How I Turned Into A Reader

I’ve never been a reader. I used to read growing up, but more because I had to for school, not because I wanted to. The idea of reading made me bored just thinking about it. I would look at the pages, but instead of getting lost in the words, my mind would run wild.

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I’ve made the resolution the past few years to kick the whole “non-reader” tagline I put on myself. But how most resolutions go, I would crash and burn before I even picked up a book.

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Then comes January 2018 and I did not make a resolution to read more. It just sort of happened. I adore Jenna Bush Hager on the Today Show and I had put Sisters First, on my imaginary “must read” list ever since it came out. I purchased it and let it sit on my shelf for a few weeks (months).

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I was then at the gym one morning doing my routine 30 minute warm up on the elliptical or treadmill where I would watch the news and scroll social media. However, I was falling victim of the worst headaches from being on my phone for 30 straight minutes first thing in the morning. It was the worst way to start my day.

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The next day I declared to myself that I would not get on my phone until after my workout. I’m a multi-tasker by choice and I knew I would need something to do in addition to my machine workout to make the time pass. So I picked up my copy of Sisters First and head to the gym. I flew through the chapters. Next thing I knew I was flying through whole books.

The multitasking of doing something with my legs makes me focus more on what I’m reading because I have to concentrate more. It’s kind of like listening to music while you study or work. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I always found that it made me focus more because I was having to work harder to grasp what I was studying. Just me?

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Yes, I will often get stares from other gym-goers or remarks from those who love to make the comment “how do you do that while you’re working out?” Or even better “whatcha reading?” While they cock their neck to get a view of the cover of my book. Can’t a girl read and get her cardio in, in peace??

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I’m not saying you need to start working out to become a reader, but I’m also saying you should try it. Besides a plane ride or lying on the beach, there are not many other places besides the gym I can turn so many pages in a book. I’m working on the whole lay on the couch, do nothing and just read thing, but it’s a work in progress. #cantsitstill

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Now that you know walking on the treadmill was my gateway to reading (ha), let’s talk about everything I read in 2018. Disclosure: my taste in books is similar to my taste in movies. Rom coms with a few sprinkles of “based on a true story.” Think It’s Complicated, Father of the Bride and You’ve Got Mail, with Spotlight and The Social Network added in. Some may say I lend toward young adult reads, but I love an easy read with a cute story. Like I said, I’m still easing in to becoming a reader. So without further ado, my 2018 bookshelf…

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  1. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

  2. Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara bush

  3. Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

  4. Love the One You’re With by Emily Griffin

  5. The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert

  6. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by mindy Kaling

  7. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

  8. Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

  9. DC Trip by Sara Benincasa

  10. Dirty Rush by Taylor Bell

  11. Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

  12. When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

  13. Read Bottom Up by Neel Shah

  14. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

  15. Everybody Always by Bob Goff

  16. The Lipstick Gospel by Stephanie Wilson

  17. Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

  18. Hey Girls by Michell Markowitz, Caroline Moss (still reading)

  19. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

  20. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (currently reading)

  21. Boom Town by Sam Anderson (still reading )

Purchase these books here.

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After I finished about 3 books, I set a goal to read 12 in 12. Twelve books in 12 months. Eight months went by and I was already at my goal. So then my goal became 20 in 12. I’m currently reading my 20th book of the year and have about 4 days left of the year. Think I can do it?

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Let me be clear. I’m reading my 20th book, but I’m still reading my 18th and 19th too. Like I said I’m a multi-tasker. Pro-tip, don’t read more than one book at a time.

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My favorite places to buy books are Amazon (follow me), Commonplace Books (the dreamiest book store in OKC) and Half Price Books. New books are about $5 off the retail price and used books are likely as the name suggests, half off the sticker price. Half Price Books also let’s you resell. I plan to take in a bunch of my read books to sell and then use that money to buy more!

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In my year of reading, I re-read two of my favorite books. I read every page, so it’s not cheating. Both of these books are by the same author, my favorite, Shauna Niequist. Shauna loves Jesus, loves food and loves people. She writes in a format similar to blog posts. Short chapters with a story in each chapter. Nothing is drawn out. I love that. If you ask me for a book recommendation or better yet my favorite book, I’ll tell you it’s Bread & Wine. You can’t not like it.

