Friday, April 5, 2019

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday all!

The week seemed to crawl a little bit at the front end but certainly sped up at the back end. Happy the weekend is here :) I've been looking forward to it. Some favorites, shall we?

// Still very much a favorite... saying yes to my wedding dress! It was exciting but super surreal. Per usual, I've needed some time to adjust (might seem like a silly thing to have to "adjust to" but big moments do that to me) but am totally in love with it and keep looking at photos and can't wait to wear it.

// Earlier this week I had a lunch phone call with our travel agent to discuss our honeymoon! She asked us to come up with a "must have" list which I kept on my desk on bright post-its haha. We may have bitten off a little more than we can chew (read: pay for) in our grand plans so she's going to do a little research and get us a ballpark total cost and then we can decide if we need to reevaluate. It was such a fun conversation though.

// One of my best friends is getting married in September and we've all started looking for bridesmaids dresses since she's letting us pick our own (in her chosen color). I think this might be the one I go with :)

// These are the texts I get people. A few notes:
-It's not staying at our house. She'll live at the department. Thank god.
-I still want to learn to shoot it...badly.
-I named her Don Corleone. Because we can never be too Italian.

// Been treating myself to medicine balls this week. They're my favorite thing to get at Starbucks (aside from seasonal drinks) and have been hitting the spot. Please note: my name is now "Alce." 

// I've always loved Rob Thomas's voice, so I was excited to hear his new song on Ellen this week. SO good. I've been listening to it on repeat.

// I posted my March book review this week, if you'd like to see. I think of the ten books I read this month, these two YAs were my favorite. They just left me feeling so good.


// One night I was trying to use all these random ingredients we had leftover in the fridge so we wouldn't waste them and I decided to throw together "Mexican" grilled cheese sandwiches, which I thought Sammy would think were bogus, but he ended up LOVING. Outright requesting them (and he never requests specific meals, bless his heart). So I made burrito bowls earlier this week so we'd have leftover ingredients I could use for grilled cheeses.

You could make them with a bunch of different Mexican-inspired ingredients but I use black beans and green chilies for ours. Regular cheddar cheese but I would love them with pepper jack or something more authentic. Sammy asked for chicken in his for extra protein, but I ate mine vegetarian. He also mentioned adding an egg into it (actually he suggested scrambled eggs which I think is weird unless they're breakfast sandwiches. So I suggested a fried egg and he replied, "that's how you die"—I think his heart is put off by how much butter I use when cooking ;)—so I guess I'll be having a fried egg by myself.) I will admit, they are really good. But I think they're really good because I use a the "secret ingredient" I read on Cup of Jo: mayo.

// I met a friend for dinner last night in downtown Arlington Heights. We went to Passero and enjoyed it! Everything was good. I got the carbonara and we split a cookie dessert that was as rich as it looks. It was good but I thought overpriced for the portions. Plus I kind of hate when people want to take perfectly fine Italian food and mix it up. I don't need squash in my carbonara, okay? Even though I'm a snob, I'd probably go back haha but wouldn't waste time on the apps or dessert.

That's all the randomness I got!

Sammy and I are hoping to head to Sam's Club tonight or tomorrow morning when we'll become real suburbanites (we always have been, who are we fooling?) and finally use the gift card my dad gave me and get a membership. We're very cool.

Saturday I hope to do some purging or idk something productive during the day. Maybe take Henry for a walk since it's supposed to be in the 60s! But in the evening, I'm having a girl's night with one of my best friends to catch up on all important things (we have a running list of topics 'cause we're very, very cool people and not dorks at all), eat good food, and watch Crimes of Grindelwald (see, not dorks at all). I'm so excited for it.

We rescheduled plans with my BIL and SIL for Sunday morning to meet them and our niece for breakfast, and I'm excited to start this monthly breakfast tradition with them. Just the siblings, no parents ;)

It's gunna be a good one. Happy weekend! xo

*Linking up with Andrea!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Book Review — March 2019

I'm back this month talking about my favorite thing: books. This was the month of YA and contemporary romance (as though I read much else) so if that ain't your thing, you're gunna want to skip over this post.

Now. About the books...

Summary from Goodreads:
Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn't so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind? 

