How to change up your reading life

How to introduce more reading to your life and finding what to read seems to me like a chicken/egg problem. You’re not going to read more without having books to read but if you have books to read you also need a plan to get the reading done. So this is going to be a two part series and I’m going to arbitrarily pick which part to start with (the other part will come next Tuesday).

Part 1 – How to make changes to your reading life

I was the kid who always had a book in her hand. I would check out a stack of books from the library and tear through them after I got home. Libraries and bookstores continue to be a place of joy and excitement for me. But there was a period of my life when reading took a backseat (college, working, then working in Philadelphia and commuting 3 hours per day, and having small children). It got to a point where I knew that I missed reading and had to be mindful about how to incorporate it into my life again.

Here’s a list of ways you can be more mindful changing your reading life:

Set a goal – This goal could take any number of forms. Think about how you like to approach challenges and adapt that to your reading life. When I ran my first marathon, the thought of running 26.2 miles completely overwhelmed me. So my friend and I looked at the course map and broke it down to 7 milestones (places where I’d see my family, notable landmarks, etc). I could wrap my brain around just having to be 7 places much more easily than I could having to cover 26.2 miles. So if the thought of picking a “number of books” goal intimidates you, then choose something else.

A few examples of reading goals:
• Number of books – reading XX books per year/month
• Number of pages – reading XX pages per year/month
• Books on a topic – When I was in Key West a few years back visiting Hemingway’s house I had wished I had read some of his books and books about him before I went. What do you have coming up that you can read up on before you experience it?
• Back catalog of a favorite author – If there’s an author you enjoyed at one point, see if there are books of his/hers that you haven’t read yet.
• Number of minutes per day – Aim to read 5, 10 or more minutes per day. Use one of the strategies introduced by NAME HERE in Atomic Habits – attach that activity to one that is already a habit. For example, read 10 minutes right after you pour your morning coffee, or 10 minutes before your kids get off the bus.

Reading challenge – I’ve talked before about the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenges and the RAD Reading Challenge. I’m sure our friend Google would link you to many more options if you’d like to explore. I prefer a structure similar to this year’s RAD Reading Challenge because it encourages you to explore genres and types of books that may be out of your comfort zone. Last year I read 11/22/63 for this type of category in my reading challenge and LOVED it. I had always thought that I would never read a Stephen King book but I’m glad I pushed myself to try it.

Buddy read – I’m much more successful at reaching goals when I know there’s someone/something holding me accountable. Some days I’ll even text my to do list to a friend just to help keep myself on track. One way to do this with reading is to read the same book as a buddy or to just share your goals with each other and report in on them.

Book club – I know some of you are rolling your eyes right now at the words “book club,” but in the age of Covid they’ve taken on some interesting forms. Local book clubs may still be an option, but lots of businesses and organizations are offering discussion groups now too. Check your local independent book store, your college alumni association, and favorite magazine websites for read-together options. And on a much bigger scale there’s always our friends Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, and Jenna Bush Hager (from the Today Show) who have well known book clubs. Even some of my favorite bloggers and podcasters are hosting monthly reading groups. Lots of options!

What other strategies can we add to this list? I’d love to do a part 2 with your input!

And a caveat:
As with making any change, give yourself some grace. Life happens and missing one piece of your reading goal is not something to stress about. They don’t call it “reading for enjoyment” for nothing. Meeting your reading goal shouldn’t be stressful, it should be exciting. Along those same lines, if a book isn’t serving you or giving you joy, it’s ok to put it down. As you are discovering what you like to read, you’ll have some hits and some misses. If you know 75 pages in that something is amiss, don’t feel like you need to finish the next 200 pages. Put it down and make note of why that book wasn’t the one for you. All of these pieces of information will refine your reading preferences and help you be more accurate about your picks in the long run. I wrote about how I did that in this post. At this point, I don’t put books down often because I have a better sense of what I like and what I think I won’t like. Finding your preferences is a journey.

January Reading

This year I broke my trend of setting my book goal as the last two digits of the year (so in 2021 it should have been 21 books). I have outpaced that goal for the last couple of years and set my 2021 reading goal at 40 books. I’m also participating in a couple of reading challenges this year, and using a reading bullet journal for the first time (which I’ll save for a later post).

