Thursday, June 30, 2016

(Over) packing for a 7 day Caribbean cruise using just a carry on

If you would like to see all my travel posts, including recaps, tips & recommendations and packing guides, please visit my travel page.

You know I love my packing posts. Planning what I am going to pack is one of my favourite things about planning a holiday, whether it is for a week or a month. Regardless of how long I am gone, I will most likely bring the same amount of clothes. Because I am still an overpacker at heart.

Some people do the carry on only thing to bring less crap. I am not one of those people. I like my crap. I do not like checking a bag, having them lose or damage my bag, but I really don't like baggage claim. Seriously. Nothing makes me want to stab my fellow humans more.

So you might think I am being a bit ridiculous with the amount I packed for this cruise, because it is not the 'point' of only using a carry on, well I'm here to say there is no point to only using a carry on. Sure, it could be to be a minimalist and wear less crap, or it could be to plan every outfit so you're not stumped on what to wear on holiday, or it could be a way to force yourself not to shop and buy a bunch of useless stuff. But for me, it's so I can avoid baggage claim. High five.

My motto is - if it fits in a carry on, surely it is not overpacking, right?

(Over) packing for a 7 day Caribbean cruise using just a carry on - this could be used for any beach or summer vacation though!
So here is everything I packed:

(Over) packing for a 7 day Caribbean cruise using just a carry on
// polka dot bikini top // coral bikini top // floral bikini top // black bikini bottoms // pink bikini bottoms (mine were actually reversible, but I never ended up wearing them the other way) // one piece (actual was topshop, sold out) // nikes // flip flops (I don't own these exact ones but I wish I did!) // nude pumps // sandals //

The above links are affiliate links which means if you click, I make like 2 cents, so thanks!

6 dresses for dinners - there were 7 dinners but I ended up wearing 1 of the dresses twice. On a 7 night cruise you 'need' 2 formal outfits, I decided to dress up every night because I just wanted to!
3 cover up / round the pool dresses or rompers - 2 rompers and a throw on dress, this made me feel slightly put together when walking around or grabbing lunch.
2 pairs of shorts - one denim pair and one pair of nike active shorts.
Tanks and tees - grabbed a couple of tank tops and tees for shore excursions, lounging around and sleeping.
Swimsuits - a one piece, 3 bikini tops (actual are from Victoria Secret) and 2 bikini bottoms.

I also bought a super awesome floppy hat for the cruise..... and left it at home. So. Not included. Probably for the best, I don't think hats suit me but still. Womp womp.

As usual, things packed but not shown: hair & makeup stuff, underwear and sleep clothes - although, I slept in some of the tank tops shown above. Also, everything is under $50, or it was when I found it.

Here are the 'outfit' photos I took. I didn't take too many, so some things are missing or not shown properly.

Outfits from my Caribbean cruise - all this from a carry on!

So there you have it. I absolutely over packed. But I don't mind - I love over packing but still fitting everything in a carry on, it's like I'm beating the system or something. I wore everything I brought and I don't regret anything or wish I'd changed anything. So, winner winner buffet dinner.

(Over) packing for a 7 day Caribbean cruise using just a carry on - we use the weekender bags from ebags and LOVE them!

And there you have a super awesome picture of us and our ebags weekender bags - I've mentioned it before, this isn't sponsored in any way shape or form, but these bags are amazing. We took them to NYC, Europe, Disney and now this cruise. They are super comfy (as comfy as an extremely full heavy backpack can be) and they fit in all the overhead bins of all the planes and airlines we've flown with. They are not true backpacker backpacks, so if you want to head off around Europe for 6 months I'd probably suggest something with more support for your back, but because we only carry these around airports and whatnot, no biggie.

They are super sturdy and have lots of pockets and they extend (which I try and avoid, because then it encourages me to take more stuff and they are harder to fit in the overhead bins). Anyway, no kidding, we love them. Mine is always more full than KC's which is super not fair, he thinks I pack too much, I say it's because I carry all the things that we both use, like toiletries and.. a collapsible water bottle.. and other stuff.

Have I convinced you that you can use just a carry on now? Of course, you don't have to. But you can!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Things that help me get up in the morning

Things I hear all the time: 'I wish I could get up in the morning!' or 'man, I wish I was as motivated as you!' or 'how do you get up in the morning? I can't function that early!' or 'I can't work out in the morning'.

Guess what. You can get up, I am not a motivated person, I just get up, and yes. You can.

But also guess what. I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate HATE working out in the evenings. I'm not kidding. I would rather punch someone than go to the gym everyday after work. I might do it occasionally, or do some yoga after work or go for a run when the weather is nicer in the evenings than in the morning. But for the most part, I despise it. So I feel you.

But I don't say I can't workout in the evenings. I say I don't want to.

