first quarter wins and {q2 goals}

As you know, I love planning and goal setting. I used to write monthly goal check-ins, but this year I've enjoyed breaking the year into quarters instead of months. I feel like the bigger chunk gives me more to work with.

Now that the first quarter is behind us, I'll share a few wins (goal-related and just all-around happy things) from these first three months, as well as what I'll be focusing on during the second quarter of 2020.

Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash

{quarter one wins}


  • Brunch date with the girls - I'm so glad we made this happen, even though it now feels like a million years ago. We had another girls day on the books for March, but thanks to our pal COVID that one had to be cancelled. 
  • Brewery tour date night with Aaron - This is another thing that feels like it happened so long ago, but since date nights will be in our house after the kids go to bed for the foreseeable future, I'm so glad we went all out in January. 
  • Jona is done with the eye patch - Throughout most of kindergarten and the beginning of first grade, Jona had to wear an eye patch for a few hours every day (and all day on weekends) to help correct his amblyopia (lazy eye). His vision in that eye has improved, and while he still has to have a thin film that covers that lens of his glasses, I think we can say goodbye to the patch. Woohoo! 
  • Made planning ahead a priority - This seems like a small thing, but it's made a big difference in my life. I'm a planner by nature, but better at short-term than long-term; I could tell you the list of all things I have going on tomorrow, but not so much next month. I've been making it a priority to look ahead to better prepare, and it's made an impact. 
  • Made progress on financial goals - Getting our finances back on track is a huge goal for us this year, and we made excellent progress during this first quarter. 
  • Yoga 5 days a week (most weeks) - I start my day with yoga every weekday, and I love it and look forward to it. I do Yoga with Adriene, and currently I'm working through her first 30 Days of Yoga challenge. 

{quarter two goals}


  • Make Easter special for the kids - Easter will be weird this year. But I want to make it fun and memorable for the kids, despite the things that they will miss, like the big egg hunt at our church. 
  • Take some time off work - I took very little time off the first part of the year, and the days I planned in March got derailed by (you guessed it) COVID-19. I know I'll need a break soon. 
  • Find balance while at home - During this weird time that everyone is home, I hope to be present as much as possible. I am still figuring out how to successfully work from home with both kids around, and at the same time I want to make sure Jona and Violet have some structure and learning time in addition to all this bonus play time they get to have together. 
  • Do some tech decluttering - I'm running out of Google storage so I need to take care of this asap. 
  • Clean out my closet - It's a disaster in there right now. It's not terribly messy, it's just full of stuff I don't wear yet haven't decided what to do with just yet. 
  • Have monthly date nights with Aaron - Even if they're just at home. Although I'm hoping by the end of the quarter we will be able to go out on an actual date! 
  • Plan ahead on my blog and make a schedule - I already do this somewhat, I would just like to be more detailed in my planning. 
  • Complete at least half of the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2020 Reading Challenge - I'm not always great about keeping up with reading challenges (since I read based on my mood and my library holds) but her prompts are pretty open-ended. I have a few ticked off, but want to continue. 
  • Take a walk at least 4 days a week - Ideally, that would be at least three times during the work week, and once on the weekend with my family. 
  • Eat more fruits and veggies - I feel like this is a constant goal for me. I was doing well bringing fruit with me to work to snack on, but now that I'm home it's not the first thing I reach for. 

What were some of your wins for the first part of the year? Is there anything you're hoping to accomplish in the coming months? 

weekly highlights {12}

Taking time to make a list of my favorite things from the week always feels good, but I need those little reminders now more than ever. I hope you find something new to enjoy too! Here are my picks from last week.

Wearing green for St. Patrick's Day! 

{eating}

  • Parmesan Chicken - I don't make parmesan chicken very often because for some reason in my head it's this complicated thing to make. But this recipe from Everyday Reading is pretty quick and easy and tastes delicious! 
  • Goat Cheese Guacamole Burgers - A few of my favorite things combined into one? Yes please. This recipe is pretty extra, with caramelized onions, guac, two cheeses, and BBQ mayo, but I made them simpler with just the stuffed burgers and guacamole, and they were still amazing. 
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars - Classic. Comforting. Yum. 

{listening} 

  • From the Front Porch podcast: Playlist Meets Booklist - I loved this mashup of books and music on one of my favorite book podcasts. (I know, I have a new favorite book podcast every week.) 

{reading}

  • We Don't Eat Our Classmates! - We stocked up on some library books right before they closed and this is one of the ones we got. Both Violet and Jona think it's hilarious. 

{loving} 

  • The generosity I've seen during this pandemic - So many companies are making their resources free right now to help parents teach their kids while at home. We've been loving the daily lessons on Scholastic but plan to check out more of what's out there next week. 
  • Jona's thoughts on skills
    • After missing several shots in the basketball hoop in his room, Jona tells me, "You just need to aim for the white square." I tell him, "I know buddy, I'm just not that great. But that's okay, I'll live." Jona says, "Yeah, you don't die from not being very good at something. Well, I guess if you're not good at driving a car you could get into a car crash. Then you might die." 

{shopping}

  • Favorite leggings from Amazon - My coworker turned me on to these inexpensive, yet pretty well-made leggings last year. I have them in black but just ordered this space dye dark blue pair. They're nice and thick and they have a pocket! 

