November 2020 Monthly Wrap-Up

At the beginning of November I felt like I was just sitting around waiting for Christmas to get here! Once we got into the month I did stay busy with work, plans with friends and family, and feeling very badly (lol), but I continued to spend a lot of time preparing for and getting excited about Christmas.

This month I had two voice lessons and four medical appointments. Kenna came over once for dinner, once for charcuterie, and once to just visit; I went to a cookie decorating class at Mom’s church; Joshua came over for dinner and a movie; Dad and I went to a build-your-own-charcuterie-board event; Mom and I went to Trader Joe’s and then she came for dinner; we had a baptism and Thanksgiving lunch at church; I visited Mrs. Norma; Dad, Joshua, and I went to see my grandpa in Chattanooga for a weekend; I went to my family’s house for two nights at Thanksgiving; and Brooke and I went to a Christmas tree farm (and started a new tradition of Friday lunchtime phone calls).

This month I’m…

Reading: On the Far Side of the Mountain, Frightful’s Mountain, and Julie of the Wolves, Jean Craighead George (rereads). The Falcon Thief, Joshua Hammer. Charming As A Verb, Ben Philippe. A Grace Disguised, Jerry Sittser. Recommended For You, Laura Silverman. Now That I’ve Found You, Kristina Forest. The White Stag, Kate Seredy. Fast Girls, Elise Hooper. Betty Before X, Ilyasah Shabazz. The Lady’s Handbook for her Mysterious Illness, Sarah Ramey. The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, Kristin Levine. 13 total.

Listening to: Christmas music!!! (I normally don’t start before Thanksgiving but it’s 2020, don’t @ me.) I Am They’s new Faithful God album. Oh Wonder. Breathe Deep, Sleeping At Last. I Love Me, Meghan Trainor. Pure Imagination, Joanna Wang. And a few random podcasts when I wasn’t feeling well, including Livy’s Dream to Destiny podcast.

Watching: The Frey Life, Diana Malloy, and Linda Sun on YouTube. Enola Holmes (well, half of it–I was never able to finish it). Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Shawn Mendes: In Wonder. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Eating and/or cooking: Apples with KIND peanut butter granola clusters. Turkey meatballs or diced ham with mashed sweet potatoes. Popcorners. Birch Benders pancakes. Mini peppermint Ocho candy bars. Pork chops and purple sweet potatoes. Chocolate pie and turkey.

Writing: I was excited and grateful to find at least a few pockets of time where I had the energy to work on my book some–mostly sending emails and getting more quotes. Outside of my normal “9-5” client work, I did work for the Diamonds conference and Chronic Joy, and I thought about the fiction stories I desperately wish I felt well enough to write. Letter-wise I wrote 40 letters and received 23 (and had way too much fun starting to create Christmas envelopes).

Buying: A medical ID bracelet. A used countertop George Foreman grill. A “Be Still and Know” mug. A handmade charcuterie board from a local business. Christmas washi tape, stickers, ephemera, and paper for envelopes and letters (yes, I went a little overboard, lol). Stickers from Hanne at coffeewithasideofart.

Grateful for (my gratitude journal is absolutely bursting but here are just a few): Daisy, the Labrador Retriever puppy that moved into my apartment building (I LOVE HER SO MUCH). The days when I was able to walk well and get things done around the house. Being able to work on my book a little bit. Colorful fall leaves. Surprise phone calls from friends on a normal Saturday night. Having role models who show me what it looks like to have a marriage/family with chronic illness. Joshua sending me school updates and telling me things about his life. Getting a bunch more hand-me-down clothes. And most of all, IT’S CHRISTMAS NOW!!!

What did you do in November? Blogmas starts TOMORROW and I could not be more excited!

2020 Book Releases I’m Excited For

I was scrolling through my WordPress drafts today and found this post from February 2nd that I never published. I like to go back to these types of posts at the end of each year and see what I thought of the books I was excited to read–so I thought I’d go ahead and hit publish on this one so I can do that later next month! I can say, I’ve read the majority of these by now and they’re all excellent, so maybe this post will give you some Christmas gift ideas for your bookworm friends 🙂

First up are the books that I was extremely excited for and counted down the days until they released!

Seeing Voices, Olivia Smit (release date: April 15th)

Olivia is such an awesome friend, and I absolutely can’t wait to read her novel!


A Heart So Fierce and Broken, Brigid Kemmerer (release date: January 7th)

I have this on hold at my library right now and I’m just waiting for it to come in. Looking forward to it!


Unravel the Dusk, Elizabeth Lim (release date: July 7th)

Y’all, I am SO FREAKING EXCITED for this book. I literally can’t wait. Spin the Dawn was so good and the sequel is going to be even better.