With Maurene Goo's signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

I started reading this one back in February but actually finished in March. It was probably my least favorite of the YAs I read this month (maybe...ever. Ah, sorry!). It wasn't bad but it wasn't all that great either. The plot was interesting enough and I liked the diversity of the characters but I think I was put off by how modern everything felt. The main character's mom is an "influencer" and it's kind of a pet peeve of mine when author's include a ton of current technology speak or current slang because I think it can date a book quicker than it may age on its own (who knows if "influencer" is going to be a thing in five years?). The main character was also kind of obnoxious which I know is done on purpose so we can see her grow and change but I was left feeling that growth was too easy or insincere. 3/5 stars on a good day but probably more like 2.5/5.

Plot from Goodreads (which doesn't really do it justice):
Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best of friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that the stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind…

This was a welcome change after the first YA I read this month. This book was amazing. It was exactly the kind of YA (book in general for that matter) I like to read. It reminded me of Sarah Dessen novels. Historical nod, family angles, coming of age (which can sometimes be so annoying, so I appreciate when writers can do it well), feminist vibes, etc. So well written and thoughtful. I thoroughly enjoyed and it and have already recommended it to people. It's definitely my favorite Siobhan Vivian book and now I can't wait to read what she's currently working on. 4.5/5 stars.

Plot from Goodreads:
Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.

Another one I'm so glad I read but disappointed I didn't wait until summer to read. It got me in such a summer mood! This is another YA that gave me Dessen vibes (even though there really can't be another Dessen) which made me so happy. It's a perfect blend of family bonds and romance in the perfect summer setting. I definitely cried at the end because #DaddysGirl but cried in the best way. Another highly recommended one on my list. I think my only con was I wish the initial conflict between the main character and her male friend was deeper. Once it was revealed, it was kind of a let down, as though he shouldn't been as upset about the thing as he was. Still, 4.5/5 stars.

Plot from Goodreads:
For Nell Becker, life is a competition she needs to win.
For Jackson Hart, everyone is a pawn in his own game.
They both have everything to lose.

Nell wants to succeed at everything—school, sports, life. And victory is sweeter when it means beating Jackson Hart, the rich, privileged, undisputed king of Cedar Woods Prep Academy. Yet no matter how hard she tries, Jackson is somehow one step ahead. They’re a match made in hell, but opposites do attract.

Drawn to each other by their rivalry, Nell and Jackson fall into a whirlwind romance that consumes everything in their lives. But when a devastating secret exposes their relationship as just another game, how far will Nell go to win?

Visceral and whip-smart, Laurie Devore’s Winner Take All paints an unflinching portrait of obsessive love, toxic competition, and the drive for perfection.

I'm glad I read this one because it was a departure from the YAs I normally read. It definitely had some of those classic YA themes of family stuff, romance, coming of age, etc., but there was a much heavier feminist tone that I really dug. Laurie Devore has to be one of the smartest YA authors on the market right now. I'm on the wait list at the library for her next book. Another definite recommend, especially for women of the teenage age who should be reading books with feminist commentary. 

I think it's also worth noting that the main characters would normally be very hard to read because they have pretty severe personalities but I think it's a huge nod to how fantastic the writing and character development is because I didn't even remotely dislike them by the end. I think it's very clear that these are flawed individuals, who accept they're heavily flawed, and it's refreshing to read since we're all flawed.

4/5 stars and it doesn't get the additional half star I gave the other two just because I was left feeling a little heavy even though the ending was positive. I think that was because it was a realistic ending, which is refreshing and absolutely how the book should have ended, but I'm a sucker for that overly happy ending even if it is unrealistic. I don't fault the book though, that's definitely what this story needed. If it ended any other way, it would have been a disservice to the book, but my personal style and taste is to be left just a tad lighter.

Plot from Goodreads:
I was issued a warning: stay away from Ben Rosenberg. 

As Clifton Cove’s resident “king”, he thinks he’s entitled to anyone and anything.

The trouble is, I’ve spent my whole life following the rules and playing it safe. I know what it feels like to be the good girl. I’m the police chief’s daughter and a librarian—for adorable children, no less. 

An all-nighter with a fictional hunk is about as exciting as my life gets until one day, fate decides to take pity on me and shove me straight into the path of Mr. Off-Limits himself.

