Friday Favorites 7/31/15

On Fridays, I will be featuring some of my favorite things from my life and around the interwebs.  Today’s post will be the first of my Friday Favorites!

Back to school is quickly approaching around here!  Grace starts 4th grade on August 12th, but many of our friends start on Monday.  So, we have been all about the back to school shopping.  A friend shared that The Children’s Place was having an huge online sale, so we shopped from our kitchen!  It was fabulous!  On top of their already great discounts, if you search the web for coupons, you can save an additional 20%.  We got all of this for around $80!

Back to school clothes

Back to school shopping also means shoe shopping!  I usually let Grace get a few pairs of shoes–tennis shoes, something casual, and often a pair of fashion boots a little later in the season.  She already had a pair of Tom’s that I had set aside from a great Zulily sale earlier in the year and we took care of the boots at Target.  The only thing left was tennis shoes.  But, we needed two pairs!  One for everyday wear and the other to be left at school for gym shoes.  This is what she decided on for her everyday pair of shoes.

Grace's new kicks

Aren’t they fun?  She is WAY cooler than I was in 4th grade.  Lucky girl!  We bought these Brooks Adrenaline from a local shoe store where they measured her for exact size.  My growing girl shot up one and a half shoe sizes since the beginning of the last school year!  It won’t be long before she is shopping in the women’s shoes alongside her mama.

Thank goodness for online shopping and back to school kits!  All of Grace’s school supplies will show up in her classroom ready for her on back to school night.  It makes this mama’s life a lot easier!

Another thing that makes my life easy?  The barbecue grill.  After a very mild and rainy start, it is finally beginning to feel like summer around here, which means it is getting HOT!  I hate turning on my oven and heating up our whole main living area, so the barbecue grill is a great alternative.  And if we use the grill, that usually means that I get a little help with the cooking.  My husband is the designated griller and smoker around here, and I love him for it!  Earlier in the week, I had set out a chicken to thaw and it needed to be used.  I’d seen recipes for spatchcocked chicken, in which you remove the backbone from the chicken so that it lays flat and cooks more evenly.  I’ve never spatchcocked a chicken and I’m not sure that we’ve ever grilled a whole chicken, so I thought we’d give it a shot.  We used this recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple.  Grace loved the spice blend so much that she was trying to sneak tastes of it while I was preparing it!  Here’s what our chicken looked like on the grill.  The wires are from our remote thermometer:

Spatchcocked Chicken

To go along with our chicken, I wanted a nice summer salad.  I had been craving one of those crunchy Asian noodle slaws, so I picked up a pack of gluten free ramen noodles and went about finding a recipe.  I decided on The Kitchn’s crunchy cabbage and ramen noodle salad.  It exceeded all my expectations and was just as tasty as I remembered!  The one exception being that I used rice ramen noodles.  They were a bit too crunchy for us and pretty flavorless, so I decided it wasn’t even necessary to include them.  This salad will definitely be going into my lineup and will probably be the next thing I take to a pitch-in.

Lastly, I love Goodreads!  I know that many of you already follow me there, but if you don’t, I’d love for you to join me there.  It is such a great way to keep track of all of your books.  I have a never ending list of books that I want to read thanks to Goodreads!  You can find my profile by clicking here.  I’d love to have some new friends to follow!



The Circle review

My most recent read was The Circle, by Dave Eggers.  It was a library book that I downloaded onto my Kindle almost a full year after a friend recommended it to me.  I was finally motivated to put this on hold when I heard they were going to make a movie out of it!  Rumor has it that Emma Watson and Tom Hanks will play starring roles, with Hanks also having some behind the scenes input.  I mean, a movie with both Hermoine Granger and Forrest Gump?  Sign me up!

The Circle

But first, I had to read the book.  That’s kind of my thing.  If there is a movie out that I really want to see, I try to make it my policy to always read the book first.  I may be guilty of instituting this policy with my child, as well.  I’ve also been known to buy a Kindle book and fly through it in a day or two, just so I can follow up with the movie.  In fact, I did that very thing a few short weeks ago with Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl.  But now I’m just giving away all of my secrets!

Back to The Circle.  I’ve read two other books by Dave Eggers, so it was no surprise that The Circle would take somewhat of a cultural stand.  I think what surprised me the most was how much this book affected me.  I was truly disturbed by this book.  So much so, that when I shared my sentiments with my husband, he questioned my sanity.  After all, he knows how much I love a good post-apocolyptic, dystopian novel.  Sure, those are all works of fiction.  But I think what really got me about this book was how eerily close to reality it is.

The Circle is a story about Mae, a young twenty-something who leaves a tired job for a new career in the global internet communications company known as The Circle.  Think Microsoft, Google, or Apple.  Mae begins as a customer service representative and acquires this position through her former college roommate, who is an upper level “Circler.”  As Mae pushes herself to secure her position, it becomes evident that she has no real sense of what is required of someone who works at The Circle.  No one possibly could.  She is asked to maintain a constant online presence, while also being present at the many, many daily social gatherings held on The Circle’s large urban campus.  Life is lead over social media.  Mae’s performance at The Circle is based on a complicated system of online ratings and formulas, in which it seems as though her every move is being evaluated by the general public.   It’s overwhelming, yet Mae pushes on despite more demands being made of her everyday.

