Monday, May 30, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

Hubs and I did not stay on plan last week!  In fact, we blew it out of the water!!  So, this week is basically a repeat from last week!!

Saturday  - Dinner with sweet friend from out of town.  Olive Garden!

Sunday - Dinner with in-laws.  We had grilled chicken, baked potatoes, baked beans, and bread.

Monday - Memorial Day!!  Shrimp Po-boys (recipe coming), slaw, and hushpuppies

Tuesday - Savory Chicken Casserole, Hungry Girl's Fried Green Tomatoes, another veggie

Wednesday - Homemade Pizza and Salad

Thursday - Grilled chicken with Lawry's marinade (review later), asian slaw, pinto beans, cornbread

Friday - Grocery Day!  Big family reunion on Saturday so lots of cooking!

Get loads of inspiration and ideas from's Menu Plan Monday!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Earrings

Have you ever purchased something that changed the way you think?  I did.  I spent $3 on a pair of earrings from one of the wholesale suppliers we use for our gift company.  These precious pieces came in with a shipment this afternoon (in which I also purchased a zebra print duffle bag but that's another story entirely).  They are round and 3-4 inches in length and have the most adorable summer colors like pink, purple, green, and orange. 

Of course I wanted to wear these new additions to work.  But I had to find a top.  My least-favorite pink sweater came to mind but I quickly squashed that idea.  I took a peek in the disaster that I call a closet.  I saw a top I bought at Cato's well over a year ago.  It is bright orange and ruffly and girly.  It didn't fit at the end of last summer.  But I tried it on, fully preparing myself for being let down, and it fits!  Yes, it fits.  It is slightly snug with the tank underneath but it still fits! 

Who knew that these gems would unlock a new motivation in me.  The top fits but I want it to fit better.  Heck...I want to have it taken in.  So today I am motivated all because of these earrings.  Isn't it funny that you find inspiration in the strangest places.  And, paired with white or khaki shorts, this tangerine top and magic earrings will look cute on the cruise.

So thank tiny plastic wonders.  You behold a unique power.

Couponing to Carnival?

I follow Kristin at Couponing for Disney and love her approach to her family vacations.  In a nutshell, she adds any "extra" money to their Disney Fund.  This money includes leftover grocery money, spare change, rebates, etc.  Hubs and I are paid in full for our cruise in August but we still have to take spending money (the "fun card") for anything not covered by the cruise (onboard souvenirs, adult-type beverages, coffee from the speciality coffee shop, etc).  We decided to use the "extra" money method to save for our cruise.  As of yesterday, we had 90 days until we set sail.  Already we have over $100 in our envelope.  This money comes from my photography jobs, Hubs' odd jobs, and extra grocery/spending money.  It is exciting to "find" money.  I don't think we have a set goal in mind at this point but it would be nice to save at least $500.  I think we can do it!!  I'll be updating so that I can go back and watch our progress.

90 Days!!!!!

Menu Plan Monday

Hubs and I are including a couple of new recipes in our menu this week.  Our goal is to stop eating out so much (haha) and focus on trying new things at home.  We decided to start saving our "spare money."  This money comes from things like odd jobs that he does for his aunt and change from buying groceries (we are trying to pay in cash in order to help us stay on budget), etc.  Our first goal is to save enough "spare" for our extra money for our cruise in August.  We are well on our way and we still have 3 months (from yesterday).  It is amazing how much money can be found when you look and stop eating out!

Here is our menu for this week...

Saturday - Cookout!  We (the entire crew) did grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, watergate salad, and baked beans

Sunday - We had leftovers for lunch but then Hubs found a recipe in the paper and it is from a blog I follow.  We tried Taco Pancakes.  They were really good.  We love mexican food so it was a different take on a favorite.  I'll blog about our experience later this week.

Monday - Maybe leftovers again!  We have a busy night planned including a trip to the gym and to Walgreens to get our passport photos taken.

Tuesday - Grilled Chicken, fried green tomatoes (Hungry Girl Recipe), asaparagus, and a starch from the pantry.

