This, That & Lately

Things I have been doing the past few weeks… 

  • Joining the FitBit club. I’ve been slaying my steps almost everyday and loving it. There’s something freeing in treating myself to 10 minutes to run stairs at my office, or going on a long, ambling walk after work. I secretly love the buzz that goes off when I hit my 10k steps.
  • Listening to audio books like it’s my job. Currently I’m listening to Amy Poehler read her book “Yes, Please,” and I have to say it’s quite hilarious. I’m glad I’m listening to it vs. reading it since I know some people did not like it as a book, but audio wise it’s awesome and addicting. I could listen to Amy read the Yellow Pages and it would likely be entertaining.
  • Stressing out about work. I know, a waste of time but such as it is. I take my work responsibilities seriously- the joys of working for a small, family business- but lately it’s been one problem after another and it’s just not fun. (Duh.)
  • Reading, reading and more reading. I’m not reading anything particular intellectual, smart or deep but I am reading things that I like, that take me away from the real world and that’s good enough for me.
  • Thinking that I want to write more; on my blog, in my journal. Maybe it’s all these memoirs I’ve been reading lately but I feel like writing and sharing more. I’m not a celebrity, I’m not exciting but I realize that writing runs in my genes and through my blood…. my mom was always scribbling and journaling and writing and I haven’t done a lick of it since the day she passed away. Maybe I’m getting closer to being ready and able to try it again.
  • Prepping for another summer of Stepmonstering– I mean, Bonus Momming. (After reading Stepmonster there will be some changes around here, though. Namely how I think/act/react. I’m kind of excited about it. The girls may not be.)
  • Going to STL Cardinal games. I think I’m bad luck though… we rarely win on the days I go.
  • Killing it with my workouts. I’m down nearly 13 pounds and 35 inches in the last nine months. I am amazed at how far I’ve come, my strength, my new muscle tone, when I can fit in smaller pants or clothes from last summer are too big.

Things I’m not doing…. 

  • Cleaning my house as much as I should
  • Coloring. I haven’t colored in at least a month; I need to bring that back into my evening/weekend routines.
  • Writing on my blog enough. Oops.
  • Posting to Instagram nearly as much as usual. My life is boring. You don’t want to see another picture of my dog, or me reading or the windows open in my house since we are having lovely spring weather. Or maybe you do. I don’t know.
  • Being inventive with my cooking. I’m bored with my macro-friendly meals and really just bored with cooking in general. Thank goodness grilling season is here and that Knight loves to grill.
  • Pretending like I care about basketball or hockey playoffs. I don’t. At all.
  • Reading books I own. I’m constantly checking books out via OverDrive or at the library.
  • Freaking out about this summer of parenting. It’s our fourth (fifth?) of this arrangement and I feel confident in our plans, goals, and how we run our parenting game (for the most part). However, I should add to the “things I am doing” list: dreading the pre-teen years that are just around the corner. I got a taste of it last year “I’m a pre, pre-teen, Nora,” (accompanied with an eye roll and exaggerated hand gestures) and in that moment I wanted to call Heaven and apologize to my mom and I certainly texted my dad and said “I’m sorry.”

So. That’s what I’ve been doing and not doing for the last few weeks. What is on your doing/not doing list?

Good Things Fri-Yay

Ever have a week where you feel like you’ve been shot out of a cannon? That was my week! Spending the first two days of the week on vacation (well one vacation day, one epic and long travel day), then back to work where everyone needed something, cramming in 4 workouts into three days and trying hard not to think about the laundry list of things that need be to done, including laundry… all this to say TGI-freakin’ F.

Good Things this week:

  • Realizing that nope, we have plenty of food in the house and that I do not need to go grocery shopping until the weekend
  • Managing to get in a really hard two-a-day workout to stay caught up, current and maintaining my 100% success rate of doing all prescribed workouts from my trainer
  • My allergies haven’t been as horrible since we got back from our vacation; famous last words probably but I’ll take it for now
  • Wearing jeans to work!
  • Meaningful conversation and text exchanges with several dear friends
  • Getting back to good, healthful food. Vacation is fun for trying new things, flavors and etc. but it’s also really lovely to be able to control 100% of my food preparation, where it comes from and etc.
  • Already talking to the hubs about our next getaway
  • Jack snuggles, cuddles and tail wags
  • A quiet weekend before the insanity that is next week

What’s good on your list for the week? Any exciting weekend plans? 

