Saturday, December 29, 2018

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone has had a lovely holiday and has a wonderful New Year's as well next week. We've been soaking it all in this week. Our Solstice and Christmas were fantastic. We had a great time putting puzzles together, eating, drinking, game playing, setting up our cats' new cat tower! All the things.

Sunday we plan on heading down to Vegas to meet up with our friends who moved last May. We've gotten an AirBnb and look forward to playing games and your basic revelry! But our car just broke down we'll have to pony up some cash to get a rental car. No bueno. I am not going to let this setback ruin our plans for fun this next week!

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's and stays healthy and safe!

Happy holidays from mine to yours.

DH and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary! Got him crystal. Santa came early on a horse.

Cats got a new cat condo! G had a great time building it with Dad.

Friday, December 28, 2018

A Month of Faves-- Reading Challenges and Goals/How I Read and Blogged

A Month of Faves is hosted by Girlxoxo, Traveling With T, and Estella's Revenge.

I have a hard time signing up for long-term reading challenges. I forget what I'm doing. I do better with small challenges during seasonal times of the year. I participated in all the Halloween reading challenges and aced those like a champ. I'm also apart of the Classics Club but I didn't not get my ten in this year. :(

I always have a goal to do what I can in Read Harder challenges by Book Riot but once again I just have a hard time sticking to a certain theme each month.

I read a book a day in September with Stacy from Stacy's Book Blog. That was fun and hard and really enjoyable. Most of the books I read were children's books and very short non-fiction. But I read a lot of things that had been on my list!

I always have a goal to read more diverse books and try new genres. 34/128 of my books read this year were by diverse authors. Not as good as I would have liked but 2019 is a new year to do better.

44/128 were male authors so the majority of my reading this last year was definitely female-centric.

21 books were young adult. 28 were children and juvenile fiction. 50 were non-fiction. 23 were memoirs/biographies. I read a lot of mini history bio collections and true crime books. I managed to get one philosophy book in too. Most of my non-fiction this year was memoir. I usually try for more history and science in my non-fiction. I guess I needed something a bit different this year. It seems like I needed to connect with human stories more than anything else. We shall see what 2019 brings!

18 Audiobooks.

25 books were either sci-fi or fantasy! I usually don't read that much in those genres. I also read a lot of horror and mystery/crime fiction. 19 horror and 13 crime/mystery.

I loved listening to Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone. It's a beautiful story made even more magical while listening to it!

My favorite audiobook memoir was Eddie Izzard's Believe Me. He has little live notes that he just shoots from the hip while he made it. It was so funny and entertaining.

I noticed, according to Goodreads, that I read a lot more books that I actually enjoyed. I'm not sure if that means I intentionally picked up books I knew I'd love or if I just happened to find ones I loved more than another year but whichever it was, it was definitely a great reading year for me! 24 books were 5 stars for me and 64 were 4 stars! That's some funtastic books!

I know I can't sign up for any blogging challenge and actually accomplish it. But I know I will keep my eye on The Read Harder challenge from Book Riot. And Girlxoxo has monthly blogging challenges that I may try to participate in as well. Michelle from True Book Addict always has seasonal reading challenges that are short enough to get me going. And I'm perpetually reading my Classics Club books. I also have a list of Amazon's 100 books to read in a lifetime. A list from Well-educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. And President Obama always releases his best reads throughout the year and I try to keep my eye on those for reading ideas.

I've blogged a lot more this year than I did last year and it's been great. To date I've written 117 blog posts this year! Whoa! My favorites are probably the self-reflective ones I've done in December. I've stretched a bit thinking about my year of reading and living and I've seen some patterns.

I've found new bloggers to follow and participated in blogging events and small reading challenges and it's been good for me. I'd like to keep it up and make it more regular. I need the practice I really do enjoy it. So many of my TBR lists comes from fellow book bloggers! Plus I get ideas on how to change things up and to look back at my reading year and see how far I've come and where to go next!

Friday, December 21, 2018

A Month of Faves-- Favorite Shows and/or Movies of the Year

A Month of Faves is hosted by Girlxoxo, Traveling with T, and Estella's Revenge. Today's theme is what were your favorite TV shows and/or movies this year? How many were book adaptations?

TV Shows

1. Haunting of Hill House--Netflix based on Shirley Jackson's book. It was scary an fascinating and nothing like the book but I didn't mind at all. It also had something to say about grief and how it continues to affect us.

