How to Make Holiday Decorations Using Greenery from Your Yard

I love the smell of fresh greenery in the house, especially around the holidays.  Every year, I purchase a fresh wreath and swag to decorate with each holiday season, like the gorgeous examples below.  This year, however, I decided to get a little more creative (and thrifty) and make fresh holiday decorations using greenery from our yard.  I made a rosemary swag (which I hinted about last Friday) and a magnolia wreath, and they were both so easy and fun to make!

Rosemary Swag Holiday Decoration

During the Christmas season when I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I love to hang a fresh swag holiday decoration on the window above my kitchen sink.  I normally order a balsam or juniper swag, but this year I decided to use fresh rosemary from our garden instead.   It only took about 10 minutes to cut the rosemary and assemble the swag, and it makes my kitchen smell soooo good.

rosemary swag holiday decoration

Step 1: Gather Materialsrosemary swag holiday decoration


  • floral wire
  • fishing line
  • ribbon – I like to use the type with wire on the edges, but any kind is fine.
  • greenery – I used rosemary because that is what I had in the garden, but you could also use fir, spruce, pine, holly, or any other nice looking greenery that has a nice drape to it.

Step 2: Wrap Greenery with Floral Wire

rosemary swag holiday decoration

Bunch your greenery together wherever it looks most pleasing – I bunched mine about 1/4 of the total length down from the clipped end.  I also staggered the ends a little so that it looked more natural.  Wherever you choose, wrap securely with floral wire.  You can shape the ends to your liking at this point.

Step 3: Tie Fishing Line and Ribbon

rosemary swag holiday decoration

Measure the area where you want to hang your swag.  For me, this was from the hook above the window above my sink.  Double this measurement and add a few inches.  Cut this length in fishing line.  Loop the fishing line through the floral wire bunch and knot the two ends of the fishing line securely, making a big fishing line loop.  Next, tie your ribbon into a pretty bow around the floral wire bunch and through the fishing line loop.  I like to leave the ribbon ends loose.  Your swag holiday decoration is ready to hang!

Magnolia Wreath Holiday Decoration

Rather than spending $50+ on a fresh magnolia leaf wreath this year, I spent an hour of my time and only $11 on supplies that I can use year after year.  Not only did I save money by making my own special holiday decoration, I get so much joy from seeing something beautiful I created hanging on my front door!

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Step 1: Gather Materials

magnolia wreath holiday decoration


  • grapevine wreath – I got a 14″ wreath from Hobby Lobby (only $3.99), but you can use whatever size looks best where you want to hang it.  Remember, it will look about 4 inches larger across once you have the leaves on.
  • 80-120 magnolia leaves, depending on the size of your wreath and your preference on fullness – I have two magnolias in my front yard, so I cut the ends off a few low-hanging branches.  If you don’t have a magnolia tree, look for trees around your neighborhood.  One of my neighbors recently trimmed her tree and had branches and branches of leaves by the road waiting for trash pickup.
  • ribbon
  • floral wire
  • hot glue
  • scissors

Step 2: Cut Magnolia Leaves

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Cut each leaf off of the branch, leaving the leaf stems long.  While you cut, be thinking about what sizes you have and which leaves look nice together.  Toss any curled or diseased leaves or any leaves with bugs on them (I had a few with spiderwebs!).  Your hands will smell amazing when you finish this step!

Step 3: Group Leaves with Floral Wire

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Gather magnolia leaves into groups of 4-5 leaves with larger leaves in the back and smaller leaves in the front.  Fan them out a bit so that the leaves aren’t totally overlapping each other.  Tie the stems tightly with floral wire, leaving several inches of floral wire loose on either side of the group.  Leave 10-15 leaves loose to use later.

Step 4: Wrap Leaf Groups Around Wreath

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Wrap the floral wire from your magnolia leaf groups around the grapevine wreath.  To attach the groups securely, weave the floral wire through the grapevine and tie the floral wire together tightly on the back of the wreath.  Continue securing the leaf groups around the wreath such that each new group hides the wire of the previous group.

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

When possible, I tucked the leaf stems underneath the grapevine loops to give it a more natural look.

Step 5: Fill Out with Loose Leaves
magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Take a look at your wreath and notice any bald-looking areas and any areas where floral wire is visible, especially around the interior of the wreath.  Using hot glue, adhere your loose leaves in an overlapping pattern consistent with the rest of your wreath.

