Thursday, December 31, 2020

101 Things to Do in 2020 - End of Year

2019 was the best year of my life. 365 days, and not a single one of them was bad. Apparently 2020 didn't like that. January started out with the cats, which gave me terrible anxiety (I mean I knew I liked my personal space, but dang!) Then February brought all the headaches, which took a serious toll on my mental health. Then March and it's coronavirus came along. Look, I'm an introvert, but I like being an introvert outside in the world, not cooped up inside all day, every day. Then May and surgery. And then, well, teaching during a pandemic is no joke!! I'm just permanently tired now. 

In all seriousness, though I had my moments in the beginning of the year, I'm so lucky that 2020 wasn't a huge mess for me like it was for so many others. I didn't get to travel or concert like I usually do, but I got to do a lot of hiking AND finally learned how to relax!!

In January I was gung-ho on making a huge dent in my list this year, but so many things were canceled because of the pandemic, or I just didn't feel like following through on the idea was a smart decision due to the health/safety of myself and others. Regardless, I got to do some fun things, and I will have to get very creative with my 101 in 2021 list!

1. Take a chocolate making class at Goo Goo Clusters

2. Attend a Motion City Soundtrack concert


3. Finish the Stephanie Plum by Janet Evanovich book series

4. Get a tarot card reading “You have the power to make the decisions that will bring you happiness. Your joy is in the future, not clinging to the past. It’s time to choose transformation.”

5. Read 100 books (121)

6. Unsubscribe from junk emails (The more I unsubscribed, the more I seemed to get. UGH!!)

7. Watch all the Star Wars movies (I tried.....I could NOT get into them)

8. Raleigh roadtrip (postponed)

9. Be a part of my best friend's wedding (postponed)
10. Read all of the books that I own that I have never read (I think my stack got bigger...๐Ÿ˜ฌ)

11. Take a self-defense course

12. Glass blowing

13. Go to Hawaii (postponed)

14. See 25 artists in concert (8)
  • Tenille Townes
  • HARD
  • Mat Kerekes
  • Motion City Soundtrack 
  • Cody Johnson
  • Pistol Annies 
  • Miranda Lambert
15. Charleston roadtrip 


16. Make fried green tomatoes

17. Attend the Southern Festival of Books (It was virtual - not the experience I wanted)

18. Visit all the stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (made it to a few!)

19. Go to the beach


20. Go kayaking

21. Take a wine pairing class

22. Go to CMA Fest (Cancelled)

23. Get a kitten
Channing and Tatum
24. Take a cooking class

25. Be an extra in something

26. Go to an NHL game
Nashville Predators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
27. Take a craft class

28. See 5 different movies in theater

29. Go to the Bluebird Cafe

30. Try a new food
  • Wasabi mashed potatoes
  • Butternut squash 
  • Roasted chick peas
31. Grow a vegetable (jalapenos, cherry tomatoes)

32. Drive the Natchez Trace Parkway

33. Finish hiking the Lookout Mountain Parkway

34. Go to Dickens of a Christmas in Franklin (cancelled)

35. Complete a puzzle (started one.........)

36. Celebrate National Taco Day


37. Get my tattoo (Yeah. After the panic attacks I had getting my blood taken when getting my appendix out, this is never going to happen).

38. Take guitar lessons (They ended up being self-taught guitar lessons, still counts!)

39. See 5 artists I've never seen before (5)
  • HARD
  • Mat Kerekes
  • Cody Johnson
  • Pistol Annies
40. Go to Belle Witch Cave

41. Finish my papercraft scrapbooks

42. Win something
  • Miranda Lambert concert tickets
  • Skincare/makeup giveaway from @goldwilldigger
  • The Prisoner’s Wife by Maggie Brookes
  • The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
  • Who Speaks for the Damned by C.S. Harris
  • The Engineer's Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood
  • The Silence by Susan Alcott
  • True Story by Kate Reed Petty
  • The Kids Are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony
  • The Book of Atlantis Black: The Search for a Sister Gone Missing by Grace Bonner
  • The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
  • The Nanny by Gilly MacMillan
  • The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold
  • The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat
  • Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough
43. Finish all of my draft blog posts

