*knocks* Hello?

I have done a whole lot of nothing and a whole lot of everything lately. My hometown hockey team won the league President’s Cup so it’s been an exciting week locally. Lots of celebrations and things around town. I’ve baked and baked and baked. Sometimes for hockey boys, sometimes stressing baking. At one point, at home, we had two cakes, a loaf of banana bread and homemade cookies on the counter.

Last Saturday I attended an arts festival with one of my best and oldest friends. It was the first nice day we’ve had in a while. Our winter was really wet and cold (not usual for us) and it took the temps a while to warm up. Finally it did though! This festival is in its eigteenth year and almost always gets rained out. We were all so happy it was sunny the entire weekend. We walked around and looked at paintings and jewelry and photography. Then we decided to sit on the grass and just soak up the sun. Which I did a little too much of because my back ended up burned, where my shirt was scooped in the back. When we left the festival we went to grab a late lunch because we were both ravenous. It was one of the best days I’ve had in a while. It’s nice to finally be able to get out of the house and not freeze.

I am still terrible about this blogging thing. I don’t know why I can’t get consistent! Laziness? Boredom? Lack of things to post about? I really think it’s a combo of all three. Maybe now that fun things are happening I can get out more and even do some photo posts. I have started working on Shutter in the South, posting photos there and playing with my new camera. I currently have only a 50mm lens for it, because my old lenses won’t work on this model. I’m hoping to get a 70-200mm this summer. I’ve had my eye on the same one for a while. It seems like it’ll be great as a multi purpose lens. Why are lenses so expensive?! Ugh.

Currently Loving:
Listening to: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Reading: The V Card by Lauren Blakely
Watching: RISE

#prettysimpledinnerparty

Today I participated in the Pretty Simple Cooking dinner party for A Couple Cooks new cookbook. It was such a fun way to explore a new cookbook and meet new people. I decided to prepare the Eggplant Parmesan Casserole, which was chock full of eggplant, cannellini beans, tomatoes, and spices. Personally I love eggplant parmesan (I love eggplant in general if I’m being honest) so this was a fun, fast way to get those flavors. 

We’ve been having a lot of rainy days in Alabama so this was kind of a perfect thing for me to have planned for my Saturday. I’d much rather cook something tasty and comforting than go out in the pouring ran to run errands, ya know? Since I wasn’t sure how this would go over as a main course with some of my household I also cooked some pasta, tomato basil sauce, and sautéed chicken tenderloins. It was a satisfying, filling meal. The casserole was fantastic and we demolished half of it! Even the two picky eaters were loving it. I plan to use the rest for lunch in the coming work week. 

Look how yummy that looks!! The topping was incredible. I have to admit that I considered using store bought bread crumbs but then I would have felt bad about not following the recipe exactly. I think the breadcrumbs being homemade really put this casserole over the top. The eggplant turned out perfectly cooked and the beans gave it such a different taste. I could keep rambling but I really think you should just go pick up a copy of the book and check it out yourself.

How is your weekend going? Have you cooked anything particularly tasty lately?

Listening to: The Cinematic Orchestra “Ma Fleur”
Reading: The V Card by Lauren Blakely & Lili Valente

Goals

 

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I haven’t done this in a long time. But I’m going to start trying to get better at it (see my 2018 list in the sidebar). I’m thinking I may start scheduling out my days more and put blog posts and other projects in as appointments. Every year there is so much I want to accomplish but never do. I’m just wasting my days!

My Christmas was really great. I got a cute Michael Kors purse and a few other things I was really hoping for. I spent a lot of time at home. Got sick with bronchitis, then got sick again. I think it’s been the cold weather. It’s been below freezing a lot and I’m just not used to that here! I’m hoping for an early spring. I am most definitely a warm weather girl.

 

10. i like this! #FMS_ilikethis #fmspad #littlemomentsapp

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I hit my reading goal on Goodreads. Even surpassed it by about 20 books. I’ve read a lot of awesome ones so far this year too. That’s another thing I want to spend more time on this year. Books! I have so many unread books on my bookcase and on my kindle. I’ve cut out some tv viewing by removing things from the DVR to give myself more reading time.

