I miss blogging…

I know I said it before, back in May, when life began to get a bit more hectic – but I didn’t mean to just drop the blog.  But here it is – SEPTEMBER! – and I haven’t posted anything since then.  I miss it.  I never thought I’d be one to want to share my life on the world wide web, but I enjoy this as a creative outlet…as well as a way to keep myself organized.

So here’s what I’ve been up to over the summer, a check-in on my New Year’s resolutions, and a project list update:

My summer was nothing out of the ordinary.  Our house guests stayed with us for three weeks while they got everything worked out with their renters insurance and found a new place to live.  In between work deadlines for both of us, my husband and I took a couple of vacations to visit family and a camping trip or two.  We celebrated our one-year anniversary in July.  There was no studying for exams involved because I passed my last section of the Architect Registration Exam in June.  New Year’s Resolution #1 COMPLETE!  As for resolutions #2 (house-keeping) and #3 (cooking) – I go back and forth between on-it and not on-it.  I would say overall, the house stays company-ready, and I do cook most nights – which was really all I was trying to accomplish with those resolutions anyway.  I have fallen off the Slow Cooker Challenge wagon, but may revive that soon.  I do have on of my stand-by’s, chicken for tacos tonight, already in the slow-cooker as I type this.

As for my  project list, I have updates and more to add.  #3 – Organize the shed – DONE.  It’s not as scary anymore since it’s not crammed full of who-knows-what, and I have a happy husband because his lawn equipment and tools are easily accessible.  As for #2 – Renovate the home office/gym – it’s so close to complete I can taste it.  All that is left to complete is the baseboards and the millwork (which we are meeting with a cabinet maker soon).  #1 – Create a Filing System – DONE – at least temporarily.  I have created a temporary system until we get the filing cabinets in the office for the permanent solution, but all I will have to do is move everything over.  I don’t want to talk about #4 right now…but I still need to focus on that.

Office Renovation Progress; desk, shelves, cabinets, and a wardobe still to come.

Office Renovation Progress; desk, shelves, cabinets, and a wardrobe still to come.

New additions to the project list:

#5:  Renovate the pantry.  To make a long story short, this has to be done because we bought a new frontloading washer and dryer that was on super-sale over Labor Day weekend.  Our small pantry also serves as the laundry closet, so this new set, which is stackable, will save space.  We have several things we need to do to the pantry before we can install the washer and dryer, so we are on that right now, trying to get that completed my mid-October.

#6:  Blog regularly.  I have come across tons of things I want to share recently, so this might as well add this to the list!

That’s it for now; it’s good to be back.  I can’t wait to get back to sharing more recipes and household tips!

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That Time We Helped a Couple in Need

Last year, our church small group read Francis Chan’s Crazy Love.  The book itself is challenging in so many ways – calling Christians to examine their lives; I remember being overwhelmed while reading it, wanting to turn our life upside down but not knowing how…and quite honestly, being scared to do-so.

In the book, Chan mentions that while he and his family live in a modest house, they realize how abundantly blessed they are, and open their home to those in need.  They will have as many as seven houseguests at any given time – and they do this solely out of God’s love, which calls us to love others.

I remember reading that and thinking, “I don’t think I could ever do that – for more reasons than the fact that I’m not the best housekeeper”.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always loved to help others – but it’s always been on a surface level.  I love buying gifts for children on the Angel Tree every year, donating items and money for causes that tug at my heart, and giving some of my (precious) time volunteering for the greater good.  But my personal space?

Well guess what?  My husband and I offered to share our house to some friends in need.  They are staying with us for an undermined amount of time, and my heart could not be more full.  These friends lived in an apartment building nearby that caught on fire two nights ago.  The entire top story of the building is gone.  They haven’t been allowed in to their unit to see if anything is recoverable – and they don’t know that they will be able to.  They left the building in the middle of the night with not much more than their cat, thinking that it was another false alarm…until they watched the roof burst into flames.

