I’ve read Laurie Halse Anderson before. In college, I was introduced to Speak in a children’s literature class and have been a fan ever since. I keep copies of Speak on my book shelf even though it’s a highly controversial book. People don’t like to talk about rape even though it’s been estimated that one in five females in our state have been raped (credit). It’s messy and people don’t like to talk about mess. But I keep copies of the book on my shelf anyway, hoping and praying the right students pick it up and experience it. And without fail, every year, the book makes its way to the right kids.
So when I came across Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson, I jumped at the chance to read it. I know she’s come out with other controversial books (Wintergirls about eating disorders comes to mind), but I had never heard about Catalyst before.
This book centers on Kate Malone, a senior in high school. She’s daughter to a pastor and a dead mom, a midnight runner, and a wanna-be MIT student. But absolutely nothing is going her way right now and then the worst thing imaginable happens: her worst enemy, her bully since elementary school, Teri Linch, moves in to her house. Teri brings her little brother with her and they take over Kate’s room, bed, and things.
The only thing that could make this slightly bearable is if that MIT acceptance letter would finally arrive. That’s really the only thing holding Kate together.
I’m not really sure how I feel about Catalyst. I didn’t really like the main character. Kate is dramatic, messy, and self-centered in a way that makes her hated instead of someone the reader can sympathize with. I love a flawed character, but Kate was too much for me. And the ending didn’t leave me sure of much. I get that happiness isn’t always attainable and that not all dreams are right, but this one felt off. Which bums me out because I really like Halse Anderson.
Have you read this one before? What did you think? Have you read any other books by Laurie Halse Anderson?
DISCLOSURE: AFFILIATE LINKS USED.
Some days I feel like all I think about is running: running after school, eating food to fuel my long run on Saturdays, stretching before the shower because I’m sore from last night’s run and it feels like I can’t bend.
I didn’t run as many miles as I did in January, only logging 29 for this month. But I ran my miles faster than last month and I ran more miles at a time. Which is an improvement so I can’t complain. Also, this month, my training program changed up one day of mile-running to sprinting and interval running so I didn’t actually count those distances but I did a LOT of sprinting and hills this month. Let’s just say I’m glad that’s over.
In between running all the time and eating all the time, I managed to have more friend time which makes my heart happy. January seemed to be more about hibernating and less about being social, so I’m glad to have (mostly) gotten over my funk and joined civilization again. And March is jam-packed with friends, travel, and vacations so I’m really looking forward to the month ahead. Plus, I hear it’s going to finally be warmer soon? Please let that be true…
The past week or so has been spent running full-speed toward Jesus. Recently, I’ve just been struggling with how messed up our world is, how little control we ultimately have, and how fleeting time is. And when I get anxious and worry, which truly isn’t often, I seem to be in constant conversation with God. I’d call them prayers but they’re a lot less formal and focused than what I think of as prayer (I guess we could get into an argument about the semantics of prayer if we had to, but let’s just say I’m talking to God a lot right now, more than I have been recently). It focuses my runaway thoughts and calms my fears. I’m still working on running to Him as a habit as opposed to an afterthought. Always a work in progress, I guess.
How was February for you? Still truckin’ along on your goals? Check anything off the list? I love to hear others’ goals and how you’re doing, it definitely inspires me, so share!
You know how you pin all the things and then never do them? Well, I’m on a mission to change that. When meal planning, I’ve started checking my Pinterest recipe board for ideas. There’s some really good stuff there (that’s why I pinned it…)! So here’s a run-down of recipes I’ve tried recently; some were hits, delicious and crowd-pleasing. Others were just not what I wanted them to be. Hopefully, you find a least one or two that sound good for you, your family, or your next party.
Southwestern Roasted Butternut Squash
This was my first butternut squash attempt and it was delicious. I used to make it all the time for the girls when they were small and I made all their baby food, but never tried it myself. Now I’m hooked. I just bought another one to wrestle with this weekend.
These weren’t as good as I was hoping. The bottom kept falling out of them and so I ended up eating more Rolo than cookie. And I love some Rolos like nobody’s business so I was hoping they’d be better. They weren’t bad and I feel like I’ll attempt them again (because they were so easy), but I wasn’t impressed on my first time around.
