Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday Favorites: Ramblings & A Pandora Station

It's Friday!!!  TGIF!

I have been all out of sorts this week.  I think with coming back on Monday, instead of Sunday really threw my for a loop.  And then work kind of blew up this week.  I was NOT expecting it to be as busy as it was, plus adding in some after work errands that I hadn't planned on made it seem even more hectic.  Basically I felt like I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off for the majority of the time.  Definitely surviving, as opposed to thriving.  I pride myself in mostly having it together, but I was far from together this week!  And, mother nature has decided to go crazy again this week...64 yesterday, and a high of 23 today with expected snow.  They are likening it to the Friday in January that caused ALL the problems on the road.  Cool, mother nature.  Cool.  

Since I haven't really gotten it together, I only have one favorite for you today.  And really, the reason that I even have this one is because I wrote this earlier in the week, haha!  Otherwise it probably would have been radio silence today.  So, my one favorite for this Friday...

A long time ago...well, at least it seems like it was a long time ago.  My gauge of time is pretty terrible.  If someone says they are on their way, I will feel like they are taking forever, when in reality only a few minutes have passed.  But I am rambling, so back to the point.  At some point (which was not super recent) Andrea @ Momfessionals shared a Pandora station called Beats for Studying.  I think she said that she plays this during school sometimes - something like that.  When I was at work this week, I wanted some music to listen to, but none of my 'normal' stations were cutting it.  I remembered that I had jotted down the station Andrea had recommended on a stick note, so I looked it up and gave it a try.  I absolutely love it!  It's all instrumental music (violins, piano, etc.), but of more current songs.  It's so good!  Perfect background music that isn't too distracting.

Thanks for listening to my rambling above.  Even though I know my 'off' week really pales in comparison to other, real problems, sometimes you just gotta get it out!

I hope everyone has a good weekend!

Linking up with WhitneyErika and Andrea.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Weekend Recap + Valentine's Day Home Tour

Hey all!  Well, we are just one day away from a new weekend, but I am going back to this past weekend for a quick recap.

I was off Friday, and headed home to my parents' house.  My cousin's shower was on Saturday, and I figured taking the day off would all me to not rush back home, and also help my mom with any last minute shower things.  Traffic was ridiculous for mid morning on a Friday, and the wind was crazy, but I made it home without any real problems.  It was super nice when I got in, because my mom had lunch ready to go!  Soup and salad, which is always good.  The soup she had was a zuppa tuscana from Costco - it was SO good.  I love the zuppa tuscana soup at Olive Garden, but I think this was even better.  I had to work for just a bit, and then finished up the favors for the shower.  I got my Valentine's Day presents from my parents' - the prettiest blush colored Nike sweatshirt, some coil hair ties, and a pizza in the freezer from Lou Malnati's to take home with me!  If you read here last Friday, I mentioned how I had my dad go pick me up some coil hair ties from Charmed.  Well, unbeknownst to me, my mom had decided that they would be part of my Valentine's Day gift.  And when she got home, and saw the ones my dad picked out for me on the counter, she was sooo confused as to why they were there, because she hadn't gotten any for my present yet.  The whole thing was just kind of funny!  We ended the day with my favorite pizza, Mario's.

Saturday we were up early.  To stay on track with the Get Fit Done program, I needed to log in 30 minutes of cardio.  I got in a quick elliptical work out before it was time to get ready for the shower.  My mom and I hit the road, headed to my grandma's, then to the restaurant for the shower.  It turned out so well!  There were a ton of cute details and I took a ton of pictures that I plan to share in its own post.  My cousin seemed like she had a great time, which is all that matters.  And I finally got to meet her fiance!  They have been together for years, but somehow we always missed each other at family events.  I was starting to think it wouldn't be until the actual wedding that I would get to meet him!  After the shower, we dropped off my grandma and then my mom and I headed to IKEA.  We weren't really looking for anything in particular (except things to hold the corners of rugs down, which I totally forgot about until we had already left), and it was nice to have a leisurely walk around the store with my mom.  Once we got home, my dad made us popcorn (he makes the BEST popcorn), and I was asleep on the couch before I knew it.

Even before I left to go home, I had been monitoring the weather, because it was fine getting there, going home was a different story.  I knew that Sunday would be a wash, because St. Louis was an icy mess in the morning, and by the time that would be cleared, I would be stuck in snow.  After a grocery run, a quick walk, and a coffee run, we settled in for the afternoon.  My mom made homemade spaghetti sauce, beef vegetable soup, and was the perfect day to spend in the kitchen.  I'd like to say 'we' made that stuff, but I kept getting distracted by the puzzle my parents were working on, so I don't know how much help I actually was.  I headed down to the basement to 'help' my dad with a house project.  And by help, I mean I was more moral support than anything, haha.  In the grouping above my couch, I wanted to do a frame with old keys.  And I wanted them contained within the glass.  So my dad figured out how to do so with some foam and wire.  It turned out great!  The rest of the day was pretty low key...lots of TV and reading.  My mom and I watched the Grammy's.  I wasn't overly impressed with all the looks,  but the talent of all the artists was pretty amazing.  

