Books I Read in September 2015

I only got through three books in September.  Boo.  Maybe due to the fact that there is less beach time, and lots of crazy back to school shenanigans in September?  The fact that I took my time reading Once A Runner, because it was a) hard for me to get into and b) I had to dissect it for the #LDRclub were also contributing factors, methinks.

Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durant

So, I know I get a little annoyed with all the "It's the next Gone Girl!" proclamations, but this had VERY similar nuances and pacing.  It reminded me of Gillian Flynn in a good way.  The story was creepy as hell and I was definitely still guessing how the plot would unfold until the bitter end.  My one complaint was that I felt mired down in so many extraneous characters - still a good yarn.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I was reluctant to give this novel a go, since I couldn't even finish the first book in Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series.  However, so many book buddies just adore the Raven Cycle stories, and my curiosity got the better of me.  I'm SO glad I read it!  It took me a little bit to warm up to the story, as it's not quite linear; even after finishing it, there are still mysteries to be solved.  But once you get to know these FANTASTIC characters, the story just takes off.  I adored the friendship dynamic the Raven boys have with each other and with Blue.  It's a totally odd, very cool and magical (in every sense of the word) novel and I've already acquired the second book to read this month.  


Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr.

Oh, where do I begin with this book?  Clearly I didn't like it, if you followed along (or go back and read) our Twitter chat.  It's a self-published novel that really seems like one: heavy use of a thesaurus, a lot of indulgent scenes and characters that just disappear.  There were a few great moments and descriptions, but not worth the slog and misogynistic tone.  Some of this can be blamed on the times in which it was written (in the mid-70s) and the fact that it's directed toward a very narrow audience.  Either way, I don't usually read books about running, as I sort of compartmentalize the running as escapism part of my life from my reading books as escapism.  But, I did love The Running Dream and HIGHLY RECOMMEND that book for inspiration.  I'm also looking forward to some of the titles that were already been discussed for next month.  As for Once a Runner, if you're a runner (especially a competitive male one) and like to read a story to nod your head along to while proclaiming "TOTALLY!" - then this is the book for you.


Favorite Crock Pot Recipes Round Up (and This Weeks Eats 10.4.15)

I'm settling in for some Sunday night football, with Jalapeno Popper Chili in the crock pot, and it smells deeeelicious.  It got me thinking that I should have all of my favorite slow cooker recipes in one place for this time of year.  Chilly fall nights, especially football game or hectic soccer practice nights, call for an easy hot meal.

In no particular order, here are all my ten favorite taste tested and approved recipes:

  1. Crock Pot Barbacoa Beef (from Skinnytaste)
  2. Slow Cooker Cream Cheese Chicken Chili (from Plain Chicken)
  3. Slow Cooker BBQ Pork Salad (from Everyday Reading)
  4. Jalapeno Popper Chili (also from Everyday Reading, in the pot tonight!)
  5. Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup (from Real Mom Kitchen)
  6. Pioneer Woman's Chicken Chili Adapted for the Crock Pot (my adaptation of this recipe pictured above)
  7. Bridesmaid Pumpkin Soup (also my recipe)
  8. Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Blue Cheese Slaw (from Mountain Momma Cooks)
  9. Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken (from Just a Taste)
  10. Slow Cooker Jalapeno Popper Chicken Taquitos (from Creme de la Crumb)
I also did a small crock pot chili round up last year, and we'll be making one of those this week along with one listed above!  And if you're into roundups, I put together my favorite freezer meals here (also making one of those to half and freeze this week).
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


October Goals and September Recap

Where did September go?  That was a crazy whirlwind month, as usual.  And it really doesn't show signs of slowing down in October!  But before I get to that, gotta do a little self evaluation on last month's goals...

September Goals

Establish a routine, and try my everloving best to be patient with homework. 

The first part is still a work in progress.  Morning routines are down pat, which is the most critical.  And homework has been a BREEZE.  My kinder only has a reading log - not a five page packet of doom that her brother had when he was five.  This is a load off.  Plus, the third grade teacher is really easing us in slowly with just math and reading logs so far!  I wonder if the "homework isn't always beneficial" memo has gotten out?

Check off all school commitments: new year paperwork, volunteer application renewal, volunteer training, curriculum night, etc. 

Phew!  All those events and to-dos are done.  Just in time for the conferences and the school jog-a-thon to pop up in October...

Fill out a new day planner. 

Yay!  Isn't it cute?  I finally caved to one that has a weekly view, but it's still not an enormous thing to cart around in my purse.  Highly recommend Ban.do planners.

Go bowling!  

This was, obviously, a fun one to check off the list.  I'm amazed at how easy they make things for families nowadays.  Computerized bumpers that go up when it's the kid's turn, and back down again when it's the adult's.  Plus little ramps for the five year old to roll her ball down.  So cute!  
And, of course, black lights and rock music.

Get myself a haircut!

Done!  Aaaah, another fall chop - pretty much like the last time I got a big cut.

Tackle downloading/organizing those iPhone pics.

Yeah, I nearly broke my computer waiting for them all to download, but it's done.

