Author Archive | maymeetsjune

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What We’ve Learned Lately

Well, it’s official. We have entered the dog days of summer. Store aisles that have been filled with coolers, beach towels, and gardening tools the last few months are now stocked with pencils, spiral notebooks, and other school supplies, ready for a school year that is quickly approaching. We know the pumpkins are next! With that said, we’re not quite ready to say goodbye to the long days of the season just yet, and here are a few things we’ve learned this summer.

It’s nice to take a vacation from healthy eating and our workout routine, but always a bit painful getting back on the wagon.  Summer tends to lend itself to getting out of your eating and workout regime, so give yourself a bit of a break knowing that you will make up for it when the regular schedule of life resumes.

For those of us who are very structured with our schedule (May and June), it’s ok to take a break, re-evaluate, and try something new. Remember, change is healthy and can even open new doors.

If you’re not already in one, join a book club or start your own. You will get an opportunity to read something you wouldn’t ordinarily pick on your own, it’s a great place to cultivate new friendships, and of course there’s always great food and wine.

This is a difficult one, we know, but try to embrace adversity. Generally, when something difficult enters our world, it is a tap on the shoulder that a new road is waiting for us. Try to understand what that challenge is teaching us, and go with it. Change always results in growth, even if it is wearisome. 

Similarly, stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something that scares you shakes things up.  It may be uncomfortable in the moment, but ultimately the feeling of pride overrules fear.

It is nice to have the house to yourself for a few days, and even better when your spouse comes home.  Absence sometimes makes you remember how much you miss each other.

Chocolate makes everything better.  Indulge (in moderation of course)!

Have a good weekend. –May and June

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. Mahatma Gandhi

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Here’s what we’ve been reading in July

Our days have been a little out of control lately around May Meets June.  Summer does that.  Your schedule gets thrown out the window to enjoy the fleeting season.  If you are looking for a little grounding this weekend, though, sitting with a good book may be a good option.  Here are a few books we’ve read lately.  

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

Drawing on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin―creator and writer of the new PBS Masterpiece drama Victoriaand author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter―brings the young nineteenth-century monarch, who would go on to reign for 63 years, richly to life in this magnificent novel.

Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world.

Despite her age, however, the young queen is no puppet. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.

“I do not like the name Alexandrina,” she proclaims. “From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria.”

Next, people say she must choose a husband. Everyone keeps telling her she’s destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.

On June 19th, 1837, she was a teenager. On June 20th, 1837, she was a queen. Daisy Goodwin’s impeccably researched and vividly imagined new book brings readers Queen Victoria as they have never seen her before.

Our thoughts: If you’ve been watching the PBS mini-series on Victoria, this book pretty much follows the first several episodes. This historical novel tells the story or Queen Victoria’s first two years as an unexpected successor to the throne. It was definitely a coming of age story as a reigning queen and add to that, the often times funny romance with her future husband, Albert. An enjoyable read.

 

The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan

Years ago, Flora fled the quiet Scottish island where she grew up — and she hasn’t looked back. What would she have done on Mure? It’s a place where everyone has known her all her life, where no one will let her forget the past. In bright, bustling London, she can be anonymous, ambitious… and hopelessly in love with her boss.

But when fate brings Flora back to the island, she’s suddenly swept once more into life with her brothers (all strapping, loud and seemingly incapable of basic housework) and her father. Yet even amid the chaos of their reunion, Flora discovers a passion for cooking — and finds herself restoring dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour: a café by the sea.

But with the seasons changing, Flora must come to terms with past mistakes… and work out exactly where her future lies…

Our thoughts: May and June are both fans of Jenny Colgan’s novels. She writes the perfect story if you’re looking for a little escape to someplace beautiful, want a little romance, and of course, delicious food. We love that their are always recipes in her books. This takes place in a little coastal town in Scotland where the main character, Flora, must return to her home town for work and has to confront past conflicts with her family. Oh, and she is hopelessly in love with her boss, Joel.

 

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

 

Can you miss something you never had?

Jubilee Jenkins is no ordinary librarian. With a rare allergy to human touch, any skin-to-skin contact could literally kill her. But after retreating into solitude for nearly ten years, Jubilee’s decided to brave the world again, despite the risks. Armed with a pair of gloves, long sleeves, and her trusty bicycle, she finally ventures out the front door—and into her future.

Eric Keegan has troubles of his own. With his daughter from a failed marriage no longer speaking to him, and his brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son attempting telekinesis, Eric’s struggling to figure out how his life got so off course, and how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. So when an encounter over the check-out desk at the local library entangles his life with that of a beautiful—albeit eccentric—woman, he finds himself wanting nothing more than to be near her.

Our thoughts:  This book made you root for the heroine.  She has had such a hard life because of her allergy and her mother.  It made me wonder what it would be like to be afraid to be touched by any other person or risk your life.  It would be isolating and we take small touches from our loved ones for granted.  The ending is very satisfying and makes you smile through some tears.  And, of course, we always love a book set in part in a library.

Have a good weekend.  Enjoy the season for all that it is and maybe enjoy some lazy days. –May and June

There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs.  -Henry Ward Beecher

 

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Celebrating the 4th of July

With the long 4th of July weekend ahead, we are looking forward to celebrating our country’s birthday by taking in a town parade, attending a festival or two, having a backyard BBQ with friends, and of course it wouldn’t be the 4th of July without fireworks. Today, we have put together a perfect treat that everyone will enjoy, as well as a table centerpiece to make your home a little more festive.

Let’s face it, one treat that everyone loves is a dessert with chocolate chips. Instead of a classic cookie, May decided to make chocolate chip cookie bars for an upcoming BBQ. They are easy to make, (no mixer required) travel well, can take the backyard heat, plus you can dress them up with a few fun and festive sides.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Ingredients:

•2 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour ( I love King Arthur’s brand)

•1 teaspoon baking soda

•1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tsp cinnamon

•1/2 teaspoon salt

•3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

•1 cup packed light brown sugar

•1/4 cup granulated sugar

•1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

•2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

•1 cup  semi-sweet chocolate chips

Optional toppings: M&M’s, whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides to easily lift the bars out of the pan when cool. Set aside.

2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl.

3 .In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Mix in the egg, then the egg yolk. Finally, mix in the vanilla extract. The mixture will be thick. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together until combined. The dough will be very soft and thick. Fold in the chocolate chips. The chips may not stick to the dough because of the melted butter, but do your best to combine them.

