2018 Reading Wrap Up!

We are nearing the end of the year, which means that its time to go over all the books I read in 2018.  This is such fun for me, getting to reflect of all of the books that entered my life in the last year and I love getting to share them with all of you!  Hopefully you will find some books that you might want to pick up for yourself in the coming year!

Without further ado...

1. Number of books read 


2. Number of rereads 

Just one.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!

3. Most read genre 

Just by a quick overview I would say fantasy but I also read a lot of mysteries this year as well.

4. The best book you read in 2017 

Without a doubt this goes to Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.  My oldest brother had read it and told me it was the best book he ever read.  He gave it to me and I devoured it in two days.  This is a retelling of the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche.  C.S. Lewis rearranges this myth to create an allegorical representation of the relationship between the one true God and man.  I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it again.  This book wrecked me and I think I will spend a lifetime rereading it!

My honorable mention has to be Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend.  This is a middle grade novel that I read back in the fall and I absolutely loved it!  This is such a whimsical and charm filled adventure and it's just so good.  It gave me almost the same feeling as reading Harry Potter, which is a win in my book!  I can't recommend this enough!

5. What's a book you were excited about and thought you were really going to love but didn't 

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson.  This is a mystery novel that I had heard so much about.  I was really intrigued so I picked it up.  I ended up not really liking it.  I thought it was really slow and it didn't hold my interest.  I am really hard on Mysteries though because I want to be gripped.  If a mystery doesn't have me flying though the pages then it doesn't really work for me.

6. Most surprising book that you read

The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi by Kathie Lee Gifford.  I am going to be honest.  I picked this book up because I had traveled to Israel at the end of 2017 and absolutely fell in love.  I wanted to read this book so I could relive my time there and of course this book definitely did that for me.  What really surprised me though was the commentary provided by Rabbi Jason Sobel.  He shared so many eye opening realities within scripture that I have never studied before.  I love the way both He and Kathie Lee really shed light of God's redemptive work in Israel:  Prophecies coming to pass and promises being met.  It makes me so giddy to see what God is going to do further.  I believe we are living in exciting times and Israel plays the most important role in that!

7. Best series you started in 2018  

Hands down Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend.  I keep hearing that this series is going to be a long one and I am hear for it!

8. Best series ender you read in 2018 

This one wins by default because it was the only series ender I read this year.  Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han.  Contemporaries don't tend to be my favorite but I thought I would give this series a try because I had heard so many great things about it.  In the end I really enjoyed it!  I thought it was super cute and by the end of the series I kind of got sad that I wasn't going to be with these characters anymore, which to me is a true hallmark of a good book!

9. Favorite new author you discovered in 2018 

Stuart Turton!  I read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which I actually believe is his debut novel.  Now this was a mystery that kept me interested!  This was such a fun read and I definitely did not guess the outcome!  I really hope that Stuart Turton keeps writing books because I will surely be reading them!

10. The most action packed, thrilling, unputable down book of the year

I will give this to The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.  This book was so intricate and there was always something new to discover.  I loved it's mansion setting and the whole cast of characters.  It was a good time!

11. A book that you read in 2018 that you will most likely reread 

I know I already mentioned this but without a doubt, Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.  But I will also say that I have already thought about rereading Live Fearless by Sadie Robertson.  I read this book in an extreme time of need and her words were so inspirational in lifting me out of a place of anxiety.  I think it will be a reread for me throughout my life.  Especially as my family and I enter into different seasons of calling.  I always want to say "Yes" to whatever God has called us to no matter how scary or difficult it may seem.  Like I said, Sadie's words really inspire boldness!

12. Favorite book cover of a book you read in 2018 

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin.  The author of this book also did the cover art and illustrations throughout and these illustrations are seriously stunning!  They are so whimsical and dreamy.  It's without a doubt one of the most beautiful books I own!

13. Most memorable character of 2018 

Morrigan Crow from Nevermoor.  I loved reading about this character!  She is strong, smart, loyal, unique, and adventurous.  I cannot wait to continue following her journey!

14. Most beautifully written book of 2018

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

15. Most thought provoking book

Till We Have Faces.  Sorry guys....just read it!

16. A book that you can't believe you waited until 2018 to read 

I would have to go with the Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer.  This was another book that I read when I was going through a bout anxiety.  I wish I would have read it sooner.  It's definitely one of those books that hits you right in the face with conviction.  Joyce Meyer really knows how to shed light on truth in a no nonsense way.  It's definitely what I needed in that season of my life but I honestly wish I would have read it sooner!

17. Favorite quote from a book you read in 2018

"I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.  You are yourself the answer.  Before your face questions die away.  What other answer would suffice?  Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words." 

