An Evening with Ann Patchett

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending an event with Ann Patchett hosted by Women and Children First bookstore in Chicago.  The event was held in a lovely intimate old church in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood.  And my mom was kind to accompany me so long as I drove.

I have been a huge Ann Patchett fan for years.  Her latest novel, Commonwealth, was recently released and she was on tour promoting the book.  I have to confess that I have not yet read the book (expect it to be one of our upcoming monthly book picks) but now I have my very own signed copy to enjoy.  I am not sure which Ann Patchett novel I read when I first discovered her.  It may have been Bel Canto because when it was first released there was a huge amount of buzz about it.  I then went back and read her previously written novels, The Magician’s Assistant and The Patron Saint of Liars as well as a non-fiction memoir Truth and Beauty: A Friendship and have eagerly awaited each subsequent release.


The event was packed which means there must be a lot of Ann Patchett fans in Chicago.  Before the event, I enjoyed eavesdropping on my fellow attendee’s conversations.  This is the thing with these events.  The people attending love and are passionate about books, just like me.  I can talk books for hours if you would let me.  For us bibliophiles, attending an author event is akin to some attending their favorite concert.

Ann Patchett was interviewed by the host of The Nerdette podcast.  They talked a little about Commonwealth.  It is loosely based on Ann’s own family.  Ann said her mother describes the book as “None of it happened and all of its true.”  That tagline has me a bit intrigued.  They did not discuss the book in detail which was a happy development for those of us who had not yet read it.

The bookstore Parnassus Books in Nashville is an independent bookstore owned by Ann Patchett.  So she spent a fair amount of time selling us on other’s books and talking about the book business.  I took notes on some recommended reads.  She said that she only gives a book 1 to 2 pages to decide if it grabs her enough to keep reading.  As a bookseller she does not have the time to read those things that are not worth it for her.  However, she also acknowledged that for some books the timing is not right for you to read them right then and that at a different time it might be the perfect book for you.

There was a lot of discussion about independent bookstores because there has been a concern that they are a dying animal.  Even as a bookseller, Ann acknowledged there is a space for Amazon and libraries because people are then reading.  However, one point she did make is that you cannot use all the wonderful resources of an independent bookstore and then not buy books there.  I would be so happy if an independent bookstore opened near me but alas there is none within probably 20 or 30 miles.

One of the funniest moments is when she was discussing the making of the book Bel Canto into an opera that was performed by the Lyric Opera in Chicago.  She had nothing to do with the writing or production of the opera and saw it for the first time on its opening night.  She recalled as the opera was coming to its conclusion and she knew where it was leading she whispered to her husband, “I ought not to have killed them all.”  As she said it is very different to kill all the characters in a book when you are sitting at home and quite another when you have to watch them all die on stage.  If you are looking to see the opera, it is supposed to be on PBS this winter and there are some clips on the PBS website as well.


The writing process always intrigues me because writers all have different approaches to writing.  In Ann’s case, she maps out her novels in her head first.  Not specific dialogue or details but big characters and the scenes and story arc.  She then writes one chapter and has it almost perfect before she moves onto the next.  Therefore, she does not have to do a little of rewrites and multiple drafts of her novels.   This approach speaks to me because I spend a lot of time writing blog posts and all of my unwritten books in my head.  It is only when I have the big ideas figured out that I can then start to write things down.

All in all, Ann Patchett was charming and down-to-earth and at times funny.  I was so happy to be there and left feeling renewed in my love of reading and writing.  And if anyone wants to “talk books” with me, either in person or virtually, let me know.  –June

“Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone. It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we’ve never met, living lives we couldn’t possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character’s skin.
Ann Patchett



A New Chapter

This has been such a busy autumn.  In a few short months, our family has finalized the timing of our move, a daughter has left for college, my mom temporarily moved in with us, our oldest son was married, my husband accepted a new job offer that has him traveling- a lot, and last week my mom closed on her new home, she is officially a South Carolina resident, and for her, a new chapter begins.

My mom and I prepared for our voyage south by packing up her belongings and placing them into her 12 year old Lexus, which had me a little anxious weeks before we actually left, because there were a lot of necessities to pack into her car. Plus, I noticed that every time she went out, I heard the rustling of shopping bags as she tried to sneak back in, and I had to remind her that we only had so much space in the car.


