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Archive for December, 2021

Congrats to me, dear reader! I surpassed my 2021 Reading Challenge on Goodreads. My goal for this year was 50 books, and I read a total of 52 books. I think my reading success this year is attributed to developing a daily reading habit, creating a book club, participating in a Halloween readathon, and adding books to my thematic fun lists.

I participated in Gretchen Rubin’s #Read21for21 challenge, and I am amazed by how many books I read this year just by reading for 21 minutes every day. Establishing a daily reading habit and sticking to it has been an eye-opening experience. According to Gretchen Rubin, “If you read for 21 minutes per day for 365 days, that’s 7,665 minutes, or almost 128 hours of reading. You can read a lot of books in 128 hours!” And, she was correct. I read a total of 24 books. With the exception of The Money Tree, a fictional story implementing the steps to running a successful business, the books chosen for this challenge were nonfiction selections. They fell into the following categories:

autobiographies/biographies

  • The House of Kennedy by James Patterson and Cynthia Fagen
  • I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart with Neil Strauss
  • Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

self-help

  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Money Tree by Chris Guillebeau (business parable)
  • High Performance Habit by Brendon Burchard
  • Joy at Work by Marie Kondoand Scott Sonenshein
  • Fish by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D, Harry Paul, and John Christensen
  • How to Be Everything by Emilie Wapnick
  • The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
  • Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher
  • Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee

improv

  • Improv Wins by Chris Trew and Tami Nelson
  • Improv Nation by Sam Wasson
  • How to be the Greatest Improviser on Earth by Will Hines

inspirational/spiritual

  • Rewriting A New History by Havilah Malone
  • Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly
  • Everyday Grace by Marianne Williamson
  • The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey
  • Rediscover the Saints by Matthew Kelly
  • Perfectly Yourself by Matthew Kelly

writing/literary criticism

  • You Are a Writer (so start Acting like one) by Jeff Goins
  • How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

I enjoyed the majority of these books and found some value in all of them. Reading the books on my list taught me some interesting facts, provided me with new strategies and resources, inspired me to take action in different areas of my life, and exposed me to new ideas and ways of looking at the world.

In addition to my daily reading challenge this year, I co-created the online Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club with my friend Kelsi. We scheduled a meet-and-greet with members in April where we voted for our first book club pick. In May, we met for our very first book club meeting to discuss our first selection, Later by Stephen King. No thanks to Hurricane Ida, I did not finish A Deadly Education. I am half way through it and plan to finish it (more like reread it) some time in 2022. And, as you can see from our list of reads this year, we opted out of reading a club selection in December since the holidays can get pretty hectic for everyone.

  • Video Night by Adam Cesare (June)
  • Children of the Dark by Jonathan Janz (July)
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (August)
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (September)
  • The Halloween Tree by Raymond Bradbury (October)
  • The Reckoning by Ruby Jean Jensen (November)

We chose some terrific books this year. I enjoyed all of the ones I read; however, my favorites were Later, Mexican Gothic, and The Halloween Tree.

Reading is one of my absolute favorite activities, and I am grateful to have such a wonderfully rich reading life. I am looking forward to continuing my daily reading habit of 21 minutes per day; however, instead of using that time to read nonfiction selections, I will be reading children’s literature. This will allow me to read quite a few books I already have stacked up in piles waiting to be cracked open to take me on new adventures. I will also participate in the Goodreads challenge. For those of you who like to read, please follow me on Goodreads @ Katherine Loyacano. I would love to see what you are reading. The Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club will resume in January. Our January selection is Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar. It is our first nonfiction book club choice.

And, last but not least, Kelsi and I will be engaging in the Year of King in 2022. We are SUPER excited about this literary adventure. A couple of years ago, I did a Summer of Poe and spent the entire summer reading as many short stories, poems, and one novel written by Edgar Allan Poe. It was a wonderful experience. So, why not spend a year reading my favorite author? Kelsi and I have decided that we will devote each month to reading either a novel, a novella, or short stories written by Stephen King. In addition, we will watch the movie or television adaptations of the literary work chosen for the month. Towards the end of each month, we will do a livestream together discussing both the book and its screen adaptation. To kick of the new year, we have chosen Misery for January. We would love it if you would join us, dear reader. What’s more enjoyable than reading a book? Talking about it with others. Happiness!

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” ~ Garrison Keillor

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Kelsi and I have neatly wrapped up watching the Christmas horror movies on our Christmas Fun Lists this year. When creating our lists, we lamented that we watched all the best Christmas horror movies in 2020. She fared far better than me this holiday season because I chose quite a few duds and barely eeked out a Top 5 list.

