153: Winter Stroll

Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand

I have a love hate relationship with book series. I really love the aspect of getting to know a family over the course of time. Not just the ability to spend a few years with a story, but to read different aspects of their lives. When it’s a series, I feel like we also get many different plots rather than a particular theme in a book with a long timeline.

But also, I have to just keep reading. I’m about to download #3 in this series and start it when I also have a bunch of books I just want to read but haven’t begun yet.

Oh the delights and dilemmas of the reading life!

This book is a continuation of Winter Street which absolutely has to be read first or you’ll miss the whole point even though the author gives a quick look back for each character. Ava is the one who really drives me crazy in this book – but I know from another Elin series that things work out ok for her in the end, so I’ll keep reading to see how she gets to the happily ever after.

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152: Troubles in Paradise

Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

Finished the third in the series which was a fun escape. The whole series takes place in about 9 months. I was happy to see a resolution to the story and a surprise visit from one of the characters of this month’s book club read Winter Street.

There were a few parts where I thought “what? Do people really think like that?”

All in all delighted to know what happens. Glad to have a fun, quick read. Read for more Elin!!

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151: When Life Gives You Pears

When Life Gives You Pears by Jeannie Gaffigan

I’m reading this for a buddy read with a friend (hi Lisa) and put off starting it. I don’t know why – because it was a delight. I laughed, I sat with pages and pages with tears in my eyes, and I learned something.

Her story is crazy – and totally controlled by the Lord – some of the things others could call coincidences are nothing but the hand of God guiding the process. I really appreciated the ability to dive deep into that story – the hard parts and the funny parts.

Then she wrote something in the middle that she discovered about herself – that she’s a ‘mom-ist’ that really wreaked me. Mostly because almost everyone in my life is this as well and they don’t even know it.

This attitude might be the biggest thing hurting single women and women without children (either for their own choices or more often those struggling with infertility).

She defines it as “a person who believes that their identity as a parent makes them a superior person to a non-parent.” If you’re a parent, you probably just scrolled past because I couldn’t be more wrong. I’m just projecting as a non-parent who wants some of the recognition due to you.

I’ve been on the exclusion end of this when I was told I wouldn’t be asked to baby-sit because “two kids is a lot and what does she even know about kids, she’s not a parent.”

When a woman a work didn’t think I could “cook a turkey because I’ve never hosted Thanksgiving.” Well, no one ever lets me host because that’s the job of married people. I don’t think one of the graces of the Sacrament is the ability to get the turkey to come out of the oven moist.

These are two small examples – but I could write a thousand more about how marriage and child-bearing are the only accepted marks of adulthood in our culture. With the assumption about me being that I’m choosing not to engage because I “like this self-ish lifestyle.” That’s not why I’m not married.

But anyway – Jeannie’s book is a delight and everyone should read it! Moms and Dads and Non-Parents alike!

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150: Winter Street

Winter Street by Elgin Hilderbrand

December’s book club book was a hit! A delightful holiday read that is also the story of dysfunctional family – always a hit.

I love some Hallmark movies this season, but there’s hardly any drama in them. Everything is happily ever after. This book ends well, but not quite HEA, mostly because there are 4 more in the series. The question is do I download #2 and start right now?

Or finish my two buddy reads that are scheduled for chats this week? Probably finish the other two.

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149: Zikora

Zikora by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A friend texted me in the middle of the night a few weeks ago because she found this short story on Amazon Prime and wanted to read and discuss together. I’ve read a few other things by Chimamanda so I was game. Downloaded it and it took me three weeks to finish.

I did go into it with some bias. The first text from my friend was about how I should read it. Then the next were about how she’s loved this author in the past (I have too) but that this time she seemed to have an agenda and then wrote a story to support it.

I think the story is a bit of her own story. It’s also a little like propaganda. You read through and the author wants you to come to the conclusion that the choice the author made was the only choice left and if you don’t support that, you don’t support women in crisis.

I disagree with that premise. A lot of decisions were made to use another person or manipulate them into loving you – they didn’t work because that never brings about long term happiness – and now I have to agree with your choices about what to do in the aftermath. I don’t buy in.

It was well written, thought provoking, and will provide good conversation for us – which is why I gave it all the stars … but as a story promoting how we should be advocating for women, I disagree.

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Roommate Insights

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

I just found the below in my drafts and read through it remembering the struggles I was having earlier this summer with a roommate. I write this now as someone who’s living in a house with two adults and seven-year old twins. It’s never quiet. Well, almost never – I did have a few hours alone today while the kids were at school and the adults were working and bike riding. The reason why this situation is so much more successful than the summer situation is because I’m more aware of what I need and I take it. So I thought I’d share my roommate thoughts … also doesn’t that girl on the couch look like she could be me in a different decade?


