Cheers to the Weekend 4.20.17
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Happy Friday, friends! We've been enjoying some sunshine the past few days, and are taking advantage of our springy weather to throw a literary dinner party for My Kitchen Year this evening! Reichl's cookbook/memoir was another of the books Anne recommended to us on our episode of What Should I Read Next, and we can't wait to see it come together. Do you guys have any fun weekend plans? 

 

Around The Web

This was fascinating to read why some book cover designs get rejected! The side by side comparisons made it so obvious why one cover was chosen over another.

Did you love The Greatest Showman? Here are some books to fill the hole in your heart. The first pick is one of my all time favorites.

We have 4 kids between us, so the idea of a summer book club for our littles is an intriguing one.

Some great, practical suggestions on how to support your local library!

 

Instagram

Sakinah has such a colorful, fun feed; we're loving all the flowers and jewel tones for spring!

Charis is fulfilling our books + travel lifestyle dreams. So jealous!

One of our local bookstores has a beautiful feed and wonderful events happening. Plus, what a cool concept for a bookstore, right?

 

What We're Reading

Michaela is still on a short story kick and is in the middle of Her Body and Other Parties and You Think It, I'll Say It (Thanks to Random House for gifting us a copy of this one!) while Rikki is reading The Bell Jar this week!

 

Literary Dinner | Persuasion
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Since we live a bit farther apart now (seriously we were so spoiled living 4 minutes from each other all those years!), our routine has been thrown off-kilter, so we've been slowly setting into a new normal. We're back to getting together weekly, and with winter hanging on by a thread, we're slowly coming out of our hibernation and feeling our moods lifting and motivation returning. On the final day of spring break, we gathered up our little ones as the sun broke through, and agreed we could attempt an impromptu afternoon tea for our buddy read of Jane Austen's Persuasion

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Persuasion was one of the books that Anne recommended to us on our episode of What Should I Read Next, and we have been waiting for a while to bring it to life. Between a new baby, weather, and holidays, the timing never seemed to quite align. On a mild spring day last week, we were deep in conversation about books, the blog, and life, when somehow we ended up discussing Persuasion again. As the conversation started to gain steam we suddenly stopped, looked at each other, and thought...do we want to do an afternoon tea for Persuasion? Right now? Could we do it, we wondered? "Maybe-- let's try," we said! After all, what's the worst that could happen?

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While we often have a solid plan as well as Michaela's arsenal of home decor to style our dinner parties with, we were at Rikki's that afternoon, so we spontaneously rifled through her eclectic mix of vintage, hand-me-down, and rustic feeling decor to pull this one off. Our goal has always been to ensure our dinner parties are an easy, achievable thing that we do and hope to inspire others to do. While sometimes we pull out all the stops, we wanted to make sure we could still pull one off without a planning process or any additional expenses. We both took off digging through Rikki's cabinets and gathered up items that matched the concept in our heads.

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This afternoon tea was based on the general feel of the novel. Unlike many of Austen's heroines who are rich, outgoing, or spunky (or all three, *ahem* Emma), Anne Elliot is decidedly less flashy. She's a much more reserved woman; she likes to read and quietly observe the various uncouth behaviors of those around her. Her intelligence and wit make her fun to follow, and though she is a quieter heroine than Austen's others, her spirit is just as fierce underneath. Anne resents her father and sister for living garishly and outside of their means, so we wanted to pull together a tea that felt much more true to what she would like: comfortable, relaxed, and homey, but still in that polished English country style that Austen's novels exude.

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From leftover birthday cake, homemade brownies from earlier in the week, and savory scones loaded with herbs from the garden we whipped up on the spot, a delicious tea party took shape. The tea pot came from Rikki's mother-in-law, the table runner used to be her grandmother's, the vintage books were her mom's, the eggs were laid by her chickens, and the greenery is all from her garden. Some linen tea towels along with pretty bowls and platters completed the scene.

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We sat together at the picnic table with our pot of tea while our kids ran around soaking in the sun, and resumed talking about all things Persuasion, books and dinner parties. Even Ms. Speckles came to pay a visit, hoping, no doubt, to find some treats!

