The Longest Month, or, Everyone Gets a Round of Antibiotics!

Friends. September was a very, very long month.


E's backpack

It started out well enough. E went back to preschool 2 days a week. I love the program we found for him (so much that I joined the board). I love seeing how much he's learning, I love the artwork he brings home (and if I'm being honest, I love the Scholastic book orders, too!). 


We went on a quick trip to the coast after Labor Day. My sister-in-law was attending a conference at Port Royal and generously invited us to tag along. It's hard to say no to a free room at the beach! The weather was iffy, but E and I enjoyed a trip to the aquarium, some time at the resort's splash pad, and, once my husband got into town, maybe the best afternoon we've ever had at the beach (not hot! not crowded! no seaweed!). It was really great.

But then we came home, and my husband almost immediately left for a 12 day trip (12 days!!!) to Europe (why oh why I told him I didn't mind if he went is beyond me). And I suddenly had more freelance work than I knew what to do with (a good problem to have, of course), on top of studying for my group fitness instructor certification. 

I thought I was managing the whole solo-parenting thing pretty well, until I realized that the cold E caught earlier in the month wasn't getting any better, and oh, by the way, I kinda felt like I maybe had a sinus infection myself.

After a trip to Minute Clinic for me and a trip to the pediatrician for E, we were diagnosed with a sinus infection (no surprise) for me, and a double ear infection for E (kid did not act sick at all!). 

IMG_5916 (1)

But it wasn't all doom and gloom! While my husband was galavanting around Europe, E and I attended a Day Out with Thomas in nearby Burnet.


We also went to a fun blogger event sponsored by Hot Dang Burgers at Hat Creek Burger Company, where part of the swag was an incredibly yummy pizza from Bola Pizza. Best frozen pizza ever. 

And now it's October. I'm still buried in work and studying, but at least we're all healthy and my husband is home. Hopefully I'll be back in this space a little more regularly.

Your Daily Brain

If you've ever wondered exactly what your brain is doing as you go about your everyday life, this is the book for you. Your Daily Brain "collects science's best understandings of how to maximize the use of your brain, generally organized by the situations in your day when you're likely to use these skills." 


Your Daily Brain | Marbles the Brain Store with Garth Sundem

Three Rivers Press, 2015

The book is cleverly divided into morning, day, and evening sections, and then further by time (8:15 am, 2 pm, 6:45 pm). Each time entry delves into a common occurrence (picking which radio station to listen to during your morning commute, going to the gym, dealing with squabbling children) and addresses, in plain English, what the best choice is (if current research knows what the best choice is). 

I found the entry on how to know if your relationship will last particularly fascinating; as a child of divorce I've always been curious about what makes some marriages last and others not. Your Daily Brain presents interesting research about the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" that make relationships fall apart (criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt).  Thankfully, I don't recognize any of those is my marriage, but if I did, the author helpfully suggests it might be a good idea to seek help before it's too late. 

Your Daily Brain is written in a super conversational tone: you will understand what the author is explaining, even without a PhD in neuroscience. It's also a slim little volume, a mere 191 pages, easy enough to breeze through in a sitting or two. It makes a great beach or plane read if you're looking for something that's easy to dive into but will still make you feel smarter when you've finished it. 

My one complaint about the book is that it lacks an index to pull discussions on a singular topic (sleep, for instance) together, though there is a detailed table on contents.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

What I Read: July 2015

Books july

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume: oh, man. What can I say about this? It's Judy Blume and it's good. In Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950s, three planes crashed over the course of two months. Naturally, the town was thrown into turmoil, and Blume uses her exceptional storytelling skills to weave a tale about love, loss and family in a way that only she can. I read an interview where Blume said she had thought about including a chart of the characters (because there are many to keep up with, and they are all interconnected), but her husband convinced her not to. Indeed, a chart would have been helpful in keeping track of the various narrators, but discovering how the characters are linked together is also part of the beauty of the book. Highly recommended (in fact, it's not pictured above because I lent my copy to my mom, who reports that she loved it). 

