50 podcast recommendations

Monday, August 19, 2019


These are the podcasts I listen to religiously and recommend all the time. If you're looking for a podcast to get you hooked, try one of these first! :)

  1. Before Breakfast - Daily time management podcast (always under 10 minutes long!)
  2. Currently Reading - I never miss an episode of this podcast on books and reading!
  3. The Lazy Genius Podcast - Great, practical tips for making your life easier (mostly household management/cooking/etc.)
  4. The Popcast with Knox and Jamie - My #1 podcast! Casey and I both love Knox and Jamie. Their podcast is always funny but thoughtful. We've been to two of their live shows!
  5. Rob Has a Podcast - Big Brother, Survivor, Amazing Race podcasts (hosted by Survivor alum Rob Cesternino)
  6. Serial - It's popular for a reason. I still think about season one all the time.
  7. Sorta Awesome - Lots of topics, covering everything from parenting and making friends as an adult to religion and politics.
  8. What Should I Read Next? - Anne Bogel is the reason I got back into reading. She runs a great blog at Modern Mrs. Darcy, but this podcast took it a step further and I always look forward to hearing her recommendations!

Other podcasts I enjoy

  1. 10 Things to Tell You - Personal Development
  2. The $100 MBA Show - Business
  3. Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard - Interviews
  4. Beyond the To-Do List - Business
  5. The Bible Binge - Religion/Entertainment
  6. Broken Harts - True Crime
  7. Coco Caliente - Entertainment
  8. Crime Junkie - True Crime
  9. The Daily - Current Events
  10. Death, Sex & Money - Storytelling
  11. Dirty John - True Crime
  12. Dr. Death - True Crime
  13. The Dream - True Crime
  14. Ear Biscuits - Entertainment
  15. Endless Thread - Storytelling
  16. For The Love with Jen Hatmaker - Religion/Personal Development
  17. Headlong: Missing Richard Simmons - Storytelling
  18. How I Built This with Guy Raz - Interviews
  19. Invisibilia - Storytelling
  20. Making Obama - History/Biography
  21. My Favorite Murder - True Crime
  22. The Next Right Thing - Religion/Personal Development
  23. The NPR Politics Podcast - Current Events
  24. One Great Book - Reading
  25. Pantsuit Politics - Current Events
  26. Radiolab - Storytelling
  27. Respectful Parenting: Janet Lansbury Unruffled - Parenting
  28. The Road Back to You - Personal Development
  29. S-Town - Storytelling
  30. Simple - Personal Development
  31. Skimm This - Current Events
  32. Smartest Person in the Room - Interviews
  33. Stuff You Should Know - Education
  34. Terrible, Thanks For Asking - Storytelling
  35. That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs - Religion/Personal Development
  36. This American Life - Storytelling
  37. True Crime Obsessed - True Crime
  38. Typology - Personal Development
  39. Uncover - True Crime
  40. Up First - Current Events
  41. You Need a Budget (YNAB) - Finances
  42. Young House Love Has A Podcast - Home Improvement

8 books I read in January 2019

Monday, February 11, 2019

Here's what I read in January:

  1. Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White (3 stars / Owned on Kindle)
    It’s always good to read decluttering books in January, and between this one and the new Tidying Up series on Netflix I think I’m ready to tackle some projects again. There were some great tips in this book that walks you through decluttering each room in your house.
  2. One Day in December by Josie Silver (4 stars / Owned in hardcover)
    I got this book from Book of the Month and they never let me down. It’s about a man and woman who fall in love at first sight but then can’t find each other again. When they do see each other again much later, the man is dating the woman’s best friend. What I really liked about this book was that it followed the characters over a decade, showing a more realistic view of how relationships change over time (as unrealistic as the premise of love at first sight is!).
  3. No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury (5 stars / Borrowed hardcover from the library)
    I loved this straightforward guide to parenting toddlers! Our daughter is just past the toddler stage (3.5) but every bit of this book still applies. I loved the focus on treating your child like a human being (and not a tiny monster, which I have to admit she can sometimes feel like!) and honoring her feelings as she grows. I’ll definitely be following the author’s blog.
  4. Off The Clock by Laura Vanderkam (5 stars / Borrowed hardcover from the library)
    I LOVED this book, the second book I've read recently by Laura Vanderkam. It focuses on time management but from the perspective of truly enjoying our lives while still being productive. I especially loved the chapter on "lingering" - really enjoying being in the moment and not thinking about what you have to rush off to do! The research she cites is fascinating, and the real-life examples really motivated me to make some changes in how I spend my time. I don't re-read books often but I already know I'll be revisiting this one.
  5. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (5 stars / Borrowed hardcover from my aunt)
    Can I give this book six stars? I loved it so, so much. The title and cover didn’t draw me in, but enough people recommended it that I gave it a chance. It was everything I want in a great book!
  6. An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks (2 stars / Borrowed hardcover from the library)
    An interesting premise but I couldn’t get attached to the characters and just wanted something more from this one.
  7. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (4 stars / Borrowed paperback from the library)
    Quick, fun read with really compelling characters. (Steam level is high on this one!)
  8. I'll Be There For You by Kelsey Miller (4 stars / Owned on Kindle)
    I couldn’t get enough of this book about one of my favorite shows of all time! It follows Friends (and its cast and creators) from its creation to its final season. I learned a TON and also just really enjoyed the nostalgia factor. Could I BE any happier? :)

