10 Classics to Read as an Adult

As summer winds to a close, Sweet Maple Lane is getting ready to go back to school.  My husband and I both teach high school English and are super lucky and grateful to spend the summer home with our kids.  With two English teachers in the house, we do a lot of reading, both at school and at home.  Here are 10 classic books that are pretty standard in high school English curriculum, but might be overlooked by adults.  Even if you read these in high school, consider reading them again.  You might be surprised at how much you enjoy them as an adult!  And — bonus! — many of these books have fantastic movie adaptations!

10 classic books you should read again, or for the first time, as an adult!

Afilliate links are provided for your convenience.  Read my full disclosure here.  

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A Pulitzer Prize winning story of innocence and coming of age set in 1930s Alabama.  The movie with Gregory Peck is also a classic and a must-watch.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

A beautifully written story of friendship and tragedy set in 1930s California.  The movie with Gary Sinise and John Malcovich is moving and fantastic as well.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A love story, a tragedy, the American Dream, murder, infidelity, secrets, and the decadence of the Jazz Age.  Fitzgerald’s writing is beautiful, and the movie with Leonardo Dicaprio is amazing too.

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

An enthralling story about human nature and what can happen when we are pushed to our limits.  Fast-paced and full of symbolism, this one keeps you reading until the very last page.

Catcher in the Rye

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

A story about growing up, clinging to childhood, and dealing with loss.  Holden, the protagonist, will remind you what it was really like to be a teenager.

The Crucible

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

A play about the Salem Witch Trials, but also about McCarthyism.  And also about any other ‘witch hunt’ modern or historical.  The movie with Daniel Day Lewis is great (because Daniel Day Lewis is great!)

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

A dystopian future where a fireman’s job is to burn books, not put out fires.  A message about the power and the freedom of knowledge.


Animal Farm

Animal Farm by George Orwell

An allegory for the Russian Revolution, and a message about the perils of a totalitarian government.


Night by Elie Wiesel

This book makes me cry every single year.  The author is a Holocaust survivor who was sent to the camps when he was 15.  And don’t skip the introduction, preface, or Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech if your copy includes them.



I know, I know.  Shakespeare is hard to understand.  But here’s the thing: it’s so worth it!  Just give it a try, even if it’s one sonnet, one scene, or a movie version!  If you have the chance, see a live performance.  The language is beautiful and rhythmic, and the stories vary from tragic to hysterical.  Try it!  Some recommendations: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth

Well, there you have it!  Straight from an English teacher: 10 high school books to read again as an adult.  Let me know what you think of these titles in the comments!

My Top 5: London

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” -Susan Sontag


If you know me, you know I love to travel.  I love to explore new cities, eat new food, and immerse myself in a new culture.  I only recently caught the travel bug, so I’ve only traveled internationally a few times.  I’m definitely not an expert, but I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite parts of the places I have been.  I’m starting with London, because it was my first European city and sparked my passion for international travel.

Gina from Sweet Maple Lane shares her top 5 things to do in London.

1. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

For an English teacher, a literature lover, or really anyone, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames is a must-see.  For £15 you can take a guided tour of the Globe Theatre and enjoy the Exhibition in the building next door.  Or, for £5, you can buy a ‘groundling’ ticket (standing only) to see an authentic Shakespearean production in the famous Globe.  There are plenty of restaurants and cafes right around the Theatre as well.  Grab a coffee and a seat on a bench overlooking the Thames and enjoy a Shakespearean moment!

2. The Tower of London

If you’re going to do one ‘touristy’ thing in London, make it The Tower of London.  This amazing complex is a fascinating blend of history and modernity.  Take a historical tour led by one of the Yeomen Warders (Beefeaters), and learn all about both the history of the royal palace and the men and women who still live and work inside its walls.  See the Crown Jewels, walk the ramparts, and meet the famous Ravens.  You could easily spend an entire day here.

3. A West End Show

On my last visit, I was lucky enough to see two shows: Wicked and In the Heights.  Both were amazing.  If you enjoy musicals or plays, seeing a show in London’s West End is a must!