Savor by Shauna Niequist: I've never read a daily devotional before but bought a copy of Savor with a birthday gift card after flipping through it a few times at the store. Each page has a bible verse, a short essay and a question or two to ponder (which would make excellent journaling prompts). It's a little daily dose of positivity.

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin: I tried (and failed) to read this book when it came out. At the time, I was super bummed because I'm always interested in cultivating a better home life. But I just couldn't get into Rubin's voice as an author and quickly abandoned it (fortunately it was a library book, so no money wasted there). But I recently read (and really enjoyed) Rubin's Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, so I decided to go back and give this a shot, now that I'm more familiar with Rubin's style. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was just as hooked on Happier as I was Better (though I think that Better is still, well, better). In Happier at Home, Rubin embarks on a follow-up to her happiness project (which formed the basis of her best-selling book, which is next on my list, of course). She chooses a handful of resolutions to try each month for the duration of the school year, and then reports on the results. What I find interesting about Rubin's books is that very few people would go to the lengths that she does to start and keep numerous resolutions, but anyone could read Happier at Home and find a handful of things they might want to implement in their own lives. It's a great end-of-summer read as everyone gears up for the new school year. 

The Best Medicine by Elizabeth Hayley: One of the common misconceptions people have about librarians is that we only like to read serious literature. Not at all. In fact, classics and literary fiction interest me not at all, and one of my guiltiest pleasures is reading romance novels, the steamier the better. They're light, fluffy, and guaranteed to end well. I grabbed The Best Medicine on a Target run because it fit my romance novel criteria: contemporary and steamy. Grad student Lauren Hastings ends up taking a gig in her mom's office and soon ends up in a friends-with-benefits situation with her boss, Dr. Scott Jacobs. In the end I thought it was just okay, although I do have to award points with the Doogie Howser references. The "I won't let myself fall in love, ever, because of my parents" trope is just a little boring for me, I guess. I'd prefer a more imaginative obstacle to the main characters getting together. This is the first in a new series but I'm not sure I would pick up subsequent titles.

Going off Script by Giuliana Rancic: I was thrilled when I received a copy of Going off Script, because I love Giuliana & Bill and, in general, love dishy celebrity memoirs. Giuliana had an interesting childhood (her family immigrated from Italy when she was young), and those experiences certainly make for great stories. Aspiring celebrity journalists will be riveted by Rancic's career trajectory (spoiler alert: just like everyone else, she stumbled along the way). And every woman can empathize with her longing for a family and the terror she felt with her breast cancer diagnosis. Where the book falls flat, I think, is her cattiness towards other women. I was a little surprised, because this representation of herself didn't really jive with the version of herself from Giuliana & Bill. I mean, she runs Fab-U-Wish, which helps women undergoing breast cancer treatment feel fabulous. I expected a little more positivity and sisterhood, rather than referring to multiple women as "bitches." It was a quick read, but I think there are other, better, celebrity memoirs to jump into if that's what you're looking for. I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Paper Towns by John Green: I hadn't read a YA novel in awhile and decided to pick up Paper Towns after seeing the trailer for the movie. This has been a popular book for a long time and I think that's the reason I'd put off reading it (when something is continuously raved about, it becomes less interesting to me). Anyway, I was quickly hooked into Quentin's quest to find his missing neighbor, the beautiful and tragic Margo Roth Spiegelman. Green certainly has a way with drawing realistic teen characters, and in Paper Towns he's crafted an epic story that's part mystery, part romance. The ending got a little existential for my taste, but overall it was a "can't put it down" read.

Tips for Taking a Road Trip with a Toddler

We spent the last week of June in Port Aransas, Texas. It's our favorite little spot on the coast and we're always excited to head down there. My husband grew up vacationing there, and we made the trip a couple of times together before E joined us.


