Book Review: Chanel Bonfire

Chanel Bonfire
From GoodReads.Com: 

 A stunning memoir about an actress's unconventional, heartbreaking childhood with an unstable alcoholic and suicidal mother — a real-life Holly Golightly turned Mommie Dearest — and the unusual strength that allowed her to rise above it all.

Georgann Rea didn't bake cookies or go to PTA meetings; she wore a mink coat and always had a lit Dunhill plugged into her cigarette holder. She had slept with too many men, and some women, and she didn't like dogs or children. Georgann had the ice queen beauty of a Hitchcock heroine and the cold heart to match.


In this evocative, darkly humorous memoir, Wendy deftly charts the highs and lows of growing up with her younger sister in the shadow of an unstable, fabulously neglectful mother. Georgann, a real-life Holly Golightly who constantly reinvents herself as she trades up from trailer-park to penthouse, suffers multiple nervous breakdowns and suicide attempts, while Wendy tries to hide the cracks in their fractured family from the rest of the world.


My Rating: 


Full Cup, hands down.


You know those books you read that stay with you long after you’ve read the last page? Like a memory that is following you around, whispering in your ear?

That’s what Chanel Bonfire did for me. Wendy Lawless wrote it with such a vividness that I felt like I already knew the story in my heart as she was just telling it. 


Stories about mother daughter relationships are among the oldest stories in our history. So how can each one be so unique?

Magically, I felt the same way towards her mother that I imagine she must have felt. I wanted to hate her for the mother she wasn’t being to her daughters, but at the same time, I couldn’t leave her behind. I wanted to read more about her.

Wendy writes about her childhood, how her mother reinvented herself by remarrying, living the life of a socialite, parading around in expensive clothes and using her 2 young daughters as props. On the outside, she had it all, but on the inside, Wendy and her sister's life was far from perfect.


She writes about how she and her sister grew up in a world where each day's happiness depended on their mother's mood. As the older sister, Wendy also struggled in the role of protector of younger Robin and their relationship is shaped by the paths they take to get away from their mother.  The story of the girls' father is also fascinating to me. The father-daughter connection never really broke, even after 10 years of not knowing him. Wendy's father's career as an actor ultimately shaped Wendy's own future, which I think is a priceless sentiment to their strong bond. Their reunion in the book was a miracle on paper. I could feel, see and hear their emotions and connection. It was riveting.

Lawless’s mother was at some parts, on the surface, a hero, providing her daughters with a posh lifestyle, elegant homes, extravagant vacations, beautiful clothing and yet, she was a prisoner. Wendy's childhood was a world where her mother tucking her into bed was a special occasion and bedtime stories were about murder. She took the Christmas gifts away shortly after the girls unwrapped them, she robbed them of a relationship with their father and she told them lies when all they wanted was the truth.

She writes about her mother in an unbiased and observatory voice that was matter of fact but still emotional. Here's one of the hundreds of sentences I highlighted on my Kindle that resonated with me: 


"She lacked the necessary equipment for the job of motherhood, 
which partly wasn't her fault. It was just...missing, buried somewhere..."

See what I mean? See how Lawless writes eloquently and optimistically about such a sad thing? It's like reading a terribly sad story, but you are wrapped up in a warm blanket by a crackling fire, totally comfortable.

Lawless ties the end of Chanel Bonfire up quickly and matter of factually, which I appreciate because I was dying to know more about the characters in her life. And since I was emotionally invested in Lawless's life story, it was funny: at then end it was as if we were old friends and I had to know at the end of the book if she was okay. Even after the story had ended, I kept reading through the post script and the acknowledgements, trying to soak up as much as the story as I could. I was glad that I did, because there, tucked away in the acknowledgments is this little gem: 

"(To) My children, Harry and Grace, for their love and patience, 
and for giving me the chance to have a happy childhood after all, 
by giving one to them. You two are my heart."

Like I said, friends. Glass. Full.

Happy Reading.



