Goin’ Back to Cali, Cali, Cali

My parents, my grandma, and I have officially mastered the four-day, cross-country vacation. This happened the first time in March 2017 and did a repeat this month — likely my final trip before baby arrives — and I couldn’t have asked for a better visit!

In truth, it will likely be a while before I can make another trip across the country to California, so I really wanted to make sure I could sneak at least another in before I hit the “do not travel” mark of pregnancy.

Last trip, the four of us managed to sneak in a Vegas trip; a trek to the beach; hikes; and more. This time around, we had a busy trip, too, but my tired, pregnant body was happy for some additional reprieves and rests at home, hanging out with each other and the dogs, too.

My mom and dad have started fostering dogs in Bakersfield to help prepare them as they transition from rescue to shelter to fur-ever home, so we were treated to EIGHT wonderful dogs: Cody, Reilly, Lexy, Zai, Denali, and Turbo (my parents’ dogs) as well as Sugar and Charlie, two fosters. It was honestly a puppy paradise full of dog snuggles, which is the best way to spend a vacation.

Plus, we also…

  • Searched for wild flowers and took in some gorgeous sights. California is truly breathtakingly beautiful. Even just a drive to and from certain places feels like an adventure because of all of the scenery to take in. We spent our first day there doing just that and it was great! Cali MUST be the king of rolling hills.
  • Conquered an Escape Room. I’ve always wanted to try an Escape Room, but never bit. It was so much fun to try one out with family. NBD, but we killed it in the Knight & Rook room at Bakersfield Escape Room.
  • Went on a Ross shopping spree. I am not so fortunate to have a Ross nearby, which is a true tragedy, so I love hitting up that store and spending lots of money when we’re there. This time, we were able to get some cute things for baby, too!
  • Toured Heart Castle. Bill and I toured Hearst Castle during our last visit, but my grandma and I didn’t get a chance to do so, so it was fun to go back there. We got an inside look at the stunning cottages! I fell in love with the roofs (and dedicated an Insta album to them here), but the entire place is magical and unreal.
  • Mused at the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. The seals are too cute to be ignored and given that we were already Hearst Castle, it made sense to take a look at these cuties again. Bonus: beach views!
  • Visited The Last Bookstore in LA. My mom sent me a link to this place a while back so it was a must-visit for me and I’m so happy we were able to make it happen. I love all bookstores, but this one was Instagrammable AF. Part bookstore, part art exhibit, it was like a slice of heaven for book lovers like me.

A great trip all around and so wonderful to see my parents. The next time they see me, I may have a little person around!

xo!

Getting Ready for Two Babies: A Girl and a Book!

What’s better than one baby? Two!

First: a beautiful, wiggly, growing baby girl that Bill and I are so excited to welcome into our lives. My due date is June 19, 2019, meaning there’s just 99 days until we say hello to her.

It’s been so much fun preparing for her arrival. Oddly, Bill and I feel calm and excited more than frantic and nervous. There’s a bit of that, too, of course (especially when I think about the delivery), but mostly we’re feeling organized and prepared in a weird kind of way that we never expected.

We’ve been completely overwhelmed by the love and support from our friends and families, each of whom have thrown themselves into helping us prepare for girl in all of the best ways.

Family has pitched in to help with things like the baby shower and getting the nursery ready to go. Friends have offered hugs and real advice and pitched in to generously gift or loan gently-used items for the baby. It has been such a humbling experience.

At times, it is a little stressful. There are so many things to check off of that to-do list in just nine months — plus, preparing for a baby shower (which is not quite my thing) sometimes feels like the end of the world. But we’re all slowly chipping away at things together and soon, we’ll get to have a little person in the world to say love and teach and watch grow and that’s a pretty amazing feeling.

And then there’s Book Baby. Like Baby Cunningham, Book Baby is still cooking. I finished writing my first young adult novel in December 2017. I revised and revised and revised… and then it sat and sat and sat. In August 2018, I thought: what the hell am I doing? Why am I sitting on this? What if I just… tried pitching this thing?

Aside from reading a few Google articles, I had no idea what I was doing. But I was floored when I heard back from a literary agent who was interested in my book.

I’m SO pleased to share that I’m officially represented by the incredibly talented Tamar Rydzinski and Context Literary Agency!

I’m even listed officially as an author on the site, guys. I just. NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE THAT.

I am still so shy and reluctant to talk about it because I’m fearful I’ll jinx things or no publisher will be interested in my book or it won’t go anywhere at all — but I want to someday teach my girl to be brave and sometimes bravery means sharing things that are scary.

My career as an author is very much still a work in progress, one that’s been slightly derailed by the exciting news of Real Baby, but I’m very much looking forward to nurturing both babies — which will each bring about new and wonderful challenges and enrich my life in ways I never thought possible.

To exciting things happening and a future that looks bright!

xo.

Favorite Books of 2018

Read any good books in 2018? I definitely did. Here are a few of my favorites!

Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson

everythings-trash

It’s hard to write a book that dissects feminism, cuts to the heart of racism and sexism, and also makes you want to pee your pants because you’re laughing so hard. “Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay” is very that, though. Phoebe Robinson is brilliant and hilarious, sharing personal essays that will make you laugh until tears are streaming down your face while you’re on your miserable 45-minute commute to your job driving through the country backroads of western Massachusetts (Amherst is not easy to get to, guys). Each essay was excellent, but I’ll admit it: hearing all about meeting Bono was my absolute favorite. I highly recommend the audiobook for this, too. Though you miss out on some of the photos (you can just stalk her on Instagram to find them!), you get to hear Phoebe read this aloud as it’s intended. Plus, there’s nothing better than when she starts to laugh at her own jokes.

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Other Four-Letter Words by Michael Ausiello

spoiler-alert

You’ll need tissues for this one — a moving, real-life love story of TV writer Michael Ausiello and photographer Kit Cowan. Ausiello moves seamlessly between the building blocks of his relationship with Cowan to the present-day horror of what it’s like to find out that the love of your life is dying from cancer. This book will gut you and you’ll find yourself hoping that the title was a mislead, that the hero really doesn’t die in the end, and you’ll be shaken to the core when he does. Still, it’s a beautiful story about life, love, grief, and the adventure of being in a relationship with your person. It devastated me; I loved it.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

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Michelle McNamara has a way of weaving together details about the Golden State Killer in such a way that, at times, you forget you’re reading about a serial killer — but in the best way. Though the book is a true depiction of McNamara’s obsession, it also tells a lot about McNamara, too, from her childhood to what attracted her to this case to her process. Learning about her search is every bit as interesting as the details of the case itself. But fear not: if you’re a true crime lover, the book is every bit as chilling as you think it is; there were parts that gave me chills. I only wish McNamara was around to know how influential her work was.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

shadowshaper

I’m so pleased that this will be a series. “Shadowshaper” is a fantasy young adult novel that tells the story of a young girl named Sierra who uncovers a supernatural world. It’s hard to describe the plot without spoiling anything, but the Goodreads description had me hooked:

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “Lo siento” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra is a great YA character, the kind that you can see so much potential in and root for over and over. The pacing of the book is great, with a great balance between the action and focus on the story’s relationships. The book is exciting and spooky and has supernatural elements that feel pretty believable. All in all, a great read!

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

i-am-not

It is can be tricky to tackle mental health in a tactful but real way in YA novels. Erika L. Sánchez does it beautifully. She writes of grief and loss, of loneliness and despair, of family and growth in lovely ways. But I am truly grateful for — and impressed by — her no-holds-barred portrayal of what it’s like to deal with depression as a teen. Julia is an unforgettable character with wit and spunk; she’s tough, but lovable as she searchers for the truth about her older sister Olga, who passed away, and may have a secret life Julia never knew about. The book perfectly combines grit with humor as it covers important themes like the immigrant experience, mental health, cultural expectations, family pressure, and chasing your own ambition.

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung

all-you-can-ever-know

This was perhaps my favorite book of the year. It was a book that truly transported me; I could picture and feel everything Nicole Chung experienced so fully, despite my life being nothing like it. The book is a memoir of Chung’s life and of her search to learn more about her biological family, set against the backdrop of her own life and motherhood and experiences with her adoptive family. The writing in this book is breathtaking at parts and so vulnerable. Chung’s feelings are ripe and raw for the reader’s consumption and her story truly moved me like a memoir hasn’t before.

What were your favorite reads from 2018?

(Book photos credit to Amazon.com)

5 Things I Learned About Lauren Conrad at Her Book Signing

I met Lauren Conrad on March 30 at her signing at R.J. Julia in Madison, Conn., for her latest book, “Celebrate.” I’ve been a huge fan of Lauren since high school. I’ve seen every episode of “Laguna Beach” and “The Hills” multiple times and I own all of her books. (Her series, L.A. Candy, is totally underrated and spilled some very juicy gossip about the filming of “The Hills”!)

I highly recommend her other books, “Style” and “Beauty” (the first of which is my favorite), and I’m excited to really dig in to her latest book, which offers advice for being the perfect hostess no matter the occasion.

