Need a book recommendation? Or a few?

Two blog posts in two days?!

Well you see, my goal this month is to write two blog posts each week, and it appears I procrastinated a bit this week. Whoops. 

In my defense, this week has been a complete shit show mess. Both girls threw up once and Clara had fevers for a few nights in a row and basically no one is sleeping because they don’t feel well. And Isabelle has decided 4:30am is the new 7am so her days are starting EARLY. Plus she’s getting her 2 year molars (says her ped, which explains why she’s been especially fussy lately!) And then on top of all of this nonsense, Tim got a migraine and was out of commission for an entire day.

It’s always something!

We’re working on all of this mess. Kind of. Parenting joys. I will not miss these types of weeks (as the girls get older), but I do recognize the blessing that my ‘bad weeks’ are when the girls have minor health issues that disrupt our schedule. I’m so appreciative of good health and I take it for granted far too often!

Moving on to the point of this post…


I read 46 books last year – which is 6 off my goal! Although, I read a lot of long, nonfiction books, so I’m still quite pleased with how much time I spent reading, and the quality of what I read.

In case you’re looking for some recommendations….

Book Recommendations (A Lot Of Them!)

Books I read in 2017:

(sorted by the rankings I gave them in Goodreads.)

5 Stars

(I’m noticing that almost all of these are nonfiction, except for the last two! Read these.)

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country

The Magnolia Story

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More

Wonder (1 of 2 fiction books in this section!)

The Kitchen House (1 of 2 fiction books in this section!)

4 Stars

(I also think you should read these)

Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs Adams

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living

American Housewife

Another Brooklyn

Today Will Be Different

Born to Run

Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House

The Nightingale

The Shoemaker’s Wife

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

The Nest

The Days of Abandonment

The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose

My Name is Lucy Barton

3 Stars

(I enjoyed these, but wouldn’t necessarily think to recommend them to a friend.)

I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual

How to Be a Person in the World: Ask Polly’s Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life


If You Only Knew


The Polygamist’s Daughter

Loving Frank

The Lost Daughter

Year of No Clutter

Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path

A Hundred Summers

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well

Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me

Clutterfree with Kids

How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life

2 Stars

(These weren’t my favorite.)


The Arrangement

The Rooster Bar

What was the BEST book you read last year?!

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Favorites of 2017

I’m still over here thinking about 2017. Before we get too far into 2018, let me share some of my favorite things from last year. Although this comes with a huge asterisk, since most of these are favorites from the last few months, as my memory is a little foggy before then!

Favorite Things of 2017

My favorite thing to do in 2017 was to go on adventures. Any adventure.

Here are some of my favorite things from 2017!

(Favorite) Things I shopped for:

+ My slippers
+ My leather tote (big enough for my laptop and can also be used as a “diaper bag” now that my kids are older and don’t need quite as much)
+ The backpack I use instead of a diaper bag (I bought it a while ago but have used it nonstop this year. Can I just go ahead and say this is one of the top 5 things I own?! I use it every single day.)

(Favorite) Trips we took:

+ Park City, UT
+ Whistler, BC
+ Lake Cushman (in WA)
+ Winthrop & North Cascades (in WA)
+ Wenatchee (in WA)
+ Portland (OR)
+ Camping!! (in general)
** We stayed very local these past 12 months, and I kind of loved it! But I’m ready to go a bit further this year.

(Favorite) Recipes I made:

+ This quinoa enchilada crockpot recipe
+ The Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls
+ Joy The Baker’s peas and goat cheese tortilla

(Favorite) Journals I’ve written in:

+ This weekly planner (I’ve been using it for 2 years and love it!)
+ The goal setting guide from Lara Casey(sold out, but sign up to receive emails!)
+ The ‘Write the Word’ journal, which is how I stay accountable to read and reflect on the Bible daily

(Favorite) Shows I watched via Netflix:

+ Parenthood
+ The Crown

(Favorite) Podcasts I listened to:

+ True Crime Obsessed
+ For the Love with Jen Hatmaker
+ (and 23 other ones…)

(Favorite) Services I signed up for:

Amazon Fresh
Imperfect Produce (use the referral link to get $10 off!)
Le Tote (use the referral link to get a free tote!)

(Favorite) Apps I use:

+ Aaptiv (I prefer going to the gym, but when I only have time for a quick jog or yoga/stretching/strength session in my living room, I love this app!)
+ 1SE (I made a video recap of 2017 and am doing the same for 2018!)
+ Tinybeans (I try to take daily pics of the girls to share with friends/family)
+ Marco Polo (Basically a video voicemail… at least that’s how I use it! This is great for grandparents and long distance family/friends!)

I’m doing another post over the weekend or early next week with a list of favorite books I read, since there were quite a few!

