What I Read December 2019

I think it’s pretty safe to say I won’t finish any more books this month, so I’ll sneak this post in before I do my best books of the year. December was a good reading month! One of my top goals was to read whatever would bring me joy, and I think I did a pretty good job picking them out. I read 18 total books: 1 nonfiction audio, 1 anthology of short Christmas stories, 1 graphic novel, 1 hard copy nonfiction, 4 cookbooks, and 10 fiction books. The majority of the books were really great! I can’t wait to share them with you. ūüôā

Everybody, Always by Bob Goff (audiobook)
Rating: 5* stars

I received this book in a swap a few months ago, but hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. Around the same time I requested the audio version from the library and it became available the week before Thanksgiving when I was way too busy to think about listening. Finally getting back to work on December 2nd I realized I only had one day left before it would be snatched away again, so I decided to listen to the entire 5.5 hour book that day. It was worth it. This book was profound in its message of love everybody, love always, and give your love away as if you are made of it. Bob Goff is filled with so many incredible stories because he lives his life loving everyone around him. He’s funny too! I laughed out loud so many times. I cried too. Honestly, it was quite the whirlwind of a single day’s listen! I am absolutely going to dig into my hard copy now too because I need to highlight probably 60% of his words and figure out how to start living my own life that way. I’m not good at loving people. I’m horrible at accepting interruptions and changes to my schedule and plans. I spend most of my life isolated, rarely going out of my way to connect with others. I think that needs to change. Anyway, I think this would be an incredible book for literally anybody to read or listen to. It has the potential to be life changing.

In the Unlikely Event by L.J. Shen
Rating: 3.5 stars

This was one of those odd books I couldn’t make up my mind how to rate. Two young people fall desperately in love within hours of meeting each other, make a promise to marry each other if fate ever brings them together again, and then don’t see each other for eight years. By then Mal hates Rory with a destructive anger and Rory does not know why. On one hand, I was very sucked into the story and anxious to read it at every opportunity. I haven’t read many books like that in awhile. On the other hand, it infuriates me when the entire conflict in a book could be resolved in a twenty second conversation to fix the misunderstanding that tore them apart. I also thought some of Mal’s behavior and words when he was angry with Rory were unforgivable. And on a personal level, I find it really irritating when intriguing and random details are thrown into a story, but serve no purpose. For example – Rory’s half brother that she just found out about, but also just died, and she doesn’t even give it another thought. If I found out I had a half brother, even if he had died, I’d want to know everything there was to know about him. Or the fact that Mal has five brothers and one sister and only the sister is mentioned again in the story – but not even present. Why give him five brothers if they serve no purpose? Why not two? Something more “normal.” Anyway, I did like the book, but I had a hard time accepting Mal as the great hero in the story.

All Wrapped Up for the Holidays by Colleen Hoover (and others)
Rating: 3

This was a surprise Christmas anthology released by a group of authors, including Colleen Hoover. You can only get it through Book Funnel, but it’s free (for a limited time). I’m not really a fan of short stories, they always leave me wanting more. For this particular collection, most of the stories are about characters from the authors’ previous books, so if you haven’t read those books you might not get a lot out of their Christmas story. I wanted to read this because Colleen Hoover’s Finding Perfect was basically an epic epilogue to her Hopeless and All Your Perfect books. And THAT was amazing. I also enjoyed the first short story in the collection. The third had a crazy amount of characters and I gave up on it. The fourth and fifth were pleasant. Overall, totally worth reading Colleen’s story if you’ve read the other two.

Instant Loss Cookbook by Brittany Williams
Rating: 4 stars

I picked up this cookbook a while ago because it sounded very inspiring. Though I was also a little doubtful of anybody who could lose 125 pounds in a year, just by making all her meals from scratch. After reading through the entire cookbook I still have very mixed feelings about the whole thing. It WAS a good cookbook and her story IS inspiring. But she does mention in a couple of different places that she basically only eats vegetables, with a small grain portion just twice a week. That is NOT a diet I can sustain. It makes me wonder about the authenticity of all the recipes and if she actually uses them for her own meals. She doesn’t do dairy either. I’m never giving up cheese, guys. Anyway, most of the recipes are pretty simple (that was her plan – keep food whole and simple) and many of them require the instant pot. I dug mine out after two years of no use and made her salty potatoes right away. It was probably the easiest recipe in the entire cookbook, but it worked! I’m planning to go through the recipes more thoroughly and work my way through them, mostly to gain comfort in using the instant pot more regularly. Sadly, there were not photos with every recipe, but there were still a lot. I’m always a little discouraged to realize how many new ingredients I’m going to need to make most recipes in a cookbook, but I think it’ll be worth it for these. I’m intrigued!

Heidi’s¬†Guide¬†to¬†Four¬†Letter¬†Words by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt
Rating: 5* stars

This book was so much fun that I read it in a single day! It was the first genuinely funny and sweet book I couldn’t put down in quite awhile. Hoping to gain some confidence in her ability to talk to men, while also helping her own self empowerment, Heidi decides to start a podcast where she reads passages from erotic novels. When she’s not working or doing the podcast, she’s crushing big time on her neighbor Brent and talks about said feelings on every podcast episode. I laughed out loud so hard and for so long multiple times during this book. I really loved it!

Notting Hill in the Snow by Jules Wake
Rating: 4 stars

This was an ultimate cozy Christmas light romance about a single father and his daughter and a woman who warms their hearts. I wasn’t sure in the beginning how much I would like the book – it felt a bit stressful. But it very quickly eased into something so sweet and beautifully holiday driven filled with heartwarming moments. The only reason I knocked it down a star is because I felt Nate could have had a bit more backbone when dealing with the conflict that arose. Overall, though, this book was exactly what I was looking for in this busy Christmas season.

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover
Rating: 5* stars

With the exception of a few hours in the middle to sleep, I read this book straight through. Colleen Hoover will never disappoint. Even though she’s always switching up genres and you never know what you’re going to get – you can always rely on the fact that it’s going to be a great story. This book is mostly about the relationship between a mother and daughter, but there is plenty of beautiful romance on the side. It was heartbreaking and beautiful and sweet and touching. I loved it. I love them all, but this was really wonderful.

Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman
Rating: 4 stars

This was a really sweet graphic novel that I read in about half an hour. It’s about a new friendship between two teenage boys, one who is gay and one who isn’t really sure who he is yet. It always amazes me how many emotions can be conveyed in just the simplest drawings and so little dialog. It was so sweet. ūüôā I’m just a bit perturbed to realize it ended on a cliffhanger. It took me so many months to get the first one from the library, now I have to wait again.

Instant Loss by Brittany Williams
Rating: 4 stars

Much like her first cookbook, I found this freshly released book to be highly valuable and filled with encouragement, simple recipes, and a lot of hope that I, too, can change my life around. I really resonate with both of Brittany’s cookbooks because she seems to be focusing on all of the same types of diet changes that I’m also working on. She does use “different” ingredients, but as I build my pantry with those alternatives I’m finding more and more freedom in the food I can eat. No, it’s not what I’ve eaten my whole life, but yes, it DOES taste good and it DOES make me feel better. I’m excited to try a huge chunk of the recipes in this book – mostly the breakfasts, snacks, and basics. The only area I found lacking are the actual dinner ideas. They just look so plain and bland to me. I’m thrilled to have more ideas for breakfast and lunches that I will mostly be eating on my own. But I’ll find sources for flavorful and exciting dinners elsewhere.

