Way back in January I resolved to read 100 books in 2013. Let’s just say that I am more than a little behind on that goal…but, I have been reading and just finished a beautifully written young adult novel that I had to share.
In the interest of full disclosure, The Fault in Our Stars is a tearjerker. Upon finishing, I immediately felt the need to share on Facebook that I was bawling like a newborn. (To my surprise, this actually intrigued a number of my friends who said they were going out to buy it.) If you can handle a tragedy, this is a powerful and quick read. Centering around a cast of characters all dealing with cancer, both as patients and those that love them, John Green created a truly gut-wrenching love story that is both so effortless in its adolescent ease and so complicated by disease and struggle.
If you enjoy reading books before seeing their movie adaptations, I would pick this one up now, as a film version is in the works. Rumored to play the witty and wise-beyond-her-years main character, Hazel Grace is Shailene Woodley of The Secret Life of the American Teenager and The Descendants.
As you plan out your summer “must-reads,” I would absolutely add The Fault in Our Stars to your list.
Do you have any book suggestions?
As someone who used to fall prey to the lunchtime trap of eating out constantly (and making poor choices) with my colleagues, I have spent a lot of time searching for yummy, easy and affordable recipes to bring my lunch with me to the office. This pasta salad is high in fiber and protein, but most importantly, high on flavor too!
- 1 package of rotini pasta
- 2 jalapenos
- 1 package of cherry tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 1 red onion
- 1 can black beans (drained)
- 1 can of corn (drained)
- 1 can of chickpeas (drained)
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Olive Oil
- 1/2 Lemon
- Black Pepper
Because I have been taking it easy with the carbs, I looked for a high-fiber, low calorie pasta to use as a base. This Ronzoni Smart Taste pasta is only 180 calories per serving, the fiber keeps you full and does not sacrifice any flavor or texture.
Some of the ingredients I used are canned, which is not something I do a lot. Be careful, when selecting your canned veggies, not to succumb to the sodium trap. Look for reduced or no sodium options. Especially with the other flavors in this recipe, you won’t need the added flavor from the sodium! The beans, corn and chickpeas all came in low-sodium varieties.
Start by preparing your pasta according to the package’s instructions and chopping your veggies. Combine all of your ingredients and top off with a drizzle of olive oil, the juice of the 1/2 lemon and black pepper (to taste). Mix well.
To make my life even easier, after mixing, I separated into tupperware so that it my lunches are ready to go in the morning. To avoid letting it get too soggy, I wait and add just a touch more oil and a drizzle of balsamic in the morning before I pack it up– by lunchtime it is just perfect!
And there you have it– a quick, easy and delicious lunch! It’s the perfect fuel for a quick lunchtime workout, too! (Warning: It is spicy, so be sure to have gum or a toothbrush handy!).
I am admittedly a bit of a crazy dog lady. I grew up with dogs and now that I have one of my own, I tend to spoil her rotten. After having her for about a year, I finally decided I could trust her to sleep outside of the crate and created a new spot for her in my bedroom.
Izzie has always loved fleece blankets. She came with one, has one in her crate and one that she travels with on car rides and when she goes to “doggie camp,” (when I have to board her). None of the beds I was looking at were as soft as her blankets, so I decided to buy some fleece and make my own!
I bought two one yard pieces of fleece and grabbed two old spare pillows I had in the closet. And the rest is very easy!
1) Lay the fabric out and make sure it’s evenly cut:
2) Cut squares out of each of the corners:
3) Cut one-inch strips around the perimeter of the fleece (on both the top and bottom pieces):
4) Tie the strips together (double knot them):
5) Let your pup give it a try! (Any excuse to put a picture of Izzie on the blog works for me):
Izzie loves her new bed, and will now frequently go to bed much earlier than I do!
Have you crafted for you pet?
Spring has sprung and in addition to spring cleaning, I have been looking for some ways to spruce up my place. One of my favorite pieces of furniture is a hand me down vanity from my mom. This antique piece is worn-in in and a little damaged that makes you feel like it’s seen a lot– I love that. That said, the bench that goes along with it was looking a bit ratty– stained with shades of blush worn by me and those who primped there prior to me. As fun as it could be to contemplate what life event, big or small, those smudges may have resulted from it was time to give this piece a facelift.
I am no expert on upholstery and I wanted to do something that I could eventually change, so it needed to be sturdy but changeable at the same time. I picked out a fun, colorful fabric to pick up the other colors in my room and used fabric pins and fabric glue to secure the new seat in place. With some careful folding and pinning, I am very happy with the final product!