February 2019 goals

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Here are my goals for February 2019:


  1. Prep for small group - I signed up to lead a small group at my church this semester and I have a list of things to get done before the first meeting.
  2. Trip planning: Atlanta, Asheville, Portland, Europe - We have a lot of trips coming up and I need to get some flights booked and plans made!
  3. Scan recipes - My husband's sisters brought me their family recipes and I want to get them scanned and returned this month.
  4. Local experience - Want to have at least one fun local experience. I'm signed up to take two screen printing classes (1, 2) with a friend from a Green Pea Press (a local printing company)!
  5. Go to Casey's soccer games - My husband is a soccer coach so I want to prioritize going to watch his games. Hoping it's easier this year with a 3.5-year-old than it was last year with a 2.5-year-old!
  6. Finley's eye surgery - I can't do anything about this one, but I wanted to put it on my list because it's such a significant event for us! My daughter is having a minor eye surgery this month and we are ready to have it over with.
  7. Save for Asheville, Portland, Europe, Dyson - With all the upcoming trips, I need to prioritize saving for them. Plus saving for an insanely fancy hair dryer!
  8. Travel wall - We have a wall in our living room with lots of artwork from different places we've visited. I want to finish updating it with our more recent travels.
  9. March planning meeting - Monthly planning meeting with my husband to discuss our schedule, budget, childcare needs, etc.
  10. Organize/backup new laptop - Set up my brand new laptop! :)


  1. Read a book - Read about a book a week. Two should be books I already own.
  2. Blog post - Blog at least once a week.
  3. Small group prep - Prep for my weekly small group by studying the lesson and praying for the women in the group.


  1. Devotional - Do a daily devotional
  2. OT 2x/week - Go to Orangetheory at least twice per week
  3. Stand/move - Meet my stand goal (1 min/hour, 12 hours/day) and my move goal (burn 300+ calories/day) on my Apple Watch
  4. Weight Watchers - Track eating with my WW app
  5. Up at 5:45 AM - Get up CONSISTENTLY at 5:45 AM without setting multiple alarms

January goal update

Friday, February 1, 2019

Here's how I did on my goals in January!


  1. Plan / sign up to lead small group - Signed up to lead a small group at my church and am expecting 11 women at my house Sunday night for our first meeting!
  2. Bedroom: Headboard, curtains, bedding - We assembled our new headboard and put our new bedding on our bed.
  3. February planning meeting - My husband and I had our February planning meeting, where we talked over our schedules, childcare needs, and budget for February. It went really well and I feel a lot less overwhelmed about our busy month ahead.
  4. Scan recipes: Kelly, Heather - My husband's sisters brought me their family recipes and I wanted to get them scanned and returned this month. I barely started but will be pushing this goal to February.
  5. JT concert in Memphis - My husband and my good friend Megan and I went to Memphis to see Justin Timberlake in concert! We had a BLAST and the concert was better than I even imagined!
  6. Plan trips: Asheville, Europe - I made some progress on our trip to Asheville - the Airbnb is booked and I've started researching things to do. I've got to get restaurants and activities booked soon. As far as Europe goes, I made a TON of progress here, booking all of our lodging and planning the majority of our itinerary. 
  7. Local experience - I want to have a local experience each month, but I don't think we did anything in January that will count. I plan to make up for it the rest of the year!
  8. Meal with a friend - Had lunch with my friend Denise at the beginning of the month.
  9. Take MS Project class at UAH - I took day one of the class, and day two ended up getting rescheduled due to "snow" (no snow ever came). I'll be finishing this class in February!
  10. Set up new laptop: Initial setup, move old files, organize, backup - I did the initial setup on my laptop and moved my old files, but I have a ton of organizing to do and need to transfer my backup to my new laptop.



  1. Plan meals + Walmart order - Planned our meals (Hello Fresh plus an additional meal and lunches/snacks) and placed our Walmart grocery pickup order each week this month!
  2. Read 5 books - I read eight books in January. Four were books I already owned and four were from the library.
  3. Blog x 4 - I blogged six times in January!



