7QT #28: podcasts, snow, & creepy elves

Probably my last quick takes edition for the year of 2014. what the whattttt
Better make it a good one!


1. 
I finally jumped on the bandwagon - the Serial bandwagon, that is. I've been recommended it by lots of different people and/or websites and reviews. I read this review of it from Verily yesterday and finally got on it.

I've never listened to a podcast regularly before but I know that I am going to for sure devour this one whole and entire. Am I becoming a podcast listener? Who knows, maybe I am...this would be a new genre for me.


I've always been an NPR listener (and loved it!) so this is right up my alley, I suppose! And a murder mystery type thing? Definitely my favorite things together. (It's definitely not family-friendly though, so take it with a grain of salt...and maybe when you're alone.) What are some podcasts I should be listening to?

2.
It finally snowed!



I was really worried that we were going to have an entire Advent/Christmas without snow. Unfortunately, it only stuck around for about 4 hours before everything melted. Wah wah. So here's hoping we get snow again before the 25th?

3.
Poor baby Kate has been teething pretty bad the last couple days. She's feverish off and on, and constantly grabbing at her cheeks and sticking anything and everything in her mouth for some relief.

It's so strange to notice how different she can be when something's wrong. I knew that I would know my baby really well, because, hello, she's my baby - but I can tell from the tone of her cry that she's teething which is something I never would have guessed I'd be able to do.

Right now we're doing a combination of lots of naps, cuddles, Hyland's Teething Tablets, and a healthy dose of just trying to suffer through it. Hopefully this one ends somewhat soon!

4.
Okay, does anyone else find the concept of Elf on the Shelf extremely creepy and/or counter-intuitive? My girlfriends and I were talking about this on Wednesday night. I understand the cute aspect - and believe me when I say I loooove looking at all the creative things those elves get up to on Pinterest - but it seems a little backwards to me.

Can't Santa "see you when you're sleeping and know when you're awake?" If so, why does he need another spy to come watch you? And if this Elf is so important, is he really going to judge your naughty vs. nice qualities over the span of one month? I mean, I could be good for one month as a kid if I knew it would get me presents - the rest of the year bring out the big guns!

I do always love a good poop joke, though...

5.
I only have one present left to buy (for my dad) and then my Christmas shopping is done! I was going to try and finish all last weekend, but when I went to get my planned present, they were out of what I wanted to buy for him.

Got any present ideas for a 60 year old dad-of-four who loves to read and listen to music?

6.
This Christmas is going to be a somewhat crazy one for us. We're trying to do it all - which includes 3 family birthdays between the 22th and the 25th (3!!! yes, 3!!!), two immediate family gatherings, 4 extended family gatherings, and a whole host of out-of-town relatives and friends who live far away parties and hanging out.

It's been great to have Kate around during this holiday season, and I have a feeling that she will come in handy extra when we she needs to sneak away to take a nap.

7.
How about a cute cuddle pic to wrap this non-exciting post up? Yes, you say? Okay...



Yes, her post-nap cheeks are to. die. for.

Linking up with Kelly (new host of 7QT) and everyone else! Have a very merry Christmas!
HG

happy bday, my favorite author!

Today is Jane Austen's birthday.
She was born on December 16, 1775.
If she were alive, she'd be 239 years old. That's pretty old. (She's a year older than the US of A. Pretty cool.)

In honor of my favorite author's birthday, I thought I'd give her a little shoutout on the blog. I discovered Jane Austen as an writer in probably 7th or 8th grade. My dad works at a book store, and brought home a collection of all of her works in one volume as a gift to me. I immediately read Pride and Prejudice and then quickly devoured the rest of them.

Now, I understand that Jane is not for everyone. I tend to disagree with those readers who claim that she's "boring" or "outdated" or "irrelevant," because she writes about the human condition - which hasn't changed that much in 200 years. But not everyone loves reading and not everyone loves old-time novels. To those of you, I say - you're missing out, but I won't judge you (at least out loud).

I love her. I really do. She's witty beyond belief, incredibly good at describing people as full, human characters, and really knows what she's talking about when it comes to matters of the heart. Most people have to read Pride and Prejudice during school, and then don't explore her after that. You should! You really should.

In honor of her birthday, I'm going to try and remember my favorite quotes from each of her novels, in order to maybe get you interested in them - if you haven't already fallen in love with them, like I have. I'm also going to rank them in order of my favorites, so maybe you'll be convinced to try one you haven't yet. Enjoy!

#1: Persuasion



"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever."






#2: Emma




"Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken."






#3: Pride and Prejudice



"I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun."







#4: Mansfield Park




“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” 






#5: Sense and Sensibility




"It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy;—it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others."