This last trip was E's third time to the beach and it's been interesting to note how our approach to the 4-5 hour drive changes as E gets older. On the first trip, E was about 5 months old. I think we stopped 2 or 3 times so I could nurse him. At 9 months, E joined us at the table when we stopped for lunch, then nursed in the car before we got on the road again. On both trips he was more or less content. He's always done pretty well in the car and usually sleeps for at least part of any long trip.

Outside of our trips to the coast, we don't generally take long road trips (most of our family lives 2 hours away or less), and I was a little nervous for this first long car trip with E as a fully fledged toddler. But I took some time to think about what we'd need and how to keep E happy, and it worked out pretty well.

Here's my three-pronged approach to surviving a long car ride with a toddler:

1. Pack snacks.

More than you think you will need. This was actually a take away from a shorter trip we took, when E wasn't interested in eating lunch at the restaurant and then, of course, was starving when we got in the car. I stick to things that are easy for him to eat and don't pose a choking hazard since I obviously can't get to him very easily. I pack applesauce pouches, Happy Tot Love my Veggies pouches and dry snacks that I mix together for baby tail mix (raisins, cheddar bunnies, yogurt melts, puffs). We've tried half a dozen snack cups but my favorite is the Ubbi Tweat snack container, since it has a lid (helpful for keeping snacks from going stale or spilling everywhere in the diaper bag). I also made sure I had a few snacks for my husband and me, as well as several bottles of water easily accessible (I never travel without water, just in case we end up on the side of the road!).

2. New books and toys.

This isn't ground breaking advice, but it is a little tricky to find things for toddlers this age to do in the car. If he was a bit older I'd have no problem handing him a tablet for a little bit of screen time, but videos aren't super interesting to him yet (not that I'm complaining). I've seen a few ideas on Pinterest for fashioning trays to attach to carseats so baby has a flat surface to play on-- this is such a bad idea and could be super dangerous in the event of an accident. You should never ever attach anything to a car seat that isn't approved by the manufacturer. The good news is that there are plenty of things that toddlers can enjoy playing with in the car seat. 

  • Doodle Pro Elephant Doodler I loved my Magnadoodle as a kid and I'm glad they're still around! This is a toddler-friendly version and E loved it. The chunky pen is perfect and he had no trouble erasing the screen himself.
  • Melissa & Doug Dress-Up Bear I ordered this after realizing I'd waited too long to order the buckle whale that someone recommended to me. E wasn't super interested in this, but it's a great little toy and I think he'll like it in a few months.
  • Indestructibles books E loves books but unfortunately he also likes to mouth them (still). If I let him have a book unsupervised there's a pretty good chance he'll chew it to shreds before I know what's happening. But these books are actually indestructible, so they're perfect for him to look at in the car. I bought two new ones he hadn't seen before. 
  • O Ball Car E picked this out at Target a few days before our trip and it was perfect for playing with in the car. The wheels make a very satisfying rattle sound.
  • Water Wow This didn't actually get played with in the car, but did prove to be a great diversion from climbing on the (glass) coffee table in our condo. We got the vehicle one, but there are several to choose from and I will definitely be buying more. It does make a good car activity, though I'd probably fill the brush up with water prior to getting on the road.

3. Allow time for leg stretching.

I was feeling pretty frustrated that E wouldn't just sit down nicely in his high chair when we stopped for lunch before it occurred to me that he'd been sitting for a couple of hours already and needed to stretch his legs. Fortunately, we'd chosen to stop in downtown Cuero, which appears to have no shortage of large trucks driving down the main street (no doubt thanks to the oil industry)-- heaven for my transportation obsessed little boy. A short walk outside the restaurant and everyone was much better behaved (mama included). Now I know to let him get the wiggles out before we get settled in for lunch. 

We're planning on a repeat performance of our trip to Port A in September, and I'll be sure to let you know what it's like road-tripping with a 21-month-old.

Have any tips for keeping toddlers happy in the car? Please share in the comments.