We had to get rather creative, but we fit it all in, and there was room for my suitcase too!!


Our total time from Chicago to Charleston was fifteen hours, and we gave ourselves two days to get there. I think getting through Illinois and Indiana was the toughest part of our journey. In fact, we didn’t think we were ever going to get out of Indiana!


Thank goodness for the delicious homemade pistachio/Craisin biscotti, baked by a family friend, to help us get through our trip. Their sandy texture and right amount of sweetness made these golden beauties a special treat to look forward to during the most boring leg of our journey. As we got out of the car at rest stops, we chuckled at the number of biscotti crumbs clinging to the fronts of our shirts, evidence of our new cookie addiction.


We ate them all….

We traveled as far as Knoxville our first day and were exhausted by the time our weary heads hit the surprisingly comfortable pillows at the La Quinta Inn that night. By the way, La Quinta is pet friendly which was good to know, since I will be doing the drive again after Christmas with a doodle in tow (that will be an interesting trip) for several weeks to escape the frigid weather . After a wake up biscotti to start our day, we indulged in the complimentary breakfast offered at the hotel. Sunday, as we exited the hotel, we were greeted with a beautiful sunny day, our jackets discarded in the back of the car as we made the 5 1/2 hour journey through the Great Smokey Mountains, to our final destination. FYI- The name “Smokey” comes from the natural fog that often hangs over the range and presents as large smoke plumes from a distance. This was my first time driving through the Smokey’s, and it did not disappoint!! The scenery was breathtaking and at first I was irritated that my good camera was lost among the various bins, bags, and suitcases in the back of the car (plus I was the driver), but honestly, photos could never capture the the natural beauty outside our car window as we slowly wound our way through the lush green mountains. Although the midwest is currently experiencing their showy fall colors, traveling south we noticed the foliage was still a brilliant emerald green, with just flecks of deep gold and orange, their kaleidoscope of color still weeks away.



Our trip was rather uneventful thanks to Google Maps, and we finally made it to our destination tired, hungry, but so happy to be in a place we love. For my mom, she was home. We are currently staying in my house which is just a few blocks away. As I write this, I am sitting out on my screened in porch in shorts and my comfy Chicago Cubs tee (Go Cubs!!), and it is a beautiful fall afternoon.


Our days have been busy with everything that goes with moving into a new home and we are exhausted by the end of the day, but we have accomplished so much and I know my mom is going to easily transition into her new environment. She will be ok.

It’s funny. As I was driving the many twists and turns through the Smokey Mountains, I was reminded of all the twists and turns we take on our life’s journey. For our family, this past year has been filled with the sadness of my dad’s death, the joy of a family wedding, and now a new adventure. I am so proud of this giant step into the unknown that my mom was willing to take by herself. It is so easy for us to stay within the comfortable confines of the life we know, especially as we get older. It is safe and predictable. To find your wings and fly to destinations unknown and experience all the many wonders of life is what gives our soul spice, and I admire my mom’s courage to fly solo.


Later this week I will be flying back to Chicago. I am enjoying the last few days of feeling the warm sun on my face before heading back to the cooler grayer skies that often arrive in the midwest this time of year.  It will feel strange when my mom drops me off at the airport, and drives back home on her own. We have spent so much time together, especially this past year and living in separate states will take a little getting used to. However, we humans always find a way to adapt when our lives change direction, and we will all find a new normal until it’s time for my family to take our journey, and begin a new chapter.

Have a great week. ~May

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu



October Book Picks To Read

It’s time again for some book picks.  For some reason, the two of us have gotten a little out of sync on our reading this past month.  There have been a lot of new releases in the last month that are on our “to read” lists, but library hold times vary which means that May and June have not been able to read many of the same books.  So of the three books we listed below, two are old favorites while the third is a newer release.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman




From Amazon:

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Dovekeepers…

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women had been blamed for everything that went wrong in their Massachusetts town. And Gillian and Sally endured that fate as well; as children, the sisters were outsiders. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, but all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape. One would do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they shared brought them back-almost as if by magic..