4. Transfer dough to the prepared baking pan and smooth into an even layer. I usually add a few more chocolate chips on top of the dough before baking  so you can see the chocolate chips on top. Bake for 32-35 minutes or until lightly browned on the sides. Use a toothpick to test for doneness; if it comes out clean from the center of the pan, the bars are done.

5. Allow the bars to cool in the pan set on a wire rack for at least an hour. Once they are cool, lift the foil out of the pan and cut into squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

These cookie bars are delicious on their own, or if you want to get into the spirit of the holiday, you can add a little vanilla ice cream with red, white, and blue M&M’s sprinkled on top, or a little whipped cream with strawberries and blueberries.

And for our table centerpiece we went super patriotic.  This is the time of year to pull out all of the red, white and blue.  Once again we kept the centerpiece super easy so you can put it together quickly, especially if you are hosting a party and have lots of other things to do.

We took a five bud vase holder and added tiny 4th of July pinwheels.  June has loved pinwheels since she was a very little girl and this love has not waned.  So when she saw these pinwheels they brought a smile to her face.  The bud vase holder and the pinwheels were all found at Joann Fabrics.  Joann Fabrics is a great place to find supplies and accessories to make centerpieces and mantle displays.  They have cute seasonal items at reasonable prices and they always have coupons and sales.

We then added some sparkly dohookies (no idea what they are called) in red, white and blue.

A small chalkboard sign with a patriotic saying.  For this chalkboard we just did USA, but other fun sayings could be “the rockets red glare,” “boom,” or “sweet land of liberty.”

And then we put it all on a very patriotic table runner.

It is always fun to put together a festive table centerpiece for a holiday.  If you are hosting outside, this centerpiece would be particularly fun because the wind would twirl the pinwheels.

Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend!  May you enjoy the sweet summer weather, family and friends, barbecue and fireworks.  Most importantly remember to appreciate all that we are privileged to experience as Americans. –May and June

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson

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Beach Reads

This week we celebrated the first official day of summer.  So, we can’t think of a better time to check out some summer beach reads.  Beach reads are a little tricky.  On the one hand you want to read something that is light and fun that doesn’t contain long involved prose and themes, but on the other hand you don’t want something that makes you feel like your brain is slowly melting due to stupidity.  There are a few tried and true authors that almost always write a novel that fulfills this requirement.  We have also included a few other beach reads that sound intriguing.

 

Mary Kay Andrews

Mary Kay Andrews usually sets her books in Savannah, Georgia or Tybee Island, Georgia.  What better way to spend a summer day than reading a story set in the deep South?  There is almost always a small mystery, a love story, and some flea market picking.  Some favorites include Savannah Blues, Save the Date and Summer Rental.

Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hildebrand sets all of her novels in Nantucket.  Nantucket always ends up being a character in the story.  Some favorites include The Castaways, Silver Girl and most recently, The Identical’s.

 

Mary Alice Monroe

Mary Alice Monroe tends to write about the parallels between nature and life.  She is a resident of South Carolina and interestingly, May is going to an author event where she is the guest speaker this weekend. Some of her books include The Summer Girls, The Summer’s End, and her just released Beach House for Rent.

Paula Mclain

Paula Mclain is best known for her book, The Paris Wife. She has written A Ticket to Ride about a long hot summer in Illinois, and most recently Circling the Sun.

Karen White

May just finished and thoroughly enjoyed Karen’s latest novel, The Night the Lights Went Out. Other titles include The Girl on Legare Street,  and Spinning the Moon.  Most of her novels are based in the low country of the Southeast.

Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is known for writing romantic comedy fiction. Some of our favorites are Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe, The Bookshop on the Corner, and The Loveliest Little Chocolate Shop in Paris. Her newest release is The Cafe by the Sea.

There are oh so many wonderful summer reads out there, it’s so hard to choose!! If you’re looking for something a little light to read this summer, we’re positive you’ll find something you like from our list.

 

What are some of your favorite beach reads?

Have a great weekend. ~May and June

 

A good book on the beach is pure bliss.

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Summer Dresses For Everyday

Although summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21, school is out, temperatures are warming up, and we are all enjoying the longer days. For us, summer is here. WooHoo!! It’s the season for iced tea,  the pool and the beach, long evening walks, BBQ’s, and of course enjoying the lighter layers that come with a summer wardrobe.

May and June are all about sundresses this summer. Not only are they feminine and flirty, sundresses can easily transition from day to evening, they keep you cool, and there are so many styles to choose from. So, if you don’t like your legs or you want to camouflage your arms, or you want something a little looser around the middle which let’s face it, we all want when it’s 90 degrees outside, chances are you will find the perfect dress.

You can also find sundresses at every price point.  From the pricier at Anthropologie or Nordstrom to the more reasonable Target or Old Navy.

Here are a few we have seen online that we may need to go and try on:

 

Tulip Patchwork Dress

Women’s Knit Ruffle T-Shirt Dress

Floral Drawstring Henley Dress

V-Neck Jersey Maxi Dress

Bo & Nic sheath dress in Vera Cruz Daisy  May found this at a little downtown boutique and loves it. The print is so cute and the fabric doesn’t wrinkle in the South Carolina heat.

Printed Maxi Dress

Enjoy the heat and toss on a sundress wherever you are going.  Great for errands or a dinner out.  Have a good weekend. –May and June

“A woman’s dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view.” —Sophia Loren

 

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The Cafe by the Sea

Summer Reading- New Releases

Hi everyone and Happy June!! We love this time of year!!! As we head into longer days and warm summer nights, we can’t think of anything better than a page turning thriller sitting out on the back porch with a glass of iced tea,  a sweet love story as we relax in a beach chair with our toes in the ocean, or a great work of historical fiction curled up on our favorite easy chair. Plus, we must not forget that it’s June’s birthday month. We both take our books everywhere with us because you never know when you might have a few moments to escape the ho hum of life, even if it’s for just a short time.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, meaning that if you click and purchase we may receive a small commission.

Let’s hear it for summer reading season!! Today we would like to share some great new releases by authors we love, as well as some new discoveries.  We have not read most of these since many are not released, but we have them on our list!

The Stars Are Fire- Anita Shreve (April 18)

From Amazon:

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot’s Wife (an Oprah’s Book Club selection): an exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath–based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine’s history

In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms–joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain–and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens–and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.

