Friday, June 29, 2012

Document: June

May moved so slowly, but June just sped by!!!

I did a lot of schoolwork, some freezer cooking, updated our bedroom with new sheets and a comforter, spent some time in North Carolina, and had some fun dates ;)  Plus, I had a chance to reevaluate my 12 in 2012 goals and change up a few to better suit my needs.

Reading.  So far, I have read 48 books (a little under my goal for the year) and 22 new books (also a little under the goal).  I am really excited to have more time in July and August to read, and I am super excited about a few new books coming out this Fall!!!

Cooking.  I have done a bit of freezer cooking and tried a few new recipes for Doug and I!  We have eaten a lot of fish, burgers, and fresh produce.  I made some ice cream out of bananas (which I had done for awhile) and made a few smoothies.  Doug made some great ribs recently, and he has been able to cook a lot more than normal.  July will probably be full of snacks and desserts; I would love to try a poke cake and some sugar cookies.

Health/Fitness.  I have started going to the gym more; I had to move my exercise time from morning to evening to make it fit well.  Doug and I have been eating more fruit, veggies, and salads, which has definitely made a difference.  Plus, we have been able to enjoy walking and being outside much more!  July will bring a bit of a heat wave, but hopefully we can keep working towards a healthier lifestyle.

For July?  ANNIVERSARY!  Tomorrow we leave for the annual family fireworks, then our anniversary trip to Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens ;)  Once we get back, we will be doing a bit of reorganizing; we acquired a new entertainment center and a bookcase that are not being used, so we are hoping to rearrange things so that our house is more efficient and useful.  My mom and grandma are coming to visit in mid-July (yea!) and I will finish one of my classes in July.  It should be a fun month!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Date Day: Shakers and Brave

Date (noun):  companion, escort; (verb):  to go out socially

Normally today I would be posting our Weekly Meal Plan, but since I planned and shopped for this week already, I wanted to come up with something else to post!

I needed to get my car inspected and oil changed today before we went on vacation (and because it needed the work done), so we made a date out of it!  Instead of wasting our time waiting at a (busy) shop, we took an opportunity to spend some quality time together.  I worked very hard yesterday to complete all my schoolwork for today in advance to make sure I would have adequate time ;)  The hard work paid off!!!

We took advantage of Restaurant Week in Lynchburg by trying out a local restaurant, Shakers.  Neither of us had ever been to the restaurant before, but we really enjoyed our meals there.  We each got an appetizer, entree, and dessert for only $15, which is pretty great for a nice lunch date!

Doug at Shakers

Doug finishing his Bam Bam Shrimp

My Spinach Dip w/ Chips

Doug's Catfish, Coleslaw, and Mac n Cheese

My Cheesy Mushroom Chicken, Steamed Broccoli, and Mac n Cheese

We both tried the Mocha Mud Pie Ice Cream

Afterwards, we went to see the new Disney/Pixar movie Brave.  It was a really great story about the mother/daughter relationship, priorities, and pride.

Even though it focused on the mother/daughter relationship, it was full of jokes and action for all the guys out there ;)  I totally recommend seeing it!!!

(PS The short film La Luna was excellent!  It totally fit with the feel of Brave while having it's own unique story.)

So the next time you have some "waiting" time, don't let it become "wasted" time!  Instead, turn it into wonderful quality time ;)

I was not paid to advertise Lynchburg Restaurant Week, Shakers, La Luna, or Brave.  I just think all of these things are awesome, and I am so glad they were a part of a wonderful date with my husband.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Design: Weekly Goals (June 24-30)

I have been waiting for this week for a long time!  On Saturday Doug and I leave for our anniversary trip: the Townshend Family Picnic and Fireworks Show, then off to Williamsburg for a day in Colonial Williamsburg (for our anniversary) and a day at Busch Gardens!!!  It's only a 4 day vacation, but I know it will be full of fun and relaxation ;)  The only downside -- the list of things I need to do before we leave!

1. Complete and Submit Church Risk Paper, 3-5 pg (due 7/1)
2. Begin (and possibly complete/submit) Church Assessment Paper, 8-10 pg (due 7/6)
3. Three presentations (with lecture notes) and ~160 pg reading for new class

4. Laundry (for vacation)
5. Quick clean apartment
6. Get car inspected, tires rotated, and oil changed

7. Get to the gym! (3 times)
8. Keep up with Bible reading even though it's been busy
9. Read 3 more books this week (to hit 50 for the year!)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Design: Weekly Results (June 17-23)

Despite this week being super busy -- lots of school, visiting my cousin-in-law on Tuesday, and working on a special project -- I managed to accomplish quite a bit without losing my mind!

