Our Place’s Always Pan is AMAZING – And Now Available In This NEW Color!

You won’t be surprised to read the next few paragraphs if you know how much I love Our Place! I’ve stated these facts before, but here they are again if you haven’t seen them yet! There’s a lot to love about Our Place’s products. They recently sent me their newest Always Pan, and here’s why you will want one too!

ETHICS

I love Our Place because they are a company of people who care. One of the co-founders, Shiza Shahid, co-founded The Malala Fund and now works to celebrate and highlight the multi-cultural cuisine that Americans embrace. We are a land of immigrants, and Our Place recognizes that and focuses on how our cultural landscape weaves and intertwines. Our food is one of the major ways that we embrace other cultures and honor them. Our Place knows that, and seeks to bring us even closer.

In addition to their insight, they focus on ethical labor, using responsible materials, and the real stories that make people across America so incredible. Based in Los Angeles, California, Our Place has partnered with the Los Angeles Food Policy Council and is currently working to help people gain access to good food. Not only that, they are environmentally conscious in their packaging. All of their boxes are packaged with biodegradeable and recyclable corrugate, without any bubble wrap or plastic product involved.

INCREDIBLE PRODUCTS

I have several Our Place products in my kitchen. But my absolute favorite product is their Always Pan. Here are some of the specs on it!

  • Exclusive non toxic, nonstick ceramic coating made without potentially toxic materials like PFOAs, PTFEs, other PFAs, lead, cadmium, toxic metals, and nanoparticles.
  • Nesting beechwood spatula with integrated spoon rest
  • Custom stainless steel steamer basket
  • Sturdy aluminum body for fast, even heat
  • Lightweight construction (3lb body)
  • A modular lid to let off steam when you want to and lock it in when you don’t
  • Pour spouts, because nobody likes a mess
  • Dishwasher safe (please hand wash your spatula)
  • Compatible with all cooktops
  • 10” diameter, 2.7” depth, 2.6qt capacity

Photos by Our Place, shown here in ‘Spice’

While it states that it is dishwasher safe, I’ve always just washed mine by hand. It literally takes 2 minutes – everything comes right off, I’ve never had to scrub at it or soak it. The pan is available in Spice (pictured above), and the following colors as well:

You can order it here and use my code, MEGANG10 to get 10% off today! https://www.pntrac.com/t/2-443206-183572-217808

Our Place states that you can replace your fry pan, saute pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, non-stick pan, spatula, and spoon rest with the Always Pan. I can tell you with complete honesty that this is my all-time most preferred pan, and the one I reach for every time I’m going to cook! I’ve had it for 7 months now and it’s my absolute favorite. And launching TODAY, Our Place has added this BEAUTIFUL Lavender color as well!! It’s available starting today, and if this is the one you want, I’d order it. The new colors tend to sell out quickly when they are released.

You can use the Always Pan to braise, sear, steam, strain, saute, fry, boil, serve and store. What I love most about it, aside from the fact that nothing sticks to it, is that the sides are so high. It’s replaced my need for my skillets! I only keep them around in case I need to cook more than one thing at a time. It’s also SUPER light, which is great for my arthritis. In addition, they look GORGEOUS hanging in my kitchen!

The Always Pan has sold out 10 times. It’s truly the best one out there. Again, you can get 10% off of yours here using my code MEGANG10 https://www.pntrac.com/t/2-443206-183572-217808

The Our Place Essential Collection – Main Plates

Last month I shared the tumblers from the The Our Place Essentials Collection. This month I wanted to talk to you about their beautiful plates! The collection is a line of beautiful dinnerware that is not only gorgeous, but also fully functional. I’ve partnered with Our Place to show you what they have to offer, as well as tell you about what an extraordinary company they truly are.

ETHICS

I love Our Place because they are a company of people who care. One of the co-founders, Shiza Shahid, co-founded The Malala Fund and now works to celebrate and highlight the multi-cultural cuisine that Americans embrace. We are a land of immigrants, and Our Place recognizes that and focuses on how our cultural landscape weaves and intertwines. Our food is one of the major ways that we embrace other cultures and honor them. Our Place knows that, and seeks to bring us even closer.