Just as I suspected, every inch of him promises to be my demise. Up close, he’s tall, menacing—a lawyer who looks like he’ll bite. A well-behaved girl would do as she’s told and avoid him at all costs, but I’m overdue for a little rebellion.

So, I ignore the warning and throw caution to the wind. But Ben doesn’t just nudge me out of my comfort zone—he thrusts me into a dark corner and presses his hard body against mine, covering my mouth with his hand to ensure we don’t get caught sneaking around. In that moment, I finally understand why everyone thinks he’s going to ruin me. 

To him, this is all a game. 
He wants to tempt me with his dares and taunt me with his words. 
I should play along. After all, I asked him to make me bad. I just never thought he’d take his job quite so seriously...

Up and clearly out of the YA genre with this one...
I have a few guilty pleasure authors even though "guilty pleasure" isn't a commentary on their writing necessarily but instead the genre of book. So I'll say my guilty pleasure is "rom-com books." I didn't know this genre existed until I read found R. S. Grey and proceeded to read everything she's ever written. The books go down smoothly, have 98% funny and witty dialogue (sometimes you get a cringer in there but it's rare), and have fantastic sex scenes. Just gunna admit it, OK? The plot of this is why I gave it 4/5 stars (as far as rom-com novels go) because it's right up my alley. And the delicious tension between the main characters, which R. S. Grey does so well. She's also adorable in real life and real fun to follow on Insta. Her books are also free to Kindle Unlimited users, FYI.

Plot from Goodreads:
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

I'm astonished this has 4.46 stars on Goodreads because it's probably one of the worst books I've ever read. I'm clearly in the minority. Even one of my best friends liked it. I would say Colleen Hoover is a guilty pleasure author. Her books are good but also a little dramatic. But she normally writes about important topics like domestic abuse and infertility which I can appreciate (although I would rather read her "lighter" stuff). This felt unnecessarily graphic, and for a thriller, I was left feeling like that's the big reveal?! Really?! It winds up being this sort of odd meta thing that I'm being coded about because I don't want to give it away if you feel like reading it. I basically read this to see what the hype was about and I wish I hadn't. Luckily it only took me a day to read because I would have been even more annoyed if I spent any more time than that reading it.

Her publisher told her they didn't want to publish this book because of the content so she indie published it and I guess I'm left questioning why she felt this was SUCH a necessary story to tell. I'm all for an artist stretching their creative muscle and trying out something new but I still feel like this was an odd departure for her. Maybe I should have read more about it, maybe she talked more about the process on Insta than I realized because maybe some context would make this feel more worthwhile, even though, at the end of the day, I don't really need to understand why she wanted to write something. That's for her to know and feel. But also, she mentions in her acknowledgments that she hopes her kids "never read this." I guess I don't know why a story worth telling is one your children can't read some day? The whole thing was odd which is why it shouldn't be a surprise that I'm giving it 1/5 stars. But again, I'm clearly in the minority. 

Plot from Goodreads:
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...

I enjoyed this one! It was refreshing to read an adult novel with a lead character living on the spectrum especially when written by someone on the spectrum. I thought her insight into the character was authentic and perfectly done. While the plot was a little lackluster in general, I would recommend it and give 4/5 stars simply for its diverse characters and overall execution.

Plot from Goodreads:
When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn't the hard part--they've only been dating for five months, and he can't even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans...

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik's rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He's even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik's social media blows up--in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can't be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes...

I love Jasmine Guillory. I really enjoyed this one which is a spin-off her first novel. Overall, I enjoyed the first novel a tiny bit more even though I think I liked the main female character better in this one. But I think that's only because her personality is more in line with mine rather than a comment on the writing or character development. This was a fun contemporary romance, well written and smart which I really appreciate about Guillory. Highly recommend her work. 4/5 stars.

