Monday, February 28, 2011

Menu Recap

Last week's meals were as follows:

Monday Dinner: Chicken Cordon Bleu and Roasted Brussel Sprouts 
{Recipe adapted from Kevin and Amanda}

Tuesday Dinner: White Bean, Sausage and Spinach Stew 
{Recipe adapted from Real Simple's recipe for White Bean and Andouille Sausage with Collard Greens}
Wednesday Dinner: Chipotle Steak Fajitas
Thursday Dinner: Orange Shrimp with Rice and Black Beans 
{Recipe adapted from Apple A Day}
Friday Dinner: We ate a BuenaVistas with friends. I had a Shrimp Chimichanga and Daniel had Beef Enchiladas.

Saturday Lunch: Baked Grilled Cheese

Saturday Dinner: We hosted a pizza/game night.

Sunday Dinner: Visiting at my sister and brother-in-law's house. My BIL made baked chicken, mashed potatoes and salad.

 Sunday Dessert: My brother and I made Brownie Sundaes.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pizza and Games

When we have people over, I am most likely going to try out some new recipes and tonight was no exception. As the "social chair" of this household {Daniel's words} I had Daniel invite several of his co-workers over for a small dinner party. I thought homemade pizza and games would be a great way to end the week.

When planning the menu, I decided on spinach dip and bacon-wrapped jalapenos for appetizers.
 
Spinach Dip
Recipe from SkinnyTaste.com

Bacon-Wrapped Jalapenos
Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

Then I decided on BBQ Chicken, Supreme and Chicken Florentine pizza. All turned out great {even my store-bought crusts}. 

BBQ Chicken Pizza
Recipe from All Recipes 

 
Supreme Pizza
Recipe from All Recipes


 Chicken Flortentine Pizza
Recipe from Yummy Mummy


Finally there was the dessert: I tested a S'mores Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. These cookies were quite the mess to make, but tasted amazing. 

Gigantic S'mores Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe from Picky Palate

In addition, we had chocolate cupcakes with home-made butter cream {thanks Anna} and pretzel-rolo-pecan bites {thanks Laura}

After dinner we played Cranium and the boys beat the girls {barely}. Then the girls dominated at Catch Phrase. Finally we played partner Nerts until we were all silly from exhaustion. It was a fun night overall.

I am tired and still need to pack as I am headed to Searcy for the week on a girls road trip with my sister and niece to visit my parents.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Runner's High

I think I finally experienced my first runner's high. This afternoon, while our husband's worked on fixing their motorcycles, my running buddy and I decided to go try out the cross country course at the local high school. 

The course is made up of various trails allowing you to do up to 3 miles at once. We ran a portion of the trail counter clock-wise and then turned around and ran it in reverse. According to MapMyRun we managed to get in 3.58 miles

The trail is composed of several hills and decent scenery {in and out of the woods}. Towards the end I found myself slowing down on the hills and I kept thinking that I needed an AC/DC song to come on my iPod. Right before the last half mile, Back in Black came on and I found myself picking up the pace. I flew down the last hill and was almost sprinting. It didn't matter that I was dead tired. I felt strange, tired but also somewhat euphoric. I think Laura was surprised that I was picking up my pace, but she picked it up too. We finished, out of breath, but I felt great. I think I need to spend some time making a play list that makes me want to run {especially on the hills}.



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Post-Workout Smoothie


After a tough workout I need a snack. One snack that I love is a cup of chocolate milk and a banana. Recently I have been experimenting with smoothies – this helps me to get more fruits into my diet. This is my favorite so far:

Ingredients:
1 banana, sliced
3 fresh strawberries, sliced
1 handful of blueberries {I use fresh, but you could use frozen}
1 scoop fat-free frozen yogurt {I used the Homemade Vanilla flavor from Blue Bunny}
1/2 cup 1% milk
1 tsp orange juice
3 ice cubes

Directions:
Place everything in a blender and blend until smooth.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

52 Books: Book 11


Men and Dogs by Katie Crouch is the sad story of a brother {Palmer} and sister {Hannah} who lost their father to a boating accident when they were children. The story centers on Hannah and her inability {even as a grown up} to believe that her father actually died. The only proof of his demise was a fishing boat found at sea with the family dog.

As the story progresses, we learn that both Hannah and Palmer grow up to be very messed up in their relationships. Palmer believes that it is his fault his father left and subsequently died. Hannah believes that their dad just left. It is a sad coming-of-age story. They both finally learn some truths and to accept what they don't know. 

