Quick Lit / December 2014

A quick look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (I read zero books last month because evidently my pregnant brain needed a break.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette / Maria Semple
This was a popular book club pick over the past couple of years, and I can see why.  I found the story to be lightly enjoyable and totally quirky.  A fast, funny read about prep-school moms, Microsoft corporate culture and the city of Seattle.

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The Peach Keeper / Sarah Addison Allen
A lyrical tale of southern friendships and coming home again, woven in with a bit of mystery.  I found some of the characters to be less believable than preferred, but overall, a nice little read. From reviews, it seems like other novels from Allen might be a better pick.

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Inescapable / Nancy Mehl
A predictable but sweet “bonnet book.” Nothing overly original here, but a decent read. The “does my father love me?” question is woven with themes of grace and redemption.  Note: I listened to this on audio book and found the voice of the daughter to be highly grating.  Would recommend reading the actual book instead.

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Seating Arrangements / Maggie Shipstead
Charming enough, but overly WASPY. “The whitest book I read all year,” wrote one reviewer, and I can’t disagree.  I like Shipstead’s writing style and character development, I think, but the story just didn’t do anything for me.

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Clapham Lights / Tom Canty
Many novels that I read feature female protagonists, but I thoroughly enjoyed this story of male friendship and misadventures.  I found the writing to be funny and sharp, and loved the depictions of life in young professional middle class Britain.

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I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Quick Lit series (formerly Twitterature). Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

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What I’m Into / November 2014

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There is no better way to kick off the holidays than with a Red Cup on November 1.

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Despite my pregnancy-induced caffeine restrictions (not total elimination, hallelujah!), I got to cross off a Dad-Daughter Bucket List item in experiencing pour-over coffee together.  We’re so fancy, I know.  It was darn good coffee.

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My beloved autumn colors stuck around for a few days before cold fell hard and unwelcome.  Omaha had a few weeks of January weather in November and trust, I am NOT into that.

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Team Wastell celebrated our 3rd anniversary on November 4 – voting day.  Or, our votaversary, as we celebrated this year.  I claimed words of gratitude, community and grace for our lives.  (Anniversary #2 and Anniversary #1)

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I found a picture of my sister at 22 weeks, and was so excited to wear a nearly-matching tank top when I hit 22 weeks so I could take matchy-matchy sister belly pictures.  So fun!!

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My mom graciously agreed to make a baby quilt for L1, so we picked out gender-neutral colors for the blanket.  The back will be light grey with dark grey polka dots.  Soft things are my favorite.

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We celebrated Thanksgiving in Kansas with my parents, in what was a much needed few days of relaxation and someone-else-cooking.  Bless.  We’re excited to see some of Chad’s family later this week and even more later in the month.

What I’m reading & what I’m watching
I’m not sure if it’s pregnancy brain or just being busy, but I went from my past average of reading 4-5 books a month to finishing none in November.  Zero! I don’t remember the last time I read zero books.  I even hosted book club (and chose the book) and didn’t manage to finish the darn thing.  I’m still caught up with Grey’s and Nashville, and we’re waiting for a quiet evening to catch up on Scandal. We saw Interstellar in the theater after good reviews from several Facebook friends, and were terribly disappointed.  I generally feel pretty easy to please when it comes to movies, but I didn’t really enjoy Interstellar at all.  Can I have my $12 back?

Little things I’m loving
Sans photos: Mandarins, every scarf ever, Christmas music played too early, friends showing up, caramel brulee lattes, new lip gloss, board games, and the end of November.  It was a long month.  The beginning of Advent is upon us – rend the heavens and come down.

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her What I’m Into series. Hop on over to her blog for more.

 

L1: Week 21.5 update

Week 17Pictured above: weeks 16-18ish

10 things about being 21.5 weeks pregnant.
Some more fun & games than others; in no particular order.

1.  Stretchy pants forever, baby!  I’m notably judgy of Leggings as Pants, and for the general population, I maintain my case.  But you guys, maternity jeans are just the worst.  Those high-top waistbands make my belly itch and what are jeans even without pockets?!  I’ve been living in Kohl’s non-maternity Vera Wang Legging Pants and some really awesome discontinued Target maternity leggings that a generous friend let me borrow.

