Summer Books So Far

Summer’s not over yet and there’s still plenty of time to pack in those reads! Today I’m sharing what I’ve read so far and what’s on my next list of good reads!

  1. The Alice Network - A story that flashes between two different times, two women who are relatively different and yet the same. A story with suspense, drama, heart warming moments and history all mixed. The plot is based on real life spy network during WWI which makes it all the more interesting to me.

  2. The Tattooist of Auschwitz - Oh my word. I had this book on hold and waited 6 weeks for my turn…only to realize I had 2 days left to read it. My time ran out just a mere 75 pages shy of completing the book so I did what any normal person would do, bought a second hand copy at Half Price and promptly finished it an hour later. I was shocked to learn this was based on a real love story, real people and their incredibly real story. Must read, must read, must read!

  3. What Is Left the Daughter - Not a favorite. Another WWII novel but it takes place in Canada and has a unique perspective of a father writing to his daughter, explaining his history and life to her though they haven’t seen each other in literally years. Heartbreaking but an intriguing story.

  4. Bonfire - Krysten Ritter’s first novel and truly, it was a fun quick mystery read. Some loose ends here and there, a few questionable plot points and maybe a tad bit predictable but I still enjoyed it as a fun light summer read.

Next on my list, I’m aiming for more mystery and some lightheartedness.

  1. The Last Time I Saw You

  2. The Last Mrs. Parrish

  3. The River at Night

  4. Unhoneymooners

I tend to use my library app pretty regularly so we’ll see what actually comes available and what other reads I might find!

Got a favorite book or read something really great? Drop your suggestion in the comments!

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Adventure Day: Pawhuska Trip #2

Weather in Oklahoma these days is no joke. We’ve had over a week’s worth of warnings, terrible storms, tornadoes, the works. In short, it’s been the pits and I’m hoping Mother Nature decides to take a break here real soon.

I planned a trip to Pawhuska to go back to Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile store the day after my birthday. We went through a downpour on the way up but ended up having a gorgeous day after all the rain passed. I made Pyro Man take me last year for the first time ever and I think I’m going to make this a yearly trip. It’s the perfect combination of things for me, things for him and we get to enjoy four hours of just us on a round trip drive together. Not to brag, but we travel pretty well together and I’m super grateful for that.

Food at the Mercantile is still amazing. No photos this time as we were both famished and ready to chow down, but I highly recommend the Chicken Fried Steak and their Ranch Hand Sandwich. I’ve got to try making this one at home, it was delicious! Pyro Man also requested we try PW’s Ranch Dressing at home, that stuff is not your everyday ranch at all! He also kept talking about their $0.25 sweet tea and must have had a gallon while we were there.

Definitely fueled up on caffeine and good food, we (read: I) shopped for some goodies before we headed over to try Charlie’s Sweet Shop. The Maple Pancake ice cream really does taste like pancakes, but I highly recommend the Huckleberry flavor. Superb and perfect for for summer.

We finally got to go on a tour of the Lodge which I have been wanting to do forever and ever amen! It’s not open all the time so I was thrilled we were able to plan a trip on one of those lucky days. The whole place is wide open for all to walk through and see. Open a drawer, any drawer and see all the props, tools, labels and whatnot. The pantry is a dream come true and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I found her back room full of all sorts of gorgeous plates, bowls, dishes and more. In short, I was kid in a candy shop.

So that part of the trip is fun for Pyro Man, but not as fun as the second half of our day, snagging for spoonbill. If you’re not familiar, I definitely wasn’t until a couple years ago, spoonbill or paddlefish are these massive fish, part of the catfish family, with giant bills that can get to be about 100 pounds. They don’t take bait so you have to snag them, there’s a whole technique to getting the hook to snag on. Yes, you can keep them through a tagging process and eat them. No, we haven’t done that, just catch and release for us. Not being much of a fisherwoman myself, Pryo Man filled me in on all the details, the rules, the tagging process as well as the release rules. Let me tell you, there’s so many things to know so if you think you want to just run out there and try this or that your husband might want to, read up on your states website to find out all the regulations first.

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We headed out to Kaw Lake, Pyro Man’s preferred spot to snag and changed into some fishing clothes. I forgot my tennis shoes and had to wear his. With my hat, his camo jacket and shoes, I looked like a bad doppleganger of my husband but better that than getting my good outfit all fishy. It turned out to be a perfect day to be on the water. All the rain had made the lake rise and the fish super active. Since then I’m sure the lake is overflowing.

