Thursday, May 31, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Breaded Parmesan Tilapia

Fish, fish, a wonderful food. The more you eat, the more, you're full... or something like that. This recipe almost turned into a pizza dinner when we found out we were missing one of the ingredients. But no fail, I made something up that tasted great. Listed below is the recipe that I came up with that is a variation of a recipe in the "Eat What You Love" cookbook.

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • A few shakes pepper
  • A few shakes garlic powder
  • 2 tsp butter melted
  • 1 1/4 lbs tilapia
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Mix all non-fish ingredients in a shallow bowl.
  • Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  • Lightly spray the fish with cooking spray.
  • One at a time, bread the fish with the mixture in the bowl.
    • You will want to actively push the breading onto the fish as more will stick to it if you use a little force.
  • Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, flipping once.
  • Be careful when serving as this will be very tender and fall apart easily.
This went really well with a side of chips and carrots.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Monday, May 28, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Coq au Vin

I don't know how long we have had it, but Jess and I have a Campbell's recipe box with a bunch recipe cards in it. All of them use at least 1 can of Campbell's condensed soup. There were a bunch of good looking recipes that we just hadn't made so we have been going through them and cooking them up recently.

  • 10 oz. sliced mushrooms (about 4 cups)
  • 1 lb frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless, chicken breasts cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1/4 cups cornstarch
  • 1 can (10.75 oz) Condensed Golden Mushroom Soup
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups frozen peas
    • These were not in the original recipe, but when we looked at it, we thought there wasn't enough color so we tossed them in.
  • Put the first 4 ingredients in your crockpot.
  • In a bowl, mix the cornstarch, soup and wine together with a whisk.
  • Poor the liquid over everything else.
  • Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
  • When you have about 5 minutes left, mix in the peas and cook the remaining time.
  • Serve over potatoes or noodles.
    • The recipe actually only said potatoes, but we decided to use noodles and they were good.
This recipe makes about 6 servings of crockpot chicken goodness.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What's for Eats This Week

Choice of:
Toast and eggs
English muffins

Choice of:
PB and J sandwiches with cheese sticks
Chicken nuggets/tenders and carrots

Dinner at extended family's house
Chicken and stuffing casserole
Steak, baked potatoes, broccoli
Crockpot tuna noodle casserole
Tater-tot casserole, corn
BBQ chicken quesadillas
Hot dogs, baked potatoes, broccoli

Recipes {possibly} coming soon:
Crockpot tuna noodle casserole
BBQ chicken quesadillas

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saving the Moola: how to handle setbacks

You have some money in the bank. You're using a budget. You're paying down debt. You're saving for the things you both want and need. You're living responsibly.

Then... you get into a car accident and need to pay a deductible. Your health insurance premium rises. You take a pay cut at work - or worse, you lose your job. Your rent payment increases.

Life happens.

You feel like you just got somewhere, and disaster came calling. You take one step forward, two steps back.

Jason and I felt like this a lot in 2010 and 2011. We were paying cash for a wedding and succeeded in doing so, but so many disasters happened along way. Then, the wedding was over, and we had so many things go wrong all at once: I needed new glasses and insurance definitely wasn't going to cover it all, our now-primary car had so many issues and needed serious repairs, we needed to move and we were unsure where we were going to live but we knew we needed a moving fund, etc. etc. etc.

Thankfully, we paid cash for everything that came our way while paying down a lot of debt we had then (now, we're paying off student loans).

And this year, thankfully, so far, we've had minimal disasters come our way. But we do feel we've had to climb little mole hills - our rent payment increased starting on March 1, and our health insurance premium rose as of May 1. We possibly could have budgeted for these increases and definitely will keep this in mind when nailing down a budget for next year, but we didn't think to add in these increases this year. So now we're dealing with more out-go than we had planned which will decrease how much debt we can pay off.

Even more devastating than the financial toll is the emotional toll. How do we keep our momentum going when we feel like we're climbing up the mountain and we have a bear on our back tugging us back down?

Here's some tips if you find yourself feeling beaten at life:
  1. Make a list of the setbacks you experienced before and note how you overcame them. Most importantly, realize you overcame them, period. If you did it then, you can do it again. Attitude is key.
  2. Take a day to slough off stress and get in touch with what really matters to you. For us, that's each other (our family!). We took an entire weekend and just spent quality time together. We played board games we owned, we cooked from scratch, we didn't use the car, we didn't spend any money. It was bliss.
  3. Pray. Prayer isn't going to change God, but it will change you. Praying helps us to focus on what God desires of us. Praying helps us realize the blessings we've already been given. Praying helps us remember the promises He made. Praying helps us remember God has a plan.
Once your emotions are in check, then you can handle how to overcome whatever financial setback you experienced. We sat down together and made a list of ideas of how we could recoup the extra money that would be flowing out. We made a pact to use the car far less and we started buying produce at a grocery store with cheaper produce prices, as a couple of examples.

Make a list of ideas you could try. You might not decide to stick with all of them, and you may find a few key ideas that not only help you save a little bit but that you really enjoy. And if you're already incredibly frugal and you think you couldn't possibly think of any other way to save money, you're wrong. Think outside of the box. Could you line dry all of your clothes? Could you hand wash your clothes? Would it be cheaper to hand wash your dishes rather than run the dish washer? Could you bike some places instead of use the car? Could you sell some items you have in your home that you no longer want or need?

Most importantly, what could you sacrifice today to achieve your goal tomorrow?

This Book Room

Two months after Elizabeth Holland's dramatic homecoming, Manhattan eagerly awaits her return to the pinnacle of society. When Elizabeth refuses to rejoin her sister Diana's side, however, those watching New York's favorite family begin to suspect that all is not as it seems behind the stately doors of No. 17 Gramercy Park South. Farther uptown, Henry and Penelope Schoonmaker are the city's most celebrated couple. But despite the glittering diamond ring on Penelope's finger, the newlyweds share little more than scorn for each other. And while the newspapers call Penelope's social-climbing best friend, Carolina Broad, an heiress, her fortune--and her fame--are anything but secure, especially now that one of society's darlings is slipping tales to the eager press. In this next thrilling installment of Anna Godbersen's bestselling Luxe series, Manhattan's most envied residents appear to have everything they desire: Wealth. Beauty. Happiness. But sometimes the most practiced smiles hide the most scandalous secrets. . . .

