Friday, November 28, 2014

A Whole Lot of Thanks

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I sure did. It was the first one my husband and I spent as husband and wife - but it was our 6th Thanksgiving together!

My family drove across the country to spend the holiday with us, and we had a lot of fun. We cooked just about everything you can imagine, and we will have leftovers for days.

This year, I have a lot to be thankful for:

1. MY MARRIAGE - we've been hitched for super close to half of a year now, and it's been the best almost six months ever!

2. MY PETS - I have three happy pets... and they are somewhat healthy and so quirky, lovable, and fun. They make my life complete.

3. MY FAMILY - guys, they drove a 9.5 hour drive that ended up taking them 12 hours because of snow on the interstate and two semi trucks that couldn't get up a hill and closed the entire interstate for TWO HOURS. But they continued on anyway!

4. MY BUSINESS - It is thriving... I have 340 sales in my shop, and it is growing each and every day. I'm lucky and thankful to be able to work on it full time and not have to have an 'out-of-the-house job'.

5. MY WRITING - Throughout November, I've been participating in NaNoWriMo, which has really spurred my writing for the first time in forever. I also have this little blog of mine, and I love sharing my thoughts on it and making new friends. So grateful for that.

ALSO! I don't want to forget to pass along the savings in my shop to my readers. I'm running a Black Friday deal today - you can go to my shop by clicking on the image below that tells you about the coupon code! If you want to see the codes I have running for Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, be sure to follow me on Instagram and/or on Facebook for those updates!

  • How was your Thanksgiving?
  • What was your favorite food? 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review: Birthmarked Trilogy

I currently have several book reviews on my old blog. I want to get rid of completely (since it's been nearly two years since I've used it), but many of my links are still to that blog. To transition completely away, I am going to be re-sharing some of my book reviews here once or twice a week. If you love reading, this is for you! If not... I'm sorry, and I promise to keep the words "book review" in all of the titles so you know!

Today's review features Birthmarked, Prized, and Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien.

Birthmarked is yet another trilogy set in a dystopian future (are you surprised?), yet it has many differences from the others that are popular right now. 16 year old Gaia Stone is a midwife in her community outside the wall of the Enclave. It is Gaia's duty (as well as her mother's) to advance a certain quota of babies born each month into the Enclave so that more suitable parents may raise them and they will have a better life. 

Gaia's family, never ones to cause problems and always ones to agree with everything the Enclave demands, is arrested while Gaia is not home, so when she returns, she has to inquire from a family friend about what happened to her parents. Gaia, determined to get her parents out alive, heads into the Enclave to rescue them, and that is where the fun begins. She sees things she does not want to, and she becomes a pawn in the life going on inside the Enclave. 

Gaia befriends one of the guards from the Enclave, and together, they must escape to save themselves when they don't think anyone else can be saved. Gaia is a strong female character, and she challenges the beliefs of others.


When Gaia escapes from the Enclave without Leon, she doesn't know what to do. She has her baby sister, Maya, with her, and together they make it most of the way through the Wasteland. One day, when they probably wouldn't have made it much farther on their own, a man on a horse helps them reach their unknown destination, a place he calls home. That home is known as Sylum, and the rules are strict. Gaia must submit to the authorities, which she finds difficult. There is no hugging/kissing because it is a crime unless you are married to that person. 

Gaia finds the entire place to be a struggle, and then she finds out that Leon has made the trek as well. What does Gaia need to do in order to make things go her way? It turns out that everyone else recognizes her as a strong leader, and they want her to be the Matriarch of the society. Does Gaia want it, though? What happens when she is forced into something she doesn't know if she is ready for? Are her feelings for Leon strong enough, or will she waver and fall for someone else? 

Overall, these books were fun to read. I read them while I was still teaching 8th grade, and that made it easier to read so many dystopian novels. I needed to be "caught up" so I could talk about them. I'm kind of over the dystopian scene now... at least for a while. I need some fresh air! 
  • Have you read these books?
  • Do you like dystopian fiction?
  • What's your favorite book right now?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Free Thanksgiving Recipe Card Printables

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It has been for as long as I can remember. What's better than a day of food, family, fun, and football? That's right - nothing.

But back to that food part. This year, I decided to make recipe cards for my favorite Thanksgiving appetizers, side dishes, desserts, and drinks. And I want to share them with you all! 

*Note: My husband takes care of the turkey, so I have no recipe card for that... sorry. 

My husband and I are hosting our very first Thanksgiving this year. My family is driving in from Missouri, and we're really excited! The recipe cards below are what we'll be using this year. Yes, we're making all of that - and for only five people! We'll have leftovers, but those are even better! ;-)

If you would like to download the entire set of 4x6 recipe cards: CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD.

If you choose to use any of these recipes, I hope you enjoy! They are some of our favorites!

Again, if you would like to download these 4x6 recipe cards, THEY CAN ALL BE FOUND HERE.

  • What is your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?
  • What's your favorite side dish?
  • What are you thankful for this year?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

5 Essentials for Productivity

November has been so hectic for me. I'm participating in NaNoWriMo, trying to keep up with orders in my ever-growing Etsy shop, and also keeping on top of blogging. Oh, and did I mention that I'm hosting my first Thanksgiving dinner next week when my family comes in town? Yeah... November has been crazy. 

Because of that, I am here today to share my five essentials of productivity. I love hearing what other people to to stay focused on the task at hand, so I thought I'd share a little of my wisdom... or at least what works for me! 


