Wednesday, November 30, 2022

the books I read in November

 




Happy Wednesday, friends! I went ahead and decided to continue on in sharing the books I read each month. That will make it a full year that I was consistent in that. Woohoo! I don't always follow through well. And there were the two months that I had to combine, since I forgot about this in September. I digress. I've been reading Christmas books since the first of November, and I am not upset about that at all! Along with the books, I've also been watching all the Hallmark Christmas movies, as you know, which is why I was so ready to decorate for Christmas at the first of November. I'll jump right in to my post for today. Click on each picture to be re-directed to Amazon to read about or purchase the book. The excerpts I share about each book are taken from Amazon's website. 



⭐⭐⭐⭐

Every December, Josie posts a letter from her home in London to the parents she lost on Christmas night many years ago. Each year, she writes the same three words: Missing you, always. But this year, her annual trip to the postbox is knocked off course by a bicycle collision with a handsome stranger--a stranger who will change the course of Josie's life.
 
Josie always thought she was the only one who avoided the Christmas season, but this year, Max has his own reasons for doing the same—and coincidence leads them to spending the holiday together. Aglow with new love, Josie thinks this might be the start of something special. 
 
Only for Max to disappear without saying goodbye. 
 
Over the course of the next year, Max and Josie will find that fate continues to bring them together in places they'd never expect. New York City. Edinburgh. The quiet English countryside. And it turns out, Max had every reason to leave and every reason to stay. But what does fate hold for Josie and Max as Christmas approaches again?
 
A devastating, romantic, life-affirming love story, 
Always, in December will stay with readers long after they've finished the last page


Personal thoughts: While I loved every page of this book, I was not prepared for the way it ended and bawled like a baby. It didn't give it that magical Christmas joy that I was looking for, but I loved this first book by a new (to me) author and will read some more by her. 



⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

It’s Christmas week when 26-year-old Sabrina Post knocks on the door of the Vanderbilt suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, ready to accept the ghostwriting position for the memoir of Grayson Westcott—a famous art dealer.

A struggling journalist, Sabrina can't believe her luck: a paycheck and six nights in her own suite at the Plaza. She feels like Eloise, the heroine from her favorite children’s books. To make the job even more exciting, Grayson recounts how he worked as a butler at the Plaza sixty years ago for none other than the author of the Eloise books, Kay Thompson.

What promises to be a perfect week is complicated when Sabrina meets Ian Wentworth, a handsome British visitor, at the hotel bar. When Ian assumes Sabrina is another wealthy guest at the hotel, she doesn’t correct him —a decision she doesn’t regret after learning that Ian is a member of the British aristocracy. But, things are not what they seem. The truth is: Ian is not a wealthy lord; he’s actually the personal secretary of Lord Spencer Braxton.

As the week unfolds, will Sabrina and Ian learn the truth about one another?

Filled with the magic that can only be found at the Plaza Hotel during the holidays, and revealing facts about the author of the Eloise books, Anita Hughes's 
A Magical New York Christmas is both a holiday treat and a heartwarming story that reminds us that falling in love is the greatest miracle of all.


Personal thoughts: This book had all the Hallmark Christmas movie vibes! I loved it. It was predictable, but interesting and factual about the hotel it took place in and the magical city of NYC at Christmas, which proves even more how much I want to see it in my favorite time of year!



⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Holidays on this Massachusetts island are nothing short of magical, and the season’s wonderful traditions are much loved by Nicole Somerset, new to Nantucket and recently married to a handsome former attorney. Their home is already full of enticing scents of pine, baking spices, and homemade pie.
 
But the warm, festive mood is soon tempered by Nicole’s chilly stepdaughter, Kennedy, who arrives without a hint of holiday spirit. Determined to keep her stepmother at arm’s length—or, better yet, out of the picture altogether—Kennedy schemes to sabotage Nicole’s holiday preparations. Nicole, however, is not about to let anyone or anything tarnish her first Christmas with her new husband.
 