2. Sharp Objects-- HBO based on Gillian Flynn's book. It was gritty and dark and sinister. Amy Adams was phenomenal.

3. Bodyguard-- Netflix. I binge-watched this in two days. Great drama and action. Top-notch British series.

4. Insecure-- HBO. I just can't get enough of Issa Rae.

5. Westworld-- HBO. There were definite problems I had with it but I'm hooked and can't wait for the next season.

6. The Alienist-- TNT. Based on the book by Caleb Carr. It wasn't over the top and the acting was top-notch.

7. The Staircase-- Netflix. I still have no idea. But what a ride.

8. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina-- Netflix. It was creepy and fun.


This list is all over the map! But each of these spoke to me and have stuck with me.

1. Kedi-- A beautifully filmed documentary on the cats of Budapest. A definite highlight of the year for me. Click on the link for more info.

2. Wonder-- based on the book by R.J. Palacio. The book was so well-written and while I still think the book is superior, the movie was still a tear-jerker. G and I had some good conversations after reading and watching the movie together.

3. Black Panther-- It was fresh and fantastical and beautiful. I loved every minute. And finally a villain with logic and a heart-breaking story.

4. A Quiet Place-- While some of the plot devices bugged me, this was such a breath of terrifying fresh air.

5. Colossal-- It did not go where I thought it would go and I loved that. It was quirky and dark and unexpected. Loved it.

6. Call Me By Your Name-- Italy and romance. It was what I needed.

7. Love, Simon-- based on the book by Becky Albertalli. Loved the book but the movie was really well done. A great coming-of-age story.

8. The Incredibles 2-- Best kids movie this year. I loved seeing the Incredibles back in action.

9. Unsane-- Wow. This was horrifying but so well done. I can't recommend it enough. Scared me something awful and still have nightmares.

10. My Cousin Rachel-- based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier. I have not read the book but I want to after seeing this adaption with Rachel Weisz. Du Maurier know how to write complex women. This one is a nail-biter.

11. Sorry to Bother You-- I haven't seen one quite like this but wow. The satire and commentary on race and capitalism is done so well. One of the best of the year.

12. Game Night-- I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. It was a surprising win for me. I wasn't expecting much and boom! So good.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

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Mr. Dickens and His Carol

by Samantha Silva

published: 2017
pages: 276
bought for my Kindle

Charles Dickens is not feeling the Christmas spirit. His newest book is an utter flop, the critics have turned against him, relatives near and far hound him for money. While his wife plans a lavish holiday party for their ever-expanding family and circle of friends, Dickens has visions of the poor house. But when his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, he refuses. And a serious bout of writer’s block sets in.
Frazzled and filled with self-doubt, Dickens seeks solace in his great palace of thinking, the city of London itself. On one of his long night walks, in a once-beloved square, he meets the mysterious Eleanor Lovejoy, who might be just the muse he needs. As Dickens’ deadlines close in, Eleanor propels him on a Scrooge-like journey that tests everything he believes about generosity, friendship, ambition, and love. The story he writes will change Christmas forever.

First Line:

"On that unseasonably warm November day at One Devonshire Terrace, Christmas was not in his head at all."

My Thoughts:

This was just what I needed for my Christmas spirit mood. Ms. Silva did plenty of research so she could share some tidbits of real history with how Mr. Dickens got around to writing his most famous of books. But it's a fan fiction so the details of why, when, how were obviously fictionalized. There are ghosts and angry spouses, etc.

Mr. Dickens' latest book has flopped and his agent has promised the publishers that he will do a Christmas book before Christmas. But he is not in the mood and has no desire to write one. He's in debt, his family wants him to pay all their debts. His wife has no spending limits. He grows so angry that his wife swoops off with the children to Scotland. Dickens is left alone in misery with a looming deadline. Silva takes us through possible scenarios that could have inspired Dickens' story. He finds a young actress with a son. Is she friend or foe? Can reconcile with his father? Can he get this story done and bring his family home in time for Christmas?

While the author took many liberties, it was all done with a good time in mind and a love for Dickens and his story. I highly recommend this one if you enjoy A Christmas Carol and love a good holiday read this time of year!

Favorite Quotes:

"Flee all you like," she said, turning to face him. "Your past is quicker than you are and will catch you soon enough."

"Dickens knew the deception well, but he smiled nonetheless, not for the brilliance of its execution--it was on the sloppy end of magic tricks--but for the truth at the bottom of every illusion, every fiction, every lie: our own great desire to believe."

"The night was an embroidery of stars on a taffeta sky so blue it bled all the black away."

A Month of Faves -- How We Do the Holidays!

