Friday Favorites #9: Valentine’s Edition

Happy Friday and Happy Valentine’s Day!

I love to live my life by the seasons in as many ways as possible. And whereas February is technically supposed to be the month of love, I always find myself really focusing on self love and care at this time of the year. This year, like most, I’m trying to get over the dreary gloom of January while also trying to remember spring is probably still three months away, so I need to start looking inward and finding ways to love myself to make the days a little brighter. So most of the items on my favorites list this week are featuring the ways I’ve found to love or treat myself right now.

True Self Care

  • Two weeks ago I signed up for online therapy services through BetterHelp. (I believe this is an affiliate link for one week of free therapy if you’re interested in testing it out.) It’s not something I plan on talking much about, but it’s also not something I want to keep a secret, so now you know! I’ve felt many, many times in the last year or so that I wish I had a counselor or somebody to talk to, but because we’ve had such rotten luck with finding a good fit for Caden over the years I didn’t have much hope of finding someone I could trust and like, while also being conveniently located (very hard in a small town!) for myself. But these last three months have been particularly hard and I knew I needed to do something to help myself. Lo and behold, ONLINE THERAPY. I didn’t even know this existed until recently. And honestly, it’s so perfect for me. I write so much more openly than I speak. I’m a thousand times more comfortable talking about hard things through a screen than face to face. The best part, for me, about BetterHelp specifically is that I can write to my therapist as often as I want and she responds every single day. I can also schedule actual sessions via chat, phone, or video once a week – if I want. I’ve had two live chat sessions so far, on top of the daily correspondence, and it really is an extra bonus. Anyway, it does feel expensive – $65 a week. But I think it’s completely worth it if you communicate the ways that I do. You couldn’t have daily in office therapy sessions for $65/week! Or even once a week! Plus I’ve finally come to the conclusion that nourishing my mental health is a worthwhile expense no matter what. I’m sure everyone’s experience with BetterHelp is mostly dependant on still actually having a good fit with their paired therapist, but I really like who they assigned me (you can change if you don’t like who you got) and it’s going well.
  • In addition to therapy, I’ve also started using the Calm app to meditate and start to teach myself mindfulness. Meditation doesn’t come easy to me, but I’ve been hearing so much about mindfulness all over the place lately that I really want to learn how to use it to help in all areas of my life. The app itself seems pretty amazing. You do have to pay for it, but I think if you’re serious about meditation it is worth the price. (I probably shouldn’t say this, but I didn’t go through with the purchase the first time I opened the app and they soon sent me a 40% off email code. I also have five 30 day free guest passes if anyone is interested in trying it. They also offer a 7 day free trial.) For the last week I’ve been doing a seven day series on mindfulness for anxiety, but I’m really excited to try out some of the many other features.
  • I go back and forth on how I feel about essential oils, but at the moment I’m back on the train, guys. I just found out about a brand called Saje Natural Wellness. I’ve been most interested in their oil blend roll-ons and recently ordered a couple to try out (if you buy 3 they’ll let you pick out a soft sided carrying case!). The whole point of essential oils is breathing them in and letting the oils soak into your skin/blood/brain is how they can treat a variety of symptoms or help you feel a certain way. But one of the main things I don’t like about essential oils is that none of them smell all that great to me and I don’t want other people to find me offensive. But I guess the good news is that I rarely have to interact with other people, so it doesn’t matter all that much (lol)! But of the two I’ve used so far (Peppermint Halo and Stress Release), I really have liked the scents. I truly believe that they do help – especially oils meant for easing colds and sleeping better. So I’m excited to start building these oils into my daily self care routine again.

Save Money

  • Have you guys heard of Honey? I’m not sure how I ever learned about it in the first place, but it’s just a browser extension that will search through the internet and find coupon codes for any shopping site you’re on. It also can tell you the stats on when the best time to buy things on amazon might be. It’s really pretty awesome. It’s free, so you might as well get it! It’s saved me tons of money (I do a lot of online shopping lol) through discount codes that I never had to do a thing to find. I love it. Shepard noticed I was using it last night and he knew exactly what it was. Apparently they talk about it in his favorite youtube videos…

Eat

  • For some reason Walmart is the store that always carries the new and unique flavors of candy bars. And I very rarely shop at Walmart. But the last time I was there I grabbed one of these Mint Kit Kat Bars and I fell in love. Kit Kat Bars are my favorite candy bar and I also love mint, so they’re a perfect combination. I may have bought myself a 24 pack on amazon to have in case of chocolate emergencies, even though I’m really not supposed to be eating candy.

Listen

  • Speaking of chocolate, I recently checked out the podcast Inside Trader Joe’s because someone on facebook mentioned loving their chocolate episode. And this is such a fun podcast! I’ve listened to the three most recent episodes on chocolate, cheese, and holiday foods. I’m obsessed with Trader Joe’s, maybe because I get there so rarely. But grocery shopping is like my favorite thing to do, so I go at least once every season to check out the new items. The podcast itself is informative, light, funny, and so very interesting.

Treat Yourself

  • If you DO go to Trader Joe’s, buy yourselves some flowers. Seriously. They’re crazy cheap and so beautiful.

Jewelry

  • This Kendra Scott Jack Bright Mix bracelet was my Valentine gift from Greg. Technically, I bought it for myself. But technically, he really wanted to get it for me for Christmas, but it was sold out for months, and he told me if it ever came back in stock he still wanted me to have it. So, I checked every single day when I woke up and finally it was there, so to my cart it went! I love it. 🙂 And actually, at this exact moment, it is once again available online. I had this bracelet on the Rainbow Christmas gift guide I did way back in November and was kicking myself for not just buying it because I wanted it so badly. I’m glad I was able to snag one before they’re gone for good.
  • In terms of bracelets in general, though, Kendra Scott has some really great ones. They’re such good quality too. I’m not as impressed by the necklaces – mostly because they’re super short and look stupid on me. But I love the bracelets. My favorite style is the Elaina. I have it in a couple of different colors and they’re so understated but beautiful. My favorite is a Kyocera opal that matches everything.

Read

  • The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is one of my all time favorite romantic comedies of a book. It’s just so FUN. I’ve been dying to reread it, but I’ve been saving it up for today – a special Valentine’s Day treat to myself. You should read it too if you haven’t. Such a great read.

Write

  • I have a slight addiction to personalized journals from Minted.com. It’s possible I’ve written about these before, but I’m too lazy to go back and look. I love a good notebook, though, and Minted seems to always be adding new styles. This is what I did for teacher Valentine gifts this year. And Shepard was so fascinated by them that I let him pick out and customize two last night as a birthday present for himself. He’s super excited about them. I of course also added on another rainbow notebook for myself since I was already placing an order!

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Even if you don’t have a significant other (or if yours is sick and totally out of it like mine), do something to make the day a little more special for yourself. You deserve it.

