Friday, December 30, 2016

Year in Review: 2016 Reading

Happy Friday!  I'm closing out this week by talking about my favorite topic - READING!!  I've been tracking my reading through Goodreads since 2007 (I was an early Goodreads user as my friend's brother went to grad school with the person that developed Goodreads so we knew about it very early!). The last couple of years, I also kept a spreadsheet of my reading so I would have even more details!  As a math major, I just LOVE stats.  :)  So here is what my 2016 reading looked like!

How many books read? 

How many pages read?

What is the breakdown of the format of the books you read?
E-books = 28%
Hardback = 34%
Paperback = 36%
Audiobooks = 1%

What is the breakdown between male and female authors?
Female = 61%
Male = 40%

How many books did you buy?

How much money did you spend on books?

Detail the genre breakdown by percentage.
Fiction = 59%
Non-Fiction = 32%
Young Adult = 8%

Where did you get your books (library, purchased, borrowed, etc)?
Library = 50%
Postal Book Club = 5%
Owned = 38% (includes books purchased in 2016 + books I've owned for years)
Borrowed from a friend = 5%
Gifted = 1%

What month did you read the most? The least?
I read the most in January (9 books) and the least in December (3 books).

Average rating?
3.3 stars.

Breakdown of ratings:
1 star = 0
2 stars = 14
3 stars = 28
4 stars = 23
5 stars = 9

Additionally, I completed the read harder challenge.  Here are the books I completed for each category!

Read a horror book: The Shining by Stephen King
Read a book out loud to someone else: The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak (read to my friend's sons)
Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel: Blindness by Jose Saramago
Read a book under 100 pages: Gratitude by Oliver Sacks
Read a book that is set in the Middle East: Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years: Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson
Read a book about politics, in your country or another: Without You There is No Us by Suki Kim
Read a food memoir: A Pig in Provence by Georgeanne Brennan
Read a nonfiction book about science: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Listen to an audiobook that has won an audi award: The Age of Miracles
Read a book over 500 pages:  Winter of the World
Read a collection of essays:  Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed
Read a middle grade novel: Wonder
Read a biography: Steve Jobs
Read a book originally published in the decade you were born: Lonesome Dove
Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender: George
Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie: Shutter Island
Read the first book in a series by a person of color: Sorcerer to the Crown
Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia: The Expatriates 
Read a book about religion: 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian
Read a play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes: All the Single Ladies
Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness: Finding Audrey

And that's a wrap for 2017 posts! Do you have any fun new years plans? We are heading to Wisconsin for a good friend's wedding on New Years Eve. Have a safe and happy new year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Year in Review: 2016 Goals

We are on the cusp of a new year and while my mind is totally focused on 2017 and all the exciting things it will hold (like marrying Phil!!), I want to take a little time to assess how I did on my 2016 goals.

1.  Health and Fitness

> PR at the YWCA women's triathlon.  Did not complete.  I'm not counting this against me since I couldn't have done this due to my hip surgery.

> Run a sub-4 hour marathon at Grandma's marathon.  Did not complete.  I'm not counting this against me since I couldn't have done this due to my hip surgery.

2.  Personal growth

> Identify an organization to volunteer with and volunteer on a consistent basis.  Completed! I started to volunteer in an ESL classroom for immigrants through the Minnesota Literacy Council. This has been so rewarding and I feel that I've learned more from my students that they have learned from me. I had to take a break from volunteering starting in November as I got overwhelmed by my schedule but I would like to volunteer on a monthly basis in 2017.

3.  Reading

Finish all of the books on my nook. Sort of complete. I read 3 of 4 books.  I could have read the 4th book but it didn't really interest me and I would have been reading it just for the sake of completing this goal. Life is too short to read books that you aren't really interested in. 

Read 12 physical books that I already own. Completed! 

Complete the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Completed!  This is the last Read Harder Challenge I will do, at least for the foreseeable future. While I loved doing this challenge for the last 2 years, I've recognized that I need to read what I feel like reading instead of what I think I "should" be reading. Lord knows I have enough to-do lists in other areas of my life!

4.  Mental health

> Have one "shouldless" day a month and blog about it. Sort of complete. I managed to have 10 shouldless days this year, which is pretty good.  This is a goal I'll be keeping for 2017 as obligation-free days are so good for my soul.

All in all, not my best year in terms of completing all my goals, but I am not going to beat myself up over it.  I accomplished more than I would have if I hadn't made this list of goals.  