Until about the time I was 28 I thought extroversion and introversion were just about whether you liked people and talking or not. I figured since I have a lot of friends and can make small talk pretty well that made me an extrovert. This was further solidified when I took a free 25 question MBTI test for a team-work seminar we did at work when I was 28. I scored “Extroverted 33%.” I then learned more about extroversion and introversion and that it’s more than just if you like people or if you talk a lot. I’ve got friends who are both and I seem to side with the extroverts more than the introverts. So I figured I was clearly extroverted.

Then I bought a house and started living alone. I came to love the silence, recharging by reading or watching something by myself, enjoying the quiet overall. It’s mostly quiet at my house and although I was afraid I’d hate it, it only took me a week or so to adjust. Then I started thriving on it. Now when I travel for work I need that quiet time after a day full of meetings. I can be on all day long, as long as I get a moment of quiet at some point in the day. Time when I can just do nothing, read a book, sit in silence, etc. Then I’m recharged and ready to go hang out with people again.

Turns out I also appreciate a moment in the morning to be quiet, pray, and/or listen to a podcast while I get ready, go on my morning walk, drive somewhere, and in general prepare for my day. All while being clearly a morning person. I don’t mind waking up early (as long as I was also able to go to bed early – 9:30 has been my sweet spot lately) and doing things right away. It’s when I’m my best, to be honest.

Then, at the end of June a friend (who’s a strong extrovert) needed a place to stay for 2 months. I was happy to help her out by renting my office out. I was excited to have someone around after all of the months of quarantine alone. I really struggled at the beginning of quarantine not being able to see people. I added lots of virtual calls with friends and family to pass the time and have some company. After awhile they got to be too much, and I needed days when I didn’t have to talk to anyone in the evening, after talking with people all day long for work.

She asked if I was a morning person, I said yes. She asked if we could do our morning walks together, again, I said yes. She’s definitely a morning person – but also a “I love to chat for our entire walk” person. I didn’t realize it, but I’m not. If I do this, I’m exhausted before 9 am! I started thinking that all this living alone has squashed my extroversion, that the quarantine had made me not a people person, made me lose my voice.

Then I made a new friend and we were discussing our MBTI, they described their own introversion while also being chatty and interested in other people and living alone. I thought, maybe I’m not an extrovert. So I took another test to see. I found 16personalities.com, took the test, and read through the results. I’ve never felt so seen by an electronic assessment. As I was reading through my type (Advocate, INFJ-T), I thought – “This explains so much.” I’m not a “classic extrovert” like I thought, I’m more an introvert (recharging in quiet, alone) with a like for people, mornings, and even small talk. The assessment said I’m just slightly on the introverted scale (58%) giving me some extroversion tendencies.

Now when the chattiness gets to be a lot in the morning, I remember that I’m just this way. I need to ask for what I need – which I’m not amazing at when what I need is for the other person to “just stop talking” for a hot minute. So I make sure I have my quiet time: close my bedroom or office door when necessary and take a deep breath. Getting a small recharge in the middle of the day.

My Acne Journey

I’ve been struggling with acne since I was a teenager. Honestly, the acne of my teenage years was nothing in comparison to what I experienced this past year. When I moved to Charlotte 12 years ago I visited the dermatologist for the first time. She gave me words for the diagnosis I should have gotten years ago “Cystic Hormonal Acne.” This is not the kind of pimples that show up for a few days and then clear up. They are deep and painful. Just brushing up against them with your shirt while getting dressed can be tear inducing.

They also aren’t solved by “just not eating potato chips.” Also don’t tell a grown woman that her acne could be healed by not eating potato chips when you don’t even know what her diet is like … and you aren’t a doctor or haven’t suffered through this particularly hellish experience before.

The dermatologist put me on Spironolactone and it cleared things right up – well after 3 to 6 months. She said you could be on this drug forever with no side effects except that your acne would be gone. But also, “you’ll want to go off this if you want to have a baby.” The comment given as such a side note – probably because I had refused to go on The Pill, her first recommendation.

I took that for years before weaning myself off under the guidance of my primary care doctor. Three to five years later (I can’t remember the timeline) a few pimples started showing up and started annoying me. While over at a friend’s house for a Saturday evening glass of wine, her friend shared about this “amazing new product from the company she just started working for.” She gave me a few samples so I could decide if I wanted to do it or not. She gave me the advice to just use two of the four steps “so I could safe money.” As a thrifty person, I took her up on it.

I was using the Unblemish by Rodan+Fields. It cleared my skin right up until about 2 or so years in when I started getting these very painful dry spots and pimples on my chin. I talked with a friend who shared that she had miscarried twice while on the same medicine. That had me questioning the decision to use that product on my face. I’m not a fan of topical creams used on my face that destroy fertility … those feel like an invasion.

So last August at the recommendation of the friend I just told you about, I decided to make a decision to switch to clean beauty. She’d done the same thing as she’s been through the same journey. I knew it was going to take a little bit to get through it because my body needed to detox from the R+F products. She told me about how my body would need to readjust because that product literally changes the chemical make-up of your skin. So I was ready. I thought.