What I Read January 2020

My reading life is off to a great start this year! I read 18 books in January, with a huge mix of genres and ratings. January was my biggest reading month last year too and now I remember why – it’s too miserable to do basically anything else!

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
Rating: 4.5 stars

You probably know by now that my love of epistolary novels is strong. I was especially intrigued by this one, which is a debut novel by a 70 year old author. The entire book is a correspondence between a middle age woman in England and a recently widowed museum curator in Denmark. What begins as a slow and somewhat unexciting exchange of intellectual letters, quietly turns into a beautiful friendship of connection and understanding. It took me a lot longer to read this than I expected and I almost set it aside multiple times in the first half because it wasn’t what I was expecting. But as I continued on, the letters between the two of them brought me to tears multiple times as I reflected on how beautiful a friendship through words alone can be. As all epistolary novels do, I wish this had ended a little differently. But overall, I really enjoyed this beautiful little book.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
Rating: 5* stars

I couldn’t put this book down. When I HAD to put it down for a chunk of the day, it’s all I could think about. It’s hard to explain exactly what this book is about without giving away too much, but the idea is that in a “county” at some unknown point in time, there is a rule that all girls are sent away during their 16th year to get rid of their magic. This is the baseline for the story, but it’s also the least explained part, which did get a little frustrating to me. But I got so lost in Tierney’s journey and everything she was experiencing that I was able to gloss over the things that didn’t make as much sense to me. This book reminded me a lot of The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies. It’s harsh, yet hopeful, devastating, yet beautiful. I’d highly recommend it.

Relish by Lucy Knisley
Rating: 4 stars

I enjoyed this graphic novel all about the love and appreciation of good food. It was fun to read and helped me to look back on my own memorable food experiences over the years. I did sometimes feel like the author/artist had a tiny bit of an agenda as most of book was about her parents in relation to her food experiences, but other than that, it was a good read.

The Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook by Gina Homolka
Rating: 5 stars

I asked for and received an air fryer for Christmas, though I really wasn’t sure what to do with it. Which of course led me back to amazon to order the best looking air fryer cookbook I could find – this one. And I’m SO glad I got it! I’m really excited about this cookbook. It’s relatively small – only 75 recipes – but I want to try almost all of them. And not in the usual “I should try these because they’ll be good for me,” but because THEY LOOK DELICIOUS. I immediately did the tomatillo salsa verde recipe (a weird thing to make for your first time using an air fryer!) and it roasted the vegetables so quickly and so perfectly that I am really excited to try everything else I marked down. As usual, I have no interest in the seafood chapter, but everything else looked fantastic.

Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren
Rating: 4 stars

Okay, so this book definitely does not follow the format I usually prefer when it comes to romance. It starts hot and heavy between a boss and intern that hate each other. These days, there is all kinds of ick factor that comes with that sort of relationship, but if you can gloss over how wrong it would be in the REAL world, it was easy to fall into the passion of these characters and how intensely they felt for each other. Christina Lauren is one of my favorite sets of authors, but this is the first erotic novel that I’ve read by them. It was definitely steamy, but the character development was still prominent and kept me glued to the story.

Say Yes by Elle Kennedy
Rating: 3 stars

This novella popped up for free in an email and I decided to read it one night when I was once again putting off reading Love Lettering (up next). It was fine. Predictable. A cute little romp.

Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
Rating: 3 stars

I wanted to love this novel so badly. A sweet romance that revolves around typography?? It sounded so perfect for me and the reviews were glowing, so I immediately ordered it. Unfortunately, it just was not holding my attention. I read two books in the middle of reading this one. I probably should have DNF’d it, but I bought it and felt responsible for reading it. It was FINE. But, as many reviewers stated, it is also “understated.” And that’s understating it. Overall, I’m just really glad to have finished.

Skinnytaste One & Done by Gina Homolka
Rating: 3 stars

I had such high hopes for this cookbook after loving the Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook I also read through this month. Unfortunately, it just isn’t for me. I should have realized, a cookbook entirely filled with recipes that can be made in just one appliance – the instant pot, skillet, baking sheet, air fryer, etc. That is basically code for meals that are all mixed up together, which is not a type of food that I or my family enjoys most of the time. We like our foods SEPARATE. As a whole, if you like food like that, this is probably a really great cookbook. The photographs are gorgeous and make every recipe look so appealing. But of the 140 recipes, I only marked 24 of them that I’d like to try. One reason is that there were also a TON of seafood recipes, which is a category I’m just never interested in. I do plan on keeping this cookbook around because the ones I marked look great. But it’s definitely never going to be a favorite.

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
Rating: 5 stars

Both of my kids were reading books by Kate DiCamillo at school recently and they both kept talking about the books – which is highly unusual. I commented that I happened to have a book by her on my shelf – another middle grade novel that I only bought because I was IN LOVE with the cover (I have the Barnes and Noble special edition, which is different than pictured above). Once again, why are middle grade cover artists so AMAZING? Anyway, I was a bit surprised (pleasantly) to open the book and see it’s really a younger “middle grade” book, with a large font and big spacing, so I was able to read the whole thing in an hour or two. I loved it, though! Louisiana was such a likeable character. The entire thing was really sweet, despite being heartbreaking at the same time.

Raising Good Humans by Hunter Clarke-Fields
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really great book about mindful parenting practice that I wish I could have read five or ten years ago. The author’s kids are the same age as mine are now, so most of the examples given are for kids more of the toddler and preschool age. You can still use the advice, but it doesn’t feel quite as applicable for older kids. I definitely resonated with so many of the hard parenting examples given and the author made me want to learn how to meditate to become a more mindful parent – and person. The essential message of the book is to focus on connecting and building a relationship with your child and in turn all of your conflicts will be easier to handle. Great advice, but sometimes very, very hard to implement. The book was interesting and relatable and I read it relatively quickly. I almost never make it through parenting books, so that’s saying something!

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (reread)
Rating: 5* stars

I really wanted to reread this book before reading the second book that was released this month. And I have to say – I loved it just as much the second time! I don’t read a lot of fantasy because it’s easy to get bogged down and confused by all the details, but this series is pretty straightforward. Few characters, a simple directive to break the curse: fall in love. The characters are so likeable, particularly Harper as she really comes into her own in a new land, fighting to save the kingdom when she could have put up a fight at every turn to get back to her family faster. Like all of Brigid Kemmerer’s books, I absolutely loved this.

A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Rating: 5 stars

Okay, I feel like there’s not a ton I can say about this book without giving too much away. I really had no idea what to expect, other than seeing one ARC review months ago suggesting that it was definitely not as good as the first. And…I disagree, for what it’s worth, so maybe don’t let reviews sway you either way. This second book does feel decidedly DIFFERENT than the first book because it’s a lot less about the characters and their relationships (the reason I love the first one so much!) and more about duty and responsibility to the characters’ respective kingdoms. Like so many YA fantasy series, this is where it starts to lose me. I hate reading about battles and war. I just want the relationships! But Grey is such a beloved character and I fell harder for Lia Mara than I did Harper, which really helped me love this book as much as the first, even though it gave me SO much emotional anxiety! I thought this was another amazing book by Kemmerer and I can’t wait to read the third, even though it hasn’t even been announced yet.

