A Few of my Favorite Things: Pumpkin Edition

We all know how much I love fall, but this fall especially, I have been embracing pumpkin. Pumpkin candles, pumpkin spice lattes, even pumpkin body butter. So I thought I’d do a roundup of all my favorite pumpkin things. Let me know in the comments if you decide to check them out!


1. Pumpkin spice latte, Starbucks
This infamous pumpkin treat marks the start of all things fall. It’s creamy, spicy, sweet, and has just enough pumpkin flavor to make you think it’s wholesome. I look forward to September all year just so I can get my PSL fix. This year I’ve only had three, which is low for me. We can thank Weight Watchers for that.

2. Pumpkin Pecan Waffles Candle, Bath and Body Works
This is THE BEST smelling fall candle ever. Please go buy yourself one and thank me later. It’s warm, spicy, and a little bit sweet, and it makes your house smell like something delicious is baking in the kitchen. So good.

3. Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal, Quaker
This oatmeal was a nice treat on a few of the colder fall mornings we’ve had here in central Illinois. It’s pretty sweet, so I made it with milk and topped it with pecans for a filling, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast.

4. Pumpkin Flax Granola, Nature’s Path Organic
I eat this granola year-round so I didn’t want to leave it out of my pumpkin foods list. It has a generous amount of pumpkin seeds and is sweet but not spicy. A great yogurt topper or breakfast choice.

5. Creative Snacks Pumpkin Spice Yogurt Pretzels
I found these when I was doing my junk food fast and they were the perfect loophole for me. Pretzel, not chip, and yogurt-covered, not chocolate-covered. They are strangely addictive and I had to be careful to limit myself. If you’re thinking of getting them be forewarned, one pretzel is equal to 1 SmartPoint.

6. Whole Wheat Mini Pumpkin Muffins, Sally’s Baking Addiction
I made these at the very beginning of September and I’m still thinking about them. They’re mini muffins, and I modified the recipe only slightly to get them down to 2 SmartPoints each. Each bite has the perfect amount of sweetness, spiciness, and best of all, chocolate. Even though they’re low in SmartPoints, they’re still tender and delicious. I can’t wait to make them again!

7. Hearty Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili, Skinnytaste
This is a wonderful, wonderful chili. I love it and I’ve made it at least three times this fall. I’ve made it for guests, for my kids—everyone loves it (well, except for CJ, who stops his love for pumpkin at roasted seeds and Jack-o-lanterns). It’s vegetarian, but the addition of Portobello mushrooms gives it a hearty, almost steak-like chewiness that makes you think you’re eating meat. Gina’s combination of spices here is perfect, with a little sweet and a little heat so it tastes just like fall in a bowl. I highly recommend this for your next chili dinner.

8. Pumpkin Body Butter, Trader Joe’s
I don’t get up to Trader Joe’s very much, but last time I was there, I bought this on a whim. People, it’s wonderful. It’s just a white, creamy body butter that has a lightly sweet pumpkin spice scent. I wear it all day and it never gets overwhelming. I love it!


Keeping it real

Remember those goals I made for September? Lose 5 lbs, explore clean eating, go to the gym twice a week? Well I accomplished none of them. In fact, I’m back on another plateau, and I haven’t lost weight since August. I was so gung-ho then that I thought I could just keep going. But there’s this thing with me: when I’m doing well with weight loss, I think I can just add back in all the stuff I’ve been avoiding. And I can’t. At least, not if I want to see the numbers on the scale go down.

I’ve been listening to Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before (again, better to listen than to read, just sayin’!), and according to her four tendencies, I’m an obliger. That won’t be a surprise to those of you who know me in real life. But the problem with being an obliger is that I’m really good at meeting my commitments to other people. Not so great when it comes to meeting a commitment to myself. Which is why, I think, this Weight Watchers journey has been so tumultuous for me. I will have a few months of great losses, and then a month of nothing. Lather, rinse, repeat. But if you look back on my time in the program, I think it’s kind of embarrassing how little weight I’ve lost since April. It’s been five months and I STILL haven’t broken the 20lb mark. And I should have been able to. I’m thisclose.

