Friday Favorites

Happy first Friday of 2018! The wind chill here in Western New York has been bitter this year and today’s high is zero with negative thirty wind-chill. They cancelled school today to keep those sweet kids inside and out of the wicked cold. Thus, most of my favorites this week are about cozy comfort.

First, my new Wicked Good slippers from LLBean. LLBean makes the nest and coziest slippers hands down and my new pair have rarely left my feet this week.

I got this new body lotion in my Christmas gift from my Aunt Michelle and I love it! Not only does it smell divine, but it’s so moisturizing and really keeping  my skin protected.

While in Beaver last week, William and I stopped by this local apothecary and I bought this lip scrub. It has been so good at keeping my lips clean and hydrated. I love the moisture left in my lips after scrubbing the dead skin cells away.

While in Pittsburgh’s Strip District last week, I picked up a new tea. It’s a Jasmine Rose blend and it’s delicious. Between this tea and my peppermint tea, I have been hydrating often this week!

My friend Laura sent me the coIest scarf for Christmas that I love! It’s been great at helping to keep me warm in these temperatures.

What have you been loving this week?

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December Reading

Can you believe another month has come to a close? December was so full of life, but I also was able to read quite a bit!

Free of Me: Why Life is Better When It’s NOT ABOUT YOU by Sharon Hodde Miller

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

It is so easy for life to become all about us. To become self-focused in all aspects, instead of realizing that everything is not about you. It’s a phrase my husband tells me often.

This book by Sharon Hodde Miller takes that one step farther and shows how every area of life is better when it’s not about you, but about God and sharing His story. The book was convicting and encouraging, while really making me think. My copy is covered in underlined passages, circled phrases and marked paragraphs. 

I was a member of the launch team for this book, but took a little longer to read it. I look forward to sharing this book with friends and think it would be a great book for a small group to go through together.

Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle

⭐⭐⭐/5

This is the first book by Melanie Shankle I have read, but I have admired her sense of humor and interview style for years.

I enjoyed the variety of short stories throughout this book and laughed out loud a couple times. The style of this book felt like having coffee with a friend whose a couple years ahead of me in life and who acts as an older sister in my life. There are moments of tenderness amidst the humor that give the book some heart and weight. 

This book is perfect for a cold afternoon read!

I received a complimentary ARC of this book through Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my review.

The Jingle Bell Bride by Scarlet Wilson

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

This sweet little book felt like reading a Hallmark Christmas movie in the best way!

It was a sweet, easy romance between a man recovering from a broken heart and a woman who was too busy to even think about dating. The setting in a magical, small Alaska town in the weeks leading to a Christmas was perfect. Add in snowstorms, reindeer, snow angels, Christmas trees and traditions, and you have the setting for a cozy afternoon read beside your Christmas tree.

I would recommend reading this while snow swirls outside, lights twinkle and cocoa steams beside you – they’re the perfect compliment to this fun story!

I received a digital ARC of this book through the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my review.

Christmas at Mistletoe Cove by Holly Martin

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Another perfect Hallmark Christmas movie in a book to accompany the snow-globe im currently living in!

This book was about two life long friends recognizing their love for each other and doing something about it. It was perfectly predictable, but in a cozy, comforting way.

I definitely recommend spending a cold wintery afternoon with this book!

I received a digital ARC of this book through the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my review.

Christmas at the Log Fire Cabin by Catherine Ferguson

⭐⭐⭐/5

What a perfect book to cuddle up with as the snow swirls outside and the twinkle lights decorating the house shine!

I really enjoyed this book about relationships, family, finding your passion and courage, and celebrating the holiday season. The family and friendship relationships all felt real, and though the ending is full of happiness, the book wasn’t overly sweet.

I received a digital ARC of this book through the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my review.

The Christmas by Maxine Morrey

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

I dream of traveling the world and trying to capture it’s magic in the written word, and in this book Mia gets to do just that when her boss sends her to document his daughter’s two month adventure with her fiance leading up to their wedding. This book was captivating, the characters were all lovely, the adventures they had added to my wanderlust, and I was swept into their world!

As with my other reads this month, this would make a precious Hallmark Christmas movie, which is the style of book I’ve been loving lately!

I was given a digital ARC of this book through the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my review.