I started weight watchers toward the end of December and I have lost 8.3 pounds. It’s been a lot easier and a lot more effective than I expected it to be! I really wish I’d joined sooner. The only physical activity I’m doing is getting my 12,000 steps on my fitbit but once it’s warmed up a bit outside I’m planning to start using some exercise equipment in our garage. 

I can’t believe it’s already February 1st! How has your 2018 been so far? What are your plans for the year?

Currently listening to: (book) When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon and (music) Let the Record Play by Moon Taxi

 

November and December 2017 Reads

Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Bridgertons, #4)Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’d been anticipating getting to this book and it did not disappoint! I had a soft spot for Penelope in the earlier books of the series so I really wanted her to have a great HEA. I enjoyed how the story built up through Penelope and Colin’s friendship and history. Their banter was funny and cute and I loved how Colin treated her.

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The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

35 minutes into this I was already in tears. I wrote this review in my head several times as I was listening to the audiobook but now that I’ve finished I don’t really have the words I need. THUG is powerful and eye-opening and heartbreaking. The things these kids and this community go through is incredibly hard to face but it’s important to get a different perspective and to understand. Even if you think you know, you have no idea. Everyone needs to read this. I’ll even buy you a copy if I have to.

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My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's SorryMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space RaceHidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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To Sir Phillip, With Love (Bridgertons, #5)To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is book 5 in the Bridgerton’s series. I’ve been reading them all the last month or two, catching up on the series since I hadn’t read it until now. This is Eloise’s book, which I’d been looking forward to. Unfortunately, I didn’t love it as much as I expected I would. There were certain things about Phillip that bugged me. I had to keep reminding myself that this is historical fiction. I am happy to see Eloise happy though. I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

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Night After Night (Seductive Nights, #1)Night After Night by Lauren Blakely
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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Forbidden Nights (Seductive Nights, #5)Forbidden Nights by Lauren Blakely
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Most Valuable PlayboyMost Valuable Playboy by Lauren Blakely
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Friends to lovers is one of my favorite tropes! I loved Cooper and Violet. They were funny, sexy, and adorable. Can’t wait to see more of these characters.

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Beyond Pain (Beyond, #3)Beyond Pain by Kit Rocha
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Beyond Jealousy (Beyond, #4)Beyond Jealousy by Kit Rocha
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

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November 2017 IG recap

 

#catsofinstagram #jasperfitzwilliam

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#catsofinstagram #jasperfitzwilliam

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#catsofinstagram #jasperfitzwilliam

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#catsofinstagram #jasperfitzwilliam

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#catsofinstagram #jasperfitzwilliam

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September and October 2017 Reads

The Duke and I (With 2nd Epilogue) (Bridgertons, #1)The Duke and I (With 2nd Epilogue) by Julia Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read a historical romance but this series has been on my to be read list for some time. I’m so glad I finally decided to dive in! The Duke and I made me remember what I love most about historicals and most definitely did not disappoint.

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The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons, #2)The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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The Score (Off-Campus, #3)The Score by Elle Kennedy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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The Goal (Off-Campus, #4)The Goal by Elle Kennedy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve enjoyed all of the books in this series but The Goal was definitely my favorite. I loved Tuck and Sabrina!

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The Librarian PrincipleThe Librarian Principle by Helena Hunting
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This isn’t my usual genre of book but an acquaintance told me how much she loved it and I trust her judgment. I waited for months for my library to have an available copy and started as soon as it downloaded. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this once I got started. I found myself frequently getting annoyed with Ove, especially when he was mean to the cat 🤷🏻‍♀️ but in the end the other characters won me over, much like the way they won Ove over.

The writing was lovely and I teared up several times. Definitely worth the read.

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Gatlinburg trip

I took a long weekend trip up to Gatlinburg Tennessee last Thursday. For years I went annually and at times more than that, but I hadn’t been up there in several years. It’s my mothers most favorite place to go, aside from the beach at least, so we went a lot when I was growing up. Her 60th birthday was a couple of weeks ago and she really wanted to take a trip up to see the fall foliage. Since I haven’t traveled any this year and don’t have plans to travel the rest of the year I said YES.

