Saturday, August 9, 2014

2014 Summer Reading List

When my Summer I semester was over in June, I KNEW I'd be hitting the book reading hard. I have always loved reading.  It is one of my happy places.  To get lost in a book for hours.  Your mind is the movie reel and you are telling it to what to show you.  It's fascinating to me.  I blew through these books in about 2-3 days, ignoring most of my wifely duties because I was so enthralled.  I am passing these books on to one of my dear friends that enjoys reading almost as much as I do (and hates her chores just as much!)  If you haven't read any of these, it is totally worth it.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This book was a recommendation by my bosses wife and it did not disappoint. When a wife goes missing and blood is found in her house on her 10 year wedding anniversary, the whole town is sent into a panic trying to figure out where she is and who hurt her?  It was a total mind fuck and I LOVED it.  I had no idea what was going on half the time, and I totally fell for the villain only to be totally shocked as the book progressed.  I did enjoy this book because of the marriage aspect. It was fascinating to me how the husband and wife each perceived their marriage.  It just shows how some people think they're totally on the same page without being quite on the same page.  Bonus - this has been made into a movie and will be released in the Fall.  Although I don't think the movies are ever quite as good as the book, we shall see.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.  Reading this book made me feel kind of weird.  It was very sick and twisted yet I just could NOT put it down.  Again with this author, I guess she really likes mind fucking her readers :) This book was about an unstable news reporter that has to return to her hometown to investigate some murders of 2 pre-teen girls.  What she uncovers is pretty mind blowing and will definitely make you want to take a shower and watch your children a little closer.

Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire. This book was pretty good.  It was a nice break from the 2 previous mysteries I read before this one.  It was kind of a love story about a girl who's busy with life and not very interested in love until she totally falls for the bad boy.  Certain aspects of their love story was fascinating. You could practically feel the sexual chemistry between them. However, I will say this book definitely pissed me off at times. Cami (the protagonist) seemed so helpless and needy at times I wanted to reach through the book and just shake her.  Overall though, it is definitely worth the read and I was totally shocked at the end.

Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes.  I felt all sorts of emotions reading this book.  I almost couldn't make it through the first few pages because it was so incredibly violent and it so hard for me to willingly read things like that.  The domestic violence of this book hit a little too close to home but I kept reading because something about it entranced me.  Cathy is a woman who was in a very abusive relationship and finally got out after her boyfriend almost killed her.  He goes to prison and she moves away after all of her friends believe the ex-boyfriend from all of the manipulation he orchestrated. A few years later he gets out of prison and comes for her.  I was pulling for Cathy to be strong and make it through this.  This one did not disappoint, and the way the author wrote this, makes you feel like you are literally in the room and a part of this whole book. It was fascinating and definitely worth the read.

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison.  I was captivated reading the back of this book about a couple who's 20 year relationship is on the rocks.  Again, it was the dynamic of how you can be in a relationship and you and your spouse are in totally different places.  This book did not disappoint and was one I did not want to put down at all.  In fact, we were at the lake when I was reading this one and when everyone else was napping, I was down at the lake floating on my raft, reading this book. 

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf.  Sitting at the airport waiting on my flight to board from Chicago to Florida I knew I had to find a good book to read.  There were not many options so I settled for Little Mercies even though it was a little different genre than I normally read.  A mother accidentally leaves her little girl locked in the van and the girl almost dies.  And then we meet another character who is left on a bus and travels a few states away.  Their paths cross and what happens next is pretty incredible.  

So, what have you been reading this Summer?  School starts in about 2 weeks and I am honestly not looking forward to going back so I am trying to get in as much pleasure reading as possible.  I do appreciate having a more structured routine, but is hard balancing it all.   Anyways, if you have any good book recommendations, please pass them along!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Another year older, another year wiser. Or something like that.

It never ceases to amaze me how much more we have to learn, even as adults.  I know they say that the younger you are, the easier it is to learn things, and I guess that’s true to some extent.  Not necessarily true though regarding life lessons and the wisdom you gain from growing older.