Dwelling by Melissa Michaels
Rating: 4 stars

This was a fun and encouraging book that I enjoyed reading, but also felt a bit confused by. Honestly, it felt like a whole lot of rambling and filler for what could have been chopped down into a much more concise and focused message. The extra words and ideas weren’t BAD – and it wasn’t a long book to begin with. But it seemed to lack a real structure that was honestly just a tad confusing! I think to get the most out of this book you need to also be a huge journaler and follow all the prompts on almost every page. While I WANT to be that kind of journaler, I just didn’t have the time for it. I’d definitely consider going through it again at some point in my life, really taking the time to delve deeper. Overall, it was a really good book for introverted homebodies that want to get the most out of their lives through cultivating their homes and priorities.

Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is a YA epistolary novel told entirely in texts, so you KNOW I was here for it. But this book gave me so much anxiety!! A self proclaimed weird/awkward teenage girl gets a text from a boy in her class and mistakes him for his cousin who has the exact same name. He doesn’t realize she has them confused until it feels too late into their text only friendship to clear things up. As their friendship progresses through words alone he becomes determined to wriggle his way into her actual life, which only confuses her more because she thinks that the real him is the “bad” Martin and doesn’t know how to reconcile how nice he’s being to her when she comes across who she thinks is “text Martin” and he ignores her entirely. Of course this book is entirely predictable, but it still gave me all the teenage angsty feels and I kind of loved it.

Christmas Cliche by Tara Sivec
Rating: 3 stars

This book is a bit ridiculous – but it’s supposed to be, hence the title. I feel like it was trying too hard to be funny, which is a turn off to me. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it definitely wasn’t a must read Christmas book.

The Boss Who Stole Christmas by Jana Aston
Rating: 3.5 stars

It took me about half of this book to decide I liked it. Granted, these fluffy Christmas books I like to read in December are rarely meant to be deep and well developed. But when the characters are so UNDERdeveloped book after book, it gets old really fast. About halfway through it suddenly became funny and sweet, however, and I liked how much Christmas spirit was infused into the plot. It was a fast and cute read.

Beautiful Boards by Maegan Brown
Rating: 4 stars

If you enjoy putting together cheese plates or throwing together easy weekend meals on boards (like me – kids love it!), this is an awesome book with tons of great ideas. The photos are beautiful and very inspirational for creating boards for every meal, party, and occasion. I did find all the words, however, to be a bit excessive. If you REALLY need to be walked through the steps for exact portioning to buy of every single item on the board, you’ll appreciate the directions. I was really more in it for the photos and ideas. The only thing I found to be a bit frustrating is that SO many additions to the platters were specialty items and treats that you could never just randomly find in a regular grocery store. They looked awesome on the author’s platters, but unless you want to devote an excessive amount of time and money to finding those exact items, you probably won’t be able to make the exact boards in the book. But – it’s still great inspiration to be on the lookout for cool little treats to add if lots of board making is in your future!

The Gift of Happiness by Holly Martin
Rating: 4 stars

So every year I get excited about the prospect of reading lighthearted and happy Christmas books in December and every year I tire of them VERY quickly. They’re cute and sweet and predictable, which never holds my interest the way I expect it to. I purposely saved this one to read right on Christmas because Holly Martin is one of my most reliable authors for this type of book. And it WAS good. The characters were so kind and cute, the setting was festive, the plot was interesting. I just wasn’t in the greatest mindset to enjoy it. But still, a very nice Christmas read.

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
Rating: 5 stars

A book about polygamy, when the wives have never met each other or even know each other names? This was the exact unputdownable book I needed on Christmas day when our commitments were finally over and I could spend the entire day reading. I loved it! It was fast paced, interesting, and really messes with your head. I had some apprehension about starting it based on reviews other people have left, but I ended up really enjoying it.

The Forest Feast Mediterranean by Erin Gleeson
Rating: 3.5 stars

If pressed, I’d give this book 5 stars for being the most visually stunning cookbook I’ve ever seen – the reason I purchased it in the first place. But in terms of recipes I’ll actually use, I’d probably give it a 2.5. Mostly because it’s just not what I need right now. I was hoping picking up a vegetarian cookbook would give me a lot of great ideas. And honestly, everything in the book seemed so similar, so simple, and composed of mostly ingredients I either don’t like or can’t eat. Granted, this IS a Mediterranean cookbook, but there are SO many olives, which I won’t touch. Lots of tomatoes, eggplant, feta. A huge chunk of the book is pasta dishes, a type of food I’ve never liked, even if I could still eat white flours. And I’d say almost every recipe that’s not a salad or a pasta is some type of dish served on slices of baguette. Page after page and after page. I’d LOVE this idea if I could still eat baguettes! Obviously I could find some substitutes, but it wouldn’t be the same. Anyway, I maybe shouldn’t have been so trigger happy to actually purchase this book when I had an idea after paging through it wouldn’t contain the types of food I want to eat. But the artistic appeal was too strong! It’s truly the most gorgeous cookbook filled with a variety of photographs, drawings, and appealing fonts. You should find a copy to at least LOOK at if you can!

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
Rating: 4 stars

I decided to end the year reading something pretty disturbing. This is another book that I had a hard time putting down. Though it might be less because it was enthralling, but more because it was so distressing that I couldn’t wait to finish it. I moved this book way up on my TBR list because the second season of You was just released and I wanted to read the book before I watched the show, even though I’ve heard they’re very different. Anyway, much like You, this is a book about a truly terrible person who you can’t help rooting for. I kind of wonder about the state of mind of the author to get so in the head of this messed up serial killer. A lot of crazy things happened in this second installment, I think I liked it more than the first. But I’m very glad to put it behind me!

A Brief Look at 2019

When I reflect on this past year, a whole lot of negative emotions flood my mind. This was a hard year. I spent so much of it feeling behind, overwhelmed, stressed out, resentful, misunderstood, ignored, confused, and helpless. I think I’ve been having a bit of an identity crisis about what I’m “supposed to be doing” with my life and it’s taken up so much of my mental energy, leaving me with very little left for everybody and everything else. I’m also still in constant pain from my ankle and on again off again plantar fasciitis, perpetually leaving me with such a desire to change my life while being so frustrated with my physical limitations. I feel like a failure as a parent every single time one of my kids has a meltdown or is disrespectful (so, basically every day), and I’ve been pulling back and hiding, rather than finding successful ways to deal with our problems. I have been driven by my own personal agenda and to do lists above all else at almost every moment of every day, never prioritizing the people around me, and almost never having any FUN. Most of 2019’s negativity stems from my own internal struggles, and honestly – I don’t really want to think about it anymore. I want to move on. 2020 is going to be better, I am going to change, and I’m going to put this year behind me.

The best part of 2019 is that I managed to do a lot of travel! Which, to be honest, is also the reason I always felt so behind – because taking four to five weeks away from a business you run on your own really does put you behind. There’s no way around it. But after not being able to do much at all in 2018 thanks to my ankle, it was fun to make up for it this year. In February we took a drive to Omaha to visit my brother and family, which was really fun – except for the WORST DRIVE OF ALL TIME coming home in a major snowstorm on unplowed icy roads. Later in February we went to Florida with Greg’s parents for Universal Studios and Harry Potter World over Shepard’s 8th birthday. In May, Greg and I went to Colorado to celebrate our 13th anniversary. It was more beautiful than I could have imagined, and I really enjoyed seeing a part of the country that was new to both of us. In July I took the boys on a mini vacation to a hotel a few hours north, just the three of us. It’s always an interesting and more bonding dynamic when Greg isn’t with us and our kids actually transfer some of their interest to me. We had a good time. In August I went to Texas for the first time, spending half my days at a resort for Book Bonanza and half the time wandering around Dallas in extreme heat. I loved Book Bonanza, I thought the Dallas Farmers Market was the best I’ve ever been to, but I could definitely do without ever seeing Texas in August again. And in November I took another solo trip to North Carolina, spending half the time at my first Hope Writers conference and half the time driving across the state to stay at a relaxing beachside hotel. It was quite the fortunate year, taking FOUR huge vacations, requiring flights across the country and seeing a lot of new places. I cherish the years like this, when we have the opportunity and freedom to choose the trips we want to take, without a lot of limiting factors.