#6: Northanger Abbey



"It is only a novel... or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language." 






Most libraries have e-copies of these available to rent for free, or if you want to Project Gutenberg has free (yes, absolutely free) copies available to download right here!  So if you have a Kindle or iPad, there is really no reason not to read them all, in quick succession.

Happy birthday, Jane. Thanks for introducing me to my true love of reading - and for being the boss lady writer you are, still inspiring millions of writers and readers hundreds of years after your life.

how we do Christmas spirit

Christmas is coming up, everyone. I don't know if you knew that or not but...here's your forewarning, in case you're wayyyy behind the times. As this is only our 2nd Christmas together, we don't have a ton of traditions or Advent-y crafts for our 6 month old to participate in.

But I do like to get in the Christmas spirit, so this is how we've been doing it in the last few weeks.



Christmas lights: up as soon as Thanksgiving is over, everyone. David would like it (in general, really) if we decorated before but...I'm a Grinch and want our Christmas to at least wait til December. So we put up our lights the first semi-warm day we have in December. This is last year's set of lights, because I haven't taken a photo of this year's yet. 


Christmas tree: I will be honest. I am not sure how you ladies who wait until Christmas Eve to decorate make it through the month of December...probably with a will stronger than mine by a million. Our tree goes up as soon as we have time to decorate. And although I'm a real-tree advocate, David isn't, so we have an artificial one...for now, at least. (mwahahaha)



Christmas smell: I bought this last year as a semi-cure for pregnancy nausea, because there are few things I love as much as Christmas-y smells. Now it kind of reminds me of being pregnant and being nauseous, buuuut I still love it. So when I forget that it's Christmas time I light this baby up and wham, instant Christmas.



Christmas hot drinks: I love tea, and I drink it pretty much all year round. But there is something different about curling up with a hot cup of tea near the holidays. I'm not usually a fan of peppermint-flavored things but this tea is spot on (and like, $2.50 for 20 bags).


Christmas music: And last, but certainly not least - Christmas music. I looooove Christmas music. I have this incredible friend who makes a Christmas mix every year, so I'm always up-to-date on the latest and greatest in Christmas music. I even went so far as to make my own playlist on Spotify, if you're looking for some new music! I'm a little bit hipster when it comes to taste in music, so there's your warning - but this is what I'm playing on repeat until January 15. (If you listen to just one song from my list, All I Want for Christmas is New Year's Day by HURTS is my absolute favorite. Seriously, go listen right now - no. 8 on the playlist.)



What are some things you do to get into the Christmas spirit?
HG

6 months




How can I possibly be already writing an update post on our 6 month old?? Where did the time go? I can't believe it. Almost every day I look at Kateri and say to myself, I think she grew overnight/during her nap/while I looked away for 10 minutes. Yikes.

I waited this time to post her 6 month post til after her doctor's appointment, which was this afternoon! So these are up-to-date, accurate stats!

Weight: 16 lbs 5 oz, not a ton difference from last time!

Height: 28"

Firsts this month: SCOOCHING. Big-time. Little girlie can push herself backwards with her hands all over, wherever and whenever she pleases. It makes for a fun game of, "Wow, I put her down here 2 minutes ago, and now she's in a completely different room." She's real close to actual crawling, but not yet. She also loves sitting up by herself now, and is pretty crabby if she's playing and isn't able to sit up to play with her toys. She also had her first solid foods - carrots, which she pretty much loved. (See picture below for proof.)

Nicknames:
nothing new this month!

Other things to note:
- She's grown through about half of her wardrobe now, and since the colder weather has come - and she's larger than we anticipated when it did - I'm having to buy her clothes. Which, once you start buying baby clothes, is really hard to stop. They are all just so cute!
- She's getting into a really good rhythm for me during the days. Most days it's 3 really solid naps of 1.5-2 hours each, which is heaven-sent for getting work projects done. I am seriously so blessed and I know it's not gonna last, but I am thankful while it does!
- She had her first cold this month, which was sad and super adorable at the same time.
- Mass is getting more and more difficult with her - no matter when we go, it's always during her naptime. It's a small struggle but it's a real one for us, so I'll mention it while I can.
- If we're going to do this solid-food thing, we are going to need a high chair. Any suggestions for me for ones that aren't super uggo? Also, sippy cup suggestions? I'm thinking we better be prepared for some struggle if it's anything like the bottle situation...
- The bottle situation is that she WILL NOT TAKE ONE ON POINT OF DEATH. Like, when I was in Caitlin's wedding and away from her for 8 hours, she didn't eat for eight whole hours even though there were bottles galore for her to eat. Frustrating. Luckily now she doesn't eat at night at all, so we're much more able to do things for longer periods of time, but it's still annoying. (And yes, I've tried like 80 different brands of bottles, to no avail. She's a real-deal girl through and through.)
- But we love her anyway.




