23 April 2019

10 on Tuesday {Mother's Day Gifts}

Hey y' all,

I cannot believe that it is almost May and that means Mother's day is only a few weeks away. I lucked out that my parents are only a short drive away and I will actually be spending Mother's day weekend with my family. My mom is not a big gifts person. She likes what she likes and we are typically pulling teeth to get gift ideas for Christmas. Also, her birthday is in early April so we sometimes are scrambling to think of things just one-month latter. Here are 10 things I know my mom would love for Mother's Day including the gift I purchased.

My mom is all about comfort, books, and loves her garden. Barnes and Noble gift cards are the go-to gifts for my mom but this year I have been looking at different experiences for us. For her birthday I grabbed us tickets to see Aladdin the musical this Fall in Durham and for mother's day, we are taking a tour of the Duke Lemur Center this summer.

Other ideas that I came across included creating a Chatbook of photos from us as kids to now. I am working on making myself Chatbooks from the last few years as yearbooks. What mom doesn't love a way to show off her kids or grandkids?

My Mom also loves to cook and search for healthy recipes so I thought of the latest Skinnytaste cookbook to add to her kitchen. I have realized that I love when food bloggers create cookbooks since they are very user-friendly and filled with images of the food as a guide.

If your mom is a green thumb like mine, she might appreciate a good fiddle leaf fig. They are gorgeous plants and you can order them off Amazon to ship directly to your mom without a trip to the local nursery.

Lake pajamas are on my wishlist and I know my mom would enjoy new pjs as well. I think there is something magical about a new set of pjs that gets you excited to slow down, hop in bed, and relax. We all know our moms deserve that extra rest after chasing after us for years.

Another fun gift I have given in the past is chocolates from a local shop. Expensive chocolates are not something people often buy for themselves so I love gifting it and finding new local chocolate shops is part of the adventure. Videri in Raleigh even allows tours of their chocolate factory.

Other mom approved gifts: a Tervis tumbler for drinks on the go and at home, her current favorite hand cream, and a Barefoot Dreams cardigan. I grabbed my mom a Barefoot Dreams cardigan for Christmas and she wears it around the house to stay cozy.

What are you gifting your mom?
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22 April 2019

Meal Planning Monday {April 22}

Hey y'all,

I know deciding what to make for meals for the week can be a struggle. I start to sit down on Thursdays to brainstorm for the week ahead. I also hosted friends over for lunch yesterday so I wanted to keep meals simple this week and use up any leftovers. We were just hanging out and watching Hallmark movies so I wanted to keep foods simple and healthy. We had a cheese tray, salami, crackers, biscuits with jam, fruit salad, a veggie tray, and some Reese's eggs. We snacked, chatted, and watched Hallmark for almost 8 hours yesterday. I would consider it a perfect Easter weekend.
Here's my meal plan for lunch and dinners this week. As a single gal, I often cook a meal and eat the same things over a few days. With the FWTFL this is really helpful as I can just copy over the meal from one day to the next:

Monday-low carb day in FWTFL

Lunch: Big Mac Salad.
I cut up romaine, cherry tomatoes, onion, pickles, some of the leftover cheddar that is lactose free and grilled up a Trader Joe's turkey burger. I will be serving the salad with Sir Kensington's special sauce as my dressing.
Snacks: Strawberries and 1oz of cashews
Dinner: Shrimp Scampi and Spaghetti Squash
I went ahead and roasted my spaghetti squash last night while cleaning up my kitchen. Today all I will have to whip together is the shrimp scampi. I am using Danielle Walker's recipe here.

Tuesday-low carb day and a repeat of Monday.

Lunch: Big Mac Salad.
I already prepped Tuesday's lunch when I made Monday's last night so I am all prepped
Snacks: Strawberries (the other half of the pint) and 1oz of cashews
Dinner: Shrimp Scampi and Spaghetti Squash
I will eat the other half of my spaghetti squash and shrimp scampi. I don't love reheating seafood so I am only planning on making enough for two meals.

