What I’m Into + February Small Goals

I'm linking up and sharing my February small goals, along with my favorite things from January. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my February small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

January wasn’t the greatest month for me. I’ve been battling stress and illness (strep throat is no joke, people), but I managed to get a couple of things done anyway.

  • Post three new items on the N&B Etsy store. Not yet. I’ve been brainstorming and experimenting, but I haven’t posted anything new yet.
  • Start meal planning. …Nope. My husband and I collected a bunch of recipes, but we didn’t actually get to the “planning” part of this goal.
  • Do a joint book review with my sister. You can read it here!
  • Take care of home maintenance tasks. I’m counting this one mostly complete. There’s still a burnt out lightbulb that we haven’t gotten around to replacing yet.
  • Continue to carve out time for relaxation (and reading!). Yes. I’ve been organized about my work schedule and the things I need to do at home, and I’ve worked hard to make space for relaxing and being unproductive.

I’m keeping it simple for my February goals, since January didn’t go as planned:

  • Make breakfasts ahead of time. This is sort of related to my meal planning goal from last month, but it’s (hopefully) a lot simpler to accomplish. There are a couple days a week that I have to get up much earlier than the rest of the week, and I rarely feel like making breakfast when I get up, so I want to pre-make breakfast bars and other healthy, easy options.
  • Read and review the 2017 Newbery books. I’m so excited about this year’s Newbery books! One was already on my TBR list, but the others are books I had never heard of.
  • Actually post more Etsy projects in the N&B store. I’m experimenting more with watercolors, and I’ll be posting some bookish items as well.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I’m currently making my way through the NetGalley review books I ordered. Lots of YA coming up soon!

TV shows I’ve been watching: Whenever I’m sick or stressed, Unlikely Animal Friends (on Netflix) can always cheer me up.

Music I’m loving: After several months of waiting, because I just can’t handle that level of awesomeness every day, I’m finally re-listening to the Hamilton soundtrack.

Podcasts Audio books I’m listening to: Did you know that the movie Hidden Figures is based on a book? I’m listening to it on audio book right now.

My favorite Instagram:

I love this quote! (Plus, this photo offers you a sneak peek into some of the art I’m experimenting with for the Etsy store.)

Hand lettering by Newbery and Beyond | newberyandbeyond.etsy.com
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If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and some of my hand lettering ventures), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

2017 Book Challenges

I'm excited to be joining two book challenges this year--one focusing on Newbery books and the other on classic books. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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A couple of years ago, I participated in a book pairing challenge, but last year I somehow ended up with no book challenges. I want to change that this year, so I’m joining up with two book challenges!

The first challenge is a Newbery book challenge, so you know I had to join. This one is being hosted by Smiling Shelves, and participants can get points by reading Newbery Medal or Honor books as well as Caldecott books. Because reading all the Newbery books is the whole reason I started this blog, I’m going to aim for the highest challenge level (Konigsburg, which is 75+ points).

The second challenge is a classic books challenge hosted by Books and Chocolate. Reading the classics that I somehow missed is another reading goal that I’ve been attempting, so I’m excited to have this challenge to keep me on track. I’m hoping to complete all twelve challenges, but this one is sure to be more difficult than the Newbery challenge. I really struggle with reading classics when I’m not in the mood to trudge through antiquated writing and slow plots. (I’m going to do my best to read books from this list.)

What about you guys? Are any of you joining a book challenge this year?

What I’m Into + January Small Goals

I'm linking up on the blog today to share what I'm into recently + my January small goals. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my January small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

December was a whirlwind of parties, concerts, and family get-togethers, but I still somehow managed to get things done!

  • Organize all my bookish statistics for the year. You can see that post here.
  • Post watercolor pieces on my Etsy store. Yes! The watercolor gift tags I made last month were one of my favorite pieces so far. Be sure to check out the Etsy store, and be on the lookout for even more pieces to come this month.
  • Create space to relax. I did this! The first half of the month was crazy, but since I had some time off between Christmas and New Year’s, I was able to do a lot of things that filled my relaxation need: eating out with friends, playing board games with the roommates, watching movies with my husband, and (of course) doing lots of reading.
  • Read through my backlog of books. Mostly. I’m counting this one as completed because I did read a significant amount during the last few weeks of 2016… but I still have a huge stack of books by my bed. Some were gifts or last-minute purchases, but I also have a large amount of library books I need to burn through before I have to return them!
  • Sponsor a businesswoman through Kiva. Yep! (If you want to check out Half the Sky, the book that helped inspire this goal, you can read my review of it here.)

