Archive | 2018

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Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

Have you noticed how animal prints appear to be all the rage in fashion this fall? We’ve really noticed an abundance of leopard making its mark on scarves, handbags, shoes, coats, dresses, jewelry and even leggings.  Although we are seeing quite a revival of everything leopard, we’ve also noticed that this fun neutral has never really been out of style.

 

I LOVE LUCY

Consignment shops are sure to carry some cool vintage pieces to add to your wardrobe.  In our effort to continue to streamline our wardrobes, we’ve paired a few leopard pieces with items already living in our closets. It was fun to see what we could put together.   We also realize that head to toe leopard is not a good look on anyone, so one pop of leopard is enough to make a statement without looking tacky.

Here are a few more items we found while perusing the internet.

 

Leopard leggings from Anthropologie

Anthropologie Leopard Coat

Leopard Loafers from Zappos

 

Or maybe you just want to be an animal at home.

PJs from Nordstrom

Leopard can work as a neutral or a little spice.  Start small and see how you like it.  –May and June

Style is primarily a matter of instinct~ Bill Blass

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Skeletons on Books

Celebrating the Season with Our Favorite Halloween Reads

It’s that time of year again! The Halloween season is upon us and as we stroll through our neighborhoods, we are enjoying those homes decorated with spooky ghosts, witches, goblins, and carved pumpkins glowing on porches. Cooler temperatures and longer nights have given way to more reading time in our favorite chair, wrapped in a soft blanket. Today, we thought it might be fun to share some of our scary, and not so scary Halloween reads.

May- The books I have chosen are definitely a bit more old school.  I have to admit, I haven’t read a truly scary novel in quite some time. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to horror. However, as a younger woman and teenager I loved it and for me, when it comes to frightening- hide under the covers reads, Stephen King tops the list. I haven’t read many of his more recent books, but his classics such as The Shining, Pet Cemetery, Salem’s Lot, and Carrie are sure to send chills down your spine. As I think back, the novel IT was by far his most terrifying book. I often like to read before bed, but this book had me so freaked out, before I turned out the light I had to put that book in a different room, afraid if it sat on my nightstand, the characters would somehow pull me right into their horrifying world.  And in case you’re wondering, no, I did not see the 2017 movie based on the novel. Since we’re talking about Stephen King, two of my favorite (not so scary) novels that I plan to re-read are The Stand and Needful Things. 

A brief Amazon summary:

Stephen King’s terrifying, classic #1 New York Times bestseller, “a landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.

Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

Readers of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It.

When I was in college, I took a literature class where I was introduced to the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I’ve been a fan ever since and enjoy the mystery and darkness that surround his poems and short stories. A few of my favorites are The Cask of Amontillado and The Masque of the Red Death. I highly recommend his book of complete tales and poems.

 

Years ago, I read a series called The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice. The books tell the story of The Mayfair Witches, an old southern family living in New Orleans and the spirit that has guided the women and their fortunes throughout generations. This series was a bit of a commitment, but very enjoyable. Her Vampire Chronicles series is also very good. 

 

A brief Amazon Summary:

From the author of the extraordinary Vampire Chronicles comes a huge, hypnotic novel of witchcraft and the occult through four centuries.

Demonstrating, once again, her gift for spellbinding storytelling and the creation of legend, Anne Rice makes real for us a great dynasty of witches–a family given to poetry and to incest, to murder and to philosophy; a family that, over the ages, is itself haunted by a powerful, dangerous, and seductive being.

On the veranda of a great New Orleans house, now faded, a mute and fragile woman sits rocking . . . and The Witching Hour begins.

It begins in our time with a rescue at sea.  Rowan Mayfair, a beautiful woman, a brilliant practitioner of neurosurgery–aware that she has special powers but unaware that she comes from an ancient line of witches–finds the drowned body of a man off the coast of California and brings him to life.  He is Michael Curry, who was born in New Orleans and orphaned in childhood by fire on Christmas Eve, who pulled himself up from poverty, and who now, in his brief interval of death, has acquired a sensory power that mystifies and frightens him.