It’s taken me a long time to work through my bitterness and hurt, but I’ve come to the realization this year that I don’t need to let people have the power to hurt me anymore. There are a handful of people in my life – friends, not family – that I’ve given way too much power to and I’m taking it back. I’m distancing myself from the people that flat out ignore the ways I’ve tried to connect with them, the ones that cancel all the plans we make – or just plain don’t show when they promised they would. It’s not worth it. I have other friends who DO show up, who DO care about me, who DON’T diminish the value of female friendship. I’ve learned – and will continue to work on – stepping back from the harmful relationships and focusing on the ones that only bring joy and connection to my life. I think one of the greatest things I’ve done this year is having the occasional coffee morning at my house. It’s something easy that people can do to come together and connect. It’s even spurred some of them on to start issuing their own invites. This group of friends, we used to do so much together when our kids were toddlers and preschoolers. Then life got crazy and we lost our way. And now we’re getting it back. We’re all giving each other what we can in the ways that work out best in this season of life.

This past year has also been a health related rollercoaster. In October 2018 I was diagnosed with fatty liver and told I needed to lose weight. So that’s what I focused on and it sucked. I felt deprived and hungry all the time, but I DID lose some weight. But then in January my uncle died. And helping to clean out his apartment and seeing the physical evidence of what it looks like to die alone with mental illness was honestly really, really traumatic. And I’m not blaming my weight gained back on that, but it was a catalyst for going back to my well known lifestyle of emotional eating. I stopped caring. I REALLY stopped caring during the summer when every day felt like just another battle and I was living in survival mode. And then in September when I got my freedom back and could go to ANY RESTAURANTS AT ANY TIME and totally went overboard. Which resulted in my next annual visit in October weighing more than ever, a referral to a different doctor, the scare of having an incurable autoimmune hepatitis diagnosis, a liver biopsy to confirm it’s – so far – only fatty liver, which all led to the conclusion that I NEED TO CHANGE MY LIFE. Yes, losing weight would really help. But I’m not focusing on that because that’s an end goal. That’s a conclusion that I would maybe eventually reach and then decide I didn’t need to make those choices anymore. So it’s been a huge learning curve with a ton of overactive emotions, but I AM changing. I’m doing the work to be a different person in how I eat, how I cook, how I shop, and how I deal with all my mental stuff in a healthier way than eating chips and chocolate. It’s only the beginning, and this past week around the holidays has been a bit murky. But I honestly and truly feel great about making these changes. Not deprived. Not hangry. Not depressed. But good. Hopeful. I’m nourishing myself and learning how to better nourish my family so they don’t end up on the same path as me. All that sucky stuff was exactly what I needed to change my lifestyle.

The biggest issue that plagued me this year was where to devote the bulk of my daytime hours and what career direction was right for me. I thought I could make it work being both a doll maker and working toward being a paid writer. I assume most writers don’t have the luxury of devoting all their time to writing at the beginning – they still need to get paid. But I’d guess that a lot of new writers are not also trying to run a totally different creative business completely on their own. The lack of boundaries in my life and constant pull between one or the other, never feeling like I could give enough to either (or ANYTHING in my life) – it was too much. I was briefly wooed by the writing life at my Hope Writers conference. I definitely do not regret going, but I’ve also come to realize in the two months since that I don’t think that particular community is for me. At least not now. I’ve also had a bit of an epiphany in the last couple of days as I continue to mull this all over. I don’t actually want to be a working writer. I mean, yeah, writing a book and having that sense of accomplishment would be AMAZING. But the minute I started focusing my blog posts and instagram posts for “my reader” I became paralyzed with anxiety. I don’t WANT to focus all of my posts toward other people. I don’t want to schedule my social media updates. I don’t want to network with other people. I don’t want to devote time every day just trying to build my platform. I don’t want to constantly be hunting down ways to bring in money for my words, always wondering if what I have to say is worth anything. I just want TO WRITE. For ME. I love to write, I’ve always loved to write, and I believe I always will. But my biggest purpose in writing is simply to figure out my own thoughts. It’s my therapy, my cathartic release, the only way I can move past most of the things that happen to me. I do like writing a lot of those feelings in this public space in the hopes that I will make connections with a handful of people and maybe someone will read about my messy life and know that they’re not alone in theirs. But this doesn’t need to be my career path. It can just be something I really like to do.

It feels like a huge relief to come to that conclusion at the end of this confusing and stressful year. I am a doll maker. I’m a pretty good one too. It’s a weird career, and one that most people don’t understand or think is just some cute little hobby to keep a homemaker busy. Sometimes it’s easy for my own thoughts to lean in that direction as well because I don’t get a lot of validation for my work in the real world. But I’m proud of what I’ve built and I’m excited to continue it with a stronger sense of direction and purpose in the coming year. I’ll still write. I’ll still read. I’ll still cook. I’ll still be a wife and a mom and a friend. I can be it all without needing to profit from it. My profit will come in the form of a connected, well balanced, creative, and joy filled life.

And that’s all I have to say about 2019! I’ll be back soon with my READING reflections on the year, something I’m much more excited to share!

Christmas Reflections 2019

I’ve been dreading writing this post because I’m not quite sure what to say about Christmas this year. I like to be authentic and honest in this space, refusing to gloss over or hide the truly hard parts of life. But at the same time, I know that I’m fairly pessimistic a lot of the time, and people don’t want to read about depressing things. Especially in what should be a light hearted, warm fuzzy memories Christmas post.

You learn pretty early to set your holiday expectations LOW when you have kids. Babies and toddlers are on their own schedules with their own agendas and they don’t handle chaos and change very well. You expect Christmastime to be this magical experience and it’s usually anything but. You learn to adapt to what your kids need, deal with the disappointment of relatives when you have to say no to things, and try to keep everyone as happy as possible when all you really want to do is go hide in a dark room and cry. It’s so much about putting on your brave face, ignoring what’s really going on in your heart, and just trying to get through it, focusing on the good parts of the season.

I’ve gotten so used to this over the last eleven years, being blessed with a child who is especially difficult when literally anything changes in his homebody lifestyle. It doesn’t matter how exciting the holiday or event, it doesn’t matter what relative he adores is in town, it doesn’t matter what he’s promised as a reward or what he’s threatened as a punishment, he WILL NOT COOPERATE. He will make sure everybody knows in the most dramatic, violent, cruel, and angry way as possible how upset he is about these new expectations on him. Normally if we talk things through over and over days in advance, he’s a little bit better about going with the flow when the time comes. But this year? He wasn’t having it. He made it his life goal this past week to make every morning before we left the house as terrible as he possibly could. Which really puts a damper on our own ability to carry on and have a great day ourselves.