I understand not wanting to do something and just saying 'I can't' because that is easier than saying 'I don't want to' or 'it's not a priority'.

If you don't want to get up in the morning and go to the gym, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Zero things. Honestly. I'm not writing this to make you do something you don't want to do, because that's just stupid.

But. If you do WANT to and are honestly struggling to figure out how the heck you can make yourself get up and just do it, I thought I would share the things that I do that help get my ass out of bed in the mornings.

I have a story to go with this, but it's long and boring and this post is already too long, so let's just say I got to a point where I needed to start working out and it had to be in the morning. It was hard. My body hated it. It rejected it, and sometimes I would make myself sick because I hadn't eaten, and I'd have to call in sick to work. Eventually, I found a good groove, found what worked for me and what didn't. It apparently worked too well, see aforementioned hatred for evening workouts.

- Prepare the night before. I know you've heard it before, but it's because it works. I don't just mean keep your workout clothes next to the bed. I mean pack your entire gym bag, make your breakfast, put everything close together so that you can just get up and go. It takes me less than 5 minutes to get all my stuff and get out the door of a morning - the only reason I sometimes take longer is because I talk to KC.

- Prepare early. The minute I walk in the door of an evening, I unpack my gym bag. Like I said, I don't like doing anything in the evenings. I want my butt and the couch to get super acquainted. So if I don't do it immediately, it won't happen. Then I repack it and get ready for the next day.

- Early to bed. It takes me at least 30 minutes to fall asleep, so if I'm not in bed by 10pm, I'm screwed. If you don't like going to bed that early, you might have to do what I did (and what I have to do every time I 'get back into it') and suffer through it for a couple of days. Nothing makes you sleep better than consistent exercise, it will eventually work itself out.

- Workout with someone. Again, a cliche, but that's because it's true. Unless you're not a very nice person, you probably won't want to let someone else down. It really is quite simple. If you don't have a workout buddy, text someone.

- Tell the internet. If you don't have someone to workout with or text, join myfitnesspal or daily mile, post about it on instagram or your blog. Whatever works.

- Hit the snooze/set multiple alarms. Most things you read are completely against this! Not me, I love my snooze. I set my alarm 5-10 minutes earlier than I need to get up. I love the snooze button. If I didn't set it early, I would still snooze, and then I would miss the window that I needed to get out of bed.  My snooze is like 9 minutes, so what I normally do is set an alarm for 5:50am and then another for 5:55am so I get a mini snooze but don't waste 10 minutes. I still get to snooze and I still get to get up. Now that I have a fitbit, I set the silent alarm for a little bit earlier, and then my real alarm a little later.

- Another alarm trick that helps me: I set an alarm from like 8pm. Obviously I am awake, but if I am sitting on the couch being lazy and about to tell Netflix that yes I am still watching, it makes me get up, turn the telly off, make sure I am ready for tomorrow and the kitchen is clean, I go have a bath and get in my pjs and read a book. It gives me the push I need to get up off my butt, otherwise I might watch TV too late or not prepare properly.

- Make it convenient. Whether it's in your living room, right around the corner, or close to work, it has to be convenient to you. If you have to go out of your way or add unnecessary time to your morning, you'll be much more likely to bail.

- Rationlise or make a deal with yourself. If I want to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep, I make a deal. One mile, Kristen. If you're still tired, you can go back to bed. In my few years of doing this morning thing, I've never gone back to sleep but it sure helps me get out of bed. Also, as mentioned, I am not a good sleeper. The chances of me actually going back to sleep after a snooze, let alone running a mile, are so slim it's ridiculous to even argue. Now, if I am legit exhausted and fall asleep again, whatever. There is always tomorrow.

- Ease into it. You can't expect to easily get up every morning just because you prepared or whatever. You have to start small. Whether that is getting up just one day a week, or only getting up for a 15 minute workout. Start small, and eventually that will be easy and you'll move on to more. If you try and do too much too soon, you'll just burn out and stop.

- Be proud. If you got up early one morning and it's the first morning ever, give yourself a pat on the back and tell someone. If you do it one week in a row, or two, or whatever, do the same thing. You should be proud of yourself for doing something you wanted to do. You might feel like an idiot sharing it on social media, but sharing my daily snaps helped me build that habit and motivate me.

^ I look like an idiot but I was insanely proud that I got up 5 mornings in a row. And so I should be!

- Something is better than nothing. 15 minutes in your living room? It counts. A few push ups, squats, lunges, planks while you're getting your kids ready for the day? It counts. 20 minutes on the treadmill at a pace that will never break a sweat? It counts. Why? Because you have to build the habit first, and then you can work at the intensity. Something is better than nothing and you'll never feel bad after a workout.

