{Babybel Blog Takeover} Parents Going on Vacation WITHOUT Me!

Hey, what's up? Hello! Babybel Rogers here.

I've been waiting for a chance to steal mom's blog again. I was planning to do it next week, but I'm really upset right now and looking for an outlet. I just need to rant, because a major travesty is about to occur.


Is this real life? Are they serious? Do they not realize that I am the single best thing in their lives and they're about to leave me for a week?

I just found this out today, so you would assume they're leaving in a few weeks, right? WRONG. They are leaving tomorrow. TOMORROW!!! I swear, I could just anger eat all of their food and tear up all of the carpet in the house. (But I won't, because alas, I am a good girl.)

Apparently my Uncle Nathan is coming to spend the week with me at our house. I mean, I guess he's cool and all. But don't I deserve a vacation too? Mom and Dad have no idea how difficult it is to be me. NO IDEA.

I should have gotten suspicious when they brought home lots of new treats and toys for me the other day. Those jokers are trying to bribe me. I see their game now! I see it clear as day...it was all just a ploy!

I guess those toys are pretty fun though. Besides that flimsy one that I tore up in two hours. That one was stupid and it exhausted me.


This ranting thing helps a little I suppose. Don't get me wrong, I still have butthead parents! But...it is only a week. Also, they better bring me back a souvenir or a tshirt or something!

Oops, gotta go! I hear them unlocking the front door.

Paws and love, y'all. Paws and love.


Turn That Frown Upside Down

Turn that frown upside down!

I remember being on the receiving end of this phrase a lot when I was growing up. In fact, having it thrown my direction was a minor pet peeve as a teenager. Wouldn't you know though, that I use it quite a bit myself now. I can't wait to have kids and annoy them by using it when they are in a bad mood. *Insert evil laugh here.*

I've found myself in a fairly grouchy mood for much of this week. Really though, I fell asleep on the couch Tuesday night and almost fully bit Slade's head off when he woke me up. (And now I feel guilty, sorry Slade!) I think I've been overly anxious due to the fact that we leave for vacation this weekend and there have been a lot of things to do before then. (Obviously following my rules for things to do before you leave for vacation couldn't even combat my irrational stress.) I've also had a sore throat and a minor cough...but I guess I'd rather have a bit of a cold now than next week!

The reality of the situation is, there is no need for me to be feeling down. Everything is under control! Life is good. Love and peace. Rainbows and butterflies and all positive stuff.

So, to continue seeing the positive, I'm going to talk about a smattering of things that are more than worthy of causing my frown to turn upside down. (AKA: Here's a happy list.)

*Iced coffee with cream and sugar.
*My dog and everything about her...cute doggie smiles and loving licks and the best cuddles.
*Songs that are a reminder of simpler times in life.
*The expectation of upcoming travels.
*Fresh air and blue skies.
*Celebrating milestones and accomplishments with friends.
*Slade and the undeniable "rightness" of our relationship.
*The endless possibilities of a day with no set plans.
*Early weekend mornings, filled with quiet, a cup of coffee, and a good book.
*Being able to focus on the things you are proud of, as opposed to the things you regret.
*Photos of past travels, and reflecting on the memories that they hold.
*French fries and chocolate chip cookies.
*The ability to move forward and embrace the person you truly are.

I could go on and on. Just as one negative thought leads to another, one positive thought turns into multiple ones. So...let's focus on the second option! What turns your frown upside down?


So...I Bought Some More Books {ACFOB Book Sale}

Twice a year, the Alachua County Friends of the Library have a giant used book sale here in Gainesville. There are thousands, and thousands of extremely cheap books to choose from. Slade and I went to check it out on Saturday, because you know I wasn't about to miss that!

This event is really popular, and people begin to line up hours before it opens. We waited until later in the day to go, and I was a little nervous that everything would be picked over by then. That wasn't the case at all! I found six really exciting books for a total of, drum roll please...$6.50! Let's take a look at what I purchased!

//The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
This plot sounds so inventive! I have heard that the writing is beautiful, and it's also meant to be quite suspenseful. Plus, it's set in Amsterdam! That alone is enough to pique my interest.

Summary from Goodreads: On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office--leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.
But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist--an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand--and fear--the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

//Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
The grapevine has delivered nothing but positive reviews for this novel. I have been wanting to read it for a while, and when I saw it lying on a table with a price tag of $0.50, I snatched it up. It is supposed to cover a lot of really important issues, and I can't wait to see if it lives up to the hype.

Summary from Goodreads: Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

//Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
I know Jodi Picoult isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I have personally always really enjoyed her books. Her writing is entertaining and often impossible to put down. I haven't read this particular novel yet, so in my bag in went.

Summary from Goodreads: Delia Hopkins has led a charmed life. Raised in rural New Hampshire by her widowed father, Andrew, she now has a young daughter, a handsome fiance, and her own search-and-rescue bloodhound, which she uses to find missing persons. But as Delia plans her wedding, she is plagued by flashbacks of a life she can't recall. And then a policeman knocks on her door, revealing a secret that changes the world as she knows it." In shock and confusion, Delia must sift through the truth - even when it jeopardizes her life and the lives of those she loves. What happens when you learn you are not who you thought you were? When the people you've loved and trusted suddenly change before your eyes? When getting your deepest wish means giving up what you've always taken for granted? Vanishing Acts explores how life - as we know it - might not turn out the way we imagined; how doing the right thing could mean doing the wrong thing; how the memory we thought had vanished could return as a threat.

//Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
My thoughts on the previous book can also be applied to this one!

Summary from Goodreads: The acclaimed #1 "New York Times" bestselling author presents a spellbinding tale of a mother's tragic loss and one man's last chance at gaining salvation.Can we save ourselves, or do we rely on others to do it? Is what we believe always the truth?

One moment June Nealon was happily looking forward to years full of laughter and adventure with her family, and the next, she was staring into a future that was as empty as her heart. Now her life is a waiting game. Waiting for time to heal her wounds, waiting for justice. In short, waiting for a miracle to happen.

For Shay Bourne, life holds no more surprises. The world has given him nothing, and he has nothing to offer the world. In a heartbeat, though, something happens that changes everything for him. Now, he has one last chance for salvation, and it lies with June's eleven-year-old daughter, Claire. But between Shay and Claire stretches an ocean of bitter regrets, past crimes, and the rage of a mother who has lost her child.

Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you love? Would you want your dreams to come true if it meant granting your enemy's dying wish?

Once again, Jodi Picoult mesmerizes and enthralls readers with this story of redemption, justice, and love

//We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
This book received a lot of hype a couple of years ago. It seems to be one of those that people either love, or hate. Hopefully I'll want to give it a thumbs up!

Summary from Goodreads: 
A beautiful and distinguished family.A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

//The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
I read A Dog's Purpose at the end of last year and fell in love with the narration from a dog's point of view. I believe this book is supposed to be similar. It has great ratings, and I'm sure it will provoke a tear or two!

Summary from Goodreads: Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.
Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life...as only a dog could tell it.

I'm so, so happy about these finds! As usual, let me know if you have read any of them. What ones should I give priority to?


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? 
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