Nancy Thayer’s wonderful tale reminds us that this is the season of miracles. Before the gifts are unwrapped, surprise visitors appear, and holiday joy comes to all, both naughty and nice.


Personal thoughts: Run, do not walk, and buy this book. It's less than $3 right now on Amazon! I borrowed it from the library, but I may purchase it so I can read it again. It is my favorite book of the season to date. 



⭐⭐⭐⭐


As Christmas draws near, Felicia returns to her family’s home on the island to marry her adventurous, rugged boyfriend, Archie. Every detail is picture-perfect for a dream wedding: the snow-dusted streets, twinkling lights in the windows, a gorgeous red and white satin dress. Except a lavish ceremony is not Felicia’s dream at all; it’s what her mother, Jilly, wants. Jilly’s also worried that her daughter’s life with daredevil Archie will be all hiking and skydiving. Wondering if their handsome neighbor Steven Hardy might be a more suitable son-in-law, Jilly embarks on a secret matchmaking campaign for Felicia and the dashing stockbroker.
 
As the big day approaches and Jilly’s older daughter, Lauren, appears with rambunctious kids in tow, tensions in the household are high. With the family careening toward a Yuletide wedding disaster, an unexpected twist in Nancy Thayer’s heartwarming tale reminds everyone about the true meaning of the season.


Personal thoughts: I loved this one too, but not quite as much as A Nantucket Christmas, hence the four stars. I still loved the quirky family and antics and this one had several laugh out loud funny scenes. The first one by her I mentioned was more endearing and sentimental.



⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


An empty nest has Ingrid Christiansen dreading the upcoming holidays, but her husband, John, couldn’t be more excited about this new season of life. He even has a surprise trip abroad planned. He’s sure she’ll love it. What’s more romantic than Christmas in Paris?

Before he can stop her, however, Ingrid agrees to spearhead a major church project. Then their faithful dog, Butterscotch, needs emergency surgery, draining their savings. And then—because disasters strike in threes—an unexpected guest arrives, dredging up old hurts.

As a beautiful blanket of snow transforms the north woods into a winter wonderland, a deep chill settles over John and Ingrid’s marriage. With the holidays fast approaching, their only hope of keeping their love evergreen depends on turning the page on the past and embracing a new chapter of their future.


Personal thoughts: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I cried, I laughed, I immediately began the search for more books by another new-to-me author. 



⭐⭐⭐⭐


Christina Antonioni is preparing for the holidays at her Nantucket toy shop, unpacking last-minute shipments and decorating for her loyal Christmas shoppers. But when her Scrooge of a landlord, Oscar Bittlesman, raises her rent, it seems nearly impossible for Christina to continue business on the wharf.

Even so, Christina hopes there is a warm heart underneath Oscar’s steely exterior. When she bonds with Wink, his sweet, young granddaughter who frequents the shop, it becomes clear that perhaps he isn’t so cold after all. And with the help of Wink’s uncle, who happens to be a charming and very handsome bachelor, this may be the best Christmas any of them could have ever imagined. Nancy Thayer’s enchanting Nantucket setting provides the perfect backdrop for this holiday love story.


Personal thoughts: This one was really good as well, but of the three I read by Nancy Thayer, this was my least favorite. I did realize a little over halfway through that this was made into a Hallmark Christmas movie last year—Nantucket Noel? I saw that movie and didn't really care for it that much and don't remember it being anything like the book. I could be remembering wrong. 


All in all, it was an excellent month of reading! What have you been reading? Anything particularly Christmas-y? I'd love to hear what it is if you have a recommendation! I hesitated to share this post, because I've been sharing my books on other posts I've written here. I try not to be redundant in sharing things, so you'll have to forgive me if this is old information for you. I know some of you are looking for Christmas books, though and shared for you, in case you missed any of my other posts. 


