Saturday, June 30, 2012

Jason's Book Room: Dragonspell

Hi everyone! Jason here. I'm taking over Jess' This Book Room today.

Once a slave, Kale is given the unexpected opportunity to become a servant to Paladin. Yet this young girl has much to learn about the difference between slavery and service.

A small band of Paladin’s servants rescue Kale from danger but turn her from her destination: The Hall, where she was to be trained. Feeling afraid and unprepared, Kale embarks on a perilous quest to find the meech dragon egg stolen by the foul Wizard Risto. First, she and her comrades must find Wizard Fenworth. But their journey is threatened when a key member of the party is captured, leaving the remaining companions to find Fenworth, attempt an impossible rescue, and recover the egg whose true value they have not begun to suspect…

Weaving together memorable characters, daring adventure, and a core of eternal truth, Dragonspell is a finely crafted and welcome addition to the corpus of fantasy fiction.

Additional notes: This is the first book in the DragonKeeper Chronicles series. There are five books in this series, and all have been released.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this book. It had a good adventure story, and it was fun. The characters stayed true to themselves. I never thought to myself, "What the heck did he do that for?" I don't like that in books when characters stray from who they are. The baby dragons in the story were really cute and very silly. Reading about their actions was my favorite part of the story.

This book is sort of in a genre on its own. Though it does fit nicely into the fantasy genre, the influx of Christian elements makes it fresh. I especially like how the author didn't try to hide the Christian elements, either.

I would like to keep reading this series to find out what happens to Kale, the main character in the story. It is mentioned throughout the book that she would go on many adventures, and I would like to read about them.

You can visit Donita's website here, read more information about this book here, read chapter 1 here, and read Donita's biography here.

Thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Cheesy Hot Bean Dip

Bean dips are a vice of Jess and I. We know they are bad for our 'diet' but we make them anyway. Then we eat them as well. Go figure. This is just another yummy dip that has somehow magically been made and consumed by us in our never ending struggle to not do just that.

  • 1 lb homemade refried beans
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 oz cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • tortilla chips for dipping
  • Combine all non-chip ingredients in a 2 or 3 quart slow cooker and stir.
    • We used a 3 quart slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
  • Serve warm with chips.
And that's that. I bet you see why we like our bean dips. Easy and delicious. This recipe originated from the Fix It and Forget It Christmas cookbook.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In My Mailbox

Here's what we received this past week:
  • 24 bars of Fels Naptha soap
  • All You magazine issue
  • Women's Health magazine issue
We redeemed points we earned through SwagBucks to get gift cards. We used some gift cards a few months ago to buy a six-month subscription to All You. I would say that I'm extremely disappointed in the coupons offered in this magazine. This latest issue had $17.30 worth of coupons, and the coupons were for items I do not buy. I will not be subscribing to this magazine again for that reason. However, I do highly enjoy the content so I will definitely read this magazine at local bookstores or when I'm in line at the store.

We also used gift cards we earned through SwagBucks to get 24 bars of Fels Naptha soap. We use this soap to make homemade laundry soap.

We signed up somewhere online to get a year-long subscription to Women's Health for free.

This Book Room: Hope Springs

In a small community where everyone is holding tight to something, the biggest challenge may be learning to let go.

Hope Springs, North Carolina, is the epitome of small town life-a place filled with quiet streets, a place where there's not a lot of change. Until three women suddenly find themselves planted there for a season.

Janelle hasn't gone back to Hope Springs for family reunions since losing her husband. But when she arrives for Christmas and learns that her grandmother is gravely ill, she decides to extend the stay. It isn't long before she runs into her first love, and feelings that have been dormant for more than a decade are reawakened.

Becca is finally on the trajectory she's longed for. Having been in the ministry trenches for years, she's been recruited as the newest speaker of a large Christian women's conference. But her husband feels called to become the pastor of his late father's church in Hope Springs.

And Stephanie has the ideal life-married to a doctor in St. Louis with absolutely nothing she has to do. When her cousin Janelle volunteers to stay in Hope Springs and care for their grandmother, she feels strangely compelled to do the same. It's a decision that will forever change her.

As these women come together, they soon recognize that healing is needed in their hearts, their families, and their churches. God's plan for them in Hope Springs-is bigger than they ever imagined.

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

My thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised when I realized this book had the same characters that were in Cherished and Faithful. If you're having trouble accepting God's plan for you or maybe having trouble accepting God even has a plan for you, you need to read this book. The characters all go through trials of accepting God's plan, giving up their lives daily to God and growing without fear. I absolutely could relate to the characters in those ways.

The friendships and camaraderie the characters share are delightful. Finishing the book made me sad because I wanted to see what was next in their lives! And definitely unimportant to those who take seriously the thought that one should never judge a book by its cover, but the cover is awesome!

You can check out other blog tour stops and other reviews of the book here.

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

Win a Kindle Fire at @KimCashTate's Hope Springs Author Chat Party {7/10}!
Celebrate the release of Hope Springs with Kim Cash Tate by coming to her Author Chat Party on Facebook.

Find out what readers are saying here.

Grab your copy of Hope Springs and join me for an Author Chat Party on July 10th at 8:00 PM EST (that's 7:00 Central, 6:00 MST, & 5:00 PST)!

During the evening Kim will be sharing the story behind her new book, posting book club questions, testing your trivia skills, and of course, there will be plenty of chatting and fun giveaways - books, gift certificates and (I'm so excited about this) - a Kindle Fire!

But, wait there's more – she’ll also be giving you a sneak peak of her next book too!

RSVP today and then come back on the 10th ... and bring your friends!

Monday, June 25, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Chicken and Stuffing Casserole

We made this recipe on the first day of my eating responsibly diet. The diet itself isn't an elimination of foods, but instead of eating four or five servings of something for a meal, I will now eat one or two, depending on the calorie count of the food in question. With that being said, I picked a poor first recipe to show restraint on. It smelled good, tasted good, and looked good. And I could only eat one serving because I foolishly wasted almost 300 calories on a candy bar earlier in the day. Trust me, I will not make that mistake again.

