Monday, January 16, 2017

2016 Reading Round-Up

Yes, I realize we're more than half way into January now, and I also realize that I already missed my goal of blogging at least once a week by missing last week altogether... but that's because my dang MacBook is out of commission AGAIN. We're waiting on a new hard drive to arrive (thank goodness that was under warranty still!), so I've only had access to Dan's laptop during the work day since he needs it in the evenings to study.

Anyway...

I set a goal to read 16 books in 2016, and I met that goal (and exceeded it by a couple - yay!) I use Goodreads to organize the books I have read, am currently reading, and want to read. Are you on there? If so, we should be friends - find me here! :) And if you'd like to see my post about my favorite 15 books ever that I am always recommending to people, please check out this post - but I feel like I need to make an updated version soon!

What I Read in 2016


1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - If you enjoy WWII novels, this one is for you. It's about a blind girl living in France during WWII, and it alternates between her and the story of a German boy at the same time and how they're both just trying to make it through. It's great.

2. The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin - I read this one for book club. While it was a great story, I almost wish I hadn't read it because my perspective of, and thus my opinion of, Charles Lindbergh has forever been tainted. But I guess it's better to know certain things than to live in ignorance. It WAS a good book. The story was engaging, and I enjoyed learning about an American couple that I didn't know much about. 

3. Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic - This should be a mandatory book in school. It's quick, and it is literally a diary, so it reads fast. And the topic is so, so important. Similar to Anne Frank's diary, Zlata's diary is also set during war-time, but instead it is during the Bosnian war of the 1990's. 

4. A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold - I have always been fascinated with the Columbine shooting from 1999, so as soon as I saw Sue Klebold speak in an interview early last year and learned she had a book coming out, I was all over it. This book did not disappoint. It was interesting reading about the tragedy from one of the shooter's mother's perspective - it's difficult to not have empathy for her. 

5. Sacred Space by Corie Weathers - Military spouses, rejoice! This one is for you. Corie Weathers, a military spouse, had the unique opportunity to travel with Secretary of Defense Carter in 2015 after winning Military Spouse of the Year, and this book reflects her thoughts on how it is for the spouses waiting at home AND for the servicemembers who are deployed - and the dichotomy of the two. I was lucky enough to be on the launch team for this book and was able to read it and discuss it in an online group before it hit shelves. 

6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - This one kind of bored me, I'm not going to lie. I read it because I feel like so many people have, and it's so often talked about. The subject matter was good, and I don't think it was the book. I think I was in a reading funk when I read this one, so I won't blame the book. 



7. Columbine by Dave Cullen - After reading Sue Klebold's book, I was browsing reviews online and came across this one and decided to read it as well. It's a very factual based book that follows the events chronologically, which I enjoyed. It was objective and written after years of research, and I appreciated being able to read about the tragedy from yet another viewpoint.

8. The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD - Annabelle is a toddler now, so I read a couple parenting books... this is one of them. I'm not going to review a parenting book. 

9. What to Expect the Toddler Years by Heidi Murkoff - Annabelle is a toddler now, so I read a couple parenting books... this is one of them. I'm not going to review a parenting book. 

10. Shine by Jodi Picoult - This is a short story by Picoult that comes before her newest novel, Small Great Things. It was a quick read and got me VERY excited to read the full novel! 

11. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - If you're looking for a fast-paced mystery, this is it! I enjoyed trying to figure out who the "bad guy" was all along, and there wasn't a slow spot in this book. 

12. Push by Sapphire - If you aren't comfortable with "bad" language, then sit this one out because there is a LOT of it, and some is far worse than anything I've ever read in a typical novel. That said, this book was eye-opening to me about the lives of some young women who live in places that aren't as well-off as what we picture in our heads. Physical, emotional, verbal abuse... neglect... sexual assault... these are all big themes in this book, but it's worth reading to see the triumph that takes place. 



13. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult - This is by far the best book I read in 2016, and it will for sure be added to my favorite books of all time list when I get around to updating it. It's about a black nurse who is forced to be alone with a white baby after the extremely racist parents have made it clear she should never be around him... and of course something goes wrong. The book chronicles the trial and is told from several different perspectives. It's an eye-opener for sure. 

14. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - Another WWII novel set in France, this one is also great. It tells the stories of two sisters who are very different and how each of them lives day to day throughout the war. I've heard it's being made into a movie, and if so, I'll happily go see it! 

15. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai - This one had been on my to-read list forever. It's written by the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan and lived through it and her family's journey (from way before the shooting took place) of trying to make sure girls in Pakistan could receive an education as well. Malala is a hero in many regards. 

16. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne - Okay, where do I even start? This is the worst book I read in 2016, and maybe it's just because I am very well-educated when it comes to the Holocaust and Auschwitz (which I visited in 2015, something I had wanted to do for YEARS), but there are so many factual errors, and it just makes me cringe. And don't even get me started on the ended. That said, it is a best-seller for a reason, so others definitely enjoy it. There's a movie as well, and I may watch it just to see if it's any better done than the book. Note: Auschwitz is never ACTUALLY mentioned in the book, but duh, we all know what the author is referring to here.

17. My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares - This is a quick read about two people who keep meeting up in their new lives after they both die, but only one of them can remember everything. It chronicles several different lives and is fascinating. My only complaint is that there was supposed to be a sequel, but this book is several years old now, and it never came about. 

18. Rena's Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz by Heather Dune Macadam - Another Holocaust book... are you sensing a trend? This one is a gem. I firmly believe everyone should read every Holocaust account they can because all of these stories are worthy of being read over and over and over. What Rena and her sister went through at Auschwitz (like everyone else) is despicable, and we need to know the truth so it doesn't happen again. 

Note: My husband challenged me to go a year without reading a WWII book, but how can I when The Zookeeper's Wife movie comes out this spring? I can't - I'll have to read it right before. 

... and that's a wrap!

Did you read any good books in 2016? 
What's next on your to-read list?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2017 Personal & Family Goals

Can you believe 2017 is here?! I'm not sure how that happened. It seems like Dan and I were counting down to 2014 for so long, and that year took FOREVER to get here, but ever since then, time has seriously flown. We'll celebrate three years of marriage this year. Already. It doesn't even seem possible!

Like every other year, I love to start with fresh goals. Without them, I have nothing to strive for, and this year, I set some personal goals and worked with Dan to set some family goals... so here we go!


PERSONAL GOALS

1. Blog at least four times a month. This only works out to be once a week, and I think I'm comfortable with that goal. There were six weeks that slipped by during the fall that I didn't blog once, and I think it was in part due to me being unable to commit to blogging regularly and catching up on everything I missed. I don't want that to happen again. I want to document our life, so I'm going to focus on quality over quantity here. And if I'm able to post more than once a week, then I'm happy with that too!

2. Read 20 books. Last year, I successfully completed my goal of 16 books and even surpassed it with one more. I figure if I can read 17 books in a year, I can definitely read 20 as long as I make a conscious effort. I definitely sleep better when I read before bed, so that habit will continue.

3. Grow my current Etsy shop. AnnaKate Paperie was pretty successful at making passive income last year. December was definitely my busiest month with people shopping for Christmas gifts, and since all of my items are digital downloads, the orders kept rolling in through Christmas since customers could print them at home to give as last minute gifts. I am more inspired now than even before and hope to continue and piggyback on that success... which brings me to...

4. Start a new shop with a clear focus. This has been in the works behind the scenes for a few weeks now. It was actually my husband's idea, and my target customers are going to be military families. I am in the process of creating designs and setting up shop, so I'll be announcing it soon. Stay tuned.

5. Finish my personal cookbook. Yes, this has been a goal of mine for quite some time. I like my recipes to be tidy, so I am re-typing all of them to be in the same format with the same fonts, spacing, etc. I want them to be easy to read when I'm cooking and organized by category. It's been a huge undertaking, and I need to catch up so that all I need to do is add new ones as we try them.