Into The Water – Paula Hawkins (May 2)

From Amazon:

An addictive new novel of psychological suspense from the author of #1 New York Times bestseller and global phenomenon The Girl on the Train.

“Hawkins is at the forefront of a group of female authors – think Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott – who have reinvigorated the literary suspense novel by tapping a rich vein of psychological menace and social unease… there’s a certain solace to a dark escape, in the promise of submerged truths coming to light.” –Vogue

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Before We Were Yours- Lisa Wingate (June 6)

From Amazon:

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge–until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents–but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals–in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country–Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

The Alice Network- Kate Quinn (June 6)

From Amazon:

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

The Identicals- Elin Hildebrand (June 13)

From Amazon:

Identical twin sisters who couldn’t look more alike…or live more differently.

Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She’s inherited her father’s rundown house on Martha’s Vineyard, but she can’t hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking.

Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.

Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She’s also inherited her mother’s questionable parenting skills–Tabitha’s teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode–and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion.

One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.

After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands–and lives–to save what’s left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they’d outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.

The Lying Game- Ruth Ware (June 15)

From Amazon:

From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel.

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Every Last Lie- Mary Kubica (June 27)

From Amazon:

New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow’s pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche. 

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

The Cafe By the Sea -Jenny Colgan (June 27)

From Amazon:

The beloved author of The Bookshop on the Corner returns with a sparkling, sunny, soulful new novel perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand.

Years ago, Flora fled the quiet Scottish island where she grew up — and she hasn’t looked back. What would she have done on Mure? It’s a place where everyone has known her all her life, where no one will let her forget the past. In bright, bustling London, she can be anonymous, ambitious… and hopelessly in love with her boss.

But when fate brings Flora back to the island, she’s suddenly swept once more into life with her brothers (all strapping, loud and seemingly incapable of basic housework) and her father. Yet even amid the chaos of their reunion, Flora discovers a passion for cooking — and finds herself restoring dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour: a café by the sea.

But with the seasons changing, Flora must come to terms with past mistakes… and work out exactly where her future lies…

Funny and heartfelt, The Café by the Sea is a delightful summertime novel that puts a modern twist on the classic Seven Brides for Seven Brothers story.

We are so excited to get lost in all these books. If you’re like us and get your books from the library, better get on the waiting list for some of these now since there can be long waits. Both of us got on the waitlist for Into the Water at number 90-something. But for us, waiting is part of the fun. We love the anticipation as we wait for the email letting us know our books are ready to be picked up.  And if you can’t wait, all of the books are linked to Amazon which usually delivers it on the release day.  It’s going to be a good summer for reading!

 

“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” Jeannette Walls.

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The Art of Arranging Flowers

What We Are Reading In May

It’s hard to believe we are actually coming to the end of May. We are on the eve of Memorial Day weekend, and although many of you will be celebrating your day off watching a parade or getting together with friends for a great BBQ, we can’t think of a better way to spend some of our time off sitting out in the yard, or by the beach getting lost in a great book.

Here is what we’ve been reading this month.

Love Walked In- Marisa De Los Santos

From Amazon:

When Martin Grace enters the hip Philadelphia coffee shop Cornelia Brown manages, her life changes forever. But little does she know that her newfound love is only the harbinger of greater changes to come. Meanwhile, across town, Clare Hobbs—eleven years old and abandoned by her erratic mother—goes looking for her lost father. She crosses paths with Cornelia while meeting with him at the café, and the two women form an improbable friendship that carries them through the unpredictable currents of love and life.

Love Walked In, the first novel by award-winning poet Marisa de los Santos, is bursting with keen insight and beautifully rendered prose. Invoking classic movies to illuminate the mystery and wonder of love in all its permutations, Love Walked In is an uplifting debut that marks the entrance of an enchanting literary voice.

Our thoughts: This story centers around a young woman and an eleven year old girl who because of circumstance, end up together where a friendship develops as they both try to navigate their own personal journeys, as well as the journey they are on together. I’ve read a few of Marisa De Los Santos’ other novels, but somehow missed this one, her first. It is a sweet story about love.

The Women in the Castle: A Novel by Jessica Shattuck

From Amazon:

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

Our thoughts:  There is a lot of World War II fiction out there but this one is a little different.  More than focusing on the war, it explores the time after the war.  How do people go on with their lives?  How do people put the things they did during the war behind them?  And how do they coexist and form relationships with their neighbors who had different viewpoints and objectives during the war?  This story is about three women.  One who was a knowing participant in the German resistance, one who was married to a member of the German resistance who knew nothing but suffered for her husband’s treason at the time and one who created a new identity for herself because of her active participation in the Nazi acts during the war.  This is a complicated story of survival, moving forward, forgiveness and forming family when the world has been torn about.  I was taken in by this book and could not wait to pick it up again.  A tough topic at times but it will keep your attention.

The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard

From Amazon:

A moving and eloquent novel about love, grief, renewal—and the powerful language of flowers.

Ruby Jewell knows flowers. In her twenty years as a florist she has stood behind the counter at the Flower Shoppe with her faithful dog, Clementine, resting at her feet. A customer can walk in, and with just a glance or a few words, Ruby can throw together the perfect arrangement for any occasion.

Whether intended to rekindle a romance, mark a celebration, offer sympathy, or heal a broken heart, her expressive floral designs mark the moments and milestones in the lives of her neighbors. It’s as though she knows just what they want to say, just what they need.

Yet Ruby’s own heart’s desires have gone ignored since the death of her beloved sister. It will take an invitation from a man who’s flown to the moon, the arrival of a unique little boy, and concern from a charming veterinarian to reawaken her wounded spirit. Any life can be derailed, but the healing power of community can put it right again.

Our thoughts:  I was completely charmed by this novel.  This book seems light from outward appearances but handles topics of grief and letting yourself open to live.  A bit predictable but full of fun and quirky characters.  Ruby has conversations with her dog that made me laugh out loud.  Being the soft-hearted person I am, I was very worried that Ruby was going to suffer the horrible loss of her dog.  For others in that same boat (and this is spoiler) something does happen to the dog Clementine but she is ok.  A story about opening yourself to love of all kinds even when your heart has been irretrievably broken.  The best kind of ending that mixes tears and laughter at the same time.

We hope you have a fun and safe holiday weekend and stay tuned for our summer reading book list coming soon.  We are going to make your TBR pile as big as ours!!!

~May and June

A book is a dream that you hold in your hands. 

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that if you click on a link and make a purchase we may make a small commission.