As these two, fiercely drawn to each other, fall in love and–in passionate alliance–set out to solve the mystery of her past and his unwelcome gift, the novel moves backward and forward in time from today’s New Orleans and San Francisco to long-ago Amsterdam and a château in the France of Louis XIV.  An intricate tale of evil unfolds–an evil unleashed in seventeenth-century Scotland, where the first “witch,” Suzanne of the Mayfair, conjures up the spirit she names Lasher . . . a creation that spells her own destruction and torments each of her descendants in turn.

Skeletons on Books

 
June – I am a huge scaredy cat.  I saw the movie Poltergeist in the fifth grade and to this day, over 30 years later, I cannot sleep with my closet door open even a crack.  I cannot even watch the previews for a horror film so as you can imagine, I avoid any type of scary read.  Instead, for Halloween, I love books that have a gothic feel or have elements of magic or witches.
 
 Gothic books usually have a dark setting and are written in a style that exudes mystery, dread and often grand passion.  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier  is a classic gothic style novel.  Set in the dark and dreary Cornish coast, the heroine of this story sets out to uncover the mysteries of her husband’s past.  I haven’t read this one in a while but remember feeling chilled as I read this story. 
 
A more contemporary gothic style novel (and one I don’t think got the attention it deserved) is easily one of my most favorite books.  The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Sittenfeld is set in an old and creepy mansion. 
A brief summary from Amazon:
 
When Margaret Lea opened the door to the past, what she confronted was her destiny.

All children mythologize their birth…So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter’s collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself — all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter’s story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida’s storytelling but remains suspicious of the author’s sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us, a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and that we loved as children. Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter and, in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life.

I am definitely rereading this one soon.

Books that have magical elements are great for Halloween. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen is another of my all time favorites.  How can you go wrong with an apple tree that throws apples when it doesn’t like someone or to protect its inhabitants, or a caterer that can make food to make you or others feel certain feelings.

From Amazon:

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.…

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other. 

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own….

Another great genre for Halloween are books with witches as the main characters.  There are a couple of historical fiction books in this genre including the Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe a novel that explores the Salem Witch Trials.

Another great book that explores history and witches and vampires (and I am not a vampire fan as I made it through half of Twilight before I set it aside and have never seen any of the movies) is the Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  This is the first book in a trilogy.  A young scholar, Diana Bishop calls up a alchemical book from the stacks of the Oxford library.  While Diana knows she descends from a long line of witches but she wants nothing to do with the underworld.  By unwittingly calling up the book, Diana unleashes the magical world, leading her to meet a geneticist vampire, Matthew Clairemont.  Matthew and Diana start a taboo relationship further upsetting the magical world.  A book that is rich in history, magic and romance this is a super engrossing read.  

Finally, in Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman and its prequel The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman the characters are modern day witches .  The Owens are a  family of witches that cannot escape their magical heritage.  The books explore family relationships and love with a dose of magic along the way.  And Alice Hoffman’s writing is just lovely and magical on its own.

Enjoy all of your Halloween spooky reading. –May and June

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December; And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.  Edgar Allan Poe

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Thoughts on a Sunday

Fall has (dare I say) arrived here in the south. The heavy wet blanket of heat and humidity that has wrapped itself around us the last several months has finally released its grip, leaving us to bask in the cooler, drier temperatures of fall and winter. I have always loved this time of year, enjoying the vibrant jeweled tones of the changing landscape and the intoxicating scents of pumpkin and spice that make us feel so warm and cozy. 

I am an early riser and with the sun making its appearance later and later each day, I have had an opportunity to witness the most stunning sunrises as my doodle, Sawyer, and I walk into the clearing each morning. I love listening to nature waking up as we make our way down the winding path. The sound of chirping birds and the gentle breeze rustling through the leaves often lulls me into a peaceful meditation. I tend to connect with my breath when I walk so during that time each morning, the distractions, worries, and busyness of life disappear, leaving my body, mind and spirit in a state of tranquility. And, by the time I reach my front porch, I am ready to start my day. 

I hope you all have a present moment today.

Enjoy your Sunday.

