Target audience: The reading level is probably for at least middle school and above. I would specifically recommend this for a mother/daughter book read.
Read-Alikes: Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic by Jennifer Niven
Summary in less than 50 words: Discover the incredible true story of a mother and daughter who walked across the United States in the late 1800s. Hunt uses newspaper accounts as well as reports from family and community members to tell this compelling tale of courage and unexpected outcomes.
How I heard about it: This book was recommended by a friend and then coincidentally I heard a talk about it when listening to a presentation through my local library She Travelled Solo: Strong Women in the Early 20th Century by Tessa Hulls.
Why I would recommend? Helga and Clara’s story gives a glimpse of what life was like in a different century. It is a reminder to learn the stories of our parents and grandparents. It is a reminder to tell stories to our children and grandchildren.
Why I wouldn’t recommend? It doesn’t have a happy, tie-it-with-a-bow ending.
What do you do when the snow falls and getting around is a little harder to do? I realized today that I didn’t have a strong list of ideas so I’m prepping for my next snow day.
Here’s 10 ideas for an unexpected day off:
Organize – I’m a minimalist and I still have the stacks of photos and papers that collect in piles in my closet. Inside days are a great time to spread everything out and make some sense of the chaos. Be brutal. What do you actually need to keep and what is just taking up space?
Walk – Get outside and experience the beauty of the snow. Take some pictures and just savor God’s creation. It is also a good time to test out your cold weather gear and see if anything needs updated.
Eliminate – My husband works in IT and he is legendary for his slimmed down inbox. Mine not so much. I’m constantly getting warnings from Google that I have exceeded or I’m about to exceed my storage space. Take a minute and go through your emails and purge away. And when the emails are sorted, move on to files, photos and apps.
Dust – Maybe the chandelier, the ceiling fans or the knicknacks on your shelves. I’m sure there are a few things that get missed in the every day cleaning. Take a minute to spruce up the place and let the dust mites find a new home.
Clean – And if you are still inspired after all that dusting, keep it going by cleaning some of those spaces you don’t typically get to. Have you pulled out your dryer or refrigerator lately? Maybe under the bed or the window tracks need some TLC. This extra time could be a great opportunity to make even the dimly lit areas of your home sparkle.
Write – Letter writing is a great way to spend an indoor day. Send off some overdue thank you cards or just encouraging notes to someone you haven’t seen for awhile. Not sure who to write to? Scroll your social media thread. Text five of your friends and ask how they are doing. Go through your contact list or your address book. And don’t worry about being fancy. A folded sheet of paper with a Bible verse or piece of poetry will be a pleasant surprise in someone’s mailbox.
Craft – Finish up one of those projects that has been waiting for some free time. Don’t have a craft ready to go? Gather possible craft materials you already have in the house and then search the internet for ideas. Create a masterpiece for a neighbor or grandparent.
List – It’s time to plan out the rest of your week, month or year. Take some time to list activities you want to accomplish. Plan your meals and make the list of groceries. Plan out your next shopping to buy clothes or home improvement supplies. Have special events coming up? Write out what you need to do to prepare. Make a list of gifts you need to make or buy for the year.
Color – I have a stack of coloring books and it feels nice to just sit and fill in the space. Let your thoughts wander as you concentrate on making beauty. Staying in the lines is optional.
Read – Ahhhhh. This is my favorite. Curl up in a comfy chair. Grab a blanket and plow through your next read. In fact, now seems like a good time to do just that.
Target audience: Those who like a mystery with a bit of spice.
Read-alikes: A Man called Ove, Louise Penny
Summary in less than 50 words: Each week, four residents of Cooper’s Chase Retirement Village meet to discuss crime. When those crimes hit close to home, the Thursday Murder Club is on the case with their humor and their walkers. It is a laugh-out-loud funny journey as they bring the criminals to justice.
How I heard about it: This was recommended by a friend. Thank you, Barb!
Why I would recommend? The characters reflect so many quirks of my friends who are a bit older. I love how natural they sound. The mystery had quite a few twists and turns that kept me turning pages as well.
Why I wouldn’t recommend? Not 100% G content. I would probably avoid recommending it to younger readers. Also if someone isn’t a mystery fan they probably wouldn’t enjoy the title.
We all have a morning routine. Some are effective and some are not. Here are my 5 tips for an effective routine for your morning.
Determine what you want to accomplish
Do you just want to get out the door and not forget your lunch? Do you want to get more done during your day? Use your goal for your routine to determine what it will look like. My goal in the morning is working out and setting my goals for the day. My morning routine looks very different from my husband’s who has a goal to read for a set amount of time and write a journal entry.
