Saturday, March 31, 2012

This Book Room

Take a trip to Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, where you'll meet the women of the Kauffman Amish Bakery in Lancaster County. As each woman's story unfolds, you will share in her heartaches, trials, joys, dreams ... and secrets. You'll discover how the simplicity of the Amish lifestyle can clash with the 'English' way of life---and the decisions and consequences that follow. Most importantly, you will be encouraged by the hope and faith of these women, and the importance they place on their families. In A Life of Joy, the fourth installment in the series, eighteen-year-old Lindsay Bedford has reached a crossroads. Should she stay in the small Amish community she's known and loved for four years or return to the English life in her hometown in Virginia where her older sister is a college student? An extended visit to Virginia might just tip the scales as Lindsay reconnects with friends, joins a new church, works on her GED, and is pressured by her sister to stay and 'make something of herself.' Will Lindsay leave her aunt Rebecca and become English or settle in Bird-in-Hand and join the Amish church? Legions of Clipston fans want to know. Full of well-researched Amish culture, Clipston's book is true to form, delivering the best of the Amish fiction genre wrapped around a compelling story, with characters who will touch the hearts of loyal fans and new readers alike.

Additional notes: This is a six full-length novel series, and the series also includes two novellas. This is the fourth and latest book in the series. You can read my review of the first book here, the second book here, the third book here, and the second novella here.

My thoughts: When readers were first introduced to Lindsay and Jessica in the first book, I think we all fell in love with Lindsay (possibly not so much Jessica!). I, for one, was beyond excited when I knew this book would focus on Lindsay's story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it really focused on Lindsay's journey of faith. And the story ended with a cliffhanger! I'm definitely anxious for the next book to come out, which is this summer.

Season's Eatings . . . er, um . . . Greetings! Garfield knows Christmas isn’t just about the presents–it’s also about the cookies, the cakes, the lasagnas, the holiday hams, and all the delicious, creamy eggnog you can drink! From the day after Thanksgiving–when the season of goodies officially begins–to the last of the figgy pudding, Christmas is the best time of year to be America’s favorite fat cat!

The perfect stocking stuffer, this uproarious collection features Garfield Christmas strips from the last twenty-five years–and that means a lot of good times and warm memories. So join Garfield, Jon, Odie, and the rest of the gang for some holiday cheer. There’s sure to be tree trimming, hall decking, bell jingling, over eating, Odie-teasing, and lots of yuletide fun. If everyone was good this year, who knows, Santa may even pay a visit! 

Additional notes: You can read about the first 50 regular Garfield comics here. You can read my review of the 51st book here, the 52nd book here and the 53rd book here.

My thoughts: I love Christmas. No. I mean, I really love Christmas. It shouldn't have been any surprise to me when I discovered my favorite bits of Garfield's books were the November and December comics, which always tied in with the upcoming holidays. Even though I've read all the Christmas comics (since I've read all the Garfield books), I still thoroughly enjoyed this compilation of all the wintry holiday comics. There was some new content in the book as well, like top ten lists. A must-read for any Garfield fanatic.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

In Catching Fire, the second novel of the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before... and surprising readers at every turn.

Additional notes: This is the second book in the Hunger Games series. You can read my review of the first book here. There are three books in this series, and all of the books have been released.

My thoughts: As you can read here, I was really confused when the first book ended, as I had thought the entire series was about the one Hunger Game competition. Well, if you've read the first book's ending, you're in the know that the Hunger Game competition ended. I had my theories about what the second book would be, and my theories weren't that far off! Despite that, this is actually my least favorite book in the series, which is funny because apparently this is most readers' favorite book in the series. With that said, this is not a bad book at all, it just was my least favorite in the series. I actually just found this book sad, hopeless and in a way, bland. But, reading the book as a series (and I've already finished the third), I really enjoy the way all three books paint a complete picture of the story and background.

