What I’m into (August 2016 edition)

As always, linking up with my friend Leigh Kramer to share what I’m into.

August has felt like a straight downhill run from the height of summer straight into back-to-school everything.

My whole family packed up for a week+ at the beach on August 4. We got home on August 14. My 1st grader and I went to new-student orientation on the 15th. And everybody started back to school on the 16th.

It’s been fun but it’s also making my head spin!


Alabama Theater popcast live

We just happened to be driving back from vacation a few hours before the live event for Knox and Jamie’s show The Popcast. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a live podcast event but it was an amazing evening, and it was so fun to get to finally meet some of my favorite people on the internet who were in attendance.

My family had so much fun spending not quite 24 hours in Birmingham. We hit ate amazing barbecue, strolled around the beautiful (and free!) botanical garden, and visited a local bookstore—my favorite thing to do in any city I visit. (I’m thinking about doing a blog post about destination independent bookstores. Got any must-visit bookstores I should know about? Hit me.)

Low maintenance everything

Now we’re home and school is in session. I’ve never had all the kids in school all day before and it is … different. Very very different.

I have a lot of projects going on right now and I’m trying to pour my energy into the things that matter, and streamline the things that don’t as much as possible. That looks like lots of ponytails and a dead-simple uniform for me. It looks like the exact same thing for breakfast every day and PrepDish for dinner. There have been days recently where I’ve spent the whole day in workout clothes which isn’t like me but for a season? It’s totally fine.

What I’m reading

new Louise Penny a great reckoning

The new Louise Penny, finally!

I’m finishing up my second read of Before We Visit the Goddess today: it’s our final Summer Reading Club selection and we’re all chatting with author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni tonight and I need to be prepared!

September book of the month

And I’m about to dive into the new Book of the Month selections. I’m so excited that Amor Towles’s new and much-anticipated A Gentleman in Moscow is a September pick. (I got to read it already—and talked about it in this week’s episode of What Should I Read Next—and I’m thrilled that so many readers are going to get their hands on it, for less, through BOTM.)

Several of you have been trying to talk me into—or out of—Amy Schumer. (Thoughts?) I keep reading amazing things about Behold the Dreamers. And I love the Towles and would happily read it again.

(Use the code 30TOTE to save 30% off a new 3-month subscription.)

What I’m trying to remember

To plant zinnias next year! I finally caught the rhythm of planting tulip bulbs in the fall; now I need to remember to plant my annual seeds in the spring—you would think that would be easier! We used to have a giant zinnia bed at our old house but fell out of the habit, and it’s never crossed my mind to plant them at the new. But the current farmers’ market abundance has me regretting that. (Any tips for remembering in the spring?)

What I’m watching

Um, nothing. But I’m excited about The Blacklist starting back up again. (Season 3 was questionable but the finale was intriguing, I’ll give it that.)

And I want to get fall under way and our schedules settled down so Will and I can start a new show. I’m thinking The West Wing. (I’ve never seen it, can you believe it?)

I hope you had a lovely August. What have YOU been into lately? 


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    • Susan says:

      Yep, Anderson’s is a great bookstore! And Gotskinds is right next door – it’s the best place to go for kids’ shoes in the Chicago area! We get all our grandkids’ shoes there! 🙂

  1. Emilee says:

    Regarding Independent Bookstores- I have two! Come to Frederick MD where I live, visit the Curious Iguana, check out all the other cool shops and restaurants in town. Do some Civil War stuff and cap the day off with a visit to Flying Dog brewery 😉 My very first place of employment (at the age of 15!) was the Clinton Bookshop in Clinton, NJ. Full disclosure, the owner is one of my friends… and my mom works down the street haha.

  2. Ana says:

    I put “buy spring seeds” and “buy fall bulbs” into my calendar.I’ve got it in Google calendar as an annually recurring event in February & September, but if you keep a paper calendar you can add it manually when you put in things like birthdays at the start of the year.
    The West Wing is SO GOOD, we finally watched it last year, and it took us several months to get through it, but well worth it! We are currently watching Lost, which I’ve never seen before.

    • Lori McKee says:

      Ditto to both. I put little stickies at the back of my paper calendar for seasonal “events” like this (and birthdays). Then I put them on the new calendar when I get it (and digital calendars at same time, tho I guess that can be done one time for all, as a recurring event – right?)

