{Love the Home You Have} Book Launch

Hello, friends! Today I want to share with you the launch of a new book by one of my favorite bloggers (Melissa from The Inspired Room) titled Love the Home You Have:

download (2)

 

If you own or rent a house (or actually, any kind of dwelling) and you’ve never visited The Inspired Room blog, you must check it out immediately! Melissa is such an inspiration, and every post motivates me to make my house better. Her ideas are fresh,  modern and, most importantly, realistic.

I don’t know about you, but Pinterest has all but ruined my house for me. No matter how excited I am about a new piece of furniture or using throw pillows in a (genius!) new spot, one foray on Pinterest makes me gag at the sight of everything in my house. Ha, ok, that’s a little dramatic, but the Pin-timidation is real. This is a frustrating and exhausting cycle, and, as I’m sure my husband would agree, it needs to stop. I’m super pumped to read Melissa’s book because it’s high time that I love the home I have, not some unattainable Pinterest-worthy home. Besides, with our little toddler-nado on the move, things are never going to be “perfect” anyway. Well, maybe when he moves out and goes to college. But that is never happening because he’s always going to stay home with me foreverandeverandever! Right?!

Aaaaaanyway, to celebrate the launch of her new book, Melissa is hosting a 31 day Love Your Home Challenge. Thirty-three other bloggers – and many readers! – will be joining in as well.

Capture

The book has all the daily challenges Melissa suggests, but ANY project that makes you feel great about your home will work for the challenge.

I can’t wait to read this book (my copy is in the mail!) and share my thoughts with you all. I’ll definitely be taking notes for spring and summer projects around our home. Let the home inspiration begin!

Love,

http---signatures.mylivesignature.com-54492-78-237BD790B4C69237D36BC80B87CCEE68

Bloglovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

For all my fellow readers and lovers of blogs, have you tried Bloglovin yet? If not, here’s the scoop:

When you sign up for Bloglovin and follow all your favorite blogs, the site delivers a summary of posts from these blogs everyday – right to your email. It’s all the blogs you love in one place! I’ve been on Bloglovin for about a year, and it’s been such a time saver for me. Plus – the site suggests other blogs based on your preferences, so I’ve found some great new blogs to follow.

J9KGKSPb

I feel like I’ve said “blog” way too much in this post – so I’ll stop here. Ok, one more: blog! I couldn’t help myself :)

Love,

http---signatures.mylivesignature.com-54492-78-237BD790B4C69237D36BC80B87CCEE68

Pantry Cooking – Mexican Lasagna

We are big fans of Mexican food in our house  casa. We are regulars at the local Mexican restaurant, and Ryan’s homemade guacamole is pretty much a staple in our fridge, so when I found this recipe for Mexican Lasagna on my quest for pantry cooking recipes, I knew it was worth a try.

Mexican-Lasagne-7

Source

Because I was focused on using only items we had on hand, I had to make a few tweaks in the ingredients, but HOLY MOLEY this recipe is great!

First, it makes a lot of food – and all the ingredients are inexpensive. Based on 6 servings and the price I paid for the ingredients (to the best of my recollection), this costs about $2.11 per serving. You can add ground beef or turkey to the red sauce if you’d like, but I did not – and I honestly didn’t miss it at all! For our 2 1/2 person family, this easily makes enough for dinner and at least one lunch.

Secondly, it’s comforting and satisfying. My first thought was – wow, this tastes like a Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell! However, by my scientific and fact-based calculations (ha!), it’s about 1,000 times healthier. I was counting down the minutes to lunch all day yesterday in anticipation of eating the leftover yumminess.

Third, you probably have most – if not all – of the ingredients on hand, so it’s a great last minute I-don’t-know-what-to-do-for-dinner option. This goes great with a salad, some chips and salsa or just served on its own.

Without further ado, here is the recipe!

Mexican Lasagna
adapted from a recipe on Sugar & Spice by Celeste
Makes 6-8 servings

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 4-ounce can green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes, “chili ready” are preferred, but not required
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can of corn (regular or cream-style)
  • 2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • soft flour tortillas (I used 6-inch ones, and I used 9 of them in this recipe)
  • guacamole, salsa, hot sauce, other toppings – optional

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Saute the onions in the oil in a large skillet for 3 minutes. Add can of green chiles and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until onions are soft.