  • 1/3 cup cream of something soup mix
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 16 oz frozen veggies (I used the California mix and it fit perfectly)
  • 1 chicken breast, cooked and cut into small cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 4 cups Pepperidge Farm (R) Cubed Herb Seasoned Stuffing
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray.
  • Mix all non-cheese ingredients in a bowl.
  • Dump into the prepared pan and even out with a spatula.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and give it a good stir.
  • Sprinkle the cheese over top of it.
  • Return it to the oven for another 5 minutes
  • This recipe makes 6 servings.
  • Each serving will be about 1 cup in size.
    • Jess ate two servings and I ate one. She had ate responsibly earlier in the day, so she could eat two servings at dinner. I was stuck with one because I foolishly ate a candy bar.
  • Each serving will contain about 275 calories.
 As you can see, this recipe is easy to make. The hardest part about it was waiting for the George Foreman grill to finish cooking up the chicken so I could cut it up and add it to the already assembled ingredients and throw the casserole in the oven.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What's for Eats This Week

Choice of:
Toast and eggs
English muffins

Choice of:
Sandwiches with cheese sticks
Chicken nuggets/tenders and carrots

Canned soup and grilled cheese samiches
Beef barley vegetable soup
Bread + butter, hard-boiled eggs, fruit
Sandwiches, veggies, fruit
Pulled BBQ beef sandwiches, baked beans, veggies
Lemon-rosemary roasted tilapiahoney roasted carrots, baked potato
Creamy basil tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches

Recipes {possibly} coming soon:
Beef barley vegetable soup
Creamy basil tomato soup

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saving the Moola: busy seasons require grace + leniency for your budget

photo credit
It isn't often that Jason and I decide to completely chuck the budget. In fact, before May, it had never, ever happened before.

We found ourselves in a situation we hadn't really found ourselves in before. We both were crazy busy at work at the same time that we were seriously overhauling our personal lives. What we were doing in our personal lives was eating up a huge chunk of our time outside of work.

We found ourselves being forced to make decisions we weren't prepared to make. When do we say "no" to our day jobs? When do we say "no" to our personal lives and the good, albeit time consuming activities we're doing to strengthen them?

Money definitely doesn't buy happiness, but it sure can make life easier. We both weren't willing to say no to our day jobs or to ourselves at that time. The only thing that could make our lives even livable, then, would be to not worry about the budget.

This meant we spent quite a bit of money eating food prepared outside of our home. This meant that we stopped hand washing our clothes for awhile and paid to use a communal washer and dryer in our apartment building. This meant that we didn't plan our trips outside of the house to fit everything into one trip. If we forgot to do something or something came up, we just drove the car anyway instead of going without.

Not having a budget is never a good thing, even in busy seasons of life. But you have to give yourself grace and leniency to save your sanity and ultimately, to save your budget.

When I shared with Jason that when I did something, it felt good but I always felt sick afterward, he told me I had trained my brain to not be happy when I did this thing and I was making myself sick.

When we chucked the budget, it didn't feel good. In fact, I felt pretty sick to my stomach. I so believed that not being on a budget was a horrible thing... such a horrible thing that I was making myself sick.

I kept trying to find a way that we could have it all - a clean house, overtime for our day jobs, writing for this blog, volunteering, attending church services, nine hours of sleep per night, playing badminton. I didn't want to believe we couldn't have it all.

But in the end, we really couldn't and stick to our budget. And instead of continuing to make myself sick over it, I accepted it. I accepted that our lives were too busy and if spending money meant we could keep up with everything, I was willing to do that.

One night, near the end of May, we went on a date night to one of our favorite restaurants. We hadn't been there in months {we haven't been to many restaurants in months!}. We took money that was earmarked for paying down our debt. We drove to the restaurant. We ordered our meals and even sodas {!}.

We had the loveliest time. Even though we both work from home primarily, it doesn't mean we're spending quality time together. This was a chance for us to spend real quality time together.

We laughed, we talked, we prayed, we shared stories. The time together completely refreshed us. When we came back home, we were ready to jump back into our busy season of life because we had allowed ourselves the luxury of a couple of interrupted hours together, sharing a meal that was prepared by someone else's hands {and allowing someone else to clean up the dishes}.

Now that May is over and the budget has fallen where it has, I don't regret a single minute of it. When the next busy season comes around {like ahem, right now}, we may not make the same decisions, and in fact, we haven't. But for May, it was absolutely the right decision to accept that money could fix most of our problems.

Perhaps what made May all the better was that we ended up completely paying off one of two student loans we have. Even with chucking the budget and spending money that was earmarked for paying off my student loans even faster, we still made incredible progress on our goals. In fact, with all the extra hours we worked at our day jobs, we even came out ahead!

Don't beat yourself up when you order a pizza instead of cooking from scratch. If hiring a housekeeper saves you time and your sanity, do it.

And the biggest lesson in all of this: Accept that there is a plan in store for you that may not exactly line up with the plan you've designed for yourself. Perhaps the plan in store for you is even better than the one you have. Whatever you've dreamed up, the Dreamer dreams bigger + better. Allow Him to have ultimate control over your life. Honor and serve Him, and I promise He has things in store for you you couldn't have dreamed of if you tried.

This Book Room

Margot Matthews loves her job at the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop and the life and friendships she's made in New Bern, Connecticut; she just never thought she'd still be single on her fortieth birthday. And Margot's friend, Abigail, is trying to match-make even though Margot has all but given up on romance. When Philippa, a new female pastor arrives in town, truth be told not everyone is happy about it. Yet despite a rocky start, Philippa begins to settle in - finding ways to ease the townspeople's burdens, joining the quilting circle, and forging a fast friendship with Margot. When tragedy threatens to tear Margot's family apart, Philippa's friendship - and the help of the quilting sisterhood - will prove a saving grace. And while she untangles her feelings for another new arrival in town, Margot realizes that it is the surprising detours woven into life's fabric that provide its richest hues...

Additional notes: This the fourth and latest book in the Cobbled Court Quilt series. You can read my review of the first book here, the second book here and the third book here. So far as I know, this series is ongoing.

My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Marie is a fresh voice in fiction, and the friendships the ladies share throughout this entire series are uplifting. I anxiously await Marie's next installment of this series. If you enjoy chick lit or series about hand crafts {such as quilting, knitting, etc.}, you will absolutely enjoy this series.

Lydia Hoffman owns the shop on Blossom Street. In the year since it opened, A Good Yarn has thrived-and so has Lydia. A lot of that is due to Brad Goetz. But when Brad's ex-wife reappears, Lydia is suddenly afraid to trust her newfound happiness.Three women join Lydia's newest class. Elise Beaumont, retired and bitterly divorced, learns that her onetime husband is reentering her life. Bethanne Hamlin is facing the fallout from a much more recent divorce. And Courtney Pulanski is a depressed and overweight teenager, whose grandmother's idea of helping her is to drag her to seniors' swim sessions-and to the knitting class at A Good Yarn.

Additional notes: This is the second book in the Blossom Street series. You can read my review of the first book here. There are currently nine books in this series {including a Christmas book}.

