Current Winter Reads

My resolution for the last year has been continuously reading. Which means that every night I read for at least thirty minutes. This year I resolved to start adding in weekend reading, which means every time during the day on a weekend that I go to grab my iPad or phone, I instead grab a book. Which means I’ve read quite a few books over the past two months! This post is as much for me as anyone else, because I forget what I’ve read and will go to read a book again multiple times (for example, Delicious! A book by Ruth Reichl that I almost bought this past week. Yup, I’ve already read it). Here is my quick review of the books.

The Giver of Stars: I don’t know if this was the actual intent of the story, but what I really enjoyed about this book was the drive of the characters to bring education to rural areas. Through treacherous conditions, difficult antagonists, and class related struggles, the main characters worked to create a real moving library in Kentucky. And it’s based on a true story!

Messenger of Truth: While each Maisie Dobbs book has an element of mystery, what I’ve enjoyed even more is the scope of understanding that Jacqueline Winspear brings to the time period of the stories. Each story is connected to the next, and you see the characters triumph and also fall in different ways as they deal with the aftermath of The Great War.

An Incomplete Revenge: Continuing with what I said before about Maisie Dobbs books, this story shows the stereotyping and fear that can come from wars and the ramifications and devastation of those fears. I was honestly shocked about the turn of events in this one.

Bangkok Wakes to Rain: A novel that interweaves multiple stories that almost seem like separate short soliloquies, but they eventually start running closer and closer together until you have the singular conclusion. I had a little trouble following it at certain points, but it was an incredibly unique read.

Conviction: I read this so fast, because I had to find out what happened at the end! The main character is incredibly flawed, but embraces the flaws so relentlessly that you root for her to figure out the mystery and to make it to the other side.

From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home: I was worried that this book was going to be incredibly sad, but at the end I felt incredibly uplifted. The sense of peace that the author not only found, but creates through the true story will stay with you a long time after you read it. I could honestly read it again.

The Last House Guest: A mystery that cuts back and forth from a year earlier and then present day, the main character tries to piece together the death of her friend, while also trying to overcome her struggles in a small town that she can’t seem to leave.

The Great Alone: This is one you’ll want to set aside a long time to read. It’s long. It’s at times, tiring. I may have skipped to the end to see if the characters were going to come out on the other side of the enormous walls they were up against. It is definitely an investment of time, but it is worth it. Kristin Hannah creates characters so intricately that you not only become invested, but you seek to understand who they are from the beginning to the end.

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Friday Favorites

Hello friends, it’s Friday! My Mom has baby chicks in her room again this year and the boys are so excited! This week A had golf, J had basketball, and we also had a PTA meeting, and second grade performance in between all of that. Plus work and school. I turned around and the week was just over. Now, we are headed towards a weekend that also includes basketball, but I’m also hoping to throw in some organization and packing as well. And we’ve got to complete a whole bunch of Valentine’s for class parties next week. And there are class parties next week. I need a nap just thinking about it! On to some of my favorites from the week!

Memories of weekend past.

The power of eye contact.

The art of squinching. I’m apparently way behind on my selfie game.

What Summer Roberts taught us about fashion.

Office inspiration.

My favorite podcast of the week.

Chicken sweet potato stew. Perfect for the cold weather coming in!

I have the segments of Stranger Things behind the scenes on my podcast list.

I just finished Home and it was a terrific yoga series! Highly recommend. All free on YouTube.

Perfect pants for summer…it may be winter, but it’ll be summer here soon enough!

Finally, total look.

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Eight things about J

I am in almost disbelief that we have an eight year old. I started this blog when A was nine months old, and now eleven years later, we have an 11 year old and now an 8 year old. In honor of J’s birthday today, here are 8 things that make J the amazing kid he is.

1. J LOVES sports. If it’s a game and/or sport he’s all in. This past year basketball has really taking top spot for him, but he still loves them all.

2. J is an excellent puzzle solver. He loves puzzles, and we now usually have a puzzle sitting out that we all work on together. It’s become one of our favorite wind down activities.

3. J loves reading. He gets caught up in books and will frequently pop up on weekday mornings after I turn on his lamp to read until breakfast.

4. J calls his hair bronde, because all of us have brown hair, but his hair is blonde.

5. J will eat pizza with anything on it. Give him all the peppers, veggies, meats, he likes it all.

6. J wants to be an illustrator, scientist, and professional gamer when he grows up.

7. If J isn’t playing basketball, reading, or building stadiums on Minecraft, he is building LEGOs.

8. J loves big, plays hard, thinks outside the box, and we are so glad he’s ours!

Happy eighth birthday, J!

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January Beauty Buys

Admittedly, I had some extra beauty buys this month because I had two Sephora gift cards to use from Christmas. I used those for a few splurges, and then I picked up a few extra items I’ve on my list!