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

My thoughts: This series is surprising and horrendous. It's so scandalous! And I really enjoyed it. A fun series for young adults and adults alike.

Have you ever felt caught between the tension of a day job and a dream job? That gap between what you have to do and what you'd love to do?

I have.

At first I thought I was the only one who felt that way, but then I started to talk to people and realized we're becoming the "I'm, but" generation. When we talk about what we do for a living we inevitably say, "I'm a teacher, but I want to be an artist." "I'm a CPA, but I'd love to start my own business."

"I'm a _____, but I want to be a ______."

All too often, we hear that dreaming big means you quit your day job, sell everything you own, and move to Guam. But what if there were a different way?

What if you could blow up your dream without blowing up your life?

What if you could go for broke without going broke?

What if you could start today?

What if you already have everything you need to begin?

From figuring out what your dream is to quitting in a way that exponentially increases your chance of success, Quitter is full of inspiring stories and actionable advice. This book is based on 12 years of cubicle living and my true story of cultivating a dream job that changed my life and the world in the process.

It's time to close the gap between your day job and your dream job.

It's time to be a Quitter.

My thoughts: I first heard of Jon Acuff when we attended a Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover event. I knew I just had to read his books. I cannot encourage you enough to read this book. I actually have no plans whatsoever to turn this blog into a full-time job, nor do I have any plans ever to turn all my side businesses into full-time jobs. But this book contains more than just wisdom on how to make your dream job a reality. The advice is practical for everyday living. I appreciated the insights shared in this book and would highly recommend it to everyone.

It’s been thirty-five weeks since twin sisters Harmony and Melody went their separate ways. And now their story has become irresistible: twins separated at birth, each due to deliver twins…on the same day! Married to Ram and living in Goodside, Harmony spends her time trying to fit back into the community she once believed in. But she can’t forget about Jondoe, the guy she fell for under the strangest of circumstances. To her adoring fans, Melody has achieved everything: a major contract and a coupling with the hottest bump prospect around. But this image is costing her the one guy she really wants. The girls’ every move is analyzed by millions of fans eagerly counting down to “Double Double Due Date.” They’re two of the most powerful teen girls on the planet, and they could do only one thing to make them even more famous: Tell the truth.

Additional notes: This is the second and what I've heard to be the final book in the Bumped series. You can read my review of the first book here.

My thoughts: This series is so unique and intriguing. It's set in the future, but the nice thing is that the series is strangely light-hearted and just fun to read. This book wrapped up the story lines well and in a surprising way, too. The author definitely kept me guessing.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Beef Bourguignonne

I love the crockpot. You mix everything together, forget about it for half the day and then you have dinner.

  • 1 can (10.75 oz) condensed Golden Mushroom Soup
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions
  • 1 1/2 lbs beef top round steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 lb cavatappi noodles
  • Mix all the non-noodle ingredients together in the crock pot.
  • Cook for 8 or 9 hours.
  • When the crockpot cooking is almost done, cook the noodles according to the package directions.
  • Served the cooked beef yumminess over the noodles.
Please give this meal a try as you will love it. Jess did think the recipe could have used some peas, but she's kind of a pea monster {like the cookie monster, but in love with peas instead}, so she would think that. We originally found this recipe in a Campbell's recipe tin.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In My Mailbox {and a link to sign up for Thriving Family magazine for free!}

We love that time of month when our order arrives! Here's what we received for free in the mail:
  • 12 razor cartridges
  • 2 clinical strength deodorant
  • Women's Health magazine issue
  • All You magazine issue
  • Thriving Family magazine issue
  • Good Housekeeping magazine issue
We used gift cards we earned through SwagBucks {doing things like using toolbar, taking a daily poll, completing surveys, searching through SwagBucks' search engine, etc.} to get the razor cartridges and deodorant for free. Previously, we had used gift cards we earned through SwagBucks to get a subscription to All You. I love this magazine - the content is amazing, but I haven't used many of the coupons inside.

We signed up for Thriving Family, Good Housekeeping and Women's Health all online for free. If you have a family {or even if you don't!}, I cannot encourage you enough to sign up for a subscription to Thriving Family. This magazine is so insightful and encouraging. And the best news - this subscription is free! You can sign up for this magazine right here. Please so do - I promise you won't be disappointed!

Monday, May 21, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Cinnamon Applesauce Muffins

These muffins are delicious and good to eat.I actually had very little to do with these other than eat them as Jess made them. I would like to point out that they are much easier to bake if you have your spouse do it for you (BIG GRIN!).
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 2/3 cups Splenda
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Spray a 12 muffin cup pan with cooking spray.
  • With a mixer, cream together of butter and brown sugar for 3 minutes.
  • Beat in the eggs, applesauce and vanilla extract just until everything is mixed in.
  • In a separate bowl, stir together the flours, Splenda, baking soda, baking powder, and 1 Tbsp cinnamon.
  • Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
    • Do not use the electric mixer. I don't know why this is important, but it is.
  • Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared muffin cups.
    • They should be filled about 2/3 full.
  • Mix the remaining cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle it over the muffins.
  • Bake the muffins for 20 minutes.
  • Cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack.
This recipe can be found in the Eat What You Love cookbook. I highly recommend this cookbook for just about everyone as it is much awesome.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's for Eats This Week

Choice of:
Toast and eggs
English muffins
Wholesome banana bread

Choice of:
PB and J sandwiches with cheese sticks
Chicken nuggets/tenders and carrots

Taco bowl
Easy chicken and biscuits
Steak, baked potatoes, broccoli
Turkey and stuffing casserole
Tuna rice casserole
Route 66 chili, cornbread muffins
Pizza, salad

Special Snacks/Desserts/Beverages
Harvest time apple squares
Cheesy hot bean dip with tortilla chips

Recipes {possibly} coming soon:
Easy chicken and biscuits
Turkey and stuffing casserole
Tuna rice casserole
Harvest time apple squares
Cheesy hot bean dip
Wholesome banana bread

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saving the Moola: embrace simple meal ideas to save time, money + your sanity

Chef Jason, my husband, likes to prepare elaborate meals. And while I certainly enjoy eating them, there comes a season in our lives when elaborate isn't doable. At times, we treat ourselves and head out on the town for a date night, or just pick up subs from Subway.

But to maximize our dollar and time, it's really imperative that we embrace eating at home. To that end, during busy seasons, we've made it a point to embrace simple meal ideas.

