Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Books and Beans~January~And a Giveaway!!

Happy first book review of 2017! I always feel like January is the perfect month for hibernating after the craziness of December.  Make sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post!


I am back to loving the Iced Dirty Chai from Starbucks.  An iced chai tea latte with one shot of espresso.  It's like tea and coffee had a baby and I {heart} it.


A Hundred Summers by: Beatriz Williams
(4 out of 5 Stars)

This book is so good that one night I woke up at 3:30 AM, read a chapter and went back to sleep.  (I guess that was technically morning...)  As good as this book was, it did take me a while to get into it.  I do not typically like reading books set in the past (unless its The Lake House by: Kate Morton or ......).  If you like beachy reads with a historical bent that include female relationships, romance and just enough suspense to keep it interestng, this is your next book.  

The Couple Next Door by: Shari Lapena
(4 out of 5 Stars)

Such a great suspense novel!  I love finding a new author; especially when it's their debut novel.  This book kept me in suspense from the beginning and had a terrible (yet fantastic) ending.  When you read a lot like I do, it is often difficult to find authors who surprise.  This is an excellent book and one that I could see turned into a movie.  

Present Over Perfect by: Shauna Niequist
(4 out of 5 Stars)

**Enter to win this book below!!**

I heart Shauna Niequist.  Her book Bread and Wine is one I can read over and over.  Her writing voice is exquisite in that book and you feel like you know her personally after reading anything she has penned.   I love the message of being intentional about being present, which is something I definitely work on as well.  I did have a hard time getting into this book in the beginning, but the last 100 pages made up for it.  This is one I will go back and read again.

Jesus Always by: Sarah Young
(5 out of 5 Stars)

I have read Sarah Young's devotional, Jesus Calling, for the past two years.  This is her latest and it is proving to be just as good.  I love starting my day with devotions and quiet time.  This devotional is now part of my morning routine.  Read more about my morning routine HERE.

Rich and Pretty by: Rumaan Alam
(2 out of 5 Stars)

Save your reading time for something better.  I read this book as part of an Instagram Book Club that I belong to, and opted not to even post a picture to tell everyone I was reading it.  I love the concept of exploring a female friendship that spans from adolescence through adulthood, but this book just didn't do anything for me.

How to Be a Good Wife by: Emma Chapman
(2 out of 5 Stars)

My favorite thing about this book was that I told Dan it was non-fiction when he saw me reading it. :)  This book is creepy...and disturbing...and I need to read something totally fluffy for my next book.

Two excellent reads, two great Christian books, and two thumbs down books for this month.

I am so thankful for the connections I've made and the love you've shown my blog this month that I am offering a giveaway!  Enter the Raffelcopter below to have a chance to win a copy of  Present Over Perfect  and a $10 Starbucks giftcard!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Life Lately~January 2017

One of my motivations for blogging is to keep a scrapbook of sorts that shows what our family has been up to from month-to-month.  The older my kids get, the more I realize how fast time flies.  And since I no longer "scrapbook" (or if I'm completely honest, even print pictures) I might want something to look back on when I'm old and highlighted...I know most people say "old and gray", but no, I will be "old and highlighted."  :)

The new year started off with a new medical deductible and there is nothing our family likes better than a challenge.  Mason woke up with a fever at midnight on New Year's Eve and Peyton had his first snowboarding accident while away with friends (#momsworstnightmare). Mason's fever lasted a day and after a shoulder immobilizer and three different doctor visits, Peyton is finally on the mend and ready to snowboard again.

We have spent a lot of January cozy at home.  Mason has the best big brothers; Parker is teaching him the finer parts of Lego building.  Even Cleo (our cat) likes to play Legos.  (Or at least carry them off and hide them under the couch.)

 January also included lots of cousin time.  Love all these boys!!  This was a rare moment of the video games being paused.

Dan planned a date night for us that included wine and Star Wars art at the Riverfront Museum.  When he asked me if I wanted to go, I was under the impression that we would drink wine and walk around looking at Star Wars art.  As long as there is wine, I can do that.  At dinner that night, however, he says, "I hope I am good at painting."...ummmmm, what?!  Yes we had to paint, but yes, there was plenty of wine.  I chose my design because I thought it resembled the Tory Burch logo.  I titled my painting, Coco Chanel meets Darth Vader.  Dan explained what the logo really was, but I didn't pay attention.  ;)  

Our new library opened this month and Mason and I were so excited!  It is a beautiful space and there is a new train table to play with.  We are excited for them to build their book collection.  Mason is very into Ninja Turtles, so he was happy when he found some books about them as well.  It's such an upgrade from our old library and we love it.

