Books of 2016!

I set a lofty goal for 2016 – to finish 25 books.

I didn’t make it.

But I DID read 20 books. Over 8,000 pages. Not too shabby!  (I track my reading using Goodreads which syncs to my Kindle).

Here are my 20 books of 2016:

books

 

My least favorites of the bunch?

  • The Paying Guests (too long, not particularly compelling, and I just didn’t care about the characters very much)
  • Shrill (I wanted to like it, but I felt like it was billed as something new, brash and fresh, and it just wasn’t)

My favorites of the bunch?

Goals for 2017?

  • Read 25 books (I just finished my first book of 2017 – The Muse)
  • Finish the Harry Potter series (I am planning to read these to my children, and wanted to read them all myself, first)
  • Finally read The Goldfinch (it has been on my nightstand for 2 years)
  • Read at least 3 non-fiction titles. I’m thinking Between the World and Me, When Breath Becomes Air and Born to Run will make the cut. Speaking of…
  • Listen to Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography Born To Run on audio book (an awesome Christmas present from my dad!) I was going to read it in hardcover, but Bruce reads the audio book version himself. I’m a big fan (I’ve been to 50 shows!) and the book is poetry, so I’m going to dedicate my commute to listening. And yes, I’m counting it in my 2017 total.

Do you have any reading goals for 2017? Suggestions for books you think I’d love? Books to avoid?  Please let me know!  And connect with me on Goodreads, too!

Happy reading!

Stuff It Real Good

Stockings!

I love the tiny treasures that stockings hold, but it is a challenge to fill them each year.  I try to find a balance of fun stuff (that isn’t complete junk) and useful stuff (like socks and floss).  Here are a few things my kids will find in their stockings this year.  All of the links are to Amazon, but I didn’t buy all of my goodies there.  You should be able to find most of this stuff in a store near you.

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  1. Slinky!  These are endlessly entertaining to my kids. And I’m glad they’re cheap, because they inevitably get bent and/or tangled in about 27 minutes.
  2. Little Brown Bat stuffed animal – My three kids each get little stuffed animals peeking out of their stockings most years.  This year I went for the non-traditional: a bat, a llama and a raccoon.
  3. Body Doodlers – Nontoxic bath crayons made for doodling on skin.  My kids love any type of bath-time art, so I expect these will be a hit.  Fingers crossed they wash off as easily as they are supposed to!
  4. See Thru Music Box – This one plays Plum’s favorite, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and it is less than $5! Win!
  5.  Hexbug Nano Cat Toy – Because our cat Elsie needs a present or two, too.  These little Hexbugs skitter around the house like cockroaches. (I’ve actually never seen a cockroach, but I’m assuming they skitter similarly.)
  6. Flossers for Kids – Every stocking needs floss and socks.  It is the law.
  7. Edible Bubbles – We like to try to eat regular bubbles, so I’m guessing that ones that don’t taste like soap will be a big hit.  I also found some touchable bubbles that harden after you blow them, and can then be gently touched or stacked.  I’m kind of excited to try those myself!
  8. Cow Popper – Pistachio, my youngest, loves cows. And I imagine he will also love using these to shoot the balls at his sister.  I’m predicting that all of the balls will be lost by 12/27.
  9. Hair Paste – My 6-year-old loves looking stylish, and his hair IS pretty amazing.  So styling products have begun to appear in his stocking each year.
  10. Butterfly Hair Clips – We’re in the process of letting Plum’s hair grow back into a cute bob from a pixie.  She has specifically requested some “pretties” for her hair. Added bonus these are GOLDEN.

As for me, I’m hoping to get some scratch tickets, a whisk, post-it notes, and of course, FLOSS! Happy shopping!

