Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cancer in a Box

I've been following the latest news on the findings reported in this article about tanning beds. From the article:

"A new analysis of about 20 studies concludes the risk of skin cancer jumps by 75 percent when people start using tanning beds before age 30. Experts also found that all types of ultraviolet radiation caused worrying mutations in mice, proof the radiation is carcinogenic."

They equate going to the tanning bed as being as likely to cause cancer as tobacco, hepatitis B, and chimney sweeping (I know I avoid all three - especially the last.. I mean who wants to get that dirty?). There is also a previous study that found that young people are eight times as likely to get melanoma than someone who had never been in a tanning bed.

I know a lot of people who used to go to the tanning beds... these days, most of my friends don't do it anymore (I guess it isn't "cool" anymore). However, I know that many people go to the tanning bed on a weekly basis, if not every other day. I've heard people say "it is worth the risk for skin cancer" since they look skinnier when tan - that or the old favorite "it can't happen to me." Is it worth your life to look tan?

Along the same lines, the article brings up the question in my mind - what is the difference in going in a tanning bed for 10 minutes and laying out by the pool for 4 hours? You're still talking about UV rays. I love laying out - the sun energizes me and I feel better. However, I've started moving from the SPF15 to the SPF30 as I get older and wiser (and start listening to my mom a little more). While I know that I look better "sunkissed," I don't want to put myself at risk any more than I already do.

After all, I drink bottled water that has been left in the sun, I eat food out of microwaved plastic containers, I eat red meat, I wear deodorant, I talk on my cell phone - I have to balance out the odds some how.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Middle Ground of Burgers

At home, Jake and I try not to eat too much red meat. But I love a good burger and Memphis has many great options for them. But there are levels of burgers - you can do the Wendy's or Backyard Burger fast food burger for the carnivore on the run, you can do it Memphis style with a Huey burger, or you could even go high class with a specialty burger from Encore downtown. Price wise, you're talking a range of 2$ to 15$ for just the burger. And money gets you a lot - the lower end of the price range gets you a thin patty on a generic bun and a more expensive burger could have a toasted sesame home made bun, Gorgonzola cheese, and bacon.

For the every day, however, I'm not all about the fast food option but don't have the money to shell out for a specialty burger. In the spirit of compromise, I've discovered two places that serve burgers that I find quite delicious in a moderately unhealthy way. For the same price of going to a sub shop (and a little less than you'd spend at Panera or its counterpart), you can go to Tops BBQ or Ubee's and get a cheeseburger and fries. My mom and I went to Ubee's and then later in the month Jake and I went to Tops and both times we got 2 burgers, fries, and drinks for about 14$.

My opinion:
Tops BBQ is a Memphis staple with multiple locations. Known for being the "fast food of BBQ," my dad and I used to go after tap dance lessons when I was younger. Because of that, part of what I'm drawn to is the sentimental value. The burgers are great for the money - thicker than a fast food burger but not as thick as a restaurant burger, and you get two sides with the combo (choose from BBQ beans, chips, fries, or slaw). And as you drive by, you can't resist the smell!

Ubee's is on the U of M campus, on the Highland strip. It is a part of the Dyer's family and opened last year. They have a huge menu, nice facilities, and double as a bar at night. Their burger is pretty similar to Top's but I like their fries a lot more. They are shoestring handcut fries that taste a lot better than Top's fries - more fresh. It is really clean there and there is a lot of room. Interestingly, I've never gone when anyone but us was there so that makes me nervous for their future.

When you're in the mood for a burger and want to go somewhere and sit down but don't want to pay restaurant prices, maybe one of these two are the place for you - budget eating style!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Historic Renovation

I was reading the Commercial Appeal online (as I usually do daily) and saw this article on the renovation of Carrier Hall in Central Gardens. As I've posted before, I love historic homes and this article does a great job of spotlighting one. The article also talks about how Memphis has a very large number of historic homes and not just mansions - you can get a home on the National Register of Historic Places for 100,000 or 4million, depending on your needs.

I'm a huge fan of Midtown. Having lived there (with a brief stint in East Memphis in between) almost my whole life, I can say that it is somewhere I'd love to move to. It has an urban feel without the issues of living downtown (while I love downtown, I wouldn't live there because of parking issues and proximity to things I do daily like grocery shop). I love that in Midtown I can walk to the corner coffee shop, I can be in downtown in 10 minutes for church but hit East Memphis for my usual target run in 15 minutes. I love the charm of the houses, I love the eclectic mix of people in the neighborhoods, and I love the tree lined boulevards. We are members of the zoo and love being able to hop on over for an afternoon walk whenever we want. The Brooks Museum is another asset, along with Overton Park in general. I love taking a blanket to Overton Park in the spring and just enjoying being outdoors. The types of restaurants in Midtown are also another plus. We love Boscos, Paulettes, Young Ave Deli, Dinos, Finos, Hueys, Blue Monkey, the Milkshake Place (Wiles Smith Drugstore), and so much more. And as you can see, there is such variety - that isn't even delving in to the array of ethnic cuisine offered.

