Thursday, April 28, 2011


Yesterday a tornado tore through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, leaving in its wake destruction and deaths. Just over a year ago I was living there, and looking at the pictures of streets I drove on, and hearing of buildings and restaurants I knew that are completely wiped out is scary. It's a different feeling when a disaster like this hits home.
Thankfully I've heard from the friends I have in Tuscaloosa, and everyone is alive...but I wouldn't go as far as saying they are OK. There is so much devastation and many have lost so much. Most don't have electricity or cell phone coverage to call friends and family. I feel so helpless on the other side of the country, but all I can do is pray. I'm asking you to pray too, and keep them in your thoughts.
If you are so inclined, I do know that bringing items like toothbrushes, soap, first aid kits etc. to any Methodist church will help. There is a committee on relief that will make sure those items get to where they are most needed. Please consider helping in any way you can.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Marshmallow Peeps and Sweet Potatoes!

This recipe is an Easter tradition in my house; my grandmother always makes them for Easter and even though I don't actually like sweet potatoes I think they are very sweet!
These are super simple to make, and I brought them to our "out-of-towners" Easter dinner and they were a hit! You can also make them with regular marshmallows, if you don't have access to peeps.

First, bake and mash the sweet potatoes. For a dozen servings you will probably only need 4-5 average sized sweet potatoes or yams (I used yams because they are more orange).
Add a few tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle some cinnamon in the potatoes. Set aside. Line a large baking dish with pineapple rings and spoon the potatoes onto the rings. Place a yellow peep in the middle and put a little more potato around the edges to encompass the peep.

Cook them at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on them so the peeps don't melt away! Serve warm and enjoy!

(These are before being cooked. After, the peeps didn't have much shape!)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Earth Day! (a day late...)

Though I was aware that yesterday was Earth Day, I completely dropped the ball on posting about it! Although, one could argue that everyday should be Earth Day, so let's just pretend that I'm not late in posting.

Here are a few things I do to help the earth.
  • Recycle! I absolutely love that our recycle bin is larger than our trash bin. Though we do sometimes throw away more things that we should, we also recycle almost everything. Thank goodness for living in the Pacific Northwest, where they love to recycle!
  • We have a rain barrel (more on that next week!) and two compost bins; one worm bin and one larger compost bin in the backyard.
  • Whenever possible we use cloth wipes, rather than paper towels. I'm still working on Geoff on this one...
  • We usually use cloth bags for shopping. When we forget, however, we reuse the bags for kitty litter! I'm too cheap to buy the bags that you can compost, but if we ever run out of plastic I will do that.
  • Whenever our light bulbs burn out I replace them with energy efficient bulbs. No sense in wasting the ones that came in the house!
  • We keep the house at a balmy 63 degrees in the winter. It's cool, sure, but nothing a nice blanket and slippers can't fix!
  • I make good use of Craigslist, Freecycle and Goodwill. Love those things!
  • We have local milk and yogurt delivered every week. Sure, it's a little more expensive, but I love that the milk is local and 24 hours out of the cow by the time we get it!
What are you doing to help the environment, and save money at the same time?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Food Waste Friday

This week's food waste wasn't that bad, although I didn't miss out on it entirely! I don't, however, have a picture for you.
The whole, making one larger meal and eating it throughout the week worked very well this week, I'm happy to say! We finished off our casserole without any waste! Although I was pretty sick of it by the end!
We lost some strawberries this week. Apparently I didn't learn my lesson from last week! Oops. This time it was only about half a container though. My co-worker found some excellent strawberries this week so I'm going to see if I can find these myself!
I also just discovered some asparagus and cucumbers that were hiding in a bottom drawer of the refrigerator, but since I found them this morning I'm not sure what the damage is yet.
I feel like there was something else that fell victim to my food waste but for the life of me I can't remember what it was! If I do, I will let you know.

How did you do this week?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

52 Letter Challenge, weeks 15 and 16

I'm a week behind in posting, but not in writing, thank goodness! Week 15 somehow slipped away from me so I quickly wrote a letter on my lunch break last Saturday. This one was to my pen pal Lydia, to whom I write when I don't know who else to write to! It wasn't anything exciting (we usually write about what's going on in our lives) and it was on a piece of white lined paper from a legal pad at work, but it was a letter, and that's all that counts!