I do want to make it clear that once we left the house, at every party and event we went to, everything was fine. He didn’t act out anywhere else, which isn’t always the case, so…progress? I’m thankful for the time we got to spend with family and how much effort our parents went to to provide some really great Christmas get togethers and meals. Nothing about my negative Christmas experience has anything to do with anyone other than the members of my immediate family. I think it was even harder this year because normally I can at least depend on Greg to be on my side because he’s the only other person in the world who understands how difficult it is dealing with this particular child. But we seemed to keep getting our signals crossed this year, resulting in a whole lot of silent treatment – our best fighting skill. So in the end, it felt like a very lonely couple of days.

Anyway! Now that that’s out of my system, back to my recap of the week. Sunday was the day I was most worried about because it involved three different events. After a repeat of Saturday’s morning, we decided to leave Caden at my parent’s house with Annie for the day, eliminating his presence at two events. It ended up working out well, giving him time to play with Hudson and giving my mom a little time to get a few things done, while the rest of us got a much needed break from his verbal abuse. We joined Greg’s family at church to watch his dad in the cantada. Then we drove up to Oshkosh for the big extended family party. Shepard kept refusing to do anything with the other kid cousins, but he was making himself pretty comfortable with older male cousins and uncles that he barely knows, joining in their conversations like a tiny adult. I thought it was hilarious.

We stopped at Starbucks after the party to reward Shepard for behaving so well and to give me a much needed pick me up.

We spent the rest of the day celebrating my dad’s birthday. It’s unfortunate that his birthday is right by Christmas when he’s working like 18 hour days at FedEx. But he had the whole day off, Timmy, Brittany, and Hudson were also available, so we were able to celebrate all together.

It was a really nice low key and relaxed evening.

I really liked watching the cousins play together. Hudson was obsessed with going in Annie’s kennel and kept insisting the boys go in with him. He’s so cute! I’m glad my boys are willing to play with him at his level and aren’t “too cool” for toddlers yet!

On Monday morning we did our own family Christmas at home. I like to do it early every year before the novelty of big gift exchanges wears off. Though they don’t seem as overwhelmed by it as they did when they were younger. But it’s still nice to carve out half a day just for us in the midst of so much extended family time.

Shepard picked this mug out for me when we did our Target shopping a few weeks ago. I laughed so hard when I opened it! Greg said he went right to that one and insisted on it. Such a funny kid.

We spent the night of the 23rd exchanging gifts and having a nice dinner with Greg’s family. Normally we do both families on the 24th, but we had to rearrange a bit this year with Greg’s sister and brother-in-law needing to fly out on the 24th. I really liked separating the events, though. It felt so much more relaxed during the opening (because we didn’t have another one to rush off to) and during our annual brunch on the 24th (because we weren’t rushing to get to presents). I didn’t take any photos that night, unfortunately.

We went over as early as we could get moving on the 24th to have brunch with the Noe side. It was really nice!

We used a selfie stick to get a picture with everyone in it.

We left at the same time all the siblings went to the airport to spend as much remaining time with Hudson (and the rest) as possible on their last day in town as well.

It was a little bit cooler, but still nice enough to play outside for part of the afternoon. I heard that we had record breaking warm temperatures this week, which is crazy. Normally I’m all about wanting a white Christmas, but this year it’s been really great NOT having to constantly worry about falling, or trying to fit shoveling into already very busy schedules.

Annie got to have a sleepover on the 23rd, spending lots of time with Grandma and her dog aunts. She loves going over there with a huge fenced in yard to run around in. Plus three other pet dishes to steal food from!

I tried really hard to stay on track with my eating plans in the days and parties before just so I could indulge in this snack feast with no guilt on Christmas Eve. This probably wasn’t even half of the food that my mom kept adding to throughout the day! I totally went overboard, but it was so worth it. YUM.

My dad got home from work at 4 – probably the earliest ever! (Though he also had to get up at 2!) We had to have a round of Christmas carols and toddler tunes before we could open gifts.

After the big present opening, everyone just kind of zoned out. I was really zoned out half the day, I was so wiped out! It was really nice to just read and doze for a couple hours in the afternoon while Hudson was napping. Christmas is exhausting!

We both looked pretty out of it by the end of the night! Hudson tried on some new jammies and we said goodbye.

And the night ended with a Santa visit. Despite how the beginning of this month started with a lot of questioning, both of my kids still firmly believe in his existence. I’m happy to have had another year of the magic, but I can also see how things could feel a lot easier once they know the truth. One of the hardest things this year was that Shepard’s list for Santa only included things that were ridiculously expensive and inappropriate for an 8 year old. Like an iphone, a gaming computer, some sort of massive four wheeler. We’ve NEVER had Santa bring the bigger gifts, so I don’t know why he got it into his head that this year would be his year. His reasoning was that Santa doesn’t need money because he makes everything, so he’ll bring kids what they ask for. It was kind of hard to see how sad he was to not get any of those things, even though it really was unreasonable. He told someone a few days later that his favorite present was a box of Nerds because it was the only thing on his list that he actually got. (Though it didn’t come from Santa!) Sigh.

Everyone was up bright and early Christmas morning. Annie took care of Santa’s cookie and milk leftovers. We opened our gifts and stockings and then Greg went back to bed, the boys went to game, and I spent basically the entire day reading and napping. When Greg woke up again he went to spend a few hours with his family, while the rest of us stayed home to chill. It was so luxurious to have a day where I truly felt I could ignore all responsibility and just relax. I did put together an easy but nice dinner, but the rest of the day was just doing what I love most – reading an addictive book.

Thursday, the 26th, is what I like to call my annual wrapping paper restock day. I left the house as early as I could to get to Target to stock up. I also did a big grocery run, walked through all the clearance at TJMaxx, and zipped down to Trader Joe’s to get a few fun treats for New Year’s Eve. I was planning to spend most of the day out and about, but Greg and the boys went to Beaver Dam again and the draw of having a few hours home alone was just too strong. Though they got home soon after me, so I just spent the whole afternoon in bed reading and napping. This week has done a number on me – I’m so tired! Later that day Shepard had an eye appointment and he picked out new glasses – the same pair, but with slightly different coloring. I made another nice dinner (I’m always so excited about making dinner after a week of snacks and treats!) and we picked up Culver’s ice cream for dessert.

And Friday. MEH. I was in a pretty crappy mood Friday. Greg and Shepard had bad colds at the start of all the Christmas festivities, but Caden woke up with a cold AND a hacking cough on Christmas Day. So even though I was so desperate to have more time at my own house, now that I feel like we’re trapped here because of his sickness, it’s depressing me. I really want to go see Little¬†Women with Greg, but…Caden. I also spent half the day in the kitchen, which is always a blessing and a curse. I love making good food, but I resent the fact that it’s always all on me to do it. And when it literally takes up half my day, I get frustrated. I’m always stressed out by the piles of new gifts that I know nobody but me is ever going to put away or organize. I have so many things I could and should be doing, but I have a terrible time concentrating when there is so much going on around me, so I feel like I can’t really do anything. I can’t even do the fun things, like watch my own tv shows or listen to my podcasts or music. And I’m SO angry at my stupid foot and how it’s stopping me from exercising. So…it wasn’t a very good day. Not because of anyone else, just me reacting to a lack of time alone, lack of quiet, lack of sleep, lack of physical outlet for my building stress.

But it’s a new day. I’m hoping to power through and get a few things done this weekend, even if it means wearing ear plugs or dragging all of my stuff upstairs to my bedroom. I think it might also be a good idea to just start some dolls. It’s been almost a month since I’ve done any sewing and I NEED that creative outlet in my life. There are still five more days before everyone goes back to work and school and I need to make the most of them.