I enjoy challenges because they force me to be more mindful about the books I’m choosing and stretch me outside of my reading comfort zone. The Modern Mrs. Darcy Challenge for 2021 is much different than the past few years. She asks readers to evaluate their reading life and goals and to shape their own checkpoints for the year. I’m going to save mine for a mid-year check in on my reading. I wrote a few ideas down, but I want to see how this year progresses. The RAD Reading Challenge only has 9 topics and is great for those of you who are new to reading challenges.

I read 5 books in January, and did something with a 6th that I usually don’t do. I put it down without finishing it. In no particular order, here’s my take on each of those 6 books:
The Crown: The Official Companion by Robert Lacey – I love, love, love The Crown series on Netflix. I can’t remember where I heard about this book but it was part of the pile of books that my mom gifted me for Christmas. The author gives what actually happened in each episode of the first season and gives quick looks into the real lives of some of the characters. The book was interesting, but felt disorganized to me. I don’t love when the text of chapters are interrupted with pages of sidebar information. 3/5 stars.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – This book was fascinating! I honestly didn’t know much about South Africa or Trevor Noah, but he fully immerses the reader in his life growing up there as the child of a black mother and white father. He does a wonderful job of explaining the cultural and racial landscape and how his mixed race affected him in various situations. 5/5 stars.

Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller – This book was recommended by members of my Rising Tide group, Tuesdays Together during our October meeting that focused on social media. It’s a bestseller for a reason – the author lays out a step-by-step process to refining your business’s or organization’s brand and how to convey that information through social media. 5/5 stars.

Educated by Tara Westover – Wowza. This book has been on my TBR (and my shelf) for a long while. The author grew up on a mountainside in Idaho with very non-traditional Mormon parents who didn’t believe in any government intervention in their lives – including sending their children to school. Westover shares her childhood and educational path through a wealth of stories – it’s a mentally and emotionally difficult read but well worth the time investment. 5/5 stars.

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems before They Happen by Dan Heath – This book was recommended in the latest newsletter from the PA School Board Association, and I was delighted to find it in my local library. The author provides a great framework for looking at issues that may require systemic change or a creative view to solve. He identifies the roadblocks typically encountered in identifying these issues and a list of key questions to ask to solve them. This is a great read for anyone involved in any kind of business or organization! 5/5 stars.

And the one I didn’t finish…

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward – I started this book months ago, misplaced it for a little bit, and then picked it up again in January. The book just wasn’t sitting right with me at this time. I could have forced my way through it, but I’d rather wait and pick it up again at a later date. I feel like there is a stigma associated with putting unfinished books down. I believe that reading should be enjoyable (and yes, even difficult reads can be enjoyable), but forcing myself to read something isn’t worth my time.

What’s the last book you put down without finishing?

(Disclaimer: All links to books are Amazon Affiliate links, so Gingersnaps Bows will make a small profit off each book ordered from that link.)

Power Suit

There were many common themes in the events of Inauguration Day – the quality and tone of President Biden’s speech, the historical significance of VP Harris’ swearing in, the brilliance of Amanda Gorman’s words in her poem, and that the women of the day came immaculately and impressively dressed.*

Their outfits were downright striking – all dressed in brilliant hues, head to toe. The abundance of purple – what happens when blue is mixed with red – was outstanding . Dr. Biden was wearing light blue – the color an EdD wears at her graduation. These women all exuded confidence yesterday. I hope they felt the confidence inside that we all saw from the outside.

Since January 6, this picture has resonated with me for a very powerful reason.

These aides, an Emory University student (R) and a Northwestern University student (L), came to work this day dressed appropriately for their roles, probably not expecting this day to be as notable as it turned out to be. Once the insurrection started, these aides guarded our country’s democracy by carrying the electoral votes out of the chambers to safety. I later learned that the dress that the woman on the left was wearing sold out almost immediately. Because of their actions, the outfits these women wore on this day now carry those same attributes – power, safety, responsibility. I can only imagine that the women who ordered that dress on that day will also think of this intern every time they wear it and embody those qualities.

Yes, our confidence needs to come from inside, but there’s no reason our outsides cannot portray that confidence. For a few years I was an ambassador for a women’s running brand Oiselle. One of the most powerful concepts that I learned as part of that team was that of a power suit – clothing that makes you feel your best so you can do your best. Part of this blog post defines the concept of a power suit.

