Friday, June 28, 2013

Fiesta Friday: A Foster-Parent Shower of Love

About 2 years ago, our friends the J's started the process to become foster parents. For miscellaneous reasons beyond their control, it wasn't until May that they were finally finished all the requirements and were approved for foster parenting!

They don't have their own kids, but Mrs. J has worked with kids before and had some kid stuff around the house. They also bought enough basics to get any kids by in the meantime (like, you know, BEDS), but they still needed a lot of basics that most parents accrue over time - and they kind of need it, you know, ASAP.

So, our mutual friend R and I decided to shower them with love! The J's are good people and they definitely deserve to experience a "baby" shower. The only catch is the youngest kiddos they'll be housing are 4-year-olds. So we called it a "Shower of Love"!
Mrs. J requested lime green and white for the colors, so we gave her lime green and white! ;D
R handled the invitations, food, and half of the decorations; I did the centerpieces, the banner, and figured out the games and prizes. We were able to use Mrs. J's church's reception room for free, which was nice, because we needed a BIG space - lots of people love the J's!

So the biggest problem was figuring out shower games for a non-traditional shower. I wanted it to center around welcoming the J's into parenting, and not so much around baby stuff because it doesn't relate to their journey. Brainstorming with my friend V, we came up with some modified versions of baby shower games.

  • The first game was a silly brain-teaser; it has clues that relate to different names of candy! The people who got the most answers correct got bags of candies that were in the game as their prize. Guests really seemed to like this game, it was challenging but not frustrating!
  • Another game we played was a modified baby shower game called "Guess the Price" - except instead of baby items, I picked parenting "essentials" like chewable vitamins, shampoo, swimming wings (or "floaties" as I grew up calling them), etc. This game was a lot harder than the baby version, apparently; the highest score was one person got 2 out of the 6 right. :/ I would modify it by offering multiple choice options, maybe, or picking different items.
  • Finally, we played a variation on "baby bingo", but I called it "The Joys of Parenting Bingo". I came up with a bunch of different parenting scenarios (good and bad), and called them out like bingo numbers! I asked the winners if they had any funny stories to share from their Bingo line, too; no one had any, except for Mrs. J's mom! THAT was funny, hahaha.

Speaking of the joys of parenting, we had a "wish vase" for guests to provide words of wisdom and encouragement to the new parents-to-be!

I'm proud of the prizes I came up with, too - "movie night in" baskets and a stationary basket! The stationary came from the Michael's dollar bins, and the "movie night in" are simply movie-theater-size boxes of candy, microwave popcorn, and some Redbox codes for free (to the victor) rentals!  

The "gift card" for the Redbox codes - I included all the legal info that was emailed to me when I bought the codes on the back, so those who won them knew what to do and had the links to more info.

R came up with a great idea for the centerpieces - kids toys! This way not only are they cute centerpieces but HEY MORE TOYS FOR THE J'S FUTURE FOSTER KIDS! Unfortunately, R is a real grown-up with a year-round job, so since I had the time I did the execution. I decided to theme each of them, and wrap them in gift-wrap ribbons and bows so they look like presents but are also totally obvious as to what they are. We had kid books, bubbles, water/beach toys, puzzles, games, art supplies (like coloring books and markers), and a teddy bear! The ribbons tied the gifts back to the color scheme.

1 example of the centerpieces - art supplies!

All the centerpieces! Art supplies, books, games, puzzles, bubbles, pool/beach stuff, and a teddy bear!

Finally, I made this pennant banner. AND I WILL NEVER DO IT AGAIN OMG. Yes, it turned out cute, but those rosettes behind the letters were the bane of my existence. Seriously, it will either have to be for The Hubs or our own future progeny to convince me to put myself through that again. I mean, the end product was cute, but SHEESH.

Yup, I made that. Next time I'm making it a month in advance or just paying someone else to do it.

Detail close-up!

We kept the food simple - cakes from Costco, lemonade, water, and fancy mixed nuts for snacking were on the tables (it was a mid-afternoon shower). Guests also got those pastel mints as party favors.

