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?


Weekend Recap {3/18-3/19}

Hello, hello, hello!

Welcome to yet another weekend recap. This past weekend had a lot more down time than the few that preceded it, but I also did some pretty fun stuff! Let's jump into a little walk down the lane of weekends past.

Slade and I spent Friday evening at home. He made salmon and broccoli for dinner (which was delicious), and then we just enjoyed some time with each other and Bell. I also got a pretty good way into my new read (The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah) while Slade played some video games.


Saturday morning brought no plans, so the day started with a cup of coffee, some blog planning, and posting one too many videos of Bell on my Instagram story. (JK, there's no such thing as too many dog videos.)

Just before noon, I left to meet my mom, Aunt Nancy, Aunt Loretta, and my cousins Shelby and Taylor for lunch. We ate at Square 1, which has really delicious burgers. I had the S.O.B. (South of the Border) burger on a bed of greens instead of a bun, with quinoa and veggies as a side instead of fries. (Let me tell you, that quinoa was so delicious I honestly didn't even miss the fries.)

After lunch we went to see Beauty and the Beast! Oh my goodness...I had high expectations because the original is my favorite Disney movie, and it was SO MUCH BETTER than I could have even imagined. I frieken' loved it, and cried through a good bit of it because it was just so good! My mom and I (both bloggers) made sure to get a picture.

After the movie I went to Target. I wanted to try on some bathing suits to get an idea of what I want to buy for this summer, and I also picked up a couple of things we were out of as well as stuff for dinner. I bought stuff to make low carb chicken fajita bowls.

Honestly...easiest tasty meal ever. I even got pre-marinated chicken so I didn't have to add the fajita seasoning myself. All I did was cook the chicken, then build the bowls! We used spinach as a base because Slade and I both prefer it to lettuce, then added the chicken and topped it with guacamole, salsa, a bit of sour cream, and of course, a generous portion of cheese.

We ate dinner together while watching About Time. We both agree that this is such an under-hyped movie. It's so heartwarming. Have you ever seen it? What do you think about it?

On Sunday morning I was feeling a coffee that I didn't have to make myself, so Slade rode to Starbucks with me. On the rare chance that I go to Starbucks, I get one drink, and one drink only...the vanilla sweet cream cold brew. I. Love. This. Coffee.

When we got back home, we used the leftover fajita bowl stuff to make some breakfast fajita bowls...which is a fancy way of saying we replaced the chicken with a couple of fried eggs. After breakfast, Slade had to go into work for a couple of hours, so I drafted some blog posts while Bell snoozed beside me on the couch.

The last bit of the day was pretty uneventful...just some cleaning and reading! How was your weekend? Tell me about something fun that you did.


November 9 by Colleen Hoover {Restless Reviews}

Although I haven't done one in a while, book reviews have been a pretty regular occurrence around ye olde blogge since it was started back in 2012. I know reviews will continue to be a "series." For that reason, I wanted to give this series a title. So, to go alone with the new(ish) re-brand to My Restless Soul, here is the first edition of...

I have a little secret to tell you...I've only read 4 books towards my 2017 goal of 40. That puts me about 4 books behind where I should actually be, but...I shall persevere. Today's review is about the 4th book in question, because...it's the first book of the year that I haven't loved.

In a nutshell:
November 9 is a love story of sorts, in which said love occurs between a girl named Fallon and a guy named Ben. The two meet each other on the day (November 9th, obviously y'all) that Fallon is set to move across the country, and after spending some time together, they decide to meet up on the same date for the next five years. Both Ben and Fallon have pretty shaky pasts, and as the plot thickens, you learn that those pasts are actually very interconnected.

Bad news first:
This is the second one of Hoover's books that I have read. (The first was Hopeless, and there is a short review of that here.) I had the same issue with both of these books...the first half of each one was super disappointing. I fully understand that plot twists and excitement often take time to build, but all I saw in the first 50% of November 9 was generic "ruined girl meets rough-around-the-edges boy" bull malarkey. (It's weird that I just used that phrase, because I don't think it has ever come out of my mouth in real life.)

I also have a huge issue with some of the sexual messages in this book. I am by no means a prude when it comes to sexual situations in novels, but when these situations seem to normalize lack of consent/demeaning women/etc...it's a different story. Ben's first thoughts about Fallon involve fantasizing about her boobs and wondering what color panties she has on. There is also a scene that involves Ben touching Fallon's body without her consent, while she is obviously having some form of a panic attack. (However, I did read in a Goodreads review that Hoover apologized and altered this scene, and it is now different in newer versions/e-versions of the book.)