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The whole afternoon felt so simple and fresh, and reminded us why we started doing these things in the first place. There is such a simple joy in taking a little extra care to set a beautiful scene for a long conversation with a good friend. We think Anne Elliot would approve.

Cheers to the Weekend 4.14.17
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April showers bring May flowers, but dear god we are so over the rain!!! We're trying to be patient; we know spring it coming, but it's disheartening to get another weekend of rain. We're thankful it's not snow (we feel for you northern states), and are narrowing our eyes to see that silver lining. Back to our cozy blankets and mugs of tea!

Around The Web

One of my favorite series of all time is being MADE INTO A TV SERIES!!!! Cue squealing!

What a great list of all the new spring releases coming out this year. See anything you're excited for?

A "where are they now" list of new books from former Pulitzer Prize winners, which is fascinating.

Pizza + books? Yes please! Check out these awesome pairings! I want #3, please!

 

Instagram

Clean, crisp lifestyle photos that manage variety is kind of our favorite and Signe does it beautifully!

Shanel's account feels vibrant and authentic; the best combo!

Plants, books, and titles we love. Carly is our long lost bookish soulmate!

 

What We're Reading 

Michaela- I just polished off a short story collection called Aetherial Worlds and am on to Her Body and Other Parties! I apparently can't get enough of short stories lately; I have 2 more waiting for me on the holds shelf at the library that I'm going to pick up this afternoon!

Rikki- With spring garden chores increasing with the season, my reading drastically slows. I'm taking my time reading Lincoln in the Bardo and am slowly soaking in Elizabeth and her German Garden. I'm also listening to and loving Barbara Kingsolver's, Vegetable, Animal, Miracle. Spring reading, anyone?!

 

The Perks and Pitfalls of Reading from Our Shelves + #TheUnreadShelfProject2018 Update
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We are unequivocally strong advocates for #theunreadshelfproject2018 that began this year. We absolutely love what it stands for, and the way it encourages readers to take ownership of their purchases and to take control of that ever-growing TBR pile at home. With that said, we are four months in and we've learned some things about ourselves through this project that we didn't think about prior to starting. 

Our shelves Lack diversity

I have not always read so widely and diversely. My book collection has been decades in the making, and doesn't quite reflect the broad range of books I've been drawn to in the past year or two. I've learned and developed so much in recent years that my reading life has had a dramatic overhaul, but my shelves haven't quite caught up. I also quit buying books like I used to. I purchase books I know I'll love, can't wait to read, plus I keep books that have been gifted to me. By contrast, years ago I would just buy anything that sounded good. As my life and tastes mature and grow, I want more than my adolescent book buying self can offer me. Insert: thank you library forever and ever.

Not Using + Supporting Local Libraries

Speaking of the wonderful, wonderful library, I simply cannot forgo supporting it. If nothing else, my children love to go and I love to see what's new, what's recommended, and the simple joy of picking something up at random. It also offers me much more diversity than what I have at home. 

It's Okay to Have Books You Haven't Read

Sometimes it's just having the books that matter. Books create an atmosphere all on their own, and their presence is a constant source of inspiration and encouragement to continue reading. When guests come over, I love to hear their thoughts on books on my shelves that they've read and I haven't. It gives them courage to offer a full, unfiltered opinion, because I can't yet offer one.

 

What We're Loving About The Unread Shelf Project

The best thing about this project so far is simply the encouragement! I feel that wonderful surge of motivation to pick up those beloved books that have been waiting for me! Sometimes you just need someone to give you that little push, and that's exactly what this project has done. I love getting to pick from my shelves and to think about what I want from them before I select anything anywhere else.

Slowing Down the Book Buying Process

Seeing how many books I have to read at home has encouraged me to not buy books I honestly just do not need. If my shelves are already full of books I haven't read, it's foolish to add more, especially if I'm just going to push off reading it now because I own it. 

Using the Library

I simply don't want to break up with my local library, even if it's temporary. Instead of buying books, I go straight to the online library catalog and find what I'm looking for there. Often times, I'll even ask the library to purchase it and they do! Michaela likes to reserve a stack of books for herself online and pop in to pick them up to supplement her reading for the month. 

