Books of the Month: December 2020

December was rough. After reading 55 books for the last 11 months, I was pretty burned out and almost gave up for the month; I did not start reading until 12/7 when I decided I should at least try, and several friends recommended some quick reads. I made it to my goal of 60 which was incredibly exciting…and I’ll never do that again! Here are my December reads:

The Queen’s Gambit was….alright. I watched the show twice and was obsessed, but I felt the book didn’t measure up? I felt the characters had more of a story arc within the show, and in the book the characters, especially Beth, fell a little flat. Had I read the book before watching the show, I would have enjoyed it, I think. I still smiled with a warm feeling when the book ended, so was still worth it. For those who haven’t seen the show, “The Queen’s Gambit” is about a young prodigy’s rise to fame in the chess world; would recommend the show over the book.

Girls on Fire was a very good thriller story? It was easy to piece together what happened, but essentially it’s a story about a mouse-y teen and the angst-y friend she makes at school that leads her down some interesting paths. It begs the question, can anyone make you do something or are all your actions of your own will?

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self Love was fantastic, even for those unfamiliar with “Queer Eye.” It made me laugh out loud, many times, but it also made me break down and cry. JVN regales the tales of life, basically from birth to present day, and that queen went through it, multiple times. Like how JVN came out on the other side as this self assured and badass queen, like I can’t even fathom after hearing this journey. This needs to be listened to on audiobook so JVN can tell you the story, I don’t see any other way to read this.

The Midnight Library was a delightful story, well sort of. The main character decides to take her own life and ends up in a library full of books that tell the stories of her parallel lives she could have had. I really liked the theme of the book and how Nora learns to love her current life, even though it’s not “perfect” or how other people wanted her to live.

Transcendent Kingdom was a quick read and a good story, about a Ghanaian family and their trials through separation, addiction and grief. It touches a lot on the tug of war between science and faith. I would really like to read Gyasi’s first book, Homecoming, as I quite enjoyed her writing style.

The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

I did manage to read 60 books by the end of 2020 (huzzah!). I think my favorite book this month might have been The Midnight Library, or Over the Top, honestly would recommend both! As for 2021, I’m setting my goal at 45 books, although after watching Bridgerton, I guess I have at least 9 books on my to be read list…

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Let’s Go, 2021.

2020 has finally come to an end, whew. I was not one of the folks who was desperately waiting for 2020 to end, excited for something to magically change on January 1, 2021 about our current predicament in the world. But, that being said, I am happy to leave 2020 in the past and looking forward to vaccines, possibly traveling to see family more often, and not caring about what the government is doing on a daily basis…simple things really. I feel like 2021 will be a year of relaxing and getting life back in order; I am not expecting big things until 2022. And by big things I mean traveling and paying off my student loans.

Here are my goals for 2021:

  1. Be smart with finances. I am trying to pay off my student loans by the end of 2022 (3 years ahead of schedule) so I really need to be smart with my finances and make smart money moves over this year and the next. I also kind of want to get a Peloton once we move into a larger apartment, so I’m thinking about saving a bit to get one by the end of 2021. But we’ll see, debt first.
  2. Keep reading. I’m not setting a goal of 60 books again this year, as I got burned out this year by December and it wasn’t enjoyable to read any more. I’m cutting back to 40; I hope to read some series and longer length books I was unable to read in 2020 since I was sprinting to hit my 60 reads mark. I do really enjoy reading and want to keep that in my routine.
  3. Have a better relationship with LA. I lived in LA for 6 months before COVID happened and once that hit, I was unable to do anything, so I don’t have a best relationship with LA/California. I really want to take more time to go to the beach and read or walk. I also want to explore more of the parks/trails, and try some more cultural restaurants that I won’t be able to eat once I move back to the midwest.
  4. Take trips. Kind of in tandem with the above, but it’s so easy to access hundreds of small coastal towns, national parks and interesting places from southern CA. We have friends in Denver, so hoping to visit them, possibly visit a friend in SF, as well, and possibly a glamping trip in the mountains with my best friend. Will any of this happen in 2021? Who knows, I’m keeping expectations low this year, but overall, just want to leave my apartment more in 2021, even if it’s a day trip to Santa Barbara.
  5. Buy 30 clothing pieces, only. Seriously, I want to keep track of my clothing purchases and only buy 30 pieces total. I’ll write more about this in a post later, but I bought way too much this year and I want to cut back in 2021.
  6. Try new things. I want to push myself out of my comfort zone, take a baking or tennis class, try boxing, or try a new food. Not about to go sky diving but small things I can do to push myself in 2021.

What are your goals for 2021? Or after 2020, have you learned to not focus on goals/intentions and just let what will happen, happen?

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Sincerely Seven: Week 52

I hope everyone had a good week. I know for me, the last seven days flew by! I spent time with my parents, baking (too many) cookies and enjoying some (distanced) time with family. I’m dreading getting back to work tomorrow, but at least it’s a four day week, right? And this horrible year comes to an END? I cannot even fathom 2020 being over, since it feels like it’s been 5 years long, but we’re here you guys, we are so close to the end!

