Thursday, February 2, 2017

What I Read | January 2017

Hello, sunshiney friends!  I haven't been in the habit of sharing my reads, but this year I want to start sharing what I'm reading each month.  

My single mom budget LOVES the library and I discovered how to download books and audiobooks onto my kindle through my library with the Overdrive app.  If any of you love reading, I think you'd be amazed at how much your local library has to offer - for free!  I read 5 books and listened to one audiobook in January and I'm looking forward to a 2017 full of awesome reads. 

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
4 stars

I listened to this on audiobook as I worked. I most usually have music going, or will listen to a podcast when I work. I am wired at my best when my brain is multitasking. I had never tried listening to an audiobook while I worked, but this was a perfect book to listen to. I remained engaged in the story, but it didn't require tons of brain power, so I could still focus on my tasks. I adored the narrator's voice on this audiobook (Lorna Raver). Her voice reminded me of the older Rose on Titanic. I have heard of Charles Lindbergh, obviously, but after reading this historical fiction told from the point of view of his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, I wanted to research so much about them and learn all the things! This was a beautiful story and a great pick for those who enjoy historical fiction.

• • • • •

3 stars

My friend who lives several hours away from me chose this book as her bookclub's pick for January.  I had it on hold at the library FOREVER before it became available.  I tore through it in one day.  This is a story about Rebecca Winter, who goes missing in 2003.  Eleven years later, she is replaced by an imposter pretending to be Bec.  What the what?  This kept me turning the pages, but something about it didn't sit well with me.  The mom character creeped me out a bit.  Overall, I enjoyed this one.

• • • • •


4 stars

Paul Kalanithi's memoir is a beautiful book.  The last paragraph had me sobbing.  His vulnerability and transparency made this book so great.  Trigger warning: 4 stars, only because I'm very sensitive about cancer and in some ways, this book triggered me. 

• • • • •

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
3.5 stars

Anne and Marco leave their baby, Cora, home alone while they attend a dinner party next door. They check on Cora every thirty minutes, but when they come home for the evening, Cora is missing. The first half of this book was ok, but moved fairly slowly for me. Once I got to the middle, it picked up and I had to find out what happened to Cora. The ending was great!

• • • • •

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed
3 stars

I've been a Cheryl Strayed fan since her anonymous days on The Rumpus as "Dear Sugar." I was introduced to this column right after my divorce, so it was a time in my life when I needed to hear the advice she gave. I read Tiny, Beautiful Things and felt like I was sitting down with a friend who seriously cared about my heart and healing. Next, I read Wild (and saw the movie) and her memoir resonated with me because of where I was on life's journey at that time. This book is a collection of some of her most popular quotes. It is a quick read and I enjoyed re-reading some of the profound things she has written. This would be a good "go to" book if you're having an overly emotional and "feel-y" day. At least, it would be for me.

• • • • •

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
4 stars

Oh Gillian. You never disappoint me! This short story gave me the creeps in the best way. Meaning, I love thriller/suspense and she always delivers.

Have any of you read any of these? What did you think? What are you reading right now? Let me know, friends.

I hope you all have a super sunshiney day!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Make it (Sunshiney) Monday | Yarn Pumpkin Garland

Make it Monday | Yarn Pumpkin Garland |

Hey sunshiney friends!  Are you ready to make this adorable pumpkin garland?  It is so quick and easy, you'll be hooked after making the first one, I promise.  I was searching through my Pinterest account, like I do ALL THE TIME, for some fall decoration inspiration and I came across this post from the Land of Nod.  It was a kid craft (hello younger self, let's make something today), and used some different supplies, like pipe cleaners, which I did not have, but it was so cute, I had to try it out myself.  I think you'll enjoy making this.  And hello...YAY for actually making something that I pinned, am I right?  Let's get started, okay? 



Step 1: Gather some supplies. 

• Some yarn:

Yarn Pumpkin Garland Supplies

I found that the chunkier yarns made a better pumpkin, but just use what you have on hand!  The chunky stuff is a bit pricier than the regular acrylic yarn, but you guys know I never pay full price.  I got this stuff on sale.  Half off baby.  That's how I roll.

