Another year, another failed Blogmas. I like to be consistent. 😂 This year my excuse isn’t work because I had less shifts than I’ve ever had in December thanks to 20% capacity in malls. My excuse this year is . . . um . . . well, I’m not actually sure what it is. Lack of motivation? I was excited for the holiday season back in October, but something inside me fizzled as the days went by. I didn’t put up my family’s nativity scene or watch my favorite Christmas movie The Nativity Story. In fact, I barely watched any holiday movies. I did listen to a fair amount of festive music, but that was about it. If you’re feeling left out in the cold over here on my lifestyle blog, I didn’t do Vlogmas for my YouTube channel either. I desperately wanted, nay, needed to be in the Christmas spirit this year, but I just couldn’t muster up the energy to celebrate. Despite an undercurrent of sadness draining my energy, I still managed to have a lovely day at home with family on the 25th. I watched The Santa Clause & played Crash Team Racing with my brother, cooked a repeat of Thanksgiving with my mom, & watched the Lakers game with my dad & brother. The Lakers beat the Mavericks! 💜💛 We ended the festivities with a fire, popcorn, & Wonder Woman 1984. I didn’t like it as much as the first movie, but it was still a lot of fun to watch. Highly recommend! After that my brother & I watched Friends until midnight, the official end of Christmas. I guess all of that is a good metaphor for 2020, feeling down but making the best of the situation. In the words of Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane, “From now on we’ll have to muddle through somehow so have yourself a merry little Christmas now.” 💚 🎄 ❤
H A P P Y H A N U K K A H 🕎 M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S 🎄 H A P P Y N E W Y E A R 🎉
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I thought three days off from my retail job would be sufficient enough to recharge my batteries. I underestimated the amount of items on my to-do list therefore I went into the first of five straight shifts even more exhausted and on the brink of illness. I could cry thinking about what I have left to do & my efforts to hold everything together. However, I don’t want stress to ruin this time of year for me once again. Let’s all take a moment to bask in the glow of some Christmas humor. Please, on my behalf, laugh until your sides hurt. ❤️
I feel like such a failure! I promised more blog posts, & here I am starting Blogmas 2018 on December 7th. I hate to give excuses so all I will say is . . . life happened. 😢
In years past, I’ve opened up about my lack of holiday spirit. This year I’m craving the joy that’s been missing. The past few months have been an emotional roller coaster ride, and it seems like the medicine I need is a heaping spoonful of cheesy Christmas romance best served by Hallmark. Unfortunately my schedule filled up quickly. On top of my retail hours, I’ve been filming, editing, & uploading Vlogmas videos on YouTube. This week I’m participating in TisTheSeasonAThon, a holiday-themed readathon, & next week I start working on Artmas 2018 for my art blog. Other than that, I’m free as a bird. 😂
I’ll end with some positivity. I am currently sitting in a recliner with a homemade frappuccino watching holiday baking shows. A Christmasy end to a bah-humbug day! I promise to check back in with you very very soon. 😘
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Most of us are currently going through the motions on Black Friday still recovering from a (sweet, glorious) turkey coma. Not to mention the delicious leftovers! Now that Thanksgiving has come & gone, the coldest of hearts can admit that Christmastime has officially arrived. If you’re an eager gift giver, this blog post is for you. I have put together a Bookish Gift Guide for the readers in your life.
1. The products are organized by a common theme such as Book Sleeves, Candles, Home, etc. That being said, some stores in one category might have items from another, but I only focused on something specific. Make sure you take a good look at everything so you don’t miss out.
2. I am only human so naturally I have not purchased from every single one of these shops. I simply did the research & compiled a long list to give you as many ideas as possible. It is up to you to read reviews & decide for yourself whether or not you’re going to make a purchase. If you’re curious, I will indicate where I have shopped with a star – > 🌟
3. The pricing information, in American dollars, is based on what I saw while researching but is subject to change. If a store is from a country other than the United States, assume that I had to convert the prices using Google, & it may not be 100% accurate. Also, shipping charges are not included due to the variance from country to country.
4. Most of these businesses are small shops so products will be limited, & the time between purchase and arrival will take longer than a typical shopping trip. The face behind a small business is more often than not one single person doing everything so please show your holiday spirit & be gracious. Pro Tip: For the best updates, follow social media accounts.
5. Any images used that are not mine are credited to their owners. They are only being used for advertisement purposes & not for my own benefit.
🎁 Specialty: Bags inspired by book covers | Faux leather or leather | 5 sizes ranging from clutch to large messenger bag/tote | You can add a page of text from the book of your choice to the empty space that is revealed when you open the bag.
🎁 Specialty: They used to sell book jewelry but currently only have clear Christmas tree ornaments with miniature books inside. Keep an eye on their shop for future gifts because they might eventually bring their jewelry back.
🎁 Specialty: Gloves, headbands, & scarves that feature book passages | Each book has an assigned color & should match across the entire product line. | There are also pillows, shirts, & totes, and the pricing is included below.
🎁 Specialty: Magnetic bookmarks that resemble book characters | Lots of Young Adult options – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Illuminae, Shades of Magic, etc. | There are also book sleeves & pins, and pricing is included below.
🎁 Specialty: Standard size bookmarks inspired by characters, locations, & quotes | The overall style is not cartoonish but rather focused on the graphic design elements, sometimes veering into (what I would consider) minimalism.
🎁 Specialty: Book sleeves in the following sizes: Mini (mass market paperbacks), Indie (paperbacks), XL (standard hardcovers), & Jumbeau (Large, Harry Potter-size hardcovers) | They also sell Book Beans for $29.99, a pillow shaped with readers in mind.
🌟 Specialty: The website is currently down for maintenance so I can’t give exact information. What I can tell you is that I paid $16.95 for a paperback-size book sleeve & $19.95 for the hardcover size.
🎁 “Bring Your Own Book is the game of borrowed phrases, where players search through books for text to take way out of context. It’s easy. Players take turns drawing prompts from the deck, then race to find the best phrase in their own book that satisfies the prompt. Since you can use a different book each time, you can play it with any audience, and there’s a practically infinite supply of source material.” – Taken from the BYOB website | Think of the game as a bookish Apples to Apples! | An app version is currently in the works. | Made by Do Better Games
🌟 “After hearing the details of the case, you will move around the streets of London, visiting various locations where you will collect clues – cryptic, factual and even misleading – before using your powers of deduction to solve the case and returning to Baker Street with the correct solution.” – Taken from the John Lewis website | If you like Clue but crave a “meatier” game, this is for you. | Made by Jay Moriarty / Antler Productions
💰 Pricing: I purchased from John Lewis & paid $23.50
🎁 This bookish version of Trivial Pursuit is no longer sold officially. It sounds like an item worth searching for as a collector so let me know if you find it in good condition. | The multi-colored pieces you collect to win the game are miniature books that you store on a mini bookshelf. The Great Penguin Bookchase is the same game, but the book pieces look like Penguin editions. So adorable! | Made by Art Meets Matter
🛒 B Y T H E B O O K: A N O V E L S T A C K I N G P U Z Z L E 🛍️
Location: Massachusetts 🇺🇸
🎁 “In this original 3D puzzle, stack up to 12 differently shaped books – and one clever cat – so that the upper shelf lies evenly across the top. Use the special included level to make sure everything is perfectly aligned. Master all 40 challenges and you’re on a level above the rest!” – Taken from the Brainwright website | Ages 8 & up | Made by Brainwright
🎁 “In Ex Libris, you are a collector of rare and valuable books in a thriving fantasy town. The Mayor has just announced a new seat in the Village Council, Grand Librarian. The prestigious and lucrative position will be awarded to the citizen with the most extraordinary library! Unfortunately, several of your book collector colleagues (more like acquaintances, really) are also candidates. To outshine your competition, you’ll need to expand your personal library by sending your trusty assistants out into the village to find the most impressive tomes. Sources for the finest books are scarce, so you’ll need to beat your opponents to them when they pop up – especially if they match your library’s secret focus! You only have a few days before the Mayor’s Official Inspector comes to judge your library, so be sure your assistants have all your books shelved in time! She is a tough cookie, and will use her Official Inspection Form to grade your library on several criteria including alphabetical order, shelf stability, prominent works, and variety. And don’t think she’ll turn a blind eye to books the Council has banned! You’ll need shrewd planning, cunning tactics, and perhaps a little magic to surpass your opponents and become Grand Librarian!” – Taken from the Renegade Game Studios website | Ages 10 & up | Made by Renegade Game Studios
🎁 Liebrary is similar to Apples to Apples except you’re making up your own first line for a book; you win a round if your answer is chosen. | This game is not sold in stores anymore so you have to search on Amazon & eBay. | Made by Discovery Bay
🛒 T H E A R T O F C O N V E R S A T I O N L I T E R A R Y E D I T I O N 🛍️
Location: Australia 🇦🇺
🎁 “TAOC® comes with 300 starter questions plus a 32-page guidebook that includes informative and comprehensive endnotes . . . Even reluctant readers will be drawn in! Readers of all stages and ages will find themselves being educated, all in the name of fun . . . Ideal for book clubs, but can also be adapted to friends, family, workmates, students or even solitary readers . . . Covers all genres – fiction, poetry, drama, biography, autobiography, science fiction, fantasy, crime, romance, historical writing – essentially, the whole bookshop!” – Taken from the TAOC website
🌟 Specialty: Therapeutic Rice Bags | They can be stored in the freezer or warmed in the microwave. | My family has used them for cramps, migraines, & knee pain. | Small, medium, & large sizes available + eye masks with or without straps | Three scents available: Eucalyptus, lavender, & peppermint – You can purchase rice bags unscented.
🎁 Specialty: Literary dolls such as Alice (in Wonderland), Anne Shirley, (author) Edith Wharton, Hermione Granger, & the Wicked Witch of the West | Custom options are available; just contact the shop owner Marcy. | Doll orders probably won’t be available until January, but now you know for the future.
🛒 L E T T E R F R O M M Y B O O K B O Y F R I E N D 🛍️
Location: Massachusetts 🇺🇸
🎁 Specialty: Thanks to Bookified, you can receive a letter from your literary crush. When you make a purchase, take advantage of the”Notes” section to specify exactly what you want.
💰 Pricing: $3.99 (3 lines, customized for an occasion), $6.49 (standard letter that is sent out over & over again, not personalized for you), $8.99 (5 lines, 1 page, customized), & $12.99 (10 lines, 2 pages, customized)
🌟 Unfortunately this shop no longer sells a customizable cellphone case, but it was one of my inspirations for this Bookish Gift Guide. It’s still open so you can take a peek here ➡️ etsy.com/shop/yazrajadesigns
🛒 S W E E T S E Q U E L S 🛍️
Location: Texas 🇺🇸
🌟 Specialty: Original art on prints & lifestyle products | Customization is available. I paid $235 for a custom oversized blanket with 9 total illustrations. Haleigh already had three of the book cover designs I wanted, and then I paid $30 for the six other covers ($5 each). I also requestedbacking that didn’t have long fur due to my sensitive eyes, and she was more than willing to oblige. I cannot recommend her shop enough!
⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️ DISCLAIMER: My intention is not to spoil the movie for you, but spoilers are hard to avoid once you’ve seen and want to talk about it. You have been warned! ⚠️ ⚠️ ⚠️
I recently saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi and loved it, but I’m still dealing with a lot of feelings. The severity of my emotions caught me off guard, and it wasn’t just because of Carrie Fisher’s death, although that sadness is still very fresh. This is the end of an era, a transition from the old to the new. I’m excited about the next generation of characters, but that doesn’t make the change any easier. When the twins reunited, Luke said the words “No one’s ever really gone” as he placed Han’s dice in Leia’s hand. From that point on, I couldn’t stop crying. That one poignant moment sums up my experience with this film. I know that’s a really short statement about a really big movie, but I honestly can’t bring myself to say anything more.
Put the flour, milk, salt, & a 1/2 cup of sugar into a saucepan. Over low heat, stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil it for 1 minute & remove from the heat. This can take a long time due to the small amount of heat so once I saw a few bubbles, I used a lid to capture the heat and encourage the cooking process, and it didn’t affect the pie at all. Mix in the gelatin, which should now look a bit like a sugar scrub, and set the mixture aside for 15-20 minutes. Once it’s completely cool, whisk until all the lumps are gone.
Beat the cream of tartar & egg whites until the mixture becomes stiff. Add a 1/2 cup of sugar and beat again until soft peaks form. Fold this mixture into the saucepan mixture, and then fold in the flaked coconut.
