Changing up Christmas

This year I already knew I wanted to change up how we did Christmas. Little Man is 4 and is really starting to understand Christmas and the whole holiday season so I wanted to start really digging into some new traditions and doing stuff as a family. 

Growing up, my family had like one tradition. We would go out to dinner on Christmas Eve, come home and open up one present that was under the tree. Then we set out cookies for Santa and went to bed. It was a very basic tradition but that is what we did. Oh! We also got a real Christmas tree every year, so we would pick that out as a family. After my parents divorce, the traditions said adios and Christmas looked different every single year. 

I don’t want that for Little Man. I want the Christmas season to be a time where he gets excited for all the things he knows we are about to do. I want him to know our traditions and potentially pass them down with his family one day. I’m hoping that Christmas is just the most wonderful time of the year.

A few weeks ago I was listened to one of my favorite podcasts, Live Free Creative. Miranda Anderson, who is the host, was talking about being more intentional for the holiday season. YES, give me more of that. I want plans and purpose and intention. The one thing that really stuck out to me during this episode was to pick a word for the season that you want to define the season. The word fun instantly came to my head as I was driving down the freeway. After last year’s holiday season being non-existent because of my bedrest, I wanted this season to be fun and merry and bright. All things Christmas, basically.  How was I going to make decisions about what to do this season? I was going to look at it through the lens of fun. Was it a fun activity? Yes? OKAY! Sign us up. Whatever is not fun is not happening. 

We are 7 days into December and I am feeling like this really is the most wonderful time of the year. I wanted to share some of the things we’ve already started to do to implement some new traditions and make sure this holiday season is full of fun.

RadReading Advent Calendar– Two awesome bloggers I follow collaborated and made this amazing advent Christmas reading calendar coloring page. I had it printed as an 18×24 and put it up in Little Man’s room and now we get to color on the walls. Each day as a different reading activity. We have not followed all of the activities, mainly because my son only wants us to read him The Gingerbread Pirates book every time we want to read to him. We’ve been able to do some of the activities, our librarian recommended some Christmas books and we were able to complete day 3 honestly. Plus we are diggin’ coloring this epic picture on the walls. 

How Winston Delivered Christmas– I wish I knew how I came across this book (probably Everyday Reading and one of her book posts) but I got it for my Kindle because I couldn’t get it anywhere in print on time. This book has 24 chapters so you read one a day leading up to Christmas and each chapter has a little activity to do at the end of it. Little Man has LOVED this book. We read our chapter in the morning before we do anything else for the day (work, school, errands, etc.) and do the activity later in the afternoon. So far, his favorite has been making snowflakes. (we are not doing all of them, for example, I didn’t have the ingredients to make gingerbread mice.) 

Christmas Lights viewing- there is an Ethel M chocolate factory out here that also has a giant cactus garden. Every year they deck the whole garden out in lights and you get to waltz around and see pretty lights for as long as you want. We have actually done this like every year, but someone always gets grumpy during it. This year, we decided to go on a weekend and we planned out the date to make sure we could see Santa while we were there. (This Santa also gives out chocolate so +10 points.) We also decided that we were just going to have fun with no expectations and not try to rush though it. We wouldn’t be worried about time or getting caught behind a big group trying to take photos. We would just enjoy the walk and the lights and enjoy the start of the holiday season. This mindset changed everything and it was the best night. Santa was awesome, there was chocolate, they were playing Christmas movies on a projector and we got to see all the pretty lights we wanted to. 

Watch all the Christmas movies you want, no matter how many times you’ve already seen it- This is my newest rule. Christmas movies are the bomb.com and watching them makes me happy. Who cares if I watch the same 7 back to back to back to back? Nobody cares and I’m enjoying the movies. Today, is the first day since Thanksgiving that I have not watched the Grinch movies. Little Man wants to watch them every day and so I’ve let him. 

Always Christmas music- In the car, getting ready, while I’m baking. Does it need music? Christmas music it is! 

Reading a chapter of Luke every day- The gospel of Luke has 24 chapters in it. Built in advent calendar activity. Every night my husband and I bust out our bibles and read the chapter together, out-loud and then we discuss anything that came up for us during the chapter. It has sparked a lot of good conversation and we’re only at the beginning. Jesus is the reason for the season and I am thankful that I can go through the Christmas story with my husband and dig deeper into the life of Jesus. 

