To-Be-Read Tower

Like most bibliophiles I know, I tend to buy books faster than I can read them, but I have a deep dark confession.

My To-Be-Read (TBR) pile is up to an anxiety-inducing 137 books. Yep, that’s 53,889 unread pages that I own. I’m starting to hyperventilate just writing about this.

Last year, I made it a goal to start knocking out that pile. However, 20+ books had been added and I joined two book clubs, but deep breaths, I can do this. When I get overwhelmed I’m of the mindset, make a list and break it down into reasonable chunks. And that’s what I have obsessively planned in order to knock down my TBR tower within 6 years of this blog post. My list gives me the ability to set milestones and see my progress by detailing out books in a series versus stand alone novels, number of pages, author, and genre. Below you can see my behemoth of a list and why 137 books is not simply a “pile” anymore, but a “tower.”

My strategy…

  1. DON’T BUY MORE BOOKS: Duh, but I’m focusing on self-control to actually keep my physical and digital shopping carts empty. Whenever I walk into a Target doesn’t mean I need to come out with the latest NY Times bestselling thriller. Now, this of course has the book club exception…
  2. MAKE A LIST OF THE TOP BOOKS I’D LIKE TO READ FIRST: Queue those up in my list for next year and pair long books with short ones for each month. 
  3. PARTICIPATE IN THE GOODREADS READING CHALLENGE: Since I’m that person that can’t stand my Goodreads account saying the challenge was “Incomplete” in an obnoxious banner across the icon, it’s good motivation.
  4. DON’T GO A MONTH WITHOUT FINISHING A BOOK: March seems to be the month for me that I don’t read. No idea what distracts me – maybe coming out of hibernation, running season starting, or filling out my March Madness bracket based on the cutest mascots? –  but I’ll be damned if I don’t complete a book in that month going forward.
  5. MAKE MY READING GOAL ATTAINABLE: If the goal is unrealistic, then I’ll get frustrated and not finish knocking down this tower. I know I’m consistently reading around 30 books a year, so in order to avoid frustration I’m anticipating reading 24 books a year from the list.

Here’s to conquering that TBR tower.

leo dicaps great gasby

Let me know if you’ve run into the same TBR blues and what you did to overcome them. Also, hangout with me on Goodreads 🙂

Till next time bookworms,



spreadsheet of books
World Watercolor Month Days 6-9. Spider in a web workspace.

World Watercolor Month: Days 6-9

Another batch of watercolors!

Day 6 – Spider in a web.

Day 7 – Lavender

Day 8 – Sunset

Day 9 – A flower that attracts bees. Not sure the name.


World Watercolor Month: Days 2-5

I’ve fallen behind on posting my daily watercolor paintings. Below are days two through five.

Day 2 – End scene of Inception.

Day 3 – End scene of Inception redone.

Day 4 – Strawberries for the Fourth of July.

Day 5 – Luke’s shop sign from Gilmore Girls.

World Watercolor Month - Day 1

World Watercolor Month: Day 1

World Watercolor Month – Day 1 – finished yesterday!

Two attempts at one scene from Mad Max: Fury Road. I don’t think I’ll be using the prompts for this month’s challenge.


World Watercolor Month

World Watercolor Month Begins

July is World Watercolor Month, which means a 31 day watercolor challenge. I’m excited to be participating this year!

More information can be found here if anyone else would like to participate. The site Doodlewash will be pulling in watercolor paintings across all social media that use the tag #WorldWatercolorMonth. Check here throughout the month to see artwork from participants around the world!

Happy painting!

World Watercolor Month. Fury Road WIP.

World Watercolor Month. Fury Road WIP.

The matted mushroom watercolor trio.

Watercolor: Framed Mushrooms for Mother’s Day

My mom has always loved mushrooms, even when she was a kid. Growing up there were quite a few mushroom themed items in our home. Last year for Mother’s Day I used my mom’s love of cute fungi as inspiration for her gift. I used watercolor paint to create a mushroom painting trio for her home office. This gift gave me the chance to use a push mat board cutter, which is pretty exciting when you want the ability to create your own mat board frames for cheaper than a craft store would charge you. Or maybe I’m the only person who gets excited about things like that? The steps below mainly outline how I created the mat board frames for the paintings.

