Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year End Recap

It has been quite the year in our home. Lots has happened, and overall, it was a truly wonderful year. I have very few complaints. If you're not a new reader, most of these pictures will be familiar, as I've probably posted them before. If you're new to my blog, then welcome to my year! Let's take a look back...

Now it's time to say goodbye to this year that was very kind to us and to ring in the new year. We have some friends coming over tonight for a small party, and I'm so excited about all the food I've been preparing for it. Be on the look out for a great menu post!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas with my family...

Like I mentioned the other day, our families live in the same town, so it's really easy for us to see both families at the holidays. While we did spend majority of our time with J's family, we definitely got to celebrate with mine too.

On Christmas Eve it's a tradition for my family to go to a movie. My little sister can even go back and tell you what movie we saw on every Christmas Eve since 1990. I don't know how she can remember. This year's movie was True Grit...a great film and it was loved by everyone, which says a lot since we had a large variety in our group. I highly recommend it!

Another nice thing about the movie was we got to see my little sister and her boyfriend. They headed out around lunch time Christmas day to go to see his family, so the movie was the only time I got to see them. She brought my present to the movie and she got me the cutest mojito glasses at Fishs Eddy. I think she's bought all my gifts there since moving to NYC three years ago, and I have no complaints. She always finds the cutest things!

Since we spent Christmas morning with J's family, we headed over to see my parents and my little brother in the evening. It was nice and low key, and we had a lot of fun exchanging gifts and enjoying a great dinner prepared by my mom.

My mom holding up her present from us. I got her a duffel bag from my dear friend's shop, Whitney Caroline Designs. My mom LOVED it!

I was so excited to get nice salt and pepper grinders. They're just from Costco, but this foodie wannabe needed them!

We got my dad a subscription to Netflix

And I loooooove this canvas my mom got us using the picture from our Christmas card!

And this little guy had a blast...can you tell?

Mom's beautiful table setting and Christmas decor set up for dinner...

After dinner we played a big game of Farkle. It's a dice game that my dad loves and has been playing for years. He shared his funny stories about Farkle with us from when he's played in airports all over the world, and although J and were both losers (everyone else won a round), we had a great time.

We woke up on the 26th and the snow was was still falling, but very lightly. Richmond got about 5 inches of snow and it was beautiful.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas with J's family

We spent Christmas morning with J's family. He has a two brothers, a sister, and his sister has three girls and one boy. It's a big group! We started the day with a big breakfast.

After eating, it was time for presents! And there were LOTS of presents...

There were a lot of Dora presents for our littlest niece, and she cracked us up and wouldn't open any gifts for her if they weren't wrapped in Dora paper. She also got a pair of Dora boots...I think this was the year of Dora for her!

J and I were given so many great things. His whole family is so generous and it was really nice spending time with all of them.

I am so mad I didn't take a picture of it, but we got a necklace for my sister in law with all of her children's names on it from The Vintage Pearl. It ended up being beautiful! It was probably the gift I was most excited to give!

All in all, it was a wonderful Christmas with J's family!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Shiny Lights

One of the best things about our families living in the same town is the fact that we can do fun Christmas activities with both families. On the evening of December 23, J and I went with his dad and our nieces to the Botanical Garden in Richmond.

They always do a big lights display in the gardens, but in all my years of spending Christmas in Richmond, this was actually my first time going to visit. It was very cold, but the lights were beautiful and I know the girls had a lot of fun.

I love this one of my father in law and our youngest niece!

We saw the world's prettiest Christmas don't do it justice! It was just complete eye candy!

And this isn't related to the lights, but on the way back home we stopped for some dinner to bring back home. J got a Double Down sandwich from KFC, not because he thought it looked good, but more just to say he has tried one. Gross. It looks like a heart attack in a bag to me!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ornament Exchange

A lot has happened in the last few days! Instead of piling it all into one post, I'm going to break it up a little.

Last Wednesday was my last day of school (and boy oh boy, it was a long migraine filled day). As soon as the day was over, J and I headed to Richmond to be with our families. I went to my parent's house for the night to attend my mom's ornament exchange. It was fun seeing a lot of my mom's good friends and two of my close friends who were in town for Christmas. I love seeing my family at Christmas, but I love that I get to see all my good high school friends during this time too!

Me, Erica, Sarah

I ended up getting an adorable little fish ornament. I'm looking forward to hanging it on our tree when I get back home. I will say though, ALL of the ornaments were adorable. I would have been happy taking any one of them home.

Me and my momma, the wonderful hostess!

It was a fun get together, with many laughs, and lots of catching up!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Joy to the World

Has there ever been a more joyful Christmas tune? I don't think so...