Now for the good:
The second half of the book placed my opinions back on a more positive track. Overall, I think the concept is really creative. A bit unrealistic...but creative nonetheless. (Besides, aren't we usually looking for something unrealistic to escape to?) In the second half of the book, you begin to learn and understand more about why both Ben and Fallon have some of the issues that they do. They have this bumpy relationship, but yet they still slowly find themselves...and improve as human beings.

Something I really do appreciate about Hoover's books is the fact that while each counterpart of the romantic relationship has their issues, they are still good for each other in the end. There are so many novels about troubled characters who force themselves to be together because of "passion," when they actually have no business being together at all. This isn't the case with Hoover's novels, and I like that a lot.

So...yay or nay?
Final consensus...yay. I like Colleen Hoover's writing style...it's easy and enjoyable and perfect for when you are looking for something a bit lighter to read in between heavier pieces of literature. I gave this book 3/5 stars on Goodreads. (Let's be friends there!)

Have you read November 9? How about anything else from Colleen Hoover? What did you think?


Proud Pup Parents

Our sweet Babybel (Bell) is a puppy kindergarten grad! She finished up her final class last night. Doesn't she look proud? (Actually, she was zoned in on her pup friend Dexter across the room...she just wanted to play honestly.)

Anywho, we are so happy to be able to see the obedience progress she has made, and we are excited to have the basic tools we need to continue turning her into a pupstanding citizen. (See what I did there?)

So what's next for Bell? There are a couple more classes we want to put her in...nosework (the trainer said she would be good at this!) and another basic obedience class for dogs of all ages. I can't remember what life was like before this girl, and we wouldn't trade her for anything!

Crazy puppy mom out.


Everyday I'm Hufflepuffin' {AKA: A Day at Universal}

Dear Ms. Hunt, 

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 

Well y'all, it finally happened. I got my letter! Sure, I'm only about 15 years older than the rest of the entering students, but beggars cant be choosers.

A common misconception about Floridians is that we spend every weekend at some theme park or another. I'm living proof that this isn't true, because I live within just a few hours of Orlando and I just FINALLY made it to Universal Studios to bask in the glory of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time this past Sunday.

And I'm gonna tell you all about it, whether you like it or not. (But hopefully you like it...even though this could be a long one!)

While going to Universal was a spontaneous decision (and brilliant idea on Slade's part), our time spent there was pretty well thought out ahead of time. There's no way to do all of each park in one day, so it's best to go after what you want to do the most. If you are unfamiliar with Universal, there are actually two parks: Universal Studios (which I will refer to from here on as US) and Islands of Adventure (IOA). There are now Harry Potter attractions in both parks, so I definitely recommend getting the two-park pass. Hogwarts/Hogsmeade are in IOA, and Diagon Alley is in US. And...the best part? You get to ride the Hogwarts Express in between them!

Anyway, we stayed in Orlando on Saturday night so we could get the earliest start possible. We arrived to the parks around 8:30, and decided to go into IOA first and head straight for Hogsmeade. I have to be honest with you guys, when we walked through the gate and I saw all of the cute little snow covered buildings with Hogwarts in the background, I teared up a little. Sensory overload.

After I drooled and drank everything in, we headed over to Hogwarts to get in line for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. The line weaves through the castle, and you get to see all of the things that are so familiar in the movies in person. Then, the ride itself is so much fun! It's motion simulator/coaster, and I don't want to give too much away, but I will tell you that you truly feel like you are flying at some points!

After the ride, we went in search for Butterbeer. We both got cups of the frozen kind, and wandered around Hogsmeade, exploring all of the shops and enjoying the atmosphere. My favorite shops in Hogsmeade were Honeydukes and the Owl Post. Slade isn't the biggest fan of large roller coasters, so we decided to forego the other two rides in Hogsmeade and catch the Hogwarts Express over to Diagon Alley once we had finished exploring.

Next stop...Diagon Alley! Again, the initial "wow" factor when you lay eyes on the place for the first time is the best. Why, oh why can't I just set up camp in one of these cute little buildings? (As long as the dragon isn't real of course.)