44. Re-learn the piano

45. Watch everything on my Hulu watch list

46. Watch everything on my Netflix watch list

47. Watch everything on my Disney+ watch list

48. Re-design my blog using my coding skills

49. Go to the Opry

50. Go hiking


51. Get the footlong taco in Evansville

52. Go to the Nashville Ballet

53. Have a Girl's Night Out in Nash

54. Check everything off my "Clarksville" list

55. Make another Nashville tacos post

56. Meet an artist I haven't met yet
  • Tenille Townes
Tenille Townes

57. See Lindsay Ell in concert again

58. Go to Country Boom (Cancelled)

59. Get caught up/stay caught up on my podcasts

60. Use all of my cookbooks at least once

61. Finish my music wall

62. Update my map project

63. Go skating

64. Use up my stash of samples

65. Save my change all year

66. Return everything to the library on time

67. Make $1000 in Poshmark sales

68. Learn to juggle

69. Bake a homemade pie (pumpkin with cream cheese swirls)


70. Find the galaxy mural in Huntsville 

71. Watch 50 movies I’ve never seen before (54)
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Gladiator
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • After
  • Dora and the Lost City of Gold
  • Us
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
  • Gravity
  • Ma
  • Hustle
  • Peppermint
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Stargirl
  • CoCo
  • Serenity
  • Rogue One
  • Star Wars Episode V
  • Star Wars Episode I
  • To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
  • The Girl Who Played With Fire
  • Lincoln
  • The Unbreakables
  • It: Chapter 2
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette
  • Little
  • Booksmart
  • Ugly Dolls
  • Teen Spirit
  • The Best of Enemies
  • I Still Believe
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain
  • Poms
  • Playing With Fire
  • Stuber
  • Wonder Park
  • Sorry to Bother You
  • Devil's Pass
  • You've Got Mail
  • Bad Times at the El Royale
  • Hamilton
  • Bombshell
  • Dark Water
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Harriet
  • Sherlock Gnomes
  • Friend Request
  • Eli
  • Christmas in Mississippi
  • Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square
  • A Very Country Christmas
  • The Kissing Booth 2
  • Big Hero 6
  • Christmas Inheritance
  • Operation Christmas Drop
  • Midnight at the Magnolia
  • Christmas Break-In
  • Invisible Man
  • After We Collided
  • Black Christmas
  • The Whole Truth
72. Play games at an arcade

73. Practice Spanish every day


74. Read all ARC I receive this year before their actual publishing date

75. Go to a water park

76. Ride a roller coaster

77. Take a trip with friends

78. Start using my ETSY shop

79. Go to a blogger event

80. Try boxing

81. Leave a $10 tip for a bill less than $10 (I’ve been working on this one for’s taken this long to finally have a bill under $10!!)

82. Go to a comedy show

Emo Phillips @ Mason City Limits

83. Be part of an Alive & Well Indoor Triathalon team


84. See Glennon Doyle speak again

85. Complete a #24in48readathon (March 21-22)

86. Meet my Godson


87. Go to the Nashville Christmas Parade (cancelled)

88. Get my appendix removed (not originally on my list, but it was a new experience, so I get to add it!)


89. Hit 100,000 miles on my car

90. Send a random gift

91. Buy all Christmas gifts from small businesses

92. Get a new couch

93. Buy my knife set solely with William-Sonoma gift cards

94. Give myself another One Tree Hill tour in Wilmington


95. Get internet at home

96. Begin another Master's degree

97. Finish Christmas Shopping before December

98. Teach a lesson over Zoom

99. VOTE


100. See the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction

101. Re-organize my craft studio

46/101 completed! 