We have some other stuff planned for the season, some places we are going to check out. There is a place that has a life sized gingerbread house this year so that is definitely on the list. This is just what we’ve done so far into this season and I’ve been having a blast. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. 

Christmas Movies to Snuggle Up With

It’s cold and rainy outside. A rare sight for me so I am doing my best to enjoy it today. Little Man and I have made snowflakes, read our daily chapter in our Christmas chapter book, colored some coloring pages and watched both the 2000 and 2018 versions of the Grinch. It’s been a great day. We also painted ornaments and I figured out some Christmas gifts. (whoo hoo!)

Winter is also the perfect season for snuggling and cuddling. Today, I’m sharing my favorite Christmas movies that are perfect for getting under a blanket with and getting cozy.

1. A Christmas Kiss- This movie used to be on Netflix and I discovered it a few years ago and I watch it about 100 times a season. No lie. It’s my favorite. A girl kisses a random dude in an elevator when they thought it was falling. Mystery man turns out to be her ultra-controlling boss’ boyfriend and we just have to wait for the Christmas magic to make a visit. It’s so cute and wonderful and pure Christmas. Google is telling me you can watch it on Vudu for free. I bought the DVD after it came off Netflix and I couldn’t find anywhere to watch it online last year. 

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas- I actually really liked the new animated one that came out last year. Cindy Lou Who just wants to talk to Santa to ask for something for her mom. Her mom is her hero and you can tell. It is such a cute movie! If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it ASAP. You can watch it on Netflix.

3. The Princess Switch- This cheesy Netflix original gives me all sorts of warm fuzzies. I will say, I wish they came up with a better fake country thank Balgravia. It sounds like someone was like “Bulgaria, but make it fake” and that is how we ended up with our main stage for a really cute movie. This movie is available on Netflix.

4. Christmas Inheritance- My favorite thing about this movie is that it isn’t a super bratty spoiled rich kid who is shipped off to learn humility. Like yes, she is a spoiled rich kid but she also works and tries really hard. She is aware of her image and how people see her. She also isn’t the best decision maker. Like her lesson is about the heart and the beauty of the small stuff, not that she needs to be taken down a few pegs (which happens to but not the whole point). You can watch this movie on Netflix.

5. The Mistle-Tones- This musical Christmas movie is my JAM. All Holly wants to do is sing with the Snowbelles and the groups current leader is dead set on making sure that doesn’t happen. Holly decides to start her own group and everything is just songs and drama from there. It has a really cute ending and it is just full of Christmas music. I love it. You can watch this on Hulu or Disney+.

6. A Christmas Prince- This movie is SO cheesy and so cute and so wonderful. It’s the perfect amount of Christmas with cheesy-ness and I’ll watch it 50 times before Christmas gets here. A writer from New York goes to Aldovia (better fake country name) to get the scoop on the Prince who is supposed to assume the throne and ends up pretending to be the princess’ tutor. It’s great. You can watch it on Netflix.

7. A Charlie Brown Christmas- No Christmas season is complete unless you have Charlie Brown. This is a firm belief. Which means this list isn’t complete without mentioning A Charlie Brown Christmas. We’ve already watched this movie at least 10 times since we decorated the house. My momma raised me on Charlie Brown and every time I watch this movie, I feel like I have a piece of my mom with me. This movie always makes me appreciate the small things. I even have a Charlie Brown tree that I set up every year. I also love that it talks about the real reason for the season. I don’t think this movie is on any streaming service but you can buy it on iTunes, Google and Amazon.

Now, I’m going back to snuggling up on my couch with some hot chocolate and my movies. What are some of your favorites? 

Book Lovers Guide Part II

Welcome back to another exciting edition of gift guides! I know I have done one whole gift guide and now I think I’m an expert. For part two of the book lover’s gift guide, I’m handing out a list of some of my favorite books I’ve loved period. Part 1 was strictly focused on books I’ve read this year and loved. Part 2, we are expanding.

Reminder, don’t be afraid that the book lover in your life has read these books or might already own them. Just grab a gift receipt. Nobody was ever injured exchanging a book and waltzing through a bookstore for a few hours. 