  1. Devotional - I used the First 5 app to do a daily devotional that didn't end up working well for me. I didn't stick with it every day, but I think the style of the devotional just really didn't fit with what I was wanting. In February I'm going to try a different type of devotional.
  2. OT 2x/week - Well, thanks to sickness (mine, Finley's, and my friend whom I work out with) I only made it to Orangetheory four times in January. 
  3. Stand goal - Met my stand goal on my watch (1 min/hour, 12 hours/day) 15 days this month.
  4. Move goal - Met my move goal on my watch (burn 300+ calories/day) 17 days this month.
  5. Weight Watchers - I tracked my eating with my WW app 17 days this month.
  6. Up at 6:00 AM - My goal was to wake up CONSISTENTLY at 6 AM without setting multiple alarms. It went well for the first couple of weeks and then I used my sickness as an excuse and started snoozing my alarm again. I also need to find a way to track this consistently.


  1. Faith // Lead small group - Small group starts in February!
  2. Faith // Do small group with Casey
  3. Faith // Do daily devotional - Tried an app in January that I didn't love. Trying something new in February.
  4. Faith // Read The Message
  5. Health // Exercise consistently - Exercised about half as much as I planned to in January.
  6. Health // Meet daily stand/move goals - Met my goals about half of the month.
  7. Health // Eat healthier - Followed my Weight Watchers plan about half of the month.
  8. Health // Drink less Diet Mountain Dew
  9. Finances // Save for trips - Saved for Asheville, Portland, and Europe!
  10. Finances // Save for hair dryer - Saved for my beloved Dyson hair dryer.
  11. Finances // Budget/track with YNAB - Still budgeting and tracking spending daily with YNAB.
  12. Household // Clean out garage, playroom, office
  13. Household // Redecorate bedroom - Assembled headboard and put new bedding on bed.
  14. Household // Redo living room travel wall
  15. Family // Have monthly planning meetings - Had our February planning meeting.
  16. Family // Make family cookbooks
  17. Family // Help with Kat's wedding - Planned Kat's bachelorette weekend and helped with invitation decisions. (Also got my bridesmaid dress and Finley's flower girl dress!)
  18. Family // Finley potty, reading, Pre-K - Got Finley potty trained this month!!
  19. Fun // Travel to Memphis, Asheville, Portland, Europe, NYC - Went to Memphis this month!
  20. Fun // Have local experience each month
  21. Personal // Make list of 100 dreams
  22. Personal // Have meal with friend once a month - Had lunch with my friend Denise.
  23. Personal // Wake up consistently at 5:30
  24. Work // Take Microsoft Project classes - Took the first day of my two-day class.
  25. Work // Get Security+ certification
  26. Work // Get Windows 10 certification
  27. Work // Execute successful GWT
  28. Reading // Read 52 books - Read eight books.
  29. Reading // Complete MMD Reading Challenge
  30. Reading // Read 2 books/month from unread shelf - Read four books from my unread shelf this month.
  31. Digital // Set up new laptop - Did the initial setup and copied over my files from my old laptop.
  32. Digital // Reduce social media
  33. Digital // Blog 4x/month - Blogged six times.
  34. Digital // Document our year

These are a few of my favorite things (in January 2019)

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

(Shout out to The Sound of Music, which I've seen approximately 4000 times and would watch again every day of my life and I'm not sorry.)

  1. Shipt - I signed up for Shipt at the beginning of the month and have really enjoyed being able to order a portion of my groceries from Publix and have them delivered. Don't worry, Walmart Grocery Pickup still has my heart. :) (If you want to try either of these, use my links here to get a discount and to give me one too!)
  2. Tidying Up with Marie Kondo - I love every bit of it, especially when Marie freaks out the people she's helping by saying hello to the house and insisting they thank their belongings before donating them. Haha. But seriously, it's so soothing and uplifting!
  3. This Kindle Fire case for kids - Santa brought one to Finley this Christmas and it's amazing how handy it has been. Love the handle and the fold-out stand.
  4. Bouqs - Casey got me flowers and a plant from Bouqs this month and I just love them. They're so unique and they came super fast!
  5. Screen Time - I've been keeping an eye on my screen time using the built in feature on my iPhone and it's pretty eye-opening. I set limits for myself so that I can't do anything that wastes time on my phone after a certain time every night.

The 6 best changes I made in 2018

Monday, January 14, 2019

I made quite a few changes in the last year, mostly aimed at giving me more time to spend on the things that matter. Some of them seem obvious in hindsight, but some I really had no idea would make as big a difference as they did! Here are the six best changes I made in 2018.

1. Using YNAB to budget and track expenses

Image from YNAB.com

We technically started using YNAB (You Need a Budget) at the end of 2017, but 2018 was the first full year we used it. I've talked about it before on the blog, but the general idea of YNAB is that you budget money you have right now, rather than budgeting money you plan on receiving at some point. So in the past I've estimated how much money we'll have in a month based on our expected paychecks, and then I budget that out. But Casey doesn't get paid until the end of January, so that money can't technically be spent earlier in the month. YNAB keeps you from spending theoretical money.

The best part of YNAB for me, though, has been how we've used it to save for things in the future. You can set up as many savings categories as you want. We have one for every trip we plan to take and every major purchase we plan to make. Then we set goal amounts for each one and as we budget our money YNAB indicates how much needs to go to each goal. It made a huge difference for buying things like Christmas gifts, travel, and furniture. I can't say enough great things about it!

