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Weekly Book Club {8.8.18}

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This week I’m sharing 3 more books from my library’s ebook collection. Two were really good reads for me and one was just an ok read. I will tell you- the best thing about my library’s newly enhanced ebook collection is that I’m reading so many new authors that I wouldn’t have read before. It’s hard to justify spending $15 on a book that you’re not sure you will love. I’m way too cheap for that! And this year I’ve discovered so many new authors that are now on my must-read list!

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Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman– At any given moment in other people’s houses, you can find…repressed hopes and dreams…moments of unexpected joy…someone making love on the floor to a man who is most definitely not her husband…*record scratch* As the longtime local carpool mom, Frances Bloom is sometimes an unwilling witness to her neighbors’ private lives. She knows her cousin is hiding her desire for another baby from her spouse, Bill Horton’s wife is mysteriously missing, and now this…After the shock of seeing Anne Porter in all her extramarital glory, Frances vows to stay in her own lane. But that’s a notion easier said than done when Anne’s husband throws her out a couple of days later. The repercussions of the affair reverberate through the four carpool families–and Frances finds herself navigating a moral minefield that could make or break a marriage.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

This was so close to being a 5 Star read for me. I’m not even sure I can explain why it’s only a 4.5 star read. I think maybe it was because there were so many different POV’s and plots going on at one time. It wasn’t hard to keep track of or anything like that but I think it disconnected me from the main plot a little bit. Still- a fantastic read and if you’re deep in the mommy life right now like I am, you’ll enjoy this story. Also- this story is why you don’t get that close to your neighbors/carpool buddies. Ha!

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The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory– Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist. On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend. After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other. They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

I was really excited to read this story when I saw it. I love fake to real relationship stories with unconventional beginnings, which this one definitely had. I liked that the two characters had real life issues to work through. The beginning was a bit stilted for me though. Once it got going (about 1/3 the way through) it reminded me of a rom com movie. I liked the way Alexa’s personality was portrayed- independent, sassy, spunky, and driven. She had backbone and I liked it! I enjoyed the story but it wasn’t a 5 star read for me. 

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Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery– Divorce left Harper Szymanski with a name no one can spell, a house she can’t afford and a teenage daughter who’s pulling away. With her fledgeling virtual-assistant business, she’s scrambling to maintain her overbearing mother’s ridiculous Susie Homemaker standards and still pay the bills, thanks to clients like Lucas, the annoying playboy cop who claims he hangs around for Harper’s fresh-baked cookies. Spending half her life in school hasn’t prepared Dr. Stacey Bloom for her most daunting challenge—motherhood. She didn’t inherit the nurturing gene like Harper and is in deep denial that a baby is coming. Worse, her mother will be horrified to learn that Stacey’s husband plans to be a stay-at-home dad…assuming Stacey can first find the courage to tell Mom she’s already six months pregnant. Separately they may be a mess, but together Harper and Stacey can survive anything—their indomitable mother, overwhelming maternity stores and ex’s weddings. Sisters Like Us is a delightful look at sisters, mothers and daughters in today’s fast-paced world, told with Susan Mallery’s trademark warmth and humor.

My Rating: 4 Stars

This was SOOOOO close to a 5 star read for me. It was on track to be just that until a main character did something so out of character that it threw me right out of the story. I found my way back but it wasn’t the same feeling as before. I hate when that happens. Other than that one thing, this book was amazing. It had family drama, romance, comedy, and a sulky teen daughter. Definitely a worthy read! I haven’t read any of the other books in this series but I will now!

 



Yummy Instant Pot Cajun Shrimp Alfredo

I’ve been diligently working to convert a lot of our favorite recipes into Instant Pot recipes lately. I am just in love with this Instant Pot, y’all! This recipe for Cajun Shrimp Alfredo is a family favorite and a big time go-to dinner on busy nights for me. So of course I had to try it in the Instant Pot. It was delicious!

Ingredients:
1 bag frozen shrimp, defrosted
1 box pasta
3 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2 jars Alfredo sauce
2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp cajun seasoning

Directions:
1. Pour dry pasta in Instant Pot.
2. Add water and salt.
3. Seal and cook on manual high pressure for 4 minutes.
4. When done, use quick release and keep Instant Pot on warming.
5. Add shrimp, alfredo sauce, minced garlic, and cajun seasoning; stir.
6. Stir occasionally until heated through.

Now this calls for 1 Tbsp of Cajun seasoning but if you like your Cajun Alfredo spicy then add more. I actually ended up using 3 Tbsp in this and my kids still added more! Definitely a fast, easy and yummy weeknight dinner option! I’ve added this one to our regular menu plan. 



Favorite Things Friday {8.3.18}

1. This has been the summer of Fortnite in our house. Both Mason and Maia are addicted. They spend a lot of time playing together on separate TVs and Xbox’s. Sometimes they cheer each other on…and sometimes they try to strangle each other in the kitchen. Even Tyler has enjoyed some marathons with his friends. But Maia has been the worst. On more than one occasion I have found her sleeping on the couch in the bonus room with headset still on and game controller in hand. She’s also fallen asleep multiple times in the car when we’ve had morning appointments because she was up all night playing. I warned her that I would be posting all these pictures if it continued to happen. Mom doesn’t go back on her threats, y’all. Boom. 