I'm glad that this article was written to spotlight one of the great neighborhoods of Midtown - Central Gardens. I love driving around and looking at the gorgeous houses. Knowing people that live there, the community feel is outstanding. In our neighborhood growing up, I had a great pack of girls to run around with and we could basically rule the neighborhood, riding bikes, rollerblading, as long as we stayed within the neighborhood there were no worries. That was the life! There are so many great neighborhoods to choose from, all with historic homes, near good restaurants - when it comes time for us to buy a house, we are definitely planning on looking in Midtown.

Now I know that there may be some worries about security. I will say that our backhouse has gotten broken in to several times, cars have gotten windows smashed out, and I know people that have had home invasions (during the day though). To that, I'd say to do your research - there are crime statistics by zip code and you can find that information on any good realator's site. Crime is everywhere in our city - for example, Bartlett just had a rash of car break ins a week ago. It is something that concerns me, though, and I'm not exactly sure what to think about it.

Maybe one day I'll be able to own a house like the one described in the article. The utility bill alone is 1,700$ a month.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A day trip to Subiaco, Arkansas

From 1994 to 2005 I attended "Choir Camp" in Subiaco, AR (which is a monastery) along with my best friend from birth, Elise. Choir Camp is this wonderful little camp where kids ages 3rd grade to senior in high school attend and work for one week on a sung Episcopal service for Saturday morning and a Broadway style revue show for the afternoon on Saturday. They also learn handbell songs, do arts and crafts, swim in the monk's Olympic size pool, have a costume dance party, do a giant slip and slide, and more. There are usually about 100 kids and the staff is comprised of a "college staff" that are the group leaders for the kids and then about 30 adults who have pretty much all done the camp for 20+ years. They are choir directors, organists, and even professional actors. The show this year was directed by a Broadway actor. Choir Camp is a special little place.

So this past Saturday, Elise and I decided to go see the church service and show and visit all our favorite Choir Camp people. In between the service and the show there is a picnic, so I spent Friday cooking for our picnic lunch. We got up at 4AM and left at 5Am, drove 4 hours, spend a few hours there, went to Little Rock to visit Elise's aunt and adorable cousins (really - adorable.) and then came home. It was a whirlwind of a day but one of the best days I've had in a while. It was great going back to Choir Camp and also getting to spend so much time with Elise - we haven't had one on one best friend time in a long time.

For the picnic, I made baked chicken strips, a corn and black bean salsa, and brownies with peanut butter chips. It was a very cheap meal (I spent probably 25$ total on supplies and it fed 4 people) and was delicious. We needed something that would travel well.

My brownies - Duncan Hines brand, I did the fudge style (2 eggs instead of 3) and added peanut butter chips to add flavor. They were awesome.

My dip - I got the recipe from Blue Jean Gourmet's blog but made modifications for my taste. I basically compiled:
- 2 cans yellow/white corn mix
- 2 cans black beans (low sodium version but it really doesn't matter)
- 1 can Rotel tomatoes (I did the cilantro/lime version but it doesn't matter... 2 cans would have been good)
- 1 bunch finely chopped cilantro
- 5 green onions, chopped (the white ends only)
- 2 jalepenos, seeded and chopped
- 2 limes, squeezed for juice (you just want the juice, not the actual lime)
- red pepper flakes
- cumin
- salt

I left it in the fridge overnight and it was awesome because the flavors combined... it was so good. Used some heavy tortilla chips and it was a healthy dip.

I wanted to do chicken tenders but usually we fry them and I didn't want to do that - they get soggy when left and also not the healthiest. I found a recipe on Annie Eats and modified it.

I took chicken breasts and cut them diagonally in two, and let them soak in cold salt water for 30 minutes (I'm not sure why - it just said to do it, so I did). I then dried the chicken and dipped it in flour (that had salt and pepper in it), then egg, then panko (that had red pepper flakes in it) and baked them on 400 until they were crispy on the outside (this took about 20 minutes). They would have been great hot but they still tasted wonderful cold. We dipped them in ranch. A spicy ranch sauce would have been even better probably.

Elise at our picnic spot on Saturday, unloading the cooler, excited to eat our feast!
The abbey at Subiaco. It is gorgeous there and in the middle of nowhere, nested in the mountains of Arkansas. There are monks there and a boys school during the school year.
About to watch the show - it was hilarious this year. We miss choir camp so much!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Don't ever buy full price at Macy's!

I absolutely love Macy's Department Store. I do not, however, like their prices. And here's why - everything is overpriced. And on top of that, their stuff goes on sale it seems like every other week! We registered there and so I had a fair amount of money left over, half in gift cards and half in "star rewards" money. When you register there, anytime someone buys something for you off your registry there, you get a percentage to spend at Macy's. We had already spent a lot of our gift cards back in February and finally decided what to get with our last little bit of money. It was honestly so much fun because we only had a set amount and wanted to see how much we could get with that amount. Jake and I went on Monday to scope it out and nothing was on sale - the sales lady told us not to buy anything that night and instead come back on Thursday (today) because everything was going on sale PLUS I would get 20% off since I was registered there.

