Monday, April 30, 2012

Document: April

Is it really the end of April?

We had Doug's mom and step-dad visit (with some furniture) before their move to Florida, we traveled to PA to see my family for Easter, we conquered midterms, we accomplished a lot of cleaning and rearranging (and some other things), and we are ready for Finals over the next two weeks!

1. Spring Cleaning (12 in 2012).  Our house is much cleaner, we have implemented a regular cleaning schedule, our kitchen is *finally* starting to function normally (which has been a challenge since we got the washer/dryer), our closets have been sorted and restocked, and our living room is much more efficient!

2. Reading.  April was a slow month for reading, but I have officially read 30 books this year (13 new)!!!  I recently ordered The Necromancer (#4 Alchemyst series), so I am working through that series again.  I also ordered my final two Austen Series books (Northpointe Chalet and Possibilites), completing my set!  That will be my next series to go through.  once we get into the swing of summer, I should be ready to jump back into LOTR ;)

3. Cooking.  I did my first Freezer Cooking (with more to come) and tried making lobster for the first time ever!  I am planning on trying to make Eggplant Parmesan this month, as well as making some "main dish" sized salads.  Other things to try over summer:  Oatmeal Smoothies and Royal Icing (with Sugar Cookies).

4. Health/Fitness.  We have had a few nice days that I was able to get outside, but I am definitely planning to add walking/jogging to my exercise routine within the next month!  I also am trying to fit a Zumba class into my schedule; the class schedule should change in May, which may provide me with a better time slot!  I always tend to lose weight during the summer (from playing outside); this summer I want to make sure I am becoming more fit, not just thinner.

And what about May?  May is our Apartment-versary!!!  In honor of this milestone, I want to finish all the little things to finalize this apartment being our home:
1.  Redoing our Guest Room (to host more guests)
2.  Finish "outfitting" our apartment (buying all the little things we need but have lived without)
and possibly...
3.  Rearranging our bedroom!

Delicious: Weekly Meal Plan

This week is a bit crazy because of the Avengers day Movie Marathon and a date mid-week, but will (hopefully) still be full of flavor!

Tuesday -- Grilled Fish w/ Scampi Pasta and Broccoli
                  Out for Dinner (Date Day)
Wednesday -- Chicken Fajitas
                       Eggplant Parmesan
Thursday -- Baked Pork Chops w/ Buffalo Chicken Potatoes
                   Order Pizza (Movie Marathon)
Friday -- Buffalo Chicken Sammies
Saturday -- Take Out (w/ guests)
Sunday -- Grilled Chicken w/ Broccoli Alfredo

The idea for the week is to augment the take-out food with healthy meals the rest of the week (with lean fish, chicken, and pork and lots of veggies)!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Design: Weekly Goals (April 29-May 5)

This week is going to be super fun and super busy!  On my schedule:  Date Day w/ Mr Doug, Giving out the Hebrew Final (and grading), and the Avengers Movie Marathon Party (and midnight premiere)!!!  Whew!

1.  Essay, 400 words (due May 2)
2.  Finish Final Paper research (paper due May 11)

3.  Give Hebrew Final (May 1)
4.  Grade Hebrew Finals (done by May 11)

5.  Menu planning/grocery shopping (and blog post)
6.  Prep for Avengers Day (living room set up, buy soda, etc)
7.  Keep using Cleaning Schedule

8.  Have a fun Date Day with Doug this week
9.  Relax and enjoy the Avenger Day party (and take lots of pics)
10.  Get in some exercise!!! (Gym, being outside, etc)

Design: Weekly Results (April 22-28)

Here's what I accomplished this week!!!

1.  Essay (400 words, due April 25)
2.  Work on Final Paper outline; begin research (due May 11) -- starting research today!

