Love, Joleen

Friday, April 28, 2017

2017 Summer Reading List

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Goodness! It looks like it's been about a year since I posted my recent reads, but I haven't stopped reading. If you ever want to see what I'm currently reading or take a look at my book ratings/reviews, head over and friend me on GoodReads
I thoroughly enjoyed putting together this year's summer reading list for ya'll! Most of these books are on my own to-read list, but I've added a few that I've already read (and enjoyed!) this year as well. So, load up that Kindle and get ready to read! 

1. Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee – I picked up this book for $1 at my local thrift store and I have a feeling I'm going to connect with Rosemary.  
"Blubber meets Steel Magnolias in this funny and honest story about body image and family. Rosemary Goode is smart and funny and loyal and the best eyebrow waxer in Spring Hill, Tennessee. But only one thing seems to matter to anyone, including Rosemary: her weight. And when your mom runs the most successful (and gossipy) beauty shop in town, it can be hard to keep a low profile. Rosemary resolves to lose the weight, but her journey turns out to be about everything but the scale. Her life-changing, waist-shrinking year is captured with brutal honesty and humor, topped with an extra-large helping of Southern charm. A truly uncommon novel about an increasingly common problem." 

2. Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley – All I had to read to know that this book should be on my list: "... perfect for fans of the emotional novels of Jojo Moyes and Jodi Picoult."

"Jubilee Jenkins has a rare condition: she’s allergic to human touch. After a nearly fatal accident, she became reclusive, living in the confines of her home for nine years. But after her mother dies, Jubilee is forced to face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from. 
Jubilee finds safe haven at her local library where she gets a job. It’s there she meets Eric Keegan, a divorced man who recently moved to town with his brilliant, troubled, adopted son. Eric is struggling to figure out how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Jubilee is unlike anyone he has ever met, yet he can't understand why she keeps him at arm's length. So Eric sets out to convince Jubilee to open herself and her heart to everything life can offer, setting into motion the most unlikely love story of the year."
3. Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman – This is the most recent book I've read and I loved it! It's the perfect light and entertaining vacation read. 
"Best friends Annie and Sarah need cash—fast. Sarah, a beautiful, successful lawyer, wants nothing more than to have a baby. But balancing IVF treatments with a grueling eighty-hour workweek is no walk in the park. Meanwhile, Annie, a Harvard-grad chemist recently transplanted to Southern California, is cutting coupons to afford her young autistic son’s expensive therapy. 
Desperate, the two friends come up with a brilliant plan: they’ll combine Sarah’s looks and Annie’s brains to sell a “luxury” anti-aging face cream to the wealthy, fading beauties in Annie’s La Jolla book club. The scheme seems innocent enough, until Annie decides to add a special—and oh-so-illegal—ingredient that could bring their whole operation crashing to the ground. 
Hilarious, intelligent, and warm, Crimes Against a Book Club is a delightful look at the lengths women will go to fend for their families and for one another."
4. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – I had never heard of this book until I saw the movie preview. It is totally "my type" of book/movie so I immediately added it to my "must-read" list!
"My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He's tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.
Everything, Everything will make you laugh, cry, and feel everything in between. It's an innovative,  inspiring, and heartbreakingly romantic debut novel that unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, illustrations, and more."
5. In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch – This selection is one I actually don't know much about. It caught my eye on GoodReads. 
"Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a house, naively certain that their friendships would endure—until the death of their ringleader and dear friend Bea splintered the group for good. Now, mostly estranged from one another, the remaining five reluctantly gather at that same house on the eve of what would have been Bea’s fortieth birthday.
But along with the return of the friends come old grudges, unrequited feelings, and buried secrets. Catherine, the CEO of a domestic empire, and Owen, a stay-at-home dad, were picture-perfect college sweethearts—but now teeter on the brink of disaster. Lindy, a well-known musician, is pushing middle age in an industry that’s all about youth and slowly self-destructing as she grapples with her own identity. Behind his smile, handsome plastic surgeon Colin harbors the heartbreaking truth about his own history with Bea. And Annie carefully curates her life on Instagram and Facebook, keeping up appearances so she doesn’t have to face the truth about her own empty reality.
Reunited in the place where so many dreams began, and bolstered by the hope of healing, each of them is forced to confront the past."
6. My (not so) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella – I'm a huge fan of Sophie Kinsella! I recently read this book and enjoyed it. If you're looking for [predictable yet loveable] chick lit, then this is a great choice for you. Perfect easy read for your summer beach trip. 
"Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud. 
Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life. 
Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the truth."
7. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – Jodi Picoult is hands down my favorite author, and I've loved nearly everything I've ever read by her (which is a lot) -- but this book is her most important work, in my opinion. This is not light reading, but will be the best book you read this year. I'm still reeling from it myself. 
"Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? 
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong. 
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game."
8. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty – Unless you've been living under a pop-culture rock, you know that Moriarty's Big Little Lies is all the rage right now. I loved reading it last year and thoroughly enjoyed the HBO series as well. I'm looking forward to reading her latest novel. 
"Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other. 
Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite. 
Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone? 
In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm."
9. Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst – This is the one non-fiction I've added to the list. I've been wanting to read this since I heard Lysa speak about it on a Christian mom's podcast I listen to. I think you might like it to. 
"The enemy wants us to feel rejected . . . left out, lonely, and less than. In Uninvited, Lysa shares her own deeply personal experiences of rejection--from the perceived judgment of the perfectly toned woman one elliptical over to the incredibly painful childhood abandonment by her father. She leans in to honestly examine the roots of rejection, as well as rejection's ability to poison relationships from the inside out, including our relationship with God. 
With biblical depth, gut-honest vulnerability, and refreshing wit, Lysa will help you:
  • Stop feeling left out by believing that even when you are overlooked by others you are handpicked by God.
  • Change your tendency to either fall apart or control the actions of others by embracing God-honoring ways to process your hurt. 
  • Know exactly what to pray for the next ten days to steady your soul and restore your confidence in the midst of rejection.
  • Overcome the two core fears that feed your insecurities by understanding the secret of belonging. 
Uninvited reminds us we are destined for a love that can never be diminished, tarnished, shaken, or taken--a love that does not reject or uninvite."
So that's it! I hope you enjoy these selections! If you've read anything worth recommending lately, please let me know. I'm constantly added books to my "want to read" shelf. Happy reading! 
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Thursday, April 27, 2017

