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November 2015
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February 2016

What I'm Into (December 2015 Edition)

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Where did 2015 go? I swear it just started. Then again, I've managed to cram a ton of earth-shattering change into this year so maybe I can believe the end of December draws near. 2016 is bound to be filled with more change and I can say with great confidence: I'm ready.



Read and Reading

PicMonkey Collage

Neverwhere (Gaiman) was a thoroughly enjoyable journey start to finish. I would love to understand how Gaiman came up with the story and created such a fascinating world. The character development is top notch and I was sad when the book ended.

Cutting For Stone (Verghese) is an epic story of two brothers and their unusual entry into the world kept me captivated. I loved learning more about Ethiopia and the healthcare developments that came about in the 60s up to the present. Verghese's characters offer unusual insights about faith, family, community, and fate. There were a few aspects that were very "this was written by a male author" but I forgave him for those because of the beautiful plot and moving resolution. (I may or may not have been crying on the plane.)  

Understanding the Enneagram (Riso and Hudson) is such a good resource for those wanting to delve deeper into the Enneagram and how it works. The chapters on type misidentifications and practical tips for each type are outstanding. I wouldn't recommend this as the first people read on the Enneagram but it's a great next step after reading The Wisdom of the Enneagram.


You can see all the books I've read at Goodreads

Currently reading: Embracing the Body (Owen), The Complete Enneagram (Chestnut), The Art of Memoir (Karr), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices For Personal Renewal (Yamasaki), Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song (Bareilles), Goodness and Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (editor Leach), Winter (Meyer)

(I read 9 books this month. I read 141 books this year.)



Must-see TV: Real Housewives of Orange County, Once Upon A Time, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Top Chef

I did some more housesitting this month, which meant I got to watch more Hallmark Christmas movies! They may be cheesy but they make me happy. (Check out Addie's Hallmark Christmas Bingo printables so you can play along. Because those movies are still on!)

I made it to season 7 of West Wing. I've lost steam but it's still such a good show.

Anyone else excited for the return of Downton Abbey and the Sherlock special? 



I listened to all my Christmas favorites: Bebo Norman, Over The Rhine, Sufjan.  

Listen to the What I'm Into 2015 playlist.



I am in love with Off Camera with Sam Jones. He has such an impressive guest list but the conversations are what set it apart. I could listen to him talk to Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Connie Britton all day.

The new season of Start Up has been SO GOOD. Diversity Report was ballsy.

Who's listening to the new season of Serial? When I heard Bowe Bergdahl was going to be the subject, I was ambivalent. But now that I see how Sarah Koenig is going about it, I am all in. She's taking on the US military, a sprawling mess of a system, and interviewing members of the Taliban. Holy buckets.

I loved hearing Martin Sheen opine on faith and activism on On Being with Krista Tippett. 


Things I Love:

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  • I went to Baker Beach with Micha, Brooksie, and Ace to admire the view of the Golden Gate Bridge and take my Christmas card photo. The beach is gorgeous!
  • Lunch with Micha and Laura at Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company- be sure to try the Autumn Bier!
  • I had a great time catching up with my friend Julie on the phone. Do you have friends who affirm qualities you didn't even know you possessed? Julie is one of those for me. What a gift.

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  • We had an amazing staff Christmas party! I got all gussied up in a new dress. The food was beyond amazing, as was the wine. It was fun to hang out with everyone in a place other than where we work!

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  • My cousin Nick, his girlfriend Erin, and I had a lovely morning exploring one of my favorite places: Sutro Baths. The ocean was especially angry that day and I could not stop watching the waves. We did a short hike and then walked through part of the Golden Gate Park, before eating lunch at Beach Chalet. It was just nice enough to sit on the patio. I really love getting to hang out with Nick! It's such a treat to live near each other.

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  • I had dinner at Nopalito with two friends from high school who live in SF. It took a few months for our schedules to finally behave but it was so fun catching up with them and talking about where life has taken us since we cheered for the Falcons. It's hard to believe our 20 year reunion is only a couple years away. 
  • We had our last 1-4-2 Enneagram group. I loved getting to know the people in my group and learning more about our types and how they intersect. It even led to a breakthrough! Highly recommended.
  • The place I housesat at this month had so many cute details, including diner-style seating in the kitchen and turquoise subway tile in the bathroom. Swoon!
  • Compass Books in SFO. If your flight is delayed by a few hours, you might as well browse at a fantastic independent bookstore that's filled with staff recommendations. 
  • Seeing the Hancock Building and Sears Tower as the plane circled Chicago and brought me home for Christmas.
  • Going to lunch at Portillo's the first day so I could get a hot dog and fries. I dream about those fries, I tell you. 