Progress

As far as general progress, we've both read more off of our shelves than we had been previously. Making it something intentional has prompted us to check our shelves first before we head to the library or pick up a new release, and that simple act of prioritizing has helped us make progress. Mixing in our own books has been actually really satisfying; it's forced us to stop procrastinating on some books we've been meaning to read and evaluate our collections more critically; both excellent things for our reading lives! 

Are you participating in this project? Have you learned anything thus far? 

Cheers to the Weekend 4.7.18
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The April showers are in full effect around here, but we're trying enjoy all the time indoors, knowing this is the last of it. Reading and endless cups of hot tea are just the ticket! Spring is slowly showing up outside and we're anxiously awaiting more sun and the warm, dry days that we know are just ahead.

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Around the web

If your current TBR needs a springy refresh, there's a list for every genre in this list of New Reads for a New Season

Having watched this TED Talk for class recently, I feel the power of diverse literature more than ever.

A recent article on Maggie O'Farrell's memoir, I Am I Am I Am. If you haven't read it yet, check this out, we both loved it and highly recommend it.

These satirical book covers had us snorting our coffee out of our noses laughing.

 

Instagram

We thoroughly enjoy the mood and color of Soraia's feed, plus her excellent taste in books

Amena has such thoughtful captions and conversations surrounding the stories she reads

Living in NYC can be a rush, but Julia showcases it such a timely, beautiful, full of books way

 

What We're Reading This Week 

Michaela - I broke out of the reading slump that had been plaguing me the past 2 months, and devoured both My Kitchen Year and All The Names They Used For God. I'm kicking off the weekend with a fresh read (one I've been anticipating picking up for actual years) called Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay who is my very favorite author!

Rikki - I just finished Digging In for a virtual book club; not my fave, just a little fun entertaining story. I am starting my final assigned reading, The Red Umbrella, and I'm still soaking in all the great YA I've read the last few months. Lastly, I'm finally getting to Lincoln in the Bardo, as well as Flannery O'Connor's short stories,  A Good Man is Hard to Find on audio. So far, so good!

The Importance of Diverse Young Adult Literature
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Reading nearly a dozen young adult novels over the last few months has put a huge spin on my reading life. I previously considered Young Adult novels to be full of angst, drama, and stereotypes worthy of a dramatic eye roll. Not kidding. Clearly, I wasn't picking up the right books. Thinking back, I'm not even sure what gave me these impressions, but clearly I was tainted. Although not completely wrong.

I'm currently taking a class called, "Teaching Young Adult Literature" for graduate school. I'm halfway through a Masters in English, and most every class thus far has left an impact on me, but none so much as this one. We are required to read six diverse YA novels that have a central controversial topic. So far I've just been picking up everything that's been of interest to me from the reading list. I've only put down two. The professor made this list for us, if you're interested in seeing the reading selection. I've loved Eleanor & Park, Turtles All the Way Down, The Sun is Also A Star, and Brown Girl Dreaming. I read many others that weren't on the reading list, but some of which she discussed as we started the course and learned the history of YA literature: The Outsiders was an amazing read, and The Smell of Other People's Houses was a great coincidental library find.

What I've learned is this: YA novels can actually mean something. These books discuss difficult topics that better reflect the real world. The actual genre has been dubbed "New Adult," and holds value for topics that are important in today's society. Many of the books that are being published are giving a voice to minority writers. Not only are we seeing a growth in diverse writers, but in diverse characters as well.

What shocked me the most was that I nearly snubbed an entire genre of literature based on a few books that simply weren't for me. There are seemingly infinite books within each genre, and they are always worth exploring more. From books written in verse, poetry, fiction and non, I've felt like I've really learned something about literature as a whole. I could go on and on about the importance of what I've learned over the last month of taking this course, but I'll spare you. Mostly, I just want to encourage you to try something new, pick up something you don't think you'll like or are wary to try, you just might be surprised.

Additional resources:

Chimamanda is not only a great writer, but has this phenomenal TED Talk. I'm reading this book of hers this month.

An article on the .

Cheers to the Weekend 3.31.18
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It's Easter weekend, so Happy Easter to those who are celebrating! We're pretty low-key around here: egg dying and treat filled baskets for the kiddos and brunch and mimosa's for the adults! My 4 year old is crazy excited for the egg hunt, which is so fun to watch him start to anticipate holidays! What do you guys do to celebrate? 

