Celebrate Galentine’s Day with these 13 books with friendship stories in fiction and nonfiction for book club.
Looking for a friendship story for your next book club selection? What could be a more perfect excuse than a fictional holiday that will give you an excuse to brunch AND discuss a great book about friendship.
What is Galentine’s Day?
I think of Galentine’s Day as an official holiday, but its origin story might surprise you. This catchy holiday wasn’t created by Hallmark.
Instead, Galentine’s Day was created by the fictional Leslie Knope in an episode of Parks and Recreation.
Aptly titled the same name as the holiday (Season 2, Episode 16), Leslie gathers a group of her closest gal pals for brunch full of waffles and love.
In this memorable scene, Amy Poehler delivers these lines, “Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast style,” she explains in the episode. “Ladies celebrating ladies.”
When is Galentine’s Day?
On February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day, you can devote a day to celebrating your friendship with your best gal pals. We encourage our readers to embrace a book club selection together and have gathered 9 friendship stories you’ll love to celebrate.
That’s not all though, if you are looking for great movie or tv recommendations, we have you covered with today’s podcast with Mary Carver. Mary is a regular contributor on MomAdvice and the host of The Couch With Mary Carver. Her podcast celebrates TV, movies, music, and books all year-long.
Last Summer on State Street is a haunting coming-of-age story recommended for Jacqueline Woodson and Brit Bennett fans and one of the most moving stories of friendship that I have read.
This powerful and emotional journey is told poetically through the eyes of Felicia "Fe Fe" Stevens, a young girl living in Chicago's Robert Taylor Homes during the summer of 1998.
Alongside her friends Precious and Stacia, Fe Fe experiences the joys and struggles of growing up in a community on the brink of destruction. But everything changes when a mysterious new friend, Tonya, enters their lives.
As Fe Fe navigates the shifting dynamics of her friendships and her family, she must confront the painful reality of who she can trust and who she must let go of.
Set in the housing projects of Chicago, this tells the story of four girls living there as each family faces unique challenges and as they jump rope through the constantly changing shifts of their neighborhood.
The author chose the jump rope as a narration tool because they are woven and intertwined, reminding her of a visual for friendship.
Effectively, jump ropes can also capture someone and hold on to them, which is what plays out in our themes and this neighborhood.
Toya Wolfe writes like a seasoned writer, not a debut novelist, and uses her life story to shape these pages. She grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago's South Side. It is hard to remember you are not reading a memoir because of the detailed intimacy in her storytelling.
If you need an audiobook, Shayna Small's magnificent narration enhanced the experience so much that I found myself holding my breath as she delivered these poetic lines.
Lisa See is masterful at complex and moving stories of friendship and sisterhood, so I would be remiss if I didn’t include one of the best books from her backlist.
In Hunan (a remote county in China) in the 19th century, where a young girl named Lily forms a powerful and lifelong bond with her "old same," Snow Flower. This story centers around the lives of these two girls who are paired as "old same" at the tender age of seven.
In Chinese tradition, this term refers to a type of emotional bond between two women, usually formed in childhood, that was formerly practiced in this region of China. This bond is as strong and enduring as a sister & typically involves a close and intimate friendship, with the women communicating and supporting each other throughout their lives. This tradition is specific to the regions of China and this province.
As is customary in their tradition, Snow Flower & Lily are paired together to be lifelong friends and to see each other through their marriages, children, and the ending of their lives.
They write back and forth in a unique secret language called nu shu on a fan to communicate with each other. This keeps their stories away from the prying eyes of men, releasing their true feelings about their new roles.
The messages written on their fan start in their girlhood and begins as an introduction to one another. It later reveals the true secrets of how they feel about their status and about one another, shared between only them.
In the beginning, Lily seems an unworthy match for Snow Flower and does not seem as learned and polished as her old same. Snow Flower appears to be the more polished one coming from a higher upbringing and is happy to share her writing, embroidery, and sewing knowledge. Lily offers advice on cooking, cleaning, and caring for the home. They seem the perfect match.
A secret and misunderstanding send their worlds into a spiral, and the reader is taken on a journey where their friendship is threatened to tear apart.
It is a friendship that endures through a war, through many pregnancies and miscarriages, through difficult marriages, but can it survive until the end of their lives? You will have to read this one to find out!
If you love this book, you will discover that all of Lisa See's stories are incredibly well-researched works of historical fiction because of Lisa's connection to China. Her great-great-grandfather came here to work on the building of the transcontinental railroad, and her rich family history has made this her most beloved setting for her story.
If you need an uplifting story about female friendships, The Kitchen Front is a wonderful historical fiction pick that will check all boxes.
In this story, four determined women compete for the opportunity to host a popular wartime cooking program (on the BBC) called The Kitchen Front. The prize is not just a job as the program's first-ever female co-host but also a chance to better their lives.
The backdrop of this story is WWII; the Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the food supply.
This contest is meant to educate the public on how to cook their rations, but it means so much more to the contestants.
We have a young widow that sees this as an opportunity to pay off her husband's debts and secure a future for her children. Another character is a kitchen maid, where winnings would allow her to leave servitude and find freedom. For the lady of the manor, it's a chance to escape her wealthy husband's increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it's a chance to challenge the men at the top of their profession.
With the stakes high, these four women are giving the competition their all, and are determined to come out on top, while the contest aims to bring the community together and uplift the spirit of the nation during trying times.
Of course, they find love and friendship between one another along the way and it grows into some REALLY heartwarming ways.
Personally, I have always been fascinated by Depression-era cooking and the smart resourcefulness that was required to feed a family. This well-researched historical fiction novel really dives deep into those creative wells and I think it is something that we can both admire and learn from.
Each chapter also shares their recipes to really showcase how these dishes were created.I learned SO MUCH more than I had expected about this era and how the ration system even worked.
Let’s celebrate female friendships and empowerment in the most unlikely places- the bare-knuckle boxing ring of 18th century England.
This page-turning novel combines the gritty atmosphere of Fight Club with a smart feminist angle that is a surefire winner for any Sarah Waters fan.
