Top Picks: Young-Adult Fiction

Young-Adult-SeriesI read my fair share of classic novels and non-fiction books, but recently I have really been enjoying the imaginative and thrilling worlds, not to mention easy-reading, found in a lot of  young adult books. It’s been a welcome escape during busy times or on vacations when I’ve just wanted to get lost in an all-consuming story and because the writing is typically not as complex, I turn the pages so quickly that I get that satisfaction of having completed another book.

I say that I recently got into reading young-adult literature, but really it all started back in high school when I was transported to Hogwarts to follow along the journey of a certain wizard named Harry Potter. I can still remember the day when the final book was released. I was working in DC at the time and had reserved a copy at the book store down the street. I spent my lunch hour on a bench devouring as much as I could before I had to go back to work.

Since then I’ve read many different YA series, most of them recommended to me by friends, family or Phil (his favorite is the Garth Nix trilogy). For me, venturing into the young-adult or teen section of the library or book store makes me feel a bit out of place…and old, and because the book covers tend to look pretty cheesy, I never know what to pick up if I’m just browsing. So I like to request my books online from the privacy of my home, based on recommendations from those I trust. In case that’s also how you roll too, here is my list of “Top Picks” for young-adult fiction (in no particular order):

  1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  3. His Dark Materials (most recognizable by the 1st book “The Golden Compass”) by Philip Pullman
  4. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
  5. Abhorsen by Garth Nix
  6. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  7. The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

Happy Reading!

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5 Fantastic Things | May

5-Fantastic-Things-May

Every month that passes means we are one month closer to meeting Denning Beta and in the words of my midwife, “it’s starting to get real”. I didn’t post very much this last month, but that was because we were so busy living life and getting our ducks in row before everything changes. We’ve been working hard, spending time with friends, tackling projects around the house and enjoying the start to a long, hot summer. May was a pretty great month.

5 FANTASTIC THINGS I want to remember:

  1. The perfect weather we had for the entire Memorial Day weekend. We took full advantage of it by walking through the neighborhood, catching a Reds game, attending a baby-wearing class, and strolling through Washington Park and we wrapped it up with a neighborhood cook-out under the stars. Perfection.
  2. Splurging on a delicious meal to mark the occasion of our friend’s visit home.
  3. Enjoying the view in Great American Ballpark for not one, but two impromptu Reds games this month to kick off the season.
  4. Sitting on the porch with my sister, drinking Izze and catching up like old times.
  5. Experiencing a sense of accomplishment when we figured out a not-so-basic DIY project for our office shelving. Even though it was hard work, it was worth it.

5 FANTASTIC THINGS I’m looking forward to:

  1. Seeing friends and family and celebrating Denning Beta at a our baby shower.
  2. Making good use of our first grill (just purchased this weekend)!
  3. Learning together about childbirth as we attend a series of classes to prepare (as much as one can for something like this).
  4. Visiting with my dad and step-mom who will be here for the first time since Christmas!
  5. Spending lots of time at the pool cooling off.

Past “5 Fantastic Things” posts:
April // March // February // January // 
December // November // October //
September // August // July // June // May

Learning to Walk

walkingOver the past 5 years, I have slowly become what I would call a recreational runner. That is, I enjoy the occasional after-work run through the neighborhood, participating in 5K or 10K fundraising races and have joined several training groups one of which led me to my first-ever half-marathon last fall. While I have no ambitions of running the Boston Marathon, I can certainly appreciate the passion people have for running and have experienced that well known runner’s high that keeps you lacing up the shoes time and time again.

Well, the last race I participated in was the Turkey Trot 10K on Thanksgiving morning. I was actually pregnant at the time, but didn’t yet know it. Then with the holidays, the discovery of our news and the roller coaster of emotions and tiredness that set in, I did next to nothing those months following the race. By the time my energy came back, I was too far out of running shape to jump right back in so I joined a gym to help get me through the long winter. I’ve enjoyed doing some light weight training, swimming and group exercise classes, but I haven’t gotten back into running and at this point, it will probably be post-baby before I’ll train for another run. My care provider has encouraged me from the beginning to take up walking and as strenuous exercise gets to be more challenging, I can definitely see the benefits. Plus some studies have shown that regular walking can lead to shorter and/or easier labors. Who wouldn’t want that?

