Monday, December 20, 2021

2021 Gift Guides - Last Minute Amazon Prime Gifts

We are days away from Christmas and if you haven't finished your shopping you messed up. Today's final 2021 gift guide is for the procrastinators out there. All of the below gifts are available via Amazon Prime, and at the time of hitting publish available to be delivered by Christmas Eve!  

A couple of notes 

1. Those lightsaber chop sticks would make a great stocking stuffer for a Star Wars fan! Or pair them with a gift card to a local Chinese takeout spot for a really great gift. 

2. The can cooler comes in a bunch of colors, but they aren't all available for Christmas arrival so be careful which you add to your cart. 

3. The cookie gift basket is a great choice to bring as a hostess gift if you're traveling for the holidays. 

And don't forget the wrapping paper! I love this fun set of 4 rolls or this complete set with tags and ribbons included. 

Monday, November 22, 2021

2021 Gift Guides - things we own and love

Today I'm sharing my favorite gift guide to put together each year; things we own and love! These are all items that I (or my husband) personally own and highly recommend. I always think it's nice to give something that you've personally used and know if a good quality product. 

Bombas Socks / Slim Can Sleeves 

Dinner Bowls / Fire Tablet 

Vice Golf Balls / Yeti Rambler / Whipped Honey 

A couple of notes 

1. If you do get the Yeti I highly suggest also getting the straw cap; adding the straw has significantly helped me increase my daily water intake. 

2. I do not golf, but my husband highly recommends those golf balls. He says they are almost as good as the really expensive ones, but you're not as devastated if you lose one. 

3. We picked that whipped honey when we were in Savannah earlier this year for wedding and have loved finding new ways to use it. Savannah Bee Company has gift collections or you could just order the whipped honey and make your own foodie basket with items from other makers. 

What things do you own and love that would make a great gift? Need more ideas? Check out my 2020 favorites gift guide here

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

5 Holiday Recipes that Travel Well

We're planning on doing Thanksgiving with my husband's extended family this year. As I was thinking about what to bring I had the realization that the perfect pot luck dish is one that you don't need to cook onsite. There are plenty of casseroles that I love, but I don't love the idea of being the person who shows up and hogs the oven. So today I decided to share some of the yummy dishes I found on Pinterest that are all served cold and will travel well so we can all be the low maintenance holiday get-together guest. 

Cold Spinach Dip - My mom has made this dip for years and it is always a crowd pleaser! For a healthier twist sub out the mayo or sour cream (or both) for plain greek yogurt. I like to dip baby carrots or pretzel chips. 

Cranberry Bacon Broccoli Salad - Is broccoli salad only a thing in the South? The addition of cranberries here is a fun holiday twist! 

Winter Pasta Salad with Roasted Vegetables - The addition of shrimp really elevates this above your simple picnic pasta salad. 

Winter Pomegranate Orange Quinoa Salad - I dare you to try and find a more festive looking salad! In a season full of casseroles and stuffings I love the idea of a bright healthy salad. 

Pumpkin Fluff Dip - I obviously had to finish this list with a dessert and this is the perfect one! I made this randomly last fall one weekend and have been thinking about it since. So easy to make; honestly the only easier dessert would be picking one up from the store. I like dipping sliced apples and graham crackers. 

What are your go to pot luck holiday dishes? 

Monday, November 15, 2021

2021 Gift Guides - Stocking Stuffers

The next edition of my 2021 gift guide features my favorite type of holiday gift; the stocking stuffer! My rules for stocking stuffers are pretty simple; the item must be able to fit in a stocking and must be $25 or under. Stockings are not the place for the most expensive gift! 

Socks  / Makeup Brushes  / Nail Polish / Burts Bees 

Under Eye Patches   / Weighted Eye Mask / Pearl Bow Earrings 

Magnetic Wristband / Spaghetti Measure / WallflowersHot Chocolate Mix / Mini Vacuum 

A couple of highlights 

1. I think chapstick is the ultimate stocking stuffer and burts bees makes my favorite! I think I've included some form of this in every stocking stuffer gift guide I've ever put together 

2. Those socks are UGG and less than $20. I've never tried them but UGG is known for great quality so they are probably fabulous and will feel a little more lux than anything else

3. That mini vacuum is truly mini. I think the real name is the smallest vacuum or something like that. It is adorable and I think would be perfect for someone to use at their desk. 

What are your favorite stocking stuffers? At what price do you think something goes from being a stocking stuffer to a "real" gift? 

Friday, November 12, 2021

2021 Gift Guides - My Wishlist

Today's gift guide comes highly requested; my wishlist! Now in all honesty I do not thing a single thing. I'm very lucky to have the freedom to buy myself things throughout the year as I need/want them. But it's still fun to put together a wishlist! 