We're also heading into spring break, and having our kids off of school means more time for Rikki and I to get together and scheme and dream for this space while they play together. We've got some changes coming we're so excited about! 

 

Around the web

I can't help it, hilariously scathing reviews just delight me!

The struggle is REAL when trying to find these vital bookish accessories.

This interview with a bookseller is phenomenal and gave us great ideas for the one we're doing soon!

Looking for books set outside the US, but not set in Europe? Check out Sarah's post. All of the yes!

Our friend Simone keeping it super real about her favorite reading snacks.

 

Instagram

Becca completely nails textures in her simple, but gorgeous book photography.

Oxford Exchange runs one of the best bookstore instagrams we've seen! 

We've been fans of Olivia for a long while now; her lifestyle approach is clean and feels realistic.

 

Wrap Up | March 2018
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*some links are affiliate; we sincerely appreciate your support!

Michaela

My Life in France | Julia Child - This has been on my TBR for about a year and I am so glad I finally picked it up. Julia Child is such a warm, quirky, brave human being, and hearing her story was so inspiring and fun. She has such a great attitude about life, and all her details about Parisian life post WWII were just so richly and wonderfully drawn. I can't recommend this book enough; her narration of her life is one of the most likable I've ever read. If you're at all interested in food memoirs, this one is a must.

The Briefcase | Hiromi Kawakami - I've had a really hard time explaining this book and my feelings about it to anyone. The writing is spare and dreamy, the romance revolves around the idea of comfort and familiarity, while the rest of the story teems with nostalgia. The layering was subtle, but very much present, and the book doesn't tell you how to feel, which is nice; it has such a light touch. It should be something I utterly adored, but I had a hard time connecting to it. It's not that I disliked it, or that it was bad, it just didn't quite land in the right way for me. 

China Rich Girlfriend | Kevin KwanI made it 2/3 of the way through this one and DNF'd it. I read Crazy Rich Asians last year as a fluff read, and since the movie is coming out soon, I decide to pick up this sequel. I think ultimately I just don't care for Kwan's writing, and this plot dragged more than Crazy Rich Asians, so I just couldn't get past the chafe of the writing style. His "voice" gets in the way with this book, and hinders my reading experience for some reason, so it just wasn't worth finishing for me. It happens!

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Rikki

My Life in France | Julia ChildThis was just the most wonderful story ever. I absolutely fell in love with Julia and Paul Child, so inspired by their zest for life and each other. Plus, the time they lived in, especially in Paris, was (post war) phenomenal. When slow, simple living was still the way life was, and Julia wrote about it in such great detail. She was truly a remarkable woman. If you haven't read this book yet, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Turtles all the Way Down | John GreenThis book has helped me firmly decide that I am, indeed, a fan of John Green. This is the fourth of his book I've read, and I've liked them all but been on the fence. While reading this, I've realized that Green is intentionally writing his characters to be offbeat, not quite real, and incredibly interesting, layered people. Whether or not you're into the actual story is really besides the point, because it's the way he writes, the way he thinks, and subsequently the way he makes his characters, that's so fascinating.

Fan Girl | Rainbow RowellI just love Rainbow Rowell, she does a truly phenomenal job at immersing you in not just her stories, but in the characters. Most importantly, the dialogue she writes is RELATABLE. I find that to be the biggest struggle with YA books for me: an unrealistic or dramatized version of how teens are (insert: all the angst). This story is about a teen writer and her introduction to college, being different from others and just so great to follow through the story. I was a little sad when it ended.

Grow the Tree You Got | Tom SturgesI've been on the hunt for some GOOD parenting books that are applicable to my life as a mother, with three children in three very different stages of life. Right now, my oldest is where my focus is, as I hope to help him navigate through the teen years with a little bit of grace for both of us. I enjoyed this book, and while I found it had good "reminders" it didn't really have the cause and effect or general advice I feel like I'm searching for. Really good, though.