The basic table set-up

All in all, it was a successful shower and Mrs. J was so grateful - she thanked us (and the guests) repeatedly, and overall seemed to have a great time. The guests also told R and myself that they had a great time, too. All the thanks and compliments made all the stress worth it! (Seriously, if you describe yourself as etierh "a perfectionist" or "anxious", don't plan a party. SERIOUSLY. I'm lucky I'm still married because the night before I damn near went off the deep-end when I realized I screwed up the Bingo cards at 11:30pm.)

I only have my crappy phone pictures right now, but I'm hoping Mrs. J will share the good pictures her photographer friend took! I'll post the better pictures and downloads/instructions for the games next Friday hopefully.

I may have linked up at: 

By Stephanie Lynn

Skip To My Lou

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What I've Learned After 6 Years of Marriage

If you know who made this/said this, tell me!
I would never DARE to claim to be a marriage expert, nor a perfect wife. Far from, in both cases. Anything I've learned about marriage has been through observation, experience, and my own mistakes. I feel, though, that we have a successful marriage so far. The Hubs and I have been friends for 12 years, romantically involved for 10.5 years, and married for 6! This is what I've learned in that time, through our own missteps and watching other long-term couples. (The Hubs didn't contribute, but I might do a follow-up with his opinions added.)

  • Keep some mystery alive - in other words, pee with the door closed. I'm totally serious. IMHO, it kind of kills the sexy/romance if you've seen them do their "business". Grossness can't always be avoided (see: when one of you is sick and needs assistance), but avoiding it when you have the option makes the most sense to me.
  • Have fun with each other! Being playful and flirty is part of the fun of being in a relationship - marriage or long-term commitment doesn't have to kill that fun! Be careful though with teasing; I was raised where "teasing" was quite cruel even when it was funny. My mom pointed out how mean I was to The Hubs early in our relationship, and I had to work on taking the venom out of my jokes. He likes that I can sass back, though, so we found our happy medium and rarely do the jokes lead to hurt feelings.
  • Use your manners! I think when you live with someone full-time, you start to forget that they're someone who deserves basic human respect. It's not an intentional cruelty, it's just... well, you don't say "please" and "thank you" to yourself, right? So it kind of makes sense how one might stop doing it to their S.O. I don't think people realize how much it means to others when we show the basic human respect of saying "please" and "thank you". I mean, we say these things to the barista handing us our Starbucks, extend that same courtesy to your mate. 
  • It's the little things that matter! The Hubs is way better at this than I am, but I'm trying to match up. He always asks if I need anything when he's already up; I'm trying to return the favor (it doesn't come as naturally to me). One of us will ask the other if they need us to stop anywhere on our way home, e.g., The Hubs will pick up my prescriptions at Wal-Mart if I need them since it's on his way home from work. Those little moments add up and bring the happy feels up when you think of your mate. 
  • Make "Couple Time" a priority. I'm not saying co-dependency, I'm saying make little niches of time in your life to talk/spend time with each other. Sitting in the living room staring at the boob tube/playing on the computer doesn't count; I'm talking actual conversation. It doesn't have to be hours on end; 15-30 minutes of just catching up on your day is enough. Bonus points for cuddling or touching in some affectionate way during this time. We also "tuck into bed", which is where we cuddle in bed for a little while before one of us (or both) go to sleep. We used to do it every night, but over the years we've winnowed it down maybe 3 times a week. It really works for us, because it's just time for us to cuddle and talk/laugh/be silly. It doesn't usually even lead to sexy times, it's just something we do and it helps keep us connected. Do your own thang and be your own person, but be sure to share that awesome person with your partner at least a little bit somewhat frequently!
    The Hubs and I, seconds after we were made official - LOOK AT US WE WERE BABIES OH MY GOODNESS!
  • Sex is important. Talking about sex openly is equally important. I don't have kids, so I'm not EVEN gonna TRY to suggest how to incorporate sex into life with kids (Hell, I might be desperate for that advice myself once kiddos are in the picture!). My focus is more on talking about sex with your partner, and trying to find mutual comfort zones so your needs are met. Sexual intimacy adds a lot to a relationship, and when that area isn't healthy, it can negatively affect other parts of the relationship. I'm trying to keep this PG, so without going into personal experience, these are the three most important things I feel are important for keeping your "relations" mutually satisfying:
  1. Talk about what you want/want to try/don't want - but talk about it when you're not naked. Best time is when you're both relatively calm and nowhere NEAR anything sexual happening. It can be awkward, but it's important to do!
  2. Be ok when your partner says "No" - and exercise that right when you need to also. It's hard because sexual rejection is, well, rejection and no one likes rejection! However, sometimes it's just not good timing for sexy times, and as long as it's not EVERY TIME you or your partner tries to put on the moves, it doesn't mean your partner's not attracted to you (or you to him/her). (If it IS every time, see #1.)
  3. Sex is not dirty (unless you're doing it in mud)! It's one of the best parts of being coupled, IMHO - someone to have fun with in a very sexy way! Let go and have fun (once you've talked about what you're both comfortable with and what you want to try)! What you two do in the boudoir is YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS, and whatever you consider "normal" is normal; nothing is "weird" if you both like it!
  • WALK AWAY when anger starts to turn into a fight. I have a fiesty Latina temper, while it takes The Hubs more time to get going (but once he does, watch out). We're not the best at this because sometimes the anger hits so fast we don't have that moment to take a breath and walk away, but IF you can, step away. This does NOT mean ignore the problem; it means walk away until you can discuss the problem rationally. I have literally put myself in time-out when I know my anger is irrational/unfair/ridiculous until I can calm down and talk it out without lashing out. Also, suck it up and apologize when you're the a**hole - even if you're not the only a**hole. Once you're both calm enough to talk about it, apologize for your part. 
    • Also, side note: IMHO, it's not an apology if you add a "but" after it. Like, "I'm sorry what I said upset you, but you're constantly late." THAT'S NOT AN APOLOGY, that's another fight-starter. If you still can't talk without anger/hurt feelings, WALK AWAY. 
  • Find at least one thing your partner is passionate about that you don't mind participating in. Most likely, you both will have at least one passion in common; something had to draw you two together (aside from raw sexual magnetism, OBVIOUSLY). However, you are not going to like everything your partner loves, and vice versa. Expecting that of them is setting both of you up for frustration and disappointment. (This is something The Hubs and I learned the hard way, and lead to some very serious and scary talks, even.) So try to find something you can enjoy with your partner - you don't have to be at the same level of enthusiasm, but don't participate in a passion that you find utterly boring, either.
    For example, The Hubs' main hobby is sports: watching, listening to radio shows, and playing. We joke that I'm a "sports widow", but he HAS compromised a lot in regards to TV viewing and his obsessions so I don't feel that "widowed". ;D My compromise in this area is that I enjoy attending sporting events with him; I'm not AS excited about basketball and I hate football, so I'm not usually present for those, but I enjoy baseball games (go SF Giants!) and through The Hubs I have become a HUGE (for me) hockey fan (SHAAAAAAARKS!).
    For a long time, this effort on my part went without balance from The Hubs. While he loves all my creative pursuits, they just aren't his thing. When I met someone (non-romantic) who actually liked a lot of the same arty/nerdy things I liked, it was a wake-up call and led to those aforementioned serious/scary talks. This has to be a mutual thing; one person can't do this while the other doesn't extend the same courtesy. The Hubs has in recent years "returned the favor", so to speak, by accompanying me to theater performances, museums, and the like (and to be fair, I try to find things I think he'll like, such as "Avenue Q" and museum exhibits he'll also find semi-interesting). I know he's not having THE BEST TIME EVARS at these things, but I know he's not usually completely bored, either, and I try not to abuse the privilege; The Hubs extends the same courtesy. 
HOLY CRAP I have a lot of opinions on relationships. It feels to me like I'm bragging or trying to pretend my marriage is perfect; it's not meant to be bragging, because The Hubs and I are human and we are fallible and make mistakes. I simply feel that The Hubs and I have weathered a fair amount of storms, and while there are some areas that we could probably still use some professional help in improving, most days we are happy with each other even when our outside circumstances are rough. The stuff listed above is a huge contributing factor to this mutual happiness and love. If someone reads these thoughts and finds something useful, then hopefully this will lead them to strengthen their own relationships just a little bit more. :)

The Hubs and I at a friend's wedding last November, looking older and wiser (and sexier, let's be honest)

*The Hubs graciously let me post pictures of us; his main concern was, "You're not going to post pictures of us doing illegal stuff or anything, right?" Well, not NOW, fun-spoiler. 

