Thursday, November 29, 2018

Live Your Best Holiday Life Update // November

Happy Thursday friends! Today, Shea and I are sharing updates for #lybholidayl ! We are doing it a little differently this year, and enjoying it and struggling with it in our own ways! Make sure to check out Shea's post to see what she's been up to. We'd love for you to join in with the ideas and by sharing your own successes and struggles this holiday season! Need the lists again? Scroll to the bottom! :) 

What's Going Well:

We spent a really nice weekend at KC's grandparent's farm. I wrote about what it means to me, here.

A lot of reading! (a lot!) - if you are looking for a cheesy holiday read check out these reviews! here and here.

Keeping a Gratitude Log

Getting outside & walking home more often

Shopped my closet for Thanksgiving outfits

Rules for Making Plans (to reduce anxiety!!):

1) if someone in the group is super busy, let them pick the time between two days, etc. "We are free all day Saturday and Sunday, you guys let us know!"
2) if everyone is free, be the person who says let's go HERE, at THIS TIME.

If it changes, that's ok! But be the decisive person, you'll have a plan sooner!

The "Four" Christmas Gifts - this year KC and I are doing the "four" gifts for Christmas. 

1) something you want
2) something you need
3) something to wear
4) something to read

It has definitely simplified shopping and been kind of a fun challenge!

Cheesy Netflix Xmas Movies - can recommend The Christmas Calendar and The Princess Switch. And obviously last year's A Christmas Prince!

A long snow weekend where we stayed in, read, cozied up with cats, played board games, made a really yummy stew, etc.

Made turkey broth after t-giving with the turkey carcass. It was SO inexpensive and easy. I froze the broth in ice cube trays for easy use and portioning later! (we also do this with leftover broth from the store, and chopped up adobo chiles. :) 

Where I'm Struggling:

Meditating... oy, it's getting a little easier, but is not my jam.

We tried some nail wraps... LOL they were not super successful.

I'm not feeling overly festive this year. I want to feel a little less bah humbug! I'm hoping that getting a tree and decorating soon will help!

Hopes for December:

To make and send Christmas cards - down to the wire... lol

To decorate and feel more "in the spirit"

Donate to a few organizations -- we usually do this in November, but only did a little bit.

Try to reduce a little stress, this week has been a rough one stress-wise.

Do some holiday baking

Overall I think that things are going well, but I am starting to feel some stress this week. I hope that I can do a bit of destressing and getting a bit more festive in the coming weeks!

How about you guys? How is your holiday season going?

Are you doing LYBHolidayL? We'd love for you to join us! 

Please let us know if you are joining in by using #lybholidayl and tagging Shea and I! :) 



Thursday, November 15, 2018

Keep It Together: A Planning & Memory Keeping Blog Hop - November 2018

Whew, we are fully in the swing of the the holiday season here. We're busy, it's cold, I'm feeling the stress. Trying to #lybholidayl to make it a little easier. Trying meditation this week too! Please join us for #lybholidayl

But today, Lauren and I are talking all about planning and memory keeping! Make sure to hop on over and see her post! :)


No news here!

Merry Days & Willow Lane Haul:

I'm so excited to use these collections. Especially Merry Days for December Daily! :)

Mini Album for Audrey:

I have a little flip through of the mini album that I made for Audrey who attended my scrapbook class! :)

Mini Snow & Cocoa Album:

I made a mini album for the holidays/winter for Audrey who attended my scrapbook class this summer. I am going to ship it with her mini album (above) I hope that she enjoys both of them!

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What about you guys? Have you been doing any fun documenting or planning?

Have you picked your 2019 planner?!   

Make sure to hop on over and see Lauren's post! :)



    An InLinkz Link-up

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

October 2018 Reads // Romance, Space Opera, and New Age

HAPPY BOOK DAY! I have continued to bury myself in reading, and am at about double what I have read in the past few years. I'll take it.

I read more Christmas books last month and I am not putting my reviews here since that's not everyone's jam... so check out Volume II of 2018 Christmas reads. I figured out the best and worst, so you don't have to.

The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

3.7-4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy science fiction plots, and relevant social commentary.

Rosemary is running from her old life. She pays someone to give her a new identity, and takes up as a clerk on a long haul ship. There she'll meet a diverse cast of characters on a mission to punch holes in space for easier transportation. The work is dangerous and can strand the crew in deep space for long periods of time, which is probably why this crew is a lot like family.

