This is the Story of a Happy Marriage: A Review

This is the Story of a Happy MarriageThis is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This author was recommended to me by a friend. I wasn’t sure which book I wanted to read first, but I thought that this compilation of essays that were published in various magazines and publications would be a decent place to start. Overall, it was okay. I will probably try to pick up one of her fictions later on in the year.

The essays were not in published chronological order, but they seemed to move through her life from when she was a child wanting to be a writer all the way into her present marriage. The writing touched on various highlights, such as the controversy of one of her books to her first marriage, subsequent divorce, and journey into her second marriage.

My favorite essay was the one called On Responsibility which introduced her relationship with her grandmother who had dementia and her relationship with her dog. I can personally relate to both of these experiences.

My least favorite was The Getaway Car, which was her journey to becoming a writer, filled with a lot of advice to those who may look into that career path. I didn’t really have any connection with her other writings which probably made that particular post slightly boring.

She is funny and honest and, at times, blunt with her writing, but I wouldn’t recommend this as a first read for this author. Hopefully, in reading her other work, I will have a better understanding and connection to the material I read in this book.


House Project #1: The Shed

Last summer, Michael and I started talking about getting some things accomplished around the house.  We created a budget and plan and worked on it all through the fall and winter.  And this month, we are going to get the bigger projects accomplished, just in time for the arrival of our little one!

The first project on the list was a shed in our backyard for Michael’s aquarium hobby.  A few years ago, he had a frag tank where he grew coral frags that he would sell to friends and at frag swaps.  This is one great way to get involved in the aquarium community, and he really liked doing it.

But he closed up shop, so to speak, after our second daughter passed away and took a year off.  He definitely wanted to do it again, but wanted to make sure he had the proper space and time to do it.

And that’s when he got the idea for having a shed in our backyard to move his frag growing tank.  He also wanted to build it in such a way that it could be used for other things down the road.

We ended up hiring a contractor to do the work, since it is busy season for Michael, and I’m, you know, pregnant (could you imagine me building this right now?).  So here was the process last week.

Before.  This was where my garden was last year.  We moved the garden to the other side of the yard, which actually will work out better.


After the first day (you can see the platform).


During the second day.  I stayed inside with the pups during most of the construction, so that’s why these look like sneaky pictures from the window.  Because they are.


The final product!


I refer to it now as our barn because of the big door in the front.  Michael still has to paint it to match the house, and we have an electrician coming to wire it, but it’s neat to see the project come together!


How to Stop Time: A Review

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

This was the book that I mentioned in my February Favorites post.  Here’s the full review!

How To Stop Time is an Adult Fiction by Matt Haig. It’s a beautiful mixture of historical fiction and a little bit of intrigue and mystery and romance. I picked up this book because I wanted something that had romance in it, and the tagline was “The number one rule is don’t fall in love.” And I was hooked. Also, I got a version that features illustrator Chris Riddell. I don’t have many books (Adult or YA) that have illustrations in them, so it was neat to see the words come to life alongside the gorgeous sketches.

Tom Hazard is the main character and narrator of the story. He has lived for over four hundred years due to a condition that makes him age slowly. The story interweaves between his memories of the past and present day that explains a lot of his motivations throughout the book. This has been one of the most seemingly realistic immortality-esque stories I have read. He isn’t rich or overly talented or charismatic, any more than any other human person, which makes him very relatable even though his condition and life are not. Other people with his condition are not completely like him. Similar, yes, but their own complex personalities and perspectives shape who they are. The “immortals” of this story are each different and have chosen different paths.
The women in his story are probably my favorite part. His mother, wife (Rose), daughter (Marion), and a present-day woman he meets while teaching history in London (Camille) are each different and complex. We don’t know everything about each character since it’s told from his perspective, but they are each painted as flawed yet beautiful people who affect his journey.
It’s written in the first person, from Tom’s perspective. We see his conflicting thoughts, his memories from the past and the present day situations in an effortless flowing narrative. The sections are short, as they flip from present day to various places in the past. And there are so many good quotes from this book. I felt like I could highlight several lines.
So, I don’t feel like I can write much about the plot without spoilers. After losing his mother and later his wife, Tom learns that his daughter might have the same condition that he does. He goes out in search of her and comes across a society of people like him. He joins this society in hopes that they will use their network to find his daughter, but in the meantime, he has to follow their rules – don’t fall in love, move every eight years, do whatever Heinrich (the leader) asks of you. As the story opens in present day, Tom is starting to question staying with this society, but fears what might happen if he doesn’t.
The overall themes of time and relationships are beautifully explored. I don’t want to get into specifics because, you know, spoilers, but the author actually does answer the question of how to stop time.

