Friday Favs

How is it already Friday? I’m so far behind on ALL THE THINGS that I need at least six more days in this week to catch up. I had an early alarm set this morning because I have like 4,000 words to write for a work project plus a billion other things to do, but tornado sirens woke me up before 1 am and I didn’t get back  to sleep until around 3, so I’m basically the zzzz-face emoji today! Sleeping Face on Apple iOS 10.3

I didn’t do a Friday Favs post last week because by Friday I was really sad and nothing seemed worth celebrating as a “favorite” that week. My 14 year old kitty had a tumor removed from her mouth last year, and at the beginning of the week she started kind of smacking her mouth and not wanting to eat again. I took her to the vet on Weds and they ran tests then had me bring her back to on Friday to stay overnight and get IV fluids. By the time I got her home on Saturday, I was pretty sure I knew what was about to happen, so I tried to keep her as comfortable and happy as possible until Sunday afternoon, when she was gone. She went from being as spry and playful as a kitten to weak and not really “there” so fast it was head-spinning. In a way I’m glad it was only a week and not months of gradual decline but man is it weird not to have her asleep next to me at night.

It’s weird to follow that depressing news with a list of good things but that’s kind of how life goes isn’t it? Ups and downs and the occasional weird  kaleidoscope-y spiral.

Things that have made this week a little bit brighter include…

 

1. On Tuesday,  had been at the library all of half an hour (I sometimes go there to write so I can focus – not in this case) when I decided that I was so freaking hungry that I had to take a break. Just as I was packing up to leave, a notification popped up from the McDonalds app (because I’m a fancy person and have both that AND the Taco Bell app. This blog is super aspirational.) with a coupon for a free McCafe “beverage” with any purchase. Free coffee-ish things? DONE. (I put beverage in quotes because let’s be honest, most of them are actually desserts, not drinks. Especially what I got.)

I ordered a Happy Meal because I am a responsible adult, waited a few minutes for my order, and then headed out to the car. As soon a I got there I realized they hadn’t given me my frappe! GIMMIE MY SUGAR IN A CUP!

So I went back in and told the girl at the counter, and she made me a large instead of a medium to make up for it. It was such a small act of kindness, but after the weekend I’d just had, it meant a lot more than it normally would.

 

2. I kept hearing about the Great British Baking Show and finally gave in and Netflixed it up. It’ now my favorite thing to have on in the background while I work! It’s so diferent from American reality shows – no crazy made-up drama and the contestants are nice to each other! (Looks like you can also watch full episodes on the PBS website if you don’t have Netflix!)

 

Old Navy palm print dresses

3. I feel like I really need a palm print dress in my life this summer. I came across these two on Old Navy and am seriously considering. The one on the left is $32, and the one on the right is $25, but you can get an extra $30% off if you sign up for their email newsletter, so that comes out to basically free, right? (Math is not my thing. This is why I’m a writer. And don’t have an awesome credit score.)

4. Great tweet or the very best tweet?

 

5. Y’all know I love planning any kind of travel, and I’m pretty happy right now because I have 3 or 4 upcoming mini trips in just the next couple of weeks! I’m planning to finally fit in a quick trip down to Eureka Springs, Arkansas early next week, the lake resort I wrote about a couple of months ago has invited me to come back, I have a media trip to the art museum in Bentonville, AR the first week of June, and I just discovered last night that there’s a Pow Wow coming up in Jefferson City the end of this month, and I really want to go. (I’ve been wanting to visit the capitol building again, too, so it can be a dual purpose trip!) Unfortunately, my bank account is in the single digits after the crazy vet bills of last week, so I may have to skip the last one unless I can pic up an extra writing gig before then. Cross your fingers that I can figure out a way to go! The dude who played Cloud Dancing on Dr. Quinn is going to be there, and as a human who was a teen in the 90s, that is very important.

 

Hope your upcoming weekend is awesome! I’m about to dive into a very long work day, but it will be worth it when payday comes!

 

Friday blog linkup

Show Us Your Books – May Edition

may book reviews

 

Happy Show Us Your Books Day! I am running on like 3 hours of sleep this morning, so I’ll skip the lengthy introduction and just get straight to this month’s book reviews!

 

One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane

Goodreads * Amazon

I’ve been listening to Jessica’s podcast, One Part Podcast, for over a year – it actually made my post about my 8 favorite podcasts a few months ago! She shared the whole process of writing and publishing this book on a second podcast, “The Cookbook Deal”, which has also been interesting to follow, and definitely got me excited to check out the actual book.

First, this cookbook is gorgeous. I’m *so* thankful that the publisher (Harper Wave) sent me an actual hardcover copy to review rather than just an e-book, because so much thought clearly went into the design that it seems like not enjoying it in print form would be a shame.