April Good Things Friday

Somehow it’s been over a week since I last posted. I have good reason, though!

Last weekend we did some volunteer work for a local Girl Scout event, had dinner with Knight’s in-town family, went to a Second City improv show, attended an STL Cardinal baseball game, I got my haircut after a long four months of not being able to get to the hair salon and of course there were several workouts mixed into that.

This week I was all set and ready to write, share some posts and then on Monday one of our long-time employees turned in his two- week notice throwing a bit of a wrench into my week. All that said, how about some good things on a Friday?

  • I’ve turned into a (mostly) morning workout person. I love having some “extra” time to myself in the evening. I have more energy to get through the day. I’m convinced that I look better as a result of front loading my day with a workout
  • On the few days I haven’t woken up early to workout, well, I needed the stress relief after work so it’s all coming together nicely
  • I’m three or four books ahead of my Goodreads challenge for the year
  • Non-fiction books don’t suck when they are on a topic of interest to me (stepmom life, dating & relationships in the digital age). I read two non-fiction books this month which is more than I read all of last year combined, probably
  • This article on BuzzFeed about Gilmore Girl set selfies. I mean, come on. Milo is just the cutest (shhh, don’t tell the hubs!)
  • The promise of a few unplanned weekends in the near future
  • Having an empty laundry basket; one of my favorite feelings in the world
  • Watching a movie that made me laugh and cry (5 Flights Up in case you were wondering. Morgan Freeman + Diane Keaton in the same movie AND as a couple? Total win.)

What’s on your Good Things Friday list? 

Things We’re Taught

Last week, within a span of two days, I found myself explaining to Knight two of the things I had said to him: 1. Don’t pass me on the stairs and 2. Please don’t open that umbrella in the house.

Both of these things were taught to me by my mom.  It was normal in our house to hear some little rules and superstitions tossed about, little nuggets of wisdom and it got me thinking about all the things my parents instilled in me as I was growing up…

  1. Don’t pass someone on the stairs, specifically don’t go upstairs when someone else is coming down, or vice versa. Bad luck, apparently.
  2. Don’t open umbrellas in the house, also bad luck.
  3. Avoid going to bed angry with your spouse/partner/family members. Mostly because tomorrow isn’t certain. While we may have agreed to let some things rest if we didn’t agree eye-to-eye with one another, we never were fuming or upset when we went to bed in my parents’ house.
  4. I don’t always love WHAT you do, but I always love YOU. Oh, how many times I heard this when I was growing up and being a challenging daughter & child. It helped me to understand the difference between my actions + who I am/was as a person at the time, that my parents always loved me, they just didn’t always love how I chose to behave. (And let me tell you, this has come in handy as a stepmom!)
  5. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. (Read: be nice, damnit!)
  6. You never know what goes on behind closed doors. (Read: don’t judge. You don’t know everyone’s story.)
  7. Tell the truth. It’s easier than keeping track of your lies.
  8. Animals can talk at midnight on Christmas Eve. I have no idea where or how this got started, but my parents had me and my brother convinced animals could talk at midnight on Christmas Eve; something to do with magic.
  9. Make no big decisions at night.
  10. Bad things happen after midnight (this was reason for my curfew in high school and when I first came home in the summers in between college semesters). Of course my parents were quite right about this one.
  11. If you spill salt, throw some over your left (I think?) shoulder for good luck.

There are lots of other things my parents instilled in me but these are some of my favorites.

What are some of your family superstitions/sayings/things your parents taught you that have stuck over the years? 

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The Liebster Award

Thank you, San for nominating me for the Liebster award.

The rules are pretty simple. You’ve probably seen blog awards go around on the internet – in one form or another. I love learning things about others + it’s fun when I have prompts from others to answer so here we go.

  1. Answer the questions that the blogger picked out for you, then come up with 11 questions that you like to have answered.
  2. Choose 2-11 people for the award and link to their blogs in your post.
  3. Go to their blog and tell them about the award nomination!
  4. No tag backs!

