Friday Favs – Where Did May Go?

Happy Weekend, friends!

I’ve been so busy working to make my car down payment and afford the crazy taxes that I’ve barely peeked out from behind my laptop in the last couple of weeks. That said, I do have some exciting news and a few other favorites to share!

 

1. I have a job doing trail rides again!

Back in February when I found out the place I worked last year wouldn’t be re-opening, I Facebook messaged another local trail ride barn to see if they were hiring for the upcoming season. No luck, but while I was working on my laptop at the coffee shop last Wednesday, I got a new reply from them asking if I was still interested in a job.

 

This is my new friend Winston!

Pretty sure you can guess what my answer was. They had me come out Thursday to do a ride so they could see that I was competent and I could see if I wanted to work there. So far I like it a lot. They have a great setup, good horses, the trail is mostly shady (a life saver in the summer heat!) and they only do one hour rides. I got used to doing two or three 2-hour rides in a row at my old place, which is exhausting. We’ll see how much I love it in a couple of months when I’m saddling horses in 100+ heat index temps, but for now I’m so, so happy to get paid to ride again!

I went in for my first day last Saturday. Getting there at 8 a.m. is rough for a night person, but it’s only about 15 minutes away from my house, as opposed to the 45-minute drive I had to the old one. I’m pretty comfortable with the basics of the job, but I do have a LOT to learn in terms of learning the trails and getting to know the horses’ personalities and where everything is. The other guide that I was working with asked if I felt like I could take our second group of the day out by myself and I was obviously like “LOLZ not if you ever want to see them again!” Definitely need some practice leading when I can have someone experienced in the back pointing me in the right direction.

I worked with an awesome horse named Bailey that day, and I LOVE HIM. He’s a little grumpy, but as a guide horse he is a DREAM. When you’re riding in the back, you often have to move up and down the line of riders to help people whose horses decide to stop for a snack or give some quick instruction. Even though he didn’t really know me, Bailey was instantly like “Ok, I don’t know who you are but clearly you’re in charge now so cool, let’s go.” and he instantly went wherever I asked, at the speed I asked for, without question. GIVE ME ALL OF THE BAILEYS PLEASE. I’m excited to try out pretty much all of the horses, but I may have already found my new buddy.

 

 

Bailey is the paint in the foreground. That’s Egor in the back – he’s apparently top dog in the herd hierarchy, and I kinda love him.

And yes, this seems like an odd photo because the horses are also used in the outdoor play that’s been going since the 1960s. That means they get to hear gunfire and run past a burning cabin and all kinds of things that would usually freak horses out. They’re good dogs, Brent.

One amusing story from my first day – there were storms predicted for that afternoon, so we were unsure pretty much all day on if we’d actually do our last scheduled ride of the day. Eventually we officially called it off, and about that time the show for that evening also got canceled because of the weather. (It was supposed to be opening night. Bummer!) We took the horses back to the barn, which requires two trips that take about 15 minutes each (Remind me to fill you in on THAT sometime. It’s a crazy process.). Our livestock manager was on hand to help us untack everyone, which was awesome because a) saddles are heavy, y’all, and b) untacking 12-14 horses takes a while.  Saddles off and put away, horses put away, and a quick chat with some fellow employees and I was back in my car and heading up out of the homestead. As I was about to leave one of them pointed to the super dark clouds in the distance, which made me really glad we had canceled.

It’s like a 2-3 minute drive from the barn back to the highway when you don’t have horses with you. As soon as I made it to the intersection, a few drops began to fall. The SECOND I pulled back onto the highway… WHOOOSH! Within a minute or two, you could see waves of water blowing horizontally across the road. People were pulling over to park on the shoulder with hazard lights on because it was so intense. (My new car was AWESOME AND I LOVE IT. I never felt safe in my old car in bad weather.)

Not kidding, y’all – if we had waited just a few minutes longer to take the horses down, I would have been stuck sitting on the back of a pickup holding 5 horses while being pelted with intense rain. Could not have been luckier unless I’d magically made it home before the rain started! Quite the end to my first day!

 

2. My old riding boots have been literally falling apart since last fall, so I was in desperate need of new ones. The problem is that actual nice boots are $$$$$, and I needed something comfy to wear for trail rides ASAP. I don’t walk anywhere near as much at this trail job as my last one since we use a truck to lead the horses up from pasture, but comfy boots are still a must. I’ve never found cowboy boots to be comfortable and I wanted something I can use for dressage lessons as well, so I was going to just grab some $40 paddock boots from Amazon to get me by, but then I came across these:

 

 

They’re definitely more of “fashion” boots than real riding boots, but y’all… THEY WERE TEN DOLLARS.

