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I am FINALLY on spring break and thrilled to be on vacation until 25 April. My hubster is on vacation, too! While I will be off from my day job as an instructional coach at HGCS, I have lots to accomplish at home and in my personal life. Most of the tasks and activities I have planned for the next 10 days are expected to be enjoyable. My schedule of activities is in order of the upcoming week, starting with today, Good Friday.

Kat’s Spring Break 2022

  • Lunch (hopefully boiled crawfish) with Mrs. Billie and hubster TODAY
  • Breakfast with Helen and Shelly on Saturday morning; shopping for shoes (dinner theatre)
  • Easter Sunday Mass
  • Writing prep with Claire-one hour (M, W, TH, and maybe F)
  • Consultation with oral surgeon (implant) on Tuesday; visit parents
  • Haircut on Wednesday morning
  • The 5 Secrets to Designing a Joyful Home on-line event on Wednesday evening
  • Book Club Meeting (The Woman in Black) on Thursday evening
  • Hubby’s work picnic on Saturday afternoon
  • Rehearsal at Columbia for dinner theatre on Sunday evening

In the midst of these delightfully scheduled activities (minus oral surgeon visit), I will be learning my lines for my role in The Phantom of the Columbia, organizing my dreadfully cluttered scrapbook room, spending time with the hubster, organizing my Zombie Awareness Month activities for May, writing a blog post or two, and reading a ton. I admit I may be wildly ambitious as to everything I want to achieve over the course of the next 10 days, especially since I am also caring for our rambunctious puppy Luna (more about her in another post).

Luna

However, I am determined, dear reader, to try my very best to accomplish everything on my schedule and to-do list during my spring break. Now, with that being said, I must get started. Luna only naps so long before she demands my undivided attention. Happiness!

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” ~ Jim Rohn

March brought Daylight Saving Time, spring, and a rewarding reading month for me. I completed six books in the month of March, and as of today, I am seven books ahead of schedule. Go, me!

Nonfiction Selection

Life is Messy by Matthew Kelly was my March nonfiction selection. I received this book as a Christmas gift from the administration of my school. Last year, I finally got around to reading a couple of Matthew Kelly’s books, which I had received as gifts from my church parish over the years, and I really enjoyed them. The messages in his books are comforting and inspirational, instead of being preachy, and Life is Messy is no exception. Kelly’s inspiration for this book stems from three years of intense struggles in his own life that he documented in his personal journals. Kelly explains, “It’s what we do with the mess that determines everything.” Life can be messy; however, it can also be filled with joy if one seeks to fill one’s life with goodness. This was an enjoyable 4-star read.

#Read21in21 Challenge

I kicked off the month of March reading a middle grade horror book (or so I thought) and then switched to middle grade realistic fiction for the remainder of the month. I read another Gordon Korman novel because I love his writing, and I was not at all disappointed with my choice. Korman is fast becoming one of my favorite middle grade authors.

The first book was Creep by Eireann Corrigan. I expected a horror novel, but I ended up reading a mystery/thriller novel with a splash of drama. So, needless to say, I was a little disappointed. A new family moves into a house that was vacated by the previous family under unusual circumstances. The family discovers someone is watching them when they receive ominous notes shortly after moving into their new home. A few of the storylines running through the book could have been eliminated, so other storylines could be fleshed out a bit more. Overall, it was a decent read. I gave it 3 stars.

The second book was Ungifted by Gordon Korman. What a funny and heart-warming story! The characters are endearing. I love how the chapters are written in alternating perspectives of the characters. Basically, the main character, Donovan Curtis, accidentally destroys school property at his middle school, setting off a chain of events that lands him at another school for gifted students. Hilarity ensues along with touching moments and a clear message of acceptance at the core of the novel. I had no trouble giving this literary treasure 5 stars.

The third and final book was Rules by Cynthia Lord. Rules was another enjoyable read; however, it has a more serious vibe to it than Ungifted. The main character Catherine is trying to lead a normal life even though she considers her family circumstances not so normal. Her brother has autism, and her parents lean on Catherine a great deal to help with her brother when they work, or she has a social event. Two new people enter her life, and her world becomes complicated. Soon, she learns the pitfalls of not being honest, the true meaning of friendship, and the importance of acceptance. This tender-hearted story easily earned 5 stars from me.

Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club

March’s selection for my book club was the The Troop by Nick Cutter. Oh, my! This book was horrifying, disturbing, and at times, heart-wrenching. Five teenage scouts and their scoutmaster head to Falstaff Island to spend the weekend camping in the wilderness. Shortly after arriving on the island, an emaciated man with a rapacious appetite wanders into their camp, exposing the troop to an unseen threat that soon turns their enjoyable camping trip into a nightmare and a desperate fight for survival. The Troop is one of the best horror novels I have read in quite a while. It is definitely a must-read for horror fans. However, be warned that body horror runs rampant throughout the novel, and children behave brutally towards humans and animals. It is a 5-star read, hands down!

