Costco shopping tips & tricks!

Recently we renewed our Costco membership after officially being members for a whole year! It’s flown by, and we still somewhat feel like newbies, but we’ve learned a lot in the past year, and I think it’s safe to say we know the lay of the land enough now that we have our favorite items, and maybe even a piece of advice or two to share.

If you’ve never been to Costco, or even if you’re an avid fan, hopefully you can learn a thing or two from my observations, tips and tricks after my first year as a Costco shopper!

My Costco Trips & Tricks

 

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11 weird things cat owners do

Happy 2019, dear readers! I hope the first part of your year is starting off right. Whether that means doubling up your efforts to eat more bananas and squeeze an extra walk in before dinner, or work really hard to binge watch all of Game of Thrones before the new (and final!) season airs in April–I commend you for your efforts and wish you the best of luck on your journey!

For me, I had a whirlwind holiday season hosting my family for Christmas, followed almost immediately by a jam-packed vacation to California at the happiest place on Earth–Disneyland! It has been a fun and magical couple of weeks, but I am exhausted already, and it’s only 9 days into the new year. Phew.

I thought we’d ease our way back into the year with a nice, light post. No hard-hitting or emotional content today. Just a fun, frivolous post full of cat pictures. That’s what you came here for, right?

If you’re a pet owner and anything like me, 75 percent of the photos on your phone or camera are probably of your pets something cute—am I right?

Of course I am. Because our pets are adorable, perfect creatures.  (Except, of course, when they are total pests. But we love them anyway.)

But taking 100 photos of our cats each day is not the only weird habit we have as a cat owner, is it?

NOPE. Not by a long shot.

Here are 11 weird things cat owners do!

1.Make them wear silly hats for festive occasions.

2. Catch them in the act of stretching and make a really big deal out of it. “AREN’T YOU SO CUTE! Look at you! I’ve got to take a picture! Don’t move!”

 

 

3. Get them weird cat toys shaped like dead animals and then strategically place them around the house until they show interest. Get sad when they don’t really care about the fake dead weasel. 

4. But get SO EXCITED when they love the fish taco cat nip toy! Seriously, they make the weirdest/most fun cat toys.

 

 

5. Sneak around and discretely snap a photo when the cats do something cute so they don’t get startled and run away.

6. Insist on selfie time every time a cat is on your lap.

 

7. Make your cat be a part of your fancy family photos. Obviously. 

8. Try and get your cat to be in your Instagram stories/videos/pictures because let’s be honest they’re more interesting than anything I’m saying, right?

9. Put your cats on your Christmas card. Not once. Not twice. But THREE times!

10. Get really excited when your cats want to hang out with each other. Tell them they are SO CUTE and SO COZY!

11. Be so excited for life and make your boyfriend take your picture when you cat honors you with his presence by sitting on you. Honestly, life complete.

 

In retrospect, most of these weird things do in fact involve taking weird pictures of my cats. But when you have cats this cute, how can you not?

What silly or weird things do you do as a pet owner? If you make your own homemade dog biscuits, or buy you and your cat matching vests—I love it. Please let me know in the comments below so we can share our favorite cat vest stores on Etsy.

Until next time, friends.

2019 new things! (and 2018 recap)

 

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It’s time again to reflect on the past 365 days and plan ahead for the next cycle around the sun. Readers of this blog know I like to frame my New Year’s Resolutions as a list of new things to try, because this invites more adventure and excitement instead of a list of obligations.  I encourage you to try this approach if you don’t like resolutions, or haven’t had any luck with them in the past! It’s a fun way to take on the year with goals in mind.

Before we dive in to our list of 2019 new things, let’s take a quick look at how we did in 2018!

  1. Try to live more in the here and now.  This is a hard one to judge, as it involves a lot of self introspection. I’d say it’s still a work in progress, so we won’t count this as a completed item. 
  2. To cook more with ingredients I don’t use that often. I definitely think I kicked of 2018 with a bang in this regard! I tried several shrimp recipes that have become favorites (pesto shrimp! yum!), and even some tofu  stir-fry recipes, and other fish recipes. Still some room for improvement here, but we’ve made a good start. 
    Baked fish and chips I made the first week of January in 2018. Kicked the year off right!

    Tofu stir fry I made the second week of January in 2018.
  3. To look into self-publishing. Haven’t done much with this, and frankly it hasn’t been much of a priority. We’ll shelve this for the future. 
  4. Buy a pair of ice skates (moderately priced, nothing crazy), and go ice skating!  I got a pair of iced skates for Christmas, so this goal is in reach! I just need to get the skates sharpened and have the weather actually get a bit colder so I can take them for a spin outside! If this doesn’t happen in the next week, it will soon. 

    Showing off my fancy new skates on Christmas Day 2018!
  5. Explore more of Winfield of the Winfield parks We’ve definitely done this! One park is very close to us and has a great hill for sledding, too! 
  6. Take a class at the Winfield park district, fitness or otherwise. I did not take a class at the park district, but I did take a succulent design class at the Arboretum in February with Sarah, and a pizza making class in May with Jeff, so I’m going to count this as a win!

