Friday, March 23, 2018

Spring Break Fun: Kalahari, Wisconsin Dells

The kids were really lucky this year that they got to do something fun over spring break. The first few days were them going to Minneapolis/St. Paul and being tourists with my inlaws and family friends. Olivia took some photos with her phone, but most were blurry and I have no idea what they were of. But both Olivia and Jackson said they had a really good time and it's good for them to get new experiences. 

Matt and I knew we couldn't do any kind of fantastic trip some of their friends were taking, but we decided we would book two nights at the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells and just not tell the kids.
And that's just what we did. We went to lunch, told the kids we were going to run an errand and almost five hours later we're pulling into the parking lot. They had no idea I had packed our bags and it was right behind them the entire time. To say they were surprised is an understatement! 
We had a great time in the Indoor Theme Park! The big kids basically left Matt and I and did their own thing but I was able to get one quick photo of them on the ferris wheel in the cart behind us.  
Penelope LOVED IT. She kept saying she was "so happy" and it was "so fun". I'll have to get her to the fair this summer but I think Disney would be so much more fun for her!  
Even Lucy had a great time even though she didn't really understand what all was going on.  
We rode the carousel, Lucy loved it.  
Ugh... how huge am I getting?!  
Nobody loves the carousel more than Penelope. Absolutely nobody.  

The entire next day was spent in the waterpark area, which was the reason we came!
 Penelope was ready for it in her new swimmy suit. 
 Lucy didn't much care for the swim diapers and kept grabbing herself. Such a lady. 
 Once again the big kids ran off to find water slides they could both do so we didn't see them again until lunch time. But Lucy had a great time in the toddler area. I do wish the toddler area was a bit bigger because when you're stuck in one small area all day it gets a bit boring for the grown ups. 
 Penelope kept laying down and telling me she was floating. She in fact, was not floating, but I wasn't going to argue with an almost three year old. There is no point in torturing yourself. 
 You can tell we swam hard because little Lucy was zoned out waiting for lunch and I thought for sure she was going to fall asleep on us. We decided I would take her back to the room for a nap and both her and I took a three hour one! 

Matt ended up taking all four kids to the pool, by himself, later that night because I wasn't feeling well and didn't think I could sit in a chlorinated area anymore. 
We left the next day and man, we were exhausted. 

I would highly recommend Kalahari, it was a fun resort with a lot to do. If you're travelling with little kids, I'd probably opt for Great Wolf Lodge, there was more for the younger crowd. I also highly recommend going literally anywhere else to eat versus Kalahari. Everything is SO expensive (a mediocre breakfast for us was $70 and two of them got cereal). The last morning we ended up spending $25 on donuts and milk and calling it good because I couldn't spend another $70 on something that would normally cost us so much less. They do have a nice buffet that had "picky eater" selections, so you know where I went! 

Overall it was a great couple of days. I'm glad we splurged and went away for a bit, it's kind of nice to do that once in awhile. Jackson had been telling my mom that we used to do fun things and now we don't. Part of it is because traveling with six people is an undertaking, but also because I have limitations that I didn't before and that makes it hard. I have a hard time planning things because I don't know how I'm going to feel and that's a big part of us getting out. But this ended up being OK. The car ride back was a bit rough but I managed. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Weekend love: the Great Lakes Aquarium

My mom was telling me the other day how she had a conversation with Jackson, as they often do when she picks him up from school and brings him home. But this one hit home for me because he told her that he misses when Matt and I would do things with them and we'd go places. You know, before the babies, and that makes me feel two things: angry because I'm doing the best that I can and it's not recognized and sad because I'm doing the best I can and it's not enough. I hate feeling like I'm a terrible mom and it's something I struggle with on the daily. It makes the voices in my head that tell me I should just kill myself that much louder because obviously I would be doing them a service. 

But that's for another day. 

This weekend though I decided we would go to our local aquarium for the otter's birthday party and we were going to have fun. Even if it was only for 45 minutes because that's all we could do with it being so crowded and two toddlers. 
Yeah, I've got Penelope on a leash- come at me, bro! She's a terror who won't stay in a stroller, she won't hold onto your hand, and she will go limp noodle on the floor if you try to tame this girl in any other way. A leash has been my last resort and she doesn't fight me because it's a butterfly and for now she's cool with butterflies and she's got room to roam. But the looks I get, seriously, it's brutal. People are talking about me and just once I'd like to tell them to give it a whirl without the leash and then judge me. Jerks. 
I have to get one for Lucy because she copies anything Penelope does and she's just too big for the toddler carrier. She pulls backwards to get out, as demonstrated. That and only Matt can wear it because it kills my back front or rear facing.  
The big kids had fun, got to see the turtles and alligators that they wanted to. Were kind of creeped out by the electric eel, but that's alright.  
I saw Dory. We had a chat. It was nice.  
Penelope wanted to take a selfie but I told her she had to keep her eyes open. She's clearly doing so. She's such a smart ass, even at the cusp of three. I'm so screwed with her. 