First, Tarte’s In bloom Palette. I love this palette. The colors are rich, and just perfect neutrals with a bit of pop. I would say that it doesn’t last quite as long as my NAKED eye shadow palettes without an eyeshadow primer (I use NARS).

Hourglass vanish concealer. I gave into the hype with this one. I’d seen several beauty bloggers post about it, so I decided that I had to try it for myself. The Sephora salesperson told me to make sure my eyes were well moisturized and that is definitely true. It cakes up a bit if it’s not, and you only need a really small amount. However, once you put it on, it’s on and doesn’t budge.

Beauty counter eye rescue cream. My hair stylist brought me a sample of this after we had a lengthy conversation about eye creams. I’ve been using it at night for about a week and I really like it. I feel like my under eye area is less puffy in the morning and it has no scent and I haven’t had any irritation issues (which I’ve had with other eye creams).

Becca skin primer. I think the lasting ability of this one is based on your foundation. I’ve been testing out various foundations with it (IT CC cream was a big no, NARS sheer glow lasted a bit better).

YSL lipstick in No.10. Definitely a splurge, but such a great color. Pairs perfect with my NYX gloss in creme brûlée.

Becca eye primer. This I love. It kind of smoothes everything out and you can reapply it throughout the day. And it doesn’t go on green.

MAC eye liner in Teddy. This is my all time favorite high end liner. It goes on smooth and doesn’t budge.

And for a couple of examples of the wear of it all (Yes, I’m in my parked car. It has way better natural lighting than my office. No, I am not driving. Driving and taking selfies is foolishness.):

Hour 1:

Hour 6:

After a slight touch up (powder on t-zone, a day fresh swipe of lip gloss):

So, a little bit of redness broke through, but other than that, not bad! Happy beauty shopping!

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Chicken Enchiladas

While I’m not afraid to stray from the classics, this chicken enchilada recipe is one I always come back to. It’s my Mom’s recipe and the one that whenever anyone in our extended family makes chicken enchiladas, this is the recipe they make. I have had to modify it some over the years to accommodate the boys’ food allergies. The simple fix is removing the green onions and putting them on the side. The more difficult substitution was replacing the cream of chicken. I tried this recipe out and found that it makes the perfect amount needed for the recipe (I also leave out the onion powder). I’ve attached the recipe below, with some helpful photographs.

So shred up your chicken:

Make your sour cream mixture:

And take out 1 and 1/2 cups (and have this amount of cheese leftover):

Add the sour cream mixture to the chicken:

Then put a few tablespoons of the chicken mixture in the tortillas:

Roll and place in a pan:

Cover with leftover sour cream mixture:

And cheese:

Then cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes:

Finally, uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes until bubbly.

Chicken Enchiladas 

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast roasted (can be made ahead)
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup (or make this recipe to substitute)
  • About 1 cup of sour cream (you can add 1/2 cup more if you like sour cream!)
  • 1 8oz package of montery jack cheese (you can buy pre-shredded, or get a block and grate it!)
  • 1 8oz package of sharp cheddar cheese (you can buy pre-shredded, or get a block and grate it!)
  • 1 can of green chilies (optional)
  • 1 can of chopped olives (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of chopped green onions (you can either sprinkle these on top before baking, or leave out if you have picky eaters or food allergies)
  • 8-10 soft taco size flour tortillas

Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Coat chicken with 2 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp paprika, and 1 tsp cumin. Place on a foil lined pan and drizzle chicken with canola oil. Roast chicken at 350 for 25 minutes. After chicken is cooled slightly, shred (I put it in my Kitchen Aid mixer and let it shred with a paddle mixer on low).
    3. Set aside about a third each of the shredded cheddar and monterey jack cheese.
    4. In a seperate bowl mix together the sour cream, cream of chicken soup, remaining cheddar and monterey jack cheese. Remove 1 and 1/2 cups of the sour cream mixture and set aside.
    5. Add shredded chicken to remaining sour cream mixture (*Tip: mix the chicken a bit at a time until it looks consistent with the sour cream mixture but not dried out, I don’t always add all the chicken).
    6. Warm tortillas on a griddle (or in the microwave, I use this tortilla warmer).
    7. Place about four-five tablespoons of mixture per tortilla.
    8. Place filled tortillas in a 9X13 pan.
    9. Spread the set aside sour cream mixture on top of the tortillas and top with the set aside cheese.
    10. Cook for 30 minutes covered and then 10-15 minutes uncovered until bubbly and cheese is starting to brown. Top with optional green chilies, olives, and green onions.
    11. Extra Tips: This is a great make ahead dish. It can be frozen for about a month and can be made a day ahead if refrigerated. The entire recipe makes quite a bit, so I occasionally make half and then freeze half. If you are cooking it frozen cook for at least 40 minutes covered in foil, and then another 20-30 uncovered. If refrigerated cook for 30 minutes covered and 15-20 minutes uncovered.

