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Weekly Book Club {9.12.18}

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Man, I’m on a roll with these library picks! I’ve found so many new authors and new books this year all out of a desire to not spend so much money on books. I probably would never have paid for some of these books because they’re mostly in the $10-15 range and I’m on a budget. But having them available from the library has been awesome for me. 

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The Life Lucy Knew by Karma Brown One woman is about to discover everything she believes-knows-to be true about her life…isn’t. After hitting her head, Lucy Sparks awakens in the hospital to a shocking revelation: the man she’s known and loved for years-the man she recently married-is not actually her husband. In fact, they haven’t even spoken since their breakup four years earlier. The happily-ever-after she remembers in vivid detail-right down to the dress she wore to their wedding-is only one example of what her doctors call a false memory: recollections Lucy’s mind made up to fill in the blanks from the coma. Her psychologist explains the condition as honest lying, because while Lucy’s memories are false, they still feel incredibly real. Now she has no idea which memories she can trust-a devastating experience not only for Lucy, but also for her family, friends and especially her devoted boyfriend, Matt, whom Lucy remembers merely as a work colleague. When the life Lucy believes she had slams against the reality she’s been living for the past four years, she must make a difficult choice about which life she wants to lead, and who she really is.

My Rating: 4 Stars

This book. I spent most of it unsure how to feel about the situation. On one hand I felt bad for Lucy but on the other hand I felt really really bad for her boyfriend, Matt. By the end of the book I identified more with Matt and though Lucy was pretty unlikable. But I was invested and I needed to see the end to know how it worked out. Anytime a book has me that invested I know it was a good read, even if I didn’t love the main character!

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The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir– Esther Ann Hicks–Essie–is the youngest child on Six for Hicks,a reality television phenomenon. She’s grown up in the spotlight, both idolized and despised for her family’s fire-and-brimstone brand of faith. When Essie’s mother, Celia, discovers that Essie is pregnant, she arranges an emergency meeting with the show’s producers: Do they sneak Essie out of the country for an abortion? Do they pass the child off as Celia’s? Or do they try to arrange a marriage–and a ratings-blockbuster wedding? Meanwhile, Essie is quietly pairing herself up with Roarke Richards, a senior at her school with a secret of his own to protect. As the newly formed couple attempt to sell their fabricated love story to the media–through exclusive interviews with an infamously conservative reporter named Liberty Bell–Essie finds she has questions of her own: What was the real reason for her older sister leaving home? Who can she trust with the truth about her family? And how much is she willing to sacrifice to win her own freedom?

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Wow. This book. Y’all. It was raw, it was gritty, it was uncomfortable to read at times. And I loved it! I’m not going to spoil the story for you but oh my gosh, it’s so good! I’ll confess I had the story wrong in the beginning. I thought I knew the who, what and why but I was so wrong. This book gripped me from page 1 and I had to finish it! Definitely recommend!

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Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis– Six months after Lanie Jacobs’ husband’s death, it’s hard to imagine anything could deepen her sense of pain and loss. But then Lanie discovers she isn’t the only one grieving his sudden passing. A serial adulterer, he left behind several other women who, like Lanie, each believe she was his legally wedded wife. Rocked by the infidelity, Lanie is left to grapple with searing questions. How could she be so wrong about a man she thought she knew better than anyone? Will she ever be able to trust another person?  Can she even trust herself? Desperate to make a fresh start, Lanie impulsively takes a job at the family-run Capriotti Winery. At first, she feels like an outsider among the boisterous Capriottis. With no real family of her own, she’s bewildered by how quickly they all take her under their wing and make her feel like she belongs. Especially Mark Capriotti, a gruffly handsome Air Force veteran turned deputy sheriff who manages to wind his way into Lanie’s cold, broken heart—along with the rest of the clan. Everything is finally going well for her, but the arrival of River Brown changes all that. The fresh-faced twenty-one-year old seems as sweet as they come…until her dark secrets come to light—secrets that could destroy the new life Lanie’s only just begun to build.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Jill Shalvis is one of my favorites. I enjoy pretty much everything she writes. This book was amazing. It gave me all the feels and I could actually envision the scenes as I was reading them. I love when that happens! Lanie was an amazing main character and I really loved her spunk and determination. The Capriottis were the family we all wish we had- close, loud, and a bit crazy. I think I enjoyed the book so much because I could visualize them as my family in another decade or so. Definitely highly recommend this one. 