Whatever you're thinking "simple" is, go at least one step further. We've found that one of our favorite meals is raw veggies, raw fruit and bread and butter. Another one is sandwiches, like peanut butter and jelly, with chips and carrots.

These meals are insanely cheap, as we buy bread from the thrift store and always have loads of loaves on hand. We also always keep carrots in the house along with some type of fruit, such as strawberries or applesauce.

We didn't always embrace the idea of a simple meal, particularly for dinner. We eat primarily from home every day of the week since we work primarily from home. So while the simple meal ideas above may sound fresh and unique to you, they're really not to us. The meals we listed are every day lunches for us. And if they're not fresh and unique for you, check out Pinterest and search for "lunch ideas," "picnic meals," or something similar. There a ton of great ideas on there.

To keep on track with saving money, time and most importantly, our sanity, we make it a point to plan our meals in advance so we don't get tired of one simple meal. We also always eat most, if not all, of our leftovers. During a busy season in life, we make elaborate meals on the weekends and make a big batch. We'll bake one or two items for breakfast on-the-go, like muffins. Then, during the week, we'll eat our baked good for breakfast, leftovers for lunch and have a simple meal for dinner, like crackers and cheese and fruit.

This saves a ton of time since no one's really doing any cooking. If we cooked for all three meals, we'd easily spend at least three hours in the kitchen, and in truly busy seasons in our lives, we just don't have three hours we want to give to the kitchen. We'd rather invest that time in relaxing {if that's even an option}, writing for our blog, working our day jobs, or cleaning up our house.

Truly, it's all about priority. You may decide that going out for dinner is your best bet {and maybe you have all the money in the world and feel you can do that}. But amidst all of our goals, we come back to one simple truth: honor God. Be a good steward of all the resources He's given you.

Resources include money and time. We want to be sure that at the end of the day, God was at the center of it. We shared with Him, we prayed to Him, we honored His desires.

Simple meals allow for all of that. They also allow us to connect with each other, play with our cat, relax and read, play board games and more. Reserving elaborate meals for the weekends, or a specific time during the week when we have time, is much more sensical to achieve all the goals in our lives, when we're in a busy season. During a slow season of life, we find ourselves cooking a lot of new, elaborate meals. There's an ebb and flow with life, and we have found it's best to work with it, rather than against it. We change our routines based on what our priorities are at any given time of the month or year.

When you're struggling to eat a simple meal for dinner that possibly isn't hot in temperature {what Americans are typically used to} and be satisfied with it, just ask yourself why you're doing it. Why are you eating that simple meal? What goals are you achieving by embracing a simple meal that will nourish you? We always make it a point to reflect on our gratefulness for that meal - satisfaction from a simple meal comes really quickly after that.

We remember that Jesus said not to worry about what we eat:
Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear." - Luke 12:22
God will see to it to our hearts are full if we follow His commands. Our souls will be nourished by His hand and His word.

That's a truth we can embrace.

This Book Room

After bidding good-bye to New York's brightest star, Elizabeth Holland, rumors continue to fly about her untimely demise. All eyes are on those closest to the dearly departed: her mischievous sister, Diana, now the family's only hope for redemption; New York's most notorious cad, Henry Schoon-maker, the flame Elizabeth never extinguished; the seductive Penelope Hayes, poised to claim all that her best friend left behind--including Henry; even Elizabeth's scheming former maid, Lina Broud, who discovers that while money matters and breeding counts, gossip is the new currency. As old friends become rivals, Manhattan's most dazzling socialites find their futures threatened by whispers from the past. In this delicious sequel to "The Luxe," nothing is more dangerous than a scandal . . . or more precious than a secret.

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

My thoughts: This series is like Gossip girl... set in 1899. I love it! This book is incredibly scandalous and at times, shocking - in a good way, of course! The characters are love-them-but-hate-them types, except for perhaps, the Holland sisters. You'll have to read the series to see exactly what I mean.

From New York Times bestselling author Kimberla Lawson Roby comes the ninth installment in her award-winning Reverend Curtis Black series. It's been months since Reverend Curtis learned that his wife Charlotte had affairs with two different men, and for now, he continues to be cordial and respectful to her. But he's also made it clear that once their son Matthew graduates high school, he will be filing for divorce. Charlotte, on the other hand, continues to do everything possible to make amends in hopes of saving their marriage. Unfortunately, Curtis is ready to move on and is being propositioned by a woman who desperately wants to become the next Mrs. Curtis Black. When the situation heads down a path that is frighteningly shocking, could it be the final blow to this once blessed union?

Additional notes: This is the ninth book in the Reverend Curtis Black series. As far as I know, this series is ongoing. You can read my review of the second book here, the third book here, the fourth book here, the fifth book here, the sixth book here and the seventh book here. I don't know what happened with the eighth book review, as I read the book, but apparently did not review it on here! My apologies.

My thoughts: I feel like Curtis grew so much as a character in this book, which was certainly refreshing. I really, really hope Kimberla features Matthew in the next book - it's really fun {and scary!} to see how Curtis' children are growing up and becoming their own person.

Jon Acuff's hilarious thoughts on all things "Dave Ramsey." Perfect for the Dave fan who has everything, or the person who wants to laugh about money while on their journey to financial peace.

* Do your former credit card companies stalk you like a deranged ex-girlfriend? Page 45.
* Do you need to baby-proof your home against 27-year-old kids trying to move into your basement? Page 19.
* Have you ever made the basket walk of shame? Page 173.
* Was your biggest question throughout Financial Peace University “How many blue shirts does Dave actually own?” Page 13.

My thoughts: We recently had the pleasure of attending a Total Money Makeover live event hosted by Dave Ramsey. Jon Acuff was a speaker there during the breaks and before the event began. He was so spot on in his observations of people and life - both Jason and I had to get our hands on his books {from the library, of course!}. We both thoroughly enjoyed this book and laughed out loud several times. If you're a Dave fan, this book is definitely for you. And if you ever wanted to know if you're really a free spirit or a nerd, quizzes are included {both Jason and I came out exactly the way we thought - free spirits and nerds!}.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Creamy Potato Soup

If you can make something way ahead of time and not have to think about it until it is almost time to eat, that recipe is a winner for me. If that something is a cheesy potato-y soup, then you have a double winner. The recipe originally appeared in the Fix it and Forget it Christmas cookbook and is very good. After we added extra veggies and water and reduced the amount of cheese, our only complaint is that the unaltered recipe states it makes 6 to 8 servings, but we got closer to 4. That may be because we are little piggies though so you will have to judge for yourself when making this.