$10.78 to be exact. I was SUPER skeptical, to put it mildly. First, I almost never order shoes online because comfort and fit are so important. But TBH these look exactly like other pairs that are listed on Amazon for $40 and up, and returning is always an option if they don’t work, so I gave them a try!

The package arrived this morning and I was pleasantly surprised! There’s a definite faux-leather smell (I’m guessing it’s polyurithane or something?) from the package sitting out in the heat, but otherwise I’m really pleasantly surprised!

 

 

You can tell they’re not high end, but they’re definitely on par with what you’d find at Target or Kohls for $30-50.

 

It’s too hot out to wear boots, so I just photographed them while sitting in bed. #Lazy

As you can kinda tell, they have just a tiny bit of slouch to them. My main problem was finding boots that would sit comfortably under jeans when I’m doing trail rides, but also look ok over English riding breeches. These don’t look quite right for English, but they’ll work until I can afford real boots! (C’mon, good day of tips!)

 

 

You can find them here if you’re interested. The price varies depending on what size you order (Right now size 9 and 11 are available for about $13 and the other sizes are sold out.) I kind of wish I’d ordered two pairs now – one to destroy riding and one to actually wear in the fall!

 

 

3. I’ve traded in working from the library for working from the local coffee shop.

 

 

I order a whole lot of sugar and caffeine in a cup and curl up in the back room with my laptop for around two hours. Sure, it costs around $5 each time I go, but I get more done in those two hours than I will in six hours of working at home. It’s worth it.

 

4. I don’t have much to share this week since I’ve basically just been working, but I’m using this last item for a celebration – I finished paying my down payment on my car! (If you missed that post, they gave me a month to come up with the $1,200 down payment that would bring my payments down to where I wanted them.) I’m now working on coming up with the $900-ish that taxes and registration are going to cost, while also making sure I have $200 set aside for the first payment that’s due in like a week.

When I get THAT taken care of, we’ll super celebrate. I need to do it ASAP since my temp tag already expired, and driving around expecting to get pulled over at any time freaks me out.

 

Hope everyone has a safe holiday weekend! I’m working (shocker), but I may actually take a day off next week! Oooh, ahh!

 

Linking up with Bright On A Budget and A Little Bit of Everything.

April Friday Favs

 

Remember last week when I was all excited because I bought a (much-needed!) new laptop?

Well, last weekend, I bought…

 

 

My old car had hit the point where I could tell something was going to go wrong soon, and since it was worth less than $1k trade-in, I was not about to pour any more money into saving it. I test drove a few cars and wound up buying this one on Saturday! I could have gotten a better deal if I’d taken a couple of days to head up to Springfield and hardcore car shop, but I just wanted to be DONE. Ever feel like that?

So far I really like it except that my low tire light came on two days after buying it, and when I had the company I bought it from’s service department check it out, they said I had THREE dead sensors, and that they’d be like $1oo each to replace. And that it’s not covered under my 6 month service plan.  Whaaaat? I’m planning to have a chat with the sales people when I take them the deed to my old car on Monday (long story), because c’mon, y’all, I should not have to pay to fix that. (Although after talking to their service people, I had to go to Walmart so I stopped by their auto department and chatted with a mechanic, who quoted me like $28 each for the parts and $20-40 labor, so that’s the way I’ll go if it does end up being something I have to pay for myself!)

One nice thing the dealer did was let me split up my down payment. I hadn’t been planning to do a down payment other than my old car, but given my spectacular credit score and my refusal to budge on keeping payments under $200/month, it wound up being necessary. I put a little cash down the day I got it, and they asked if I could come up with an extra $1000 within a month. UGH. I am self employed, so yeah, I technically can, it’s just going to take a lot of coffee and focus. So I agreed, planned out a work schedule, got into a steady pace and then remembered… taxes. Registering my car is going to be like nine hundred more dollars. In less than a month.

After some pretty solid panic over that realization, I just kind of gave up and decided I’ll do the best I can, but if I wind up having to drive with an expired temp tag for a couple of weeks, it’s not the end of the world. The game plan is to try to avoid speeding (which is tough when going 60 in your old car made it feel like doom was imminent, while 60 in the new one feels like nothing, and thus you keep finding yourself doing 60 in a 45…) and hope that if I do get pulled over, they’re understanding of the situation.

