Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Currently: February

Since I've neglected my little space of the internet for most of this month.  I figured a "Currently" post was just the thing.



Reading....The Zookeeper Wife by Diane Ackerman and The Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin.  Both are historical fiction books based around WWII.  I know that is shocking to everyone, but it's been a while since I've read historical fiction.  Plus one of these is more of a nonfiction book than a fiction book in my humble opinion.  Both are pretty good so far, and I'm interested to see who they end.

Watching....Girls on HBO and I'm about to start watching they're new limited series or whatever they're calling it Big Little Lies.  I read the book by Lianne Moriarty and LOVED it.  So I'm super excited to see how it translates to the tv screen.  I'm a little disappointed because the book is written by an Australian woman and so all the characters and the setting are Australian but the show is American based.  womp womp.  I'm sure it'll still be good but still would have preferred something a little more authentic to the book. 

Wanting....to be at Thrive this coming weekend, but sadly I'll miss it this year.  Last year I attended my very first blog conference and it was literally the best weekend EVER.  I was really hoping to be able to attend again this year, but it just wasn't in the cards.  But I'll definitely be following along on social media!  If you've never attended a blog conference I highly recommend them.  I was a blogging roll last year in large part to Thrive!  





Thinking about....this past weekend.  I had my first trip of 2017 this past weekend.  It was a long weekend because of President's Day and I made it an even longer one by taking off Friday as well.  I went to Atlanta to spend some time with my bestie Jordan and her family.  We had the most delightful weekend EVER!  Filled with food, fun, laughter, and babies!!  

I think the craziest thing we did was visit JonBenet Ramsey's grave.  So weird I know, but we are both followers of the story.  I even wrote a whole report on the case when I was in the 7th grade, so when it was mentioned that she's buried in Marietta, GA we jumped at the chance to visit and pay our respects.  It was erie and sad to be honest.  I didn't post about it on Instagram but if you follow me on Snapchat or looked at my Instagram story I did capture the visit there.  And I did snap a picture of the sake of the blog. 



After the visit to the grave site we wandered around Bulkhead, GA.  Grabbed a coffee, a few cupcakes, and snapped some fun blog worthy pictures!  Oh and we visited the cutest Kendra Scott store.  I scoped out what I'll be buying with my birthday discount next month! So many pretty things it's gonna be a tough choice.  





The rest of the weekend was super laid back.  We took Brynn out and got some super cute pictures of her for her 6 months!  








Over all it was a phenomenal weekend!  I just love visiting Jordan and her sweet little family.  We have the best time together and I cannot wait for the day when we'll be able to get both our families together.  Fingers crossed it gets to happen soon rather than later! 

Feeling....ready for something new.  I have a feeling that something is job related.  I'm not so sure teaching is the right career for me anymore and it's a very frustrating feeling because I'm not 100% sure what else I want to do.  I have some thoughts running through my head but I'm nervous about the idea of starting completely over and not making them money I'm making now.  

Looking forward to....Spring and summer time!  Kroger has the prettiest bouquets right now and it took all I had to not buy every single bloom they had in the store.  I am so ready for spring it's not even funny.  But I'm also so excited for the summer because I have 3 amazing trips lined up.  I have a whole post planned detailing the trips of 2017, so expect that soon!

Loving....MY CAR!!! EEEK!  It's officially been one month since I bought it and I'm still totally in love.  I can't get over how much room there is and how nice it is to be in a car I actually like driving!  Plus it's pretty! 

Needing....highlights!  My goodness my hair is bad.  It's been almost 7 months since I've had them and it is showing.  I had a student ask me if I had had balayage done and my response was, "No, not on purpose!" So I have an appointment set up and I'll get a fresh head of blonde before my birthday! Which is a little less than a month a way! 

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I'm a little in awe of the fact that we're in the last full week of February.  I'm about two and half weeks away from Spring Break and with the way I'm feeling about work these days, it cannot come soon enough!  

Have a great Wednesday friends! Linking up with Jenn and Jess

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Your Next Favorite Book: First Books of 2017

It's Valentine's Day.  The most overrated day of the year in my humble opinion (and yes I say that with some bitterness since I am so single it's not even funny).  But I'm allowed to feel that way every once in while, right?  RIGHT!