One of the problems is Fall. I LOVE FALL. We all know that. But with fall comes Pumpkin Spice Lattes and my instinct for nesting, for cozy blankets and spicy candles, for spending more time inside, for baking up pumpkin goodies to my heart’s content. And all of that has had an impact on my weight this last month. Gretchen (we’re friends, right?) says obligers need outside accountability to meet their goals, so I’m trying two new things this October. First, I joined a DietBet. Not completely sure what it is myself, but basically I paid $35 and bet that I could lose 4% of my weight this month. If I win, I get my money back plus whatever’s left in the pot, shared amongst all the winners. So if I don’t actually TRY to lose weight this month, I’m out $35, also known as a mani-pedi, lunch at Panera with my family, or a new sweater from Target. I’m trying to imprint on my mind how much it would suck to lose that money to my laziness. Hopefully it’ll start working soon.


The other thing I’m trying is SkinnyMom’s 10-day No Junk Food challenge. I even made a graphic and set it as my phone background so I would have a constant reminder of what not to eat. I started the challenge today, and so far so good. I’m just not sure if I’m going to be able to survive 10 days without chocolate. I mean, CHOCOLATE. I eat chocolate every morning at breakfast and every evening after dinner. It’s what I always crave; what I use to signal my stomach that the meal is over and I should stop eating. So that will truly be a challenge. But how lame will I be if I can’t eat chocolate for a week and a half? I know I can do it, I just also know it won’t be very fun. Sigh. No one ever got into weight loss for the kicks.

Anyone what to partner up with me and be my accountability buddy? Gretchen says that’s what I need. I have a friend I go to the gym with, but what I really need is someone I have to report what I ate to. Who won’t judge but will kindly suggest that I wasn’t supposed to eat that chocolate until next Thursday, and that maybe I shouldn’t have put those Reese’s Peanut Butter Halloween Pumpkins into my Target cart. I track in my WW app but it’s so nice, it’s like, “Great job tracking this week!” and “You tracked a fruit—awesome!” I need it to be a little harder on me if I’m going to get out of this plateau and meet my goal by—dare I say it—January 1!!?!?!?!


Weight Watchers-friendly Weekly Menu Plan

Recently one of my sweet friends asked me to put together a week of quick, healthy meals for her family that she could make in “less than 10 minutes” and that her three-year-old would eat. She said she could put aside Sunday afternoon for meal prep, but probably no more time than that. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while, so I thought I would tweak her request a little and make sure the meals I chose were SmartPoints-friendly.

Here’s menu plan. I feel like there are so many places I could go with this, but for this plan, I chose chicken as the main protein. I also thought I would model this plan after my week, with leftovers on Thursday, a frozen meal on Friday, and dinner out or leftovers again on Saturday. For lunch, I usually have Mason jar salads or leftovers. For breakfast, good options would be these baked oatmeal cups or these make-ahead breakfast burritos. A great snack/dessert option would be any of Drizzle’s loaves or sweeter recipes; I’m partial right now to her Peanut Butter Cup Banana Loaf.

Bacon Cheeseburger Bubble-Up Casserole, Drizzle Me Skinny
Chicken Quesadillas, Pioneer Woman (I leave out the butter and use Ole Wellness Wraps instead of flour tortillas)
Pumpkin Alfredo Tortellini Skillet, Emily Bites
Curried Chicken Salad, Skinnytaste
Italian Chopped House Salad, SkinnyMom modified for Mason jars

Shopping list
Here’s the shopping list, including a section on things you probably already have in your pantry (if you don’t, just add them!). If you’re like me and don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, you can purchase another type of pre-made meal at your local grocery store. These meals are lifesavers for me after a busy week when all I want to do when I get home is lie down. Plus, having something easy, quick, and points-friendly in the freezer helps me avoid the temptation to go out or order in.

Meal prep plan: Sunday afternoon
Here’s the plan for meal prep. A lot of people meal prep on Sundays, and while I don’t do this myself, I see the value in it. After planning out this week I just might have to give it a try!

1. Poach chicken
Use your favorite method for poaching chicken, whether in the crock pot, on the stove, or in an instant pot. I like this recipe, but if you prefer to wing it, I say salt and pepper the chicken thoroughly, lay them in the bottom of the pan, and cover with chicken broth and water. Add a bay leaf for good measure and poach until cooked through, about 160° on a meat thermometer.