1. The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter– I have loved this book since I got it in 2012. I’ve reread it multiple times. This is a wonderful re-telling of Hades and Persephone. It’s a modern re-telling. It has so much greek mythology that 7th grade Ashleigh was squealing in my heart. (Mythology was my favorite part of 7th grade english)  This is a start of a wonderful series and love all the books. Start here though. Five out of five stars.

2. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson– THIS BOOK. Oh my gosh. Okay, this book had me guessing and every time I thought I had figured out what was going on, I’d turn the page and discover that I was wrong. This book is so good. I still need to read the rest of the series. Our main character flees her wedding day for an arranged marriage and starts a new life where two mysterious men show up. One is the prince who she was supposed to marry, the other, an assassin sent to kill her. 

3. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas– My favorite thing about this book is that it is set in “olden” times. Which is just my way of saying that it happens in a time period from the past before technology was a thing. Here we have an assassin who is in what is basically a jail. If jail was a place where bad people went and there were no rules on how they were treated. The prince plucks this assassin out of the jail to be his champion in a contest for the king. 

4. Control by Brittany K. Blair– Think X-Men with a government that was able to force them to register and a society that hates them and only sees them as a threat and a danger. Control focus on Cole, who has all the trademarks of an Anomaly (what they are called in this world) except a power. This book has a wonderful group of characters and this book has plenty of action. 

5. Uninvited by Sophie Jordan– Dystopian world where they have narrowed down the probability of whether or not you’ll kill someone based on a certain gene you may or may not carry. Society’s fear has tracked “Killer Gene” killers and the numbers are high and scary. I mean, other murders happen by people without the gene but public fear has made it so they start testing teenagers for the gene and those who test positive, end up isolated from the rest of society and labeled as a killer before they even do anything to warrant the fear. Well, enter our main character who is literally perfect with a perfect life and she comes up positive for the killer gene and we get to follow her “fall from grace.” This book is so good. It brings up a lot of different perspectives and it keeps you flipping through the pages.  

Book Lovers Gift Guide (Part I)

It’s officially the gift giving season! Now, I’m not the best gift buyer in the history of anything. In fact, I very much struggle to even buy gifts for my husband. (I crushed it this year for Father’s day but that might be where I peaked.) Sometimes I struggle with my own thought process in my gift giving. “Oh, I could make… wait, if they wanted something like that, they could make it themselves.” Or I tell myself if they wanted whatever I’m thinking about, they would just buy it. I need to think harder. Gift giving can get stressful and I haven’t even gotten to the store yet. 

While I might be not the greatest gift picker for others, I am a great picker of books and things that book-lovers will love. The best gift to give someone who likes books is a book! No lie, if everybody I knew got me a book for Christmas, I’d be a happy camper. My favorite thing to do is to give books I’ve loved to friends who I know love to read. 

Here are five books I’ve loved this year! 

1. One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus– I technically read this book last year. I borrowed it from the library on my kindle and I read it in one day. I sat out on my balcony in the Vegas summer and just enjoyed being outside, probably getting sunburned, and flipping through the pages of an awesomely strung together story. It is a great little murder-mystery that makes you wonder, who really killed Simon?

2. The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen– This author has been my favorite since I was sixteen. Her books are just great little getaways for me. The Rest of the Story follows a girl as she is suddenly reunited with her mother’s side of the family, a side of the family she hasn’t seen since she was a kid. 

3. Truthwitch by Susan Dennard– This book is a rollercoaster of action, surprises and it is very hard to put down. Dennard’s world building is the best I’ve seen. I have so many questions and not enough answers. I have the second book, I just need to start it. This book is perfect if you don’t want the sole focus of the character’s plot line to be a love story. This book also has my favorite best friend-ship. 

4. You’d be Mine by Erin Hahn– I stumbled across this book when I took my brother and son out to the bookstore to pick out books for everybody. The story line seemed cute and just the type of story I like, cutesy YA. BOY DID IT DELIVER. I went home and read this book in a night. I regret nothing. It’s so good. It isn’t full of fluff like I thought it was going to be but the deep stuff was good and made the cute stuff even better. It was great.

5. Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins– I actually wrote a review for this book earlier this year. This is the first book in a series that I devoured in like four days. It has the perfect enemies to lovers troupe. However, the enemies thing is like a “should be enemies” deal. It’s great. 

This is part one, keep an eye out for part 2 where I’ll list out five more books!