I'd love to hear some of the things you've been loving lately! 

spring {wish list}

For us at least, last week was the first week of being home all week. Jona's school was on Spring Break anyway but will be closed for the rest of the school year, Aaron's school is in the same situation, and while Violet's daycare is still open, we feel it's best to keep her home as well. I'm thankful to have a job where working from home is a possibility, but it has been a challenge.

Keeping my routines mostly the same has been helpful, and the simple act of getting dressed every day makes a difference as well. I don't always put on makeup and so far have not heated up a curling iron, but real clothes--casual ones, yet ones I'd leave the house in--make me feel more like a person. 

I do find myself missing having the opportunity to dress up more, so lately I've been making a little "back to work" spring wish list, even if I won't go back to the office in the spring (who knows?). I find that even if I don't buy anything, online browsing can be a comfort right now, and I'm all about finding the simple joys during all this crazy. Here's my spring wish list.  

{spring wish list}



gray pumps - I stick to flats most of the time but would love a pair of stacked-heel pumps for work or church, when eventually I can actually go to those places

tote bag - I bought myself a Madewell Transport Tote for my birthday several years ago and I've nearly worn it out. I'm not sure what it says about me that I want to replace it with another Transport Tote (but with a zip top and shoulder strap!). 

new sunglasses - The sunglasses I have are old, I need a fun new pair for spring. 

(faux-) leather jacket - This has been on my wish list for years; I don't know why it's taking me so long to add this classic piece to my closet. 

trench jacket - This is another classic spring piece, and one that I need to replace in my wardrobe. 

new pajamas - My poor pajama drawer is often neglected; I rarely think of buying more when what I have is perfectly functional. But that's about all they are--I could really use a pretty set, especially since I'm spending so much time at home. 

white lace top - Doesn't this just say spring? I love how it would go with everything. 

wedge sneakers - These may be last on my list, but if I find the right pair they are the next thing in my shopping cart. 

{shop more wish list options}

What's on your wish list right now?

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. 


Linking with Style on the Daily and Thursday Fashion Files

weekly highlights {11}

As I type this, my kids are taking turns dumping a bucket of foam balls on each other's backs. And we've only been stuck inside for one full day now, so who knows what they'll be doing by the time you're reading this.

If like us, you are going to be spending a lot of time at home, I hope this round up of things to eat, listen to, read, and more will give you some good ideas!

Time with friends before "social distancing" became a thing.


{listening}

  • First Name Basis podcast - This was another recommendation from Janssen of Everyday Reading (I just love her) and I can tell it's one I'll keep listening to. I haven't heard too many episodes just yet, but I highly recommend The Untold Story of Dr. Seuss. (It was heartbreaking as someone who grew up loving Dr. Seuss, but I think that makes it even more important to know his history.) 
  • Currently Reading podcast: Spicy Takes - Books We Wanted to Throw Against the Wall - I love getting reading recommendations from these ladies, but listening to some of the books they hated made me laugh out loud. 

{eating} 

  • Salmon with Thai Curry Peanut Sauce and Coconut Cilantro Rice - Aaron and I try to have date night dinners at home once a week, and this was our dinner last week. It was SO good, and every part of it was packed with flavor. I saved the extra peanut sauce in a jar in the fridge, and it's waiting for me to make more rice. 
  • Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal - This is one of my favorite breakfasts. It makes a whole pan so I eat it all week (for some reason no one else in my family wants it), and it fills me up so I don't find myself needing a snack by 9am. 

{reading}

  • Bury Your Dead - I'm slowly making my way through the Inspector Gamache mystery series by Louise Penny, and this was book six. So far all of the books I've read in the series have been excellent, although I think the one I read before this, The Brutal Telling, has been my favorite so far. 
  • The Forgetful Knight - I picked this one up at the library a couple weeks ago and it was the rare find (these days) that both kids enjoyed. A knight is trying to tell his brave tell but he keeps forgetting what happened. It had both kids laughing out loud. 

{loving}


Okay what should I check out this week while we're cooped up? 

Veggie Side Dishes to Try

What a week! I hope you are safe and healthy wherever you are. I have a hard time adjusting when my routine is disrupted, and I thought about taking a break from blogging because who really cares right now. But then I thought about how keeping some things consistent will be comforting, and that I will certainly take comfort in connecting with blog friends online.

So, let's talk about vegetables, shall we? One of my goals this month is to serve a fruit and a vegetable with every dinner we eat at home. We tend to struggle with vegetables around here. The way I like my veggies isn't necessarily the way Aaron likes his, Violet's tastes change daily (although she consistently eats more tomatoes* than anyone I know), and getting Jona to eat any vegetables at all involves superpowers I don't have.

Unless they're part of the main dish, veggies tend to be an afterthought for me, so I thought I'd help myself out by finding some easy veggie-as-side recipes to try with our meals.

Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash


Parmesan Roasted Broccoli - I'll be honest, I'm probably the only one who will eat this. I'm hoping though with the addition of parmesan cheese that I can at least convince the others to try it.

