Podcasts, workouts, books and looks of December!

This will be a short and sweet December recap as I only have two books, no workouts and 1 look to share with you all! December was our first full month with little miss Olivia in our lives though, so it was of course a super special month.

Podcasts

I really enjoyed The Simple Show ‘What’s Saving My Life Right Now’ episodes in December and I actually have an upcoming blog post of what’s saving my life right now – newborn edition that was inspired by these podcast episodes. Stay tuned!

Workouts

Nada. Just walking. I did my first 1 hour walk at the indoor track at 3 weeks postpartum and I have walked 45-60 minutes about 4 times per week since then. I’m adding regular workouts back in in January, though.

Books

I finished two books in December, but one of them I started November 20th. Neither of the books were huge page turners for me which is why it took me awhile to finish them I think even though they were both marketed as ‘thriller’ books I didn’t find either of them very riveting at all…

 

You Will Know Me was OK at the beginning but it really started to drag by the end and the “twist” wasn’t much of a twist at all. Lie to Me was only a 2 star read for me. Now granted I started this book just before going into labour and so read most of it in the very early newborn days. So it might have just not been the right time of life for me to read this but I felt like this story was way over the top and trying to rip off Gone Girl with an unbelievable story and very flat characters.

Looks

The only look I’ll share is a couple of pictures from our newborn photoshoot on December 1, when Olivia was only 1 week old. She has grown and changed SO MUCH since this already. I have her 6 week recap coming soon…

This is a maternity top from motherhood maternity and maternity leggings. I’ve still been wearing my maternity clothes a lot in my postpartum life because they are so comfy and stretchy!

Other

December 2017 was such a big month for us. Our first full month with Olivia, Eric went back to work after spending Olivia’s first 2.5 weeks of life at home with me, we celebrated Olivia’s first Christmas, we hosted 20 people and kids at our house for Christmas dinner and we closed off 2017 – probably our biggest year yet!!

What were your podcasts, workouts, books and looks of December? 

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My favourite books of 2017

I always do a post sharing my favourite books from the year! Click here to find my posts from 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016!

I set the goal of reading 52 books again in 2017 (I managed to meet this goal in 2016), however the birth of little Miss Olivia completely threw off my reading groove and I ended the year with 50 books read and halfway through book #51. I recently downloaded the kindle app on my phone and have started reading on my phone when nursing or when holding / rocking the baby – which is a HUGE chunk of my day. I also downloaded the Libby app on my phone, in the past I had only borrowed print books from the library because libraries in Canada aren’t compatible with kindles, however I can now read library books on my phone through Libby and just put holds on 4 ebooks the other night!

I just am not finding the time to read actual books or even books on my kindle itself. You honestly never know when you are going to be trapped under a baby for a long period of time, lol. So this way I just have to make sure I have my phone with me at all times (which I always do anyways). I’m currently 70% through a book I started 3 days ago on my phone so it’s already working!

Anyways, in 2017 I gave 12 books five stars, however I only consider 7 of them my very favourites.

*All books listed below are in order of when they were read not in order of preference* 

#1 The Kitchen House

When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin. 

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

What can I say about this book? I read it in just over 24 hours and I read for 3 hours straight – until 1am – to finish it. This story is fast paced, gripping and heart wrenching. All of the characters have so much depth and you can’t help but fall in love with them. At the same time, it is devastating to read at times as the story follows the lives of slaves on a plantation in Virginia in the 1700-1800’s. I really enjoyed this book and I’m hoping to read the second book by this author in 2018. It’s been a long time since a book kept me up until 1am!

#2 Lilac Girls

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France. An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences. For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.
 
The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

I actually found the writing a bit choppy in parts of this book, however reading the authors note and realizing this is a true story – and also the incredible amount of research the author put into writing this story – took this book from a 4 star to a 5 star book for me. If you love WWII books like me definitely check this one out! Even though the content is so hard to stomach, especially knowing it actually happened, it’s SO important to remember this horrific part of our world history. Learning about the women’s reeducation camp in Germany and the horrific experiments surgeries the Nazis performed on prisoners was difficult to read about but also something I was not aware of before reading the book. I also finished the book being incredibly inspired by the real life hero of the story, Caroline Ferriday. It’s people like her who prove that one person CAN make a difference in the world. If you enjoy historical fiction read this book now. It’s hard to read, but also so worth it.

#3 Homegoing

A riveting kaleidoscopic debut novel and the beginning of a major career: Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is a novel about race, history, ancestry, love and time, charting the course of two sisters torn apart in 18th century Africa through to the present day. Stretching from the tribal wars of Ghana to slavery and Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the north to the Great Migration to the streets of 20th century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi has written a modern masterpiece, a novel that moves through histories and geographies and–with outstanding economy and force–captures the intricacies of the troubled yet hopeful human spirit.

I love a book that spans years and years and this one spanned whole generations. Each chapter was a new story of the next generation of the same family, but it was amazing to see the thread and themes and circumstances that led to different life situations. I especially enjoyed the storyline of the family who started with a woman being brought to America on a slave ship in the 1700’s, because it really showed how that beginning can effect every facet of a family right up to current day, over 200 years later. Really beautifully written and vibrant storytelling.

