Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 End of Year Book Survey

It's time for the recap of a year of reading. In the coming days, I'll probably talk a little about how I failed at all of my reading resolutions last year and what I hope to accomplish in 2013, but for now, let's just talk about all the fun reading that I did get done in 2012.  

Jamie over at The Perpetual Page Turner has put together an awesome survey that asks all the right questions. I'm jumping on the bandwagon. 

1. Best book you read in 2012 (you can break it down by genre if you want)?

I definitely have to break it down and will certainly be cheating. Can't pick just one!

Adult Fiction: The Proper Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway/The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Adult Non-Fiction: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn/Bloom by Kelle Hampton

YA Fiction: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers/Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh

Middle Grade: Fourmile by Watt Key/Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Picture Book: And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano/Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett/Boy and Bot by Ame Dickman.

2. Book you were excited about and thought you would love more, but didn't?

Code Name Verity. I know, I know. Definitely in the minority here, but I couldn't even get past the first 75 pages. I'm told it's one of those, like Jellicoe Road, that you just have to slog through the first part and then it gets great, but I just don't know if I'm willing to try again. 

3. Most surprising (in a good way) book of 2012?

Where We Belong by Emily Giffin. I've always thought Giffin wrote "fluff." Books to read on the beach and that didn't have a whole lot of emotional depth. Definitely wrong on that one! Can't wait to read the next. 

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?

Even though I read it in 2011, I'm still recommending The Fault in Our Stars to everyone I talk to. This year, Gone Girl and The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila were recommended quite a bit. 

5. Best series you discovered in 2012?

The Curse Workers series by Holly Black. Definitely didn't think they were my thing, but I loved her writing. 

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?

Margaret Dilloway (The Proper Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns) and Emily Giffin (Where We Belong) we both new to me and I loved their books! 

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Rotters by Daniel Krause. I'm not a big horror reader or reader of gruesome stuff and this was definitely gross in parts, but the writing was awesome. 

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book?

I'll go with the majority this year and say Gone Girl

9. Book you're most likely to re-read next year?

Dinner: A Love Story and The Homemade Pantry. They're both cookbooks, but have a great readability to them, as well. 

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh. 

11. Most memorable character?

Louise from The Chaperone. Such a fiesty girl for her time. Or Amy of Gone Girl. She be nuts. 

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected by Kelle Hampton. So honest. I also absolutely love her 

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you?

The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. I read this book cover-to-cover in the early part of the year and still reference it all the time. I've also changed the way I spend my money, to whom I give it to, and a lot of other things after reading it. It's an important book, even for those that aren't Christian. 

14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2012 to read?

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. It was the last Green book I needed to read and I think I was just trying to draw it out. It will be SO long until he publishes another. 

15. Favorite passage/quote?


16. Shortest & Longest Book you read in 2012?

I, unfortunately, didn't keep track of pages this year. Hopefully I'll remember to do so in 2013, because it's fun to see those stats! 

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it?

This one had me stumped. I'm not great at remembering details about books I've read months ago. 

18. Favorite relationship from a book (be it romantic, friendship, etc.)?

Tiny and Will Grayson from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. 

19. Favorite book you read in 2012 from an author you read previously?

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. It publishes in 2013 and should be on all of your TBR lists. 

20. Best book you read that was based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else?

Gods of Gotham by Lyndsey Faye. I read this one for my book club and probably would never have picked it up if it wasn't a selection. I ended up really, really enjoying it. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

From our family to yours

 We'll be off for the next few days, enjoying family time and then traveling home to Upstate New York.  Have a very Merry Christmas! See you soon!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A peek under our Christmas tree

On Thursday, I talked about how we're following the "rule" of categories for choosing our gifts for Elliott. We're also added in "1 Thing to Create With," inspired by Ashley

I really think it will keep our bank account from being drained each year and the focus more on spending time together, rather than simply opening gobs of presents. A friend of mine has several children and each one has probably 20 gifts under the tree, if not more. I don't know how I would ever be able to explain to my children about the true meaning of Christmas while they're opening 25 gifts. But, that's just my opinion.

Though we're limiting these to categories, the child is still getting quite a few things. More than a 1-year-old probably needs and much more than a lot of families can afford. He's a lucky kid. 


Not that Elliott even understands how to "want" a toy, but after playing with many of these popular puzzles at the library, I know he would enjoy having one of his own. I bought this one from my favorite children's bookstore a few months ago. 


