October 26, 2017

What I've Been Reading...September and October, 2017

Since school started this semester, it has been pretty hard for me to read for pleasure. My classes right now have a ton of reading (especially Business Law), and I find a lot of my time is dedicated to that. That being said, I still make it a point to read on my lunch break and to read a little bit before bed every night. It helps relax me after a day looking at screens. 

There are always books that I want to read, and I have a ton at my house that are waiting to be read, and yet I always ask for recommendations. I had to stop going to the library last month and make a promise to read some of the books that I already have. It's hard though! When something gets into my head, I want to read it RIGHT NOW.

Over the past two months, I've been reading a lot of stuff that was lent and recommended to me by co-workers. One of my coworkers reads about as much as I do, so we are constantly swapping books. I love it. Check out what I've been reading below!


I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak ★★★1/2
This was recommended to me by one of my student work-studies. She said that this is her favorite book EVER. Since I loved reading The Book Thief which is also by this author, I decided to check it out. The plot is kind of weird, but I got into it more at the end. I didn't really like the character who was narrating, but I understood why I had to not like him. The book was interesting, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart ★★★
This series was recommended to me by my co-worker, who read the first book (this one) in her book club. I enjoyed the plot and loved that it is based in fact. The events in the book really happened, and it was interesting to me to see such a strong woman in the turn of the 20th century. The series is very cute, as are the characters, and they were a quick read.

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart ★★★
This is the second book in the Kopp Sisters trilogy. This book gets a little more in depth with Constance's adventures as an almost-deputy. I really thought it was going to turn out that she and the Sheriff were falling in love, but it doesn't take that turn. Maybe in book 3!

Dollhouse by Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe Kardashian ★1/2
Seriously I felt my brain cells dying when I was reading this. It is basically the story of the Kardashians, but with different names and a few different details. The writing is pretty childish and how the characters speak is annoying (like real life). 

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall ★★★
This was another one of my co-worker's recommendations that took me a while to get through. I don't think there is really a plot to this story, but if you like getting a glance into different ways of life, this is it. I really disliked the father, it seemed like when he was narrating all he would do is whine. Rusty's point of view was my favorite, and I loved that he spoke like an actual 10 year old. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling ★★★★
Reading plays and screenplays is always interesting to me, because you can allow your imagination to act it out. I saw this movie in theaters, but it seemed a little different when I was reading it. I imagined the characters differently and some of the settings. This is a great story, and I can't wait for (potentially?) more from Newt's story.

October 23, 2017

My Favorite Resources for Meal Prepping on Weight Watchers

Last week I mentioned that I joined Weight Watchers in September. I am doing the online plan plus meetings, and I absolutely love it--I've lost 8 pounds so far. The plan that Weight Watchers uses right now emphasizes eating fruits and vegetables, and focuses on a healthier whole self. The community that comes with attending weekly meetings is so supportive, and it truly helps to keep me inspired.

One of the most important things that has made this process so easy for me is that Dave and I were already in the habit of meal prepping on Sundays. We usually do the bulk of our cooking on Sunday afternoons, and that makes it so much easier to make it through the week eating healthy while we are both on the go. 

Dave has usually been the master chef in our family, but since starting WW, I've been doing a lot more cooking! The Type A part of me loves researching what I'm going to make for the week and making a shopping list for it. 

Usually I do a slow cooker meal and then something else, but I'm not tied to that. Also we try to make sure that similar ingredients are being used in our recipes for the week so that nothing is going to waste. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite resources and recipes with you guys! We have been trying out some awesome and adventurous stuff, and (mostly) loving it!



1. Skinny Taste
This is my go-to place to find great recipes for the week. I love Gina's slow cooker recipes, and have tried a bunch of the breakfast meals. My favorites so far are Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili (5SP), One-Pot Spaghetti Squash and Meat Sauce (2SP), Baked Pears with Walnuts and Honey (2SP), and Spinach, Feta, and Artichoke Breakfast Bake (4SP). I love that every single recipe on this site has how many points it contains, and that there are choices for every palette.

