December 31, 2014

top 10 reviews of 2014

Things have been pretty quiet here on the blog lately. They've been quiet on my book review blog, as well. Though I didn't plan to do so, I've basically been taking a blogging break, and it's been really nice. I'll have some new content for this blog soon, but in the meantime, I'd love to have you join me at Christian Chick's Thoughts to check out which of my book reviews were most popular in 2014. The results certainly surprised me! See the post here.

December 19, 2014

five friday favorites #10: weeks of dec. 12 & 19, 2014

Last week was nuts. Nuts, I tell you! So I didn't get a Five Friday Favorites posted. This means you get TEN favorites this week. Aren't you excited?!? I'm linking up at A Little Bit of Everything and Housewife Glamour, as usual.

1. Fire TV Stick
Amazon introduced its Fire TV Stick a few weeks ago at the special price of $19 for Prime members. I couldn't pass it up--and I'm glad I didn't! I've been doing my streaming through my blu-ray player, and, more often than not, it either glitches mid-stream or refuses to connect to the network. But the Fire TV Stick has none of those problems! It works like a charm and easily moves from one TV to another. Plus, I can stream all of my Amazon music through it.
This screen makes me very happy!
It does make a funny buzzing noise every once in a while, but other people have had the same problems and have posted easy work arounds. I think it's $19 well spent!

2. Christmas Choral Concerts
While I think it's okay, I'm normally not a huge fan of choral music. When I have a choice about what music I listen to or concerts I go to, I would never choose to listen to a choir ... except at Christmas! There's just something special about Christmas music performed by a choir.

For the past six years (and one other year before that), my Decembers were so consumed by Singing Christmas Tree performances that I didn't really have time to enjoy other Christmas concerts. But this year, since I'm not in the Tree, I'm taking the time to truly enjoy the season. So far, I ...

Watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas special (with special guest Alfie Boe!). It reminded me of the Christmas specials we used to watch with my grandparents in Kansas when we'd visit for Christmas. Here's one of the songs from the concert--it's not a Christmas song, but it is one of my absolute favorites.

Attended my mom's Lone Tree Singers concert.

Sat in the audience of the Singing Christmas Tree for the first time in eight years.

Sang in the Festival of Lessons & Carols at Nebraska Christian. The video is pretty terrible, but the audio is good. My mom sings a solo at 30:30. (You can't see her, but you can hear her!)

And the fun will continue on Sunday, when we attend the candlelight service at my sister's church in Omaha. 'Tis the season!

3. Camera Lens Coffee Mug
Today was our last day of school this semester. (Hallelujah, Amen!) One of my yearbook students gave me this travel mug. Isn't it fantastic?

4. The Wishing Season
Ever since I read The Convenient Groom six or seven years ago, I've been a fan of Denise Hunter's writing. Though not every one of her books has gone onto my you-absolutely-must-read-this-book list, I've liked all of her books and loved most of them. (If you're looking for a place to jump in with Hunter, I'd recommend The Convenient Groom or Dancing with Fireflies [review], with Seaside Letters and A Cowboy's Touch [review] right behind.)

Now, there's another Hunter book to add to your TBR pile: The Wishing Season. I got this book for review through NetGalley, which isn't my preference for my favorite authors' books, simply because I like to keep some books on my bookshelf! But I wasn't offered a print copy for review, I've blown all my disposable income on Christmas presents, and I didn't want to wait until January to read this book, so I went ahead and requested it. I'm so glad I did!

I started reading The Wishing Season after work one night, and I finished it the next day. It was so, so good! Maybe not quite on the same level as The Convenient Groom and Dancing with Fireflies, but close. Very close. You can easily pick up this book without having read the others in the series, so why not make it a Christmas gift for yourself or for the romance lover in your life?

5. Middle Names
I'm not one of those pet owners who gives their pets their last name. Isis, Hammond, and Skaara Ritta? No thanks. (If you do that, more power to you ... I just think it's a little weird.) My cats are just Isis, Hammond, and Skaara. Period.

Until now.

