Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Come away with me... top 10 bucket list!

Harlequin has this really fun contest to help promote Karma Brown's new book, Come Away With Me.

I am such a huge fan of bucket lists in general, and one of my favorite shows of all time is An Idiot Abroad. Essentially Karl Pilkington goes on adventures that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant send him on and they are all classic bucket list items. Obviously, hilarity ensues and we all laugh, but the truth of the matter is that I am very much the female Karl Pilkington. I say I want adventure, all the way until it happens and I am in freak out mode. I'm scared of things, god knows I certainly won't be eating strange things which is why I will likely never travel abroad. To say I have the palette of a toddler is really a massive understatement. 

But that's not to say I don't want to go on adventures or that I don't have a bucket list. I most certainly do. I have been compiling one for awhile as I learn about new things and eventually, I'll get to them. I will. They aren't in any order on that list but if I had to narrow it down to a top 10 for contest purposes, I'd have to go with these: 

1. Take a cross country road trip. I truly want to go from one coast to the other. I do love a good road trip and the more bizarre road side attractions, the better. 

2. Go on a cruise. I've never been, but I'd like to go on one of those cruises that bounce around a few islands. 

3. Spend a week in Key West. Would you believe that despite being from Florida, I have never been to Key West? My plan was always to spend a week in Key West, and then get on my cruise. 

4. Ride on a swamp boat. I am absolutely terrified of wilderness and alligators so clearly, it would make perfect sense for me to do this. 

5. Bike across two states. Ever since I read the book Going Somewhere by Brian Benson, I have wanted to buy a bike and go on an epic bike trip. Preferably with someone who knows what they are doing because I'd like to cry like a girl and someone just fix the problem for me. 

6. Attend the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. I have always wanted to go to D.C for all of the obvious tourist reasons. But I absolutely love cherry blossom trees, and I decided that the only time I'll go to D.C. is when those are in full bloom. 

7. Take a haunted cemetery tour in Savannah, Georgia. Fun fact, I'm terrified of a lot of things. Specifically any kind of haunted anything. But I watched a documentary on these cemetery tours on Civil War battlefields and I just want to do it. Even if I pee my pants. 

8. See Niagara Falls and ride on a ferry boat. I've never been to Niagara Falls, but I definitely want to go. And I want to be that crazy person who rides the ferry boat and comes off totally drenched. 

9. Swim with dolphins. Dolphins are my favorite water animal and every time I have ever gone to Florida to visit family, I've wanted to swim with dolphins. Sadly, it's too expensive for us on vacation but some day... I'm going to do it. Budget be damned. 

10. Do a week long Disney vacation. I'm talking spending the night in Disney resorts, going to a park every single day, just doing the entire Disney experience with all three of my kids. And Matt. Someone has to hold the baby so I can ride on the rides. But seriously, Matt and I did a park every day for a week long before we got married and it was amazing. Olivia and Jackson have been to Magic Kingdom twice (but only remember it once), and I'd like to go when Penelope is 4. So that means I have about 3 1/2 years to plan this out and make it happen financially. 

What's on your bucket list? What should I do that I haven't included? 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Being a great mom leads you to heat exhaustion.

I have all kinds of things to blog about, but this week is looking terrible and it's only Tuesday. The quick and dirty? I took Olivia to see One Direction with my mom on Sunday. She had a really wonderful time at her second concert ever!

We ended up having to sit in the sun for hours and it hovered right around 90 degrees the entire time.  By the time I got home, around 1:00 am, I was so exhausted, dizzy, puking, and had a headache. I assumed it was because I had a long day.Turns out, heat exhaustion is totally real and it totally sucks. Admittedly, I have never been drunk or have had a hangover (because I don't drink at all, ever) but Matt assures me it feels similar.

Which begs the question: who does this willingly? What is WRONG with you?

Anyways. I begged him to call in to work because literally, I couldn't do anything. I threw up so much yesterday, had the worst headache, and almost fell down the stairs twice because I was so dizzy. I did rest a bunch yesterday but today? I still feel like crap.

Unfortunate, because today I am driving down to the Twin Cities again, this time to take my kids to Como Zoo and then see my brother, my sister in law, and their cute little baby. My mom is coming with me but still. I am definitely not feeling 100% and of course, it's supposed to be in the high 80's while we're there. It's almost 6:30 in the morning, I've already got a headache and I'm so tired I can't think. If it wasn't so hard to plan a day to meet up with them, I'd cancel and go a different day. But I've got things going on every other day the rest of summer (literally) so it's today or no day.

Should be super.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Try it Sunday: Pot Roast you can't screw up

Each Sunday I'm linking up with Stacey for her recipe linkup. 
Best recipes of the week link party

Hello, lambs! Welcome to another edition of Try it Sunday!

