Isn’t September wonderful? It offers the same fresh start as the New Year, but without January’s dreary weather or post-Christmas blues. September = Summer Weather AND new beginnings, plus all things pumpkin, with a healthy dose of autumn decor added in; what’s not to love?!
This month has definitely felt like a new chapter for our family. In a strange way, our trip to California last month provided closure for me. The abrupt nature of our move to Texas in February didn’t allow me to fully process the enormous change that was taking place; it took a return trip to what we had left behind to thoroughly say goodbye and feel ready to move on. That’s not to say that we will never move back to California, but for now we are Texans, and I am finally feeling ready to fully embrace our new reality. I am deeply excited about our new home and the life we are creating here.
In our efforts to make Austin feel more like home, we are taking intentional steps towards forming new relationships here. This month I joined a weekly women’s Bible study, and it has been amazing! Not only is it great to be diving into God’s word alongside other believers, but I’ve met some wonderful women who have gone out of their way to welcome me into their fold. (In other words, I’m finally finding FRIENDS!) Luke and I also joined a weekly community group, where we are getting to know other young couples from our church. We’ve gone from being not-involved to very-involved quite quickly, but these new commitments and relationships are a welcome addition to our calendar and our lives.
Beyond these new activities, here’s an in-depth look at what life is looking like for me this September!
// READING LATELY //
Despite our increased busyness this month, I’ve managed to plow through nearly a dozen books. (If you’re wondering how I manage to read so much, check back here next Monday when I’ll be sharing all my secrets for how to read more books!) The true stand-out for the month was Rules of Civility, which is in the running for the best book I’ve read all year. I also really enjoyed The Madwoman Upstairs, which pays tribute to one of my all-time favorites, Jane Eyre. This week I started Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day as my “book that’s been made into a movie” for my 2016 Reading Challenge. I’m only a few chapters in, but so far it is living up to the movie (which is high praise, as the film is a favorite of mine)!
As for nonfiction, I’ve read four books that have each given me a lot to think about: Dr. Laura’s In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms provided some much-needed encouragement when I was feeling discouraged about my SAHM status; Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage offered some great insights on how to improve my marriage; The Happiest Toddler on the Block gave us some helpful new discipline tools to try with Charlie; and The More of Less was the jump start I needed to get back on the minimalist bandwagon.
As you can imagine, I have a lot of thoughts regarding these books! I’m looking forward to sharing full reviews of these books in next month’s reading wrap-up.
// WHAT I’VE BEEN WATCHING //
Stranger Things: The Internet has been abuzz with enthusiasm for this Netflix show the pays homage to sci-fi horror flicks of the 1980s. I am interested in exactly zero of these things (sci-fi, horror, OR 80s pop culture), but I’d read enough glowing reviews that I was willing to commit to the show’s eight episodes.
The story takes place in a small Indiana town in 1983. When 12-year-old Will goes missing, his frantic mother and teen brother launch an investigation that leads them deep into the realm of government conspiracies and supernatural mysteries. Meanwhile, Will’s friends discover a psychokinetic girl who might hold the key to finding their friend.
Stranger Things is very dark, very creepy, and surprisingly gory; in other words, it is the opposite of what I look for in a show. But the acting is stellar and the story is riveting, keeping me hooked despite the nightmares that inevitably followed (in hindsight we probably shouldn’t have watched this at night). I wouldn’t say it lived up to the hype, but the fact that I watched and kept watching a show so far outside my usual tastes speaks to its creativity and binge-worthiness. In fact, I will likely tune in to season 2. My Rating: 3 stars.
Before launching into another show, we decided to catch up on some movies that have been languishing in our Netflix queue. We watched a record five movies this month, each viewed in 45-minute increments over multiple nights.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation: I’m not the biggest Mission Impossible fan, but I like the MI films more than most action movies and was amenable to Luke’s request that we watch the series’ most recent release. Rogue Nation was no better or worse than I anticipated. It had more action than I like but the story was decent and I did enjoy all of the fun international settings. And I must admit, Tom Cruise just seems to get better with age. My Rating: 3.5 stars.
The Big Short: Based on the stellar cast and strong reviews I expected to love this movie about the housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s. The acting is quite good and I appreciated the creative storytelling techniques. But as a whole I did not enjoy the movie. I learned a lot, but even with the detailed explanations creatively inserted into the film, the financial discussion went over my head and I felt lost for most of the movie. The extreme language and nudity were unnecessary and detracted from the story. My Rating: 2.5 stars.
Kate and Leopold: I’m a sucker for a good romantic comedy, especially one with a fun time traveling twist thrown in. In this light but surprisingly thought-provoking film, Leopold is transported from the 1800s into the 21st century, where he meets the cynical Kate. What transpires is hilarious and so sweet. Luke and I had fun laughing at the early 2000s fashion and technology—in a way, we felt like watching this movie was itself a time transporter! My Rating: 4 stars.
Mona Lisa Smile: I really enjoyed this movie about a forward-thinking art professor who teaches conservative young women at Wellseley College in the 1950s. The film really opened my eyes to some of the ideology within education during that period, and it made me grateful to be living in a more feminist-friendly era. (Based on some of the reviews I read, the film’s depiction of the era is exaggerated and anachronistic, but I assume that many of the issues within the movie are at least somewhat representative of the period.) I thought the acting was excellent and really enjoyed the costumes and the setting. My Rating: 4 stars.