    Sarah and I showing off our succulents!
  7. Travel somewhere new. Yes! We traveled to New Hampshire over the summer and it was marvelous

    New Hampshire was so scenic!
  8. Drink more water!  I’ve been trying hard to do this, especially at work. Let’s keep this up in 2019. 
  9. Go to these restaurants that I’ve been wanting to try: I’m giving myself this one because I did pretty good with going to new restaurants this year. Here are the restaurants I wanted to try in 2018: Flight 112 in Elmhurst: Sadly this restaurant closed before I had the chance to go, which makes me very sad!  The rooftop bar at Craftsman in Naperville:— we’ve been here a few times now and I love it! We’re actually going here for New Year’s Eve, too., Maciano’s for a sit down dinner :Yes! We’ve been here twice and it is super delicious. Definitely a favorite cozy dinner place., Mason Sebika– this is still an outstanding one, but overall I’d say I did good on this goal. 

    The view from the rooftop of the Craftsman in Naperville.
  10. Write a poem a day in April for national poetry month.  I did this! It was so much fun! I completed this challenge via Twitter and blogged some of the highlights here if you want to check it out. It was maybe one of the most fun things I did this year in terms of writing. 

Total: 8/10! Hey that’s pretty good! How did you do on your 2018 goals or lists of new things to try?

2019 List of New Things

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  1. Write a letter every week. I recently picked up this great book that is on Oprah’s list of her favorite things, and it includes 52 letters with a different prompt for each week. The goal is to write a letter each week to a different person (I guess duplicate recipients could be allowed, too) to help stay connected, and really just inspire you to write and send letters! I LOVE this idea. I bought the book. I’m going to send the letters! So get ready, friends and family, 52 of you are getting a letter from me in 2019!
  2.  Read 50 books. I’m setting my Good Reads goal at 50 books this year, and hoping I can meet this. I used some gift cards I got for Christmas to purchase a handful of books that have been on my wish list for a while, so I’m very excited to dive in right away!
  3. Watch all of the academy award nominated best picture films. We get pretty close each year so I’m adding it to the list so I can check this off, and blog about it!
  4. Bake tiramisu. A favorite dessert around here, so why not try baking it? This Betty Crocker recipe seems simple enough to try, and it even includes a couple of suggestions to lighten up the recipe, if that’s your thing.
  5. Visit the writer’s museum in Chicago. I’ve been wanting to visit this museum so by putting it on the list let’s make it happen!
  6. Have a phone-free day. I admit I’m a little too connected. This seems like a good challenge to take. ( I think the hardest part of this for me would be not taking pictures, so it would be fun to combine this with a fun challenge of using a disposable camera, or actually buying this Polaroid camera and taking old school photos for a day!) These are two interesting articles about a day without a cell phone from two very different sources that inspired me: Living one day without a phone | Benefits of Not Using a Cell Phone
  7. Try whirly ball. This looks so fun! We drive by a Whirly Ball place all the time, so this just needs to happen. This could be a fun birthday party activity!
  8. Go to a trampoline park. Again, this just looks too fun to not try. I need to find a Groupon and make this a girl’s night activity. There’s a bunch of local locations, and most are open late and fun themes like “neon night”, too! Who’s down?
  9. Go camping. I haven’t been camping in years, and I think an overnight camping trip would be a lot of fun. Somewhere nearby with good places to hike, and see stars, and have a campfire–like Starved Rock, Indiana Dunes, or even somewhere near New Buffalo, Michigan. Nothing too fancy, or too rustic! Sounds like a good late summer plan.
  10. Try a new craft. I like crafts, and I’ve tried a few new ones over the past few years (cross-stitch, pottery, the paint-and-drink craze), but there are so many other types of crafts and craft kits you can get at places like Joanne’s and Michael’s, and it seems like a great activity to grow some new brain cells. I love this blog post of One Afternoon Craft Ideas!

 

Other things I’m looking forward to in 2019:

  • Traveling to Las Vegas! I haven’t been since I was a kid, and there’s so much more to explore and experience!
  • Visiting Boston and Massachusetts. I’ve never been, and I’m so excited to see the culture, the food, the beer and more of the east coast!
  • Disneyland at Christmas-time! This trip is happening NEXT week, but it’s in 2019 so it counts! I can’t wait to experience this magical place in all it’s Christmassy glory.
  • So many good movies and TV shows coming out in 2019! Toy story 4! Game of Thrones! The finale of Avengers! Frozen 2! See even more exciting things coming out here.
  • We’re planning on attending at least one day of Chicago’s Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) this March and I’m so excited! There’s so many fun people already on tap to attend, and I’m looking forward to seeing what panels and events will be on the schedule.

 

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions or a list of new things to try each year? Let me know in the comments what’s on your list, or what you’re excited for in 2019!

Happy New Year to you all and see you in 2019!