Christmas at the Second Chance Chocolate Shop by Kellie Hailes

⭐⭐⭐/5

Another Hallmark Christmas read, that delighted me and whisked me away to a community with characters who you want to befriend and cheer for.

While I am genuinely happy the ending turned about the way it did, this story felt cluttered and rushed in places, while also lacking something in others. I’m glad I read it, and enjoyed it, but of my Christmas reads, this was not my favorite.

I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for my review through the publisher and NetGalley.

We’ll Always Have Christmas by Jenny Hale

⭐⭐⭐/5

If you love cozy books about family’s reuniting and solving family secrets, dream of owning a coffee shop, and love stories of people coming together for their family and friends, then this book is for you. While some situations are highly stretched and you will see all the little twists coming from afar, this is a fun world to step into. This book was captivating, the characters were all lovely, and I was swept into their world!

As with my other reads this month, this would make a precious Hallmark Christmas movie, which is the style of book I’ve been loving lately!

I was given a digital ARC of this book through the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my review.

A Very Vintage Christmas by Tilly Tennant

⭐/5

I did not finish this book. I got 30% read and quit. The writing was choppy, I did not feel attached to any of the characters, and the story did not move anywhere. I thought the mystery of the letter would be more appealing, but the interest just wasn’t there.

I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my review.

Searching for Billy Shakespeare by Crista McHugh 

⭐⭐⭐/5

This was a fun, light-hearted read about a student seeking her PhD, finding self-confidence and embracing new opportunities and experiences. It had fun allusions to Shakespeare and loveable characters who had you cheering for them.

I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my review.

Reach for the Stars by Colleen Coleman

⭐⭐⭐/5

I love books about second chances and finding your passion, and this book had both, along with a loveable cast of characters who felt flawed enough to feel real. I was invested in their story and hoping it all worked out for them, and the ending was exactly as I’d hoped it would be!

I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my review.

What did you read in December?

Christmas in Pennsylvania

I hope all of you had a blessed Christmas celebration and time to truly enjoy the spirit of the season!

This Christmas we drove down to the Pittsburgh area to celebrate the holiday with my Grandma and Aunt Michelle and Uncle J.

We drove down on Saturday and hit the front end of a record snow storm in Erie. We had white out conditions from about 10 miles north of Erie down through Meadville, PA and were so thankful to just have rain to contend with on the remainder of the drive. Erie broke the Pennsylvania snow fall record in a 30 hour time frame over Christmas when they received over 53 inches – 37 of which were on Christmas alone!

Saturday we stopped in Pittsburgh to walk through their German Christmas market and we bought a beautiful classic Nutcracker from the Kathe Wohlfahrt stand. This is a company we love and have supported for years from when my dad would first go to Germany for work when I was a kid. We also stopped at one of the Primanti Bros. locations for lunch and enjoyed the people watching and hearty food.  After lunch, since the weather was still so wet and snow was expected, we drove to my Grandma’s house where she had her stuffed shells going for dinner – it’s a family favorite recipe! My Aunt and Uncle came over too and it was just a good night with family.

Sunday we went to church for the fourth Sunday of Advent in the morning and we loved Father Canise and his homily! He focused on how amazing it is that Mary said YES to God and his asking her to be his mother. He also shared the theology of how God revealed his master plan to the angels before the creation of the world and how the split occurred because Lucifer could not worship a humble God that would ask Mary to be born and honor him through serving as his mother. It was such a rich homily! After Mass we went back to Grandma’s for a bit before joining my Aunt and Uncle who were hosting my Uncle’s side of the family for Christmas Eve. I really enjoyed meeting all of them and joining in their Christmas celebration!

Christmas morning we woke up and went to Christmas Mass which Father Canise led again and he offered another amazing homily on how Jesus is fully human and fuy God, and the lineage that lined up to create both. He especially spoke about how family can be messy and hard, but we’re not alone, just look at the family tree of Jesus and the mess and the pain there, and how Jesus chose them anyway to fulfill the prophecy given David about his lineage and legacy. It was such a rich homily and I really appreciate the work that Father Canise put into both of his homilies I was able to hear while he visited my Grandma’s church. After church we openened presents and my aunt came over tafternoon and we all just relaxed and enjoyed time together, and delicious left over stuffed shells for dinner. They’re one of everyone’s favorites!