In addition to their insight, they focus on ethical labor, using responsible materials, and the real stories that make people across America so incredible. Based in Los Angeles, California, Our Place has partnered with the Los Angeles Food Policy Council and is currently working to help people gain access to good food. Not only that, they are environmentally conscious in their packaging. All of their boxes are packaged with biodegradeable and recyclable corrugate, without any bubble wrap or plastic product involved.

INCREDIBLE PRODUCTS

Now let’s talk plates! Our Place’s Main Plates are beautiful, ceramic, hand-painted plates. One thing I love about these plates is how lovely they look when they are stacked (see the picture I took on the right below). They will look so beautiful in glass cabinets or open shelving!

Our Place sent me their Main Plates in Spice, but they also come in two other colors – Char and Steam. So you can match them to your decor, or mix and match them for fun! They are also both microwave and dishwasher safe. This is a major perk for me, as our dishwasher uses far less water washing our dishes than washing them by hand does. I am always happier to find dishwasher-safe tableware for this reason. Here are a couple of pictures I took of my plates!

AND SO MUCH MORE

I encourage you to check out Our Place’s website. See what other items they offer, but also read about them, the good they are doing in the world, and the incredible stories they have to share. Our Place also regularly partners with various charities, so check out their site and see who they are working with now! Use my link here to save on your first order with the code MEGANG10 and make your kitchen happy! https://www.pntrac.com/t/2-443206-183572-217808

Meet Your New Favorite Drinking Glasses

I have fallen in love. The Our Place Essentials Collection is a line of beautiful dinnerware that is not only gorgeous, but also fully functional. I’ve partnered with Our Place to show you what they have to offer, as well as tell you about what an extraordinary company they truly are.

ETHICS

I love Our Place because they are a company of people who care. One of the co-founders, Shiza Shahid, co-founded The Malala Fund and now works to celebrate and highlight the multi-cultural cuisine that Americans embrace. We are a land of immigrants, and Our Place recognizes that and focuses on how our cultural landscape weaves and intertwines. Our food is one of the major ways that we embrace other cultures and honor them. Our Place knows that, and seeks to bring us even closer.

In addition to their insight, they focus on ethical labor, using responsible materials, and the real stories that make people across America so incredible. Based in Los Angeles, California, Our Place has partnered with the Los Angeles Food Policy Council and is currently working to help people gain access to good food. Not only that, they are environmentally conscious in their packaging. All of their boxes are packaged with biodegradeable and recyclable corrugate, without any bubble wrap or plastic product involved.

INCREDIBLE PRODUCTS

Now let’s talk glasses! Our Place’s Drinking Glasses are beautiful, hand-blown glass tumblers. They are also stackable! They will take up less room in your cabinets – and who doesn’t love to de-clutter and save space?

Our Place sent me their tumblers in Clear, but they also come in two other colors – Dusk and Sunset. So you can match them to your decor, or mix and match them for fun! When I say that they are functional I don’t mean that they can hold liquid – which they, of course, do – but I mean that they are also both microwave and dishwasher safe. This is a major perk for me, as our dishwasher uses far less water washing our dishes than washing them by hand does. I am always happier to find dishwasher-safe tableware for this reason.

This is a Mocktail Mule I made with Ginger Beer, Lime Juice and Grenadine!

AND SO MUCH MORE

I encourage you to check out Our Place’s website. See what other items they offer, but also read about them, the good they are doing in the world, and the incredible stories they have to share. Our Place is currently donating 10 meals for every purchase – all month long. So not only can you get beautiful items for your home, you can help feed someone in need. Use my link here to save on your first order with the code MEGANG10 and make your kitchen happy!

https://shareasale.com/r.cfm?b=1469461&u=2371081&m=93746&urllink=&afftrack=

FabFitFun is Cheaper Than Ever!

If you’ve ever thought about trying FabFitFun, now is the time! For a limited time you can receive the Fall 2019 box at 50% off!!! Use my link https://prf.hn/click/camref:1011l7UyZ
(this is a personal affiliate code) and the code FALL50 now, before the promotion ends in a few days!

The Fall 2019 box is my favorite box of the year, and some of the customizable items are still available!

FabFitFun is a quarterly subscription box service. They deliver a box to your home once every 3 months, for Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. The also have Editor Boxes. Those boxes are available if you join in between the seasonal boxes. The are comprised of the favorite items of, you guessed it, the Editors. Members are able to purchase these boxes in addition to the seasonal boxes if they wish. However, you aren’t required to.

