24 Things Being 24 Taught Me

24 Things Being 24 Taught Me

Hello Everyone!  Tomorrow is my birthday and I plan on celebrating by going to the DMV, woohoo!  But in all seriousness I am excited about the birthday not the DMV though.

24 was a big year for me, so I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned with you all.

 

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  1. It’s okay to reboot, you’re still young.  This year I quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom until my daughter finished nursing.  Now that she’s finished, I’ve decided to go back to school and get my Masters in teaching.  My husband and I prayed about it and decided it was the right thing fir us to do.
  2. Take care of yourself.  I want to be able to run around and play in the front yard with my daughter when she’s a bit older, and to do that, I need to get into shape.  I’ve already lost the baby weight, which wasn’t much since I was so sick, and now I’m working on that extra bit that was already there.  I’m also taking care of myself mentally reading more and separating myself from negativity.  (The way I’ve done that is outlined here in my new morning routine.)
  3. Nursing is hard, but totally worth it.  I nursed Elizabeth until the end of her 11th month. It was an amazing experience that definitely led to a deep bond between us.  I’m not going to lie, it was challenging, some days it even sucked.  But once we got into a groove, it was an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
  4. Healthy food can be yummy.  I’ve been trying to eat healthier since deciding to take better care of myself.  One day, after I made a Turkey, spinach, Sweet Potato Skillet, my husband turned to me and said something along the lines of, “you don’t have to sacrifice taste for health.”  Granted, the only reason he said this was because he doesn’t like spinach… or sweet potato… or ground turkey.  Since then my healthy recipes have been tastier.  I think his favorite so far is my Ranch Burgers, or maybe the Stuffed Pepper Casserole, both of which are super yummy and under 400 calories a serving.
  5. Loose-leaf tea is soooo good.  If you’re into tea, you should totally try out loose-leaf tea.  I originally picked some up two years ago from Teavana when we went to Little Rock on a family trip, but my zeal for it didn’t last long.  I’ve recently picked it back up when I found some yummy loose leaf at my local Kroger.  I drink more tea than coffee now.
  6. Self help / advice books are not for me.  I’ve tried two different books like these this year, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and This is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick.  These were both good books with good points that I was very interested in, but I just couldn’t push myself to finish them.
  7. Trying new food is fun!  Cody and I tried Indian food for the first time when we were in Dallas in April.  SO. GOOD.  Chicken Tikki Masala with naan is one of our favorite things to eat now.  We haven’t tried any local Indian places yet, but it’s on our list of date night meals.
  8. Live theatre is something everyone should try.  Eh, let me rephrase.  Good theatre is something everyone should try.  My sister goes to an artsy school, and I went to their production of Once Upon a Mattress with my mom.  It was really good.  The next time my husband and I take a trip, we’re going to try to see something together.
  9. Audiobooks are the bomb.  My husband and I started using Amazon’s Audible this year for audiobooks (not sponsored).  He listens to them as he works, and I listen while walking the neighborhood or driving someplace.  This year we listened to, the last four Harry Potter books, Girl on the Train, and the two books in the King Killer Chronicles.  I thought it would be difficult to follow along with something that I hadn’t read before, but it wasn’t.  A word of caution:  the narrator must be easy to listen to or you will not enjoy it.
  10. Relationships take work.  Ding, ding, ding!  This is an obvious one, I know, but it’s something that I’ve dealt with this year.  One thing that I pride myself on is our communication, but this year, with his new work schedule and the demands of the new baby, we’ve been a little out of sync.  So we started a new routine that has really helped us connect on days that we’re in a funk.  Each night we take turns telling each other one (different) thing we love about each other, then our favorite part of the day.
  11. It is important to have one nice outfit that fits properly.  By nice, I mean nice nice.  This is the time that most of your friends will be getting married or celebrating big accomplishments that will require a nice outfit.  Something classy.  If you don’t know where to look, try here.  I’ve have a few dresses from here, and they are super classy and excellent quality.
  12. True, die-hard friends are hard to come by; once you find one, don’t let them go.  When you are no longer forced to interact with the same people every day, like in school, you have to work harder to keep friendships alive.  Like I said, relationships take work.  When you do find “your person,” put the work in.  You need someone you can go to and spend time with.  Even if you don’t physically see each other every day, don’t let the life get in the way of your friendship.