So I went back today and ended up racking up. I am so proud of myself! We were blessed to get so many awesome gifts at the wedding that have really been put to good use. I am amazed at how supportive and generous our friends and family were! People ask what my favorite gift was and honestly I have about 10 different answers. I really loved everything.

A picture of what we got today. Jake has been wanting a griddle for our stove so he can make pancakes and grilled cheese. So, I indulged his wishes and got him one. We also got a commercial steamer - I don't always have time to iron and a steamer just makes things look a little better in lieu of a good iron. We got an 8 quart 3 piece stainless steel pot, good for steaming veggies and boiling a whole bunch of noodles, and 2 of the bowls to my china pattern. Now to tell you how much I saved!!

Originally 74.99 , I got it for 31.99

Originally 79.99, I got it for 23.99

8 quart Pot:
Originally 159.99, I got it for 63.99

Bowls (2):
Originally 43.00 a piece, I got them for 20.64

So, total I saved $239.72 today. All by waiting until things went on sale - thus, why you should not buy full price at Macy's.. because a week later, it will all be on sale!

This is our wedding china we picked out - we got an every day china as well that I love. We wanted something that was traditional but a bit on the unique side because I've got some china already that is more traditional than this that I've inherited. I absolutely love our china!!

I love this.

So one of my facebook friends posted this on her wall today and so of course, being naturally inquisitive, I clicked the link. It is a youtube of a couple that got married.. and wanted to make it unforgettable. The whole wedding party does a choreographed procession to Chris Brown's forever. It makes me happy because it is so distinctly personable. I don't even know these people but I feel like it is their personality to have this kind of wedding. That is how I feel a wedding should be - completely about who you are as a couple. A lot of people try to fit their wedding into the mold set by and TLC's wedding shows. But really the wedding will be the best day of your life if it is something that represents you! And I do love a good wedding... Here you go:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yet another reason why I'm in love

Jake's masterpiece - he digs in.

Dinner tonight was a creation. Sticking with our two goals: cheap and using as much we could of what we had, we went with nachos. We winged it, kind of going off what we like on nachos and running with it. We already had a lot of the things and then went to the store for the rest - Jake needed coffee and milk anyway and I was having a caffeine free coke craving.

We had chicken so we made the nachos based on that. We bought some knock off white cheese dip ("Mexican cafe style") at the grocery store and have ended up using it for 4 different meals - a good value. Since we had an outstanding amount of shredded cheese, we put all the ingredients together to come up with the idea. Jake did this solely himself and it was delicious. I was hanging out on the couch, catching up on the news, and before I realized it, Jake was saying dinner was ready. I had been planning to go in and help but the meal only took about 10 minutes to make so I ended up getting treated to a completely work free meal!

Our nachos needed...
- Tortilla Chips (we used On the Border because they were thick and big)
- Chicken (boneless, skinless)
- refried beans (ours were the spicy jalapeno kind)
- shredded lettuce (bought the pre cut bagged kind for convenience)
- tomato (we only used 1/2)
- yellow onion (again, only used 1/2)
- jalapenos
- cheese (we used the white cheese dip and a chedder/Monterrey shredded mix)
- fajita seasoning

We boiled the chicken to get it to be shreddable, then sauteed it in the fajita seasoning for flavor with the onions. Jake then put the chips on a cookie sheet, spread the beans on top, put the chicken and onions on, and let that sit in the oven for a few minutes. He then put the lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, and cheeses on and let that sit long enough for the cheese to melt.

I totaled it all up and we only spent 6$ at the store on this meal - counting stuff we had that we had previously bought, the meal probably cost about $15 total.

The Adventures of Tyson the Kitty

See how big he has gotten? He's saying "Hi".
He really likes to play inside people's bags - here he is trying to go to the pool with me.
And now he wants to go to school with Jake...
And last, but not least, he really likes watching baseball. Also when we're playing a video game, he sits right in front of the TV and bats at the Tv.

When we adopted Tyson, I was excited about finally having a cat. Little did we know we'd be getting one fiesty dude. Tyson is cute but hyper, one minute is cuddly and the next bites your arm, and bounds from couch to couch at high speeds. He has a lot of personality, which I think goes with my theory that Jake and I attract freaks for animals. He is growing more and more every day. When we got him, he was so tiny and scared and now he is getting to be a big fatty! He is going on for his big surgery next Wednesday (claws and the "boys") and I'm hoping he'll come away from it ok... He is a funny little guy.

Pantry Cooking

I posted last week about recipes that are made entirely out of things from your pantry - I call this pantry cooking. It saves time and money since you're not running to the store for ingredients, you use up what you already have. Our kitchen doesn't have much food storage area but in our next house (next being in 5 or more years... we've got a while) I want to have a walk in pantry where I can have one of every single spice I'd need, noodles, rice, chicken broth, etc on hand for whenever I need it. Even now we have established a pretty good stock pile of "regulars" - Parmesan cheese (we like to grate it), lemons, red wine vinegar, olive oil, canned tomatoes, etc.

