Weekend Recap {4/21-4/23}

As far as Mondays go, today is an alright one. I'm going out on a limb by saying that because I don't even know how the day is going to pan out yet. But, it's my last Monday of work before next week's vacation, so I"m going in with a positive mindset.

Regardless of how the day turns out, Monday is the day I talk about my weekend, so let's get going!

Slade and I had a super lazy night in. He made dinner and we started a binge watch of Married at First Sight. We have a thing for awkward reality dating shows. We're also loving the new show, First Dates. Have you watched it yet?

We had a slow start with a lazy morning, but then left home around noon to run some errands. There were a few things we needed to pick up for our vacation, and we found all of them so...success! We then met up with my cousins and their husbands to try Do-Lish, the new edible cookie dough eatery. I had chocolate chip, and everyone else had either peanut butter, birthday cake, or cookies and cream. It was super yummy!

Once the cookie dough had digested a little, Slade and I went to check out the Alachua County Friends of the Library book sale. This is an event that happens twice a year in Gainesville. It's pretty much exactly what it sounds like...a gigantic sale full of incredibly cheap used books. This was my first time checking it out and it was awesome. There were so many varieties of crazy cheap books. I'll have a haul up soon...probably tomorrow!

We grabbed an early dinner from Blaze after finishing up at the book sale. We hadn't had any real food up until that point, so the pizza definitely hit the spot! Once we were good and full we headed back home, where we spent the evening having a couple of drinks and watching movies.

Sunday was such a fun day! My cousin Taylor threw a "gotcha" day party to celebrate the one year adoption of her dog June, and her sister Shelby's dog Violet. Bell had a blast running and playing with the other dogs. She also got to wear a fun party hat and received a cute little goodie bag with a toy and some homemade treats. I'm blessed with wonderful cousins, and so is Bell! Also, as you can see by these pictures, taking photos with dogs in party hats isn't easy...but it's so worth it.

What made you smile this weekend?

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon {Restless Reviews}

It's time for another Restless Review!

Today, I"m going to share my thoughts on a book that is quite popular at the moment...Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. The movie adaptation of this book is actually coming out on May 19th. It looks really good, and when movies are based on books I always like to try to read the book beforehand. Also, how gorgeous is this cover?

"You're not living if you're not regretting."

In a nutshell...
Everything, Everything is about an 18-year-old girl named Maddy who has never left her home because she has a disease called SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency), which essentially means that she is allergic to everything. She has learned to be content with her lifestyle, but that all begins to change when a boy named Olly moves in next door. This book is all about learning to give life a chance. 

Bad news first:
This plot isn't the most believable. To be fair though, that's a concept that you can grasp simply by reading the back of the book. There is also a heavy dose of "insta-love," meaning that feelings develop very quickly between the characters. I do think that it makes sense for this story though, mainly because Maddy's character is so innocent and void of life experience. Lastly, I personally found the twist towards the end a bit easy to predict...I toyed with the thought a few chapters in and sure enough, I was right!

Now for the good:
This book was like candy. It was the perfect mix of fun and depth, and I flew through it. The characters are sweet and likable and easy to relate to. The characters are also racially diverse, which is so important! Yoon has a knack for balancing humor and lightheartedness with deeper questions and issues. The format of the book is the icing on the cake..it's full of doodles and emails and lists that make the reading process even more enjoyable. 

So...yay or nay?
Yes, for sure. It's an easy, enjoyable read. I picked it up because I was in need of something "lighter," and it certainly did the trick. Also, don't avoid it because you think it's too "young" for you. I"m 10 years older than the characters, and still thoroughly loved it. 

Have you read Everything, Everything? Will you be going to see the movie? Let me know what you think! 

9 Things to Do When You're 9 Days from Vacation

At 5:30pm next Friday, Slade and I will officially be on vacation for a week!

We have been planning this vacation since December. Normally, I feel like time passes at a snail's pace when you're looking forward to something. Yet, these past few months have went by pretty darn quickly.

Our original plan was to go to Branson, Missouri for a few days to spend some time in the mountains. We were going to fly up, but after thinking about it, we decided to drive so we would not only save some money, but be able to make stops on the way up and back. Our final itinerary looks something like this:

Neither of us have been to any of these cities yet (other than Jacksonville), and we are really excited to have a vacation that is a good balance of exploration, relaxation, and of course...good food. (Please let me know if you have any "must do's" for any of these places!)

I feel like the time leading up to vacation can always be a bit stressful, just because there are so many details to confirm and preparations to be made. Since we are just over a week away from leaving, we obviously have all of the major details sorted, but there are still some smaller details that need attention.

I have put together a list of things that could and should be done when you are preparing for any vacation. These are basics that can apply to any type of trip. Since we only have nine more days to prepare, I'm talking about nine tasks to check off of your list.

1. Double confirm your transportation.
We are taking my car on this trip. Something I have been reminding myself to do for weeks is get my oil changed, so I made an appointment to go do that this weekend. I also need to wash and detail my car, because it currently has lots of little Bell hairs throughout the interior, and several Bell licks on the windows. Other than these things, my car is in good shape and ready to go! Moral of the story is, make sure your car is ready to make the trip. If you're not taking your own vehicle, make sure to confirm your rental car or flight arrangements.

2. Confirm pet care arrangements.
Our cat Rizzo is the easy part of this equation. She is independent and easy to care for so she will be spending the week with Slade's mom in Jacksonville. Bell, on the other hand, is a bit harder to find arrangements for. Luckily, my cousin Nathan, who is a college student, will be house/Bell sitting for us during the entire time we are gone. That way, Bell will be in the environment she is used to and everything she will need will be at his fingertips. So, whether you have a house-sitter or your pets stay at a kennel or with family, just confirm that those plans are in place.

3. Identify any extra items you need to buy.
Make a packing list and think about everything you're going to need to bring with you. Then, think about things that may be missing from that list. I discovered that there are a couple of things I need to pick up...a strapless bra (for some of the shirts I want to wear) and a new pair of workout pants (since we will be doing some hiking in Branson and all of mine are super worn out). It's so much easier to think ahead than to discover what you're missing while packing.