My thoughts: This book was a fantastic sequel to the first book in this series. I loved the new characters and learning their stories. I didn't so much enjoy the story line with Lydia and Brad, but there was so little of that particular story line that my displeasure at it didn't detract from my pleasure from reading the book. As with the Cobbled Court Quilt series, if you enjoy chick lit or series about hand crafts, you'll also enjoy this series.

"Love Comes Softly" introduced the characters of Marty and Clark Davis, whose tragic circumstances brought them to a "marriage of convenience" on the frontier prairies during the mid 1800s. The story of how Clark's patient, caring love mirrored that of the heavenly Father, drawing Marty to faith and to love, has captured the hearts and imaginations of over one million readers on Book One alone.

Additional notes: This is the first book in the Love Comes Softly series. There are eight books in this series and all have been released.

My thoughts: I am so glad I finally decided to read this book. My mother raves about the Hallmark movies, and while I've heard that the books are nothing like the movies and I've picked up this book before and quickly discarded it, this book was such fun to read. I really enjoyed being able to easily picture the surroundings and what the family did each day. If you like historical or Christian fiction, you will love this series. But if you've already watched the movies, you may want to keep an incredibly open mind. I don't know in what way the books differ from the movies, as I have not seen the movies, but as mentioned earlier, they're apparently quite different from each other.

In the midst of a chaotic midnight assembly, Sunshine is forced outside into the darkness. Holding a scrap of paper scrawled with a stranger's name and address, Sunny grasps the hands of her three small children and begins her escape.

Liesel Albright has dreamed of starting a family. She never bargained on inheriting one already in progress…or one so deeply damaged. When nineteen-year-old Sunshine appears on the Albrights' doorstep claiming Liesel's husband, Chris, is her father, all they can think to offer is temporary shelter. The next day, they're stunned by the news that the Family of Superior Bliss, led by a charismatic zealot, has committed mass suicide. Sunny and her children haven't just left the compound—they've been left behind.

Now, instead of a baby of her own, Liesel must play mother to the four survivors, while Chris retreats into guilt and denial. For Sunny, however, a lifetime of teachings is not easily unlearned. No matter how hard she tries to forget, an ominous catechism echoes in her mind, urging her to finish what the Family started.

My thoughts: Megan's writing quickly drew me in and kept me captured. I read this book in one evening. I could not put it down. If you're particularly interested in reading books about cults, this book will intrigue you. It certainly intrigued me!

Let’s face it: Greg Heffley will never change his wimpy ways. Somebody just needs to explain that to Greg’s father. You see, Frank Heffley

Additional notes: This is the third book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. There are currently six books in the series, and the seventh book is coming out later this year. You can read my review of the first book here and the second book here.

My thoughts: I find myself enjoying this series more and more... mainly due to the cartoons! As I've mentioned before, just please beware for minors reading this book as the series does not advocate honesty and good morals. But to read this book purely for entertainment sake as an adult is enjoyable.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

Our George Foreman grill came with quesadilla plates so making this recipe was extra easy for us, but I will include the non-GF instructions for those of you whom will be making this on the stove top (or with your hot plate).

  • 2 8-inch tortillas
  • 1 Tbsp BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Quesadilla maker instructions
  • Place a tortilla on the maker.
  • Spread the BBQ over the tortilla.
  • Spread the chicken over the BBQed tortilla.
  • Sprinkle the cheese over the chickened, BBQed tortilla.
  • Put your other tortilla over the cheesed, chickened, BBQed tortilla.
  • Close your quesadilla maker.
  • Twiddle your thumbs for about 2 1/2 minutes.
  • Cut along the provided separation lines and enjoy.
Frying pan instructions
  • Spray a 9-inch frying pan with cooking spray.
  • Heat pan over medium-high heat.
  • Follow previous list of directions in preparing the quesadilla.
  • After you place the top on it, let it cook for about 2 minutes.
  • Carefully, flip it over and cook the second side for an additional 2 or 3 minutes.
  • Cut into either 6 or 8 wedges and enjoy.
  • This recipe makes 2 servings.
  • Each serving is about 140 calories
  • You can easily make multiples of this recipe.
  • This recipe can be found in the Eat What You Love cookbook.
One full quesadilla is the same number of calories as a candy bar. Who is ever going to eat candy again when they can have this? Not me. Jess and I ate one full quesadilla each for dinner, and it was more than filling all on its own.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In My Mailbox: so many fun freebies!!

What a fantastic week for freebies! Here's what we received:
  • 12 cans of organic baked beans
  • Better Homes and Gardens magazine issue
  • Good Housekeeping magazine issue
  • Woman's Day magazine issue
  • Garnier shampoo and conditioner sample
  • Audio CD from John MacArthur
  • Beauty bag and all kinds of fun samples
We used gift cards we earned through Swagbucks to get 12 cans of organic baked beans. We're not a huge fan of making baked beans from scratch {mostly because we haven't found a recipe we like yet}, and getting organic groceries for free just makes our day!

We won a Better Homes and Gardens magazine subscription from a Purex sweepstakes. We signed up for Good Housekeeping and Woman's Day somewhere online. We signed up for the Garnier samples online {check regularly if you would also like to receive freebies in the mail}. We regularly get items for free from John MacArthur's ministry. Jason enjoys listening to the audio CDs.

Our favorite freebie this week had to be the beauty bag stocked full with samples and coupons from Target. We signed up online to get this sample, and we were both wowed when we opened the box! I'm not sure if we'd use any of the coupons, but the shampoo and sunscreen samples will absolutely come in handy. I put these in our shower the second we receive them and I use those up before reverting back to using shampoo out of a regular bottle. With all the shampoo samples we received this week, I won't have to use store bought shampoo for a week or so. Love that!

Monday, June 18, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

This is by far the best mac n' cheese I have made in a long time. The best way to describe it that I can think of is call it homemade Velveeta Shells and Cheese. It is the perfect combination of creamy and cheesy that makes you wish you had made a double batch so you could go back for more. And an added bonus - it's rather low in calories!

  • 16 oz. dry noodles
    • We recommend cavatappi, but you already knew that, didn't you?
  • 12 oz. can low-fat evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    • Say that 12 times really fast!
  • Cook the noodles according to package directions.
  • Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water.
  • While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the milk, cornstarch, mustard and garlic powder in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Continue to heat and whisk until it starts to thicken and bubble.
    • The noodles will most likely get done before this happens.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese until melted and creamy
    • Don't take the pan off of the burner until the cheese is all melted.
  • In a pretty serving bowl, mix together the noodles and the cheese mixture and serve.
  • This recipe makes 8 servings.
  • Each serving is 3/4 of a cup.
    • We ate a two-cup serving.
  • Each serving has about 220 calories.
  • The original recipe can be found in Eat What You Love, my current favorite cookbook.
Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Sunday, June 17, 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

Canned soup and grilled cheese samiches
Steak, baked potatoes, broccoli
Bread + butter, hard-boiled eggs, fruit
Slow cooker beef and mushroom stew
Baked potato night
Beef mushroom casserole
Tuna rice casserole
Recipes {possibly} coming soon:
Beef mushroom casserole
Tuna rice casserole

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Saving the Moola: Dave Ramsey's motto and how it applies to real life

Our two biggest financial role models are Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey. Since we shared what Suze Orman's motto was and what it really means last week, we thought we'd share Dave Ramsey's motto and how it applies to real life this week.