48 Hour Guide to Free and Cheap Fun for Kids in Orange County

Benjamin and I just got back from spending two weeks in California, visiting family and friends for an extended Spring Break. We spent 9 of those days in Southern California, which is where I'm from. Although I was a nanny there for 8 years, I wanted to put together an itinerary of mostly new experiences for us both. With summer quickly approaching, I thought it would be fun to start a new series here on Love, Joleen – family-friendly guides based on our experiences, on how to spend 48 hours with kids in various locations, without breaking the bank! 
Day 1 Adventure Playground (Irvine)

Address: (Not to be confused with the Adventure Playground that's only open during the summer in Huntington Beach.) This Adventure Playground is located at 1 Beech Tree Lane in Irvine. 

Hours: March through October, the park is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. November through February, the park hours are 10 a.m. to dusk, daily. They are closed for all major holidays and close early on Independence Day and NYE. 

Cost: FREE 

Listen, this was one of the best parks (if not THE best) we've been to, ever. My kid is still talking about how much fun he had with his cousins! And it's really no wonder. It's one of only 3 parks of its kind in the entire nation! It's known and loved for the unstructured play opportunities it provides. While there is a more traditional play structure on the playground, there are several other sections of the park, which lend to the "adventure". The playground includes a tree house, sensory garden, climbing poles and stumps, slides, art wall, kids fort zone, meadows and natural play areas. The boys loved going down the smooth concrete (yep!) slide and racing back to the top. I only had about 10 heart attacks watching. Benjamin, who LOVES digging, especially with diggers, loved playing in the mud with the toy trucks available. Both of the older boys enjoyed the sit-on diggers in the sand too! 

Friday, March 24, 2017

6 Favorite Preschool Podcasts

I can't even tell you how long I've been wanting to write about podcasts in this space! "Podcasting" (originally known has "audioblogging") has an interesting history, dating back to the 80's but gaining popularity in their current format in 2004. Did you know that there are currently over 115,000 English-language podcasts available? Crazy, right? They're super easy to access, with most of us automatically carrying around the Podcasts app on our iPhones, without even realizing it. Plus, they're free! I've only been listening to podcasts for about a year now myself, but in that time they've completely changed the way I consume content. There is truly something for everyone. Only in recent months did it dawn on me to search for children's podcasts for Benjamin, and I'm so thrilled I did! 

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