Wednesday - Savory Chicken and Rice Casserole, green beans, Sister Shubert Rolls

Thursday - Chicken Casserole

Friday - Something easy!  Grocery Shopping Night.

Come join the menu plan fun over at's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Swimming Coby

Hubs and I hosted a cookout this weekend.  We borrowed my mother-in-law's kiddie pool for Amanda's son and nephew to play in.  After the boys finished, we let our baby play in it.  Coby, our almost 11 year-old dachshund, had been interested in the pool all afternoon so we let him play for a few minutes and I caught some of it on camera. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Small Addiction

I have a small addiction...collecting recipes. I love to cook but I think I love searching and finding new recipes just as much.  This week have been looking at various websites in an attempt to organize the recipes I have printed, ripped out of magazines, and wrote on notebook paper.  I am in the process of putting all of my recipes into cute, matching Microsoft Word documents for printing on pretty paper.  In the meantime, check out my current attempt at a collection....

Original title don't ya think?

My original tabs were Snacks & Appetizers, Soups & Salads, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, Dessert.  Sad huh?  Now I need a hundred different tabs.

Bob's super secret rib rub recipe writing on a piece of notebook paper stained with paprika 
and heaven knows what else.

 Printed recipe from  Amazing by the way.

My little piece of heaven.

Top Shelf...
includes the newest Weight Watcher's recipe book and The Pioneer Women's cookbook.

 2nd Shelf...
includes several  books I found in the clearance bins at Barnes and Noble.

Bottom Shelf...
Two baking books that my mother had for years.  They were old mail order style where they sent you the binders then the recipe inserts.  I stole them from her before she sold them for 25cents at a yardsale.
And of course, the Better Homes & Garden cookbook.

This is my most recent addition.  It does not have a place on the shelf yet because I have it on my coffee table or my bedside table.  I'm constantly looking at it.  Hungry Girl is amazing.  I have been a fan for years and when I saw her most recent book released, I had to purchase.  Now I'm aiming for her entire collection.

As you can see, I am addicted to this book.  I hope to start making some of her amazing recipes and blog about them.  They are diet (ie Weight Watchers) friendly and each recipe includes nutrition values.

Here are a few of my favorite recipe sites:
Chicken Pot Pie by user jodijenson

The Pioneer Women Cooks
Smashed Potatoes

Pink Parsley
Fried Peach Pies 

And there are many more!  I hope to blog my experience making one of these (and may other) amazing recipes. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

I have been MIA from Menu Plan Monday for a few weeks.  Between no power, vacation, and just plain being lazy, I haven't had a consistent plan in a while.  Hubs and I are back on track and heading to the gym tonight.  We desperately need our routine back!  Here is our menu plan..

Saturday - Family Dinner

Sunday - Did not go as planned becuase we had a late lunch so we ended up picking up a $5 Little Caesar's Pizza.

Monday - Cheeseburger Casserole

Tuesday - Savory Chicken Casserole

Wednesday - Better Chicken Parmesan

Thursday - Grilled Chicken

Friday - Grocery Day!!

Now that I am back on track, I'm visiting Orgjunkie's Menu Plan Monday.  I love it!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Five Question Friday

1.  Tube socks, calf socks, crew, ankle, none?
Well it depends!  My favorite socks to sleep in are really fuzzy and soft or some of Hubs' crew socks.  If I am wearing tennis shoes then I have on either ankle or crew.  But I love sandals and flipflops so no socks most of the time! 

2.  Was your child (children's) name a mutual decision or was it a debate?  If you don't have children, do you plan on giving your spouce a say, or do you have a name you must have, regardless if your other half likes it or not?
We do not have any but when we do it will have to be a mutal decision.  I have some names I like but none that I would really insist on if Hubs didn't agree.
My parents were in a dilema when I was born.  My dad is a simple man.  He liked Jennifer and Nicole.  My mom was (still is) a big fan of mystery books and who-done-it books.  She always fell in love with the names of the book's heroine.  So at the time of my birth she was really enjoying Ellie (short for Eleanor) and Bertie (and Mattie).  Needless to say, those names weren't simple.  I think I was a day or so old before my aunt came up with Melanie (after watching Gone with the Wind a few times).  They both agreed and here I am!