Born in a brothel, Ruth discovers her true calling as a bare-knuckle boxer. While Ruth wasn't born with the looks necessary to get those paid patrons, she does discover a hidden talent for getting these patrons to pay her to fight the other girls in the house.
Scarred by smallpox and trapped in a life of power games, Charlotte seeks an escape. While her path could be different, her scarred face means she doesn't meet society's beauty standards.
When the two women meet, their perspectives are forever changed, and they team up to fight for their places in society.
This sweeping historical fiction novel tackles how women creatively navigate societal hurdles and can lift each other to gain momentum in a male-dominated world.
As so many of us have caught the Royal bug these days, I wanted to mention another lovely historical fiction book that might allow you to immerse yourself further in this Royal-adjacent story.
Instead of exploring the story of the royal family and all of its mystery, Robson decides to explore it from another viewpoint: the women who made the wedding dress.
This captivating historical novel takes the reader on a journey through the lives of three strong and determined women hired to embroider the dress of Princess Elizabeth.
The story is set in London in 1947 against post-World War II Britain, a time of hardship and uncertainty.
Ann Hughes & Miriam Dassin are talented embroiderers tasked with the intricate stitching that will adorn the royal bride's priceless wedding gown.
After the royal ceremony, Ann moves and never tells her family about her life in London and the work she did for this famous gown.
In 2016, when Ann's granddaughter stumbles upon a box of her late grandmother's belongings, she finds a set of hand-stitched flowers with no background information.
What she discovers, though, is that these motifs are the same that decorated Queen Elizabeth's gown, and she begins to wonder if there was more to her grandmother's story than she realizes.
Heather travels to London to unravel the past that Ann never shared with her family and her secret friendship with Miriam, a celebrated artist, and Holocaust survivor.
An excerpt of the interview with Betty Foster, a woman who aided in the actual embroidery of the dress, appears at the end of the book and showcases how much her voice shaped Robson's writing and the gorgeous characters she has crafted.
With rich historical details, readers will appreciate this story of friendship, perseverance, and the resilience of the human spirit.
Looking for a guide to building and strengthening your friendships? Look no further than this thoughtful tool from debut novelist Laura Tremaine.
This powerful book, part memoir, and part guidebook, provides readers with the tools they need to foster authentic and meaningful connections with the women in their lives.
Laura is a gifted colleague that I've followed over our many years of online adventures and I can attest that this is a fantastic pick for building and facilitating meaningful friendships.
In today's hyper-connected world, women still feel ashamed for sharing their personal experiences and being vulnerable. This book, written by Laura Tremaine, encourages readers to break through these barriers and build deeper relationships through openness and vulnerability.
Drawing on her experiences, including her childhood in Oklahoma, her shifting faith, and her marriage to a Hollywood movie director, Laura shares her journey toward building authentic connections. Each chapter includes reflective questions and prompts to help readers uncover their lives' unique details and stories and cultivate deeper connections with others.
Although I’m familiar with Laura’s story, I was still surprised by the beauty in her vulnerability as she shared the moments that shaped her. She’s not afraid to tackle big topics like postpartum depression, anxiety, and heartbreak.
What I appreciate the most is the sincerity that pulls through on every page. Although many of us may have been attracted to her life because of their Hollywood background, we stayed because Laura’s authenticity shows up in every space she touches.
For a quick backstory on this book, though, Bustle had a great article with the authors that shared a little about the inspiration for this book.
"There’s a certain kind of email familiar to many women in their 20s and 30s. Its purpose is usually to plan a night out, a holiday weekend trip, or maybe a bachelorette party.
A lot of people are CC’d who are tangentially connected to each other — a cousin, a BFF from childhood, a college roommate — and they all have differing opinions.
These emails may include a detailed packing list (“Jean shorts. White pants. Hair ties.”) and itinerary (“6:25 p.m.: Pre-game with margs and cucumbers. 6:45 p.m.: Get cab to Brooklyn.”).
After five or 30 more messages and dozens of exclamation points, you end up owing someone money for a share house or matching thematic tank top you didn't plan for, payable by Venmo by EOD. These emails open with a greeting that elicits both stress and delight: Hey, ladies!"
In this ALL TOO RELATABLE plotline, this story follows a group of eight 20-and-30-something friends as they navigate through one year of holidays, summer house rentals, dates, brunches, breakups, and the planning of a VERY disastrous wedding.
The story is told entirely through emails, texts, DMs, and every other form of communication known to man, making it an instant classic for anyone who loves to read about the ups and downs of friendships.
The characters in the book include Nicole, who’s always broke and tries to pay for things in Forever 21 gift cards. There’s Katie, the self-important budding journalist, who thinks a retweet and a byline are the same things. And there’s Jen, the DIY suburban bride-to-be.
This satirical punch of a book will have you cringing and laughing as you recognize your friends and even yourself in these scenarios.
The email sign-offs and correspondences were so funny that I started sending screenshots to my husband.
I loved it from start to finish and hoped there would be a sequel where these women have kids and have to start thinking about someone besides themselves.
As a side note, if you are a Kindle reader, it is best served up through the Kindle app on your iPad because of the fun illustrations included within this book.
This story also celebrates the number 100, but it centers around 100 special days together to celebrate those little moments in life.
The story follows Annie Hebden, a 35-year-old woman stuck in a rut and struggling to move on from a tragic loss. That is until she meets Polly Leonard, an eccentric and bubbly woman determined to help Annie find joy and happiness in her life.
Polly, who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, will not take no for an answer to her repeated aims at friendship, and this diagnosis makes Polly more determined to make the most of every day.
Polly has been told she has one hundred days left and decides she wants to pursue one hundred new ways to be happy... and she wants Annie to help her with this mission.
However, Polly doesn’t know that Annie needs this happiness push as much as she does.
In an interview with Huffington Post, Eva shared her inspiration for this novel. "I’d been through a couple of tough years in my life and found that things like life lists and gratitude lists had been very helpful.
I then saw some Facebook friends doing the #100HappyDays challenge and started to wonder: would that work if you’d genuinely experienced terrible tragedy? What if you only had 100 days left to live? From there, the story took shape quite quickly."