Fabfitfun has a wide range of items in their boxes. You can get jewelry, wraps, scarves, socks, makeup, haircare, skincare, tech items, fitness items, and so much more. Every box I’ve received has been worth over $300. (Each box costs $49). Some of the items are a surprise, but some you are able to choose. If you are a select annual member (meaning you pay for the year upfront) you will get to choose more of what is in your box. You also get priority shipping. Contrary to what people think, this is NOT more expensive than paying quarterly. As a matter of fact, it’s a little cheaper as when my bill comes it’s $180, which means that each of my boxes are $45.

FabFitFun also has an Add-On sale at the beginning of each season, where they offer products at up to 70% off of their retail value. They also have Edit Sales that do the same thing. Again, you aren’t required to purchase anything at the sales, they are just available to you if you want to shop them.

I love FabFitFun’s boxes, of course, and I’ve found so many of my new favorite products this way. However, there’s a lot more to it than just the boxes. FFF has a community page on their website where members can go to talk. They talk about FFF, of course, but they also use the community to find support, talk about problems, trade items, and make friends. The discussions are so wonderful, and it makes me so happy to see strangers coming together the way they do in the community. There’s even a group who does a Christmas in July gift exchange. There’s so much to be found there, and it’s completely free when you join FabFitFun.

In addition, FabFitFun has a TON of workout videos available to its members, again, completely free with your membership. They also send out newsletters with helpful tips, healthy recipes, and fun information.

I actually love FabFitFun so much that I became an affiliate. We say #fabfitfunpartner. Which just means that I have a link to use to sign up (and I do earn a small commission on sales). I’ll post it below if you are interested in joining. I’ve taken several pictures of the actual boxes I’ve received as well, so I’ll post those here too. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, as I’m happy to help!

FabFitFun is more than a subscription box service to me. It’s inspired me to live a more happy and healthy life. It’s motivated me to connect with people all over, and it’s helped me find some incredible products that I’d probably never found otherwise.

Get yours here and receive 50% off your first box using the code FALL50  https://prf.hn/click/camref:1011l7UyZ
(This is my personal referral link.)

My Fall 2019 FabFitFun box!

Pumpkin Season Is Upon Us!

Fall is my favorite season. I am definitely one of those girls for sure. I do try my hardest not to decorate until at least mid-September though. And once it’s time, I am ready for all of it! I want pumpkins and cornstalks on my porch. And of course, lots and lots of mums. I want to wear cozy scarves, drink apple cider, cuddle by a bonfire, and bake apple crisps. I want to attend hayrides, travel through cornmazes, pick apples, and of course, picking out our pumpkins!

This year we happened to stumble upon the sweetest little market on our way home from my niece’s wedding. The sign by the side of the road read “Pumpkins, $2” – and that was something we couldn’t believe! No pumpkin I’ve seen costs less than five dollars. My husband, ever the thrifty one, immediately pulled in. He expected teeny pumpkins for two dollars, but what we received instead was a fun little stop, fresh produce, HUGE pumpkins that were – indeed – only two dollars apiece, and the nicest people you can imagine.

The place is called Kiels, in Swanton, Ohio, and if you’re in the area, it’s absolutely worth a visit. I’ll link the website for you here! https://www.keilsgreenhouse.com/

My children had a blast running around and looking at all of the pumpkins. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they had more pumpkins, and a larger variety, than I have ever seen. Here’s a peek.

My kids really enjoyed choosing their pumpkins, and seeing all of the different sizes, shapes, colors and varieties of gourds. They also loved seeing all of the fresh produce there. Kiels not only had the pumpkins and produce, but huge, beautiful mums. It made me wish I hadn’t already purchased and planted mine! They had cornstalks as well. I would have bought some of those too, but our van was already filled with us, our luggage, and was soon to be overflowing with pumpkins as well!

The produce was wonderful. We ended up purchasing some apples as well as some corn on the cob and some zucchini. We will be having the corn on the cob today with dinner, and I’m planning on making zucchini bread this afternoon! Here’s a look at their produce.