Tennis Shoes - My husband has already said he's going to buy me these so I know I will find a wrapped pair under the Christmas tree this year. It is way past time for me to upgrade my old pair! I'm leaning towards some On Clouds, but am really open to whatever is best for wearing on the elliptical. 

Headband - I'm still really into headbands! I love this one in black and this one in rainbow. I also really like this set to replace the animal print one I lost on a trip. 

Pink Girly Slippers - Do I own two pairs of slippers? Yes. But my pink fluffy pair are showing serious signs of wear and need to be replaced. I'd love this pair or this pair to replace mine. 

Self Care Gift Certificate - I am a big "treat yourself" girl, but it's even better when that self care comes gifted from someone else! I'd love a pedicure from my favorite nail salon! 

Joggers - My job is staying permanently work from home which means comfy clothes is my new work wear. My husband bought me some leggings from this Amazon brand last year that I love, so I think I'd really like these joggers. 

Meat Chopper - This is probably the most random thing on my list, but I saw someone use this on TikTok months ago and have been thinking about it since. 

Ruggable Rug - The rug in our living room has seen MUCH better days. I'm very intrigued by the idea of a nonslip rug you can throw in the washing machine. 

Strawberry Balsamic - This is one that probably only my mom will understand, but I would love a full size bottle of the strawberry balsamic from the fancy olive oil place. She bought me a sample pack the last time I visited and the strawberry was by far my favorite one and the perfect salad topping. Mom, if you're reading this I'd also like a couple jars of chicken sausage gumbo. 

Peppermint Bark - If you know me you know I LOVE peppermint bark! I think Williams Sonoma makes the best, but really it's all good! 

And as always, if you're shopping for me please coordinate with all my other loved ones to make sure you don't all buy me the same thing. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

2021 Gift Guides - The Dog Parent

 Kicking off the 2021 gift guides today by sharing ideas for the dog parent! Show the "crazy dog mom" in your life that you really get her by gifting something for her best friend. I say this as a crazy dog mom myself. 

Treats / Light Up Collar / Collar 

Dog Rain Jacket / Duck Toy / Giraffe Toy / Travel Food Bowl 

A couple of highlights: 

1. My pup (lab terrier mix) has that giraffe toy and he LOVES it! The neck is soft and small enough for him to easily carry around everywhere. 

2. The Bocce Bakery soft and chewy treats really are soft! I randomly picked up the apple pie flavored treats and he loves them as much as a piece of string cheese, which is great because I feel better giving him one of these than a piece of string cheese. 

Are you shopping for any dog parents this year? 

Monday, October 18, 2021

2021 Q3 Reading Roundup

Today I'm finally sharing the books I read over the last three months! Better late than never, right? So without further ado, here are my 15 books from Q3! 

The Girl from the Chanel Islands by Jenny Lecoat - 3 stars : This one was okay. I kept thinking how unbeilable everything was, but then I read the author's note that is was based on real people. That fact gave it a star bump   

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto - 3 stars : Very darkly humorous and all around wacky, but somehow it all worked!   

The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett - 3 stars : I'm admittedly not that into mysteries, but the idea of Queen Elizabeth solving crime was just too good to pass up. I thought this one was just okay, but if you're into mysteries you'd probably like it more   

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang - 3 stars : Predictable in all the right ways; I was not prepared for the steam level!  

Much Ado About You by Samantha Young - 2 stars : Cute and predictable in the right ways. Lost a point because I hated that he called her "Angel"  

The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand - 3 stars : Honestly this one was just okay. I think it was a little over hyped so I expected more. 

The Sixth Wedding by Elin Hilderbrand - 2 stars : I'm not really sure what the point of this story was; 28 weddings was so good and this addition was not needed. I honestly wish I'd skipped this one because it just made me seriously dislike Jake. 

When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton - 4 stars : Really enjoyed this sequel to Next Year in Havana. Beatriz was the most interesting character so it was great to see her get her own book.    

Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush - 3 stars : First audiobook I've done in a long time, and I thought this one was easy to follow. I think what really made it special is that it is narrated by Barbara and Jenna  

Unmarriagable by Sonia Kamal - 4 stars : Even though this is a retelling of the classic Pride and Prejudice it still felt fresh. Recommend to anyone who enjoys the classic     

The Invisible Husband of Frick Island by Colleen Oakley - 3 stars : The ending felt a little rushed, but overall this was a good read. I think this would be a good pick for a book club to further discuss how we process tradegy and loss.    

The Deal by Elle Kennedy - 3 stars : I kept seeing this series hyped up in a virtual book club group so I finally decided I had to check it out. This is no great piece of literature, but it is a fun read. 