4. Burrough Market

Burrough Market is an open air market full of produce, meat, cheese, pastries, chocolate, and hot food vendors.  This an awesome place to get lunch, wander around, and people watch.  Try all the samples offered, and then purchase your favorites!

5. Greenwich

This was an unexpected delight on my last trip.  Take a ferry up the Thames to Greenwich to see the Royal Observatory, the Prime Meridian, and the Maritime Museum, but stay for the amazing views, gorgeous park, and adorable shops and pubs.  It’s a nice break from the typical things to do in the city while still being really accessible by boat.

Bonus: The Underground

One of the best things about London is how easy it is to get everywhere using public transportation.  The Underground is clean, easy to use, affordable, and you can get pretty much anywhere you need to go in the city.  Plus, if you buy an Oyster card you can also use the famous red double-decker buses to see more of the city as you get from one place to the next!

Fall Pillow Cover Roundup

Hi friends!  I hope you’re all enjoying your summer!  My husband jokes that for teachers, August is the Sunday of months.  HA!  It’s sort of true though.  As soon as August hits, I start thinking about going back to school and feel the pressure to finish my summer projects.  As much as I hate to see summer go, I love to decorate my house for fall.

Last year I decorated for fall at the end of August, before I went back to school, and it was nice to have it done and not think about it in the crazy first month of back to school.  This year I’m in the market for some new fall throw pillow covers, so I thought I’d share some cute ones I came across while looking online.

Throw pillows are an easy and inexpensive way to change up your decor with the seasons.  Buy the inserts once, and then stock up on cute covers to change your look anytime! I think any of these would look adorable mixed up on a couch or as an accent on a chair.  I love the colors of fall!

Fall pillow cover roundup from Sweet Maple Lane.

Affiliate links are included for your convenience.  Read my full disclosure here.

First row: pumpkin spice, happy fall, tree

Second row: leaves, check, arrows

Third row: stripes, ikat, moose

Cute, right?  Are you thinking about fall decorations yet?  Let me know in the comments!

The Secret to Hanging Picture Frames

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen a pic of the new prints I got for the entryway.  Today I’m going to share my trick for hanging picture frames so they come out perfect every time!

How to hang picture frames perfectly every time!

Affiliate links are included for your convenience.  Read my full disclosure here.

Oh these prints.  I heart them.  The faux barn board backgrounds, the faded farmhouse blues, and — of course — the mason jar full of wild flowers!  Love, love, love.  I ordered them from Jane.com and they’re by a seller called Home, James. They were super cheap — I paid 23 bucks for all 3 including shipping — and they’re a nice, frame-able 11 X 14. Since Jane.com is a daily deal site, these prints are no longer available, but they have prints from this seller often, so keep checking back! (Update: as of 8/2/16 the prints are back on Jane.com for two days only!)

I bought some inexpensive black frames from Walmart, in an 11 X 14 (with a mat) size.  They came with two hanging hooks on the back, which means they’ll hang straight (yay!) but are harder to hang (boo).

How to hang picture frames perfectly every time!

First I put my prints in the frames and decided which order I wanted to hang them in.  Then I flipped them over to measure the hooks on the back.

Are you ready for the secret?  Painter’s tape.  Yup, good ol’ trusty blue painter’s tape.  Here’s what I do:

First I put a piece of tape on the back of the frame, carefully covering both hooks evenly.  I also make it a little longer than the width of the frame at first, so there is some hanging off each side.

How to hanging picture frames perfectly every time!

Then I press it down over the hook — see how you can (sort of) see the outline of the triangle shaped hook under the tape?  — and mark a little dot where the nail will go.

How to hang picture frames perfectly every time!

Then I rip off the excess tape on each side so my tape is the same length as the width of my frame.  I’m not too concerned about a perfect straight edge, here, I just want to be able to see how wide the frame is.

How to hang picture frames perfectly every time!

I also mark which way is up with an arrow and a number to indicate which frame this is (obviously you won’t need a number if you’re only hanging one frame).

How to hang picture frames perfectly every time!

After I do all three, I take the tape off and go to the wall where I want my frames to hang.  Now I can place each piece of tape on the wall and space out the frames how I want.  Remember, the tape is the width of the frame, so keep that in mind when you’re arranging the tape on the wall.