2. Hiring a cleaning service

This was one of my goals for 2018, but I was a bit reluctant about it at first because of the added expense. Looking back, I can't believe how much time I've gained by outsourcing the majority of our household cleaning. My husband and I both work full time, and I was spending most of my weekends trying to keep the house clean rather than spending time with our daughter. We started using a maid service every other week in January, and it has given me SO much precious time back to spend with my family! I can't really say enough about the positive effects of this decision. I know it's not a financial option for everyone, but if you are in a position to get some help with this one area in life, DO IT.

3. Using Hello Fresh on a weekly basis


This one was actually a big surprise to me - mostly because Hello Fresh is NOT cheap. We get three meals a week (two servings each, although we typically have leftovers for one) and it's $60 a week. After we did a free week with a coupon code, we started ordering a box about every other week to save some money. But once we did that, I realized that not only was I saving a ton of time by not having to plan our meals for the week, but I was also actually saving money on groceries. This sounds counterintuitive, but it's just the way it has worked out. Now we order Hello Fresh every week, and then we end up spending about $80 more on the rest of our groceries from Walmart grocery pickup (this includes food and household items). $140/week is an improvement for us on groceries, and we're eating out less than before because the decision about what we're eating has already been made!

A few more things I love about Hello Fresh:
  1. The food is SO GOOD. We've had dozens of HF meals now and there have maybe had 2-3 that we didn't love. (Favorite meal so far: Korean Beef Bibimbap!)
  2. There are a lot of choices, and you get to select the meals you want for each week. 
  3. There are always plenty of vegetarian options. We almost always get at least one.
  4. The food is really unique. We use HF to try types of food we haven't had before - and have discovered we love Korean food! :)
  5. You can skip as many weeks as you want. So if we're going to be out of town one week, I just skip that week and don't get charged. If you can't afford to do it every week, you can just skip every other week.
  6. I love knowing I'm not going to waste food, because each meal comes with exactly the right amount of each ingredient. So I don't have to buy a big container of something that I'll only end up using for one recipe.

4. Working out for the first time ever (!)

This is not an exaggeration - I've never worked out in my life! I never played sports, and as an adult gyms have always been really intimidating. I finally caved and tried a free class at Orangetheory with my friend Jen, and we've been going twice a week since!

A few things I love about Orangetheory:
  1. It's really hard, so I always feel really accomplished at the end. And I consistently burn 500+ calories per hour-long workout, making it always feel worth the effort.
  2. It's always a combination of workouts on the treadmill, rowing machine, and weight room, so I know what to expect. BUT the workout structure is never repeated, so I can never know exactly what to dread in class that day. :)
  3. It works well for me because there's a visible goal to reach. You wear a heart rate monitor and your stats are shown on a TV screen during the workout. It gives me something to focus on and work toward getting my splat points (number of minutes in certain target heart rate zones).
  4. Even though I'm not athletic and not in great shape, I don't feel awkward (most of the time, haha) because everyone's just focused on themselves. The coaches are really helpful, and there are videos in the weight room that play on repeat so you can watch how to do the exercises.
  5. You have to sign up for the class in advance. Once I do that, I feel obligated to attend it (and lose money if I don't). So it keeps me accountable.
It is ridiculously expensive compared to some other options, but it has worked really well for me and I'm really proud of myself for sticking with it (4+ months so far!). To me that is worth the cost! I have already improved significantly on the treadmill (initially was walking 4 MPH; now jogging at 6 MPH) and in the weight room (initially used 5 pound weights and now using 12-20 depending on the exercise!).

5. Going to the library

The library has been such a happy surprise for us this year. Our city just got a brand new library and it's beautiful! Finley loves the children's room (she's more interested in the magnetic blocks and computers than the books, ha!). And anytime Casey and I have a day off together we head to the library to read or to work. It has also really changed my reading life! The first half of the year I was checking out books digitally from the library, but once we started going in person, I started checking out physical books. You can put them on hold online and then just pick them up. I love getting an email from the library that says my book is waiting on me! We also use it to put children's books on hold for Finley too.

6. Watching less TV and reading more

I used to be a TV fanatic. I watched hours of TV a night and binged series on Netflix constantly. I have a bit of an obsessive personality. :)

This year I actually didn't actively choose to watch less TV; it just kind of happened. I found more joy in reading and it helped that my husband started reading a ton this year too. Now we watch one current show at a time (Survivor, Big Brother, or Amazing Race, whichever is on during the current season - so about an hour a week - 3 hours for BB). We do still watch some series on Netflix too, but only one at a time, and it takes us a while to get through them. (I'm not going to lie, we're working our way through the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions on Netflix right now and it makes me so happy.)

Reading more has probably been the most significant change for me in the past year and I'm so excited to continue in 2019!

My reading life in 2018 (with charts and spreadsheets!!)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

I read 84 books in 2018, which is more than double my best year ever! You can take a look at my 2018 reading challenge on Goodreads below to browse the books I read there.