Lemon Butter Green Beans - Green beans are a veggie that Aaron and I usually agree on, and I like that this recipe is similar to the way we usually have them. The addition of lemon makes them sound fresh and springy.

Roasted Parmesan Asparagus - As with broccoli, I'm going with "lets add some cheese and cross our fingers." I can't get the kids on board with asparagus, and it's actually not one of my favorites either. But roasted in the oven with some cheese? I can do that, and maybe I can convince them to take a bite.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries - I love sweet potato fries but haven't tried to make them at home in a long time. I anticipate both Aaron and Jona will be skeptical, but Violet loves fries and I'm hopeful she will at least give them a try.

Garlic Edamame - Aaron, Violet, and I all love edamame, and usually we just steam it in the microwave and dip in a soy sauce mix. I like this recipe for something different.

If you have any veggie recipes or prep ideas I'd love to hear them! 

*Yes, I know tomatoes are a fruit. I'm categorizing based on flavor, not technicalities. 

weekly highlights {10}

So, Daylight Savings is still a thing. Let me tell you how excited I am about losing an hour of sleep and trying to get my kids adjusted to a time shift. While in theory having extra daylight is nice, I'm not sure it's worth everything that goes with it. Violet hates sleep lately anyway, why do we need to add fuel to the fire? Anyway, this post isn't called Weekly Complaints, so let's focus on the positive. Here are my weekly highlights.

Haircut time!


{listening}

  • 3 in 30 Takeaways for Moms podcast - I heard about this podcast from one of my favorite bloggers, Janssen from Everyday Reading. On it, the host Rachel or her guest share three practical takeaways for moms, exactly as the title implies. I've only listened to a few episodes so far, but I can tell it's one I'll continue to follow. 
  • Moana soundtrack - It's nothing new I know, but Violet was too young to appreciate Moana when we first watched it with Jona, and now that she's seen it, she's obsessed. She asks to listen to the soundtrack all the time, and because I love the music so much I happily comply. It beats the heck out of her normal request of Going on a Bear Hunt, or (for the love...) Barney. 

{reading}

  • Long Way Down - I just rounded up my recent reads on Monday's post, but after those I just finished Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. I listened to this on audio, which I recommend as it is a YA novel in verse, and read by the author. It is very short, yet very powerful. 
  • The Rabbit Listened - I picked this up at the library for Violet, about a child who builds a tower and what happens after the tower gets knocked down. All the animals come in and know how to help Taylor, but only the rabbit, who listens quietly, is able to help. It's a sweet book and we are reading it on repeat over here. 

{eating}

  • Indian Butter Chicken - I love this easy take on Butter Chicken from Everyday Reading. Right now I can't get the kids on board with it, but since we usually eat it with naan, they are happy to have some of that with hummus. 

{drinking}

  • Pomegranate Moscow Mules - Aaron and I made these the other night and they were really good! You just add a little pomegranate juice to a regular Moscow Mule, and it tastes refreshing and delicious.  

{loving}

  • Violet's insights on Jona's eating habits - recent dinner conversation: 
    • Jona, telling us a few foods he likes, "I like..." Violet, "You don't like anything." Jona, "Yes I do!" Violet, "Not fruits and vegetables." Jona, struggling to get a word in, "I like..." Violet, interrupting (again) "Sugar!" She's not wrong. 

What were some of your highlights from the week? 

{reading} fiction and non-fiction recommendations

After last month's slight slump of only having two good books worth sharing, I'm happy to report that I have several on my list for this month. I found a nice balance of fiction and non-fiction, which has been easier these days thanks to audiobooks.

Here are my recent fiction and non-fiction recommendations.



{fiction I loved}


Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. One of my favorite podcasts chose this book for their latest book club episode, so I picked it up. About a mysterious girl who comes to life after being presumed dead in a small river town, the story focuses on three families, all of whom have a reason to claim her. It felt slightly magical, yet the characters were rooted in reality and beautifully developed. I loved the way storytelling became a thread that knit everything together, and also how the setting felt as alive as the characters. This was a great read! My rating: 4/5 stars. 

The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. Originally published in 1924, this story about an unhappy couple trying to play their socially acceptable roles as working father and stay-at-home mother touched on many issues still relevant today. Although her characterizations felt slightly over-the-top, I admit that I saw parts of myself in the impatient, overly critical mother. I loved the way this book made me think about the roles we still play in society, and about the importance of feeling fulfilled in what we do, no matter what it is we choose. My rating: 4/5 stars

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan. I picked this up on a Kindle deal because it was one I remember hearing great things about. I went in knowing next to nothing about it, fully expecting a quirky, fun, book about books a la The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Well. This book is quite dark, and while the main character works as a bookseller at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, the similarities end there. However, once I adjusted to the mood, I got wrapped up in the story and the mystery. I don't mind dark, and I loved the bookish elements woven throughout. My rating: 4/5 stars.


{non-fiction picks}


Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans. I learned about Rachel Held Evans after hearing of her untimely death, and shortly after that this book came up in discussion on a couple of podcasts I listen to. This is her memoir of growing up Evangelical Christian with a strong faith, but then struggling with that faith and the beliefs of her church as she got older. I thought it was honest and wise, and although my faith journey has been a lot different from hers, I could relate in many ways. My rating: 4/5 stars.