Again, upon entering, we headed straight for the most popular attraction...Escape From Gringotts. As you wait in line for this one, you get to walk through Gringotts...which is complete with goblins, winding staircases, and chandeliers. The ride itself gives you the chance to go on a crazy ride through the depths of the Gingotts vaults. It's a blast!

When we exited the ride, it had become super crowded in Diagon Alley and we were getting hungry so we decided to take a break to find some food and visit other areas of the park, and then come back to Diagon Alley later in the afternoon. We were hoping to eat at The Leaky Cauldron, but the wait time was pretty crazy, so we ended up venturing to Finnegan's Bar and Grill, which was essentially an Irish pub. I had a corned beef sandwich and Slade had fish and chips. It was yummy, and honestly not all that expensive for park food...compared to a normal sit-down restaurant anyway.

After lunch, we spent a few hours walking around Universal Studios and doing some other rides, including:

Revenge of the Mummy (This one is SO FUN)
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
The Simpsons Ride
Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon (This ride actually isn't open yet, but we were lucky enough to participate in a ride for the soft opening! It was pretty cool.)

In the late afternoon, we found ourselves back at Diagon Alley. We looked around in the shops, took some pictures, and shared a Butterbeer ice cream from Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour. (Delicious, of course.) We also bought a Hufflepuff drawstring backpack as a souvenir, because we are both Hufflepuffs.

We ended the day by boarding the Hogwarts Express and heading back over to IOA. It was about 6:30pm by this point and we were starting to get super tired. We were going to try to ride some of the other rides in that park, but the wait times were pretty high so we decided to get ahead of the crowd and head out. I had such an amazing day. Harry Potter with the man I'm crazy about...does it get any better?

Have you ever been to the Wizarding World? Also...what Hogwarts house are you in?


Weekend Recap {3/11-3/12}

Holy moly, I am tired! I am becoming the queen of jam-packed weekends. This is probably going to be short and sweet...just like this Monday will hopefully be.

Friday evening was pretty low key. Slade and I had dinner at Leonardo's Pizza, and it was delicious but also super filling. Believe it or not, I only made it through one piece of pizza. (However, that could have been because I ate three of their garlic knots before...but I digress.) We went home after that, and I was super tired and a little grumpy from the week (sorry Slade), so I went to bed pretty early. #Party

This was such. a. busy. day. I woke up fairly early, caught up on laundry, and then did some cleaning while Slade went into work for a bit. After that I spent a bit of time reading and hanging out with Bell, which was the best. When Slade was home, we went out to grab some lunch and pick up a couple of last minute things for our trip. (We made a spontaneous decision on Thursday to go to Universal this weekend.) After stopping at Old Navy and Target, we went back home to finish packing our overnight back and grab Bell and her overnight things.

The hardest part of my weekend was dropping Bell off at a pet boarding place for the first time. She usually stays with friends or family, but since this was last minute we didn't want to burden anyone so I arranged for her to stay at a place several of my co-workers use. Plus, it will be nice to have a go-to sitter when needed. The people were very nice and Bell seemed comfortable when we left, but that didn't keep me from having a bit of a cry when we got in the car. (I know, I'm a baby...but she is my baby!)

We then drove up to Lake City to watch my brother (Dakota) race. My dad has been racing cars since I was a toddler and my brother has followed in his footsteps. They usually race on asphalt circle tracks, and this was Dakota's first time driving on a dirt track. It was really entertaining and he actually won his heat race! Slade and I had to leave before his feature to drive down to Orlando, but when we arrived at the hotel my dad actually texted to tell me Dakota had won his feature as well. I wish I could have been there to see it!

We woke up in Orlando early on Sunday morning to head to Universal! We did both parks (Universal and Islands of Adventure) and it was the best time. The main reason we went was so I could finally check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which I have never been to even though I'm a Florida resident. I'm going to do a special post for our day here, so I won't go too in to detail. Keep an eye out for that!

How was your weekend? Tell me all about it!


2017 Goal Check-In

The goals I set at the beginning of the year look a little something like this:

1. Get back into consistent blogging. 
2. Finally finish writing a novel. 
3. Travel when possible, whether down the road or far away. 
4. Study Spanish. 
5. Actively pay off debt. 
6. Continue exercising and eating healthy. 
7. Get involved with a good cause. 

Since we are already into the month of March, I thought I would do a quick check-in to share how things are going. 