Dave Ramsey's "motto" is:
Live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later. 
I won't be so insensitive as to realize that for many of us {ahem, me included} that it's incredibly difficult, especially at first, to make sacrifices now for the promise of later. We're built to want instant gratification. What is something you want? Would you rather have it now or later?

If any of you honestly said later, hats off to you. Personally, I would rather have it all now. Later is for suckers.

To be honest, I never really thought of it quite in those terms, but Jason and I both have had to squelch our inner children. We're not immune to the joy of now.

But we are all too aware of what later looks like when all you did was rejoice in the now. We have older people in our lives who are struggling to make ends meet. In fact, there are many seniors today who do not have enough money in their retirement accounts to see them through the rest of their lives.

Beyond the fact that I would prefer not to eat dog food as a source of nutrition for myself, I prefer to be independent of others {not including my husband, of course}. I would never want to rely on someone else, like a child or a family member, for help in my later years because I was just too irresponsible in my younger years to foresee that I would actually live until I'm 60, 70, 80 or even 90 years old.

So how do you live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later? The number one thing to conquer is the lure of now. If you don't have cash, you don't buy it. If you don't have certain things in place, you don't buy it.

Dave recommends baby steps. Baby step #1 is $1,000 in an emergency fund. Baby step #2 is completely debt free except for your house. Baby step #3 is building an emergency fund of three to six months. Baby step #4 is saving 15% of your income in a retirement fund {he suggests mutual funds}. Baby steps #5 and  #6 are saving for your children's college funds and paying off your home early. Baby step #8 is to enjoy your money and give some away.

If you say no to yourself now and set up the proper accounts, you can say yes to yourself a whole lot later. You can say yes to yourself more later than you could right now. That's what's pushing me forward.

Jason and I have a goal date for when we want to be debt free, we have a goal date for when we want a fully funded emergency fund {and also enough funds to buy a new-to-us car}, and we have a goal date for when we want to buy a condo in cash. After we buy a condo in cash, we both plan to take life a lot easier. At this point, kids are not in our future, so we can skip saving for college. We can easily save 15% of our income in retirement {we are currently paying far, far more than that each month toward paying off our debt, so this will really feel and be simple}. We won't need to pay off our house since we're planning to buy our house in cash.

What's incredible is that this end goal date for buying a house doesn't put us in our 60s. It doesn't even put us in our 50s or 40s. We will both be in our 30s when we meet our goal {Jason is currently in his 30s, and I'm still in my 20s}. When we are in our 30s, we will be able to say yes to just about anything we will actually want to do! By saying no to ourselves for a short amount of time, we can say yes to ourselves for a long period of time. When other people are at a time of their lives where they have to consistently say no because their money is being pulled in a lot of different directions, our directions will already be sorted out and taken care of. Other people won't have a choice as to whether to say yes to themselves, but we will. Do we want to go on our dream Disney vacation in our 50s? Sure! Do we want to take a cruise around the world in our 60s? We'll have the money! Our golden years will seriously be golden.

Saying no absolutely requires a serious level of maturity and understanding of both yourself and whomever you are on this journey with. Is it always easy? No. But it's always right. And right feels better than easy any day for us.

This Book Room

In his first bestseller, Financial Peace, Dave Ramsey taught us how to eliminate debt from our lives. Now in More Than Enough, he gives us the keys to building wealth while also creating a successful, united family. Drawing from his years of work with thousands of families and corporate employees, Ramsey presents the ten keys that guarantee family and financial peace, including: values, goals, patience, discipline, and giving back to one's community. Using these essential steps anyone can create prosperity, live debt-free, and achieve marital bliss around the issue of finances. Filled with stories of couples, single men and women, children, and single parents, More Than Enough will show you:

How to create a budget that fits your income and creates wealth
What finances and romance have to do with one another
What role values play in your financial life
How to retire wealthy in every way
And much, much more

Resonating with Ramsey's down-home, folksy voice, heartwarming case histories, inspiring insights, quotations from the Bible, and exercises, quizzes, and worksheets, More Than Enough provides an inspiring wealth-building guide and a life-changing blueprint for a vital family dynamic.

My thoughts: This book is classic Dave and just really motivating for anyone who's seeking more than enough and doesn't know how to get there. I am so grateful that my husband and I are both on the same terms of what "enough" looks like {this is pretty minimal, and believe me, we have more than enough}. Kudos to Dave for delivering this great book!

A massive head injury, as the result of a tragic car accident, left Krickitt Carpenter in a coma just two months after her marriage to Kim. When she finally emerged from the coma, she recognized everyone in her life except her husband, Kim. Starting all over, they built a new love and dedicated their lives to each other all over again.

My thoughts: I watched the movie, and I have to say, I wasn't a huge fan. I thought it was stupid the couple got divorced... in the movie. This book was refreshing and a true testament to God's grace for us all. The couple never gets divorced in real life, thank God! This story was fascinating and inspiring. A perfect read any time of the year for anyone!

Lydia Hoffman owns a shop on Blossom Street called A Good Yarn--a shop that represents her dream of a new beginning, a life free from the cancer that has ravaged her twice. But the shop also means something to the women who come to take knitting classes and who learn from Lydia's first lesson--how to knit a baby blanket. In her signature warm and compelling style, Debbie Macomber once again tells the story behind the significant lives of women searching for meaning in a small town.

Additional notes: This is the first book in the Blossom Street series. There are currently eight books in this series with one accompanying Christmas book. I would imagine this series is ongoing.

My thoughts: I gobbled up this book like it was Thanksgiving and it was a turkey! I can't wait to read the rest of this series. I had picked up Debbie's books before and never got into them, particularly the Cedar Cove series. I am really glad I gave this series another shot!

Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is still learning the ropes at her cousin Vinnie's bail bond office, so when she sets out on the trail of Kenny Mancuso--a suspiciously wealthy, working class Trenton boy who has just shot his best friend--the stakes are higher than ever. That Mancuso is distantly related to vice cop Joe Morelli--who is trying to beat Stephanie to the punch--only makes the hunt more thrilling….