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury. I've been listening to Janet Lansbury on her podcast, Unruffled, for years. I think her respectful approach to parenting is helpful, and when I make an effort to implement what she teaches I find it to be very effective. It's not always easy to remain calm and unruffled, yet empathetic, in the moment, but this book really broke down the advice she gives on her podcast and gave me lots of practical tips. Her focus is on toddlers, but I found most of what she discusses still very applicable with Violet, who is a bit past the toddler stage at 3. My rating: 4/5 stars

You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein. I love finding memoirs read by the author to listen to on audio. Jessi's story of growing up as a "late bloomer" and coming into herself as a writer and comedian was honest, funny, and relatable. My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

Have you read anything good lately?

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weekly highlights {9}

Hey there, how is your week going? Other than Violet being sick on Friday, it's been a good week. Luckily it was short-lived and she was back to her wild and crazy self in no time. You can always tell when she's getting sick because it's the only time you could describe her as "subdued." We recently had a conference with her teacher who told us that her favorite activity in class was any one in which she can pretend she's in charge. Sounds about right.

Anyway, here are last week's highlights.

The joy of going to the park after so many weekends of being stuck inside.


{watching}

  • Lego Masters - With Jona's Lego obsession, we had to watch Lego Masters! It's been fun for him to see all the crazy builds people come up with, and I think he also likes seeing that even adults enjoy Legos. It's a really fun show for all of us to watch together. 

{eating}

  • Charro Beans - We had family over recently for a Mexican food dinner, and I made these beans. I used the stovetop version, and although they took longer than what the recipe called for, they turned out full of flavor and delicious! (Just be prepared to add to the cook time--I added a good couple of hours on the stove.) 
  • Pineapple Cashew Fried Rice - This was a unique take on stir-fry, and it was so good! We had it with pork but it would work with any protein I think. 

{listening}

  • Currently Reading: The Golden Earbud Awards - I think choosing audiobooks can be challenging--the narrator can make or break it, and some books just don't do well on audio. In this episode Kaytee and Mindy round up lots of audiobook favorites. 
  • The Lazy Genius: Feeding Picky Kids - Another excellent episode! In this episode she talks about her take on intuitive eating, and applying that concept to our kids. Trusting them to eat--or not eat--based on what we provide. It's not about letting them eat whatever they want, but instead about focusing on what we can control: the food we serve, vs what we can't: what they actually eat. So insightful. 

{reading}

  • The Home-Maker - I loved this story, written in the 1920s, about an unhappy housewife and her husband who struggles to provide for their family. We've come a long way, but there was still a lot to relate to in this book. 
  • I Will Teach You to Be Rich - This was clearly written for someone in a different stage in life than I am, but he does have some smart, practical advice about money that I want to remember. I didn't love his tone or his repeated references to "hot girls" but I just rolled my eyes at those parts and moved on. 

{loving}

  • Living room dance parties - Our music last week was The Black-Eyed Peas, which called for some impromptu dance parties for Jona, Violet, and me. 

What were some of your highlights from the week? 

Floral Midi Dress for Spring and Not-Yet Spring

We have been having some gorgeous weather lately, and although I'm sure winter isn't over, it's got me wanting to wear and buy all the spring things. I did a little shopping in January, and one of the things I picked up was this blue floral midi dress at Loft.

It's giving me all the spring vibes right now, but I like how it can be cold weather friendly too with the right layers. I felt nice and cozy when I layered it with boots and a cardigan on a chilly day. The slightly slouchy boots with the longer length of the dress and cardigan gave the look a boho feel. That's not usually a style I go for, but it was fun to try.

More recently on a warmer day, I paired the midi dress with mules and a constant spring staple--my jean jacket. I think I prefer this dress with a higher heel, but overall I like the relaxed look.

What are you excited to wear this spring? 





{shop floral midi dresses}

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. 

Linking with I Do Declaire and Thursday Fashion Files

weekly highlights {8}

Happy Leap Week! Is that a thing? I just find it so bizarre that we get an extra day in February every four years. I'm sure it will feel like any other Saturday, but still... the calendar is weird. Here are a few highlights from the past week. 

Violet from 2 years ago! I love Timehop sometimes.

{watching}

  • Cheer - I heard about this Netflix documentary series about a Texas college cheer squad on the Sorta Awesome podcast. I haven't yet finished it, but it is fantastic so far. 

{eating}

  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls - I love these for a snack (or even breakfast!) that feels like a treat but is actually packed with pretty healthy stuff. They are plenty sweet so I'm not putting them in the "health food" category, but I think they're a good balance. 
  • Thai Chicken Quinoa Bowls - I hadn't made this for a long time but tried it again last week and we love it! I'm down for anything with a peanut sauce, and I like occasionally changing up our household staple of rice for some healthy quinoa. 

{reading}

  • No Bad Kids - The author of this book, Janet Lansbury, is the host of one of my favorite parenting podcasts, Unruffled. This book pretty much sums up all her great advice in one place, and although it's aimed at toddlers it is still very relevant to my struggles with Violet. 
  • Searching for Sunday - I listened to this on audio, and I loved Rachel Held Evans' wise, honest story of her faith journey. 

