The Couple Next Door {book review}

I’ve read several “motherhood” books over the past few months and while I’m sure I’ll continue reading nonfiction-parenting books, I don’t want to forget about my love of fiction and reading after the baby is born.  I also don’t want to become a Netflix-junkie now that I know how to stream it from my iPad.  Instead, I’d like a mix of reading and watching t.v. during feeding sessions.  So I have a written list of books that I will continue to add to all year long and hopefully I’ll knock out a book or two each month.

The first book of 2018:  “The Couple Next Door” by Shari Lapena.


It all started at a dinner party. . .

A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors—a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . .

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night, when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately lands on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

I could not put this book down!  I’m not sure if it was the best book to read while pregnant but I’m certain that reading it with a newborn would not have been better.  You see, I’m afraid of everything – even my own shadow – so a book about the kidnapping of an infant definitely made my worrying kick in to high gear.  But like I said, once I start reading this book, I didn’t want to stop.

And I was honestly surprised by the last few chapters – like I had no idea how it was going to end.  I read a lot of books that are so predictable (Nantucket love stories that play out like a Hallmark movie) but this book kept me on the edge of my seat bed.


Up next:  I’m not entirely sure.  I want to re-read one of my baby books (I am determined to have a child that is on a sleep schedule) but then I’ll probably read an Elin Hilderbrand book (I’m trying to catch up and ready she’s written – I think I have five left to read).

What books are on your list for 2018?


Baby Girl Watson {filling her bookshelves}

Happiest of Fridays to you!  I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving with family and/or friends.  I’m not a big “Black Friday” shopper – never have been, never will be but if you’re out and about wrestling the crowds at the mall, bless you.  Today I thought I’d bring you a little something different from the usual Friday Favorites.

We all know that I love books.  I remember “camping out” in our playroom as a kid and devouring a book in a few hours.  I’ve loved to read ever since I can remember.  I pray that our little girl has the same love for books that I do.  (I should also note that Chris’ Mom was a HUGE  fan of books and was even a librarian for a few years and Chris’ stepmom, hey Carolyn, is someone I can always go to for a good book recommendation. So hopefully it’s in her genes.)  As we’re starting to pull everything together for the nursery (the furniture arrived on Wednesday!!!!) I can’t help but start a list of books to fill her shelves with.


Julia, Child  – Not only do I want BG to love books but I want her to love food and cooking!

Julia and Simca are two young friends who agree that you can never use too much butter—and that it is best to be a child forever. Sharing a love of cooking and having no wish to turn into big, busy people who worry too much and dawdle too little, they decide to create a feast for growing and staying young. A playful, scrumptious celebration of the joy of eating, the importance of never completely growing up and mastering the art of having a good time, Julia, Child is a fictional tale loosely inspired by the life and spirit of the very real Julia Child—a story that should be taken with a grain of salt and a generous pat of butter.


Eloise in Paris – I adore Eloise books.  She needs them all eventually.

Bonjour!  Here’s the thing of it: Paris has just been discovered by Eloise the little girl from the Plaza… Here is what Eloise does in Paris: everything. The effect is rather extraordinaire. If you come to Paris with Eloise you will always be glad you did.


Madeline’s Christmas – Another classic collection of books.  I remember reading these as a child and they were one of my favorites.

Something is not right with the famous “twelve little girls in two straight lines.” All are sick in bed except brave Madeline, who must run the school, for even Miss Clavel is not feeling very well. But when Madeline finds help from a magical merchant, the girls embark on a Christmas journey that will surely make them forget their sniffles and sneezes.


Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – A bright book that is a currently favorite of little ones everywhere.

A told B and B told C,“I’ll meet you at the topof the coconut tree.”
When all the letters of the alphabet race one another up the coconut tree, will there be enough room?


Flora and the Flamingo – So it’s funny, I don’t think this book has any words.  But I mean, it HAS to be in her nursery.


What are your favorite children’s books?



A Farewell to Summer {plus a strawberry pizza with bacon and caramelized onions}

Tomorrow officially marks the first day of fall.  Summer 2017 is one that I’ll never forget.  And while I didn’t check everything off my “Summer Bucket List,” it was a great summer.

