everyday inspiration


Book Reviews: Crazy Asians, Crazy Ladies + Crazy Mobsters

Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan: What a unique book this was. And I say that meaning – I’m not quite sure what I thought of it, but on some level I enjoyed it. The setting is one of my favorites (New York) and the female lead is a badass woman who’s determined to be the first woman diver during WWII, but overall the story drifted and was a little hard to understand where it was headed.
Grade: B

The Breakdown – B.A. Paris: This had all the makings of a typical book I’d love, yet didn’t fully deliver. The beginning was enthralling, keeping me on pins and needles and the end was a satisfying twist, but the middle got too repetitive and I feel like I could have skipped probably 100 pages and been fine. Overall, good story that will make you think you’re going crazy from those tiny things you forget every day ….
Grade: B

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan: LOVE, LOVE, LOVED this book! I couldn’t put it down! It was hilarious. I dove deep into a world of which I knew nothing about, and didn’t want to come up for air. Luckily there are two more books by this author AND they’re turning this one into a movie this year. All you need to know is it’s about exactly what you think it is: Crazy Rich Asians.
Grade: A+

The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware: This book was actually a huge disappointment. So many people told me how much they adored this book, and I just couldn’t get into it. It was a fast read, but the character development wasn’t great, the writing was so-so and the “thrilling” plot was fairly predictable.
Grade: B-

xo xo

You can read all my book reviews here.

life lately [off work edition]

I’ve never had time off work longer than 2-3 days just hanging out at home. Until now. This past week I was off before starting my new job, and I have loved it so much more than I thought I would! I thought I’d be wishing I was somewhere else or too bored or too anxious with to-do lists, but not the case. Of course the week went by too fast, but it was a perfect blend of relaxation, play and a little work.

Enjoy my week in pictures … 

[goodbye happy hour with some of my favorite WM coworkers at The Hive]

[arguably my favorite part of the week was coffee in bed + morning TV shows]

[yummy lunch + coffee dates with wonderful people]

[a day of serious junk room/closet/bathroom cleaning and organizing – UGH, it was the worst. thanks to mom for the help though … and of course, I feel SO much better now that it’s done.]

[spent one entire day of pure relaxation – finishing a book, bingeing TV (starting with the beloved HSM) + a massage]

[celebrated national margarita day with margs + games at the new dave and busters – this photo seriously cracks me up]

[friday in fayetteville for a hair appointment then maxine’s + hugo’s with the family – couldn’t have ended the week more perfectly!]

xo xo

Minestrone Soup – Gluten Free, Crock Pot {recipe}

Not only do I have a new recipe to share today, I also have a new cookbook that will change your life. Okay, that might be a little melodramatic, but for real, it’s amazing.


Against All Grain by Danielle Walker

It’s not just another paleo cookbook. A dear friend recommended it to me, touting 8 full weeks of meal plans (all gluten-free, dairy-free) complete with recipes + shopping lists, and it efficiently utilizes all the ingredients for several of the meals throughout the week, so minimal food waste. It’s all very simple, but very appealing. At the time I learned about the cookbook, we were 6 weeks out from our Mexico vaca, so I ordered the book to use as a guide to help us eat healthier before the trip.

We’re now 3 weeks in and loving it. Most of the recipes are pretty easy, and all have been delicious. We’ve been mixing and matching the meals a bit depending on our schedules for the week and our likes/dislikes, but if you wanted an exact meal plan for every day of the week with an exact list to take to the grocery store, this book is for you.

Every meal we’ve made has been delicious, but this Minestrone Soup has been one of our favorites. It was so good on a cold, rainy day this week and we’ve been eating on it for a few days now! You could kick up the cayenne pepper a bit for a little more kick, but this has such good flavor as is.

M I N E S T R O N E   S O U P


2lb ground beef, turkey or chicken (we used beef this time, but will try turkey or chicken next!)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3 cups shredded carrots
32oz chicken stock
15oz tomato sauce
10oz diced tomatoes with green chilies
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon parsley
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 lb yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
S&P to taste


  1. Brown the meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat, until cooked through. use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a slow cooker insert, leaving the fat in the pan.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots to the pan and sauce over medium heat for 8 minutes, until the vegetables are slightly tender. Drain and add the vegetables to the slow cooker.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, except the squash and basil. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or on low for 8 hours.
  4. Add the squash and basil during the last 30 minutes if cooking on high or 1 hour if cooking on low.
  5. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve with a garnish of fresh basil.

xo xo

You might also enjoy: Crustless Quiche + Homemade Salad Dressing, Pork Chops with Black Bean Succotash

30 Before 30

As I head into the last year of my 20s, I decided to create a list of things to do before I turn 30 in January. Thanks to literally everyone for helping me come up with this list. I think it’s realistic to accomplish in a year, yet will be challenging. I’ll provide a few updates throughout the year as I check things off. Starting with #1 …

[husband’s 30th]

