Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Number One Tip for Goal Setting

It's that time of year again!  2016 is less than 24 hours away, and everyone is busy planning to join the gym, read more, drink more water, etc.  But, by February 1st, a lot of those resolutions will be forgotten.  So here's my number one tip for reaching your goals:

Have someone hold you accountable!  

Seriously!  It was December of 2014 when I got the idea to have a goals group, which follows the Masterminds group idea.  I had one friend in mind and an acquaintance that I thought would be a good fit.  I nervously broached the topic with each separately and both were up for it.  It turned out to probably be the best decision I made that year, in all areas of my life.

We've added a fourth member in 2015, and we meet once a month, usually at one of our houses, we have a meal, then drink coffee or tea and go over how we did in the previous month, and what we hope to accomplish in the coming month.  We usually try to meet at the end of the month or early in the month.  We all have different work schedules so we've done 8am breakfasts at a restaurant in town, weekends, weeknights, and even while all on vacation together in the Upper Peninsula.

You may be introverted and think you'll do better on your own or don't like sharing, but honey, I'm a major introvert and a lot of times just knowing I'm going to have to give an account of how I did is enough to push me to try a little harder.  The key is finding the right people for your group.

goal setting

There's very few ground rules, but here's a couple ideas.

When forming a group:
  • Find people who are going to take this seriously, be encouraging and committed.  You don't want flakers, no matter how fun they are to hang out with.
  • Limit the group to an intimate number.  For the sake of closeness and to keep meetings from lasting a whole days, I recommend just having two or three members, besides yourself.  If you can't come up with two friends, you can do it with just one, as long as they're going to be dedicated.
  • Plan on meeting at lease once a month.   We also have a closed Facebook group to keep in touch during the month.
At meetings:
  • Everyone takes a turn sharing how they did in the past month and shares their goals for the coming month.
  • Everyone writes down each others goals, and their own.
  • No goal or plan is considered stupid or laughed at.  I think if one of us said we wanted to lose 20 pounds in the coming month, the others would step in and suggest a smaller goal or explain why that wouldn't be safe, but no goal is laughed at.
  • We don't share each others goals with anyone outside of the group.  You need a safe place for your dreams to grow.  You can't do that if others are blabbing them to everyone else.
  • Encourage each other.  You may have wanted to exercise five days a week, but only averaged three.  If prior you weren't exercising at all, that's still an improvement.  Focus on the positive, but keep pushing each other. 
And remember: If everything goes well, you are going to probably become very close to your group members.  We often get together in groups of two or three outside of the group when our schedules allow.  I've gone hiking, vacationing, out for coffee, sold in a craft fair, went for walks, and ate countless meals with these girls.  Look for ways to foster closeness outside of the monthly meeting. Send cards to cheer each other up, remember birthdays, share in their joy and sadness.
I accomplished more of my goals in 2015 than in any previous year.  And I'm really looking forward to what 2016 has in store for our group.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

12 Days of Christmas Show Off

I was apparently a very good girl this year, because I got all sorts of goodies in blog swaps this year. The Chaotic Goddesses hosted their annual Twelve Days of Christmas swap and of course I had to sign up. I was partnered with the lovely Judy from The Knotty Needle and she did a great job!  We share a love of office supplies, crafting, writing, and books so it was a match made in heaven for me.  I had so much fun shopping for her, and she did a great job finding things that were exactly up my alley.  Want to see?

 In no particular order:
  • Peppermint bath salts!  Yum.  They smell great.  I love taking baths, especially in the winter.
  • A  box of assorted chocolates.  These were delicious!  I managed to make them last about three days. :)
  • Sturdy Girl All Purpose Cream.  Herbal and yummy.  Winter in Wisconsin makes your skin feel gross, so this is going to come in super handy.
  • Exploding Tardis coasters.  I love Doctor Who, and these are awesome!  I have a copy of the Exploding Tardis print above my desk in my office.

  • A beautiful gold gilded journal. Writing more in 2016 is on my to do list, and this little baby is going to come in handy. 
  • A little pottery dish that I moved into my office to hold my wonder clips.  Which by the way, if you sew and haven't tried wonder clips, you totally should, they're great for bag making.
  •  Rose scented lotion and shower gel.  Again- bath stuff is always appreciated in winter. 
  •  My favorite pen- Acroballs.  I thought Judy was psychic, but when I asked her on Instagram, she told me she had learned they were a favorite from a past blog post.  I don't even remember posting that. :)

  • A book of bookplate labels. I share my books a lot, so these will be very handy. 
  • A lavender scented candle with an awesome wood wick. Lavender is my favorite smell. 
  • A wood inlay bookmark. This is beautiful, and the picture really doesn't do it justice. I was taking it early in the morning and the lighting wasn't very good. 
  • A box of homemade bath bombs! Awesome! Have I mentioned how much I love baths yet? These are going to be great!

