Top 10 Gift Ideas for a Bookworm

Happy Monday, everyone! We’re launching into that season of seasons where we scramble madly for the perfect gifts for all our friends and family. It’s going to be an especially crazy year for me due to being newly married, which means a whole new side of family to shop for!

Because I have several friends who love to read and/or write, this year I’ve decided to have a bit of a book theme in my gift giving. And let me tell you, the world is not lacking in book themed ideas.

So here they are, in no particular order, my top gift ideas for fellow bookworms/writers.


  1. Novel Teas – Most readers are tea drinkers (or drinkers of some sort), so what better than a nice tea with a famous quote attached?
  2. Novel Tea Tins – Once you poke your nose into one of these aromatic books, you might not be able to leave!
  3. Library Card Mug or Tote Bag – Kids today may not understand the fondness we have for the old Library Card, but who cares?
  4. Bookends – Assuming your friend hasn’t crammed their bookcase full, novelty bookends can be just the thing they need! Follow the link to find some of my favorites.
  5. Book-shaped lamp – I present to you… A book that glows! Provides you light at night, and maybe a little imagination.
  6. Book-shaped ANYTHING – If it’s shaped like a book, it’s going to be a win. Necklace, earrings, pillows, boxes, food and more. They even make a book-shaped bed!
  7. Book Mugs – Unfortunately they don’t make book-shaped mugs, but there are plenty of mugs that have snazzy book-related sayings on them. Check out amazon, or almost any store that sells mugs, and you’ll probably find some.
  8. Bookworm Gift Basket – This is a DiY one. Fill a basket with a variety of little things for your friend, this can include a mug or two, some hot drink mixes (cider, coco, tea, coffee), some soup mixes, bookmark and a good book or two. If you’re not sure of what book to get, just read on.
  9. Gift Card – Buying a book for a bookworm is risky. There’s a big chance they already have it. Instead, buy a gift card to a local bookstore or amazon. Trust me, they’ll love it.
  10. Bookcase Chair – if you truly love this person like my husband loves me, and are handy with tools like my husband is, this chair is probably the perfect Christmas gift. Though I would probably make it a loveseat with room for pillows and a blanket. And maybe add a cup holder while you’re at it. And a pop-over tent. And…

Well, that’s it, everyone! My top ten gifts for bookworms.

Have fun!


(picture from


How to Plan a Wedding in 3 Months – The Wrap-Up

Happy Monday, everyone! It’s been awhile since I last posted, it seems getting married puts everything else off to the side!

First off, the wedding had no major hiccups that I’m aware of! Quite honestly my only job was to do what other people told me to do, making it surprisingly low stress compared to the two days of Get Everything Done Panic leading up to it. Below is a quick list of observations that I can remember or have been told that might be helpful for others down the road.

  • Get the super strong balloons. It was windy on our wedding day, and the balloons put out to mark the church and reception hall kept popping/escaping.
  • Have music in the bride’s room. One of my bridesmaids turned on the music and we all jammed for the two hours or so that I was stuck out of sight. Mostly 90s boy bands. It was great fun, and helped pass the time.
  • We did pictures before and after the wedding, which was good. While C and I didn’t see each other before the ceremony, we got all of our individual/family shots done ahead which saved a good hour of time for after. We also did the ‘can’t see each other’ couples shots. It was really silly, but worth it because they’re some of my favorites.
  • Don’t assume a short turnaround means no one from far away can make it. I was given the huge surprise and pleasure of having an aunt and uncle from Alaska come for the wedding. I don’t know how everyone kept their visit a secret, but seeing them at the rehearsal dinner made my day!
  • Have someone keep track of the weather for the couple. With cell phones, it’s easy  for someone to say ‘hey, there’s an epic storm that’s going to hit right when you’re planning to leave. You might want to leave early… like your guests are already doing’. We were going to leave the reception around 5:30. We ended up leaving about 5:15 just as the sprinkles started. It rained so hard we couldn’t see the hood of C’s truck and had to pit stop at my parents’ house until the storm passed.
  • If you tell your family/friends anyone who helps with clean-up is to take home leftover food, your family will have ample help. I tried to have different people help with cleanup from set-up. From reports from friends and family offering food may have worked too well, but the place was spotless in about an hour, so yay?
  • PACK SNACKS IN YOUR GETAWAY VEHICLE. Seriously. I ate maybe five bites of food at the reception. A few from a plate they saved us, one or two bites of cake, and a bite of s’more. And half a glass of punch. We had fun and went to McDonald’s for food (they were awesome) but if going into McD’s in a wedding dress isn’t your thing, pack something you can both munch on without it making a mess. (Bonus: A little girl there said I was a princess. It was adorable.)
  • Maybe don’t plan a 15 hour drive for the day after the wedding. We spent two days working our tails off with prep, wedding day was fast and we both just wanted to crash. But nope. At least we split the drive into two days, just sitting and driving/riding was a great mental break and it got us to the beach that much sooner, so overall I can’t complain. 🙂