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Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris– Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story. Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her. Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed probably 75% of it and then bam- the ending ruined it for me. I will say that I had absolutely no clue where the book was going to take me. I had no idea the who, what, or why until the very end. So on one hand, it definitely kept me in suspense. But honestly the ending felt like a cop out instead of a big reveal. I ended the book feeling more frustrated than satisfied. 

 



Amazing Instant Pot Honey Sesame Chicken

This is hands down one of our most favorite meals I’ve made with the Instant Pot. Every single person in my house ate it and several who shall remain nameless actually licked their plates clean. It’s that good!

Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts, cut into pieces
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 water
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp minced garlic
3 tsp cornstarch

Directions:
1. Place chicken in bottom of instant pot.
2. In small bowl, combine honey, ketchup, soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic.
3. Pour over chicken.
4. Add water and stir to combine.
5. Seal lid and set to manual high pressure for 6 minutes.
6. When done use quick release.
7. Dissolve cornstarch in 1/3 cup of liquid from Instant Pot and pour back in, stirring on saute function for 5 minutes.
8. Serve with broccoli and rice.

Oh my gosh, y’all. This is sooooo good! It’s got amazing flavor and the chicken came out so tender and juicy. I’ve added it to our regular meal rotation because the kids love it so much!



Weekly Family Highlights {9.10.18}

We had a really fun and busy week last week! Zoey celebrated her 8th birthday and Camden celebrated his 16th birthday. Zoey pretty much got a whole week birthday celebration because we had a family party on Labor Day, her school party on Friday, and then a Carowinds trip on Saturday. She’s basically living her best life right now. 

1. Maia and one of her besties had a sleepover last Sunday night since there was no school on Monday. And what sleepover would be complete without QT slushies and scary movies? 

2. My family showed up Monday afternoon to help us celebrate birthdays! We ate pizza and cake and everyone had a blast. We even got a new family picture!

3. Tyler woke up Tuesday with some huge cysts that looked infected. He had a fever and felt awful so off to the doctor we went. He has a serious staph infection and they’re culturing the fluid for MRSA. Awesome. Poor dude. He said it feels like he has the flu times 1000. But being the trooper he is he trucked off to practice Tuesday afternoon anyway. He’s on some powerful antibiotics that have unfortunate digestive side effects. 

4. The senior banners finally came in so I went over to help a couple of the other senior moms hang them up at our field. They look so good! Tyler looks fierce in his picture! Some of the other guys are all smiling and happy…then there’s my kid looking like he’s about to rip someone’s head off. Haha!

5. Matt and I went to eat lunch with Zoey on her birthday and took some of the cutest mermaid cupcakes for the class. She has such a great group of kids in her class. I just adore them! It’s so awesome to look at these adorable 2nd graders and know that these are the kids she will graduate high school with because we’re a K-12 campus. I love that!

Then after school Zoey’s bestie and her mom (who is one of my besties) took the girls out for ice cream and dinner before the home football game. They have so much fun together. I love seeing their friendship develop! They’ve been inseparable since they met at the football field in 2016. 

6. We had our first home game of senior season on Friday night and it was a doozy. The stands were packed, the cheers were loud, and our team was amazing. Tyler took a knock to the head on a kickoff return- and he doesn’t even normally play special teams but the player he replaced broke his arm in the first quarter. He’s fine, his sensor helmet didn’t alert, but with him being so sick from the staph infection and then the hit to the head the trainer kept pulling him out to check on his status. It was miserably hot even at 7:30pm so I appreciate her caution. We won the game 52-12 and Tyler got a decent amount of playing time at defensive end and a little bit at guard on offense. He got 3 solo tackles and even got a sack! Not bad for being so sick. 