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5 Podcasts to kick off the new year

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Recently, I’ve drank the Podcast Kool-Aid, and let me tell you friends–it is delicious. Because I spend a lot of time commuting, I found that I was listening to a lot of music, and although it might be hard to believe, I was getting sick of it. If you can’t fathom getting sick of music, then you haven’t listened to it all day at work and then two hours on the train. There’s just simply only so many times you can listen to your “Fresh and Chill” playlist on Spotify before you’re ready to listen’ to silence instead.

But, rather than silence, I found a great alternative–Podcasts! I started scrolling through the featured Podcasts in Spotify and through that jumping off point I’ve since added several Podcasts to my listening repertoire that I listen to weekly, and some that I dive in and out of when I need something new.

So, what’s the deal with Podcasts anyway?

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You may not think that Podcasts are for you, but I assure you that there’s one out there for you. Every Podcast is set up  a little differently. Some are very formulaic with the same segments each episode and an almost performance like quality to them. Others are more conversational and have an improvisation-type feel to them, like you are eavesdropping into a conversation between a group of friends. Of course, there’s a whole sub-genre of audio-dramas, too, where each episode of the podcast tells part of a story with different characters, voices, and sound effects! Honestly, you can explore so many different avenues in the podcasting world and find something that works for you.

There are podcasts on almost every topic in every niche, too. Literary podcasts, sports podcasts, cooking podcasts, reality TV podcasts, cold case detective podcasts, podcasts recapping your favorite movies—search for whatever you can think of and it probably exists.

Ready to dive in? Great! All of these podcasts can be found on Spotify.

5 podcast recommendations to kick off the new year

1.) Binge Mode

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Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion from the Ringer Podcast Network put on this Daily-ish/sometimes-weekly podcast that tackles different fandoms in a bingey type fashion. The duo takes on different areas of literary or film, such as Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They cover the plots, major themes and connections, and their insights. For the past 6 months they’ve been covering the Harry Potter books and movies, and they do a fantastic job of making connections between each books, the movies, and even the new Fantastic Beasts films, too. I feel like Mal and Jason have become close friends after listening to them for almost 6 months, and this is definitely my favorite podcast. It’s intelligent, but approachable, and it’s been great to relive these different areas of literature and movies.

2.) The Bachelor Party

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Juliet Litman, another Ringer Podcast network pro, discusses all things Bachelor Nation on a weekly basis during the “on-season” of the Bachelor and Bachelorette, and every two weeks during the off-season between shows. Juliet dissects the episodes after they aired, any juicy news in the Bachelor Nation world, and any fan theories or rumors that are floating around. She often has guests on from previous seasons of the Bachelor, or guests from other podcasts to help her go over that day’s news. If you like reality T.V., and especially if you like the Bachelor, I definitely recommend giving The Bachelor Party a listen. Juliet will start up her weekly podcasts again soon once the new season of the Bachelor begins on January 6.

3.) The Bright Sessions

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This is my first audio drama that I’ve listened to and so far I’ve really been enjoying it! It is written, produced and performed by Lauren Shippen and has different guest stars in every episode. One benefit to this podcast is that the episodes are only 10-15 minutes, so it’s really easy to dive in and get a taste without too much commitment. The basic plot of this audio drama is that Dr. Bright is a therapist for the “strange and unusual,”–think along the lines of the X-Men and the school that Dr. Xavier runs. Patients have unexplained powers they don’t understand and can’t control. Each episode is another session with Dr. Bright. It’s fascinating and definitely makes you want to keep listening to multiple sessions in one listen.

4.) The Rewatchables

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This is another podcast from the Ringer network (guys, I know I’m in a bit of a monopoly here, but the Ringer network makes good content!), hosted by Bill Simmons and a rotating cast of other hosts from the Ringer. The focus of the podcast is discussing movies that the deem to be “Rewatchable,” and what makes them so. Some examples of movies you can find episodes on are “Wedding Crashers,” “Die Hard,” “Forest Gump,” and “The Social Network,” for example. I’ve really enjoyed this podcast because it allows me to revisit some of my favorite movies and discuss what makes them so good that you want to watch them over and over. This podcast only seems to come out once a month, so it’s a good filler in between other Podcast episodes–and there’s plenty of backlog to binge to get you started.

5). Potterless

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Okay, so yes there’s two Harry Potter podcast recommendations on here, but just be surprised it wasn’t more! Potterless is a more carefree and frivolous podcast, and it’s one of the first ones I listened to that really got me into this world of podcasts. The description from Spotify reads: “Potterless joins Mike Schubert, a 25-year-old man reading the Harry Potter series for the first time, as he sits down with different HP fanatics each episode to poke fun at plot holes, make painfully incorrect predictions, and rant about how Quidditch is the worst sport ever invented.” If you’re also reading Harry Potter for the first time, this is a great podcast to follow because Mike is unspoiled and experiencing the world and all of the twists and turns for the first time. That’s part of what makes listening so fun–to hear his reactions and usually-wrong predictions. However, one note of caution, the further you get in the series, the harder it can be to hear him pick fun at things if you are a big HP fan. He definitely does it less the more he gets into it, because he does grow to like the books, too, but it can feel a little bit like someone making fun of your own child. BUT, it’s a funny and silly podcast that I definitely recommend for even the most casual HP fans.

