From Our Front Porch

I feel like it’s only right to write this post from our front porch…so here I am sat just marveling at that Spring Morning Breeze, dazzled by the flowers and chimes and birds chirping all around me. I’ve always dreamed of having a front porch- almost exactly like this one ( I mean what I’d really like is a wrap around, but this will do for now). I’d pictured it to be a place to sit at any time of day and just take in the world around us. The boys would be able to play in the front yard and I would be able to read a book. And here we are, I’ve created what I’ve always dreamed of. Our front porch is utilized by almost everyone in our home, and visitors. It’s a true highlight, home to morning teas, afternoon teas, picnics, and everything in between. Once the weather warms, I spend at least 60% of my day on our porch. 

Last year I went a little tame. It was our first year of having this space to work with, and I was really focused much more heavily on our indoor plants if I’m being totally honest. Still, we had some hydrangeas, petunias, marigolds, and such. But this year, this year I had plans. I had a vision. Our last frost was Mother’s Day, so this year, for Mother’s Day, I went on a little shopping trip to pick out the flowers for our front porch. I was not prepared for just how far I would go to create what I dreamed of. I tend to do a combination of big box and garden centers/greenhouses to get what I’m looking for and this year has proven to be no different. 

I wanted to create a little oasis of sorts filled with flowers and cheer and I feel like I’ve done that within the constraints that I have. I am not able to hang anything really (which stinks) as we get the brunt of the winds on our little stretch of the street. I’ve set up some wind chimes and even those are taking a beating from the wind, but the sounds that come from it, combined with the birds chirping, are just a dream. Also, with the winds I have to be mindful of smaller plants. When we are supposed to see an increase of winds, I have to move several of the plants around to ensure that none really topple over or take a lot of wind, so I try to put some thought into where they go so I’m not moving them too much. Finally, I can’t plant anything in the actual ground- everything is potted. This limits quite a few of the plants that I dream of one day having in a full fledged garden (like the iris’s that I had to heartbreakingly pass up). 

However, I am fairly pleased with what I’ve done this year. It’s just about put together, with maybe at most only one or two more plants joining later in the spring into summer season (the fuschia that I had last year are a must get again this year). We’ve got a good variety of flower and color, and hopefully, once things start opening and growing in a bit more, we’ll have a lovely scent profile as well. 

We’ve got two hydrangea’s on either side of the door. Hydrangeas are one of my favorites as not only are they fairly hardy, but the blooms just keep coming. Last year my bloomed from May through to August/September and I was able to chop and bouquet them. I have daisies and petunias as well- always a hardy, easy grow with big payoff. This year I’ve added in some Dipladenia with these beautiful white blooms. Then, rounding out this front corner is an azalea and this little pot of snapdragon and garden grape hyacinth. 

Coming around here to my favorite area in the whole house (ok maybe that’s exaggerating- I really love our whole house) we’ve got quite the set up. The furniture is from Amazon from a couple years back, blanket from Etsy even further back, and the bee happy pillow is a Walmart find. You’ll see another little pot of the garden grape hyacinth and snapdragon, as well as more petunias, snapdragons, and Dipladenia. We’ve also got an Asiatic Lily and Poppy bush, as well as a large climbing rose bush in the very back. These three pots are what I’m hoping fills out and creates the ambiance- a big explosion of smell and color from these blooms. Finally on the table I’ve got a columbine and ornamental rose. I had ornamental roses last year and they really do well in this spot, so I’m hoping for success this year. 

And that really wraps it up for our front porch! I tried to go for simple, but pops a punch. You can follow my Instagram (@acuppacosy) to see how everything blooms, grows and changes over the season!

Romanticize Your Life

Yes, yes, I’ve fully jumped on this trend- though to be fair, I’ve always been a bit like this- treating my life as if it were a movie where I was the main character, we just have now named this trend. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here…

***This post is full of photos of small moments, little pockets of joy reframed in my mind with a softness, a contentment. It’s these little moments, little mundane parts of our day, such as opening the blinds, a walk to the school bus, a cup of tea in the afternoon, that can be reframed in our minds. This is where romanticizing your life can begin. It’s also the bigger moments, the bigger show- at the end of the post- as well.***

Romanticize Your Life.

I think some people hear that or see a post with that caption and think…it’s out of reach or not realistic or just adding extra time and effort to tasks. And while in some cases, yes it can be a bit of an extra effort, but it’s much easier than it maybe looks. 

That’s because the whole concept of “romanticizing your life” is more so a mindset than everything else. It’s about falling in love, being so content with the life you are currently leading (and when I say content- I don’t mean in a stagnant way- we should always grow and change). Life ebbs and flows, we go through highs and lows, but romanticizing your life is about loving your life as it’s lived, good and bad. It’s trying to view the everyday mundane things through a different lense, in a different sense. It’s taking those little moments and turning them into more, whether that’s simply by putting on some music, filming them, or turning them into a grandeur production (I’ll explain that- I promise). By romanticizing our lives, we are reminding ourselves just how special some of these mundane tasks/moments, the everyday everyday can still be special.