Ama by Josef Centeno
Rating: 4.5 stars

It’s no secret that Mexican/Tex Mex food is BY FAR my favorite to both make and eat. Even though I already have tons of cookbooks, I’m always on the lookout for more. This one seemed like a sure bet, so when no one bought it from my wish list this past Christmas I immediately ordered it for myself. And it seems great! I haven’t yet made anything from it, but I marked so many of the recipes. I’m actually most intrigued by all the sauces and salsas at the beginning of the book – much more so than a lot of the meals. I took off half a star because not all the recipes had photos, and many of the recipes called for unique ingredients that definitely aren’t readily available in Wisconsin, especially in wintertime! Kumquats, persimmons? I’m fairly certain I’ve never seen any of those EVER in a store, and I go to a lot of grocery stores. And they’re included in multiple recipes, as an example. But I’m still very excited about the cookbook and plan to use it often.

Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein
Rating: 2.5 stars

I didn’t like this book. Eliza, owner of her own small jewelry shop in New York, accidentally posts a photo of herself wearing the shop’s most outrageous engagement ring and her sales start skyrocketing. She decides to turn the small mistake into a huge farce, including planning a full out wedding without actually having a groom. She latches herself on to a guy who would be great for her, pretending her feelings are more than they are until he actually proposes and she convinces him to have a shotgun wedding. And then she tells him the truth and shocker – it all falls apart. Honestly, the only part I liked about this book was hearing about the jewelry. It made me REALLY want some new jewelry (lol). Everything else just continued to make me angrier and angrier.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
Rating: 5 stars

If I got this specific in my ratings, I’d probably really give this a 4.75, but I decided to round up to a 5 since a 5* is MY specific highest potential rating. My reasoning? I almost quit this book so many times in the first 70 pages. I was bored and annoyed with the traumatic but very vague past of the the main character and didn’t find much interest in the story itself – a woman trying to fit in with a group of male firefighters. But around page 70 everything turned and I could not get enough of the book after that. This turned into such a beautiful story of redemption, forgiveness, and ultimately – love above all else. I adored the characters and was so very happy with how everything turned out. It was also a great life lesson kind of book. Overall, if you can power through the beginning, this book is really worth reading.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Rating: 5 stars

This book epitomizes everything I love in a sweet YA romance. Two lovable and realistic teenagers that are faced with plenty of daily problems, but can still find fun and laughter in their relationship with each other. This one was particularly fun because it had a smattering of an anonymous texting friendship as well as a national twitter feud between their family restaurants. There was a lot going on! But I loved the characters so much. It was sweet, very innocent, and absolutely enjoyable.

I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson
Rating: 4 stars

I went into this book blindly, just randomly picking something that looked like it might be a thriller from my plethora of unread books on my kindle. It turned out to be somewhat of a mystery/psychological YA thriller about a teenage girl whose mom died so she moves back to Alaska to live with her dad and new step-mom and step-sister, only to find out that her best friend from childhood is missing. I was definitely pretty lost in the story as it went along, impressed with how dedicated Ruthie was to finding Zahra. But certain things happened – cue the psychological thriller aspect – that I’m not so sure are believable. Overall, it was a solid read that kept my interest.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Rating: 3 stars

I had a really hard time getting into this book, but I can’t explain why. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with it, I just felt very disconnected. Which is kind of weird, because I found it to be super interesting that the main character is a woman who suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic pain, something I also deal with and it’s so rarely talked about and would almost never show up in a romance novel! I liked how that fit into the story and the way the characters interacted and accepted each other, flaws and all. I really enjoyed the male lead, Red. But overall, this book was just an okay read for me.

Friday Favorites #8

Happy Friday!

You’d think after taking a few weeks off from this post I’d have a ton of things to share. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. But I didn’t want to put it off another week, so here’s what I’m recommending to you this week!

Winter Uplifter:

  • CITRUS CANDLES. I’m obsessed with them right now. I’ve always tried to only light candles that are seasonally appropriate throughout the year because that brings me the greatest joy. Apple in September, pumpkin in October, cinnamon in November, a little bit of pine in December, lilac in spring, and ocean and fresh scents in summer (though most of my candle usage is September – December). Winter used to be all bakery scents, but this year I’m switching it up with citrus. I think it makes a huge difference in making this dreary time of year feel a lot brighter. My favorite place to find candles is HomeGoods/Marshall’s/TJMaxx. I think my all time favorite is the DW Home Grapefruit one pictured above, though they haven’t been as readily available as they’ve been in years past. I just picked up a Limoncello one the other day that also smells incredible. Here are some other favorites I’ve discovered:
    Chesapeake Bay Love & Passion (Grapefruit and Mango)
    Opalhouse Rio de Janeiro (Pink Pineapple and Sugar Cane)|
    DW Home Grapefruit
    Root Candles Sugared Grapefruit
    Wisconsin Candle Company Lemongrass and Sage

Eat:

  • I never thought I’d be a person who made VEGETARIAN TACO MEAT. But I saw this recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers a few weeks ago, happened to have all the ingredients, and decided to give it a shot. And I LOVED it. It was honestly SO delicious. I think I MAYBE even like it better than regular beef tacos – because beef tacos are the only form of beef I eat and as delicious as they are, they also kind of gross me out. Nothing gross about eating this. I originally made it just for myself, but Greg helped me eat the leftovers and really liked it too. I’m planning on making it again tonight and we’ll see how the boys react. I bet if I don’t say anything they won’t even notice that it’s not meat.

Craft Project:

  • A few weeks ago I started seeing these yarn rainbows all over the internet. I have A LOT of yarn and you know I’m obsessed with rainbows, so I had to figure out how to make one for myself. It did require a little hunting around to find the nylon rope and floral wire (I ended up using jewelry wire because I couldn’t find floral) before I could start. But this tutorial made learning how to make the rainbow very clear! The most annoying part was just getting the rope and wire prepped. I did the whole thing start to finish in about two hours and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. If I ever make more (I hope to!) I think I’d like to find a more natural linen type rope to use instead of the bright white nylon, but this definitely worked pretty well.