Wednesday-regular macro day

Lunch: Buffalo chicken dip with mashed potatoes
I discovered the Paleo Running Momma's blog when prepping for a Whole30. I made her buffalo chicken dip and I love it! I am not a huge spice person so I did reduce the Frank's sauce to 1/4 cup instead of a 1/3. I love serving this with veggies on top of mashed potatoes. Yum! I will prep this on Tuesday night after B3.
Snack: Green smoothie.
Spinach, collagen peptides, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup frozen tropical fruit, protein powder, and water.
Dinner: Pasta Salad and Grilled Turkey Hotdogs
I love a good summer dish and pasta salad is one of my mom's go-to for cookouts. While I love my mom's recipe I am tweaking her recipe to be healthier. I am using a mix of whole grain rotini, this chickpea rotini, and red lentil rotini as my base. This adds a lot more protein to the dish. I will chop up the extra veggies from Sunday's veggie tray, add in some olives, and toss with the Primal Kitchen's Italian dressing. I will serve the pasta salad with grilled Applegate hotdogs, the turkey hotdogs are my favorite.

Thursday-regular macro day

Same as Wednesday:
Lunch: Buffalo chicken dip with mashed potatoes, and a side salad with my favorite DF ranch.
Snack: green smoothie
Dinner: pasta salad and grilled hotdog

Friday-low macro day

Lunch: buffalo chicken dip with mashed potatoes, celery, and carrots
Snack: banana. carrots with hummus.
Dinner: Turkey burger with pasta salad and fruit.


Treat: The last two weeks I have treated myself to a Chick-fil-a chicken biscuit after Barre3 on Saturday mornings since I have had to stop by the mall for returns. I'm not sure if I will continue with that treat or grab a cinnamon white chocolate scone from La Farm before hitting the grocery store.
Lunch: Cobb salad or Ceasar salad depending on what I have left in the fridge.
Dinner: out with friends after church

Sunday-low macro day

Sunday I have not prepped for as I will be headed out of town for the night. I will probably eat any leftovers hiding in my fridge for a quick lunch and prep for my meals for the week before my quick night away.

What are you making for meals this week?
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18 April 2019

Currently {April 18}

Hey y'all,

It has been a while since I caught up with you on what is currently happening here in my life.
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watching: I always think that April is such a weird TV time as shows are ending and the summer ones haven't really started. Here are the three shows I am recording on my DVR this week:
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reading: I just started April's book club book: This is How it Always Is on audio and I am almost done with the third Maiden Lane book-Scandalous Desires.
This is How It Always Is
eating: Mandarin Chicken from Trader Joe's with brown rice, peas, and carrots for dinner tonight.

wearing: Sandals! I can finally break out the sandals this week as the temperatures have been decent and the rain has held off the last few days. I have been loving my Sam Edelman GiGi sandals as always and I am tempted to grab a new pair as DSW has a gold pair for under $50 and this silver pair for under $40! Also, Zappos has a cute jute pair for under $45. My last silver pair was actually destroyed when pet sitting a few years ago so I have been rocking my cork pair. These are my go-to sandals apart from my Jacks.
SAM EDELMAN Gigi Sandal, Main, color, NATURAL CORK
loving: all the new spring arrivals. I am head over heels for this top, this swing dress, this top, and this tank. I am currently on a buying freeze as my last few shoe purchases were all duds so I am going to hold off shopping online for a few weeks until I can go shopping for spring/summer in person.

waiting: for Sunday. I will be attending Easter service tonight actually as I will be serving in the kid's area this weekend but on Sunday, friends are coming over for food and Hallmark movies. It sounds like the perfect restful day to celebrate the one who paid it all.
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saddened by: Notre Dame's fire. As an art history major, growing up in the Catholic faith and visiting the gorgeous cathedral in middle school my heart is broken for Paris this week. However, I am also reminded by Sheila Walsh "In the middle of the ashes, the cross remains. A powerful reminder as we move toward Good Friday. No matter the devastation we face, no matter what is burned up, the cross is victorious and Sunday is on its way."
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I'm also saddened by the gas explosion in downtown Durham this month. It is devastating for the downtown area and the poor owner of the coffee shop who lost his life.
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What's currently happening with you?
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17 April 2019

What I'm Reading Wednesday {March Reads}

Hey y'all,

With today's post, I am all caught up on sharing my reads for the year. If you want to check out what I have read so far, here's January and February's reads. March was a big reading month as I finished up an audiobook and a physical book that I had to return mid-read to the library and wait for them to return from the holds list. This was also the first month that I had some duds in my reading life this year.