White Fruit & Nut Bark
This was a hit! The girls and I made two batches of these for gifts, wrapping them up in cute bags and passing them out to family members. Everyone loved them. My grandma even had to call me for the recipe. With the first batch, my instinct was to add more of all the fruits and nuts, but that made it too thick and didn’t spread as neatly as I wanted. So go easy on the extras, maybe even a little less than what’s listed on the recipe. The second batch had a good white chocolate to fruit/nut ratio.
One Pot Wonder: Thai Style Peanut Pasta recipe
An easy week night dinner option, Chris and I both liked this one. I added a little extra heat because we like it spicy, but it didn’t take very long and was perfect for a night you crave takeout but don’t want to spend the money (or the calories). I’ll do this one again soon.
Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon
I could roast broccoli or cauliflower every night for dinner, I love it that much. So adding a little cheese and lemon to the cauliflower was just the icing on the cake (too many food analogies? nah.). Low in calories and great as leftovers too. Cauliflower is finally getting the attention it deserves. (I love how dramatic that cauliflower sentence is so I’m leaving it. You’re welcome for such excellent writing.)
Slow Cooker Chicken Philly sandwiches
You know the great Philly sandwiches at Penn Station Subs? This is the homemade version. It’s delicious, easy, and cheap; all my favorite things. There is one random ingredient that I had to spend a minute looking for at the store, but the recipe gives you helpful instructions about where to find it and it was right where she said it was. Make this one for your family or double it for a party, everyone’s going to love it.
Stove Top meatloaf
I’m not a big fan of meatloaf, but Chris loves it so when I came across this super-simple recipe, I gave it a try. I thought it was okay, Chris said it tasted like stuffing meatloaf. Which isn’t really what you want in a good meatloaf so I’m going to stick with my mother-in-law’s meatloaf recipe. That one never gets complaints.
Korean Crock-pot beef tacos
Last summer we spent a lot of time eating from food trucks downtown. It was glorious. So when this recipe said it was just like food-truck food at home, I got on it. And it was really, really good. The one thing I would change is the shells; it says corn tortillas go best with it (the recipe is from a gluten-free website so that makes sense), but after we started eating, it was obvious flour tortillas would have been the best option for us. We love us some gluten. I’ll make this one again.
Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Bell Peppers
Sometimes I struggle with finding a recipe both Chris and I will eat. I want something low-cal and he wants something meaty and delicious. This one was good for both of us. Plus, just like the Philly recipe above, we love this type of food so it wasn’t a stretch. I’ve made this more than once and one time I tried to just layer all the ingredients and skip the cooking step. Don’t do that. It will taste okay, but the step where you combine all the flavors is what makes it so good.
These are a good substitute for high calorie pizza and still hit the pizza craving. If you’re watching your calorie intake, this one is good! Add turkey pepperoni or grilled veggies as toppings if you’re feeling crazy.
Salty, spicy, and crunchy. If that’s where it’s at for you, then you’ll love these amped-up saltines. I made them for Christmas parties and there was a strong reaction every time; people either loved them or hated them. I baked them a lot longer than the recipe suggests and kept mixing them to coat the mixture on while they were cooking so that more was absorbed (and not just left on the bottom of the cookie sheet), but they still didn’t take very long to make and it’s a really easy recipe to follow. And they’re good with your favorite dip.
Oreo layer dessert
This will last approximately five minutes after dinner. Make it for anyone you want to win over. Make the whole pan for yourself. Just make it.
Easy Crockpot Potato Soup
I’ve made this one countless times and it is always well-loved. It’s super-easy and would be good for company or a winter night when you’re snowed in. It’s creamy and flavorful, plus adding bacon, green onions, and cheese to the top makes it unforgettable. If you’re a fan of Outback or O’Charley’s potato soups, this will become a favorite of yours too.
Hot Ham and Cheese Pinwheels
These made a great hot (or cold) appetizer for a party we went to. They were gone pretty quickly, and they were a hit with kids and adults alike. I feel like I’ll make them again but have the girls help me and I bet they’d eat them for dinner. Bread, ham, and cheese are all no-fail dinner options for my little ones.
baked spinach chips
These were okay. I was excited because they would be zero points for Weight Watchers and I’d be eating chips! Except they’re a lot more time consuming than they’re worth. The recipe doesn’t make very many, and it was just too much effort for the measly few spinach chips that resulted. While they weren’t gross or anything, they weren’t showstoppers. It is spinach, after all.