Pamper:

  • So my friend gave me this Exfoliating Foot Mask for Christmas. I’ve done a foot mask one time in the past and it was just for moisturizing – and I don’t think it helped even the tiniest bit. I assumed this was the same idea and didn’t even really read the package, just wrapped up my feet and tried not to think about how tingly and cold they were for the next hour! I also skipped the direction about rinsing your feet off after you take them off and a few hours later my feet felt like they were on fire. But all that aside – I was in SHOCK a couple days later when my feet started peeling like crazy. It was both fascinating and horrifying. This thing REALLY WORKS, you guys. But I definitely would not use it if anyone else is going to be seeing your feet within two weeks of doing the mask. It probably took a good week to finish all the peeling, but it took off even the toughest layers of skin on my heels and toes. It’s worth a try!

General Reflections on the Last Few Weeks

Life has been really hard lately. I keep alternating between feeling desperate for more time to myself and extremely lonely. I have this constant emotional war going on in my mind that I don’t think anybody understands, myself included. But I’m pretty sure it keeps circling back to one or the other as the base problem.

In a normal school year, I should have four, sometimes five, days a week to myself. A solid seven hour chunk every day to work, run errands, prep food, read, rest, and recharge so I’m ready to emotionally deal with the rest of the night. This last month? Between school holidays, sick kids, and bad weather, I’ve had zero or one day, every single week. And it’s killing me. It’s felt like those three months of summer where every single day whittles me down to the point I’m honestly not even sure I’m going to survive to the end. Except in summer everyone has the option to play outside, go on walks, see friends, go to the pool, find ways to occupy themselves in locations other than the walls of this house. And I’m not REALLY placing the blame for my emotional distress on my family members, not really. But I can’t explain how I’m feeling without immediately offending them. And without thinking there is surely something wrong with me because MOST PEOPLE do not have four days a week to be alone! I always fall into the trap of belief that my issues are not valid because I’m coming from a place of privilege to begin with. I don’t feel like I’m allowed to have these feelings, which makes the problem that much more intense and that much more hopeless.

I think what bothers me so much about having people around ALL THE TIME is that there are so many expectations on me, with none of the connection. I need to make food for everyone alllllllllll the time. Preparing and cleaning up after those meals takes huge chunks of time as well. I will be the first to admit that I do very little of the major house cleaning in this family, but I AM responsible for all the daily upkeep, which is that much more stressful when four people are contributing to the messes all day long. It leaves me with very little time or energy left to do the other things I need, or especially want, to do.

I’ve thought many times over the years that video games have basically been the worst thing to ever happen to us. But how could we deny them to our kids when it’s something Greg has always loved so much? I wish we could go back and do things a little differently because it’s nearly impossible to change their expectations and demands at this point in time. What annoys me so much isn’t even the games, but the stupid youtube videos. When my kids are home, that’s basically all I ever hear. They do have pretty strict screen time rules during the week, but Caden’s gotten around them by going on the treadmill for three hours every night (NOT an exaggeration) so he can keep watching his videos while he walks. What used to be a safe haven – my beautiful living room – is now filled with that awful obnoxious noise all the time. It makes me feel trapped and overwhelmed, especially because of how much my kids like to bully me into more screen time until I finally give in – or they just start watching anyway because I don’t know how to stop them. Ever since Christmas break when Caden was fully determined to destroy every single day before we even left the house, I’ve had very little fight left in me. The behavior challenges we’ve had with him his whole life only seem to be getting worse. And the more I feel like a failure as a parent, the less I want to try to be a better one. I resent how he makes me feel, I resent how many things he’s ruined, and that resentment has seeped into how I feel about everyone else. I’m sick of trying and I just want to be alone.

That’s probably a little more honesty than I should share. I try not to talk too in depth about our parenting problems these days because he’s very aware of this blog and could access it if he wanted to. But…that’s my truth right now, so I’m keeping it in.

All that aside, I’m also feeling very lonely. When life feels so hard, I’m like most people and would rather hide away than find positive ways to deal with it. I was determined to get past the overwhelming sadness Christmas break brought and immediately planned a coffee morning with my friends at the start of the month. But only one person showed – and I’m certainly not mad at the people who couldn’t come, they had valid reasons! But it also made me feel like maybe I don’t want to keep trying to organize things. It frustrates me so much that the only way I ever see anybody is if I organize it. Is it because everyone else is just too busy? Is it because they’re really not that interested in hanging out with ME? I somehow keep expecting friendship to get easier and it only gets a million times harder. Where are the people who long for deeper connection? Where are the people who will immediately say yes to something without making me feel like I’ve only made their lives harder? Where are the people I can count on to show up and actually care about me and respect my feelings? Where are the people who want to just do life together and not reinforce the idea that I AM a bad mom or person because of the way things are going right now? I’m honestly ready to put some sort of personal ad out online because SURELY those people must exist. They exist in my facebook groups! They exist online. But in real life? Why can’t I find them?

Anyway. That’s basically how my January has gone. I’ve been keeping my mouth shut, my head down, working a lot, reading a lot, cooking a lot. Trying to make sense of what’s going on in my heart and my brain. Hiding.

Greg and I did get away for a night in Milwaukee to celebrate our 20th anniversary of being together. It was kind of a stressful situation because Shepard had some type of influenza that entire week and we weren’t sure if we should leave him and we weren’t sure if we’d catch it and that would ruin the trip anyway. So we compromised and cut our two nights into one – also because we were expecting a huge snowfall the second night and didn’t want to drive home in that mess.

The trip itself was really nice. We had lunch at a really cool taco place and then went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the photography exhibit that was featuring a photo of my grandpa in his barber shop. Then we relaxed at the hotel for a few hours before heading out to a cool restaurant across the street. We ended the night rushing through the super cold streets of Milwaukee to see a Doughboys Podcast Live. It’s Greg’s favorite podcast and I usually only listen when we’re in the car alone together (rare!), but I really enjoyed the show. It was so funny! We finished the trip walking around Milwaukee Public Market and having a huge brunch at the cutest European cafe. The whole trip was a great reminder that we can still laugh and have fun together. But it also ended with a reminder that kids are always on the back of our minds, as we struggled with whether or not we should come home even earlier in order to meet Caden after school and let him stay with us (while a fevered Shepard was still with Grandma). Nobody was even supposed to know we were coming home early to avoid that ever present sense of parental duty, but there were some communication mix ups that really ended the trip on a sour note.

The boys had off of school on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It was the first day Shepard was finally feeling better (though he doesn’t look it!), so I was determined to make the most of it and take them out for lunch and Starbucks. But if we were already going to be in Sun Prairie it made sense to me to also get some groceries, which is NEVER a good idea with kids in tow. At least MY kids. Or…KID. They weren’t being naughty, exactly, just…made the whole trip very stressful. And not at all fun because all they wanted was to rush through the food and go back home to their games. Just like every time I try and do something special to connect with them, it falls flat. I was also supposed to take Caden out for a lunch yesterday, but he is a master of self sabotage, so that fell through too.