Want to see what everyone else got?  Just head over to Chaotic Goddess for the full round up!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Long Time, No See!

Hey everyone!  Guess what!

I hadn't originally intended to take nearly a month off, but December was so busy I really didn't have time for much extracurricular fun.  So here's a quick recap of what I did on my time off and what I'm intending to do in the near future.

  • Finished my final natural science class to earn my Associates of Arts and Science degree through the University of Wisconsin.  I took a class on natural disasters, and while it was really informative, it was also kind of depressing.  For example, did you know Yellowstone National Park is really just a supervolcano that if it erupted, could wipe out a good sized chunk of North America, not to mention crops would fail and sunlight would be missing due to the ash cloud that would block out the sun for months or even longer?  Depressing.  However, the odds of this happening in our lifetime is pretty much nil.  Anyhow, I got an A in my class, and can now cross that off my life to do list.
  • I sewed and sewed and sewed.  I did a craft fair with one of my girl friends in the beginning of December.  My biggest seller where these little tea bag wallets.  Super easy and a good scrap busting project.  After that, I worked on a project that involved turning World War II era navy uniforms into tote bags, dopp kits, cosmetic bags, and purses.  It was the commissioner's grandfather's old uniforms and she had me cut them apart and make them into Christmas gifts for her family.  It was a super fun project because she gave me pretty much carte blanche with it and I loved how it all turned out.
  • I barely got any Christmas cards out.  Life just got in the way.  I spent way to much time agonizing over finding the perfect gift for everyone and missed out on sending a lot of my cards.  Ah well, as I always say every year, "Next year I'll get my act together."
  • I worked quite a few day shifts.  Everyone knows 7am is not my favorite time to be up, dressed, and at work, especially since I usually work 3pm to 11:30, but with the holidays and such, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.  The first day was hard, but it got easier.  And, by working Christmas Eve day and Christmas day, I got to spend the evenings with family.
  • Santa was good to me.  My husband got me new winter tires for my Subaru, and a remote starter, which will come in so handy when I leave work late at night.  My parents got me 50 pounds of sunflower seeds for my bird feeder, a gift certificate for a massage, and some awesome sewing fabric.  My brother got me a gift card to Pier 1, and a new bamboo cutting board.  (He has this weird way of knowing what I've been wanting without me telling him.  One year he bought me colored bamboo bowls that I had actually picked up in the store and contemplated buying- but had put back, and I hadn't mentioned them to anyone, he just thought they looked like me and bought them.)  Plus, loads of other goodies from friends, blogging buddies, work Secret Santa and more.  I am a very spoiled girl.
  • I've been busy working on my 2016 goals, and I have a lot of them.  My motto for the year is, "Get Your Act Together."  And I think I'm on the right track.  I'm starting the year with a purification cleanse that involves eating lots of veggies and fruits, drinking water, protein in shakes, and not a whole lot else for 21 days.  It's basically about eating whole foods, cutting out booze (easy), caffeine (not so easy), and most meats, dairy, and grains.  My friend who is a chiropractor will be monitoring me.
  • I'm ready to devote more time to reading.  And to blogging.  And to learning new skills

    I have big plans for 2016 and look forward to sharing them all with you. What are you planning to do in the new year?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

November Book Recap

Sorry for being MIA for most of November!  I am working on a bunch of different projects right now.  I have five days off in a row starting today, and I made a list of all the things I want to get done.  It's two pages long right now, and I keep thinking of things I forgot.  I'm doing a craft fair this Saturday, so I've been sewing for that, I have some contracted sewing for a lady for Christmas presents, so I've been working on that.  Next week is finals for school, so I'm finishing up some projects for that.  There's Christmas shopping, Christmas cards, gifts to wrap, packages to mail, and all the usual house things- grocery shopping, cleaning, etc.  And I'm already making plans for what I want to do in 2016!

