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!

September 5, 2017

Links, Loves, Laughs

*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of Always, Al. 
This is the most Monday-feeling Tuesday ever.

These past two weeks absolutely kicked my butt. Back to school is always a busy time, but this is the first time that I'm working full-time AND taking classes full time. Add on top of that the fact that everyone has decided to be a crazy person lately, and I just can't even.

This has been the busiest couple of weeks that I've had at work all year, and I have had ZERO energy to do anything else. I apologize if posting here gets a little bit sporadic... but you don't want to even know how long this post took me to write.



Links


-Not sure why I've never gotten on board with Reddit, but I recently started following a couple of threads, and I'm OBSESSED. My favorites are ShowerThoughts, Cats1200RealFood, and Books. If that doesn't represent my life, I'm not sure what does.
-I made this zucchini bread recipe yesterday, and it made one loaf and 12 muffins. I added some chocolate chips to the muffins, but they aren't necessary. This is one of my favorite zucchini bread recipes I've tried in a while!
-I've been trying to declutter some of the clothes and shoes I'm not wearing regularly, and have been selling some of them on Poshmark! I have about $25 as a balance right now, and I may get some new booties for the fall! If you aren't on Poshmark yet, use my code "TNZLZ" when you sign up for a $5 bonus!

Loves


-Last weekend I made my first visit to Nordstrom Rack! I've been to regular Nordstrom tons of times, but have never lived close to a Rack! I purchased a few things to wear to work, including this sweater in navy, this tank to wear under a cardigan, and a sweater similar to this one. That will not be my last trip to the Rack!
-I've been looking for a transitional summer/fall jacket to wear to work, specifically on those days when I have night class. I have my eyes on this inexpensive trench coat from Old Navy. Can't beat those sales!
-My wedding rings still aren't fitting (sigh), so I recently purchased these stacking rings from Amazon. I wanted something inexpensive but dainty, and that is exactly what these are. I usually wear one at a time, which makes for a cute, small wedding band.

Laughs 


-Last week I posted on Instagram about an awesome quote that I saw online -- "I am unable to quit, as I am currently too legit." Much to my surprise, a t-shirt with that saying showed up at my door on Saturday! There was no sender information, but it came from Amazon. I have a feeling it was a family member, but thank you, mystery gifter!
-This list makes me feel incredibly old. Those stamp markers were my life.
-All weekend Dave and I sang "CATS" songs to Ruby, and tried to make her dance to them. As a huge music nerd, I just about die when he refers to the song "Memory" as "Touch Me," and then talks about the character "Rin Tin Tugger." Nobody else might think this is funny, but I cried laughing a couple times.

August 28, 2017

Starting an Online Book Club

Guys, I'm not sure if you are aware, but I love to read. I always am in the middle of one book or another. It is the best way that I know how to relax. The past few weeks have been CRAZY at work, and to me, reading is (and has always been) such an escape from that.

Over the past few years or so, I really started thinking about joining a book club. I had never been a part of one before, and it's always seemed like so much fun! Talking about reading while enjoying delicious food and a glass of wine? Sign me up!

But once I joined a book club and went to a few meetings, I realized it wasn't a good fit. Most of these ladies were friends outside of our monthly meetings, and didn't really have any interest in discussing the book we'd read. This is fine, but I always felt like the black sheep, as I was REALLY interested in talking about the book, but would sometimes be the only one who had finished it. 


I stopped going to that book club and thought about starting my own. I don't have a TON of friends who read in the area, but I do have a bunch of friends and family members who are readers. They just are scattered around the country.

The idea eventually came to me that I could host some kind of book club/discussion on Facebook. You can facilitate a group chat as an event, and that way people from near and far could be involved. The group was super low-pressure, and the whole theme is "book club in your pajamas while enjoying your favorite beverage."

And so, my group Friends, Wine, and Books was born.

I set up a group on Facebook, did some incredibly simple set up in terms of photos, etc and then invited my friends! I have mentioned it a few times in this space which has helped a lot. Right now we have 37 members and are about to take part in our fourth discussion.

People say all the time that if you don't like something, change it. Embracing that can be hard, but it also leads to wonderful new things! Since starting this book club, I've chatted regularly with more family members, gotten to meet new friends, and read some books I normally wouldn't have picked up!

Moral of this post, because I feel like I've been rambling: JUST DO IT.

If nothing feels like the right fit that you're looking for, don't wait. Make the change yourself! You never know how it can come back to help and enrich you. Start that club,  business, hobby. Looking back, you will be so happy that you did.