This Week – Finishing up school prep

So, we start full days of school this week and I’m still trying to make decisions about curriculum! The rest of my day will be spent doing the research I should have done already. The only decision left to be made is on the language arts curriculum so that I can call our new tutor and get her up to speed. Ohio raised the scholarship amount this year so, he’ll get 6 hours a week with a tutor for language arts, in addition to a weekly piano lesson and speech session. It’s all coming together, but still work to be done.

Here’s what I’ve read this week…

Gage and I started half day school this month, although we missed the week he had two ER trips and last Friday when we had two follow up appointments. I read The Tale of Despereaux aloud over the last few weeks, knowing this my reluctant reader would never read anything this long himself. Thankfully, it was a hit! It was a fun one to read aloud with plenty of opportunity to ham up the characters.

A mouse, a rat, and a princess all end up in the castle dungeon, but the how and the why are the driving force of the story. Full of humor (not always nice, but we call those teachable moments), animals that had their own stories, and silliness earned two thumbs up here in Ohio.

I listed to Paula McLain’s latest, When the Star Goes Dark, while we puzzled. The stars are the only thing connecting the two 🌟

Anna has just experienced something traumatic, we get only snippets until the very end, and retreats to the town where she grew up. She’s a missing persons detective and an old friend needs her help. This takes place in the 1900s and contains real cases, like Polly Klaas, with the fictional.

This is a dark book, just like the title says. As a mother my heart still hurts a little. If you are triggered by child abduction or abuse then read at your own risk.
We have some great friends! Both @rhapsodybooks and @wheelmaker2 sent Gage books recently and we always love new books! Thank you 🥰. These are all for older elementary kids.

Let’s start with Whale Fall Cafe because it was our favorite. From the outside it looks like a silly story, but on the inside it gives you all of the details about a whales death and what happens once the carcass hits the ocean floor. It was fascinating, and perfect for kids who like their stories with a little bit of gross factor. Gage read this to me and got a kick out of my inability to look at the illustrations for more than a few seconds. Highly recommend!!

Little Leonardo’s Fascinating World of Paleontology was the opposite of Whale Fall. It had cutesy illustrations with just too much information to make it fun. But, the 6 experiments at the end make it worth a look. We’ve already done two and hope to do at least one more. We both thought the story was okay, 3 stars, and the experiments fun, 5 stars.

We read Desert Baths because we’re studying Nevada this week. It is fantastic.!! The story about the creatures who live in the desert was good and over half the book. It’s the 6 pages of facts and fun quizzes at the end that made this a big win for both of us. This is a perfect book for homeschoolers and school libraries or classrooms. Highly recommend.
Do you love the bees? Do you think they are aggressive pests out to cause you misery? Do you want to know and do more? Even if you answered no to all of these questions you should still pick up this book.

50 Easy Ways To Help Save the Bees 🐝 is a great read. We love the bees because we understand what they do for us. but even I learned new things. The first 23 pages are about the plight of the different kinds of bees which I thought was excellent. The 50 ideas were well though out.

I read this last night and shared things with Gage this morning. Our afternoon project is to go through the book together and choose 5 things to do this year. We received a pack of seeds last year from a save the bee campaign and threw them into out old bee container this past spring. They may not look like much now but we still get bees daily.

At 127 pages this is a must read. 🖤💛🖤💛🖤

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is an automatic buy for me (as are Harlan Coben and Sarah Addison Allen). She is a master of romance. While not a series, this is the 9th book she’s written about a member of the Chicago Stars football organization.

In When the Stars Collide Olivia, world renowned opera singer, and Thad, backup Stars quarterback must spend weeks together traveling the country promoting a brand. It’s not exactly love at first sight, but heartbreak and danger are close at hand.

Loved it ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Sauna time! I’ve been in here less than 10 minutes and I’m already sweating. I’m not a fan, but we’ve had the infrared sauna for years and the doctor we saw with Gage a few weeks ago told us we really needed to be using it twice a week. So, I sit here and sweat for my health 😅

Are you a sauna fan?

Okay, the book…The Last Thing He Told Me lived up to ALL of the hype! It’s so different from her other two books. It’s a thriller. One day a child knocks on Hannah’s door with a note, it’s from her husband and all it says is PROTECT HER. Bailey, the daughter. Comes home from school with a duffel bag full of cash that her dad had stuffed in her locker. Owen himself was missing.

That’s all you get. If you like thrillers this is a must read! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

This Week – Dog Days of Reading

Sorry this is so long. It’s been a long, trying week and getting anything done, especially reading, has been a struggle.