So that was our Christmas! The usual rollercoaster of emotions. I had a really nice time seeing all of our out of town siblings and nephew and enjoying drama free get togethers with everyone. I really wish things on the home front had gone a lot more smoothly, but this is our life, mess and all.

Saturday Reflections 12.21.2019

Well, here we are at the end of another week and the start of Christmas week. It’s late, I’m exhausted, but I won’t be home at all tomorrow or most of the following couple of days and I didn’t want this week’s memories to disappear from the record, so I need to get this post written!

It was kind of a rough week, physically and mentally. My plantar fasciitis has come back with a vengeance. Even before I broke my ankle, every time I tried to get serious about walking a lot more or doing any sort of exercise, the plantar fasciitis would come back and it’s so incredibly painful I can barely even stand up, let alone try to do any sort of exercise. It’s so discouraging to feel like I can just never win. I get so excited about improving my physical health – especially now with the treadmill – but the more I walk the more extreme pain I’m in. It SUCKS. The only way to make it go away is to let it rest. I’ve still taken Annie for multiple short walks this week, but I think I’ve only been on the treadmill once. It’s really frustrating. And it hurts. A lot.

I also made the decision this week to cancel my Hope*Writers membership. I was so excited about it just a short month and a half ago, but life has been a hard reality check since coming home from the conference. There were a variety of reasons I finally made the decision to give this up, but the main one was just a lack of time and mental capacity for it. Trying to change the way I eat and cook and shop has been so all consuming and I still have so far to go. I also have basically zero inventory for Heartstring Annie and need to get really serious about stocking my shop back up in the next few months after not giving it much attention this fall. Hope*Writers was just one more thing that made me feel like I was failing at life. At the bare minimum as a member I should have attended the live weekly classes on Tuesdays. In seven weeks, I managed to prioritize it 1.5 times. If I can’t even do that, I’m certainly not making the effort to do any of the other aspects of membership. I’m really disappointed in myself for this decision, but I think it was the right one for this season of my life.

Anyway. I spent all day Monday running all of my necessary errands. And it took me about a full week in total, but I eventually went through my pantry and baking shelves and basement areas, switching all my new healthy food supplies into glass jars. They’re more appealing this way, they take up less space, and I’m much more likely to actually use them. I also made the final steps to throw away almost all the remaining junk food in the house.

I also spent a ton of time this week wrapping presents. For some reason I thought I could be done with it all in a day. Nope! I used to love wrapping presents, but it’s definitely lost its appeal to me.

On Wednesday I decided I deserved a little bit of fun, so I went to my favorite west side stores to browse around and pick up some final stocking stuffers. In the evening I made this gluten free banana pumpkin bread I wrote about yesterday. It was so good.

On Thursday I was prepared to finally buckle down and finish wrapping Santa gifts – only to have Shepard home from school because he had a bad headache and lost a lot of sleep. Fortunately after a few more hours of sleep he was feeling fine, so I was still able to take him to school and get what I needed to done. And then in the evening we met up with Greg’s parents and friend for Mod Pizza and Star Wars!

On Friday Caden participated in his middle school spelling bee! He was one of 24 kids in grades 3-8 to compete. He did well! He was so nervous, but we’re really proud of him for going up there and doing it. He had quite the support section with Greg and I, three of the grandparents, and an aunt and uncle!

After school we went to the in-law’s and out to dinner. It was a nice kick off to our Christmas festivities!

And then this morning was pretty awful. Always such an emotional roller coaster around here. It’s so hard to know how to properly parent a child who has serious behavioral issues with being required to leave the house for any reason, no matter how special or fun it’s going to be. On one hand you assume that by age 11 he should be expected to go along with what we tell him to, no matter what. On the other hand, we’ve had 11 years of experience to tell us that’s just not going to go well and it’s only going to ruin the day for everyone. We need to prioritize HIS needs when we can, even if it upsets other people. It’s just not a battle we needed to have before the real days of Christmas celebrations even begin. Greg and I had very different ideas of what our plans were for today and because I was the one up six hours earlier than him, I’m the one the kids wanted to believe. In the end, he went off to spend the day with his family, and the boys and I stayed home. Them gaming, me getting things done. It was so beautiful outside, though, that we did take a break and run around the dog park for awhile.

We did decide to join most of the siblings for their pre-Star Wars dinner at Tipsy Cow tonight. Caden’s participation in the movie going was back and forth all day, but he ended up going with everyone as planned. Shepard and I came back home. Once is enough for me!

I finished the night making a French onion dip for my Dad’s birthday celebration tomorrow night. Now I’m ready to crash!

Our next few days are packed! We have early church tomorrow to watch my father-in-law sing in a cantada. Then we’re off to Oshkosh for Greg’s huge family party. And then back to my parents’ house for my dad’s birthday party. On Monday we’re going to open presents just the four of us and hopefully have a somewhat laid back morning of enjoying our new gifts. Then we’re doing a gift exchange and having dinner with Greg’s family. Christmas Eve will be back there again for brunch and then the rest of the day with my side. And Christmas Day we always leave open because chances are high most of us are pretty over traveling around by then and just want to enjoy some time at home. We’ll see, though. It should be a lot of fun if everyone stays in good spirits, myself included. I probably won’t have any time to write for awhile, so…. Merry Christmas!!

Friday Favorites #5

Welcome to Friday Favorites! I don’t have much to share this week – mostly food. It seems like my entire life continues to revolve around food right now. I’m trying to eat really well, but I’m also trying to come up with healthIER treats that I can still have and make for my family, so I don’t feel like I’ve lost such a huge piece of who I am. This week has been a bit more difficult because the treats have been so dang good that’s all I want to eat. I’ve also eaten out almost every day this week. And Christmas is days away. I’m trying not to be too harsh on myself, but I worry these couple of weeks are really going to set me back. I don’t have willpower. But anyway! My favorites this week are most definitely worth sharing.

EAT

  • HuHot has been one of my all time favorite restaurants for many years. Maybe in part because I could only get there once or twice a year, so the experience was always so memorable. It probably would have never become my favorite restaurant, though, if it hadn’t been for finding a stack of “recipe cards” during my first trip there. I landed on THE MOST DELICIOUS combination of sauces and that’s all I’ll get every single time I go because it’s so good. If you adore spicy food, go to HuHot and try this out. You’re welcome. Technically, the real recipe is one ladle less of each of these sauces, but I like my food to be super saucy. The “Bomb Burner” recipe includes three ladles of Samurai Teriyaki, three ladles of Burn Your Village, two ladles of Kung Pao, and two ladles of Hot Chili Oil. It is SO GOOD.
  • I’m definitely noticing that as soon as I eat one type of food that I probably shouldn’t be (ahem, HuHot), I’m almost immediately craving another bad food. Saturday night I was DESPERATE for a cookie. Which is kind of weird because while I’ve made thousands of cookies in my life, I’m almost never that excited about the end result. But, I needed that mouthfeel, so I found this recipe for Life Changing Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies. And guys? These really might be life changing. Holy cow. I LOVED them. I made a different flourless peanut butter cookie recipe a few weeks ago and they just tasted so much like straight up peanut butter I had no interest in eating them. These, though. SO GOOD. I used 1/2 brown sugar and 1/2 coconut sugar. And regular chocolate chunks, because I don’t care about trying to be dairy free. Coconut sugar isn’t really any better for you – it only has a slightly lower glycemic index. But I’m kind of obsessed with the flavor of it now that I gave it a shot in a couple different recipes. It really enriched these cookies – I think – making them delectable, but not overly sweet. Even if you’re fine with eating flour, give this recipe a shot.
  • I recently read that your taste buds regenerate every 10-14 days so anyone is capable of changing the way foods taste to them. I’m wondering if this is why these slightly healthier goodie recipes have been tasting like THE BEST THINGS I’VE EVER EATEN. I’ve gone two months now eating very little processed foods, refined white carb filled foods, or fried foods. I’ve expected to be bored to tears with how bland everything would taste to me, but the opposite seems to be happening. Everything suddenly has so much flavor. Which is maybe why this recipe for Amazing Gluten Free Banana Pumpkin Bread is literally the best tasting sweet bread I’ve ever had. But it’s so good that I’ve eaten almost the entire loaf by myself in just two days. NOT good. I used 1/2 brown and 1/2 coconut sugar again, and only coconut sugar for the streusel. And I’m not sure how much difference it made, but I was too lazy to go to the basement to get a container of almond milk (one of my more recently weekly purchases), so I subbed in Califia Farms Toffee Tidings Almond Milk Creamer since I keep pushing it to the back of the fridge at coffee time (lol). I also found last week that I love the taste of oatmeal so much more with almond milk, so it’s definitely turning into a staple for me. I might have to use the creamer the next time, though! (The seasonal flavor isn’t on the website, but I found it at Target. I don’t think I’ve seen that brand anywhere else.)
  • Okay, I won’t claim these to be the best tasting thing ever, but I did really enjoy this recipe for Mint Brownie Energy Bites. It mostly satisfies that dessert craving, while actually being legitimately healthy. I didn’t get medjool dates because they were so much more expensive, but now that I know I like energy bites like this I’ll probably pick them up next time.