There is profanity used throughout the book, especially with some characters. It is actually a descriptor for a couple of the characters. And talked about deliberately (like, it’s acknowledged that the character cusses a lot).
There isn’t a whole lot of sexual content, at least none really described. A few kissing scenes here and there, and a reference to some sexual harassment that a couple characters endure. But in the sexual harassment section, it is alluded to, and then Tom goes and punches him in the nose. Nothing graphic
There is some violence. Tom is asked to bring people into the society, and if they don’t want to come, he is supposed to kill them. Tom is shot at one point. And of course, there is death throughout the story as people die and he goes on living. But none of it, I felt was too graphic.

At first, I was going to give this book 4 out of 5 stars because I enjoyed the story and flow well enough. But the ending was so good and as I was reading it, I realized how it had all been building up to this. I got emotional, and that bumps this up to 5 stars for me. It’s a wonderful read about life and time and relationships. I would definitely recommend!


Growing Mint

For Valentine’s Day, Michael got me a self-watering indoor garden jar from Modern Sprout.  If you have read either my January Favorites Post or the one from February, you know that I love mint.  So, this particular jar came with mint seeds.  Since I probably won’t be able to garden much this Spring, I’m considering this to be my alternative form of gardening this year.


All of the ingredients were well labeled and the instructions were mostly easy to follow.  I think I had a hard time trying to figure out when the net pot (the pot inside the jar) was to be added, but I don’t think I hurt anything in the way that I did it.


Basically, you fill the mason jar with two cups of water, and then place the net pot inside, making sure the wick is protruding up enough to be able to water the plant.


My favorite part was taking the coco pith disc (that brown circular disc) and placing it on top of the gravel-like grow medium, then slowly wetting it so that it would expand and cover the medium.20180227_102847.jpg


After the coco pith was spread, it was time to add the activated carbon and the mint seeds.  Apparently, the mint seeds were the only herb that you don’t bury in the dirt.


Then, you place the whole thing by the window.  It says I should expect to see sprouts in at least 5 days, but it could take a couple of weeks.  With the crazy weather we have been experiencing, I’m hoping we will be granted a few days of sunshine to really let the seeds sprout.  I will let you know if this ends up being fabulous or an epic fail!



February Favorites

February is almost over, so I wanted to share a few favorites from this month.

Book of the Month

My book binge is still going strong. My favorite book this month has got to be Matt Haig’s How To Stop Time. The review will come out in a couple weeks so I will link it when it comes out. A new hardback cover came out in February, but I opted for the above edition which was illustrated by Chris Riddell. The illustrations were a really nice touch to the story.



Getting into my third trimester, I wanted to find a good pair of maternity jeans, which is actually quite hard to find. The problem I have is the length. All the maternity jeans I’ve tried in the past hit just a little too short. That is until I found Isabel maternity Jeans at Target. The only downside is that there aren’t a lot of options in the store, you have to buy them online. Still, when they arrived, they were perfect.



I got this lotion a month or so back to hopefully help me sleep. I’m a very light sleeper, and when I get up in the middle of the night, it makes it difficult to go back to sleep. So, I’m up to try anything, and I saw a lot of reviews for Sleepy from Lush. The smell is soothing, but I use it sparingly because it can get quite strong. It definitely helps me relax at night.



Keeping up the mint theme from last month, I’ve been enjoying Mint Majesty since it was sold at Teavana (which is now under the Starbucks logo). Starbucks has been advertising a Honey Citrus Mint Tea, but the citrus part has caffeine in it, which I’m trying to avoid. So I opted for just the Honey Mint Tea. It is now my new go-to drink!

What are some favorites you have been enjoying this month?

All disclaimers have now moved to my About Me page.


