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January books, movies, and a royal podcast

Friday, February 16, 2018
I started January off strong with an ambitious #18for2018 list (if any of you listen to the Happier podcast, you know what I'm talking about).  I filled it with daily goals, one time tasks, and an equal amount of simple and ambitious intentions for the year. So far, it's going well, and it feels much more fun to say I have 18 goals for 2018 than a resolution. 

Reading more books was one of those goals - 15 for the year to be exact. I originally had a much higher number to which my husband said, "No way, you're way too busy in the evenings to have that as your goal." So I took his advice and lowered it to 15, a little more than one a month. I've read three books so far, so maybe that was the right pace to set?

My favorite book so far has been Fitness Junkie, which is a fantastic satire on the world of health and fitness among the super wealthy. The book's protagonist takes you on her journey to save her job by losing 30 pounds (which she doesn't really need to lose).  From naked yoga, green juice, Kale obsessions to outrageously priced fitness resorts, this is a hilarious yet frighteningly true take on the health and fitness industry. It's funny, sweet and really well-written. It was a great pick for late January when fitness resolutions were still fresh in our minds. A must read!

Another fun read so far has been Anna Faris' Unqualified. The actress has a hilarious and heartfelt podcast of the same name that I subscribe to and love, so I knew I had to get my hands on her book. I read this one in just a couple of days and it was light, funny, and put me in a good mood. If you're familiar with the podcast, you'll enjoy it even more. 

Mike and I have rented a lot of movies this past month from Redbox because he hates going to movies. (This is a whole other topic that I'll dive into at another time.)  Mike and I rarely agree on the type of movie we want to watch, but I had picked some "old movies" recently so I let him pick a couple. We watched Dunkirk (which I ended up liking more than him!) and American Made, but one night when Mike was gone, I rented one of my movies.

Ingrid Goes West is a wild ride - one that will make you put your phone down. I absolutely loved it though. Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza are outstanding. Rotten Tomatoes' description of it is perfect, "savagely hilarious dark comedy that satirizes the modern world of social media."  Rent this one, make yourself some #avocadotoast and consider yourself #blessed. It's so good. 

A new podcast I've added to my usual lineup is When Meghan Met Harry. This royal weddingcast is a great way to prepare for May's royal wedding. Hosts Kristen Meinzer (the American) and James Barr (the Brit) make the perfect duo for discussing the latest news, gossip and making predictions about Wills and Meghan's wedding day.  If you think you've heard Kristen before, you're right. She was the former producer on Happier, and she has another popular podcast, By the Book.

Have a great weekend, friends. Happy reading, watching, and listening! 

Wonderful Christmas Time

Saturday, January 6, 2018
Christmas was spent here this year, which was nice because we didn't have to pack our bags and travel. It did mean lots of family time and celebrating nightly for about two full weeks. I love my family and I love the holidays but boy, I was happy to see Jan. 2 roll around. I had toasted, feasted, partied, chatted, and drank champagne to excess. By New Year's Eve I was exhausted and felt like I wanted to crawl into a dark hole, not socialize for a month, and eat nothing but healthy food. Wow - that's not very cheery, is it? Let me start over.

The holidays were great.

They really were! So great, that yes, I was ready for a little quiet time and healthy eating....and a little less wine. Mike's sister, her husband, and their three month old son, Alex, visited from Seattle, and Mike's grandparents joined us from Florida. For Christmas Eve and Christmas my parents also joined us. So our celebrations were lively with ten people, one baby, and three dogs!

The families wanted Christmas photos outdoors for 'the light.' It was about fourteen degrees out.
This is my I'm-freezing-can-we-go-inside smile. Cheers! 

It was truly so fun to host everyone at our house for Christmas Eve, Mike and I enjoyed having everyone in our home and preparing a delicious prime rib dinner. Prime rib has become a Christmas Eve tradition in our house, which I'm totally cool with as I'd pick prime rib over ham or turkey any day. I know I was raised to say this but beef is always my favorite. #itswhatsfordinner

Mike has mastered the Christmas Eve prime rib and takes his job quite seriously. We reserve our prime rib each year from a local butcher shop that offers really amazing aged prime ribs. This year we had to purchase a larger one to feed our crowd so Mike lugged in a hefty 10 lb piece of beef that Missy May was overwhelmed by.

The prime rib was bigger than the dog! Missy was so impressed.

Chef Kuchinski at work. 

A good prime rib is all about the seasoning and the crust! 