Merry Christmas to you and all your loved ones!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

merry last day of school

Today is our last day of school before the break....hallelujah. This has been one LONG week and I am ready for some time off. Am I jealous of all the teachers out there who got off last Friday? YES....very much so. But I'm just going to be grateful for the 7 days that I do have off.

I've already received boxes and tins and buckets full of cookies and sweets. You name the type of cookie and I probably have it. Clearly, my students are trying to fatten me up. Not sure how I feel about that.

And just for laughs, I have a funny Christmas story from school. I am the yearbook coordinator, so I'm always going in and out of classrooms during my planning to snap pictures of classes. I went into a kindergarten room yesterday and they were cutting out photos from a sales ad of what they want for Christmas.

As I'm walking in I hear one girl say to her table, "I just can't find what I want in here!"

"What do you want?" a little boy at the table asks?

"I just want a husband!"....I died right there. She wants a husband for Christmas but there are none in the Sunday paper ads. What a tragedy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010 Books

Like last year, I am ready to post my year end review of books. I try to make 12 books my goal for each year. That equates to one book a month. I went way above my goal in 2010 and I am happy about that! If you're a reader and you don't already use Goodreads, please sign up! It is such a great site and makes tracking your reading so nice. I love going back and looking at all I've read. Something about that gives me a real sense of accomplishment.

In 2010 I read 15 books and listened to 6 books (not including children's literature at school!). Here's what I read/listened to:

January 2010

Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

I absolutely loved this book. It's a story told from two men, one is a wealthy white man, the other is a homeless black man. The tale of how their lives have been brought together is amazing and a true testament to our great God. I loved, loved, loved this book and have passed the name on to many friends. Thanks to Erin for suggesting this book to me!!

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

Like all of Jodi Picoult's books, this was another long drawn out story that needs to be made into a Lifetime movie. I find her books to be entertaining on my 30 minute commute, but she drives me crazy. Her stories all follow a formula and the characters often annoy me, but the thing is...I keep going back for more. What's wrong with me? If you're a big Picoult fan, I'm sorry. She strikes a nerve with me.

February 2010

Lifeguard by James Patterson and Andrew Gross

Blah. That's all I really have to say about this book. I listened to it and it just wasn't my style. I know there are a lot of Patterson fans out there and this was the first book of his that I've read. I'd like to give him another try.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

My friend Rachel recommended this book to me and I'm really glad she did. It wasn't an all time favorite, but I really enjoyed it. I read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells back in 2008 and really loved it. This book lived up to that one. This is the story of Wells' great grandmother who died when Wells was only 8. It's told in first person and the story of her great grandmother's life is ordinary but remarkable.

March 2010

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

I saw several people write about this book on twitter last winter and it sounded like something I'd be interested in. Sure enough, I loved it. Was it life changing? No, but was it a well written tale of friendship? Definitely. I used to love the movie Beaches as a little girl and this reminded me a lot of that. If you want a good mindless book that is sweet and memorable, pick this up.

Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger

This was an audio book I picked up on a whim at the library. It was just so so. Nothing special at all. It made my ride a little more enjoyable, but I was glad to see it end so I could move on to another book. If you like chick lit about girls in NYC, check it out, if not don't waste your time.

April 2010

Lucky by Alice Sebold

I've noticed on the web that this book has a WIDE variety of reviews. I, personally, loved it. I listened to it, and this was one of those audio books that made me excited to get in my car and drive to work each day at 7AM. That says a lot! I listened to The Lovely Bones by Sebold back in college on a 9 hour drive to see J and I felt the same way. When I showed up in Nashville he came out greet me and I wasn't ready to get out of the car. The big difference between this book and LB is that this one is a memoir. She has an amazing story. It is graphic, very graphic, but written so well.

A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve

It took me almost a month and half to get through this book. I saw a friend review it on Goodreads and I was intrigued. In the end I decided it had parts that I really enjoyed, but the story itself dragged and didn't engage me. It's about a tragedy that a couple experiences in Africa and the aftermath of that tragedy in their lives. Has great potential but it just flounders. Kind of a bummer of a book.

May 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Niffenegger is the amazing writer who wrote The Time Traveler's Wife, one of my all time favorite novels. When I heard about her newest novel, I immediately put it on my reserve list at the library. This was an audio book for me, and that may have played a part in my final opinion, but I really don't think so. I really believe that this was an odd story that wasn't even written that well. It's about a set of American twins who go to live in their dead aunt's flat in London and the secrets that she kept. It deals with a lot of super natural elements which kind of seemed far fetched and silly to me. I know, that seems funny seeing that her last novel was about time traveling, but she sold me in that book. I believed it. I didn't believe in the ghost aunt. Anyone else have these feelings?

