Summer Movie Series — A Family Quest

hello sunshine

In our family, summer is a time to accomplish some serious reading. Yes, its true that we read all year long (a lot) and that reading is at the center of all of our down-time. But in the summer, all that glorious free-time beckons us to read, and read, and read…by the pool, at the beach, on car trips, on rainy days, during half-time at soccer games and boring stretches of baseball games and any other free moment that we can find.

While reading is a major part of our summer, we realized last year that it is a solitary past-time, one that we can only share occasionally. So we instituted a Summer Family Movie Series: a list of summer-themed movies that we can watch together (some just the adults) to be entertained and spend time together. We went on a quest to make a list of all of the movies we could think of that take place during the summer, or that for some inexplicable reason seem “summery,” and decided we would watch as many as possible during the summer…whenever the familiar refrain of “there’s nothing to do” was moaned, we would go to the list and watch one.

Our goal is not to watch them all, but to see as many as possible each year and to save these titles for summer viewing only. We find that their designation as summer movies that we don’t watch otherwise during the year make them seem more special.

I thought I would post a list of our favorite summer movies on the blog, and I would welcome suggestions from readers about their favorites that we might have missed.

Enjoy!

FOR ALL AGES

  • The Parent Trap — both the original, which I love, and the Lindsay Lohan version, which my kids prefer.
  • Earth to Echo
  • The Sandlot
  • Holes
  • Aliens in the Attic
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Phineas and Ferb the Movie
  • Camp Rock
  • Teen Beach Party
  • Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer
  • Cars and Cars 2
  • Finding Nemo and Finding Dory
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008 version)
  • Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012 version)
  • Bedtime Stories
  • Field of Dreams (this can be a bit boring for very young kids, but baseball lovers of all ages will enjoy it.)
  • All of the feature-length Scooby Doo Movies. My husband and I loved the show as kids and my kids all love it now. We own many of these movies and they are on a heavy-rotation every summer. (Side note: Scooby Doo Camp Scare takes place in summer.) Some of our other favorites include: Scooby Doo and the Samurai Sword, Aloha Scooby Doo, Pirates Ahoy, Blue Falcon, and Big Top. A full list of these movies can be found here http://www.imdb.com/list/ls070492058/

FOR TEENS AND UP

  • Super 8
  • Forrest Gump
  • Jaws — our teen is really into scary movies, this might not be a good fit for all teens. (Don’t be fooled by it’s PG rating, it was released before PG-13 designations were created.)
  • Jurassic Park 1, 2, 3 and Jurassic World
  • Indiana Jones 1-4 (our family favorite remains Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  • Independence Day and Independence Day Resurgence
  • Fever Pitch
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (our favorite remains #1)
  • A League of Their Own

FOR ADULTS (clearly some are more low-brow then others, but still watchable, some others which I watch alone because my husband refuses)

  • Rear Window
  • Endless Summer
  • National Lampoons Vacation and European Vacation
  • Before Sunrise
  • Die Hard with Vengeance
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Point Break
  • The Great Outdoors
  • Summer Rental
  • Weekend at Bernies
  • 50 First Dates
  • The Bird Cage
  • Stand by Me
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Friday the 13th (and to a lesser degree, Sleep Away Camp)
  • Thelma and Louise
  • The Hangover and Bridemaids — these are not an official pairing, but they are both wild wedding comedies that we seem to watch back to back every summer… definitely not for kiddos!!

Summer Reading for Kids!

Many parents I know, hope to encourage their children to use the summer months to read more, either to keep up with learning outside of school or to help them build the life-long habit of being regular readers.

Research suggests that for kids to develop the habit of reading they need:

  • Access to books, magazines, audio-books, and graphic novels. Try not to limit the content, topic, or format. Reading is reading, illustrated books and audio-books included.
  • Quiet time in their day (or week) set aside for reading, or at least without screens. Boredom can be a great motivator to read.
  • Encouragement from adults that reading is fun and valuable. The most crucial way parents can raise readers is for their children to see them reading regularly!
  • Rewards for readers — and this is critical — that re-enforce reading habits. That means reward reading with reading…more books, more trips to the library, or perhaps a purchase of a new book. Avoid rewarding them with screen time, snacks, or toys.
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A favorite way that we motivate our younger kids to read: book scavenger hunts or book bingo pages! More fun than a standard book log!