Also, this is a side note but the recipes are organized wonderfully. You can look things up by course, by special diet, how to cook it, or even the number of SP. SO handy when you are planning your days and week.

2. Dash of Herbs
Kristyn is a fellow Weight Watcher who comes up with some of the best "lightened up" recipes for comfort food and baked goods. I love her Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread (4SP), Slow Cooker Potato Soup (4SP), and Cheesy Sausage Pasta Skillet (6SP).

Kristyn also has a lot of great resources on her site regarding general life as a Weight Watcher. She talks about staying motivated, the best products to use, and living your life instead of being chained to diet foods.

3. Eat Yourself Skinny
I love this site because Kelly is just so REAL. She cooks things that she likes to eat, in a clean way because it makes her feel better.  I love her Healthy Cauliflower Fried Rice (6SP), and Three Ingredient Granola (5SP). I can't wait to try out some of her cocktails this holiday season!

4. Daily Dose of Pepper
This is a new site to me, but I already can't wait to dive in and try more of her recipes! Talk about comfort food! I love the Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal (5SP), and the Skinny Buffalo Chicken Dip (2SP), and can't wait to try the One-Pot Alfredo Pasta with Bacon and Peas (9SP) next week!

5. Drizzle Me Skinny
There are some great recipes on this site (I want to try almost every single bubble-up and casserole she has on here), but my go-to is the Product Reviews section. Have you ever wondered about the different food products you see all over Instagram? I'm always hesitant to buy expensive health foods until I read a few reviews on them. For example, I've been seeing posts of Kodiak Cakes for a while now, so I read Kate's review on them. Based on the photo and the information she gave, I'll definitely be trying these in the near future!

If you have any recommendations for great, healthy recipes, please let me know! I'm always on the lookout! Also, if you have questions about joining Weight Watchers, don't hesitate to contact me!

October 18, 2017

Hey... Is This Thing Still On?

Hey Guys! Long time no see! It's been BUSY BUSY BUSY around these parts, and unfortunately, my sad little blog has fallen to the wayside a bit. Being a content creator is getting harder and harder these days, and frankly, I don't have time to do it all. So I'll be in pretty sporadically to share stuff with you, and it will probably be a bit lighter. I do love writing here, so I want to try to keep it up if I can.

So... What has been up in the MONTH since I last posted? A ton of stuff. Seriously. Life is busy, full, and sometimes chaotic. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Possibly the best thing that has happened to me in the past few weeks is that I joined Weight Watchers! I was reaching a point in my overall health that I was not doing extremely well and the doctors couldn't really figure out why I was gaining weight and had swollen fingers and toes. I got so frustrated one night, that I finally just pulled the trigger and joined Weight Watchers.


I am so proud and happy to say that after 5 weeks, I've lost 8 pounds! While not every single symptom that I was experiencing has gone away, I feel SO much better. This is such an easy plan to follow, and I love that I am able to connect with such a supportive community.

Since I am the one who is really watching my nutrition lately, I've been doing MUCH more cooking than usual. There are so many great resources available for "skinny" recipes, and I'll probably round up my favorites at some point soon.

Taking two classes toward my master's this semester is keeping me INCREDIBLY busy. Right now we are at midterm, and I feel like I can finally take a breath. I'm taking Corporate Finance and Business Law and both of those are just really heavy.



Next week I meet with my advisor, and I'm excited to decide what to take in the Spring. As of now I'm scheduled to graduate in Spring of 2019, which seems SO far away, but I know it will come before I know it.

Speaking of grad school, I'm pretty ready for this season of life to be done. With both Dave and I working and in school, it is just really tough. We have to be very intentional with our time (which we actually do pretty well), and it is just exhausting. I can't wait to get back to a sense of normalcy.

We celebrated our sweet Ruby's first gotcha day yesterday! We have had this little sassy nugget for a whole year already! I can't even believe it, to be honest, because it simultaneously feels like we just got her, and that she's been a part of our family forever. Is this what it's like to be a parent?



She is doing really well, and still up to her naughty behavior as always. She is seriously like one of those Sour Patch Kids commercials. She will do something so bad, but then will snuggle right up to you so that you can't be mad for long. We left her this weekend with someone looking in once a day, and when we got home you would have thought that she had won the lottery. Her parents were home and she will be good from now on so we don't leave.