I didn't get much reading done last month, but did get through a couple books and started a couple more.  And, I only picked up two more.  So here's how November shaped up:

What I Read
  • The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl- I love his brand of historical fiction.  This book really made me want to read some big, thick Dickens novels.  I may put that on my 2016 to do list. 
  • Faithful Place by Tana French- Olive, my Books and Bloggers swap partner, was right, you just gotta love Frank!  Although, after reading this book, I don't feel as bad for all the headaches Cassie caused him in The Likeness.  I love Tana French characters because they're so real.  They make stupid choices, but they're real choices.  They lose their temper, they say hurtful things, but you love them all the more because they're more real because of it.  
What I Acquired
While I was up on Lake Superior for the day, with my friend Lori a few weeks ago, we stopped in to Spinster Books.  I am trying to be more conscious about what I buy, since my bookshelf is overflowing and my husband keeps casually mentioning, "When are you going to read all these?"  But, I found two new beauties.  I've been slurping up anything by Anne Lamott that I come across, so of course I had to get Imperfect Birds and then I found Finding Water by Julia Cameron.  She's the author of The Artist's Way and I love her style, so I snapped this one up to.  It's subtitled "The Art of Perseverance".  I think it'll be a good read.

2015 Totals
Books Read- 36
Books Acquired- 58

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sign Up for 12 Days of Christmas Swap!

Ahhh!  Life has been crazy here lately, but that's for another post.  For now, I just wanted to pop in and let you all know that sign up are open for the 12 Days of Christmas Swap from Chaotic Goddess.  I do this one every year and it's so much fun!  You buy you partner twelve presents.  Mail them off, all wrapped and ready to go, and then they get to open one a day right up to Christmas.  Sound like fun?  Sings up close November 16, so get going.  If you blog and would like to join in, head over to Chaotic Goddess' for more info!

And I promise I'll be back in the loop more soon!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

November Reading List

Since we're almost through 2015- yikes!- I decided I should go back and try to read some of the books I had been hoping to read earlier in the year, but didn't get to.  So here's what I'm hoping to read in November:

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood- This was from my April list.  I got it from my Broke and Bookish secret Santa last year, and really think it's time I read it!

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose- This one was on my June list, but never got read.  I bought it on Amazon a couple years ago but never got around to it.  Since I'm not going to do NaNoWrMo, I figured this might be a good, albeit weak, alternative.

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name by Heather Lende- This was a pick from way back in February!  The blurb on the front says it's part Anne Lamott and part Annie Dilliard, and after discovering Anne Lamott this year, I want to read it all the more!

Faithful Place by Tana French- I added this to my list just last month, and I was really looking forward to reading it, but didn't get through the books I had started in September!  I love Tana French so I'm excited to read it!

So, even though it's going to be a busy month, I'm hoping to get through my reads for November by reading more and wasting time surfing online less.  What are you hoping to read?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

October Book Recap

Well, October was a really sad reading month here!  I was definitely busier with schoolwork, and getting together with friends on the weekends, but I also slept in later and spent time just twirling around the internet.  So, I'm kind of embarrassed to show what I've read versus what I bought, but here goes:

Yikes!  That's right, I only read one book!
  • Bogtrotter by Richard Coffey is the story of Richard and his wife Jeanne lived in the Twin Cities.  Had successful jobs, and took part in the hustle and bustle of normal life, but always longed for a place of their own, in the quiet.  They decided to sell most of their things, move to rural, northern Minnesota, and build a little cabin on a bog, with outdoor plumbing and no electricity.  It was interesting.  I don't think I could do it, but it was a good read about slowing down and loosening the control stuff has on our lives.  But, I really do love a nice hot shower and that I don't have to cut firewood to keep my home warm through the long winters.

I found quite a few books thanks to two different stops at two different thrift shops and a book showing up on my wishlist at Bookmooch.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky- No I have never read this modern classic!
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman- I liked Stardust and I know Beth from Printcess and Miss Angie from My Socalled Chaos both love Neil so I when I saw this one for 50cents, I scooped it up.
  • Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald- Usually I stay away from Oprah Book Club books.  I don't know why, it's kind of pretentious to not want to read something because I consider it too "mainstream" or "popular",  But this one takes place in Nova Scotia, a place I've always wanted to visit, and with winter coming, it sounded like a good read.  Gothic family saga and all.
  • A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs- After reading the reader reviews on Goodreads, I'm thinking I maybe should have not got it, but it too was 50cents.  Worse case, it sits on my shelf for a long time before finding it's way back to Goodwill.
  • Gift of the Red Bird by Paula D'Arcy- D'Arcy wrote this book after her husband and baby.  After such loss, she needed to restore her faith.
  • Natural Wonders of Wisconsin by Don Davenport- This is more a reference book.  It lists national, state, and local parts, resources available there, hiking trails, etc.
  • A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller- Prayer is something I need to do better about.  I thought this book looked good.
  • 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller- Sounds like a lot of hype, but maybe I can glean a thing or two from it.
So what are you looking forward to reading?