Here are some of the highlights of the past few months:

  • Memorial Day Weekend at OIB (AKA my last sips of wine for a long time – little did I know that I was pregnant)
  • Finding out I was pregnant the Tuesday after Memorial Day
  • Pizza Sundays
  • Logan’s wedding weekend at Lake Norman
  • Long 4th of July weekend at OIB
  • Ice Cream Date at the beach
  • Reading SO many books…
    • “Two by Two” by Nicholas Sparks
    • “The Sunshine Sisters” by Jane Green
    • “Secrets in Summer” by Nancy Thayer
    • “I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places” by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella
    • “On Mystic Lake” by Kristin Hannah
    • “Distant Shores” by Kristin Hannah
    • “Another Piece of My Heart” by Jane Green
    • “Night Road” by Kristin Hannah
    • “True Colors” by Kristin Hannah
  • Telling the “world” our exciting news about Baby Watson
  • A “last” beach weekend, just the two of us
  • An incredible 34th birthday dinner at Crawford and Son in Raleigh
  • Getting the ball rolling on some home renovations (I’m beyond excited about my new “office nook” and a screened in back porch)
  • Our Gender Reveal Party

Honestly the summer flew by and it’s hard to believe we’re almost done with September!  And while the “summer” temperatures will probably stick around for a while, I’m really excited for what the fall and winter have in store.

This past Sunday, Big Guy and I said our “final farewell” to summer with a very summery pizza.  I’ve been wanting to make this pizza ALL summer long and when I saw some pretty red organic strawberries at the grocery store, I knew it was a sign.


Even though strawberries aren’t in season here, this was quite possibly my favorite pizza that we made ALL summer.  The pizza is topped with ricotta cheese plus lots of mozzarella and then comes the fun toppings:  fresh strawberries, bacon and caramelized onions (that were caramelized in bacon fat!).  The cooked pizza was finished with a sprinkle of fresh herbs, oregano and basil.  This strawberry pizza TOTALLY hit the spot and I could not get over the flavor.  Sweet and savory.  Super cheesy.  Crunchy bacon.  And rich caramelized onions.

I definitely suggest you keep this pizza recipe for next May when strawberries are ripe and you can buy them local.

Adios, Summer!

Baby Girl Watson {what i’m reading}

There are literally thousands, upon thousands of books on pregnancy and babies.  I have friends that made the decision to read ZERO books and then there are friends that are reading every book they can get their hands on.  I’m trying to fall somewhere in the middle and I have decided to read six books related to pregnancy and how to adapt to life once baby arrives.  I did some research before biting the bullet and buying any books (well, there’s one exception) and feel that these books will best prepare me (but then again, I don’t think anything really prepares you).


What to Expect When You’re Expecting   

This is the one book that I bought IMMEDIATELY upon finding out I was pregnant.  I think it’s just one of those books that almost every pregnant woman (93% to be exact) has bought or borrowed.  I reference it weekly for regular updates but I’ve also referenced it for moments when I was unsure or feeling a little uneasy.  I must say that I have been so lucky and have not experienced half of what is in the book but it’s a good reference book.  Another reason I like this book is because it doesn’t try to scare you (I know my life is about to change, thankyouverymuch) and it doesn’t make assumptions that end up making you feel like a failure.  This is not a book that I’m making Big Guy read, by the way.


Real Food for Mother and Baby

This is a great book if you’re pregnant but it’s also a great book if you’re trying to get pregnant.  Y’all – so many people want to tell you what to eat and what not to eat and what’s going to happen if you don’t listen to them.  And it drives me nuts.  This book breaks down what nutrients your body needs during each trimester of pregnancy (and for fertility).  I actually typed up a list of the foods/food groups that are most important for each trimester and it’s hanging on the fridge.  Again, this is not a book I wanted Big Guy to read.