 

I want to be clear, for me, this DOES NOT mean that everything is sunshine, roses and daisies. It DOES NOT mean that life is simple and easy. It DOES NOT mean that I don’t have off days/off moments/deal with tough moments with the kids. It DOES NOT have to happen every second of every day. What is DOES mean for me, is that the simple act of making tea, of putting together a little fruit tray, taking care of the plants (heck even doing the dishes, folding laundry, etc.), of doing the little tasks is calming, is charming, is sweet. It gives me a better outlook- the idea that instead of HAVING to do something, I CAN do it in a way that will be better/happier for all of us. 

I do this year-round, no matter the season, but there is nothing like having these moments in the Spring or Autumn. It’s no secret that I love the transitional seasons, Autumn when the leaves start to turn and fall, and the air goes crisp and cool. Everything floods with the vibrant reds/oranges/and yellows, and big scarves, sweaters and light jackets become our attire. But also, Spring, when new life emerges, when we leave that den of Winter and step back out into the sunlight. When dresses come back into play, the air still crisp, but with a lightness of life coming back. You can romanticize your life year-round (think of those moments in Winter when the first snow hits, or the snow falls just right, OR those Summer thunderstorms, lazy days on the porch), but it’s definitely easier during the transitional seasons for me.  

So, at its basic- this is about setting a mood for yourself, your space, and your family. Some of the smaller examples of how I do this just everyday- opening the blinds when I wake up, picking particular clothing out, playing my mood setting playlists (this can be anything from a “day in the cottage” style playlist with instrumental and movie soundtracks OR hits from the early 2000’s, whatever my mood calls for). I set out certain tasks to be right away as it…” sets the scene” so to speak- so I wake up and immediately open up the blinds to let the light in. Then I pick out a playlist that meets my mood- honestly most of my morning music tends to be softer instrumental or movie soundtrack style music. Somewhere along the way I’ll switch…or not, it just depends. These two little things first thing already sets my brain into a “romantic” mood and lifts my mood and spirit. Then everything else starts to fall into place after that. When I go down to make my morning tea or coffee, I make a “production” out of choosing the perfect mug for the day, preparing my tea, and pouring the water from the kettle. When you first start doing this, if you choose to, it may feel silly, BUT as time goes on you start to find joy in these little moments and then it clicks. 

You can also bring this concept into your own living space with plants or flowers, add books and little things that make you happy to the spaces of your home. In the Spring/Summer I usually like to have some fresh flowers on our counter tops, we also have plants (obviously), and then I’ll style the coffee table genre books in our home to fill some of the “first look” spaces. Light some candles throughout your space. These can be real burning candles or the electronic ones if for some reason you can’t burn candles. Not only will the scent fill you with that same joy and peace, but the candlelight will shift your mood as well. 

I’ll give an example of one of my most frequent “bigger” ways of doing this in the spring/summer…this is something super easy but makes a world of difference. Everyday my kids want a snack in the afternoon (which is totally normal) and I usually want to join them. So, we will make a full picnic out of this little snack. Yes, it takes a fraction more effort, usually in terms of cutting, BUT it’s only a fraction and the simple joy (and excited good happy behavior as a result) that comes from this is well beyond that small effort. I’ll usually cut a couple different fruit options, some cheese/cracker/meat combination, place it all on our charcuterie tray and, weather permitting, we will head outside. I would say we do this 2-3 times a week in the summer, and it’s always met with such excitement and joy (from everyone involved) that it ends up feeling like a movie. Something about creating this little picnic just completely changes our entire day. 

Ultimately, it doesn’t take a lot to “romanticize your life”. Find the ways that you feel content, peace, and joy and implement those into your everyday. Maybe that’s the simple act of opening the blinds first thing in the morning, maybe it’s morning coffee/tea on the porch, maybe it’s an afternoon spent at the park with a picnic. Maybe it’s being more intentional with your clothing or your space. Whatever it may be, I promise you there is just such a joy and peace that comes with being so content with life as it’s lived. 

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – April 2022

It is once again time for another reading wrap up! Where is the year going? It feels odd to say that we’ve reached the end of April, it feels like it’s flown by but also gone so slowly. April was…a month for us. We were basically out of the game for two weeks- between catching the Flu, family visiting, and then traveling it definitely hampered some of my reading. I feel like the month started off…average but got a bit better reading wise by the end. I read a total of 7 books and gave an average rating of 3.25. 

