Friday, January 23, 2015

where we've been...

It's been more than two weeks since I posted here, but I thought I'd check in. We traveled to Virginia last week to see our families and then this week has been busy catching up and getting back into the swing of things. This post is going to be short and sweet, but I missed my little blog home and wanted to catch up, Mostly for me, as I love going back and reading the daily grind type of posts from the past.

This week my bible study geared up for the spring semester, we enjoyed our gymnastics class at the Y, we visited a preschool and we're hoping to enroll M in the fall, we enjoyed more hours outside then we typically get to enjoy in January, and we laughed and laughed at all the hilarious things M has been saying to us. She has gone from speaking in sentences to speaking in full blown descriptive paragraphs. Our girl talks and talks and talks and get the idea! Whenever people ask what she's into now, I just say talking. Because truly she never stops. She narrates everything we do She says at least one thing every day where I just look at J and say, "Did you know she knew that word?" She has also started calling J by his first name which makes us all laugh. And speaking of laughing, a new phrase we hear multiple times through out the day now..."Mommy, I am so funny." This child...

Not sure what we're doing this weekend, but I kind of love weekends like that where the calendar is empty and there are no obligations. Those are always very welcomed around here!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Veggie Cream Cheese Pizza Recipe

I remember my mom making this growing up for different get togethers, and as a kid I never cared for it. I saw the broccoli and didn't even give it a second thought! But now as an adult, I could eat this stuff for dinner every night. It is so so good! I made it Wednesday for our first night of Bunco club (which was so much fun, btw!), and it was a hit. J was also disappointed I didn't bring home any leftovers. This is by no means my "original" recipe, but this is how I make my version! It makes a great appetizer for parties, and people always eat every last piece. Enjoy!

1 roll of pillsbury pizza dough (crescent rolls work too, just roll out and pinch together the seams)
8 oz block of softened cream cheese (I typically use light)
4 oz pack of Hidden Valley Ranch Mix
2 tablespoons of chopped dill
1/2 bell pepper (I like red for the color!)
3/4 cup of broccoli florets chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 grated carrot 
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar

1. Preheat oven to 375, once preheated bake pizza dough for 10 minutes or until cooked through but not brown.

2. While dough is cooking, mix cream cheese with dill and ranch mix in a large bowl.

3. When dough is done baking, spread cream cheese mix on top. Once cream cheese is on, top with veggies, and then top with cheese.

4. Cut into small squares and serve and enjoy!

You can always mix it up with other veggies! Lots of possibilities!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

loving lately

Some things I'm really loving right now...

M's new gymnastics class that we started at our Y yesterday. She had a lot of fun and I'm stoked at the the price of this class versus the Gymboree/Little Gym prices. Yay YMCA!

Hot tea. I'm really trying to cut out soda from my diet. I didn't drink it a ton before, but I also didn't hold back. If I wanted a soda, I just went and got one. In an effort to replace that need for something other than soda I'm going for hot tea. It's by no means the same thing, but it's working. 

When M wakes in the morning she now yells, "Mommy! It's morning! Come open your door up! Time to eat yogurt!" EVERYDAY. While it makes me a little crazy when I want a few more minutes of shut eye, it's also so cute.

The Affair on Showtime. We just finished it after watching all ten episodes in about a week. I really really liked it.

Podcasts. Like everyone else, I got sucked into Serial back in November, and I've been on the search for other great podcasts since then. I've found a few I enjoy listening to (I love to listen while working out), but I'd love other suggestions!

ThredUp! I recently did a closet clean out and had planned to take most the items to goodwill (I don't have the patience to iron and get things looking nice for consignment, also I don't have that many high end items). Anyway....I gave ThredUp a try and mailed them a bag of stuff I was planning to donate and got $40 back. I'll consider that a win!

The Imitiation Game. Go see it. Totally different movie, but I thoroughly enjoyed Into The Woods as well!

When M goes to bed at night, I always sing her a combo of songs. For the past few weeks she's been singing them with me, and well, it melts my heart like nothing else. I could listen to that sweet voice sing songs all night. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 Reads

In the past on my blog, I have done a few year end book reviews with all the books I read over the past year. I took the 2012 and 2013 off since I had sort of slacked off with my reading (new mom, new baby), but in 2014 I picked my pace back up and managed to read 16 books over the year. I set a goal of 12 and came out on top!

So, without further 2014 reads!
(Books are posted in the order that I read them in, and that order was mostly determined by the order that I got them in from the library reserve program. Out of all my reads of last year, I only purchased one of these, everything else came from the library!)