But instead of dwelling on the fact that I'm gonna be alone forever with my two cats (joking, kinda) I am going to talk about my favorite thing in the world...BOOKS!


I've been on a reading frenzy the last few weeks and I'm loving it.  Since the year started I've read a good mix of books.  A few fantasy, a romance or two, and a thriller!

So, my first books of 2017 included......

                        (via)                                                 (via)                                               (via)

GoodsReads Synopsis:  Clockwork Angel: In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Timesbestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them...

Read the synopsis for Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess by clicking the titles or the links under each of the pictures!  (Sorry I didn't want to flood the post with the descriptions or all three!)  


My thoughts:  I believe I'm about 5 or 6 years late to the party when it comes to Cassandra Clare.  I found these on Goodreads and decided to read them because they were based in Victorian England.  As soon as I put I was reading them on Goodreads multiple friends messaged me and told me stop what I was doing and read the City of Bones books first.  They also said they just didn't like the Infernal Devices as much as City of Bones.  They all said something just didn't click with them and this particular series.  Which is honestly baffling to me, because I LOVED them! I loved the that they were set in Victorian England, that was probably my biggest draw to these books.  Second, I'm a sucker for fantasy novels and these fit the bill just perfect.  Third there's a love story, again, big sucker for that.  (Even if I am over the whole love triangle thing, this one has a pretty darn good one #teamwill all the way)  And finally I'm a big fan of reading things in order.  So it just made more sense to read The Infernal Devices before I read City of Bones.  I have no doubt I'll like the City of Bones but I was a big fan of these three books.  Even the weird clockwork parts that made the book slightly steam-punkish, if my definition of steampunk is accurate, didn't bother me.

I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.  I think I will take a small break before jump into City of Bones though just so I don't get burned out too quickly.  I made a point to read a different genre between reading each of the Infernal Devices and it worked perfectly.






GoodsReads Synopsis: In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.
My thoughts: I'll be honest, this wasn't my favorite.  It didn't live up to all the hype for me.  I didn't really care for the Lo all that much.  Her paranoia was irritating at times and I felt it was pretty predictable.  Although I was surprised by one part of the story.  It was also a very slow start, things didn't really start to pick up until you were about 150 pages in.  I wouldn't go so far as to say I hated the book or even disliked it, but it definitely fell flat for me.  I ended up only giving it three stars.  This was our February book for my book club and we'll be meeting on Wednesday to talk about it.  Is it sad I'm more excited to eat sushi then I am to talk about the book?  Cuz I am.






GoodsReads Synopsis: James Malory sets sail for America to honor a promise he made to his in-laws: His and Georgina’s daughter, Jacqueline, will have her come-out in America. Judith and Jacqueline Malory are not simply cousins; they are inseparable best friends. Refusing to miss Jacqueline’s come-out in Connecticut, Judith convinces her parents to let her delay her London debut by a few weeks so she can accompany her cousin. Neither girl intends to fall in love during her first Season. But Judith’s plans are overturned when aboard ship she comes face-to-face with the ghost who has been haunting her dreams.

Unknown to the Malorys, deckhand Nathan Tremayne is a smuggler with a noose around his neck. Determined to carry out a covert mission in America that could gain him a pardon, Nathan senses that beautiful Judith Malory is trouble. Somehow the minx knows his secret—and now she’s blackmailing him into doing her bidding. While passions can soar on the high seas, Nathan knows this aristocratic beauty is merely amusing herself with a scoundrel like him.

When the unthinkable happens in Connecticut and the elder Malorys’ hands are tied, Nathan takes command of a dire situation. Captaining his own ship, he turns the tables on Judith, as he steers them into some intense Caribbean heat where he will fight with all his mettle to win the right to her heart.
My thoughts:  I've read just about every Johanna Lindsey book there is, save for some of her older books from the 1980s and she's one of my favorite historical romance writers.  I especially love her Malory novels.  So I was very excited to find this one at Books A Million for like 4 bucks.  I was not a fan of that awful, over the top cover, so thank god it was a hard back book because I was able to get rid of it as soon as I started reading the book.  The book itself however was just delightful.  I loved getting to find out what all the Malory's have been up to.  I'm a sucker for any book series that covers more than one family member.