Those are my top 5 podcast recommendations to help you kick off the new year. Do you have any great podcasts that I should start listening to? I’d love to add some new ones to my playlist!

 

My top 8 books of 2018

‘Tis the season for year-end “best of ” lists, so I thought a fun way to hop on the bandwagon with one of my own would be to take a look back at my favorite books from this past year!

Thanks to Good Reads, I keep pretty good track of all of the books I read, and I try to rate and review them, too.

year in books.PNGGood Reads also challenges you to select a number of books to ready each year and then tracks your progress. The past 2 years I’ve far exceeded my goal, thanks to commuting and ample reading time, so I got over-eager and bumped my goal up to 80 books this year, from 50 last year. I’m not sure what I was thinking 80 books in a year? That’s roughly 6.5 books a month, or a 1.5 books a week. Even for me that is slightly ambitious. I guess seeing it broken up like that it’s not impossible, but what I didn’t factor in to my goal last year was my discovery of podcasts, which I now listen to sometimes instead of reading (don’t worry, blog post to come on my favs!), and also that I work from home some days, which cuts into my reading time on the train.

So needless to say I’ve only read 44 books this year. OBVIOUSLY THAT’S STILL A LOT OF BOOKS! I’m not disappointed in myself. I mean come on, that’s still a healthy and robust 3.5 books a month, on average. It’s just well below my goal. So next year perhaps I’ll set the bar a bit lower on my reading goal so I know I can beat it. 35 sounds good 🙂

So anyway, during the past year, I’ve read some great stuff, some not-so-great-stuff, and some pretty-darn-okay stuff! This list is going to be my top 8 favorite books from those 44 that I have read in the past year—not all of them necessarily came out in 2018, though.

Hopefully this will give you some interesting reading ideas for yourself or even gift ideas for the book worms in your life!

My top 8 good reads from 2018

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  1. Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich

Do you like big budget Hollwood heist movies? Is “21” your favorite movie from 2008? Then give this book a try. It’s non-fiction, but this isn’t your dry homework assignment type of non-fiction account. It’s narrative non-fiction at its best and feels more like reading the script for a movie than real-life accounts. Rumors abound at some of the truthfulness of certain aspects, but take it with a grain of salt and enjoy.

Here’s the summary from GoodReads:  “An exclusive blackjack club came up with a system to take the world. Us most sophisticated casinos for all they were worth. In two years, this ring of card savants earned more than three million dollars. Filled with tense action and incredibly close calls, this is a real-life adventure that could have stepped straight out of a Hollywood film.”

My review: So good! Reads like fiction. Five stars.

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2. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

I’ve never really been into the true crime genre before, but this book as fascinating to me on two levels: 1) that it was left unfinished due to the unfortunate and untimely death of the author and 2) that this case , at the time of publishing, was still open. It has since been closed thanks in part due to the investigating of Michelle and largely due to DNA matching that was not available previously.

This book reads part like your favorite cop-drama, and part like a behind the scene’s investigator notebook, complete with lists, author’s notes, editor’s notes, and chapters that just end with no conclusions. It’s morbid, fascinating, and you can’t look away. I’m wondering/hoping if the book will be updated with an epilogue now that the case is closed.

Here’s the summary from GoodReads: “A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.”

My Review: 4 stars (no comment left).

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3. Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure By Amy Kaufman

If you love reality TV and/or the Bachelor, run, don’t walk to Amazon and get yourself this book. I’m obsessed with anything that reveals behind the scenes secrets, and this book gives you as close to as a behind-the-camera view of the Bachelor Nation world as you can get without signing up for the show yourself. Author Amy Kaufman interviewed numerous former contestants and producers to get lots of juicy insider scoop, but the book goes beyond just spilling tea–it also discusses WHY people love this show so much and delves into the psychology of reality television, too. I found it delightfully satisfying.

Here’s the GoodRead’s summary: “The first definitive, unauthorized, behind-the-scenes cultural history of the Bachelor franchise, America’s favorite guilty pleasure.[…] Kaufman also explores what our fascination means, culturally: what the show says about the way we view so-called ideal suitors, our subconscious yearning for fairy-tale romance, and how this enduring television show has shaped society’s feelings about love, marriage, and feminism by appealing to a marriage plot that’s as old as Jane Austen”

My review:  Five stars. Part inside scoop of our favorite guilty pleasure, part sociological study, I loved reading this book from both a fan and academic perspective. Highly recommend reading this book if you’re a bachelor fan— or if you’re super confused why on earth anyone would ever watch the bachelor!  

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4. Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon by Melissa Anelli

Do you love Harry Potter? Are you over the age of 18? You’ll probably like this book. Much like the Bachelor Nation book, it takes a deeper look at the culture of Harry Potter and WHY it has been so successful and so enduring. It’s been more than 20 years since the first Harry Potter books were published and the culture surrounding these books, movies, and pop culture in general has not died down, at all. It’s kind of wild to think about. I’ve grown up and continued to enjoy  these books and this world for the past 19 years of my own life and there continues to be more added to the universe all the time with the new Fantastic Beasts movies. If you were unsure of the validity of the Harry Potter world as an area of academic study  or pop culture relevance, this book should give you an interest read. If you already knew Harry Potter was king, you’ll love diving deep into great read as well.

