I have been so excited to share my reading from this year with all of you! 2017 has been a huge year of reading for me. I just finished up my 80th book and I can’t believe how much incredible content I got to consume this year.
People ask me all the time how I have the time to read and here it is: the Kindle app. My parents got me a Kindle for Christmas last year and the convenience of having several books in one place has transformed my reading habits. I am a reader who likes to have several books running at once (generally a fiction, a non-fiction, a Christian book, a textbook or two, and an audiobook) and the Kindle/Kindle app allows me to have them all with me at all times.
This post is the first of a three part series here on the blog devoted to what, how, and why I read. I can’t wait to share with you all the details of one of my absolute favorite things to do. So! Enough chit-chat - here are my top five FAVORITE books of 2017.
1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Although these are not in any particular order, I have to say that this memoir is not only one of my favorites of the year, but one of my favorites of all time. The writing is just stunning, the nuance of the family dynamic feels authentic and familiar, and the because the film came out this year and it is a relatively short read, this would make an incredible book club pick. All the books are linked below so you can snag them on Amazon, although I feel I do need to suggest that if possible, you pick these up at your local independent bookstore and use the opportunity to support small business in you community.
2. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
This book is important. Although it is several years old, this book addresses social issues that are even more in the national spotlight then they were at publication. Written by Bryan Stevenson, the book presents a case for advocating for racial equality (particularly in the criminal justice system) and for the elimination of the death penalty in America. This book, while presenting serious information about some of our society’s most heated conversations keeps real people in the center, presenting with compassion and kindness the stories of Americans for whom the justice system has failed.
3. Still Life by Louise Penney
In our third post of this series we’ll be discussing what I’ve learned and what tools and resources I’ve used in my reading this year. One of the biggest things I’ve learned about my reading taste is how important it is to me that my books have a strong sense of place. Both time setting and physical location have a hand in this and nothing really gets me invested in a story like feeling that I could actually be there. This is the first in the Inspector Gamache mystery series and is set in a quint and utterly adorable village in Canada called Three Pines. Being a bit of a foodie and pretty hungry to see the world, I LOVED that not only do these mysteries keep me on the edge of my seat, I have never felt cozier or more transported while reading. I’ve read the first five of this series now and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
4. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
I might have a crush on Brene Brown. I fell down a bit of a social sciences and human psychology rabbit hole this year and while many of the books I’ve read were interesting to me, they read A LOT like a textbook, making them inaccessible to the average reader. This book though, along with each of her others, teaches us about big ticket emotional hurdles like vulnerability, shame, and belonging in a way that somehow makes brain science compulsively readable. I flew through this one on my Kindle in three days.
5. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
I am crazy for historical fiction. I bounce genres a lot in my reading life, but if I get a good historical fiction recommendation, I am stopping everything to read it. This book is just beautiful. It isn’t too long but has a sweeping over fifty year arch. It’s multiple narrators each have my heart in their own way and the sequel to this one was almost as good. This is a perfect read for a winter's night snuggled on the couch.
I can’t wait to hear what you think! Come back next week to learn what new authors I’ve discovered this year and which of their books I would recommend as an introduction to each. Please comment below and recommend to me your favorite reads of the year!
So it’s the New Year, and if you’re anything like me, enduring an Ohio winter is simply not worth it after Christmas. I think this is because the motivation of a white Christmas is behind us and I’m just ready to get to spring break. I’ve noticed that I tend to think of this time of year as my very least favorite with its black ice and dry hair and the flu. SO, I am newly obsessed with the the Danish concept of Hygge.
A loose definition of hygge (pronounced hoo-guh) is, “The art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open hearted and alive. Also to create well-being, connection, and warmth with a feeling of belonging to the moment and each other. It is the celebration of the everyday.”
If that doesn’t sound like a cure for the winter blues, I do not know what does. Hygge is a concept and a way of life so it can be applied in countless ways, but it is naturally endeared with a sense of celebration that is normally absent during these long months. Where the Christmas season is full of hustle and bustle, full of bright colors and lights and big parties, hygge calls for soft, quiet, clean, and cozy.
I’ve been in the deep end of researching this idea, mainly through Pinterest and the books below (which I wholeheartedly recommend), and I’ve reduced the concept to a few key ideas that work in my American life. Here are my recommendations for a very Hygge New Year.
1. Cozy Fabrics
Basically, knits, flannels, and linen. Hygge leans in heavily to the idea of tactile comfort, like when you are deep in your flannel sheets at the end of a long day or wrapped in your warmest sweater at a bonfire, or snuggled in a huge knit blanket while watching a movie. Comfort can be straightforward, so oversized, soft, and crazy warm is our goal here.
2. Clean Decor
This speaks right to my heart. If you’ve ever been in my house, you know that I LOVE white. My couches, pillows, duvet, dishes, you name it, it’s white. I think the reason is that it reminds me of open clean spaces. There is nothing better than being able to pick up a dish or a blanket at the store in any shade of white and knowing it will go with my decor because I’ve chosen to keep it clean and simple. Homegoods, by the way, is your friend.
3. Warm Drinks in Good Mugs
Taking the time to make stovetop hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows or a steaming hot toddy or spiced warm apple cider is so good for the soul. It gives you something to do with your hands while your brain takes a break and is as easy and quick as can be. When served in a good quality enamel or ceramic mug in front of an honest to God crackling fire (or just the one on Netflix) it just can’t be beat. Here are some scrumptious recipes that Ben and I have loved.
