Friday, November 4, 2016

What I Read in October

Me Before You // I read this book several years ago, and it immediately went onto my all-time favorites list. I wanted to re-read it before reading the sequel and seeing the movie, and I loved it just as much this time around. The dialogue is quick and clever, and it's not entirely predictable. We recently watched the movie and I really enjoyed it as well! 5 stars

After You: A Novel // I read this right after reading Me Before You, but I wish I had taken a break in between the books. Louise is such a different person in this book because of what has happened, and you can sense that disconnect. It isn't bad or wrong, in fact I think it's quite appropriate, but it didn't make for a seamless transition between the books. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. It isn't as good as the first one, but definitely worth reading. 4 stars

In the Woods // My book club decided to read something a little "spooky" for the month of October. None of us had read any of Tana French's books, but we had heard good things. We read this one, the first in the series, and it wasn't what I expected. It wasn't creepy or chilling (which I was glad!), and it actually moved a little slow for a thriller/mystery book. I enjoyed reading it, but the end was very disappointing. 3 stars

She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That's Passing Away // You might be familiar with She Reads Truth: it's a popular devotional website and app. I've used it off and on over the years, and I was really interested in reading this book when it came out. I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for a review, and I'm happy to report that I loved this book! It seems like several of the Christian Living books that I've read or thumbed through lately by women that seem to be prominent in Christian circles are feel-good, girl-power, fluffy reads that aren't my cup of tea. There's a place for them in the marketplace and many people resonate with them, but I just don't. This book was not that, and I loved that! The two authors share pieces of their stories and how God's Word impacted and met them in the midst of some really tough circumstances. They both learned over and over again that God's Word is the only thing that's true and unchanging, and they beautifully weave their stories in with rich truth that can be an encouragement and challenge to anyone who's reading the book. I really recommend this book! 4 stars

Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame // This book was really eye-opening for me. Shame isn't something that I think about often, and I realized I've (wrongly) confused it with guilt. The author breaks down what shame looks like in specific areas, and I really enjoyed the chapters on shame in parenting and shame in marriage. It was a thought-provoking book that I enjoyed. 3 stars

Calling Me Home: A Novel // What I loved about this book was that it wasn't entirely predictable. It's the story of an elderly white lady and her young black hairdresser who share their stories with each other on a trip across the country. I kept thinking I knew what was going to happen, but I continued ot be surprised. It was good writing and a good story, and I really enjoyed it. 4 stars

Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links, which means if you click through and purchase, I may receive a small commission. Thanks for supporting the blog + my reading habits!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Crisp Cinnamon Topping

In case you're not stuffing your face with enough sweet treats today, here's a delicious banana bread recipe! This is probably in my top 2 favorite banana breads. The cream cheese makes the bread SO moist and the topping makes this bread almost like a dessert. I also love that it makes two loaves, as most of my banana bread recipes only make one. I love baking quick breads that make two loaves so that I can stash one in the freezer! 

Cream Cheese Banana Bread with Crisp Cinnamon Topping
for the topping
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (I've also used pecan chips if I have them)
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

for the bread
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 4 medium size)
1 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional - I've made both with and without)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

To prepare topping, stir together brown sugar, pecans, flour, melted butter, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

To prepare bread, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 (8x4 inch) loaf pans.

Beat butter and cream cheese in a large bowl at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Gradually add granulated sugar. Beat for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow yolk disappears after each addition.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add to butter mixture in thirds, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla.

Spoon batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle topping mixture evenly over batter and pat into batter to adhere.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan, shielding with aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Cool bread in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool at least 30 minutes on wire racks before cutting with a serrated knife.

source: recipe from The Southern Living Community Cookbook: Celebrating Food and Fellowship in the American South

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Chicken and Poblano Stew

Today I have an incredibly easy but delicious meal for you: this chicken and poblano stew. The hardest part is roasting the poblano and chopping it up, and even that is easy. I keep cooked, shredded chicken on hand in the freezer, so after chopping the pepper and onion this was literally a dump-it-in-and-stir dinner. It is SO flavorful and tastes just as good for leftovers.