Books for Christmas

It is a Christmas tradition – the nieces and nephews each get a book from me for Christmas.  (Yes, they get a toy or two, as well.)  So what are we putting under the tree this year?  I tried to focus on stories that feature characters being brave, persevering, and learning gratitude.  And I tried to find some books that feature characters, locations and traditions that might be different from ours.  I have linked these images to Amazon so you can learn more about them, but – as always – I’d encourage you to support your local independent bookstore and buy there!  Here’s our list:

A mouse musters up the courage to ask a lion to teach him how to roar. By Rachel Bright, Illustrated by Jim Field Ages 3-5

A mouse musters up the courage to ask a lion to teach him how to roar.
By Rachel Bright, Illustrated by Jim Field
Ages 3-5

A tale about the power of stories and storytelling set in Morocco. By Evan Turk Ages 4-8

A tale about the power of stories and storytelling set in Morocco.
By Evan Turk
Ages 4-8

Winner of many awards, a book about thankfulness. By Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson Ages 3-5

Winner of many awards, a book about thankfulness. Features people of all shapes, colors and abilities!
By Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Ages 3-5

Bedtime poem by Inuit throat-singer and author describes the gifts given to a new baby by Arctic animals. By Celina Kalluk Illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis Ages 2-3

Bedtime poem by Inuit throat-singer and author describes the gifts given to a new baby by Arctic animals.
By Celina Kalluk, Illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis
Ages 2-3

A clever and lovely seek-and-find book By B.B. Cronin Ages 3-7

A clever and lovely (and detailed!) seek-and-find book
By B.B. Cronin
Ages 3-7

A book about imagination, frustration and problem solving. By Ashley Spires Ages 3-7

A book about imagination, frustration and problem solving.
By Ashley Spires
Ages 3-7

A silly, funny book in which a penguin tells the readers what his life is really like. By Jory John, Illustrated by Lane Smith Preschool - Grade 2

A silly, funny book in which a penguin tells readers what his life is really like.
By Jory John, Illustrated by Lane Smith
Ages 3-7

A beautiful, poetic story about a boy who sets off alone with only a few belongings to find a new homeland. By Rebecca Young Illustrated by Matt Ottley Ages 4-8

A beautiful, poetic story about a boy who sets off alone with only a few belongings to find a new homeland.
By Rebecca Young, Illustrated by Matt Ottley
Ages 4-8

A story about a bear who finds a piano in the woods and learns to play. By David Litchfield Preschool - Grade 2

A story about a bear who finds a piano in the woods and learns to play.
By David Litchfield
Ages 4-7

Happy shopping and reading!

To My Child

To My Child

I hope you learn that life isn’t fair.  But that that doesn’t mean it is all bad.

I hope you smile at people, even strangers, and look people in the eye.

I hope you chew with your mouth closed.

I hope you learn how to listen – really listen – to others when they need to be heard, and to the quiet beat of your own heart.

Headed down the path together.

A post shared by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

 

I hope you learn to win and lose with grace.

I hope you love and appreciate the beautiful, intricate, amazing body you’re in.

I hope you can be silly for the joy of it, and can laugh at yourself and with others kindly.

I hope you have good manners and know when to use them (almost always) and when to relax them.

I hope you trust. In others, and in yourself.

I hope you know how to make something with your own brain and hands – a song, food, a painting, a stone wall.

I hope you learn, without too many tough consequences, that attempts to escape problems, hurt, and heartbreak never really work for long.

Flying!

A post shared by Cate Simms (@sarkytartlet) on

 

I hope you pick up after yourself.

I hope you decide that it is wise and healthy to get enough sleep.

I hope you learn how to advocate for yourself without demanding, complaining or whining.

I hope you understand that stuff is just stuff.

I hope you learn you can expect goodness, but not perfection, from other people. Or from yourself.

I hope you learn how to own up to your own misdeeds, mistakes and slights without excuses, blame or deflection.

I hope you keep learning, about the world, about other people, and about yourself.

I hope you work in any small or large way to make your community, corner, city, world, a tiny bit more just and beautiful.

And I hope you know that when in doubt, you should just put stuff in the trash, and not the garbage disposal.

Christmas Gifts and Regrets…

When I was about 10, I looked through the huge Sears catalogue and spotted what I thought would be the world’s best Christmas gift – a rock tumbler.  It was an electrical contraption that looked something like your local hardware store’s automatic paint mixer.  You added rocks, grit and water, plugged it in, and in no time you had beautiful polished rocks! And you could make things with those rocks! Like earrings! And necklaces! Oh the creative possibilities! (If you’re wondering, the answer is yes, I was – am? – a bit dorky.)  I put it at the top of my Christmas list.

And OH HOLY NIGHT, Santa came through!  There it was on Christmas morning. I was thrilled!  I opened it up! I read the directions! I put the rocks, grit and water in the tumbler! I plugged it in!

And then I waited.

FOR THREE MONTHS.

