It's the last Friday of October... so nuts. We don't have much on the agenda this weekend thankfully considering Nick and I have both had colds all week, blah. We'll probably just hang out around home, hopefully have lots of trick-or-treaters (because I have lots of candy ready to go) and then take our Christmas cards pictures on Sunday afternoon! Cannnnnot wait. What's on your weekend agenda?
I'm excited about this post because I'm excited about these books! Now that I've gotten through almost all of my summer reads (All of the Light We Cannot See being my very fave), it's about that time to order up a new set of books. Most of these have come at the recommendation of other bloggers and I can't wait to get into them! You'll have to let me know if you've read any of these or have additional recommendations for me. Happy reading!
The Paris Wifeby Paula McClain
Chicago 1920; Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight year old who has all but given up on love and happiness - until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking, fast-living, and free-loving life of Jazz Age Paris. Eventually they find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage - a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they've fought so hard for.
Eight Hundred Grapesby Laura Dave
Growing up on her family's Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother's lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: holding hands. But just a week before her wedding, Georgia discovers her beloved fiance has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever. Georgia does what she's always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long married parents, her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiance is not the only one who's been keeping secrets...
The Nightingaleby Kristin Hannah
In the quiet village of Carriveau France in 1939, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn't believe that the Nazis will invade France... but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne's home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
After Youby JoJo Moyes (the sequel to Me Before You!)
Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months she spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can't help but feel she's right back where she started. She ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group - sharing insights, laughter, frustrations and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding - the paramedic and the one may who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will's past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future...
Luckiest Girl Aliveby Jessica Knoll
As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiance, she's this close to living the perfect life she's worked so hard to achieve. But Ani has a secret. There's something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.
The Royal Weby Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it's Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.
I knew I should have shared a disclaimer on Friday that this weekend was going to get the best of me and I wouldn't show up here until Tuesday, ha! We had such a good time over Homecoming, but we are definitely still recovering. Things pretty much went like this: tailgate, drink, drink, watch football, take a nap, drink, drink, eat all of the fried food, drink. Just can't hang like that anymore! Thank goodness this weekend comes only once a year ;)
Friday night was a little more low key before everyone got into town as I went to our Junior League soup exchange. So much fun and soooo much good food. I ended up taking home a cheese soup, corn chowder, stuffed pepper soup and potato leek, but it's safe to say I wanted one of everything. Since we're heading right into soup weather season, I thought I would share my favorites from our soup exchange... make sure to let me know what yours are, too!
I can't believe it's Friday again! This week totally got away from me with trying to get ready for our guests that will be arriving tonight. Working on the bathroom, guest room and cleaning the house - that's about what I've been up to! We've also had some seriously beautiful weather so I tried to get out and take advantage of that as much as possible, I feel like we may have experienced our last 70 degree day of 2015, so sad :( But that also means we're that much closer to the holidays! The only reason that's only on my mind is because I may or may not have bought my first piece of Christmas decor this week... okay, I did. And I love it.
On to my five on Friday...
ONE | Are you guys watching Code Black on CBS? It's definitely my favorite new TV show this fall, I'm obsessed. I've always been a big fan of medical dramas though so that's probably why I love it. Does anyone remember ER from the 90's/2000's? Netflix really needs to bring that one back!
TWO | I'm beyond bored with my usual lunch rotation. I always either have some kind of sandwich (turkey, grilled cheese, caprese) or leftovers, but lately I've been wanting to mix it up instead. What are your favorite lunches?
THREE | Now that we have our new couches, we are in desperate need of a new coffee table. Nick wants a traditional wooden one, but I'm kind of leaning more towards an ottoman style. Erin Gates from Elements of Style rounded up a bunch of them this week - see here. This one is my personal favorite, but of course it's $$$.
FOUR | Tonight, our Junior League chapter is hosting a Soup Exchange. We each bring 6 individual quarts of soup (I'm bringing this minestrone - SO GOOD) and then 1 serving is for tasting, 1 is to donate to an organization we work with and the other 4 get to be taken home by other ladies. I'm excited to try some new soups - I guess I can eat those for lunch, haha.