The Kiss Quotient

The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient, #1)Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...

This was a quick tomance that reminded me of the Wedding Date. I felt that the story really focused on the physical relationship rather than the emotional part but I was really glad to see more representation in the romance genre. 3/5 stars.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me-audiobook

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

Since the audiobook was under five hours, I cranked this book out one week. It focuses on Mindy's background and a few anecdotes. I was not super impressed but I think the comedian books are just not for me. I have tried a few and they all fall flat. 2.5/5 stars.

A Discovery of Witches-audiobook

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. 

I was first recommended A Discovery of Witches from a mom of kids I was babysitting back in 2013. Yep, I am late to the game but when the trailer came out for the show early this year I was intrigued and requested the audiobook. If you enjoy history, fantasy, and a bit of romance I highly recommend the book. The show just began to premiere on US tv on BBC America and AMC this month. 4.5/5 stars.

Devil's Daughter

Devil's Daughter (The Ravenels, #5)Although beautiful young widow Phoebe, Lady Clare, has never met West Ravenel, she knows one thing for certain: he's a mean, rotten bully. Back in boarding school, he made her late husband's life a misery, and she'll never forgive him for it. But when Phoebe attends a family wedding, she encounters a dashing and impossibly charming stranger who sends a fire-and-ice jolt of attraction through her. And then he introduces himself...as none other than West Ravenel.
West is a man with a tarnished past. No apologies, no excuses. However, from the moment he meets Phoebe, West is consumed by irresistible desire...not to mention the bitter awareness that a woman like her is far out of his reach. What West doesn't bargain on is that Phoebe is no straitlaced aristocratic lady. She's the daughter of a strong-willed wallflower who long ago eloped with Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent—the most devilishly wicked rake in England.
Before long, Phoebe sets out to seduce the man who has awakened her fiery nature and shown her unimaginable pleasure. Will their overwhelming passion be enough to overcome the obstacles of the past?
Only the devil's daughter knows...

I fell hard for Lisa Kleypas last year and breezed through the Wallflower series and the Ravenels.  If you love a good historical romance series I reccomend starting with the Wallflowers. This book marries the two series when Phoebe and West finally have their story. The story was fun and charming and I love that Phoebe's spirit is encouraged. Plus, we got another side of West who is one of my favorite gentlemen of the books. 3.5/5 stars.

The Dinner List

The Dinner ListWe’ve been waiting for an hour. That’s what Audrey says. She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just bordering on cursive. That’s the thing I think first. Not: Audrey Hepburn is at my birthday dinner, but Audrey Hepburn is annoyed.
At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Rebecca Serle contends within her utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as One Day,and the life-changing romance of Me Before You.
When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past, and well, Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together.

This book took a while to get into and I even had to return it to the library and pick it back up weeks later due to the holds list. The premise of the book is the age-old question if you could dine with anyone living or dead, who would you choose? For Sabrina, this dinner is a reality on her birthday. Her best friend, Audrey Hepburn, a favorite college professor, her deceased father, and her ex all great her for her birthday dinner. While I like the concept, I felt the book was slow and I was never captivated. There are some sweet redemptive moments and it does remind us there are always two sides to the story. 2.5/5 stars.

Duke of Midnight

Duke of Midnight (Maiden Lane, #6)
Twenty years ago Maximus Batten witnessed the brutal murders of his parents. Now the autocratic Duke of Wakefield, he spends his days ruling Parliament. But by night, disguised as the Ghost of St. Giles, he prowls the grim alleys of St. Giles, ever on the hunt for the murderer. One night he finds a fiery woman who meets him toe-to-toe—and won't back down . . . 
Artemis Greaves toils as a lady's companion, but hiding beneath the plain brown serge of her dress is the heart of a huntress. When the Ghost of St. Giles rescues her from footpads, she recognizes a kindred spirit-and is intrigued. She's even more intrigued when she realizes who exactly the notorious Ghost is by day . . . 
Artemis makes a bold move: she demands that Maximus use his influence to free her imprisoned brother-or she will expose him as the Ghost. But blackmailing a powerful duke isn't without risks. Now that she has the tiger by the tail, can she withstand his ire-or the temptation of his embrace?