4. Try to solidify an itinerary.
Slade and I have already decided that we don't want to have every second of every day scheduled. However, there are a lot of options for things to do and places to eat in each city that we're going to. We want to decide on the attractions we want to do for certain ahead of time. This ensures that you feel like you're making the most of your time, and also that you won't just be aimlessly wandering around and wasting time trying to decide what to do.

5. Confirm your accommodations.
Whether you are staying at a hotel, or with family or friends, make sure your reservations have been solidified. If you aren't paying ahead of time, it also never hurts to get an exact cost of what you will be paying upon arrival. Being prepared makes the process so much easier!

6. Scrutinize your budget.
Traveling can get expensive if you're not paying attention to what you're spending. Go ahead and sit aside any costs that you will need for attractions/gas/etc. Setting a ballpark figure for what you want to spend on food never hurts either. If you haven't paid for your accommodations yet, don't forget to deduct that from your total amount as well.

7. Take a look at your route.
Sitting down to do an overlook of your trip can be super helpful, especially if you're going  somewhere that is unfamiliar to you. This will also help you decide on the most efficient routes. Even if you're just going to the airport, knowing how to get there in advance could avoid you missing your flight.

8. Clean your house.
You're probably rolling your eyes at me right now, but hear me out. If you clean your house a couple of days before you leave, you will have a clean space to come home to. When you get home, you're going to be tired, and the last thing you want is an additional stressor. In our case, we will have someone staying in our home while we are gone, so it's also the polite thing to do, ha ha.

9. Make a playlist.
What is the best way to pass time in the car or on a plane? Music and podcasts, of course. Sit down and make a playlist of all of the songs and podcasts you want to listen to on the road. Give yourself a variety to keep things lively. What are some of your favorite things to listen to when traveling? Tell me in the comments!

Bonus: Get excited!
If you're more stressed than excited for your trip, you need to change that. Get all of these necessary things done, and you will already feel more at ease. Traveling is supposed to be fun! Vacation is supposed to be rejuvenating. Don't let your anxiety ruin that!

Do you do these things before a trip? What additional precautions do you take?

Life WILL Get Messy, and That's OK

I think everyone tends to be a little "stuck in their ways" when it comes to certain things. Most of us have schedules, traditions, systems, etc. that we live some, if not all, aspects of our daily lives by. Routines just make normal responsibilities a bit easier.

Since I have struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder from a young age, these normal routines have always caused me a bit more stress than they should. I have always felt like my house has to be in a certain order. My car has to be in a certain order. My work and personal schedules have to be in a certain order. My life in general has to be in a certain order.

But, as we all know, it's impossible to keep everything "perfect" 100% of the time. Busy-ness happens. Messy little pups happen. Getting sick happens. Unexpected events happen. LIFE happens and interrupts your routine.

When "perfect" goes out the window, we can respond in one of two ways: we can either accept the chaos and work through it, or we can let the stress rule our lives. Unfortunately, I always tend to fall into the second category. If the house is a mess before I go to bed, I don't sleep well. If I don't make the bed before I leave for work, I dwell on it all day. A lot of the time, I can be completely irrational when it comes to these types of scenarios, and it's frustrating to say the least.

I know it's going to be impossible for me to fully change this way of thinking, but I really have been trying lately to dig deep within myself and realize that it's perfectly okay for life to be messy every now and then. Disorganization in my home, or my schedule, or anything for that fact, does not have to lead to disorganization in my thoughts and relationships. Perfectionism does not have to be the controller of life.

Do you struggle with obsessive organization or perfectionism? How do you handle things when inevitable disruption occurs?

Weekend Recap {4/14-4/16}

Since yesterday was Easter and Slade is still out of town, Bell and I spent the weekend with my parents. They only live about an hour away from us, so it's always nice to be able to zip over there when we want to. I'm very fortunate in that aspect!

Staying with my parents is always a nice little escape because they live in a very rural area and are surrounded by other family. On Saturday we had a full day of nothing. My mom made us lunch and I baked us some cookies. A little while after that my mom and Bell and I walked down to my grandparent's house where they and my aunt were working on the garden. Bell loved all of the dirt and new smells. We wrapped up the night with dinner at a local restaurant with my aunt and a couple of my cousins, followed by us all hanging out and working on stuff for Easter.

Sunday morning came with an early wake-up call for Easter food prep. I helped my mom make scalloped potatoes and cookie dough truffles (HOLY YUM), and I attempted to make a black bean and avocado dip. I say attempted because half of the avocados I had just bought THE DAY BEFORE were bad. I still used the good ones, but the whole dish went bad by the time dinner rolled around, even though the recipe called for salsa verde and promised that the acidity in the salsa would keep the avocados from turning brown. That was a lie..because I took the lid off of the bowl and it was as brown as brown gets. It was a super waste of time and money, but I'll get over it, ha ha.

Once the food was finally done, we headed down to my uncle's house on the river for Easter #1 with my dad's side of the family. Bell was not on her best behavior at this event...I think there were just too many people for her liking. However, we were able to get in a nice walk along the water, see some family, and eat some good southern food.

Easter event #2 was spent with my mom's side of the family at my aunt's house. We played Easter trivia (Jeopardy style), had Easter egg hunts for both the kids and adults, and of course, ate some more food. (Though, not a lot because I was still stuffed from the first get together.)

Bell and I headed back home soon after, as Monday had to be prepared for and we were both also pretty tired. Bell was absolutely exhausted from her big weekend, and she spent all of Sunday evening napping while I wrote blog posts and did some reading. (Side thought: Is it even possible to get a picture where your dog is looking at the camera?)

Weekends like this one are always a wonderful reminder of how amazing my family is. I'm thankful for their love and warmth, and I feel more and more appreciative of tradition as each year passes. It has been a most awesome constant in my life.

How was your weekend?

Currently {April '17}

Before I jump into today's regularly scheduled programming, I have an announcement! 

My Restless Soul officially has a Facebook page! I'm so excited I can finally cross this off my to-do list. And wouldn't ya know, it only took about five minutes to actually create it.