Ace the Travel Bear enjoying the view of the beach from our patio. My new husband was only slightly weirded out that I brought along a stuffed animal.

And there you have it! In three months we planned and pulled off a wedding with around 150 guests. It was a lot of work and I couldn’t have done it without several amazing friends and a very helpful then-fiance, but completely worth it in the end.

Now I just have to get my husband to help with the ‘torture’ of thank-you cards… any suggestions? 🙂

Have fun!


How to Plan a Wedding in 3 Months (Part 3 – The Final Panic)

The Big Day is a mere 12 days away. Gifts are arriving, last minute wedding invitations are popping up and my fiance has turned into a goofy man child (though still helpful and awesome).

First, a complaint. I am very disappointed in Walmart. They have the option of having registry gifts shipped directly to my place, which with our families spread across the country was a huge plus. HOWEVER, unlike Uncommon Goods (which gift boxes the contents and has the receipt with the buyer’s name sealed inside an envelope) Walmart just ships it like it would anything else. No separate packaging, and NO RECEIPT OR INDICATION OF WHO SENT THE GIFT. So I now have several gifts (one accidentally opened because I didn’t realize how stupid Walmart is) with no way of knowing who sent them (Update: If you go to their website, it tells you who purchased the gift IF they registered it). So, as convenient as Walmart is, I probably wouldn’t use them again. I have yet to receive anything from Menards, so I don’t know if they have more common sense, but they probably do.

Decorations are going well. The burlap ribbons for the pews are done as are the ribbon wrapped jars for the reception tables. All that’s left to do is put birdseed in the roses we made (you flick the roses at the couple and it throws the birdseed! Genius!). As a note, the roses took the most time to put together. One thing that’s really helped with decorations is that for once in my life I am on point for trendiness (rustic theme) and Hobby Lobby and Amazon had everything I needed.

 A Rustic theme is both easy and generally inexpensive.

The only thing really left to finish up is the food. We have the lists of what we’re buying done (that was fun!). I love love love the pre-order feature at stores! We’re going to pre-order everything we need, then swing by and pick it up the day before! Some things I learned: Hy-Vee has amazing food trays! They’re expensive, so it’s best to weigh whether you want the gourmet layout or spend less than half the price at Sam’s Club for the same amount of food on a neat but not fancy layout. For us, we’re getting the meat trays from Hy-Vee. Probably 80% of our reception food is coming from Sam’s Club. Good pricing, huge variety and the trays are presentable. Anything we don’t need in massive bulk we’re snagging at Dillons, because fuel points.

Panic Level at this point: Low with spurts of medium and high. I’m a ‘get things done ahead of time’ person, so now when I think of something yet to do I panic a bit, get it done/arranged, and then relax. My friend-turned-wedding-planner has been in Panic Mode Medium-High for the past several weeks and is making sure all the details are being filled in. My Fiance has Panic Level – I want Pizza.