1. Complete and Submit Church Government Paper (due June 24)
2. Reading assignment (160 pg) with Essay, 300 words (due June 28)
3. Complete and Submit Church Risk Paper (due July 1) -- work in progress; hope to turn in Monday!
4. Lots of reading (~130 pgs + 160 pg above = ~300 pgs) -- mostly complete; about 60 pgs to go
5. Read syllabus and schedule for next class (available June 20)

6. Grocery Shopping/Menu Planning (and blog post!)
7. Laundry, laundry, laundry

8. Gym, 3 times -- only twice this week, but did yoga every morning and some home workouts ;)
9. Take a day off for "mental health" (goal: Tuesday)

I think I did a pretty good job!

Monday officially begins another class, but as of now I am almost done with my current class!!!  I am halfway done with a small paper (3-5 pg), leaving me with just my final paper (medium-small sized, 8-10 pgs) to complete!  I am hoping to get both papers completed and submitted before vacation (which begins in ONE WEEK!), but I can still finish and turn in the final paper after we return.

Tuesday was a great day to take off; Doug and I visited his aunt and cousin who live about an hour form us on a nice farm (horse farm with some chickens).  We got to spend some time with the horses and some time catching up!

Finally, I spent some time Tuesday and Wednesday doing a special project as a gift for a friend.  She won't get it until August, so I'll have to wait until then to post about it ;)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Determination: June Update, 12 in 2012 Update

This update is a little late, but I think I have been able to think through the rest of this year!  This mid-year review has been really good for me to review my previous goals for the rest of the year and tweak them as necessary.

July -- Anniversary!  New year, new organizing ;)
August -- Vacation time!  Relaxing in the last days of summer before Fall classes begin
September -- Clothing Control
October -- Preparing for the Holidays!  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas plans ;)
November -- Curves-iversary! New health goals for the next year
December -- Lots of baking and holiday making goals for the next year!!!

1. Organizing this Summer:  Doug and I are planning to do a mini-Clean Sweep on our apartment to reduce clutter and reorganize a bit.  We collected a lot of extra furniture and other things over the last year (especially with Doug's parents moving) that we need to sort through and store more effectively.

2. Vacation Time:  We are taking an anniversary trip in July, but we are planning on scheduling more "date time" and relaxation time in August before our last year of school!!!

3. Clothing Control:  This is the same goal, but I have a better idea about what I want to do!  I have heard of a new challenge called 30 from 30 where you build 30 outfits from 30 pieces of clothing; I really want to get rid of some unnecessary clothes and buy clothes I will actually need/use/wear.  This may mean I need to do a bit more laundry, but it will give me the closet and dresser space I need.

4. Preparing for the Holidays:  I removed the school/job plans (since I know I will be taking some time off from school), so I decided to spend some time planning a bit earlier this year!  I am really excited to have my Kitchen Aid mixer for baking this year ;)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Delicious: Weekly Meal Plan

This is a double-duty Meal Plan since Doug and I are going on vacation in 10 days!!!  Instead of running to the store in the middle of next week, we are going to continue cooking out of our freezer and pantry and buying just a few things at the store.

There are less than 10 items on our grocery list (half of which are fresh produce) -- AMAZING!

Thursday -- Beef Fajitas with Peppers, Onion, and Rice
Friday -- Meaty Spaghetti (ground beef, onions, and spinach)
Saturday -- Baked Cod Pockets (with asparagus and eggplant) with Orzo
Sunday -- Pork Stir-Fry with Chicken Fried Rice
Monday -- Eat Out!
Tuesday -- Grilled Chicken with Herbed Pasta and Mixed Vegetables
Wednesday -- Baked Ribs with Broiled Potatoes and Cheesy Broccoli
Thursday -- Eggplant Parmesan with Shells
Friday -- Tuna Helper (or leftovers)

Saturday -- Leave for vacation!!!

P.S. Sorry for the weird highlighter effect!

Monday, June 18, 2012


Discombobulated (adj):  confused, shaken, addled, exhibiting mental discomfort

besides being a super fun word to say, this totally describes how the beginning of this week has been!  I have been so focused on powering through the schoolwork I want to complete, that I have been failing to take care of myself and my home!  After realizing that I physically could not keep up with my thoughts (and expectations), I took some time with Doug to talk through what needed to be done and how I could best accomplish it.  (Side note:  I have the BEST husband; he is so thoughtful, helpful, and encouraging all the time!)