#noms #brunch #tennessee #southpittsburg #southpittsburgtn #traveling

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We started our trip as we always have, by stopping at Cracker Barrel for breakfast. I don’t know what started that little tradition but we’ve been doing it as far back as I can remember. We have a local CB but never go so this is a treat. I love breakfast but probably only ever eat out for that meal when I’m on the road. I had scrambled eggs, turkey sausage, a fruit and yogurt parfait with granola and a blueberry muffin the size of my hand. It was yummy!

Since we started our trip up a little later in the morning than we usually do it was late when we arrived and traffic was terrible. We each agreed we would pick a restaurant to eat at for dinner each night and my step-dad chose T.F.I. Friday’s for Thursday night. It’s his most favorite place because of Jack Daniel’s glazed chicken and he was devastated when they closed our location in Huntsville. I’d have preferred to check out somewhere local and not a chain but it’s hard to do that when you have to please every palate in your group. I’m not really a fan of “country” or “southern” food so that makes it really hard for me haha.

View from our balcony. If it weren’t for the pigeons hanging out on the trees we’d have slept with the door open.

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We got ourselves settled in our hotel room and ventured out into downtown Gatlinburg for a little while but since we arrived so late and my mother was tired we didn’t stay out too late. It was also a lot colder than we expected on that particular night.

On Friday we went into Pigeon Forge to take a gander around Tanger Outlet. We always make sure we put that on our list of things to do when we go to Gatlinburg. It’s so easy to find something great with the variety of stores they have. My first stop is usually Cosmetics Company Store but this time our first stop was Michael Kors since my mother was looking for a handbag. We both ended up finding cute bags and walked out a little poorer. I think the largest shopping adventure for my mom was Kirkland’s though. It’s so funny since we have a local store but she had to go in. They had such cute Christmas decorations!! I didn’t take any pictures of them but there was so much stuff. I may have to let mom drag me to our store at home.

#nofilter #ferriswheel #pigeonforge #pigeonforgetn #theislandpf #theisland

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There’s a really cool little place in Pigeon Forge called The Island and it really reminds me of a theme park. The stores are tiny and short, there’s a ferris wheel and other little things scattered around. We mostly went just to check it out but ended up having dinner at Margaritaville because we were all starving and since it was my turn to choose where we ate and I thought the menu looked pretty good. I had chicken kabobs with ‘island rice’ and it was really tasty. Mom had a simple club sandwich and fries (I snagged one and they were great) and step dad had a burger.

#nofilter #ferriswheel #pigeonforge #pigeonforgetn #theislandpf #theisland

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On Saturday we sort of wandered around and went back to Tanger Outlet to return something that we didn’t mean to purchase. The day just flew by and I have no idea where it went! We had dinner at Mellow Mushroom. It’s so funny that all of the places we ate at are places we could easily eat at anytime, but we just don’t go out to eat and wanted to go to the places we don’t get often but love. The pizza I had was so good. I ordered a small and only ate half and didn’t take the rest back to the hotel room. I kept thinking about it the rest of the night and wished I’d kept the other half for Sunday morning breakfast!

This gluten free Kosmic Karma was tasty! #mellowmushroom #pizza #gatlinburg #gatlinburgtennessee #glutenfree

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The only disappointing part was the leaves hadn’t started turning yet and we were anticipating seeing those fall colors. Sunday morning on our way out of town we noticed they’d started turning a little since there’s been a bit of rain and the nights were cool. Of course! I’m willing to bet this coming weekend it will be gorgeous and golden there! Here’s one more picture from our wanderings so you don’t think all we did was eat and shop because I swear we didn’t!

#livemusic #gatlinburg #gatlinburgtennessee

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An interesting link: Ask a Dietician on A Beautiful Mess
Music I can’t stop listening to: Niall Horan ‘Flicker’

 

Baby I’m sorry

Ahhh I didn’t realize it had been so long since I’d blogged! I have no excuse other than work has been really busy and time got away from me. I’ve never been consistent when it comes to blogging, honestly. Since I don’t really do much other than work and maybe randomly hanging out with a friend, I don’t have generally have a ton to blog about.