2. Cook bacon
My favorite method for cooking bacon is to bake it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. After you’ve got your chicken poaching, preheat the oven. You’ll cook your whole package of center-cut bacon because we need it for two recipes. Lay each strip of bacon on the prepared sheets, then bake at 400° for about 15 minutes until crispy but not burnt. Remove to paper towels and let cool.

3. Cook sausage
Here we’re going to prep the first part of the Tortellini recipe. Chop one small onion and two garlic cloves (or use squeeze garlic). Place your pound of Italian turkey sausage (casings removed) in a large skillet over medium heat and cook for a few minutes, breaking apart with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown. Add the onion and garlic and stir together. Continue to cook while breaking up meat and stirring regularly until sausage is cooked through and onions are soft. Remove to paper towels and let cool. When cool, put the sausage mixture into a container and store in the fridge until Tuesday.

4. Cook ground beef
Drain your sausage skillet and add your pound of lean ground beef. Cook until browned. Remove to paper towels and set aside until later; you’ll use this in tonight’s dinner.

5. Cook pasta
While you’re at the stove, get some water boiling for the Ditalini pasta need for the Mason Jar Italian Chopped Salads. You’ll need about a half-cup dry pasta for three salads. Measure it out and boil in salted water until al dente. Put aside to cool; you’ll be assembling the salads later today. (Sometimes I make a little extra pasta and save it for my kids to eat on days they’re less than excited about my dinner choice.)

6. Make guacamole
Contrary to popular belief, guacamole CAN be made ahead of time! Just be sure when you place it into the container you cover the surface completely with plastic wrap and secure the lid tightly. Of course if you prefer, you can make the guac the day of, or do store-bought (SmartPoints are the same). My favorite guacamole recipe is from Minimalist Baker: Mash 2 ripe avocados with 1 Tbsp lime juice, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, ¼ tsp sea salt, ½ jalapeño, deseeded and sliced, ¼ cup diced red onion, and ¼ cup diced cilantro. It’s a great basic recipe that you can tweak as you like.

7. Make Curried Chicken Salad
For this, you’ll have to wait until your chicken is done poaching. When it’s done, remove it from the pot to a cutting board and let cool. When cool cut into half-inch cubes or shred (I prefer cubes). For the chicken salad, you’ll need about 2 cups diced cooked chicken. Since we cooked the chicken ahead of time, you don’t have to worry about cooking it through; just make sure when you’re cooking that it’s evenly covered with the curry and onion mixture. This chicken salad is DELICIOUS and even better the next day. When you’ve finished making it, store it in the fridge until Wednesday.

8. Assemble Mason Jar Salads
First, gather your ingredients. You’ll need fat-free Italian dressing, tomatoes, 1 cup of cooked chicken, the Ditalini pasta, six slices of the cooked bacon, chopped; 2 hearts of romaine, chopped; 3 green onions, chopped; and a container of reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles. In each jar, place 3T dressing, 5-8 cherry tomatoes (your preference), 1/3 cup cooked chicken, ⅓ cup Ditalini pasta, 2 slices bacon, ⅓ of the chopped romaine, 1 chopped green onion, and 1T reduced fat blue cheese crumbles. Seal the jars tightly and refrigerate for this week’s lunches.

9. Make Bacon Cheeseburger Bubble-up
You’ve come to the end! Congratulations!!! When you’re done with all your cooking, rest a little bit. Maybe even take a nap. Then about an hour before you plan to eat dinner, assemble and bake your Bacon Cheeseburger Bubble-Up casserole. We already prepped the beef and bacon, so just follow the recipe. Then while it cooks, you can clean up your mess from earlier today. After you eat, portion the leftovers into containers for the week and poof! You’re done.

Any questions? I’d love to answer them! Just leave them in the comments below.


17 Easy swaps to make your diet more Weight Watchers-friendly

My beautiful, sweet, amazing friend just told me she joined Weight Watchers, and I found myself wanting to do everything I could to help her make the most of it. Having to completely overhaul your diet can be so discouraging, especially if you’re someone who thought she already ate pretty well, like I was. So I wanted to pull together this list of foods as a quick reference for anyone who’s trying to improve what they eat.