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  • My best friend Erin and I went to Little Goat for our annual Christmas dinner. We sat at the counter this time, which was a fun change. I devoured the Korean Burger, which had kimchi, bacon, and a fried egg on it. We were stuffed afterward but the real highlight was the conversation. Laughter, tears, shoulder jabs, and all.
  • The next day Erin, her kids, and I went to Prairie Path Books, a darling newish bookstore in my hometown. I could not stop exploring their selection. And because it's important to support your local bookstore, I bought Trigger Warning. I'm going to be on a Neil Gaiman kick for a while. 
  • Next we got tea at SereneTeaz and then we headed to her house for lunch. We watched the new season of Top Chef and then we all opened Christmas presents. My gifts were a big hit! My niece-in-love and nephew-in-love asked me to read the books I gave them. Victory!
  • My old roomie Donna and I closed out Starbucks and then she kept an eye on traffic while I stood in traffic to capture the perfect Christmas lights. (Picture at the top of this post.) That's friendship.
  • My friend Jill and I gabbed away at a different Starbucks the next morning. The new Joy tea is amazing- so much better than the one Starbucks used to offer.
  • I hit the thrift store jackpot: I found a Christian Dior blazer and a Tory Burch coat. 
  • My brother, sister-in-law, and most importantly, my niece came home for Christmas. She let me hold her right away, even though it was past her bedtime. She is the best and I loved every second together, especially the way she "communicates." The cutest "oohs" and "dadas" you've ever heard.
  • We hosted my dad's side of the family Christmas Eve. My second cousin Lewellyn brought Christmas poppers with her that had wind-up reindeer we could race and different whistles which could be conducted into playing Christmas carols. It was hilarious!

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  • My niece didn't quite know what to make of her first Christmas but we sure got a kick out of her. My brother would start opening the present for her and then she might rip a piece or get the present out or she might play with a hanger instead. 
  • We spent the rest of Christmas day with my mom's side of the family. It was so good being with everyone. We ate a ton and mostly talked the day away. One of my cousin's daughters wanted to snuggle with me, which is quite the accomplishment because she's definitely not a toddler anymore. 
  • The day after Christmas I met up with my pal Annie at Blackberry Market. I adore their tea selection. Annie and I have known each other since freshman year of high school and there's such comfort in talking things through with her because of the shorthand we've developed and all that we still have in common. She's a good egg.
  • On the way out of Blackberry Market, I got to say hi to my friends Karin and Kim who were both in town. It was so fun to see them and get quick updates!


  • My friend Megan drove all the way out to pick me up. I took her to lunch at Egglectic, then introduced her to the marvels of SereneTeaz, before we headed back to her house. I love hanging out with her family. Plus, her house is the coziest. We enjoyed cocktails by the fire, cuddled with her cat Leo, and had a kitchen dance party. The next day was low-key hang out time, including waffles her daughter made with her new waffle maker. They spoil me!
  • My friend Laura and I went to Graham's 318 in Geneva, which has changed a bit since my last time there but is still as great as always. Our time together goes way too fast but we still did our best to solve the world's problems. I am always amazed by Laura's memory and her ability to quote people, books, and lyrics verbatim. It's a true skill.
  • Mom made me a few comfort food dinners while I was in town: Chicken Wild Rice Soup, Beef Stew, and Steak and Mashed Potatoes. She also made a nut-free coffee cake just for me. 
  • My flight made it out of Chicago in the knick of time! The winter weather advisory was no joke but I made it back to San Francisco safe and sound.
  • Micha picked me up from the airport and the boys gave me a warm welcome home. Baby Ace and I had a lot of catching up to do and he was happy to show me his newest tricks.
  • My coworker Katie and I had breakfast at Jane, where I ordered $4 toast. Proof I really do live in SF. (In my defense, it was slathered in peanut butter, honey, banana, and chia seeds.)
  • Today I'm headed to the LA area to see my friend JJ and then I'll meet up with my friend Sharone to go to the Rose Parade. I'm so excited! Happy New Year, everyone!


Favorite Instagram:

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Y'all, I really live here! #TheYearOfLeigh

(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)



What I'm Into

What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:

1. Today’s link-up will stay open for one week. The next What I'm Into link up will be Monday February 1.  

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3. Please include the What I'm Into button or mention you're linking up with What I'm Into at Leigh Kramer.

4. Visit at least 2 other posts in the linkup!




What have you been into this month? 

Disclosure : Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click throughany purchase you make supports this site.

Tired Of Waiting (On Advent and Singleness)


I wrote this for a publication who ended up not running it after all. Advent may have ended but I worked hard on this piece. Since there are 12 days of Christmas, I thought I'd publish it anyway. I'm still looking for the light in this season. Maybe you are, too.


As a child, I loved everything about Christmas. The carols, decorating the tree, the candlelight Christmas Eve services, and even the snow. The ultimate anticipation lay with what we might find beneath the tree. It was always worth the wait, even if I didn’t get everything on my Christmas list.

I believed waiting for something always ended with a resolution. You wait. You receive that which you’re waiting for.

Then I grew up and realized that’s not how life works. At least, not for most of us.

I check ring fingers reflexively. The guy reading a book while on MUNI, the musician at church, the man in front of me at a coffee shop. My eyes slip to his left hand before zeroing in on the ring finger. He is sorted, whether or not we ever actually interact.

A few months ago I sat in a room full of dear friends and told them falling in love seemed impossible. I cried as I confessed my deepest fear about the dream I’ve held since childhood: I’ll never get married.

I thought I’d marry straight out of college and have my first child in my mid-20s. Instead, it’s been a few years since my last promising date. No matter where I’ve lived, intriguing single men have proven hard to come by and I am left aching to share my life with someone.

Next month I’ll turn 36. I have an otherwise good life. Though I have plenty of years before me, falling in love no longer feels likely. There have been too many false starts. Too many years leaving me no closer to a long-term relationship. How on earth could it possibly happen now?

I’ve thought a lot about what it means to expectantly wait for a dream when there is no guarantee. I feel my singleness more keenly during the holidays. Advent reminds us we are waiting but I don’t need that particular reminder.

I am tired of waiting.