Do you ever feel seen? I received a 2022 calendar from the Ocean Conservancy, an organization I wasn’t familiar with but is definitely within our donation wheelhouse. Can you guess what else they offered if we gave a donation? Did I make it too
easy for you? Gage and I finished this in less than hour, which seems like it took way longer than it needed to!

Gage is feeling much better today. Mornings have been rough this week, but for the first time this he woke up feeling good. Now we just need to get him eating more.

I have News of the World by Paulette Jiles in one of my TBR stacks and thought that Jason and I could watch the movie before I read it. The movie was…underwhelming? Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel were terrific and I loved the last 10 minutes of the movie. Hanks plays a Civil War soldier who travels town to town reading the news to people who have a dime to hear it (he was a newscaster before tv). When he takes on the responsibility of getting a girl who had been kidnapped by Native Americans home to her aunt and uncle every kind of possible trouble shows it’s face.

It was okay, but not necessarily what I needed to see at the end of this particular week. Not sure if I’ll be reading the book anytime soon now.
When I ‘discovered’ Virginia Hamilton earlier this year I fell in love with folklore and legends and mythical storytelling. This book has all of that. It’s shorter at just over 200 pages and is perfect for a young adult introduction into the genre and the time period in America, mid 1800s. I really liked the book and learning more about the Yemaya and Obatala legend and love how Kopacz imagined a new story for them.

Yemaya is a deity of the sea in the African Yoruba people religion. When she decides to follow her heart and love across the ocean as his slave ship heads to America, she makes the decision to transform from mermaid to woman so she can find him on land. She is welcomed into a Native American tribe, taken as a slave, and saved by a Quaker before finding her special powers and her way north.

I love the beautiful cover and want to thank @atriabooks for sending me a copy. I’m excited to have this one my bookshelf!

I loved this fast paced thriller with its slow reveal and twists and turns! Just what I needed to end this crazy week. Delilah has been missing for 11 years when she is suddenly reunited with her brother and father. What happened all those years ago? Told from more than one point of view and time period this one is a winner for thriller/mystery lovers.

Gage made pumpkin bread with chocolate chips yesterday. Don’t mind if I do 😁. His appetite still isn’t great, but he feels a lot better.

So, I listened to the audio production of this one and loved the performances of the seven so much! I could have picked up the book and finished it quicker, but preferred to listen for 14 hours 😀

I’m mixed on how I feel about this one. It started strong. A small African village was suffering from health problems because an American oil company was depleting their resources and leaving environmental damage in their wake. I loved hearing in first person from different villagers. Their stories drew me in. The plight of those villagers was compelling.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that multi!generational story seems like it could have really happened. If you are in the mood for a story about how the powerful overpower the powerless then this may be for you. The richness of the storytelling made me glad I read this one, but it left me in a melancholy place.
Yesterday’s book left me a little depressed so this whimsical book called to me. This was just what I needed to lift the spirits.

Jess is still physically and mentally recovering from a near death experience when her ailing grandmother asks her to find an old family heirloom, a necklace that find’s true love. What she finds is a journey to knowing her roots and the stories of the women before her. There’s also a choice to be made between the safe and the risky.

This quote made me stop and reflect a bit, “There is is a philosophy that the way of soul mates is to come into our lives to challenge us, move us forward. It’s not the job of a soul mate to accompany us through our entire life or share every detail of our being. Once it’s purpose has been fulfilled, the soul mate is free to disappear.”

This was fun, especially for those who love old things, jewelry, genealogy, or want a story that will transport them to a more magical place for a moment. Loved it.
First, let’s talk about Milo. Milo is taking the subway with his sister and he likes to imagine the lives of the people he sees and draw a picture. He takes the train every Sunday and you find out at the end that it’s to visit his mom in prison. So many things to love ❤️ here and I loved them all, the story, the illustrations, the creativity. Gage and I will be trying something like this tomorrow at the park 😁

We’re learning about a different musician every week and it was Elvis week! Both of these were good, but we did prefer the claymation-like illustrations of the one on the left. Both had additional information and a real photo or two at the end. We’ve had a fun time listening to and watching clips of his performances this week. I wonder if we can still see those old movies he was in? I haven’t seen any of the 30 some odd movies he was in since I was a kid.
This was a fun summer read, that dealt with serous issues in an optimistic way. Letty arrived at her sister’s place in NYC to find her dead with her daughter standing there witness. She grabs her niece and high tails it south away from the bead news ex she suspects of the murder. They arrive at a small beach hotel and find acceptance there, but she’s still a fugitive.

