Books I’ve Read {April Update}

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I have been feeling a little scattered-brain after coming back from our trip, so I was glad to jump into reading some books that helped me to get on track with what my priorities. “Focus” has been on my mind.

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life by Crystal Paine – This was a re-read. I had gone through this book when HelloMornings did a little book club. Part of the book discusses being disciplined in working through one small project a day and one Mega project from beginning to completion through the 21 days. If you know me, this is challenging for me because I like to do many things, read many books,…you get the picture, all at once. A hard lesson I have learned is that for some things, I really do need to focus. This book is perfect. There is one chapter for each day for 21 days. The chapters are short and there is a practical application each day to guide you to complete your task.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins – What do you want to be when you grow up? I think a lot of grown-ups are asking that question of themselves. In The Art of Work, Jeff shares his personal experience of really taking a look at what he was meant to do. He also shares some powerful stories of others who have re-evaluated what they were meant to do, and figured out how to live their lives beyond the mediocre. Now…to figure out what I want to be when I grow up… 😜

Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews – This was another re-read for me, but this time I actually worked out the different steps that Amy shares about and going through the printables to come up with a practical schedule that helps me to reach my goals and build important relationships. The roles, goals, and activities, and charting the activities on the grid were simple, but getting all of that into a real-life schedule that worked was really hard. I realized that none of the groups/activities we are involved in happen at the same time each day. MOPS is on Tuesday mornings, Awana is on Wednesday evenings, AOK is on Thursday afternoons, etc. It was kind of hard to plot it on the schedule. I think I might have to tweak it some more, but I do see that I have more cushion than I thought I had, I just have to make sure I use my time more wisely. (aff link)

Looking forward to reading these books in May. Anyone else want to join me?

Desperate by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson
Flash by Rachel Anne Ridge


Have you read any good books lately? What are your favorite kinds of books to read – mysteries, biographies, historical fiction, cookbooks?Book List 2015To check out the books on my book list, you can READ THIS POST or visit our Amazon store.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Day 4: Taronga Zoo {Australia 2015}

Note: Most links in the post will direct you to our reviews of the places. Links to all related/previous posts are at the bottom of this post.

We were still a little tired from traveling, but we were ready for a day at the zoo. It was a ferry ride away, so that added to the adventure!

Travel by Ferry
The ferry ride was actually only about 12 minutes long. We got to see the sights that we will be visiting through the week.

Taronga Zoo
After we got off the ferry, we took the Sky Safari into the zoo. The timing was not quite right for us because we were planning on taking the direct path all the way around the zoo, and that would mean missing a lot of the shows and feedings that were taking place. We did get to go to the Reptile Keeper Talk. It was pretty informative. We ended up leaving a little early because it was SO informative. 😝 Beware of fast-moving ants. They were everywhere!! If you are taking a break to drink some water or eat a snack, make sure to look before you sit anywhere!!

The Fish Stop
We decided to get some food at The Fish Stop. I wonder if it is strategically located halfway on the path around the zoo. It was pretty hot out at this time and the exhibits are fairly spread out, so we definitely needed to stop. It was also when everyone else needed to stop too. The Fish Stop was packed. The food was decent, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea if you brought your own lunch and found a non-crowded area to sit and eat. Also, watch out for the big birds. We saw one take food from a neighboring table.

Return by Ferry
It was nice to finally sit down and enjoy the breeze on the ferry ride back to Circular Quay.

Goshu Ramen Tei
For dinner, we picked up some Japanese food from a nearby restaurant. Check out our review HERE.

The highlight of our day was seeing all the animals that we don’t see at the zoos in the United States. It was interesting to learn new things about the world around us!

Click on the link to view the DAY 4 ALBUM.

Related Posts:
Traveling with Kids | Australia Trip 2015 Recap | Aussie Lingo
Day 1: OAK to HNL | Day 2: HNL to SYD | Day 3: St. Philip’s & MCA Cafe

American Girl Books

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Melody has read lots of the American Girl books lots of times already, but Emily got really interested in them after she played with the Felicity doll while we were in Australia. So we started with reading the Felicity books (there are six of them) and then the Kit books (there are also six of them, and we also checked out the mystery book and the “Beforever” book). They also have the DVDs of the movies at the library, so we watched those too.

Emily started really reading with fluency and expression right before she turned five, and there has only been a small number of times when she really showed interest in a book, especially chapter books. She does love to read, but it’s not her first choice if she could be playing or drawing or eating. 😜 I think part of her sudden interest is due to the fact that she is able to figure out what was happening during a specific period of time because of all the memory work she learned for the history sentences with Classical Conversations, and also where they are happening because of our recent travels and geography in CC as well.

Both girls are super excited to finish reading the Felicity series, and then get started on reading about Samantha!

I never read this collection of books growing up, so most of the stories are new to me. If these books are new to you too, I will say that there are many topics of discussion if you decide to go through them as read-alouds or if your kiddo is reading them on their own. Just in these two series, you can find yourself discussing war, apprenticeship, slavery, Boston Tea Party, Declaration of Independence, ownership, the Great Depression, friendships, the economy, technology of the past and present, fashion, history, family dynamics, home management, the Underground Railroad, being resource, the law, right and wrong, careers, and lots more!