How to hang picture frames perfectly every time!

I always use a mini level to make sure my nails will be level.  This is especially important when your frames have two hooks on the back.  The nice thing about painter’s tape, is you can easily stick it and unstick it without damaging your wall.

How to hang picture frames perfectly every time!

Once I have my tape arranged how I want, I use my hammer and nail to make a small hole where each dot on the tape is.  Then I pull off the tape and hammer in the nails, leaving a half inch or so out to hang the frames on.

How to hang picture frames perfectly every time!

Now I hang my frames and step back to admire my handiwork!

How to hang picture frames perfectly every time!

I love how the prints brighten up the space a little.  It’s always so dark in the entryway, because there is only one small window.  Pretty!

Now that you know the secret, go and hang your frames with confidence!

Pin the image below to save it for later:

How to hang picture frames perfectly every time!


Spray Painting a Patio Table

Hi friends! Today I’m sharing an easy makeover I did by spray painting our patio table.

How to spray paint your patio table and make it look fresh and cute for summer!

One of the things I love most about summer is relaxing outside.  We have a big deck that needs to be redone soon, and a big, private yard that needs a little TLC, but I wanted to tackle something I could do by myself in just a couple of hours. So I decided to spray paint our patio table!

This post contains affiliate links.  Read my full disclosure here.

Our patio table had seen better days. It was only a couple of years old, but it was covered in pollen and dirt and living in this unused sad corner of our deck.  It looked pretty terrible.

Spray painting a patio table with Sweet Maple Lane.

Yes, that is a pile of leaves in the corner of our deck.  And yes the railings, floorboards, and lattice are three different colors.  Ok, and yes that is broken outdoor thermometer just chilling on this gross table.  There’s no where to go but up, people!  It can’t look much worse than this.

The first thing I did was give it a thorough cleaning. I’ll spare you the gross picture of the grime I scrubbed off of it and the critters that scurried away.

Next I unscrewed two of the legs so I could take the glass top off.  After putting the legs aside, I covered the glass top with paper to protect it from the spray paint.  I couldn’t fully remove the glass inset from the outer metal edge, so this was the next best thing.

Spray painting a patio table with Sweet Maple Lane.

You can see here that I got smart after the first one and just slid the edges of the paper under the edge of the table.  How annoying is it to tape curves?  This was so much easier.

Spray painting a patio table with Sweet Maple Lane

I chose this pretty blue (on the right) called ‘Seaside’ in Rustoleum Painter’s Touch 2X.  It’s a paint and primer in one, so the coverage was really good.

Spray painting a patio table with Sweet Maple Lane.

I did three thin coats, with about 10 minutes drying time in between.


Spray painting a patio table with Sweet Maple Lane.

Spray painting a patio table with Sweet Maple Lane.

Bonus when I realized the color I picked matched my pretty blue mason jars!  Cheers!

Spray painting a patio table with Sweet Maple Lane.

Remove the paper and tape and voila! From sad to glad!

Spray painting a patio table with Sweet Maple Lane.

Now I need to buy some chairs on end of the season clearance!

Spray painting a patio table with Sweet Maple Lane.

How about you?  How is your patio table looking? Could it use a little sprucing up with some spray paint?  Let me know in the comments!

Pin the image below to save it for later!

How to spray paint your patio table and make it look fresh and cute for summer!

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The Perfect Purse for Moms

This is the perfect purse for moms!

If you’re anything like me, you change purses a lot.

I’m always looking for the perfect blend of style, organization, and comfort.  With two toddlers, a full time job, and a busy life, my purse has to work for me.

After using a bazillion different purses in my life, I think I’ve found it.  The perfect purse for moms like me:

The cross body purse.

Ok, maybe you’ve already discovered the magical unicorn that is the cross body purse, and you think I’m a little slow to the game, but I have to share just in case other mamas out there are still searching!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  This means that I may earn a small commission if you purchase through the link.  Your purchase supports my work and this blog.  Please know that I only recommend products I have used and loved.  Read my full Disclaimer for more information.