- Keep it simple, stupid. I reckon this is the most important. I used to cart around my entire makeup bag and hair products to the gym. I used to wash my hair after every workout. I used to try and do complicated circuit type workouts. Now, my gym bag has the essentials, the things I really absolutely, no shit, actually need. I run on the treadmill or do a class where I don't have to think about what to do. I never wash my hair at the gym, I dry it with a blow dryer if I got super sweaty, I use dry shampoo. If I had to dry and style my hair, I would just bail or go to work with wet hair which is super not cute. This way, I can dry what needs to be dried, and then I can curl or straighten my hair super quickly. My makeup routine is ridiculously simple. I am using BB cream right now as well, but most of the time I stick to concealer and mascara. All in all, shower + getting ready takes me less than 15 minutes. This is key for me, it makes getting ready easier but also preparing the night before.

- Give it time. Last but certainly not least. Habits take time to form and you're not going to become a morning person overnight. Even after a year or two, it might not be super easy and you'll still have the mornings you don't want to get up. Consider starting with a goal of one or two days a week and build up from there as become more comfortable in your new routine.

Linking up with Alyssa and Tracy for Training for Tuesday! Well, in spirit, anyway!


A note: if you enjoy working out in the evening, good for you! If you don't want to workout in the morning, or at all - good for you. I'm merely sharing how I became someone who works out in the morning because that's who I wanted to be.

Honestly, the number one be all and end all reason that I get my ass out of bed is because I just do. I am not amazing, I don't have buckets of motivation, I don't have some secret stash of wonder drugs that help me wake up - I just do it, and the more I do it, the easier it is to do. I never want to jump out of bed and workout. But I do it anyway.

Are you a morning exerciser?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Caribbean Cruise: Recap of the senses

I loved Steph's recap here of her Costa Rica trip, and wanted to do the same thing with our cruise. I love sharing my travels, but I have noticed that I try and take a lot of thought and feelings out of the post for fear of it being too boring, but then I forget the feelings I had when I travelled, and that makes me sad.

I already talk/write too much as it is, what can a few more paragraphs hurt? I will be sharing a full recap soon, but for now, this condensed 'senses' recap, if you please.

I heard: Every little thing. Every slammed door, every footstep, every time someone dragged their balcony furniture instead of, I don't know, picking it up and moving it instead of dragging? But seriously. The walls are not thick on a cruise. This was not good for naps or early bedtimes (because we are 80 apparently). We also heard lots of live music, happy squeals from children and adults alike, and of course - the sound of the ocean, which never gets old.

I tasted: Everything. Seriously. I ate everything. And guess what? I gained 0 lbs. WTF? Of course, I gained plenty before we left, so that might have cushioned the blow, but yeah. I ate all the food, and drank all the fruity cocktails.

I smelled: The ocean. Food. Cigarettes. Sunscreen. BO. Alcohol. Any time I smelled something bad, I just brought a cocktail closer to my nose. Just kidding.

I saw: Lots of sunburned people, no matter how much sunscreen they put on - self included. Other than that, every single thing we saw was pretty much amazing and beautiful.

I touched: Real books. I didn't touch my kindle once, oops! I tell you what I did not touch, I did not touch a sea turtle because the guides told us not to. They were amazing to watch and of course there were some people in the group who could not resist reaching a hand out, but then every one else in the group yelled at them and the turtles were safe from idiots.

I felt: Not sea sick! Great, right? Except, I am apparently sea sick now. KC and I both have not stopped swaying (or feeling like we are swaying) since we got back and it's very disorienting. Also, I gained weight before the cruise instead of losing it, oh well, but honestly, I gave zero shits while we were there. I felt comfortable and confident and happy to be alive and uninjured. I do not recommend you have a truck hit you a week before holiday, but it definitely helped me. Jk.

Of course, it could have been the alcohol helping with the feeling comfortable and confident thing as well.

The cruise was very relaxing and we had a great time, though it was not like anything we've done before. We are very go, go, go, go people, and then we crash (early) at night. We are not really people who go out at night, and we do not sleep in. I'm not trying to be oh look at us or anything, just saying how we are. We like to do a lot, and then we like to do a lot of nothing. So doing a lot of nothing, and then trying to do more nothing at night kind of threw us for a loop. I normally sleep so well on holiday because I'm exhausted, but I didn't exhaust myself enough on the cruise, because we were just relaxing. Which is fine, relaxing is great, but it doesn't help me sleep. I'm not complaining at all, just putting down thoughts and feelings about our holiday. We really did have a good time, even if I am ridiculously dizzy right now.

What's next?

After the cruise, the girls and I were supposed to go to Vegas for a weekend, but it was cancelled/postponed. My next trip is in September, mum is coming to the US (with a good friend of hers and mine) and I am flying to meet them and we are hitting LA and Vegas. After that, I won't be travelling again until our girls trip early next year, but basically our next big trip is THE big one. Australia & New Zealand. Let the planning begin (because of course I haven't already planned all of it, right?)! That will make it 3 years since I have been home, and who knows when we will be able to go back after that. So gotta make the most of it!