Have you or your kids read any of the American Girl books? Which ones? Any favorites?


The girls have taken a liking (or love) for apples.Β  Fuji and Ambrosia are the favorite varieties so far.Β  I grew up eating Golden Delicious and Fuji.Β  Now I like Fuji, Pink Lady, and Ambrosia.

Can’t wait to go back to Apple Hill and have some more Apple Milkshake!

Lucky’s has an apple variety chart that was pretty interesting.Β  Have a look-see.


– Norm

Mini-Adventures in Everyday Moments

I believe that there is always an adventure to be had wherever you are, whether you are in the middle of the rainforest or coral reef in Australia, or at the elementary school where you grew up. Since we did the rainforest in Australia last month, it was on to something different!

We were headed home from hanging out with my mom and my nephew. It was actually pouring rain the night before, earlier that morning, and it was also forecasted to rain again, so I’m not sure what prompted to me, but I asked the girls if they wanted to go by my old elementary school. It is not on the way home, but we do pass by the street that goes into the neighborhood where the school is located. Anyhow, we were just going to drive by, but decided since either school was out or it was spring break, and there were no kids there, we could go check out where my old classrooms were.

Here’s the field where many miles were ran, tagged was played, Wacky Olympics happened, and so much more. It doesn’t show the whole field, but it’s pretty big.

This is one of two or three play structures in the community park portion of the field. Every school in town has a community park that is on the side of the school next to the school field.

So many memories! I think this is the second time they have changed the play area since I’ve been gone. Basketball courts and tetherball poles with their clanking chains are exactly the same. The old drinking fountain and the “time out” bench are exactly the same. Four Square area is now colorfully painted, and there are lots of new additions!!

We only had a white paint outline of the country when I was in school. The girls didn’t mind doing school work during spring break. πŸ˜‰ Too bad I didn’t know during the school year that all this stuff had been added. It would have been perfect for our Cycle 3 memory work. hahaha!
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This hopscotch is a little bigger than usual.

Skip counting by 4s on the giant multiplication chart!

If you know me, you know I love that recycled tires were used for this playground. But this is definitely NOT the playground I knew…where are all my monkey bars and the bars where I do flips and the jungle gym…? 😝
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Food pyramid –> My Pyramid –> My Plate….and she said all the food groups were her favorite.

I can’t remember exactly which tree it is, but I helped plant one of these trees on Arbor Day when I was in 2nd grade. I tried to get a selfie, but by this time it got really cold and it looked like it was going to rain…okay, it got “California” cold and it did start raining after we got onto the freeway. (I think it was around 52*F, which is pretty much freezing for me.)

Okay, and the photo from the beginning… I was actually taking it to show where I do my hikes with friends during the summer. It’s somewhere close to where the arrow is pointing (I think). Uphill hike for one mile…great view of the Bay…great view of the Lake…do watch out for dogs, there are lots!..but you can catch a great sunrise/set from here. Who wants to join in this summer? 😊

What kinds of adventures have you had lately?

Day 3: St. Philip’s & MCA Cafe {Australia 2015}

Note: Most links in the post will direct you to our reviews of the places. Links to all related/previous posts are at the bottom of this post.

We were all super excited about our first full day in Sydney that we woke up at 3a.m. Just kidding, it was jet lag. (3a.m. is 8a.m. in California) But excitement wasn’t too far behind. 😜 We found out that we wouldn’t need an alarm while we were here. Little Aiden was pretty good at giving us a wake-up call at 6a.m. that day and most of the days to follow. We didn’t mind because it gave us a chance to get going on our day and explore! Since we flew into the future, we didn’t really get to experience Saturday. It was Sunday and time for church! We found out that sultana bread (aka raisin bread) would be a favorite breakfast item for the girls.

Observatory Hill Park
We had some time before church, so we walked to Observatory Hill Park. It has an amazing view of Sydney Harbour and the Harbour Bridge. Apparently, there is a cycling path, so make sure to watch for cyclists on your way there.

St. Philip’s Church/Church Hill Anglican – 10:15am service
It was nice and sunny on our morning walk, but it started to rain! Luckily, we were right across the street from the church by then. We enjoyed a nice church service while the girls headed off to Kids Church. St Philip’s is the oldest Parish in Australia. Their first service was held in 1788. (And thanks to CC, the girls knew that the following year George Washington became the first president of the United States. It was neat to see them connect what was happening in Australia and America around the same time. We had many learning moments through our trip.) Hillsong also visited this church –> Forever Reign. After service, we went to pick the girls up and Emily didn’t want to leave. They had the same lesson about the lepers at our own church a few weeks ago, and they even played the same game.

Museum of Contemporary Art Cafe
By this time, it had cleared up. We made our way over to the Museum of Contemporary Art Cafe for lunch. Again, super great view of the harbor. We only got to see the bridge from here since there was a huge cruise ship docked in front of the Sydney Opera House. The food tasted very fresh and was yummy! Check out our review HERE.