With Advent, we remember how long the world waited for a Savior. We read in Luke about Simeon who was promised he would not die before he had seen Christ and about Anna the Prophetess who “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Luke doesn’t say how old Simeon was when he finally beheld the infant Jesus at the temple. I was taught he was a very old man. Anna is described as very old, a widow who was married only 7 years before her husband died. Sunday School lessons emphasized how blessed Simeon and Anna were. What amazing faith they had. They waited and they received.

For centuries the Israelites looked forward to a day when the Messiah would come at last and set them free. Centuries of waiting. How many Israelites died without seeing that dream realized?

They waited but they did not receive.

Did they give up hope? Did they have days like me where their dream seemed impossible? How did they resolve the tension between now and not yet in their lifetime?

Why were Simeon and Anna worthy while so many were not?

Waiting is not meant to be a passive activity. We choose how we will wait: with expectancy, bitterness, resignation, hope, excitement, boredom. Whatever it is I’m waiting for, I try to anticipate the goodness that might be around the bend. Emphasis on the word try.

Some years I’ve fared better than others. I’ve watched other dreams come to fruition. I’ve felt alive with the possibility: love could find me at any moment. It could all change in an instant. It’s still true but the possibility feels more and more distant. The dream of marriage is slipping through my fingers.

Even though I was raised in non-denominational Christian churches, I’ve never been good about memorizing scripture. There is one exception: Psalm 27:14. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

I stumbled onto it my junior year of college. Wait for the Lord. I’ve lassoed the edge of this verse in seasons of loss, stress, and frustration. It carried me through unemployment and underemployment, the death of loved ones, matters of social justice, and my conflicted feelings about still being single. It reassured me God was at work, some way, somehow, even if I couldn’t see it.

The longer I’ve been single, the more difficult it is to see how he is at work. There is no reason why I’m not married, other than not having met the right guy. In my lowest moments, I look at people who I deem less than me in some way and wonder why they have a spouse and I don’t. But there is simply no rhyme or reason.

This is the tension I must live with: the not knowing, the wait stretching year after year, the dream deferred.

I haven’t known how to approach the holiday season the last several years. On a day to day basis, I don’t often think about being single until something happens to remind me. Advent is a constant reminder of what I hope for and what I doubt I’ll receive.

Everything is geared around families, especially at church. Places of worship are no longer sources of refuge. They are a reminder of what I don’t have. It has become harder to darken a sanctuary door, even for those candlelight Christmas services I adored as a child.

Whereas I used to marvel over Simeon and Anna’s eleventh hour miracle, I feel more kinship with the Israelites who wandered and waited and never received.

On the first Sunday of Advent, I pulled out a book of readings. It will be my daily practice in the coming weeks as I strain to see the light. My God, how I need to see the light this season.

Christmas is tinged bittersweet, it’s true, but there is respite from the ache. I listen to Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas and watch Buddy the Elf run through a revolving door. My breath catches at the sight of Christmas trees aglow with white lights and handmade ornaments. I can’t wait until my family has toasted with eggnog.

I look at my loved ones who do not allow me to carry this burden alone. All of this reminds me God is the giver of all good gifts, even if I never receive the gift I want most.

I’m tired of waiting but Advent is here, helping me wait one more year.

Favorite Nonfiction of 2015

Favorite Nonfiction of 2015 via

Here are the best nonfiction books I read in 2015. There's a little something for everyone- memoir, history, essays. It was so hard to narrow this category down. These books challenged, encouraged, and taught me. Some moved me to tears, while others made me laugh out loud. I hope they'll resonate with you as well. 

Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post. 


Birmingham RevolutionBirmingham Revolution: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Epic Challenge To The Church- Edward Gilbreath

Well written and thought provoking, Gilbreath takes us behind the scenes of the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham. I loved learning more about the leaders and the influences on Martin Luther King Jr.'s rise. I also appreciate how Gilbreath doesn't leave it at that. There is so much for us to learn from this movement.







Fire Shut Up In My BonesFire Shut Up In My Bones- Charles M. Blow

This breathtakingly beautiful and brave memoir is a must-read. I hope Blow plans to continue writing in this vein.









Orchard HouseOrchard House: How A Neglected Garden Taught One Family To Grow- Tara Austen Weaver

I would like anything Tara Austen Weaver writes but Orchard House especially blew me away. It's a beautifully rendered exploration of how gardens grow and families learn to connect. (The imagery alone!) Though our stories are different, this memoir resonated in a powerful way, especially her reflections on community and friendship. 








Strong InsideStrong Inside: Perry Wallace And The Collision Of Race And Sports In The South- Andrew Maraniss

You don't need to know anything about basketball or the SEC to enjoy this book. College sports are generally a mystery to me! I didn't know about Perry Wallace until The Tennessean ran a story about him a couple of years ago but I was thoroughly intrigued by what I discovered. Wallace was the first black athlete at Vanderbilt, thereby integrating the SEC. Maraniss lays out the dynamics of the 60s and the Civil Rights Movement, while sharing Wallace's role. While Vanderbilt is to be commended for integrating, it was disheartening to read about the lack of support black students received once on campus. Integration is not enough to build understanding and relationships and this becomes especially clear when Wallace played at more overtly racist schools and his coaches and team did little to acknowledge what was happening or, in some cases, protect him. I really enjoyed learning about Wallace's life in the years leading up to his decision to go to Vanderbilt and all he's accomplished since then. Such a remarkable man!



