Monday, April 12, 2021

What I Read in November

November was a month of mostly library rentals and audiobooks, so no book stack for this month. It was a pretty good month for books, though - I read a couple of my favorites of the year in this round up! Let's do it.

All the books I read in November | www.jennrych.comMy Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (4 stars)

I listened to this one as an audiobook, and though she didn't read the entire thing herself, I got to hear RBG through recordings of her speeches and as she popped in to read certain passages. I loved that - I always love when authors read at least some of their own books. This book was informative and empowering (even a little funny at parts, especially when her husband was a topic), but it is full of politics and legalese. It gets a bit dry at times, and certainly isn't gripping or overly entertaining, but it was definitely worth the listen! 

The Bakeshop at Pumpkin and Spice by Donna Kauffman (& others) (3 stars)

This one was...okay. This had a collection of romantic stories based around a small town in autumn, but I expected the atmosphere to be a bit more. More detailed, more cozy, more basic (haha). The first story was the only one I really felt connected to, but it was also a little unrealistic as far as how the romance came together. It felt rushed and fake, though some aspects of it were still enjoyable. It was cute, but a bit cheesy and a little disappointing for me. 

World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (4.5 stars)

This book was so gorgeous! As I described it on my post of my favorite books of 2020, "It's part memoir, part nature-based non-fiction, part poetry, and all beautiful. I adored it. Reading it was a whole vibe." That's the simplest way to sum it up, but here's a little more detail if that doesn't catch you: the book is written in little essay-like chapters centered around something special about the natural world. She beautifully ties the characteristics of a specific plant or animal to a moment in her life experience. It's so well done - a must read!

The Return by Nicholas Sparks (3 stars)

This is basically what you might come to expect from a Nicholas Sparks book - easy reading, an intriguing romance, and an atmospheric trip to coastal North Carolina. This one was layered with the usual family struggles and heartache, and a resolution that took the long way around. This story is centered on an injured veteran who is spending his time at his late Grandfather's home while he figures out his next steps. There he meets Natalie, who he seems to hit it off with, and the two become friends. The pair also work together to figure out a mystery surrounding a teenage local. Their relationship is complicated and feels like it has no good resolution, but you know...it's Nicholas Sparks. You do the math. ;)

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens (4 stars)

This one was good! Such a cute love story. This unlikely couple starts out as rivals - and they have been since birth. They were born minutes apart in neighboring hospital rooms on New Years Eve. The main character, Minnie, has considered the fact that Quinn beat her out of the womb (and therefore stealing away the hospital's prize awarded to the first baby born on New Year's Day) to be the start of her unlucky curse. She prefers to spend her birthday indoors and away from others while she rides out her unlucky day. She gets dragged out to a party on December 31st - the eve of her 30th birthday - and bumps into none other than Quinn. The story then follows Minnie on a journey with friendship, running a non-profit, and coming to terms with the animosity she's carried for Quinn for three decades. I loved the way their lives had been intertwined as they went through life unaware, and it's such a great ride to watch Minnie realize that instead of fighting a curse, she may have been fighting fate.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (5 stars)

If you read one book from November's list, it should be this one. This also made an appearance on my favorite 2020 books list, and it's riiiight up at the top. Top 3 for sure. In my opinion, Fredrik Backman is one of the greatest writers of the moment, and this was one of his more quickly-paced and suspense inducing stories. This book revolves around a mystery bank robber who accidentally took an apartment full of people hostage. The hostages round out a diverse and complicated cast of characters as you try to work out who committed this crime and how each of them fit into the story. There are so many little sub plots and explorations into the human condition that it keeps you thinking and wondering and dying to know what happens next! I loved it so, so much - it's re-read worthy.


Have you read or loved any of these? Let me know!
One more post to finally round out all the books I read in 2020! Phew.

PS - A few of these are on Book of the Month for cheaper than Amazon, if you're interested! This link gets you a discount off your first box!