This week we are making Pot Roast. I'll confess to you I have absolutely never, ever made a pot roast in an oven. I have always done it in a slow cooker and it works so well I'll never change my ways. Normally I make this a lot in the winter but Matt requested it and truly, it's not that expensive to make and it's EASY.

Admission: this is a recipe I found off of Pinterest a few years ago and it's kind of been my go to. Traditionally, I use an onion soup mix but this tastes so much better.

 My basic ingredients is a boneless roast, a packet of brown gravy, a packet of ranch dressing, and a packet of italian dressing. I also include an onion, and sometimes I'll throw in some carrots if I have some left over from a salad or just for snacking, and sometimes I throw in potatoes.
I put my roast into the slow cooker and toss in my onions (and carrots and potatoes if  you have them), and I sprinkle a bunch of cracked black pepper over it. I have a steak seasoning blend I bought on a whim and I used that this time and it was great. 

Next I put about a cup of water in a measuring cup and add all three packets. I mix as well as I can, but it looks kind of disgusting and questionable.
Just pour that over your roast. I started mine around 9 am and it was maybe only half thawed out (I had my roast in the fridge over night) and cooked it on low until about 5:30. Once it hits 8 hours in my slow cooker, it automatically goes to a "warm" setting and that's just fine. 

This is what it'll look like at the end. Normally if I'm making mashed potatoes for Matt, I'll take some of this liquid and mix with some flour on the stove to make a gravy. I didn't this time because we weren't having mashed potatoes, but it does make a good gravy. 

Instead we had green beans from my in-law's garden and some pasta side dish that was on sale for $.55 at the grocery store. The best thing is that this pot roast makes an excellent sandwich the next day as leftovers!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Caged Magic

EEP! Book review time! And what a book review to end the week on, that's for stinking sure!

Caged Magic - Jennifer Lyon
Caged Magic (Wing Slayer Hunters #5)
Risa Faden is a witch whose ultra-powerful shield magic is slowly breaking her mind. But when her beloved goddaughter is snatched by a demon, she’ll risk anything to rescue the baby—including lying to the handsome, intriguing stranger who has the power to help her keep her sanity, save the child…and steal her heart.

Linc Dillinger is a Wing Slayer Hunter whose sexy, rich, bad-boy charm hides a treacherous betrayal that left him emotionally scarred. As a result he risks his life to protect innocents, but is incapable of love—until he meets a beautiful witch who can save his cursed soul. Risa’s fierce courage and loyalty reaches past his barriers and he begins to believe she has the magic to free his caged heart.

But Risa’s lie explodes into dark danger that forces Linc into a hellish high-stakes gamble: He must either win the witch he loves and her godchild…or endure a loss that will destroy them all.

First and foremost, I haven't read the others in this series and I really wish I had. This is number five, and it isn't crucial to the story if you haven't read the previous ones. I am just in love with this book, and now this series, that I'm all in. I have to get the others to catch up and I'm so excited to see what happens with the rest of the series. 

But this is the story of a witch named Risa who is essentially saved by a Wing Slayer Hunter named Linc. As it turns out, they are soul-mirrors, which is basically like soul mates but far more. Once they bond their individual abilities are far more enhanced and then together they become a pretty formidable unit. Of course, both come with a boatload of baggage and while their relationship is based on a bunch of lies and half truths, you root for them the entire time because Risa deserves to not be a piece of sexual meat and Linc needs a good lady to love him. Throw in a whole bunch of danger, demons, hell fire, and nobody being able to find the damn kid, and it makes for a great book you really can't put down. 

My only complaints are that some of the magical aspect is hard to follow. I'm all for detail and having a great back story into how the magic works, but some of it felt over my head despite it being pure fiction. Secondly, some passages/story lines are kind of drawn out. Like I could easily edit down a few things to shorten the book and you wouldn't feel like you've lost any kind of story. It comes in at 289 pages in my e-reader and that seemed a bit long. But even though it was long, it was still hard to put down. I had no problem whizzing through this in two days of interrupted reading, and like I said above, it was written well enough that I really want to be more invested into this series. So I'm going to have to give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Truly. 

An excerpt, just for you: 
Linc reached across the bathroom, catching her hand. His warm, firm fingers anchored her. Startled, she lifted her gaze to him.

“Come here, Risa.”

She started to shake her head, but pain pierced her skull. She hadn’t recovered yet. It would take hours of sleep to regain some strength.

“Here’s the thing. If you want your high magic, you’re going to have to learn my touch is not like the others. I am not just making use of your body.” He squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Not while I still have a soul. We clear?”

She resisted for a second longer, searching over him with her gaze. When he showed her this kindness, acting as if he cared enough to get to know and understand her, it opened her up, left her too vulnerable.

“Take the first step. That’s all you have to do.” His voice flowed smoothly to wrap around her like a silky ribbon. Her chakras relaxed, and her muscles unlocked.