If you would like to follow said page, you can do so by clicking here and giving it a like! I would really appreciate the support. I would also be more than thrilled to follow your blog Facebook page. If you have one, please leave it in the comments. 

Now, let's get back to she show! 

Reading... Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. I'm super close to finishing it. I'm enjoying it and looking forward to the movie coming out next month! Next on the list is The Reader by Bernhard Schlink.

Listening (to)...  After much overheard hype, I decided to give in and check out S Town.  Needless to say, I"m hooked!

Watching... Nothing of note, as of late. When Slade's out of town I don't watch much TV. I usually read or peruse YouTube.

Cooking... A lot of new low calorie recipes. I'm loving these healthy chocolate chip cookies  and this black bean and corn quesadilla recipe.

Drinking... Water. Lots and lots of water. I'm talking 100 ounces a day.

Going... To spend a couple of days with my parents this weekend. Bell and I haven't been in a while so I"m looking forward to it.

Loving... The feeling of motivation I've had lately.

Hating... The ridiculous amount of negativity that is shoved in our faces through the news and social media every single day.

Discovering... That the internet lied when I found an article that says puppies begin to calm down around 6 months of age. Bell is still quite the hyper horse. But I love her more than life.

Thinking... A lot about a new writing endeavor I"m about to begin!

Hoping... That the two weeks that are standing between Slade and I and our vacation pass quickly!

What are you currently up to?

4 Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies {Healthy Recipe Experiment}

Are cookies an acceptable food group yet?

I'm not kidding when I say that I crave cookies at least once a day. (I would say once an hour, but I don't want to seem completely addicted.) Chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar...ALL OF THEM. Heck, even Oreos sound amazing half of the time.

In order to avoid giving into these constant cravings, I decided to finally make an attempt at finding a healthier alternative to satisfy my cookie tooth. So, I turned to THE source...Pinterest of course. To my surprise, there was tons of different healthy cookie recipes, but I needed one that satisfied my main two criteria.

1. They had to be simple.
2. They had to include affordable and easy to find ingredients.

After much detective work, I settled on a recipe that only called for four ingredients: dark chocolate chips, oats, bananas, and peanut butter. The original post for this recipe can be found over at My Darling Vegan. Keep reading for my experience and review!

As far as measurements go, I followed the exact recipe that I linked above:

*2 bananas
*1 1/2 cups quick oats
*1/3 cup peanut butter
*1/4 cup chocolate chips (I chose semi-sweet)

I mashed the bananas, then mixed in the oats followed by the peanut butter. The chocolate chips were the last thing that I added. Once I was all finished, the batter looked like it does in the photo above! I then dropped spoonfuls of the dough onto a pan, and baked the cookies at 350 degrees for around 15 minutes.

They really are yummy and satisfying! The flavors all work great together, and they are fantastic when they're still warm. I ate a couple of them when I baked them on Sunday night, then I distributed the rest into ziplock bags and have been taking them with me for breakfast over the past week. (YES, cookies for breakfast! I mean, besides the chocolate chips, the other ingredients are essentially breakfast foods...right?)

They definitely don't look like the ones in the original post. I think that problem can be attributed to me though...next time I need to use smaller spoonfuls and pay closer attention to shaping them. I found the dough a bit difficult to fully mix, but with bananas and oats and peanut butter, I think that just has to be part of the process.

I will 100% be making these again. I think they're awesome for a variety of things...breakfasts, snacks, middle of the night sweet tooths, etc. Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised with the recipe.

Have you ever attempted a similar recipe? If you have other healthy sweet recipes, please tell me about them!

So...I Bought Some More Books {2nd and Charles and Target}

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. (And probably a million more times in the future.) I love a good book bargain. And, you probably already know that from this post and this post.

The point I'm dancing around right now is...I have another book haul today. I also figured, since there will likely be a lot of these types of posts in the future, that it was time to give this little series a name. Because, what book lover hasn't said this sentence at some point in their life?

I mentioned in yesterday's weekend recap that my mom and I went to heaven on Saturday. Wait, did I say heaven? I meant 2nd and Charles. I spent around $20 and this is what I got:

//Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
I believe it is so important to add classics to your reading rotation. Madame Bovary has been on my TBR for a while now, so I couldn't pass up this $2 copy. This book sounds like it was probably pretty scandalous back in the day. I really hope it lives up to the hype!

//Lost & Found by Jacqueline Sheehan
I've never heard of Jacqueline Sheehan, but I stumbled across her section in the store and got distracted by all of the cute dogs on her covers. It looks like dogs play a big part in the majority of her books and I'm always game for some puppy fiction. I decided on Lost and Found after reading all of the summaries...I think it will be a fun little contemporary!

//Atonement by Ian McEwan
This is another book that has been on my TBR for a good bit. I think it's going to be a very emotional read, and I need one of those every now and then. It's also takes place in the World War II time period, and that factor alone is usually enough to make me pick any book up.

//One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
This book sounds so different than anything I've ever read. The plot has a lot of potential to be very eye-opening. However, I"m also a bit skeptical because the book is written from a woman's point of view by a male author. I really hope that isn't a downfall!

I also picked up one book from Target, because it was on sale for about $8.00.

//Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
This book is super popular in the land of reading right now. The movie is also coming out soon, and I want to read the book first for comparison because the storyline looks so sweet. I will probably be reading this one really soon!

Have you read any of the books I picked up? What did you think of them?

Weekend Recap {4/7-4/9}

Does anyone else ever sit down to write a weekend recap, and quickly realize that the only pictures you took were food related?

I swear...this happens every...single...time. I either have 12 photos of food, or 25 photos of Bell to work with. But, people like food and dogs, so I supposed things could definitely be worse.

This past weekend was a Slade-less one, as I dropped him off at the airport on Thursday morning. He's in California for work and won't be back until the 19th, so it's just me and the Babybel holding down the fort.

My mom came to stay with me on Friday night. We had a lazy evening hanging out at my apartment, watching Catfish and Silver Linings Playbook. We also may or may not have went to bed before 10pm. Don't tell anyone though.