I’ve still been cooking, a lot. Using my air fryer every day! I’m trying to keep reminding myself that eating good food is part of nourishing myself and should be my number one priority. But I’m really losing steam. Mainly because I’m not losing any weight. I lost 10 pounds right away last fall when I started making changes, and then absolutely nothing in the last two months. It’s really frustrating. I’m not trying to FOCUS on the weight loss, but it also seems like with how many beloved foods I gave up, I should really be having some accompanying loss!! As you can see from this photo I’m not exactly eating salads every day (lol), but I’m still almost entirely gluten free, no processed snack foods, no desserts unless they’re also gluten free/low sugar, a lot more fruits and vegetables than I used to eat. I’m not trying crazy hard to eat perfectly, just avoiding the things that will most harm my liver. So I guess it’s to be expected that the weight isn’t falling off. But I’m still discouraged!

In happier news, I finally reopened my shop the other day after a six or seven week break! I had 20 new dolls and sold 12 of them so far. I’d like to really keep the momentum going with a couple new batches listed a week, but this week when I’ve been so obsessed with work again has really reminded me how much falls to the wayside when I prioritize that. And I’m not sure I’m in a great place at the moment to just work all the time again. I need better balance. So…we’ll see what happens. At any rate, it’s nice to be making some money again! And just creating in general. I love it.

So that’s what’s been going on with me lately. I’ve been tempted to just stop writing until I get my stuff figured out, but writing is what helps me, even if nobody is interested in reading this depressing update on my life! I’m trying to figure it out.

Friday Favorites #7

Okay, I know it’s not Friday. In the future I’ll probably just skip to the next week if for some reason I couldn’t or forgot to write this weekly post – or if I didn’t have much to share. But I DID have a lot to share and I won’t be around next Friday, so I wanted to get this up!

Eat:

  • I discovered amaranth porridge quite a few years ago, but kind of forgot about it until a random pinterest picture reminded me this week. I’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal lately, mostly for the health benefits, not because I actually like it that much. Amaranth, though? I LOVE it. It has such a different taste and doesn’t gross me out in the ways that oatmeal does (I have food issues). This particular recipe made a very hearty two servings, and it doesn’t reheat that well, so I’d probably cut it in half next time. It’s a great winter breakfast if you have the time to spare.
  • I wanted some sort of baked treat for my coffee on Wednesday (when I expected more people to show up!). I had a lot of blueberries on hand, so I made regular lemon blueberry muffins. But at the last minute I decided I wanted to also make something I felt good about eating, so I tried this Gluten Free Dairy Free Banana Nut Muffin recipe. And oh my goodness, they are SO GOOD. I’ve realized in the last few months that I tend to like gluten free baked goods a lot more than I ever liked the regular ones. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily a good thing!! These feel hearty and delicious, they’re not very sweet (I always get headaches with sweet breakfasts and try really hard to avoid them), and they’re definitely on the healthier end of things, with very little maple syrup as a sweetener.
  • So this isn’t really a new idea, but I’ve still been craving chocolate pretty often and have been trying to find “healthier” ways to eat it. Earlier this week I made a bunch of chocolate covered walnuts, since walnuts are the best nuts for your liver, but also not my favorite to eat on their own. They were fantastic, but I was eating way too many. Yesterday I decided to make peanut butter cups with homemade peanut butter. Homemade nut butter is shockingly easy if you have a food processor – just put the nuts in and let them go until they’re nut butter! I just melted dark chocolate with a tiny bit of coconut oil, filled the bottom of muffin papers with it, scoop in a dollop of fresh peanut butter, and cover with more chocolate and sea salt. They’re more substantial than chocolate covered walnuts, but I’m also MUCH better at only eating one a day.

Kitchen Helper:

  • Greg gave me a Cosori Air Fryer for Christmas. I was determined to not let it sit around unused for two years the way I did my Instant Pot, so I made almost every meal with it this week. And it seems like a pretty foolproof method of making food! So fast too. The downside is that even though I got one of the larger ones, you still need to make most food in multiple batches if you’re cooking for a whole family. It’s kind of annoying. But it works!
  • I wasn’t sure where to start with using it, so I ordered The Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook and it is a really great cookbook! Almost every recipe appealed to me. My favorite so far has been the everything bagels – they only take four ingredients (not including the egg and seasoning on top), about five minutes to put together, and fifteen minutes to cook.

Drink/Gift:

  • My parents gave me a subscription to Sipsby for Christmas since I’ve been drinking a lot more tea lately. I got my first box yesterday and it’s so much fun! I believe it’s only $15/month and they send you four different kinds of tea, based off of a survey you fill out with what kinds of teas you like. I’m ALWAYS a fan of subscription boxes and getting that fun gift in the mail every month. This seems like a great option if you – or a gift recipient – loves tea.

Book Finder:

Read:

  • Last Saturday I spent almost the entire day (minus when we went on a date) reading The Grace Year. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time and I highly recommend it.

Word of the Year Jewelry

  • And finally! This is the first year I picked a word for the year and wanted a very physical reminder of it that I’d see all the time. I’ve always been obsessed with meaningful jewelry, so I searched around online for a few days and finally went back to my old favorite – Lisa Leonard. This is the Very Fine Line Ring, though she has smaller/thinner bands – or necklaces or bracelets as well, all of which can be customized. I really, really love how this turned out. I’m glad I added the hearts!

Weekend Reflections 01.11.2020

This has been a weird week. On one hand, it’s been AWESOME having everyone go back to school and work, letting me have the daily quiet and space I desperately need to be a functional person. And some of these days have been great! I’ve started getting more sleep at night, maybe because I’ve been getting a better grip on my overall stress levels. I got over EIGHT HOURS last night, guys. I’ve been on about a 5.5 hour streak for the last year. At least. I’ve also been walking Annie a couple of times a day, though it snowed last night, so there’s another halt on that for the foreseeable future. I’ve also gotten back on the treadmill a couple of times. I’ve decided that more pain in my bad foot is worth the exchange of feeling better in the rest of my body. But I also devote spare minutes of every hour to stretch and massage my foot and leg, so I think that’s actually getting a little better too.

I’ve also felt very productive this week. I finished that online business class I was talking – a lot faster than expected! It was really refreshing to stretch my mind in different ways, and learn more efficient ways to run the business end of things. While there’s still some more office work I should probably do soon, I was desperate to get back to the fun stuff and spent all day Friday and this morning sewing my first batch of dolls in over a month. I’ve also cooked A LOT of food this week. Which to me is always a double edged sword. I love feeling like I’m feeding myself nutritious and wholesomely made food. And I resent how dang long it takes to research, plan, shop for, prep, make, and clean up after that food. It could very easily become a full time job and I don’t like it. It shouldn’t require so much energy to eat food that’s good for you.