Week 16 was a little more interesting. This letter is already written and just waiting to be popped in the mail! (I keep forgetting because it's on my coffee table). This week's letter went out to a very good friend named Tammy. I lived with Tammy's family while I finished up my last 2 years of school, renting out a room in her house. Though I loved my first two years at school, I absolutely loved living with Tammy. At the time she had a little boy who was 1 1/2 when I moved in (that same little boy was in our wedding, along with his sister, who was born just after I moved out. They are now 8 and 6! I can't believe it!) I expected it to be slightly awkward, and only last a year, but to my surprise, I became part of the family. Bryant and I bonded, and Tammy became like a second mom to me.
We haven't talked since my wedding, unfortunately, because I'm not very good at phone calls and Tammy doesn't use email. However, they've been on my mind lately, and I thought she was the perfect person to write a letter to. I know she will appreciate the handwritten, personal mail.

If you're doing the 52 week letter writing challenge, how are you doing?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'll find strength in pain...

The following is a guest post that my sister wrote on her own blog. It was so good, and exactly described my thoughts about the song she writes about that I asked her if I could use the post for my own blog.

Nearly every song on Mumford and Son's album (Sigh No More) expresses everything I have ever wanted to express about the world and my life. Especially The Cave.

I love The Cave so much I am deeply, seriously, undeniably considering getting the line "I'll find strength in pain" tattooed on my foot. I chose my foot (in case you're curious) because of the first stanza: "the sun it rises slowly as you walk / away from all the fears / and all the faults you left behind"

Whenever I listen to The Cave, I hear two voices. I hear myself--talking to my depression and telling it to back off, go away, because I am better, stronger, a fighter. ("So make your siren's call / and sing all you want / I will not hear what you have to say / cuz I need freedom now / and I need to know how / to live my life as it's meant to be...")

But most of all... I hear God. I hear him saying "I will hold on hope / I won't let you choke / on the noose around your neck." And suddenly nothing has ever mattered except for this moment, because God is telling me it's going to be okay.

The Cave (Mumford and Sons)

It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I'll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

But I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand

So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Menu Plan Monday, er, Tuesday!

This week's menu plan Monday is a little late! But at least I'm doing it, which was one of my goals this month! The plan of having leftovers throughout the week worked pretty well, although we didn't make the chicken and rice until later in the week, so it's more like leftovers for this week!

Monday: Snacky stuff

Tuesday: Fish and broccoli

Wednesday: Both out at youth group, so we will eat there.

Thursday: Skillet macaroni and cheese, some veggie

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Breakfast for dinner or leftovers

Sunday: Snacky stuff and leftovers or, if I'm feeling ambitious, homemade pizza.

I just realized we're having a mostly vegetarian week! Yay for saving money, because eating vegetarian is very frugal!
What are you having for dinner this week?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Food Waste Friday

Two posts in one day! What's going on?? Well, I wanted to get back into the Food Waste Friday game hosted by The Frugal Girl, but I also wanted to do Show Us Your Life hosted by Kelly! Since both are Friday blog hops (I think that's what they're called?) I have two posts for you today. Hope you don't mind!

If we're being perfectly honest, I haven't had a food waste post in forever because I haven't been very good about not wasting food. I'm trying very hard to stick with being careful and not wasteful, however, along with sticking to my grocery budget.
This week was rough though. I don't have any pictures (you probably should be thankful for that!) but I do have plenty to tell you about.
First, I threw away a small cup of homemade chicken soup. This was from a while back when we got a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and made soup with it. I found a small bone in my bowl one day and just couldn't bring myself to eat the last bowl!
We also discarded some grapes that had been left out. There may have been a few good ones in there but Geoff has an aversion to mold and just threw the whole bag out without my checking it! Oh well.
I hated this waste. It was an almost full package of strawberries. This was completely my fault because they weren't that great when I bought them, then after sitting a few days in the fridge they only got worse. Sigh. This time when I bought strawberries I looked very closely at them. At least the ones I threw out were on sale!

I think that's all my waste from this week (which, believe me, is plenty!!) Here's hoping for a better week next week!

Show us your life books!

This week's show us your life at Kelly's Korner is what books are you reading? I'm very excited to see what people are reading...more excited than I am to share what I'm reading!