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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know – All About May

This Sunday is May’s birthday.  So first everyone wish her a Happy Birthday!  Second, in our birthday months we always like to do something a little special.  So we thought it would be fun to interview each other.  I, June, interviewed May to find out everything you ever wanted to know about her.  Well, maybe not really but there are some interesting tidbits here.

The following is not an accurate and completely editorialized interview of my interview with May.  June’s comments are in pink italics.

So give me your stats – I am married to Bob.  I have two sons and two daughters and a labradoodle named Sawyer.  I am in the process of moving permanently to Charleston, South Carolina but right now have a home there and in the northwest suburbs of Chicago (If anyone is looking for a new home, May’s house is gorgeous and you should look at it).  I am a yoga teacher currently on sabbatical, an interior designer that is currently working on my new home, a blogger who is hoping to take over the blogosphere, a corporate and regular wife and a mom.

When and why did you become a yoga teacher?  I became a yoga teacher in 1998. I was going through a difficult time in my life (divorce) and a friend suggested that I try yoga.  After my first class I was hooked and a year later decided that I wanted to teach.  I completed a two year program that studied both the philosophy and the teaching of yoga. I know May had to do a residency for her yoga program and it was an all vegetarian diet at the yoga center which meant lots and lots of beans.  At the airport waiting for her flight home, May ate the best burger and drank the best beer she ever had in her whole life. 

What is your favorite yoga pose?  Child’s pose is my favorite because you can do it anywhere and anytime.  It releases tension in the body.  I also like headstand because it allows me to the look at the world from a different perspective. It really depends on my mood.

 

Everyone has a favorite holiday but what is your second favorite holiday?  Christmas is my second favorite holiday because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

What is your favorite season?  My favorite season is summer although I also really really like Fall (unlike June who hates Fall).

What do you look forward to in the summer?  I look forward to being in my garden and playing in the dirt and just being outside in general. This summer is a little different because I am selling a house, packing it up and moving to Charleston, South Carolina. (June now has her fingers in her ears singing La La La because she doesn’t want to hear about May moving.)

What is one thing that you are good at that no one else in your family is good at?  Organizing. (I’ve been subject to her organizing when she helped me clean my closet.  She is good but mean, very mean.)

What is one of your pet peeves?  When people don’t clean up after themselves. (Are you guys noticing a theme?  Just so everyone knows, May’s nickname is Monica after the Friends character who needs to clean and cleans even after other people have cleaned because it’s not clean enough.)

What is one thing that you are not good at that you wish you could do better?  Math.  I was terrible at geometry.  I had to have tutoring sessions with the teacher and took it pass/fail.  The teacher agreed to pass me if I promised never to have a career that involved anything with math. (I hear you Sister.)

What do you do for fun?  Biking ( Bob and I biked over 500 miles last summer), trying new restaurants (especially in my new city), reading and cooking.

What are some of your favorite childhood books?  Boxcar children, Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, and of course Little Women.

What are some favorite books as an adult?  The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley.  A writer goes to Scotland to do research for her book and she begins to experience some of the parts of her research.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, and the Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  Honestly, there are so many favorites!!

What are some of your favorite TV shows?  Outlander, The Crown, any Masterpiece series show, The Walking Dead and Younger (I agree with a lot of those but The Walking Dead.  Scary.)

What are some of your favorite movies?  Gone With The Wind (she and her mom often say to each other, “We’ll worry about it tomorrow, Scarlett”), Star Wars, Jaws, ET, any movie with Audrey Hepburn.  I also like foreign films.

What is one weird or unusual thing about you?  I have always enjoyed listening to classical music when I cook or bake.  I used to have a little radio in my kitchen and I would turn on the classical station while I was cooking.  The classical music relaxes and inspires me in the kitchen.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?  I would like to know the future.  As a structured and organized person if I knew the future I could prepare for it. (Umm, May do you remember that we are all about living in the present moment? )  I also would like to be able to fly.

Thank you May for allowing me to interview you and ask you some crazy questions.  I wish you the happiest of birthdays and so many blessings in the upcoming year.  I am so going to miss you when you move away from me.  I have already missed you this winter.  It’s good thing we don’t get charged by the text because we would literally go broke.  I love you my dear friend. –June

Today you are you that is truer than true.  There is no one alive that is youer than you.  -Dr. Seuss

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What’s Awesome Lately – May Edition

We think it is always a good thing to recognize your life for being awesome.  The awesomeness does not have to be saved for big moments but can be appreciated in small moments.  Here are a few things that we think are awesome lately.

Friday.  It’s Friday!!!  Friday’s are always awesome.  You can do anything on Friday.

Mother’s Day.  This weekend is Mother’s Day.  If you are a mom take time and enjoy being celebrated for the sometimes thankless but rewarding job of being a mom.  And we all have a mom so make sure to celebrate your mom.  If you are still looking for gift ideas we have some thoughts.

Spring Weather.  Because it is May it means that our favorite season, summer, is quickly approaching.  The earth is waking up from its long winter sleep and showing us her beautiful colors.  Looking out the window, going out for a walk or sitting on a lawn chair is awesome right now.

New Clothes.  The change of seasons also means that it is fun to look and maybe buy a few new clothes.

The ruffle is a big trend this summer.  It is a cute feminine detail and can be flattering.  You can find it on dresses, blouses and even t-shirts.

 

Gingham seems to be on trend this summer as well.  Gingham is always a sweet print but it is being done in styles that don’t make it too young to pull off.

And warm weather would not be the same without dresses.  Now is a good time to look for a few comfortable dress to be cool and look pulled together even in the steamy heat.  This is a cute sundress and looks to be a nice length.

Mexican Food.  Cinco de Mayo was last week and that combined with outdoor dining, makes us want to eat all of the chips and guacamole, tacos and margaritas.  Mexican food is always awesome maybe because it feels like a party.  One of our favorite Mexican restaurants is Uncle Julio’s, the skinny margarita is more than awesome, and we were excited to see that they are expanding and opening more restaurants.

Fun Quotes.  A fun quote we saw this week:

So check out the awesome in your life.  And have an awesome weekend. –May and June

“Whenever I’m sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.” — Barney Stinson

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Celebrating Mother’s Day

Have you thought about how you are going to celebrate your mom this year? For a few weeks, we have noticed the sweet Mother’s Day commercials showering mothers everywhere with flowers, candy, and of course a Hallmark card. Last year, May and June posted a special tribute to their moms, and today we thought we would offer a few out of the box suggestions for celebrating those women who mean so much to us.