1. Where'd You Go, Berndatte by Maria Semple - Love love LOVED this book. It's definitely in my top 3 for the year (I'd say #3 on my ranking scale). The writing was funny and the story, while very odd, was really engaging. I loved this book from beginning to end. (5/5 stars on goodreads)

2. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes - While this book had some interesting parts, overall it kinda bored me. The plot is about a serial killer who can more or less time travel through a magic door. I don't know. The idea behind the book had potential, but it just wasn't my favorite. (3/5 on goodreads, but now that I look back I'm thinking I should have given it just 2 stars)

3. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - This will be known as the year of Rainbow Rowell on my reading list! This was the first of her books that I read, and it was my favorite of the three that I read. Such a real and raw version of young love. I absolutely loved this book. It would be number four on my list for the year if I was ranking my favorite books! (4/5 on goodreads)

4. Tell The Wolves I'm home by Carol Rifka Brunt - Oh June Elbus. The story of you and your late Uncle Finn....I didn't want this book  and your story to end. I don't want to give away the major themes and plots in this book, but if you haven't read this one, please pick it up. I took so much away from this book. It's considered Young Adult, but I promise it doesn't feel like that. This would be #2 on my lists of favorites for the year. (5/5 on Goodreads)

5. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion - A lot of friends of mine really liked this book and gave it high reviews on Goodreads, but I found it kind of slow and hard to get through. It really wasn't bad, but it was just kind of blah to me. It was like a romantic comedy with a man who had asperger's syndrome as the protagonist. I don't know. Just wasn't my cup of tea. (3/5 on Goodreads)

6. What Alive Forgot by Liane Moriarty - Really liked this book. It's definitely a quicker, lighter read, but still fun and well written. I am hoping to read some more of Moriarty's books in 2015! I have a few on my shelf that I've borrowed from others and I need to dig in. (4/5 on Goodreads)

7. The One and Only by Emily Giffin - I have enjoyed some of Giffin's books in the past and others have been just so so for me. This one fell in the so so category. I still had fun reading it, as I do with all of her books, but there was a major plot theme that just seemed a little unbelievable and kinda...weird. I wouldn't tell others to not read it, but I also wouldn't call it a favorite. (3/5 on Goodreads)

8. Defending Jacob by William Landay - Another book that had come highly recommended to me by a lot of friends. It was a page turner and I enjoyed it, but I also think the bar had been set high by others. It didn't quite live up to the hype I was hoping for. Still a good suspenseful drama if you're looking for that kind of book (4/5 on Goodreads)

9. Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner - I always love Jennifer Weiner's books when I'm in the mood for something light but also with a lot of heart. I also find that I can read them quickly and don't want to put them down. This one fit the bill and I enjoyed reading it in the mountains at our friends' cabin this past summer. (4/5 on Goodreads)

10. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - My very favorite book I read in 2014. I absolutely loved this book to pieces. It's been a long time since a book brought me to tears the way this one did. I loved the characters and the story. I won't lie, the first 50 pages or so seemed kinda boring and like the book just wasn't moving, but by the end I was so sad to read the final page. I didn't want it to end. I wanted more! Highly highly recommend! I've reserved a few other books by JoJo Moyes at the library but haven't read any yet. Anyone read any of her other stuff? Tell me about it if you have! (5/5 on Goodreads).

11. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline - A historical fiction novel about orphaned children in NYC during the depression who were sent by train to live and work in towns in the midwest. There was also a current day story that was going on in every other chapter. I enjoyed the historical fiction pieces, but I didn't care for the current day stuff. Not a bad book, but I also wouldn't rush out to read this one. (3/5 on Goodreads)

12. Goodnight June by Sarah Jio - NO. Don't read this book. the premise (a fictional story on the creation of the popular children's book Goodnight Moon) seems kinda cute and like it'll be a light enjoyable read. At least that's what I thought/hoped for. While it was light, it was so poorly written. It was cheesy and the story was just overdramatic and felt like a Hallmark Christmas movie. But really the writing was bad.  (2/5 on Goodreads)

13. The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison - Another big miss for me. I heard so many rave reviews about this book and how it was supposed to be this summer's Gone Girl. Ummm....not so much. This book was all over the place and honestly quite predictable and just not interesting to me. Gone Girl captivated me...this one was a struggle to want to pick up. I wouldn't recommend this one. (2/5 on Goodreads)

14. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without you by Courtney Maum - I really wish I could remember where I first heard about this or who suggested it to me. I wish this because I want to go back and say, "HUH?!?" This book took me forever to finish because I just didn't want to pick it up and read it at the end of a day. I hated most of the characters. The main protagonist was so whiny and immature. The story kinda felt like it was going no where the entire time. The writing was actually okay, but overall the whole book just felt like one big circle of whining and complaining from someone who was just a big jerk. I hate to quit books but I wish I had quit this one when my gut told me to early on. My suggestion to you: don't read. (2/5 on Goodreads but I totally should have given it a one. I am changing my review now!)

15. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - I finished out the year with two Rainbow Rowell books. Fangirl was a fun YA novel about a college freshmen who writes fan fiction for a Harry Potter type series of books. Overall, I really REALLY liked it. I loved the main character, Cath, and once again, the story and Rowell's writing were just perfect at capturing young love. Only complaint about this book were the LONG pieces of fan fiction that got added in. I didn't mind the small ones, but the 7-8 page fan fiction sections kinda bored me. Don't let that stop you though! If you read E&P by Rowell and liked it, pick this one up too! (4/5 on Goodreads)

16. Landline by Rainbow Rowell - Out of the three Rowell books I read this year, this was my least favorite, but I still liked it. It was the first adult novel of hers that I've read (maybe her only?), and the story was just a little slow and honestly...just kinda silly in my opinion (magic time traveling phone). I still liked it though, and once again I thought she did a fabulous job developing characters and writing the dialogue and emotions felt between two people who are in love, in the early stages of the relationship up until current day when their relationship is in need of help. (3/5 on Goodreads...wish Goodreads would let me give it 3.5)

So there you have it!

Now tell me your thoughts....

Did you read any of the same books this past year? What are your feelings on them? 
Agree or Disagree?

Also, what about 2015? What books are absolute musts for this year? Please share!

Past yearly book reviews: 2009, 2010, 2011
Also....let's be friends on Goodreads! Add me here!

Friday, January 2, 2015

a GOOD Christmas.

It's okay to do a Christmas recap on January 2...right? Like I said a few posts ago, I feel like my blog is always a few weeks behind, but at the same time, I don't want to go without posting! This post is a little on the rambling side. Please bear with me!

We had a very different Christmas. It was unlike any of our Christmases in the past, and it wasn't what we planned for earlier in the season, but it was still good. For various reasons, we decided the Sunday before Christmas to stay home and not travel to Virginia the week of Christmas to see our families. 

Throughout the month of December my pastor did a sermon series called "Home For Christmas" (find it here or listen to the podcast on itunes) and his first sermon was on handling expectations at Christmas time, and I am pretty sure there will never be a Christmas message that will stick with me as much as this one did. I am really bad about setting up expectations in my mind and then feeling really let down when things don't go as planned. Anyone else? The biggest thing I pulled away from my pastor's message was this...

Mary relinquished all of her expectations for HOPE. 
Hope in a baby boy who she would be giving birth to in a manger.

Expectations are the belief that something will be successful.
Hope is the belief that something GOOD will happen.

It's funny how switching out those two sets of words makes such a big difference. When our plans for the week of Christmas began to unravel and we realized we wouldn't be traveling to see our families the week of Christmas, I didn't really fret or get down. I was sad, but I didn't let it ruin our holiday week. Instead, I knew that this would still be a memorable and special Christmas, just very different. When M spent the two nights before Christmas puking hour after hour and I was up half the night washing sheets and pajamas and blankets and lovies and pillows, I was sad for her since she wasn't feeling her best (and I won't lie, I also felt so so tired), but overall, I wasn't entirely let down. Christmas day was still a beautiful day of rejoicing our Savior's birth, and we spent the day together just the three of us. It was definitely not a "successful" Christmas, but it was good! (And thankfully no one else caught her stomach bug!)

(Notice the change of jammies from Christmas Eve to Christmas Morning...)

Again, sorry for the rambling and long windedness above, but when I look back on Christmas 2014, this is what I want to remember; our Christmas did not go as planned. Not at all. But it was still so good and so sweet as we celebrated our first Christmas just the three of us!

Later this month we're heading to Virginia to see our families and to do some "late" celebrating. So thankful that we get to make up our time with them and have a few days with them. 

And one last thing...totally not related to the serious tone of my post above, but I want to always remember my favorite gift from this year! M and I gave J this t-shirt (you can see it on hime above)...

Two major parts of 2014 for us were watching Game of Thrones together and M's love for Frozen. This only seemed appropriate for her Daddy! She now requests "Daddy wear your Elsa shirt!" every morning!