The Sun is Also A Star | Nicola YoonA great character-driven story in the midst of New York City. Each chapter switches between character's and gives a well-rounded version and back story of the 'why' leading up to present day events. This was a really hopeful story, and while I was hoping for a better ending, the reality was appreciated. Luck doesn't always fall in our laps, despite the fact that most stories depict otherwise, Yoon was honest and somewhat realistic. 

Brown Girl Dreaming | Jacqueline WoodsonWritten in verse, this book took a bit to get into, but after a short while, I really enjoyed it. Woodson is able to depict her childhood in beautiful detail. She was born during the turn of an era and it was interesting to see the bits of societal and political changes occurring as she was growing up.

Ship Breaker | Paolo BacigalupiUpon starting this book, I did not want to continue reading it. If it wasn't for my class, I wouldn't have. It's set in futuristic North America, and by the time I made it through the first 100 or so pages, I couldn't put it down. I finished the book by mid-afternoon. You're thrown into this world and figure out what's going on as you read, but get enraptured in the story along the way. There are some cringeworthy moments, but nothing that lasted too long. It was well-written all things considered and one I instantly recommended to by son. 

The Smell of Other Peoples Houses | Bonnie Sue HitchcockI was completely, utterly blown away by this story. From four different stories, emerge a beautiful and intoxicating portrayal of young life and the struggles that they endure and ultimately overcome. It's written so well and is incredibly immersive, I couldn't put it down, having to find out what happens next. It's a new top favorite and I highly recommend it to everyone!

Orphan Train | Christina Baker KlineWhat a heartbreaking tale of two women, spanning nearly a century, facing life more or less alone. Full of loss and emotion, I couldn't put this story down either, I had to keep going every chance I got. I admire stories written with such detail based on historical events. Kline's research was done well. I read about the events that lead her to this story and was intrigued by the trail of connections that lead to this book, look it up, it's worth reading.

Anything is Possible | Elizabeth Strout - This book started off with some potential. I was intrigued by the selection of characters introduced, but that is literally it. Nothing actually happens. It's the story of multiple characters without a climax, a point to it all, or just anything exciting taking place. 

The Outsiders | S.E. Hinton - My YA Lit professor listed this book as one of the first YA break out novels that touched on topics relatable to teens. It wasn't part of the required reading, but I was intrigued and ended up reading it. I'm so glad I did. This is a phenomenal, heartbreaking story of societal classes from a teenage boy's perspective. It was actually very similar to The Hate U Give. 

FEATURED REVIEWER

Ellen | @spoilerkween

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Hey y'all! I'm Ellen, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana reader. I have a 1-year-old daughter, Maya, a great husband and a rescue dog named Leslie (after Leslie Knope). I'm a book publicist, which I love, and used to work as a copy editor and designer in Dallas. Mysteries and thrillers are my favorite reads, but I also love sci-fi and fantasy and read a good bit of literary fiction. I've been trying to branch out into nonfiction this year as well, and I'm pretty open to most books! I've loved reading since I was a little child, and I try to find as much time in the day for it as I can. Thanks so much to Rikki and Michaela, not only for letting me be a featured reviewer, but for always patiently answering my endless questions about photography and listening to my pitches.

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The Rosie Project | Graeme Simsion - This book is such a gem. When I started it, I worried that I'd get tired of Don, the main character, but his personality grew on me to the point where I'm now his biggest fan. This is one of those books you want to save for when you are in a reading slump because you'll buzz right through it and be reminded of how lovely a good book can make you feel. I'm holding off on reading the sequel for just such a day.

Beartown | Fredrik Backman - I've loved every Fredrik Backman book I've read, and this was no exception. It was a little heavier than his previous books, but still had that charm and the wonderfully captivating, nuanced characters. A small town in Alaska is rocked by a tragic event, and when divisions form between the people who live there, their lives start to change. Some of the offsides he made about the town and the people in it started to feel a little repetitive after a while, but they also contribute to the insular feeling I think he was going for.  It's hard to explain why I love Backman's books so much, but he has a descriptive way of writing that will make you fall in love (I hope!).