Do you ever accidentally read a book in the middle of a series? The Duke of Midnight is the 6th book in the Maiden Lane series and is a cute romance that has made me start back at the beginning. I loved the strong personality of Artemis as the couple struggled between obligations, expectations, and their hearts. 3/5 stars.

Shadow of Night-audiobook

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2)Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

I, of course, picked up the next book in the All Souls Triology when I finished A Discovery of Witches. Each of the audiobooks is over 24 hours of listening time but I could have sat for more as this book takes the series into the past with more history! As an art history minor and an English major I was captivated by the Elizabethan world, Diana and Matthew are placed in during this part of the series. 4/5 stars.

The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it's been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what's been missing in her life, and when she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

This was March's book club pick by Laura. The language of flowers tied together the communicative real language of flowers with the foster care system. If you have not researched the meaning of flowers from the Victorian era I would recommend looking into it. Ladies would decipher bouquets from beaus to communicate. The book brought up lots of conversations regarding transitions, communication, and self-worth. 3.5/5 stars.

What are you reading?
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12 April 2019

Five on Friday {April 12}

Hey y'all,

We made it to Friday! I am excited for a pretty calm weekend over here. My only big plans involve a picnic with other Pre-K leaders after church on Sunday. I am ready to deep clean, take some naps, and read this weekend. Here are five things I am loving this week:

one. Afternoon Tea Cookoff.

My work hosted an afternoon tea cookoff this week and I submitted banana chocolate chip mini-muffins using Robyn's recipe. They were great but did not place in the competition. My co-worker's amazing cardamon and chai ganache macarons won.

two. Easter card.

My parents are the sweetest and while they will be traveling during the holiday, they still sent us kids a treat and card to celebrate. Now I just need to go purchase some Reese's eggs before they disappear from stores.
Springtime Animals Pop Up Easter Card,

three. Southern Women's Show.

Last night I was able to attend a preview of the Southern Women's Show here in Raleigh this weekend. The show kicks off today at 10am if you are in the area and want to check it out at the state fairgrounds. It was a fun blogger event filled with treats, wine, and some fun swag from the vendors.
The event is only $10 if you purchase your tickets online ($12 at the door) and includes amazing vendors from around the state, fashion shows, celebrity guests (like Tyson Beckford and Monty Durham), and food. Here's the stage schedule.
The Food Lion stage included a wonderful demo of a black and blue steak flatbread that was amazing!

four. She Reads Truth study.

This week started the She Read's Truth Easter study called Because He Lives. I have loved this first week since it has been focused on our need for a savior. You can catch up on the reading here.

five. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

I watched this Youtube series a few years ago but after chatting with friends a few weeks ago I was reminded of the show and rewatched the 100 episode web series. If you are a Pride and Prejudice fan, this is one of my favorite adaptations. It is a vlog-style show where Lizzie is a graduate student and the diary is her thesis.

Link up with April, Christina, and Natasha.  
Also linking up with Tif, Becky, and Katie.
And Erika, Narci, and Andrea
What does your weekend look like?
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10 April 2019

What I'm Reading Wednesday {February Reads}

Hey y'all,

Last week I shared the books I finished in January and I'm catching up on February's reads today!

A Spark of Light - audiobook

A Spark of LightThe warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.
After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.
But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

I love Jodi Picoult and this book was another wonderful story of a very difficult topic. I actually have studied the decrease in abortion clinics due to various laws when I was in college as I have a minor in Women's Studies. Picoult in interviews discussed the amount of research and shadowing she completed before writing this novel. It is filled with both sides of the argument and would make for very interesting discussion. 4/5 stars.

Things You Save in a Fire - ARC

Things You Save in a FireCassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she's seen her fair share of them, and she's excellent at dealing with other people's tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it's an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.
The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie's old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren't exactly thrilled to have a "lady" on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn't seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can't think about that. Because she doesn't fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don't date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping...but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she's worked so hard to be taken seriously?

