At the beginning of every month, as part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, I take a look at my successes (not just in writing), share the ways I hope to improve in the next month, answer the IWSG question of the month, and provide inspiration (if I have any).

December Goals:
Finish Christmas gifts.
Decide on travel, if any.
Blog year-end review.
Upgrade to High Sierra (on my laptop).

Other Successes:
Both planned and went on a 4-day vacation to DC in the span of 6 days.
Getting this post written the day before IWSG!

January Goals:
• Finish 2017 review: specifically financial.
• Come up with resolutions or ideas on how to achieve my 2018 goals.
• Try, try again to figure out how to update my laptop to the newest operating system.
• Contact Mazda about car part recall.
• Submit my hotel reimbursement claim to Chase.

IWSG Question: What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

I feel like my 2017 writing was lackluster. I struggled to find the time and be emotionally available for it. In fact, as I'm typing now, I'm distracted by the tv in the background. Argh. So, as of right now, I have not taken any steps to put a schedule in place for writing. Ideally, I will be able to figure out a better time to write, in 2018, that doesn't take over my weekends.

With the new year now three days in, have you decided on any resolutions? writing or otherwise? Is there anything you will be doing to make this year your best year yet?

Book Survey 2017

Books I Read in 2017:
Can be found here.

Under 250 pages : 1
Between 400-449 pages: 0
Between 450-499 pages: 1
Over 500 pages: 0
Over 1000 pages: 0
Audiobooks: 0
Re-reads: 0
DNFs (did not finish): 0
Five Star Rating: 0
One/Two Stars Rating: 2
Authors met in 2017: 0
Book events attended in 2017: 0
Books read in one day: 4
Books that made you cry: none
Book reviews posted this year: 3
Most books read by one author this year: 1

Longest & shortest…
By page number: Break Into Travel Writing (240 pages), The Breakdown 328)
By title: Pierre Hermé Macarons: The Ultimate Recipes from the Master Pâtissier, The Breakdown
From buying to reading: To Capture What We Cannot Keep (5 months), Emma In the Night (a few days)

Read of 2017: To Capture What We Cannot Keep
Series you picked up & series you quit: no series this year
Book Post of 2017:
Review of 2017:

Best & worst… + Favorites
Average rating on Goodreads: 3 stars
Most disappointing & biggest pleasant surprise: To Capture What We Cannot Keep and Emma In the Night
Most lenient & harshest ratings: The Descendents and Break Into Travel Writing
Best Book You Read In 2017? The Descendents
Book that became an instant go-to recommendation: The Descendents
Forced yourself to finish: To Capture What We Cannot Keep
Best series you started in 2017? I didn't start a series.
Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?
Best book from a genre you don’t typically read? Emma In the Night
Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? Emma In the Night
Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read? Emma In the Night, if I re-read any of them. (I won't.)
Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously: none, they were all new authors.
Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation: Break Into Travel Writing
Best 2017 debut you read? Emma In the Night
Hidden Gem Of The Year? The Descendents
Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017? Pierre Hermé Macarons: The Ultimate Recipes from the Master Pâtissier
Most beautifully written book read in 2017?
Pierre Hermé Macarons: The Ultimate Recipes from the Master Pâtissier has the prettiest pictures of any books I read. None of the authors were incredibly prosaic.

