2017 Reading Challenge…Complete!

Last January, I started a reading challenge on Goodreads to fulfill #100 on my 101 in 1001 list. I can officially say that I have completed it and then some!  My goal was to read 40 books this year and I have already read 50 with three months to go! It has been a while since I have posted my latest reads but there have been some good ones!

Some of these were extremely heavy books. Evicted by Matthew Desmond, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, and The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner all non-fiction books that tackled the tough topics of race and poverty.  All three are important books.

Obviously, it being summer I added a bunch of “summer reads” from some of my favorite authors that were just quick, fun reads.  I can almost always count on Lisa Scottline and John Grisham to give me exactly what I am looking for.  Another really great read that I devoured this past weekend was The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.  I will be looking for more books by her, for sure.

My other two favorites from this collection were Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I have read a lot of WWII historical fiction and just when I think I can’t read anything new about the Holocaust, I am surprised. Lilac Girls did just that.  And Brown Girl Dreaming; an incredible memoir written in poetry. I loved Jacqueline Woodson before and I love her even more after reading this book.

I expect my reading to slow down at this point, but I have a few books on my to-read stack that I plan on getting to before the year is done!




How many more times can you see Beauty and the Beast? One more.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a well-known professional theatre located in Ashland. We have never been and so when I was working on my 101 in 1001 list, #32 was to go the festival. Last week, Taelin and I took a little overnight trip to Ashland and saw one of the plays at the festival this year, Beauty and the Beast.

Why Beauty and the Beast? Well, Taelin’s voice teacher has worked at the festival before and this year he is one of the musicians for Beauty and the Beast. I was thankful that he was able to get us discounted tickets (because they are not cheap) and we made a little girl’s trip out of it.

After meeting for lunch and getting our tickets, Taelin and I went to the local independent bookstore Bloomsbury Books. It was an amazing little bookstore and since we were there….

We spent a good hour there and left with some books that we just couldn’t resist. I would like to say for the record that this pile could have been a lot larger.  I was reserved in my purchase.

After we left the bookstore, we went to check into our hotel and after a mandatory nap, Taelin went swimming and I read poolside. Talk about it officially feeling like summer!

After some downtime, we got ready for the show. They gave ample warning that it could get chilly since the show doesn’t start until 8:00 and the theatre is outdoors, so we made sure to dress in layers and we even took a blanket with us. I had no idea when the doors opened but Taelin was so excited we got there VERY early.  So early we had no trouble finding parking or being able to snap a picture in front of the outdoor theatre.

(As an aside, you may have noticed the boots making many appearances in photos. I got them a few weeks before the end of school for $3. She seriously wears them everywhere.)

The doors were finally opened and we found our seats. I was impressed with how roomy the seats were, both for behinds and for legs. Because we were outdoors, we were able to have drinks and snacks, which was nice. We both had pretzels and bottled water but there were a lot of different options. As we were waiting, Taelin’s voice teacher waved to us and Taelin was giddy! She knew someone on the stage!

The show started on time and, from the first moment, grabbed our attention and didn’t let go. It was the Disney version, so the story was familiar but there were many added songs and a few twists that were unexpected. All in all, it was a great experience and I know it will not be our last visit to Ashland. In fact, I am trying to figure out how I can squeeze a show in when we go on our road trip in August.

Not that I am an expert, obviously, but I would highly recommend The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. If you are wondering what else is playing right now, you can visit their website here!

Oh. My. Word. I just made money writing!

I am seriously so excited about writing this post I am probably going to have to reread it far more than usual before I hit publish.  When I first built my 101 in 1001 list, I added #64 in the hopes of pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  What is #64, you ask?  Well, it is “make money writing”.  And today, I get to check this one off the list!

For awhile, I have been exploring the idea, of thinking about the possibility, of maybe doing some freelance writing but it wasn’t until this month that I committed to the idea and actually did something about it. So, earlier this month I made an account on Upwork, a website that connects people that need work done with people that can do it. I figured out how it worked and to my surprise, after my first couple proposals, was offered a chance to write an article.  So, I wrote the article.  Then, they put it on their website. And then, they paid me.


This will hopefully be the first of many opportunities I have to earn money with my writing but this first time is seriously very cool. And a little scary. But, mostly very cool.

And in case anyone here wants to read my article…you can find it here! ACK!

Oregon Sand Dunes…It’s About Time!