Chicken and Poblano Stew
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 poblano pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
16 oz store-bought salsa verde (I used Garlic & Lime)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
toppings: chopped red onion, lime wedges, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, cilantro, avocado

Roast the poblano over a flame until charred all over. (Alternatively, quarter the pepper, place the pieces skin side up on a baking sheet, and broil on the top rack until the skin has blistered and charred, 8-10 minutes.) Transfer the pepper (or the pepper quarters) to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let cool. When cool enough to handle, peel the poblano, discarding the stem and seeds if still whole. Chop the flesh.

In a large Dutch oven or saucepan set over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook until translucent and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and roasted poblano and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the coriander and cumin and cook until slightly darkened and fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add the salsa verde and cook until it just comes to a boil, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the shredded chicken and cook until heated through.

Serve over cooked rice with toppings of choice. Serves 4.

source: recipe slightly adapted from Kitchen Confidence

Monday, October 24, 2016

So I have this thing for white pumpkins

This season I've been drawn to a more neutral fall decor, specifically white pumpkins! I love how white pumpkins can make a space feel festive without dominating the room. I'm not the type of person who does a complete overhaul of my home decor each season, so a neutral palette suits me best.  Here's some of my favorite inspiration for white pumpkin decor...

image from the grace house

image from craftberry bush 

image from tone on tone 

image from liz marie blog
image from the grace house

image from a pumpkin and a princess

Friday, October 21, 2016

Honey Oatmeal Bread

One of my favorite things about fall is spending extra time in the kitchen baking breads and sweet treats while a soup or chili simmers on the stove. My mother-in-law has made this bread a couple of times when I've been at their house, and each time I can't stop eating it. It's safe to say that this recipe is my favorite homemade bread. I made a batch a couple of weeks ago and was so pleased with how it turned out. We might have finished both loaves in five days...

Honey Oatmeal Bread
2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
4-5 cups bread flour
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp rolled oats

In a large mixing bowl, combine boiling water, oats, 1/2 cup honey, butter, and salt. Let stand for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Pour the yeast mixture into the oat mixture. Add 2 cups of flour; mix well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition, until dough has pulled together and isn't too sticky (I needed the full 5 cups). Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 20 minutes (or you can leave it in the bowl and knead with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer). Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form into loaves. Place the loaves into two lightly greased 9x5 inch loaf pans. Cover the loves with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove loaves from pans, brush tops of loaves with honey and sprinkle with oats.

source: recipe adapted from all recipes

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What I Read in September

It's time for a recap of the books I read in September! I read several really great books last month that I highly recommend!

I Capture the Castle // I heard about this book on a podcast and was surprised that for being such a classic I've not heard much about it! The book is the journal of a 17 year-old girl whose poor family lives in a falling-apart castle in England in the mid-1900's. The narration reminded me somewhat of Anne from Anne of Green Gables, with snarky, honest observations and witty conversation. I really enjoyed this book, and if you haven't heard of it or read it either, pick it up! 4 stars

Lilac Girls: A Novel // This was our book club pick for September, and I really enjoyed it! It's a long book, and I was excited to have a book that I could really sink into and enjoy for a while. This was that book. It's the story of three different women during WWII: one American, one German, and one Polish. I've read a lot of WWII historical fiction, but this was the first time to read one with the perspective of a Nazi. It brought different things to light, and I really enjoyed the added dimension. In the author's note at the end of the book, I found out that much of this story was based on true people and events! I loved finding that out, which made the book even better. Highly recommend! 4 stars

Taken // I've mentioned before that I don't read much Christian fiction, but that I always enjoy Dee Henderson's books. The plot had unexpected twists, the writing was good, and I loved the characters. I flew through this book and really enjoyed it. 4 stars

Becoming a Woman of Excellence 30th Anniversary Edition // I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my review. I had read one previous book by Cynthia Heald but had never done any of her Bible studies. I really, really enjoyed this one. There's no cheesy devotional story; it's just Scripture and good questions with space to answer and reflect. I loved the format and content of this study so much that I ordered another one of her studies that I'm about to start. 4 stars

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood // The title of this book was a little startling to me, as I do find being a parent fun! But I was intrigued. This is not at all a how-to parenting book; it's a social science book on the effects children have on their parents. There were several chapters that I really enjoyed, and a couple of chapters that I didn't enjoy so much. If this subject intrigues you at all, you can read the author's piece in an old New York Magazine article here. 3 stars