2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Laurel has completed her goal of reading 48 books in 2018!

I recently discovered this AMAZING spreadsheet on Bookriot that allows you to track your reading in detail. I updated the 2019 spreadsheet to work for 2018 and filled it in with all my books for the year.

Here's a summary of what I found out!

Full list of books I read in 2018

Here's the full list of books I read in 2018, broken down by my star rating. I use the Goodreads star rating system, so 1-5 stars with 5 being the best.

5 stars ("It was amazing")
20 books; 24% of total
  1. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  3. The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir
  4. The Dry by Jane Harper
  5. Educated by Tara Westover
  6. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  7. Essentialism by Greg McKeown
  8. Force of Nature by Jane Harper
  9. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  10. Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin
  11. Grace, Not Perfection by Emily Ley
  12. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  13. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  14. I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
  15. The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs
  16. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
  17. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  18. Scythe by Neal Shusterman
  19. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  20. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

4 stars ("Really liked it")
37 books; 44% of total
  1. 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam
  2. Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han
  3. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
  4. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
  5. The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll
  6. Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge
  7. Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith
  8. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
  9. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  10. Final Girls by Riley Sager
  11. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
  12. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
  13. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
  14. Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  15. How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana K. White
  16. I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell
  17. I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
  18. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  19. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
  20. My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
  21. The One by John Marrs
  22. P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
  23. The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile
  24. Practical Wisdom for Parents by Nancy Schulman
  25. The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
  26. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  27. The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
  28. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  29. Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey
  30. Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan
  31. There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
  32. This is how It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
  33. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
  34. What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
  35. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
  36. A Woman's Place by Katelyn Beaty
  37. Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

3 stars ("Liked it")
20 books; 24% of total
  1. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  2. The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees
  3. Good as Gone by Amy Gentry
  4. The Ensemble by Aja Gabel
  5. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
  6. Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel
  7. Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
  8. Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker
  9. The One by Kiera Cass
  10. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
  11. The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
  12. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
  13. Roomies by Christina Lauren
  14. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
  15. The Selection by Kiera Cass
  16. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  17. Still Me by Jojo Moyes
  18. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
  19. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  20. You Can Stay Home With Your Kids! by Erin Odom

2 stars ("It was OK")
7 books; 8% of total
  1. Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
  2. The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
  3. The Elite by Kiera Cass
  4. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
  5. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
  6. Raising an Original by Julie Lyles Carr
  7. Something In The Water by Catherine Steadman

1 star ("Did not like it")
0 books; 0% of total

Book stats

The reading spreadsheet automatically creates lots of charts to give you insight into the types of books you have been reading. I found out a lot of interesting things!

In 2018, about half of the books I read were on my Kindle. About 40% were in print, and the remaining ~10% were on audio. This wasn't shocking; as much as I prefer books in print, I love the portability of my Kindle (and the fact that I can also read those books on my phone in a pinch).

I got about 43% of my books from the library this year, and I own the rest. Some of those were purchased this year, some I've had for a while, and others were gifts.

Not surprisingly, I read about 60% fiction and 40% nonfiction

I loved seeing stats on the genres I read because some were surprising! At the top is Self-Help/Business at 23% (not a surprise). Next are Contemporary Fiction at 20%, Mystery/Thriller/Horror at 18%, Romance at 13% (higher than I realized!), and Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Christian Nonfiction tied at 6% (both lower than I would have guessed). Other genres don't get much of my time, but I think I might work on changing that in 2019!

This is a fun and surprising statistic: Over 81% of the books I read this year were written by female authors! I had no idea how often I gravitate toward reading books written by women but there you go. #feminist

Another less surprising stat: page count. I actively avoid really long books (part of why I made it to 84 books this year, I'm sure). I also don't cheat and only read short ones either. ALL of the books I read in 2018 were between 200 and 600 pages, and most were in the 300-400 page range.

Reading stats

It's fun to see how many books I read broken down by month. May and September were the lowest counts, and when you consider I'm married to a teacher, you might know why. :) October really surprised me, and then I remembered that's when we started going to the library (instead of just using them to check out digital/audio copies of books). It really made a difference!

Some more stats I learned from the spreadsheet:
  1. I read 23,950 pages and listened to 96 hours, 52 minutes of audio books this year.
  2. I averaged 29.5 days per book. This might sound surprising given the number of books I finished, but sometimes I start one and put it down for months. It would be nice to track the number of active hours I spend reading, but that sounds like a lot of work. :)
  3. I averaged 65.62 pages read per day. I'm guessing that's probably less than an hour for me for most books. (I read nonfiction faster, for whatever reason.) I am a relatively fast reader, but do note that I'm not spending hours and hours reading every day, which I think is the biggest assumption people make when they hear how many books I read. ("When do you find the time?" - Now you know: it's not that hard to find an hour a day after my kid is in bed, especially when I don't watch much TV at all.)
  4. I read 7 books a month, on average. My goal was 4, so I am thrilled with how many I did manage to read!
  5. I only spend about 15 minutes a day listening to audiobooks. I listen to podcasts most of the time and I just squeeze in audiobooks when I really want to get some extra reading in.
  6. About 15% of the books I read were young adult books
  7. I read exactly one book of poetry this year (Lin-Manuel Miranda's book, Gmorning, Gnight!). Everything else I read was either a novel or nonfiction. Looks like I might need to branch out into some different styles (plays? short stories? graphic novels?).
  8. About 18% of the books I read were written by people of color. I would love to increase that percentage in 2019.
  9. If I tracked everything correctly, I read two books in translation this year: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (originally in Japanese), and A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (originally in Swedish).