Here’s the GoodRead’s Summary: “….The Harry Potter books are a triumph of the imagination that did far more than break sales records for all time. They restored the world’s sense of wonder and took on a magical life of their own. Now the series has ended, but the story is not over. With remembrances from J.K. Rowling’s editors, agents, publicists, fans and Rowling herself, Melissa Anelli takes us on a personal journey through every aspect of the Harry Potter phenomenon–from his very first spell to his lasting impact on the way we live the dream.”

My review:  Five stars. Such a great book about the hey day of Harry Potter and the fan phenomenon that followed the release of the books and movies. This made me really nostalgic for that time!

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5. The Outsider by Stephen King

This is the first book I’ve read by Stephen King, and I picked it up because it called out to me with it’s intriguing cover art from the airport bookstore while we were traveling from New Hampshire. This is a HUGE book, so I decided not to pick it up and lug it through the airport, but bought it later when we returned home. One of the appeals of this book was its length, because it actually took me awhile to read, which was nice. This book started off a little slow and very weird, but it definitely made up for as it went along and the twists and turns started coming fast.  I enjoyed this book because it was a lot like a standard cop thriller, but with supernatural twists to it. It was a good way to ease into Stephen King. It wasn’t TOO intense or too scary.

Here is the GoodRead’s Summary:

“An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can. ”

My review: Four stars. Not at all what I expected, but I’ve never read Stephen king before. I really liked it. A good detective/ police procedural with just a twist of supernatural!

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6. The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard

I think my mom might have recommended this book to me, and it was a quick and great read! I love historical fiction, so if you do as well, you will enjoy this book. I was fascinated because I did not know much of anything about this part of history ( The Manhattan project) or the role that women played in it.  Of course there is romance and lots of relationship drama to move the plot along as well, but to be honest that was not as interesting to me as the history.

Here is the GoodRead’s summary: In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes a riveting novel of the everyday women who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II

“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”

My Review:  Five stars. So good! I flew this and loved learning about a part of history I was unaware of. The real photos in the book from this time added a lot to make this feel very engrossing. Highly suggest this book if you like historical fiction!

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7. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

I’ve been trying to read this book for years–literally, years. For some reason I was never able to get all the way through it. I guess I’m finally “old” enough to appreciate the slightly duller parts, because I finally finished this, and absolutely loved it. I have always love anything about the World’s Fair, so those aspects of the book are just fascinating–if you live in the Chicago area, it’s just so cool to learn more about how this city was shaped by this event. The serial killer plotline, so to speak, has its own layer of fascination, and the two are so intertwined that it definitely reads like a novel at some parts, but it can be a bit of a slog at other times, so this is not a “light” read by any means. Definitely don’t give this to your teenager unless they are in the mold of Hermione Granger. I loved all of the history and learning more about the place I love in now, so I definitely recommend it if you’re one of the few left who haven’t read this yet (no judgement).

Here’s the GoodRead’s Summary: Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.[…]The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.

My Review:  Five Stars. Finally finished this book after three times of starting this book. I really enjoyed this! Such a good read and I recommend it to anyone who likes history and The macabre! Can’t wait for the movie!

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8. Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertelli

I picked this book up after we watched the movie “Love, Simon” and were frankly blown away by how good of a movie it was, both in terms of emotional resonance and artistic cinematography. This movie is extremely relatable for anyone who was a teenager ever, or went to high school ever (so, everyone).

Once I found out the movie was based on a book, I knew I had to read it. The fact that it was a young adult novel did not deter me. I love YA fiction! The book differs a bit from the movie, but was just as good. It’s actually the first book in a sort-of-triology. It’s not a chronological triology, but more of 3 books that exist in the same universe type of triology. I highly recommend this book and the others in the triology to any teenagers in your life, or for yourself if you’re a fan of YA lit.

Here’s the GoodRead’s Summary:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight.[…]
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

My review: A quick and excellent read! I saw the movie too and I liked the movie a bit more, but the book is still very good as well and I think they did it justice in the movie!

 

Those are 8 of my top Good Reads from 2018–I hope you enjoyed skimming through and maybe finding a new book to add to your to-read list for the near year!

Wondering how to pick your next book? See my tips on choosing your next Good Read!

Feel free to recommend a book to me in the comments!

11 holiday gifts for everyone on your list

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If you’re anything like me, you love a holiday gift guide. Or in my case, as many as I can get my hands on! I love the really obscure ones–like 13 gifts for your veterinarian under $50 , or 4 gifts your moody teenager will love! Even if I don’t need to shop for anyone, I just get a kick out of reading the silly captions, window shopping, any maybe even adding an item or two to my own Amazon wish list.

So it seemed only fitting that I put my own hat in the ring this year with my Holiday Gift Guide. I culled through my own Amazon favorites and wish lists and pulled out 11 items that I think would make great gifts and help you cross off all the names on your list.