Year of King

March’s selection was The Langoliers. It is one of the four novellas originally published in King’s Four Past Midnight collection. Even though I watched the made-for-tv mini-series back in the 90s, I had never read the novella. Basically, ten passengers and a black-bearded man on Flight 29 from Los Angeles to Boston travel through a time-rip to the past where they encounter the langoliers. They must race against time to survive the menacing timekeepers.

I really enjoyed The Langoliers. It earned a 4-star rating from me. I love a novel with a plethora of characters who have interesting backstories. Stephen King does a fine job with character development. The mini-series sticks pretty close to the novella. There is dialogue in the movie lifted straight off the page. Kelsi and I had a terrific time chatting about The Langoliers and laughed quite a bit. If you were unable to watch us live on 27 March, dear reader, you can check out the recording on Kelsi’s YouTube channel (see below).

That’s all she wrote for March, dear reader. It was another productive and fun month of reading. I recommend all of the books I read in March, especially my 5-star reads.

April starts tomorrow, and I am currently reading Slasher Girls & Monster Boys compiled by April Genevieve Tucholke for #Read21in21. My book club selection for April is The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. The Dark Half is the novel Kelsi and I will be reading for Year of King. We will be chatting live about the novel and the movie on Sunday, 01 May at 2:00 PM. Finally, for my nonfiction choice, I will be reading The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp (with Mark Reiter).

Last but certainly not least, I am also attempting to participate in Kelsi’s Old School April Readathon & Watchathon. I presently do not have a TBR list for the readathon; however, I know I will be reading Night of the Living Dead by R.L. Stine. It will be my Goosebumps book. April is going to be a busy but exciting reading month for me. To see my current book reviews or books I have read in the past, follow me on Goodreads at Katherine Loyacano. Happiness!

“Reading brings us unknown friends” ~ Honoré de Balzac

Daylight Saving Time begins TODAY! I am thrilled, dear reader. Crossing this threshold of the year is the kick in the pants I need to get moving and grooving, especially after the challenges of COVID, Hurricane Ida, and the dark, wintery season. I am ready to tackle the remaining days of this school year, to get back walking on a more regular basis, and to announce some changes in my life that will be taking place soon. Frankly, I could not be more excited about the time change.

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Helen and I went to the movies to see The Batman. This is the film where Robert Pattinson plays Batman and has to outwit the Riddler. It was awesome, and I love Pattinson as Batman. Do you know what is more awesome than the movie? Helen has officially moved back to Louisiana after living out of the state for 12 years. YES! In addition, she lives in Hammond, which is super close to where Shelly and I live, so we get to see her all the time. We have all been friends since high school.

This weekend, our area experienced a cold snap after weeks of warmer temperatures. Normally, I would be bummed, especially since I just put my plants back on the porch last weekend. However, it gave us a pleasant opportunity for my hubby to build a fire in our fireplace. This is the first weekend, this entire winter season, that we could enjoy a cozy fire in the fireplace. When Hurricane Ida caused the tree to hit our house, it knocked off our chimney stack. We just got it reinstalled this past Tuesday. What an unexpected treat!

The day is young, and I am looking forward to accomplishing a few tasks, attending a Baby Sprinkle for my friend Melissa, and going for a walk in the beautiful sunshine. What are your plans on this Sunday, dear reader? Whatever you choose to do, I hope it brings you some joy. Happiness!

“With the coming of spring, I am calm again.” ~ Gustav Mahler

After SIX long months, Andrew is FINALLY back in his bedroom. My hubby and I moved some of Andrew’s furniture into his room on Thursday while he was at school, so I took a few pictures to send to him. On Friday evening after eating dinner at my mother-in-law’s house, Andrew officially moved back home. I am overjoyed and grateful that he is home. I am extremely thankful to Mrs. Billie for letting Andrew stay with her. I am extremely thankful to my Daddy and my husband for all of their hard work getting the repairs completed on the roof and the bedroom. Kudos to my boys for assisting any time we asked them to help with repairs, clearing debris, and yard work. Last but definitely not least, many thanks to you, dear reader, along with friends and family who offered up prayers and sent positive vibes during this ordeal.

Last night, Barry and I had drink night at Shelly and Kerry’s house to celebrate their daughter Aubry’s 21st heavenly birthday. Aubry was stillborn about four months before Andrew was born. It was a heartbreaking time for us all. I hated seeing my friends hurting at the loss of their angel. I make a point every year to acknowledge Aubry’s birthday. On Wednesday when I texted Shelly and Kerry, I suggested that we have a drink night and toast Aubry on what would have been a milestone birthday for her. Kerry, our bartender, mixed Angel’s Delight Martinis, and Shelly prepared Heaven on Earth (yummy dessert made with Angel Food cake). Shelly’s mom Mrs. Carol and her bonus dad Mr. Mike (my Godson) and our long-time friend Helen joined us for the celebration. Mr. Mike even brought over mini muffulettas and a cheese/meat tray. I thought it was a wonderful way to spend time with friends and remember Aubry.