That’s it for now. Have you tried any pinned recipes lately? Anything that I should try?
I learn something new about mom-guilt almost every day. I learn what it is, what it isn’t, what power it has over me, and what power I have over it. Sometimes I win and sometimes I don’t.
Currently, I’m working on friendship. On being a friend, investing the time and energy in people, being intentional about relationships. Because truthfully, I’m pretty content to stay at home and read a book. But I don’t want the end result of staying at home and reading a book: the lack of deep relationships and community.
So I’m joining communities. I’m making relationships important and putting dates on the calendar. They become real and intentional when I schedule the time for them.
But with this new sense of need for community comes my children missing their mommy. When do you do community when you work full time, want to go to the gym a few times a week, and still need to sleep at some point? Where does community fit when I have to cook dinner most nights, we have family commitments, and, for the love of God, can we get a date night every once in a while?
That’s where I’m at right now. Things are scheduled, dinners are happening, small groups are small-grouping, but I haven’t seen my kids all week and I know they just want to stay home and watch a movie with their mom. Yes, a little time spent on the floor with some blocks and dolls sounds great, but we need groceries and so we’ve got to get going.
I know I’m a better mom and a better wife when I get to have dinner with my girlfriends. I’m a better Jesus-follower when I get to be in community with fellow Jesus people. I am more introspective and thoughtful when I can sit and talk to my friend, Christine, for a few hours. These are all good and beneficial things. I’m happier when those things happen regularly.
But somewhere in juggling all these wants, needs, and desires, I always leave another area lacking. And mom guilt sets in. I don’t actually play the lottery, but sometimes I dream about winning it so I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Then I feel it would all balance out.
I know that’s not truth, but I feel like it sometimes anyway.
I think I’ve purged a lot of unnecessary things out of my life: unnecessary friends, unnecessary relationships, unnecessary time commitments, unnecessary stuff. So I can’t cut more out, I just need more time.
Or maybe, stepping back, I need to allow myself more grace. What do you think? How do you make it work? Or do you not make it work? What gives??
You know that book that comes to you at the exact moment you need it? It just fits perfectly into your life, affirms you, grows you, and encourages you? I’ve had a couple of those so far in my life and I’m adding Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley to the list today.
As some of you know, I’m training for my first half marathon. I started running almost a year ago, and I’ve been slowly gaining confidence with my distances, my abilities, and my stamina. I’m still in awe every time I think about what our bodies are capable of. And now I’m tackling half-marathon training, running longer and longer distances every week, doing sprints and hills, growing stronger. So when my friend Heather, who is on this half-marathon journey with me, passed this book along, I gobbled it up.
Running Like a Girl follows the author as she goes from no-running-unless-someone-is-trying-to-kill-me to a full marathon. It’s completely honest about the ups and downs, the mental battles that are more daunting than anything physical, the feelings we get as we’re learning to run. I felt like everything she wrote was for specifically for me. I was (and still am) experiencing those same things as I do battle with my inner demons every day to run.
There was also lots of practical advice about running: about normal pains, how important good shoes are, how to stop the sports bra blisters on your shoulders (that I thought were weird zits that weren’t going away for the longest time…), about Vaseline on your feet, about boobs, drinking water, and running without underwear (this literally changed my life!). This book answered questions I had and questions I didn’t know I had. I feel so much more equipped to run well after reading this book.
Running Like a Girl was encouraging, funny, helpful, and perfect for a new runner. And, apparently, all the weird, life-ending thoughts I think while I’m running are pretty common too. And that makes me like running even more.
Have you read this one? Are you a runner or wanna-be runner? This is the book for you! Buy it and then pass it along to your friends, it will change your running life.
DISCLOSURE: AFFILIATE LINKS USED.
The idea of having groceries delivered to my house has always appealed to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love grocery shopping, but I only want to go one time, every two weeks. Which doesn’t work for our family. Our milk doesn’t last that long. And we go through fruits and veggies like nobody’s business.
Enter home delivery service Green BEAN Delivery and life just got a whole lot easier. Green BEAN Delivery is a year-round food delivery service that brings fresh local and organic produce and natural groceries right to your doorstep.