This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through or shop from one of these links, I may make a small commission. It's teeny tiny, but still helps me support this blog and I am SO grateful! xx

Thursday, April 8, 2021

My Covid Vaccine Experience

If you're anything like me, you might have a lot of questions about getting a covid vaccine. Or maybe you're just rabidly curious about what the experience has been like for the people who have come before you. It was both for me, and I have struggled and stressed and gotten excited and asked everyone I know for their take on things. This post is wordy and detailed, but I thought I'd put all of it in one place for anyone who is curious. My feelings, my physical responses, and even the actual details of the process are all here for you. Take what you need. :)

The Before

Waiting to be Eligible

I didn't expect this to be a difficult part for me, but it was. Through this entire pandemic, we had to lock down to a greater degree than most people. If you would have said to me at any point prior to March of 2020 that I wouldn't see the inside of a Target store for 14 months, I would have thought you were nuts. But that's the level of locked down my family had to be with an immunocompromised family member under our roof. We didn't grocery shop (used Instacart), we didn't go into stores (ordered everything), we didn't dine out anywhere (ordered take out sometimes), and we certainly didn't gather with others indoors. It was hard, and lonely, and sometimes expensive.

That said, we'd always accepted that we had to be more strict and patient than the average family. And fully understood the privilege we had to be able to do so. We got okay with it - because we had to. And because of just, the nature of the vaccine rollouts and our specific circumstances, we assumed we'd be waiting until the late summer to get ours. Which was fine. Until it felt like everyone we knew, regardless of age or health conditions, had some sort of loophole to get theirs. And while I was always happy for them (and the overall health of our state and country), it was always hard to hear knowing we'd be last in line after already being more isolated and careful and overly restricted. It just hurt a little.

So you can imagine that I was elated and surprised when I heard that our state was about to open up eligibility to those 30 and up last week (March 30th). I thought we'd be months away, still! Of course, the announcement came on the heels of an article being published that NY was one of only three states not yet offering open enrollment for vaccinations and I think that hurried things along. I can't even describe the hope I felt when I found out it was our turn!

Booking My Appointment

Until it became very apparent that finding an appointment was a full time job. Again - one I had the privilege to take on. I had the technology, time, and skills to be able to monitor websites and groups and to endlessly refresh them until I found exactly what I wanted. They do not make it easy!

I had an already-vaccinated friend keeping an eye on things and sending me links any time she came across them. She also added me to a Facebook group geared towards getting the Buffalo, NY area vaccinated. It's full of tips and resources that were SO helpful - they've gotten thousands of people vaccinated through their efforts. (If you're local and would like to be added, let me know!)

Through some sleuthing I was able to get appts for both me and Matt at ECMC. However, they didn't specify which vaccine they were giving, and while I didn't mind getting either Pfizer or Moderna, I didn't want J&J. (Your own preference is totally cool!) I was worried about showing up and not wanting what they had to offer, so I kept searching for something more reliable. My sister found me a CVS appt for Pfizer, but it was kind of a drive. And then finally, a county clinic popped up nearby offering Pfizer and I was able to grab appointments for both of us on the same day. It took four days of constantly paying attention to it, but I finally got it settled!

So here are some tips for you:

  • Dedicate time to it. If you aren't able because of work or other hang-ups, try to find a family member or friend that has the time and resources to book an appointment for you. Someone you trust is best because they will possibly need your insurance info to book your appointment at certain locations. I'm also willing to help - shoot me an email at Jenn (at) enrychment (dot) com!

  • Check your state and county websites (for NY, that's here), but also check all the major pharmacies and grocery stores that are local to you. Every day I had tabs open for CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Tops, Wegmans, and a few local pharmacies. They all operate independently from the state and county run clinics so you have to check them all!

  • If a location says they are fully booked, that doesn't mean they are fully booked. Still click through the links and do so often! I've heard different theories for each location, but some refresh with canceled appointments at :00 some at :02 and some at :05. Play around with it and keep hitting refresh!

  • Try searching with your nearest city's name rather than your zip code. I don't know why, but this works sometimes. So rather than my zip, I would search Buffalo, NY and usually get better results.

  • For any websites that require an account, set them up ahead of time so you're not wasting time signing up while the appointments are being scooped up. Also, try to use the same device on your hunt so that your browser can utilize the autofill feature to speed up the process.

  • Try setting an alarm for 5am or even in the middle of the night. I've heard of people having success at midnight, 1am, 2am - and I found appointments by getting up at 5am.