I'm definitely taking a different approach to my goals for 2017, which I'll be sharing next week!

Did you set any goals this year?  Did you achieve them?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Year in Review: Best Books of 2016

It's the last week of the year, so it's time for my annual "best books" post! I have to say that it was a bit more of a struggle to pick my 10 best books for the year. As of today, I've 74 books this years, so I certainly had a lot of books to pick from. But I feel like I gave out a lot of 3 star ratings which is the equivalent of ok or pretty good. Don't get me wrong - I did read some great books this year. It just feels like there weren't as many 5-star reads as years past.

I'll do a recap of my 2016 reading in the new year with average ratings and such next week, but in the meantime, here are the 10 best books I read in 2016!

Best Book of the year = Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Without a doubt, the best book I read this year was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Check out this blog post to see how this book made me think about what I eat and how I source my food. I've heard that the audio book is great as well!

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant - In this graphic memoir, the author tells the story of the decline and eventual passing of her parents. It's a raw and very honest account of what it is like to lose a parent, especially one with which you have a complicated relationship. The use of comics to tell the story is so effective as it really brings the story to life in a way that solely using words wouldn't or couldn't.

Wonder This is such a sweet and heart-warming book. It's written for middle-grade readers but I think adults would enjoy it and get something out of reading it. It's about a little boy with a combination of genetic mutations that causes extreme facial deformations. The boy covers his first year of going to school with other kids. It will definitely tug at your heart strings.

Winter of the World - This is the 2nd book in Follett's Century Trilogy and it covers the WWII era. I recommend reading all 3 books close together as each book covers a different generation of the families we meet in the first book. These books are lengthy - over 800 pages - but worth the time commitment as the author does a great job of weaving historical events with interesting character plotlines.

Steve Jobs - This is another long book (571 pages), but well worth the time commitment. Steve Jobs was a total and complete a-hole, but he was also a genius. I would like to think he could have been as successful while being more kind and less demeaning, though. It was fascinating to read about all the technology he had a hand in creating or inspiring, from helping Pixar become the best creator of animated films to developing the iPod, iPad and iPhone. He'll definitely go down as one of the best innovators.

Come Away with Me - This novel is told from the perspective of a young girl in her 20s whose life changes in the blink of an eye due to a devastating car accident. To deal with her grief, her husband encourages them to take a 6 week vacation and visit 3 places they had put in their 'jar of spontaneity' (i.e. their bucket list). She writes about each destination so vividly and while this is fiction, her contemplations about grief and loss reads like non-fiction.

I Let You Go It's too difficult to provide a synopsis without spoiling any of the twists, so suffice it to say that it's a gripping page turner! I recommend it to anyone who wants to get sucked into a good book.

The Ramblers  - It tells the story of 3 30-somethings that went to college together at Yale. The title comes from an area of Central Park which is called "The Ramble." It's a densely wooded area with winding paths where one can find themselves unsure of where they are, where they are going, and how to get to their intended destination. The Ramble serves as a metaphor for how each of the character is feeling. They are all a little bit heart broken and lost. The novel covers a one week period that includes Thanksgiving, the wedding of one of the characters siblings, and a final visit to a childhood home for another character.

To Kill a Mockingbird - I read this book when I was in the 8th grade, so it was a re-read, but I think I loved it even more as an adult. In fact, I think this should be required reading for all adults as I think there are many lessons to learn and/or be reminded of in this book pertaining to race and equality. Given the state of our nation these days, I think these are lessons that many, if not all, people need to be reminded of. The plot of this novel is excellent, but the character development is even better as the author really makes you fall in love with each character. 

The Edge of Eternity - This is the final book in the Century Trilogy. I didn't love this book as much as the first 2 but it was still an excellent book. It covers the 1950's through 1980's which is era that got little to no attention on the history classes I took in high school, so I learned a lot by reading this book.

What are some of the best books you read in 2016?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Traditions

Happy Christmas Eve Eve!  It boggles my mind that Christmas is this weekend. When I was a kid, it seemed liked it took forever for Christmas Eve to arrive.  These days it seems like Christmas should still be weeks away!  Such is the life of an adult, I guess!

I grew up in a household full of holiday traditions, such as lighting candles of the advent wreath, saying our prayers together as a family, and singing Christmas carols.  Now that I'm an adult, I've established some new traditions.  I'm sure they will grow and change through the years, but here are some of the traditions we honor each year.