We all have the ability to approach our clothing choices with more insight. Every day, once you are dressed, close your eyes and ask yourself “how do I feel?” and “how do I think I’ll feel in six hours?” And if the answer is “probable foot pain” or “a dug-in underwire,” it might be time to break up with that garment. Take it off. Thank it for its service. Then, ask yourself – how do I want to feel today? What clothes make me feel that way. Define your powersuit, and wear it loud and proud in the world.

We all have those pieces of clothing in our closets that make us feel our best – perfect fitting jeans, a dress in the just-right color, shoes that feel like clouds. For me, even when I’m not feeling my best, I pull on favorite pieces of clothing so I can “fake it until I make it.” Wearing that outfit will help build my confidence and get me in the right frame of mind to tackle whatever I need to – it’s my power suit. I have favorite pieces of running clothing that I did amazing workouts in or raced a new personal record in that I’ll wear on days when I just don’t want to go run. My mood and mindset shifted because those pieces help me channel powerful energy.

Here at Gingersnaps Bows, we believe in the influence of the power suit for everyone, girls included. Our pieces help make the everyday special, allow girls to show their unique style, and make them feel their best. Our bows, headbands and scrunchies add some sparkle, whimsy and brightness to any day of the week.

*(In an ideal world, it would be about how smart and capable they are, about their contributions to our country, etc., but that’s another topic for another day!)

Photo credits:
Compilation of Women at Inauguration: @thehomeedit on IG
Capital Aides: Caroline Brehmen, via Getty Images

2020 – The Year in Books

A few years back when I wanted to kick start my reading life, I decided my book goal was going to be the last two numbers of the year. I’ve continued that tradition so this year, my goal was to read 20 books. I’m currently in the middle of book number 30, and I have an ambitious stack of books to read during the holiday break, so we’ll see where I actually end up!

As I’ve written about before, I worked through the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge this year. Here’s what I read for each category:

1. A book published the decade you were born: The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
2. A debut novel: Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
3. A book recommended by someone you trust: My Dear Hamilton, Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie (currently reading)
4. A book by a local author: Mrs. Everything, Jennifer Weiner
5. A book outside your (genre) comfort zone: 11/22/63, Stephen King
6. A book in translation: The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
7. A book nominated for an award in 2020: Clap When You Land, Elizabeth Acevedo
8. A re-read: Acts of Faith, Erich Segal
9. A classic you didn’t read in school: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
10. Three books by the same author: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling

The other books the round out my list of 30 are:

• The Year of No Nonsense: How to Get Over Yourself and On with Your Own Life, Meredith Atwood
• Life’s Too Short to Go So F*cking Slow: Lessons from an Epic Friendship That Went the Distance, Susan Lacke
• Untamed, Glennon Doyle
• Rage Against the Minivan: Learning to Parent Without Perfection – Kristen Howerton
• Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld
• The Queen’s Secret: A Novel of England’s World War II Queen, Karen Harper
• Big Summer, Jennifer Weiner (I love Jennifer Weiner but this book just didn’t do it for me)
• White Fragility, Robin Diangelo
• So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
• The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
• I’m Still Here, Austin Channing Brown
• Americanah, Chimanda Ngozi Adiche
• Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston
• Party of TwJasmine Guillory
• Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, James Clear
• Rage, Bob Woodward
• Beach Read – Emily Henry
• Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling

So out of this list what did I love? Here are my 5 star reads (in the order I read them):

• 11/22/63 by Stephen King – As you already saw I read this one to hit a genre that I would typically NEVER touch. But this book is absolutely riveting. It’s long, but well worth the time investment.
• Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld – I have always loved her books and this one did not disappoint.
• So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo – If you need a primer on race issues in America and what different terms mean, this is the book to start with.
• The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – This book is technically a YA read, but it is powerful.
• Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – this book is light and fun and not what I was expecting.
• Beach Read by Emily Henry – This book took me a minute to get into but had just the right amount of plot twists to make it one I couldn’t put down.

I’m glad I procrastinated so much on writing this post that I can include that Modern Mrs. Darcy introduced her 2021 Reading Challenge yesterday! It’s much less structured than this year’s, and I have yet to work through the planning documents. Definitely check it out if you’re interested in changing up or evaluating your reading life in the new year.

