The 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge

Happy New Year, dear readers. We’re starting 2018 (2018!) with one of my favorite posts of the year! In fact, we’ve got a couple straight days of nothing but books. If you’ll indulge me, let’s get at it.

It was at some point at the end of October last year when my reading goal for 2018 hit me over the head.

Quality over quantity.

For years, my goal has been around a number of books, or a certain website’s annual reading challenge. And I always start the year with a bang and taper off as soon as I’m home from the beach.


If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

So I’m trying something different this year.

Sort of.

I’m going into 2018 with the quality over quantity mantra, and seriously hope I’ll prioritize some of the titles I’ve always meant to read and have never gotten to over choosing tons of quick reads in the name of meeting a specific number.


But I’ve got to play along and at least share what I’d read from PopSugar’s list for the year. You know, if I planned to do it. Oh, who are we kidding, it’s such a habit to be checking this list all the time, I’m sure I’ll still be on board. I tried desperately to make them match up with my quality over quantity goal wherever I could.

A book made into a movie you’ve already seenEmma, by Jane Austen

True crime  American Fire, by Monica Hesse

The next book in a series you started – Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout

A book involving a heist – Heist Society, by Ally Carter

Nordic noir – Eek, I’ve looked far and wide, and I just don’t know about this category. I’ve started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo approximately 85 times. Stay tuned.

A novel based on a real person – Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

A book set in a country that fascinates you – L’appart, by David Lebovitz

A book with a time of day in the title – Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissinger

A book about a villain or antihero – Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte (or maybe The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith)

A book about death or grief – The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym – The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (aka, JK Rowling)

A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist – Dreamland Burning, by Jennifer Latham

A book that is also a stage play or musical – The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you Anything by Jhumpa Lahiri; where do I start?

A book about feminism – Bad Feminist, by Roxanne Gay (I started this a million years ago and didn’t get very far. Time for another shot.)

A book about mental health – This Close to Happy, by Daphne Merkin

A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift – Americanah, by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

A book by two authors – The Last Mrs. Parrish, by Liv Constantine (Which is a hybrid of two sisters’ names!)

A book about or involving a sport – The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

A book by a local author – The Perfect Neighbors, by Sarah Pekkanen

A book with your favorite color in the title – The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

A book about time travel – The rest of the Wrinkle in Time series, by Madeline L’Engle

A book with a weather element in the title – Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin (yes, that Ann M. Martin)

A book set at sea – The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi

A book with an animal in the title – Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, by Robert C. O’Brien

A book set on a different planet – Space Case, by Stuart Gibbs (No, the moon is not, technically, a planet. Oh well.)

A book with song lyrics in the title – Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger

A book about or set on Halloween – Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (This is absolutely not a Halloween book, but oh well.)

A book with characters who are twins – I Know This Much is True, by Wally Lamb (except I did not love She’s Come Undone, and it’s given me major pause when it comes to picking this up)

A book mentioned in another book – I’m going to wait on this, but I am reading My Life With Bob right now, and that will give me plenty of options.

A book from a celebrity book club – The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd (from Oprah’s Book Club; as if there is any other!)

A childhood classic you’ve never read – Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (I KNOW!)

A book that’s published in 2018 – Tell Me More, by Kelly Corrigan (Who is from my hometown!)

A past Goodreads Choice Award winner – Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate

A book set in the decade you were born1984, by George Orwell

A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to – Halfway Normal, by Barbara Dee

A book with an ugly cover – Deep Work, by Cal Newport

A book that involves a bookstore or a library – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith (I only vaguely remember reading this in high school, so though it’s technically a reread, I’ll allow it.)

Your favorite prompt from the 2015, 2016, or 2017 PopSugar reading challenge – I’m going with “A book you’ve read before that always makes you smile:” and it’s the same dang book I meant to reread last year – The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin


A bestseller from the year you graduated high school – Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer (I have culled these lists and dear readers, I have read everything I wanted to read that was an NYT fiction or non-fiction best-seller in 2002. What’s on the children’s lists you ask? Holes, Stargirl, and of course, Harry Potter. So I’m going with something from 2003, that is about 2001, and we’ll meet in the middle on the year I graduated.)

A cyberpunk book – Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place – Oooooh, we’ll see!

