The Gift of Memory

The Gift of Memory

As you can probably imagine, I’ve been a whole lot more sentimental about family since we reconnected with my dad’s maternal family in 2018. I’ve mentioned many times that we experienced a miracle, and it’s made me treasure the family I’ve always known even more. I recently reflected on some of my favorite childhood memories, and this is the book that got me reflecting: Lara Avery’s, The Memory Book:

Sammie McCoy has some serious over-achiever type goals. After she wins the National Debate Tournament and graduates as valedictorian, she’ll attend NYU and subsequently make a name for herself as a human rights attorney. So, she has absolutely no time for Niemann-Pick Type C, an aggressive disease that will steal her memory and eventually render her brain-dead. Sadly, this is Sammie’s new reality, even if she’s unwilling to accept it.

Determined not to succumb to her disease, Sammie logs important details, memories, predictions and dreams on her computer in what becomes her “Memory Book.” Sammie writes candidly about her senior year when she catches the eye of her long-time crush, Stuart; navigates her friendship and debate partnership with Maddie; reminisces about her childhood with bad-boy Cooper and tries to convince her parents that she is still well enough to attend NYU.

Sammie is a fighter. She’s trying to pack a whole life into the time she has, and she’s determined to win against a devastating disease. I thought her quirkiness and confidence were particularly endearing, and I really enjoyed reading about her family’s interesting dynamic and somewhat alternative lifestyle. This is another book to recommend to fans looking for heart-breaking stories like All the Bright Places, The Fault in Our Stars and Thirteen Reasons Why. This book is also a 2018-19 Gateway Nominee.

The Paper Time Capsule

While on a girls’ trip last year, I just happened to stumble on this little gem:

I LOVE the idea of traditional time capsules, and plan to bury one in my backyard this year to celebrate the birth of my baby in May (more on that soon!). But, as you know if you’ve read some of my past blog posts, I’m also a fan of writing sappy letters to some of my dearest friends and the owner of my childhood bookstore. The paper time capsule I found on my girls’ trip includes 12 fold-out cards, each with a writing prompt to inspire you to share a special message with mom. Prompts include “One thing I’m glad we share is. . .”, “I always think of you when. . .” and “The best adventure we’ve ever had together was. . .” Filling out the cards is the perfect #plotdrivenlife experience to complement Lara Avery’s book.

I chose to cut out the cards, and I’m going to fill them out periodically and mail them to my mom who lives in British Columbia, Canada, so she unexpectedly gets a special treat from me. You could fill out all the cards in the capsule and send it in its entirety if you prefer. Regardless, I think this is a powerful way to communicate gratitude and appreciation for my mom for all of the sacrifices she’s made for me, and, at the same time, it lets me celebrate some of my favorite memories of our time together. You could easily make your own cards and time capsule, but I just loved the cuteness of the cards with their “air mail” stickers and pretend postage stamps. In fact, I loved the capsule so much, I bought one for my dad, too.

There are a variety of other paper time capsules available to send to loved ones and even a version you can send to your future self. What I know from reading The Memory Book and having grieved the passing of beloved family members is that now is the time to treasure our memories and cherish the people we hold the closest. Would you prefer to send a paper time capsule to a loved one or write letters to your future self to store away? And what suggestions do you have for me to put in my traditional time capsule to commemorate 2019?

Happy reading,


Tea for Three

Tea for Three

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

This Alice in Wonderland spin-off is set in the peaceful, magical land of Hearts which is ruled by a buffoon-of-a-king who has his eyes on the regal Lady Catherine Pinkerton. “Cath” is the daughter of wealthy land owners who fall over themselves in an attempt to put their daughter on the throne. Cath isn’t interested in becoming a queen, however; instead, she wants to start her own bakery with her best friend and maid, Mary Anne. When Cath meets the king’s newest court jester, appropriately named Jest, their attraction is magnetic, and she is immediately swept up by his charm and mystique. Unbeknownst to Cath, Jest is on a mission from Chess, sent to steal the heart of a queen to save his homeland from the grips of war. To further complicate matters, a murderous jabberwock is terrorizing Hearts, its origins a mystery. Cath learns that once her fate is written in ink, she is powerless to stop it.

This book kept me guessing until the end. In fact, its conclusion was so unexpected to me that I checked to see if it was part of a series! It’s not, by the way. . . I loved Meyer’s cast of characters, many borrowed from Lewis Caroll’s book including the Cheshire Cat, the smoking caterpillar and the Mad “Hatta.” This is memorable, high fantasy fun, and I look forward to the release of Meyer’s new novel, Renegades on November 7 and her upcoming visit to the Spencer Road branch of the St. Charles City-County Public Library to promote it. Click here for event details. It’s free to attend!

A Fascinating Afternoon

Like Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland, Marissa Meyer’s Heartless includes a quirky and memorable tea party. In Heartless, the party is hosted by the Mad Hatta who is known for his unusual and magical hats. These hats play a crucial role in the action of the story. As soon as I read the tea party scene, I knew that it would be the inspiration for this week’s #plotdrivenlife experience. One of my favorite special things to do with several of my girlfriends is to get dressed up and enjoy high tea together. My friend Katie met Jane Muscroft, also known as “The Scone Lady” at a cooking class once upon a time, and learned that Jane, a Brit, also served high tea once a month in a rented space in St. Louis. So, my friends made it a tradition to get together for tea a few times a year, and we once drove to St. Louis in an ice storm, determined to keep our reservation! Recently, Jane opened her own cafe in Edwardsville, Illinois, called Queen’s Cuisine, and she continues to serve high tea on one Sunday each month. Checking our calendars, Katie, our friend Kris and I made plans to drive an hour to enjoy Jane’s delicious sandwiches, scones desserts and tea.

This was to be no typical tea party, however. We had to have hats! I have always loved the elegant and sometimes ridiculous nature of a fascinator hat, often worn by English royalty at fancy events, and I’ve wanted to make my own for years. I dug around on Pinterest for an evening and found two separate DIY tutorials for fascinators and decided I’d combine them. Click here and here for the tutorials.

With a vision of the final product, I took a field trip to Hobby Lobby to purchase supplies. An hour later, I was heating up my new glue gun, feeling like a giddy contestant on Project Runway.

My Hobby Lobby haul!
I used a piece of black felt as the base of the fascinator and cut holes in it to thread it through a simple plastic headband.
To create the finished product, I hot-glued tulle, a feather and a large flower onto the felt base.

The hats are pretty tame, but I’m proud of how they turned out, and I think Kris and Katie looked beautiful in them.


At Queen’s Cuisine, we filled our bellies with divine treats and just enjoyed each other’s company. High tea is a rare splurge for us which is why we packed Tupperware so we could take home the leftovers!

Cheers, Katie! Doesn’t the three-tiered tray of treats look AH-MAZING?
Fancy and full!

What special traditions do you have with your own friends? Post in the comments.

Thanks for reading,