Other things: My Fiance and I have officially known each other for a year! To celebrate, Fiance took me out to a nice sushi place. Yum! I also had my bachelorette party. We did an Escape Room (we escaped with 3 min. 33 seconds left on the clock!) then had a taco bar and played board games until most of my friends had to leave. Those of us hard-core gamers went on an ice cream run then dominated Donkey Kong on the Super Nintendo until we were too tired to coordinate and kept leaping to our deaths. Breakfast followed a few hours later.

The next two weeks are going to be full of last minute planning and a determined trip to the RenFest (Because not even a wedding gets between my friends and I and a dressed-up day of pirates, lords and ladies).

Have fun!


(picture from

How to Plan a Wedding in 3 Months – Part 2 (It Doesn’t Plan Itself)

With 39 days to go, we’re moving into crunch time. I’m happy to report I’m feeling pretty good with the 3 month turnaround. There’s been no drama, or panic-inducing problems, so I call that a success! Or rather, I personally have not had any panic-inducing problems. My friend-turned-wedding-planner is slowly going off her rocker. (When this happens, don’t crack up laughing at her crazy moments. It doesn’t help.)

Invitations went out with only one small hiccup. In your own planning, make sure you put your website on the invitation. We stuck ours on the rsvp. Our reasoning at the time was that A: people will respond online (they don’t) and B: there was nowhere to put it on the invite (hint: invitations have a front and a back. Use the back.). We now know better for next time.

Things to keep in mind: Amazon is amazing, but get your stuff ordered about two months out, because half of what you want will take a month to arrive. I have stuff arriving two weeks before the wedding, so if I don’t like it, I’m cutting it close to replace. Same goes with buying furniture. Make sure they sell you the right thing. We didn’t. They didn’t. Now we won’t get the new furniture before the wedding. But they gave us a nice discount.

I also want to give a shout-out to my Fiance. He’s been a huge help and regularly checks in on what I’m doing and asks if it’s something he can help with. In turn, I’m not making him suffer through things I know he doesn’t want to do. Like decoration buying/assembly. As far as he’s concerned he has the pastor and me and that’s all we need. 😛 But between suggestions that we should just elope, he’s taken care of the men’s gifts for the wedding party, helped me buy all the plates/napkins/etc for the reception. (For the record, he’s the one that picked the ginormous oval platters plates.) He also took charge of the rehearsal dinner planning and is doing the thank-you gifts for guests (we’re doing tea, coffee and hot chocolate packets).


Also, we picked a simple rustic theme.

The craziest part of planning that’s come up is… Who does what! I’m talking about the little ‘magically done’ details that apparently aren’t. Who picks up the flowers? Who loads up the gifts after the wedding? Who leaves the wedding right after to unlock the building/set out food for the reception? Who sets up the food for the rehearsal dinner (Fiance gets to figure this one out). My Friend Planner, Maid-of-Honor, Fiance and I did a big pow-wow last week laying out a detailed itinerary for everything covering the day before and day of. This is essential! Especially when you don’t know what your doing. For example:

My idea: I show up around 11, get hair/make-up done, eat food, get dressed, hide out until 2, get married, do pictures, eat cake and mingle, go to McDonald’s in a wedding dress. Easy-peasey! Friend Planner about had an aneurysm. Actual Time Table now starts the day for me at 8:30 in the morning with photos before and after the wedding. It still ends with Husband and I leaving the reception around 5:30 and going to a McDonald’s. Because I really want to walk into a McDonald’s in a wedding dress. Priorities, people!

And that’s it! Things left to do are: Bridesmaids need dress fittings done. Buy groomsmen outfits. Finish up any final decoration ideas. List out exactly what food we are buying and how much.

Until next time! Have fun!


How to Plan a Wedding in Three Months (Part 1 – Cheetos are Required)

“Okay. You can come in, now.”

Having my boyfriend fix lunch did not raise my suspicions, having already been treated to his excellent cooking skills on more than one occasion. His declaring I couldn’t be in my own kitchen while he cooked did not make me think ‘this is it!’ After all, we’d spent the last month discussing how we would not be getting engaged until after I met his sister over the 4th of July weekend, and this was the end of June.