3.  Finish grading and return all homework/quizzes before last class (April 26)
4.  Finalize grade book prior to Final Exam (May 1)

5.  Menu planning and Grocery shopping (with blog post)
6.  Organize pantry and quick clean kitchen -- dishes (from Freezer Cooking) took precedence
7.  Finish cleaning bedroom -- rainy days = more laundry = less time for other cleaning
8.  Create and use laundry/cleaning schedule

9.  Make it to the gym 3 times this week -- oh gym, why do you avoid me so?
10.  Finish reading The Hobbit
11.  Get last 3 disposable cameras developed -- dropped off and getting developed over the weekend ;)

What I love about having Weekly Goals is that I can see how well I prioritized my week, generally.  The one thing that is not clear from crossing things off of a list is on what I spent my time.  This week, I rested a bit (from a touch of a cold), accomplished some freezer cooking (another post coming soon!), and was able to implement a cleaning schedule (no easy task).  Overall, I feel very accomplished despite the handful of "half-results" on the list.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Delicious: Broiled Lobster

When I mentioned on Pinterest that I was making broiled lobster this week, I had no idea that it would result in a number of likes and re-pins in a matter of hours!  So I decided to let you all know how it turned out ;)

The recipe/instructions I used were from Lobster Help,

One tail ready to go!
 I let the tails sit while I boiled some water for Alfredo Pasta; I also melted some butter and added seasoning for the lobster.  I used salt, pepper, lemon juice, and some garlic powder.

On a greased pan, covered in butter sauce!
Once the pasta was ready, I put some broccoli and cheese in the microwave to cook (courtesy of Green Giant); the vegetable cook time was the same for my tails, so I popped those in the oven!

While cooking, I drained most of the pasta water from the noodles and added some alfredo sauce (Ragu Light Alfredo); I like leaving some of the starchy cooking water (about 1/2 cup) in to thin out the alfredo a bit.  I put the pasta and sauce over a low heat and kept stirring to help the sauce warm, thicken a bit more, and begin to cling to the pasta.

Once the tails were done, I pulled those form the oven and let them rest a bit (with some extra butter on top!) while I put the pasta and broccoli on the plates.  The lobster came next, and I think this meal turned out pretty well!

Doug's plate
My Plate

Delicious: Freezer Cooking

This week was my first attempt at freezer cooking!  Instead of doing everything in one day (which is probably easier, but I digress), I split up my plans into cooking "sessions" that I could fit into my normal daily routine.

Note:  I took some pictures for Tuesday on my Phone, but then they photos would not upload to my computer or Facebook! :(  I went into extra detail so you could have more of an idea what I was doing ;)

Ground Chuck/Beef; Fruit
I picked up some fruit while grocery shopping (to add to some fruit we had) to make a large fruit salad!  Mine has 1 can chunk pineapple (packed in pineapple juice), 2 mangoes, 1 pint strawberries, and 4 bananas.  I forgot to take pictures while cutting up the fruit -- plus my hands were juicy and sticky!

Total Cost:  $3.97 (just under $0.50 per serving)
Time:  5-7 minutes

I also bought two large onions to add to my beef mixture; I used a little more than one onion in the mixture and sauteed the rest so we could have some cooked onions handy in the freezer!  Make sure to heat the skillet BEFORE adding ingredients (to medium-high heat); I used 4 tbsp unsalted butter and 1 tbsp each salt and pepper.

Melt most of the butter (nice trick to keep from burning), then add onions; stir to coat.  Add salt and pepper, stir occasionally -- it needs to sit so it can cook and brown evenly!  When onions begin to soften, reduce temp to medium heat; let cook low and slow to desired carmalization.  Note:  It takes a long time to completely caramelize onions.  Plan on the process taking at least 30 minutes to partially caramelize (like I did).  Is it worth the time.  YES!

Total Cost:  $0.59 (about $0.15 per use)
Time:  35 minutes

Finally I got to the beef mixture!  While I made the onions, I let the beef (3 lbs) sit out to take the chill off so the meat would not be "shocked" by the hot pan.  I removed the onions from the pan (above) with a slotted spoon, returned it to medium-high heat, and added the onion and beef mixture.  I only added salt and pepper (1 1/2 tbsp each) to this mix since it will be used in various dishes.

Other seasonings I recommend:  parsley, basil, steak seasoning, red pepper, garlic powder (or just minced fresh garlic), ginger, and Italian seasoning.  If you know what you are using it for, you can also add in other veggies, like green pepper or spinach.  Keep an eye on your meat:  make sure to break it into small pieces and only cook to medium-well.  If it is well done, it will be overdone when you add it to a meal.  I let my mixture drain completely in a metal colander and remain there to cool completely.