Couple O Recipes



I posted a picture of this bread I made yesterday and thought it was only fair to pass on the recipe to you! 
It's a fast rising dough, so it tastes pretty yeasty and works great for a dinner bread. It reminds me of the dinner rolls they always served for sandwiches at my church's potlucks.

Before I start with the directions, I have tell you this. Since this was my first attempt at making home made bread (besides dessert types) I really didn't have a lot of experience with kneading the dough. I kind of just dove in, imitating what I had seen on the Food Network. Obviously, it must have looked funny because pretty soon I hear breathing down my neck and turn to see the hubs looking at my kneading job with suspicion.  Something about my technique was off, he said. He had seen some French chef do what I was doing in order to make flaky pastries or something and was worried I was going to create layers of dough like a crescent roll. 
Yes, because I secretly harbor the talents of culinary's finest pastry chefs.
What followed was a lengthy discussion on the art of kneading. 
So I did what every person does when someone is trying to prove them wrong. 
I YouTubed that shit: 

And I am pretty sure I did exactly like I was supposed to. And I think the hubs  agreed because he let me get back to my bread making extravaganza without any more tips. Either that or he knew better and just left me alone. 
So here's what you do: 

Sweet Dinner Bread: 

Ingredients: 
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar 
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg
5 cups all-purpose flour


1.Combine warm water, sugar, yeast, oil and honey in a large bowl, let sit for 5 minutes then add the salt and egg. Stir all together.

2. Add the flour one cup at a time, stirring together after each cup. Around the 4th cup your dough will begin to come together pulling away from the sides of the bowl and forming a ball.

3. Empty the dough onto a clean, floured surface and begin kneading the dough adding a little more flour as it becomes sticky. It should be slightly sticky. Knead for 3-5 minutes until smooth. 
4. Set aside to rise until double. I had no idea how to gage this so I stacked a couple bags of chocolate chips next to the loaves for comparison. 
5. Divide dough into 2 loaves. Put in a greased loaf pan.
6. Preheat oven to 375°F
7. Set aside to rise until almost double once more.
8. Bake loaves for 25-30 minutes. They should be golden brown on top and bottom when done.



One more bread recipe that never fails to impress and it's so ridiculously easy I can recite it here without consulting my notes:

Beer Bread:

3 cups self rising flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 oz can of beer (We used Busch Light)
Butter to top it off 

Mix it up, pour it into a greased loaf pan and bake at 375 for 50 to 55 minutes.

You can also mix in some garlic, cheddar, or herbs for twists. Honey with a Boulevard Wheat would be amazing also! 

I love this recipe because it's made with stuff we ALWAYS have on hand! 

We love to make this, tear it up into bite size chunks and served it with a dip made from Hidden Valley Fiesta Ranch dry dip mix and a 16 oz. sour cream. DELISH! 

Enjoy! 

And now for a recipe for my go to dish:  

Italian Oven Potatoes



Now, I need to put a couple disclaimers/corrections with this collage if it is going to go along with this recipe.


First, Busch Light is not actually an ingredient. HOWEVER, it does a great job of calming your nerves and enducing feel good vibes as you prepare the potatoes. 



Second, in the first picture, where I attempted to give a visualization of the ingredients, you may notice Chopped Onions in the back ground. That should in fact be Parmesan cheese. Once I thought about it, it really is an honest mistake, because I am pretty sure the two come in the exact same container. Also, chopped onion might not be a bad idea to add to this recipe, so I could just claim I meant to include them on purpose. But that's not as funny. So, you can add whichever, or both, if you desire! 



So you need: 
A packet of dry italian dressing mix
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (probably 1/3 cup or so)
Some Garlic
Some Minced Onion
Parmesan Cheese
4 to 5 russet potatoes, roughly cubed
(I've also done this with new potatoes and was delish, just didn't need to cook them as long) 

And whatever else you have in the cupboard that sounds good! 