Even though this isn't a traditional "What's Up, Wednesday" post, I'm still linking up with Shay and Sheaffer for this post. All those things I've been doing are things I've already shared here recently...as far as the topics like what we're eating, what I'm wearing (I have an idea for that and will share on Friday), what I'm looking forward to, what I'm listening to and what I'm reading.


Thanks for reading my blog! Love to all. 🎄

P.s. Here are my other months of books from this year. Happy reading!










Monday, November 28, 2022

the cozy season (a bonus post)

I so rarely write a post and then post it on the same day, but here goes! First, if you're here early Tuesday morning, make sure and read my Share 4 Somethings post that I made later in the day yesterday. Just click that link! Is this me making up for taking a blog break last week? These posts will definitely be all I make again until Wednesday of this week.😉  I had to share this one, though, because I was inspired by the festive drink I had after dinner tonight.



Cheers to the cozy season! I love hot chocolate and my semi-homemade version is way better than the overpriced versions found in coffee shops. (This is why it's best I figure out how to make things on my own.) Also, speaking of semi-homemade, does anyone remember that old show on either The Cooking Channel or Food Network called Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee? I always loved the show because it was so practical. That being said, the same could be said of my version of this yummy holiday drink. 


First, this is the mix I buy, because it's so good, why make your own?



The package says to mix it with 8 oz. of hot water, but I prefer to mix it with milk. I add a dash of cinnamon to the milk, give it a good stir and microwave it until it's super hot, usually about 3-4 minutes. I stir it more when it's steaming hot, add in the packet of powder and stir in a tablespoon of this yummy peppermint mocha creamer.



This cools it down a little, so you may need to give it another 30 seconds in the microwave. I top it with whipped cream (a tiny bit) and stir it all together. It's not low in calorie, but it could definitely be considered an indulgent dessert! You could lighten it up by using skim milk and zero sugar creamer, or you could exchange the creamer for peppermint flavored liqueur...but it doesn't take much, so start with a small amount first. 


Do you do things like this? I am the queen of "doctoring things up". I don't like to add pressure to myself by making everything from scratch or with complicated recipes. I do love easy things made better with doing special things to make it extra delicious. I do this with things like using boxed cake mixes but making homemade frosting, or exchanging one ingredient I don't love for another that I do. I love to cook, I love to bake and if you're reading this and want the greatest pieces of advice that everyone ever shared with me regarding cooking, it's that you should taste things as you go and season every layer. I can't tell you how many dishes I've salvaged by tasting them before serving them to someone. 


What's a tip or trick that you can share with me and anyone reading this blog? Do you have a favorite holiday drink or treat? I'd love to hear from you! Thanks for reading my blog, friends. Love to all! 🎄

share 4 somethings- November edition

 


Happy Tuesday, friends! I'm linking up with Heather G over at her blog for this monthly post that I love. A bunch of us are sharing things we've loved, gleaned, braved and achieved. 


Loved

I always struggle with what to tell you that I love, because I love a LOT of things. I'll try to make this quick and give a little synopsis of each picture.



I loved the cold snap we had! It was FREEZING for a few days, literally, and I took full advantage and wore all the sweaters, fuzzy jackets and layers I could manage while it lasted. 



I loved seeing all the Christmas decorations coming to life on our town square as I walked into work on the days that I worked. I REALLY love our little town! 




I loved wearing all the fall colored nail polishes this month. I was squeezing in as many as I could! 





I loved all the Hallmark, Great American Family and Lifetime Christmas movies that I watched while my husband worked. 





I loved seeing so many family members this month. Each picture of me with a younger person is me with a great niece. ❤❤ I love being Auntie Jen. 


Gleaned

I gleaned a lot of information last week as I began studying the book of Judges. That is not an easy to book to read and study, but it's what we're writing on as a writing team for the women in our church for the fall of 2023. It's a hard book, but I love the glimpses of Jesus that is pictured throughout—the judges were the ones who redeemed Israel from the sin cycle that they were trapped in. As I read and studied and began to dig deeper into this dark book, it reminded me so much of the world that we're currently living in, where everyone is doing what seems right in their own eyes. 