Do you have any favorites from 2017?! Per usual, I love your recommendations!

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What I did well in 2017

Yikes, we’re almost midway through January and I’m still in major New Years mode.

The self-reflection is out of control over here, and I am loving every second of it. It’s daunting, but I’m learning so much about myself and about  my life. Once I get more mentally organized I’m going to share some of my thoughts with you in case you find it helpful!

I’m viewing 2018 in a new (more organized, intentional) way, and am working on decluttering my mental state. And do you know how when you’re organizing anything you first take everything out of place, put it on the table, and only put back what’s necessary?

Do you know how messy and overwhelming that initial phase can be? That’s basically my mental state right now. I have everything all over the table and am sorting it out and figuring out how to put it back in its proper place, and what I need to get rid of.

Deep, right?! So necessary, as well.

What I Did Well in 2017

One of the things I am thinking about is what went particularly well in my life last year. (Sometimes it feels like I keep drafting goals and resolutions and never look back to give myself a pat on the back for things that I’ve been working on!)

Here’s what I did well in 2017:

I picked up books instead of my phone.

In 2016 I think I read about 60 books, and last year I was right around 50. However, in 2016 I was heavily pregnant and with a newborn, so I think I spent more time sitting in general. I still feel like last year I did much better with reading books instead of scrolling news and social media. (The annoying Instagram algorithm and nonstop awful news helped with this!)

I joined groups and met friends.

I’m very active in our local MOPS group (and took on a leadership role this past year!) and have also participated in Hike It Baby events. This next year I’m hoping to participate in more groups, but last year I joined them, which is the first step!

I worked on my hair and makeup “skills”.

Basically, I watched tutorials and tried whatever they said to do. Some things worked better than others. I also tried to use only the products I already had, so I should probably work on buying some new things in 2018. The most important improvements in 2017 were 1) learning to curl my hair and 2) learning how to best put on eye makeup.

I made progress in identifying my personal style. 

My house and my closet is all over the place when it comes to style. I simply cannot identify a style that I most love, and instead seem to pick bits and pieces of everything and hope it works together. (Spoiler: it doesn’t and everything is a mess!) However, in 2017 I worked hard at identifying what styles I actually really love and have been making a little bit of progress in getting my house (and myself) pulled together cohesively! I have started being more picky about what I buy and only purchase things I love, that will go with everything else. I still have a lot of work to do in this area, but progress was made!

I left space in my schedule.

In past years, I attempted to completely fill my calendar. I didn’t have days (or even hours!) with nothing to do, and we were out of the house constantly. When Tim and I first started living together, we had plans every single evening. Now, we’ve stopped planning our lives to that extent (and almost have the opposite problem, of not planning enough!) I  think that moving to Seattle has really helped us slow down, and of course having two toddlers helps with that, too. We’re still busy people, but I have a lot of space in my calendar to say ‘yes’ to invitations. I think this has helped us make good friends, as we just aren’t those people (anymore) who have to say no to everything because they’re too ‘busy’. No one wants to be those people, and I don’t think many people actually want to be friends with those people, either.

I have big (and some small) ways I’m going to continue to make improvements in my life in 2018, but I’m proud of the progress I’ve made so far!

What did you do well in 2017?

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Continuing to beautify (with Smile Brilliant) + GIVEAWAY!

My ‘resolution’ in 2017 was to beautify all of the things, myself included. I will say that I made progress in most areas of this. I worked on our (rental) house, I bought more clothes I truly loved, I dressed the girls in clothes I love… I did pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Although, I did wait until the last month on some of the things I wanted to do. I finally got around to learning how to use my curling wand in December (and am still working on my lack of skills) and I also finally got around to whitening my teeth – something I had been putting off for way too long!

Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening

Thankfully, Smile Brilliant contacted me to review their teeth whitening kit, otherwise I probably would have put the teeth whitening task off to 2018.

I must say, I was really impressed with their teeth whitening kit/process. At first I was intimidated, since I had to take an imprint of my teeth and send it in for them to make a mold of, but it was way easier and less messy than I anticipated. And the shipping and turnaround time was really, really fast – making it possible to get started right away. After trying out Smile Brilliant’s whitening kit, I realize that being able to put the teeth whitening gel in a mold that perfectly fit my teeth/mouth made the experience really comfortable and ensured that the gel actually made it on my teeth and didn’t slide around.

Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening

I used the teeth whitening gel every day (or maybe every third day…) for a few weeks, and noticed impressive results after a few weeks. Of course, I would have gotten quicker results if I had done the teeth whitening daily, but they say not to drink wine or tea for 12 hours after using, and some nights I really needed wine, so I just didn’t whiten those nights.