This was a book I picked up at the local library after searching for an hour for books I actually wanted to read. Unfortunately I live in a small town and the pickings are slim {and it cost $3 to request a book}. Anyways, while I thought the story was fairly well written, I didn't really care for it. This is the second fiction book that has been so-so for me... maybe I should stick to non fiction. If only our library had a better selection...

Excerpts from the book:
Memory is just a story, after all. With practice, one can adjust it. Shape the shadows and fill the empty space in your heart. 

Hannah hates lies. It's why she can't stand politics; empty words constantly depress her.

It's always easier to let things lie, to stay in the protected box. But why is that better? Look at my sister, he thought. She makes everything hard as hell, but at least she tries. And trying is something, isn't it? If you're trying, you're moving. You're not in your perfect house, festering, just waiting for something to change.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

52 Books: Book 10


My ninth book to read this year was A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I confess that this is the second time I have read this book {the first being several years ago when my husband and I read it aloud on a road trip}. I loved the book then and I still love it now.

I guess it is my personal desire to walk the Appalachian Trail that makes this book so endearing to me, but it is also Bryson's witty writing that I enjoy so much.

The book follows Bryson and his long-time friend, Katz, as they attempt to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. The book is quite comical and gives a great overview of what it is like to hike for days on end in the woods. Whether or not you love to hike, this is a book worth reading.

Excerpts from the book:
All 2,100 miles of the trail... are maintained by volunteers – indeed, the AT is said to be the largest volunteer-run undertaking on the planet. It remains gloriously free of commercialism.

Woods are not like other spaces... their trees surround you, loom over you, press in from all sides. Woods choke off views and leave you muddled and without bearings. They make you feel small and confused and vulnerable, like a small child, lost in a crowd of strange legs. Stand in a desert or prairie and you know are in a big space. Stand in a woods and you only sense it. They are a vast, featureless nowhere. And they are alive.

I was beginning to appreciate that the central feature of life on the Appalachian Trail is deprivation, that the whole point of the experience is to remove yourself so thoroughly from the conveniences of everyday life that the most ordinary things... fill you with wonder and gratitude.

I had come to realize that I didn't have any feelings towards the AT that weren't confused an contradictory. I was weary of the trails, but still strangely in its thrall; found the endless slog tedious but irresistible; grew tired of the boundless woods, but admired their boundlessness; enjoyed the escape from civilization and ached for its comforts. I wanted to quit and do this forever, sleep in a bed and in a tent, see what was over the next hill and never see a hill again...

I got a great deal... from the experience. I learned to pitch a tent and sleep beneath the stars. For a brief, proud period I was slender and fit. I gained a profound respect for wilderness and nature and the benign dark power of the woods. I understand now, in a way I never did before, the colossal scale of the woods. I found patience and fortitude that I didn't know I had. I discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists... 

We didn't walk 2,100 miles, it's true, but here's the thing: we tried. So Katz was right after all, and I don't care what anybody says. We hiked the Appalachian Trail. {The author and his hiking partner completer 870 of the 2,100 miles}

52 Books: Book 8, Part III

If you have been following along with the online book club, Book Beginnings and Bookends, this is the final set of questions/answers in regards to the book, Ape House.
 
Question/Answers for Chapters 25-Epilogue  
How would you describe the relationship between John and Isabel?
The first 12 chapters set us up to believe that John and Isabel would have some type of romantic connection. While I didn't want John to cheat, I found it odd that so much effort went into making us believe that a romance would happen.
What was your reaction to finding out Peter's role in the explosion and capture of the apes?
Peter was a creep. I am sure he had no intention of hurting Isabel, and that his decisions were based on greed, but he should have come clean to Isabel.
Both John and Amanda ended up achieving their professional goals. Amanda ended up getting pregnant and John is excited about having a baby. Do you think this is the end to their problems? Can John and Amanda be happy?
I think John and Amanda have a strong relationship. They endured a lot through the course of the book. The both seem to be in a good place – both individually and in their relationship.
What did you find to be the most intriguing about the bonobos?
I thought it was amazing that they could identify the intruders that bombed the research lab. I think that the book would have been more intriguing if there had been more time spent on the bonobos – like if there had been a trial and the bonobos took the stand.
Which character did you enjoy reading about the most? 
I thought Celia was an intriguing personality. I would have liked to learn more about her.
Was the ending what you expected? Did things resolve the way you thought they would?
To me, there was never any doubt that Isabel would get the bonobos back. I'm glad it ended the way it did.
And finally, any overall thoughts or feelings that these questions haven't addressed? How would you rate this book for others? Any part that you loved? Anything you hated? SHARE!
Honestly, I didn't really care for this book. There were so many random things going on. I think it would have made more sense if the author spent more time discussing the bonobos. Water for Elephants was a much more compelling story. I think Ape House would work as a 30-minute mystery drama on television, but as a book, I didn't think the writing cut it. 
I rated Ape House as a 2 out of 5 on Goodreads. Even though I didn't care for this book, I enjoyed reading other participant's thoughts on the book.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Menu Recap