They even had the cutest little setup where you could take photos! Of course I had to have all of my kids pose. They loved it. Well, except for my oldest who was on the phone, but hey, I’ll take what I can get. He smiled, so I’m happy!

We honestly spent quite a bit of time there because we were having so much fun. I loved seeing the beautiful displays they had set up. They were obviously so talented at creating them. And the quality of the pumpkins and produce was impeccable. I was impressed. But the real treat was the price. We got 12 ears of corn, 5 zucchini, 6 HUGE pumpkins, 3 apples and 5 little pumpkins for $23. Honestly, how is that even possible? We couldn’t believe it! And the women there were so fun and sweet. They even threw in this free spider decoration for the kids to use when Halloween decorating arrives! In all, it was a beautiful afternoon and the perfect start to my favorite season!

For the Love of Copper

For awhile now, I have been obsessed with copper. Anything copper, or rose gold, immediately gets my attention. When we first saw our house, I immediately fell in love with the home. There were many reasons to love it. But one of the major reasons was the ceiling in the kitchen. The woman who lived here before us, rest her soul, put that ceiling in and we are told that she adored it. It was the one thing we didn’t change when we renovated the kitchen. At the time I thought it was awesome, but I didn’t have my copper obsession back then. Imagine how exciting it is for me now that I do! We named it after her, and whenever people see it for the first time and marvel at it, we say, “Yes, that’s Holly’s ceiling.”

As it turns out, I’ve fallen for a very expensive metal. This is not a surprise – for reference, please see my earlier blog!

https://berkanalynx.com/2017/09/02/champagne-taste-and-a-beer-budget/

All of the things I fall for tend to be the most expensive. I tease my husband that he must have the same problem, because he fell for me – HAHA! But seriously, I have to find ways to get this stuff for far less than its typical retail value. For example, I recently became obsessed with these mugs. Everywhere I find them they are at LEAST $10 each – typically more. And I can’t stand having one or two of something. What if we are having a get-together? I typically want everything in a set of 12. But for things like this, I’ll settle for a set of 8. Recently, I’ve cut that back to 6. So we’re talking $60 for 6 cups. Not going to happen. But my patience paid off, and over the weekend I found them in a Tuesday Morning for $4.99 each. I had to pick through because several had defects – but I manage to scrape together 6 perfect mugs, and got them for $30! I have to seriously restrain myself from going back for 2 more so that I have my 8 – my self-control is at an all-time high!

To curb my spending I set budgets and limits. When I see something I love, I’ll think to myself – what am I willing to pay for that? If I then look and the price is higher, I don’t buy it. When it comes to great sales on beauty and home products, I set a budget prior to the sale. Then I do not buy items that I don’t actually need. This is oftentimes hard to do because sometimes the deals are AMAZING. But I make my rules, and I stick to them.

When it comes to copper, I’ve made another rule to curb my spending. That rule is: Kitchen Only. I do not allow myself to buy copper items for any other room in my house. This way, I breeze right past a LOT of beautiful copper things, because they wouldn’t belong in my kitchen.

As I’ve said before, I find incredible deals on high-quality items at TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Marshalls, Tuesday Morning, Burlington Coat Factory, and Amazon. And for beauty, skin and home items that are super good deals, I try to stick to the sales in FabFitFun. Here’s a link to my blog if you want to know more about that:

https://berkanalynx.com/2018/08/10/why-i-love-fabfitfun-so-damn-much/

My rules for spending sometimes mean that I pass up things that I genuinely love and desperately want – but they are not things that I need. I’m not perfect, and I bend my rules from time to time. But I really, really try not to. And sometimes those things that I refuse to purchase because of their high sticker price manage to find their way to me through a very generous, handsome, loving man who happens to pay attention to the things that I love. My husband.

The Grove Collaborative

For years now I’ve seen these brands on store shelves and didn’t get why someone would pay for cleaning supplies what they were marked. I was using my usual cleaning supplies. The stuff I’d just always used, either because it was what I had become accustomed to, or because it was the most affordable at the time.