{listening}


What were some of your highlights of the week? 

How I Use My Planner and Bullet Journal

I have always loved having a paper planner. Even the free school planners they gave out at my high school brought me a ridiculous amount of joy. I remember getting my first Franklin Covey binder with refillable planner pages when I was in college, and shortly after that discovering that there was a whole world of planning systems out there to explore.

In the past several years I've tried out many different versions, from the Erin Condren Life Planner to the Day Designer. I find myself always searching for a new planner each year, hoping to find the planner holy grail I suppose.

However, one system that has stuck around is the bullet journal. I started using a bullet journal in 2017, and have used one on and off for the past few years. A couple of years ago I experimented with using both a "regular" paper planner and using my bullet journal as a reading journal. This year I'm once again trying out a hybrid planner + bullet journal method.

It happened by accident. I bought the Cultivate What Matters PowerSheets Goal Planner for 2020 after a lot of planner research, only to discover that yes, it is a goal planner, but not a daily planner. Not having a daily planner for me is the equivalent of not having coffee, so I remedied the situation by purchasing a Leuchtturm notebook and starting my 2020 bullet journal.


{what I love about my PowerSheets Goal Planner}

  • The Cultivate What Matters method walks you through setting goals that truly matter to you. It is time-consuming to go through her brainstorming steps, but I found it to be time well spent.
  • You put in a lot of time in the planning process, but as a result carrying out your goals is a matter of putting things on the calendar and thoughtfully checking in on progress. 
  • Once you get to the point where you're ready to create goals, her system of breaking them down works well for me. You have mini-goals within a big goal, and smaller steps within those. From there I just assign dates to those and put them on the calendar! 
  • The monthly Tending List is a helpful one-page overview of what you want to accomplish during the month. You list bigger monthly goals, things you want to do weekly, and also daily habits you want to track. Currently I'm tracking yoga, prayer, and gratitude. 
  • There's also a page at the end of every month that helps you reflect. I am a very future-focused thinker, so refection does not come naturally to me. Having this built in, guiding me through monthly reflection, is extremely helpful. 
  • It's bright, colorful, and so pretty! Obviously this has nothing to do with its functionality, but aesthetics do matter, and this one suits me. 

{what I love about my bullet journal}

  • It is so flexible. I love being able to keep track of so many things in one place. 
  • It is the "just right" daily planner for me. Currently I do weekly spreads, which lets me plan out the week ahead, but still jot down to-do items for each day as they come up. It takes a bit of time on Sunday to create the next week's spread, but I find that to be fun and relaxing. 
  • It is a great way to track my books. I have bounced back and forth between different book tracking methods, and I'm back to my bullet journal. I still use Goodreads, but for some reason that is not nearly as satisfying as writing down my books. 
  • It's the perfect place to keep track of other things I want to remember, such as the funny things Jona and Violet say. 
  • Because I combined it with a more long-term planner, I don't have to worry about trying to keep a calendar in my bullet journal. That didn't work for me in the past, I found it too hard to do any long-range planning (beyond the current month) in my bullet journal. 
So far I am happy with this system of using both planning methods. Do you use a paper planner or bullet journal? I'd love to learn about your planning methods. 

weekly highlights {7}

About the time I've thrown out all the leftover candy from one holiday, another one comes along and my house feels like a sugar factory again. Jona's sweet tooth is as bad as mine, so it's a dangerous situation.

Here are last week's highlights:

They were pretty proud of the crafts they made at their cousin's birthday party over the weekend.


{eating}


{reading}

  • Valentine's Day picture books - We checked out Here Comes Valentine Cat and Love from the Crayons for the library to read last week and they were both too cute. Violet especially loved them. 
  • Once Upon a River - One of my favorite podcasts, The Girl Next Door, mentioned they were reading this book for their February book club podcast, so I decided to give it a try since it was on my TBR anyway. It's a bit outside of my usual genre, but I really enjoyed it. 

{listening}

  • The Lazy Genius podcast: Your Body Is Not Flawed - Whoa. I'm not sure if it's because it's winter and I've been less active and putting on a few extra pounds, but I've been feeling pretty unhappy with my body lately. This podcast was exactly what I needed to hear and I am really trying to shift my mindset around body image. 
  • Read Aloud Revival podcast: Our Favorite Math Read-Alouds - Books are my go-to anytime I want my kids to learn more about pretty much any subject, so why should it be any different with math? As usual, Sarah and her guests had some excellent recommendations I can't wait to read with my kiddos. 

{watching}

  • Ellen's Game of Games - This is a rare show that we can watch as a family and truly enjoy together. No one loves it more than Jona though--he can't even control himself he laughs so hard. 
What have been some of your highlights lately? 

{reading} books like resolutions

My current reading life reminds me a little of New Year's resolutions. I started the year off strong, with excellent books that I was excited about reading. Now, in mid-February, my enthusiasm has dwindled; I haven't loved what I read as much as I did at the beginning of the year. Unlike resolutions though, I'll definitely keep going--I know my next great read could be one book away. I'm an eternal book optimist.

There are a couple of books I read that I did really like, I just didn't love them the way I did the ones I talked about last month.