So overall it was a fun 45 minute jaunt out of the house. I was exhausted because I apparently no longer sleep during the night so I got next to no sleep. I have to do better about getting out into the world, as overwhelming as it is for me now. I hope it's not this tough forever. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Workout Wednesday: Progress in the wrong direction

You guys, I've been saying that 212 pounds has been my heaviest weight. This week? This week I came in at 216. 

A new rock bottom. 

I have to get serious and see what I can do to curb this out of control free fall into morbid obesity. 

I've got my diet on check. I eat much smaller portions, I eat salads and challenge myself to make all of our meals at home. We have our cheat day, Saturday, where we go out to lunch as a family and it's been a tradition of sorts for years. Since Olivia's baby days. I refuse to give those up. 

I've been doing great at exercise! 
Matt cleared an area in the basement and moved my treadmill and my elliptical down there, I have my recumbent bike in my office (handy because I do it while I read at night or as I'm waiting for lunch to cook). I'm doing at least 30 minutes a day. Using my inhaler as prescribed. I even got the OK to taper down on my steroids a bit (from 20 mg to 15 mg) a day and so far, I haven't gotten sick or noticed any adrenal crisis signs. 

I've been doing my pelvic floor exercises and squats, my resistance band exercises for my arms. I don't know why I'm gaining weight. And don't give me the "muscle weighs more than fat" crap because I'm not at that point yet. I am feeling so defeated. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Book Review: The Final Six

This isn't my usual reading material but it had an interesting premise, one that feels relevant to the current changes in climate, so I decided to give it a shot.

I'm so glad I did.

The Final Six - Alexandra Monir

Set in the near future, this action-packed YA novel—already optioned by Sony—will take readers out of their world and on a quest to become one of six teens sent on a mission to Jupiter’s moon.

When Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, and Naomi, a science genius from California, are two of the twenty-four teens drafted into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever altered. After erratic climate change has made Earth a dangerous place to live, the fate of the population rests on the shoulders of the final six who will be scouting a new planet. Intense training, global scrutiny, and cutthroat opponents are only a few of the hurdles the contestants must endure in this competition.

For Leo, the prospect of traveling to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—to help resettle humankind is just the sense of purpose he’s been yearning for since losing his entire family in the flooding of Rome. Naomi, after learning of a similar space mission that mysteriously failed, suspects the ISTC isn’t being up front with them about what’s at risk.

As the race to the final six advances, the tests get more challenging—even deadly. With pressure mounting, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo, and the two grow closer with each mind-boggling experience they encounter. But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

It's not very often that I read a book and think, "this would make a great movie" but this one hits that mark. It's very much like The Hunger Games, teenagers from around the world who possess certain markers (ability, education, physical traits, etc) are selected to be one of the 24 who compete to become the Final Six- those six are charged with colonizing Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. While most of the candidates relish the idea of starting over and leaving a climate torn Earth behind, Naomi is not one of them. She hasn't experienced the loss and devastation the others have and she would be leaving behind her family, but more specifically, her brother Sam behind.

Add to the fact that the entire mission feels doomed to begin with and Naomi knows what the dangers and unknowns are. She isn't buying into the conveniently fluffy information the leaders are feeding the contestants so she decides she's going to use her smarts, and hacking program, to infiltrate one of the leading AI robots to get the information she desperately seeks about Europa, the RRB injections they've been getting, and more. Nothing goes as planned, especially the relationship between her and Leo, the candidate from Italy.

Just as we start to get some answers and real drama, the Final Six are chosen and it's devastation!! It leaves you on a major cliff hanger, and nothing is as it seems because the one person who wants to go and doesn't get chosen, gets pulled aside for their own mission that rivals that of the Final Six.

This was SO MUCH like The Hunger Games, and I liked it! I normally don't care for a sci-fi dystopian, but this one kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I knew maybe three quarters of the way in that I was going to be stuck on a cliff hanger and now I can't wait for book two. I so hope I get the opportunity to review that one because now I'm invested in this story, I have to follow it to the end. It would make for an incredible movie as well, we have the space drama, Europa's unknown, finalists you love for their tragic back story and the finalist you don't like at all, then you have Naomi and Leo. I didn't much like Naomi, she comes off as incredibly self absorbed, she isn't able to look beyond her little bubble in the world and see that the majority of people are experiencing tragic losses as a result of climate change. She's just worried about her brother who, let's face it, is probably going to die anyways. Maybe I'm callous but it seems like a wasted effort to save him in the face of current events in the world.

Anyways, I'm giving this a solid 4.5 stars. I'm only knocking it down because Naomi is so self absorbed it made it hard to really like her at all. I'm hoping now that she's had her epiphany at the end of this book that she gets her head in the game for book two.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Review: She Asked For It

This book came inside of my February My Guilty Pleasures book box and Willow Winters is a new to me author. I think. Her name is familiar but I can't remember if I've just added her books to my to-read shelf on Goodreads or if I have actually read her before and just can't recall book titles. But it looks intriguing even though I had an uneasy feeling about the title and the back description.