I mix all the ingredients except the potatoes together in a bowl. Then I roughly cut the potatoes into cube like shapes. I put those in a greased 9x13 pan and pour the mixture over the potatoes and stir it until the tators are covered. 

Side Note: As I was rummaging through my cupboards, I found this: 



Kraft Parmesan Seasoning Blends. It's technically for pork chops, I think but when I saw it, I thought, eh, what the hay and threw it in the mix as well. Worked out well! 

I cook the potatoes at about 400 degrees for at least 30 minutes. We like ours potatoes pretty well done around here! 


Hope you enjoy and if you have bread recipes,  or your own versions of any of these recipes, let me know, I want to know about them! 


My Week's Pit & Peak

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I love when I start to write this post and have to try hard to think of a pit but can think of more than one thing to put as the Peak of my week! 

The Pit was probably having to spend entirely too much money replacing the kids' underwear. Why you may ask? Because our dog, K.C., won't stop eating them. She's a panty addict. And want to know something gross? She only eats the butt crack part out. My kids' underwear are all crotchless, pretty much. That's something a mother doesn't ever want to say about her kids' underwear. 
Is this normal? 
Granted, at least I know where I can find all the dirty laundry when I need to start a load: under the dining room table, where the dog hoards her findings.
I mean, who doesn't have a pile of crotchess panties under their dining room table? oh, just me? that's cool....

The Peak! 
Thursday would most definitely have to be my Peak. 
Number one, because I got to come home early thanks to Snow-maggedon '13. 
I did laundry, picked up the house and read for a straight hour in my cozy bed. In the peace and quiet (it was the kids' afternoon at their grandma's). It was almost too good to be true! 
I also got to use my birthday present for the first time: 




And I made this! 

Simple Honey Bread

I am going to post the recipes for this and some awesome, easy, oven potatoes soon! 

And then the fun of Snow Day 2013 continued when the kids got home and we bundled up and headed outside :) 







Meet the panty eater


It's been a pretty okay week so far, I would say! 

Saturday, R1 has a wrestling tournament, and I will be making Scotcheroos for the tournament's concession stand and experimenting with more bread recipes. Do you have a favorite bread recipe? Share it with me! 







Currently....

HK

This week's questions:

TAKING, GIVING, TEACHING, LEARNING, LOOKING

Taking: A snow day. Just in case you haven't heard,  we are getting a snow storm tomorrow. People posting pics of empty grocery shelves and sharing radar updates from weather channels are driving me crazy! It's Missouri people, we are going to get snow! It's not poison ivy! It melts, we will be fine! I will take my snow day without freaking out, thank you vedy much! ;) 
#KeepCalm there's snow in the forecast tomorrow! WOOHOO!! #meme
Giving: It's a bad sign I can't think of anything for this, isn't it?  Umm..I am NOT giving up anything for Lent?  Oh, here's an positive one: I am NOT giving in to my cravings for a Chocolate Chunk cookie from the Casey's.. They are my FAVORITE. But I haven't had one since 2012 and I miss them. I wave to them every day as I pass them by, just so they know I don't hate them.... 

 Teaching: My kids some classic board games. Tonight, I taught Ryder how to play checkers. So simple, yet so fun! He caught on quickly and we had fun! But when I tried to jump him twice in a row, he put the hammer down and said there was no way that move was allowed. I told him that was fair. We also played connect 4 and bingo. I love watching him learn new things! 

Learning: That I actually CAN love working out. Ever since I discovered that I can read on my Kindle while walking/jogging on the treadmill, I am learning to actually enjoy my work outs. I literally got disappointed today when my time was up! I am so encouraged by this because I have never liked working out before. Let's hope this sticks around! :) 

Looking:  Almost 10 lbs lighter, whhoooop! :) And looking for new running shoes, so if you have a favorite brand, style, please share with me! 

Literary Junkies Link Up!



Pink Heels Pink Truck

I love the third Tuesday of every month! It's when I get to answer fun questions about books and read other book worms' answers! 