I was able to head back to St. Louis on Monday.  I knew rain was coming, so I was anxiously watching the temperature climb to above freezing during my drive.  Which, thankfully it did before I hit any weather.  And the rain I did see wasn't too bad at all - thank goodness!  I spent the rest of the day working at home, and trying to ready myself for the week.  I am not sure how well that worked out, because I have been all out of sorts this week.  No clue what day it is, and somehow Valentine's Day just snuck right up on me.  Normally I like to send a card to my grandma, and a little gift to my nephew.  I got it in the mail this morning, but it's going to be a little late.  Whoops! 

Speak of Valentine's Day, I snapped a few pictures of my mom's decor this weekend.  She had so many cute little touches around the house.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

My Very Favorite Books & Authors

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that any clicks/purchases may result in a very small commission at no addition cost to you.

I absolutely love to read.  It is one of those things that I fell in love with when I was younger, and still love today.

I find books to be such an escape.  They can take you anywhere and everywhere.  They can make you feel a whole slew of feelings, ones that make you smile so big (or even laugh!), and ones that make you cry.  When you think about it, books are truly amazing.

I have read quite a few books over the years, but there are some that really stand out to me.  Below are my favorite books of all time, as well as some of my very favorite authors!

The Bridal Quartet by Nora Roberts.  If I had to pick my favorite book of all time, it would probably be Happy Ever After, book four of the bridal quartet.  I absolutely LOVE all these books, and have reread them multiple times.  The books follow four women who run a wedding business together, and their ups and downs to finding the ones they love.  The fourth book is my favorite, just because the character is my favorite.  But really, all of them are so great.  

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist.  This is one of those books that really hit me and made me feel.  It's a bunch of little stories about the author's life.  I am not sure if it is because she lives in Chicago (my favorite city), or vacations in Michigan (where my family vacations every year), or what exactly it was, but the book truly touched me.  And it has recipes (the bacon wrapped, goat cheese stuffed dates are THE BEST)!  

It's Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst.  This is my most recent favorite, and I know I have mentioned it a bunch already, but I feel that it is that good - it needs to be mentioned that many times, and probably even more!  I do think everyone would find something to take away from it, but it's especially good for those people who might be struggling with hardships and in turn, struggling with their faith while experiencing those hardships.

I can't remember any other favorite books - does anyone else have that problem - when it comes time to name your favorites, you can't think of them all until after that fact?  I am sure that is going to be me after I post this!  Anyways, I thought I would share some of my favorite authors instead of books.  I pretty much always check out these authors when at the library, just in case there is a book they have in I haven't read yet.

Nora Roberts.
Mary Kay Andrews.
Sandra Brown.
Nicholas Sparks.
Maeve Binchy.

What is your favorite book(s)?

Linking up with Shay, Erika, Lindsay and Jessi.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

February 2019 Book Review

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that any clicks/purchases may result in a very small commission at no addition cost to you.

I have finally gotten back on the reading train.  I had been sucked in by Netflix, so much so, that reading had fallen a little to the wayside.  And while I am still a bit addicted to Netflix, specifically The Blacklist, I have been trying to get in a bit of reading, too!  Here's what I have read since last month's book review (post here).

Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts.  This is the second book in the Chronicles of The One series.  It took me awhile to read the first, because I wasn't sure of the concept (a 'Doom' that knocks out a majority of the population, and lots of magic), but I am so glad I read the first one, because it really sucked me.  As did the second.  I really enjoyed it, right up until the end.  There is a big fight scene, and honestly I felt like the writing was jumbled and I wasn't sure which character was being referred to.  It could also be that I was a little sleepy when reading the ending, but I feel like the rest of it was good, up until that point.

It's Not Supposed To Be This Way by Lyse TerKeurst.  I shared this in an earlier post, but I first heard about this book via a podcast.  After I looked it up, I bought it immediately.  The title of the book just really grabbed me, as did her story (martial issues, health issues, just life issues all happening at once).  And after I heard on the podcast that she wrote the book during her struggles and how she handled her faith within those struggles, it made me want to read it so much more.  Because I felt it would be very genuine, or at least that was my hope.  Which is was.  This book exceeded all my expectations and is one that I think everyone could benefit from reading.  And I would highly suggest buying it, because I know for me, it's a book that I will reread over and over again.  In fact, I already am, because this book is part of a small group study at church.  But really, I can't say enough good things about it. 