4. Gathering Around the Table
You might remember from my goal setting post last week that one of my big goals for 2018 is to practice hospitality every chance I get and to take time to be creative. This one falls in line with both of those goals. Gathering people in your home is a holy pursuit, I mean it. When your people come together over a table it gives us the feeling of family and connection that research shows us that improves our health and general well-being, extending our life span and increasing our joy. Winter is the perfect time for a soup party. I’m linking up my favorite cookbook for soups, my go-to recipe for homemade bread, and our all time favorite white chicken chili recipe that is perfect for parties.
5. Light & Books
The final central tenet in practicing hygge is curating beautiful light. Overhead lighting and especially LED lighting washes us out and makes our homes look clinical and even dirty. Warm lamp light, twinkle lighting, and candle light adds to the cozy, safe, and warm feeling of our homes in winter. The ways I’m using good lighting are when reading a thick and well worn novel under a lamp, creating a hygge inspired nook with floor pillows and twinkly lights and a basket of throw blankets, and eating dinner by candle light.
Hygge embraces the idea that the things we touch, see, smell, hear, and taste are vitally important to our peace of mind and wholeness of being over the winter months. If you have specific recipes, books, or music that are getting you through these cold months, comment below!
We are just days away from 2018 so I’m sitting down to create the vision of our upcoming year. Just like I probably won’t make it to the gym unless I wear my work-out clothes to bed and I likely wouldn’t make my appointments without requesting them off of work and writing them in my planner, I will definitely not take advantage of the fresh start of a new year unless I set my intentions now.
Setting intentions sounds boring and even stressful, but if you have the right (and pretty) tools , accompanied with the right mindset, I think you might actually love it.
Our friend Annie F. Downs advises us to think of our New Year’s Resolutions as New Year’s experiments. Here are my tips and tools for fun and fulfilling goal setting for 2018.
1. Pick Your Word
Every year I pick a word that is the central theme of my year. In 2016 my word was “rise”, in 2017 my word was “grateful”, and this year, I’m leaning toward “awake”. I think God is calling me to be engaged in the moment instead of obsessing about the future or worrying about the past. I want to spend this year striving toward an interrupted life, awake to God’s work not only in my quiet time, small group, or church, but in my day-to-day routine. My word-of-the-year generally represents the spiritual theme of my year and invites the Lord to go to work on those areas of my life.
2. Categorize Your Goals
I’ve attached a worksheet I created a few years ago that breaks my goals into specific categories that are right for me. Feel free to download it and use it for yourself. Change up those categories if they aren’t relevant for you. I also love the more lyrical version here by Ann Voskamp. This is the 2017 version, so be on the lookout for the 2018 addition coming out soon.
3. Set Aside Time
Ben and I call the time we take filling out these worksheets and having conversation about what we loved, what we would like to see change, and where we would like to grow in the New Year, our Year-In Review. We brew a strong pot of coffee and eat leftover Christmas cookies and use pretty pens while we brainstorm. It always makes me feel more connected to Ben and more excited about the coming months.
4. Be Realistic
Don’t be mean to yourself. If you would love to get in shape, make your goal two days a week at the gym for now, not a marathon in three months (unless that sounds fun to you….). If you want to grow closer to the Lord, start with a 15 minute quiet time, not an uninterrupted meditation practice at 4am. Make goals that will be fun to live into. This is not a time to stress yourself out and highlight all your current shortcomings. We are going to experiment with what living our best life might look like, and try to find what practices may be life giving for us. Don’t put pressure on yourself, just be open to the experiment, and embrace your New Year with intention.
Finally, I would LOVE to hear your word for the year. If you decide to choose just one word or phrase for 2018, please share it with us in the comments!
Advent has been huge for us. This practice is about finding the stillness in this season, living in the tension between the coming of the Messiah as a baby and the advent of his coming again. It is so easy to miss the thread of spirituality in all the celebration, so at the end of each day, Ben and I meet at our dining table, light the candles, and read from The Art of Simple’s “Simple Advent Guide”. The guide provides a reading, question to consider, and a suggested song from the playlist linked below. This time has been so meaningful for us. We draw near to Jesus as a little family everyday and it is priceless.
2. Real Trees
Having a real tree in the home for Christmas has been a value for both of our families so we went to Saum’s tree farm this year to cut down our own. I choose to decorate with sentimental ornaments instead of perfectly matchy and it stands in our living room as a representation of where we’ve come from and where we are now. Plus, the smell!!!
3. Elf on the Shelf!
Last week, I came home from school and told Ben about my third graders announcing that their elves had come over Thanksgiving weekend. He could tell how excited I was for them so HE GOT US OUR OWN ELF! He moves it every morning because I hop out of bed SO excited to see where Buddy has moved. Ben is basically a saint. Here are some of the sweet places I’ve found Buddy this week!
4. Christmas Eve Letters
On Christmas Eve, before I turn in with my siblings for our annual sleepover, Ben and I have decided to take a minute to ourselves under my family’s tree to trade letters. We are going to write about the biggest lesson we learned during our year together and our most treasured memory. Someday, when years have gone by, I know these will remind us so much of who we were in our first years.
What are your couple traditions for this season? How do you make the season special for your little family of two?
Welcome! I'm a brand new wife, second year music teacher, Jesus follower, and am chronically curious about just about everything. Join me as I kick off this adult life.
"I am the Vine, you are the Branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."