May’s Review: June and I have been so excited for the latest Alice Hoffman release, Faithful: A Novel. I am happy to say that I don’t have to reserve this one at the library, because I won it on Goodreads giveaway! I have always loved Alice Hoffman’s novels, but Practical Magic is a little more special since it was the first novel I read by this author. This book was turned into a movie, but the book is so much better. As always, Alice Hoffman lays a blanket of magic over her works of fiction and her descriptive writing has a way of making you feel like you’re in the room with the story’s characters. I also enjoyed the humor in this novel. I definitely recommend Practical Magic, a tale about the Owen’s sisters who are part of a lineage of witches. A great read for the season!

June’s Review:  I was reviewing our past book picks and realized how many Alice Hoffman books we have selected.  Obviously, we are huge fans and are anxiously awaiting her newest release on November 1, Faithful: A Novel.   Despite my fangirl status of Alice Hoffman, I realized I had never read Practical Magic which was published in 1995.  I blame the movie.  This book was adapted into a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman and was not all that great.  Let me tell you, this is one of those typical situations where the book is so much better than the movie.  Alice Hoffman has a way with words that let you smell the plants in the garden that she is describing and feel the evil emanating from Gillian’s former boyfriend.  The intuitive world is believable and rich.  It is a true love story of family and sisters.  If you have not read it or have only seen the movie, I highly recommend this as a time to get transported into a world that will fill your senses and make you fall in love with the characters.


The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton


From Amazon:

From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The House at Riverton, a novel that takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through generations and across continents as two women try to uncover their family’s secret past

A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book—a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, “Nell” sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. A spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery, The Forgotten Garden will take hold of your imagination and never let go.

May’s Review: This was the novel that made me fall hopelessly in love with Kate Morton. As a lover of historical fiction, this book had the feel of fairy tale, wrapped in a mystery. It is a bit complex with several stories tied into one and it is a bit long at 560 pages, but it reads quickly. I took my time with it because I wanted to savor every chapter and was a little sad when it was over. This is my favorite Kate Morton novel.

June’s Review:  This is easily one of my all time favorite books.  And I think I mentioned it when we picked another of Kate Morton’s books a few months ago.  I love historical fiction that is tied up in a bit of a mystery.  And if it has kind of a gothic feel to it, that is even better.  Not only that but if you loved The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett when you were young, this book will remind you a bit of the experience of reading that book for the first time.  Do not be intimidated by the length of this book.  You quickly get lost in the story and despite its 560 pages it will end too soon for you.

Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


From Amazon:

A beautiful, powerful new novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of Sister of My Heart and The Mistress of Spices about three generations of mothers and daughters who must discover their greatest source of strength in one another—a masterful, brilliant tale of a family both united and torn apart by ambition and love.

The daughter of a poor baker in rural Bengal, India, Sabitri yearns to get an education, but her family’s situation means college is an impossible dream. Then an influential woman from Kolkata takes Sabitri under her wing, but her generosity soon proves dangerous after the girl makes a single, unforgiveable misstep. Years later, Sabitri’s own daughter, Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees abroad with her political refugee lover—but the America she finds is vastly different from the country she’d imagined. As the marriage crumbles and Bela is forced to forge her own path, she unwittingly imprints her own child, Tara, with indelible lessons about freedom, heartbreak, and loyalty that will take a lifetime to unravel.

In her latest novel, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explores the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, and the different kinds of love that bind us across generations. Before We Visit the Goddess captures the gorgeous complexity of these multi-generational and transcontinental bonds, sweeping across the twentieth century from the countryside of Bengal, India, to the streets of Houston, Texas—an extraordinary journey told through a sparkling symphony of voices.

May’s Review: June turned me on to this one, a first for me by Chitra Banerjee Divaruni. This story takes place in India, as well as the United States and I enjoyed learning a bit more about the Indian culture and customs. It’s a book about the complex relationships between mothers and daughters and how they are bound together through generations, even though they are a great distance from each other. This was a difficult book to put down and I look forward to reading more of her novels.

June’s Review:  This was a new to me author and after reading this novel I am excited to check out some of her previous works.  This book is partially set in India and partially set in the United States.  I find the Indian culture to be very rich and fascinating so that was what first turned me on to this novel.  The story is full of a rich and complex relationship between the matriarch, her daughter and then her daughter.  The story shows that no matter how much we want to turn our back on the place we come from, we ultimately return to who we really are.  I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading others by the same author.