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

For me, the most effective way to glue the leaves in a way that looked natural was by putting hot glue on the stem of each leaf and then fanning out as pictured below.  This pattern secured the leaf to the wreath but left the major portion of the leaf to overlap naturally with the other leaves.

magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Step 6: Decide Which Way is Up
magnolia wreath holiday decoration

Look at your wreath from several different angles and decide which way you’d like to hang it.  One side of my wreath was naturally fuller than the other, so I decided this would be the bottom.  You may decide to fill out some more areas of the wreath at this point.

Step 7: Add a Bow and Hang your Wreath!

magnolia wreath holiday decorationTie a pretty bow and hot glue it in place.  Hang your wreath on your front door and enjoy!

Other Natural Holiday Decoration Ideas

Depending on what kind of plants you have in your yard, the possibilities for homemade holiday decorations are endless.  Here are some other ideas:

Pinecone Bowls

I don’t have any coniferous pine trees in my yard, but if I did I would put heaps of pine cones in textured bowls all over the house, like the beautiful shot below from Tracy’s Trinket’s and Treasures.

pinecone holiday decorations

Berry Garland

If I had any crochet skills, I would love to put together a gorgeous crochet berry garland like Freya Dowson‘s beautiful holiday decoration pictured below.

crochet berry garland holiday decorations

Mistletoe Ball

If I had mistletoe in my yard, I would put together a mistletoe kissing ball like Martha Stewart‘s, pictured below.

mistletoe ball holiday decoration

Have you ever used greenery from your yard to make holiday decorations?  Did you try one of the projects from this post? 

Let me know how it turned out in the comments!


hello marilu signature holiday decorations



Monday Musings: Prioritizing Rest and Creativity

Over the weekend, I happened upon an Instagram post with a caption that really hit home for me.  Amanda Watters of the exquisite Homesong Blog eloquently describes a phenomena that happens in my life every single day…. that feeling that every task on my to-do list must be completed before making time for rest and creativity (a struggle I have written about before).

These days, I have a limited amount of alone time at home – between 1.5 and 3 hours a day, depending on CM’s naps – and it is so easy to fill up that time with laundry, dishes, cooking, and other chores. BUT, when I put those things on the back burner and use that time to read, write, or take a bubble bath, I feel more energized and better prepared to be an attentive mother when my daughter wakes up.  Prioritizing rest and creativity is important, and Amanda’s beautiful reminder was exactly what I needed to read this weekend.

i wrote you a letter this morning about making time to make for those of you who need a gentle nudge. i am usually the person who needs reminding that i don’t have to have my to-do list completed before getting out the craft basket, or picking up a book, or making messes in the kitchen, or getting down on the floor to play with my kids – for whatever reason, i sometimes believe the lie, that feeding my creative spirit is not a priority while i raise my babies at home. like it’s selfish or something. it’s just not true. me time, mama time, making time – it all matters and it’s important. while there are certainly priorities and boundaries for those who happen to work where they live, and live where they work, there too is an opportunity to say yes to yourself and to embracing creating and that doesn’t make you any less of a mom. if anything, i believe it can make you a better one. 📝💛 #homesongblog

A post shared by Amanda Watters (@mamawatters) on

Here are some links I am loving lately:
  • heartwarming story about a nonprofit centered around books
  • things you could’ve done instead of checking your phone
  • seven cute, easy, casual outfits for late fall
How was your weekend?  What are you loving lately?

monday musings rest and creativity

Friday Favorites: I can put up my Christmas tree next week!

Welcome to Friday Favorites, in which I share what I’ve been loving this week!

Happy Friday, y’all! This week, I realized that it is socially acceptable to put up my Christmas tree NEXT WEEK!!!

We took our Christmas photos yesterday, and I am already thinking about decorating…  I’m going to try to copy Southern Living‘s gorgeous rosemary swag pictured below, and if it doesn’t end up a Pinterest Fail, I’ll share the results with you!

friday favorites Rosemary Christmas swag

This will be our first Christmas with a crawling/maybe walking toddler, and I would love some advice: How do you keep your little one from breaking ornaments/tearing up gifts/climbing the tree???  I am at a total loss!

Anyway, here are my Friday Favorites – things that have brought me joy this week:

Wonder Woman

friday favorites wonder womanWe finally got around to watching Wonder Woman this week, and it was so good!  Gal Gadot gives a stunning performance, and the fact that she was pregnant and experiencing morning sickness throughout the shooting blows me away!  This is a movie that women and men will both enjoy, especially if you like a good superhero flick.