The Mothman Prophecies, which was a rewatch for me, topped my list. If you are a fan of The X-Files, urban legends, or Richard Gere, you may enjoy this slow burn movie, dear reader. A reporter’s personal tragedy leads him to the discovery of a mysterious entity in a small West Virginia town. Second runner-up is The Lodge, another slow burn that is dark and disconcerting. It is a psychological horror film about siblings marred by a sudden tragedy that leads to disturbing consequences.

The third movie on my list is a Christmas comedy-horror film that took me by surprise. Mercy Christmas is a “when something seems too good to be true, it is” kind of story with an unexpected twist and social commentary. The protagonist, Michael Briskett, is a likeable but lonely guy, who is spending yet another Christmas alone when a beautiful co-worker invites him for Christmas dinner at her family’s home. Horror ensues shortly after he arrives and serves the perfect blend of bloodshed, brutality, and black comedy.

P2 took fourth place. This horror thriller fairs well as a one-and-done film for me. It is a predictable story about a workaholic who quickly learns that working late on Christmas Eve can be deadly. Finally, Dead End snags the fifth place spot on my list. This is another slow burn horror film about a dysfunctional family going through an existential crisis after taking a wrong turn on their way to a family member’s home to celebrate Christmas.

Except for Christmas Evil, the other films on my list are not really worth mentioning; however, of the remaining movies on my list, Black Christmas (2006) and Slay Belles both earned 2 1/2 stars. While they are not the greatest Christmas horror films out there, they may warrant a watch from horror fans, but do not expect much. Unless you are a glutton for punishment, I would steer clear of Krampus: The Christmas Devil, The Traveler, Mrs. Claus, and All Through the House.

Kelsi and I had a chat on December 12th about the films we had in common this season, which included The Mothman Prophecies, Mercy Christmas, Slay Belles, and Mrs. Claus. It was a terrific talk.

Last but not least, Kelsi and I wrapped up our ongoing debate of Christmas Evil. I reluctantly agreed to rewatch this film and participate in the Christmas Evil Challenge. Bantering back and forth with Kelsi about this ridiculous film, which is one of her all-time favorites, was a great deal of fun. Surprisingly, I did discover some new insights about the film and even bumped it up another 1/2 star for a total rating of 2 1/2 stars. Kelsi and I had a lively livestream on December 23rd where we revealed the winner of the Christmas Evil Challenge.

I may have completed watching all of the Christmas horror movies on my list; however, I still have plenty of traditional Christmas movies to watch and a sufficient amount of holiday reading left. The Christmas season has been enjoyable, and I am loving my time off. I hope your Christmas was merry and full of good cheer, dear reader. Happiness!

“To hear a voice is one thing. But this isn’t just a message, it’s a prediction. It came true.” ~ John Klein (Richard Gere), The Mothman Prophecies

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Many of you know I am a superfan of Gretchen Rubin and her work on happiness and good habits. On her podcast back in September of 2017, she talked about writing a “TA-DA list” if you are feeling dragged down by your to-do list. This year, I decided to keep a TA-DA List of activities I participated in or endeavors I accomplished throughout 2021, so I would not beat myself up too much for not completing everything on my 21 for 2021 list which I reviewed yesterday on my blog.

TA-DA 2021

  • Instagram (Year of Gratitude Project)
  • Collabs with Kelsi (Movie Musicals, Holiday Horror, Zombie Awareness Month, Slashers, Fear Street Trilogy, Halloween, Christmas…check out her fantastic channel for horrorific content)
  • Live Streams with Kelsi (books and horror movies)
  • Became Mr. Mike’s Godmother at the Easter Vigil (attended weekly RCIA classes with him; huge honor)
  • Travel (visited Helen in Colorado in April; visited my Aunt Carolyn and cousins in Utah in July)
  • Scrapbooking (attended TAC Scrapbook Event with Shelly, Heather, and Donna in June)
  • Weekly lunches with friends and family (part of summer fun list)
  • Created the Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club with Kelsi (meet and greet was in April; monthly Zoom meetings)
  • Zombie Awareness Month
  • Completed Level 3 Improv Class (in-person in June)
  • Improv Showcase with The Improvables (June)
  • Friday the 13th Date Night with the Hubster (August)
  • Survived Hurricane Ida (still dealing with the aftermath; currently in recovery mode)
  • Survived Tendonitis in my right wrist (finally had to get the shot)
  • Welcomed Ice Cream Bar to the Family
  • Halloween Decor Shopping with Kelsi (October)
  • Vlogs (Hurricane Ida, First Day of Fall, Halloween Decor Shopping/Thematic Fun Day with Kelsi)
  • Halloween ReadaThon
  • Mrs. Slides in the play, The House on Haunted Hill, at the Columbia Theatre (October/November)
  • Successfully throwing Mrs. Billie a surprise 90th birthday party
  • Halloween Fun List
  • Christmas Fun List
  • Christmas Evil Challenge