Christmas Cookie Boxes I Made

Here are the things that got me through this week:

  1. Has anyone watched Bridgerton yet on Netflix? I haven’t, but it’s on my list to watch next! I saw this this article about how they redid a bunch of modern pop songs as classical songs for the show, and I’m dying bc that’s my favorite genre. Watching ASAP (also want to read the books ASAP)!
  2. Are you organized and like to write out your to do’s for the day or week in a planner? I know I do! Love this list of the best planners, according to productivity experts. Also, if you’re into wine, the best wine clubs picked by sommeliers.
  3. If you’ve ever been to Columbus, OH, you may have stopped by Fox in the Snow for coffee and pastries. The owners have been releasing some pastry recipes since early Spring, and this week’s release is blueberry hand pies. Uhm, YES PLEASE.
  4. Speaking of cooking, loved these ideas for a healthy meal when you can’t stand to look at another Christmas cookie. *raises hand*
  5. My hands have been SO dry since I’ve been back east, this Cera Ve cream is a literal lifesaver! Not a paid comment, seriously just want to share with you. You can feel it absorbing into your skin and my dry cracked hands were cleared and smooth within a few days of regular application.
  6. In case you had tons of gifts and bags full of used gift wrapping, please try to re-use any gift wrapping or bags (save the planet!). Loved these ideas, I personally always save and reuse gift bags, and any undamaged ribbon/bows.
  7. In case you need something new to watch if you’re not working this week, here are 18 shows and movies made by women in 2020. I personally love Sex Education, Happiest Season and Insecure, and I really want to watch The Flight Attendant.

To all my followers, thanks for reading my posts in 2020, here’s to 2021!

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Sincerely Seven: Week 51

Another week, working through issues at work, only this week was coupled with having bad wifi, so I wasn’t in the best of moods. It felt like a longer week than usual; I only worked four days but it was a long four days, especially since it snowed here in Pennsylvania. We might actually have a white Christmas? I’m trying not to get my hopes up but also PLEASE. Although, I’m sick of shoveling, so maybe no more snow.

Can you believe Christmas is this week? I feel like I should be doing something… but I’m just listening to ‘Evermore’ and reading the days away.

This is my friend, Barney, enjoying a post walk rest.

Here are the things that got me through the week:

  1. Bustle interviewed Dan Levy and can we all promise to never stop talking about and watching re-runs of Schitt’s Creek? Like 20 years from now, it will be revered by most like Friends is today? But seriously, hearing about all the hard work and time Levy put into the show, like I can’t even fathom, even to the point of having paralyzing anxiety. Also, if you haven’t watched Schitt’s Creek, you MUST…NOW.
  2. This Tik Tok artist has been drawing Christmas characters in different styles, and I’m pretty sure I could watch these all day. I love see the characters especially in the Tim Burton style. He also does other celebrities and characters, in various drawing styles but these Christmas ones are more fun, love seeing this creativity!
  3. I found this article very interesting, about toxic positivity and how we all diminish someone’s pain when we try to help with reverse psychology to help someone. Saying things like, ‘it’ll be okay!’, or ‘there’s always next time’, or ‘this is God’s plan’, can force a person to feel like they are unable or shouldn’t be in their pain. This is definitely something I’ve been guilty of, and will now try to be better about after reading this.
  4. This Ranking of ‘Evermore’ songs by how much the author wants to stare out a window on a rainy day while listening…same.
  5. I spent the entire week researching the Dyson Airwrap because they make your hair look incredible. Does anyone have that could give honest feedback? Trying to research before I splurge!
  6. I really want to make a gingerbread house from scratch, but it seems like so much work and I don’t have my Kitchen Aid mixer here in PA. I’ll just stare at this mid-century modern house, and these Schitt’s Creek houses.
  7. Lastly, Kristen Wiig was on SNL last night and the “Mom Got a Robe” skit was absolutely hilarious, but a good reminder that you have 4 days to get your mom something nice!!

Merry everything and happy always to all my followers, I hope you have a good and safe holiday whether celebrating alone or with family.

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

2020 Goals, Where Are We?

As 2020 comes to end, it dawned on me that I had better start thinking up some new goals for 2021…and oh yeah, reflect on my 2020 ones. This year was definitely not what I was expecting, in fact, most of the things I was planning for were completely thrown out the window to sit inside and wash my hands every three seconds. I still stand by the fact that we should have wrote off all goals and the such for 2020, but after doing some reflecting, I did have some achievements this year, while maybe smaller or more personal. I did get a cat, which is kind of like a life goal achieved, so let’s say I excelled at my goals for the year. Overall, here are my 2020 goals and my reflections on them:

  1. Save money by becoming a more mindful consumer. I did make more of an effort to pay attention to materials and brand missions as well as purchase secondhand on Poshmark. Did I cut back on spending overall? Next question.
  2. Read more. I read somewhere north of 25 books in 2019, I am currently at 57 for 2020. CHECK.
  3. Make Friends. So due to COVID, this didn’t really happen. I also got very lazy and well, not much going on here. I feel like this was a broad one, I don’t know just making excuses at this point.
  4. Make 5 difficult recipes. I roasted a chicken and made Ina’s Spaghetti and Meatballs. I also made croissants and cinnamon rolls. So close to 5, but happy with what I did make. In general, I cooked meals 4-5 times a week (usually easy Mom-blog recipes), but still made an effort here. Happy with that!
  5. Be Present. I gave up my social media for about 1.5 months, which was great. I also tried to spend less time on my phone while with others. This all went downhill about October-mid November, but who can blame me?
Aurora 😊

While I didn’t achieve everything, I am proud of the things I did accomplish this year from my goals. I am also really proud of myself for hitting goals I didn’t even set. Other things I did in 2020 that I didn’t plan on:

  1. Worked out 4-5 times a week. When quarantine started, I was so nervous about getting lazy and not being active, so I signed up for obe and honestly, changed my whole fitness routine. Most of my need for working out was more of a mental need, but I do feel stronger overall and see more toning on my limbs. Here’s to a healthy body! I’m trying to hit 200 classes by the end of the year!
  2. Watched less Netflix/Hulu/HBO/etc. See: 57 books read.
  3. Started therapy. I was really feeling it about mid way through the year and I knew my mood and general demeanor were not normal, so I asked for help. And it did really help. I would highly recommend for anyone who’s afraid to step out there and talk to someone, it’s scary but it’ll be worth it (for anyone curious, I used Talkspace due to COVID; would recommend, makes it easy to fit into your schedule or as needed).
  4. Wore less makeup/cared less about looks. Okay, so I feel like this is only because of quarantine, but in general I’m not as focused on how I look (i.e. going out in public with/without makeup) and go most days without makeup on/hair done. I have focused more on skincare these last few months, which is way more important. Also, haven’t had my hair color done in like 6+ months and I don’t really care anymore about how bad my roots look?
  5. Less hung up on mistakes. I am a perfectionist, and I get very easily hung up on mistakes. While I’m still working on this, I do see where I care less about not being perfect and giving myself slack for little things I might mess up or not do perfectly. See: started therapy.

Overall, I’m happy with how my year went (other than the obvious downfalls of 2020); I didn’t hit all the goals I set for myself, but I did accomplish other things I wasn’t expecting when I wrote my list in January.

What did you achieve in 2020, whether you set goals or not?

Sincerely,

Sara Ann

Sincerely Seven: Week 50

Another week gone by, and nothing overly exciting other than I tested negative for COVID. It’s the small things at this point tbh. I also got a chess set (I told you I was obsessed with The Queen’s Gambit), but I’m basically a grandmaster now. Here are the other things that got me through the week.

The only exciting thing this week, watching TV with Aurora
  1. UHM Shifty Swifty released ANOTHER surprise album this week and like, I don’t know, is she trying to kill us? Evermore is kind of dark and sad, like a goth folk album, IMO? But I love ‘Willow’ and ‘No Body, No Crime’ and ‘Ivy.’
  2. In other important news, we are getting a vaccine for COVID which is really exciting and gives us something to look forward to. But let’s not forget, until you get the vaccine personally, continue to wear a mask, wash your hands and avoid large gatherings. ALSO, because of this, I’m wearing a mask for the rest of my life.
  3. I don’t know about you guys, but I love three things… butter, cheese and potatoes. Half Baked Harvest put them altogether for what I’m only assuming is a delicious and tasty dish, Crispy Cheesy Potato Stacks. I haven’t made them, but they’re on my ‘to be made’ list. I mean the name alone is making me drool.
  4. Anyone remember Olivia Jade? You know, Aunt Becky’s daughter, for whom Aunt Becky bribed college admissions for and is now serving a term in federal prison for? Well, she was on Red Table Talk this week and it was so satisfying to watch a privileged white woman get knocked down a few pegs? I do think it was a fruitful conversation and I truly do hope she’s sorry. I also think it was an important conversation and I would recommend watching!
  5. I loved this article about non-traditional holiday celebrations where women have created their own customs. I love the self-affirming travel and pet sitting abroad. Uhm, I will gladly travel to another country for a week or two to watch someone’s dog, though I think my family would have some choice words to say…
  6. Assuming most people are having low-key Decembers. If that is the case, here are all the new things to stream this month, on ALL the platforms. I’m personally looking forward to “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle“, “Wonder Woman” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. “
  7. Your daily reminder there are still good people out there….a Florida man paid of the utility bills of 114 families who were at risk of being turned off which is just so heartwarming and lovely. I would also encourage folks to donate time or money to those less fortunate during this month. I personally buy presents for children through my church’s Angel tree, or through USPS Operation Santa. I’ve also donated to this GoFundMe for snacks and flower donations to hospitals in State College, PA for doctors and nurses. I also like to donate in someone’s name as their gift, because that’s what this season is about!!

Hoping you have a beautiful week ahead, loves !

Sincerely,

Sara Ann