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Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 Reading Challenges

     I have decided on the reading challenges that I'm going to take part in next year. I'm going to do a few of them.

1. Keyword Reading Challenge hosted by My Soul Called Life     
My Soul Called Life 
 For this challenge, I need to read at least 1 book per month with the following words in the title:

Here Are Your 2017 Keywords 
JAN- Court, Fall, Of, Way, Deep, Thousand
FEB- And, Rose, Promise, Every, Deception, Blazing
MAR- Shall, Go, By, Silence, Her, Saga
APR- From, Trigger, Tale, His, CrownMist
MAY- Four, Wind, All, Fury, Days, Shade
JUN- Without, Know, Good, Watch, One, Have
JUL- Before, Final, All, Freedom, Life, Dream
AUG- Sun, Infinite, Big, My, Wherever, Most
SEP- Sand, From, Between, Ever, Reasons, Clash
OCT- Darker, You, Ashes, Out, House, Sea
NOV- Place, War, Heart, Why, Give, Meet
DEC- Forget, Twilight, Only, Crystal, On, Will

    This will definitely make me choose my books from my to-be-read pile rather than randomly pick one. (I'm a little OCD about this. I have my quirky methods, which is why my books are always so random. Matt has made fun of me for years about this.)

2. Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted by MY READER'S BLOCK
My personal goal is: Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
   In this challenge, I am supposed to choose books from my "To be read" pile, which is currently a bookshelf... plus a really tall pile on my bedroom floor. I would estimate that I have 100 books in there currently. I think 24 is a noble number considering I'm going to be tackling a few challenges at once. 
3. My personal Goodreads challenge will be to read 50 books over the course of the year.  

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Reading Challenges

   I'm coming up with some of my goals for the New Year this week. I am considering trying some reading challenges. The only challenge I've ever done was my Goodreads reading challenge to read at least 1 book every month. This was way too easy for me so I kept increasing my number until I thought I wouldn't reach it without trying, which is why I'll probably fail my goal of 50 books this year. I'll probably finish 45.  Maybe if I go for 50 next year, and have that goal in mind, I will reach it in 2017.
      One of the challenges I'm considering is the Keyword Reading Challenge hosted by my friend, Claudia at My Soul Called Life.  It sounds really interesting and different from my normal way of  choosing my books.
   Are there any other challenges that I should be checking out? What are your reading goals for 2017?


     Another one of my hobbies is genealogy. My family is filled with some genealogical mysteries that I would like to figure out in my lifetime. Neither of my parents are really interested in "where we came from" as people, but the stories of others is always intriguing to me. As I've mentioned before, the daily lives of others and learning how other people live is just fascinating to me. I would love to learn about what makes me "me."
    My largest problems with genealogy are found with 2 of my great-grandparents. My maternal great-grandmother died a few days after giving birth to my grandmother. She was part of a large Irish family and there is not much proof of her existence in records. I would like to find a picture of her so my grandmother and I could see what she looked like. My grandmother is in her 90s.
     The other issue is on my dad's side, his grandfather. Apparently he changed his name at some point so I don't even know if what our original family name is.

      One really exciting thing is that I received the Ancestry.com DNA kit for Christmas. I will be doing that fairly soon. Maybe I will write a post about that when I take it. I am so curious to see if there will be an surprises. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


    How many of you love to read? I have been reading a lot of book blogs lately and daydreaming about spending more time reading.  (I have also daydreamed about letter writing, but have been unmotivated to pull everything out since my house is really clean right now.. ha ha. Anyone want to come over?)  I will often talk to people who tell me that they really dislike reading and I don't understand that at all. Reading relaxes me and exercises my brain. Being the nerd that I am, I often will read things that I will learn something from- memoirs, biographies, non-fiction, a text book here and there, historical fiction, etc. I also enjoy a good novel.  I have a whole bookshelf dedicated to my "to read" list.  Currently it is overflowing and there is a large stack of books next to it as well. In addition to loving books, I find that I often connect really well with other people who like to read.  So, I think I'm going to include a bit more about the books I read here on my blog.   I will not claim to have any great insight, but I often don't talk about my opinions of books so I figured I'd stretch myself a bit. I might also write about some of my other hobbies as well. I'd like to connect with more people this year.

Just Read: The Greatest Knight by Thomas Asbridge

 The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones
      William Marshal is a man who has always piqued my interest.  I was first introduced to William Marshal in Elizabeth Chadwick's book, also called A Place Beyond Courage. Chadwick has a series of books about William Marshal, and I have read all 3 of them. Knowing that the series written by Chadwick were classified as historical fiction, I didn't know how much about Marshal was true and how many of the stories were exaggerated or just good for entertainment. When I saw an unedited proof of the Asbridge book, I knew I had to read it.
    This book follows Marshal  through the reign of the 5 English kings he served- Henry II, The Young King Henry, Richard I, John and John's son, Henry III.  Surprisingly, many of the events and people in Asbridge's book had been mentioned in Chadwick's book so I was delighted to see how closely she followed his life.  The contrast between what we think of as knightly chivalry and common practices of that time period (like the punishment of prisoners in battles or what would happen to someone who went against the baron in charge of a certain area) was pretty eye opening. It examines chivalry and daily life during this period of history.  
     I was excited to learn more about this knight who seemed very influential in the lives of the kings he served as well as many of the noblemen of the area. The copy I read was an unedited proof so there were supplemental materials that would be included in the final book that were not in mine.  These include various maps and a "Who's Who" section, which would have been helpful since so many men named their heirs after themselves or other important people of that time.   One thing that I got slightly aggravated with was the constant mention of a biography of William Marshal which his eldest son, William II, commissioned to be  written less than a year after William's death in 1219. On one hand, I love knowing that the information that I'm reading is accurate and knowing the original source material something was taken from. On the other hand, it was mentioned so many times that it made me wonder if I should have been reading that instead. Then I realized that the original title of The History is "L'Historie de Guillaume de Marechal"  and was grateful that I now had access to this source since I don't speak French. 
     I would be very interested to read more from Thomas Asbridge. I found this book to be very interesting and I liked his style of writing. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.