Isis has been particularly naughty recently. It probably started out innocently enough on her part, but she now knows how to work the system. A couple weeks ago, she was sitting on top of a bookshelf, and she decided to try to pull down the garland (see picture below). In an effort to distract her, I pulled out the laser pointer my aunt gifted the cats with a while back. She went nuts for it. Problem solved, I thought. Nope. You can probably guess where this is going ... Now every time she wants to chase the laser, she hops up on the bookshelf and tries to pull down the garland.
Anyway, sometime between the first time she pulled the garland down and Monday night, I began calling her "Isis Marie" when I was especially frustrated. I have no idea why. But I do like the sound of it, so I decided to give the boys middle names, too. Skaara Samuel and Hammond Alexander. Like "Marie," they have no special meaning; I just like the sound.

Isis Marie. Skaara Samuel. Hammond Alexander.

Just don't throw Ritta onto the end!

6. Gina Rodriguez's Golden Globe Nomination
A few weeks ago, I told you that The Flash was my favorite new show of the season. While I still completely adore the show and Barry Allen, another show has topped The Flash: Jane the Virgin. Now, before you run out and start binge watching, let me warn you that Jane is definitely an adult show. Not adult a la Sons of Anarchy or Game of Thrones with lots of language, violence, sex, and/or nudity, but adult as in please don't watch this show with your kids.

The setup is completely ludicrous: Jane is a 20-something Latina living in Miami with her (rather promiscuous) mom and grandma. As a child, she saw the damage her mother's lifestyle caused--plus she was pressured by her grandmother--and she made a commitment to remain a virgin until marriage. When Jane goes in for her yearly pap, her distraught-because-of-her-partner's-infidelity substitute gynecologist artificially inseminates Jane instead of the woman in the next room, making Jane a pregnant virgin.

Throw in a fantastic narrator, Jane's telenovela star father, the super hot baby daddy, and twists worthy of, well, a telenovela, and you've got such a fun hour of TV. On the CW, of all places. (I now watch four CW shows: Jane, The Flash, Arrow, and Hart of Dixie. That's more shows than I watch on any other network. Crazy, huh?)

Anyway, the Golden Globe nominations were announced last week, and, shock of all shocks, Gina Rodriguez (Jane) was nominated! Shows that I love very rarely get any awards love, so this is great. It's a well deserved nomination, and I hope this will be enough to keep the show on the air for another season!

7. Serial parody from Funny or Die
So you know that I've been a bit obsessed with Serial recently. The first season ended yesterday, and I guess I'm as satisfied as possible, considering we still don't know if Adnan is guilty or innocent. (My theory is that he didn't kill Hae but was at least somewhat involved. Of course, I can't prove anything.) Anyway, Funny or Die released a Serial parody video right before the last episode, and it is spot on. (There is some harsh language.) If you're a Serial fan, you'll get a kick out of it!

8. Lemon Poppyseed Breakfast Cookies
I've recently started a new diet called Trim Healthy Mama. You may have heard of it--it's pretty popular right now. The basic concept is that you shouldn't eat carbs and fats in the same meal, and when you do eat carbs, they should be from low glycemic foods. I've only been doing this since Monday, so I don't really have any results yet--except that after feeling terrible the first three days, I'm not crashing mid-afternoon anymore. I'm sure I'll talk about this more in the future.

All week, I had steel cut oats for breakfast--I make them in the crockpot overnight, and they're good, but by this morning, I was pretty sick of them. So I went in search of another quick on-plan breakfast, and I found these breakfast cookies on All Day I Dream About Food. I did adapt the recipe a bit, using 3 tablespoons Truvia in place of the 1/2 cup of Swerve, leaving out the Stevia because I don't have any, and adding an extra tablespoon of lemon juice, as I like my lemon items to be very lemony. Also, I didn't add the glaze. They aren't incredibly sweet, but they scream LEMON!

