Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Favorite Wall: Christmas 2014

 Hi Friends!

The sun is peeking out of the clouds today in Wisconsin, so I pushed my dining room table out into the hallway and snapped a few pictures of my favorite wall all decked-out for Christmas before it went away.  I've been meaning to blog about my wall for a few weeks, but it has been so gloomy around here lately.  For those of you who are new around here, John built this wall for me a few years ago, and I have been having a good time decorating it ever since!  This year's Christmas version is one of my favorites--each cubby is filled with so many good memories. Here's a look at a few of my favorites:
 I rescued these cuties from a the cabinet over my mom's washing machine when I was in town helping with my dad's doctor appointments earlier this year.  I remember these ladies from my childhood, and I'm not sure why they were hidden away.  I asked my mom if I could take them home and she said yes.  I am thrilled to have them displayed this year!
 I love that mod Santa Christmas tray.  I found it antiquing with my dad a couple of years ago.
How cute is this little Santa ornament?  It came in the box of homemade treasures from John's childhood.  I love the sequins and googly-eyes.  
The silver candle holder was a gift from John's sister.  I love the round little ball candles.  I think it looks perfect in that little cubbie.  The bottle brush trees are from a little boutique near my mom and dad's house.  I always find the best treasures there!  The print is from Monica's ETSY shop.  I love the clean design. And it really is the best time of the year, isn't it?  The large "3" sign was a Christmas gift from John a couple of years ago.  I love anything that reminds me of my kiddos.
The cross stitch picture was made by my mom over 20 years ago.  She said the little girl reminded her of me.  Of course it did-- I am always a good girl. : )   Here's a closeup:
The little book is my December Daily from 2011.  I do a December Daily every other year.  I love looking back at my books, but they are a lot of work.  Taking a year off in between helps me to forget how much work they are.  You can see last year's book up in the top row on the left-hand side in the first picture.   The jar of vintage ornaments was a treasure I found antiquing with my friend, Donie, down in Texas.  I love looking at all of the fabulous, chippy ornaments.  I wonder whose tree they once decorated?
 The tall cone tree is from Pier One a few years ago.  It's a mess of over-sized sequins--I love it!!  Jack made the hand print card in kindergarten.  I love it so much.
The little Jack-in-the-box ornament is another one from John's childhood.  It is one of my very favorite ornaments.
I love, love, love these two wooden Santas that my Papa carved for John and I.  They are two of my most prized treasures.
Hooray for sunshine and special treasures that remind me of special people.



Friday, December 12, 2014

Things I'm Not Asking for for Christmas


Hi Friends!

I am officially done with Christmas shopping.  Except for Jack.  I'm short on ideas and gifts for Jack. I keep asking him for a list, but he can't come up with anything he really wants.  That's weird, right?  I, on the other hand, have no problem at all coming up with lists of things I would like for Christmas.  Half the fun of Christmas is making a list, right?  (Well, maybe not half the fun.  But a little bit of the fun.)  This year John and I are being responsible adults about Christmas.  And by "responsible adults" I mean our dishwasher broke and we decided to give each other a new one for Christmas.  And while I'd like to be all sad about that, the truth is, I hate washing dishes, so when the dishwasher went down, I was ready to trade just about anything for a new one, including all of my Christmas gifts.  So this year there will be no gifts under the Christmas tree from John, but that didn't stop me from making a list. Here's what I'm not asking for for Christmas* this year.

1.  This print from Permanent Press Prints.  Or this one.  Or this one.  I seriously love them all.

2.  These boots.  In red.  Because you're never too old to splash in puddles.

3.  These glasses so I can read the fine print.

4.  This message board.  Because how fun would it be to leave goofy messages for John and the kids on this every morning?

As fun as that list is, it's no match for my sparkly-new dishwasher (except for the red Hunter's.  They are pretty much as cool as my dishwasher).

What is on your Christmas list this year?



*John:  these gifts would also work for Anniversary, Mother's Day, Birthday...just sayin'.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What I Read: {Best Books of 2014}

Hi Friends!