Taking pointers from her bounty hunter pal, Ranger, and using her pistol-packing Grandma Mazur as a decoy, Stephanie is soon closing in on her mark. But Morelli and his libido are worthy foes. And a more sinister kind of enemy has made his first move…and his next move might be Stephanie's last.

Additional notes: This is the second book in the Stephanie Plum series, and there are currently 18 {!} books in this series with a few accompanying novels. You can read my review of the first book here. So far as I know, this series is ongoing.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved Stephanie's grandma's role in this book. She is such a little firecracker! Janet is great for giving her characters humor - this series is so enjoyable. I literally laugh out loud while reading this series, and I do not laugh out loud from a book or movie often.

Secrets have a way of getting out, especially when a diary is involved. Whatever you do, don’t ask Greg Heffley how he spent his summer vacation, because he definitely doesn’t want to talk about it. As Greg enters the new school year, he’s eager to put the past three months behind him . . . and one event in particular. Unfortunately for Greg, his older brother, Rodrick, knows all about the incident Greg wants to keep under wraps. But secrets have a way of getting out . . . especially when a diary is involved. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules chronicles Greg’s attempts to navigate the hazards of middle school, impress the girls, steer clear of the school talent show, and most important, keep his secret safe.

Additional notes: This is the second book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. There are currently six books in this series with the seventh book due out later this year. You can read my review of the first book here.

My thoughts: I have to admit - I saw more in this book how some people aren't a fan of this series since Greg somewhat bullies others around him. That is definitely true. I would not necessarily recommend this book for younger readers - and yes, I know I'm modest and conservative, and no, I don't care. If your kids are reading this, please read the books before they do to ensure they aren't reading anything you don't want them to. This book is, at times, violent and promotes zero morals. I think adults would be okay reading this book, particularly if you have morals and can read a book for just pure entertainment and leave it at that.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This Book Room: Glamorous Illusions

It was the summer of 1913, and Cora Kensington's life on the family farm has taken a dark turn. Not only are the crops failing, so is her father's health. Cora is carrying on, helping her mother run their Montana farm until a stranger comes to call, and everything changes. Cora then learns a secret that will radically change her future: she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king who has come to claim her. 

Cora is invited to take the "Grand Tour" of Europe, a journey intended to finish a person's education, to solidify an understanding of ancient culture and contemporary refinement. As she travels from England to France with half-siblings she's never known, Cora encounters the blessings of the Kensington family name, as well as the curses. But when an unbidden love begins to form, she realizes the journey is only beginning.

Faced with the challenge of accepting her father, new family, and the identity that comes with it, Cora also struggles to accept that she is also the daughter of the one true King-a Father who is the only One who can truly heal.

Additional notes: As the summary states, this is the first book in the Grand Tour series. This series is ongoing.

My thoughts: I had never heard of the Grand Tour before, but what an interesting way to learn about other cultures! It reminds me of foreign exchange students in high school or studying abroad while at university... only with a lot less formal learning and a lot more partying {hmm, on second thought, maybe it is just like high school and university!}.

The characters are fascinating. I really empathize with Cora. Family dynamics can be tough, and she's stepping into a world she knows nothing about. Her siblings don't take to her well, but she proves she's more than capable of taking care of herself despite their approval.

Cora's journey with her faith was encouraging and interesting. While her earthly father seemed to be pompous, he actually helped lead her into a deeper relationship with her heavenly Father.

Adventures are peppered throughout the book, and of course, there's a little bit of flirting, too. This book was incredibly well balanced in its different plot points. I will definitely be reading the next books in this series... just as soon as they are published!

You can read other reviews and view the full blog tour schedule here.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In My Mailbox

Here's what we received last week:
  • Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine issue
  • Disney's Family Fun magazine issue
  • Three coupons good for $1 off Tidy Cats litter
We signed up somewhere online to get both magazine subscriptions for free. We are loving the Rachael Ray subscription!

We call Purina's hotline to order the Tidy Cats litter coupons for free. We use these to get 10 lb. bags of litter for $1.17. This is the best price per pound for cat litter we have come across. Typically, a customer can only order two a month, but when I opened the envelope, there were three in it. Score! At the end of the year, we plan on donating whatever bags we have minus a few to our local humane shelter. Preston doesn't quite go through two bags a month, so we're growing a little stockpile.

Monday, June 11, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Harvest Time Apple Squares

This recipe came with Jess when we moved in together 100 years ago. I have no clue where it originated but I do know that it is fantastically yummy.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, still cold
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 1/2 cups apples; peeled, cored and chopped
    • about 4ish apples makes this
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix together flour, brown sugar, 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
  • Cut in the butter until it is course crumbs.
  • Reserve 2 cups of the crumb mixture
  • Press remaining mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.
  • Beat cream cheese and milk with electric mixer on medium speed until blended.
  • Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, and the egg and mix well.
  • Pour over crust in the 9x13 baking pan.
  • Top with the apples.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining crumb mixture.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Store in the refrigerator once it cools.
This recipe makes a fantastic apple dessert that is a nice change from traditional apple pie.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Sunday, June 10, 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

Canned soup and grilled cheese samiches
Grilled chicken, baked potatoes, broccoli
Bread + butter, hard-boiled eggs, fruit
Santa Fe cheesy chicken burritos
Lemon-rosemary roasted tilapia, oven-roasted green beans, red potatoes
Cook This chili, bread + butter
Slow cooker beef and mushroom stew

Recipes {possibly} coming soon:
Slow cooker beef and mushroom stew

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saving the Moola: Suze Orman's motto and what it really means

Just as we make it a point to listen to Dave Ramsey's radio show, either as a podcast on iTunes for free or streaming live on the internet for free, we also make it a point to watch the Suze Orman Show. You can watch episodes free at or also free at iTunes.

We've watched the Suze Orman Show for years, and yes, we even say the ending of the show with her.
"Until next time, there's really only one thing you need to know. People first, then money, then things. Now you stay safe."

People first. Then money. Then things.

It seems pretty straight forward to us, but it kills me when people don't really understand what this means. They construe it to mean something that allows them to get what they want instead of what they need.

People first.

Who is people? YOU are people. And YOU are the people Suze is referring to you. In my case, it's ME Suze is referring to. When she says, "people first," she means yourself. And I'm not just making this up - people call in, clearly confused, and she has explained it time and time again.

So if you're at home, drinking a cup of coffee, reading this and thinking, "Yeah, people first. That's why I gotta help my kid out because you know, he's struggling to make rent." Or maybe you're thinking, "Yeah, that's why I'm going to go on a vacation with my buddies because we're going to make so many memories, and I just can't say no to them."