I received this book as an advanced reader copy from NetGalley and the novel comes out this fall. It's a wonderful story of family and forgiveness that weaves the lessons into prose seamlessly. This book had me in tears. I loved the ending but the whole story was a beautiful tale of connection, love, and hope. It took a few chapters to get into the story then I was hooked. 5/5 stars.

How to Walk Away

How to Walk AwayMargaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancĂ© she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment. 
In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect. 

A book that starts with one of my worst fears (seriously, travel anxiety over here) unfolds a beautiful story of tragedy woven with family, love, perseverance, and hope. Like Things You Save in A Fire this novel left me in tears! Also, can I just say I love that although there is a happy ending, not everything is magically fixed by the end, but is realistic, hard, and true. “When you don’t know what to do for yourself, do something for someone else.” I now want to read Katherine Center's other works. 5/5 stars.

The Hating Game

The Hating GameNemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.
Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

I thought this was a sweet rom-com style novel of two assistants who are fighting for the same job but also falling in love with one another. I read it over Valentine's weekend and it is another great book to put on your pool/beach read list. I loved Lucy's strong personality and it was a believable romance. 3.5/5 stars.

Jane of Austin: A novel of Sense and Sensibility

Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and SensibilityJust a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.
But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.
While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas. 

If you didn't know I am a huge Jane Austen fan, I even have a Jane Austen action figure so I will read anything with a Jane Austen spin. This is not a retelling of any of the books but has a bit of a Sense and Sensibility spin but with a few other Austen novels sprinkled in. If you love tea, Jane Austen, and Texas, this is the book for you. Also, what kind of BBQ fan are you since I missed my Texas brisket BBQ after this book. 3/5 stars.

The Age of Innocence - audiobook

The Age of InnocenceThis is Newland Archer’s world as he prepares to marry the beautiful but conventional May Welland. But when the mysterious Countess Ellen Olenska returns to New York after a disastrous marriage, Archer falls deeply in love with her. Torn between duty and passion, Archer struggles to make a decision that will either courageously define his life—or mercilessly destroy it. 

This was my book club's February read and while I can appreciate the novel for it's Pulitzer prize win, I was not a fan. I tend to enjoy literature from this century so I think I went into the book with high expectations. There was not a lot of action but mostly character development. 2/5 stars.

What have you been reading?
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05 April 2019

April Goals

Hey y'all,

It has been a hectic March and start to April as I am now home after pet/house sitting for 12 days. I am ready to get back into my routine and really focus for the rest of this month. I think often times when we are in a hectic season we focus on completing all the things well. This month, I am choosing to go back to the basics with my goals and get back to good, healthy, soul-filling routines.
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Since this month is all about getting back into my routine, I wanted to make my goals centered around the same focus:

complete my first FWTFL round and sign up for my second round.
I have been loving this way of eating and my coach is so helpful. I plan to finish my round on April 21st and jump right into the next round to keep the momentum going.

barre3 class 2-3 times a month. 
With petsitting and traveling I have not been attending my barre3 studio classes as often. My goal is to be back to 4 times a week by June so this is a step in the right direction.

celebrate Easter at my church.
Easter is always a big event at my church and I am ready to spend intentional time in the word leading up to Easter with my SheReadsTruth plan. I will be volunteering in the kid's area for a few of the services and spending Easter brunch with friends

begin spring cleaning and decluttering.
I will be starting the Ruthless Declutter Challenge and cleaning challenge in April through May to start the summer with a clean and organized space.

read 5 books.
I have been enjoying focusing on reading before bed over the last three months. Here's to more library trips and great stories.

build community by having a meal with a friend at least once a week.
One of my biggest goals this year is to build up my community. I am trying to deepen my relationships with friends by having at least one meal with a friend. I already have some of these nights planned and I'm excited about great food and great conversations.

What are your goals for this month?

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03 April 2019

What I'm Reading Wednesday {January Reads}

Hey y'all,

I'm going to be playing catch up for the next few weeks of sharing what I have been reading this year. So far, there have not been many that I did not enjoy which is always a nice surprise. Here's what I finished in January:

An Anonymous Girl

An Anonymous GirlWhen Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.
But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking… and what she’s hiding.
As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

This is the second novel from Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen and I loved their first book, The Wife Between Us. While I still love their first book more, this was a fun thriller. As usual with the author's style, there are a lot of twists in the book and it kept me guessing for a good bit of the book and I am known to figure it out early on.  4/5 stars.