 

It’s funny, when I bought it the sales manager kept being like “Aren’t you excited?” and I had to be like “I’m sure I will be later but right now I just feel crippled by debt.” (I haven’t had car payments in ages! I do not like debt! They want so many dollars from me! How do you get excited in that circumstance?) But after a few days of driving it I do feel a little better. It IS fun to drive, the sound system is way better than my old car, and it’s just plain nice to have something new. (New to me, that is. It’s a 2013. But my old one was 2007, so it’s newer!)

 

2. Y’all… Dollar Tree has some seriously cute summer tote bags right now:

 

Yes, they’re a dollar so they’re not the greatest quality ever, but the one I got last years held up for like 6 months, so I say worth it! (I got the green one  on the right this time!)

 

3. So… I’m getting glasses?

I had to renew my drivers license last week and you know the part where they have you stick your head in the little thing to read a line of letters and name all of the street signs? For the first time, the letters were kinda blurry. I’ve always had 20/20, so while I was still able to read them off, it definitely set off warning bells.

I was in the waiting room at my doctors office last night and heard someone cancel an eye exam appointment with the optometrist who was working in the same clinic at that time, so I was like “Hey, can I take that time slot?”. Turns out my left eye is still fine but my right one is a little fuzzy. The optometrist suggested that I wear glasses when I’m on a computer or reading… so um, 99.9 percent of my waking hours, I guess?

This making my Favs list is less of a “Hooray! I am getting old and falling apart!” and more of a celebration of how an appointment kind of dropped in my lap like a week after I first thought, “Hmm, maybe I should get an eye exam?” And the whole catching it before it gets worse thing. And I guess I might get fewer headaches? Feels like a good thing in general.

 

4. I found two amazing things at Target today:

First, this faux succulent in a bird:

 

 

Second, no home is complete without this throw pillow with a monkey that looks like a sassy reality competition show judge:

 

 

 

5. I finally decided to do another month of Netflix, and thus far I have enjoyed:

*Season 2 of Riverdale (Although starting it out seeing Luke Perry in the hospital is… ugggggghh.)

*Brenee Brown’s hour-ish special

*Iliza Slesinger’s “Elder Milennial” and “Confirmed Kills” comedy specials

 

That’s it for this week! I have a crazy work week ahead, but I think I’m going to take one day off next weekend for a Eureka Springs trip. I think I missed all of the trees being in bloom, but it should still be gorgeous!

Speaking of which, this is what things have looked like in my neck of the woods lately:

 

 

 

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#springvibes

A post shared by Crystal Ward (@crystalward11) on

Linking up with Bright on a Budget and Grace and Love

Friday favs – April Showers

 

Happy Friday, friends! I missed doing a Friday Favs post last week and the week before because the first Friday was just one of those Comedy of Errors kind of days and last week I was computerless (see below!). It’s been ages since I’ve written any regular posts, but I do try to at least get this one up every week so that my poor blog doesn’t gather dust. Thankfully, the weather is getting nice and my bank account is getting less sad, so I should have some fun adventures to post about pretty soon.

Here’s what I’ve been loving this week!

 

1. NEW LAPTOP!!

I mentioned recently that a new laptop was at the top of my must-buy list. I’ve been picking up extra work so I could order one on my next (end of April) paycheck.

Oh, the best laid plans…

Last Tuesday, I was curled up in my usual comfy chair at the library, working away, and got up to take a restroom break. When I got back and picked up my laptop, the little thingey (technical term) that my charge cord plugs into CAME APART. It would charge if I physically held the pieces together, but that didn’t seem like the safest thing to do, so I finished up what I was working on as quickly as possible, e-mailed myself a few important files and passwords, and then went to my car and cried like an adult.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, I stopped at Best Buy the next day to look around a bit, even though I had already picked out a laptop on Amazon and it was just sitting in my cart waiting for me to have the funds. I told the Best Buy dude exactly that and he asked if I’d considered applying for financing. I laughed and told him that my credit score is like 2 (Ok, in honesty it has recently moved up from “poor” to “needs work”. I aspire to mediocrity!) and he told me he got approved with a score that was like 200 points lower than mine. The concept of being able to grab a laptop that very day won out over my hate for debt, so I applied and got approved for $1,000 credit instantly. YAY.

The original laptop I had picked out was just over $300, but I ended up getting one that was $500 (on sale from $600, though!). Being able to make payments (and zero interest for 12 months, at that) meant I could actually invest in what I really wanted instead of just getting what I could afford, and I don’t regret it for a second!

