December 2, 2016

A Book Lover's Gift Guide

Last year, of all the posts I did around the holidays, I think my very favorite was the gift guide for book lovers.

I mean, what could be more fun than hunting down the coolest (or nerdiest, take your pick) gifts for bookworms?

I've been waiting all year to do this again, and I'm in love with all 14 items here. I'll take one or five of each. And with these gifts you can acknowledge their book-loving ways without worrying that they've already read it or that they'll think you have the worst literary taste in history.

The perfect picks for all the bookworms on your list!

Leather Idiom Bookmarks - I never used to use bookmarks, but now I hate to read without one (apparently now my time is so precious that I hate to waste a bunch of time trying to find my spot again). These leather ones are so pretty, stamped with fun little phrases in gold lettering, and super affordable.

Hey Carrots Mug - I was always like, "what's the deal with mugs?" and now I love having a mug that I know is mine so I'm not plowing through six identical water glasses every day. And this Anne of Green Gables one is just too cute. I'm obsessed with the literary heroine prints in this shop.

New Issue Bookcase - We are so far away from thinking about the basement in our house, but when we do, I already know I want one of these darling bookcases in the reading nook. I love that it also is good-looking enough to go in your living room or in a bedroom.

Bookshelf Thank You Cards - What thank you card isn't improved by adding some books? I love these pretty cards!

Go to the Library Sweatshirt - After just reading Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone to Ella, I'm remembering all over again how much I love Hermione.

Bookroo - We've had a subscription for the past few months and I love it. I've been so impressed by the books they pick (most which have been new to me!), the beautiful wrapping paper, and just the fun of gorgeous new books showing up each month. In the board book version you get 3 books and in the picture book subscription you get 2. You can also get $10 off your subscription with the code JANSBRAD.

Library Card Pouch - I love little zippered pouches for pencils, makeup and keeping my diaper bag organized. And this one is the cutest thing I've ever seen.

Kid Headphones - We got these for the two older girls earlier this year so that they could listen to audiobooks in the car on road trips or use the splitter to both watch movies on the iPad without complaining that they can't hear. I love that they don't go too high so I don't have to worry about them damaging their eardrums and I'm amazed how durable they are (I've been certain they were going to break multiple times when the girls have pulled them, stepped on them, or otherwise treated them poorly, and they've bounced back looking brand-new). Plus, the little cat ears are too cute.

Creative Lettering Journal - If you like writing in books as you like reading them, this lettering journal, created by my friend Lisa from Handlettered Design, is perfect. And then you can come over and write my name in all my books for me with your gorgeous lettering.

Jane Austen Literary Print - I love the bright colors and the quote. A perfect little addition to your bookshelf.

Audible Subscription - Bart asks my parents for this about every other year, because it's one of the few things he knows he'll totally use and love. I'm a mega library audiobook user, but it's so frustrating when the library doesn't have the audiobook you want or the wait list is 500 people long (inevitably on 1 copy). Audible has, hands down, the best collection out there, plus reviews of both the book itself and the narrator, plus if you don't like a book for any reason, you can exchange it for a different one, no questions asked. Perfect for the person who wants to read more or has a long commute or wants something to listen to while they exercise or fold laundry or lie on the bed listening to audiobooks (I would be behind door number three, in that example).

Giving Tree MacBook Decal - The only downside is that you MAY want to burst into tears every time you see it.

Pride & Prejudice Bracelet - These bracelets are so pretty and classy and there are tons of options for the wording on them.

Library Due Date Phone Case - I love that even though most libraries don't even HAVE due date cards in their books anymore, this is such an iconic look (I mean, there are due date scarves, for crying out loud).


Any other gifts for book lovers I should know about?

December 1, 2016

8 Excellent Christmas Picture Books

Eight new books to add to your Christmas rotation!

In the past, I've done lists of 24 Christmas books to read every day of December counting down until Christmas (you can see the 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 editions here).

But there was never a year where I could find 24 new Christmas books I loved, so each year was a combination of new books and old books and there was crossover between the book lists.

Also, I gave up on unwrapping a book a day because it just became more stressful than it was worth for me, and I like having all the books out all month long so we can read them over and over again, plus I don't have to wrap 24 books at the end of November.