I may have linked up at: 

By Stephanie Lynn

Skip To My Lou

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reasons Why I Suck at Blogging

  • I'm technically unemployed, and yet I still didn't manage to find the time/inspiration to come up with a decent blog post for today. 
  • I have a major post for Friday - and forgot to take pictures of something I really wanted to show off. It's far too late to do it now. *sigh*
  • I can't even come up with enough good reasons why I suck at blogging. So I'll just end with the someecard that I posted to The Hubs' facebook profile today to "celebrate" our 6-year wedding anniversary (Which is today!). I MIGHT (most likely will) have a post Wednesday talking about my own wedding/relationship advice, because it's the internet and everyone thinks their opinion is the right one - including me! (Don't worry, I'm not quite a smug married type.)
Happy Anniversary, The Hubs!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Foodie Friday: Taco Soup, version 1

One thing I've recently realized is that I love soup. Like, a LOT. Love, love looooove soup. Even in the summer, I still crave me a good ol' bowl of soup. I keep telling myself it's insane to want soup when I could probably cook it on the pavement, but I've never claimed to be sane.

I have two recipes that I alternately call "taco soup", although one is more like a chili and the other is an actual soup. We're going to talk about the soup one today!

Years ago, I found a soup recipe on SparkRecipes called "5 Ingredient Soup". It sounded tasty on its own, but I can never leave well enough alone (and I like meat). Oh, and I hate tomatoes unless they're beaten to a pulp first, so that HAD to change. So here's my 7-ingredient soup variation that I short-hand to "taco soup"!


  • 1 can refried beans (I use Fat Free Rosita brand - you can't even tell, I swear!)
  • 1 cup Chicken Broth
  • 1 can corn (I buy the small 8oz can that my local store sells)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can tomato sauce (8 oz is plenty)
  • either 1/2 lb. uncased Italian sausage or ground meat (turkey, chicken, beef - I usually use 2 turkey Italian sausages, removing the meat from the casings)
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • OPTIONAL: Sour cream, shredded cheese, tortilla chip "croutons"
  1. Brown the meat of your choosing. Drain the grease and set aside.
  2. Drain and rinse the black beans; drain the corn as well. 
  3. Combine everything except the hot sauce in a decent-sized saucepan. Cook over medium,  until the refried beans are "melted", so to speak! (Hint: It'd be easier to mix the broth with the tomato sauce and refried beans first, and let the broth help "melt" the beans a little first by stirring them, THEN add the beans, corn, and meat. Just an FYI!)
  4. As it nears completion, splash that hot sauce in! I love Trader Joe's hot pepper sauce - it's VERY spicy, so a few dashes will do ya; I'd say using the high-heat sauce I put in about a 1/2 tsp, and that was with tasting it every few splashes... but I like it spicy! It added a great "zing"!
  5. Serve it up as is, or add the mix-ins if desired!
I made it for a day-date with my friend V and goddaughter E; E is a little too young to taste it, but V really liked it! She kept the leftovers for her husband to try, and reported back that he really enjoyed it as well. It's so simple, fast, and DELISH. Enjoy!

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By Stephanie Lynn

Skip To My Lou

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tip, Tip, Tipping slowly...

So you might have read my post about working towards the tipping point (but if you didn't, I don't blame you, I'm sure my personal posts are dull to everyone but myself).

It's a very slow climb up that mountain, BUT I'm still feeling pretty good about it!

The little changes I'm making are alternating drinking water and diet soda. Diet soda is a hard mistress to break up with. She keeps luring me back with her icy dark bubbles of deliciousness. It's not even a physical addiction, I think, more of a habit and habits are hard to break. The alternating is working; I have the last cup's worth of diet soda in a 2-liter in the fridge, which I'm saving until tomorrow because I had soda at lunch and water tastes better to me. Once it's gone, I'm going to try a variation on how The Hubs quit smoking. He tried to go cold turkey, but he always kept an "emergency" cigarette with him; doing so made him REALLY question whether he wanted it or if he thought there might be a better time for it. I'll buy a can of diet soda, leave it in the fridge, and try to ignore it because it's my last one (hopefully).