FIVE | We scheduled our Christmas card photos for next Sunday! I'm so excited and also slightly nervous as to how Brady is going to do. I feel like he's going to be wild and all over the place - if anyone has any tips on how to reign pets in to get a good picture, feel free to throw them my way ;)
Today I'm bringing a recipe back from the archives - all the way back from my second month of blogging in October 2013! 99% of you weren't around back then and this one is just too good to be lost in the past. Because pumpkin + brownies? That's a yes all around. These are so so so good and you probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry already. It's a nice fall (some may say basic ;)) twist on a classic dessert.
1 18 oz box of brownies (I used Betty Crocker's Fudge Brownies)
Whatever your brownie mix calls for (oil, water, eggs)
For Pumpkin Filling: 6 tbsp cream cheese softened 1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) 1 egg 3 tbsp white sugar 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray.
In a mixing bowl, mix your brownie batter powder with ingredients called for on box.
In another bowl, combine all pumpkin filling ingredients and beat with mixer until smooth. The cream cheese may take a little bit to mix so make sure you have softened it beforehand (I popped mine in the microwave for about 30 seconds).
Fill baking dish with 3/4 of your brownie batter. Pour all of the pumpkin batter on top of that.
Top the pumpkin batter with the remaining 1/4 brownie batter. Optional: Using a fork, gently swirl the top layers of brownie and pumpkin to create a marble design.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
This weekend was awesome. I had a friends baby shower on Saturday afternoon, but otherwise we had no where to be, no plans, no schedules. JUST what we finally needed after a really crazy, nonstop summer/fall so far! Not to mention, this coming weekend is Homecoming, so all of our friends will be coming into stay with us. Basically we need to rest ahead of time and that is exactly what we did over the last couple of days!
Friday night, we went out for pizza and then came home to our new couch that we L-O-V-E and watched a couple episodes of Lost before heading to bed on time. We were up early the next morning so I could get ready for the shower which was an hour and a half away, and Nick got to work on painting our upstairs guest bathroom. We went with Benjamin Moore's White Dove and I'm so excited about decorating an all white bathroom.
The baby shower was super cute - the theme was fall so there were lots of pumpkins and mums everywhere and the best candy apples for dessert. I wish I would have taken pictures, but it's kind of nice to just be in the moment sometimes, you know?
Afterwards, I headed home and straight to the couch for the big Michigan vs. Michigan State game. My dad has always been a huuuge Michigan fan so naturally we are too now. If you follow college football at all, you probably heard about this game because it was insane but basically Michigan was ahead the entire time and then with 15 seconds left, fumbled the ball and MSU scored and won the game. It was brutal. I didn't even text my dad to see how he was doing because I just knew he was probably having a meltdown, ha!
We rallied after the game for dinner at a nearby restaurant where I had the most amazing salmon that you may have seen on Instagram. Also basically my only picture I took this entire weekend ;)
Sunday was for grocery shopping, finishing up painting the bathroom, Brady walks, baked chicken tacos, naps and watching the Detroit Lions win their first game of the year against the Bears! A perfect day. A perfect weekend actually - it was so nice to relax and go at our own pace for the first weekend in a long time. Looking forward to this week though, it's supposed to be beautiful weather and of course, getting ready to see all of our friends when they come into town on Friday! 5 days to go... :)
Our new couch is being delivered today and I am soooo excited! We ended up going with the second/white one and I think it's going to look great in our living room. We also ordered a loveseat, but that one won't be delivered for 6-8 weeks so things will be looking a little bare for a while. I don't even care though because I'm just so happy to be getting rid of our current falling apart couch ;)
I also have a friends baby shower this weekend... and then nothing else planned. Can't wait for a relaxing weekend - probably full of binge watching Lost since it's supposed to be a chilly, cloudy couple of days! Hope you all have a good one, too!
+ Pizzadillas... a combo of pizza and quesadilla. Could we possibly need anything else? Besides a side of ranch for dipping...