My children are all very devoted readers and read all year, with the summer being a time when their reading shifts into overdrive. We do not need to encourage them to read more, per se, but we are careful to make sure that we visit the library several times a week, that we allow for quiet time for reading every day, and (this one is really important), we keep a stash a books in every car, every backpack, every pool or beach bag — so every trip, long or short, can be filled up with reading. (Side note: we stock up at the used book store in summer to prevent damage to library books.)

IF YOU WANT A GOOD BOOK TO READ WITH YOUR KIDS, TRY…

The Harry Potter series, enough said. If you have not read these to your kids, this summer you finally should (or alternately listen to the incomparable Jim Dale read the audiobooks to your whole family.)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall is a delightful book (and series) that follows a family of sisters who are always busy stirring up trouble on their summer vacations. The three delightful sequels that follow are also worth the read, readers get to see the sisters through their girlhood and into college.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George is a timeless tale of a boy who feels too crowded by life in the city, so he sets out to live by his wits in the wilderness. Totally fascinating stories of survival that will enchant your whole family.

The Diary of A Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. I know, parents love to hate these books but kids LOVE them and they really are very funny. A great one to read curled up together, laughing at Kinney’s hysterical drawings.

The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton is a adorable story about the world’s most awesome treehouse — thirteen stories of pools, game rooms, junk food-filled kitchens, and more! It also has four great sequels.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Chris Grabenstein) This wonderfully inventive story tells of a group of children who must work together using clues from their favorite books to find a way to escape from the new town library, built by a wacky gamemaker named Mr. Lemoncello. The sequel, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olpymics is just as good — maybe better — than the original.

My boys also loved classic The Phantom Tollbooth by Jules Feiffer, the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon and, having nothing better to do, drives through it in his toy car, transporting him to the Kingdom of Wisdom, once prosperous but now troubled. Also a classic to read this summer is Half Magic by Edward McMaken Eager, which will have you and your kids scrambling to do the math on just how to make the perfect wish!

Absolutely everything by Rick Riordan (by kids love the narrator of his audiobooks too!) and all of the kids books by James Patterson are sure to thrill young readers too!

How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell, so funny and filled with ridiculous translations and tips for dragon-care.

IF YOUR KIDS ARE FANS OF GRAPHIC NOVELS, TRY…

The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi

Anything by Raina Telgemeier, particularly her novels Sisters and Smile.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Try the gorgeously illustrated novels that re-tell the Star Wars stories, The Star Wars Illustrated Series (3 book but various authors) http://www.goodreads.com/series/150336-star-wars-illustrated-novels

IF YOU HAVE A FAN OF YOUNG ADULT NOVELS, TRY…

Anything by Rainbow Rowell! I have reviewed all of her books (YA and Adult) on this blog and I keep begging my friends, sister, husband, son, and everyone else to read her books. For Harry Potter fans try Carry On (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-m6) and for those who love a heart-wrenching teen romance pick up Eleanor & Park (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-nD)

Another great YA read is the His Dark Materials — The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass —  series by Philip Pullman. You will be entranced by these fantasy novels about parallel worlds whose residents are locked in an epic battle with the dark side.

Lois Lowry’ slim sci-fi dystopia, The Giver, is also a wonderful book (and a wonderful series) that you can finish in one lazy afternoon. If you are a fan of The Hunger Games series, you will love this one as well. Other notable YA sci-fi: The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins are all worth read, as are Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series, and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

Summer-reading-bingo

You can print these out full-screen to post on the fridge to help your kids keep track of reading!

Summer Reading for 2017!

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Here in the US, Memorial Day weekend — which begins tomorrow — marks the unofficial start of summer: pools and water-parks open, the weather is warm, school is almost out, and the lazy days of summer are stretching out in front of us for the next three months.

Last year I published a list of books to enjoy during summer vacation, and I heard from lots of readers who appreciated the list. Here is the list for adults again, with all new books added for 2017! A list for kids and young adults will be coming soon.

Enjoy!