A book tied to your ancestry – Cheerful Money, by Tad Friend

A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title – Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg

An allegory – Watership Down, by Richard Adams

A book by an author with the same first or last name as you – A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan (or perhaps this autobiography of Jennifer Lopez? How many people can say they’ve read a book written by someone with their same name.)

A microhistory – At Home, by Bill Bryson

A book about a problem facing society today – Dear Martin, by Nic Stone

A book recommended by someone else taking the PopSugar reading challenge – TBD

What Worked for Me in 2017

Yesterday, I shared Anne’s post about evaluating what worked and didn’t work for her this year. And I love that method of reflection and so you better believe that’s what I’m here to share today.


What worked this year:

Sunday dinners – And the kicker of it all was that it was all my husband’s idea. Let’s invite a different family over every Sunday evening in the summer. We did it. It was wonderful. It’s tapered off with the onset of holidays and cold weather, but I have no doubt we’ll get it going again soon.

Trader Joe’s – No matter what I did in my previous, full-time working life, I couldn’t seem to fit in a good time to go to Trader Joe’s (which, if we’re being honest with ourselves, is one of the happiest places on earth). The one closest to me can be a zoo at times. Now, I’m lucky enough to have the 8 a.m. hour when it opens, free on my calendar almost every single day, and you’d better believe shopping there is part of our weekly lives.

ThredUp – Oh man, guys, I know. I know! I could go on and on. And I have. And I will continue to do so because ThredUp is my fave. I have sent 11 bags of clothes to ThredUp. Eleven bags of clothes that I was holding onto because I thought I would be small again soon, or because I thought I was a blogger and needed a new outfit every day, or because the item was a gift and maybe I’d wear it next time I saw the person who gave it to me. Who am I? Not that person anymore because the clothes are gone, I got over $500 in credit, and now I don’t buy clothes from anywhere else. (I’d give you my tips for shopping ThredUp, but Janssen has almost all of them here and here.)

Working – I decided that I’m going to officially say I have a part-time job. I’ve pieced together about 12 hours of paid work every week, and that’s part-time job status. It’s so great to get out of the house 3 afternoons a week, and have someone take over for me on the mom-side of things. It’s not seamless, and I could be so much better organized about it, but in general, working just a little bit is working for me.

Blogging about towels – I’m only sort of joking here, dear readers, because when I said that we needed new towels, you all were quick to text me, comment, or let me know in whatever way worked for you, that you either needed new ones yourself, or you love the ones you have. I’ll see if I can come up with a few more ideas that seem mundane, but strike a chord with so many of you.


What didn’t:

Keeping my resolution – My New Year’s resolution last year was to take a trip as a family of 3 and for many reasons, that didn’t happen. I can’t decide if I want to hang onto it this year, or let it go.

Making decisions that are right for me – Lately, I find myself regretting saying yes or no to any number of commitments. This year, when I’ve had to RSVP, whether formally to an invitation, or with a simple verbal yay or nay to something small, I’ve often regretted my choice. This has 100% happened due to my excellence at over-analyzing (and agonizing) when it comes to decisions. I hate letting people down, and I feel like I’d rather say yes and truck through something, than hurt someone on the receiving end of a no. But I’m realizing that playing the mom card sometimes means saying no when you’d rather say yes, or perhaps more accurately, when it’s easier to say yes, because you have to be the voice of what’s best for your kid. And it sure does stink when that disappoints people, but that has to just be too bad. Does that even make sense?

What about you, dear readers? What worked for you this year? What didn’t?

Let’s Set Goals

Who is ready for the new year? I’ve seen all these posts on Instagram saying that this is everyone’s favorite week of the year. (But maybe that’s just because I follow a lot of people who make planners?) The week between Christmas and New Years is a time for reflection, planning, and goal setting! Those are a few of my favorite things.

what is a weekend?


I’ve seen a couple of these links floating around the internet and I have to share them before I dive into what I’m looking forward to in 2018.

If you do one thing to start thinking about your goals for the next year, go look up Elise Cripe on Instagram (@elisejoy), and watch her saved story about 5 year plans. I adore it.*

She and Ali Edwards, both long-time follows of mine, talk about their One Little Word for the year on Elise’s podcast, and Ali blogs about it here.**

A good BuzzFeed list is everything. I’m super intrigued by this watering plants app thing. SCL said she’s in if I am. But I think she already drinks plenty of water.