#4 The Mothers

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt. In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.

This book was so well written. I found myself slowing down my reading of this book so I wouldn’t get through it too quickly because I was enjoying it so much and the writing is so stunning. All the main characters in this book made terrible choices that I disagreed with, but Bennett still made these characters so likeable and so relatable you couldn’t help but have empathy for them. I’d heard rave reviews about this book for months before reading it and it did not disappoint.

#5 Beartown

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

So so so good. The characters felt so deep, complex and real. The story was so relevant to current events and our current society and, of course, as a hockey kid from a hockey town I love anything to do with the sport. Especially the complexity / pressure that comes with team sports and especially when it’s young kids who are playing these sports and getting so much pressure put on them.

#6 The Heart’s Invisible Furies

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery–or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he? Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community, and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamorous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from and–over his many years–will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more. In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man.

This book was my very favourite of 2017. Another one of those books I started reading slower at the end because I didn’t want it to be over. This book is heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny all at the same time. The dialogue between the characters is amazing and Cyril’s wry sense of humour is fantastic. This book reminded me a bit of A Little Life only it’s not nearly as dark as A Little Life. However, I think fans of A Little Life would enjoy this book. It’s a really long book but often long books end up  being my favourites because you really get to know the characters then.

#7 This Is How it Always Is

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Very well written with some very quirky, interesting, lovable and flawed characters. It tackles some tough – and very relevant – current societal issues around raising a transgender child and what it even means to be transgender as a child. While the book is fiction, the author has a transgender child and so I think her perspective is really meaningful here. I would recommend everyone check this book out and it would make a great book club read! Also, if you read and enjoyed this book I recommend checking out the podcast How to Be a Girl, I started listening to it in 2017 and really enjoyed it.

Other 5 star books in 2017 (link to my review on GoodReads) 

  1. City of Thieves
  2. When Breath Becomes Air 
  3. Behold the Dreamers 
  4. Her Every Fear (I read this book in only 2 sittings, so creepy and can’t-put-it-down material)
  5. Dreamland Burning

And a few honourary mentions…

And here are a few books I gave 4 (****) stars to but still really enjoyed and would recommend you check out. Links also to my Goodreads reviews:

  1. I’ll Give You the Sun
  2. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
  3. Dark Matter
  4. Evicted
  5. Behind Closed Doors 
  6. Option B
  7. The Hate U Give

What was the #1 best book you read in 2017? Did you or do you set reading goals for the year? 

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Random Wednesday Thoughts

It’s 10am on Wednesday morning and I’m sitting here with my coffee reading blog posts while listening / watching my baby stir on the baby monitor and waiting until she actually starts crying to go get her because if I’m lucky she will go back to sleep. I am also looking at a pile of dishes on my counter and thinking about how I really need to have a shower and I should probably be using this precious sleeping time to do those things, but instead I’m reading blog posts, sipping my coffee and now writing my own blog post. Sometimes you just need to recharge.

I’m thinking about how tough last night was. It was the first shift of 14 night shifts for Eric. It’s not the overnight / middle of the night that’s hard, it’s putting the baby to sleep and dealing with the witching hour in the evening that was the toughest. From about 5 – 10 every night Olivia is fussy and just wants to be held and it’s also that early battle to put her to sleep for the night. Last night I started laying her down in her bassinet at 8:30pm and finally got her down at 9:45pm but I watched her on the monitor and she didn’t go to sleep until 10:30pm. Anyone else know that feeling where you just can’t relax when your baby is still awake? You feel tense until you know for sure they are asleep, or at least that’s how I felt. I finally got myself into bed at 11 because again – I just needed some quiet time in the quiet house for a minute. I ate a bowl of cereal and read my book and it felt luxurious. Luckily, our amazing sleeper slept until 3:45am and I was the one to get her up at that time because I needed to nurse her to relieve my rock hard boobs.

The other thing I’m thinking about is all you mama’s who live in cities with no family support and whose husbands work long hours. If I was staring down the barrel of 14 night shifts in a row with NO extra help I don’t know what I would do. Last night was tough, I know that I will have help from my mom or other family members several of the next 14 nights to make it more bearable, or I’ll have family visiting during the day and holding Olivia so I can do other things around the house or nap (though napping continues to be hard for me even with a newborn). It definitely takes a village and I am oh so grateful for mine. It’s made this whole transition to parenthood much easier than I think it is for a lot of people.

I’m also thinking about how on Monday I’m going to start exercising again. On Friday I will be 6 weeks postpartum and ready to start adding workouts back into my daily life. I miss them a lot. I’ve already been walking for an hour almost daily and I plan to add in Fitness Blender workouts to start and maybe go back to yoga once or twice a week whenever I can fit it in if Eric is home or I have a babysitter. In the next few weeks I’d also like to get back into running, I haven’t ran for over a year and I miss it.

Any tips for postpartum workouts or adding exercise back in postpartum?

Ok, now I’m thinking I really better go get in that shower. I really can’t push it off another day and this baby is going to wake up any minute…

What are your random Wednesday morning thoughts? 

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