      Also love West Wing and right now that is what I watch when I’m alone.

      Ooo, Lost! We’ve never seen it but I just wrote an email to family coming for the week-end to see what we could all watch together while they’re visiting as that’s something we all enjoy for evening activity. But I’m really looking for a couple movies or a short series. Any ideas? We have NetFlix, HULU and Amazon Prime. We’ll find something. I just get frustrated when we spend half the evening trying to decide what we all can agree on to watch.

      • Susan says:

        We don’t watch a lot of TV, but hubby and I love Madam Secretary (must-see if you liked West Wing). There are two seasons you can watch now and the third is coming this fall!! And Parenthood was SUCH a great show and I’m so sorry it ended! If you haven’t seen it, there are at least 5 seasons waiting for you!

        • Lori McKee says:

          We both liked Parenthood. I’m not sure he’d say “loved” but he made sure we saw it every week – ha.!

          Will have to check out Madam Secretary – thanks!

      • Ashley says:

        I’ve watched Sherlock (BBC) version with family and all loved it. The episodes are longer – closer to 90 minutes, but only 4 episodes per season.

  3. Heidi says:

    Denver has two indie bookstores that are pretty awesome: Tattered Cover (three locations – the LoDo and Colfax stores are the most beautiful) and BookBar (sells books and beverages!).

    • Melanie says:

      Oh, I second Tattered Cover. I spent a couple of hours there when I was visiting Denver for work. There are used books mixed in with the new, so I hunted down a couple of favorites I wanted to have a permanent place on my bookshelf.

    • Ashley says:

      I was totally going to suggest McLean & Eakin too!! 🙂 Petoskey is a lovely summer destination (or winter if you like skiing), but this bookstore is a must visit.

  4. Lisa notes says:

    I’ve got to add A Gentleman in Moscow to my list now after hearing your podcast and seeing it here.

    I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I’m ready for the new seasons of everything to start again too. Then again, less TV means more time for books. 🙂 August was a great month for reading (except for Olympics watching!).

  5. Pamela says:

    I don’t often comment but I always read and I adore your podcast!!

    Talk Story bookstore is the westernmost independent bookstore in the US in Hanapepe Kauai (Hawaii). It’s such a fun place complete with its own cat and books organized by male and female writers.

  6. Adrienne says:

    McKay’s Used Books in Knoxville and Chattanooga are fabulous used book stores with a fantastic selection and lots of great bargains. In addition to books, they have tons of music, movies, and games.

      • Ashley says:

        YES! I was going to suggest that as well. For someone who hasn’t watched before, watching an episode, then listening to the episode on West Wing Weekly would be fun. They are doing a great job giving behind the scenes thoughts on the episodes without spoiling future episodes. I started re-watching The West Wing when the podcast started ….. unfortunately I couldn’t limit myself to one episode a week – I’m already through season 7.

        • Des says:

          My husband and I admit this to no one…..but we’ve watched the seven seasons NUMEROUS times. We’ve lost count. Actually, it’s probably the only reason we keep Netflix. Probably should just buy the series digitally and be done w/ Netflix. 🙂

    • Des says:

      I’ve never listened to any other podcasts regarding The West Wing, but I can’t imagine anything better than these 2 podcasters, Josh and Hrishi. Josh Malina enter West Wing in Season 4 and offers so much insight into “behind the scenes”.

      • Lori McKee says:

        Listened to the first episode of WWW on my lunchtime walk – you’re right – it’s wonderful!! What fun, thanks for the tip.

  7. Mae says:

    Independent bookstores – LOVE Malaprops in Asheville, NC and Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC.
    Zinnias – I felt silly at first but I’ve started putting things like that on my google calendar with a yearly repeat – May 15 – plant zinnia seeds. If it’s on the calendar, it frees up brain space.
    West Wing is some of the best TV writing out there – enjoy!
    Thanks so much for your blog and podcast – they are fabulous!

  8. Brittany Block says:

    My favorite bookstore to visit is The Book Loft of German Village in Columbus, OH. There are 32 rooms of books! It used to a saloon, cinema and general stores all separately and they’ve combined into one big building and into a bookstore. It’s magical and must visit every time I come home to Ohio. Also, my pick for BOTM was A Gentleman in Moscow, so I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it. Don’t remember hearing you recommend that one on the podast!