Mike has researched lots of prime recipes and he goes by the "low and slow" followed by searing method. Some do the opposite, but Mike has had success with cooking the prime rib on low heat for about six hours (it always seems to take longer - pass the cheese tray). At the end of the six hours, the prime rib rests for about ten minutes and then you sear it at a super high temp to get that nice, crisp crust. Mike uses The Pioneer Woman's prime rib seasoning but not her cooking method.

This where I head when Mike says the prime rib is going to be another 30 minutes.
Even if the prime rib takes a little longer than expected it is always worth waiting for. I live for the end piece ( I forfeited it this year) that has all the crunchy, salty seasonings on the crust. So good!

Finally done and ready to eat! 

Our Christmas Eve menu also included cranberry and pistachio salads made by my mom, garlic mashed potatoes (another P-Dub recipe), balsamic green beans (Southern Living), kale salad and yes, plenty of Au Jus.

I just love these two! 

Christmas Day was spent at my in-laws feasting again, this time on turkey, all the traditional side dishes, and plenty of champagne. My parents were able to stick around and join us which was really great, too. My in-laws are great cooks and always have plenty of wine and champagne, so it's always a very large feast and daylong celebration.

Mike with his sister, Jess, and our new nephew, Alex!

My sister-in-law, Jess, is so fun! Here we are on one of many glasses of champs.

After 48 hours of prime rib, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, turkey, and copious amounts of bubbly, I was feeling really sluggish, so I took advantage of the slightly warmer evening on Christmas night and took a quick run outside. My in-laws live on a dirt road which I always feel at home on. Running down the road and looking at a beautiful Christmas Day sunset and feeling incredibly thankful for so much time with family was the perfect end to the holiday.

Hope that you savored and survived the holidays as well, friends!

French Onion Soup

Tuesday, January 2, 2018
For the past week we've had freezing temperatures....well, more accurately, WAY below freezing temperatures. One of the few things I do love about winter is the opportunity to cook up really delicious, satisfying soups. When it dipped down to single digits this past weekend, I knew it was the perfect time to make one of my very favorite soups - French Onion!

French Onion heaven at Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas

French Onion is such a comforting meal. What's not to love about onions, cheese, and bread? My favorite recipe for French Onion soup is from Wichita chef Bonnie Aeschliman's "Cooking with Bonnie: Farm to France." I mentioned this recipe before when we did a French Valentine's meal a couple years ago. 

French Onion is a great first course to any meal, but I think when paired with a fresh salad and served in a large enough bowl, it makes an amazing meal. Oh, and don't forget a nice glass of bubbly!

Is there anything better than the smell of onions cooking in butter? The answer is no. 

Bonnie's recipe is so simple and delicious. It does call for Sherry, which I think is a key ingredient in a good French Onion soup. So, if you don't have Sherry stocked in your bar already, you'll need to go grab a bottle. It's a good investment though, it lasts forever! I've had the same bottle of Sherry for years - I only use it for this recipe!

One place I do deviate from Bonnie's recipe is the cheese. Gruyere is fabulous but it can be difficult to find and pricey. I actually prefer a blend of three cheeses - Mozzarella, Havarti, and Parmesan. Mozzarella and Havarti melt really well and give the soup a delicious ooey, gooey cheesy topping. The Parmesan gives it a salty, savory flavor. Lots of cheeses would work - but these are my favorite. Just make sure it melts really well so you get that cheese-dripping-from-your-spoon effect. 

Pure bliss! 

The only thing I don't like about French Onion soup? Waiting to eat it. To get this beautifully browned cheese top, you must broil the soup at super high temps - like 450 degrees. Yikes! Once the soup is done, you'll have to have some patience or you'll end up with a very burnt tongue. (I speak from experience, people.) This is when you snap that photo for Instagram so your friends can be jealous of your soup, pour yourself some more wine, or munch on the side salad. It's worth the wait. Bon appetit!

Happy Friday!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Happy Friday everyone! Hope you all have had a great week full of excitement for the quickly approaching holidays. I visited all my Wichita Public counselors this week and surprised them with lunch. To say they're excited for winter break is an understatement. God bless those who work in education!

This week has definitely been nice for us. I'm feeling much more like myself and less like a closely monitored science project. I've enjoyed a little bit of wine (gasp), taken a run (gasp), drank coffee in the morning (gasp), and had NO injections for a week. (yay!) Crazy! It's like the wild, wild west, y'all.

Sunday's egg retrieval went really smoothly. We got up SUPER early to get to Kansas City by 8 a.m. We thought sleeping in our own beds the night before would be more calming and restful. Don't know how much actual sleep I got but it was a good effort. Surprisingly I wasn't very nervous - I just felt ready and excited. It seems like we've waited so long to get to an actual chance to have a baby, I was like, "let's get this party started everyone!" The KU Med team I had was amazing. I've seriously never experience a more well run, efficient and caring medical procedure. My doctor, nurses, and anesthesiologist were all women (who run the world?) and they were all wonderful.  I think the procedure only took about 20 minutes because half an hour later I was back sitting with Mike and exclaiming, "Wait, they already did it?"

