Readers, Guy Fieri, and Instagram

Book garden

My Southern California Peeps: If you are looking for something fun to do today, I’ll be signing books at the Anaheim Library Romance Author Day. Come say hi, and eat a London Demerez scone with me. I’ll be selling the last of my Emma Foster books before we change all the covers. The original cover editions will be worth millions some day, I personally guarantee it.* So you should totally come buy them.

Other fun for your weekend:

Check out this Reading Infographic, revel in how wonderful readers are, and then pat yourself on the back for being the smart, bookish types. We rule.

Every Friday night is Family Fun Friday at the Strauss Haus. We take turns choosing the dinner and the movie of the night. Somehow the night always ends with us watching an episode or two of Triple D. Guy Fieri makes me laugh, even though why is he always screaming? These are fun reads: The Unrecognizable Genius of Guy Fieri and Here’s What Happens After Guy Fieri Visits a Restaurant. If you want to plan an epic road trip, you can look up all of the Triple D locations here. I’ve been to this one and it really was fantastic.

I was getting my nails did this week, and went to snap a picture, imagining the silly caption. Can’t even deal with my To-Do List today, so I’m getting my nails did! Or maybe, Haven’t done laundry for a week, so I don’t have anything to wear, but darn it my nails look good.

I pondered the cutest caption for a bit, and then something occurred to me: Nobody – NOBODY – cares that I got my nails polished. Not one person on the planet cares. I barely even care. I’m embarrassed that I even considered posting it. I’m really that shallow?

Well, I’m certainly shallow enough to consider doing it.

That same day I listened to this Hidden Brain podcast about the emotional cost of social media. The takeaway was that we objectively know that our friends’ lives aren’t as fabulous and #blessed as they pretend to be. We know this. It’s not that we need to prove our social worth to them. We actually feel a need to prove it to ourselves. It is a fascinating listen, and really made me think about a more thoughtful approach to social media in the future.

All that said, I really do love Instagram. I follow a lot of writers and artists, and seeing slices of creative people’s lives is endlessly interesting to me. Are you on Instagram? Right now you are expecting me to tell you to dump all of your social media, but let’s be real. You should totally follow me. I do monthly giveaways of fun prizes. And I will no longer be posting pictures of my manicure.

Have a great weekend!

OXO

JULIE

*Mr. Joe Strauss would like to add for the official record that Mrs. Julie Strauss cannot possibly foresee the future value of her books, and her personal guarantees mean almost nothing, and should not be considered legally binding or even all that reliable. Trust him.

PS – Just a reminder:

Burritos

 

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Pick Three

Look forward

Work. Sleep. Family. Friends. Fitness.

Pick three.

-Randi Zuckerberg

Not gonna lie – I absolutely HATED this advice when it started bouncing around the interwebs a couple of years ago. Three? That’s it? If I’m a good mom, friend, and wife I have to give up on work, sleep and fitness? Obviously it pissed me off so much because deep down I knew her advice was true. On my Super Mom days, I do NOT get the words on the page. If I force myself to get a good night’s sleep, I’m not going to the gym in the morning. Oh my God, I really only get three!

But for the last year or so I’ve really been thinking about Work/Life balance and I’ve had some revelations. First of all, “Work/Life Balance” is an annoying phrase. Not only to we have to do all this shit, but we also have to worry that we are doing it correctly? When I go out with my Girl Gang, we should be discussing books or politics or our laminated celebrity freebie list, not how balanced we are.

Do this for me right now: stand up on one foot. Hold still. Can you do it? Your abs contract, your hips are rotating a little bit, you are pushing your chin out. Now switch feet. I bet your shoulders are shifting. If you are like me, your arms went full windmill until you steadied yourself. But after a few moments of wiggy panic, you got upright again.

To balance is a verb, not a noun.

It requires constant work and adjustment. Balance is not static.

Next lightbulb moment: as soon as you put both feet on the ground again, did you realize that you are, in fact, balancing all the time? We’re used to standing on two feet, so it doesn’t feel like work. But once upon a time, you were a chubby baby who pushed up on both feet, and teetered there for a second before landing on your cushy little butt. (Given enough Zinfandel, I’m still that baby.) It’s still balance. It’s still work. We just don’t notice anymore because we are used to it.

