What I Read This Year – 2016 Edition

Yes, I know I haven’t written since March but I couldn’t NOT make a post recapping and recommending my reads from this year. It was a record breaking year for books due to many flights and also using audible while traipsing up and down the road to Saigon. I finished 57 books, 5 ahead of my goal of 52.

First let’s start with my favorites:

Book I couldn’t stop recommendingA Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman. I absolutely loved everything about this book. It made me cry.

Favorite Series: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. It’s a futuristic telling of classic fairy tales. I thought it was a really fun take and I didn’t even notice that the final book was over 800 pages long.

Favorite Truth: Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach. This was a hard choice since I find reading non-fiction to be utterly fascinating. Truth to the saying “you just can’t make this stuff up”! Mary once again brought her humorous approach to researching interesting things about War that frankly I never think about.

Favorite YA: The Serpent King Jeff Zentner. Confession: I was planning a book club reunion/ girls trip to Nashville and wanted us to read a local author. My brother mentioned a book a friend recently had published so I choose it sight unseen. WHAT A GREAT CHOICE, which has also been reflected in many “Best of 2016” lists.

Favorite Book Published in 2016: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, historical fiction I found this one very interesting and wanted to learn more about the history behind the real life characters.

5 Star Books

4 Star Books

3 Stars

2 Stars



I’ve been feeling a bit crafty lately and was looking for a small project that would be a fun gift for friends. After a bit of Pinteresting (that’s a verb right?)  I found the perfect piece. Us women folk are always needing to bring a dish somewhere – a dish with food. There’s always a potluck or a picnic or just a group of people who will surely die if there isn’t 7-layer dip around. Sometimes it can be a bit tricky to try to transport the dish, especially if it is on the warm side.

Here is the solution – a fancy casserole dish carrier. (That fits your standard pyrex dish or smaller – but who ever brought something small???)

I can’t take credit for the idea, I found it here on Little Bit Funky (if you want to make one yourself) but I can take credit for the hours of sewing while binging on Gilmore Girls. My friend Taunya tipped me off on a quilt fabric shop in Ho Chi Minh City where I found the perfect pair of prints (very Cath Kitdson style) to start this endeavor.  After I had finished them I realized there was a very very good chance the ladies who were gifted these would end up going to the same bring-a-plate soirees so I took it one step further and put name labels to make sure they would make it home safely. Now how many of y’all want one?


Look at all the things you can put in there!



I might’ve made one for myself


The stack of finished beauty!

Prepare yourself for a long post with a lot of pictures.

A while back we decided to set up a home somewhere, and of course somewhere neither where we live nor where we are from. After a holiday in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, England, we fell in love with the place. Fast forward to the last three weeks and I was in Cowes setting up our new place!

We found a flat located right on the water within walking distance to the ferry and a stones throw to all of the sailing fun. Its easy to walk to lots of fun restaurants and shops that I can buy all sorts of nautical stuffs. The lady that owned it before had made some good updates to the flat so all I had to do was add my our style and paint a few coats over some blue and yellow paint (7 coats to be exact) and call it good! Thankfully my mom was enlisted to hop across the pond to help as well.

We decorated with an eclectic mix of Amazon, charity shops, Ikea and craft projects. I do have to disclaim that the curtains WILL BE REPLACED. So here we go with the before/ after pics!


The aptly named Osborne Court.


After a bit of painting, crafting and decluttering this is bedroom 1 (the bottom is the after)


More decluttering, technology upgrade (seriously), additional seating, rug, homemade pillows and a  vintage 1920 map of the island.


Replaced the clutter, chair covers and runner.


Major simplification going on here


Massive painting overhaul and decor addition

Now it’s time to focus on the awesome charity shop finds. There are so many great items that people part with that are better for decorating than finding some generic print at Ikea. Here they are (and all at $15 or less):

I’m also pretty proud of these amazing oars my mom spotted. We couldn’t find a proper bracket to hang them which turned out to be a blessing as we did find an old leather belt that did the trick even better!


Oars to the core


Thank you anonymous Mr Man for the belt your wife most likely donated

There was also a series of craftiness that went on (come on, like you didn’t expect this).


This mirror started out with horrible purple/ blue shimmer tiles. A package of rope and a glue gun turned it into a nautical dream.


The mirror was hung over the beds with care


Practicing my knots


More leftover rope and inexpensive ikea frames


I had leftover rope and this fab tea towel – so it turned into a perfect apron


A little free hand lettering and my trusty Bernina helped me make this beauty


This was an oldie that I made last year that needed to be in this room!