1. What are you reading right now? Tell us about it.


For the first time in months, I am actually in between books! Gasp, I know. But as soon as my Kindle Fire is charged up and ready to go, I will be starting a new book to review for NovelEscapes.com. This weekend, I finished Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless.



Chanel Bonfire


This book is seriously good. It's a memoir about Wendy's life growing up with a mother who is less than Stepford perfect. You wouldn't believe the places Lawless lived and the situations her mother put her and her sister through.  I can't wait to actually have time to sit down and write a review! And you know what is even cooler? I tweeted about how much I loved the book and this happened:


Can you imagine the smile on my face when I got these tweets? I couldn't stop grinning like a dork. To me, authors are like meeting the biggest celebs. I want to BE them. I would rather sit down to coffee with an author of a good book than meet and greet and A lister on E! right now. (Exceptions: Ryan, Jude, Bradley, etc.) 

I would end the coffee date as soon as I started getting weird though, don't worry. Because I guarantee you at some point I would turn Fatal Attraction-ish and say things like "Can I follow you around? Will you take me to work with you? What kind of shampoo do you use?" 


 2. Give us the recipe for a great book.

Equal parts great characters, interesting settings and unique plot lines, mix together those ingredients with unforeseen twists and a couple surprises and bam! You've got my kind of book. My appetite is easy to satisfy!

 3. Tell us things you've learned from a book recently. Did you learn anything about history? Did you take away a deep & profound realization about the world around you? Or maybe even a beauty tip? This question has me stumped. I don't think I have learned anything lately. Which worries me, because I want to learn things when I read!



 4. What was your favorite book as a child? In fourth grade, I vividly remember the first book that really stuck in my mind. I thought about it all the time and I reread it alot.

Mick Harte Was Here

It's  told by a young girl whose little brother is killed when he was hit by a car. I know, I know, heavy stuff, but it was written for young people and the emotion and innocence was so beautifully written, I still remember the words vividly, 17 years after reading it for the first time.




I also remember


It's the story of a family on an island who find a baby left on their front porch. This book hold some of the most memorable, life like characters I have ever read about. The copy of the book I had eventually fell apart because I read it so much.


I remember loving this poem from this book:



I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.

Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the

love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not
approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the
world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave

Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned. -Edna St. Vincent Millay

Book Round Up: Mom Edition


For this week's edition of Book Round Up, I wanted to share some things with you that aren't up and coming reads. One is a blog I read almost daily for encouragement and another is a book I received as a birthday present. It's not new, but it's so beautiful that I wanted to share it will you.

You may have heard of it: 

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One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.
Voskamp has a blog at OneThousandGifts.com

Because, sometimes, you just need a little encouragement. 
As a mom, I need ALOT of encouragement.
And there's just something about reading a calming, graceful tale about living with intent, engaging in life with gratitude, respect and selflessness. 

Her book is some parts a devotional, some parts a story about losing her sister in an accident at a young age and other parts helping the reader find joy in the midst of our daily lives.

I think reading these books, these blogs and these words help remind me that I am human, that I have somewhat normal thoughts as a mother, wife, daughter, worker, and a list of other hats I wear. 
I am frazzled, forgetful, hurried, inconsiderate and unkept.
I am a sinner, I am anxiety ridden, I am selfish.

But pushing against those shortcomings, I am also a woman 
who feels ill equipment but at the same time, 
I want to do it all so bad. I am TRYING when I color endless pages with them, when I help them write thank you cards, when I read to them, when I shamelessly sing in the car to Disney Princesses, when I build Lego  cars on the floor, when I let them have fruit roll ups at 9:00 a.m. just because.

I want to be a mom my kids remember fondly as an adult. I want to give them memories and traditions. I want to remember their school parties and I want to throw them memorable birthdays. I want spontaneous trips and I want to turn simple things like the car wash into an adventure.