Of course, Ms. Zuckerberg never meant that your choices today are your choices tomorrow. Today I chose Super Mom, because my kids needed me for some important school and life decisions. Our house guests left this afternoon, and I squeezed the life out of every minute with them, so I also chose friends. But now I’m exhausted, and my next choice will be sleep. What suffered? Work and Fitness. But that’s just today. I’ve got time blocked out for both of those things tomorrow, and something else will have to take a back seat.

And that is the key to what “Pick Three” means. Balance is active, and it’s a long game. Overall, I’m happy with the time and effort I put in to all of facets of my life. But I never, ever get to everything on a given day. I’m windmilling my hands every single day. That’s balancing.

What do you think about balance? Are you good at it?

OXO

JULIE

PS – Now I’ve written the word ‘balance’ so many times I don’t even know what it means anymore. Is it a word? Did I make it up?

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Waffles. Books. Matcha. PEEPS.

Waffle Heart

Happy Easter weekend, to those of you who celebrate. We have dear friends staying with us, which will shake up our Easter traditions in the best possible way. I’m trying to come up with a good hashtag term for it. I see your Friendsgiving and raise you a Friendeaster! Friendster? Freaster? Please stop me.

What are we doing on this Weekend? I’m so glad you asked.

Serving: a Waffle Bar. You heard me. I’m doing it. Not even ashamed.

Reading: Last week I took my kids on a field trip to Los Angeles. We capped off the day with a trip to The Last Bookstore, which is the most wonderful bookstore I’ve ever visited. Everyone likes to take pictures inside the book tunnel (we did it!) but it’s so much more than that. We got lost in the stacks for a long time. Literally lost. After I paid for a big stack of books all the kids disappeared. I told the burly security guard at the door that I came in with five kids and couldn’t find a single one of them. He looked down at me with a cocked eyebrow and said Bummer for you, Lady. And I looked at my stack of books and said Actually, bummer for YOU, man, because I’m outta here. I found a gorgeous leather bound copy of Howard’s End, as well as three different E.M. Forster biographies, so I just wanted to go home and read. I hope all those kids live happily ever after. They probably still haven’t noticed I left. #notmyproblemanymore

Also reading: This great list of books to read before they become movies. The first few have already happened, but the rest are coming in 2017, and man do they ever look good. I love a book list that also has suggestions for “If you like this book, you may also like…” Most of these are going on my TBR list right away. (Not you, Stephen King. We’ve been down that road before, old friend.)

Drinking: Despite the ice cream, I believe this Matcha Affogato counts as a breakfast food. Please do not tell me otherwise, kthanksbye.

Rolling our eyes: Please stop, internet. You are annoying us.

Finally: behold the winning Peeps Dioramas. The only sports event I care about.

Have a great weekend, friends,

OXO

Julie

 

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On Adult Friendships

Stairs

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. It has no survival value; rather, it is one of those things that give value to survival. C.S. Lewis

A few weeks ago, I found myself at a brewery late at night with three people I don’t know all that well. Anyone who has met me knows how far out of my comfort zone that situation is. The people weren’t strangers, exactly. I see Crystal every month at RWA meetings, I’ve met Mark at a few writing conferences. OK, well, Phillip was a stranger until we met at a writing class earlier that very day. We gathered at the hotel bar in between seminars and the conversation tripped around the table – craft beer and Rush and writing and religion and politics. We changed location and the talk kept tumbling around – adoption and parenting and marriage and rude jokes and favorite books and tattoos and quoting Planes, Trains, and Automobiles almost in its entirety. (Her first baby came out sideways. She didn’t scream or nothin’.). Serious and ridiculous and honest and real. At one point, the menfolk got up to get a pizza, and I said to Crystal, “This is weird, right? This grouping of people and this crazy conversation?” It felt so alive and sort of magic and I didn’t want the night to end. (But it did, because every introvert has her melting point.) It was so hard to explain it all to Joe when I got home. I doubt that foursome will ever converge again. Maybe that’s what made it such a fun night – the topics could freewheel around the table and no one was all that concerned about putting up a false appearance. We just connected for a while, and then said goodnight.