Whether you haven’t even started Christmas shopping yet (totally fine, you’ve got this!), or completely done (high five!), take a peak at this list and snag a gift or two for yourself or your loved ones.

(None of these contain affiliate links because I’m not that savvy.)

  1. chicago111 Places in Chicago You Must Not Miss: $13.53

For the traveler or local-history lover in your life, or for the person who loves to explore their own town with the excitement of a tourist, this is a great series of books that takes a close look at the little known gems of a city. They have one for nearly every major city, so browse around for the perfect gift for your adventurous friend or family member!

2.contigo

Contigo 16 ounce stainless steel travel mug: From $13.97 (some colors are more)

Know someone who commutes by train, car, bike,or foot? They’ll need a really awesome to-go mug and they’ll absolutely love you for giving it to them! Contigo mugs keep hot drinks super hot and they seal so well that you can toss them in your bag  without worrying about leaks. Win-Win. Get this mug for your college-aged cousin, your best friend who commutes to the city, or your dad who likes to keep us coffee hot all day at the office. Multiple colors are available!

 

3.kate spade

Kate Spade Bright Ideas Spiral Notebook: $14

For the writer/teacher/dreamer/student in your life, get them a cute notebook to inspire them to jot down their daily to do lists, thoughts, ideas, homework, or even their weekly grocery list. This Kate Spade spiral notebook is both practical and cute.

 

4.
harry potter uno

Harry Potter Uno: $9.95

If you’ve got that friend who owns everything Harry Potter but still can’t get enough, then why not get them Harry Potter Uno to round out their collection? (PS: That friend is totally me.) Challenge them to a game–winner buys the butter beer.

 

5. french press

Le Creuset Stoneware 27 ounce French Press: $69.95

For a splurgy gift, get your coffee-loving friend this beautiful Le Creuset french press. It comes in a variety of colors, but personally I think this red option would look stunning in most people’s kitchens. Nothing like a nice pop of color and a nice jolt of caffeine, right? This would be a great gift for your friend who just moved into a new home, or that newly-wed niece of yours, too! It’s always nice to get a fancy version of an every-day item.

6.fugi

Fuji Film Insta Max Mini: $45.03 (film is extra)

The selfie queen in your life needs to switch it up. Help her out with this super cute, super affordable Polaroid camera that will be a big hit everywhere from your teenage cousins sleepover party to your next night out at the bar (you know, ironically, of course.) Get this for your boyfriend’s teenage sister so she thinks you’re super cool, or for your newly-engaged bestie so they have a retro-inspired photo booth at their wedding or bach party!

7. coasters

Wine Pun Drink Coasters: $10.99

Want to break the mold of bringing a bottle of wine as a hostess gift? How about these funny and puny wine-themed coasters? They’re cute and funny and your host will thank you for not leaving rings on her coffee table, too. This is also a great stocking stuffer, or $10 gift exchange pick!

8. beer

B Cups FUNK Outdoor Craft Beer Cups: $19.99

For that friend who is outdoorsy in the way they like to drink beer on patios, get them this four pack of outdoor craft beer cups. Made from silicone, these cups won’t break or crack when your giant jenga topples into the patio table and knocks over everyone’s drink. Score. Get this for your beer-loving boyfriend, or that nephew you’re trying to score cool aunt points with.

9.baby book

Little Feminist Board Books: $13.49

Nevertheless, she persisted (in getting the best gift for the little one in your life). Why not send a positive message with your gift and get the little people in your life this great book set of Little Feminist Board books? You’ll be the coolest aunt/sister/grandma ever. Also a fun gift for any empowered woman in your life, children or not!

10.game of phones

Game of Phones: $20

Need a good secret Santa gift, or fun gift for your friends who have everything? Try this fun, outside-of-the-box board game , “Game of Phones,” where your phone is your “board” and the cards instruct you on a scavenger hunt/series of dares to complete the tasks you draw. It’s silly, challenging, and fun. Smart Phones required, so skip this one for your grandparents or anyone technologically challenged.

11. bangle

Stop and Smell the Roses Bangle by Kate Spade: $32

Step up your gift-giving game this year and get the lady in your life this classy and simple rose-gold bangle by Kate Spade. It has a positive message discretely engraved on the inside, and it won’t set you back too much, either. This will look great on anyone, so grab a couple and make your mom, grandma, and aunt’s day, too, while you’re at it!

 

I hope this gift guide was fun to browse through and maybe it gave you a few ideas to help you start (or finish) your holiday shopping! Happy holidays!

What’s next for the blog?

It’s the last day of the #30daysofblogging challenge! We did it! I blogged every day for the month of November (click here to see all the links from this month). Some day were harder than others, for sure, but overall this has been a great success and a reminder of why I started this blog to begin with.

So what’s next? Where does the blog go from here. I thought I would look to you, my dear friends, family, and random strangers on the internet, for input.  Please vote in my poll and let me know what kinds of topics you would like to see from the blog in the future! Please feel free to write in your own ideas in the comments, especially if you vote “other.”