Have a good weekend.  We hope you find some time to kick back and read.  –May and June


Squash: A Healthy Alternative

As the season gets cooler, my hunger for heavy comfort foods increases.  However, the fastest way for me to gain weight is to indulge in carbohydrate rich foods.  So I have found over time, that roasted vegetables, especially squash, can satisfy some of that craving and still let me fit into my pants.

There are a lot of different varieties of squash to try.  I have found some of them are more squash-y then others and do not agree with my palate.  Butternut squash is a favorite.  The problem with butternut squash is that they are usually very large and both the skin and the squash are difficult to cut through.  I am sure I am going to cut my hand or amputate a digit when I prepare butternut squash.  Trader Joe’s often comes to the rescue because they sell it already cubed.  Butternut squash is much more enjoyable if you have not had to make a visit to the emergency room before eating.

My recent discovery is delicata squash. I discovered it a few years ago and it seems to be in abundance in the grocery store right now.  The season is somewhat short so if you see them pick up a few.  The beauty with delicata  is that the skin does not have to be removed and the vegetable, while firm, is easy to slice.  My favorite way to eat delicata squash is roasted in the oven.  It is really very easy.  I usually make a few at a time and since my husband refuses to eat squash, I have some to last a good portion of the week.  It is delicious as a side dish but I also add it to salads to make them a little more hearty for the colder weather.

Roasted Delicata Squash

Preheat oven to 425

Lightly wash two delicata squash with cool water


Slice the ends off the squash.  Then slice vertically for two halves.  Slice each half into one inch slices.  Each slice should look like a smile.


Coat squash with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Line squash on a baking sheet.  I like all of my slices to face the same way so I have smiles and no frowns.  You can also line the baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper to make clean-up easier.


Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until lightly brown and caramelized.  I like mine even a little more cooked and will let some pieces get a little burned.

Eat as a side dish or add either hot or cold to salads.



One thing about the change of seasons is pulling out some recipes that are old favorites or new tastes.  –June

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” –La Rochefoucauld


A Few Things We Are Loving in October

Fall is in full swing and although we are still enjoying some milder temperatures, we have definitely noticed a change in the season. The sun is setting earlier, the leaves are crunching beneath our feet and blowing all over the street on our walks, and the nights are much cooler. With that said, here are a few things we are loving in October.

What May Is Loving.  For May, fall means bringing out the soft, toasty throws for the sofa, chairs, and bed. There’s nothing like wrapping myself up in a favorite blanket to watch an episode of Younger, or relax in a favorite chair to read by the fire. Not only are they functional, but throws are also a nice statement to add to the end of a couch, or bed. They come in a variety of colors, textures, and styles and you can pay as little or as much as you like. As you can see, Sawyer enjoys them too and I always know where to find him napping on a cold day.



I always have a basket of extra throws and blankets so we can all have one on movie night. HomeGoods  has a great selection at very reasonable prices.


What June is Loving.  Now that we are firmly into October, it is acceptable to get out the Halloween decorations.  While June does not do a lot of decorating for Halloween she does love some Halloween lights.  In June’s mind, twinkle lights should be outdoors pretty much year-around.  If it was socially acceptable, she would probably display her Christmas lights all through the winter and into spring.  So, it is fun to see that twinkle lights both indoor and outdoor have become popular.  June will be hanging her little pumpkin lights up this weekend.  And last weekend the skeleton lights were hung in the kitchen window.  The skeleton lights are weird and quirky, June loves the different colors and in dance poses, that they make her laugh a little every time she sees them.


What May and June Are Loving.  This week, one of our favorite HGTV shows, Fixer Upper, premiered their new magazine The Magnolia Journal. It’s a quarterly lifestyle magazine that gives great ideas on making your home more beautiful as well as tips for living a better life. You can pick up the magazine at most check out lines, at your favorite bookstore, or you can get a subscription online. We are so excited!


Fall is the season of apples, and May and June are both fans. There are so many varieties out there, it’s hard to pick one favorite! May loves Honeycrisp apples for eating, and always uses Granny Smith when she bakes an apple pie or crumble. And of course, who doesn’t love taffy apples? June is a big Honeycrisp fan as well.  And while she doesn’t often get out there, a trip to the apple orchard to pick your own apples is a fun way to spend an October weekend, especially when the orchard sells cider and freshly made doughnuts.