Today in Faves is all about how we decorate for the holidays. As always hosted by Girlxoxo, Traveling With T, and Estella's Revenge!

I go super crazy with Halloween but I do my fair share for Christmas/Solstice time. It's an "eclectic" gathering of this and that from when I was a kid, when DH was a kid, inherited items nobody wanted, and G.'s many ornaments over the years. It's not pretty but it's ours and I love it!


We love Santa! We try to collect a new Santa every year. Soon we'll run out of room but so far it's working. We got the giant one above in Japan! We have stockings for our cats too. We don't really have a theme with stockings. A lot of people do but we just picked out what we loved and have stuck with that. We've been getting the Lego advent calendars for the last few years and G loves it so much. They're a bit of a pain to find space for and it's hard to rebuild for the next year but overall it's been fun. I love me some wine, so of course, I do have a few holiday signs in the kitchen.


Bad lighting when I took the tree pic but it has a Santa tree topper! I picked up the upper left advent calendar when I was living in the Canary Islands so many moons ago. We put Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in. Lower left is all our holiday cards. I keep the year before's and put them up after Thanksgiving and if I get a new one from that family I replace it. If I don't then I still have a great card from them from a previous year. G and I make snowflakes every year during winter break and put them up in the window. It's hard to see but I have a little light where I have baby Jesus and other animals of nature and Santa gather around. Jesus represents a child of wonder that so many stories represent around this time of year.

We also make cookies for our friends and neighbors every year. We decorate a gingerbread house. We pick one night to head out and see all the houses and their beautiful lights. We found one last night that had a light show to music. You just tune into their station and sit and listen and watch. G thought it was so magical. Then we went for some shakes and pie after. It was a great night.

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A beautiful tree at a local mortuary. We had to stop for pics!

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Someone had the LEG lamp! Ha! FraGeeLay! It must be Italian!
We also celebrate the Winter Solstice. It's tomorrow! Every year we make candles. Technically we should do it tonight but we don't worry too much about getting up with the solstice sun the day of...we're lazy so the celebrating is the actual solstice night rather than the eve. But we will talk about the things we're proud of we did over this last year. And maybe some things we're not so proud of. We'll make a new list of goals and hopes and things to work on. Then we'll burn them up with our candles and let them go for most of the night. We'll send them out to the Universe and hope we can keep and or get rid of what we desire. We make sun and moon cookies and welcome the rebirth of the sun! The days will get longer. Yay! We read stories about the solstice both fiction and nonfiction and then we have G open up a gift about stars and science. We usually make a small sun craft to welcome it back to the sky!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

A Month of Faves-- Winter Reading This Year and Last

Monday's theme of a Month of Faves (hosted by Girlxoxo, Traveling With T, and Estella's Revenge) was all about our favorite reads from last year and ones we're looking forward to this year.

Toward the end of November I read a few books on or about death and I did read two holiday-type books in December. My mood shifts rapidly after New Year's and the holidays are over. Once January hit I read a few memoirs and some heavy stuff on death and sexual violence and crime. Looks like I'm back to dark and real after the holidays! Ha!

Last Winter

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Daughty

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinathi

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus by Kate Wolford

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zones by Richard Lloyd Parry

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by Christian T. Miller

This Winter

I just finished up Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samanth Silva. It's been a great holiday read for me. Right now I'm reading A Study in Scarlet Women by Shirley Thomas, the first book in the Lady Sherlock series. It's also a read for my mood.

I have plans on reading some books on writing. I picked up Stephen King's memoir and have plans to finish that before the end of the month. I also have some self-help books on my list to help me get my brain back into do and go mode for January. And I did pick up the book Wine Folly by Madeline Puckett from the library and I recently received The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory from my Bookish Santa and will probably read that over the next week or two! So many books, too little time to read them all. But I will do my best!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

#AMonthofFaves-- Habits and Routines....Yikes!

A Month of Faves is hosted by Girlxoxo, Traveling With T, and Estella's Revenge!

Habits that Worked...kind of?

I really enjoy bullet journaling and it's something I want to continue to hone but I'm still working on making it work for me and my lifestyle. I need to hone how I set goals and write them down.

But what has really worked has been using the Bujo to keep track of what I'm doing every day. I've been able to look back and see little things I've done, things my son has said or done and it's a beautiful thing to see at the end of a year. 