What spring projects are you planning around your house or apartment?
To continue celebrating my amazing, gorgeous and all around wonderful friends, I wanted to share the awesome ladies’ night we had last weekend. Slumber parties may not initially conjure the word “fancee” in your brain, but I can think of nothing more fun than homemade pizza (with my new Pampered Chef pizza stone…a very worthwhile investment!), lots of wine and treating yourselves to a good old fashioned dance party in your socks.
We had a great night in hanging out, being silly and, of course, talking for hours. Interested in your own fancee slumber party? Here are some tips to make it awesome:
1) Have everyone bring some wine, or their drink of choice to share. This guarantees everyone will have something they like to drink and there will be plenty for everyone to try! When it gets a little warmer outside you could get creative with sangria, mint juleps or some other fun concoctions.
2) Make food together! In the interest of full disclosure, I did not touch any part of the pizza making process. That old expression too many cooks in the kitchen can apply here. That said, it was fun to have a project that, even if we all weren’t directly working on it. We used pre-made dough, sauce, etc. for our pizza, but here is a great recipe for homemade pizza from Simply Recipes.
3) Perfect a Pandora station or create an awesome playlist. Spontaneous dance parties only happen when you have great jams!
4) Break out those old board games. Especially the ones that help you get to know each other even better– Apples to Apples is a great game for sleepovers and we had a great time with this! If you don’t have board games, Truth or Dare is always an option!
5) Pick up some flashback movies. Some great girly movies from when you were growing up are a perfect end to an awesome night. 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, Now and Then, Thirteen Going on Thirty…so many great ones to choose from!
And that’s it! A simple, easy and ridiculously fun recipe for a great night with the girl!
Will you host a slumber party for your besties?
Even though it was a couple of weeks ago now, I wanted to share a little about the awesome Valentine’s Day I had with some of my favorite ladies. “V-Day” can carry a lot of weight for some people, whether you’re single or in a committed relationship. Whether you are stressed about finding the perfect gift for your perfect someone, or that you don’t have a special “other” in your life to shower with romance, it seems to me we are all way too stuck on only celebrating one kind of love on Valentine’s Day.
Well, Cupid, some of my favorite gals and I are calling you out. We decided to celebrate how much we love each other! We got dressed in our fancee-est and most festive Valentine’s attire and went out on the town. A lot of beer, dancing and laughter later, I can honestly say it was the most fun Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had. Here’s just a little sample of the love:
And to prep for the celebration? Here are the fancee Valentine treats I made for the girls:
1) I started with Strawberry cake mix and prepared according to the instructions on the box
2) Before pouring into the cupcake tin, I added some fresh strawberries:
3) I poured them into these adorable owl cupcake papers from Target
4) Let cool before frosting with some delicious Pillsbury Vanilla frosting; I love how pink they came out!
5) The finished product (my parents were actually the first to sample):
6) And, for the girls, I put them inside of heart bags with the cheesiest paper valentines I could find. The bags got a bit messy with the frosting, I would recommend little cardboard boxes if you’re trying this next year
How did you celebrate Valentines day? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!
You know you’re a fashion addict when your mom texts you in the middle of the day about getting a magazine in the mail, and you hold back from hyperventilating at your desk knowing that a Spring Fashion issue awaits you at home. I ran to the mailbox after work to grab my almost 600 page InStyle March issue.
Tearing through the pages, I started stressing over all of the cute new spring trends I want…and the lack of cash to spend on all those goodies. But, there are a few tricks I’ve picked up to help you stay on trend without spending a ton of money.
1) Invest in accessories– items that show you know what’s “in” that you can get a lot of mileage from. A great pair of heels, a scarf, a clutch or even a headband can be worn multiple times and easily integrated into outfits already in your closet.
2) Combine trends. See if you can find one of the season’s “hot” styles in a popular color. This past fall and winter, emerald was all over the place. It was easy to find some trendy t-strap shoes, which I saw in all of my fashion magazines. I found this great pair of Carlos Santana pumps that I wore with everything from a long flowy dress, to a short cocktail dress, and even jeans and a dressy top.
2) Cardigans! (the “!” really emphasizes my love for cardigans. I have a rainbow collection of button-up sweaters that make me smile even when it’s too hot to wear them). I have a good amount of neutral basics in my wardrobe (black, navy, grey and khaki pants, dresses and skirts) and a bright or funky cardigan keeps all of these pieces from getting boring.