For more 101 list posts, click here

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

#gretchensbooks2020 - December


One last month of reading! December is always a busy month, so I was lucky to get in the reading that I did. I read two great new CoHo books (which put me behind on grad school work) that I highly recommend! Overall I'd say it was a good end to a great year of reading!!


117. Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover (5/5๐ŸŒŸ)

Life and a dismal last name are the only two things Beyah Grim's parents ever gave her. After carving her path all on her own, Beyah is well on her way to bigger and better things, thanks to no one but herself. With only two short months separating her from the future she's built and the past she desperately wants to leave behind, an unexpected death leaves Beyah with no place to go during the interim. Forced to reach out to her last resort, Beyah has to spend the remainder of her summer on a peninsula in Texas with a father she barely knows. Beyah's plan is to keep her head down and let the summer slip by seamlessly, but her new neighbor Samson throws a wrench in that plan. Samson and Beyah have nothing in common on the surface. She comes from a life of poverty and neglect; he comes from a family of wealth and privilege. But one thing they do have in common is that they're both drawn to sad things. Which means they're drawn to each other. With an almost immediate connection too intense for them to continue denying, Beyah and Samson agree to stay in the shallow end of a summer fling. What Beyah doesn't realize is that a rip current is coming, and it's about to drag her heart out to sea. 

I have officially passed last years total of 116!!

The first chapter had me HOOKED. Not even the first chapter, the first half of the first chapter. When a story starts off with a girl saying her mom dying was the best thing her mom ever did for her, you have to read more!! 

This is Hoover’s most recent release, but she has another coming out  December 8. I think this was tied with “Verity” as my favorite Hoover book. I had a hard time putting it down to go to work/bed, and felt so much emotion at the end. So good!!


118. The Last Train to Key West  by Chanel Cleeton (4/5⭐️)

For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape. 
After the Cuban Revolution of 1933 leaves Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position, she agrees to an arranged marriage with a notorious American. Following her wedding in Havana Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to her new husband, his illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life. 
Elizabeth Preston's trip to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles after the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own. 
Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.

This was recommended to me by a friend a couple months ago, and I’ve been on the wait list ever since. It was so good! Sometimes I struggle with books from this time period, but I flew through this. I really love when there are multiple stories going on that weave together, and that book gave me just that. Definitely recommend!


119. The Hunting Game by Lucy Foley (3.5/5⭐️)

Everyone's invited...everyone's a suspect...

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves. 

The trip begins innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps, just as a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead. . . and another of them did it. 
Keep your friends close, the old adage says. But how close is too close?

I picked this one up because I had read and LOVED another by her earlier this season. This wasn’t as good, but I still enjoyed the suspense. I did not predict the end at all, but I liked how it wrapped up as it did. I look forward to reading more by her!


120. Pretty Things by Janelle Brown ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet. 
Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable faรงade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina. 
Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge. 
This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.

I originally borrowed this from the library a couple months ago after seeing raving reviews in the bookstagram world, but didn’t have time to read it. After reading the description, it reminded me of The Bling Ring, and I didn’t think I would be that into it. I ended up listening to it on audio and was proven very wrong. 

I was constantly guessing how it was going to end, and was very pleased with how it turned out. I also really loved the multi-perspective and how the story flipped back-and-forth from past to present. Apparently it is being turned into an Amazon series staring Nicole Kidman, so I will definitely be on the lookout for that!


121. Layla by Colleen Hoover (4.5/5⭐️)

When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

This took me a hot minute to get into, but O.M.G. I flew through the second half and my eyeballs are still bulging out of my head. This was unlike any other CoHo novel, and though I love her usual style, I think I loved this even more. It’s right up there with Verity. The only thing I didn’t love was how quickly it ended; I needed a little more. It’s going to take me a moment to recover from this one and start something new. 