October Goals
  • Get the kids (and ourselves) scheduled for flu shots.  (Fun!)
  • Get cracking on Halloween costumes, decor, carving pumpkins, trick or treat plans on the same night as a soccer game, blahhhhhh. (I kinda hate Halloween.)
  • Finish up fundraising/paperwork/volunteering for the kid's jog-a-thon.
  • Schedule the dogs for boarding and get ready for another trip to the Great Wolf Lodge.  Oh yeah!
  • Start training for a 5K!  I recently realized that the Snohomish River Run was moved to a Sunday this year and don't think it'll work with our schedule, so I opted for the Redmond Turkey Trot instead.  I'm really glad about this, because I've wanted to tackle another 5K and don't really feel like another 10K goal race after doing two last year.
  • Finish up Once A Runner and prepare for the in-store wrap up of Oiselle's inaugural Long Distance Reading Club - last month I was tasked with leading up the Q&A for this new book club venture and you can get the gist of how the first half discussion went down on Twitter via the #LDRclub hashtag.  The wrap up will be another Twitter chat on the 13th at 5:30 PST, as well as an in store gathering at 6:30 - come on out and help me dissect this book!


This Week's Eats 9.27.15 (and a Favorite Muffin Recipe)

It's been such a busy (and fun) weekend of Oiselle sample sale-ing, soccer game-ing, anniversary date night-ing, and enjoying the lovely fall weather by zoo-ing.
We were at the penguin exhibit and I couldn't believe the amazing light I got in this picture - absolutely no filter.

Now that it's officially fall, it's time to break out the Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Muffins!

I'm not obsessed with pumpkin everything.  Dare I admit I'm not a fan of the Pumpkin Spice Latte?  I'm more of a Salted Caramel gal.  But, THESE MUFFINS are so, so good.

This week:

  • Monday - Pizza
  • Tuesday - Veggie Masala Tacos
  • Wednesday - Satay Chicken with Roasted Broccoli and Brown Rice (great marinade recipe from About.com)
  • Thursday - Burgers on the Grill and Tater Tots (easy soccer practice night meal!)
  • Friday - Ground Turkey Tacos (my son has requested tacos for the first time ever, so I'm going with this recipe for homemade taco seasoning from A Big Mouthful)
  • Saturday - Appetizer and Wine Night!
  • Sunday - Crockpot Jalapeno Popper Chili (a favorite recipe from Everday Reading)
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


Hiking Snow Lake

Most Seattle area locals are familiar with this trail.  It's like a crowded moving party on lovely summer weekends.  Not exactly what you want when trying to enjoy the great outdoors.  So, I highly recommend going early on a weekday.

This whole kids both going off to school thing works out GREAT for hiking dates during the week!  Although we passed a fair amount of people going to and fro, we were still able to be on our own for most of the 6 miles round trip.  

I think the nitty gritty description of the trail is best left to the WTA website; this post is mainly a nice little photo dump of what you can expect to see on the trail on a sunny summer day.  A few tips, though: definitely bring sunscreen, because Snow Lake is more exposed than a typical trail off I-90 and prepare for lots of walking on ROCKS.  I forgot how much of the trail is rocky terrain.  

ROCKS. ROCKS. ROCKS.  Other than that, it's not terribly strenuous and the bang for your buck is well worthwhile.

After roughly two miles of this:

And some more of this:

You come upon the first glimpse of the lake:

Then you hike down a mile to views like this:

Whether on a sunny day or a cloudy one, 
(From our last visit, over six years ago - in AUGUST.)
I STRONGLY encourage everyone to get out and hike to Snow Lake!


My Favorite Make Ahead Oatmeal Topping (and This Weeks Eats 9.20.15)

For years, I tried making my own version of Starbucks oatmeal at home.  Years!  I Googled so many copycat recipes, and learned in the process that Starbucks uses Quaker Oats.  I thought, how could this be!?  I've tried every version of Quaker at home, employing several methods - including hot water and covering, like they do in the store.  NONE tasted like that perfectly hearty version.  Well, they were quick cooking steel cut oats and Quaker FINALLY started selling them in grocery stores earlier this year.  My breakfast dreams came true!  I got out of the routine of hot oatmeal in the summer.  But now that I'm back at it, I decided to streamline my add-ins for the busy school mornings.  Just like Starbucks and the prepared topping packets! 

Although I like to change it up, this combination has been my favorite lately and lasts about a week.

Make Ahead Oatmeal Topping

1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons chia seeds

Layer it up in a glass jar,

and then shake it up to distribute everything evenly for pouring over your tasty oats. 

Sometimes I leave out the brown sugar and sweeten the oatmeal with maple syrup, a mashed up banana, or Nutella...

This weeks eats:
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


Hot Chocolate 15K/5K Seattle 2016 Coupon Code!

It's that time again!  Here's this season's Hot Chocolate 5K/15K Seattle freebie! 
Use code: SEABUFF2 for a free buff when you register for the Seattle 15K OR 5K.
  • The race is Sunday, March 6th 2016 - perfect time of year for some hot chocolate.
  • The swag is always awesome, and this year is no exception:
    Full zip, fleece lined tech jackets!
  • And again, there will be medals for the 15K - super cool, city-specific bling.
  • The folks at RAM Racing put a lot of thought, time and effort into choosing the hot cocoa and fondue - trust me.  And it is goooooood.  
Hopefully I've tempted you to join in the fun and get yer free buff!  If not, here are my recaps from Seattle , Seattle AND Chicago.  I can attest to the fact that the race in each of these cities is so fun and really well organized.  If you want to run in any of these other cities:
  • Atlanta
  • Austin
  • Chicago
  • Columbus
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Minneapolis
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • San Diego
  • Seattle
  • St. Louis
  • Nashville
  • Los Angeles 
Go here and check out this great race series!