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1. Instead of cow’s milk, try nut milk.
The disappointing thing for those of us who grew up drinking cow’s milk with every meal is that it’s not the healthiest, nor is it low in Weight Watchers SmartPoints. A cup of 2% milk is 5 SmartPoints, while a cup of cashew milk (my current favorite) is 1 SmartPoint. I use cashew milk in my coffee because I’ve found it to be creamier than almond or coconut milk, and I actually prefer it to cow’s milk now.


2. Instead of eggs, try egg whites.
This is a hard one to swallow, especially in baking, where the egg yolk lends chewiness and fluffiness to cookies and cakes. But, an egg is 2 SmartPoints, and THREE egg whites are 1 SmartPoint (1 or 2 egg whites are 0 SmartPoints). When a recipe calls for two eggs, I usually use one egg and one egg white. For omelets I try to use all egg whites; when I’m making waffles or pancakes, I stick with egg whites. You can buy egg whites only now; they’re in a carton next to the eggs in the Dairy section.


3. Instead of mayonnaise, try light mayonnaise or vegan mayonnaise.
My personal favorite mayo substitute is Just Mayo Light. 1 T is 1 SmartPoint versus 1 T of regular mayonnaise for 3 SmartPoints. I don’t use it often, but light mayo a lifesaver in things like summer pasta salads, and it’s great for adding 0 points of flavor to a turkey burger.

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4. Instead of sour cream, try fat free Greek yogurt.
I’ve been doing this for a while as I’ve never liked the idea of sour cream (it says “sour” right there in the name!) and I find fat free Greek yogurt to be a great substitute. I like putting fat free Greek yogurt on my chili, quesadillas, even on fruit crisp. At 3 SmartPoints per cup, it’s a huge savings over regular sour cream, which packs 21 SmartPoints for the same amount.


5. Instead of ice cream, try Halo Top.
HaloTop is kind of an anomaly to me. I have nothing in my formerly full-fat life to compare it to. It’s icier than regular ice cream, but if you let it sit out for a few minutes (or microwave it, like I do), the consistency improves. The flavors are a little sharper, like the Vanilla, which was a little too sweet for me, or the Chocolate, which somehow tasted powdery. I love the Mint Chocolate Chip and Birthday Cake, though. And at 2 SmartPoints for half a cup, you can’t beat it. Most of my favorite regular ice cream flavors are 8-10 SmartPoints per half cup, and if you’re doing Weight Watchers don’t even LOOK at one of those cute little containers of Häagen-Dazs—more SmartPoints than you would believe!

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6. Instead of a Starbucks Frappuccino, try a coffee protein shake.
I shared my copycat Frappuccino protein shake recipe a while back, and while I’ve been heavily into the peanut butter protein shakes these days, that one will always be a favorite. It measures up at 4 SmartPoints, while a Grande Mocha Frappuccino with 2% milk is 21 SmartPoints. Try my protein shake, or better yet, try making your own!

7. Instead of Bisquick, try Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Flapjack and Waffle mix.
I use ⅓ cup of Kodiak Cakes mix for my morning waffle, which costs me 3 SmartPoints. I top the waffle with enough fat free Cool Whip and mini chocolate chips that I don’t really care how good it tastes, so while I’d prefer to be making my traditional Bisquick recipe (5 SmartPoints per ⅓ cup), this one is fine. Plus, the protein in the waffle keeps me full until lunch, something Bisquick never did.

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8. Instead of sugar, try honey, maple syrup, agave, ripe bananas, sucanat, or stevia.
There are so many good sugar substitutes, and so many bloggers who are using them to make incredible recipes. Check out any recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie and you’ll see what I mean. Sally’s Baking Addiction also has this AMAZING recipe for banana chocolate chip muffins that uses only bananas and agave for sweetness. They taste exactly like chocolate cake. I know, I know, I’ve said it before. But please go make these—SO YUM.

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9. Instead of flour tortillas, try an Ole Wellness Wrap.
I love a good quesadilla, and while I’ve definitely gotten away from frying mine in butter, I still want a wrap that tastes good. The Ole Wellness Wrap doesn’t have the same fluffiness as a flour tortilla, but it’s close, and at only 1 SmartPoint per wrap (versus 4 SmartPoints for a medium flour tortilla), you can afford to eat more than one!