We were up fairly early on Saturday, so we met up with my aunt and some of my cousins for breakfast. We went to Metro Diner. You can never go wrong with this place...especially when it comes to breakfast. I had an omelette and a fruit cup, and my mom tried the cinnamon roll pancakes. They were divine. I know this because I stole a couple of bites.

After breakfast, we drove across town to 2nd and Charles. I honestly think that place may be my favorite store ever. I love going to bookstores when I have plenty of time to walk around and peruse. My mom and I both found several books. (I'll have a haul up tomorrow!) I also got this little Ron Weasley keychain. I love him because he reminds me of the Funko Pop figurines. Those little things are so adorable, but I also don't need them taking up space in my home. (Because...partial minimalism journey.) The keychain is small and has a function, so that's why I decided to go with it!

 After 2nd and Charles we went to Target and then grabbed some lunch before heading back to my apartment. Who else is in love with Boom Chicka Pop? They had small bags of a limited edition frosted sugar cookie flavor in the Target Easter section, and I couldn't pass it up. It was soooooo good!

After my mom left on Saturday afternoon, Bell and I went for a long walk and then spent the rest of the evening being bums. I did quite a bit of reading and made a Sunday to-do list. Also, it's a possibility that we were in bed before 10pm again.

I slept until almost 9:00 on Sunday morning, which is unheard of for me as of late. Over the past couple of years I have transformed into that morning person who prefers to begin her day at 7am. Once I was up, I had an egg sandwich for breakfast and finished reading The Night Circus. It was my 8th read of the year, and I enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as I thought I would. I rated it a 3/5 stars.

After that, it was time to be productive. I straightened up the house, and then had one of those rare occurrences of actually taking my time to shower and get ready. I then headed out, and found myself at Pollo Tropical to grab some lunch. I built a tropichop bowl that was only around 550 calories, and it was great. After eating, I went to Publix for groceries, where I may or may not have spilled the drink I was carrying all over the floor...and proceeded to clean it up while people stare at me. Two thumbs up.

Anyway, I got a lot of yummy, healthy stuff for the week, and stopped at Dunkin Donuts for an iced coffee on the way home. There's just something about sitting down to write blog posts with a good coffee, which is what I did after putting all of the food purchases away. After blog stuff was taken care of, Bell and I went on another long walk. The weather has been GORGEOUS this weekend. The last of the weekend was spent reading (The Rosie Project is my next victim!), and trying out a healthy cookie recipe I found on Pinterest. Look for a post on that experience later this week!

How was your weekend? Tell me about your food conquests and hangout time with your dog!

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena {Restless Reviews}

I have another book review for you today!

I've read 7 books so far this year, but only one of them has received a 5/5 star rating. It was eye-opening and informative and gave me so many feels. What book would that be? A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.

"Life: a constellation of vital phenomena-organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation."

In a nutshell...
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena takes place in Russian controlled Chechnya, swapping back and forth between occurrences that take place over a few decades. We meet several individuals throughout the novel, including Havaa, an eight-year-old girl who watches her father get abducted, Akhmed, the neighbor who makes it his mission to save her, and Sonja, the doctor who single-handedly runs the barely-standing hospital. It's a novel about war, about loss, and about the connections you have with others that you may not even know about.

Bad news first:
In my opinion, this book had a pretty slow start. For this reason, it took me forever to get through the first 1/3 of it. The are a lot of run-on sentences...I swear there was one sentence that took up an entire page and a half on its own. While the story was still in the process of picking up, that sometimes made it difficult for me to focus on exactly what I was reading.

Now for the good:
Although the run-on sentences sometimes gave me a run for my money, they also somehow make sense because the writing style is so incredibly gorgeous. Once I adapted to it and became fully invested in the story, I couldn't get enough of it! The descriptions and choices of words had a maturity to them that is rare to experience.

Historical fiction is my favorite book genre, hands down. This time period where Chechnya was fighting to gain their independence from Russia is so different than anything I have ever read. I can't vouch for how historically accurate the "fact" side of the book is, but I still feel like it brings attention to a part of history that is not often discussed. Marra does a great job of giving us a look at how both the Chechens and the Russians were affected by the conflicts.

I also can't even describe how much I fell in love with some of the characters. Akhmed is so unique...he's this great mixture of quirky and good-hearted and subtly brave. The background characters are equally strong, and you are able to feel every emotion, good or bad, that the characters experience.

Being set in a time of war obviously means there are some scenes that are difficult and uncomfortable to read, but Marra somehow manages to balance out all of those more intense moments with moments of humor. There is a part close to the beginning where Akhmed thinks that Ronald McDonald was an American president. That part is revisited later in the book and made me laugh out loud. Here is a little snippet of that conversation between Akhmed and Sonja, for your reading pleasure:

"I'm sorry I called you an idiot."
"You only implied it. Do you want to make it up to me?"
"Not really," she said. 
"Then tell me who Ronald McDonald is."
"Very soon I'll have to apologize for calling you an idiot again"
"Imply," he reminded. 
"No, this time I'll likely come out and say it."
"I already know he isn't the American president."
"I think you'll be disappointed." 
"I almost always am."
"He's a clown." 
"A clown?"
"A clown who sells hamburgers."
"Does he cook the hamburgers?"
"Does it matter?"
"I may be an idiot," he said gravely, "but I would never eat a hamburger cooked by a clown."

So...yay or nay?
YES! You should read this book, unless you just absolutely hate historical fiction or books with any sort of depth to them. If you have a hard time with difficult content, you may also want to stay away. It s heart-breaking, but also one of the most eye-opening books I have ever read.

Have you read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena? What is the best book you have read so far this year?

Creating a "Capsule Inspired" Wardrobe {My Partial Minimalism Journey}

Last week, I wrote this post, in which I discussed my thoughts on the minimalism movement and how it has inspired me to make some changes in my life.

Today, I bring you the first installment of what I have chosen to call my "partial minimalism" journey. I will be applying minimalist concepts to several areas of my life, in order to organize, downsize, and streamline. My hope is that these changes will allow me to further my ability to live with intention, and alter my view of material items and their purposes.