     As I was reading some blogs this week, many people mentioned NetGalley. Have any of you used it before? If so, what are your experiences?  Thanks!


Saturday, December 24, 2016


     As a teacher, I love getting special little things from students, but it really doesn't matter to me if they give me holiday gifts or not.  I have a really special set of 8th graders this year.   This year, 2 girls whom I am especially close to decided to do something special for me. So, they asked to come to school early to give me my gifts. One of them made caramels for me. The other got me a lotion she knows I wear. Together they put together a gift basket that had an ornament, a Christmas tree door hanger, a Christmas tree decoration, an ornament throw blanket, a Christmas tea towel, holiday themed hand soap, a votive holder, a serving platter and a candle. Then, remember my Thanksgiving tree?

    These 2 girls painted me this sweet little Christmas tree and cut out ornaments for all of the other 8th graders in chorus. All of the ornaments have really special and personal notes to me on the back of them.  (Some of the kids even attached other ornaments behind the first one so their message could be longer.)  I was extremely touched by this gift and by all of their messages. I am really blessed to be able to influence this group of kids and to help them develop their talents. I felt extremely loved when I left school for Christmas vacation.

Secret Christmas RR #2

I still need to receive about half of my cards, but these are my latest cards received in this round robin.

From Treksek in Estonia (Daire, have you always lived in Estonia? I thought you were from a different country for some reason)
 From Winterwolke in Germany
 From Mondkind in Germany

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Secret Christmas RR- #1

     For the past few years I have participated in the Secret Christmas Round Robin in the Postcrossing forums. I love seeing Christmas wishes from different countries. Here are some of the Postcrossing cards, as well as some from penpals around the world:

Varnoja, Lithuania
 Ognesk, France
 Angie, US-
 Masako-k, Japan-
Manu86, Germany
 Barbizon, Netherlands
Christina and Tobi, Germany- Advent calendar
 Donna, Canada

     I will add more posts as they come in. Wishing all the people who read my blog a wonderful Christmas filled with many blessings!

Monday, December 5, 2016

A few glimpses into daily life

This weekend we had a lot of holiday activities. Here's some pictures from events lately. It has been a bit of an aggravating night so I'd like to spread some beauty around.
 David watching the live nativity at a local church (orange and gray jacket in front of pole)

 Look what we found! A giant post office safe. It's in a church hall. Yes, I know I'm a nerd. Yes, I'm proud of it.

 Matt and the boys at our Christmas tree lighting

 Our town's tree this year before being lit. It's a little.... Charlie Brown-ish this year

 That's a bit better.

 We have a festival of trees to benefit our historical society. People/companies decorate trees (with ornaments, gift cards, presents, etc) and then they raffle them off. I always lose. Someday I will win. Here are some trees (and a really creepy elf in the first one.. lol)

 Books! I was half intrigued and half upset that they ruined the books. lol Cool star though

 The church where I performed my Christmas concert on Sunday

Santa- not the best conductor. I like the enthusiasm though.

Our concert was videotaped and broadcast. If you'd like to hear it, here is the link. Sounds of Christmas Concert I don't play too much in this concert, but the music is nice.  Start at about 22 minutes. PS. Santa's violin was a prop. There was great concern. Check out what the audience sounds like at 1:59: ish 

Friday, December 2, 2016


Based on my overwhelming response from the last post (none), I decided not to go with my original idea.  Instead I'll just check in occasionally.

Although I always try to be mindful of my blessings, I think Advent is a good time for me to slow down to prepare my heart for Christmas and to acknowledge the blessings that I have on a daily basis.
      Here are some special moments over the past few days:
1. Starting Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp with my family. The family time is as wonderful as the message and the activities.
2. The sweet and simplistic prayers of my sons. Why do we make praying so complicated sometime?

3. Today was a student's birthday. This is a student who is especially close to me. She has been singing for me for 4 years in 2 different groups, plus the musicals. I have also had her brother as a student so I have known her family for a long time. This is her last year with me.  I decided to get her a small birthday gift. So, I asked Matt to buy some candy that he has made at work. We picked out a candy cane, pecan turtles and some fudge. When I gave it to her, she was surprised that I had gotten her a gift, which was expected. When I told her that it was candy that Matt had personally made (She has met my family at concerts and has run into them a few times outside of school), she got a little teary and thanked me and told me that we made her feel "really special."  I guess that was my intention, but I didn't think it would mean THAT much to her.

4.  On my drive home tonight- rushing, as usual- I needed to stop at the post office to get something postmarked. The community is on the coast. As I rode up to the top of a hill (right by the governor's house), I was greeted by a beautiful view. The ocean was slightly choppy looking and the color of the sky was fading to the colors of dusk. What really drew my attention was the clouds, which looked like they were illuminated from below.

5.  I came home to a giant pile of mail! I will share my week of mail at the end of the week. I've been getting some great stuff. I probably won't share any of my picture cards since I won't usually put a picture up without asking permission (except my father-in-law that one time..)