A page in my Bullet Journal that has really helped me this year was the Bills page. Before I just had a piece of paper in a notebook that told me which bills to pay etc. But this last year I used a whole layout where I could mark each item paid for that month. It took a month or two to get used to but now it's working like a charm. I took a lot of inspiration from the book Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide: How to Start and Keep the Planner, To-do List, and Diary That'll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together by Rachel Wilkerson. Whew--that's a mouthful! But she has a lot of very simple layouts to get started on. I'm not a very artistic person nor do I really want to be so her layouts were perfect for my no nonsense layouts.

Meditation: I had such big goals for this one. It's still on my list and I've done better than I have in other years before but I still want this one to stick.

Exercise: I feel really proud of myself. I established a pretty consistent exercise routine and I have stuck with it! Some weeks/days are better than others due to weather, season, and/or illness but overall I know my routine and have stuck to it!


Rituals: I've been trying to create more consistent rituals with my little family and I feel that I did really well this year. We try to celebrate a little something like the Pagan sabbats every six weeks. We're not Pagan but I like the idea of celebrating nature and each other and give ourselves a little something to look forward to every 6 weeks. We've planned crafts, nature hikes, made breads and apple butter, and burned our wishes and hopes in a fire pit.

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I have a lot more routines I want to stick to for 2019 but I think I did all right in 2018!

Monday, December 10, 2018

#Amonthoffaves 5 Random Things

What are 5 random things that happened this weekend? Hosted by GirlXoXo. This post goes right along with my week-in-review posts so I'll just shimmy them both together this week!

It's been really cold here in Utah and the inversion has gotten bad this week as well with no storm to blow it out. But even with some illnesses in the family we were able to get a few things done.

1. We decorated our yearly gingerbread house all together! DH has usually been out of country the last two Decembers so this was the first year in a long while we were able to decorate all together!

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2. It was a little earlier than the weekend but we made it up to a local park for food trucks and crazy holiday merriment and lights!

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3. I got a little relaxing in by reading and drinking hot coffee with Bailey's. Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva.

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4. We also got some holiday movie watching in! Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Elf. And we made peanut butter cookies!

5. Last night I was able to get out with my friend Aly and eat some good food and have a some adult conversation! It was heavenly.

Week In Review

Books Finished: 

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Books I'm Currently Reading:

  • These Truths: A History of the United States of America by Jill Lepore
  • Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstory
  • Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva
  • Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms by Hannah Fry
  • The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasGupta (reading aloud with G)

Books Acquired: 

For the Kindle:

The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
White Tears by Hari Kunzru
A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Physical Book:

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Listening to: 

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas



Homecoming on Amazon Prime has been really good!


Holiday Calendar 
Christmas Prince: A Royal Wedding
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Game Night
Four Christmases

I'm hoping to get some reviews up this week. I realize I haven't done any on my faves either even though I rewatch year after year after year!


I'm starting to get into baking all the things and making all the fun holiday cocktails. I mulled some wine for movie night and baked up some peanut butter cookies. Over the weekend I made Cosmos with pomegranate juice instead of cranberry juice and it turned out well! 

I'll be making up more soups and stews this week. It's the time of year that just calls for all the sturdy soups.

Looking Forward to:

G gets out of school Friday and he'll have 3 weeks off with him missing the first 3 days back from Winter break while we're in Vegas. So I'll be planning all the things to keep us entertained and enjoying winter and the cold as best we can.

We're almost done with all the shopping and I'll be sending out the in-laws their gifts soon. So it'll be a happy day by Friday. Whew!

Friday, December 7, 2018

#AMonthofFaves Popular Books Worth the Hype (or Not)

A Month of Faves is hosted by and it goes all month long!

Worth the Hype


The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg

Not all of the stories were hits but I found myself squeeing with glee on quite a few.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

I am still thinking about this haunting and beautiful book. Probably my favorite read of the whole year.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Ayedemi

I listened to this one and I absolutely loved every minute. I was blown away by this world and her characters. I can't wait for the next book!

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

It wasn't perfect but it was what I needed for a fun and kick-ass zombie story.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Enjoyed her story construction and how she brought it all together towards her education and self-discovery.

Not Worth the Hype


The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

I was hoping for a lot more and I just didn't get it.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

The plot and how it all resolved was a bit too contrived for me. But I did enjoy her Woman in Cabin 10 a lot better.

Scream All Night by Derek Milman

It had potential but the writing felt like it was reworked script. The scenes didn't gel and it was a bit confusing.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

I wanted to love it after all the love it's gotten this year but I just didn't love it. The pacing was off for me and it was just too depressing for what I was looking for at the time. But maybe that's why it's gotten so much love.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Mini Movie Reviews--Comedies, Horror, Satire, and Christmas Romance!

