March 27, 2017

What I've Been Reading... March, 2017

Guys, I have become one of those readers who neglects their other responsibilities because they are reading. My house is a mess, laundry is all over the place (clean AND dirty), and I don't even care, because I just want to finish the next chapter.

I read SEVEN books this month, which is ridiculous to me. Who is this reading machine? And NONE of them were audiobooks, either! 

I've been trying out some new places to find books this month, including the awesome library in Pittsburgh, and some things directly from authors! 

I love to write these posts so that hopefully you can add to your "to-read" list. Is there other information you are looking for from posts like this? What should I add/take away to make them more helpful? I would LOVE to know your feedback.

Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur by Cara Alwill Leyba ★★
I have to say... I didn't love this. It seemed really pieced together, and not cohesive at all. While I do appreciate a good personal development book, this one fell flat for me. I actually stopped reading it about 2/3 of the way through, because it just got so repetitive. There is only so many times that you can be hit over the head with the message of "be positive, help each other, be confident" before it starts to feel really preachy.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood ★★★
This was recommended to me on my Kindle Unlimited subscription, and when I saw that it is coming out on Hulu, I knew I had to read it. I was terrified by this book. If you look at what is happening in the country right now, and how women's health is handled by our government... you'll realize that this hits very close to home. 

I really liked the character of Offred, and that we got to see what was happening through her point of view. Her memories were a little confusing at first, but when I figured out what was happening, I felt really bad. I definitely recommend this to anyone who has an interest in dystopian literature.

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica ★★★
I've read a couple of Mary Kubica's books, and really liked them, so I immediately picked this up at the library. It was a very quick read, as most of her books are, and I constantly wanted to figure out what happened. 

The story is written that you think one thing for almost the entire book, and then at the end the truth is revealed. I don't want to spoil anything, but I hated Esther until almost the end of the book. 

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett ★★★
Guys I FINALLY finished this! There were some dry parts, but once I got into the story of Jack and Aliena, I was hooked. This could have definitely been two books, but I think it is tied together so well, almost like a braid of story lines. If you like Game of Thrones or Outlander, I think you would like this book a lot.

Thank you Katie for lending this to me! 

The Otto Digmore Difference by Brent Hartinger ★★★
This story was just not my cup of tea. I thought it moved really fast, and I kept getting confused by the different details in the plot lines. Maybe because this is part of a series, and things will wrap up (such as the random car chase that doesn't really ever come to anything?). Even though the resoution of the main conflict is not what you think it will be, I still liked how it was a learning moment for the main character, and leads him to be a better person.

I did really like the characters, which is so important for me as a reader. They seemed so REAL, and their personalities were very different. Also I was glad that the romances ended the way they did.
*This book was provided for review by the author. All opinions are my own.

The Circle by Dave Eggers ★★★
This was our book club pick for the Month of March. Talk about being relevant / dystopian societies / social media taking over the world. What happened with the Circle could TOTALLY happen to us. 

I felt bad for Mae for almost the whole book. She was constantly being criticized and mansplained to, and was made to feel that she wasn't enough. When she went transparent, I knew it was over. She was sucked in. She had been broken down so much that she was willing to believe EVERYTHING that the Circle told her. 

I didn't understand what the marine life meant, until the very end. That scene was incredibly creepy.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien ★★★
Another pick from my Kindle Unlimited library, and this is such a classic that I had to read it. I didn't realize that I have seen the first half of this story as a movie, but not the second half. I love the way that J.R.R. Tolkien writes, but I could see how it might be a bit confusing. This is the first book in the Lord of the Rings universe that I've read, and I can totally see myself reading more. (#nerdalert)

March 6, 2017

Why I Broke Up with my Stitch Fix Subscription

I love subscription boxes. It is so fun to get them in the mail and takes away a little bit of the hassle of shopping for yourself. Stitch Fix was no exception. I loved getting my boxes every month, and seeing what my stylist had chosen for me. A personal shopper? Yes please.

But I gave up my Stitch Fix subscription a few months ago. It wasn't something that I HAD to have anymore. If you ask people whether they love or would leave Stitch Fix, you get a pretty mixed opinion, which is why I wanted to share my view.

Stitch Fix isn't cheap. I guess to some people this might be affordable, but to buy the whole box, the totals were in the $200-$300 range every month. And I know that is on the low end. I personally don't spend $200 every month on clothes, so it didn't really make sense for me to continue requesting boxes. I also wrote in my reviews MANY times that the quality of the clothing was not worth the price.