As of a week ago, I am officially no longer just dirty 30.  I am the big 3-1.  The numbers are getting larger yet the inner peace I am achieving grows larger by the day.  I thought it’d be fun to do some little nuggets of wisdom of things I’ve learned in the past year.

Allowing toxic people to take up space in your brain is your fault just as much as theirs.  If a relationship is more work than reward, let go.  You can find great inner peace if you start to focus on your own family, goals, and what’s important to you and the people who are always there for you.

The older you get, you will finally realize quality over quantity in friendships and relationships.  I used to take great pride in the hundreds of phone numbers I had, knowing I could just call or text someone on a whim and they’d be just as ready to go out and party as I was.  You will eventually find out that these so called friends are only there for your long partying, nights.  Not the people you want to go to when you have some exciting news to share.  Your priorities start to shift as you grow older.  Instead of being enticed by the dim lights, stale cigarette smoke, and loud bass, you realize you have more fun at a kids birthday party, having an ice cold beer with fellow parents, and enjoying the sunshine and children’s laughter.  Plus, bonus: you won’t wake up the next day with a hangover!

I’ve always considered myself to be someone who has great taste and loves to decorate, but the older I get, the more I realize that I want to take great pride in our home and let it be a reflection of who we are, as a family.  I’d pick a trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond over a trip to Victoria’s Secret any day of the week now.

Cooking is actually fun!  I’ve always loved to cook but now that I’m a little older, I’m more comfortable to try new things and go out on a whim to create something new (sorry husband ;).

Gardening is kind of fun.  I definitely sound like an old(er) person now, but when I can keep something alive, it’s neat.  Plus, I love having plants and flowers and all kinds of things blooming all the time.

Financial planning.  Ew, I’ll admit this one still kind of gives me hives.  My husband is definitely the one who has influenced me and pushed me in the right direction to do some retirement planning and for that, I thank him.  But it can be so very overwhelming when first starting out. 

Education is important.  And expensive.  But you know what's more expensive?  Not having an education and living up to your full potential (although I do realize this is not true in everyones case - mine included.)

Confidence is the best thing a woman can wear.  It's refreshing to have a husband, a stepson, and bigger more important things to worry about than what establishment is hosting ladies night.

So that's it.  For now.  There are tons more things I learned in my 30's, but I don't want to bore you too much more :)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Minecraft Party

In case ya'll have been living under a rock, there is this new game called "Minecraft" that is all the rage these days among the kiddos.  So, when the LO said he wanted a Minecraft birthday party, we weren't that surprised. Unfortunately for us, you can't just go to Party City and fill your basket with random Minecraft decorations, the majority of it is DIY.

I will say that planning parties, DIY decorations, and designing is my thing.  One of the simple things in life that gives me joy.  Being able to use my imagination and create things is fun for me.  To see everything come together and all of the little kids faces light up. That's what makes it all worth it to me.  This year, we decided to have a joint party with the LO's mom. So, we agreed to throw the party at her home.  It's nice and has a pool, plus this meant that I wouldn't have clean our house from top to bottom just to have the kids destroy it during the party, so win for me.

We all worked together as a team, and it came out pretty good.  Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves (adults included) so that made it even better.  I mean, we threw in the new wife's family with the ex-wife's family, you really have no idea if it will be good or bad, lol.  But thankfully everyone behaved and had a nice time (I'm sure the beer had something to do with it, ha.)

As fun as it was, not sure that we'll do it again next year.  When it comes to planning, I really do enjoy just doing things my way and not having to get other peoples input.  But a year is a long time away so we shall see :)

Anyways, here are a few pictures I managed to snap during the party.  Hope you enjoy!

The husband printed out the background on his plotter at work.  I made the Zachary banner in MS Word.

