Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Five Homes

I was scrolling Instagram stories the other day and stumbled upon a great question someone asked Grace in an "ask me anything" style Q&A. If you owned 5 homes where would they be and what would they look like? It was such a fun question I knew I had to answer it for myself! 

A few things that I'm assuming in answering these questions. Money is no object; we've won the lottery. My husband and I live the type of life where we can just pick up and go whenever we want. We aren't fly private everywhere people, but we are first class only people. We have these homes now as young healthy 30somethings. 

1. DFW - I really love where we currently live and feel like it is the perfect forever town; I love our house but do realistically think we'll upgrade at some point. So if money were no object I would want to live in our current zip code but in a larger house. Something traditional with more square footage, one more bedroom, a large master bathroom, bigger kitchen, and dedicated office with lots of natural light. 

2. Colorado Rocky Mountains - This is always where I say I'd buy a second house if we were to win the lottery one day, specifically I'd buy the first condo I lived in when I moved to Vail. It was a two bedroom, two bathroom outdated unit, but I had such great memories there! And the view was impossible to beat; at night we could watch the snowcats grooming the slopes. I know there are much nicer and glamorous homes, but I specifically want my old unit. 

3. Washington, DC - You know I'd want a place in my favorite city! I'd love a cute apartment in the city within walking distance of the metro so I could bop around to my favorite spots. The other great part of having a home here is it is close to so many other big cities so it would be easy to take the train up to New York or Boston if I wanted a weekend getaway . 

4. Florida Beach - I grew up at the beach and while I would never want to live there full time again in this imaginary world where I own 5 homes I know I would want one on the beach. I think I'd prefer a condo vs. a house because I'm really more of a pool person than a sand person. I don't know exactly where in Florida I would pick, but I'd want somewhere that my dad could easily go fishing from. 

5. Western Europe - This is really the only one where I had to think and in the end I was still torn between two places; an airy and bright Parisian apartment and a simple villa (yes I realize how silly that sounds) in Lake Como. When I was little my aunt lived in Paris above a bakery and close enough to Notre Dame to hear the bells; still to this day I cannot think of anything that screams more of "main character" energy. In 8th grade my computer teacher gave us all old copies of National Geographic to practice our typing; mine had an article on Lake Como and I've been obsessed since. I've never visited either location so before making this purchase I would need to make a couple of trips. The good thing about either of these is they would give me a base to easily hop around Europe. 

Where would you want a home if money were no object? 

Monday, August 23, 2021

This week's menu

Some of my favorite posts to read on other blogs are weekly menu posts. One of the hardest parts of being an adult is being responsible for your own meals and finding the balance between eating real meals that are tasty, healthyish, and easy to make. 

When I'm meal planning for the week I have a few general guidelines I try to follow. (1) Make meals that will have enough leftovers for lunch the next day. (2) Complicated meals on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday because these are the days we either don't go to the gym or can go earlier in the day so I can start cooking earlier. (3) Eat fresh produce meals earlier in the week to make sure it gets used. 

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Monday : Salmon & Cauliflower Gnocchi - This is a great easy meal to start the week. I season two salmon fillets with whatever seasoning I feel like that night and bake it. The cauliflower gnocchi is the frozen stuff from Trader Joes that I cook in a skillet on the stove with a little pesto and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. 

Tuesday :  Greek Spaghetti Squash - This is a new recipe I'm trying this week, so we'll see how it turns out!  

Wednesday : Pickup - I've started being realistic when doing these weekly menus and including a pickup night during the week, having it at the mid point of the week is a nice little way to break up the week. 

Thursday : Crockpot Chicken Burritos & Street Corn - Mexican crockpot chicken is one of my long time favorites because it's easy and tasty! I'll put that chicken in tortillas with a little cheese and bake in the oven until the cheese is melted. The street corn is (again) from a bag from Trader Joes; it just needs to be heated on the stove top. 

Friday : Shrimp Stir Fry - I have a half bag of stir fry veggies that have been in the freezer for a while so this is a perfect meal! The next day I'll add a couple of eggs and turn the leftovers into fried rice. 

Saturday : BBQ Chicken Salads - I cook boneless chicken breasts in the crockpot with BBQ sauce and serve over a simple salad with romaine, cheddar, and fried onions with ranch dressing. Not the most healthy when it comes to salads, but I tell myself it's better than eating a bbq chicken sandwich with mac&cheese.   