Anyways!  One thing we hadn't realized was that I simply had not been eating enough food!  Now that I know to take an extra snack break in the afternoon, I should be back on track soon ;)  The other thing we realized was that a lot of what I was worried about doing were things that 1) didn't need to be done as soon as I thought or 2) Doug could easily handle.

Moral of the story:  When you are overwhelmed and overworked, it will do you absolutely NO GOOD to keep working and maintain the same goals.  The only thing you can do to handle the situation is take a breath, reorganize/reboot/reevaluate the situation, and get an outside opinion (or some help!)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Design: Weekly Goals (June 17-23)

This week is all about school!  I have 3 weeks left of the class I am in now, but only 2 weeks left until Doug and I go on vacation!  PLUS, I have a new class that begins in 1 week = ahhhh!  The solution:  working ahead.  Way ahead.

1. Complete and Submit Church Government Paper (due June 24)
2. Reading assignment (160 pg) with Essay, 300 words (due June 28)
3. Complete and Submit Church Risk Paper (due July 1)
4. Lots of reading (~130 pgs + 160 pg above = ~300 pgs)
5. Read syllabus and schedule for next class (available June 20)

6. Grocery Shopping/Menu Planning (and blog post!)
7. Laundry, laundry, laundry

8. Gym, 3 times
9. Take a day off for "mental health" (goal: Tuesday)

Design: Weekly Results (June 10-16)

Awesome mini-vacay to NC and a good bit of homework done ;)

1.  Essay (due June 14)
2.  Begin a 6 page paper (due June 24)
3.  Lots of reading!!! (140 pages in 4 days; then 160 pages in 3 days) -- as always, I still have tomorrow!

4.  Menu Planning/Grocery Shopping (and blog!) on Thursday
5.  Quick Clean before trip to NC
6.  Loads of Laundry (get it? ha ha!) -- some done, but not "loads"

7.  Keep up with my schedule despite being on vacation
8.  Get outside and enjoy my time off this week!
9.  Still make it to the gym (goal:  3 times) -- I was a bit under my goal, but I was able to get out and exercise (walking mostly) on Wednesday in NC and Friday here in VA
10.  Enjoy the massage my hubby booked for me ;)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Delicious: Weekly Meal Plan

This is a short week for us, since we ate out and grilled out in NC earlier this week ;)

Friday:  Breaded Pork
Saturday:  Cod Pockets w/ Vegetables
Sunday:  Beef Fajitas
Monday:  Meatball Hoagies

We also picked up a ton of fresh fruit to make a fruit salad ;)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Detox: North Carolina

Detox (noun) -- treatment designed to rid the body of poisonous substances, withdrawal

The biggest poison in my life is stress!  Not only do I stress about so many unnecessary things, but I don't know what to do when there is nothing to stress me!  Doug and I decided a few weeks ago to visit his dad at his new house in New Bern, NC as a Fathers' Day gift; as the trip got closer, the more we needed the time to relax and rest -- to detox!

We had such an amazing time -- grilling food, enjoying the sun and water, and spending time with family!

Relaxing at the house

View from the deck
Beautiful sight!

Doug reading in the house
Historic New Bern

Original Pepsi Store

Some of the historic area

They had bear statues all around!

We had some guests visit during dinner!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Design: Weekly Goals (June 10-16)

This week will be an interesting week! Finally working ahead in school, a (much needed) massage appointment, a trip to NC, and continuing my new summer schedule!

1.  Essay (due June 14)
2.  Begin a 6 page paper (due June 24)
3.  Lots of reading!!! (140 pages in 4 days; then 160 pages in 3 days)

4.  Menu Planning/Grocery Shopping (and blog!) on Thursday
5.  Quick Clean before trip to NC
6.  Loads of Laundry (get it? ha ha!)

7.  Keep up with my schedule despite being on vacation
8.  Get outside and enjoy my time off this week!
9.  Still make it to the gym (goal:  3 times)
10.  Enjoy the massage my hubby booked for me ;)

Design: Weekly Results (June 3-9)

This was a crazy, unexpected, and hectic week!

1.  Essay, 300 words (due June 7)
2.  Church Budget Project (due June 10) -- I still have tomorrow ;)

3.  Menu Planning/Grocery Shopping (and blog!)
4.  Catch up on dishes and laundry -- the problem with catching up is falling behind again ;)
5.  Quick clean for party (on Wednesday)

6.  Stick to my new summer schedule, starting Monday (4 of 6 days = good, 5/6 = great, 6/6 = fantastic!)
7.  Have fun hosting the Styers' going away party
8.  Work Out!!!