Overall I really liked this book. I am struggling to properly rate it for several reasons... I loved the characters, the world building, and imagination put into this book. The planets, species, etc. alone must have taken ages to dream up. It was all so vivid too, I loved reading about the different places that the crew stopped and the people that they met there. However, I felt like a lot of the action-y parts of the book didn't go very far. Either the action sequences fade to black, are resolved very quickly and without a lot of consequence, or the action scene ends up being more of a bonding scenario for two characters. I felt like that was kind of a let down for me. So, I'm having trouble rating it.... I did also really appreciate the author's ability to weave current social commentary into a book set somewhere completely different. It definitely makes you think about things like racism, violence, humanity, sexuality, etc. I really appreciated that, and I think it probably made me think about some of those topics in a bit of a different way. I will likely read the next book, but I am not in a hurry to get to it.

Someone To Love by Mary Balogh

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical romance.

When the Earl of Riverdale dies, his secret daughter is exposed and brought from an orphanage into high society. Anna Snow has always wished for a family, but it is clear that her new family has mixed feelings about her. Avery Archer the Duke of Netherby does as he pleases, and decides to intercede and help Anna escape her smothering new family. Avery's reputation is set as a wealthy bachelor, who does as he pleases, but Anna causes him to consider desires he has long pushed aside.

I haven't read a ton of historical romance, so they are always a little bit hard for me to rate/review, but it will get easier eventually. Overall I enjoyed this book, I liked the main character Anna well enough. She was smart and fairly independent. I liked that Avery never followed any rules, but I found his quizzing glass, etc. a little eccentric and not particularly attractive. I enjoyed their opposites attract sort of relationship, however I couldn't figure out at what point they decided they liked each other. Anna kind of went along with things. I did appreciate the there wasn't this huge fixation on her being a virgin as there often can be in novels like this. It wasn't a big deal, and that was so much less creepy. I thought that the martial arts stuff was a little random... but whatever. I particularly enjoyed the ending when they visited Bath, etc. I'm excited to check out the next books in this series and see how the rest progress.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory**

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance, and especially if you are looking for more diversity within the romance genre.

When Nik's boyfriend unexpectedly proposes to her at a Dodger's game (live on the JumboTron) she is angry, mortified, and publicly shamed when she doesn't say "yes". Carlos and his sister sitting a few rows behind Nik decide to swoop in and save her from more on-camera humilation. To thank them, she buys them a drink. Nik has sworn off men after the proposal, but she can't help but appreciate how kind and good-looking Carlos is. What's the harm in meeting up for dinner? Carlos and Nik aren't looking for a serious relationship, but things can get blurry pretty quickly in a new relationship. Can they keep it casual? Or are they looking for more?

I really loved this book! Carlos was my favorite character in Guillory's other book The Wedding Date, so seeing him as the main character of this book was a lot of fun. I definitely liked Nik a lot, and their chemistry together was really great. They were both honest and sarcastic characters which was refreshing in a romance novel. I loved the foodie aspect of the story, and Carlos's love of food and cooking. My favorite part was that the side characters and especially Carlos's family members played a large role in this book. I loved the family dynamics with Carlos and his sister, cousin, etc.! I think once again Guillory shows a modern take on dating and relationships that feels fresh and romantic, but more realistic. Overall I really enjoyed this book, and it definitely has me excited to read Guillory's next novel!

The Duke I Tempted by Scarlett Peckham

3 Stars - I might recommend if you enjoy historical romance, strong female characters, and bdsm.

Poppy Cavendish is a successful botanist and runs her own nursery. When the Duke of Westmead hires every working man in the area she finds herself in a bind as she must uproot her nursery and move it several miles away to another property. The Duke of Westmead's ambitious sister, Constance, has no bigger desire than to throw the ball of the year at Westmead. In order to do so she'll need an indoor forest, and hires Poppy to make her dreams a reality. As Poppy and The Duke of Westmead spend time together they come to find that they are quite attracted to each other. However, the Duke is a member of a little-known illicit club in London which just might ruin his reputation, and by association, Poppy's.

I felt like this book had a LOT going on. To start, I loved Poppy's independent character, her profession, her humor, and wit. I loved her chemistry with the Duke as well. Most of the beginning of this book reminded me of The Steampunk Proper Romance series by Nancy Campbell Allen. However, the bdsm stuff just felt so random for me. Perhaps it is because I have no other books to compare it to, or maybe because it's just not something I'm particularly interested in... but it felt like a small and sort of random addition to the story. I also felt like there was a lot going on within the story: her business, his business, their relationship, the rumors, the illicit club, other hardships, his tortured past.. I won't give spoilers... but it was just a bit much to keep up with. Honestly, without the bdsm and a one or two disasters or dramas I might have really loved this one!

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren*

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance. This one has a bit more emotional depth to it.