“My name is Justine Meade and in my forty-three years there have only been a handful of people that I have loved. No, that’s an exaggeration. Two. Two that I lost because of stupidity and selfishness. One was my son. The other was my dog.” If there’s been a theme in Justine Meade’s life, it’s loss. Her mother, her home, even her son. The one bright spot in her loss-filled life, the partner she could always count on, was Mack, her gray and black Sheltie—that is, until she is summoned back to her childhood home after more than twenty years away. Ed and Alice Parmalee are mourning a loss of their own. Seven years after their daughter was taken from them, they’re living separate lives together. Dancing around each other, and their unspeakable heartbreak, unable to bridge the chasm left between them. Fiercely loyal, acutely perceptive and guided by a herd dog’s instinct, Mack has a way of bringing out the best in his humans. Whether it’s a canine freestyle competition or just the ebb and flow of a family’s rhythms, it’s as though the little Shetland Sheepdog was born to bring people together. The Dog Who Danced is his story, one that will surely dance its way into your heart.

My thoughts: One Good Dog was an amazing book. Jason and I both read it and loved it. When I saw Susan was coming out with another book, also involving dogs, I was so excited. Unfortunately, my excitement was short-lived. This book was just okay. While One Good Dog was gender-friendly, The Dog Who Danced is not. I would not recommend for dudes to read this - it's way too chick-lit-y.

Fans of Ree Drummond's blog and cookbook will eat up this breathless blow-by-blow chronicle of falling in love with Marlboro Man, a.k.a. her husband, and adapting to life on his ranch . . . Generous dollops of self-deprecating humor contribute a welcome tang.

My thoughts: I love the Pioneer Woman website and Ree's recipes. We've made a couple of them to great success. When I was desperate for reading material recently, I thought I could try this book - and overall, I'm really glad I did! The story was funny, which I didn't really expect. It's not a must-read, but it's not a never-read-because-it's-horrible either.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Gaming Corner: Monopoly

The Monopoly board - little has changed since its first printing in 1934
If any board game counts as a classic, Monopoly is it.
Different denominations of Monopoly money
Pieces that you can use to represent yourself when playing Monopoly
From right to left, top to bottom; Train, Mountie, Artillery, Bag of Gold,
Shoe, Car, Top Hat, Ship, Dog, Wheelbarrow, Iron, and Thimble
Monopoly is not for someone who only has a couple of minutes. This game is great for when you have a night to spend and nothing pressing to do. The goal is simple enough: be the last player with any money. Each player starts with a small amount of money, and take turns rolling the dice and moving around the board. 
The dice - watch out for doubles. They get you extra turns but if
you don't keep them under control, you could end up serving time.
Players can buy the deeds to the majority of the spaces they land on. 
Property cards, Chance cards and Community Chest cards
Once you own a property, whenever another player lands on it, they must pay you rent. This is the main way of reducing the other player's money while increasing yours. The rent paid for a single property is rather low, but if you own all of the like colored properties, you then have a Monopoly and gain some special privileges. The rent you charge is doubled for all your properties you own that are part of a Monopoly, and you can build houses and then a hotel on Monopoly properties.

Four houses and one hotel
Houses and hotels exponentially increase the rent due to the other players if they land on a property containing one. When rolling the dice, if you roll doubles, you get to take another turn when your turn ends. And if you roll doubles again, you get a third free turn. If you roll doubles again, on your third turn, you are sent to jail and that is the end of your turn. There is also a space on the board that if you land on it, you go directly to jail as well. While in jail, you cannot move unless you roll doubles. If you don't, your turn is just over. Also on the board are Chance and Community Chest spaces. When you land on these, you draw a card from the respective draw pile. Cards have a variety of effects from getting money from the bank, getting money from other players, having to pay money to the bank, having to pay money to other players, moving to a specific location, or even being sent to jail. Your playing piece will make many trips around the board while playing the game and every time it passes go, you earn $200 from the bank, allowing you to purchase more goodies or pay that evil scheming player that owns the property you just landed on.

As stated earlier, Monopoly isn't for someone who only has a few minutes, but few games are quite as fun.

Note: This game has a winner and a bunch of losers. Unlike a lot of other games where there is a winner and a bunch of other players that may or may not be close to winning, in Monopoly, there is only one player who will end up with all the money and the others will be out. This is how it was set up but if you have a problem crushing other players under your boot, then you may want to play a different game.