READ

  • So if you don’t know already, Colleen Hoover is my favorite author. I believe she announced her upcoming book Regretting¬†You way back in March when I immediately preordered a copy. But then at Book Bonanza in August she kept hiding ARCS of it around the hotel and I was insanely jealous of all the people that found them and have had the chance to read it early. I’m honestly so angry at one BB attendee from Columbus who I kind of know because she found one of the ARCS, but didn’t read it until THIS WEEK. I read it before her – after the release date. I would have never sat on it for five months!!!! Anyway, like always, Colleen did not disappoint. This book was really, really good. And it was definitely more on the tame end of things. You never know what you’re going to get with her!

BE COZY

  • It’s so cold in our house in winter. Mostly because SOMEONE refuses to let the thermostat be higher than 67 for our downstairs furnace and 63 upstairs. And when I wake up before 5, like every single morning, it’s on an overnight temp of 60 and doesn’t “warm up” for a few more hours. Anyway, I was on the lookout for some new slippers this year (and I needed to use some Kohl’s cash), so I gave these Dearfoams Fluffy Pile Bootie Slippers a shot. I got them in plum a size bigger than the instructions tolds me because I have such wide feet. They’re a little bit big, but not enough to bother me. I really like them! I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with slippers because I want them to feel cozy, but there’s nothing cozy about wearing shoes in the house. But I can never just wear the thick sock types because they’re too slippery on my wood floors. These have a hard sole, but the rest of the slipper is so soft and warm that they still feel cozy.

That’s about it! Our super long string of Christmas festivities already started last night and we’re about to head out again. Happy Friday!

Saturday Reflections 12.14.2019

This may be one of my most boring weeks to reflect on ever. I was a little bit busy, still overwhelmed by some things, and just trying to get through it all. I should have been happy to have my first week off from sewing, but I kind of think sewing is what holds me together, even if it sometimes feels like what’s pushing me over the edge. I’ve been thinking that I might take at least a full month off to try and regroup and make a better business plan for the new year. I NEED to find a better way to manage my time so I can still be successful without it eating me alive and detracting from every other valuable part of my life. I have a friend with a similar handmade business and she sells all of her creations through once or twice a month “restock days.” I’m beginning to really see the appeal of working hard throughout, but only having the pressure to list everything and sell everything out and get it all prepped to ship in a single day. I think one of the most stressful parts for me is that constant feeling of needing to always put out new dolls, which in turn makes me feel like I need to make large batches, when really I’m SO much happier and creative and excited when I’m only making three or four dolls at a time. But releasing 3 or 4 dolls at a time only makes 3 or 4 people happy and that’s a whole different level of stress. Anyway, I have a vague plan to try and create 20-30 dolls before I reopen at some point in January. Which still means finding the time to actually MAKE those dolls, and I’m not quite sure it’ll happen in December. We’ll see how much I begin to miss it!

Getting back to my week – I ran errands on Monday, as always. And that night I put together this seed and nut bread that I bought the ingredients for weeks ago, but finally got around to making. I had such high hopes for it, but it ended up just kind of tasting like eating chunks of bird seed. The original recipe said to top it with something, but I couldn’t even get it to slice, so I just ate it in small chunks with a spoon. It might have been extremely healthy, but I wouldn’t make it again.

On Tuesday I went to Trader Joe’s, a couple of stores, and finished up at Mod Pizza for lunch with Cindy. It was a nice morning. I’m always up for Trader Joe’s!

Wednesday was a short day at school for the boys and Greg had meetings in Chicago, so the boys and I had a low key dinner and then decorated these chocolate trees I found at Trader Joe’s. I thought it would be easier than a gingerbread house, but the white chocolate icing was still pretty hard to work with. They didn’t care, though.

I’m not sure what I did Thursday (lol). I didn’t take any pictures that day, so I have nothing to spark my memory. I believe it was the only day I stayed home and tried to work on wrapping presents. Wrapping was my plan every single day this week and I still have so much left. I’m hoping to power through on a good chunk tonight, but we’ll see. I’m tired!

On Friday I spent the morning having coffee with my friends and running a few errands. My fourth day this week going to grocery stores because I keep trying these new recipes and keep missing out on random ingredients I need. This time it was arrowroot powder for a grain free pizza crust. I’m not exactly sure it turned out because the middle of the very thin crust looked like it was raw, but it tasted fine. Different. But still a workable vehicle for an otherwise tasty topped pizza including a burrata splurge I made at TJ’s. After dinner we all had a non-screen time family night reading or doing puzzles in the living room. It was very quaint!

We continued our family time by heading to Target this morning. I really want the boys to start being a little more invested in the giving aspect of Christmas, requiring them to actually walk through a store and pick small gifts out for each family member. I expected some resistance, but it actually went very well! I was impressed at how focused they each were when they had their turn with me. It was just tricky trying to hide the things in the cart that we picked out with one kid from the other kid when we switched! I was surprised at how not busy Target actually was, but we still went to HuHot afterward to celebrate the time out. It’s so rare that we do things like that just the four of us, so it felt very special. It was a really nice day.

Overall it was a pretty good week with a healthy sprinkling of continual emotional anxiety as I try to change over so many of my eating habits and get frustrated when I don’t know what to eat or really miss certain foods. I’ve been frustrated that I expected to have more time to read and rest this week, but there’s always SO MUCH to do. And it’ll never be done. Even without any plans to bake this week, I still can’t seem to get a handle on Christmas prep. I DID finally finish shopping, so that’s a huge relief! I’d just really like a few days of total rest and rejuvenation before our total crazy schedule the week of Christmas. It’s coming up way too fast!

Friday Favorites #4

I have some really fun things to share with you guys this week! I worry about the Friday that comes along when I have nothing new to rave about, so I’ve been paying extra close attention to everything I try out to see if it’s worthy of sharing or not. I found a lot of fun finds this week!