2.  Pregnancy hormones are no joke.  I got take-out pancakes from IHOP for lunch one day and they forgot my butter.  I cried in the office lunch room for a good 10 minutes.  Just could not get a grip.  That seems to be leveled out a bit, but wow, I felt unbalanced and off my rocker there for a while.  In other news, I really love my therapist.

3.  Snacks. No shame.  Baby Wastell looooves the baked goods.  I’ve never baked this much in my life.  I’ve got muffins in my oven for days.  I don’t have any other specific cravings that have stuck, but the day that Chad took the GMAT I could not get enough to eat, and since then, my appetite has definitely been increased.  I’ve gained about 13 pounds so far – right on track.  Found out this morning that 15 oz of that is the baby’s weight.  The rest is snacks.

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Pictured above: week 20

4.  Back pain.  Since almost the day my nausea went away at week 10, I’ve had pretty bad pelvic/sacrum pain.  I’ve bounced around to a few different chiropractors and finally found one that I like and who is also in network. After not being able to comfortably roll over in bed for weeks on end, hope is on the horizon. Hallelujah.

5.  I get to pre-board on all our Southwest flights, thanks to my “temporary disability.”  And, I get to bring my Companion husband along with me.  I’m not sure how I feel about this in light of people with actual non-temporary disabilities, but the rule is the rule, and I’ll take it.

6.  Insurance & medical billing. Oh my goodness, YUCK.  We have high deductible insurance, so we thought we might try to pay cash for this thing, and wow was that process ever a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma stuck in a web of swear words.  So, using our insurance in the traditional manner, it is.

7.  Peeing when sneezing is a real thing.  It is terribly unglamorous and made me laugh and cry all at the same time.  What else are you people not telling me?!

8.  Ultrasounds are amazing.  The still 3D photos are really creepy IMO, but the technology is so amazing. I love seeing L1 move around.  This morning, baby was yawning and stretching (I hear you, kiddo), and we saw its pinky finger wrapped around its big toe.  So cute.  I feel it move occasionally, but not nearly as much as the ultrasounds revealed. Active little thing.  Here’s its profile this morning, and its foot and forehead last week.  So flexible!

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So much of baby-expecting feels overwhelming, but I LOVE imaging what it might look like.
This morning we saw a 3D rendering of baby’s lips that look an awful lot like mine.  :)  :)  :)
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9.  Being pregnant is just totally weird.  My body is growing this whole other life inside of me.  That is just so weird and so…beyond words.  As a woman, my body was created to do this, and it happened to me on accident, and yet there’s so many women who would give their right arm to be pregnant, and there’s nothing they can do to make it happen.  I feel a deep, joyful connection to the global tribe of women over history who have borne children, and a simultaneous deep hurt for my friends struggling with infertility or other circumstances that keep them from being pregnant.

10.  My husband is incredible.  Seriously.  Chad is so patient with my hormone-induced tear fests, assures me that I’m beautiful, enthusiastically eats the things I bake, is gracious when I ask him to carry things for me, stops for decaf Starbucks without complaint, lets me sleep (almost) as much as I want to, keeps me laughing, and reminds me that he loves me daily.  In the game of marriage where we don’t keep score, he wins all the points every day.

What I’m Into / October 2014

Procrastination.  I’m into procrastination.  Hello, one week late with this post.

leavesAnd autumn colors.  I am definitely into autumn colors.  Leaves have been quite spectacular this year, and their colors and change make my soul sing.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 10.44.00 AMWe went to Sterling for my 10-year class reunion. It was strange and wonderful and surreal being back in the small-town tiny-college atmosphere.  And Chad thinks Northwestern University was small. Ha.  I’ve been working hard to mend some neglected friendships from that season, and it was so sweet to be able to see some dear faces in person.

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We visited Stanford where the weather was suspiciously nice and the GSB spouse/significant other/family support surprisingly great and it may have just moved to the top of our grad school wish list.  I decided that I don’t really like palm trees, but I do like knowing my own light.

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We took Mom & Dad on a little family adventure weekend to Chicago, where the leaves were pretty and the pizza deep, but the weather was less than desirable.  Oh hey, snow on October 31.

Week 17The bump is getting bigger.  Weeks 16-18ish above.