Have you been on a cruise? Did you enjoy it?

Friday, June 17, 2016

Spring Goals Report/Summer Goals

I made a lot of goals for Spring. As usual, I probably failed more than I passed, but I still love setting goals because they make me think about things, like do I actually want to give up soda (nope), how much money do I really save without shopping (a lot), do I really need that piece of cake (nope).

Linking up with Steph - I think of my seasons the same way we do at home (so Summer started the 1st of June for me) but I wanted to link up so I waited.

Life According to Steph

My Spring goals (March-May).

- No shopping in March. Be reasonable in April and May if I 'have' to shop.
Fail - I shopped in March, April and May. 

- No (paying for) eating out for lunch. 
Fail - Lets just say that I keep jimmy johns in business.

- Continue working out consistently but up the effort. 
Pass-ishWhen I did my 'work out for 31 days in a row' some days were barely workouts, they more like walks on the treadmill. But they did what I wanted them to do - formed that habit, and now working out really is as routine to me as brushing my teeth. I have been trying to push myself a little harder with every workout, so I'd definitely say I did okay with this one.

- Organise photos for future photobook orders. 
Fail - Maybe next time.

- Reduce current debt by 15%. 
Pass! Not only did I reduce debt by 25%, I closed a card. I know that everyone says not to do that, but I can 100% guarantee that I would just max it out again (which I have actually done before), so I really don't care about the hit to my score (it's a mess anyway, what with me basically being a 3 year old in the eyes of the US government and having debt in the first place). So HELL YEAH.

- Increase savings so that it is triple our 'norm' from last year. 
Fail - We were double from our norm and then we bought a TV and had a few other expenses, and then we just had a lot going on in May so haven't caught up yet.

- Declutter and purge like a mad woman. 
Pass - I kept putting this off and then at the start of May I realised I wasn't going to be able to do it for like 2 months because we were going to be quite 'busy' (for us). So I spent a weekend doing it, which I know a lot of people dig the bit by bit, but I'm more of a get it all done in one day and then don't touch it for a year kind of person.

- Lose weight. 
Pass/Fail didn't give myself an exact number because I didn't want to feel like I failed. But I lost weight, then I gained it, then I lost it, and then I gained it again. So. That was fun.

- Train properly for my half marathon. 
Fail - I did not train properly at all. At all. I still ran it though and had a good time.

- Try and eat well. 
Fail-ish - March was a shit show, April wasn't very good besides the no sweets etc but and May was kind of all over the place. I am not binge eating, I am not eating 'treats' every day, but I am also not eating enough fruits & veg, and I am eating waaaaay too much.
Life According to Steph

Now onto Summer goals (June-August).

- Increase savings and stick to my payment plan. I want to get to triple our norm/minimum in savings. Also, I have an excel spreadsheet detailing all the payments I need to make in order to pay off my credit card debt this year. I had it last year, I just didn't stick to it. 
^ I wrote that before a lot of shit went down, including getting hit by an unlicensed, uninsured driver.. so... I don't know about this one right now.

- Meal plan and eat fruit & veg with every meal. I know meal planning will reduce our grocery budget and help us make better choices, less frozen pizzas. I would like to eat fruit or veg with every meal, which really isn't as hard as it sounds.

- Run 3 times a week. My next half marathon isn't until October but I have to run consistently if I ever want to get better.

- Get rid of 100 things. Yep, why not. I don't care if they go on ebay, to goodwill or in the bin, but out they go.

- Do something new in Louisville. Self explanatory.

Bonus: Have a great time on our cruise. Eat all the food. ALL OF IT. Drink all the fruity cocktails. Be a sloth and a glutton, I don't care! But once I get back, straight back into eating like a normal person and exercising kind of normally.

I decided to try and make less goals because the 'make all the goals' doesn't seem to be working too well for me. I've also been working towards them already because of the whole 'I have to be difficult and think of seasons the way I always have' thing I have going on. At least I'm consistent, right?

I am not normally the kind of person that says I 'need' a drink, or I 'need' the weekend, or I 'need' a vacation. I like drinks, weekends and vacations, but I never have such a stressful life or hard job that I need those things to recover. But all the shit has hit the fan lately, the wreck was just the cherry on top. I am not in the best place right now because of it, and I really do think I need a drink this weekend which just so happens to coincide with the start of my vacation. I am hoping it will be the reset I need.

Hope you all have a good weekend - I will be oversharing on snapchat (kristenlees122) and instagram as usual, because if you can't overshare when you're on holiday, when can you?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Books Lately

It's the best day of the month! As always, I love reading what other people have been reading so I can add to that never ending TBR list. Shall we?