  • 3 cups chopped potatoes, unpeeled
    • This is about 3 medium russet potatoes.
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
    • This is about 2 medium carrots.
  • 1 cup chopped celery
    • This is about 2 large stalks of celery.
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
    • This is about 1/2 of a medium onion.
  • 2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    • This would be about 1/4 lbs of cheese.
  • Mix first 8 ingredients in a crock pot.
  • Cover and cook on high for 3 hours.
  • In a water tight container that can be shaken (I used a 1/2 quart mason jar), mix milk and flour.
  • Shake like the dickens, then add to the crock pot.
  • Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes.
  • Add the cheese and stir until melted.
Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In My Mailbox

Here's what we received this week:
  • Martha Stewart Living magazine issue
  • Better Homes and Gardens magazine issue
  • John MacArthur audio CDs
We are randomly sent items in the mail from John MacArthur's ministry, and Jason really enjoys listening to these CDs. We won a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens from a Purex sweepstakes. We joined RewardsGold just to get a free subscription to Martha Stewart Living. We don't do anything else with that website, but we might... maybe there are other great items to earn easily!

Monday, May 14, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Double Fudge Brownies

Way back 100 years ago when Jess and I lived in our first apartment together and I was sporting my job filling vending machines, Jess made this recipe a lot. Now a 9 x 13 pan of brownies is a little much for just 2 people so Jess packed up the extra brownies and sent them to work with me to share with the guys I worked with. We had about half the pan remaining when I took it in, but after only one day, my coworkers had eaten them all. One of them kept telling me that they were so moist in between slices. Jess was tickled pink that they liked them so much.

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2/3 cups butter
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Set this bowl aside for now.
  • Mix sugar, water, and butter in a sauce pan.
  • Heat the sauce pan over medium high heat until the mixture begins to boil.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips and vanilla.
  • Continue stirring until the chocolate chips are well melted.
  • Mix in the eggs one at a time.
  • After all the eggs are mixed in gradually mix in the flour mixture.
  • Pour into a greased 9 x 13 cooking pan and bake for 50 minutes.
Bam! Instant, not very instant at all brownies. Please remember that when eating brownies, you should get at least 12 servings from a 9 x 13 pan and suggesting that you just cut it in 4 is a bad idea.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What's for Eats This Week

Choice of:
Toast and eggs
English muffins
Lemon blueberry muffins

Choice of:
PB and J sandwiches with cheese sticks
Grilled cheese samiches and carrots
Chicken nuggets/tenders and carrots

Beef bourguignonne
Pasta, salad
Coq au vin
Coconut chicken, baked potatoes, carrots
Taco bowl
Dinner out

Special Snacks/Desserts/Beverages
Ham and cheese biscuits
Whole wheat chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

Recipes {possibly} coming soon:
Beef bourguignonne
Coq au vin
Ham and cheese biscuits
Lemon blueberry muffins

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saving the Moola: ask and you might receive

It can be hard to ask for help. We know, we've been there. We've ate a lot of Ramen noodles and gone without essential items.

We've come a long way in our journey, but it seems this year, we've really embraced the notion of asking for help. We haven't always gained the answer we desired, but once you put out the idea that you're willing to take anything and everything, you'll be amazed at the blessings that come your way.

I asked for a relative to save unused coupons from their newspaper for me. I was able to use some of those coupons to get free or nearly free items, and I donated to rest of the coupons to Coupon2Give for our troops.

I let everyone know that we could use any and all canning jars. My mum and dad found a ton of jars in their basement and happily delivered them to me.

I let my mum know that anything she came across in that basement of hers that she didn't want, I could have a use for it. When she came over to visit recently, she brought several candles with her. When I asked why she didn't want them, she said she didn't like their scents! We're not so picky about candle scents - we just like to keep one burning in the living room because it makes it feel homey. And truth be told - we've enjoyed all of the scents thus far!

A relative let me know they had asparagus just growing in their yard, and I was happy to come take whatever I wanted. Jason and I picked a few pounds and prepared them for the freezer for meals for the future.

I asked for something recently and I was told no. This was disappointing. I found myself asking, "Why?" in my head. But then I remembered all the times I was blessed with more than I could have ever imagined. I remember all the blessings I have - a roof over my head, food in my belly, clean water to drink. And I remember that when I'm told no, it increases my odds of getting yes next time, and I won't ever know the answer until I ask the question. I also remember, even though it can be hard, that there might be a reason for that "no" that I'm not yet in the know about. Maybe that "no" is actually a blessing in disguise.

When you let others know that you're open to their cast offs, that you're open to new ideas, that you're open to new ways of living life, you'll truly be amazed at what happens. You might discover that people you thought were in your corner are really not. You might discover a new relationship that blossoms over a shared love of a hobby. You might discover first hand that one man's junk is another man's treasure. You might discover a friend who has a wealth of knowledge he or she is willing to share.

And the next time you spring clean or organize and find items that you deem your own junk, put out feelers via email, in person or Facebook, letting others know you have items you don't need or want. If you find a friend is undergoing a project you have knowledge about, share that knowledge freely and happily. The joy isn't just in receiving, it's also in giving.

This Book Room: filled with children's and YA books!

How do you outwit a Twit? Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the smelliest, ugliest people in the world. They hate everything -- except playing mean jokes on each other, catching innocent birds to put in their Bird Pies, and making their caged monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, stand on their heads all day. But the Muggle-Wumps have had enough. They don't just want out, they want revenge.

My thoughts: I really enjoy Roald Dahl's writing, and this book is so fun and wondrous. This book is perfect for a middle school grade student and up.

Join the Mysterious Benedict Society as Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance embark on a new adventure! When an unexplained blackout engulfs Stonetown, the foursome must unravel clues relating to a nefarious new plot, while their search for answers brings them closer to danger than ever before. Filled with page-turning action and mind-bending brain teasers, this wildly inventive journey is sure to delight.

Additional notes: This is the third book in the Mysterious Benedict Society series. You can read my review of the first book here and my review of the second book here. There is a prequel that just came out for the series. From what I can tell, this series will then be finished.