The thing I love about the book of Judges is the reminder that the heritage of faith handed down through the generations is of the utmost importance. As Judges begins, Joshua was about to die and he is the one God had told would lead the people of Israel into the promised land. He died and the next generation that was born and lived had forgotten all of the things that God had done for their people. He had led them out of the wilderness of Egypt, He provided food for them when they were hungry and He protected them, guided them and guarded them time and again. The next generation, however, did not know God or all that He had done for them. How heartbreaking is that? I am loving studying this dark book and seeing the bright spots throughout that time in the lives of some of the judges. (There was no king at that time, God was supposed to be their King, but they were so evil that they had to have judges who helped them out. Eventually they would cry out for a king like their surrounding nations and God would give them their first king in the form of wicked Saul.) 


Braved

Well, on a much lighter note, I braved the black Friday crowds with my mom and sister. I met them and my nephew for lunch, then us girls went into a couple of shops. I could only take so much, though and called it a day as the crowds grew. And that, my friends brings me to this.




Achieved

I achieved another month of working part-time, managing time and home, leading a small group at Bible study at church and completing another study that I helped write. Those may sound like small things, but they are each things that I take seriously and that take a big chunk of my time as a commitment that I've promised. If I am one thing, it's diligent and I try to be faithful to what God has called me to do. Life definitely has some beautiful moments. 




These two pictures above were me as I waited on my small group ladies to get there and of me at work. I love getting to our room at church early and spend time praying before they start coming in. This was a rare morning at work when I was the first one there. I was getting my little space all set up for my morning of work. I still love our historical building and office. I am such a sucker for details like brick walls and imperfections. 


Thanks for reading my blog! If you're new here, I blog five days a week unless it's a break that I've scheduled like last week during the Thanksgiving holiday when I took two days off. It's a sweet community here and I try to always be encouraging and uplifting, so I hope you come back and visit often! Love to all. 

weekending/Hello Monday

 


Happy Monday, friends! I'm linking up with Holly and Sarah for today's blog post. 


I have to confess that the blog break and very long weekend last week was so nice, but even though that was the case, I missed you. I purposefully didn't even up my laptop for pleasure for the rest of the week after I read blogs on Wednesday morning. I do love being here, but a break is nice time and again. I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I have to confess something else—it didn't feel very much like Thanksgiving time last week, and I think I had a case of the holiday blues. I know that people have said they struggle with this sometimes, but it's been ages since I've felt like that. I had a little evaluation of my perspective on Wednesday morning and after spending time in prayer and reading the Bible, I did feel marginally better. I say "marginally", because I don't always feel different after I do those things. 


I always like to be real here, you know that, and though I know that my relationship with the Lord does make a huge difference in my life, it's not always an instant fix when I spend time with Him. I think several things played into me feeling like that—one, my personal time with God had been lacking that week. Secondly, when things get busy, prayer is one of the first things I neglect. Now I still pray, but it's not a concentrated time of prayer when I sit and really "dig in deep" with pouring my heart out to God. There's a difference in "popcorn prayers" in which I pray randomly and sporadically and really sitting and spending time with Him as I pray about all of my family, loved ones and friends. Even if I don't always feel an instant difference, this is something I diligently pursue each day, as best I'm able. Things would be so much worse if I didn't spend time praying and reading His word! And I know that the more I do that, the closer I feel to Him. It's like what James wrote about in James 4:8a—Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. The opposite is also true, though—when I don't spend time with Him, I feel far from Him. 