Plot from Goodreads:
Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

Back to the YAs on this one. I'm a huge fan of Julie Murphy ever since I read Dumplin' and Puddin' so I was excited to get this one from the library when my turn was up. It's an awesome YA, plain and simple. Definitely would recommend to any teenager, probably before any other YA on this list. It's a perfect mix of classic YA themes with some really important ones. I loved that our main characters were diverse in multiple different ways. Our female lead initially identifies as lesbian but becomes confused when she develops feelings for her male friend from childhood who is of a different race. I loved that it was coming of age but also dealt with identity in an interesting way in figuring out who we are and where we belong. 4/5 stars only because it wasn't Dumplin' or Puddin'.

Plot from Goodreads:
Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

I finished off the month with another Maurene Goo. I definitely liked this one more. The characters were far more likable than the first novel of hers I read. I'm disappointed I don't like her stuff more because I think we'd actually really get along in real life haha (if one can say such a thing simply from looking at a person's Instagram). I would definitely recommend this one over her other stuff if you're going to read her work. I'm hoping she's working on something new because I think I'll keep giving her a chance. 3.5/5 stars.

That's all for me this month! A little look at what I'm currently working through via my Goodreads.

If reading mediocre book reviews are your thing, see ya back in April!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Weekend Recap

Happy April, all! April is one of my favorite months and I'm so glad we're here. 

This weekend was a big one...I said yes to my wedding dress. :) Crazy day because I wasn't totally expecting to say yes to it (I knew I would be trying it on—more on that later) but I think I also kind of knew I would. Let's recap, shall we?

Friday night I came home and made a quick dinner for Sammy. I was feeling a bowl of cereal (so I would have room for snacks later) so I had that after he had come and gone. I have a feeling I did a few things around the house but I'm thinking I actually did not but also I can't remember because I'm 100 so let's say I did so I can sound productive.

After all that productivity, I sat down with my current favorite snack (Triscuits and pepper jack cheese) and watched Pretty Woman until I felt like calling it a night and heading upstairs.

Henry and I cleaned up ;) which is always a production since I blow dry his hair like the Queen he is. After he was mostly dry, we were both tired out so we went right to sleep.

A family friend who lives in CL stopped by Saturday morning because she had seen Sammy on the front page of the local paper and saved it because she wanted us to have a copy. She stayed for about an hour, we had some coffee and I gave her a tour of the house. She brought two toys for Henry and white roses for me which was so thoughtful of her.

After she left, I got ready (a.k.a. I threw on my Le Bride shirt) and waited for Chelsie to pick me up for my wedding dress shopping appointment. 

It was a super fun appointment. The store was full when we got there but cleared out pretty quickly after and my consultant (who I'm now friends with on Instagram because I'm a creep) didn't have another appointment until 4:30, so we had a longer appointment than they normally schedule for which was awesome.

The last time I was at this store (Simply Luxe in Algonquin if you're local), my consultant told me they had the dress I tried on and LOVED at Kleinfeld in-store at their other location. She pulled that dress and a few others to bring to their Algonquin location so I'd be able to try it on and compare with the dress that was the top runner from my last appointment.

I tried on the Kleinfeld dress over and over again because I kept wanting to compare it to other dresses they were putting me in or ones I liked. And, turns out... it just doesn't compare. Which is why I said yes to the dress. 

It's such an odd experience actually and I think I had a hard time saying "yes" not because of the dress itself but because it's an odd thing to be done with! It's weird to think about your dress you whole life and suddenly that process is over. It's amazing but also surreal. Plus I loved trying on dresses so I'm disappointed that's done haha. But I keep reminding myself I have a bunch of other wedding-related events to buy outfits for ;)

Not going to post the actual dress here but here's a wild card my consultant pulled just for fun :) my mom and I both said it's weird I'm not drawn to dresses like this for my wedding look because this is exactlyyyy what I would have picked as a kid. I loved dresses like this. I said I wanted to take this home and wear it around the house ;) and my future MIL started crying as soon as I stepped out in this haha. She was like, "I know this isn't what you want...but it's so beautiful!" hahaha.

It was a really fun day and I'm so glad I got to have my entourage with me (just missing my sister!). At the last minute, my SIL decided to bring our niece and it was fun to have her there too. She kept walking under my veil and looking at herself in the mirror which was so sweet.

I didn't cry which I'm not surprised by. I'm incredibly emotional (like, really, I sob during car commercials) but I reserve it for when I'm alone. I'm not a big heart on my sleeve in public kind of gal. And then everyone clapped when I said "yes" and I was like OKAY time to wrap it up haha. 