My thoughts: I started off absolutely loving this series, as did Jason. We were both so into this series. Then, we picked up this book from the library. We both started reading it. We both got to page 28. We had two Post-It notes to mark our pages - one for Jason and one for me. And those Post-It notes did not move for quite awhile. When I finally picked it up again, it took every ounce I had to keep going. The book picks up around page 100, so you have to make it at least there. After that, I read the book fairly quickly, but I do feel this book moved slowly and annoyingly. I ended the book with the taste of disappointment. And I was disappointed that I was disappointed {perhaps needless to say but Jason is still making his way through the book... that's how slow this book is}.

Dumpster Diving! One cat's trash is another cat's treasure, and in this all-new book, Garfield creator Jim Davis has collected the best of the worst: never-before-seen rejected comic strips, questionable covers, silly sketches, gross gags, and over-the-top, over-the-edge outtakes sure to offend just about everyone. So hold your nose and dig in!

Additional notes: This is a companion book to the Garfield franchise. You can read my thoughts on the comics here {with pictures and summaries of the first 50 comic books}, the fifty-first book here, the fifty-second book here, the fifty-third book here, the Christmas companion book here, Odie's book here and Garfield's 30th anniversary book here.

My thoughts: As with any Garfield book, this one is a must-read for serious Garfield fans {and I proudly am one}, but tread lightly. This book is horrible! Not in the "Jim Davis, you suck" way, but in the "OMG, I cannot read this" way. The comics are as the summary describes: offensive. But funny.

Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn.
Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions.
White lies, dark secrets, and scandalous hookups.
This is Manhattan, 1899.

Beautiful sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland rule Manhattan's social scene. Or so it appears. When the girls discover their status among New York City's elite is far from secure, suddenly everyone--from the backstabbing socialite Penelope Hayes, to the debonair bachelor Henry Schoonmaker, to the spiteful maid Lina Broud--threatens Elizabeth's and Diana's golden future.

With the fate of the Hollands resting on her shoulders, Elizabeth must choose between family duty and true love. But when her carriage overturns near the East River, the girl whose glittering life lit up the city's gossip pages is swallowed by the rough current. As all of New York grieves, some begin to wonder whether life at the top proved too much for this ethereal beauty, or if, perhaps, someone wanted to see Manhattan's most celebrated daughter disappear...

In a world of luxury and deception, where appearance matters above everything and breaking the social code means running the risk of being ostracized forever, five teenagers lead dangerously scandalous lives. This thrilling trip to the age of innocence is anything but innocent.

Additional notes: This is the first book in the Luxe series. There are four books in this series and all have been released.

My thoughts: This book reminds me of the Gossip girl series a lot. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Just this year, I have to come to really love historical fiction. This series is Gossip girl... set in 1899. Perfect! This book left me wanting more, and who doesn't love that?

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last...

My thoughts: The characters in this book are both real and annoying. But since that's what teenaged girls are like {I was one some years ago, so I'm allowed to say that}, Sarah does a phenomenal job of portraying reality and adolescence all in one cupcake. I enjoyed the book, and it definitely reminded me of the angst I had as a teen. Plus, I love ice skating - not actually doing it, mind you, but reading about it, watching it, etc. This book was a fun read and very appropriate for teens.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Life & Style: our call to live sustainably and responsibly

Jason and I have felt a call to live sustainably and responsibly for several years. Back when we lived in our tiny 350-square foot apartment {!}, we felt the call to leave this world better than we found it. There are many ways in which one can go about doing this; one way in which we have felt called to leave the world better than we found it is to use our resources very carefully.

It's easy for us to use some resources carefully. For instance, we're very careful naturally with our money at this season in our life, and taking care of this resource isn't a struggle for us.

The world's natural resources are one area in which we struggle. We both work several hours a day on our laptops for our careers. We use lamps at night when it's dark outside. We shower every day. We brush our teeth every day {although I'm really not suggesting we stop doing that!!!}. We use our dishwasher at least once a day and sometimes even more.

My friend and fellow blogger Jena from Becker Farms blogged about dishwashers the other week. She found she didn't use her dishwasher. That's awesome that she was able to take the dishwasher out of her house. Not having a diswasher, in this season of my life, would never work for me.

But you know what works for me? Hand washing the majority of our laundry.

I know, I know. Hit me with all the insanity of that. There's a multitude of reasons why we've decided, at this season of life, to hand wash our clothes, so let's get into it!

Jason and I live in an apartment, though thankfully not the 350-square foot apartment we used to live in. There is no washer or dryer hookup in our apartment, for starters {I'm not sure that we would buy these machines even if there were hookups, but for the sake of this discussion, there are no hookups anyway so it doesn't matter}. Each floor in all of the buildings have a communal washer and dryer.

We have a set budget for our laundry costs, and when we moved here a little more than year ago, the cost for washing and drying increased. By hand washing our clothes, we save quite a bit of money, which is allowing us to pay off our my student loan debt that much faster and work toward our other financial goals. We're not saving time, as it does take time to wash the clothes ourselves. It takes about 15 minutes each day to wash the clothes, but now that we've been doing it for awhile now, we find that the other benefits to hand washing our clothes outweigh the fact it takes time.

By hand washing our clothes and then hanging them up to dry on a clothesline, which we've been doing for a year now, we're saving the world's natural resources. We use less water and energy by washing the clothes ourselves. We're using our own energy, which is free and doesn't take away from the Earth, and we use less of the Earth's supply of water. In fact, in rainy seasons, you can even fill up buckets with water from the rain to use {we use two five-gallon buckets and this mobile washer to hand wash our clothes}. We also use less homemade laundry detergent by washing our clothes this way.

We've found that hand washing clothes works best if we both do it together. This results in an unexpected bit of extra time together, where we talk about our day, discuss the day's plans, discuss the week, talk about what we read in our Bibles, talk about what we heard on Dave Ramsey's radio show, discuss books we're reading, etc. We really enjoy this time we have together. So many of our chores are done solo - Jason will clean the kitchen while I dust. Jason will vacuum the floor while I pick up everything in the house and make sure the items are in their proper spots. Jason will clean the bathrooms while I clean out Preston's litter box. We rarely get to spend time doing chores together; taking care of laundry together is now allowing us the luxury of that.

Jena found having a dishwasher was not working for her. We actually have found the opposite to be true - we create so many dirty dishes by both of us working from home and thus eating three meals at home that it doesn't make sense in terms of time and energy to hand wash all the dishes. It probably helps that our apartment comes with a dishwasher in it, so there is no cost involved there in actually having one in our apartment and using it.