Now that the teeth are starting to come in, it's time to learn how to brush! He had one of the baby versions of these and loved to chew on it, so we're upgrading to toddler.


(photo from Abby's Lane... baby not included)

Amber Teething Necklace

I know that many family members will be gifting clothes to our little guy, so I didn't buy a single clothing item. At our MOPS silent auction a couple of weeks ago, I was the highest bidder for a gift card to our local Abby's Lane, so I put it to good use on an amber teething necklace. He is definitely having a hard time with teething, so I thought we'd try one of these out. Even if it doesn't help, it's certainly not going to hurt to try. 


Elliott LOVES B is for Bear, so I knew I wanted to get another in the series.

Create with:

He's still a little young for paint or crayons, but this will hopefully inspire a bit of a creative side! Who wouldn't love blue bath water?? ;)

Santa gift:

The kid is obsessed with his bath hoops set, so we thought Santa would bring a real one.

Christmas Eve:

We're also starting a new tradition in our little family, of new pajamas on Christmas Eve, along with a new book about the Christmas story and a new ornament, just for Elliott. 

I forgot to take a photo of the pajamas before I wrapped them and I bought them at a consignment shop, so they're older. No online photos. They're just cute navy blue footie pajamas sprinkled with white snowflakes. Very appropriate with our last name. 

His ornament for the year has the world "joy" embroidered on it, which I just loved. He has filled us with so much joy these past 12 months that I thought it fit perfectly! I bought this one from this lovely shop.

Our choice for his Christmas Eve book this year is:

It's one of my very favorites and we definitely needed to add it to our collection.

So, that's what Elliott is getting on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.  Have a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Our family traditions

Now that our family is complete and our little guy is not a teeny 4lb newborn fresh out of the NICU, as he was last Christmas, it's time to start making new traditions and mixing them in with some of our old ones. 


We've had a lot of discussion in the past couple of months as to whether or not we want to incorporate Santa into our yearly Christmas celebration. We have close family members that sit on both sides of that fence, so how Elliott will grow up, I'm not sure. All Santa gifts? No Santa at all? If we do "Santa," will his cousins ruin it for him early on? I'd like to avoid trauma! 

I'm still not 100% sure on how we'll do it in future years, but for now, Santa will be bringing one gift and filling up stockings. When Elliott is a bit older, we'll do the letter to Santa and cookies for him, along with a birthday cake (or cupcake) for Jesus. I think we can easily mix the two and teach Elliott all about the true meaning of the holiday. 

Christmas Eve:

We'll be doing a somewhat traditional "new pajamas on Christmas Eve" thing, along with a new ornament, and a new book about Christmas story. This year, we're spending Christmas Eve having a huge dinner with friends, so we'll be opening up these in the morning. 

Spending time with friends is definitely taking a step away from the tradition of going out for a nice dinner -- something Aaron and I have done since we were married. With Elliott being of toddler age (and hitting the sack at 6 p.m.), dinner out isn't feasible at this point, so dinner at a friend's is the next best thing. 

We'll also be doing Christmas Eve church services, of course, but our church has them on both Sunday and Monday. I'd much rather do the Monday time, but again, with dinner at someone else's home, we have to be flexible. We're just going to attend at our normal time on Sunday morning and dress up for Jesus! 

Aaron and I take turns reading aloud the story of the birth of Christ from Luke. 


Last year, I heard about this neat method of limiting the amount of gifts children receive to a few categories. I thought it was a brilliant idea and from the looks of Pinterest and a lot of other blogs I've read recently, a lot of you are picking it up too! 

I found the image via the blog:  a random sampling. She doesn't credit where she found it, though does mention Pinterest. 

Ashley over at Writing Chapter Three also used a 5th category of "1 Thing to Create" and we'll be using that too. I love that idea! 5 gifts from us, 1 from Santa, and stockings is still a whole lot of stuff, so we may even limit it more in later years when the items are more pricey and Elliott is doing the asking. 

I'll be sharing the gifts we've decided to give Elliott this year in my next post, so stay tuned!

Christmas Morning:

For as long as I can remember, my mom always made a pan of cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning. Just the super fancy ones that come in the blue tube ;). Aaron and I incorporated that into our own set of traditions, but now that I'm trying very hard to stay away from processed food, I'm thinking of making my own this year. I know The Pioneer Woman's recipe is a popular one, but do any of you have others you're fond of?