She took the step.

And won a smile from him. His face softened, a dent forming in his chin while his eyes crinkled. This wasn’t Linc’s charming smile, the one he tossed off with his fast and glib comebacks. That smile had polish.

This one was real, sexy, and made her feel like smiling back. Unsure what to do, she just stood there, staring at the amazing grin on his face.

He reached out, caught her waist and tugged her between his thighs. He tucked her beneath one arm, surrounding her with his body heat. 
Caged Magic Buy Links

About the Author

Jennifer Lyon, who also writes as Jennifer Apodaca, lives in Southern California where she continually plots ways to convince her husband that they should get a dog. After all, they met at the dog pound, fell in love, married and had three wonderful sons. So far, however, she has failed in her doggy endeavor. She consoles herself by pouring her passion into writing books. To date, Jen has published more than fifteen books and novellas, including a fun and sexy mystery series and a variety of contemporary romances under the name Jennifer Apodaca. As Jennifer Lyon she created a dark, sizzling paranormal series, and The Plus Once Chronicles, an emotionally sensual adult contemporary series. Jen’s won numerous awards and had her books translated into multiple languages, but she still hasn’t come up with a way to persuade her husband that they need a dog.

There are 3 tour wide giveaways!
Open to US, CAN, UK
(1) grand prize $50.00 electronic gift card (Amazon or B&N)
(2) runner up winners of one $25.00 electronic gift card each (Amazon or B&N)

Follow the Tour

For more interviews and guest posts with Jennifer plus Caged Magic reviews & Spotlights stop by the tour every day!

The complete schedule can be found HERE!

Lions in the Garden : Cover Reveal

Title: Lions in the Garden
Author: Chelsea Luna
Publisher: Lyrical Press

Prague, 1610

Ludmila Novakova–Mila–has barely set foot outside Prague Castle in her seventeen years. But with the choice between braving the bandits and wolves of Bohemia’s uneasy roads or being married off to a disgusting old baron, she’s taken what she can carry and fled.

Escape won’t be easy. Even Mila has heard the rumors of a rebellion coming against the court. The peasants are hungry. The king hasn’t been seen in months. Mila’s father, the High Chancellor, is well known and well hated.

But Mila can’t sit behind a stone wall and let fear force her into a life of silk gowns and certain misery. Her mother’s death has taught her that much. She has one ally: Marc, the son of the blacksmith. A commoner, a Protestant–and perhaps a traitor, too. But the farther she gets from the castle, the more lies she uncovers, unraveling everything she thought she knew. And the harder it is to tell friend from enemy–and wrong from right . . .

Lions in the Garden is available for pre-order at: 

Add it to your Goodreads list HERE

Chelsea Luna is the author of over eight novels and counting, including two bestselling young adult series — the New England Witch Chronicles Series (4 books) and Love & the Zombie Apocalypse Trilogy.  Chelsea received a Juris Doctorate from New York Law School in New York, New York in 2007, and a B.A. in Sociology, with a concentration in Criminal Justice, from the University of Tennessee in 2004.

Visit Chelsea’s website
Connect with Chelsea on Facebook and Twitter

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A week of Penelope: week 11

Actually, if we are getting technical, she is 12 weeks this week, but these photos are from last week. As my friend Shirley would say, the end of two months old is when the unicorn glitter has pretty much worn off. We are seeing some personality beyond the "I'm super cute, just squeeze and kiss me all day". She still wants those things but honestly, this kid is heavy. We've got to be pushing 15 pounds and while this isn't much to carry from the trunk of your car to the house, hauling this around all day with one arm is heavy. You'd think by now I'd have some guns for arms but no. Granted, I'm not as flappy so there is that.

Although she has excellent head control, we still do tummy time because she has to learn how to roll.
This is basically what she thinks about it. She's not pleased.
Some days (just kidding, MOST days), 5:15 p.m. is the most glorious time of the day. Matt gets home then and Penelope knows that means she gets passed to him. He will feed her as soon as he gets home and she will almost certainly pass out on his chest. I maybe have struggled all damn day to get her to nap in her crib (she will not break me, dammit!) but it all goes to hell because he falls asleep on the couch with her as I cook dinner. It's kind of adorable, and I hate myself the next day when she somehow thinks that's what I'll do all day with her.
I found a used jumperoo on a Facebook sale page and after cleaning it and managing to get the seat cover (on my OWN, folks) off to wash (and subsequently back on, on my OWN), we gave it a test spin.
She pretty much loves it.
Enough where I've been able to consistently eat either breakfast or lunch (but not both, she will not stand for two meals in a day under her regime). She doesn't fully understand how to reach for the toys attached to it, so I've put her favorite ball on some linky doo's in there and she basically holds that and licks it while standing there. Whatever, I'll take it. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to save on your grocery bill AND meal planning for dummies

I know this is a day late, but it's such a good post and it's going to be super helpful for you so I wanted to make sure I had enough photos to show you the way I do it so you aren't confused at all.