IF YOU LIKE A JUICY DRAMA, TRY…

I love at the Australian author, Liane Moriarty, and her books are all deliver wild, twisting, melodramas with a great sense humor. My favorites are Big Little Lies, What Alice Forgot, and The Hypnotist’s Love Story (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-g6)

Any book by British author Jojo Moyes would be perfect for summer reading. Her books tend to be emotional, romantic dramas with characters you cannot help but fall in love with. I would highly recommend her World War I drama, The Girl You Left Behind, if you like historical fiction, but her present day books One Plus One (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-dS) and Me Before You and its sequel, After You (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1W) are also gems.

IF YOU LIKE CURRENT BESTSELLERS, TRY…

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. The latest book by The Girl on the Train author, even better and more chilling than her first. An exploration into a river that has claimed the lives on many women over the centuries…and the secrets the nearby town holds about those deaths. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2jB

The 12 Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti is a coming of age drama and a revenge thriller rolled into one. Really compelling and wonderfully written! http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2cW

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda about a disgraced journalist trying to solve a crime that she is suspected of being involved with. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2oB

The Girl Before by JP Delaney about a hi-tech house of the future that controls the lives of the women who are “selected” to live there. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2hq

IF YOU LIKE DEEP & POWERFUL DRAMAS, TRY.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende is a family drama the covers a decades-long secret love affair; with gorgeous discussions on love, family, racism, war, grief, marriage, and aging. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1Gx

All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Simply put, this is one of the best books I have ever read. An amazing tale of WW2, as explored through the experiences of two young children…utterly spell-binding. This is the blog post that I am most proud of as well, http://wp.me/p6N6mT-7C

The Blue Hour by Laura Pritchett is a story of several people living on a mountain in Colorado, whose lives are at once isolated and deeply intertwined. Gorgeous! http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1XY

Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff is a unique story of a family’s legacy as the founders of a small NY town, told in a wild and experimental style that is fresh and engaging. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-Po

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman is a heart-wrenching story of two people whose grief makes them raise a baby girl as their own. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2ic

IF YOU LIKE BOOKS SET AT THE BEACH, TRY…

Anything by Elin Hilderbrand, whose books are all set on the island of Nantucket and never fail to deliver a great story with wonderfully written characters, a dash of drama, and lush descriptions of Nantucket and its residents. My favorites are: Barefoot, The Island, Beautiful Day, and (for a dash of magic and love) The Matchmaker.

I would be remiss if I did not add Jaws by Peter Benchley to the list, just read it by the pool not oceanside. Perfect to pair with a viewing of the classic Spielberg movie.

IF YOU LIKE A GOOD THRILLER, TRY…

I know, I know almost everyone had read this book, but just in case you missed it, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (and also her equally stunning book Sharp Objects) are spine-tingling thrillers with diabolical female characters. You will not be able to put them down, I promise.

I also loved Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins in which a wildly unreliable narrator takes readers along while she tries — with great difficulty — to solve a missing person case and to keep her own life from unraveling completely.

If you are up for supernatural horror novel that will keep you up at night, try Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-D) which matches up two wild characters with checkered pasts and cursed artifact for a terrifying ghost story. I was so scared reading this my husband had to walk me to the bathroom every night for a week!

IF YOU WANT A BOOK TO RECONNECT YOU TO NATURE, TRY…

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver is a book about our complex, convoluted, and ultimately beautiful relationship with nature; told with such restrained brilliance that I want to read every single sentence out loud to my husband while reading (and often do!) http://wp.me/p6N6mT-pZ

If you prefer a non-fiction exploration of our relationship with the natural world, pick up a copy of Michael Pollan’s Second Nature or The Botany of Desire. Although he is now known for his food writing, his books about nature are both outstanding and well worth reading for a gorgeously written, deeply researched, but totally accessible discussions about the great outdoors.

IF YOU LIKE MURDER MYSTERIES, TRY…

The Cormoran Strike books, written (under a pseudonym Robert Galbraith) by the incomparable J.K. Rowling, are three thrilling and highly literate PI murder mystery novels, with a touch of humor, page-turning story lines, and with two main characters that you can’t help but want to follow down the next dark alley. Not to be missed! (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1l)

For those who can handle very grisly murder mysteries, I highly recommend all the books by author Karin Slaughter. Her stand alone book Pretty Girls (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-21  was so exciting that I ignored my husband for entire day on vacation to finish it, but I also adore both the Sara Linton (Book #1 http://wp.me/p6N6mT-bU ) and Will Trent ( book #1 http://wp.me/p6N6mT-hL ) series of murder mysteries by her as well.

