Monday, May 23, 2016

Menu plan for the week of May 23

AKD got his watch back the other day.  Actually, they decided to send him a new one.  That was nice of them, wasn't it?  They did not, however, send our rocks back.  Not to worry--my sis sent me some.  So we're all good.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:
  • BLTs, sugar snap peas, applesauce
  • Kielbasa & cauliflower stir fry, salad, carrots
  • Chicken tacos, fresh salsa, guacamole
  • Hot dogs or brats with buns, grilled broccoli
  • Chicken skewers, salad
  • Hobo pies
  • Grilled ham and/or cheese sandwiches
Can you tell we're entering the home stretch here?  Nine more days of school.  Minimal effort, y'all.  Minimal effort.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup: a review


Ruth Soukup's new book, Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind & Soul, is not a typical decluttering book.  In it, the author talks about decluttering our spaces, yes, but she also talks about decluttering our minds and our souls as well.  I have long been aware of the connection between my environment and my mind.  If my environment is chaotic, so are my thoughts.  It stands to reason that it does no good to take care of decluttering my physical space, without addressing the mental and soul clutter as well.  If I don't address the inner issues, the outer clutter manifestation will creep back in.

The book is divided into three sections: home, mind, and soul, and each section is further divided into three chapters with themes such as creating a vision for your home, storage, kids, schedule, other people's stuff, cultivating real relationships, and finding balance in a chaotic world.  Ms. Soukup uses a mixture of personal stories and practical advice to inspire her readers to make lasting meaningful changes in their lives.

I really liked this book, and found it incredibly inspiring.  That's noteworthy, because often books about decluttering or cleaning leave me feeling discouraged and defeated.  It's a quick and easy read, and contains practical, doable suggestions for unstuffing your life.

For a small taste of what the book is about, enroll in the free Unstuffed 10 day challenge.
Ruth Soukup blogs at Living Well Spending Less.

I received this book for free from the publisher through Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Because we can

Whenever I go with my kiddos to someplace with an elevator, someplace where we need to go to the second or third floor--the library and our church come to mind--my younger kiddos will always beg, "can we take the elevator?"  I always tell them no, and when they ask me why, I tell them that we should take the stairs because we can.  They don't get it, but maybe someday they will.  In my head, I am thinking that the elevator should be reserved for people who need it.  Mamas with strollers, or folks in wheelchairs or with walkers, which is true, although I don't think those folks would mind waiting a minute or two for us to finish our ride, especially at those particular places.  But we don't need to use the elevator, so we don't.

{Source}

The other day, my trainer put a different spin on my elevator schtick when she challenged us to work out because we can, in honor of someone who can't.  She said it's likely that all of us has someone in our lives who would love to be able to do burpees or run sprints or do squats, but for whatever reason, they can't.

Do you have someone like that?  I do.  And it just tears me up that he is no longer able to do what I can do, what he used to be able to do--it's devastating.  I spent that entire third circuit with tears in my eyes, because I am heart-broken for him...and thankful for myself.

I don't love burpees.  I don't love sprints.  I don't love squats.  I don't love them because those things are hard.  I don't love them, but I will continue doing them just as long as I can.  Because I can.  None of us knows what the future holds for us, but for now, I will, because I can, in honor of those who can't.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Menu plan for the week of May 16

It's my Mama's birthday today.  And my nephew's birthday.  Happy birthday, GrandMary and BL!  We are not having birthday cake in their honor, but here's what we are having.

Three more weeks of school, by the way...

Supper:


Marinated Beef Kabobs found on KalynsKitchen.com
{Source}
Other:

Friday, May 13, 2016

A giggle for you on a rainy Friday

(at least it's not Monday, amIright?)

This used to annoy me, but now it just makes me shake my head.  Here's a screen shot of one of my mystery shops.


Did you catch it?  Probably not.  It's awfully small.



Still too small?  How's this?



Yup.  There are 21 questions in this survey, and I completed 23.  I am an overachiever.  I excel at answering survey questions.  They should give me a bonus because I am so good at this.

However, even though I answered more questions than the survey even contains, I still missed one.  A required one.
 

Not quite sure how that's even possible.

Then again, I am pretty talented.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Spreading cheer

Y'all know I'm a mystery shopper--that means I go into businesses anonymously and evaluate customer service and adherence to policies.  My very favorite assignment is shipping shops.  I actually get paid, on top of being reimbursed for my out of pocket shipping cost, to ship packages.  So. Much. Fun.

One of the requirements for these shops is that the box needs to weigh a certain amount.  This has led to me shipping some pretty random things, just to get up to the weight I need.  I sent a box of baking soda to my mama one time.  And my sis is used to me telling her she can recycle or give away or whatever she wants to do with the stuff I send her.  Her kids, by the way, are convinced that Aunt Scarlet gives the best gifts.  I guess they enjoy random?

