Friday, February 17, 2017

Reading Challenge

I love to read, and I have since I was five.  Sure, I took a couple of years off after finishing each of my degrees, and I don't have time to read as much as I'd like to, I really love books.  The last few years, I've taken the Goodreads reading challenge, setting a number of books that I'd like to finish in a year.  The first year I failed miserably, but last year I far exceeded my goal.  This year my goal is 36 books, and I've already finished seven.

One day in early January, I ran across this reading challenge on Pinterest.  I decided to mix it up and little and give the 26 book challenge a shot! 

I have a Pinterest board where I track all the books I read, as well as marking them on Goodreads, but I'll also check in here from time to time to make sure I'm keeping up with this particular challenge.  Here's where I stand as of this morning:

The 26-book 2017 reading challenge

  1. A book you read in school
  2. A book from your childhood - On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  3. A book published over 100 years ago - Dracula, by Bram Stoker
  4. A book published in the last year - The Magnolia Story, by Chip and Joanna Gaines
  5. A non-fiction book - In Cheap We Trust, by Lauren Weber
  6. A book written by a male author
  7. A book written by a female author - The Sage Stone Prophecy, by NS Wikarski
  8. A book by someone who isn’t a writer (think Paul Kalathani or Richard Branson)
  9. A book that became/is becoming a film
  10. A book published in the 20th Century
  11. A book set in your hometown/region
  12. A book with someone’s name in the title
  13. A book with a number in the title
  14. A book with a character with your first name
  15. A book someone else recommended to you
  16. A book with over 500 pages
  17. A book you can finish in a day
  18. A previously banned book
  19. A book with a one-word title
  20. A book translated from another language
  21. A book that will improve a specific area of your life
  22. A memoir or journal - Talking as Fast as I Can, by Lauren Graham
  23. A book written by someone younger than you
  24. A book set somewhere you’ll be visiting this year
  25. An award-winning book
  26. A self-published book

I'm off to a great start.   I have to laugh, because Dracula counts for several, but I'll be honest and just take it for one!  Took me a while to figure out how to find a book with a character with my first name, but I did a little creative searching on Overdrive and found one to check out that I will read soon!

What about you - do you like to read?  How do you feel about reading challenges?  Fun or too much pressure? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

This week's menu plan

I am getting a late, late start on this week's menu!  Ironic, since this is the week we REALLY need a plan.  My daughter started swimming lessons again, so our evenings have become really busy (wait until next week when she and I start our cardio dance class and we have something four nights a week!). 

Swimming lessons start at 7:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which means from the time I get home from work I have 70 minutes to cook, eat, and be out the door.  That's not a lot of time for us!  So I'm going to have to be hyper organized and ready to go.

Last week we didn't really stick to the menu, so there are a few repeats here.

Sunday - Corn and bacon chowder (I used the recipe from this cookbook - loved it!), salad, rolls
Monday - fish sticks, popcorn shrimp, frozen fries
Tuesday -  Farro and sausage (recipe coming soon)
Wednesday - Grilled chicken and sauteed pasta
Thursday - Chicken stir fry
Friday - Sub sandwiches (we're doing a Girl Scout cookie booth until 7:00 so we'll just stop at our favorite sandwich shop afterward)
Saturday - out for a birthday party

Hope you all are having a fantastic week!  Have you visited Menu Plan Monday?  You should! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Homemade Valentines

My daughter decided to make her own Valentines this year.  I didn't even know she was doing it until they were done!  They turned out really cute - like giant Sweethearts.  She was so proud of them she asked me to put them on Pinterest.  Even made the background pretty for the picture "because that's how they do it for Pinterest, Mom!"

They all say "Cool!" or "Wow!" or "Awesome!"

Super cute.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Revisitng January's Goals

So...we're more than a third of the way through February already (WHAT?????) and I haven't looked at how I did on my goals for January.  Better late than never, right?  Let's see...

  • Set up a new journal (I'm looking at the bullet journal method).  I started this but it only lasted a week and a half or so.  I think I'm just not a journaler though it would be fun to have something to look back on in the future to see what the day to day was like. 
  • Read my Bible every day (after working my way through the New Testament twice last year, I'm starting over at Genesis). I'm almost finished with Leviticus.  I haven't ready every single day but I've only missed four or five days since I started.
  • Exercise 30 minutes at least three days per week.  Still working on this one.  20 minutes two days a week is more like it!
  • Blog something at least twice per week.  I had 11 posts in January.  And they weren't even all about menus!  It has been fun to get back to blogging. 

  • Mend my daughter's favorite hat (it's been on the pile for months).  No, but I did darn her Wonder Woman sock that got a hole in the toe after the first wearing.
  • Track every expenditure (I reworked our budget over the Christmas break so we are ready to go).  This I did.  And we stayed in our overall budget (the overages and the unders balanced each other out to within $1.11).  Was able to transfer almost $100 leftover to our mortgage principle. 
  • Menu plan weekly (you'll find those here on the blog!).  Done!  So helpful, even if we don't stick to it.
  • Plan our summer vacation (we're finally taking one this year).  Hotels are booked!!!!!!!  Working on deciding on activities as we go.
  • Order my garden seeds.  Not yet.  My daughter is taking over the garden planning this year.  She's picked out the seeds but I still need to review the list to make sure everything will work in our raised beds.  We need to get hopping though because radish planting season is almost upon us!