I'm also trying to stop eating late at night, which is actually going decently well. I've had a couple of late-night binges, but, again, it's fighting through the addiction to the late night habit more than anything. Same with eating bad carbs versus good carbs; I bought mostly "good carbs", and I'm trying to sparingly eat the few bad ones I bought. For example, I bought breaded fish fillets for lunches this week, which are a little carb-y, but I make myself veggies to eat with them! So it's bad but not as bad.

Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. A little movement forward at a time is my method; continuing forward motion when I take a step or two backwards is my goal.

Pic from

Monday, June 17, 2013

5 Random Things: Guilty Pleasures

It's taken years, but I don't embarrass easily anymore. It's a habit I broke in middle school, and THANK GOD, because when I do get embarrassed it is traumatizing - I think embarrassment is equated with shame in my twisted brain. (Seriously, there are events from years ago where I was caught off-guard and it resulted in embarrassment, and they still haunt me to the point where my chest tightens upon recollection.) How did I stop getting so embarrassed? I trained myself to make my first reaction to be laughter. You can't get embarrassed when you laugh it off, or at least I can't. Once I learned to laugh it off and accept my dorkiness, it took (and still takes) a LOT to make me feel embarrassed.

That said, while I'm not embarrassed to like these things, they're not exactly things I share, either. ;)

  • I consider myself a bit of a movie connoisseur, and I do have degrees in English and Theatre Arts - both subjects that focus on analyzing art. I appreciate a high-art film as much as the next pretentious snob (which I can be sometimes). Yet one of my favorite movies is "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar". I also can watch "She-Devil" and "Troop Beverly Hills" on repeat. I am fully aware that they're terrible (and I know "To Wong Foo" gets SO MUCH wrong about drag queens and small town folk that it's embarrassing), but gosh darn it I just love 'em. 
    • Fun anecdote from an article I read in a movie magazine when "To Wong Foo" came out - it was a behind-the-scenes featurette talking about when they were filming the opening crowning ceremony. Apparently Wesley Snipes' little boy was on set, and Snipes challenged him to discern the real ladies from the fake ones - the article claimed the little boy got confused quickly. That always tickled me!
  • Some of my favorite shows are "Game of Thrones", "Mad Men", "Community", and "Parks and Recreation" - all well-reviewed, highly regarded series. My other favorite show?  "Bridezillas". I'm only slightly ashamed.
  • I can't drink them as often as I'd like because they send my sugars through the roof, but I loooove me some Mike's Hard Limeade - the Black Cherry Lemonade is also delicious, but Limeade is my favorite! I consider it a guilty pleasure because when it comes to alcohol, The Hubs and I have high-falutin' tastes (him in beer, me in wines and hard liquors).
  • Same for food - not that we eat lobster and caviar or anything, but we tend to eat grown-up food. Except for when I get a craving for cheese dogs wrapped in crescent rolls. Even better with some Kraft Mac n' Cheese (Spirals only - they taste better than the regular macaroni, and you cannot convince me otherwise). My poor grown-up tummy cannot handle either of these meals very well anymore, so they are infrequent indulgences, but they are an enjoyable guilty indulgence when I'm willing to chance it. 
  • I'm a picker. Scabs, zits, and anything that looks like it's where it shouldn't be. Mainly on myself... although I have to confess it took some tense sitting-on-hands to stop picking at The Hubs early in our relationship. I can proudly say that I haven't picked anything on him in YEARS. He's very grateful. :)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Foodie Friday: Buffalo Chicken Salad/Wrap

Before I share what I rustled up, I have a recipe to recommend! When Googling for an easy teriyaki salmon recipe, I found a GREAT recipe for it. It's from Tammy's Recipes, and it is in fact easy. I fortunately had all the marinade ingredients, so it was a cinch to throw it together and throw it in the fridge! I let it marinade for about 4 hours, and then baked it exactly according to instructions. I served it with brown rice and broccoli, and it was SO GOOD. So easy, so fast, and SO YUMMY. Just a warning: The teriyaki sauce is very, very salty, and the skinnier pieces of the filet will really absorb the sauce - and the salt. You can either try cutting the marinade with some water, or maybe let it marinade for less time. But seriously, give it a shot! So good!