Then I saw an article on The Grove Collaborative and, wanting to know more, I checked out the website. I was honestly moved. Their dedication to the environment is something that inspired me. And the prices on their site were far cheaper than what I was seeing in the store. I had an offer for a free set of supplies, so I decided to give it a try and placed my first order. (If you want to see it before reading the rest of this, here is my referral link. If you use it you will get the 5 free items that I also received when I placed my first order, and I will receive a discount. Please note, however, that all opinions are my own, and I have paid for all of the items I have ordered from them at full price, with no sponsorship from TGC. This review, like all of my reviews, is 100% my honest opinion.)

Get your 5-piece set for FREE here:

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

Some of these items have become my new ride-or-dies, and some of them I will pass on. I’ll tell you why below. But to start, here is a picture of my first order, including the items I received for free:

gc2

Whomever had packaged my order hand-wrote a little message on the order slip inside the box. It said, “Megan, you’re beautiful. Never let anyone tell you differently.” I was surprised that they were allowed to do things like that. It was lovely. Not all of my shipments have contained a little note like that. My last one did, it said, “Thank You” – you can see it in my video at the end of this blog.

Anyway, I went on to try the items and, as I stated, love some, didn’t love others. Before I break it down, let me explain TGC to you. They are a company very focused on lowering their carbon footprint, and helping us to lower ours as well. Here’s the exact wording on their website:

“Doing no harm

As a Certified B Corporation, we are recognized as a business doing good for people, animals, communities, and the planet.

Treating the planet with care

We offer products that are gentler on the earth, prioritize post-consumer materials for packaging, and carbon offset every shipment that goes out our door.

Planting tomorrow’s forest

A portion of every Grove shipment goes to the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees across the United States. We’re aiming to plant one million new trees over the next three years.” – The Grove Collaborative Website

So how does it work? Technically, you become a member of TGC. That worried me at first, but it’s actually really flexible. To be a VIP it costs $20 per year. That’s it. You can order what you want, when you want. Right now I have mine set up to send me things every 2 months. They put suggestions in my cart and I just go in and take out what I don’t want and add in what I do. You get free shipping on your orders with your membership as well. They also send you free stuff with your orders. In my last order they sent me a full-sized GC hand lotion. In the one before that, they sent me a great lip balm. In addition, if you order a certain amount in your order, they will send a free gift (which you can opt out of if you don’t want it – but why? IT’S FREE! LOL)

All of that is fun and great but it’s not why I switched. Ultimately, I switched because I have 3 children aged 5, 3 and 1 – and I am scared to have toxic, caustic chemicals in the house. I like this site because they make these healthier products more affordable, and I don’t have to be scared if my kids grab the window cleaner when I turn around to answer the phone. It’s plant-based and non-toxic – and a relief. Obviously you don’t want to spray it in your eyes or drink it, but it is so much safer than the stuff I’ve been using up until now. So here’s a breakdown of my first order and what I thought of each product. You can also watch my video at the end to see the order I received the other day. And again, if you want to try it and get the 5-piece set for free, here’s my referral link:

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

20181016_161634

The GC Cleaning Caddy. This came free and it’s adorable. It’s metal and can be used to store and/or carry your cleaning supplies. But it can also be used as a decoration. Which is probably what I’ll end up doing with it because it’s freaking adorable.

The first item here is the Meyer’s multi-surface cleaner. It comes in a ridiculous number of scents. It’s literally like 10 or more. So far I’ve purchased the Pumpkin (smells more like those candles that are supposed to smell like baking sweets – not bad, but not my jam), Basil (my favorite so far) and Iowa Pine, which I just got and haven’t smelled yet. I love this for spraying and wiping down my counters, kitchen table and chairs. I’m obsessed.

TGC Floursack Towels – These are awesome. Watch my video to see the size.

Method Glass and Surface – I have only used on glass. I bought the Mint scent and OMG I LOVE IT. It literally leaves ZERO streaks. Until now I used Windex and it was decent but I often still had some streaking or foggy areas. The Method leaves my glass so clear and is my new go-to!

Meyer’s Dish Soap – This one I won’t be reordering. I like it well enough, but it’s more expensive than Dawn, which is my old go-to, and it uses essential oils for scent. That’s nice if you like the smell, but I don’t. So this one’s a pass for me.

Method Daily Shower Spray – LOVE this. I have the Eucalyptus Mint scent but it smells like pine to me. Which I love, so that’s the scent I keep ordering lol Just a quick spray down. It says no need to rinse, but I give my shower a quick rinse anyway.

