2015 Reading Challenge – check in numero uno.

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Tiffany sent me the link to this reading challenge back in December and she practically double dog dared me to try it.  Well, not really.  I think her exact words were, “You should do this.”  Challenge accepted.

So basically I’ve been reading all the books.  This has really taken me outside my comfort zone (read: easy cheesy reads) and let me just tell you, living life in the fast library lane is a wild time.  Here are the challenge topics and the books I’ve read so far.

2015 Reading Challenge

1. A book with more than 500 pages
The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy – 5 stars

2. A classic romance

3. A book that became a movie

4. A book published this year

5. A book with a number in the title

6. A book written by someone under 30
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – 4 stars

7. A book with nonhuman characters
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – 3 stars

8. A funny book
Rumor Has It by Jill Mansell – 3 stars

9. A book by a female author
Anne of Ingleside by LM Montgomery – 4 stars

10. A mystery or thriller
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – 4 stars

11. A book set in a different country
Anne’s House of Dreams by LM Montgomery – 3 stars

12. A book with a one-word title
Son by Lois Lowry – 5 stars

13. A book of short stories

14. A nonfiction book

15. A popular author’s first book
Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty – 4 stars

16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet

17. A book a friend recommended
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – 3 stars

18. A Pulitzer Prize winning book
John Adams. by David McCullough – 5 stars

19. A book based on a true story

20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list

21. A book your mom loves

22. A book that scares you

23. A book more than 100 years old

24. A book based entirely on the cover
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – 5 stars

25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t

26. A memoir

27. A book you can finish in a day
Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation – George Washington (Francis Hawkins’ translation) – 4 stars

28. A book with antonyms in the title
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – 3 stars

29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit
The Rosie Project by Graeme C. Simsion – 5 stars

30. A book that came out the year you were born

31. A book with bad reviews

32. A trilogy
The Selection by Kiera Cass – 4 stars

33. A book from your childhood
Christy by Catherine Marshall – 4 stars

34. A book with a love triangle
Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophie Kinsella – 4 stars

35. A book set in the future

36. A book set in high school
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira – 4 stars

37. A book with a color in the title

38. A book that made you cry

39. A book with magic

40. A graphic novel
Emily the Strange by Cosmic Debris Etc. Inc. – 2 stars

41. A book by an author you’ve never read before
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – 3 stars

42. A book you own but have never read

43. A book that takes place in your hometown

44. A book that was originally written in a different language

45. A book set during Christmas

46. A book written by an author with the same initials as you

47. A play

48. A banned book

49. A book based on or turned into a TV show
The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell – 3 stars

50. A book you started but never finished

Check in numero uno –
# of books read:  22
# of books remaining:  30

Whew.  I’m nearly half done with the challenge and the year is only a quarter complete.  Which makes me feel like I should explain myself (I’m a fast reader – I don’t watch much TV or garden or run or really do anything else outside of work that demands a lot of time – reading is my favorite and favorites are prioritized – more often than not there are dishes that need to be put away and mail that needs to be sorted and a thousand other things that are waiting patiently for completion so I certainly don’t choose housework over reading, etc.) which is silly.  But there are the excuses, for your reading pleasure, all the same.

What’s your favorite hobby?  Do you like to challenge yourself in that hobby (example:  reading challenges, running PR’s, etc.) or just relax into it? 

Current obsessions.

These are a few of my current obsessions.  (Bonus points if you sang-read that to the tune of “My Favorite Things.”  Also bonus points if you didn’t sing-read it to that tune the first time but after reading the previous sentence you went back and did just that.)

Clarisonic Mia 2.  Oh, I love her.  My mother-in-law bought me this little beauty for Christmas and I’m sold on the effectiveness.  My skin grows younger everyday.  Well, maybe not.  But it still feels oh-so-good.

Water.  I gave up all beverages except water for Lent.  I am pleased to announce that once the caffeine headache ended, water only has been a great decision.  Sure, I crave another drink every so often, but really it’s been quite liberating to not have to make any beverage decisions.  You know, one less thing to fret over.  Again, my skin grows younger everyday.  Again, maybe not.  But!  It still feels good.

Clinique Moisture Surge Intense Skin Fortifying Hydrator.  The hydration is as intense as the product name.  Have I mentioned my skin grows younger everyday?

Enough about skin.  Much to your relief, I’m sure.

Spring!  Oh how I am obsessing over the warm weather and the little flowers popping up from the ground and on the trees.  Spring is like a big sigh of relief, isn’t it? IMG_9738

And with spring comes the desire to not subject my locks to the torture of heat tools.  I have been putting my Miss Jessie’s Pillow Soft Curls gel to good use and sporting loose waves on my noggin.

It’s March Madness and I’m a little obsessed with my basketball bracket.  Of the 63 decisions to be made, I went with the flip of a coin on 56 games, only vetoing the coin’s opinion on a 16 seed beating a 1 seed and that sort.