Get back into consistent blogging. 
I really started focusing on this one last month, and it's going well! I'm on a 4x a week posting schedule, and I'm slowly working my way back into the community. I give myself an A for this goal so far. 

Finally finish writing a novel. 
This one is a complete no-go so far. Letter grade as of now: F-. 

Travel when possible. 
I have taken several weekend trips around the state so far. Slade and I have our Alabama/Tennessee/Missouri vacation coming up in May, and we are going to Universal in Orlando this weekend! This category is falling into the B category. 

Study Spanish. 
This hasn't happened yet either. So, another F. 

Actively pay off debt. 
I've paid off 3 credit cards and cut some corners in my monthly finances. Things are looking up in my financial world. I say this currently deserves an A. 

Continue exercising and eating healthy. 
For the most part, healthy eating is going pretty well. I have fallen off the wagon a couple of times, but I always climb back on! I haven't, however, been working out like I should. I do have plans to get a gym membership this month though! Letter grade: C+. 

Get involved with a good cause. 
I signed up to volunteer with the local animal shelter that we adopted Babybel from. I've only been able to help at one adoption event so far, but I look forward to participating in more and helping more cats and dogs find the loving homes that they deserve. This receives a B. 

As you can see, some things are going well and others need some work. I'll check-in in another couple of months to share how things have changed! What are some of your goals for the year? How are they going? 

Happy Friday! 


Life Changing Experiences Aren't a Myth

About two and a half years ago, I was at the lowest point I have been at in my life thus far.

I was unhappy with my career path. I was struggling with dating and relationships. My anxiety was at an all-time high. I was gaining weight by the day. I had to force myself to get out of bed in the mornings, and as soon as work would end I would go right back home and get back into bed. I was really, really depressed.

During those couple of years that I was so low, I thought a lot about how I could "fix" myself, but it took me a long time to actually put a plan into action. I knew I needed a lot of change, but I thought I needed to start small. In the end...I did the exact opposite of that and made a major decision.

I decided I was going to make my life long dream of living abroad become a reality.

Around Christmas of 2014, I had made up my mind that I was going to go to Prague to teach English. There was something about this affirmation that helped me perk up a little. There was a lot to do to prepare...save money, sell most of my stuff, plan my travel, etc. My mind had something to focus on, and for the first time in a long time, I was truly looking forward to where my life was taking me.

When I arrived in Prague in July of 2015, I knew I was about to have a great adventure. What I didn't know at that point though was, how much that journey was going to help me become the best version of myself. I learned so much during my time in Europe.

I learned to understand my place in the world. I learned that there are a lot of different people in this world, and we all have struggles, both big and small. I learned that I'm capable of so much more than I expected of myself. I learned that experiences are the greatest gifts you can give yourself, and others. I learned how to love the good aspects of myself, and accept the bad ones that need work.

My life changed. In the course of that year abroad, I became the version of myself that I always thought was out of my reach. I came back home to Florida with a renewed mindset. I was determined to continue being the "new" me in all areas of my life. And...it's been going pretty well. I'm happier, healthier, and more content than I have possibly ever been. There's no doubt in my mind that I can thank my Prague experience for that.

Life changing experiences aren't a myth.

That's a thought that has been heavy on my mind as I continue to reflect. If you're in a really low place in life, sometimes it takes a drastic change or decision to snap you out of it. I'm not encouraging you to be reckless by any means, but I am encouraging you to realize that life is too strangely beautiful to accept total and complete unhappiness. Everyone has to keep fighting, to help not only themselves, but others around them.

So, today, if you're struggling, I encourage you to:

Get up.
Give yourself something to hope for.
Work tirelessly towards that hope.

You deserve to live a life that you love.


A Bargain Book Haul {Ollie's Bargain Outlet}

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that I got a great deal on some new books over the weekend. I was so excited to discover that there is an Ollie's near us. I had visited one in Pennsylvania a couple of years ago and always think of it fondly because they have such amazing deals on really good books! I purchased six new books on Sunday, and only spent a total of about $27. I thought you may wanna see what I found.

November 9 and Confess, both by Colleen Hoover. 
Colleen Hoover has been taking over the contemporary genre the past couple of years! I have only read one of her books (Hopeless), and I really enjoyed it so I was thrilled to see two of her more popular works on the shelf.