-Gamer Jason

Life & Style: Organizational Series, Part 5

We are targeting specific areas of our home for organization all through the month of March, and we'll be sharing it all with you! We have before and after pictures, tips, horror stories and success stories. You can read Part 1 in this series here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

While our office area last week was one of our most dreaded areas of the house, the pantry probably is the no. 1 most dreaded area in the house. The pantry is used daily, it's easy to become disorganized and we honestly weren't sure if there could be any method to the madness.

Here's our before pictures:

Horror: Do I even need to say anything? I think the pictures speak for themselves, don't you? The worst part was the floor - it was just covered in stuff! Argh.

Tip!: When organizing a space that holds a lot of items, it worked best for us to take everything out of the space first. Then, we could vacuum and/or dust as needed, then work out a game plan as to where everything would be put. Feel free to bust out a tape measure, paper, pencil - whatever tools you need to get the job done!

We took everything out first, cleaned up the floor, then wrote down categories of what we had. We talked about what we wanted to see happen within the pantry. For instance, I wanted an area that had all of our snack foods so when Jason or I want a snack, all the non-perishable snack foods are in one spot in the pantry. Jason didn't have many requests other than all the items would have a real space to go, which made the process pretty easy.

Every item was inspected for quality - was it expired? If yes, were we willing to eat it anyway? We looked at each item and considered what it actually was - does Preston's cat food really belong in the pantry? How about his litter? What about the canning pot? Items that didn't truly belong in the pantry were moved to a better spot (in most cases - the office closet which has lots of room since we organized it).

We had budgeted about one and a half hours to get the pantry organized, and thankfully, it only took one hour (whew!). Thanks to Jason's mad stacking skills, our pantry is looking good!

Tip!: It can be daunting to take on an organizing task just based on time aspect. We make hour-by-hour schedules for most every day of the week (also referred to by some as a time budget). By planning out our days in advance, it was easy to find a day that Jason and I could work together on the pantry. Without planning in advance, working together on the same project at the same time without interruption is not likely to happen on its own. Planning in advance takes minimal effort and has rewarding results!

Here's our after pictures!

Top shelf, from left to right: paper products, overstock and not-used-often cleaning supplies
Second shelf, from left to right: breakfast products, storage products (in the bowls), misc. items, sauces, noodles
Top shelf, from left to right: soup items, snack area, oils, baking products
Second shelf, from left to right: canned veggies, canned beans, canned fruits, baking products, canned jams
Floor: Ah, such a beautiful sight compared to the before picture! We kept bigger items on the floor, such as our canning pot, big package of flour and sugar, big bag of dried beans, etc.
Success?: The pantry is lovely now - it's so easy to go in and grab whatever we need for each meal. The only problem, and probably anyone with a pantry has this problem (or at least that's what we're telling ourselves!), is that pantries need to be organized every month or so to be sure they don't end up like ours did in the before pictures. So we're making it a goal to organize the pantry each month.

We didn't always enjoy having to actually organize areas of our home, but we love the results! We hope this series encouraged you to tackle areas of your home that may be in disarray and gave you some tips along the way.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: The Punch formerly known as Teo's Punch

We set out with the best of intentions for this fruit punch, but after visiting three different grocery stores, I was unable to purchase the exact ingredients as they are listed in the Cooking Light Complete Cookbook, so I sort of improvised. What resulted was a fantastic punch that Jess and I drank in one weekend.

  • 2 cups cranberry juice
    • You do not need to use 100% cranberry juice, a cranberry juice cocktail is acceptable if that is all you have.
  • 12 oz pineapple juice
    • You may have the same problem that I had and only be able to find a behemoth sized can of pineapple juice. This is fine as pineapple juice mixes well with orange juice to take care of a problem you may encounter with the next ingredient.
  • 1 can (6 oz.) thawed orange juice concentrate, undiluted
    • I was only able to find 12 oz cans of this. It isn't that hard to measure out 6 oz though when it is thawed. Then, you can mix the remainder with the pineapple juice and 18 oz of water and you have a tasty juice for when the punch is gone.
  • 1 can (12 oz.) thawed apple juice concentrate, undiluted
    • Easy to find
  • 4 cups club soda, chilled
    • The bottle for club soda that I was able to find comes with 4 cups + 1.8 extra ounces. If you add this extra into your punch, you will not be able to tell.
  • Mix the juices together and mix until purplish.
  • Put in the fridge next to the club soda until you want to serve it.
  • Right before serving add the club soda to the juices and give it a mix or two.
And that is it. It's harder to find the ingredients than it is to make. Be warned you may find yourself sneaking into the kitchen at midnight and pouring yourself a glass of this delicious punch, not that I know anyone who did or would do anything like that. Definitely not.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In My Mailbox

We love free groceries in our mailbox... except the box for the noodles was too big, so it ended up being delivered to our door!