All right, so Buffalo Chicken Salad/Wrap. I wouldn't dare to call this a recipe, just a suggestion of how to throw together various food stuffs for maximum deliciousness!

The basic ingredients:
  • Chicken strips or "Popcorn" chicken (I used popcorn chicken from Foster's Farms - in the freezer section)
  • Frank's Red Hot Buffalo sauce
  • Greens you like (I used butter, green leaf, and baby spinach)
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Blue Cheese or blue cheese dressing
    • if you don't like blue cheese, ranch would be tasty, too!
For the chicken, I baked it according to the instructions - I prefer not to fry, and baking works well for getting crispiness on the breading! Fill a resealable baggie with a good amount (about 2-3 tbsps) of the sauce; once the chicken is ready, toss it in the baggie and shake it around to get the chicken doused in the sauce!

For the salad, get all the greens you prefer, and prep the veggies. I like to either use pre-shredded carrots or I peel a carrot directly into the salad. I chop up the celery and cucumbers (I like to peel the cucumber and scoop out the seeds, the cut it in half-moon shapes), then I pour some of the dressing and mix it all up before I throw the sauced chicken on top. (If I'm using blue cheese in addition to the dressing, I'll throw the cheese in at this point too.)

The chicken goes on top, then I pour a leetle extra dressing on top of the chicken to help mellow out the heat of the buffalo sauce!

For the wrap, I do the same for the most part, except I cut the celery and cucumber into long strips instead of slices, and wrap the whole bunch in a flour tortilla. Yum!

If you're trying to make it healthy, you could do all the same things with boneless skinless chicken breasts (just maybe go a little lighter with the buffalo sauce, 'cuz the meat could absorb a LOT more sauce). If you like blue cheese, it'd be good to use the cheese itself instead of the dressing version. The cheese is very strong and flavorful which means you don't need a lot for a lot of flavor punch; I'd use the cheese and drizzle low-fat ranch instead to save some calories!

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By Stephanie Lynn

Skip To My Lou

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Working Towards the Tipping Point

I really feel I'm nearing a tipping point when it comes to my health practices, inasmuch that I feel the start towards making some changes where it comes to my health.

I'm noticing more and more that bad-for-me foods are becoming less and less appealing. Partly in taste, and partly in their residual effect on my body (i.e., I feel like crap after eating it).

I'm noticing how good real food tastes; fresh fruit is a revelation, and a cold fresh salad is highly enjoyable most days.

I'm noticing more that when I exercise in some moderation (as in, I actually break a sweat), I feel GREAT afterwards; I enjoy the muscle soreness because it feels like I actually DID something. Yet I never seem to remember this feeling enough to motivate me to work out for the sake of working out.

I'm somewhat unhappy with the fact that I've gained back some of the weight I'd lost when I took my health issues seriously; now I don't take care of myself and BAM, weight is back. I also know that I need to lose this weight to increase my chances of being given permission to "pull the goalie", and I also know that if we hit one into the goal, I will need to be VERY vigilant about what I eat and my exercise due to these health factors in order to keep the pregnancy... I've just been ignoring these things.

There are so many areas of my life that the perfectionist in me feels needs major overhauling, but there is a fair amount about myself that really isn't as bad as I make it out to be. Am I Martha Stewart? No, but let's be honest: Martha Stewart can only be "Martha Stewart" with a lot of outside help. Am I a perfect housewife? No, but I have improved by leaps and bounds in a lot of respects, and that is something to be proud of rather than bemoan that my house isn't spotless 24/7 - it is a lot less cluttered and a lot more organized, something The Hubs and I have worked very hard on as we've matured into adults. Am I a whole-food eating jock? Nope. Do I want to be? Not exactly - so why do I immediately strike myself down because I don't think I could eat nothing but fruits and vegetables and run 10 miles a day? I'm not Chris Traegar, and that's ok. I can be my own definition of healthy. What I'd really like to do is exercise at least 3 times a week, and cut out the crap. If I could eat good-for-me food that avoids processing and chemicals as much as possible, and resist the temptation of refined wheat and sugar, I feel like I would feel a lot better about myself. And if I really look around at what I have available to me to eat, it's really not that difficult. I just need to make it happen.