Barry and I are steadily moving forward in March and continue to make progress on the house. The inspector for our mortgage company came on Friday, documents and receipts have been uploaded to our mortgage company and insurance company, and a fence company has been hired to put up our new fence in three weeks (provided it does not rain a whole lot between now and then). We also need to purchase new gutters and clean up more tree debris in the backyard. I am confident that both will happen in the next few weeks. At this moment, our only real hiccup is getting the roofing company to send someone to the house and fix an error on the roof, so we can reinstall our chimney stack. The roofing salesperson is not great at his job, so I am not sure when and if this will happen any time soon. We have been promised twice that someone would come (Friday and Saturday) to make the adjustment; no one has shown up, and the salesperson has not called with an explanation. I am NOT surprised, and my expectations are low. However, I am determined not to get upset and pray it will get resolved in a timely manner.

My life seems to be settling down a bit, dear reader. Since Andrew is back home, we were able to move a bunch of his belongings out of the living room and other areas of the house. What a wonderful feeling to have more open space! I am excited, yes excited, to do some spring cleaning, decluttering, and organizing. I want to get my house back in order before the end of this school year. I get the stitches out of my mouth (where my tooth was extracted, and a bone graft put in its place) on Thursday afternoon. Daylight saving time is next Sunday (woo-hoo!) which means more evening daylight and a happier, more motivated me. Also, Easter break is six weeks away, and the hubster and I will be on vacation together again. In the meantime, I have all sorts of interesting and enjoyable activities on my calendar to keep me busy until the break. Happiness!

“Sometimes life knocks you on your ass… get up, get up, get up!!! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.” ~ Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free 

February may have been a short month, but it was a productive reading month for me. I completed seven books in the month of February, and as of today, I am four books ahead of schedule. Woot-Woot!

Nonfiction Selection

Even though I absolutely adore reading horror and thrillers (my favorite genre), I also enjoy reading realistic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, nonfiction, and a good mystery. The only genre I am not a huge fan of is romance. Therefore, each month, I plan to read at least one nonfiction book in addition to everything else I have slated for the month. Back in January, my book club chose a nonfiction book, so I did not choose a separate title in that category like I did for February.

Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore by Patric Richardson and written with Karin B. Miller was my February nonfiction selection. I received this book as a gift from mon frere Simon. I never in a million years thought I would read, much less enjoy, a book about laundry. It is a delightful read about how to properly take care of laundering any textiles that you own. Richardson gives you lists of necessary supplies for washing clothes as well as for removing stains. There is a section devoted to types of stains and how to treat them. Another section lists various textiles and how to clean them. In addition, he claims a dry cleaner is no longer necessary, even if the tag on the article of clothing states “dry clean only.” While Laundry Love is technically a resource guide on how to properly take care of laundry, it is written with humor and more like a story than a reference book. An appendix with recipes from the women influencers from his Appalachian upbringing is included in the back of the book. This was a pleasurable 5-star read for me.

#Read21in21 Challenge

As I mentioned last month, this daily reading challenge is devoted to children’s literature which I adore just as much as horror and thrillers. Last month, I did focus on middle grade horror selections. However, for February, most of my selections were middle grade realistic fiction with the exception of my first read being middle grade horror. I fell in love with every one of the main characters in the books I read this month, especially Ollie in Small Spaces and Hope in Hope: Project Middle School.

The first book was Small Spaces by Katherine Arden. It is a terrifically well-written middle grade ghost story that takes place on a farm with a creepy past, a deadly secret, and the Smiling Man. Ollie and her two classmates work together to save themselves and the rest of their class in this spine-tingling adventure. It is the first book in the Small Spaces series. I gave it 5 spooktacular stars.

The second book was The Unteachables by Gordon Korman. This tender-hearted story is about redemption and not giving up. It has well-written, likable characters and lots of humor. Each chapter is designated to a character in the book giving his or her viewpoint. It was an entertaining 5-star read for me.

The third book was Firegirl by Tony Abbott. I have been wanting to read this short book for quite some time. It is a moving story about accepting others, the power of friendship, and having the courage to get to know someone who looks differently than you. This is a wonderful coming of age story that is worthy of receiving 5 stars.

The fourth book was Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech. Another heartwarming story about a young boy named Louie who decides to nurse a sick donkey despite his unfortunate attempts at helping critters in the past. This story shares a beautiful message of empathy, compassion, and the meaning of love with its readers. I also gave this literary gem 5 stars.

The fifth and final book was Hope: Project Middle School by Alyssa Milano and written with Debbie Rigaud. It is not surprising that this was another fantastic 5-star read for me. I absolutely adore the main character Hope and her story about navigating through her first year of middle school. Hope is smart, friendly, confident, loves animals, and wants to save the world. It is the first book in the Hope series.

I look forward to reading more great stories from these authors and continuing the series featuring Ollie and Hope. Reading middle grade books brings me lots of JOY.

Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club/Year of King

February’s selection for both my book club and Year of King was Gerald’s Game by Stephen King. This was a reread for me; however, it had been so long since I read it that I could only remember that Jessie and her husband Gerald go away to their lake house for a little hanky-panky. Soon after they arrive, Jessie is handcuffed to the bed, and Gerald suffers a heart attack and dies. Therefore, I felt like I was reading Gerald’s Game for the first time. Basically, Jessie is left all alone to face the demons of her past and her present fears that threaten her future. Personally, this was a hard book to read because of content. King tackles sexual abuse, abused women, as well as female inequality in Gerald’s Game and does it in a respectful way. Like Misery, there is no supernatural element, but there are human monsters, and sometimes they are scarier than the boogyman. I gave Gerald’s Game 4 stars, not because it was poorly written, but more or less, I think it could have been condensed in parts, especially those pertaining to the sexual abuse and the length of time it took Jessie to take some action in saving her own life. I was also a little disappointed with the mysterious presence in the bedroom and would have liked that element to have played out differently.

As for the movie adaptation of Gerald’s Game, well…it was okay. I rated it 3 stars. I think I would have rated it higher if I had not read the book. After watching the movie, it made me appreciate the novel more, and it also made me realize the slow pacing of the novel may have been mirroring how Jessie was feeling during her horrific ordeal, exhausted. I found it exhausting to read at times. Mike Flanagan did a fine job directing this film, considering I never imagined it could be done since so much of the story takes place in Jessie’s mind. There are significant differences between the book and movie. While the cast was chosen well overall, their portrayal of the characters was unlike the book. Gerald is attractive and more understanding in the movie than in the novel, suggesting a different perspective of what really happened between the Burlingame couple at the lake house. Kelsi and I had an interesting chat about Gerald’s Game and discussed it more in depth along with tidbits surrounding both the novel and the movie. If you were unable to watch our live chat on Sunday, 27 February, you can check out the recording on Kelsi’s YouTube channel (see below).

That’s my reading round up for February, dear reader. I am super proud of the amount of reading I did throughout the month. I recommend all of the books I read in February, including Gerald’s Game. However, if you have never read a Stephen King novel, I do not suggest starting with Gerald’s Game. Misery would be a better first read in my opinion.

March has officially started, and I am currently reading Creep by Eireann Corrigan for #Read21in21. My book club selection for March is The Troop by Nick Cutter. The Langoliers is the novella Kelsi and I will be reading for Year of King. It is part of my Four Past Midnight collection. We will be chatting live about the novella and the mini series on Sunday, 27 March at 2:00 PM. Finally, for my nonfiction choice, I will be reading Life is Messy by Matthew Kelly. To see my current book reviews or books I have read in the past, follow me on Goodreads at Katherine Loyacano. Happiness!

“There are many little ways to enlarge your world.  Love of books is the best of all.” ~ Jacqueline Kennedy

Determination Day

Today is the last day of February, and for the past few weeks (really all month) I have been feeling a bit discouraged. I have not made much headway on my 22 for 2022 list. I have not written a blog post in weeks. I have been struggling more with my house still being in shambles because of Ida. I made the crazy decision to adopt a rescue puppy, complicating my life. My tooth cracked last week and had to be extracted, causing me great discomfort. The pain meds make me tired as well as feeling worthless and weepy. And, sadly, I ended my walking streak (walking daily since 03/23/20) on Friday because I slept most of the day, and quite frankly, I did not have the energy to do much of anything but hang out on my sofa. Welcome to Kat’s Pity Party! Even though I am not a pro at feeling sorry for myself, I feel like it has been my modus operandi lately.

Luckily for me, I came across an article on Facebook today that Gretchen Rubin wrote for Inc. Magazine about turning today from discouragement into determination. Rubin writes, “Instead of Discouragement Day, let’s reframe February 28 as Determination Day–a date that reminds us to reflect, review, and do the hard work of asking ourselves, “If something isn’t working, why not?” If we’re determined to keep our resolutions, we shouldn’t fear failure. We should stop, observe it, and learn from it, so we can keep going.”

Therefore, after reading the article, I took several moments throughout the day to reflect and review on the happenings of this month, and February has actually been better than the narrative I have been telling myself all month. I am making progress with my goals, just not by leaps and bounds. I made a little extra cash this month working the ACT exam at SLU which will go towards future projects. I did fairly well not spending extra money during Frugal February. I continued reading more this month and participated in both my personal book club and Year of King project with Kelsi. I am currently writing this blog post. Yes, I adopted a puppy, for good reasons, even though the timing was not ideal. I helped my friend Helen move into her new place to be closer to Shelly and me. And, although my house is still a wreck due to Ida, my hubby and Daddy are working every chance they get to rebuild Andrew’s bedroom, so he can move back home, and we can finally get our home back in order again. They are making progress, but it is slow going. Honestly, after much reflection, I think the disorder of my home is the root of my overwhelming feelings, the frustration, impatience, and lack of concentration I have been feeling that has bubbled over into this month as discouragement. So many days this month, I felt like throwing in the towel and giving up because I just did not see the point. I am not a failure, but I am burnt out. I still feel like I am on the struggle bus, but my season of sacrifice feels like it is ending soon.