Last week's meals were as follows:

Monday Dinner: For Valentines we went to BuenaVista were we shared fajitas {our fave}.

Tuesday Dinner: I spent the day running errands in Huntsville and was late getting home, so I picked up Papa John's pizza for dinner.

Wednesday Dinner: Layered Mexican Chicken Rice Bake {Recipe via Picky Palate}

Thursday Dinner: Salmon Tacos {Recipe adapted from Aggie's Kitchen}

Friday Lunch: French bread pizza with a side salad

Friday Dinner: For date night we went to Geno's pizza where we split a medium supreme pizza.

Saturday Lunch: We headed to the Sipsey Wilderness to for a quick overnight hiking trip. On the way there we grabbed Sonic for lunch.

Saturday Dinner: We split Backpacker's Pantry Wild West Chili. Unfortunately the packet had expired and our fuel ran out before the water got to a full boil so the chili did not fully hydrate. It was ok, but we have definitely had better.

Sunday Lunch: After coming out of the woods, we stopped at Longhorn Steakhouse in Huntsville. Daniel had a 6 oz steak, fries and a caesar salad. I had the chicken with portabello mushrooms, a sweet potato and a side salad.

Sunday Dinner: PB&J sandwiches.

Sipsey Wilderness Area


This weekend Daniel and I decided to go on a quick overnight backpacking trip. After researching various trails in Northern Alabama we decided on the Sipsey Wilderness in Bankhead National Forest.


Our route was an 11-mile circuit that started at the Randolph Trailhead. We took the Rippey Trail {201} down into the Sipsey Gorge where we camped. We then took the Sipsey River Trail {209} and then the Randolph Trail {202} back to our car.


Since moving to Alabama, we have found it intriguing that roads {and trails} are often numbered instead of named...


202 was a well-maintained trail. 209 included two river crossings and plenty of downed trees to climb over or under or around. As well as several small gully crossings. 202 included climbing back up the ridge and then following a logging road back to our car.


Our campsite was next to the river, right above an entrance to a cave. I was a little concerned that an animal might live in the cave and disturb us during the night, but thankfully that was not the case. The sky was clear so we opted to leave our tent fly off for the night. The stars were brilliant.


We made camp right at dark. While cooking dinner, Daniel discovered that our Backpackers Pantry Wild West Chili was expired and on top of that our fuel ran out just before our water got to a boil. Thus our dehydrated meal did not quite fully rehydrate. Further more, without fuel, we were unable to make hot chocolate that night nor cook breakfast in the morning {our custom is to make fried Spam for breakfast} – we had to resort to tuna and crackers for breakfast before hitting the trail.


It was a good thing we were only camping for one night because when we were packing up camp, one of the poles on our 8-year-old North Face tent snapped :(


Right off the bat we had a river crossing. Thankfully we were able to pick our way across rocks without getting our feet wet. The Sipsey River Trail was a nice stroll through the woods on a very sandy trail with occasional gully crossings.


When we reached river crossing #2, the water was deeper. We both carry Chaco sandals, but opted to keep our boots on. Unfortunately we both got our feet soaked on this crossing and had to hike for two hours with soggy feet. What we should have done was cross barefoot.


We made it back to our car at 1pm. Sophie immediately laid down in the shade of the car and Daniel and I took our boots off and changed clothes in the parking lot.


We celebrated coming off the trail by stopping at Longhorn Steakhouse for a late lunch.