3.  What is your favorite type of weather?
Perfect Example - Last Friday Hubs and I were at the beach (Panama City Beach) and that trip consisted of three of the most perfect weather days.  Friday we sat on the beach.  It was warm but not too hot in the sun and it was perfectly breezy in the shade.  Perfect for sitting in the sand and reading.

4.  If left to your own devices, what time would you wake up everyday?
I don't know!  I would enjoy a few late mornings but also if I know that I don't have to be anywhere, my body tends to wake up early.

5.  Have you bought your cemetary plots yet?
No we haven't.  When Hubs' grandfather passed away in March, we actually had that discussion.  His grandparents are buried in my hometown (also the hometown of his grandmother). It is a beautiful and peaceful cemetary.  I wouldn't be opposed to being buried there with his family.  But at age 28, I'm hoping that decision won't have to be made for another 70-80 years!

Come Join the Blog Hop and answer your five questions at My Little Life!! 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mobile Uploads

The wonder of social media!  In a matter of seconds, my Facebook friends and Twitter followers can see what I see.  I was looking through my mobile uploads album on Facebook and found some interesting moments over the past year or so.  

 Hubs mopping.  He loves to mop. And vacuum.  And steam-clean our carpet.  I'm a lucky girl.
 This is our friend Jim.  We were at Pump It Up (you know...the fun inflatables place) for a birthday party.  He thought he was being cute.  But in 10 seconds, I had this image forever captured on the internet.  Good thing you can't see his face.
Wing Fest at my in-law's!  We bake 10lbs of chicken wings and I make some awesome cheese fries for this event. 
Family reunion.  Southerners can eat.  We each brought a soup or stew in a crockpot (it was November).  Some people went a little crazy (ie my Mother with 5 crockpots full of stuff). 
A random moment of creativity.  Zebra Fabric + Glass Plate + Mod Podge = awesome plates! 
There is some joy in helping your parents get ready for a costume party.  There is a lot more joy when you get to do your dad's nails for said party. 
 Tupelo, Mississippi.  We stopped at a gas station outside of town on our way to Tunica earlier this year.  In case you live under a rock, Tupelo is the birthplace of Elvis Presley.  And in case I have never mentioned it, I think of Elvis as a family member.  He (in some way or another) has been a constant presence in my life since birth.

 This is a scene of a random work night with Amanda.  You can see pins, thread, fabric, and of course chocolate.
 My dog has a love/hate relationship with the car.  He LOVES to "go for a ride" but he freaks out once he is in the car.  His favorite spot is in the driver seat (most always with me) with the window down.  But, he only watches from afar.  He doesn't dare stick his little head out the window.
This is what happens when you don't have power for 5 days so [first] you can't see and [second] you have run of out of white socks.

This was my view Thursday afternoon when we pulled up at our hotel. 
More to come about our mini-getaway.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sometimes there are no words

Several times, I have attempted to join my fellow Alabama bloggers (Rachel @ Grasping for Objectivity, Amanda @ Bitten by the Disney Bug among others).  I could never seem to get the correct words down.  Nothing seemed fitting for such a tremendous tradegy.  I still can't fully express the magnatitude of what happened. 

Last Wednesday, my Sweet Home Alabama was left devastated by tornadoes.  Cities were decimated, homes destroyed, and lives taken.  To date, there are 245 confirmed deaths with more being reported everyday.  In my own tiny "home county" of St. Clair there were fourteen deaths and twelve of those were from the same street.