But let’s talk food. The philosophy behind One Part Plant is basically what it sounds like – adding one plant-based meal per day into your lifestyle. No crazy diets, no “omg you can never eat the stuff you like again”, just adding in a little something here and there. I love how approachable and flexible that is.

After an introductory section that covers things like suggested ingredients to keep on hand and FAQs about plant based diets, the book is divided into sections of recipes for breakfast, soups and salads, main courses, desserts and snacks/beverages.

I was worried that not many of the recipes would appeal to me, but just flipping through for the first time made me hungry. A few that I can’t wait to try include:

  • Almond Cherry Muffins
  • Chilaquiles with Cilantro Cream
  • Strawberry Chia Jam
  • Vinson Petrillo’s Fresh Chickpea Spread with Crispy Black Olives
  • Open-faced Falafel Sandwich

I had this glorious vision of trying out a bunch of recipes before it was time to post my review, but you know how life goes. Despite making it through fewer recipes than I’d hoped, this book *has* already had an effect on what I eat in the form of two ingredients: masa harina and nutritional yeast. (I posted about my newfound love of nutritional yeast in a Friday Favs post a couple of weeks ago, but long story short: I add it to everything now.)

The first recipe I tried was  Corn Cakes with Black Bean Spread, and I have to admit that after trying out some experiments with the Masa Harina that’s the base for the corn cakes, that was basically all I wanted to eat for like three days. If something was in my kitchen, I probably tried mixing it with masa , and it probably turned out delicious no matter what it was.

Overall, a big thumbs-up for this one. If it can get a non-foodie like me excited about cooking healthy stuff, it clearly has superpowers.
 
 

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Goodreads * Amazon

Who doesn’t  Anna? I don’t read many celeb memoirs, but this was fun. She’s not trying to be the world’s greatest author, just sharing interesting stories in a very “girl next door” vibe. I didn’t know she did Broadway before getting into film, so that was interesting to read about. I love that she shared that even after Twilight and Up in the Air, she was coming home to her IKEA bed in the stained carpet apartment she shared with several roommates. It’s easy to assume that once someone gets their break, everything changes instantly, so it’s nice to have some light shed on that illusion.

I wanted to do the audiobook version of this, but my library had an insanely long wait list for both the audio and the e-book , so I joined both and went with the one that was available first.
 
 

 

Happy Pretty Messy by Natalie Wise

 
Oh man, you guys. I almost never have DNF (Did Not Finish) books, but I just could not. The description of the book on Netgalley (who provided the free review copy) sounded great:

“Happy Pretty Messy is a modern-day inspirational guidebook for women of all ages seeking to live with beauty and bravery. As a modern lifestyle philosopher, Natalie Wise brings her trademark poetic prose to finding and cultivating balance, joy, and depth of self in daily life. Filled with wit and fresh insights for the heart and home, you’ll learn how to: Thrive through tragedy, Turn off your inner monologue, Get ‘back to brave'”

Great in theory! But the writing style was something I could not get over.

There’s an episode of the “Mortified” podcast where a guy reads the poem he wrote for his high school English class assignment after attending a poetry summer camp. It sounds exactly how you’d expect a poem written by a teenage boy sure of his poetic greatness to sound, down to lines like “Why praise the trees when they did not arrive there on their own accord?” and “When a moose ceases to be a moose, it begins to be a woman!” (Go listen to episode 6 of Mortified, it’s amazing.) Anyway, the point of this tangent is that there’s a quality to the writer’s style that reminded me of that episode. You can always just tell when an author is trying REALLY HARD to write in an “artsy” style rather than their authentic voice, and it comes off sounding forced and fake and for me in this case, painful to read.

The reviews that are up so far on Amazon and Goodreads are mostly positive, so maybe it’s just that the writing style was a bad fit for me and you will dig it. I wish I could provide more in depth feedback but despite picking this up four separate times to “give it one more try” because I really wanted it to get better, I only finished 12%.

Since I couldn’t finish, the best I can do here is give you guys an excerpt (from the page where I finally 100% gave up) and let you decide if you find the writing style inspiring and poetic or impossible to get through.

I clicked the author’s bio on Goodreads and was surprised to see that she’s written a few other books, including one on organic housekeeping, one about self discipline, and one about DIY gifts in jars. That makes me feel like she’s still trying to find her place in the world, so maybe finding her “voice” goes along with that.
 
 

 

The Goddesses by Swan Huntley

 
Goodreads * Amazon 
 
This book was totally different from what I expected based on its Netgalley description, the short version of which was, “The Descendants meets Single White Female in this captivating novel about a woman who moves her family to Hawaii, only to find herself wrapped up in a dangerous friendship.” I guess I expected something more thriller-ish?

