Monday, February 1, 2016

January Books


So I'm off to a great start for my 2016 Goodreads Book Challenge.  I have already read 4 books in January, and I'm 2 books ahead of schedule.  My goal this year is to read 40 books since I read 36 last year!

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I loved this book! I listened to Landline on Audible. The narrator was the same as my first Rainbow Rowell book, FanGirl. At first, I had a little trouble adjusting to her as Georgie and not Cath, but I quickly got over that!

I really enjoyed how the story moved between Georgie's past and present. When she first used the landline to call her husband, I was so confused. I actually rewound the book because I was sure that I had missed something. I was annoyed at first, but then I kind of liked that I was just as confused as Georgie was.

This book had me hooked and kept me wanting to know what would happen and how things would work out! So glad I gave it a listen!


Drums of Autumn (Outlander, #4)Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I don't even think I can say how much I am loving this series. Drums of Autumn has so many ups and downs in the lives of Jamie, Claire, and now adding more focus on Brianna and Roger. I cannot wait to continue reading more!



The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I read this book very quickly. I don't know that it lived up to all of the hype that it received, but I definitely enjoyed the book!

I liked that the story was told from three points of view: Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Even though the story definitely focused on Rachel, I believe that the other two women are essential to developing the story. I had a lot of sympathy for Rachel and her broken heart and struggle with alcohol addiction. It struck me how she had difficulty with her credibility due to her drinking and blackouts.

I can truly say that I didn't find this story predictable, and as the end unfolded, I was actually coming to realizations right along with Rachel.

Definitely a good read!


The Secret Diary of Anne BoleynThe Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I have been obsessed with the Tudor court since I read "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory. Since then, I've not only devoured ALL of her other books on the subject but also those on the Cousins' War.

With that being said, I am always looking for more historical fiction on this topic and am willing to give any author a chance! "The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn" did not disappoint. I love making connections between other speculation I've read about this time period. The story shares Anne's thoughts from a perspective that I haven't experienced before, and I enjoyed the connections it made with Queen Elizabeth I during her reign.

I wasn't thrilled with the voice of the narrator on this Audible listen or I might have given this 5 stars.



View all my reviews




Thursday, January 28, 2016

Stuff & Things 1/28

Stuff, Things, etc.

I was just reading everyone's Stuff & Things posts, and I decided I needed to throw together a little post and join in with Kristin & Joey for the fun!

First, thank goodness January is almost over.  I loathe the month of January.  Bring on February.  If things continue as they are, we have Thursday, February 11th-Monday, February 15th off for Presidents' Day weekend.  I.  Need.  A.  Break.

Second, I have a boot problem.  I set a goal of not spending money on unnecessary items in January.  I had been spending a lot recently, and then there was Christmas, so...I did pretty well.  Until this week.


I just bought two pairs of boots.

In my defense, ShoeDazzle put $20 in my account because they "haven't seen me in awhile," and I scored these two pairs for about $62.  Also, I bought the black ones to replace a pair on which the heels are worn out.  I wear my boots until the death.

Third, I also bought a new Thirty-One wristlet, BUT we were at our friends' house the other night, and their dog chewed my wrist strap apart.  I did score it on eBay for cheap, and it's brand-new.  So there's that.

What's going on with you this week?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Music Monday: "Dirty Laundry"



It's not secret around here that I love Carrie Underwood!  Before she released her latest album, Storyteller, in October, I had pre-ordered on iTunes.

Then I started listening to Christmas music, and really only had the chance to give her album a quick listen.  Now that the season of merriment has passed, I've caught up on all of my podcasts, and finished two audio books, I headed back to my iTunes library.

I'm currently obsessed with her song "Dirty Laundry" from this album.  I can't get it out of my head, and I don't want to stop listening to it!

What do you think? :)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Recipe: KFC Copy Cat Chicken

Scott's mom got a book with copy cat recipes of restaurant foods (Top Secret Recipes Step By Step by Todd Wilbur).  Scott decided to borrow it, and we took a day over Christmas break to go grocery shopping to pick up the odds and ends we would need to try some of our restaurant favorites!