Why the Morgan Traveler Cross Body is the perfect purse for moms.

I have this Fossil Morgan Traveler Cross Body Bag, and it’s the best purse ever!  Here is why it’s the perfect purse for moms:

It’s hands free!

Like the name suggest, the strap is worn across your body.  No hands!  For a mom slugging twin two year olds to daycare, the grocery store, gymnastics, and the doctor’s office, this is a necessity that I didn’t think about before I had kids.  Mamas, you’re with me.  Two hands are necessary when parenting toddlers.


Yes, you can wear it like the name suggests, OR, you can wear it over one shoulder for a more casual look.  And, if you get one with an adjustable strap like mine, you can shorten the strap and have a completely different style.  One purse, three ways!  Versatility, people!


Is there anything worse than a purse that is just one giant pocket?  A black hole of disorganization that makes it impossible to find anything.  This purse has pockets, pockets, and more pockets!  Inside pockets, outside pockets, zippered pockets, open pockets, even a pocket with slots for your driver’s license and cards if you don’t want to carry a wallet.  I can organize all my stuff and access it easily.


This purse is the perfect size.  It’s big enough to fit what I need, but not so big that I end up carrying too much stuff.  I usually carry my wallet, small first aid kit, keys, lip balm, sunglasses, and still have room to spare.  When I travel, I can fit a small bottle of water and an umbrella too!


Not only is this my go-to everyday purse, but it’s also perfect for travel.  I’ve worn this purse in London, Paris, Rome, and on more local trips to the White Mountains, Rhode Island, and Boston.  A cross body bag is a must for travel because it’s hands free, it secures your belongings better, and it makes you less likely to be pick-pocketed.  Just turn the purse around to the front, hold onto it with one hand, and pick-pockets will move on to someone with their purse slung under their shoulder or even around to the back.  Also, the millions of pockets make it super easy to organize all the essentials for a travel day.


I bought this purse in the color ‘saddle’, a light brown kind of color.  I love that the color goes with everything and is classic.  I tend to lean more towards a classic, timeless style and shy away from anything too trendy, and this purse fits the bill.  I wear it with jeans, sneakers, and a tee, and just as easily with black skinnies, boots, and a blouse.

What do you think?  Is the cross body purse the perfect purse for you?  What kind of purse to use and love?  Let me know in the comments!



Why I Love My Kindle and What I Use it For

I bought a Kindle a few months ago, and I use it almost every day.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you should really think about buying one!  Here is why I love my Kindle and what I use it for most.

Why I love my Kindle and what I use it for

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links.  This means that I may earn a small commission if you purchase through the link.  Please know that I only recommend products I have used and loved.  Read my full Disclaimer for more information.

Why I love my Kindle:


I bought the Kindle Fire (7″ display, wifi, 8GB) from Amazon for $49.99.  Bargain!  And for such an affordable price, you get a lot for your money.  It’s basically a small tablet: you access the e-reader, games, internet, Pinterest, or whatever you want through apps on the home screen.  It’s super versatile and cheap too!


The Kindle I bought is 7 inches, and super light.  It’s really slim and not too heavy.  It’s comfortable to hold when reading or casually surfing the web, and I bought a case for it that has a stand to keep it upright on a flat surface if I want to.


Because of its size, I can easily take the Kindle with me on the go.  I always used to lug books around with me to read when standing in line or in a waiting room, but now I just take my Kindle.  It fits easily in my purse or diaper bag.  I also always take it with me when I travel.  It’s great in airports, on planes, or even in the car on long drives.  And because it has wifi capabilities, wherever there’s wifi, I’m connected (shout out to Logan airport for free wifi!!).

What I Use My Kindle For:


I bought it to use as an e-reader, and use it for this daily.  I read a lot (at least a book a week!) and usually in bed before going to sleep.  The Kindle app is awesome. Here are some features I love:

  • It syncs across all my devices (like my phone), so I’m always on the right page.  I do make sure to sync it before I leave the house, in case I’m going somewhere without wifi.
  • I can look up my reading history to see what books and authors I’ve read.  This has come in handy when I’m recommending or talking about books I’ve read and I can’t remember the title or author.  #englishteacherproblems
  • The in-book menu lets you read information about the book, skip to a certain page or chapter, and includes links to the Kindle store.
  • The in-book dictionary.  Just press and hold on a word, and the definition pops up!  This is so handy, and make me wish I had Kindles for all my struggling high school readers.
  • When you finish a book, Kindle includes links to other books in the series and recommends similar titles, so you always have something to read next!