I have to be honest with you. I'm on a cheesy, chick-lit type of book kick lately. Books are all about getting away, right? Well, I love these books because even though they're cheesy and predictable because they're the perfect escape for me!
Anyway, I'm actually in the middle of two books at the moment. The first is The Undomestic Goddess.

I picked this book up at Half Price Books last week and I love it! It's about a woman who loses her job as a lawyer, and accidentally gets hired as a housekeeper! The only problem is she doesn't even know how to turn on an oven! It's really funny, especially since she has convinced the family she's working for that she's a gourmet chef! And, of course, there's love in it!

The other book I'm reading is, yes, another chick book! It is called Romantically Challenged. I bought the Kindle edition of this book because it was only $2.99. I read it on my iPhone at night, when I don't want to turn on the light because Geoff's sleeping.

This one is also about a lawyer who is in her 30s and busy...too busy to meet someone. She's also very picky and turns down almost every guy she has a date with because of one reason or another. The thing I like about this book is that I don't know who she will fall in love with (because I assume there is going to be someone!)

They're both cute and fun, and that's what I like about them! What are you reading?
This post is linked up to Kelly's Korner.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Menu plan Monday

This week I took a leaf out of my friend Elizabeth's book. Most of our dinner plans are leftovers. For the past few weeks I've been noticing Elizabeth's menu plans include more and more leftovers. At first I thought this was a little boring (sorry Elizabeth!) but I think I will try it out this week!

Here's our menu plan for the week:
Breakfasts will be either cereal or oatmeal. Lunches will be mostly leftovers, sandwiches or Smart Ones (don't judge, they were on sale last week!)
Snacks will be yogurt, hard boiled eggs, jello, celery and peanut butter or hummus and fruit.

Hamburgers, fruit and/or vegetables

Wednesday: Sandwiches (I'm going to be too late to eat at youth group, so I will eat a sandwich between the gym and a doctor's appointment!)

Chicken and rice, veggies and fruit.


Saturday: Grilled pork chops and either grilled or roasted veggies.

Sunday: Breakfast for dinner.

Boring? Perhaps...but I think it will help our leftovers and food waste this week. I will let you know how this goes! Man, cooking and eating for two is hard!
This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I'm open!

Once a year my best friend Kristin and I go to a beading shop. We make our own jewelry and spend hours there. It's our therapy, and we absolutely love it.
This time, however, we decided that relearning how to make earrings and bracelets over again every time isn't exactly ideal, so we decided to buy some tools and make jewelry more regularly.

Thus, my Etsy shop was born! Sure, there's only a few things listed right now, but I'm working on it! It might take a little work and patience, but I'm excited! Now go check it out!

Friday, April 8, 2011

52 Letter challenge, week 14

Despite going away with my best friend for a few days this week, I managed to get a letter written to someone who is not my penpal Lydia!
This week I wrote to a very good friend named Steve, whom I've known for 18+ years. I actually babysat for Steve, who is only 3 years younger than me, along with his brother and their younger sister. I was mostly a referee, to be honest, however.
Anyway, Steve and I clearly go way back, but we became close when we worked together at a bowling alley. We worked Saturday nights, and it was so much fun. I often miss those days. So, Steve is now married and living in Chicago, and I will see him in about a month, when I go out for my sister's graduation! I'm very excited.
When we worked together, Steve had the silly habit of collecting fake credit cards. You know the ones, the cardboard cards they send you in the mail with "Your Name Here" on the name area. We recently got one in the mail, however, and I was reminded of Steve! I've been stuck on wondering who to write to (I needed someone new) and this was perfect.
So, this week's letter goes out to Steve, along with a fake credit card; a joke clearly he will only understand fully.

I love writing letters.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April goals

Last month's goals went fairly well, so I'm confident about this month's too. I'm keeping some of the same goals but I'm also adding different ones.

1. This may be a recurring goal until I finally figure out how to stop spending money when we're out of our budget!

2. Go to the gym at least 3 times a week.

3. Try one new meal a week from our cookbooks (I don't feel like we use them enough!)

4. Post regular menu plans and link up to Menu Plan Monday.

5. Apply to at least one job a week.

Here's hoping for another good month!

Monday, April 4, 2011

March goal update!

One of my goals for March was not only to stick with my goals, but also update about them, because it will  keep me accountable!
Anyway, here are my March goals and how I did on them:

1. Update these goals at the end of the month and create goals for April.
Hey, look at that! I did it! April goals coming in a few days.

