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October 29, 2014

Wellness Wednesday: Plea to the Lucky Ones

There are a lot of blog posts and articles out there about not letting ourselves be jealous of the lives it appears people are leading through the filter of social media. It's a problem that I am sure most of us deal with, and all of the posts and articles are exactly right--you can't compare your every day to other people's highlight reels.

But (here we go...) when you have a chronic illness, it's a bit different. You don't see people's highlight reels. You see healthy people. No, healthy people's lives aren't all sunshine and roses, but go with me here. You know that they have the capability of holding a job, taking care of their house and cleaning, keeping their family fed. And not just accomplishments in general (shoot, do healthy people even see those as accomplishments?), but every single day, day in, day out, taking a shower, getting themselves ready, driving to and from work, getting groceries, running to Starbucks, painting their nails, going out with friends, going on trips, the nitty gritty, the mundane every day things--and frequently many of those in the same day--without a second thought. That is just normal life to them.

So when I see people like that ... any healthy people ... sharing glimpses of their healthy life, just mentioning in passing all the things they did that day like it's nothing, yes, it's easy to be jealous of them and envy their ability to live and thrive physically. It's very easy to be bitter about where they are and where I am and wonder why on earth I've been robbed of the ability to even be able to be in charge of the grocery shopping and the laundry and holding a "real job." To be stuck in the kind of life where Daniel is thrilled if I've actually made dinner and done the dishes for a full work week.

But it's not the healthy people that I resent. I resent and am saddened by the possibility of any of them not realizing and appreciating how amazing, miraculous, and absolutely priceless it is that they can take a shower, get ready, drive to work, buy groceries, drive home, make dinner, do the dishes, clean, hang out with friends, go on trips...

Not to mention (but I will anyway) things like being able to get out of a car easily, not frequently being out of breath, putting away groceries without having to rest after, not having to lie down after taking a shower. Or even being able to sit in air conditioning without it causing you pain, not being anxious about going out to eat and your specially ordered food being contaminated with something that'll send you into death-pains a few hours later, not dreading fall and winter because it means more pain, or being able to always get up and fix yourself food when you need it ... I could go on and on.

And being able to do all of this without a second thought about their body cooperating, no dread of having to back out of plans, no fear that their body might freak out from sensory overload while they're out and rob them of the ability to enjoy it. The limit to their dreams being the sky and not their health.

So today I just have one wish--a plea really: if you're one of the lucky ones whose normal equals healthy, as busy as your life is, as tiring as it is running crazy every day doing 6200 things, please, please be thankful you can do those 6200 things. Please take care of yourself so that you can stay that way to the best of your ability. And please never stop being grateful for the freedom you have in health.

Love the Here and Now

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October 28, 2014

Music Love Tuesday IV: "1989"

Man, it really seems like we just did Music Love Tuesday, but here we are again! And of course, considering I'm a Taylor Swift fan, you knew I had to devote this week's to her new album, right?

Okay, what do you think of 1989? I've seen mixed reviews--and that's pretty much how I feel about it too. I've never loved everything she's done--just a decent amount of her music, some of which I love, love, love. I do really respect her in many ways and think she is brilliant. And as a creative, I am excited for her about this album, even if I don't love it all. But, as usual, there are a few I really like and a couple I love. And I will say, the songs all grow on you the more you hear them. And also, as different as this album is, it's still Taylor, and therefore still oddly soothing to listen to and have on in the background. But that's just how my brain processes her music. :)

Now here I am, trying to list out my favorites, and the more I go through the songs the more I like and the harder it is to just pick a few--except for #1, which was a no-brainer for me--so we're going with my top 6. 

{Side note: Does "This Love" remind anyone else vaguely of "Holy Ground"? Just me?}

And as these aren't all on Youtube yet, we're having to go with the much less exciting version of Grooveshark.

#6 - Shake It Off
Yep, I didn't care for this one at first. Then it came on Pandora one day and made me happy, and now I like it. ;)

#5 - I Know Places

#4 - Blank Space

#3 - Bad Blood
As these top three are in a row (not in this order though) on the album, she was really on a roll here!