You need to take care of yourself first. "People first" does not refer to your parents, your siblings, your children (if grown), your grandparents, your aunt, your uncle, your friends, your co-worker.

It refers to YOU. You need to put you first. I know it can be hard. Jason and I have said no to many things because we said yes to ourselves.

No, we can't come to our niece's/nephew's/second cousin's/insert random person here's birthday party.

No, we can't come to your barbecue.

No, we can't loan you money.

No, we can't.

No, we won't.

No one else is going to take care of you besides you. And do you even want to be a burden to others? I sure don't. Jason and I thrive on taking care of ourselves. It feels so good that when our car breaks down in the middle of the night, our biggest fear isn't how we're going to pay for it, but that we need to call someone to come get us because we have our cat, Preston, with us and a taxi isn't going to cut it.

Jason and I thrive on the knowledge that when we retire, we'll have enough money to pay for our lives and whatever care we may need. We love knowing we'll be able to pay for a car in cash and get our own piece of real estate to live in (hopefully also in cash). Suze wants you to put your needs first. You need to have food in your house to feed yourself, you need to have clothes in the closet to clothe yourself, you need a roof over your head so you can sleep in inclement weather. You need the water on so you can cleanse yourself.

And the only way we're going to achieve any of big and little dreams is by putting ourselves first.

Get it? I sure hope so.

Okay, that brings us to "then money." While Suze doesn't tend to explain the rest of her motto (and really, does she need to?), I believe she's not referring to keeping stacks of money hidden in one's mattress. Suze says, time and time again, that every person/family needs an 8-month emergency fund. Every person/family needs to max out their ROTH IRA (for a couple, it's $10,000/year, if you're single, it's $5,000/year). Every person should be debt free, including a mortgage. If you have dependents, whether it's a spouse, parents, children, you should have term life insurance. If you're 55+, you should have a long-term care insurance policy in place. Everyone should have a will, a living revocable trust, a financial POA, a medical POA, etc., etc.

"Then money" refers to all those things. Take care of the money aspect of your life so others don't have to worry about you or take care of you.

That brings us to "then things." This means that once you have taken care of yourself first and you have all of the appropriate items in place financially speaking, then you can worry about things, like vacations, redecorating your bathroom, buying an expensive handbag, etc.

Next time you're confused on this motto, you can just come back here and understand what Suze's really talking about.

This Book Room: Winning Balance

Twenty-year-old American gymnast Shawn Johnson is a four-time Olympic gold and silver medalist; a national- and world-champion athlete. Already a popular role model to all ages, in 2009 she captured the national spotlight again when she won the widely popular Dancing with the Stars. Yet Shawn is no stranger to hard work and adversity. Her loss of the major gymnastics prize everyone expected her to win in Beijing, the all-around Olympic gold medal, was the loss of a dream she’d worked for since childhood. And later, she suffered a potentially career-ending injury in a skiing accident that forced her life to a halt and made her rethink what was really important. She wasn’t sure who she was anymore. She wasn’t sure what her goals were. And she wasn’t sure she was satisfied with where she was with her faith and God. Could she find the right kind of success in life—the kind that doesn’t involve medals or trophies, but peace, love, and lasting joy? This is the amazing true journey of how the young woman who won an Olympic gold medal on the balance beam became even more balanced.           

My thoughts: I always watch the Olympics and as I've grown into my adult years, I literally watch as many hours of it as I can. It is so inspirational to me to see all of these fantastic athletes hoping to bring honor to their families and their countries.

I don't always keep up with who's who in the athletic world, so when the Olympics come around, I'm usually frantically searching online: who the heck is Shawn Johnson? This teeny tiny powerhouse was seriously awesome.

She impressed me four years ago with her determination and power. Then, like most of the rest of the nation, I watched her waltz her way through Dancing with the Stars.

Needless to say, when I heard this past winter that she was releasing a book and then I had a chance to review it, I was beyond thrilled.

Shawn shares her journey and what she's learned about love, life and faith. It shares many of her thoughts and poems leading up to the Olympics, through Dancing with the Stars and beyond.

I feel this book is particularly poignant as this past week, Shawn announced that despite her efforts to try for this summer's Olympics in London, she is retiring. She had torn her ACL during a ski trip and that's a critical injury for a gymnast.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I usually need a box of Kleenex next to me while I watch the Olympics. It's just something about seeing someone's dream come true... I'm usually sobbing through the whole thing. Reading this book and then reading that Shawn is now retired, I cried.

But the good news is that Shawn has such a good head on her shoulders that I know she's going to go far with the rest of her long life {she's only 20, people!}.

This book was fascinating to me, and if you enjoy the Olympics or gymnastics, you will seriously enjoy this book as well. You can check out the book trailer for Winning Balance here and check out Winning Balance's website here.

And if you really love gymnastics and just can't get enough, definitely check out ABC Family's Make It or Break It television series. Unfortunately, the series is now canceled, but there are three seasons on ABC Family's website that you can watch.

Thanks to Tyndale Momentum for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Chicken and Biscuits

This recipe surprised me. I thought the sauce would be a thicker consistency, but don't let this be a detraction as it is quite delicious regardless of the runnyness of the sauce.

  • 2/3 cups dry cream of something soup mix
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 cups chopped veggies
    • You can use frozen or fresh, but if you use fresh, cook them up before mixing them in.
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 package (7 oz.) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a saucepan, mix together the cream of something soup mix and the water.
  • Cook over medium heat until it starts to thicken, stirring regularly.
  • In a medium or large mixing bowl, mix together all non-biscuit ingredients.
  • Pour into a 9x13 baking dish and bake for 15 minutes.
  • While baking, chop the packaged biscuits into quarters.
  • After the 15 minutes are up, pull the baking dish from the oven and arrange the biscuit pieces evenly over the top of it.
  • Return the dish to the oven for another 15 minutes.
Super simple! You will be amazed at how you will continuously try to burn your mouth when this is served up hot as it just smells fantastic.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Beauty Fix: lipstick gets new life + new reputation by Lipstick Queen

My life has been pretty void of lipstick. It always felt cakey and heavy and looked quite unflattering. I used lip balm and lip gloss in lieu of lipstick, but there are certain occasions and moods that call for lipstick.

In particular, as I was preparing for my wedding, I knew I wanted to wear lipstick. I didn't necessarily want a lipstick that lasted for a day since you have to keep applying the balm. If you have to keep applying the balm, you might as well keep applying lipstick. It takes the same amount of upkeep.