Cooking Light has an entire part of their recipes devoted to Quick and Easy 5-ingredient recipes, usually involving things you'd already have.

This one is a chicken with cider and bacon sauce.

I know Jake will like this - Fig and Blue Cheese stuffed Pork.

I love asparagus - this is a Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Vinegar.

(all images taken from Cooking Light)

80% off certificates

What do these three places have in common? Well one of my *faithful* readers sent me a link today with a promotion for (see post below for explanation) where all certificates are 80% off! The code (enter at checkout) is NAPKIN and runs through 7/28.

I spent $4.40 and got 4 certificates:
- $10 to Kooky Canuck (have to spend $15)
- $10 to Sekisui Pacific Rim (have to spend $20)
- $10 to Molly's La Casita (have to spend $15)
- $25 to Ronnie Grisanti's (have to buy 2 entrees worth $35 total)

So total I've gotten $55 worth of food for $4.40. What makes these deals good is if you get the certificates to places you'd go anyway without one. I picked places we routinely go or want to go and will use these then - not in addition to our regular habits. Also to make sure you're saving money, we carefully calculate what we need to order to make sure we are not overspending (some people might see the coupon and say - hey, since we've got it, let's get dessert, even if they don't normally do so). The smaller denomination coupons help too because we can easily spend 20$ at pacific rim and have a decent meal, where if we got the next size up, the $25 coupon - we'd have to spend $50 which for two people is hard.

Go enter your zip code at and see if there are fun restaurants near you!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eating out budget style

Check out pictures of a few places we went this weekend - and then read about how we didn't spend that much money going there!

Friday night took us to Kooky Canuck - known for its 4lb burger known as the Kookamonga Burger. No, we didn't get that, but the burgers and fries were great nonetheless.

Flying Fish, known for their Billy Bass adoption center (yes, the mounted singing plastic fish) - I don't even like fish and I'm definitely going back to this place!

I've gone to Bryant's since I was little, since it is across the street from my elementary school. I have fond memories of eating sausage biscuits with my dad before scurring across the street.

Garabaldi's pizza is our favorite casual pizza place - we go to the one on U of M's campus. This is a pic of the BBQ pizza, one of their signature pizzas!

This weekend we had various social functions that called for going out. As you all know, we're trying to spend less money since Jake quit his job to go back to school. Yet we're social creatures and enjoy hanging out with our friends so we have to get a little creative. I'm sure this is something that people encounter in other situations as well - whether it is trying to save for a house/car/vacation, having a baby, or a pay cut at work. We managed to eat out a fair amount this weekend and not break the bank. Here's how:

1) Friday night: I'm a faithful shopper. The way it works (for those who are in the dark) is that for example, you'll buy a certificate for $25 (they come in various increments) and to get it, you must spend $35. Gratuity is factored pre-discount and some places don't include alcohol but you'll get the certificate for a discounted rate. I bought one for Kooky Canuck (the restaurant formally known as Big Foot) for $4 (I always buy when they're having some promotion where their certificates are seventy percent off). You enter your zip code and all these restaurants pop up - like sushi? Seukisui is on there. Fine dining? Cafe Society. Casual? Ubees. So many options!

We went to Kooky Canuck with Rachael, making it easier to consume 35$ worth of food at a place known for big portions and good prices. We got the fried pickles appetizer (a must), Jake and I got burgers (I really like their burgers - better than most places out, Jake got blue cheese and bacon on his), Rachael got bbq nachos (really different and good, not like other places.. they have baked beans too and a guacamole ranch sauce), and we still hadn't spent 35$ so we got the s'mores dessert. It was hilariously good. They give you a real fire (in a fondue looking pot), skewers, and all the supplies to make s'mores. They were good and put us right at 36$, which is a dollar over what we needed to spend. With original tip included (and our waitress was fabulous so that is fair), we ended up spending 15$ for both Jake and I and Rachael got by with $7. I'd say that is budget eating!

2) Saturday lunch: It was one of my friend's birthday (Yay for Julie!) and her dear husband organized a get together since they were in town from the ATL. I obviously wanted to go since it was going to be with people I LOVE to see but there were two problems - one being that I didn't have much dough and two being that I don't eat fish! I checked out the menu online and instantly knew I'd be ok. I went to the counter and got a bowl of red beans and rice, fried okra, green beans, and a lemonade all for $8.74. This was so much food I couldn't carry it - they gave me a tray! I could have just had the red beans and rice and a drink and been full (that probably would have been about 4$.) I took more than half of the leftovers to Jake who was studying and he was very happy. I think the food there is delicious and you can eat pretty cheap - plus anyone who gets those envelopes with coupons in the mail (we do monthly... I'm not sure why but keep 'em coming), there is usually one for Flying Fish so when we go back, we'll get one entree free with the purchase of another and 2 drinks. You can eat pretty healthy too - grilled grouper, grilled zucchini and squach, green beans, and a drink for cheap and good for the waistline.