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10. Instead of regular pasta, try whole wheat.
This may seem like a big jump for some of you, but once the pasta’s cooked and sauced, it’s hard to tell the difference between whole wheat and regular. Both clock in at about the same amount of points (5 SmartPoints for 2 oz uncooked whole wheat penne vs. 6 SmartPoints for 2 oz uncooked regular penne), but whole grains are healthier for you and take more time to digest, which means you’ll stay fuller longer. Seriously, this is an easy switch and as a grownup, you should have already been doing this anyway.

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11. Instead of white rice, try brown.
Same idea as above; the less processed the food, the better it is for you. 1 cup of medium-grain brown rice is 6 SmartPoints, while 1 cup of medium-grain white rice is 7 SmartPoints. Again, the difference is negligible, so why not choose brown rice?

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12. Instead of Butternut bread, try Sara Lee 45-calories & Delightful.
The switch here was life-changing for me. I love wheat bread, but Butternut’s Honey Wheat is 2 SmartPoints per slice, while a slice of Sara Lee 45-calories & Delightful Honey Whole Wheat is only 1 SmartPoint. This may not seem like much, but saving two points makes a HUGE difference when you’re making a sandwich and want to add many other delicious things besides bread, like meat, cheese and mayonnaise. After I discovered Sara Lee Delightful, I could finally relate to Oprah and eat bread every day without feeling guilty.

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13. Instead of chips, try popcorn.
Chris and I used to share a bowl of Chex mix every night on the couch after the kids went to bed. After that we’d have ice cream, or maybe some wine. While I love Chex mix and pretty much all kinds of chips, I knew I couldn’t keep up the habit on Weight Watchers. A cup of original Chex Mix is 8 SmartPoints, while a cup of light butter flavored popcorn is 1 SmartPoint. I realized that all I really wanted when I was eating Chex Mix was crunch and salt. Popcorn satisfies my cravings just as well, and for a lot fewer points!

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14. Instead of your favorite frozen pizza, try DiGiorno Thin & Crispy.
Pizza is soooooo many SmartPoints, and as a result I’ve only had it twice since I’ve been on Weight Watchers. Before you start feeling sorry for me, you’ll be glad to know I recently discovered DiGiorno Thin & Crispy pizzas. Their Tomato Mozzarella with Pesto is only 12 SmartPoints for HALF, which is just about what one slice of a normal pizza would be (oh, how I miss you, Papa John’s!). Plus, it actually tastes good.

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15. Instead of hot dogs, try chicken dogs.
A regular hot dog is 6 SmartPoints which is fine for dinner, but I’ve found they don’t really fill me up and I usually want at least two. Two hot dogs plus buns would cost me over half of my daily SmartPoints budget. So instead I eat Trader Joe’s Uncured Chicken Dogs, which are only 1 SmartPoint each. I’m actually full after eating only one, and my kids love them too.

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16. Instead of regular bacon, try center cut bacon.
I don’t eat bacon often, but when I do, I don’t want it to cost me too much. Center cut bacon is only 1 SmartPoint for TWO slices, compared to regular bacon at 8 SmartPoints for two slices. It definitely makes a difference when we have breakfast for dinner (or heck, bacon at breakfast), and it’s healthier for all of us.


17. Instead of store-bought cakes/pies/brownies/muffins/donuts, try homemade.
If you follow me on Instagram you know I bake a lot, and that’s because I love me some sweet treats. What I don’t love is how many points they are! My favorite scone at Starbucks is 19 SmartPoints, and I used to eat that for breakfast with a White Chocolate Mocha (23 SmartPoints!!!). So while I haven’t figured out how to bake a lighter scone, I think I’ve mastered muffins and bars. If you’re looking for a place to start, I recommend these Unbaked Cookie Dough bars, these Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies, and these Peanut Butter Banana Muffins.

Anything you would add? Let me know in the comments below!

Everything Else

My mini makeover

Well, I got my hair cut. I scheduled the cut in July, eight weeks from my previous one, but my stylist was on vacation so it ended up being nine. After week five I was desperate for a cut. My thick hair was frizzing daily in the summer humidity, to the point where the five minutes between drying it and walking out the door was the only time my hair looked good the entire day.

Which is fine, really. I don’t need to impress anyone. I have one of those husbands that likes to tell me he loves me no matter what. I work in a basement with people who have become my friends and who accept me for who I am, frizz and all. I might meet someone important during a grocery trip to Wal-Mart but do I really care what that gorgeous girl from nursing school thinks about how I look today? No. No, I don’t.