Sometimes I need a little reminder not to focus on the grime on the refrigerator door handle and instead be thankful that fridge is full of food for my family. I need to remember to breathe and take advantage of the fact that my kids love me with such a fierce unconditional fervor that they have no idea, nor do they care, about the million, tiny little failures I collect in a day. All that matters to them are the hugs, kisses, stories, and coloring pages we'll do together that night. 

Ann's writing reminds me alot of Rachel Martin's Finding Joy Blog.
Rachel writes letters to directly to me. 
Okay not directly to me, but it sure seems like it. 
She writes the most encouraging letters to moms like me who sometimes feels she's struggling, not doing enough, not being present or being too hard on herself. 

Check out:


Because sometimes you just need a deep breath of fresh air right?
If you need a deep breath, a hand on your shoulder, a nod of understanding, 
I encourage you to read these blogs.
And you know what else is helpful?

Words.

Quotes on Pinterest, or poems like The StoryPeople by Brian Andreas. 
And of course, reaching out to others.

 (Want to vent, need to talk? Type it out, get it off your chest and send me an email! I'd be happy to co-miserate and encourage you!Because sometimes all we need is a friend) 

Because there's nothing more relieving than  realizing you're not alone. 





Pit & Peak Plus My First Guest Reviewer!


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Gosh, I think I am just going to say that this whole week was a PEAK for me! 

The only PIT I can think of is that it's over! 

The peak of my week was my birthday and how special all my family and friends made me feel.
 Funny story about my present from the hubs and kids.
My hubs set his alarm for 4:00 a.m. to get up and set up this beauty on my kitchen counter: 


And guess what this dope did? I was so groggy that I didn't even NOTICE it when I went in the kitchen to make my coffee! 

It took my hubs and R1 giving me hints to go back into the kitchen to make me realize where my birthday present was! 

I am so excited and thankful for my gift and can't wait to get started using it!

What do you use your mixer for the most?
Are there any must-have attachments I need to get?

Oh! And here's another Peak! 

Let me introduce a fellow Midwest blogger,

Dara is great and her blog is always entertaining! Whether she's posting adorable pictures of her kiddos or posting cute DIY home decor projects, it's clear she is one busy gal. Plus, this woman can KNIT. I am so jealous, maybe I can talk her into teaching me?

I am so excited to have her as my first Guest Book Reviewer!

Dara's Review of 11/22/63 by Steven King

I’ve always found myself intrigued by time travel stories – like in the book The Time Traveler’s Wife, the time-turner in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and the 5th season of Lost. I love the idea of a person going back into the past and changing his or her own future. So when I heard the premise of Stephen King’s book 11/22/63, I just knew it was a book I had to read.
“Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away . . . but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke. . . . Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten . . . and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.” [Amazon]
I was not disappointed. This book was amazing. I literally could not put it down. There is so much in this book. Although the main plotline leads up to and beyond the events of November 22, 1963, the novel “combines a variety of genres, being [about the] JFK assassination, a story of time travel, a variation on the grail quest, a novel of voyeurism, a love story, a historical novel, [and] a counter-factual historical novel.” [ London Review of Books]. This book is about fate and the possibility of changing the past (the past doesn’t want to be changed). The characters are believably flawed and yet perfect for their roles in the story.
If you’ve ever wondered what the world would be like if a watershed event was changed or eliminated, this book provides a possible answer. Stephen King weaves facts about Lee Harvey Oswald in with the fiction of the story making the possibility of a man named George living across the street from Oswald seem completely real.

Is there an event that you would go back in time to change? Before you answer that question, read this book!!

Thanks, Dara! 

(If you've read a great book and want to a guest review, let me know, I would love to have you!)


Have a wonderful weekend everyone! 
We'll be busy, R1 has his first wrestling tournament on Sunday and I will be attempting to make a scarf with handwritting on it that I have had my eye on! And don't think I won't post a tutorial! 

Love Story Picks for Valentine's Day




Love in the Time of Cholera

Two young people meet and fall passionately in love but life and circumstance doesn't bring them together like you'd hope. What happens next is a love story that spans the life time of two unforgettable fictional characters. A combination of their undying love and the author's beautiful writing will keep you talking about this book for years after you've read the last page. 