Okay, that was way more fun than it should be. :)

My top 10 books of 2018

Monday, January 7, 2019

It's my favorite time of year - time for "best of" book lists! :) Here are my top ten books of 2018. These are not necessarily books that came out in 2018, just books I read this year. And these are the ten I loved the most, NOT the ten I think were necessarily the best.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

1. The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (2018, Contemporary Fiction)

"A captivating novel of family, fame, and religion that tells the story of the seventeen-year-old daughter of an evangelical preacher, star of the family's hit reality show, and the secret pregnancy that threatens to blow their entire world apart." (Amazon)

I got this one as one of my Book of the Month picks, mostly on the recommendation of some book bloggers I follow. It's really a perfect combination of things I love in a great novel: fascinating and relatable characters, a riveting mystery, and a satisfying conclusion.

2. The Dry by Jane Harper (2016, Mystery/Thriller)

"A small town hides big secrets in The Dry, an atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by award-winning author Jane Harper." (Amazon)

I am SO GLAD I discovered Jane Harper this year! (Thanks Anne Bogel!) I loved The Dry and its sequel, Force of Nature, for their gripping mysteries and complex characters. Set in small-town Australia, The Dry follows Federal Agent Aaron Falk as he tries to uncover what really happened when his childhood friend was murdered twenty years ago.

3. Educated by Tara Westover (2018, Memoir)

"An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University." (Amazon)

I almost forgot this was a memoir as I was reading it - it is so unbelievable it reads like fiction. I was engrossed in Tara Westover's account of her unusual and disturbing childhood, rooting for her every step of the way.

4. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (2014, Self Help)

"The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  It is not  a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter." (Amazon)

Self-help is my most-read genre, so this one really stood out to make it to my top ten list. I am already considering re-reading it to kick off my 2019. I gleaned so much from this one - it's full of concepts and real-life examples of how to focus on choosing to spend time and energy on the things WE deem essential.

5. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (2018, Historical Fiction)

"In Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, a desperate family seeks a new beginning in the near-isolated wilderness of Alaska only to find that their unpredictable environment is less threatening than the erratic behavior found in human nature." (Amazon)

This was my first Kristin Hannah novel (I know everyone loves The Nightingale and I hope to get to that one in 2019!). Now I understand what I've been missing! I don't read much historical fiction, but the whole internet seemed to love this book so I gave it a try as my Book of the Month pick one month. These characters were so well-written, and I didn't want to put this one down until I knew how the story ended.

6. The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs (2018, Contemporary Fiction)

"The Family Fang meets The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry in this literary mystery about a struggling bookseller whose recently deceased grandfather, a famed mathematician, left behind a dangerous equation for her to track down—and protect—before others can get their hands on it." (Goodreads)

I mean, a mystery novel about math - could it get more perfect for me? :) This was a page-turner, and it definitely didn't require any math background (although there were lots of fun references if you like that kind of thing!). I enjoyed the dysfunctional family dynamics and the mystery was creative and satisfying. (Another point for Book of the Month!)

7. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (2014, Contemporary Fiction)

"Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window... Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations." (Goodreads)

I think I can go ahead and call this one my FAVORITE book of the year! I listened to it on audio, which I highly recommend (that's how I know "Ove" is pronounced "oo-vuh"!). This novel is funny and creative and heartwarming and heartbreaking. I love a book that makes me laugh and cry.

8. Scythe by Neal Shusterman (2016, Young Adult Science Fiction)

"A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own." (Amazon)

My husband essentially forced this book into my hands, and I'm so glad he did! I love a great dystopian story, and this one is so well-written and unique. It's the first in a series, so I'll be reading Thunderhead next!

9. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (2017, Literary Fiction)

"An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds." (Goodreads)

Another Book of the Month find! (Have I convinced you to subscribe yet?) This book is a bit outside of my reading comfort zone, and I'm so glad I went. I'm not sure I've read many books with magical realism, but this one is so well-done. Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for her previous novel, Salvage the Bones, which I promptly added to my to be read list after finishing this one!

10. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (2016, Mystery/Thriller)

"Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins... At first, Lo's stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo's desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong." (Goodreads)

I can't stop recommending this book! A true page-turner and I never caught on to the mystery until the author revealed it to me. After reading this one I promptly got every Ruth Ware book I could find and am making my way through them!

