Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Little Home Tour, And Announcing A Christmas Break

I'm going to be taking a blogging break starting today. But I wanted to leave you with a little Christmas tour of my home. My decor is nothing fancy, but it's meaningful to us. Almost all of the decorations I use have history. 

This is our tree in its new home in our den. We used to have it in our living room so that passersby could see it from the front window, but realized we didn't get to enjoy it because we never went in there. This new location is much better for us. Our tree is filled with ornaments we've collected through the years. 

This is our mantel. The figurine in the center was my husband's first Christmas gift to me. It has four bears and was supposed to symbolize the big family we would one day have. Little did we know that we weren't thinking big enough back then! I love all the kids' stockings hanging in a row. 

This is a full length view of the mantel and fireplace. I created the arrangement on the left using a sprig of berries I got at Michael's for half off and some discarded branches from a local tree lot. The Santa is one I've had for years. 

I made a set of these rag wreaths for my kitchen windows a few years ago. I love how festive they look hanging in the kitchen. The little figurine has 8 bears-- one for each of us-- and was a gift from my mother in law. 

Even though this photo is a bit overexposed, I like it. This is our kitchen table with a simple centerpiece of a pine bough and brass candlesticks we received when we got married. You can see one of the little wreaths in the window. 

This is our dining room table. The silver things are angels and the centerpiece is a large hurricane filled with silver and red ornaments. I have had those placemats for years. I also have votives that we light while we eat. It adds a peaceful feeling to our meals. When we have Christmas Eve dinner I use silver chargers and our Christmas china. 

This is our nativity set, made by a relative years ago. I am always delighted to see that it's held up for another year. 

This bookshelf is a catchall for the little odds and ends I've collected. The Santa was in my home as a kid. And the figurines on the bottom are from NC State, our alma mater. The candle in the center is my favorite Yankee Candle, Mistletoe. 

Well that's my little tour, such as it is. I love putting up Christmas decorations for us to enjoy throughout the season. And I love using items that mean something to us, especially since Christmas is all about sentiment. And family. And memories. 

I hope your Christmas is filled with all of these. I'll see you back here January 5th! 
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Monday, December 15, 2014

My Top Ten Books From 2014

Today's post is a linkup to Mrs. Darcy's newly retitled "Quick Lit" roundup. (It was formerly known as "Twitterature.") I plan to spend this evening perusing all the other links there--and adding to my already overwhelming TBR list, no doubt!

Since it's December I am rounding up my top ten favorites from the year. Here they are, in no certain order:

Note: These weren't all published this year, just read this year.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron (audio, read by Meryl Streep).
Having seen and loved the movie, I decided to listen to the book, especially when I found out that Meryl (who played the lead role in the movie) did the narrating. I'm sure that made me love the book all the more. This is a story about love, marriage, motherhood and adultery, told with a lot of humor and insight, with a generous helping of recipes. It is Nora Ephron at her best.

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson (audio, read by the author)
I have gushed over the mighty Ms. Jackson here before and, before this story, I would've told you her best book was The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. But this one was just... wow. The redemption of these characters took my breath away. I highly recommend getting acquainted with Joshilyn by picking one of her books and listening to her read it to you. Then you get a better feel for the books the way she intended them. Once you have her voice in your head, you appreciate what's being said-- and how it's being said-- all the more.

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker
In my reading journal I called this novel, "highly atmospheric, with compelling characters." What I mostly remember is that the writing was just so good.

Golden by Jessi Kirby
This story resonated with me as an adult even though it was meant for YA readers. In my reading journal I called it "very clever and engrossing with a good message." I loved all the references to Robert Frost, and the mystery that the main character had to uncover even as she learned to navigate her own uncertain future.

When We Were On Fire by Addie Zierman
This is the only nonfiction you'll find on this list. (Notable mention: Rob Lowe's Love Life-- the only reason it's not on here is I didn't like it as much as his first book. Highly recommend listening to it, though, as he reads it and you'll miss out on his impressions if you try to read it for yourself. He doesn't as much read the book as perform it. But enough about Rob.)
When We Were On Fire spoke to me, made me think, and has stayed with me. Though the author is- ahem- younger than me, I know of which she speaks and nodded my way through it. I've recommended it to several friends who loved it too.

Summerland by Elin Hildebrand
Elin Hilderbrand is a master at conveying a sense of community within the pages of a book. Her characters are well developed and the connections to each other, and to the reader, only deepen as the book goes on. This story about a tragic car accident and the ramifications in the survivors' lives during the course of a summer, has stayed with me.

Big Little Liars by Liane Moriarty
What's to say about Liane Moriarty that hasn't already been said a bazillion times? She captures what it is to be a woman, a wife, a mom so clearly. She does it again in this novel. Plus she keeps you turning the pages just to discover what really happened the night of the school fundraiser. Who got shot? And why? And who pulled the trigger? I tore through this book even though it was quite long.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
The writing in this novel is, according to my reading journal, "real and raw." And the premise is just clever. What would you do if you discovered you could talk to your husband back before he was your husband-- before life and reality intervened and your dreams for the future were still intact and unharmed? This novel muses effectively on the intricacies of marriage.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (audio, read by a narrator who sounded much like Jude Law, though it was not Jude Law, but it made me want him to play Don Tillman in the movie)
I still smile when I think about this story. I rooted for Don to get a clue and get out of his own way. Quirky and set in his ways, Don is wicked smart but is missing something-- and he knows it. His journey of discovering just what that is is a delight. I can't wait to listen to the sequel, which I've already put on hold at the library.