~May

Eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure. ~ Tibetan Proverb

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Widows of Malabar Hill

Some Book Recommendations for July

There’s something about summer that makes us want to find lots of time to read.  While we still have to manage regular life, let’s picture ourselves sitting on the porch, or relaxing in a backyard hammock with the sounds of nature in our ears, and a tall cool glass of iced tea at our side as we lose ourselves  in a fabulous book. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? Here’s what we’ve been reading lately. 

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

From Amazon:

From the author of Happiness for Beginners comes the instant New York Times bestseller (May 2018), an unforgettable love story about finding joy even in the darkest of circumstances.

Margaret Jacobsen is just about to step into the bright future she’s worked for so hard and so long: a new dream job, a fiancé she adores, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in a brief, tumultuous moment.

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Maggie must confront the unthinkable. First there is her fiancé, Chip, who wallows in self-pity while simultaneously expecting to be forgiven. Then, there’s her sister Kit, who shows up after pulling a three-year vanishing act. Finally, there’s Ian, her physical therapist, the one the nurses said was too tough for her. Ian, who won’t let her give in to her pity, and who sees her like no one has seen her before. Sometimes the last thing you want is the one thing you need. Sometimes we all need someone to catch us when we fall. And sometimes love can find us in the least likely place we would ever expect.

How to Walk Away is Katherine Center at her very best―a masterpiece of a novel that is both hopeful and hilarious; truthful and wise; tender and brave.

Our Thoughts:  Put this book at the top of your list to read.  It is sweet, a little funny and a little sad in all of the best ways.  June was glad that she finished this one on her back porch instead of public transportation so she could enjoy her cry without the fellow commuters thinking she was crazy.  Margaret goes from the best day of her life to the worst day of her life in an instant.  She has to learn to accept a life that is not how she envisioned but is still perfect in its way.  A feel good book that makes you appreciate how your messy imperfect life is exactly the life you need.

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

From Amazon:

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A shocking discovery on a honeymoon in paradise changes the lives of a picture-perfect couple in this taut psychological thriller debut—for readers of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Shari Lapena.

“A psychological thriller that captivated me from page one. What unfolds makes for a wild, page-turning ride! It’s the perfect beach read!”—Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine book pick)

If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you?
 
Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .
 
Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?
 
Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .
 
Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?
 
Wonder no longer. Catherine Steadman’s enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we’re tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.

Our Thoughts:  This was a pick for the Reese Witherspoon book club so you may be seeing it everywhere and as a result your library hold list may be long.  This is a well done thriller.  You do have to suspend disbelief a bit to believe that the characters do what they end up doing.  However, none of know to what extent we would go if we thought we found treasure that could change our life.  A good summer beach read.

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

From Amazon:

1920s India: Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female lawyer, is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in full purdah when the case takes a turn toward the murderous. The author of the Agatha and Macavity Award-winning Rei Shimura novels brings us an atmospheric new historical mystery with a captivating heroine.
 
Inspired in part by the woman who made history as India’s first female attorney, The Widows of Malabar Hill is a richly wrought story of multicultural 1920s Bombay as well as the debut of a sharp and promising new sleuth.

Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes women’s legal rights especially important to her.

Mistry Law has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What will they live on? Perveen is suspicious, especially since one of the widows has signed her form with an X—meaning she probably couldn’t even read the document. The Farid widows live in full purdah—in strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate, and realizes her instincts were correct when tensions escalate to murder. Now it is her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are  in further danger.

Our Thoughts:  This is a charming mystery with an absolute delightful heroine based on true person.  Set in the 1920s, Perveen is the first woman lawyer in India.  The setting of India is intoxicating and the time period lends a certain formality to the characters and the story.  However, it is also an interesting story of the role of women and the fight for equality.  In the course of settling an estate, Perveen takes an interest in protecting the decedent’s wives who live a cloistered life.  In this case, Perveeen’s gender is a positive because she has access to the wives that men do not.  Unfortunately, a murder occurs in the wives’ home and Perveen’s quest to protect the wives becomes more urgent as she tries to solve the case.  Perveen is utterly charming and brave and I hope that this is the first in a series of books about this heroine.   