As mere months wear on, Mae becomes ingratiated into The Circle.  Her life plays out in front of her on social media.  Mae becomes more isolated, choosing to move out of her apartment and into a room on campus so that she never has to leave The Circle, finding life outside to be offensive and lacking in order.  To say that The Circle is cult-like would be an understatement.  With her acceptance into The Circle, Mae’s attitude towards her loved ones changes.  She becomes bitter and vengeful.  Mae believes that the way of The Circle is the only way.  She eventually receives backlash from her parents and a former boyfriend, perhaps the only voices of reason left in a life so demanding of knowledge.  

In The Circle, author Dave Eggers imagines a world in the not-so distant future in which surveillance and social media have taken over the world.  As in a perfect utopian society, The Circle strives for and demands complete transparency.  Politicians and eventually regular citizens become outfitted with small cameras, allowing unfettered access to their lives.  Cameras are installed publicly and can be monitored by anyone with access to the internet.  The idea behind this being that, when we are constantly being monitored, we will all be on our very best behavior.  Crime rates will go down, but in return, all privacy will cease to exist.  It is a frightening notion that, at this point in history, seems like an eventual reality. 

I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed this book.  It made me uncomfortable to read, which I imagine was probably the intent.  At least I hope it was.  Because if we all just accept that privacy is a thing of the past, then we are enabling a society that is inching ever closer to totalitarianism.

All that being said, I think The Circle will translate well to film.  It is an intriguing story.  With the amazing talents of Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, I look forward to seeing it play out on screen!

If you liked The Circle, you might also enjoy:

Wander Indiana

Wander Indiana

After recently reading All the Bright Places,  I was inspired to “Wander Indiana.”  In my review of All the Bright Places, I describe how the main characters Theodore and Violet are given an assignment designed to inspire pride in their Hoosier state.  They are required to visit and report back on unique Indiana attractions.  Along the way, they discover some really obscure but fascinating places.  This made me curious to see what I could discover right in my own backyard.  I love a good adventure, especially if it is close to home!

My daughter Grace and I planned a little mama-daughter date day in nearby Huntington, Indiana. The plan was to see a movie, have lunch, and visit a cute little antique shop. I figured that while we were there, we could also check out a local park. What we discovered was a hidden gem smack dab in the middle of this small town. An abandoned rock quarry had been transformed into a lovely sunken garden. It was so enchanting, like something out of a movie. We, of course, had to have an impromptu photo session. Forgive the senior picture-style posing!

Wander Indiana, Sunken Gardens, Huntington, IN

There are so many wonderful surprises hidden around every corner, if only we choose to find them.  Next, we plan to wander through Berne, Indiana for their Swiss Days festival!  If you are interested in wandering, in either your own state or while traveling, I encourage you to visit There you will find lists of roadside attractions and plotted maps for every state. There is something for everyone to see. From kitsch to fantastic, these lists have it all!  Check out the attractions for your state and come back and leave a comment telling me one that you are excited to see.

All the Bright Places review

It was difficult for me to choose which book to review for my very first blog post because I have read so many great books lately!  However, All the Bright Places stood out to me as the first one I should share because the setting is Indiana, which is where I happen to live.   Indiana may not strike you as all that interesting of a place to live.  I’m sure that I’ve had that same thought myself a time or two.   But author Jennifer Niven manages to creates intrigue in the obscure as she highlights some of the Hoosier state’s strange and little known attractions in this young adult novel.

all the bright places cover

Violet Markey and Theodore Finch meet one morning on the ledge of their high school clock tower.  Both of them sullen and depressed, it is unclear who saves whom that morning.  When they are are given a research project designed to inspire pride in their state, Theodore chooses Violet to be his partner.  Together, they set off to “Wander Indiana,” determined to find the most unusual and obscure attractions the state has to offer.  I’ll admit that this was the most interesting part of the novel for me.  I am old enough to remember the Indiana tourism commercials from the 1980’s that encouraged viewers to “Wander Indiana.” And that catchy jingle has not stopped running through my head since reading this book.  During my time with All the Bright Places, I found myself putting down my Kindle so that I could Google each of the attractions that Violet and Theodore visited.   I had never heard of, let alone visited, most of them.  The World’s Largest Ball of Paint, DIY backyard rollercoasters, houses shaped like birds’ nests, and the state’s highest elevation (spoiler alert here:  it’s just a hill) and several more are highlighted in this book.

Though all of these adventures may seem exciting, both Violet and Theodore are struggling.  In each other, they find strength and develop a strong and unlikely friendship.  All the Bright Places explores mental illness, a topic all too often shrouded in shame and secrecy.  However, I’m not sure this particular book does anything to dispel the myths of mental illness, nor does it encourage one to seek help for it.  And given the target audience, I feel the author may have really missed an opportunity here.  As a young adult, the author herself had an experience that seems parallel to Violet’s.  Perhaps, for her, this book was more of a catharsis, rather than an opportunity to educate.

I wanted to love this book.  I expected to love this book.  While it was a good read, I found myself more drawn into their adventures than to the characters themselves.  So much so, that I was inspired to “Wander Indiana” myself recently.  You can read about it here.  If you’ve read All the Bright Places, be sure to leave a comment below letting me know what you thought!  No spoilers for those who’ve yet to read it.

If you liked All the Bright Places, you may also enjoy: