40 Books by 40 – Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls


I have become a lazy reader in recent years. In order to get back into a reading routine and make myself more accountable, I challenged myself to read 40 books by the time I am 40. I am, ahem, 33 years old which only means about 5 books a year so it will probably be more, but 40 by 40 has a nice ring to it so I’m leaving it :)

Book 16 is “Half Broke Horses” by Jeannette Walls. It is the true life novel of Lily Casey Smith, a “spirited woman, a passionate teacher” and rancher born in 1901 who lived through the Great Depression and World War II in Arizona. It’s “Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults,” but even better! Lily is the grandmother of Jeannette, mother of the memorable Rosemary Smith Walls in Jeannette’s memoir “The Glass Castle.” If you haven’t read “The Glass Castle” it is another great read.

I was blown away by this book and the strength of this woman. Any one of the things that happened to her, would have set most people back. But she put her head down and kept working. Worked harder than I could work in 2 lifetimes. This is the type of woman I want to teach my kids about. The women who helped build this country.

Even though this is a book about Lily’s life, it is written in a novel style. A biographical novel if you will. Walls does a magnificent job of bringing her to life. There are so many quotable moments in this book.

1. A “Eureka” moment “Nothing finer than the feeling that came rushing through you when it clicked and you suddenly understood something that puzzled you. It made you think it just might be possible to get a handle on this old world after all.”

Lily was coming back from a teaching job and plane few over the desert. “Never in my life had I ever seen anything like that airplane. It was amazing that it didn’t just fall out of the sky, but for the first time it dawned on me -Eureka!-what the word “airplane” meant.”

2. Love “After so many years on my own, I was sharing my life for the first time, and it made the hard moments easier and the good moments better.”

3. Ranch life “I realized that you can get so used to certain luxuries that you start to think they’re necessities, but when you have to forget them, you come to see that you don’t need them after all.”

“World used to be all water, we are mostly water, and it never comes to an end. All the water on the earth had been here since the beginning of time, it had just moved around from rivers and lakes and oceans to clouds and rain and puddles and then sunk through the soil to underground streams, to springs and wells, where it got drunk by people and animals and went back to rivers and lakes and oceans.”

4. Feminism “This (flying) lesson was an investment,’ I said, ‘In me.'”

“Scarlet O’Hara was my kind of gal. She was tough, she was sassy, she knew what she wanted, and she never let anything or anyone get in her way.”

5. Words of advice “Life came with so much adventure and danger as any one body needed. You didn’t have to go chasing after them.”

This book would make a great Christmas gift for a young lady or anyone who loves the history of the old west or Arizona. The short chapters and Lily’s fascinating life will keep you glued to the page.

Book Total
Book 1 – Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Book 2 – Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter
Book 3 – God, If You’re Up There, I’m F*cked by Darrell Hammond
Book 4 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Book 5 – Life After Death By Damian Echols
Book 6 – Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson
Book 7 – Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice Book 1) by George R. R. Martin
Book 8 – Burglars Can’t be Choosers
Book 9 – The Last Jew of Treblenka by Chil Rajchman
Book 10 – Theodore Boone: The Abduction by John Grisham
Book 11- Kisscut by Karin Slaughter
Book 12 – A Clash of Kings (A Song of Fire and Ice Book 2) by George R.R. Martin
Book 13 – A Storm of Swords (A Song of Fire and Ice Book 3) by George R.R. Martin
Book 14 – Seven Wonders by Ben Mezrich
Book 15 – Bonk by Mary Roach



Our dog Maggie was injured last week and has lost the use of her back legs. Right now, we aren’t sure where things stand, but I do know that it is heart breaking.

I know she is just a dog. I don’t call her a fur baby or refer to her as one of my children. She is our family pet. She is only 11 and a half. She is an o.g: the obligatory dog you get after you get married but aren’t ready to have kids yet. We took her everywhere. To friends’ house, weekend trips, Jason even took here to work with him when he was a merchandiser. I don’t think of her as one my kids, but I do like her more than most people. She is a member of our family.

I have always known the day would come when I would have to say good-bye, but I didn’t imagine it would be like this. I figured she would be in pain or sick or run away. I didn’t think she would be her normal self, just unable to walk. She doesn’t seem in pain or even bothered by the fact that she can’t walk. But she can’t do the things she loves. Clean up the crumbs after the kids eat. Sniff around her back yard for wildlife. Sneak up onto the couch when we aren’t looking. Beg for food while we are eating.


Through everything, it has been worth it. The fleas, the chewing, the separation anxiety, the shedding, the running away (4 times!), the leash pulling after squirrels, the digging. It has been worth it.

Maggie hates fireworks, thunder, and crows in her air space. She loves squirrels and baby bunnies, to eat of course. She loves the first snow fall and the heat of the summer. She hates the rain and the cold. She loves to take walks and car rides. She hates when we chop wood and when we vacuum. She loves my dad, my friend Matt, and my brother Jesse. Even people who hate dogs, love Maggie.

She is a healer. After my father-in-law died and my husband went back to work, she was there. To hug, to distract me, and to be my companion.

She is a tough, reliable, stubborn old broad. And I love her.

I don’t know what is going to happen with Maggie. I know there are people with more concerns this holiday season. Kids with cancer. Parents looking to adopt. Families spending their first Christmas without a loved one. But Maggie is one of the family. And I love her.

This is Maggie. There are many others like her, but this one is mine.


Four Family Favorite Christmas Cookies

4 Christmas Cookies

One of my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE things about Christmas is all the baking. I love me a good Christmas cookie. I have 4 family favorites that I have previously blogged about, put together in this one post.


Number one is super easy peanut butter cookie. It starts with a premade peanut butter cookie mix, making it super quick. They are the perfect chewy cookie with a chocolate treat.

Peanut Butter Stars


These fantabulous monster cookies (aka Wookies: big, chewy, and brown) are jazzed up for the holidays with the addition of festive Christmas M&Ms.

Monster Cookies


These are Fofo’s favorite cookies ever!! A dark chocolate cookie base is topped with a candy cane kiss. A decadent Christmas treat.

Peppermint Cookies


Christmas is incomplete without super soft sugar cookies topped with frosting, or in this case an easy spreadable glaze so the kids can help! Because after all, what good are cookies without someone to share them with?!

Sugar Cookies

What is your favorite Christmas cookie? What do you love most about the holidays?

Thanks for reading!!

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is a stressful time of year for parents: gifts, family get-togethers, baking, parties, concerts, and more gifts. Now that our girls are a little older, they can verbalize what it is they want for Christmas (naturally), but also their favorite things about the season.

As parents, we may notice our children’s greedy behavior during this time of endless toy commercials and Christmas ads. But if you look a little deeper, you will see your child’s desire for something different during Christmas: family traditions. When Fofo talks about Christmas she says, “I love decorating the tree!” “I love looking at the Christmas tree!” “I can’t wait for Mama’s peppermint cookies!” Bear freaked out at the first sign of Christmas lights. “Mama! Christmas lights!!”

Don’t get me wrong, they have their moments of shouting “Puss in Boots for Christmas!!” And picking out toys during each commercial, “I’m gonna get the blue one and Lilly is gonna get the red one.” At first I was super annoyed at the latter behavior. Then I remembered when I was a kid, I would look through catalogs and daydream about the items I would like. I wasn’t being greedy. I didn’t expect my parents to buy me things. I was just being a kid and living in a fantasy world of shoes and bedspreads. I was a strange child.

Of course we don’t indulge their needy behavior, we leave the spoiling for Grandma :) It’s such a blessing to have grandparents that spoil the kids so much. It’s less pressure on us to get the kids oodles of presents. In fact, the first couple of years, we didn’t get the girls much of anything. Gasp. I know. Horrible parents right here. We didn’t want to start of giving them a crap ton of presents right away, and be expected to keep it up year after year. So we keep it manageable. We use the mantra “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.” 4 meaningful gifts. Although, we always have almost 75 books checked out from the library so we get them something to watch.


This was the haul from last year’s Christmas. Along with our humble tree. And that is how we like it. We keep things simple, humble, and meaningful. Because that is what we want our kids to remember about the holidays. The memories we made together.

Sunday afternoon we were watching Christmas movies, and Mickey’s Christmas Carol came on. One of my mom’s holiday traditions is to give us one ornament each year, even as adults. They are always an ornament in a part of a series. She has done that for the grandkids as well. One of Fofo’s recent ornament series was Mickey’s Christmas Carol. The movie came on, the girls gasped. “This is our favorite movie! I love this movie!” And started to take the Christmas Carol ornaments off the tree. I said, “What are you doing?” And the girls said, “We did this last year! We have to do it again.”

That’s when it struck me. As much as kids seem like all they care about is presents, deep down, they care about the traditions they participate in every year. Baking the cookies, decorating the tree, Christmas ornaments, taking family pictures, looking at Christmas lights, and opening Christmas presents on Christmas morning. As the girls get older and seem to not appreciate the traditions and want more things, I will have to remind myself of these simple days and the fact they do care about making memories just as much as the gifts.

Have a great week everyone :)

“This is why you have kids.”

Hi all! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend. We headed out bright and early on Thursday morning for an extended family celebration at my sister’s house. I love this yearly tradition. Family from our side of the family and my sister’s boyfriend’s side of the family get together for holiday shenanigans: food, cocktails, tons of cuddles with my nephews, and lots of laughs.

Thursday was the traditional holiday fare: turkey, stuffing, potatoes. FYI, Pioneer Woman’s perfect mashed potatoes are indeed that. We got the recipe from her latest cookbook, but the one I linked is pretty close. I’m a bad blogger and didn’t take pictures of my food. That, and I was starving. Sorry, not sorry :) Oh wait!! I did get a picture of the kids making chocolate covered strawberries. Coincidently, it was the only food they ate that day. FYI, just because all the adult love Thanksgiving food, doesn’t mean children do. *Eye roll*


Anyhoo, we had a great Thanksgiving meal, but I think I’m being honest when I say everyone was looking forward to the Mexican feast on Friday!! My sister’s bf’s mom, Margie, makes us an awesome Mexican fiesta on Friday: taquitos, carne asada, enchiladas, beans, rice, the whole nine. It’s spectacular. We were completely in a food coma!!


We had family pictures taken on Saturday morning so we went to bed pretty early on Friday night. So we missed out on the Friday night action. I came to bed and this is what I found: my heart and soul. And for them, I am truly thankful :)


We returned home on Saturday and decorated our Christmas tree. Fofo has been begging for weeks to put up the Christmas tree. Ya can’t blame her with the cold we have gotten, and everyone else putting up decorations. We got to work as soon as we got home. I unloaded the car, and Jason got the tree ready. We had a real tree once when we were first married. Never again. Between the needles and keeping animals from drinking the water, we didn’t want to deal with it. So we have a lovely, pre-lit, small-to-mid sized tree.

We got out the totes of ornaments, and Fofo says, “This is my favorite part of Christmas.” Totally melts your heart. So we went around and said what our favorite part of Christmas was. The Bear said, “Decorating the tree and getting presents.” Mine was “All the Christmas cookies and yummy food.” Jason said, “Spending time with family.” As the girls started to sort all of the ornaments to put on the tree, Jason pulled me aside and said, “This is why you have kids.” Ya know all those times when you say to yourself, “Why on earth did we ever have kids?” Those days when it’s just one thing after another, after another. The days of nonstop fighting, backtalking, and messes. Those moments are all erased when you see the pure joy of your children decorating the Christmas tree.


This moment: this is why you have kids.


Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday Link Love

Tuesday Link Love

Time for some link love everybody :) This week is Thanksgiving! And it shows in the links. Everything is coming up holiday, pumpkin, and family. Have a great Holiday weekend everyone!!

1. How awesome are these flavored butter party favors from A Beautiful Mess. A perfect gift for the foodie in your life.

2. This cut and paste Thanksgiving craft is awesome for getting into the Thanksgiving spirit.

3. Have you heard of schoola? A terrific program to contribute to or buy from during the holiday season. Schoola turns outgrown clothes into money for kid’s school programs. How awesome is that?

4. Pumpkin Gelato with Candied Ginger and Dark Chocolate. Need THIS!!

5. It’s getting cold outside. Which means only one thing: Han Solo Season has Begun.

6. 5 Minute Single Serving Apple Crisp. Gah! Amazing.

7. Bourbon Pumpkin Milkshakes. Get OUT!!

8. Honey Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins. Since I clearly can’t get enough pumpkin.

9. Crafting with kids: scrap ornaments. Perfect, simple, cute ornament craft for the kids.

10. How perfect would these hot ham and cheese sandwiches be for leftover ham?!

What Makes me Smile #4


I tend to be a Negative Nelly at times, so I was thrilled to come across another blogger, Alison from Under the Big Oak Tree, who started a series called “What Makes Me Smile.” She “journals some things that make me smile each week. Hoping that when I look back, I’ll see just how many things I have to be grateful for and smile about in my life.” I adore this idea. So I have decided to share 5 things that make me smile. Enjoy!

Did ya know it’s still fall? ‘Cause this November weather sure tells a different story. It has been a rough one. Like a let’s-drop-everything-and-move-to-Arizona-rough. BUT, the spirit of Thanksgiving, I figured this was good week to remember all the things I like about living in Wisconsin. Notice I said like, not love ;)

1. Our hometown library. Our newly renovated library is an awesome resource for our homeschooling family. It’s a nice and quiet place for me to go on Saturdays to get some work done. And with the interlibrary sharing system, we can get anything we need!

2. Friendly Midwestern Attitude. You can’t beat the attitude of people from the midwest. I always miss the smiles and nice greetings when we travel to other parts of the country.

3. Changing of the Seasons. As much as I may complain about the heat and the cold, I do love the weather in Wisconsin. It’s nice to see fog. Green grass after a rainfall. Changing leaves. Bright sunny days in the dead of winter. Wind and thunderstorms. Big, fluffy snow. Seeing your dog passed out in a patch of sunlight in the spring. Your dog bouncing through the freshly fallen snow. I do love that we get all four seasons in Wisconsin.

4. Job security. My husband has been at his trucking job for almost 7 years now. With the pay from his job, I was able to stay home with the kids after The Bear was born, and it enables us to homeschool. The security/pay/seniority of my husband’s job is a big item to be thankful for.

5. Our location rules! The whole reason we moved here was to have a small town feel, but still have access to the cities. Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago are all within perfect driving distance for day trips.

The thought of picking up and moving seems promising some days, but we have a lot to be thankful for right here at home :)

What are you thankful for this year? What has made you smile this week?

Road Cruise: Part Three

Road Cruise: Part Three

My last cruise recap :(

For those of you catching up, part one here!

And part two here!!


My husband woke up early to capture this amazing sunrise.

Sunrise off coast of Belize City
Sunrise off coast of Belize City
Sunrise off coast of Belize City
Sunrise off coast of Belize City

View from our balcony. How amazing is this to wake up too!!

Balcony View on Carnival Dream

It is too shallow for the ship to port at Belize, so they do something called tendering, where you board smaller boats to take you ashore. I loved watching the contrasting colors as the water was stirred up.

Tendering off coast of Belize City

Again, this being the vacation of rest and relaxation, we stayed aboard and enjoyed the quiet. And some people watching. Guests tendering were taken in groups down to the gangway. One family was walking and their 5-year-old son shouts with clenched fists “WE’RE IN BELIZE!!” It was the sound of pure joy and amazement in his voice. But his parents didn’t even notice, not that I blame them. They probably heard this the whole trip. “WE’RE IN THE AIRPORT!!” “WE’RE ON THE SHIP!!” “DAY AT SEA!!” I imagine they were exhausted of his enthusiasm.

After watching all the boats emerge from around the ship, we headed to the empty Serenity deck, where we hogged the hammock for the afternoon. We took 2 naps. In.One.Day. I can’t describe this amazingness.

Serenity Hammock aboard the Carnival Dream

It rained off and on that day, but when some of the small boats brought people back to the ship, it began pouring rain. Glad we stayed on the ship!

Belize City

“It gon’ rain!!”

It gon' rain

Before the show, we went to the atrium bar to have a drink and listen to music. FYI: best mojito evah! Wow :)

Atrium aboard the Carnival Dream
Cocktails aboard the Carnival Dream

We went to the Marriage Show before dinner. I love this show. Three couples compete: newlyweds, the couple married the longest, and one in the middle. If you go to any show aboard the cruise ship, go to this one. It is guaranteed for some laughs. Mostly at the newlyweds. I kid! This show was extra special as a couple got engaged at the beginning of the show. It was so sweet!

Marriage show aboard the Carnival Dream


We slept-in. Parents, hell grown-ups, know how truly awesome this is :) Since we were within walking distance to shore, we decided to give it a try. Totally not our scene. Crowded. Tons of people bothering you. This just isn’t our type of thing. From the conversations we overheard during the day, people had a great time ashore.

Carnival Dream
Carnival Dream

The water here was just amazing!!

Carnival Dream
Carnival Dream

We headed back to the Dream for lunch, and you guessed it: more Serenity deck.

Serenity Deck Carnival Dream
Serenity deck Carnival Dream

It was cloudy and rainy day so we had to keep running inside, which made for some funny moments.

Carnival Dream
Carnival Dream

But we do clean up nice :)

Carnival Dream

After dinner, we went to the comedy show with the WORST heckler ever. OMG it was horrible. I have been to about 10 comedy shows: Louis CK, Jim Norton, Jim Bruer, Bill Burr, Dave Atell, Amy Schumer, and I have never seen one this bad. Seriously. As a comedy fan, I was disgusted that someone would act that way. The comics handled it awesome. She was just a clueless drunk.