But with my 10% weight loss, the hair appointment I knew I had coming up, and the breaking of my three-year-old glasses, I thought it would be fun to do a little mini-makeover. New hair, new glasses, maybe an eyebrow wax. Something to keep me motivated as we begin the journey into winter, which historically is my worst season for overeating (although, isn’t it everyone’s?). I began to think about short hair, pinning styles on Pinterest and quizzing my girlfriends who have pixie cuts about maintenance, products, and styling.

I never thought I could pull off a short style because I have a pretty weak chin, and have always used my hair as a sort of curtain, both to cover it up and to create shadows where none exist naturally. But losing almost 20 pounds meant some of the weight came off my face, and all of a sudden, I felt like maybe I didn’t need that curtain to hide behind anymore.


I do feel like I need to start wearing makeup again, because now my face is front and center, people. And maybe earrings too. But I’m OK with that. As a grownup, I probably should never have stopped wearing makeup anyway, right?

The first day, buoyed by the excitement of the girls at the salon, I loved the cut. The second day, after sleeping on it, I wasn’t sure. I would catch glances of myself in the mirror and wonder what the hell I did to my beautiful hair. The third day, more glances, more self-doubt. The fourth day, today, I finally washed it and tried to dry and style it myself. And while I couldn’t get that one piece in the front to cascade effortlessly down my forehead like my stylist could, I’ll work on it. I do like it. And I’m so glad I did it.


A few of my favorite things: September 2016 Edition

Sept collage

1. Product: Kodiak Cakes Dark Chocolate Flapjack and Waffle Mix 
I searched and searched for this and finally ordered it online from Target. I was desperate! But it was worth it. The waffles have the perfect amount of chocolate to start my day, protein to keep me full through the morning, and they feel like such a treat while still being low in Weight Watchers points. Can’t recommend this mix enough!

2. Resource: ThredUp
I am completely obsessed with ThredUp, an online consignment store for women’s and kid’s clothing. I ordered a clean-out kit and sent them things from my closet that were in good shape, but that I was done wearing. After earning over $40 in credit for my items (which can also be deposited into a PayPal account or sent via Visa Gift Card), I’ve been trolling the site like a true bargain-hunter. They have clothes by designers that we don’t have here in central Illinois, and I’ve also found things I missed the first time around, like a shirt I tried on, passed up, but then got home and really wanted (pictured above). Everything’s heavily discounted from original prices, returns are free, and the clothes come in the cutest box that makes you feel like you’re ordering from an upscale boutique. If you’re interested, here’s my referral code for $10 off your first order: Let me know how you like it!

3. Book: I Let You Go
I read this in two days, and I really shouldn’t have, since I stayed up til midnight and then had to wake up at 5:30 for clinical the next morning! But it was worth it. A great read, dark and twisty with relatable characters. I really enjoyed it.

4. Recipe: Bacon Cheeseburger Bubble Up Casserole
I’ve talked about Drizzle before, but she’s wonderful and her recipes are totally worth trying. Not too fussy, Weight Watchers friendly, and always very good. This Cheeseburger Bubble Up was so satisfying, with a great mix of flavors: tangy ketchup and Dijon mustard nicely contrasted with slightly sweet, soft biscuits from a can. I appreciated how full this left me, and the leftovers were great for days afterward. Highly recommend!

5. Home: Pioneer Woman Fall Collection
You know how much I love Ree and everything she does. Her new fall line of linens and dishes is absolutely gorgeous. I ordered this new runner and these adorable latte bowls just to update our kitchen a little for fall. I’m trying to restrain myself, but wouldn’t these matching napkins be perfect?

6. Miscellaneous: Erin Condren LifePlanner
I have been so crazed already this fall with the kids starting a new school schedule, my school starting and me having to do clinical six hours a week, while still trying to stay on top of meals, bills, and house cleaning. I carry this planner everywhere with me and I absolutely love it. It has both monthly and weekly layouts, notes pages in the back, and cute stickers so when I open it I don’t feel quite so depressed when I look at the mess that is my life. The planner is a little bit of an investment, but totally worth it. I’ve been using one for five years now and I’ve never looked back.