Here's what we received, as if it wasn't already obvious:
  • 20 lbs. of cavatappi noodles
  • Better Homes and Garden magazine issue
We used gift cards we snagged through SwagBucks and an gift card I won by participating in a Facebook chat party to get the noodles. We love using these noodles in soups, stews and casseroles. This is a year's supply for us.

We won a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens through a Purex sweepstakes. We really enjoy this magazine, especially all the gardening tips!

Monday, March 26, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Chicken Tortilla Soup

The tortilla soup that I have had in the past has always left me unsatisfied, leaving me wishing for something else. Well, not this soup. Not only is it delicious, but it is also rather easy to make as well.

Trust me, it is as delicious as it looks.
Ingredients for soup
  • 1 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3 cups cooked and shredded chicken breast
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • Shredded cheese for garnish
Directions for soup
  • Heat the EVOO in a dutch oven or a soup pot over medium heat
  • Add the onion and the garlic to the pot and cook, stirring for about 3 minutes.
  • Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, and spices to the pot.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Add the chicken, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the cover, add the corn, recover, and cook for 10 more minutes. 
  • Spoon into bowls and garnish with the shredded cheese and tortilla chips.
Ingredients for tortilla chips
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 corn tortillas
 Directions for tortilla chips
  • Cut the tortillas into 1/2 inch strips.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat.
  • Add a single layer of the tortilla strips to the oil.
  • Cook for about 3 minutes until the tortilla strips start to turn a light brown color and become crispy.
  • Remove them to a plate lined with paper towel to dry.
  • Repeat last three steps until no uncooked tortilla strips remain.
You can also garnish your chicken tortilla soup with avocado slices, lime wedges, or chopped fresh cilantro leaves. We also substituted  our homemade turkey broth for the chicken broth (you should do the same if you have any homemade broth to use). And a word of caution with the tortilla chips for the soup, as you will find yourself eating them plain and then you may not have enough for your soup. The good news is that corn tortillas usually come with more than six in a pack and oil comes in a bottle bigger than 1/4 cup so you should have enough product to make a few extra.

This recipe originated from the Dollars to Donuts cookbook.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What's for Eats This Week

Choice of:
Toast and eggs
Chocolate chip pancakes
French toast
Banana chocolate chip muffins
Hash browns and sausage {special Sunday breakfast}

Choice of:
PB and J sandwiches with cheese sticks
Canned soup

Beef with barley soup
Chicken and rice casserole
Turkey stroganoff
Baked mac and brocheese
Taco bowl
Chicken little nuggets, bay-rosemary potato gratin
Easy chicken stroganoff

Special Snacks/Desserts/Beverages
S'mores cookies
No-bake healthy granola bars
Frozen banana bites

Recipes coming soon:
Chicken and rice casserole
Turkey stroganoff
Baked mac and brocheese
Chicken little nuggets
Bay-rosemary potato gratin
Easy chicken stroganoff

Saturday, March 24, 2012

This Book Room: a week of surprising reads

Shunned from the Plain life of her youth, Katie Lapp (now known as Katherine) delights in the modern world, yet she longs for the peace that reigned in her mother's heart. Though her life is far removed from Lancaster County, she must come to terms with her Amish heritage...and the man she once loved.

Additional notes: This is the third and final book in the Heritage of Lancaster county series. You can read my review of the first book here and the second book here.

My thoughts: I started out really enjoying this series, but this final book fell a bit flat for me. I don't know if it was the writing style or the character, but Katherine was a bit annoying.

Former University of Florida star quarterback, first round draft pick of the Denver Broncos, and devout Christian Tebow tells the story of his faith, his life, and football. The text will be the first look inside the mind of an athlete whose faith and ability have made him one of the most provocative figures in football.