Where the Crawdads Sing - audiobook

Where the Crawdads SingFor years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

This was my book club's January book and with the recommendation by Reese Witherspoon, this book has been everywhere. I did grab the audiobook and enjoyed the story. While I know a lot of people have given the story rave reviews, I thought the book was a bit hard to get into, however, the second half reminded me a lot of To Kill A Mockingbird and that is one of my all-time favorite stories. If you love Southern literature with a bit of a mystery, this book could be for you. There was a lot of good discussion in my group and since we are based in NC it was interesting to have a story set here, although, Asheville would be a long drive for supplies. 4/5 stars.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz
The Tattooist of AuschwitzIn April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

This was a relatively quick read for me. I know WWII literature has made a big comeback, Heather Morris, the author actually met and interviewed Lale Sokolov before writing his story. The book has some fictionalized pieces which are why this is not considered non-fiction. Morris also originally wrote Lale's story as a screenplay so be prepared for a lot of dialogue. My family has visited the Dachau concentration camp so I could clearly visualize the horrors described in the book.  I would recommend you read with a box of Kleenex nearby. This was an interesting peek into one of the most notorious concentration camps in a different perspective of a Jewish man working for the Nazis. 5/5 stars.

Eleanor & Park - audiobook

Eleanor & ParkEleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

I really enjoyed Rainbow Rowell's book Landline so I grabbed this YA fiction. While I enjoyed the story and characters of Eleanor and Park finding each other and their shared interests, I felt like the ending had no great resolution. While I know that often occurs in life, I love more tidy endings in my book. 3.5/5 stars.

The Accidental Beauty Queen

The Accidental Beauty QueenCharlotte Gorman loves her job as an elementary school librarian and is content to experience life through the pages of her books. Which couldn’t be more opposite from her identical twin sister? Ginny, an Instagram-famous beauty pageant contestant, has been chasing a crown since she was old enough to enunciate the words world peace, and she’s not giving up until she gets the title of Miss American Treasure. And Ginny’s refusing to do it alone this time.
She drags Charlotte to the pageant as a good luck charm, but the winning plan quickly goes awry when Ginny has a terrible, face-altering allergic reaction the night before the pageant, and Charlotte suddenly finds herself in a switcheroo the twins haven’t successfully pulled off in decades.
Woefully unprepared for the glittery world of hair extensions, false eyelashes, and push-up bras, Charlotte is mortified at every unstable step in her sky-high stilettos. But as she discovers there’s more to her fellow contestants than just wanting a sparkly crown, Charlotte realizes she has a whole new motivation for winning.

If you are like me, you enjoy a quick chick lit read. I love to watch pageants and have even hosted a watch party for the Miss America pageant. This story was so sweet about twin sisters and finding your own voice. Think Miss Congeniality with a librarian instead of an FBI agent. I think this would be a perfect pool/beach read. 4/5 stars.

What have you been reading?
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01 April 2019

Growing in Gratitude {March}

Hey y'all,

I am linking up with Julie of Fall into Life for her monthly gratitude recap. Here are a few things I am grateful for from March:

My Post-2

-allergy medications that help me enjoy the beautiful weather when the pollen count is high here in NC.

-the Fresh Market for making meal planning easier this month.

-loving parents and quiet weekends visiting them. I enjoyed a wonderful weekend with my parents that included wonderful meals, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and walks at the community park.

-neosporin. I splattered oil on my hand while cooking a little over a week ago. I am thankful for medications when dealing with burns.

-a church that emphasizes biblical literacy and pouring into the women through the women's conference.

-team Simplified facebook lives. For the past few days, Emily Ley has been hosting a Facebook live every day and an Instagram lives every afternoon in prep for the launch of their academic calendars. These lives have been filled with such encouragement and I would recommend you watch Overcoming Overwhelm and Simplified Self Care.

-tax returns which allow me to pay off my final student loan!

-local libraries with auto-renew for the times I have 15 books out of the library and there is only a two-week loan period.

-dinners with friends with great conversation.

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