Sunday, 8 December 2019

Books of 2019

Hello world.  How is everyone getting along this December?  I am finding slices of time to just slow down and enjoy the little things in life.  I am looking forward to having a break from work, 10 more teaching days.  I love my job but as you have  probably noticed with my inconsistency on here, it's been taking a good chunk of my time and energy.  Anyway, today I am reflecting on my 2019 goal of reading one book a month.  I killed it in the first 8 months of the year and then this last while has been a struggle but I reached my goal.  I love reading.  It calms me.  It grounds me.  It allows my brain to rest and put my life on hold for just a little while.  I feel it's similar to what people describe yoga does for them.  

Here is  my quick review of the books I've read in 2019.  

 BOOK of the YEAR!!!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Educated by Tara Westover  Hands down, without hesitation, my favorite book of 2019.  This book blew my mind.  I can’t believe what Tara went through as a child and my mind was blown to know that this type of lifestyle is still so prevalent in some parts of the country.  Tara is “home schooled” but really not until she is 18 at which point she enters college, having worked her butt off to pass the SAT’s.  She now has a PHD but no high school diploma.  READ this book!  It’ll test your outlook of families, your understanding of love, forgiveness and family bonds that are so strong even if other believe they aren’t what’s best for you.  Incredible and a story that has left a lifelong impact on me.


⭐⭐⭐⭐A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout  WOW!  Just wow!  This is a hard book to critique because it’s someones experience.  I can’t imagine anything like this happening to me and being able to survive it both physically and emotionally is difficult to imagine.  The book is about a young, aspiring journalist, Amanda, that after years of entering war-torn countries, ends up being kidnapped  and kept for over a year.  On the one hand I felt like, “what are you doing!!!!!  Everyone is telling you this is dangerous situtation to be put yourself in, especially not being affiliated with an actual newspaper or station.”  On the other hand she stays very honest and also takes responsibility for her actions throughout the story.  A hard but good read.  I would recommend it but it does move very slow at times.


⭐⭐⭐⭐ I, Witness by Niki Mackay  Mystery.  Suspense.  Murder or not?    This one had it all!  Super good and a quick read.  Also, my husband really liked it and that’s a WIN.


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty  YES!  YES! YES!  Are you looking for an easy, I can’t put this book down, this is it.  I read it over the summer and it was the best.  The characters are all interesting, they are complex and the plot is a page turner.  I liked it so much that I immediately went to Netflix to watch it on their with a star studded cast with Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.

⭐⭐⭐ The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger  Another easy ready.  Follow a young tennis player as she figures out how to balance the love and determination of being the best, while having a real life and relationships that are based on more than the game.  Beach read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery
  Another beach read to add to your list.  A lovely read about two sisters, their relationship with their each other, with their mother and with lovers.  I liked it and it was the perfect read on a beach in Mexico.  


⭐⭐ After You by Jojo Moyes  I wanted to like this book because  I loved Me Before You but it just didn't happen.  I don’t think I’ll end up picking up the last book in the installment to be honest.  Skip.

⭐⭐⭐Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals by Rachel Hollis  I felt it was very similar to Girl Wash Your Face.  Good messages overall but I felt if you read the other one you can skip this one, or vice versa.

⭐⭐⭐ House of Sand and Fog by Andree Dubus III  I half read it, half listened to it.  Hmmmm.  It’s a story in which you don’t know who to root for.  All the characters are tragic, and the story ends in tragedy.  I don’t think I’d read it again, but it was one that I was conflicted during reading and it kept me reflecting. 

 ⭐⭐A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick  A strange novel.  I’ll leave it at that.

⭐⭐Inheritance by Dani Shapiro   I wanted to love it.  In fact I rallied for it with my book club group and then it was not that good.  The writing and the story just didn’t grab or sustain my interest, so I say SKIP it.

I am currently wrapping up 2019 with another easy, beach read, Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrant.  

Tell me, what should I read in 2020!

Friday, 29 November 2019

Falling for Leopard Print

Happy Thanksgiving friends and neighbors.  Here in Canada we celebrate out Thanksgiving in October so it's long gone, but I want to wish all of you that  are celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday the very best.  

It's been a few weeks since I've posted an outfit inspired post but I've been busy being inspired by other prompts and I can't say no to something that inspires me and gets other creative juices flowing.  If you've missed my last few posts and are interested in reading something a little different you can find a delicious Country Stew Crockpot recipe here and some of my families rituals and traditions regarding the holiday season here.  Now, this outfit I've been saving for a while.  The leopard oversize knit I purchased from with a gift card that I won in a giveaway by the lovely Kallie over at the Flexman Flat, make sure you check her blog out.  It's MASSIVE you guys.  I am actually not sure that I love it.  I ordered a small and it could fit two of me.  Untucked it goes to my knees and looks like an over-sized bag.  The issue is that I live in Canada so I can't return it.  I do like it tucked it but it untucks easily.  Sigh.  I am also hoping to try it with a thick belt to see if I like it kind of like a sweater dress, I am still searching for a belt but haven't gone to the mall in ages.    I do love the print and the coziness it provides.  Anyway, what are your thoughts?