Sunday : Shepherd's Pie - I loosely use this Pioneer Women recipe, but use ground chicken and mashed cauliflower to lighten it up some. I also use corn and green beans for the vegetables because I like them better. 

What's on your menu this week? 

Friday, July 9, 2021

2021 Q2 Reading Roundup

 A few weeks back I shared that I have completed my 2021 Reading Challenge and have started a part two of my challenge! So it should come as no surprise that I've got a full Q2 reading roundup to share with you today! 

women's fiction books

The Night Portrait by Laura Morelli - 3 Stars I really enjoyed this until the weird romantic vibe between Edith and Dominic at the end; that was just not needed and cost it a star. I did really enjoy how much research the author did before writing this. 

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd - 2 Stars This book just wasn't my thing, but I could see how others would enjoy it. 

Delicious! by Ruth Reichel - 4 Stars This story was a little bit all over the place, but really fun and unique. The best way to describe it is chaotic in the best way possible. 

Z : a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler - 2 Stars  Zelda Fitzgerald is a fascinating person, so I enjoyed reading about her. But I felt there were too many instances where the book was racist and anti gay. I know attitudes were different 100 years ago and the vast majority of people less accepting, but it just felt like too much 

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory - 5 Stars I just love this series; they are so fun and this one was no different! 

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali - 4 Stars Really enjoyed this one! I loved how it was told mostly from Roya's point of view with the few chapters from others sprinkled in I'm going to recommend this one for my book club. 

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood - 3 Stars Even though this was largely predictable there were still some fun twists and turns I didn't expect. It started out a little slow, but don't let that detour you  

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton - 4 Stars This book was a rare instance where it lived up to the hype. My only real complaint is that there wasn't enough time to truly explore all the interesting characters. 

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson - 2 Stars I just did not enjoy this book. It felt like it was trying too hard to be too many things and in the end just fell short on all of them.   

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel - 4 Stars Overall this was a great story but it received the high rating because I really appreciated the way it was written. There were not the the graphic descriptions of violence that many WW2 books have. I also appreciated that the author gave us the big "heart break" moments early and then built upon them, this way we were prepared when we got to those parts in the story  

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave - 5 Stars 100% lived up to the hype. The characters felt real (even if the plot didn't) and likable; I rooted for Hannah and Bailey from start to finish

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - 2 Stars This book isn't bad, it just isn't very good either. There are much better WW2 fiction books out there, and honestly I just don't understand the hype  

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn - 4 Stars Some of the surprises I predicted but others I was completely surprised by, so it wasn't stressful suspenseful to read but I was still kept on my toes. Overall I enjoyed this book and would recommend it, but didn't think it was as strong as her last book The Huntress.  

Shipped by Angie Hockman - 3 Stars Fun and quick read! I really enjoyed all the details about galapagos that the author clearly spent a lot of time researching  

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary 3 Stars - Very unique story line that I haven't seen before. Fun and quirky British read. Trigger warning : Emotional Abuse  

summer beach reads

Last Summer at the Golden Hotel by Elyssa Friedland 4 Stars I didn't love the first Elyssa Freidland book I read but decided to give her a second chance and I'm so glad I did! This was such a fun read that I would LOVE to see be made into a Netflix movie  

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry 3 Stars - I'd give this a strong three stars, but not enough to round up to four stars, maybe it was too hyped up. The characters were fun, but I wanted to hear more about the vacations and less about the relationship of Alex and Poppy   

You Have a Match by Emma Lord - 3 Stars I wanted to like this one so much more than I really did. Maybe it was just too unbelievable yet not fun enough to overlook the outlandishness. I wish it had focused more on Mickey, she felt like the most interesting and likable character 

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman - 5 Stars This felt like a grownup modern day fairy tale. I feel like anything else I say will give too much away, but this is in strong contention for favorite book of the year  

What did you read in Q2? What are you excited to read next? 

Monday, June 7, 2021

2021 Reading Challenge : Part 2

I have officially completed my 2021 reading challenge books! I knew I'd reach my goal this year, but I'm honestly surprised I finished it so quickly! As a refresher I challenged myself to read 30 books this year; 21 from specific prompts and the rest to be randomly selected. With more than half the year left obviously I'm not going to stop reading, but I also don't think I'll realistically stick to this reading pace. We are currently starting the 23rd week of the year, so I've been reading more than a book a week so far in 2021. So how do I update my 2021 reading challenge for the last 7 months of the year? I've decided to set my new reading goal to 51 books; or 3 books per month going forward. 