    1. Start a new adventure. I’ve worked for Walmart for 6.5 years, as my first job out of college. I’ve officially accepted a position at Clorox, and couldn’t be more excited/anxious/thrilled to start this new adventure. 
    2. Make a complex meal 100% from scratch.
    3. Hike Pinnacle Mountain + eat a Hubcap burger at Cotham’s. This one stems back to my Arkansas Bucket List from a few years ago, and is one thing I really wanted to do that I never got to check off my list. This is the year!
    4. Successfully do a one-armed push-up.
    5. See a critically acclaimed show.
    6. Volunteer 30 hours.
    7. Buy all my friends a round, randomly.
    8. Play video games with husband for a night, complete with pizza + beer.
    9. Intentionally choose to stay by myself one night in a hotel. Obviously I’ve stayed by myself before, but for work or when husband was away – not intentionally.
    10. Learn a song on the guitar.
    11. Be in a play.
    12. Learn to play blackjack.
    13. Make a signature cocktail.
    14. Make a YouTube video that gets over 1k views.
    15. Start my book. This is one husband has been pushing me to do for years.
    16. Win at least 1 trivia night.
    17. Write 30 handwritten letters.
    18. Take a dance class.
    19. Go to a movie solo.
    20. Run 30 miles. I’m not a runner. So, no judgment please on “only 30?!”
    21. Dye my hair pink. Again, something I’ve always wanted to do. It could just be a few strands, and it could wash out after a day. Either way, I think 29 is the best time to do it. 
    22. Do 5 things that truly scare me.
    23. Give an amount of money that is significant to me and is significant to someone in need, but do it in such a way no one would ever know it was me who gave it and expect nothing in return.
    24. Travel to state I’ve never been to.
    25. Take a personal day, for no reason at all.
    26. Challenge myself with a new hobby.
    27. See someone in concert I’ve been dying to see.
    28. Find an artist whose perspective of the world I appreciate and buy a piece of his or her work.
    29. Take a spontaneous trip.
    30. Plan a huge 30th birthday bash.

xo xo

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life lately

H A P P Y   B I R T H D A Y   T O   M E 

{celebrating this || birthday, birthday, birthday! huge shoutout to my amazing family, friends + coworkers}

{eating this || two amazing meals in fayetteville – nomad’s + khana indian grill}

{relaxing like this || ahhhhh}

{enjoying this || a fun, freezing day drinking beer with friends}

xo xo

Book Reviews: The Best Ones + The Ones to Beat

Towards the end of last year, I took a little hiatus on my blog. I was getting overwhelmed with work + the holidays and was putting way too much pressure on myself to blog consistently, so I stopped. No harm, no foul. The great thing about this blog is I’m doing this for me so when it starts to be too much, there’s no reason why I can’t take a little break.

That being said, one my favorite things on my blog (and that friends tell me they love!) are my book reviews. I read quite a few books the last few months that I didn’t want to forget, so I added them to a list and here they are. A few of them made my top 5 books of the year list, and a few were duds, so we’ll quickly review these and get back on track for the new year.

GREAT books…

Lilac Girls – Martha Kelly Hall: (#1 book of the year) I have two typical genres of favorite books – thrillers with female leads + WWII historical fiction. This is the latter, following three very different women throughout the war and how their experiences shaped them for years to come. It’s unique in it’s perspectives (one a concentration camp doctor and one a prisoner) and is written in such beautiful detail, that you will be transported in time and come back remembering how very thankful you are.
Grade: A+

Sourdough – Robin Sloan: (#3 book of the year) This book is great and hilarious and I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s such an easy read about a young woman developer who turns baker through a funny happenstance. I learned a lot about sourdough starters (of which I knew nothing), and genuinely enjoyed this quirky book all the way through.
Grade: A+

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng: (#4 book of the year) This book is very different than my typical reads, and I’m so glad I tried something new. Little Fires Everywhere is a slow burn. Literally. You see the ins and outs of two family dynamics and how they become intertwined. While there were several surprises throughout, the book mostly just leaves you contemplative.
Grade: A

The Wife Between Us – Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen: Thriller with female lead – obviously knew I’d love it, and I did. There were several page-turning twists, that keeps you questioning everything. As the front cover of the book says, assume nothing.
Grade: A

Books not as great … 

Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen: I really liked this book, though think I would have enjoyed it more had I not seen the movie and knew what was coming. That being said, it’s a terrific story and gave me all the circus and animal and love story feels as it did via film.
Grade: B+

The Late Show – Michael Connelly: I honestly can’t remember now how I came across this book, but it’s a departure for me, as I don’t typically read established authors/series (such as a Michael Connelly, John Grisham, etc.). While this book wasn’t earth-shattering, it was a solid, easy-read, Detective novel.
Grade: B

Of Mess and Moxie – Jen Hatmaker: Sadly, this book disappointed me. I adore Jen Hatmaker, but this book was too hit or miss with no cohesive binding throughout. One chapter would be hilarious (as Jen is), then one would seem completely random and I couldn’t relate. 7 is still her best book I’ve read to date.
Grade: B-

The Unspeakable – Meghan Daum: This book was okay. It was a collection of personal essays/short stories that were billed as funny and deep and vulnerable. Some of the stories were a little funny or a little relatable, but mostly I was not impressed.
Grade: C

I’ve already read 2 terrific books this year and look forward to many more. What’s on your reading list for the year?

xo xo

[You can read all my book reviews here.]


Weekend Picturebook: Lake Tahoe

The BEST weekend with LITERALLY everyone.

T H U R S D A Y 

[first stop: truckee! the cutest little town ever.
lunch: bar of america with the best jalapeño poppers on the planet, wine: pour house wine shop]

[first night in the hot tub – complete with snow angels…]

 F R I D A Y 
[my birthday!]

[could we have asked for better views to wake up to?! all the heart eyes.] [snowmobiling with these two was so fun! it was seriously a winter wonderland]

[and here’s the rest of our crew skiing/snowboarding at squaw valley!]

[post-snowmobiling bloody mary]

[birthday dinner at bridgetender tavern + a robust discussion on my 30 before 30 (another blog post to come soon)]

S A T U R D A Y 

[shopping in truckee – yes, I came home with both of these purchases (and more!!)]

[met the crew for lunch at Squaw – ate some of the best pizza + tried on literally a million hats][final night – dancing + drinks on the patio!]

[sunset in the hot tub …
and not thinking about how rough it will be to come home!]

xo xo

You might also enjoy: Weekend Picturebook: NYC