AKD bought himself a GPS watch not too long ago, and it decided to stop connecting to satellites.  Since connecting to satellites is kind of important to the GPS function, that's kind of a problem.  The watch is under warrenty, so he contacted the company to ask what he should do.  They told him to ship the watch back and they would either fix it or send him a new one.

Meanwhile, I was assigned a couple of these shipping shop assignments, and decided, rather than paying to ship that watch back, I'd like to be paid.

So yesterday, AKD printed out the required paperwork, while I found a box and started adjusting the weight.  I was going to send them baking soda, but AKD thought that would be too weird, so we settled on rocks.  Four rocks in a ziplock bag.  Perfect.  Yeah, because baking soda is weird.

Next I needed packing material, but somehow, we didn't have any newsprint in the house.  I really don't know how this can be, since I'm saving it to suppress weeds in my garden.  So looking around for expendable paper, I decided to use the last of the homemade Christmas wrapping paper that Bubby and I painted in December.


So the watch and rocks were packed securely.  Now all we needed was packaging tape.  Except we ran out of packaging tape...oh, four months ago...and I haven't gotten around to buying any more.  What we do have is snowflake tape.


Oh yes, we do.  And oh yes, I did.

As we stood in the kitchen, taping up the package and addressing it, AKD started to giggle.  Imagine, if you will, a box, sent to a business's customer service department.  A box wrapped in snowflake tape.  A box containing, not just the merchandise to be fixed or replaced, but also hand painted Christmas wrapping paper...and four rocks.  

We're gonna make somebody's day, he said.  I can guarantee you, they have never received a box sealed with snowflake tape...with rocks in it.

I'm pretty sure he's right.  This is the stuff of legend right here.  This box is going to be talked about in the breakroom for ages.

We are absolutely doing a good deed today.  That's us, spreading cheer, one malfunctioning watch at a time.  You're welcome, world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Fold: a Novel, a review


Step into the fold.  It's perfectly safe.  

From the back cover:

The folks in Mike Erickson's small New England town would say he's just your average, ordinary guy.  And that's exactly how he likes it.  Sure, the life he's chosen isn't much of a challenge to someone with his unique gifts, but he's content with his quiet and peaceful existence.

That is, until an old friend presents him with an irresistible mystery, one that he is uniquely qualified to solve: a team of DARPA scientists has invented a device that "folds" dimensions, promising to make mankind's dreams of teleportation a reality.  Yet evidence is mounting that this miraculous machine isn't quite what it seems--and that its creators are harboring a dangerous secret.

As his investigations draw him deeper into the puzzle, Mike begins to fear there's only one answer that makes sense.  And if he's right, it may only be a matter of time before the project destroys...everything.

The Fold: A Novel by Peter Clines is not the kind of book I usually read, but I was hooked from the start--I found it hard to put down, and finished it within a couple of days.  The characters were unique and believable, and the writing was compelling.  Mr. Clines masterfully drew me in to his world.  I enjoyed the concept of the ending, the idea of what was really happening with the fold, but found the final reveal a bit tedious--I feel like it could have ended a little sooner.

Bottom line: while I don't usually enjoy science fiction, I found this novel interesting and compelling.  And there's no way I'm going in the Fold.  :)

I received this book for free from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.


Jesus Today: Devotions for Kids by Sarah Young, a review


Jesus Today: Devotions for Kids by Sarah Young, adapted by Tama Fortner, is a devotional book for kids adapted from the ECPA 2013 Christian Book of the Year winner Jesus Today.  The book includes 150 short, one-page devotions, accompanied by 2-4 related scriptures written out on the facing page.  Interspersed throughout are two page spreads with an inspiring quote and an additional Bible reference.  The book also includes a scripture index.  

The problem I have always had with this book, and others by Sarah Young, is that the devotions are written in the first person, as if Jesus was speaking.  It seems a bit presumptuous of Ms. Young to speak for Jesus--if I want to know what Jesus has to say, I can read the Bible.  Ms. Young does a terrific job, though, of basing her words on scripture.  She lifts words straight from the accompanying Bible verses, and those words are italicized in the devotional reading so the reader knows they are scriptural.

I love the messages in the pages of this book.  As I mentioned, everything is based in scripture, and I have found tremendous hope and reassurance.  The devotions are written in language that young children can easily understand, with themes appropriate for children, and the short, two-page per devotion format is perfect for kiddos who are about 8-12 years old.

The main problem I still have with this book, though, is it feels terribly awkward to read these out loud, and reading out loud is how my family does devotions--none of my kiddos reads devotions on their own.  If they did, this book would be a terrific option for them.  It feels a bit blasphemous for me to be reading, out loud, something like, "I watch over and protect everyone who loves Me.  Let this promise of mine comfort you.  This promise is for you because you love Me."  As if it's actually me, and not Jesus.  I've adapted by replacing I and Me with Jesus when I read out loud, but that has been cumbersome.