It definitely started off slowly – I found the main character SO unlikeable for the first few chapters that it made it tough to get through, but eventually I was drawn in. It’s a slow build, but overall I was kind of “meh” by the end. I saw the plot twists coming way ahead of time, never did manage to like the main character, and the climax didn’t feel climactic enough after so much build-up. To borrow a term from Steph, I’d put this in the “passed the time just fine” category.

(This book will be released in July 2017. Complimentary review copy received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Life According to Steph
 
Head over to Life According to Steph and Jana Says to see what dozens of other bloggers have been reading this month. I always come out of this link-up with a billion new books on my to-read list!

Friday Favorites – First of May

 

Happy Friday! This week’s post is going up pretty late in the day, but better late than never, right? I had the headache of doom yesterday, so I spent today just struggling to catch up. I have a crazy weekend full of work ahead now, but such is life when you’re self employed. Sure, take all the sick days you need! And then enjoy your 32 hour work weekend!

Anyway here’s what I’m loving this week!

1. It looks like the crazy rain might finally be (mostly) over! It’s sunny and almost 70 today, and I can’t wait to get outside to soak it up. I finally looked up the actual rainfall, and it looks like we got over 15 inches in the past month. Our usual annual rainfall is 45 inches so that’s a LOT!

 

 

I’m mostly excited that I should be able to resume my walks by the lake soon! I tried to go check out how flooded it was a few days ago and actually got kicked out because the marina was bringing in heavy construction equipment to get the dock ramps out from under the water. (They did at least kick me out nicely, with suggestions that I head over to the campground to take pics instead.)

The photo above was taken from a parking spot along the road that’s part o my usual walk. So yeah, the entire two lane road s underwater, plus the parking, plus whats usually a pretty good sized chunk of land between the water and the road. I’ve often said that my afternoon/evening walks by the lake are the only thing that keep me sane, so as you can imagine I’m dying to get back to normal after an entire week away!

(Note- I wrote the above on Friday morning and stopped by the lake around 7pm Friday evening, and everything was closed off with security blocking the entrances. Still no lake for me! But hopefully soon!)

2. Making my own corn cakes makes me feel badass.

I’m a pretty decent cook, but I pretty much never do it because I live alone and I’ve never understood spending an hour making a meal that I’ll eat in like 15 minutes. I wanted to try out some recipes from One Part Plant before I write about it for the book review link-up next week, and decided to try the one pictured above first. I didn’t have corn on hand, so I decided to experiment mixing other stuff with the masa harina (a kind of corn-based flour… I’d never heard of it, either.)  and then became obsessed with mixing ALL THE THINGS with it to make different kinds of corn cakes. My current favorite is to mix it with the black bean and red quinoa flavor of Well Yes soup.

I still haven’t gotten around to actually making the recipe the way it’s intended to be made. I keep putting black beans in to soak and then forgetting about them.

So yeah masa harina gets my 2nd favorite spot this week. I bought a one pound bag and have made at least a dozen different experiment recipes, and I’ve only used maybe 1/4 of the bag. You can get it from Amazon for way cheaper than I found it in any grocery store here.

 

3. I’m planning to write up a whole post about it, but I just became an ambassador for Maven and if you use the code CRYSTALWVIP, you can get $25 off your first video medical appointment! Consultations with nutritionists and physical therapists are $25, so you could get either of those totally free, and I’ve seen some such as consulting with a midwife for as little as $18. You don’t even have to enter payment info unless you’re booking a more expensive appointment. (Most general doctors and nurse practitioners are $35, and mental health specialists are generally $70. Some other specialists include career and pediatric sleep coaches, which are $50 each for a half hour appointment.)

I’ll be sharing more info in the full post soon, but so far I LOVE that Maven provides access to great practitioners that can otherwise be hard to access if you live in a rural area or work hours that make it tough to make an appointment during regular office hours. And sometimes you just plain want to talk to a doctor without having to like, put on pants and leave the house, you know?

4. A little PSA about befriending the clerks at whatever store you visit most often. (This probably won’t work in major cities, but definitely in small towns!)

I stopped by the Dollar General by my house today because I knew their clearance stuff was an extra 50% off and I wanted really cheap Easter candy. One of the ladies that works there informed me that although the sign said half off, the clearance clothes were ringing up as 13 cents. I was able to get a cute floral top for my mom, and a plaid tunic (above – it’s supposed to be a short dress, but I’m tall) and charcoal grey hoodie for me, all for a total of 39 cents including tax. Whaaaa?

5. This is a thing that recently happened to me: (I know, I know, I shouldn’t give him food. But he does the little washing motion thing with his paws before he eats each one! And I really need to get out more!)

 

This is how we party at Casa Crystal at 4 am. I’ve really been in Missouri too long.

A post shared by Crystal Ward (@crystalward11) on

ICYMI, I have a Target/Amazon/Walmart/BN gift card giveaway going on – Enter here!