The past two Saturdays, the older boys have had other plans and Dan has had to work basketball games for school, so Mason and I have gone on "adventures".  Our adventures are secretly disguised mom errands, but we did manage to visit the candy store.....

...and get some new shoes for preschool, which starts in a few weeks.  I love this time with my little.

Other than that, January has consisted of a million house projects including a "big boy" bed for Mason...

...and finishing our lower level.  It feels like this project has been going on forever, but we are beginning to see an end in sight!  

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Favorites

I'm linking up again with fellow bloggers ErikaNarci and Andrea to share my Friday Favorites!

Topping the list of my favorites this Friday is my cozy bedroom... 

...because I got to spend all day there on Wednesday thanks to an awful stomach bug.  If you have to feel like crap, it helps to have a pretty space to feel crappy in. :)

Plus, there's this...
I'm one stomach flu away from my goal weight! I've thought this so many times~lol Line from The Devil Wears Prada:


Last Saturday, everyone else in the house was busy, so Mason and I went on a little adventure.  I love hanging out with this cool dude...

After the candy store, we went shopping in the back of a truck.  If you live in the Peoria, IL, area, you really need to check out this company and find where they will be next.  Such a fun experience and such cute clothes!

The Runaway Rack

Love this quote!  How fun would it be to have this truck and a margarita truck come to my house for a girl's night?!

I think it's safe to say that I am not a Wal-Mart fan, but the Wal-Mart Beauty Box?  Love it.  It comes four times a year and costs $5.  This was my winter box.  Great sample products and a full-size mascara.  I definitely get my money's worth out of these boxes and I don't have to go to Wal-Mart to get it.  Win win!

(image via www.daveramsey.com)

And for my last Friday favorite, I'll nerd out.  I love doing a budget each month because it gives me permission to spend without fear (like shopping for clothes from the Runaway Rack).  I have been using Dave Ramsey's EveryDollar app for six months now and love it.  I will do a future post on how we budget in our family and will include an overview of this handy tool!

EveryDollar Laptop with Phone

I hope you have all had a fantastic week and are staying healthy!  I am one week away from taking my two older boys on a whirlwind 48 hour trip to the Big Apple and we could not be more excited!  I can't wait to share it with all of you.

Happy Weekending!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Home Plate {Easy Weeknight Chili}

I am always looking for new recipes that are inexpensive and come together in a flash.  I need to have dinner on the table early in my house with all those hungry boys to feed!

I love to make chili on fall weekends that includes lots of chopping and simmering.  Sometimes, though, I just need to get a pot of something hearty on the table in thirty minutes or less.  This recipe fits that criteria and while it won't win you a blue ribbon at the chili cook-off, it's tasty just the same!

Ingredients (All bought at Aldi!)
1 pound grass fed beef (not pictured)
1 large can tomato juice
mild chili beans
1 packet chili seasoning (not pictured)

Brown the ground beef and add in the packet of chili seasoning.

Pour the tomato juice in a large soup pot.

Add the seasoned browned meat, and chili beans to the tomato juice.

Cook on medium heat until heated through.

I like to serve this with a pan of Jiffy corn bread on the side. Since Mason has an egg allergy, I make his corn bread with half of a banana instead of an egg. It works!  

My family also likes cheddar cheese and sour cream to top off their bowls of chili.  This recipe serves four, so I double it.

Warm, filling, quick and inexpensive!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Favorites

Happy Fri-yay!  Why is it that four day work weeks seem sooooo long?

I'm linking up with fellow bloggers ErikaNarci and Andrea to share my Friday Favorites!

Although I love starting my day with coffee, I have been drinking tea every night.  My current favorite...

Product Details

I buy mine at Fresh Market, but you can also find it on Amazon HERE.  It is so good!

I also did a little retail therapy this week and shopped the sale at Loft.  I bought these pants...

Primary Image of Sateen Five Pocket Leggings in Marisa Fit

Primary Image of Curvy Skinny Corduroy Pants

and this sweater...

Primary Image of Stripe Banded Sweater


I've been listening to podcasts while driving to work.  Check out which one's I'm currently listening to HERE.

I hope you have all had a fabulous week.  Enjoy your time with family and friends this weekend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Favorite Podcasts

I began listening to podcasts a few years ago, even before my husband started his.  Truth be told, I don't listen to his, but thousands of other people do.  Oops. :)  If you like Star Wars, you can listen to Coffee with Kenobi HERE.