2. Play nice with I'm trying, I really am, but the problem is we tend not to stop going to restaurants when our restaurant budget is up! Oops. This should be fixed.
Well, we didn't exactly do well on this, but it didn't help that we got our tax return too. Mint monitors our income vs. our spending, and our income was way above our spending (yay!) so it threw me off.

3. Plan the menu for the week and post about it. If I plan to post about it I have to do it, right??
Well, 2 out of 4 weeks is a good start, right?

4. Make at least 2 blog posts a week on something meaningful
(No more fluff, right?)
I did post more often and regularly, which is basically what I wanted to get at, so I feel like this was a success.

5. Go to Weight Watchers every week, regardless of how the week went.
We went three out of 4 weeks so that's an improvement!

Overall, I think it's been a good month.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Shrimp po'boys recipe

Cooking for two can be difficult. While Geoff and I are doing very well eating our leftovers, it's always nice to find a recipe that works for two, and sandwiches are exactly that!
This recipe is a combination of one from my America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (we have all three of these books and I love them, by the way) and my Weight Watchers Comfort Classics cookbook. I had intended to make the ATK recipe completely, but when I read that they wanted to fry the shrimp I decided to use the method from the Weight Watchers cookbook instead.

As a bit of history, the term po' boy is short for poor boy, and it's used to describe a sandwich put on submarine bread. As the story goes, a restaurant owner passed out sandwiches to boys who were working on the street cars but were currently on strike. Short for poor boys, that's how the sandwiches got their name!

Anyway, onto the recipe.
To start, peel your shrimp. I accidentally bought a bag of frozen small shrimp which become tiny when you cook them in the skillet. I was disappointed until I realized they would be perfect for this recipe!
Dip the shrimp in eggs and coat them in the cornmeal mixture. I recommend using one hand to dip the shrimp and the other to cover them with the cornmeal. That way your wet fingers don't get coated with the cornmeal.

Line a baking sheet (or, in my case, a broiler pan) with foil and spray some cooking spray on it. Put the shrimp on the pan in a single layer and spray them with the cooking spray again. Bake the shrimp at 475 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until they are opaque in the middle.

For the sandwich part, cut a hoagie roll in half and peel out some of the bread in the inside. Spread some mayonnaise, sprinkle with lemon juice, and then a layer of diced pickles. Spread the shrimp on top, then top with lettuce and tomatoes. I choose to use baby spinach because it's healthier and we had it in the house, and we were out of tomatoes so I didn't use any of them.

The verdict? Geoff told me I can make them again! I guess that means they were a hit!

Shrimp po'boys

1/3 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (I leave this out because I don't like spicy!)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs (or egg whites, if you want to be healthier), lightly beaten
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. LIne a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray the foil with non-stick spray. Combine the cornmeal, paprika, thyme, salt and pepper on a piece of wax paper. Place the eggs in a shallow bowl. Dip the shrimp into the eggs, then the cornmeal mixture. Arrange in a single later on the baking sheet and spray lightly with non stick spray. Bake until the shrimp are opaque in the middle, about 8-10 minutes.

Hoagie rolls
Pickles, diced
1 tomato, sliced thin

Hollow out the inside of the hoagie rolls by removing some of the interior crumb from both the top and bottom crusts. Spread mayonnaise inside each hollow, sprinkle with the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Spread the pickles and shrimp into the bottom crusts. Top each sandwich with several slices of tomato, lettuce, and finally the upper crust.

Friday, April 1, 2011

52 Letter challenge, week 13

I can't believe we're already in week 13 of the letter writing challenge! Though I'm up to date on my writing, I'm not always up to date on my updating you all! Sorry about that.
Last week I decided to write to my grandmother in North Carolina. We used to write back and forth a lot but got out of the habit, somehow. Funny how life gets busy and you forget things like that. Anyway, I sent her a relatively newsy letter, including a discussion about my very first cheesecake I made on my own!
The weeks I can't think of anyone to write to, I write to my perpetual pen pal, Lydia. Since my best friend from home is coming to visit this week and we are going away for a few days, I decided it was easiest to write to Lydia. She may be next week's recipient too, since Kristin will be here until Thursday and I'm taking time off from work. I want to enjoy our time together! If I don't get to writing, then I will do two next week, most likely.
If you're doing the 52 week letter writing challenge, how are you doing?

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