Favorite Books of 2019

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This year was a reading success. Mostly because my husband started reading fiction. I never thought this day would come. We discuss what we are reading, and it’s refreshing to share something outside of work and the kids. Kevin loves the Jack Reacher series. 

Funny story. We were at Barnes and Noble and the guy helping us with our purchase stated that he liked my choice but wasn’t thrilled with Kevin’s reading choice. I wanted to tell him to shut his mouth. I just got my husband to start reading fiction! Don’t you dare judge his choice. Thankfully, Kevin is not easily deterred when he's made up his mind.

Another success this year was seeing my eldest child’s love of reading explode. They have a reading competition at school. The children that reach 700 reading counts points get a limo ride to pick out a free book from Barnes and Noble. He has over 250 points so far. I love that he sets goals and goes after them wholeheartedly.

On to my favorite books of 2019.

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

It had been a while since I picked up a fantasy, but I was in the mood for something different. This book intrigued me so I bought it on the spot. It’s different from anything I’ve read. The characters pull at your heart, and you want them to succeed. Stuck in between some of the chapters are a few scenes told by another character. It threw me off the first time. However, you get in the rhythm, and it fits in the story nicely. Give this one a read if you're looking for a fantasy with touches of magic, sisterly love, and love story in the making.

Crooked House by Agatha Christie

If you know me, then you know I love Agatha Christie. She was a master murder mystery storyteller, and this one didn’t disappoint. In the story, a murder has happened at a stately home. The detective is invited to investigate at the request of the granddaughter. Everyone is a suspect. Even the lovely young woman the detective is in love with. It’s a classic who done it that will keep you guessing.

A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock

What is it about the Art Deco period that dazzles? This book was not in my normal reading genre, but the blurb caught my eye. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down. The story is set in New York during the age of the Art Deco period. A socialite's reputation is guarded more than her money. An artist is commissioned to paint a mural in the building. He instantly falls for the main character. The problem is she must decide if she is happy as a socialite or if she wants something daring and with less security.

Hello year of stepping out of my normal genres. I’ve read two of Jenny Colgon's novels and loved them. I’m picky when it comes to contemporary love stories, but this one was perfect. The idea of a story set in a mobile bookshop was perfect for my reading slump. Books, romance, travel,  and new experiences are all wrapped up in this novel.

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Whoa! This book is the definition of opposites attract. A witch and a chasseur are thrown together by unfortunate events. They must marry but hate what the other represents. They must find a way to make the best of their circumstances. I didn’t want to put this book down either. The magic is described beautifully. The struggle to find your true self and let others love you as you are brings a true human element to this book. If you love fantasy with a twisted love story, pick this one up.

Let me know what your favorite books of 2019 were.

Happy reading,


Things I'm Loving Right Now

Did you find products that you love this month? I'm loving these finds. Some have changed my life. That might be a little dramatic, but it's true. Check out my faves for this month, and there are some affiliate links below. 

Essie: Yes I Canyon nail polish
This is the perfect fall color. It looks like pumpkin pie on your nails.

Cusibox 4 Slice Toaster
OK. I know this is a weird one but stick with me. For the last 18 years we have had the same toaster. It worked great, but there was one problem. All three kiddos need breakfast at the same time every morning. It was taking forever to toast everything. So, we bought this beauty. It’s been a life changer in the mornings. The blue is pretty cute too. How did we ever survive with only a two-slot toaster?

Cafe Music BGMC
The house is really quiet during the day while the kids are at school. I was looking for something to play as background noise. I can’t write or draw if there are lyrics. I don’t want to miss anything, so it distracts from my work. Cafe Music has been the solution. Bonus! The kids love to listen while doing their homework and to fall asleep to at night.

No.8 Round brush by Master’s Touch.
It’s a fantastic brush and it holds the water and paint well. This size was recommended by a YouTube illustrator that I watch. I didn’t buy the most expensive brand, but it works beautifully.

Burt’s bees tinted lip balm in Pink Blossom
Once you find a lip balm that moisturizes, you never want to try anything else. I found the one. The color lasts for a while, and it’s pretty. I had to try a couple different colors, but this one is my favorite!

Share your faves below. 


Living in a Tropical Tourist Town

We moved to Naples, Florida, for my husband’s job in the summer of 2017. Moving to a new state for the first time was a challenge, but it was exciting. We loaded up and headed for the lush tropics on the Florida Gulf Coast.

We had dreams of grandeur and hopes of picnics at the beach every weekend.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Let me pause here and compose myself for a moment.

There are pros to living in a tourist town. However, just like everything else there is a down side. You have to decide if the good out weighs the bad. In our case, I would say yes. 

First the Pros
  1. The beach is so close. We don’t live right on the water, but we can drive to the beach and dip our toes in the sand within 20 minutes.
  2. The weather is beautiful during the fall and the winter months. While everyone else is battling arctic blizzards, snow, or nasty cold, we enjoy the perfect weather.
  3. Everything that you can hope for is at your fingertips. There are just as many restaurants to chose from as when we lived in the big city. Naples is growing. With that growth, new eateries are opening. Yum!
  4. For a small town, there is plenty to do. Being a tourist town means keeping tourist entertained. That helps the locals stay busy too. There are museums, libraries, parks, shopping, theaters, street fairs, and something happening year round.
  5. Our allergies have never been better. In Texas, we were on allergy medicine all year long. The kids went from taking four different medications everyday (and breathing treatments with every allergy flair up) to one medication. We don't get sick from allergies nearly as much. Our overall health has improved. 