There are all sorts of good, valid reasons adulthood takes its toll on friendships – jobs, kids, marriage, divorces, mortgages, and all the other stuff of life. It all takes up our time and makes it hard to make new friends and even harder to maintain relationships that we aren’t legally bound to. A lot of people cite social media as a great way to keep up with old friends, but I’d argue that the opposite is true. We check people’s status – at Starbucks! Got a new dog! And we hit “Like” or even “Love” and we move on with our day. We know, down deep, that it’s not a real connection, but we comfort ourselves that at least we’ve acknowledged each other and we vow to get in touch for long chat later.

By an amazing stroke of luck, I’m having four of my best friends in the world together in one place this weekend. I’m almost dizzy with anticipation. I might clean my house, and I might wear make up, and I might make lasagna from scratch. Also? I might not do any one of those things. And none of them will care at all. So maybe that is the key to adult friendship. Nowadays, we only want the freedom to be real. That conversation will also be a magic unicorn tumbleweed of topics. We make each other laugh – really, really hard. We don’t lie about things being great when they actually suck. We just don’t have the energy to care about the appearance anymore. We care about what is real. We are all becoming Velveteen Rabbits who are just a little drunk on Syrah.

I never get tired of reading about friendship, and what it means to people. Check out some of these stories by writers I love:

How to Make Friends As An Adult

Why Adult Friendships Make Me Sad Sometimes

The Joy of All-Female Gatherings (Also from Jo: Making New Friends)

Adult Friendship is an Investment Requiring Some Work

The Secret to Staying Friends in Your 30s (I’m in my 40s, but the advice holds…)

What have you learned about friendship as you’ve grown older? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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I Think I Love You

ithinkiloveyou

My younger sister, The Angel of Death, texted me yesterday that David Cassidy is battling dementia. I’d happily sign legislation that made it illegal for all artists to be mortal. Can someone please get on this?

Thinking about David Cassidy reminded me of a book I loved called I Think I Love You by Alison Pearson. If you love David Cassidy, or really if you’ve ever had a crush on a pop star this is a super fun read. From the Amazon description: Petra and Sharon, two thirteen-year-old girls, are both desperately in love with a world-famous pop star. Together they pore over his photos, read his fan club letters, and even enter a contest whose winners will meet him in person. Twenty years later, Petra is pushing forty, on the brink of divorce, and fighting with her own thirteen-year-old daughter when she is given the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to meet the teen idol she loved so long ago. A moving tale of friendship and celebrity that captures the intensity of first love—a love that never entirely goes away.

Re-reading Pearson’s book sent me down a rabbit hole of books about pop music. Here are some highlights.

The Commitments, by Roddy Doyle is absolutely hilarious, one of my all time favorite books (and movies.) (And soundtracks.) The Commitments are a group of fame-starved, working-class Irish youths with a paradoxical passion for the music of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding and a mission—to bring Soul to Dublin. Doyle captures all the shadings of the rock experience: ambition, greed, and egotism—ans the redeeming, exhilarating joy of making music. One of the most engaging and believable novels about rock’n’roll ever written, a book whose brashness and originality have won it mainstream acclaim and underground cachet.

Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and A Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield The 1980s meant MTV and John Hughes movies, big dreams and bigger shoulder pads, and millions of teen girls who nursed crushes on the members of Duran Duran. As a solitary teenager stranded in the suburbs, Rob Sheffield had a lot to learn about women, love, music, and himself. And he was sure his radio had all the answers. But this book is not just about music. It’s about growing up and how every song is a snapshot of a moment that you’ll remember the rest of your life. Rob Sheffield is a Rolling Stone columnist, and I have always loved his writing. If you like this book, be sure to check out the heartbreaking Love is a Mixtape: Life and Loss One Song at A Time, it’s sort-of-but-not-really sequel Turn Around Bright Eyes, and last year’s On Bowie.