She Asked For It - Willow Winters

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

You’ll tell me you don’t… but you already think you know what my story’s about.

You have no idea.
Just like the people sitting in this courtroom.
She asked for it. That’s what they keep saying.

And no, it’s not because my skirt was too short or I was drunk at a party.
It’s nothing like that. It’s because of what I like and how I like it.

They’re judging me as I sit in the front row, my eyes drawn to the man on trial.
If I’d known it was going to end like this, I never would have gone home with him.
But he’s the type of man I just can’t say no to.

I wanted to feel his lips kiss down my neck.
I dreamed of running my fingers along the rough stubble on his jaw.
I craved his hands on me, pinning me down.
I needed to whisper his name in the dark, late at night.

You still think you know what happened? You don’t.
He’s innocent and I enjoyed every second I was with him.

Let me tell you my story, all about how I asked for it. 

Alright, this story was kind of... strange. I thought it was going to end one way and it ended much differently than I thought. We have Allison, who is literally going to be the female character you hate the most if only because she's an idiot. She has some kind of trauma in her past and you think she's been raped or something and no, it's not really even her trauma she's running from. She's set on ruining her life until she completes something... we don't know what she's even doing. Dean is more straight forward, he knows he's got a troubled past but he's actively trying to make changes and better himself someway and then he meets Allison, which makes him feel things differently. He wants her, he's willing to do what it takes to get past her walls even at the risk of his freedom, literally.

Couple things, I really liked Dean and I feel like maybe I shouldn't have. He's got anger issues and he likes his sex rough but you know it's probably going to be a fun time so you're willing to over look it. Allison is just the worst. I really didn't like her and then in the end when she's just completely unhelpful to Dean and lets him basically hang on his own and he's like, "Nah babe, it's cool"?! No. I didn't like it and I didn't like her. He should not have been so nonchalant and should demand a whole lot more from her than his no lying rule which she already broke.

Overall? I'm giving this one three stars. It was alright, I almost didn't finish it, and Dean saved it for me.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dance Weekend #1: Brainerd

We actually have two competitions again this year and I know some families find it cumbersome, I think it's fun. We aren't a competitive sort of family, I've always told my kids to do their best but have fun, who cares if you win? We're here to do something fun that we normally don't get to do. I don't want my kid to be the one pouting if they don't do well, I just want to know they had a good time. 

So I go into these weekends looking at it like time away from the chaos of the house. This time it was kind of a big deal (for me) because I drove us to a new place without incident and I got us home safely, too. I didn't get lost and I didn't get distracted or overly tired. Sure, I medicated myself, but I felt pretty OK. 
You know what I forgot, though? My CPAP machine and sleep aid medicine. I don't sleep well away from home and I totally forgot it and paid the price on that. I should also mention that our hotel was fine, except my bed was broken! It was completely busted in one corner so I felt like I was going downhill but backwards. Not a fun feeling to wake up to when you already wake up kind of disoriented anyways!

So the morning of we rush over to the high school in Brainerd, which is really very nice.  
 Got Olivia all ready for her first dance, Hip Hop. This is a special session so they just started this routine in January. 
 But it's a fun group of girls. 
 The team that won first place was far and above our team, but we still placed second out of three teams. 
 Olivia was beyond excited about that. 

We had a quick lunch and then had to get ready for their next, and last dance, for Kick. 
 In this group we were up against four other teams. They've done this routine since September and when I saw it in December, they did so well. It was spot on and just really great. 
I was surprised they came in fifth so they didn't get ribbons. The girls were bummed but Olivia said she had a lot of fun and enjoyed watching other teams from different cities dance. Our team just isn't a competitive dance group and that's OK. I'm glad the girls are getting these experiences and as I told Olivia on the car ride home, which was exhausting, you learn so much more from losing than you do winning. You're still left with goals and something to work towards and that's pretty alright. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Olivia Twist

Do you love the retelling of classics? I do and I have a couple I'm going to do for you this year (yeah, I'm looking ahead) but let's start with this one. It's a reimagined version of Oliver Twist.

Olivia Twist - Lorie Langdon

Olivia Brownlow is no damsel in distress. Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, she is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from fighting and stealing on the streets to lavish dinners and soirees as a debutante in high society. But she can’t seem to escape her past … or forget the teeming slums where children just like her still scrabble to survive.

Jack MacCarron rose from his place in London’s East End to become the adopted “nephew” of a society matron. Little does society know that MacCarron is a false name for a boy once known among London gangs as the Artful Dodger, and that he and his “aunt” are robbing them blind every chance they get. When Jack encounters Olivia Brownlow in places he least expects, his curiosity is piqued. Why is a society girl helping a bunch of homeless orphan thieves? Even more intriguing, why does she remind him so much of someone he once knew? Jack finds himself wondering if going legit and risking it all might be worth it for love.