As much as we both love being barefoot all the time, our cold toes and feet have recently been begging for the snuggly warmth of our favorite pair of slippers. May loves her cute red moccasins by L.L. Bean. The fleecy inside keeps her feet nice and warm on the coldest of days, they have a non skid sole, plus they are stylish and don’t look like a traditional slipper.


June is not a huge slipper fan because she would much rather be barefoot or wearing socks.  But cold feet are even more uncomfortable.  And having to step outside with Gatsby or to get the newspaper means that some type of foot covering must be worn.  After much trial and error, June has found that Ugg slippers work the best for her in the cold months.  Ye,s they are pricey but the shearling is not itchy, they are cushy and they do provide some foot support if you are cooking or doing other chores that require you to be standing or running up and down the stairs.  And while she herself is not a fan, some people wear them as shoes.  Just the day before, June saw a woman wearing Ugg slippers as her “commuter shoes” downtown.  But please do not wear the same pair on the dirty sidewalks and then as slippers in your house.  Yuck!  They are called house shoes for a reason.


Have a wonderful weekend.  It looks like it is going to be lovely weekend weather-wise in Chicago.  So, we are going to make sure to sneak in some more outdoor time and hope you get to do the same.

~May and June

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things.” -Sound of Music


Spending Time Alone

How much time do you spend alone?  As an introvert, I know I need quiet time to recharge my batteries.  However, even though I know that about myself, I do not really spend a lot of time truly alone.  I tend to fill my days up with work, errands, appointments, and time with friends and family.  And of course at home, even if I am enjoying some time reading or being quiet, someone else is usually home.

Last week, my husband was out of town for almost five days.  It was an odd feeling being home alone.  Gatsby, of course was home, but a dog’s company is different than a person’s company.  While I knew I would miss him while he was gone, I was bound and determined to be spend some good quality time with my own company.  And what happened?  I did not do very well making sure I spend enough time alone.

I really tried to just enjoy the solitude.  I tried not to turn on the TV or the radio just for company.  I did chores with no noise and just focused on that one thing in front of me.  I went to bed at 8:30 one night, simply because I was really tired.  I did not cook dinner any night.  Dinners were cheese and crackers or a frozen pizza.  Not particularly healthy but it felt like a holiday.

I took Gatsby for walks with no one to talk to other than Gatsby.  He was not impressed with my conversation.  I took pictures of a beautiful dahlia garden we passed.  We listened to the breeze in the trees, the ambient sounds of the neighborhood and the beginning rumbles of thunder that caused us to walk a little faster.

I tried during this time to give myself space to just be quiet.  To read and to write and to recharge.  I was not all that successful at times because it was a bit uncomfortable.  So I filled up a lot of my alone time being with other people and while I had a good time, I was craving more of that alone time.  I also was very happy when my husband came home on Sunday evening and our little family was all back together.

Why is it so uncomfortable to be by yourself?  I have gone out to dinner by myself and it makes me feel a little anxious.  If I travel for work I will often order room service or pick up something that can be eaten in my hotel room just to avoid the anxiety of eating in a restaurant alone.  And leisure travel by myself is not something I would probably contemplate because it seems as if the experience is minimized by not having someone share it with you.

When I have done some of these activities alone, I find that after I get over my initial anxiety and the thoughts that everyone is looking at me, it can be a nice change of pace.  Dinner alone means focusing only on the food with maybe a little eavesdropping on fellow diners.  I imagine that once in my life I would like to go on a writer’s retreat of one.  Stay in a cabin by myself with the sole objective to finish a writing project.  Truthfully, I will probably chicken out from doing this.  However, I have done things by myself that have surprised me.  I have attended writing workshops by myself without knowing a soul.  I have gone to various social events without knowing anyone either.  These are hugely out of my comfort zone and I am insanely proud of myself when I do them.  However, just spending time alone without other people around continues to be a challenge.

