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5 Recent Instagram Posts, Now With Full Stories.

I really didn’t mean to go so long without posting anything other than the occasional tag. It seems like life is determined to keep me busy – not with anything necessarily bad or strange, just life stuff.

Before I get sucked into the Time Vortex again, here are some thing I forgot to tell you about when I was busy being busy.

What do you do during the day on Thanksgiving? We weren’t hosting this year and ended up with a blissfully open morning. In between finishing up some side dishes we spent the morning watching the parade on tv; the boys played video games; and we even had time to play a game of Stranger Things Monopoly. The last time we played, I won my  first game of Monopoly ever in my whole life which is why I even agreed to playing twice in a six month period. Lightning, sadly, did not strike twice. I went bankrupt relatively early and got to watch my husband and son battle it out to the bitter end. No big surprise that Dan the Man won in the end – he’s The Monopoly King in our house.

One of the dishes we brought to Thanksgiving dinner was my MIL’s famous rum cake recipe. BB was eager to help me make the cake this year and is very into the idea that it’s a family recipe to be passed down to her. The only reason I even have the recipe is because we moved halfway across the country and Grammy didn’t want her poor kid to go without a rum cake indefinitely. Now I get to bring it to parties with me and wow the socks off of everyone. BB was a great help of course.

I spotted this little dog toy at my local pet store the other day and was like “Where have you been all my life?” Or at least all of my dog owning life. The Hear Doggy toys claim that they contain an ultrasonic squeaker that only dogs can hear. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I can tell you that I don’t hear any squeaking and that’s good enough for me. Am I the only one that thinks squeaky toys are a cruel torture for pet parents (or parents of human children)? I’m looking forward to giving this to our four legged buddy on Christmas morning.

I don’t really remember how the conversation started but I suggested that MM try on his dad’s hat the other day at dinner so that we could see what he would look like “as an old man” and then I squealed with delight and insisted on taking a picture because I cannot handle this cuteness. His father looks equally handsome in the hat, but seriously? I cannot even stand it. Both of my kids are looking so grown up these days but in this picture he like transcends time. He’s about to sweep chimneys and sing in a musical and I cannot even.

Ok last thing – I found this and a million other intricately folded post-it notes that opened to reveal a Hogwarts acceptance letter and supply list for Taylor the Unihorn and someone named Dokaro Watachl. I’m incredibly jealous that they have been accepted (or excepted) to Hogwarts and I still haven’t received my letter. Also, I feel like this is proof that I’m doing something right.

I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. Check out her blog for more writing prompts, awesome vlogs, cocktail recipes,  and other awesome things. 

books & reading tag

The Literary Dinner Party Tag

We’re all familiar with the idea of a dream dinner party, yes? This tag takes that idea of coming up with the perfect guest list that isn’t set in reality – i.e. famous people, dead people, etc. are all allowed – but in this tag all of the people are fictional! Who would you invite to your literary dinner party?

I saw this tag at Not So Modern Girl’s blog. I don’t know who originally dreamed up this tag, but I love the idea – so much so that I’m tagging myself in!

Here’s my guest list:

One character who can cook/likes to cook

I immediately thought of Lara Jean from To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. Lara Jean always seems to be cooking or baking something and I think she’d probably bring food even if I didn’t ask her to. I’m pretty sure it would even be themed to the evening in some way.

One character who has money to fund the party

Mr. Bingley from Pride and Prejudice seems to like throwing a good party and definitely has the funds for it. He’s also known for being sweet and charming to everybody which is always a plus.

One character who might cause a scene

Hermione Granger is clever and passionate and might go off on a tangent if anybody mentions Elf rights or mispronounces a charm or something. I’ll take that risk for the thrill of having one of the most brilliant witches from Harry Potter attend my dinner party.

One character who is funny/amusing

For some reason this one took me longer to decide on. I read plenty of books that have funny, amusing moments but most of the heroines are more bad assed than amusing, I guess? I finally decided on Isabel Spellman from The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz who is certainly known for throwing her wit around a situation.

One character who is super social/popular

Oh gosh this is hard. I definitely gravitate towards books with characters I can relate to – and I can’t relate to that person at all. I’m going to go with Winter from The Lunar Chronicles because she’s one of those people that everyone likes, even though she’s not necessarily a Cool Girl Type, she’s definitely popular and friendly. And who wouldn’t want her at their dinner party?

One villain

Catherine from Heartless by Marissa Meyers is one of those characters who is commonly known as a villain but turns out to be severely misunderstood. In this novel she’s fairly bad assed and also a great baker – here’s hoping she brings some dessert to share!