3) Saturday breakfast: While I was off downtown at Flying Fish with friends, Jake met some guys at Bryant's for breakfast, a Saturday routine. Bryant's is on Summer and seems a bit shady - it is in the parking lot of a strip mall, next to a gas station. But the parking lot is ALWAYS packed with a line out the door - a sign of a good place. I usually get 2 sausage biscuits and a Coke. Jake varies between a bacon omelette (huge amount of omelette), sausage egg and cheese biscuits, and the full meal. This place only takes cash but you won't spend much of it there. My breakfast usually costs me $5 and keeps me full way past lunch. It is a local favorite!

4) By Saturday night, we only had 12$ left in the weekly budget, after several fun outings with friends, a petco stop (for the kitty), groceries, and gas. What to do with 12$ when you want to do something fun since it is a Saturday night? Jake had to study for a test and I was just loafing around so we decided to see if we could find a good pizza for under 12$. Our favorite, Garabaldi's, was perfect! Their 14 inch pepperoni was 11.74$ with tax - we got carryout so we didn't pay a delivery fee and used drinks we had here to avoid paying for drinks. Garabaldi's is very reasonably priced and they have a great buffet during the week at lunch. Their pizza has a distinct taste, I think due to the tomato sauce and combination of cheeses they use, and it is really laid back there.

Check back for more adventures of being married, on a budget, and hungry...

Friday, July 17, 2009

I know this video is old news to many of you (it circulated emails a few months ago) but I just revisited the video when playing around on youtube and forgot how much I love it! The premise of it is that there is a movement going on where there will be a time/place posted online and dancers will assemble, learn a dance, and then go "flash rave" style perform it in a mall, train station, etc. I think it is fascinating! I would definitely be down for that.

Now the bigger issue here from an academic standpoint takes me back to a class I had last summer. My professor for our Geography of Popular Culture class had a series of lectures arguing the demise of social interaction because of the internet. He said that genuine social contact was going to fail because we're all attached to this "online" world that is out of touch with reality. While I see how that could happen, this video above is perfect evidence that quite the contrary is occurring - that rather than isolating people, the internet is bringing people together that would otherwise never interact.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

In my next life..

I've always wanted to be a real estate agent. I know it isn't a glamorous dream but I love houses. I used to think I wanted to be an architect but now I know that I am no good at the details of designing a house. I love the detail of old houses and could see myself specializing in historic homes. I know that now is not the time to be trying to become a real estate agent but maybe in my next life (or 10-20 years from now) it is something I could pursue.

I have an odd pastime that I really enjoy. I love going on real estate sites and looking through the houses on the market. I know I'm not planning to BUY a house any time soon but I find it so fascinating - the prices, the different floor plans, the pictures. I love looking at the pictures of the historic homes especially - the high end mansion ones, the small bungalows, and the fixer uppers. Especially, I love the fixer uppers because I envision what they could be (did I get that from my mom?!). Some make me sad - for example right now there are two that make me very sad. There is a huge four square style house on Cowden (here is the Crye Leike listing) that is selling for $199,000. It is in Central Gardens and is a historic home that needs a lot of work. They don't even have pictures of the inside (a bad sign) and when it says "all offers will be considered" in the description, you know it can't be good!

The other one that makes me sad is one on Overton Park - but not the nice tree-lined, close to the zoo part of the street... the part that is right off I240 and Cleveland. It is another historic home - the pictures of the detail are wonderful... huge bannisters, fireplaces, molding.. AH! (listing). Yet I'd never buy this house because of the location and no one else really probably will either that is looking to restore it. I noticed that it says in the description "as is, where is" so maybe the owner is thinking someone might buy it and move it to another lot? That could be cool. It still needs a lot of work and you're looking at buying a lot, moving the house, and then restoring the home so I don't know about that one...

Right now the type of architecture I'm really in to is the Arts and Crafts (or Craftsman) movement. We've got Arts and Crafts house all over Midtown and I love finding the little details!! The picture above is typical of an Arts and Crafts - except sometimes there are bookshelves under the windows. Doesn't that just look so cozy?? Arts and Crafts houses were usually built between the 1890's and 1930's and the style is in response to the excess of the Victorian era design. The next pictures shows a restored house in Oregon - see the dark beams, 15 over 1 window, and columns? It is just beautiful!! If I could own a house like this eventually, I'd be very happy. Or at least selling these type of houses to other people, making them happy.

Well, on to more browsing of houses while watching HGTV!!

Big wheels keep on rollin'

Despite having a lag between camp and school starting back and my propensity to do absolutely nothing, it appears life, indeed, is rolling on. Some things going on lately:

- Jake's sister, Caroline, turned 17 yesterday and is having surgery tomorrow. I had an awesome time yesterday with her at lunch and then running around town. She's changing schools and we went and scoped things out. It should be an exciting change for her!