Getting Ready

I've heard so many tips and thoughts about how to prepare for your vaccine and minimize the side effects, and I can't speak to any of this with authority, but here's what I did.

My vaccine was scheduled for April 2nd, which was two days before Easter. All holidays are less of an event these days, but I did have an outdoor family egg hunt planned on Sunday afternoon. And no one likes a messy house for any holiday - whether family and friends will see it or not. So knowing that I could potentially feel terrible the day after my vaccine, I cleaned my house like crazy on Thursday. I made sure all of the main living areas were decluttered, the dishes were caught up, floors were vacuumed and swept, and everything was ready for the Easter Bunny to arrive. I even told the kids they'd have to help me keep things as clean as I made them or the bunny might not be able to hide as much. So since no one knows what their side effects will be until it's their turn, I recommend getting as prepared as you can (whatever that looks like for you) to feel useless for a day or two.

I also spent the day and morning of chugging water. Like, all but drowning myself. I finally hit a point on Friday morning where my bladder was like, "can you not?" Hydrating seemed to be the key in minimizing a lot of people's symptoms, so I did my best.

And finally, I mapped out the drive and parking situation as best as I could before I went so I knew when to leave and where to go when I got there.

Oh, and bonus: since I hadn't been indoors anywhere other than the pediatrician's office last July, I planned to play it ultra-safe and double mask. A disposable under a cloth mask. I also made sure my purse had hand sanitizer ready to go. 

The After


How It Went

My vaccine experience couldn't have been better! I can't speak to every location and clinic, obviously, but here's how it went for me.

The location of the vaccine clinic I attended was clearly organized and very well done. There were signs everywhere making it incredibly obvious about where to go. As I entered the lobby of the building, there was someone right at the door who asked to see my appointment ticket on my phone and my license. She looked for my age and the date of my appointment. She then directed me to an area where there were several posters of QR codes and told me to scan it with my phone's camera and fill out the eligibility survey that it would bring up. She said that when I finished, there would be someone to show the confirmation screen to at the entrance to the gym (where the clinic was taking place). 

My first dose of the Covid VaccineWhen I made it to this next person, she reviewed my confirmation page and then instructed me to follow a line of social distance marks and keep my license and appointment ticket screen showing on my phone. About halfway down the line (which only had a handful of people ahead of me), there was a woman passing out pamphlets on the specific vaccine I would be getting and asking if I had any questions.

When I got to the end of the line, a woman wearing an actual crown and holding a wand to direct us was saying, "welcome to vaccination Disney World!" I loved the levity she added to the situation. She asked to see my appointment screen and license, and then we waited together while she scanned the room for a paddle with a green dot on it that a volunteer with an empty seat would hold up to indicate they were good to go. 

When I got to my seat, the person who administered my shot gave me a few facts about the vaccine (mostly that my arm would be sore, and I might feel tired and/or get a fever the next day) as she cleaned my arm with an alcohol wipe. Another assistant who sat next to her looked for my info on a computer and filled out my vaccine card. The vaccine was quick and virtually painless (Matt had gone earlier in the day and warned me that it burned, but I didn't think so - then again, he's never had a spinal before a c-section!) I got my bandaid and then was directed to a holding area.

Once there I was told to scan another QR code that would bring me to a link to schedule my next appointment and then choose a socially distanced chair to sit in for 15 minutes. I made my appointment for 3 weeks later, and when my 15 minutes were up - I was off!

How I felt

This is what I think I was most curious to hear from people - and if I'm honest, the most scared about. I'm not afraid of needles or the efficacy of these vaccines, but the unknown of how my body would react to it was worrying me. 

What I didn't expect, was the euphoria of hope and purpose I'd feel while in the clinic. It felt almost like voting did - gathering with others who were on a mission. I didn't know a single person in that room, but I still felt like I was in great company.