As you can see, dear reader, I kept busy in 2021 even though I did not cross off every item on my 21 for 2021 list. I am absolutely grateful for all of my experiences this year. Every single one of them carried a blessing into my life, making it richer and creating wonderful memories. Although I am a planner by nature and love setting goals and making resolutions, I also enjoy learning and trying new activities. When opportunity knocked, I opened the door and accepted whatever adventure was across the threshold. Life is truly an adventure. Happiness!

Ta-da list: I was surprised to learn that many people get very fired up by making a ta-da list. By reminding themselves of everything they’ve already accomplished, they find the drive to continue.” ~ Gretchen Rubin

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Today is the first day of my much-needed winter break. What a perfect day to reflect on my 21 for 2021 list! I chose FOCUS as my word for 2021, and for most of the year, I did a pretty good job. I completed nine items on my list and sort of completed two others.

  • Manage time. YES (accomplished this item by periodically tracking my time and then scheduling my time weekly)
  • Maintain a regular fitness regimen. YES (accomplished this item by walking at least 20 minutes daily)
  • Create weekly meal plans. SORT OF (only during the nine-week Fast Burn Challenge; beneficial)
  • Eat more vegetables. YES (proud of this accomplishment; tried new recipes; will continue)
  • Try intermittent fasting for one month (Clean & Lean). YES (accomplished with Fast Burn; same author; continued intermittent fasting since the Fast Burn Challenge; beneficial)
  • Declutter and organize each room in my house. NO (too ambitious; need to be more concrete)
  • Write a will. NO (procrastinating and don’t have any clue why)
  • Try one NO spend month. (accomplished this – Frugal February; beneficial; will do this again in 2022)
  • Revisit A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. NO
  • Complete The Four Tendencies course (Gretchen Rubin). NO
  • Read Atomic Habits by James Clear. YES (accomplished this item; beneficial; recommend to anyone who wants to develop good habits)
  • Read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. NO
  • Create a vision board. NO (procrastinating)
  • Take a WordPress Blogging course. YES (still working on this course; like the P2 community; made a friend across the pond, fellow blogger Rita; beneficial; renewed for 2022)
  • Take a WordPress Podcasting course. NO (did not make the time; renewed for 2022)
  • Purchase podcasting equipment. NO
  • Complete Write a Bestseller course (Jeff Goins). NO
  • Try 12 new restaurants (one per month). YES (not one per month, none in February, September, or December; 18 new restaurants for the entire year; 4-Colorado and 4-Utah)
  • Take Becky Higgins Classroom: Photo Tips + Work Flow. NO (disappointed that I did not accomplish this item; will attempt in 2022, especially since I will be doing another Instagram project)
  • Scrapbook at least two times per month. SORT OF (January, February, March, June; needs to be a priority for 2022)
  • Learn how to use my Cricut Maker. YES (thanks to Shelly; took online workshop; beneficial)

Additionally, I participated in two reading challenges which I am still participating in until the end of December. I joined Gretchen Rubin, her sister Liz, and the rest of the Happier community in the #Read21in21 challenge where I read daily for 21 minutes. I read only nonfiction books for this challenge. I joined the Goodreads Challenge again and set my goal to read 50 books in 2021. The nonfiction books read for #Read21in21 will be included in that total number of books. In addition, I kept a TA-DA list for 2021. I will be sharing more information on all three of these activities in the coming days.

Overall, I think I did pretty well with my 21 for 2021. I knew when I made my list last December that it was a bit ambitious, especially wth all the courses. However, once COVID restrictions relaxed with vaccination numbers increasing, I was not much of a homebody like I was in 2020. In addition, the impact of Hurricane Ida on my home and in my community affected some of my plans. I am still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that our home will be back in order soon (praying for January), and Andrew will be back in his bedroom before the start of the spring semester at SLU. We FINALLY got a new roof last Friday, and sheetrock installation in Andrew’s room happened on Saturday.

I am currently working on my 22 for 2022 list and will reveal it and my new word for the year in January 2022. In the meantime, dear reader, for the rest of today, I will read, go for a walk, watch television, basically enjoy the first day of my winter break. Happiness!