7. We barely saw our other kids during the game. That’s the best part of the home games- we can let the kids roam with their friends and know they’re safe because all the parents are watching out. Maia had a whole group of her friends there as did Mason. Zoey found several of her friends to hang out with and a good time was had by all! After the game I managed to get some good pictures of Tyler with teammate and friends and of course, the other kids had to get in on the action too. 

8. On Saturday we took the kids to Carowinds for a few hours. It was Zoey’s only request for her birthday and we had a great time. The big girls took off for the roller coasters and the rest of us hit up Camp Snoopy to ride all of Zoey’s favorite rides. We did them all and she had a blast! I can’t wait to go back. Best thing we purchased this summer was season passes to Carowinds! Worth every penny if you’re local!



Delicious Instant Pot Pizza Pasta

My kids love pizza. They love it a lot. But I can’t just make pizza every night. So when I tossed together this Pizza pasta in the Instant Pot I was crossing my fingers they would consider it an acceptable replacement for frozen pizza. Guess what? They did! They loved it, ate every bite, asked for second helpings, and immediately asked me to make it again! Hashtag winning.

Ingredients:
1 lb sausage
8oz pizza sauce
16oz spaghetti sauce
28oz water
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 lb penne pasta
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 bag sliced pepperoni
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp butter

Directions:
1. Melt butter in Instant Pot on saute function and add sausage, garlic, and Italian seasoning; saute until sausage is cooked.
2. Add pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce; stir.
3. Pour pasta over top and add water.
4. Seal lid and set to manual high pressure for 5 minutes.
5. When done use quick release.
6. Add half the cheese and pepperoni; stir to combine.
7. Top with remaining cheese and pepperoni; allow to melt.

This one is a staple in my dinner rotation now because they loved it so much! And I love that I can sneak extra veggies in there too without them noticing. I’ve added diced onions, sliced mushrooms, diced tomatoes…..anything you like on pizza you can toss into this dish!



Weekly Family Highlights {9.6.18}

We had a week, y’all. I’m still recovering. For some reason 3 day weekends seem to be more exhausting than relaxing. 

1. We started the week off on a rough note. 3 kids woke up with fevers and sore throats. Mason said it best when he commented “we only made it 8 days before we got sick. We suck”. I concur kid. So they stayed home for a day until I was sure they didn’t have strep throat. 

2. The week then took an uglier turn when my corkscrew went missing. We’re talking 5 alarm emergency, send help! I emptied cabinets and drawers searching for that dang corkscrew! I finally found it 2 days later in the coat closet. Why? How? Not cool. 

3. Maia started the year strong but it didn’t take long for the same mean girls from last year to start their bull crap again this year. But the difference? My girl is stronger this year. She put them in their place and didn’t back down. She held her head up high and didn’t let them get to her. I’m so proud of her!

4. The mister and I actually got a quick impromptu date night this week. I had to pick up something at Target and we stopped in at Red Robin for a quick dinner sans kids. We rarely have time for an actual date night these days so we took full advantage of the opportunity!

5. Tyler’s varsity football game was on Thursday last week for some unknown reason. And of course, Thursday happened to be the most humid, hot, muggy, miserable night of the entire week. We got through a quarter and a half of football before we ended up in a 30+ minute lightning delay. Awesome. But Tyler (#53) had a fantastic game. He slid over to play Guard on offense and defensive end on defense. Those are much preferred positions for him so he was thrilled. They whooped the other team 54-0. 

6. After our 30 minute lightning delay where we all had to go sit in the parking lot because apparently metal bleachers and lightning is considered a bad idea, we finally finished the game. Because our school adheres to the mercy rule, meaning once the score reaches 42-0 the clock doesn’t stop running for anything, the second half went by very quickly. I got some great pictures of Tyler and his senior friends after the game and even got one of him with a teammate who graduated last year and came to watch. 

7. I received some amazing pictures from another parent from the game. I’m so thankful to this parent because he goes to every game and takes the best pictures of our guys and then shares them with us for free. He is truly amazing!