The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper 3.5 Stars In The Wolf Den we are following a group of girls as they navigate a hard life of slave prostitution in Pompeii. Highs and lows and fighting for their own freedom, it’s a mix of a story. I have to say- I did enjoy this book partly because it’s very “day in the life” of an era we don’t get to see much from, and partly because we don’t like any single character. These girls live a hard life and make seemingly impossible choices just to move forward. 

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley 3 Stars In this third novel by Lucy Foley we are following a young girl who is trying to escape her own life and by doing so, stumbles into a mystery her brother has been investigating. I’ve got to say, while Lucy Foley can write a very well done “locked room” mystery/thriller…it’s become almost formulaic in a sense. I wasn’t too impressed with this one, much preferring her other two. I don’t know if I’ll continue on with her books or not. 

Neon Gods by Katee Robert 3 Stars I finally jumped on this craze (from last year, I think? Not sure) and while it didn’t disappoint, it also didn’t overwhelm. A Greek G-d retelling, this modern take on mythology delivers it all, including quite a bit of smut. However, it also didn’t provide or add anything new, just an easy going easy to read smutty novel. Which isn’t a bad thing every once in a while. 

Eternal Life by Dara Horn 3 Stars After reading and loving (and highly recommending) People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn, I decided to go back and read some of her backlist novels. Eternal Life follows a young woman who makes an obvious, but impossible choice and, because of it, will never die. Full of heart, life, and death, this book is short but powerful. Some truly incredible thoughtful moments that I really enjoyed. 

Wahala by Nikki May 3 Stars Wahala follows a group of friends at various stages of life as they come together, fall apart, and what happens when a newcomer who may not have the best intentions joins the group. Another easy-to-read thriller of sorts that I enjoyed but wasn’t overwhelmed by. 

The City of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 4 Stars Imagine my extreme joy when I found out that my all-time favorite author had a new book posthumously published. No words. This is a collection of short stories that are much darker and more sinister than anything I’ve read of his previously. All the stories run along the same current as his famous Shadow of the Wind quartet, taking place in Barcelona and are written in that beautifully descriptive way. 

Nazis Knew My Name by Magda Hellinger and Maya Lee No Rating This was my final read of April and what a way to end the month. Magda arrived on the second transport to Auschwitz and survived not only being a prisoner in the camp, but also serving as a functionary- a leader of sorts, a go between with the prisoners and the SS. She saw it all, the move from Auschwitz I to Auschwitz II- Birkenau, the creation of the crematoria, the medical experiments, the death marches, and through it all she somehow kept her spirit, kept moving forward, and used her spirit, position and network to save countless lives. It was truly incredible to read.

And that wraps up April in reading! I already feel like May is off to a better start, after doing a little library run, and evaluating what I want to read right now. How was your reading month? Any new favorites?

A Weekend in Montreal

Over the Easter Holiday Weekend we decided to get out of town and head up north across the border to Montreal. We’ve been to Canada several times, but never Montreal. This comes on the heels of Andrew and I heading up north with a friend when the border re opened without testing for those who are vaccinated. We went up for a day to Kingston, shopping in a little district area (including an independent bookstore- finally!) grabbing some lunch and enjoying the beautiful waterfront that Kingston offers. After that little day trip, our plans for a longer weekend were solidified. We’ve always loved Canada and wanted to see more, and it’s gotten a bit easier for us to do that. 

First off, for full transparency, Covid protocols…you’ll want to check the Canada website HERE for a full breakdown of the most up to date rules. When we headed across the border by car, there were no testing requirements for fully vaccinated. The rules apply to all those age 5+, but there is some verbiage for families traveling together with young children who may not be fully vaccinated, but the adults are (it involves testing). Regardless of the protocol at the time, you will need to have downloaded and filled out the ArriveCan documentation, which is super simple and straightforward. You’ll input your passport info, vaccination or testing info, and travel info.  Specific requirements will also vary depending on what province you travel to. For instance, when we went to Kingston (in Ontario) masks were not required to be worn inside, but in Montreal (which is Quebec) they were mandatory. You’ll need to check the specific province and city you are heading to as with any other travel. Beyond those two items, traveling to Canada was much the same as it was when we went three or four years ago. 

So, our weekend in Montreal. Where do I begin?

We arrived around dinner time on Friday evening and immediately got settled in our hotel. We stayed at the Le Saint-Sulpice Hotel Montreal which was every bit of incredible. Located right behind the Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal it is located almost in the heart of the Old District of Montreal. It is also conveniently located right near the river, with the Rue St. Paul (the pedestrian shopping street of Montreal) just a 30 second walk away. We had a “ground floor” room with a window looking out on the street below. 