As for what’s ahead immediately, look for a fun Holiday Gift Guide to hit the blog early next week to help with your holiday shopping! If you’re like me and you’ve already finished your shopping, then you can add some fun items to your own Amazon wishlist, but for everyone else who is just kicking it into gear, hopefully this will help provide some good ideas for everyone on your list!

Thanks to anyone who followed along this month, and get ready for DECEMBER and full steam ahead for the holiday season tomorrow! 🙂

 

Writing is hard: A confession

This post is part of the #30daysofblogging series. For more about this series or to find links to the rests of the posts from this month, click here. 

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, it’s almost the end of my #30daysofblogging challenge. Tomorrow is the final day, and then we’ll resume our normal schedule of weekly-ish blog posts not guided by any prompts, and catering to the whims of my every fancy.

I’m excited, because–here’s my confession:

This challenge has been HARD.

person holding white pen near white poster
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I guess that’s the point, right? Challenges are supposed to well, challenge you. If it were easy it would just be whatever the opposite of a challenge is (Editor’s note: I looked up antonym’s for challenge and Webster’s suggests “Peace.” That sounds about right. )

Here’s what I know:

  • I love to write
  • I can sometimes procrastinate
  • I don’t always like to be told what to do
  • But sometimes I do, when it’s helpful and it means I don’t have to think as much
  • Sometime’s I’d rather just lay on my bed and read or scroll through Instagram than do something productive.
  • It only takes 21 days for something to become a habit–good or bad.

These things can be counter-productive to one another, because while I like to write, and blog, and share my thoughts, that takes work. And time. and  Effort. And now you see dear readers why my blog slipped into a casual 6-month hiatus. All it took was a few weeks of “oops, I missed my weekly post, I’ll get to it next week,” before it turned into  “I guess I’m on hiatus,” before it became “Maybe I’ll blog again someday.”

It was too easy to stop blogging, but it’s much, much harder to start again.

Insert any activity or habit into that sentence and the same is true. It’s EASY to quit something challenging. It’s HARD to keep at it and make a part of your routine.

Walking every day is a  part of my routine because I make sure I do it every. damn. day. Even if it’s only a 5 minute stroll! Or, worst case scenario–laps around my living room (yes, this has occurred!).

Maybe your habit is drinking water because you’ve trained yourself to get a new glass every time you get up from your desk, or you’ve set an hourly time. (That’s amazing—can you teach me your tricks? I need to be better at this. )

person typing on typewriter
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Writing is just another habit. If you don’t practice it, keep at it, make yourself sit down and do it when you’d really rather not, when you really would rather do anything else in the whole world–yes, even load the dishwasher–then you’ll lose it. You won’t lose the inherent, innate ability to be talented at it, but you’ll lose the skills that come with a practiced habit. You’ll lose the mental or physical dilligence to train yourself to do something because you know it’s good for you and you know it makes you better at it.

My confession is that I know all of these things–I’ve seen them work! I’ve seen them help make me a better writer, and a happier person. But despite all of this, I still let my talents fall to the way side sometimes. I still let my bad habits come back, or my good habits slip away.

I guess it happens to the best of us. We’re all only human and only doing the best we can each day.

This challenge was designed to get me back in the habit of writing, and of blogging here for all of you–and for me. It wasn’t always fun, and it wasn’t always easy. But I have made it through (almost–one day left!), and I’m so glad I did it! Accomplishing a goal is a sweet kind of victory like none other, and it means I’ve gained back this habit of writing.

Here’s hoping this time it sticks.

art business close up decor
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

My most embarrassing moments

This post is part of the #30daysofblogging series. To learn more about this challenge, or see the rest of the posts in this series, click here

man person woman face
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Is it being modest to say I don’t think I have any “most embarrassing moments?” I certainly have regular embarrassing moments. The ones that come to mind are mostly in elementary school and high school, and typically have to do with hygiene, haircuts, or clothing. God, those were awkward years just all around.

But did any of those moments scar my psyche enough to leave a lasting impression to make it into the most embarrassing moment hall of fame? I honestly can’t think of one. I guess it goes back to what I was talking about in my blog post on regrets that if you put a moment into perspective and think of how it will effect your life in 1 year or 5 years or even 1 month, it makes it a lot less scary, or embarrassing. And the truth is that most embarrassing moments are fleeting.

I’m sure my 6th grade self would disagree, but I wish I could tell her that those little things don’t matter at all in the big picture of life. Just in case she’s reading this, here’s some words of advice for the younger versions of ourselves suffering from daily embarrassments.