So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore

I read this for the conference I attended in Atlanta back in April. I wrote about my thoughts on the book and conference here.

June 2010

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

After finishing Firefly Lane a few months prior, I put a few of Kristin Hannah's other books on reserve at the library. This turned out to be a good choice! Winter Garden turned out to be a fantastic read as well. It took awhile to get into, and honestly, the first 100-150 pages weren't doing it for me, but as I kept going I really started to enjoy it. By the end, I was in tears. I don't want to spoil anything so I won't say much. Just read the plot summary on Amazon and if you seem slightly interested, give it a try. You won't be disappointed.

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

I've read all of Giffin's books, and like the others, I flew through this one. I did enjoy it and didn't want to put it down, BUT I am tired of her books that deal with affairs and cheating. It was a well written story, but I didn't like that she tried to make the reader feel sympathy for the cheaters. I just didn't feel it.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

I truly loved this book. It was heart felt yet very funny. If you enjoy memoirs, read it. Kate did a great post about this book here.

August 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I've had this book on my "to read" list for I don't even know how long. About two dozen people told me I HAD to read it, but since I'm cheap I waited 'til it was in at the library. That means I waited on the waiting list for EIGHT MONTHS! When I finally got my hands on it in early July, I'll admit, it took me about 100 pages to really get into it...but once I did? I could not put it down. This book was so wonderful for so many reasons. The story was great, but the message relayed in this story was more powerful than I can put into words. Just go to Goodreads and read others' reviews...if you haven't read this book yet, those reviews will make you want to read it!

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

After reading many rave reviews on these books on others' blogs (Mojito, Pink Sass, Duoly Noted) of this series, I knew I had to give it a try. My little sister let me borrow her copies of the first two books (The Hunger Games and Catching Fire). I devoured the first book in no time at all. The sort of futuristic sci-fi story line seemed like something I wouldn't be interested in, but I was quickly proved wrong. I was in love with this series! I hadn't read any sort of fictional series since Harry Potter that I felt this kind of love and appreciation for. I really enjoyed book 2, and book 3 let me down in a lot of ways. I was hoping for an epic ending to this incredible tale, but it let me down. I'd still recommend them to others if you haven't read them. The first two were just THAT good. They are the kind of books that you cannot get out of your head for weeks. Overall, I loved them.

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

This was our first book club selection over at Book Beginnings and Bookends. I could go on and on about this book, but I think my thoughts are best summed up over there!

October 2010

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

This was book #2 in our book club....unlike CeeCee Wilkes, I really disliked this book. Check out the book club blog for more specifics. I go into more detail about what I disliked in this book there.

November 2010

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

This book was recommended to me by my friend Karah and I'm so glad she told me about it. I listened to this book on a long road trip this fall, and it was one of those books that made me want to stay in my car. I didn't mind sitting in traffic because it meant more listening. That's probably not healthy. This book is about a mom who adopted her little boy, only to later find his picture on a "Have you seen this child?"'s a nail biter. Is it a little over the top at times? Sure, but it's a fun book that you won't want to put down. And it's written much better than any Jodi Picoult book.

December 2010

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This was another book I read after seeing Mojito talk about it on her blog. It's a young adult novel, and while I did like it, it also made me really angry. It's about a sensitive subject (suicide), and while I really enjoyed the way Asher wrote this book, the story really bugged me. For those of you who have read, here's the main reason I didn't like it...the blame! Hannah put so much blame on others for her depression and her reasons for wanting to end her life. It was blame that seemed unjust to me and now those 13 people will have to live with that forever. It really bugged. But then again, as I was reminded by another friend, it was a young adult novel and I read it at 27. That may have something to do with my reaction. Not sure.

So there ya have it! That is my 2010 book list.

I have a big list starting for 2011. Nothing definite other than one book...Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry It's one of my dad's all time favorite novels, and I've wanted to read it for quite some time. If that's all I get read in the new year, I'll be happy. I'd also like to reread all 7 Harry Potter books from start to finish, but I know that will still leave me with lots of extra book time. What would you suggest?

I'm always looking for the next great book. This year, The Help and Same Kind of Different as Me were those books for me. Last year it was American Wife, The Middle Place, and The Art of Racing in the Rain. So please, please, please share your favorites...nothing is off limits (except Twilight...I gave it a try and just couldn't give in to that awful writing)!

Happy Reading in 2011!

Image sources: Same Kind of Different as Me, Keeping Faith,Lifeguard, Half Broke Horses,Firefly Lane, Chasing Harry Winston, Lucky, A Change in Altitude, Her Fearful Symmetry, Winter Garden, So Long Insecurity, Heart of the Matter, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress,The Help, The Hunger Games Trilogy, The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, Commencement, Look Again, 13 Reasons Why