Bringing Up Bébe

This book is written by an American woman living in Paris who wants to understand why French children are more well behaved than American children and how French women got their children to sleep through the night within several weeks after birth.  I loved this book and read it in a matter of days.  This book basically makes me want to pack my bags and move to France.  I definitely plan on trying some of the techniques mentioned in the book, like “the pause.”  This book will make you question has you view children and I will say that this is a book I wanted Chris to read.  I went through and highlighted the important pages and parts in hopes that he’ll read them.


The Happiest Baby on the Block

I picked up this book last week after hearing that it’s full of tips and techniques on calming your baby.  I also know that I’ll be asking Big Guy to memorize the five S’s that are found in the book (apparently the most important part of the book).  I’ll be honest and say that the only thing I don’t like about this book is that they recommend a baby bassinet that costs close to a thousand dollars.  Clearly we are not going that route but I’m hopeful to learn a thing or two from the book.


On Becoming Baby Wise:  Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep

I bought this week last week after hearing multiple new moms talk about how this book taught them to put their baby on a schedule.  Ya’ll know I thrive on having a schedule and I’m praying this book helps.  I started reading this book yesterday and I’m halfway done already – with lots of underlining.  Apparently if you are able to get your baby on a daytime schedule, the nighttime schedules follows naturally.  Once again, I know all babies are different and I 100% expect sleepless nights.  However, if this book makes me more comfortable going into motherhood, then I’m going to give it a try. And yes, Big Guy will be reading parts of this book.


How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids.

Last but not least, a fun yet informative book.  Once again, I’ve heard multiple new moms share how much they loved this book and I think it’ll be entertaining.  I’ve yet to buy the book but it’s sitting in my cart online.  I have no doubt that our marriage will change from where it is now once Baby Girl Watson enters our world.  But I also have no doubt that it’s going to be some of the most amazing changes.  Over and over again I stress to Big Guy the importance of putting our marriage before our baby because if our marriage is in a good place, our parenting will be a thousand times better.  I don’t plan on asking Big Guy to read this one but I’m sure I’ll be sharing what I learn with him.

Friday Favorites

This Friday is extra sweet because the only thing standing between me and a little “adult Spring Break” is teaching two classes this A.M.  Whether you’re taking a little time for yourself in the coming week or not, I hope you take the time to remember what Easter is really about.  While I’m the first to gush over being able to wear my white pants and spend the morning dying Easter eggs there’s so much more to this weekend.  He is Risen!

And with that, my favorites from the week:


Favorite Obsessed:  Cadbury Mini Eggs Skillet Cookie.  When it comes to my Easter basket, there’s only ONE candy I want:  a mini bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs.  They are my favorite.  (Don’t worry, Big Guy, I bought you a pack or two to throw into my basket).  This cookie is basically my dream come true.


Favorite Tropical:  Pineapple Ice Molds.  How cute are these?!?!?!


Favorite Festive:  Toasted Sesame Sriracha Deviled Eggs.  I honestly have no intention of making deviled eggs this year…but these are making me want to change my tune.


Favorite Read:  Slightly South of Simple:  A Novel.  This author is compared to one of my absolute favorite authors, Elin Hilderbrand.  It sounds like the perfect beach read.


Favorite How To:  Sourdough Bread:  A Step-By-Step Guide for Home Bakers.  This is a fun addition to my “kitchen bucket list” and I love how approachable Jen made it with this tutorial.


Favorite Fun:  Lemon Tree Earrings.  I’ve always loved unique earrings and these are just adorable.


Favorite Dinner:  Roasted Rack of Lamb with Basil-Goat Cheese Sauce.  This will definitely be on the menu soon.

Jones residence - Edina MN

Favorite List:  5 Dream Kitchen Must Haves.   When thinking of a new house, the kitchen is a top priority because of all the time we spend in that room.  I am totally on board with ALL five of these requirements.


Favorite Dinner for One:  Shoyu Ahi Poke.  I cannot want to get my hands on some sushi-grade tuna and make this delightful bowl.


Favorite Cocktail:  Frozen Mimosas.  Or in my world, FroMo.  I don’t think any other explanation is needed.