It's been a tough couple of months physically on my end. I've been dealing with some health problems and have not done my movie reviews for awhile. So without further adieu...

Movies Watched in November:

Starring: Amy Shumer, Michelle Williams
3/5 stars

It wasn't nearly as funny as Trainwreck but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I still enjoyed it.

Halloween (1978)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis
Directed by: John Carpenter
4.5/5 stars

Halloween is a classic. It's the first horror movie to bring the serial killer stuff home to a neighborhood where anybody could get die. That's why it was so revolutionary for its time. It's a bit cheesy for our modern-day but it's well-written and acted and that's something the knock-offs didn't get quite right.

If you want to know more about Halloween and all that it entails listen to the podcast Halloween Unmasked. They interview the major players who made the movie and talk about its cultural influence over the horror genre and where it is today with the new Halloween movie that came out last October.

Upgrade (2018)
Starring: Logan-Marshall Green
Directed by: Leigh Whannell
3/5 stars

It's an interesting thriller about a man who receives illegal and experimental tech in exchange for the ability to walk again. It has themes about AI and how it can evolve and is it compatible with us as humans. It follows the stereotypical trope of man's wife/girlfriend/loved one is killed as the catalyst to kicking ass and watching the damage in his wake in the name of vengeance. But it's also one of the more interesting storylines for AI and humanity coexisting.

Starring:  Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin
Directed by: Roger Michell
Gothic historical mystery
4/5 stars

I loved this adaptation. Rachel Weisz was flawless as the eponymous character. I've not read the book yet but I intend to after watching this adaptation. She was charming and yet mysterious. Did she really kill her husbands, was she really a gold digger? Is she a woman who did what needed to be done when women in her time weren't allowed a lot of options? Even after watching, I have no idea. She's still mysterious. Beautiful film.

 I'd have to say it could have been better if they'd cast a different bloke as her male lead. Caflin just didn't quite have the screen presence with Ms. Weizs. I felt his scenes were a bit awkward.

Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman
Directed by: Phil Johnston and Rich Moore
animated children
3.5/5 stars

While not as engaging and adorable as the first movie, I did enjoy the meta ideas on the internet and pop culture. The scene with the Disney princesses is priceless and worth the money.

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway
Directed by: Gary Ross
3/5 stars

I was hoping for better. But it was still entertaining. Why did they need to have a certain character from the originals die off?

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
2.75/5 stars

It's a pretty film with pretty actors and locales. But I didn't enjoy it. There are themes in the movie and also the book that explore what it means to be human. Love, loss, and the awful choices we make in the name of all of these. But I thought the story overall was too contrived and manipulative to gain my sympathies for anyone, really. I read the book a few years ago and felt the same way. I suppose I was hoping the movie could bring it all together for me.

Starring: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba
Directed by: Hany Abu-Assad
Romantic drama
1.75/5 stars

I'm giving stars here at all because I got to see Idris Elba and Kate Winslet whom I adore. But that's it. It's Hallmark drivel and I'm shocked these two astounding actors agreed to be in this. But hey it's money and when you can phone it in....the, I don't even know how to interpret such bad editing and emotion. Also, the dog is the true star.

Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thomspon
Directed by: Boots Riley
Satire/absurdist comedy
4/5 stars

It's a brilliant movie. I know I didn't even get half of what it was trying to say or reference. But it's themes on the horrors of runaway capitalism and racism is spot on.

Starring: Kat Graham, Quincy Brown
Directed by: Bradley Walsh
holiday romance
3/5 stars

I was delighted by this movie. It was adorable without being too cheesy. The cheese was still thick, of course! But not so bad I wanted to turn it off or skip to the end where everyone finally learns their lesson and finds true love! If you love Hallmark-esque holiday movies this one is one of the better ones out there. Find it on Netflix!

Starring: Rose McIver, Ben Lamb, Alice Krige
Directed by: John Schultz
holiday romance
2/5 stars

A Christmas Prince was better. I don't think we needed a sequel. The plot was so ludicrous I had a hard time watching. And I knew they'd get married so there wasn't the fun blossoming romance to even enjoy. I was very disappointed.

Cat Thursday--December 6, 2018

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict.

Kittens & Christmas Chocolate reads the headline from the website Guide to Iceland. They're promoting the wildcat conservation group Villikettir that has teamed up with the chocolatier company OmNom. All the proceeds go to their work of rescuing and neutering/spaying wildcats in Iceland. Check out the adorable video and click on the links to learn more!