Vision boards. Hmmmmm. I’m intrigued, but maybe not called to action just yet.

I love Anne’s idea of listing what worked in 2017, and what didn’t. Stay tuned, because if I sort that out for myself, it will likely turn into a post.


*This is how I’m starting to think about goals for 2018

**The waters of One Little Word are something I’ve dipped my toes in before, though not to much success. That said, it’s really singing my name again this year. Stay tuned.

The Internet is My Favorite

Anyone need an escape at some point this week, perhaps in the form of some links that will inspire? Here’s the best of what I’ve found.

BAGGU Standard Triple Set

Is it too  late to add these to my Christmas list? I need them.

Have you baked enough cookies this month? Here are some white chocolate peppermint cookies because that’s what December is all about. These soft lemon chocolate chip cookies are weirdly appealing to me. I say weirdly because a) I find lemon and chocolate a wonky combination (I have never understood the cover of this book), and b) these call for margarine….wait, what? In 2017? Also, I don’t usually like biscotti, but could maybe get into a soft version. I’m basically so intrigued I feel compelled to make them.

I loved this article Tracy shared, which is also weird because Gooplet is far from sleepover age. But mostly, it parallels every single piece of parenting advice I’ve ever found to be true, which is basically, cut your expectations in half, and then half again. And then you really will have a joyful time.

Dear readers, IOU a reading post, but for now, please note that although National Book Award winners usually aren’t my cup of tea (which always leaves me feeling like the least intellectual human being), I am devouring this book, and though it’s crushing my very soul, I don’t find it too much to read right before bed.

Ahhhhh, the don’t do list. I’ve posted a couple before, and I think it’s time for a refresh. Because writing one is seriously refreshing. I’m mulling over all the goals for 2018 and this is truly standing out to me.

Speaking of lists, dear readers, way back at the beginning of the month, I met with a professional organizer. I want so badly to share all about it with you, but I’m kind of still working through everything I got out of my whirlwind couple of hours with her. This video is not glamorous in the slightest, but I’ve been looking into a lot related to it, and the idea of being an executive for yourself. The idea of not declaring yourself too busy is along the same lines as well.

And speaking of being organized, if you want to impress any guests coming to stay with you soon, you could totally get a cute little basket together for them, a la Emily Henderson. And the wifi password. Always leave people your wifi password! I also love Becky Higgins’ post about hosting people. (SCL and QC, we are going to try our best to roll out this elaborate of a red carpet for you soon!)


A Very Slacker Christmas

Dear readers, please do your best to bear with me, as I attempt to explain my thoughts on this Christmas season.



We are having a very slacker Christmas.

I have a couple of non-negotiables for the season:

  1. We will send cards (you don’t have to, really, but it’s something I love to do)
  2. Santa will bring us stockings filled with goodies (I just know it)
  3. We will go to church on Christmas Eve

But that’s kind of it. We have a tree, but the whole house is a mess, and don’t have much else in terms of decorations. We decorated a gingerbread house, but I threw it out during Gooplet’s nap one day because he could not get over staring at it and asking to eat the whole thing. And Larry, our beloved Elf on the Shelf, is taking some time off, because he realized just how much Gooplet is terrified of him.

gifts that sparkle.


I don’t hate it.

And all that sounds so grinchy, and goodness knows every single blogger’s house looks like a very plaid version of the North Pole right now. But there’s something about this year that has me taking all that in, appreciating it, and being able to do what Amy Poehler taught me in her book, which is to say, “Good for her, not for me.”

gold sharpie.


We’ve had a couple wonderful surprises come about unexpectedly – an evening I got to sneak away to a party I wasn’t sure I could make, a morning singing carols with friends, and if all goes according to (5 toddlers’) plan, a second annual book swap I wouldn’t trade for anything. But above all, I’ve been thrilled that almost all of the fun above falls in line with my new little rule for making plans. Aside from that, I’ve turned down virtually every invitation in the name of rest (we try real hard to get that around here), quiet time, and family. Tis the season, after all.

Meals This Week

Inspired by these colors | Photo by Scott and Ashlee of O'Malley Photographers | 100 layer cake


Monday – We’re starting the week with leftovers from the weekend because I’m out late.