Hand washing laundry won't work for everyone. But you can do something today and every day to take care of the Earth and yourself. You've been given so many resources, and God is calling you to be a good steward of them. Maybe that means instead of buying lunch at work each day, you brown bag it. Maybe that means instead of buying cleaners with chemicals, you make your own using safe ingredients for babies and pets.

And for us, at this season in our life, we're called to remember that clean water is a luxury. Machines are a luxury. Energy is a luxury. And we don't need to use them all up just because they're convenient. You might just find that being a good steward of your resources doesn't just end up being something you enjoy, it might end up being the more convenient option.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Pulled BBQ Beef Sandwiches

This recipe is a combination of a super simple crock pot recipe found in our Fix it and Forget it Christmas Cookbook and Jess' brain. Also, it is one of the easiest recipes that will be on this blog ever.

  • 3-4 lb. beef roast
  • 18 oz. Bottle BBQ sauce
  • Hamburger buns
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Pour 1/2 the bottle of BBQ into the bottom of the crock pot.
  • Put the roast on top of the BBQ.
  • Pour the remainder of the BBQ over the roast.
  • Cover the crock pot and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  • When the beef is done cooking, use a set of tongs to pull the roast out of the crock pot.
  • Use 2 forks to pull the beef apart into small pieces.
    • This will be very easy.
  • Put an amount of pulled beef onto a hamburger bun.
  • Top this with some shredded cheese and then top that with a bit of the BBQ from the crock pot.
See how easy that is? The hardest part is keeping all the beef on the plate when you are pulling it apart.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In My Mailbox

What an odd and great assortment! Here's what we received this past week for free in our mailbox:
  • Four coupons for $5 off Similac
  • Two tubs of Similac formula
  • Two coupons for $1 off 10+ lb. bags of Tidy Cats litter
  • Embraced by God by Babbie Mason
  • Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine issue
  • Woman's Day magazine issue
  • Shape magazine issue
  • All You magazine issue
  • Every Day Food magazine issue
We have no clue where the Similac items came from. Jason went down to get packages from our regular delivery lady, and she asked if congratulations were in order. Jason looked at her, confused, and said, "No?" Ha! No congratulations are in order, and we're going to find a family to bless these items with as we certainly have no use for the coupons or the formula!

You can request coupons from Purina by calling 1-800-PURINA. You can request two coupons per month. I mark this on my schedule each month to be sure I call to get these coupons. We've priced out litter at all the stores and with the coupons, Tidy Cats 10 lb. bags are cheaper than everything else. Since this has been what Preston has used since he was a kitten, we are glad to be able to buy the brand he was raised on and not pay anything extra out of pocket.

I won a copy of Embraced by God by participating in a Facebook chat party for the book's release. It's a devotional, and I'm excited to delve into this book sometime this year.

I signed up for Woman's Day and Shape year-long magazine subscriptions for free earlier this year. Recently, I signed up for a year-long Every Day with Rachael Ray subscription. Jason and I were thrilled when this arrived! We used to subscribe to this magazine, but we've cut those costs from our budget as we read the magazines for free at the library or at a bookstore. And it's so great when we can get them for free!

We used gift cards we earned from SwagBucks to get a six-month subscription to All You, and we used points we earned from RecycleBank to get a subscription to Every Day Food.

Monday, May 7, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Lemon-Rosemary Roasted Tilapia

This recipe calls for salmon, but when we went to the store, tilapia was on sale, so we used that instead. The recipe turned out delicious with tilapia.

  • 12 oz. tilapia
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 lemons, 1 and 1/2 thinly sliced, remainder chopped into 4 wedges
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Sprinkle the tilapia with salt and pepper.
  • Set seasoned fish aside.
  • Sprinkle a 9x9 baking dish with rosemary.
  • Spread onions evenly over rosemary.
  • Place fish over the onions in a single layer.
  • Arrange lemon slices over the fish.
    • Your slices will most likely overlap. This is fine.
  • Drizzle EVOO over all the layers in the 9x9 baking dish.
  • Bake the fish for 8 to 12 minutes.
  • Remove lemon from the fish and serve the fish with lemon wedges.
This recipe came from the Dollars to Donuts cookbook.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What's for Eats This Week

Choice of:
Toast and eggs
Quick bran muffins

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

Corkscrew chicken and broccoli alfredo
Grilled chicken, baked potatoes, broccoli
Hamburgers, homemade french fries, carrots
Pizza, salad
Chicken enchilada soup
Taco bowl

Special Snacks/Desserts/Beverages
Lemon tea slush
Ruby plum upside down cake
No-bake healthy granola bars

Recipes {possibly} coming soon:
Quick bran muffins
Lemon tea slush
Ruby plum upside down cake
Corkscrew chicken and broccoli alfredo

Saving the Moola: April in review

April was a crazy month! It didn't really go anything like I expected, in both good and bad ways. There was a lot going on this month. Our work lives seemed crazy {they weren't really, but it felt that way...}, our personal lives were busy, busy, busy and God was preparing our hearts for a lot of different things!

We shared that we started cracking down on all of our bills - we canceled cable television and our home phone service.

We also shared that you need a financial plan. Jason shared with me a quote that we wanted to share with you:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

If you don't have a plan, how do you know where you're going? How will you know how to get there? You need a plan!

Throughout the entire month of April, we also declared a Pantry + Freezer Challenge in our house. We were to cook meals using items on hand. Jason, who is head chef, didn't seem very fazed by this, but I have to confess: I'm very much looking forward to getting back to a more varied menu. It was getting boring there for awhile!

Our savings accounts are all still intact - this is great. It means our car didn't die in any form, Jason earned at least as much as we planned for him to (he's actually earned more than that set amount every month this year!), and no real emergencies occurred. We couldn't ask for much more than that.

We are on track to pay off one of two student loans by midnight on May 31. We are both so, so excited about this. I have a baby loan and a bear loan - I didn't really take out loans for a baby or a bear. They were for school, but I call them that since one is tiny and one is huge. We'll be paying off the baby one so long as nothing horrific happens. Our goal for paying off the bear loan is by midnight on December 31. Our hope in telling all of you is that you can hold us accountable and cheer us along! Please keep us in your prayers as the year continues for this special intent.