When done right, lipstick should make you feel gorgeous and it should feel gorgeous on. Poppy King, the creator of Lipstick Queen, delivers all that and more with her line of lipsticks.

Fantastic lipstick doesn't come cheap - each tube runs about $20, but believe me when I tell you you have never experienced lipstick unless you've tried Lipstick Queen lipstick. It can also be difficult to find. If you want to buy at a brick and mortar store, you'll have to go to Barney's or Anthropologie. Online, it can be found at a few more places, but not many.

If you're new to Lipstick Queen's line, I recommend Medieval {pictured above}. It looks dark, but please don't be frightened! If you do one pass over your lips, it will be very sheer. The fantastic part of this lipstick is its layerable. I personally prefer at least two passes over my top and bottom lips - it's not too dark, but it's far from being light. It's a really pretty ruby type color, but a very light ruby with only two passes. If you want a darker look, keep going - each pass nets you a darker ruby color. The shade is flattering on virtually everyone.

It's super easy to apply, and it glides on easily, unlike other lipsticks I've tried. And when it's on, it looks lipglossy. I think others would be hard pressed to say with certainty you're wearing a lipstick when you're wearing Lipstick Queen. And the color is perfect for layering a gloss on top. For my wedding, I wore Medieval, then one swipe of a light pink lip gloss. The combination was so pretty. You can mix and match this with lip glosses you own to create new colors. You'll get a ton of mileage out of this lipstick.

This is the only lipstick I use, and I bust it out for all major occasions or whenever I need a pick me up. I love it for date nights, weddings and family gatherings. I'm dying to try the Butterfly Ball collection of lipsticks pictured below. Don't they look divine?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

State of Our House Address: May in Review

I personally find it intriguing to hear how others spend their time, and Jason and I agreed this series could be a great way to give you all a little glimpse into our lives. You may or may not find it interesting, but this also works to serve as a sort of journal for ourselves. In a year, we can look back and see what transpired in May!

May was crazy busy but really fulfilling. We've been working on forming good habits all year. In May, though, we kind of got off track with all of them.

It all started when we attended Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover event. We traveled two hours (one way) to Grand Rapids, and the energy there was incredible! We had an amazing time, learned a few new things, but really just had stuff we already knew pounded into our heads a little bit more.

A road trip also means stuff in the car: magazines, books, snacks, perhaps a game or two. We arrived home very, very late and broke one of our rules - we didn't empty the car before we left the car. At the end of the month, we found ourselves with a backseat teeming with stuff. We cleaned it out and are working toward cleaning it out each time we drive.

Another habit that started to fall by the wayside was waking up when 6 is still on the clock. This is mostly due to the fact that Jason and I were both working overtime near the middle to the end of the month, and we couldn't just not do our regular chores. We started staying up later. We got back on track the last week of May and are going to make a serious effort to stay on our sleep schedule in June no matter what.

Our tomato plants really shot up this month and are growing really well, we think {we hope!}. We put them in their final buckets this past week complete with a cage, and we hope they bear a lot of fruit. If we get enough, we plan to can tomatoes.

In mid-May, we helped my parents open their pool and over Memorial Day weekend, we went to their house and swam. We both got a little crispy from the sun, but we had a lot of fun. We've been building up our swim bag, so we now have our own goggles and water shooters. We're looking forward to using these in Petoskey in July while on vacation. My nephew {who swam with us} is great at reminding me that I don't want to have kids. He's a fun little guy, but Jason and I are both glad to come home to our quiet little home after spending time with him.

For entertainment, we had a very fun month! We watched Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, One for the Money and Joyful Noise {we rent from a Redbox kiosk}. One for the Money was so cute, we both thought we'd give the book series a go. We both have a lot of fun reading the same books, and to be honest, we're kind of fighting over the first book! Haha. We also had a couple of date nights, and those were great for reconnecting and really just relaxing.

We have a lot of goals for June in terms of habit forming, canning jams and relaxing. We'll post another State of Our House Address in early July to let you know how June went!

Monday, June 4, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jason: Corkscrew Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

This meal was very delicious. I enjoyed the bow tie pasta as it is a type of noodle we don't eat often. This recipe came from the cookbook, Eat What You Love, which contains many delicious recipes. I recommend picking up a copy for your house right now.
  • 1 box uncooked bow tie pasta
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped into small yummy pieces
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 cups, cooked and chopped boneless skinless chicken 
  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  • Bring a medium sauce pan with water in it to a boil.
  • Add the broccoli to the boiling water.
  • Three minutes later, remove the water from the broccoli.
  • In another medium saucepan, whisk together cornstarch, broth, cream cheese, garlic powder, and black pepper.
  • Over medium heat, bring to a boil.
  • Cook for about 4 minutes once it starts boiling.
  • Add the Parmesan and cook for another 2 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, broccoli, chicken and sauce.
  • Serve in bowls or on wide plates.
If you would like, extra broccoli and extra chicken would not ruin this recipe. If anything, it will make it even better.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Sunday, June 3, 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

Stovetop macaroni and cheese
Steak, baked potatoes, broccoli
Bread + butter, hard-boiled eggs, fruit
Baked potato bar
Pizzafied chicken
Cook This chili, bread + butter
Beef mushroom casserole

Recipes {possibly} coming soon:
Stovetop macaroni and cheese
Beef mushroom casserole

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saving the Moola: May in Review

I feel like I start every monthly review post with "This was a crazy month!" Well, this was a crazy month!

By the end of April, we had made serious headway on many of our financial goals in terms of saving cash for items we wanted, like an iPod and an electronic Bible. This success only spurred us on more in May.

We attended Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover live event in early May, and I have to tell you that this truly encouraged us! In fact, we came home that night and paid off one of my student loans! That was incredibly awesome, and we cannot wait to get my other student loan paid off and be debt free {our goal is by the end of the year}.

Jason and I were crazy busy at work. So busy that Jason was able to clock in some overtime. He has been working so hard this year - I could not be more proud of him. He contributes to our household in a way that no man I've ever known has before. He cooks, he cleans, he works - he is my Superman.

We're so grateful that our car is still running {it has not needed any repairs yet this year - I think that's a record for this car!}. We looked at Preston's vet records and realized he didn't need any shots this year, so we're grateful he can skip a vet visit {Preston is not a fan of the vet... but what cat is?}. Jason and I also agreed that Preston would want us to pay off our debt quickly, so we're taking some money from his envelope to apply toward my student loan. You would not believe how much money had accrued in his envelope! He's quite a good little saver! Haha.