Learn with Play: 150+ Activities for Year-Round Fun & Learning

E started a Mother's Day Out program at the beginning of June (more on that later), and having two mornings a week "off" has been a refreshing change of pace for me! I realized the other day, however, that while the summer session of MDO ends in July, the fall session doesn't start until September! I quickly readjusted my expectations of what my August would look like and knew I would need to find fun activities we could do together in the time that E was previously at school.


I was thrilled to see that the Kid Blogger Network had just released a brand new book perfect for situations like this! Learn with Play: 150+ Activities for Year-Round Fun & Learning is a must-have if you have small children at home. It's packed full of hands-on activities, most using common household items. There's something for every age group, from babies to Kindergarteners. 


Thanks to Learn with Play I can see our August shaping up quite nicely! To celebrate the launch, the Learn with Play e-book is $5 off through July 14. The e-book version is great because you can print off activities for easy reference, but the book is also available for Kindle and as a softcover.

Check out the trailer below to get a peek at what's inside:

The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book

This is the book I wish I had had when E was starting solids, oh so many months ago. I wanted to make homemade baby food but found it difficult to actually do when I had an infant to take care of. The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book by Lisa Barrangou addresses exactly this obstacle. 


The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book | Lisa Barrangou, PhD

Ten Speed Press, 2015

Barrangou is passionate about starting babies out on whole foods, and draws on her experience in the homemade baby food business to lay out a realistic plan to help parents create 3 months of homemade purees in three hours.

-When babies are offered gently

The book follows Barrangou's 6 step strategy for preparing homemade baby food:

  1. Select a menu of whole foods
  2. Prepare a shopping list
  3. Create space
  4. Shop for whole foods
  5. Create a mise en place plan
  6. Prepare baby food (divided into 3 1-hour cooking sessions)

Barrangou guides readers through each step, providing tips produce selection tips, direction on how to create a mise en place plan, and a list of tools needed for preparing and storing food. She also delves into how to build meals, sample menus for getting baby started on solids, flavor compatibility guides and mix-ins to add to the purees.

The bulk of the book is naturally devoted to step 6, the recipes: preparing purees, creating combination purees, and finger foods to make as baby progresses beyond purees. As the mom of a toddler, I would have liked to see more finger food recipes, but I understand that wasn't the main focus of the book.

Two appendices cover health information, preparation tools, and conversion charts.

As I've come to expect from Ten Speed Press cookbooks, The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book is beautifully styled and includes a useful index.

If you have an inkling to prepare homemade baby food for your little one, this is the only baby food cookbook you'll need.

Pin for later!


I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

17 Ways to Get Free Books to Review on Your Blog

If you love to read, chances are you've posted a book review on your blog. Did you know you can get free books to review on your blog? It's pretty easy and a lot of fun. It's worth noting that there's not a lot of money in book blogging. Most of the time, you'll just get a complementary copy of the published book. But, if you love books and reading, a free book is just as good as cold, hard cash! Read on for 17 ways you can get free books to review on your blog.


First, some book blogging lingo.

Page proofs for a book in the proofreading and copy-editing phase are referred to as a galley. Most book bloggers will see galleys in the form of an Advance Reader Copy or Advance Uncorrected Proof (commonly abbreviated as ARC).

ARCs are used by the publishing company as marketing tools and look a lot like your typical soft cover book (though I have come across a few hardcover ARCs), with a few key differences. For one thing, the book will still likely contains errors that will (hopefully) be caught and corrected in the final round of editing. Front and back matter, like a dedication and index, are likely to be excluded. Illustrations might not be complete and it's common to see a blank page with the notation "illustration TK [to come]." If illustrations are included in the ARC, they may be in black and white even if the final version will be in color. The cover is also likely not final.

ARCs are produced as cheaply as possible and have no monetary value (they generally include a big disclaimer on the cover that says "not for sale"). So they usually don't hold up as well as a finished book would, but it's more than sufficient for review purposes. 