19 weeks

I’m 21 weeks now (would have been 20 weeks if I posted on time) and you know what I’m not loving?  Random people who tell me I’m not showing enough.  People are the worst.  Why do we feel the need to tell others unhelpful things?  The above photos were taken one day about 19 weeks – sucking in and pushing my belly out.  What’s the right size for you, random lady? Boo.  More pregnancy updates coming on the blog soon.

What I’m reading
I linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share books I’m reading in Twitter-inspired fashion.  This month’s reads included This is Where I Leave You, Defending Jacob, Olive Kitteridge and Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking.

What I’m watching
Is it time to watch Christmas movies on Netflix yet?  I’m keeping up with Grey’s, Nashville and Scandal, and shamelessly still enjoying Selfie, A-Z and Manhattan Love Story.

Little things I’m loving

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I have been craving Baskin Robbins ice cream (specifically Jamoca Almond Fudge and Daiquiri Ice) since finding out I was pregnant. Every little BR Kiosk in the airport gets scoured for my favorite flavors, but so far I’ve been disappointed.  But OH! The joy! Just down the street from our hotel in California was a 31 Flavors.  I was thrilled.  BR Day was also the day that I felt the baby kick for the first time, but I’ve got to say, at the time, the ice cream was more exciting.IMG_5966

Dunkin Donuts also just opened up in our neighborhood.  Whoo!

IMG_6069Also in our neighborhood: more beautiful autumn leaves.  Can’t stop.  No shame.

Adventures in Piggery
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October was National Pork Month.  Everyone celebrate!

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her What I’m Into series. Hop on over to her blog for more.

Claiming words

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This little one who has claimed residence inside me has made me want to clean and organize and purge all the things.  A strange new addition to my body, a strange new addition to our family – what old can I get rid of?  How do we make room?  How do we do this?  I lean against you and you lean against me and we are held together.

I was cleaning out my Google Drive because why not, and found these words prayed over us that day as we said our vows.

Gratitude for the love that has brought these two together. Commitment of ourselves to love, support and celebrate their lives. Grace and favor of God on their lives.

Isn’t that perfect, what Tim claimed for us 3 years ago? And today, in these thin places, these tight spaces, in this season that feels so unknown so often, they’re ours still.  I claim these words for the times when my tears and words fall harsh, when my wifing isn’t done well, when things just. feel hard.

I claim gratitude – for you, for your strong and steady hands, for the ways that you love me big and small, for your hard work and big dreams and how you make me laugh.

I claim commitment – to those who love us and hold us up, to those who stood witness to our vows, to those who witness our every day, to our community far and wide, to our own 2-almost-3 family.

I claim grace – I claim redemption, I claim all things new, I claim abundance, I claim beauty, I claim you & me, I claim faith and life and grace.

I love you.  I still do.

Autumn Beauty Swap

I’m a beauty swap veteran by now – pair up with a fellow girl in ag, swap stories of life and get some new beauty products.  Love it.

fallbeautyswapI was paired up with my Twitter friend Sara, who is also pregnant with their first Little, and also has some work contacts in the hog industry, so it was fun to swap stories with her.

The Lorac eyeshadow she sent me is just perfect. It actually reminds me of my old familiar favorite Cover Girl palate Shimmering Sands, but with a more modern twist to the hues.  And I mean OLD – that CG stuff has been around for probably 15 years.  Yikes.  Now is a perfect time to update my look!

The hand cream now lives happily in my desk drawer at work, just in time for cold dry-hands weather, and the make-up removers fit perfectly in my travel bag.   The lipgloss has become a fast every day favorite, and I love the muted shimmer of the nail polish – perfect for fall.  I need to put on my Brave Pants to rock the red lip.  Maybe for the holidays.

Thanks, Sara! And big thanks to Crystal Cattle for hosting the swap.

(Spring Beauty Swap  |  December Beauty Swap)

 

Tips from an Airbnb Host – for hosts

So you want to use Airbnb? Maybe you’re looking for an affordable place to stay, or interested in making a little money as a host.  Here’s a few things we’ve learned over the past 18 months and 100 + guests since we signed up to be hosts.  Today: Tips for the host.  See yesterday’s post for tips for guests.