I worked on school SO much the beginning of this week, but Wednesday was all about party planning.  Unfortunately, the guests of honor couldn't attend on short notice, but we threw the party anyways.  We had fun with some friends we don't see often, and got to play Mario Party on our Wii!!!

As for the new summer schedule, I did great!  The consistency of doing the same things each day has been really great.  I love having a cooking To Do list to go with my school To Do; it really helped Doug and I to eat healthy, home-cooked meals so much more than we had been -- as you have seen through my recent posts and pictures ;)

I was also able to begin doing yoga in the mornings again (to help with some back pain/problems), which has greatly increased my cognitive functions in the mornings!  I have been going to the gym too, but I switched to evenings since it fit my schedule better.  I found out that people who work out in the afternoons/evenings end up burning more fat (since they have food in their systems) compared to those who workout first thing in the morning (who have just little if any food in their systems).  I don't know how true it is, but I will believe it if it motivates me to keep finding time in my evenings for it ;)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Delicious: Grilled Chicken Alfredo

Yesterday we had a really yummy lunch!

Grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts (just salt and pepper for seasoning) with broccoli and linguine alfredo.  When the whole grain pasta was almost done, I added the broccoli spears.  Some canned alfredo sauce (and about 1/2 c of starchy cooking water) made a light sauce for the linguine and broccoli.  Super filling, full of fiber, and yummy!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Determination: New Comforter and Sheets

I am SO thrilled with the new Comforter Set Doug and I purchased!!!

Why we so desperately needed new sheets:
When I first moved into our apartment, I bought a sheet set and used my old (pink) comforter from college.  When Doug moved in, we used his comforter (which was also old).  We did receive a duvet set; we put the cover over Doug's comforter, and we loved the new pillowcases and throw pillows, but we went out (with gift cards) and had to buy another sheet set.  (When one gets dirty, it is really nice to have another set to put on the bed.)  Anyways!  When winter turned to spring, we had a heavy duvet/comforter and needed something lighter.  Doug's mom gave us her comforter (which wasn't being used) and that worked out pretty well.

So why did we need new sheets?  First, both of our sheets sets were white (cream, ivory, etc).  This is because we didn't know what other people would be buying us through registries.  Anyway, we were getting sick of white.  Second, there are definitely some blanket issues in our marriage.  One person likes shoulders covered and feet out; the other wants feet covered and arms out.  One uses just a little blanket; the other tends to be a blanket hog.  Anyways, we wanted to get some King-sized bedding for our Queen bed so that everyone could use as much as they wanted ;)

Finally buying new sheets:
We still had a mixed bag of bedding, so when we got our tax refund in March, we put some money aside to buy a nice comforter and sheet set for our bed; something that matched, was masculine enough for Doug but pretty enough for me, and went with our color scheme (and price range).  I knew Memorial Day sales normally included bedding, so I waited until then to start looking.

I found a comforter set (with sheets included) on sale!  Once Doug approved, we ordered it straight away ;)

Masculine brown and plaid for Doug...

...great design and colors for me...

We love it!

This is the Hamlet Set from Bed, Bath, and Beyond; it is an 8 piece set, including comforter, 4 piece sheet set (fitted, flat, and 2 pillowcases), 2 shams, and a bed skirt.  Best of all, we found it on sale and added a coupon we had; it ended up being about $40 under our original budget!

It is so nice to have a change of scenery and something that is both beautiful and functional ;)

**I was not asked or paid to blog about this product.  I bought it, I love it, and I wanted to share it ;)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Delicious: Meatloaf and Broiled Potatoes

Doug and I were way too hungry to take a lot of pics of this meatloaf before eating it, but I managed to snag a few ;)  For the meatloaf recipe, read this; for the broiled potatoes recipe, read this!

True American Dinner

The meatloaf was great!  I cooked it at 350 for an hour; I used a broiler pan so that the drippings would be drained away from the meat.  The star of the show (to me at least) were the broiled potatoes.  I cooked them in the microwave (instead of oven) before broiling with butter, Parmesan, salt, and pepper!

Baked, cheesy goodness!