Once settled we decided to just take a quick walk around the district to get some of the road trip energy out for the boys before dinner. I will say that reservations are very much a thing in the city. Most restaurants will still be able to seat you, but if you have something in mind, I would definitely get on their books ahead of time. This was something we ran in to twice, once with a restaurant and once with the Biodome and Botanical Gardens. So, reserve, reserve, reserve. This is something that we normally do, but the lead up to this trip was a bit hectic between sickness and family visits. Anyways…

We didn’t have any definite plans while we were in Montreal, just a few general ideas. A spot we really wanted to see was the Biodome, botanical Gardens, and Olympic Complex, but we were not able to get the reservations in time (good thing Montreal is only a few hours away, so we could go back if we really wanted to). Instead, we decided to just sort of walk/wander the city- which is one of our favorite ways to see new cities. Our first stop was breakfast, and we really wanted some crepes to start our day. A quick stop at Chez Suzette for some truly delicious crepes and mimosa’s and we were set for the day. We started at the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal. 

This church dates back to 1672 when a small stone church was built. The church was quickly outgrown and the church as we see it started in 1824 after a long period for approval of the plans. As many cathedrals, it took quite a while to be built into the massive church we see today. In 1982 it was declared a minor Basilica by Pope John Paul II and in 1989 it was recognized as a national historic site. The crowning interior was designed and created by Victor Bourgeau and features a variety of pieces, including 4 scenes from the Old Testament at the altarpiece. The organ is a feature piece of the church currently featuring 7,000 pipes. There is also an incredible Notre-Dame du Sacre-Coeur Chapel in the back of the cathedral which features a bronze altarpiece. The altarpiece is said to represent humankinds overcoming life’s hardships in the march to the Holy Trinity. It was incredible to see. 

From the Basilica, I made a quick stop to Le Petit Dep, which is a small marche with several locations. Known for its bright green storefront, delicious coffees, and wide selection of local artisanal goods it was a nice little spot to grab a coffee or tea. Quick word of advice though- go during the “off” time of day unless you are prepared to wait. I grabbed a tea and a mug and was set to go- it was truly a charming little stop. 

Then we headed off on the Metro to Mont Royal Parc. The Mont Royal is first mentioned in our history by Jacques Cartier, but it was occupied, hunted, and used by Indigenous People (the Hochelaga are who showed Cartier the way) for long before that. However, it was Jacques Cartier, in 1535, who gave it the name Mont Royal. The mountain has been home/location for many things, the site of several cemeteries (which are still in existence- 1852), a religious site, a hospital (1861), a college (1821), and finally, a park. In 1872, after many discussions of what to do with the Mount, the city purchased the land to officially turn it into a park. Frederik Law Olmsted (of Central Park) was brought in to design the park with the goal of it being a refuge from the city at large. In 1876 the park was inaugurated with great fanfare. In 2005 the park gained heritage status and the land itself will be protected from further development. 

We hiked up the park using the stair option, which was not only quite a workout, but provided several spots to look out at the city and a peaceful refuge from the city. We stopped at the lookout spot in front of the Mount Royal Chalet. This chalet was built in the 1930’s as part of the Make-Work project during the Great Depression. It hosts historic works of arts, chandeliers, and such and is used today as not only a reception hall, but also a gift shop and restaurant. It was a really pretty spot to stop- not quite the summit of Mont Royal, but still a beautiful view. 

From the Chalet we ended up catching the bus over to Saint Joseph’s Oratory. Originally a small chapel built by Brother Andre in 1904 in honor of Saint Joseph. It very, very, quickly grew in both size and worship. In 1914 new plans were approved for what would become the current basilica. The Crypt church dates back to 1917, with the basilica construction starting in 1926. Brother Andre died in 1937, with over a million people visiting his coffin. In 1946 construction of the votive chapel and Brother Andre’s tomb alcove begin, with completion and blessing in 1950. In 1955 the Oratory is marked as a Minor Basilica and it was officially opened in 1956 with construction on the interior being completed in 1967. Fun fact, in 2010 Brother Andre was officially declared a Saint. There is currently construction taking place to make the Basilica easier to access by visitors, but that didn’t stop it from being incredible. 

My first thought upon seeing the exterior of the Oratory is that it is Montreal’s very own Sacre-Coeur. It is very reminiscent (though I don’t know which came first…ok just researched-the timelines ever so slightly overlap with Sacre-Coeur be finished as the design plans for the Oratory are released), though they say that they leaned towards the Italian Renaissance when designing. The interior of the Basilica is incredibly modern (even by today’s standards, let alone when it was actually built) and vast- seating 2028 people. There is also the Crypt Church which is located right off the Votive Chapel (we’re getting there). This church features a statue of the Saint Joseph, where Brother Andre would pray right at the heart of the sanctuary. Then there is the Votive Chapel. This is a space that wasn’t included in the original design, but rather added as a space between the Crypt Church (to connect it to the Basilica) and to provide a space for Brother Andre’s tomb. Opened in 1949, one of the unique features of this space is the cane’s/crutches that are hung between the pillars, left behind by pilgrims who visited during Brother Andre’s time. The central lampstand in front of the tomb features 3500 candles, and his tomb (located through a tunnel underneath) is made of black marble. Following a path behind the lampstand and tomb, you are able to see a statue of the Virgin Mary, between the chapel and the mount rock. 