Friday, February 18, 2011

G.E. Convection Toaster Oven: A Review

Earlier this week I mentioned that Daniel bought me a toaster oven for Valentines. This was not a completely true statement. He did go out and make an impulse purchase on a toaster oven {to replace our old one that caught on fire back in November} and he did happen to make the purchase on Valentine's weekend. However, it was not explicitly a Valentine's present. I just thought it was funny since you are not supposed to buy small appliances to show your love. 

We generally don't buy gifts for each other {for any occasion} so it was a very sweet gesture that he picked up something that I {we} needed for the kitchen.

The G.E. Convection Toaster Oven is larger than my old one. This is good because it holds larger dishes/more food, but bad because it eats counter space. The best thing about it is that the bottom doesn't drop out and spill crumbs like my old one did. It's great for making toast or smaller dishes or dinner for two that don't require cooking for very long. Overall I am glad to have a toaster oven again.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Invitation

 It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if
you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if
you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if 
you can see beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if 
you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if
you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quilting Material and a Confession


I have to take a moment to confess that I like to think I know everything. As in I am a complete know-it-all. This is a flaw and I am working on it. If I have ever offended you by acting like I knew better than you, all I can say is that I am sorry.

This flaw makes it difficult when I am venturing into unchartered territory. Like say, making a quilt for the first time. Going into a Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft store and looking at all the different options was daunting, but also exciting. It got my creative juices flowing. But having to walk up to the counter and ask someone to cut the material and have them in turn ask me what I am making, well, I felt like a deer caught in headlights.

I nonchalantly told them I was making a quilt. They wanted to know more. All of my terminology was wrong and I felt like a complete fool. What is worse is that the women working at Jo-Ann's are women that quilt. I should be asking them for advice, but all I can do is admit that I am a novice and pretend like I have my plan all figured out. Crazy, I know. I am TERRIBLE at asking for help {another one of my flaws}.

Anyways, all of that to say I finally decided on the basic pattern that I am going to use to make my quilt. I found the perfect inspiration here.


My quilt will be white with the paisley material {at the top of the post} as an accent. Hopefully my next quilting post will actually have the beginnings of squares cut out and ready to piece together.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Running

When I decided to start running longer distances {specifically training for my first half-marathon} I figured it would be a pretty straight-forward workout. I already owned shoes, socks, workout clothes and an ipod... what more could there be to it?

Well yesterday I ran 5 miles for the first time and I felt really good, however when I got home I realized that I had some pretty bad chafing on my inner thighs. I was not expecting to deal with the chafing and it definitely concerned me. 

This morning after kickboxing, I decided to talk to one of the girls who is a long-distance runner. She was so sweet. She told me to use Bodyglide Anti-Chafing Skin Protectant and she even had an extra in her car that she gave me {I am sooooo using it on tomorrow's run}. 
She also had advice on running with a visor and showed me her Garmin Forerunner that she uses to track her pace and distances.


Hopefully the BodyGlide will save me some pain. I am also considering getting some compression running shorts


When I started running back in December, I struggled to complete 3 miles in 45 minutes. I have managed to get my pace down to consistent 12-minute miles and was able to do my 5 mile run in 60 minutes yesterday. It feels good to push my body.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Menu Recap

Last week's meals were as follows:


Monday Dinner: Chicken Scallopine with Whole-Wheat Spaghetti, Sauteed Asparagus and a Side Salad {Recipe via Lauren's Kitchen}


Tuesday Dinner: Beef Stew {Recipe from Suzanne Somers's cookbook: Eat, Cheat and Melt the Fat Away}


Wednesday Dinner: Pan-Fried Tilapia with Baked Butternut Squash and a Side Salad

Thursday Dinner: We had a dentist appointment in Chattanooga and ended up eating a late lunch at Chick-fil-a and skipping dinner


Friday Dinner: BBQ Chicken Pizza {Recipe via All Recipes}


Saturday Breakfast: I made Daniel breakfast in bed – Strawberry-Stuffed French Toast {Recipe via Annie's Eats}


Saturday Dinner: Bacon and Spinach Quiche {Recipe via Food.com}


Sunday Lunch: We went to Sante Fe after church in Huntsville. Daniel had a steak and I tried the Fajita Quessadillas

Sunday Dinner: Leftovers

Greeting Cards: Valentine's

Happy V-Day!
 
*This is the second in my series of twelve "I Love You More" cards 
that I have designed and will be posting throughout the year.