I mostly listened, but did read the last 75 pages. I loved seeing Letty find a home, even if it took awhile with everyone, especially the ex, trying to track her down. Some twists and turns keep the action moving and make this a satisfying story.
This week has been the first real week of struggle in my 2021 book a day challenge. I sat down to start my book yesterday and just couldn’t do it. So, I picked up these two instead and my day was saved. So far this year I’ve read 275 books and watched 10 bookish movies.

Fatima’s Great Outdoors was released earlier this year and I loved it. Fatima is excited when her Indian family plans to do something as All-American as camping. She leaves her struggles at school behind and gets to have new experiences and learn things like how to put up a tent and start a fire. I love the memories that she cherished of that time with her family. Traditional Indian words and food are included into the story, which I love, but I might have loved it even more if a short page with definitions were included at the end. Big thumbs up from this non camping enthusiast.

The Great Bridge-Building Contest is a books for the older elementary child who is interested in American history, engineering, or West Virginia (our state this week). It’s taken from stories passed down in Lemberg Chenoweth’s family about how he, a furniture maker with a third grade education, beat out countless others to build what would become the bridge that would become the site of the first land battle of the Civil War. This full of interesting information.

Last month I read the novel Perfume and really didn’t like it. But when I was looking for a movie of a book I’d read this year this tempted me, so I suffered through the story once again. BUT, it turned out to be a better movie than book. Having Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman in the two big secondary roles helped. And not being inside the murderer’s head as much made it better too. I wasn’t sure if they’d go for the town square orgy at the end, BUT THEY DID. All I kept thinking about was how many hours and days those hundreds of naked people hade to lay on the ground and each other.

I’ll do a comparison of the movie and book soon.

This Week – ERs and sickness

This has been a week. I’m posting my reading week from my daily IG, but this morning’s Gage update is that he is feeling quite a bit better. Mornings have been rough and this has been the best one so far this week, so here’s hoping the rest of the day continues the healing trend!

The Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas (Ravenels #7)
Sunday morning mimosa anyone? Don’t mind if I do! Some days opening a bottle of Korbel for one (okay, maybe two) mimosas on your deck seems like the only thing to do.

I really should be drinking whisky since the hero of the latest Ravenel book is a Scottish distiller. This book brings together the Ravenel family with her other popular series, The Wallflowers. I’m not sure you really need to have read any of the other books to enjoy this steamy historical romance.

Right from the get go hardworking Merritt and Keir feel lust and within days the widower and the Scot share a passionate night together. The trouble begins immediately as someone tries to kill him and almost succeeds.

This was a fun read. Kleypas is fast becoming my favorite historical romance writer. This one is hot off the presses and hot in the romance.

We finally finished our 500 piece Norway puzzle from Completing the Puzzle . It was harder than it looked at first but we all liked finding the Vikings around the puzzle.

I read the 400+ page Ocean Prey with Lucas Davenport (#31) and Virgil Flowers. I’ve read all the Davenport books (except last year’s, somehow I missed that one) and a few of the Virgil ones. Lucas has been a US Marshal for awhile and the case of murdered Coast Guard puts him in Florida.

I don’t want to say too much, but if you read this series you might get a little teary at something that happened to a favorite character.

Loved this one! I didn’t realize how much I’d missed these two.
Yesterday, we took Gage to the ER for some tummy/chest area issues. He’s better but still not great, but they ruled out heart and lungs and sent us home. He’s only been able to eat applesauce, rice, and pretzels. Even Honeynut Cheerios made him sick. We’ll get it sorted out but it’s no fun watching your kids feel yucky.

I remembered to grab the Nintendo Switch for Gage, but forgot a book for myself, so last night before bed I read him The Hill We Climb by the youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential election. This poem is perfection and gave us so many things to talk about with all the things going on in this country.

A taste…
“Scripture tells us to envision that:
‘Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree,
And no one shall make them afraid.’
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory
Won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promised glade,
The hill we climb, if only we dare it:
Because being American is more than a pride we inherit-
It’s the past we step into, and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
It can never be permanently defeated.”

The force that would shatter our country rather than share it is alive and well still. May Gorman’s words give us all the resolve we need to make sure our democracy remains strong for our children.
Monday- ER. Tuesday- power out morning until early afternoon. Wednesday- a second ER trip and now our power is out again after a storm. Please tell me this week will get better!