Since before I joined Weight Watchers, my size had been fluctuating a bit, and I have had a whole bunch of items in my closet that just don't fit anymore. Someone suggested that I list a closet on Poshmark, so I took a few photos one weekend and listed the stuff. I've now sold a few things and I'm becoming addicted!


If you are on Poshmark, or are looking for some nice, like new clothes to add to your collection, check out my Poshmark Closet. If you are looking for something specific, send me a message! I may have it and just not have uploaded it yet.

Finally, last weekend we traveled to Rochester for a cousin's wedding. Everything was absolutely gorgeous, and very subtly fall themed. The bride and groom did such a good job with all the details, and it paid off for them. I wish I had more photos to show, but here is one of Dave and me at the reception venue!



So as you can see, life is FULL. I have a ton of stuff still to share with you, so I need to get writing! Now I want to hear about you. How are you doing? What is going on in your life? Pumpkin Spice or Hot Cider?

September 11, 2017

Great Resources for Bullet Journaling and Planning

If you follow me on any form of social media, you probably know how much I love planning and keeping organized. If I don't write things down on paper, I feel lost, and I lose momentum throughout the day. And yes, I am one of those people who writes easy things like "shower" on my to-do list in order to feel the accomplishment of just crossing something off.

I have been sort of bullet journaling for a few years, even before I knew what that term meant. I always tape important things into my planners, color code, use special symbols and abbreviations. And listing in general. I've been doing that since I exited the womb.

But now that I know WHAT bullet journaling is, and how to customize my planners and journals to fit my needs, I feel more productive than ever. Important information comes with me everywhere, and it is easy for me to reference.

I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my favorite resources that pertain to bullet journaling and planning. You can really use most of these tips and layouts no matter what you are writing in.


Instagram

The #bujo community is strong, y'all. I follow a couple of accounts and absolutely love the aesthetic that some people create in their journals and planners. Mine look nothing like that in real life, but the ideas are great. I've tried a couple of different things that some of these accounts regularly use, but I just can't seem to either keep it up, or devote the time to doing it right in the first place.

Some accounts that I love and follow are @Lissa_Letters, @BulletbyMalin, and @MapleBujo. You can also check out the awesome tags #bujoinspo, #bulletjournallove, and #bulletjournaljunkies.

Facebook

There are a ton of groups devoted to bullet journaling and planning. Two that I belong to are Bullet Journal Junkies, and We Love Day Designers. Personally, I have these two groups muted because there are SO many people in them I was getting notifications all the time. But they are really good to check in with if you need inspiration or have a question about almost anything related.

Pinterest

Everyone knows that some of the best visual resources are on Pinterest. I have searched so many times for specific layouts, and have found what I was looking for every time. I also sometimes want printables for my planner/notebook, and this is a great place to find them. I always search for free printables, but if you want to invest in something for your planner or journal, you can definitely find that as well.

Check out my board filled with bullet journal ideas and resources here:


Supplies

What supplies you use for your journal or planner is a hugely hot topic in both the bullet journal and planning communities. Everyone has their own opinions and tips for what you should do, but at the end of the day, it is totally up to you. The truth is, all you need to create a functioning planner or bullet journal is paper and a writing utensil. Lots of people make lots of money on this stuff, and I don't blame them, but it is just what you want for your journal and budget.

I like to get my pens, washi tape, and other fun odds and ends from either Michaels, JoAnns or Amazon. MAKE SURE that you are using a coupon when you purchase at a craft store. I tend to pick up a few things when they are on sale, and that makes me feel better about not spending too much money.

For planners, I like to use a Day Designer, but I just purchased one of Kelsey's new Peacock Paper Planners! I am so excited to try it out, and can't wait to get my hands on it. For notebooks I like to use this Book Factory Ghost Grid Dot Journal. I have used a couple of different sizes, and prefer the 5.5x8.5. I find that it lasts a long time, the paper is good, and it is pretty inexpensive.

Do you use a bullet journal or planner? What are some of your favorite resources?