                           

 

Along with your mom’s favorite flowers, how about writing and sending a handwritten note on beautiful stationery? There is something so special and personal about a letter written from the heart that you find in your mailbox. We love the beautiful stationery at Papyrus. In addition, they offer beautiful cards and planners as well as gifts for any special occasion. 

Have you thought about planning a Mother’s Day outing? Sure, there is always going out for the traditional brunch, but sometimes it’s fun to make it a little more personal. Why not pack a special picnic with your mom’s favorite foods and enjoy the day at the beach, a beautiful garden, or a park?  You can also host a little dinner party at your home, especially if you live somewhere where spring weather in May is not always a given.

We also understand that sometimes, a celebration isn’t possible because a mom is no longer with us, and yet we still want to honor her. Getting together with siblings to reminisce and celebrate someone you all called “mom” is a wonderful way to keep her close to your heart.

Of course if you want to give your mom a gift, there is nothing like a book. May and June love, love, love books and think a great coffee table book about Paris, or your mom’s favorite city, or something inspirational that she can regularly go back to is a perfect gift. Don’t forget to write something personal inside the cover and date it.

Is your mom into yoga? We both firmly believe that everyone should be enjoying the benefits of this beautiful practice. A new yoga mat is a wonderful way to say I love you, and you can find them in beautiful colors, patterns, and thicknesses.

How will you celebrate your mom?

Have a great weekend. ~May and June

“Motherhood: All love begins and ends there.” —Robert Browning

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What We’ve Learned Lately

What We’ve Learned Lately

Today we are celebrating the last Friday in April before we move into one of our two favorite months… May of course! Let the May flowers bloom!! We are always taking away lessons as we journey through life and love to share the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly. Sometimes these are profound and other times, they are just trivial.  Here are just a few things we’ve learned lately.

Our pets are our family. Make sure you stay up to date on their health with regular vet appointments, so potential problems can be caught early. Our furry family members give us so much and depend on us for love, care, and overall well being.

Meal prepping on the weekend is a godsend.  June started using a subscription service called Prepdish that sends her menus for the month.  You can pick between paleo and gluten free which means that all of the food is healthy.  The menus include a grocery list and instructions for four dinners, a side salad, a breakfast, a snack and a dessert.  She spends a couple of hours on Sunday prepping the menu items.  Sometimes this means cooking the day’s food completely and other times it means just prepping all of the ingredients to cook the day the meal will be eaten.  There are no more decisions in the evening about what to have for dinner, we are eating healthier (more fish) and throwing away less.  With only 2 people eating, we easily halve the recipes or have leftovers for lunch.

The only journey we are responsible for, is our own. It is not our job to make choices for others. When we do, we deprive them of their own experiences and life lessons. We all must walk our own path.

Take a moment to observe the beauty of nature right in your own backyard. Are rabbits nesting in the middle of your yard? June has had a mama bunny build a nest in the yard almost right outside the front door.  It has been a bit of a challenge to protect the babies from Gatsby.  We have put a little fencing around, but not enclosing the nest to try and dissuade the dog and also protect it from the lawn mower.  The mama bunny does not sit on the nest but she is always nearby.  Apparently, she only comes occasionally to feed her babies and tries not to draw attention to the nest.

When you’re traveling ,make time for an afternoon pick me up and just enjoy the scenery. (You can do this in your own town too!) It’s amazing how much you can learn by simply observing.

Have a good weekend! –May and June

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young. -Henry Ford

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Some Unpopular Opinions

Are there certain things that are popular and you cannot get on the bandwagon no matter how much you try?  I have some fairly unpopular opinions about certain things.  Here are five things I dislike that everyone else seems to love.

Coconut.  I cannot stand coconut.  The texture, the taste, the everything. I had heard coconut water was good for you so I thought I would try it thinking that because it is water it could not taste too much like coconut.  Blech.  No coconut water for me.  Interestingly, I can cook with coconut milk but I am not ready to try a coconut milk latte at Starbucks any time soon.

Flip Flops.  Everyone loves their flip flops except for me.  I do wear flip flops and I don’t hate them but they are not my footwear of choice.  I wear them for pedicures.  I wear them when it’s hot out around the house or to run quick errands.  I do not wear them if I have to drive, walk any distance or if it’s chilly outside.  The last few days we have had a string of some nice weather but it has been chilly in morning.  The coat and flip flop look has been going strong.  My attitude is that if it is cold enough for a coat then it is too cold for flip flops.  And I can only wear flip flops if the part that goes in between your toes is soft.  Those cheap rubber ones hurt my feet so I usually pick Teva flip flops.

Thriller Books.  Everybody loved the books Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn or Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  There was so much hype and buzz around those two books.  I read them and quite honestly they made me so mad that I wanted to throw both of them through the window.  I guess as an author a strong reaction by a reader is not a bad thing although, maybe anger is not the reaction you want.  After reading a few more novels in the thriller genre, I have decided that I do not really like them.  However, because there is often a lot of talk around them and they are typically a fast read, I will probably still continue to read the most buzzed ones.  I guess I will never learn.

Cantaloupe.  This is another food dislike and I think I am the only one.  Every fruit salad or side of fruit includes cantaloupe and I cannot stand it.  I cannot even pick around it because the taste of cantaloupe infiltrates the flavor of every other fruit it touches.   Even the smell or mention of it makes me wrinkle my nose.   My mom likes to make fruit salads for parties and she loves cantaloupe.   However, because she must love me more, she puts the cantaloupe in a separate bowl so I don’t have to eat my fruit contaminated with cantaloupe.

Running.  I think running is a sport that you either love or hate.  I have tried to love running but just cannot.  Even when I was in really good shape, I detested running.  The whole time I run I just keep thinking, “I hate this, I cannot breathe and when is this over.”  I do other cardio exercise such as spinning or interval training but I do not like to run.  I think my body was not built to run.

Although my dislikes often elicit a strong reactions, I think it is good that we all have different preferences.  Otherwise life would be boring.  Do you have anything you really do not like that others just do not understand?  –June

 

I hate with a bitter hatred the names of lentils haricots — those pretentious cheats of the appetite, those tabulated humbugs, those certified aridites calling themselves human food!”
George Robert Gissing, English novelist

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Sugar Men

April Books

It’s Friday and time for our April book picks. The weather is warming up which means fun summer beach reads are just around the corner. We both are dreaming about warm evenings reading on the back porch……but for now, we think you’ll enjoy these recent reads.