In my (sometimes endless) scrolling of TikTok this fall, I found @alltheradreads. She has her own 2021 RAD Reading Challenge, and she also keeps a book bullet journal that makes me swoon. #goals

And FINALLY (I’m almost done, I swear, although I could deep dive into books forever…), I asked on my IG and FB a few weeks back what books you enjoyed this year. Here’s the list!

• Beach Read, Emily Henry
• How to Be an Anti-Racist, Ibram X. Kendi
• The Good Sister, Sally Hepworth (comes out in 2021)
• The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
• Ask Again, Yes, Mary Beth Keane
• Little Women, Louise May Alcott
• Queen of Air and Darkness, Cassandra Clare
• Time’s Convert, Deborah Harkness
• Midnight Sun, Stephanie Meyer
• I am Every Good Thing, Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James
• Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld
• Radium Girls, Kate Moore
• The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Kim Michele Richardson
• The Exact Location of Home, Kate Messner
• All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, Leslie Connor
• So This is Love, Elizabeth Lim

Thanks to all who contributed! What are your 2021 reading goals?

Holiday Shopping Update! – December 1, 2020

Tis the Season! For good reason the holiday shopping season got an early start this year and I am here for it! As a business owner and a holiday shopper myself, I love that business are offering their holiday products (and sales!) earlier than they have in years past. Gingersnaps Bows is no different – we’re a little over halfway through our holiday sale and it has many components. Here’s what we’re offering:

• 10% off your order of $10 or more with code HOLIDAY10 (includes free shipping)
• 20% off your order of $20 or more with code HOLIDAY20 (includes free shipping)
• A fun freebie in every order – including 5 Starbucks gift cards! (I used a random number generator to determine which orders get them)
• I’m also going to donate the amount of savings from every order to the Second Harvest Food Bank. Food banks around the country have been especially hard hit this year and this it hurts my heart to think of families without food anytime of year, but especially at the holidays.

Gingersnaps Bows has been featured in two small business gift guides this year!

First is one put together by Rising Tide – a national small business group for creatives. I’ve been involved with our local chapter – Tuesdays Together – for the last several months and I’m so thankful for their fellowship and encouragement every day. There are so many incredible artists included in this guide!

Rising Tide Gift Guide

Second is the Fig Bethlehem Gifting Guide. I’ve received the print edition of Fig Bethlehem for years and I’m always excited to flip through it to see what businesses and restaurants in my hometown have been featured. So when they reached out to me to be part of this guide I was beside myself! This guide contains photos and links to a wide range of Lehigh Valley small businesses and I’m so honored to be part of this group.

I’ve also done a fair amount of shopping from small businesses, and I’ll be sharing my purchases in my Instagram and Facebook stories throughout the next few weeks!

2020 Holiday Gift Guide – Gingersnaps Bows

Typically I’m a “the tree doesn’t go up until after Thanksgiving” kind of a girl. NOT THIS YEAR FOLKS! I’m down for all of the holiday cheer ASAP. My holiday candles are out, holiday soaps are in our bathrooms, and Monday the decorations will come out of their boxes in the basement.

To go along with that, I’ve already started holiday shopping for my loved ones. Gingersnaps Bows has a variety of pieces that will make the perfect gift for any girl on your list! Our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide highlights the pieces in our holiday collection, as well as suggests unique gift ideas that are sure to be cherished. Plus bows make great stocking stuffers and can be used to adorn the presents themselves!

I’ll be sharing more about these products and more in the coming weeks, and watch for our holiday sale announcement!

How and why I batch my work – October 27, 2020

I am absolutely the kind of person that thrives on a schedule and routine. As someone who deals with anxiety, having a schedule and a routine allows my mind to focus on what I’m actually doing rather than worrying about what’s coming next. And yes, surprises do happen in my days and I have learned/am learning to roll with things when they do. All of that being said, one way that I organize my tasks in my home life and my business is to use the method of “batch working” – grouping similar tasks to get them all done at one time rather than doing each when they come up. Here are a few examples of what that looks like.

1. Meal planning – I’m going to write a whole separate post about how I meal plan, but I’ve found that it works best for me to plan an entire month’s worth of meals at one time. I do one giant grocery shopping trip at the beginning of the month, and then each week I just pick up the perishables that I need.