The Tea Planter's Wife // I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. To be honest, I struggled through much of this book. I couldn't really get into it, and if I hadn't been reviewing it, I probably wouldn't have finished it. That being said, I did start to enjoy it about 60% of the way through. The story finally got going, and I was eager to read resolution of the plot. It was a bit predictable, but a fairly good read. 3 stars

What have you been reading lately?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake with Pumpkin Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Last week I hosted a girls' night at my house, and I used it as an excuse to make this pumpkin cake. The cake in itself was delicious, and it really could pass as a coffee cake or even pumpkin bread (and I'm not just saying that because I may have eaten a piece for breakfast). The cream cheese frosting with a hint of pumpkin and cinnamon is what takes this cake to the next level. It is such a good combination and the perfect treat for fall. 

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cake with Pumpkin Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
for the cake:
1 15 oz can pure pumpkin, divided
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

for the frosting:
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp butter, softened
2 Tbsp pumpkin puree from above canned pumpkin
1-2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray all surfaces of a 12-cup nonstick bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour, or grease and flour the inside of your pan. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugars together with mixer until fluffy. Remove 2 Tbsp pumpkin from the can and set aside for frosting. Add remaining pumpkin to the butter and sugar mixture, beating until combined. Add eggs, one at at time, beating just until the yellow disappears after each egg.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture in thirds, alternating with milk in between each third. Beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips just until combined then spoon batter into prepared pan. Tap pan on counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. 

Bake until a wood pick inserted near the center of cake comes out clean, 75-90 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, beat cream cheese, butter, and pumpkin together until smooth. Add milk and cinnamon and gradually beat in powdered sugar, adding additional milk if necessary, to reach desired consistency. Frost cooled cake as desired.

source: recipe barely adapted from carlsbad cravings

Monday, September 26, 2016

Slightly Stationery Card Club

It's no secret that I love pretty stationery, so I have to share about my newest find! For the past four months I've been receiving the monthly card club from Slightly Stationery. It's five cards delivered to my mailbox at the beginning of each month, and I LOVE it. The subscription is only $15 plus $2.95 for shipping, which means each card is only $3.59. I consider this a steal because birthday cards at Target that are 1) not cute and 2) have lame words are usually more than that. I am all about sending someone a unique, cute card where I can write my own words inside! Each month there has been a birthday card and several all-occasion cards, as well as a thank you note and/or special occasion cards. I haven't had to buy any cards since I started receiving the card club, which is a huge win in my book, since I send a lot of mail! Here are some of the cards I've received so far...

June's collection

a combination of July & August's collections (since I mailed some before I could take a pic!)

September's collection

Aren't these just the cutest?! If you've gotten a really cute card from me in the past several months, more than likely it's one of the ones I've received from the card club :) I cannot tell you how much I love having a refresh on my stationery stash, and I especially love that the collections each month are seasonal (i.e. the September ones get all the heart eyes!). 

You can get your first month free (!) by using the code SLIGHTLYFREEMONTH at check out. All you pay is the $2.95 for shipping for your first month!

disclosure: this post is not sponsored. I just love sharing about the things I find + love.

Friday, September 23, 2016

5 Things I'm Loving for Fall

As much of a summer girl as I am, I have been so ready for fall! This pregnant lady can't hang with the intense heat here in South Carolina, so I am very thankful for weather in the mid-80s! I also am excited for cozy days of cooking + baking in the kitchen, fall clothes, and the upcoming holidays. Here are 5 things I'm loving for fall:

Essie nail polish in hues for fall. I love swapping out my hot pinks
and corals for these perfectly autumnal shades.
(clockwise from top: Ladylike, Mink Muffs, Recessionista, Chinchilly, In Stitches)

The Jones Market fall collection. So many good pieces! 
I had a hard time picking just one to order!

Fall candles from Twine & Cotton. I can't get enough of how perfect this scent is!

Nars Satin Lip Pencil in Rikugien. I pulled this from my stash because I wanted
something darker than my typical pinks without entering into the bold-red-lip territory.
You can see how this shade looks on me here.

 All the pumpkin baked goods. I can't be tempted by a PSL, but pumpkin
breads and muffins are another story. I'll be sharing the recipe for this pumpkin cake
with pumpkin cinnamon cream cheese frosting next week, so stay tuned!