Angel Tree:

This is the first year we've done an Angel Tree child as a family and I know we'll be continuing it. We had a 7-year-old girl to buy gifts for and after some careful saving throughout the fall months, were able to buy everything on her list, including a bike! What 7-year-old kid shouldn't have a bike?

Future Traditions:

Elliott is barely a year old and is still pretty young to enjoy the holiday. I'm hoping that next year we can start to incorporate these traditions:

Reading of the Christmas story on Christmas Eve (including E in the reading).

Nativity. We already have a beautiful nativity (this one), but I'd like to do one like this one for Elliott. (A small side note... I find it funny that our nativity set is listed at almost $400. We bought pieces over three years, but probably didn't pay more than $150 for it total. Don't buy a $400 nativity set, that's lunacy!)

An advent calendar filled with fun activities. 

Decorating a Jesse Tree.

Driving around on Christmas Eve to see houses all decorated with lights.

Hand-making gifts as a family. 

Wrapping up 1 book for each day leading up to Christmas. Finishing with our Christmas Eve book! 

What are some of your favorite traditions?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Baker Towers review

Yet another book I waited entirely too long to get to and ended up loving. I read this one in the span of an afternoon, while waiting for my husband at the hospital (minor procedure, he's fine). It was perfect for passing the time and I was totally sucked right into the world of Bakerton and the citizens of the small mining town.

The plot follows several characters as they grow up and move out of (and back into) Bakerton. The five children of the Novak family, each incredibly different, yet tied completely to their family and the well-being of each other, live out the post- WWII years with an stubborn Italian mother and very different dreams for what they wish to make of their lives. 

I fell into the lives of each of these characters, through the amazing use of language Haigh has. She made me truly care about the Novak family and believe in their ups and downs. They were like any other family and their sadness and hope felt pure and realistic. I could imagine Rose, Georgie, Lucy, Joyce, Sandy, and Dorothy as a real family during that time period, in a town just like Bakerton. I loved it. 

I haven't read Mrs. Kimble, the award-winning first book by Haigh or Faith, a book which several of my reliable blogger friends have loved, but I'll be adding them to my list. I was also just sent a review copy of News From Heaven, so I'll be diving into that one right after the holidays. Her writing is addicting!

Thanks to Harper for sending a copy!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

New picture books

Despite all the holiday craziness, Elliott and I have still been enjoying lots of books during our days at home. These three have been in heavy rotation the past couple of weeks!

Together at Christmas by Eileen Spinelli and illustrator Bin Lee is an adorable take on a traditional counting book concept. Ten little mice huddle together trying to find a way to get warm on a very cold Christmas Eve. One-by-one they scamper off and find a spot to warm their little bodies. Though all ten eventually get warm, they're very lonely! Together they brave the weather and find a spot they can get warm together. And yes, I made that rhyme. I'm good like that. 

Elliott liked the rhythm of the story and the excitement I used in my voice as each mouse found a warm bed and I really enjoyed the soft illustrations with bursts of color. A really nice book to read for during this season!

Lauren Thompson has been ruling the reading time at our house with the board book edition of Polar Bear Night. The story of a polar bear exploring the night while all of his animal friends sleep has sort of a mysterious vibe to it, which I liked and E loves staring at the illustrations (done by Stephen Savage). 
If possible, I think he likes the illustrations in Polar Bear Morning even better. The infusions of color and the bold designs really add to the fun of the polar bear running around with a friend. It's one of the fun, yet incredibly simple books that you don't mind reading over and over again. He can't turn the pages of the picture book nearly as well as the board book, but he certainly still tries. I see many torn pages in our future!

Thank you to Albert Whitman and Scholastic for sending us these great books!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday gift giving round 2

Late last week I wrote up a quick post on a few of the gifts I'm giving for the holidays this year. I wasn't nearly as productive in my buying this year as I was last year (I finished shopping and had everything wrapped by November 1), so other gifts are still trickling in. Thought you might want to see a few others I've picked up lately. 

I'm a Good Dog by Ken Foster

I've been a big fan of Ken Foster's writing for years. I loved Dogs I Have Met and The Dogs Who Found Me, gifting them to dog lovers of any kind. I'm a Good Dog is more of a visual journey compared to the other books, with a lot of pit bull history thrown in. I absolutely loved it and would recommend it to any dog lover, whether you own a pit bull or not. 