I’d intended on doing a lot of travel posts when I started this thing but it was just bad timing on my part.This year has been kind of boring on the traveling front since I took such a long trip at the end of 2016. I really need to start carrying my camera with me again and start using it on manual, to take random photos. Maybe I’ll do that next weekend when I take a short weekend trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The sky is so swirly today #nofilter #valleywx #thisisalabama #wheretheskiesaresoblue #iphone7plus

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I’m not going to talk a lot about it here but I wanted to mention the shootings in Las Vegas. It’s heartbreaking to know we aren’t safe going to concerts, church, etc. It makes me pause when making plans to attend a public event. I have tickets for a couple of concerts and I wonder if I should even go. But I don’t want something like this to keep me from doing something I love. Concerts are one of my favorite splurges.

Tomorrow is my mamas birthday and tonight we celebrated with some great friends

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And since I’m on the subject of music…I’m addicted to the new Demi Lovato album “Tell Me You Love Me“!! I don’t own her other albums but I loved Sorry Not Sorry the first time I heard it. I decided to download the album since I now have an Apple Music membership and I have not been disappointed. (Let me just tell you how much money subscribing to AM has saved me!!!) I’ve been caught dancing at work several times because I can’t seem to help myself.

What album are you hooked on or anticipating? I’m really looking forward to the new Taylor Swift and have been obsessively trying to get points for the SwiftTix thing. I’m hoping to swipe tickets for her Nashville tour stop.

August 2017 Reads

I don’t make any guarantees that reviews I post will be spoiler free!

 

Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls Series #1)Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Undecided how I feel about this one. It was good but I didn’t love it like I expected.

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The Death Cure (Maze Runner, Book Three)The Death Cure by James Dashner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Beautiful (Beautiful Bastard, #5)Beautiful by Christina Lauren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m sad to see this series end but I really enjoyed it! I liked Jensen and Pippa and it was fun to see them interacted with the couples from the past books. I loved the multiple epilogue chapters at the end. Great book, wonderful series. I love CLo.

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Beautiful Boss (Beautiful Bastard, #4.5)Beautiful Boss by Christina Lauren
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Beautiful Secret (Beautiful Bastard, #4)Beautiful Secret by Christina Lauren
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn’t like this one as much as the other full length novels in this series. I couldn’t really connect with Niall and Ruby, though I really wanted to. I got so frustrated with Niall. I liked Ruby well enough. It just didn’t make me Feel like the other books have. That aside, I love this series and Christina Lauren.

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Beautiful Beginning (Beautiful Bastard, #3.5)Beautiful Beginning by Christina Lauren
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love these novellas! It’s so fun to get to catch up with certain aspects of the BB characters lives in between reading books about a new couple.

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Beautiful Player (Beautiful Bastard, #3)Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of all the BB series books this one is definitely my favorite, so far. I love a friends to lovers story and this one was that. I also love siblings bff stories and I got that in Player also. I’m a happy reader. It doesn’t hurt that Will and Hanna are smoking hot together either.

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Beautiful Bombshell (Beautiful Bastard, #2.5)Beautiful Bombshell by Christina Lauren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved it, as expected. A great mix of wit, steam, and heart. I loved getting little glimpses into the lives of Chloe/Ben and Sarah/Max. Can’t wait to read Will next!

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LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this one after reading a few reviews. I love Rainbow Rowell. But I’m not married and don’t have kids so I wasn’t sure if I’d really feel connected to this story. I’m so glad I took the chance! I really enjoyed the entire story. It was a great journey and I found myself tearing up at the end, though I can’t really say why.

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Beautiful Stranger (Beautiful Bastard, #2)Beautiful Stranger by Christina Lauren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This review is also posted here.

The summary for Beautiful Stranger starts with “a charming British playboy” and goodness gracious if that isn’t true. I can almost say that I loved BS more than Beautiful Bastard, and that is huge. My love for it was great. There’s something about about Max Stella though that made me not only swoon, but fan my blushing cheeks too. He was also a nice guy, not at all what I expected him to be, which is fantastic! I love when a story surprises me.

Max Stella has quite the reputation in New York City. He’s almost constantly mentioned in gossip articles and often photoed with various women. There are even paparazzi that follow him, trying to get the goods on him when they can. From the outside looking in, it appears that he is only out for a good time, using women and then throwing them away when he’s done. It’s easy to see why people view him as the playboy but there’s so much more to Max. He is a caring, charming, smart business man with so many layers. It was fun to see those layers revealed as the story built. I loved loved loved Max. I can’t say those words too many times. He was a great character.