16 oz. Spray Bottle – it’s glass and it’s pretty. I haven’t actually used it yet.

Cleaning Gloves – I love these so much I’ve ordered a second pair. They are perfect for doing dishes. They are soft on the inside and don’t leave my hands smelling bad after I use them.

Meyer’s Hand Soap – (Not Shown) I don’t love this soap. It’s OK, but if I’m going to pay that much for hand soap, I’m going to TJ Maxx and getting some Pecksniff’s hand soap (my fave!)

Walnut Scrubber Sponges (set of 2) – These are good sponges, they do the job and the best part about them is they are pretty, so I don’t mind leaving them out. However, the price is just too high for me. I’ll stick with my Scotch Brites for now.

GC Hand Sanitizer Spray – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!! I have it in the Blood Orange, which is one of my favorite flavors, as well as smells. I’ve reordered this little guy as well.

GC Towels – Okay. These are basically my favorite thing in the kitchen. I literally have 5 of them and just put 3 more in my cart today. They are the BEST freaking towels. They are thick and absorbent and I am going to replace all of my kitchen towels with them eventually. Seriously.

Method Squirt and Mop Hard Floor Cleaner – I’ve used this on our hardwood laminate flooring with great success (ours is Pergo Outlast +) without issue. It smells amazing – I have it in the Lemon Ginger (there are 2 other scents) and I also have the Wood Floor cleaner in Almond. Not sure what the difference is between the two. Both smell good. These are the perfect little thing if you want to spot mop. However, if I’m getting down and scrubbing all of my floors (uh, not that I do that often) I wouldn’t use this. I’d dilute something else in a bucket of water. But for a small room like a bathroom or spot mopping, this is perfect.

The Grove Collaborative gives you a free trial VIP membership and they were super clear about it ending for me. I decided to re-up and pay the $20 because I did end up liking it so much. Along with cleaning supplies, they have allllll sorts of other things for pets, home, babies, personal care, etc. So feel free to check it out and, should you decide to order, use this link and get a present for yourself – and for me!

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

 

Let’s Decorate For Halloween!

Yay October! My favorite month of the year is finally here! I LOVE October because it’s officially fall! And it’s also the month of Halloween, which we decorate for immediately. We decorate inside and out. Click the video below to spend some time with us, and look through the pictures to see the finished product!

 

 

 

It’s Fall Ya’ll!

It’s still 90 freaking degrees out, but that won’t stop this pumpkin party! It’s September, and for me, that’s go time! I don’t go crazy overboard with my decorations, but I do get excited and I do put them out as soon as September begins. When I originally fell in love with our home, one of the things I wanted was this big front porch. I could envision decorating it each season and spending time on it, talking and laughing with those I love. It’s truly a joy for me!

Some of the things that are in the pictures that I didn’t talk about in the video are the mums you see in the picture – they are fake. I LOVE mums, but for the life of me I cannot remember to water flowers. So I bought fake ones. It works out though, because then I can keep them completely out of the sun and they don’t care! If you want to make a similar project, get a flower pot and then go to the craft store. Buy styrofoam that will fit your pot and insert it (it’s best if it’s a few inches thick – too thin and it won’t be as sturdy). Then choose your flowers and push them into the styrofoam! The only thing I’ve purchased recently is the “Gather” pillow on the rocking chair (rocking chair from Cracker Barrel). I bought that pillow a couple of days ago at JoAnn Fabrics, Etc.

Here’s my video where I discuss my decorations, and below that you will find my pictures! Click on them to enlarge. Happy Fall!!!

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Reading

li1
My favorite collection. From the 1800’s

I’ve always loved reading. I’m not sure why, though they do say that children who are read to have a great chance of becoming avid readers. I don’t remember much about my early childhood. My mother died when I was 5, and they say that tragedy can sometimes block memories. Perhaps that’s why I only have a few memories from that time. I do, however, remember being read to. I also come from a long line of readers. My dad and his mother, my grandma (when she was still alive) are adamant readers. I don’t know if my mom read, but my stepmom is an adamant reader as well.