It was an incredible site to see and history to learn, to know how this man impacted so many in his life. Once we finished at the Oratory, we caught the metro back to the Old District to find a spot for dinner. While walking through town, we headed in to the Bonsecours Market. This is a two-story domed public market. Located on Rue St. Paul, the market originally opened in 1847. This has not only been used as a marketplace, but also a banquet hall and at one point, hosting the Canadian Parliament for a session. It reached historic site status in 1984 and was a really neat space to walk through and see some local treasures. 

We ended the day with dinner at 3 Brasseurs, which features its own brewery and beers. The food and drinks were delicious, and everyone loved their meal. A final wander through Rue St. Paul as we headed back to our hotel and our time in Montreal ended. 

Overall, I would say that Montreal is a great, culturally driven city. It’s a great spot to stop for a night or two and just enjoy the “city” life while also knowing some of the history of the area. There’s plenty to do and see AND if you’re an art and culture lover- there is an abundance of galleries to explore. 

Pesach 5782

***A little aside here at the outset- I don’t really know what this post is going to be, what it’s going to say, or anything really, I’m just putting some thoughts to paper (as it were) and sharing. I do this from time to time when it feels right and right now, I’m clinging to my culture and me Jewish-ness.***

We are currently, as of the time that you are reading this, right smack dab in the middle of Pesach. And it has struck me that while Pesach has always had a big role in my childhood/early adolescence, I’ve never really spoken about it. More so in a passing “oh it’s the holiday that celebrates the freedom of the Jewish people and we don’t eat bread”- which is more for others benefit than actual statement of what the holiday represents. It’s the basic phrase that I’ve answered for more years than I care to admit, the easy way to please someone without overloading them with information and leaving them confused or not caring. 

And in truth, it’s a basic answer. It details what the holiday celebrates and how we honor that celebration. But in reality, Pesach is so much more than that and its meaning and importance from ALL of my childhood Jewishness is much deeper than a simple sentence can convey. So, let’s unpack all of that.

First off, what is Pesach? And I’m going to call it Pesach, even though the English is a word much more familiar- Passover. At its core, Pesach tells the story of the Jews liberation from slavery and Pharoah in Ancient Egypt. It is a celebration of our freedom. As ridiculous as it is, I always like to point to the movie The Prince of Egypt because this movie tells the most basic, easy to understand story of Pesach. The Jews were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt, building his temples, his homes, doing back breaking labor for nothing. Pharoah was a truly horrible leader to his slaves, killing sons so that the population was controlled. The story of Moses birth, then upbringing in Pharaoh’s home is one told again and again. His eye-opening experience finding out he is one of the Chosen, a Jew. His task given to him by Hashem, to free the Jews. 

Moses goes to Pharoah and asks him to “Let his people go”, however Pharoah refuses (whatever will he do without all that free labor to build his grand temples and homes?). Of course, his refusal then leads to the 10 Plagues, with the final plague being the death of the first-born son of every non-Jew. At this, Pharoah tells Moses to get the Jews and get out. The Jews leave quickly, not even allowing enough time for their bread to rise (this is important) and make their way out of Pharoah’s Egypt. But of course, Pharaoh, in his grief, chases after them, cueing Moses parting the sea and the Jews escaping to safety. They then wander the desert of Egypt for 40 years before finding their way to Canaan, Israel. 

So, how do we celebrate this joyous event? Well by not eating any Chametz, or leavened bread, and by hosting a Seder. First, the foregoing of the leavened bread. We abstain from eating any form of gluten (this includes bread, pasta, flour tortillas, ANYTHING that expands when contacted with water) for 7-8 days (depending on how you practice). You are supposed to cleanse your house of all Chametz and do a full cleaning so not even a crumb is left. It’s important to note that there are varying levels of practice, as with anything else in Judaism, and how one practices does not reflect how Jewish one is.  However, no matter how you practice, the tradition of the ridding of Chametz, the eating of Matzah, is to ritualize and remember the breaking away from slavery. The idea of cleansing the house of Chametz, then going forward to 7-8 days with only Matzah (or unleavened crackers) is to symbolize our effective breaking of ties to Egypt. Eating the Matzah (while not always fun) is a symbol of our journey as Jews in the desert. 