Did you hear that Shopbop is having their annual friends & family sale yet?!? ;) I'm sure you've heard it a million times, but don't mind me jumping on the bandwagon today. Shopbop doesn't run too many sales so it's always smart to take advantage of them when they do - or at least that's how I justify it, ha! Plus, they have free shipping/returns and the shipping is out of this world fast. Anyway, here's a roundup of a few pieces included in the sale that I'm all about!
Bread & Wine is a collection of essay's about family relationships, friendships and the meals that bring us together. This mix of Anne Lamott and Barefoot Contessa is a funny, honest and vulnerable memoir. It's a celebration of of food shared, reminding readers of the joy found in life around the table. It's about the ways that God teaches and nourishes people as they nourish the people around them. It's about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two.
I was really excited to get it (ordered off of Amazon here), but the hype was so high that I was figured it wouldn't live up to my expectations. I was happily wrong! Bread & Wine is really that good, all the hype is totally warranted. Each chapter is a short story that usually concludes with a recipe. The stories are heartwarming and feel good, and the recipes are mouth watering but still doable for non-chefs like us.
Shauna writes in a way that feels like you're catching up with an old friend. She's open and real and honest and it's really refreshing. Things aren't sugarcoated in the book, but I liked that. She shares stories about her family, friends, food and her relationship with God - I learned a lot about my own relationships from hers. This book is just good for the soul reading and it may very well be my favorite book of 2015 so far, too.
If you're not huge into cooking, that's okay too! I think you'll still enjoy this book because it's Shauna's story telling that makes this book so great. The recipes are just a bonus, in my opinion. She has tons of good ones, but my very favorite recipe in the book is her basic risotto.
I'd never made risotto before because it just seemed intimidating. Complicated and easy to mess up are usually things I prefer to stay away from in the kitchen. But she mentioned this risotto recipe in the book quite a few times, enough times that I HAD to try it. And again I was pleasantly surprised, it really was easy! It's more of a time consuming recipe than a difficult one. It requires your attention and takes a little bit of time, but it's so worth it.
My favorite thing about risotto (besides how delicious it is), is that you can customize it a million ways. I love to throw in asparagus and roasted tomatoes, or you can do mushroom, shallots, corn, shrimp, spinach, peas, sun dried tomatoes - anything. Not to mention the leftovers. This is an awesome recipe to make on the weekend when you have a bit more time and then eat it all week because it makes tons of food! I cut the recipe in half when I make it and we still have plenty of leftovers.
Boil the 6 cups of chicken broth in a small pot while you chop the onions and press your garlic cloves.
Pour a thin layer of olive oil into a dutch oven or stockpot. Throw in the onions and soften on medium/medium low heat for five minutes or so. Next, add your 4 garlic cloves and give it three more minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the garlic smell takes over your kitchen (the best)!
Throw in the arborio rice to the garlic/onion mixture and stir, stir, stir. Once the rice is coated thoroughly, add in 1 cup of white wine and stir, stir, stir. Stirring is key to risotto if you haven't noticed yet ;)
Once the wine is absorbed (about a minute or so), add a cup of warmed broth and stirrrrr. What you're trying to do now is keep the risotto from drowning, but also keep it from drying out. I keep the heat at medium - you definitely don't want your rice boiling, more like slightly simmering if that makes sense.
Again, after the rice absorbs the broth, add in another cup of broth. Keep adding broth cup by cup and stirring every couple of minutes until broth is gone. This takes me about 30 minutes to finish. The risotto is done when the rice feels soft with a bite in the middle. Remember, it's supposed to have that bite so don't keep cooking to get rid of it - you'll overcook if you do that!
Last step: mix in a handful of Parmesan cheese and finish with a couple rough grinds of black pepper.
Y-U-M. Make sure to let me know if you try it and/or if you have any questions on the recipe! Enjoy!
After a few hours of wine/champagne/appetizers, we headed over to another bar that plays live music. Nick and I attempted to take a selfie and this was about as good as it was getting! I laugh out loud every time I look at this picture. We called it a night around midnight since we had to be up bright & early the next morning for tailgating.
The next morning came very quickly after our Friday night fun. Nothing a little Tylenol and recovery beers couldn't fix though ;) We headed out for a breakfast tailgate on campus before the 12:00pm game. WMU played Central Michigan, our arch rivals basically, which always makes for an eventful game day.