Although I bought my Kindle to use primarily as an e-reader, I also use it a fair amount for streaming video through Netflix.  Sometimes I just need a break from endless episodes of Sofia and Jake, and yes, I plug in my headphones and watch Fixer Upper while my kids are watching cartoons.  Don’t judge!


I also use my Kindle to browse the internet or use Pinterest.  It’s a lot easier to use my Kindle than my computer when I’m sitting in the living room with my kids.  I also use it in this way when I travel.

Are you convinced?  I hope you’ve found the reasons I love my Kindle and what I use it for helpful in making your decision!

5 Things I Love About Having Twins

things-i-love-about-having-twinsWhen I was 9 weeks pregnant, I went in for a sonogram, and the doctor said I was having twins!

I was so, so shocked, but also immediately happy.

My husband is a twin, and has a very close relationship with his brother.  He was so happy he cried!

Having twins certainly comes with its own set of challenges, but I can honestly say that having twins is amazing, and I’m so happy that I get to be a twin mama!  Here are five things I love about having twins.

They play together

Now that my kids are toddlers and no longer babies (tears!), they play together, leaving more free time for mama.  With one, I imagine there’s more pressure to entertain, but with two, they can entertain each other.  Yay! Now, I don’t want you to think my kids are quietly playing and I’m relaxing in the hammock with a mojito (though that does sound fantastic).  Right now, it’s more like 5 minutes of nicely playing together before double toddler meltdowns and mama having to break up the wrestling match.  But, I can see how, as time goes by, they will learn to play nicely together for longer and longer time periods.

Built in friends

I can already see my kids’ understanding of ‘family’ forming, even at two years old.  When my son introduced himself to a girl at the playground the other day, he said, “I’m B, and this is my mommy, and my daddy, and my E.”  My mama heart melted.  He saw himself as an extension of our family, and it was the sweetest thing.  I see B and E forming a strong bond already, holding hands, comforting each other when they’re upset, sharing, explaining, helping.  They are twins and best friends, and it’s so, so wonderful.

Get to shop both boy and girl stuff

You know how when you’re in, say, the girls section of the store, looking at all the cute clothes, and then an adorable little boys’ outfit from across the aisle catches your eye?  With boy-girl twins, I’m not limited to one section of the store.  I can shop girls and boys stuff to my heart’s desire.  I get to buy the flower headband and the newsboy cap.  Clothes, gear, diapers, you name it, we had one in blue and one in pink.  There is just something super cute about boy-girl twins in almost matching outfits.

We each do half the work

This is one that I didn’t realize was a thing until recently, because it was just necessary for survival.  My husband does half.  All the time.  With two kids and two parents, it just evolved this way.  When the kids were infants, he held one baby and I held the other.  He fed one baby and I fed the other.  He changed one baby and I changed the other.  I realize now what a blessing this is.  I can see how if we had a single baby, I’d be the one to feed, change, console, etc.  I’m grateful for this equitable split of parenting duties, and it works for us.  Thanks, honey, for being such a great dad and husband!


This may sound a little weird, but I love that having twins is unique.  We’re not like everyone else, and I don’t mind it one bit.  Honestly, I feel a bit of pride when another parent says, “I don’t know how you did/do it with two.”  Yeah.  I am doing a good job.  I do rock this parenting twins thing.  And I love having twins.

Photography by Daniela Maria Photo

Top 10 Summer Must Haves for Toddlers


Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links.  This means that I may earn a small commission if you purchase through the link.  Please know that I only recommend products I have used and loved.  Read my full Disclaimer for more information.

Isn’t summer the best?  Swimming, barbecues, travel, and lots of time outside.  As a teacher, I’m on summer vacation, so I get to spend 10 wonderful weeks with my family.  Of course, without our normal schedule, things can get a little chaotic!  And with two year old twins, I’ve found that things are always a little easier if I have everything I need.  Here are my top ten summer must haves for toddlers.

Sweet Maple Lane's top ten summer must haves for toddlers.


Obviously, sunscreen is a must.  I like to have multiple bottles in different places, to make sure I always have it when I need it!  I usually keep one in the diaper bag, one on the entryway table (to grab right before we go outside), and a travel size in my purse.  I’ve used all different kinds, and I’m really not that picky, but this summer I’m loving this sunscreen stick.  I use it on faces, necks, ears, and arms, and then spray my kids’ legs.  I think it’s supposed to be for faces, but it is so much easier to use this stick than a lotion or spray on their faces and arms.


Besides being adorable, hats provide another layer of protection against the sun.  We use both the bucket hat style and baseball caps.  I like the bucket hats a little more because they provide more sun protection.  This is the one my daughter has this year.

Sprinkler and Kiddie Pool

While it’s fun to go out and have adventures, sometimes you just want to stay home. And summer is hot.  A sprinkler and a kiddie pool will provide hours of entertainment for toddlers while keeping them cool.  We have a cheapo plastic kiddie pool from Walmart (I think it was 9 dollars!) and a sprinkler that has a few different spray options like this one.  My kids are fond of filling the kiddie pool with dirt to make mud.  Messy is normal with twin two year olds running around!

Multiple Bathing Suits and Swim Diapers

I like to have a few swimsuits for each kid so I don’t have to worry if one is wet or dirty.  I usually keep one in the diaper bag with a few swim diapers for impromptu swimming or sprinkler sessions if we’re out.  I’m a big fan of the sets with a rash guard top like this one because that’s less sunscreen I have to slather on a wiggling toddler.

Hooded Towels

I love hooded towels for little ones.  Not only are they super cute, but the hood helps keep the towel on and keeps their little heads warm.  There are so many adorable versions of hooded towels, but right now we have this one in a shark and a kitty.

Insulated Water Bottles

I just bought two of these fantastic insulated water bottles from Target, and I love, love, love them.  I can fill them in the morning with a few ice cubes, and it stays cold for 12 hours!  Perfect for summer days out.  Also, we’re trying to get rid of the binkies, so having water bottles instead is a good distraction.

Snack Cups

I know every mom probably already has one or two of these snack cups, but I think they’re amazing so I’m adding them to my list.  The tops allow little hands in, but stop the contents from spilling out!  Genius.  I fill them with Goldfish, Pirates Booty, pretzels, or other dry snacks for days out.  Just throw them in the diaper bag, and you’re all ready with a snack to perk up a hungry kiddo!

Mini Popsicles 

My mother discovered these mini Frozen popsicles, and they are awesome.  The perfect, mini size for a two year old!  My kids love popsicles, but they melt fast and the big ones are just too big!  These are perfect.  Also, they come in blue, white, purple, and pink–the perfect colors for my son and daughter (he loves blue, she loves pink — go figure)!

Multiple Changes of Clothes

Let’s be honest, with toddlers, back ups are a necessity.  I like to have at least two full changes of clothes all the time, but in the summer time, things just seem to get a little messier!  Watermelon, popsicles, icecream, mud, water, you name it!  I like to stock up on Garanimals separates at Walmart at the beginning of the season.  They go for $2.88 a piece (score!), and they come in super cute colors and styles.  Perfect for getting messy!  And when they get completely ruined (it’s inevitable, people), I don’t sweat it because of the price.  Here is a similar Gerber set.

Go Everywhere Shoes

Shoes that can be worn for wet and dry activities are the best.  One pair of shoes for the whole summer?  Yes, please! I just got these Stride Rite Phibians for my kids this summer.  They have a rubber base (kind of like Crocs) and a mesh part around the top to prevent chafing.  Also, they’re non-slip, so kiddos won’t fall down when running around on a splash pad or wherever.  Another plus: my kids can put them on and secure the velcro closure themselves.  They are amazing and I love them!

There it is–my top ten summer must haves for toddlers!  What would you add?  Let me know in the comments!