- Jake has been in school for almost two weeks. He has a test tomorrow and has been studying for the whole week. He is working so hard and really enjoys being in school. His schedule right now isn't so bad - 2 classes, but in the fall (really August actually) it gets intense. He is going to be a studying machine!

- my parents and brothers have been away, in Hawaii, and are coming back finally next week. They seem to have been gone a long time! I'm ready for them to be back

- I'm going canoeing with my church young adults group the first weekend of August. This will be basically my only summer vacation so I'm really excited about the weekend.

- I might be going back up to Subiaco, Arkansas to visit Choir Camp, my performance arts camp that I attended from 1994 to 2005. Elise and I talked today about driving over on Friday night (a week from tomorrow) and seeing the church service and show the next day. I love that camp and that place (it is a monastery and boy's boarding school) and am excited to make the trip.

- I've eluded to a job switch. I'm taking classes to be certified to teach gifted education and as I've taken these classes, I've rediscovered my passion for education. I was down and out about teaching after my first year and these classes have shown me where I need to be. This is something that may (yes, MAY) happen this year, may not. I really won't know until the last minute whether a position is open for me and if so, I won't know where until the last minute as well. This is a tough place to be but for something that I interviewed for last year and turned down, I decided I needed to stop ignoring the urge to teach gifted and go for it, even though it will definitely be a challenge. A challenge, but a different kind of challenge than screaming and cussing children.

- I start back for school next week with meetings and a freshman transition. I can't believe it - it has flown by... I am not ready at all to go back to work.

- Jake and I are still focusing on living a budget life. We've done OK this week, our first official budget week. We've got some fun social outings for the weekend so we'll have to do extra well there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A review or two.

Review #1: Tonight, Jake and I had another budget meal. This one was chicken (again - thanks to Jake's mom!) and green beans. We got a package of microwaveable green beans from the grocery store. They are my favorite because they are quick and taste great. These, however, were a bit odd. We tried out these new ones from Kroger that had a tab of sauce in the bottom that was solid and would melt when you microwaved. They had little yellow potatoes in there was well. The green beans and potatoes are good but the sauce, a "garlic chive mix" tasted more like old broccoli. It was odd. The chicken, however, was great. We put a durkee sauce on it (White Wine) and pan cooked it. It held the flavor really well and tasted awesome. I'd recommend it for any budget meal!

It was the "Grill Creations Marinade - White Wine and Herb". Look for it in the grocery store!

Review #2: Cafe Eclectic. Jake and I had to run over to my parents' house tonight and decided to try out Cafe Eclectic's bakery. My mom had gone and said that their cupcakes were amazing and since you know I'm a faithful Muddy's fan, I had to go and see if this was the case - to scope out the competition of course. We arrived, took a seat at the bar, and checked out the dessert menu. Jake ended up getting a cupcake and I got a sundae. We looked at the regular menu too to see what they offer. It had a good ambiance, less "eclectic" than the name might imply and more just chill. They had some great pressed tin art on the walls and dim lighting. My sundae was great but too much sugar - I have a belly ache now! Jake loved his cupcake and said it was less sugary than Muddy's (something he appreciates, not being too much of a sweets fan). I have heard rumblings that the recipe is similar for these two places and according to our taste test, this was not the case. Cafe Eclectic DOES charge 25cents more for their cupcake though- just a warning.

We'll be heading back for lunch soon because they had a hot dog "N'awlins" style that Jake eyed - Nathan's hot dog with ramaloude on top and also they had a patty melt he was interested in. The prices were reasonable too. We could easily have one of our date night outs there without breaking the bank. It is right in the area of my old stomping grounds and I'd love it if this place became a neighborhood establishment for good. I can picture us moving back into Midtown and walking down the street for some coffee from Cafe Eclectic for years to come.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Muddy's Cupcakes. Budget Eating? Yes.

I've had a serious sweet tooth lately. I don't for a long time and then I get one, go into overload, then calm down for a few more months. During my daily internet adventure, I love reading Muddy's blog (linked on the right) and it has made me absolutely CRAVE a cupcake. Now, as you know, I've been trying to save money. So how does a cupcake save you money? Well..

Not only is Muddy's a delicious stop for cupcakes (and cakes, pies, and more) but the ambiance is so delightful. Since Jake and I are cutting back on eating out, going to movies, and shopping, our social lives have taken a bit of a hit. Sitting around this house gets a bit old. So a creative solution is instead of having dinner dates with people, have dessert dates! Muddy's is adorable and there are a few tables to sit and enjoy your fare - you can get coffee in a cute unique coffee mug too.

So maybe Jake and I will go have a date at Muddy's soon? Spending 3$ on two cupcakes sure beats dining out! And in true Memphis fashion, Kat - Miss Muddy's herself, is a friend of a friend so even though I don't know her, I feel like I should support her business. She isn't much older than me and runs her on business. I am very impressed (and jealous!).

My favorite flavor cupcakes are the Grasshopper, Pink Lady, and Frankly Scarlett but I like to branch out as well. Jake gets the Cookies and Cream one (I can't remember its clever name...). I encourage you to take a dessert date out to save some money when going out with friends!