While it’s been a great week in many ways, I’ve also found myself spending half the week feeling very depressed. It’s like all the good things I’ve been doing to nourish myself are uncovering a lot of the deeper issues I’ve been hiding away for a very long time. I’ve been trying to just let the bad feelings come and pass over me as some form of healing while trying to move on. But…I don’t know. Sometimes it’s really hard to just get out of the chair and get back to doing something good. Also – it’s cold. January in Wisconsin is a hard time to be happy, period.

Anyway. I was going to share about some of the food I made this week, but I think I’ll save it for a belated Friday Favorites post I’ll write next. But back to the week – I spent Monday and Tuesday working on the class. On Wednesday morning I had a coffee scheduled, but only one of my friends ended up being able to come. It was great to catch up with her, though!

I decided to take Thursday as a day to celebrate finishing the class, so I went to some of my favorite stores in Madison to browse around. I wanted to get lunch at Bartaco (my favorite Madison tacos!), but it’s in such an inconvenient location that I just ended up at Chipotle instead. Still delicious, but not very special. I also changed up our bedding on Thursday. I’ve been on the lookout for a new comforter for ages and finally found one I liked. It feels like a very cozy change of pace. Jack definitely approves!

And on Friday I got back to work! I spent so much of 2019 making dolls with only the business side of things on my mind. Which is funny to say since I spent this week focusing on the BUSINESS side of things. What I mean is that I was only making larger dolls and dolls that were quickest to make (no painting on the legs, only pigtail hairstyles) because I wanted to get as much money as I could as quickly as possible. Which is MAYBE a good business plan? But for someone who really just desperately wants to be creative, it wasn’t working out for me very well. I’m not sure how the rest of the year will go, but for RIGHT NOW, when I’m focusing so hard on nourishing my needs, I’ve decided to just do whatever I feel like doing, even if it’s not going to bring in a huge profit. I’m hoping in two weeks I’ll reopen my shop with a lot of new inventory. Giving myself a little leeway to only think about the creating side of things is really what I need right now. Though I’m so excited about all my new ideas I’m a little worried that might bog me down as well! Balance, like always, that elusive idea.

I was excited to have a weekend free of plans, especially with a snowfall overnight and another one starting right now. But those feelings of being trapped with so much video game and youtube noise is quickly driving me to insanity again. There has not been enough of a break between Christmas vacation and this weekend! But I’m trying to keep my head down and just focus on the fun things I wanted to do this weekend. While I’m very anxious to immediately start on my next batch of dolls, I also FINALLY found a Cricut project I’m excited about doing, so that’s up next. Plus my pile of cookbooks and books and planning for the week ahead.

Next week should be a nice mix of work and fun. I have a lunch scheduled with a friend Tuesday. And then Greg and I are going to see his favorite podcast live on Thursday night. Friday is our 20TH anniversary of being together, so we’re making a little mini vacation out of it. I hope the weather cooperates so we can walk around Milwaukee a bit. But either way, it’ll be nice to have a little trip. I don’t think we’re going to have a chance to really do much for our wedding anniversary this year, so I’d like for this one to be special.

That’s about it for now!

Weekend Reflections 01.05.2020

Whew, it’s been an exhausting weekend! It’s been an exhausting week, with the end of Christmas vacation, New Year’s festivities, and jumping back into the swing of things Thursday. I’ve been trying to pace myself getting my life back in order, with as little freaking out as possible about time going too quickly and not getting enough done. I’M TRYING. But it’s officially been a month since I’ve done any sewing and I’m still not sure I’m going to have a chance to do it this week because I have a huge work related thing I need to get through before I can actually start sewing again. I miss it! I really miss making money. 😛 But day by day, decision by decision, I’m trying to just do what I can and know I’ll get back to my dolls eventually.

On Monday, Greg went into work and I took the boys to Madison because Caden had a dentist appointment. We stopped at Starbucks and a grocery store before I dropped Caden off at a friend’s house for a few hours.

Tuesday was New Year’s Eve. It already feels like ages ago. Oh yes, we had a big snowfall overnight, so we all spent the morning shoveling because Greg was having issues getting the snowblower started for the first time this season. He was also working at home while the boys and I were enjoying our last day of mostly chilling around. I think I was writing blog posts.

Our night was fun! Nothing super exciting, but it’s exactly the way I like it. I made a huge cheese platter that we all stuffed ourselves on and then we watched the third How to Train Your Dragon movie, Abominable, and a bunch of Netflix countdowns before putting the boys to bed around 10. Then Greg and I watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood until about 11:45 and then went up to bed to read. So we WERE awake at midnight, barely. I almost never make it that late, so it was impressive. It was a really nice night, though. No fighting, no drama, just movies and food and laughter.

We had a New Year’s lunch with ping pong and puzzles and Great British Bake Off Holiday Specials with the in-law’s and then headed home to get back on track for school and everything.

I was THRILLED to get everyone off to school and work on Thursday. I should have enjoyed finally having the house to myself, but after feeling trapped at home for most of break with sick kids, I was antsy to get out and enjoy myself. I ran a few necessary errands (mostly involving buying three different shovels from three different stores), went to a few of my favorite stores to just leisurely look around, and then had a lunch out, enjoying every bite of food that I didn’t have to make myself. Making three meals a day for all four of us for over a week straight is EXHAUSTING. I think I spent at least half my day in the kitchen every single day.

On Friday I was ready to get down to work and I spent most of my day at the computer, closing out all the distractions, and focusing on this work-related class I’m taking, trying to learn a lot more about the actual business side of being a business owner. It’s important stuff and I feel like I can’t start creating again until I’ve finished. I’m hoping to really power through and get it done this week, even though it’s supposed to take 2-4 weeks.

Shepard’s new glasses came in, so I nabbed him on his way home from school to go pick them up. They’re the same as the old ones, but black instead of blue. They put plastic lenses in instead of glass and I wish I had asked more about the difference, other than them being cheaper. This pair seems extremely reflective and I don’t like it (though I wouldn’t say that to him). Fortunately, I guess, we also ordered a cheaper pair from Zenni because he was OBSESSED with wanting transitions lenses and we didn’t believe that he’d actually like them and didn’t want to waste so much money on them at the eye doctor. But that pair came yesterday and he likes them a lot more, so I guess that’s what he’ll be wearing most of the time. They look almost the same, but a more matte black frame, and – they’ll transition when he’s outside.

On Saturday we FINALLY had a chance to go see Little Women. Unfortunately, I had a terrible headache the entire day that I couldn’t seem to shake, so it did put a bit of a damper on the date. But we went to Guimo’s to get some yummy Mexican food, stopped at Target to buy cat litter, and then saw the movie. I liked it a lot! I spent the entire rest of the day laying on the futon reading an awesome book (The Grace Year).

We spent all of today putting away the Christmas decorations. Whew! I should say that GREG and I put everything away, while the boys just whined about it and maybe did five whole minutes worth of work. I was getting pretty stressed out because every cleared area meant that I actually had to start more projects to rearrange all my stuff after the influx of Christmas gifts. I ended up taking ALL my books off all my shelves and rearranging all of them. And let’s just say – I have a lot of books that I really need to read.