Total Cost:  $7.66 ($2.55 per mixture portion, $0.64 per serving)
Time:  12-14 minutes

I used the rest of the beef (2 lbs) to make hamburgers, half for dinner and half for the freezer.  I added Worcestershire sauce, reduced-sodium soy sauce, 2 tsp pepper, 2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp Italian seasoning, and 2 tsp parsley to the beef, mixed it with my hands, covered with a paper towel, and left to marinate in the fridge for about an hour.  I split the mixture in half, and each half was split into four patties.

I have found the best way to make patties by hand is to 1) roll the mix into a tight ball in your hands, 2) begin pressing the ball as you roll it (into a "spaceship" disc), 3) stop rolling; twist and press hands in opposite directions, and 4) make an indentation in the middle (to keep shape while cooking).  The warmth from rolling it begins to melt the fat in the meat, allowing it to hold the patty together, and the twisting keeps small pieces from falling off the outside of the burger.  I put 4 raw patties in the freezer; the other 4 I cooked  for dinner!  I started on very high heat (and preheated before adding my burgers); after flipping, I reduced to medium high/high to allow the burgers to cook through without burning.

Total Cost: $4.58 ($0.57 per burger)
Time:  1 hour (marinade), 10-12 min (patties), 8-10 min (cook time)

On the side I made Roasted Zucchini and Squash, a recipe I perfected over Easter.  I used one medium zucchini and two small yellow squash.  Wash, remove ends, quarter lengthwise, then slice into 1-inch pieces.  Preheat oven to 400; place foil on a baking tray and spray with oil.  Add the zucchini and squash; coat evenly with salt and pepper (I used about 1 tbsp each) and let sit at least 15 minutes (30 minutes is great, 45 is even better).  Roast in oven for 12-15 minutes; turn off oven, wait 2 minutes, and remove from oven.  The salt pulls the juices from the veggies, which creates a buttery "sauce."  By waiting to pull the squash from the oven, it continues coking at a lower temp to finish them and keep them from drying out.

Total Cost:  $3 (about $0.38 per serving)
Time:  45 min

Not bad for one afternoon!

Total Time Spent:
2 hrs -- fruit and freezer cooking (with some dish washing and e-mail checking in the middle)
30-45 min -- prep and cook dinner

Total Cost:  
$14.51 for fruit salad, 3 batches beef and onion mix, 1 large batch grilled onions, and 4 burgers
$5.29 for Dinner (4 burgers with zucchini and squash) + leftovers

Monday, April 23, 2012

Delicious: Weekly Meal Plan

As always, Doug and I ended up with lots of leftovers and lots of leftover meals.  Good news:  less to buy at the grocery store (and less $$ to spend this week!).  One thing that I have been "neglecting" is to add in an extra meals on Tuesday/Wednesdays (our weekends), as well as plan to have some breakfast and "lunch" foods.  This week will *hopefully* be perfect!

Tuesday -- Burgers w/ Potato Wedges and Roasted Zucchini & Squash
                  Grilled Fish w/ Scampi Pasta and leftover veggies
Wednesday -- Broiled Lobster Tails w/ Alfredo Rotini
Thursday -- Breaded Pork w/ Baked Potatoes and Cheddar Broccoli
Friday -- Beef-A-Roni w/ Sauteed Green Beans
Saturday -- Grilled Chicken Breasts w/ Broccoli Alfredo
Sunday -- Tuna Helper w/ Mixed Veggies
Monday -- Eggplant Parmesan w/ Meaty Sauce, Spinach, and Shells

This week I am also attempting my very first Freezer Cooking Day!  I am starting small (some burgers, ground beef, pork fajita mix, stir-fry mix, and steamed shrimp), but I am really excited to have good meals on hand to quickly make for us!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Design: Weekly Goals (Apr 22-28)

Someone asked me, "Why 10 goals?  Why not 7 or 14?"  My answer is: because I had 10 goals.  My advice to everyone for goal-setting (or resolution-making) is to not worry about following a formula, but figure out what works for you.  First, I write down the things that I must accomplish this week (like grading or schoolwork that is due); then I can add in some other things that I want to get done this week (like working ahead in school or blogging).  I aim to have at least two things per category, but no more than 12 goals for the week (two per weekday and two for the weekend).