I remember a dear family friend of ours, her name is Amy Carr, reading Bible stories to me. I remember her helping me try to understand my mother’s death. Helping me to be optimistic that she wasn’t truly gone forever. I remember someone, not sure who, reading the book Are You My Mother?, by P.D. Eastman, to me. And I remember being read several Golden Books and Sesame Street books. And my favorite Golden Book, Where Did The Baby Go? by Colleen T. Hayes.My favorites are still here, in my children’s library.

But most of all, I remember being read to by my cousins, Gretchen and Elizabeth. They would read me my favorite books, Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski and Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. These books were later purchased by me, to read to my children. Once my oldest could read, he read Shel Silverstein books until the pages literally fell out and I had to replace them.

As a young girl I still loved to read. My Aunt Toni would send me care packages, and with them, more books. Some of my favorite books came from her. Behind The Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassidy is probably my favorite book of all time, and it’s one that she sent to me. During that time, I also loved the Sweet Valley Twins book series. I can remember my parents taking me to the bookstore (I know I said my mother died, so not to confuse you, my dad did remarry when I was 10 lol) and letting me choose a book to buy. Sometimes we went to used bookstores, and sometimes we went to new ones. When we went to new ones I could get the next Sweet Valley Twins book. I can remember how excited I was. I’d go home and read the book in one sitting! I can remember my dad telling me to pick a longer book because I’d read them so quickly.

As a teenager, I kept reading. I moved on to teen books. I moved from the Sweet Valley Twins to the Sweet Valley High book series. I also read every book by Christopher Pike that I could get my hands on. And once I was old enough, my stepmom let me start reading her books. My favorites were by V.C. Andrews.

As an adult, I just kept reading. My library continued to grow. I read a lot of Stephen King. I love mystery and horror. I love Toni Morrison. I love Charles Dickens. I love reading. In general.

But over the years, as I focused on my career and then building my family, I stopped reading somewhere along the way. I just stopped having time. I would still occasionally buy a book, thinking I’d get to it eventually. But for years, I never did. Until recently.

My daughter’s first birthday party arrived, and all of our loved ones were there. Including several of my friends whom I don’t see regularly. We were talking and one of us said something about starting a book club, and the others remembered the book club we had started many, many years ago. I don’t think it lasted too long, maybe a few months. But it was a great idea. A book club. A reason to get together with my very best friends once a month. A reason to read again.

I wasn’t sure I’d have the time, but I committed – because I wanted to have the time. I get lost in books. It’s like a vacation for me. I love everything about reading. I really do. And it’s not just the stories that I love, it’s the books. I have zero interest in a Kindle. I want to feel the weight of the book. I want to smell the fresh paper. I want to view the cover of it every time I pick it up.

And so, the first month of our bookclub began, and I read that book in record time. I started making time for myself. Time to read. Time that, I may have used to clean out a closet, I instead sat down and read. Instead of rushing through a shower, I took a bath and spent 15 minutes reading. I started giving my kids playtime in their room for half an hour when the baby goes down for a nap. I sit right outside their room, and I read while they play.

I read the book so quickly that I felt like something was missing. So I got another book. And that’s the one I’m reading now. It’s a paperback, and when I opened it, it was like I’d stepped back in time. The smell of the book took me back to when I was 9 years old, coming home from the bookstore with a new book my parents had bought for me. Sitting down in my room, excited to read the story. The smell was the same. They don’t all smell the same, but this particular one smelled just like that.

And so, I read. I will continue to make this time for myself and to relax and to do something I love. I will continue to make reading a priority. Sometimes we let life get in the way. It’s not that we aren’t choosing ourselves, but we allow the importance of other things – our jobs, our spouses, our children, our duties and obligations – to take extreme precedence over ourselves. To make some time for yourself is not a bad thing. I am still struggling with that. Even now, as a grown woman who can make her own decisions, I feel guilty. Guilty reading when I could be cleaning. Doing laundry. Planning meals. But at the end of the day, I know that not making time for ourselves, not allowing ourselves to relax and enjoy something, is incredibly unhealthy.

So find something that you love to do. And then do it. And don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t feel like choosing yourself occasionally is a bad thing. Making time for yourself is actually the best thing you can do for yourself, the people you love, and the world. Because someone who never does that isn’t healthy. And is too stressed. And can become short-tempered, have difficulty sleeping, and are unhappy. And if we do only get this one life, I think we should make it a good one.

My library, and some of my favorite collections.