I was with Chelsie when she said yes to her wedding dress and I could cry (see, told you!) thinking about how happy I am she was with me when I said yes to mine.

I have individual pictures with my mom and grandma (I wish I had taken them with my MIL and SIL but there's so much going on when you're standing around in a dress and the consultants want to measure you and fill out paperwork and all that and I totally forgot) but I'm wearing the dress so I don't want to post it here. But they're so special to me and I'm glad my MIL offered to take them because I would have forgotten haha. My grandma lost her mind over being able to be with me for this experience and I'm so glad she enjoyed it and was here with me for such an important bridal moment.

The store has a "family tree" where you write your names on a tag and hang it on there if you buy your dress from them. It's really pretty to see when you first walk in and a fun aspect to the buying process.

My mom, grandma, and I went to the Thai place around the corner that we love to grab something to eat and when I was in the bathroom, I saw a dime on the toilet paper holder which means nothing without any context haha. Without going into the entire story, my family believes when you see a dime somewhere, it's a sign from someone who has passed away that they're with you. So I took it as a sign that my papa was with me during this process. He loved watching SYTTD with me when I was younger, so I know he would have loved going shopping with me haha. He's the only man I would have taken with. I definitely wish he could have physically been there but I loved getting this sign that he was there, in his own way.

I got my beloved Thai chicken fried rice and wonton soup and had fun sitting at the table with my mom and grandma talking about the whole experience. I sent pictures to my brother, dad, cousins, other bridesmaids, Sammy's aunts, my uncles, etc., like a NUT but I was excited to share my pick with people :) It was so fun to read everyone's responses to my mom and grandma.

Perhaps my favorite reaction from Sammy's cousin. She's only a few years older than me but I truly look up to her in every way so this meant a lot to me. 

My mom and I ran into Old Navy after our early dinner so I could return something and check out the sale they had going on. Didn't find anything which was kind of disappointing but happy I didn't spend any money haha. 

Before heading home, they came to my house to see Henry and so my mom could see my engagement photo dress because I wanted to ask her about how we can tack the front of it (it seems to be an even lower V neck than I thought it would be). It's a wrap dress, so it can't be stitched prior to putting it on but I wasn't sure it was something we could alter the day-of, so I needed her opinion. I really like the dress so I'm glad we found a solution.

After they left, I parked it on the couch for the rest of the night. My legs were killing me from standing in the same position all day long, especially since the dresses were tight and didn't fit me. Totally killed my circulation. Sammy and I watched some TV together when he came home and then we hightailed it upstairs to bed. I always think I'm going to stay up SO late on the weekends since I don't have to be up early the next morning, but that's never the case haha. 

I initially had the entire day on Sunday full of plans but they all got canceled and rescheduled for various reasons and I can't say I was disappointed (definitely wanted to see people but always happy to have a day to relax at home). 

I cleaned the entire first floor and then Sammy vacuumed the second floor and both staircases. And then I turned the HP movie marathon on TV while looking through a pile of wedding magazines. The bridal store gave me a big one and I wanted to go through it quickly otherwise it'll just sit collecting dust. My mom recently got me a subscription to Brides and I LOVE this magazine. Every time I Google something wedding-related, I always end up clicking on and/or referencing a Brides article. So I love that I'll be receiving it throughout the next year.

I made us an early dinner of chili and cornbread muffins. I usually make it with pasta but in an attempt to curb some carbs (since I insist on having them in every meal anyway), I thought I'd have mine with mashed cauliflower as a makeshift, wannabe carb. NOT the same. Never the same. Chili was good though ;) And Sammy acts like me making cornbread muffins from scratch is the most amazing thing I've ever done so I always enjoy making those if they're going to get that kind of reaction.

I lounged around the rest of the night, not doing much other than channel flipping and Instagram dark-holing. Henry was a bit of a nut, so we went upstairs a little earlier than usual cause I interpreted it as him being tired and just acting out.

He insisted on bringing the dishtowel he steals all day long from the kitchen on his nightly trip to the bathroom *eye roll* (we did not bring this with us, btw)

And then I painted my nails in bed (and was quickly reminded why I rarely do my own nails anymore—truly not one of my talents) while watching Monster-in-Law on Netflix before calling it a night.

