February 9, 2016

On the Bookshelf: Vol. 5

I finished the year off with some great books... and then I never shared them. I'm catching up now.

The ones that were OK:

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

I didn't really like anything about this book. I read the whole thing because I was waiting for something to happen, but I didn't really like anyone in the book. Sometimes I'm OK with that, but in this situation, I really wanted to like someone but I just didn't. Lots of people love her books, so I'm not sure if I just started with the wrong one...

The Royal We by Heather Cooks & Jessica Morgan

This was read in two days. It read just like watching a special on the royal wedding mixed with a rom-com. It's perfect for the beach. I liked it, but I also love cheesy rom-coms. If that's not your thing, this definitely won't be.

Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison

I couldn't put this one down either, but if you have no interest in Playboy or the Girls Next Door, I don't know if this will be as interesting. This show was so interesting to me and so this book was a more real life extension. It was definitely a different portrayal of life in the mansion than the show. I could always tell things weren't as they seemed, but this gave you a whole different side.

The ones I would recommend:

One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

I love JoJo Moyes all the time. This book was an easy read about a road trip and an unlikely friendship. I loved it. Her characters always just seem real. I've got a couple more of hers to read, but I'm trying to spread them out a little bit.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I couldn't put this one down either. Her books are super easy to just pick up and not put down. This are never too heavy and there's always some crazy situation. This book was no different. You have a woman that loses her memory and spends the entire book trying to piece back together the pieces of her life and family. I loved it.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This book has a permanent spot in our apartment. It really is as good as people say. These aren't rules as much as guidelines. We were able to purge and declutter more from the help of this book than any other advice we've received. Some of the ideas were a little extreme for me, but so much of it was helpful. The second I put it down - things started to be eliminated. I just got her next book and I'm excited to dive a little deeper. I'm curious - has anyone else read this?

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

I got this book from my sister in law who teaches middle school. We have some great conversations about breaking down barriers and I love getting her book recommendations - especially ones that she finds helpful in her life or ones that they are teaching in schools now. I read this book in about an hour. It's written about the childhood experience of the author fleeing Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and moving to Alabama. I liked the child's perspective and I'm so happy I read it.

So that rounds out my 2015. Next month, I'll share the books I've read this year so far and how they fit into my reading challenge. I'm excited to check out other posts on Steph's linkup

Tell me - what have you been reading? Has your life changed thanks to Marie Kondo?

February 8, 2016

Weekend Update

What a weekend. Congrats to the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning and my fellow Cretin-Derham Hall graduate, Ryan Harris, for winning the Superbowl. Although I will always be a Vikings fan, it's so fun to cheer for the hometown guys when I get the chance. 

Friday night involved some friend FaceTime, reading and Netflix. On Saturday morning, we had a puppy play date. Lola & Quincy got to catch up with their friend, Wally, and meet puppy Tucker for the first time. They pretty much just ignored him, but I got to play with him.

The dogs got groomed in the afternoon and we picked out flooring and paint for our house back in Minnesota. We finished errands and got home just in time for our favorite invitation - a text message letting us know that our neighbors are making pasta and we can come and eat it. This weekend it was Butternut Squash ravioli. I got to help for about 10 seconds, which is the maximum amount of time you want me in the kitchen helping, but it was fun. Making pasta is not an easy task, but it's fun to watch and even more fun to eat. 

Also, did anyone else think Zoolander on Weekend Update was hilarious? Judging by my reaction to the Superbowl halftime show vs. everyone else's - I might have different taste.

Sunday morning, we were on a mission. Have you heard of Flat Stanley? It's a project that a few kids in our family have done that involves mailing a relative a letter asking them to show Flat Stanley around your neighborhood/city and then mail him back and the kids present his adventures to their class. We were lucky enough to get him a few years ago before our trip to Chicago and took him to all the fun places. We just got another one last week. We had to show him around New York City. 

For a while now, I've had to goal to bike around the island of Manhattan. I wanted to be able to explore some new neighborhoods. Yesterday morning, we decided to try that goal, but change it. We took the A train all the way to the northern most stop in Manhattan in the neighborhood of Inwood Hills and we walked all the way South to Battery Park. 

We got on the train at 9 AM and were heading back to Jersey by 4 PM. We stopped at Central Park, Grand Central Station, Empire State Building, the Flatiron, Washington Square Park and finally One World Trade. We stopped a few times to rest our feet and snack. We had pretty perfect weather. 

Thank you Flat Stanley for giving us a reason to get outside yesterday and pound the pavement. I was able to eat so many junk food snacks last night and not feel even a little guilty about it. 

That sums up my weekend - lots of productivity, friend time and walking. Now I just need to power through a few more days of work and I'll be heading to the beach. Happy Monday!

February 4, 2016


It's February! One month down of this magical year. This marks the month of love. I'm not necessarily a fan of Valentine's Day. We've never exchanged gifts or been any different on that day, but I do enjoy the hearts and love related things that fill the aisles of Target.

Currently, I'm...

Wearing my usual uniform of leggings and a sweaters. When you work from home, you spend the winter happy that you don't have to dress up very often. I do keep things interesting by trying new lip colors or jewelry when I'm feeling girly.

Cleaning up some things on the blog. I'm working through a checklist to get organized.

Listening to Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. You can't stop me. I just put them on the record player and my heart instantly gets happy. I also understand that this puts me so much closer to hipster status.

Practicing tiny acts of love. I've learned over the last year that I need to let go of some sadness and anger and we found this book on New Year's Day, so every morning, we read the entry and talk about it. The challenges are simple and the questions can be thought provoking.

Watching Real Housewives of Potomac. I love a whole new group of ladies, especially when they claim to be obsessed with etiquette. Newsflash: They ALWAYS end up looking a little trashy, but that's what I love about it. Anyone else watching this?

Falling Behind on my reading challenge this year. I finished my first two books, but I haven't made the time to read recently. I'll be recapping some recent reads next Tuesday and hopefully that will spark my reading enthusiasm. I am reading After You right now and loving it.

Smelling the Sweet Rose candle made by Nature's Wick from Target. It smells like springtime. It feels like spring outside this week, so it just felt right.

Missing extended family. Every time we go home, we get some time in with sisters, brothers, parents, etc, but I miss my aunts, uncles and cousins. I'm hoping we figure out how to see everyone this summer.

Counting down the days until Costa Rica and they are in the single digits. Sorry in advance if your Instagram feed is blown up with flamingo floaties, sunshine and beaches. I've never been on a beach trip in my life, so I think I might be out of control.

Laughing at the final touches on the trophies for our Fantasy Football league. We will be doing an award ceremony in Costa Rica since the league champion will be present. There is a little crafting happening this weekend.

Using Kiehl's lotion with Argan Oil nonstop. Is anyone a Kiehl's user? I'm getting lots of mixed messages regarding their brand, but I've been researching ingredients and I'm not freaked out like I am with many products. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

So that's it. Happy LOVE month. Let me know what you're up to.

What's New With You
Also linking up with Christy for her currently link up

February 2, 2016

#trendingontwitter - Phil, 1D and Prison Tell-All's

It's time for another round of current events all determined by recent trending topics on Twitter.

#IowaCaucus - If you are American and not living under a rock, you have heard that the state of IA is kind of a big deal for the presidential candidates. Well, at least that's over now. If you have real questions about the election, skimm this.  There were quite a few trending hashtags relating to IA. #martinomalley2020 #itwasatiehilz #tedcruzlookslikedracula #donaldisasoreloser #richpeoplepretendingtoloveiowa Just kidding, none of those were really hashtags, but I don't really care to go super political today.

#groundhogday - Today is the today that a rodent (other than pizza rat) gets his moment of glory - and a glorious one it was. Although yesterday felt like spring already, so I'm hoping for at least a little more snow. I also learned that Staten Island has someone/thing named Chuck. This should not be a thing.

 #GreaseLive - I didn't watch it. Turns out, Grease isn't really the word for me. The movie is OK, but there are so many musicals I like more. It feels good to finally admit that. Sorry Danny.

#KimandAmber - I don't really understand much about this (I had to google it to find out it was Kim Kardashian), but I do know that Amber Rose used to date Kanye West... so I guess they should hate each other, but now they are hanging out together? I don't think I want to know or care.

#kayla - This week's winter storm with a cute name. It's sweeping the great plains and it also kept my husband home from his work travels this week.

#allthingsonedirection - Obviously that isn't the hashtag, but of the top 20 that I sorted through over the last week... at least 5 had to do with One Direction. I had to google those too to find out what it meant. Someone is in Bali and everyone cares. Someone else is possibly dating someone because they were in the same place twice in their lifetime? I can't even come up with something similar that happened when we were teenagers... help me?

#TurningTables - This is the book that Theresa Giudice is releasing soon about her time in Prison. I'll probably take one for the team and read it and then tell you whether or not you should do the same. I'm guessing it will not be a recommendation, but I think I need to at least try.

That's all for today folks. Happy Tuesday. Also, follow me on Twitter because that's what this whole post is about, right?

January 27, 2016

One Last Word on 2015

I forgot to share my 2015 resolution. It would be silly to keep it to myself, because I kept it ALL YEAR no exceptions.

For 2015, I want to try something new every day.

This is real. I did it. All 365 days.

Every night, I wrote down my "something new" in my planner and eventually categorized them to see how I did. I gave myself no other rules. Some days, there were more than one, but never zero. Today, I'll share with you how it broke down and some favorites and not so favorites.

In 2015, I tried...

26 new movies & TV shows - Star Wars was still at the top although I highly recommend Making a Murderer if you are one of the few people left that hasn't watched it. The worst one I watched was probably Dumb & Dumber To.

5 new projects/classes - I have a favorite, but it's not quite ready yet. Stay tuned in February for a quick peak.

32 new beers/ciders - My two favorites were the New Glarus' Moon Man (which sadly you can only find in Wisconsin) and the Huckleberry beer I drank in Montana. I did notice that I only tried one NJ beer the entire year, so I'd like to get better about local stuff in 2016.

23 new kinds of wine - I think my favorite is the wine in a juice box I had with Kirsten on the beach in Florida, but mostly because it brings back awesome memories. I also discovered that we love almost anything from the Wolffer Vineyard on Long Island and the place is gorgeous.

32 new places - That includes NYC neighborhoods, other cities and even one country. I think Iceland takes the cake on this one.

23 new make up/beauty items - This number surprised me because I didn't think I was that adventurous when it came to beauty items. I did have 3 new Lush bath bombs on this list. One of my favorites was the goat's milk lotion I got in Montana - see similar products here - I will try any lotion to find something that works for my sad winter skin. I also became a fan of Kiehl's Shampoo & Conditioner and Jamberry nails.

23 new articles of clothing - This number can't be right because I'm sure I bought stuff this year and didn't write it down. Of the things listed though, my Icelandic slippers are at the top and are worn almost daily now that it's cold out. Another favorite were the onesies we purchased and wore for our Christmas card picture.

67 new restaurants - Guys, I live across the river from NYC, of course that was going to be super easy. The ones that jump to the top right away are Queens Comfort in Astoria, Steve's Key Lime Pies (for dessert only) in Red Hook, Brooklyn and Good Enough to Eat on the Upper West Side. A new favorite in Minnesota was Buster's in South Minneapolis. I'm drooling just thinking about their veggie burger.

64 new experiences/adventures - These were items that didn't really fall into another category. Some of the highlights include Kayaking with Manateesvisiting the Blue Lagoon in Icelandthe MS Climb to the Top of the Rock and many other adventures.

71 new foods/drinks - I needed a category for the stuff that wasn't necessarily a new restaurant, but a new food or recipe that I had never tried. Zeppoles are at the top of the list, but I also loved the Smores Oreos, Deep Fried Pumpkin Pie, Skyr and Cheerwine. On the flip side, there were quite a few recipes we tried that will never be tried again. I even learned to have two Pinterest boards - one for recipes we haven't tried yet and one for recipes we love... the ones that aren't good, get deleted.

28 new books - I've already recapped my books and I also think I'm missing a few, so I won't dive into this one again.

55 new items - This is the treat yoself category that includes a few bracelets, coffee mugs, a new planner, some records, a Harry Potter coloring book (thanks Holly), a new vacuum, and new couch pillows. You would normally exclude these from a list of new things you've tried, but when I wrote them down on this list, I seemed to enjoy them even more.

20 new people - I only counted people that we hung out with for the first time. This included my brother's friends at his wedding, our awesome neighbors turned friends, new babies/spouses of friends and a few people Justin met through surfing.

To summarize...

In 2015, I tried 469 new things. It seems like so much looking back on it. It makes me proud.

There were a few days where I struggled. I would either get lucky and receive something in the mail or I would wander over to CVS or Target and go hunting for a new nail polish color or scan Netflix for a new movie. There were other situations, like our Iceland trip, where everything was new and I could pick a favorite or two from the day to capture.

I cherish some of my routines. Having a challenge like this with very few rules helped me switch up a few routines without feeling like it was torture. Now, I read the whole menu instead of jumping to my go-to item or I'll buy a brand new kind of wine at the store because it has a pretty bottle. There's a little more variety in my life and I'm so grateful for that.

What was your 2015 resolution? Did you keep it? Would you try a daily challenge like this?