2015 Totals

Monday, October 26, 2015

Forest Bathing... It's a Real Thing

About a month ago, I found an article in Vegetarian Times (October 2015 issue) about shinrin-yoku or forest bathing.  No, it doesn't mean stripping down to nothing and running around in the woods naked.  It means "taking in the forest atmosphere".  We all know being outside gives us a vitamin D boost, but according to this article, being in the forest can also reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and boost your immune system.

Me- Forest Bathing

Fast forward to this past week.  It was probably the worst week at the hospital in a long time.  Just busy, understaffed,  it wasn't one big thing, just a million little things.  Two of my girlfriends and I had been planning for weeks to go to Copper Falls State Park on Saturday, but by Friday night, I was at my wit's end and almost texted to back out, but by the time it slowed down enough at work to do that, it was already after 10pm. 

Saturday morning was drizzly and looked miserable.  I called my mom and was telling her about all the little things that were going on, and they were so crazy- like hunting the hospital for chocolate pudding after the kitchen was closed because a patient insisted on chocolate- not vanilla, not yogurt, only chocolate pudding.  I just started laughing at the ridiculousness of it, and then I started crying because it's just all so crazy.  After I got off the phone, I texted my friend to be sure we were still on.  She thought the rain was going to clear off, so she thought we should give it a shot.

Well, we did.  On the two hour drive to Copper Falls we discovered that all three of us had had yucky weeks and we just vented a little and talked about life.  By the time we got to the park, it was chilly, but not raining and we were ready to give it a go.

Copper Falls

It was beautiful.  We hiked for hours.  We got off the main trail and went on the backpacking trail.  We didn't see another soul, and it was so peaceful.  The trail was yellow from falling leaves that covered it, and when we got to the bottom of the gorge we just sat by the river and watched the water.  We didn't even talk much.  We just walked.  And watched leaves fall from the trees.  And listened to the water.

Bad River- Seriously, that's it's name.
By the time we were done, my mind felt just as relaxed as it does after a massage.  My legs ached from walking, but it was a good ache.  I felt like I was going to make it.  Even if I had to go back to work on Monday and it was just as crazy as Friday, it was going to be okay.  So, that's when I became a convert of forest bathing.  I realized you don't get the same feelings from just being outside.  It's something about being deep in the woods.  Not hearing any traffic, not seeing any other people, just you and the trees.

So, if you're stressed out, and can't get in for a massage, get to the woods.  Find the nearest state park or county park and just get out.  Bring some water, some granola bars, and just start walking.  Make sure you know where you're going though.  Getting lost will probably just add to your stress, so try to avoid that.  :)

To see what everyone else is up, check out A Cute Angle's Monday Link Up!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Green Superfood Review

I've really been trying to eat healthy lately, working at cutting out sugar and adding more fruits and veggies.  I got the opportunity to try out Amazing Grass' Green Superfoods in three different flavors and was excited to try it.  Adding powdered greens to your diet is a good way to get additional vitamins and minerals and is supposed to be great for your digestive system and energy levels.

The greens come in cute little packets so you just have to add them to the beverage of your choice.  I was sent three different flavors: Original, Lemon-Lime Energy Blend, and Goji and Acai Berry Infusion.  So I decided to try them three different ways.

First, I tried the Lemon-Lime energy blend in just water.  It really did taste like grass, but it almost felt like it was fizzy.  I don't know if it was the citrus, or if my taste buds are so warped that it assumes anthing lemon lime should be carbonated.  It wasn't very tasty, and I had to practically chug it and hold my breath to get it down.

Next I tried Original, and added it to a green smoothie.  The fact that it was mixed with almond milk, blueberries, pineaple, and other greens helped, but it was still pretty grassy tasting.

Finally, I tried Goji and Acai Berry Infusion with apple juice.  It was drinkable, but tasted really sweet and still like grass.  I still found myself chugging it to get it down.

I have used other powdered greens and other Amazing Grass products, but I don't think I'd buy these again.  On the plus side, it really did make me feel more energetic, and awake, but getting them down was a pain.  The green color is not very appetizing, but they are truly healthy, and made from plants, gluten free, vegan and raw.  If you are interested in trying them, I'd recommend mixing them in with a smoothie or adding them to a little juice and just downing it as fast as you can.