Olivia Twist is an innovative reimagining of Charles Dickens’ classic tale Oliver Twist, in which Olivia was forced to live as a boy for her own safety until she was rescued from the streets. Now eighteen, Olivia finds herself at a crossroads: revealed secrets threaten to destroy the “proper” life she has built for her herself, while newfound feelings for an arrogant young man she shouldn’t like could derail her carefully laid plans for the future.

This book was so good I had a hard time putting it down. You know the story of Oliver Twist, but this is so rich and full of London goodness, dare I say it's better than the original? It's in the same time period but it feels modern, like this could be a modern day retelling almost. The author does a great job with her words so you picture the scenery, the children, the other characters, you get the feel and the grit of the scenes, she just did a really great job with this book. In the back it says this has been in the works for 35 years and you can tell because it's just written so well.

I did not expect a love story between Olivia and Jack, The Artful Dodger, but love story is what we got. A slow moving, rich cat and mouse game ending in a sweet romance. This isn't a retelling so much as it is a "what happened next?", and we find Olivia and Jack off the streets and no longer orphans. Though separated and Olivia no longer disguised as a young man, she and Jack find themselves in the glittering echelon of London society. Though they are no longer orphans, old habits die hard and they are still thieving independently to further their causes until one evening when Olivia realizes why Jack looks so familiar, he's her Artful Dodger, the orphan who took her in and helped her develop her skills, so to speak. The way it plays out and how their relationship develops is fun because Jack doesn't realize how good Olivia, who used to be Ollie, has become and how she continued to pull one over him. But when he realizes who she is and their relationship develops, it is so sweet. Jack can be himself, though he doesn't feel like he deserve her but he does! And she deserves him! It's PERFECT.

I loved this one so much and it was so much better than the original for me. I really adored this one. It's a great read for the YA audience, but even my 12 year old is loving it right now so this really spans the readership groups.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Happy mail in the form of: Book Boxes!

I am obsessed with book subscription boxes and there needs to be some kind of therapy group for it. Right now I'm getting The Bookworm Box and PageHabit regularly, but this month I added a one time, just to see how it is My Guilty Pleasures box, which is know called Totally Booked Crate. 

Which, if you're going to change your company's name and website? Maybe a little shout out email to your customers so they don't search for you, not find you, and assume they just got ripped off for $29.99, mmkay? 

So let's talk about  my boxes! 
My February box from The Bookworm Box is pretty solid! I am in the two book box (you can choose one book, if you want but then you get a larger swag item) so I got two books, some bookmarks, a pen, and a little hand warmer. I've already read one of the books, SEE THROUGH HEART, and it was so good!! So, so good you guys. So good that I've added her other books into my Amazon cart for the first chance I get money. Pretty excited about it. 

I heard about the My Guilty Pleasures box (now Totally Booked Crate) through another blog and I decided I wanted to give it a try since they have a one month only option, so that's what I did for February. The theme was "Girls Do It Better". 
Our box contained SHE ASKED FOR IT by Willow Winters, which is my current read, a knit hat, a "girl power" candle, a tea blend from Adagio Teas that I threw out, a vinyl sticker (which is new to a book box for me and I kind of love it), and a little art print. Overall this was a fun little box and they have three sub genres to choose from: young adult/fantasy, historical romance, or contemporary/new adult romance, and I chose the last one. Next month the theme is "Sea of Lies" so I'm on the fence about it. We'll see if I can get through a couple more books before I add to my collection!

I'd love to include my PageHabit box for this month but it STILL is not here. Frankly, this is all kind of unacceptable. It shipped February 19 and here we are, still waiting. I've already contacted them once and finally the package started moving but it's stalled again and I don't know why it's taking THIS LONG to mail a package via UPS. It's nuts. Get your crap together, PageHabit. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

36: It's where I'm at.

So over the weekend I celebrated my 36 birthday and it was pretty alright. The big kids went with my inlaws to the Twin Cities area to be tourists and do fun stuff so they weren't around to help me eat cake. 

Which works out because I don't like sharing my cake. 

But I got presents! I got some really cool presents this year! 
 My friend Penny got me the socks I wanted! There is almost nothing better than new socks and I have eight days of new sock cushy goodness. It was pretty great to get that fun package in the mail. 
 My friend Tammy took me out for dinner for some pizza and got me these gems. A fun mug for my cocoa, an Alice in Wonderland silk scarf, a fun saying for my bookshelf, chocolate, and a travel perfume (not shown) for my purse! She always gets me the best stuff. 
 Matt got me a Silhouette Cameo 3, which I apparently asked for but I have no memory of that. I'm not totally sure what I will do with it but it looks fun!
My parents got me a bike!!!! It's not this exact one, but pretty close. Instead of tan mine is more creamy white, and I have a basket, cup holder for my water bottle, a phone holder, and the back has a little bag to hold stuff in it. I'm so excited about this because I've wanted a bike for awhile I just never could justify spending the money to get one. My mom always knows exactly what to get me and thankfully my dad was home last weekend to go buy it and get it to our house. It's been in my garage for a week and I had no idea! 
My inlaw's got me an insulated water bottle and a gift card to Kohl's to get some new clothes, which I'm going to use with the $40 Kohl's cash I have and my coupon! I love, love, love gift cards.
 My friend Andrea got me a water bottle (smart because now I can rotate them), more socks (!!!), and the arm band for my phone I want/needed, and a Dory Funko Pop! character for my shelf. She sits proudly right next to my books for review.