6. Make healthier choices with food and activities. This one is the cliché "get in shape" goal, but I seriously do need to take better care of myself, and that begins with the choices I make. Dan and I are in this together, so I'm hoping that helps us stick to it.

7. Learn how to actually use my camera. We have a nice Canon DSLR camera, and I love it. It's the best purchase we made right before Annabelle was born. The problem is that I'm stuck in auto mode because I don't know how to work manual mode, even though I know I'll get better photos once I learn. There's no better time to learn than when you're trying to capture a wild toddler, am I right?!

8. Publish a piece of writing somewhere. This one is vague, but it's also my big, scary goal for myself. This is the one that will push me out of my comfort zone. It's something I've ALWAYS dreamed of. It doesn't matter if it's a bigger blog or a website or even a printed piece. I just want need to make this happen this year.


FAMILY GOALS

1. Socialize Annabelle. She is such a social butterfly, but she doesn't have any real friends. No one else in Dan's class here has a child, and of the people I've met here who do have children either have tiny babies or older kids. We want to make more of an effort for her to play with other toddlers. This will start with library story time.

2. Go on at least one date night per month. All parents know how hard it is to stay romantic when dealing with a baby/toddler/child 24/7. We want to prioritize our marriage, so we'll be taking advantage of the Parent's Night Out put on through the CDC on base once a month to go out just the two of us and have a great time.

3. Do at least one ACTIVE family activity each week. Remember my personal goal up there about making healthier choices? This will help. Dan is SUPER busy with pilot training, but we can go on a family walk or do any number of other activities at least once a week. We have to make time for it.

4. Hike in the Wichita Mountains. These "mountains" aren't big compared to the ones we were used to in Colorado, but they're only an hour away in Lawton, Oklahoma, so we definitely want to get up there this spring to check it out. It'll be the perfect first "hike" for Annabelle!

5. Go on an Oklahoma City trip. Dan and I explored Oklahoma City once when we first started dating nearly eight years ago, but we haven't really been back together since then. I've been on a couple solo trips there, and we've driven through several times, but we want to take Annabelle to the zoo and the kids science museum there, among other things.

6. Visit San Antonio. Luckily, the Air Force will make this one easy for us. Dan has a training there later this month for a few days, and Annabelle and I will be tagging along. We want to check out the Riverwalk for sure, but there's so much to do there compared to our little town in North Texas.


Do you have any goals for the year?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016: A Year in Review

This is one of those posts that probably won't interest too many of you, especially as I've blogged (not too well this year!) about many of these topics already... but this is more of a post for the books. For my memory. For my family... and especially for my daughter. 


Regardless, 2016 was good to us! It was less life-changing than 2015 was, but it did bring along a cross-country move and home-ownership for the first time. Each month was filled with many different events, and I want to remember as much as possible.



In January, we took our first family vacation to Niagara Falls, Canada (with a stop at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on the way) when Annabelle was four months old. 


In February, we had lots of visitors to our home in Ohio - my mom, followed by Lydia, followed by Michelle! 


March brought Annabelle's half birthday, Dan graduating with his Master's in Applied Physics from AFIT, and saying goodbye to good friends in Ohio before moving to Texas. 


We stopped in Missouri to see family for Easter on our cross-country drive and got settled in Texas in April. Annabelle went to her first air show and (kind of) enjoyed it. 


We traveled to Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and New Mexico in May, and Annabelle got to go on her first six flights, including one Space A flight on a C-17. We visited family and friends on that trip and even took Annabelle to our favorite places from our years in Colorado Springs. At the end of the month, Dan and I celebrated two years of marriage. Exciting! 


In June, Dan promoted to 1st Lieutenant and started pilot training at ENJJPT, signifying the real beginning of our life in Texas. 


July was hot, and we spent a lot of time walking around our neighborhood in the mornings before it was unbearable. 


August was spent with a trip to Branson for a wedding and a trip to Kansas City for a bridal shower and bachelorette party. Dan flew his Dollar Ride in the T-6, and Annabelle and I went to the airfield to watch Dan fly his first solo in the T-6 - how fun! 