The day after Christmas we decided to venture into Pittsburgh and hit The Strip district to visit some of the fun shops there. We got specialty meats and cheeses, fun flavored popcorn, spices, teas, and enjoyed people watching and exploring. I’m glad my aunt went with us because she was an amazing guide to show us around! After we finished our shopping, we headed out to visit my PapPap and wish him a Merry Christmas. He’s buried in the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies and I hadn’t been before. It was beautiful, especially with all the wreaths laid at every grave. I miss my PapPap a lot, and it was nice to go see him. We felt his spirit a lot this Christmas which was so comforting!

The following day we went over to my aunt’s house in the morning to see my cousins and their kids. I love that I’ve gotten to see them twice in 2017, after not having seen them in years before. I want to build a stronger relationship with them, since that opportunity wasn’t really available when were younger just due to geography and very limited visits. That afternoon while the kids napped and my aunt got time with her kids, William and I walked around downtown Beaver which was such a fun little downtown with cute specialty shops and fun restaurants. On our way back to my Grandma’s, after stopping in Moon for the best peirogis, we visited the cemetery where my Pappy, Great Aunt Rose, Great Uncle Bert, and a set of my Great-Grandparents are buried. We only visited Pappy, Aunt Rosie and Uncle Bert, because trying to find my Great-Grandparents in that cold did not seem worth it – I’ll make sure to tell them hello this summer! It was nice to be able to wish Pappy a happy Christmas and New Year’s and an early happy birthday. That night we went back to my Aunt’s for dinner and time with my cousins and their kids. I loved being able to love on the babies and be entertained by the toddlers who are best friends. Their love and enthusiasm was precious!

It was a very full Christmas spent with family and I enjoyed the time to really soak in the relationships and love and enjoy being together. Church was also really good over the holiday which was so nice to really center on the best parts of Christmas – family and faith.

How was your Christmas?

2017: A Year in Review

I am still kind of shocked that we have just under two weeks left of 2017; this year has gone by so quickly it seems!

JANUARY

  • We started 2017 with a trip to Yellowstone with my in-laws. It was such a magic time to visit our first national park! I’d previously only been in the summer, and while cool, other national parks impressed me way more. Yellowstone in the winter, however, is pure, delightful, magic!

FEBRUARY

  • Celebrated turning twenty-eight!

MARCH

  • Visited Niagra Falls.

  • Visited Fort Niagra.

  • Spent St Patrick’s Day at a big event in Buffalo.
  • Went house hunting in our new town.
  • Visited my family in Pittsburgh. I only have pictures with my Grammy though.

APRIL

  • Tried to enjoy our last full month in Idaho!

MAY

  • Said goodbye to Idaho and our first home.
  • Spent Mother’s Day in Colorado with my family.

  • Went to a painting class with my sisters-in-law and MIL.

  • Went to a Montgomery Biscuits game. They have my favorite name and logo in baseball period.

  • Visited the beach with my in-laws.

  • Spent 24 hours with my uncle in PCB.

JUNE

  • Spent time with Laura, my best friend, while she was back in Alabama for her high school reunion.

  • Drove to New York.

JULY

  • Watched fireworks in the park in our neighborhood – so fun we can see them so close to home!
  • Spent a lot of time on our beautiful River trail!

  • Went to a drive in double feature.
  • Visited local state parks.

AUGUST

  • Visited Ithaca and fell in love with the community and state parks in the area!

  • Drove to Alabama for Gana’s funeral. It was so sad, but also so peaceful knowing that the pain she felt being so sick is gone. 
  • Met our “nephew” for the first time – he was just days old!
  • Took a pole dancing class for my sister’s bachelorette party.

  • Spent a lot of time on our beautiful River trail.

SEPTEMBER

  • Celebrated my sister’s wedding!

  • Visited Letchworth State Park for the first time. I’m obsessed with how beautiful this park is!

  • Spent a lot of time on our beautiful River trail.

  • Celebrated William’s birthday!
  • Visited my best friend and my cousin in New York City.

OCTOBER

  • My in-laws came to visit during the leak of autumnal beauty.

  • Spent a lot of time on our beautiful River trail.

NOVEMBER

  • Had shutters installed on the house – it makes such a difference!
  • My best friend and her boyfriend came over from New York City.
  • Spent a lot of time on our beautiful River trail.