Earlier in the day I had to go get a head shot done, which is so weird to say, for the Duluth Moms Blog. I'll be a contributing writer over there and I'll get you links and all of that once things start moving.
But I had to do my hair AND makeup and you guys, I used bronzer. It's a big deal and I'm a little orangey but I did manage to not look like Tara Reid fresh out of the fake tan bed.

It was a fun experience and I got to meet the other new writers, and it's so exciting. I did it on a whim and because people tagged me in it no less than 20 times in their "Calling All Writers" post and now I feel kind of sick, like I won't be able to come up with stuff to write about. But it is only a once a month article commitment so I should be fine.

I'll totally be fine and not nervous at all. 

Friday, March 9, 2018


This one came in one of my fairly recent book boxes and it doesn't even matter which one because it was SO DAMN GOOD.

Silenced - Leddy Harper

As a young child, Killian Foster survives the unimaginable. Silenced and scarred, he keeps to himself, spending his time with his notebook in the woods behind his aunt’s house. 

Until Rylee Anderson…

When Rylee spots Killian hopping over a fence next door, she follows him, unprepared for the boy she’d find—or the relationship that would unfold over the next seven years.

Or the silence that would follow.

Fighting between the hate of his past and the promise of his future, Killian must make choices—ones that would affect more than himself. Choices that would test the lines of right and wrong. Decisions that could break the bond of the only love Killian knew.

Hate or love.
Revenge or forgiveness.
Silence or his voice.

I got ALL of the feels with this book. Let's start by saying we have Killian, who witnesses the aftermath of his parent's murder as a young boy and is brutally mutilated in the process. He stops speaking completely because they told him not to and he's destined for a terribly sad and lonely life.

Until he meets Rylee in the woods behind his aunt's house. And nothing is the same ever again for either of them.

They form a friendship and become each other's firsts for everything. The author perfectly captures both a girl and a boy going through the awkward stages of puberty, the weirdness of a first kiss, dry humping, ejaculation for the first time, boners, and sex. I squirmed so many times because there were parts of this book that just hit home so hard for me and now as a parent I squirm thinking that my kids will experience this, so I can imagine Rylee's parents and how they felt.

But it isn't all cupcakes and rainbows, Killian is a troubled boy. He wants revenge but he wants, needs Rylee with him but she's only 17 at this point. He leaves and Rylee is left devastated. For five years. When she sees Killian again she's blown away at how much he's changed, how much he's still the same, and the circumstances of how she finds him inadvertently. Can they rekindle what they had? The answer is YES and it's hotter than dry humping on a twin bed, you guys.

My only issue with the book is that there seems to be some blurry lines of consent in this book a few times and I was there thinking, this could really be wrong on a few levels here. Never mind the almost caveman mentality of Killian at times, so I guess it's part of character building. But bravo to Rylee for being a strong woman open to just about anything because she really turns out to be a pretty great character... even though it got a little dicey at the end for her.

Overall? I'm giving this one 4.5 stars because it was THAT good. This is one I'd buy for my friends, easily.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Meet The Frugalwoods

You guys! So many of you liked my posts about working the Dave Ramsey method that as soon as I saw this one come up for review I jumped on it because we now struggle so hard with simple living. It feels like this daunting task void of anything nice or fun and this book changes that.

Meet the Frugalwoods - Elizabeth Willard Thames

The deeply personal story of how award-winning personal finance blogger Elizabeth Willard Thames abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced frugality to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life, and retire to a homestead in the Vermont woods at age thirty-two with her husband and daughter.

In 2014, Elizabeth and Nate Thames were conventional 9-5 young urban professionals. But the couple had a dream to become modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont. Determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each day—as opposed to wishing time away working for the weekends—they enacted a plan to save an enormous amount of money: well over seventy percent of their joint take home pay. Dubbing themselves the Frugalwoods, Elizabeth began documenting their unconventional frugality and the resulting wholesale lifestyle transformation on their eponymous blog.

