Monday, July 30, 2018

No.159: Five July Favorites (A Link-Up!)

This post contains affiliate links.

Welcome to the Five Favorites linkup!  Congratulations to Shelly, with June's winning post: Five Favorites.  There's no Prize Pack this month, but will hopefully return in August!


1 // STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE BISCUITS
Nothing says summer like strawberry shortcake!  This recipe is delicious and so easy - maybe too easy, hah!  We've made it a handful of times this summer and it's always a hit.

2 // THE LIBRARY EXTENSION PLUG-IN FOR CHROME
I just discovered this little plug-in and it's been so helpful already!  You can install it on Chrome in a matter of minutes.  Then, if you go on a website like Goodreads or Amazon, it will automatically search your local library to see if they have a copy, both in physical form or ebook.  I can already tell it will help reduce my impulse book shopping.

3 // ITALIAN SANDWICHES FROM ANANIA'S
If you ever find yourself in Portland, Maine, be sure to stop into Anania's and get an Italian sandwich.  Ham, American cheese, diced onions, green peppers, pickles, black olives, salt, pepper and oil on a hero roll.  It's so simple, but hands down one of my favorite foods on Earth!  I had one on my trip a few weeks ago and it hit the spot.  Be sure to get a whoopie pie while you're there too.  

4 // HASHING OUT MY MOM STYLE BLOG
Lisa started a new blog called Hashing Out My Mom Style and I love it!  Her thoughts on outfits have helped me look critically at my own wardrobe, while also inspiring me to start a list of pieces I'd like to find. 

5 // A NEW POPCORN MAKER
After four years and hundreds of uses, our old popcorn maker was starting to be a hazard.  The top piece was cracked in about six places and hot oil shot out from a chip in the bottom.  Nothing like a little first degree burn before snack time!  We finally replaced it with this one and what an improvement.  Definitely a worthwhile investment for our family.

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I can't wait to hear about what you're loving this month!  Here's what to do:
1. Write a blog post sharing about five of your favorite things.  You could also share a photo on Instagram too! (hashtag is #bwffivefavorites)  It can have a theme (ie: five of your favorite slow cooker recipes) or just a mishmash like I usually do.
2. Please link back to this post so your readers know where to find the Five Favorites hub (posts not mentioning "Five Favorites" or not linking back to this post will be subject to removal).
3. Not mandatory, but feel free to visit some of the other posts in the link-up!  Sharing and/or leaving a comment is even better.
4. Make sure to add a link to your specific post or Instagram picture, not just your blog address.
Thanks for linking up!

Friday, July 27, 2018

No.158: My Latest Reads // July

This post contains affiliate links.  Linking up with Kristin's Book by Book!


EDUCATED: A MEMOIR by Tara Westover
My Rating: ★★
Not knowing for certain, but refusing to give way to those who claim certainty, was a privilege I had never allowed myself. My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs. (61%)
Educated is a fascinating memoir about a girl who was kept out of school by her survivalist family and yet eventually goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University.  It was a hard story to read, for all kinds of different reasons. Even so, I really enjoyed how she examined different perspectives and the limitations of our memories.  Her voice, as she found herself and her own story, was powerful.


KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON: THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI by David Grann
My Rating: ★★
History is a merciless judge. It lays bare our tragic blunders and foolish missteps and exposes our most intimate secrets, wielding the power of hindsight like an arrogant detective who seems to know the end of the mystery from the outset.
I have been patiently waiting to for Killers of the Flower Moon to come off the hold list for months!  This is a crazy true story about a period of history that I knew nothing about: a Native American tribe forced to live in a region which was later discovered to be rich in oil.  The greed, corruption and manipulation was difficult to read, but also so important.  I'll be thinking about this one a lot.


GIRL IN THE DARK: A MEMOIR OF A LIFE WITHOUT LIGHT by Anna Lyndsey
My Rating: ★★
Animals in zoos and prisoners sleep many hours a day. Like them I have become a devotee, a voluptuary of sleep, a connoisseur of its intense, uncharted pleasures. Sleep slips the chains of this life, snaps the intimate fetters of my skin, sets me free to travel the wild landscapes of the ungoverned mind. Each night I enter by the same door, yet find behind it something new. I plunge my hands into the lucky dip of dreams; sometimes I find sweets, and sometimes scorpions, but always, for a few hours, deliverance. (8%)
The noblest truth is “There is suffering.” The whole of history having been filled with such exotic and multifarious forms of it, “Why me?” is the question of an idiot. The sensible person says simply, “Why not?”(98%)
Girl in the Dark is the story of a healthy young woman who developed an extreme light sensitivity that required her to live in complete darkness.  Can you imagine feeling like a blowtorch was burning your face, just by looking at a computer screen?  It's so hard to judge a memoir because I think everyone's story is important, but this one was just a bit too lyrical and descriptive for my taste.  Even so, it might be a good choice for anyone suffering from a chronic illness. 


GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn
My Rating: ★★
Amy made me believe I was exceptional, that I was up to her level of play. That was both our making and undoing. Because I couldn’t handle the demands of greatness. I began craving ease and average-ness, and I hated myself for it, and ultimately, I realized, I punished her for it. I turned her into the brittle, prickly thing she became. I had pretended to be one kind of man and revealed myself to be quite another. Worse, I convinced myself our tragedy was entirely her making. I spent years working myself into the very thing I swore she was: a righteous ball of hate. (52%)
I blew through Gone Girl in just a few days, but it was such a stressful read!  I sort-of hated both of the main characters and their lack of any redeeming qualities.  Lots of profanity and vulgarity.  It's hard to talk about this one without any spoilers...it was a quick read, but not necessarily a book I'd particularly recommend to anyone.


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MY 2018 READING IN NUMBERS
Books Read: 43
Fiction: 24  // Non-Fiction: 19
Kindle Books: 25  // Paper Books: 18
Original 2018 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 443 // Current "to-read" total: 430

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

No.157: Getting Gazelle Intense // A Debt Reduction Update


Debt.  We have it, but we don't want it!  If you know anything about Dave Ramsey, you know he is all about being "gazelle intense," but in our marriage, the path to financial freedom has been anything but straight.  Through the years, we've ebbed and flowed with intensity, sometimes at full force and sometimes at just a trickle.  New jobs, new homes and new babies have been worthwhile detours, adding to the bottom line just as we'd paid it down.  But such is life, right?  We take responsibility for our choices and keep trying our best.

Right now, we're working on four debt categories: student loans, a car loan, a personal loan from the sale of our first home/rental property (we took a loss) and a credit card.  We decided to officially get gazelle intense last month and are doing a mishmash of a snowball and an avalanche.  Our plan is to pay a few smaller student loans (for momentum and to feel like we're making some forward movement!) before attacking the bigger car loan.  To help keep me motivated, I'll be sharing five things every month that we're using, loving or trying to get us closer to the goal of being debt-free.  I hope you'll join in the conversation too!

1 // DEBT CHARTS TO COLOR IN
The first step to getting pumped up for debt reduction?  Charts!  I'm a visual person and like to see our progress as we go.  I printed a bunch from Debt Free Charts - they're free! - and have had way too much fun coloring in the first few lines.   

2 // MOTIVATIONAL FINANCIAL PODCASTS
During my runs, I've been listening to financial podcasts like Dave Ramsey and The His and Her Money Show.  My favorite episodes are the personal testimonies (proof that this can be done!) and the ones about side hustles (gets my entrepreneurial brain all fired up!).

3 // UNSUBSCRIBING FROM ALL.THE.EMAILS
Another task I accomplished this month was to unsubscribe from a ton of store email lists.  For a solid week, when a marketing email would arrive in my inbox, I would immediately click the link at the bottom to unsubscribe.  It really only took seconds at a time and my inbox is much less cluttered.  Out of sight, out of mind...I hope! 

4 // WALMART SAVINGS CATCHER
We use Walmart Grocery for most of our grocery shopping and I recently realized that I could still enter our "receipts" from the app on to Walmart's Saving Catcher.  It takes seconds to copy and paste the receipt number and we've already gotten almost $10 back!
  
5 // THE ETHNIC FOOD AISLE IN THE GROCERY STORE
Another small win in the grocery department: We eat a lot of rice around here and usually buy 32oz bags for around $2.50.  On a quick trip for essentials, Mark stumbled on a huge 10lb. container of rice in the ethnic section for $10!  The spices seem to be a little cheaper in that aisle too.

Monday, July 23, 2018

No.156: 20 Things I Love - A Gratitude Journal vol.9

This post contains affiliate links.

listening to an interesting podcast while I run
watermelon slices that get sweeter over time
home improvements finally checked off the to-do list
racing TJ down the driveway in plasma cars
a new book I can't stop reading
fawns grazing in the backyard
big bowls of ice cream with Heath Bar crumbles on top
P's new haircut, making him look much too old
watching thunderstorms from the porch
lazy mornings in my pajamas
a new project that gets my creative juices flowing
a breakfast date with my dad
easy to throw on dresses that help me look put together, even at home
watching the sunset under twinkling porch lights
the way the kids flock to Mark when he gets home from work
inside jokes between brothers
weeding the flower beds with Sophie ("It's hard work, Mama, but we can do it!")
burgers and brats on the grill
just enough of an evening chill to warrant a blanket pulled up at bedtime
this quote from Emerson: "Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting."

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

No.155: New Habits, Little by Little: Cooking at Home (June 2018)


One year ago, I wrote these words: "I've had trouble in the kitchen for a long time.  Mark cooks amazing food because he loves the creative process.  I cook so we don't go to bed hungry.  That (lazy? burnt out?) attitude has never sat well with me, though, and I really want to change."

Last July, I committed to a year of renewed interest in cooking at home.  Having moved to an area where delivery was nonexistent and fast food was a 15-minute drive, my dinner crutches were all suddenly taken away.  Sink or swim, I was going to have to figure this out!  Fast forward to today and my attitude toward the kitchen has completely changed.  The lessons I've learned are too many to count, but the biggest one is this: sometimes you just have to step out in faith, knowing you're going to stumble, and work toward your goals anyway. 

Here's to another year of delicious meals.

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Week 48 (cont.):
Friday, June 1: homemade pizza

Week 49:
Saturday, June 2: cold cut sandwiches/lettuce wraps with fruit and chips
Sunday, June 3: moo shu pork in tortillas
Monday, June 4: leftover moo shu with rice
Tuesday, June 5: tuscan garlic chicken with salad
Wednesday, June 6: garlic parmesan chicken thighs and broccoli
Thursday, June 7: tacos
Friday, June 8: kielbasa veggie bake with rice

Week 50:
Saturday, June 9: brats and hotdogs on the grill, chips, chocolate covered strawberries
Sunday,  June 10: pizza
Monday, June 11: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night
Tuesday, June 12: grilled pork chops and pasta salad
Wednesday, June 13: grilled pork loin, rice and asparagus
Thursday, June 14: rotisserie-style chicken, Mark's panko macaroni and cheese, and salad
Friday, June 15: homemade pesto pizza using sourdough focaccia

Week 51:
Saturday, June 16: pulled pork sandwiches, then out for ice cream cones
Sunday, June 17: Father's Day! porterhouse steak for Mark, brats for the rest of us, bacon ranch potato salad
Monday, June 18: leftover pork nachos
Tuesday, June 19: cold cut sandwiches with chips
Wednesday, June 20: roasted chicken thighs, rice and asparagus with homemade sourdough bread
Thursday, June 21: tacos
Friday, June 22: pork fried rice using up a bunch of leftovers - the kids loved this!

Week 52:
Saturday, June 23: McDonald's after baby L's first birthday party
Sunday, June 24: one pan pesto chicken, tortellini and veggies (BIG hit)
Monday, June 25: roasted pork tenderloin with rice and broccoli
Tuesday, June 26: whole chicken with carrots, onions, and potatoes - the chicken was way too small this time and everyone was still hungry, so I supplemented with popcorn and waffles after
Wednesday, June 27: tomato soup with sourdough grilled cheese sandwiches
Thursday, June 28: one pot kielbasa pasta
Friday, June 29: homemade pizza

Week 53:
Saturday, June 30: chili dogs

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

No.154: What's New? // 10 Things I Need to Tell You

This post contains affiliate links.

Hey friends!  After a month of blogging (almost) everyday, I took a much-needed Internet break and it was so good.  July has been full of great things, though, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't hard for me not to pop in and document it all.  If you lived nearby, I'd invite you over for coffee and sourdough bread so we could catch up!  In the meantime, here are ten things I have to tell you:

1 // I PAINTED MY FRONT AND SIDE DOORS AND AM HALFWAY THROUGH MY SHUTTERS.
We took advantage of Sherwin William's 40% off sale and bought one can of their exterior paint in Iron Ore.  I wasn't sure how far it would take me, but it's proven to be the can that keeps on giving!  So far, I've painted two doors and all of the shutters on the first floor of the house.  Next up is getting on the roof to assess the shutters on the second floor.  This both excites and terrifies me.

2 // WE COMPLETED OUR FIRST 100 HOURS OUTSIDE.
After cruising through the first 50 hours, we came to a screeching halt once spring allergies and rainy days arrived.  We've tried to pick up the pace this summer, but it really depends on the day: humid 90-something degree days are miserable!  In all, it took us 98 days to complete 100 hours.  Nothing to brag about, but it's a start. 

3 // WE HOSTED FOURTH OF JULY AT OUR HOUSE AGAIN THIS YEAR.
Mark took off the Monday and Tuesday before the Fourth as a little staycation and it was great!  We had guests over each day (Mark's friend, my brother and girlfriend, and my parents) and hung out and laughed and barbecued.  So nice to share our home with friends and family.   


4 // I'M GETTING "GAZELLE INTENSE" WITH DEBT REDUCTION.
In our twelve years of marriage, we've always had some sort of debt.  We've been chipping away, little by little, but new babies, new cars to fit all the babies, and real estate decisions have all been bumps on the road to financial freedom.  Now that we're in a relatively stable place, with (hopefully!) no big changes in the near future, Mark and I are ready to roll up our sleeves and really get to work!  We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.     

5 // MY POST-WEANING HORMONES ARE ALLLLL OUT OF WHACK.
Today marks exactly one month since I weaned P and what a month it's been.  My hormones have been crazy!  In desperation, I went on a Googling spree looking for answers, but it's really just an issue of giving it time to regulate.       

6 // I SPENT A LONG WEEKEND WITH MY COUSINS AND BRAND NEW BABY COUSIN.
My first trip without a child (in utero or out!) in my entire adult life!  It was so relaxing and went way too fast.  It was such an honor to help with my cousin's new baby boy; we spent our mornings together while his mama got some much-needed extra rest.  I've never really had the opportunity to cuddle babies that aren't my own and I kinda love it, hah!  I came home on Sunday feeling so refreshed and thankful.   


7 // I KILLED MY HOUSEPLANT AND MY HERBS.
I'm going to blame this on insufficient sunlight, but such a bummer!  I hope I don't have a black thumb.

8 // I'M FINALLY CAUGHT UP WITH MY POSTCARD PROJECT.
I paused the project in June while I was blogging everyday, but just finished the last handful of postcards today.  So if you signed up and haven't received one yet, check your mailboxes soon!

9 // ALL OF MY LIBRARY HOLDS CAME IN AT ONCE.
You know how I feel about this...all of my other books have been put on hold and I've been a reading machine trying to get through them all!  So far, I've read Educated: A Memoir and Killers of the Flower Moon and I'm currently on Gone Girl.

10 // HOMEMADE ICE CREAM IS SO GOOD.
We bought an ice cream maker last month, checking off a task on my 100 Little Things list.  I was hesitant that it would just be another appliance to store, but it's awesome!  We've made old-fashioned vanilla twice so far, but I'm anxious to try a frozen yogurt or sorbet next. 


Your turn!  How is your summer going?  What's new in your neck of the woods?
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