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  13. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL… RSVP!!  You’re an adult now, so be responsible.  If someone invites you to something and asks for an RSVP, do it.  Food prep, room, seating, it’s important to know how many people are going to be there.  Don’t be the guy who shows up unexpected, and don’t be the guy that the host is waiting on because you didn’t let them know you weren’t coming.  Also, RVSP at least two weeks before the actual event.  I threw a party this year that half of the guest list did not let me know that they were not coming.  I had cake and goodies left over for days.

  14. Don’t compare yourself to other around you.  We’re young, and most people in we crew are young too.  Don’t compare yourself to someone who you think has it all together because looks can be deceiving.  Everyone takes their own path to success and sometimes your select the scenic route that takes an extra twenty minutes.
  15. Start thinking quality over quantity.  This can apply to all aspects of your life, but here I’m talking about clothes again.  I love cheap Rue 21 clothes as much as the next girl, but you get what you pay for.  Wash it three times, and it disintegrates.  I’ve had to throw out so much this year because the quality just wasn’t there.  Invest in something that will hold up and makes you look like a million bucks (but it doesn’t have to cost quite that much).
  16. Being awesome is a choice.  Being “awesome,” confident, or even social is a decision.  Force positivity, tell yourself that you are great and you’ll eventually believe it.  Personal pep talks can be a life line when you’re exhausted and elbow deep in a poopy diaper, believe me.
  17. If you are unhappy or dislike something, change it now.  You’re an adult, but you’re still young.  If your unsatisfied with something, your body, your job, your relationships, now is the time to change it.  This has basically been my mantra this year.  I’ve switched careers and am working out more.
  18. There is no age limit for YA fiction.  I love young adult fiction.  They say that it’s for ages 16 to 25, but I don’t care.  I love YA fiction and probably always will, so I’m going to keep reading it.
  19. Adult coloring books are the bomb.  I recently bought myself a coloring book.  I’ve wanted to try it for a while but kept putting them down because I thought I didn’t have the time, or I wasn’t even sure if I liked to color.  Turns out I love it, and it’s pretty easy to find some time to squeeze it in my day.
  20. Buying baby clothes is addictive.  Seriously.  I think my new favorite store is Carters.  Everything is so cute and miniature!  I absolutely love it!  The dresses, shoes, headbands, all of it.  Even the little onesies.  Love it.
  21. You don’t have too many books, you have too few bookshelves.  Enough said.
  22. You can live with less.  Except books obviously.  Most people, myself included, have too much stuff.  Useless stuff that we can’t even remember why we bought it.  I ave thrown out or given away so much stuff this year!  It wasn’t “junk”  it was useful stuff that I just didn’t need or have the room for.
  23. Helping people is so good for you.  Giving gifts, time, whatever you can to those in need it is an amazing feeling.  People aren’t kidding when they say it’s better to give than to receive.  The feeling that you get from watching someone get something they truly want or need, it’s amazing.  We’ve went out of our way a few times this year to help others, and it was so fulfilling.
  24. It’s good to know how to make at least one impressive meal.  Everyone likes to impress people, that’s a given.  One of the most satisfying ways to impress someone is by cooking an amazing meal.  Then you’ll be known as that girl/boy who can cook that amazing ______.  Any time there is a pot luck, everyone is super excited to see what I’ve brought because I’ve mastered a few things. The older you get, the more likely it is you’re going to have to bring some food to something, so nail whatever that something is.

Goodbye 24, hello 25.  I’m excited to see what you have in store for me!