Leap Year: In this lighthearted romantic comedy, a successful real estate stager is inspired by an old Irish tradition of proposing on leap day to travel to Dublin, where she hopes to propose to her cardiologist boyfriend. When her travel plans are spoiled, she must rely on help from a surly Irish innkeeper to travel across the country. This movie has terrible reviews and I understand why: the writing is cheesy, predictable and utterly cliched. And yet I found the film delightful. Amy Adams is cute as can be, and the Irish countryside that served as the film’s backdrop is insanely gorgeous. The scenery alone made the movie worth my two-hour time investment. My Rating: 4 stars.
// LISTENING TO LATELY //
Thy Will, by Hillary Scott: My Dad introduced me to this song from the female lead of Lady Antebellum, and I haven’t stopped listening to it since. Scott’s voice is beautiful, and I really resonate with the message of submitting to God’s sovereignty, even when it’s hard. I love when God uses music to speak deep into my soul, and he has done exactly that with this song.
Harry Potter and the Sacred Text: My favorite new podcast discovery (well, one of them…) taps into my twin loves of Harry Potter and literary analysis. Here’s the premise of the show as described on its website:
“Just as Christians read the Bible, Jews the Torah and Muslims read the Quran, we are embarking on a 199-episode journey (one chapter an episode, to be released weekly) to glean what wisdom and meaning we can make from J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels. We will read Harry Potter, not just as novels, but as instructive and inspirational texts that will teach us about our own lives. Each week, we explore a central theme through which to explore the characters and context, always grounding ourselves in the text. We’ll engage in traditional forms of sacred reading to unearth the hidden gifts within even the most mundane sentences.”
I admit I have mixed feelings about the co-hosts’ intentions for exploring Harry Potter in this manner; both hosts are atheists, and it saddens me that their lack of faith has driven them to find meaning and purpose in children’s fiction. However, I love the analytical approach they are taking: no piece of fiction—not even Harry Potter—should replace God’s Word as our primary road map for life, but I believe all texts have lessons to teach us if we are willing to search for them.
To get the most out of the podcast—and because I’ve been looking for an excuse to reread the series—I have committed to reading along with the show at a pace of one chapter per week. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text launched in May, but since I just started following this month, I had some catching up to do and
had to got to read all of The Sorcerer’s Stone in one sitting; it might be a challenge to hold myself to just one chapter per week as we start Chamber of Secrets next week!
// A FEW RECENT FAVORITES //
Toasted Coconut Vanilla Dannon Light and Fit Greek Yogurt: An odd fact about me is that I HATE coconut (the texture is disgusting to me), but LOVE coconut-flavored things. Which is why I am loving this yogurt! I actually enjoy this Dannon Greek yogurt in every flavor—all are thick, creamy, and sweet—but the coconut flavor is my favorite. I eat yogurt in some form at every meal, and this particular brand/flavor has become a daily treat.
Maybeline Volum’ Express The Falsies Mascara (Blackest Black): Yet another quirk about me (I’m sharing all my crazy today, apparently): I wear almost no other makeup, but I never leave the house without mascara. It’s my single must-have cosmetic, and I enjoy cycling through brands to find new favorites. Lately I’ve been wearing The Falsies Volum’ Express from Maybeline. I like that it adds both length and volume, and it doesn’t clump, even when I apply multiple coats. It receives bonus points for the $6 price tag!
Hearts of Palm: These are my latest veggie obsession. Unfortunately hearts of palm can be pretty pricey at most stores, but I found them for a great price at Costco. I usually eat them chopped up on a salad, but it’s not unheard of for me to eat them straight from the jar as a quick snack.
Burlap Bag Candle (Pumpkin Addict): I discovered the amazing Burlap Bag candles when we still lived in California (I wrote about my favorite Baked Bread candle here). Since moving to Austin, we’ve gotten to visit the brick-and-mortar store, and on our last visit I picked up the Pumpkin Addict candle, which is fulfilling all of my fall-scented candle dreams.
// HAPPENINGS AND HIGHLIGHTS //
Our local library teamed up with the Austin Steam Train Association for a fun event that celebrated two of Charlie’s favorite things: books and trains. We enjoyed learning the history behind the local railroad and seeing inside some of the trains that pass by our house. A highlight for Charlie was visiting the therapy dog who was at the event with his owner.
// LOVING LATELY //
Travels With Charlie Bear: Living across the country from family isn’t easy, but my parents found a fun new way to stay connected: for her birthday, my dad gave my mom a little Charlie Bear and he travels around with them on all of their adventures. It’s been so fun to receive pictures of what Charlie Bear has been up to; I share the pics with my own Charlie and it helps us to feel close to the grandparents when we can’t be together in person.
Lots of Hugs and Kisses: I’m quickly learning that parenting a toddler is very dynamic: the lows are low and very challenging, but the highs are amazing. This past month with Charlie has been so fun as he is doing and saying the funniest things, and I can’t get enough of his silliness. The best aspect of his blossoming personality is how affectionate he has become. He loves to hug and kiss his stuffed animals, his new friends (this isn’t always welcome. . .) and most of all, his Mama and Daddy—and we, of course, are eating it up. There is nothing I love more than hearing him gleefully cry “Mama” before running into my arms to smother me with hugs and kisses. BEST. FEELING. EVER!!!!!
Wow, that was quite a long monthly wrap-up. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with me! I’d love to hear what you have been into and up to this month!