Monday, March 23, 2015

Tax Refund

When we got our tax refund last March, we put my portion toward our mortgage debt and my husband's portion toward our California vacation. Both money well spent. This year we're spending all of it (plus a little more) on new floors for our upstairs. 
In less trafficked places the carpet still looks decent. But the hallway and our bedroom look particularly worn - and of course the corners, which Monkey tore up her first two months here rather than one of the scratching posts. 

We really love the hardwood floors we have downstairs so that was our first thought for upstairs. It would be cheaper to replace the carpet (about half the price) but the tax refund made us more willing to pay the extra. Plus the hardwood should last much longer than carpet ever would and I think it's easier to keep clean (especially for our family members with allergies). 

The installation should be an interesting process with three cats in the mix! We're very excited for the end result though :)

What kind of floors do you have?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Reading Round Up: Jan & Feb

This is a long one. Thanks, winter!

Tons of good books on this list, though - I have end-of-year best book lists to thank for that. 


A Moment Comes - This book takes places during the partition of India in 1947, which I knew nothing about prior to reading. I really appreciated the book's messages about acceptance, tolerance, and patience. Definitely not your typical YA romance (I assumed it would be based on the description). 


Though just to be clear, I don't have any problems with typical YA romance. You'll find several further down this list ;)


Spousonomics - Looking at common marriage issues (like sharing chores) as an economist. Some parts were fascinating, others not so much.


About Alice - A husband's tribute to his late wife. I listened to this on audio based on Jessica's recommendation and ended up teary eyed in a grocery store parking lot finishing it. Super sweet.  


Open Road Summer - A throughly enjoyable YA romance. Of course it takes place during the summer while they're on the road for a concert series, so that was nice to imagine while it was snowing outside. 


One Plus One - By the author of Me Before You. I really liked this! A very different sort of love story involving a single mom, her children, and their dog on a road trip with a man she cleans for.


Big Little Lies - The best book I've read so far this year. The sarcasm and wit in this story made me laugh out loud MANY times (I need a Madeline in my life), and combined with the mystery of what actually happened at the fundraiser, made me never want to put this down. 


Along for the Ride - Another easy-breezy summer romance. Whose heart wouldn't melt for a teenage boy who can swaddle a baby?


The Right Word - This was out on display in my library because it won a lot of awards so I had to see what the hype was about. A cool book about Roget, the man who wrote Roget's Thesaurus. 


Beyond Magenta - A chronicle of several transgender teens and their growing up and/or coming-of-age process(es). Much of this was difficult for me to read. I think the reactions of other people to the teens in the book were the most shocking parts. And, it's real life - so things are not tied up in a neat bow at the end. 


Lola and the Boy Next Door - There's a special place in my heart for Lola since she and I share a love for tutus. This was a sequel where reading the first book first isn't strictly necessary and I think this one is a little better than the first. (The third book rocks too.)
Me, wearing a tutu last Halloween

Everything Leads to You - This one brought back a lot of wonderful memories from California last summer. It's an awesome slow-building romance and a little bit of mystery too.

Fully Fertile - I could probably write an entire post just on this book and the impact it had on my life. It was so refreshing and comforting to read a book from someone (several someones, actually) who struggled with infertility. At certain points it was like they were reading my mind because I could relate completely to what they felt and experienced. 


The Girl on the Train - I am one of those weirdos who imagines the lives of strangers that I see out and about. So a book about a woman who creates personas for people living by the train tracks and gets involved in a police investigation based off of what she notices out the train window seemed right up my alley. Lots of awful characters in this one, which drove me crazy. But I think a lot of people enjoyed this book because of the twist - and I figured it out way early so it was just an okay read.


Donner Dinner Party - A graphic novel about the Donner Party (they tried to take a shortcut while traveling west across the US and it didn't end well). Boys who hate reading but love gruesome history would probably love this. 


The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend - Another children's book that I was duped into reading because of my library's display cases! It's a sweet story about an imaginary friend who just can't wait for his turn to be picked by a child.

The World According to Humphrey - If you've ever wanted to read a hamster's diary, here's your chance!