First off, we decorate the Christmas tree after Thanksgiving!  We usually decorate it the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but we had to push it back this year since I was in Spain that weekend.  I did try to talk Phil into making an exception and decorating it before Christmas, but he refused! We have a fake tree that is pre-lit. I'd love to have a real tree some day, but from what I've heard, they sound kind of pricey!

I'm team "white lights" when it comes to Christmas trees!  Most of the ornaments were bought during a post-Christmas sale the first year after college, but I add 1-2 ornaments each year.
Phil and I always do our own little Christmas together before celebrating with family. We make a special meal together (this year we made a Mediterranean Shrimp Skillet) and pop open a bottle of wine or prosecco.

After dinner, we bake something together. This year we made sugar cookies from America's Test Kitchen's gluten free cookbook. I don't own this cookbook, but my mom does so she sent me the recipe. They were soooo good!  If you can't have gluten, I highly recommend this cookbook! I need to put it on my birthday wishlist.

We split a cookie that night (... and I had salted caramel gelato for dessert), but the rest were reserved for the cookie decorating party that I host each year for my college friends and their kids.  They all came over on Sunday night and we had such a fun night!  I served tacos for dinner and then we got busy decorating. I've hosted a decorating party each year since 2009, except the year I lived in Charlotte. It's one of my favorite holiday traditions.

I heart these kids so much! 
What are some of your holiday traditions?  Do you get a real tree or a fake tree? 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wedding Wednesday

Whew, what an exciting and whirlwind month this has been! Between travel and holiday celebrations and getting engaged (which was most certainly the high of my year!!), it's been a jam-packed but exciting month.

I don't want to bore you all with wedding planning talk but over the course of the next several months, I thought I'd share some wedding-planning updates. For this first post, I thought I'd share some of the decisions we've made, especially those that sort of 'buck' the trend of what most couples decide to do.  

1. We set the date! Before we got engaged, we had talked about having a short engagement, so I knew we'd have to jump right into wedding planning. Our goal was to get married in May (Phil thought we could get married even sooner but he had no idea how much going into planning a wedding...) and luckily we were able to find a church and venue that are available in May. So our wedding will be on Friday, May 19th!! We either wanted a Friday night or Saturday morning wedding, but with a 5 month engagement, Saturday morning was out as the church we wanted to get married at didn't have any Saturdays open in May.  I know that Friday night weddings are inconvenient, especially for out-of-town guests, but we know that the most important people in our lives will find a way to be there. And I'm mentally preparing myself ahead of time for a lower acceptance rate when the RSVPs start to roll in.

2. Small wedding party. I've been in 10 (!!!) weddings so I knew I'd either have to have 2 bridesmaid or like 8. After talking it over with Phil, we decided to keep our wedding party small. My 2 sisters will be my matrons of honor and Phil will select 2 friends to stand up by him on our special day. There are some benefits to having a small wedding party as we'll have fewer people to corral for photos and it will reduce the cost of flowers since we'll have to make fewer boutonnieres/bouquets. 

3. Apparel decisions. I will wear a traditional white gown, but we are skipping bridesmaid dresses and instead I've asked my sisters to pick out a navy dress to wear, which they are both on board with. I've been in so many weddings and have never re-worn a bridesmaid dress so I'd prefer they spend money on something they will wear again. This is not a knock against others who have selected bridesmaid dresses. I just feel that as I get older, what 'matters most' to me changes, and having my sisters in dresses that are a similar style or made of the same fabric just doesn't matter to me. Additionally, the guys won't be renting tuxes or suits; instead we will ask them to wear a gray suit. The color of their suits will likely vary but, again, it's a detail that just doesn't matter all that much to us. I've seen more weddings these days where the bridesmaids wear different hues of dresses, so I think it will work just fine to have the guys in different hues of gray.

4. No wedding dance. While Phil and I enjoy dancing at others' weddings, we have decided not to have a wedding dance. We are going to have so many out-of-town guests that we don't see very often. I would rather spend our time visiting with them versus feeling like we need to be on the dance floor. So instead of a dance, we'll have more time for socializing after dinner.  

Those are a handful of decisions we've made so far that are a little bit 'different'. But I feel good about the choices we have made. I can already tell that I'm not going to be one of those people that LOVES wedding planning, but in moments of stress, I'm going to try to keep my eye on the prize:  marrying Phil!

Have you planned a wedding?  If so, did you make any/many non-traditional decisions?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Spain Trip: Part 2

Happy Monday!  I'm back with the 2nd part of my Spain recap!