We caught several and yes, I partook for a bit learning how to snag and reel. Pyro Man would help cast and when he got a hold of one he let me reel in to know what it felt like. I got a little 10 pounder and that sucker was pretty hard for me so I can only imagine how much more difficult a larger one would be. The last fish Pyro Man snagged is a crazy story. He got caught on some line and when he tried to reel it in he felt a giant tug and knew there was a fish on there. Get this, he reeled in an 80 pounder by snagging on a line that was still attached to the fish! How crazy is that?!

Had to end on that one because I just don’t think it gets better than that. Another two hours back home, crime podcasts playing and we were home. Days like that are always a joy because we’re both able to partake in things that interest us. I feel really lucky that my adventure loving husband wants to explore things that light me up and that he enjoys teaching me about the things that make him happy. Is there a better win-win out there? I don’t think.

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Top Notch Summer List

First day of Summer might not actually hit until late June, but for me, it’s totally summertime, baby! I always have a summer list going of things I want to do over the break. Every year it’s a bit different but I always have staples like bake a pie, see a summer box office hit, spend some days reading for fun, watch a fireworks show and don’t forget about a good ol’ ice cream date.

I started making summer bucket lists after a few summers felt lost with work and catch-up to-do’s. Summer has always felt like a season of freedom but this crazy list lady sometimes needs a list to help her embrace that freedom with a few ideas waiting in the wings. Thus the bucket lists were born! I’ve got my personal one written but I played around writing some of my favorites on a simple list for anyone else who wants to join.

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The best part of this list and that it’s just a jump off point. Want to road trip but can’t go states away? Just the next town over might have the best donut shop ever! Go see a baseball game if you’re not into coffee shops or heck, a great bar might fit your feel better. Doesn’t matter. The point of a list is to give yourself some ideas of fun things to do that really encapsulates summer time and now’s the time to really think how you want to spend hazy crazy days of summer!

What’s on your summer bucket list?

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Back to School Hopes

Dear Fall Semester, 

It's time we meet again. I can't believe it's already back to school, but you and I both know you seem to come around too soon. It's just your nature. 

This year I'm hoping you could take into account a few hopes I have for this semester. Just mere wishes or prayers, requests for a good start to the year, positive thoughts to put out for your consideration: 

Let this be a good start to a fulfilling year for everyone who walks into a classroom. 

Let the work be meaningful, the frustrations be small, the improvements be grand and the lessons be clear. 

Let there be more cookies and surprise treats in the break room. 

Let there be happiness in the time given, the earnest of efforts made, and the process of the projects exciting. 

Let there be a lot more laughing and less griping. 

Let there be a sweet friends with an open doors to walk through. 

Let there be plenty of concealor, hair ties, and red lipstick around for when the work gets tough.

Let confidence grow from those moments of doubt. 

Let the times of victory last as long as possible. 

Let the coffee pot always be hot and the brew always be strong. 

Let the joy of what we do shine out and spill over all. 

Let there be positivity in every word we say and actual effort to do better and try harder the next time. 

Let the favorite leggings never fade and computers never crash. 

Let the inspiration from the "aha!" moments fuel us to keep going. 

Let the tap shoes be loud, the buns be high and jazz hands be strong. 

Most importantly, let us not forget how lucky we are to do what we love. 

 

Amen

Already starting the year with a laugh--can't beat that! 

Already starting the year with a laugh--can't beat that! 

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Sunny Disposition

Sunflowers have always been one of my favorite flowers. As I kid, I just thought they were the cheeriest flower that ever was and how big and beautiful! One year in a production number to "The Wiz", I got to be an actual sunflower dancer, yellow flowered hat and all. I tell you what, I really loved it! 

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Sunflowers just say summertime to me. The last two summer's we've planted a small row of them in the garden to bring in bees. Someday I'd like to plant a whole field. 

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We've enjoyed watching them blossom and grow. Picking up the dried heads, I'm hoping we can harvest the seeds for next year. So long as Penny doesn't keep eating them...

Sometimes it's the simplest thing, like a bright happy sunflower that can add a little cheer to a person's day, add a bit of positivity to your day. How can you have a bad day with a sight like this? It all reminds of a very appropriate and favorite quote: 

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It's what sunflowers do.     

Helen Keller

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Don't sweat the small stuff. Look to the good and always keep that sunny disposition! 

What flowers put you in the best of moods? 

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Mellow Yellow or Just Playing It Cool

Yellow has been a favorite color of mine since about the fourth grade. I had a costumer put me in yellow once, declare it was my color and I suddenly saw that golden hue in a whole new light, my light. 

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But honestly, it's so hard to keep a straight face when you're wearing one of the happiest colors on the palette! 

