge, I know a few things about my dear Nimbus 2000. It’s named after Harry Potter’s first broomstick, which makes me smile. It has a charming (read: tacky) Christmas tree ornament dangling from the rearview mirror proclaiming that name to the world. It gets me to school and Target and home and other important places. And it has not busted on me yet, a gift for which I thank God every single day.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

On this holiday, I pray the mashed potatoes are abundant, the fellowship fills your heart with joy, and the blessings and gratitude overflow.


Hydrated. adjective. According to me (because all of my other sources write obscure definitions about chemistry, which is not the point of this post at all), “Soaked or infused with water. Antonyms: dry, parched.”

In the summer, I am not a smooth-skinned, sun-kissed babe.

I have spatterings of freckles. And scorchy sunburn. And scratchy bug bites. And dry crackly spots.

After the past few marathon weeks at the pool, it’s especially bad. You know your feet are in bad shape when your fourteen-year-old brother makes disgusted comments about the Sahara-like state of your heels. Getting into the pool for 18 days in a row will do that to you.

My soul was a little parched, too.

Until last weekend.

Last weekend, I got an itty-bitty vacation. Praise the Lord, I got to go to the lake.


The lake looks much like any of the other 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. It’s a dot of water containing hosts of sunfish, an exceptionally weedy bottom, and little nature other than the lily pads at the public access. The furniture in the cabin doesn’t match and beach towels are always lacking. It is ordinary to the extreme. But it’s one of my favorite spots in the whole wide world.

At the lake, I float on air mattresses with my grandma. I ponder whether a toothy Northern Pike might snack on my toes when I fling off the inner tube in the middle of the lake. I get quivery when I strap on skiis and yell “Hit it!” I dangle legs off the dock and read.

If you hadn’t noticed, I spend a lot of time in the water.


All of this water soaks into my soul, hydrating my scratchy patches. When I’m feeling dry, I get uptight and angsty and overly serious about every dang thing, my days blurring by in a monochromatic stream. It’s then that I need is a bit of lake, where I can scream and splash and ski my inner kiddo out of hiding, the one who is not always responsible and does not have to be productive at every waking moment and is not afraid to run around in swimsuit bottoms all day (even when the cute boy on the jetski drives by).

I’d love to have this freedom and abandon all of the time, the weight soaked from my shoulders and my heart feeling easy-breezy. But that’s not possible. Real life rolls on, the place where I have a pool to manage and swimming lessons to teach and lunch to pack and gas to buy. Sometimes it will drain a girl’s spirit, this whole everyday-life thing.

I think I need to find a closer lake. Like as close as my backyard.

Until that happens, I’m going to be content with using my hours off on home-style vacation activities. When I get in a real life rut, I forget to do what refreshes me and makes me feel awesome. So rather than sitting and staring at the wall (Facebook or otherwise), I’ll read books that resonate, make art (okay, crafts) that add beauty (in my world, anyways), and sit in sunshine and breathe the summer air that slips away too quickly. In a pinch, I think these things will help hydrate me too.

But just in case, I think I’ll head to the lake as much as possible.


Captivating. adjective. According to whatever dictionary comes on the dashboard of Mac computers, “attracting and holding the interest or attention of; charming.”

I have spent this past week romping through the glamorous locales of England and New York. All without leaving the confines of my decidedly unglamorous house in the middle of nowhere, Minnesota.

You see, I have recently rediscovered the wonders of reading.

During the school year, I read. Oh yes, I read. Scanned subject lines of emails, gobbled textbook pages, scrolled through Facebook statuses, skimmed random articles I stumbled across. But rarely deep, luxurious reading, the kind where vivid characters flit through imaginary conversations as you wash the dishes, where you untwist plots as country roads slip beneath your tires. Now that it’s summer and I’m no longer encumbered by mounds of homework, I’ve begun reading real books again. And it has been captivating.

Thanks to The House at Riverton, I’ve bounced back to Downton Abbey-esque England, complete with huge manors and ladies maids and surprise engagements and scandalous affairs and footmen named Alfred. I’ve unraveled a mystery, too, one where you know that something dreadful happened but you hang desperately until the last page to see exactly how events pan out. In The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler, I spent the night in a musty old bed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I bathed in the fountain in the restaurant, scurried into bathroom stalls to hide from the guards, marveled at the mysterious Angel sculpture, and learned about the slippery business of secrets from an eccentric old lady with a wacky last name. Right now, I’ve decided to adopt Major Pettigrew, a crusty English gentleman with a delicious sense of sarcasm, and his new friend Mrs. Ali, a charming Pakistani woman with excellent taste in books, as an extra set of grandparents. It matters little that I’ve only met them through the novel Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.

By now, you have probably realized a few things about me. First, I have had way too much time on my hands. Not to worry; I do have a summer job that simply had not started yet, and my reading has been balanced by mindless grazing of kitchen cupboards, extended browsing of social networks, and completing a variety of crafty projects. Clearly, I use my free time quite productively. You have also probably realized that I am a very serious bookworm. About that, you are also quite right. I won’t even try to deny it. But I also hope it’s clear that above simply loving books, I also love a good story, with rich settings and delightful characters and plots that would make me incredibly anxious in real life. I love stories’ ability to teach without inducing eye-rolling. I love teasing out threads of deeper meaning, things that I can see reflected in my own life. These stories do not have to be relegated to books. I love the real-life stories too, the snapshots my family shares when it’s way too late at night or the catch-up conversations with friends you haven’t seen in weeks.

So this summer, I have decided to be captivated more. I will throw myself headlong into books, checking novels off my neverending to-read list, meeting eccentric, exciting characters, and voyaging to new places. I will grin at myself when I realize that I’ve been trying to figure out how a story will end for the last fifteen minutes. And I will listen more to real-life stories, the shared plots and characters and places of those around me.

Now if only these stories could take me to England and New York in real life.


Books referenced in this post:

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E.L. Koningsburg

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

If you really want a further look at my latest books completed and the ones I hope to read before I die, check out my Goodreads profile.