After 3 nights in Seville, we took a bus to our next stop - Ronda! Ronda is a charming, white-walled city that is surrounded by mountains. It's a small city so there is not a lot to do within the city but it would be a great home-base for some hiking. We only had one night there so didn't get a chance to hike, but we still had a great time in Ronda.

The leaves were changing colors in Ronda so we got to experience another round of fall!

The central area of Ronda is located on a plateau that drops off into a valley, which makes it such a picturesque place!

We were able to walk down a path to get a view of the city from the valley. The cream building at the top of the plateau is the hotel we stayed in. This was our only hotel stay during the trip, aside from the airport hotel we stayed in before flying out. Airbnb accommodations in Spain are a bit more basic and, well, very old, so we relished that one night in a hotel with as much hot water as we wanted to use!  (Homes in Spain typically have a hot water tank above the shower which holds an efficient shower's worth of hot water!).

Our next stop after Ronda was Granada. We thought we were taking a train there, but we took a train for half of the way and then they had us get on a bus for the last 45 minutes or so.  Not sure why that was necessary but due to the language barrier, we couldn't really ask questions!

The biggest attraction in Granada was the Alhambra, which is a palace that was constructed by the Moorish people. It's a UNESCO world heritage site and is incredibly beautiful. You have to book your tickets 2-3 months in advance because all 6,000+ tickets sell out every day, even during the off season!

We stayed in the Albaicin are of Granada, which is the Muslim quarter of the city. The location was great as it was very central. We were able to walk to the Alhambra on a gorgeous, tree-lined road.

The architectural details and intricacies of the Alhambra are hard to absorb in one day.  There's just so much beauty.

My favorite part of the Alhambra was the indoor parts.  There was so much detail to the carvings and I loved the use of the bright tile work.

We spent about 2-3 hours touring the Alhambra. In addition to the buildings, there is also a large garden to check out.

We actually had a view of the Alhambra from our airbnb apartment - it's the structure at the top of the tree-covered hill.

Another "must see/do" attraction to take in while in southern Spain is Flamenco. When Phil studied abroad in Seville, he went to countless Flamenco shows as he went anytime he had friends or family visiting. When he would talk about Flamenco, he would say "THE PASSION" in a dramatic/sarcastic voice. Flamenco is such a dramatic art form, I found myself giggling to myself during the show when thinking about Phil watching show after show after show because Phil is so low key and not into big shows of emotion... My friend and I kept whispering "THE PASSION" to each other during the show and that's exactly what I texted Phil after we got out of the show.

On our last day in Granada, we took a walk/hike to a lookout area. The pictures don't do it justice, but it was a gorgeous way to see Granada. Granada is surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountain range which makes the city especially beautiful.

On the way down, we walked by some of the "gypsy caves" that Granada is known for. The homes are sort of carved into the hill.  It's definitely a poorer area of the city but interesting to see how others live.

We then flew back to Madrid, spent the night in an airport hotel, and flew back home.

Final Thoughts

While Amber and I both loved the areas we saw, we both left feeling like we probably didn't need to come back. That's not to say that it's not a beautiful and wonderful area to visit, it just didn't capture my heart the way that Paris has (but could anything compare to Paris???). We had a pretty hectic itinerary since we stayed in 3 different cities, but I don't think I would do it differently if I could plan the trip again as none of the cities really had enough to do to keep us entertained for a full week. Plus it was great to see so much of Southern Spain.

It was an incredibly inexpensive vacation, though, which is a huge plus, especially with the holidays approaching (ahem, and a wedding to pay for in 2017!). I would advise others to consider staying in a hotel versus renting airbnb's, though.  Staying in airbnb's definitely cut down on the price of the trip as we paid around $75/night, I think But the hot water situation was a big con for us. I know that sounds very spoiled and American for me to say that, but I didn't like having to rush through a shower each day and we had to plan our showers about an hour apart so there would be time for the water to warm up again for the 2nd shower.

All in all, though, it was a wonderful trip and I had a great time and am soooo grateful my friend Amber was there to navigate because the winding road systems were so confusing for me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Spain Trip: Part 1

Oh hey, remember how I went to Spain right after Thanksgiving?  It honestly feels like a distant memory as so much has happened since I got back!  And I am leaving again today (le sigh) for a quick work trip. This will be my last trip of 2017, so I am just going to power through it!  And luckily it's a short one!