P.S. I Love You

A man leaves letters instructing his widow to take on adventures and try new things after his passing. They help her heal from losing her husband and give the reader an endearing tale of enduring love they won't soon forget. 
P.S. Don't see the movie. It's an abomination.

Roses

A family saga about a cotton farm heiress who sacrifices love and a seperate life for the sake of her family's legacy. A truly touching tale the spans the lifetime of an main character you come to think of as a dear friend. 
The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels

The same Pioneer woman who cooks up amazing meals on the Food Network has a sweet tale of how she fell in love with her Marlboro Man. A must read memoir that will leave you wanting your own Wrangler wearing rancher. 

The Notebook

As if anyone could keep this one off a love story list. One word: Epic. 

The Other Boleyn Girl (The Tudor Court, #2)

Love gone wrong is still love. Two sisters rebel against each other and themselves to win the hand of Henry VIII.

Redeeming Love

A Godly man takes a prostitute as his wife to save her from a undesirable fate. An enduring love story about the sacrifices one makes in the name of faith and love. 

What are your favorite love stories? I want to hear about them! 

A few classic love stories that I haven't read yet that I want to read SO bad and WILL someday:

Wuthering Heights
Gone With The Wind
Atonement


On another note, thank you everyone for your wonderful birthday wishes! It was great day and I feel so blessed! 
Can't wait to see what this year has in store for me! 

Also, congrats to Allie at Tales of a Twenty Something for winning our Tiffany Necklace GiveAWay, I am so happy for you! 

My Birthday, 27 Years Worth of Life Lessons

It's my birthday!
 So, what better day than today to look back on the handy dandy lessons I've learned over the years? 

Earlier last week, I had a pity party about turning 27, which ended in a few tears and a resolution to set some new goals for myself in the coming years. But that's another post. 

For now, I'm celebrating with this list of 27 tid bits that I've collected. Some you may find useful, some random. But all, I assure you, have played a role in getting me to this non-milestone milestone: 27! 



  1. Don't fry bacon in the nude. (my uncle really did leave that in my gradation party guest book.) It's actually quite sound advice if you think about it.
  2. Hair grows back.
  3. You don't have to fight for the people who truly matter to stay in your picture.
  4. You really do need to take your pill at the same time every day, and regularly, too.
  5. Listen to your body. If it's acting weird, it's probably trying to tell you something funky is happening.
  6. It's okay to judge a book by its cover as long as you at least read the first paragraph on the inside flap.
  7. Make copies of photos before you cut them all up for random collages.
  8. Never spray paint your best tennis shoes just for one day of homecoming festivities.  I still miss those damn Adidas Superstars. 


9.Think before you speak.
10.Say what you mean, but don't say it mean. 
11. Don't yell so much
12. Playing toys with my kids IS more satisfying than a  clean house.
13. Chocolate chip cookies are only okay for breakfast maybe once a week, but definitely not once a day. 
14. You do miss 100% of the shots you don't take. (Cliche, but true).
15. Listen to your gut. 
16. Don't rush things. 
17. Answer emails.
18. Send thank you notes. 
19. There are bigger things to worry about in school than making too much noise when you blow your nose or whether there are bumps in your ponytail.
20. Boys will like you better if you are nice. Snottiness does not equal coolness.
21. The risks are always overshadowed by the reward if you choose wisely.
22. Coffee, hot tea or Diet Pepsi from a fountain are ALWAYS good ideas. 
23. A little bling or fancy purse never hurt anybody and if they put a bounce in your step, it's nobody's business but your own.
24. Learn to bake a lot sooner. 
25. Be as aware as possible of other's feelings and reactions. 
Your child will follow.
26. Remember your loved ones' birthdays. 
27. Double check that everyone you love KNOWS you do without you having to be around all the time to tell them with words.

So there's that! 

Now let's hope the next year's worth of lessons are worth blogging about :)