It was a GOOD weekend. Another perfect mix of being productive and relaxed which was a nice way to end the month as almost every weekend day in April is filled on our calendar. Will definitely have to work some relaxation time in there anyway.

Hope everyone had a fun weekend! Hope the temps are climbing wherever you are. xo

Friday, March 29, 2019

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday, all. The week went by a little slower than I thought but went better than anticipated. Big task this week was to get my taxes done, which happened and I'm happy to cross that off the list. Since I'm home alone tonight, I'm hoping to get at least two little organizational projects done in the guest room. Shredding papers and organizing drawers anyone?! I'm a ton of fun on a Friday night, anyone will tell you that.

Anyway, some "favorites," shall we?

// Truly getting behind the spring wardrobe aesthetic. It's my favorite season to buy and wear clothes—I get so jacked up about it. Last Saturday was the first time I felt relatively spring-ish. I can't wait to put my (beloved) winter jacket away for a while. Feeling the same about my knee boots. I love ya'll, but you need a rest, right?

Normally I wouldn't include a wool coat as a "spring" item, but in Chicago it certainly is. Plus this coat is so cheap, it wouldn't keep anyone warm so you can really only wear it when it's mildly chilly.

// I posted about spring and the impending changes it brings yesterday (or in my case, already brought), if you'd like to see.

// I couldn't find any bowl filler I liked to fill the bowl I normally have here, so I ordered some faux lavender on Amazon and put it in this pitcher. It's a nice, easy change for the room. My mom said it looks very French which is the highest compliment you can give moi.

What's not a favorite is faux flowers of any kind so to combat that, I soaked two cotton pads in lavender essential oil and put them inside the pitcher hoping it would give the illusion these aren't fake ;)

// Sammy has been working weekends lately, so having time to do nothing but hang with Henry and watch rom-coms with some wine and popcorn has become my favorite way to spend a Saturday night alone.

// Siding is done on the house! This is a picture from earlier in the week when they had just completed the front. You can see the color difference in this picture—the new color is a cool tone beige. Our door is getting repainted a dark green I believe and new or newly painted shutters to match (which is why they're missing from the photo). We really like it!

// I attempted a turkey meatball minestrone soup this week which, as all my soups do, turned into mush. I can't keep broth to save my life. Still tasted good.

// Easter basket items arrived this week! I know I'm early but some of these things sell out super quickly, so I grabbed them while I could.

For our niece, I picked out pajamas, the sweetest doll (with bunny ears!) I snagged on Amazon for $6.99 (!! and it even came with a tall gift bag!), an Easter book, bath color drops, and egg shaped sidewalk chalk. We have an Easter basket we use every year for her, so I'll throw everything in there and call it a day! I kind of wish this was for me haha.

And since it's our cousins' kid's first Easter, we got him a little something too. I'll grab a "baby's first Easter" book from work to add to his carrot teether (which was sold out last year! I really wanted it for our niece) and Good Night, Moon bunny toy.

// We've changed our initial honeymoon idea and are very excited about it. I'm getting on the phone with our travel agent next week to get that process started even though we're early (go figure). Currently our plan is to honeymoon in Sicily and make our way up through the French countryside, eventually ending in Paris. Basically my dream vacation. 

I normally love planning things, especially trips, but I figured enlisting some help was the smart way to go in this case. This trip is probably going to include a lot of traveling between towns via train and rented cars, and I'm not suuuper interested in wrangling all that while planning a wedding, so I'm very happy to relinquish control to someone else. She came highly recommended so I'm thrilled to see what she comes up in terms of an itinerary. She asked Sammy and I to come up with with a list of our "must haves" before our phone call and he and I are giddy to do it.

Very excited for this weekend. Going back to the bridal store we went to in Algonquin a few weekends ago to try on the dress I fell in love with at Kleinfeld along with a few other styles she had at her other location and brought over to this one. I'm excited to go back with a slightly larger group too: my mom, grandma, matron of honor, MIL, and SIL. My sister is the only one missing because she has to work but hopefully she can come next time!