In less than three years, Elizabeth and Nate reached their goal. Today, they are financially independent and living out their dream on a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of rural Vermont with their young daughter. While frugality makes their lifestyle possible, it’s also what brings them peace and genuine happiness. They don’t stress out about impressing people with their material possessions, buying the latest gadgets, or keeping up with any Joneses. In the process, Elizabeth discovered the self-confidence and liberation that stems from disavowing our culture’s promise that we can buy our way to "the good life." Elizabeth unlocked the freedom of a life no longer beholden to the clarion call to consume ever-more products at ever-higher sums.

Meet the Frugalwoods is the intriguing story of how Elizabeth and Nate realized that the mainstream path wasn’t for them, crafted a lifestyle of sustainable frugality, and reached financial independence at age thirty-two. While not everyone wants to live in the woods, or quit their jobs, many of us want to have more control over our time and money and lead more meaningful, simplified lives. Following their advice, you too can live your best life.

The really great thing about this autobiographical tale is that it stems from average working joe's wanting more out of their chaotic life. They just want the American Dream: kids, home, success. It's hard to achieve that in modern day even with the best education and great jobs, we get bogged down with cost of living, cost of children, what if emergencies pop up, can you find an affordable home, is it possible to not work yourself to death but have a fulfilled life? 

The answer is yes to all of that and it's in the book. This book isn't your how-to, and if you follow all of these steps you too will have a little homestead with acreage and a storybook garden. That might not be your dream and that might not be a reality where you live. 

The book also reminds us that we have all lived frugally at one point. We have. Remember your college days when peanut butter AND jelly was a luxury you couldn't always afford? Easy Mac, for date night, anyone? You know how to doctor ramen noodles so it feels like a meal every night. The book isn't telling you to go back to those days in order to pay off debt and get what you want, but it does remind you that you can do it. You know where to cut corners, you know how to be frugal. Somewhere along the way we all get off that path because we feel like we deserve it, we work hard, why don't we deserve it? You might deserve it but you can't afford it and that's the key. 

The book isn't very long (just under 230 pages) but it is jammed pack with an entertaining story of how one family beat the odds and did it. It's inspiring, it's funny, you can relate to it, and you finish the book ready to make some changes in your own life. For me, I've started cutting down meal nights, no more fancy pants meals with multiple ingredients. That'll cut out some for us. We've adjusted our mortgage to save a little each month, and we've been making great strides in cutting down our debt. 

I highly recommend this one if you are intimidated by things like the Dave Ramsey approach and having a concrete budget and money envelopes scare you- this is not scary. These are stupidly simple ways to spend money wisely and some of their experiences can be your experiences, too. Maybe you don't have a fruit farm but maybe you start with an herb garden and save an extra $30 you would have spent. Maybe you get yourself a square foot garden and grow only the veggies that you know you are going to eat all year round. Conform their ideas to your situation. It's a great book and I found myself laughing because man alive, we've been there. It reminded me of our "poor years" in our first apartment and I realized we can go back to that. I don't know why we stopped, maybe because we had larger credit lines and we thought we could? But I have nothing but fond memories, even funny ones, of our time being frugal and getting creative with our funds. Ha!


Weightloss Wednesday: Oh hello, WEIGHT GAIN

You guys, I'm struggling. I'm struggling with actually doing. I have the motivation, I have the ability thanks to my ridiculously amazing inhaler, but I don't have the gumption to get up and go.

No gumption to do it.

I've got my six month YMCA membership, I've used it once for 30 minutes of walking the track. I've done my Beachbody YouV2 workouts and I hate them but I'm trying to mute the guy and play my own music but man, half way through I'm like, "It's OK, I'll just be fat, it's totally fine!".

Then I go to the doctor to get my six month endocrine check and hello 210 pounds, did not miss you but here we are. Besties again.

Where do I find the gumption?

Knowing that I'll be practically naked for a photo shoot wasn't enough of a gumption-getter.

I don't know what will be.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

See Through Heart

This book came in a recent book subscription box and I picked it out of my to-read pile because the cover was pretty and it wasn't long.

That makes it a winner already.

See Through Heart - Amie Knight

Ainsley came into my life in a flurry of vibrant colors, lighting my world up when all seemed lost.

It wasn’t our quiet nights by the creek or stolen kisses surrounded by a sea of cotton that saved me.  

It was her. 

She was my comfort when life threw one ugly tragedy after another at me. 

Until she dealt me the greatest blow. 

Now, abandonment, betrayal, and death darken every corner of my life.  Anger and hurt burn bright where love and trust once lived.  

But, now, she’s back.  Sure, she’s changed, but I see through it—straight to her heart.

Alright so in this book we have Ainsley and her pseudo sister Lori as young girls who meet a boy with suspenders, Adrian. They soon become an inseparable trio and the story follows them through the years, including the year that Ainsley and Adrian finally become the couple they were destined to be, Lori's untimely death, Ainsley leaving like a coward, and the end... which I can't tell you. I will tell you that for awhile there the book was literally TOO perfect of a love story and I was a little worried this would be a dud of a book. But then... just on time... Ainsley makes the biggest, most cowardly mistake of her life and I instantly hated her. Within seconds I went from love to hate with a character and I was taken aback by it. Things come around eventually and they both have to profess their love for each other in big ways but it's worth it. The slow roll to the end is worth it. So, so worth it. I'm giving this (I know, I'm crazy with these this week) 5 stars because I am a sucker for love stories that span since childhood and happy endings. Sigh. I can't help it. 


