Old MacDonald's Farm

Friday Field Trip: Old MacDonald’s Farm

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The Center for Puppetry Arts is one of my favorite toddler activities in Atlanta.  We have been to several shows now, and each one has been fantastic! Munchkin was about 18 months old when we went to our first show, and I didn’t know what to expect.  But, I was very pleasantly surprised by how interactive the show was and how mesmerized he was the entire time.  

Today, we went with our neighborhood playgroup to see Old MacDonald’s Farm.  It was a blast!  The run-time is about 40 minutes, but this show will definitely hold your child’s attention!  Munchkin was singing and dancing throughout.  And, we have been singing “E-I-E-I-O” all day since 😉  It really is amazing how two actors with puppets can captivate an audience!  There have been a few shows that have a suggested age of 4+, but even those have been relate-able to my toddler. I highly recommend you check out Old MacDonald’s Farm – it runs through September 11th, and children under 2 are free with an adult ticket.  Be on the lookout for other shows this year, too.  We can’t wait for Rudolph in December 😉

Old MacDonald's Farm

Happy Toddling! 

 

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Throwback Thursday: Curious Colton Turns 2!

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I can’t believe another year has flown by!  Munchkin is about to turn 3!  His upcoming birthday reminded me that I haven’t even shared his 2nd birthday party, yet!  Oops!  I did share his Hole In One 1st Birthday party, and it was a huge success!  There were so many things I loved about his first party, such as the menu and the thank you notes.  But, our goal this party was to have a little less prep.  We knew early on that we wanted to have his party at the park – this kid LOVES to be outdoors!  (This meant not having to keep the house spotless while trying to prep for the party!) We threw around some ideas based on his favorite things, but we decided on a Curious George theme.  I checked around Pinterest and got some really cute ideas!  I wish I could have used all of my ideas, but I’ll just have to save them for another party. . .

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Let’s start with the invitation!  I used Silhouette Studio to design these.  I LOVE how they turned out!  I downloaded a free image of Curious George with balloons.  This became our color scheme.  I also downloaded the Curious George font: Wrexham.  One of my favorite (and challenging) parts of designing invitations is font pairing.  There are some great ideas on Pinterest for this as well, but there is a never ending supply of font options.  Overwhelming, to say the least.  I just used Arial to go with the Wrexham.  It’s simple, and I chose all lowercase letters, which I thought was fitting for George.  

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Curious Colton Turns 2!  Let’s Go Bananas!  This was the entrance to the park pavilion.  I used a chalkboard I already had and wrote some fun facts about 2-year-old Colton in the birthday party theme colors.  It got a little smudged on the ride from our house to the park, but I don’t think anyone minded 😉  I also made some George tissue poms.  Let me tell you, I went all over Atlanta looking for brown tissue paper.  I ended up at Hobby Lobby.  Next time, I think I’ll start there for party supplies.  That place literally has everything.  Tissue poms are surprisingly easy to make, and there are instructions all over the internet.  If you’re looking for one in particular, I used this tutorial.  I found the George face on PBS.org.  

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We used Munchkin’s wagon to hold presents!  And, best part, we just rolled the wagon home after the party since our house is walking-distance to the park. 

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We bought Munchkin a treasury of Curious George stories and asked his guests to sign it.  I didn’t get a close up of the sign, but it says “Someday when I’m older, I’ll be curious about who was here to celebrate with me!  Please take a minute to sign your name or leave a little message for our special and so very Curious Colton!”

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The park pavilion includes a picnic table that we used for eating lunch and for crafts for the kiddos.  I printed out the same George face from PBS.org that I used for the tissue pom; these are actually meant to be a mask craft for the kids to make.  Hubby was so helpful and cut out a bunch of these so that all the kids had to do was fit the elastic to make their very own George mask.  We also printed coloring pages that the kiddos, especially the younger ones, could color.  Our last craft was decorating birthday hats!  Here is my niece modeling her finished product:

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Isn’t she the cutest?!  (You can also see the birthday banner in the background; I couldn’t get a very good picture of this either.)