I'm starting with the part of my life that has received the most thought in terms of this endeavor...my wardrobe. If you are familiar with minimalism, I'm sure you are also familiar with capsule wardrobes. (If you're not, you can read about them in detail here.) But, to be short, a capsule wardrobe is limited to around 40 TOTAL clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create numerous different looks and outfits. Essentially, a capsule wardrobe is using what you need to create the wardrobe that you want.

Now, the first thing I should say here is, I did not go full capsule wardrobe when cleaning out my closet. Hence why, this post contains the phrase "capsule inspired." Basically, I used the concept to downsize in a manner that better works for me. Still not sure what I mean? Let's jump into the steps I took.

1. The first thing I felt was very important to do was put a "description" to my style. I'm not what I would consider a fashionable person, but I do really enjoy certain looks. After a bit of thinking, I decided that the best way to describe my clothing choices is "simple, with a dash of boho."

2. After I had my description, I analyzed my closet to see if there were any versatile pieces I was missing. I decided the main thing I could use was a couple of nicer blouses, and some colored jeans. I then searched for good deals and accumulated those things over the time period of a month or so.

3. Once I had the things I felt I was lacking, I stood in front of my closet and began the purging process. I made sure to pay attention to each item, asking myself when the last time I had worn it was, if it was in good enough shape to keep, etc. I also took this opportunity to count how many actual pieces of clothing I owned, and it was somewhere around 110 items. I know that probably isn't a lot compared to some people's wardrobes, but I felt like it was much more .

4. While purging, I threw away a few items that had holes in them, such as a pair of jeans and a shirt that Bell decided to use as a chew toy when we first got her. I then started a bag of stuff to donate/sell. This bag included every item that I knew wasn't essential to my wardrobe. I didn't allow myself to use the excuse of, "Well, I haven't worn it in a couple of months...but I may one day!" That was always my biggest excuse in the past. At the end of my purge, I organized all of the stuff I was keeping and did another inventory of items. I ended with about 75 pieces of clothing, which means I weeded out 35 pieces!

Above is a photo of my finished closet. (I know, the fact that the hangers don't match is probably going to drive some people crazy...but I'm working with what I have! Ha ha.) 75 items is still about twice what a normal capsule wardrobe would be, but this is what I feel is going to work for me. If I have 75ish items of clothing that I am wearing frequently and making good use of, I think that's perfectly okay.

Here is a breakdown of what my completed wardrobe consists of:

*3 skirts (2 solid, and one pattern)
*4 pairs of shorts (2 colored, one black, one denim)
*4 pairs of jeans (2 colored, one black, one denim)
*10 dresses (9 work appropriate/everyday, and one for the rare "dressy" event)
*15 blouses
*14 solid/logo tshirts
*3 cardigans (One tan, one gray, one maroon)
*2 light sweaters
*1 kimono
*1 crew neck sweatshirt
*1 rain jacket
*1 light jacket
*1 pair of yoga pants
*5 pairs of workout/pajama shorts
*10 workout/pajama shirts

Everyone has different needs, and I think that's a really important thing to keep in mind. For example, my wardrobe is pretty darn casual...because that is my personal style, and I also work in a fairly casual office environment. Some people may have to make room for more business appropriate clothing, etc. It all depends on your lifestyle!

 I have also made myself a rule...My wardrobe is not allowed to exceed 80 items, and if it does I have to purge one old item for every new item I purchase. I think this "rule" will help keep me motivated to stick with the less-is-more idea when it comes to clothing. Maybe something similar would be helpful to you!

You'll probably notice that I didn't include shoes in this, but that's because I personally don't find myself with an overabundance of shoes. I have one pair of Keds, one pair of heels, two pairs of flats, two pairs of Oxfords, and three pairs of sandals. Those 10 sets of shoes give me all of the options I need!

Phew...I think I have about covered everything that I wanted to. I'm so happy with my closet right now! Purging and simplifying really are such freeing processes.

How do you manage your wardrobe? Are you trying to simplify, or is that an area of your life that you give yourself free reign in? Maybe you follow a true capsule wardrobe? Please tell me all about it!

Loving Yourself is Hard (But We're in This Together)

Let me start by saying that I feel like this is probably going to be a much more emotional post than I originally intended it to be. I haven't even began to write anything on the subject and I'm already feeling "wordy." The point of having a voice though, is sometimes using it to talk about the tough stuff, right?

I, like a lot of others out there, go through phases where I tend to dwell on things that make me sad or angry more than usual. This usually occurs because I read an article or overhear a conversation that just royally rubs me the wrong way. One topic that always does this to me is body image/positivity.

"And if I asked you to name all the things that you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?"

The idea of being body positive and loving yourself has turned into a fantastic movement over the past few years. So many women (and men!) out there are striving to teach people that it's okay to love yourself exactly the way that you are; that every body is beautiful and full of purpose; that you should be happy and proud of your body, because there is no one definition of "right."

These types of messages are SO IMPORTANT for EVERYONE to hear...because all of us, regardless of shape, size, age, race, etc., have felt completely useless and torn down at some point in our lives. I would even dare to say that a vast majority of us still struggle with negative self-thoughts daily...so we NEED advocates that are fighting to normalize body positivity to remind us that we are so much more than we think we are.

Sometimes I just feel like society is out to ruin every good and pure thing in life. I follow a lot of body positive accounts on Instagram and YouTube. (A couple of my favorites are Healthy is the New Skinny and Learning to Be Fearless.) They are full of amazing messages, and for the most part, they are surrounded by a really wonderful community of like-minded people. But then, every now and then, you will come across some absolutely atrocious conversation in the comments that was set off by some imbecile who felt the need to type out some ignorant, negative comment.

And that one comment has the power to offset the positive feelings you just had and send you tumbling back to all of the times you ever felt awful about yourself. One second it's a normal, happy day, and the next second you are reliving those middle school bus rides where a certain classmate would always sit in the seat in front of you just to tell you how fat and ugly he thought you were. Or beating yourself up for every pair of jeans you ever tried on that didn't fit. Or beating yourself up for the trillionth time because you sometimes want to pull every hair out of your head, and at one point in your life you were pretty successful at almost doing that.