The gift bag / candy table was a HUGE hit!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The day I'll never forget

It was early that morning.  I think I woke up around 5:30 or 6.  Before my alarm even went off.  I laid in bed staring at the ceiling convincing myself to sleep for a little while longer.  Wasn't going to happen. It was like Christmas morning except the anticipation was one I'd never felt before.  I hopped out of bed and went out in the backyard to the massive tent that was set up.  I felt the wet grass between my toes and did a quick prayer that it wouldn't rain.  Then it was time to get to work.  I had given my parents specific orders the night before of everything we needed to set up the day of.  They had the deer in the headlights look, so I figured I better set up a table so they could see just what needed to be done.  

Wow!  All this sweat.  It was now 7 am and this was hard work!  Much harder than I'd anticipated.  How could I be sweating already at 7 am?  Oh, that's right, because it's Florida and was already 80 degrees.  Oh well, it would all be worth it in the end, right?  Yes, it was worth it and then some.  The table I set up looked amazing.  White linen.  Sailboats, flower arrangements, candle holders with starfish, lighthouses, chalk boards as place settings, personalized water bottles in personalized koozies.  It was all so beautiful.  By this time,  my sister in law, Lisa had woken up and was ready to get the day started.  We sent my brother to Dunkin to get us coffee as we knew we were in for a long day.  We walked around screeching like little girls while getting ready to head to the salon.  The brother comes back and gets us our much deserved coffee and a dozen donuts.  A few minutes later my MOH Stacy and her husband show up in their chariot to take us to the salon.  More screeching ensued and I think her husband was questioning how in the hell he got roped into this gig.  But he was a great sport and besides, someone had to pop the champagne for us.

We get to the salon a little before our appointment and Stacy gets to work.  She sets up a welcome area and puts out croissants, muffins, and mimosas.  Sweet, sweet, mimosas. Everything was so amazing and lovely and I felt like the most special woman in the world.  The ladies made a toast and then the make up artist got started on the bridesmaids makeup. Not soon after my Stepmom, Laura showed up.  She grabbed a mimosa and came to spend time with the girls.  It was amazing and we had a great time.  I was very nervous the whole time, I felt like I might throw up.  After the girls got hair and makeup we headed to the hotel.  As we were walking out of the salon it started to sprinkle.  We were a little panicked it might rain but were confident it wouldn't.  On the way to the hotel, Laura called me and said we needed to talk.  At this point in time, it was pouring.  She told me about the alternate plans of where we were to get married (under the tent) and went on to explain how they had to set everything up as a backup. The gift table wasn't where we were expecting it, we wouldn't get married outside like we expected, everything had changed.  I texted the fiance and told him "I don't know if I can do this" of course he said back "do you need to talk?" Uhhhh yes, talking was the least of what I needed at this point!  My girls assured me everything would be perfect so we kept on to the hotel to get ready.  We pulled up to the hotel and the fiances best friend brought our room key as we were pulling up, and the girls were pouring me a glass of wine.  I made him pinky promise he would not tell Frank we were having another toast! We headed up to the room and the photographer called that he got some amazing shots of the guys and wanted to get some shots of us.  At this point, I wasn't too jazzed.  It was pouring, everything at our home is not what I was expecting, and my Mom decided to be a weirdo and throw a wrench in our plans.  I wasn't too stoked but I put on a happy face because this was a day for Frank, the LO, and I and we would not let anything ruin it. 

Just as the photographer comes in (btw, he looked like a hollywood actor), a friend sent Frank and I a text.  As I was reading this really depressing text, I felt overwhelmed and could not stop laughing.  The photographer and girls were playing into it too so we were laughing as we were crying.  It was a good time and I think he got some good shots.

After he took some basic shots of us girls getting ready, I asked if the guys were ready for the letters.  You see, Frank is not very good with words.  He asked if we could surpass the new tradition of couples reading and writing their own vows.  I told him yes, as long as we wrote eachother letters to read before the ceremony.  Well, guess what time it was?  It was time to read the letters.  The photographer was still down in the girls room, and Frank's brother brought down the letter frank had written for me.  It was such a very, very sweet letter and make me laugh, cry, and break out in hives all at the same time.  I read the letter aloud and I don't think there was a dry eye in the room.  I joked with his brother that there is no way there'd be a dry eye up in the guys room!  Him and the photographer headed to the guys room to take pictures of them reading their letters. By them, I mean the following:  Frank, the LO, and Frank's Mom.  I did not just write Frank a letter.  I also wrote his Mom a letter.  Telling her how she raised the man of my dreams.  I wrote the LO a letter that as his S-Mom I promise to always encourage him, and help him find his path in life.  It was emotional and at this point, I was ready to get the show on the road!

