Ten Christmastime Romances to Read This Year

Ten Christmastime Romances to Read This Year

You know the drill – Top Ten Tuesday is brought to us by the lovely ThatArtsyReaderGirl.

This week is a freebie, so naturally I had to go with 10 Romances to read around Christmas. Not that you’ll have time to, what with the movie watching, cooking baking, gingerbread house decorating, present wrapping, and so on and so forth. But if you do manage to sneak a book in, and you enjoy a good seasonal romance, you might want to add these to your list. I naturally went for 5 Regency romances in a nod to my reading streak along with 5 contemporary ones. A warning: I haven’t read any of these (a common theme for my Top Ten Tuesday lists), so read at your own risk.

  • The Earl’s Christmas Bride by Ella Quinn
    • This is something like 7th or 7.5 in a series, but I don’t think it’s a series in which you need to read all the others in order to enjoy it. A lady wants to go travel around Europe and a “happy bachelor” is determined to marry her…and take her to Europe (?). It sounds cute and fun, like a Christmas romance should be.
  • The Holly and the Ivy by Elisabeth Fairchild
    • The blurb contains the words “thorny duke” and “scandalous misunderstanding”, and the book has the man-who-hates-Christmas and woman-who-loves-it storyline. Honestly, what else could you ask for?
  • The Great Christmas Candy Caper by Karen Hall
    • There’s Christmas, candy, and a caper. I don’t know what else to tell you in order to sell you on this book. It’s really a short story (less than 100 pages), but has it’s own Goodreads page, so if you’re looking to pad your numbers this December, it’s an option. It’s also only $1.99 on Amazon. I’m talking to myself here. 🙂
  • A Bride for Christmas by Aileen Fish
    • Another novella – this one only 63 pages – and selling for a grand total of $0.00, this still managed to catch my attention. Mainly because the guy enlists his niblings in winning over the lady, to be honest. I enjoy books with kids, and since he has to “slay her dragons”, the addition of wee ones helping him seems right. Also – another one to pad the ol’ Goodreads Reading Challenge numbers.
  • The Lady’s Guide to Mistletoe and Mayhem by Emmanuelle de Maupassant
    • A woman fleeing from a marriage by pretending to be an etiquette teacher, a Texan who is also a Scottish heir, a curse, mysterious deaths, a Scottish setting, and Christmas? Say no more. Add it to the list.
  • Snowed in at Harper’s Inn by Catelyn Meadows
    • Apparently one in a series of clean Christmas romances written by a bunch of different authors (the next one is part of this series as well), this involves a “what if things were different” magical plot device, a cute lil Inn, a sudden breakup, and a “we’ve been friends forever, but maybe we should be in love” storyline. Honestly, it sounds like a Hallmark movie.
  • Snowed in at the Archive by Ellie Thornton
    • I think I like books with snow on the cover because I haven’t seen snow in real life in 5(?) years and I’ve always dreamed of a snowy winter/Christmas. That’s what I get for living in the South, I guess. Anyway, there’s an archive involved so I don’t know what else to say – of course I’m going to want to pick up a book set in an archive while there’s snow everywhere.
  • In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
    • The heroine here is stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque time loop for at least *some* of the book, and the reviews are quite split on if it works or not. Reading the blurb makes me think it may be cute, but apparently the romance is also hit or miss. I’m so divided on this one. I like the ideas here – time loops, love with the boy you’ve known forever, leaving traditions behind (unwillingly), but the reviews are meh at best. But who knows, it could be my favorite book.
  • Fool Me Twice at Christmas by Camilla Isley
    • Once upon a time, Shane and I broke up over the holidays – and yet I still made him have Thanksgiving (I think it was Thanksgiving) dinner with my parents as if we hadn’t. A decade later, we’re married, so I connect with the idea of “we broke up, but let’s not tell our parents” and then ending up back in a relationship. The book has the added perk of them becoming “accidentally engaged” which is a thing that didn’t happen to me. It’s the first in a series called Christmas Romantic Comedy so I also know it’s my kind of vibe.
  • Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis
    • The first in a 17 book/novella series, it starts with a major life upheaval and claiming an inheritance – both things I really like. I’ve always heard Jill Shalvis is an excellent writer, and I’m tempted to pick up a copy for that reason alone. Also, who doesn’t love a “fall in love with the handyman” story?

Writing this post has made me want to go out and get several of these and spend some evenings reading. I do not need more ebooks. I do not need more ebooks. I do not need more ebooks.

It is Christmas, though.

-S

A Little November Recap

November was a very busy month, and December isn’t looking much slower.

Shane and I went to Atlanta to see Monet Immersive and had a great time. We discovered that Atlanta has several Super H Marts, and a bunch of other fun farmer’s markets that we got to check out. A few days later I headed back to ATL for a couple of days for work reasons. I ended up getting stuck there for an extra night because I would have driven directly into Tropical Storm Nicole and while my car is getting a bit old, I didn’t want to wreck. During my time there, I missed our 16th dating anniversary, but since we don’t celebrate much, it wasn’t terrible.

That same week Shane’s grandma died, which was expected but still very sad, so we packed up and headed to her funeral that weekend. It was nice to see his family, but the circumstances were unfortunate. I did learn that she really liked true crime tv shows, so now I wish we had watched those together.

Shane had a birthday on the 15th but his best birthday present didn’t come until that Friday – his best friend Matthew flew in from Portland for Friendsgiving. When we started our drive upstate, we swung by the airport and picked him up. I made the sacrifice of sitting in the back of the truck so they could have quality time. Friendsgiving was fantastic. There was a BBQ Around the World theme and we took banchan (naturally) and bulgogi. Everything was so delicious and it was so so good to see our friends. The majority of the group has known each other since college, but the additions this year were awesome people, and I hope we made them feel welcome and part of the crew. There was Matthew in from Portland, a couple in from NYC (Queens, to be exact), and one from San Francisco/the Bay Area. More locally, we came up from Savannah, and our other friend drove up from Columbia, so a lot of people made a lot of effort to be there and it was worth it (for me anyway). We dropped Matthew off at his brother’s place, then scooted on home. On Wednesday, we met up with them again to get Matthew, and I took him to the airport on Thanksgiving.

I insisted on a “real” Thanksgiving dinner, so we made some stuffed chicken breasts, devilled eggs, brussel sprouts (for Shane), carrots (for me), and mashed potatoes and gravy. It was super tasty. I think my goal of celebrating all the holidays was definitely met for the Thanksgiving portion.

We spent the rest of the month cleaning, organizing the garage, and decorating for Christmas. His mom and aunt rolled on November 30th (yesterday), since Shane has some days off.

It was an exhausting month, but full of so much happiness and good times. November 2022 was a solidly good month.

-S

Christmas!

I had every intention of writing a Top Ten Tuesday post for today, but I decorated instead. Oops.

We have not truly decorated for Christmas since 2019. We’ve made feeble attempts, but neither of us has been in the Christmas spirit the last few years. As part of my “celebrate all the holidays” push, I decided that we would decorate even if the vibes are off. Luckily for me, the vibes are 100% perfect. Shane is just here for the ride.

I decided to not buy any decorations, and then promptly bought new stockings, so 99% of our ornaments are the ones my grandparents gave me every year growing up. I’m going to try to grow our collection slowly, maybe buy a few on clearance.

Anyway, no one cares about my rambling, here are some pictures. Heavy on the cats, as always.

Bear is absolutely head over heels in love with both the tree and the light up penguin. Klaus tries to eat both the tree and the ornaments.

The mini tree is in the bedroom and the box with candles is in my office.

See you Thursday!

-S

My December Bucket List

My December Bucket List

Welcome to the least ambitious December Bucket List of 2022. In my defense, I live in Savannah so that removes anything snow or cold weather related, and I don’t have kids so kid-related activities are also out. That leaves a tiny little pool of December/Christmas activities to choose from.

  1. Finish decorating for Christmas! We didn’t really decorate last Christmas…or the Christmas before that and it’s time for a Christmas tree in this apartment. Hopefully the cats won’t try to climb the thing. They are 100% going to try to climb it.
    1. Honestly, this one will definitely be done before December 1st, but I’m counting it anyway.
  2. Watch some amount of Christmas Movies. I said something like 20 (started at 45, which is insane) in my Hallmark Christmas Movies post, so that number works. But honestly, 5 will be fine too. Not fussed.
  3. Go see Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s The Ghosts of Christmas Eve. They’re playing in a bunch of cities within a few hours around us, so that’s definitely on the list.
  4. Make Shane’s coworkers lil not-actually-Christmas-related treat bags. I love baking and December is the best baking month, but I definitely don’t want to eat all, or most, of the cookies, so treat bags it is!
  5. Wrap and send presents with enough time for said presents to get to their destinations before Christmas day. This will be a minor miracle if it happens.
  6. Cook Christmas Brunch/Dinner. It’ll almost certainly be an early dinner in order to work around Shane’s work schedule, but maybe I’ll do a little Egg Benedict for breakfast as well. That was the traditional Christmas breakfast when I was a kid.
  7. Do some Christmas Light viewing – I need to find out if there are any neighborhoods known for their lights or a organization that does a light show in December. I love looking at Christmas lights.
  8. Decorate a gingerbread house, as is traditional. I’m going to try not to cry this year.
  9. Listen to a Christmas audiobook or 2. I think I should probably take a break from podcasts for a month and listen to a few books.
  10. Deep clean the apartment for the new year. Besides not crying over the gingerbread house, this is going to be the toughest one by far.

That’s it, that’s my list of things to get done in December. Nothing too ambitious, except the deep cleaning, and mostly just things that will make me happy. Christmas has been hard for a few years, but 2022 is going to turn it all around. Hopefully. No pressure.

See you Tuesday.

Sarah

Thanksgiving 2022

Thanksgiving 2022

I was going to make this blog post into a list, since I love lists so very much, but nothing I wrote felt right. I’m not really sure why, but I wrote several versions, and didn’t like any of them. Maybe because 2022 doesn’t feel like it can be reduced into a list – even a long one.

I’ve mentioned before that this year has been the first good one in a long string of pretty awful years. Over everything else, I’m thankful for that. It might be a change in my perspective on things/life, and not a “better” year in general, but my point stands.

My list of things to be thankful for starts with the shitty job I had at the beginning of this year – I had a great time in Vegas and got close to 2 coworkers that I still count as friends. If that man hadn’t cursed me out and made me cry at work, I wouldn’t have quit and wouldn’t have the job I have now. Speaking of my job – it feels like this job is something I can make a career of long term. That remains to be seen, obviously, but the hopeful feeling is really nice after being in a string of jobs that I only applied for because I just needed a job.

Shane has been a major support this year, during the awfulness of Job 1, my unemployment/vacation, and getting prepped for Job 2. It’s really nice to live with my best friend and have that really strong foundation when things go sideways. He’s my favorite person, and I’m glad he’s on my side. Also, that horror movie project would have never gotten done without him.

I feel like the cats should get a shout out here, too. Klaus especially. Bear is a great cat, but he loves anyone who will hand him a treat and gets annoyed with my repeated attempts to keep his coat in some semblance of groomed. Klaus, though. I swear if Laurie was able to send me a cat, it would have been Klaus. Every single afternoon, he comes to visit me in my office & have a snuggle session. He likes to follow me from room to room and every night if I’m not already in bed, he comes to fetch me from the living room when he decides it’s bedtime. He has been a beacon of comfort all year.

There have been so many people giving me support this year that I don’t even want to start naming them because I’ll inevitably forget someone. Luckily, most of them don’t read this blog, so very few people will notice that I’m leaving this section of thanks to this: if you’ve been any kind of support, even if it’s just a thought here or there, I appreciate you. There have been so many small kindnesses this year, both intentional and unintentional, so many times I have been boosted out of a funk, and I’m beyond thankful for all of those moments.

I’m writing this the day I post it – Thanksgiving – and I’m going to cut it short to go make some Tgives dinner in my adequate kitchen with the love of my life in my nice warm apartment.

S

Absence…

Absence…

This is really more for me than anyone who may actually end up reading this.

I haven’t abandoned the blog again, I promise. I’ve had a hectic, crazy, stressful couple of weeks and I fell behind on writing posts. I don’t think I’ll be posting regularly until next Thursday, because of reasons.

That’s it, just a post proving to myself I haven’t dropped the blog again.

16 Years!

16 Years!

Yesterday marked the 16th anniversary of me asking Shane to be my boyfriend.

It seems insane to me that a decision I made at 19 was one of the best of my life and that I actually committed to something this hard at that age. Seriously, I changed my major at least 3 times after we started dating but the boy I forced to watch innumerable M*A*S*H reruns during that same period is still leaving his socks in my (our) living room? Wild.

I always heard that your partner shouldn’t be your best friend, and I would like to say that for me, that makes no sense. Who else would I want to share a home with? He’s definitely my best friend, the person that I want to be with all the time, and the one who knows all my secrets. If you tell me a secret, you tell us a secret. We’ve been together through college, grad/pharmacy school, job changes, career changes, parental deaths, pet deaths, 8 moves, 4 cities/towns, and all the uncertainty of COVID, the economy….and life in general in the 2020s. No one makes me laugh as hard or as much as he does, and there have been multiple times I’ve held my tears/breakdown until he’s with me because he’s my safe person.

Of course, our relationship isn’t perfect, that would require saintliness that I certainly do not possess and neither does he. But I think it’s perfect in all it’s messiness.

I wish a Shane for everyone. If you don’t have a Shane, keep looking.

Sarah

Series I’d Like to Start/Reread/Finish

Series I’d Like to Start/Reread/Finish

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday from That Artsy Reader Girl is one that I really enjoyed, because I am notorious for starting a series and then taking for-ev-er to finish them. Let me know if you’ve read any of these or have a suggestion!

Pern – Anne McCaffrey

Reread

Anne McCaffrey has always been my favorite author, from when I was a child, to now. She writes strong female characters, and they’re everywhere. Her books are like comfort food for me, and I think rereading all the Pern books is a great exercise for me right now. And there are dragons.

The Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan

Start

I have read 0 of these, but Shane has read all of them, and bought them on Kindle. It’s a classic series that I’ve heard great (and not-so-great) things about and I’m interested in seeing what the hype is about. I might put this off until I forget the tv show, though.

Riftwar Saga – Raymond E. Feist

Reread

I grew up reading Raymond E. Feist, and a few years back I decided I wanted to read through the whole thing again. I now own all 30+ of them, and have only re-read 10ish, so this is definitely at the top of my list of series to read. I won’t lie, some of them are….problematic, but overall, they’re classic Fantasy novels and bring back my childhood.

Smythe-Smith Quartet/Rokesbys/Lady Whistledown – Julia Quinn (Technically 3 series)

Start

I really enjoyed the Bridgerton books (and the show, to be fair), so I’m definitely interested in reading more of her books. I also just enjoy the time period. Technically, this encompasses 3 series, but none of them are terribly long, and they’re such quick reads, I combined them all. I really enjoy Regency romances, apparently. Who knew?

Countess of Harleigh Mystery – Dianne Freeman

Start

I also love historical mysteries with some romance, so when I saw this, I knew I wanted to read it. They’re cute and fun, the stakes are never terribly high and the romance is generally adorable, and it’s just comfortable. I guess going into the holiday season, I’m thinking of comfiness, and not hard hitting books that make me think.

Maisie Dobbs – Jacqueline Winspear

Start

Another historical mystery series! Apparently this one might be too cutesy, but I’m willing to find that out for myself. It’s also in my favorite time period – between 1910 and the beginning of WWII. A lot of people have recommended this series to me, so I’m looking forward to reading it.

Somershill Manor – S.D. Sykes

Start

Oh look! Another historical mystery series! A huge departure from the ones above, though. It’s set way earlier – 1300s – and with a much different protagonist – a monk turned Lord of the Manor. There’s also an added quirk is that the Plague has ravaged the land, so that’s fun. I haven’t read much in this time period, so I’m not sure how “true to life” it is – and I’m not sure I really care. I don’t read fiction as truth.

Krewe of Hunters – Heather Graham

Finish

Another series of over 30 books, of which I have read around 10. I don’t know why I love these books, but I sure do – paranormal mystery solving with romance? I’m in. I’m also curious as to how she finds all the people who fall in love.

First Colony – Ken Lozito

Start

Another deep love of mine is science fiction set in spaceships. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved to read about people voyaging across the stars and I’ve always been bummed that there aren’t that many in this genre, and those that are often poorly written. YA has some good ones, but adult fiction is lacking. This has been changing, and I’m hoping this one is one that I can start recommending.

Hell Divers – Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Finish

This is a wild ride, y’all. Seriously, this series is all over the place and I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s a dystopian military-ish found family, and there are cannibals. I’ve listened to 7 of the 9 currently published, with the 8th & 9th waiting for me in Audible. I won’t lie – part of the draw is that R.C. Bray is the narrator. I love R.C. Bray.

I Did Not Learn My Movie Challenge Lesson

I Did Not Learn My Movie Challenge Lesson

Having learned nothing from my Halloween Horror Challenge, I have decided to watch as many Hallmark movies as my brain can take over the next two months. Well, I guess I learned my lesson a little bit, since I have enough sense to modify the rules.

Another plus to this Hallmark Shenanigan is that I absolutely love Hallmark movies. They are comforting, predictable, and give me some level of contentment so I don’t think it’ll be a matter of talking myself into watching them. I definitely did have to talk myself into watching the horror movies.

Here’s the setup:

I have Hallmark for the holiday season and I want to see how many Christmas movies I can watch between November 1st and Christmas. I am thinking about going until New Year’s Eve, though. I don’t have a solid goal number, but I do have a sort of target number that would be nice to hit. 60. Which seems like an insane number, now that I’ve typed it out. Maybe I’ll shoot for 45. I guess it doesn’t matter, really.

Hallmark has something like 300 Christmas movies along with a handful of Hanukkah and New Year’s movies. I decided to limit it to movies made in 2020, 2021, and 2022 just to have an arbitrary way to cut down on the movies I have to choose from. There are still 76, by the way.

Here’s the plan:

There isn’t one, really. Just watch movies as often as I can, I guess. That’s not going to be particularly easy, though. My November and December are packed with travel, blogging, getting healthy, work, gatherings, shows, and obviously all the holidays. Plus, since Shane isn’t particularly interested in Hallmark Movies (surprising, eh?), we probably won’t be watching them when we’re hanging out together. Since we enjoy each other, we tend to hang out as much as possible. During October, it was really helpful that he enjoys horror movies and was excited to watch them with me.

Honestly, though, this is just formalizing my already very well documented hobby of Hallmark Christmas movie watching. It’s sort of my seasonal jam.

-S

Getting Healthy…For Real This Time

Getting Healthy…For Real This Time

Last weekend, I decided that I really need to get healthy – I’m closer to 40 than 30 and it’s just going to get harder as time goes on. And my being out of shape is becoming increasingly obvious and annoying. Shane is also getting healthy, but I won’t tell his story here – it doesn’t feel right. I will say that we’ve both spent most of our lives trying to reach other goals – academic, career, mental health, etc. – and it now feels like our health goals are finally at the top of the list.

Medically, my family history is full of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other not great things. Luckily, I haven’t really run into any of these problems, but I can see them in the offing. The last time I had bloodwork done everything was fine, but my insane level of sugar intake is only setting me up for failure on the diabetes front. I’m currently waiting on my latest bloodwork.

I wish I could say I was only doing this for health reasons, but I’ve gained a lot of weight over the years, and I don’t love the way it looks on me. I mean, losing the weight will make me healthier as well, but I really want to comfortably fit in the pants I already own.

So, what’s the plan? I haven’t figured it out completely, but the basics are all the same, aren’t they? Cutting out sugar, less fast food, calorie counting, cardio, weights, cooking at home. It’s so easy to type out and so hard to stick with.

I should post a before picture, but I don’t want to. I’ll take one, just in case I want to post it at the end, but it won’t be seeing the light of day until then, if ever. I’ll probably post pictures and videos on Instagram and Snapchat. I just deleted TikTok because of my complete inability to stop watching after a certain amount of time or I’d post there as well. Anything to keep myself accountable.

The day I started writing this, I got my latest bloodwork results back from my annual checkup. Most of it was fine – as normal – but there were some not normal results regarding kidney function and some other ones that may be due to dehydration. Those didn’t seem to bother the doctor – I say “seem” because the packet of paper I got didn’t have any information on those and I did my own Googling. Okay, Shane did the Googling.

You know what did bother the doctor? My LDL levels. You know, the bad cholesterol one. It’s not insanely high, but high enough for the doctor to say if I don’t get them under control in the next three months, I’ll be going on medication. I’m a huge fan of medication when it’s needed – but if changing my diet a bit and starting to exercise could solve the problem, then I want to try that first. The doctor sent along a sheet of foods – what to choose, what to “go easy” on, and what to avoid – and instructions to “comply with diet and exercise”. No word on how much exercise, but since I do none now, any amount is an improvement.

Well, there it is – the first entry in the Sarah Gets Healthy adventure. It’s going to be a very interesting journey – for me, anyway. Y’all might think it’s incredibly boring. I’m excited to see how everything shakes out.

-S