Book read furthest away from home (vacation reads?): The Descendents
Book that took you the longest to read: To Capture What We Cannot Keep
Book that you personally connected with the most: The Descendents
Book that made you love the villain: none
Book you said you’d come back to but still haven’t picked up again: MANY
Book you read waaaay before it’s publication date: Emma In the Night
Book you read on your birthday: Emma In the Night
Book you read that is red: Pierre Hermé Macarons: The Ultimate Recipes from the Master Pâtissier is the closest
Starts with X, Y, or Z: none
Book you hugged when you finished it: none
Book you wanted to throw across a room (not necessarily because it was bad): To Capture What We Cannot Keep (the characters were irritating)
Food you craved while/after reading a certain book: nothing? Skip meals, yes. Crave meals? no.
Furthest out of your comfort zone: Personal recollections of Vincent van Gogh
Series or author’s works you binged (whether all at once or throughout the year): none. I was good and read a variety of different books/authors throughout the year.
Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? The Descendents
Most Thought-Provoking/Life-Changing Book of 2017? none
Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? To Capture What We Cannot Keep
Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2017? Emma In the Night
Book That Shocked You The Most: Emma In the Night?
The most memorable character of 2017? Emma and her sister from Emma In the Night. If I said why, I'd give away the story.
Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year: Scottie and her dad in The Descendents
Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017? none. There were a lot of female leads in my books this year.
Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year? Nothing was particularly vivid or helped with wordbuilding.
Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read? The Descendents
Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry? none
Book That Crushed Your Soul? none?
Most Unique Book You Read In 2017? Personal recollections of Vincent van Gogh
Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)? The Breakdown. The main character was just … argh.

Books & Blogging
Post with the most views (posted in 2017): IWSG #4. It was the end of April A-Z and I was talking about bizzare research I've done for my writing. 1283 views!
Post you wish you could re-write: More than you know. For every one post I thought I did well this year, there were at least a dozen (or more!) that I posted even feeling they weren't quite up to standard for me.
Favorite review that you wrote in 2017? This isn't my favorite, so it might defeat the purpose of the question, but it was the hardest review I wrote in 2017, comparing Montréal travel guides. How do you even do that? Well, I attempted it. Hopefully someone will find my post useful.
Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog? This was my favorite.

Best book-related event that you participated in? We actually didn't go to any this year. We were busy being more politically involved. Maybe next year?
Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017? Completing The Descendants after several months of not being able to finish a book. Of course, then I promptly quit reading … again.
As for blogging? Completing April A-Z is always a relief. And this year August Break was pretty stressful too. I just struggled immensely with challenges this year!
Most Popular Posts This Year On Your Blog? (Or the ones that had the most views.)
1. Matt Redman Glory Song Album Giveaway (unsurprising -1218 views)
2. IWSG #4 (May edition) (1284)
3. August Break – I Believe (You Have to Be Really Drunk For This) (turtles racing in Key West. 😂 -1023 views)
4. Québec City: What To Do (1065 views)
5. What You Need to Know About Rail Canada (1053)
Post You Wished Got A Little More Love? All of my blog readers gave me lots of love this year, and I am so thankful for that! I've been really quiet as the year has come to an end, so, if anything, I wish I had given all of my readers just a little bit more love this year! Thank you all for all of the comments and understanding! 💕
Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? The Strand in NYC. That bookstore is huge and so much fun to explore if you are in NYC!
Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? Nope, unfortunately not. :(

The Upcoming Year
One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018? Gone Girl
Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)? not sure
2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating? None. I have no idea!
Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018? none. I don't follow series'.
One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018? I really fell off the wagon both in blogging and reading this year. I'd like to find a way to fit both into my schedule again.
A 2018 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:


Planning a Stress-Free Vacation During the Holidays

Today, I have a very special guest, Henry, of Fit Well Traveler who has offered to write a guest post about traveling during the holidays. Sometimes when you get caught up in the details of travel planning, it can be easy to forget the basics, which he has done a good job of covering in this article. Please give it a read and let him know what you think in the comments!

Photo via Pixabay

During the holiday season, many people plan to travel to various destinations to celebrate this special time of year, but holiday travel can be stressful if you don’t take time to plan your trip. Long lines at the airport, delayed flights and inclement weather are just a few things that strike fear into the hearts of holiday travelers everywhere. Here are some tips to consider when you want to take a stress-free vacation during the holidays-- whether you’re going solo, with family or your partner.

Book Tickets in Advance

Want to save stress during the holidays when you are going out of town? Book your plane tickets in advance. You’ll save money and won’t have to worry about trying to find a last-minute flight to your destination during peak flying season. You may also be able to get a direct flight instead of one with several connections.