The book is told in 100 chapters (one per day) which ended up being a unique writing challenge for the author but added to the experience for the reader.
It reminded me of the importance of pursuing happiness, the power of forgiveness, and the beauty in healing old relationships.
I also love a persistent friend who will check in on you even when you are pushing them away- a perfect theme for Galentine's Day.
Other Backlist Favorites that Celebrate Female Friendships
If you have been with your gal pals as long as I have, I did want to offer some great backlist friendship stories that you might want to host a “reunion” book club together. These are three modern day classics that you might have read in your earlier years of friendship that could be revived for your next gathering.
This friendship classic novel tells the story of four best friends who share a pair of magical jeans that fit each of them perfectly. Despite being separated for the summer, the friends maintain a strong bond through letters and the jeans that bind them together.
The Red Tent is very loosely based upon the Biblical story of Dinah and a familiar classic passed on in many book clubs. The red tent is the gathering place where the women would commune during their cycles, to give birth, and where they went when they were ill. This little tent is a sorority of sorts where the women sit to share their stories and sing songs.
This dystopian novel contains a beautiful blossoming friendship between our main protagonist, Katniss, and her friend Gale. The two garner each other support as they work to survive the game and the inevitable rebellion that comes after.
This backlist series follows the friendship of four Louisiana women, known as the Ya-Yas, over the course of several decades. The story explores the ups and downs of their friendship and how they support and rely on each other throughout their lives.
What friendship stories would you add to this list?
Looking for more great books? Check out these lists!
This homemade laundry detergent recipe can save your family lots of money at the grocery store. Try this powdered laundry detergent made with Borax, washing soda, & a laundry soap bar. Try this recipe
A homemade laundry detergent recipe can save your family lots of money. Try this DIY powdered detergent made with Borax, washing soda, & a castile soap bar.
As we look to reduce our spending this year, I wanted to revive a few of our most popular DIY projects and this is one my FAVORITE DIY projects we have done for our family.
This homemade laundry soap has been one of our tried-and-true projects for both savings AND for getting our clothes clean even with our most sensitive skin problems.
I made this tutorial WAY back in 2013 and have adjusted the prices to the current pricing to ensure that this is as accurate as possible.
As you can imagine, materials pricing went up, but not as much as I had expected.
This is still much more economical than buying store-bought detergent. To add to the cost savings, I’ve included some ways that you can make it even more economical.
What are the Benefits to Making Your Own Detergent?
The top question I get asked is if these homemade detergents work and if it is worth the effort. Not only does it work AMAZING, but the cost savings (detailed below) is also worth it as we combat these rising grocery prices.
Not only does making your own laundry detergent save you money, but it can also reduce your environmental impact.
For example, homemade detergents have a smaller carbon footprint than store-bought detergents, simply from a plastic packaging perspective alone.
On top of that, you can control the ingredients that go into your laundry detergent.
What Ingredients Do I Need to Make My Own Laundry Detergent?
Homemade laundry detergent is a simple and cost-effective way to clean your clothes. It can be made with just three ingredients: Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap, washing soda, and borax.
The Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar Soap is a powerful stain remover that can help to lift dirt and grime from your clothes. It is a staple ingredient in many homemade laundry detergents and can be found at most grocery stores or online.
Alternatively, you can also use Zote, Ivory Bar Soap, or Dr. Bonner’s Castile Bar Soap as a substitute.
Washing soda, also known as sodium carbonate, is a powerful cleaning agent that can help to remove stains and brighten whites.
Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a natural mineral used for cleaning and laundry for centuries. It is a powerful stain remover and can help to brighten whites and remove odors.
How Much Does It Cost to Make a Homemade Batch of Laundry Detergent? (pricing updated for 2023)
The current pricing on these three ingredients is:
Fels-Naptha Laundry Bar– $2.59 per bar (currently unavailable online at a reasonable price through Walmart- check on your store shelves)
One batch of laundry detergent takes one cup of the borax, one cup of the washing soda, and one bar of soap.
Using these current prices, if the total cost of the ingredients is $2.59 for the laundry bar + $4.59 for the washing soda + $5.97 for the borax, the total cost is $13.15. Dividing this by the number of batches you can make, it gives us a cost of about $0.83 per batch!
If you use one tablespoon of detergent per load, it will cost you just $0.06 per load!
If you have a particularly dirty load, you can use two tablespoons, then it would cost just $0.11 per load.
It is possible that buying these items locally will yield even more savings versus buying the ingredients online.
Where Do I Buy the Ingredients for My DIY Laundry Detergent?
Walmart can be a great option (only purchase IN STORE to avoid those third-party online prices). These supplies are all right in a row at your local store and are located on the opposite side of the laundry detergents, over by the stain remover.
If you don’t have success at your store, another unexpectedly frugal spot to shop is your local hardware store.
How Do you Grate the Laundry Soap Bar?
You can definitely use an old-fashioned cheese grater, but the soap can clump up and not completely dissolve in your load unless you grate it extremely fine.
I allow my food processor to do the work for me because it is much easier to do and allows you to also double or triple your batches of laundry detergent in no time flat.
What Can I Use if I Prefer to Use a More Natural Homemade Laundry Detergent?
Although we have never had any sensitivities to the current recipe, castile soap is made from plant-based oils (olive oil, coconut oil, and hemp oil), and I think it will be a smart switch for a greener formula.
In case you didn’t know, castile soap is known for its more gentle and moisturizing properties, as well as its versatility in a range of cleaning applications.
It is why it is often used as a base for homemade cleaning products, such as laundry detergent, dish soap, and all-purpose cleaner.
Because it is made from plant-based oils, Castile soap is biodegradable and environmentally friendly. It is also typically free of synthetic fragrances, dyes, and preservatives, making it suitable for people with sensitive skin or allergies.
Keep in mind, making this switch will add to your cost per load of laundry. Right now the pricing is roughly $4.50 per bar. Even with the higher cost of this bar, it is still much cheaper than conventional laundry detergent prices.
Is Homemade Detergent Safe to Use With High-Efficiency (HE) Washers?