I am absolutely thrilled at completing all of my goals for December! (I think this may be the first month that has actually happened.) Now, for my brand-new January small goals:

  • Post three new items on the N&B Etsy store. I’m bubbling over with ideas, including some bookish-related items, and now that the holidays are over I’m hoping to have enough time to complete a few of them.
  • Start meal planning. I hate the idea of meal planning, but since my husband and I are both getting busier at work (more on that below), I know it needs to happen. Unless we want to continue eating dinner at 9:00 every night. (If you have any favorite recipes that are quick, tasty, and somewhat healthy, please let me know in the comments!)
  • Do a joint book review with my sister. Posting more joint reviews is one of my overall goals for 2017, so I figure I might as well start now! My sister has posted on the blog before, and it’s always a lot of fun to talk books with her.
  • Take care of home maintenance tasks. Why does it seem like the lightbulbs burn out, faucets leak, and doorknobs get loose all at the same time? I’ve been ignoring these small inconveniences for waaaay longer than a responsible home-renter should.
  • Continue to carve out time for relaxation (and reading!). I’ve just added more time to my work schedule, which means I’ll need to be more intentional about getting things done around the house (see above), but it also means that I’ll need to focus on relaxing. It sounds silly, but if I’m not careful, I’ll spend all my downtime spinning my wheels, trying to complete tasks and worrying about things that I can’t change. (Anybody else have this problem??)

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book is still sitting next to my bed. I’m waiting for the perfect time to dig in. I also have some new books from two of my other favorite authors, Jasper Fforde and Shannon Hale.

TV shows I’ve been watching: My husband and I finally finished watching Veronica Mars (the TV series and the movie), and I am totally obsessed! I wish there were more seasons to watch, but I’ve heard the Veronica Mars audio books (written by show creator Rob Thomas and narrated by Kristen Bell) are really good.

Music I’m loving: I can’t stop listening to Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen. (If you don’t mind a bit of raunchy humor, this interpretive dance to the song is hilarious!)

Podcasts I’m listening to: I’m not usually a fan of D&D-related media, but my husband and I are hooked on The Adventure Zone podcast. The McElroy brothers and their dad are hilarious. (Listen at your own risk! There’s a lot of swearing and sexual innuendo here.)

My favorite Instagram:

I love to take part in the Broke & Bookish secret Santa swap, and I got some lovely gifts from my secret Santa this year.

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If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and some of my hand lettering ventures), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

Top Ten Best Books I Read in 2016

Linking up with the Broke and the Bookish to share my top ten best books I read in 2016. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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It’s the end of the year, which means tons of reflection posts and best-of lists (which I love!). I read many wonderful books this year, but these ten were the best books on my list. I recommend each of them wholeheartedly!

The Penderwicks series

If you enjoy Hilary McKay’s delightful writing style and quirky families, you must read this series. The Penderwicks are a family of sisters whose different personalities often clash, but who deeply love and take care of each other. They have fun adventures together and help each other adjust to the changes of growing up. I’m currently reading the fourth and latest book in the series, and so far each one has been just as wonderful as the last.

The Passenger

I don’t often read thrillers, but I greatly enjoyed this one. I read it practically in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down.

Come, Thou Tortoise

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Audrey has to come to terms with her recent loss, and as odd as our main character is, the writing style is just as strange–there are no question marks or quotation marks here. A quirky book with surprisingly lovable characters.

The Secret Adversary

I absolutely love Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence mysteries, so I really liked reading their first adventure together.

Thursday Next series

This series is a must read for book lovers and anyone who thinks a humorous time travel/alt history SFF series sounds awesome (it is).

Last Stop on Market Street

This is just a lovely picture book. Whether or not you have kids, you should pick this Newbery winner up.

Half the Sky

Heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. If you care about women’s issues, you should read this book.

Abandoned America

I have a weird obsession with abandoned buildings, and reading this book made me realize I’m not alone. The author treks through various abandoned places, from a classic ghost town to an enormous mall, from hotels and vacation spots to theaters and mental hospitals. The photos are amazing, and he tells the fascinating stories of why each place was abandoned.

Dumplin’

A wonderful YA book about an overweight girl trying to fit in and stand out in her beauty pageant-obsessed town. All the characters are wonderful–they make bad choices sometimes, sure, but none of them are cringe-worthy–and I love the Texas setting.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

This picture book is definitely one of the best books of this year. For any child (or adult) who wants to look at some beautiful artwork and read about the amazing women who shaped our world.