If you prefer a mystery that has no gore whatsoever, try out the Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear. Set between WWI and WWII in England, these wonderful written, historically accurate stories about a young, female private investigator trying to solve crimes and forward her position as a single woman in a time where women are largely kept at home. Reviews of the most recent two books in the twelve book series, here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-5n and here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-iH

IF YOU LIKE BREEZY ROMANCES, TRY…

My perennial favorite, Nora Roberts, is the queen of romance novels to read beachside. If you are in search of supernatural romance, try Three Sisters Island trilogy which follows three witches who must use their powers to stop an dark, menacing presence haunting their beloved island. I also adore her family saga The Chesapeake Bay Saga (four books) which follows four men as they build a business, a family, and four lasting marriages…wonderful!

If you like a large dose of humor with your romances, there is no better book series to pick up for your next trip to the pool than Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. These books are so ubiquitous that you can find stacks of them at any thrift shop! Start with book one, One for the Money, and read right through to number Tricky Twenty Two (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-3x ) to laugh along with bounty hunter Stephanie Plum and her largely incompetent set of companions. Are these books silly and at times nonsensical? Sure. Are they also hysterical and a ton of fun to read? Absolutely. Last summer I re-read all of them and they were still great even though I knew who-done-it.

IF YOU WANT TO TRAVEL (FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR POOL CHAIR), TRY…

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a travelogue and memoir that I enjoy immensely every time I re-read it.

Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and Wild by Cheryl Strayed are totally different but equally compelling stories of hiking and self-exploration. Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There about his 1980s travels in Europe is also a great read, http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1yk

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is a classic that tells the amazing story of an American family forced to emigrate from their home during the Great Depression. Upon re-reading it I found its themes of poverty, immigration, and farm workers rights, are all still deeply powerful and relevant.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem is a travelogue and a memoir, as well as a history of American feminism. Full of stories of the women and men around the country, in big cities and rural towns, and all of the amazing things they have taught her about what in really means to be an American.

Celebrating the International Day of Happiness!

Today, March 20th, is the official International Day of Happiness, a day of global celebration and reflection: celebrating those things we have to be happy about and reflecting on our level of contentment with the lives we are living and whether we could do more to help others lives happier lives as well.

Happiness is a subject that I spend a lot of time thinking about — my own, but also that of my family, friends, and community — and, because of I love reading, the subject of many of the books that I read.

In honor of the International Day of Happiness, here is a list of some of my favorite books on the subject:

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

An author’s year-long exploration of what small changes we can all make to create a happier life for ourselves and our loved ones. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/gretchen-rubin-part-1/

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

Reflections on how our home, family, and neighborhood all can contribute mightily to our level of happiness and offers ideas on how to cultivate habits that keep your home source of contentment and happiness. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/happier-at-home-by-gretchen-rubin-2012/

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

A habit-strategy book that explores how knowing yourself better can help you find the best solutions for starting, and keeping, good habits. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/better-than-before/

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

A fierce and fiery memoir about one woman’s discovery that she had the power — all on her own — to overcome addiction and build a life of love for herself and her family. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/love-warrior-by-glennon-doyle-melton-2016/

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

A book that introduces the idea that people have very different ways in which they feel loved and by learning what actions you can take to show how much you care, you can improve your relationships and strengthen your love for one another. This book has had profound impact on how I treat all of the people I love — my spouse, for sure, but also my parents, children, and friends as well. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/the-five-love-languages-by-gary-chapman-2010-edition/

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

A small and cheerful book about why it is important to cultivate simple, cozy rituals that help boost your happiness and appreciate all the good things — food, home, friends, naps — in your life. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/the-little-book-of-hygge-by-meik-wiking-2017/

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

A book about harnessing your creativity — in whatever form it takes — to enrich your life and help you share your knowledge and ideas with the world, all while embracing and encouraging those around you to do the same without judgement or competition. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/big-magic/