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory - 3 stars : I was so glad to see Ben get his own book in this universe! Lost a star because I thought the half sister side plot was a little weird and not fully flushed out. 

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles - 2 stars : I think this one would have been better if it didn't hop back and forth between time. The WW2 Paris part of the book was really great, but modern day USA just didn't add much     

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl - 3 stars : I never read Gourmet magazine; it closed before I ever got the chance. But I'm now mourning the loss of something I never had the chance to experience. If you liked this I highly suggest reading her fiction novel Delicious! which is loosely based on her experience at Gourmet  

Be sure to checkout my Q1 and Q2 reads! What's next on your reading list? 

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. 

                                                                                                                            Photo Via 

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?

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

My Ultimate Taylor Swift Album

In honor of us being a little over a month from the release of Taylor's version of Fearless, today I'm sharing my ultimate Taylor Swift album. Essentially I'm picking my favorite song for each number from across all her albums, and because there are too many great songs I've added 5 "bonus tracks" that didn't make the original cut. PS : I'm stealing this idea from TikTok, so I really can't take credit for it. 

I've long been a Taylor Swift fan so narrowing down here vast library to only 21 songs really was difficult. It also made me ridiculously excited for her to rerelease all her older albums! If she never put out a new original album I'd still think she's the greatest artist of our time. 

1. I Forgot that You Existed from Lover 

2. Blank Space from 1989

3. The Last Great American Dynasty from Folklore 

4. I Knew You Were Trouble from Red

5. All Too Well from Red 

6. No Body, No Crime from Evermore 

7. The Story of Us from Speak Now 

8. Bad Blood from 1989

9. Should've Said No from Taylor Swift 

10. Mary's Song from Taylor Swift 

11. London Boy from Lover 

12. Dress from Reputation 

13. This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things from Reputation 

14. Betty from Folklore 

15. New Year's Day from Reputation 

16. New Romantics from 1989 

Bonus Tracks! 

1. Red from Red 

2. State of Grace (Acoustic Version) from Red 

3. Picture to Burn from Taylor Swift 

4. Style from 1989

5. End Game from Reputation 

What songs would be on your ultimate Taylor Swift album? Did I miss your favorite? 

Friday, February 26, 2021

5 tips to read more this year

Recently I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Bad on Paper, and they started an episode talking about how they read so much. That inspired me to share my own tips to read more! I've always loved reading, but before last year I honestly wasn't reading that much. In 2019 I read 13 books, in 2020 I read 54, and I'm currently on track to read more than 60 books this year. I made that drastic change with these simple tips! 

1. Find what you like to read - If you don't like what you're reading you aren't going to finish. It's just like a diet or workout plan, you need to find what works for you. Personally I'm not into nonfiction so I tend to stay away from those. You've probably guessed it from my reading roundups, but I like historical fiction (especially WW2 era) and chick lit romantic comedies. It's also important to remember there's nothing wrong with not finishing a book you're not enjoying; this isn't you high school english class assigned reading.  

2. Set a reading goal - One of the most important things to achieving a goal is being specific. So saying "I want to read more this year" isn't going to be as effective as saying "I want to read 25 books this year." You also want to be realistic in your goal. When I first started my journey to read more last year I had a goal of reading 15 books; that was 2 more than I'd read the year before. I highly recommend using Goodreads for this. You can set a goal and it will tell you how on pace you are to reach it by the end of the year. Because of these other tips I quickly reached that goal and was able to increase it. 

3. Get a library card - This is one of my favorite tips because it makes reading affordable. Let's be honest, most hobbies are expensive, but thanks to public libraries reading is extremely affordable! I've been a huge proponent of public libraries since 2013 when I realized how much money it cost to buy books when you were reading one a week. Did you know you can even borrow e-books from your local library? This has been a huge game changer for me and one of the things that most directly allowed me to read more. 

4. Make a plan - You're never going to accomplish anything if you don't have a plan to get it done; reading more this year is exactly the same. You'd be amazed how many books you can finish with just a few dedicated hours a week. Personally I try to read for about 25 minutes during the day; either during my lunch break or once I "clock out" for the day plus at least 45 minutes before bed. This is a double bonus because I sleep so much better when I read before bed instead of scrolling social media. 

5. Connect with other readers - This tip has two benefits, it keeps you accountable to your goals and helps bring you inspiration of what to read next. I love sharing book recommendations with my mom and my mother-in-law sends me books once she's finished reading them. There are tons of great bookstagramers (instagram accounts devoted to reading) who provide me inspiration. I'm also part of my sorority alumni book club; it's held via facebook and so fun to connect with readers from all other the world! 

What are your tips to read more this year? 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

I know Valentine's Day gets a bad name, but in my opinion that's completely wrong. What's not to love about a holiday devoted to love! Today I put together a few fun gift ideas. Obviously you don't need to give someone a gift to show your love (unless that's your love language) , but sometimes it's fun to give a little something! 

Personalized Mug / UGG Slippers / Headband / Heart Serving Spoon 

Treat Jar / Custom Stitched Placemat OPI Nail Polish 

PS : To my husband, I do not want/need any gifts this year. I'm buying the massage gun (which we know is as much a gift for me as you) and you can buy takeout. But if you really insist, I wouldn't say no to a king size Reese's Heart

Wednesday, January 13, 2021


I haven't written one of these posts since May, so now 8 months later seems an appropriate time for an update! 

So currently I'm......

Watching ... I finally finished this latest season of The Crown and think it may have been my favorite. I'm excited to see what they do with the final two seasons! Now we're slowly watching Bridgerton to try and savor it. 

Eating ... A few months ago I had my annual doctor's visit and was told I need to watch my cholesterol levels, so we've been eating lots of salmon. I really only know two ways to make it, so if you have any good recipes I'd love if you'd share 

Loving ... that I'm still working from home! And rumors around the office are that there are no plans for us to return to an office any time soon 

Listening to ... Taylor Swift's Evermore. Dropping it during prime Christmas music listening time meant I didn't have enough time to fully appreciate it at first, so I'm really enjoying digging into it more now 

Reading ... Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella. I'd been on the wait list so long at the library that when I finally downloaded it I forgot what it was about, but about 100 pages into it and I'm enjoying so far! 

Anticipating ... The long holiday weekend plus a few extra vacation days off work next week! 

What is currently going on in your life? 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

2021Reading Challenge Books

I have a goal of reading 30 books this year, or about 2.5 a month. Hopefully 2021 is a little busier work/travel wise meaning less time to read, so I think this is a happy medium between the 12 books I read in 2019 and the 53 I read in 2020. I thought a fun way to help encourage me to reach that goal is to make a reading challenge. I've never done this before so it could end up being a total disaster, but I thought it sounded like a fun idea! To make my list I decided to pick 21 specific books (inspired by my book club picks and the Popsugar reading challenge prompts) and leave the other 7 as miscellaneous ones that catch my eye during the year. 

1. Code Girls (January book club)

2. The Lions of Fifth Avenue (February book club)

3. A Woman is No Man (March book club)

4. The Dutch House (May book club) 

5. The Book of Longings (June book club) 

6. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek (July book club) 

7. The Book Thief (December book club) 

8. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes  (A book by an author who shares your zodiac sign) 

9. Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune ( A magical realism book )

10. Z A Novel of Zella Fitzgerald ( A book whose title starts with “Q,” “X,” or “Z”) 

11. Evvie Drake Starts Over (A book about do-overs or fresh starts) 

12. The Night Portrait (A book about art or an artist) 

13. The Perfume Collector (The book that’s been on your TBR list for the longest amount of time)

14. The Lacuna (A book that has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction) 

15. Hollow Kingdom (A genre hybrid) 

16. Next Year in Havana (A book from your TBR list you meant to read last year but didn’t) 

17. The Floating Feldmans (A book featuring three generations (grandparent, parent, child) )

18. The Stationary Shop (The book on your TBR list with the prettiest cover) 

19. The Book of Lost Names (A book set in multiple countries)

20. The Rose Code (A book that published in 2021)

21. The Royal We (A book with a family tree) 

What's your reading goal this year? Do you make a reading challenge list?

Monday, January 4, 2021

Hello 2021

Remember this time last year when our biggest concern was writing the year out as 2020 vs. just abbreviating it as 20 for fear that someone would change that date on documentations? I'm literally laughing thinking about how we were concerned with that! I think it's safe to say we're going into 2021 with a few more concerns. Even though the calendar changed to a new year the problems of last year are not gone. 

Last January it was impossible to imagine all that 2020 would hold, so I'm not even going to try and do that for 2021. My overall goal for 2020 was to live each day with intention and honestly looking back on it now that's the best possible goal I could have come up with for such a difficult year. I decided I'm not going to do a big 2020 goals recap because honestly getting through the year seems like a win enough. The only goal I want to highlight was my success in my personal goal of reading 15 books; I beat that by reading a total of 54 books! I did this by being intentional and making it a priority every day to include some "me time" devoted to this hobby. 

And that leads me to my 2021 resolution. This year I want to continue living with intention and doing more of what brings me joy. That's it; that's my plan for 2021. I may make some smaller monthly goals as the year goes on, but overall I just want to create joy in my everyday. A few months back I made it a habit to start the day reminding myself of 3 things I was excited about for that day, and the days I did that were the best days. There is good in every day and I plan to remind myself of that in 2021. 

Wishing you joy in 2021!