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert The Clash. Social Distortion. Dead Kennedys. Patti Smith. The Ramones. Punk rock is in Emily Black’s blood. Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back. Now Emily’s all grown up with a punk band of her own, determined to find the tune that will bring her mother home. Because if Louisa really is following the music, shouldn’t it lead her right back to Emily?

Songbook by Nick Hornby “All I have to say about these songs is that I love them, and want to sing along to them, and force other people to listen to them, and get cross when these other people don’t like them as much as I do.” —Nick Hornby, from Songbook. A shrewd, funny, and completely unique collection of musings on pop music, why it’s good, what makes us listen and love it, and the ways in which it attaches itself to our lives—all with the beat of a perfectly mastered mix tape. I love this book even if I’m not cool enough to know some of the songs he writes about. Nick Hornby is one of my all time favorite writers, and he’s at his best when he writes about music. His best book, in case you haven’t already read it, is High Fidelity (and the movie is great, despite the fact that they inexplicably set it in America.) Another fun read is the novella Juliet, Naked, which is about an obsessed fan of a fictional rock band.

Your Favorite Band is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life by Steven Hyden  Beatles vs. Stones. Biggie vs. Tupac. Kanye vs. Taylor. Who do you choose? And what does that say about you? Actually–what do these endlessly argued-about pop music rivalries say about us? Through Hendrix vs. Clapton, Hyden explores burning out and fading away, while his take on Miley vs. Sinead gives readers a glimpse into the perennial battle between old and young. Funny and accessible, Hyden’s writing combines cultural criticism, personal anecdotes, and music history–and just may prompt you to give your least favorite band another chance.

Party of One from former MTV VJ Dave Holmes is the hilarious memoir of a perpetual outsider fumbling towards self-acceptance, with the music of the ’80s, ’90s, and today as his soundtrack. Structured around a mix of hits and deep cuts from the last four decades—from Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” to LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” and Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better”—and punctuated with interludes like “So You’ve Had Your Heart Broken in the 1990s: A Playlist” and “Notes on (Jesse) Camp,” this book is for anyone who’s ever felt like a square peg, especially those who have found their place in the world around a band, an album, or a song. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny, deeply nostalgic story about never fitting in, never giving up, and letting good music guide the way.

What are your favorite books about pop music?

OXO

Julie

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Squash. A Haircut. A Hotel.

onion

Happy Saturday, and for those of you in the United States, Happy President’s Weekend. Are you taking care of yourself? We have rain predicted all weekend, so I am staying close to home. I owe the Husband a night on the town (and a cheesecake) since the flu ruined our Valentine’s Dinner. Other than that, here is what I’m up to:

Reading this book, and am nervous because my expectations are very, very high. I need a good read – I’ve been striking out with books lately – abandoning far more than I am finishing. Need some recommendations. What are you reading and loving right now?

Making this Squash/Lentil/Feta/Pine Nut dish even though I usually don’t like lentils and my entire family will turn their noses up at this meal. Except Husband. He will eat it very politely and then say, “I like everything you cook. This one wasn’t my favorite, but it was still good.” Le sigh. Do you have any good vegetarian recipes for me? I’m in a rut.

Thinking about getting my hair cut like this. Should I? Maybe it only looks good on blonde movie stars.

Dreaming about a vacation at this book hotel. A BOOK HOTEL!

But let’s be real – if I go there I will never come home. We all know it’s true. I’ll sneak into a supply closet and then wander the halls at night like a lonely ghost.

Have a lovely weekend, friends. Hug the people you love.

OXO

Julie

PS – Your weekend laugh:

tampax

 

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The Crown

the_crown_0

I have contracted with what I am pretty sure is the bubonic plague, so no Wednesday Words for you today. I am going to just leave you with a Netflix Binge recommendation. Have you watched The Crown? If you haven’t GO WATCH IT! I alternate between whining I want to be Queeeeeeeen and then insisting I could never ever ever be Queen! Honestly I just want the castles and the dresses. The episode when she had to forbid her sister from getting married? Broke. My. Heart. AND I have heard there will be a total of six seasons, but for sure Season 2 is already cast and there will be Kennedys!! Yes, I’m using way too many exclamation points today, and I’m sorry, but I’m hopped up on cold medicine. Go watch it and tell me what you think!