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The park we chose has a lot of green space – perfect for letting kids run around!  I saw a cute station idea on Pinterest and decided the park would lend itself well to this set up.  We brought over the water table that Hubby built Munchkin for his first birthday.  We set up some balloons and beach balls to mimic Curious George Goes to the Beach.  We also set out the book just in case any of the kids wanted to read, but none of the kids slowed down long enough to read a story, and instead, the book was merely caught in the water crossfire.  We ended up moving it over to the pavilion to be part of the decor 😉  For the other station, we set up a tee with a ball and bat for Curious George at the Baseball GameAll the kids loved the activities, but they didn’t pay a bit of attention to the book vignette.  Oh well!  Now, Munchkin has a few George stories for his personal collection 😉

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We set out a couple other George stories that we already owned for a little bit more decor.  We also set out the favors for decor and for easy grabbing as families were leaving.  When choosing favors, I wanted to find something that the kids could enjoy that parents wouldn’t resent having to keep up with or that would just end up in the trash can by the end of the day.  I found Curious George coloring books at Party City.  I paired the coloring books with party favor crayon packs (for less than $1 a piece).  Hubby painstakingly tied each bundle with a little tag that said, “Thanks for going bananas with me!” (I thought I had a close up of the party favor bundles, but I can’t seem to find it!)  I think they turned out great, were inexpensive, and I’ve had several moms tell me their kids still love to color in that particular coloring book.  Winner!

 

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The spread!  Hubby had the great idea to smoke a pork butt on the Big Green Egg.  He cooked it overnight so that it was ready to go at Party Time.  We shredded the pork for sandwiches.  I made my favorite BBQ Sauce to go with it:  Neely’s BBQ sauce (this is the same BBQ sauce we used for Colton’s Hole in One Birthday Menu – that’s how much I love it!)  We also served pinwheel sandwiches (Thanks to Costco!), a veggie tray, fruit skewers, and my mom’s recent party favorite – mac and cheese muffins!  The mac and cheese muffins are seriously a crowd pleaser, and so much easier to serve (and eat) than a huge casserole.  We also threw some banana chips in a glass bowl for a special treat!  For drinks, we served water, juice boxes, La Croix, beer and wine spritzers.  No one is going to go thirsty on our watch!

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I’m so thankful my sister is a baker!  She offered to make cupcakes for the party (do you remember the awesome cake and cupcakes she made for Colton’s Hole in One Birthday?!)  She came up with the monkey cupcakes after doing some online research, and how adorable are they?!  On the cake table, I also borrowed my niece’s mini radio flyer wagon, stuck in a stuffed George and storybook.  I also made photo balloons of Colton’s 2nd year; they turned out pretty cute!

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And, here’s the birthday boy in his monkey outfit made by his Mémé!  

Happy Birthday, Curious Colton!

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Wellness Wednesday: Dryer Balls

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Do you use dryer sheets?  Do you love that “clean” smell they give your laundry?

I don’t, and I haven’t for a long time!  My quest for all things natural began with food.  Not long after Hubby and I got married, I began transitioning a lot of our foods from processed to natural.  It was a gradual transition.  As I became more comfortable cooking on a regular basis, I also looked for ways to make from scratch and avoid store-bought as much as possible.  I started to pay attention to certain ingredients to avoid:  high fructose corn syrup, high sodium levels, caramel color.  This natural transition started to seep into other aspects of my life:  personal care products and home supplies.  It is definitely a rabbit hole where one could easily get lost!  My best advice:  take it one step or product at a time!  Don’t go through your entire house and throw out anything that may be in question.  Rather, pick a product or an ingredient to pay attention to while shopping.  You’ll slowly make a transition, and you’ll realize that that one ingredient may be in more products than you would assume.  For example, I mentioned in my G-free days that I was surprised at all the places gluten hides in our food:  seasoning mixes, sauces, and just about anything in a box!  This is true for just about anything – as you start to pay attention, you’ll find things hidden everywhere! 

So, as I started transitioning products, I realized that anything not natural smelled fake.  Any chemical fragrances are generally too sweet – just think of walking into a Yankee Candle store!  There’s a reason most people get a headache, and it’s not a good one.  Those chemical fragrances are exactly that: chemicals, and our body does not know how to handle them.  After making this realization, dryer sheets were one of the first things I ditched in my quest for a natural home in addition to a natural kitchen.  I am not a scientist, so I’ll share this article with you that is very informative about how bad dryer sheets really are: 7 Toxic Reasons to Ditch Dryer Sheets.