The Address

The Address: A Novel by [Davis, Fiona]
 

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility—no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else…and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her “cousin” Melinda—Camden’s biological great-granddaughter—will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in…and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages—for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City—and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich—and often tragic—as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden—and the woman who killed him—on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives—and lies—of the beating hearts within.

Our thoughts: May loved reading about historical New York City and the Dakota (apartments). She knew very little about the Dakota other than it being the site of John Lennon’s untimely death. She enjoyed this story about 2 strong women, one hundred years apart and the mysteries revealed inside the walls of this majestic landmark building. The characters are memorable and the story holds your interest to the very last page. 

The Price of Inheritance

The Price of Inheritance: A Novel by [Tanabe, Karin]

From Amazon:

After eight years in the American Furniture department at Christie’s, twenty-nine-year-old Carolyn Everett is a rising star. But one wrong decision and a scandal leaves her unemployed and broken. Desperate to piece her life back together, Carolyn leaves New York City to work in a tiny antique store in Newport, Rhode Island.

One day at a small county auction, she discovers a piece of Middle Eastern pottery, which she purchases for twenty dollars on a hunch. Curiosity sends her on a mission to find its original owner, and she eventually winds up in the town’s United States Navy Base—and in a relationship with notorious womanizer Marine Sergeant Tyler Ford, who claims the relic came to him as a gift from his translator during the early days of the Iraq War. From two different worlds, Tyler and Carolyn become obsessed with the mysterious relic—and each other—until the origin of the art comes under intense scrutiny and reveals a darker side of Tyler’s past. Carolyn still feels like there’s more to the story, but can she risk attaching herself to another scandal—and does she truly know the man she’s fallen in love with?

The Price of Inheritance is a rare find of a novel. Engaging, suspenseful, and full of intrigue, it delves into the elite world of big bucks deals and dangerous black market promises, where one woman must decide whether she’s willing to gamble her greatest asset—her heart.

Our thoughts: As someone who appreciates antiques, May enjoyed the subject matter, historical factor, and of course you can never go wrong with a little mystery and romance. This was a perfect read to take on vacation, or if you’re just looking for something light to read out on your back porch.

Happy Summer Reading! –May and June

One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by. Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

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What We Are Loving This Spring

Happy Friday! As we head into the weekend, May and June have been thinking about what we’ve been loving this spring. You know, those items and experiences that enhance our present moments.  It feels like warmer temperatures have finally arrived in the midwest, and it’s definitely feeling like summer down in the south. We are so ready for longer days and playing outside. Here are a few things that have us smiling.

As you all know by now, we love fashion and shopping. We did quite a bit of damage together when we lived in the same town, so you might think that living in different states has slowed us down a bit. Nope. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and we still have fun shopping together. We are seeing a big trend toward hair accessories this summer. Pretty scarves for ponytails and colorful, jeweled rubber bands are showing up in most department stores, but our favorite is the colorful headbands we are seeing. We both have longer hair this summer and the headband adds just the right touch to a simple ponytail or bun. The one below is from Anthropologie but you can find them just about anywhere, including Amazon and Etsy.

I (May) have planted a vegetable garden every year for most of  my adult life. The planning, planting, tending, and finally harvesting of the vegetables in the fall is always so fulfilling. Plus, playing in the dirt has always been so therapeutic and grounding. My new yard is a work in progress. I have a vision but of course that comes with a price, and landscape takes time. I am thinking about a raised urban garden at some point, but we have some projects coming up that prevent us from doing anything this summer.  So, I decided to just do a few favorites in pots. For me there is nothing like a tomato picked fresh from the vine, so I bought a potted tomato plant and already have lots of baby tomatoes growing. To go along with the tomatoes I have fresh basil and rosemary. If you don’t have space for a more traditional garden, a potted one is a good alternative. Below is my mini garden this summer.

Part of the fun of moving to a new city is exploring a fresh array of eating establishments, especially when the culture is different from what you’ve always known. It’s always fun to try the trendy hip restaurants where you may need to wait weeks for a reservation, especially in a city like Charleston. However, the little family owned out of the way joints are fun too. A group of us recently had lunch at Martha Lou’s Kitchen, a cozy family owned pink shack that locals frequent for soul food and sweet tea. We enjoyed great food, lots of laughs, and look forward to our next great adventure in lunching. 