I can't imagine my life without books. Given the choice, I'd pick a good book and my pj's every time. Books have changed my life in so many ways: they teach me about myself, and they teach me about other people.  Books make me think about things that I don't necessarily want to think about. Sometimes they show me that I am not the only one.  Some books leave me feeling completely wrung out and others haunt me for weeks.  The best books take me to places I wouldn't ever go to on my own and make me feel surprising things while I'm there.

I've been compiling a "Top Ten" post for a few years now.  You can look at my past lists here:  2013, 2012, 2011.   Every year I struggle to narrow down my list.  This year is no different:  2014 was a great year for reading.  As always, my "Top Ten" list is in no particular order.  They are all books I would highly recommend.  Each of these books is definitely worth reading.  The complete list of what I read in 2014 is at the bottom of the post.  

Top Ten Fifteen Books of 2014
My Notorious Life, Kate Manning.  I am still thinking about dynamic, feisty, brave Ms. Axie, the delightful, unique heroine of My Notorious Life.  Axie is definitely one of the best female characters I've run across in a good, long while.
The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters. Oh, I do love a book full of strong female characters.  The Paying Guests is full of twists and turns--it's about love and choices and getting away with the perfect crime.
Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng.  This book still lives deep inside me. It's about families and expectations and the price of it all.  It's brilliant and sad.
One More Thing Stories and Other Stories, B.J. Novak.   Oh my gosh--there are a whole big bunch of odd and wonderful things going on inside B.J. Novak's brain.  I loved these stories.

This is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper. This novel captures family dysfunction at its very best. It's funny and real and a bit cringe-worthy at times.
Serena, Ron Rash.  Oh, my!  Serena is one bad, bad woman.  She still gives me the willies.
This Dark Road to Mercy, Wiley Cash. Desperate times often call for uncommon courage.  The character of Easter has an abundance of courage.  Part mystery, part family saga, This Dark Road to Mercy definitely took me down a road I had not previously traveled.
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr. This book lives up to the hype.  It's a big, beautiful story of survival and figuring out how to do the best you can where you are.  I'm always up for a good WWII story, and this one was fabulous.  All the pieces of the story seamlessly fit together, just like one of Marie-Laure's father's secret boxes. 
We Are Called to Rise, Laura McBride.  Oh, boy.  This has so many damaged characters and so much big-hearted love. In the end, those who are called to rise do so.  This book is beautiful and haunting.
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel.  I'm not sure I can do this novel justice in a few sentences. I will say it was more than a bit life-changing.  Pick it up.
The Auschwitz Escape, Joel C. Rosenberg.  It was almost impossible to put this book down. Its story is tragic and triumphant.
The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd.  I'm still thinking of the relationship between Sarah and Handful.  What a story!
The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick. Oh, Bartholomew, you were one messed-up, tender-hearted main character.  I couldn't help but root for Bartholomew throughout the book.
Lucky Us, Amy Bloom.  Full disclosure: I LOVE the way Amy Bloom writes:  my writer crush on her is real and complete.  Combine that love with quirky characters and a fabulous story, and you have Lucky Us.  I grew to care (probably way too much) about each bizarre, wonderful character.  
The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing, Mira Jacob.  Here's a family that is completely different from my own, and yet, in many ways it is similar.  I loved this witty and optimistic story about family and loss and love.

The Complete List {2014}
Here is the complete list of what I read in 2014, including how I rated each book.  My rating system is out of 4, and I tend to have a hard time giving a book lower than two stars.  Please let me know if you end up reading any of my favorite books (or any of the books from my list).  I'd love to hear what you think!

1. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt (3 1/2 stars)
2. The Rosie Project, Don Tillman (3 1/2 stars)
3. The Husband's Secret, Lianne Moriarty (3 stars)
4. The Girl You Left Behind, Jojo Moyes (3 stars)
5. This is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper (4 stars)
6. Serena, Ron Rash, (4 stars)
7. Odds Against Tomorrow, Nathaniel Rich (3 stars)
8. Istanbul Passage, Joseph Kanon (3 stars)
9. Longbourn, Jo Baker (3 stars)
10. Wave, Sonali Deraniyagala (3 1/2 stars)
11. Labor Day, Joyce Maynard (3 1/2 stars)
12. The Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen (2 stars)
13. Monkey Mind, Daniel Smith (3 stars)
14. Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys (3 stars)
15. The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd (4 stars)
16. This Dark Road to Mercy, Wiley Cash (4 stars)
17. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman (3 1/2 stars)
18. The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan (2 1/2 stars)
19. I Don't Know Where You Know Me From, Judy Greer (2 1/2 stars)
20. Always Something There to Remind Me, Elizabeth Harbison (2 1/2 stars)
21. Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead (3 1/2 stars)
22. Family Pictures, Jane Green (2 1/2 stars)
23. Panic, Lauren Oliver (3 1/2 stars)
24. What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty (3 stars)
25. One More Thing:  Stories and Other Stories, BJ Novak (4 stars)
26. The Other Language, Francesca Marciano (3 stars)
27. The Rook, Daniel O'Malley (3 stars)
28. Frog Music, Emma Donaghue (4 stars)
29. The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick (4 stars)
30. The Year She Left Us, Kathryn Ma (3 1/2 stars)
31. And the Dark Sacred Night, Julia Glass (3 1/2 stars)
32. You are One of Them, Elliott Holt (3 stars)
33. Summer House with Swimming Pool, Herman Koch (3 1/2 stars)
34. The Hundred Year House, Rebecca Makkau (3 1/2 stars)
35. Lethal, Sandra Brown (3 stars)
36. Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing, Mira Jacob (4 stars)
37. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, Courtney Maum (3 1/2 stars)
38. One Plus One, Jojo Moyes (3 stars)
39. Fourth of July Creek, Smith Henderson (3 1/2 stars)
40. Freud's Mistress, Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman (2 1/2 stars)
41. Secrets of the Lighthouse, Santa Montefiore (3 stars)
42. Fallen Skies, Philippa Gregory (2 stars)
43. Lucky Us, Amy Bloom (4 stars)
44. Barracuda, Christos Tsiolkas (3 stars)
45. The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters (4 stars)
46. Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng (4 stars)
47. My Notorious Life, Kate Manning (4 stars)
48. We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas (3 stars)
49. Station Eleven, Emily St. John (4 stars)
50. We are Called to Rise, Laura McBride (4 stars)
51. The Singer's Gun, Emily St. John Mandel (3 1/2 stars)
52. The Auschwitz Escape, Joel C. Rosenberg (4 stars)
53. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (4 stars)
54. I Remember Nothing, Nora Ephron (3 1/2 stars)

Happy Reading!



Monday, December 8, 2014

Around Here

Hi Friends!

I never know how to start things off when I've been away for a few weeks, so I'm just going to go with a generic "Around Here" to get you all caught up.  I am planning on getting back to a regular posting schedule, so please keep stopping by!

Planning:  a big, 'ole Christmas party for all my current and former summer swim team members. The theme is "Home for the Holidays."  So many of my Pigeons are no longer in high school--they've moved on to college or real life (man that makes me feel old!).  I'm hoping they all come home for Christmas and that they stop by for some food and fun.

Shopping:  like a pro.  I end up doing a lot of shopping for my kiddos from other people.  It is one of my very favorite things to do:  spend other people's money on my kids?  Sign me up!!

Crafting:  I have a few big projects in the works right now.  Two of them are Christmas presents for some of my favorite people.  

Dreaming:  about a big project that's in the works for after the new year.  More details soon.  

Working on:  my annual Top Ten (or whatever number it ends up being) list of books from 2014.  I have read SO many good books this year.  It's going to be hard to narrow it down.

Writing:  letters about some of my favorite swimmers to send to prospective college coaches.

Obsessed with:  This recipe for Buffalo Chicken Chili.  I've made two batches in the last two weeks. Blue cheese crumbles for the win!

In Denial About:  Jack being taller than me.  He needs to cut that out.  Seriously.  

Thankful:  That so many of you stop by my blog each day, even when I take breaks from posting.

Have a wonderful day, friends!