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See what I mean? Can't help but smile when I wear it! Yellow, it's just the best and so is this top. I think I've worn the heck out of it this summer. Light, airy, and perfect with jeans, shorts or a patterned skirt like this one. 

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I'm loving these light skirts these days. It's so hot right now in Texas and I'll be going back to a steamy Oklahoma here real soon, you can bet pieces like this will be on repeat! 

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Ooh! And this one is still on sale if you're interested. Did I mention it has pockets? 'Cause that's an important feature. 

Maybe I'm not such a mellow yellow gal so much as I'm just trying to play it cool in all this summer time heat. 

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What's your power color these days? 

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Think Pink

I'm in a pink mood these days. 

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And still very much into summer dresses. 

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Trying to cool down this summer in ice shades of pink with soft light fabric and flowing skirts. 

This LOFT dress is simply gorgeous. I have a marigold colored dress in similar style and it's one of my favorites. It reminds me of this Gal Meets Glam dress, soft, pink, feminine, and chic.  

I love my lavendar suede Steven Madden shoes, but these would be a lovely option, too. I love a good ankle strap and the return of the chunky heel is a nice change from the stiletto. 

Simple gold jewelry from my favorite, Nan Lee. I love her simple style, including these wire earrings. I wear these Lotus Leaf earrings quite frequently. 

Yes, I'm pretty good with my rose colored daze and think pink vibe. 

What colors are you currently crushing on?

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Summer Books

Summer reading, had me a blast! Summer reading, happens so fast!

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Okie dokie--someone got me stuck on Grease here recently and those darned songs just get stuck in your head! Not the point of the post, but summer reading actually is! My goal this summer was ten books and I'm a little bit behind. OK, I'm a lot behind! No worries, I'm sure I'll catch up and with a set time of reading for 20 minutes each night before bed, I'm sure to make it happen. So long as I don't get sucked into scrolling Insta...

"Yeah right, Mom" - Penny, My nighttime reading buddy. 

"Yeah right, Mom" - Penny, My nighttime reading buddy. 

I reached out on Facespace a while back for good recommendations to read and so many people hit me up with awesome sounding novels. I'm working my way through the list right, but here's what I've read and loved so far: 

1. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Oh. My. Gah. Wonderful read. So many moments I just did not see coming and the author did a great job of throwing me some curve balls when I thought I knew exactly what was going on. Get it. You won't regret it!

PS--Amy Adams and Julianne Moore are starring in the movie version! Just announced last week! 

We interrupt this chapter for a chin scratch.

We interrupt this chapter for a chin scratch.

2. The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Beautiful novel about three women that come together in the aftermath of WWII, becoming a new family, working through their ghosts and all that happens after. It was just an incredible read based on the author's stories from her grandmother--I read that after I finished it because you just feel like every story told is so very, very real. 

Can I help you? I'm in the middle of this story...

Can I help you? I'm in the middle of this story...

3. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Alright, it's a total young adult novel, but I still enjoyed it. I definitely got vibes of Katniss and every other female heroine in a dystopian universe that's out there lately including the love triangle. Still in all, it was a fun quick read for adventurous story. 

I use the Overdrive app to rent books from the library. I've put several on hold and when they pop up, I have a week to read them before they disappear. Needless to say I've started several and haven't finished them yet including The Wife Between Us, another suspense book I really want to finish! I'm patiently waiting my turn (again) for about four incomplete books right now...whoops! 

Just got to a good part! 

Just got to a good part! 

I'm working my way through Nightingale currently and really enjoying it, another WWII historic fiction this time about two sisters. Truly, I think historic fiction is probably one of my favorite book categories. In any case, back to reading! I've got another four books to finish after this one! 

What books are you reading this summer?  

Our little hambone, Penny. She's a sucker for those belly rubs! 

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My, My, How Can I Resist You?

Y'all. I adore music theater. I remember the first time I went to see a musical in rehearsal, my mom was helping with costumes on our local production of Camelot and I got to go up to see a rehearsal one timeI walked in through the doors of the auditorium and it was like I walked in to the most wonderful magical place on earth. Truly. There was a parade of performers singing, dancing, and all these people directing them down in front. I'd never seen anything like it in my whole life. 

I was seven at the time and every summer after I would spend most evening at the performing arts center where I was eventually dubbed a PAC Rat. It wasn't long before I got to be up on stage myself just living my best life. Those were some of the most magical summers of my life. My mom would take us the video store or library to rent musicals, too. I remember watching My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Showboat, Funny Girl, Hello Dolly and so, so many more. 