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Maria Condo

I am always astounded by what a profoundly negative effect peoples cluttered homes have on their lives. Condo preaches a form of simplicity that starts with one simple idea: throw away the junk that is filling up your house and holding you back. Not for everyone, but definitely thought-provoking look at how we confuse having stuff with being happy. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/12/27/the-life-changing-magic-of-tidying-up-by-marie-kondo-2014/

The Far Side by Gary Larson

My kids recently “discovered” the wonderful, hilarious comic strip The Far Side. They checked out all 25 books in The Far Side Collection from the library and we all have been laughing over them for almost two weeks. Since each is only one panel, it only takes a few seconds to read and get the giggles. They have made us all so much happier!

A Walk in the Woods and Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson

These books are not about happiness, per se, but they are so funny and that I laugh the whole way through reading them, which is a huge happiness booster! (Both are great audiobooks too!)

https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/a-walk-in-the-woods-by-bill-bryson-2008/

https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/neither-here-nor-there-by-bill-bryson-1992/

My Best Books of 2016!

In honor of New Year’s Eve, I am posting a list of my favorite books of the year. Since I read books published in 2016 as well as many, many books written in previous years, I decided my list will include any book I finished (and loved) this year, irregardless of when it was published. I have also included two books I read last year, but re-read this year so I feel like they are fair game for a “best of” list.

Here they are…

All the Light You Cannot See (Anthony Doerr) A true masterpiece and one of the best books I have ever read, All the Light is a story of war, loss, and survival for two children during World War II. Written with some of the most magical, enchanting language I have ever come across. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/all-the-light-we-cannot-see/

Career Of Evil (Robert Galbraith) This is book three in the incomparable murder mystery collection, the Comoran Strike series, told by a master storyteller.  A fiercely intelligent, funny, and honest book with two main characters that are impossible not to love and a mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/career-of-evil/

Carry On (Rainbow Rowell)and Landline, and Attachments, and Eleanor & Park, and Fan Girl! I discovered and read every single word Rainbow Rowell has ever published this year and I loved every last one of them!  In Carry On, Rowell has crafted a YA fantasy that is magical, funny, modern, and lovely. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/carry-on-by-rainbow-rowell-2015/

The Revenant (Michael Punke) A gripping, fast-paced historical novel about the rugged, dangerous lives of the men who were working to create a home for themselves in the wilderness of the upper Midwest in the mid-1800’s. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2015/12/21/the-revenant/

Journey to Munich (Jacqueline Winspear) The most recent installment of Winspear’s wonderful series which are set in early 20th century England and focus on “psychological investigator” Maisie Dobbs. All of the books in the series are intellectual mysteries told in stunning historical detail. This one is her best yet: https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/journeytomunich/

Monsters of Templeton (Lauren Groff) This novel was unlike any book I read this year: a story about a young woman, her family, and her hometown that is told using stories both past and present about the main character as well her relatives and neighbors. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/the-monsters-of-templeton/

Euphoria (Lily King) A slim novel documenting the experiences of three brilliant anthropologists living and conducting research among the native peoples of Papua New Guinea in the 1930’s. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/euphoria-by-lily-king-2014/

Prodigal Summer (Barbara Kingslover) In one of Kingsolver’s most gorgeous books, readers will find a story of about the magic that comes alive in the (human and animal) world during the heady months of summer. An epic piece of writing about our intimate connection to the world around us and the other people who inhabit it along-side us. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/prodigal-summer-by-barbara-kingsolver-2000/

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Rachel Joyce) This book tells the story of an aging British man who breaks with years of routine to set off on a walk across England to visit a dying friend. Along the way he sheds years of grief and pain and becomes a new version of himself. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/the-unlikely-pilgrimage-of-harold-fry/

Blindsighted (Karin Slaughter) Although this singular book is not exceptional on its own, I am including it because discovering Karin Slaughter’s two intertwining series of murder mystery books (the Grant County and Will Trent series) this past year meant that I was given hours upon hours of wonderful (if a bit gruesome) reading material from this talented and prolific author. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/blindsighted-by-karin-slaughter-2002/

As a side-note to those of you who have children or love to read children’s literature, my sons thought I should mention some of the books we read as a family and really loved this year.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (Books 1-4). These four delightful books follow the lives of the spirited, loving, independent Penderwick sisters and tell of their many adventures. A review of book four can be found here: https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/the-penderwicks-in-spring/

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Chris Grabenstein) This wonderfully inventive story tells of a group of children who must work together using clues from their favorite books to find a way to escape from the new town library, built by a wacky gamemaker named Mr. Lemoncello.

