Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Anniversary Celebration.

Two weekends ago, Donny and I celebrated our second anniversary!  Since our anniversary was on a Monday, we celebrated the Saturday before.  First up, we exchanged gifts.  Year two traditional gifts are cotton, which was kind of difficult.  Not nearly as easy to be creative with cotton than it was with paper.  So, I just made cotton a small piece of my gift to Donny.  I made a box of some of his favorite things!
2 Years of Marriage = 2 CDs
24 Months = The exact amount of 24 of his favorite wings on a gift card
104 Weeks = 104 Skittles (his favorite candy)
730 Days = 730mL (really, 750mL) of Cabernet Sauvignon (his favorite wine)
And a Cleveland Browns t-shirt for the cotton requirement!

Donny was pretty stoked about his gift, and I loved how it turned out!  Pinterest to the rescue again!  :)  He got me a book I've been wanting and a New England Patriots shirt (cotton, duh) and made me this awesome shadowbox!  It's a seat from the old Yankee Stadium, and the picture of Derek Jeter is on a sheet of metal all put together by my husband's loving hands.  I was SO impressed by it!!  It's incredible.
After we exchanged gifts, we headed to Chateau Morrisette in the foothills of Virginia for an afternoon of wine tasting and dinner at their restaurant.  We had a fantastic time (even though this place was out in the middle of nowhere and took forever to get to and get home)!
Cheers to another great year together!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Two Years.

The last two years have absolutely flown by!  I can't believe it's been that long since I put on my pretty white dress and walked down the aisle to marry my best friend.
It's been a wonderful two years full of love and laughter.  We've been through changes and struggles and adventures together.  And there's no one else I'd rather walk through life with than Donny.
I can't wait to see what lies in store for us this year!  Love you, Donny!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Book Club Friday-- October Reads.

October was a fantastic reading month. I read some really great books this month.  Some not so great, but almost all were 4 or 5 stars!

GoodReads Synopsis:  It’s been eight months since Mickey Bolitar witnessed the tragic death of his father. Eight months of lies, dark secrets and unanswered questions. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Mickey’s sophomore year of high school brings on a whole new set of troubles. Spoon is in hospital, Rachel won’t tell him where he stands, his basketball team-mates hate him... and then there’s Ema’s surprise announcement: she has an online boyfriend and he’s vanished. Whilst searching for Ema’s missing boyfriend (who may not even exist!), Mickey gets roped into helping his nemesis, Troy Taylor, with a big problem. All the while, Mickey and his friends are pulled deeper into the mysteries surrounding the Abeona Shelter – until the shocking climax, where Mickey finally comes face-to-face with the truth about his father.

My Thoughts:  This was a great end to the trilogy.  I'm kind of sad it's over because I love reading more about the Bolitars.  The sub-plots were great, and there was a lot of growth in the characters.  And the ending was fantastic. 

GoodReads Synopsis: I love living in Cedar Cove, but things haven't been the same since a man died in our B and B. Turns out his name was Max Russell, and Bob had known him briefly in Vietnam. We still don't have any idea why he came here and-- most important of all-- who killed him. Because it now appears that he was poisoned. I sure hope somebody figures it out soon! Not that we're providing the "only" news in Cedar Cove these days. I heard that Jon Bowman and Maryellen Sherman are getting married. And Maryellen's mom, Grace, has more than her share of interested men! The question is: Which one is she going to choose? Olivia -- I guess it's Olivia Griffin now -- is back from her honeymoon, and "her" mother, Charlotte (who's in her mid-seventies at least), seems to have a man in her life, too. I'm not sure Olivia's too pleased.... There's lots of other gossip I could tell you. Come by for a cup of tea and one of my blueberry muffins and we'll talk.  "Peggy"

My Thoughts: Another solid entry in the Cedar Cove books by Debbie Macomber.  These books are great when you need something light and quick.  My only complaint about them is that even now after reading five of these books, there are SO many characters that I tend to get them mixed up when she jumps from scene to scene.  But despite that, they're sweet stories that always end well.  And I'm a sucker for a happy ending!

GoodReads Synopsis:  The women of the Waverley family -- whether they like it or not -- are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.  For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business -- and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life -- upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways. As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

My Thoughts:  There are not words to describe how much I absolutely loved this book!  It was whimsical and magical and romantic and just lovely.  It made it to my list of all-time favorite books. 

GoodReads Synopsis:  As a college student he spent 16 days in the Pacific Ocean with five guys and a crate of canned meat. As a father he took his kids on a world tour to eat ice cream with heads of state. He made friends in Uganda, and they liked him so much he became the Ugandan consul. He pursued his wife for three years before she agreed to date him. His grades weren't good enough to get into law school, so he sat on a bench outside the Dean's office for seven days until they finally let him enroll. Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world's best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world's most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it's not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob's love takes action. Bob believes "Love Does." When "Love Does," life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don't want to miss. Light and fun, unique and profound, the lessons drawn from Bob's life and attitude just might inspire you to be secretly incredible, too.