Throughout the entire year, I've been maintaining a special savings envelope. Money that is unexpected goes into this envelope to pay for unbudgeted needs and wants. I completed saving for a special item primarily for Jason's use in March. The special item was the Bible Experience electronic Bible. In the first week of April, I also completed saving for another special item for Jason's use, which was a pair of Bose in-ear speakers.

I was shocked when during the month of April, I saved enough money to purchase the long-coveted iPod Touch. I bought it on Sunday, using my Target debit REDcard so I could save five percent right at the register, and I love it! It's really handy to use and have and I'm so glad I bought it - I will admit that even as we were walking into the store, I told Jason I didn't think I could actually buy one. He lovingly said we weren't leaving the store without it, even if he had buy it for me. He did end up swiping the REDcard, but I was so thrilled I was able to purchase this. Jason likes it a lot, too, so we might, at some point, save up our gift cards from SwagBucks to get a Kindle Fire. He would like a bigger screen for himself; plus, we can share and experience different gadgets that way {I've borrowed his electronic Bible a time or two since I purchased it}.

It is amazing to me that I was able to save so much in only three months of unexpected money. Any extra income Jason earns did not go into this envelope. I had unexpected money from jam and earring sales, a bonus from work, etc. I also put in money I was willing to sacrifice from other areas of the budget like grooming and entertainment.

Jason has also started his own special saving envelope, and he has picked up a couple of odd jobs here and there to help fill it out. He's not really saving for anything he solely wants in particular at this time, but he, just like I, really enjoys being able to put money in it and know that if he does need or want something, he has the cash to pay for it and doesn't have to consult with me before doing so.

I have one item left I want to purchase in 2012. Jason and I are pooling both of our special saving envelopes together for a huge household purchase. We have very little saved for this item so far, but our hope is that we can purchase it by the end of this year. After that, there are no items we want or need and plan to hold off on any huge purchases until we are debt free. We have a couple of items in mind for next year, though!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

This Book Room

With Smitten Lumber closing, residents wonder if their town can stay afloat. Then four friends and local business owners decide the town is worth saving: they'll turn it into a honeymoon destination. Little do they know that love is already on the way.

Additional notes: This is the first book in the Smitten series. There will be a sequel released later this year title Secretly Smitten.

My thoughts: I was really intrigued by the idea that four authors came together to write one book. The concept worked fairly well, although it didn't end quite as I thought. I enjoyed it overall, but it was, at times, predictable.

A powerfully simple, must-have manifesto on money with more than 90 wealth-building rules from the Today show’s finance guru.In a time of great financial uncertainty, this is the book everyone must read. The bottom line: Money is simple—people make it complicated. Now, bestselling personal finance author Jean Chatzky has distilled this simplicity into a smart, immediate, and entertaining set of rules that will change readers’ financial lives. Chatzky removes the stress associated with all things money and says it clearly: Readers who follow these basic yet crucial approaches to spending, saving, investing, increasing their income, and most importantly, protecting what they have, will build the wealth and financial stability they’ve been dreaming of. Chatzky’s advice is reassuring, straightforward, and often counterintuitive.

My thoughts: Jean Chatzky is apparently some sort of financial expert, and while I had never heard of her before, this book seemed interesting. Boy, was it. Overall, I would say this was a great book. If you have soon-to-be-graduates in your lives, this would be a fantastic graduation present. My biggest issue is when she starts her segment on debt, she says (and I'm paraphrasing the beginning of this here) that while some view debt as evil, she knows she would never have been able to buy a car or a house without debt. I can kind of understand the house, but a car? A freaking car? You can't buy a car without debt? That's insane. And made me doubt her expertise on finances. Suffice it to say I don't think I'll be reading another one of her books on principle alone, but this book, overall, had good points.

At the elegant Mercy Falls masquerade ball, Olivia's hidden identity will be revealed. It is the dawn of a new century and Olivia Stewart is heiress to an empire. Her family numbers among the Four Hundred-those considered the wealthiest and most distinguished in America. Unfortunately their wealth has nearly disappeared, and now their security rests upon the Stewart daughters' marrying well. Olivia's sister, Eleanor, was engaged to Harrison Bennett, one of the nation's wealthiest men, but has since died. Now the pressure is on Olivia to take her place, despite her suspicions about Eleanor's fiance. Using her family's long-forgotten English title, Olivia travels to Mercy Falls, California, as Lady Devonworth, hoping to learn more before committing to marriage. There she finds that Eleanor's death was no accident. And Harrison is not the man she thought he would be. When Mercy Falls holds a charity masquerade ball to raise funds for the new lighthouse, secrets-and truths long hidden-will be revealed. But can Harrison really love Olivia when he finds her true identity? Can she live with the repercussions of failing her family, or will she finally realize that nothing-not money, family, or romance-will ever compare to God's unconditional love?

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

My thoughts: It took me a little bit to get into this book, but Colleen delivered well on suspense and romance. And while this essentially has nothing {yet sometimes everything} to do with the book, I really loved the cover.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is on the run! The three meanest farmers around are out to get him. Fat Boggis, squat Bunce, and skinny Bean have joined forces, and they have Mr. Fox and his family surrounded. What they don’t know is that they’re not dealing with just any fox–Mr. Fox would never surrender. But only the most fantastic plan ever can save him now.

My thoughts: I don't know how appropriate this book is for young readers as the farmers are quite cruel to the woodland creatures, but the book was super cute and a quick read. I hadn't read this book before, but I really enjoyed it. It makes me wish more modern authors would write novels about animals.

In Hollywood, fame can be found on every corner and behind any door. You just have to know where to look for it. Nineteen-year-old Madison Parker made a name for herself as best frenemy of nice-girl-next-door Jane Roberts on the hot reality show L.A. Candy. Now Madison's ready for her turn in the spotlight and she'll stop at nothing to get it. Sure, she's the star of a new show, but with backstabbing friends and suspicious family members trying to bring her down, Madison has her work cut out for her. Plus, there's a new nice girl in "reality" town—aspiring actress Carmen Price, the daughter of Hollywood royalty—and she's a lot more experienced at playing the fame game... When the camera's start rolling, whose star will shine brighter?
Additional notes: This is the first book in the Fame Game series. The second book is scheduled for release later this year.