I said all of that to say that sometimes life can be hard and times can feel disappointing. I'll confess a third thing, and then I'll move on to the rest of this post by lightening things up—I'm struggling being a parent to older sons. I miss the days of their childhood so much that I can hardly see straight. I miss them being surprised by Christmas and excited to do all the things. If that's you and you're still in this phase, relish in it, my friend. I know people tell you that all the time, but the years go by with lightning speed. Sometimes social media and blog posts make me feel all the things, so on those days, I have to shut down my laptop and spend time with God. Life is just strange and different with all these boys of mine grown and rarely around. That is why I so enjoyed my great nieces (and niece and nephew) being here last week! I got to enjoy a few days worth of quality time with them. In case you're curious, I did pull out of these feelings, thanks to a day of working at my computer on our next Bible study that we're writing! I'll tell you more in a second...


I'm backing up to Tuesday during the day, since I never shared about that last week. I piddled around home for a while that morning, which was so nice! I did laundry, I dusted and vacuumed and straightened all of the upstairs....



...then after making my bed, I went to run a couple of errands. I had to go to the bank, then I went to get my nails done because they were way too long and driving me bonkers. 



This wasn't at all the color I'd had in mind for them this time, but I really like them now that I'm used to them. I wanted white with sparkles, but my girl gave me clear with sparkles instead. Now I love them! After my errands, I went to Mom's and Bill's to see everyone. My sister Lisa was there, so I had lunch with them, then Erika, her hubby Kyle and their four girls came over to visit and help their Gigi (Lisa) make holiday cookies and treats. 






Look at Mom's beautiful side porch! She is such a talented decorator. It was a magical afternoon! I love these girls SO MUCH, and their mom. I feel like Erika is more like my little sister than my niece, and these girls fighting over who sits with me and holds my hand is the best feeling ever. The younger two aren't as friendly with me yet, just because they don't know me well, but Kinsley and Kylie know me very well and know how much I adore them. 


I didn't stay too long because of my dogs, so I came home to take care of them  and to make dinner for us that night. That night was the town tree lighting, which was the last thing I shared with you last week, so I won't repeat any of that. If you missed that post, you can read about it here


We had Thanksgiving at Mom's and Bill's and I didn't take anything this year. There have been years when I contributed, but this year it just didn't happen. There was PLENTY of food, though, even more than we needed for the crowd of us gathered there this year. (There were twenty of us, give or take a couple.) Since I wasn't cooking that day, I spent the day working on my laptop. We just finished our Bible study the week before Thanksgiving, so now that we're done with that and I have a nice little break from Bible study for about seven weeks, I plan on spending that time studying, reading (over and over again), writing out, listening to sermons and writing on the book of Judges. That's the next book we're writing on, for the fall of 2023 and I got a jump start on Wednesday. It felt so good doing that! I spent the entire day working, from eight o'clock that morning until after two that afternoon. I worked myself into a headache and had to come and lay back and close my eyes for an hour. Along with helping with the writing of our next study, I am also the main editor for it this time, which is something new. I'll be compensated for the time I spend editing and I did that for the last one as well along with the other editor we used, but without the pay. I was elated when my friend asked me if I wanted this seasonal position, so after I spent time praying and thinking about it, I accepted her offer. That will be done mainly at night while I sit by my husband in our living room while he watches something on tv. I can multi-task like that. 😉


That night, Todd and I continued our second annual non-Thanksgiving dinner on the eve of the big turkey day by eating Mexican food. We went to our favorite non-local place and it was DELICIOUS. I don't have pictures, because I was too hungry to think about that. On Thursday morning I woke up early to watch a Christmas movie (can't remember which one if that says anything), then we dressed and went to my mom's at eleven. I only took the following pictures with the girls.



(The picture above is Madison...she loved looking at Nana's decorations!)



Kylie and me hanging on the couch...


Then Kinsley joined us....




And finally me with Macy and Madi. It was so much fun having them there this year! It was great to have such a full house for this holiday. Usually it's just Trish, her son Devin, the six of us in my family and Mom and Bill. (Which really sounds like a lot, but always seems small compared to when it's the rest of us.)


