Book Challenge by Erin 8.0

In 2018 I’m going to share my goals for the year, but you’ll find that one of them is to finally complete Erin’s book challenge.

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This challenge runs from January 1st to April 30th and the rules are simple:

  • you can read one repeat
  • you cannot use the same book for two categories
  • books must be 200 pages long (audio books allowed)
  • you can read books in any order
  • you can change your book selection during the challenge

I’ve said it before but Erin is the MOST laid back host ever. Everyone who participates in the challenges are encouraging and supportive. It’s easiest to follow along and track your progress on the Facebook page, but Erin will work with you if you don’t use FB. If you’ve been thinking about joining a reading challenge I would encourage you to play along this time!

I know I’ve kept you in suspense so here are my picks for the 8.0 Challenge:

|5 points| Freebie: The Murder on the Links (Christie)
|10 points| Starts with the letter L: Last Christmas in Paris (Gaynor)
|10 points| Has a (mostly) red cover: Girl Waits With Gun (Stewart)
|15 points| A character’s name in the title: HP & the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
|20 points| From this list: Three Dark Crowns (Blake)
|20 points| The words “house” or “home” in the title: The House of New Beginnings (Diamond)
|25 points| Author whose first and last name begins with the same letter: Renegades (Meyer, Marissa)
|30 points| Originally published in a different language than your own: The Hangman’s Daughter (Potzsch)
|30 points| Most of the action takes place on a form of transportation: Dead Wake (Larson)
|35 points| A character that suffers from a debilitating physical illness: Finding Audrey (Kinsella)

Have you read any of these? If they sucked don’t tell me… (j/k, warn me).

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What I Read… vol. 12

Too strange that this is the last regular SUYB link-up of 2017. I managed to link up with every single one this year! Thanks so much for hosting, Steph & Jana!

Next year I’m revamping my book review outline and images, but for now let’s get to it.

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This month I finished 3 books and two of them were duds.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain | ★★★/5
Summary: As she sets off to complete the first solo female flight from east to west (London to NY), Beryl Markham looks back on her life and the people and places that shaped the woman she’s become. | Why I Read It: Originally I picked it for Erin’s challenge categories. | What I Thought: When I started this book I was trying to read it alongside West With the Night. That was a mistake. Once I abandoned the autobiography, I started to enjoy this novel. As is the case with many hist-fic books, there were lulls and slow moments. I liked McLain’s descriptions of Africa, though. I think the county was a HUGE part of who Markham was and the descriptions of the country helped to further define this remarkable, wild, fearless woman. Man, she had it rough… She brought on some of her hardships, but others were dealt to her and she survived out of shear will and necessity. I didn’t envy Beryl for even a second, but I admired her throughout the whole book. I’m also interested in picking up West With the Night again. I’m curious what stories the real Markham shared with readers.
You should read it because… you enjoy historical fiction and being transported to a new world and era while riding co-pilot to a fierce, independent, flawed woman.

The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart | ★★/5
Summary: Nicola Ferris planned to meet her cousin Frances on the remote Grecian island of Crete, escaping touristy crowds, stress, and drama. Unfortunately, before even stepping foot in Agios Georgios, Nicola is swept up in a web of murder, thievery, and danger. | Why I Read It: I picked it as my Disney book in Erin’s last challenge. | What I Thought: Considering it has +4★s on Goodreads, I am clearly in the minority here. The book was a fun story, but it was a lot to get through and it took coaxing to keep picking it up. It’s actually more like a 2.5 rating for me. I enjoyed the descriptions of Greece and I liked the banter between characters, but everything felt too simple and straight forward. Maybe because it’s a romantic thriller written in 1962? Folks on GR seemed to enjoy the movie so I guess I’ll give it a shot now that I’ve read the book.
You should read it because… you’re in the mood for a dated thriller with likeable characters and a Disney-esque ending.

Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen by Serena Valentino | ★★/5
Summary: No one is born bad, right? Even Snow White’s evil stepmother had a story to be told. | Why I Read It: I found it on Kindle Unlimited and figured why not. | What I Thought: This book is more of a 1.5 stars but I rounded up 🙄 Honestly, the story itself isn’t bad. Nothing groundbreaking, especially with all the fairy tale rewrites and TV shows (like OUAT), but it was an entertaining story. It’s the writing that’s just so. freaking. terrible. It’s sweetly awkward and juvenile and simple. Sometimes simple is great, but not in that combination. The book is too dark for elementary age/middle school kids (IMO), but the writing feels SO young. I don’t know. I have no idea what age level this book is considered. Also, I think these books are released/claimed by/associated with Disney? I can’t believe they’d be ok with this. I won’t lie- I rolled my eyes every other page and totally should’ve quit this book.
You should read this because… just… don’t. There are waaay better fairy tale books out there to suit your taste.

At the end of the month I’ll link up again with Steph and Jana for an annual review 🙂 And on January 1st Erin’s next challenge starts (see my picks on Thursday!).
2018 feels like it’s going to be a good year for books!

What’d you read this month?

Life According to Steph

Fall Recap 2017 & Wintertime To Dos

First and foremost, happy ADOPT-A-VERSARY TO OUR BABIES! Five years ago today we brought Lylee home from a friend who couldn’t keep her. K and I were unmarried, I’d just finished college, and we were living separately- me in my parents’ basement. A year later (totally unintentional) we brought Enzo home from a rescue. We’d been married for 7 months and just bought our first home. We were living so differently than when we got Ly. Now, half a decade later, life is so, so different. It’s very strange to look back. I stand by my declaration that bringing Ly and Enzo into our lives are two of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Guys, if you can, adopt a dog. You’ll save a life and gain a best friend 
❤︎

Originally these were two separate posts, but I’ve decided to combine them and link up with Kristen and Gretch. Also, I’d like to petition to start “winter” around the end of November. December 21st is just too late.

And now a brief fall recap

  • Go to at least two fall festivals
    • Yankee Peddler Sept. 9 & 10, 16 & 17, or 23 & 24
  • Move into the new house! (We close the first week of Oct.)
  • Host our annual Halloween Party!
  • Visit a nursery and get some mums for the front porch
  • Pick/buy pumpkins
    • Carve them
  • Get a bay of straw for the front porch
  • Work on meal planning and try out these recipes:
  • Find a walk route in the new neighborhood with pups
  • Get a few rooms in the house decorated
    • Living room Ehh, it’s mostly done. Stuff needs hung.
    • Master bedroom Still needs painted & artwork.
    • My office Needs a miracle. Woof.
  • Get 25% of my Xmas shopping done by the end of Oct.
  • Visit an apple orchard
  • Bake a new fall cookie No cookies but two different cupcake recipes!
  • Drink some apple cider
  • Watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Beetlejuice
  • Find cute booties (*part of 30×30 list) Yaaaas!
  • Take a dog or two on a hike (*part of 30×30 list) Happening this month w/ E!
  • Scrapbook. Even a little bit. Just get something done… lol *office in shambles
  • Dog park with E (in Columbus)
  • Homemade ice cream, damn it *face palm*

Some thoughts:

Only made it to one festival but I’m ok with that. Our annual Halloween Party went well 🙂 I visited a nursery with my mom, but bought nothing. Then my mother-in-law gifted me some mums for my birthday. I think that means I can check that off. I bought straw and pumpkins the day we signed on the house! Then my brother and sister-in-law carved them with me the night before our party 🙂

Overall I think I accomplished enough. Fall was really hectic and stressful for me this year. I didn’t enjoy it and, while I’m sad about that, I think it’s good to recognize that I overloaded myself and put too much pressure on me/us. We’ve slid into winter much more slowly and delicately.


As of now, I’m starting on my winter to-do list ❄️

  • Order / address / send Christmas cards
  • Girls’ trip with my ladies*
  • Weekend shopping trip with Mom
  • Finish all the Christmas shopping
  • Make some big decisions regarding the business
  • Complete 50% of my Christmas Movie List
  • Trim the tree and finish decorating the house
    • Post some kind of home tour/Christmas tour of house
  • Make some Christmas cutout cookies
  • Do something fun in the snow! (sledding, build a snowman, etc.)
  • Come up with some 2018 goals/resolutions/a word
  • Start planning something for our 5 year anniversary (April 2018)
  • Get all our stuff out of M&D’s basement
    • Got through that stuff and purge all that we can live without
  • Fall Winter walk with a dog or two*
  • Make. Freaking. Ice Cream.
  • Get my office set up
  • Look into getting the bedroom painted
  • Scrapbook!*

*denotes items from my 30×30 list

I won’t lie… my Christmas cards have been sent, my girls’ trip is happening this weekend in a remote cabin in southern Ohio, and my mom and I have already done our shopping trip (which I’m hoping becomes an annual thing). Whatever, man. Sometimes you need a few surefire things when it comes to goals and checklists.

Will I ever make ice cream in my ice cream maker? Only time will tell.

What's New With You

Holiday Q & A with TBB

I’ve wanted to link-up with The Blended Blog for a while, but this is the first time I remembered! Just in time for the holidays…

1 Real or Fake Tree?
I hope that I will always be in the real tree camp. Growing up we always had one real tree in the house at Christmastime. I didn’t know multiple trees was a thing. As an adult, I admit that we have a fake tree at the PI office and a fake tree on the ledge at home. Our main tree in the living room will be 100% real, though (when we get it).

2 Favorite Christmas Cookie?
I’m boring. I love my mom’s iced cut-out cookies. So good 🙂

3 Home on Christmas Morning or Travel?
I guess we technically travel? We drive about 10 miles out of town to my parents’ house in the morning, then we spend the afternoon/evening at K’s parents’ house (which is about 5 miles from our house)… We consider those places “home”, though. And we do a quick gift exchange when we wake up at our house with each other and the pups!

4 Clear or Colored Lights?
Honestly, I kind of like color on a tree, but clear on a house. We stick to clear, though. K has always preferred clear.

5 Send Christmas Cards?
Yep. Every year. I looove sending & receiving cards!

6 Favorite Christmas Present Received?
Uhhh… I’ve added a lot of pets to my family in December so let’s go with that! Enzo & Ly both came home on the 7th, my mom got me a bird on the 23rd one year (Noel!), and I got a hamster for Christmas once (his name was Jazz but he wasn’t healthy and he died pretty quickly).
Edit: I was reading other answers from bloggers and I remembered that one year I got my first cell phone. That was awesome 🙂 Also, Erica gave me/us a Lylee ornament one year and it’s seriously one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever gotten!

7 Favorite Christmas Present Given?
Our first year together I made K a fleece tie-blanket. For some reason that’s one of my favorites because I was so happy to give it to him. I love finding the perfect thing for him.

8 Stockings or No Stockings?
Wait… why wouldn’t you do stockings?? Of course stockings!

9 Christmas PJ’s?
Kind of? Every year on Christmas Eve I wear my penguin pj pants to bed. I don’t know why I’ve deemed them the Christmas pants, but it’s become a thing for me. Lol

10 Favorite Christmas Carol?
I love ‘Angels We Have Heard On High.’ Most Christmas music makes me happy. Exception include: Santa Baby, Last Christmas, & All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.

11 Favorite Holiday Tradition?
I like picking out the tree with K (and sometimes a dog or two). I also love decorating my parents’ tree, which we go over and do each year. And Christmas Eve service at the church!

family_photo
Coming at ya from 2015

12 Early Shopper or Last Minute?
I get 75 to 80% of my shopping done early, but I fully utilized Amazon Prime til the end and I like popping into stores and seeing the decor.

13 Favorite Christmas Movie or Show?
The claymation movies are my favorite. A Year Without A Santa Clause, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, etc. I also love watching John Wayne movies on Christmas Day.

14 Favorite Holiday Beverage?
I love hot beverages so winter is really my time to shine 😉 Hot chocolate, hot apple cider, Starbucks Caramel Brulee latte. Anything spiked with Southern Comfort… ha.

15 Cookies and Milk for Santa?
Of course. And some carrots for the reindeer!

Well that was fun! 🎄

Live Your Best Holiday Life Finale

As I mentioned earlier this month, Alexandra and Shea hosted this mindful month-long challenge and I decided to participate. Their LYBHolidayL challenge was a relaxing and healing way to take on November and the holidays 🙂 Now that it’s over, here’s how I finished the month out! (Check out the first half here!)

To kick us off, here’s the second half of the gratitude log:

November 16 – Set a bedtime alarm to prioritize sleep.
We dropped the ball on the 16th because we were catching up on the last few episodes of The Mindy Project, but we’ve been going to bed around 10pm every night which has been good for us!

November 17 – Share a gratitude quote on Instagram that speaks to you, inspire others!

November 18 – Take a load of items you no longer use to Goodwill/another thrift store!
After the move I made a pile of donation items. Of course I haven’t done anything with them. Until today 🙂

November 19 – Go for a fall walk
This day was m.i.s.e.r.a.b.l.e. I definitely didn’t go on a hike. I went shopping. Ha. But next month I’m doing a girls’ weekend at a cabin with my friends & I’ll take my fall/winter walk then!

November 20 – Allow yourself a small indulgence this week (a sweet treat, a long bath, an item from your wish list)
I might have grabbed a Three Musketeers while checking out at the grocery store.

November 21 – Give yourself a manicure or pedicure
My nails are partially gelled (because I picked some of it off), but my toes were holding on to polish from… September? I didn’t repaint them, but I did strip the polish off my feet and give my toenails and cuticles some love.

November 22 – Unexpected color combo: pumpkin & blush
I had no blush items in my closet. K and I tried to take a mirror selfie just to record my outfit for the day, but we obviously need some practice. Lylee looks straight up lost.

November 23 – Put your phone away and just be present today… Facebook and Instagram can wait
Sooo… I kept my phone away as far as texting, IG, and FB were concerned… but Animal Crossing just released their Pocket Camp app and I’d be lying if I said I avoided that all day 😉 In my defense, I bonded with my cousins and K’s siblings and cousins over the app!

November 24 – Take a few minutes to look at old photos and reminisce
I’m in the process of setting up my office at home and every time I open a box or folder I find senior pictures of friends or prom pics of K and me. So sweet 🙂

November 25 – Have a hot cocoa date with your significant other, best friend, or other loved one
K and I woke up early to hit a hardware store. We swung by Starbucks for some cocoa (for him) and a latte (for me) before we made the trek!

The gel on my thumb is still intact so it makes for good pics 😉

November 26 – Call, text, FaceTime, etc. a friend or family member that you are not able to see this holiday. They’ll be glad to know that you are thinking of them!
As strange as it sounds, almost all my family lives near me. My uncle lives in St. Louis but he was home and we had a Thanksgiving lunch with him this day! Coincidence? I think not!

November 27 – Hand write a letter or note telling someone how grateful you are for them & why
Done!

November 28 – Discuss with family existing ideas for new holiday traditions, planning ahead will make pulling it off next month easier!
My brother & his wife live two hours away but come home for Christmas Eve and morning. This month we discussed his plan and now I know when he’ll be around and what dates we’ll have him in town for celebrating! (They head to her family for Xmas night and the days that follow.)

November 29 – Schedule 15 minutes to de-stress, break out that grown up coloring book
These are my favorite kind of puzzles to do. I can sit and fill these in for hours. De-stressing with a fill-in puzzle is the perfect 15 minute break!

November 30 – Try a new coffee, tea, or coffee creamer
I bought a new amaretto creamer! I don’t usually put anything but milk or half&half in my coffee, but it’s been a nice treat!


Thank you so much, Alexandra and Shea, for hosting this challenge! I definitely fudged some stuff in the second half, but the daily challenges were a reminder in self care and preservation. I definitely needed that this month.

Next month they’re keeping the fun going with these prompts!

I’m excited to join in when I can 🙂

A Christmas Movie List

I was typing out the Freeform 25 Days of Christmas movie list as I obsessively do every year and I thought to myself, ‘I should make an ultimate Christmas movie list for my blog!’

This isn’t an official challenge and you don’t need to keep track or put any pressure on yourself to finish (or even start!) this list, but I thought it’d be fun. I’ll probably report my progress some time at the end of the month. (And if you watched some of these in November it totally counts. I would never restrict Christmas cheer to December!)

Feel free to play along if you want to!

Claymations:
A Year Without a Santa Claus (AV) (F)
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (F)
Jack Frost (F)
Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (F)
Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (F)

Animated/Kids:
The Nightmare Before Christmas (N) (F)
The Polar Express (AV) (F)
The Muppet Christmas Carol (HBO go)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (AV) (ABC go)
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (F)
Arthur Christmas (F)

The Classics
White Christmas (N)
It’s A Wonderful Life (AV)
Miracle on 34th Street (AV)
Holiday Inn
The Bishop’s Wife

The Contemporary Classics
Love Actually (N)
The Family Stone
The Holiday (N) (AV)
Jingle All the Way
Serendipity (N)
Trading Places

The Overly Played:
A Christmas Story (AV)
The Santa Clause [bonus points for each sequel watched] (N) (F)
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation [uncensored, of course] (F -censored)
Home Alone (HBO go)
Elf (AV) (F)

Half-Hour Specials:
The Bells of Fraggle Rock
The Little Drummer Boy
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (F)
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas [animated]

BONUS: Weird Animated Movies From Our Past That We Barely Remember:
Babes in Toyland
The Nutcracker Prince
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

Edit… [Find it on: (H) hulu, (N) netflix, (AV) amazon video, (F) freeform]
Some of these might not be free. And some might be incorrect. Hey, I tried.

While I didn’t include Die Hard, it can be found on Amazon Video 😉

I know I’m missing a million movies. What are some of your favorites?

Happy Thanksgiving!

I feel like we were so overdue for a holiday, ya know? Thanksgiving arrived just in time.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by friends or family or pets or strangers- whatever or whomever you have that make you feel loved and grateful.

I addition to all the normal stuff (husband, dogs, fam, etc.), I’m incredibly thankful for the blogging community that I find myself immersed in daily. From the random packages to the planned gift swaps, from my blogger pen pal group to the people I email with and befriend on Facebook… I’m just really grateful for you all ❤︎

If you find yourself here over the holiday/weekend, I hope you know that I’m glad you’ve stopped by. If you’re looking for something to read while you wait for the guests to arrive or the turkey to cook or the bloating to subside 😉 be sure to check out these posts:

Have a great Thanksgiving & weekend!