2. Add cans of diced tomatoes. Add water to one can (about 1/4 of the can) and add that to the skillet as well. Add ketchup and salt. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 10 minutes.

3. While the sauce is cooking, combine the drained beans and corn in a bowl. Add 2 cups of the shredded cheese, reserving 1/2 cups of the cheese. Combine.

4. In a large oven-safe casserole dish (I used an oval shape one, but any shape would work), put a layer of the red sauce on the bottom, then top with three of the tortillas. Depending on the size of the tortillas you have and the shape of the casserole dish, you may have to tear the tortillas into pieces to get good coverage. It doesn’t have to be perfect – but you should try to cover most of the sauce.

5. Next, add a layer of the bean and corn mixture. You don’t want it to be too thick, but it should definitely cover all the tortillas.

6. Repeat this process two more times: red sauce, tortillas, bean and corn mixture. Top the lasagna with any remaining red sauce and the reserved 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.

7. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. I think it’s helpful to place a cookie sheet in the oven on the rack beneath the casserole dish to catch any spills, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have one.

8. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Top with guacamole, salsa, hot sauce and/or other toppings, if desired.

Friday Favorites – March 27, 2015

Happy first day of spring! In honor of the start of the season that brings longer days and sunshine, I’ve put together a Friday Favorites – and this week is all about things that have been making my life easier and/or more enjoyable lately. Enjoy!

1. Pantry cooking. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this as a CPA, but my family is not on a budget. I know, I know – it’s not good! To work on that, I’ve been tracking our spending this past month using Mint. It’s been very helpful, but also very eye-opening. I thought for sure our spending was too high when it came to restaurants and random coffee shop visits, however, the real money-suck in our budget is our grocery bills. Holy smokes – seeing how much we spent at the grocery store this past month was the closest I think I’ve ever come to a heart attack. What’s even worse is we have a TON of food in our pantry and freezer, so besides the necessities for our baby toddler, we really have no need to be going to the store as much as we do. Armed with Pinterest-adapted recipes and the contents of my kitchen, I’ve been able to successfully come up with several recipes made up of items I have on hand, or what I call “pantry cooking”. I’ll be sharing some of our favorites soon! Along with pantry cooking, I’ve also been a big fan of…

2. Freezer cooking. Ok, true story: freezer cooking just about saved me the past few months. No exaggeration. I work at a Big Four CPA firm, and several most months of the year are considered “busy season”. Even though Ryan and I have the best intentions for cooking at home, here is how a normal busy-season evening conversation goes:

Ryan: What time are you leaving?
Me: I don’t know. Probably late.
Ryan: Ok – did you want me to start the [insert name of healthy meal we discussed making for dinner that evening]?
Me: No. I’ll just pick up [insert name of unhealthy fast food restaurant] on the way home.

It’s sad, but true. Now that J is eating what we are, we’ve realized we cannot just pick up fast food when our lives are crazy. And let’s be honest, friends – when aren’t our lives crazy? I’m sure each and every one of you reading this are being pulled in too many directions too often. Pizza and Chinese take-out are not the answer!

I have friends who rave about freezer cooking, so I decided I was finally going to give it a try. My winter busy season runs from mid-January to mid-March, so right after the New Year, I spent an entire Sunday chopping, cooking and portioning food. In that time, I made four different recipes (chili, creamy Italian chicken, chicken pot stickers and lasagna) and either doubled or tripled them, so that in the end, my freezer was stocked with 20 2-serving meals. Every evening, my husband and I would decide what we wanted to eat the next day for dinner and then just put that frozen meal in the fridge to thaw. A-MAZ-ING!!! I’m working on a post dedicated to freezer cooking- I cannot wait!

3. Podcasts. I spend A LOT of my time in the car. Way too much time, in my opinion. While I certainly enjoy my local country station’s DJs, I felt like I could be using my time a little more effectively. I can’t use my commute to work – since Ohio has these crazy laws about distracted driving and keeping your eyes on the road – so I would call my friends and family to pass the time. Problem is most of my friends and family either have short commutes or aren’t up as early as I am, which resulted in me calling the same people over and over…and I’m sure those people got tired of hearing from me all the time. This is how podcasts came into my life – and this is how they stayed:

They are make me think. One of the first podcasts I downloaded was by the authors who gave the world the Freakonomics books. I’m a big fan of their books (see here and here), so it did not surprise me that I love their podcasts too. These guys take seemingly boring topics (car accidents involving pedestrians, quitting a job, and parking lots, to name a few) and expose “the hidden side of everything”. What is the true cost of all our nation’s parking lots? If you don’t care, you should – because it’s high.

download

Also check out Radiolab. Great stuff.