When you are truly alone you have to be good with your own thoughts, your own being.  It is easy to distract ourselves from the uncomfortable thoughts whether it is the critic or just the thought that makes us realize that we are not happy with something.  When you are alone you have to be ok for a bit with feeling lonely.  But only when we spend time alone can we change those thoughts and come up with solutions that change our frame of mind.  By being alone we have space to be creative with no one to impress other than ourselves.  We can shut out the noise of the world and be one with our soul.


Being alone is a growing experience and one that pushes us beyond who we thought we were.  I for one am going to try and carve out some true alone time each week and see where it leads me.  I am in no way advocating becoming a hermit because I do enjoy the company of my family and friends.  However, I challenge you to do spend some time alone and see how you grow.  –June

Solitude is the soul’s holiday, an opportunity to stop doing for others and to surprise ourselves instead. – Katrina Kenison


Why We Love Our Girlfriends

As I have been slowly sifting though all the nooks and crannies of my house, I have come across many interesting discoveries, little gifts from my past that have reawakened sleeping memories, reminding me of how truly blessed I have been.

I was recently tackling one of my kitchen cabinets, browsing through my many cookbooks when I came across a notebook sitting way up on the top shelf. When I opened it, a smile immediately crossed my lips as I read the first page.

Once upon a time, there were six young and very beautiful women who found each other, and helped each other survive motherhood. These women did many things together, and took their children on exciting adventures to zoos, parks, museums, and water parks. They supported each other, laughed and cried with each other. They shared everything with each other, and were together for nine years….


I love all my girlfriends, and was lucky enough to have an amazing group of women in my life, back when my children were toddlers. We all lived in the same area, and were stay at home moms with kids all roughly the same age. We put together a play group and got together every Friday morning, and although we said it was for our kids, we all knew deep down it was for us. We needed each other! Anyone who has spent those early years at home with young children, knows it isn’t easy. You somehow lose touch with the outside world, only to spend your days singing songs from popular children’s programs (Barney the dinosaur), wiping mouths, noses, and bottoms, plus trying to run a household and get errands done in that very short amount of time before the pre-nap meltdown occurs. Ah….those were wonderful days.  Fridays were different though. For the six of us, Fridays were sacred. We knew that for several hours, we could be girlfriends while our children played, and talk about everything from makeup, to potty training, to the latest books we had read. There was no subject left untouched. We even started having a girls night every month, where we could really let down our hair and have a drink or two, without worrying about our little ones. We had family holiday parties and one year did a girls getaway trip. We also put together a book of all our favorite recipes that we made over the years, nine of them to be exact. Dusting off that notebook and flipping through the pages of all our wonderful recipes brought back so many wonderful times we had together. Funny how food can do that.


Now, you may be wondering if we are all still friends. As our children grew, our responsibilities changed, especially after the kids all started school. Job transfers also occurred, and with that, our group became smaller, until there were just two of us. I think it’s interesting that the woman who introduced me to the rest of these wonderful girls, would be the one that remained here and yes, she and I are still very close. These past few years, several of us have found each other on Facebook, and it has been fun re-connecting. All our children are grown, getting married, and having families of their own which is a little scary because sometimes it feels like yesterday, our little group was getting ready for the annual Halloween Bash, which consisted of fun costumes, bobbing for apples, and of course Mrs. Tackett’s famous graveyard cake. As I reminisce, I don’t look back with sadness. We were all supposed to be together at that time and I will always cherish those memories. I truly believe that we are in each others lives for a reason, and we move on when that reason is no longer valid.  It is all part of our journey. I want to thank those wonderful women for being in my life for those nine lovely years. My life would not be the same without them.

So, here’s to our girlfriends- past, present and future!


“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” 
― Jane AustenNorthanger Abbey


Cardigan and Hoodie Season

If you don’t like the weather when you live in Chicago, wait five minutes and it’s bound to change.  This is especially true in the fall.  You may leave the house and need a sweater and coat, and by the time you leave the office, it feels like tank top weather.  The solution to this is layers, and cardigans especially fit the bill.  June is a huge cardigan fan and rarely wears any sweater other than a cardigan.  And if it has pockets, thumbholes or a hood, then it usually comes home with her (especially if it is the color gray but that is a whole other issue to discuss).

We looked at some of our favorite shopping sites and found some trends this year.  Oversized slouchy cardigans are a big trend.  We thought this one was cute


The boyfriend sweater is always a classic and can be worn casually or to the office.