January 2019 goals

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Here are my goals for January 2019:


  1. Plan / sign up to lead small group - I am hoping to lead a small group at my church this semester.
  2. Bedroom: Headboard, curtains, bedding - Need to assemble the headboard we bought, hang curtains, and put our new bedding on our bed.
  3. February planning meeting - Monthly planning meeting with my husband to discuss our schedule, budget, childcare needs, etc.
  4. Scan recipes: Kelly, Heather - My husband's sisters brought me their family recipes and I want to get them scanned and returned this month.
  5. JT concert in Memphis - We are going to a Justin Timberlake concert this month!!
  6. Plan trips: Asheville, Europe - Need to plan my sister's bachelorette weekend in Asheville, NC. Also need to plan our anniversary trip to Europe!
  7. Local experience - Want to have at least one fun local experience
  8. Meal with a friend - Have at least one meal with a friend this month
  9. Take MS Project class at UAH - Take a two-day class on Microsoft Project for work
  10. Set up new laptop: Initial setup, move old files, organize, backup - Set up my brand new laptop! :)


  1. Plan meals + Walmart order - Plan our meals (usually Hello Fresh plus an additional meal and lunches/snacks) and place our Walmart grocery pickup order each week
  2. Read 5 books - Read about a book a week. Two should be books I already own.
  3. Blog x 4 - Blog at least once a week


  1. Devotional - Use the First 5 app to do a daily devotional
  2. OT 2x/week - Go to Orangetheory at least twice per week
  3. Stand goal - Meet my stand goal on my watch (1 min/hour, 12 hours/day)
  4. Move goal - Meet my move goal on my watch (burn 300+ calories/day)
  5. Weight Watchers - Track eating with my WW app
  6. Up at 6:00 AM - Get up CONSISTENTLY at 6 AM without setting multiple alarms

My 2019 goals

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

I might have fallen off the blogging wagon a couple of months ago, but I did keep up with my monthly and yearly goals in my Powersheets. I'm going to do my best to keep up with the blog posts this year!

For 2019, I set goals in ten categories: Faith, Health, Finances, Household, Family, Fun, Personal, Work, Reading, and Digital. (Those last two categories are new for me!) I'll be tracking them in my new set of Powersheets - and I'm super excited to use their new goal setting stickers to keep my goals color-coded. :)

Without further ado, here are my 2019 goals!

Faith Goals

  1. Lead a small group - I'm planning to do this in the spring semester and hoping we can make that work with our schedule!
  2. Do a small group with my husband - We don't typically get to do small groups together because there aren't many at our church with childcare. Hoping to do one together this fall.
  3. Do a daily devotional - I'd like to spend time in the word and in prayer every day. I'm going to use the First 5 app.
  4. Read The Message - I've gotten really used to my NIV and ESV translations. Every time I read a passage from The Message paraphrase, I think about it in a new way. I'd like to select a portion of The Message to read this year. (Maybe the New Testament, or possibly just some specific books.)

Health Goals

  1. Exercise consistently - I started working out with a friend for the first time in my life in 2018. I'd like to continue our workouts, going twice a week to Orangetheory consistently for the whole year. I may also add some more specific goals related to exercise each month.
  2. Meet daily stand/move goals - This is a continuation of a goal from this year. My Apple Watch tells me when to stand (once an hour, 12 hours a day) and tracks my exercise (goal is 300 calories a day). I want to meet both of these goals every day.
  3. Eat healthier - I want to stick with Weight Watchers for at least the first four months of the year.
  4. Drink less Diet Mountain Dew - I'd like to gradually reduce my Diet Mountain Dew consumption throughout the year.

Financial Goals

  1. Save for trips - We are traveling to Asheville, Portland, Europe, and (maybe) NYC this year and have a lot of saving to do!
  2. Save for hair dryer - I have been talking about the Dyson hair dryer for so long my husband is OVER it. :) I couldn't convince myself to spend that much on it last year, but I've decided if it saves me time every day, I think it will be worth it.
  3. Budget/track with YNAB - I want to continue using YNAB to track our spending and save for our goals.

Household Goals

  1. Clean out rooms - We need to clean out our garage, playroom, and office this year.
  2. Redecorate bedroom - "Redecorate" is probably the wrong word, because we've been in our house 3.5 years and still haven't done any decorating in our master bedroom. :)
  3. Redo living room travel wall - We have a gallery wall in our living room that has prints from lots of places we've traveled. We're missing quite a few locations and will be traveling to more this year, so I want to update the wall.