But before my memory of the trip to Spain become a bit more hazy, I wanted to tell you all about my trip to Spain.  It was a wonderful getaway and oh so inexpensive.  Southern Spain is an economically depressed area so things are pretty cheap there. Despite the fact that it's a poorer area of the country, we felt totally and completely safe.  To give you an idea of how cheap it is, one night we went out for some drink before dinner. In Granada, they serve tapas with each beverage. We each had 2 glasses of wine, and each glass came with a small tapa.  Our bill was 10 euro for 4 glasses of wine and 4 small tapa plates!  And they don't tip there either so that was the total cost.  It's crazy!  I am sure that the quality of wine was lower than what I would have ordered back here since it was so cheap, but it tasted good enough to me - especially given the price!

Anyways, I will let my photos (mostly) do the talking!

All packed up and ready to go! I loved the Osprey travel pack that I bought for this trip. It's carry on size but is quite roomy.  It's the perfect bag for a trip like this where we stayed in multiple places and used planes, trains and buses to get around.

We arrived in Madrid on Saturday morning and were awfully groggy as neither of us slept much on the plane.  We took a mid-day train to Seville so had to keep ourselves alert until we got on the train, which was a challenge.  We both napped on the train ride, which was around 4 hours I believe and felt much better when we arrived in Seville!

Seville was so beautiful and charming.  Phil and several of my friends studied abroad here.  Phil gave us some suggestions of the highlights to see, which was helpful.

View of the Cathedral from our airbnb balcony. This is the largest gothic church in the world!

There were several pretty parks in Seville, including this one which was close to the Real Alcazar, which is a royal palace.

The park had a tribute to Christopher Columbus. He's a big deal as he set off from a port in Seville to "discover the new world"
One of the biggest attractions and our favorite site in Seville was the Real Alcazar. It was built by the Moorish Muslim kings, so it features Arabic architectures. It is beautiful inside as there is so much intricate tile work.

But our favorite part was the gardens!  We lucked out and visited the Real Alcazar on a day when it did not rain. 

It was so stunning and I loved seeing palm trees, which is something I wasn't expecting to encounter in this region of southern Spain.

While tile work featured prominently in the Real Alcazar, we also spotted a lot of tile work throughout the city, such as this tile work. It's hard to tell from this picture, but it's the Virgin Mary.

Another area of Seville that we loved was the Plaza de Espana.  Apparently one of the Star Wars movies was filmed here. I wouldn't know since I've never seen any of the movies!

Proof that Amber and I were actually on this trip.  This is our only photo together as we mostly took photos of the sights!
Remember how I said Christopher Columbus is a big deal in Seville?  Well, allegedly some of his remains are in the city of Seville.  Inside the Cathedral, they had this statue in honor of him.

I've got more to share about the other 2 cities we visited (Ronda and Granada) but that will have to wait until the next post!

Have you been to Spain? 

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Dream Come True

This holiday season is going to be especially festive for us because we have something big to celebrate!!!

We're engaged!!!!

On Friday night, Phil proposed when he got home from work! He had the ring box wrapped in Christmas paper. He had picked up some macarons from my favorite shop in downtown Minneapolis so we had those as a post-engagement treat. He had also made reservations at my favorite restaurant in downtown Minneapolis (112 Eatery - if you visit Minneapolis or live here, go there!!).

Phil asked that we not tell anyone about our engagement on Friday night so we could enjoy the evening and focus on each other.  This was the best idea as it was great to enjoy the evening and revel in the excitement of our engagement versus being on our phones all night!  We did call my parents on the way home from dinner, though, as I just HAD to tell them!  Plus they knew the engagement was coming as Phil had asked for their blessing.  :)

I spent most of Saturday on the phone sharing the news with friends and family. Everyone was so very excited for me Phil and me!  Then on Saturday evening we went to Phil's work holiday party and had fun sharing the news with his coworkers, and on Sunday we shared the news with some of his college friends at a holiday brunch.

I waited a long time for the right guy to come into my life. But my dream has come true and I am so excited to marry this man.  We're hoping to get married in May of 2017.  It's a short engagement but as Harry said in When Harry Met Sally, "when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

Also, the posed smiling photo above is nice, but this photo is more true to who we are as a couple.  Phil's being silly and is making me smile.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Currently: December Edition

Hey there!  I'm back from Spain and trying to get caught up on life. Catching up has been extra challenging as I leave for a work trip to Chicago today and come back Friday, and I had my work holiday party last night. 'Tis the season to feel really thinly spread, I suppose!  I'm hoping to get some Spain recaps up on the blog next week while the trip is still fresh in my memory (spoiler alert:  it was wonderful!) but in the mean time, here's what is currently happening in my world these day!