Boys in the boatThe Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans And Their Epic Quest For Gold At The 1936 Berlin Olympics- Daniel James Brown

I was on the crew team for a couple of years in college so I was positively enthralled by this story, not only for its historical value but going down rowing memory lane. Even those without crew experience should find this story interesting. Written in the vein of Unbroken, The Boys in the Boat takes us back to the Depression era and the years leading up to WWII, all the more notable because of where the 1936 Olympics took place. The book centers on Joe Rantz, which is a wise choice in that the narrative keeps moving and provides the book its heart. We still learn about his fellow rowers in the process and see how they become a true team and where that eventually led them.





MissoulaMissoula: Rape And The Justice System In A College Town- Jon Krakauer

This is not an easy read but I do believe it's one of the most important books I've read this year. Krakauer's exploration of date rape on a college campus often made me angry. It was horrifying to see the ways the victims were marginalized, dismissed, not believed, and then on top of that, had their characters misrepresented and smeared, especially when their rapists were football players. I know that this goes on. I've heard too many stories. But seeing it laid out in such a stark manner made me rage. When will women be valued and respected more than the men who rape them? Krakauer's approach in writing this is excellent. The book is powerful. It exposes the secrets of our justice system, college sports, and power dynamics. It should be required reading. Maybe then things would start to change.





InternIntern: A Doctor's Initiation- Sandeep Jahaur

An inside look at medical residency and the world inside hospitals. I was a medical social worker for several years so I was not surprised by much of what Jauhar encountered, although some improvements have been made since he completed residency. There's still much to be done! The book might have been stronger had Jauhar not waffled so much about his chosen career and calling but still, I'm glad he decided to lower the veil for those who do not work as doctors or nurses.






Tiny beautiful thingsTiny Beautiful Things: Advice On Life And Love From Dear Sugar- Cheryl Strayed

More essay than advice column, Strayed transcends the normal rules of giving advice and therein lies the genius and soul of her response. Absolutely moving.

If you don't listen to the Dear Sugar podcast, you should start. 







Life In Motion- Misty CopelandLife In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina- Misty Copeland

I didn't know much about Misty Copeland before she was a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance last summer but I was quickly intrigued. She offered fantastic critiques of the dancers, for one. Reading her memoir made me even more of a fan. She's had quite the life but her determination and dedication are what's most notable. I'm glad she chose to address the racism she's encountered in the dance world and even more glad she's broken the barriers she has, hopefully making it easier for other People of Color to follow in her footsteps. 






The Kitchen Counter Cooking SchoolThe Kitchen Counter Cooking School- Kathleen Flinn

I adored Flinn's approach to all things cooking, food consumption, and kitchen. It's relatable and inspiring. I found my knife skills improving as I read and it also gave me more ideas for what and how to cook- and I'm already someone who likes to cook. This should be a must-read for people who never darken their oven doors and for the rest of us as well.






Just MercyJust Mercy: A Story Of Justice And Redemption- Bryan Stevenson

I commend Stevenson for the good work he's done through the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal practice dedicated to serving the poor, the marginalized, the downtrodden. And I commend him for the good work he's given us here. The book is part memoir, part treatise on the state of the legal system. We follow the story of Walter, a man on Alabama's Death Row who proclaims his innocence, and meet Stevenson's other clients as he built his practice in the 1980s and the subsequent areas of injustice they've battled to this day, including death penalty sentences for children and the treatment of the mentally ill. This book is a game changer, a must-read.





The Lemon TreeThe Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, And The Heart Of The Middle East- Sandy Tolan

How does one begin to talk about something as complex as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Journalist Sandy Tolan introduces us to Bashir, Dalia, and the beloved lemon tree. Dalia, a Bulgarian Jew whose parents immigrated to Israel when she was a baby, lives in the house Bashir’s Palestinian family was forced to abandon in 1948. They are irrevocably united, in spite of their differences. We learn their respective stories, as well as the history of the conflict. We get the Big Picture, as well as the on-the-ground reality.

Both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate grievances and needs spanning decades. There aren’t any easy solutions. Bashir and Dalia’s story shows us it’s possible to agree to disagree. We don’t have to have the same opinions to love one another.



What are your favorite non-fiction reads of 2015?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Favorite Fiction of 2015

Favorite Fiction of 2015 via

It's my favorite time of year! I love Christmas time with a new year around the corner. I love looking back on the year with all its ups and downs and I especially love looking at the books I read and rating my favorites. Today I'm giving you the best fiction I read in 2015 and tomorrow I'll share my favorite nonfiction reads.  These books were not necessarily published in 2015 but this is when I read them. I read a ton of fiction every year and this is definitely the best of it.

Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post. 


The PassageThe Passage- Justin Cronin

Complex and multi-layered, while also being completely unputdownable. A nearly perfect novel. There are literary and religious references throughout and it deftly touches on a number of social issues without being heavy-handed. I couldn't stop thinking about it after I finished.

Note: I held off on reading this for some time because I was worried it would be too scary for me. I am a wimp but I was worried for nothing. On the other hand, a friend tried reading this after my recommendation and it gave her nightmares.  Read the book description first to determine if it'll be problematic for you.




Peace Like A RiverPeace Like A River- Leif Enger

I haven't encountered such a strong narrator in some time. The voice is so unique, Owen Meany almost comes to mind, though it's not an equal comparison. By allowing the story to unfold through the eyes of a child, Enger takes us on a memorable journey. The writing is incredible: measured, lyrical, distinct. The themes range from sacred to poignant. Incredible novel.






