Show Us Your Books – February

Show Us Your Books link-up February book reviews


Before I get into this month’s book reviews, I wanted to pimp out a podcast I’ve been enjoying! In “By the Book”, the two hosts pick a different self help book every two weeks and live by its instructions. They’ve done the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Secret, and more. It’s fairly new, but fun if you have either read the books they discuss or like the concept of someone else reading them for you and reporting back.



Educated by Tara Westover

Goodreads * Amazon

This book, y’all. It’s the memoir of a woman who was raised in a crazy fundamentalist/survivalist family that didn’t allow their children to go to school, see doctors, or for a long time, even have birth certificates. At ten years old, she’s helping her father collect heavy scrap metal from the junk yard – SUPER SAFE. After watching her older brother study at home and get into college, she starts to toy with the idea, and eventually escapes to a totally unfamiliar world.

Skip the next couple italicized sentences if you don’t want a minor spoiler, but it’s so crazy I can’t NOT share. When Tara finally does go to college and takes an art history course,  she raises her hand to ask the professor a question – there’s a word in the caption of a painting they’re studying that she doesn’t know, and she’s curious what it means. When she asks, everyone thinks she’s making a really distasteful joke, but she was serious. The word? Holocaust. Her home schooling was so non-existent that she thought Europe was a country, and that FDR might be a kind of forklift? 

I read most of this in one night – it’s riveting. I’ve read a couple of books by people who grew up in cults or fundamentalist families before, but the kind of interesting thing with Tara’s is that although her family was Mormon, it was more her father than the church setting the insane guidelines they lived by. You know that moment when you’re growing up when you realize that your parents actually DON’T know everything, and they’re just normal humans? Imagine that times a million.

So much crazy shit happens that you kind of wonder how her entire family didn’t die along the way. Important note– there are several fairly graphic descriptions of injuries that various family members sustain either working in the junkyard or from auto accidents. If you’re squeamish, be prepared to skip a few paragraphs when something bad happens. With that note in mind, if you have any interest in unusual memoirs or crazy off the grid survivalists or the whole “super sheltered religious kid discovers the real world” type of books, definitely pick this one up!



A Little Piece of Light by Donna Hylton

Goodreads * Amazon

You know your life has been rough when being sentenced to 25 years in prison is one of the best things that has ever happened to you.

Yes, I read not one but TWO not-so-cheerful memoirs this month! The first half of this one was much tougher to read than Educated – the author endures pretty much every kind of abuse you can imagine from the time she’s a child until she’s arrested at 19 for kidnapping and second degree murder. The childhood of abuse takes up about the first 1/3 of the book, and so many awful things happen to her one after the next that I wasn’t sure I could keep reading it. The next 10% or so covers the crime that landed her a prison sentence, but after that, things (mostly) start looking up for her.

Like Orange is the New Black, this memoir offers an inside look at the justice system and a woman’s experience in prison, but unlike OITNB, the author is a woman of color from a completely non-privileged background. There’s a lot of focus on just why so many women ended up there – desperation. Many were in for killing their abusers, and almost all had suffered abuse.

According to NetGalley, this is being made into a movie with Rosario Dawson portraying the author, so this is your opportunity to be one of those people who sighs about how different things were in the book. (The book will be released in June.)

I’ve Got This Round by Mamrie Hart

Goodreads * Amazon

This was exactly the book I needed last week/early this week when my stress level was super high. I haven’t read Mamrie’s first book yet, or really watched much of her YouTube (I’m mostly just familiar with her because I watched Grace Helbig back when she just did Daily Grace and no TV or movies or other things). The book is still enjoyable without being that familiar with her. Her stories are a lot of fun, and her writing is relateable even if her lifestyle isn’t. (I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t have the $ to drop on plane tickets to Spain for a Backstreet Boys cruise on a whim. Kinda fun to live vicariously, though.) This was a nice change of pace from the two depressing books above!

The only bummer was that my advance review copy didn’t have most of the photos that were supposed to punctuate the stories in the book; only about 10% had been added in, so I felt like I was missing out!

(I received a complimentary review copy via Netgalley)


Head over to Life According to Steph and Jana Says to see what dozens of other bloggers in the link-up have been reading lately!

Friday Favs -February



1. I was watching a vlog this weekend where someone mentioned Battleship, and suddenly I needed to play it immediately. I lost a good 3 hours of my day to  After several days of playing games between writing projects, I figured out the computer opponent’s strategy, which took a lot of the fun out of it.  I’d like to find one where I can play against random other people instead of just the computer, but I haven’t put that much effort into searching yet.