Words of advice for our younger, embarrassing, selves:

woman morning bathrobe bathroom
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com
  • Bad haircuts really aren’t the end of the world. Slap on a headband, throw it up in a pony tail, and just remember hair grows back. You’ll laugh at these school pictures later, I promise.
  • You ripped your pants/bled on your pants/peed your pants/pooped your pants/threw up in class (All things that have happened to fellow classmates in my school days)? Okay yeah, that’s pretty embarrassing, but like, what a great story to tell your kids someday about how that happened and you survived and now you’re a successful banker or whatever, right? People are starving in Africa and it’s not that big of a deal that your mom had to bring you a new pair of pants in the 2nd grade.
  • The annoying boy who snapped your bra or pulled your hair or flipped your skirt up probably likes you and has not developed social skills yet. Just ignore him. I wish I could tell you boys (or men) get better at conveying their feelings as you get older, but really, it’s hit and miss.
  • The teacher that confiscated your juicy note to your friend/love note to your crush probably had a great laugh over drinks with her friend about it, so you basically made their day, and in a year you’ll be replaced by a whole new class of weird kids and they won’t even remember this moment.
  • Just laugh it off. Laugh with everyone else, and they’ll move on to the next awkward moment. But if you do cry and run to the bathroom, that’s okay too. You’ve got this!
  • All of the weird, awkward moments in the next 18 years of your life help shape you into the person you’re becoming and even though they can suck, and seem like literally the absolute worst thing in the world, they truly won’t matter and you won’t even think about them when you’re an adult. Until you’re forced to write a blog post about them and then all of a sudden you wonder if anyone remembers the time you cried in the first grade because you didn’t want to wash the chalk boards with Ben because he was a boy. GOD life was hard as a 6 year old, amirite?

Most of all, what’s truly embarrassing is that as a 30 year old adult, I misspelled embarrassing 15 times in this blog post. Thank god for spellcheck.

What are you most embarrassed by in your life, and what advice would you give to your younger selves about those moments?

 

What’s in my closet

This post is part of the #30daysofblogging series. To learn more about this series or find the rest of the posts from this month, click here. 

white and black floral cap sleeved shirt
Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

Fun fact: Technically I have three closets that are mostly “mine.” I have half of our bedroom closet, of course. Then I have my office closet, which is truly all mine–and gloriously so. Then there’s the guestroom closet, which has somehow, sort of,  become an overflow of me, too.

So, I guess we’ll dive in deep to all 3 here for a quick forray into what’s in my closet!

My Bedroom Closet:

 

white bed next to white accent table
This isn’t a picture of my own bedroom, but the closet looks similar to this! Photo by Mary Whitney on Pexels.com

This is fairly unexciting stuff. But here we go!

  • Clothes. Lots of clothes. Mostly tops, dresses, and sweaters. I probably only own about 3 pairs of pants that aren’t jeans or leggings, so those are hanging up in here too.  I think a Halloween costume or two gets lucky enough to earn some hanger space.
  • My closet has a shelving unit on either side, so the boyfriend and I each get one. Mine (recently re-organized!) contains a shelf of PJ pants, a shelf of jeans (seriously, I always feel like I have no jeans, but this recent cleaning spree has me realizing I have like 6 pairs.), a shelf of leggings,  and two shelves worth of shoes.
  • Two small, carry-on size pieces of luggage. It’s easiest to keep them upstairs in the closet because we use them fairly often.
  • Occasionally a sleeping cat.

That’s pretty much it. Nothing too crazy in here since I have 2 other closets.

My Office Closet:

apartment architecture chair comfort
Not my office, but a similar location of where my office closet is! Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here’s where it gets interesting. I also just re-organized and cleaned out this closet, too, so I have a pretty good idea of what’s in here.

  • Christmas presents. Spoiler alert: This is where they are “hidden.” If by hidden you mean neatly stacked on a recently added shelving unit.
  • Christmas wrapping supplies–for once all neatly compiled in a basket instead of strewn hither and thither on the floor.
  • Lots of old photos, cards, and various memorabilia. About 4 shoe box size Tupperware containers full. One day I will get these photos into either albums or preservative containers.
  • Old journals and notebooks. So many of them. I can’t bare to throw them out. What if I become famous one day and someone wants to publish them?!
  • Art supplies galore (so many boxes of crayons, colored pencils, have used packs of construction paper, never used scrap-booking kits–I had good intentions!, and endlessly coloring books).
  • Scarves. I love scarves. I have a lot of them.
  • Stacks of receipts and other vaguely important paperwork.
  • Board games and puzzles, including one 3-D Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle puzzle I still need to put together!

That’s about the gist of it. Trust me, it’s a lot more organized now than it was last week.

The Guest Bedroom Closet:

img_0998-1
This is just a cute picture of my cats and has nothing to do with the guest room. Enjoy!

This closet is a little random and could use a good cleaning.

  • Clothes, mainly either really fancy clothes I don’t wear that often, or a subset of clothes that don’t fit anymore but are “too nice” to get rid of. I should probably get rid of them.
  • A giant laundry basket full of stuffed animals. (?!?!?)
  • A giant Tupperware container full of extra bedding.
  • More Halloween costumes

I’m not even sure what else is in here to be honest, but it always seems very full. Let’s add cleaning this closet to the to do list.

 

That’s the run down of what’s in MY closets. I could take you through some of the other closets in our house, like the linen closet, the hall closet, or the every so exciting pantry, but—maybe I’ll save those for another exciting blog post in the future. You never know when a future blog challenge may ask me to describe my pantry, after all!

What weird or interesting things do you keep in your closets? Or are they super organized and logical? Tell me in the comments below!