Station ElevenStation Eleven- Emily St. John Mandel

While I've read my fair share of dystopian or apocalyptic YA, this was my foray into the grown-up version and I approached it with some dread. I didn't know what the pages would contain but decided to trust the many friends who recommended it. Some sentences were so stunning, I read them a few times over. This was a very engaging read but a thoughtful one as well. I could see myself in this world and wondered about the choices I'd make. I could see everything the main characters faced actually happening- though I very much hope it won't. The way the layers of the story built and the main characters wound toward each other by the end of the book struck me as both organic and masterful. Well worth reading. 





Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You- Celeste Ng

Rich prose, multi-layered plot, fantastic character development. Ng masterfully weaves complicated family dynamics together and builds the mystery from several angles until leading us to the conclusion. Great insights about how the secrets we keep can be our undoing. 







The AlchemistThe Alchemist- Paulo Coelho

Every once in a while I read a book and marvel at the synchronicity and resonance that occurs. I could have read it at a different point in my life and would have liked it but because I'm reading it now, under this particular set of circumstances, I relate more strongly to the characters and the lessons learned. It's like a personalized map to my life, helping me make sense of it all.

Such is the case with The Alchemist. I'm not sure how I've never read it sooner- it's a long-time worldwide bestseller- and yet I'm glad I read it as I settled into a new city and made sense of the path that led me here. Watching the boy's journey unfold and seeing how he became attuned to the symbols and omens along the way reminded me of the way my intuition works and encouraged me to press in and press on. 




The InvisiblesThe Invisibles- Cecilia Galante

Such a wonderful exploration of 4 friends who lived in a group home together, then decided not to talk once they graduated high school until circumstances brought them back together 15 years later. Great insights on friendship but also the secrets we keep from ourselves and others. It kept me engaged and guessing the whole time as to whether the characters would grow and heal or retreat into themselves. Highly recommended.







Eight Hundred GrapesEight Hundred Grapes- Laura Dave

Compulsively readable novel- I flew right through it. I loved learning more about winemaking as a family business, especially since Sonoma is so close to me now, as well as how the concept of synchronicity factored in. (Though it was heavy-handed at times.) I also liked seeing the family dynamics play out and how our parents' dreams for us can shape who we are, even without knowing it. 






Word ExchangeThe Word Exchange- Alena Graedon

The moment I read this one, I knew it would be on my Favorite Fiction list for this year. It's a bibliophile novel, perfect for any book or word nerd. An interesting look at our dependence on technology and social media, this novel gives us an ode to the written word and was a fun ride from start to finish. More please. 







All The Light We Cannot SeeAll The Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr

Beautiful, haunting prose made me read this novel slower than usual. I wanted to savor each page and soak up the character and plot development. I've read my fair share of books about WWII and still Doerr managed to take some complex and nuanced directions. It starts out slow but persevere: it's entirely worth it. 






All the bright placesAll The Bright Places- Jennifer Niven

Haunting, beautiful, insightful. It was an experience and I didn't go in thinking it would be. (This might technically be YA but I didn't experience it as a YA novel at all. And I say that as someone who regularly reads YA and has more YA recommendations at the end of this post.)







Lost SisterhoodThe Lost Sisterhood- Anne Fortier

I was completely swept away by the characters and plot. It was so delightfully nerdy and in some ways reminded me of Elizabeth Kostova (The Historian) and Deborah Harkness (A Discovery Of Witches.) I loved learning more about the Greek and Amazon myths and how these all came together with the present day storyline. I felt slightly bereft after I finished reading it. I could have stayed in the Amazonian world forever, which, frankly, is not something I ever would have suspected about myself.








(YA novels I've rated with 4 or 5 stars are on this Pinterest board.)

Everything EverythingEverything Everything- Nicola Yoon

An unexpectedly lovely novel I couldn't put down. It's being described as innovative for good reason. I think it falls under the "less you know before reading it, the better" category.







ScarletScarlet- AC Gaughen

The more I thought about this story, the more I loved it. Such an inventive retelling of Robin Hood's tale, in which Will Scarlet is actually a lady thief. Gaughen gives us such a clear and compelling voice throughout the narrative. Plus, I loved seeing how Scarlet grew as a character. Lady Thief and Lion Heart rounded out the trilogy well and landed with a satisfying conclusion.







What are your favorite fiction reads of 2015?

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Addie and Leigh Watch A Hallmark Movie

  Angel of Christmas

 All photos in this post are via The Hallmark Channel

I love Hallmark Channel movies, especially at Christmas. I haven't lived in a place with cable since I moved to San Francisco, which means I haven't had access to these cheesy yet delightful movies. Until a couple of weeks ago. I housesat for a coworker and was elated to discover they had The Hallmark Channel. I did what anyone else would do: I texted the good news to my friend Addie Zierman and we promptly made plans to text watch a couple together.

Since we've never lived in the same state, every so often Addie and I pretend we're watching Hallmark movies together by texting and watching at the same time. It is ridiculously fun and we crack each other up. We also talk about the kind of Hallmark movie we would write. We are convinced our screenplay would be AMAZING.

Today I'm sharing the conversation we had while watching Angel of Christmas. I've lightly edited it for clarity and removed some of our more personal conversation, which happens during commercial breaks. (Sorry not sorry.) It's airing tonight and a few other times before Christmas if you want to read and watch along. Either way, I hope you'll enjoy our insights.