Out of all the clothes in my closet jeans are the hardest to part with. I think about the struggle that occurred when buying them – the juice cleanse before shopping, the tears running down your face, the squats in the dressing room before seeing how they really look and the victory strut to the register when you finally find a winning pair. There is however a time in which they fall out of fashion *gasp*. I distinctly remember realizing that skinnies had replaced all previous type of cuts that Oprah had dictated were the most flattering style of each year. As my fingers ran down the beautiful stack of folded denim (a skill I honed while working at the GAP in high school) I reminisced of all the various girls nights out, cute summer wedges and even a tripping over of a wide leg with a crock pot in hand while in these denim delights. There was no way I could get rid of them, I would SAVE THEM FOR CAMPING!!!

Yes, camping! Even though my boot cut True Religions no longer looked good on a dance floor they were perfect for a weekend in the woods. Who doesn’t need a good pair of camping jeans. It doesn’t matter if they’re in style. Camping jeans end up smelling of camp fire, getting coated in melted marshmallow and keep the stank of not showering encased. I tried this for a while but after our time in Australia I went camping for a total of four nights – and you know what? I wore my in style skinny jeans so I could fit my gumboots over top of them …

So with this move I was left with a stack of 17 pairs of jeans that I knew with my heart of hearts that I would never wear again. I did what any respected quilter would do, I started cutting away to make a jean quilt. Okay I’ll be honest Robbo had wanted one for a while and I was having jean attachment issues – obviously. I spent last week cutting and measuring and sewing and un-sewing and bingewatching the Biggest Loser and ended up with a cute pattern using 6-inch and 8-inch squares and backed with a lovely red and white flannel. I chose red thread for the stitching because I think it was a nice contrast to the jeans themselves. Rob is now rugged up and happy to have his jean quilt and I’m stuck with trying to figure out what I’ll wear camping.




All rugged up and nowhere to go


Great for a picnic!

With the New Year approaching (yes, the Lunar New Year) our town is teeing up some very helpful public service announcements to have great start of the year of the monkey. I’ve taken pictures and since I do not speak Vietnamese here is a very loose translation of what they say.

“A rubbish bin’s job is a lonely job if you throw your trash in the grass. Put it in me and I’ll be happy again!” *please note stick drawings are not to scale.wp-1453554478241.jpg

“Make sure everyone is wearing a helmet as they be crazy driving up in here!”wp-1453554494132.jpg

“These white lines are where you cross the street. Please stop walking into traffic wherever it floats your boat.” This sign is at all of the places people walk across with no crosswalk, basically everywhere.wp-1453554484547.jpg

“These are traffic lights, they each mean something different. Contrary to popular belief you do not have a 5 second leeway on either side of a green or red light”wp-1453554505471.jpg

Now that you are informed I wish you a Happy New Year – drive/ walk/ trash safely!

It’s resolution time and we all know the drill that if you write them down it increases that you’ll actually do it. So here is my attempt at 2016.

  1. I have really enjoyed my 52 books challenge so that will continue
  2. I will make an attempt every day to wear lipstick. I know, this sounds like quite a big task to complete but “my Texans” have made an impact and I don’t want to disappoint them.
  3. Quilting. With my increased free time in Vietnam I decided to do something with a little more purpose than hitting the gym every day. There is a great organization called Quilts of Valor. Their mission is to “cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor”. The patriotic quilts that are made are given to service members and veterans. Since it’s inception they have given 131,794 quilts. My goal is to make four quilts, one per quarter, and more if I can. After a bit of sewing and un-sewing and re-sewing I finished my first top. So here it is in all it’s glory. I can’t wait to get it quilted and give it away.

What are you goals this year?




The close-up

I’m a sucker for a musical so when the opportunity came to attend  kite festival New Year’s Weekend I pounced.

Now first let’s take  second to sing with Mr. Banks:

With tuppence for paper and string,

You can have your own set of wings …

A winding 60 minute bus ride away is the Grand at the Ho Tram Strip (which is a strip of lovely beach with nice resorts) was the first annual Ho Tram Kite Festival. Friends informed of this event and came on down from Ho Chi Minh City for a visit and we made a day of it. In addition to large unique kites there was a Rokkaku Kite Battle (which I think was a competition to be the last kite flying) as well as people bringing their own kites and enjoying the wind. It appeared that the other kite club enthusiasts were quite helpful and friendly based on our inability to communicate using words and instead using hand gestures, smiles and help with string untangling. ‘Twas a great way to enjoy the New Year long weekend.