  •  Write at least six grant proposals. I think I only did four.  I had six on the list but we weren't ready for a couple of them. 
  •  Make my to do list more reasonable so I can actually feel like I'm accomplishing something.  Haven't done this, though it's still a good idea.
All in all, I'd say it was a successful month.  In addition to these, I've started establishing a more productive morning routine for myself, so I'm not just sitting there staring at a computer monitor for an hour before my daughter gets up every day, and that has helped me a lot.  Now, I just need to figure out how to squeeze more hours into my days so I can get more done!

What goals did you accomplish last month?

Monday, February 06, 2017

Menu Plan February 5-11

Here we are again, with another menu post!  I hope you all had a great week.  Our menu last week turned out to be...just a suggestion.  I think we ate half of the things I thought we would, but that's ok.  We never ate the chicken skillet or the chicken garlic noodles.  We went out to Panda Express one night.  I know I made chicken strips and roasted potatoes one night.  I don't remember when we ate what, but we ate well!

Here's what's on the schedule for this week:

Sunday:  Beef and noodles with mushrooms (I used hamburger because that's what we had, and upped the mustard and horseradish.  Also I used this recipe for homemade egg noodles.  Delicious.  Definitely a keeper!

Monday:  Frozen chicken skillet meal

Tuesday:  Stir fried cabbage and pork

Wednesday:  Tamale pie casserole - using a recipe for tamale pie from an old community cookbook.  My family doesn't like the cornmeal topping (what's wrong with them?) so I'm going to mix cooked rice in instead. 

Thursday:  Sausage and farro (recipe from the back of the Trader Joe's farro bag).

Friday:  Garlic mushroom chicken (can't wait to try this one!)

Saturday:  Chicken garlic noodles (this one stays on the menu because every time I don't make it, my daughter asks when we're having it!). 

That's the plan, anyway.  Have a great week, everyone - and visit Menu Plan Monday for tons of great menu ideas!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Sauerkraut - Day 12

We have sauerkraut success!  I've got to admit, I fully expected my cabbage to turn into a slimy, disgusting mass on my counter over the last week and a half.  Instead, it held its shape, stayed crunchy, and tastes delicious!  We opened the jar yesterday and ate some off the top.  It wasn't very sour, but my daughter decided it was to her liking and asked me to put it in the fridge to stop the ferment.

Today, we ate some off the bottom of the jar.  Much more sour, but she still said she'd eat it (I'll eat it even if she won't!).  It's a little salty, probably because I didn't measure, but still good!

We'll definitely be doing this again, and we've decided to experiment with some other fermented foods.  This afternoon I'm starting a ginger bug, and next time we get a fresh bag of carrots we'll try some fermented carrot sticks.  We're having fun with it! 

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Not Quite Minestrone Soup

I made this soup for dinner the other night and everyone thought it was delicious.  I think my daughter (the zucchini hater) is even planning to take the leftovers in her thermos for lunch today. 

It's not quite minestrone, since I'm pretty sure minestrone is always vegetarian, and I put meat in it (my family requires meat in almost all things).  Not a lot of meat, though, just a little.

I started with this recipe and tweaked it to suit our tastes.

Easy Meaty Not Quite Minestrone Soup

2 links sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 small onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced (I didn't bother to peel them)
2 celery ribs, diced
2 T. minced garlic (or four cloves)
2 c. shredded zucchini
2 c. diced tomatoes (I actually used six whole frozen tomatoes, peels removed)
4 c. chicken broth
1 12-oz bag frozen spinach
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 T. dried Italian seasoning
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. dried orzo pasta
shredded parmesan cheese, for serving

In a six-quart pot, break up sausage.  Add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook five minutes over medium heat until sausage is cooked through and vegetables are soft.  Add remaining ingredients except orzo and parmesan.  Bring just to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.  Add orzo pasta and cook an additional 10-12 minutes or until pasta is cooked.  Serve topped with shredded parmesan cheese.

Makes six large servings,

Monday, January 30, 2017

Menu Plan January 29 - February 4

Once again, we basically stuck to the menu plan last week!  I'm always thrilled when I can say that. I did switch Thursday and Friday's menus, because my husband ended up taking broccoli beef for lunch on Thurday (he takes a frozen entree every day so that happens sometimes.  I also have an uncanny knack for planning the exact same thing my daughter has for hot lunch.  Because great minds think alike).

Saturday night my daughter and I had a Girl Scout activity that involved pizza, so we haven't had the garlic noodles yet.  Other than that, we were right on target.