At first I’ll admit that the pace of walking seemed so slow compared to the running I was used to, but setting weekly goals for myself has helped and over the last couple of months I have come to appreciate the exercise and mental clarity that walking provides. I alternate my walks between the gym and the neighborhood, both have their perks, but especially love getting out and meeting neighbors, seeing different blocks and enjoying the community that we live in. I’ll probably go back to my running after the baby is here (mostly as an opportunity to fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans), but I wouldn’t mind continuing my neighborhood walks as well as a way to introduce the neighborhood to Denning Beta.

3 Years

3-YearsThis is such a small snapshot of everything we have shared together over these last 3 years. I still remember May 21, 2011 as being the happiest day, but with every year that passes I realize that it was just the beginning and that marriage just keeps getting better.

We’re not big celebration people, but today we will get to do something fun. We will get to open another card signed with messages from guests who attended our wedding. Each table at the reception was assigned an anniversary year and they all signed that particular card. All the cards were then sealed and delivered to us so that every May 21st (or milestone year as we get further along) we can open a card and be reminded of what a fantastic day we had and what amazing friends and family we have supporting us.

This year will bring the biggest changes and challenges we’ve yet to face, but I couldn’t have a better partner by my side. I am so incredibly lucky. Happy Anniversary Phil!

Yes Man

Say-YesDid you ever see that Jim Carrey movie several years ago where he was under a curse and he had to say yes to everything? There were some scenarios of course where saying yes got him into some pretty awkward and undesirable situations, but overall I think the moral was that it’s good to branch out, try new things and say yes to different experiences.

I’d like to think that’s what my friend and I did the other weekend when we said “why not?” to an invitation to attend one of those painting parties. Neither of us had done anything like it before, and while we had our own ideas about what it would be like, we went into it with an open mind and figured if nothing else it was an excuse for a girls night out. Wouldn’t you know we had fun! And whether or not our Starry Starry Night paintings become the new focal point of our living areas, that wasn’t the point. The point was to get outside our comfort zones and outside of our routines and say yes.

Typical Katelyn style would be to turn this into a new goal or challenge for myself where I commit to trying something new each month. I honestly don’t know if I can add anymore goals to my life right now without starting to fail at some, but I am definitely going to keep this in mind the next time I see an interesting event happening around town or the next time I receive an invitation to do something that might be outside of my normal routine. Why not say yes? Regardless of whether it turns out to be the experience of a lifetime, you’ll probably learn something new and have a great story to tell.

What new experiences have you said yes to lately? Isn’t it refreshing to do something different for a change?

5 Fantastic Things | April

5-Fantastic-Things-April

Can you believe that with this post I will have shared 12 months of fantastic things? It’s pretty fun to look back at everything from the last year. It’s kind of like a little mini yearbook. April was a good month for us and I say that because I had no trouble at all coming up with a list much longer than just 5 fantastic things. We are constantly on the go between jobs, social schedules, projects and pregnancy that we have to remind ourselves sometimes to slow down and enjoy this time that’s still just the two of us.

5 FANTASTIC THINGS I want to remember:

  1. Our first trip to the Cincinnati Ballet who performed with the band Over the Rhine. It was an amazing performance and a much needed special occasion for us.
  2. Seeing Denning Beta for the first time and realizing that he or she is a dancing machine, which is crazy because I couldn’t feel a thing!
  3. Enjoying the most delicious breakfast pastries and meal at Cake Cafe after a 2 year hiatus.
  4. Staying up late on a work night to enjoy the first of many warm weather nights around a fire with our good friends and neighbors. Those kind of evenings are the best!
  5. Receiving not one, but two adorably cute and cheeky onesies for Denning Beta in the same week. We have the best friends and co-workers.

5 FANTASTIC THINGS I’m looking forward to:

  1. Celebrating baby number two for a long-time friend with a little “sprinkle” (if that phrase is new to you, you’re not alone. Think second child receives less than a shower).
  2. Seeing a friend who moved away almost 9 months ago when he returns for a much anticipated visit to Cincinnati.
  3. Watching my brother-in-law as he takes the stage in a production of Les Miserables. He will be fantastic I’m sure.
  4. Heading to our first Reds game of the season!
  5. Enjoying the three-day-weekend that is the official start to summer in my book…Memorial Day!