For years, I’ve just gone without dryer sheets.  Sometimes, clothes come out with a little static cling, but I’ll take that any day over the alternative that is dryer sheet chemicals.  But, I started to hear about safe alternatives to commercial dryer sheets.  Tell me more!  Wool dryer balls are one of the most popular alternatives.  You can purchase these, or, you can easily make them yourself.  (Who am I kidding?  I told my super crafty mom about wanting to make these, and in turn, she used wool she already had to make us both a set of dryer balls!  Thanks, Mom!)  I love to add a few drops of EO to each one every several loads.  This may sound like much, but we actually hang-dry the majority of our clothes, so it’s mostly sheets and towels.  Does it get any better than naturally scented lavender sheets?  I think not! 

Dryer Balls

Happy Drying!

 

 

 

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Tuesday’s Title: Defending Jacob

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I recently shared with you how much I love my local library and, specifically, how much I love their e-book system!  We were on vacation with some friends, and I needed a book to read poolside.  I had my kindle with me, but all of my holds were still pending.  I logged onto Overdrive to start browsing.  I wanted a faster read: something that I could really dive into and potentially finish in a weekend. Luckily, Overdrive has a bunch of category suggestions.  One of these happened to be “books similar to The Girl On The Train.”  Now, The Girl On The Train has been on my “hold” list for months!  I was intrigued.  I read a couple summaries and decided to give one a try.  My choice:  Defending Jacob.

This book is considered a legal thriller, but I find that there is much more to the story than law and order.  This book will tug on your heartstrings.  And, now that I have a son of my own, I couldn’t help but imagine how I would handle such a situation.  A lot of internal struggle resulted, and then, a lot of relief flooded in when I remembered that we are far away from that possibility.  You see, the main character’s son is accused of a dreadful crime.  The evidence is damning and the town starts to turn against the boy.  What is a parent to do in this situation?  What is more important:  to protect one’s child or to bring justice?  Does one trust his or her child unquestionably or does one rely on physical evidence alone?  This book reminds us that there is more to every story than what appears on the surface.  And, for every accused criminal, there is a parent at home wondering what he or she did wrong and if he or she is to blame.  As I said, I experienced a lot of mom-guilt while reading this one.  But, I could not put it down!  Please, check out the e-book, find it the library, or buy it off amazon.  Such a suspenseful read with such a deep lesson.  This is much more than a who-done-it thriller.

My rating:  Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.53 PM

As you can already see, I would totally recommend it.

I think I would put this on my list of re-reads in a couple years.  I think the lesson can be toned down to apply to more school playground altercations to be applicable to all age children.  As parents, we are often faced with a balancing act of protecting our children and teaching them to be self-sufficient in the ways of the world.  What happens when a playmate points his finger at your child:  do you automatically think your child did nothing wrong?  Do you automatically think your child is evil?  Or, do you first try to gather evidence as to how events actually occurred?  A balancing act, for sure.  You can find me answering “all of the above” on any given day!  For me, the takeaway was more of a parental lesson rather than how to create the perfect child.  Ultimately, we as parents are doing the best we can, and, at some point, our children will be required to take responsibility for their actions.  I do think this book has more to teach me about not only trusting my child, but trusting myself that I am doing the best I can.  

Defending Jacob 

Happy Reading!

 

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Money on My Mind Monday: Monthly Budgeting Forms

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In my last money post, I shared with you our Budget Box.  I’m still loving this new system, although, I’ll be honest in that I haven’t been quite as diligent on tracking our spending as I thought I would be.  But, still, there have been many times over the past few months when we’ve needed something, and that something has been right at our fingertips in our budget box!  I love that it sits out in our office at arm’s length.  I seem to be staying on top of filing receipts away, even if I’m not taking a second look at them, and our office has been much more organized.  Woo Hoo!

I mentioned in the last post that we decided to move away from a budget binder.  We used a binder for many years, but it just didn’t seem to be quite enough for us.  It always just felt like more work to keep it organized, so we stopped trying.  However, I did use this budget binder post as inspiration when creating our budget box.  While Hubby and I discuss almost all of our purchases – literally, almost ALL – I wanted to incorporate more of a checks and balances system into our financial routine.  One thing we already do yearly is a Tax Return Date Night.  (I know, so romantic!) But, I think it’s important that we both sit down together to go over our yearly taxes; we both know exactly where we are financially and (even less romantic) we both know how to do it in the event that the other couldn’t due to some unforeseen circumstance.  Along those same lines, I thought it would be good for us to get in the habit of sitting down each month to go over the previous month’s spending and to set goals for the next month.  I borrowed the Month at a Glance and the Monthly Check-In sheets from Thirty Handmade Days, and I tweaked them to create my own based on what categories we needed to include.  I love how they turned out!  I have manila folders for each of these forms in the first hanging folder in our Budget Box.