It takes three weeks to build a habit. Maybe I can start building little habits one at a time; small changes add up, right?

But I've had these thoughts before, and it's only ever worked out temporarily. What makes me think it'll be different this time?

Maybe it feels different this time because I'm tired of being the same. Maybe it's changing intrinsically. Maybe, just maybe, I'm starting that slow climb up the hill to the tipping point.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Morning "Date Night"!

So we live in Northern California. This past Saturday the estimated high in our area was 108 degrees Fahrenheit.


So The Hubs and I wanted to do something over the weekend, but the heat made it look unlikely as we are delicate flowers who wilt easily in the heat. Then The Hubs mentioned that he'd been wanting to try going to a local bakery that specializes in fancy donuts, and suggested that maybe we check out our local farmer's market on Saturday. So we decided it would be nice to combine the two, and to do it early in the morning so we can avoid most of the heat wave!

So the date was to check out the bakery, then take our wares to Starbucks to get some cold coffee drinks and eat our purchases. Finally, we'd head over to our local farmer's market and buy some of the local goods!

It ended up being a GREAT idea! We were home by 10 a.m., but we still felt like we'd gotten a lot done and we had a nice morning together!

Our mini-box of donuts and an ice-cold coffee w/ milk!

Yes, that's BACON on the donut!

Our Farmer's Market spoils! Organic tri-tip, organic smoked Jersey Jack cheese, Ranier cherries, and pretty flowers!
We came home and enjoyed the A/C. I ended up doing some cooking (I made Asian Peanut Noodle Salad for my gaming group that night) and playing on the internet while The Hubs re-watched episodes of "The Wire". We're very exciting young marrieds, as you can see. But we still feel like we had nice day out, despite the early hour.

Linked up at: 

By Stephanie Lynn

Skip To My Lou

Friday, June 7, 2013

Foodie Friday: Artichoke Couscous Salad

One of my favorite things to do is cook for other people. I don't much care for cooking for myself (although lately, with more free time, it has become a nice way to start my morning with a cooked breakfast or hot homemade lunch), but cooking for others is an unconscious way in which I show my love, I think. Nothing new, I'm sure. It's a common way to show affection through nurturing. 

I have been very fortunate in my time off to hang out more with my friend V and my goddaughter E, who is one of the cutest babies ever. (Oh my goodness, when I get her to smile it feels like winning the lottery.) Since I know V has to do all her household chores with E hanging off her hip, I figure the least I can do when I come over is bring some lunch with me! One less thing to worry about on her own. I like to bring one dish meals, less to carry and easy to scoop in a bowl and eat! So I made Artichoke Couscous Salad for one recent visit.

I originally found the recipe years ago on, but it's disappeared since, which drives me NUTS. I hate not citing source material! I can't find the original recipe, plus I modified it (like I usually do) even the first time I made it. So here's the recipe as I make it now, after several revamps:

  • 1 package Near East Toasted Pine Nut Couscous*, prepared according to directions but subbing chicken or vegetable broth for water
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, steamed (I used frozen) and chopped into bite-size pieces.
  • 1 lb. chicken breast or chicken thighs, grilled and chopped into 1" pieces - I like to use McCormick's GrillMates Roasted Garlic and Herb blend, I sprinkle it on both sides before throwing them on the grill
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts in water
  • 2 oz. crumbled feta cheese (or more!)
  • 1 lemon
*If you can't find the Near East stuff, or don't want processed stuff, I'd cook 1 cup couscous in 2 cups water or broth, then mix in about 1-2 cloves' worth of minced garlic and 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts when it's done (if raw garlic's not your thing, I'd throw in the minced garlic as the couscous is cooking instead). 