#2 - I Wish You Would

#1 - Wildest Dreams
This song is just soo pretty--the melody is gorgeous, enough so to make it stand out from the rest for me right away. The chorus is absolute perfection and just kills me. Again, brilliant.

Okay, so let me know! What are your favorites? 
Do you think she'll keep doing pop now?
If you love Taylor, be sure to check out my pre-"1989" top 10 favorites of hers!

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October 27, 2014

How They Do Fall in North Carolina

Well, lo and behold, what we planned to do this weekend actually happened! (Unlike last weekend ... and most of the time when I make plans.) I said on Friday we were hoping to go to the fair on Saturday, and my body did it. But that also meant it didn't do (and won't be doing) much of anything the next couple days. Oh my gosh, I felt like death the next day. The fair was massive, and I don't know when the last time was I walked that much--not even the weekend before at the mall.

But it was worth it! I hadn't been to a state fair in well over 10 years I'd say, and that was back in WV. So this was quite the adventure and, obviously, the first time Daniel and I got to go to something like this! (Besides the much smaller but even more awesome festival we went to earlier this year.) But as anxious as I was about my body cooperating, we were so excited to go on this adventure! And the weather was gorgeous!

And of course my iPhone came along for the ride ... so queue the photo dump. :)

Our day started with a small concert from Kari and Billy. They were pretty good! The music was awesome, and he sounded like a cross between Brad Paisley and Luke Wheeler on Nashville. ;)

Of course there was nothing for someone like me to eat, but Daniel managed to find something. ;)

And finding the cows was a must... Farm girl here.

Charolais are notoriously my favorite. :)

And a baby! ;) Which, if my sister and I had been in charge of naming it 20 years ago, would have been called "calfie." ;D

So this Grateful Heart Monday, I am grateful for another awesome Saturday with my Daniel. I hardly ever get to go places, much less an all-day date for us, so it was yet another priceless weekend. :)

Ember Grey: Grateful Heart

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October 25, 2014

Short & Sweet: Free Ring with any Purchase!

Here we are again to the last Saturday of the month, and that means one more Short & Sweet, two-day sale at Katya Valera!

Yep, you get a free ring with any purchase made at Katya Valera, starting now until midnight tomorrow (Sunday) night. You can pick out which ring you'd like from my Facebook albums here, here, and here and let me know in the note at checkout, or you can just let me pick for you!

Happy shopping, and happy weekend! :)

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October 24, 2014

My Friday Five: Good Food and a Book I Actually Love!

Well, it's somehow Friday again! And it's pizza for dinner, and we're going to attempt to go to the fair at some point this weekend. So hopefully my body will cooperate enough for this weekend to be half as good as last Saturday turned out to be. ;)

1~ You may have seen this lovely discovery on Instagram earlier this week. I attempted making something similar a while back and it was pretty bad, so I was skeptical, but these are awesome! Thank you, Whole Foods. :)


2~ Speaking of yummy food, did you see this week's Wellness Wednesday recipe? Just one more way to use the coconut sauce I've now used in like three other recipes.


3~ So yesterday I posted a very depressing blog review. But I promised that today I would prove I don't hate every book I read... So I am happy to report that after reading A Matter of Heart, I read Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson, and it was pretty awesome. I'd never read a "thriller" before and found it online by accident a few months ago and was attracted to it because of the slight similarity to 50 First Dates--the main character is an amnesiac. Except this story isn't all happy like 50 First Dates, as both the reader and the main character don't know who to trust. I finally tracked the book down at Barnes & Noble this weekend and finished it in no time--I got to about 60 pages left a couple nights ago and just had to stay up and finish it.

I thought the book was brilliant. The plot, all the little details that had to be tied together, the order in which the story was told, the author's mind-blowing ability to capture mundane details in the perfect words to make a scene come to life in your mind, the ending that for the longest time I did not see coming ... and I only found one typo! ;) Plus, this is S. J. Watson's first novel! Insane.