It was a beautiful day and the rain held off until the minute we pulled out to leave. I'm so glad it held off, because the girls ran around outside a lot and we were able to get pictures for Lisa and her family.



After we got home, I took a long hot shower and settled in for the night with my book and the lovely view of the Christmas tree. 



And that is about all I did for the rest of the weekend, which was glorious. I did meet up with my mom, sister and nephew for lunch on Friday, then my sister Trish and I went to Dad's for Friday night dinner. It was just the two of us and the two of them, but it was a lovely and quiet night, which is always kind of nice after a holiday. The rest of my family members were working, except for Jonah, but he was gone with a friend the entire day. I watched some movies over the remainder of the weekend, which I'll include here, because they were that good. I'm really into the Lifetime movies right now.





The Royal Corgi movie was my least favorite, but I still liked it because the dog was adorable. I thoroughly enjoyed being at church on Sunday. We didn't have choir, and I filled in for a friend on the praise team, so I was there ready to sing by 7:45. I love singing on a praise team, when it's just us and a praise band. Our musicians are INCREDIBLY talented and the few guys on instruments sounded amazing. Our music was so good, too...the songs had a mix of a Thanksgiving message with the hope of Christmas as well, since it was the first Sunday of Advent. Our pastor preached one of the best messages once again...he titled it home alone, but he based it on loneliness and how to handle that. It was relevant and practical, which I love. 


So, how was your weekend? I did blog three times last week, in case you missed out. Here are last week's posts, just in case you didn't read them.


Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday


It's almost December, which means our next Currently link party is happening on the first Wednesday of the month—which will be December 7. We'll be talking about what we're currently loving, gifting, wrapping, hoping and attending. I hope you join us! If you want to read last month's, you can read that post here. Thanks for reading my blog, friends! I'll be back to my normal posting schedule this week, so check back everyday! Love to all. 🎄



Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Christmas tree lighting on the square

 


Happy Wednesday, friends and happy Thanksgiving (tomorrow)! I said I wasn't going to post on Thursday and Friday, but I may do a Friday Favorites post anyway. Basically, I'm not sure. I'll see how I feel when I am home after Thanksgiving dinner. 


We went to our town square last night for the annual Christmas tree lighting. It was so much fun! My niece invited us to go with them, so we took her up on her offer and joined in. We walked over to the square from her dad's house and finally found a place to settle in to watch the lights. It was fun seeing it with the girls! I had one of the younger girls in my arms, I honestly couldn't tell you which one it was, because they're identical and Erika had them dressed alike tonight. 



I think this is Madi with Kinsley and Kylie. I could very well be wrong, but I do think I may be right this time. Check out their sweet little ride! This is a wagon with benches for seats that even have seatbelts...this thing makes it so much easier for them to travel and even to go to places where there's a large crowd. They all started off on the walk to the square riding inside, but K and K wanted to get out and hold my hands. (I melted.) 








There was live music there with a couple performing, but when my boys were young, they invited school choirs to entertain. I prefer those days! My Drew sang in choir his third grade year of elementary school, so he was able to perform there one year. Isn't it magical?! 




Look who finally warmed up to Uncle Todd. For a few seconds, anyway! Such a fun hour and a half we got to spend with them. This is my niece Erika. We finally got a picture! 




And this guy, of course! Even if we had a growth opportunity before we rang the doorbell at Erika's dad's house. I'm rolling my eyes, because we argued literally right as we were getting to the door. I was mad because he was walking so fast and he was mad because I accused him of that. We're twelve, apparently. Regardless, we got over it and had a fun night. 


I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, friends! I am so very grateful for all of you who are always so sweet to take the time to comment and to encourage. I appreciate you so much! Thanks for reading my blog, as always. Love to all! 

Friday Favorites, 7.12.2024.

  Hi, friends! As you can tell, I'm forcing myself to be here often, because my life needs to resume some sort of normalcy right now; th...