Friday, May 1, 2015

Inspirational Books for Mom

Disclosure: The books I have reviewed in this post were provided courtesy of UncommonGoods, a great website for shopping handmade, recycled, or Made in USA gifts. (All the good stuff you know I am about. I actually linked to them in my holiday gift guide a few years ago.) As always, all opinions are 100% my own!

Without a link to her amazon wishlist, it can be a bit tricky to shop for the mom (or moms) in your life for Mother's Day. Take my mama, for instance. Unless I know for sure she's had her eye on a new fragrance or a handbag or I've got a new birthstone charm to add to her mama/nana necklace (celebrating her babies and grandbabies), I stay away from perfumes, jewelry and other accessories. I want my mom to actually use what I give her! Instead, I like to think about her interests.

While perusing some gift ideas over at UncommonGoods, I came up with this little list of inspirational books that the moms in your life might love to receive and (hopefully) mark up and dog ear instead of looking pretty on the bookshelf (though, I'll admit they are some nice looking books)!

For the Expectant Mama: "Expecting You -- A Keepsake Pregnancy Journal"
I love this book for so many reasons. First, it comes at the perfect time because we're expecting Baby #2 in October! (How's that for an announcement?) Second, I tried keeping a pregnancy journal for Hunter and failed miserably. I just used a regular old unlined journal, and most of it I left blank. I do have some special entries, but I just didn't spend as much time on it as I wish I had. This journal has some great quotes and prompts that really help me think about all the facets of pregnancy, little things that never even occurred to me to record the first time around. Third, I feel like second babies often get cheated in the sense that parents tend to take less photos of them than the first born and they rarely get to look back on keepsake books like this. Baby #2 will have a one-up on Hunter because he or she (we're waiting to find out the gender) will have a much more complete pregnancy book! Finally, this is most probably my last pregnancy, so I really do want to treasure the whole experience!

For the Crafty Mama: "The Crochet Stitch Encyclopedia"
This paperback book is great for the mama who already is a DIY expert with some crocheting experience (or knitting or embroidery, which are the other two books in the series) who needs a refresher or wants to have a book handy to learn some new techniques and stitches. For a newbie like me who looks dreamily at the 10+ blankets, baby booties and beanies that her mama has lovingly made, desperately wanting to be able to do the same, the illustrations can be a little confusing. My mom sat down with me one afternoon and showed me the basics, and I practiced for hours, but I have already forgotten what I learned. Perhaps after some YouTube tutorials and more practice, I will find this book more useful.

For the Mama with a Green Thumb: "Seed Keeper" Planner and Organizer
If you know a mama with a sweet little garden but her seed collection is a mess, she'd probably appreciate this book. There are plenty of two different-sized envelopes/pockets to hold store-bought and home-prepared seeds with room for notes about when the seeds were planted and harvested. I will note that only a mama with a modest seed collection might find this planner useful for organizing the seeds by season to pick and choose from year after year. Someone like my mom, however, would need several of these organizers for each planting season, especially since she has a pretty extensive collection of seeds that would definitely not all fit in one organizer.

For the Mama in Touch with Her Inner Picasso: "104 Things to Paint"
Of all the books on this list, this one I chose most certainly with my own mama in mind. She is not formally trained, but she just really likes to paint. The book is simple: thick, thick pages with prompts like "a pile of laundry" or "a broken pencil" or "grape soda" to get the creative juices flowing. It could be just sketches at first, but the pages are thick enough to welcome water colors or other kinds of paint. I imagine for someone who likes to paint but finds an entire blank canvas a bit daunting, this book is the perfect size for having a little fun with shape, form, style, and color!

For the Globetrotting Mama: "Travel Stub Diary"
This is the book I was most excited to receive. I have envelopes and zip top baggies full of museum ticket stubs, train passes, and brochures from all the lovely places I have visited. I couldn't imagine parting with them, but I also didn't really know what to do with them -- until now! This diary is essentially a photo album with side and top loading sleeves for all those ticket stubs. The margins have space for writing little notes to go along with the keepsakes. You could totally make a DIY book like this using a photo album that has space for notes, but this diary has space for extra large keepsakes like brochures, which would definitely not fit in a regular photo album.

For the Mama Who's a Budding Writer: "My Life Story So Far"
I just love the idea of this attractive, cloth-bound book. We all have a story to tell, so why not start recording it for posterity's sake? I also love the idea of writing something down, and picking it up 10 years from now to reflect on it. Although the entries in this journal together won't read like a carefully woven story, there is space for elaborating a bit more on a particular topic, so it will sound more like lots of short stories. I actually really like the topics and prompts because there is something special about remembering ordinary details like how my parents met or how they chose my name or my earliest memory. There may come a time that I don't remember those stories anymore, so it will be great to have them written down in a special little book that can be passed on from generation to generation.

If you still need more gift ideas, click here! You'll find lots of great gifts for the mom who loves to entertain, like this soapstone serving platter or this olive server

Also, feel good when you shop at UncommonGoods because you can help support a charity through the Better to Give program. Plus, this company is a founding B Corp, which means they make a commitment to provide better wages for their employees and give back to the community. For more information about B Corps click here.

New Month's Resolutions: May

Hello, friends! I am so very happy April is over. Even though it's my birthday month, so many things went wrong. I will explain more later, but let's just say my goals for March were a bust. I had too much going on with school and preparations for our trip to Sicily to focus on them. Then when things went sour in April, I started chewing my nails again. But it's May! A brand new month, and it actually feels like a fresh start.

That photo above is from the San Diego Safari Park back in December, but it expresses my feelings about what lies ahead. I am going to attack this month! I have lots to accomplish, and I will be bold and fierce like a lioness!

What are my goals for May?