Loving yourself is hard, and we live in a world that is constantly trying to make it more difficult than it already is. Slade and I had a long conversation about this over the weekend. It's difficult to 100% commit to appreciating yourself when your brain constantly feels the need to make you feel like you will always be the person you were at your lowest point. Overcoming that thought pattern seems almost impossible at times.

All of that being said though, I believe it's so important to keep going. We have to keep reminding people that THEY are wonderful. We have to keep reminding ourselves that WE are wonderful. Body positivity and self-love become more and more important every single day. We're all in this together, and we really need to remember that.

Ah...emotional word vomit. I think I'm going to cut things off here. Please feel free to share your thoughts below! What are some things you do to stay positive and self-confident?

March in Numbers

With it being Monday and all, I would normally have a weekend recap up today. Honestly though, I had the most laid back weekend I have had in a long time, and it just wasn't going to work for an interesting post. I hung out with Slade and the pup, cleaned out my closet, and did some writing. Oh! Slade and I did go see the new Power Rangers movie. It was pretty darn good. If you're a 90's kid, go see it. (But I get to be the Yellow ranger..don't argue with me.)

Instead of doing a normal month in review, I thought I would mix things up a bit and talk about the month of March through numbers. Confused about what I mean? Keep reading and you'll see!

31 - The number of days that were in March!

18 - The number of blog posts I published. 

6 - The number of months old that Bell turned!

6 - Also the number of months that Slade and I have been dating as of March 29th. 

5 - The number of books I read. 

10 - The number of books I purchased. (You can see hauls here and here.)

1 - The number of books I gave a 5/5 star rating. (Look for a review on Friday!)

30 - The number of photos I posted on Instagram.

1 - The number of butterbeer I drank at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

2 - The number of Halo Top ice cream pints I demolished. (Seriously, that stuff is life changing.)

1 - The number of Broadway shows I added to my "seen" list. (Disney's The Little Mermaid!)

31 - A rough estimate of the number of coffees I drank. 

3 - The number of "favorite" posts that I wrote this month:

How was your month? Are you excited for April? (Speaking of April, is that giraffe EVER going to have her baby?) Did you fall victim to any April Fool's pranks on Saturday? 

April Blogging Goals

This month didn't just "march" out the door, it ran.

Alright...no more attempts at making jokes. I'll keep the cheesiness to a minimum. (Maybe.)

It's time to share my blogging goals for the month of April! But first, let's do a quick review of how my March goals panned out. I'm pretty pleased with the results!

1. Post four times a week. This was a big success! Four pre-scheduled posts went up each week!
2. Switch to a new commenting system. This hasn't happened yet, mainly because I'm not so sure I want to do it.
3. Create and email list/newsletter. This is half complete. As you've noticed, the email list prompt has been installed. I'm still working on perfecting the content that will be sent out though.
4. Reach 30 followers. I actually hit the 40 mark! I am loving the sense of community I'm finding.
5. Create a disclaimer, and slowly incorporate affiliate links. Check, and check!

In April, I would like to:

1. Streamline and organize my site. 
I want to organize my pages and content in a way that makes it easier for readers to see what my blog is all about. I also want to create some categories for my sidebar, that way popular posts will be more easily accessible.

2. Apply for one paid blogging opportunity.
This is pretty self explanatory. I know though, that I want it to be something I actually feel is pertinent to what I am interested in. I don't want to write something totally random just to get a bit of money.

3. Create a blog Facebook page. 
I have had one in the past, but I was super bad at keeping up with it. I would like to change that!

4. Send out first subscription email.
This is a continuance of my newsletter goal from last month.

Let's do this! What are your blogging goals for April?

10 Quotes for Book-Loving Hearts

You know how it's sometimes hard to describe your feelings towards something you really love? That happens to me a lot. When I find myself unable to rely on my own words, I like to read the words of others. 

Quotes. Are. Everything. 

So, I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes about one of the great loves of my life...books of course.

As far as I'm concerned, the words "book" and "love" have the exact same definition. 

Like, I just told Bell, "I book you!" And she replied, "Aw, I love you too Mom." 

Okay, not really. But, you get the gist. 

"One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us."
-Cassandra Clare

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one."
-George RR Martin

"You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book."
-Dr. Seuss

"Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are."
-Mason Cooley

"Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes place for that."
-John Green

"The beautiful thing about reading old books, is realizing all your struggles, aren't a 'you' thing but a 'human' thing."

"I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's so difficult to narrow it down to 10! Which of these speaks to you the most? What are some of your favorite quotes...book related or non? 

The Intrigue of Minimalism (Have I Made the Jump?)

a style or technique that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity

Is it just me, or has the idea of minimalism been taking over the world during the past few years?

I have been looking into this concept for a while now. Living in the U.S. enables us to have so much "stuff" at our fingertips, yet minimalists across the country (and the world, really) are showing society how to live with less and be happy about it. I find it so refreshing.

Since minimalism is a subject that seems to occupy a good majority of my thoughts lately, I thought I would share my thoughts on the phenomenon. My life is also changing because of these thoughts, so I will certainly discuss that a bit as well.

The Discovery
When I was preparing to go abroad a couple of years ago, I became super overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that I owned. I was sorting through mounds of clothes, numerous knick knacks, multiples of lotions and other toiletry items, and way more decorative stuff than could even fit in my apartment...trying to decide what to sell, what to trash, what to keep, what to donate, and what to take with me to Prague. I was overwhelmed, to say the least.

To cope, I started watching a lot of YouTube videos on packing, purging, and organization. Somewhere along the YouTube video road, I discovered Light by Coco, a channel devoted to minimalist living. I was hooked after watching one video on the subject, which led to binge watching all of her published videos, then searching the depths of YouTube to find other minimalist channels. (Some of my other favorites are Lavendaire and Sarah Nourse.)