One couple (doesn’t have to be romantic)

Cress and Carswell from the Lunar Chronicles because they are adorable together and should add some fun conversation to the party. Carswell strikes me as someone who would liven up a party – and Cress will keep him in line! Yes, that makes 3 characters from The Lunar Chronicles and three different titles by Marissa Meyers that I’ve referenced. Apparently she owns my soul right now. Or has written some incredible characters.

One hero/heroine

I know Doctor Who is a tv show, but the character is fictional and there have been books. I can’t really throw this party without hoping that my favorite Time Lord will show up. Bonus points for the current incarnation played by Jodie Whittaker.

One under-appreciated character

Ginny Weasley from the Harry Potter universe is fantastic and not really given enough page-time in the books at all. I’d love to get to know her better without being overshadowed by her famous beau.

One character of your choosing

There are seriously too many to choose from, but if we’re going to have Hermione and Ginny, then Luna Lovegood really aught to come along as well.

This party sounds awesome and also like it might possibly go off the rails entirely.

I tag…

Whoever actually read this post!

Happy reading!

books & reading tag

tag: My Life in Books.

Sofii @ A Book. A Thought shared this fun tag recently and I thought it would make for a nice easy blog post for Thanksgiving Eve. I’ve probably done a similar tag in the past, but the questions are a fun way to get to know each other through the books on our bookshelf.

Here are my answers:

🍂||Find a book for each of your initials||🍂 

J Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster | I just started reading this last night – I love Jen Lancaster (a fellow Jen!). This is all about her efforts to finally start acting like a grownup.

M Mirage by Somaiya Daud | I finished this a couple nights ago. It was a recent Owl Crate pick, about a girl forced into living as the body double for the awful Princess whose father invaded her people. Great world building.

E Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery | I still haven’t read this! What is wrong with me?

🍂||Count your age along your bookshelf: What book is it?||🍂 

Robert Frost’s Poems | The 35th book on my bookshelf is an old tattered copy of Robert Frost’s Poems. It’s one of the oldest books on my shelf actually.

🍂||Pick a book set in your city/country||🍂 

Old World Murder by Kathleen Ernst isn’t set in my city, but it’s close enough that I could read the book and think, “I’ve been there!” It’s the first in a series of books and it takes place in Old World Wisconsin, which is a field trip regular around here.

🍂||Pick a book that represents a destination you’d love to travel to||🍂 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling | I’m a pretty big Anglophile so this one was easy for me. I’d need to do a Literary Tour of the UK and visit sites from Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, Doctor Who, etc.

🍂||Pick a book that’s your favorite color||🍂 

Godmother by Carolyn Turgeon | I just started reading this one, too. It’s a doozy of a Cinderella retelling, and it’s all about The Fairy Godmother. Also the word retelling is being used liberally here.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion | I really enjoyed the first book, but I still haven’t actually read the sequel. Love the pretty blue cover though.

Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner | Another beautiful blue book – this one is a writing memoir by Jennifer Weiner that looks really good – you know, like all the other books on my shelf.

🍂||Which book do you have the fondest memories of?||🍂 

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows | This was a hard category to choose just one book. I wanted to mention Book 1 in this series, My Lady Jane and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell also… oh wait, I just did. These are probably the three books that I get the most fervently fangirly over.

🍂||Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?||🍂 

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue | This one isn’t on my actual bookshelf, but it definitely qualifies as the hardest book I read this year and also, frankly the biggest disappointment. To begin with, it simply wasn’t the story I thought I’d be reading. My review from January began with the words “frustrating, emotional, and disturbing” and that pretty much sums it up. Sensitive readers beware of this one. Also I didn’t like it.

🍂||Which book in your TBR pile will give you the biggest accomplishment when you finish it?||🍂 

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens | In addition to being a lengthy classic that I’ve never read, it’s also frankly been on my shelf for awhile. Also I’m an English major so it might be self-shaming to admit I haven’t read this yet.

I’m not going to tag anybody specifically for this post –  but if you are reading this and thinking it sounds like the perfect way to spend Thanksgiving weekend, then I hope you’ll consider yourself tagged and send me a link to your post in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

family fun

Creating a Better Christmas For Our Family

Let me preface this by saying that I love Christmas. I love the cheesy movies, Christmas music, family traditions, decorating the tree, hanging the stockings, opening presents as a family – I’m there for all of it. I really am.

But as I looked ahead to this coming Christmas, I found myself kind of dreading it. Not the moments, but the Stuff. The Stuff that I knew was going to stockpile around our already stuffed house. Our kids are approaching an age where they kind of have it all. They have more dolls, blocks, puzzles, games, dress up clothes, video games and even books than they need. I’ve spent the last few months trying to weed out some of that clutter. We’ve made good progress, but we have more purging to do for sure.