Thank you for reading my longest post so far.  Did you learn anything this year?  Share it in the comments below, and Merry Christmas!

One to Rule Them All: A Three Dark Crowns Review

One to Rule Them All: A Three Dark Crowns Review

Three Dark Queens by Kendare Blake is a young adult fantasy novel that I recently finished.  I decided to pick this one up because it was being promoted on Goodreads and looked like something I would like.  I was not disappointed.

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Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is the story of three sisters, triplets, who are separated at the age of six and raised by three different families on an island.  One of them will become the ruling queen of Fennbirn when they turn sixteen, and to do that, she must kill her sisters.

The three sisters are Katharine, Arsine and Mirabella.  Katharine is a poisoner.  She is supposed to be able to consume potions without any adverse side effects.  The past two queens have been poisoners, and they are not willing to give up control of the crown.  The problem is, Katharine’s gift is weak.  They have been poisoning her over and over again to try to build up her immunity.  It is not working.  Arsinoe is a naturalist.  They are able to control nature and animals and have an animal familiar. However, Arsinoe’s gift is also week, and she has not been able to do any of these things.  Mirabella is an elemental, which means she has power over the elements.  She is extremely gifted in each element, with a little trouble from water.  She is favored to win, but she is haunted by memories of her sisters and is unsure if she will be able to kill them when the time comes.

The book is written in third person and switches between the three sisters.  This means that you form attachments to each sister knowing that only one of them will survive.  I honestly don’t know which sister I am rooting for at this point.  There is something likable in all three sisters.

My absolute favorite part of this book was the ending.  If you’re reading it, and it seems to be going slow, just wait until the Quickening.  I pays off.  This is when you really get to the battle ready sisters that you expect to find when reading the summary.  And that ending…there are so many ways Blake can go with that.  I’m super excited to see what is done.

Breakdown:

  • Love Factor:  There were several couples in this story.  Each Queen has a love interest, and they range from believable to not so much.  I’m only going to name the queen in each paring so spoilers are avoided.  My favorite paring was Katharine.  She spends the most time with her beau, so they are a believable and cute match.  I could actually picture them together.  They fit.  Next was Arsenio.  Her love interest is more believable to me because it reminds me of all those stories of people who have started out as friends and bloom into something more unexpectedly.  However, this is obviously accelerated for the time span of the story.  They are a surprising match.  Then there is Mirabella’s match.  I’m 90% sure that her match isn’t a “natural” one because it makes absolutely no sense.  I do not like them together at all; it doesn’t make any since.  Honestly, I don’t think it is supposed to though.  I suspect there is nefarious reason behind that paring.
  • World building: I am not entirely satisfied with the world building here, but I understand that there is a time constraint when setting up a story.  (However, I’m inclined to be less lenient when this is the first book of a series because you can take more time to set that world up.)  The story takes place on the island of Fennbirn which is in service to a goddess.  That’s cool, and I can get behind that.  Then there is a “mainland” that suitors come from to court the queen and become her king consort.  These people are your normal, humdrum, peoples.  If this mainland takes a turn like Divergent’s “outside” did I will be so mad.  I think that’s the biggest problem I have with the world.  I’m so worried the mainland will be some modern-day wasteland, and I will be SO disappointed.
  • Series Starter:  This totally works as a series starter because I have to know what happens next.  The book ends with a big cliff hanger / twist that definitely leaves you hungry for more.  Also, there is no actual battle royale in this book that has to happen, and I really want to see that.
  • BFF:  Something I really liked was the way the sisters are portrayed as real people, not just blood thirsty machines who were raised to kill.  Mirabella and Arsinoe both majorly value friendship.  If either one of these girls thought you their friend, it would mean something.  They would be there for you even though they are going through a life threatening situation.