When Fosse came out, my dance teacher at the time was a huge fan. We rented Pajama Game and Damn Yankees and I did a whole research project over the man in 7th grade. My sophomore year I had to build a mole for Mole Day in Chemistry. At the time I was in A Chorus Line at another theater so naturally I worked with my costumer mother to build a mole with a replica of the infamous "One" costume. Naturally. So let's be real, I've loved me some music theater for a long time. 

Honestly, who doesn't enjoy a show where everyone breaks out into song and dance AT THE SAME TIME? I can even get my husband to see one on occasion. And speaking of seeing shows, I took myself to see Lyric Theaters Mamma Mia just this week. Oh y'all, who doesn't enjoy a little ABBA?

I was a total dancing queen in my seat the whole time! The music is so darn fun, you can't help but sing along. I was in stitches over "Mamma Mia," their Donna was a hoot! I thoroughly enjoyed Tanya during "Does You Mother Know," and my eyes were on the brink of spilling over during "Slipping Through My Fingers." Oh, it was just so good and such a fun way to spend a night.

Best part was getting to see several of my students out there just living life on stage! I tell you what, if my seven year old self knew I'd someday be working with the talent that crosses that stage, sometimes even getting to set work for musicals myself, she would be pretty dang proud. 

Next up, I guess I'm going to have to check out Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again in theaters to just round out the experience. Anyone interested in going with? 

Seriously, a riot and had me in stitches! 

Seriously, a riot and had me in stitches! 

  OK folks, name your favorite musical! Go! 

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Life Lately - Episode 4 - Joy of Teaching

Hello hello there, y'all!  It's summertime in the city for sure and things are getting hot! Like it's lowest-temperature-on-full blast, I-could-cook-an-egg-on-my-car, kind of hot. Whoo-wee. I'm telling you. 

Other than that, we're rolling along just fine! Pyro Man is just a week away from being done with summer school and that puts us one step closer to finishing up this second degree. Half-way there, ya'll, we are half. way. there! 

All my summer camps are officially done and I leave for my teacher conference oh-so soon! This isn't quite vacation but one afternoon by the pool at a resort sounds pretty darn close to me. As soon as I get back, it's down to Texas I go for a couple of weeks to start setting A Chorus Line, one of my favorites. I'm so unbelievably honored to work on this project and with a director I adore. It's going to be a special show for sure. 

In all this preparation for the fall and wrapping up on summer break, I've been reflecting on teaching dance quite a bit lately. These last few years my job has shifted to more lecture based courses and in trying to balance that with more choreography opportunities, my actual time spent moving and teaching dance has dwindled some. Trust me when I saw I have enjoyed shifting gears, having bigger responsibilities, and getting to dive deeper into material I love! You want me to talk about choreography? Awesome! Let's go! On the other hand, more lecture means less movement in a sense. I've known for some time that I've missed that part of teaching, the technique classes that is, and so I made a conscious and strong effort to put myself back on the dance floor more often this summer. Oh my goodness, how full my heart feels again! 

There is nothing like helping a student understand a step or nail a movement for the first time. Just to see their excitement gave me a sense of accomplishment, a boost of confidence. The energy that came pouring out of these young dancers was incredible; there was truly a sense of euphoria at the end of the class when we're all left the room smiling, sweaty and full of joy.  I pushed myself to get back into styles I haven't had to do in a bit, working hard to dust off the rust. I felt challenged, sometimes frustrated, but at the end, when I had a whole room of dancers moving with me, dancing their hearts out, it felt so satisfying. 

Sometimes I think you have to go back and give yourself the chance to recharge in something that fills you up. It's so very easy to become stagnant or even numb, hunched over a computer reading essays, reviewing someone else's lesson plan, putting out fires, handling emails, and trying desperately to help students learn from mistakes without making too many of my own. Nobody ever said being a leader is easy. Sometimes I just miss having more opportunities crank up the music, let the blood start pumping, let go and just dance.

I got the gift to do just that this summer, to craft fun movement phrases, to search for music that screamed dance, to smile at students and invite them to have a good time, to focus without being too serious. I loved every second and even though I came home exhausted and sore--oh my aging body, y'all--it was worth every moment. 

Looking down the barrel of a full semester, anticipating the challenges and hurdles to come, I want to make sure that I keep in full view the joy that teaching brings me. Not to forget about the hard work or frustrations, those will always be there no matter what the work is, but to not let that take away the fact that at the end of the day, I get to teach about something wonderfully beautiful and unique and that I truly love it. I get to work with amazing artists, young performers, talented teachers, and brilliant managers on a daily basis. How lucky am I that I get to do what I do? 

The answer is very lucky and with a full dancer heart, I'm ready to get back into a new semester with that sunny and positive disposition reinvigorated! 

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