Tuesday – Trying out a pesto and prosciutto chicken recipe I found online. If it’s good, you will, of course, be the first to know, and I’ll bring it to a group of people next week for a meeting I have.

Wednesday – Leftovers. Again. Because all that chicken (and this chicken) isn’t going to eat itself, and I’m out late. Again.

Thursday – My go-to, “I didn’t really cook, but it sort of feels like I did,” meal. Tortellini and pesto.

Friday – Chinese food before I dash out to a Christmas party. Cheers!

Saturday – The best meatball subs ever. (Not an exaggeration.)

Sunday – Trying out a new, homemade Sunday gravy. Wish me luck.

***If my son recovers from this illness that causes him to be attached to me at all times, I will make time to enjoy this oatmeal one morning for breakfast, or, “brekka,” as it’s now known in our house.

What You Should Bring When You Don’t Know What to Bring [snip doodles]

These snip doodles, a predecessor of everyone’s favorite cookie, the snickerdoodle, are amazing.

I brought them to big group of people who confirmed what I already knew upon first bite, and begged for the recipe. I’m happy to report they couldn’t be easier to make. When you find yourself with a bake sale, or book group, or holiday who-knows-what, and you’re supposed to bring something for dessert, you know what to do.

Stocking Stuffers

Shopping for stocking-stuffers might be the most fun I have all year. Ever since I became a real-live grown up, I sort of stopped caring about having a Christmas List. I’m fortunate enough that if I want something, I may have to save for a bit, but I can buy it for myself. And we all know about my decluttering binges, so mostly, I’m not looking to amass more crap. None of us are.

But shopping for stockings is my favorite, because you can find the quirkiest, funniest stuff. Bonus points if it’s useful to the recipient as well. Almost everything here (click on the pictures to see where it’s all from) is geared towards toddlers and men because that’s whose stockings I’m always looking to fill. But if you’ve got ideas for stocking-stuffers for others, leave them in the comments, because I’d love to hear!

Color-changing spoons ($6.95)

Kid Made Modern Confetti Crayons ($12.80)

Stop Talking Cards ($9.95)

Personalized ornaments (this one is $11.95)

Glow in the dark stars ($5.50)

Snowman Mini Spatulas, Set of 2

Snowman mini-spatulas ($9.95 for two)

Superfight game ($29.99)

Fish toothbrush holders ($6.50 for a set of 2)

Braided phone charger ($19.95)

Fisher-Price Little People DC Super Friends Exclusive Figure

Little People super friends ($17.99)

Peppermint Crunch Junior Mints ($2.95) because no stocking is complete without candy. I got these in my own stocking this year, and they did not disappoint.

Fridays are for Chicken [baked chicken with tomatoes and cheese]

Hallelujah, praise the Lord, I have found another “forget about it” chicken. You know, the kind of chicken which is almost effortless. And flavorful. And the kind that will go into heavy rotation in this household, I already know. Here is how you, too, can make this chicken.

You’ll need:

  • A glug of olive oil
  • A glug of your favorite boneless, skinless cut of chicken
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, also finely chopped
  • 1, 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 T mascarpone cheese
  • a giant sprig of fresh basil, or a tsp. of dried

Brown your chicken, plus salt and pepper, in the olive oil in an oven-proof dish. Remove to a plate. Add onion and garlic to the pan, and saute for a couple of minutes, until fragrant and soft. Add the tomatoes (+ juice), and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. Add chicken back to the pan, and pop that sucker into the oven. Cook 10 minutes, flip the chicken, and cook 10 more. Done and done.

It should come as no surprise that this chicken comes from DALS, weeknight dinner champion.


Meals This Week

Dear readers, this week is a doozy. Let’s all take a deep breath, and do the best we can, okay? This meal plan is not glamorous in the slightest, but it will do the job.

Monday – Pioneer Woman’s chicken spaghetti

Tuesday – Boboli pizza (I’d love to feel ashamed, but I can’t! It’s my husband’s favorite. I think it’s gross.)

Wednesday – Fettucine similar to this with some leftover grilled chicken, and arugula if it lasts that long without wilting.

Thursday – I’m out with Ali for a fun night, and my husband can fend for himself!

Friday – Burgers and tater tots (We have so many burgers in the freezer. Why?)