Month At A Glance

Fill this out at the beginning of every month and keep tabs as the month progresses.  If you have a salaried income, you can go ahead and fill in the paychecks  line item.  If your income varies, you can update according to your actual paychecks.  You can go ahead and fill in your recurring expenses at the beginning of the month.  I customized this how our recurring expenses are set up.  These are the items I know will not change (at least, not significantly, month to month.)  Your recurring expenses probably do not look exactly the same.  That’s ok!  The “Extras” column is to capture any variable spending each month:  groceries (because our amount varies), entertainment, gifts, etc.  After you have filled in all of your income and all of your expenses, deduct all of your expenses from your income.  That total is your month’s ending balance.  We choose to put any positive balance into our savings account. 

Month At A Glance

Monthly Check In

At the end of one month and the beginning of the next, we sit down and fill out our Monthly Check In form together.  This is after I have completed the Month At A Glance form with all of our transactions.  The Monthly Check In is where we grade ourselves.  We identify goals that we met as well as problem areas.  Then, we make goals for the upcoming month.  Sometimes these are general (Stop spending so much!) and other times they are specific (compare internet service rates).  This is a great place to brainstorm!

Monthly Check In Final

 

Happy Saving!

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Meatless Monday: Veggie Fried Rice

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“Chicken and Rice.” This is currently one of Munchkin’s favorite meals.  If we ask him what he’d like to eat, no matter the time of day, the answer is usually “chicken and rice.”  Now, rice is not generally one of my favorites.  At any Mexican restaurant, I will gladly take double the refried beans over rice and beans.  But, I LOVE fried rice!  Hibachi, anyone?  I’d seen some recipes floating around Pinterest and decided to give it a go. 

I’ve made this recipe several times now and have combined several recipes into this one.  This recipe is perfect for Meatless Monday because it’s quick and easy, but you could also easily add some cooked chicken or any other protein you happen to have on hand.  I made a full recipe of rice last week for my stuffed peppers, but I only used a portion of it, so I had just enough left over for this recipe without having to make any more.  It doesn’t look like much going into the crock pot, but we always have plenty for seconds and leftovers.  😉

 

Veggie Fried Rice

Veggie Fried Rice

Veggie Fried Rice
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Ingredients
  1. 2-3 cups cooked brown rice
  2. 3 TB butter
  3. 1 TB sesame oil
  4. 2 TB soy sauce
  5. 2 TB Worcestershire sauce
  6. 1/4 tsp salt
  7. 1/2 tsp pepper
  8. 4 garlic cloves, minced
  9. 1 TB minced or grated ginger
  10. 1 onion, diced
  11. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  12. 1 frozen bag of peas and carrots
  13. 1 cup broccoli (optional - I use if I have on hand)
  14. 1 cup corn (option - I use if I have on hand)
Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on high for 2 to 3 hours, just long enough to cook the eggs.
Listfull Days http://listfulldays.com/
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Meatless Monday: Stuffed Peppers

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I am terrible about using up food in our refrigerator, but I am trying to be better.  I menu plan several days at a time, but it never fails that I have left over ingredients that end up in the trash can.  Not only is this wasteful of good food, but it is also unnecessarily expensive.  I’ve been cleaning out our fridge on a weekly basis when I menu plan so that I can see what ingredients I should include in the upcoming week’s meals.  Certain ingredients obviously keep a long time in the fridge, but if I have leftover parsley, I can be sure to use it up in the next couple of days.  I call it the Fridge Challenge.  This is also a good way to see what I’m buying that we are not eating.  For instance, I always seem to have a giant bag of baby carrots in the fridge.  Untouched.  I KNOW carrots make a great snack, but I never seem to CHOOSE carrots for my snack.  So, on my menu this week is homemade hummus.  Maybe then I’ll eat those carrots.  (Or, at least, they’ll make a colorful spoon! 😉 )

Today’s recipe is a great way to use up leftovers.  You could use so many different ingredients to make your own custom recipe.  This is actually one of hubby’s favorite dinners.  He knows they are easy and cheap, so whenever I ask him for ideas to fill in during menu planning, he picks this one often.  Another reason I love this recipe is that it cooks in the crock pot but only for a couple of hours.  This is very easy to throw together at the last minute. 

Last week, I made my fabulous black bean chili.  Now, I’m not kidding when I say that this recipe makes a ton.  We ate it for lunch and dinner for a couple days, and I froze a couple pints for future use, and I STILL had some leftover.  So, I decided to use up those leftovers in some stuffed peppers.  Chili really makes a great leftover; there are so many ways you can use it!  I mixed it with some rice and tomatoes, and voilá! Yummy dinner!  Don’t forget your favorite chili toppings!  We topped ours with Greek yogurt. 🙂

 

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers
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Ingredients
  1. 4 green peppers, tops and seeds removed
  2. 1 1/2 cup leftover chili (Use black bean chili for meatless!)
  3. 1 cup cooked brown rice
  4. 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
Instructions
  1. Combine the chili, rice, and tomatoes. Scoop into the prepared green peppers. Place in the crockpot, making sure that the peppers stay upright. Cook on high for 2 hours. (If you like your peppers softer, cook for longer.)
Notes
  1. Look for green peppers with flat bottoms. This will ensure that the peppers stay level in the crock pot 😉
  2. Also, when cutting off the tops of the peppers. I like to insert the knife perpendicular to the top and cut in a circle around the stem. This will also cut off most of the ribs of the pepper inside making clean out very easy!
Listfull Days http://listfulldays.com/
Bon Appétit!

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One Pot Wonder Wednesday: Taco Stew

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I found this recipe years ago!  In fact, the printed date on the recipe is 2009.  This is definitely a favorite, although I tend to forget about it.  We make crock pot chili fairly regularly, so I have to be careful on chili-esque overload.  The great thing about this recipe, though, is that it comes together so quickly!  As in, less than 30 minutes.  This is the perfect mid-week meal when the last thing you want to do is spend hours in the kitchen.  Unless your kitchen has wine, in which case, I will gladly spend hours there 😉 

I adapted this recipe from Whole Foods’ Mexican Taco Stew.  If you haven’t checked out their website for recipes, you should know that it is a great resource.  They also have some great categories for whatever requirements you may have when menu planning.  I especially like their budget category and have made many recipes in that category over the years. The original recipe calls for taco seasoning.  While I’m sure Whole Foods has a great option free of preservatives, I have really moved away from using any pre-packaged spices.  After our g-free experiment and years of reading about the food industry in general, I’ve adopted the philosophy of making as much of my food at home and that includes spice mixes.  Not only can I better control preservatives and hidden ingredients, such as gluten where it doesn’t belong, I hardly ever have to worry if I have a certain spice in the pantry.  I also added additional zucchini to the recipe to make sure we’re getting enough greens.  Then, I don’t have to worry about a side salad 😉  Add a little Greek yogurt and shredded cheese for some oomph!

 

Taco Stew

Taco Stew

Bon Appétit!

Taco Stew
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb ground beef
  2. 1 onion, diced
  3. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  4. 1 TBS chili powder
  5. 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  6. 1/4 tsp onion powder
  7. 1/4 tsp oregano
  8. 1/2 tsp paprika
  9. 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  10. 1 tsp salt
  11. 1 tsp pepper
  12. 2 cups organic low sodium chicken broth
  13. 2 zucchini, cut into bite size pieces
  14. 1 1/2 cups black beans (or 1 can)
  15. 1 can diced tomatoes
  16. 1 jar of salsa
Instructions
  1. Over medium high heat, brown ground beef in a soup pot. Remove, drain, and set aside. Then, sautée the onion and garlic in the soup pot until translucent. Add the ground beef to the onion and garlic. Add in the spices and stir until combined. Add in the remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer for at least 15 minutes.
Adapted from Whole Foods Market
Listfull Days http://listfulldays.com/
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Tuesday’s Title: Book Ratings

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I’ve already shared how much I’m loving Goodreads these days!  It’s helping me stay on track with my reading goals so far this year simply because I want to update my progress and watch the slider move.  (This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise.  You already know how much I like to make lists, and especially, how much I like to check things off my lists. 😉 )  Each time I finish a book, I’m prompted to rate it and give a review.  That’s a lot of pressure!  I love to read, and I love to discuss the books I’ve read, but somehow putting a rating on it just seems so complicated.  It is really difficult for me to say I do not like a book.  Sure, there are books that I like more than others, but I think of books more as people who are coming in and out of my life:  they each have their place in time.  Some I may remember more strongly or more fondly, but just about every one has shaped me in some way. 

So, I figured if I’m going to start sharing books here, I should probably get more comfortable with rating them.  Part of the reason I started this blog in the first place was to get out of my comfort zone a bit.  Gotta keep pushing myself here.  When I mark a book as “finished” on Goodreads, the site prompts me to rate it and review it.  Goodreads uses a 5-star rating system:

   Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.32.52 PMDid not like it

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.03 PMIt was ok

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.15 PMLiked it

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.40 PMReally liked it

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.53 PMIt was amazing

Seems simple enough, but the tricky part with this generic rating system is that it doesn’t account for differences in literary style or subject.  It’s merely a factor of liking.  I guess that’s where the review comes into play, but I think there are a couple other classifications I would add to this rating system.  And, going forward on this blog, I will include them in my reviews. 

1) Would I read it again?  There are plenty of books that I liked or thought were just ok that I would love to read again.  Many classics fall into this category, mainly because I think the reason these books are considered classics is that they speak in so many different ways.  There are many books that I read in my high school English classes that I didn’t really connect with, but I would love to give these books another chance to see what message they have for me now.  Likewise, there are many amazing books that I’m not sure I would read again.  For me, they may hold a special place in my heart that I don’t want to taint.  Kind of like the concept of overselling or going back to a place that holds a special memory.  You will never experience it in the same way, and so, it will always fall short of your expectations going forward.  Better to just let the memory live on unspoiled.

2) Would I recommend it to others?  Because reading is such a personal experience to me, there are books that I think are amazing simply because of where I was (in time or place) when I read them.  Maybe I learned something about myself while reading a book, but the book itself didn’t necessarily offer profound wisdom.  In this case, it’s not the book that I remember, but what my brain registered as a result of reading the book that I take away.  In this case, I would not expect the book to have the same effect on another reader, and so, I may or may not recommend it as a must-read.  I really do think that everyone can take away some piece of wisdom or experience from just about any book.  It has more to do with the reader’s relationship WITH the book, than the book’s causal effect on the reader.  In a way, reading a book is more of a conversation, albeit a silent one, between the reader and the characters because the reader is always coloring the characters as a result of his or her own personal experiences.  For me, reading is the greatest teacher of empathy and one of the reasons reading to young children is so important.

I can’t wait to share my first review of my 2016 reading list next week!  Until then, happy reading!

 

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Sage Butter Pasta with Figs & Butternut Squash

Meatless Monday: Sage Butter Pasta with Figs & Butternut Squash

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Tonight’s recipe has been on our weekly rotation for the past couple of weeks.  I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of pasta, and it’s just that good!  The recipe developed when I went to the farmer’s market a few weeks ago and bought some fresh Gorgonzola ravioli in the fridge section.  I was trying to come up with a sauce that would work well and decided that some simple butter would be delicious.  For Christmas Eve, I made a cheese ball that called for sage sautéed in butter.  It was amazing!  I thought I could possibly make this into a sauce for my ravioli. 

Turns out, I’m not the first person who has thought of this combination.  I looked at many recipes for ravioli with butter and many of them included sage.  Well, at least I knew it was going to be good!  All of these other people wouldn’t be making it AND sharing it if it were terrible.  Next, I thought about what I could add to make this dish a full meal.  Butternut squash keeps popping up in winter recipes, so it seemed like a good choice.

Finally, with all of this sweet-and-savory thinking, I couldn’t get figs out of my head.  I looked all over for fresh figs, but apparently, they’re not in season right now.  Luckily, I still had the Costco bag of dried figs sitting in my pantry.  Maybe they could work?  You can certainly toss them in as is, which is what I did tonight, but if you want to soften them up a bit, pour some boiling water over them and let them sit while you prep the rest of the meal.  I can’t wait to make this recipe with some fresh figs!  The first time I spot them at the store, I will be buying some!