Materials I used:


  1. Sketch mushrooms on watercolor paper using your pencil.
  2. Use the brush pens and watercolor paint to give your little mushrooms some pizzazz. Go realistic or more stylized like mine.
  3. Once you are finished painting and the watercolor is completely dry, cut out the paintings with scissors, but be sure to leave a half inch border that will allow you to tape the painting to the mat board.
  4. After you have PRACTICED with the mat cutter and are comfortable with it, you are ready to measure out lightly in pencil the area of mat board to be cut away. Be sure to use your ruler for straight lines
  5. Line your ruler up with the pencil lines and use that as a guide while running your mat cutter along the pencil line.
  6. Once you have repeated step 5 to all 4 sides the center area of mat board can be removed and you have your frame!
  7. Erase any pencil lines that remain.
  8. Flip the frame over to the back.
  9. Place your watercolor painting face down on the mat board frame.
  10. Center the painting inside the frame.
  11. Carefully tape down the painting at each corner with small pieces of tape.
  12. Flip the mat board with painting over to double check your painting is still centered. If not, adjust the tiny pieces of tape until the painting is centered.
  13. Once centered, secure the painting with more tape. Tape along each of the 4 sides.
  14. Take the extra mat board area that you removed in step 6 and tape it to the back of your painting. You will basically be creating a mat board painting sandwhich for more stability.
  15. You are all finished and ready to give your painting as a gift or hang it in your home!


Be sure to share pictures of your framed watercolor paintings with me on Instagram – @reminiscentrain

Happy painting!

Cat Tent DIY

DIY: Cat Tent

During one of my many Pinterest pinning sprees I came across a series of photos that showed how to turn a t-shirt into a cat tent. I thought it was the cutest thing, but couldn’t find any step-by-step instructions. Below are the steps I took to recreate the picture collage I had seen.

What I Used:

  • Men’s large t-shirt
  • Wire hangers (x2)
  • Cardboard (x2)
    • 19in x 13.5in
    • 19in x 12.5in
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Screwdriver
  • Safety pins (x4)


  1. Use your pencil and ruler to mark off a 19in by 13.5in area on your cardboard.
  2. Use your pencil and ruler to mark off a slightly smaller area of 19in by 12.5in on your other piece of cardboard. This second piece of cardboard will add extra support to your cat tent.
  3. Cut out both pieces of cardboard and set aside.
  4. CAREFULLY unravel both wire hangers.
  5. Push the wire hanger ends through one piece of cardboard slightly over a half inch from the edge.
  6. Remove the wires from the cardboard. This was to get an idea for spacing and placement.
  7. Use your masking tape to cover the edges of each piece of cardboard.
  8. Place the smaller cardboard piece over the center of the larger piece and tape them together.
  9. Use your screwdriver to carefully make holes where your test holes are. The screwdriver is to push through the original holes, since you will need to push holes through the second smaller piece of cardboard that is now taped to the larger piece.
  10. Thread the wires back through the holes. When threading one hanger wire you will want to make sure one end is in the lower right hole and the other end in the upper left. There will be about a 1in tail coming out of each hole. Bend these tails and tape them down. Use lots of tape so the wire doesn’t peep through.
  11. Repeat step 10 with the last wire hanger placing the ends in the remaining open holes.
  12. Make sure the wires create an arch or whatever shape you like. Mine looks like a circus tent. Add tape around the point where the two wires intersect to add stability.
  13. Place the cardboard and wires in the bottom opening of the shirt. You will want to push the cardboard and wires through until the neck opening looks like a door (see photo below for reference).
  14. Fold the ends of the shirt bottom to close the back of the cat tent.  Use 2 safety pins to secure the shirt bottoms. Try to use the safety pins where they will not be seen, you don’t want your cat to mess with them.
  15. Safety pin the left shirt sleeve using one safety pin.
  16. Do the same for the right shirt sleeve.
  17. You are done and ready to share all your hard work with your cat.

Share pictures of your cat tents with me on Instagram – @reminiscentrain

Happy upcycling!


Final Chicago Skyline Van Gogh Style Painting BYOB

BYOB Painting: Chicago Skyline – Van Gogh Style

If you ever get the chance to attend a BYOB (bring your own beverage) painting class, you should go! I highly recommend them. They are a great way to relax, have fun, and get out of any art slump you might be in.

Recently, I attended a couples BYOB painting class. The theme was the Chicago Skyline stylized to mimic Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It was a great subject for a couples project. Normally, in one of these classes you walk away with your own stand-alone painting (example here), but with a couples painting class it is slightly different. As you can guess both people paint their own canvas, which afterwards come together to form a complete image. The fun/challenging part is getting both canvases to match up and appear cohesive.

What We Used:

  • Acrylic Paint
  • Canvas (x2)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Jar of water
  • Paper towels
  • Reference picture
  • Red wine 🙂
  • Tabletop easel (optional)
  • Smock (optional)


I won’t take you through the whole process in detail since that is boring and painting should be a fun organic experience.