The only drawbacks: I was thinking as I read it that this would be an R-rated movie, which I never watch. I find things disturbing that most people can just brush off (yes, call me sheltered...) and don't watch anything terribly violent or graphic. There were a couple of scenes in the book, flashbacks, that could have gotten the point across without so much detail and length. And there was a particular word they liked to use a lot (a British thing I assume). Those were the only drawbacks, and I was willing to put up with them because the story was so good. Also, I've seen some complaints in reviews about the ending being predictable (which I didn't think at all--I just felt stupid for not figuring it out sooner) and about the very ending. Yes, it could have had just a couple more sentences at the end, but I'm willing to overlook that. I also saw many complaints about lapses in believability. Which is something I complained about in yesterday's book but was very willing to ignore--and even not notice--with this book. The difference is the quality of the story and the storytelling: if a book is just there and then throws in reality issues, I'm not going to overlook it, but if a story is so amazingly written, I'm willing to put up with whatever reality issues you want to throw in there for the sake of the story.

So, I at first thought this would be a great movie, then as I got farther, I realized it would be a movie I wouldn't watch. Then the day after I read it, I discovered it has been made into a movie that comes out on October 31, rated R of course. Now if that isn't fluky--that I just found this book right before the movie came out--I don't know what is. As much as I want to see it, because the book was so good, there's a difference between reading something and watching it. So I most likely won't. But the author has his next book coming out next year--so there's a good chance we'll be reading that one too. :)

4~ My mom sent me this article the other day... did you see Lily Collins's dress?? Oh my... You must take a look.

5~ All you Nashville fans, I'd love for you to check out this week's Music Love Tuesday post, where I shared my top 10 favorite songs from the show--and I would also love to hear what your favorites are!


P.S. If you filled out my survey a few weeks ago, don't forget that your gift card reward expires October 31st! (If you need to be reminded of the code, feel free to email me!)
Be sure to come back tomorrow for this month's 
Short & Sweet 2-day sale at Katya Valera!

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October 23, 2014

Book Review: A Matter of Heart

*I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

I recently was given another opportunity to review a book from Bethany House. When I saw A Matter of Heart by Tracie Peterson involved a heroine who had to choose between two men, I had to go with it. Not being too keen on the whole obvious, one hero-one heroine, hmm, wonder if they'll end up together in the end?? stories, as in the last book I reviewed, I was excited for a story that supposedly wouldn't be so blatantly obvious.

To catch you up, Jessica Atherton is a spoiled, early-twenties' woman in the late 1800s looking to mend her ways and become a better person, while all of her friends are getting married and having babies. She must choose between two men: Harrison Gable, a smooth lawyer, and Austin Todd, a former Secret Service agent and current Texas Ranger with a past full of tragedy.

It's not really a hard choice though. It was clear from the very beginning who she would end up with. Harrison was just a distraction, painted as a villain from the start. A couple of chapters in, I really did not want to finish this book. But I did anyway. And while the plot did get more interesting, there were just too many issues overwhelming it.

The little things: 
There are way too many typos. One, maybe two is okay. But five or more? This probably means one of two things: the book was in horrible shape before it reached the editing stage and this is the really good version, or, as Tracie Peterson is a very popular author, there was a rush to get this book out and it didn't get the level of editing it needed. I'm leaning toward the latter.

Sometimes when we're reading about a flashback, the incorrect past tense is used--but I doubt that would bother many other readers. (And some of you may have no idea what I'm even talking about...)

Reading a story told from the point of view of two or three characters is very interesting and often desirable. But, in addition to the points of view of the main two characters, scenes sometimes take place from the limited point of view of minor characters, in scenes that really didn't even need to happen, that made me think, "Wait, what are we here for?" There were already a lot of characters, many of them related in ways I gave up trying to follow, so trying to read through different points of view, while not terribly frequent, was confusing.