Gage was pretty sickly this morning. Back in the ER they gave him fluids and ran bloodwork. And sent us home with nothing but give him Miralax, Pepcid, and Zofran and hope that in a few days he’ll feel better 😟. So, anyone out there who would like to say a prayer or send some positive energy that would be appreciated. I sent jason and gage to grandma’s to enjoy her electricity while I’m here trying to enjoy some de-stress time in the growing darkness.

Last night before bed we read this beautiful picture book about a mother preparing for the birth of her child. Loved learning more about the Inniniwak and their traditions. The illustrations and story were just what this mama needed last night. A sweet book for a mom-to-be. I Sang you Down from the Stars by Tasha Spillett.
Thanks for your positive vibes and prayers for Gage yesterday. Keep ‘me coming, he’s still feeling bad and can barely tolerate food 🥺. I’m hoping we can get him over the worst of it soon.

After we got back from the ER yesterday Gage and I finished this gorgeous double sided puzzle. So fun and happy, something we both needed yesterday. Now we’ll take it all apart and do the other side. Stay tuned!

After the electricity went out and the guys went to grandma’s house for TV I sat outside and finished this wonderful book. Seriously, it’s way more than I thought it would be. It’s Texas history told in relation to her own personal experience and the the history of the country. I learned so much! By sharing the history we never hear about of blacks and Native Americans as Europeans first made it to this land the picture of our country becomes clearer. The emphasis is on Texas, but even as an Ohioan I was drawn in by her storytelling.

Juneteenth by Annette Gordon Reed. It’s only 148 pages and I highly recommend it. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Gage is pretty much the same as yesterday. Rough morning, little to eat, but was able to tolerate some potatoes with chicken for dinner. Baby steps.

We’re studying Kansas this week and I read these three yesterday and let Gage choose one to read today. This week I have allowed way more screen time than necessary, but there has to be some upside of being sick, right?

All three of these are longer picture books for the older elementary crowd and about real people.

Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman is the story of Sharice Davids, one of the first Native American women to hold the office and the first LGBTQ congressperson to represent Kansas. It’s a good story for kids, that no matter what people say you can or can’t do, it’s you who decides your fate. Inspiring story of her childhood and heritage. It just came out in June.

Fieldhouse is another autobiographical kids book, this one a graphic memoir that I found a little busy, but Gage loved (I knew this would be the one he picked!). Dreaming of playing for the Kansas Jayhawks, Scott Novosel made his dream come through with perseverance.

No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas was my favorite. Junius was born a slave in Kentucky but was still a child when freed. He headed west, stopped in Kansas and got a job working on a farm. He was such a hard worker he was soon overseeing it. He held firm to his dream of having his own farm and through sweat and sacrifice became Potato King of the World, in 1919 he had over 2,000 acres of his own land. Loved this story and the illustrations.

Still reading books published this year, so if you have one I should read let me know!

This Week – School in back in session (sort of)

August 1st brings a new month of reading possibilities. I’ve never been driven to read what’s new. Unless it’s a favorite author I prefer to let the dust (and my expectations) settle first.

For August I’ve decided to read only books published this year. I went a little crazy at the library and here they are, my intentions for the month. Sammi was excited to check them out too!

I started with Own It: The secret to Life by Diane Von Furstenberg and I hope this is not an omen of the rest of my book choices. Set up like a dictionary with with trite thoughts about them, this book failed in almost every way for me. The few bright spots were the short stories that she attached to some words. If the whole book had been that it would have been fun. As it is you get advice such as this…

PINK. Pink is what white does to red. It is the most feminine and flirtatious of all colors.

PURPLE. Purple is what blue does to red. It is a color we either love or hate.

LOSER. I sometimes feel like one, and then I remind myself, only losers don’t feel like losers.

At least it was relatively short.
Hairpin Bridge started off strong with a twin sister trying to find the truth behind her twin’s supposed suicide. It ended on the same day after lots of action, storytelling, and revelations. It read fast and had a solid suspenseful idea. It lost momentum in the way it kept going back and forth, but managed to surprise in the end, which is always nice.

We took our first half day of school on the road to Penitentiary Glen, about 30 minutes from us. We decided to take the book on a bit of our hiking trail. 
We took Yang Warriors with us on our morning walk to Shadow Lake. This 40 page, beautifully illustrated book tells the true story of a group of children in a Thai refugee camp. The author lived at the camp with her family when she was five. Her sister was part of a group of children who snuck out of camp to gather fresh food for the weak and sick younger kids, giving them all hope of better days. Those kids were, and still are, viewed as heroes in the eyes of those they fed at much risk to themselves.