I don't even know what that face is...
And we won! It ended up being a close game, but WMU pulled out a W with a 41-39 win. We were seriously beat after the game and headed straight home for soup, college football on TV (Go Blue!) and naps. Speaking of soup, I made this Minestrone Soup recipe this week and we've been eating it nonstop. SO good and really easy, too!
One person in our house had no interest in napping and his name would be Brady. He just discovered squirrels in the last couple of weeks and loves to sit and watch for them and when he sees one, runs between all of our front windows whining. We think it's hilarious so sometimes we let him out to chase them because he's SO LOUD and not near as fast of them so he'd never catch one, right?
Wrongggg. We let him out on Saturday to go out and play, but we didn't realize there were two baby squirrels in the yard. He booked it right towards them and they couldn't get away fast enough and Brady caught one!!! We freaked out and ran outside while he ran circles in the yard with this baby squirrel crying in his mouth (I almost cried, too) - thank the Lord he knows the 'drop it' and 'leave it' commands because after a few times of screaming that at him, he finally let the poor guy go and backed away from him. The squirrel was totally fine other than covered in slobber and slightly traumatized, but we watched and made sure he was okay. Honestly I think we were all slightly traumatized!
After that eventful evening, we decided to stick around home to relax and it was fabulous. We watched the first two episodes of Lost and I think we might be hooked!
On Sunday morning, we went running (yay!) and then went to check out the local pumpkin farm/apple orchard/family fun place. It was nutttts - it was such a nice day out so I think everyone else in town had the same idea we did. There were lines to do everything, we couldn't even get our precious donuts because I swear the line would have taken up half of our day!
We did get to pick pumpkins, a gallon of cider and maneuver our way through the corn maze which was fun.
On our way home, we stopped at a furniture store because we desperately need a new couch. Here are our two favorite options: which do you like better? I really can't decide but we need to today since it's the end of the Columbus Day sale.
The too fast weekend (aren't they all?) ended with a chili dinner at our neighbors house, sitting on the back porch enjoying the beautiful weather. I never want it to leave! How were your weekends?
Because the pumpkin patch is on the weekend agenda :)
Hello, Friday! I am pretty happy to see you today.
Nick was in Denver allll week so it was a long, lonely one over here. I was actually pretty busy the last few days and participated in all of my single girl activities, but it's obviously so much nicer when he's home. I sleep like c-r-a-p when I'm here alone so I'm looking forward to catching up this weekend! Although not sure if there is going to be much time for that - we have a jam packed schedule ahead of us. Friday night we're celebrating a friends 30th birthday, Saturday we'll be tailgating all day, and Sunday is supposed to be around 75 degrees so you can bet we'll be out and about taking advantage of that!
On to my five on Friday....
ONE | Thank you, thank you for all of the cruising advice this week! You guys are the best! It has definitely made me want to go on a cruise that much more, but we'll see what vacation we end up on ;)
TWO | This was my Wednesday: babysat all day (we survived!), picked Brady up and took him to the dog park for two hours to burn off some energy, came home to get ready and then went to a Junior League new member meeting for three and a half hours. I was so tired when I got home that I had my last ice cream sandwich for dinner, ha!
THREE | Speaking of the dog park, this is Brady and his best friend Keanu, a two year old Golden Retriever :)
FOUR | I think a leopard belt is a must have in everyone's closet so I went ahead and ordered this one since it's 50% off right now!
FIVE |This was a GREAT read from Jess at The Newly on affiliate links. I do use them here on the blog and while I have a disclaimer on my sidebar, I've never actually talked about them before. I'm not trying to keep them a secret or anything like that, it just can be easy to forget that everyone that may be reading isn't a blogger and might not know about some of these things! Basically, when you click on some of my links to products (like the belt above), I make a tiny commission from that click. Doesn't matter if you purchase anything, it's literally just from clicking on the link. And when I say tiny, I mean TINY - we're talking pennies here. So I'm not getting rich or anything (unfortunately haha) :) Please check out Jess's post for more information and let me know if you have any additional questions. I want to be open and honest here at all times!