Millie has been one of the guys for as long as she can remember, one night she starts to see her friend Reid as more than just a friend. When they end up sleeping together they quickly decide that it won't happen again, and their whole group decides to try a dating app. As Reid and Millie start chatting with potential dates within the app, their friendship gets more complicated.

Overall I enjoyed this book, I read it in an afternoon/evening. I liked the "found family" aspect of the book, and the quirky characters. I wish that Millie and Reid's personalities would have been just a bit more apparent. I loved that she was into True Crime and serial killers, but it seemed like such a small part of her personality, despite it being her profession. This book was a bit more emotional than some of the other CL books that I have read. There is a lot of character growth, struggles, and some tough issues. In addition to it being a bit more emotional, it also wasn't quite as comic as some of their other books. While I did enjoy this one, Josh and Hazel has not been knocked from the top spot for me. - Publishes December 4th!-

Chakra Animals: Discover Your Connection to Wisdom of the Natural World by Angelica Stuart*

3.5 Stars - I would recommend if you enjoy learning about the symbolism of animals, and how you can use it in your everyday life.

This book contains a guide to 50 animals from ant to wren that can be used to channel in your every day life.

I picked up an animal totem deck in Anchorage, AK once and have been fascinated by the idea ever since. I love the idea behind this book, and it's gorgeous cover. I like how thorough the book is, from the introduction, the chakra explanations, the "how to use", and the animal pages. There is even a section in which it is explained which animals excel in particular areas (strength, family, etc. etc.). The whole thing is very useful, not to mention packed full of interesting facts about the animals. The life-long-learner in me was very pleased! I like that there are small animal cards that you can cut out to shuffle and draw from in the back. My only disappointment would be that based on the cover I was expecting a vibrant book. I was hoping for dreamy water color pages and the information tucked next to gorgeous illustrations. However, the inside of the book has (decent) clip art style black and white images -- which aren't nearly as inspiring as I'd hoped. You can order chakra animal decks from the author, however, it's unclear if those match the cover either! As a visual person, I'd hoped for a bit more of a pretty art theme within the pages as well. I think it would be a breathtaking book, should it be illustrated later. Either way, the information inside is very thorough, inspiring, and knowledge-filled. You can tell that the author came at this with a wealth of knowledge and didn't hold back within these pages. It is packed with information. I definitely will enjoy going back over this one to ponder from time to time. - Publishes January 8th 2019-

Sleepover by Serena Bell*

3 Stars - I might recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance, particularly ones including single parents.

Elle has reasons not to want to date, her ex left her and her son for his high school sweetheart after years of swearing nothing was going on. Sawyer, who's wife recently died of cancer, as sworn off dating because he knows he'll never love anyone the way he did his wife. However, when Sawyer and Elle meet at a bar, something is different. They shrug it off, until they realize they've become next door neighbors. When their sons become best friends it is hard for them to keep their distance.

I requested this book because I LOVED Bell's other book Head Over Heels earlier this year. While this one was cute and steamy, I didn't love it as much as Head Over HeelsI love Serena Bell's ability bring single parents into the spotlight of a romance novel. I thought that this book was so endearing: two parents who's boys become best friends, so they end up falling for each other. It was so cute. It was also very steamy. Like a little x-rated steamy. I probably could have done a bit more of their budding friendship, and a little less dirty talk, but that's just me. I definitely loved all of the "family" aspects of the book. I loved Bell's other book Head Over Heels, and while I didn't like this one as much, I'll definitely read more Serena Bell books in the future. - Publishes Today -

Linking up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books today. :) 

What have you been reading? What do you hope to read this month?! 

Make sure you check out my Christmas Fiction post if you're into that kind of thing! :) 

Let's be friends on Goodreads!



* Asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Netgalley

**Double asterisks denote books won via a goodreads giveaway! 

***Triple asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Penguin First to Read in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Penguin First to Read!

****Quadruple asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by the author of the book in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time! 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Christmas Fiction 2018 // Vol. II

Happy Monday, Friends! You all know that I looove a good fluffy holiday read... Here are a few that I've read so far this year! Check out my reviews so you don't pick up a dud! I will probably have a Volume III coming sometime soon! :) (I know this is not everyone's genre, so I wanted to share it in a separate post from my normal monthly reads!) Missed Volume I? Check it out now! :) 

A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews* (this is a novella!) - Publishes TOMORROW!

5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy Christmas fiction and/or proper romance. It gave me Edenbrooke feels!