I received these free samples from SocialNature in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts are my own.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday- Writing Duos Edition

The Broke and the Bookish hosts an awesome top ten every Tuesday, with a different theme.  This week's theme is Top Ten Writing Duos you'd like to see.  Which two authors could write a beautiful book together?  I decided to try to pair a deceased author with a modern author, and managed to come up with five pairs so ten authors total.  Here's my pairings:

  1.  Margaret Atwood and George Orwell- Imagine if the author of The Handmaid's Tale and 1984 could get together?  The resulting dystopian work would probably make us shutter.
  2. Diane Setterfield and Emily Bronte- These two ladies could cook up one awesome Gothic mystery!  Diane Setterfield wrote The Thirteenth Tale and Emily Bronte was the author of Wuthering Heights.
  3. Audrey Niffenegger and Victor Hugo- Yeah, I know Audrey's books tend to have a fantasy element to them, but both write books with powerful characters who are flawed and both books usually involve lots of tears for the readers.  I picture The Hunchback of Notre Dame meets The Time Traveler's Wife.
  4.  Tana French and Thomas Hardy- Both love to make characters that are mess ups.  If you compare In The Woods to The Mayor of Casterbridge, you can see how their characters pasts come back to haunt them.  I think that together they would make a very flawed character who you still love and want to see succeed.
  5.  Kathryn Stockett and Jane Austen- Both wrote books centered on domestic life- Stockett with The Help and pretty much everything Jane Austen wrote.  Skeeter even seems a little like Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice or Emma.  So together they could cook up a female protagonist who we see a little of ourselves in and who acts in a way we could aspire to act.
What do you think?  Who would you love to see write a book together?   And click on the picture to be taken to the link up and see everyone's writing duo dream teams.

Friday, October 9, 2015

8 Years of Marriage and a Field Trip

Tuesday was my husband and my anniversary.  We have been married for 8 years now.  That seems impossible, and then other times it seems like we've always been married.  Like having my own place and living on my own seems as if it was eons ago.  I think that's good.  We're in that comfy groove where we say what's on our minds for the most part and harass each other but still hold hands and send each other goofy texts that are pretty much just pictures of our cats doing weird things.

Usually we go somewhere for the weekend around our anniversary, but this year we didn't really plan anything.  I had Tuesday and Wednesday off from work so about a week before our anniversary we really started talking about it.  We finally decided to take a train ride up north with the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad, and then just go out for supper.  I booked the tickets.  It was $12 a person, so not a big financial commitment, and we thought it'd be fun.

We weren't really sure what to expect but when we got there, the depot was very nice and has a large gift shop with snacks.  We were promptly boarded into a refurbished 1913 interurban train car, and off we went.  It's only a 45 minute ride, and the fall colors weren't at their peak yet, but it was still fun.  The interior of the car is pretty with stained glass a neat light fixtures, the view was still pretty, and it was something fun to do.

Left- Train Car; Top Right- Interior of Train Car; Bottom Right- View Outside

After the train ride, we stopped back in the gift shop to get a Christmas ornament.  We try to buy one every time we're on an anniversary trip, so when we decorate the tree each Christmas we have a souvenir to remember past trips by.

Then we continued on north to Minong, which is about an hour south of Duluth, Minneosta (and only about five minutes north of the train depot).  We didn't really have anywhere in mind to eat, but I pulled up TripAdvisor on my cell phone and we decided to try Longbranch Smokehouse and Grille.  It's the number one restaurateur in Minong.  (To be fair, there's only like six to choose from.)  When we saw the outside, we had our doubts.  It either had massive amounts of character, or was going to turn out to be a dive.

Side View of Longbranch
We decided to live a little and give it a shot.  We walked in and were immediately greeted.  Our waitress was really friendly, answered any questions and was very nice.  We got chips and queso cheese sauce for an appetizer and then Jim had a bacon cheeseburger and I got a pulled pork sandwich.  It was soooo good!  I'm not even a big barbecue lover, but the meat was super tender and the sauce was just the right amount of sweet and smokey.  We loved it!  If we're ever in Minong again, I'm betting we'll be back.

We would have probably never stopped if we were just driving through, but thanks to TripAdvisor we decided to give it a shot and were really glad we did.  So, it was a good anniversary- nice weather, trying new things, good food, and a nice ride home on the back roads.  And if you're ever driving through Minong, Wisconsin and craving good barbecue, now you know where to go. :)

Monday, October 5, 2015

October Reading List

Well, here's hoping October is a better reading month than September!  Not that I've had a lot of time to be reading lately- between school, craziness at work, and just life.  I still have two books I started last month that I'm hoping to finish this month, and now here are four more that I'm adding to the mix.

The One True Ocean by Sarah Beth Martin- This one caught my attention because it's a mystery, and takes place in Maine.  It's one of those stories where the main character is drawn back home for some reason or another and decides it's time to solve some mystery of their families past.  It sounds like it's in the same vein as Drowning Ruth.