Angel of Christmas- The Hallmark Channel

The official description: A holiday Grinch ever since her boyfriend dumped her on Christmas, newspaper staffer Susan gets her first big break to write her own headline story -- but ironically, the story is a Christmas-themed account of her own family's carved wooden Christmas Angel -- an angel that supposedly has magical properties to bring true lovers together. Stars Jennifer Finnigan and Jonathan Scarfe and Holly Robinson Peete.


Addie: Here. We. Go. 2015-12-01 19.57.51

Leigh: Emojis (see screenshot -->)


[The movie opens with a shot of a theater, followed by a man and woman sitting together. It occurs sometime in the past. He tries to give her a hand-carved angel...]

Addie: Why is she giving him back his angel?!

Leigh: I am so confused.

Addie: Is this the same the present?

Leigh: Is she a cold-hearted snake?

Addie: Probably. All career women are in Hallmark movies. (I'm beginning to really hate that theme by the way.)

Leigh: True. Me too!!! Our heroine [in the movie we write] won't be like that.

Addie: Totally.


[Flash forward to the present, where Susan is at a coffee shop trying to order coffee. But she doesn't want any of this holiday-inspired drink nonsense.]

Leigh: "Christmas blend made by elves." I wish, Grinchy lady!


[Enter witty banter from a stranger in line behind her. Henceforth known as Brady.]

Leigh: Hello Mr. Artist!!!

Addie: I love the paint streak on his face.

Leigh: Me too! Dreamy.

Leigh: I want to help him clean up.

Addie: Ha! LOL. 


[Susan leaves the coffee shop and is walking with her friend, who is apparently concerned by Susan's holiday hatred.]

Leigh: "Holiday-free coffee." "I-hate-Christmas blues." Can't they have someone be ambivalent or mildly happy about Christmas? It's always extremes.

Addie: For real.


[Susan works for a newspaper.]

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Addie: What is she in? Not the main character, the boss lady.

Leigh: Hmmm. Was she the evil boss in a Christmas movie last year? It was at a department store or something. Or not boss. Consultant?

Addie: Oh, it's Holly Robinson Peete. I know her from The Apprentice. But before that, Hangin' With Mr. Cooper.

Leigh: That's HRP?! I didn't recognize her at all. I loved Hangin' With Mr. Cooper!

Leigh: The best friend reminds me of the weird neighbor girl on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Addie: Ha! I'm so loving that show btw.

Leigh: Isn't it so fun???

Addie: The funnest. 


[It turns out the angel we saw at the start of the movie is Susan's family heirloom. She's going to write a story about it's origin.]


Addie: That angel is super creepy.

Leigh: That angel is legit creepy.

Leigh: Jinx!

Addie: Totally. 

Addie: "A teaspoon of mystery!!"

Leigh: Only a teaspoon though.

Leigh: I would not keep that thing. It probably moves around the house. Like you go to bed and it's in the living room and when you wake up, it's staring at you.

Addie: With a knife in its hands.

Leigh: LOL. Naturally!

Leigh: But no one else believes that it's possessed so they lock you up in a psych ward and you think you're at least safe...but the angel appears there.



[We meet Derek, who also works at the newspaper. He is interested in being more than Susan's coworker.]

Addie: Other Guy is pretty dreamy too. I'd go to Solano's with him.

Leigh: Should we predict who wins her heart?

Addie: Hmmm. I wonder. (No I don't.)

Leigh: I think I need to see more interaction before I guess.


[Susan and her best friend go to an art gallery, where they run into Brady who is exhibiting his paintings.]

Addie: THERE HE IS! Still with the paint. Doesn't he ever wash himself?

Leigh: Hahaha. He must not own a mirror.

Addie: When you're that dreamy, you don't have to.

Leigh: He wears his paint shirt to his gallery opening. Laid back or slob?

Addie: Maybe he works in the building and just popped down for a minute.


[Brady asks Susan out. Even though she's been both rude and condescending to him.]

Addie: SAY YES

Leigh: She gets asked out after giving him no encouragement. What witch magic does she have and how do I get some???

Addie: Men with the CHALLENGES. Obnoxious.

Leigh: So obnoxious.

Addie: He kind of looks like Michael Vaughn from Alias. 

Leigh: He does! Whatever happened to Vaughn?

Addie: That's a good question. Consulting IMDB...

Leigh: So many creepy angels.

Addie: Apparently he's been in some shows...nothing popular.


[Susan goes to a Christmas tree lighting...where she runs into Brady.]

Leigh: Brady again! What are the odds.

Addie: Ooh. He's now filming "The Arrangement"-- a TV Movie. Perhaps we'll see him on Hallmark soon!

Leigh: I would love to see him on Hallmark!

Leigh: He believes in angels, she doesn't. "Angels see all, know all." BRADY, YOU'RE SCARING ME.

Addie: Agreed.

Leigh: "Enjoy the ride. The destination will unfold." That's deep.

Addie: He looks like he should be a contestant on the Bachelorette.

Leigh: He could totally be a contestant!

Leigh: What are they drinking? It makes me want Irish coffee or a hot toddy.

Addie: It's snowing and she has no hat or leggings. What is with all this impractical cold weather wardrobing?

Leigh: She's dumb.

Leigh: "I don't have room in my life right now." She is full of BS! She doesn't deserve him.

Addie: Oh hi Candace. [Commercial.]

Addie: That is some serious bling on Candace Cameron.