Circular Quay
Circular Quay (pronounced Key) is the hub of Sydney Harbour. It is located at the foot of the central business district and the older, historic end of the city. The bus station, major railway station, and ferry terminals are here to take you on many adventures! There are plenty of cafes, street performers, and accommodations all in one central spot.

After our adventures, Melody would sit and sketch a picture of something from the day or type in her journal about our experiences. From this balcony, we were able to watch planes coming and going. We could see fireworks going off at Darling Harbour every Saturday night (and Friday nights during Chinese New Year too!). There were ferries and party music and lots of construction (and a Porta Potty being transported by a giant construction crane) of the new buildings (which will eventually block the view from this apartment building…the new buildings, not the Porta Potty). Anyhow, going back to reflections. Melody is still editing the mini-book that she wrote about our time in Australia, but I will share once it is completed.

The highlight of our first full day in Sydney was hanging out with family.

Click on the link to view the DAY 3 ALBUM.

Related Posts:
Traveling with Kids | Australia Trip 2015 Recap | Aussie Lingo
Day 1: OAK to HNL | Day 2: HNL to SYD

Books I’ve Read {March Update}

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.

marchbooksWe packed fairly lightly for our Australia trip compared to what we normally bring (our whole house), and I thought about not bringing a book since I have a Kindle app on my phone plus the iPad with Kindle on it plus we were off on some adventures, but let’s be honest, I prefer having a physical book to read and there are lots of waiting periods between adventures when traveling! I was able to finish three books – Interrupted, Read More, and Begin.

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist – I read an advanced copy of this last year, and LOVED it! The girls love the blueberry crisp recipe from the book. I lent out that copy, and it’s nowhere to be found. I think I mentioned it to Kris and she sent me an extra copy she had!!! How awesome is she! Make sure to check out her wonderful site –> Grace Table. I love love love community, and so I love how Shauna shares about the different ways she has gathered community around the table…or at one point in time, around the piano in her bedroom. “We don’t learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you.” Stories and food is always a good combo. This is definitely one I will read again.

Hope for the Weary Mom by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin – I had read the older version of this book, but it is always refreshing to read words of encouragement from other moms who get it. It is a good reminder that we are not alone in this journey. Yes, we have our support systems of family and friends, but God is also there in the midst of the never-ending dirty dishes and laundry piles, and He wants us to come to Him with our greatest joys and our greatest needs as moms. I am still reading through this book again, but it’s wonderful to know that I can #choosehope. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker – Interrupted is one of those books you find yourself scared of starting because of what it might reveal about you, about God, about what God will call you to do if you really listen. And of course, it does just that! Jen shares how God, slowly but sure, took her from her comfortable life of “doing church” to answering the question of how He could use her to be the church for those who might not otherwise hear about Jesus. She challenges us to look beyond what we’re supposed to do as the church, but to pray, to listen, to read, to take action. Of course, this action doesn’t look the same for every person, but Jen shows us what can happen when we lean in to hear His voice. And also, an added bonus, she’s pretty funny.

Read More by Nicole Bennett – This was one I didn’t have on my list (I think probably because it hadn’t come out yet), but after I finished Interrupted on the plane, I went looking for something to read, and I found the download in my email. 😜 I was blessed to have had Nicole in one of my HelloMornings group, and I love that we are in the same life stage homeschooling our kiddos. I also love that she loves to read and she loves ice cream (no joke, she loves it a lot!). Anyhow, I always feel like I’m a super nerdy bookworm because I don’t actually know people in ‘real’ life who read a lot (totally different story when it comes to my online friends)…or maybe they’re just all closet bookworms. And if you have kids, the closet might be the best place to read some days. 😜 haha! I also know lots of people who say they would love to read, but don’t have time. Nicole shares in her book, like the tagline says, “why and how to make time for reading amidst the busyness of life”. Get your own free e-copy in the link above.

The Growly Books: Begin (Volume 1) by Erin Ulrich and Philip Ulrich – Melody got this book as a gift from my sister when it came out in 2013, and she has read it multiple times since then. It is her favorite of the three volumes in the series. She has been asking me to read it ever since she finished it the first time, but I always have other books on my own to-read list. After finishing Interrupted and Read More, I was looking for another book in the Kindle app to read, and it was one of the ones I had actually loaded (when it was offered for free). I have a ton of books, but not too many loaded to read offline, and on the plane, we were offline. So, I started reading this lovely story of the adventures of a young bear cub named Growly who sets off on his own. Short chapters (my fave!) made for a quick read even though there were 35 chapters. Detailed descriptions of the places he visited and friends he made helped the story to come alive. Now, Melody’s going to have me read Volume 2 and 3 in the upcoming months. 😜

Looking forward to reading these books in April. Anyone else want to join me?

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life by Crystal Paine
The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews (aff link)


Have you read any good books lately? What are your favorite kinds of books to read – mysteries, biographies, historical fiction, cookbooks?Book List 2015To check out the books on my book list, you can READ THIS POST or visit our Amazon store.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.