This past Saturday, I checked off #9 from my 101 in 1001 list, ride on the Oregon sand dunes. We have been in Oregon for 17 years and had yet to experience riding across the sand dunes.  I originally had planned to make this part of our summer road trip but as I got planning I found other things I wanted to do, so I decided this needed to happen on it’s own.

I made a reservation earlier in the week with Sandland Adventures for a 1 hour ride.  We were all feeling really excited about it and Taelin and I would be lying if we said we weren’t also a wee bit worried as well. I know myself (and Taelin) well enough that we both took Dramamine before we went and I am SO glad we did.  I have no doubt we would have been feeling gross 10 minutes in and it would have not been nearly as fun. Here we are before going:

Our driver’s name was Kyle and he was so great! He made sure everyone was having a good time and stopped several times to tell us what we were looking at or to describe something about the dunes.  There were 3 other kids on the ride and he was constantly checking in to make sure they were doing ok.  He was also a bit of a crazy driver which, if I had to guess, is a bit of a requirement! There wasn’t anytime during the entire trip though that I felt unsafe. We were so strapped in, we weren’t going anywhere! I did have a moment of panic at the beginning where Joe looked at me with some worry because I didn’t look so good but I just employed some deep breathing and then was fine.

The hour went by so quickly.  Most of the time was on the sand dunes but we did get to go down to the beach which was very cool.

Even though we were bundled up pretty well, Taelin got really cold.  She didn’t complain at all but I think it made the last part of the ride a little less fun for her. She is so dang tiny that it doesn’t take much for her to get cold.  An extra pair of socks and some gloves would have made a big difference for her.

When we were done, we had so much sand everywhere…in our hair, ears, clothes. I had three shirts on and I still found some in my more unmentionable parts. It is hard to believe that there is enough sand left for how much it seems everyone must take with them.

I am so glad we finally did this. We had a lot of fun and have declared that we need to do it again, this time taking a certain favorite family of ours with us. It is truly a beautiful part of this state and one that shouldn’t be missed!

Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese

I feel like I need to say upfront that I am not a food blogger. I don’t take beautiful pictures of food all throughout making it nor do I claim to come up with any of this stuff on my own.  To be honest, I don’t really love to cook.  I cook because my family needs to eat and if I didn’t do it we would eat a lot of pizza, hot dogs and french toast.

I wrote earlier about my new love for my Instant Pot and my quest for some new recipes.  This last week I tried a recipe I had found awhile ago for macaroni and cheese and it was really good!  You can find the original recipe here. I did change a few things just because of what I had (or more precisely, didn’t have) on hand.   Continue Reading

I haven’t used my crockpot all winter

I was rereading my 101 in 1001 list and realized that #94 will never become realized.  I challenged myself to find 10 new recipes for my crockpot, which when I made my list was a kitchen tool I used all the time.  A tool that has since been moved to the garage because I needed room in the cupboards.

So why, you might ask, has a kitchen tool fallen so far?  Two words…instant pot.

An instant pot is an electric pressure cooker.  There are entire blogs dedicated to this tool and I will admit to anyone that I have not explored all it can do.  But, I have used it a lot and I love it so much.

Here is a picture of my lovely pot working. There was a ham in there.  The one we were supposed to have for Easter until we all got sick.


The beauty of it is that I don’t have to plan ahead for it.  I don’t know how many times I would plan to make a pork roast using my crockpot and forget to do it in the morning, leaving me with the “What in the hell am I going to make for dinner?!?” question that I had tried to avoid with my well-intentioned Sunday planning.

So, I am slightly altering my plan and going to look for 10 new instant pot recipes!  Until then, here a couple that I have tried and really like!

Honey Teriyaki Chicken

Chicken and Brown Rice Soup

Beef Stroganoff (I used stew meat because that’s what I had in the freezer!)


Powell’s Books: The Greatest Book Store in the World

Saturday we ventured off to Portland because we had free tickets to The Portland Art Museum.  We enjoyed the museum (some of us more than others) and since I was braving downtown Portland traffic, I figured that it would be the perfect time add on a trip to Powell’s Books.  For those of you that don’t know, Powell’s is what I would consider the greatest book store in the world!  It takes up an entire city block and their website says it has over a million books.  They have the best children’s section ever! We walked from the museum and was so excited to get to the book store that the only picture I have is this one that I took accidentally as I was navigating us.  Thank you Google Maps.

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