As with any other Jewish holiday, Pesach is steeped in ritual. Aside from the cleansing of Chametz and eating Matzah, we also have a Seder. The seder is a very orderly, ritual reading of the Haggadah, telling the story of the freedom of the Jews, feast. This feast has a strict and precise order and details out everything from how many glasses of wine will be consumed during the formal portion (it’s 4), to the washing of hands, to the game of finding the Afikomen. It is a joyous, happy occasion and often times one full of laughter and a true sense of community. As part of the seder we invite both those we know and those we don’t know to join our table as a way of honoring that we were all strangers at one point. Typically, there is a Night One Seder and a Night Two seder as we celebrate the first two nights of the weeklong holiday. 

Starting the second night of Pesach, Jews typically “Count the Omer”, in which we count and pray on the days between Pesach to Shavuot (the next holiday). This is a 50-day period that links the freedom of Pesach and the handing down of the Laws at Shavuot. There is also Yom HaShoah, falling 5 days after Pesach, which is the Day of the Holocaust. This is a day of mourning for the Jewish people to commemorate the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. 

Pesach for me is a holiday that I have the fullest, fondest memories of. Of course, giving up gluten for a week is…well torture, it is also one of the few very physical ways to honor that struggle that our ancestors went through to gain our freedom. A freedom that cannot be taken away, no matter how much struggle we have been through since as a people. But I also have some of the best memories of family seders as a child. We always did a night one Pesach Seder with some really close family friends and their extended family. It was a loud raucous night full of singing, laughing, and some great readings of the Haggadah. There was always a spirited hunt for the Afikomen, and the evening ALWAYS ended with a second, third, whatever round of Dayenu. I always loved the holiday of Pesach as it is not only a story of freedom, but also a celebration of finding home. Of having community in each other. Of struggling and triumphing together as a people. 

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – March 2022

We have come to the end of another month, and similar to last month, my reading started out great, then I read one book that slumped the rest of the month! I saw it coming, but it also bummed me out because I have so many great books that I desperately want to read, but life and certain books just gave me other plans. I read a total of 6 books this past month and gave an average rating of 3.8. I thought, overall, it was a really good reading month. I found a couple really good ones, some new to me authors that I’ll continue with, and a couple of not for me books. 

So, let’s get into the books, shall we?

An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen 4 Stars I truly loved this book. It bordered a 5 Star read for me, but I really reserve those (apparently). Much preferred to the Matzah Ball, I feel like this book handled both its appeal to Jew and Non-Jew audiences really well. As a Jewish Woman, this is what I would want to showcase my culture and religion. The romance was super sweet and adorable too. 

The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 3.5 Stars This is the second novel in this duology, and it was alright. I found to be an average young adult mystery, but it had a couple nice twists placed throughout and it was a quick easy read. 

Address Unknown by Katherine Kressmann Taylor 5 Stars I loved this. It’s short, told entirely in letters and painfully illustrates what so many Jews have experienced in their life. Set in the early 1930’s we are following two friends, business owners as Hitler rises to power. 

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake 3 Stars I feel so disappointed in this book. The premise, the first half, the whole concept was great! It started off so strongly but somewhere along the way it lost me, and really lost me. I barely finished and just honestly felt disappointment in the…loss of the storyline? I’m not even sure if I could describe exactly what it was, but it just lost me. 

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James 4.5 Stars I LOVED this book too. Simone St. James sure can set an atmosphere. This book has something for everyone (except a romance really), true crime, mystery, supernatural, haunted house, I mean it- everything! And it’s done really well- everything it seamlessly melded together and comes out beautifully. Will definitely be checking out some of the authors other works.

War of Two Queens by Jennifer L. Armentrout 3 Stars Ok, I’ve said it from book one, these books are not great works of literature. We do not judge them on their quality, but rather the escapism, the ridiculousness, the…je ne sais quoi that keeps you reading. And while this one was the same bingeable readable book as the first 4, I found it to be a bit…lackluster. Armentrout introduced quite a bit of plot into this book, a lot of the mythology and lore to the communities that she created, but I think it set it at odds with what we’ve come to expect from this series. 

And that’s it! War of Two Queens and life put me in a minor slump towards the end of March, but I’m emerging victorious with a large April list that I’d like to get to! 

To Thaw or Not To Thaw

Winter is veeerrrrrryyyyyyyy slowly coming to an end here in the Northeastern part of the country and I may finally be seeing the light at the end of this tunnel. This year we experienced our first proper winter in Upstate New York, and it changed us. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a winter quite like this one. 

To start with- the snow. There was a lot of it. Not as much as they’ve had in the past I’m told, but it was still a lot for us. And at times it seemed never ending. The weatherman didn’t quite get it right- it would stop and start of its own accord, and of course throw in the lake effect part and we had quite the time with it. We got a lot of use out of the snowblower (which I highly recommend) and the boys got to have a lot of fun. 