1. Get back on track with the goals that I started earlier this year but that fell to the way side: movelook more put together, and keep my nails neat and tidy.

2. Conquer my upcoming exams. I want to study and practice so much that I will walk into my exams with confidence and a calmness about me like, "I've got this." 

3. No dirty dishes in the sink and no clothes on the floor. When my house is neat and tidy, it motivates me to be productive.

Also, I have three posts I am working on. I hope to hit publish on all of them in the next few days, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Month's Resolutions: March

Gotta make this one quick because I am soooo behind on my school work. Also, before I forget, these photos are just a couple that I snapped on the day my nephew (my baby sister's baby) came into this world. They are long overdue (he was born December 21!), but better late than never, right? Hunter loves his baby cousin!

So how did I do with my goals last month?

Move! I moved some. I took my dance class 3 of the 4 Saturdays in the month of February, and  I would have gone the 4th Saturday, but we were out of town. I did a bit of walking, but not much.

Read one school book start to finish. Going to have to push this one into March. It just didn't happen. And it's going to be more like read all my school books. No excuses.

Keep my nails neat and tidy. This one, as silly as it is, is the one I am most proud of. I did not chew on my nails even once! They had clear conditioning polish for most of the month, and I just took it off to put a fresh coat. I think I am free of that bad nail-biting habit!

New goals for the month of March...

1. Study Italian via Duolingo, at least one lesson/day.

You probably don't know this, but I took two semesters of Italian in college. And even though that was almost 15 years ago (what the?), I still remember a lot. I think because I speak one other romance language (Spanish), Italian came pretty easily to me. I just want to keep it up, and get ready for our trip to Sicily!

2. Make study cards for written exams (Montessori diploma).

Not fun at all, but I am kind of freaking out. If I want to have a nice vacation where I am not thinking about school, I need to study A LOT during the next few weeks.

3. Hang up my clothes as soon as I take them off, and fold laundry as soon as it's dry.

Oh, yeah. Sloppy Amanda, just another bad habit I would like to work on.

Wish me luck, friends!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New Month's Resolutions: February

Greetings! Even though I didn't do so well with my January resolutions, I am actually looking forward to trying to keep my goals for February. So, how did I do with my goals last month?

Looking more put together... Well, I left the house looking put together 50% of the time, which is a huge improvement from last year. I have definitely made a good effort with my outfits, but hair and make-up have suffered, especially the last week or so.

Being on top of school work... Who was I kidding? That one really was an unrealistic goal because I started out the month already behind. Once I caught up with one area, I was behind in another. Oh well.

Singing more with Hunter... This is the one resolution I kept the whole month and have made a habit. Singing songs from the Sound of Music is now part of Hunter's bedtime routine. We look through the SoM pop-up book and stop at particular pages to sing "My Favorite Things," "Maria," and "So Long, Farewell."

My goals for February are kind of boring, maybe even a bit weird, but important to me nevertheless.

1. Move! 

At least twice a week. I stole this one from Elisa, but at the end of last month I checked out a hip-hop cardio class at a local dance studio and had so much fun. The class is every Saturday, so I for sure want to go the next four Saturdays in February and beyond! The other thing I could do very easily is go for a walk with Hunter after school. 

2. Read one school book start to finish.

Last September, I bought a stack of books for my Montessori training and have only cracked open 4 out of the 10 or so books. Of those 4, only one I have actually finished. Part of my goal will be to finish the other three, and the other part will be to start and finish a new one. I might be able to accomplish this since lectures are over now, and I have teaching practice for the last two weeks of the month. I need to read these books to help me prepare for my exams in May.

3. Keep my nails neat and tidy.

I used to paint my own nails or get a manicure nearly every week. That was YEARS ago. I was obsessed with OPI and Essie. Then I just got lazy, and my nail-biting habit came back. I hate that I have this bad habit, and I am determined to kick it. Maybe this will be the month! I invested in the Acquarella non-toxic nail polish system, so I need to make use of the products I bought.

Wish me luck!

P.S. The photos above are from a couple of weeks ago when we had a family outing to Seaport Village in downtown San Diego. Lovely day!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy New Year and New Month's Resolutions

Elisa over at Globetrotting in Heels has had the fabulous idea to set new month's resolutions: attainable resolutions each month that you'll actually stick with! I've decided to link up with her and start setting these monthly goals for myself. Better late than never, I think. (And since they should be attainable, for the time being, they will NOT include keeping up with the blog! Perhaps the next couple of months the only time I will post is to set my new goals!)

This month, I resolve to:

1. Look more put together when leaving the house.

So far, so good. For me, this goal just means think a little more about my outfit, not just T-shirt and jeans. Put on a bit of make-up. Wear my hair down. Switch up my jewelry a bit. I feel really good when I leave the house a bit more together like this. Notice I write specifically "when leaving the house." Today I am home sick with Hunter, and I want nothing to do with looking put together.

2. Stay on top of school work more. 

This one is a bit tricky because I started out the new year behind on school work, but I mostly mean that after I turn in my third album on Monday, I will be more focused on staying on track with the next album and not getting so behind.

3. Sing songs with Hunter more.

This one should be an easy goal to keep because Hunter loves all the songs from The Sound of Music. Every night he likes me to show him The Sound of Music pop-up book I got from Isaiah for Christmas. When we get to certain pages, he requests his favorite songs, and I am happy to oblige. In theory, this is an easy goal to reach, but not necessarily in practice. Lately, I seem to let household or school stuff get in the way of spending quality time with my family. So I want to make singing songs with my son a priority. As in, it's more important than folding the laundry, which I can do after he goes to bed.

I think I will have success this month reaching these goals, but still, wish me luck! ;)

Photos Copyright Julie Rings Photography

P.S. These are a couple of photos from our first ever family photo session (!) taken back in November.