An Ordinary Man by Paul Ruseabagina with Tom Zoellner- This is an autobiography of the man Hotel Rwanda is based on.  Since I love the movie, I snapped this one up when I found it at a thrift shop.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson- This book came from Just Bee when I won a giveaway she was hosting.  She and her husband love this series and it looks like it'll be an interesting read.  It's book one in the series Wingfeather series.  

Faithful Place by Tana French- I know I've only said it about a hundred times, but I LOVE Tana French.  I was super excited when this one came  in the mail from A Book Olive and I can't wait to read it.

So that's what I'm hoping to read this month.  What are you planning on reading?

Friday, October 2, 2015

September Book Recap

Well, I didn't get as much reading done as I had hoped in September, but here's the recap:

  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell was really interesting, and provided lots of case studies, but it just felt was missing something.  I don't know.  It's not the type of book I normally read, so maybe it was just that.  I'm not sure.  Don't let my review dissuade you from reading it, I guess just don't expect it to keep you up late waiting to find out more.
  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan was really highly recommended to me by the lady at the bookstore I bought it from, but I gotta say, I kept waiting for their to be some suspense, some frightening moments or something.  It was basically about attempts to use technology to crack a hundreds of year old code.  It was a let down.
  • Life Sentences by Laura Lippman was the worst of the three books I read this month though.  It was just hard to slog through.  I didn't really care about any of the characters.  They were all pretty selfish.  You couldn't understand why any of them were friends or what had made them friends to start with, and I really didn't care what happened to them.  You keep thinking there's going to be a deeper mystery, or some twist at the end, or some sort of big reconciliation, but it's all pretty shallow- just like the characters.
  • The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman was only 50 cents at the thrift shop, so I picked it up.  It's a World War II story that takes place in Poland supposedly based on actual events.
  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel was given to me by my mom.  She thought it looked like something I'd like.  I think I saw the movie Chocolat, which I believe this is based on, years ago, but it should be an interesting read.
  • Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs was acquired via Bookmooch.  I've never read any of Burroughs books before, and am not entirely sure what to expect, but it should be interesting.
  • And finally, Faithful Place by Tana French, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, and Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which were all given to my by the lovely A Book Olive for the last Chaotic Goddess' Books and Bloggers swap.  You can read my recap about them here.
I expected big things from what I read in September but was kind of let down.  So, here's hoping for better things in October readings. 

2015 Totals:
Read- 33
Acquired- 48

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Veggie and Grain Fritters

Eating more veggies is always a great way to eat healthier.  Today, I'm going to share a recipe that's easy to customize and make your own, using your favorites grains and veggies, or whatever you have on hand.

You can make these with any grain- rice, quinoa, barley, farro, whatever you like.  And you can also use whatever veggies or cheese you like.  I've made them with sweet potatoes, zucchini, or regular potatoes.  If you don't like cheese, you can leave it out, but I think a little Parmesan, feta, or white cheddar add to the flavor.  Here's what I used for this batch:

Veggie and Grain Fritters
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli
1/2 cup grated carrots
3 green onions
2 eggs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Until everything is combined.

Form into patties, much as you would cheeseburgers.  Lay on a flat plate or cookie sheet.   I usually end up with about a dozen patties.  Then pop them in the fridge for anywhere from half an hour to overnight.  This gives the patties a chance to firm up a little.

When ready, melt a little butter or oil in a pan and pan fry each patty over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes, then flip and fry for approximately another 3 minutes. When patties are done, you can serve them on their own or with a dip of your choice.  I like them with  feta dill dressing best, but you could use ranch or a little Greek yogurt if you prefer.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday- Fall TBR List

Today I'm linking up with The Broke and The Bookish.  Every Tuesday they have a book related topic to post your top ten list to.  This week is your fall "to be read" list.  Some of these I own, some I'm on the lookout for, but this is reading wish list.

10. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
9.   MaddAdam by Margaret Atwood
8.   Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield
7.   A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan
6.   Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
5.   In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
4.   Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
3.   On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
2.   The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz
1.   Faithful Place by Tana French

What are you planning on reading in the next few months?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Field Trip to Crystal Cave

A few weeks ago, one of my girl friends and I decided to take her son and go on a little field trip.  So we got up bright and early and headed to Spring Valley, Wisconsin.  It's about two hours from home and the place where you can find the longest cave in Wisconsin. 

Crystal Cave is pretty much the epitome of a grade school field trip spot.  It's situated slightly out of town in a nice grassy area complete with picnic area and flowers.  The building that houses the cave entrance was built in 1942.