Divide the filling between two pie crusts/shells. The recipe does not fill both all the way to the top so if you’re better than me at math, feel free to make the recipe a teeny bit bigger to fill two pies to the brim. If you want to stay traditional, sprinkle flaked coconut on top of the pie. If you want to be fancy, use a piping bag to decorate the top with whipped cream before sprinkling with coconut flakes. If you want a bit of Christmas color, use crushed up candy (the peppermint flavor of candy canes would be a delicious addition) or dyed coconut. I saw a pie online with a wreath of red & green coconut flakes around a white coconut center; you could take it one step further and enhance the color of the wreath with some candy. Now we come to my genius idea. I love the combination of chocolate & coconut so I decided to use a chocolate graham cracker crust. At the last minute, I decided to go all the way with my non-traditional pie & toast my coconut flake topping.
The original white Christmas pie was good but a little too sweet for my taste, an easy fix with an unsweetened pie crust rather than a sweet graham cracker shell. I might be a tad bit biased, but my pie was definitely the winner of the two. The chocolate and toasted coconut made the pie less sweet but no less delicious. Success! I will definitely be using this recipe again.
I’ve been a busy bee working on Artmas, Blogmas, & Vlogmas these past few days. I’m working at my retail job almost every day for the next two weeks so the time to get ahead is running out. I’m trying to think happy thoughts to keep my mind off of the impending insanity. First of all, I’m seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi tonight with my family. FINALLY!! Second of all, I have a funny story to tell about my neighbor:
A few days ago, I was standing at the kitchen sink looking through the window at the backyard (let’s pretend I wasn’t simultaneously looking and wishing for snow that will never fall). Out of nowhere, a medieval-looking tool moved into view above the fence and slowly made its way to a frond on the nearest palm tree. Against such precise motions, the poor frond never stood a chance. The tool disappeared from view only to reappear and cut down another frond. This seems like a good time to mention that the palm tree is in my family’s backyard. It would’ve made more sense if any of the frond victims had been hanging over the other side of the fence, but they weren’t. I know there is a certain amount of give and take between neighbors, but that sort of action seems so childish. Oh well! It gave me a good laugh. 😂
My North Pole elf powers have taken a serious hit in the past few years. In 2016, I had to repurchase two gifts due to damage. This year, I received two damaged gifts and was only able to successfully replace one. The other was a handmade, custom item and arrived twice in terrible condition due to measurement issues; I chose to walk away with a refund rather than risk receiving a third defective product. Seriously, what has happened to me?? Gifting used to be my cup of tea, and now I can’t seem to climb out of the funk I’m in. I carefully observe the recipients so I can pick the perfect gifts; I make an airtight budget so I can save and spoil my loved ones; and I buy from trustworthy sources (eBay has disappointed me one too many times). I’m still satisfied with my 2017 gifts, but I can’t help feeling disappointed. On top of my misery, I can’t see Star Wars: The Last Jedi until Monday night. UGH!!! On the bright side, I have a day off (from my retail job) to relax a little bit. Even though I have a to-do list of work that has to get done, I will definitely be squeezing in some baking, Christmas movies, & reading. Happy Saturday!
It finally happened. My Scrooge veneer cracked, and I shed a Christmas tear. Yes, it was a cheesy Hallmark movie. No, I don’t feel any shame. It might’ve had something to do with staying up until 3am the night before, but we’ll ignore that detail and say that I was overcome by the spirit of December. I also want to give credit where credit is due. Finding Santa was a good movie, and that’s saying a lot considering I don’t often enjoy a new offering from Hallmark, otherwise known as Christmas Incorporated. 😂 I’ll add to the good news by announcing the arrival of grandma’s cookies. See?! December isn’t a total loss yet. My elf ears are starting to perk up, and we still have a little over one week of celebration left. 🎉
Let’s ignore my slacking and move on to my Hanukkah tale:
For Vlogmas, I wanted to film a few Hanukkah-themed vlogs including a video on how to play dreidel. I dug through my memory chest to get my trusty old dreidel from a VBS years and years ago. I was surprised to find it missing but figured it must have been placed elsewhere in the chest. After a thorough inspection, I became slightly more frantic. Fast forward a few days later. I checked the chest one last time before trekking out to the garage; I was on the hunt for the backup dreidel stored with the Christmas decorations. I carefully went through each box which is no easy task when you’re paranoid about dying from black widow bites. I will now add some holiday humor to describe the fruit of my labor (or lack thereof): I rolled the dreidel, and it landed on nun. Two identical dreidels mysteriously missing when needed most. Target did come to my rescue, but I still can’t believe I had to buy TWELVE dreidels. Is it really that hard to sell one all by itself?? At least it was only $3. 😑