Hope is on the horizon, dear reader. A tree guy came Saturday to remove trees and trim broken branches. My hubby has been installing Andrew’s new floor since yesterday. I am super impressed with his skill set and his determination. Tomorrow, my daddy and my hubby will install baseboards and shoe moulding. Then, we can start moving Andrew’s belongings back into his room. An inspection request has been made and more progress along with it. Discouragement has changed to Determination. Happiness!

“You will reach the destination you are destined for! You just may encounter a few detours or unexpected routes. Allow them to motivate you rather than discourage you!” ~ Christine Hassler

Photo: Flooring being installed in Andrew’s room. Notice crown moulding has been installed as well.

We are in the middle of the winter season, and I am counting down the days until spring. As you know, dear reader, I have to work hard to fight off the winter doldrums. This winter season seems particularly harder than past seasons with continuing to deal with COVID conditions and the aftermath of Ida on top of a holiday season that flew by so quickly my face feels chapped from the wind burn. I know, a bit melodramatic. However, the festive season came and went with a flurry of activity, followed by more flurries of activity, leaving Kelsi and I no time to really stop to catch our breath. Hence, why my Christmas Fun List wrap up post is late. I almost decided to scrap it; however, my bestie Shelly encouraged me to write it because, after all, someone might want to read it. Without further ado, this is how I spent my Christmas season.

MOVIES: Classic Christmas

In the month of December, I watch 24 Christmas related films, 12 are Christmas Horror and 12 are what I consider Classic Christmas. Kelsi and I already wrapped our Christmas Horror movies topped nicely with a bow. You can check out my blog post and YouTube chat with Kelsi if you are interested in the horror films we watched earlier in the Christmas season.

I had a terrific time watching the movies on my Classic Christmas list. My top three films were all movies I have seen several times but really, really love. To be fair, I generally watch Love Actually and Elf every Christmas, so I probably should not even include them on my annual fun list. The Holiday is a delightful romantic comedy and was fun to revisit this year, especially because of the dreamy Jude Law. Surprisingly, this year was the first time watching It’s a Wonderful Life. This FABULOUS movie is about being grateful for your blessings, not taking your life for granted, and getting second chances.

All four movies are 5 stars in my book. I could watch them over and over, and it would never get dull. Pottersville: A Magical Life rounded out my Top 5 films with 4 stars. It was my first watch and definitely a good time. The main character Maynard gets mistaken for Bigfoot after he is caught wallowing in moonshine and cavorting around town in the middle of the night. The Holiday Calendar (another Hallmark-esque romantic comedy), right on the heels of Pottersville, is about a magical Advent calendar that shows the main character Abby that dreams can come true in unexpected ways. The Night Before (adult humor), The Christmas Chronicles (kids catching Santa off guard), and Rise of the Guardians (holiday representatives come together to solve a problem) all received 4 stars as well for pure enjoyment. Rise of the Guardians was another rewatch and every bit enjoyable as the first time I watched it with Andrew in the theater many moons ago. My 3-star movies included Holidate (more adult humor mixed with a Hallmark vibe), Surviving Christmas with the Relatives (British comedy), and Unaccompanied Minors (kids catching airport officials off guard). Unaccompanied Minors replaced Almost Christmas since I could not get the DVD in time from Netflix. All of the Classic Christmas movies on my list this year were enjoyable, and I would recommend all twelve of them.

Books/Short Stories

I read my first Fear Street book, Silent Night, by R.L. Stine. Kelsi gifted me a copy for Christmas. I loved the thematic setting at Christmastime blended with a mystery, murder, and mayhem. The other books that I read this season were Robot Santa (sequel to Santa’s Twin) by Dean Koontz, Wraith (prequel to NOS4A2) by Joe Hill, and He Sees You When He’s Creepin’: Tales of Krampus (collection of 12 short stories) edited by Kate Wolford. All of my books received 5 stars

because they are all awesome, in my opinion. What a great reading season! Kelsi and I talk more in depth about our books and movies in our wrap up chat which you can watch at your leisure. I have included our video below for your viewing pleasure.

Thematic Potpourri

In addition to amazing books and several terrific movies, I wore Christmas socks and pins. I added gnome socks and a Grinch t-shirt to my Christmas clothing collection. On the subject of gnomes, I bought a few to add to my Christmas decor. I am officially obsessed with GNOMES. My affinity for these small mythical creatures happened quite by accident when I found a couple of them at Hobby Lobby to add to my autumn decor.

I am also collecting little birds that reflect the season. You will notice them popping up here and there in my pictures. I received one a few Christmases ago, and since this last fall (again shopping for autumn decor), I am noticing them for other holiday seasons. In addition to buying Christmas decor, I bought Christmas cards to send out to my family and friends. I love sending cards to my favorite people for Christmas and for other special occasions. Funny enough, I picked out my cards way before I knew I was joyspotting in 2022.

No fun list is complete without thematic adult beverages and food. Unfortunately, I did not do any baking this year for Christmas. However, I enjoyed two new cocktails. The first concoction was a Mistletoe Margarita that I made for our family get-together on my husband’s side.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Silver Tequila
  • 1/2 cup Triple Sec
  • 1 1/2 cups Cranberry Juice
  • 1/2 cup Lime Juice
  • 1/2 cup Simple Syrup

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to large pitcher.
  • Stir well.
  • Pour into individual glasses over ice.