After my appointment, I drank tons of water. I don't think I've ever had a more hydrating day in my life! I can't say for sure if that's what contributed to my positive experience, but I will certainly do it around my second shot just in case it was. My side effects were as mild as they come. My arm was sore - the peak of that was when I woke up the next morning. It was gone by Saturday evening (so, maybe after 30-32 hours or so). I also had a bad night's sleep the night of my vaccine - I woke up repeatedly, had crazy dreams and felt sort of foggy headed. Matt said I talked in my sleep, too, which I never do. And then Saturday morning my stomach felt very very vaguely "off" - almost not enough to mention. I felt pretty lazy and tired that day (but whether that was an actual side effect or just because of my bad night's sleep, I'm not sure). I never got a fever, aches, chills, or actual nausea. 

Oh - I also head a headache on Friday. However, it started before my appointment. I was stressed and anxious, so I was about an hour into my headache by the time I received the vaccine. It didn't calm down after I did, though, and it got increasingly worse as the night went on. But, it was completely gone by the time I woke up on Saturday morning. So I'm not entirely sure if that was 100% stress or if the vaccine contributed to it, also.

- - - - -

Overall, I am SO grateful to be on my way to being fully vaccinated. Things in our household won't change too much for a while (not until our immunocompromised son can be vaccinated, which could possibly be by the end of the summer). However, I will definitely return to Target and Library trips, and I may occasionally dine with other vaccinated friends on a patio. Always safely and masked, of course.

I plan to return to this post once I have my second vaccine at the end of the month so I can let you know how the side effects from shot 1 differ from shot 2. Every single person's experience is different, but I'm happy to share and commiserate! Lots of luck to you on this journey - if you need any help finding appointments or have any questions about my experience, please do reach out!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

A Half-Way Normal Easter.

Last year, Easter was....weird. Lonely. Quiet. It was nice not to have a morning rush, I guess? I normally cook brunch for 11, so cooking for just my household without a timeline was nice. Slow is almost always welcome. But it was still strange. Happy, but strange. Most holidays felt that way for the last year.

Easter Eggs This year I wanted life to feel just a little bit more normal. Normal-normal is still who knows how long away, but half-way normal felt exactly right for right now.

Our traditions started on Good Friday - the first day of spring break for my boys, and also the day of my first Covid vaccine. (I have so much more to share about that later but I'm mentioning it mostly because it colored the entire weekend with one of those "before and after" feelings.) It was a bright, sunny day - the kids and I were both euphoric over hitting pause on school and our household inching towards immunity, and so it was the perfect time to break out the dye tablets and crayons and fill the house with the pungent smells of eggs and vinegar.

I'm just happy that they still get excited for the little bits of tradition like this. I'm trying to soak up every second of it since we're careening our way to a teenage household. 

I sipped tea while I watched them get messy and share their techniques, and I dyed a few of my own, also. I was so nervous about potential the side effects of my vaccine that my best efforts at remaining present were still only about half-way, but I still really enjoyed taking a creative moment of tradition with my boys.

 

Sunday morning arrived with an abundance of sunshine. At least, it did a couple hours after we were woken up by excited egg-hunters. In fact, they were sufficiently sugared up and skipping around the house by the time the sun shone through our windows. 

I made our traditional brunch (just for the five of us), which was amazing as always. The stars of the show being Matt's grandma's traditional placek (Polish coffee cake) and corned beef hash. This year we also had the derpiest of butter lambs join us at the table. Jake asked why it said "Australia" on its butt - haha!

Polish Butter Lamb

After brunch, we spent some time cleaning up the yard and getting ready for guests. This is where the most normal part of our half-way normal Easter came in: having guests. They weren't allowed indoors and they didn't share a meal with us, but it was the largest gathering we'd had in over a year. It was only a group of 14 at its height, but that felt like a concert. There was even a moment when I was surprised by the noise - in a good way. My Dad brought individually wrapped ham and jam biscuits and banana carrot cake muffins and we snacked while the kids searched for eggs around the yard. 

  

   







While we've seen them in passing (making deliveries and such) and through Zoom screens, this is the first time my kids have played with their cousins in over a year. It might have even been Christmas of 2019, because we would usually live the homebody life from Christmas-Easter each year to help our immunocompromised son stay healthy. (That part of quarantine/social distancing has always felt normal to us.) It had to be outdoors and they had to wear masks, but it was so good for them to play and have fun and be kids. It was my favorite thing.