It didn’t explain why the kids were there or even what a refugee camp was so if reading this with your child it would be helpful to talk about that before reading the story. Otherwise, it was a great book with kids providing inspiration to other kids. Bravery has many faces and it’s important that kids see as many of them as possible.

My mom loaned me How Lucky telling me it was different. I agree and that’s what I really liked about it. Confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, Daniel lives in Georgia near his best friend since birth who makes sure he has a social life. Daniel sees a girl kidnapped and tries to do the right thing, even if the police are not especially helpful.

There was the mystery of the disappearance, but it was the story of his life with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, past and future that kept me reading and interested. He was a great character and I loved his relationships with friends.
I picked this up purely for the fun cover and had a fun time hanging around Hampstead Heath. What Abigail Did That Summer is #5.3 in the Rivers of London series, but I had no problem jumping right in to the world of the talking foxes and the fae.

Abigail is still in school and must pass Latin before her uncle will let her begin training in magic. She spends the summer with a new friend investigating strange disappearances.

It was mostly light and fun and Abigail was a hoot.
I loved this sweet throwback story. Rosetown Summer is 84 pages about friendship and family in a small Indiana town in 1974. Ten-year-old Flora doesn’t like change, loves quiet, and has many anxieties about things out of her control and I think any child who fits that description would probably like this one.

This is a sequel to Rosetown.
We started half days of homeschool this week, each day a different park to explore. We hiked, enjoyed swings and playgrounds, and still managed to carve out some book learning at picnic tables. This is our August plan and a great way to ease into 5th grade.

I is for Immigrants was recommended to us and counts as a new book since it was just released. We both had fun going through the alphabet picture book full of words that describe the immigrant experience. So much great discussion. Recommended.

Journey: Based on the True Story of OR17 The Most Famous Wolf in the West. A recent news story told in a fabulous way alternating between the wolf’s journey and a 10 year old following his path. Great facts pages at the end. Highly recommended for older elementary kids who love animals or nature.

Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains. This is told as a tall tale with fun illustrations sure to appeal to the plant and tree lover.

How was your week? Have any new books to recommend I read this month?

Paris in July Wrap Up

This will be a long post, but you can scroll to the end if you want to see my July favorites 🙂

In July I read 31 books and watched 3 movies. 24 were Paris related, 2 were Gage read alongs, 2 were for homeschool, 1 devotional, and 1 for a book tour.

Here’s a link to my Paris in July posts 1 2 3 4 5 6 I’m so thankful to Tamara at Thyme for Tea for hosting such a fun event!

Here’s a rundown of what I’ve read this last week…

Sunday was ‘work’ reading. I’ve set aside this week for homeschool prep and this book was a great reminder of what I like most about homeschooling. I thought our first year went well, but I was determined to find a full curriculum this year to make it easier on me. It was nice to remind myself that I am pretty good at making learning fun, if only I keep the expectations at bay. Trying to homeschool like regular school is where many of our struggles came from last year and committing to someone else’s curriculum takes away the flexibility I love so much.

The Call of the Wild + Free: Reclaiming Wonder in Your Child’s Education by Ainsley Arment is a great book if you’re thinking about homeschooling or if you’re already homeschooling but need a little encouragement.

Not to let a July day go by without a little French love, I drank several glasses of Cotes du Rhone while I read the book. And I’ve included a few pics of the beautiful city of Lyon.
My most vivid image of Joan of Arc is from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, so obviously, starting at this level 4, 48 page book is where I needed to be. Now I feel liked I have some context relating to the saints Joan the Maid (as she called herself) heard. I’m still not exactly sure what to make of her. Mad skills, mad followers or just plain mad? A tragedy any way you look at it.

Any Joan fans out there? What do you like about her story?

Since were nearing the end of Paris in July I threw in a few photos from Lyon, which is obviously not Paris, but certainly closer than where I am now!

I thought I was going to love this book, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. A dark story about a serial killer with the best nose in the world, what’s not to love? Well, quite a bit actually.

In 19th century Paris, Grenouille was born in a fish market to a mother who immediately threw him in the trash just like she had all the ones before him. He survived (his mother did not) but barely, managing an okay existence until his ability to identify any smell landed him as an apprentice to a perfumer. And then his obsession and killing began.