Yes Please - I just love Amy! Let me tell you why. 1. Amy used to be a waitress and mentioned that one of the benefits was leaving work at work - until you wake up in the middle of the night and remember you forgot to give table 7 ranch dressing. This happened to me (more than once, ha!) but my waitress friends thought I was the oddest thing when I told these kinds of stories. It's always nice to find out you're not the only one! 2. I adore her mantra - "Good for her, not for me." 3. Parks & Recreation


Whew!

Read any good books lately?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas

When it's chilly, I crave warm, cheesy dishes. And last week was particularly cold so I made some enchiladas to satisfy my desire for warmth and cheese. They hit the spot. 
1° F = -17° C
Usually enchiladas are tortillas filled, rolled up, covered in sauce, and baked. But after reading Bread & Wine last summer, I make mine in layers like lasagna because it's quicker.

It allows you to be creative with "fillings" too . . liked sliced potatoes. 
Sidenote: I borrowed my parents' simple slicer for this job. I would definitely lose a finger doing it the old fashioned way!

Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

• 16 ounce can of enchilada sauce

• 1/2 cup vegetable broth
• 1 
can black beans 
• 2 potatoes, sliced thin

• 6 tortillas
• 1/2 medium onion, diced
• 1 - 2 cups 
Monterey Jack or pepper jack cheese, shredded 

Optional (I've tried all of these and they're delicious - just don't use more than 2 of them at the same time. You'll run out of space!)
• 1/2 cup leftover cooked rice
• 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
• 1/2 cup corn
• 1/2 cup diced peppers

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover the bottom of an 8x8 casserole dish with a thin layer of enchilada sauce. Add a single layer of potatoes, followed by 1/3 of the black beans, onion, cheese, and any of the optional items. Cover with a tortilla. Smooth on a spoonful of enchilada sauce. Repeat with another tortilla and spoonful of sauce. Repeat all layers twice more. If you run out of enchilada sauce (depends on what type of tortilla you use), use vegetable broth. Top with any remaining cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the cheese bubbles. Remove from oven. Top with cilantro or sour cream if desired. Enjoy!


Mr. G and I usually cut it into 6 slices and pair with a giant salad :) 

This can easily be doubled, just use a larger dish and make two stacks of tortillas. When I cook this for company, I'll make one with shredded chicken or ground beef for the meat eaters and the potato one for myself. And if you can't find canned sauce, I found this enchilada sauce recipe from Damn Delicious that I'd like to try next time.

Do you crave certain foods when it's cold? I'm also partial to soup when the temperature drops.

Monday, February 16, 2015

New Sneakers

I tried on my first pair of Clarks about eight years ago and fell in love immediately. The fit and comfort can't be beat! Since then I've gone through three identical pairs of sneakers (most recent pair is on the left) and a couple pairs of dress shoes. But my current pair of sneakers had certainly seen better days so I trekked to the mall for a new pair. And was bluntly informed by the salesperson that style had been discontinued two years ago! Oh, the horror. 

So began my quest for a suitable replacement. But hunting down a pair of black, slip-on sneakers was harder than I thought. The last place I tried was Nordstorm and of course, there they were! Not exactly the same look, but close enough, and more importantly, super comfy.

Why am I worrying about sneakers in February? Because I'm not a huge fan of boots. I mean, I'll wear them when it's necessary (outdoors in the winter) but you won't catch me wearing boots for fun or style. And if I have to wear boots, I'll pack another pair of shoes to change into once I'm inside. Or even better, if I'm visiting friends or family - score! - then once indoors, I swap out boots for slippers :)

Here's hoping my new shoes take good care of my feet for the next couple years!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Happy Groundhog Day

Yay Groundhog Day!


Groundhog Day isn't a holiday with a festive greeting like Christmas, or even a special food. It's just an excuse to discuss the weather and hope for an early spring. But it was always at least a guarantee of a coloring page or arts and crafts project at school and that makes it a good day in my book. (Maybe one day Mr. G and I will go see the official groundhog in Punxsutawney.)

Today I'm at work as usual but dreaming of spring, and even better, summer! Yesterday I bought a new pair of swimsuit bottoms from Hurley, a company that was everywhere in California last year. And one step further, Mr. G and I are going to start planning our annual June anniversary trip. We're considering lots of places, but leaning toward the Caribbean or maybe Colorado?

How's your Monday going?
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