The true beauty of using this homemade detergent is that it doesn’t have a lot of suds. You can’t use laundry detergents not made for high-efficiency washing machines because of the suds factor in many store-bought detergents.
Thanks to the small amount of suds and the minimal amount of soap you need to wash your loads, it is the perfect detergent to use with your HE washer! You can use this homemade laundry detergent with confidence!
Is This Homemade Laundry Detergent Septic Friendly?
The ingredients in this soap contain zero phosphates and zero fillers (like montmorillonite clay) that cause commercial powder detergents to clog lines.
I am sure other items you have lurking in your home are less septic friendly than this one, so this is a perfectly safe product to make and use.
How Do I Store Homemade Laundry Detergent?
I love to store my detergent in a glass jar, but you could also store this in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.
How Can I Prevent Static When Drying My Clothes?
You can use vinegar as a natural fabric softener by adding it to your fabric softener compartment in your washing machine. To use vinegar as a fabric softener, you can add 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your laundry.
Keep in mind, vinegar can be harsh on certain types of fabrics, such as wool and silk, so it’s best to test a small, inconspicuous area before using it on your entire load.
Personally, I have become a big fan of these wool dryer balls and love to add a few drops of essential oils to my dryer balls to add a fresh scent to my loads. This one natural homemade laundry routine that our whole family has gotten behind.
Now that you know all about it, let’s get started on our project!
How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent (A Picture Tutorial)
Coffee Scoop (found in the kitchen supplies aisle, optional, but is great for perfect measuring of your detergent)
Cut your bars of soap in half lengthwise so that you can feed them through the shoot of your processor.
Assemble the processor with your cheese grater attachment and feed your soap in slowly and gently through the top shoot.
Once all the soap has been grated, dump it into a bowl and remove the cheese grater attachment.
Reassemble the processor with the basic blade and then put the grated soap back in. Spin it again until the soap resembles fine small pellets. Your soap is now ready to be incorporated into your laundry detergent!
In a large mixing bowl, combine the grated soap, borax, and washing soda. Mix well until the ingredients are well incorporated.
Transfer the mixture to a glass jar or well-sealed plastic container. Be sure to label the container with the ingredients and the date, so you know what’s inside.
To use the detergent, add one tablespoon of the mixture to a load of laundry (or two tablespoons for heavily soiled loads). You can adjust the amount as needed depending on the size of the load and the soil level.
Store the detergent in a cool, dry place. It should last for several months if kept sealed and dry.
You now have a simple and effective homemade laundry detergent that can save you money and customize your laundry routine. Enjoy the savings and the satisfaction of making your own cleaning products!
Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe
Prep time: 15 mins Total time: 15 mins Homemade laundry detergent can be made with just three ingredients! Try this simple recipe and enjoy the savings!
Ingredients: 1 bar (or 4.5 ounces) of shaved bar soap (Ivory, ZOTE, Fels-Naptha, or Dr. Bonners Castile Bar Soap) 1 cup of borax 1 cup of washing soda
Instructions: Shred your bars of soap as shown in the tutorial above. Mix one cup of borax, one cup of washing soda and the grated soap in a large bowl until incorporated Store in a glass jar or well-sealed plastic container.
Love this tutorial? Don’t miss these other money-saving ideas!
These advent calendars for teens and tweens are just what you need to make your holiday special. Shop this guide for fun ways to countdown to Christmas fun!
One of my favorite gifts to give my teen is their advent calendar as a Christmas gift each year. This year, we wanted to offer this year’s best calendar ideas for your kiddos in this age category, as well as those college-age kiddos that deserve a fun way to celebrate the season.
We have you covered with a few of our favorite ways to countdown Christmas in 2022.
To keep it economical, be sure to read our suggestions for ways to reuse keepsake boxes or diy advent calendars for the season with our smart ideas for saving.
Trying to squeeze in some family time over the advent season? We think this advent idea is the perfect option.
Here’s the setup for this one.
Your pre-Christmas ski trip hasn’t gone as planned: Just as you are taking a break and enjoying the crystal-clear mountain air, you hear a noise and see a terrifying avalanche crashing down the mountain towards you.
This advent calendar is both an EXIT game and an adventure story: in order to free yourself from this predicament, you must open a door of the calendar each day.
Behind each door, you will find a new and exciting riddle, the solution that will bring you closer and closer to escaping the cave! Will you solve the mystery of the ice cave and find the exit?
This one has rave reviews, with people sharing how fun and interactive this was for the holidays.
I also zeroed in on one comment that shared it was a great one for “their middle-school boy.”
Don’t love the setup for the location of this game? Check out these this other option (The Hunt for the Golden Book) that the company offers.
If you have a fishing enthusiast, this company makes creative tackle boxes to countdown the season.
Inside you will find a beautiful, compact, water resistant case under door #1. The 23 compartments to follow reveal all sorts of fantastic high quality fishing gear to fill that box up. There’s a gift everyday to help count down until Christmas.
This Christmas-scented candle offers an interactive way to countdown to Christmas. Give this with bags of their favorite candies to countdown the season. Scent options include Christmas Memories, Christmas Tree, Elf Sweat, Hot Cocoa, Mrs. Claus Cookies, Reindeer Poo, Snow Angels, and Wintery Candy Apple.
This would be fun to pair with bath bombs or fun chocolate treats for each day that they can grab out of a big jar!
Looking for an affordable advent option? This one-page digital download is a perfect option. Print out this download on watercolor paper and pair it with a watercolor paint set and follow the YouTube class to learn how to watercolor each day as a countdown to Christmas.
The content creator has created a lesson for each day and a holiday playlist to go along with these lessons. This is perfect for a beginner painter who is looking for a quiet way to celebrate the season.
This advent challenge is a scratch-off keepsake brimming with unique adventures that help you explore outside your comfort zone, dive deeper into your relationships, and make meaningful memories.
One reviewer left this meaningful feedback on this one- “I love my family but sometimes we really struggle coming up with things to do, especially at Christmas when we’re together for days in a row. This holiday advent calendar totally alleviates that stress. The activities are fun and creative. 10/10 would recommend.”