I was amused by the first chapter or two but really struggled to finish this one. I got lost in the writing and that may have been due to the the translation from German, but maybe not since the story also bored me. Even a random city-wide public orgy couldn’t save it 🤷🏻‍♀️
Let’s start with our pics from Montmartre. 11 years later and I still remember our afternoon spent there because I tasted my first crepe with Nutella and banana and it was glorious.

I read Sarah’s Key. It’s been around awhile but I’ve never had a desire to read it even with all of the positive reviews of it. Dual storylines, one in 1942 an one in the early 2000s, both in France. A heartbreaking time in history as the French police rounded up Jewish families. It took me a little while to warm to the current storyline, but I did. I really liked this one.

Sammi and I both have the same feeling about this one The Grand Odalisque. A stylish, sexy graphic novel about two and then three women who steal paintings from Paris museums. I’m sure this has a wide fan base, but not so much here. I do like the occasional graphic novel, I’ve read two manga already this month, but prefer more substance. I did like the look of the oversized hardcover though which is half the battle in a picture book for adults 😄
Two fantastic picture books today! I recommend them both. Let’s start with the newest one.

Begin with a Bee is a beautifully illustrated book with a full circle story sure to please and educate kids. It’s about the rusty-patched bumblebee, native to the United States (honestly I never really knew the significance of this) and the first bee species put on the Endangered Species list in 2017. The story of a year in the life of a queen bee followed by 2 pages of facts and what you can do to help convinced me that I need to purchase this one after I return this to the library.

A Map to the World is a timely one if you are watching the Olympics with your kids. The family is part of the Hmong community in Minnesota. No it’s not about gymnast Sunni Lee, but I was struck by the coincidence. This is fiction, but based on the author’s own experience. It was touching and sweet. I do wish that there’d been some additional information about the Hmong people at the end of the book.

And drumroll please…

We finished our 1000 piece Paris Night & Day puzzle and had a fun time with it. I’ve also included my five favorite reads of the month, two being non-fiction!

Notre-Dame: The Soul of France by Agnes Poirier

My Life in France by Julia Child

The Little French Bistro by Nina George

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Paris in July continues with books and photos

I met V when she and her husband were living in the Cleveland area and the four of us became fast friends. E is from France, came to the US for college and was working at his first job after. V is from Belgium, met E on a trip to LA and married him. Jason and I don’t speak French and what little I picked up from them I’ve forgotten. We were so sad when they left shortly after their first daughter was born so that they could be closer to family, but agreed to visit them two years after they moved. I’ll share some Lyon pics, where we stayed with them for half of our trip this week, but didn’t want to keep talking about Paris without saying why we went in the first place. To be honest, I had no desire to visit the country (oh, how wrong I was!).

Jason and I were lucky enough to attend the French Open on our 2010 trip. I purchased the tickets for us (and our friends who met us in Paris) months ahead of time as a surprise for Jason. He was thrilled and it was a great day to watch clay court play. I remember feeling the pregnancy more that day than any other, sitting in the heat so long.

I listened to The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, although you can see I have a copy of the book. McLain is local and I went to hear her speak a few years ago and had this and another of her books signed. Here’s the recap of the fun event.

This book is about Hadley, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, and the time that she and Ernest lived in Paris. It actually started with their courtship in Chicago, but this is mainly about their life in Paris. I was surprised at how much I liked this one. Hemingway married four times, but this first marriage shows us the writer before his fame. The voices of both came through to show a marriage from loving beginning to sorry end.

Recommended for historical fiction fans, Hemingway fans, or those who like to read about history from a woman’s perspective. I admit that I’ve spent some additional time on the internet reading more about this fascinating family.

Any Hemingway fans? I’ve only read A Farewell to Arms. What about you?
Jules Verne, born in 1829 France, was a man ahead of his time. Often called the Father of Science Fiction, he merged science and literature and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea brought him international fame. He was a real visionary who loved adventure and writing. This book told a little about what he correctly predicted and what happened to his unfinished works after his death.

I’m not sure exactly how I’ve reached this age and never read one of his books.
What have you read by Verne?
I finally finished French Exit and am happy to put it behind me. I listened to over half of it and then switched to reading so I could finish it up an was surprised by how much more I preferred reading to book. Obviously the audio performance was skewing the characters for me.

Long story short, Frances, an eccentric widow, her grown son who still lives at home, and their cat who possesses the soul of her dead husband have lost all of their riches. They move to Paris and pick up a wide range of colorful characters. Something happens at the end and you’re done. I enjoyed some of the dark humor, but didn’t feel satisfied after I was done. I’m still not sure exactly what it all meant 🤷🏻‍♀️

The donuts are from my Instagram pic. I received the puzzle and the postcard on the same day 🙂

Visit Thyme for Tea for more Paris in July posts.