The corn on the side is Green Giants Corn Niblets in Butter Sauce; it was the perfect compliment!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Delicious: Freezer Cooking

Well, I did another round of freezer cooking today!  When beef is on sale, I always buy the 5 lb bundle; it won't be cheaper anytime soon, and it can be used in so many dishes.  Today I broke that 5 lb roll of ground chuck (80/20) into 2 dozen meatballs, 6 burgers, and a meatloaf.

First, I separated the meat into three bowls; I put 2 lbs in one bowl and 1.5 lbs in each other bowl.

Burgers (2 lb = 6 burgers)
Grilled and Packed Up
Normally I make 4 burgers per pound, but these are for Doug to take to work or quick dinners for me, so I made them a bit bigger.

I never really measure seasoning anymore, but here's a break down of about what I used for 2 lbs:  2 tbsp light soy sauce, 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tbsp pepper.  That's it!  Sometimes I add a bit (between 2 and 3 tsps) of garlic powder too.  I always use soy sauce instead of salt in these kind of dishes to keep the meat moist.

I formed 6 equal patties and grilled them until medium rare/medium (about 7-8 minutes on high heat).  I like under-cooking them a bit when I know they will be reheated in the microwave; it will keep them from being overdone or too tough.  These will actually stay in the fridge instead of the freezer ;)

Meatloaf (1.5 lb = 1 large loaf)
Neither Doug nor I are a big fan of "traditional" meat loaf -- onions, celery, carrots, beef, ketchup inside and over the top -- but we love burgers, meatballs, and other beef dishes, so I made my own take of a meatloaf.  I only made one for now (which we will eat tomorrow); it we both really like it, I will start making some for the freezer!

Again, I usually eye-ball seasoning, but here are the guesstimate amounts:  1/3 to 1/2 c quick-cooking oats, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbsp pepper, and 2 tsp garlic powder.  I also added some sauteed onions (from the freezer) in the mix.  Oats are a great meatloaf filler (in lieu of bread crumbs) because they absorb more liquid, keeping the loaf more moist; however, because they do absorb liquid, it is important to make sure the meat is very moist (hence the bit larger amounts of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce).

I wrapped it up in foil and placed it in the fridge to be cooked tomorrow.

Meatballs (1.5 lbs = ~2 dozen meatballs)
We love having meatballs in the freezer to make quick hoagies, to add to pasta, or to become a quick appetizer for guests!
Bag o' Balls

I bet you'll never guess how I measure seasoning for these fellas! ;)
Estimate seasoning:  1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tbsp pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 2-3 tsp Italian Seasoning.

After mixing the beef, I divided it into 4 pieces; each piece was split into 6 meatballs (= 24 total).  If a meatball looks a bit bigger or smaller than the others, I pull the excess of and set it aside.  Normally there is enough excess to form one or two additional meatballs.  I normally don't count or pay attention to the number that much when making these, but I know there is at least 2 dozen in there!

After I made them, I browned all of them in a large pan and cooked until medium rare/medium.  I let them cool before transferring to a cookie sheet (with parchment paper) to freeze.  When frozen, I put them in a large freezer bag!

Overall, it took me about an hour to get everything completed (plus about an hour for the meatballs to freeze until they could be stowed).  Not bad!

Delicious: Weekly Meal Plan

Last week Doug and I were able to cook from home much more than we had been!  Yea!  One of the highlights of the week was the salmon.  I was really nervous about making it (since I rarely eat salmon and had never cooked it before), but it turned out great!!!

It looks yummy!
To make:  layer some thinly sliced squash and zucchini on a large piece of foil; season with salt and pepper.  Place salmon (skin side down) on top of squash; season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon juice.  Carefully roll foil into a pouch.  Cook at 300 for 30 min.  I made some quick Parmesan noodles on the side.

Anyways!  This week is a clean-out-the-kitchen week for us; Doug and I are trying our hardest to cook all of our meals completely out of what we already have in the kitchen!  I tend to stock up on supplies when they are on sale, so we should be able to do it.