Cold Tangerines {book review}

In an effort to read more and to also sleep better, I’ve tried to read before going to bed instead of scrolling through social media outlets.  Last week I finished “Cold Tangerines:  celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life” by Shauna Niequist.  The book is a “collection of stories about God, and about life, and about the thousands of daily ways in which an awareness of God changes and infuses everything.  It offers bright and varied glimpses of hope and redemption, giving us room to breathe, to break down and break through, calling us to our best possible lives.” (from the back of the book)


This book was such an easy read and at times I felt like the author knew I was reading this – she was speaking right to me from the first story.

I have always, essentially been waiting.  Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have…And through all that waiting, here I am.  My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start…But this is what I’m finding, in glimpses and flashes:  this is it.  This is it, in the best possible way.  That thing I’m waiting for, that adventure, that movie-score-worthy experience unfolding gracefully.  This is it…I don’t want to wait anymore.  I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day…That’s the drama of life, swirling all around us, and generally I don’t even see it, because I’m too busy waiting to become whatever it is I think I am about to become.  The big moments are in every hour, every conversation, every meal, every meeting. – on waiting

Friendship is acting out God’s love for people in tangible ways.  We were made to represent the love of God in each other’s lives, so that each person we walk through life with has a more profound sense of God’s love for them…True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over the broken, fragile parts of ourselves.  We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect…Friendship is about risk.  – swimming

For me, what God said when He made the world is a prayer:  It is good.  This world, it is good…I have to remind myself that it is good.  I have to create hope in my life, because there’s something inside of me that has radar for the bad parts of life…I have a dark, worst-case scenario sensor, and it takes over…It’s rebellious, in a way, to choose joy, to choose to dance, to choose to love your life.  It’s must easier and much more common to be miserable…I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud.  And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes.  I want to eat cold tangerines and sing loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now.  I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh…It is good. – cold tangerines

What book is on your list to read next?


Present Over Perfect {a book review}

“Present Over Perfect…Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living.”  The minute I saw this book title while scrolling through my Instagram feed I knew I needed to add it to my reading list.  Less than a month after I featured it in a “Friday Favorites” post, I ordered the book and once I started reading, I was finished in a week.

I saw myself in a lot of the chapters – even though I’m quite the opposite of the writer.  As I was reading the book though, I realized that no matter who you are, you can see yourself in the words on the pages.  Everyone can relate to this book in someway.  I immediately thought of friends in some sections of the book and wanted to immediately send them a copy.

And while I loved the book, I found myself wanting more.  I was expecting more details on how to make changes in my day to day life so that I can achieve “present over perfect.”   I know some of you will run out and read the book yourself and others won’t think about it again – so I’ve left some of the “aha” Oprah moments below…



“But you can’t have ‘yes’ without ‘no.’ Another way to say it :  if you’re not careful with your ‘yeses,’ you start to say ‘no’ to some very important things without even realizing it…’Yes’ is fun and sparkly and printed on tote bags…[But ‘no’] puts the brakes on your screaming-fast life and give you a chance to stop and inspect just exactly what you’ve created for yourself, as difficult as that might be.”

“This is what I know for sure:  along the way you will disappoint someone…But here’s the good news:  you get to decide who you’re going to disappoint, who you’re going to say ‘no’ to.”

We get to shape our days and our weeks, and if we don’t, they’ll get shaped by the wide catch-all of ‘normal’ and ‘typical,’ and who wants that? … You can wear slippers or heels, eat steak or kale, read poetry or spreadsheets…You get to make your life.  In fact, you have to.”

“Sometimes brave looks more like staying when you want to leave, telling the truth when all you want to do is change the subject.”

“[Present over perfect] is about learning to show up and let ourselves be seen just as we are, massively imperfect and weak and wild and flawed in a thousand ways, but still worth loving.  It’s about realizing that what makes our lives meaningful is not what we accomplish, but how deeply and honestly we connect with the people in our lives, how wholly we give ourselves to the making of a better world, through kindness and courage.”

And perhaps the author never intended to give me the tools to be more “present over perfect.”  Perhaps I have to use my own life tools and do some soul searching to shape my life in a more soulful way.