1. What is your favorite beauty product? The Arbonne Genius nightly resurfacing pads. I’ve been using them on a mostly nightly basis since the beginning of February and I love it. It definitely  has helped to lift my face, minimize wrinkles and since it’s vegan/not animal tested/all natural, it’s an added bonus.

2. If you could pick any place/city to move to for a year, where would you want to go? Domestically: Door County, WI. I realize I’d be in for some horrendous winter weather and conditions but there is something about that part of the US that fascinates me. I have visited twice, both with Knight, and I fall in love with it all over again each time.
Internationally: Anywhere in Italy. Though I’m afraid if I move there, I won’t come back.

3. What is the one thing you like best about your home?  It’s ours. The house we reside in is the first home that I bought, that I got to paint, decorate, envision changes and updates for, really put our touch on it. Everywhere else I had lived was a rental or belonged to someone else. This home, though, is mine/ours. We’ve put the hard work in (time + money), have been thoughtful with the updates, and genuinely love and enjoy our space. I have a very serene sense of home and house when I’m in my residence and I love that.

4. What are your favorite pair of shoes? My Reef flip-flops I bought in San Diego in 2014. They have arch support, have sparkly gold + silver straps which means they go with everything and they are supremely comfortable. I can’t wait until it is regularly flip-flop season once again.

5. What is your favorite travel destination? Any place with a beach. I’ve loved California, Mexico and Florida, North & South Carolina, St. Thomas and St. John’s. The moment I see a palm tree and hear the waves, I’m instantly relaxed.

6. If you could have one do-over, what would it be? Not listening to my mom when she was in the hospital. She told me to go home to my husband each evening and I listened because she was my mom but I so wish I had stayed over with her and my dad instead. What I wouldn’t do to have some of those extra moments back with her…

7. What is something you are currently struggling with? Stepmother everything. I recently read Stepmonster which was a very eye opening, much needed book for me to read, but it has me re-evaluating how I think/feel about my role, what I want to do going forward in terms of my involvement with my step kiddos and other things about the taboo behind being a stepmom.

8. Breakfast, lunch or dinner? Dinner because it means I’m home, the work day is over, I’m with my favorite people (Knight, Jack, and sometimes my dad).

9. Who is your celebrity girl crush?
Miranda Lambert. I love her fashion, her passion for animals, her go-get ’em attitude, how nothing seems to get her down and her overall behavior in the limelight.

10. Why did you start blogging? My mom, who was already blogging, encouraged me to start, actually. I was going through a really hard break-up in 2005, struggling with making friends, being heard/understood, not sure where to go or what to do (I was not quite 22!) with my life post-college, post-boyfriend, post-heartbreak, and so it began. I have had a few blog names and URLs but I’ve been here the longest (obviously, if you look at my archives). I have adjusted what I write, when I write and how I write over the years but I don’t think I can ever not be a blogger at this point. I’m thankful for the friendships, connections, insight, advice and support of this community always and forever.

11. Tell me about one of your plans for this summer. Pool Party over July Fourth weekend with friends and family. Lots of reading. Another no-spend challenge in August and probably more purging/decluttering. Quite a few things planned for the bonus kiddos, too.

Your turn! Here are the 11 questions I want you to answer and am hoping that Katelin and Becky will play along. Everyone else, play along in the comments or on your blog, your choice. 

  1. You can only read the same book over and over again for the rest of your life. What do you pick?
  2. Coffee or tea?
  3. Morning person or night owl?
  4. If you had a theme song that played every time you walked into a room, what would it be?
  5. What’s your favorite social media platform (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.?)
  6. Did you ever want to change your name growing up/as a kid?
  7. What are you most afraid of?
  8. Staples or paper clips?
  9. If you participate in the adult coloring book hobby, do you have a preference for markers, crayons, colored pencils, colored pens or something else?
  10. Which President would you most like to meet/have met?
  11. What is the worst movie that you’ve ever watched?

Entertaining Nora: Reads + Flicks

A look at what has been entertaining me lately on the page and screen…

On the screen over the last few months…

Most of these, I’ll let you guess which ones, have been watched solo, post-workout during my “me,” nights. 

