Practicing Gratitude: The 5 Books I’m Most Grateful For

Let’s admit it.  With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many of us probably have our heads crammed with travel schedules, grocery lists, and, if you’re anything like me, bullet points for some political debates (love you and looking at you, Dad). But none of these things are what the holiday is REALLY about, are they? It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the hustle and bustle that we forget to pause, reflect on, and show appreciation for all that we actually have to be grateful for.

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If Hygge Were a Sweater…

I’m positive I’ll feel differently at the tail-end of this season, but I have been so enjoying the dipping temperatures here in New England.  The bite in the air is starting to keep us indoors more often than not, which can only mean one thing…hygge season is officially here.

I was first introduced to the concept of hygge by a dear friend (hey Liz!!!), a little over a year ago, and I fell completely in love with the concept.  In a nutshell, hygge is the Danish art of happiness that centers around enjoying simple, charming, and cozy pleasures.  Think lots of tea, books, blankets, candles, home-made meals enjoyed at home with friends and family, and, of course, comfortable clothes. 

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Vintage Fashion: 3 Reasons to Hit Up Your Local Thrift Shop

I must confess, I haven’t always loved to shop for clothes.  I have vivid memories of preteen me BEGGING my mother not to make me go back-to-school shopping at Marshall’s because I loathed it so much (and I knew she’d spend two hours in the pocketbook section alone).  She would drag me along anyway and as a result I’d rebel -of course- with my “fashion” choices.  One particularly awful red shirt with mesh sleeves comes to mind, but we’ll leave that image with 8th grade Ashley where it belongs.

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Book Talk: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

“On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.”

If Marra’s future books are as beautiful as this debut novel, I hope he’ll write hundreds.  While I originally read Constellation two years ago, I was even more impressed with Marra’s craft and character development the second time around.

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Spanning the length of 5 days in 2004 Chechnya, this story begins the morning after Havaa, an eight-year-old girl with a mysterious blue suitcase of unnamed “souvenirs” in tow, watches Russian Feds kidnap her father on suspicion of harboring Chechen rebels and burn the only home she’s ever known to the ground.  Akhmed, her father’s lifelong friend, rescues her from her hiding spot in the woods and decides to take her to the only safe place he can think of.  The unlikely pair travel together to a nearly abandoned hospital in a nearby town in the hopes that it’s lone surgeon, the formidable Sonja Rabina, will take the girl in. 

Little do they know that Sonja, already overworked and exhausted, has a deeply private reason to turn them away.  If she chooses to grant Havaa a safe haven in her hospital, she might also risk threatening the return of her long-missing sister, Natasha.  Against her better judgement Sonja agrees to watch over Havaa, on the condition that Akhmed assist her with the never-ending work of running the dilapidated hospital.  While their arrangement temporarily protects Havaa from the Feds, the threat of her discovery grows with each passing day.

I know in my bones that I’ll return to this book many times in my life.  Before reading it, I had never known about the horrors of the centuries long Chechen-Russian conflict, nor of the two Chechen Wars in the 90’s and early 00’s.  The author paints this history unapologetically and leaves the reader with feelings of rage, joy, heartbreak, and hope all at once.  Marra is a genius at forming subtle connections between both characters and events with his use intricate and vivid details that thread themselves throughout the story.  This book is a constantly unfolding treasure that should be required reading.

More Than Metal and Stone: My Five Favorite Pieces of Jewelry

Tim and I are moving to a new apartment soon, giving me the perfect opportunity to scratch the declutter itch I’ve been feeling for awhile now.  I’ve been working through our rooms, sorting possessions into piles; keep, toss, and donate.  I’d made it through my kitchen, my knick knacks, and my closet at record speed (for me) but when it came time to clean out my jewelry box, I paused. 

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My (Belated) June Reading List

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It feels really good to be writing about books again.  Without going into too much detail, this year has held a few tougher seasons for me, and I’ve spent much of it feeling overwhelmed/upset/anxious/depressed about certain aspects of my life.  However, I am actively taking steps to change that, including being more active here, in my creative space.  Reading and writing make me happy, and we could all use more happy in the day-to-day, right?  And so, without further ado, here are my latest reads.
So, full disclosure.  I did NOT read all of these books in June.  However, I do want to be better about writing monthly book roundup posts, so in that spirit here are my “June” reads!

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Watermelon Kombucha Margaritas

It’s hard to say how long exactly my love affair with kombucha*, a type of fermented sweet tea, has been going on.  It IS safe to say that we’ve been hot and heavy for awhile now, and treating myself to one during my weekly grocery shopping trip has become a ritual of mine.  While I have my tried and true flavors I like to stick too (hello GT’s  Cosmic Cranberry and KeVita’s Lavender Melon!), I essentially flipped out when I found the Synergy’s new Watermelon Wonder Kombucha flavor at Trader Joe’s.