{The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns} This novel alternates between a present day story and one set in Japan in the 1950s. An American soldier falls in love with a Japanese woman, but family, culture, and timing make it nearly impossible for them to be together. While fiction, the novel was based on facts, so learning about Japanese culture during that time period was fascinating. That part of the story was engrossing and heart-breaking at times. I couldn't get quite as invested in the parallel modern day story, mostly because there were too many loose ends left untied in my opinion. My rating: 3.5/5 stars.


{Peace Like a River by Leif Enger} Reuben Land, and 11-year old boy with severe asthma, narrates this story of his family as they travel across the Dakotas one winter in search of his fugitive brother Davy. While that plot carries the story along, it does so quietly and at a slower pace. The focus is on relationships; I loved the sibling bond between Reuben and his sister Swede, and the way the children looked up to their father, Jeremiah. Enger's writing is beautiful, and I love the way he weaves the miraculous into the everyday. My rating: 3.5/5 stars.


Have you read any good books lately? 

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weekly highlights {6}

I hope you all like reading this round-up of weekly highlights, because I have so much fun writing it. Thinking about what I'm going to add for each post helps me focus on things that bring joy throughout the week. Anyway, here are my highlights for last week.

I don't get too excited about football, but these two were all about our Chiefs!


{eating}

  • The Baked Brownie - I trust the Brown-Eyed Baker for dessert recipes, so when she said this was a top notch brownie recipe I knew it would be the perfect thing to make for a Superbowl Party. With the Chief's win, maybe they're lucky brownies too? 
  • One Pot Spaghetti and Meat Sauce - This is truly a one-pot meal and it's one we love. If I'm craving a traditional spaghetti dinner, this is what I make. 

{reading}

  • Peace Like a River - This novel was beautifully written, quiet, and an interesting balance of being rooted in reality, yet with hints of the miraculous. I'll share more about it in my next reading round-up. 
  • H is for Hawk - I listened to this memoir on audio and liked it okay, but I struggled to get into it. 
  • Pirate's Lullaby: Mutiny at Bedtime - this has been Violet's book of choice just about every night of the week. It rhymes, it's about a pirate, it's main character is a kid who doesn't want to go to bed--it's right up her alley. 

{listening}

  • Edit Your Life podcast Episode 187: Living Your Best Frugal Life - I loved the discussion between host Christine Coe and her guest Amiyrah Martin about living a frugal, yet joyful, life. Amiyrah had some great ideas for reframing the narrative (holla Forever 35 fans!) on what frugality means.

{loving}

  • Read-aloud book generator - Sarah Mackenzie of the Read-Aloud Revival podcast (one of my faves!) created this awesome quiz that will help you get ideas for books to read aloud to your child(ren). It's so fun and I'm always looking for read-aloud ideas! 
  • Jona's interest in reading - Jona has always loved being read to, but has been less than enthusiastic about reading himself. However, in the past month his confidence has been building and he's been excited about reading (yay!). He's really into the Dog Man series, and while those are definitely not books I would choose, I am happy to give him anything that makes him want to read. 
What are some of your highlights from the week? 

What to Wear for Valentine's Day - Casual and Dressy Looks

Valentine's Day can be a polarizing holiday, yet I fall somewhere in the middle. I don't want any over-the-top romantic gestures, and yet I have fun with all the Hallmark card elements, like the candy and heart-shaped everything. Maybe it's my current life season, but I have more fun making Valentine's Day special for my kids than anything else.

Although my plans for Valentine's Day involve feeding the kids heart-shaped pizza and then dinner in with Aaron after they go to bed, I still have fun thinking about what to wear. A recent shopping trip to Loft proved that I can't resist a heart print and I came home with it on both a top and a skirt.

Even if you don't have any heart-printed clothing in your closet, I think both of these looks are still Valentine's Day friendly, and of course can go beyond that.

What are you wearing for Valentine's Day? 


{casual Valentine's Day look}


This is what I plan to wear to work on Valentine's Day. To me it's casual, yet festive with the hearts and pink. I love that the print is black and white--despite the Valentine's Day feels it has right now, I know that I'll still be wearing this all spring. 


Sweater blazer: J.Crew Factory | heart-print peplum top: Loft | jeans: Old Navy | mules: Target -old (similar)


{date night Valentine's Day look}


I wore this to a work event a couple of weeks ago, but I also think it would be a great date night look. I was on the fence about midi-length skirts, but I love this one, especially with boots. 


Jacket: Loft - old (similar) | blush tee: Target | heart-print midi skirt: Loft | boots: Sole Society (similar)


{shop all the heart print}



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Linking with Away from the Blue and Style on the Daily. 

weekly highlights {5}

I was gone for a work event for a few days, so last week felt like a blur. Once again I'm itching to be back to a regular routine (and a regular bedtime... why does the Super Bowl have to be on Sunday night?). Here are a few highlights from last week. Also, for all you KC fans out there, go Chiefs!

A special guest showed up at my work event last week!


{eating}


{listening}

  • The Next Right Thing podcast - Episode 112: Two Words to Avoid. Emily Freeman always has great advice and I loved what she had to say in this episode about avoiding the words "just" and "thing" in certain conversations.
  • Farmer Boy - Jona and I have been listening to Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder and really enjoying it. 