They are amazingly delicious! They taste like poppyseed muffins. Yummy! My picture isn't nearly as amazing as the ones on Carolyn's site, but it'll give you an idea:

9. Ulta Gift Bag
Ulta had an amazing sale on Butter London nail polish on Cyber Monday. Since Butter London is my new favorite brand, I couldn't resist indulging. Not only was the nail polish half price, but they were offering a gift bag full of samples for anyone who bought $60 worth of products. But here's the kicker--your items just had to be worth $60--you didn't have to actually pay $60 to get the gift bag. Let me tell you, this gift bag was better than any ipsy bag I ever got, except for maybe the first one. Everything pictured below, except for the nail polish, was free. So far, I've used the Purity face wash (works really well but smells awful) and the Big Sexy Hair blow dry volumizing gel. That, I'm in love with. I'm pretty sure I'll be purchasing it once my sample runs out--it definitely adds body to my thin hair!

10. Nashville
I know that Nashville has been a Friday Favorite before, but it's even more fitting now than it was then--I am completely obsessed. I just started Season 2, and I have to say, if Deacon & Rayna aren't part of the showrunners' end game, I may throw a fit. And don't even get me started on Juliette. I swear, I go from loathing to liking her so often it's making my head spin. Just when I think she's making strides, she goes and does something incredibly stupid ... and to hear my friend Joanna tell it, that's going to go on for quite a while! Nashville is so, so soapy--and I love it! (Also, one of my soap favorites, Jonathan Jackson from General Hospital--I talked about him here--has a major role as aspiring singer Avery. I absolutely hated him at first, and I hated that I hated him, since I loved him on GH. But lately, he's been growing on me, and Joanna assures me that I will eventually love him!)

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

December 5, 2014

five friday favorites #9: week of dec. 5, 2014

"Beware of December 5th!"

If you know what book that quote comes from, I will be forever grateful! Back when I was in junior high or early high school, I spent the night with my cousin, and we read this story that was in an old volume of Reader's Digest Condensed Books. The story had something to do with a woman who escaped from an abusive relationship and met a seemingly wonderful man who turned out to be evil. Or something. I think there was a toy train involved somehow. But I am positive that she received a note that said, "Beware of December 5th." I've been trying to figure out the name of the book for years to no avail.

Anyway, it's December 5th, and this is my 9th Friday Favorites! It's been an interesting week here in Husker Nation ...

1. The Hiring of Mike Riley
On Sunday, Nebraska Football Coach Bo Pelini was fired. I wasn't one of the many Bo haters in the state, and I thought the firing of a coach who won at least nine games in every season as head coach was a bit ludicrous.

Yesterday morning, I was in a meeting when someone got a text. "Nebraska hired Mike Riley," he said. So, we all immediately whipped out our smart phones to find out who on earth Mike Riley is. (In Nebraska, football news is worthy of interrupting a meeting.)

At first, I thought hiring him was crazy. The man has a worse record than Pelini, and Pelini's inability to take the team to the next level was cited as a reason for his firing. Then I started reading articles about Riley. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, he laughs with refs, and he did a decent job at a school that doesn't have nearly the level of football resources that Nebraska does.

I'm feeling optimistic.

2. Nashville
About two years ago, my friend Joanna started talking about this show called Nashville. I didn't know anything about it except that it starred Mrs. Taylor and the cheerleader and it was all about country music--and one of the actors was the goofy Chip from Whose Line Is It Anyway.

I started watching Nashville about a week ago--I'm not even sure why--and I absolutely love it! It's still hard for me to wrap my brain around seeing Chip (who now goes by Charles) in a serious role. I mean, this guy?

And he is absolutely my favorite part of Nashville!

3. Shawn & Cory Reunite
Boy Meets World was one of my favorite shows in high school. When I heard about Girl Meets World, I was giddy. Then I actually watched an episode and realized that it was absolutely, most definitely geared toward pre-teen girls, and I basically lost interest ... until I saw this:

I have no idea if the episode will be great or a train wreck, but you can bet I'll be watching! The episode airs tonight at 7 on the Disney Channel.

4. This Cat
Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to embed it, but trust me, it's worth the click. Go here.

5. A Weekend with No Commitments
This has been an incredibly long week, capped off by an absolutely insane work day today. So my last Friday Favorite for this week is the fact that I'm now home, and I don't have to go anywhere until church on Sunday. I'm going to savor this weekend--speech Saturdays will be here before I know it!

What things are you enjoying this week? Be sure to check out the other favorites in the linkups at A Little Bit of Everything and Housewife Glamour, too!

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