*This post contains affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

Reading Challenge: 121/100 books read in 2020

You can find previous book reviews here!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Universal Yums: Italy (November 2020)



You really can't beat Italian treats! Universal Yums has become such a fun way to "travel" the word during this crazy Pandemic. 

If you’d like to try Universal Yums yourself, click here for $5 off your first box!


Tomato & Oregano Bruschetta (4/5)

I love bruschetta, but this was a new way to try it! Not as good as the real thing, but pretty tasty! These had a lot of flavor, I only ate one or two at a time. Wasn't sure how I would feel about them, but they turned out to be my favorite savory treat from teh box!

Italian Black Truffle Potato Chip (3/5)

I have no idea what black truffle is, so I was uncertain what to expect with these. They were interesting. Not bad, but had a strange taste that I couldn't get out of my mouth. It takes over, like a smoke, then you can taste the potato chip part. I didn't love them, but they weren't bad either.

Italian Amarettini (4.5/5)

The story behind these is a few hundred years ago, a couple in Italy heard that a cardinal from Milan was visiting their church. They wanted to prepare him a treat, so they used the ingredients they had on hand to make these cookies, which ended up being a huge hit! They tasted just like wedding cake, except in crunchy cookie form. So yummy!!


Ketchup Potato Chips

I'll be honest - I did not try these. I know I said I would try everything, but I hate ketchup. So, I saved them to bring to my grandpa who loves ketchup :)

Cranberry Frolletti (4.5/5)

Crumbly cookies are Italy's things because they can dunk them in coffee, wine, whatever! These were filled with real cranberries. I don't particularly care for cranberries, but I would absolutely eat these again.

Orange Zest Carrot Cake (5/5)

This was a soft carrot cake, but different from your typical carrot cake in America! Instead of cream cheese frosting to add sweetness, in Italy they add a bit of orange zest for a citrusy zing! I wasn't sure what I would think about the citrus zing, but I really liked it! I'm glad this box came with two!


Hazelnut Milk Chocolate Bar (5/5)

This is apparently the #1 chocolate bar in Italy, and I can see why! The chocolate was rich, but not enough to be overwhelming and the hazelnuts were sprinkled in in perfect amounts. I was glad they sent two instead of one, but I wanted more!! 

Raspberry & Almond Dark Chocolate Bar (1/5)

I don't particularly care for raspberry, almonds, or dark chocolate, but I tried this anyway. It made me sneeze a lot (dark chocolate does that to me) and I wasn't wild about the taste. I tried to eat it anyway, but felt like I was forcing myself to do so. This was a no for me, but if you're a fan of raspberry and dark chocolate it would probably be good. I'd be curious to try the other flavors of this bar.

Lemon & Pepper Tarallini (2/5)

Okay these were odd. They tasted very much like lemon and pepper! I spit it out right away, but the taste that stayed in my mouth wasn't terrible. I think the texture threw me off. It looked it it would have a pretzel texture, but it was more of a harder, thicker, funyun. 


Tiramisu Cream Milk Chocolate Balls (1/5)

I don't particularly care for tiramisu, it tastes like coffee to me (weird, I know). This was another of those treats that would probably be delicious if you liked tiramisu, but was a pass for me.

Milk Chocolate with Strawberry Pop Rocks (4/5)

First off, what? Second off, yum! There are strawberries in Italy that are literally grown in a volcanic crater. These have an Italian cream filling inside with pop rocks mixed in. I thought this would be weird (and it was a little), but it ended up being pretty good. Not something I would choose to eat all the time, but a fun little treat!

Fizzy Lemon Candy (4/5)

In Italy, you get sparkling water at restaurants unless you specifically ask for still water. (I read this in the pamphlet. Unfortunately, I have not been to Italy....yet) These tasted like Sprite in a candy form, though a little more lemony. Basically it was like a lemon drop once you sucked the sour coating off. 

Stay tuned for December's box - holiday treats from around the world!