The snow was one thing, something I could prepare for, but what I couldn’t really prepare for was just how COLD it got. Let me tell you, I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced below zero temperatures, but I sure did this year. I think that was one of the hardest things about winter here, most days it was either snowing OR it was sunny and below zero. In fact, at one point I used the words “warm” and “not so bad” in reference to a 20-degree sunny day. Previous Mia would never. 

I quickly learned that those cute little winter outfits we see splashed around are just not…practical in any sense. And I’m not even referring to like the little sweater dress and boots. I’m talking about the jeans with the cute sweater, oversized but thin trench, and boots. No, no, no, that would not cut it here in the heart of winter (even though I tried- I tried so hard). 

Enter…the coveralls. The things that I would previously really only wear to go play in the snow with the boys have become an everyday staple in my winter wardrobe. Seriously, every day. I have found that these coveralls, with a long-sleeved layer underneath, pants (and sometimes thermal leggings under those), with snow boots, a thick winter jacket, hat and gloves have been my saving grace. 

The epitome of fashion over here. 

Because, to be honest, at this point I’ve really come to understand the whole function over fashion. 

When it’s -20 with a real feel of -32 and they are delaying school due to temps no one (you included) is going to care about that cute little sweater you’ve got on, or the perfect calf boots you’ve found. The only thing you’re going to care about is staying warm at that comes at the expense of “looking fashionable”. Note- I said looking fashionable, you can still be cute and cuddly in these clothes…it’s just not high fashion. Maybe fashion designers should take note ha-ha. 

In fact, if I do say so myself, there is nothing quite as cute as looking like the kid from A Christmas Story and staying warm. 

Planning in 2022

Well, it’s a new year and even though I am trying not to plan too much, there is still a lot going on and I still need to have a planner of some sort. Going along with my new “be flexible” lifestyle (ha- that’s a bit of a joke) I decided to once again dip my toes in the bullet journaling world. 

Here’s the thing, my ideal planner would have a spot to sort of time block my day in a visual sense, but also a separate section for a bit of a rolling to do list. I want to have the space to write out what I actually need to accomplish, but also be able to visualize how I’m spending my day in a time sense. All of that in a weekly view spread. Every planner that I was finding then involved me needing a separate notebook for the to-do list/meeting notes, and then a separate journal space, and a separate reading space. That was just not something that I wanted. Less is best, right? So, I decided to go back into the bullet journaling world to see if I could find a way to make it work. 

The biggest change this year with the bullet journaling is twofold. The first is that I’m using stencils. The biggest turn off or reason I stopped in previous years is it IS a lot of work and most of the time, I prefer to read a book or do something other. I’m not NOT crafty, but it’s also not something that I really focus on. So, I ordered a pack of stencils to kind of cut my time spent setting up my planner in half. 

The second change I made is in how I set it up. A) all of my months are preset at the beginning of the bullet journal. I needed to be able to see all 12 months at one time, with school/appointments/breaks there is just too much going on for me not to be able to see several months pre outlined. I typically am planning and booking stuff almost a month out, so this was a necessary. I wanted to be able to see my month, but then customize my week as it happened. B) I don’t have a monthly view within each month. Since I did the full calendar year in the first 24 pages of the bullet journal (a month on two pages), I don’t feel the need to then duplicate the work each month. This actually cuts a lot of my “bullet journal work” time in half. Each month has a reading spread and a tracking spread prior to the actually weekly spreads. That’s it. One page to track my movement, mood, and journaling, and one page to track all the book things (I’m tracking both reading and purchasing this year). Then I have my weekly spread, with notes and meeting information as necessary. 

I have found that, so far, a few months in, this has really been working for me. I’ve always said that I want everything to be in one place. That’s something I’ve always liked about Bullet Journaling- it’s really one notebook that can encompass everything you need. I’m hopeful that this will actually work out for me this year and give me both the structure and flexibility I think that 2022 is going to need. 

And that’s the planner for 2022! I’ll do another check in with it about halfway through the year (this is what I tend to do when I do bullet journaling) and we’ll see where it’s at at that point. 

A Year In…

It’s been a year. A whole year being in New York. A {little over a} year back in the United States. I figured I might take a minute and just…reminisce? Share some of the things that I’ve learned? I don’t want this to be a recap post or anything of the sort (I already did that with my New Year’s post HERE), but there are some things that I’ve learned that I want to briefly share about. 

In 2021 we moved away from our little village in Germany back to the US. We took a month to visit some family, before heading on our way to very {veerrrryyyyy} Upstate New York. As someone who was very sad to be leaving Germany, even the excitement of being back in the States, setting up a new home, and being in a new location wasn’t enough to bring me out of my blues. Also, the move back was a bit overwhelming, as was the adjustment of being back in the States. I was excited, but also sad, and a little apprehensive. This would be a different life for all of us. 

