Monthly Archives: December 2017

5 for Friday: What I’ve Been Reading (that’s not a holiday book)


Although I haven’t been posting much, I’ve still been reading a bit. Most recently I’ve posted on some good and a few not so great holiday books I read last year and a couple I’ve read this year, too. Now here’s a quick list of non-holiday/non-seasonal books I’ve read recently, too.

I’ve got the quite the variety of books in this list, including a comic book, a cookbook, an audiobook, a book of short stories and a self-improvement book! I’ve been running quite the gamut as of late!


Real Friends
by Shannon Hale 
(fiction, comic book) – worth a read

I received this book sort of by accident. My 10-year-old nephew said he wanted a comic book for his birthday back in November and this book came highly rated. I promptly ordered it from Amazon. But after thumbing through it, it seemed like more of a book for girls; or at least one that I didn’t think my nephew would enjoy. I gave him this comic book making kit instead for his birthday and decided that Real Friends was better suited for my friend’s 10-year-old daughter. But not without me gently reading it first!

I think it is a perfect read for that 8 to 12-year-old range. Hale draws from her own childhood experience on what it feels like to navigate the friend world as a young girl. At some points, I thought some of the ways the mean girls treated the protagonist were harsh; but then, that is real life. We all work through handling people who are unkind and discovering who our true friends are. You can read this in one sitting if you’d like to read it before your child.


Paleo Indulgences
by Tammy Credicott 
(nonfiction, cookbook) – skip

After Reading Creditcott’s Make Ahead Paleo, and being pleasantly surprised, I almost immediately gave this book a shot. I quickly realized this book is not for me. There were too many ingredients for recipes that are meant to be indulgent. If you are Paleo or gluten-free, however, this book might be for you.


What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky
by Lesley Nneka Arimah (fiction, short stories) – on the fence

This book got such great reviews! I love short stories because they usually make me feel like I’m flying through the book. However, this one took me some time to get into and didn’t really grip me to the point I wanted to continue reading. I did, however trudge along. While there are some really important stories in here; they just weren’t doing it for me at the time.


Lincoln in the Bardo
by George Saunders (historical fiction, audiobook) – skip

I had such high hopes for this book! It had such stellar reviews, especially the audiobook, boasting a cast of 166 narrators! I think that was the record. However, I went in knowing absolutely nothing about it. We started the audiobook on our way to Green Bay for Christmas and were quickly confused after the first chapter. The “cast of characters” were narrators of people’s other books. I had to stop the audio and read the back of the CD case:

Say what? We weren’t getting any of that! All of these narrators were citing one liners from other works and then stating the title and or author followed by “op. cit.” It was highly annoying to listen to that every five seconds. I think if I read the book, I’d be happy that to have that info if I’d want to research or read further; but I wouldn’t read those things aloud or in my mind!

Saunders obviously did his due diligence in collecting the facts on what the loss of his son was like to Lincoln; but then to add in a whole new realm of paranormal was just strange. To be quite honest; I let Rob listen to the rest of the CD since he was driving while I tuned it out and read old magazines instead! He said that after he understood and got used to all of the “op. cit.” nonsense, he rather enjoyed the story. (He does enjoy ghost and horror stories, though.) Still, he did not enjoy it enough to finish when we returned home before the end of the last CD.

Maybe reading the book rather than listening to it would have been a whole different experience for me; but I’m not sure. I’ve read other reviews that it reads kind of wonky and more like a play. But I particularly didn’t like that I was led to believe that the 166 narrators was more of a cast. If audiobooks are going to hire more than one narrator, it should be more of a performance!


It Takes One to Tango:
How I Rescued My Marriage with (Almost) No Help from My Spouse – 

and How You Can, Too
by Winifred M. Reilly (non-fiction) – must read

I wasn’t in search of this; but I found it recommended in an email of top books about marriage that are actually helpful. I looked up those books to see if any were at my library. This one was just published this year; so I put my name on the wait list and forgot about it. When it became available, it wasn’t a book I was actually in the mood to read. But it ended up being one I read very quickly and probably one of the best books I’ve read all year!