Many publishers also use e-galleys, which are galleys in e-book format. Like printed galleys, the book may still include some mistakes and be missing illustrations. 

Publishers can and do provide finished copies of books for review, but if you're angling for access to a title prior to publication, you're most likely to receive it in ARC form.


How do I get free books to review on my blog?

There are several different options.

The first is to attend conferences and trade shows related to the book industry. Publishers are in attendance with booths set up on the exhibit floor with the purpose of promoting their titles. The American Library Association has an annual conference as well as a midwinter meeting. These events rotate around the country and draw most of the major publishing companies. Your state library association also likely hosts an annual conference, though I've heard that these are not always as well attended by publishers in some states (I live in Texas, which hosts the largest statewide library conference in the country, so I have can't comment on the validity of this statement). You don't need to be a member to attend these events, and can usually purchase an exhibits only registration for much less than the cost of attending the conference. BookExpo America (BEA) is another large trade show popular with book bloggers. I've never been, but Modern Mrs. Darcy recently wrote about her experience attending BEA for the first time.

At these events, publishers will often put out stacks of ARCs that are free for the taking (less frequently, they offer finished copies). You can also ask the rep working the booth if there is a specific title you are interested in, or if they have something that fits what you're looking for (i.e., middle grade contemporary fiction). 

Another option is to contact the publisher's marketing department and ask (nicely!) for a copy of the book you're interested in. I've never done this because there hasn't been a book I've wanted badly enough pre-publication, but it can be very effective, particularly if you have a large following on your blog and social media. 

Below are links to publicity contacts for the Big 4:

Another, more hands-off (and my preferred method), way to gain access to free books to review on your blog is to sign up for a review website. 

NetGalley is a platform that connects bloggers with e-galleys from hundreds of publishers, large and small. Sign up for an account, then start browsing. Once you find a title you're interested in, you can request to be granted access to it. Each publisher approves and denies requests according to their own criteria, so be sure to take a look at their approval preferences and make sure your profile includes the information they are looking for. After reviewing the title, you can submit your feedback (including blog post links) to the publisher directly via NetGalley. Be careful not to request more titles than you can actually review in a reasonable amount of time. NetGalley does track your request vs. feedback rate and a low percentage isn't attractive to publishers. 

Blogging for Books is possibly my favorite way to get books for review, if only because it's so easy. Blogging for Books is the book blogger program for Crown Publishing Group. Sign up, connect your blog and social media accounts, and select your first book. These are all finished copies (print copies as well as e-books, though that varies by title) and while there's not a huge selection, but I've never had a hard time finding something I'm interested in. Your book will ship within a week or so, and once it arrives and you've submitted your review, you're free to choose another book. This infographic explains the process nicely.

Blogging for Books drew some criticism when it debuted because they use Klout scores to give bloggers with more influence more access to books. Personally, I think this is a pretty good method of judging online influence, and more fair than just basing it on page views. If you're at all active online, your Klout score is probably already pretty good (I've heard that most brands look for a Klout score of at least 50, though I obviously have no idea what numbers Blogging for Books likes to see); if not, it's easy to increase.

First to Read offers e-galleys of upcoming releases. Access is granted in exchange for points, points are earned in a variety of ways (submitting reviews, reading excerpts, etc.). I find the process a little cumbersome, so I've not bothered to request anything via First to Read, but it's a great option if you prefer to review books in e-galley form.

BookLook Bloggers is run by HarperCollins Christian Publishing. That's not my usual reading taste, so I can't comment too much on this program, but it seems pretty straight forward. Sign up (they look for an actively maintained personal, public blog with at least 30 followers or subscribers), request a book (they offer print and e-books), review it (at least 200 words) on your blog and a consumer website (such as amazon). Once you've done that, you can request another book. 

Social reading sites like LibraryThing and GoodReads also frequently run giveaways for ARCs, but your chances of winning are pretty small due to the high number of entries. 

