My Favorite Books of 2021

I’m sharing some of my favorite books from the past year in today’s blog post.

I read a fair number of books this year – just over 40. I read all kinds of genres, from historical fiction to classics to non-fiction. The vast majority of the books that I read this year were from the library. I borrowed so many books this year! I thought I’d divide up my favorite books this year be genre. That way it’s easy for you to check out just the ones you’re interested in.

Historical fiction

  • The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel: This was a book that made me feel all the things. It’s set in Europe in WWII like a lot of Kristin Harmel’s books. If you’re interested at all about that time period I highly suggest reading The Room on Rue Amelie (affiliate link).
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Harmel: I had to add a second book by Kristin Harmel because it was just so good. It’s another heartbreaking book that takes you into what life was like in Europe during the second World War.
  • The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate: This is the second book by Lisa Wingate that I’ve read so far, and I liked it just as much as Before We Were Yours (affiliate link). It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that so many families and friends were torn apart. In many cases they were never able to re-connect with their loved ones. Again The Book of Lost Friends (affiliate link) is set in a time and place (slavery in the southern US) that is tough to read about. I can’t even imagine not knowing where the other members of my family were, or if they were even alive.

Non-Fiction

  • Open Book by Jessica Simpson: I went into reading Open Book (affiliate link) with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. It felt like the content of the book came from a very honest place. Jessica discussed a lot of things including: body image and the pressure she was under to look a certain way, abuse, divorce, and drinking too much. Jessica Simpson was huge when I was in high school (I graduated high school in 2001). I even remember watching her reality show in University. It was really interesting to see that time period from her point of view.
  • The Wizard of Lies by Diana B Henriques: While I definitely knew about Bernie Madoff before I read this book, getting into the details and learning how many people he stole from and how much he stole was eye opening. The Wizard of Lies (affiliate link) covers Bernie Madoff’s life and how he was able to con so many people and steal billions of dollars. It’s still not known exactly how much he stole.

Fiction

  • Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks: I really enjoyed reading this mystery. It follows the main character after she takes her and her friend’s kids to a school festival and one of her friend’s kids disappears. I would be beside myself with worry if I was in a similar situation. I wasn’t able to figure out the ending of Her One Mistake (affiliate link) before I finished the book, so it was pretty nice to be taken along for the ride.
  • Sheltering Rain by Jojo Moyes: Jojo has become a favorite author of mine. I’ve really liked all of the books by her that I’ve read so far, and Sheltering Rain (affiliate link) was no different. My other favorite books by her include The Giver of Stars (affiliate link) and The Last Letter From Your Lover (affiliate link).
  • The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon: The last book on my list is The Drowning Kind (affiliate link). I’ve become a big fan of Jennifer’s books. They have the perfect mix of fiction and creepy paranormal storylines. I’m not a big fan of fantasy, so these books don’t get too over the top. It’s just enough creepiness to make me want to read the next chapter.

I share a lot of what I read on Instagram, so be sure to follow me there if you’re interested in more book recommendations! You can also find similar posts from 2020 and 2018.

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog – I appreciate it!

Christmas Workout

Today I have a fun Christmas themed workout for you.

Christmas is in just a few days! How did that happen so quickly? Thankfully I have all of my Christmas shopping and baking done. I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year and being able to spend time with my family. While it still won’t be a “normal” Christmas due to an increase of Covid cases here in Calgary, I’m going to try to make the best of it.

It’s been a hot minute since I last shared a workout on the blog. I’ve got a new one for you just in time for Christmas. I actually had a lot of fun putting this workout together, so I hope you’ll enjoy it! You can find my other Christmas workouts here, here, and here.

You’ll need access to a gym for this workout because it includes leg presses. In addition you’ll need a set or two of dumbbells and some space to be able to do the skaters and high knees. If you do this workout be sure to tag me on Instagram.