September 7, 2017

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

I've come to a place in my reading career, as many readers do, where I absolutely should not borrow any more books from the library.  I have two piles of books at home that need to be read, and I just figured out how to get some free books for my Kindle. If you like to read e-books, I highly recommend checking out Book Bub.

Seeing the books stacked up on my dresser waiting to be read makes me want to read them even faster. It's becoming almost a game. How much can I read in a month? How fast can I finish a book? 

I'm a sick, sick person. I know.

But thankfully reading more means that I have actually read some pretty good books this month! Some have been on my list for a long time, while others were pretty spur of the moment, but nothing disappointed me!


I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh ★★★★★
This is one of the best books I've read in a while. My co-worker recommended it to me and said that both she and her mom read it in two days.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but this story is not what you think. As soon as you get comfortable with how things are, there is a HUGE change. That part sort of reminded me of Gone, Girl. This book is much softer than that and focuses on the love story a little bit more. I highly recommend this one.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling ★★★★★
I have been trying to slowly read the Harry Potter series again. I loved this series and really grew up with it. This one used to be my favorite book, but now I'm not so sure. I'll have to let you know once I finish them all!

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult ★★★★★
Speaking of growing up with a series, I also grew up reading Jodi Picoult. Some of her novels make up my formative memories, and I can pretty much tell what was going on in my life by which book of hers I was reading at the time. So this has been on my list for a while.

AND I LOVED IT. The concept is right up my alley. I mean, I love to read about WWII, and there was some mystery thrown in there too. I teared up at a couple of points. Go read this, it's a very quick read for its size.

Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt ★★★
This was recommended to me by the counselor at school when I completed some training. Staff is encouraged to complete "Safe Zone" training, which focuses on LGBTQ issues.

This is the incredibly moving story of a family in the US, and their experience with their transgender daughter, Nicole. It is extremely well written and very pertinent to issues going on in the world today. It was very refreshing to see a first-hand experience from a family with a transgender child. Their experiences say a lot about our society, and nothing is sugar coated.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells 
Our library gave everyone who finished two books this summer a free paperback, which is awesome. Dave and I have been trying to build our library, so being able to choose a classic like this was a great opportunity.

This book was an easy, quick read, but I didn't love it. I have read H.G. Wells before and expected the language to be what it is, but the plot of this is just weird. 

Cravings by Chrissy Teigen 
I've been trying to read more cookbooks and increase the recipes that I have in my recipe box. If you like any type of comfort food, you MUST read this. Chrissy Teigen is hilarious, and I love that she includes little stories and anecdotes through the book. We've made a couple of the recipes, and they are to die for. Warning though, you probably don't want to try these recipes if you are counting calories. 

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert 
I read Alan Brennert's other major novel "Honolulu" last year and loved it. I picked this up at the library and thought the concept was really interesting. You don't hear much about modern leper colonies, but that is just what the island of Moloka'i was. 

It was nice that the story followed Rachel, and talked about her life, in addition to her life with leprosy. Alan Brennert does a great job creating characters, and I always want to know more about them.

The Innkeeper's Sister by Linda Goodnight 
*Provided in exchange for review by NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
I didn't realize that this was supposed to be a romance novel until I was pretty far into it. That just goes to show you how much I was paying attention when I requested it on Netgalley. 

The concept is really cool. Two brothers come to a southern town to restore an old mill and convert it into a restaurant. A skeleton is found in the basement, and one of them tries to figure out who it is, and what they mean to the mill. There is a love story woven in between the one brother and the Innkeeper at the B&B they are staying at. While that was interesting, it wasn't really central to the plot. I liked the parts about the 1800s much more.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty 
This was our August book choice in my online book club Friends, Wine, and Books. I have read a couple of Liane Moriarty's books, and I have to say this one wasn't my favorite. It starts out kind of slow and doesn't have the same level of intrigue that her other books have. If you look at it on its own it is alright, but comparing it to her other novels shows that it's lacking. Those things aside, I did like the resolution. It is always good and refreshing to see people work through their problems. 

If you are interested in joining us for September, check out the Friends, Wine, and Books page!