• A pair of scissors and some twine:

Yarn Pumpkin Garland Supplies

I stole my daughter's scissors because I thought they were cute.  I bought them after all, so I figured they were fair game.  I grabbed this twine out of my garden shed, but yarn could work too.   Just use what you've got.  You can do this!

• Some floral-y twine dohickey stuff:

Yarn Pumpkin Garland Supplies

I don't know what the official name of this is.  I got it at Hobby Lobby a few years ago in the floral section.  It looks like twine, but it is wired, so it's good for twisting.  You'll need some wire snips (not pictured) if you use this, by the way.  Unless you're in to ruining your scissors and ending up in the fetal position on the floor because you tried to do things the hard way.  If that's you, go for it with those scissors, sweet pea.  No judgment here.  Also, this supply isn't necessary, I just used it to make a stem because I had it and I thought it was cute.  Again, just use what you have on hand.  

Step 2:  Assemble your pumpkins.

• Have you ever made pompoms out of yarn?  They are super easy and making a pumpkin is just like making a pompom without all the extra steps.  It's like a lazy pompom with long hair.  I used my hand, but you could also use a piece of cardboard.  Take the tail of your yarn and start wrapping it around your hand (or the cardboard).

I put the tail like this before I wrapped it around my hand.

Step 1 Yarn Pumpkin Garland

Then I wrapped the yarn around my hand about sixty times.  If you use a less chunky yarn, you'll need to wrap it around your hand about twice that much.  Another reason I was a fan of the chunky yarn, youknowwhatImean?

Your yarn wrapped hand should look similar to this.  If  you have the regular yarn, just keep wrapping until you've wrapped about this much.  Cut the yarn and hold the tail of it with your thumb.

Yarn Pumpkin Garland Steps

Be sure you don't wrap too tight, or you'll cut off your hand circulation and it will be hard to take the yarn off of your hand.  I'm not speaking from experience, but if you do that, it's not fun.  Not fun at all.

•  Next, cut a piece of yarn about six inches long.  Maybe it's eight.  I don't measure, just make sure it's long enough to wrap around your yarn bundle twice.  

•  Lace the piece of  yarn you just cut under all of the other yarn on your hand, like this:

The yarn bundle on your hand should be centered on the cut piece of yarn.  Then, gently take all of the yarn off of your hand and place it on the table.  Tie the string in a knot to secure one side of your pumpkin.  It will look like this:

•  Gently flip your pumpkin over and tie a knot on the other side.  You're doing so great already!  Now your pumpkin should look like this:

Basically you ran the string through the middle of the pumpkin and then you tied a knot on both sides.  You might need to fluff the pumpkin a little bit, too. Look at you, pumpkin maker!  Woohoo!  You are AWESOME!

Be sure that you have enough string left to tie your pumpkin onto the twine.  Don't get too snippy with the scissors just yet.  

Step 3:  Fancy up your pumpkin with a wire stem, tie your pumpkin onto your twine, and adore your pumpkin.  Maybe sing it a love song.

To make the wire stem, I just cut a piece of the dohickey stuff that I talked about before and I put it between the yarn I used to tie the two knots and bent it like a stem.  I tied a little piece of twine around it, too.  Then I told my baby pumpkin made out of yarn that I loved it.  I think this was an important step, so please don't forget about it!  

After you've made a few pumpkins, you have a complete garland ready for hanging.  Super fun and cute!  I'm so proud of you, sunshiney friend.  You can do anything!  

I would love to see your yarn pumpkins, friends!  Leave me a comment or send me a message.  Go forth and feather your nest!  

Have fun and keep it sunshiney,

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On When I Was 8-ish | A Letter to Myself

"I don't know a perfect person.  I only know flawed people who are still worth loving."
--John Green

• • • • • • • • • •

I found this photo while organizing the craft room and it hit me up in all of my feelings.  If you know me well, that's not really hard to do anyway.  I think I was about 8 here, but I'm not positive - there is no date on the back.  I know that this was taken in my childhood bedroom and that puppy in the photo was named Pete.  If I close my eyes really tightly, I can still smell his puppy smell.  It's one of my favorite smells in the world.  Seriously, I love puppy smell. I don't remember what happened to Pete, but I do remember him.