There you have it, 5 random things I'm loving this season. What are some of your favorites for fall?

(The Jones Market picture from instagram)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

On Stocking the Freezer with Meals

This past spring I decided to stock my freezer full of easy dinners I could pull out and serve. I was hoping that I would be getting pregnant soon and fully anticipating I would have another rough first trimester, making cooking dinner a huge struggle. I researched some meals that would freeze well, but what I mostly found were crockpot "dump" meals. Those aren't always my favorite, because they're either too creamy or just don't have enough of an interesting flavor. Below are links of the recipes I ended up making, if you're interested in stocking up your freezer! We started eating these in June, and I have just a few left. We obviously don't eat them every night, but it's been such a great filler for the days that I've been too tired or too sick to cook! It would be handy to stock your freezer with these if you're pregnant, will be having a newborn soon, have a busy work schedule, or even just for a stress-free dinner!

  • Chicken Spaghetti - I made two pans of this and each pan lasted for several meals for the three of us!
  • Quiche - I made three, which I served with a tossed salad for dinner or had for easy breakfasts or lunches. 
  • Calzones (I used this technique with this filling) - I ended up making 8 calzones, and we found that 1 calzone for each of us was plenty. I wrapped them individually in aluminum foil. When it was time to eat them, I thawed a couple in the fridge for a few hours before baking them in the oven still wrapped in foil. 
  • Chipotle Lime Chicken - I made one recipe of this, which fills two freezer bags, and each bag is enough for a meal plus plenty of leftovers. This crockpot meal is a tried and true favorite of mine!
  • Chicken Squares - I made a double recipe, which is 8 chicken squares. I baked them completely and let them cool before wrapping them individually in foil. To serve, I baked them on a baking sheet still wrapped in foil until they were hot through. 
  • Meatballs in tomato sauce - The recipe I ended up using wasn't my favorite so I'm not linking it here, but it made a ton and has served a good number of meals. Make your favorite recipe and then divide it up into containers. Thaw in fridge overnight and heat on stove before serving.
  • Sloppy Joes - I made one batch of this recipe and then divided it up in several containers. I let it thaw in the fridge overnight then reheated it on the stove before serving.
  • Lasagna - I made my mother-in-law's recipe and divided it into two 8x8 pans rather than one large pan. I assembled both lasagnas but didn't bake them. When I was ready to serve them, I let it thaw in the fridge/counter, then baked it covered with foil until it was hot through and bubbling. 
Hope you find this helpful if you're looking to stock up your freezer and want to avoid a ton of crockpot meals! These meals have been a huge help to me! Now that we're getting into fall and soup weather, I plan on stocking up on a bunch of soups and chilis! Do you have any tried and true recipes that freeze well?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What I Read in August

Somehow we're already to the middle of September, so here's what I read in August! I'm so happy to report I am back into a good reading rhythm for the first time in this pregnancy! 

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! // Harriet is a new widow who decides to take the cruise her late husband had booked even though she'll be going alone. Along the way she discovers secrets about her husband, and the book jumps between her finding out about these secrets and stories of the years she shared with her husband. The book was predictable, and I didn't enjoy the writing. A much better version of the spouse-finds-out-secrets-about-dead-spouse plot is The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, which I absolutely loved. I give Harriet 2 stars.

When I'm Gone // This was my book club book for August, and a review we had read said something about a story of a scavenger hunt that a dead wife sends her husband on. The book was not as much of a scavenger hunt as I had hoped, but there are secrets that the husband discovers after his wife's passing that kept me interested. The writing got better as the book went on, and though it wasn't my favorite book ever, I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened. 3 stars

How to Start a Fire // This story is about three unexpected friends from college and the different directions their lives take over the next decade or so. It jumps back and forth between past and present, so for the first half of the book I was pretty interested to find out what situations the book kept alluding to. I have to admit that I didn't particularly like any of the characters, and the book was just overall a little depressing. 3 stars

The Royal We // I unashamedly love all things to do with the Royal family, so you'd better believe I was going to read this fictional story of the Prince of Wales falling in love with an American girl! This was such a fun book to read, and I loved it. If you (like me) watched the Royal Wedding and can't get enough of the inside scoop of the Royal family, you'll really enjoy this book. 4 stars