On another note, are OTK boots still in?  I am not sure but I know that I am not ready to say goodbye to these ones.  They are so comfy that I can wear them to work all day, chasing kids, and my feet feel perfectly fine at the end of the day.  In my books that's a keeper. And, faux leather leggings/pants.  LOVE!  I've had these now for three winters and scored them for $40. I've linked similar versions of both items below as both of these have been in my closet for a few seasons now.  


My bestie wanted to join me for the photos and he is so sweet that I couldn't say no.  My Tanner boy is 10+ years old and has a heart of gold.  He is an old soul and enjoys cuddling with us, and going for slow walks.  

Enjoy your weekend!  

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Thursday, 21 November 2019

Our Family Holiday Bucket List & Link-Up

Holiday season bucket list.  Once again Leslie from over at Once Upon a Time & Happily Ever After, has me writing and showing up this week.  The topic made me pause to consider what are our families rituals and traditions have become.  Rituals are generally referred to an activity that is done at a specific time, while traditions are beliefs and behaviors mainly passed down, but not necessarily, from a previous generation.  That being said, I find that some rituals might become traditions in time, or traditions within your own family.  I would say that most of the items I've listen here on our holiday bucket list began as rituals, some inspired by our own upbringing and others just created by us along the way, but have helped shape our behaviors and beliefs around the holiday season; our desire to be together, to celebrate people around us, to be thankful for all that we have but mostly for this special time that we spend as a family unit. My girls are getting older, almost 10 and 13, and yet they still want to do these things, and it warms my heart.  This list was collaboratively created with them which was so special because it lets me know what makes this time of year special for them.

1.  The Enchanted Christmas Lights Tour:  We used to drive through the forest, but last year we decided to do the walking version of it and it was FREEZING COLD.  We actually ticked this one off, this past weekend and it was packed with people because the weather was so mild.  Record breaking number of people, with a total of 9, 200!

2.  The Santa Claus Parade:  We ticked this one off our list too this past weekend because it just happen to be on.  I was surprised that my girls still wanted to go and in fact when I asked them, there was not even a beat missed before they both said YES.

3.  Gingerbread houses & Sugar Cookie Decorating

4.  School Christmas Celebrations & Santa Pictures  -  Our years are very numbered.

Anya at her Christmas Concert in 2018.


5.  Holiday live theater show, play or movie -  This is fairly new to our family in the last 2 to 3 years as the girls have gotten older. We watch to see if we can take them to a special live performance, event or a special family Christmas movie.  We've seen Little Women, The Grinch (movie theater) and Scrooge.  This year we  bought tickets for Elf at our local theater.  

A couple of years ago we introduced the girls to Little Women.  It's now adding onto our Christmas movie watching list. 

6.  ELF on the SHELF - Ahhh!  We began this many years ago and he is coming back on Dec. 1st.  See ideas and a free letter printable HERE.  

6.  Watch our favorite movies - Elf, Christmas Vacation, The Grinch & Home Alone.  This also leads me into Christmas Eve = special family movie night.

7.  Calendars and Christmas Cards
- This is a big one for me.  I like to create family calendars for my sister, parents and my two grandmas.  Because it's two different sides of the family, different set of grandchildren, it means I have to create different versions.  It takes work and organization to get all the pictures in order and from all the right people but it's totally worth it.  It's like a year at a glance from each family and we can see how people have grown, changed and highlight the adventures they've had.   I also enjoy sending Christmas cards to families near and far.  I live in Canada so I order from Vista Print, they have great sales.

8.  Decorating the Tree

9.  Christmas Eve - Our preferred way to spend Christmas Eve and morning is at home.  We've done other versions of this over the years, but have come to understand that if possible we just want to be home, sometimes going out to look at the Christmas lights around the city, getting our favorite Christmas treats out for Santa, and snuggling in to watch a movie as a family.  We are generally busy, so this just feels soooooo special and we treasure it very much.

10.  Christmas Morning-  SANTA comes.  Okay so we do things  very differently from others.  Our tree if very bear in terms of gifts.  We have some gifts that we are giving to others, and the kids may have received, but overall, we have always hid ALL of the kids gifts.  WHY?  Because with so many gifts under the tree how is a young child to know Santa came?!?  So since they were little, our tree would go from bare to full of gifts overnight.  :)  It's just what we do.  It's not right, or wrong.  Better, or worse.  Its just the way we do things around here.  

So now it's your turn.  