Family Goals

  1. Have monthly planning meetings - We've tried this before but never have stuck with it. I'd like my husband and me to meet once a month to plan our schedule, budget, childcare, etc. for the following month.
  2. Make family cookbooks - I want to scan and organize family recipes from both sides of the family and create cookbooks for everyone.
  3. Help with my sister's wedding - My little sister Kathryn is getting married in May and I want to help as much as possible. I'm also the matron of honor so I have a bachelorette trip to plan and a dress to find! :)
  4. Finley goals: Potty training, reading, Pre-K - These are the major milestones we'd like to hit with Finley this year. She's almost 3.5 so the potty training has been a long time coming, and we're already working on it. She has expressed a lot of interest in learning to read so we bought some books to work on it with her. And she'll start Pre-K this year so I have a lot of research to do about that!

Fun Goals

  1. Travel - Currently we have plans to go to Memphis, Asheville, Portland, and Europe this year, and I'm trying to work in a trip to NYC as well!
  2. Have local experiences at least once a month - We are having so much fun exploring our city together! I want to continue visiting new local places and revisiting our favorites.

Personal Goals

  1. Make a List of 100 Dreams - This is a concept from Laura Vanderkam's 168 Hours, which I read in 2018. I like the idea of having a list of things I want to accomplish in my lifetime (kind of like a bucket list, but bigger!).
  2. Have a meal with a friend at least once a month - I want to prioritize my friendships and make a point to spend one-on-one time with friends as often as possible.
  3. Wake up consistently at 5:30 - This is a HUGE one for me. I'm a chronic snooze button abuser and it just makes for a stressful and rushed morning every time I do it. I'd like to gradually move my alarm time back (with 5:30 as the end goal) and stop pressing snooze or setting multiple alarms!

Work Goals

  1. Take a Microsoft Project class - I got approval from my company to take a Microsoft Project class in January at a local university. I may also take the follow-up class in the fall. I'm looking forward to learning something new!
  2. Get a Security+ certification - The Security+ certification is going to be required for my job, so I may as well add it as a goal for the year! This will most likely require a week-long training course and then a test at the end of the week.
  3. Get a Windows 10 certification - Windows 10 certification is another requirement for my job that needs to happen this year.
  4. Execute a successful GWT - This is a test event that is the culmination of all the work our team has done on our software for the last couple of years, and I'm responsible for making sure it goes well!

Reading Goals

  1. Read 52 books - My goal for last year was 48 and I read 84. This year I decided to shoot for a book a week. I've already entered my goal in Goodreads.
  2. Complete the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge - I love everything Anne Bogel does but I've never tried to complete one of her reading challenges. I thought it would be a fun way to choose some of my books this year.
  3. Read at least 2 books/month from my unread shelf - I have a lot of books I haven't read and want to put a dent in those this year.

Digital Goals

  1. Set up my new laptop - I got a Macbook Air (thanks to one of my 2018 savings goals!) and need to set it up. This will include moving all my data from my old laptop, organizing it, and setting up my online backup software.
  2. Reduce social media usage - I want to set time limits on my phone so I don't waste so much time scrolling mindlessly. I'd also like to cull my accounts so I don't follow as many people.
  3. Blog 4 times a month - We'll see if I can improve on this one this year!
  4. Document our year - I'm behind on my yearly scrapbooks so I want to make an effort to at least get this year documented before I try to tackle the backlog.

Happy goal setting, friends! :)

October goals

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Here are my October goals, tracked with my Powersheets!

Monthly goals

1. Local experience + food - Would like to have at least one local experience and eat at one local restaurant this month.

2. Laptop savings - Save for new laptop.

3. Lose 3 pounds - Still trying to make this happen. Since I've been working out at Orange Theory I've actually gained some weight. 

4. Plan Europe - Want to get a more solid itinerary and make a to do list for our trip.

5. Time with friends - Trying to prioritize relationships. I want to spend one-on-one time with at least two friends this month.

6. Clean out 3 rooms - I'm not setting it in stone, but I think our playroom, office, and bedroom would be good candidates for a clean out.

7. Plan new small group - I am planning to lead a small group at my church next semester and want to spend some time planning it this month.

8. Travel wall - We have a wall in our living room where we've been hanging artwork from places we've visited. I'd like to add three pieces of art to the wall this month.

9. Read 4 books - Even though I've already achieved my reading goal for 2018, I'd like to keep reading at least four books every month.

Weekly goals

1. Plan meals - Since one of my yearly goals is to eat at home more often, I need to make sure I plan our meals every week.

2. Stick to grocery budget - Still working on this one. I separated my weekly grocery budget into categories (Walmart pickup order for most of our groceries, Publix or Kroger for our produce, and other) to try to help narrow down my overspending.

3. Small group - Attend my small group weekly.

4. Blog post - Post at least once a week.

5. Finley dance class - Take Finley to her dance class weekly.

Daily goals

1. Stand goal - Meet my stand goal (stand for at least one minute every hour for 12+ hours) at least three times per week. (Tracked via Apple Watch.)

2. Move goal - Meet my move goal (burn 300 calories, up from 220 last month) at least three times per week. (Tracked via Apple Watch.)

3. Orange Theory - Attend an hour-long Orange Theory class twice per week. (Tracked via Orange Theory app.)

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