The fact that the man that has treated me to homemade Reubens, steak and crab legs just fixed me the surprise meal of hotdogs only made me raise my eyebrows.  It was the Cheetos, an ongoing joke of his wrapped around the concept of ‘proposals are cheesy’, that clued me in.

“You didn’t.”

I am pleased to say my now fiance did NOT stick the actual ring into the bottom of a little Cheetos bag to propose to me. He had a fake one stuck in the bottom of the Cheetos bag to propose to me.


This event happened on June 24th. It’s difficult to believe it’s been five weeks, especially given the amount of work we’ve accomplished to turn around a mid-October wedding. Contrary to my fiance’s hope, it is NOT on Friday the 13th, despite assurances that he would never forget our anniversary. I have to admit, I doubt I’d forget it, either. But no.

With time of the essence, these are the things we’ve accomplished in the last five weeks.

Wedding party: This was probably the easiest part. My friends and family all knew it was coming, so getting the ‘will you be X for me?’ was easy.  Getting “duh” from a bridesmaid was my favorite response.

Website/Invitations: People tell you that getting mailing addresses is one of the toughest parts of wedding planning. So far, I completely agree. Elderly family members will be your best friend for this part but be careful, half the people in their address books are probably dead and they’ll still want you to include them. To order invites, I highly recommend VistaPrints. Tons of choices, had better prices than anywhere else I looked, and they arrived in less than two weeks. Also, TheKnot is a great website. Has everything you need to figure out this whole wedding thing including a detailed to-do list, budgeter and free website.

Wedding Dress: I bought mine off the rack in the first store I went to. But while I found an incredible dress everyone loves, I had absolutely WRETCHED customer service from the associate assigned to me. When I didn’t pick the first dress I tried on, she actually scolded me. “You don’t have time [before the wedding date] to try on dresses to see how they look on you.” and “You’ve been wearing clothes since you were born. You should already know what looks good on you and what you like to wear.” I’m not sure how a person can confuse wedding dresses with baby diapers and t-shirts, but she put in 100% effort to do so. If my maid of honor hadn’t been in Alaska walking with bears (Not kidding. She was with rangers walking in the woods looking for bears and texting us her thoughts on pictures of my dresses) she probably would have punched her in the face. As it is, the manager that was fetched, and every other employee I dealt with afterwards, was great, so I think I just got a bad apple. Because of this, I’m not mentioning the name of the major bridal store chain I went to.

Groomsman suit: Make sure to ask your fiance if he already has a suit in his closet before you go suit shopping. You’ll probably learn that he does. Otherwise the two of you will spend an hour in JC Penney looking at every multi-colored/stripey/ugly/clown-car-salesman suit jacket in the store, bypassing the dozens of perfectly fine black options. He will then discover that the clown-car-salesman jacket perfectly fits and later refuse to answer when asked if he went back and bought it.

Gift Registry: When your fiance declares you don’t need a registry, it’s not worth it to push even when you know better. Simply wait until his family brings it up then mention this fact. His sister will inform all the aunts in his family at the family gathering he later attends. This will be followed by a phone call to you saying you’ll be doing a registry. Also, have fun with this! My fiance had us add Cheetos (because weddings are cheesy!) so I added a pink flamingo. Or ten. He added a 2×4 (just one. We can all use an 8 ft. long 2×4, right?) so I added a three ft. tall bobble head lawn gnome. Also, did you know there are pirate ship bundt cake pans?

Flowers and Photography: I’m lucky. I work at a cemetery. Do you want to know who knows who the best florists in town are? Cemeteries/Funeral Homes. Seriously. We know who does a good job and who doesn’t. For my county, it’s University Flowers.  Photography was also pretty easy for me. She’s a long time friend of a friend of mine and runs Dancing Man Studio. Her pricing was the best I found, and she offers a CD with all the digital prints!

Other: I know there’s a ton of other little things that we did. Fiance is in charge of the honeymoon, so that planning is somewhere between staying in a tent who-knows-where and lounging on the beach.

And there you have it! Not bad for only five weeks.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will cover Bridesmaid/groomsmen outfits and decoration raids on Hobby Lobby.

Have fun!