Set Fire to the Gods, Sara Raasch and Kristen Simmons (release date: August 4th)

This author combo seems like the perfect duo and I’ve loved seeing their behind-the-scenes Instagram posts about working on this book!

Scammed, Kristen Simmons (release date: February 4th)

Conveniently, the new Deceivers book always comes out around the time of my birthday. I’m super excited to see what happens in this one (but I’m super not a fan of these new covers, sorry).

This Too Shall Last, K.J. Ramsey (release date: May 12th)

I’ve already pre-ordered this, and I can’t wait! K.J.’s sessions at Diamonds 2020 were awesome, so I know her book will be amazing too–and I absolutely love the title.


Finally, here are a few books that I will most likely read, but am not quite as over-the-moon excited about–many of them are by authors I haven’t read before, so it’ll be a totally new experience:

  • Rule of Wolves, Leigh Bardugo
  • Imagine Me, Tahereh Mafi
  • Woven in Moonlight, Isabel Ibanez
  • The Stars We Steal, Alexa Donne
  • Time of Our Lives, Austin Siegemund-Broka and Emily Wibberly
  • The Other Side of the Sky, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
  • The Queen’s Assassin, Melissa de la Cruz (this is the only book on this list that I’ve read and didn’t like, just an fyi for your Christmas shopping needs)
  • The Kingdom of Back, Marie Lu (okay I forgot about this one and it looks SO GOOD?! I need it asap)
  • The Gilded Ones, Namina Forna

So, now that the year is almost over, haha, there are the books I was looking forward to reading in 2020! Were there any 2020 releases you were particularly excited about? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!

Trader Joe’s Haul (part three)

This is now exclusively a Trader Joe’s food blog. Yes, all I do anymore is shop at Trader Joe’s. It’s an exciting life.

Repeat buys (my staples by now):

  • Purple sweet potatoes x4
  • Frozen mashed sweet potatoes x2
  • Delicata squash x4
  • GoMacro bars (heartwarming retreat flavor) x2
  • Peanut butter protein granola
  • Strawberry ice cream
  • Enjoy Life protein bites (both the sunseed butter and the dark raspberry flavor) x6 total (heating these up in the microwave is a GAME CHANGER)
  • Sunflower seed butter cups

The only new items in the photo not reviewed in this blog post are the dark chocolate almond butter cups (which ended up having dairy, so I sent them home with my mom) and the bananas (because, well, you know what a banana tastes like). All of this cost approximately $95.00. I’ve had zero appetite for the last few weeks and I’m hoping some of this fun stuff will tempt me. Let’s get into the reviews!

Olive Wood Bowls

I’d read about the bowls and cutting boards made of olive wood that Trader Joe’s gets at this time of year, and I was so excited to find these! They’re the prettiest little bowls and just the right size for a snack.

Would I buy again?: Yes–they would make a great gift.

Cold Pressed Orange Juice

I mostly just picked this up to take my pills with, because I was out of orange juice at home and I’m a child and can’t take pills with water.

Would I buy again?: Not unless I needed orange juice.

Cauliflower Crisps

These were a new product that I was excited to try, and they were so good–I really, really liked them! (All ten of them that were in the bag, lol.)

Would I buy again?: Yes!

Lucy Glo Apples

The Lucy Glo variety of apple is vivid red on the inside. It’s beautiful, and it tasted so sweet and delicious!

Would I buy again?: Yes!

Mandarin Orange Chicken

I haven’t been able to try this yet and I didn’t want to delay this blog post any longer, so stay tuned for my thoughts! I was super excited to learn that Trader Joe’s orange chicken was dairy free.

PB&J Bar

These PB&J bars are okay. You can’t really taste the peanut butter and jelly flavor, though–they kind of just taste like oat bars.

Would I buy them again?: Probably not.

Raspberry Star Shortbread Cookies

I’ve been waiting for these raspberry star cookies for months, and they did not disappoint–they’re absolutely delicious! They’re soft shortbread cookies with a sweet jam center.

Would I buy this again?: Yes!

Advent Calendar for Cats

This feline Advent calendar has a salmon and dried seaweed treat for every day in December. My mom got a dog Advent calendar for Sophie, too. Such a fun idea!

Would I buy this again?: I haven’t opened it yet so I can’t say for sure, but it looks great, so probably yes!

Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles

I was expecting these to taste pretty much exactly like the Enjoy Life brand snickerdoodles, and they do–they’re really good!

Would I buy this again?: Yes!

Coconut Crispy Rolls Wafer Cookies

These little cookies are great! They taste familiar, but I can’t put my finger on what it is they taste like. Maybe a waffle cone? Or a fortune cookie? Regardless, I think they’re so good.

Would I buy this again?: Yes!