There was not an ounce of me that didn’t want to immediately do anything I could for them.  There was no hesitation when my husband told me he had offered our guest bedroom to them – only a growing love for the man with a good heart that I married 9 month ago.  And as if all by plan, I had cleared out and cleaned up the guest bedroom two weeks ago, as it had become the junk room while we renovate the home office.  It was just waiting to be used.

The couple and kitty are settled in and doing okay.  Overwhelmed but okay.

So here we are, busy as always…but we are so blessed.

I’m still here…somewhere…

It’s amazing how fast time passes when you’re busy. I’ve always said I’d rather be busy at work than slow – because I hate trying to find some way to keep myself busy.  But whoa!  Work – and life – got hectic for a little while.  I didn’t mean to just drop the blog…but it happened.  I’ll be back soon…bear with me while I try to finish a few things up…

Rambling about the New York Marathon

Warning:  This is completely off the usual topics of this blog...

Found from Google

Found from Google

Sometimes I wish I had a magic button to push to make the right decisions for me.  This would come in handy when I want to watch TV rather than put away laundry or when I want to eat popcorn for dinner instead of cooking (they both happen).  In truth, those are easy decision – where the “right” choice is clear, even if I don’t want to do it.  Not everything I need this magic button for is so clear though   Today’s conundrum:  Do I run the ING New York Marathon this year?

Four years ago, when I LOVED to run, I read a book about the New York Marathon, A Race Like No Other.  It was truly inspiring – and it made me want to run the NY Marathon.  I could say that then, because as I said, I loved running, seemed to have all the time in the world to myself, and I had not yet run a marathon nor gained 30 pounds.

Paula Radcliffe = awesome.  Image from Google.

Paula Radcliffe = awesome. Image from Google.

I entered the lottery to get in that year, along with a running buddy I convinced to sign up, and of course what I had guessed happened:  he was selected; I was denied.  The Marathon has a system in place that if you’re denied from the lottery three years in a row, you have guaranteed entry the fourth year.  Though I was a little jealous my friend got in, I just kept telling myself “2013 will be my year”.  I entered the lottery the next two years, and was denied, so as of last April, I’ve been sitting on a guaranteed entry into 2013.

Then a few things happened in 2012:  I got married, which means I no longer have all the time in the world to myself; I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, after which I decided I never wanted to run one again; and Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New York City – causing them to cancel the Marathon last minute.

Since then, I have not known if they would still guarantee entry to those who had been denied three years, as the NYRRs were trying to find resolutions for the runners of 2012.  Then today, just 10 minutes ago, I received an email saying I still have guaranteed entry.

Part of me hoped that they would not guarantee entry.  I would have been furious, but I would not have to debate if I should run it or not.  Running the MCM hurt, but more than that, training took up every spare moment I had – and I didn’t have any.  That meant I had to put other things on hold – like studying for my remaining ARE exams.  I still don’t have the time to spare for training.  And then there’s the money issue:  $250 entry fee, $450 for a plane ticket, and who knows how much for a hotel room and food.  And that doesn’t even touch on the moral dilemma.

So in truth, maybe there is a clear “right” decision:  90% of me says “Save your money and time and don’t do it!”.  But then the 10% I’m attributing to my Type A personality says “You’ll never have another chance! (since they’re doing away with the denied 3 times rule)  You wanted this!”.   I’m sure the husband will weigh-in his thoughts – and I have as late as May 24 to decide….but for a while, I can tell this is going to be on my mind.

Anyone want to make this decision for me?

Mushroom Stuffed Turkey Breast Recipe

This recipe is from the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook, 2007.  It’s one of my favorites, but takes so long to cook that I don’t make it very often.  In fact, I hadn’t made it in years until I decided to Sunday for dinner.

Picture from The Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook, 2007.

Picture from The Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook, 2007.