2. Zoey went up my parents house for a mini Nana Camp last week with my nephew, Jax. My mom is a brave soul. But they all had a blast. They did so many fun activities and had such a good time! She stayed 4 days and it was the perfect mini vacation for her. My mom baked cookies with her, took her shopping, went to the gem mine, had picnics, let her pick out things from the gift shop…basically this is not the same woman who raised me, y’all. 

3. While Zoey was gone we decided to take Mason and Maia to Carowinds with a couple of friends so they could ride the roller coasters. Zoey doesn’t like to ride anything outside of Camp Snoopy so the big kids kind of get the shaft when we go as a whole family. This time we let them ride anything they wanted and it was so much fun! Then we had a sleepover at our house. The four of them decided to watch the newest Amityville movie and scared each other silly. We found them the next morning all sleeping huddled up together in the bonus room with the dogs. Ha!

 

4. My parents brought Zoey and Jax back home on Sunday and we planned a big family cookout. Matt’s parents were able to come and my sister came too. It was really fun. They all got to see some of the new updates we’ve done to the house and we celebrated my birthday and our 22nd anniversary at the same time. It was just a fun family day- nice and relaxing before the craziness of the school year starts.

5. Speaking of the craziness of school starting- it’s already started to get nuts here. Varsity football started this week for Tyler and their first scrimmage is next Friday already. Cross country starts next week for Maia. We had the first senior meeting and college planning night this week. I cannot believe summer break is almost over! It went way too fast!



8 Tips For Selling Your House in One Weekend

As my regular readers know, we sold our house in one weekend this Spring. Technically we sold it in less than 4 hours but the terms weren’t hammered out until after our open house weekend. Now we were the beneficiaries of a hot sellers market but we also did a lot of work to make our house show ready to ensure a fast sale. And our hard work paid off- we received multiple offers above asking price! We spent about 3 months and $1500 getting our house ready for sale. Our realtor came through the house before we listed it and she had not one suggestion to make on things we needed to do before she could send it live in MLS. Not one! Today I’m sharing some tips that helped us sell our house quickly with multiple offers and countless compliments. 

1. Declutter every space. I know, that’s the number one tip you get from every article, post, and website. That’s because it’s the most important first step. We started this process in January. I literally went through every cabinet, drawer, closet, and purged purged purged. Then I did it again. I sold or donated anything that we didn’t love or need. That included furniture, dishes, clothes, toys, rugs, decor, books, etc. Nothing was safe! I think we made at least 15 trips to Goodwill with full loads of stuff. Bonus- it makes it so much easier to pack for the move when you’ve done a good purge!

2. Neutralize your color palette. Most of our house was already pretty neutral but we definitely needed to paint Zoey’s watermelon room, Mason’s checkerboard room, and 2 bathrooms. It’s ideal if all the colors in your house flow together easily and compliment one another. I stuck to mostly khaki, greige, gray, and pale aqua. All the bathrooms were painted the same color, I used a similar shade of the pale aqua that was in the kitchen and nook when I painted Maia’s room upstairs. It really makes a difference. We also repainted all the trim in the entire house to a brighter white and repainted every single door in the same color. That instantly brightened and updated our whole house.

3. Rent a storage unit. We rented one just a couple of miles from our old house and packed up at least half of the stuff in every closet and cabinet. I packed all the Fall/Winter clothes, shoes, and coats, bulky toys, extra hangers, coolers, suitcases, china, holiday dishes, extra decor and furniture and we loaded it into the storage unit. If you shop around you can get a deal. We actually ended up only needing our storage unit for 26 days and since we found a one month free deal we only paid the $18 initial fee. 

4. Do all small house projects. Nobody wants to walk into an open house and immediately see projects they’d need to do. That’s a big buzz kill. Along with painting we also redid the gel stain on the kitchen cabinets and stair rails, redid caulking in the kitchen and bathroom, patched any nail holes and baseboards, replaced light switches, etc. All those little nagging projects- do them. 

5. Don’t forget the deck and garage. I know most people think- it’s just a garage. But it makes a big difference. We removed all the excess from the garage and painted the entire garage from floor to ceiling. We also painted the deck with Behr Premium Deck Over. I couldn’t believe how great it looked afterwards! With some sweat labor we added instant updated appeal to one of the biggest selling features of our house.

6. Clean, Clean, and Clean some more and not just the inside. We deep cleaned every square inch of our house from ceiling to floor. Then we did the outside. We pressure washed the driveway, sidewalk, front porch, and house. We even pressure washed the basketball backboard. It’s all about first impressions!

7. Spruce up the curb appeal. We added all new mulch, pine straw, and flowers to the front yard. We trimmed the trees and bushes framing the house. We touched up the paint on the front door and shutters. We changed the door handle and added a new front door mat. 

8. Hire a professional photographer to take your pictures. Our realtor already had a professional photographer on staff so we didn’t need to hire one ourselves. But we absolutely would have spent the money if we needed to. The pictures were spectacular and I firmly believe they sold our house for us. We had multiple offers the day we listed before we even had a showing!