Ricki and The Flash – I enjoy anything Meryl Streep. An interesting look at a woman who wanted to pursue her dream a bit more than she wanted to be a mother, she is faced with some troubles impacting her children, facing her ex-husband (and his gorgeous wife), a family wedding and other things. It’s not particularly funny, definitely more on the dramatic side, but a good movie with some great music.

The Intern– oh, how I loved this movie. I rarely buy movies anymore unless they are of the children/Disney DVD variety but this one is definitely going to be on my list when I see it on sale. Robert DeNiro is perfection, this may be my most favorite Anne Hathaway appearance yet and it was the perfect blend of comedy + slapstick + romance + introspection. Highly recommend.

Man Up – charming British independent romantic comedy with Lake Bell and Simon Pegg.  Short (90 minutes). A good example and look at how challenging being an adult can be, much less dealing with family and relationships and trying to stay true to yourself. This one was on Netflix streaming and is worth the watch.

The Night Before – yes, we watched a Christmas movie in March, what of it? This is the kind of movie where you feel bad for laughing because of how inappropriate it is, but it was surprisingly funny, a bit poignant and a great cast, too. (There are a few fun cameos in the movie as well!)

Ted 2– if The Night Before was inappropriate, this one was way worse but you guys, it was just what Knight and I needed to watch after a long week at work. I also have a massive crush on Mark Wahlberg and will watch just about anything he is in. If you’ve seen Ted you know how silly the premise is, but if you need a pointless, totally unrealistic movie to get lost in, this is one for you.

On the page…

Takedown Twenty & Notorious Nineteen (and ok, the 17th and 18th books too!) by Janet Evanovich. As my friend Katelin says, this is brain sorbet. I can’t get enough, lately. They are silly, laugh out loud most of the time but with a dash of romance (oh, Morelli and Ranger, how I love you both) and the right amount of suspense/mystery to keep you guessing.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by Ryan J. Stradal. This was recommended to me by Lisa and while I didn’t love it at first, by the end I was really glad that I read it. I enjoyed the unique set-up of the novel: each chapter focuses on a different character and person in the story of Eva’s life; it was fun to guess how each person knew Eva or where she would turn up and even more interesting to see how it would all end. Give it a try- I think you’d be pleasantly surprised!

Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan. I read the first book in this series last year and loved it. The sequel was just as good, if not better, than the first one. I can’t say much without ruining the first one (if you haven’t read it) so read the first, then read this one.

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella. I listened to this as an audiobook on my commute to work and on the plane to/from Minneapolis. I love that the narrator was British, and how fun this story was. A bit chick-lit, a bit self-discovery and a bit paranormal (ghosts, nothing else unusual) this book had me looking forward to getting stuck in traffic.

I’ve read 18 books towards my goal of 68, so right at 26% of the goal which isn’t too bad since we just finished the first quarter of the year. I need to ramp up my reading game a bit, but with some plane time coming up this month + a vacation, I’m hoping to get a few books ahead.

What’s next on your to be read pile? Any movies you can’t wait to rent from Netflix or RedBox? 

Currently: March

Reading: Summer at the Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan; I read the first one last year and loved it so was thrilled when it became available at my library.

Loving: Now that I’ve finally adjusted to daylight savings, the extra light we have each night. I feel as though I have more energy, love being able to be outside more and the fact that I know there’s at least two hours of sun left when I leave the office.

Thinking: About all the fun we have coming up: trivia night with friends, Second City Improv Show, volunteering at a local brewfest, a getaway that I’m taking with Knight!

Frustrated: With inefficient people.

Feeling: Burnt out. Work + our social life has been go-go-go lately. I don’t feel like I can relax much as there is always something to be done (house work, extra work,) and while I realize I’m my own worst enemy I’d be ok with a few days off with no technology, no responsibilities and no house to clean.

Anticipating: This summer. We are counting down the weeks until the kiddos come to town, we have signed up for all summer camps, sorted out our babysitter and our weekend plans. Surprise, surprise, it will be a busy one (again).

Watching:  Same stuff, different day. NCIS: LA; Fixer Upper (sad it’s over for a bit thought); Gilmore Girls on Netflix. One movie a week via Netflix DVD or instant streaming.

Sad: Last week I attended an event where the speaker was talking about abuse (domestic, child) and my  heart broke. I can’t fathom someone living in those conditions, a parent hurting their own child. Children and adults having to live in fear is all kinds of wrong.

Working: Hard at work, hard in the gym. Gotta stay after it!

Grateful: That things always work out. It doesn’t always seem like it at the time, but it will and it does.

Listening: To Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews on my commute to/from work. And when I’m at work, I’m listening to all sorts of random Spotify playlists.

Wishing: That corporations gave their employees a spring break week!

What are you listening to, watching & wishing? 

One Month Later: No Spend Check-in

It has been about a month since our original no-spend challenge ended. I’d love to say that this month was just as awesome but alas, no.

One of the tires on Knight’s vehicle had a slow leak and could it be patched? No. It was too close to the wall. Thanks to him having one of those man-fancy trucks, $250 gone in the first weekend of March.

Cut to two weeks ago and suddenly the grill, the faithful ten-year old grill that made the trek with us from the Great White North to the Lou, that made us countless burgers and chicken breasts, grilled corn and other delicious nourishment died. A new gas tank didn’t fix it, untweaking the line didn’t fix it and so… more money gone. Upside, I suppose, is that we have a shiny new grill and we had saved more money than usual in February so it didn’t feel as painful.

We also had to deal with taxes and paying our guy who helps us (oh, how I miss the days of the E-Z form!) and a few other unexpected + miscellaneous expenses. That’s life, though, right?

I am happy to say that we have cutback on our eating out; once per week if that. We have been sticking to the weekly meal plans I make, freezing leftovers (when appropriate), and intelligently picking when we want to go out and when we want to stay in. I consider it a triumph when we don’t eat out, now.

We had a few things that we knew we’d be spending money on: birthday presents for some of our friends babies; extra groceries/dinner supplies as we took dinner to a friend who recently had surgery.

I know it’s not realistic to spend money only on the mortgage  + bills + groceries + gas but I want it to be the norm more than it is not. For now, I’m setting small goals for myself – not spending any “extra” money one week a month and I’m already looking forward to later this summer when we do another no-spend challenge.


Review: North of Here

51GjB-WhfmL._SX331_BO1204203200_-200x300You know how some books make you have all the feels? Happy that you read but frustrated, a bit, at the story line (or characters)? Kind of a love/hate thing with the book? That’s how I felt about this one, North of Here by Laurel Saville. Not because she didn’t write a gorgeous novel, but because some of the characters made me feel, for lack of a better word, icky.

There are aspects of Miranda’s life, her grief, her looking for something to take the pain away that I could acutely relate to. I liked Dix, a lot.

Add in Darius, though, and the novel takes a dark turn. Changes the tone of the book, the plot, the characters and I must confess, I didn’t like Darius. I think that’s the point that Laurel Saville has for us though, that we shouldn’t like him. There will be people that pop into our lives that we don’t like, but are drawn to; that are bad for us but we hang around with them anyway. I’m not a fan of the commune-style living and I felt threatened by Darius even though I’m not in the book.

Throughout the book, though, Saville writes her characters with a sense of knowing, passion that left me thinking I really knew who Miranda, Dix, Darius (and Sally) were. Saville has a way with words and she’ll take you on a journey of suspense with a bit of romance, some unsettling moments and some truth-telling moments.

North of Here is one of more the unique books I’ve read in awhile, that’s for sure.

About North of Here by Laurel Saville: 

The sounds of unexpected tragedies—a roll of thunder, the crash of metal on metal—leave Miranda in shock amid the ruins of her broken family.

As she searches for new meaning in her life, Miranda finds quiet refuge with her family’s handyman, Dix, in his cabin in the dark forests of the Adirondack Mountains. Dix is kind, dependable, and good with an ax—the right man to help the sheltered Miranda heal—but ultimately, her sadness creates a void even he can’t fill.

When a man from her distant past turns up, the handsome idealist now known as Darius, he offers Miranda a chance to do meaningful work at The Source, a secluded property filled with his nature worshipers. Miranda feels this charismatic guru is the key to remaking her life, but her grief and desire for love also create an opportunity for his deception. And in her desperate quest to find herself after losing almost everything, Miranda and Dix could pay a higher price than they ever imagined.

Have you read a book that you have had a “love/hate” relationship with? If so, which one? 
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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of my review. All opinions are my own.