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Pineapple Prints

A few weeks ago, I had a really great shopping day.  You know the kind- you walk into a store (in my case, Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx or Target…let’s be real) and love everything you see.  The pieces you choose to try on fit you just right, and the most expensive item you found is $25, which means that of course you can buy all the fabulous things that look great on you.  This amazing little pineapple dress just so happened to be one of my fabulous things, and I’ve easily worn it upwards of five times since I brought it home.

Dress: Marshall’s; Bag: Target, Sandals: Old Navy

Where do I begin? I just love every single detail of this dress.  The off-shoulder ruffle, the soft denim fabric, and the light-hearted pineapple print make this piece a go-to for pretty much any summer scenario you might find yourself in, from a beach day to a dinner date.  So far I’ve styled it on the casual side paired with simple sandals, a neutral bag, and my usual silver bangles and rings.  This dress could easily be dressed up with wedges or heels and some statement earrings.  Either way, it’s seriously the best, and has quickly become my summer uniform.


Have you discovered any really great pieces lately? What’s your summer uniform? I’d love to hear!


The Bookish Bohemian

My Summer 2017 Reading List

To this day, I can still recall the moment I first realized that I loved to read.  If my memories formed a map of my life, I could rest my fingertip on the exact spot where, as a first grader, I managed to wrangle four letters, j, u, m, and p into a word I understood.  A word I read.  Those four letters, once a puzzle on the page, now strung themselves together to mean what I liked to do in puddles after a storm.  Jump.

Many years and words later, books and reading are still one of the great staples in my life.  A great book can mend any bad day or serve as a catalyst for that cry I didn’t know I needed.  Books have encouraged me to look deeper into who I am, by studying either the parts of myself I recognize in characters or how I respond to events that fold across the page.  Most of all, books have helped me to connect with other people, from sharing a new favorite read with a friend, to borrowing a fresh stack from a coworker, to discussing and arguing over plot lines and hidden meanings at book clubs.  In short, I simply would not be who I am without books.

Now that summer is in full swing, this English teacher finally has free time, that mythical being, to park out on the porch with plenty of iced coffee and my stack of summer reading books.  This year’s pile has a few Young Adult novels that I’m scanning as potential classroom library additions, as well as several titles that were recommended to me over the past few months.  I’m currently a third of the way through Second Glance and the one word that comes to mind so far is: spooky.

summer 17 reading list

1) Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (YA):  I first discovered this book while researching a “Book Talk” for my classroom.  It tells the story of Willow, a 12-year old girl who, while remarkably intelligent, is also a little “off.”  Tragedy strikes when her adoptive parents pass away in a car crash, leaving Willow to push through her grief and the world around her, solo.

2) The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (YA): As a Hunger Games fan, I was drawn to this Young Adult dystopian novel.  Two children, Lina and Doon, meet and befriend each other in Ember, a city that is quickly running out of supplies and resources.  When they discover a hidden secret however, they begin to wonder.  Is there a way out of Ember?

3) An Abundance of Katherine’s by John Green (YA): While I’m already fairly certain that this book won’t be the best addition to a 5th grade classroom, I want to conduct my “research” and read it anyway.  John Green brings us another promising-sounding novel about a boy named Colin who has been dumped by 19 girlfriends, who all share the same name: Katherine.  He embarks on a road trip with his best friend to, among other things, break this unfortunate dating cycle and find more permanent romance.  Stay tuned to see if this lives up to The Fault in Our Stars!

4) Second Glance by Jodi Picoult: As I mentioned, I’m currently about a third of the way into this one.  Set in tiny Comtosook, Vermont, this novel tells the story of Ross, a paranormal investigator intent on reaching the ghost of his deceased fiancée.  He travels to the little town to investigate strange occurrences that have sprouted ever since a developer announced his plan to build a strip mall on disputed ancient Abenaki Indian burial ground.  In true Picoult form, the voices of several characters, both alive and dead, bring this novel to life.

5) Wonder by R.J. Palacio: I’m planning on developing a writing unit around this book, and I want to read it, of course, before the movie version is released.  This Young Adult novel tells the story of August “Auggie” Pullman, a young boy born with a facial deformity who is entering public school for the first time as a 5th grader.  I’ve been warned to keep tissue handy for this one.

6) The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta: I’m a HUGE fan of the HBO series inspired by this book, so when it caught my eye at the library I had to grab it.  Now, in my opinion the book is ALWAYS better than its film adaptation(s), and I hope that, despite my genuine love of this series, this rule remains true.  I’m not sure yet how much the two differ, but in a nutshell: millions of people vanish out of thin air at the same time on the same fateful day, leaving everyone they leave behind to grapple with the anguish and confusion of their disappearance.

7) A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson: This is the “sort of” sequel to one of my all time favorite books, Life After Life.  This novel focuses on Teddy, the younger brother of the protagonist from Life After Life, a wistful poet and actual pilot.  Spanning four generations, Atkinson tells the story of Teddy and his family over four generations, with a good dash of history mixed in.  I really enjoyed Life After Life, and hope to meet some of the same characters in this book.


What are you reading this summer? I’d love to hear! Until next time.

xx- The Bookish Bohemian