Favorite Books of 2022.

If you know me even the tiniest little bit, you know that reading is one of my great passions. For one, I am a librarian! But I just overall feel most myself when in the midst of a book, and in the midst of a book is where I always am. I finish one, and the next moment I pick up another. If you are a book lover – you are my people.

This past year really was a great year of reading. I read 70-ish books by the end of it, and there are some that I’m still thinking about. Of course, there were also some duds mixed in, but we won’t dwell on those too long now, will we?

I sat down today and tried to narrow down to my “favorite” book, and I just can’t. I feel like when you read a book, you have to be in a certain mood to read it. It’s only going to be the best book if it’s the right time for you to read it. So I’m not narrowing down! You can’t make me! 13 of my favorite books from 2022 in no particular order. I feel like this was kind of a year of *fluff*. I really enjoyed a lot of romances and chick-lit. Easy reading that I could do between raising three boys. I think most of these include a bit of spice, so if that’s something that offends you, you may want to avoid!! But ya know, I’ve always found that a little spice in a book is good for my marriage if you know what I mean. lol. And no helpful reviews here, because honestly I’ve been trying to get this up for a full week, and I just need to hit publish.

Favorite Books from 2022 (in no particular order):

  1. It Ends with Us, Colleen Hoover
  2. The Paper Palace, Miranda Cowley Heller
  3. A Court of Thorns and Roses Series, Sarah J. Maas
  4. The Love Hypothesis, Ali Hazelwood
  5. Reminders of Him, Colleen Hoover
  6. The Perfect Find, Tia Williams
  7. Book Lovers, Emily Henry
  8. The Love of My Life, Rosie Walsh
  9. The Good Sister, Sally Hepworth
  10. This Time Next Year, Sophie Cousens
  11. Nora Goes Off Script, Annabel Monaghan
  12. Memphis, Tara M. Stringfellow

All books that will keep you turning the page until the very end.

I always share reviews as I finish them over on Instagram. You can find detailed reviews for all of these in a highlight here! I can’t wait to see what 2023 brings!

My Mom’s Breakfast Casserole

Truly think that everyone should have an easy breakfast casserole recipe in their back pocket. It’s a crowdpleaser, everyone is always impressed, it takes no time at all, can be made ahead and you probably have all the ingredients on hand anyway. Bookmark this one for every brunch for basically the rest of your life. It can be made the night before and baked in the morning, or just bake it up and re-heat it in the morning. My mom made this for every holiday/special event for my entire life, and still does to this day. And now I am her copy cat because she really did know what she was doing.

If we’re having a crowd, I make the full batch, but if it’s just our family of five, I halve all ingredients and bake in a smaller baking dish. I do not deviate with extra veggies or greens thrown in, but you certainly could! Recipes are meant to be played with. We serve with salsa, hot sauce and ketchup for condiments, and always a big bowl of berries and breakfast bread on the side. Enjoy this family favorite!

Breakfast Casserole

1 doz eggs
8 oz shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 c milk
Sliced white bread-crust removed, butter on both sides
1 1b fried bacon or 1 lb fried sausage
¼ t salt
¼ t pepper

Preheat oven to 350°

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with pam and cover bottom with your buttered bread. Sprinkle with ⅔ cup of cheese, ⅔ cup of bacon or sausage.

Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour in your baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining meat and cheese. Bake 50 minutes or until brown on sides. Serves 8-12

On Mundane, Practical Resolutions and Making Them Happen.

Every new year I sit down and write a lengthy list of goals. Last year I did it stream of consciousness style on a Google doc. Most years past I’ve used a notebook to jot things down. Neither are a bad way to do it, and it’s always nice to read back through to see what I was working on last year.

But I’ve become a bit more methodical (in my old age) and typed up a big numbered list on google docs this year. 32 things! Eek! But I have to tell They’re not all hard. You might even look at it as part to do list, part list of goals. For example, one is “clean out my closet”, another is “repaint the back porch floor”, and “teach Charlie to ride a bike”. These are just (kind of mundane) tasks that really do need to be done and I can cross them off and not think about them again for a good long while. But others need a bit more doing. Things such as “run 6 miles without rest” and “read 80 books” and “find inspiration, but stop mindless scrolling”. This is all fine and good to say those things, but how do you get there? 

So this year, I took my list, and under each item I added “HOW?” And then I jotted down some notes for each.