Monday, March 5, 2018

Fatal Chaos

You are super lucky to get THREE posts from me today. Lucky lambs.

Fatal Chaos - Marie Force

First the calm. Then the storm…

Escaping DC during the dog days of summer is one of the smartest moves Washington metro police lieutenant Samantha Holland ever made. Beach walks aren’t quite as romantic with the Secret Service in tow, but Sam and her husband, Vice President Nick Cappuano, cherish the chance to recharge and reconnect—especially with a scandal swirling around the administration.

No sooner are they back home than a fatal drive-by shooting sets the city on edge. The teenage victim is barely older than Sam and Nick’s son, Scotty. As more deaths follow, Sam and her team play beat the clock to stop the ruthless killers. With Nick facing his greatest challenge—one that could drastically change all their lives and even end Sam’s career—will the mounting pressure deepen or damage their bond?

Though reading the entire series in full is helpful, you don't have to, this book stands on its own just fine. We have Nick and Sam again and I really like them as a couple even though nothing about their lives is boring. The great thing about them is that neither character tries to change the other to  make it easier on them. They both have big decisions to make as far as their career but they are completely supportive of each other no matter what. It's refreshing to see that played out in a book.

This time around Sam is involved in a weird case that keeps you on the edge of your seat. You can't figure out who the killer is, who the next victim will be, why they are chosen for a victim, it doesn't seem to jive together except for a few clues. There is SO MUCH suspense in this book I had a hard time putting it down, this was even better than the last one for me. I'm a fan of murder and mystery and this story had me going the entire time. When the story unfolds and you find the motive for the drive-by's, it all makes sense and you appreciate the ride to get there. It's well crafted, it's a winner for those who love a good suspense with a dash of romance tossed in there. It's like you come for the romance and you stay for the suspense.

I'm going to give my elusive 5 star for this one because this is the book that's kept me awake later than I want to be to function the next day. Well done.


Time Critical Conference: I didn't puke

You guys, it has been SO long since I have had to speak in front of a group. Once upon a time I used to be really good at it despite being an introvert. I used to be the girl who volunteered to do her presentation first, not because of the extra credit points but because I really enjoyed it and knew I would get an A anyways. In college I took every public speaking class I could and I remember waiting for my turn at the podium and watching the person ahead of me pee their pants from fear, wondering what they are so scared of? It's just people, listening to you. Maybe forced, but also maybe by choice. It's an opportunity to be honest and I loved it.

So when I was asked to say a little something at a local medical conference I immediately said yes.

Then I remembered I have a brain injury, anxiety, and panic attacks and I wondered what exactly I was thinking? Surely I have lost my mind and just because old Sara is saying "do it" does not mean I can, or should, now.

But I also have an annoying guilt that never wants me to be a let down or a disappointment, so I didn't think I could back out. My plan was to not freak out, take extra medication the morning of, and make the font of my speech large so I wouldn't stumble.

I spent a week perfecting what I wanted to say. I worried. I was going to lay some truth out there that I had only spoken about in therapy, but not to Matt. It would be the first time I would say it out loud to other people. I was pretty terrified but truth is truth.

The morning of I got a GREAT message from a good friend of mine reminding me of one of our classmates and his terrible reaction to speaking in front of the class as a reminder that at least I likely won't be that bad. It really helped with my nerves. Wouldn't you know that not only did I forget to take my daily medications that morning but I forgot to take the medicine I have to keep me alert and not panicky- nice. I didn't realize it until I was sitting at the table feeling like bugs were crawling up my legs and I started yawning like crazy, much too late to do anything about it, of course.

When it came time for me to speak I thought for sure I would burst into tears or panic all together. I was able to keep it together, my voice only wobbled a few times. If I were grading myself I'd give me a solid C. Two years ago I would have kicked myself for how I did but today I'm alright with it, I know that it was the best I can do now and I need to be OK and gentle with myself.

The really cool thing is that afterwards I got some great hugs. I got to meet one of my nurses (that I don't remember because I was in ICU and unconscious), that Matt remembered. I met the Nurse Practitioner who helped deliver Penelope, she came just to see the presentation on AFE. But the best was a nurse chased me down as I went to the car and gave me just a really great hug. Told me that she also has a brain injury after a car crash and what I was saying about memory loss was right on and really affected her. She was teary and we just spoke about what it's like. It's really such a weight off my chest to know that someone heard me, and gets it. But she gave me a good book recommendation that was beneficial for her, Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer, so I'm going to check that out.