I did end up having to wait until that Friday for it to arrive, because the one I decided on wasn’t in stock. I spent all dang day waiting for the UPS guy because I had to accept it in person, so of course it didn’t show up until 3:30. But it’s here and it’s lovely! I mentioned that I wanted a large screen, and I did in fact get just about the biggest you can on a laptop – 17.3″. My old one was 15.6″, and it’s funny how much more luxurious that extra little bit of size makes it feel!

It’s so nice and fast and everything WORKS (my old one was in such bad shape!). The only con I’ve noticed is that it is louder than my old one. I can hear it “thinking” fairly often, and there’s a general “I’m running!” sound, whereas my old one was basically silent. But that compared to having to deal with a space bar that only works sometimes? No contest!

I got this HP with an 8 GB memory and a 1 TB hard drive if you’re curious!

 

 

2. Last week, I discovered that I can fit in kids-sized t-shirts from Target!

 

 

I spotted the Ravenclaw one in the boys section and had to at least TRY. Turns out the kids XL is pretty on par with a women’s medium. You can’t tell from the photos, but my boobs are smooshed like pancakes in there, but otherwise they aren’t bad! And they’re like NINE DOLLARS.

Pro tip! My local Target only carries up to XL, but I discovered that Target.com had XXL! I returned the Ravenclaw tee and ordered the bigger one,(The XXL Hogwarts Letter shirt was out of stock online) and it’s not significantly bigger, but it seems a tiny bit longer and roomier. (I guess no shirt made for a boy child is going to fit double D’s.)

Here are easy links to the boys Gryffindor shirt, Hufflepuff shirt, and Slytherin shirt, too! For some reason, there’s a cute girls Gryffindoor tee, but no other houses in the girls section? The shirts are on sale for $7 each right now, too! They’re officially licensed Harry Potter merch, and I’m sure if I was buying them at Universal Studios or something they’d be at least $25. (I mean, a chocolate frog is ten bucks.)

Sorry to totally nerd out about something that won’t work for everyone, but given that I’m 5’10” and broad-shouldered and large-chested, I definitely never thought kids shirts would fit me, so I wanted to share! There were SO many cute shirts in the kids’ section – Disney and Marvel and NASA and all kinds of fun things. And $8.99!!! Life changing, y’all.

 

 

3. I’ve had some really awesome luck with the Walmart clearance section this week!

 

 

Yes, you’re reading those correctly – $1 each. I was just thinking the other day that I needed to get a new permanant marker, but ONE Sharpie is $2, so of course I was thrilled about a dozen for a dollar!

 

4. When I got home yesterday, my kitten greeted me so enthusiastically that I whipped out my phone to take pictures. I laughed SO HARD when I saw this one in the stream of photos:

 

I still laugh every time I look at it. She is beauty, she is grace.

 

 

5. I’m going to leave you with the best thing I’ve seen all week:

Seriously, y’all… watch this woman SLAY.

 

 

 

By the way, if you missed it, my monthly book review post includes a giveaway for a fun book perfect for reading outside in the beautiful spring weather!

 

It’s supposed to rain all weekend, so I picked up some hours working at the thrift store because money is good. Actually, I’m planning to trade my car in later this month (CAR SHOPPING IS TERRIBLE), so I want to pick up as much work as possible so I can ease some of the anxiety of having a car payment again! (I haven’t had to worry about that since like 2014… it’s scary! I hate debt.) I also want to get as much writing done as possible because I have a little one night getaway planned in just over a week, and I’d like to just chill while I’m away instead of working the whole time! (Totally excited to share everything about that with you guys when I get back!)

Heading out to enjoy the sunshine while I can! Have a lovely weekend!

 

Linking up with Bright on a Budget and A Little Bit of Everything

 

Show Us Your Books – April Edition (with Giveaway!)

 

Happy Show Us Your Books link-up day! It’s been a weird last couple of months for me reading-wise. I started reading Devil in the White City about the Chicago World’s Fair, but my library e-book expired halfway through and there were other holds so I couldn’t just renew it. Right after that, my hold on Radium Girls finally came through, but THAT one expired when I was only 70% finished! Back on the wait list for it, too. I did finish a few new books, though, so it’s time for reviews!

As usual, I link to both the Goodreads and Amazon page for each book. The amazon links are affiliate links, which means that purchasing something after clicking that link throws a little money into the “Crystal needs to trade in her car!” fund without costing you any extra.