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8 ways to be a great host

  1. Consider your space.  If you have a guest room that isn’t used very often, Airbnb might be right for you – especially if said guest room has a bathroom.  You can list rooms that have a shared bathroom, but as an occasional-guest myself, I much prefer a private bathroom. Also, some guests are awesome and you’ll totally wish they moved in to your neighborhood, but some you’d maybe rather not share a bathroom with.  Also, bonus points if your guest room/bathroom is in a lower-traffic area of your house. (I’m not even going to get into the futon/airmatress world here.)  Guest room + extra bathroom = best.
  2. Be mindful of the details.  It’s the little things that make a big impact.  Abundant, easy-to-find electrical outlets.  A full length mirror.  Hair dryer in the bathroom.  A book of interesting short stories on the night stand.  Empty hangers in the closet.  A comfortable place to sleep, a very clean bathroom and reliable wifi are expected and should be your bare minimum efforts.  It’s those extras that make guests say “wow!”
  3. Be ready for the laundry.  We don’t have a minimum stay requirement (more on that later) so we get a lot of one-night stays.  The business is nice, but that’s a lot of laundry.  Most guests are remarkably clean and respectful, but it’s still a lot of bathrooms to clean and loads of laundry to do.  And be ready to buy new sheets.  Hotels buy industrial sheets that are made to be washed almost every night.  The sheets I buy at Target? Soft and affordable, but need to be replaced more than you’d expect with that frequency of washing.
  4. Flexibility is key.  Guests show up early. Guests show up late. Guests stay late.  It happens. You have to be ready to roll with it.  Having a keypad lock on the entry helps, but it can still be frustrating.  However, guests appreciate it SO much when they can check out late or store luggage or whatnot, so for me, in the long run, being flexible is worth it.
  5. Manage your calendar.  As a guest, nothing is more frustrating than messaging a host about dates that look available, only to find out that j/k, they’re not.  Block dates that your aunt is coming to town.  Block dates when you’re having surgery.  Block dates when you are hosting your friend’s going away party and not accepting guests.  Set your calendar, set your terms and minimum stay, manage your business.  Please and thank you.  A quick note on that: being able to accept one-night stays helps boost bookings (and therefore your revenue) tremendously.  It is more work, but for us it’s worth it.  Plus, the more you book, the more reviews you’ll get, and the higher you’ll rank in Airbnb’s mystery algorithm, and the more bookings you’ll get.  It’s the circle of life, friends.
  6. Get the right insurance agent.  I know, insurance is boring.  But, it’s important.  Airbnb does NOT provide insurance for hosts, and it’s important that your insurance agent and the underwriter understands that you’re hosting Airbnb guests.  Many agents aren’t familiar with Airbnb, and are hesitant to even approach the subject with their underwriters, much less ensure coverage.  I’m confident the insurance market will change and relevant products will be created soon, but until then, find someone who is comfortable with your set up.  (If you’re in Omaha, we’re happy to pass along contact info for our new agent.)
  7. Minimize personal items.  Sure, you want your house to feel like a home.  But your guests probably don’t want to sleep under a giant photo of you on your wedding day.  And if your guests have kids, chances are they’ll move all your knick knacks juuuuuust a bit – just enough to make you crazy.  Your Nana’s quilt may be beautiful and special, but if it can’t be tossed in the washing machine on a regular basis, find a different comforter. Be prepared for a broken glass here or there, or a washcloth to be bleached out by someone’s face wash.  Remember – things are just things, even if it was a wedding present.  (This is one of the main benefits of hosting for me – keeping things in perspective.)
  8. Be realistic.  Airbnb is great if you want a little extra cash for date night, or to fund a room redecoration.  Airbnb (in Omaha at least) is not so great if you need reliable income to cover a mortgage or major remodel.  We’re some of the busiest hosts in Omaha (based on ongoing number of reviews) and here’s what I’ll say about our monthly Airbnb revenue – throw pillows from Pier 1 and a new restaurant or two, yes.  Mortgage payment, no.
  9. BONUS:  Earn Superhost Status.  Get 10 bookings in a year.  Have 80% 5-Star reviews.  Respond to guests in a timely manner.  Don’t cancel.  It’s that easy! You can do it.

Note: These tips aren’t endorsed by Aibnb – they’re just what we’ve learned.  You be you.
Also:  Airbnb is not legal in all cities/buildings. Follow your local laws and tax policies.  Do the right thing!