Leigh: LOL about the ornament hawking.

Addie: I know, right.

Leigh: I want to know what she really thinks about these movies.

Addie: She loves them. You know she loves them.


[Susan goes to see her grandpa and get the dirt on their family history.]

Leigh: Thank God for hoarding grandpas. Actually I take that back. Some grandpas hoard weird crap.



[Flashback scene.]

Leigh: Christmas 1925. Here we go!

Leigh: Actresses are fickle. Plus I thought actors couldn't see past the stage lights. This must be in his head.

Addie: Lavender eyes? Who has lavender eyes?

Leigh: She does. That's how you know she's an angel. Or worthy of having an angel carved in her likeness.

Addie: I feel cheated. No man has ever carved an angel in MY likeness.

Leigh: Would you say yes or file a restraining order?

Addie: Mmmm. Good question.

Leigh: If that angel was your likeness, you would still feel cheated. She probably didn't accept it because of how creepy it is!

Addie: True. He's a crappy carver.


[Susan is back at work. Derek comes over to talk to her.]

Leigh: "The busiest bee in the hive." What a douche. I am not on this guy's team.

Addie: His dream is to buy a condo? Gross.

Leigh: Haha

Addie: Creepy angel does NOT like him.

Leigh: The angels sees all, knows all. Just like Brady said.


[Susan and Brady start texting. He asks her out again.]

Leigh: "Life is fine as is." What a weird way to say no to a date.

Addie: He is not reciprocating to her "witty" banter and she's PISSED.

Leigh: She doesn't deserve Brady. I am now irritated with him for not seeing that.

Addie: Like I said. Men with their CHALLENGES.

Leigh: When I'm not interested in guys, they get the hint and go away. Like they should. I have good instincts about guys. If Brady came along, I would straight to YES. Which means he'd lose interest? Guys are confusing.

Addie: Who knows. I've been out of the game too long to give reliable advice.


[The angel knocks Derek's coffee onto him. Literally.]

Addie: Did the angel just fling herself at him?


Leigh: It is totally possessed. But at least it's for a good cause.

Addie: Why does she feel the need to carry it around everywhere?

Leigh: Coffee on his Hugo Boss tie.

Leigh: It makes her creepy. It also gave him an excuse to say he was touched by an angel.

Addie: Some writer has been waiting to use that line for FIFTEEN YEARS.

Leigh: Totally!


[Susan talks to her mom, who tells her she just wants to see her happy and in love.]

Leigh: What if her daughter is happy about being single? No one ever thinks about that.

Addie: Truth.

Leigh: I know Hallmark won't let her stay single but she could totally learn the meaning of Christmas without falling in love.

Leigh: Although. For the record. In case the Universe is listening.

Leigh: I would like to learn the meaning of Christmas this year and it better involve a boyfriend!

Addie: I miss the old Hallmark movies where it wasn't about falling in love. It was about some family trying to get through the holidays and the TOWN rallying around them.

Leigh: Those are actually my least favorite. If I'm going to watch a cheesy movie, I want there to be romance and happily ever after.

Addie: Fair enough. I go through stages of wanting either/or.

Addie: I was just thinking about that one from a couple of tears ago when the little girl had cancer, and the town rallied to make it Christmas in November because she wouldn't make it to "real" Christmas. SOB.

Leigh: I don't think I saw that one. I would bawl!

Addie: Oh my word. Sobfest.

Addie: It's November Christmas in case you were wondering and it has John Corbett FTW!

Leigh: John Corbett! Nice.

Addie: John Corbett as grieving father. SOBFEST OF SOBFESTS!


[Susan goes back to see her grandfather.]

Leigh: I bet Grandpa found the letters!

Leigh: Oh no. Blueprint of the angel. Boring.



Addie: She's a Broadway actress. She doesn't want to move to some small town.

Leigh: He's building a cabin for an actress he just met.


Leigh: A year apart. Always a good plan.

Leigh: He's all, I know what's best for you and it's leaving your life and career behind.

Addie: She basically just said," Nah," and he was like, "Meh. Imma do it anyway."

Addie: The worst.

Leigh: Haha. Totally.

Leigh: The church secretary!

Leigh: There's no way I would keep an angel my husband carved for someone else.

Addie: Another one year plan.

Leigh: Why does everyone want to wait a year?! 

Addie: Waiting is for chumps. Just do it.

Leigh: Exactly.

Leigh: His relative used to act! I bet it will be the actress. FATE.

Addie: They were almost related. I don't know if that's sweet or FREAKY.

Addie: Like icky freaky. Like near-incest freaky.

Leigh: Kind of freaky but also like their families were meant to unite at some point, thus making it sweet.

Addie: Meh. I'm not sold.

Addie: AH! Country House = cabin grandpa built


[Susan's editor wants the final story on Christmas Eve.]

Leigh: Who has an article due Christmas Eve and why is everyone always making non-family plans then?

Addie: I want to live in a world where no one has to hang out with their extended families on Christmas Eve and instead hang out at town events with a potential love interest.

Leigh: That does sound like a good world.

Leigh: That conversation with Derek couldn't be any more awkward.

Addie: Derek is the awkwardest.


[Susan and Brady go on a date.]

Addie: She totally should have kissed him in the magic snow.

Leigh: Missed opportunity for sure!

Addie: Magic snow should always equal kissing.

Leigh: I'm looking up these actors on IMDB. She speaks French fluently. And she was on 10 episodes of Crossing Jordan. I loved that show.