The first recipe we decided to tackle was KFC's Original Recipe Fried Chicken.

There were four ingredients that we changed.  Two of the spices the book listed, we couldn't find in our local grocery stores.  The recipe also calls for MSG and suggests Accent seasoning, which is what we used.  Since we couldn't completely adhere to the recipe from the book, we decided to go ahead and use gluten free flour (Scott is supposed to avoid gluten) instead of regular all-purpose flour.  So here's how we made it!

(Don't let the huge list of ingredients scare you.  This was actually really easy to make....)

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken legs*
  • 5 Tyson boneless skinless chicken breasts*
*The original recipe also called for a whole roaster chicken cut into 8 pieces.  We used the chicken that we had on hand.  We had more than 8 pieces total, and we had more than enough breading, dredge, and brine.


Brine

  • 1/2 c. salt
  • 1 T Accent Seasoning
  • 8 c. water
Breading
  • 1 3/4 c. Krustez Gluten Free Flour
  • 1 T. plus 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. Accent Seasoning
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. ground sage
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
Dredge
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups skim milk
1. Make the brine by dissolving salt and Accent seasoning in the water.  Add the chicken pieces and marinate for 3 hours.  Remove chicken from the brine, rinse with water, and blot dry.
2. Heat oil in the deep fryer to 300* F.
3. To make the breading, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
4. In another bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the milk.
5. Dip each piece of chicken in the dredge and then put into the breading.  Toss the chicken pieces to coat completely.  Toss a few times to ensure good coating.  When the oil is ready, shake off the excess breading and add to the fryer two pieces at a time (or more if your fryer can hold more.  I made ours two at a time.).  

6. Fry for 16-20 minutes (16 worked for me) or until the chicken is golden brown.  Drain chicken on a rack for 5 minutes before serving.


Those are breading crumbs in my sink.  I promise my sink is not actually gross...

**You can keep chicken pieces warm in a 220* oven until all pieces are ready to serve.


I made corn and mashed potatoes to serve with our chicken since that's what I would eat as sides at KFC! :)

Friday, January 8, 2016

StitchFix Fix!

Last week, I shared that my latest fix from StitchFix was an epic fail!  Fortunately, when you have a total fix flop, StitchFix will send you your next fix for free.  I wanted to give this another go ASAP, so I quickly scheduled a new fix and it arrived on December 30th.

This time, they got it right!


The first pieces I tried on were these skinny corduroys in a burgundy color (which you can't tell from this photo because the lighting in our bedroom is awful...) and this black top with small white dots.  The blouse also has tabs in the sleeves so I can make it a 3/4 length sleeve if I want.  While I don't think I'll necessary wear these pieces together (though I could), it worked for trying-on purposes at least!


The next pieces was this plaid dress.  Yes, please!  I'm obsessed with plaid, and I've been wanting a plaid dress.  I love this one because it has a drawstring "belt".  So I can pull it tight for a great fit!  I can wear this with leggings or without (I put leggings on for the pic), and it has POCKETS!  Win!

Ignore my face.
I also got this infinity scarf with this fix.  I love it because....umm...scarf!  Would I actually wear it with this shirt (and this is a much better picture of this blouse, if I do say so myself)?  Probably not, but I think I could get away with it if I did....?


There was only one piece in this fix that I didn't like.  This top looks a million times better on the card than it actually does on me.  I was really excited about it until I put it on, but it just didn't fit me correctly.

I actually did keep the entire box though, even though I don't like this top at all.  Why?  It was cheaper for me to buy the whole box with the Buy All 5 discount than it would have been to get the other 4 pieces and send the top back.

So I promptly listed the top on my Vinted account.  If you like this top and think it would work for your body type and style, feel free to hop on over and buy it from me.  lol

I'm very grateful that StitchFix is willing to fix when they totally miss the mark on a fix.  They took my feedback into account, and I think my stylist actually did look at my Pinterest board because this fix was obviously on target.

Ever had a StitchFix redemption?

If you would like to give StitchFix a try, I'd love it if you'd head over using my referral link!  I will get a credit toward my next fix if you do!  :)  https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3883523


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Teacher Thoughts: A Little Thank You


Today's "Teacher Thoughts" is short and sweet.

This year, I was once again blessed with some Christmas gifts from my students.  It's always exciting and touching to receive gifts from them.  It's not something that they are required to do, of course, and at my school, our sixth graders switch classes which means they have multiple teachers.  I'm always especially touched when a student from another homeroom brings me a gift because that can be a lot for families to take on!

In fact, this year, there is one homeroom of students that I don't see for a class at all.  One of the students in this class is a girl that I had when I taught first grade.  On our last day before break, she came across the hall with a card and a gift (a bracelet) for me.  I was very moved because I don't see her more than in passing.  It was incredibly sweet for her (and her family) to include me in their gift-giving this season.

This year, over my Christmas break, I wrote out thank you notes to the twelve students who gave gifts to me.  While I always intend to do this, sometimes it just gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the holidays (or my incredible gift at being able to sleep at the drop of the hat even if I'm not really tired...).  I just think that it's special and important for them to get a little thank you from me to let them know that I truly did appreciate their gifts.

Are all of the gifts things that I love or will use?  No, not necessarily.  But I'm not ungrateful for getting another coffee mug, and I'm more than grateful that they wanted to bless me this Christmas.  The least I can do is take the time in this busy day and age to hand write a thank you to send home with them.

Fellow teachers, do you write out thank you notes to your students?


Monday, January 4, 2016

Reading: A Look Back & A Look Ahead



First: A Look Back

January 
February
March & April (I combined these two months into one post.)
May & June (Another two for one post with my special review of Micah's book Riffs of Regret!)
July
August
October (This is when I officially met my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal!)
November
December

**NOTE:  I did not lose my mind.  Did you notice there's no September?  I published a monthly book post in September, but it was only to tell the sad but true story that I hadn't finished any books.  I figured it was worth leaving out of the look back.**

Now: A Look Ahead
As I mentioned in my December Books post last week, my reading goal for 2016 is to read 40 books!  I thought I'd share what's up "first" on my to-do list.  In other words, these are books that are currently in my possession in print or audio form,


  1. Drums of Autum by Diana Gabaldon (This is the 4th book in the Outlander series.  I am currently reading this one now, and I have through book 5...)
  2. Landline by Rainbow Rowell (This is an Audible download.  I enjoyed listening to Fangirl; so I thought I'd give another Rainbow Rowell book a try!)
  3. The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon 
  4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr*
  5. Fairest: Levana's Story by Marissa Meyer (This is a prequel for the Lunar Chronicles series.  I still need to get my hand on the 4th and final book, Winter.)
  6. The Girl on the Train by Paul Hawkins*
  7. How to Raise and Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims* (I saw this book on CBS This Morning awhile ago, and it was like a religious experience.  Everything this woman was saying, I was agreeing with.  As a teacher, I see exactly the things she is taking about every day.  I needed to have this book.)
  8. The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel*
  9. The Blackthorn Key  by Kevin Sands
  10. George by Alex Gino
  11. The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
*All books I received from my parents for Christmas
Numbers 9 & 10 are both books I received for free from Scholastic.  Since they are pretty new releases and both sound interesting, I want to read them before I decide to add them to my classroom library.  Sometimes I'm a responsible teacher like that....

As you can see, I have 11 book ready and waiting to get my on my journey toward 40 books in 2016!  Of course, I will be adding the remainder of the Outlander books to my collection, and I will have my monthly Audible credit, too!  The Rainbow Rowell book was actually my December credit purchase, so I'm already ahead of the game!

What books are you looking forward to reading this year!?

 
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