{loving}

  • Ballet birthday party - Violet went to a birthday party last weekend and they had a dance teacher come in and lead a dance class for the group. It was adorable and Violet loved every minute of it. I thought it was such a great idea for a birthday party! The party favors were little pink tutus! 
  • Another Violet quote - Jona was having some Lego building problems and was getting very frustrated. Violet heard his shouts, looked at me and said "He's really struggling down there." 

{easy valentine's day treat} love bugs

We made it through January! I tend to agree with all the memes out there--it really does feel like the longest month ever. Now that February is here I'm trying to think ahead for Valentine's Day so I'm not scrambling at Target looking for my kids' class Valentines.

{candy love bugs} 

I came across this little craft on Pinterest and thought it would be the perfect easy thing to try for Violet's class Valentines this year.



All you need are clothespins (you can decorate them or buy them already colored), pipe cleaners, and mini bags of candy or fruit snacks. I bought googly eyes to add but when I realized they weren't the self-adhesive kind I just drew on a little smiley face with a Sharpie.




{other easy Valentine's Day ideas}



What are your Valentine's Day traditions? 

weekly highlights {4}

What a weird week! The kids have had snow days the last two Fridays, and Violet caught a bug midweek. All these scheduling interruptions have made it hard to keep the days straight! How old am I that all I want is a regular, 5-day week?

Brunch date! I love these ladies.


{eating}

  • Peanut Butter Banana Muffins - I know, more muffins! I had some bananas I needed to use, so I tried this recipe for something different from standard banana bread/muffins, and I love the addition of peanut butter. 
  • Chocolate Chip and Toffee Blondies - I made these to take to a friend's get together and they never disappoint! The toffee bits add just the right amount of something different. 
  • Bibimbap - A couple weeks ago I told you about Violet's obsession with the book Bee Bim Bop! so of course we had to make it. This may not be the most authentic recipe out there, but I loved it. (Unfortunately Violet, while she loved making it, did not want to eat it. Kids.) 

{listening}

  • Strong Sense of Place podcast - I have only listened to one episode, so I can't truly recommend it yet, but I love the idea of this podcast. The hosts talk about books all based around a specific location (episode 1 was Prague) or place (such as restaurants). I love this idea! 
  • Mariah Carey - I haven't listened to her in a long time! That took me back. 

{reading}

  • The Woman in the White Kimono - Becky, my book club friend, recommended this to me. The story, that goes back and forth between present day in the US and 1957 in Japan, sucked me right in. 

{loving}

  • Violet quotes - She has just been so entertaining lately! 
    • When we were measuring flour for the toffee bars, she picked up the (butter) knife and asked me, "Can I level it?" I had no idea she knew what that meant! Apparently she's been paying attention.
    • She was drawing on her marker board and the marker was almost out of ink. She told me, "This marker is running out of powers."  (Jona's superhero training is kicking in.) 
  • Brunch date - I met some good friends for a long overdue brunch date (at Urban Table) and the food, the mimosas, and the conversation were wonderful. 

{shopping}


What were some of your highlights this week?

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{kansas city love} crossroads brewery tour

After the craziness of the holidays and then lots of time spent indoors with two cabin feverish kids, Aaron and I couldn't plan a date night soon enough. We decided to do something a little different and go on a self-directed brewery tour in the Crossroads neighborhood in Kansas City.

The city and its surrounding suburbs have a lot to offer if you're looking for craft beer, and just within the Crossroads neighborhood alone we were able to visit six breweries, all within walking distance of each other.



weekly highlights {3}

Last week was busy and felt like it flew by. I have friends whose kids are involved in multiple activities, and I don't know how they do it. I feel like my schedule is packed and currently the only activity around here is school, until baseball starts again in the spring. Anyway, here are a few highlights from the week.

Weekend baking with my favorites


{eating}

  • 4-ingredient granola - This was so easy to make! I added it to yogurt all week to make breakfast feel like a treat. 
  • Chicken and veggie stir fry - This is a weeknight dinner go-to. I love how easy it is to change up; this week we had it with chicken, peppers, and broccoli, but it's also good with pork and other veggies--just use what you have. 


{reading}

  • A year of reading the world blog - On the latest What Should I Read Next? podcast, Anne's guest mentioned that she was challenging herself to read a book from every country. Anne mentioned a blog from a woman who did just that, so I had to check it out. I haven't yet read many of her posts, but her book list is amazing. 
  • The Success Principles by Jack Canfield - I just finished listening to this on audio. He has a lot of valuable advice, but be warned--this book is long! 


{listening}

  • Unruffled podcast: No Bad Kids: Questions about Tantrums, Mealtimes, and Cleaning Up - This episode was as if Janet Lansbury was observing my life lately and telling me, "You need this." Sometimes I feel like my life is one big power struggle with Violet, and her podcasts--this one in particular--remind me that it doesn't have to be that way. 

{shopping}


What were some of your highlights last week? 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. 

{reading} books to start your reading year off right

I always see it as a good sign when I start the year with a good book. It's been cold and icy around here lately, so bundling up with a book has been my activity of choice when time allows. Here are a few that I've read lately. I had pretty high expectations for all of these, and I'm pleased to report they all delivered.