Illustrated Versions of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets These editions take our family’s most beloved books and give them new energy and a renewed sense of magic. Jim Kay’s artwork is absolutely gorgeous. https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/harry-potter-and-the-sorcerers-stone-by-jk-rowling/

Thanks for Thanksgiving!

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I love Thanksgiving! It fills me which such an enormous sense of happiness to spend a day (or more) reflecting on all of the wonderful things I have to be thankful for and for enjoying a fun day (or more) with my extended family.

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No matter where we are, it does not feel like Thanksgiving if the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is not on in the background!

In addition to all of the wonderful blessings in my life, I am so thankful to be embarking tomorrow on nine-day long Thanksgiving celebration. This year my husband, our sons, and I are all flying to Orlando, Florida to celebrate Thanksgiving with seventeen members of my family. We will be having a modified Thanksgiving meal, but we will also be spending time at Universal Studios Orlando, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Walt Disney World. Not to mention that our rental house has a heated pool, a game room, and a movie theater…just in case we run out of things to do together. What more could a family ask to be grateful for?

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What a wonderful new tradition we are introducing for 2016…Thanksgiving with Harry Potter!

I feel extremely lucky that I love my family (and my in-laws) and our time together is generally drama-free and filled with funny movies, board games, and laughter-filled walks down memory lane. That does not mean, however, that it is not valuable to give some thought to ways to make the holiday happier before traveling to be with so many of my relatives (17!) and spending such a long time together (9 days!) in the same house.

Since many of you will be spending the upcoming holiday weekend with extended family members, I thought I should share a blog post from my beloved Happiness Guru, Gretchen Rubin, that shares some ideas about staying happy and stress-free when spending time with loved ones during the holidays:

http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2014/11/8-tips-for-dealing-with-difficult-relatives-during-the-holidays/

Since I won’t have time to post to the blog until after the holiday, here is a re-post of my Thanksgiving “Thankfulness” blog from last year.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

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Originally posted November 25, 2015…

During this season of gratitude and reflection, I have been reading a lot from various writers in magazines, newspapers, blogs about the things they are most thankful for. These various stories have been heart-warming, tear-jerking, and humorous. In honor of Thanksgiving day, I thought I would try my hand at writing my own reflections. What follows are my thoughts on the many gifts — both large and small — that I am grateful to have been given in my life.

I am thankful for the start of the holiday season, my favorite time of year. All year I look forward to celebrating with feasts, decorations, lights, parties, and special outings with my family. I love roasting turkeys, decorating our Christmas tree, singing carols, and wrapping presents. I am thankful for all the families who send us beautiful Christmas cards, who invite us to holiday parties, who join us for sledding in the park.

I am thankful for the cooler weather, which brings my family together more, curled up under blankets reading books, watching holiday movies (or more often football) together, enjoying the tree lit up at night, or perhaps watching “Charlie Brown Christmas.” I am thankful my kids are still young enough to enjoy Charlie Brown!

I am thankful for our small, snug little house, which keeps the four most important people in my life safe and warm, day after day. I am thankful for our soft beds, our shelves full of books, souvenirs and picture albums. I am thankful for a kitchen filled with delicious healthy foods, where we share meals together every morning and night.

I am thankful for the town in which we live, with its great public schools and its beautiful nature preserve where we go almost everyday. I am thankful for our local library where my family has checked out thousands of books and attended hundreds of programs over the years. I am thankful to live close to some of my family. I am also thankful for our community swimming pool where we spend our summers, the the Six Flags amusement park where we go often to ride coasters and water slides.