1.  Essay (400 words, due April 25)
2.  Work on Final Paper outline; begin research (due May 11)

3.  Finish grading and return all homework/quizzes before last class (April 26)
4.  Finalize grade book prior to Final Exam (May 1)

5.  Menu planning and Grocery shopping (with blog post)
6.  Organize pantry and quick clean kitchen
7.  Finish cleaning bedroom
8.  Create and use laundry/cleaning schedule

9.  Make it to the gym 3 times this week
10.  Finish reading The Hobbit
11.  Get last 3 disposable cameras developed

This is a lot to accomplish in one week, but I want to work hard now so that Doug and I can relax through May -- May is already jam-packed full of events and fun things to do!!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Design: This Week's Results

Here's how my list looks at the end of the week:

1.  Essay (400 words, due this week)
2.  Begin Outline for Final Paper (due May 11) -- I still have plenty of time ;)

3.  Grade Quiz 4
4.  Grade Homework from last week and this week

5.  Menu Planning/Grocery Shopping (with blog post)
6.  Do prep work for CD investments
7.  Quick clean of apartment and rearrange living room (for guests coming Thursday)

8.  Make it to the gym at least 3 times this week -- at least I made it this week!
9.  Spend some time outdoors (and enjoy this awesome weather!)
10.  AND take a bath with my new bubble bath ;)

I did get a few extra things done this week:
1. Re-vamp Master Bedroom.  We found all our clean and dirty clothes (that had not been put away yet), put away all our clean clothes, and sorted all our dirty clothes into loads.  We put away our extra blankets, vacuumed, and cleaned up everything!!!
2. Laundry.  Because of re-vamping our bedroom, we had a LOT of laundry left over!  In the end, I think we did 4 loads and have 2-3 left to do (plus some hampers are half full already!)  Needless to say, we definitely need to start doing more laundry ;)
3. Errands/Upkeep.  Doug was able to buy new screws so that we can finally put up our living room curtains!  (When they are actually up, I will post photos and explain the whole story/ordeal of our curtains.  They have almost been more trouble than they are worth!)  We also got some things for the house (water bottles, printer ink, etc) and some things for us (Nook Tablet, B&N gift cards)!  On top of everything, we opened our first CD accounts!  Yea!
4. Family Time.  My parents and sister-in-law Christine came in to visit on Thursday and Friday; my parents are coming back for to see us a bit more on Sunday.  Spending extra time with them playing frisbee golf, helping my mom buy/set up her Nook, and going out to eat is such a treat and a blessing.

Even though I did not complete everything on my list, I was able to do a lot more than I thought I could!  It definitely helped me to focus my time and energy on what was most important for the week!!!

How do you organize your days/weeks?  What is your plan to accomplish things?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Determination: Living Room Curtains

Today I will share the story of the Living Room Curtains.

Shortly after Doug and I were married, I ordered curtains (off our registry, using gift cards) for our living room. They were nothing fancy:  brown tab-top panels and a simple bar.  No curtain clips, no tie-backs, just three hooks to hold the bar in place.  Even though we did not have an electric drill (to put the screws in), we had friends who did.  Doug and I both thought there would be no problems.

August 2011:  Curtains/Bar arrive; we are super busy with our extra reception, my mother-in-law's wedding, and classes beginning.  No worries.

September 2011:  Didn't have time to borrow drill; we should have time in October, right?

October 2011:  Baby Beth (our niece) is born and we throw an epic Halloween party.

November 2011:  Midterms and Thanksgiving

December 2011:  Starting to get a little frustrated about the curtains, but Final and Christmas travelling consume our time.  My parents buy Doug a Cordless Drill and Bit Set for Christmas.  These curtains should be up in no time!!!

January 2012:  We mark the locations for the holes; finish holiday visits, my birthday celebration, classes begin,  and Doug's grandfather passes away.