What are you rituals right now?  

How have they changed? 

 I'd love to hear from you in the comments or link-up your own post below. 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Monday, 11 November 2019

Soup, Chili & Stew Blog Hop

Brrr it's chilly out there these days.  We have transitioned from fall into winter around these parts.  When the days get shorter and colder, we naturally just want to hibernate more and eat comfort food.  In order to avoid bringing on unhealthy comfort food, chips, Nutella and left over Halloween candy, I try to cook heartier options such as chili, stews and a variety of soups.  I don't consider my repertoire of comfort food cooking plentiful so when Leslie from Once Upon a Time & Happily Ever After suggested a stew, soup and chili recipe exchange, I was all over it.  If you are coming from Michelle's at Out and Back, welcome, and be sure to check out Bri from What's Brewing with Bri next, along with all the other ladies linked up below.  

I've been wanting to use my slow cooker more this year to make meal prep more manageable during busy weeks, which is like every week, so I opened up my Company Comings Slow Cooker recipe book and just picked something to try.  I decided to start with this Country Chicken Stew.  It's packed full of veggies including onion, carrots, cabbage, celery and potatoes.  It calls for chicken thighs but all I had was frozen chicken breasts on hand so that's what I threw in.  

This was a HIT with the whole family, every single person loved it and there were no offers of suggestions of how I might make it better.  It's the perfect intersection between a broth and cream soup.  I paired it up with a french bread and it was a full meal, for two night in a row.
This recipe is a keeper for our family and will be going into our regular rotation and probably more frequently through the winter months as it's the perfect soup to send for lunch in a thermos for school.

Recipe from Company's Coming Slow Cooker Dinners 

1 Cup chopped onion
2 Cups chopped potato
2 Cups sliced carrots (I just used baby carrots)
2 Cups shredded cabbage (I used left over coleslaw)
1/2 C celery (I threw in way more)
3 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I did 4 large chicken breasts)
2 Cups chicken broth (I used vegetable broth on hand)
10 oz cream of mushroom soup (I used cream of chicken instead)
1 tsp/ dried thyme
1. 1/2 tsp salt & pepper
2 Bay leaves

1/4 C Chicken broth
1/4 C Cornstarch
1 C    Frozen Peas

  1. Layer the first 6 ingredients into the slow cooker. 
  2. Combine the next 5 ingredients in a separate bowl and pour over chicken (do not mix).  Add your bay leaves and book on low for 9 to 10 hours or on high to 4 1/2 to 5 hours.  After cooking discard bay leaves.
  3. Mix the second amount of corn start into the chicken broth and then pour into the slow cooker.  Add peas.  Stir it all together.  Cook on high for 15 minutes or until peas are heated through and the sauce is thickened.  

Make Ahead Tip: Prepare the vegetables (except potato) and prepare broth mixture.  Chill overnight and assemble and cook the next day.

Enjoy!  And remember to hop on over to What's Brewing with Bri next or visit any of the linked up blogs below.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Reflecting on 2019 Intentions (Part 1)

Now that November is upon us it's  time to  reflect on the intentions we set way back at the beginning of the year.  I had to go back to the original post, here, to see what I truly had intended to accomplish this year.  Most of the items I was pretty conscious of but it's always good to re-read and see how things changed over the course of a year.  Here we go.

Word of the Year:  PAUSE
Well I started off strong.  I really kept it at the forefront until I completely lost it.  When did I lose it?  I would say August and the anxiety of starting a new job started to take it's toll on the ability to just be in the moment, and then the job and school began and it was lost in the depths of darkness.  I'll be honest, just the last couple of weeks am I even being able to remember to think of the concept of PAUSE.  The sad thing is that I needed to remember it more than ever the last two months, when I felt both elated and exhausted by my new position and pace of life.  I feel like I am getting it back.  I am returning to making it a priority most of the days and am feeling hopeful that I can remember not only self-care but gratitude in the little things, like right now I am at a coffee shop, on a Sunday afternoon, by myself, and my heart rate is slow and my breathing is relaxed.

The lake is where I feel the most at peace.  

Family Time
This I feel is actually going relatively well.  The family unit is still doing many of the things we enjoy such as hanging out and watching a movies, eating supper together most evenings, exploring the outdoors with our pups, hosting friends and enjoying seasonal activities.  Mr. and I are also still going strong with our 2-3 nights a week walk with the pups.  

Learn Something New: PhotographyWell like PAUSE I was doing well until it completely went off of my radar in mid-August.  You guys I  haven't even opened up the lessons since school began, but I've kind of made peace with it.  I just can't do it all.  But not all is lost, because A) I have the lessons forever and B) I gained a lot of skills that I didn't have prior to taking this course.  I've used my camera in manual mode for months now and am super happy with the lessons I've learned.  My one regret is that I didn't take advantage of the FB group that can give you advice and inspiration as you go along, and I know I would have both enjoyed it and benefited from it. Here are just a few of the shots that I took but there are SO MANY.