2. I feel like this photo of what I woke up to one morning this week is the only review you need of the Wellness Core Simply Shreds that Chewy sent us as part of their influencer program:

We had three pouches left from the 12-pack, and I had them stashed in the kitchen cabinet. One of my tiny evil geniuses understood what the pouch meant, stole it, and… yeah. I need to invest in a frickin’ safe to keep food and treats safe from these guys! (Thankfully nobody got sick, so I don’t think any of the packaging was ingested!) These only contain fish, fish broth, and water, so they’re a fun supplement to your kitty’s regular food that offers a boost of protein!


3. It got up to 60 degrees yesterday afternoon, so my Bear cat and I went out in the back yard and I tossed acorns and sticks for him to chase. It makes him SO HAPPY when I go outside with him, he acts like a kitten despite being almost six. Getting to feel sunshine didn’t hurt, either.


4. They’re not all great, but this list of 61 Hilarious Times People Got Caught Lying on the Internet is a solid way to procrastinate whatever you’re supposed to be doing for a few minutes.


5. Folklore was SO flippin’ cute at our lesson last week. We were just trotting over ground poles but he got so excited about doing something different that he turned into an excited little kid. He kept wanting to charge at the poles as if they were 5 foot jumps, and even threw in a few little hops instead of just plain trotting over.

I couldn’t resist making a little slow-mo video from one of his hops! (The first time through it’s normal speed, and that’s his slow trot he’s doing.)



A post shared by Crystal Ward (@crystalward11) on



According to our Groundhog overlord, there are still five more weeks of winter. Stupid groundhog. Stupid winter. Today is in the 50s, but the forecast calls for freezing rain tomorrow. NOT cool, since Saturday is the day I work my thrift shop job! Hope your weekend is warmer!


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Friday Favs – Sunshine = YAY!


Happy Friday from my finally un-frozen house! It’s been in the 50s the past couple of days, and I am SO here for it! Can we just keep these temps the rest of winter, please?

Here’s what I’ve been loving this week!


1) A guy that I work with was able to fix my most recent broken pipe for me, and only asked for $25 (Compared to the $80/hr the first plumber charged.) Can we nominate him as Best Human Ever? I’m planning to sneak a gift card onto his desk at work since he wouldn’t take more money and he’s helping me replace the breaker that’s causing the scary fuse box noise next week. But you guys – having water again is so nice! Immediately after he left I took a nice hot shower, did laundry and dishes, and generally marveled at the glory of running water.

Around two months of winter left – should we take bets on if I can make it without another broken pipe?


2) Yesterday was GORGEOUS – almost 60 degrees, so of course I spent it with my favorite guy:


There are only like three blades of green grass left, but he found them. #boomerang

A post shared by Crystal Ward (@crystalward11) on

He was in such a sweet mood yesterday, picking up his feet for me to clean before I even asked and generally just being an awesome horse, so I let him graze for quite a while after our lesson. I should put “graze” in sarcastic quote marks because the snow killed most of the green grass, but he still had fun rooting around for something edible!

We also made serious progress on the crazy trot he was doing last week.

So he’s doing less of this:

And more of this:

He got many peppermints.


3. I’m realizing while writing this post that I was actually pretty boring this week and don’t have that much to share, so here is a picture of the most important Bear in the world out enjoying the weather:


4. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like no matter which grocery store I go to, they only have like half of what I want in stock. I had one of those magical trips to Target this week, though, where they had EVERYTHING I like, and I somehow ended up spending almost my entire month’s grocery budget in that one trip. Now I just have to avoid the temptation to eat all of the delicious things so that they actually last all month!

A few favorites that never seem to be in stock but magically were this time:

Indian food that requires little to no effort on my part is one of my favorite categories of cuisine, but this one has been out of stock the last billion times I’ve been to Target, so I got really excited and bought three.

I’ll save a little bit of my dignity and not tell you how many of these burritos I bought. But they’re so good! And organic and vegan and blah blah blah. And now I want to go make one for lunch.


I bought the limited edition Oreos because they basically sound Nutella flavored. (I did not buy the limited edition cinnamon ones because that’s just weird.) Haven’t tried them yet, but I’ll report back!


5. Speaking of Target, I didn’t go back to the V-Day section but then sorely regretted it when a friend tagged me in an Instagram pic that showed the new holiday birds!!

The pink one is basically just the winter blue bird in a different color (Gettin’ lazy there, Target!), but they’re all super cute! How many Target birds is TOO MANY to own??


Today is payday which mostly means ordering a bunch of cat food from Amazon. (If you buy Friskies, CHECK AMAZON. I’ve been finding it WAY cheaper there than even at Target or Walmart. My cats’ favorite flavor is currently $10.06 for a 24-pack vs $11.78 for 24 at Walmart! And I’ve recently found 24-packs of some flavors for less than $9!)  I’m working at the thrift shop tomorrow (and possibly picking up Fridays for awhile, too), which means I’ll probably come home with a million new things. Otherwise, the week ahead is basically just working and attempting to catch up on things around the house, with (hopefully) a riding lesson thrown in on whichever day is the warmest!