Our last day :( Boo-hoo.

Carnival Dream

Another amazing sunrise.

Sunrise aboard the Carnival Dream
Sunrise aboard the Carnival Dream

So we had a breakfast or two.

Balcony Carnival Dream
Balcony Carnival Dream

We attended the Q&A session with the cruise director. This was a lot of fun and it was interesting to learn about the Carnival Dream, the lives of the people who work on board, and really anything you wanted to ask!!

Soaked in our last day of Serenity. I know, you are sick of hearing about it, but it was amazeballs.

Carnival Dream

Reading on the balcony.

Balcony on Carnival Dream

Soaking in every last second of vacation. Sunset on the Mississippi.

Sunset aboard the Carnival Dream


Back in the US.


I don't want to leave!!

It was a bit of an ordeal to get off the boat, since people can’t follow simple instructions. Seriously people. We are all adults. Let’s listen to the people in charge.

Not many tales from the trip home. Just a long-ass drive and arriving back home in Wisconsin at 3 am.

I hope you enjoyed the recap of our trip!! It was so much fun, and can’t wait to vacation with my husband again :)

This was NOT a sponsored post. My mom won a cruise from CruiseOne on their Facebook page, which she graciously gave to my husband and me. We were given an up-to 7 day Carnival cruise for two with an ocean view cabin. We were responsible for all the taxes, transportation to and from the port, and the upgrade to our balcony room. I was not compensated for these posts from CruiseOne or Carnival and any and all opinions are my own.



It’s Tuesday, ladies and gentleman, and time for a game I like to call “PMS or Adjusting to the Time Change (ATC).”

1. My six-year-old is sitting, weeping in the arm chair, “I miss Papa!!!” PMS or ATC?

2. Me: Fofo, why aren’t you eating your lunch?
Fofo: (starts sobbing) I miss Sterling and Sebastian!!!

3. Fofo: I found 4 Legos!!!! (Starts jumping up and down) PMS or ATC?

4. Fofo: (Shouting at sister) GO AWAY!!!!!!
2 seconds pass . . .
Fofo: Hey Lilly, look what I made!!!!

5. Fofo: (trips and falls on a toy left out on the floor) LILLY LEFT THAT THERE ON PURPOSE SO I WOULD FALL!!!!!
Yes, the child who can’t put her shoes on the correct feet, but yet she can plan this elaborate scheme.

The result of this behavior is (shocking) not PMS but a little thing I like to call vacation hangover/adjusting to the time change/dark at 5 pm/Christmas commercials/Holiday anticipation disorder. And it seems to be affecting all children! Not just mine!! Everywhere we went last week was filled with these crazy children: story time, open gym, our field trip. Usually normally behaved, nice children seem to be subject to this awful illness. I never thought I would long for January’s cabin fever/Christmas hangover.

Is your family suffering from this seasonal illness? Or have they been immunized?

Life Lately


Happy Monday readers! I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend. We had our first snowfall here in Wisconsin, and the girls had an awesome time playing in it on Sunday morning. I spent the weekend trying to work. I have had a case of writer’s block lately. Apparently our vacation was too relaxing and it turned off my brain.

The past two weekends I have left the house to work, (Thank you Starbucks!) and it has made a world of difference in my mood. When you become a mom, people always tell you to make sure you get some time for yourself outside of the house. I used to think leaving the house didn’t make a difference, but man does it. Towards the end of last week, I felt more patient and the week didn’t seem so long. I thought to myself “Wow, it’s Thursday. This week has flown by!” The kids weren’t being perfect of course, but I found myself in a much better place mentally to deal with their behavior.


Last weekend, I had to make myself leave the house. The girls were being hellians, and I didn’t want to leave Jason with them. Outta pity mostly. I’m not sure why I thought I needed to suffer with him. He finally said, “Go! I got them. Get outta here.” I have total faith that Jason can deal with the kids on his own, but as someone who does it every.single.day, I know how nice it is to have another person to help out. But I packed up my stuff and headed out. Nothing beats a day out to yourself than coming home and hearing: “How do you do this everyday?!”

As a homeschooling family, we spend all of our time together. Plus, I am a complete introvert. I need the time away to recharge. The advice to take the time to get out of the house, even for an hour or two, is not frivolous. It’s necessary to your mental health. You need to take care of you, in order to take care of others. And let’s face it, everyone needs a break from their soul-sucking beautiful children.

How was your weekend? How do you take time out for yourself?

Thanks for reading!