They are thrilling. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me that a podcast can be thrilling, but if you just listen to the Serial podcast, I’m sure you’ll change your mind. I love crime stories, so I was immediately drawn into this podcast about the real-life murder of a high school girl in 1999. I listened to all 12 episodes in a week. Seriously – it’s addicting.

download (1)

Also check out Criminal. Each episode is less than 30 minutes but just full of crime-related storytelling.

They make me feel. Strangers is a podcast that details a different story of humanity every episode. I love hearing all the different stories of just people – the pain, the joys, the struggles. It’s all so real – and it makes me want to be a better person to everyone in my life.

download (1)

4. theSkimm. I like to be on top of news – both local and worldwide – but it’s so TOUGH. My local news doesn’t cover everything, and if I tried to read even one newspaper a day, I would lose precious time I could (and should) be spending working. I read about the creators of theSkimm and instantly wanted to be friends with them, so I figured their daily newsletter was at least worth a shot. I’m so glad I did because ya’ll, seriously – this has been my favorite discovery of 2015. Said in their own words:

theSkimm is an email newsletter for anyone short on time. No one wants to be the deer in headlights when someone says “did you hear about the latest in Syria?” or “did you hear about Johnny Football?”. We have always been the go-to source for friends seeking the scoop on current events or breaking news. We soon realized three things: Reading the news is time consuming; Wanting to read the news is a hobby; lastly, not everyone has the time or interest.

screen_shot_2012-05-13_at_10.16.56_pm

I guess they are way too modest to include that they are EXCELLENT writers and that they make complicated news headlines (read: what is going on in the Middle East) understandable. Also – they are hi-lar-i-ous. I look forward to the day I can quit my job and join theSkimm team. Ha – just kidding…not really.

What are you waiting for?! Sign up!

5. Parks and Recreation. Ryan and I recently made the decision to get rid of cable. We don’t watch much TV, and when we do, we would just catch up on on whatever was in our DVR. So, it seemed silly to keep paying a ton of cash each month for something we didn’t really use. Bye bye, cable – hello, Netflix and Hulu! So far, we don’t miss cable at all (I know football season will be another story but we’ll deal with that later). Having access to tons of TV shows and movies I’ve never seen has been eye opening – and so much fun! One question though:

Why didn’t anyone tell me “Parks and Recreation” is *literally* one of the best TV shows ever made?!

See what I did there? I’m sure Chris Traeger would approve.

To be fair, my sister has been telling me for months that I would love this show, so I guess I have no real excuse why I’m so late joining the P&R party train. I’m just really glad that I finally got on board. It’s silly, so I can escape all the seriousness of the real world, but it’s still smart humor, so I don’t feel totally guilty about watching TV. I’ve officially put Amy Poehler on my list of women I want to be friends with.

2013_0808_Parks_and_Rec_Show_KeyArt_1920x1080_0-300x168

Ryan and I have caught up through season 6 on Netflix, so now we are facing the same conundrum as we did with my beloved “Friday Night Lights” (FNL) – we love it so much we want to watch more, but every episode we watch means we are one closer to the last one. ARGH!

The one good thing about finishing a series is that it makes room to start another. My dear friend and fellow FNL fan Shannon has suggested “Parenthood” and “Bloodlines”, so those are up next!

 

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Love,

http---signatures.mylivesignature.com-54492-78-237BD790B4C69237D36BC80B87CCEE68

What I Read in 2014 + Reading List for 2015

I set a goal to read 36 books in 2014, and unfortunately I fell short. However, I did read 18 books – and I think that’s fairly decent, considering I had a baby during the year.

I did decide during the year that I was going to read one non-fiction book for every fiction book I read. I haven’t been a huge non-fiction fan in the past, so this was tough for me at first – but WOW, I’m so glad I went this route. As you’ll see below, non-fiction books ended up being some of my favorites this year.

Below are my favorite books of 2014, followed by the ones I wish I hadn’t even bothered with. The past year was certainly an interesting one for me!