That is sugar on the rim of the glass.

The second concoction was a Cherry Ripe Martini that Kerry, Shelly’s husband, made for my hubby and me on Christmas evening, one of our favorite drink nights to spend with awesome friends. This year, my two boys came over and hung out with all of us.

Ingredients

  • 30 ml White Creme De Cacoa
  • 30 ml Cherry Liquor
  • 20 ml Vodka
  • 100 ml Coconut Milk

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to large pitcher.
  • Stir well.
  • Pour into individual martini glass over drizzled Hershey’s chocolate syrup.

I also bought a “happy” for myself. OwlCrate, a YA book subscription box I have purchased in the past, offered a 12 Days of OwlMas box for the holiday season, and I ordered one. Starting on Monday, 13 December, I opened one gift each day for twelve days leading up to Christmas Day. I recorded my unboxing each day through pictures on my Instagram account (katherineloyacano). It inspired me to make a 12 Days of Christmas “happy” for Kelsi with all kinds of little gifts related to pop culture that she loves. I had a blast gathering the gifts, wrapping them, and writing out the clues on each tag. I love this project so much that I want to do it again next year and plan to expand it. Plus, I have all year to gather the little gifts instead of just a couple of weeks.

December was a fun-filled month that made my life merry and bright. I spent time with amazing people, participated in awesome activities, and received some great gifts. As I mentioned before, dear reader, creating a fun list for a holiday, a month, or even a season adds a happiness boost to your life. It can be as simple or as extravagant as you want it to be, but the goal is to add a little extra fun to your existing plans. Stay warm, dear reader. Happiness!

“Christmas,” says Santa,” is about living your life with love and a spirit of giving, friendship, compassion, peace, and bright hope.” ~ Dean Koontz, Robot Santa: The Further Adventures of Santa’s Twin

As I mentioned earlier in the month when I announced all of my goals for the year, I joined the 2022 Reading Challenge on Goodreads. My goal for this year is 50 books. I completed five books in the month of January, and as of today, I am one book ahead of schedule. Go me!

Even though reading is one of my absolute favorite ways of spending my time, I have to make reading a priority. Therefore, setting a yearly reading goal, adding books to seasonal fun lists, buddy reading with Kelsi, and participating in a book club as well as a daily reading challenge ensure I will not only make time to read daily, but I will also reach my goal on Goodreads.

Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club

Kelsi and I formed the Chills, Thrills, & Kills Book Club in the spring of 2021. Our members nominate books each month which Kelsi and I narrow down to four choices; then, everyone votes on a selection.

Our January book was nominated by Rachael and won the majority of the votes. Kelsi asked for nominations that had a wintry vibe to it, and Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar definitely fit the bill. It was our first nonfiction selection, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I gave it 4 stars and had a great time discussing it with my book club. The story captivated my interest immediately. I love a good mystery, especially if it is a true story with unsettling circumstances.

Nine young hikers die in 1959 on a hiking expedition to Otorten Mountain in the Northern Urals of Russia. The author, Donnie Eichar, stumbles upon this riveting case while researching for a scripted film project. He is so captivated by the mysterious case and its eerie circumstances that he ventures all the way from the United States to Russia to determine the true cause of the hikers’ demise that fateful night in 1959.

#Read21in21 Challenge

I know that we are in 2022 and Gretchen Rubin’s #Read21in21 is finished, but I enjoyed this challenge so much last year that I decided to do it again this year and kept the hashtag. Last year, I used the daily challenge to read nonfiction. This year, I am reading Children’s Literature which I adore to a great extent. I read three books this month, all middle grade horror selections, for my daily challenge.

The first book was Haunt by K. R. Alexander. It is a good middle grade ghost story worthy of earning its 3-star rating. It’s a fun and fast read.

The second book was Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh. I love this delightful book which is also a ghost story with lots of suspense and chilling moments mixed with cultural identity and well-developed characters. It is the first book in the series. It was a 5-star read for me.

The third book was Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon. Another 5-star read for me. It is creepy, suspenseful, and has an awful monster called the Seeker who turns a popular kids’ game into a nightmare.

Year of King

Kelsi and I are spending each month of 2022 reading a novel, novella, or short story written by Stephen King. Afterwards, we will watch the screen adaptation or adaptations, if there is more than one. Each month, we will have a livestream chat to discuss what we read and watched with tidbits about King’s writing process, the actors, and more.

January’s selection was Misery. It was actually a reread and a rewatch for me. However, it had been a good while since I had read or watched Misery, so it was almost like reading it or watching it for the first time with fresh eyes. Also, I am a good bit older than my first experience with the material. Perspectives change and scenes are long forgotten. Kelsi and I chose Misery because the story begins in the winter. In fact, author Paul Sheldon actually crosses paths with the peculiar Annie Wilkes in the midst of a blizzard.