One True Loves - Taylor Jenkins Reid - 4 Stars
I  received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

TJR is shaping up to be.. well, not a 'favourite' author, but one that I know I will absolutely enjoy her books. The first one was good, the second one was great, this one was the best so far. It was well written, hilarious and I just freaking loved it. I've always been intrigued by situations like this, ones that don't happen often, and I like to think about how I would act or who I would choose. I think it takes a very good writer to take a super complicated situation or storyline and make it work seamlessly, or get characters into such a mess that you wonder well how the heck are you going to get them out of this? But she does. Plus, the characters liked cats and I don't know if you know.. but I like cats too. 
Finding Fraser - KC Dyer - 3 Stars
I  received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I saw Jess post about this I was like yep. Mine. Need it. I have only read the first Outlander book so I was worried that this would talk about the others too much, but it barely mentioned them. I don't know if a non-Outlander fan would like this, to be honest. It was a very cute book and I did enjoy it most of the time. Unfortunately, I really disliked the main character. I mean, I don't have to like characters to like a book, but to put it nicely, this girl was an idiot, she had no backbone and she fell for the most ridiculous things. I understand these things were essential to make up the story, but still. Nothing wrong with making the character strong or at least not stupid. I also really didn't like the sister, mainly because the main character wouldn't stand up to her. But overall, it was a cute book and I did enjoy it. Just wanted to smack the main character.
A Year of Being Single - Fiona Collins - 3 Stars
I  received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was okay, it was cute. As Steph would say, it passed the time just fine. It was very light and fluffy, predictable too. It was short, so a lot happened in not a lot of time, and it was paced a bit oddly. I didn't connect to any of the characters because of that.
The Girl from Summer Hill - Jude Deveraux - 4 Stars
I  received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a P&P variation and there is a lot of P&P going on. For one, it talks about Jane Austen and the original, then there is a play and then it is playing out in 'real life'. It's hard for me to rate/judge P&P variations because I go into the book already knowing all the characters and the stories. I can definitely see how going into any P&P variation is a bit hard because there are so many characters and stories to keep up with, but for me, I am just matching who is who in my head (oh, there's Jane, he must be Bingley, where is Caroline? etc). But overall, this was a super cute read, I enjoyed it, and it would definitely be a good beach read. I can't say how a non P&P fan would like it though because it's hard for me to separate the two. But Nadine liked it!
Batter Up - Robyn Neeley - 3 Stars

This book was super cute, adorable, cheesy and predictable. It was not bad though, and it didn't annoy me or make me want to skim just to get it over and done with. It's just a simple, fluffy, adorable, romancey beachy type book.

Beauty - Robin McKinley 4 Stars

I had no idea this book was written so long ago, but I really enjoyed it. It's not the best retelling I've ever read, but it is far from the worst, and I read it one sitting so it must have been good. I did want a wee bit more in the end, but all in all, an enjoyable read.
Strangely, Incredibly Good - Heather Grace Stewart - 2 Stars

Unfortunately this book was not good. I was not a fan at all. First off: talking shit about someone because they are skinny and you are not, does not make you skinny (I know, shocker). Assuming everyone in a gym is there for fun or chit chat and must have no idea what it's like to be overweight is ridiculous. Saying thin people don't have to work hard or don't understand is preposterous. Guess what, once you lose weight, you look just like the skinny people you were making fun of, and then what? You think you get a free pass? You think you wear a sign that says 'it's okay, I'm not one of them?' NO. I am so sick of body shaming in general, whether it is people, movies, or books. So sick of it. Bringing someone else down does not bring you up. Of course, the book is much more than skinny/fat but nothing else redeemed it after that for me.  I thought it would be a quick, enjoyable, fluffy read. It was quick. I wouldn't recommend it or read it again.
This Sky - Autumn Doughton - 4 Stars

This book was honestly more of a 3 star, writing wise, but I really did enjoy it, much more than other 3 star books, which is why we hate the star rating, right? But seriously. It's a bit older than YA (apparently that's called NA?) and I wasn't the biggest fan of the style of writing, sometimes it felt like it was trying to be too flowery or familiar (like familiar with me like we just met, not familiar like it reminded me of something) but despite that, I kept thinking about this book when I wasn't reading it, I kept trying to sneak a page here and there on my phone. I really enjoyed it. It was funny, cute, a little sexy but not smutty, sweet but emotional. I really liked it and if you like these kinds of books, you should check it out. It's only 99 cents on Amazon! (not an affiliate link).