DRINK

  • For St. Nick’s Day I was gifted a sampler pack of holiday coffee blends. Which has been AWESOME, trying out each new flavor of coffee. I believe each bag is meant to brew one pot of coffee, but I just use it in my small pourover so it’s enough to make two mug’s worth. While I’m definitely recommending the sampler itself, my favorite blend has been the Kuma Bear Clause Holiday Blend. It’s one of the tastiest coffees I’ve ever had. I’m currently drinking Fundamental Coffee Company’s Winter Solstice Blend and it’s also fantastic. I NEVER EVER would have purchased a large bag of coffee that is meant to taste like bell pepper, red basil, white pepper, cedar, and mint, but it’s really good!

EAT

  • While I’m trying to eat mostly whole and unprocessed foods, it’s frustrating to not be able to grab something really quickly when necessary. At Costco last week they had a sample of That’s It Bars – and it was so good! Each bar only has two ingredients – like apple and mango, apple and blueberry, and apple and strawberry. Costco offers a bag of mini bars in those three flavors, but you could also buy from their website or amazon with a lot more options. I think these mini bars are SO good. And they’re the perfect little sweetness if you’re like me and really, really like having some kind of dessert to end a meal. And only two real food ingredients?! I don’t know how you can go wrong. One note, though, I would NOT recommend their chocolate treats. I purchased a truffle variety pack on amazon and while the strawberry one is okay, the fig and date ones are disgusting. Stick with the fruit only!
  • I really miss restaurant food. I’ve been avoiding it as much as possible because I don’t know how to make good decisions and most places don’t have many good options to begin with – other than salads. And guys, I just do not want to eat salads. Especially when other things sound SO much better. But I ended up at Mod Pizza the other day with Cindy and decided to try the gluten free crust. And it was great! I missed the real crust a TINY bit, but not enough that it bothered me. Mod Pizza is Shepard’s favorite restaurant, so I’m excited that I can still go there with him without the stress of giving in and eating what I’m supposed to be avoiding. Or getting a salad. ūüėõ

READ

  • I also received (from myself lol) a copy of Live¬†in¬†Grace¬†Walk¬†in¬†Love by Bob Goff for St. Nick’s Day. I always love the idea of daily devotionals, but if each page doesn’t pack some sort of great emotional punch, I lose interest VERY quickly. But this one is really fantastic. I’ve been reading two every morning and find plenty of passages to highlight. I’m really excited to go through this whole book. The only other book that excited me in the same way is Only¬†Love¬†Today by Rachel Macy Stafford. That one is particularly valuable to moms.

BUY

  • To go along with a great new devotional, I also picked up a package of these Zebra Midliner Highlighters. I’m such a sucker for a new writing instrument, especially when it comes in such pretty colors. I had this large set on my wish list for awhile, but once I started the devotional and knew I had a lot of highlighting in my future, I decided to buy the slightly smaller pack for myself at Target the other day. They lived up to all my highlighting hopes and dreams! The thicker end is great for highlighting and the fine point is perfect for writing or journaling. I’m really happy I made the splurge!

LISTEN

  • I have another great Christmas playlist to recommend! Bri McKoy’s Christmas with a Crisp. I LOVE this one. I’ve been listening to it every day.

ORGANIZE

  • So I randomly came across this quick youtube video the other day, showcasing a method Becky Higgins uses to organize all of her to do list items. I’m the kind of person that NEEDS to write something down when it pops into my head, otherwise I’ll never be able to focus on anything else. I’ve been trying every method of planner and journal, trying to prioritize three tasks a day, and any other list writing way I can think of. But this easy three step process is what I just might stick with forever. Basically, you get an empty notebook page and list in pen every single thing that you need to do in the coming days or week. Then you grab a highlighter (hello, Zebra Midliner!) and highlight the two or three things you need to focus on NEXT. As you finish them you use a sharpie (supposed to be black to really cross it out, but…I like color too much for that) to cross it out entirely. Maybe this whole thing sounds dumb to you, but I LOVE that it’s a way to totally brain dump everything that’s weighing on me so I can stop thinking about it. Then choose in a very visual way which things are most important for me to do next. Not even necessarily that day, but a higher priority than anything else. And only think about those highlighted items until I can cross them out and highlight something new. This system is awesome for me.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Sunday Intentions 12.08.2019

I’ve been putting off writing today because I’m in a pretty crummy mood. Namely, I’m hungry. I was so proud of myself for making this banana bread steel cut oats with almond milk breakfast in my instant pot this morning. It seemed like such a wholesome and filling breakfast idea. And it was delicious! And fifteen minutes after eating it I was starving. I’ve gotten a bit lax in my diet the last few days with the abundance of cheese and crackers filling every square inch of refrigerator and pantry room. I don’t want to be up and down like this. I want to stay the course and just have these set food rules that I follow ALL THE TIME NO MATTER WHAT. But it’s hard. And discouraging on days like today when I’m really hungry and I just don’t know what to eat. Someone please just make my food for me so I don’t have to make so many decisions all the time.

I’m also really hung up on some negative interactions or incidents I’ve had with people in my life recently. Little things that then brought up stuff that happened with those same people multiple times this year and I just can’t stop stewing over it. I have a very hard time forgiving and forgetting. It’s probably one of my biggest flaws. But it baffles me how some people can be so kind and friendly and then turn out to have zero common decency about other things. It makes me feel stupid for putting in the effort when they apparently care so little in return. It also makes me question the authenticity of all my friendships.

At any rate, I’ve had a very lazy day, which felt….weird. There were plenty of ways I could have spent my time today, but I mostly just read an entire book. I did force myself to take Annie for a walk. I took TWO naps. And we just watched Elf.¬†I should have accomplished at least a little more, but I couldn’t work up the energy.

I think it’ll be a pretty low key week ahead. Normally about this time I’d start stressing about what baking I should do this year, but…I don’t plan on doing any! And it’s such a relief! As much as I like baking, the pressure to do so many things at once to give away to neighbors and family was always just one more thing to try and squeeze in. This year, I’m over it. And I’m good with it! I do need to get started on wrapping presents, though.

Wednesday is the only “big” day this week, with a coffee morning at a friend’s house, the boys have an early release, and Greg will be in Chicago for work. Other than that, my time is surprisingly free! Maybe I can FINALLY catch up on some Hope*Writers classes. They do a live class every Tuesday and every Tuesday I end up being out of the house or desperate for sleep because there’s something big happening that night. I keep planning on watching them later, but haven’t had time. I’m beginning to doubt this is the community for me again because I just don’t seem to have the time for it. I don’t know.

Anyway, this is feeling like a very depressing post so I should probably just end it! My intention for the week is to simply work on my goals for the month. Make healthy food. Wrap some Christmas presents. Read. Walk. Hopefully after a night of sleep and trip to the store to get some more food options will put me in a much better mood tomorrow!

Saturday Reflections 12.07.2019

The first week of December was gone in a flash! This has been a very focused yet stressful week of hard work that ended with an awesome party and a Saturday with nothing that absolutely needed to be done.

I had my biggest sale of the year on Cyber Monday, with 30% off. I’m only putting this picture up here because this particular set was my favorite and it’s STILL AVAILABLE (lol). I had a surprising number of sales over the weekend, basically wiping out most of my inventory. Which was great because it took some of the pressure off of feeling like I needed to make more dolls this month. I’m sure my customers would be thrilled if I did, but I need a break. But like always, I’m two days into my break and already wondering what type of dolls I should make next. I really do love making them. It just stresses me out to not have time for everything else I want to do.