Highly recommend the Malory novels if you're into historical romance.  I like them every once in a while nowadays but back when I was in high school and early college I read them all the time.  As long as you can get passed the uber cheesy and ridiculous covers.






GoodsReads Synopsis:  Eric Vincent isn’t in the habit of asking for help. As the founder of a lucrative sports videogame franchise, he’s accustomed to getting his way and enjoying the fruits of his hard-earned success. Then all his illusions of dominance are shattered by a skiing accident that leaves him hobbled, facing a string of surgeries and months of immobility. The only way he’s going to survive is with someone by his side to anticipate his every desire. Someone who will devote every waking second to his comfort. Someone like Julie Nelson . . .

Julie’s life revolves around other people: her students, her parents, her sister. But even she has her limits. Julie has zero interest in playing personal assistant to Eric Vincent, a man who’s as arrogant as he is charismatic . . . until he ups the salary to one million dollars for three months’ work. Soon Julie’s struggling to bite her tongue—and resist the chemistry that draws her to Eric. But after one scorching kiss, Julie decides it’s finally her turn to be selfish. And this time, she’s going to get what she wants.

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
 

My thoughts:  I wanted to jump into 2017 with something light and totally fluffy.  And that was 100% accomplished with this book.  It wasn't the best ever, the story kinda dragged in the middle but overall it passed the time just fine.  I think I gave it four stars on Goodreads but it was definitely more like three and half.

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So far my first books of 2017 have been pretty satisfying.  I'm really looking forward to this year reading wise, some of my favorite authors all have books coming out and I can't wait to read them!

Currently I'm reading Heartless by Marissa Meyer and I am LOVING it!! It is so good.  In fact I'm gonna wrap this up so I can head to bed and dive back into Wonderland! :)

Happy Valentine's Day friends! Linking up for another edition of.......

Life According to Steph

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February Goals

I'm usually not one to make "monthly goals", I pretty much just stick with yearly ones.  But I've come to the decision that it would be a good idea to start setting monthly goals to hold myself more accountable for accomplishing my bigger goals.  I'm hoping that setting and accomplishing these small goals will set me up for more success when it comes to meeting my big yearly goals.  (Which you can read here).  Plus it always fun to accomplish a goal!  It helps give you sense of purpose and fulfillment in my humble opinion!

So, I plan to try and set four to five monthly goals at the end/beginning of each month.  The goals will vary and will cover several different aspects of life: work, personal, and blog.  I'm gonna try and set at least one goal that will cover each category.



1. Read 5 books.  I have really been slacking it in the reading department so far this year.  I only got through 3 books in January and if I want to accomplish my goal of reading 75 this year I need to read more.  My problem has been not knowing what to read.  I have so many books on my TBR list that it's difficult to pick which to read next!  So I WILL read at least 5 books this month.

2.  Clean out my closet.  I need to do a bit of pre-spring cleaning in my closet.  I have so many items that get zero wear that all they're doing is taking up space.  But I also need to take an inventory of sorts of the clothes I do have and put together outfits so I'm not tempted to buy anything new.  Because I really don't NEED any.  But boy do I sure WANT new everything!

3.  Print photos for my frames.  I have 4 really pretty photo frames sitting in various spots around the apartment that are empty.  And have been like that for months.  So I need to settle on four and just print them already.  It'll be bring a little more personality into my little space!

4.  Open up a separate savings account.  This is something that needs to happen ASAP.  I currently have saving account but it's connected to my main checking account and is visible to me at all times. Which is a problem because I can easily transfer money between the accounts and so basically it's just too easily accessible for me.  I need an account where money is automatically taken out of the paycheck and put into a completely separate account that I do no see on a daily and or weekly basis. I've realized that is the only realistic way I will be able to save any significant amount of money.

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Alright, for my first set of monthly goals I think that's pretty good start.  It's gonna be fun to cross these off my list.  I've written them in my planner so that I'm constantly reminded of them!  I plan to do the something for March.

I can't believe it's already February.  I feel like I'm gonna blink and the school year is gonna be over.  (Which is a-ok with me because I have an epic summer lined up!)

Hope you're February is off to great start!

Linking up with Jenn and Jess for What's "Ha-Pinning"!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hello Fresh: Week One


A couple months ago, my parents told me they were trying out one of those meal delivery services, Hello Fresh.  A couple they are really good friends with had started doing it and to them it seemed like a pretty good deal.  While I was home over Christmas break one of their boxes showed up and so my Mom made one of the meals for dinner one night.  It was chicken dish of some sort and boy was it tasty.

Mom told me that I should consider the service because the meals were good and they always make enough for them to have leftovers and she thought it would save me some money.

I thought about it, looked at how much I spend on groceries each week and what the cost difference might be and decided to give it a whirl.  And I have to say, I'm a fan.

I opted for the Classic Plan.  This plan comes with 3 meals (you have 6 to choose from) and makes enough food for 2-4 people.  Which has worked well for me because with each meal I've had enough leftovers for at least 2 other meals.

I had my first box sent to me on Saturday, January 14th.  It arrived via FedEx and I received an email once it had been delivered to my apartment complexes front office.  I was on my way to a baby shower so unfortunately I couldn't do a box unveiling or anything but I did sit down before I got the box and planned out which days I was planning to cook each meal.  I wish I had taken a better look at my schedule though because the week I had planned out turned out to be a very busy week with late nights that left me with no desire to actually cook anything.  Thankfully all the produce lasted for longer than a week so I was still able to cook all the meals.

Here's why Hello Fresh works for me:

1.  You don't have to go to the grocery store.  I hate going to the grocery store and having to look for recipes.  So for me getting to chose three ready made ones is great.  I love that this gives you everything in the exact amount you need so there is never a surplus of veggies or spices or anything.

2.  It saves money. (For a single person anyway)  Usually when I went to to the grocery store, I'd go every week and spend at least 80-100 dollars.  Mostly because I was buying stuff that was quick and easy and didn't require a whole lot of effort.  Since I've start Hello Fresh I've only had to go to the grocery store for the necessities like milk, bread, butter, oil, etc.  I'm spending $60 on 3 meals that last me the whole week or longer.  I'm also still going out to eat every once and while but my food bills have still gone done.  My parents are getting 3 meals every week and that's still saving them money.

3.  It's super flexible.  You get to choose which weeks send you boxes.  I go with every other week but if there was a week I wanted to "unpause" all I have to do is go to the website or the app.  If you have a week "paused" you will not be charged for that week.  And there is no fee to sign up or cancel.

4.  You are given JUST the right amount of everything so there's no waste.  I LOVE that everything comes in just the right amount of all the produce, sauces, spices, and meats.  It makes clean up sure easy and it makes the cooking aspect a lot easier because you're not having to measure anything at all!


Here were the meals I chose and my thoughts on each:

Hearty Steak and Potatoes



This was the first meal I made and my least favorite.  Mostly because it was my first time cooking steak and it did not come out very good.  I don't think I overcooked it, but I know I cut the meat wrong (which, who knew there was a wrong way to cut steak!? I certainly didn't!).  Because I didn't cut it "against the grain" it ended up very tough and dry tasting.  

My potatoes came out horribly.  I'm not sure why though.  I cut and cooked them exactly as the instructions detailed but I think it had something to do with my oven.  Next time I plan to just cut them into cubes rather than wedges.  I ended up throwing most of them away.




The best part of this meal was the cabbage.  It had a great flavor and I cooked it just right!

Overall I'm not sure I'm a fan of cooking steak.  I think I'm better off sticking with chicken, ground meat and fish.  I may try it one more time and see if I do a better job of it, but then again I might just stick with getting steak at a restaurant.


Lemony Shrimp Risotto




I was the most excited for this meal I think and the most nervous for two reasons.  Excited because I love lemon flavored foods and nervous because I had never made risotto before.  I also had to invest in a zester because I had to zest the lemon and had no idea what it meant to zest something.  Thanks to Hello Fresh though, now I do!



This meal was actually super easy to make, the most difficult thing was the risotto and the only reason for that is because you literally have to stand there for the full 25 minutes per the instructions and stir it.  You can't just pour it in some water. cover it and leave it.  If you do, it'll clump up and stick the bottom of the pan.  I was a little worried it was too creamy but a quick FaceTime conference with my mom and she assured me that was what hers looked like too.


Once the risotto was done all you had to do was toss in the shrimp and the lemon and boom the tasty creamy goodness was ready to go.  The accompanying side was zucchini and sadly I overcooked that just a tad.  Again I think it's my oven, I don't think I needed to cook it at 400 as the directions told me too.  So next time it tells me roast veggies in the oven I'm gonna lower the temperature I think.


I was able to eat this for lunch and another night for dinner.  And it was just as good heated up the next day as it was fresh.  I saved the instructions so I can make it again sometime.

Tai Pork Stir-Fry



The last meal was just as tasty as the risotto.  I'm a big fan of stir-fry and Asian inspired foods in general.  (In my next box I have this tasty looking Thai noodle recipe that I'm super excited to eat)  And this one was by far the easiest of the three and one that could definitely be re-created one day on my own.  The best part is I'm sure you can use any vegetables or meat you want.  As I was eating I was thinking that mushrooms would have been super good in the dish too! 


It literally took about 25 minutes of prep and cook time.  I was a little worried because this is the meal that sat in my fridge for the longest but all the veggies were just fine when I finally opened up the box.  It was such a flavorful dish and so conveniently proportioned!



I was able to eat this for both lunch and another dinner.  So it, along with the risotto, were by far the meals where I got the most bang for my buck.  And as I've already said the tastiest!

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Overall I would say Hello Fresh is a good option for anyone who wants to cook more, eat a little healthier and save a little.  I've really enjoyed getting into cooking and basically learning how to do it. It's definitely a learning process and hopefully I master it pretty quickly!

I've already cooked the first meal of my second box, but that is a story for another post!

This is not a sponsored post in anyway.  Just my thoughts on the service!

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Weekend

If I could relive this weekend again, I totally would.  It was one of those weekends were only good things happened.  And it was all due to three things!


First and foremost.......I BOUGHT A NEW CAR!!!!!!!!!!

I mentioned a few posts ago, that I was in the market for a new car.  Well I finally found one!  You're looking at the new owner of a 2017 Toyota Rav4 and it is GORGEOUS!!!


I was a little sad to say goodbye to my Corolla.  It was the first car I had every bought on my own.  But it was never what I really wanted.  It wasn't the color I wanted and it didn't have all the little bells and whistles I wanted.  But it served me well for those 4 years and I never had a single issue.  


I had't gone in intending to buy brand new.  But the deal was just too good to pass up.  And now I'm in something that I know I will be driving for a long long time! :)



The other reason I had a such a good weekend was because I had not one but two blogger meet ups.

The first happened Friday night.  Ashley from The Wandering Weekenders and I met up with Nikki from Make-Up Her, for drinks and sushi.  We had the best time chatting the night away.  We got there around 7 and were pretty much the last ones in the restaurant.  Tons of food was eaten and lots of laughs were shared.  We had one of the waiters snap this picture of us on our way out.   


Blogger meet up number two happened on Sunday afternoon.  Ashley and I met up with Courtney from Alkeks Abroad and her sweet baby girl Leighton for coffee at Kraftmans, the cutest little coffee shop located in The Heights district.  We sipped tasty lattes and chatted until they closed.  

If you don't know her, Courtney currently lives in Australia but she's originally from Houston and she's a Texas State graduate too!  It was great finally getting to meet her in person after reading each others blogs across the world for a over a year now.  Leighton is the cutest little thing and was so easy going and sweet while we sat and talked.  


What was so great about both meetings is that because we all read each others blogs, it was so easy to fall into conversation.  That's one of my favorite parts about meeting fellow bloggers and about blogging in general!  

The down time parts of my weekend were just as good.  I'm now on season 4 of Parenthood, my apartment is tidy, and I have a closet full of clean clothes.  Overall it was pretty solid weekend! 

Now lets hope the rest of this week is just as good.  Now excuse me while I go show off my new car to all my work friends! 

Have a great week!  Linking up with Biana for Weekending!