Spring and summer are always a good time to change up one of your makeup products, in particular your lipstick or lip gloss.  It’s a relatively inexpensive and a low committed way to add a little summer color.  June had heard about  Dior lip glow which changes to the PH of your own body, to create the perfect color.  It is unfussy, you can simply swipe and go, and it provides moisture much like a lip balm.  This is super fun and while it is a little pricey, June is loving it, and is looking forward to trying other color options.

June has also been busy cleaning out her bookcases.  One thing, she realized, is that there were a bunch of books on the bookshelf that were in the to be read pile.  The question became what to do with the to be read books?  June thought back to her high school days when she worked at the library and decided a book cart would be perfect.  June found this utility cart at Target, which works perfect as a book cart.  This cart could also work great for craft or laundry supplies, but we think it looks super cute as a book cart.

Lastly, Monday (May 21) is May’s birthday.  So we are loving her on her special day!  

Have a good weekend! –May and June

My favorite things in life don’t cost any money.  It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time. Steve Jobs

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I was Anastasia

New Spring Releases

For the last several months, many of us have been hunkered down in our homes reading our latest novel under a warm blanket, cozy by the fire. However, even though the temperatures aren’t always showing it, spring is officially here. We love spring! It’s time to clean out our homes, open windows, lighten the layers, enjoy longer days and stop to notice the beautiful colors on spring blooms. There are so many books coming out this spring and we are excited to get started. Here is just a sampling of what we’re looking forward to reading out on our back porch.   Some of these have already been released this spring and others will be coming soon.  

Beach House Reunion– Mary Alice Monroe (May 22, 2018)

Beach House Reunion (The Beach House Book 5) by [Monroe, Mary Alice]  
From Amazon:
Whisking you back to the shores of her bestselling Beach House series, Mary Alice Monroe weaves together a tale of the struggles and triumphs of the historic Rutledge family of Charleston, South Carolina. Beautifully wrought and rich with keen insight, this is an illuminating tale of new beginnings, resilience, and one family’s enduring love.

Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Everything is comfortingly the same, yet each detail is rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara release the hold of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new love, career, and hope for the future.

Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate who doesn’t know where her life will take her, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is part of the freer, natural ocean lifestyle she loves, rejoining the turtle team, learning to surf, and falling in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.

In this heartwarming novel, three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion.

 

The Perfect Mother– Aimee Molly (May 1, 2018)

The Perfect Mother: A Novel by [Molloy, Aimee] 

From Amazon:

THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF THE SUMMER—SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING SCANDAL’S KERRY WASHINGTON

An addictive psychological thriller about a group of women whose lives become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing.

A night out. A few hours of fun. That’s all it was meant to be.

They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time.

When the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar, they want a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. Now he is missing. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed. 

Thirteen days. An unexpected twist. The Perfect Mother is a “true page turner.” —B.A. Paris, author of Behind Closed Doors  

 

The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go– Amy E. Reichert (May 15, 2018)

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go by [Reichert, Amy E.]
From Amazon:
Three generations. Seven days. One big secret. The author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake unfolds a mother-daughter story told by three women whose time to reckon with a life-altering secret is running out.

Gina Zoberski wants to make it through one day without her fastidious mother, Lorraine, cataloguing all her faults, and her sullen teenage daughter, May, snubbing her. Too bad there’s no chance of that. Her relentlessly sunny disposition annoys them both, no matter how hard she tries. Instead, Gina finds order and comfort in obsessive list-making and her work at Grilled G’s, the gourmet grilled cheese food truck built by her late husband.

But when Lorraine suffers a sudden stroke, Gina stumbles upon a family secret Lorraine’s kept hidden for forty years. In the face of her mother’s failing health and her daughter’s rebellion, this optimist might find that piecing together the truth is the push she needs to let go…

 
 
 
In an enthralling new feat of historical suspense, Ariel Lawhon unravels the extraordinary twists and turns in Anna Anderson’s 50-year battle to be recognized as Anastasia Romanov. Is she the Russian Grand Duchess, a beloved daughter and revered icon, or is she an imposter, the thief of another woman’s legacy?
 
             Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn.
 
Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed. 

Germany, February 17, 1920
: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia. 
     
Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson. 
     As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened. With a brilliantly crafted dual narrative structure, Lawhon wades into the most psychologically complex and emotionally compelling territory yet: the nature of identity itself.
     The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov creates a saga that spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling story is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.
 
 
The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country. 

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

Optioned for film by George Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures, with Scarlett Johansson to star

America’s next favorite Australian author!

“With jaw-dropping discoveries and realistic consequences, this novel is not to be missed. Perfect for lovers of Big Little Lies.” ―Library Journal, starred review

Small, perfect towns often hold the deepest secrets.

From the outside, Essie’s life looks idyllic: a loving husband, a beautiful house in a good neighborhood, and a nearby mother who dotes on her grandchildren. But few of Essie’s friends know her secret shame: that in a moment of maternal despair, she once walked away from her newborn, asleep in her carriage in a park. Disaster was avoided and Essie got better, but she still fears what lurks inside her, even as her daughter gets older and she has a second baby.

When a new woman named Isabelle moves in next door to Essie, she is an immediate object of curiosity in the neighborhood. Why single, when everyone else is married with children? Why renting, when everyone else owns? What mysterious job does she have? And why is she so fascinated with Essie? As the two women grow closer and Essie’s friends voice their disapproval, it starts to become clear that Isabelle’s choice of neighborhood was no accident. And that her presence threatens to bring shocking secrets to light. 

The Family Next Door is Sally Hepworth at her very best: at once a deeply moving portrait of family drama and a compelling suburban mystery that will keep you hooked until the very last page

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

From Amazon:

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. In this haunting, moving, and beautifully written novel, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A founding father’s wife…

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her…

We hope you’re as excited as we are to dive into these new releases. What’s on your reading list?
 
Have a wonderful weekend!
~May and June
 
There is no friend as loyal as a book- Ernest Hemingway
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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Simple Spring Wardrobe Items – Joanna Gaines Style

In some parts of the country, spring has sprung and in others it is slow to arrive (Chicago we are looking at you).  But regardless, we know it’s coming soon and we’ve been enjoying all the spring clothes in store windows and online.  It’s so refreshing to look at light easy styles after the bulk of winter layers. Although neither of us is lacking in the clothes department, we are trying to be more deliberate about simplifying the stuff in our lives, and that includes our closets.   

While she probably did not set out to be a style icon,  we always love the style of Joanna Gaines.  She manages to look casual, cool and pulled together. 

And while she probably has a closet full of clothes, we notice that she does often wear the same items on many of the episodes.  We hope that like us, she finds something she loves and just wears it over and over.  We are both keeping her style in mind as we plan a few key spring purchases that we hope will become those items we wear many times over.

Clogs

We both noticed these clogs that Joanna Gaines often wears on episodes and in her magazine.

We both love clogs.  As a child of the 70s, May often wore clogs growing up.  June, who loves the bohemian style, knows that clogs fit right in.  And for both of us, the clog gives us some height while being a comfortable shoe to wear.  

So, we tracked these down.  They are from Lotta from Stockholm, a Swedish company, but they sell them through Amazon.   As we speak we each have a  pair making their way to us from Sweden.

Midi Skirt

The midi skirt with buttons seems to be a spring favorite that takes us back to the 1980s, when these skirts were popular.  This is one of those styles where you may need to try on a few to find the right one.  If the skirt is too long or voluminous, the style can look frumpy.  June tried on the striped one below but it was too long and looked more religious cult, instead of fashion forward.  However, here are a few that we think may work well.

Loft Striped Midi

Loft Side Button Skirt

The Loft skirts both come in petite sizes, which for those of us who are just an inch or two over 5 feet should fix the length issue.  Loft runs great sales too.

Madewell Striped Chambray Skirt

June tried on this skirt.  It would be super cute on someone who is tall.  

Great Jacket

A light jacket is a good investment for spring because the weather seems to change from hour to hour.  Try a military jacket or a jean jacket. 