-C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

18. Favorite non-romantic relationship in a book you read in 2018 

Most definitely the relationship between Morrigan Crow and Jupiter North in Nevermoor.  I don't know how to explain this without giving too much away but at the beginning of the book you see that Morrigan has a rather strained relationship with her biological father.  Jupiter North ends up taking Morrigan to a magical city called Nevermoor because he has chosen her to compete in a prestigious competition in which the winners earn the right to enter into an organization called the Wondrous Society.  Throughout the story you really see Jupiter North become like a father figure to Morrigan and his mentorship towards her is so pure and authentic.  He truly believed in her when no one else would.

I also have to go with Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, and Helen Burns from My Plain Jane.  They are a hilarious dynamic trio.  I was laughing constantly during this read!

19.  A book that made you cry in 2018

This is strange for me because it does NOT take much to make me cry, like ever!  That includes books but this year I can really only remember crying during two different books.  Till We Have Faces, obvi!  and also, Live Fearless by Sadie Robertson.  I was going through a lot while reading this and her words were just so encouraging.  I knew that God was using her to call me towards a place of peace and for that....tears were shed.

20.  What are your reading goals for 2019? 

I love setting reading goals.  It's fun for me, especially when I pile up new books on my shelf but I also know that I will just end up reading what I am interested in at the time so I usually don't put too much pressure on myself!

1.  My first reading goal is always to read 20 books.  For the past several years I have always exceeded this goal but I keep it lower so that I don't feel any pressure.

2.  First and foremost the book I am determined to finish is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  This was a goal I had for this year and sadly I didn't start it until a couple of days ago.  This book is a monster so I know I won't finish it by the end of this month but most likely in January.  I LOVE this story so much.  I have seen the absolutely stunning film (with Keira Knightley) several times and I just can't get enough of it.  So I am excited to finish the book!


4.  Another big priority is of course Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend, the sequel to Nevermoor!

5. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien (I say this year after year...will this be the year?)

6.  I would love to read more mystery.  Like good classic mysteries that have a lot of support already behind them.  I haven't read a lot of Agatha Christie or any of Arthur Conan Doyle.  I think those would be good places to start!

So there is my 2018 reading year in a nutshell.  It's so fun to look back and see what I have been reading all at once.  I am so looking forward to yet another year ahead filled with lots of books!  What are you currently reading?  What are some of your all time favorite books and authors?  I would love to hear your suggestions! 

Hadessah Turns Two!

Wow guys!  Our baby bear, Hadessah is two!  It gets overused, I know but as a mother, how do you come up with anything different:  WHERE IS THE TIME GOING?!  I just want to be able to kiss these squishy two year old cheeks forever but I know that won't be the case.  So I think I am just going to just have to be super mindful during year two (and all the years) I want to soak it all in!

What to say about Hadessah?  What not to say about Hadessah?  She is our passionate girl.  She knows what she wants and when she wants it, which results in a lot of screaming.  There are some hard days I won't lie but I love her passion.  It will take stewarding as she grows but I know without a doubt that Hadessah will be able to do hard things.  I know that she will be persistent in her mission and always, always stand firm in what she believes.  I can sense it now and I pray that God would bring that to fruition in her life.  He is SO good, I know He will!

Over the last several weeks she has been a talking machine.  Like more than ever!  Just this morning we were reading a book together and she was looking at a picture of a dog wearing a hat.  I said to her, "Hadessah do you like that doggy's hat?"  She said, "It's so beautiful!"  I was amazed.  It put the biggest smile on my face!

We keep our Birthdays pretty simple in our household.  If we can, we will get together with close family but nothing ever too fancy.  That may change in the future but this year we had cake with just the four of us.  My mom used to always make our birthday cakes growing up and I always so appreciated that.  She knew how to make our birthdays special so I knew that when I had kids I wanted to do the same.

This year, since Hadessah is our December baby I wanted to do a Nutcracker themed cake.  I don't have a lot of piping skills so I opted for the sweetest cupcake toppers.  I ordered them from Paper Source and I think they were perfect!

I started this tradition where I would write out things that I want to remember about my kids as they are now.  It's going to be so fun to look back on as the years go by.  

The things I want to remember most about Hadessah right now are... 

1.  Her insatiable appetite for trying new things.  She especially looks up to her big sister and two of her new favorite phrases have become "I ty, I ty!"  and "watch, watch!" 
She loves to get our attention so she can show us how she can jump off the first step of the stairs or do a somersault off the couch.  It's so darn cute!  And I love getting to see her grow into this new confidence.  I am always so torn as a mother because on one hand it's so heartbreaking as they get older but on the other hand it's my biggest joy to watch them grow! 