My thoughts: The writing style of this book is very simplistic, which works well for the plot. This series is very much a spin-off from Lauren Conrad's first series, L.A. Candy. I was kind of disappointed by that, but there are new twists to this book that were unexpected. Madison grows a lot as a new character, and the new characters are intriguing. Gaby is in this series, and I did find myself asking why. She's so blah. I hope Lauren does something with her character in the second book.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Gaming Corner: Pictionary, the Card Game

This game is an odd one. My first notice is that the box states that it is a game for two teams, and it doesn't say that these teams need to be of two or more players each. This was a little offsetting as Jess and I do not usually play games with others.

All the different cards
Here is how the game works:
Each team gets a stack of small picture cards. Each team chooses a clue-giver. A card is drawn and the clue-givers decide which answer they are trying to get their teams to guess (there are 4 answers on a card). The clue-givers use the picture cards to get their team to say the answer. The picture cards can be used in almost any fashion. You could for instance take the card with a picture of a clock on it and place it against the back of your wrist to get your team to say wrist watch.

Though the concept is simple, there is something missing when Jess and I played a couple of cards.  just seeing if the other person could guess what answer. Either our brains just work differently, or one of us is horrible at this game, and I vote not me! (on a side note how you would get someone to guess "The Simpsons" with the pictures provided is beyond me)

These three cards together would never get anyone to shout out surfboard.
But now imagine that I am moving the stick man standing on
the rectangle across the waves and then someone may say
surfboard. But they are just as likely  to say Leonardo DiCaprio
(if you need me to explain why they may shout his name,
check out the movie Titanic from your local library).

If you have a group of people who like this kind of game, I would recommend actual Pictionary over this game, as you need a playing area just as you would if you were playing a board game, so this being a card game actually doesn't increase the number of locations you can play it at (I actually think limiting people to the cards makes this game a little harder. In the eight rounds that Jess and I went through, if I could have used a pencil, I think I could have gotten her to guess the answers much faster). But we picked up this game for 88 cents from our local Walmart with a coupon, so that works, I guess.

-Gamer Jason

Thursday, May 3, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: French Pot Roast

If you haven't noticed already, Jess and I really like the Cook This, Not That cookbooks. It's just fun knowing that your whole dinner costs less than one plate at that fancy restaurant and you save on all those calories (to be honest it's only 250 calories per serving for this recipe but the 2200 mg less sodium per serving is the real winner).

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 lb roast, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp dry red wine (1/2 a bottle)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 lbs mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups (at least) frozen peas
  • Put flour in a resealable plastic bag.
  • In batches, drop beef into the bag and shake around until all the beef is covered in flour.
  • Heat a saute skillet with EVOO over medium high heat.
    • Wait until it is hot before adding beef.
  • Add beef to the skillet and cook until beef is browned on all sides.
  • Remove beef from the pan and put it into a crockpot (we used our 3 quart).
  • Pour one cup of red wine into the hot skillet and scrape up all the bits that may have stuck to the pan.
  • Pour wine plus scrapings plus the other wine over beef in the crockpot.
  • Add in beef broth, tomato paste and bay leaves.
  • Cover and cook over high for three and a half hours.
  • Add in remaining non-pea items and cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Add in peas and cook for yet another 5 minutes.
  • Serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.
This recipe is fantastic and you will like it a lot (unless you don't like beef, then you may not like this recipe). On a side note, Jess recommends baked potatoes over the mashed variety. But for me and my tongue, we'll use the noodles.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Beauty Fix: my big pores can be hidden with one simple, yet genius product

Confession: I have huge pores. They are seriously crater-sized. It's horrifying.

There's nothing really you can do for big pores. I mean, you can't really change the way your face was designed, unless you want to go under the knife, and I don't, thank you very much.

And beyond my huge pores, I have a fairly greasy face. You'd think I took grease from cooking up sausage and slathered it on my face. I don't know why my face is so oily, but I've tried so many products, and none of them ever worked.

But one day, I heard something that literally stopped me in my tracks. Mally Roncal, quite possibly the bubbliest person I've ever known, designed a product that not only would help decrease the size of my pores, but it would also mattetify my face.

As Mally would say, can you hear the angels singing?

Yes, Mally, I believe I can.

I was dubious that this one product, Mally's Poreless Face Defender Compact with Sponge, would deliver so much, but I bought it anyway. And let me tell you, this product really and truly works. It's like a compact in its design, and the sponge is creatively hidden on the other side, so you can just throw the compact in your handbag and be good to go.

The product is clear. You just rub the sponge on it for a few seconds, then dab all over your face. You can even rub the sponge on your face. I prefer dabbing, but you can use it however you desire. And the product really does make my face look completely matte.

No more shiny spots. No more pores staring me down.

I use this on days when I am wearing cosmetics and on days when I am not (my normal, every day routine is shower, brush teeth, wash face, brush hair and nothing else). If I'm going the extra mile, I will use my face defender, curl my eyelashes and throw on slip lip balm. Still no cosmetics, but a fresh face is best.

On days where I'm really going all out - foundation, mascara, possibly even eye shadow and blush, oh my! - this product still works like a charm and really makes my face look polished.

And really, that's the beauty of this product. You look more polished. I look and feel more put together, even if I just have my hair in a ponytail and am wearing sweats.

If you suffer from the same face problems I do, this product really is your best bet. And it lasts a long time, so you get a lot of bang for your hard-earned buck.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

In My Mailbox

What a great week in freebies, in large part thanks to SwagBucks! Here's what we received:
  • 2 bottles of Yes to Carrots shampoo
  • 2 tubes of Neutrogena hand cream
  • Sonoma Soap Company bubble bath {scent: First Crush}
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Family Fun magazine issue
  • Shape magazine issue
  • BabyTalk magazine issue
We signed up for all the magazines online for free. We used gift cards we earned through SwagBucks to get shampoo, hand cream, bubble bath and eucalyptus oil.

We love the Yes to... line and are excited to try the shampoo! We always need good hand cream {especially lately}, but I personally haven't decided if I like this hand cream yet. We are both beyond obsessed with the bubble bath. It smells so good. And lastly, we use a few drops of oil with our homemade laundry detergent for each load. We had used lavender for every single load, but we are almost out so when I went to to order more {previously, I had purchased it at a brick and mortar store}, I was shocked to discover eucalyptus was less than half the price of lavender. Jason was a little nervous since he didn't know what eucalyptus smelled like, but we both agree, after now smelling it, that it will work perfectly fine. It has a nice earthly scent to it.