Currently, I am not working. I haven't worked since the end of March so we have been relying on Matt's paycheck to get by. Matt's job pays him twice a month, he isn't bi-weekly, he is paid strictly on the 7th and the 21st of the month, no matter what. Which sounds super, to have a guaranteed pay day! But when you look at the calendar, some months this really sucks. Like July/August for example. Matt's pay periods run from the 1-15 of the month gets him paid on the 21st, and the the 16-last day of the month gets him paid on the 7th. Well he got paid July 21 and won't get a check until August 7, and when you look at that, it's a LONG haul.

Which makes meal planning crucial because it keeps our grocery bill down. Currently, I'm cooking meals for 4 people. Matt and I typically either have left overs or sandwiches for lunch, and the kids almost always have a sandwich. Right now we are taking advantage of free lunches and snack at the park, but that ends August 7. And really, that hasn't cut down on our grocery bill because I'm still buying sandwich things anyways, but it's a nice option to have if available to you.

I know I have had many people say to me, "I don't know what I'm going to want to eat on a particular day a week from now" when I mention meal planning as a great way to get your grocery bill down. To that I say- learn. Seriously. If you are in a position that you have to budget, learn. Secondly, you don't necessarily have to do that. Here's how I do it:

When you come to my house you will see a packet like this hanging on my fridge. It's my meal plan and any recipes I'll need (if it's a new recipe I'm trying or one I can't remember off the top of my head) all together on the side of the fridge.
Step One: When I plan my meals out, I write down every day I need to have a meal for between Matt's pay checks. You can see here that it's basically three weeks of meals. I only include dinners because for breakfast I always have cereal but also keep a hot option like waffles or pancakes in my freezer. I write down a meal idea for every single day. In the morning, I pick a meal off of the list for dinner, not necessarily the one "scheduled" for that day. Some times something comes up and I need a crock pot meal so I find one off the list I can quickly do and not worry about it during a busy day.

Other tricks I do? At least once in a cycle I do a spaghetti and use the left over sauce for meatball subs the next day. Sometimes I'll make chicken tacos and we'll have nachos the next night with my leftover chicken, and I'll add corn and beans to it. Be realistic, if you know there is going to be a day where you declare you absolutely are not cooking? Put "order out" on there, knowing you can only order out ONCE in that cycle. (You see that? I just saved you money.)
Step Two: As I add an item to my menu, I write down the ingredients I'll need to make it. Don't even THINK about what you have on hand already, we'll get to that. But for right now, write down every single thing you'll need.
Step Three: Once you have that completed, take your list and go through your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Cross off what you already have. This will save you money because you won't buy repeat things.
Step Four: Then I go through my ad. Usually I peek at the ad first primarily to check if there is any good deals in the meat department because that's often the most expensive area. Yes, those are ads from two different stores. Yes, I know it's a pain in the ass to go to two different stores, but if there is a really fantastic deal on a couple of things at one store, split your trip. Sometimes Cub Foods had a buy one/get one deal on chicken breasts and when that is happening I go and bring Matt and the kids with me. I'll make Olivia buy 4 packs of chicken (the limit), Matt buy 4 packs of chicken, and I'll buy 4 packs of chicken. I have a chest freezer and that's when I stock up.

Step Five: Once I get my coupons from the ad, I start looking online for coupons on the items I need. Truly, the only two sites I really use are and Sometimes I find no coupons, sometimes I find a bunch I need. Don't forget to look at your ads at the things that are already on sale without a coupon. This week I was able to get mayonnaise (the large jar) for only $1.33 because it was on sale for $3.33, but I had a $2 coupon online.

Lucky for me this week Super One Foods had a lot of buy one get one deals so I did all of my shopping there. Things I picked up extra as buy one/get one deals that were not on my list were:

  • Quilted Northern 6 packs of toilet paper
  • Kielbasa
  • Marinated pork roasts
  • Packaged deli meat
  • Soft taco shells
  • Taco seasoning
  • Purex laundry soap
I also picked up two packs of pork chops that were in the marked down area of the meat department. That will save me on my menu planning for next round. 

After purchasing everything on my list, plus my extras, my bill was $125.49. 

My absolute budget per month for groceries is $300 for a family of 4. I budget $150 per paycheck to groceries, so the extra $25 went into my savings for Olivia's braces. 

Every Sunday I'll be posting recipes that I've tried from cookbooks, Pinterest, etc that are inexpensive to make. If you missed my first post, Macaroni & Cheese, go back and check that out. Next Sunday I'll be sharing my Pot Roast recipe that is so easy and SO good.