Monday, July 13, 2009

More Budget Eating.

Blogging about that nice salad with the lemon vinaigrette made me decide to go make one. Again - completely out of items from our kitchen, no grocery store trip needed. I guessed and threw stuff in and think it tastes pretty great.

My concoction:

olive oil (preferably EVOO but we didn't have that)
red wine vinegar (balsamic would be good)
dijon mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
garlic powder
onion salt

You want 3 parts oil for every 1 part vinegar. I threw the rest in and shook - hard. You end up with a tart, lemony creamy vinaigrette that would be great on a salad in the summer. And free!

Budget Eating.

Dinner tonight was delish - AND... free! Well sort of free - we cooked out of what we had in the kitchen and made a pretty tasty dish. I love orzo as a summer pasta option and we had a whole bag left over from some grocery trip long ago. We had chicken, thanks to Jake's awesome mom who made a Sam's trip and hit us up with a large pack of chicken. This took maybe 15 minutes to make and is adapted from Cooking Light so may even be healthy.

Lemon Pepper Chicken Orzo

You'll need...
2 chicken breasts, cubed
Orzo pasta
1 lemon
Garlic Powder
Parsley (fresh would be nice but we used dried)
Parmesan cheese (fresh grated)

First, cook the orzo in water (1 cup orzo).

While that is cooking, in a skillet put a pad of butter and let it coat the pan, then take the chicken pieces and cook them, adding a bit of salt and pepper as you go.

The orzo will probably be done by now - add parsley and salt to that and set aside.

Once the chicken is done, take it and set the pieces aside, keeping the juice in the skillet.

Add a pad of butter, making sure not to let the butter burn. Once that melts, add the lemon juice (look out for seeds!) and let that simmer for a few seconds to mix. Then add the garlic powder (a couple of shakes) and pepper. Stir around, add the orzo in, and add your fresh grated parm. cheese. Stir in your chicken and you've got dinner.

A salad would be nice with this too - you could go with the lemon theme and do a fresh lemon juice dressing or you could do some sort of vinaigrette.

So all in all, a great meal, a "free" meal, a quick meal. I'd recommend it!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Blog confession.

Quick note here - you may notice I went ahead and listed some of the blogs I read regularly on the side here... See the thing is, many of these people don't even know I read their blog! I was embarrassed for a bit to admit this but I have a blog habit. I absolutely love reading other people's blogs. I am just insanely curious about people in general and love reading their thoughts. Even people that I don't know well, I find what they choose to write in their blog fascinating. I have a routine when I get home from work where I sit down, read the news, facebook, and then go and read the newest posts on all "my blogs." It just really relaxes me to read what people blog about, from foodies to shopaholics. I have some blogs I read that are witty, some are personal, and some are professional. I truly enjoy reading the blogs and if you're reading this, I just may be reading your blog without you knowing it! So thanks!


I am a member of the YAMs at my church (Young Adult Ministry) and help out with programming for our group. We have a Pub Theology once a month where we take a topic and discuss it at a bar for lunch on a Sunday while partaking in an adult beverage or three. It is a great way to have intellectual and spiritual conversation while enjoying each others' fellowship. We had a meeting last week to decide on new topics for upcoming sessions and one particular topic we chose has been on my mind since then.

The topic is prayer (as you may have noticed from the title of those post...) and we're going to discuss ways to pray, reasons to pray, and beliefs about the power of prayer. I'm looking forward to this session (it is in October). My thoughts...

My first experience with prayer that I can consciously remember takes me back to being four years old at bedtime. I had been taught the prayer
Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep

And if I die before I wake

I pray the Lord my soul to take

As a child, I had a slight fear and obsession with death, so you can imagine that this prayer only fueled that fear. Every night I would say the prayer, rolling it off like habit, until it was so routine I did not even think about the words anymore or why I was even saying this prayer. I just knew that I was supposed to say it. Eventually, as I got older, I stopped saying it aloud and would say it to myself in my head (I guess I didn't want people thinking I was talking to myself!) and often wondered if God could still hear my prayer. For a young elementary child, this was an important question regarding prayer - how does God receive our prayers? This was before the days of emails so in my head I pictured God hearing exactly what I said as if I called him on the phone -now I suppose my prayers come in twitter form to him.

In many ways, my naive childhood experiences formed my prayer life today. As an Episcopalian, I rely exclusively on the Book of Common Prayer for guidance in my prayer life. The routine familiarity of the verses in the BCP provide me with an outlet for speaking to God. When asked to say a prayer at a meal or otherwise, I always seem to ramble and come off with a Southern drawl (why? I dont know - maybe I'm channeling my inner Billy Graham). I feel a bit uncomfortable at these times because I feel as if I'm driving without my seatbelt - I don't have that safety harnes, the BCP, in place to comfort and protect me.