One fun thing I've been up to lately is planning three vacations!
A little while ago, Nick and I started casually talking about spending NYE on the beach. Well, I can't have 'casual' conversations about vacations - I get too excited and then they must happen (or I'm ridiculously disappointed, hah) so I started really looking into options on different places we could go. I was leaning towards a cruise, but Nick wasn't totally sold on that idea. He's pretty much the opposite of me when it comes to traveling: he enjoys vacations once we're on them, but the planning (and paying) aspect... not so much. He just doesn't get that excited over it.
Soooo, I thought I would spice things up a little bit. I thought I'd completely plan three different NYE trips, present them to him and he could pick his favorite. It just seems like a fun way to get him involved in planning and choosing what to do, but I still get to do all of the work. Which, I must say, I like doing! I think half of the fun in going on a vacation is the planning/anticipation of it.
Right now, I'm still currently in the basic planning phase. I want to wrap that up this week so that I can give him the options, we can choose one and book the heck out of it !!!! Anyway, what I'm really here for: I'm going to need you guys to give me allll the details on cruising.
I've only been on one cruise back when I was in high school: we went on a Disney Christmas cruise to the Bahamas with my entire family.. grandparents, uncles, cousins, everyone. It was SO much fun and I can only imagine now how much that cost my grandparents (totally worth it). A couple #throwbackthursday pictures just for laughs...
Those are from 2005 :) Good times. But obviously, I had no part in the planning or booking of that trip so I'm a first-timer when it comes to cruise planning. And I have a few very important questions like...
What part of the ship do I want to be on? Front, middle, rear? Does this differ between cruise lines?
Same with floors - it seems scarier to be on a lower floor, but will the higher up floors be noiser?
Is a balcony worth the extra price? We didn't have one on our Disney cruise (had a window) and I didn't care, but it seems nice, right?
Will be bored on a ship if we have more than one 'at sea' day?
Are there a lot of extra fee's once your on board? I know food is included, but drinks aren't... will there be other surprise costs that I can't think of?
And finally... the biggest one of all... is Carnival REALLY that bad?? I know it doesn't have the best reputation, but honestly as of right now, their cruises are fitting in best with what dates we can go/what islands we want to visit. So, if your only option was a Carnival cruise or go on another vacation, would you not choose the cruise only because it's a Carnival one?
So many serious questions, haha! I'd totally appreciate any feedback you guys can give me. I'm sure I could Google all of these answers, but I like hearing from my friends more - I trust you all and so many of you are little cruise experts!
Next Thursday I'll continue my 'travel Thursdays' (just making that a thing) and let you all know what our other two vacation choices are... and then let you know which one we choose! Just indulge my travel planner heart please ;) Happy Friday eve!
It's that time again. Monthly confessions, here we go...
I confess that as you're reading this, I'm completely alone with a 6 month old and almost 3 year old - for the first time ever. I'm watching my friends kids today and really have no clue what I'm doing with kids (babies) this age. I did a little babysitting when I was in high school but they were all ages 8+ sooo yeah. Hopefully we all survive today.
I confess that I feel major guilt when I leave Brady alone all day like this. I know he's probably sleeping and doesn't even notice/care, but I just feel so bad about it. I've become that crazy dog lady!
I confess that I am SUPER proud of myself for already booking our Christmas card photo shoot! Seriously, this is something I've wanted to do for the last couple of years but never remember until it's too late so pat on the back for me. And I used a Groupon so I saved a ton of money! Now to focus on the serious stuff: what to wear?!
I confess that I need to get one of these to step up my soup game. I have come across so many amazing soup recipes that use it so I just need to make the purchase already. Anyone else have one/recommend a good quality one?
I confess that we're only two? three? weeks into fall TV programming and I already can't keep up with my shows. I have a date with my DVR tonight to try and catch up. I'm really liking the new Blood & Oil and Code Black!
I confess that despite just ordering new leggings, I now need to order this pair. They're pretty amazing, right? I love this brand and I think I'd get a lot of wear out of them this winter because leggings = happy.