A Rogue by Any Other Name - Sarah MacLean - 4 Stars

Yeah I know this cover is just... yep. I don't remember who recommended this to me, but it sounded good. For what it is and what I obviously expected, I thouroughly enjoyed it. No complaints. Actually, one huge complaint. I am a sucker for an epilogue. THAT was NOT an epilogue, Miss MacLean. An epilogue is your chance to make me feel all happy and gooey and lovey and happy endings and shit. It is not to start a new story. Okay? I don't mind the new story at the end of the current one, makes me want to read the next book - just don't call it an epilogue when it has nothing to do with what I just read, k? K.

Vampire Academy series - Richelle Mead 4 Stars

I can't remember if I read these books before or after Twilight, but they came out when I was like 20 and I loved them, I got an inkling to re-read them recently (after watching the 'guilty pleasure' that is the absolutely shockingly appallingly movie version) and I enjoyed them just as much as I did when I was younger, even though this time I knew everything that was going to happen, and I could see how incredibly lame these books are.... but guess what, I don't care.

Do I recommend these? Eh. They aren't books I'd recommend, unless you're super into YA and vampires (not that I am into vampires.. but apparently I was when I was younger) and in that case, you've probably already read them..
Just One Day - Gayle Forman - 4 Stars

Hmm. This book is super hyped and everyone seems to love it. I went into it not only with high expectations, but with a pretty firm idea of what I was reading... It did not meet my expectations exactly, but it completely blew me away with how wrong I was and I couldn't seem to wrap my head around that. I was so sure I knew how this book would go and it went the opposite way and it left me a little gobsmacked. I truly enjoyed it and I loved the growth, the story and the relationships... but then at points, I was bored. I think I was waiting for it to get where I thought it would go, but it didn't. All in all, this book was a pleasant surprise, but not in the way I thought it would be. Hard to explain.  I enjoyed it.
Rumour Has It - Jill Mansell - 4 Stars

This was an adorable, lovely book. I really, really enjoyed it. It was exactly what I needed and expected. I hate to use the words chick lit, but if you like chick lit, you will like this. Adorable, but not cutesy. Funny but not cringe worthy. Sexy but not smutty. I really enjoyed it. It made me giggle and smile and I promptly gave it to my mother in law to read when I was finished.

Oh and check this out:

I know authors are people and all that jazz, but it makes me squeal and jump up and down like an idiot when they favourite a tweet or reply back to me. 

I also read Exposure to a Billionaire for book club, which unfortunately I do not recommend. 

Life According to Steph

Linking up with Steph and Jana

TL;DR - Books I'd recommend because I enjoyed them: One True LovesThis Sky and Rumour Has It.

I was planning on reading more this past weekend, but KC and I got in a wreck on Saturday and it kind of put a damper on relaxing and reading. Thankfully we are both okay and that is what matters. I have been drawn to lighter books lately, as I'm sure you can tell. I am almost finished with The Lake House but bloody hell it's long. I've also been stuck on page 1 of Ready Player One for like 75 years, every time I try and read it, I am overcome with a need to put my kindle down. It's weird.

We leave for the cruise this weekend, I am looking forward to a lot of relaxing, eating lots of food, drinking all the cocktails, and reading all the books.

Read anything decent lately?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Recipes Lately

One of my goals this year was to try new recipes. I didn't really put a number on it or anything, but I've been doing really well so far and I wanted to share some of them in case you're looking for some new recipes. Also, I'll just go ahead and say I am incapable of following a recipe perfectly, so there's that.

Recipes I've Tried Lately

Chicken fried rice. Let's be real, nothing tastes as good as the take out stuff, no matter what the reviews say. I like my fried rice greasy and delicious, okay? But I also like my heart beating, so I don't mind a somewhat healthier version (meaning I at least know what is in this one). This was very easy, relatively quick and tasty. Can't believe I've never made fried rice before! I added sesame oil and veggies.

Recipes I've Tried Lately - Chicken Fried Rice

Turkey buffalo balls. I made these for KC's lunch because I knew they'd be too spicy for me, but I actually had a bite and it wasn't bad at all. I made them bigger than she made hers, I added some bread crumbs and used cheddar instead of blue cheese, per KC's request. Mine look absolutely nothing like hers, but KC loved them so high five.

Recipes I've Tried Lately - Turkey Buffalo Balls

Chicken ShawarmaI made this for one of our new Sunday meals, KC had his with salad in a pita pocket and I had mine on corn tortillas. Unfortunately, this was a bummer meal, it didn't turn out as amazing as I hoped. I'm sure it was me and not the recipe though because I've never had a bad recipe from Budget Bytes. So don't let that discourage you, because hers looks amazing.

Recipes I've Tried Lately - Chicken Shawarma

Goulash. I think my mum made something similar growing up - I'm sure lots of people did, basically just pasta + meat + tomatoes. It was really tasty, I really enjoyed it and it was so easy. I made it with a new GF pasta I found in Trader Joes - it was 'penne' but it definitely was not penne, but that's okay because I wanted more like macaroni anyway. I was so shocked that it worked in the 'one pot' meal though, I've never tried GF pasta in a one pot meal. I'll definitely be making this again. Something I want to note, for those trying to get more veggies, I added 2 zucchinis that I had grated. You can barely see them, and you could hardly taste them. I'll definitely be doing that again.