The House at Tyneford // The cover of this book says that fans of Downton Abbey and Kate Morton's books will love this book - um those are some of my favorites! This book was very reminiscent of life at Downton Abbey with the staff and the family and their interactions, and it's the story of a young Jewish girl who comes to England to escape World War II in Austria. This was a well-written book, and I really enjoyed it. 4 stars

Bel Canto // I've recently heard several good things about Ann Patchett, so I decided to give her a try. This was her first book that I've read, and I get the hype! The writing was impeccable, and the story was so unique. In some ways it reminded me of Station Eleven, just because the plot itself was not something that I thought I would enjoy. But once I got a few pages into it, it completely drew me in and I didn't want to put it down. 4 stars

The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful // I've had this book for a little while and finally got around to sitting down and reading through it! This is probably one of the better home decor books that I've read, and I enjoyed it so much! Myquillyn gives practical tips, shares beautiful photos, and mostly shares her philosophy of "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful". I love that! She's all about decorating your home in a way that you like, without worrying about the decorating "rules" or whether or not other people will like how you've decorated. For someone like me who likes (and needs) a ton of rules and structure before I feel comfortable doing something, this was so freeing to read! It inspired me to decorate my mantle in a different way than I normally do, and I didn't even text my sisters to see if they thought it looked good :) 4 stars

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls // I've heard about this book for years and had high hopes. Unfortunately I didn't really enjoy it. Similar to Anton DiSlafani's other book The After Party: A Novel, it seemed like this whole book kept alluding and referring to this huge secret that actually ends up being kind of predictable. I thought the story was depressing, and I never really connected with any of the characters. 2 stars

What have you been reading? Have you read any of these books that I've mentioned?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Links for your weekend

What are your plans for the weekend? Labor Day weekend always feels like the end of summer, even though technically we still have a few weeks. We're heading to the beach for one last summer hurrah, and I can't wait to watch Madeleine play in the sand and dip her toes in the ocean. Here are a few links for your weekend, hope it's a good one!

"I Wish My Teacher Knew" - an article worth reading.

For busy weeknights, try these Trader Joe's meal hacks.

This might be the first Kickstarter project I'm interested in supporting!

Give me all the pumpkin baked goods this fall, starting with this one

The happiest house tour

If you're in a shopping mood, here are all the big Labor Day sales.

(image from here)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What I Read in July

I'm a little overdue in recapping what I read in July, and hold on to your hats folks, because it's quite a list! I read all of one book in July. One! I was still feeling quite sick all throughout July and was extremely tired, so I wasn't even keeping up with my nightly habit of reading in bed. I did read part of two other books that I'm including as well. Unfortunately none of these books were very good, in my opinion, so it was kind of a lame reading month for me.

The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively // Are you familiar with the five love languages? I think it's both really interesting and really helpful, so I was excited to be able to receive a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review. This book specifically talks about the love languages in children: how to discover what your child's love language is and how to effectively love children with each of the five love languages. The first half of the book covers that, and I did find it really interesting. Nothing was particularly earth-shattering if you're already familiar with the love languages, but I enjoyed reading it. The second half of the book took a different turn into disciplining your children, which I thought was a totally unnecessary topic for this book. I also happened to disagree with a lot of what was said, so for that reason I can't fully recommend this book. 2 stars.

I Almost Forgot About You // I got a copy of this book from Blogging for Books because I had heard good things and wanted to read it! I will say I thought the premise of the book was really creative. The main character decides that she wants to find all of the men she's ever loved, because they've impacted her and shaped her in some way. I thought that could lead to a really interesting book! But I just wasn't having it. I didn't like the main character, I didn't enjoy the writing style, and I found there to be an excessive amount of language in the book. I can overlook foul language in a book if it's in moderation and the book is really enjoyable, but that was not the case here. I just couldn't finish it. 1 star.

Britt-Marie Was Here: A Novel // This was the pick for our book club in July, and it was actually my suggestion. I had heard great things about this author and was excited to read this! Unfortunately I just could not get through the book. I read about half of it and just struggled. I found the writing really choppy and the storyline just did not hold my attention. I rarely quit books, but after a couple of duds in a row I didn't want to waste any more time on a book I wasn't enjoying. 1 star.