Whether you are married (or even cohabiting, I’d say) and are worried your relationship is doomed OR if you are just having the same nitpicky arguments and jabs over and over again with no resolution, this book is for you!

I learned so much about myself and about human nature, in general. This is a book I am going to purchase and one I’ll be gifting.

Are there any books you’ve been surprised you’ve liked or hated recently?


4 for Friday: Books I Read Last Holiday Season


It’s that time of year when some people like to cozy up and watch all of the holiday movies on TV. I’m not really that sort of person. Although, I do catch bits and pieces of holiday movies-past, so I must have been at some point! And I did watch Love Actually for the first time when my husband was out of town a couple of weeks ago.

But last year was the first year that I read books to get help get in the mood for the holidays. Here are the ones I read, followed by the ones I’ve been reading this year and a few lists of holiday books around the web…



Skipping Christmas
by John Grisham 
(fiction) – worth a read


I didn’t think the protagonist’s idea to skip Christmas was so bad – to steal away the holiday on a cruise ship someplace warm… Although, he does take the idea a bit to the extreme. I nice heartfelt ending.


The Dogs of Christmas
by W. Bruce Cameron 
(fiction) – must read


If you’ve read any of my book reviews, you know I’m a fan of Cameron’s books. This story is not written from the point of view of a dog, but of a young man. And it’s worth all the feels of the holiday season.


Light Boxes
by Shane Jones (fiction) – skip

This winter tale is very, very strange. It was on a recommended reading list somewhere; and when I couldn’t find it at my library, I took to ThriftBooks and PaperbackSwap to retrieve a copy. It might have a cult following because when I was through reading it, it was quickly picked up by another PaperbackSwap participant! So, while creative and other-worldly, it just wasn’t my type of book.


Winter Wonderland
by Belinda Jones (fiction) – must read!


Isn’t that cover just lovely?! This is a great book to read after the New Year settles in and you are still stuck in the throes of winter. It takes place in Quebec, where Rob and I had the opportunity to visit the summer previously! I can hardly believe I’m saying this, but this is the first work of fiction that made we want to visit a cold weather destination in winter. I liked reminiscing about some of the places we, too, visited in Quebec City; but also picturing them during all of the winter festivities. It’s got travel and romance and silliness and was a book that made me smile and lift me up when I was experiencing a bit of the winter blues. It is also a book I’ve kept on my bookshelf because it is one I will re-read!


Here’s my line-up of what I’ve been reading this holiday season:

  • The Deal of a Lifetime Fredrik Backman (author of A Man Called Ove) – Must read! It’s a quick one, too.
  • Pride, Prejudice & Mistletoe Melissa de la CruzSkip. You know the story; but if you like a modern re-telling…
  • Christmas in Paris Anita Hughes – Worth a read. A little elitist, but I loved the lead male character and imagining being in Paris this time of year.
  • The Shepherd, the Angel and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog Dave BarryWorth a read. Another quick read that’ll make you smile.

And on deck:

  • A Lowcountry ChristmasMary Alice Monroe – We visited Charleston this year, so maybe I’ll get the same giddy feeling like I did thinking back about Quebec?
  • The Twelve Dogs of Christmas Andy Carpenter – I might only have time for one of these two Christmas books. Which one would you choose?
  • Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk Kathleen Rooney – Not a holiday book, but I read somewhere that it was recommended to read over the New Year.

And here are some holiday book lists I’ve found around the web:

What are your favorite holiday books?
What types of books do you like to read in the dead of winter?

With my sporadic posting as of late, I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and joyous New Year in advance. See you on the other side!


3 Gifts I gave in 2016 (and why regifting might be okay!)


I’ve been pretty overwhelmed with gift lists this year! But as in years past, I wanted to share a few of the gifts I gave last holiday season, in hopes of helping inspire you with your own ideas. Since I found the time for this post a little late, those ideas might be a little last-minute anyway!