What were your favorite reads of 2016?

Ten Books I’d Like to See Under My Christmas Tree This Year

Linking up with Broke & Bookish to share my top ten books I'm thankful for. | NewberyandBeyond.com
I’m linking up with the Broke and Bookish for today’s Top Ten Tuesday post!

I’ve already received a couple of awesome books for Christmas (thanks, Secret Santa!), but there are always more books I’d love to receive. Here are just a few I’d like to see under my Christmas tree this year.

1. The Year of Living Danishly. This book sounds so fun! And sadly my library doesn’t have a copy of it.

2. Refuse to Do Nothing. This book on ending modern-day slavery has been on my TBR list for a couple years now, and unfortunately my library doesn’t have a copy! I want to have a copy of my own.

3. Hyperbole and a Half. I’ve already read this book, and it is hilarious! I want to be able to read this book anytime I need a pick-me-up.

4. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run. Another book that just sounds hilarious. I need more of those books in my life.

5. The Cardamom Trail. My husband and I got obsessed with The Great British Baking Show this year, and we fell in love with Chetna’s baking style. If I had this book, I could probably convince my husband to do some baking with me!

6. I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla. As someone who wants to adopt someday, this book on interracial adoption is a must read.

7. Quiet Power. I’ve read Susan Cain’s original book and enjoyed it a lot. I want to add this one to my stack of books!

8. The Princess Problem. I loved this book! I want to have my own copy for when I have children.

9. The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries. I’ve been reading my library’s copy of this book, and I loooove it! (You know how much I’m into mysteries.) I really want my own copy so I can reread my favorites every December.

10. Eleanor Roosevelt: You Learn by Living. Eleanor Roosevelt is my role model! I’ve read a lot about her, but I’d love to read a book that she wrote.

What books do you want to see under your Christmas tree this year?

Top Ten New-to-Me Authors of 2016

These ten authors are my favorite new-to-me writers this year. | NewberyandBeyond.com
I’m linking up with the Broke and Bookish for today’s Top Ten Tuesday post!

I don’t usually buy books based on authors, so this was a tricky topic for me! A few authors did spring to mind immediately, though.

  1. Jasper Fforde. His hilarious, quirky fantasy worlds just draw you in, whether they’re YA or adult fiction.
  2. Cheryl Strayed. I never expected to enjoy Cheryl Strayed as much as I did, but I found her writing as Sugar to be touching and thought-provoking.
  3. Delia Sherman. This author’s debut middle grades novel was super fun (I did receive this one as an ARC).
  4. H.Y. Hanna. I’ve been receiving review copies from this author since January, and I’ve loved every single one of her books. They’re fresh, fun cozy mysteries.
  5. Jenny Lawson. I’ve known about the Bloggess for a while, but I never picked up her books until this year. They’re hilarious, heartbreaking, raw accounts of the crazy things that happen in Jenny Lawson’s life.
  6. Russell Freedman. He writes great biographies about amazing people in America’s history. Freedman’s biography of Eleanor Roosevelt started my obsession with her.
  7. Tana French. I know, this isn’t a unique pick. But I greatly enjoyed the two Tana French books I read this year.
  8. Virginia Hamilton. Her writing is filled with beautiful stories that often focus on non-white women.
  9. Timothy Hallihan. I love his unique characters and fun mysteries.
  10. Victoria Jamieson. Her book, Roller Girl, was one of the wonderful 2016 Newbery books.

What new authors made your top ten list this year?

What I’m Into + December Small Goals

I'm sharing my November favorites and my December small goals in today's link up. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my November small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

I’m super proud of how well I did with my November goals, especially since I was out of town for a whole week and threw off my regular “get stuff done” schedule.

  • Prep Christmas gifts. Yep! We actually got everything prepared in time to deliver gifts in person to most of my family. (More fun and a lot cheaper than shipping them!)
  • Open my Etsy store. Yes!!!! I’m super excited about this. If you’ve been enjoying my hand lettering ventures, I’d love it if you would check out my store and consider purchasing something as part of your Christmas shopping.
  • Dye my hair again. Check. I struggled with the color this time and ended up covering up the pink with a darker red, which looks much better.
  • Experiment with watercolors. Not yet, but my husband has promised to put this on his schedule for this weekend.
  • Complete the Skillshare challenge. This project turned out to be more than I could handle this month. Oh well.