The entire IVF experience has been pretty incredible. Mike and I have learned so much and come to appreciate the miracles performed in the medical field each day. We have twelve embryos hanging out in Kansas City right now, and it is amazing yet very bizarre to think about that. It's like twelve little "souls" or "beings" are just there - waiting. It's been difficult for us to wrap our minds around it at times. It's quite different from the way the majority of the world has a baby, but we're incredibly thankful for the opportunity. 

Next up - embryo biopsies! I told you it was like one big science experiment, didn't I?

In other news - did you know there was a Christmas tree shortage this year? We waited a week to get ours this year in hopes it wouldn't get as dry by New Year's. This left us on the great Christmas tree hunt a couple of Sundays ago. Mike was losing his Christmas spirit pretty quickly. We ended up with a smaller (womp, womp) Frasier Fir this year, but at least we got one. It's a little less "lush" as we've had before but it's nothing a few strategically placed poinsettias can't fix.

I love sitting and looking at all the lights this time of year!

The tree hunt this year almost had us resorting to an artificial tree. Almost. 

Christmas movies and specials are in full swing on TV. I enjoyed watching the original "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," which is one of my favorites. Mike can't even any more, but that's okay.

I also recently watched "It's a Wonderful Life," which I hadn't seen in many, many years. Man, what a wonderful movie. I love James Stewart! It was so good, and served as a reminder it needs to be a holiday tradition. Yes, I bawled at the end of the movie. I'm blaming it on any lingering hormones still in my system.

"Remember, George, no man is a failure who has friends." 

Mike is dreaming of boating and summer already, of course. When he's not boating, he's working on the boat. He's replaced the old graphics on his Malibu recently (it's ton of work, ugh) So, the Malibu has a cool, new look for summer 2018. Let us know if you want to join for some fun in the sun. We love having friends and family out on the water.

Enjoy your weekend, all!

Whimsical Wednesday

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts this morning, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, and one of their "try this at home" tips was to introduce a note of whimsy, which I just loved.  Gretchen describes a note of whimsy as a "way to poke fun at yourself, lighten a difficult situation, or just make life more lighthearted."

I've always loved fun, whimsical details, so I enjoyed listening to examples of whimsical things in their lives that made them smile. I always try to add a little whimsy and something fun whether it be with decor, outside on the patio or in the garden, or even with an outfit.

Some of my favorite "notes of whimsy" of late - 

My mom sent me this Nutcracker advent card that's so fun. I haven't had an advent calendar in ages and it's brought back so many wonderful memories! It's such a small thing, but it's fun to look forward to opening the next box each morning.

Who else loved advent calendars as a kid? 

This rabbit is actually an Easter decoration (shocking, I know) but I thought he'd look just as good with some pine boughs in his basket as he does with cherry blossoms. And for a note of whimsy, I gave him a little silver scarf. 

Doesn't he look dapper with his winter scarf?

You know the bargain bins that try to lure you in right as you walk into Target? I love those things. I found these cute little bristle brush trees for just $3! This silver one was the perfect little touch of Christmas in our guest bath.

You never know what treasures you'll find in a Target bargain bin!

I spotted this cute little pot in downtown Seattle. It was a cold, gray, raining day and as we were walking along these bright, funky, fun potted plants were such a happy sight. So fun! I had to take a photo. I love all the shapes, colors, and the way it's just a bit "unkempt."

Hope it was a great Wednesday, friends. Wishing you little notes of whimsy this week. 

November highlights

Thursday, November 30, 2017
It's the last day of November - already! The fall decor is packed away and it's time to gear up for the holidays. You can officially listen to as much Christmas music as your heart desires. Or, if you're like me you can just turn it up now and not be embarrassed. (I start listening right around Thanksgiving, much to Mike's dismay.)

November was nice because I wrapped up my busy travel season at work and I was able to enjoy more free weekends and evenings. I took advantage of a more free schedule and enjoyed lots of good books, TV shows, and movies, and even discovered a new workout that I fell in love with.