[Of course – these are just my opinions! I hope no one is offended :)]

MY FAVORITES

1. The Cider House Rules, by John Irving. Controversial topic and excellently written. This was a long one, but I couldn’t put it down.

2. The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp. Saved my life. And I am not joking.

3. And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Housseini. The author’s third book – and his third on my “favorites” list.

4. Things a Little Birdie Told Me, by Biz Stone. Written by one of the founders of Twitter, this book is inspiring, as well as hilarious.

5. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Set in Germany during WWII, this book is obviously not cheery. But it does accomplish the hefty feat of showing that humans are capable of extraordinary kindness – even during the worst of times.

MY NOT-SO-FAVORITES

1. Country Music Broke My Brain, by Gerry House. I really thought it would be impossible for me not to like this book. Country music? Love. Country singers “behind the scenes”? Love. This book? Blah.

2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. This book got a lot of hype, and I know many readers loved it. But I just couldn’t buy it. Sorry, Mr. Gaiman.

3. The Pilot’s Wifeby Anita Shreve. Predictable, unconvincing… and just boring.

All in all, I had more favorites than disappointments during the year, so I call that a success. I’m trying something new this year: POPSUGAR’S 2015 Reading Challenge. It’s 50 categories of books meant to diversify your reading choices, which I could really use. Fifty books is a very daunting task, but this should be fun. Even if i don’t read a book in each category, at the very least I will have read some books I normally wouldn’t have. I have about 20 more books I need to add to the list, so I better get going to work on that. I’ll post them all when I’m done – but in the meantime, please send any suggestions my way!

Happy reading, everyone!

http---signatures.mylivesignature.com-54492-78-237BD790B4C69237D36BC80B87CCEE68

Resolutions

Happy New Year! I hope everyone ended 2014 healthy and happy. The past year has been totally crazy for us – namely because of a cute little boy who came into our lives last February. I said goodbye to 2014 with mixed emotions, but I’m saying HELLO to 2015 with renewed enthusiasm – and a resolution:

Get my life organized.

This includes a major declutter of our house, an overhaul of my work schedule and getting my personal life under control. Not that things are OUT OF CONTROL or anything, but I certainly need to be better about making the best use of my time. My mini-resolutions that go hand-in-hand with my main one is to make exercise a priority and be more consistent with writing (on here…and journaling!).

While we’re on the topic of resolutions, let’s talk about the one thing almost everyone wants to improve: our health. According to USA.gov, 6 of the top 13 resolutions involve improving some aspect of our well-being:

Lose weight
Quit smoking
Get fit
Eat healthy food
Manage stress
Drink less alcohol

But unfortunately – although maybe not surprisingly – those same resolutions are on Time’s Top 10 commonly broken resolutions.

Bottom line – getting healthy is not easy. It takes hard work, commitment, focus – and most of all, TIME. Last year my most popular blog post was on “gym snobs” and how frustrating (and common) the practice of shaming people at the gym is. For all of those who will be starting a an exercise program in the New Year, I’ll be right there with you. And I hope I can count on you – and all others at the gym – to cheer me on when I want to quit.

67d77808545d341b6fe0e2d9c567edb3

Happy New Year!

http---signatures.mylivesignature.com-54492-78-237BD790B4C69237D36BC80B87CCEE68

Friday Favorites: Thanksgiving Tablescapes

Today we are officially under the two week mark until Thanksgiving! Are you hosting this year? If so, do you have your table planned? I’m not hosting, so there will be no tablescaping for me, which is probably for the better because that is a lot of hard work! Instead, I decided to look through all the gorgeous fruits of everyone else’s labor and put together my favorites in this post. That counts as work, right? :)

Favorite blue, gold and cream

Southern-Thanksgiving-Table-Setting

Source

Favorite use of wheat:

wheat-bundle-centerpiece-uncommon-designs

Source

Favorite all white tablescape:

DSC_2017-e1415036612361

Source

Favorite preppy table:

Boldly-Stray-From-What-Expected

Source

Favorite use of a lantern:

Lighten-Up

Source

Favorite purple tablescape:

tumblr_ncbehtAhfF1sg22dvo1_500

Source

Favorite farm table + lights!

west-elm-tablescape-l

Source

And finally – favorite kids table:

thanksgiving-kids-table-party-1109-de

Source

With love,

http---signatures.mylivesignature.com-54492-78-237BD790B4C69237D36BC80B87CCEE68