During those three months two things happened:

  1. We moved the very noisy rock tumbler into the cellar.
  2. I completely lost interest in my slowly polishing rocks.

In the years since, The Rock Tumbler Incident has earned its place in Tartlet Family History and Lore and I regularly suffer good-natured and well-deserved ribbing about it.

Some Christmas gifts are just duds.  Here are a few I have regretted…

The Dyson Vacuum Toy

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Honestly, my kids loved this toy.  They played with it all the time.  But they also left it running every time they played with it, and I and my husband would regularly have to go hunt for the cause of that annoying buzz.  They also loved to run it into walls violently.  Unfortunately, this toy recently wandered away from our home. Oh well.

Tegu Blocks

tegu

In all fairness, these blocks ARE awesome.  They are wooden, fun to play with and really lovely.  Unfortunately for me (and my wallet – these aren’t cheap!) my kids never played with them.  Ever.  They loved other blocks and building toys (Duplo and Magnatiles especially), but Tegu?  No love.  Bristle blocks faced a similar rejection.

Magnetic Putty

putty

Again, in theory, this stuff sounds awesome.  It is basically magnetic silly putty that comes with a magnet.  You can make it move and grow and climb!  Sort of.  This stuff just isn’t that fun for a 5-year-old who wants it to move more quickly than molasses.  It also isn’t fun for moms googling “how to get magnetic putty out of my carpet” at 11pm on Christmas night.

So, tell me, what Christmas gifts that you were sure would be winners turned out to be duds?

 

 

All the Things

Things I Know For Sure:

  • When they say that wrap-style dresses flatter every figure, they are lying.
  • Tea and toast can cure any number of problems.
  • These are a terrible idea.

cham

Things I Am Good At:

  • Reading aloud to my kids.
  • Keeping my calendar up to date.
  • Buying good/cool presents.
  • Being silly.

bfg

Things I’m Not Good At:

  • Owning plants.
  • Caring about/for my eyebrows.
  • Writing lunch box notes.
  • Decorating for holidays.
  • Meal planning.
  • Knowing military rank hierarchy.

Things That Make Me Cry:

wonderful

Things I Should Admit:

  • I try not to judge, but I might feel a little bit sad for you if you don’t vote, eat steak well done, or don’t read actual books.
  • I like the smell of skunk (from a distance of 15 feet or more).
  • I have never watched Titanic, or Casablanca.
  • I currently have 6,404 photos on my phone.  And 558 videos.
  • I have a love/hate relationship with all of those beautiful photos of kitchen renovations that don’t include upper cabinets.
  • I’m really tempted to dress my youngest in knee socks like Prince George.
Image from the adorable website "What Kate's Kids Wore" - click on the photo to go there.

Image from the adorable website “What Kate’s Kids Wore” – click on the photo to go there.

Things I Love Thursdays

Stick-eez Clothing Labels by Oliver’s Labels

I have 6.5 years of labeling experience now and I can state with confidence that my favorite labels are the Stick-eez Clothing Labels made by Oliver’s Labels.  They are meant for clothing, but I’ve put them on everything.  They are tiny (a feature I prefer) and they survive the washing machine just as well as they survive the dishwasher. The designs are great and totally customizable.  We are currently loving the Eric Carle “Brown Bear” themed labels.  Plum was two before I figured out that if I put only my family’s last name on the labels I could use them for the entire family!  (Duh.)  They aren’t cheap, but they are worth it (says the woman who has recently purchased 3 replacement water bottles because she forgot to label the first two. Ugh.)

labels

 

One-Man Band Toy by Vilac

What a cool toy! I might even travel to France to buy a few of these for my nieces and nephews.  C’mon, what kid wouldn’t love this?!  I do think, however, that the parents of said nieces and nephews are probably glad this toy is so far away and so hard to get.

homme-orchestre-vilac

 

Casco Bay Butter Co.

I’m pretty sure good bread with good butter is one of the world’s most perfect things. Truly. Simple and indulgent. You have to try these amazing butters made in Maine by the Casco Bay Butter Co.  I’m a sucker for the traditional sea salt, but every one I’ve tried is excellent.  Blue cheese butter melted over a steak?  Garlic and herb butter stirred into mashed potatoes? Yes, please!

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butter

 

(Links are for your convenience only.  I don’t get any money – or free butter – for recommending this stuff, it is simply stuff I think is great.)