Blog

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
Lasagne
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
Waffles
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.

Monthly Menu Plan – September 2020

Did I just say MONTHLY?! I sure did! Here’s the situation… our school situation has changed – all 3 kids will be at home learning virtually until at least November (day one was today and it was MUCH better than I was expecting!). Abe is slowly starting to travel again, and activities are starting also. Riley is in marching band, both boys are in Scouts, Audrey starts dance this week. So I’m being kind to myself and I planned an entire month’s worth of meals at one shot.

This is a list of the meals I’ll be making this month. I promise I serve veggies, I just choose what we have at the moment or what someone requests to go with the meal.

Sausage & tortellini
Chicken tacos
Grilled chicken & salad bar
MYO pizza
Hot dogs & hamburgers
Mommy nuggets and mac & cheese
Waffles
Ham & pierogies
Steak
Salmon
Orange chicken – I found this at Target and my kids love it!
Beef tacos
Pork chops
Wings & fries
Spaghetti & meatballs
Pork roast & mashed potatoes
Flank steak
Pancakes
Zucchini Pesto Pasta – this is a new one for us to try
Chicken cobb pitas – another new one!
Lasagne
Meatball sandwiches
Pork tacos

My kids love yogurt and granola for breakfast or for a snack, and I’ve been making my own granola for a number of years. This is the recipe that I use (and I have no idea where it came from anymore):

½ c. butter
½ c. honey
3 c. dry oatmeal
¼ tsp. salt
¼ c. milled flax seed

Mix the oats & flax seed in a large bowl. Melt the butter and honey together and stir into the oats. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. 10 minutes after taking the pan out of the oven loosen the granola from the pan with a spatula. After cooled, store in an airtight container.

Fall Events!

I signed up for a variety of new events this year. My spring events were all cancelled, but at this point the fall events are still a go (you can see the full lineup here). I’ve heard from the organizers of the first two events (both hosted by branches of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce – and outdoor events) in the last week. The Farewell to Summer event in September will take place on the Triangle in Emmaus and they’re planning on roping the area off and limiting attendance inside the Triangle to no more than 250 people (vendors included). In thinking about fall events, these are the precautions that I’ll be putting in place to keep myself and event attendees safe.

1. I will be masked during the event.
2. I will be asking attendees who are not wearing their mask properly to adjust it.
3. I will wear gloves when I bag orders and handle money, changing them in between guests.
4. I will have gloves available for guests who would like to use them to handle my products.
5. I will have hand sanitizer available for myself and guests to use.

I truly love selling at in-person events – I like the interaction with customers and being able to talk about my products. I am ready to approach the fall season with optimism and a lot of caution!

Checking in!

I certainly did not intend for it to be so long between blog posts. As strange as this summer is, it certainly seems to be flying by! We’re spending our days going to the pool, kids have a short list of things they need to get done every day (reading, some math review, chores, etc).

We have hit that point of the summer where we all start looking forward to the start of the school year. Our district is offering modified in-person instruction or online instruction through virtual academy that they’ve been hosting for many years. The in-person instruction includes half of the alphabet attending Monday/Tuesday, everyone online Wednesday and the end of the alphabet (where my kids are) attending Thursday/Friday. My husband and I have also opted out of bus transportation this year, so we’ll be driving the kids to school. I’m very thankful that I have the flexibility to be able to support my kids through this type of schedule and I absolutely recognize that not everyone does. I think it will be a few weeks into the new year before we all get the hang of this schedule. I know I will need to continue to make adjustments to my schedules (but I’m thankful the kids will be around to help with chores more!). I’m praying that the return to school goes well. I’m fearful of a new (continued?) outbreak in September and October in Pennsylvania.

One thing that I’ve sort of lost sight of during the last 6 months (can you believe it’s been almost 6 months since this started?!) is how I take care of myself. Even though there are no races on the schedule, I’m continuing to work with my coach and getting my workouts done (for the most part…). I have been staying up too late and then wondering why I’m always so tired. One more thing that is key for me to feeling well is my water intake. I know when I wake up nauseous and with a raging headache that I’m underhydrated.

As far as business… I have no idea. I have a bunch of fall events that I’m looking forward to, but do not know if any of them will happen. I do have some really cute new products coming out and I have some products for teens and adults in the works too! I’m always open to feedback and input about what you’d like to see from Gingersnaps Bows or how we can better serve you… reach out anytime to sarah@gingersnapsbows.com

Have a great week!