My thoughts: First of all, I don't watch football. All I knew about Tim Tebow was that he was a follower of Jesus Christ. He loved God. I know a bit more about him now and found this book an easy read, except for the bits about football (ha!). I don't even know football, really, so the bits about plays and that were confusing for someone who knows nothing about football. And I'd just really like to say that for those who have named taking a knee "Tebowing" and criticizing others who do it - kneeling on one knee to pray has been around probably longer than Tim Tebow has ever lived. So if others are doing it, it's likely they're not just copying him. But even if they were, I think it's great that someone so publicly known is bringing others to Christ.

When Laura Schroff brushed by a young panhandler on a New York City corner one rainy afternoon, something made her stop and turn back. She took the boy to lunch at the McDonald's across the street that day. And she continued to go back, again and again for the next four years until both of their lives had changed dramatically. Nearly thirty years later, that young boy Maurice has gotten married and has his own children. Now he works to change the lives of disadvantaged kids, just like the boy he used to be.An Invisible Thread is the true story of the bond between a harried sales executive and an eleven-year-old boy who seemed destined for a life of poverty. It is the heartwarming story of a friendship that has spanned three decades and brought meaning to an over-scheduled professional and hope to a hungry and desperate boy living on the streets.

My thoughts: I didn't think I would like this book, but I could not have been more wrong. I loved it. It was a quick, easy read in terms of the writing style. I love that one moment in time can change the course of several lifetimes - and one moment in Laura's life resulted in life changes both for Maurice and Laura. I also love reading proof, once again, that blessing another means you yourself walk away blessed. You may start out ministering to another, but you walk away, realizing you were just blessed. Your life wouldn't have been as rich without that person you helped. I love it.

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, the shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before--and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Additional notes: This is the first book in the Hunger Games series. The second and third books have already been released, and so far as I know, this series is finished.

My thoughts: Just like with An Invisible Thread, I did not think I would like this book, and again, I was very wrong. My coworkers convinced me to read this series, and I'm happy they did! The first book introduces us to extremely interesting characters, and Katniss is incredibly brave and resolved. She is inspiring to me in this first book. Rue was lovely. The ending left me a bit confused, as I thought all three books were about the one Hunger Games competition. Rest assured, the 74th Hunger Games competition is over by the end of this book.

After 25 years, Noelle and Eli Hueston are contemplating divorce. But then an accident erases part of Noelle's memory. Though her other injuries are minor, she doesn't remember Eli, their children, or the tragedy that has ripped their family apart.

Additional notes: This is the fifth novel of the Deep Haven series. You can read my review of the first book here, the second book here, the third book here and the fourth book here. So far as I know, this series is ongoing.

My thoughts: Susan has definitely taken a surprising turn with this fifth novel - the storyline is much more developed than those in the previous novels. But I have to say I wasn't in love with the characters. Noelle and Eli both annoyed me, as did Emma and Kyle. I don't know what it was, but I just didn't connect with these characters.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Life & Style: Organizational Series, Part 4

We are targeting specific areas of our home for organization all through the month of March, and we'll be sharing it all with you! We have before and after pictures, tips, horror stories and success stories. You can read Part 1 in this series here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Jason and I were both dreading having to figure out our office/second bedroom/crafting space. The closet was a mess, the bookshelves held books we hadn't opened in a very long time, and the room itself just drained our motivation. It was difficult to find and access my crafting supplies, and we both let the room be messy for most of the time.

Imagine our surprise when this room didn't take nearly as long as we thought to organize, and the way it looks now is just beyond what we ever envisioned!

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, aren't I? And I know you all want to see the horrific before pictures, so here we go:

The bookshelves - crammed with books, crafting supplies and lots of odds and ends
Right side of the closet, bottom half - crafts, etc.
Right side of the closet, top half - bridal gown, gardening supplies, tools, magazines, etc.
Left side of the closet, bottom half - Christmas supplies, fireproof safe, tools, etc.
Left side of the closet, top half - canning supplies, paint, cooler, etc.
Horror: While organizing my crafting supplies, I discovered several items that were unopened. It was crazy to me that I had purchased these items, then never used them. We created a pile of to-return items (the boxes included were not discovered in the closet, we just bought too many recently). When we returned our items to the store, we received a $15 gift card. We had, in essence, $15 just sitting in our closet. Finding those unopened items was just more evidence that our office area wasn't working for us.