Banana Pineapple Bundt Cake

Happy Monday, everyone! I’ve been busy wedding planning for the last few weeks, but I found time to do some cooking! This week’s special is the most moist bundt cake I’ve yet had the joy of fixing, and is one that I will definitely make again!

I’ve included the recipe below, which is a combination of several recipe versions I found online and an egg shortage in my house. I also made a nut adjustment for a co-worker (she’s sensitive, but as long as she doesn’t outright eat several of them she’s fine). Instead of mixing the nuts in the batter, I dropped them into the bottom of the bundt pan so they cooked at what became the top of the cake. My co-worker just pulled off the top part and devoured the rest.

Bundt cake

The cake was gone in 24 hours at the office.

Pineapple-Banana Bundt Cake

3 c. flour

1 1/2 c sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs (or can use 3 eggs if you don’t have applesauce)

1/4 c. applesauce (I used cinnamon)

1 c vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 can crushed pineapple – half drained

2 mashed bananas

1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Prehead oven to 350 degrees. Spray/grease bundt pan and either flour or sugar. In bowl, mix flour, sugar, soda, salt and cinnamon. Add eggs, applesauce, oil, vanilla, pineapple & juice, bananas. Mix well. Add nuts. Pour into pan and bake for 75 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes then flip. Let cool and enjoy!


Changes in Time – Tallgrass Writing Workshop

It was 17 years ago, and I still remember it. Don Coldsmith (incredible western writer) did a talk at our local small town library, and I was one of the only kids there with an interest. (I say kid, I was about to start high school.) The fact that I got to speak with him afterwards not only made my day, but changed the course of my life. He gave me his card and told me about a writing workshop he ran every summer. I’d already missed the one for that year, but come June of 2001 I was there, front and center, and the only attendee under the age of 45.

I met Charlotte Hinger that year, who not only read the first ten pages of my manuscript but took home the whole thing to read and encouraged me to keep going. Then there’s Max McCoy, Jim Hoy, the Yoho’s (sadly, Max passed away recently), Patsy Terrell (who passed away last week) and so many other names I could spend an hour writing them all down. And that’s just the panel list. I can’t begin to list off the multitude of fellow writers who attended, many of whom became published over the years.

The workshop was very different from the other writing convention I’ve attended (the Ozark Writing Conference). Tallgrass was small and personal, and regularly cited as a favorite for regular attendees (both on and off the panel). It was two days of information and encouragement. It was a mutual celebration for successes, and group cheerleading for everyone else.


This June would have been my 16th year of attending. Over half my life and half the life of the workshop.

Unfortunately, times change. Budgets are cut. Key members pass away. This year, when I received my annual letter for the workshop, it wasn’t a sign-up. After over 30 years of encouraging people to write, then write again, then write some more, the workshop itself had come to its final page.

I spent the last 15 years dreaming of becoming a published author, just so I could sit on the panel myself someday. Having the workshop canceled has made this goal a lot more difficult, but I’ve decided not impossible (because I’m crazy like that). Original plan was to get published, be on panel. Now it’s get published, become super rich, restart the workshop and be on panel.

Because who doesn’t like a good sequel.

Have fun! 🙂

Retaining Wall Adventures

Good morning, everyone! This week I’ll be talking about one of several ongoing projects at my house: The retaining wall. When I bought the place, the wall was little more than crumbled rocks pushed around by too many tree roots and vines.  I removed the (mostly dead and dying) trees a few years ago, and made the decision then that under no circumstances would I be rebuilding a retaining wall. I’ve done a lot of things to my house with help from my family (re-roofed, some re-wiring, new flooring in one room, re-finished the oak flooring in the rest of the house…) but there was no way I was going to mess with tons of rock. Nope. No-way. Never.

Multiple $4,000+ price estimates later… Plan B was thought up by my dad. Just build a new wall in front of the old wall. This saved all the expense of digging out the rocks and giant tree stumps. Plan C was developed between my boyfriend and dad (Boyfriend and Parents Get Along. Check.). We built a wood wall supported by rebar and flower boxes. Final cost for materials: about $200, plus another $100 for the rose bushes, and two weekends of work. The lifespan for it should be around ten years, by which point I hope I’m long gone from the house.