I started using Beauty Counter’s CounterControl and got frustrated two weeks in because I started breaking out. That’s when I made a rash mistake and returned it to use the new CounterTime from Beauty Counter. If I could redo anything from the last year, I wouldn’t have switched, I would have given it more time before making a hasty, and expensive switch. Why wouldn’t I have switched? Because the thing that’s cleared up my skin is the CounterControl. I switched back in January. So was it the regimen change or it was just the timing, I’m not sure.

The other thing that I was different is that this is the first time I’d used a skin care regimen faithfully morning and night. That’s something I wish I had gotten into the habit of when I was 13. It’s been one of the best things I’ve done for my skin this past year.

Before things got better though, they got worse. Like a lot worse.

It’s a lot for me to show you how bad it was. I spent the year thinking my face would never be clear again, afraid everyone was looking at me like I was some teenager who just couldn’t get her crap together, or even worse thinking, “Whelp, we know why she’s single.” Everyone had an opinion from my parents to my co-workers to my friend’s in-laws. No one believed me that things were just progressing as expected and I was working on it. No one except my Beauty Counter Consultant/IRL Friend.

The only thing she didn’t do was tell me when I started that it would take 9 to 12 months for my skin to clear up after going off the R+F products (she didn’t because she didn’t want to scare me about how long it would take). I appreciate the sentiment, but I wish I had gone in with eyes wide open. I’m not sure I would have felt quite so alone.

Which is why I wrote a super long DM to a bookstagram turned fashion/clean beauty account I follow this morning. Someone asked her what to do for hormonal chin acne and she recommended just one product. I didn’t want this woman to live through the hurt and frustration alone that I did so I shared what I went through and what worked for me with her to share with others.

I’d been thinking of sharing my story and how I worked through fixing it for a while, but I’ve been putting it off because living through those phones was embarrassing enough without sharing them with the internet. But if one woman still struggling with acne in her mid-30s who thinks it just might be the source of her relationship status can think “I’m not alone” when she searches for some help, then it’s worth it. So here’s what’s working for me from Beauty Counter … it hasn’t been cheap, but it’s been worth it, so I’ll take it.

My Morning and Evening Cleansing Routine is done with CounterControl ($140). I use the exfoliant, toner, serum, and matte cream every day, twice a day. When things were awful back in the winter, I’d add a face wash in the middle of the day to cut down on the oil.

On pimples (the quick clearing kind and the painful ones) I sleep with the Charcoal Mask ($49) on them. Has this destroyed my white pillow cases? Yes. Do I care? Nope, I’m the only one who sees them anyway.

At least once a week I use this Counter+ Time Overnight Resurfacing Peel ($63) after serum before matte cream. It’s really helped with the scarring and smooths out my face.

Recently I began using the Counter+ All Bright C Serum ($79). It’s really helped lighten the scarring and eliminate some redness. It’s also very yellow, which just makes me happy in the morning.

The other thing that has really helped with the breakouts is eliminating cow’s milk dairy from my diet. I don’t think either of these activities (face regimen or dairy) alone have solved the problem – but together I’m confident giving presentations without make-up, feel like I’m an adult again, and am not in pain every time I touch my face. It took 14 months from start to finish with a lot of uncomfortable stuff in the middle, but totally worth it.

If you want to try let me know – I’ve got a gaggle of Beauty Counter consultants in my life who’d love to help you out. If you just want to know that you’re not the only one, I’m here for you.

148: Mistletoe & Mr. Right

Mistletoe & Mr. Right by Sarah Morgenthaler

I love a good romance series. This one is very loosely connected to to the first book in the series. Zoey and Graham’s story is continued, but you could skip the first and jump to the second – if you HAD to.

This one is about Lana and Rick … two lonely people searching for a person and a place to be home. Luckily they find both in each other and Moose Springs. It’s sweet and Christmasy – and lest you think it’s too early, we decorated the Christmas trees last night, so it’s just the right time!

Can’t wait for the 3rd (and hopefully 4th, 5th, & 6th) to be released so I can go back to Moose Springs, Alaska – warmest way to visit Alaska is via a book!

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147: The Tourist Attraction

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

It’s been a while since I read a super sweet love story that was a quick read. I started this yesterday in between workshop presentations, continued at the hotel, on the plane, and during my afternoon break. It is quite delightful.

Zoey has always wanted to visit Moose Springs, Alaska. It’s her entire bucket list – meeting Graham, the local who can’t stand tourists, wasn’t part of the plan.

There’s a cute, albeit blind, dog and a moose names Ulysses too. Just absolutely delightful

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146: All the Devils Are Here

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

Louise Penny does it again, the 16th in her Inspector Gamache series was excellent. Like the others, I always have to read the conclusion a few times because the mystery is solved so eloquently.

I also really appreciated the title of this book. The phrase begins with “Hell is empty because all the devils are here on earth.”

As I think about the craziness of the world today, I’m frequently reminded that satan only wants chaos and confusion not order and clarity.

If you’re new to Louise, just a note: you’ve got to start at the very beginning. There’s so much character development that you’d miss most of the story if you skipped to the end!

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