I also REALLY need to decide if I’m going to Kansas for Equifest the end of next month! On one hand it’s 3 days of horse stuff, but on the other it’s a 5 hour drive each way and having to arrange hotels and someone to feed the cats and not knowing if it’s going to be 50 degrees or 5 inches of snow… Arrgh! Winter travel planning is hard!


Have an awesome weekend! Hope winter is being kind to you this week!


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Friday Favs – 19th


Happy Friday, friends! It’s hard to believe we’re already three Fridays into 2018! You know how I keep posting “Oh, I didn’t get a chance to do my Friday Favs post last week because something crazy happened!” or “This post is late because something weird happened again!”? Well… this post is late because something weird happened again! 😂

I went into the kitchen to feed the cats last night and heard the sound of water in the laundry room… but the washer wasn’t running. ANOTHER FREAKING PIPE BROKE. And while I was cleaning it up, I noticed the fuse box making a really weird noise, so I panicked and shut the power to the whole house off for awhile. (I’m rational!) After cleaning up the flooded laundry room by candlelight for like 90 minutes, I was freezing enough (and freaked out by my phone being almost dead) to give the electricity thing another go.

The noise started up again shortly after I turned the power back on, so I tried turning off one fuse at a time until the sound went away. The one marked Hot Water Heater finally did the trick – A HA! I could *not* figure out how a pipe broke AGAIN when I’ve been religiously letting faucets drip during this crazy cold weather, but it looks like my hot water heater doing something funky is to blame. I left that fuse off and flipped off the power to the entire basement just for good measure, but I’ve gotta admit, y’all, I was *terrified*. I can deal with exploding pipes, but electric problems are SCARY. I seriously packed a bag of essentials in case of an emergency. Thankfully just leaving the power to it cut (and my water off AGAIN)  is working well until I can get a plumber out here. (AGAIN.)


Which brings us to…

1) My riding instructor just let me come over to her house and shower this afternoon. I was SO GROSS from cleaning up the flooded laundry room (which is where the litter boxes are…) and I work at the thrift shop early tomorrow, so I was desperate to de-funk. Is there anything better than a shower when you REALLY need one? Fav forever.

2) The UPS saved me this week! We were supposed to maybe get some flurries on Monday, but instead we got 5-6″ of snow on Sunday morning,  and then more on Monday! My road was a mess so I had no way to get out, and I ran out of dry cat food early Sunday. The forecast showed temps wouldn’t be up above freezing until Thurs, so I knew I’d be stuck until at least then. But BLESS UPS’S SWEET HEART, they managed to get here on Tuesday to deliver the dry food and litter I’d ordered from Target back on Friday. I think schools were even closed on Tuesday – it was nasty out there – so I had no hope they’d get there that day. I almost kissed the box when I saw it sitting out front! SAVED!


This is my road. HOW, UPS?


3) Speaking of cat food, thank goodness I still had a 12-pack that sent me to review on hand to help us get through the snowed in days! The Weruva brand always has cute packaging and fun flavor names, so I was excited to try out their “Cats in the Kitchen” variety pack.


I think these have the highest cat approval rating of the various Weruva foods I’ve tried (They also make the Tiki Cat and BFF brands). They have the perfect level of moisture (a little wetter than regular canned food, but not watery) and texture (not pate, but not big chunks). TBH, I’d never usually buy lamb food because the idea of it makes me sad (I’m sorry, lambs are cuter than fish, I know that’s unfair, but…) but my tiny carnivores were totally into it.

Weruva’s foods seem to be super rich – some of the past ones I’ve tried have caused some of the cats to have upset stomachs, but only my mom’s cat Pepper seemed to feel a little icky and that was after eating a whole can herself. (She seems to be the most prone to not adapting well to new foods, so I should’ve known, but when you’re snowed in you don’t have a lot of choices!)

Big thumbs-up on these unless you have a kitty with a sensitive stomach.


4. As much as I dislike snow (And cold weather, and winter in general), seeing my little boys all curious about all of the white stuff was the one high point of the icky weather this week. I brought in a bowl of snow for them to examine, and Lin-Meow Purranda went right to work digging in it. The tiny snowball I made for them to play with was also a big hit – that thing really slid across the kitchen floor, so they had a blast chasing after it!


5. I’ve been enjoying the @FacesWithinPlaces Instagram account lately! The artist sees faces in everyday objects on a daily basis, and posts photos of the object plus a drawing of how he sees it.




Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! It’s supposed to be in the 50s here, which is SUPER welcome after the week we just went through! Will this upcoming week finally be the boring week I’ve been craving? Stay tuned!