Lip Balm from Evergreen

Another awesome Etsy find! These would be great as multiple stocking stuffers, as each tiny tin of lip balm comes in its own little muslin bag stamped with a cute evergreen tree. I'm using all 4 in one bag as a gift for a teen. 

Family Tree from A New History 

This year is obviously the year of the family tree in our house. I've bought so many!

When I was still at the bookstore this game came in and I didn't get a chance to play with it, but had heard such great things. It gets excellent reviews and seems perfect for a couple of boys I know that really like to focus on one thing at a time. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Purpose Driven Life 10th Anniversary

I don't talk about my beliefs often on the blog, though I never shy away from saying I'm a proud Christian. It just doesn't usually fit into my yammering about awesome books I'm reading or my latest outing with the toddler. When this book hit my mailbox though, I knew I wanted to chat a little about it and what it means to me. 

I became a Christian in April 2006. I was 23. Being the bookworm that I am, I wanted to explore the faith and learn more by reading and The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren was the first book I picked up that did an excellent job of not only explaining different aspects of Christianity and what it meant to be a "Christian," but also focused on so many of the questions I wanted answers to. It also gave me this sense of peace that I wasn't alone. Other people had walked my walk and gone through the crazy sorting-out phase that I had been in. I wasn't the only person that hadn't accepted Christ until later in life and I definitely wasn't the only person who had made the decision to follow Christ, but wasn't quite sure what to do next.  It was an incredible feeling and I loved every part of that book, reading it several times over the course of the next couple of years. 

It's been 10 years since The Purpose Driven Life was published and it's being re-released for the anniversary in a beautiful hardcover edition. I was sent this one to review, but I've already bought two others to give away this Christmas...I love it that much. It's the bestselling non-fiction hardback in publishing history for a reason. 

This new edition has two added chapters. One focuses on Envy and one on being a People Pleaser. Oh goodness is that people-pleaser chapter about me. There's also web links and access to an 30 minute audio message from the author, which was great to listen to. 

I think it's an important book and if you haven't read it and are looking for something like this, don't hesitate to pick it up!

Thanks to BookSneeze for the review copy.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide: What I'm giving this year

Friends, I've missed you. This last week, I truly took on a few more events/tasks than I could feasibly handle without exhausting myself and what resulted was an entire week of no reading and no blogging. The blogging I suppose I can handle going without every once in awhile, but I don't think I've EVER gone a week without reading, even after having babies and being in the hospital and all that craziness. I always read! 

Since I don't have any reviews for you, I thought I'd share my own version of a holiday gift guide. I have a huge variety of ages to buy for... from 1-year-olds to 75-year-olds, so I'm doing shopping all over the place. No one has paid me to advertise these or review them, I just want to spread the fun!

My kid LOVES this thing. From the time he was around 8 months old when he would play with the tray seated on the ground (the legs are removable) to now, when he's close to walking, he spends more time at this toy than at anything else during the day. 

A Black Friday deal is allowing me to get a couple of these for two special kids in our family. 

I love pairing up smaller gifts to make a fun combo and my one of my favorite gifts to give to children is a toy from Green Toys. They're made from 100% recycled milk jugs and are super simple, without crazy noises or anything "extra."This year, I'm giving both the tugboat and the dump truck and pairing them with two of my favorite books. 

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know how much I love Etsy. I buy from the site all the time and really feel great about buying gifts made by small businesses, most of whom work out of their homes to support families. I've purchased a couple of these this year and will be ordering one for us after the holiday craziness is over.

The shop owner was great at getting back to me regarding the colors and was very friendly. Always nice!

On my side of the family, my cousins are like my siblings, but I have a TON of them. So, we all draw names with each other and our spouses to determine who to buy for...of course, I choose two of the hardest people, that I don't know very well. I thought this was a gorgeous, masculine gift to honor where these guys had their children. 

I've bought from this shop before and they are really quick with their shipping times, which I appreciate.

The books:

I have a lot of people to buy for this year, so this is definitely just a smattering of what I'm picking up this year. I'd love to know what you're buying! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I haven't totally disappeared!

I wish I had more time in the day. I really do miss blogging and sharing books and life with you all, but this week has just been crazy. We've had tons of fun events during the days and I haven't arrived home until almost 10 every night this week. Exhausting, but fun.

I'll be back soon with a list of some of the fun things I'm purchasing for the holidays. Hope everyone is well!