Three-ish out of five? I’ll take it! Now, for my December goals:

  • Organize all my bookish statistics for the year. I did this last year and had a lot of fun with it. And since I’ve been working hard this year to diversify my reading, I’m excited to see how well I did.
  • Post watercolor pieces on my Etsy store. See above for details!
  • Create space to relax. November was all about getting work projects completed, and December is going to be jam-packed with parties, concerts, and family gatherings, so I want to consciously make time for relaxation. (Maybe even a movie night with my husband or a game night with the roomies.)
  • Read through my backlog of books. I requested several ebooks in anticipation of my Thanksgiving travels, and I may have purchased some new books at my favorite used bookstore in Chattanooga.
  • Sponsor a businesswoman through Kiva. For many reasons, including my recent readthrough of Half the Sky (review to come soon!), I feel the pull to sponsor a woman starting a business in a poorer country. And since sponsorships start at $25, even I can afford that.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I got my hands on Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book for five cents (see my bookstore visit above), and I also found her book of Christmas short stories. If you remember my love for all things Connie Willis, you’ll understand why this thrilled me so much.

TV shows Movies I’ve been watching: I just got Love & Friendship, the movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, and I can’t wait to watch it!

Music I’m loving: I just found out I can borrow music through my library’s website, so I requested the newest albums from Bruno Mars, Panic at the Disco, and Ariana Grande.

Podcasts I’m listening to: I just added Note to Self, which describes itself as a technology podcast about being human, to my podcast roundup.

My favorite Instagram:

I had so many photos I loved from this month that it was difficult to choose a favorite! I finally chose this one because it showcases my brand new Etsy shop and my brand new hair color.

Hand lettering by NewberyandBeyond.Etsy.com
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If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and some of my hand lettering ventures), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

TTT: Books I Am Thankful For

Linking up with Broke & Bookish to share my top ten books I'm thankful for. | NewberyandBeyond.com
I’m linking up with the Broke and Bookish for today’s Top Ten Tuesday post!

Each of these books has a place in my heart for a different reason, but mostly I’m thankful for them because they remind me that we are not alone. Even in tumultuous times like these, we can find unity through our books, and I love that.

Pretty Good Number One–because it showed me that sometimes people are just as nice as you hope they would be. I’ve never before had an author give me a book just because I posted about it on my blog!

The Last Dragonslayer and The Eyre Affair–because sometimes you just need a fun escape from reality.

Good Girls, Bad Girls of the New Testament–because it heartens me that some biblical scholars are paying attention to the amazing women in the Bible.

10% Happier–because this book led me to start meditating, and it really has made me happier.

A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor–because Flannery’s words made me feel less alone in my often imperfect faith.

Her Stories–because women, especially women of color, don’t get nearly as much page time as they should.

Untangled and The Princess Problem–because girls’ childhood and teenage years can be difficult, and these books show parents how to give their daughters the tools they need to navigate those years.

Jesus Feminist–because this book reminds me that there are respected and knowledgeable Christians who are feminists, not just me. (Review to come soon!)

Last Stop on Market Street–because it’s a simple, beautiful story filled with diversity.

Tiny Beautiful Things–because this book reminds me that we are not alone, no matter how horrible our circumstances may seem.

What books are you thankful for this year?

What I’m Into + November Small Goals

I'm sharing my favorite October moments and my November small goals in today's link up. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my November small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

 

My October goals didn’t go half bad!

  • Have a TBR reading day. I’m counting this one as completed. Although I didn’t take a whole day just to sit and read through a bunch of books, I did request almost 20 books off my TBR list from the library and have read through almost all of them.
  • Open my Etsy store! This is actually today’s project. I have all the supplies I need, I’ve made several sets of m first products, and all that’s left to do is take photos for the Etsy listings! I’ll include the link here as soon as the store is open. The store is open!! I’m beyond excited, and I’d love for you to check out my products here.
  • Get an actually significant amount of cross stitching done. Yeeeesss…? I’m counting this one as completed, but again, there’s a huge amount of cross stitching left to do if I ever want to finish this Christmas stocking.
  • Repair, replace, or remove certain household items. This is another goal that’s about halfway done. I did repair some items that just needed a little hand stitching, but I still need to get my pants hemmed and take a bunch of clothing to Goodwill.

I’m trying to keep my November small goals simple, since I know I’ll be spending a lot of time traveling for the holidays and rehearsing for my church’s Christmas concert.