 


Someone You Know

Goodreads * Amazon

I’ve seen mixed reviews of this on Goodreads, but I really liked it. It’s a mystery told from two different perspectives in different time periods. One is a first person perspective from Tess, whose twin sister went missing as a teenager. The alternating chapters are told third person from her sister’s perspective 20 years ago. I liked how the stories built towards the same event, and loved a totally unexpected twist near the climax.

It’s not an edge of your seat thriller, more of a slow accumulation of clues that leaves you suspecting pretty much everyone. The writing is solid but not remarkable, but it was a fun way to spend a few evenings.

I received a complimentary e-book for review via Netgalley. The Kindle edition is currently available on Amazon for just $1.99! Not sure how long that price will last – the book was just published in February.

 

 

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

Goodreads * Amazon

Someone raved about this on last month’s link-up (sorry I don’t remember who!) and my library had it available, so I grabbed it. Such a fun, feel-good read! I read it in one evening, so it’s pretty quick, too. I originally thought it was YA, but the main characters are in their late 20s. A great poolside read if you’re looking for quick and fun.

 


Orange Is the New Black

Goodreads * Amazon

This was a re-read for me. I recently re-watched the first couple of seasons of the show, which made me want to pick the book up again.

I’m really happy that the first time I read it, it was before watching the show. It’s a really interesting look at a woman’s experience in the prison system, but compared to all of the super dramatic things that happen in the Netflix version, it’s fairly tame. Still an interesting read, but reading it before and after watching the show are totally different experiences.

 


The Girl He Used to Know

Goodreads * Amazon

I actually reviewed this book a few days ago in its own post here! The publisher accidentally sent me two review copies instead of one, so I’d like to pass one on to one of you guys! Just enter on the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to get it.

Due to shipping costs and different giveaway rules in different countries, this is only open to those 18+ with a US mailing address.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Be sure to visit Life According to Steph and Jana Says to check out the link-up and see what dozens of other bloggers have been reading lately!

 

The Girl He Used To Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks.

 

If you’ve ever unexpectedly run into someone you knew when you were younger, you’ve probably felt that desire for them to notice how much you’ve changed.

 

 

SheSpeaks and St. Martins Press were kind enough to send me an advance copy of The Girl He Used To Know, the new book by New York Times bestseller Tracey Garvis Graves.

This novel is interesting in that it is told in two different time frames (1991 and 2001), and while most chapters are from the main character’s point of view, there are a few from another character. Unlike most books that do those things, though, it doesn’t flip back and forth every chapter. You might get four chapters from 1991 in a row, then two from 2001, then one from 1991… it’s uneven but it works.

Within the first few chapters, you notice several signs that the main character, Annika, might be somewhere on the Autism spectrum. For the most part she reads like any other narrator, but little things like how she describes smells and textures start to add up. It was interesting to see a few of the things that happen when my anxiety is bad, like needing to take a nap after an intense social interaction, come up in the story. It’s not something you see often in a protagonist, and while it was nice to see things I’ve experienced portrayed, I’d imagine it will probably make readers who are on the spectrum feel really seen and represented.

To say that I got totally sucked into this novel is an understatement. I picked it up one night last week with plans to read 50 pages or so, but ended up reading the whole thing at once. (It’s a little under 300 pages, so it took a while, but not unheard of in one night.) In addition to being curious about how the story would develop, about halfway through I started thinking about the fact that part of the book is set in August 2001 and wondered if that might lead to where I suspected it would. (Not going to tell you if I was right or wrong!)

While the book is centered around Annika’s past and current interactions with her college boyfriend, it’s also an interesting look at friendship and family relationships. As the youngest of 5 children where everyone else is way older than me, Annika’s not-that-close relationship with her brother felt realistic to me. Most books portray siblings as super close, but for a lot of us they’re just someone we talk to a few times a year at holidays.

To be honest, since I mostly read nerdy non-fiction, I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy this when I was offered the opportunity to review it. Most books that fall into the Women’s Fiction genre hit that “Passed the time just fine” category for me – not mad that I read it, but not that noteworthy. I was so pleased to find that I enjoyed this more than I expected to! The characters were interesting, the plot wasn’t predictable, and there was an intense part near the end that I definitely didn’t expect. I’m looking forward to trying out another book by the same author if my library has one!

 

 

This brand new book just hit stores on April 2nd. You can learn more and purchase The Girl He Used To Know here!