The Sugar Men by Ray Kingfisher

From Amazon:

Sixty-four years ago, Susannah Morgan managed to flee the horrors of the Holocaust. But the memories of that childhood ordeal have proven impossible to sweep away.

For most of her new life spent settled in sleepy North Carolina, the flashbacks have been a lonely obsession—one she has hidden from her family, and about which her heart is torn. Because for all the pain and the cruelty of those terrible years, she harbours sweet memories too, of unexpected friends who risked their own lives in order to save hers. As Susannah’s time on earth draws to a close, her innermost thoughts of those long-gone days become questions—ones that demand answers.

Against the wishes of her children, Susannah returns to Germany and the scene of unspeakable crimes. There she will come face to face with the Holocaust’s terrible, wretched legacy, and will finally make peace with the ghosts of her past.

Our thoughs:  We’ve both read a lot of books about WWII and the Holocaust. This particular novel focuses on the life of Susannah Morgan, going back and forth between present time in North Carolina and Nazi occupied Germany. This was our first novel read by this particular author and we felt the transition between time periods was smooth and the book was written with much sensitivity considering the subject matter. A tissue or two may be needed.

Savannah Blues: A Novel by Mary Kay Andrews

 

From Amazon:

Meet Weezie (aka Eloise) Foley, a feisty antiques “picker,” banished by her spiteful ex-husband from the house she herself restored in Savannah’s historic district, who must come to terms with a life that has suddenly changed…and  not, it, seems for the better. In Mary Kay Andrews’s delectable New York Times bestseller, Savannah Blues, readers will feel the sultry Georgia breezes and taste sea salt in the air, as they lose themselves in a wonderful, witty tale brimming with sass and peopled by a richly endearing cast of delightfully eccentric characters. Revenge is sweeter than sweet in Mary Kay’s capable hands, and readers of Fannie Flagg, Adriana Trigiani, Emily Giffin, Rebecca Wells, and Jill Conner Browne will definitely want to spend some quality time in Savannah.

Our thoughts:  This was a fun, fun, fun novel by Mary Kay Andrews. It was easy to fall in love with her quirky characters and if you love Savannah and antiques, you are going to enjoy this mystery. Her descriptive writing makes you feel that you are actually part of the sultry Georgia climate and by the end, you too will want to spend a little time in Savannah. If you enjoy this one, don’t worry, Mary Kay Andrews has many more novels worth reading.

Exit West: A Novel by Moshin Hamid

From Amazon:

As featured in the Skimm, on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Fresh Air, PBS Newshour, the cover of the New York Times Book Review, and more, an astonishingly visionary love story that imagines the forces that drive ordinary people from their homes into the uncertain embrace of new lands.

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

Our thoughts:  This is first and foremost a love story about the two main characters.  And sometimes how being with the familiar is more important than true love.  This is also a very timely story about migrants given current events.  This is not a story about the journey of migration which is a story that has been told many times, but is a story of how you acclimate once you have migrated.  The author uses a trip through a special kind of door to move the characters from one place to another.  The story does not focus on this but it is adds an element of magic to the book.  This book has been much buzzed about as of late and is worth the read.

Happy reading and have a great weekend. Don’t forget to share your great reads!

~May and June

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
 

 

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Happy Easter! – Treats and Tablescapes

Are you hosting Easter this year? Perhaps you’re having a brunch or a dinner? It’s hard to believe spring is here and we’re about to celebrate Easter this weekend, but we are not complaining. We are loving the longer days along with the daffodils and colorful tulips popping out of the ground. Today we have an easy holiday treat and centerpiece to celebrate Easter.

May is not hosting Easter this year, but wanted to bring a festive treat for the dessert table. She preferred to keep it quick and simple and while looking at some favorite recipes, decided to put a twist on another holiday treat, peppermint bark. To make the Easter version of this classic sweet, just follow the directions for melting the chocolate, but instead of using crushed candy canes, you can add roughly chopped Cadbury Mini Eggs. Another option is to use M&M’s in their spring colors, and you don’t need to chop them up.

I left a few eggs whole and stuck them in the chocolate here and there before putting the pan in the fridge for the chocolate to harden.

You can put these on a plate, or if you have kiddos you can place them in a clear bag with a festive ribbon and put them in their Easter baskets.

June decorated her table for Easter.  You know she likes to keep it simple and inexpensive.

She used fresh tulips from the grocery store.  Always a fresh spring flower.  The bunny she got from Pier One (this one is similar).  She then took pink bunny Peeps candy and used them as a vase filler.  A bit controversial but that is the only thing she thinks those Peeps are good for.  There is a candle in that vase.  Because she has not lit it yet, she is not sure whether or not the Peeps will turn into a gooey mess.  The tray which makes a good corral for a multitude of centerpieces is from Target.

After Easter, you can simply replace the Easter theme with a spring gardening theme.  June just switched things out and added the gnome and the kid’s gardening tools from the dollar section at Target.

Happy Easter!

~May and June

“Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.” Janine de Giovanni

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Forever is the Worst Long Time

March Books

It’s time for some book picks for March.  These are books we have recently read.  We are also busy reading book news and listening to podcasts and getting excited about books being released this summer.

Forever is the Worst Long Time by Camille Pagan

From Amazon:

From acclaimed author Camille Pagán comes a wry, heartfelt exploration of love and loss.

When struggling novelist James Hernandez meets poet Louisa “Lou” Bell, he’s sure he’s just found the love of his life. There’s just one problem: she’s engaged to his oldest friend, Rob. So James toasts their union and swallows his desire.

As the years pass, James’s dreams always seem just out of reach—he can’t finish that novel, can’t mend his relationship with his father, can’t fully commit to a romantic relationship. He just can’t move on. But after betrayal fractures Lou’s once-solid marriage, she turns to James for comfort.

When Lou and James act on their long-standing mutual attraction, the consequences are more heartbreaking—and miraculous—than either of them could have ever anticipated. Then life throws James one more curveball, and he, Rob, and Lou are forced to come to terms with the unexpected ways in which love and loss are intertwined.

Our Thoughts:  First, we love the title of this book, it is thoughtful and true.  This is a story of several loves that should not come to be. It is about complicated but beautiful relationships.  It is a story of how messy life can be and things are not always simple.  In order not to give away the ending, we cannot tell you about certain characters or ultimately how the story ends.  But be prepared for a beautiful ending that will put tears in your eyes.