There wasn't anything unique coming in the boxes. There were very few times when I HAD to have what came in my fix. Most often it was all stuff that I had seen online or at stores (like TJ Maxx and Burlington). I felt like I was just picking what I liked best and buying it so that I wouldn't waste my styling fee.

I had to choose between needs and wants. Dave and I are in a time of our life right now where we don't have a lot of extra cash. As much as it sucks to have to choose between your needs, wants, and investments for the future, it has to happen. I would rather spend money on the supplies needed (and fees, tuition, etc) for us both to be in school right now, than to buy clothes that I will probably only keep for a year or so before giving them to my sister. Is this #adulting?

I would love to hear if you have tried Stitch Fix, and what your opinion is! Do you love it, or could you leave it? This service is definitely something that I would love to revisit again in the future!

See my past fixes here; number 1, number 2, and number 3.

March 3, 2017

Bring-to-Work Salads and Healthy Ranch Dressing

I told you guys on Monday that I am a total creature of habit, and basically eat the same salad for lunch every day. Well, I decided to share with you how I go about planning those salads, AND how I've learned to make my own ranch dressing. 

If you spend about an hour on Sunday prepping, it pays off so much during the mornings. Before I leave the house, I just grab my salad, a snack, and usually a breakfast (which has lately been overnight oats). I leave a jar of dressing in the fridge at work and bam. Ready to eat once lunchtime comes.

My grocery list looks extremely similar each week because Dave and I don't really stray much from what we like. After grocery shopping on Sunday morning (this is my Sunday ritual, grab a latte, shop, and prep), I unload all the groceries and get to work.

Often I chop as I add, but for reference, I wanted to lay everything out so that you could see it. These ingredients are enough for 6 salads.

When I'm shopping for this, I typically buy:
-1 pack of three romaine hearts
-2 heads of broccoli
-3 cucumbers
-1 can of garbanzo beans
-1 red onion
I always add sunflower seeds to my salads, but that I buy every other week. Sometimes I add chicken,  snow peas, mushrooms, cheese, etc, but that is really just what I feel like adding at the time

And now for the star of the show:

Making my own salad dressing has been SUCH a game changer. I don't worry about nasty chemicals and the hidden sugar that is in tons of salad dressings. I am a big fan of ranch dressing, so of course I had to do some research on this one. This is based on this recipe which is Whole30 approved and is about 80 calories per serving.

This ranch is so stinking good, and really, REALLY easy to make. I make a batch once a week, and between Dave and I, we always finish it.

-1 egg
-1 cup light olive oil
-1 tsp apple cider vinegar
-1/2 cup almond milk
-1 ranch packet
-garlic powder to taste

1. Using an immersion blender, blend together the egg, oil and the ACV. This makes a very basic mayonnaise. I recommend starting with the blender in the bottom (where the egg should be) and slowly lifting it to the top.
2. Add almond milk to loosen the mixture up. This should be the consistency that you want in your salad dressing.
3. Add ranch packet and garlic powder to taste. Blend this together with the immersion blender.
4. Store in a sealed container (I use a recycled pickle jar!). This should be good for about 7 days.

Some people are a little weird about raw egg in their dressing, but honestly... I eat raw cookie dough that has egg in it, so what's the difference? And to make the mayo base (which is pretty much all ranch dressing), you need that egg.

Do you make your own salad dressings? It is so easy, and I would love to hear if anyone has their own recipe that they love!

March 1, 2017

Ruby Ruckus

One of the requests that I got from my 2016 readers' survey was more Ruby! I introduced you guys to her back in November, and she is basically the star of my Snapchat.

Adopting Ruby has been the best decision that Dave and I have ever made. Well maybe getting married #1, and Ruby #2. But that is saying something.

BR (before Ruby), he and I had never really had to be responsible for anything. We could come and go as we pleased, could focus on ourselves and each other. I never had pets growing up, and he had a dog, but wasn't really interested.

We started thinking about adopting a pet when we knew we were moving to Pittsburgh. Our apartment in Norfolk didn't allow pets, so we wanted to make absolutely sure our new place did. About a month after we moved in, we started looking at cats who were up for adoption. We thought that a cat would be less needy than a dog, and would do better in the small space we have.

When we found Ruby, I had been searching by breed. Dave and I both like Russian Blue cats, as they have a lot of great qualities, and are easier for people with allergies. I'm not sure if that is really Ruby's breed or not, but Dave has pretty bad cat allergies, and he isn't bothered by her at all.

Ruby makes us smile and laugh every day. I know you can't compare a pet to a child, but I really feel like adopting Ruby has brought Dave and I closer. When I see them playing or snuggling, my heart just bursts. Since she is the sassiest girl in the world, she always steals his food and he explains that it "has no nutritional value" for her. They kill me.

There has been so much more singing around our house since she came. Great hits like "Who's my Ruby Ruckus," "Ruby-Scrumptious" (like from Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang) and "Ruby Ruby Ruby Rockin' Everywhere."

No matter how many times she has her bathroom privileges revoked for shredding the toilet paper, or breaks something, or chews a phone cord, or grosses us out when she licks her butt, she is still the best. She is a chatty, goofy, sweet & salty little stink pot.

She is growing so fast! This little lady will be ONE in July! I can't wait to continue to learn and grow together as a family. She is learning not to jump on people when they have something in their hands, and we are learning how to nurture, and tend to her needs. You know, give and take.

It's happened. I've become a crazy cat lady. 

February 27, 2017


Happy Monday Friends! We had a great weekend with lots of relaxing and a date night, which was so nice. Dave got tickets for us to see Ragtime at his school, which is my FAVORITE musical ever. There was a lot of "don't cry! don't cry" moments for me. 

This month has been weird (as usual), which is made worse by the short month that is February. The first months of the year have never been my favorite, so it doesn't surprise me.

I have been working a lot on self-love and self-improvement, which you will see a little bit in the post below. I spend a lot of time being frustrated and annoyed with people, and came to realize that I need to take my own advice, and "DO YOU." Stop worrying about everyone else, and focus on what you can do to make things nicer, happier, and better. 

Currently, I'm...
Reading: Right now I'm finishing up the fourth book in the Gender Game Series, and The One I Was by Eliza Graham. I had book club last night, and we decided to read The Circle by Dave Eggers for March. That one has been on my list since I saw that it is coming out as a movie, starring Emma Watson!

Pinning: A little bit of this, and a little bit of that. I've recently started bullet journaling (sort of), so I've been turning to Pinterest for some inspiration. Also lots of healthy recipes. And since it's March, I thought I'd share my most-pinned pin of all time, which hilariously is a Jello shot recipe!

Munching On: I'm trying to be really healthy lately! I gained a bit of weight after the wedding (you know... moving, new job, new medications, etc), so I'm trying to keep that in check. I am a little bit of a creature of habit, so every weekend I prep salads and overnight oats for the next week. Dave is usually in charge of making dinners, but this week I made some skinny tortilla soup in the crock pot. The fact that I did all the cooking this week is basically a miracle.

Working On: Paying off my stupid hearing aids. I've had them for a year now, and I'm ready to be done paying them off. I jokingly refer to them as our most expensive procession, but really, they basically are. #overit

Laughing At: Remember when I told you last month about my freaking hilarious Valentine's Day gift that I got for Dave? Well I'm still laughing at it.

Trying Out: A bunch of new recipes, including some crock pot ones! I made fried pickles last night for book club (which were awesome), made some delicious chicken tortilla soup last night, and have a plan to make some soup from scratch next week.

Normally I am not a cook AT ALL, so when I was telling my mom all the stuff I have been cooking, I realized that I have basically lost my damn mind. Who is this person who LIKES to cook?

Craving: Ice cream. It has been so warm out lately that all I want at the end of the day is some ice cream. We tried Halo Top for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and I'm hooked. They were on sale at the grocery store this weekend, so I bought three pints. #noselfcontrol

Wearing: I recently got a bunch of new pieces from my aunt, who sells LulaRoe. I have worn their solid leggings for a while, and decided to break out into some skirts. This year I decided that I wanted to make the rule that I WOULD NOT be uncomfortable all day in something I wear. Because of that, I have been trying to make outfits with cute pieces, which are also comfy. I might write more about this later.

Buying: Not buying anything right now, but my list is getting bigger and bigger. I need some new sunglasses, an apron for my now increasing Betty Crocker moments, oh and a can opener. Thanks Amazon Prime!