Cardigans with a pattern seem to be a big trend this fall and are a nice change from solid cardigans and can be fun if you want to play with pattern.


Pretty pastel colors are a nice change from grey and black.


And when you take yoga you always need an extra layer for savasana so check out stores that carry athelesiure wear


Now,  this is not a cardigan but looks like a comfy sweater that can be worn with leggings because of its length and it has thumbholes and a hood (and it comes in grey for June).



In addition to cardigans, May also enjoys a long pullover that can be worn over leggings, or skinny jeans. She recently found this BP Ribbed Mock Neck Pullover at Nordstrom. She bought it in grey pebble heather, but there are several colors to choose from.


It looks like fall weather is definitely in our future, so check out some of these finds, or share a favorite sweater that you love this time of year.

Have a great weekend!

~May and June

“Who needs a boyfriend when you can have a big cozy sweater?”

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice?

Tis the season of all things pumpkin.  There is a proliferation of pumpkin products in the store.  When and how did this happen?  I blame Starbucks and the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

I remember the good old days when pumpkins simply meant carving a jack o’lantern a few days before Halloween.  You had to dig the cold slimy guts out of the pumpkin and toss it on the newspaper set under the pumpkin carving station on the kitchen table.  If your mom was particularly ambitious, she rinsed the “guts” off the pumpkin seeds, soaked the seeds in salt water, and roasted them in the oven.   At Thanksgiving you ate pumpkin pie.  And other than the pumpkin making an appearance as Cinderella’s carriage or as the head of the Headless Horseman in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a pumpkin was neither seen nor heard from further.


I walked through Trader Joe’s a week ago and counted (and took pictures) of more than 35 pumpkin flavored products.  You cannot enter the store without being assaulted by pumpkin products. To get all Forrest Gump on you, here is a brief list of the pumpkin products I encountered and I am sure I missed one or five or fifty:

  1.  Organic canned pumpkin – for baking and cooking all the pumpkin recipes you find on Pinterest
  2. Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix – the radio spot for this suggests adding chocolate chips which sounds rather delicious
  3. Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix – so those that cannot eat gluten do not miss out on all the pumpkin funimg_4649
  4. Pumpkin Cream Cheese – to spread on a plain bagel so you get the pumpkin taste you may otherwise miss
  5. Pumpkin Spice Almond Beverage – for those that avoid dairyimg_4638
  6. Pumpkin Body Butter – cause you want your skin along with your breath to smell all pumpkin-y
  7. Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps – covers a major Thanksgiving food group too
  8. Pumpkin Tortilla Chips – I almost bought these and realized they added cinnamon and nutmeg which to me, ruins a good tortilla chip
  9. Pumpkin Pita Crisps – in case you don’t like the pumpkin tortilla chipsimg_4637
  10. Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds – because the flavor of a simple pumpkin seed couldn’t be left unadulterated and needed to be jazzed up with more pumpkin flavoringimg_4640
  11. Pumpkin Spice Caramel Corn – inexplicable
  12. Pumpkin Spice Chai – in case you prefer chai over coffeeimg_4642
  13. Pumpkin Spice Rooibos – a no-calorie pumpkin option
  14. Pumpkin Bread Pudding – I have no idea what this is, since I don’t think I’ve ever eaten bread pudding
  15. Mini Pumpkin Pies – when you are not hungry enough for a whole pie
  16. Pumpkin Cheesecake – this may be a good Thanksgiving dessert if you don’t like pie
  17. Pumpkin Macarons – it seems that the French would feel that pumpkin is a little pedestrian to be added to a macaronimg_4643
  18. Pumpkin Ice Cream – how many people eat ice cream in the Fall?  It’s cold out.
  19. Pumpkin Panettone – I only see Panettone at Christmas time but I guess they have figured out a way to extend the season by adding pumpkinimg_4644
  20. Pumpkin Seed Brittle – my dad made peanut brittle and I think he would consider pumpkin seed brittle sacrilegious
  21. Pumpkin Spice Coffee – I like this but Tom will not let me make flavored coffee.  He acts like I am trying to kill him.img_4645
  22. Pecan Pumpkin Instant Oatmeal – does it make your oatmeal orange?
  23. Pumpkin O’s Cereal – like Cheerios but with pumpkin
  24. Pumpkin Toaster Pastries – pop-tarts
  25. Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s – the knock-off oreo with pumpkinimg_4647
  26. Pumpkin Shaped Sugar Cookies – these are cute
  27. Chocolate Mousse Pumpkins – not sure if these actually contain pumpkin or they are just shaped like pumpkins
  28. Pumpkin Spice Cake – this is probably yummy cake with cloves and cinnamon (I think)
  29. Pumpkin Flavored Dog Treats – we don’t want our four legged friends left out, and in fact our pet store also has a pumpkin spice latte for dogs.  Gatsby has not yet imbibed.img_4648
  30. Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix – sneak a little pumpkin in under the maple syrup
  31. Pumpkin Butter – so you don’t have to make your own
  32. Pumpkin Soup – orange soup that I hope doesn’t taste like pumpkins smell
  33. Pumpkin Soup Crackers – to pair with the pumpkin soup?img_4650
  34. Pumpkin Greek Non-Fat Yogurt – combo of the Greek yogurt trend and pumpkin trend
  35. Country Pumpkin Spice Granola Cereal – you can use it as a mix-in for pumpkin greek yogurt
  36. Pumpkin Cereal Bars – if you are tired of the strawberry flavored ones
  37. Pumpkin Biscotti – these are my favorites and I stock up because once they are sold, out that is it until next year
  38. Pumpkin Shaped Pasta – there is a fall harvest pasta sauce that has butternut squash in it that you can pair with this pasta