Washed Tencel Cargo Jacket

Depending on how your shoulders and arms are built, it is sometimes hard to get a comfortable fit in these jackets.  June often has this problem where the jacket fits her body, but it is too tight in the shoulders.  June found and bought this jacket from a small online retailer called Grace and Lace.  This jacket is made from a soft tencel making it super comfortable and it has details like a drawstring waist, so you can make it even more flattering.  June can’t wait until the weather is warm enough, so she can wear it.  And as an aside, June loves this retailer.  She always gets compliments when she wears their clothes and everything is made with the attention to what looks good on women’s bodies.

Graphic Tees

Graphic tees are great anytime, but we love showing them off in the spring and summer. They are perfect with a pair of shorts, capris, or even a skirt. We found the best selection at Target. There is such a wonderful variety, the fabric is soft and durable, and you can’t beat Target prices. And, if you’re ready to let it go at the end of the season, there’s no guilt. 

 

Have a wonderful Easter weekend!!

~May and June

“I like my money right where I can see it…hanging in my closet.” —Carrie Bradshaw

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Soulful Simplicity

What We’ve Been Reading in March

Happy Spring! It’s time to lighten up our clothes, our homes, and send those long dark nights of winter behind us. We love this time of year as the days grow warmer and we can walk our pups in the evening and still have daylight. However, no matter the season, you can still find us curled up with a good book. Here’s what we’ve been reading in March. 

Lilac Girls- Martha Hall Kelly

From Amazon:  NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For readers of The Nightingale and Sarah’s Key,inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this remarkable debut novel reveals the power of unsung women to change history in their quest for love, freedom, and second chances.

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

Our thoughts:  This debut novel was inspired by a real life WWII heroine, Caroline Ferriday. The story is about three women whose lives intersect during WWII. Much of the story takes place at the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, where medical “experiments” are performed on many of the young women in the camp. These women were later known as “rabbits”.  I am an avid reader of historical fiction, especially WWII, and am still amazed when I learn something new about life in the concentration camps.  I found this story and its characters engaging from start to finish, and even did a little of my own research on the life of Caroline Ferriday, a truly remarkable woman. Loved this book.  

The Woman in the Window: A Novel – A.J. Finn

From Amazon:  For readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in thirty-six languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: a twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.

Our thoughts:  If you’ve read here for any time, you know that thrillers are not our favorite genre. June is usually so mad at the ending that she wants to throw the book through the window.  However, this one had a ton of buzz (June was number 98 on the reserve list at the library) so may as well give it a shot.  For a thriller this one was actually pretty good.  There are some twists that you can kind of see coming which keeps you from being mad at the book and the author.  The ending was satisfying but did not make everything all better.  It is a bit reminiscent of The Girl on the Train where you are not sure you can trust the main character narrator.  However, the fact that she is a recluse is fascinating.  Also, if you are a fan of old movies, the movie references and their similarities to the plot points is probably intriguing.  If you are not a fan of old movies, like me, then those references tend to get a little annoying because they are just gibberish.  If you are looking for a fast read and like thrillers this may be a good one to pick up.  

Soulful Simplicity- Courtney Carver

From Amazon:   Courtney Carver shows us the power of simplicity to improve our health, build more meaningful relationships, and relieve stress in our professional and personal lives.

We are often on a quest for more—we give in to pressure every day to work more, own more, and do more. For Carver, this constant striving had to come to a stop when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Stress was like gasoline on the fire of symptoms, and it became clear that she needed to root out the physical and psychological clutter that were the source of her debt and discontent. 
     In this book, she shows us how to pursue practical minimalism so we can create more with less—more space, more time, and even more love. Carver invites us to look at the big picture, discover what’s most important to us, and reclaim lightness and ease by getting rid of all the excess things.

Our thoughts:  This book had me with the cover. I’m a sucker for a beautiful book cover. Written by Courtney Carver, whose blog Be More with Less was launched in 2010, this for me was a bit of a self help book. Not only does the author help us with the physical act of decluttering and getting more organized, but she also aids us in discovering what’s truly important in life- Love, Happiness, Joy, and Peace. I keep this one on my nightstand and will be giving it as gifts to my friends. 