Buy Event Tickets in Advance

Yes, you want to go that special holiday concert or that special winter exhibit at the museum. But if you wait till the eleventh hour, you and your partner may find yourselves standing out in the cold instead of enjoying the event. So why give yourself the extra stress. Make your winter holiday a memorable one by purchasing advance tickets to any activities or events you want to attend.

Plan Your Itinerary Before You Arrive at Your Destination

If you're the type of person who waits until the plane lands before you begin to plan your activities while on vacation, you’re asking for some serious stress. The hustle and bustle of the holidays can make it almost impossible to get into the attractions and events you want to go to if you don’t plan ahead. Instead, do your online research with your partner and plan all the fun things you want to do when you arrive at your vacation spot.

Packing Your Luggage

Do you really want to lug three or four huge suitcases through airport terminals? That will only lead to more anxiety. Instead, do your best to pack as light as possible. If possible, choose clothes that don’t wrinkle easily. Make sure you pack emergency medication for headaches, indigestion, and diarrhea too. You may even want to pack a small first aid kit in case you need it during your trip. But don’t go overboard.

Leave for the Airport

Do you want to lower your stress? Leave a few hours early so you can get to the airport on time and be prepared for any flight delays. If you live in a city that receives plenty of snow and ice, you may have to wait more than an hour for the airport staff to deice the plane.

Keeping Germs Away

If you want to enjoy your vacation without getting sick, one excellent tip is to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching handrails, security screening containers or any other objects that thousands of people touch at the airport. Once you’re on your flight, use a bleach wipe to sanitize your armrests and seat table. If possible, try not to touch the seat-back pocket. And if you have to use the airplane restroom, wash your hands more vigorously than usual. After all, when you’re on an airplane, you’re surrounded by potential sick people and a host of germs that can make you sick.

Driving to Your Destination

Maybe you and your partner are going to drive to your holiday vacation spot. If so, a week before you hit the road, take your car to the mechanic for maintenance service. You want your car in excellent condition so you don’t end up stranded in the middle of nowhere because of a flat tire or mechanical problem. If you plan to travel through states that have wintry weather, pack an emergency winter kit and keep it in your vehicle. The kit should include a snow shovel, ice scraper and salt or sand. Pack a warm blanket and bottles of water in case your card ends up trapped in the snow. You’ll be able to stay warm and well hydrated until help arrives.

Protecting Your Home

When you go on vacation, keep your house protected while you’re away. Ask a trusted family member or neighbor to drive by your home a few times a week to check on it. Purchase a security alarm service so that if anyone tries to break into your home, the security company can notify the local police. Suspend your mail service until you come back from vacation or give a trusted neighbor permission to collect your mail until you return. If you subscribe to the local newspaper, make sure you suspend service as well. Piles of newspapers and uncollected mail is a huge signal to would-be thieves that no one is at home.

Going on vacation during the holidays doesn’t have to be chaotic. With a bit of advance planning, you and your partner can enjoy a relaxing vacation and spend your time having fun instead of stressing over problems that could have been avoided.

2017 (Image) Recap

For my last Wordless Wednesday post of the year, I've decided to share my favorite images I've edited from each month this year. Some months I spent more time in front of photoshop and some months I've spent less, but I do think that attempting to edit at least one image a week has definitely helped me to improve upon my photo-editing game. It's also given me the opportunity to look back and reflect on past travel and re-edit (or edit for the first time) old images that may have gotten lost in the past.

Usually, during my image recap, I also review what all I've done during the year. Needless to say, it's been busy. We traveled nine months out of the year and I got a new job. And now, I find myself moving from day to day sluggishly exhausted. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but naaaahh. Maybe in 2018?

Anyway, on to the recap:


Monet's House in Giverny, France (July 2016)

We began the year celebrating in Montreal. Fireworks, dinner out, the works. It was absolutely magical being able to celebrate in a different country.