  • My parents and brother flew in for Thanksgiving.

  • William and I had our marriage convalidated in the church.

  • Basketball season began.

  • Had our carpet ripped up and a new one laid in – what a difference in smell and look!

DECEMBER

  • Lots of basketball games. It’s our favorite date night as season ticket holders.

  • Spent Christmas in Pittsburgh with family.
  • Enjoyed our first real snow falls in this town and the beauty they brought!

What’s Up Wednesday

Happy Wednesday! The end of December and 2017 is just a week away and the sun not rising until psst 7:30 is proof! The temperature has dropped off into true winter cold, and we’ve had several days of snow fall and shoveling under our belts for this season.

What we’re eating this week // Sunday we made a chicken pad Thai and Monday we made a roast in the Crock-Pot. With us heading to Pennsylvania for Christmas, we’ll just be eating leftovers from this two meals through the rest of the week.

What I’m reminiscing about // Three years ago today my now sister-in-law sakd”I do.” I always look back on the year’s adventures this time of year. I also remember Christmases past and the fun events each year held.

What we’ve been up to // December has been busy! William finished out the semester, we’ve watched a lot of basketball, we’ve hung out with friends, shoveled a good amount of snow, and cozied in for some Christmas movie watching!

What I’m watching // Christmas movies! Beloved favorites like The Santa Clause trilogy and Elf, cheesy Hallmark & Netflix stories, comedies like Home Alone and Home Alone 2. I still need to watch Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas and Mrs. Santa Claus this season though!

What I’m reading // This month I’ve been reading a lot of chick-lit Christmas stories. It’s like reading a goofy Hallmark movie and this month, it’s all I’ve wanted to read!

What I’m listening to // I’ve been enjoying Christmas album favorites! For me those include NSYNC, the original 98* Christmas album and their new one, Michael Buble, Trisha Year Wood’s Sweetest Gift album, the two Alabama Christmas albums, particularly Thistlehair the Christmas Bear, and the classic Christmas stations on Google Play.

What I’m doing this weekend // We’re spending Christmas in Pennsylvania this year. I’ll get to spend time with my Grandma and Aunt & Uncle, and her kids and their kids are coming too. It’ll be fun! I also think we’re going to try and go to the Christmas Market is downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday which I’m looking forward to!

What I’m looking forward to next month // January is so unknown at this point! We may try to make a trip to the city before the semester starts, I expect to we’ll shovel some snow, I know we’ll watch some basketball, and I know we’ll have an area young professionals get together. 

The Christmas Tag

Last Friday, I saw that Lyndsay of Fizzy Peaches posted these questions, and I thought it would make a fun blog post!

What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

Oh goodness, I have several favorites! I love White Christmas. I love the 90s version of Miracle on 34th Street. The Santa Clause, and subsequent movies are just classics to me. I love Elf, Rudolph, and Mrs. Santa Claus too!

Have you ever had a white Christmas?

I have! Several times! The best are when it starts to snow while in mass or after you’ve gone to bed. Coming out to see the snow is a special kind of Christmas magic!

Where do you usually spend your holiday?

Growing up, we always spent it at our home. We never travelled for Christmas. Sometimes grandparents would come to us, but most of the time it was just us. Since William and I got married, we followed that and have spent the holiday just us two in our home. This year we’re going to spend Christmas with some of my extended family in Pittsburgh.

What’s your favorite Christmas song?

I love Ave Maria, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Joy to the World, The First Noel and O, Holy Night. I also love White Christmas, Thistlehair the Christmas Bear, Take A Walk Through Bethlehem, and of course, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?

We always had a tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve, and it was always fun pajamas! Some years we picked our own, and other years we had matching family jams!

Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?

Blitzen, Comet, Cupid,  Dasher, Dancer, Donner, Prancer, Vixen. Rudolph. Chet (one of the goofiest characters in The Santa Clause 2!)

What holiday traditions are you looking forward to this year?

We are in a new house, in a new state, celebrating the holiday differently than we’ve done the last two years in Idaho.

I love driving around to look at the Christmas lights with William. I love decorating the house for Christmas. I love trimming the tree. I love enjoying Christmas music while cooking dinner or running errands. I love watching beloved Christmas movies.

Is your Christmas tree real or fake?