2.  How funny she thinks she is.  I know it's still early on but I think Hadessah is destined for a quick wit.  She is always laughing at herself and trying to make everyone else around her laugh too.  It's the sweetest thing to watch! 

Uggggghhhhh I just love her SO MUCH!  What a blessing she is to our family! 

I am so looking forward to the years to come with our Hadessah girl!  

My Favorite Christmas Recipes!

I love making up sweet treats all year round but there is something about the Christmas season that makes it all extra special!  There's nothing like creating festive desserts for everyone you love.

So in the spirit of Christmas and full bellies I decided to round up some of my favorite recipes!

1. White Peppermint Oreo Bark 

My absolute favorite treat around this time of year is PEPPERMINT.  Give me all of it!  Peppermint mochas, peppermint ice cream, peppermint cookies, peppermint cake, and best of all peppermint bark.  It's literally the best ever!  I recently found a recipe here that I love.  It was super easy and it made plenty so there will be lots left over for friends and family.

2.  Nutella Hot Chocolate

Last year I came up with my own version of Nutella hot chocolate.  You can find that blog post here.  This hot chocolate is so rich and creamy and the perfect way to indulge while watching a Christmas movie or decorating the tree.  And who can ever say no to Nutella?

3.  Linzer Cookies 

My husband would probably call me old fashioned for this but I LOVE linzer cookies!  I love cookies with any sort of almond base and the melt in your mouth texture paired with sweet jam is just too good!  These are definitely tricky and a little bit time consuming to make but 100% worth the effort.  And their pretty too!  Check out the recipe here!

4.  Yule Log 

Okay, I will admit I have never attempted to make a yule log cake before but this is giving me all of the Great British Baking Show vibes.  If you are feeling festive and daring try this recipe here!

5.   Puppy Chow

Honestly, what is Christmas without puppy chow?  It's so simple to make and there is always plenty to go around to all your family three times over.  We are traveling this Christmas so I'm thinking of making a big batch for our plane ride.  On a scale of 1 to 10 how "mom life" is bringing a huge bag of homemade puppy chow through security so that you don't have to buy expensive snacks on the other side?  Haha!  I don't know, you tell me!  Recipe here! 

6.  No Bake Cookies 

OMG these are some of my favorite cookies of all time!  They remind me so much of me growing up because I remember making them all the time.  Now that I think of it I haven't made any in a long time and I think I am going to have to remedy that!  Easiest recipe found here.

7.  Peanut Butter Balls 

Speaking of no-bake I was on the phone with my mom last night and she was in the middle of making peanut butter balls.  They sounded so good and they also remind me of Christmas parties growing up so I had to add them to the list!  I love this recipe here that used rice crispy for a little crunch.  You could also use crunchy peanut butter!

Well guys that's all I have for today!  I really hope this helped inspire you to get baking and I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas season!

2018 Christmas Gift Wrapping Guide!

Tis' the season for gift wrapping!

Okay, I know that's a little bit dramatic but I seriously LOVE wrapping gifts.  I find it so much fun and it so satisfies my OCD.  But really it's just one of the ways that I can put an extra special spin on things each Christmas season.

I love going out and matching different wrapping papers together with things like ribbons and tags to put together a theme.  So like I do every year I thought I would share with you what I came up with!

This year I was really looking for something that matched my girls' personalities and I think I nailed it...Santa riding a unicorn.  Yeah, nailed it!  I mean, seriously how cute is this paper?  I love how it captures the traditional colors of Christmas like red and green but then it throws in pink as well.  It's such a fun and unexpected combination!  

I always like to pick out at least two different papers to add variety.  Right now I am really into using plain brown paper.  I think it adds a really nice contrast.  This year I added decorations using stickers.   It was a lot of fun to play around with these and I love how it turned out! 

Now on to my favorite part:  ribbon!  I wanted to match the playful element of the Santa wrapping paper and this pom-pom ribbon works perfectly!  And of course the red and white striped ribbon worked really great as well.  I think these combinations turned out to be super whimsical.   

So I have to admit, I scoured the internet and could not find this unicorn paper!  So what I did was pull together some things that were really similar.  Just click on the italicized words for links! 

1.  Paper:  I love all these options from Meri Meri

2.  Tags:  These Santa and Reindeer tags are really similar to the stickers that I used.  I also couldn't help but share these cute Nutcracker tags as well! 

3.  Ribbon:  The sweetest pom-pom ribbon here.  Striped ribbon here!  This would be a really fun option too from Target!

4. Greenery:  For a finishing touch I just added some greenery that I cut from the trees outside my house! 

Well I hope you guys enjoyed this years gift wrapping guide!  I suggest adding a peppermint mocha from Starbucks and lots Christmas music to help get you even more in the spirit! 

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas season!