Addie: I never watched it! I just added it to my Netflix list. ;)

Leigh: Let me know what you think!

Leigh: Did you ever watch 7th Heaven? An actress from that was in the Lifetime Christmas movie I watched last night.

Addie: I totally watched 7th Heaven.

Addie: Lucy? Ruthie?

Leigh: Lucy.

Addie: I was just wondering what ever happened to her!

Leigh: Right?! She hasn't been in anything for a while. Jessica Biel was smart to leave early.

Addie: OMG Just IMDB'ed her. FORGOT she became a revered in that show. She was on the Secret Life of the American Teenager? Whoa.

Leigh: It was Gift Wrapped Christmas, about a personal shopper.

Addie: Huh. Well, there you go.

Leigh: The actor playing Derek is named Tahmoh. Canadian. Huh.

Addie: Wowzer.

Addie: Skin lit by birthday candles? Gross.

Leigh: So gross.


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[Brady tells Susan he has the chance to open his own art gallery. But he's not sure he should take it.]

Leigh: Brady is coming to CA! LA though. I thought maybe he was coming to me.

Addie: It's only a couple hours, right?

Leigh: Like 7 hours.

Leigh: He wants to turn it down for her! She is a fool.

Addie: Total fool. She's the worst. MAKE OUT WITH HIM. YOU ARE WASTING ALL THE TIME.

Leigh: We have to live for today! And by live, I mean MAKE OUT.

Addie: Agreed.


[Brady and Susan hang out with family.]

Leigh: The family that ciders together, stays together.

Addie: HA!

Leigh: That was a cozy scene.


[Brady and Susan fight about whether or not he should move away. Susan thinks he should go. He wants to stay and give their relationship a chance. But she wants a more definitive plan.]

Leigh: Why are they making a decision together about whether he moves to CA when they're barely dating?!

Addie: Love at first sight, babe. On his part at least. She's still figuring it out.

Leigh: Oh. So she's supposed to learn to be more spontaneous because of her great-grandpa?

Addie: Run after him you fool.

Leigh: This is happening because she's not carrying the angel.

Addie: Ha!


[Everyone is at the work Christmas party.]

Addie: "More wine? Yes please!" She is my soul sister.

Leigh: Go away, Derek!

Addie: Gross.

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Leigh: Ew. Why is she flattered by his interest?

Addie: He's oily. It's not really that hard to get a condo.

Leigh: Always talking about his damn condo.

Addie: Stop acting like you did something other than have money.

Addie: Her angel IS there.

Leigh: Creepy.


[Susan's editor tells her there's a backup article in case she doesn't turn her angel story in on time.]

Leigh: There's a backup piece! The pressure is on.

Addie: Backup piece? The newspaper world is worse than the author world.

Leigh: The angel leads everyone to love. Which makes its origin story weird since it looks like a woman who spurned him.

Addie: Oh I love when things come full circle.

Leigh: He gave her a painting! Is it of her?

Addie: It's prolly of her.


[It's a painting of her...with angel wings.]

Leigh: Hahahahahaha

Addie: oh CREEPY

Leigh: So creepy!

Addie: Ugh. Eek!

Leigh: Why couldn't it just be her. Angel wings are a bad idea.

Addie: hahahaha

Leigh: Gah.

Addie: Plus she is so clearly not an angel.

Leigh: Exactly! Susan is not angelic in the least.

Addie: Nope.


[Susan drives out to where Brady is staying.]

Addie: That is one quaint doorbell.

Leigh: That's a nice cabin.

Leigh: Arm full of firewood! Just the way I like him.

Addie: Ha!

Leigh: What would you do if someone dropped off a painting of you as an angel?

Addie: Not go to his creeper cabin in the woods, that's for sure.

Leigh: I would no longer be interested in Brady. He killed the romance with that painting.

Addie: Agreed.

Leigh: No ending for the article and no plan for her relationship. My how she's grown!

Addie: Hahaha

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Leigh: His great-grandma's desk!

Leigh: It will hold the answers she seeks.

Addie: Is she going to find some clue to the past? The perfect ending to her story???

Leigh: Those letters just fell out. Like no one has ever opened that drawer before. CALLED IT.

Addie: hahahahaha

Leigh: Fate brought them together because great-grandma was creeped out by her great-grandpa.

Leigh: "We were supposed to find these letters." Of course you were, Susan!


Leigh: "A sign from the angel that an even great love awaits." Frank was a romantic. Or in denial.

Addie: How did she up there? What about the OTHER WIFE.

Leigh: So many questions.

Leigh: Our great-grandparents didn't get together so we could.


Leigh: Hahaha

Leigh: Susan needs to accept she loves him. She's annoying me.

Addie: Truly.

Leigh: Who types "The End" on their article??

Addie: Hahahaha


[Brady and Susan snuggle outside next to a large decorated Christmas tree. With the angel as the topper.]

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Addie: I'm not a fan of this outside decorating tradition.

Leigh: Where's the ladder? That's a tall tree.

Addie: Did you see that we got THE WORLD'S MOST ENORMOUS TREE on accident this year?

Leigh: I did! It looks amazing.

Addie: It's soooooo big.

Leigh: She made the front page!

Addie: Of course she did.

Leigh: And so did the creepy angel. If I saw that picture, I'd skip the article.

Addie: Hahaha

Leigh: This was fun as always!

Addie: Agreed. So glad it worked, friend.