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And for the biggest win of my 2018 reading saga, is when my sister texted me for a book recommendation. Yes me, not the other way around. No better compliment.

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Here’s to 2019 and more steps taken and more pages turned!

Annie

**For my ratings and reviews, and the books on my 2019 reading list, friend me on Goodreads. Feel free to DM or email me too for more recommendations.

OKC Staycation with Avid Hotels

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Have you ever taken a staycation? A one-night stay in the city you live in. A night away from your normal routine. I have never officially stay-cayed before, so I was very excited when Avid asked me to come for a night and check out their new hotel.

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Since my 2018 resolution was to travel more, this seemed like a the perfect trip to add into my mix. I was only traveling about 15 minutes away, but a trip none the less. I grabbed my bff and best travel buddy, Taylor, and we were off! You may remember Taylor and my’s spontaneous trip to Hawaii back in April.

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Avid is a new kind of hotel. They made it their goal to listen to avid travelers, and give them what they need, not what they don’t. The rooms are simple but inviting. Have ample storage and not cluttered. As a pro traveler these days (ha!), I can appreciate this. I just need a comfy bed and a place to store my bag. Bonus points for the great bath products too. Avid got a check mark in this area.

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We checked-in and immediately checked out the grab-and-go snack selection. Kudos for the chocolate bar in our room upon arrival too! Snacks, TV, a few jumps on the bed (seen here) and a glass of wine was the perfect way to wind down from the week. (We brought the wine, but each room does have a mini fridge for guests to stock with their choosing. WIN! I hate when hotels have a mini bar full of $15 Redbull and mini bottles of champagne. You aren’t tricking me with that).

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After relaxing in the room, we headed down the road a bit to meet friends for dinner. Avid is located near Quail Springs area and the new Chisholm Creek district. We did sushi at Yokozuna, drinks at Sidecar, then back to Avid to pass out. Cue the black out shades and pajamas. Pillows could be a little firmer IMO, but really those black out shades were everything.

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Despite the killer black out shades I woke up promptly Saturday morning at 6:00 am. I don’t sleep in. It’s not an admirable trait, but something I’ve done my whole life. I took this time to check out the rest of the hotel and the fitness center (Annie approved!). Nothing like a little cardio and Kardashians first thing in the morning - ha!

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After the elliptical, I grabbed some hot tea and waited for Taylor to wake up. This allowed plenty of time to scope out Avid’s complimentary breakfast. They serve breakfast every morning 7:00 — 10:00 am. Oatmeal, yogurt, fresh fruit. Annie approved x2.

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Thank you Avid for the opportunity to come stay at the your first Avid on earth! Yes that’s right. Avid chose Oklahoma as their first of many locations. Go go OKC! But be on the look out for more Avid’s popping up soon.

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If you are avid about traveling, the Avid is for you. Sorry I had to ;) More info or to book your next stay at AVID, click here.

Annie

Thank you Avid for letting me work with you. While I was compensated for this post, all thoughts and words are 100% my own.

Last Minute Halloween Costumes

Halloween. I love it. I always have. I used to plan my Halloween costumes a year in advanced. I wish I were kidding. Some of my costume claims to fame include when I was a cup of hot chocolate, a present, a flower in a flower pot, candy corn…I clearly have a thing for inanimate objects as costumes. See a few more here.

Inspired by the past few years, I’m giving you three ideas for last minute costumes. Because yes, all three costumes shown below came together in about a day. They are also all food related. No surprise here.

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French Toast

How to:
Black and white striped shirt
Red silk neck scarf
Black felt beret
Bread
String

Toast one or a couple pieces of toast. Let sit out for a few hours to get stale. Using a hot glue gun, glue the toast to a long piece of string. Let dry then tie behind your neck to act as a necklace.

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Pig in a Blanket

How to:
Pink dress
Pig ears, nose and tail (buy this one today to have it in time for halloween!)
Blanket

Put on your dress, ears, tail and nose, wrap your self up in a blanket and enjoy the most comfortable costume ever. Optional, but suggested, make actual pigs in a blanket and bring to whatever halloween party you are headed to!