Are we friends on Instagram yet? Come follow my adventures! ➡️ 

 

Friday blog linkup

Gift Card Giveaway – Woohoo! (US/Canada – ends 5/17)

May 2017 giveaway hop

 

It’s giveaway hop time again! The Mommy Island and The Kids Did It are hosting the 2nd annual Life Is A Beach giveaway hop, where you can enter awesome giveaways on dozens of different blogs!

I had some cool beach-themed prizes lined up for this giveaway hop, and then the PR rep totally flaked on me and didn’t respond to my “Uhh, this post needs to go live next week and I haven’t received the products to review yet?” emails, so I thought that instead of just dropping out of the giveaway hop, it would be fun to offer a $5 gift card instead! (I’m poor, y’all. Sorry.)

The winner gets their choice of any of the following gift cards:

Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble or Walmart

 

Although you can obviously put it towards a larger purchase, all four of those have tons of fun things for under $5. A few of my suggestions?

Target:

My cats are obsessed with these feather toys from Target, and they’re under $3 each!

 

ScootersHeartsRaccoons – UFOs & Dinosaurs

All of the above socks are $2.50 or $3 each! I have the stripey heart ones and LOVE them.

(Or fun things from the Dollar Spot, obviously. And you can use Target GCs at Starbucks)

 

WalMart

 

This workout tee is $4!

 

You can get a 2-pack of these cute zippered pouches for $4.88! I love this cactus design set, but they come in 5 different designs.

(Or if your Walmart has a Murphy USA gas station, you get 3 cents off per gallon when you use a gift card!)

 

Amazon

One of my fav adult coloring book brands has this fun one on sale for $1.99! (And yep, eligible for Prime shipping!)

 

Or how cute is this notebook? It would make the perfect lightweight travel journal for your summer adventures!.($4.50!)

 

Barnes & Noble

This 10-pack of “Not All Those Who Wander are Lost” note cards is $2.50!

 

I always love browsing the activity kits in the bargain section of BN. This paper cranes kit is under $4 and includes over 100 sheets of origami paper and step by step instructions on how to fold cranes.

 

Here’s the part where you get to enter to win! I’ve kept this one super simple. All entries are optional, so you can do as many as you’d like to improve your odds of winning. The giveaway is open to US and Canada (void where prohibited by law), but the gift card will be in US currency. You can enter daily now through 11:59 pm May 17th. And after you enter my giveaway, be sure to scroll down and check out the 100+ other giveaways in the hop. Each blog has its own prize, and there are some awesome ones!

 

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. 

End of April Friday Favorites

 

1. I don’t know how it took me this long to find the Mortified podcast, but I’m totally hooked. I’ve only listened to about a dozen episodes so far, but they’re freaking hilarious. I literally got choked laughing at a guy’s diary entry that began, “Hey, I’m worried. I owe so much to so many tape clubs.” (RIP, Columbia House.) You can start with any episode, no need to go in any order.

 

2. If you are not yet following Dr. Evan Antin on Instagram… you’re welcome.

3.  As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been trying to visit all of the hiking and nature trails in my local area so I can compile a guide. (Bloggers have weird hobbies.) Over the weekend, I checked out some trails at the Springfield Nature Center while I was in town for my monthly grocery pilgrimage. (Yes, I have to drive 50 miles to find real food. The Ozarks struggle is real.)

 

I stared on the paved Boardwalk Trail, which was filled with families and way too loud and crowded, but when it split and I could escape to the hilly, unpaved Bluff Trail where I only saw a couple of other people, I was much happier. I guess I really don’t like sharing my woods?

4. Speaking of my grocery trip, this month I set off with a giant shopping list of tasty ingredients I’d need to try some recipes from the One Part Plant cookbook that I mentioned last Friday. (Fun fact: it is literally impossible to find tahini in southwest MO. I have to order it from walmart.com and get it shipped to my local store. I miss you, Orlando.)

I’ve never bought (or even tried) nutritional yeast before, but it kept showing up in the ingredients list of recipes I liked, so onto my shopping list it went.  Since then, I’ve been adding it to pretty much every meal in an attempt to get actual nutrients into my body. There’s not much taste to it, a teaspoon has about a bazillion percent of your daily B vitamins and such, and that big shaker was like $6. I’m digging it.

5. I was going to put a real #5 here, but  after just waking up to the five thousandth rainy day this month (totally mathematically possible) I am making my fifth fav this week he simple fact that April is finally almost over, so those May flowers should be along any day now. I can not with this dreariness anymore. Gimmie sun.

 

BTW, Cat Ladies, don’t miss the giveaway I have for eco-friendly cat litter! It ends 4/30!

Let’s be friends on Instagram! ➡️  

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Friday blog linkup