I give this book four stars because I am so excited to see what happens next.  I wouldn’t purchase it because I don’t think I would reread it, but once the tension started to build when the actual competition starts, it was impossible to put down.  And that last sentence!!  I reread the last page twice it just blew me away.  I love that the “shocker” made total sense.  It wasn’t something that the author was pulling to throw you for a loop and hook you for the next book.  There was foreshadowing that I didn’t even notice until I read that last line.  Then it all made since.  I’m totally looking forward to One Dark Throne.

Has anyone else read this yet?  What did you think?  Have you read anything similar that you enjoyed?  Leave it in the comments!  I’m always looking for recommendations.

If you liked this review, check out three of my other popular reviews for Red QueenCrossed Rosesand The Glittering Court.

How I Cut My Grocery Bill in Half!

How I Cut My Grocery Bill in Half!

Hey y’all!  There is no secret button or magic inexpensive recipe that will dramatically cut your grocery bill in half.  I know right?  That’s exactly what I was looking for when I first started looking for a  way to save money at the grocery store.  Then, I thought that I could do some crazy couponing, like on those TV shows and save a ton of money, but that didn’t pan out either.  Well, okay, I do coupon now, which does save quite a bit, but not in the way I thought it would.  What really helped me save money was planning.

I know, I know, that is probably not what you were looking for with a title like “How I Cut My Weekly Grocery Bill in Half,” but stick with me, I promise that this will pay out!  The best way to save money at the grocery store is to pay attention to what you are doing, and have a solid plan when going to the store!

(I would like to add up front that all stores, products, and aids that are mentioned in this post are all things that I use and love.  They are NOT sponsored.)

img_4562Way I used to shop:  I have always been a meal planner.  (I can’t understand going to the store without a list of what I’m going to be cooking, and what I’m going to need for the entire week.)  So I would sit down and decide what I was going to cook that week and add all the ingredients to my grocery list.  Then, while shopping, I would pick up a few non-list items like snacks.

PLAN PLAN PLAN!  Tuesday is junk mail day for the Cantrell household, meaning, we get all the weekly circulars.  Honestly, most of those circulars get chunked, except the one for my favorite grocery store, Kroger.  I’m not kidding when I say I look forward to this circular all week.  I plan my weekly menu (five or six meals for a week) by using what is on sale.

digital-vs-analog-free-license-cc0Compose list.  Never go to the store without a list of items you need and stick to the list!  I mean it; stick to the list.  When you start picking up stuff that just catches your eye or sounds yummy when you are there, you are getting too much.  You have a list of everything you need, so additional items are waste.  They will either get thrown away or replace something from your plan, and that original meal/item will be thrown away.  DO NOT buy things that are not on the list!  (If you have a hard time with this one, I suggest you turn to the buddy system.  Bring someone with you and have them help you stop the impulse buys.)  You can either use a list on your phone or an old fashion paper list.  I use the app IntelliList.  logo_300x120You can get a limited version free in the app store.  This is my favorite list because you can store the cost of items at different stores in the app.  This has helped me a ton!  Now, when the circulars say something is on sale, I can check my app and see if the sale is actually worth it.

Divide up expensive items you use frequently between trips.  Yes, I know that these are not “grocery” items, but they are items I get when I go to the grocery store.  I have both fur babies and an actual baby, so I buy lots of dog food and diapers.  Those of you who are parents know that those can be REALLY expensive.  To keep my trip totals more consistent one week I buy a 20lb bag of dog food, and the next week I buy an 88 count box of diapers.

Use digital and print coupons.  I love being able to load coupons onto my Kroger card is AMAZING, and if there isn’t a coupon on Kroger’s website, I’ll check coupons {dot} com to see if they have anything.  Couponing can be tricky thought.  The most important thing about it is do not, I repeat DO NOT look up coupons before you make out your meal plan and grocery list!  This will lead to you spending way more money, and defeats the purpose of using the coupons in the first place.  This was the mistake I made the first time I started couponing.  I would see a coupon for a name brand detergent and get excited (hey look, $1.50 off!) and would add that detergent to my list, even though I did not need any and usually bought a brand that was cheaper.  See?  (A lot of people I know prefer Wal-Mart to Kroger when it comes to grocery shopping because of Wal-Mart’s new Savings Catcher.  This is a super helpful tool if you are a brand loyal person.  However, I love using store brands, so this doesn’t save me a ton of money.)