So with Christmas looming,  I found myself seriously concerned that the onslaught of gifts might undo all of the work we’ve done this year of decluttering, setting us even further back. I found myself wondering how I could reinvent this wheel, while still making Christmas meaningful and magical for my children. Specifically – the presents we give each other at Christmas. People always talk about experience presents and I decided that this year I wanted to give the family as a whole one big experience – in the form of a Spring Break trip to one of our favorite local hotel / waterparks, The Great Wolf Lodge.

(As an aside, this is not a Sponsored post – Great Wolf Lodge doesn’t know me – I’m just mentioning them because I felt like it.)

I can hear your doubts – because I had them, too. But hear me out:

How do you give your kids a gift that they can’t actually enjoy until several months later? This would admittedly work better if we were taking the trip during Christmas break. This is not in the cards – but after talking it over with my husband who loved the idea, I decided to give it a shot anyway. I had a puzzle made from a picture of one of our first trips to Great Wolf Lodge that the kids can open and assemble on Christmas morning – so they can have something tangible to open and build hype for the upcoming trip.

Seriously no other presents? Well, let’s be real. They are still going to get presents from their extended family. I also have giant hand knit stockings to fill that I’ll be able to approach with less apprehension since it’s the only thing I’ll be shopping for this year. The key will be not going nuts or I could find myself defeating the purpose. But with some planning ahead and will power, I can totally handle this. I’m actually making a list of stocking stuffer ideas and plan to not purchase most of the things until I know exactly what I’m planning to buy everyone – that way I don’t find myself just one more thing-ing the situation into oblivion. I should have been doing this already probably.. Either way, the kids will definitely have presents to open on Christmas morning. I’m just taking us off the hook for trying to come up with big exciting things to unwrap in addition to stocking stuffers and gifts coming from extended family.

What about the magic of Christmas? There’s still tons of fun things to look forward to. We like to celebrate Saint Lucy Day as a family on December 13. Most years I try to add in other December holidays also. This year I’m not holding back. Advent, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Saint Nicholas Day – even the Icelandic book flood are all on my horizon. The best part is that most of these holidays aren’t going to cost much money at all – the emphasis is really on time together. We’ll also visit a Christmas Tree farm, decorate the tree, watch Christmas movies, listen to Christmas music, bake cookies together – all of the things that I LOVE about Christmas with less of the clutter and commercialism that can make me cranky in one of my favorite seasons.

If this works – it won’t be the last time. I like the idea of small, simple presents that fit in an oversized Christmas stocking – and one bigger, possibly nontangible item that the whole family can enjoy. This could be the beginning of a beautiful new Christmas tradition.

What do you think?

Do you give experience presents to your children?

Has this worked for you?



family fun mama kat's writers workshop motherhood

8 things my kids have asked me for recently.

img_20181026_154715Now that Halloween is behind us, it’s time to obsess over the upcoming Winter holidays. Obviously we’re going to skip right over Thanksgiving because here in America, we’re more concerned with commercialistic holidays like Black Friday, Christmas and Christmas Bonus Time (You know I’m kidding right? Thanksgiving is awesome and there should always be pumpkin pie, extra stuffing and an excuse to eat five different kinds of dessert so nobody’s feelings get hurt).

In the Spirit of Wanting Stuff in the Wintertime, here are 8 things my kids have asked me for recently:

img_20181026_154823My daughter wants a lamp for her nightstand for reading at bedtime.

Like this was the first thing she mentioned when the kids got into a discussion about their Christmas Wishlist the other day. I kind of love that we’re in a stage now where reading lights are more compelling than a new doll or lego set. I’m sure she wouldn’t turn those down either but I’ll take my victories where I can find them, okay?

img_20181026_154759My son wants an mp3 player.

We got one for my daughter last year because her boom box died. Yes we own boom boxes. Anyway, the mp3 player was the cheapest solution. She loves carrying it around with her and living that 1999 life. And, of course, now my son wants one, too, even though his boom box still works. Ah, decisions. Luckily mp3 players are actually an outdated device now so they are surprisingly dirt cheap.

mvimg_20181026_154815My daughter wants macaroni and cheese for dinner every night.

Or grilled cheese. Or a cheese quesadilla. Noticing a trend yet? If the main ingredient of the dish is not cheese, she’ll probably complain about it. We live in Wisconsin though, so maybe this was a foregone conclusion? Hard to say.

img_20181026_154742My son, conversely, wants tacos at any given moment.

Of course, my daughter thinks she hates tacos which kind of takes the fun out of taco night a bit. But we could have tacos tonight and he’d ask for them again tomorrow. No to tacos? How about nachos? Quesadillas? Taco pizza?

img_20181026_154809My daughter wants studded boots like Mal from the Descendants movies (that’s her Halloween costume if you couldn’t tell because you aren’t a 9-12 year old girl).