Summaries from Goodreads: Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day before her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist. [November 9]

Auburn Reed is determined to rebuild her shattered life and she has no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to become deeply attracted to the studio’s enigmatic artist, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a chance and puts her heart in control, only to discover that Owen is hiding a huge secret. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything Auburn loves most, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it—but can she do it? [Confess]

In a Dark, Dark Wood  by Ruth Ware.
I've never heard of this book, but I was intrigued by the cover and the synopsis. I believe it falls into the horror genre, which I don't typically dabble in very much, but for whatever reason I wanted to bring it home.

Summary from Goodreads: In a dark, dark wood

Nora hasn't seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back. 

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room.... 

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.

The Rosie Project  by Graeme Simsion.
I've actually been seeing reviews for this one around blog world lately. It seems like an easy, fun read...and I can always go for one of those every now and then!

Summary from Goodreads: Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond.
Honestly, I just find the cover on this one insanely beautiful. However, the story line does also seem really unique!

Summary from Goodreads: It is only at the end of the world—among the glacial mountains, cleaving icebergs, and frigid waters of Antarctica—where Deb Gardner and Keller Sullivan feel at home. For the few blissful weeks they spend each year studying the habits of emperor and Adélie penguins, Deb and Keller can escape the frustrations and sorrows of their separate lives and find solace in their work and in each other. But Antarctica, like their fleeting romance, is tenuous, imperiled by the world to the north.

A new travel and research season has just begun, and Deb and Keller are ready to play tour guide to the passengers on the small expedition ship that ferries them to their research destination. But this year, Keller fails to appear on board. Then, shortly into the journey, Deb’s ship receives an emergency signal from the Australis, a cruise liner that has hit desperate trouble in the ice-choked waters of the Southern Ocean. Soon Deb’s role will change from researcher to rescuer; among the crew of that sinking ship, Deb learns, is Keller.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith.
As much as I love J.K. Rowling, I have actually never read any of her books written under different names. So when I found this hardback of the first book in the Cormoran Strike series for $2.99, I wasn't leaving the store without it.

Summary from Goodreads: After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

Have you read any of these? Do you have an Ollie's in your area? I would love to hear your thoughts on some of these reads! 


Weekend Recap {3/4-3/5}

Another Monday here, another weekend gone. How does this keep happening? We should really do something about it.

This weekend was a whirlwind, but luckily it was a really fun whirlwind.

When I got home from work on Friday evening, Slade and I headed out to have a little date night. We went to the theater to see Get Out, and it was really disturbing but also really good. It was nice to see a "horror" movie that didn't completely depend on throat slashing as entertainment. After the movie we went to BJ's for drinks and appetizers, where we spent the majority of the time analyzing a first date that was going on at the table next to us. (It was going well for them, in case you were curious.)

I had a pretty early start on Saturday. I got up, got ready, and quickly packed an overnight bag. Slade and I grabbed a quick breakfast at Panera, and then I hopped in the car and headed to Jacksonville. My best friend Amber has been home from Colorado, so I was able to spend some time with her and my friends Jamie and Alex who I know from FSU.

We had a relaxing day watching some movies. We attempted to go to the beach, but it was actually really chilly out so that didn't last very long, ha ha. Saturday evening we had dinner, and then went out for a few drinks before going back to Jamie's to crash.

We all had brunch together on Sunday morning and then headed our separate ways. It's always so refreshing to catch up with friends I don't see very often!

I got back to Gainesville around 1pm, and after changing clothes Slade and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather. We hopped on I-75 and drove down to Ocala, which is a small city about 40 minutes south of Gainesville. Our main reasoning for this was because we really wanted to play mini golf, but we didn't want to go to the place in Gainesville that has mini golf, ha ha.

It turned out to be a really fun day! We got some ice cream, and then Slade graciously let me have a poke around Ollie's Bargain Outlet. They have good books for so cheap! I bought 7 books for a total of $30, and two of those were hard cover. After that we went to play that highly anticipated mini golf game that I mentioned. I lost by four, but it's ok because when we went bowling on our first date back in September I beat him pretty badly. (Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, am I right?)

To end the evening, we checked out downtown Ocala and had dinner at Pi on Broadway. It was SO DELICIOUS. As an appetizer, we got the chicken and chorizo nachos. For our entrees, Slade got the blackened fish tacos and I got the garlic-lime pollo tacos. It was the pefect food to indulge in before starting another week of healthy eating. We then headed back to Gainesville and wrapped the weekend up at home, where I wrote some blog posts and he played video games.