{This is not a sponsored post as none of the companies linked to above know I exist.  However if any decide they want to keep me in hair gel, face moisturizer, or exfoliating products, I’ll willingly accept.}

What are you obsessing over?  Did you complete a March Madness bracket? 

Makin’ truffles.

Ashley scored a great deal on Groupon (typical story, right?) – learn how to make truffles at La Joliesse Chocolates.  She invited Heather and me to tag along and it was a sweet adventure.  Choc-olate it up to a good time!  Sorry – I just cocoan’t resist.

One of the owners of the shop taught the class and his passion for chocolate was clear.  It’s so fun to learn from someone who is passionate about their work, right?  He gave us a history of chocolate and we did a tasting.  Within the first 30 minutes of class I was well on my way to becoming a chocolate snob and never buying Hershey’s again.

Then we hit the kitchen.  Each participant got to spend some time tempering chocolate (bringing it to right temperature so the best sugar crystals can form) and then we each made a butter ganache.

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The most fun part followed…our instructor turned us loose on a table full of flavorings.  Herbs, sea salt, cream of tartar, different liqueurs, balsamic vinegar (shockingly good with chocolate!), and lots more.  We could try a little sample with our ganache and once a winning combination was discovered, we mixed it into the full bowl.  I went pretty plain-Jane with sea salt and cream of tartar (it added a citrus punch to the chocolate).  Ashley and Heather were more creative. The ganache went into the freezer to cool for a few minutes and then we rolled spoonfuls into little truffles.  The truffles could be coated with powdered sugar, cocoa, crushed almonds, red pepper flakes…whatever we wanted.

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It was messy but so fun!  We each left with around 20 homemade truffles.

And a bit of a sugar high.

Have you ever made truffles?  What is your favorite kind of chocolate?

Going home.

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My stepdad is one of five boys.  They were raised in a then-small, now-smaller, rural town.  When they describe their years there, work and sports are recurring themes.  There were a lot of ranches to work at and a lot of sports to play. Baseball was a family favorite and everyone played their position well.  After high school, each boy drifted away from the town and onto the next stop in their lives.  Granddad – their father – passed away in the early 1980’s, and Grandma – their mother – joined him a few weeks ago.

Last weekend Kevin and I met up with that side of the family to honor that very special lady.  She had a tremendous impact many lives and her legacy lives on in her sons and their children and their children’s children.

After her ashes were laid to rest in the small, country cemetery, we all caravanned to the beautiful brick building that was formerly the school my stepdad and all of his siblings attended.  In around 1981 the numbers were too low to keep the school open, and now the building serves as Village Hall.  As the pack of us explored and listened to the yesteryear memories shared by Dale and his brothers {“This wall is new – the entire breezeway used to be open,” and “The baseball field was out past that barbed wire fence.”}, it was easy to imagine what once was.   The senior class photos still hang on the walls, the trophies stand proud in a glass case, and sports photos show pride in the hometown team.

The school thoroughly explored, we drove a few blocks west to the house that the boys were raised in, now deserted.  Such nostalgia – even for those of us who haven’t stepped foot across the threshold!

Seeing the school and home and listening to Dale and my uncles share their memories is a special moment in time that I’ll always treasure.  Aunts, uncles, and cousins on that side of the family are scattered across multiple states and we don’t often see one another.  It was wonderful to reconnect and remember the importance of going home – wherever home may be – to share the past with the present.

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Where’s your hometown? 

We be Jam{berry}in’.

My friend Danielle has raved about Jamberry Nails for awhile now.  She likes them so much that she became an official consultant for the product!  Recently she asked me if I wanted to try them out and I jumped at the chance.  The sample kit arrived in the mail and I made good use of that snow day last weekend to have a little Jamberry party.

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Look at those fun patterns and colors!  That’s just the tip of the fingernail iceberg, my friends.  The catalog is full of options, suitable for any holiday or occasion.  My personal favorite?  This classy rose gold.

There are step-by-step instructions for application and the process was easy to follow.  All you need is a hair dryer or some other method of heat to flex up the nail wrap and some scissors to trim the excess wrap.  I found a pair of nail clippers to be very helpful to the final trim process.  In less than half the time I would have spent in the salon for a manicure, I had fun nails.

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Scanning the website, a set of wraps is around $15.00 so I also scored these fun nails for half the price of a professional manicure.  The wraps hold up well to everyday life and last around two weeks.  I do tend to pick at my cuticles (terrible habit, I know) so I found myself fighting the temptation to pull at the wraps the following day…maybe regular use will save my cuticles from abuse?

I definitely recommend checking out the product!  Danielle’s Jamberry Nail consultant page can be found here – she’s a great resource if you have questions!  There are wonderful deals, like order three sets and get one free, host a party to score free wraps, etc.

I received this sample kit for free from my friend but am not being compensated in any other way for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Do you like to have pretty nails?  Are you a manicure person?  What is your favorite wrap on the Jamberry website

Project 12 // February 2015.