Would it be easier to abstain entirely from tea/coffee/wine and keep my teeth pearly white? Yes. Is that going to happen? No.

Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening

But that’s okay because I can keep the molds from Smile Brilliant and order more gel to keep my teeth looking white.

Smile Brilliant Teeth Whitening

To keep YOUR teeth looking extra-white, Smile Brilliant is offering a 15% discount on their teeth whitening kit. Use the code: thebenroecks15


Enter this giveaway and win a kit (valued at $149) for free!

This post was sponsored by Smile Brilliant, but all opinions are, of course, my own! 

Did you accomplish some of your 2017 resolutions?!


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Recording my year through 1 second videos

One of the things I did especially well last year was to capture memories of our family.

Specifically, I used the 1 Second Everyday app (1SE is the app name) to record/compile 1 second videos each day for the entire year. So now I have a 6:30 minute video of our 2017, and I am obsessed with it. I’ve watched it a bunch of times already! Plus, it’s a fun way to share our year recap with our family and friends. (You do need to pay a few bucks for the app, but it is 100% worth it.)

It’s so fascinating and fun to see our girls get older and able to do more things before our eyes. I recorded Isabelle’s first steps and vacations we went on and the mundane moments of our life.

I already can’t wait to record our video for next year!

Tips to Easily Create A Video Recap of Your Year

Here are some ‘lessons learned’ from a year of recording memories with 1SE.

Find good lighting.

I mean, this is a major ‘duh’ because I take so many photos and am very aware at how important lighting is, but the same applies to videos, especially since I didn’t edit or filter the clips before compiling them. Sometimes I liked the dimly lit videos if I was recording a date or happy hour, but other times I hated the yellow lighting from artificial lights.

Record the mundane moments.

If I waited for super fun moments to happen in order to take a video each day, some days I would have nothing to record! The mundane moments are a great way to tell stories and capture what life is really like. For example, I made sure to record a few clips of me making a latte or drinking a glass of wine or snuggling a sick baby… because let’s be honest, that’s what my days look like most of the time. I did manage to avoid filming things like me cleaning or yelling at the kids, though, because these recaps don’t need to be that honest. (wink.)

Tell people about the project. Or don’t.

This past year I didn’t really tell anyone before I recorded them, and then I took out all of the audio and used songs as the background noise, so that I didn’t need to worry about what people were saying at the time I hit ‘record’. This means I got a lot of candid seconds, but this next year I think I’ll ask people to wave or smile or something so that I can get a variety of shots!

Take some ‘filler’ shots.

Some days you’re going to record a video (I did!) but other days, if you remember, just take a ‘filler shot’ – like you drinking coffee, the leaves changing, rain falling (in the PNW you get plenty of chances for that one!) etc, so that on days you can forget you can still choose a video and fill up your year with memories.

Keep up with it all year.

I filled in the ‘calendar’ type grid on this app every single day (because I recorded the videos using my regular camera function and then imported them to the app). This meant that all I had to do on January 1st was to compile the video (basically by clicking one button within the app) and then I used iMovie to add background music. Voila! It was done! It took me about an hour or two because I had to choose the music and I had never used iMovie before, but it would have taken me way longer if I had to go through and add all the videos to the grid, still. Basically, my tip is to not procrastinate on this one, because if you do you are unlikely to finish the project! (I am years behind on my yearly picture books because I wait to do it all after the year is over and it takes me too long!)

Make sure you’re in the video, too!

I failed at this one. I’m pretty sure the girls are in almost every single clip, Tim is in a lot of them, and our friends make tons of appearances, as well. However, I think I’m only in there about 5 of the 365 clips. This year, I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen again! My plan is to use a tripod for more ‘planned’ shots (like me reading to the girls), or insist that Tim record some videos, too. The video from 2017 is definitely from my perspective, which is interesting, but when other people watch it (including the girls!) it makes it look like I wasn’t there at all.

Just do it – and have fun!

It’s the start of the year so start up the app and record some memories! You could also make a video of 365 pictures of the year (instead of videos) if that’s more your style. Or you could do a mix of both. Just start it and hopefully you’ll be able to keep up with it daily so you have a great year recap in January of next year! You can also start this at any time – like you could start at your birthday or your kid’s birthday and record a year that way. Or you could just do six months… it’s a very flexible app in terms of timing and what video you want to compile.

I feel like I should mention that I’m (of course) not getting paid to share my opinion on this app, but I loved it so much (well, mainly I love the finished product!) that I just have to recommend it to everyone.

I’m not going to share our video here, but I’m sure you can find other people’s videos on Vimeo or Youtube if you search for ‘1 Second Everyday’ or search through tags on social media.

Let me know if you’re going to try this for 2018!

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