Entrance to Crystal Cave
To get to the cave, you have to take some stairs inside the building that seem to lead to the basement in the cave.  Inside, there are chairs and your guide will give you a little speech about not touching the cave walls, don't be afraid if you see a bat, etc. etc.  And then your led down even farther.  At the deepest point, you're more than 70 feet underground.

Crystal Cave is very well lit, and the path is very smooth.  The cave temp is always a cozy 50 degrees.  Our guide explained that all caves are always the average of their year round temp.  So, caves farther south would be warmer, and caves farther north would be cooler.

I didn't really get any good pictures inside the cave but it's very pretty.  Your guide will show you stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, and even some fossils.  It was really interesting to go back as an adult and I think the hour was worth the $15 admission price.  The tour is very interactive with the guide stopping to ask questions and point out interesting things.

Once we were done with the tour, we decided to go "panning for gemstones" for an additional $6 when you buy your ticket you can get a token to get a  bag of sand loaded with gemstones and rocks and take them out to a sluice outside to see what your bag contains.  We cashed in our tokens and went panning.

My friend Danielle and her son, panning.
It was actually pretty fun, and I think my friend Danielle and I enjoyed it just as much as her son did.  Our tour guide hung out at the sluicing area and told us the names of what we found too, which was nice.

My rock finds.
So, if you're ever near Spring Green, which is a little over an hour east of the Twin Cities, I really recommend taking the tour.  It's educational, it's entertaining, and it's fun for both kids and adults. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cross Fit and Food Ruts

I actually had a three day weekend this past weekend!  It rarely happens without having to use a vacation day.  So, Friday I did errands, had lunch with my dad, and made soup.  Saturday my mom and I got up at 4am to head over to St. Cloud, Minnesota, to watch my baby brother compete in The Granite Games.  The Granite Games is a cross fit competition that draws competitors from all of the US and even some international competitors.  His team did really well and ended up winning!  I'm so proud of him! I didn't take many pictures, but here's a short clip from his Instagram account of some of his training.

While I have no desire to start doing cross fit, it was a good reminder that I needed to get back to clean eating.  I do okay, for the most part, but I still swipe the occasional candy bar or bag of chips out of the vending machine from work when I'm hungry (or if we're being honest- bored).  So, I'm planning a defense against the vending machines and pull of junk food.
  1.  Pack healthy and filling lunches.  No one likes to feel deprived, and watch everyone around them eat tasty junk foods while you nibble on flavorless lunches.  I signed up for Craftsy's Big Bowl Vegetarian Meals  (affiliate link).  I've watched the first two videos and am really looking forward to trying them.
  2. Pack healthy snacks.  For now I subscribe to NatureBox and love getting my snacks each month, but I'm looking for recipes to make on my own.
  3. Drink lots of water.  Water helps you feel more full, keeps your energy levels up, and is great for your skin.
I think if I follow these three steps, I can eliminate most of my junk food snacking, and get back into eating healthy all the time.  Any tips on eating cleaner?  What have you found works best for you?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Few Favorites- September Edition

So, I've been finding all sorts of cool things online lately, and thought I would share a couple with you.  Here's some of my recent finds.

  1. I read Kisses From Katie a few years ago, and still check in on Katie Davis' blog every now and then. The Masese women in Uganda make these necklaces and Katie's organization sells them, with the proceeds going to the women so they are able to make money and improve their standard of living.  This one is called The Lucy.
  2. I still have yet to make a quilt, but this Framed Quilt tutorial from Silk Road Life looks appealing.  It's made with precut layer cakes and looks pretty simple.  Some day... 
  3. The Alice Shopper Tote is a free pattern I found of Craftsy.  I haven't made it yet.   But, I did print the pattern off and intend to make it very soon.
  4. I love this quote from Van Gogh!  Loving people is not always easy for me, but I'm trying and it's a good reminder.  This was made by Etsy shop MB Art Studios.  It's no longer available, but they have a ton of other pieces for sale.
So what do you think?  Anything catching your eye this month?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Books N Bloggers Reveal from: abookolive

We've just finished the third Books N Bloggers Swap of the year.  But it went out with a bang! I was partnered with the lovely Olive from abookolive.  She's a video blogger on Youtube so it was so fun to watch her videos and get to know her.  Videos are a fun media and Olive does a great job with it.  Watching her talk about books made me want to read everything she was reading.  We do have very similar taste which was fun and unusual!