This isn’t an altogether outrageous ask except that she really doesn’t need anymore shoes right now. But if I spot a good deal on cute boots that have that Mal vibe… who knows.

img_20181026_154722My son wants his own YouTube account so he can make Minecraft tutorial videos.

At 12 years old, we are still toeing the line between what Internet interactions are okay and which ones aren’t. We haven’t let him get involved in social media yet – he has his whole life to have a love / hate relationship with those. We don’t really want him playing games with an online / chat element just yet. But he does watch Minecraft videos on YouTube and he’s pretty sure he’s the next Dan TDM.

img_20181022_090523_706My daughter wants her own umbrella to bring to school.

She honestly doesn’t need one because her rain jacket has a hood and her class doesn’t go outside for recess if it’s raining. But I guess umbrellas are very glamorous and make an excellent prop for moments that need an umbrella kind of vibe? I should probably just give into this and buy the girl an umbrella but I’m pretty sure she’ll break it or lose it within a week so I keep being stubborn Mean Mom about it.

00100lportrait_00100_burst20181019172835209_coverMy son wants a tv for his bedroom so he can play video games in his room.

I think this is hilarious and he can keep on wishing. I’m probably super strict and an awful person but I want him to spend time with me and junk and not hide in his bedroom all day… just yet.

What are some things your kids have asked you for recently? Do you think I should give my daughter an umbrella? Would you let your 12 year old have a YouTube account? Is it time for Pumpkin pie yet?


I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s pretty much world famous Writer’s Workshop today. Let me know if you are participating, too, in the comments section below!

mama kat workshop

books & reading

Audio Books: Do You Like Fiction, Nonfiction or just Jim Dale?


I have had a love / hate relationship with audio books over the years. Every now and then I come across a book with such an excellent narrator that I become enthralled and think, “Audio books are the BEST!” and decide I’m going to listen to them all the time. But it turns out that not all audio book narrators are as awesome as, say, Jim Dale who narrates the Harry Potter audio books or Peter and the Starcatchers.

Apparently I am picky when it comes to my narrators and most of them don’t pass the test. My husband is even pickier – he’ll last about forty seconds with an audiobook that he considers subpar. If the narrator’s voice doesn’t sound quite right – if his voices aren’t stellar or he has an NPR Me To Sleep quality, it’s just not going to work out. Maybe audio books aren’t for me after all?

It turns out that the answer is “Audio books are for me sometimes.” Just as in all other areas of life, the situation simply isn’t black and white. Not all books are for me. Not all podcasts are for me. Not all tv shows are for me. Not all coffee drinks are for me. Not all audio books are for me. But I love all of these things when I find a good one.

51mrYX4OyxL._SY346_The other week I decided on a whim to use a lingering Audible credit on Lauren Graham’s Talking As Fast As I Can. I’m a huge Gilmore Girls fan and love Lauren Graham so it was bumming me out that I was having a hard time getting through her latest book. It wasn’t even for lack of interest, I just didn’t seem to be making good time on the kindle edition or with reading in general.

Five minutes into the Audible copy and I had an ah ha moment. Of course I would rather listen to Lauren read the book to me. The best thing about a celebrity memoir is that feeling that you are now BFFs with your favorite celebs. Getting an intimate peek into their thoughts and lives, a behind the scenes glimpse at your favorite shows – it’s like having a backstage pass for Hollywood.

And unlike fiction, there’s no lingering thoughts of “Does this voice sound like how I picture the character sounding?” or “Can this narrator even pull off the voice for all these characters?” Who else is better suited to tell me Lauren Graham’s story than Lauren herself? I started listening to the audio book during my daily commutes around town and at school pick up and in a matter of days the book was finished. And I enjoyed it!

So here’s my lightbulb idea:

Maybe I prefer listening to nonfiction audio books? With the exception of Jim Dale, I usually find fiction disappointing in audio form. So instead of bailing on the format, I’m going to try listening to more nonfiction and see if I like that better.

Reasons I think I’ll Prefer Nonfiction Audio Books:

  • I’ll get to listen to the actual author of the book.
  • I won’t be distracted by the voices not sounding like the characters in my head.
  • Nonfiction should work perfect for killing thirty minutes here and there and not worrying that I’m going to forget the entire plot if I get busy for a week.
  • And maybe it will result in me “reading” more nonfiction? Bonus Points, really.

Maybe Lauren Graham is my nonfiction Jim Dale and this idea will fizzle out but I think I might be on to something. So I’m going to test this theory out by listening to three nonfiction titles I’ve been wanting to read and see if the results are the same.

Up next is:

Do you listen to audio books?

Any favorite narrators or genres?