Use a rebate system.  ibottaapp-primary-logoThere are tons of apps now that “pay you to shop.”  I currently use Ibotta and have made $35 dollars just buying what I would have bought in the first place.  Ibotta is an app that gives you a small amount of cash back for select purchases and once you reach a certain amount, you can cash out through Paypal or gift cards.  (If you’re interested in this, you can sign up here and receive a $10 after your first rebate.)  However, the warning that I gave for couponing goes double for this.  Do not buy something just because you can get a large rebate on it.  It totally defeats the purpose of the program.

Extra Tips:

  • Just because something is on sale / has a coupon doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.  Do not buy something simply because it is on sale.  Have a clear plan / purpose for each thing you buy.  Even if it is a pantry item or common staple, don’t pick it up unless you know you will be using it within the next four weeks.  If you aren’t, odds are it will go on sale again by the time you need more, and you can get it then.
  • Sometimes, store brand is just as good as name brand.  I know you probably hear this a lot when the topic of saving money comes up, but it’s true.  There are certain things that we prefer name brand, like our coffee creamer, but other things, like pasta, lunch meat, or bread, I use store brand.  The best way to figure out if you like store brand is trial and error.
  • One trip a week.  If you are going to the grocery store more than once a week, you have messed up step one.  If you have a concrete plan of what you are buying and eating that week, you only need to go one.  Multiple trips to the store increases the likelihood of impulse buys and is a total gas waster.

Doing these few things really did cut my bill in half!  My family of two (and a half) used to spend around $160 a week at the grocery store, and now we only spend $60 – $80!  What about you?  Do you have any tips for saving money at the store?  Leave it in the comments!

 

Other posts in my “How To” series that might interest you:

How to Have an Easier and Happier Morning!

March Reading Recap

March Reading Recap

Hello lovelies.  I cannot believe March is already over!  This year has been flying by.  We’ve got something planned every weekend in April, so it looks like it will continue to fly.  It should slow down in July.  If I’m lucky.

This month was a slow reading month for me because I started a few books that I’m not going to finish.  Two of those being Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and Shakespeare Saved My Life: ten years in solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates.  Unlike most books that I quit reading, I didn’t stop reading them because they were bad.  They are both great books.  I quit reading Their Eyes were Watching God because it is tedious to read due to the dialogue that is written in a poor southern dialect which almost takes reading aloud to understand at times.  Once I would start reading it, I loved the story, but I had to force myself to start it every time.  Finally I just moved on to something that I wanted to read.  I quit reading Shakespeare Saved My Life because my library no longer carries the ebook, which is where I was borrowing it from.  It’s a great book, and I’d love to see what happens.  I just don’t want to buy it.  Maybe they have a physical copy I can borrow.  Another book that I started, Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas, goes on the not finished list.  I read the first two in the series back to back so I burned myself out a little bit.  I’ll come back to this one when the fourth, and final, book comes out later this year.

Here are the books that I actually finished this March:

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  1. Crossed Roses by Breeana Buttroff – 5 (billion) Stars
    I loved loved loved this book.  It is the latest book in the Dusk Gate Chronicles, and is a retelling of the first book through a different character’s point of view.  I’ve posted my thoughts on this one earlier this week here.  If you’re a fan, it’s amazing and you need to check it out.
  2. The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks – 5 Stars
    After seeing the trailer for the movie adaptation of this book I had to read it.  The two love stories intertwined in a slightly expected way and almost every chapter from Ira put me in tears (I’m an easy crier by the way). This is the third Nicholas Sparks book I’ve read and it’s definitely my favorite so far.  I’m starting another one this April.
  3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling – 5 Stars
    I have been reading a lot of autobiographies lately so I decided to pick this one up.  I’ve loved Mindy in The Office and The Mindy Project so I thought I would like her book too.  I was totally right.  Her writing style is awesome.  She puts all of her stories in little bite size pieces so it’s easy to pick up and then put down (which is why it took me months to finish this one).  This makes it a great night time read.  Mindy is totally relatable and her stories are hilarious, so I really enjoyed it.  I’d love to hear the audiobook narrated by her.  I bet it’s even funnier.