So of course, we had to force them to take pictures together.




It gives me hope for the future. 
For a Memorial Day picnic - together. 
For a 4th of July celebration - together.
For an actual 10th birthday party for Henry this summer. Together.

This weekend, most of the adults were only half-way to immune. We'll all be finished up and immune (at least as immune as our vaccines get) by Mother's Day. We might even get to hug? And as someone who doesn't hug at every turn or feel the need to physically touch other human beings at all - my excitement over that idea is telling. 

I don't know when or even really if we'll get all the way there. But for right now, half-way feels pretty great.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Living Room Sneak Peek

Last week, I mentioned that we were working on some home projects over here. One of those projects is giving our living room a much-needed breath of fresh air. We moved into this house almost eleven years ago now (will be 11 years in May), and since then we've grown three toddler boys, a puppy, and three kittens into childhood. So, whatever your imagination is able to conjure in terms of handprints and stains and aging, multiply it by ten. My poor walls!

I've painted and organized and redecorated some things in this house over the years, but the living room has always been a neutral that was "good enough" so it's been largely overlooked. It has needed some TLC and light for a while now, and my winter-pandemic antsiness determined that it was finally time.

My idea kind of started with this picture -->

While browsing Society6 (not an ad, swear it) for pieces in this classy-kitschy style, I fell in love with this print. HAD to have it. Among a few others. 

One morning, I was sipping coffee and looking at this tired old living room of mine and thought, what if I create my update design around that print that I currently have no home for? And done.

Well that, and I've had a kid art mural hanging behind my couch for nearly a decade that I was super-over. My kids have aged out of the preschool art stage, so their little drawings either hang there for an eternity, or get recycled from years ago. It just looked too chaotic for me at this point. I've wanted it to go for a while.

So first, I asked my sister to grab me some cream, off white, and bright white paint samples the next time she went into Lowe's. Ummmmm, she delivered. My brain was basically short circuiting over the choices.

There are entirely too many cream and off white paint choices.

It took dayyyys of moving them around the room to see them in different light and against different wall art and pieces of furniture. There were many texted photos to friends for opinions. At one point, I'd narrowed it down to four choices, and then threw those four choices out and started over. What I ended up picking was initially discarded. It's chaos! This paint choosing thing. Especially where cream colors are concerned.

Matt was basically like, "just go for it my brain cannot compute."

He can't visualize like I can, so I also made him this mood collage to help him get the vibe.

Living room mood board

Our furniture is grey. Mostly a deep grey (the couches), but our recliner is lighter and our TV stand is like a woodsy-grainy grey. So my plan was to use white, cream, and off white to keep the room neutral, and then decorate with some greenery and gold/brass details.

The main wall color I chose (which is pictured behind the can of Valspar in the center) is called Pale Bloom. It's very close to white, but a bit warmer and cozier.

Painting Slop! Light Creamy Paint Color

It took me three days of painting my living room in shifts - pushing the furniture around as I went, stopping to work on school with my boys, and spray painting some of the design elements a unifying bright white. I don't remember ever being that sore! I could hardly walk on Friday, and squatting down to reach low areas on the walls was agony. But it was soooo satisfying to see the walls emerge fresh and clean and bright. I was obsessed before I even pulled the room back together.

On Saturday, I spent the entire day hanging two gallery walls (one of family photos, one of collected artwork - including the gorgeous lady pictured above). There were 23 frames/pieces of art in all!! It was a lot. Matt also helped me re-hang a shelf above the couch, which I styled. Then I rearranged the furniture a bit, reorganized our side table drawers, and replaced some of the Easter decor I'd had out before the update. I ended the night ordering new prints of some updated photos. Half of our family gallery wall is still empty while it waits for new additions.

Here are some sneaks from around the room:


Faux Tulips from Bullseye's Playground at Target


Framed watercolor by my late Grandma


Shelf Decorated with Target decor items


Small brass side table lamp from Target


Art Gallery Wall with elements from Target, Society6, and homemade pieces


I am so excited to show you the whole room! I'm waiting on a few things....the new photos for the gallery wall, a lamp shade for my taller floor lap that matches the new side table lamps, and I need a faux tree/plant for one corner of the room. I really wanted this one - it's PERFECT for the space I need it in. But of course, it's totally sold out. Sigh. I've been looking for a good dupe all over the place, but it seems like most of them have lacquered-level shine on their leaves which is just too fake looking for me. Any tips?