Now the Cons
  1. We don’t go to the beach nearly as much as we would like. Between the heat of summer, red tide, and the flesh eating bacteria that has plagued the shore, we hardly go anymore.
  2. The weather is a blessing and a curse. Hurricanes are rare but a real threat here. However, the heat and humidity stay during the spring and summer. There are two seasons in Naples. The rainy season and the dry season. They correspond with the snow birds that come down from the north. Rainy season is from May to October. The dry season is from November to April. You must own an umbrella if you live here during rainy season. It’s a part of life, so you get used to it.
  3. The influx of people. Kevin’s commute can double during snow bird season. There is only one freeway in Naples, and it backs up. We were pretty used to traffic coming from DFW. We laughed when people said how bad traffic would be during season. It’s not nearly as bad as a metro area.

    Most of the time we make reservations when the population swells. It insures we get a table during date night. If you are visiting, make reservations or you could be waiting hours to eat.
  4. No one is from here. We moved here. The neighbors moved here. Everyone Kevin works with moved here. We always get asked if we are local or visiting. That’s to be expected. You may have trouble making friends. Everyone has the mindset that they are here for the short term, and their attitude toward each other shows this. Everyone is nice, not Texas nice.
Overall, I enjoy living in Naples. It has been an adjustment. I wish we had a village like we did in Texas, but we are making the best of everything. We don't know how long we will live here, and we are soaking it all in. 


YouTubers I'm Watching Now

Raising children is a full-time job, and I've tried to squeeze writing in during naps or late at night. Now that all three of the kiddos are in school, I can make writing and illustrating more of a priority. I used to draw almost every day when I was a kid, but grown-up life happened and the dream faded. I'm making up for lost time and experimenting with watercolor and gouache. To help me along the way, I have watched a few talented ladies on YouTube. Their styles are drastically different, and this allows me to learn more techniques and form my artistic style. Here's what I'm watching now.

If you love watercolor botanicals, then Shayda Campbell is the one to watch. I wanted tutorials on leaves and flowers to add to my illustrations. The instruction and techniques she offers on her tutorials can also be applied to greeting cards and seasonal illustrations. Shayda shares about being an artist and her experiences as a digital nomad. 

Take a look at Steph Seed from The Average Artist if you love the idea of using multiple media. She has written a book, a day in the life comic, and a horror comic book. I don't read horror, but I love hearing her story and getting a glimpse of her journey. She uses moody colors and isn't afraid to mix things up. I usually end up laughing at one point in the videos. Steph makes art fun while teaching tutorials. She was the first YouTuber that I started watching, and I still look forward to her videos every week. 

A recent addition to the cram as much knowledge of painting as possible binge is Jess Engle of Studio Jess. She is a fellow Texan so that automatically makes her fantastic. She's also an illustrator and children's author. Her fine art is abstract, but her illustrations are precious. She's another that's not afraid to mix things up. I think there's a theme here. Jess also gives insight into the life of a working artist and the struggles creatives face with self-doubt. She encourages her audience to keep making art. It doesn't have to be perfect. 

What do you subscribe to on YouTube? If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. 

Happy Creating,


Going to Disney With Kids

This year was the first time our kiddos went to Disney World. They loved it! We’ve been three times this year. Since we have a season pass, we plan on going back at least two more times. Shhh! Don’t tell the kids. It’s a surprise. We are going for each of their birthdays.

Going to Disney with kids for the first time was an experience. We learned some valuable insight that helped us on the second and third trips.

Use the Disney App
The app was a huge lifesaver. It allows you to schedule fast passes, order food so you don’t have to wait in line, and see the wait times for rides and attractions. The map was also extremely helpful.

Fast Passes Are Your Friend
We used the app to schedule fast pass times. You are only allowed three per person per day. (Not per park) For the best times, reserve one month in advance. The Buzz Lightyear ride was broke when we were there in March. Since we had a fast pass for it, we could use the Buzz fast pass for any other ride we chose. It was great.

Check Your Souvenirs
At Magic Kingdom, they offer a service for items you purchase. You can check them and pick them up on the way out of the park. We didn’t want to lug around our items, and we didn’t want to worry about them in the stroller while we were in line for a ride. Most people don't take advantage of this service. We loved it.

Collapse Your Stroller
If you need a stroller for your little ones, make sure it collapses easily. While riding the trams, buses, ferry, and train, your stroller must collapse and fit in a narrow seat. The easier it is to fold down, the easier your trip will be.

Order Food on the App
My sister and I waited for over 30 minutes to order and get our food at one of Magic Kingdoms’ restaurants. The line for the pre-order was empty. Very few people use the ordering option on the app. Be smart. Be one of those people that don’t have to wait in line. For the rest of the trip, we pre-ordered all of our food. When children are hungry and tired, it’s a lifesaver.

Ponchos, Please
Buy ponchos ahead of time and place them in the bag you bring to the park. Disney does sell ponchos at all of their shops, but they are a little pricey. Orlando is in a subtropical area. It is bound to rain at least once, especially during the raining season.

See Characters at the Parks
We decided to do a character breakfast one morning. That was our first and last time. We saw Goofy and Pluto for two minutes and paid over $100 for our ordinary breakfast. We also scheduled a lunch at Hollywood Studios with characters. When I found out it was $53 per person, I quickly canceled. We used fast passes to met Mickey and Minnie instead. The rest of the character lines were not long at all. Save your dinero and see the characters at the parks.

Bring Water
If you have a freezer in your hotel, freeze a water bottle for each person. Water is expensive in the parks, so bring your own.

Seeing the smiles on each of their faces was worth all the planning and saving. Disney is a wonderful place to take the family. If you aren’t the planning type, then use the complementary planning service Disney offers.

Have a magical time.