Sara Dillion has just moved to NYC from Chicago, after ending a long term relationship with her cheating jerk of an ex fiance. She’d had no idea all those years she spent with him were fake. Or that he’d been using her to further his career. Devastated, Sara decides she’s not going to get involved with another man. No more relationships for her. One night out with friends leads to one sexy, steamy scene in a club with a Stranger. Once the encounter is over, they go their separate ways, except Sara keeps running into the debonair man! It’s almost like he’s following her, turning up in the most random places.

One of my favorite parts about these two characters is their chemistry. It’s intense, but not only on a sexual level. There is a lot of fire between them; arguments and hard headedness everywhere. They are both incredibly strong willed and that makes me love them, especially Sara. It’s nice and refreshing to find a female character in this type of novel and have her not be weak or simpering. She’s strong, strong enough to stand up for what she wants when it comes to her career and life. She has guts. I think that is one of the things that Max is drawn to. There’s a brain in Sara’s head and she uses it.

The progression of Sara and Max’s story is so well paced that I never once got bored or felt rushed. I saw their relationship grow slow and steady. I saw them both learn about themselves and each other. They evolved into a great pairing. I really can’t say enough how great this story was. I wanted to start over from the beginning before I’d even finished it.

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Beautiful Bitch (Beautiful Bastard, #1.5)Beautiful Bitch by Christina Lauren
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a novella for the Beautiful Bastard series and since I’m rereading/finishing the series I wanted to read the novella’s too, as I missed them the first go around. I forget how much I enjoy novellas until I read one again. I like that we got a snippet more of Chloe and Bennet and what they’ve been up to since Beautiful Bastard wrapped up. I laughed and I swooned, which really, is what I most look for in a romance themed book. Christina Lauren is such a great writing team. I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t get caught up on these books sooner. Can’t wait to go forth!

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Beautiful Bastard (Beautiful Bastard, #1)Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I originally read this as The Office, a Twilight fanfiction, then when it was published as an original novel I read it then too. I loved it both times but as the rest of the series was released I fell behind. Now that the series is complete I decided to go back to the beginning. It was just as delightful and yummy as I remember it being the first time!

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FangirlFangirl by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I AM SO DELIGHTED BY THIS BOOK!!! As a former(?) fan fiction writer myself I smiled the entire way through Fangirl. It brought back a lot of great memories and made me want to get my laptop out and finish some writing projects. This is my second Rainbow read and I have loved both. I need more Cath and Levi!! I need my own Levi! I wasn’t really a fan of Wren until the very end, but I feel like she redeemed herself. But Leviiiiiii. *chin hands*

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Weekend shenanigans

I had some errands to run and my mother wanted to make a trip to Michael’s for an artificial pumpkin. We went a little nuts in there, let me tell you! They have so much Halloween and Fall stuff at 40% off! Halloween is my favorite holiday. Always has been, even though anything with a mask FREAKS ME OUT. We found so many cute things, most of which I did not take pictures because I was too excited to focus.

However, I did control myself a liiiitle bit. I picked up this cute sign because… Hocus Pocus! We also fell in love with and bought a pumpkin that glows but I didn’t take a picture of it. Then there’s the one pictures below. I’m debating what to do with it. My office maybe? I don’t know. It just screamed my name and I had to have it. I’ll figure out where to hang it later.

I had to pick up a baby shower gift so off to Target we went. It’s like babies are EVERYWHERE right now. I love shopping for them though, honestly. There are so many cute little things I often have a hard time deciding what to buy. This time I picked up a Babies R Us gift card (at the new parent’s request) but I couldn’t help myself when I saw this little bitty fuzzy pink THING. I don’t even know what this animal is supposed to be but look at those little ears on the hood.

After getting what I needed and heading to the front of the store I spotted these socks with CATS on them and had to stop. I don’t normally wear this kind of sock so I stood and stared and debated for a while. I randomly wear trouser socks, even though I don’t like them, but for the most part of I’m wearing a shoe that requires socks (like boots), I just go with plain white crew socks. But these were too cute to pass up. Then I noticed the other pack on clearance and bam, into the buggy they went.

It turned out to be a rather random but eventful expedition. So here’s my question… what’s your favorite holiday?