I am thankful for my parents, who live nearby so that we see them often. I am thankful for their continued good health, their constant willingness to babysit, and their generosity towards my children, my husband and me. This year I am especially thankful for their Christmas gift to us all, a week-long stay at Universal Studios Orlando (Harry Potter World, here we come!)

I am thankful for my mother-in-law, who is always accommodating and naturally easy to please, who is happy in every circumstance. She travels hundreds of miles every fall to visit with us and to give my husband and me a priceless holiday gift, time off from the kids to take a small vacation for just the two of us.

I am thankful for my extended family of my siblings, their spouses, and my nieces and nephews. While we may be far flung and only see each other occasionally, I am thankful that our time together is not filled with drama (or not much) but with good humor and laughter and board games.

I am thankful for my three beautiful sons, for their strong, healthy bodies that help them hike, bike, run, climb trees, play sports, and swim all summer long. I am thankful for their smart minds, their love of school, their curiosity about the world around them. I am especially thankful that they share my love of reading and books; I get a thrill finding them all tucked in on the couch, each reading his own book. I am thankful that they are filled with joy during the holiday season, thrilled to take part in ice-skating parties, putting up Christmas lights, picking out gifts for their brothers to open on Christmas morning, and all of our other holiday traditions. I am thankful to hear their shouts as they join my husband in cheering on their favorite football team (Go Tigers and Ravens!) and their laughter while re-watching Home Alone for the 1000th time.

I am thankful for my wonderful, loving husband who has been the very best partner for the past 15 years of marriage. I am thankful to be able share the joy of raising our children together and our pride in the family we have become. I am thankful for his patience, his calm nature, his kindness, his sense of humor, his willingness to let me sleep in (and even wear earplugs during sleepovers). I am thankful for how hard he works at two jobs to provide a life of comfort and security for our family and so that I may stay home with our children while they are young. I am thankful for our shared love of books, of long runs, of delicious meals, and of early bedtimes! I am thankful that he shares my love of the holiday season, and that we get equal joy out of all our holiday traditions. Selfishly, I am also grateful that is he a wonderful gift-giver, who makes sure that I have wonderful, unique gifts to open on Christmas morning, which makes me feel like a kid when I go to sleep on Christmas Eve.

I am thankful for the friends in my life, who share books, parenting advice, and laughter. The women who provide me with company and conversation at play dates and soccer games, and who share the hilarity and stress of raising kids. I am thankful for my book clubs for sharing my love of reading and for my workout partners who never fail to call me to meet them for Pilates or a run. I am also thankful for my friends who live far away, many who I have not seen in years, but who still take the time to email, text, and chat with me so we do not lose touch.

I am thankful for my own health, for a strong body that runs and hikes many miles each year, that keeps up with three active kids, that allows me to lift weights, do yoga, and lets me sleep deeply every night. I am thankful that I was able to give birth easily to three healthy babies, then was able to nurse them all. (Let me add here, that I am thankful for the amazing midwives who assisted me through those births, and my husband who never left my side.) I am thankful that I have the stamina, energy and optimism to live the life I want for myself.

I am thankful for these things, and so much more.

Happy Thanksgiving 2015

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In addition to our tradition of watching the parade, we always have a family-wide screening of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. When the kids are in bed, the adults all watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

I’ve Just Finished Reading… Turns 1!

Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog, a happy and proud day for me!

This blog has been a wonderful source of happiness and growth over the past year. It has been a way for me to connect with my fellow book-lovers around the world and, as you can guess from the title of my blog,  the blog has allowed me to recommend books to my friends and family (and to total strangers!) and to tell loved ones who have recommended books to me how much I enjoyed them.

I have been so thankful for all of my readers and visitors — especially my followers! — who have been so supportive: not just reading my blog, but sharing it, liking it, and commenting on it! (Side note: I LOVE your comments! Keep ’em coming, I promise to reply.) I hope that at least one of you found a good book that you may not have otherwise read because of this blog.

In the past year, I have posted 122 times which have been viewed by almost 3,000 readers. You all like my fiction posts best, with your all time highest views coming for the five Rainbow Rowell books I reviewed. (I promise to review any new books by her as soon as possible.) You like to read my blog best on Mondays and more of you visited my site in June than any other month; I promise to keep that in mind in the coming year.

Once again, thank you all, and happy reading!