I was really conflicted about if I should make a new list of reading challenge books. On the one hand I liked that this challenge pushed me out of my comfort zone to read some things I normally wouldn't have picked up and made me finish some books that I probably otherwise would not have. But on the other hand I sometimes missed the flexibility to read something just published or immediately available from the library. So I decided for these next 21 books I'm going to pick 10 prompts; for each prompt I'm picking a few books that fit into that category. I'll consider the prompt complete once I read something that fits, even if it isn't one of the books I specifically call out here. The other books will be freebies. This means I can still pick up something new that just came out or read the current pick for one of my book clubs without feeling like I'm neglecting my list!  

1. A classic I've never read - These are those books that are on the "100 books to read before you die" type lists but I've never actually read. I know the story because I saw the movie or have just heard enough about the book, but have never actually read it. Ideas : Emma by Jane Austen, The Giver by Lois Lowrey, This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

2. A non WW2 historical fiction book - WW2 historical fiction is my favorite genre of book; I'm curious if I'm as interested in historical fiction that takes place in a different time. Ideas : The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict, The Social Graces by Renee Rosen, Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig

3. A book by an author I've never read - It's always nice to expand the list of authors I like; time to discover some new ones! Ideas : The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary, The Vacationers by Emma Straub, The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

4. A biography, autobiography, or memoir - This is a genre of books I don't read very often, but have a bunch of on my TBR list. Because the idea of this list is to push myself to read things I don't pick up as often I thought this was a perfect prompt! Ideas : Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager, Becoming by Michelle Obama, From Scratch by Tembi Locke 

5. A possible book club recommendation - For one of the book clubs I'm in we all submit suggestions and then vote on the books we're going to read. We'll pick all the books for next year in the fall, so I want to have some good suggestions! Ideas : The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, The Talented Miss Farwell by Emily Gray Tedrowe, The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman 

6. A book I don't know much about - These are books that are on my TBR list, but I don't know too much about. They were added to the list on impulse usually because I either liked the cover or the author. Ideas : The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey, The Marriage Game by Sara Desai, The Price of Inheritance by Karin Tanabe

7. A book it seems everyone else has read - Very similar to the first prompt of this list, but this one is for modern novels. These are the ones that seem to always end up on everyone's recommendation lists, but I've just never gotten around to reading. The Idea of You by Robin Lee, The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, 

8. A book in a series (or sequel) I've never finished - Unless I REALLY loved the first book or it left on a cliff hanger I often don't get to the rest of the books in the series. Ideas : Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams, The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan, When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

9. A book by an author I didn't love the first time - Everyone deserves a second chance! With so many books out there it's easy to write off an author if you don't love the first thing you read. Ideas : One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal, People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry 

10. A book that takes place somewhere I'd like to visit- The wanderlust is real this year, if you can't travel this is the next best thing. Ideas : The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand, The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett, West End Girls by Jenny Colgan 

How are you doing on your reading goal for the year? What's been your favorite read of 2021? 

Monday, May 10, 2021

my updated travel bucket list

One of my major take aways of the last year is my desire to no longer put off travel. When we got married in October 2019 we decided to take a long weekend honeymoon with the intent of doing a long Europe trip for our 1 year anniversary. That 1 year anniversary trip obviously did not happen. While I had a fantastic honeymoon and honestly didn't have the bandwidth to plan something longer after planning a wedding, it made me realize the importance of not putting travel destinations off. I have a couple of personal (Austin and Savannah) and business (Atlanta and hopefully Phoenix) trips planned before the end of the year, so I'm hopeful travel will be back to normal soon! 

I first published a travel bucket list years ago, but since then my dream destinations have changed a little. Today I thought it would be fun to share an updated travel bucket list! Hopefully I can use this for inspiration to start checking some new destinations off the list soon! 

Italy (Rome, Lake Como, Amalfi Coast, Florence) 
France (Paris, Nice, Provence) 
The Netherlands 
Montreal, Canada 
Tulum, Mexico 
Havana, Cuba 
British Virgin Islands 

New York, New York
Salt Lake City, Utah 
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Charleston, South Carolina
Cape Cod, Massachusetts 
San Juan, Puerto Rico 

But let's be real, I'm not turning down a trip anywhere! What's on your travel bucket list? 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

2021 Q1 Reading Roundup

 I wasn't sure how I wanted to do these reading roundups this year. I had toyed with the idea of doing them once a month, but as I mentioned before I'm hoping as the year goes on work becomes a little more normal/busy and I don't have as much time to read. So I decided to stick with what worked last year and bring you a quarterly reading roundup! 

Code Girls by Liza Mundy : 3 Stars - Nonfiction isn't my thing, but if it's yours I think this would be a great read! I'd love to read a historical fiction book on this subject now

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton : 3 Stars - This is not the type of book I would normally read, but with that said I really enjoyed it. I thought it was an unique story with an interesting narrator. I would put out the caution that there is violence and death

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis : 5 Stars - Really enjoyed this one! I was surprised by the final plot twist at the end. 

Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella : 2 Stars - This one fell flat for me and I think it's because I just couldn't connect with Ava. I just found her annoying instead of cute and quirky like I think was the idea

The Ballards of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins : 3 Stars - It's interesting to read a book with the main character as the villain. We always want to cheer for the main character, but that's not the point of this story.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro : 3 Stars - Overall I enjoyed this book. I wanted to know more about Eva's life during the war years vs. her early life in the United States

The Mad Woman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell : 3 Stars - Confession : I've never read a Bronte novel. I felt that disclaimer was important to know when viewing my rating. I thought this was an interesting enough story, but I wanted more from the ending. It started slow (almost painfully slow) but then seemed to finish too quickly just as it was getting interesting.

The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse : 4 Stars - I honestly did not see this twist at the end coming. A great quick read if you like WW2 fiction or suspense novels

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum : 3 Stars - Beautifully written, but a hard subject to read. Trigger Warning : Domestic Abuse 

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne : 4 Stars - Cheesy romantic comedy in all the best ways. I think my only complaint is I would have liked it more on the PG side of PG13 than the R side. Excited for the movie as I think it will transfer well to the screen

The Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Freidland : 3 Stars - Just okay. This felt like one of those books that a year from now I won't be able to recall the plot

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan : 3 Stars  - Not what I expected, but still a very fun read. Didn't love that it ended on a cliff hanger 

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfield : 5 Stars - One of the best books I've read in a while. This is a great read, no matter your feelings on Hillary Clinton

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver : 3 Stars - Overall a good piece of literature. I'd recommend this if you're looking for a quality read vs. a quick read

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes : 4 Stars - Just a really delighted read 

The Dutch House by Ann Patchet : 3 Stars - This was just okay. I liked how everything seemly came full circle at the end, but the idea of a mother leaving her children is just too tragic

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim : 3 Stars - I had such high hopes because the story was so unique, but the ending felt a little rushed and trying too hard to end in "happily ever after"

What did you read this quarter? What are you excited to read next? 

Monday, March 15, 2021

25 ways to bring joy to the every day

You may remember my goal for 2021 is to appreciate the every day things that make life good. If it doesn't spark joy, it's got to go! About a quarter of the way into the year I'm happy to report this strategy is working and I'm feeling more optimistic and hopeful than I did a year ago. I know many are still struggling, so today I wanted to share 25 ways to bring joy to your every day. Joy is so personal, so some of these may not apply to you, but hopefully they provide you a good jumping off point to fill your life with more joy! 

1. Donate to cause you care about

2. Order takeout from your favorite restaurant 

3. Listen to your favorite song on repeat 

4. Call a family member

5. Make a list of all your accomplishments in the last year 

6. Clean out your junk drawer 

7. Print out and frame a favorite photo 

8. Take a nap 

9. Read your favorite magazine 

10. Go for a walk 

11. Take a PTO day just because 

12. Treat yourself to a fresh manicure 

13. Get dressed up just because 

14. Reconnect with an old friend 

15. Clean out your closet and donate what you no longer wear 

16. Bake a batch of cookies 

17. Spend an extra 30 minutes for your favorite hobby 

18. Take a social media break 

19. Watch your favorite movie 

20. Sonic happy hour 

21. Spend an afternoon volunteering 

22. Preset the coffee maker the night before 

23. Enjoy an at home face mask 

24. Cook your favorite meal 

25. Make a fancy cocktail 

How do you bring joy to your every day?