February 2012:  Plan an afternoon of curtain hanging (with help from our friend Jon).  Drill the holes -- hit the brick on the outside of our building.  The anchors and screws are too long.

March 2012:  Midterms and my grandfather passes; we get new anchors, screws, and washers from my uncle Reed to fix the length problems.

Early April 2012:  Doug tries using the new screws; the 2nd and 3rd sets of holes are too big, and the anchors are spinning in them.

My window looks so sad and empty

Today (April 20, 2012):  Doug (with help from my dad) cuts the anchors to fit, uses washers to fix the length, and officially get our curtains hung!!!  Yea!!!  

It took 9 months, but we finally have curtains!!!

Pretty Curtains!

Leafy curtain ends (sorry it is fuzzy!)

They look so great!

They really add some texture and depth to our living room, and it added an instant homey feeling!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Delicious: Weekly Meal Plan

Yes, I am a day late on this post, but it has been a bit of an unexpected week!!!

This Week's Menu Plan:
Wed -- Meaty Spaghetti with Spinach
Thur -- Chicken Fajitas with Peppers, Onions, and Rice
Fri -- Out to Lunch with Parents and Chrissy (my sister-in-law)
Sat -- Leftovers and Sandwiches with Salad
Sun -- Out to Lunch with Parents
Mon -- Breaded Pork with Potatoes and Mixed Veggies
Tues -- Grilled Chicken with Alfredo and Broccoli

I am so excited for my family to visit!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Determination: "New" Living Room

Yesterday, I rearranged our Living Room!!!  Now there is much more space for guests, the seating is more comfortable for talking or watching TV, and there is less room for clutter!!!

Like I said earlier in April, I might not show the before pictures (since our house was a bit messy), but I have one "before" to show you...

As you can see, the edge of the couch was blocked off and our chair near the door became a catch-all for mail, bags, and tons of other things!!!  So we moved the couch out and put our chair, game cabinet, and Wii shelf along that wall...

With my hubby trying to "hide" from the picture
...and replaced the chair with our love seat...

He couldn't hide that time ;)
...and moved the couch along the opposite wall!

Now, when we come out of the bedrooms or bathroom, we have a nice and open Living Room to enjoy!!!

This provides more space in front of the TV for playing Wii Games, exercising/stretching (my yoga mat fits perfectly now), playing board games on the floor (with nice sofas to lean against), or having an air mattress for extra guests.  Now when guests are over, we can actually face each other easily to talk, or we can get comfortable for a movie (and no one has to sit right next to the screen).  This also "opened up" more wall space to hang a few photos or paintings or put up a shelf.

The only thing left to do in the Living Room is to shift our TV to the left so that I can put a "Mail Basket" next to the door.  We can still fit shoes and a small purse (or two!) between the love seat and the door, but the rest of our Living Room clutter has no where to go!  Extra games are piled in the "nook" between the love seat and the chair, and we can place a medium-sized trash can in that area as well. (There was no place for even a small trash can before moving furniture.)  Lighting is also much better because our table lamp and floor lamp are both located in corners now, so the light is reflected across the entire room.

I just LOVE my new Living Room -- and, I didn't even spend $0.01 to make it better!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Design: Weekly Goals

Design (noun):  plan, outline, blueprint

One of the things I learned through my tenure as an RA (and through 7 Practices of Effective Ministry) was to begin with the end in mind, to be working towards something, not just working at something.  As you know, I have "resolutions' for 2012, but those often get pushed aside day-to-day.  So, I going to try to be more proactive to help me focus my energy to accomplish my goals!  So, here is my list of goals for the week (divided by life categories) to help me accomplish my long-term goals.

1.  Essay (400 words, due this week)
2.  Begin Outline for Final Paper (due in 3 1/2 weeks)

3.  Grade Quiz 4
4.  Grade Homework from last week and this week

5.  Menu Planning/Grocery Shopping (with blog post)
6.  Do prep work for CD investments
7.  Quick clean of apartment and rearrange living room (for guests coming Thursday)

8.  Make it to the gym at least 3 times this week
9.  Spend some time outdoors (and enjoy this awesome weather!)
10.  AND take a bath with my new bubble bath ;)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

De and Doug's Den: 7 Practices of Effective Ministry

Even though this was a book I was required to read for the class I am currently taking, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  I have been an Andy Stanley fan for awhile. (I have read Choosing to Cheat and Next Generation Leader in the past.)