See that boat I am sitting in?  It was an inflatable boat that I got to go to take to the lake one summer.  I loved it so much and I slept in it on my bed for months.  I also note the stuffed animals lined up in the back, two of which were made for me by my Grannie.  Strawberry Shortcake and the tiger one.  I used to line all of my "babies" up and read to them and "teach" them.  See?  Feels.  


What hit me hard though is me.  Look at that smiling girl, so sweet and innocent.  No idea that she needed to grow into her teeth (and thank goodness, she did) or that one day she would actually pay someone good money on a regular basis to apply hot wax to her bushy eyebrows and rip it off. (Thanks for those, Daddy.)

I started to wonder what that little girl would say to me today and, what would I say to her?  I think maybe this:

Dear 8-ish-year-old-Julie:

Wow, you are so cute!  Seriously, you are a cute kid.  Pretty soon you are going to start looking in the mirror and criticizing yourself - how you look, how you speak, what you wear, etc.  You are going to start caring A LOT about what people think of you.  That little sparkle in your eyes is going to dull a little bit, your insecurities taking their place.  

I wish I could bubble wrap you up and keep your tender heart away from all that approval seeking noise that's about to start in your head.  

You don't know this, but when you grow up, you are going to go to college and you will eventually finish, although you won't end up doing what you go to school for.  You're going to get married and you're going to have a beautiful baby girl.  This is important because in a couple of years you are going to be told by doctors that children won't be possible because you're going to find out that you have a tumor on your spine that's been there since you were born.  Oh sweet girl, I wish I could tell you that it won't be scary.  It will be, but I promise that you will be fine.  You will fight your way through it and you will be just fine.  You are so strong and brave and you don't even know it!

One day you will have your heart broken in a way you've never felt before.  I wish again that I could tell you it won't be scary.  It will be.  But I promise, again, that you will be fine.  You are brave and strong, remember?  After a while, you'll start to see the good that comes out of something bad and you'll learn that family comes in all kinds of packages.  Don't worry - everyone will get along and most importantly, your daughter will know that she is loved.  You know what?  Your daughter is going to look just like you.  Twins.

Most of all I want to tell you that you will find the love of your life.  You'll meet Him when you're about ten, but you won't really fall in love with Him until all this other stuff happens.  That's why I know I can't bubble wrap you.  I'm not sure you would find Him in the way you have if you don't walk down this road to where I am today.  

I don't want to ruin the next thirty years for you, but it all turns out to be pretty amazing, even with the bad stuff.  If you ever get scared, just know that I'm here and I love you.  Remember that you are never alone.

Adult Julie

• • • • • • • • • •

Dear Adult Julie:

Hi!  Thanks for the letter.  I'm gonna be honest and say that some of it was kind of a bummer, but I'll trust you that everything turns out okay.

One thing I wonder about is if you are doing what you like to do.  You know, like coloring and drawing and laughing and using your imagination?  Do you still like to run outside and make mudpies?  Do you have a puppy?  Do you still giggle a lot and have fun with your friends?  

I sure do hope so.  

I love you!  I love writing letters to you and I hope that you are always happy in your heart.  I hope that you are smiling, just like you were in this photo.

8-ish-year-old Julie 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Absence Makes the Heart Grow | Marriage Letters Link Up

Absence Makes the Heart Grow | Marriage Letters Link Up | All Things Sunshiney

Dear Marriage:

As a little girl, I dreamed of you.  I set you up in my mind to be full of happiness and joy - a craftsman style bungalow with a fenced yard, three kids, a puppy, two cars in the driveway, and two people (one of them was me) who loved each other like Noah and Allie in The Notebook.  I viewed you as a vending machine, as if I could push the right buttons and get exactly what I ordered.  I placed high expectations upon you and thought that you would be the key to my happiness. 

As a naïve young woman, I met you and I was so in love with you.  Finally, my name was Wife.  For ten years I danced on eggshells with you, terrified that if I wasn't Wife, then I was nothing.  I placed you on a pedestal and then I blamed you for not meeting my high expectations and fulfilling my happiness quota.  You were my idol and I was blinded by your name and my television based fantasy of what you SHOULD be for me.  I didn't nourish you properly or pray for you until it was too late.