Later that month, we found ourselves at the Women's March. Seeing so many people (not just women) in DC standing up for a cause they all believed in was astounding!


view from our hotel room at Hyatt Regency Maui on Ka`anapali Beach in Hawai'i (February 2017)

Then, we moved on to Hawai'i planning and traveling. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I wasn't certain I would like Hawai'i and I ended up absolutely loving it! While we were there, we renewed our wedding vows after five years of being married. What a magical place to spend our five year anniversary (even if the actual anniversary wasn't until March)!


Cinque Terre (May 2014)
Throughout March, I focused on recovering from Hawai'i, worked more intently on my blog and focused on prep for April A-Z. My theme: travels to Quebec and Montreal at Christmas. I played with a few different post styles during the month and found this to be one of my favorite post styles.


Québec City, Canada (December 2016)

By April, I was absolutely exhausted from my April A-Z prep. But there was still more to do. We had plans to visit Boston to see family and explore the city. Then we were back in DC for the Science March. It was thrilling getting to see Bill Nye the science guy after having grown up watching his tv show in school.


Talmadge Memorial Bridge in Savannah, GA (September 2016)

May was my last full month at my old job. There was a lot of focus on saving money, researching for my blog, and trying to get myself in order to look for another job. We spent Memorial Day weekend in DC simply exploring and taking in the city for what it was, without attending a march. One of our favorite things we did was to explore the Newseum. If you go, plan to spend a minimum of half a day, and perhaps don't take young children unless you want to spend a lot of time explaining. It's a pretty intense museum, but the exhibits, for people who have an interest in history, will truly enjoy it.


South Carolina (August 2015)

During June, the husband and I babysat for a full week (Friday to Sunday) while the parents explored the Carribean. I was so stressed that week I got sick. Then a tree limb fell on my car costing us more than $600 in getting a dent repaired (which the family was more than willing to help us out with! Thank goodness!).


Bill Baggs State Park in Miami, FL (July 2017) 

Regardless of what else was going on (job, no job, stress, what-have-you), I was determined to continue forward with my 1001 in 101 list, so off we went to the Florida Keys and Miami! I loved eating Cuban food and seeing the gorgeous Vizcaya Castle, but I was shocked that the ocean wasn't quite as beautiful there as I had been led to expect. I'm very grateful for having gotten to go, though.


Mallory Square in Key West, Florida (July 2017)

I began my new job in August. My first break? A trip to Beaufort, South Carolina to see the eclipse with stops just before in Savannah and Charleston. Seeing the eclipse was more amazing than I could have ever expected! I was so glad my husband talked me into going!


Honolulu, HI (February 2017)

For Labor Day, we took a trip around the Florida Panhandle visiting Mobile, Alabama, stopping at various beaches along the way as we traveled to Florida ending up in Clearwater Beach. It was absolutely beautiful seeing the gorgeous turquoise water and discovering the gulf coast in a way that I only ever dismissed before.


Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina (October 2015)
What a difference it was doing a road trip in October after our road trip in September. Cool mountain air and a hint of fall in the air. We hiked a hill in Connecticut, ate delicious Boston cream cake in Boston, went to a jazz show in New York City, and woke up to a foggy mountainside in Little Switzerland, North Carolina. 


Boston, MA (April 2016)
As you may be aware, my husband and I did the opposite of lay low after traveling every month since May. We hopped aboard a Delta flight to spend just less than a week in New York City, came home for three days, then headed back out to New Orleans. It was a busy, crazy, fun month.


Porto Venere (May 2014)

All of this leads us here, to December. And honestly, this month has been such a blur that I can hardly remember much of it! Buying gifts, prepping for the holidays, and trying to get enough sleep to avoid getting sick has definitely kept us busy.

How was your 2017? Did you accomplish all you hoped to? Are you ready for 2018? What are some of your most memorable moments from this year?