Anyway, it was not the most fun of days, but Christmas stuff is put away! I’m glad we got it all done and now I can move on with my life.

I’m not sure I want to do Sunday Intentions anymore, in lieu of my new plan of not putting so many goals and expectations on my time. But it looks to be a pretty quiet week ahead, with just a coffee morning with friends on Wednesday and getting my brakes replaced on Friday. I’m planning to just focus on my coursework and hopefully going through a few more cookbooks to get good meal plans for the coming weeks. Greg gave me an air fryer for Christmas, but I have no idea what to do with it (I did ask for it!), so I need to find some great recipes. I also need to get back to eating well. I was doing so great until Christmas Eve and then it got hard again. It’s just plain really hard when everyone is home all the time. Easy well liked meals are more important than healthy meals, for my sanity’s sake.

That’s it for tonight! Have a great week!

Friday Favorites #6

Welcome back to Friday Favorites! I took a week off because it was too chaotic around Christmas to think about new recommendations. But I have a few fun things to share today!

Organize:

  • Yesterday I mentioned that I’ve been working through a goal tracking planner called PowerSheets. I purchased this after watching a Hope Writers live video with the creator and deciding it sounded like exactly the thing I needed to get my year off on the right track. And it was surprisingly helpful! Though you should probably know going in (I didn’t do a ton of research before purchasing) that this isn’t a daily planner in the sense that you’re used to. It really is a workbook that guides you through the goals you’d like to make for the year and then helps you to break them up into tiny doable pieces, which you spread out and keep track of over the entire year. So this isn’t really a planner to organize your life, JUST your goals. I did just announce in my post yesterday that I’m not really focusing on goals so much this year, but the planner actually helped me come to that conclusion and did help me align my priorities in a very clear and concise manner.

Personal Care:

  • I am a lip balm ADDICT. I am obsessed with finding the hot new brand and have probably 30 different kinds and flavors all over the house. I stumbled across a new to me brand called Crazy Rumors right before Christmas and purchased 12 different flavors that I split up between all our stockings. And I LOVE them. My favorite flavor is amaretto, but I’m really enjoying the pistachio as well.

Watch:

  • Our New Year’s Eve plans year after year are to watch movies and eat snacks. The second movie we watched with the boys the other night, Abominable, was HILARIOUS and so heartfelt. I’ve never been much of a fan of animated movies, and my kids mostly went from toddler shows to Marvel movies, so we’ve missed out on a lot. But I was trying to find something we could all enjoy and this definitely fit the bill. I really, really liked it.

Eat:

  • I don’t think I mentioned this last month, but I came across a new item that is PERFECT for a big cheese platter: Buzz and Bloom’s Spreadable Honey. I don’t know what they do to it to make it spreadable, but it is so incredibly delicious and pairs perfectly with any type of cheese. I’m not sure where to buy it online, but locally I first found it at Woodman’s and then purchased additional flavors at HyVee. My favorite is the plain honey spread.
  • You guys are really going to think I have a gouda obsession since I think this is my third time sharing a brand of gouda in just the first six installments of this weekly post. But – gouda is so good! Well, SOME gouda is so good. I’m not a fan of the kinds that feel more soft and processed, but adore the harder aged and smoked varieties. Anyway, I picked up this Stone Ridge Cave Aged Gouda at Woodman’s for our New Year’s platter and I think it’s my new favorite. If you want a REAL treat, layer a chunk of gouda with the spreadable honey on a dried apricot. It’s delightful.

Drink:

  • You know I’ve been really into drinking tea lately. But most flavors are really a hit or miss. I don’t use any sweeteners since it kind of defeats the purpose of using tea to avoid snacking, so most of the tea I’m drinking is palatable, but not GREAT. Because Greg has been drinking so much Harney and Sons cinnamon tea this year, the boys have really gotten into it as well. So on a whim I picked up this Tazo Glazed Lemon Loaf Tea yesterday because all three of them really love citrus. I, however, can’t stand citrus, but I still wanted to try the tea. And guys. It is AMAZING. I’m not even joking, this is the best tea I have ever had. I mean, I love the cinnamon tea, but I really need to be in the right mood for such an intense cinnamon experience. This, however, I could drink any time and I don’t think I’d ever tire of it. GET IT. I bought it at Target, but you can also find it on amazon.

Luxury:

  • Okay, I never would have purchased this for myself, but my brother gave me an Ember mug for Christmas. I’ve heard of them before, but always dismissed the idea because it was so expensive and only comes in straight black or white – and I love my unique and colorful $4 mugs too much to give them up. But I decided to give it a shot and was immediately really impressed. When fully charged I believe it will keep your drink the perfect temperature – that you set – for an hour and a half. I’ve been using the mug for tea at night and it’s absolutely perfect because I’m such a slow tea drinker. Then I use my regular mugs for my afternoon coffee, which I drink much faster. Anyway, it’s a splurge, but I’m really excited about owning one.
  • This winter break made me realize real quick that I needed a good pair of wireless headphones. I kind of lose my mind when everyone is home because I’m so used to listening to music and podcasts and watching my own tv shows all day long, and I can’t do any of that when I’m not home alone. And because it’s winter, I’m almost always wearing leggings or pajama pants without pockets, so I can’t carry my phone connected to regular earbuds around with me without it being super obnoxious. I’ve tried other wireless earbuds in the past, but it drives me crazy how often they need to be charged and it was just too much of a hassle. But I was determined to find a way to solve this problem, so I ordered a Christmas present for myself – these Cowin E7 Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones. They are super comfortable, they hold a THIRTY hour charge, and most importantly – they come in super fun colors! I got the green ones and I am IN LOVE.

That’s it for today! Happy Friday!

Word of the Year: NOURISH

There is so much pressure at this time of the year to set intentions and make big goals. And normally, I’m all about that! I set goals for myself every single month because I find that thinking about them in such short chunks really helps me make better choices in my daily life, and reflecting on them at the end of the month helps me learn how to do better the next month. It’s been a good system for me. At least, it’s felt like a good system, until the end of the year when I was mulling over 2019 and realized I spent almost every single day feeling stressed out and unworthy of rest, unworthy of joy, unworthy of peace because I was never DOING ENOUGH. Even though DOING was all I lived for. It’s a hard way to exist, never ever feeling like you’re enough. And honestly, I’m tired of it. I want this year to be different.