2. Laundry – I find that there are two camps when it comes to laundry. Some do one load per day start to finish – wash, dry, fold, put away. I find that a little overwhelming, especially the putting away part. What works better for me is to do 3-4 loads in a day a couple of times per week, dump it all on the couch when it’s clean (what I lovingly refer to as ‘laundry mountain’) and fold it all while catching up on a TV show. I’m also at the point where my boys (ages 10 and 12) fold and put away their own laundry. I fold my daughter’s laundry and she puts it away, and the same for my husband.

3. Email – I read once that you should never even look at your email if you’re not prepared to actually deal with the messages. That was a game changer for me. I have turned off email notifications on my phone, and I try to only look at my email when I have time to respond, file, or deal with the information that the messages contain. I’m definitely an ‘inbox zero’ person – the only messages that sit in my email inbox are ones that contain info for upcoming zooms/events or messages that I’m waiting for a response on.

4. Small tasks/phone calls – Every day or every week (whatever your schedule demands) take a few minutes to make the phone calls that need to be made, fill out forms, place online orders, take care of returns, etc – all of those tasks that only take a few minutes each can be batched and knocked out all at one time.

Here is what batch work looks like in my business:

1. Making products – When I first started Gingersnaps Bows I would come up with an idea for a product, I would make one or two for photos, and then make pieces as orders came in. What a terrible idea this was! Now I make all of the pieces at once – I know exactly how many I have to sell and I can keep a better eye on inventory and restock supplies for a particular item quicker when it sells well.

2. Accounting – On the second of every month, I reconcile my bank account with QuickBooks, record my mileage for the previous month, and take care of any other financial tasks that need to be done.

3. Social Media – Once a month I put together a schedule of social media posts I’d like to share. When I’m really on my game I’ll use a site like Hootsuite to schedule all of them at one time, but most often I’ll sit down weekly to plan out the exact details of each post.

I like to batch my work because once I’m in the mindset of doing that particular task, it’s easier to do more of them. For example once my focus is on writing social media posts, I don’t have to switch quickly to also making products for an order and then to updating QuickBooks. Doing more of one type of task at a time will take me less time in the end. Having a routine and a plan for my days, spending my energy focusing on a batch of tasks rather than taking them one by one frees my mind for creative thought. Even though I have been working this way for a while, it’s still a work in progress rather an a work of perfection for me.

What ways can you use this method in your home or work?

October Menu Plan – October 13, 2020

It’s funny, after months and months of being home together my family still seems to want dinner every.single.night. It’s so crazy…

I wanted to switch things up a little bit this month so I turned to my favorite drool-worthy Instagram feed for inspiration – Half Baked Harvest. They also have two cookbooks for sale – this one and this one (I don’t own either… yet). I first scrolled through the posts of theirs that I had saved and then went to the crockpot section of their website to find things to fill in our Thursday nights. Audrey has dance every Thursday at 4 pm, so a crockpot meal works best for us those evenings.

In no particular order, this is what we’re eating this month. As always, I usually only plan out the main dish. I always have a supply of sides and veggies so I just pick whatever goes best with the meal or what we feel like having. I like giving my kids ownership over parts of the meals so often I’ll ask one of them (important – one, not all 3) to pick our side and our veggie.

Spaghetti & meatballs
Pork tenderloin
Sausage & tortellini
White wine braised short ribs with buttered mushroom cream – Abe and I LOVED this but the kids didn’t
Mommy nuggets with mac & cheese
Make your own Pizza – pizza dough recipe below
Roasted Rosemary Salmon with asparagus & potatoes (from June 2020 Eating Well magazine)
Flank Steak
Eggie Pie
Slow cooker French wine & mustard chicken
Crispy chicken cutlets with artichoke dressing
Pork chops
Chicken tacos with street corn
Slow cooker red wine Sunday ragu pasta
Wings & Cesar salad

Since I have fallen into a serious sandwich rut, I also picked out two recipes to make for myself for lunches. I make them on a Monday or a Tuesday and then eat them for the rest of the week. I had Lemon-Dill Shrimp & Orzo salad (from May 2020 Eating Well magazine) last week and next week I’m making Peanut Zoodle Salad with Chicken (from July/August 2020 Eating Well magazine) next week. The lemon-dill salad was delicious! I made it ahead of time and ate it cold since I only like cold shrimp.