Recipes I've Tried Lately - Goulash

Quinoa pizza crust. This was good. It wasn't oh my gosh this is better than real pizza good, but it was good. It was surprisingly easy as well, I kept waiting for it to like blow up in the oven, or not cook properly because surely I did something wrong.. but nope, easy as pie. Or pizza. But I will say next time, I'll make smaller ones, as the centre was a little soft and that's when you really noticed you weren't eating papa johns.

Recipes I've Tried Lately - Quinoa Pizza Crust

Avocado, chicken & chickpeas.  This is a recipe I kind of made up myself based on two others (chickpeas and chicken). I am not a recipe sharer (or even creator) and I have a post in my drafts but I am not sure if I should share it or not, if anyone would even be interested. KC loves this and so do I - but I have it without chicken. The avo fills you right up, which is great.

Recipes I've Tried Lately - Avocado, chicken & chickpeas salad

Spinach & Feta stuffed chicken - I also sprinkled some bread crumbs on either side.

Recipes I've Tried Lately - Spinach & Feta stuffed chicken

Beef & Broccoli. Oh my word, this was amazing. We've had this at least 5 times and it's just as good every time. We serve it over rice, but something happens once it's served (we inhale it) and I never take a photo of it... so here's a photo of it cooking.

Recipes I've Tried Lately - Beef & Broccoli

Corn, chickpeas, tuna & mayo - another one I kind of made up myself and I know it sounds super weird... and doesn't look the best. But if you like those ingredients, you might like this, and maybe there is a weirdo out there like me! I keep meaning to try avo instead of mayo, but I use such little mayo I couldn't be bothered. Basically I take 1 can of each (oh the horror! cans!) corn, chickpeas and tuna. I rinse and drain the corn and chickpeas, drain the tuna. Mix it all up, divide into two containers. One goes in the fridge for the next day, the other goes in the microwave for like 2 minutes. Then I add a small dollop of mayo and mix it all up. The mayo kind of coats everything, but it doesn't taste like mayo (but I don't have a heart attack when someone mentions mayo, so maybe that's why). This was something I just threw together one day back in the apartment based on what was in my pantry, and I'm still eating it a few years later.

Recipes I've Tried Lately - Corn, chickpeas, tuna and mayo

Black bean & lentil tacos - I didn't really follow a recipe for this one, just kind of winged it, but I did use the one linked for inspiration. These were really tasty, but KC had 5 and I had 4 - way too many! Next time, we will have these as a main, with something else as a side - which we never do with tacos, but it's necessary with these. It was just too much of the lentils/black beans, we both had stomachaches the next day. But not in a bad food poisoning way, in a 'you ate too many beans and lentils' way. I added cheese after I took the photo, not sure why I didn't do the cheese and then photo, but whatever. Of course I added cheese! They are tacos!

Recipes I've Tried Lately - Black bean & lentil tacos

Black bean burgers - saving the best for last. This is not a new recipe, I think I've talked about this before, but it is seriously one of our favourites. It is quite easy but it's time consuming. I'm a complete and utter novice in the kitchen, so when I say it is easy I really mean it. I do let the mix sit a little bit so that it forms patties easier, and I use oats instead of bread crumbs (I just put them in the food processor first, separately) but seriously these are SO tasty. KC goes through phases where he wants to eat less meat, but even when he's in a super meaty phase, he loves these, and so do I. I reckon these are the best black bean burgers in the world, and okay, they are the only ones I have ever made but why should I go looking for more when these are as amazing as they are?!

Recipes I've Tried Lately - the best black bean burgers in the world.

I know this seems a bit of an odd/boring post, but I love to see what people are eating, seriously. I'm not a good cook, I'll never 'create' a recipe, but I will mash a few together. I do love sharing what I've made and seeing what other people are eating. Hint. Just kidding. I really am always on the lookout for simple - legit, actual, really simple - recipes.

Any recipes you think a novice like me should try?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

9 Australian Foods you must try

I'm sure when people think of Australia, they think of koalas, beaches, Paul Hogan and the desert among other things. The first thought (or ten) might not be the food - like if you were travelling to Italy, France or Germany, say. But I'm here to tell you - we have some pretty good food and if you ever find yourself in my neck of the woods... make sure you try these things.

First up, you need to open your mind. Broaden your horizons. If you are travelling to a different country, you should want to do and try new things. It won't be like home and if you want it to be - you should stay home.

1. Pavlova.

Mmmmmm pav. My favourite, I miss it so much. One day I will learn to make it. It's basically a delicious mix of crisp and soft meringue, topped with whipped cream (not cool whip or the like, but actual cream) and fruit. Mum puts chocolate on it too. So good.