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult.  I think Jodi Picoult is such a great author.  She tackles some really tough topics in her books (most recently - racism, abortion), but in a way that is really well done (I think) and one that makes you think.  I felt that way about Small Great Things, and again about this book.  The one thing about this book, though, was I felt it took soooo long to figure out what happened.  The book starts kind of at the end, then works backwards.  Which is neat in a way, and kept me reading, but at points I was wishing that she would flash forward again at some point.  Still a really good book, though!       

Linking up with Steph.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Friday Favorites: Hair Ties, Food, Fitness & More Food

Happy Friday!  This Friday is especially happy for me, because I have the day off!  Cannot beat that!

1.  Well, 5 days in, and I already broke my no spend month.  I was scrolling through instagram when I saw that my favorite boutique, Charmed, had coil hair ties back in stock.  I have been wanting to give those a try, and there were so many cute colors.  Not even thinking of my no spend month, I text my dad to see if he would stop in there after work to pick me up one.  Yes, I asked my poor dad to do this since my mom was out of town, haha!  Being the great dad he is, he stopped by and got me not one, but 3 hair ties!  And only after the fact did I remember I was trying to NOT spend money on unnecessary items.  Whomp, whomp.  Granted, they are only a buck a piece, but it kind of defeats the purpose.  Anyways, I am still super excited to give them a try!  Now, I just need to avoid checking out Charmed for the rest of the month.  But, if you aren't doing a no spend month like me, you can check out the Charmed website here, or follow Charmed on instagram here.

2.  Back at the beginning of January, I picked up a Smithfield Homestyle Pork Roast from the grocery store.  I remember Erica @ Whimsical September blogging about this brand at some point, and thought it would make such a quick and easy meal.  And by quick, I am referring to the prep.  All you have to do is throw it in the crock pot with a little bit of water and you are done (there are also instructions for cooking in the oven, but it takes multiple hours and since I was making it during the week, I didn't have that kind of time to be at home)!  The roast got thrown in my freezer after that shopping trip to be used at later date, and this week so happened to be that later date.  I stuck it in the crock pot before I left for work (I did let it thaw in the fridge the day before), added a bit of water, and set it on low to cook.  The house smelled amazing when I got home from work, which is something I always love.  Especially on a cold and dreary day.  The pork shredded super easily in the crock pot, and tasted so very good!  I ate it with a salad and green beans, but I also think it would have been delicious served over rice or mashed potatoes...really anything.  And, it was sooo good.  And the pork roast makes a ton - perfect for making at the beginning of the week and eating on throughout!  

After a quick look on their website, they seem to have a few different flavor options, as well as different cuts of meat.  All of which sound super good.  I definitely plan to grab more next time I am at the store to keep handy in the freezer when I want an easy meal!     

3.  I started a new workout program this week - Get Fit Done, which is an e-book that Megan @ Honey We're Home put together.  So far, it's been good.  Hard, but good.  The moves can be a bit difficult, but suggestions on how to modify are included, and it gives me something extra to work for.  It's a 4 week program, so almost 1 down, and 3 to go!  

4.  I eat blueberries almost every day with my lunch, and when I saw they were on sale, I grabbed two containers.  Well, I over estimated a bit on how many I actually eat, and had almost a whole container left.  They weren't going to last much longer, and I hated to waste them, so I decided to make blueberry muffins!  I actually got the idea from Beth @ Reaching Beyond Mediocrity, when I saw she posted a blueberry muffin recipe.  I wanted to be a bit healthier, so I made Ina Garten's Blueberry Bran Muffins.  My mom first made these for Easter last year, and I just fell in love.  I made a batch and popped them in the freezer.  Paired with a hard boiled egg, they will make the perfect breakfast! 

5.  I shared what I think is the best sugar cookie recipe earlier this week (post here).  My mom and I started making sugar cookies a few years ago at Christmas, and I finally got the recipe on the blog.  They would be perfect to make for Valentine's Day!

Linking up with WhitneyErika and Andrea.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

February 2019 Goals

Happy Friday! I’m loving the awesome features from last week’s Think Pink Sunday party! It’s so fun seeing the Valentine’s projects starting to roll in! Ok we have some serious adorableness to start off the post – it’s this Ombre Heart Calendar from Debbie at Me & My DIY! LOVE!!...

February Goals

1.  Finish decluttering my kitchen.  I have been working little by little on decluttering my place.  I have been making my way on the first floor, and need to finish up the kitchen.  Originally I wasn't going to touch a few of the cabinets / drawers because they are already pretty organized and well-utilized.  But, I think I just need to go for it.  A second glance won't hurt and I feel like if I didn't go through them, it would feel unfinished.  I also want to get a few organizing tools to put the finishing touches on the stuff I have already gone through, like drawer dividers.  