I really, really, enjoyed Misery. It earned a 5-star rating from me. It has so many awesome scenes in both the novel and movie. Anyone who is a horror fan and has not yet read Misery, should definitely give it a whirl along with watching the movie. James Caan does a terrific job in the role as Paul Sheldon, and Kathy Bates does an outstanding job as Annie Wilkes. Bates’s portrayal of Paul’s number one fan earned her an Oscar. Kelsi and I had an absolute blast chatting about Misery. If you were unable to watch us live on 23 January, dear reader, you can check out the recording on Kelsi’s YouTube channel (see below).

That’s a wrap of the books I read this month. I think January was a fairly productive reading month for me. I am currently reading Small Spaces by Katherine Arden for #Read21in21. My book club selection for February is Gerald’s Game by Stephen King. It also happens to be the novel Kelsi and I are reading for Year of King in February. I know, I know, we are double dipping. However, it did get the majority of the votes in our poll. And yes…Kelsi and I nominated it. To see my current book reviews or books I have read, follow me on Goodreads at Katherine Loyacano. Happiness!

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” ~ Richard Steele

As mentioned in my previous post, I decided to track my time for an additional week to get a clearer picture of how I am spending my time. Therefore, this analysis is from the week of 17 January – 23 January. During this week, I worked 32.5 hours at school and devoted 54 hours to sleep. This left me with 81.5 hours to spend in other areas of my life.

Therefore, how did I spend those remaining 81.5 hours?

  • Morning Routine (T-F): 5.75 hours 
  • Morning Routine (M/SAT-SUN): 3 hours
  • Travel to and from work (T-TH): 2.25 hours
  • Travel to and from other places: 4.25 hours
  • Afternoon Routine (M-TH): .5 of an hour (pet care for Tooty and cats, unpacking lunch box and school bag)
  • Chores: 11 hours (loading dishwasher, laundry, floors, washing out litter pan, bathrooms)
  • Walk (20 for 2022 Challenge): 2.75 hours
  • Read (includes #Read21in21 Challenge): 5.5 hours
  • Instagram Post (#yearofjoy2022): 1 hour
  • Goodreads: .5 of an hour 
  • Meals: 3.75 hours 
  • Evening Routine: 3.75 hours (shower; take Tooty out before bed)
  • Blog: 5.25 hours (Sunday-write, edit, revise, publish)
  • Content Creation: 13.75 hours (collaboration with Kelsi-YouTube)
  • TV Shows/Movies/YouTube: 2.5 hours
  • Napping: 0 hours
  • Social Events/Errands: 7.75 hours
  • Hanging out with Andrew: 1 hour

As a result, 74.25 hours were spent with family/friends, walking, creating content, fulfilling commitments/life responsibilities, and completing household tasks. My time bank still had 7.25 hours, and those additional hours were spent on other activities, such as playing Trivia Crack, interacting on social media (FB and Instagram), texting, phone calls, checking email, time-tracking, or puttering around the house.

It was an unusual, but gratifying, week since I was off Monday instead of Friday (MLK Day), played Pokeno on Monday evening (as a sub), attended Elton John’s concert with Shelly on Wednesday evening (original date 06/2020), worked from home on Friday (weather day), and did a livestream with Kelsi (Misery) on Sunday.

Clearly, the two weeks I tracked were not exactly the same. I had 2.5 extra hours this week than last week. So, on average I have about 6 hours a week to spend on my goals for 2022. Compared to last year when I had 19 hours, that is not very much time. Nevertheless, I am not discouraged. Last year, we had stricter COVID restrictions, so I was home more. After today, I do not have any social events scheduled for February or March. I am also participating in Frugal February again this year since it was a huge success last year. Therefore, my extra hours may increase considerably. In the next few weeks, I am considering keeping track of the time spent on items from my 22 for 2022 list.

There you have it, dear reader. Two weeks of time tracking, and I am a bit wiser about where my time is going, so I can adjust my schedule to be more productive and reach my goals for the year. It is also clear to me that I cannot do EVERYTHING I want to do at the same time. I will need to protect my extra time for the next two months and finish the first quarter of the year strong. In the meantime, I need to get ready to leave for Canton, Mississippi where I am attending an Audition Intensive Workshop today. Happiness!

“We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.” ~ John F. Kennedy

Note: Photo at the top is by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Pexels.com.

During the week of 10 January, I participated in Laura Vanderkam’s Time-Tracking Challenge. Laura hosts this annual challenge in January, so it is no coincidence that “time track in January” is a goal for this year (#1 on my 22 for 2022 list). I find time tracking beneficial, especially when I am feeling overwhelmed or need to make some changes, and 2022 is all about CHANGE.

My week started with 168 hours on Monday 10 January at 5:00 in the morning. Two categories that took up a huge chunk of my time were work (instructional coach at a PreK2-8th school) and sleep. 32 hours were spent at work and 56 hours were spent sleeping. This left me with 80 hours to spend on other tasks or activities during the week.

So, how did I spend the remaining 80 hours of my week?