Why It Amazed Me
While I have always been a person who has a lot of "stuff," I have also always been very organized and particular about cleanliness. I have lived the majority of my life struggling with anxiety, and sadly, a lot of the time my anxiety stems from the state of my space. If my space is messy or cluttered or not exactly the way  want it to be...I dwell on it, and that dwelling often makes it difficult for me to make it through the day in a decent mood.

Minimalism just made so much sense to me...less stuff = less anxiety. That thought alone allowed me to purge so many of my belongings before my year in Prague. The only thing I really ended up putting in storage was my book collection, then I essentially lived out of a suitcase during my time in the Czech Republic.

So...am I a minimalist now?
Short answer...no. Not technically. I've been home from Prague for going on a year now, and while I don't have a ton of "stuff," I have definitely slowly been accumulating enough to make a wardrobe and turn mine and Slade's apartment into a home.

While I do love the idea of really committing to minimalism, I also know that some of the more common aspects don't really fit my lifestyle or personality. For example, while my clothing is very simple, I'm never going to have a primarily black capsule wardrobe. I also refuse to nix my book collection, and while I don't want to overdo it, I still want to customize our home with a few things that we both love.

I think I've decided to call this a journey of "partial minimalism." I'm going to have less stuff in all areas of my life, particularly in the areas of clothing, random knick knacks, and items with no particular usefulness. I'm going to buy toiletries and other products on an as-needed basis, and refrain from having multiples of the same item that probably won't get used anyway. I want to amplify simplicity, and cut down on wastefulness and the anxiety that comes along with having too much stuff.

I'm going to share posts along my journey to hold myself accountable. The first one will be coming soon, as I have plans to do a closet cleanout in the near future!

What are your thoughts on minimalism? Would you ever follow this concept? Do you practice any of the aspects already? Please share your thoughts and experiences with me!

Weekend Recap {3/25-3/26}

Happy last Monday of March 2017!

Speaking of March lasts, how was your final weekend of the month? Mine was pretty swell. It went a little something like this...

Friday evening I met my parents and rode down to Horseshoe Beach with them. Horseshoe is a teeny tiny fishing town on the Gulf coast that is in the county in Florida that I'm from.

My Grandma and her boyfriend were down there visiting some friends and they invited us out for a dinner. It was a celebratory dinner for my Grandma. On Thursday, she finished her final round of chemo/radiation. She did so well with the first bout of treatments, and we couldn't be happier to see her remaining in good spirits. She will have another scan in 3 months to see where things stand. Fingers crossed for continued good news! It was a really beautiful evening in Horseshoe, and it was great to just relax and have some good food with my family.

I had a lot of things I wanted to accomplish on Saturday so it was a pretty exhausting day. Slade woke up for work around 6:30 and I couldn't go back to sleep after he left. That's ok though, because the main productive thing I wanted to do this weekend was spring clean, and spring clean I did. After a coffee run, I got started on cleaning our upstairs bedroom and bathroom and worked on that until I had to leave for an appointment.

After the appointment I went to wash and clean my car, then I ran to Target to pick up some cleaning supplies. I really wanted to try the pink grapefruit Method cleaner that Chelsea has mentioned a few times. With cleaning products in tow I went back home and really got down to business. I was able to fully knock out our bedroom, both bathrooms, and the living/dining room.

After a little quality time with Bell, I got ready and headed out to go watch my brother race. I was hoping to see him win since I missed his big win a couple of weeks ago. He placed 3rd in his heats, but wasn't able to finish the feature due to some issues with the motor. It was an overall crazy night at the track and I actually saw the worst wreck I have ever seen in the 20-something years I've been around racing. Thankfully the driver was okay.

Sunday was another early morning as my friend Liz and I were heading to Jacksonville for a fun day! Liz's birthday was at the beginning of the month and I bought her tickets to the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid. (The Little Mermaid is her fave!) It was at the Times Union Center in Jacksonville so we made a day of things. We drove over and had lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. After that we went to the performing arts center and found parking, then went for a little walk before heading inside for the show. The Little Mermaid is the 4th Disney Broadway production I have seen. (The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and Beauty and the Beast being the other 3.) It was really magical, and the costumes were phenomenal!

I got home around 5:30 on Sunday evening and cleaned the kitchen/pantry (now all I have left is the guest bedroom and the laundry room!), then sat down to draft some blog posts for the week. Slade and I ended the night with some pizza and wine. (Bell picked out the wine.)

Tell me about your weekend!

{Babybel Blog Takeover} Puppish Facts About Me

Hey, what's up? Hello!

I would like to thank Fetty Wap for the inspiration for that introduction. Trap Queen is my FAVORITE SONG. Don't tell my mom and dad though...they said it's inappropriate for puppies. (Not that I really care.)

Babybel Rogers here. I'm kind of the star of this blog...or at least the best thing about it. I know my mom writes about me a lot, and I guess that's cool. But...you know what? Sometimes my mom makes me so mad because she stops playing with me and calling me cute so she can sit down and write a blog post. I mean, what even is that supposed to mean? I'm a PUPPY for crying out loud...what else do you need in life? 

Anyhow, I digress. (I've always wanted to say that!) Mom and Dad are at work right now, so I thought I would play a super funny trick on them and schedule a post without Mom's permission. She's gonna be so mad! But I won't even get in trouble because she loves me so much. 

Here are 5 super interesting puppish facts about yours truly. 

1. My mom and dad adopted me from a shelter when I was two months old. That was all the way back in December! I wasn't even surprised when I got adopted super quick because the nice people at the shelter taught me how to be really precious and stuff. They told me to be clumsy and poke my pudgy belly out at people as much as possible. Mom and Dad said they fell in love with my eyebrows, which I don't even doubt. Brook Shields is a distant relative of mine. The shelter also told Mom and Dad that I'm a pit bull/retriever mix...which means I'm going to be the strongest and smartest dog ever. 

2. My parents named me after a frieken' cheese snack! I mean, cheese is delicious and all, but seriously? Babybel? That makes me sound like a scaredy dog, and I am NOT a scaredy dog! At least they call me Bell most of the time though. I just pretend like there's an "e" on the end of that and I"m actually named after that super badass fairy tale girl who likes to read a lot. 

