My Reading List: Must-Read Books for 2019

Bonjour! Did you make crêpes for la Chandeleur over the weekend? Much of the French population did! The Christian holiday of la Chandeleur (Candlemas) always falls on Groundhog Day here in the U.S., so it's easy for me to remember to make crêpes for dinner each February 2nd, even though crêpes have nothing to do with marmottes. I like the thought of so many people eating crêpes for dinner on the same night each year. It's a more heartwarming picture than everyone watching the Super Bowl together, don't you think? But to each (country) their own habits!

That said, the Super Bowl was a good excuse for us to invite family and friends over. Once the game was done and the kitchen was tidied, though, I continued reading Circe by Madeline Miller. Her first book, Song of Achilles, was the first book I finished this year, and it was riveting. Miller's gifted writing and her intimate knowledge of the flawed characters of Greek mythology make her novels utterly fascinating. These are not stories of moral virtue; instead, they show why we can still respect the broken heroes of the classical world.

I'll happily finish Circe soon since I have a number of fascinating titles waiting on my bookshelves, both in French and English. Here are the books on my list for 2019:

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Joyeuses Pâques! Sweet Easter Gifts & Artful Activities

C'est vendredi saint--It's Good Friday today, or Holy Friday as they say in French, and I'm remembering the beautiful ways that Easter is celebrated in France. Instead of an Easter bunny bringing eggs there, they tell children that the church bells ring to Rome, and when the bells echo back to France, the bells bring chocolates back to France. I have fond memories of hunting chocolate eggs at my host family's chalet in the Alps years ago.

Last spring I was in Paris to run my first marathon, so I was able to bring back small chocolate chickens for my children for Easter! Inside the hollow chickens were little chocolates in various forms. French chocolatiers make the most wonderful chocolate animals for Easter--not just bunnies, but even chocolate lobsters, dolphins, fish, and seashells! I'm not sure why the ocean theme exists at Easter there, but it's delightful to see the variety of chocolate forms.

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Family Must Do's on Maui: Our Favorite Hawaii Activities

Bonjour and Aloha! One month ago a acquaintance asked me, "So when can your family go to Hawaii this summer?" The only correct answer to that question is "Anytime!" Thanks to their offer of a place to stay, we've just gotten back from a week on Maui and a week on Molokai. The last time we visited Maui our baby was a year old, so it was a wonderful family experience to visit now with our 2 year old, 5 year old, and 8 year old. Here's what we loved during our week on Maui, and what I'd highly recommend you do if you get the opportunity to visit:

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ZooLights in Oregon: Why it's Better than Ever (plus a giveaway!)

Last week was our final week with a French friend--she had been living with us for three months, and without a visa to stay longer, her time in the U.S. was legally drawing to an end. As you can imagine, we had several activities that we wanted to squeeze in with her before she left. ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo was one of them. (I'm happy to give you a chance to win tickets too. Just keep reading!) Here's why I think ZooLights is better this year than ever before:

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Casual Conversation on A Meaningful Day

Hello and bonjour! My goodness, it has been a long time since you last heard from me, and for that I am sorry. I've had to make blogging less of a priority the past few months, while being more intentional about other activities (which I will share in a moment). In the meantime, today is presidential Election Day here in the USA. While seeing democracy in action is an awesome freedom, this particular Election Day feels a bit like watching lemmings plunge off a cliff: we knew it would come to this, but was this really how it needed to go down? In any case, we Oregonians vote by mail, so my husband (a history teacher) and I turned in our ballots last week and I expect we'll be praying and waiting patiently for today's outcomes. How do you feel about this election? Maybe you'd rather not talk about it. Ha!

These three H's have been my focus lately (oh, and my husband, who's always part of my focus--love you, honey!):

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Weekly Meal Planning Made Simple

Bonjour! How was your weekend? On Saturday we celebrated my daughter's seventh birthday by going ice skating, then warmed up with steaming bowls of pho (beef noodle soup) at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant. (Birthdays in our family always seem to be accompanied by pho--usually homemade!) Speaking of food, I want to share my weekly meal planning routine with you because this is such a fast, practical, and fun method. I usually do this on Saturdays so I can relax on Sundays & honor the Sabbath. Ready? Here it goes:

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Arriving in Paris (and What Not To Do on Arrival)

 Bonjour les amis! We're in Paris! This is my first trip back to France in eight years, and It's great to be able to share this city with my husband and children. (He and I were last in France when I was two months pregnant with our first child.) I hope to write more frequently about our experiences here, so Intentional Mama will be more of a travel blog for a while, d'accord? Here's how we're adjusting, and what we've learned the hard way:

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Resting Easy about Babies and Sleep

A few months before my first child was born, I thought two nurses had given me the ticket to a good nights' sleep after baby's arrival. I'd read their book (complete with a DVD demonstrating how to swaddle); it advocated letting your baby cry for two nights so that he or she would learn to sleep through the night by the third night. This technique--commonly known as cry it out or CIO--seemed to me a bit harsh but necessary, like vaccines, so I considered it good advice.

Then I became a parent.

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