The to-return pile - that big white bag is stuffed with items
There were also a lot of items that we just didn't want anymore, some of which were books and some of which were just odds and ends. God proved His timing was divine when just as we were compiling our pile of unwanted stuff, our church was planning a rummage sale. We took the items below to the church, and when we visited the sale just 20 minutes after it opened, most of our items were already gone! 

The to-donate pile - the box is filled with books, as are the bags
The office area cleaned up nicely, but we had originally decided to keep books on three shelves. We were going to store the rest in the closet, in a bin. But once we started organizing the bookshelves, we decided to store all of our books - we needed all of the bookshelves for our crafting items. Jason suggested that we wait a year, and if we don't read/pull out/use any of the books within that time, we should get rid of them all. He wanted to get rid of them right then, but I have a bit of an attachment to them. So, I agreed to that idea and said we would think about it in a year. Since I didn't end up using hardly any of my cosmetics items for the past year and sold and dontated the remainder, I think we can all surmise that the books are going to be sold and donated. But at least we have a year to make sure that's what we really want and should do. That's a good compromise.

Tip!: Map out what you want in each area before you get started. For the bookshelves, I drew out the bookshelves and wrote in what I wanted on each shelf. This helped me figure out where to move things so I didn't have to keep moving them around until I figured it out. Have a plan before you start to make the best of your time.

Our goal for the closet was to keep it organized and keep items we need to access often easily accessible. The closet was the easiest to put together; the bookshelves were really what was difficult. We bought boxes from Target to store our crafting items, and I made fabric bolts from foam board to store my fabric.

Horror: I'll try to hold my tears at bay. Seriously. I really wish I was joking. So, I wanted to make bolts to store my fabric. I went to Joann's, bought some foam board (and of course, used coupons for each one!), also bought an Xacto knife, and came home. A few days ago, Jason was busy doing something, and I decided to get started. I had never used an Xacto knife before, but really how hard can it be? I measured the foam boards, drew the pencil lines as to where I should cut, and got started. But I thought Xacto knives were supposed to cut things really well, and it wasn't cutting my foam board at all. No matter, I just kept going with punching the knife through, all the way down, making jagged cuts in the foam board. Then, Jason came in. I commented to him that we must've bought a too-cheap Xacto knife because it really wasn't working. He gently told me I'd been using the wrong part of the knife. Let me tell ya - that knife worked really well when I was using the actual knife bit! But I was pretty upset that I had basically created a huge mess and of course, I'm going to use those bolts because I'm not just going to throw them away. Sigh.

Tip!: No one ever said organizing would be easy. Sometimes, you have to make tough decisions about what to keep and what to give. It's best if you give yourself a specific time period - if you don't use that item within that time period, it's got to go. And keep reminding yourself of what your vision of the space is - that will help you to chuck the items once and for all if they don't fit with your vision.

But overall, the office was a success! Here's our after pictures:

The bookshelves - all our crafting items! Jason and I catch ourselves drifting into the office, just to look at the beauty of the bookshelves.
Right side of the closet, bottom half - card table and chairs (previously in the coat closet), our fan, and big fabric bolts to the far right
Right side of the closet, top half - pictures, batteries, boxes, cooler, bin of books, etc.
Left side of the closet, bottom half - bin of books with books on top, Christmas items, shovel, etc.
Left side of the closet, top half - Christmas bows in box, badminton items, paint, fireproof safe, etc.
Success: The best part is the bookshelves. I love looking at them. I was working on crafts the other night and it took just seconds to gather up the materials I would need. It was so easy. I love it. The closet is great, and I can't believe how much more room we have in there!

Next week, we're tackling our pantry. It will be our last post (for now) in our organizational series, and while we're excited to have these targeted areas of our home looking spiffy, we are not that excited about organizing our pantry. When you see the before pictures, you will see why!

The Gaming Corner: Chutes and Ladders

Here is another game that is great for playing with small children, but due to its complete lack of any type of actual skill involved in playing it, it gets a little tedious for grown-ups (when they are playing it without little ones).