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Cookie Monster

How to:
Blue dress
Blue skinny feather boa
Light brown and dark brown felt
safety pins
Headband
1, medium size foam ball
Hot glue
Black paint

Cut big circles from the light brown felt to act as the cookies. Cut small odd shaped circles from the dark brown to act as the chocolate chips. Hot glue the “chocolate chips” to the “cookies.” Safety pin the cookies to your blue dress. Using a serrated knife, cut your foam ball in half. Paint cookie monster shaped eyes onto the foam ball halves. Hot glue blue boa to your headband. Once the eyes have dried. hot glue them to your boa headband. Use the remaining boa to tie around your wrists. Put it all together and you have yourself a cookie monster! Optional, carry around a jar of Perfect CCCs!

If you take a bite of any of these costumes, tag me on social media so I can see!

Annie

My Top 5

The go-to conversation starter in my inner circle as of late is what are your top 5. Top 5 movies first, which then leads into TV Shows. But, I also love to find out peoples generic top 5 things in life.  Here are mine.

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Movies: 
1.  Father of the Bride Part II (The part 2 part is very important. I love the first one but the second one reigns supreme)
2.  It’s Complicated
3.  You’ve Got Mail
4.  That Thing You Do
5.  Remember the Titans

TV Shows:
1.  Gilmore Girls
2.  Barefoot Contessa
3.  The Hills/Laguna Beach
4.  Parenthood
5.  Friday Night Lights

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In General: 
1.  Mornings (I sleep with my blinds open because I love being woken up by the sun. I’ve been an early riser my whole life. I used to get annoyed I couldn’t sleep in and now I love it. I love mornings so much I even wrote whole posts on them you can read here and here.
2.  Washington D.C.  My love for this city will never die. 
3.  Watching Food Network (especially on Saturday mornings in bed with a cup of coffee or tea)
4.  Cooking/Baking (duh)
5.  That feeling when you slip between the covers and lay your head on your pillow after a long day. 

Your turn. Let me here it in the comments below! 

Annie

Mahalo Hawaii

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March 14, 2018: “You know how your New Year’s resolution was to travel more? Well I think we should go to Hawaii,” - Taylor

March 15, 2018: Hotel, flights and PTO schedule.

April 10, 2018: MaryKate, Taylor and I were officially on Oahu, Hawaii.

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After landing it was straight to the hotel, bathing suits on then straight to the beach (bar).

Cheers to spontenatity, booking the most memorable trip with 3 weeks notice, and for checking off my goal of traveling more this year. (Next up, Austin, Houston, Aspen...and working on booking more).

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We found ourselves at Duke's a few times on the trip, but the best was stumbling upon Duke's on our first day which happened to be a Sunday. "Duke's on Sunday," is their busiest day. Jimmy Buffet even sings about it. Known for being a tourist bar, but even the locals come out on Sundays. You can get a glimpse here. (that video is 2+ years old and I kid you not I recognize people in the video we saw that day we were there).

If you are Waikiki bound, make sure your trip allows you to be there on a Sunday, and make a stop at Duke's!

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Our hotel offered complimentary yoga classes every morning. 1, I'm an early riser, 2, I love me some yoga, and 3, I was 5 hours ahead of schedule, so early morning yoga was the perfect way to fill my morning besides staring blankly at the ceiling when it was 4 am but felt like 9am.

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*Smoked salmon Benedict, Loco Moco and banana pancakes for breakfast at Cinnamon's

We got to Hawaii with very little plans and zero reservations. Traveling with two of your most laid back friends, makes things very easy. Thanks to Yelp and Google, we ate and did all the best things in my opinion. 

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Our zero reservations plan worked great beside one slip up the second night. We went out for authentic poke, but the place was apparently so good, by the time we got there they were completely out of everything. 

Luckily, the infamous bakery, Leonard's was across the street. We had read about Leonard's and hoped to make it there one day for breakfast or a treat. They are famous for their Portuguese donuts called malasadas. Think if a sopapilla and a jelly donut had a baby, but with a Hawaii spin because of flavor options like guava and coconut. So poke problems aside we opted for donuts for dinner. A win in my mind!

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Goofy's is a must for breakfast, brunch or lunch. So good we went twice! And conveniently right by our hotel. I recommend the açaí bowls and iced coffee. 