It's always hard to introduce your characters to readers in a way that is natural and not forced in the slightest. I get that. But in the beginning, about a chapter in, the main character, Jessica, is sitting at the dinner table with her parents, having a conversation, when all of the sudden a Tyler Atherton is referred to. I mentally reeled and thought maybe there was suddenly another man at the table, then finally figured out that was her father's name--but as far as I could recall we didn't yet know Jessica's last name was Atherton. So that was very confusing, and not the right foot to begin this story on.

At one point, I could be wrong, and I reread it and reread it trying to wrap my brain around it, but I believe while two characters are having a conversation, the wrong name is used in the speaking tag, and/or a character then replies to himself. Confused? Me too. I don't know what happened, but for a minute there, something went wrong.

In short, too much mental reeling from scenes that were slightly hard to follow, to know who's talking, to know how these people are all related, etc.

The big things: 
Often an important scene would begin, and then it would end abruptly and pick up when the event was over--like Jessica becoming seriously ill all of a sudden. Immediately thereafter, we learn she was ill for over a week. And we saw none of it. Similarly, Jessica gains permission from her parents to take an overnight trip with a couple she's friends with and go to a concert, where the distraction-lover will be. It's clearly gearing up for a big event--but it just ends with her leaving for the trip. The story picks up on another day without us getting to see anything about the trip. Christmas finally comes, with big things clear to happen, and we see only a glimpse of the morning, before Christmas even starts. When huge events like that are lead up to and then ended before they begin, it's not only confusing and a lost opportunity to develop the story even more, but it makes you wonder if the author just didn't feel like writing through the rest of those happenings and so just conveniently cut out before things really got started.

Throughout the book, there is a threat going on against one of the minor characters, but it involves Austin, the former Secret Service agent. The threat arises toward the beginning--a man who murdered the minor character's father is back in town to, most likely, murder her and hurt her family too while in the quest for some forged gold certificates and printing plates. But when this man arrives in town very suspiciously and is very quickly discovered to be using a fake name and lying about why he's there, the issue is rather ignored for a couple months. Even though it's an underlying plot in the story, it's never really taken very seriously until months down the road, for some very strange reason. Completely unrealistic and unbelievable.

In the end, Austin goes off to a nearby state to settle the above threat and criminal activity going on. And though he knows he's being watched by the two men in question and that they're capable of murder, he becomes uncharacteristically oblivious to the danger, dropping his guard long enough to be cornered by the men in his own hotel room, alone, without a gun, the recovered gold plates and such strewn out over the bed. He ends up being attacked and shot because of it, which puts him in the hospital for a month. I find it very hard to believe that a man with his experience and seriousness--with a brand-new fiancee waiting for him back home--would be as careless as he was.

There is a further unrealistic, unbelievable occurrence. Austin promises Jessica that he'll be back from the case within a few days. It takes him being gone for two weeks before Jessica even asks anyone if they've heard from him and does anything about it--and that only after she convinces her father to, as he thought she was overreacting. Her friends, the family of the woman being threatened, when asked if they've heard from Austin, basically all say, "Well, no, I haven't," like it's nothing and they hadn't really thought about it. They all knew how dangerous it was, where he was going, and yet somehow they're all oblivious to the fact that no one has heard from him. They send out a telegram to try to check on him, and then, evidently, just sit around and wait. Next thing we know, a month in total has gone by without word from him, when Jessica finally finds him in a hospital. Absolutely, frustratingly unbelievable. Slow communication or not, if you had just gotten engaged and your fiance went off on a case that you knew was very dangerous, would you really sit around and wait on him for weeks before trying to find out what happened? Not a chance. Even if everyone else was somehow in a fog of oblivion, someone as independent and headstrong as Jessica would have gone off to find him on her own.

In short, the reader feels robbed of scenes we should have been privy to, the big things were downplayed as not important, and no fiancee would sit around and twiddle her thumbs for a month while her true love might be lying dead in a hotel room. Just too much unbelievability.