Retaining Wall

What’s left to do: I still need fill-dirt behind the wall and in the flower boxes, come up with something to plant in the flower boxes and figure out what to do with all the rocks. Some of the rocks will go towards a new flower bed in the front of the house. The rest will be stuck… somewhere.

Until next time. Have fun!

Crochet Project – Giant Snake

Happy Monday Wednesday-because-I-forgot-to-hit-publish, all! If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know I don’t do small crochet projects. Well, sometimes, but only by request. This was not one of those requests.


I made my first Giant Snake somewhere around ten years ago when I was still in college. At seven feet long with a head the size of, well, a head, with big button eyes, it is a sight to behold. I received more attention from guys in the five minutes spent carrying that snake across campus than I usually did in a year.

Best of all were the expressions I received when I explained it was a baby gift. To me, it’s perfect. Baby has an obstacle/road block, child has a SEVEN FOOT SNAKE to play with, teenager/adult has a body pillow! It’s not a baby gift. It’s a lifetime gift! One friend used the snake as a block between the bed and the wall when her daughter went from a crib to a bed.

This particular snake is by far my favorite. I didn’t have enough of my usual green yarn to make it, but rather than going out and buying more I decided to just use a second color. I will never go back to single color creatures again! The two-tone of the colors really made this one pop.

I can’t wait to give this to my friend!

Have fun!



Brownie Bundt Takes the Cake

Happy Monday! Like many others, this past Easter weekend was full of food, family and a review of what the holiday represents. But instead of spending the weekend with my own family, I spent it meeting the whole family clan of my boyfriend’s. Don’t ask me to name all the aunts, uncles and cousins of his that I met, but I am pleased to say we get along just fine. (Though ladies, if your BF has a dog, and he insists said dog will not lay/roll/step on the bag of marshmallows and buns he put in the back with Fido, plan on an extra grocery stop for new buns and marshmallows after you’ve arrived.)

Meeting the family for a holiday meal gave me the challenge of fixing some kind of food worthy of ‘the girlfriend’. Choosing a bundt cake was easy. It looks nice and travels well. C’s favorite dessert is brownies. One google search later and I had exactly what I wanted. A brownie bundt cake (find original recipe here.) I’ll be including a slightly tweaked recipe below.

The outcome: The smell was absolutely divine and definitely brownie-like. The cake was  a little dry despite increasing the amount of yogurt. I also attempted a caramel drizzle for the first time. There was nothing wrong with it, but I need to learn how to make it creamier.

Brownie Bundt

(Even Pepper Dalek approved)

Brownie Bundt Cake with Caramel Sauce

2 c Flour

1/2 c cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

14 T butter, softened

1 3/4 c sugar

3 eggs

1 c plain Greek Yogurt (original had 2/3 c. Bought in 1 cup container and I just used it all)

2 T milk

1 1/2 c chocolate chips (I mixed semi-sweet and dark)


Preheat oven 325 degrees. Mix first 4 ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, soda & salt). In separate large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. (at same time makes the cake more dense. One at a time makes it lighter. Crazy!) Mix about half of the dry ingredients into the cream. Add yogurt and milk. Add rest of dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared bundt pan (coated with spray/grease/butter and sprinkled with sugar). Bake 55 minutes. When pulled out it will still probably stick to the toothpick. LEAVE IT OUT! I put mine back in until toothpick came out clean, and I think that’s why it was dry. Oops.

Cool about 10 minutes, then flip. Cool the rest of the way. Add drizzle/topping of your choice (powdered sugar dusting, drizzle, nuts…)

Easy Caramel Sauce:

1 bag of caramel chips

Heavy Cream

Microwave some of the caramel chips (I used half the bag and it was way too much) stirring every 30 seconds. Add 1 T heavy cream after about a minute to minute and a half. Add more heavy cream to desired texture. Drizzle over cake (reheat caramel as necessary. It hardens really fast).