A game in progress. Actually a fake game in progress as most games
do not get played on our chest freezer.
The game is played on a checkered board. Each square on the board is numbered, starting with 1 in the lower left hand corner and progressing up as you travel to the right. When you reach ten at the end of the first row, 11 is directly above it and then the numbers progress back toward the left where it will hit the end at 20. I bet you can figure out where the rest of the numbers end up from there.

The board
Some of the spaces are connected with chutes and some are connected with ladders. If you land on the lower space of a ladder, you move (climb) your piece to the top of the ladder. If  you land at the top of a chute, you move (slide) your piece to the bottom of the chute. To move, you spin a spinner and move a number of squares (numerically) along the board equal to the number spun. The first person to reach the top left square (100) wins.

This is a simple game that is good for teaching counting to little ones.

-Gamer Jason

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This Book Room: By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Amelia Gladstone's hopes are tied up in the Titanic--hopes for a reunion with her cousin and an introduction to an admirer. But when she offers a spare ticket to a down-and-out young man, her fate is about to change.
Quentin Walpole is stunned when a sweet lady secures his passage to America--and even more surprised to find his wealthy father and older brother on board the ship. Suddenly Amelia finds herself caught between the attentions of two men, but who should she entrust her heart to? As the fateful night arrives, will Amelia lose everything to the icy waters?

My thoughts: There is something comforting about a book where you know what's going to happen - the boat's going to sink. I can't pinpoint what it is exactly, but I adore reading about the Titanic. The anticipation of the sinking, the fact that you know the characters in the story are all going to sink or swim - I just love it! I really enjoyed the characters in this book. The plot was only so-so for me - there wasn't a lot of romance, which I appreciated, but I thought the adventure was a bit off and there wasn't enough for a Titanic book! But the characters more than made up for what the plot lacked. I particularly enjoyed Quentin and his brother, Damien. The dynamic between the two, particularly near the end, was heart wrenching and unforgettable. That's what I'll remember about this book always - the lovely and unexpected characters. Even though Amelia is fictional, I admire her. There is a passage on page 217 that was breathtaking for me. Here's one sentence from the passage:
"Character was realizing the need would still be there tomorrow just as fierce but doing something to give comfort for an hour."
That is inspiration at its finest.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

You can buy the book here. You can check out other bloggers' reviews and tour stops here.

Celebrate the release of By the Light of the Silvery Moon with Tricia by entering her giveaway and RSVPing to her Titanic party.

One "unsinkable" winner will receive:

  • Flip HD video Camera (Make your own dramatic saga!)
  • Titanic movies from the ages {Titanic (1953) Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), Titanic (1997)}
  • Secrets of the Titanic (Get the facts from National Geographic.)
  • And the Band Played On (Music Played on the Titanic.)
  • By the Light of the Silvery Moon by Tricia Goyer (Be swept away in this tale of love and courage.)

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 9th. Winner will be announced at "Silvery Moon" Titanic Facebook Party on 4/10. Tricia will be hosting an author chat (on Facebook and Live from her website) and giving away books, gift certificates and a book club prize pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club). During the live chat Tricia will have a *special guest* join her. More details coming soon!

So grab your copy of By the Light of the Silvery Moon and join Tricia on the evening of the April 10th for a fun chat, trivia contest (How much do you know about the Titanic?) and lots of giveaways. 

Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 10th!

In the Kitchen with Jason: Cinnamon Apple Topping

This was actually a two-part recipe with oatmeal pancakes and cinnamon apple topping. The only problem is that there was only flavor in the topping. We had such high hopes for the pancakes but they had a sever lack of taste. Both Jess and I ended up just eating the apples and leaving the pancakes. Thus you get a recipe for some delicious apple topping and we will accidentally (read this as intentionally) drop the pancake recipe in the wastebasket without sharing it.

Pay no attention to the pancakes beneath the apples.
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Peel, core and chop the apples.
  • Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan.
  • Cook over medium heat until it begins to simmer.
  • Keep cooking until the juice thickens and the apples soften.
This makes enough topping for about 4 plates of pancakes. The good thing about a recipe like this is that it is easy to cut in half or double depending on how many people you are serving. Please make sure to serve with good pancakes as it deserves better than what we served it with. You could also use this apple topping as a side of chunky applesauce or topping on waffles, ice cream, etc. The apple topping recipe originated from a Cook This Not That cookbook.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason