Friday, March 21, 2014

New Chapter

As you can see, it's been pretty quiet around this little blog of mine.
My life is pretty busy now that I'm working full time, so it hasn't left me much time to devote to the blog.
I've been trying to keep up with everyone else's blogs, since I still enjoy reading, I'm just not enjoying blogging myself right now.

So...I honestly don't know when the next time I will actually make an effort to sit down and blog again.
I might pick it up again, I might honestly not.

I just wanted to let y'all know. 

Cause right now, I am simply enjoying this crazy, busy, beautiful life we have. ;)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Favorite Reads 2013

I meant to do this post last month, but I forgot about it.
Plus it took me a while to sit down and actually put my thoughts down on the books I read. ;)

If you are unaware, I am an avid reader. And I love discovering new books, especially when they turn out to be much better than you anticipated.
So I thought I'd share my favorites from the past year.

Beth Pride really can’t stand William Darcy: he snubbed her at the Hartford College Children’s Benefit Auction; he has an infuriating propensity for pushing her buttons; his actions are frequently at odds with his words; and even his melting chocolate eyes and impressive physique don’t quite make up for his deficient personality.

Beth’s plan to avoid William backfires when her roommate falls for his best friend. As the unlikely duo are thrown together time and again, Beth begins to second guess her earlier assumptions about William.

Will Pride’s prejudice keep her from a happy ending, or will Beth discover that first impressions aren’t always what they seem?

Based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

My Thoughts
Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book. And I've read a couple books that are based on the same storyline, but with modern twists.
This one has been my favorite.
I just can't help but swoon at the chemistry between Beth and William.

What’s more important: friendship or freedom?

In the eight years since seventeen-year-old Favor Miller’s father died, she’s had to endure her reluctant, self-righteous guardians the Browns. Every day for eight years, they've reminded her that she doesn't fit in, that she’s not one of them. Every day for eight years, she’s eagerly awaited the day when she’ll finally be free to live her life her way.

On the eve of high school graduation, Mr. Brown ambushes Favor with the offer of college funding and a to-die-for summer internship–with the one stipulation that she must discontinue her friendship with his son, Ethan.

Accustomed as she is to sharing everything with her best friend, this is one secret Favor must keep in order to protect Ethan. The distraction of his new girlfriend, her growing friendship with his older brother, and her need to understand her family history, add in further complications.

As Favor debates signing the contract, she must decide if she’s willing to give up her best friend in order to pursue her dreams. Will she have to stay in the place she’s so desperately wanted to escape in order to make the right decision and get what she really needs?

My Thoughts
This was another book based on Jane Austen, but on her story Mansfield Park.
I haven't read that story of hers yet, but I definitely plan on picking it up now.
I loved the tension in this book and the premise of the story line.
My heart was really aching for Favor, and I'm so glad she got her happy ending. 

"No one tried to get involved with me, and I kept to myself. This was the place where everything was supposed to be safe and easy. How could Evan Mathews unravel my constant universe in just one day?"

In the affluent town of Weslyn, Connecticut, where most people worry about what to be seen in and who to be seen with, Emma Thomas would rather not be seen at all. She’s more concerned with feigning perfection—pulling down her sleeves to conceal the bruises, not wanting anyone to know how far from perfect her life truly is. Without expecting it, she finds love. It challenges her to recognize her own worth―at the risk of revealing the terrible secret she’s desperate to hide.

One girl’s story of life-changing love, unspeakable cruelty, and her precarious grasp of hope.

My Thoughts
This was such a deep and intense series. I felt so bad for Emma and all the crap she went through, but I loved how Evan was with her, even as the story progressed. He never left her or gave up on her.

"No secret stays hidden forever."

A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mystery he'd abandoned years before. He never expected a young librarian could hold the key to the search, nor could he have expected the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo will follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, through the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation they never could have predicted.

My Thoughts
This was a vampire series that I didn't realize was a vampire series until about halfway in the book.
But I loved the chemistry between Beatrice and Giovanni, which is what drew me in.
Also the storyline in general. It kept me guessing and wanting to find out all the answers.
There is never a dull moment in this series either. While there are some slower moments, they didn't feel that way.

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

My Thoughts
I feel like people either love or hate this book.
What drew me in, was it's based on the principle of The Bachelor, but set in a dystopian setting.
And I love America. She's always true to herself, despite the circumstances she's thrown into.
I also found myself cheering for Prince Maxon, despite how he handles certain situations.
This also has a triangle love, but I am definitely cheering more for Prince Maxon and I honestly do not know which one America will choose in the last book.

Since she'd been on the outside, she'd survived an Aether storm, she'd had a knife held to her throat, and she'd seen men murdered.

This was worse.

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland--known as The Death Shop--are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild--a savage--and her only hope of staying alive. 

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile--everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

My Thoughts
I loved this series and I can't believe it's over.
I love the world and the characters. I love how strong Perry is, yet how breakable he can be, especially with Aria. And I love how much she grows in the series.
I was a teensy bit disappointed in the ending since it felt rushed to me, but this series falls under the top all time favorites category for me.

Samantha Rousseau is used to getting her hands dirty. Working toward a master’s degree in wildlife biology while helping take care of her sick father, she has no time for celebrity gossip, designer clothes, or lazy vacations. So when a duchess from the small country of Lilaria invites her to dinner, Samantha assumes it’s to discuss a donation for the program. The truth will change the course of her life in ways she never dreamed.

Alex D’Lynsal is trying to keep his name clean. As crown prince of Lilaria, he’s had his share of scandalous headlines, but the latest pictures have sent him packing to America and forced him to swear off women—especially women in the public eye. That is, until he meets Samantha Rousseau. She’s stubborn, feisty, and incredibly sexy. Not to mention heiress to an estate in his country, which makes her everyone’s front-page news.

While Sam tries to navigate the new world of politics and wealth, she will also have to dodge her growing feelings for Alex. Giving in to them means more than just falling in love; it would mean accepting the weight of an entire country on her shoulders.

My Thoughts
This book was like The Prince & Me, but with a more grown up twist, which I loved.
If you enjoy that movie, I guarantee you'll love this one (which I feel like that movie is underrated to begin with).
Plus I loved how sassy Alex was. It was a bit unrealistic how she goes along with it all, but I loved the story nonetheless.

"He was my darkness and I was his light. We couldn't exist without each other."

For me, life was simple. I went to school and studied. I spent time with my friends and stayed out of trouble. I didn't drink or swear and I only dated gentlemen. I was the typical good girl with a bright future. My world seemed perfect. 

But that was about to change.

Ryder Delaney was the one imperfection in my life. He was the bad boy, the black sheep, the one your mother always warned you about. He had only one hard-and-fast rule - Don't fall in love. 

But some rules were meant to be broken.

We were best friends, inseparable since childhood despite our differences. I knew the real man hiding behind the tattoos and bad attitude. He knew all my secrets and dreams. But he didn't know there was one thing I wanted and couldn't have...him.

But sometimes Fate has a way of intervening. Soon our world collapsed. War erupted. Darkness prevailed. Alone and on the run, our only goal was to survive and to ignore the feelings we had for each other. But love is powerful...and so is the darkness.

My Thoughts
This series captured me right away. I can not imagine living in a world like this one, especially since it's so realistic.
Ryder is the typical bad boy, but you can tell he really loves Maddie, despite how he treats her sometimes.
HUGE fan of this series. This author definitely knows how to write angst, drama, romance, and action...and I can't wait to see what else she has in store!

To want what you’re not supposed to have…

She is only nineteen.

She is his new stepfather’s daughter. 

She is still na├»ve and innocent due to spending the last three years taking care of her sick mother. 

But for twenty-four year old Rush Finlay, she is the only thing that has ever been off limits. His famous father’s guilt money, his mother’s desperation to win his love, and his charm are the three reasons he has never been told no.

Blaire Wynn left her small farmhouse in Alabama, after her mother passed away, to move in with her father and his new wife in their sprawling beach house along the Florida gulf coast. She isn’t prepared for the lifestyle change and she knows she’ll never fit into this world. Then there is her sexy stepbrother who her father leaves her with for the summer while he runs off to Paris with his wife. Rush is as spoiled as he is gorgeous. He is also getting under her skin. She knows he is anything but good for her and that he’ll never be faithful to anyone. He is jaded and has secrets Blaire knows she may never uncover but even knowing all of that…

Blaire just may have fallen too far.

My Thoughts
I read several Abbi Glines books last year but this series takes the cake for me.
My heart was just gushing on the chemistry and angst between Blaire and Rush.
I'm so glad they got their happy ending.

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion...she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit--more sparkly, more fun, more wild--the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket--a gifted inventor--steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

My Thoughts
Stephanie Perkins has quickly become a favorite author of mine.
After reading Anna and the French Kiss I had to read this one, and I was not disappointed.
I love how you can still see the characters from Anna in this book too, though they aren't the forefront of the story.
She always makes me laugh out loud with her stories, and I can not wait for the next book to come out this year.

He was tall, at least six feet, with dirty blond hair that hung over his eyes. His T-shirt read Nietzsche Is My Homeboy.

So, that was Matt. Who Julie Seagle likes. A lot. But there is also Finn. Who she flat out loves.

Complicated? Awkward? Completely.

But really, how was this freshly-minted Boston transplant and newbie college freshman supposed to know that she would end up living with the family of an old friend of her mother's? This was all supposed to be temporary. Julie wasn't supposed to be important to the Watkins family, or to fall in love with one of the brothers. Especially the one she's never quite met. But what does that really matter? Finn gets her, like no one ever has before. They have connection.

But here's the thing about love, in all its twisty, bumpy permutations—it always throws you a few curves. And no one ever escapes unscathed.

My Thoughts
This book just really got me when I read it.
I loved how emotionally intense it was and I certainly did not expect the twist it threw.
I also loved that despite how broken the family was, they were still a family underneath the pain and Julie really helped to bring them together.
Definitely a MUST read.

It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

My Thoughts
This is a pretty dark series, but I loved every moment of it.
I love how tough Penryn is. She doesn't take anything lying down but is fighting the entire time.
Raffe is also mysterious but he comes to be the good guy and really pulls through for Penryn.
I can't wait to see where this series goes.

Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she's losing hope.

Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.

Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.

My Thoughts
This was another emotionally intense book for me that I loved.
I don't think I can say how much I enjoyed the chemistry in this book.
My heart definitely goes out to Layken. She goes through so much in this series, but thanks to Will, she's able to pull through.

So those were my favorite reads this last year that I highly recommend giving a try.
I don't think you'll be disappointed in any.

What were your favorite reads last year?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Be Mine

Behind 4th of July, Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays.
I've always loved it, even when I was single.

What can I say? I love love

Instead of showing you some Valentine's goodies that we can all lust over (OK that I will most definitely lust over) I thought I'd show the goodies that I actually have and that are all very affordable.

So here are some of my favorite Valentine's Day items that I plan on using to celebrate the holiday.

I ordered two of these garlands from a friend of mine, which you can find from her Etsy shop here.
For $4, you can't beat it, even if you were planning to make one yourself.
I plan on putting mine on our mantle.

Elise posted a couple of these cards in one of her posts, and I thought they were adorable, so I ordered one.
I'll let you guess which one I ordered myself. ;)
It was the third one.


I busted out my red coat to wear for this month, along with my gold polka dot scarf.
I love this coat because it's a peacoat, but with am empire waist that flares out, and cinches in the back.
Plus I got it for a steal at Macy's a few years back.

You can find a similar coat here, and scarf here.

I plan on sporting my k <3 r necklace.

I printed out this free print to put in the frame that I always have at the window of my sink.

Ryan and I plan on staying in for Valentine's Day this year, to help recoop the costs of everything from Christmas.

So we'll be making dinner…

Beef & Mushroom Braised Stew

…drinking some wine…

…watching a movie…

That I have seen but Ryan hasn't. 
What else is new? 
He doesn't believe this Spiderman series is better than the last but IT IS.

…and enjoying dessert.

Hazelnut Coffee Brownies

I also plan on baking these goodies to share at work.

How do you plan on celebrating Valentine's Day?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What I Wore

I've decided I like it better when I can showcase accessories with the outfit I'm wearing, versus not.

But honestly, I'm debating if I should continue these posts. I'm not getting a lot of feedback on them (not counting you Faith! - pretty sure you're the only one who loves them), so I might nix them.
They're not like those super cool fashion blogs, because I use my phone, and I just don't envision myself as one.

Anyway…here are my most recent outfits. 

I love this lace sleeve sweater top. It's comfy and I just adore that touch of lace. 

Top: Loft    Jeans: ON   Flats: Tory Burch   Necklace: Jane     Bracelets: Kate Spade, Macy's, Kohl's

When I first put on this outfit, I was a bit unsure. It felt like it was out of my comfort level when I put it on.
But I decided to go for it and I'm so glad I did, because now that I look at it, I feel silly for even feeling weird about it at first. 
I have to say, the leggings I'm wearing are blue, but they showed up black in the picture.
Just want to clarify. ;)

Cardigan: ON   Top: F21   Skirt: Loft   Leggings: F21   Boots: Target    Earrings: Kate Spade   Necklace: Jane

Love love love this boatneck sweater from Loft.
So glad I was able to get another one! 
I was unsure of the color, since it's a weird green/brown color, but I'm happy I went with this color over the other option, which was a dark purple (and not a color I like).

Sweater: Loft   Necklaces:  Jane, LC by Lauren Conrad   Jeans: ON   Boot Socks: Jane   Boots: Target

I almost forgot I had these earrings. They match my necklace perfectly!

Sweater: F21   Lace Tank: Maurices   Jeans: ON   Boots: Target   Earrings: Francesca's  Necklace: Target   Monogram Bracelet: Three Hip Chicks

This was my "running errands while wearing my jacket and not ever taking it off so I don't want to be hot" outfit.
Therefore, I didn't put much thought into it. haha

Top: Loft   Jeans: ON   Flats: Tory Burch   Bracelets: Boutique, Biltmore   Earrings: Boutique

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What's On The Menu

This will be my first week of cooking on a normal person schedule.
Needless to say I'm stoked. ;)

Here's a look into what I have planned out for this week.

{ Turkey & Spinach Enchiladas }

I already made this last week and it was delicious!
I subbed the turkey for shredded chicken, since I didn't have any turkey on hand. I also used fresh spinach. 
loathe frozen spinach so anytime a recipe ever calls for frozen, I use fresh. I hate the water that comes from frozen, plus it just tastes weird. Fresh is the way to go!

I honestly thought I wouldn't love this dish. Y'all know I'm big on sauces, and I was NOT missing it on this dish. I also loved how it calls for greek yogurt for the filling. 
I finished it off by spraying the enchiladas with cooking spray (I use coconut oil from Trader Joe's) before sticking it in the oven to give it more of a crisp taste.

{ Eggplant Rollatini }

{ Black Bean & Quinoa Enchilada Casserole }

Another dish I made last night. It was a bit on the spicy side, but I loved it! 
I really enjoyed how different the enchilada sauce was and it really made this dish stand out. Plus I loved the black beans in it.

{ Pork Tenderloin Paprikash }

I also plan on making another dish from my fabulous new cookbook.

{ Skillet Rosemary Chicken }

And since today is a SNOW DAY and I don't have to go into work AND I get paid (have I mentioned how much I love my job?! DAYS!) - I'm planning on making these today to also enjoy for breakfast, along with the smoothies I prepped on Sunday afternoon.
I was wanting to do these on Sunday, but ran out of time.
The snow day was meant to be. ;)

{ Turkey Sausage Egg Muffins }

{ Paleo Pecan Banana Bread }

What do you have planned out for this week?