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We were on a strict Pina colada diet while in Hawaii. So much, I searched for where to get a Pina colada in Oklahoma City. My search came up dry...

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*truly the best cocktail I've ever had. The Tropical Seoul: hwayo 25 shochu, pamplemousse liqueur, guava, pineapple and lemon. 

All delicious meals aside, nothing compares to our dinner at Herringbone. Our "splurge" meal of the trip you can say. The restaurant as visually delicious as the drinks and food. 

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If I could do this seafood platter again and again I would. 3 words. king. crab. legs. I love me some lobster, but I have never had crab legs and I can confidently say I have been severely missing out.

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A Loco Moco is a Hawaiian comfort food dish. The standard version consists of white rice, a hamburger patty, brown gravy and a sunny side up egg. So random it is actually delicious. Served at breakfast, lunch or dinner, a version showed up on just about every menu we saw.

Taylor ordered the Loco Moco at Cinnamon's. It was very traditional and delicious. I then tried the Loco Moco at Heavenly. More modern and organic so they claim. Kulana beef, local egg, local ginger soy glaze, and 10 grain rice with local farm green beans, broccoli, organic carrot, organic lentil beans, and organic black beans. My vegan health foodie wannabe ways loved it. 

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After our first poke fail, we redeemed ourselves at Poke Bar. Basically Chipotle, but Poke. Pick your rice, your fish, your toppings, dressings, add-ons etc.

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Goofy's round 2 cause we couldn't stay away. This visit included less açaí bowls and more eggs, more carbs and more coffee. We had too much fun the night before...

Something I did not realize is how prevalent taro is in Hawaii. We had bought some chips and snacks the first day for our room, including some taro chips. I didn't think much about it because I can buy the same kind at home. You know that black bag with the pink, orange, and white veggie chips on the cover? Ya, those!

Well taro is everywhere. A root vegetable that helped sustain early Hawaiian settlers, apparently. Similar to a sweet potato, but even more versatile. We had homemade taro chips and guacamole at one beach bar, I saw taro as an add-in option for smoothies, and our favorite, the TARO MUFFIN. A couple of the breakfast spots we ended up at offered the taro muffin on the menu. Basically just an English muffin, but made with taro. And also purple, making it that much more fun.

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*Incredible Cajun Fish Tacos at Duke's. So good all three of us ordered them. 

If I am on a vacation in an area that boarders water, I will eat fish at every meal. Oklahoma fish does not compare. For obvious reasons #landlocked.

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So for our last meal on Oahu, something with fish and quintessential to Hawaii was a must. The obvious choice, poke. 

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Poke and pina coladas aside, the rest of our trip was just as perfect.

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Taylor's one request on our trip was to visit Kualoa Ranch. AKA "Hawaii's Backlot." The site where they filmed part of the Jurassic Park movies. I've maybe seen the first JP all the way through once in school when we had a substitute teacher, but I was still game.

Kualoa was 45 minutes (or 15 minutes acocording to our uber Laura -__-) from where we were staying, but it was a great way to see more of the island on our way. Kualoa is a huge valley privately owned by a local family. Movies like Jurrasic Park, Godzilla, 50 First Dates, You, Me and Dupree and more were filmed here. They choose this site for it's idyllic Hawaiian look. 

We opted in to the ATV 2-hour guided tour (S/O to our guide Jay), which I highly recommend. They also offer 1-hour tours, horseback, zipline and bike tours. 

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Big dinosaur girls after a morning in the valley!

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Plan a hike too. Google may steer you to Diamond Head, but I suggest Manoa Falls. Only an hour round trip, but the hike is still a work out and the views are spot on. All leading to the signature "falls" at the top of the hike! 

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Last thing, do a booze cruise. Sorry sorry, I mean "sunset sail." We did this one. 2 hours, inclusive drinks (AKA oopsy juice <--- yup), best view of Waikiki, and to our luck a rainbow over the beach! Perfect perfect thing for our last night on Oahu. 

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Pro tip: go on a vacation with two of your best and most easy going friends. 3 is the perfect traveling number. 

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Until next time Hawaii.  Because I'm promising myself there will be a next time. Sooner rather than later. 

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Maholo (thank you) Hawaii for the best trip ever.

Annie