Other book blogger programs (I don't have experience with any of these, and they are mostly Christian publishers):

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17 ways to get free books


Know of any other book blogger programs? Please share in the comments.  

July Goals

Happy July! I love July, maybe because it's my birthday month (my birthday is today, actually! Cheers to being 31), but definitely because it's SUMMER and that's my favorite time of year (yes, even in Texas).


Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish this month:

  • Whole 30 prep. I've been interested in completing a Whole 30 for a couple of months now and have so far put it off because everything I've read says that advance planning is the key to success. I haven't made the time to plan, so my goal for July is to do that. Hopefully I can start by the end of the month, or at the very latest, in August.
  • Finish my list of 100 Dreams. Inspired by Laura Vanderkam's latest book, I Know How She Does It, I started my list of 100 Dreams (really just a list of things-- big and small-- you'd like to accomplish in your lifetime). I'm currently on #46, so I've got a ways to go!
  • New design for In the Afternoon and finish professional website. I want to tweak my blog design to make it more mobile friendly. I started putting together a website (really just another Typepad blog, because I'm not that skilled when it comes to web design) for my freelance writing and book indexing business, and I'd really like to finish that. 
  • Write 10 posts for In the Afternoon. After taking a step back from blogging, I've been super inspired to get back into it. I have a lot of stuff I want to share, I just need to sit down and write!

What are you working on in July?

Love and Miss Communication

Have you ever considered eschewing the internet altogether? Putting down the iPhone and taking a pass at hashtags, selfies, and Google stalking? That's exactly what Evie Rosen does in Elyssa Friedland's debut novel, Love and Miss Communication

Love and miss communication

Love and Miss Communication | Elyssa Friedland

William Morrow, 2015

After being canned from her corporate lawyer gig for sending too many personal e-mails on company time, and then discovering (via Facebook) that her marriage-phobe ex has, in fact, gotten married and rendering her laptop useless after the resultant shock-induced vomit session, Evie quits the internet cold turkey. She e-mails her friends and family one last missive, stating that the internet is ruining her life, and signs off.

Problem solved, right?

Of course, nothing is quite so simple, and in her new tech free world, Evie finds that her longtime friendships are strained without the easy connections of e-mail and social media. She's also not quite sure how she'll find a new job, much less a date. Yet as Evie embraces her screen-free life, she discovers surprising benefits, like genuine conversations, career clarity, and watching life unfold in real time.

Evie is a flawed character, and at times almost unlikable (she's pretty judgmental, in an almost unbelievable way, but we all have our faults), yet I still found myself rooting for her. Everyone deserves a happily ever after, right? If you're looking for a light, fun read to toss in your beach bag this summer, Love and Miss Communication fits the bill. I couldn't put it down, which is always the mark of an enjoyable read. Recommended for fans of Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series and those looking for a breezy book club pick (a reading guide is appended).

Review copy provided by the publisher.

A Modern Way to Eat


I'm pretty much always looking for new recipes to try, and I do lean more towards vegetarian meals (meat just isn't that interesting to me, I guess, and I don't think it's the healthiest choice). I was excited to take a look at Anna Jones' new cookbook called A Modern Way to Eat: 200+ Satisfying Vegetarian Recipes (That Will Make You Feel Amazing)

The book is gorgeous, with loads of beautifully styled photos, plenty of white space and a well-written index. It's truly a pleasure to flip through, which is always nice. 

However, the recipes are a bit fussier than what I would gravitate towards. I'm not someone who enjoys cooking, so I tend to avoid recipes with numerous steps and/or a substantial ingredient list. I did try the Overnight oats with peaches (page 20), and loved the result, but I don't think it's really fair to judge a cookbook based on such a basic recipe.

I think this cookbook would make a wonderful addition to your library if you're a vegetarian (or just someone who often gravitates towards plant-based meals) AND enjoy spending time in the kitchen. If those two things don't apply, it's probably one you can skip. Foodies, vegetarian or not, are likely to love it.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.