Tips: I tend to blend my colors a lot right on the canvas and had to constantly remind myself that I needed choppy short strokes to match Van Gogh’s style. Having the reference image handy helped as a reminder. In order to keep the skyline and swirl flowing correctly from one canvas to the next we kept the canvases touching when adding the white swirl and blocking out the skyline.

At a high level the process looked like this, start with the background first. Once all the blue paint is applied (even to the sides of the canvas) take white paint and start adding where the stars, moon, and swirl should go (it helped us to keep the canvases together at this point). Once that’s all dry, add warm colors (yellow, orange, red) over the top of the white. Add reflections and ripples to the water. Now comes the Chicago Skyline being blocked out in black paint (another good point to have your canvases together). Once dry, add white and yellow highlights for sides of the buildings and windows. Touch up anything you want and add your signature. Finally, place the canvases right next to each other, take a step back, admire your masterpiece and cheers to a job well done!

If you’ve ever taken a BYOB painting class or are thinking about it let me know in the comments below or share your work with me on Instagram – @reminiscentrain

Happy Painting!

Certificate of Completion

Since joining the website Goodreads I’ve taken on the annual Reading Challenge. It seems most bookworms I’ve met have an annual reading goal in some capacity. Knocking books off the ever-growing TBR pile is a constant struggle, especially if you’ve ever challenged yourself to a “Top 100” list. Five years ago my boyfriend challenged himself to finish one of these lists within a five-year period. It’s taken slightly longer than he would have liked but just this month he has completed the challenge by reading the last book on the list – War & Peace. This is quite the accomplishment! Check out the list he completed here and see how many you’ve read.

I searched the internet for a certificate of completion to present to him when he finally finished and found nothing. I was seriously disappointed. So what does a bookish nerd with a background in graphic media do? Roll up her sleeves and open Adobe Illustrator to start creating her very own. [at the end of the article there are download links to finished certificates for personal use only]

What I used:

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • 8.5″ x 11″ cardstock for printing
  • Embossing stylus (anything with a point will work, pens/pencils excluded)
  • Avery Inkjet Gold Notarial Seals (2 inch diameter)


I used Adobe Illustrator to create the certificate. I prefer Illustrator over Photoshop. This way I can scale my custom graphics however and whenever I feel like it without worrying about resolution degradation.


Creating the certificate using Adobe Illustrator.

What’s a certificate without a shiny gold sticker? I used Adobe Illustrator again to create a template of what I wanted on the Avery Inkjet Gold Notarial Seals (2 inch diameter). I purchased the gold stickers through Amazon. My final product was to be printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper and that’s what I based my designs and seal size off of. Once the sticker template was printed and cut into a circle I centered it over one of the stickers, taped in place, and used the embossing stylus to outline the template. You need to outline the template quite a few times. Lift up the template periodically to make sure you are leaving a mark on the gold sticker.


Once that is finished I added it to the printed certificate and then filled out the blank spaces. To make this joke gift more official I framed it before presenting it to my boyfriend. He was very surprised!

If you’d like to surprise any bookworms you know for completing their reading challenge, download one of the following certificates! Let me know how this turns out if you create your own. I’d love to see the final version! Comment below or tag me on Instagram – @reminiscentrain

Reading Challenge Certificate of Completion Freebies:

*NOTE: The file format is a .png with transparency; if you open up in the browser you might see a checkered “background”. This won’t print checkered, it just means there is no background color so it will print faster.

Red  ::  Blue  ::  Yellow  ::  Green  ::  Multi-colored

If you have any interest in a custom certificate for a small fee, just shoot me an email

Happy reading my fellow bookworms!!

1 Year Anniversary Gift


May was my one year anniversary with my amazing boyfriend. I wasn’t sure what to get him as a gift. I had been searching and trying to think up something meaningful and homemade, but I couldn’t come up with anything for awhile. Then I came across the “Five Senses Gift.” This means you give five gifts, each specific to one of the five senses. I was intrigued and the more examples I saw I decided this was the route I was going to take. I wouldn’t have enough time to make all five gifts and decided Sight and Taste would be homemade and the rest retail.

The “big” homemade gift was for the sense, Sight. I illustrated with pen and watercolor a collage representing some of the year’s highlights. Below is a sketch of the illustration, finished product, and a couple close ups. It was really fun looking through all my photos from the past year and deciding on what items to include in the collage.

I have to admit, I really like wrapping presents. It’s like another art project. I made tags for each present (below) denoting which present was for what sense.

The five sense gifts were:

Touch – Shirt

Smell – Cologne

Taste – Homemade cookies

Sight – Illustrated memory collage

Sound – Fun guitar picks

My boyfriend was really surprised and enjoyed everything. If you are looking for a fun gift theme I would recommend this!