Wednesday morning, Hubs and I were woken early by Hubs' mom (who is our neighbor) with news that we were about to get some rough weather.  I went ahead and dressed for work and Hubs booted up his laptop.  We have lived "cable-less" for several years but thanks to streaming internet, our beloved James Spann from Birmingham's ABC 33/40 was live on our screen.  Our area was hit pretty rough by straight-line winds and possible tornadic activity.  We were lucky.  We only lost power.  Others in our town lost homes including Hubs' aunt's neighborhood which took a significant blow with trees on houses everywhere.  We left for work with the warning from Spann that this was only the beginning. 

Boy was he right!

Early that afternoon, I sat at my desk with my student assistant/co-worker and literally watched (again via streaming internet) as a tornado touched down and brought destruction to the city of Cullman.  This tornado began on the radar as a little speck of green and grew in no time to be a killer tornado.  With that in mind, people began heading home.  I went to Hubs' office and watched another meterologist predict what would become of a small cell at the Alabama state line.  He told the state to brace itself.  Hubs and I made it home and were joined by my in-laws.  We waited out the weather with only our tiny radio and iphones (HUGE props to AT&T as Hubs' and I only had brief interruptions of 3G coverage so we were able to keep up with ABC 33/40 streaming).  The reports coming out of Tuscaloosa and that part of the state were bad  horrible indescribable.  This monster storm continued North hitting cities such as Corner, Pleasant Grove, Pratt City, and Fultondale, among MANY others. 

While the radio reports were obviously grim, nothing could prepare someone for seeing the pictures coming out of these devastated cities. Entire blocks gone.  Resturants, stores, homes.  Wood, metal, brick.  Nothing could withstand the winds and fierceness of this storm.  Feelings of sadness, desperation, and helplessness flooded my body.  Seeing pictures left me feeling physically sick.  And the worse part...I only saw this footage on the news and through pictures.  East of Birmingham, we barely had any limbs down.  No damage at all.  We were without power from Wednesday until Monday.  How could I even complain for a second?  My family was all safe and accounted for.  My heart is beyond thankful to God for sparing so many of us from tradegy but I desperately seek Him for those in need.  My heart is broken for those who lost their homes, for those who have lost loved ones, for those who are still missing loved ones.  I cannot begin to imagine their feelings right now.  And I wouldn't be so bold to even attempt it.  The sheer magnitude of this storm was like nothing anyone had ever seen.  People held on to loved ones and stayed in their safe places.  But, really no place was safe enough. 

The man pictured is a friend and co-worker of my dad.  His home sustained a little bit of damage in Pleasant Grove.  But, his mother's house (pictured) was completely demolished.  He is holding a picture of himself as a child that he found in the rubble.  His mother was severly injured after the tornado picked her up (she was in the bathtub...her safeplace) and at some point dropped her about 60 yards away from her home.  Her brand new SUV was found several houses down on top of someone's garage.  Last I heard (Sunday), she had already been released from University Hospital.  Completely amazing.

The President and First Lady visited Tuscaloosa on Friday.  Michelle Obama hugs a storm victim.  Federal money is good but sometimes a supportive hug can mean more than all the money in the world.

The President walked among the rubble and devastation to meet victims.

A destroyed church in the Tuscaloosa area.

To me the picture above says so much.  Although our houses of worship can be broken, our spirits cannot.  God is always with us.  Someone on Facebook posted a paraphrased version of Isaiah 54:11 - "You are sad and discouraged, tossed around in a storm. But I, the Lord, will rebuild your city."  What a beautiful promise!  There is a great song performed by Casting Crowns called "Praise You In This Storm" that provided a lot of comfort to me during an especially emotional time last year.  This song could not be more perfect for this situation. 

I was sure by now,God, that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away


I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

But what do we do now? 
Shoal Creek area of St. Clair County.
The sign reads "Thank you Volunteers."

Now we help our neighbors up, dust them off, and rebuild.  Thousands are helping by volunteering with shelters, food preparation, cleanup.  But even if you can't physically help, there are plenty of other ways to contribute.  There is a desperate need for supplies, food, and monetary donations.  Here is a brief list:

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I'm coming home to you
-Lynyrd Skynrd.  "Sweet Home Alabama"