  1. First things first, do all the prep: Cook the couscous, grill and chop the chicken (I use my handy-dandy Foreman), and steam that broccoli! 
  2. Let the couscous, chicken, and broccoli cool; this is optional, but I like the salad cold OR warm. If you mix in the cheese while the couscous is hot, though, it'll get melty! (This is a good dish to make the hot stuff the night before, and let it chill in the fridge, then throw together in the morning.)
  3. Drain the artichoke hearts; I take the time to sort out the leaves that are still tough, and sometimes I get so particular that I take off the leaves and only put in the hearts. I loooove me some artichoke hearts. 
  4. Once the hot ingredients are cold, mix all the ingredients together!
  5. Oh yeah, that lemon: Cut it in half, and squeeze out that juice from at least one half. Mix it in, sample, and if you're happy with it stop. If you think it needs more lemony goodness, use that other half! I like a lot of lemon, so I tend to use a lot. It's a matter of taste, but I highly recommend the acidity that the lemon adds.
It's really easy, really tasty, and really filling (thanks to the chicken and broccoli)! Plus couscous makes a ton, so it's a good dish to make for sharing. Enjoy!

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By Stephanie Lynn

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Apps I love: Organization Help

So while I'm not the cleanest housewife in the world, or the least cluttered (I'm not at "Hoarders" level yet, but I really need a bigger house first to reach that level), but I'm actually pretty good at organizing. I LIKE organizing. I can organize the crap out of stuff. It's the execution that isn't always so hot. ;D

That said, as I'm addicted to my iPhone (It's so vintage - it's a 3GS!), I have found a few apps that I really like and which help me organize myself quite nicely.

Cozi (Free and Paid app - I use the free version) - Cozi is pretty awesome because it can be shared amongst your family members. You all download the app, then log in and add information as it's needed. It has a calendar, shopping lists, and to-do lists you can use. The Hubs and I use the lists features the most, esp. for grocery shopping. This way he can add stuff to it as he thinks about it, and all I have to do is check it when I'm connected to our WiFi before I go grocery shopping. VERY Convenient that way. It's really easy to figure out and use, which is also nice for those who aren't tech-savvy.

The Main Menu

One of the shopping lists - you can make separate Header titles by adding a new item in ALL CAPS - it defaults to a new header automatically
The To-Do Lists menu (and yes, I have one just for the blog - it's a good way to jot down ideas for later posts when I'm away from home)
I swear I didn't add that to his list. ;D
 Any.Do (Free) - It's to-do lists made fun! SERIOUSLY. I know that sounds cheesy, but makes it kind of fun to make your list and update it. It's sole purpose is to plan your day/week/etc. Yes, iPhones come with a calendar and reminders, but this one's more flashy and fun, AND it's easier to re-arrange your tasks than in either of the standard iPhone apps I mentioned IMHO. What makes it so fun? It's cute and encouraging! Look at the screenshots I took with all their encouragement:

It compliments you when you cross multiple things off your to-do list!

This is the screen after you plan your day with the Any.Do Moment feature. How fun!
Plus its simple design is clean and pretty. To move tasks from today to tomorrow or "Upcoming" (it'll prompt you to pick when "upcoming" is), all you have to do is hover your finger on the words of the task, and it'll let you move it easily! I like how changing my list is LITERALLY at my fingertips. (Don't worry, there's a quick little tutorial the first time you use the app, it's super-easy and the visuals explain it better than I could.)

This is how it looks when you're editing it - the Red bell is your alert, the Post-It with the blue 1 is for additional notes

When you tilt the phone to the side, this it what it changes to!

iPhone Calendar - I know I just said I prefer for what I need to get done, and I do, but the standard Calendar has its uses as well, like the alerts you can set to remind you in events. I keep two calendars on there - my personal appointments and my meal plans (when I need to meal plan - I'm not as thorough a meal planner when I'm off work for vacations). It actually works pretty awesome - when I was working at a summer camp, it came in handy to link my Google calendar that helped me keep track of all the different days and my schedule for those days; I put it all in the Google calendar, then synced it with my phone using these instructions. It was the only way to do it and keep my meal planning calendar also. Plus I sometimes find it faster to update my meal planning calendar on my phone than on the computer - Google Calendars can be kind of a finicky jerk sometimes. Heh.

Hope you find these apps helpful, too! (By the way, I get no money for this. I just like sharing stuff that works for me because if it works for me, it might work for someone else.)

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By Stephanie Lynn


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