Perform 12 reps of each exercise before resting for 1 minute and then moving onto the next one on the list. After completing all exercises once, rest as needed before starting over again. Complete three or four times through for a full workout.

  • Overhead press – to put the star on the top of the Christmas tree
  • Dumbbell squats – to put the gifts under the tree
  • Lateral raises – to make snow angels
  • High knees – to go to the window to look for Santa’s sleigh
  • Skaters – to enjoy the wintery outdoors
  • Bicep curls – to drink hot apple cider
  • Leg press – to be able to jump over snow drifts

Here are the descriptions of the above exercises just in case you need a refresher.

  • Overhead press: Stand with your feet hip width apart with a dumbbell in each hand. With your upper arms in a 90 degree angle to your torso and your hands directly above your elbows, lift your hands straight up so that your arms are straight above your head. Slowly lower your hands back down to the starting position. 
  • Dumbbell squats: With feet hip width apart and dumbbells in your hands at your sides, use the glutes to lower your hips back and down while bending at the knees and ankles. Once you’ve reached the lowest position you can without leaning forward too much or letting the knees collapse in, return to a standing position, again using your glutes to propel yourself.
  • Lateral raises: With your arms down at your sides with a dumbbell in each hand, slowly raise your hands away from your body to the side, keeping your arm straight at the elbow. Once your hands reach shoulder level, slowly lower them back down to your sides.
  • High knees: Starting in a standing position, quickly bring your left knee up in front of you as high as you can. Step back down and repeat with your right leg. Repeat.
  • Skaters: With your knees slightly bent, jump to the right and land on your right leg with your left leg bent behind you with your foot just off the ground. Keep your left foot off the ground. Pushing off with your right foot, jump to the left and land on your left foot, keeping your right leg bent and right foot off the ground behind you.
  • Bicep curls: Start with the feet hip width apart, and back in a neutral position. With a dumbbell in each hand, keep your elbows in close to your side and raise the dumbbell upwards. Movement should be at the elbow, not the wrist. Lower the dumbbell with a controlled movement, not allowing gravity to take over.
  • Leg press: Sit down in the leg press machine. Place your feet hip width’s apart so that your knees are over top of your toes. Release the safety and push your feet away from your body using your glutes and quads. Once your legs are fully extended, slowly bring your feet back towards yourself, once again using your leg muscles to stay in control of the speed. Repeat. At the end of the set rest the platform on the safety again. 

I hope you all have fun during the holidays and are able to spend time (whether in person or virtually) with your favorite people. Merry Christmas!

As always, check with your doctor before beginning to workout. Honor your body and modify this workout for your own body.

Life Lately: December 2021

It’s been awhile since I’ve last written one of these posts. I thought I should sneak one last one in before the end of the year. It seems like such a long time ago that I used to write these kinds of posts every month.

Gingham Paper Studio

A few months ago I started up my Etsy shop called Gingham Paper Studio. I create stationery – from birthday cards to flat notecards to stickers – and get them professionally printed. It’s been a lot of fun to combine being creative with making some money. I’ve gotten orders from all over Canada and the United States. If you’re into stationery be sure to take a look. I’d be so excited to send orders to blog readers.

This flamingo notecard is one of my favorites in my shop. They’re just so cute against the pink and white stripes!

Another Christmas with Covid

It’s hard to believe that this Christmas will be the second one we’ve had with Covid. Last year felt so weird – we kept our Christmas celebrations small with just my dad, brother, and me. We also did all of our Christmas shopping online. I did a lot of it online in previous years, but last year (and this year) we did everything online, including grocery orders.

To be completely honest I thought we’d be done (or at least mostly done) with Covid by now. Last Christmas people here were just starting to get vaccinated. While I wasn’t eligible for a few months, I thought that when the majority of people were vaccinated the cases of Covid would go down substantially. I didn’t think we’d have gone through a fourth wave in the late summer/early fall.