A Piece of the World: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline

From Amazon:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

“Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden.”

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.

Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

Our Thoughts:  This book is by the author of the Orphan Train, which if you have not read, we highly recommend.  This is a book of historical fiction centered around one Andrew Wyeth painting.  I did not know anything about the artist Andrew Wyeth before reading this book, although it was a name I was familiar with.  This book centers around the subject of one of his most famous works called Christina’s World.  The author researched both the subject of the work as well as Andrew Wyeth, and he also invented certain aspects of the book.  I love books about art and the art world so I really enjoyed this read.  The painting Christina’s World is on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and I will have to make sure to see it if I ever visit.

This Is How It Always Is: A Novel by Laurie Frankel

 

From Amazon:

This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.

This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.

This is how children change…and then change the world.

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.

When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.

Laurie Frankel’s This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.

Our Thoughts:  This book is so good and I cannot stop thinking about it.  It also made me want to be the parent to five children, but that is not central to my thoughts here.  It involves an ordinary family in a somewhat extraordinary situation.  It’s about how two very good parents approach making decisions for their children to keep them safe, but also allow them to be themselves.  I loved the ending and I am still thinking about it.  In the world where we live it seems that there are only two choices when confronted with big decisions.  But what if there is not?  What if there is something in between?

Do you have any good book recommendations?  We are always looking for some books to read.  Have a good weekend! -May and June

No two persons ever read the same book.

–Edmund Wilson

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Rainy Day Adventures

It is officially spring and along with new life poking up from the cold damp earth, we are starting to hear the beautiful sound of chirping birds in the morning, as well as the wonderful feeling of the warm sun as we gently turn our faces up toward the sky, our bodies eager to drink in some much needed vitamin D. Spring is also the time we experience those rainy days that are so needed to wash away the stillness of winter, and encouraging new growth to take its place with beautiful blooms in shades of pink, yellow, and red.

As much as we love blue skies and sunshine, every now and then we enjoy a rainy spring day.  A rainy day is the perfect time to stay in our comfiest of clothes, make a bowl of popcorn, and snuggle up on the couch with a great classic movie. How about Gone with the Wind? Yes, it’s a bit long but that’s the great thing about having a pause button, right? If you’re like us, you have probably seen it several times, but if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.

A rainy day is the perfect time to put on your boots and raincoat, grab your umbrella and explore your neighborhood. It’s mother nature’s way of cleansing the body and soul and you’re never to old to splash through puddles.

A rainy day is the perfect time to bake chocolate chip cookies. Is it just us, or do cookies smell better on a gloomy day?

A rainy day is the perfect time to take a nap. There is something so peaceful about the sound of rain falling in an otherwise quiet room. There are even apps that mimic that sound for a better night’s sleep.

Of course a rainy day, or any day is the perfect time to curl up on the couch with a great book and a cup of tea.

What do you like to do on rainy days?

Have a great weekend.~May and June

The sound of rain needs no translation.

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Celebrating A Little Luck of the Irish

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Today everyone is Irish, whether by birth or by choice.  Both of us do have Irish in our heritage so we thought it would be fun to list all things Irish to help you celebrate.

The Shamrock. To impart an irishness on anything, shamrock is added to it. We have the McDonald’s shamrock shake. Foot races called the shamrock shuffle or the shamrock beer run.  The shamrock is the symbol of St. Patrick’s Day because of the patron saint of the day.  Shamrocks, a clover type of grass, grow plentiful in Ireland and were considered sacred by the Druids in ancient times.  St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain to the Druids of the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). His use of the shamrock plant, convinced the Druid priests to allow St. Patrick to contine his missionary work in Ireland and convert many to Christianity.

The Leprechaun. The leprechaun is a type of fairy in Irish folklore. They are usually depicted as bearded little men who partake in mischief.  They spend their time making and mending shoes and have a pot of gold hidden at the end of a rainbow. If they are captured by a human, they will grant three wishes.

Irish Soda Bread.  One of our favorite St. Patrick’s Day treats.  We shared a great recipe for making your own here.

The University of Notre Dame. June’s alma mater, The University of Notre Dame loves all things Irish.  They are called the Fighting Irish and have a leprechaun as a mascot. While the official school colors are blue and gold, a lot of officially licensed merchandise comes in green and has shamrocks on it.

Lucky Charms.  The cereal is magically delicious. Yes it is super sweet.  And yes you can only eat two bites before your teeth hurt.  The marshmallows are so cute and make your cereal bowl look festive, and the marshmallows are the best part to eat.

Irish Coffee.  If you want to start celebrating early on St. Patrick’s Day, start with a cup of Irish Coffee.  A mix of coffee and Bailey’s Irish Creme with some whip cream, it is so delicious.  We made some last year for a little happy hour.

Corned Beef and Cabbage.  Corned beef and cabbage is the quintessential St. Patrick’s Day food.  You can make your own at home or go out to any number of restaurants tonight to enjoy the holiday meal.  For those of us who are Catholic and currently abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, the Cardinal in Chicago has granted us dispensation to eat corned beef today.  So enjoy without guilt!

There are so many ways to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day.  Hope you find a way to celebrate. –May and June

May the road rise to meet you,
may the wind be ever at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

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What We’ve Learned Lately

Happy Friday! No matter what is happening in our busy lives, we are always learning new things. Sometimes these new things are profound. Sometimes they are silly. Sometimes they are little hacks that make life easier, and sometimes they are an interesting fact or two that can make life more interesting . Here are a few things we’ve learned lately.

The difference between a graveyard and a cemetery is that a graveyard is connected to a church.  If the church closes then the graveyard becomes a cemetery.

If you are having any work done around your house, clean your closets first.  The contents of June’s master bedroom closet were let out of their confines during the course of painting, and have now taken over the whole upstairs.  She has a lot of work to do.

Make a list when you go to the store. If you don’t, you will buy items you don’t need, and forget the item you went to the store for in the first place.

Pay attention to your pets. They remind us to stop, breathe, go for walks, and give belly rubs.

Our Dogs and their Black and White Enemy

Gatsby

Sawyer

Dress for the weather- not for the calendar date.  And check the weather before you leave the house.  If it is 70 degrees in February you do not need to wear a coat.  If it was 70 degrees in February the day before it does not mean it will be 70 degrees today.  If it is not going to be 70 degrees, please do not wear flip flops or shorts.