I wonder how the pumpkin growers are keeping up with this demand?  This ubiquitous plethora of pumpkin products led me to do a little research. Interestingly, pumpkins are native to North America and are in the winter squash family.  This means that in the past, pumpkins were grown to help sustain a family through the winter.  Over 1.5 billion tons of pumpkin are grown in the United States each year and surprisingly 95% of the crop intended for processing is grown in Illinois, with the majority near Morton, Illinois.  And the Nestle/Libby Plant there processes 85% of all of the canned pumpkin in the world.  I am intrigued now to go visit Morton, Illinois and see all of the pumpkins growing in the field.


You may love or hate the pumpkin products, but I do not think they are going anywhere.  So if you cannot beat them, you may as well join them.  Enjoy the Fall and find yourself a great pumpkin treat, or make your own. – June

There are three things that I’ve learned never discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.

– Linus, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Neighborhood Fallscapes

I’ve noticed in my neighborhood, that October is the month that everyone begins to decorate the outside of their homes for fall. The heat of summer has said its final goodbye, inviting the cool, crisp air to sweep in with the fall season. Of course, with that comes cold noses and hands, and I know I will soon be needing gloves. My doodle Sawyer and I have loved longer walks on these early brisk mornings, and I’m starting to savor the beautiful palate of color as the leaves begin to change from the green of summer, to shades of red, orange, and gold.

I have always enjoyed decorating both the inside and outside of my home for the changing seasons. I don’t do too much, just simple touches here and there to celebrate the beauty of the season we are experiencing at the moment. For me, it has been a busy fall and with an upcoming trip, a seventeen year old who is rarely home, and a husband who travels regularly for business, I find myself keeping things very simple this year.

I personally feel that the outside of your home deserves the same attention as the inside, and have tried to make the outside of my home beautiful with a natural landscape of trees, shrubs, flowers, and outdoor furniture.  As a creative person, I am always on the lookout for new decorating ideas and get so much inspiration when I am out walking. I recently found some great ideas for decorating the outside of your home for fall and Halloween- a festive pop for your curb appeal.




The front porch is always a perfect place to decorate for the changing seasons. I really loved the simplicity of the porch below.



Pumpkins aren’t just for carving anymore. These painted and stacked pumpkins can take you right up to Thanksgiving.



For me, a few velvet pumpkins, fall scented candles, and cozy pillows and throws will be enjoyed inside.  Outside, I potted some mums and soon will place a pumpkin or two on the porch. I will be home from my trip just before Halloween, just in time to hang my witch on the door for the trick or treaters.

“Autumn is a second spring, where every leaf is a flower.” -Albert Camus

Have a great week! ~May

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