My Thoughts:  I read this after both my husband and my mother told me that I should.  And it was full of some wild and crazy stories.  I love one of the things he said in the book about seeing the "whimsy" in life and just doing crazy things sometimes for the fun of it.  There were funny stories, sad stories, sweet stories, and touching stories.  And despite me not 100% agreeing with some of his theology, I was definitely challenged to DO love.  Not just speak love or feel love, but to actually put feet to feeling.  Great book!

GoodReads Synopsis:  Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night… Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey’s narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them—and who has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters.

My Thoughts:  After finishing Garden Spells, I had to read all of Sarah Addison Allen's other books.  This was another fantastic story that I loved so much.

GoodReads Synopsis: Rebecca Musser grew up in fear, concealing her family's polygamous lifestyle from the "dangerous" outside world. Covered head-to-toe in strict, modest clothing, she received a rigorous education at Alta Academy, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' school headed by Warren Jeffs. Always seeking to be an obedient Priesthood girl, in her teens she became the nineteenth wife of her people's prophet: 85-year-old Rulon Jeffs, Warren's father. Finally sickened by the abuse she suffered and saw around her, she pulled off a daring escape and sought to build a new life and family.  The church, however, had a way of pulling her back in-and by 2007, Rebecca had no choice but to take the witness stand against the new prophet of the FLDS in order to protect her little sisters and other young girls from being forced to marry at shockingly young ages. The following year, Rebecca and the rest of the world watched as a team of Texas Rangers raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch, a stronghold of the FLDS. Rebecca's subsequent testimony would reveal the horrific secrets taking place behind closed doors of the temple, sending their leaders to prison for years, and Warren Jeffs for life.

My Thoughts: I saw this walking through the library one day and grabbed it on a whim.  And boy am I glad I did.  It was a fascinating account of life in the polygamous cult of the FLDS.  It was so sad to read that people lived life like this and thought it was normal and acceptable.  It made me slightly depressed, but it was such a good book.  Definitely a story worth being told and one that people should hear.

GoodReads Synopsis: Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall. In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

My Thoughts:  This was probably my least favorite book of the month, although it was a good story.  I just felt like nothing happened for SO long.  If you love a book full of beautiful descriptions and long, wordy prose about nothing, then this is the book for you.  It was not, however, the book for me.

GoodReads Synopsis: It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather and once the finest home in Walls of Water, North Carolina—has stood for years as a monument to misfortune and scandal. Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite Paxton Osgood—has restored the house to its former glory, with plans to turn it into a top-flight inn. But when a skeleton is found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, long-kept secrets come to light, accompanied by a spate of strange occurrences throughout the town. Thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the passions and betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover the truths that have transcended time to touch the hearts of the living.

My Thoughts:  Another fantastic story by one of my now-favorite authors.  I love the magic in these stories so much-- go pick them up!!

GoodReads Synopsis: Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes. Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes—which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar... Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past? Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

My Thoughts:  I feel redundant now, but this book was one of the several great books by Sarah Addison Allen.  Do yourself a favor and give her books a shot.

GoodReads Synopsis:  For Dr. David Beck, the loss was shattering. And every day for the past eight years, he has relived the horror of what happened. The gleaming lake. The pale moonlight. The piercing screams. The night his wife was taken. The last night he saw her alive. Everyone tells him it's time to move on, to forget the past once and for all. But for David Beck, there can be no closure. A message has appeared on his computer, a phrase only he and his dead wife know. Suddenly Beck is taunted with the impossible- that somewhere, somehow, Elizabeth is alive. Beck has been warned to tell no one. And he doesn't. Instead, he runs from the people he trusts the most, plunging headlong into a search for the shadowy figure whose messages hold out a desperate hope. But already Beck is being hunted down. He's headed straight into the heart of a dark and deadly secret- and someone intends to stop him before he gets there.

My Thoughts: I could not put this book down!  I started it one night after dinner and stayed up until 1am to finish it.  It was that good.  Great suspenseful story with twists and turns that you don't see coming.  I highly recommend it! 

GoodReads Synopsis: This is the fifth book in the Cedar Cove series. As this story opens, Corrie and her private eye husband Roy McAfee have been receiving a series of mysterious, unsettling anonymous postcards. Their search for the culprit takes them back to an old family secret that's haunted them for years. Side-line plot developments include a date her mother bid on at a bachelor auction; daughter Linnette has a new job and a crush on a doctor; widow Grace Sherman is hoping to reconcile with a local rancher she once dated; and more.

My Thoughts:  This one was really interesting.  There was some intrigue going on, and maybe I wasn't trying very hard, but I didn't see the end coming.  I'm starting to really enjoy these Cedar Cove books despite some of their cheesiness.