Dance pictures 2019.

Action shot. I've learned that you need to have shutter speed high when shooting action shots, which does lower your light source.  You need to find the sweet spot between ISO not being too high to avoid that grainy look, but also having shutter speed be able to capture the fast pace.

Pure joy.

I took this with the remote in my hand, which you can't see. 

What is better than grandkids and grandparents.
Artistic photography.  

Hosting:  I was hoping to host more often but you know what I discovered is that I already host a ton.  I enjoy having friends and family on a large scale and on a less grandiose way.  This summer along we hosted 11 + types of visitors in a mere 7 week span.  We just hosted a pizza, veggie, trick or treating evening for our kids and their friends.  It wasn't anything fancy but it got everyone together for a good time.  What I really want is more time, which I don't know how to make.  

Reading: Well, I am going to do a part two and update you on what I've been reading.  Stay tuned and I'll update you at the end of this month.  

How are you doing with your intentions for 2019?  

Friday, 25 October 2019

Snakeskin Dress and Why I Am Jumping for Joy!

I don't want to jinx it but I seem to be back to regular programming here with a Friday post.   Why am I jumping for joy these days?  I'll let you in on a little secret, I am actually writing this on Saturday night, like five days before I am going to publish it!   I am ahead of schedule for the first time in weeks!!!!   Another reason, is that my cleaner returned after being away for a couple of months to visit her family and it just happen that those were the first two months of school starting up.  Let's just say I missed her a LOT.  When she cleans my house you guys, I have tears in my eyes.  I've had the hardest time finding a cleaner that does a deep clean.   I know I need the help but I am so OCD about house cleaning, that I would get so annoyed that I was cleaning after the cleaner.  I couldn't justify not only spending out family money, but  also our family time doing it over again.  Anyway, this post just took a random turn into my obsession with house cleaning.  What I wanted to say is that I am HAPPY to have her back in my life.  

I am also happy to share the second piece of clothing that I ordered from RW & Co this fall.  Last week I showed you a professional plaid blouse with the cutest ruffle details and slight balloon sleeves, see here.  In that same order I got this snakeskin dress  that I honestly didn't think I was going to keep but needed to boost my order to get free shipping.  Once I slipped it on  I immediately knew that it was staying put in my closet, even my husband and daughter said I should keep it.  I love the little necktie detail, the loose fit, and the length of this dress.  I added a skinny belt to cinch the waist and add some detail to the outfit.  The dress gathers with a loose elastic int he middle so it really doesn't require the belt, I just prefect the look with it.  This dress is perfect for work, night out with my book club gang, Thanksgiving dinner and into the holiday season. I also think if you have a low key wedding to attend, you could totally pull this dress off.  I purchased the dress off for  under $50 and it often goes on sale, you just might need to be patient.  Their stuff runs true to size for me every time, I am pretty consistently a small in their clothing.  

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Snakeskin DressBelt:  Option 1; Option 2

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Plaid all the Way

I love the spin on traditional plaid the last few years.  Sure, I love my plaid button down shirt, and I don't plan on saying goodbye to it anytime soon, but I am enjoying the more professional styles that plaid is showing up in such as pixie pants, blazers and blouses.  When I saw this plaid patterned blouse, with the cute ruffle details, and the over sized sleeves, I knew I had to order it.  I was hoping not to love everything I ordered from RW & Co but that didn't work out for me.  This is the first item I want to showcase.  

I've already worn the blouse twice and both times I received complements.  Though I am featuring it here as a comfortable and loose fitted top, I did tuck it into my jeans and it looks super cute, sorry I forgot to snap a picture.  I paired it up with my once again favorite ON jeans, and booties because it's finally fall and I love me a good pair of booties.  I have to replace my black ones so if you have a comfortable go-to pair please let me know!  These gray ones are the perfect height for work, are super comfortable to walk around school all day or to run errands on the weekend.  Giving this look the final touch is my trusted H&B statement necklace, an oldie but I linked some similar and cheaper options below.  

I had the best day on Saturday with my family.  We really needed a weekend free of play dates, sleepovers and obligations.  We headed to the mall to buy a birthday present and to just shop around.  We made a rare but delicious pit stop at Wetzel Pretzel and shared some tasty treats.  We ended our day off with a movie night at home, watching a Dog's Journey.  So so so good.  If you are a dog loving family, like we are, it'll get you right in the heart.  

We are heading into Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, so Canadian friends may you have a wonderful weekend with the people you love.  Be thankful and merry.  

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Booties (old): Bandolino (cute heel detail); Expression (affordable choice)  
Statement Necklace (old): Etereo