2.  Clean out my car.  Keeping in with the decluttering theme, my car could use a good cleaning out.  I am terrible about keeping water bottles in my car (although I always have one, thanks to Save by the Bell...anyone remember when the girls are heading to Vegas for Kelly and Zack's wedding and the car overheats?  Yea, a very irrational fear of mine, that causes me to always have at least one bottle of water with me in my car, haha!), and there is some random trash that sometimes appears.  Also, the dash is looking a bit dusty.  A quick clean out and cleaning up should do the trick in getting it into tip top shape.  Maybe even the weather will cooperate in getting an actual car wash in, too! 

3.  Finish cleaning out my clothes / shoes.  I started this last month (maybe even December?), but I haven't quite finished going through everything.  My sweaters and my dresser have not been touched, and my shoes need to be gone through as well.  I feel like I am moving a bit slower than normal on this - it will be nice to get it finally done!    

Here's a look at last month's goals, which, all in all, was pretty successful!

January Goals

1.  Use my instant pot.  Check!  Granted, I have only used my instant pot to make hard boiled eggs, but I still count it as done.  The first time I used it was a bit interesting, only because of user error, haha.  I didn't have the knob all the way to 'sealing' so it didn't quite work.  But I did the water test (highly recommend looking up a video online to do that - I used this one), and then made the hard boiled eggs.  After I did that once, the majority of my fears subsided, and I have made eggs multiple times since.  Now just to make a 'real' meal!

2.  Look into getting a new phone and / or phone case.  Check!  I am getting a new phone!  And therefore, a new case.  Mine kind of went downhill fast, losing battery life in no time, and I was ready for a new one anyways, so it worked out.  It will be ordered shortly and I should have it soon!

3.  Make 3 freezer meals.  I want to say this was done, but I didn't make three meals.  I ended up just making one recipe of enchiladas (absolutely LOVE the chicken ones in the Magnolia Table cookbook), and then split them into 2 pans, freezing them both.  I did stock up the freezer with some other things, that could be throw together, but no actual homemade meals.

Linking up with Kristen.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Karen's Sugar Cookies + Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

A few years ago, I asked my mom if we could start making sugar cookies at Christmas.  It has since become a tradition - one I look forward to every year!

I kept forgetting to share the recipe prior to Christmas, so I thought I would share now, in time for Valentine's Day.  Although, let's be honest, there doesn't need to be a holiday for an excuse to make sugar cookies - they are great any time of the year!

This recipe comes from one of the ladies my mom used to teach with, hence the 'Karen' in the name.

Also, before I get into the recipe - making sugar cookies may seem like a whole ordeal, but they really aren't that bad.  This past Christmas, it seemed like we had a good process in place, which I will share beneath the recipes.  

Karen's Sugar Cookies
1 cup white sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup oil
1 cup margarine, softened
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together the sugar, powdered sugar, oil, and margarine.
Add in eggs and mix.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  (This can be done in a separate bowl, then added to the mixer, or sifted directly into the mixing bowl.)
Add in vanilla and mix.

Chill dough at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
On a floured surface, roll out dough.  (You will need quite a bit of flour for this.)  
Cut dough into desired shapes.
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until done.
Let cool on wire rack.

Time to decorate!  My family prefers buttercream frosting.  To keep things simple, we just use plain white then decorate with colored sprinkles.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 Tablespoons of milk

Mix together butter and sugar.  
Mix in vanilla and milk, beating until frosting has reached desired consistency (easy to spread).

This amount of frosting was enough for all the cookies, with even a little bit leftover!  You can always divide and add food coloring if you would like to decorate that way.

Now, for how we handled the cookie making to make it a bit less of an 'ordeal'.  First, I made the cookie dough in the morning, and let it chill longer than the 2 hours stated.  Just spacing it out seemed to help make it seem less time consuming.  Second, make sure you have a large enough space for rolling out the cookies.  Nothing worse than getting in the middle of something, only to realize you need a bit more space - that just makes me feel flustered!  Whether you clear off a section of your counter tops (the flour is messy so I would get rid of everything in the area), or if you don't have an island, you could be like my parents, and use a small portable table that can be set up in the middle of the kitchen as an 'island'.  Third, only take a small portion of the dough at a time, and keep the rest in the fridge.  This helps so much!  Fourth, assign jobs.  I roll the dough, cut it, and then my mom will normally put them on the cookie sheets and in the oven to bake.  We use two cookie sheets, that way we can always have one going...and two timers to keep track of them!  Having one person dealing with the dough, and another dealing with the baking makes it a lot easier!  Then, my mom will usually make the frosting, we both frost the cookies, while my dad adds the sprinkles - team work makes the dream work!  One thing with that, we place the frosted cookies on paper plates, then my dad will add the sprinkles with they are on the plates - helps keep the excess sprinkles contained! 

Just a few ways that we make this labor of love, a little less laborious!  And trust me, they are so very work the little bit of extra time and effort!

Linking up with Lindsay and Jessi.