© Cheree Moore 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

52 Books: Book 8, Part II

Below are my answers for Part II of the book Ape House, for the online book club Book Beginnings and BookEndings

This was a difficult section for me. I found the storyline of what was happening with the apes to be very disturbing. Also, the glimpse into the horrific practices of companies that were using apes for "scientific testing" made me want to put the book down for good, but I stuck it out.

Question/Answers for Chapters 13-25 
{I am used to reading one book per week, so I ended up finishing the book this week. I will keep my answers specific to this section as to not give anything away} 

Would you watch or be tempted to watch a show like Ape House?
I strongly dislike reality TV and avoid watching it at all costs. I find documentary-type shows to be interesting and informative. I might {initially} be tempted to watch a TV show about great apes, but in general I was turned off this type of a show.
Do you think John did the right thing by quitting his job and moving to L.A.?
Definitely. John hated his job and being so far from his wife was having an adverse affect on their marriage.
We haven't seen a whole lot of Isabel in this section, but what do you think of Peter now that we know more about him?
The more I read, the more I felt like Peter was a complete creep. Isabel was right to cut him out of her life.
Can John turn the ape story for the tabloid into something he is proud of? Is he getting a little bit of redemption by being assigned to his dream story again even if it is for a tabloid?
I don't know if a tabloid can be something he would be proud of, but redemption seems to be on the horizon.
Have your thoughts on John and Amanda's marriage changed since last week? Where do you see their marriage headed?
Their relationship is hard to gauge. They seem to fluctuate between seeming to be okay and seeming to be on the brink of disaster.
What do you think will end up happening to the apes?
Isabel has to get them back, any other ending would be disappointing.


Valentines

So I have this problem. About twice a year, I get annoyed with Daniel for not doing more romantic things. We aren't a lovey dovey couple {which is OK with me}, but every once in a while, I get it in my head that it is his fault that we are this way.

Anyways, I got to thinking that on romantic "days" like Valentines and Anniversaries, it generally falls on the guy to be romantic. He should bring me flowers and plan a night out because he is the guy, right?

Well, recently I decided that it was unfair to place that responsibility completely on him. We are a partnership and we both should bring a little romance to the table. For our 8th anniversary, he bought me flowers and I bought him chocolates. For Valentines, I got up on Saturday and made us breakfast in bed. It makes me feel good to actively do something instead of just getting mad at him for not meeting my unfair expectations.

I made Strawberry-Stuffed French Toast {recipe from Annie's Eats
with maple syrup and a side of fresh strawberries and a latte.

In case you're wondering... he bought me a toaster oven :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

52 Books: Book 9


This year I have every intention of growing a vegetable garden. Half of my grocery bill is from purchasing fresh produce and I currently have the time to devote to a garden.

To that end, I have been reading books about how to garden. I guess it is the intellectual in me... I want to know what I am getting into before I jump into it.

I just finished the book Gardening When It Counts by Steve Soloman. Soloman takes a slightly different approach to gardening that other books I have read. His focus is more on how to get the most out of your garden with less work. He takes inspiration from the early Native Americans and how they grew their gardens without the use of extensive irrigation that we have available to us today. He also goes into great detail about how to give your plants lots of room to grow and how to create your own fertilizers and compost. This is a book I plan to purchase and use as a resource when I actually begin my garden.

Excerpts from the book:
Gardening magazines, garden centers, and seed catalogs all promote the idea that their appealing merchandise is useful and essential – that you need it Actually, to veggie garden successfully you only need a few hand tools, used properly. I am going to educate you about this as your grandfather should have done. But almost none of us had a grandfather who new how to grow vegetables, who grew up on a farm, who sharpened shovels and hoes and worked the earth. If you'll allow it, I am going to be the gardening grandfather you never had.

The word "ethics" means doing what would probably result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people. the opposite of ethics is criminality which is getting something for yourself without giving back anything in exchange. {commenting on the ethics of seed companies}

Instead of planing a garden from which you'll harvest exactly what you want if everything goes well, plant twice as much as you would need, so that pests and diseases could wipe out a third of the garden without stopping you from giving away buckets of food.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Curtains

We have been working on little projects around the house. Today we hung curtains in our bedroom. We still need to find some artwork we both like and I would really like some reading chairs to go under the big window. For now we have decided to stick with our queen-size bed.

before

after

Among Trees

Last weekend was a long weekend (Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving) and I was determined that our family should do something together ou...