A side note – I’m not the type of person who gives every book 5 stars.  I promise.  These books were just really good.  And another one I’m reading now has already made me laugh out loud in the first few chapters so it will probably get 5 stars as well.  I just wanted to let you all know, I’m not like Paula Abdul was in American Idol, I don’t give every okay book a golden ticket.  You can trust my 5 star rating.

I hope you all have had a great March.  Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  What have you read this March?  Share it in the comments below: I’m always looking for something else to read.

Crossed Roses Review

Crossed Roses Review

“She doesn’t have a crush on me.  She almost ran me over with her car!”

“Isn’t that what girls do when they have crushes on boys?” – Breeana Puttroff Crossed Roses

To say I loved this book would be an understatement.  I have been anxiously awaiting this book’s release this morning.  But I didn’t have to hold out that long.  Breeana Puttroff was offering a few free copies for reviews, so I snagged one! (The squeals of joy upon receiving this might have scared my Husband a little.)

Isn’t it beautiful!

For those of you who don’t know what The Dusk Gate Chronicles are (educate yourself!), they are a collection of now seven books and a novella surrounding a girl named Quinn Robbins who becomes fascinated by an enigmatic boy from school after almost plowing him down with her car.  Bent on discovering what is going on with him, she inadvertently follows him into another world.  The series is fabulous, and this newest addition didn’t disapoint.  My only complaint is that it was too short! (Kidding, it was perfect).

Crossed Roses is a retelling of the first Dusk Gate Chronicle book Seeds of Discovery that started as a project on the author’s blog.  The first two chapters can be found there.  In Crossed Roses, we see the original story  from mainly William’s point of view with little tidbits from Nathaniel, Thomas, and Linnea as well.  So if you loved the first book, you will definitely love this one.  A few scenes are brushed over, like the Naming Ceremony where Quinn meets Alvin, but as a reader, you don’t really mind because you have already seen that.  This book offers behind the scene glances at the other characters, one of my favorites was Nathaniel’s thoughts on Toliver’s attack on Quinn.  It is also awesome to see Williams feelings for Quinn developing even before she finds her way to Deusterros.  The scene where he is eavesdropping on Zander’s conversation with his friend about asking Quinn out.

This book was fabulous.  I wish it would have went a little deeper into was William making the wooden carving of Dusk for Annie.  I would have loved to see what he was thinking while he was carving it.  I’m pretty sure he gave it to her in the second book, so it makes sense that it wasn’t added into Crossed Roses, but I noticed it was hinted at twice.

Something else I might add…. After reading this book I would suggest rearranging the order of the books to look like this:

Seeds of Discovery

Roots of Insight

Thorns of Decision

Blooms of Consequence

Crossed Roses* (I’d put it here instead of at the end)

A Christmas Rose

Canes of Divergence

Leaves of Revolution

Also, for those of you who purchase the ebook, there is a section at the end where you can enter in your email to start receiving her newsletter with an exciting Dusk Gate Chronicles announcement.  (I’m not sure if I’m allowed to reveal it on here, so I wont.  Just sign up for the news letter.)  And buy the book!  It is only available on ebook right now, but she said that it will be coming out in paperback, like the first four of the series.

She has also written an unrelated, standalone book called Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter which is also great!

Have you read anything by Breeana Puttroff?  If so, leave your opinion in the comments.  If not, her first book Seeds of Discovery is free on most platforms (I believe), so what are you waiting for?