No matter how much plastic surgery the Hollywood stars have, you can always tell their age by their neck.  Find a good neck cream.  We are looking for one and if you have found a magic neck cream, please share.

Have a good weekend. –May and June

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. John Wooden

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How To Choose Paint Colors

We are in the process of having the main floor in our house painted.  The last time we painted was 10 years ago right before we moved in. After we decided to paint, I started noticing all of the dirt, fingerprints and dog smudges on the walls.

If you hire a painter (which we did), the hardest part often is choosing the paint colors.  Have you ever noticed that the color on the little paper strip you get from the paint store rarely looks like the same color on the wall?  That is the worst.  That green that looked like a pretty spring green now looks neon on your walls.  Often a painter will repaint if you hate the color and ask nicely.  Also, how do you get your house to reflect your personality and the ambiance you want to set?

I have spent a lot of time looking online and in print magazines at color trends.  I knew I wanted colors that were fairly neutral, so that they did not look dated in a short time, but also had some personality.  And because I like to add color with accessories that I often switch around I do not like to be stuck with one color scheme.

My husband thought that we should just repaint the walls that same color that we had painted them 10 years ago.  Of course, this is the same person that when an item of clothing wears out wants the exact same item with no differences.  The colors that we had were popular when we previously painted, but now looked dated.

Tones of grey seem particularly popular right now.  It also can serve as a good neutral. Grey is a tricky color though because some lean more brown, some blue, some green and some almost a purple.  Go to the paint store and get lots of the paint strips that have greys and line them up next to each other.  You will see what I mean.  It is amazing.

We do not have an open floor plan.  We have different rooms.  Because of the different rooms, I thought different colors for each works better rather than painting them all the same color.  However, you can see most of the rooms from one another.  So I knew the colors had to coordinate.

After deciding that a grey color would be my base, I then searched Pinterest and started a Paint Color board.  Our painter uses Benjamin Moore paint so rather than go through every grey Benjamin Moore paint, I searched on Pinterest for the most popular Benjamin Moore grey paints.  There are a lot of pins on this.  I figured if lots of other people like the color then it must be for good reason.

My next step once I narrowed down the greys I liked best was to get a sample paint color from the store.  You can go to any store and they will make you a Benjamin Moore sample.  You do not have to buy the Benjamin Moore sample which is often pricier.  It may not be an exact match but for sample purposes is close enough.

Putting the sample on the wall makes a huge difference.  I loved the color Gray Owl.  It is a light gray that leans a little blue or green but pretty neutral.  My mom has it in her house and it is really pretty.  When I put it on the wall in our living room it looked awful.  Our living room has white crown molding and baseboards plus built-in.  It also has southeast exposure which means we get lots of sunlight during morning to early afternoon.  The Gray Owl was so light, I was afraid we were going to have to wear sunglasses in the house.  I am so glad I put the sample on the wall before having the whole room painted that color. I am keeping this color on my list to use in our basement family room when we repaint it.

Thanks to Pinterest I found a color scheme that suggested Chelsea Gray, Revere Pewter and Oystershell would coordinate well.  And that became my living room, foyer/stairway and dining room scheme.

For the kitchen and our back family room, I knew I wanted color and not a neutral.  The kitchen I wanted to be light green (but not minty) and once again I searched for popular green colors. I settled on one of the brand’s historical colors, Prescott Green.

For the back family room, which I often use as a place to work, I knew I wanted pink.  I did not want a baby pink but a neutral pink.  I found a color called Mellow Pink that is described as having grey undertones.

Finally, because the powder room is tiny, I decided to go a bit bolder and chose a deep purple called Vintage Charm.

The other thing to consider when choosing paint colors is to think of your house as a whole rather than as individual rooms.  It is good to choose colors that coordinate and complement each other .  I put all of the swatches on one wall to see if that would hold true.

 

Also think about what mood  you want to set in your house?  Do you want vibrant and loud?  Do you want quiet and peace?

The colors that you choose for your house are extremely personal.  They set the mood and tone in your house.  I want my house to be a peaceful, comforting and a warm sanctuary from the outside world.  I want it to be a cozy place to retreat.  I also want to be inspired and creative.  My colors tend to be a bit subdued but the pink inspires me and makes me happy.  And while we are not painting the bedrooms and the basement family room yet, I already have selected those colors as well. –June

 

Color is a power which directly influences your soul. Wassily Kandinsky

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March Weather Essentials

Happy March!! Spring is just around the corner and it is time to replace our parkas, snow boots, and mittens with a few pieces that will work well with this season’s more mild temperatures, as well as the rain showers that often arrive with spring.

Here are a few items we like.

Hunter Boots from Nordstrom

 

Hunter boots have gotten quite popular over the years, and for good reason. They are so darn practical!! These boots are great for those rainy mornings splashing through puddles as you make the commute from the train to the office, as well as running the dogs out. They keep your feet nice and dry and come in some great styles and colors. They have all different heights for whichever size you prefer.  You can also purchase fleece liners for colder days. We both love ours!

London Fog Trench from Nordstrom

Since we are on the subject of spring showers, we feel every girl should have the classic trench coat. There are so many colors and styles out there right now, but here is an oldie but goody, the classic London Fog trench coat. This particular coat comes in regular as well as petite sizes and it has a removable liner, which makes this coat a great option for the somewhat volatile temperatures that occur this time of year, as well as later in the fall. This particular style has a hood which always comes in handy on particularly windy and rainy days.

We also liked this Via Spiga trench coat with a pleated bottom. You can purchase this coat in red, blue, sand, and black, it comes in petites, plus right now it’s on sale.

Of course our spring shower ensemble wouldn’t be complete without a great umbrella. How many times have you run to your local drug store to pick up an inexpensive umbrella, only to have it blow inside out the first time you use it? Do you remember the bubble umbrella? It enjoyed popularity back in the 70’s, and May remembers having the child’s version with little yellow ducks on it. And if you are a fan of the Crown and Queen Elizabeth II, it seems that this style is a favorite of hers as well.

They are great for keeping your head and shoulders protected from the rain, plus they don’t blow inside out. One downside is it isn’t portable enough to just throw in your bag, yet what good is your umbrella if it doesn’t provide protection when the wind picks up? The price tag is a little higher, but you’ll keep this one for a long time.  And if its good enough for the Queen, then it definitely is a must have.

What are some of your rainy day essentials?

Have a great weekend. ~May and June

Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.- Roger Miller

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