While mine never comes out as beautiful as the picture in the book, it does look lovely enough to present for entertaining.

Mushroom Stuffed Turkey Breast

2 Tbsp Butter

2 Onions, chopped

2 C sliced Mushrooms

2 Carrots, shredded

10 oz frozen Spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

2 Tbsp chopped fresh Parsley

1 Tbsp grated Parmesan Cheese

1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Basil (or ½ tsp dried)

1 slice bread, finely chopped

1 cup Chicken Stock

1Tbsp grated Lemon Zest

1 (3 lb) skinless boneless Turkey Breast

My notes:  I use fresh spinach, and I do not add the slice of bread.  I also can never find one turkey breast that is 3 pounds, so I usually buy two and make this into two rolls.

Directions:

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.

Sauté the onions 4 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and carrots; sauté until the vegetables are tender- 4-5 minutes.

Stir in the spinach, parsley, cheese, and basil; cook until spinach is wilted (if using fresh spinach; about 2 minutes if using frozen).

Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest, 2 Tbsp stock, and bread (if desired).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Spray a 9×13” baking dish with nonstick spray.

Place the turkey breast between two sheets of plastic wrap; with a meat mallet, pound turkey breast to even thickness.

Remove and discard plastic wrap.

Spread the spinach-mushroom mixture onto the flattened turkey breast, leaving a 2” border on all sides.

Starting with the short side, roll up the turkey breast and tie at 2” intervals with kitchen string.

Place the roll in the baking dish, seam side down.

Pour remaining chicken broth over turkey and loosely cover with foil.

Bake, basting frequently, until turkey reaches 180 degrees F (about 1 – 1.5 hours).

Transfer turkey to cutting board; let stand 10 minutes then remove string and carve into 12 slices.

Pairs well with roasted chestnuts, pearl onions, and Brussels sprouts.

More notes:  Usually takes 1.5 hours.  I pounded my turkey breast a little thin Sunday though and it did only take 1.

Current Thoughts on Menu Planning

Menu planning is one of those things that I have a love/hate relationship with right now.  The organization junkie inside of me loves making a list of meals for the week ahead, developing a grocery list from that, and knowing what I’m going to cook when I come home from work every day.  It helps keeps us on budget – our goal being to spend no more than $100 a week on groceries. Having a plan for the week and for grocery shopping is a necessity to stay within that; you can’t just walk around the store, randomly tossing items into the cart.

 

In the 5 ½ months that we’ve been married (plus probably a year before when I started trying this), I feel like I’ve developed a knack for menu planning.  No more nights of staring down the pantry, wondering what I could make from what’s inside, ultimately deciding to order Chinese food.

 

But like I said, it’s a love/hate relationship – and the hate comes from the fact that it has gotten complex.  The planning was relatively easy until last December; I would just pick things that I knew how to make, ask the husband for requests, maybe add a new recipe in once and a while, and make sure there was enough variety so that we didn’t eat the same meals week after week.  Then, at the start of December, we decided to try The Zone Diet (which you can read about that on the blog I started to keep up with that, though since we derailed, I haven’t kept up with it).   We keep it up for three weeks, were derailed by the holidays and life, but we are planning to get back on track Saturday (and I plan to keep up with that on the other blog again – two blogs? This could get crazy!).

 

So today, I started planning for next week.  Planning has become like another job.  If I didn’t work, I think I’d spend all day researching recipes and planning…but I do work, and I don’t have time for that.  It’s complex because you have to learn to speak the Zone’s “block” language (blocks are how to measure food); either convert current recipes you use to blocks and find balance or look for new recipes that are already block friendly; and then you have to make sure the proportions are correct – for two people who get very different portions.  I rant more about that here, so I’ll spare you and say the moral of the story:  I can understand why people don’t stick with diets – they’re too complex!

 

I’ll be glad when Zone menu planning is as easy as menu planning was before, but until then, it’s staying in that love/hate category.