If you are looking for a new way to connect with your teen or tween over the holidays, this looks like a winner and costs just $25 for the whole family.
The first volume is packed with 25 days of surprises and over 40 keepsakes, ornaments, and booklets. There’s something for everyone in this set full of fun, nostalgia, and even a Holiday Armadillo!
The sequel version contains twenty-five days of surprises and brand-new unique keepsakes and trinkets ranging from fun paper ornaments to classic Friends-inspired recipe cards and more.
If you have two teens in your house, this might be a fun pair-up for the holidays!
Food Advent Calendar Ideas
I can always get behind food gifts because it isn’t something you have store year after year.
Make this evening magical by pairing it with our favorite holiday tv sitcom recommendations. These bite-sized treats and bite-sized show are a perfect pairing for teens or tweens.
Williams and Sonoma Food Advent Calendars
No one does it better than Williams and Sonoma. Here are a few of our favorite options for this year!
Christmas Popcorn Advent– Over the course of 24 days, follow the poem on the back and collect all the elements to create a popcorn party you can enjoy on Christmas Eve. Behind each door, you’ll discover top-quality popping corn and seasonings from family-owned Wabash Valley Farms.
Harry Potter Advent Calendar– Starting December 1, discover everything from Lemon Sherbets and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans to gummy candies shaped like owls, cars and lightning bolts. The confection-filled calendar makes a great gift for Harry Potter fans of all ages.
Peppermint Bark Advent Calendar– Open one of the 24 doors every day to reveal a snowman, toy soldier, Christmas tree or Santa. Each crunchy treat is made of rich semisweet chocolate and creamy white chocolate with crushed peppermint candy.
Holly Dolly Advent Calendar– Have a Dolly Parton fan on your hands? This adorable advent calendar is made for them! Every day from the first of December until the night before Christmas, you’ll discover a different treat hidden behind one of the windows. The colorful, individually wrapped candies are some of Dolly’s favorites, including chocolates, caramels, gummies and mints.
I have a teen who loves to unwind with a cup of tea and this advent calendar option couldn’t be more perfect for her.
The Brew Company (a small business selling on Etsy) offers this gorgeously packaged bestseller option with these flavors inside: Nordic Berries and Chai, Good Morning Quince, Green Refreshment, Black Tea Chai, Lovely Liquorish, Tasty Berry, Raspberry and Fruit Basket, Japanese Sencha, Fruity Figs and Pineapple, Sweet Chamomile, Blueberry-Mint, Cool Mint, Earl Grey, Cranberries and Grenadine, Red Berry Dream, Ginger Lemon, Sweet Sea Buckthorn, Pink Grapefruit, Detox Tea, Fruity Passion, Revitalizing Treat, Rooibos Blood Orange, Mulled Wine, and Spicy Turmeric.
If your child loves a good makeup fix, this advent calendar offers 12 of Benefit Cosmetics bestsellers in a travel-size. It features fun-sized versions of their brow top-sellers, mascaras, pore primers & face powders.
These advent bags have 24 unique images inspired from the classic holiday movie Christmas Vacation.
Keep it budget-friendly by heading to the local wholesale club to fill it with treats to pair with your favorite Christmas movies. You could also add fun beauty items for a self-care advent spin.
Personalize an Advent Pocket Calendar
A pocket calendar like this one can allow you to personalize it with your own treat ideas. Consider filling this with fun (and useful) items like lottery cards, gas station gift cards, coffee shop gift cards, bookstore gift cards, iTunes gift cards, beauty masks, mini nail polishes, favorite treats, and MALL MONEY.
Store this calendar and use it year after year.
Don’t love this design? Head here to find one that fits your kiddo’s style perfectly.
Have a teen that loves to bake? This cookie cookbook is a fun way to diy the advent fun for the season. Select a few of the recipes to do together in your kitchen. Throw on your favorite holiday records or playlist.
Spend a cozy night in with these jigsaw puzzles that are great gifts for adults AND kids. Trade in a board game night for these fun-themed puzzles that embrace bookish themes and more in their puzzle designs.
As soon as the weather turns crisp, we designate a table in our home as the puzzle table for the season. I love to have a puzzle that we can work on in those early morning hours with coffee or at the end of the day with a cup of tea.
Today I’m sharing a few of my favorite puzzles we’ve done at our house and some that made my wish list this this year. We have had the best time compiling this new guide for you.
Make sure to bookmark this list for gift-giving this year. Puzzles make incredibly unique hostess gifts, housewarming presents, and holiday gifts.
Before we dive into the puzzles, I do want to mention a few ways that we have saved A LOT of money over the years on our puzzle collection.
Three Easy Ways to Save on Jigsaw Puzzles
Find Out if Your Local Library Lends Puzzles- I can’t tell you all of the ways we have saved money over the years with our local library.
Contact your local library to see if they offer any jigsaw puzzle exchanges or if you can check out puzzles with your library card.
Start a Puzzle Swap With Friends- One of the best ways we have saved is offering a puzzle swap with our friends.
When we have coffee together, we just bring our puzzles we have finished and trade them for a fresh puzzle.
Check Deals Sites For Deep Discounts On Puzzles- I don’t think a lot of people realize that puzzle savings can be found in some unlikely places. One of the best spots to check for puzzles is Zulily for 30% or more off their puzzle collections.
If you want to buy puzzles at a brick and mortar spot, our used bookstores offer huge savings too on used puzzles as well as new.
No matter where you shop make sure that you are signed up with Rakuten and that you activate your savings before any shopping!
Oh, Agatha Christie fans, this puzzle is such a treat!
In this puzzle you can spot famous characters, find crime-solving clues, and historical locations as you build the puzzle.
This has 90 clues within the puzzle including some of her most memorable characters, from Poirot and Miss Marple to Tommy & Tuppence and Parker Pyne, as well as real moments from Agatha Christie’s life!
This puzzle also includes a fold-out poster bonus featuring fun facts about the Queen of Crime and her creations.