And here, courtesy of my handy-dandy white board, is this week's menu!

Except I've already changed it up...we had macaroni and cheese for lunch yesterday so I made Wednesday's minestone instead of noodles for dinner.  Still has pasta but it wasn't a focus (and actually I might leave it out next time).

Sunday:  Minestrone and rolls

Monday:  Chicken skillet (the frozen kind that you just dump in the pan and add water)

Tuesday:  Meatloaf and potatoes

Wednesday:  Chicken garlic noodles

Thursday:  Tuna casserole (we're getting awfully pasta heavy this week - this may become creamed tuna on biscuits)

Friday:  My daughter and I will have dinner at church.  Hubby will fend for himself.

Saturday:  Chicken paprikash

That's the week's plan!  Visit Menu Plan Monday for more great ideas, and have a great week, everybody! 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why I'm Not Buying Books This Year

Since before I could read, I have been a lover of books.  I love to read them, I love to collect them.  I feel a great comfort in life, knowing they are there.  I suspect this has something to do with the fact that I am the daughter of two librarians.  Well, my mom didn't come to be a librarian until later in life, but she was an elementary school teacher before she was a librarian, and I grew up in a house that had wall to wall bookshelves in the living room.  And they were FULL.  As a young adult, I had wall to wall bookshelves in my spare room, also full.  I was surrounded by books. 

Now that I'm older, with a family and a fairly small house, my space for physical books has been greatly diminished (all I have left is the bookcase you see above, which has five narrow shelves, plus a few small piles here and there).  But that's ok, because I have almost completely made the shift to digital.  Back in the fall of 2009, I got my first iPod touch, and discovered the Kindle app.  Then I discovered the websites that notify you about the free Kindle books.  And I was hooked.  A year or two later I got an actual Kindle and I never looked back. 

Fast forward to today.  I still pick up a few physical books each time I work the library book sale (I serve on the Friends of the Library Board), but really I only read physical books when I'm camping.  There's something so relaxing about sitting by the river with a book and a cold drink, and I don't have to worry about getting sand in my Kindle.

A month or two ago, I was scrolling through my book list, and I took notice of how many unread books I have.  You guys, I have more than 2,600 books/short stories for my Kindle, and I've probably only read a few hundred of them!  Then I thought about how many unread books I paid actual money for - probably only a few hundred of those, and most of them only cost a few dollars each, but if I don't read them, that's money down the drain.  I still get tons of books for free - I get daily emails from Bookbub and pick up the ones that look interesting, plus I get a free book each month because I'm an Amazon Prime member.  And, I realized that most of the time now, I'm reading books I've downloaded from my fabulous library's Overdrive service, and not books I've purchased (free or otherwise) through Amazon. 

After thinking all that through, I made a decision - I'm not going to buy any new books this year (exceptions:  I'll need to buy whatever we're reading in Bible study, and I may pick up a souvenir book or two on my summer vacation, as that's the kind of souvenir I enjoy most. I'll also buy a few books as gifts for children), but other than that, I'm not paying money for books.  No new books, no used books, no e-books, no cookbooks (gasp! that idea just fully hit me).  I'm going to read what I have and try to catch up a little.

There will be times of temptation, for sure - Lisa See has a book coming out in March, but I've already recommended the e-book to my library which automatically put it on hold for me.  I'm sure they'll get it.  If not, it'll go on my Amazon wish list and I'll get it in 2018.  I'm hoping Kate Morton, my other favorite author, doesn't have one come out because two in one year might be too much temptation! 

So there it is.  My no-book-buying pledge. 

Have you stopped buying anything this year?  If so I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sauerkraut - Day One

Sauerkraut - Day One (someone really needs to clean that light switch!)

I love sauerkraut.  For the longest time, I was alone in my love of sauerkraut in my house.  My husband can't stand the stuff (other than dill pickles, he doesn't like anything pickled/fermented/vinegary).  A year or so ago, I introduced my daughter to it, and she LOVED it.  So I started buying the stuff in the natural foods section at my local grocery store, because it has more probiotics and, in my opinion, tastes better than the other kinds.  However, it costs about $6 a jar.  I'm always on the lookout for things I can make at home with fairly little effort.  I've been making yogurt for a while now, so I decided to step up my game and try my own sauerkraut.

I bought the kit from Cultures for Health during their big sale after Christmas, picked up some two-quart jars at our local agriculture supply store (they always have a great selection of canning supplies!), and this morning I finally got started. 

I didn't measure.  I probably should have measured.  But we'll see what happens.

It was really easy and took all of about 10 minutes.  I just sliced my cabbage, salted it (a few giant pinches for a whole head of cabbage), pounded the heck out of it for a few minutes, and put it in my jar.  I dropped in the glass weight (I have no idea how I'm getting that thing out of there without breaking my jar), put on the special top (it burps itself!), and now it's sitting on my counter, doing its thing.

In three weeks, if all goes well, we'll have sauerkraut!  I'll keep you posted...