Sunday we're meeting Sammy's brother and our SIL and niece for breakfast and then I'm having a friend from high school (who I recently found out lives in the next town over) come over for coffee in the afternoon.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! xo

*Linking up with Andrea!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Spring Awakening 2019

I've done a "spring awakening" post every year for the last few years because I love talking about spring and possibility it brings for both physical and theoretical growth and love tracking the for sure or possible changes this season or year will bring.

It was wild looking back on my post from last year. There were so many things I didn't know would happen during that time of year or throughout the rest of the year for that matter. 

I think I'm in a season of life that not only embracing growth but enjoying it rather than bracing myself for big sweeping changes that are to come. I think we did a lot of that last year. Now it's time to to enjoy and simply live.

I can't think of any big change (or even small one) that's going to come in this season (except, fingers crossed, getting a new car but that's boring), so I'd rather reflect on the the big sweeping ones that have evolved since last spring.

// Last spring did bring us a house. And boy has it been a journey. I love our house more every day which continues to be a relief after spending the beginning of that transitional period in a lonely and confused place. It smells differently depending on the season, the living room gets the best light in the afternoon, the ice machine is loud, the floors are real and grainy and sturdy, and when you stand in our yard at night you can see the stars perfectly. It's turned out to be the best place for us to start out and I will always love it.

// We sure did get our dog. But he's a he and not a she like I predicted. And I certainly can't imagine having any dog other than our Henry. He's a nut who still very much has that puppy brain inside a not-so-puppy sized body. He still thinks ice cubes are treats, can only tolerate baths for so long, loves being outside, and only wants to seriously cuddle if he's very, very tired. Our days are never boring with him.

// I spent a lot of last year, especially the early part, being careful not to mention the word "engaged" or "engagement" to anyone just in case it didn't happen. I think I've been pretty clear (on here and in real life) in my feelings about marriage. I truly would have been very happy with the house, dog, and kids. Marriage was never high on the list. Yeah, I'll blame my parents divorce on that one ;) So while I anticipated a proposal as being a big change, I didn't put a lot of stock into the idea. But it happened. And it's been a rollercoaster. And now I have a book about marriage on my nightstand. So I guess you can add it to the list of things I'm very happy about it. After the house, dog, and kids.

// One of the changes I prayed and hoped for so much, especially this time last year, was a job change. I was so desperate to get out of a toxic environment and would go through moments of confusion and disappointment and exhaustion over the job search process. I had several prospects and even a few interviews that ultimately ended in silence or flat out rejection. I was lucky to land an internship during undergrad that resulted in working for some of the best female bosses ever, who gave me opportunity after opportunity even after they moved on and were no longer my boss. It was a former boss who introduced me to my current, the woman who truly changed my life last year (no kidding, in typical dramatic Alex fashion I wrote those exact words in my Christmas card to her haha). And I really believe that. She changed my life. I had a huge amount of big changes happen last year, but getting the job I currently have feels like the most substantial change in many ways. I went from having palpable anxiety every day, dreading going into work, to completely eliminating that anxiety, "Sunday Scaries" no more. I have the opportunity to work on the best children's books with the best coworkers. I even get to use my writing muscle daily. I learn something and am inspired every day. It's been the biggest blessing.

There have been a lot of other "little" changes that have happened since last spring, of course. Just like with every year before, certain aspects are different. But it's also been nice to see some of that slow. There seemed to be a "big" life change every two months or so since last spring and it's been really great to enter 2019 and just live. Just enjoy all those changes and how their impact have impacted other aspects of life.

In this season I'm excited to live life by reaping the benefits of these changes. To celebrate one year in our home, to take Henry to the beach in the summer and sit on the patio with him on warm nights, to slowly plan our wedding, to enjoy being engaged, to plan trips, to celebrate things and people.

In the past, I've ended these posts talking about sheets. That go on your bed. Like a dork. But that's how I've physically welcomed spring, by stripping my bed of its flannel sheets and replacing it with a colorful jersey set. One year I even thought about buying a new white set because white felt cleansing to me. 

Turns out, spring is marked, physically and metaphorically, in many ways. I didn't swap our sheets out this year. It didn't really occur to me to do so. Because we keep a set of white jersey sheets on our bed all year long.

Happy spring, all. We made it.