It’s so simple and completely brilliant. After you sign up, you get an email with instructions on how to select what you’d like in your order. You can choose weekly or every other week, then sit back and wait for your groceries to come to you. I selected the small fruit and vegetable bin and then picked fruits and veggies I know my family will eat. There were so many choices, I had a hard time narrowing it down.
Later that week, I got a reminder email telling me that my delivery was coming and what time to expect it. Easy as that to get fresh, organic, healthy fruits and veggies to your house and in your family’s bellies.
I’ve set our delivery up for the week I don’t plan on going to the grocery store so that we can get a fresh stash of produce to help us through that second week. And what’s really nice is that you can add on extras like meat, dairy, and snacks. I think I’m going to add milk to our delivery so I can just skip the second trip to the grocery trip. Totally worth the price.
It was a little like Christmas for Harper (okay, and me…) as we opened up our cooler full of goodies. That girl loves some fruit.
And because I’m so pumped about this service and Green BEAN Delivery is so generous, they’re giving you $15 off your first order! Use code 15TCml when you register. That means you could get your first order for only $20! Added bonus: they’re not just an Indy company, they also offer services in Ohio, Kentucky, and Missouri (go here to see if Green BEAN Delivery offers service in your area).
(offer expires 3/6/14)
What are you waiting for? Sign up for your first delivery today and bring delicious, healthy food to your table and save yourself time. Seriously, it’s a win-win.
DISCLOSURE: SPONSORED POST BUT ALL OPINIONS ARE MINE.
I’ve shown you before how I meal plan for the week (two weeks at a time) which makes my week go just a little bit smoother (there’s a printable too!). Everybody’s busy so taking one more thing off the to-do list during the week is a win in my book.
This weekend on Instagram, I shared my new, favorite way to meal plan and it’s even better than the last way. I know what you’re thinking, but Mary, your last idea was so brilliant, how can you top it?
That’s a very good question.
One problem I had with the old way was how inflexible it was. Not that I didn’t change meals around sometime or drop everything for a last-minute dinner out (yippee!), but in the course of the switching, sometimes meals would get lost. And lately I seemed to be buying food, coming home, and realizing I already had it in the pantry or in the back of the freezer.
Thus, let me introduce to you the post-it note meal planning technique:
Instead of writing all my meal plans down on a weekly calendar, I’ve started putting each meal idea on a stick note and putting it on the side of the refrigerator. As I’m making my grocery list for the week, I’ll go through the kitchen to see what I have, what I need to use, and what I need more of. Then I’ll make up my meal plans based on that, adding things to the grocery list that we need.
So then, when I get home from work that afternoon, I can pull an idea off the fridge, know I have everything available to make it, and not stare blankly at the pantry for ten minutes while my
husband children stand behind me whining about being hungry.
Sometimes I’ll get things ready for the slow cooker the night before. Other times I know I’ll be home early and can spend a little more time on dinner. And then other nights, I just need everyone to eat a sandwich and shut up about it. All those options are available on the sticky notes. I come up with a variety of options and preparation time so I know, without a doubt, my family will be fed tonight.
They might not like it, but we won’t go hungry. And sometimes that’s all I can handle. Ya feel me?
I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser. #CollectiveBias #ThisIsStyle
As February drags on, I can almost feel the first hint of spring. Maybe not when I step outside, maybe not when it’s still dark as I leave for work, but I can feel it. Soon we’ll have sunshine and warm breeze and green again. And warmer weather means spring fashion.
And when that happens, I come alive. I shake off the winter layers, grab a fresh outfit to wear, and start being social again. Winter is for hibernating and spring is for friends. This spring, I’m loving all the preppy style you can find at Sears. To me, this season just shouts pastels, stripes, and polka dots. I love the idea of throwing on a structured button down (like this amazing one from US Polo Association) and some pants and shopping at our local farmer’s market.
Or pairing it with some distressed jeans and meeting the girls for drinks after the kids are in bed.
Sears also carries great brands like Metaphor which makes dressing up feel effortless with this jeweled-colared shirt. There’s no need for a necklace or earrings when you’ve got this one on.
Buying great pieces that transition well make my budget feel good and helps me be more creative with my outfits. I love that this shirt goes with pink pants and wedges or can be dressed more casual with green pants and loafers. What’s more classic than that?