September brought our sweet and sassy Annabelle's first birthday, which was a blast, and a family trip to Dallas to take her to the zoo for the first time. That month ended with a trip to Kansas City so I could stand by one of my best friend's side as she became a wife, and then Annabelle and I visited another best friend in St. Louis so we could meet Baby Huxley! I also finished my exclusively pumping journey, which was a long but well worth it year-long extravaganza for me. 


In October, Annabelle and I returned from our road trip, and we celebrated her second Halloween by taking her to a Trunk-or-Treat event on base. 


November was busy with Dan flying long hours, hosting a giant Thanksgiving dinner, and just living life. 


December brought about Dan completing his training in the T-6 and traveling to Missouri for Christmas and New Years! 


What a wonderful year we had as a family. Here's to 2017 - hopefully it will be even better!


Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas (and Our Card!)

We're on the road to Missouri now, so I won't be blogging on Christmas. I just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

As per tradition, I also wanted to share our fun Christmas card. We didn't get a great family photo this year, so we decided to be a little untraditional... but I'm loving how it turned out (and so are the recipients!)

To see our old cards, check out here for 2015's and here for 2014's!



Monday, December 19, 2016

Mess Free Baby / Toddler Painting Sensory Play

Okay, so this isn't exactly the most original or most creative tutorial ever, but we have enjoyed it, and if someone else can benefit from this mess-free baby/toddler painting, then I want to share!

Annabelle has painted twice so far - once way back in July for her Grammy's birthday and then again in November for her Great Meme's birthday! She loved it both times, and so did the recipients! I mean... what more can you ask for than original masterpieces from the cutest little baby you adore, right?! And I loved it because I didn't have much prep or clean-up, and I got to watch my smiley little girl have fun doing something creative that isn't the same old / same old!


This idea is super easy, but I'll break it down for you because I definitely know how busy moms are, and the more things are spelled out, the easier they are.

WHAT YOU NEED
• high chair
• gallon size zip-top bag
• paint (any kind, but we use acrylic) in however many different colors you want
• cardstock (any weight - we use 110 lb because it's what we have on hand)
• tape (if you want)
• a baby or toddler :) 

WHAT TO DO
1. Prep cardstock by trimming about an inch off of one side so it fits inside the zip-top bag.

2. Squirt small dots of various colors of paint onto the cardstock. Make sure to spread the paint dots out evenly over the entire sheet of cardstock if you want the entire piece to be covered in the end.

3. Secure the paint by closing the top of the zip-top bag.

4. Tape the bag down to the high chair tray IF YOU WANT. I would recommend this if your kid is a wild child... but mine is too (she loves waving things around and throwing them), but I choose to let her play with the bag since it's sealed shut - but for an even easier experience (especially if you want pictures), you can tape it down - easy peasy lemon squeezy! 

5. Place your child in the high chair, grab your camera, and let him/her have a blast! :) 

6. You CAN pull the cardstock out of the bag if you want to frame the original... but I recommend cutting the zip-top bag down so the cardstock doesn't rip (since it's wet with paint!) when pulling it out. If you wait for it to dry, it will be nearly impossible to get out because the plastic will stick to the paper. What I have done, however, if take pictures of her painting and then a good, close-up photo of the painting itself, and then have three pictures printed - two of her painting and then the actual painting photo - and then put those in one of those multiple opening frames (I have used 4x6 frames from Walmart both times, but you could do any size). 




Most of all, just have fun! It's a great sensory play activity as well because it'll most likely be a new (or not often felt) texture for your child. Sensory play is important for many reasons:

- it stimulates the five senses
- it facilitates exploration and discovery
- it helps children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially, emotionally, physically, and creatively


What more can you ask for? A fun time AND a little bit of education thrown in! Guys... I think this is what teachers who become stay-at-home-moms do. Educational activities all the time. At least I try to keep it fun! 

  • Have you ever painted with your kiddo?
  • What are some of your favorite sensory activities to do with your child?