 *Project 12 – A photo on (or around) the first day of each month.*
{Idea credit & linking up with  The Lady Okie}

February:

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A Valentine’s day bike ride to keep those hearts healthy –
in love and in the cardiovascular sense.

Read:
In The Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson – 3 stars {Kevin}
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – 5 stars (re-read it, still loved it)
Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation by George Washington (copied from translation by Francis Hawkins – 1640) – 4 stars
The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell – 3 stars
The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy – 5 stars (re-read it, still loved it)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – 3 stars
Christy by Catherine Marshall – 4 stars
Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty – 4 stars
The Rosie Project by Graeme C. Simsion – 5 stars

Travel Adventures:
Kevin took a day trip to Farmington for work.
Kevin traveled to the land of eternal sun for a Suns basketball game and father/son bonding time with his dad.

Noteworthy Days & Events:
February 1 – Super Super Bowl party at Nathan & Alex’s house – great company and the game wasn’t too shabby either.
February 2 – Booked flights to Europe!  Springtime in Paris, here we come.
February 5 – Amy and Derek had second-row seats for a local theatre production of Anatomy of a Murder (two thumbs up!  great show!)
February 7 – Vet appointment bonding time for Kiki and Rue – united in their hatred of veterinary offices and the humans who drag them there.
February 12 – Earned an adulthood gold star by getting life insurance.
February 14 – Valentine’s Day – read more here
February 21 – We bought 5 boxes of Thin Mints.  Only to support the Girl Scouts – not because we wanted the cookies or anything.
February 27 – While Kevin was in Phoenix, the ABQ area was hit with around 8 inches of snow.  Amy binge watched season one and season two of Parenthood and only felt mildly claustrophobic, home alone (which you know she LOVES) with all that “severe” weather {seriously – people who live in snowy climates, HOW do you do it?}.

Ate: (new recipes & restaurants)
Prepared this lemon salmon – baked in an aluminum foil pouch
Met Kelly & Nelson for breakfast at a new-to-us spot – Gravy
Triple date with some friends at another new spot – Piattini
Prepared this Whole 30 approved beef and Brussels sprouts entrée.  Except I forgot to buy the sprouts so we used zucchini squash.

Tell me something about your February!

Stitch fix bliss.

You’ve heard of Stich Fix, right?  I’m late to the party, but I finally threw myself onto the bandwagon.  And I’m sold.  It is fun – like big-mug-of-hot-chocolate-on-Christmas-morning-and-it’s-snowing-outside fun.  {Hey, I know how to have a good time.}

First step – fill out a questionnaire on the Stitch Fix website.

Second step – schedule a delivery.

Third step – tear into the box of five items that arrives on the doorstep, specially chosen for you by your stylist.

Fourth step – try on all the items and decide what to keep.

Fifth step – keep them all.

Maybe that fifth step is just me.  I don’t really have a go-to “style” – bohemian, classic, preppy…I like them all.  Which probably makes me Stitch Fix’s dream client.  Kevin rues the day that I decided to sign up for this bottomless pit of clothes and money, I’m sure.  But even he admitted that all the items were worth keeping.  And keeping all 5 pieces meant that I saved 25% on the total price.  I didn’t want to lose money on this deal…   There’s probably a team of statisticians on staff at Stitch Fix.  They have developed some kind of magic formula for the exact combination of variable prices that will result in it being most economical to keep all the items.  I loved the dress.  I loved the jeans.  I loved the scarf.  I loved the cardigan.  I liked the shirt.  The price was right to keep the shirt and get the 25% off rather than sending back one item and losing out on that discount.  Fascinating math.

What’s that?  You want pictures?  Well, you’re in luck because I played fashion shoot with a full length mirror and an iPhone.  #shootforthestars

The dress:  it was love at first try-on.  It’s this really pretty bird pattern to which – shockingly – my high quality photos don’t do justice. For your viewing pleasure, I paired it with black Born Crown boots and winter white legs.

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The jeans: they’re great.  I wear jeans 7 out of 7 days most weeks, so these will get a lot of time in the game. Shirt is J. Crew and black cat is Rue (and adorable).

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The cardigan and scarf: staples and so versatile.  I wear a lot of dark blue and I’m always cold, so these layering pieces are right up my closet.  Jeans are American Eagle, boots are Bucco, and green shirt is Target’s finest.

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The shirt: I was uncertain at first – but I’ve worn this shirt more than any of the other items since I got a box a few weeks ago, so now I’m glad I kept it.  Paired here with old J. Crew cords, striped flats from Ideeli (also old), and a Charming Charlie necklace.  It’s lightweight and very forgiving – I bet you can’t even tell that I just ate a {large} handful {or two} of Thin Mints.

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My next Fix arrives in May because I exercised an enormous amount of self-discipline and signed up for the every-three-months option.

Interested in trying Stitch Fix yourself?  Click here {full disclosure:  that link will show that I referred you and I earn credit on the site}.

What is your signature style?  Do you shop online, in the store, or some combination of both to stock your closet?