Here’s what I learned about the lovely LC at her book signing.

1. She is stunning.

Truth: I’ve never seen a bad photo of Lauren Conrad. She is so pretty and, in person, she’s somehow even prettier.

2. She is kind.

I won’t lie: it took about three hours of waiting before I could meet Lauren. And that was because she insisted on talking to each person and posing for individual photos, in addition to personally addressing each person’s book. According to the clerks at R.J. Julia (a very cute independent bookstore that often plays host to these celebrity book signings), this is kind of unusual. I really appreciated it, though.

3. Her cateye makeup is FLAWLESS.

To die for, really.

4. She’s still figuring out that whole Snapchat thing.

I tried to think of something clever to say when I got up to meet Lauren, but I blanked and ended up blurting out that I was “obsessed” with the fact that she recently joined Snapchat. It probably has a little something to do with the fact that I myself only recently discovered Snapchat, too. To that, she mentioned that she…

  • Was still figuring out the best ways to use Snapchat
  • Wasn’t sure if she was really a fan because it required her to really focus on her phone and instead of being in the moment (a sentiment I could appreciate)
  • Felt Snapchat was a “young kids'” scene
  • Wasn’t sure she’d stick around on it

And then she thanked me for the compliment. And I died.

5. She’s tiny.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to share this, but I do. She was so much tinier than I thought she’d be. Not that I thought she’d be tiny at all? And I guess that’s why it surprised me. I got up to her and thought, “I could probably pick her up and carry her out of here right now and not even break a sweat,” which was a very weird thought that I’m now embarrassed about. But it is what it is.

lc-celebrate

lc-3

xo.

Friday Favorites #16

A few things I’m loving this week!

Ivy Park

Ivy Park

Because I’m into all things Beyonce, it’s only natural that I’d love Beyonce’s upcoming athletic clothing line, Ivy Park. I need everything in it ASAP.

Lauren Conrad’s “Celebrate”

lc-celebrate

How can I not adore Lauren Conrad’s latest book, “Celebrate”? I’m not ashamed to admit  own every book she’s written and I can’t wait to dig in and read this one, too. Just a quick skim through the book has revealed it’s definitely her prettiest book yet.

Kiss It Better Music Video

Major boob envy in Rihanna’s latest music video for “Kiss It Better”—which is easily one of my favorite songs right now.

What are your favorites this week?

xo.

Things I Bought That I Love: The Book Fair Nostalgia Kit

While looking up ’90s-inspired gift ideas for my cousin, I stumbled across something called “The Book Fair Nostalgia Kit.” I thought only one thing: I must have it.

It’s a collection of book-related items, including a vintage book popular in the ’80s or ’90s, meant to tap into that Scholastic Book Fair nostalgia.

And with me, the Scholastic Book Fair nostalgia is strong. Those book fairs were essentially the best part of my life as a child. First, I received the flyer, where I’d pore over all of the books, reading each description, and circling each and every book I wanted to read.

Photo credit: childhood-nostalgia.tumblr.com.
Photo credit: childhood-nostalgia.tumblr.com.

Then I’d skim through the flyer again and reaffirm that my choices were great. They always were. By the time the book fair itself rolled around, I could barely pay attention to my classwork. The book fair was happening, people!

They’d clear out the cafeteria and set up the book fair, which I’d go to as soon as I could. I’d rush through the fair, completely forgetting about my list, grabbing more books than I could hold, and then spending a painstaking amount of time determining which ones I’d take home (while also deciding I also needed bookmarks and pens and whatever other items they might be selling).

I always walked away with an armful of books, thanks to a wonderfully generous grandma, who fully endorsed my obsessive reading habits. For me, it was heaven.

So you can see why I needed this nostalgia kit. It’s an item available from an Etsy shop called sweetandlovely, based out of Princeton, NJ. For $16, I got:

  • A pencil (mine was SCENTED and smelled like STRAWBERRIES)
  • An eraser
  • Three bookmarks (BOOKMARKS! The kind you could get at the Scholastic Book Fair!)
  • A handmade button with stickers
  • A handmade reading list booklet
  • A hand-stamped canvas carrying case
  • A vintage book (mine was The Baby-Sitter’s Club #31, “Dawn’s Wicked Stepsister”)

As someone who was clearly obsessed with those goddamn childhood book fairs, and as someone who loved the BSC as a kid, this was a total win for me. The handmade items were well crafted, the pencil was SCENTED, and the (used) book was in excellent condition. Pretty much the only downside was the fact that I couldn’t peel off the adorable “I love reading” sticker that came on the outside of the package.

Get yours here.

 

xo.