Black Panther: A Review

For our Valentine’s Date, Michael and I saw the new Marvel movie, Black Panther.  I’ve been stoked to see this movie since I saw the trailer back in the summer.  I know that there have been a lot of great articles out there that articulate the amazing things this movie has done and is doing for the black community, such as this one from the New York Times.  But for my review, I just want to share my two favorite things about the movie from my perspective as a Marvel Universe loving girl.  No spoilers, I promise.


My first favorite thing is the women in this movie.  Last year, I thought DC had really cornered the market on the female representation with Wonder Woman, but in this movie, there were three fierce, beautiful, intelligent women who kicked butt.  I call them the soldier, the spy, and the scientist (because I love alliteration and it works).  And even though I loved their fight scenes, car chases, and attitudes, my favorite part was that they each held to their own convictions.  Throughout the film, they each get told in one way or another that they are naive, or that they are assumed to act a certain way (and this is coming out of an egalitarian society), but they stick to who they are and what they believe.  In the end, they each prove themselves by just being themselves.  I’m afraid that I can’t give too many specifics, though, because of spoilers.

The second favorite thing is the set design/cinematography.  The sweeping landscapes and deep, rich colors of Africa are pronounced throughout the film.  My absolute favorite set, though, was the throne room of the Jabari tribe.  A close second is the throne room in Wakanda.  But what I loved the most was the intertwining of the traditional with the technologically advanced.  When I think of futuristic cities, I usually imagine pristine, minimalist buildings.  But in Wakanda, you had what seemed ancient ruins mixed with hovercrafts.  There was a point in the movie where they showed a part of Wakanda where people were selling things in a market, and a hoverbus goes by.  I wanted to pause the movie and just get lost in all of the details – the ivy growing along the buildings, people communicating from their bracelets.  It was absolute perfection in a way I hadn’t thought of before.

Overall, I highly recommend the movie.  Like in most of the Marvel movies, there are amazing themes of redemption and mercy, understanding where people come from, and caring about the people around you and doing what’s right.  Definitely in my top five favorites in comic book movies of all time.


The Hazel Wood: A Review

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

This is a dark fantasy YA book. I didn’t realize just how many dark fantasies I would be drawn towards this year. But I definitely give this one 4.5 stars. Not quite one I would pick up again, but I did thoroughly enjoy.
Alice is the main character. She and her mother have been traveling from place to place for most of her life. She has never met her grandmother, an eccentric recluse who is best known as the author of a book of dark fairy tales (which is a book Alice has not been allowed or able to read). They find out that her grandmother has died on her estate called The Hazel Wood. Shortly after, Alice’s mother is kidnapped and sends Alice a message not to go to The Hazel Wood. Alice goes after her, with the help of a fellow student, Ellery Finch, who is a huge fan of her grandmother’s fairy tales. Using the stories as clues and insight, Alice finds herself getting closer and closer to The Hazel Wood, and more truths are revealed.
The measure I use for character assessment is whether or not I care about the characters. I definitely got caught up in the stories of Alice and Ellery. The transformation and growth that Alice goes through are really well done. Ellery, not so much, but is still a character I wanted to know more about. The rest of the characters, which I don’t really want to go into without spoilers, are not quite as complex, some being used to move the story along, but I liked how they were used.
The plot has twists. Some I figured out pretty quickly. But even the ones that were predictable, I liked where the author took them.
The writing at times could get convoluted, but it was absolutely beautiful. The imagery was harsh and gorgeous at the same time. Weaving fairy tales into real-life situations made the whole story seem like a fairy tale, itself. And I loved the concept of using the fairy tale structure, especially towards the end. Also, some of the dark stories that were written by the grandmother are shared in the book. I thought that was pretty neat as well.
There is profanity in the book, particularly with one supporting character. I don’t know if it was absolutely necessary or not.
There is not much in the way of sexual content. I didn’t feel like there was a strong romance in the book. Alice is briefly kidnapped as a little girl, and people who find out tend to ask whether he touched her (which he didn’t).
There is a lot of violence, being a dark fantasy. The fairy tales that are shared are violent. Alice has a gun pulled on her. There are deaths and mentions of death. But part of the story is actually fighting that violent nature.
Overall, I would recommend with the caveat of the amount violence and profanity. Though I felt like the profanity is minor, and the violence is necessary to understand the plot and character development. Really entertaining read.
I also wanted to let you know that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to  These are all things I have used personally.  I wouldn’t recommend something I haven’t tried myself.  Thanks!