The Mindy Project 

As I've mentioned before I'm not a huge TV watcher, but for the past five years my one and only show has been The Mindy Project. I remember watching the pilot episode with my friend, Sara, in her apartment in September 2012. At that point I only knew Mindy Kaling as Kelly from The Office, but I was hooked from the very first episode as she rode her bike yelling, "I'm Sandra Bullock" straight into the pool. (Spoiler alert - the finale pays homage to the first episode.) Mike and I have enjoyed five years of hilarious episodes, witty scripts, and antics that only Mindy could pull off. I'll miss Mindy, her fabulous Salvador Perez wardrobe, unbridled confidence, and unapologetic love of bear claws.

Run Fast. Eat Slow.

 I read this cookbook on my flight to Seattle for Thanksgiving. Run Fast. Eat Slow. was written by recent New York City marathon winner Shalane Flanagan and her best friend and running partner, Elyse Kopecky. I really enjoyed this cookbook.  I love reading cookbooks but a lot of them I happily return to the library. This is one I would love to own myself. Shalane and Elyse are passionate about eating nutritiously. They believe no one - and especially runners - should be depriving themselves with fat-free, empty calorie foods and strict diets. They simply encourage people to eat real, whole foods, and yes, they even cook with butter! Lots of it in fact.  The recipes sounds wonderful and the photographs are beautiful.  I copied down quite a few recipes I'm excited to try out.  It's great fitness and nutrition advice for anyone - even those of us who aren't marathon winners.

Big Little Lies

I really don't know how Mike and I missed all the hype and didn't watch this in the spring. The good news is we've watched it now, and we loved it. What an incredible cast! We were so hooked that we gobbled up all seven episodes in just a few days, which is impressive for two non-TV binge watching folks. I loved the suspense, the acting, the soundtrack, and oh man, the scenery! It really made us want to go back to Carmel and Monterrey. Can we live there? 


This is your public service announcement to watch Vertigo soon if you've never seen it before. I had seen bits of it when I was really young, but I had never sat down and watched the full movie. I don't know why, because I love all of Hitchcock's films. Saturday night when Mike had some friends over to hang out I took the opportunity to watch "one of my old movies" as Mike would like to say. The TCM intro mentioned it is hailed as the best film ever made - and after watching it I have to agree. It was fantastic - and terrifying. Watching this at night was probably not the best decision I've made - I was a bit freaked out for awhile. The story is incredible, and James Stewart and Kim Novak are SO good.  


In November I started trying out a hot Piyo class at my rec center, and I immediately fell in love with it. It is such an awesome workout - prepare to be quite sore after your first class. It's a blend of pilates and yoga with lots of strength exercises throughout (think lots of tricep push-ups, planks, and core work). My rec center also offers a regular Piyo class but the time doesn't work for me, so I get to sweat a little more with hot Piyo. I love it because it's set to popular music and it's fast paced - much more so than pilates and yoga. It also works up a huge sweat. You'll really feel it. I'm looking forward to many more Piyo classes in December as I'll have to steer clear of cardio but I'll still be wanting a good workout. Piyo will definitely fit the bill. 

Another huge shoutout this month goes to my husband. He has embraced the role of nurse/drug administrator as I go through my first round of IVF medications. It's a full schedule of mixing up medications and administering daily shots, and he didn't squirm or hesitate to help me with all of it. Going through treatments for the past year has totally removed any fear I have of needles and shots don't bother me at all anymore. (One benefit of this whole journey, I suppose.)

I haven't got to the point where I could actually give them to myself though. For whatever reason that still makes me queasy. But Mike is a pro - he should probably add phlebotomist to his resume. I'm so, so thankful for his help, and his mad shot skills. You can hardly feel 'em.

We're getting our Christmas tree this weekend, and then our holiday decorating will be complete. Bring on the egg nog and tinsel....and December!

Have a great weekend, friends!

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Friday, November 24, 2017
If you Google what to do while visiting Seattle, Chihuly Garden and Glass will pop up on every list, and for good reason. It's an incredible museum featuring all of Chihuly's colorful creations - it's almost overwhelming. So many colors and designs to take in!

I first became familiar with Chihuly with his large chandelier that is on display at the Wichita Art Museum, so I was excited to check out the Seattle museum. The museum is fairly new - it just opened in 2012. It features many of Chihuly's glass works and paintings inside, but some of them are displayed outside in the gardens with carefully color coordinated flowers and plants. It truly feels like something from a fairytale walking among the pieces in the garden. Chihuly, who is from Tacoma, Washington, is a multimedia artist but he's best known for his amazing work with glass.

It was a very gray, rainy Seattle day which made the bright colors at the museum seem even brighter. Makes me wonder if the Seattle weather inspired Chihuly to create such colorful masterpieces! If you're in Seattle definitely make time to stop here - such a fun place. It made for a really great afternoon in downtown Seattle - and I love that the Space Needle is sneaking into one of my photos.  

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