Stuff to Love in November 2015

Taken yesterday, at a very special tree lot known as Home Depot.

Taken yesterday, at a very special tree lot known as Home Depot.

Books: I finally finished a few books that have been on my reading list for ages! I never think there's time to read but when I pick up a good book it doesn't feel hard to find a few pockets of time throughout the day. If you grew up attending a high school church youth group you'll probably appreciate Addie Zierman's When We Were on Fire. If you've never felt comfortable with women being given "children's director" roles rather than simply being called a pastor, you'll enjoy Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. And...I'm smack dab in the middle of this French parenting book, which is fascinating!

Food: I made Ina Garten's Beef Bourguignon with all my college friends during our Colorado trip last month. It's a time consuming recipe with rich flavors; perfect for a winter dinner party. I made it again a few weeks ago when we had friends over, and served with a seasonal salad and Trader Joe's pumpkin pie cheesecake. Speaking of cheesecake, this copycat Avocado Eggrolls Cheesecake Factory recipe is THE BOMB, and easier than you might think.

Podcasts: At Home with Sally is new and not quite polished (yet) but I love hearing from a veteran mom when there are so few in the blogosphere/podcast sphere. Also, Elizabeth Gilbert's Magic Lessons is all the rage right now with my writer friends. I've only listened to a handful but they are certainly inspiring.

TV/Movies: While I occasionally need a veg night on the couch, TV hasn't felt very relaxing recently. (I've been spending more time in bed with a book, see above.) BUT, when we do sit down together we watch The Americans. We also saw The Martian (really good!) and took Anna to see The Good Dinosaur while we were in Mammoth. (It was cute but she may have had nightmares after seeing it. Oops.)

Wearing: A new Stitch Fix top, these lightweight Nike shoes and a killer pair of ankle boots from the Bass outlet.

Using: Mrs. Meyer's Orange Clove multi-purpose surface cleaner because it smells like CHRISTMAS and who doesn't love a little Christmas smell when you're cleaning your kitchen table three times a day? I used to be a loyal Vitacost fan but I recently tried ePantry and liked it too. There's something very satisfying about shopping for harder-to-find items without kids hanging off the shopping cart. If this sounds appealing to you, try my promo code for $10 off. (Honestly, I can't imagine life without online shopping.)

Favorite purchases: If you follow me on Instagram you'll know that we bought a minivan and essential oils last month. My legit mom status just went up about five points, and my cool factor went down by 20. But, we have cup holders! And three of us avoided Jonathan's stomach bug last week! I'll take these purchases as a win.

Things we did: Beach walks, afternoon tea parties, music class, bike rides, and afternoons in the cul-de-sac are all part of our regular routine. I also ran part of the Santa Barbara Half Marathon on a moms' relay team. (Such a fun morning!) The kids and I saw THE JANA ALAYRA in concert (also known as the best day of their lives) and we went to Mammoth for Thanksgiving week (braving very cold weather but sort of teaching Anna to ski.)

Reads I love on the web:

Sharon Hodde Miller's Follow the Fear, about realizing that helping the vulnerable might actually cost us something.

Why it's good to have a strong-willed child and why you should let up on them

Un-Haunted: Leaving Guns Behind in America by my friend Christin Taylor. Her observations will certainly make you think. Does anyone else still get worried every time you set foot in a movie theater?

The Real Secret to Making All Your Dreams Come True was a much needed read for me this month!

Anticipating: The holiday season, of course! Santa parades, kids' Christmas performances, baking cookies, making a gingerbread house, wearing Christmas pajamas, a wreath making party in Ojai, a romantic date night or two.