Another big part of what sold our house was the staging. It’s too much info to put into one post so I’ll be doing a whole separate post on how I staged our home for sale.



Weekly Book Club {8.1.18}

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Sharing a few more books from the library this week. Two were exceptional 5 star reads and the other one was good but not a favorite. There have been so many great books available from my library’s ebook catalog lately that I haven’t read anything from my TBR lists in months! I can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved this year on books!

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Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak– It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family. For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems. As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down. In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

I had very high hopes for this book and it did meet some of them. The characters were well developed but I didn’t connect with them very well. There were a number of surprises and twists which were good but the story wasn’t as fast paced. It reminded me a bit of The Family Stone, which is one of my favorite movies, but it didn’t connect as well. Still an enjoyable read and I’m glad I chose this one and stuck with it. 

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The Woman Left Behind by Linda Howard– Jina Modell works in Communications for a paramilitary organization, and she really likes it. She likes the money, she likes the coolness factor—and it was very cool, even for Washington, DC. She liked being able to kick terrorist butts without ever leaving the climate-controlled comfort of the control room. But when Jina displays a really high aptitude for spatial awareness and action, she’s reassigned to work as an on-site drone operator in the field with one of the GO-teams, an elite paramilitary unit. The only problem is she isn’t particularly athletic, to put it mildly, and in order to be fit for the field, she has to learn how to run and swim for miles, jump out of a plane, shoot a gun…or else be out of a job. Team leader Levi, call sign Ace, doesn’t have much confidence in Jina—who he dubbed Babe as soon as he heard her raspy, sexy voice—making it through the rigors of training. The last thing he needs is some tech geek holding them back from completing a dangerous, covert operation. In the following months, however, no one is more surprised than he when Babe, who hates to sweat, begins to thrive in her new environment, displaying a grit and courage that wins her the admiration of her hardened, battle-worn teammates. What’s even more surprising is that the usually very disciplined GO-team leader can’t stop thinking about kissing her smart, stubborn mouth…or the building chemistry and tension between them. Meanwhile, a powerful Congresswoman is working behind the scenes to destroy the GO-teams, and a trap is set to ambush Levi’s squad in Syria. While the rest of the operatives set off on their mission, Jina remains at the base to control the surveillance drone, when the base is suddenly attacked with explosives. Thought dead by her comrades, Jina escapes to the desert where, brutally tested beyond measure, she has to figure out how to stay undetected by the enemy and make it to her crew in time before they’re exfiltrated out of the country. But Levi never leaves a soldier behind, especially the brave woman he’s fallen for. He’s bringing back the woman they left behind, dead or alive.

My Rating: 5 Stars

I adore Linda Howard. I’ve read every book she’s ever written and almost all of them have been 5 Star reads for me. This one was no exception. It was fast paced, high tension, and HOT! I loved it! I loved the feisty attitude of the main character and how she never gave up. I loved her connection with the team and their interactions together. I finished this book in 6 hours and stayed up until 3am so I didn’t have to stop reading. There aren’t many books that I’ll lose that much sleep for. Ha! Definitely a must read for me!

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Accidental Heroes by Danielle Steel– On a beautiful May morning at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, two planes have just departed for San Francisco—one a 757, another a smaller Airbus A321. At a security checkpoint, TSA agent Bernice Adams finds a postcard of the Golden Gate Bridge bearing an ambiguous—perhaps ominous—message. Her supervisor dismisses her concerns, but Bernice calls security and soon Ben Waterman arrives. A senior Homeland Security agent, still grappling with guilt after a disastrous operation in which hostages were killed, Ben too becomes suspicious. Who left the postcard behind, which flight is that person on, and what exactly does the message mean? As Ben scans the passenger manifests, his focus turns to the A321, with Helen Smith as its senior pilot. Helen’s military service and her tenure with the airline have been exemplary. But her husband’s savage death in Iraq was more than anyone should bear, leaving her widowed with three children. A major film star is on board. So is an off-duty pilot who has just lost his forty-year career. So is a distraught father, traveling with the baby son he has abducted from his estranged wife. Sifting through data and relying on instinct, Ben becomes convinced that someone on Helen’s plane is planning something terrible. And he’s right. Passengers, crew, and experts on the ground become heroes out of necessity to try to avert tragedy at the eleventh hour. In her stunning novel, Danielle Steel combines intense action with stories of emotionally rich, intertwined lives. As the jet bears down on its destination of San Francisco, strangers are united, desperate choices are made, and futures will be changed forever by a handful of accidental heroes.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Oh. My. Gosh. This book. It was amazing! I was hooked from the blurb and once I started reading I could not stop. I finished this one in less than 10 hours because it was THAT good! I had to know what happened. I’ve been a huge fan of Danielle Steel for over 2 decades (dang, I’m old) and this is probably in the Top 5 of my favorite books by her ever. I found myself flip flopping over what I thought was happening and who might be involved. It wasn’t until the very end of the book that I figured it out. The characters are well developed and you can feel their emotions as you read. This is a definite keeper for me!