The Force | Don Winslow - This a very intense book, and it features the most compelling anti-hero I've come across since Walter White in Breaking Bad. Denny Malone is the King of Manhattan North -- in charge of "Da Force", which is tasked with controlling the streets. But he crosses the line to dirty cop, and his life becomes chaos. But you can kind of understand why he did what he did, and the reasoning behind some of his decisions, which may make you question what you would do in his shoes. This isn't an easy read -- it's filled with toxic masculinity, racism and cop cliches, which I guess are reality for some policemen, but that didn't make it easier to get through. That being said, it's an excellent book that makes you think about the choices we make and the roads we venture down. Also, this book will encourage you to stay off drugs, kids. Goodness.

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy | Nova Jacobs - I was super excited to get this for my Book of the Month pick in March because it literally says "A novel in clues," which sounded so fun! But alas, while there was a good bit of math and were some mysteries to be solved, I was a bit let down on the clue front. Don't get me wrong, it's a good book, but I felt like it didn't live up to the expectations I had for it. It's more a story about a screwed up family in close proximity for the first time in a while for their patriarch's funeral. He leaves a cryptic message for his granddaughter, Hazel, and she has to figure out what it means and decide who in the family she can trust. See, still sounds good, right? I just thought it would be kind of like a DaVinci Code-style book, following trails of hints! Ah well, not to worry. I still enjoyed the family dynamics and the interesting mathematical concepts.

OTHER NOTES

April is tomorrow, and spring is upon us! Are you joining us in our literary lifestyle photo prompts this month? We've got some tips on taking spring photos to help you out, if you are.

More dinner parties are headed your way! We've got a slew of things lined up for the spring season and we can't wait to show you!

 

 

Tips to Photograph Spring Books

Spring has finally arrived, and we all took a collective deep breath to welcome in that fresh spring air. There's no time like spring to pull oneself out of hibernation and outside in the sunshine. We know there might be some snow melting where you are, or rainy days ahead, but a bouquet of fresh flowers will add some cheer as it all starts to fade away. 

If you're familiar with our literary lifestyle photos, you'll already know how much I love light and texture. Spring and fall are two of the best times of year to really, truly embrace those elements. If you're interested in taking photos outside, slide on your rainbows and take a walk. You'll want to take notice of all that's changing outside your front door. It might be awfully subtle, but trust me, it's there. The longer days give us ample opportunity to explore. Since things are just starting to grow and bloom, look a little closer for those details. 

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01 | Light

Find a well lit area. Think natural light.

02 | Texture

What can you pull into the frame to create visual appeal and add texture? 

03 | Focus

 Tap the subject on your phone camera to make sure the exposure and focus is in the right place

04 | Straight lines

Use the grid option to use the rule of thirds and/or line up that horizon

05 | Step back, step forward

Looking at what you're photographing, it's always worth it to take a step back and see more of what's around you. Likewise, take a step in to get nice and close. 

06 | Signs of Life

Whether you're putting yourself in the frame or having someone model for you, showing a bit of yourself can offer the best sign of life in your photo. Alternately, pull in that bouquet you just picked up to brighten your home or step outside to show off the season where you are (see above photo).

07 | Create a Mood Board

We love Pinterest for this reason, but also the collections option on Instagram. If you have trouble pinpointing your style or what you're most attracted to, creating a mood board, however you might do it, will collectively show what you like. You'll see a common thread in the images you save, the images that inspire you, and the style you naturally gravitate toward.

 

For a more detailed post with photography tips, check out this post here. If you have any other questions or tips, feel free to let us know in the comments below!

Cheers to the Weekend 3.24.18
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Around the web

If you're like us, you're ready for some lighter, ready-for-spring books. This is a great list we'd love to explore.

Need a boost about your fiction reading life? Or, need to validate more fiction? Read The Jane Austen Cure.

Shakespeare retellings from female perspectives? We can't wait to watch what Margot Robbie does with it!

On the endless appeal of boarding school settings for writers and readers alike.

 

Instagram

Like a strong cup of coffee, Richele has a sense of self, often poetic, as you scroll through her feed. I sincerely enjoy her posts

Samantha's photos breathe a bit of life as we pull ourselves out of winter

Aah, the literary lifestyle is always enjoyable to follow. Alex has a lovely way of documenting a book with her in all scenarios

Signs of life and spring seems to be catching our eye lately, and Maria seems to be selecting all the right books