If you’ve been following this blog the past year, you’ll know I’ve been obsessed with cookbooks! I like checking them out from the library and then if I read one of real value, I find a used copy at {referral links –>>} paperbackwap or thriftbooks to add to my collection. Here the specific cookbooks I gave at gifts last year:


Charter Fishing Trip

The gift of time is one of my favorite gifts to give. Even though Green Bay is only 4 hours away, it’s really hard to get my parents to come visit us in the Twin Cities. Also, my husband has been wanting to fish with my dad ever since they met and it had not yet happened. I decided to make both things happen!

I created a voucher for a Charter Fishing Trip for the four of us in the Duluth this summer. I let them pick the weekend and gave some options on charter companies and said we’d cover the charter and two-night accommodations. We stayed at The Suites Hotel in a two bedroom suite because the parking lot backs up onto the marina and all we had to do was walk outside to the boat at 5:30am.

My parents – Duluth Lake Superior Lakewalk, June 2017

My dad has been on plenty of fishing trips like these; but I have not. So I don’t think the trip was as special to him as it was to me in a fishing sense; but I think he really loved spending the time with us! Even though it was June, it was COLD out on the water. Locals joke that they only have one month of summer per year – August. Looking back on this photo, I can’t get over how happy I look!

The actual fishing wasn’t exactly what I expected, but we took turns reeling in the fish each time one bit. We made memories!!!

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My dad ended up with the last one and the biggest so far of the season of that charter company. The captain was proud!

Here is the video of him reeling it in. It took a long time. This two-minute video feels long, but it really took about 20 minutes or so to reel that ^ big guy in! If you want to fast forward, it’s about at 1:38 where the good stuff starts happening… you’ll hear from all the swearing at the end! HA!


And this is one of my fave photos of the trip, with my parents looking at each other, laughing:


Regifting: Why I think it’s Okay!

I am not anti-regifting. Truth be told, if an item you are given (or purchased) isn’t quite the right fit for you, someone else may get so much more joy out of it! But I’m not talking about your great aunt’s fruitcake or a sweater you hate…

I have two real big rules about re-gifting.

#1 – It must be something that if you won’t use or enjoy that you know that the recipient will.

EXAMPLE: Rob was obsessed with wanting to kayak one year, but didn’t want to buy all of the equipment. He did oodles of research and purchased a blow up kayak similar to this one. The review that sold him: some guy packed it as luggage for his trip to Europe. However, Rob blew it up all of once when we were up at his parents’ lake place, but never put it in the water. Almost two years went by when he realized who could use it more: my brother’s family! They go up north to our cousin’s cottage on the lake every summer. It was in like new condition since it had never been used. Last summer, Rob received a text with a picture of our nephew in it:

#2  – It must not be the *only* gift they receive. You should also give another gift.

For me, this is sort of like a backup. Before regifting, I like to be sure that it’s something the recipient will love. But in case my intuition is completely off, I won’t feel like I completely bombed.

EXAMPLE: You may want to give someone something that is a family heirloom or tradition or something that you once loved, but no longer use. When I was a kid, my mom found an old lava lamp and set it up in my bedroom. I loved the soothing aqua-colored “lava” pooling around when I’d turn it on at night. In retrospect, it was meditative. When we moved, that lamp somehow got lost. So Santa bought me a new one for Christmas, this time with green “lava” because I liked all things Kermit-the-Frog. When starting it up, I liked to call the first little lava balls Kermy Turds. So clever, I know. Recently, I had rediscovered that lava lamp when my parents delivered all of my stuff that I’d left back at their house since college.

My nephew is a HUGE Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan and his favorite color is green. I decided he’d love to have my lamp! He did seem to love it when he opened it on Christmas last year. But recently when I asked about it, his mom said he hasn’t set it up nor turned it on because he is afraid of breaking it! (I may have to change that the next time I’m in town. 😉 ) But my point is here that this was not his only gift last year. I didn’t want that to be his only gift in case he didn’t like or use it.


If you regift, what are your rules?

What are your tips for last-minute gifts?

Want more unique gift-giving ideas? Here are a few of my posts from past years:

Looking for more ideas? Try these links. Some are older, but I still think they have great ideas:


Happy Holidays!