2. Meat pie or sausage roll.

You know how you guys get hot dogs and nachos and stuff at sporting events? These are our versions of that. You can get them almost everywhere, some fancier than others. Slather on some tomato sauce and eat it straight from the bag the bakery put it in.

3. Tim Tams.

I might have to revoke my Aussie card after I say this but... not a huge fan of Tim Tams. I know, I know. But most people are, and you might be too, so you should definitely try this chocolate biscuit (not your kind of biscuit). When I do eat them, I dip them in my tea and drink out of them. It's a thing, I promise. All that being said, if you put a packet of Tim Tams in front of me, I will inhale them because I inhale everything.

4. Vegemite on toast (or bread). 

I would not recommend most people eat this because it's an acquired taste for sure. No offense, but most Americans I see try vegemite, they slather it on like peanut butter or stick the jar under their nose for a big whiff. Attention: don't do that. I'd prefer you not try it at all because it hurts my feelings when people don't like it, but if you do - first put some butter on (I personally don't like butter, but lots of people do with vegemite) and then sparingly ( spread the vegemite on toast (it spreads better on toast than bread). If you don't like it, don't tell me.

If you're unsure on how to eat vegemite, watch this video:

5. Sausage sizzle at bunnings.

Ok, it doesn't have to be from Bunnings. Bunnings is a large chain of hardware and DIY shops - like Home Depot. Every Saturday, local charities set up a sausage sizzle at pretty much every location. About $2 will get you a barbequed snag (sausage) with tomato sauce (ketchup) on white bread, and for a little extra (like 50 cents) you can add some grilled onions. It's better with one slice of bread, but you can do two if you want more than one snag. You can have a sausage with bread at any old bbq, but it's better at Bunnings - It's hard to resist the smell when you rock up and it's almost worth a trip alone!

via - great post about the typical aussie sausage sizzle

Side note: sausages in general are better at home. They aren't the same as they are here. They're kinda gross here, sorry. They aren't like breakfast sausages either.

6. Fish and chips.

Preferably by the beach, with a potato cake on the side. FYI if you're in Melbourne, it's potato cake. If you're in Sydney, it's potato scallop (or just scallop, I know, it's confusing). But either way the fish n chip people will know what you're talking about no matter where you are. Oh, if you're in Melbourne - get a dim sim as well. They're the best there. Yum.

7. Kangaroo or Crocodile.

I personally did not try either of these until we went in June, and only because KC got them and I had a bite. The kangaroo meat is very lean and you can get it in the grocery, it's quite popular. You might feel sad - but people eat deer, don't they? Kangaroos are like rodents at home, they are not cute furry pets. I'm not saying it's okay to eat them because they aren't pets, I'm just saying your perception of them is not the same as ours. You won't find these at every restaurant you go to, but if you see them you should try them - don't be afraid.

crocodile skewers recipe

8. Lamb.

You might be wondering why I'm recommending a whole lot of meat when I'm not even a big meat eater. If you try anything on this list, it should be lamb. Except if you're a vegetarian. But really. I don't eat lamb in the US because no-one does it like we do. Because we love our lamb.

9. Lamingtons.

Ok, this might tie for favourite. Vanilla sponge cake dipped in thin chocolate icing and coconut. Yum, yum, yum. When we went to Disney in 2012 during the food & wine festival, there was an Australian cart thingy and they had lamingtons so I of course bought it even though it was overpriced. I might even try and make my own one day. Personally, I like the store brand ones from Woolworths, They're cheaper and yummier. You can even get them in 'bite size' like you won't eat the whole pack.

Bonus - Milkshake!

This isn't food, but golly I miss a good milkshake and I urge you to get one. Krispy Kreme or Wendy's (Wendy's not like your Wendy's, same name, different type of restaurant - ours sells ice cream, doughnuts, hot dogs and milkshakes) have good ones, but you can't go wrong really, unless you go to McDonalds, then you'll get what we call a thickshake - which is like your milkshake. There is nothing wrong with those, I just prefer a good old fashioned milky milkshake.

Of course there are a zillion other things I would like to add to this list (twisties, killer pythons, caramello koalas, anything my mum cooks, iced vovos, anzac biscuits) but I'm trying to keep it simple. Also, I'm not saying these things are only in Australia, or that we invented them - on the contrary, you can get them lots of places like NZ, the UK or even Epcot. Ha.

I had all of these things (and more) when I went back home in 2014 but barely took any photos because I was too focused on eating it immediately. Next time I'll be better.

I've had this post in my drafts for ages, and I thought the last Wanderlust Wednesdays was a good time to finally post it.
Wanderlust Wednesdays

Any of these things sound good? I'm kinda hungry now.