For me, having something to eat is a must. I have started eating the same thing every day which helps eliminate an early morning choice which in the past resulted in not eating … which resulted in a grumpier Millissa.
I tend to overreach what I think I can accomplish. In the past, I’ve made morning routines with several activities and scheduled them down to the minute. This didn’t work as well for me. I love the waterfall habit idea. I focus on just one thing I want to accomplish each morning. Then when I have that down I add a second habit and so on. When habit #5 gets challenging, I drop back down and focus on habits 1-3 to build confidence and then start adding habits again.
As I wrote this article and did some research I found several ideas that I’m going to implement this week. If your morning routine isn’t working to do what you want to accomplish, switch it up. That’s the fun of life. We are designed to change and grow.
Valuable information is all around us. One idea I’m going to try this week is asking my friends what their morning routine is instead of asking them what shows they recommend. Of course, the internet has tons of articles and the library has some great books on the subject as well. The caveat with all this information is that it must help me achieve my goal. If it is a great suggestion but it doesn’t help me reach my goal, it is best to shelve it for the moment and move on to other ideas.
So a friend asked me today about the process I use for strategic planning and goal setting – well, I’m not sure if she asked but I was excited to share with her. This is an outline that anyone could use.
First 15 minutes
Review the prior year. What went really well? I go through my calendar and see what types of things filled my days. Am I happy with them? What would I do different?
Minutes 16 to 20
Pull out a sheet of paper (or use my Goal Planning & Tracking template). Now take 4 minutes and set three focus points for the upcoming year. Do you want to go somewhere? Do you want to learn a language? Doing this quickly will help you see what is really important. Need inspiration? I imagine the one thing I want to say about my year when it is over. “This was the year I finally …” or “I loved that I completed ____ this year.”
Minutes 21 to 40
Now that you have your focus goals now work backwards. In order for your first goal to happen in December what needs to happen by November? What needs to happen by July? Be realistic. For example: I want to publish 100 blog posts by the end of the year. That means I need to publish 50 by June and 25 by March. I put those mileposts on my calendar in the appropriate months.
Minutes 41 to 55
Now set a weekly goal to accomplish your monthly goal. In my example above if I need to write 100 blog posts by the end of the year I need to complete 9 (or so) in January. So for the first week of January maybe my goal is to brainstorm 9 ideas and schedule time to outline my first post.
Last 5 minutes
Set a date to check on how you are doing for your weekly goals. Preferably, you want someone to do this with – a spouse or accountability partner. Choose someone who is reliable and is interested in doing her own goal planning. This can be done in-person or just a simple phone call.
Whew! Take a deep breath.
Disclaimer: Don’t get caught in the details with this. Do you need four hours for step one? Go for it. And don’t worry if what you come up with in January doesn’t look the same in March or August. Adjust. Do what works for you.
The holidays have come and gone and so has that tray of Christmas cookies that were sitting on the kitchen counter. Health regrets are a common occurrence after the holidays. So how can you get back on track after ignoring your healthy routines?
Here are my 5 tips for getting back to health after the holidays.
It’s okay to have some setbacks. Own it and move on. Admit your setbacks and unemotionally review what went wrong as well as what went right. Did you say yes to a few holiday treats? Did you eat a few veggies during the holiday party? Did you go for a walk after Christmas dinner? Be thorough about what happened.
Set a time to start again.
Don’t keep saying, “I’ll start tomorrow” or “I’ll get back to better eating Monday.” Set a specific date and stick with it. And don’t be afraid to make that date now or Wednesday or the 29th. You don’t have to wait for the new year or the beginning of the week. Do whatever works for you.
Make a battle plan
Review the list you made of what went right and what went wrong. Create specific strategies for moving forward. Was the breakroom candy dish your downfall? Maybe start chewing gum at work so chocolate doesn’t taste as good. Go for a walk instead of going to the break room. Be specific about how you will battle this obstacle to better health after the holidays.
Now that you have a plan, call in reinforcements. Who is someone on your friends list who you can let in on the strategy? Give them a call and let them know what your goal is and when they should check back with you. Be clear about what you need from them. Encouragement? Tough love? Listening ear?
Making the switch back to health after the holidays is difficult. Be kind to yourself. Plan a special treat or a shopping trip. Maybe a massage or manicure. Do something to make the pain of getting back on track after the holidays worth it in the short term while you wait for the long-term benefits.