We headed to the house and it was pretty rainy.  We pulled up to the neighborhood and there were cars everywhere!  We told the limo driver we didn't want anyone seeing us so he drove around the block for awhile.  We listened to black eyed peas and drank champagne.  By the time we drove back around, it was show time!  The girls got out and then I followed.  I remember walking to the house with the limo driver and telling him I still had time to run!  He did not find my tipsy banter too humorous!  Before I knew it, I was at the front door and my Dad was standing there.  We hugged and watched the bridal party walk down the aisle.  As we made our way into the tent I noticed how crowded and warm it was!  Good Gosh, this is not what I expected!  BUT, it turned out amazing and it was ours and that is all that matters.  My Dad gave me away and Frank and I said our "I Do's"  You know, he was crying so hard the tears were streaming.  It was so sweet. And sincere.  I did not have that reaction, although I thought I would.  It was so sweet and even the Pastor remarked that it was "so cool" to see a groom with that emotional reaction.  After they pronounced us husband and wife the song "Happy" by Pharrel Williams starting playing.  JUST IN TIME.  Because the RAIN stopped!  And we were able to enjoy a few minutes of our cocktail hour while taking pictures and greeting all of our guests....

Friday, May 9, 2014

It's official

I'm a Mrs.  In my wildest dreams, I never would've thought he'd be my husband.  I had the hots for him when I was an 18 year old secretary at the company we both worked for.  We were both at different points in our life but divine intervention brought us back together 3 years ago.  The big man upstairs was working in our favor and I am forever grateful.  It has been almost a week since we said the "I Do's" and it's still pretty wild to wrap our heads around.

The wedding day was magical and beautiful even though the rain had different plans for our ceremony than we did.  It's okay though, in the end, it all worked out.  My parents and brothers really pulled out all of the stops to make sure it was a beautiful day for us.  They set up all of the centerpieces, chairs, favors, and everything.  We are so blessed to have parents as great as them.

I'll do a wedding post next week when we get home from our honeymoon.  Just wanted to write a small post while it is still fresh in my memory.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Dear Carl,

I can't believe you're gone.  Total shock is an understatement.  It was only 3 months ago you were talking about your retirement and all of things you wanted to do.  Finish your old car and take it for a drive, maybe move away to some place more peaceful and laid back, really just enjoy your retirement while trying to stay busy.  Even though you worked that crazy shift at FPL you never seemed to rest.  Always go, go, go.

When I first moved in, you were the friendliest neighbor who became a dear friend to us. BBQ's at your house, parties at ours, a beer here and there.  Endless conversations, not just the usual "hi" with a friendly wave but real, good conversations, and lots of laughs.

And it's not fair.  When the beau told me you had lung cancer that had metastasized and your diagnosis was only 5 months we were in shock.  We cried but knew you were a fighter and would pull through.  After only your second round of chemo, 3 weeks later, you passed away.  And it's not fair.  It's not fair that you busted your ass your entire life and didn't even get to enjoy your retirement and all of the things you were looking forward to doing.  And it's not fair that your wife of almost 23 years has to live the rest of her life without you.  And I don't understand why it happened to a good man like you, one who seemingly did everything in his life the "right way."  And I also feel so guilty.  I've been so consumed with wedding planning and school that after the beau told me the news, I still didn't make the time to come over and visit with you.  And now you're gone.  I hope you know we'll help with your wife.  We'll help her do anything she needs done around the house.  And I hope you'll be pleased that we're setting up a meal plan and nightly visits with her.  But most of all, I hope you know you were a good person who will be missed, greatly.