Paris then and now


I loved this book! Notre-Dame: The Soul of France was written after the devastating 2019 fire that left the church crumbling, but still standing. It starts with the shock of the fire told by those that were there and those tasked with taking care of the cathedral. It was riveting.
The bulk of the slim book covers Notre- Dame from its first stone in 1163 to the new bells of 2013. It covers each era of the cathedral and the politics, uprisings, and Paris events of the day. It’s a bite-sized history of France told through the lens of Notre-Dame.

The last section is about what’s happening now in the aftermath of the fire. The summation pages were some of my favorites.

“For she is not just any people’s palace. Notre-Dame is the beating heart of Paris. For more than 850 years, the echo of France’s glory and misery, of France’s victories and disasters, has resounded under those vaults. For more than 850 years, the French people have rolled for their deaths, sounded the tocsin and chimed their joy with the bells and bourbons of her towers. Atheists and believers can find the same memories, for they are France’s memories.”

It’s current events and history in one book and I highly recommend it.

I included a few pics from our 2010 trip. I shed some tears as I watched it burning on tv.

Have you been to Notre-Dame?
To continue my Paris travels I read the first of the Hugo Marston series, The Bookseller. Hugo, an American in charge of security at the US embassy in Paris, is on vacation. He goes to his favorite bookseller by the Seine and witnesses him being roughed up and kidnapped. No one will back up his story so he’s on his own and been told to lay off. Oh, and his trip back the States to see his wife? She tells him not to bother.

I liked getting to know more about the book trade in Paris, it’s serious business! I liked the day to day description of Paris and the diplomacy needed when working at the embassy. This is a nice start to an ongoing series (there are 10 so far). Off to see if my library has the second one.
A Dream of Flight: Alberto Santos-Dumont’s Race Around the Eiffel Tower is a great picture book about something I knew nothing about. At the turn of the century Henri Deutsch offered a prize of 100,000 francs to the first person who could pilot an airship from the Aero Club around the Eiffel Tower and back within 30 minutes. Santos-Dumont had been working on his hot air balloon with a motor inspired airship for a while, even crashing a few already, when he finally managed the feat. A nice piece of history and good illustrations.

Visit more posts from Paris in July at Thyme for Tea.

French books, tea, puzzles and wine

When I decided to participate in Paris in July, I reserved books at the library, bought some French wine, ordered a few puzzles, and…visited Etsy! I only let myself order two things and one came this week all the way from France.

The Eiffel Tower shaped tea bags from Tea Heritage are adorable and tasty. What a fun way to add a little pizazz to my morning tea. They have all kinds of shapes and, as you can see, the shapes and tea sachets are a great size.
We finished our 1500 piece Ravensburger Paris puzzle last night! It was a fun one, although I had a hard time with the dark section on the right. My eyes aren’t what they used to be 😂

I also finished My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme, published 2006, 336 pages. I listened mostly but did like having the actual book so I could look through the pictures included throughout. I liked this so much more than I thought I would!

It’s about food, France, friends, foreign service, and fame late in the game. There were lots of names of people and places and, to be honest, I’m glad that I listened. If I had read it I may have become caught up in the details 🤣. As it was, I felt like I was listening to an accomplished and happy woman tell tales from her life to me and a group of friends and it worked.

Have you ever watched Julia on screen or tried one of her recipes? I haven’t but feel like I need to now.

I’m not saying that having friends drive you through some of the prettiest areas of France was a gift, oh wait, I am saying that! Look at the cover of today’s book an compare to my photo from our trip. 😍. We spent a day admiring the views and visiting small villages and it was a breath of fresh air. This was the Beaujolais area.

You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac (published 2018, 384 pages) is a great beach read. A single mother takes her 10 year old to France for 5 weeks so that he can spend quality time with a father he rarely sees. She’s leaving a scary situation with her mom, bringing a few friends, and harboring a serious secret. There are heavy topics, but they’re done with a light enough touch. I can’t say I loved any of the characters, but i enjoyed the audio.

I’m drinking a lovely Bordeaux, Chateau Moulin Lafitte. I love the lightness of the full bodied wine.

This was an impulse buy when I visited Barnes and Noble last month and I’m so glad I brought it home just in time for our (modest) vacation planning. It helped awaken the wanderlust 😁. So many gorgeous pictures. Paris had 4 pages of pics, this is just the first.