Bottom line: this scripturally based devotional can be a great resource for families, if you can get over the first person writing perspective.

I received this book for free from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Menu plan for the week of May 9

Hey y'all.  Did you have a nice Mama's day yesterday?  In the Bluefield household, we celebrated by the kids hanging on me, patting and poking me, and touching my face incessantly.  There was also a fair amount of whining and complaining.  So, it was pretty much like any other day.  I was talking to my Mama, and my Dad told her she should let me go spend time with my family.  Little did he know I was barricaded in my bedroom, hiding from my family at the time.


I love 'em.  I really do, but and it would be really nice to get a real day off every once in a while.

So...back to work.  You'll notice bread on the menu this week.  I am really loving using the bread machine to mix and knead my dough, then shaping it and baking it in my oven--it's really working out well.  The only problem is remembering that I need to stick around to take the dough out of the bread machine, and then to bake it after its second rise.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Chocolate Chip Graham Cracker Muffins, so good you'll think you're eating a cookie for breakfast!
{Source}
Other:

Monday, May 2, 2016

Menu plan for the week of May 2

Five weeks and counting, people.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Mexican Chicken Quinoa Casserole. Healthy, easy, and cheesy!
{Source}
Supper:



Lunch/other:

https://h2savecom.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/make-a-skillet-cookie-with-just-one-bowl-hip2save-com.jpg
{Source}

Friday, April 29, 2016

Tidbits

I haven't forgotten about you, my friends!  It just seems like every time I think I should write a blog post, there are other, more pressing things to take care of, like...well, I'm not sure exactly.  I've got 28 minutes before I need to be out the door for my next adventure (because a walk with a friend followed by a trip to a warehouse store definitely qualifies as an adventure), and I intend to fill them with writing random thoughts and sharing random unedited photos in this blog post to you.  Because I love you.

You're right.  That makes no sense.  But!  It doesn't have to :)


My turkeys!  Love them!

My youngest son, Bubby, has worn his shoes on the wrong feet so often (including to the dentist the other day, where the hygienist noticed and commented on his foot-shoe placement), that now, they feel wrong when they're right.  I'm sure there's a philosophical extrapolation we can make in this instance, but now I'm down to 22 minutes, so let's move on.

Bubby is in 2nd grade.  And AKD wanted me to show you these pictures.


Bubby finally consented to me reading the Chronicles of Narnia to him.  We have all seven books in one volume, so it's a really big book.


What I didn't exactly expect, was for him to be so wrapped up in the story that he would insist on reading it himself when I wasn't available to do so.


Yup.  He read all that.  I'm contemplating reading The Hobbit next, but since we don't own a copy, I'm trying to decide if I think we can read it in the amount of time the library is willing to let us borrow it.

I guess I should mention that these pics are not in chronological order.  You're ok with that, right?


AKD is in the STEM+ Academy at school.  No, I'm not sure what the + is.  Here he is posing with his group for their interdisciplinary collaborative project for fall semester.


I love how they're all wearing tennies with their fancy clothes.

Bubby went to work with his Daddy one day in March.  And when I say he went to work, I mean, he really went to work.


There were some organized activities for the kiddos, but there were also times when the kids were just with their parents.  Bubby and some of the kiddos decided to build a factory.  Here he is on the phone with the design group.  And in the conference room with the core team.


The boys and I went on a hike during spring break.







Doesn't necessarily look very springy, does it?


Two minutes left!  I'd say this was a successful photo dump.  I still have all these random thoughts to share, but those will have to wait until next time.  Til then--love y'all!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Menu plan for the week of April 25

Guess what, y'all!  Only six more weeks of school left.  I know this because I printed out the last school menu the other day, and thought to myself, what?  Last school menu for the year?  I know.  Crazy, right?

I say this to prepare you for the fact that I'm a slacker during my kids' summer "break".  I might publish some menus, but it certainly will not be every week, and maybe not at all.  It'll be ok, though.  I've got you covered--there are more than two years' worth of menus in the archives.

In the meantime, here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:

Monday, April 18, 2016

Menu plan for the week of April 18

My friend gave me her bread machine, and I got a chance to test it out last week.  Truthfully, I was a bit disappointed by the loaf it baked.  It was super fun to listen and watch as the machine did its thing, but the loaf sunk in the middle and the crust was pretty thick.  Then, of course, there's the whole hole in the bottom where the blade was issue.  I also used the dough cycle to mix, knead, and rise my pizza dough the other day, and that bread machine did a phenomenal job.  That dough was so smooth, and elastic, and window pane-y.  I am so pleased, and excited by the bread-making possibilities.  Now I just need to figure out how I can do two loaves at once.  This week I'm planning on having it knead some whole wheat dough for me to make into cinnamon swirl bread.  Nummy!

Today is day 10 of my latest friendship bread cycle, and I'm sending my yeasty friends off to the freezer for another extended stay.  Before I do, as a last hurrah before hibernation, I'll be making Pistachio Pineapple Coconut Friendship Bread Cake  and Chocolate Chocolate Coconut Friendship Bread Muffins.  Not because I'm particularly fond of coconut, but because these recipes both sound special and delicious--I'm hoping the chocolate coconut will taste a little something like Mounds.  I'm planning on pawning off most of them to unsuspecting teachers and Hubby-coworkers.

Here's what else is on the menu this week:

Supper:

  • Kielbasa cauliflower stir fry, applesauce, carrots
  • Tacos, tortillas, taco toppings
  • Chicken pot pie, mixed veggies, salad
  • Rice burgler, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots, salad
  • Pizza or zucchini crust pizza, salad, fresh fruit
  • Hot beef sandwiches, buns, cooked carrots, salad
  • Grilled pork chops, baked potatoes, grilled green veggie, applesauce

kielbasa cauliflower stir fry 1
Kielbasa and cauliflower stir fry
from Center Cut Cook
Other:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Crazy Dreams

I have been having some wild dreams lately.  Every night.  It's actually kind of fun, because I never know who's going to show up or what's going to happen in my dreams.  I'm not used to dreaming every night, or at least not remembering that I dreamed every night.

It was fun, that is, until the night I had a dream that reminded me of being 7 or 8 or even 13 years old, lying in my bed in the dark, afraid.  I remember trying to be as still as possible, with my blanket pulled up over my mouth and nose, not even breathing for fear that if I moved or made a sound, some unidentified threat would find me.

I woke from that dream, and I was right back there.  Lying in the dark, paralyzed by fear, except not, because I knew it wasn't real.  And after that dream, I can so understand why my boy wants reassurance in the middle of the night when he's scared.  He, at least, is brave enough to get out of bed and find comfort.

Interestingly, since I began having these crazy dreams every night, Bubby hasn't woken me up once.  I wonder if his dreams have transferred to me.  And, just in case you were still wondering, yes, I dream in color.  I remember that green ooze vividly.

Savage Chickens - Bears
{Source}

Monday, April 11, 2016

Menu plan for the week of April 11

It's my middlest child's birthday today.  He's a teenager.




According to my other, slightly older, teenager, that means we're going to need a lot more food now.  Good thing I have a plan.  Including MC's birthday dinner tonight: hot dogs.  And chips.  Can't forget the chips.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:
chocolate ice cream:
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Other:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Vat o'


Who buys baking powder 3.75 pounds at a time?  This girl.  I don't know why--we certainly don't need this much baking powder all at once--but it makes me peculiarly happy to know that we have this big ol' vat o' baking powder at our disposal.

And it's no mess!  Bonus!

I bought the vat o' baking powder in anticipation of baking lots of friendship bread.  Yes, it was totally excessive considering each batch requires a piddling 1 1/2 teaspoons of the stuff, and I'm planning nine, maybe twelve at most, batches this go-around.  Know how many 1 1/2 teaspoons are in my vat o' baking powder?  Two hundred thirty-six.  And a quarter.  Yeah.


I made these cinnamon twists on Thursday.  No baking powder required.  Aren't they just so stinkin' cute?!  They smelled heavenly.  I'm serious.  I'm pretty sure heaven smells like freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

I loved working with this dough--it was super easy to put together and super easy to work with--and I loved that the twists rose overnight, so I was able to easily get a warm, tasty treat on the table for my boys on a weekday morning.  I will definitely be making these again.

Know what I'm really enjoying about this round of friendship bread making?  It's knowing that my friends have some of my starter, and they're on the same schedule as me.  We're feeding our starter on the same day, baking on the same day, chatting about recipes and variations.  I think of my girlfriends every time I stir my yeasties, which is a couple of times a day since they've been so active.  The yeast, not the girlfriends.  It's given me such a feeling of community.  And that feeling of community has inspired me to share my baked treats with unsuspecting innocents, too.  I dropped off cinnamon twists for two different families on Thursday, and I made Hubby take 3 dozen friendship bread snickerdoodles to work with him Friday.  So. much. fun.

In conclusion, I have a vat o' baking powder, and I like baking with friendship bread starter.  Let me know if you would like some of either.

P.S.  I'm pretty sure I could make a rather impressive mess with that baking powder if I really put my mind to it.  Possibly even without trying very hard, or at all.  I'm skilled like that.
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