After you left, I swore that I would never dream of you again.  I was so full of anger and bitterness towards you.  You were a dysfunctional vending machine that only dispensed boxes of darkness.  I could not see what you really were - a sacred bond that required choice, commitment, and work from two people.  I would see you thriving for other couples and, because of my comparisons, I despised you more.  I stopped believing that you could ever be on the same page with me.

Over the past four years, I have forgiven you.  I have started to pray for you again.  I asked you to forgive me.  I started learning about you -- the real you that God intended you to be.  I am starting to believe in you again, but not in my little girl dreams of you.   I have opened up my heart towards you, I have earned a deep respect for you, I have grown because of your absence, and I thank you for every lesson you have taught me.

Even if I never personally meet you again, I believe in you and everything you stand for.  I cheer for you in the lives of my friends and family.  I pray for you in the life of my daughter.  I believe that you are worth the struggles, the late nights, the tears, the joys, and the way you break a heart open for good things.

Prayerfully that my heart continues to grow,

• • • • • • • • • •

Linking with Marriage Letters at

Monday, March 2, 2015

On Genuineness, The Mean Girl, and Being Brave | An Open Letter to My Daughter

An Open Letter to My Daughter | All Things Sunshiney

"What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful." 
Brene Brown

• • • • • • • • • •

Dear Doodlebug:

You are so beautiful to me, sweet girl.  It was snowing the other day at the house and you were standing outside playing with the dogs, snowflakes falling down around your face.  You put a blanket down on the snow and begged Miles to lay down beside you while you tried to catch snow on your tongue.  Red cheeks and long blonde hair falling around your face, calling out to me to come outside with you.  How did I get so lucky to be your mom? 

You are almost twelve and lately you and I have been having some really deep conversations.  You ask me very thoughtful questions and I am enjoying the quality time we spend together while we talk about things that really matter.  I can see the wheels turning in your head as you try your best to figure out what is good and right in the world.

One thing that comes up frequently is "the mean girl."  Oh, sweetheart.  What can I tell you about the mean girl?  Unfortunately, she is every where you go and also, she is there even when you are 37, like me.  I remember being your age, wanting so badly to fit in.  One day having a best friend and the next day being the loner on the play ground.  It is hard.  One thing I have learned over the years about the mean girl is that she is insecure and hurting and she doesn't know how to express those feelings so she expresses them in unhealthy ways and a lot of times, it's hurtful to others.  I know that is hard to understand, but the more you can try to have compassion for "the mean girl," the less your tender heart will be hurt. 

Another thing we have to deal with in life when it comes to relationships with other people is balancing being genuine and brave with who we are while also protecting our hearts.  There are people you will meet who will be safe enough to be in your inner circle, friends who will actually wade into the trenches of life with you, loving you every step of the way, and there are people who you will meet that you should be kind to from a distance.  When getting to know others, as you are growing and forming friendships, be cautious who you allow into your inner circle.  Not everyone will be willing to stay in the deep with you, and that is ok.  Protect your heart.

Also remember, as you are learning about friendships, that most of your life lasting friendships will be made when you are an adult.  Think about my close circle of friends.  Aside from one close friend from my youth, M, who I still stay in close contact with, every single one of my friends has been made when I was an adult.  I know that right now it may seem like the end of the world when so and so doesn't want to be your friend today, but believe me when I say that not all friendships will be like this.  I promise.

Lastly, I want to talk to you about being brave and genuine.  More than anything, I want you to grow into an adult who is not ever afraid to tell her story.  You never know who may need to hear it or be helped by it.  There is a way to tell your story and to protect your heart.  This is never a weakness, sweetheart, although some people will try to make you feel that it is.  Telling your story is brave.  Sharing your authentic self is brave.  Standing firm and telling someone that you have no reason to be ashamed of your life, even if you have made mistakes, is brave.  This year for your birthday, I pray over you the courage to be brave with your life.

I love you so very much.

Thankful to be part of your inner circle,