All in all, the book got better as it went on and did get a little suspenseful at times but was still not a book I would recommend or read again. I would give it 2 1/2 out of 5 stars.

If you made it all the way through this, wow!
And don't worry--I plan on this being my last book review, as I clearly rock at them...
I promise there are books I like--come back tomorrow, and I'll prove it! ;)

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October 22, 2014

Wellness Wednesday: Coconut Sauce Chicken Alfredo

When I shared this Shredded Lemon Garlic Chicken recipe a few weeks ago, I said that there were so many different ways to use it: You can use it in place of the turkey in this Easy Turkey and Veggie Fry, you can use it in Lettuce Wraps like this, and you can even use the chicken in place of pepperoni in this pizza recipe. I've also already shared my Lemon Garlic Chicken Salad with Coconut Mayo, one of my favorite meals lately, and now I'm back with one last use for this awesome chicken (though the possibilities are endless, of course).

Now, this obviously isn't Chicken Alfredo, but that was the inspiration, and I do think it tastes rather like it. Plus, if you already have the chicken made ahead of time (like I like to do), this meal is super easy to make.

You'll need:
Shredded Lemon Garlic Chicken, made with the addition of basil
Rice (I use this)
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Sea Salt
This coconut "mayo" sauce

1) Cook the rice according to the directions, then drizzle olive oil in a pan and briefly fry the rice in it, along with a few generous sprinkles of salt, pepper, basil, and garlic powder.
2) Place the rice in a dish, top with the chicken (warmed if you didn't just make it) and coconut sauce, and stir together.

All done!

Easy enough? I like to serve it with this broccoli or salad. And once again, the secret to this meal is the ever-versatile coconut sauce that I just keep using! It's great as a dressing, a pizza sauce, and now an "alfredo" sauce too.

Enjoy! If you like this, be sure to check out the rest of my healthy, yummy recipes!

{linking up with Delicious Dish Tuesday, Real Food Recipe Roundup here and here, Time to Sparkle, Share It Link Party, Do Tell Tuesday, Let Your Light Shine, Treat Yo' Self Thursday}

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October 21, 2014

Music Love Tuesday III: Nashville Obsession

Are you tired of hearing about Nashville yet? Sorry! Cause we're all about Nashville today!

I discovered Nashville up late one night last year on Hulu and had no idea how much I would love it. It's kind of weird how much I do, because, honestly, things get pretty messed up on there, and there is so. much. drama. But two things are what do it: the acting is amazing. Your brain doesn't even register them as acting but as real people. And it's all about singers and songwriters. And that is just perfection and takes on a whole new level of love and meaning for those who are singers or songwriters, or even those who just have a deep love for music. 

The show is good, the storyline is good, the acting is amazing--but the extra layer of music chosen and often written just for this show is nothing short of brilliant. (Can someone please tell me why this music isn't all over the radio??) I only hope it continues for several more seasons. But even if not, rewatching all the episodes recently has helped me discover that I think I could go through them all and then start right over and go around again. And that I also need to just buy all of the albums they've put out instead of just my favorite songs. The music is awesome in its own right but when you love this show, all of the music becomes a special soundtrack of so many memories. So I just need to buy it all sometime. ;)

So, in the meantime, I wanted to share my favorite Nashville songs with you in order of awesomeness:


This moment was awesome. Enough said.



This song is not on iTunes, and that makes me very sad.



I really hope this show lasts long enough for Maddie to get old enough to go on tour and 
have all her own guy problems, etc.--so much potential for a wealth of drama. ;)




I didn't even realize how much I liked this song, or that it was on iTunes, 
until I went back through season 2 this past week. Love it.



And the song that trumps all songs. Which I also didn't really discover until my second time watching season 2. This is my very favorite song right now, and I think I could cry every time I hear it. Plus, it's an amazingly emotional song in the context of the show. But it was written for me, and they just don't know it. You can hear the full thing here.

So! Are you a Nashville fan? Do you love any of these too? 
Please tell me your favorites!

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