Past “5 Fantastic Things” posts:
March // February // January // 
December // November // October //
September // August // July // June // May

10 Items for New Homeowners

10-Items-You-Will-NeedLiving one year as a homeowner does not make us experts, but we sure have learned and are still learning a lot! One of the biggest adjustments we made those first few months of being in our new house was all of the extra chores and jobs that had to be done when we were the landlords. We’d always rented apartments before, and whether they were new or old buildings, small or spacious, with a yard or a balcony, we always knew who to call whenever there was something that needed fixed or maintained. But in a house, that responsibility is yours, and each of those jobs requires some sort of equipment or tool. Sure we had a hammer, tape measure and screw driver, we did hang pictures and put together IKEA furniture, but there are plenty of other things that just make maintaining a home easier.

I’ve compiled a list of 10 things that we have had to purchase since moving into our first house a year ago. We’ve purchased much more than this I’m sure, but these were the basics that we found we needed as the seasons changed and different projects surfaced just to keep up with the house.

  1. Toolbox: I had a tiny plastic toolbox that came as a cute pre-packaged set from Target. I think I got it for my first college apartment, again to be able to hang some pictures. But as we started to accumulate “real” tools for our home improvement projects, we found that we were ready for the grown-up version. Phil got this really great toolbox for Christmas (made in the USA to boot) and we have enjoyed having a better place to store our most-used tools.
  2. Power Drill: We never really had a use for this while we were in an apartment, but I can’t tell you how many times this has been out of the box in the last year. Sure you can borrow one from friends or co-workers, but it has been nice to have our own when we’ve wanted to start a project on a whim some Saturday night (yeah, we’re cool like that!).
  3. Shop-vac: This is not a necessity if you have a vacuum (and I hope you do), but for our dirtier projects, it’s been nice to have the shop-vac so I don’t have to worry about cleaning out my nice Dyson after a dry-wall job, etc.
  4. Buckets & Rags: Having a stash of work buckets and rags around the house has been a life-saver. From holding all the weeds you’re pulling in the yard, to catching scraps during a patch job, to cleaning up after you’ve just drilled through three layers of brick, you can never have enough. Start saving those old t-shirts now!
  5. Ladder: We have 10 foot ceilings in our house, so we learned quickly that if we wanted to change a light bulb, paint a room or hang a picture, we would need more than our cute little 3-step-ladder. It seemed like such a big item to have to get right off the bat, but we never would have made it without one.
  6. Lawnmower: Surprise! Unless you are hiring a lawn service or a neighborhood boy to mow your lawn for you, that grass will grow pretty tall and unruly in no time without a lawn mower. Depending on the size of your yard, hopefully you won’t need anything too fancy. Ours was a hand-me-down and I know there are always plenty of postings on craigslist so try to buy used if you can.
  7. Broom: Again, we never had to maintain sidewalks or porches before, but there is something nice about having a well-swept walkway to show that you take pride in your home.
  8. Hose: Whether you’ve got a green thumb or not, you will use a hose in the spring, summer and fall. Not only are we watering plants around our yard, we’re also able to take care of cleaning things after a big project outside, rather than in a sink in the house. It will come in handy.
  9. Rake: I wish it were still as fun as it was as a kid, to rake up that pile of leaves and jump right in, but whether you’re making it a game or not, raking leaves in the fall is a part of owning a home with a lawn.
  10. Snow Shovel: Disregard this is you live somewhere that doesn’t see snow, but here in Ohio we certainly see our fair share each winter. I opted for a metal shovel this year and I purchased it early! You never know when the first snow will hit and you don’t want to be stuck with an ice-covered, snow-filled walkway or driveway.

It may not be an exhaustive list, but those are the 10 items we think you will need as a new homeowner. For every house and every situation this list will look a bit different, but this is what has worked for us. I never thought I would see the day when I would be hemming and hawing in the aisles of Lowe’s over which snow shovel to buy or what hose length will work for our yard, but once those decisions are made, it’s nice to know that we have the basics for maintaining our home.

Other homeowners out there, am I missing anything critical from this list? What would be on your top 10?