I’ve also come to the conclusion in this past year that I am only being negatively influenced by all the motivational messages on social media. Every time someone tries to “encourage” me to be better, it feels like another slap in the face, telling me I’m not enough. There’s such an intense pressure out there in the entrepreneurial world telling you that you always need to be growing, you always need to be doing something to be better, you can never just sit still and enjoy the life you’ve already made. For me personally, this trap really hit home a few years ago when the boys both started school full time and I felt this incessant need to prove myself and my worth, constantly searching for more accomplishments I could show off to defend why I’m still a “stay at home mom” with no kids in the house during the day – something that is definitely no longer the norm. And despite my best efforts, despite a business I did create from scratch and run successfully, I think I’m always going to struggle with people thinking less of me. I’ve been an overachiever my entire life, and it’s really dang hard to stop letting my accomplishments define who I am. But I want to make that shift this year. I want TO focus on WHO I AM, rather than what I can do.

I’ll tell you a little bit more about it tomorrow in my Favorite Things post, but I’ve been working through a goal tracking planner this past week and it’s really helped me to focus on what I want to do differently this year to enjoy my life and be a happier person. Ironically, it made me realize that I don’t really want to live by the goals of accomplishments anymore. I DID make goals, but they all center more around ways of living versus actual things I aim to accomplish, so I’ve decided not to share them publicly this year. Sharing means I’ll have to eventually own up to achieving or not, and I don’t need that pending sense of failure on my mind. I might go back to making some lighter monthly goals in February, because it IS fun to make doable and enjoyable goals that will pull me out of the drudgery. But for January, I’m taking a step back from all the doing to focus more on just being.

I’ve never picked a word of the year before. I’ve loved the idea, but there are just so many great words out there to live by, how do you narrow it down? Well, for me, it was really obvious what I needed this year. To focus on my health and wellbeing. And “health” is not an actionable or very exciting word, so I went with NOURISH. It fully encompasses everything I want and need to focus on right now. I want to nourish my body with healthy and wholesome foods. I want to nourish my physical strength through movement and exercise. I want to nourish my brain through life-giving books and meditation. I want to nourish my relationships with the people in my life I never want to lose. I want to nourish my heart with joyful activities. I want every decision I make to be filtered through the lens of nourishment. If it’s not good for me, it’s a no. If it will feed any part of who I am with a positive outcome, I’m going to say yes. I’m hoping that there really won’t be a lot of gray areas. I know what’s good for me, and I have permission to take those things I need. It’s a good word and I’m really happy with it.

I’m really excited about the year ahead. I want to be happy again. I want to be whole. And I want to be a lot healthier, in every sense of the word. And unlike every year before this, I feel ready to actually do the work to become the person I want to be.

Happy new year!

My Favorite Books of 2019

This has been a fantastic year for reading. It’s always been my favorite thing to do, but I think this year I really prioritized it as THE thing to do whenever I had a spare moment of time. I’ve also found extra joy in tracking a lot of new stats using Book Riot’s Reading Log. This may not interest anyone but me, but I’m definitely going to share all that with you in a minute. 🙂 I am SO happy to be a reader and have this chance to share all of my favorites with you each month! The bookish community is my favorite place to hang out online, researching and finding new books to read is almost as much of a hobby as reading itself, and diving into that perfect book is about the best feeling in the entire world. I pour over these end of the year lists each December, adding more books to my TBR list than I’ll ever have time to actually read. And I’m okay with that, as long as I always have options! Reading is simply THE BEST.

(I should mention that other than number of books read, my stats are SLIGHTLY skewed because I didn’t realize the spreadsheet was going to include my DNF’d books and I can’t delete them without messing up the numbering for everything else, so if you’re actually doing the math, there are 158 books included in my stats. I won’t be marking DNF’s on this tracker in 2020!)

THE STATS:

Books Read: 152

This actually surprised me as I have such a hard time FINISHING the nonfiction books I’m obsessed with buying. Though a large chunk of these are cookbooks, which I decided to start including in my reading this year because I DO read them word for word.
This is the year I became dedicated to actually reading a lot of the print books I already own and love to purchase. My Kindle is amazing, but there’s nothing like having an actual book in your hands. As for audio, I didn’t listen to many, but this is still more than ever before!
Full length novels are definitely my favorite! I had a hard time deciding which of my nonfiction were prose vs. essays, so they should probably be lumped in together since I normally just picked one or the other.
My only issue with this tracking system was how limited the genre classification seemed. I wish there had been a “Thriller” and “Cookbook” option. I definitely steer most toward contemporary fiction, though a lot of those could MAYBE have been also classified as “romance,” but I tried to only mark that if it was a full blown sexy town kind of book. I should also note that Book Riot only gives you lists of your stats, I created these pie charts separately for visual appeal. 🙂
I like normal fiction sized books. I don’t like huge books. Most of the short books were graphic novels and cookbooks.
Some people seem to take pride in how prudely they rate a book and seem happy that the year has come to an end and they’ve only had a handful of 5 star books. I feel like it’s much better to have MOSTLY 4 and 5 star books because it’s proof that you’ve had a great year of reading and you picked wonderful books! I tend to very rarely rate anything less than a 3 if I actually took the time to finish it. And on a separate spreadsheet where I’ve tracked books for the last ten years, I have an addition 5* rating, to indicate the best of the best.
I’m a pretty consistent reader no matter what time of the year it is. Probably always higher in January and December when I’m reading more cookbooks and short Christmas books.

The Books

Okay, okay, enough with the stats, let’s get to the books. I’m going to give you my top 5* fiction – the books that I ADORED, I can remember clearly long after I’ve finished them, they probably made me both laugh and cry, and I’m likely to want to read them again. And because I had so many 5 star fiction books in total, I’ll give you a bonus so they’re not left out! Then I’ll give you my top nonfiction of the year and my top cookbooks. Enjoy!

Top 10 Fiction Books of 2019

  1. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
  2. A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (READ THIS, second book comes out in a few weeks!!)
  3. Regretting You by Colleen Hoover
  4. Well Met by Jen DeLuca
  5. Five Minute Life by Emma Scott
  6. Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt
  7. To Night Owl From Dog Fish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
  8. The Good Girl’s Guide to Being Bad by Cookie O’Gorman
  9. The Summer of Chasing Dreams by Holly Martin
  10. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Bonus 5 Star Fiction Books of 2019

  1. Eleanor & Grey by Brittainy Cherry
  2. The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
  3. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Aceveda
  4. Savaged by Mia Sheridan
  5. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
  6. The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2019

  1. Everybody, Always by Bob Goff (audio!)
  2. Fail Until You Don’t by Bobby Bones (audio!)
  3. Skinny Liver by Kristin Kirkpatrick
  4. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
  5. The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin
  6. Inheritance by Dani Shapiro
  7. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  8. Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness (audio!)
  9. Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith
  10. Book Love by Debbie Tung

Top 5 Cookbooks of 2019

  1. Tex Mex Cookbook by Ford Fry
  2. Half Baked Harvest: Super Simple by Tieghan Gerard
  3. Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook by Perre Coleman Magness
  4. The Edible Cookie Dough Cookbook by Olivia Hops
  5. Salt and Straw by Tyler Malek