  • Prep Christmas gifts. I know what I’m going to be giving almost everyone on my list, and I want to prepare them this month so I can drop them off at my family’s house when I visit for Thanksgiving (instead of having to pay to ship them).
  • Open my Etsy store. Yep, for real this time.
  • Dye my hair again. This will be a fun project! I’m trying something new this year–photos to come!
  • Experiment with watercolors. I’ve got some more ideas for my Etsy shop involving watercolors, but I’ve never worked with them before. I’m hoping to harness my husband’s expertise with this.
  • Complete the Skillshare challenge. Skillshare classes were a great help to me when I was learning to hand letter, and I’m hoping to complete the teaching challenge this month so I can start my own hand lettering class.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: A book club I’m part of on Goodreads is going to have its first in-person meeting early next month, and we’re going to be discussing The Girl from the Train. I’m excited to read and discuss it!

TV shows I’ve been watching: I’ll be honest, I’ve only been watching Parks & Rec and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries this month. The first is a great backdrop for my cross stitching work, and the second is a super fun show that I’ve been rewatching with my husband (I’ve already seen all the episodes on Netflix; he hasn’t).

Music I’m loving: I’ve been listening to this song on repeat.

Podcasts Audio books I’m listening to: I’ve read so many audio books this month (and skipped several that I thought I would like and hated about five minutes in). I just finished listening to Words in the Dust, and I found it pretty interesting.

My favorite Instagram:

My sister and her husband visited us in October, and we spent time doing all the great Florida tourist things. We had a great time at the beach (of course).

NewberyandBeyond.com
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If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and some of my new hand lettering ventures), you can do so here.

 

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

October Small Goals + What I’m Into

Today I'm sharing my favorite reads and podcasts from September, my goals for October, and a favorite quote. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my October small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

My goals for September seem to have all gotten about halfway finished:

  • Make an opera cake. Yep, this one is halfway done. My husband and I were planning to assemble this for his birthday, but since he’s been sick and exhausted, we put it off. But no worries! Several of the components have been made and are awaiting their assembly date this Tuesday. (Photos to come!)
  • Get a significant amount of cross stitching done. Hmm… Sort of. I got some cross stitching done, but I’m not sure you could qualify it as “significant.” I’ve really got to get on this.
  • Actually finish making hand lettered cards for Etsy. That’s partly why I chose this month’s Write 31 Days series theme as Lovely Words, to give me an extra incentive to finish some cards. I’ve ordered almost all the supplies I need, so this is the month! (Watch for a link to the shop’s grand opening a couple of weeks from now!)
  • Buy (and wear) red lipstick. This one is actually completed! I got some advice from a sweet employee at Sephora, and I wore the lipstick to church the next day. I felt a bit self-conscious, but also awesome.

Okay, here’s hoping my October small goals go a little better:

  • Have a TBR reading day. My TBR list has gotten over 425 books, and it’s causing me some angst. I want to request a dozen or two of the quickest reads and power through them this month.
  • Open my Etsy store! See above. I’m almost there!
  • Get an actually significant amount of cross stitching done. Again, see above.
  • Repair, replace, or remove certain household items. My purse, for example, is starting to fall apart, and I have a huge pile of clothing that needs to be taken to Goodwill. I need to just get that done.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I just got several books from NetGalley that I’m excited about reading, including a graphic novel version of Snow White and The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen, a Vietnamese chef/blogger that I’ve followed in the past.

TV shows I’ve been watching: I absolutely hated reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, but I’ve always thought it might make a better TV show than a movie. So now that I know it actually is up on Netflix, I’m going to have to check it out.

Music I’m loving: Is it weird that I’ve been getting into Ariana Grande recently?

Podcasts Audio books I’m listening to: I’ve worked my way through my backlog of podcasts, so I finally got a chance to start on Dodger by Terry Pratchett. It’s not at all what I expected, but it’s fun so far and the narrator is great.

My favorite Instagram:

I spent several hours researching and designing a diverse composer card game for my students, and I’m super proud of how it turned out!

NewberyandBeyond.com
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If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and some of my new hand lettering ventures), you can do so here.

Favorite quote this month:

In keeping with my Write 31 Days series, Lovely Words, I’m including one of my favorite quotes that I’ve read recently. As a big reader who occasionally embarrasses herself with a mangled pronunciation, this really resonated with me!

Never make fun of someone if they mispronounce a word. It means they learned it by reading. –Anonymous

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

If you want to read the rest of the posts in the Write 31 Days series Lovely Words, you can find them here.

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