OXO

Julie

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Regency Romance, Vampires, and Cheesecake

heart-bowls

Valentine’s Day: World’s Lamest Holiday? Or World’s Sweetest Way to express love? Whether you are celebrating a love story or your own sweet self, here are some fun links for your pre-Valentine’s Weekend:

Last month I met a woman who writes Regency Romances. I asked her why she thought the Regency Era took off so much. Why not Victorian or Gregorian or Elizabethan? Yes, I know there are books written about all of those eras, but not in Regency numbers. Her theory was that the Regency Era is like the 1960’s in American history: young people were trying out new social mores, new styles of clothing, and expressing themselves differently. That creates a great opportunity for writers to create all sorts of romantic entanglements. If you’ve never read Regency, here is a good list of clean romances, and here’s a starter guide to some racier ones.

If a delicious Regency Romance isn’t your thing, or you are in the mood for something a little darker, here’s a great big list of Vampire Books in every genre that ought to keep your twisty little black soul occupied for a while. PS, I love you, you Weirdo.

Husband’s very favorite dessert is cheesecake, so I think I will make this White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake this week. I’ve made it before, and even though cheesecake is not really my gig, this is a super good recipe because of the chocolate crust. Also, I love the fancy hearts on top, which look hard to do, but really aren’t.

Don’t forget your Girl Gang on Galentine’s Day (February 13.) Please do me a favor and don’t look up ideas for a fun Galentines Day party on Pinterest, because you will go down an Underachiever Shame Spiral and never come back. That said, if I made heart shaped melon salad and wiggly sequined headbands for my besties they would lock me up in a padded room. Our Galentines Day will include pizza (though it won’t be heart shaped) or tacos (also not heart shaped) and a designated driver. Unless we go to someone’s house in our pajamas and watch a movie.

Imma lay it down for you: if your bestie expects you to make her heart shaped macarons, you need a new bestie.

Peace out!

OXO

Julie

PS – Laugh of the week

cookie-dough

 

 

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My Word in 2017

strengthen

We are a month into 2017. Did you make resolutions? I did not, but I did choose a word of the year. In case you’ve never come across that notion, the idea is that you choose a single word that will guide you through the year instead of specific resolutions. Life moves so fast, and things change, and I really liked thinking about an overall theme instead of a fixed target. I tend to put my head down and focus on micro targets, to the exclusion of the big picture. That helps sometimes (when I’m on a book deadline, or when I’m training for a race) but as an overall life plan it’s not too healthy.

In 2016, I chose the word BUILD. Not surprisingly, it came to me at the gym toward the end of 2015. I had just embarked on a new weight lifting regime and had a different mind set towards my health than I ever had in the past. Instead of working out to fit into smaller jeans, I was working out with an eye to my middle aged and eventually senior years. I’m watching people not too much older than me who are already suffering some age-related problems, and it motivated to build muscle and strengthen my bones.

BUILD made sense in my professional life, too. I had just published my first book and wanted to build a good strong base that would grow over the next few years. I knew had a lot of beginner work to do on my new business, and I wanted to work hard setting up a proper foundation that could support future growth.

I made some new friends that I sensed would become very important in my life, and I wanted to BUILD up those relationships. My oldest son started college last year, and so that relationship changed a lot. 2016 was our chance to build a new relationship as a mother and young adult.

How did it look in my day to day life? It just came down to examining my activities, and asking myself constantly: how is this activity going to BUILD my life? If it was easy to answer (it will expose me to new readers, it will teach me how to use a new software that is critical to publishing, it will build a positive new relationship) than doing the activity was usually a no-brainer. But obviously there were days where building one thing would tear down something else. A great writing conference across the country would build my career, but it would happen at the expense of my marriage and family, so I have to say no. Sometimes, I’m OK with the trade off. Having coffee and a long chat with Tara won’t build my writing career, but it will build my mental well being and an important relationship. Eating ice cream straight from the carton while binge watching Friends might feel like it is building my mental well being, but it will damage my sleep and my health goals. Not a good trade off (which is not to say I never did it.)