Thankfully I'm out of my reading rut and have read some good books in August, so stay tuned for the August recap in a few weeks!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Slow-cooker Moroccan-spiced Chicken with Couscous

It's been a minute since I've posted a recipe, mostly because I've been very sick with this pregnancy and cooking has been kept to a minimum! Thankfully I am doing a lot better and the nausea is more manageable now. I'm back in the kitchen and enjoying having a little more energy! I made this recipe right before getting pregnant, and we loved it! I love using my crockpot for really easy dinners, but so many crockpot recipes are really creamy/thick/not healthy. This recipe packs so much flavor and is actually healthy!

Slow-cooker Moroccan-spiced Chicken with Couscous
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp cinnamon
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (I used breasts)
1 (14.5) ounce can diced tomatoes, mostly drained
1 pound large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup couscous

Mix the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the chicken and toss to coat in the spice mixture. Add the tomatoes and carrots.

Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, until the chicken is tender. Shred the meat and return it to the liquid with the vegetables.

Ten minutes before serving, prepare the couscous according to the package directions.

Serve the chicken and vegetables over the couscous.

source: recipe barely adapted from Real Simple, December 2015

Friday, August 12, 2016

Beach Family Vacation

We just got home from a beach trip! We joined my parents, sisters, and my sisters' families for a week at Corolla Beach in the Outer Banks. It was such a fun week of playing in the ocean and on the beach, hanging out by the pool, eating way too much food, and enjoying our adult time in the evenings once the kids (all 9 of them!) had gone to bed. It was Madeleine's first trip to the beach, and she absolutely loved it! It was such a joy to watch her enjoy the sand and the water like both Caleb and I do. For the first time we stayed at the 4x4 part of Corolla, which is less crowded since it's accessible by 4WD only. There are wild horses that roam that section of the Outer Banks, and they would walk right through our yard! I'm always sad when a vacation like this comes to an end, but I'm grateful for the fun memories we made! Here are a few pictures, if you'd like to see...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What I Read in June

It's time to recap the books I read in June! I only managed to read 6 books, primarily due to the fact that--surprise, I'm pregnant!--and I've been pretty sick and not even feeling up to reading. The good news is that I gave all of June's books 4 or 5 stars! 

The Assistants // When the administrative assistant to the CEO of a huge corporation chooses not to correct a technical error on her expense report, it quickly snowballs into a full-fledged plan to steal thousands of dollars from the company. I had really low expectations of this book, but I was pleasantly surprised! The plot was different than anything I had read before, it was clever, and I really enjoyed it. 4 stars.

The Kitchen House: A Novel // This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I wanted to re-read it before I read the sequel that came out earlier this year. I enjoyed this book just as much as I did the first time, and if you haven't read it, please go get it now! It's about slaves and the South and family and love, and it's so, so good. 5 stars

Glory over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House // As I just mentioned, the prequel to this is The Kitchen House, and I was so excited to read this! The writing is once again impeccable and the story is really captivating. I really loved this book, but still love the first one even more! This duo is definitely worth reading. 4 stars

Far Outside the Ordinary // I heard about this memoir from a podcast that I listen to where the author was being interviewed. I found her really compelling as a person and was interested to read her story. She writes of the heartbreaking months of watching her husband suffer and eventually die from cancer. So many interesting (and bizarre) things happen throughout her story, and I even cried a couple of times. It's a beautiful story and really quite moving. 4 stars

Here's to Us // I've mentioned before that I love Elin Hilderbrand, and this is her new book that came out a couple of weeks ago! All of her stories take place on Nantucket, and they are the perfect summer reads, in my opinion. The writing has perfect pacing, the characters are well-developed, and I really enjoy reading every part of the story - from the description of the setting to the food the characters are cooking and eating to the history that she gives for each of the characters. A fun summer read, for sure! 4 stars

Stepping Heavenward // This was another book that I re-read this month, something that I rarely do! I read this book when I was in college and really enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it even more this time as a mother. It's a journal-like account of a 19th century girl that starts when she is 16. It's so candid that it's refreshing and at times even amusing, but her constant desire throughout the book is to know God and become a godly woman. It's a really great read for any woman! 4 stars