{City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert} I read this book in December, which for me was perfectly timed. The storytelling was delightful, and while there were some serious themes it mostly felt light and fun--perfect for a busy month. The setting of the New York theater world in the 1940s enhanced the story; I don't think it would have had the same effect if it took place in the current time. Don't be intimidated by the hefty size either, I never felt the story drag. Count me as one of the few who missed out on Eat, Pray, Love, but even if that one wasn't for you I think it's worth giving this one a try. My rating: 4/5 stars.


{The Dutch House by Ann Patchett} I know I'm in the minority, but I haven't had a lot of luck with Ann Patchett. I remember picking up Bel Canto when I was in college, and for some reason I couldn't get into it (although I know I should try again... that was LONG ago). More recently I tried to read Commonwealth and ended up setting it aside too. As a book lover I almost feel ashamed to admit that! Reluctantly I followed the hype and picked up The Dutch House. I can't tell you what made the difference with this one but I adored it. I love that the sibling relationship is the focal point of the story, and although I've heard complaints of a lack of likable characters I didn't feel that way. In fact I found the opposite to be true. While Maeve certainly wasn't perfect, I found her to be so relatable and endearing despite her flaws. I recommend this one if you love a good character-driven dysfunctional family story. My rating: 4/5 stars.

{Circe by Madeline Miller} My friend and I chose this for our book club; I thought it would be a good book to start the year and also get back to meeting regularly (we fell off the wagon a bit with traveling and busy schedules). I did not learn a lot about Greek myths in school, but my ignorance of Circe's story did not make this book any less enjoyable. Somehow Miller takes the ancient tale and makes it feel fresh without losing any of its historical relevance. This was excellent and I can't wait to see if my book club pal felt the same. My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

{The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal} I waited in a long library holds line for this one, and it's one I wish I would have just broken down and bought when it came out. Not only because I adored it and think it's worth keeping, but also because it felt almost sacrilegious to read it with a glass of wine. Brewing beer is the theme that weaves this story together, and it's just begging to be read with a good craft beer in hand (typically a summer drink for me). Brewing is the theme in this story like hockey is the theme in Beartown (although the comparison stops there)--it's the undercurrent of everything, yet you don't have to be a fan to truly enjoy the story. The women in this story were so well-written; I particularly liked loyal, hard-working, no-nonsense "grandma" Edith. If you want a heartwarming story without sacrificing substance, I can't recommend this enough. My rating: 4.5/5 stars.


Have you read anything worth recommending lately?

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weekly highlights {2}

Hey there, how's your week going? We started our music jar that I mentioned last week, and because Aaron and I both contributed bands and musicians (and we have pretty different taste in music), we have more than 52 in our jar... so it will be the jar that keeps on giving!

Anyway, here are last week's highlights.

I loved this pic of my girl


{eating} 

  • Healthier Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Muffins - I'm always skeptical of a recipe with "healthy" in the title, but these muffins--made in the blender--were so good! They're still sweet thanks to the maple syrup and banana, and the peanut butter and oats made them hearty. The true test was Jona, and he loved them! 
  • Smoothie bowls - these are a breakfast favorite for me. This week mine had frozen strawberries, spinach, yogurt, milk, a little bit of maple syrup, and vanilla. I topped them with granola and sliced almonds. Yum! 

{reading}

  • Food-themed children's books - wouldn't you know my little food lover (Violet) ate these books up this week? We have been reading Bee Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and How to Feed Your Parents by Ryan Miller every night. 
  • Circe - I finished this and loved it! (Book post to come...) 

{listening}

  • What Should I Read Next? podcast - Making up for lost time in your reading life. I love it when Anne's guest and I have similar tastes in books. I often add to my TBR on all the episodes, but on this particular one I wanted to read everything they talked about. 

{loving}

  • Funny Violet quote - We were reading Bee Bim Bop! and there's a picture of a baby in a high chair. She points out that the baby is using a spoon and fork, and then goes "Good job buddy!" 
  • Easy lip color - Nivea Blackberry Lip Care. It goes on like a lip balm and moisturizes my lips, but it's a subtle dark berry color that is so pretty! I have been wearing it nonstop. 

2 ways to wear a chenille cardigan

We've had pretty mild weather since Christmas, so when the weekend treated us to ice and snow it was a wake-up call that winter is still very much here. Luckily I had the forethought to take outfit photos the weekend before when it was nice out.

For me, the winter is all about cozy textures, and if I can wear a sweater that feels like a soft blanket, even better. I've had this chenille cardigan for a while, but it's a style I keep seeing around and lately I can't stop wearing it. It's incredibly soft and warm, and the color is a dark enough red that it doesn't feel Christmasy.

Since the weather was mild, it was the perfect layer over a leopard camisole, skirt, and over-the-knee boots for church, and then over jeans and a tee for errand running.

What cozy items have you been wearing lately? 




Cardigan: old c/o Ethyl clothing | camisole | denim skirt: ThredUp | boots: old, Target


Cardigan: old, c/o Ethyl clothing | navy tee: old, Cents of Style | jeans | slip-on sneakers: old, Loft


{shop chenille cardigans}


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