3) Jeans. At least in the last few seasons, colored jeans have been a staple. A pair of jeans in an on-trend color can be dressed up or down and will keep a casual look current.
4) Go for it! Every season there is at least one trend that is too loud to subtly mix in with the rest of your closet. I fell in love with neon (and will get as much wear out of my hi-liter yellow pumps as I can before they are no longer socially acceptable or age appropriate) last season. Neon was great to integrate with my basics, but it’s way too fun to not go a little crazy. I also bought a neon pink dress that I adore. It may not be “trendy” for very long, but it’s a statement piece that I love (at least for now) and sometimes it’s fun to splurge on something you love, even if you may not get as much mileage from it. Buying one thing you absolutely adore is a lot more cost effective than grabbing a ton of loud, trendy pieces that you may only wear once or twice.
A few examples for you from the wonderful world of Polyvore.
Some more emerald picks from the current season:
And this spring it looks like floral will be in full effect, these are a few ideas:
What are your tricks for staying trendy without spending too much cash?
Never one to not celebrate a cheesy holiday, I am already preparing for my Valentine’s Day celebrations with some decorating. After my DIY Christmas Ribbon Wreath, I decided another wreath was exactly what I needed to spruce up the drab hallway in my apartment complex.
I, of course, turned to Pinterest to find another design to try, and came across this wreath, and loved it. Overly girly and a little gaudy? Yup! Perfect for Valentine’s Day? You bet!
- Hot glue gun
- Styrofoam wreath
- Letters (I found Love already spelled out, rather than buying individual letters)
- Paint for the letters
- “Extras” to jazz it up– I found some heart garland and rhinestones that I loved!
I prepped the project by painting the letters the day before to allow them ample time to dry.
Start by tightly wrapping the wreath form with the yarn (no glue necessary, just tying tightly works just fine).
Next, hot glue the feathers on the bottom of the wreath and follow by pinning the ribbon over the yarn, one strand at a time.
Finish up by hot-gluing the letters and adding your “extras.” Pin the ribbon you need to hang it and voila! A super fancee Valentine’s day wreath!
What are your favorite Valentine’s Day decorations?
I have to be honest and admit that when planning meals for myself, I’m really not all that fancee. A spinach and tomato omelet…chili in the slow cooker (which gets not exciting after a few days)…maybe a casserole here and there, or personal whole wheat pizzas if I’m feeling adventurous. So, discovering this awesome side dish was super exciting, and worthwhile to spend some time planning an actual menu around it!
Sweet potatoes are a pretty recent discovery in my life, but I absolutely love them. Baked, french fried, roasted, they’re awesome! And this roasted recipe absolutely trumps every other recipe I’ve tried. In the interest of full disclosure, they are great with regular balsamic vinegar, but my secret ingredient that I’ve used twice with the recipe is an absolutely mind-blowing flavored vinegar from Saratoga Olive Oil. Their pumpkin spice white balsamic vinegar is the absolute perfect complement to the sweetness of the sweet potato. Try it– I swear you won’t regret it!
The original recipe came, of course, from Pinterest, here is the original pin.
You can follow their recipe, but here are a few photos from my own preparation:
These make a great side dish for almost anything, though I have mostly stuck with poultry, serving along with turkey and cranberry paninis (recipe to come, but it’s like a mini Thanksgiving dinner) or something as simple as grilled chicken. Switching to margarine or a butter substitute is also a way you can cut some calories from the recipe.
Do you have a favorite winter side dish? Share in the comments or on our Facebook page!
My pinspiration for this week was a quick and easy project to give my living room a bit of a facelift. This pin has been floating around Pinterest for quite some time, so I finally broke down and decided to try this seemingly easy, no-sew project.
I had a great time at JoAnn Fabrics going through miles of calico quilting fabric and deciding on what to purchase. My goal was some brighter floral prints that complemented each other well to add a little punch to my silvery gray furniture.
The directions were quick and easy, and the only trouble I had was tying the knots in the front and getting them to stay put– I would recommend some cleverly hidden safety pins to hold the fabric in place. I will also likely pick up a fabric that is a bit less stiff the next time I do this (because now that the living room looks so great, I’ll have to do the same in my bedroom).
Here’s how my pillows turned out:
Have you tried this yet? Post pictures to our Facebook page!