So for those unfamiliar with Chaotic Goddess' Books N Blogger swap, it works like this.  You send your partner one book off their wishlist, one book you've read and think they'll enjoy and one book that you have not read, but think would be up their alley.  So do you want to see what Olive picked for me?  You know you do!

So, for a book she's read that she thinks I'll enjoy, she picked Naomi Novik's Uprooted.  It involves a wizard called Dragon, and a girl trying to save her beautiful friend, but her friend may not be the one in danger...  I love books with a fantasy element in them, and this one looks right up my alley.

For a book from my wishlist, Olive chose The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.  This book involves space travel and something horrible happening to the whole crew.  There's only one survivor.  What happened?  Only Father Emilio Sandoz knows.  I've been warned this is a depressing book, but I'm still looking forward to reading it.  It's gotten good reviews on Goodreads and I think it sounds really interesting.

And finally, for the books she's read that she thinks I'll enjoy, Olive picked Faithful Place by Tana French.  I love the Dublin Murder Squad and adore Tana French!  I've read three of her other books, but hadn't been able to get my hands on this one yet.  Frank Mackey is a detective with Dublin Undercover and this book involves what happened to his girl Rosie, who he was all set to run away with 22 years ago.  But, Rosie never showed.  Now her suitcase has been found and the question is, what happened to Rosie?  Frank Mackey is a main character in The Likeness (my favorite of Tana's books so far) and Olive says this one is pretty awesome.  So I can't wait to read it.

Finally, she sent me an awesome metal bookmark with the quote "Learn from yesterday, Live for today, Hope for tomorrow".  That's a pretty good mantra.  I'm a bookmark user all the way, so this will be put to good use.

So if you want to see everyone's link ups, head over to Chaotic Goddess' page or just click the picture below.  And if you like books, check out abookoilive's channel.  Olive does a great and she'll help you find your next favorite.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

September Goals

We've made it through the first week in September and I still haven't shared my goals for the month!  Or how I did on August.  (Spoiler alert- it wasn't that well.)  So let's just dive right in.

August Recap

  • Sew three large things, or seven smaller.  I did sew a few small things, but only five.  And none used up much fabric, so hopefully I can remedy that soon.
  • Write and/or walk for at least an hour a day.  I started.  But it wasn't an every day thing.  And I really fizzled the second half of the month.  But, I feel like at least I did something.
  • Get back on track with my eating.  It's been better, but still not where I want it to be.  I think I too often reach for something quick and easy instead of making a real meal.  I blame part of this on the fact that I eat most of my meals alone because my husband works days and I work second shift.  But, I got some new cookbooks to check out, and I'm going to do better.
  • Focus on being encouraging, not complaining. I think I did pretty good on this one.  Morale at work has been pretty poor lately, and even though I haven't wanted to be there, I try to have a good attitude when I do.  I try to focus on what I can do to make my coworkers lives easier.  Keep everyone's spirits up.  And, get all my work done.  We've been busier, so that helps because a big part of my problem is boredom when the census is low.
  • Do a little soul searching. I did a little bit.  I've been trying to decide if I want to go on for my bachelor's degree and if so in what.  My husband has a very good job, and we're in a remote area here, so there's all these factors to consider- cost of two more years of school, viability of finding a job in my field when I'm done that is in the area, will the job pay enough that it would make going to school worth it.  I don't know.  I've been checking out options online.  But, I'm no closer to any answers.
  • Plan Christmas shopping and tackle half of it.  November is National Novel Writing Month and I'd love to try it.  Then we're into December and want to actually enjoy the season and  I don't want to spend it rushing around trying to get my holiday shopping done.  So, that gives me September and October to get it done.  I've already made my list.  :)
  • Plan for a craft fair.  My friend Annie makes earrings and we have this big brainstorm that we should start doing some of the local craft fairs.  Her with her earrings and me with my sewing stuff.  There's an indoor fair in December and we thought we could try it out and see how it goes, but we need to get some stock made.  I've got a list made for that one and have started some projects too.
  • Stay ahead of schedule for school.  My last class for my associate's started September 2.  Everything is laid out and I have all future due dates wrote in my planner, so I think this one will be very doable.
  • Advertise on other blogs.  The reason for this is two fold.  I want to help support other bloggers and I think it will help hold me accountable and keep me posting if I know it's possible someone may be stumbling across my blog.
  • Devotions.  My days feel so much fuller when I start them by reading some devotionals and a passage or two in the Bible, really think about what I want my day to be like, and wrap it all up in a prayer.  I'm trying to get back into that habit.
So what are your goals for September?  If you're a blogger, you can link up with hosts My So Called Chaos and A Peek at Karen's World monthly link up.

Monthly Goals