P.S. Don’t worry about whether or not the book lover in your life might have already read a book you get them, get a gift receipt! No one has ever complained about having to go to a bookstore to exchange a book.

Birthday Party & Book Launch

Back in May I celebrated my 28th birthday. Normally, I want to make a big deal out of my birthday. I want to plan an awesome party, have all my friends over and do all the cool birthday things. Every single time, once April turns to May, I give up on the birthday party deal and decide we aren’t going to make a big deal about my birthday. Which, in all honestly, makes me feel sad about my birthday. I want to make a big deal and have a party and invite all my friends. It doesn’t need to be a huge deal, but a deal would be fine. Ya know? I just give up because I’m always afraid of being disappointed or upset. The song “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want to” comes to mind. My memory tells me I’ve had a few birthdays where I’ve cried and I don’t want to re-create that feeling. Although, I cannot remember what made me cry in the past. 

This year was different though because I was also publishing my book on my birthday. Once I learned my birthday fell on a Tuesday, I pushed my original plan to publish in March to my birthday because traditionally published books get published on Tuesday. This might not be the 100% rule but most, if not all, the books I’ve followed or pre-ordered or got on the day they published, have been on Tuesdays. Now, even though I was self-publishing I didn’t see why I couldn’t publish on Tuesday and heck yes, publish on my birthday! 

I wanted to celebrate both of these things. Writing a book is not easy. Any writer will tell you that. I’ll tell you that too, just in case. The whole writing process is deep and I left my heart on the pages of that book. Since I self-published, I was also in charge of all the formatting, design and planning of everything that came after the writing part of my book. (This is not a complaint. I loved the process, but I’ll write about that at a different time.) Producing a book from start to finish that I loved and was proud of was a huge accomplishment and I deserved to celebrate it too. Now, I knew that I was going to most likely tell myself I don’t need a birthday party this year like I always do. I was also wanting a book launch party but I already felt myself debating on whether or not it mattered. 

IT MATTERS. It matters so much. I should be celebrating accomplishments even if that accomplishment is getting from May of last year to May of this year. The crazy thing is, I want to celebrate the things my family does. Husband got a promotion or military award? Celebration time! Little Man scored a goal in soccer? Special lunch time! I want to celebrate all the things, big and small, for my family but then I go and act like the things I do don’t matter. Friends, I’m starting to force myself to believe they matter. I’m so used to making myself smaller. I’m a loud person and I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to not be too loud to those around me. I’m too much and I was trying to not be too much.  So the things I do were not big deals, which might be why I am so quick to cancel making birthday plans. I made a big deal about something once, and I heard about what a big deal I made it (my 18th birthday) from everybody around me. I didn’t know if they were complaining but it made me feel like I was ridiculous. 

It’s not ridiculous to celebrate things. It’s okay to want to celebrate yourself and your own accomplishments. In my house, I’m the party planner. I even went to school for it and have been professionally trained. In my house I do the parties and events. It always sounded odd to me to plan parties for myself. However, I’ve learned that planning parties is just not in my husband’s wheelhouse. He tried to plan a surprise party for me once and it was not the greatest. He tried so hard. I figured it out and once I got back to my apartment, we planned out a dinner out on the Strip. It was fun but I have a strength in party/event planning and my husband does not. So celebrations fall on me and that is okay. I struggled to do things for myself to celebrate though because the thought of doing a party for myself seemed prideful. (It’s not. Celebrating with people who are proud of you and love you is not prideful. You are not shoving your success down someone’s throat or even gloating. I say that for myself really and maybe someone else needs to hear it. Just because I plan the logistics, because it is in my wheelhouse, doesn’t take away from the joy of celebration. I just thought it did because fear. It always boils down to fear. Friends, in the words of Zach William’s- Fear is a liar. 

This year, I threw away that fear. I combined my birthday and book launch wants and gave myself a vintage library themed birthday party & book launch. We played a game I found on interest. I had ice cream cake and a candy bar because I’m five at heart. I had a bookmark making station where my best friend made me a beautiful bookmark that I’m using in all the books I am currently reading. I had my book on display and my friends bough a copy and then had me sign it. (That was surreal.) I had a blast. I celebrated my book and my birthday with people who loved me and were happy to celebrate with me.

Now I am challenging myself to celebrate all the things. Not just stuff for my husband and my son but for me too. Life is meant to be celebrated.