As you’re shaking off the snow and transitioning your wardrobe to spring fashion, be sure to add a little preppy, classic style from Sears to the mix (and check out my Shop Your Way catalog here!). It’s effortless and you’ll be all set for a spring of looking great!
Find more spring fashion ideas on Pinterest:
When at Sears, make sure to use your Shop My Way card for rewards and incentives!
I feel like I need to tell you about this book so I can say that I don’t fall in love with every dystopian novel even though it appears that way. So this book review is solely for me to gain some credibility and tell you that I don’t love them all equally!
What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang is based on the idea that all humans are born with two souls inside of them. And in futuristic America, that is something that needs to be extinguished. So after fighting war after war with other countries that allow these weird two-souled people to exist (called hybrids), America has closed itself off from the rest of the world and is working on permanently eradicating the second soul.
When Eva and Addie are born, they are just like every other baby born: two souls in one body where, eventually, one soul will “win out” or become the dominant and the other one will fade away. Except that didn’t happen with Eva and Addie. And while they’ve learned to live quite happily as two souls in one body, the United States government doesn’t want them to exist.
So when hybrids start being round up, Eva and Addie do everything they can to stay under the radar. But eventually, their good luck runs out.
What happens to them and other hybrid kids like them is unimaginable. And once Eva and Addie learn the truth, they’ll stop at nothing to make sure it never happens again.
The premise of this book is good, but I just couldn’t care about the characters. What’s Left of Me is the first in series about the hybrid kids (and adults) and what their world is becoming. I didn’t care enough about the story to find any other books in this series, this sounds cold, but I don’t particularly care what happens to them. And that’s the (well-known) secret about great books: the reader gets so caught up in the story, with the characters, that we must know what happens next.
What about you? Have you read this YA book? Did you like it? Have you ever read a book that you just didn’t care for?
DISCLOSURE: AFFILIATE LINKS USED.
While waiting for my sister to walk down the aisle last summer, I let my two-year-old play with my camera. It was hot and things got a late start so I was desperate for a distraction.
Later as I went through the pictures of that evening, I came across the one above. It’s both my grandmas. My mom’s mom and my dad’s mom. Together, sitting patiently, waiting for the bride to walk down the aisle.
I spent what felt like hours staring at this picture. In the midst of shot-after-shot of my abdomen and the trees, here was this beautiful gem. This moment of time, perfectly shot, taken by a toddler. Both my wonderful grandmas, sitting still (which they never do), and next to each other.
I feel like Harper caught something momentous. This moment of Ritter-Keaton convergence. This picture of hands that represent so much more.
Those hands are where I come from. Where my sister and brother come from. Where my parents come from. It’s where we started and what holds us together.
Those hands are more familiar to me than my own. They raised babies and grandbabies. Harvested food, weeded gardens, made my stuffed animals and Easter dresses. They birthed my parents, raised my parents, loved my parents as best they could.
Those hands are who I am. They represent love and sacrifice, patience and commitment.
But there is hurt and pain and disappointment and regret in those hands too. And that makes them all the more real and all the more important.
I don’t know when the exact moment was, but at some point, my grandparents crossed over from mythical creatures that let us get away with too much as children to real, breathing, flawed, amazing people. From distant memories of my youth, to parts of my whole.
This picture haunts me. It’s what I want my kids to remember about my grandparents, their great-grandparents. It tells so much about them; my Grandma Reba with her jewelry and knobby, arthritic hands, her purse (oh, how she loves purses!). My Grandma Betty with her weathered skin from years working in her garden, caning food that still feeds my family, her petite, frail body just now starting to slow her down.
I try not to think about the moments that will come soon. Eventually I will have to say goodbye to these matriarchs of my family. They’re getting older and the circle of life is real and tangible. My babies know these women, these great-grandmas. They will feel their absence when they’re gone too. It will darken so many lives.
And I hope they know that. That their worth is unimaginable. That their influence is ever-lasting. They are my grandmas. I understand how lucky I am to still have them. To be a thirty-two-year-old woman with all four of her grandparents still alive. That novelty is not lost on me.
I hope it’s not lost on them either. How lucky we are to have them. To have had them in our lives. To have life from theirs.
Such a powerful picture from a two year old.