This letter is to our dear friend, and neighbor, Carl.  I can't really seem to express my thoughts and feelings without tears, so I thought this would help me to heal.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Advocare thus far...

So I thought it'd be fun to do a recap of what we've eaten, how we've felt, etc. while on Advocare for the first week. Yesterday I ordered a container of Spark because I'm pretty sure we'll run out by the 24th day. Especially since sometimes we have 3 a day!  I guess it's better than coffee or soda, right?  :) I really hope this inspires and gives you some ideas as far as eating plans go. That's really been the hardest part for me because I'm a big foodie (obviously, considering all the junk in my trunk.) Finding meal plans and recipe ideas has been a challenge for me.  Especially making sure it's a meal that we'll all actually enjoy.

Here are the meal plans I used for the first week:

Day 1

Spark, 2 eggs, half a pack of oatmeal, fresh pineapple, and the fiber drink
Mid morning snack:
Fruit punch Spark, and celery sticks with almond butter
A tuna salad (mixed with 1 tbsp of garlic hummus) sandwich on 2 slices of whole wheat bread
Afternoon snack:
1/4 cup of raw pecans
Grilled salmon with broccoli

Calorie totals that day:  1554, 115 carbs, 93 g of protein, 29 g of fiber, 1423 mg of sodium

Day 2 - when I weighed this morning, down 2.2 lbs.

Spark, 3 eggs, half a pack of oatmeal, fresh fruit, and the fiber drink
Mid morning snack:
1/4 cup of raw pecans
A tuna salad (mixed with 1 tbsp of garlic hummus) salad.  Threw in some lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.  Very filling and full of protein.
Afternoon snack:
Delicious stuffed bell peppers from this website (my first time making stuffed peppers):  The Gracious Pantry - clean peppers
Snack before bed:
Orange with some tajin seasoning sprinkled on

Day 3 - when I weighed this morning, down 2 lbs.

Spark, 3 eggs, half a pack of oatmeal with some almond butter for extra protein, fruit salad, fiber drink
Mid morning snack:
Spark and 1/4 cup of raw pecans
Left over stuffed pepper from the previous nights dinner
Afternoon snack:
Orange (hey see a trend here?  The beau brought them back from Sebring races and I hate letting produce go bad)
Taco salad with 93/7 ground beef, lettuce, diced chiles, tomatoes, black beans, quinoa & brown rice, and avocado.  SO good & SO filling.  Did not even MISS the taco shells!

Calorie totals that day:  1600, 114 carbs, 101 g of protein, 26 g of fiber, 1774 mg of sodium

Day 4 - when I weighed this morning, down 2.2 lbs.

Breakfast:Spark, 3 eggs, half a pack of oatmeal with some almond butter for extra protein, fruit salad
Mid morning snack:
4 oz. of rotisserie chicken, a whole avocado, and 6 oz. of steamed broccoli & cauliflower
Afternoon snack:
Grilled herb chicken, recipe here: Grilled herb chicken , baked asparagus with a tiny bit of olive oil & seasonings, and half a baked potato with some sauteed mushrooms on it.  I sauteed the mushrooms in some chicken broth & a ton of seasonings.
After dinner snack:
Strawberries & apples with almond butter

Calorie totals that day:  1540, 107 carbs, 91 g of protein, 23 g of fiber, 1293 mg of sodium

Day 5 - when I weighed this morning, down 0 lbs.

Spark, 2 eggs, half an avocado, a slice of whole wheat toast
93/7 hamburger patty (patties made by my Momma,) on a whole wheat bun with lettuce & tomato & a tiny bit of ketchup, fresh strawberries, and mediterranean quinoa salad from Skinnytaste:  Quinoa salad
Spicy shrimp with chiles and garlic, recipe here: Spicy chile & garlic shrimp, green beans, chicken flavored rice.  Regarding the shrimp, I have read that you're supposed to avoid "bottom feeding seafood" such as shrimp but that's just not realistic for us.  I want to be able to maintain this diet change so we will definitely go "off plan" here and there.  To that, I add:  we worked 7 hours doing yard work this day.  So we did allow ourselves a few beers after all of our hard work.  I had 3 Miller lites and DAMN were they good!