Sophie Appersett is the logical minded daughter of a frivolous man of society. He's spent her dowry, and what's left of the family fortune is dedicated to improving her sister's chances at a wealthy match. When Edward Sharpe asks to court Sophie, her parents are thrilled, though he's not a man of society, he is quite wealthy. Sophie, dedicated to her family's success agrees to court Edward. However, he never speaks, and doesn't seem to like her much at all. When she breaks off their courtship she quickly realizes that she may have liked him more than she thought. Only a Christmas holiday in the country will tell if these two are suited or not.


I absolutely adored this novella. It was everything I like in a historical proper romance: bantery, swoony, slow burn, and featuring an independent and intelligent female lead! I loved that Edward and Sophie had such good banter, and that they were occasionally grumpy with each other... though I would not classify this as a hate-to-love type of relationship. I loved all of the Christmassy elements involved in this book, but to see how it fit the Victorian period. How fun to imagine searching the grounds for holly, greenery, a yule log, and mistletoe, having a Christmas ball, or sleigh rides. There were so many parts of this book that were just too darn swoony. I could not even. BRB, adding all Mimi Matthews books to my TBR. -This book publishes TODAY!-

Dear Santa by Nancy Niagle* - on sale now!

2.5-3 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy feel-good Christmas fiction. Particularly of the Hallmark-y variety.

Angela has owned Heart of Christmas since her grandmother passed away. The lighthouse where the shop is housed has been in her family for over 100 years, and the store is her life. When Christmas Galore a big chain store moves in, Angela's business is threatened. What will she do without her career and her last connection to her grandmother. Geoff is the head of Christmas Galore and reluctant to get involved in the newest community that his store is located in. When his mother, and business partner falls ill he must take over some of her duties, including becoming more involved in the community. Angela and Geoff are rivals, but just might find that they are both looking for the same thing.

This book started out a little bit slow for me, I didn't care for the arguing between the two sisters, but as the story went on I liked it more. I appreciated how detailed the town, characters, etc. were. With Christmas fiction there is a tendency to really simplify the setting and characters, I didn't find that in this book, which I appreciated. I felt like the letters to Santa in the app was really quite a small part of the story, it would have been fun if it took over a little bit more. Overall I ended up liking where the story went and the budding relationship between rivals Angela and Geoff. I could have done with a bit more banter, and a bit more romance. Overall I think you will enjoy this if you like Hallmark Christmas movies. HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER: Not even a kiss?!

The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright* - on sale now!

4-4.5 Stars - I would definitely recommend if you enjoy Christmas fiction. Also, if you like a romance or story where there are many characters's plots happening at once.

10 years ago Jeanne and Tim bought The Evergreen Inn from Iris, who grew up there. Iris allowed it, only if she got to stay on to work the front desk. After 10 years in business, the inn is going under due to a new ski resort in the area. Christmas week is going to be their last days in business. Hannah is about to get married at the inn, a place she spent her childhood, when her fiance calls the whole thing off. Molly, a children's book writer is seeking inspiration for her newest book, and her life and decides to stay at the inn too. When a bad storm causes an elderly gentleman and a single dad and his two girls to take refuge at the inn, they'll have an unusual Christmas that will never be forgotten.

I didn't know what to expect from this book. It was the author's debut, but the cover image drew me in. I'm so glad that I took a chance on a new book and author! This book has all of the charm of a Hallmark movie but with the changing perspectives of a (more PG) Love Actually, mixed with The Dragonfly Inn in Gilmore Girls. I loved the description of the inn, the quirky characters, and their sweet interactions. I loved seeing how empty-nesters, a single dad of two girls, struggling business owners, single elderly folks, a young wilderness guide, a jilted bride, and a children's author join together to celebrate Christmas. I think that Molly (the children's writer) was my favorite character, I was most excited to see what would happen with her plot. The only thing I would add to this book would be an epilogue. :)

Christmas In Snowfall by Erika Marks* - on sale now!

3.5 Stars - I would recommend if you are looking for a cute Christmas novella.

Maggie Iverson is a web designer, tasked with improving the website and tourism for the quaint town of Snowfall, VT. When Maggie meets Alden Marshall, the town vet, and finds out the he is tied to a town curse, she is hoping he'll share the story with her. Neither is looking for romance, but as Maggie falls for Snowfall, it's hard not to fall for Alden as well.

This was a cute Christmas novella. I enjoyed the town of snowfall, the plot, and the fun dates that the characters went on. I feel like I could have gone for pages and pages more of Maggie and Alden exploring Snowfall, and of Ezzie's (the innkeeper) matchmaking schemes. I felt like the characters were a little bit angsty over small things, which made it feel a little heavier than I wanted it to. Overall I would recommend this book to someone looking for something Christmassy.