Love you, Kitty.
HG

Games we love

Because we are huge nerds, David and I spend a lot of time together playing games. We haven't always been this way, but something in the last 6 months' air has made us constantly itching to play games together - whether just by ourselves or with our friends. I haven't talked about it much here on the blog because, well, I don't know who might be interested in that sort of post? But then I was thinking I'd like to remember these games in 30 years when we're back to an empty house (maybe), and also, Christmas is coming up so these are great gift ideas!

So, if you and your kids, or you and your husband/boyfriend/best friend/cat are wanting something new to do this Christmas winter time, start with these Gokie-guaranteed games. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

None of these are affiliate links - I just really love all these games so I want you buy them for your own sake. Click and play happily!

Settlers of Catan



Number of Players: technically 3-4, but we bend the rules a little and play with 2
Play Time: for a full game with 4 people, about 90 minutes
Quick Summary: As a new settler on the island of Catan, players try to be the dominant force by controlling land and resources on the island, through building roads, settlements, and cities and collecting victory points along the way.
Difficulty Level (out of 10): 6
Keywords: Strategy, civilization
Where to Buy: Target or Amazon
Price: $38.99

This is the current "all-the-rage" game that we love to love. Settlers has a lot of pieces, so isn't great with small children, and does take a bit of set-up to get the game put together. But it's an excellent strategy game that has so many variations it's never the same game twice. There are tons of expansion packs you can add to the game, which makes it more and more exciting (including expansions that allow you to play with up to 6 players). It's a very strategic game and has been known to cause major arguments in the Gokie household. But it's really very fun, and always a crowd pleaser around our house.

Phase10



Number of Players: 2-6
Play Time: 30-60 minutes
Quick Summary: Phase 10 is a special-deck version of Rummy, in which players attempt to complete matching sets or runs of cards and then discard the rest of their cards before other players do the same.
Difficulty Level: 3
Keywords: Rummy, cards
Where to Buy: Target or Amazon
Price: $5.99

We've recently discovered rummy games, thanks to David's godparents, and love playing them just with us two. Using Phase10 makes it so we don't have to constantly combine and separate decks of cards, and is an easy and fun way to pass the night! Lots of times we'll play this while watching reruns of our favorite shows. It's an easy, fun way to pass the time - but just because it's easy doesn't mean it can't get competitive. Because it does. (Although, in our house, 99% of what we do is a competition.) Also, it's a super cheap addition to your game closet! Stocking stuffer, right?


Wits & Wagers




Number of Players: 3-7, best with more people
Play Time: 25 minutes
Quick Summary: Wits and Wagers is a trivia game that allows you to bet on players' guesses! Everyone writes an answer to a number-based trivia question, like "How many feet wide is a football field?" and then players place their bets on what they think is the right answer. The farther away you are from the middle, the bigger the payoff.
Difficulty Level: 4
Keywords: Trivia, numbers
Where to Buy: Target or Amazon
Price: $26.99

Wits and Wagers is a fun game if you like easy-trivia games. It's not a 2 person game, but is really great for a big group of people, no matter the age range. The best part of this trivia game is that you really don't have to "know" a lot to win big at this game - making it a pretty level playing field. The questions are varied, fun, and always interesting.

My husband would like to (silently) insert himself here: please do NOT buy the party edition, but buy the original of this game if you want the best experience! (He made a home-made game board to turn our Party Edition into a Regular Edition, if that tells you how passionate he is about this issue. Me, not so much - both fun in my mind.)

Race for the Galaxy



Number of Players: 2-4
Play Time: 30-60 minutes, on average
Quick Summary: In Race for the Galaxy, players build galactic empires by playing cards in front of them that represent worlds or technical/social developments, trying to build up victory points to beat all other players by the time the game ends.
Difficulty Level: 9
Keywords: Space, cards
Where to Buy: Amazon
Price: $23.99

Small disclaimer: this is by far the nerdiest game we own. Race for the Galaxy is intensely complicated, with about 100 different types of cards and a very specific, many-step game-play order. But David and I have really loved it so far. If you're not afraid to read the instructions through 5 times and watch a couple YouTube videos (like this one) to get the rules down, it's very fun. The best part of this game is that it's meant for 4 people but they have specific rules for 2 people, making it more challenging and a little faster-paced. If you're up for the challenge, I really do recommend it - just don't say I didn't warn you!

Now onto some games that will be the next ones we add to our collection...