The greatest part of my day though was feeling like I had taken a huge load off of my chest. Carrying secrets and hard stuff isn't good for anyone and I really felt like I made a great step in a new direction. I can hardly wait to tell my therapist next week, she's going to be so impressed that not only did I it but that I made the strides that I did. 

A Castle of Sand

I'm three books in and I feel like I have to get my wits about me before I jump into book four.

A Castle of Sand - Bella Forrest

What Sofia has with Derek feels like a sandcastle; temporary and something that the waves of life and time will soon ruin...

Since the return of Gregor Novak, the island has turned several shades darker. His hatred toward Sofia and thirst for fresh blood lead to a brutal war igniting between father and son. 

Meanwhile, the hunters are gaining formidable strength and resources by the day; they know that the safety of The Shade hangs entirely on its ability to remain hidden from them. 

And a sinister secret lies in wait for Sofia within the bowels of an Egyptian desert... a secret that threatens to crush her sandcastle much sooner than she could have expected.

Phew. Well this one took me a little longer to get through and I hope that isn't a sign that the series is waning for me, I have four more books in Derek & Sofia's story to go. In this book we have a LOT going on, mostly Sofia becoming more vocal about the treatment of the Naturals in The Shade, and she decides that she will go live among them when she turns 18 because she can either do that or be turned, something she is against doing. (Which seems odd because she's sure her relationship with Derek can't last because of her mortality, but she doesn't want to become immortal? Right... that makes sense.)

We also meet Derek's dad, Gregor, who turns out to be a giant dirt bag. Ben struggles with being a Hunter and his story line is kind of sad in this one, I thought. We also learn that Ingrid Maslen is actually Sofia's mother which is all kinds of screwed up because she's gone nuts (literally) and Sofia's father is a Hunter. Talk about inlaws from Hell for Derek, a possibility since Derek makes it known that Sofia is to be his wife, it's just a matter of when.

Lot of danger in this one, we see Derek beat up quite a bit, Sofia makes terrible choices, some characters change a bit and that's weird, and we learn what it is about Sofia's blood that makes her so irresistible, at the very end of the book. Like last line, not kidding.

Overall even though a LOT happened in this book and it was a shorter book than book two, I felt like this one took me a long time to get through. I hope things go a little faster in book four.


Friday, March 2, 2018

Switch It Up

If you are looking for... oh god I don't know. I don't know how to describe this book. Just know it made ME blush and you know me. Ahem.

Switch It Up - Sara Brookes
Welcome to Noble House, Where Your Passion is Our Pleasure, and Someone is Always Watching…

Hacker Madeline Zane gets off crossing lines. So when she discovers security flaws in the Noble House website, she thinks nothing of showing up at the door of the hybrid fetish club and demanding an audience with the owner. Especially after watching an intense online scene of the notorious Dom bringing a submissive to her knees.

Kochran Duke is weary of always being in control, but meeting Maddy rekindles his pleasure in what had become strictly business. And instead of making him jealous, seeing her submit to his old friend Ezra has him aching for something he didn’t even know he was searching for.

The kind of heartbreak Ezra’s lived through changes a man. Maddy makes him crave a life he thought he’d put behind him for good. Watching her with Kochran only fuels his desires, rousing the caged beast within.

Fortunately at Noble House, virtually any fantasy can become reality. 

This book introduces us to Noble House, basically a place to go and have literally any fantasy fulfilled. It's run by Kochran Duke, always in charge at Noble House but outside of it his life feels like it's spiraling out of control. We have Ezra who was in a triad marriage that went to hell once his wife died and his husband left him to grieve on his own, Ezra hasn't been the same since.

Then we have Madeline (Maddy) who is a computer geek to the fullest who decides to exploit their website but when that goes bad for her she goes to them directly to get it fixed. Because she was able to hack it, she gets to help fix it or else they go to the Feds because she technically broke a whole slew of laws. Soon enough though, Maddy's curiosity gets the best of her and she finds herself in the middle of same game (you could call it)  between Ezra and Kochran but she isn't complaining because all of her fantasies are being checked off like a bucket list.

Things you should know: if you felt dirty after reading Fifty Shades, this is not the book for you.  This takes BDSM to the next level. If you are not a fan on man on man action, this is not the book for you. Admittedly that's not my jam and I did not read the description carefully enough so that was kind of uneasy for even me. Some of the bondage/BDSM scenes were a bit much for me and it reminded me of a book called The Secret Life of a Submissive, a lot of the scenes gave me the same icky feel. I think if you are a fan of BDSM and have ever considered a threesome, this book is going to be right up your alley.

Some parts of it seemed tedious to read and I could have knocked a solid 100 pages out of it but I was still able to get through it in a weekend. Definitely not a book you want to leave laying around on your dining room table where your pre-teen daughter is. You might have to explain stuff that you aren't ready to.

Overall I'm giving this one 3/5 stars. It wasn't terrible and I'd be interested in reading more from this author, particularly more in the Noble House Kink series. I'm knocking it down because guy on guy isn't my thing.