“Aim at the sun, and you may not reach it, but your arrow may fly far higher than if aimed at an object on a level with yourself.” ~ J. Howes

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Ho, Ho, Ho! It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas in my neck of the woods which means it is time to reveal my Christmas Fun List. I recently purchased some new Christmas socks with gnomes on them from Cracker Barrel in Hammond. I will be wearing Christmas socks and pins to work again to show my Christmas spirit. And, talking about spirits, the Christmas season would not be complete without mixing a Christmas cocktail. I have my eye on the Sugar Cookie Martini. I will try my hand at making a Christmas dish or baking a Christmas treat. I subscribe to a bunch of magazines that feature holiday-related recipes this time of year, so I am sure I can find one that is not too complicated. Additionally, my hubby and I will be attending a play with friends, Shelly and Kerry, on Saturday evening. Our friend Karen is performing in the musical, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, at Slidell Little Theatre. It is based on the wonderful children’s novel by Barbara Robinson about the havoc six misfit children cause when they decide to perform in their town’s annual Christmas play. We also plan to have dinner and cocktails prior to the performance.

Reading is definitely on my Christmas Fun List again this year. As of this moment, I have four books on my list that I will be reading along with Kelsi throughout December. Kelsi Kringle is gifting me a copy of Silent Night by R.L. Stine which will be my first Fear Street read. It is about a spoiled brat that gets her comeuppance when she acts naughty during Christmastime. Another book on my list includes Robot Santa by Dean Koontz. It is the follow-up to Santa’s Twin that Kelsi and I read last season. Bob is up to his old tricks again, causing Santa to have another stressful Christmas Eve.

I read the terryifying NOS4A2 written by Joe Hill last December; therefore, it should be no surprise that the graphic novel, Wraith also by Joe Hill, has made it onto my TBR list for this month. It reveals the “twisted beginnings” of Charlie Manx, the monstrous antagonist who feeds off the souls of children after luring them into his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith that takes them to Christmasland.

Happy Krampusnacht! Today is the celebration of Krampus, the dark and hairy, horned beast who wanders the streets on the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, scaring children who misbehave. I will be reading another collection of short stories edited by Kate Wolford that centers around the Christmas demon. The anthology includes twelve tales and is titled, He Sees You When He’s Creepin’: Tales of Krampus. Kelsi has already finished it and tells me it is FUN.

12 Days of Christmas Horror

While I am on the subject of Krampus, I have included a film about the horrifying creature on my 12 Days of Christmas Horror. Movies are a HUGE part of my Christmas Fun List. I will watch all 12 of my horror movies for the first half of December. Kelsi and I have five Christmas horror movies in common that we will be chatting about on Sunday, 12 December. I watched my first movie (Mercy Christmas) last night, and it was a terrific way to start off my holly, jolly horror movie marathon.

12 Days of Classic Christmas

For the second half of December, I will be watching Classic Christmas movies leading up to Christmas Day. Not everything about Christmas has to be horror-related. Elf and Love Actually are two of my favorite Christmas movies, and I must watch them at least once during the holiday season. Kelsi and I only have one film (It’s A Wonderful Life) in common for this half of the Christmas movie marathon.

Last but not least, Kelsi and I are having a Christmas Evil Challenge that kicked off on December 1st and will last until December 22nd. She and I have been debating the merits of the film, Christmas Evil, since we both watched it for our movie marathon in December 2020. She ADORES it! I DESPISE it! Therefore, we thought it would be fun to reach out to our friends, family, and online communities to settle this debate once and for all. Additionally, there is a giveaway and an Instagram activity connected to the challenge.

Kelsi put together a video explaining the challenge, the rules of the giveway, and how to show your team spirit on Instagram. If you participate on Instagram. please include the hashtag #ChristmasEvilChallenge along with your picture. Team Kat wears green and is a NO for Christmas Evil. Team Kelsi wears red and is a YES for Christmas Evil. And, for those of you who are on the fence about the film, wear white to show that you really don’t know how you feel about it. A livestream is scheduled on Thursday, 23 December at 6:00pm CT where the winner of the challenge will be revealed. We hope you consider joining the challenge and our livestream. It should be a great deal of fun.

Of course, like all of my fun lists, I am open to adding activities if something fun pops up throughout the month. I am open to reading more Christmas-related books, short stories, or articles if time permits. What activities do you have planned for the Christmas season, dear reader? Share in the comments or email me at katloyacano@gmail.com. Maybe something you plan to do will strike my fancy, and I can add it to my list this year or maybe the next. In the meantime, ’tis the season to be jolly. Happiness!

“Christmas,” said Santa, “is about living your life with love and a spirit of giving, friendship, compassion, peace, and bright hope.” ~ Dean Koontz, Robot Santa

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