The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
This was a re-read for me. I've gone back and re-read several of hers recently-- titles from the early 2000's that I loved and devoured, this time reading slowly and savoring. Like Liane Moriarty, her insight into what it is to be a woman at a certain stage of life is so affirming. And her powers of observation-- and capturing those observations on paper-- are unmatched.

Worth Mentioning: I am currently listening to A Man Called Ove on audio and I can already tell that this one will probably make it onto this list. But since I haven't finished it, I can't say for sure yet. The audio is read by George Newbern (the groom from Father Of The Bride)which makes the book all the more enjoyable. Ove is a curmudgeon and his take on life is akin to Don Tillman's in The Rosie Project. I guess I just like grumpy oddball main characters, especially when they're willing to open up to the surprises life might have in store for them.

I am on track to beat my record from last year for number of books read, coming in at 75 books read (or listened to) this year. I love reading, and great stories like the ones I listed here make the experience all the more pleasant.
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A Heart Wide Open Advent Devotion Day 16

This is my last day with you guys-- I've enjoyed hosting and I hope you'll pop back by and visit with me from time to time. I post here semi-regularly and am apt to talk about writing, cooking, parenting, reading... well just about anything!

Today Shellie reminds us what we're really reaching for when we're tempted to add "more" to our Christmas. (And Shellie, I use the word "gussy" too. It's a good word!) As we head into the homestretch of Christmas let's all resist the temptation to do more, add more, want more. And let's be honest with ourselves about what we really want, deep down-- soul deep.

To download your printables, go here:

Enjoy the rest of the advent season and be sure and go to Mary Snyder's blog next! You're gonna love hanging out with her. My immense thanks to Miss Shellie for including me in this fun and enriching time.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Heart Wide Open Advent Devotion Day 15

It's Sunday and I hope that means you're off to church where you will be surrounded by people, actual people-- not just online disembodied words-- but real physical beings you can put your arms around, look into their eyes, and encourage one another. I am growing more and more convinced that real ministry-- the kind that truly makes a lasting impact-- is the smallest kind, happening one on one or with just a few. There is nothing like sitting across from someone and asking, "How are you doing?" to spark real conversation and grow deeper relationships. How about today you grab someone at church and put Shellie's challenge into action?? Go for it! 

To download your printables, go here:

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Heart Wide Open Advent Devotion Day 14

It's Saturday and, for most of us, a perfect day to take up Shellie's action step. Will you look for your moment today? Read on... 

To download your printables, go here:

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Friday, December 12, 2014

A Heart Wide Open Advent Devotion Day 13

It's Friday! And time to dive into another #HeartWideOpen advent devotion. I hope whatever you're up to this weekend, it includes spending time following through on some of the things Shellie has challenged us to do. Read on...

To download your printables go here:
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Heart Wide Open Day 12 Christmas Devotion

Today I am the host of Shellie Tomlinson's advent devotion tour. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you are encouraged by her words. Since Christmas is cranking up for all of us and the weekend is fast approaching, I'm not going to add to her words-- I'll just let you read and be blessed!

To download your printables, go here:

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Monday, December 08, 2014

Monday: Scraps

Don't forget about Shellie Tomlinson's wonderful advent devotion series. This week it moves to Dr. Joneal Kirby's blog. I hope you are all participating and loving it! It circles back around to me on Thursday-- coming up soon!

I spent this weekend preparing for the week-- getting a jump on errands and readying myself for what I hope turns out to be a calmer week than last week. I even planned a menu for the week. Here it is:

Baked chicken, greek salad, Texas toast

Subs and chips

Pepper Steak over rice

Biscuits and sausage gravy, scrambled eggs

Pasta Fagioli soup and bread

Pork Tenderloin and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans

That gets us to next week at least!

Sometimes I think it's good to think of what we succeeded at during the week instead of how we came up short. I tried to think of that this weekend as I took stock of the past week. At first glance the week felt like a lot of stops and starts and misfires. But then I dug a bit and realized that last week I...

Finished my manuscript and sent it to an agent for consideration (which feels horrible and wonderful at the exact same time)

Decorated the house for Christmas

Took my kids to their school craft bazaar

Had lunch with a friend

Ran into an acquaintance from my elementary school days (this is what happens when you live in the same small town you were raised in) and was able to encourage her about raising teenagers

Jotted down some notes/insights for my next novel

Ordered a research book for said novel

Took my daughter shopping so she could buy gifts for her friends (with her babysitting money)

Finally bought a hanging basket of pansies to replace my dead fern

Ordered Christmas cards

It's good to review your successes and not just beat yourself up for your shortcomings. No matter how small your successes are, they're worth noting. And if you don't, who will?

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