What's Up Wednesday? Holiday Edition

Joining up with my girl Mel for What's up Wednesday, the monthly blog buffet. I am actually posting this a day early (What? Early? Usually, I post two days late) because tomorrow we will be knee-deep in tinsel and greenery. I can't wait.

What I'm Reminiscing About: I am not sure if it is reminiscing as much as it is trying to remember our Christmas decor and determine where everything is going this year. I like to switch it up every year. Previous Christmases --

This was actually our second live tree last year. Read more about our 2014 Christmas Calamity.

What I'm Loving: My mom gave me an early Christmas present last week and I have already worn it three times:

Cobalt blue is my favorite color. 

I am also loving Starbucks Holiday Blend KCups. Several stores have these in stock, but we found it at Costco.

What We've Been Up To: We have been celebrating birthday's -- last weekend I took Gramma to Nashville for a birthday shopping weekend and this past weekend, we celebrated Aunt Dana's birthday with a  dinner at her favorite restaurant. Other than that, it is holiday prep and Big's basketball practices. And of course this is the busy season for the choir and we attended the Non-Holiday Holiday Choir Party at our director's home this past weekend. Lots of fun and football.

What I'm Working On: This week I am writing the upcoming holiday event guide for the Newspaper. I do it every year so it is not taxing, but it is time-consuming to gather all of the info. Huntsville always does the holidays up right with so many fun Christmas events every year, such as the Tinsel Trail, Galaxy of Lights, Skating in the Park and Santa's Village.

What I'm Dreading: I am not sure I am dreading anything to be honest. Testing my Christmas light strands? I might try to sweet talk the Engineer into overseeing that project.

What I'm Excited About: You know my answer to that! I am also excited to spend Thanksgiving Day with my father's side of the family, who are back in Tennessee and we only see once a year. And since this is the last What's Up before December, I can say that I am beside myself with excitement for The Force Awakens. The force is strong with the Skelley family. #starwarsnerds

What I'm Watching: I checked the holiday television schedule for the first time yesterday. Chiff is my goto website, I always install a bookmark on my computer so I can easily check the guide each day. The first one up on Nov. 30 is a family and Bestie fave:

What I'm Reading: Ah! So many good books lately. I am working on my list of top ten favorite books of 2015, but until then I have these to recommend:

This is a prequel to the novella, Happily Ever Ninja, which is to be released in January. I have talked about my love of the Knitting in the City series before on the blog, but I have to say this was the best one yet -- and that is really saying something considering Friends Without Benefits will be on my 2015 top ten books list. I absolutely loved Fiona and Greg. So funny, so witty, so much heart.

I know, I know, this violates my policy of not reading books with shirtless dudes on the cover. L.H. Cosway knows how to write angst without it tipping over into overwrought. Part of another series of which I am a big fan, King of Hearts is seamlessly woven into the other books. I recommend the entire series -- and make sure you read them in order, it is important. 

What I am wearing: I have two shoe reviews today and they are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. 

1. Aldo Genoni Pump

I am a big fan of pumps. They never go out of style, they are multifaceted and you can wear them year-round. While Nine West is still my first stop whenever I need to replace a worn out pair, the subtle studs on these caught my attention. Skirts, slacks, suits -- the light brown is versatile and the heel not too high. I find myself grabbing them off the shelf several times a week. 

1. Sketchers GoWalk

I have talked before about how we are lucky to be able to walk the kids to school every day. When it is warm, I usually just throw on a pair of flip flops, which are quite the cutting edge fashion with my work clothes. But now that the weather has turned cool, I needed a quick pair of comfy slip ons and I have to rave about these Sketchers. They are like walking on air. Not the sexiest pair of shoes, but worth it. I bought the tan but I am digging the coral above.

What I'm Doing This Weekend: We are headed to my mother's for Thanksmas. Because we are all so scattered and several of us have babies, we combine Thanksgiving and Christmas for one big celebration, complete with food, fun and a cutthroat game of Dirty Santa.

Scenes from Thanksmas past --

That is my "I just stole a gift card," face.

This month's question -- what is your favorite Christmas tradition?

That, is a tough question. How do I chose? I will have to say that my favorite holiday tradition is attending church on Christmas Eve. When I was a kid, my church always had a Christmas candlelight communion. It was that one quiet moment of peace during a hectic time that was a meaningful moment to worship the coming of Jesus. Our church today has a full service and the choir always sings -- a few years ago, I actually was the featured soloist and for someone with debilitating stage fright, that was not easy -- but I survived! We have a wonderful church full of the kindest souls and celebrating Christmas Eve with them is my favorite tradition.

Runners up: listening to Christmas music; making holiday chex mix the day after Thanksgiving; driving through our city's Galaxy of Lights -- which is one of the Southeast's largest light displays created by the Huntsville Botanical Gardens; watching my favorite Christmas movie, Scrooged, egg nog, gingerbread, decorating my Disney tree (now in its 19th year!); Christmas cards ... I could go on and on!

Thanks for dropping by and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Thoughts on Thursday

Digging: My new Christmas blog theme that went live this week! It has been years since Team Skelley has been decorated for the holidays and I think this is my favorite holiday template yet. Thanks, Designer Blogs!

Reading: If you are looking for reading material and didn't see last week's review for The Fish Tale Series' The Man I Love and Give Me Your Answer True and yesterday's review of their sequel Here To Stay, definitely go check them out. #sogood #bookhangover

Watching: Nothing because our DVR is empty! It is strange to see. But I definitely know that we will be watching Mockingjay Part 1 and 2 over the holiday weekend. Who else is a Hunger Games fan? I have very mixed feelings about the last book so I waited until Part 2 was released to watch both movies. I know that there will be one part of the movie that I will take a strategic bathroom break. Finnick is my favorite character. You know what I am talking about.

Writing: Veterans Week is now behind us, whew! We are immensely proud of our Veterans Day and Heroes Week special edition and have received some rewarding feedback. You know that you have a winner when people request multiple copies of an issue. If you want to check out the newspaper that I am always nattering about --

Listening: To the Classic Christmas station on Pandora. Don't judge. I turned on the Christmas station this past weekend for my mom's 60th birthday Christmas shopping trip to Nashville. Just her and me, some Christmas tunes and a steady stream of coffee. We closed down Green Hills Mall Saturday night and crashed at the Brentwood Four Points Sheraton (recommend, lovely hotel). Fun fact: When the Titans are playing hotel rooms in Nashville go up at a minimum of $100 a night. We had breakfast of delicious crepes with the Bestie the next morning and were back at it. I put a serious dent in my Christmas list.

Happy Birthday Momma!

On our way up, we stopped at Cool Springs Galleria to check out the new American Girl store and holy cow was that place crazy! It was Black Friday crazy. If that is what the crowd was like on November 14, I shudder to think of what it will be on December 14. Be warned.

Appreciating: That I received a clean bill of health from the dentist yesterday! It is the first time in at least two years that a routine cleaning did not detect a larger problem. They did an individual X-ray of every tooth in my mouth and I worked myself into quite a lather worrying about what they would find. But my dentist said that everything looked good. In the past 14 months, I have had five crowns installed and last week between the Deployed Spouse Lunch and Veterans Day Breakfast, I had my third root canal. That was fun. (It was not fun.) I was so fuzzy-headed that poor Big Kid had to get me out of the car and bring me inside. But, I woke up early the next morning with no pain for the first time in a month! Let's hope that I will have a reprieve from the dentist for awhile, I -- and our bank account -- need it.

Eating: Pecan pie in a jar. 

Spread it over vanilla ice cream and it is to die for. 

Happy Thursday!


Book Review | Here to Stay

Last week, I reviewed the first two books in the Fish Tales series: The Man I Love and Give Me Your Answer True. I absolutely loved them. So when their author, Suanne Laqueur, asked if I would like an ARC of the sequel Here to Stay, before its release date on Jan. 14, my fingers could not type Yes! fast enough. While the first two books did not end on a cliffhanger, there was still plenty of Erik and Daisy's story to be told.

Summary: Love is never so sweet as when it receives a second chance. In the sequel to the award-winning novel The Man I Love, Suanne Laqueur continues the story of Erik Fiskare’s romance with Daisy Bianco. Though separated for twelve years, the extraordinary bond they forged in their youth has endured. Now reconciled and committed as adults, they begin to create a new life together. 

Laqueur crafts a new journey that stretches into both the future and the past. Erik’s passionate, soulful love for Daisy continues to evolve and be tested. His friendship with Will Kaeger grows deeper and more complex. And unexpected contact with his Fiskare cousins offers insight to the cruel childhood desertion that shaped Erik as an adult. With Daisy at his side, he travels back to his hometown to explore fragile memories, meet his people and learn about the charms on his signature, heirloom necklace.

All these relationships will prove invaluable when Erik faces his greatest challenge as a son, a husband and a father. Once he walked away from everything he loved. But now he is here to stay.

I actually finished the book Sunday night but needed to ruminate on it for a couple of days. I wanted to find the perfect words to convey my thoughts on the story without giving away pivotal plot points. While I would classify HTS as a quieter book, it is a sad fact of life that surviving a life-threatening event doesn't mean that we receive a free pass from future tragedy. Again, I don't want to give anything away but at one point while reading, there were tears. Lots and lots of tears.

Here to Stay is not like its predecessors. It didn't need to be like the previous books. One of the aspects of Suanne's writing that I like is that she can write young adults, she can write twenty-somethings and now with this novel, she proves that she can write thirty-somethings and have it ring true. These characters have grown as people and they are different because they are changed by their life experiences. The character development in HTS is flawless.

Lucky's reunion was Erik was everything I needed it to be. Erik and Daisy's relationship was everything they needed it to be. For all the talk about the characters being different, the bond of friendship between all of the main characters -- and even the secondary characters -- was possibly even stronger than when they were young and invincible. So often in books, authors throw obstacles at the characters simply to cause conflict. I never once had that feeling of manufactured drama while reading. Suanne crafted a plot that was very organic yet still engrossing. It was a book that rattled around my brain while I lived my life and those are the best kinds of books.

So once again, I urge you to add Here to Stay to your bookshelf and make sure to pick up a copy when it goes live Jan. 14. And thank you Suanne, for your kind words and graciousness. I truly feel that there are great things ahead for you and I will be first in line to read your future work.