3. I cannot function without two frozen peanut butter Kongs a day. (If you don't know what a Kong is, what's wrong with you? It's a fun rubber toy that holds yummy food...duh! Gosh, humans are so weird sometimes.) Anyway, my Mom is good for something besides cuddles because she fills the Kong with peanut butter then freezes it and gives it to me for a treat when I have to go in my crate in the morning and at night. The Kong is my lifeline guys...seriously! 

4. I'm a pretty popular pup. My mom and dad know lots of people with dogs, and they all love playing with me! Sometimes Mom laughs and jokes about how I have too much energy for my older dog friends, but she doesn't know what she's talking about. I also met a REALLY cute boy in my puppy kindergarten class. He's an American boxer name Dexter. I think I'm gonna marry that boy someday. 

5. On the way home from puppy kindergarten graduation last week, I got hold of the air freshener that was in the vent of my mom's car and licked some of the gel out of it before my parents realized I had it. Mom freaked out because she thought I was poisoned or something and we had to pull off the road to call the animal hospital and poison control. My parents were so nervous and I just sat and looked at them like they were crazy. Do they honestly think I'm dumb enough to eat something that could hurt me? (Hello! I had just finished my degree.) They eventually discovered it was basically alcohol based gel and wasn't even enough to make me tipsy (darn it!), but Mom didn't stop worrying for like two days. Dad and I laughed at her. 

Well, I'm gonna go now. Dad will be home soon. Plus, this blog thing is kinda boring! How does Mom do it so much? 

Babybel out.

P.S. Don't forget to follow me on Pupstagram @therealbabybelrogers.

Another Bargain Book Haul {2nd and Charles}

In case you couldn't tell from my Ollie's haul a couple of weeks ago, I really appreciate a good book bargain.

There's a store right down the road from my office called 2nd and Charles. My cousin Shelby told me that they have great prices on gently used books, so I have been meaning to take a look around in there for a while. I finally made it over to visit on my lunch break last Friday, and I was definitely not disappointed.

They have such a HUGE selection...sections for basically any author you can think of. The prices vary on the condition of the book, and they also have a fair amount of brand new books if that's the route you prefer to take. I could have spent half of my life perusing, and half of my bank account purchasing...but the responsible part of me was somehow able to remember that I had to go back to work and I also have a vacation coming up in which I will need money. So...I made out fairly unscathed with just four books in tow.

Let me stop rambling and get into detail about what I bought for a total of $18.48.

//The Shining by Stephen King
I've never read anything by Stephen King, but there are a couple of reasons I picked this book up. First, the movie version of this is actually one of my favorite films. Second, my Grandpa who passed away five years ago loved Stephen King. He would always encourage me to read him, and I really want to devote some attention to that request.

//Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
This is another movie that I really love, and the book has been on my TBR for years. My co-worker saw that I had purchased this book and we talked about it for a while because it's one of her all-time favorites. I love seeing people get passionate about their love for a book. It makes me look forward to reading it even more!

//The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
This one I purchased purely out of curiosity. The story sounds compelling and it takes place in post-war Germany...which is one of my favorite time periods for books. After doing a bit of research on it, I realize that this is actually a fairly popular movie as well, so I'm looking forward to watching it after I read the book.

//The Diviners by Libba Bray
I'm only a couple of years away from my 30's, but I sure do still love some young adult literature. Libba Bray is the author of the Gemma Doyle trilogy, which is one of my fondest reads to date. The Diviners is supposed to be fantastic, and I can't wait to dive into it sometime this year.

Have you found any good book bargains lately? Maybe you've read some of the books that I've purchased? Tell me about it!

How to Justify Your Notebook Hoarding Habit (4 Ways to Actually Use Them)

I've really been trying to simplify my life in terms of "stuff" over the past couple of years. I'm making a conscious effort to buy less clothing, shoes, trinkets, and other things that just aren't necessities. The only exception to this rule is books. Because, let's be 100% real here...books are life. 

This simplifying project has been pretty easy when it comes to most material items, but there is one thing that I have a much more difficult time saying no to. And that thing is notebooks and stationary.

I have such a hard time avoiding the stationary section in stores...especially in places like Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshall's, because the stuff is all so affordable! Amazon can also get me in trouble. I mean, look at this sloth journal. Those little sloths just look like excellent note-takers.

Does anyone else have this problem? I think notebooks are such an easy thing to subconsciously hoard because they're useful. (And cute, but that's just a perk I suppose.) So, to make myself, and possibly you feel better about having more notebooks than any human being could possibly need, I thought I would share some ways that they can actually be utilized. (AKA: Let's justify that addiction, folks.)

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure can be found here.

1. Brainstorming
My most used and loved notebook is definitely my "brainstorming" notebook. This is the one that catches all of my thoughts and plans for my blog/blog posts/novels/writing projects. When I have an idea that I don't want to forget, it goes in here. I love having all of my creative thoughts in one place. You could also use a different note book for each type of brainstorming if you want to keep your thoughts separate. If you wanted to use individual notebooks and don't already have some lying around, this 4-pack is so pretty and would work perfectly.

2. A Quote Log
If words mean a lot to you, you most likely read and hear a lot of quotes that you want to remember. A quote journal is a great way to keep track of beautiful phrases and lyrics. You can write them down, and then you have a place to refer to when you need something to reflect on. I think a leather notebook like this one would be perfect to use as a quote log, because it will last for years and years and look nice on your bookshelf.

3. Lists/Reminders
I feel like most people type reminders out on their phones now days. However, there are still some of us that prefer handwritten lists. Having a small notepad to jot things to buy/remember is really helpful, and helps you stay a bit more organized. A small pocket notebook similar to these would be great for this, because it would easily fit in your bag or car glove box.

4. Travel/Memory Journals
Even if you don't journal regularly, you probably still have events in your life that are worthy of recording. Why not write down every little detail of the really cool life experiences you have? When you re-read them in the future, you will be able to recall details that you wouldn't have remembered otherwise. These travel-themed journals would be the perfect fit for this!

Do you have an unhealthy obsession with notebooks? Do you use them for any of these things? What are some other things you use your journals for?