Dominion



I've already recommended this game here, but Dominion is another one of those games that is different every time you play it - something that is high on our list of game priorities. It's a somewhat complicated game to learn but after that the play is fast and easy - basically buying and selling cards to build your dominion, as it were. There are also about 20 expansion packs to this game, which makes it all the more appealing to us! (Buy it on Amazon here - $28.)

Monopoly Deal


It's the card game version of Monopoly, and it's super competitive and super fun. Our also-game-loving friends from North Dakota introduced us to this over Thanksgiving break, and David and I are already itching to buy it and play together all the time. It's the same premise as Monopoly - buying sets of properties, but without all the board pieces and in a much quicker time frame. (Buy it here on Amazon - $11.50.)

Honorable mention includes BANG! (an Old West thriller Mafia-type game) and Bezzerwizzer (a team trivia game).

I have some other games I'm looking at buying but they are probably going to be as gifts for someone who avidly reads this blog (ahem, David, ahem) so I will refrain from mentioning them at the moment.

If you're someone who already has all these games, or just want a place to research new games before you try them, go (right now!!) to boardgamegeek.com. They have the best inventory and description of games you could ever possibly want, all reviewed and compiled by people who actually play them. They also have lists of rankings by type of game, number of players, or pretty much any category you might think of. It's a little overwhelming but a really good resource if you're trying to decide what to buy. I spent months on there before David's last birthday looking for good games for 2 people, and that's how I decided on Race for the Galaxy. Seriously, go check it out right now.

What games should I be buying? What's your favorite? Hit me up in the comments, please - we are always looking for another one to play!
HG

crushing hard

I love online shopping.

Don't get me wrong, I'm old-fashioned in a lot of ways. I love curling up with a big pile of yarn and a pair of needles, and I'm often found with a good old-fashioned mug of steaming tea on a cold day. But I love to online shop, and hard.

There's nothing quite like the feeling of the mailman trekking his way up to your porch with a long-anticipated package in his/her hand, opening the door, and getting to rip into this thing sent just! to! you!

This Christmas, David and I are getting each other one big present (more on that some other day) so I can't fulfill my itch to online-shop to my heart's content for him and others in my life. And Kate is still too little to even understand or like presents, so she's out the window too. But as I still love to browse, I've collected some of the things I'm crushing on for you to also drool over.

You're welcome!

for baby


{left} shirred body suit from the Gap, $30
If I could, I'd get 7 of these so Kate could wear them every day. They are just too adorable.

{middle} block set from Target, $19
Kate's not quite big enough to enjoy these yet, seeing as she's just getting the hang of putting her own hands into her mouth, let alone manipulating other objects into something. But I'm getting excited for when she can by looking at all these cute toys.

{right} Freshly Picked neon pink moccasins, $60
As far as crawling, Kate's slowwwwly getting there. She can scooch backwards mostly, and I think some mocs might help her either get motivated to actually crawl, or even move forward to steps (eee gads!).

for him


{left} Dominion card game on Amazon, $28
David and I have been on a game kick lately. I got him Race for the Galaxy for his birthday (our game obsession deserves its own post, really) and I'm dying to add this one to our collection next. We've played it before with friends, and l-o-v-e-d it. Highly recommend.

{middle} Flip video camera, $275
So, yeah this is more than we would probably ever spend on a gift for one another. But I'm worried that our iPhone videos aren't going to be documentation enough for our babies when they're bigger. So I'd love to get him a camcorder of some sort, and this is portable and has tons of store.

{right} UO Lakeshore parka, $129
David's got a really nice peacoat that he wears with his suit & tie (JT, anyone?) to work pretty much every day during the winter. I'd love to get him another coat to wear on the weekend or to more casual events so we can keep his other one nice. Heck, I'd wear this coat. It's awesome-looking.


for her


{left} Long down puffer coat from the Gap, $158
I have a $30 reward at the Gap burning a large hole in my pocket, and this coat is the top of the pops on the list right now. I discovered last year that I have a lot of medium-weight coats that are nicer, and a lot of super-warm coats that are, well, not nicer - so this would be a happy medium.

{middle} Essential Elegance Skirt from Modcloth, $70
I've been dreaming of a skirt like this for awhile now. (Just ask David how many times I've talked about it in the last 3 months...it's a lot.) And Modcloth, of course, has the perfect fit. Isn't she gorgeous?

{right} Yes Please by Amy Poehler, $15
I've loved Amy Poehler since I saw her on the Caitlin skits for SNL a heckuva long time ago. And then she became Leslie Knope, one of the best TV characters ever written. I'm dying to read her book so I can learn the tricks of how she got to be so awesome.



Unfortunately, compiling this list for us doesn't get the rest of my Christmas shopping done for me. Darn. What's on your Christmas list that I can steal and gift to someone else?
HG