There you have it! Four (more!) 2018 Christmas releases that are on shelves now, or very soon! Check out Volume I for more good 2018 Xmas Picks! Volume III headed your way soon!

Do you like Christmas fiction?!

Let's be friends on Goodreads!



* Asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Netgalley!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Roaring, Swinging, Fabulous, Groovy Blog Collaboration // The Aughts

Happy Tuesday, Friends! I'm super busy at a work event this week... but at least we had a relaxing weekend at KC's grandparent's farm! #lybholidayl is well under way, if you missed that announcement last week!!

On the first Tuesday of the month, February through November, we're highlighting books & films from/about specific eras that we recommend! (Television shows, too, sometimes!) There's no commitment or link-up during those months on your end, but in December we’ll host a recap/link-up for the entire year!

Let's talk about the aughts. Who didn't love the aughts? I loved them dearly, and have just as much nostalgia for them as I do the 90s! Let's get into it! Don't forget to check out Audrey's post!

Jinx by Margaret Wild - I don't remember much about it other than it spoke to my 14 year old soul. I think it was written in verse-ish? Unless I'm mixing it up with another book. I'd like to re-read just to see what I think now.
Holes by Louis Sachar - technically written in 1998, but I read it in 2000 and adored it. The movie was cute too.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli - I remember adoring the quirky characters. I'd like to re-read this one too!

Twilight - bad, but still things to love nostalgia-wise. It's problematic, but I've got some memories.

Bridget Jones's Diary - essential watching
13 Going on 30 - "thirty flirty and thriving"
Love Actually - "and he's got a big knobbbb" lolol
A Walk to Remember - sobbing forever, swooning forever
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days - "does princess sophia want to come out and play?"
The Holiday - my favorite Christmas movie
Legally Blonde - "what like it's hard?!"

Gilmore Girls (TV) - forever, but I'll always be grumpy over that reboot.
Veronica Mars - so clever
Everwood - I love everything about this show, other than it got cancelled.
Lizzie McGuire - "uh!"
As Told by Ginger - my favorite cartoon!
Braceface - god, I loved this show...

The O.C. - I'd like to finish it!

The aughts were aughtful great, don't you think. harrr.

Be sure to hope over to Audrey's post and check out her recommendations!

Next month we are linking up & we want you to join us!

Did you watch or read any of our suggestions from year? Maybe you thought of your own recommendations and you’ve been waiting for the right time to share them! Perhaps you just *happened* to read a book from the 1950s and you want to review it!

There’s no right or wrong way to link-up with us! Just do it! We will see you December 4th for our final Roaring Swinging Fabulous Groovy Blog Collaboration post!! Join us, won’t you?

Did you love the aughts?



Thursday, November 1, 2018

Live Your Best Holiday Life For Less // 2018

Happy Thursday friends! Today, I am super jazzed because Shea and I are revamping #lybholidayl ! We are doing it a little differently this year, so read on below to see what we're up to! We'd love for you to join in with the ideas and by sharing your own successes and struggles this holiday season!

Last year Shea and I did Live Your Best Holiday Life For Less where we picked daily prompts for November and December to help us have a more festive, budget friendly, and self-care inclusive holiday season. It was so fun to put a focus on our months, and really channel what is important during those busy times! Thank you to those of you who participated with us, we had so much fun seeing what you guys were up to, and how you interpreted the prompts!

This year we are not going to be running a daily challenge, but we ARE wanting to keep festivity, self-care, and budgeting in the forefront of our minds this holiday season. Here are a few lists we've compiled for you guys to use this year! The idea is that you can turn to them if you are feeling overwhelmed, uninspired, or strapped for cash!

 If you use the lists, make sure to tag us on Instagram (Me & Shea) and use #liveyourbestholidayl so we can follow along! We will be posting from time to time on our pages and in our STORIES (we are loving IG stories this year!) about how the holiday is going, and how we are keeping family, a low budget, and self-care at the forefront. We would love for you to join us this year!

I am particularly excited to:

make some of our holiday gifts this year
try out a new gifting system between me and KC - I'll share in my stories soon!
send out holiday cards from our new house!
go for winter walks to de-stress and see the quiet beauty of the winter season
shop my own closet for "new" holiday outfits - I LOVED doing this last year!

Are *you* looking for daily prompts? If so here are last year's lists! Feel free to use them!

We will have one round up post at the end of November, and one at the end of December to recap how it went... successes and failures! Hey, we're real people! We struggle from time to time!

Please let us know if you are joining in by using #lybholidayl and tagging Shea and I! :) 

How do you beat holiday stress?

What tradition are you most looking forward to?