I thought it would be fun to share my current favorite podcasts that I listen to while driving, getting ready in the morning and exercising.  If you've never listened to a podcast before, you just go to iTunes and search for topics that interest you.  Last year, I got hooked on the podcast Serial, which was a real-life crime story put out by NPR.  Most of the podcasts I listen to are either motivational, wellness related or purely for entertainment.  There is literally a podcast for everything!

The Simple Sophisticate

Image result for the simple sophisticate podcast
(Image from Stitcher.com)

This blogger, teacher, and Francophile records a weekly show that includes top ten lists about various topics and focuses on simple luxuries.  I like her enthusiasm and advice for living the "simply luxurious life".

Heather Dubrow's World

Heather Dubrow's World
(Image from Podcast One)

As we've discussed, I love me some Real Housewives.  Heather Dubrow is one of my favorites and while I do admit to listening to other housewives' podcasts in the past (Brandi Glanville, anyone?), hers is by far the best.  Her rapport with her assistant Natalie is on point and the topics are relevant to mom life; even if you don't live in a mansion and have your own reality show.

Dr. and Mrs. Guinea Pig with Heather and Terry Dubrow

Image result for dr and mrs guinea pig podcast
(Image from heatherdubrow.com)

Do you see a pattern here?  This podcast is very well done with excellent advice every episode.  I love the chemistry between these two and the episode on Sunday anxiety sparked a future blog post idea for me.  I strangely find these two very relatable.  

The School of Greatness

Image result for the school of greatness
(Image from stitcher.com)

This podcast is put out by Lewis Howes,"former pro athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur."  He has excellent guests and is extremely motivational.  He has built a million dollar business based upon motivating others to live their best lives.  Not bad for a guy who was flat broke living on his sister's couch.  Lewis Howes has great energy and it definitely comes through in his podcast.

The Big Boo Cast

Image result for the big boo cast
(Image from thebigboo.libsyn.com)

I could listen to these two southern women read me the phone book (do phone books even still exist?)  Anyway, they talk about absolutely nothing but it cracks me up every time I listen.  They are both bloggers and authors and I found them after reading Giddy Up Eunice, which is a great Christian book about the power of female friendships.  Current podcast topics include their kitchen remodels, college football and their favorite spoon.  I can't make this up, or describe it, apparently, but it's worth your time to listen!

I also occasionally also listen to Dave Ramsey, Jillian Michaels and Joel Osteen.  If you have any recommendations for other podcasts I should check out, comment below.  Happy listening!

Monday, January 16, 2017

How Does She Do It? {My Morning Routine}

(image from "Single Dad Laughing" via Facebook)

I am a reluctant morning person.  When I was younger, I loved staying up late and sleeping in.  Now I stay up late and get up early.  I'm a mom...I'm tired...it's kind of like having no money when you're in college; everyone expects it and it's acceptable.  ;)

In the past few years, I have developed a love of getting up early.  I don't actually love getting out of bed, but once I do, I love it.  My ideal morning begins with getting out of bed at 5:30 AM...even on weekends.  Crazy talk, I know!!  During the week, I leave for work at 7:00 AM, but truly don't need to get up until 6:00 to make that happen.  The extra half hour has made a drastic change in my overall day.  And on the weekends, it gives me at least an hour and a half before anyone else wakes up.

During that 30 minutes of morning time during the week, I do the things that will set my day on the right track.  I love to drink hot lemon water first thing in the morning and I stretch while I heat that up.  As I drink the hot lemon water, I read a devotional (HERE) and my daily reading in my One Year Bible (HERE).  After I read, I pray for about five to ten minutes or so.  I pray for my husband, my kids, family members, friends, and spend time in gratitude for my blessings.  In the summer, I like to do this part of the morning on my front porch swing.  In the cooler months, I'm curled up on the couch or at the table.  

After this, I brew a cup of coffee in my Keurig and, during the week, begin getting ready for school.  On the weekends, I use the next hour to blog, read, watch Real Housewives or anything else that is just for me.  Pure bliss.

The best part of this new habit is that by the time anyone else wakes up, I am completely at peace and full of joy.  I can greet all my people with a full heart, which is my "why" for getting up early. 

I truly admire people who wake up and exercise.  I've tried it, but I do better exercising in the afternoon and easing into my mornings instead.   

What morning routine do you follow?