As Bright as Heaven – Susan Meissner

From Amazon:  From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

Our thoughts:  As a fan of historical fiction, this book is in an era not often written about which is World War I and more specifically the Spanish flu pandemic.  The story is told from the viewpoints of several women in the book.  While the story was set 100 years ago, I could identify with many of the struggles the characters had in the book, loss of a child, adopting a child, struggling to find your tribe in a new city, figuring out who you are, sickness and death.  The family moves into a funeral home to start their new life.  The flu pandemic was scary then and it makes you feel a little scared that it could happen again.  June read this at the end of January which was the height of the flu outbreak this year and this book did make her more than a little bit concerned that she had not gotten around to a flu vaccine this year.  The details about the funeral home, embalming and they accept death as a part of life are interesting to read.  This book makes you feel all of the feelings.  Also, if you’ve not read anything else by this author you should check her out.  The Fall of Marigolds is one of my favorites.

Have a good weekend.  –May and June

There is no friend as loyal as a book.- Ernest Hemingway

 

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A New Year

Here we are, a full week into 2018. After a fun and festive Christmas with family, my husband and I enjoyed celebrating New Year’s Eve with great new friends. We made it home just in time to put on our pj’s, get comfy on the couch with our doodle Sawyer and watch the ball drop in frigid NYC. So long 2017.
 
As I look back, 2017 was a year of many ups and downs, which ultimately ended in loss and heartache, similar to the year before. Losing one family member is difficult, but losing two in less than two years is almost unbearable. I’ve always been a cup half full kind of gal, but I have to tell you I hit a big fat wall with this one. How many times have I gone over that week in my head, trying every scenario that would provide a more favorable outcome? As much as I look forward to the fresh start each New Year offers, I have found myself clinging to 2017, trying to stop time so I can remain connected to this past year with my only brother. But life doesn’t work that way, does it? Time marches on. Sometimes we go willingly and other times we find ourselves being dragged along, our heel marks trailing behind us. Why is being in the moment so damn difficult?
 
I used to make resolutions. Each New Year’s morning I would sit down with my pretty journal and a cup of coffee, enjoying the quiet of the morning while everyone slept. I would carefully plan out my year, my goals, my hopes and dreams, etc….As I’ve gotten older and hopefully wiser, I’ve slowly walked away from that tradition. You know the saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Well, there is quite a bit of truth to that. I’m discovering that for me, life is truly about the moment, realizing that it can change at anytime, and being ok with that. It’s about embracing all the good that comes into our life, such as finding a soul mate, having children, a great career, or even something as simple as putting together a jigsaw puzzle with your favorite girls, or a spontaneous playdate during a freak snowstorm in Charleston. Along with the good, however, we must also accept the difficult moments and the lessons we learn from them. Those are the moments that forever change us, that force us to sink or swim. We have to be able to carry the burdens too, as challenging as that can be sometimes, because it’s those experiences that force us to grow. 
 
One of my favorite episodes from The Office is Pam and Jim’s wedding. If you’re a fan like me, you know and love that episode as much as I do. If you’re not a fan of the show, check it out on Netflix. It’s the best!! Throughout the episode, Pam and Jim decide to take mental pictures of all the unforgettable moments on their wedding day.  Those memories that can’t be captured in a photograph. I find myself doing that more often these days. It forces me to be present and connected to what is happening around me. I still have goals and I love to daydream, but in 2018 and beyond I want to take a mental picture when I’m outside with Sawyer before bed, standing on the deck and gazing at the big beautiful moon, the twinkling stars, and the vastness of our universe. When I’m on the phone with a dear friend, I want to take a mental picture of our conversation and laughter, and when I look at an old photograph of my brother and I, I will take a mental picture of that too, seeing the memory of that day through my tears. As I stumble through this year and this life, I want to learn to take the good with the bad and not beat myself up if I’m having a bad day. The sun will come out tomorrow.
Snow day in Charleston
 
Here’s to a year of living in the present moment.
 
I wish you all the best in 2018.
 
May
 
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt
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