GoodReads Synopsis: Alice Grace Ripley lives in a dream world, her nose stuck in a book. But the happily-ever-after life she's planned on suddenly falls apart when her boyfriend breaks up with her, accusing her of living in a world of fiction instead of the real one. To top it off, Alice loses her beloved library job because of cutbacks due to the Great Depression. Longing to run from small-town gossip, Alice flees to the mountains of eastern Kentucky to deliver five boxes of donated books to the tiny coal-mining town of Acorn, a place with no running water, no electricity, and where the librarians ride ornery horses up steep mountain passes to deliver books. When Alice is forced to stay in Acorn far longer than she planned, she discovers that real-life adventure, mystery--and especially romance--may be far better than her humble dreams could have imagined.

My Thoughts;  I love Lynn Austin's books.  But this one was a little far-fetched for me. It required me to stretch my imagination pretty far to get where the author went with the initial conflict to set up the story.  But once I just accepted it, this was a really touching story.  It was very funny at times, and I loved the way it ended.  

Did you read anything last month that I should add to my to-read list??

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

October 2014 Rewind.

It has seriously been almost a month since I last blogged.  I can't believe it's been that long!  October seriously got away from me.  We had stuff going on constantly, and when I was able to relax, blogging was the furthest thing from my mind.  I have really missed it though, and I've missed reading all of your blogs too!

I love these monthly rewinds, and I thought it was a good way to recap the last month of posts that I missed.  :)

Halloween at my office!


Garden Spells-- one of my all-time favorite books now.  I love this book so much!!
Tell No One-- such a great suspenseful read.  I read it in one night because I couldn't put it down.
The Sugar Queen-- Another fantastic story by SAA. Her stories and characters are amazing.

There wasn't much new music this month (other than T.Swift, but she's not my fave).  So I basically kept the same songs on repeat.  And then I got tired of them.  These were the five (not six) that made it to the end of the month.  Jimmy Fallon's song, Ew, cracks me up!  

1.  Last I left you, I fired my replacement assistant and hired a new one.  Well, she was a disaster.  So, I had to fire her too, and hire ANOTHER new assistant.  Thankfully, she's working out so much better.  She actually cares about doing a good job and doesn't waste her whole day shopping online...

2.  I read a lot in October.  I realized at the end of September that if I read 10 books in October, November, and December, then I could read 100 this year.  There were a few months where I had read 10 books, so I thought it was totally doable.  And I actually read 11 last month!

3.  My new Bible study group got into full swing in Beth Moore's Living Beyond Yourself, and I love it!  I'm getting a kick out of her early 2000's hairdos and outfits, but there's no denying that she speaks from the Holy Spirit.  I'm learning SO much each week and being challenged in all new ways.  It's fantastic.

4.  One of my good friends, April, got engaged this month!  I took her some goodies one night to celebrate:
5.  Some people close to us died this month.  A close friend of our family committed suicide a few weeks ago, and Donny's uncle died suddenly at the end of the month.  Definitely some sad days this month.

6.  Donny and I ordered new iPhones on September 22 since both of ours were starting to get wonky.  Donny's was doing some really crazy stuff, so it was definitely time for a replacement. We were told it would be two weeks before we got them. No problem. Then it was four weeks. Then it got backordered... FINALLY, on October 31, they arrived! It only took six weeks, but whatever. They're finally here! And they're beautiful.  :)

7.  We tried two new restaurants this month.  One of them was nothing special.  But the other was a local Italian restaurant that was AMAZING.  The owner is a little old Italian man, so of course the food is fantastic.  I'm so glad we finally went to this place that we've driven by a million times!

8.  I had the most delicious ice cream of my life last month.  Locally made ice cream AND waffle cones.  Sigh....

1. Sarah Addison Allen -- I fell in love with her books so hard this month.  I can't wait until her new one in January!
2. NYandCo. 7th Avenue Pull-On Pant-- Seriously, where have pull-on dress pants been my entire life??  They're the most comfortable pants ever.  Like yoga pants that look nice enough for court.  Score!
3. Ulta's Sparkling Lemon Hand Soap-- Such a great hand soap scent.  Despite the name, it's not overly lemony.  Just nice and clean smelling.  Love it!

Sadly, I didn't read a single blog post this month. :(  What were some of your favorite or best blog posts of last month??  I'll definitely check them out!

1. Michael Connelly's new book, The Burning Room, released yesterday-- I can't wait to get my hands on it from the library!  Hopefully today...

2. Next Monday is our anniversary but we're celebrating this weekend at a winery in the Virginia mountains.  It's going to be awesome.

3. November means that Christmas is less than two months away, which means that it's perfectly acceptable to listen to Christmas music now!

4. In only a few short weeks, Donny and I will be embarking on a major road trip through the Southeast to get to Texas to be with his family on Thanksgiving!  It's going to be so much fun, and I'm going to see so many new places!