How was your weekend? Tell me about something new or fun that you did!


5 (Easily Obtainable) Boho Trends to Love

bohemian (n.)
Gypsy. Wanderer. A person, musician, artist or writer who lives a free-spirited life and believes in truth, freedom, and love. 

Here are a few things I have learned about my personal style over the years:

I like simple things. I think matching perfectly is overrated and annoying. I'm not into "polished" looks. I like a natural, care-free vibe. 

These reasons are exactly why I have become pretty obsessed with Bohemian inspired clothing and decor lately. It's just so quirky and creative and fun! So today, I'm sharing five boho trends that I love, that are also really easy to wear and utilize. 

This post contains affiliate links. Click here for full disclosure. 

1. Tapestries 
Tapestries are one of the most simple and affordable ways to completely change the look of a room. Honestly, does it really get any easier than hanging a piece of fabric on the wall? There are so many different patterns and sizes to choose from as well. Maybe you want a beautiful Mandala pattern that takes up the entire wall, such as this one. My personal favorite is this ADORABLE elephant one. Slade and I are really wanting to find the perfect one to hang in our guest room!

2. Messy Hair
I am all for hair that requires zero effort and zero heat. 99% of the time, I go for the texturize and air dry method, which I have felt way less guilty about since realizing that undone hair is considered stylish if you just tell people it's boho, ha ha. I have naturally wavy hair, so texturizing spray helps to enhance that. Texturizing spray also helps give a messier look to naturally straight hair. I have tried several different sprays, but my favorites are definitely the OGX Moroccan Sea Salt Spray and the Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray.

3. Strappy Sandals
Spring and summer are coming...which means open-toed shoe weather is coming. Living in Florida, I pretty much wear sandals all year long. I used to be the queen of flip-flops, but over the past few years I have developed a love for strappy sandals. They're so comfy, and much more exciting than a regular old pair of flip flops. These are 100% my style, and they would go with basically everything..which I'm a fan of. If you're more adventurous though, these lace-up ones are fantastic.

4. Flowy Tops
If there's one thing I hate, it's tight shirts. No way, I am not about that life. I like to be able to move and breathe. Therefore, give me all of the flowy shirts. This one comes in so many cute colors, and it would be so easy to throw on with shorts or jeans. And the pattern on this one? So pretty!

5. Greenery
There is something about pretty green plants in a home that just make you feel at peace. It's always nice to bring a bit of the outside in. These succulents would look really cute on a bookshelf! Hanging plants are always easy to scatter around for a more natural look as well.

Which of these boho trends is your favorite?


February in Review

February pretty much just ran away from me. 2017, please slow your roll a little bit.

One second it was the end of January, then it was Valentine's Day, and now we are already a couple of days into March. I mean, I know February is the shortest month of the year, but geez!

Join me in taking a look back at the month's happenings!

//This was a great month for me in terms of fulfilling some personal goals. I was able to pay off three credit cards, and cut down a bit on my bills in general. This has taken an immense amount of weight off of my shoulders! I've also reached a place where I'm finally ready to put my creativity back into action, through the forms of my blog and writing.

//Bell started her puppy obedience classes! We go every Wednesday night, and she loves being around the other puppies and people. She really is a good pup in most ways, but we still have a lot of work to do in terms of controlling her excitement. I'm already seeing some improvement!

//Eating low carb has been pretty difficult for me again this month. Sometimes it's easy (like when I have delicious things such as the low carb enchilada casserole pictured above), but other times my will power fails me. Overall though, I am still living a much more healthy and balanced lifestyle than I ever have before.

//I have also continued to reflect on how much better I am doing not only physically, but mentally. I truly am so happy and content. I think the difference is pretty evident to anyone who knows me.

//Slade and I celebrated our first Valentine's Day together. Each month with him just gets better and better. He has been out of town for work a lot this month. He just returned from a 10-day trip yesterday, and I'm so glad. Home just isn't the same when he's gone, but I'm pretty lucky to have someone who is so easy to miss!

//I checked another musical off of the old Broadway bucket list. Slade took me to see Jersey Boys as my V-Day gift. I absolutely loved it!

That about wraps things up for me this month! Here are some February posts you may have missed:

4 Things to Do Monthly
A Sunday in Jacksonville
5 Podcasts You Should Listen To
7 Things I Would Do For a Cookie Right Now

 How was your February?
© My Restless Soul. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.