What’s the most exotic place you’ve ever visited?

And this book went perfectly with the postcard I received yesterday from Poland. I love the whole world in his hands photo. Zuzuka told me the last movie she saw was Birdy (Ptasiek in Polish).

What’s the last movie you saw? We just binged the rest of the final season of Bosch last night so we’re looking for a good movie next.
I listened to Jane Smiley’s most recent (Perestroika in Paris), told from the perspectives of a horse, a dog, a raven, two ducks and a few rats. These animals are living in Paris on their own and have loosely banded together. They understand and use money to pay for things 😒 The story meandered along at a snail’s pace, but the happy ending was nice.

I was completely the wrong reader for this one. I don’t usually care for these kinds of first person animal stories, but I wanted to try something different set in Paris and this was definitely that. I think Gage would have enjoyed it more than I did.

Make sure you visit Tamara at Thyme for Tea for more Paris in July posts.

No Spring Chicken

Book Cover
No Spring Chicken: Stories and Advice from a Wild Handicapper on Aging and Disability by Francine Falk-Allen

2021, 330 pages

Francine is a polio survivor. She contracted polio at 3 years old in 1951 and now has a permanently paralyzed foot and mostly paralyzed leg. She has not let this hold her back, especially from travel. As a matter of fact, this fits right in with my Paris in July reading since she relates how best to navigate Paris and the airports. Her honest and useful insight will, most likely, inspire you. Her first book was a memoir, Not a Poster Child: Living Well With a Disability, and I’m now interested in reading that as well.

Let’s start with saying that this is a book for the disabled and those aging and losing some of their physical independence, either temporarily or permanently. It’s also a book for anyone who assists or loves them. It’s broken into three sections. The first is on navigating travel in the United States and abroad. She has done so much of the homework, that you’ll be itching to travel (who wouldn’t after the year and a half we’ve had!). This would help those wary of travel as they lose some comfort and mobility.

The second section is where you’ll find advice for both the caregiver and for the aging. It will help you see that you’re not alone. She gives many well meaning tips on living well and points out that while none of it’s groundbreaking, it is nice to have in one place. She even gives exercises to help strengthen your core and hopefully ease pain. She talks about navigating doctor’s visits for mundane checkups to cancer appointments. There is a lot of great information here.

She wraps up with finding ways to connect in your community. Sometimes you have to initiate the support you want! This is so important not only for the disabled and aging, but having a safety net of support does tend to help them most. I think this book was informative, inspiring, and just the reminder we all need as we age.

I want to thank Rebekah at PR by the Book for sending this to me when I said it looked interesting. It was so much more than I thought it would be and I recommend it for those who are no spring chickens (and the people who love them) 🙂

Francine’s website.

You can connect with her on Facebook too.

French cats, wine, postcards, movies, and, of course, books!

A Walk in Paris is a kids picture book with lovely illustrations. I loved seeing the neighborhoods of Paris, but thought there was too much information on each page for any kind of story flow. It’s okay to browse through for the illustrations and to pick up random information like ‘Steak-frites, or steak with French fries, is a popular bistro choice.”

Gage loves The Who Is book series, so I was excited to sign him up for an online book club on Outschool. They read a Where Is book and meet every two weeks. As they discuss the book the teacher also includes other activities, like drawing a Wanted poster. This is a great book group and if you’re interested in it for your kid DM me and I’ll send you the link. The next book is Where is the Serengeti? The week of July 18. We read Where is Alcatraz and he loved it.
Let’s start with the French wine. This beautiful glass of white wine was more than I had our whole 10 days in France. After we’d made our plans to go and visit our friends in Lyon I found out I was pregnant. A few things about this were stressful, I’d miscarried a few years before, I was 38 not 20, and I was still puking my guts out daily. AND I was going to a wine lover’s paradise but not able to drink the wine!

Somehow I still managed to have a fantastic trip even if I was still sick every morning 😂.

Now about the book, The Little French Bistro. I loved this quirky little book about an older woman who decides to kill herself by jumping into the Seine on a trip to Paris with her husband. She’s fished out of the water, of course, but now she has to figure out what to do with the rest of a life she doesn’t want.

She makes her way to Brittany, also called the end by of the world, and lives each day as if it’s her last, until one day, she doesn’t. There are lots of characters with their own stories and they fit neatly into the story of this seaside village.

I love stories about women finding their way and reinventing themselves to match the life they want, especially if there’s a little magic. And to do it in France? Even better.

And head over to Thyme for Tea for more Paris in July fun!