  9. Thanks for the reminder about BOTM selections! This is the busiest time of the month for us accounting folks, so picking a book is a great distraction : ) Also, I’m recommending The Book Trader in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia. It’s two stories packed to the brim!

  10. I’m super excited about a new indie bookstore coming to Tulsa! Magic City Books will be open in early 2017. The group opening the store has been doing author talks and other bookish events for years and this store promises to be amazing. We haven’t had an indie new books store for at least a decade, so I am pumped to have this one moving in!

  11. Hope Garner says:

    Check out Brattle Book Shop in Boston MA. It’s one of the oldest and largest with three floors! I found some great cookbooks there.
    I don’t know how you find the time to read so many books? Are you a speed reader??:) I still haven’t read your summer reading list. Oh well. We may get rain on Labor Day maybe I can catch up then.

  12. Rachel says:

    Try creating a “things to remember” spread in your bullet journal that you check monthly for upcoming reminders. It’s helped me so much! Hope you enjoy your flowers!

  13. Jennifer says:

    Sherlock is very good (each episode is longer–more like a movie really) and also highly recommend Broadchurch (just two seasons so far but anxiously awaiting the third!). Both on Netflix.

  14. Rv says:

    Yes, yes, yes!!! The botanical garden in Bham is my favorite place to go! My husband even flew us up there on our 20th anniversary. And we were there last weekend. I LOVE it!! Did you see the library at the botanical garden??? It’s in the same building as the shop. It is my happy place! Books and botanicals in the same spot!

  15. Can you use the future log in your bullet journal to remember to plant your zinnias?

    Also, I haven’t been since childhood, but my family was raving about “Wild Rumpus” bookstore in Minneapolis. If you are ever up this way, check it out! (It’s in a lovely area of the city to visit).

  16. Mandy says:

    Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa City is home to the famed writers workshop and home to many authors as well. We are also a Unesco City of Literature. Lots of nerdy book lover stuff to do.

  17. Gale Dupell says:

    A great independent bookstore is Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon. An important part of the community & a great place to go. Come visit

  18. Susan says:

    I recently started The Gilmore Girls. I texted my daughter and told her I was ROFL and why had she never shared…I was intrigued by the Rory book lists I’ve seen on the internet. I’ve been considering The West Wing also (I’ve never watched it either).

  19. Polly says:

    The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles is hands down, the most amazing bookstore I’ve ever been in. I love Powell’s of course, because who doesn’t love a bookstore that takes up a full city block and requires a map. (P.S. Powell’s does online orders if you want an independent alternative to certain behemoth corporations.)
    But the Last Bookstore involves books as art in a way that I’ve never seen before. There is a tunnel made of books that you can walk through. An entire room of used books shelved according to color. And so much more. Truly worth a visit.

    Also have to give a shout out to the Strand in NYC which is large and lovely and Elliot Bay Books in Seattle which has creaky wood floors and comfy armchairs and a large selection.

  20. Mary says:

    Locally, New Orleans, we love the Octavian and Maple Street Books. This summer I visited Oxford, Mississippi, and I was impressed by Square Books.

  21. Gabrielle says:

    Powells in Portland, Or is a must!
    Use your bullet journal to help remember yardy stuff :). I keep a running master to-do list, or start a seasonal chore page, or if you premake your calendars that far ahead, put it on the appropriate month.
    (side note: I can see that I’m going to run out of room for calendar/planning pages in my bullet journal long before I’m ready to retire my collection pages. I was also thinking about branching off and using two, one for a more traditional planner and one for collections. The beauty of bullet journaling…make it whatever you want!)

  22. Jenn Warren says:

    Anne, you must put my beloved local book shop http://bbgbbooks.com on you to-visit list in Richmond, VA. Their shop is small so it includes a very curated selection of kids’ and YA books and 1 shelf for us adults! The staff is so knowledgable that my kids’ elementary school is changing their money making Scholastic book fair to an enrichment book fair put on by BBGB this fall.

    And stop whatever you are doing and start watching West Wing immediately. I just finished my second time through. It’s storylines are so poignant to what’s going on in the country right now. I very well might write Jed Barlett into my ballot in November. There’s also an awesome podcast that started recently The West Wing Weekly. I’m strongly thinking about going back to rewatch season 1 and listen along.

