Welcome to this VERY overdue personal favorites post! I haven’t done one in a couple months (for a variety of reasons), and now I have so many new discoveries to share!
September and October went by in an absolute blur. We were back into a full school schedule, on top of really fun (and crushing) Philly sports moments, Kieran’s fall baseball season in full swing, family birthdays, and loads of fall-related activities and fun.
We are just finishing up a month off of organized sports (a breather was much needed and so appreciated) – Kieran’s basketball season starts this week. Just in time for the December holidays. Woo!
Also my sister is due with her first baby in the next week or so, and we’re all waiting with bated breath for her arrival. The holidays are definitely going to look different this year!
The boys are getting so big, but still remain my sweet, funny babes. I could stare at this sweet face all day.
While life carries on, I’ve found some new favorite things these past couple months. First, we’ll start with what I’ve been reading.
I have read an absurd number of books these past couple months. I rarely watch TV anymore. My comfort is now curling up with a book. I was always like this as a child, and as I’ve said before, majoring in English in college broke me of the reading habit for a long while because it was all I did for school. I was just burnt out on books. Just in the last couple years, I’ve rediscovered my love of reading, and it is in full swing. Here are the books I read recently – some OK ones and some AMAZING ones!
Duke-ing It Out by Jami Albright (a companion/follow-up read to Homecoming King, which I really enjoyed). This one was equally as enjoyable. Enemies-to-lovers, forbidden romance kind of vibes. Athlete trope, but with a FEMALE athlete this time, which I found so refreshing. A cute (but spicy), small-town romance.
The Stars are Dying by Chloe C. Peñaranda. I had heard SO much about this book, and while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t my favorite. I found myself confused A LOT while reading it. I felt like the introduction to the characters and story was incomplete, which made reading the rest of the book very confusing. I love fantasy worlds and characters, but this one was so convoluted at times. I think it might just be the author’s writing style? I love the IDEA here (the stars are living beings) and the concept of light vs. dark, but I was left wanting clarification on so many things. That said, I’ll probably still read the sequel when it comes out.
Runaway Groomsmen by Meghan Quinn. I love MQ reads – they are so funny! This one was good. And as spicy as her books are, this one really wasn’t. Great tension that builds throughout the story but nothing over the top. Very sweet story about finding love after heartbreak.
The Way I Hate Him by Meghan Quinn. I liked this one a lot. LOVE the tortured musician vibe going on here. It reminds you why people freaking love rock stars, haha. I thought the story was very sweet. Lots of spice in this one!
Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino. I LOVED this book. Oh my gosh. It captured that feeling of first/early love so well. It made me want to be 18 again – learning how to be on my own for the first time. It also takes place in the early 2000s, which is when I was in high school and college, so there was a ton of nostalgia for me that I loved (eg, no cell phones at first. A character actually used a PAY PHONE at one point. And MUSIC stores! I miss that era so much). The story was so well done. The characters felt…precious to me or something. Haha. I just loved them both so much. The story was sad, but also felt like it could be very real. Not all romance novels do a very good job of keeping things REAL. This one did. It was messy and sad and beautiful. I adored it.
Things We Hide From the Light and Things We Left Behind by Lucy Score – these are the follow-up installments to the original Things We Never Got Over. I read the first one months and months ago and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t LOVE it. The character Knox was just SO unlikeable to me. But these two? I loved them! Nash’s story is my favorite. I definitely think this author is your cup of tea…or not. I warmed up to her more after reading these two.
Wildfire by Hannah Grace – this is a companion/follow-up read to one of my favorites from earlier this year, Icebreaker. I love the athlete trope, especially hockey, and this one delivers. It was refreshing to read a story about an athlete that is NOT an alpha male, though. Sweet, sensitive, quiet – I feel like this is often underrepresented in contemporary romance books. Loved the story and the characters. The first book is still my favorite of the two, but I loved this one too.
A Fire In the Flesh by Jennifer L. Armentrout. This is the third book in the Flesh & Fire series and I so enjoy this series. As I’ve said before, this author’s writing is not the best (it’s downright cringy at times), but I ADORE the story and characters. I feel like reading these books is equivalent to eating your favorite junk food or watching trash reality TV (I do both!). It satisfies a need but doesn’t serve you in any meaningful way. Haha. The writing definitely leaves a lot to be desired, but Nyktos and Sera’s story is a great one. While I found this book to be my least favorite of the three (too much internal dialogue without a lot actually HAPPENING that made it feel way longer than necessary), I am very much looking forward to the release of the finale book in this series. I love the world building, characters, and story so much. This one just felt a little slow.
The Graham Effect by Elle Kennedy. Gosh, I missed the Briar U. world! I have mentioned this several times before, but I love all of Elle Kennedy’s Off-Campus and Briar U. hockey series. This one follows Garrett and Hannah Graham’s daughter, and it is SO good. “Bad boy” hockey player vibes. Fantastic FEMALE athlete lead character. Emotional walls being broken down in a very vulnerable way. Very steamy, very addicting. I LOVED it. Can’t wait for the next one!
Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros – I adore this world, the characters (even — especially! — the supporting ones), and the love story. I mean, how cool is the concept of magic-wielding dragon riders? I, like everyone else who read it, was left in a devastated state at the end of the book with that cliffhanger. I’ve been in a bit of a book hangover ever since. I will be waiting on pins and needles for the next installment in this series. I certainly didn’t enjoy this book as much as Fourth Wing (which might be in my top 3 for the entire year) – the writing was not as great and the main characters kind of BUGGED me (which is rare!), but it still had me captivated. And emotionally ravaged at the end. Whew.
I read a few additional books, but I’ll save those for next time!
FOOD & DRINK
I have been on Barbells protein bar kick lately. I love the salty peanut and cookies and cream flavors the best, but really, they’re all decent. Great macros without a ton of sugar, and they taste like a candy bar! The whole family loves these.
I have been loving Chobani coffee creamer these past couple months. As a creamer addict, I love that these are clean with only real ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, and maybe flavoring. The sweet cream is our standard one, but the seasonal flavors are also incredible. The pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha ones are both so good. Sweet and flavorful without being overwhelmingly artificial tasting. No oils or gums in them, either!
I have been obsessing over the Kinder’s French onion seasoning. Oh my gosh, it is so delicious. I use it on meat, pasta, veggies, eggs — really, it’s good on anything savory. I am not always a huge fan of seasoning blends, but this one is ridiculously delicious.
I also have developed a full-on obsession with Lawry’s garlic salt. It’s not like your ordinary garlic salt. It has SO MUCH FLAVOR. It’s good on everything — I especially love it on cottage cheese, pizza, eggs, or avocado toast. YUM. I bought a jumbo bottle the last time I was at Costco!
I have been eating these pickled red onions in and on everything lately. I can only find them at Whole Foods, but they are SO good. I’ve gotten multiple family members and friends hooked on them too!
While I tend to keep my daily coffee pretty simple (see Chobani creamer above), I do love a matcha latte in the afternoon. At a recent brunch at a local spot, they had a blackberry cupcake matcha latte. I FELL IN LOVE. I promptly bought this blackberry syrup so that I could make them at home. It’s also delicious in coffee, as evidenced here. An unusual but scrumptious flavor!
Right around Halloween, thanks to my kids, I discovered the magic that is Sweet Tart ropes. I’m not a huge candy person, but I DO love sweet-tart chewy candy every now and then (think Sour Patch kids). Well, Sweet Tart ropes are a new obsession – the chewy-soft texture and tartness is sooo addicting. A fun treat every now and then.
I love doing hip thrusts for lower body strength, and despite having an actual barbell and bench in our basement gym, I find it extremely difficult to manage my form properly when I am working out alone. Loading up the barbell with heavy weights and safely getting myself into position it difficult. I bought this hip weight belt as an alternative and I LOVE IT. It mimics the barbell without the pain of it pressing into your hips/pelvis and you can add a ton of weight to it. One of my fave purchases!
For my 40th birthday in September, Dan got me the Peloton Tread. I was floored. I’ve wanted one for years now, but we could never justify the price. Well, my husband is the best and spoiled me with it for my milestone birthday. It is just as good as I was hoping, if not better. I’ve said this before: Peloton’s content is unmatched in quality. I’ve tried so many fitness programs/subscriptions over the years, and nothing comes close to the quality of Peloton’s instructors and content. Everything from their bike and walk/run/hike workouts to their full-body strength, pilates, and yoga. Top notch in every way! AND you don’t need their equipment to do the workouts – just the app! Love that.
I have been loving these Nike t-shirts for working out. They are SO light and breathable – just unbelievably comfortable. I have them in a bunch of colors and use them almost exclusively when running or doing strength training.
I recently got rid of all the plastic kids’ cups in our house. We had a ton that had accumulated over the years and they were in desperate need of replacement. Instead of going with plastic again, I opted for these mason jar glasses. They’re an awesome size and can be used with straws, tops, or nothing at all. They’re also microwave and dishwasher safe.
My sister bought me this cheese grater for my birthday, and it is worth the hype. It is all over social media right now as an alternative to a standard box grater. I think it’s easier to clean, and it grates the cheese perfectly. Plus, the kids think it is so much fun. LOVE.
We are a huge condiment family. As a result, our fridge it always cluttered. I bought one of these lazy susans to hold a bunch of our condiments on one shelf in the fridge, and it has made such a huge difference. Not only does it hold a ton of stuff, but it also makes finding things so much easier. No more digging in the back of the fridge for the jar you’re looking for and no more buying unnecessary mustard duplicates at the store!
And that about sums it up! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. Who else is in shock that 2023 is about to come to an end? I am…just in denial. Haha.
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