1. CAFFEINE. This one is self explanatory. If I don't have my coffee, I'm not productive. It's as simple as that. I like coffee in all ways, as long as it's not decaf. I usually drink it black, but I am a sucker for espresso and fancy drinks from coffee shops as well. I usually have two cups a day. I know coffee (or even caffeine in general) is not for everyone, but I would be totally unproductive without it. 

2. GET ORGANIZED. This one sounds simple, but there are several things I do to achieve this. First, I make sure my work space is clear. If I have stuff all over the place, I'm more likely to get distracted. Then, I make a to-do list (every morning) with everything I need to get done that day - in no particular order. Finally, I make a schedule. To do this, I write out the specific times I want to be done with certain tasks. I give myself adequate time to finish each thing, making sure that I accomplish all of the items that need to be done. 

3. CREATE GOALS. This one I stole from four years of teaching and setting goals. We always had to make SMART goals, and that's what I try to apply to everything I do, whether it's writing, my work in my Etsy shop, or anything else that needs to be done. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound. So instead of saying "I want to sell 30 items in my shop", I would say, "By the end of November 2014, I will sell 30 sets of magnets as measured by my online shop."

4. ACTIVE BREAKS. Yes, I said breaks. In order to STAY productive, I have to stop what I'm doing every once in a while and take breaks. Instead of just sitting at my computer, though, I like to do something active. I'm not talking about exercising - that would be TOO long of a break. I mean walking around the house picking up a few things along the way or loading / unloading the dishwasher. Whatever you can do to get away from the task and do something without thinking too much should work. 

5. SET TIMERS. Some people say they need to leave their phones in another room so they don't check Instagram or Facebook while working, but I use my iPhone to my advantage. I set timers whenever I start working, and I don't allow myself to stop for any reason (barring emergency) until that timer goes off. Sometimes, I set it for only 15 minutes. Sometimes, it's an hour. I decide based on how much I need to accomplish at the time.

I recently got my caffeine fix at Starbucks when they were running a buy one get one free holiday drink promotion! Don't worry - I did share a little bit with my husband! 
  • What do you do to stay focused?
  • Has your November been as busy as mine?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Honeymoon Series: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Over the summer, my husband and I went on our honeymoon shortly after our wedding. We visited many cool places, and you can read about all of that in this post. I'm going to be chronicling each stop on our amazing trip. Today's post will feature our favorite photos from our third stop: Dubrovnik, Croatia.

(I will update the links below once all posts have been written and published.)

STOP 1 | STOP 2 | STOP 3 | STOP 4 | STOP 5 | STOP 6 | STOP 7 | STOP 8 | STOP 9

When Dan first surprised me with a cruise while we were still in Venice, I was shocked! Finding out that we would be cruising around the Mediterranean was even more shocking! I had never pictured going to some of the places we did, but it was amazing, and we enjoyed it very much.

We stopped first in Dubrovnik, Croatia. It was raining when we got off the ship, but we didn't let that stop us. We spent a full day outside exploring the old city and trying Croatian beer. It was a blast, and we were even able to take a cable car up a mountain for gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea and the rest of the city! What a fun experience.

It was surreal seeing a normal functioning city that had been devastated by war in the 1990's. Parts of Dubrovnik had been bombed, and there was still cannons standing over the waters. It was so foreign to me to see a place that had been through so much and was so awesome now. They have really bounced back and offer a lot of charm. We would head back to Croatia to explore some more... and luckily we were able to hit another city later in our trip! But that's another post for another day... 
  • Have you ever been to Croatia?
  • What was your favorite part of it?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

That Time We Got a Dog

Once upon a time, my husband was 14 years old. He worked at a flower shop, when someone brought in a little bitty puppy. He took it home, begged his mom to keep it, and thus, Smudge came to be.

Fast forward four years. Dan graduated from high school and left for college. His mom moved to Oregon (from Missouri), taking Smudge with her.

This summer, Dan's mom passed away. It was really rough, but we knew we would take Smudge back, who had been living with Dan's aunt and uncle.

In October, we had him shipped from Portland to Chicago via United Airlines. He did so well on the flight, and United was great with him! We drove five hours to pick him up in Chicago, and he's been a good (albeit old) dog since then. He's 12 years old now, but he still acts like a goofy puppy.

Our other four-legged friends haven't been overly welcoming, but they're still adjusting. It's been a month now, and Gilligan likes to sniff at Smudge when he's asleep. He isn't mean to him, but he's jealous, and he doesn't want to play. Stormy, on the other hand, hisses at him every time she walks by and swats him in the face with her claws whenever she has the chance. She is Dan's cat for sure, and she is SUPER jealous of his newfound (to her) friend.

I'm sure they'll eventually come around to him, but I'm not expecting them to become best friends.

Reunited at Chicago O'Hare
Someone got a eucalyptus bath...
Stormy loves tormenting Smudge while he's outside...
She also likes to test her limits sitting near him but not too close
Smudge doesn't play very well, but he does love tennis balls!
Dan with both of his fur-babies (he and Gilligan are not close)
Yum, Mom! Thanks for the stuffed gingerbread man! He is tasty!
Silly dog always begs to come back inside.
Stormy has been jealous, so we got her some new catnip stuffed fish toys.
Gilligan also gets jealous when Smudge plays outside, so sometimes I take him outside for a few minutes too.
Overall, the felines have been forming an alliance and sticking up for each other against the giant beast.
  • Do you have a dog?
  • What about a cat?
  • Do they get along?