Practicing Gratitude: The 5 Books I’m Most Grateful For

Let’s admit it.  With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many of us probably have our heads crammed with travel schedules, grocery lists, and, if you’re anything like me, bullet points for some political debates (love you and looking at you, Dad). But none of these things are what the holiday is REALLY about, are they? It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the hustle and bustle that we forget to pause, reflect on, and show appreciation for all that we actually have to be grateful for.

If Hygge Were a Sweater…

I’m positive I’ll feel differently at the tail-end of this season, but I have been so enjoying the dipping temperatures here in New England.  The bite in the air is starting to keep us indoors more often than not, which can only mean one thing…hygge season is officially here.

I was first introduced to the concept of hygge by a dear friend (hey Liz!!!), a little over a year ago, and I fell completely in love with the concept.  In a nutshell, hygge is the Danish art of happiness that centers around enjoying simple, charming, and cozy pleasures.  Think lots of tea, books, blankets, candles, home-made meals enjoyed at home with friends and family, and, of course, comfortable clothes. 

Vintage Fashion: 3 Reasons to Hit Up Your Local Thrift Shop

I must confess, I haven’t always loved to shop for clothes.  I have vivid memories of preteen me BEGGING my mother not to make me go back-to-school shopping at Marshall’s because I loathed it so much (and I knew she’d spend two hours in the pocketbook section alone).  She would drag me along anyway and as a result I’d rebel -of course- with my “fashion” choices.  One particularly awful red shirt with mesh sleeves comes to mind, but we’ll leave that image with 8th grade Ashley where it belongs.

Book Talk: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

“On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.”

If Marra’s future books are as beautiful as this debut novel, I hope he’ll write hundreds.  While I originally read Constellation two years ago, I was even more impressed with Marra’s craft and character development the second time around.

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Spanning the length of 5 days in 2004 Chechnya, this story begins the morning after Havaa, an eight-year-old girl with a mysterious blue suitcase of unnamed “souvenirs” in tow, watches Russian Feds kidnap her father on suspicion of harboring Chechen rebels and burn the only home she’s ever known to the ground.  Akhmed, her father’s lifelong friend, rescues her from her hiding spot in the woods and decides to take her to the only safe place he can think of.  The unlikely pair travel together to a nearly abandoned hospital in a nearby town in the hopes that it’s lone surgeon, the formidable Sonja Rabina, will take the girl in. 

Little do they know that Sonja, already overworked and exhausted, has a deeply private reason to turn them away.  If she chooses to grant Havaa a safe haven in her hospital, she might also risk threatening the return of her long-missing sister, Natasha.  Against her better judgement Sonja agrees to watch over Havaa, on the condition that Akhmed assist her with the never-ending work of running the dilapidated hospital.  While their arrangement temporarily protects Havaa from the Feds, the threat of her discovery grows with each passing day.

I know in my bones that I’ll return to this book many times in my life.  Before reading it, I had never known about the horrors of the centuries long Chechen-Russian conflict, nor of the two Chechen Wars in the 90’s and early 00’s.  The author paints this history unapologetically and leaves the reader with feelings of rage, joy, heartbreak, and hope all at once.  Marra is a genius at forming subtle connections between both characters and events with his use intricate and vivid details that thread themselves throughout the story.  This book is a constantly unfolding treasure that should be required reading.

More Than Metal and Stone: My Five Favorite Pieces of Jewelry

Tim and I are moving to a new apartment soon, giving me the perfect opportunity to scratch the declutter itch I’ve been feeling for awhile now.  I’ve been working through our rooms, sorting possessions into piles; keep, toss, and donate.  I’d made it through my kitchen, my knick knacks, and my closet at record speed (for me) but when it came time to clean out my jewelry box, I paused. 

My (Belated) June Reading List

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It feels really good to be writing about books again.  Without going into too much detail, this year has held a few tougher seasons for me, and I’ve spent much of it feeling overwhelmed/upset/anxious/depressed about certain aspects of my life.  However, I am actively taking steps to change that, including being more active here, in my creative space.  Reading and writing make me happy, and we could all use more happy in the day-to-day, right?  And so, without further ado, here are my latest reads.
So, full disclosure.  I did NOT read all of these books in June.  However, I do want to be better about writing monthly book roundup posts, so in that spirit here are my “June” reads!

Watermelon Kombucha Margaritas

It’s hard to say how long exactly my love affair with kombucha*, a type of fermented sweet tea, has been going on.  It IS safe to say that we’ve been hot and heavy for awhile now, and treating myself to one during my weekly grocery shopping trip has become a ritual of mine.  While I have my tried and true flavors I like to stick too (hello GT’s  Cosmic Cranberry and KeVita’s Lavender Melon!), I essentially flipped out when I found the Synergy’s new Watermelon Wonder Kombucha flavor at Trader Joe’s.