I spent most of Tuesday working and then I did some whirlwind errand running in the afternoon. Grandma picked up the boys after chess club and I met Greg at the theater to watch Knives¬†Out. I wish we could have had time to eat something too, but it was still a nice little date night at the movies. I’m not sure why, but I always want date nights in December more than any other month of the year. Hopefully we can have a real one at some point in the next few weeks.

I worked all day Wednesday and then had a coffee creamer comparison test. I’m still trying to find a good alternative to my favorite Italian Sweet Cream coffee creamer. I’ve tried just milk or half and half, the most logical swaps, but milk is so blah and I HATED the half and half taste. I had hazelnut almond milk creamer at the conference I went to with their free coffee and didn’t really like it either. So on Wednesday I tried macadamia fudge creamer, which was like a thick chocolatey substance, vanilla oatmilk, and French vanilla almond/coconut milk. They were all OKAY, but also all without sweetener, so not great. I finally bought some coconut sugar the other day, so I want to mix that in with the alternative creamers, but haven’t had a chance yet. I also picked up a “toffee tidings” almond milk creamer WITH sugar in it – but not so much other crappy stuff, so I’m hoping maybe that will be okay. I really wish I could just like black coffee! Maybe I can wean myself down to it. I’ve only been a coffee drinker for two years, so I’m still working on the acquired taste.

I kept my focus and continued to work hard all day Thursday until I FINISHED all the ornament sized pre-order dolls I sold on Black Friday! I honestly thought it would take me until at least Monday to complete them, so getting them done by Thursday afternoon was really exciting. I wouldn’t want to do pre-orders regularly, but it was a really convenient way to make money quickly AND make my customers very happy. This might need to be my new Black Friday tradition.

Yesterday was St. Nick’s Day! Since I was up early as always, BUT didn’t have work to do, I decided to make gluten free gingerbread for a breakfast treat. I’m actually not very fond of anything ginger/molasses flavored, but this was really good! It seemed a little labor intensive with so many ingredients, but it was nice to have a tasty warm breakfast ready for everyone when they woke up.

St. Nick brought us all some gifts. We each got a book (I got two!), the boys got mini rocket kits, the guys all got a condiment, Greg got tea, and I got a holiday coffee sampler. Nothing terribly exciting, but I at least thought it was nice, even if I was really just gifting to myself (lol). Shepard was mad that he didn’t get an iphone… He’s in for a lot of disappointment and feelings hurting this Christmas if he expects everything he opens to be an iphone. He was, however, quite excited about his bottle of bbq sauce.

I SHOULD have spent my Friday cleaning up and prepping for my party, but instead I ran to Madison to check on my favorite stores and put together little Christmas gift bags for all of my friends. That took my whole day, but it was totally worth it to make everyone feel appreciated AND knock them all off my present list so early in the month! I still had some time to spare before setting up my giant cheese tray.

The party was great! It felt a little more low key this year, but it was very nice. We all ate a lot of cheese, had good conversation, and enjoyed the favorite things gift exchange. I love this annual celebration with my friends! I continue to be so thankful for the women in my life who show up and make the effort to stay connected, even when life is crazy.

And that brings us to today. I was determined to have a day without putting any pressure on myself to DO THINGS. My only requirement was going on a treadmill walk because I haven’t been very consistent this week. I spent too much time on my computer, like always. Still determined to get my Christmas shopping done. I’m SO close. After lunch (more cheese) I went up to read and ended up sleeping for two and a half hours!! I probably could have slept more, but somebody started running up and down the stairs over and over for some unknown reason. I was really excited to come down and see that I got a surprise package from a Christmas book swap I signed up for. I’ve actually done four swaps in the last few weeks, but only received one and a half of them back so far. The first one a few weeks ago had some fun unicorn socks and tea – she told me she had books to send, but I still haven’t gotten any. It’s funny that in two BOOK exchanges, I haven’t actually gotten any books yet. Give me the books, people! I want ALL THE BOOKS. But today’s present was awesome! It was so spot on and perfect just for me, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even know me! It just feels so good when someone actually gets me. The group for this exchange partner is called “Sharks of Awesome” (for Penny Reid fans), which is the reason for the shark pencil sharpener – with a rainbow pencil! Anyway, it’s not been a very happy day around the house, so this really cheered me up.

Overall it’s been a pretty stressful week, but the worst is behind me! I’m really excited to spend the rest of the month just focusing on getting ready for Christmas, relaxing, reading, and spending time with family!

Friday Favorites #3

I have a few quick minutes while I’m waiting to get the final food set up for my Favorite Things Party, so I wanted to get my list out for the week!

LISTEN

  • If you’re looking for some great Spotify playlists this holiday season, check out Kendra Adachi’s (The Lazy Genius) curated Christmas lists! I haven’t had a chance to listen to all of them yet, but I really love the Happy Christmas list. It feels festive and fun, yet really fresh and different. A perfect playlist to have on in the background during a party. Kendra is always making new playlists – something I really enjoy!

EAT

  • You know how I said the other day that I’m still consuming a little bit of chocolate every day? One of the things I’ve been eating are Skinny Dipped Almonds. I’ve seen them at Target for months, but never bought any because if I’m going to eat a chocolate covered almond, I want it to be a good thick chocolate. But, that’s not really allowed anymore, so I gave these a shot with all their whole and limited ingredients. And they’re really good! My favorite is the peanut butter flavor. It seems really weird to coat an almond in peanut butter powder, but I love it. I also really like the raspberry and peppermint. I haven’t tried the rest.
  • So this is hardly an original idea, but I thought maybe I should throw it out there if you’re looking for a fun lunch or dinner idea with your kids. I do it almost every single weekend. I grab every kind of cheese, fruit, vegetable, meat, cracker, etc. that I can find and put it together on a single tray. Then everyone gathers around the tray and digs in. The boys think it’s so much fun to pick and choose what they’re going to eat. And it’s SO EASY.

WEAR

  • I wear pajamas A LOT in winter. There’s a lot less chance of someone showing up at my house unannounced when it’s cold outside, so I tend to wear at least pajama pants basically any time I’m going to be home for more than a few hours at a time. So every year I’m also looking for new pairs because I get sick of wearing the same ones again and again. This year I tried these Lauren Conrad pajamas from Kohls and I LOVE THEM. They are so incredibly soft and warm, with the cinched fabric at the ankle so I’m not always tripping on them the way I do with regular pajama pants. They also have them in plus and petite sizes.

ORGANIZE and TRACK

  • I’m obsessed with tracking my reading. I’ve kept a regular spreadsheet with the book name, author, and my rating for about the last ten years. It’s such a valuable resource when I want to look back and remember which books were awesome and I could recommend or purchase for someone as a gift. Plus it’s nice to know if I’ve actually read something or not and can’t remember! I’ve been tracking on Goodreads religiously for the last couple of years as well. But last year I found out about an AWESOME tool – Book Riot’s reading log. If you’re curious about your reading statistics, this is such a cool way to keep track of everything. Plus it gathers all the data on the second page and you can see your results. I’ll be sharing all my stats with you for the year in a few weeks. I’m really excited the 2020 log has been released!

WATCH

  • We went to see Knives Out the other night and really liked it! I hadn’t heard anything about it, but Greg kept saying he wanted to see it, so we made it happen. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I liked it even more.
  • I caught up on all my regular tv shows, so I started watching some Netflix movies this week. I really enjoyed Let¬†it¬†Snow and haven’t heard anyone else talking about it. It was sweet and festive without being overly cheesy.

And that’s it for today! Time to set up my giant cheese plate and make sure everything is ready for my party!