  • Morning Routine (M-TH): 7.25 hours 
  • Morning Routine (F-SUN): 2.25 hours

My morning routine consists of pet care for one dog (Sophie crossed the rainbow bridge on 07 January), two cats, and a snake, personal care for myself, making coffee, preparing breakfast (eat at school), preparing my lunch, unloading the dishwasher, posting on FB (Monday/Wednesday). Sometimes, I may transfer a load of laundry that washed overnight into the dryer or do another quick task.

  • Travel to and from work (M-TH): 2.75 hours
  • Travel to and from other places: 6.5 hours
  • Afternoon Routine (M-TH): 1 hour (pet care for Tooty and cats, unpacking lunch box and school bag)
  • Chores: 7.75 hours (loading dishwasher, laundry, floors, getting my scrapbook room in order)
  • Walk (20 for 2022 Challenge): 2.75 hours
  • Read (includes #Read21in21 Challenge): 5.5 hours
  • Instagram Post (#yearofjoy2022): 1.25 hours
  • Goodreads: .25 of an hour 

Gretchen Rubin created the walking (2020) and reading (2021) challenges which I enjoyed participating in both years that I continue to incorporate them in my daily routine. Both activities increase my happiness, provide a sense of satisfaction, and bring more joy into my life. I am all about more JOY in 2022.

  • Meals: 4 hours 
  • Evening Routine: 3.25 hours (shower; take Tooty out before bed)
  • Blog: 3.5 hours (Sunday-write, edit, revise, publish)
  • TV Shows/Movies/YouTube: 5.25 hours
  • Napping: 2.25 hours
  • Social Events/Errands: 9.5 hours

My social events for this week included a delightful dinner with my friend Roxanne on Monday evening, Connie Kittok’s art show and dinner in Ponchatoula with Andrew on Thursday evening, shopping and lunch with Andrew on Friday morning/afternoon, and a wedding with my hubby on Friday evening. Before Andrew and I went shopping, I went to the post office to mail a small package to my friend Rita (lives in England) and stopped at PJ’s coffee to pick up a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and a mocha latte.

As a result, 50.5 hours were spent on life responsibilities, 9.25 hours were spent traveling, and 5.25 hours were spent watching television shows, movies, or YouTube for a total of 65 hours.

This left me with 15 hours left over in my weekly bank of hours. Of my remaining time, I spent 3.5 hours of those hours hanging out with either Andrew or Barry, Jr. at home. My birthday was on Tuesday, and I wanted to read and respond to all of my beautiful birthday wishes, so I spent 6.75 hours of the week reading and responding to texts, emails, and FB messages, opening and reading birthday cards that came in the mail, opening gifts, as well as talking to family and friends on the phone. I absolutely do NOT feel badly about spending my time this way because it brought me so much joy to receive so many kind messages, and it was a wonderful way to enjoy the week. The remaining 4.75 hours was spent playing Trivia Crack, scrolling through social media (mainly FB), texting, email, time-tracking, or puttering around the house.

So, what did I learn during this Time-Tracking Challenge, and how do I use this week’s data?

Clearly, between this being my birthday week and socializing a bunch with family and friends throughout the week, I did not have a great deal of spare time to devote to my aims for 2022. With that being said, I still had 4.75 hours that I could have used to complete a module in my blogging course or complete the journaling for one of the pages in Andrew’s Ireland scrapbook. I could come up with a litany of reasons as to why I chose scrolling over scribing, but they would be excuses instead of legitimate reasons. Honestly, I did not make that time a priority. And, it is not to say that all of the time was spent on mindless phone play. “Puttering around the house” is not necessarily wasted time. It is the time where I squeeze those little tasks in between major tasks, such as going through the mail, writing a check, putting a book back on the shelf, or taking out the trash.

However, I am only working four days a week this year. Last year at this time, my time-tracking log showed I worked 43.5 hours. This week, I logged 32 hours. Instead of working, I spent Friday of this year running errands and spending time with Andrew (shopping and lunch in Mandeville). Part of the shopping experience was buying a gift for the wedding; however, Andrew was free to hang out and keep me company on the way to the store to buy the gift, so we made it a day with more shopping at American Eagle and Barnes & Noble and ate lunch at La Madeleine. It is a bit of a drive, so we enjoyed lots of conversation on the drive there and back.

Although, I would love for my Fridays to be devoted strictly towards my aims for the year, it is not realistic. That is not to say, I have not used my Fridays to write a blog post or work on content for a video I am doing with Kelsi. The reality is I use my Fridays to schedule doctors’ appointments or other appointments, catch up on household chores, run errands, or deal with the unexpected that crops up that day or I do not have the energy to deal with earlier in the week. Sometimes, I just want to have a day off and do nothing in particular, especially if I have a full weekend ahead of me.

Not surprisingly, I decided to time track an additional week, dear reader. I am trying to get a clearer picture of where my time is going and the best way to schedule my time by adjusting my morning and evening routines during the work week as well as my routines on the weekend. I will be posting that analysis shortly. As always, I am a work in progress and moving slowly, but steadily to making change to live my best life. Happiness!

“Change isn’t easy, it takes time.” ~ Caroline Kennedy

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