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the opening story about Pastor Ray Martin chatting with baseball team owner Pete Harlan about effective management.  It is clear through this story that these practices can be used in various types of business, organizations, and ministry. As a "housewife," I can still apply these practices to my own life.

The second half of the book elaborates on these principles using examples from North Point Community Church, which is very helpful for those in ministry.  Overall, it was a really great read, and I am looking forward to applying some of the principles to my own life.

I highly recommend this read simply for organizational principles.  Happy reading ;)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Determination: April Update

Happy Friday the 13th!!!

I know I say this a lot, but I really cannot believe that it is April 13.  Here's why:
-- April is 43.3% over (Yes, I am a nerd.  Thanks!),
-- I have been living in this apartment (and on my own) for over 11 months (May 10, 2011)
-- I have been married for over 9 months (July 2, 2011),
-- It has been Spring for almost a month (March 20, 2012),
-- This semester will be over in less than a month (May 11, 2012), and
-- Summer officially begins in a little over two months (June 20, 2012)!!!

All of this together totally blows my mind.  I just keep thinking "It's can't be the middle of April YET."  I blame our two trips to the frigid North (PA) for my disbelief, but the calendar does not lie.

Here are some things I have accomplished so far:
1. Reading.  Goal:  100 books per year (=33 books by the end of April).  I am currently reading The Hobbit as magic book #30, but somehow I doubt I will make it through the LOTR Trilogy by the end of April to reach my 33 book goal; still, I am reading quite a few books for my Evangelism class, so I might surpass all expectations.  So far only 13/30 (43.3% -- crazy coincidence?  I think not!) have been new books, but I am excited to get my hands on some new books this summer and Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus Series #3) this Fall.
Note:  I know that reading the Hunger Games Trilogy again might seem like cheating since I read it in January, but as a newlywed full-time student working for a scholarship, I can't buy new books as fast as I read them.  So, yeah, I'm going to end up repeating books I have already read.  That is the whole purpose behind the "50 new books" goal -- to make sure I am reading new material.

2. Cooking.  Goal:  Try more new recipes (especially Crock-Pot and MYOTO -- Make Your Own Take Out).  I say accomplished!  I have only posted 8 new recipes, but it is because 1) I found those online and 2) I like to make up my own as I go.  Case in point:  Easter Dinner.  I liked the idea of Stuffed Pork Tenderloin so I made stuffing, butterflied the pork, added my own seasonings, and looked up an adequate temp and time for cooking. Result: Yummy Easter Dinner.  FTW.

3. Health/Weight. Yea Spring and Summer!  Every year, I lose 10-15 between April and July.  I don't know if it is the abundance of fresh produce, being outside more, or just being happier due to the warm weather and sunshine, but Spring and Summer lightens me up!  One thing I have been really excited about is getting back to the park near our house (for walking/jogging) and to try out a trail that I haven't been on before that is near our house.  Hopefully I can drag Doug with me next week; every time I have wanted to go we have been traveling or it has been too cold/rainy.  Praying for sunny skies next Tuesday!!!

4. 12 in 2012.  Goal: Accomplish one "resolution" per month.  This has been both good and also rough.  since January, we have switched churches, lost two grandparents, made 3 unscheduled trips, fought winter sickness at the same time, and had a few unplanned guests all during the normal chaos of work, school, and daily life.  We have still accomplished quite a bit each month.  As far as April goes, the house has undergone a "quick clean,"  but I still have a bit of a kitchen makeover to complete, Spring Closet Cleaning to finish up, and Doug and I have to find some time to rearrange the Living Room!  My parents and sister-in-law are coming in to visit in less than a week, so I'm hoping to get the Living Room and Kitchen finalized before their visit.  Then, I'll have a week to sort through my clothes -- and hopefully an excuse to buy new clothes!

The biggest thing I am learning is to be flexible.  Most of what Doug and I have accomplished this year (or even since we got married) has not been what has been planned, but what has been necessary, what has been beneficial, and what has been enjoyable.  We can't hold so tightly to a plan or a schedule but rather enjoy what we have been given and use is wisely.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Delicious: Weekly Meal Plan

We are officially back from Easter!!!  My parents fed us a lot (and I cooked a bit, which also helped), but it is nice to be home and back in control of my own space and schedule ;)  I promised you a peek at my Easter dinner -- I made a Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Zucchini and Squash on the side.  My mom contributed her fabulous Baked Mac and Cheese (and Easter tradition).

Yummy Dinner!!!  I had to take a few bites before snapping this pic ;)

We are starting a day behind since we traveled most of Tuesday, but we are still ready and prepped for the week!  Somehow, we always end up with extra complaints here!!!

Wednesday:  Roasted Chicken w/ Sauteed Green Beans
Thursday:  Grilled Fish w/ Scampi Pasta and Roasted Zucchini and Squash
Friday:  Meaty Spaghetti w/ Spinach
Saturday:  Chicken Fajitas w/ Rice
Sunday:  Eating Out!!!
Monday:  Pork Stir-Fry w/ Chicken Fried Rice
Tuesday:  Grilled Chicken w/ Broccoli Alfredo Sauce

Next week we will be preparing for my parents and sister-in-law to visit!!!

P.S.  I am also currently half-way done with my 30th book for the year!  Wow!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

De and Doug's Den: The Westing Game

Den (noun):  hideaway, burrow, sanctum, study

You all should know by now that I am an avid reader -- I love books!  My husband is also a reader, and he often reads more "intellectual" books than I do.  (He read Rob Roy while I read Hunger Games earlier this year.)  Regardless, we both love to read and, between the two of us, have a pretty large collection of books for only being 25 years old.  A lot of people have asked about books we have read, our favorite books, and what many of the books we read are about.  I thought sharing here might be a great way to let people know the answers to some of these questions (plus give Doug something fun to guest post about!).

Today, I am starting with a Newberry Medal recipient, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.
This is what my book looked like originally ;)
Not only is it my favorite book, I have read this book about 300 times.  No, I am not exaggerating; I read it for the first time in sixth grade, and I just could not put it down.  I read it over 100 times in that school year (I kept a tally on the bookmark.)  My Copy is missing the front cover and several pages have come loose, but it is still my go-to book whenever I need a mini-vacation.  My copy is just shy of 300 pages; I can normally finish it in 2-3 hours.

It was originally published in 1978, but I have never noticed any '70s related terminology that would date the story; on the contrary, the plot could easily be accepted as a 21st century story (minus the technology that envelops today's world).  While it is a mystery, one cannot help getting caught up in the lives and exploits of the many diverse characters.

While all sixteen characters are necessary for the plot, the two that stand out are Sam Westing (an eccentric millionaire who has died, leaving behind a will, sixteen would-be heirs, and a tricky game where the winner-takes-all), and Tabitha-Ruth "Turtle" Wexler (a thirteen-year-old with a knack for stocks and a hot temper).  The reader is given all the "clues" to the game, but there are so many tricks, twists, and changes to be caught up in.  There are many allusions to chess (sixteen players, Sam Westing used to play chess), and it is hard not to begin to see the characters in light of this.  In the end, all the heirs are better for being in the game, in their jobs, relationships, and life choices.

If you haven't read The Westing Game, pick it up!  I would recommend it for ages 8 and up ;)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Delicious: Weekly Meal Plan

Because Doug and I were in PA for 5 days, we still have a lot of meal components left over to use for this week, PLUS we are going back to PA again this weekend = very little shopping to do and lots of $$ saved for this week ;)

Tuesday -- Turkey Sausage Jambalaya w/ Okra
Wednesday -- Out to Dinner with my In-laws ;)
Thursday -- Grilled Fish w/ Scampi Pasta and Zucchini
Friday -- Pork Fajitas w/ Onions, Peppers, and Rice
Saturday-Tuesday -- Travelling/Dinner with my parents ;)

I'm not giving away my Easter cooking plans yet, but I will tell you a few items of my grocery list for Easter:  Pork, zucchini, and summer squash. Hmmm....