When I get all of those things hammered out, I'll bust out my big camera and try to do the room justice! It's so bright and fresh and ME and I'm so crazy about it so far!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Spring Again.

Spring Life Update

Hello. 

I am...shockingly behind on reviewing books. I've been trying to get back here and catch up, but Spring has arrived and utterly distracted me. I'm over here decluttering toys and sorting my kids' wardrobes and plotting home improvement projects. It's a lot of sudden action after a slow, boring winter.

March coming back around again did some weird things to my brain. The air, the weather, the vibe all felt like it did when our community shut down. It's not that last March was altogether terrible for us. We were all at home and safe and healthy and had everything we needed. But it was so...unendingly unknown. And something about being back in March and springtime made the past year feel like it wasn't real. Like I'd just been standing in line all this time, somehow going through the regular life motions but still just waiting for my turn. Just a weird feeling I'd never had before.

But now we're stretching our arms and legs - stepping out of hibernation and into action. And it's been both energizing and time consuming. I'm still over here, reading all the books (I'm working on #22 for the year), but I'm also helping the kids do the school thing and giving the house some much needed sprucing and yadda yadda.

And I feel like there's so much to share that a bullet list would probably be ideal, here.

  • I'm starting a Happiness Project today. I mapped it out for the spring season (rather than for a month or a year), so there's 90-some days of challenging myself with 12 different goals. It's not so much that I'm seeking out extra happiness as it is attempting to be intentional and purposeful with the time remaining before Matt and I can get vaccinated. And in case you're like, "But wait, don't you already have that 21 for 2021 list? You really need more goals??"....my goals are mostly based off that list, with a little extra detail and fun thrown in. I'll share it all later - on the other side of the project.

  • We tried to buy a couple houses last week. Ha. Sounds flippant but it's also accurate. We got preapproved to attempt buying something that was out of our league but meaningful. (Long story.) Because we'd gone through the process we attempted to throw our pre-approval at something more reasonable, but were shut out because there had already been 43 showings in 4 days and they didn't want any other attempts. Sigh. This market is brutal, and going up against that Boomer cash (you know, bought a house for $150K 20-30 years ago but sold it for $500 now) is a battle. It hurts, and I hate it, and pray for me as we continue on in our house hunt. I may not make it out with my sanity in tact.

  • We've had some lingering home projects that are like 80% done, and other things we've been meaning to tackle but haven't started, and the struggle of floundering through the real estate market has inspired us to tackle it. I'll share more later, but I'm pumped.

  • Last week, our newest neighbors murdered three trees. Yeah, I said murdered. They weren't dying - they weren't riddled with the ash borers. They were just "inconvenient" so they took them down. It was heartbreaking to watch, and the vibe in our yard is entirely different, now. I hate it so much. This is spawning the need to move asap, and I'm also seriously considering planting a row of maple trees riiiiiiight along our property line this summer. 

  • It'll probably be another 2 months (or more?) before Matt and I have access to getting vaccinated, and our oldest *might* get his in time for next school year. I believe the studies on 12-16 year olds are expected to be finished then. But my little two still won't have access and I'm definitely not ready to jump back into normal contact until they do. That said, our social gatherings will largely be outdoors, so I want to invest some extra time and love into making the yard special. I ordered a bunch of flower seeds this morning from Botanical Interests (they have free shipping today (3/20) to celebrate Spring fyi) and I'm going to spruce up all the things. I'm V excited.

  • We're expecting a string of actual Springy weather here in Buffalo this week. Which should make sense, but we don't usually get Spring-Spring until like, the end of April. I'm fully expecting us to return to wintery weather after this, but I am going to enjoy every second of sunshine and 60 degrees we get this week.

Okay okay, so, that's a lot of boring life stuff, but I swear it leads me to sharing some of the fun things ahead. I'll be back like crazy soon with tales of updating my living room, sourdough adventures, and maybe finally some actual book reviews. Peace out girl scouts.