On a separate but still related note, Hubby and Munchkin went to Fresh Market the other night to get dinner fixings.  Munchkin happened to pick out the best fig and olive crackers.  Hubby picked out a soft goat cheese to go with them.  Seriously – if you live near a Fresh Market, or happen to see these crackers in the store,  buy them!  It was such an amazing combination.  Hubby gobbled them up, too, and he really isn’t a fan of olives.  The figs are definitely the dominant flavor.  Yum!

Raincoast Crisps

Raincoast Crisps

So, after buying the fresh ravioli at the farmer’s market, I was inspired again to try making my own pasta.  My parents went on a big kick many years ago of making their pasta fresh.  I am not exaggerating when I say it’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted.  There is just nothing better than fresh pasta.  It’s not really a difficult practice, but I will say there is an art to it.  And, having the right tools definitely helps.  I don’t have any pasta making tools.  I’m putting them on my wish list now.  😉  I bought some new flour and planned to use the last of the eggs in the fridge.  What could go wrong?! 

Well, on a side note, I am a new owner of a Blendtec blender.  Merry Christmas to me!  Our old Breville was finally on its last leg.  It was a good purchase many years ago, but all of the frozen smoothies were finally adding up, and every morning we were getting a perfume of smoking metal.  Not a good thing.  I decided on the Blendtec partly because of its versatility.  You can make just about anything with it!  So, why not use it to make dough?  I put my eggs in first, and then added the flour.  I pulsed.  And, nothing happened.  Just a blob of congealed flour in the blender.  I tried a few tactics to get it to blend, but no luck.  So, I brought out my KitchenAid mixer to see if that could salvage it.  No luck again.  First attempt at homemade pasta = FAIL!  Luckily, I had some whole wheat pasta spirals in the pantry.  So, instead of stuffing my homemade ravioli with blue cheese crumbles, I sprinkled them on top.  Mmmmm! So good!

Tonight, I gave the pasta another go.  I skipped the Blendtec and broke out my KitchenAid from the get-go.  (I still need to experiment with the Blendtec, but I was more concerned with the pasta experiment tonight.)  I combined 3 cups of white-wheat flour with 7 eggs.  Success!  I rolled it out, mixed up some mascarpone and blue cheese, and proceeded to make my ravioli.  I don’t have a ravioli cutter, so I pressed the two sheets together with a fork.  The dough was a little thicker than I would have liked, probably because I couldn’t get it very thin with my rolling pin.  (I already felt like I was getting in my weight-lifting for the week!)  And, because the ravioli ended up thicker and bigger than store-bought, I think I cooked them a little too long.  WAH WAH!  It can be so disappointing to take the time and make the mess for a cooking experiment to have it not turn out well.  Hubby gobbled it up, but I’m not calling it a win just yet.  I still want to experiment with homemade pasta, but I think I’ll be keeping a box in the pantry as a back up until I’ve had some more practice 😉

At any rate, this recipe would be delicious with fresh homemade pasta, or pasta from the farmer’s market fridge, or even your generic dried pasta in a box.  Seriously, you will be loving every bite of the sage butter regardless! 

Sage Butter Pasta with Figs & Butternut Squash

Sage Butter Pasta with Figs & Butternut Squash

Bon Appétit!

Sage Butter Pasta with Figs & Butternut Squash
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Ingredients
  1. 1 butternut squash
  2. 1 TBS EVOO
  3. Salt
  4. Pepper
  5. 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  6. 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  7. 1 lb Pasta Your Choice (ravioli, spirals, etc.)
  8. 1 stick butter
  9. 1/4 cup sage leaves (about 4 stems)
  10. 1 handful fresh or dried figs, sliced
  11. 4 oz blue cheese crumbles
Instructions
  1. First, prepare the butternut squash. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Peel and cut the butternut squash into 1/2 inch pieces. (For a shortcut, you can also buy the squash already cut, but you may want to cut them into smaller bite-size pieces.) Toss the butternut squash with 1 TBS EVOO, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, about 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the butternut squash is tender.
  2. While the butternut squash is roasting, prepare the pasta according to the package directions.
  3. Finally, prepare the sage butter. Melt 1 stick of butter over low heat. When the butter is melted and starting to bubble, add the sage leaves. Allow to cook until the butter turns a soft brown color.
  4. After draining the pasta, drizzle with the sage butter and top with the roasted butternut squash, figs, and blue cheese crumbles.
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