Calorie totals that day:  1437, 121 carbs, 81 g of protein, 21 g of fiber, 1692mg of sodium

Day 6 - when I weighed this morning, down 1.3 lbs.
Spark, 2 eggs, strawberries, a slice of whole wheat toast
Mid morning snack:
A chicken sandwich (leftover breast from Friday night) on a whole wheat bun (left over from yesterday's lunch), and some more mediterranean quinoa salad.
Salad, le seur peas, chicken pasta, and mustard flounder: Mustard flounder . Even our 6 year old loved it, so I KNOW it is a winner.  Also had 3 beers as we had another full day of yard work.  See, don't deprive yourself!  Nothing good comes from it.

I will say, even after dinner I am pretty hungry already.  We are getting ready to watch a movie so I'll probably make a healthy snack for us.  Fruit or veggies dipped in hummus.

Calorie totals that day:  1479, 123 carbs, 95 g of protein, 20 g of fiber, 1528mg of sodium

Day 7 - when I weighed this morning, down 0 lbs.
Unfortunately I ran out of eggs yesterday morning and didn't make it to the store.  So I just had half a packet of oatmeal, 2 tbsp of almond butter, and an orange.  It will definitely be a snack kind of day, I can tell already.
Tuna salad made with 2 tbsp of hummus on a bed of lettuce.  Need to make a trip to the grocery store.  I also had some rotisserie chicken
Spark & grapes
Lime chicken, steamed fresh veggies, half of a plain sweet potato.  Everything was DELICIOUS!  I got the chicken recipe from here:  quick lime chicken (I did omit the cilantro as I hate it.)

Calorie totals that day:  1303, 137 carbs, 114 g of protein, 21 g of fiber, 2886mg of sodium

So, today is the end of our first week.  I'm down 7.7 lbs. and I feel really good. I don't have OMG ALL THE ENERGY, but I haven't in years, so I wasn't really sure that I would.  

Logging my foods on myfitnesspal (un: NicolePatriot) has really helped me meet my calorie goals as well.  I want to make sure I am following the nutritional plan, but also getting enough calories.  As many of you know, I do not believe in 1200 calories a day.  It is not healthy or maintainable.  I have found that Advocare is very much geared towards clean eating.  Unlike other "diets" such as the HCG diet where you take some magical drops and eat only 500 calories a day, I think the clean eating approach is much more sustainable.

And because no post is complete without food pictures, here are some of the dinners I made: 

Friday, March 21, 2014


Well, the beau and I started Advocare on Tuesday.  So far, he's lost 6.6 lbs and I'm down 6.4 lbs.  I don't even know how it's possible.  BUT the scale doesn't lie.  At least when I'm losing it doesn't lie. When I'm gaining that's a different story.  We're on day 4 of the cleanse portion and it's been pretty easy to stick with.  Although by day 2 I was craving sweets & crunchy salty things like a mofo.  We remained strong though.  The beau said the candy dishes at his work have been the hardest thing to resist.  We are eating clean, drinking Spark, drinking the fiber drink (only the first 3 days and last 3 days), and taking vitamins.  

Upon waking up you drink the spark drink.  30 minutes later you drink the fiber drink with breakfast.  For breakfast we've been having 3 eggs each, oatmeal with almond butter, and lots of fruit.  I have to say, it has been really nice sitting down for breakfast together every morning.  We get a little bit more time together.  With the crazy schedule that I'm on (class until 9 most nights) it doesn't leave a lot of "togetherness" time.  Then I pack our lunches and snacks.  This week our lunches consisted of whole wheat tuna (mixed with hummus - no mayo) sandwiches, salads, and left over stuffed peppers.

I am pretty excited to see what happens the rest of the 20 days.  My Dad lost 26 lbs. in the 24 days and has kept it off, so that feels promising.  I think the clean eating is the biggest reason for the loss. 

Anyways, I guess I am done rambling for now.  Hope you all have an awesome weekend :)