There were setbacks in each area. In early spring I fell while ice skating and got a concussion. That set my fitness goals back significantly, and recovery took a lot longer than I expected. Since I hadn’t set a specific fitness goal (bench press XX pounds by XX date) I just kept my eye on the word BUILD, and started building up my strength again as soon as my body could handle it. I made a lot of mistakes in my new author business and I had to correct them. I didn’t nurture some of the relationships I meant to.

Overall, I liked having a word in 2016, though in retrospect I think “Foundation” would have been more accurate. Everything I did last year felt new, and my eye was always on building a strong base, so that all of the good and positive things in my life could continue to grow on that.

The word I’ve chosen for 2017 is STRENGTHEN, and so far I’m really liking it as a guiding principle. I’ve noticed that it keeps me from jumping in to anything new, which is a big hazard for me. I have way too much on my plate already. So I need to choose activities that will strengthen what I have, instead of trying to create something brand new. I have to continually ask myself: is this activity strengthening something in my life? Or is it just creating more busy work? If the latter, is it worth it to take my energy away from strengthening what I already have?

It’s a balancing act, and I certainly don’t always get it right. I spent most of last weekend watching reruns of Parks and Recreation with my daughter, and that didn’t strengthen anything except my witty comebacks. Let’s just say I strengthened my relationship with my daughter, and call it a win.

What do you think of having a word for the year? What is yours?

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The Tunnel Tree. Weird Things in Books. Spicy Shrimp.

flying-fish

Well, really. What a stupid week. I am soothed by small doses of hard liquor, large doses of dark chocolate, massive doses of books, and very select friends and family. Also, very super small doses of internet until I feel the existential dread tightening its noose around my neck. It goes like this: Ohmygodddddd the world is so awful where is my passport grab the Bug Out Bag never mind let’s just stay here and die. Then Husband tells me to calm the hell down (in a nice way) and tells me to watch Tina Fey until I’m ready to stop acting like a crazy person. Then I hear that Beyonce is pregnant and  OHMYGODDDDDD I’m back on the internet and the cycle begins again. Modern love, gets me to the church on time.

Here are some fun weekend links to keep you away from doomsday scenarios and panic-induced stupidity:

Everyone who grew up in California visited the Tunnel Tree. I have a recollection of driving through it in my parents’ VW bug when I was a toddler, but it’s such a common picture that I’m not even really sure if the image is my memory or Collective Memory. But anyway, that tree was small, weird, and rather wonderful part of our state identity, and I’m really sad it’s gone. For a perspective on what the death of the tree meant to those of us who live here, read this beautiful essay by Nathan Heller.

Any tribute I could give it would be fatuous;

the tree was older than the language in which I can write.

In case you are worried that you are the weirdest person in the world, you are not. Here is a list of Weird Things Librarians Have Found In Books. Personally, I use whatever paper is close to my hand as a bookmark, including (but not limited to) Post Its, receipts, pictures, and postcards, and one time a five dollar bill. I have forgotten many of those book marks when I return my books to the library. I can say with all confidence that I have never once left a taco in my library book. Now it’s in my head. The next time I eat a taco the thought will flit through my head – other people use these as bookmarks! – and next thing you know I’m leaving tacos in my library books. You know on second thought, don’t even read that article. It’s really just a gateway drug for those of us who like to eat and read.

My sister made this spicy shrimp as an appetizer last Christmas and the whole family fought over who got to swipe up the last of the sauce with chunks of bread. It was delicious. I have a houseful of teenagers who laugh at me when I suggest we eat less meat, so I can’t go vegetarian without an uprising. But I do want to make more fish. Do you have any good recipes to share with me? Hit me up via e-mail or comments if you do.

Have a great weekend, friends!

OXO

Julie

PS – Don’t forget to like this post on my Instagram page so you are entered to win a super cool Rebellion Tote Bag. I’ll be picking a winner on Monday.

PPS – For a laugh:

cucumbers

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