#MonthofFaves2016 ~ Challenges {The Year End Updates on Reading Challenges, Personal Goals, Resolutions}

amonthoffaveshome

How did you do? Are you going to do more challenges next year?

I started the year with my own personal reading challenge—read five of my own books before I could buy or borrow a new one. It lasted maybe two months. Good intention to read my own damn books, poor follow through.

I ended the year with two other challenges. #MonthofFaves2016 has definitely revived my blog. I feel more connected to it again and I found strategies that will help in the new year which include writing and saving drafts of posts on the weekend to then post during the week. And using the weekend to visit other blogs and connect there.

Two Instagram challenges revived that platform as well. I did a personal Gratitude Challenge for the month of November and I am finishing the year with the “winterwondergram Book Challenge. It’s been been fun creating photos and meeting people this way.

All year I have doing my own version of “Don’t break the Chain.” I filled my dry erase board with 365 boxes and marked an “X” in one for each day that I wrote. I have yet to break the chain. Yay, me! I plan on continuing it into the new year, perhaps making myself a little more accountable by needing to produce 500 words on my current WIP to earn the “X” during the week.

For meditation, I use Insight Timer and it keeps track of the amount of days in a row that I meditate. It is incredibly motivating plus I get to see the thousands of others meditating with me around the world.

Challenges work for me. I like to see the days add up. I like to see the progress. I like to feel the changes manifest as I remain consistent and motivated.

Check out the challenge here. 

 

 

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#AMonthofFaves2016  ~ I Love … December

Favorite holiday festivities, favorite ornaments, home decor, places to go, holiday drinks, holiday eats, holiday themed reads

I love to decorate for Christmas. Usually, I wait until after Thanksgiving (one holiday at a time). But this year I needed to bring a little joy into my life so everything was up before my daughters came home from college for Thanksgiving. I’ve been playing Christmas music in the car and in the house all day and night. Already watching some of our favorite Christmas movies. ere are some of my favorite things that bring  me a little more joy to the season:

Favorite Christmas movies:

elf

“I’m a cotton-headed ninny-muggins.”

the-family-stone

“You have a freak flag. You just don’t fly it.” 

a-christmas-story

“Fra-gee-lay..it must be Italian!”

Favorite Christmas decor:

treasure-box

This is the treasure box I remember from my childhood where I used to keep a picture of Randy Mantooth and other “valuables.” I love that is a family heirloom. It is out year-round but I fill it with ornaments at Christmas.

tryptic

This is something I bought this year because I just kept being drawn back to it in the store. I think I’ll put it in my yoga room after the holidays.

mantle

I love our fireplace mantel!

christmas-birds

These sweet little birds sit on a shelf in our guest bathroom and they make me smile each time I see them.

Favorite gift to give the neighbors:

potpourri

Instead of baking cookies or bread or giving fruit cake or bread, we make these each year. Making sure to save at least one for ourselves because it smells delicious.

Holiday Stove Top Potpourri

1 orange

3-4 cinnamon sticks

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

sprinkle nutmeg

1 T cloves

Quarter the orange.

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan.

Fill pan with water.

Place on the stove on the smallest burner, on the lowest setting.

Refill water as needed.

Favorite Christmas album:

jewel-joy-a-holiday-collection

 

What are favorites things about the holidays? Please share in the comments or link to your post.

Check out the challenge here. 

#AMonthofFaves 2016 ~ Keep It! 5 Purchases That Were Totally Worth It

#IRegretNothing  what did you buy this year – big or small – that you love, bought more of, got your monies worth

Well, we (and by “we” I mean my awesome husband) finally ripped up the cat-pee stained carpet in my office and put down dark wood laminate flooring. Best decision ever. We waited so long because it was so much work to take literally everything out of this room including 2 loaded bookcases. But it gave me a chance to thin my collection and now the room smells nice and is spacious and clutter free—leaving more room for all kinds of creativity to swirl around me.

cuisinart-immersion-blender

The second thing I bought is little but I love it. I finally bought an immersion blender and I use it often to make healthy, delicious pureed soups. Just sauté whatever veggies you like, add a combo of spices and some veggie stock/broth. Once the veggies are soft, use the immersion blender to puree it. So yummy!

Check out the challenge here. 

#MonthofFaves ~ 5 Must Haves for Winter Survival 

Shout out your favorite brand or stores or favorite items.

winter-scene

Image found via Pinterest.

My little space heaters are vital in the winter. This one corner of the house where my writing room is on the ground floor and my yoga room above it, are always so much colder than the rest of the house. When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is turn on the one in my yoga room, head downstairs to feed our cat and dog, brew a cup of tea, sit in my nook to write my morning pages then head back upstairs to my now warm, cozy yoga room to practice and meditate. Same for my office where I write. I no longer have a laptop at the moment, so I must come in here to write. I light a candle, turn on the heater, have a cozy blanket draped over me and I’m all set.

Cozy blankets are another must-have all winter long. I have them in the family room where we watch TV, in the living room, in my office, in my yoga room.

My teapot gets a lot of use in the winter. Not only does it keep me warm but I find that I eat less junk if I have a cup of tea to sip instead.

I am making an effort to get outside more this winter. My natural inclination is to basically hibernate which just promotes a vicious cycle of lethargy. I bought a pair of thin thermal long underwear and top this year so hopefully that will allow me to venture out to the park near us more frequently. Actually, even once would be more frequent than usual. I also got a membership to Planet Fitness, my theory being that when it is too icy to walk at least I can out of the house and get some exercise.

my-cozy-nook

My nook by the fireplace is by far, the coziest spot in the house. I have a basket next it filled with books, notebooks, pens, mindful coloring books and colored pencils. Light a candle, brew some tea, (or pour a glass of wine) drape a blanket over me and I’m in for the night.

What are your winter must-haves? Please share in the comments or link to your post.

Check out the challenge here. 

#AMonthofFaves201 ~ Reading Outside My Comfort Zone

Surprise Find(s) This Year.

comfort-zone

So, here’s the thing I am realizing—I don’t often venture out of my reading comfort zone. I like the literary stories that I like, the authors I like, the inspiring spiritual stories I like, the memoirs I like, the books about writing that I like.

in 2017, I am going to expand my reading. I am going to venture out of the bubble of my comfort zone. Try genres I usually shy away from (maybe sci-fi, paranormal romance, historical non-fiction, classics) and find authors that aren’t on my amazon suggested list. It’s so easy to become isolated within the things we like, within a community that agrees with everything we believe. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we move beyond those spaces. Books are meant to crack open our world, expand our views but only if we let them, only if we invite them into our lives.

This coming year I am going to do just that.

Check out the challenge here. 

#AMonthofFaves2016 ~ 5 Fave “New to Me” Author Discoveries or Audiobook Narrations This Year

amonthoffaveshome

Here are 5 new-to-me authors I discovered this year. Loved each and every one of them!

“A Little Life” a novel by Hanya Yanagihara

Made me rethink what I think I know about male friendship.

“Imagine This—Creating the Work You Love” by Maxine Clair

Made me rethink how I go about my own creative work.

“The Chronology of Water” by Lidia Yuknavitch

Made me rethink what a memoir could be and what writing can do.

“The Empathy Exams” essays by Leslie Jamison

Made me rethink the role of empathy in my life.

“Blackout—Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget” by Sarah Hepola

Made me rethink how much I drink and why.

#AMonthofFaves2016 ~ Best Changes We Made This Year

To your Day / Life / Routines / Blog / Habits

writing-chart

I’ve made two big changes this year, both incredibly beneficial (so hopefully that is motivation to keep them going!).

The first is my “Don’t Break the Chain” challenge. I created 365 boxes on a dry erase board and put an “X” on each day that I wrote. I’ve managed to write every day this year. Now, some days it was just morning pages. Other days it was merely one sentence in my WIP. But, the point is, that I wrote something every single day of 2016… so far. Next year, my plan is to make it a little more challenging. Maybe I need to write 500 words on my WIP at least 5 days a week to earn that “X.”

meditation

The second thing I did (and it’s only been since November 9) is meditate every day. Most days it is for at least 15 minutes. 2 days it has been for 5 because the day was so crazy and I just needed to fit it in. I have resisted meditation for years. Even when one of my favorite writers and writing teachers, Natalie Goldberg,  promised that meditation was the secret to writing, I still resisted. But now I am kind of in a groove. I feel like meditation creates space for all of my thoughts, all of my feelings. Nothing is being squashed or pushed aside. Meditation is holding sacred space for all for me. I find myself calmer, less reactive, more mindful, more focused…all great benefits for a writer.

What are some changes you’ve made this years or plan to make next year? I’d love to hear about them.

Check out the challenge here. 

#AMonthofFaves2016 ~ Picking Favorites

amonthoffaveshome

Let’s support each other by sharing our faves from other #AMonthofFaves participant blogs, eg. your favorite posts, a book added to your reading list, or a blogger you just discovered.

~ Sharlene at Real Life Reading showed me that is possible to set a high reading goal and actually surpass it! She’s read 221 books so far this year, and the year isn’t over yet!

~ Nice tip from Kristen at We Be Reading about using Coca Butter Heel Repair of the tootsies.

~ Stacy at The Novel Life has some great blogging tool suggestions. And I just love the artwork for her header!

~ I love the graphs and charts Catherine used at The Gilmore Guide to Books. And her reading space looks cozy and beautiful. I’ve always wanted a chaise!

~ Tamara at Traveling with T had some great blogging suggestions. And took the time to explain Mr. Linky to me…thank you!! Still working on it:)

Check out the challenge here. 

 

#AMonthofFaves2016 ~ Favorite Book to Movie or TV Shows

the-perks-of-being-a-wallflower

I’m not usually a fan of the movie version of books. They always seem just a little flat, a little deflated somehow. However, I can think of four that held up to the original book and one that I found slightly better than the book (for a purely selfish reason).

  1. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” is my number one pick. It’s become one of those movies that I will watch anytime it comes on.
  2. “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Because Gregory Peck. I recently saw this at an old theatre with some friends. I remember watching it in school and not being as enamored as I am as an adult. And living in the times we are in now, it was a sobering movie to watch.
  3. “The Secret Life of Bees.” I just found myself drawn into the visual world of the movie as much as I had been drawn into the world through the book. And the cast! Dakota Fanning. Queen Latifah. Jennifer Hudson. Alicia Keyes.
  4. “The Time traveler’s Wife.” This is the one I probably enjoyed more than the book only because I found the book very confusing with, well, all the time traveling. I remember having to constantly go back and try to figure out which version of each character was meeting which version. The movie made it much more simple to follow and I really enjoyed it. A little laziness on my part, oh well…

As a sidenote, I was really excited to watch “The Handmaid’s Tale” coming to Hulu with Elisabeth Moss but now it may be hitting a little too close to home with the politics in this country the way they are. It may be just a bit too disturbing but I will watch it anyway. No more hiding from what is uncomfortable.

One more sidenote: I never buy the movie version of a book. I want the original, classic book cover. #oldschool

Check out the challenge here. 

#AMonthofFaves2016 ~ Most Useful Tools For Getting Sh&! Done

get-shit-done

Image found via Pinterest.

I’ve hit a planner dead-end lately. I used to use a simple datebook from One Spirit Book Club. For nine years, I ordered my new one in December. But then, they stopped producing one. Ever since then, I’ve been in planner limbo.

planners

I’ve tried others but they are too much work. Or they don’t lay flat. Or they have each day laid out in 15-minute increment which I don’t need.

I end up feeling like Goldilocks and none of them is just right.

The calendar on my phone gets a lot of use. It took me a while to even start using it but now that I am, it’s working for me. I like the alerts I can set the day before and an hour before. I like that the address pops up, making it easy to get directions to where I need to go.

Mostly though, I’m an old-fashioned, handwritten to-do lis kind of gal. Just the act of writing something down on a list makes it 90% more possible that it will actually get done. I love the satisfaction of crossing things off my list. In fact, I will write something down that I have already done, just to be able to cross it off.

writing-chartThe last tool I use to keep me productive is my writing chart. I got the idea from Jerry Seinfeld who said to make an “X”each day you write (in his case, a joke) and pretty soon you’ll see them all add up and won’t want to break the chain. I created my own on a dry erase board and this year it has worked. My plan is to color in each triangle of the “X” over the next four years and, hopefully, have a five-year daily writing streak.

 

Check out the challenge here.