I will say this, I have fallen in love with this area of the country. We truly live in a very beautiful area, close to a lot of outdoors activity, smaller town living, and really…not much can top Upstate New York in Autumn. We still have easy access to a lot of travel spots, and we’ve even tried out some different travel options (and fell in love with one or two). It’s been something special this past year, but a lot of that “get out of the blues” feeling is due to one thing…

Romanticizing my life as it is. 

Now, let me make this clarification (and I’ll probably make this several times throughout this little post) …this doesn’t mean that life is easy or grand or beautiful every day. It doesn’t mean that everything is perfect and wonderful and easy. BUT what it does mean is accepting that those days come, but celebrating, reflecting, and holding on to those little moments of joy- that first cup of coffee in the morning, a picnic on the front porch, the quiet of the afternoon while the kids are at school, the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. Or bigger things like walking in a field of flowers, picking some fresh for the table, sitting at the edge of a mountain in the middle of Autumn with the vibrant reds and yellows all around. Those little joys are what I share, what I reflect on, what I treasure, making sure those are the moments that hold me through…that’s what this means to me. It’s finding those little moments in the midst of the chaos and holding those close when it is chaotic. 

I know it might sound cheesy, but if you’ve been following my social media over the last 6-9 months, you’ll have seen me share a lot of those moments (I mean how many times can I wonder at opening my blinds up in the morning to greet the day?! It’s glorious!). 

It’s really easy to get swept away in life and the world living in Europe. Like beyond easy to feel like you’re living in a dream, living in a fairytale. I didn’t want to lose the joy and wonder I had when waking up in Europe every morning when we moved back to the US. And while the US is incredible and the area, we live in is beautiful, I needed to find a way to carry that feeling from Europe into our new life in New York. So, I started doing little things. Our new routines and scheduled meant for less time for “dallying” in the morning, so I tried to take little moments, making that first cup of tea, opening up all the blinds in the house, playing calming music in the morning, etc. It’s nothing I wouldn’t already be doing, but it’s more so putting a bit more intention into these little moments. I find that if I take a couple extra seconds in the morning to put on a calming playlist (I have several to choose from) and just take a couple extra minutes when opening up the windows to truly take in the day- it shifts my mindset. It reminds me that life is beautiful (even if not always perfect and calm) no matter where we are or what we are doing. 

It doesn’t mean that life isn’t chaotic, or busy, or that my children don’t throw fits and I don’t feel like screaming and crying all at the same time…it simply means that I am constantly looking around and reminding myself how wonderful life is in the good moments. It doesn’t change that we have bad moments (because oh boy do we), but it makes a small difference in them. 

And that to me is what Romanticizing my life is all about. It’s about putting myself in the movie, in seeing the beauty in all the little moments throughout the day, to help get through the bad moments (also throughout the day). It’s about reminding ourselves that life can be incredible and celebrated and enjoyed. 

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – February 2022

Ah, the month that I read the least, the least I’ve read in a while. I’m not sure what really happened, whether it was having the kids home for the last week of February, a minor outpatient surgery for one of the kids, my need for a little staycation, the world at large, or a combination of everything, but man the last half of February I just…stopped reading. It wasn’t a bad thing, it’s actually happened several times before, but it does mean that this post will be shorter than normal. I read a total of 4 books (though I started 2 more in addition to that) and gave an average rating of 3.8.

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman 3.75 Stars This is the second book in the Thursday Murder Club series and while I don’t know if I enjoyed this one as much as the first, I still really enjoy watching the characters bumble about. Just the idea of this senior citizen club solving murders and cheating out the cops…it just really tickles me haha. 

You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen 3.5 Stars I think this is an EXCELLENT young young adult novel to read to understand a bit more about Islamophobia, the intersection of different minorities and learning how we can help and do better by these communities. It follows three young women as they are learning about themselves, being activists, and standing up for what they believe both in personal relationships AND in the world. I think it would be great for the Jr High age range.

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimand 4 Stars This book, on the whole, was a fun one to read. If you want a quirky main character bumbling and stumbling into something larger than herself, then bumbling and stumbling to get out of it…this is the book for you. I really had a good time once I got through the initial few chapters. At the start it’s a bit too…heavy handed with certain things, but once we got into the swing of things it lightened up quite a bit. 

House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas 4 Stars This. This book. This is what I’m ultimately blaming the rest of the month on. Because this book…once I finished it, I just wanted to read it all over again (but not really) and all I really wanted was just more of the same. The second book in the Crescent City Series, this was an excellent follow up to the first, though (like the first), a bit long winded in places. 

And that’s it for books I finished in February. I started both Jade War and An Unorthodox Match, but the former wasn’t being read at the right time (aka I was not being captivated for whatever reason) and the latter is still being read currently (so look for a review next month!). How was your reading month in February?