  23. Susan Todd says:

    West Wing is the best…a must-watch! I am hoping to get to my book stack, starting with Leaving Lucy Pear and Heroes of the Frontier over this holiday weekend. Is it terrible that I am praying for rain so I’ll have an excuse to stay indoors and read all day?!

    • Melanie says:

      Oh, and Battery Park Book Exchange in Asheville, NC. In my dreams I’d have a home library just like this store – all classy comfortable well-worn leather furniture, curiosities under bell jars, and of course floor to ceiling bookshelves.

      • Ginger says:

        We drive through Asheville quite often on the way to/from visiting family from Virginia to Tennessee, and always try to stop for the morning or afternoon and see something. I have a list a mile long of all the cute shops and eateries and places to see and Battery Park Book Exchange has been on the list, but your description just made it move to the top of the list. I am making sure to hit this the very next time we’re through there. In fact, I’m thinking I might just need to plan an extra day just to spend here!!

  24. Hannah Beth Reid says:

    West Wing: Yes, watch it! My husband and I just finished it a couple of months ago and loved it! It isn’t too deep for causal watching, but does allow for some conversation afterward occasionally.

  25. Cindy McMahon says:

    Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane is fabulous, and The Well-Read Moose in Coeur d’Alene is cozy and WELL-stocked! Loved “West Wing” but I don’t know anything about the podcast.

  26. Grace says:

    This summer I took a trip to Victoria, BC, Canada, and we went to Munro’s Books. I think it’s definitely worth putting on your list. It’s in such a neat historic building with an incredible ceiling windows and quilted wall hangings. Not to mention the book selection was wonderful. National Geographic actually named it the third best bookstore in the world recently. You can check out my little Instagram shot of it here if you want: https://www.instagram.com/p/BIaWqawAx1O/?taken-by=graceyves

  27. Annette Silveira says:

    Just had to say DEFINITELY watch The West Wing. With the exception of the seasons when Aaron Sorkin was no longer writing, it is so, so good!

  28. Melinda says:

    I just finished Rules of Civility by Amor Towles so I am very excited to choose A Gentleman in Moscow for my BOTM selection. If you haven’t watched Sherlock on Netflix, please add it to your list. You’ll be hooked! I can’t tell you how many times I have watched all of the seasons! If you have Showtime, don’t miss Homeland. I have several more seasons of that one to watch. I have to limit myself to no more than 3 episodes in one sitting. It’s that good!

  29. Leanne Sowul says:

    I adore zinnias. We can’t plant them ourselves because our yard is too shaded, but our neighbor up the street plants a zinnia bed every year, and my son and I love watching them grow throughout the summer when we take walks in the neighborhood. We’ve even made friends over that zinnia patch!
    Definitely try The West Wing if you love well-written TV. I’d love to take a masterclass in writing from Aaron Sorkin. It’s also very timely; with all the mud-slinging in the current political climate, that show will give you a welcome escape into a world of idealized politics.

  30. Kimberly says:

    We just drove from Michigan to Seattle for two weddings. I brought home 100+ books because of:
    1/2 Price Books
    Once Upon a Child
    library sale in Madison, SD
    Yellowstone book shop
    my mother-in-law’s shelves
    and my favorite stop, Auntie’s Books in Spokane, WA

  31. Jules says:

    August felt the same crazy for me- sucking out the last bits of summer fun and starting back to school (which I really wasn’t ready for!).
    I just wanted to say for your spring planting, try putting it in your phone calendar now with an alarm-type reminder. Even add it like three Saturday’s in a row, so no excuses or time to forget. Your phone can remind you. I always add random reminders like that (since I know I will never remember) into my phone, with an alert so I don’t forget.

  32. Jane Weichert says:

    I love checking out bookstores when we travel. My favorites are Singing Wind in Benson, AZ, Changing Hands in Tempe, AZ and Books on Beach in Newport, Or. Also love the one in Denver that others have mentioned.

  33. Mary Kate says:

    I find Amy Schumer hilarious. (Haven’t read her book yet, but it’s on my list!) I get a bit riled up when I see negative comments about her online, mostly the ones calling her vulgar and critiquing her appearance, because you just KNOW if she were a man, people wouldn’t be doing either of those things. I love that a woman can make a name for herself by doing her own brand of comedy her way, and I find it refreshing that said woman doesn’t have to adhere to the traditional beauty standards we always see in the media. Okay, end rant! Haha.