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Friday Favs – Happy 2018!


Happy 2018, friends! I missed posting last week because I had a water pipe burst on Friday afternoon, which threw my whole day out of whack! Pro tip: When temps have been super cold for a week and you suddenly get a 45 degree day, don’t randomly test your outside water tap to see if it works. All I did was turn it on and back off, and WHOOSH! Flooding everywhere. And I’d been SO CAREFUL all week to leave sinks dripping so nothing would freeze. Expensive lesson learned!


Here’s what I’ve loved over the past two weeks!


1. You know that feeling of relief and gratitude when something bad happens but you realize just HOW much worse it could have been? That was me last week.

I was out feeding the horses and realized we needed more grain ASAP. Google said there was a feed store less than 2 miles away but they were closing in half an hour, so I hopped in the car to make a quick trip over. I’d just turned from the rural road onto the highway and had gotten up to 65-ish with the flow of traffic when I saw there was a car stopped to turn JUST ahead. I braked pretty hard and I guess my wheel must have been slightly turned because my car fishtailed and I lost control and ended up in a small ditch facing the wrong way.

Somehow, my car was fine other than some kind of scuffed up tires. I was able to just pull out of the ditch and head back to the barn (I was fine but pretty shaken up by the whole thing, so I decided we could do without grain today). I actually stopped by the Walmart garage on my way home to have them take a quick look at my car and make sure I wasn’t missing something and they seemed to think it looked fine, too.

The last time I lost control like that it was on black ice just outside of St Louis and instead of ending up in a ditch, I spiraled into a big concrete wall dividing the interstate lanes and totaled my convertible, so I know how badly these things can go. I’m still blown away that I was able to just drive off without even a flat tire or scratched up car.

How crazy is it that during a super cold week with icy temps, I lose control on the first day we actually get back up to 32?


2.  I’ve scored some awesome post-Christmas clearance deals this month! I got a light-up Christmas cat sweatshirt for $7, a fleece cat-eared hoodie for $3.75 (it’s not even Christmas-y, so I have no idea why it was marked down from like $15), black leggings for $1 (also not Christmas so ??), a cake pop for EIGHTEEN CENTS, and this masterpiece for $1.75 (Yes, it also lights up):


3. I’ve finally found a way to keep the cats from breaking into the bags of deliciousness that sends us to review each month as part of their Chewy Influencer program. You know the coat hangers with clips for pants? I use one of those to hang the bag of treats or food over the top of a door so it’s totally unreachable! Even my little evil geniuses haven’t managed to get up there. (Yet.) But it did work with the Stella & Chewy Freeze Dried cat food that Chewy sent my meowers this last month!

Stella & Chewy grain-free freeze dried cat food

We got the Grain-Free Salmon & Cod variety, which is made from sustainable, wild-caught fish and can be served right out of the bag or re-hydrated. I love the convenience of something that the cats consider as exciting as wet food without the mess! The re-sealable bag is especially convenient.


4. WORK. I’ve had almost NO writing work since before Thanksgiving, which has left my bank account very, very sad. Finally, things picked back up this week and I’ve been pretty busy! Not quite “full time income” level again yet, but “Hey, cool, I probably won’t die of starvation!”, which is a major step up. YAY WORK. (The $ I made horse-sitting while my riding instructor was out of town SAVED me when it comes to paying bills this month!)


5. Speaking of horses, I took advantage of the mid-50s temps on Wednesday and managed to fit in a riding lesson! I hadn’t ridden Folklore in like 3 weeks and he’d only been ridden once in that time span, so we were both a little stiff and achy from the cold. Once we got warmed up, though, things were good! He’s such a great horse for me to learn Hunter/Jumper skills on because he’s pretty well behaved overall, but enough of a challenge that I do have to think and stay engaged and actually work.

Actual rays of sunshine!!

My current challenge is that he’s a BIG horse and when I ask him to trot, he wants to default to this HUGE, powerful, extended trot that’s on par with an average horse running.  (Trotting is supposed to be on par with jogging for humans, speed-wise.)

So basically, I’m asking for this…

And getting this:


I need to see if I can get an actual video of it because I’m super curious what it actually looks like! I’d probably be way too embarrassed by my crappy equitation to actually post it here, though.


In non-fav news, my mom’s kitty Pepper (who I take care of) got in a fight last week and managed to take a claw to the eyeball. It’s exactly as gross as you’re imagining, but as long as we can avoid infection there’s a chance of it healing up well. She’s doing really well so far, but I don’t think I’ll stop worrying until it’s totally healed!

The weekend and most of the week ahead is supposed to be Cold AF again, so hopefully I’ll have enough writing work to justify spending a lot of time snuggled under my electric blanket! After how crazy the past few weeks have been, I’m actually hoping for a super-chill, almost boring week!


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