Reading:  Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett. This is the final book in Follett's Century trilogy. I'm thankful that I'm reading it on my kindle as it's over 1,000 pages long! I love the books in this series as I learn so much about events of the past. The first book covered WWI, the second book covered WWII, and this final book covers the 60s through the 80s (so the civil rights movement, the era of the Berlin wall, Vietman, etc.). This is a period of history that I never learned about in school. It seemed like all of my history classes only make it to WWII, so it's been nice to delve more into an era of history that I know less about that I would like!

Loving: being back home. It's great to travel, but there's nothing like the comforts of home and the company of those you love. I'm honestly not at all excited to get on a plane today and spend 2 days away from Phil and Oscar! Womp, womp.

Frustrated: with my hip surgery recovery. I ran on Monday and felt pretty good during the run and my pace improved, but I had quite a bit of discomfort on Monday night and Tuesday. I have an appointment with my PT next week so we'll see what she says about my recovery. The bright spot is that other activites I do don't bother my hip. But for me, a workout regemine that doesn't include running is depressing for me, so I really want to figure out what I need to do to get back to running pain-free.  Le sigh.

Feeling: overwhelmed, honestly. Between holiday parties, other holiday-related commitments, and 2 work trips to Chicago in December, I'm feeling overwhelmed. I love the holidays and am trying to focus on the fun and excitement of the season, but I look at my calendar and see very few plan free days between now and Christmas!  I'm so thankful I did most of my holiday shopping before I left for Spain. 

Thinking: about how excited I am to get my hair cut next week.  I love my hair stylist and having my hair washed by someone else is sooo relaxing and comforting. Plus my hair looks so 'blah' right now so I could really use a fresher look!

Anticipating: hosting my annual cookie decorating party for my college friends and their kids on the 18th. This is the 7th year of me hosting it and it's such a fun tradition. We usually decorate gingerbread houses but this year we are going back to decorating Christmas cookies as the kids want to eat the houses and the packaged houses we buy taste AWFUL. I'm going to try making GF sugar cookies this year - hopefully they turn out!

Watching: Suits on Amazon Prime. Phil doesn't care for the show (he's not a fan of shows that have fast- or smooth-talking scripts) so I've been watching it on my own when he is out and about. 

Working: on finishing the scarf I'm making for Phil's mom for Christmas. I should finish it this week!

Sad: that the holiday season is so tough for the friends and family that have lost a loved one, especially a parent or sibling. I know their presence is missed 365 days of the years, but I know their presence is especially missed around the holidays. 

Grateful: that we'll get to celebrate Christmas with both sides of our families. We'll arrive at my parents on the 23rd and stay until Christmas Day. Then we'll head to Phil's mom's on Christmas day and stay there until the 26th. I love it when Christmas falls on a weekend as it makes seeing both families possible!

Listening:  to a new podcast called, Terrible, Thanks for Asking. It's hosted by a local woman who went through a string of awful, life-changing events 2 years ago (she miscarried, lost her dad to cancer, and then lost her husband to brain cancer in the span of about 5 weeks in 2014). This podcast is about acknowledging that sometimes when someone asks how you are doing, your response isn't "fine" or "good," it's "terrible, thanks for asking." Each week, she'll talk to a guest who is dealing with something challenging. I know this sounds super depressing but she manages to use humor and there have been nuggets of wisdom in the episodes I've listened to. The most recent episode about a woman dealing with a mistake she made in her career is excellent as it talks about how unwilling we are to forgive ourselves for mistakes we've made. 

Wishing: for snow!  Fellow midwesterners, don't hate me for saying this!  In my opinion, if it's going to be cold, we might as well have some snow on the ground.  I'm itching to get out on my cross country skis so hopefully we'll be blanketed in snow soon!

So I feel like I sound like a bit of a downer Debbie in this update, but I'm all about keeping it real, and right now I just feel a little bit over-tired, overwhelmed, and I'm probably still a bit jet-lagged, too! I think once I get these 2 work trips to Chicago behind me, I'll feel better about things!  I'm just soooo not excited to fly anywhere right now, even when it's just a 90 minute flight!

What are you anticipating, watching, and wishing for these days?