The artists were inspired by how a geode’s crystalline structure is created in nature and uses a special simulation program that develops the puzzle’s image by layering color that radiates from the puzzle’s edge.
The best books, tv, movies, podcasts and products I’ve purchased in 2022!
Hello, my friends! I hope that you’re having a wonderful summer! I thought it might be fun to talk about my favorite things (so far) this year.
Personally, I get bogged down with those end-of-year recaps so I thought a mid-year surprise might be a lovely escape for summer.
Please consider today’s list as INTERACTIVE! Please leave a comment and tell me what’s topped YOUR list this year! It can be anything- books, podcasts, apps, recipes, clothing, organizers- WHATEVER. I love and miss the interactions we share in these spaces.
My Favorite Things (So Far) This Year
Please keep in mind, these are new-to-me discoveries and may not have been released this year.
The Best Apps of the Year (So Far)
Two apps changed my mental health journey this year and I’m forever grateful.
Last summer I decided I wanted to reign in my evening drinking habit and I used this app to help reinforce my commitment to myself.
Can some people do it without an app?
Did I ever honor a commitment that I didn’t invest into and get spelled out to me in black-and-white?
No, I didn’t.
Each week I would make a commitment to the amount I would drink that week and it would coach me every evening to remind me of that commitment I made to myself. It sent me charts on saved money, sleep hours reclaimed, and calories saved.
Gradually, I went from two drinks in the evening (or more) to being a girl who has a glass of wine on special occasions.
Admittedly, the holidays were weird this year and I now notice how I used alcohol to brave social situations.
It was the hardest and best gift I could have ever given myself to feel so aware of my actions.
Alcohol no longer plays a role in my life really at all and it was because of this app.
The Best Podcasts of the Year (So Far)
You know I have to mention the launch of the Book Gang Podcast (subscribe wherever you get podcasts!). The challenge with podcasting has been making shows AND listening to other people’s shows. That said, these are two that I loved this year.
When people talk about podcast hosts feeling like friends, I never really got that. I have always been pretty grounded in the separation in these feelings…that is until this podcast came along.
Fun fact that might change how you feel about me- I deeply despise harmful wellness culture and dieting fads.
These hosts, it turns out, do too, and they debunk and explore the myths around these topics in their show. They tackle everything from fad diets that we perceive as healthy to the problematic Dr. Oz and don’t mind exposing a few wellness influencers and their dramatic demises.
I have belly-laughed through so many of these episodes and appreciate the extensive lengths to their research they go to on why this culture and how fat-shaming is so harmful.
Gabrielle Zevin is a tried-and-true storyteller, but no one could have prepared me for the epic and sweeping journey she crafted for these characters in her latest book Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.
For three decades, we follow two unlikely friends who find each other in a children’s hospital.
Sadie’s sister is receiving treatment for cancer, and Sam is recovering from a series of surgeries after a tragic car accident.
They bond over their shared love of video games in the gaming room of the hospital.
However, when Sam discovers that Sadie has been tallying her visits to fulfill her bat mitzvah service, he feels like her charity project instead of a friend.
It ends the fast friendship abruptly, but they find one another again in college when Sadie shares another computer game she has been developing.
The two decide to develop a game together, which follows their success in the gaming industry with their first game.
It also follows the consequences of virtual world-building when they build a world where all are welcome that ends in violence and the dissolution of their formed partnership.
Sam’s chronic pain from his foot injury are written so beautifully and help us understand the daily challenges of chronic pain and learning to find peace with our disabilities when we face them.
This experience is unlike any other that a reader could imagine because Zevin writes each of the games for this company in beautiful and intricate ways that each feels fully fleshed from idea to execution.
I shared these scenes with my software developer husband, who was equally astounded by this remarkable execution.
One world she built, in particular, left me in a puddle on the ground.
It is a journey within a journey within a journey.
Publishers Weekly put it best when they said this book is a “one-of-a-kind achievement.”
Again, I assure you that this will be your favorite book too.
This book hits store on shelves on July 5th. Thank you to the publishing house for this sneak peek.
Best Movies of the Year (So Far)
I try to see a movie every week (both in theatre and/or streaming).
I can’t recall the last time that a movie has transported me MORE than Everything Everywhere All At Once. We went into this one knowing very little and I am really glad we did.
This is the official blurb for the film- “An aging Chinese immigrant is swept up in an insane adventure, where she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led.”
It pretty much tells you NOTHING.
Keep it that way.
This is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve seen on the challenges of mothering our daughters. It made me laugh and cry- sometimes at the same time.
The film was astonishing and visually spectacular.
It was so visually stunning, in fact, that we felt guilty that we didn’t pay for a live theater ticket to see it.
It also is spectacularly strange as she goes through the different universes.
I loved every minute of it and the statements it made about what it means to be family and to fight for those you love.
I’ve been obsessed with true crime this year, and this series was one of the best I’ve seen.
Honestly, I’ve been surprised that I haven’t heard more people talk about it.
This documentary follows the life of Steven Stayner and his family, diving into the family’s 50-year journey to unravel the tale of two brothers, one deemed a villain and the other a hero.
Don’t Google anything if you are unfamiliar with the case- allow yourself to be immersed in this family’s story (told by their mother).
What made this one so compelling isn’t just the true crime case itself but the unique use of narration they used to tell this story.
The documentarians brought back the made-for-tv cast to read the scenes from the movie that was made about this case.
It sounds cheesy, but these readings were phenomenal, and they also reminisced on their own experience acting in these roles in a really beautiful reflective exercise about how they felt for their own characters.
If you are highly sensitive, the storytelling is compassionate and beautifully told.
The Best TV of the Year (So Far)
I am REALLY having a hard time today with this category because television has been so exceptional this year.
I’m narrowing it down to the best in ensemble casts and outstanding women’s lead performances today.
For the record, I’ve never owned an air purifier, but since I bought this I cannot imagine a day without it.
This gadget came highly rated by NYT and has done a phenomenal job not only reducing the odors in our home, but it also has reduced our difficulties with allergies.
The biggest glow-up from this device is when I am cooking. It has an eco-friendly setting that kicks on to clean out detected odors quickly. While I’m cooking, it efficiently cleans up smells before we have even sat down to dinner.
It also does a stellar job with pets, teenagers, sweaty workout smells, and trash.
The hue (Glowing G) adds a natural flush that lasts all day. Although it is a little bit pricier than my usual drugstore options, the tiniest bit goes a long way without any need for a second application.
It’s all about communication-free communication at our house. This magnetic dishwasher sign lets everyone know if things are clean or dirty, reducing the stacked dishes with people claiming they couldn’t figure it out.
If you need one more communication-free communication strategy, here’s my final hot tip.
We celebrated our book club kickoff with our January Book Club Chat on The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano. It was such a thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion on one woman’s choice to be child-free and the way that her lives played out as she explored 9 scenarios where she makes family-planning decisions. If you missed this month, you can still read and interact with last week’s event over here. (reminder: you must be part of the book club group to view these).
I’ve created the cutest little bookmark tracker to track your reading year with me. I wanted to create an interactive bookmark you can color as you progress through our chats.
On the opposite side of the bookmark, you will find the titles and a color suggestion for each of the books. No need to follow my color cues- please make it your own.
NOTES ON PRINTING: Make sure you print the actual size and select to print on both sides.
Thank you so much for participating in our book club chats and I hope this freebie adds another immersive element to your book club experience!
This year’s holiday gift guide is a more minimalist approach than in past years. You may have noticed that the small-budget crushes disappeared, and less of an emphasis has been on shopping. When the pandemic happened, I realized that it didn’t feel true to me to push products each week and just focus on writing and creating the best book content I could for you instead.
I did receive some messages from people though that have used our guides in the past, so I thought I would share a short and straightforward guide this year for a few of the gifts that have made me happy and that I plan to share under the tree this year.
Don’t let the crazy of 2020 mess up your holidays. Create new Christmas and holiday traditions with these easy and inexpensive ideas!
From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.
“Can you imagine a COVID Christmas?”
“Are we really not getting together for Thanksgiving?”
“The holidays just won’t be the same.”
I’ve heard all those things, more than once, over the past several weeks.
I’m sure you have too.
Many of our holiday traditions won’t be practical or even possible this year, and even when we hold those beloved customs loosely and know we’re making hard choices for good reasons, we still feel sad.
So, this year, when everything is different and uncertain and just plain weird, it’s the perfect time to create new family traditions with your family!
And take note: Some of these traditions will translate to any year, so you truly can start now and continue year after year.
But others are specific for a season when you’re separated from loved ones and family members or unable to get out and about as much as normal.
While I’m hopeful we won’t have another pandemic holiday season, other things can keep us at home.
So maybe keep some of these ideas in your back pocket for the next time family is out of town, money is short, the weather doesn’t cooperate, or someone is sick during the holidays.
Even though things aren’t the same as usual doesn’t mean you can’t experience something special.
20 New Holiday Traditions for Your Family
Give each other homemade gifts.
You don’t have to be super crafty or artistic for this one.
A “homemade Christmas gift” could be anything from a jar of cocoa mix to a personalized playlist to a decorated frame to hold family photos.
Remember to give everyone involved plenty of notice (and you could even start a group Pinterest board or slack channel for sharing ideas).
Get—and play—a new board game or card game each year.
My family loves playing Yahtzee and UNO, but I think we’re about due to add a new game to the mix.
We’ll be adding this tradition in 2020.
Let the kids have a Christmas Eve slumber party under (or near) the Christmas tree.
Or the grownups.
You do you.
Celebrate with a “reverse Advent calendar,” filling up a box with a new item to donate each day.
Simply search “reverse Advent” on Google, and you’ll find plenty of suggested calendars and lists to follow.
Go old-school with a red and green paper countdown chain.
Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason!
This might seem like a little kid activity, but I suspect even older kids or adults appreciate the anticipation built by breaking one ring each day before Christmas.
Get outside! Bundle up and take a walk together after a big meal.
Depending on what’s safe and best for your family and community, this might be a way you can see local friends and family without cramming into one home for the meal.
Meet at the park after eating in your own homes.
Wear layers and bring your own thermos of hot cider or hot chocolate!
Buy a new ornament each year.
This would be a great way to support small businesses.
Shop for your annual Christmas ornaments on Etsy or in local boutiques.
Pick something personal or something that reflects the past year, or simply select something lovely to hang on your tree for years to come.
Take time to journal answers to yearly reflection questions or make an annual time capsule.
I know several families who do this each New Year’s Eve, asking their kids and each other about the most significant parts of the year and what they’re hoping for in the next year.
If you created a time capsule instead, you could start a tradition of opening last year’s or perhaps only open every five years for a bigger surprise and walk down memory lane!
Buy—and read—a new holiday book each year.
Or, collect 25 holiday books from the library and your own collection, wrap them, open and read one each day in December.
Have a gingerbread house contest via Zoom or FaceTime with your friends or family.
Don’t forget the prizes!
Buy a new Christmas mug each year.
Display your collection in a special spot.
Host a virtual movie night with friends and family.
With the free Teleparty extension in your Chrome browser (formerly the Netflix Party extension), the host shares a custom link with each participant.
Then, you all watch the same Christmas movie at the same time, discussing the movie (or whatever you want!) in a chat box while watching.
Teleparty works with Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, and HBO. (Amazon Prime has its own free app that does the same thing.)
This Icelandic holiday involves exchanging book gifts, chocolate, and an evening spent reading. Doesn’t that sound lovely? (Read more about it here.)
Put together a puzzle together.
If separated, send same puzzle to each person/family and have a contest to see who can complete it first. The winner must provide a photo as proof!
Watch a holiday movie or special each year.
Some families watch Elf or It’s a Wonderful Life , or Polar Express together each year. Many of us probably watch the Peanuts Christmas special.
My family is a little quirky and since my brother and I were little, we have made time to watch The California Raisins’ Claymation Christmas Special every single year.
Whatever your tastes, it’s fun to have something you watch together each year.
Declutter and donate.
Before adding lots of stuff (aka, gifts) to your house, make room and make a difference while you’re at it.
Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
It’s a classic for a reason!
Put on PJs if you want, take along bags of Christmas cookies, crank up your favorite holiday tunes, and cruise through those neighborhoods that are famously festive! (Or, drive around a new town or neighborhood and try to spot the best-decorated homes.)
Buy—and listen to—a new holiday album each year.
Speaking of tunes…!
It’s always fun to hear our favorite musicians sing or play holiday music, but this could also be a way to support indie or up-and-coming artists as well. Who doesn’t love Christmas music?
Cook (or buy)—and eat, of course!—a special food.
This could be a family favorite (I always make my late mother-in-law’s apple cake for my husband and his family at the holidays, and my mom makes her mother’s pound cake for family gatherings.).
But it could also be a food that reminds you of your family’s heritage or simply something you love eating together. (Popular foods showing up in my informal poll were fondue, tamales, and Chinese food.)
No matter what kind of year you’ve had or what the holidays will look like, you can find a way to give back—and that will enrich your holiday like possibly nothing else can.
Sponsor a family in need with gifts or a meal, purchase gifts for foster children or children whose parents are imprisoned, take breakfast to a fire station on Christmas morning, mail cards to a nursing home, or purchase and hand out holiday care packages to the homeless in your community.
Will you be creating any new traditions this holiday season? If so, share them with us in the comments or over in the Facebook group!
No need to make a fancy layer cake with this easy ombre icing technique for your sheet pan cakes. This cake tutorial couldn’t be easier with a simple white cake recipe topped with a simple buttercream frosting. Check out today’s tutorial for your next birthday cake!
This post is sponsored by Clarkson Potter. Thank you for supporting our sponsors!
Looking for the perfect baking escape? You are in luck! Martha Stewart is back with a brand new cookbook that helps novice bakers master beautiful cakes with a few of her favorite tips and tricks.
Martha Stewart’s Cake Perfection is a step-by-step cookbook that teaches you how to wow your friends and family with inspiring cake ideas and couldn’t come at a better time, with the upcoming celebration seasons.
Since my kids were small, I have made cakes for all their special occasions. Bakery cakes are expensive so learning to make our own cakes has saved us hundreds of dollars over the years.
Now that I have teenagers, it is a treat to be able to do these kinds of projects with them and today’s ombre sheet cake was so fun to create together.
Let’s go through the easy steps to make this cake that would be perfect for any occasion from a baby shower to a birthday bash!
How to Make an Ombre Cake
To begin today’s recipe, you will need to bake this easy vanilla sheet pan cake recipe.
Once the cake is cooked, transfer it to a wire rack and allow it to cool for 30 minutes. Once your half hour is up, simply turn the cake out, from the cake pan, and allow it to cool completely on your wire rack.
Once the cake is cool, you will cover it in white buttercream frosting.
This first layer is often referred to as the “crumb coat,” because it helps trap the crumbs so they aren’t visible in your final product. I find an offset spatula is the easiest way to spread icing on the top and sides of the cake.
Now, divide your remaining frosting into three or four bowls (depending on how many colors you would like for the top of your cake). We will be placing these in piping bags for making our beautiful ombre stripes.
You have creative liberty on what colors you want to use, but we used Martha’s suggestion to mimic the gorgeous hues of a sunset, in our personal color scheme.
Who couldn’t use a pretty sunset right now?
Lucky for us, our cookbook came with this fun decorating set from iGourmet so we had everything we needed right on hand for our cakes. The best part about this decorating set is that Martha Stewart and her team of editors picked out everything you need to make her fabulous cakes at home so no need to visit a fancy shop to get all the pretty essentials. This kit has everything you need from gold and silver sparkles to natural food colorings.
Now we just add a color horizontally across the top of the cake in your desired order. Lightly drag the offset spatula or bench scraper end to end to create a blended effect to your cake. Be sure to just wipe off the bench scraper completely between each stroke of color to keep your lines beautifully clean.
Looking for a more abstract design? Don’t be afraid to get creative and randomly scatter dollops of colored frosting around your cake and blend as directed. My daughter had a great time being a cake decorator and making her own design with toothpicks and all these vibrant colors.
How easy is that?
Author: Martha Stewart’s Cake Perfection
Serves: 4 cups
This easy buttercream frosting is just what you need for all of your cake recipes!
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted (4 cups)
2 tablespoons whole milk
Pinch of kosher salt
With an electric mixer, beat butter on medium high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add confectioners’ sugar ½ cup at a time, beating after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, milk, and salt and beat until buttercream is smooth.
Looking for more cake ideas? Grab this cookbook for 125 recipes for all occasions- from those little everyday moments to gorgeous wedding cakes. What a fun way to make the most of these days at home together.
Ombre Sheet Cake
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Martha Stewart’s Cake Perfection
Serves: 12-16 servings
No need to make a fancy layer cake with this easy ombre icing technique for your sheet pan cakes. This cake tutorial couldn’t be easier with a simple white cake recipe topped with a simple buttercream frosting. Check out today’s tutorial for your next birthday cake!
1 stick (½ cup) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2 ¼ cup unbeached all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ cup kosher salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
Vanilla Buttercream (recipe below)
Natural food dyes in Berry and Sunflower (or your favorite shades)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Dust the pan with flour. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
With an electric mixer, beat butter with sugar, until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with each addition, scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with buttermilk, and beginning and ending with your flour mixture.
Transfer batter to prepared baking pan, smoothing top with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until cake is golden and puffed and a cake tester comes out clean, 22-25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Spread 2 ½ cups buttercream over top of cake with an offset spatula. Divide remaining buttercream among four small bowls (about ⅓ cup each). Use food dyes to create desired shades. Let stand 10 minutes to allow dyes to fully saturate.
Transfer frostings into pastry bags (no tip required) and pipe a line of each color horizontally across top of cake in the desired order. Lightly drag a large offset spatula or bench scraper end to end across cake to create a blended effect. Add more frosting as desired . Be sure to wipe off the spatula or bench scraper completely between strokes.
This post is sponsored by Clarkson Potter. Thank you for supporting our sponsors!