We're diligent about finding little ways to save money since we know all the little things we do seriously add up over time. We've been eating simpler meals, like bread + butter with carrots and fruit for dinner. We've been taking anything and everything others want to give to us, like a few pounds of asparagus we picked at a relative's house. Most importantly, we're relying on God to provide us with what we need. We've experienced some setbacks this year, but through prayer, we've persevered and kept our attitudes positive.

Share with us! How are your financial goals coming along? Can you believe it's already June? {I'm still wrapping my head around that one!)

This Book Room

As spring turns into summer, Elizabeth relishes her new role as a young wife, while her sister, Diana, searches for adventure abroad. But when a surprising clue about their father's death comes to light, the Holland girls wonder at what cost a life of splendor comes. In the dramatic conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Luxe series, Manhattan's most dazzling socialites chase dreams, cling to promises, and tempt fate. Only one question remains: Will they fade away or will they shine ever brighter?

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

My thoughts: What a terrific end to this series. I was so happy with the way Anna wrapped up this series. I particularly enjoyed Elizabeth's story. I wasn't very surprised by Diana and Henry's ending. Don't know what I'm talking about? Read this series - it's quick, fun and perfect for summer!

Featuring advice, wisdom, and observations from an array of prominent and beloved women, 30 Things is an essential guide (and perfect gift) for women on the brink of thirty—and for those who are already there! Fifteen years ago, Glamour published a list of distinctive yet universally true must-haves and must-knows for women on the cusp of and beyond the age of thirty titled, “30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.” It became a phenomenon. Originally penned by Glamour columnist Pamela Redmond Satran, The List found a second life when women began to forward it to one another online, millions of times. It became a viral sensation, misattributed to everyone from Maya Angelou to Hillary Clinton—but there’s only one original list, and it stands the test of time. Quirky and profound, The List defines the absolute must-haves (#11: “A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra”) and must-knows (#1: “How to fall in love without losing yourself”) for grown-up female happiness. Now, Glamour magazine has gathered together its editors and an incredible group of notable women to expand on each of the items on The List in wise, thoughtful, and intimate essays. Kathy Griffin meditates on knowing when to try harder and when to walk away. Lisa Ling explores the idea that your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over, and Lauren Conrad shares what she has learned about what she would and wouldn’t do for money or love. Other personal insights come from Maya Angelou, Rachel Zoe, Taylor Swift, Katie Couric, Portia de Rossi, Kelly Corrigan, ZZ Packer, Bobbi Brown, Padma Lakshmi, Angie Harmon, and many more. Along with essays based on The List, writers share their feelings about what the milestone of turning thirty meant to them. 30 Things is the one book women of all ages will turn to for timely and timeless wisdom.

My thoughts: This was a delightful read. I didn't agree with everything the essays promoted, but they were fun to read. There were so many wonderful and interesting people who penned the essays, too - Suze Orman, Lauren Conrad {in addition to the authors specifically listed in the summary above}. I highly recommend this book to women of any age.

Welcome to Trenton, New Jersey, home to wiseguys, average Joes, and Stephanie Plum, who sports a big attitude and even bigger money problems (since losing her job as a lingerie buyer for a department store). Stephanie needs cash--fast--but times are tough, and soon she's forced to turn to the last resort of the truly desperate: family.

Stephanie lands a gig at her sleazy cousin Vinnie's bail bonding company. She's got no experience. But that doesn't matter. Neither does the fact that the bail jumper in question is local vice cop Joe Morelli. From the time he first looked up her dress to the time he first got into her pants to the time Steph hit him with her father's Buick, M-o-r-e-l-l-i has spelled t-r-o-u-b-l-e. And now the hot guy is in hot water--wanted for murder.

Abject poverty is a great motivator for learning new skills, but being trained in the school of hard knocks by people like psycho prizefighter Benito Ramirez isn't. Still, if Stephanie can nab Morelli in a week, she'll make a cool ten grand. All she has to do is become an expert bounty hunter overnight--and keep herself from getting killed before she gets her man.

Additional notes: This is the first book in the Stephanie Plum series. There are 18 books in this series {along with some between-the-numbers books}, and so far as I know, this series is ongoing.

My thoughts: Jason and I rented One for the Money from a Redbox kiosk and thoroughly enjoyed it. I knew it was a book, so I thought if I liked the movie that much, surely, I would enjoy this series. The book is, of course, far better than the movie. I'm excited to have found a new series to read! Jason's also reading this series and enjoying it.

Although she's taken an interest in Irish embroidery, Marcy Singer can't help but abandon her needlecraft when handsome local brewer Todd finds himself accused of murder. Both Todd and his friend Blake's fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and neither is talking about what happened. Marcy is determined to stitch together some luck from more than a few four-leaf clovers and prove that the culprit was someone else...

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

My thoughts: I really enjoy this series. But I really don't like Todd. There are two love interests in Marcy's life, and I really hope, at the end of the day or this series, she ends up with Ted. And no, I don't really know why I care so much. I just do. Haha.

Boys don’t keep diaries—or do they?

The launch of an exciting and innovatively illustrated new series narrated by an unforgettable kid every family can relate to

It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.

In book one of this debut series, Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s newfound popularity to his own advantage, kicking off a chain of events that will test their friendship in hilarious fashion.

Author/illustrator Jeff Kinney recalls the growing pains of school life and introduces a new kind of hero who epitomizes the challenges of being a kid. As Greg says in his diary, "Just don’t expect me to be all 'Dear Diary’ this and 'Dear Diary’ that.” Luckily for us, what Greg Heffley says he won’t do and what he actually does are two very different things.

Additional notes: This is the first book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. There are currently six books in this series. This series is ongoing.

My thoughts: I had read reviews online for this book, and they were horrible! But after a random person {aka a manager at a local fast food restaurant} recommended this series to me, I decided to check out this series. I thought this book was spot on in terms of behavior and attitude of middle-grade level children. This book was really fun to read, and the comics were entertaining. I've already requested the second book in this series from our library!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Gaming Corner: Quiddler

The name of the game is worth 31 points
Nope, I didn't just hit a bunch of keys accidentally when typing the name of this post. The game I will be gushing over is called Quiddler and it is fun.

Each player is dealt a hand of cards and then they take turns drawing and discarding one card. If they are able to play all of their cards, except for the one they discard, as words, then they can lay them down. Each player then gets one more turn to play as many of their cards as possible. The cards you have played in words are then scored, and the cards you were unable to play are counted against you.
N would score you 5 points if played in a word, but would lose you 5 points if left in your hand
The game is played in a series of rounds. During the first round, every player is dealt three cards. The second round sees each player with four cards, the third five and so on until the eighth and final round where each player has ten cards in their hand. After eight rounds, the player with the highest combined score wins.

Simple. And yet oh so fun.

-Gamer Jason