Doug Jones for Alabama Senate

friday favorites doug jones alabama us senateAlabama friends, if you have paid attention to the news at all in the last couple weeks, you already know that the Republican candidate Roy Moore is a total creep, at best, and a pedophile, at worst.  Anyone being okay with a man in his thirties sexually assaulting teenage girls is beyond me.  Luckily, the election has not yet taken place!  Moore’s opponent Doug Jones is a good Alabamian with lots of experience who would make a great senator.

If you haven’t yet registered to vote, you can do so online right here, but do it soon, because the election is December 12!  To my Republican friends who can’t bear to vote for a Democrat… get over it! (or just stay home.. that’s fine, too!)

Ok, off my soapbox…

The Popcast

friday favorites the popcast with knox and jamie podcastI have recently become infatuated with the bubbly and sassy personalities of Knox McCoy and Jamie Golden of the indulgently entertaining pop and culture podcast, The Popcast.  I follow very little pop and culture news, so this weekly hour of fun celebrity banter between the two Birmingham, Alabama-based hosts is a real treat.  Knox and Jamie are obviously very intelligent.  Their pop culture analysis manages to be both silly and insightful, and the duo shares fabulous book recommendations.  Give them a listen!

Gold Eyeshadow

friday favorites urban decay baked gold eyeshadowAnother recent obsession, spurred by the Insta-Stories of another Gulf Coast blogger Lipstick, Heels, and a Baby, is GOLD eyeshadow.  My favorite eyeshadow brand is Urban Decay and the color Baked is the perfect gold for any skintone.  I’ve worn it everyday this week!



How was your week?  What are your Friday Favorites?  What brought you joy?

Children’s Books: Our Favorites from November 2017

Welcome to my monthly round-up of our favorite children’s books!  Each month I’ll share with you children’s book reviews for three of my favorites and three of my daughter’s favorites, because reading should be enjoyable for the child and the parent.

My Favorite Children’s Books

When’s My Birthday? – Julie Fogliano and Christian Robinson

This beautiful book was the perfect birthday gift from Carla May’s Aunt Nancy, who got it at The Midtown Reader in Tallahassee.  I LOVE this book!  Reading it aloud is a delightful experience.  The rhythm, cadence, and language of the  poetry perfectly captures the excitement and anticipation of an upcoming birthday.  The whimsical illustrations are unique, fun, and representative of children of all skintones.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

This classic, about the alphabet’s venture up the coconut tree, is so much fun to read!  The illustrations are colorful and bold, and the rhythm of the rhymes makes you want to bob your head.  I could read this one over and over (and probably will).


Baby Loves Quantum Physics! – Ruth Spiro

This book was another birthday gift from a dear friend, and when I saw the cat on the cover, I thought, “Oh goodness, how are they going to make the Schrodinger’s cat experiment appropriate for babies?”  Well, have no fear, fellow parennials! Rather than being dead or alive, the cat is merely asleep or awake in a box in the thought experiment described in this cute and thought-provoking board book.

My Daughter’s Favorite Children’s Books

Doggies – Sandra Boynton

If you have met my daughter or have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know by now that she is totally obsessed with doggies.  This book by the prolific Sandra Boynton teaches children to count by adding one more dog on each page, each one with a unique breed and bark.  Carla May loves to pull this book off the shelf and give it kisses.

Good Morning Good Night – Annie Alexander

Good Morning, Good Night is a sweet bedtime rhyming story showing the activities of animals and children in the day and then where they go to sleep at night.   Books with tactile elements are so fun for toddlers, and my daughter adores petting all the animals in this one.  You can even tuck the little girl in the story into her bed with her blankie.

My Wild Animal World – Amanda Gulliver

My Wild Animal World is a collection of tiny books billed as “little books for little people.”  Each little book shares pictures and facts about a different type of animal, including what they eat, where they live, what their children are called, and what sounds they make.  The grid inside the box makes for a fun matching game, as well.

What children’s books have you been loving lately?

FYI: If you decide to purchase any children’s books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Bookroo (which I highly recommend), we get some free books. Thank you!

Monday Musings: New Logo, Twitter, and 5K

A few exciting things:

  • My incredible sister-in-law Jane made me a logo for my blog and I LOVE it!
  • I made a Twitter but the pressure of a first tweet is weighing heavy on me.
  • On Saturday, Chatham and I ran a 5K and the conditions were perfect and we both finished in the top 3 of our age groups and it was SO much fun!

Here are some links I am loving lately:

How was your weekend?  What are you loving lately?


Friday Favorites: Christmas, Lipcolor, and Slip-On Sneakers

My poor baby has had a fever on and off all week, has been a little irritable, and has been sleeping very restlessly at night (so I’ve been sleeping restlessly at night, too).   It breaks my heart when she is feeling bad!  Any tips for getting through tough weeks with sick little ones (other than Tylenol for her and coffee for me)?

Anyway, here are some things that have brought me joy this week:

Bring on Christmas!

I am not a staunch believer that celebrating Christmas must wait until after Thanksgiving.  If my husband would let me, I would put up our tree and decorations the day after Halloween.  With all the time and effort we spend decorating, we might as well enjoy the decorations as long as possible, right?!  BUT since I have to wait until he is willing to help me purchase and haul home a Christmas tree (Team Real Tree here), I will have to settle for enjoying my favorite holiday candle and some Christmas tunes for now.

Every year, I look forward to purchasing a Nature’s Wick Holiday Wreath scented candle and burning it literally every moment I’m in the living room throughout the holiday season.  Some may call that lame, but I call it FESTIVE.

When I was little, my mother had a collection of holiday albums on vinyl that she would pull out around the holidays.  I can remember dancing around the living room in my gymnastics leotard to “Do They Know it’s Christmas” like I was a Spice Girl.  Listening to Christmas music, especially modern covers of classic holiday tunes, brings back those feelings of excitement and joy I experienced as a child.

The BEST Long-wearing Matte Lipcolor

 I have been on the hunt for the perfect long-wearing matte lipcolor for all of my adult life, and I was pleased to finally end my hunt this week when I purchased Maybelline Matte Lip Ink in Lover.

The selfie posted to the left is at the end of my workday with zero touch-ups since I put on my makeup that morning.  I don’t even bring the lipcolor tube with me to work – I leave it in my makeup case at home because this stuff stays on so well.   I love it so much I went back and bought it in Pioneer, because I love a bold red lip.

Slip-On Sneakers

Slip-ons are one of my favorite footwear options for Fall.  They can be dressed up or down, go with everything, and are comfortable and practical to boot.  I had a pair of black Toms slip-ons (similar to these) that I wore nearly everyday of my pregnancy and loved.  I just purchased this neutral straw pair and have worn them literally everyday since they arrived.  My favorites that are available to order online right now are pictured below.


How was your week?  What brought you joy?

Road Trip Travel Tips with a Toddler

Carla May and I went up to Mentone, Alabama, last weekend, a road trip that usually takes me six hours to drive by myself, so I had no idea what to expect with a toddler in tow.  I put out a call for help on Instagram beforehand, and lots of mom friends shared their valuable advice with me.  Including stops, the drive ended up taking us a little over seven hours each way.  CM was a road warrior – only a little fussing and no tears!  Here are our travel tips from the experience:

  • Have a supply of snacks and drinks within easy reach.  In the passenger seat next to me, I had a cooler stocked with cheese, fruit, water bottles (for me), and milk cups for CM (I like these because they don’t spill).  I also had a bag full of snacks – puffs, cheerios, teething biscuits, etc.
    • WARNING:   Do NOT pass a pouch full of baby food back to your child, or it will end up all over your child and your backseat!  (The photo below is actually from CM eating blackberries with her dad, but it is pretty representative of what she looked like when we finally stopped…)
    • Which reminds me: Have an extra set of clothes and LOTS of wipes on hand, just in case!

Eating blackberries or killed her first deer?

A post shared by Chatham Morgan (@chathammorgan) on

  • Even if (ESPECIALLY if) you are a no-screentime or limited-screentime family, buy or borrow a TV/DVD player for the car.  I don’t let Carla May watch TV normally, only if she is sick or if it is an Alabama football game, so TV is still really special for her.  We borrowed a player (similar to this one) from my sister-in-law, along with an assortment of DVDs, and it provided hours of entertainment for her and quiet for me.
  • Have a bin full of toys and board books within easy reach of you.  Whenever your kiddo starts to fuss or act bored, pass a new toy back.  Bonus points if you bring things she/he hasn’t played with before.  Double bonus points if you bring this toy (A sweet friend got this for her as a birthday gift, and in all seriousness, she played with it for hours).
  • Plan out a few fun stops along the way, but BE FLEXIBLE.  One friend recommended stopping at a great park near Birmingham that is conveniently located on the same exit as a Chick-fil-a.  I had the address all plugged in to my GPS and looked forward to checking it out, BUT as soon as we got near the exit, CM fell asleep… Rather than wake her up, I just kept on driving and found a Chick-fil-a to stop at later on.

road trip travel tips with a toddler

  • Tourist traps make great stops!  One of my favorite places to stop is Durbin Farms Market in Clanton, Alabama, a little town known for their world-famous peaches.  CM and I shared a double scoop of peach ice cream and played amongst the pumpkins on display at the Market to break up the trip.

road trip travel tips with a toddler

road trip travel tips with a toddler

These sweet little duck overalls are so cute and soft and were the perfect traveling outfit.

  • If you are traveling alone with a toddler, bathroom trips (for you) must be thought out in advance, something that never occurred to me before traveling alone with a toddler.  Putting my daughter on the floor of a public restroom is out of the question, and leaving her in the car is frowned upon these days, SO I brought an easy-to-unfold umbrella stroller for restroom stops.  This model is slim enough to fit in a handicap stall with you.
  • Don’t forget to bring paper towels and trash bags!  By the time we arrived at our destination, my car was a WRECK, but my happy traveler was well worth the clean-up.
  • If all else fails on the entertainment front, pull out a box of tissues.  Hand them back one by one and let your kiddo rip them to shreds.  This valuable tip was shared with me by a friend who embarked on a 13 hour (!!!) road trip with her tiny tot, and she said it was a lifesaver during their last hour of travel.

Traveling with little ones can be a lot of effort, but new experiences are so good for young minds and so worth it!

For more toddler travel tips, check out this handy post from Daytrips & Diapers!

Do you travel often with toddlers?  What are your favorite travel tips and tricks?

Monday Musings: Critter Cruise

This weekend, we went out on the Biophilia Center Critter Cruise on the Solaris, an hour and a half boat ride with snakes, tortoises, birds, and skunks.  There were probably 100 kids running around and having a blast with all of the animals.  The Biophilia Center is planning on making this an annual event so if you are free next year, I highly recommend taking your kiddos out on the critter cruise!

By the way, I wear this denim kimono ALL the time!  It’s from Anthropologie a few seasons back, but here’s a similar one (with a gorgeous frayed-edge hem) if you like the look.

Here are some links I’m loving lately:

  • an issue I didn’t know was an issue before I became a mother
  • a secret to a happy marriage
  • a classic, hilarious, and extremely profane celebration of Fall
  • a reflection on the joy of unscheduled time

How was your weekend?  What are you loving lately?


Friday Favorites: Halloween, Dirty John, and Cold-Weather Looks

Happy Halloween Week!  We had so much fun with our little pumpkin at the Destin Fall Festival earlier this week and with her cousins on Halloween night.

As Chatham and I were watching Stranger Things (the perfect combination of creepy and campy) after CM’s bedtime on Halloween, I reflected back to a year ago when we were watching the first season of Stranger Things the very same night, but with a fresh, new, tiny human sleeping in the Rock N Play next to us.  That seems like so long ago and just yesterday at the same time.

We didn’t have a single trick or treater this year (thank you, cul de sac living), but I did spend twenty minutes trying to find a multipack of candy that tastes good but doesn’t contain peanuts!  Fellow mamas of children with allergies, my heart goes out to you!

Here are a few more things that brought me joy this week:

Dirty John Podcast

Image result for dirty john

CM and I went to Mentone, Alabama, last weekend for a childhood friend’s wedding and to see my family.  On the seven hour drive home, I binge-listened to Dirty John, a true crime podcast in the same vein as S-Town and Serial.  Dirty John, about an online dating romance gone seriously wrong, is made up of six episodes around forty minutes each, and I listened to the entire series straight through.

I try to listen to these types of podcast series knowing as little as possible going in, so I recommend you just take my word for it and start listening rather than try to find out more beforehand.

Fall/Winter Clothes!

Mentone was in the 30s and 40s when we were in town, which was so exciting for me after experiencing a way-hotter-than-usual October here in Destin.  After digging through last year’s winter clothes, I put together this look for my friend’s wedding.

I LOVE this classic navy sweater dress that I got from J. McLaughlin a few years ago.  It is so comfortable and feels like I piece I’ll keep going back to for years to come.  They have it stocked for this season, but in a gorgeous gray (linked below).

I bought these Jessica Simpson over-the-knee boots three years ago and have gotten so much wear out of them!  I love the look of over-the-knee boots with a sweater dress that hits right at the knee… You can keep warm in the cold without having to wear tights!  I found some knockoffs that look exactly the same for half the price linked below.

Carla May’s sweet gold star sweater dress with a tutu was a gift from one of her godmommies, and it was a perfect look with thick tights for the cold evening.  She had some adorable sweater-material Ugg boots on (linked below), but she kicked them off before we could snap a photo.  She has so many precious pairs of shoes, but she hates wearing them these days!


Lil Cactus Smocked Baby Outfits

Last year, I was finishing my MBA, had a baby with colic, and developed a case of shingles on my face at Christmastime, so I didn’t get to experience the magic that is holiday-themed smocked baby outfits (insert all the heart eyes here).

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a great sale on Zulily of Lil Cactus smocked baby outfits.  Lil Cactus is a brand I had never heard of before, but they offer cute inexpensive outfits, and the brand seems to have decent reviews online.  I ordered the white corduroy dress for CM, and I am hoping it arrives soon so that we can take photos for our Christmas card!  Here are a few of my favorites from their Holiday collection:

How was your week? What brought you joy?


Book Reviews: What I Read in October 2017

I only made it through five books this month, but I have some good excuses.  I’ve been working my way through the nearly 47 hour audiobook of 1Q84 for the last month and a half, so I did not finish a single audiobook this month.  Also, the call of the couch and the television set has been pretty difficult to pass up on cozy Fall evenings.

My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson

I heard about this book from the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy, which recommended it as a good “flight pairing” with the book Young Jane Young, which I read and reviewed back in AugustYoung Jane Young was the fictional story of a woman whose blog account of her affair with a married congressman went viral and essentially ruined her life.  So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a nonfiction analysis of online public shaming and how recipients of public shaming cope with life afterwards.  Author Jon Ronson uses real life examples to show that these people are more than the one moment they have become known for (remember Justine Sacco? The PR manager who tweeted a racist joke before boarding a plane to South Africa?  The world knew she lost her job before she did?  She’s in here.)  This book was a page-turner that I knocked out during our two flights to Montana earlier this month.

Do Not Become Alarmed – Maile Meloy

I went three days without a book at the start of our Montana trip, thanks to Jon Ronson’s page-turner, so I was delighted to find Do Not Become Alarmed on the new release table at Elk River Books in Livingston.  I had heard about this book from one of my favorite podcasts, From The Front Porch.   This story is a page-turning adventure tale (with some appropriate foreshadowing in the first chapter) about children who become separated from their parents on a cruise ship excursion in a foreign country.  There are some pretty heavy topics covered within the story, but the author somehow manages to keep this a light and easy read.

The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

I picked up this book at Sax & Fryer in Livingston, an old bookstore without a website, a computer, or even a cash register newer than 100 years old, but with a wonderful selection of primarily Western titles.  The Glass Castle is a memoir that tells the beautiful and heartbreaking tale of the resilience of children in a very dysfunctional family.  The emotional rawness left me moved nearly to tears in many sections of the book.  I cared so deeply for the characters that I could not put this book down until I finished the very last page.  This story was adapted to a movie version earlier this year starring Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson.  There is no way it can top the book, but I’ll be streaming it anyway as soon as I get a free night.

Sourdough – Robin Sloan

Sourdough was one of my September Book of the Month Club selections, and I chose it because I really enjoyed the author Robin Sloan’s first novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (my review here).  Sourdough is a delightfully light and fun story about a Silicon Valley robot programmer who is entrusted with an ancient and special sourdough starter.  In taking care of the starter and learning to bake bread, she finds her passion and changes her life, with lots of quirky twists and turns along the way.

Sing Unburied Sing – Jesmyn Ward

Sing Unburied Sing was my other September Book of the Month Club selection, and it was recently announced as a finalist for this year’s National Book Award in Fiction.  The author won the National Book Award back in 2011 for her earlier novel, Salvage the Bones, which I have not yet read but would love to.  Sing Unburied Sing is a slow, heavy, and beautifully written story told from three perspectives: Jojo, a biracial boy living with his mother and grandparents in Mississippi and the primary caretaker for his toddler sister Kayla; Leonie, Jojo and Kayla’s drug addicted and basically negligent mother; and Richie, the spirit of someone important in Jojo and Kayla’s grandfather’s past.  The story follows the dysfunctional family’s quest (which seemed to allude in many ways to Homer’s The Odyssey) to pick up Leonie’s husband and the children’s father Michael from Mississippi State Penitentiary.  The language is beautiful, the story is important, and the author deserves every award coming her way, but this was a very sad, oftentimes uncomfortable, yet still rewarding read for me.

Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?

What have you been reading lately?  Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.

FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you.  If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club (which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in this post, I get a free book. Thank you!

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