Plus they look nice sitting under my Christmas tree.

Anyway, here are eight new (to me) titles to check out and if you want a full set of 24, you can grab other very excellent titles from the previous lists. There's more than enough to choose from, plus I'll be sharing more Christmas books over on Instagram throughout the month.

Happy holiday reading!

The Lost Gift by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Four animal friends are waiting for Santa's midnight flight, but they get more than the bargained for when a present falls from the sleigh meant for a new baby at the farm. The animals agree (some reluctantly) to get the present to its intended recipient.

Presents Through the Window by Taro Gomi
My girls are OBSESSED with this book. Santa comes to deliver presents and, peeking through the window, decides what to leave each occupant based on what he can see. Then you turn the page and realize he's completely misinterpreted each sliver and the results are very amusing.

The Christmas Crocodile by Bonny Becker, illustrated by David Small
I love David Small. Alice Jayne gets a crocodile on Christmas Eve and he starts eating everything in sight. The family has a million opinions about how to get rid of the crocodile (zoo! Africa!) but Alice Jayne wants to do better by this Christmas Crocodile who really doesn't mean to be bad.

The Christmas Fox by Anik McGrory
This one is so sweet. My girls read it together before I did and Ella told me, "You HAVE to read this one - you'll love it." And I did. The animals from the field and forest are heading to a barn and keep inviting the little fox, but he's hesitant to come along because he has nothing to offer the baby.

Maple and Willow's Christmas Tree by Lori Nichols
I never get tired of this sweet sisters and in this one, when they discover that Maple is allergic to their perfect Christmas tree, Willow comes up with an inventive solution. I'm so happy that there's a Christmas addition to this series.

The Nutcracker Cozy Classics by Jack Wang and Holman Wang
I got a copy of this back in August and it made me so anxious for the holidays, I could hardly stand it. I had to put it away quickly before I started pulling out the Christmas decorations while it was still 119 degrees outside. I love the Cozy Classics series and this one is particularly gorgeous.

The Great Spruce by John Duvall, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
This book is brand new but has the feeling of a vintage classic. Alec loves the great spruce in his yard, and is devastated when his parents agree to let a team from the city cut the tree down and take it for the Christmas celebration. Fortunately, he comes up with a great idea that satisfies everyone.

The Biggest Smallest Christmas Present by Harriet Muncaster
You know what's hard about getting presents from Santa? When Santa doesn't realize you're so tiny you take a bath in a teacup and keeps sending presents meant for a regular-sized girl. How can Clementine let Santa know that she's itty-bitty?

November 30, 2016

Black Bean and Bacon Soup

Perfect hearty and simple soup for fall and winter (and reheats really well, so it's great to make ahead!)

During November and December, I feel like the Internet is overrun with treat recipes (and my real life is overrun with treats as well) and what I really need is actual real food.

I made this recipe fairly often YEARS ago, and then hadn't made it in probably four years. Last week, when all of Bart's family was in town, I made a giant pot of it and Bart took one bite and said, "I LOVE this soup. You haven't made this in forever."

That's the kind of reaction you like when you made such a huge batch that there were lots of leftovers.

I put it all together early in the day and then just let it simmer for the whole afternoon while we headed out on some adventures, and it was delightful to come home, whip up some biscuits, and have dinner ready to go for a crowd of thirteen.

Plus, since you've had some real food, you can definitely enjoy a plateful of goodies brought over by your kind neighbors/co-workers/self.

Perfect hearty and simple soup for fall and winter (and reheats really well, so it's great to make ahead!)

Black-Bean Soup
(adapted from It's So Tasty Too)

Serves 6-8

12-16 ounces bacon, chopped
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped carrots
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chili, minced, seeds removed
4 cups (2 cans) cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons ground cumin

Cook bacon in heavy large pot over medium heat until cooked but not quite crispy, about 8 minutes. Do not drain.

Saute the vegetables, garlic and chili with the bacon and then add the beans, broth, chopped tomato, vinegar and cumin.

Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer soup, stirring occasionally, about 1-2 hours.

Before serving, process in a blender or with an immersion blender until mostly smooth.

Salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

Perfect hearty and simple soup for fall and winter (and reheats really well, so it's great to make ahead!)

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