    Thanks for allll the books to add to my TBR. I need Hermione’s time-turner for reading time!

  34. Have you seen Longmire? My husband and I have really enjoyed it. Also, I have to add my support for West Wing. So great. I wasn’t as crazy about the last couple of seasons, but up till then it was wonderful. Also by Aaron Sorkin: Sports Night, which may be my favorite show ever. Only three seasons, unfortunately.

    Use your bullet journal future log for reminding you to plant your zinnias.

  35. Sabrina says:

    My husband and I never caught West Wing the first time around, but we binge watched it on Netflix a couple years ago and LOVED IT SO MUCH!!! I’m not much of a politics person, but I found it fascinating and the characters are all really interesting and enjoyable to follow over the seasons. Enjoy! 🙂

  36. Joy in Alabama says:

    I’m from the Birmingham area (but we live about 50 miles away now) and I’m so glad you had the opportunity to visit! We love the botanical gardens, too, among lots of wonderful things in the area! Y’all come again!

  37. Donna says:

    I love The West Wing and if you want a shorter show you can’t go wrong with Sorkin’s Sports Night. Also, the new season (4) of A Chef’s Life starts Sep 11 on PBS.

  38. Gwyn says:

    I have two bookstore suggestions. One semi-local to me is Gene’s Book Store in Sanibel Island, FL. It is made up of three buildings ‘stuffed’ with books. The first building is filled with mysteries organized by country. I love British mysteries so I love exploring them, but I also love exploring the other countries they carry. The next building is literature and the third is history. When I go there I make a limit for myself. Usually three books. Last time I visited, I came home with six books. My next bookstore recommendation is Haslam’s in St. Petersburg, FL. It fills a city block and I can spend hours there. They carry new and used all mixed together on he same shelves. I never know what I will discover when I go there.

  39. Katie says:

    The West Wing is a GREAT SHOW! My dad has all the seasons on DVD and we had to buy him a new season 2 because it was his favorite and he wore them out. I am currently watching it on Netflix and still love it. I also really love Once Upon a Time, its all about fairy tales retold, I really like it, but some don’t.

  40. Catherine says:

    Was it “Little Professor” in Homewood? When I lived there, they had the best book club section. Oh, wait. It was book club books stacked up behind the cash register so I could see what other book clubs were reading.

  41. Kim says:

    Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is on Netflix now. I enjoyed the book and I think the mini-series is well done.

    Bookstores – Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh (in a new location now), Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC.

  42. Elle says:

    Wild Rumpus books in Minneapolis is just magical – it’s mostly a children’s book store. Chickens and cats roam the store, and there are rats, ferrets, chinchillas, doves, cockatiels, lizards and tarantulas in cages to visit. The “scary” books are in a little creepy hit with a plexiglass floor and rats playing beneath. The medicine cabinet in the bathroom is a glowing fish tank. And they always have the best books, with authors doing signings and story hours. I never cease to find fifteen books I want to buy. It’s one of my most favorite places & we take all out-of-towners there to visit.

  43. Justine says:

    If you are ever in Ontario, Canada, you should visit The Monkey’s Paw bookstore in Toronto! It is a second hand bookstore which specializes in obscure old books. It also has a “bibliomatic” which is a vending machine for books. SO COOL.

  44. Amber says:

    Third Place Books is my favorite Seattle area Indie Book Store. Definitely watch The West Wing. It’s my rematch comfort show.

  45. Jennifer N. says:

    I’m about a quarter of the way through Amy Schumer’s book… and I kind of wish I had bought the audio version instead. The writing is not great, but I bet listening to Amy herself narrate the stories (which are entertaining) would be much more rewarding.

  46. Susan says:

    As has already been stated, West Wing is incredible! I binged watched it last summer and was struck by how many of the issues were still topical.

    Do check out the Tattered Cover in Denver. I’m disappointed that they closed the second story in the downtown location, but I’m glad that they’ve branched out to the airport and Union Station.

    But I really came back to let you know that Amor Towles was interviewed on NPR this morning: http://www.npr.org/2016/09/06/492434255/idea-for-gentleman-in-moscow-came-from-many-nights-in-luxury-hotels

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