Red Chili Scalloped Crackers

This is another new cracker product that Trader Joe’s recently put out, and it is delicious as well–when topped with some turkey sausage, it makes for a perfect meal!

Would I buy this again?: Maybe. I like these crackers, but I like other kinds of crackers better.

Organic Toasted Coconut Granola Bark

This granola bark (shown in the picture above) is delicious! It’s granola layered with dark chocolate and toasted coconut chips.

Would I buy this again?: Maybe–again, while, was good, there are other dessert items I like more.

Creamy Cashew Yogurt Alternative + Almond Yogurt

I picked up these little yogurts just because I was out of yogurt at home. Yogurt is one of those things that kind of always tastes the same to me no matter the brand or flavor, so I wasn’t expecting to love especially the cashew yogurt as much as I did–I’m sad I only got one!

Would I buy this again?: Yes!

That’s everything I got in this Trader Joe’s haul! Have you tried any of these items? If so, let me know your favorites in the comments!

October 2020 Monthly Wrap-up

October was a pretty busy and good month! I struggled quite a bit health wise but was able to be fairly productive and enjoy a lot of fun times as well. Normal stuff that went on, besides work: I had two medical appointments (I was supposed to have more, but they were rescheduled or canceled *eye roll*) and learned how to do some new medical things. I also had two tap dance lessons, two voice lessons, and made it to church twice–apparently I only feel well enough to do things twice a month, haha.

Brooke got married in October! I enjoyed taking a day trip with her one day and tasting vegan cheesecake another night. Then five of us went on her bachelorette trip to Chattanooga–and then the wedding happened! I am so excited for her and she was such a beautiful bride.

Other fun stuff: We had family pictures done; I went to Kenna’s for dinner; Dad and I went to a coffee shop and Trader Joe’s; I stayed at my parents’ house for a weekend when they were out of town; Kenna came over for charcuterie boards; Andrea and I met for coffee; Kenna and I had a DIY Menchie’s night; and I ended the month sleeping over at my parents’ again and having a fun Halloween.

This month I’m…

Reading: Scarlet, Cress, and Winter, Marissa Meyer. Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light Of the End, David Gibson. Half Magic, Edward Eager. Special Delivery and Staying Together, Ann M. Martin. Thimble Summer, Elizabeth Enright. The Queen’s Assassin, Melissa de la Cruz. The Paris Journal, Nichole and Evan Robertson. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare. This Is Your Brain on Food, Uma Naidoo. More Than Just A Pretty Face, Syed M. Masood. My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver. 15 total.

Listening to: My “cooking in the kitchen late at night” playlist (it’s a very specific vibe). Electric Love, BORNS. Alive, NEEDTOBREATHE. Ugly Heart, G.R.L. Fallin’, Why Don’t We. Maybe Don’t, Maisie Peters and JP Saxe. Living on the Last Hope, Saint Mikel. October, Alessia Cara. Wonder, Shawn Mendes. Getaway, Saint Motel. Autumn Leaves, Ed Sheeran. Stay Gold, First Aid Kit. Keeper of Days, Jon Guerra. Take Me, Aly & AJ. Goodness of God, Bethel Music. Semicolon Heart, Chris TMV. What Baking Can Do, Waitress.

Watching: The Frey Life, Trader Joe’s List, and Heal With Kailin on YouTube. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Eating and/or cooking: Daiya cheezecake. Strawberry ice cream in waffle cones. KIND bark and KIND breakfast protein bars. Many flavors of Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream. Everything bagels with avocado. Holiday Hash from Trader Joe’s. Banana bread topped with peanut butter and banana. Enjoy Life sunseed butter protein bites. Mini Ocho coconut candy bars. And the usual suspects–chicken and fish, sweet potatoes and zucchini, bagels and eggs, bananas and yogurt.

Writing: Unfortunately not much happened in the way of writing this month. I’d planned to finish two chapters of my book and get those sent to alpha readers, but the interviewees I needed to speak to in order to finish those chapters weren’t available–and then I had a flare-up and was hugely struggling just to get my work done. In the way of letters, though, I mailed 37 and received 26.

Buying: This “Taste and see” keychain from Handstamped by Stephanie. New jeans and a black maxi dress. A new Bible. Fun groceries at Target and Trader Joe’s. Books at a Chattanooga used bookstore. Harry Potter decorations for Halloween. A candy mold to make peanut butter cups. Stationery, notecards, and a catnip toy from Etsy.

Grateful for: The weather. So much good music. Meeting new friends. The things my body can do (like be on my feet to make dinner most nights!). Helpful medical devices, and doctors who make a definitive plan but ask me if I like it before proceeding. Rainy days at Target. Snuggles with the kitty.

What did you do in October?