How am I going to make sure that I make it to a yoga class each week? I need to communicate with my husband to see what night works with his schedule. I sent him a text to see for this week and went ahead and signed up for the class this week. Done

How am I going to make sure that we potty train Luke? Well I know that this summer would be ideal. If we do it in June then we’ll have a nice long chunk of time that we’re off school and we can just be home and near the potty. I wrote it in all caps in my planner.

How am I going to make sure not to buy any clothes new for me or the boys this year? I’m going to pick a day to thrift each week after school. 

If it helps you to see exactly what it looks like in my document, here are a couple:

  1. Do Duolingo every day.
    1. How?
      1. Pick a specific time and stay consistent.
      2. Set a reminder on my phone.
  2. Read 80 books.
    1. How?
      1. Aim for 2 books a week.
      2. Have books on hand at all times to read. Utilize audiobooks and e-books when needed. I should be able to read 2 books every week. This would be 104 books. This is something I do most weeks. Read before bed, audiobooks at school during shelving and on runs. 
      3. Post monthly reading posts on emetamily.com to summarize and help keep track. 
      4. Continue posting weekly reviews on instagram on Mondays to stay motivated.
      5. Continue placing holds and making weekly library stops.

And how to make sure I keep up with it all for the year? Well, I took a look at all of my goals and then I wrote a separate little list at the bottom of my document:

– Things to fit into every day: Workouts, Cooking, Meditate, Reading, Duolingo, Playing with the boys, etc.
– Things to fit into the week: Yoga, Library visit, Baking, Weekly Dates, etc.
– Things to fit into the month: Friend Dinners, cocktails with my sister, etc.
– Things to fit into my year: Knit a sweater, have our ceilings redone, sign the boys up for sports, power wash the house, etc.

This really helps me visualize when/how I’m going to get these things done. Is it reasonable? I already know it is because I’ve taken a look at my schedule and scheduled things in. Every day I’m going to do five minutes of Duolingo right when I wake up. I’m going to meditate for ten minutes right before I get in the shower every night. I’m going to a yoga session at 7:30pm tomorrow night. I read 70 books this year at a pretty leisurely pace, so I should be able to read 80 this year. We had a guy come yesterday to give us a quote for our ceilings and he’s going to begin work in the middle of the month. I’m going to ask my dad to paint the porch floor when they visit for the month of February. Boom. I’ve already made progress.

Really the only thing to do next is to form the habits. Dig in and stick to them. Stop being lazy, and really get nitty gritty with the details. Set an alarm on your phone every month “monthly check in!!” to hold yourself accountable. That’s the way to make sure you get stuff done. Just hold yourself to it. Don’t rely on someone to nag you. Make it your goal to keep your promises to yourself and just make it happen.

I remember when I started trying to figure out how to work, and be a mom, and still do things for myself. I was feeling very overwhelmed, so I wrote up a little schedule “An Ideal Week”. I wrote down all the half hours in the day and days of the week, and I filled in what I would ideally be doing each day at that time for an entire week. From 5:30-7pm I wanted to put my phone away and have family dinner and play with my kids. At 5am I wanted to be up and wanted to eat my breakfast, drink my coffee and be alone before I had to start getting ready for the day. On Sunday nights I wanted to have a check in with my husband on what his week is going to look like. And those are the things that to this day I do! That’s something you might try if you’re struggling with figuring out how to have time to do more for yourself and for your family. We all have the same amount of time in the day. We just all use it in different ways.

I also do think that my Making Every Day Special document that I made a few years ago might be helpful if you’re struggling to form home habits (like doing laundry every day, or celebrating minor and major holidays).

A List of Recipes For Your Cookie Box

A little late, but links for cookie ideas for your own cookie box this year!

Last year’s box:

  1. Peanut Butter Blossoms
  2. Buckeyes
  3. Chocolate Chunk Shortbread
  4. Roll Out Sugar Cookies
  5. Gingerbread
  6. Peppermint Brownie Cookies
  7. Salted Caramels
  8. Molasses Cookies Dipped in White Chocolate

New Cookies to Try

How To Make a Cookie Box.

Two days until December and it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to assemble those cookie boxes this year. If you want to! Of course, it’s highly optional, but highly rewarding holiday gifting activity if you choose to do it!

Growing up in small town Indiana as part of a close knit and large extended family, cookie plates were a THING. You knew that Aunt Lee and Aunt Dianne and any number of any family members and friends were going to drop by the house the week before Christmas bearing cookie plates. Everyone had their favorite cookie on the plate and as one of six kids, you had to be quick if you wanted to get one.

Enter my own adulthood and last year I made my own cookie boxes for friends and neighbors down here in Florida. I’m not sure how other people do it, but I started early and it made for a really manageable Christmas cookie timeline that didn’t make me feel overwhelmed.

To do now: make your list of cookies/candies. I did 8 last year and will aim for the same this year. I’ll share recipes in the coming weeks, but I did – caramels, buckeyes, sugar cookies, molasses cookies, peanut butter blossoms, gingerbread, chocolate chunk shortbread, peppermint brownie cookies. I’m switching out a few but will keep most the same because part of the joy is the predictability.

To do each week from now until gifting time: make a couple doughs and stick it in the freezer. Did you know you can freeze cookie dough for up to 3 months? Last year I waited until the week before Christmas and made one dough each night and froze. It wasn’t awful but I think two a week is more manageable and doesn’t take away the joy. I’ll do one on a quiet night during the week and one on the weekend. Wait until the week of to make any candies (caramels, fudge, peppermint bark, candied oranges, etc) as those won’t freeze well. I have my sugar cookie dough in the freezer already and molasses cookies are slated for tonight.

To do at any time leading up to Christmas: find your cookie boxes. This actually gave me some trouble last year, so this year I’ll be scouting ahead. Hobby Lobby and Michaels seem to be the best resources for these little cardboard boxes for small or medium batches. Source your sprinkles and any cute decorations you want to use! Buy early as they sell out quickly. And get the giant cookie sheets. It’s 100% worth not having to do multiple batches and just getting the cookies all in the oven in one go. For your pretty instagram picture, you’re going to want to find a nice wooden box to arrange them all. I found a couple in the dollar spot at Target this year, and last year mine was from Michael’s. Check the jewelry section. They have a little wooden box with compartments that are perfect for cookies.

The night before baking day: put your doughs into the fridge to defrost overnight.

The week of: make your candies, your frostings. Pick up any extra supplies you might need.

The day before: bake your roll out sugar cookies. Stick them in the fridge after baking so that you can decorate them on baking day. You could even get these completely done and also ice them as they’re the most time consuming.

On baking day: set aside much of your day for baking and clean up. You’ve done the hard work! Now you just have to get it all baked and decorated. If you’re not dropping off your cookies on the same day – don’t make the boxes yet. Especially if you’re making a cookie with a peppermint or peanut butter profile. The taste will definitely seep into the other cookies.

Try to gift your cookies asap! The fresher the better!!

I’m going to do another post this week with some suggestions of cookies that are yummy! If it’s your first year, maybe just try a couple cookies and gift them to friends and family. Happy baking season friends!!

Any questions?? Drop them in comments! I

A Look Inside My Golden Coil Planner.

A post I’ve wanted to write for a while, but am just now getting around to. The overwhelm when it comes to trying to choose a functional, well laid out, everything I need in my life planner is a lot every year. I spent years making and printing my own planning sheets out because I just felt like most planners didn’t cover every base. But then Golden Coil came into my life. A fully customizable planner from front to back. If you just want exact details – scroll to the very bottom of this post and I walk you through exactly what I chose this year and what I’m doing differently next year.

What do I need in a planner?

  • a place for meal planning – longer than just a few lines. I like to have space to write down ideas for the next week, things to bake that week, things to drink, snacks to have on hand, breakfasts we’d like to have. A tiny little box just isn’t enough for me.
  • a place for social media planning – as my following has grown, I’ve needed more space to plan ahead, to jot down brainstorming, collaborations that are coming up, things to follow up on.
  • a place for home – with so much going on, I need space to jot down things we need for the boys at daycare, sports, things to pick up, etc.
  • a place for school planning – I like to see my weeks laid out in full calendar format and each week. We have a six day fine arts rotation so it gets confusing unless I have it all written out.
  • a place for to do lists – I am a list maker extraordinaire. It was nice to use my planner rather than trying to use a notebook and a planner. I still do use my notebook, but less than I used to! But with a planner that also has room for lists, I just have to have one book on hand.

I think I achieved pretty much everything I was looking for this year in my set up. The only thing I will change this year is my weekly spread and a few of the “add-on” pages. I thought it would be nice to have three squares – one for school, home and social media, but I didn’t end up using it as much as I thought I would. I chose a different spread for this year that I’m looking forward to seeing! I shared exact details at the bottom of this post!

Love the monthly spread. Shows you what is up for the month. You can’t change this selection in the planner. It comes standard.

This is an add on “month at a glance” page that I have at the beginning of each month. I use it to plan out blog posts, social media, and my monthly list. Below is a (halfway) filled in month.

The Ideas page is an add on that I have at the beginning of each month. It’s called “Brain Dump”. I often use it for meeting notes, lists for when I have too much rolling around in my brain, and for ideas for the future.

This is an add on page called “Fillable List”. I show below how I use it for meal planning.

I chose the Weekly Double Spread – Vertical 2. It was great for having three different sections of my life – School, Home & Social. I’m choosing a different one this year that I share below!

To sum it up, here’s exactly what I chose for this planner and what I’m choosing for 2023:

  • Neutral Linen Cover. Getting the exact same again. I’m either very boring or I just know what I like. lol.
  • I chose a Monday start page. I’m going to choose Sunday this year!
  • USA Holidays. Nice to have it all written in there for you.
  • This year I used Weekly Double Page – Vertical 2. For next year, I’m choosing Weekly Single Page – Horizontal 2. I didn’t realize this about myself, but now I know that I prefer looking at the week from the top down rather than from left to right. Not sure why, but I think I’ll like it better top down! I like that the week outline is on the left, and the whole right page is just for notes. I am a list maker at heart, so this is helpful for me.
  • Added Pages – I’m getting all the exact same this year. I loved these extra pages so much.
    • Year at a Glance 3 – Start of Planner – helpful to have a full year on one page to glance at. I like having all the dates listed out.
    • Month at a Glance – Monthly – I use this for blog and instagram planning. Lots of people wouldn’t need this one, but it helps me plan out a full month of ideas on a page. I like working by the month. And when you choose this, you get a blank page on the right of the page that I use for my monthly list. Bake, Treats, Projects, Cocktails, Meals to try, Crafts all go on this page to help me visualize the month ahead and actually Get Stuff Done.
    • Brain Dump – Monthly – Again, I’m a list maker. When I have a rush of ideas, I jot them all down on the “Ideas” page for the month. I can also use this page for meeting notes during the month.
    • Fillable List – 2 Monthly – For meal planning each week. I write the dates at the top and then I write down what I plan to make, what we need, etc. If you add two of these, that gives you 4 pages – enough for a month. And I like that they’re all right next to each other so I can look at what we had the previous weeks, or jot down things for the next week when I have meals on my mind.
  • Added Pages that I used this year and won’t be next year.
    • Holiday Gifting – Didn’t even glance at it once. I’ve been using a notebook for list making for the holidays, and am eliminating this year.
    • Weight/Measurements – Thought I might use. Didn’t even a little bit. lol.
  • New Added Page this year
    • Goals – Start of Planner – I love making new year goals, and this seems like a good little spread to have to think things through at the beginning of the year.

To sum it up – I am a Golden Coil for life user. You can use the code BLACKFRIDAY for 15% off through November 18th!

Favorite Thanksgiving Picture Books.

My packing lists are in progress, warm wooly things are starting to be pulled out of the backs of closets and drawers, and pretty much all we can talk about in our house is flying home to Indiana for Thanksgiving next week!! It’s almost time in the states – that glorious holiday that centers around family, food and gratitude. I, of course, love everything Christmas, but it’s ok to admit that Thanksgiving is right up there too. It may just be me, but there aren’t that many great Thanksgiving themed books out there! Fall, yes! Halloween, yes! Christmas, yes!!! But Thanksgiving? Not so many. Wanted to share a few favorite picture books that you might look for at your library this week!

Turkey Trouble, by Wendi Silanvo – A funny and quick read about a turkey who is desperate not to be made into dinner.

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, by Alison Jackson – My favorite. I almost always do this one at school for Thanksgiving. It’s silly and makes the kids laugh every time.

The Night Before Thanksgiving, by Natasha Wing – A sweet, rhyming book to read before getting together with family and foods that you don’t have all the time.

How To Catch a Turkey, by Adam Wallace – Perfect for elementary kiddos. Engaging illustrations, fun storyline, and would be great to use alongside some extension activities after reading in the classroom or at home.

That’s it! Please share your favorites in the comments if you have any to add!

Currently working on our Advent Calendar of Books next! Stay tuned!

The Best Homemade Hot Chocolate.

We’ve been home waiting out hurricane Nicole the last few days. You might, if you’re not in Florida, or maybe even if you are! imagine that involves lots of stress and what if’s and property preparations. It does a bit, but it’s been a lovely few days together. Days like this are such a gift. They make me appreciate our home so much. The weather has been mild and the hurricane passed in the night just north of us leaving us sleeping in our beds right through the whole thing.

But it’s been rainy and cozy and windy here and we’ve been occupying ourselves with drying oranges (instructions coming soon), playing with play dough, watching the rain, lots of movies, drawing and most importantly, hot chocolate. Hot chocolate on the stove in our special pot with popcorn was just the ticket yesterday. Shared this on Instagram yesterday, but putting it here too for easier future reference. The only thing that would have made it better is if I had made marshmallows to go with. Next time, next time.

Best homemade hot chocolate:

2 T sugar
2 T Dutch process cocoa powder
2 1/2 c milk
I/2 c half and half
I/4 c chocolate chips
I/2 t vanilla

Combine ingredients and cook over medium heat stirring with a whisk until smooth and hot

Makes four cups but I often halve everything for a small batch!

For a small batch:

1 T sugar
1 T Dutch process cocoa powder
1 1/4 c milk
I/4 c half and half
I/8 c chocolate chips
I/4 t vanilla

But between you and me – eyeballing it always works for me too!

Meal Plan This Week.

Sunday – Lasagna with Caesar Salad. I use this recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook. I’m sure there are much more complicated ones out there, but when I’m looking for a classic recipe I always look to Betty. She’s never steered me wrong. She keeps it simple enough that it’s manageable and she offers lots of tips and tricks. She’s very much for normal people like me.

Monday – Leftover Lasagna. Work smarter, not harder, friends.

Tuesday – White Chicken Chili. I’ve never tried this recipe before, but I love that it can be made in a crock pot. I love coming home to a meal already made. Feels like someone else has made dinner for us. I feel like white chicken chili is all about the toppings. Pulling out the corn chips, avocado, cilantro and sour cream to top it off here.

Wednesday – Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce. I bought the ravioli from the store because I’m a working mother, not a wizard. My husband is notttt a fan of butternut squash nor ravioli. He’s traveling this week though, so I won’t feel guilty making this for just the boys and I.

Thursday – Leftovers. Most likely the chili from Tuesday!

Friday – Pizza party!!

Saturday – Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce, Crispy Smashed Potatoes and Wilted Greens. Yum. The

Cocktail – Hot Buttered Rum. Had it on my November list last year and never did get around to it! So I’m going to get to it this week!

Bake – Cinnamon Rolls. These are the best I’ve ever made. There’s another recipe that I want to try from Sarah Kieffer, but I’m so scared to deviate!! I KNOW these are always good, so why try another? But what if Kieffer’s are better. Ack! The indecision – I’ll let you know on Instagram what I decide!

Treat – Chex Mix. My mom always always had a tin full this time of year, so I’ve always kept with tradition and had it around the house for my family too. Don’t you love tradition?

Happy eating this week, friends! Please share if you make anything amazing this week!

Cozy and Bright Red Lentil Soup.

A soup that I crave year round, but crave in these quiet, cozy weeks between holidays most of all. It’s healthy, hearty, and bright. Basically it’s fall sunshine in a bowl.

Red lentil soup

Olive oil
1 white onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
5 cloves minced garlic
8 cups veggie or chicken stock
2 cups red lentils
1 cup corn
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or other soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 1 more minute or so, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the stock, lentils, corn, cumin, curry powder. Continue cooking until the soup reaches a simmer. Then cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are completely tender.

At this point, you can either blend the soup or not. I always do using an immersion blender, but you could use a regular blender too. Or just eat it as is! All equally yum.

Next, stir in the lemon zest and juice until combined. Taste and season the soup with a generous pinch or two of salt (I prefer Kosher) and black pepper.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon, grind of pepper, sprinkling of shaved warm, and a couple slices of fresh sourdough.