Target audience: Teens, those who love the classics, someone who is interested in books with a bit of a political focus
Read-alikes: A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Summary in less than 50 words: Tom Canty and the Prince of England look alike. So when they accidentally switch places, they both have a series of adventures that make them see the world from a different perspective.
How I heard about it: I actually chose this book to help me sleep. When I struggle getting my z’s, I play an audiobook at a slow speed. This book didn’t work. I got so interested in it I had to listen to it during the day as well (at regular speed).
Why I would recommend? It was fascinating to hear the different traditions of the time. The book is set in 1547. The author wrote it in 1881. It would be a fascinating exercise for a school class to make a list of the cultural things that are very different.
Why I wouldn’t recommend? The language would definitely make it a struggle for a reluctant reader or early reader.
Be aware there is swearing and some vulgarity regarding sex
Target audience: Fans of magic, older teens or adults, crime readers who also like some supernatural thrown in, those who like series.
Read-alikes: Chronicles of St. Mary’s
Summary in less than 50 words: Peter Grant is working for the police force and his career is on a traditional trajectory until the night he takes a witness statement from a ghost and the magical world is unlocked for him.
How I heard about it: I’m not 100% sure but I think I put a lot of items on hold when I was searching for something to read similar to the Chronicles of St. Mary’s.
Why I would recommend? The narrator has a great voice. The action is fast and moves right along. It is an interesting world and it is set in modern times which makes it a little more relatable than some books in the magic genre.
Why I wouldn’t recommend? The swearing seems a little unnecessary. I personally got a little lost with the plot and all the different characters and such. Maybe by the second book it would all start to make a little more sense.
Do you ever take time at the end-of-the-year to evaluate your year? My husband and I started doing this several years ago and it is our opportunity to reset for the year. It contributes greatly to our mental wellness.
Want to do one? Here’s what we do.
Set a date.
Ideally, we set aside an entire day but this has varied during different seasons and budgets. Our anniversary is near the beginning of December so sometimes we combine the two and make it a weekend and others times (like this year) we just did what we could with half a day. Be flexible is the ongoing theme throughout this post.
Do your homework
Before the designated date, we both do homework individually. We have a list of questions and we each take time before our EOY to carefully consider them. This allows us to really consider our personal goals first and reflect on what is important to us. Here’s a sampling of the questions we reviewed this year:
What went right this year
What can go better next year?
What would make next year a banner year?
What small changes can I make this week so that I start next year with a bang?
What did this year teach me about myself?
Who showed up for me, and how can I nurture those relationships?
What do I need to accept about myself and the other people in my life?
In what ways will I take better care of myself in 2023?
What has been a barrier to me completing my goals, and how will I remove the barrier in the coming year?
What do I need to practice doing more or less of?
Am I being pushed by fear or led by love?
Speak ground rules.
We start our time together speaking out the ground rules . We communicate when we are looking for input and we were are just sharing thoughts. We make a commitment to really listen to each other and not give judgement about what the other suggests. Saying this out loud in the very beginning is important.
Review the Year
Next we evaluate the year. We pull up our calendar and look at what filled our time. We share the answers to our homework questions. We spend time reflecting on the year. Other ideas are to review your social media posts, emails, or texts. Look at your spending. Where did your money go?
Now we set our goals for the upcoming year. We share the goals we created individually and then we record the goals we are committing to together. For example, Michael made a goal to run a marathon. That isn’t one of my goals this year but we talked about it and then set a goal together to do more hiking this summer. Here’s some tips for goal-setting.
Don’t have too many. Keep the goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely)
Be honest with each other. It is extremely discouraging to get excited about your goals and then find out three months later your partner wasn’t really buying into it.
Be okay with critique. Take time to listen. Don’t get so committed to your goal that you aren’t willing to hear another opinion.
If you do disagree, present your argument with love. Look for commonalities in addition to points of difference. Remember, the point is to walkaway with a goal not the silent treatment.
We end our time with a nice dinner or another treat that fits our budget and time restraints. Maybe go to a movie or for a walk at your favorite park. Take time to congratulate yourselves on a job well done.
Set a date for a follow-up. Goals don’t do anything if they sit for the whole year. Keep them visible with a vision board or a list on your fridge. Whatever works. In a few weeks, sit down and see where you are at. Do you need to adjust? How are things going?
As I mentioned this is an exciting exercise for us and we hope you use this formula to create your own plan to review your last 365 days and make next year your best one yet.