Tuesday:  Meatloaf w/ Broiled Potatoes and Veggies
Wednesday:  Pizza (or leftovers)
                    Party for the Styers!  (Fish Fry Party!)
Thursday:  Brats and Rice w/ Spinach
Friday:  Grilled Chicken w/ Broccoli and Alfredo
Saturday:  Pork Stir Fry
Sunday:  Tuna Helper
Monday:  Beef Fajitas w/ Rice

The best part?  The only groceries I am buying this week are some rice (for Fajitas on Monday) and food for the Party!!!  This means Doug and I will not spend more than our normal weekly grocery amount (and will probably have some $$ left over), AND we get to throw a party for some of our dear friends!  Win-Win ;)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Design: Weekly Goals (June 3-9)

I am officially beginning my new summer schedule this week!  It took awhile to get rid of the kinks, but I am so excited to be on a summer schedule -- especially one that should be easier to carry over to the Fall ;)

1.  Essay, 300 words (due June 7)
2.  Church Budget Project (due June 10)

3.  Menu Planning/Grocery Shopping (and blog!)
4.  Catch up on dishes and laundry
5.  Quick clean for party (on Wednesday)

6.  Stick to my new summer schedule, starting Monday (4 of 6 days = good, 5/6 = great, 6/6 = fantastic!)
7.  Have fun hosting the Styers' going away party
8.  Work Out!!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Design: Weekly Results (May 27-June 2)

What a crazy week!  Doug's Mom flew in Saturday for an unexpected visit and was able to spend time with us before flying out early Wednesday morning.  We got to spend some quality time Wednesday night with friends who are preparing to more to Maryland (4-5 hrs away), and I accomplished most of my school work for this week. (Hey, I still have tomorrow!)

Plus, we officially kicked off June!  Only a month to go until our 1 year anniversary (and our anniversary trip to Williamsburg)!

1. Essay, 300 words (due May 30)
2. Wedding Policy Paper, 3-5 pgs (due June 3)
3.  Lots of reading (roughly 300 pgs) -- I have about 200 pgs left to go :(

4. Menu Planning/Grocery List (w/ blog post!)
5. Quick clean the house

6. Gym, 3 times -- Here's to hoping for a tighter schedule in June!
7. Spend time with friends
8. Fix my sleep schedule

Friday, June 1, 2012

De and Doug's Den: A Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones)

Hi, Doug here to tell you about the book series Song of Fire and Ice, a.k.a. Game of Thrones!  

It is a fantasy series by George Martin that was recently adapted for a TV series on HBO.  Only five of the seven proposed books are available, but it is never too soon to dig into the series.  I started reading it last spring (and still haven’t gotten to the latest book, released last July), and De and I watched the first season of the show.  The show follows the book fairly closely.

This epic is set in the fictitious continent of Westeros, culturally similar to the medieval period.  Westeros is a monarchy over seven “kingdoms” that had been united under a single dynasty.  About ten years prior to the story, there was a civil war in which the mad, completely wicked King was overthrown and a new dynasty was installed.  This drama shows the outbreak of a new civil war, splitting Westeros into multiple sections; incest, pride, honor, and lust for power created several factions, each seeking to install their own king.  

The author has created the most expansive list of primary characters I have ever encountered; each chapter follows a “point-of-view” character (out of 15-20 characters) throughout the chaos, battles and politics of the realm.  In addition, there is a slow building story of conflict centered on an ancient, evil power growing in the frozen north, threatening the people of Westeros, blinded by their own affairs.

The Good:
If you are seeking an immersive experience, this is a series for you.  Many characters, each with their own attributes and flaws, inhabit this world.  Political machinations, battles, war planning, betrayal, and heroism all create a living, breathing world.  I like deep stories and settings, and this provides it in spades.  If you are looking for something to compare it to, think “Lost” meets “The West Wing.”

The Bad:
There isn’t much critically wrong with the books or the TV show.  The books can drag sometimes, there many narrative summations and monologues (which are often a necessity for such a large world), and the fantasy does overtake logic or realism in certain parts.  The TV series is pretty good; most of the acting is acceptable, and in some cases it is brilliant. There are some missing scenes from the book series, but it does a fantastic job condensing everything into an understandable story.

The Ugly:
There are few, if any, characters that have exemplary behavior; this is not the high, ideal fantasy of Tolkien, Lewis, or Baum.  This is more “realistic” which, to be fair, was probably what the medieval period really was like; however, if you are looking for a “hero” to support, there are only a few that might fit the bill.  Both the show and the books are definitely “Rated R” material. The show is aired and created by HBO, which allows for much more than other TV shows and most movies.  There is blood and gore, violence, language, nudity, sexual situations, and more.  The show doesn’t add anything to the book plot, but the show seems to condense the “boring” parts, which creates a higher percentage of objectionable material compared to the books.  (Every 10-15 minutes on the show compared to every 50-100 pages of the book series.) 

Overall, it is a great series and interesting plot.  There are many “pieces” to watch in the Game of Thrones, which creates a dynamic and ever-changing world in which to get lost.  If you think you want to read the books, try watching an episode or two of the TV show.