The recipe I use for pizza dough is from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day. I also own their first book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It literally takes 5 minutes to put this dough together, but you do have to plan ahead to give the dough time to rise. I usually make the dough right after lunch when we’re going to be having pizzas for dinner. This dough recipe makes enough for us to eat pizzas for dinner and again the next day for lunch.

3.5 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbs. granulated yeast
1 Tbs Kosher salt
7.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix the water, yeast and salt in a mixer with a dough hook. Add in the flour and mixed until combined. Cover the dough with a towel and let rise for 2 hours. Pull off a section of dough, roll out on a floured surface and move to a sheet pan covered in cornmeal (will keep the dough from sticking). Cover with toppings and bake for 10 minutes at 500 degrees. Store extra dough in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

Reading update – October 6

I haven’t done a reading update since the middle of July! In another turn of events that just isn’t me… I have 4 books started right now??

I’ve read 6 books since my last reading update:
Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevedo
Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
Party of Two – Jasmine Guillory
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear
Rage – Bob Woodward

Quick thoughts on each:
Clap When You Land was an interesting story, but the book is written in verse. It took me a little while to get used to, and unlike a book written in prose you have to really pay attention to figure out who the characters are and how they’re related to each other.

Americanah was so fascinating – story of a Nigerian woman who moves to the US and then moves back to Nigeria. Her thoughts about her own race change with each place that she lives.

Red, White & Royal Blue and Party of Two were fun and quick reads!

Atomic Habits has been on my TBR foreeeeeeeeever… part of me adjusting to the new school year and having the kids at home is changing up my methods for getting things done (housework, my workouts, my actual work). This book is a great guide to make small or large changes to your day.

Rage…. So many thoughts about this one. I thought I would sail through reading this but it took me several weeks to get through. The reporting about Trump’s presidency is insightful and reported from interviews with the president himself, but also those close to him. But this book just expanded everything that I was already feeling about him (which is why it took me so long to read).

These are the 4 that I’m currently working on:
Beach Read – Emily Henry
Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek
Sing Unburied Sing – xxx (this book went missing after a weekend camping trip… so it needs to turn up before I can finish it!)

Update on my challenges for this year:
MMD 2020 Reading Challenge (I filled in the books I’ve already read):
A book published in the decade you were born – The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
A debut novel: Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng (I was not a fan)
A book recommended by a source you trust:
A book by a local author – Mrs. Everything, Jennifer Weiner (from Philadelphia)
A book outside your (genre) comfort zone: 11/22/63, Steven King
A book in translation – The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A book nominated for an award in 2020
A re-read – Acts of Faith, Erich Segal
A classic you didn’t read in school
Three books by the same author – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, JK Rowling

My own personal challenge:
Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevedo
Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – Austin Channing Brown (this book was excellent)
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo (this is a great first book if you’re looking for a place to dive in)
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DeAngelo

Other books read this year:
The Year of No Nonsense: How to Get Over Yourself and On with Your Own Life – Meredith Atwood
Life’s Too Short to Go So F*cking Slow: Lessons from an Epic Friendship That Went the Distance – Susan Lacke
Untamed – Glennon Doyle
Rage Against the Minivan: Learning to Parent Without Perfection – Kristen Howerton
Rodham – Curtis Sittenfeld (LOVED)
The Queen’s Secret: A Novel of England’s World War II Queen – Karen Harper
Big Summer – Jennifer Weiner (I love Jennifer Weiner but this book just didn’t do it for me)
Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
Party of Two – Jasmine Guillory
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear
Rage – Bob Woodward

How to fix your bow’s frayed edges

One of the finishing steps I take for each bow before it leaves my studio is to heat seal the edges of the ribbon. But through wear, travel, and maybe even an accidental trip through the washer and dryer (it’s happened to me!), the edges of your bow may begin to fray. The good news is that it’s a super easy fix! All you need is your bow and a lighter. If the edge of the ribbon is frayed a lot, you can start by using sharp scissors to cut a clean edge.

1. Take the section that is frayed and move it away from the rest of the bow.
2. Light your lighter and move it gently towards one end of the frayed edge of the bow.
3. Move the lighter along the frayed edge from one end to the other. You will be able to see the edge seal as you go.

4. Repeat as needed until the frayed edge is gone.

A word of caution: The lighter in color the ribbon is the more careful you need to be that you don’t singe it. If you hold the lighter under the ribbon for too long you’ll see some black areas appear on the underside.