We have two fake trees this year. One in our living room that is now on Christmas three and we love, and a new flocked one in our ding room!

What’s your favorite holiday treat?

I love chestnut praline lattes from Starbucks – I look forward to them all year long! Sweets wise, pitzelle cookies have always been a favorite alongside date rolls!

Do you prefer giving or receiving gifts?

Honestly, both! I do really enjoy searching for gifts to share with people I love though and finding something that will speak to their heart or life in a special way! On the receiving side, I think its so special to receive something from someone that made them think specifically of you and share their heart with you.

What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

As a kid, it would definitely be my Samantha American Girl doll in first grade! It was the best and each year for my birthday and Christmas after that, I would get new accessories or clothes to go with her and I just loved the magic she brought to my childhood! My sister was in preschool at the time and she got the Kirsten doll – we received these two because they looked the most like us!

What’s your dream place to visit for the holiday season?

I would love to be in Germany for the holidays! I fell in love with Germany a little over a year ago, and have been dreaming of experiencing the Christmas season there ever since! I also think Paris or London would be fun cities to spend the holiday season!

Are you a pro present wrapper or do you fail miserably?

I’m mediocre? I would love to learn how to make fun bows for gifts, but for now, I do the basic wrap.

What’s your most memorable Christmas memory?

Its not a good memory – hahaha! The year we got our American Girl dolls my sister was miserably sick! She laid on the couch while I opened her gifts for her. We got our Cinderella sheets that year and a fun play tent and power ranger dolls and its just so vivid, but poor Rae was so sick!

The other most memorable Christmas was when I was in third grade in Alabama. Also not a great memory! My mama was curling our hair for children’s mass and my brother, who was two, grabbed the hot curling iron with his hand. We spent Christmas Eve in the ER instead of at mass, and Christmas morning he tore through presents with his little cub wrapped hand!

I feel kind of awful that these are the two most vivid Christmases in my memory, but its probably because they were outside the norm.

What makes the holiday special for you?

I love the emphasis on family, gratefulness and joy. There are movies and songs that recall fun childhood memories. I love the music and liturgy of the Advent season. I love sitting in a room illuminated by just the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree. I love driving around looking at lights and enjoying a hot drink. I love seeing the excitement of kids at the mall seeing Santa – especially when its a GOOD Santa! The whole season is just its own kind of magic in the little moments!

Wish List

I thought it would be fun to share what is on my wishlist these days. Christmas is a couple days away, and my birthday is just a couple months away, coming at the end of February.

I have been looking at this mass journal from Every Sacred Sunday since their kickstarter launched this summer. I waited and missed out on the first printing, but would love to grab one from the reprint. The journal holds the weekly readings from mass on Sundays and common Catholic prayers and parts of mass. I love that there is space to reflect on the readings, the weekly homily, and a place to really dig into our faith in a way I’ve tried, but failed to do adequately in my journaling Bible. I think the Bibles I have will continue to be useful for my daily Bible study and devotionals, but this would be an amazing way to keep the liturgy of the word more focused in my life.

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I’ve been using my husband old Kindle and I love it! But, it’s old and slow and the battery life isn’t what it once was. I would love a new Kindle for all of the digital ARCs I get off books to read!

I would love to get some more sweaters because I know I will be living in them from now through April and I only have a couple right now. LLBean has so many that have caught my eye!

These socks also look so cozy! I’ve noticed that a lot of winter socks I’ve had for years are wearing thin, so new winter socks will definitely be needed by the end of this winter.

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Mittens are also perfect for this cold western New York winter! I like gloves when I’m driving or layered under mittens, but mittens are my prefered way of keeping my hands warm.

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I also love this cape style sweater from Tuckernuck!

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I need a new pair of running shoes, and these ones from Brooks are my favorite. I got this pair in another color way earlier this year and they are the best workout shoes ever!

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Isn’t this Polish Pottery Santa precious? I love Polish Pottery and think he would be adorable with our decor!

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I love larger earrings and dainty necklaces, and these pieces from Kendra Scott have caught my eye.

I love my Toms and I love booties, so these shoes have caught my attention too. The cozy lined classic Toms, and then those star printed traditional trainer style give me serious heart eyes!

I also love beanies, and these from Love Your Melon are my favorite right now. I also like that infinity scarf & ear band!

What’s on your wish list these days?