 

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The sweet spot

Oh, how I love Valentine’s Day! The boys love it too. I wasn’t going to get out decorations this year because we are prepping to put the house on the market, but I decided to put out just a few. They are so excited! It also reminded me that even though we are moving, it’s good to stay positioned in the now. I have always been a future thinker, what’s next, when are we going to get there. However, really in the past few years I have been working to think about future steps, while also remaining present in the now. Now that I’ve gone completely philosophical, let’s take a step back into reality with a few items that would be high on my Valentine gift list!

First, a set of fun barrettes, I like finding items that are more trend oriented at a reasonable price.

A sweet sweater that has a gorgeous bow detailing in the back.

I llama love this pouch, and I do!

A re-stock of my favorite everyday perfume.

Fun cozy slides.

Heart hoop earrings.

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Friday Favorites

What a week! A and I went on field trip, J had a basketball game, there was school, work, and everything in between. J is stoked about his birthday party next weekend, that is aptly basketball themed. We’ve got another basketball game for J this weekend, and some serious sleep catching up to do. And here are some of our favorites from the week!

A lovely home.

Anxiously waiting for this sweatshirt to come out in adult sizing.

Lemon angel cake bars.

The cheesiest.

My favorite everyday layering tanks.

Work outfit ideas.

Thoughts on renovating spaces.

Continuing with day 20 today!

Finally, I have this diffuser in my cart to combat all the dryness of winter.

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My favorite tea

My work afternoons at home consist of quite a bit of grading, lesson planning, interspersed with laundry, housework, catching up on volunteer things, etc. One of the things that I frequently do to break up the day (because your eyes do start to glaze over, after reading fifty papers), is make tea and have one of my Milk Bar cookies that I got for Christmas. My tea making has become a bit elaborate, but it’s so good, I had to share:

First, make 12 oz of almost boiling water (right before the tea kettle starts to whistle). Then, steep 2 tsp of Old Fashioned Birthday Cake Piper and Leaf tea for seven minutes in the water. Then add 1-2 tsp of local honey, 1 packet of collagen and stir. Finally, add 1-2 TBS original nutpod creamer. It’s so delicious! Enjoy it with any cookie, but a Milk Bar cookie is especially sweet:

 

If I really need a break, I also throw in an episode of The Crown and flip through my Magnolia Journal or InStyle magazine, and then back to grading!

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Kamado Ramen

Our city has gotten several new restaurants, so B and I have been lunching at several of them on his Friday’s off. First up for the New Year was Kamado Ramen. I don’t think I’ve ever stood in a line waiting to get into a restaurant here, but we did and it was well worth it! The restaurant is situated in a line of eateries at a location called The Stovehouse. Most of the eateries have small or no eating areas inside, but there is a large inside eating area a short walk from the restaurants, and lots of outdoor seating as well. However, we managed to get a seat inside Kamado Ramen, and sat and watched the chefs prepare the food while we ate:

We got the gyoza as an appetizer:

They were excellent! The steam them and then pan fry the bottoms, so they have the perfect amount of crunch combined with softness. It is perfection. Then we moved on to our ramen choices, B got the tonoktsu ramen and I selected the shoyu ramen. They were both excellent and distinctly different. The tonoktsu is creamy with thinner noodles, while the shoyu is a soy based sauce with denser noodles.

It was all delicious and B and I enjoyed spending a lunch meal together!

I also learned a great tip from a friend! The stools you sit on at the counter open up and will hold your purse/umbrella/etc. And make sure to check out the awesome wall art. While the expansive design on the side wall is incredible, this canvas was my favorite:

We love ramen and I’d love this in my kitchen! The boys already want to know when we’re taking them back with us, so they get to enjoy it as well!

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Chocolate Chunk Cookies

A variation on our favorite cookie recipe, these chocolate chunk cookies are easy to put together and make just the right amount (about 24 cookies).

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3-4 Hershey bars chopped into small size chunks
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Cut butter into tablespoon slices and place in the bottom of the mixer. Set your egg out on the counter. Do this first then prep the rest of your ingredients
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt. Set aside.
  4. Crack egg into a small cup and whisk with vanilla.
  5. On medium speed cream butter for about three minutes.
  6. Add sugars to butter and mix until light and fluffy about 3-4 minutes.
  7. Scrape down the sides and then add in the egg mixture. Mix until it resembles cottage cheese (so slightly lumpy, but well mixed).
  8. Add all of the flour mixture to the bowl. Mix just a little by hand (so it doesn’t puff out when you start the mixer), and then mix on low speed only until barely blended.
  9. Stir in chocolate chunks.
  10. Bake for seven minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake for two additional minutes. Let cool on the pan for 2 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  11. Will keep in an air tight container at room temperature for 3-5 days. In our house they rarely last that long.

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