We’re planning to make the best of Christmas this year though. For Christmas Eve my dad will be making his lasagna. For Christmas Day we’ll be having turkey, stuffing, and all of the traditional holiday meal. We open Christmas gifts Christmas morning. Even though we don’t have any kids in our family, it’s still fun to watch my dad and brother open their gifts.

Weekend Highlights: Burritos + Christmas Decorating

I hope you all had a nice weekend. For those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving, I hope it was full of good food and your favorite people. My weekend wasn’t too exciting. I didn’t go shopping on Black Friday (I would much rather shop online, even if I am missing out on some deals). Today I’m sharing a recap of how I kept busy.

Saturday afternoon I stopped by the dollar store to get a few more of these totes. They’re perfect for storing stock for my Etsy shop. I wasn’t expecting the dollar store to be quite as busy as it was. Thankfully I knew what I needed and I was in and out pretty quickly. I’m one of those people who likes to goes into stores knowing what they need to get – I don’t like browsing.

I spent Saturday night with my boyfriend. We decided on getting takeout from Native Tongues, an amazing Mexican restaurant here in Calgary. They only do burritos for takeout, so I went with the beef one. Us usual with everything that I’ve tried from Native Tongues, the burrito was delicious. We even got their donas (donuts) for dessert. I hadn’t tried them before, but my boyfriend had. He knew how amazing they were and was waiting for my reaction when I took my first bite. It was so much better than any other donut I’ve ever had. Apparently they make them to order so that they’re super fresh.

Sunday afternoon I got out the Christmas decorations and started working on getting them up. I’m thinking it’ll take another day or so to get the tree up. I’m trying to organize and get rid of some of the things that we don’t need anymore. We have SO MUCH Christmas stuff. We have a whole tote full of indoor Christmas lights. There’s no way that we need that many. It’s amazing how it accumulates over time.

I spent some time this weekend reading The Drowning Kind (affiliate link) by Jennifer McMahon. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump the last month or so, so I’m glad I’m reading a The Drowning Time because it’s so good! It’s one of those books that’s hard to put down.

Friday Favorites: New Cards in my Etsy Store + Elf Cereal

Happy Friday! It’s felt like a long and busy week for me so I’m looking forward to the weekend. I don’t have much planned other than spending some time with my boyfriend, but that sounds perfect to me. It’s been awhile since I’ve last written a Friday favorites post, so I’m excited to share the items below.

New cards in my Etsy store

I don’t share it very much here on the blog, but I have a stationery shop on Etsy. I have everything from notecards to stickers to lined envelopes for sale over there. This week I picked up a few new notecards that I designed. I think my favorite out of the bunch is the flamingo notecard. It’s always exciting to pick up new products from the printers – I’m never totally sure how they’ll turn out. I’m really happy with these ones though.

New library book

I picked up a couple holds this week at the library and The Drowning Kind (affiliate link) by Jennifer McMahon was one of the books waiting for me. I think I’ve read 4 of her both books and I enjoyed them all. Jenifer manages to write books with the perfect mix of mystery, thrills, and paranormal. I’m only a few chapters in so far but I’m enjoying it so far.

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

Elf Cereal

My boyfriend sent me a picture of Elf cereal when he found it while grocery shopping this week. He knows I’m a huge fan of Elf (really who isn’t?!?!). I ended up popping into the grocery store to get a box. I love that it says it includes elves’ favorite food – candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup. While I haven’t actually tried any of the cereal yet, I really hope I like it.

I read somewhere that Elf was released 18 years ago this month. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. I remember going to see it with friends when I was in university. Apparently it’s been 18 years since I was a university student! It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long though.

I don’t have much planned for the weekend. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be spending some time curled up under a blanket reading The Drowning Kind. Spending some time at my boyfriend’s place will also probably happen as well. I’ve had a busy week with a bunch of appointments, so I’m looking forward to enjoying my down time.

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog – I appreciate it!