Last winter at my favorite retreat, Winterfest, we focused on the idea of prayer. We explored prayer in familiar and unfamiliar ways - lectio divina, the labyrinth, taize, and more. This retreat made me realize that maybe it is the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable that actually helps me become closer to God through prayer. In putting myself out there, in swimming without my swimmie arms, I am more vulnerable and therefore more open to Him. The process of exploring new forms of prayer helped reinvigorate my BCP based prayer life and transform it into a more holistic prayer life.

Yet I still struggle with what to pray about. I read the prayer list at church, I see prayer requests on facebook's news feed, I get calls from friends about something they need people to pray for.. and while I do want to be supportive of my community, I feel righteous for praying for these things. I realized that it was not what I was praying for, but how I was praying for them. As I get older and less self absorbed, I'm learning more about myself and my faith. One of these such things is that as Christians, we cannot tell God what to do through prayer. We cannot say "God, please heal Aunt Sally" (not even saying please makes it ok!) because we are not the commanders of the universe, we are not in charge, we are not the ones with the plan. Rather, we can ask for guidance, ask for support, and ask for care from God. That Aunt Sally prayer then becomes "God, please take Aunt Sally into your arms and look after her." If the plan is for her to be healed, He will do so. If not, she will be taken care of in heaven. As scary as it is to have that situation out of our hands, that is the point - it IS out of our hands. Once we admit this, prayer becomes liberating.

Flashing back to my four year old self, lying in bed saying my bedtime prayer and thinking to myself "but really God - I want to wake up in the morning, don't take that last part seriously," I think about the list of prayers I ended up adding on to the conclusion of my prayer. I don't even remember what all I prayed for but apparently it was so important that I had to pray for those exact things every single night, in the same order, always after the bedtime prayer. My childhood self was a demanding pray-er. I had a list of demands and God had to concede to them. One such prayer? "Dear God - please let Mom's belly have girls." And yet we all know how that turned out - love you Jacob and Ezra! Clearly God had a plan for my family that did not involve little sisters. And boy (pun intended) did He know what he was doing - I love my brothers so much and cannot imagine how I would be now if I was not the "princess" of my house, my daddy's favorite daughter.

I guess, just like with life, in regards to prayer, we really have to "Let Go and Let God."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Budget Shopper - my new title.

So as you faithful blog reader(s) have noticed, the trend lately for me is saving money. I'm lucky in that the time in which I've got to be the most conscientious about money is the time when most everyone else does too. I've never considered myself to be lavish about money before but I definitely was one that wouldn't think twice about getting a dessert/appetizer with meals, buying clothes because they were "cute", etc. If the point in our lives where we had no money was in a boom when everyone else had a lot, I might get really depressed - but the thing is, being frugal is "in." It is great! Stores are on sale majorly, the recipe sites have "meals for under 3$ a person" advertised. It makes life a lot easier... because saving money is hard work.

As part of my new goal in life as a budget shopper, I'm posting a picture of tonight's outfit. We went to dinner with Jake's fam for Caroline's 17th birthday. We went to Sekisui Pacific Rim and it was a lot of fun. For a night out with family, I needed a cute outfit, of course. Normally I would just pick the newest thing I had in the closet. Having not gone shopping lately, though, I had to be creative from my closet and this is what I came up with! Check out the bargains I have invested in over the past few months:

top: Ann Taylor Loft - originally 24.50, I got it for 9.99
skirt: Ann Taylor Loft - originally 60.00ish, I got it for 19.99
shoes: Payless - 15$

This outfit is trendy but the pieces could be matched so many different ways - with a white cardigan for work, the shirt with jeans for a day with friends, the skirt with a button up for a work meeting. I probably should have worn a necklace or something but I'm not good at acccesorizing with jewelry - plus dangly earrings would have been cute but can't wear earrings since my hole ripped!

Next in the budget shopper series, I'll tell you about our budget friendly meals we'll be cooking!

Boston Zoo

I was reading this morning on about the Boston Zoo - it may be forced to close due to budget cuts. The worst part? They might have to euthanize 20% of their animals if they can't find homes for them in other zoos. This makes me really sad... animals don't deserve that. Since it is getting so much publicity, maybe this means they'll reconsider that? I understand it takes a lot of money to maintain a zoo but this is the only zoo in Boston, so you'd think it would be a good attraction.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Commentary on life.

So today I was facebooking (the usual) and realized something as I looked at my ads that scroll across the top right of the page. A year ago, my ads were all saying "Engaged?" and selling wedding stuff - very exciting, cutesy things. Now, a year later, my status on facebook says "married" and all of a sudden ALL of my facebook ads are either 1) "pregnant?" or 2) "divorcing?". It is a sad day when marketing gurus for facebook figure out that statistically it makes sense to advertise those two things for newlyweds - they are either making babies or getting divorced.

It seems that it isn't the norm for people to just enjoy each other! My parents waited quite a while to have me (lets see, Mom - 1973 to 1985, so 12 years?) and I feel like their marriage is better for it. I look around me and it seems like everyone I know that is married are either having babies or trying to have babies - and I am really happy for them. They are at a point in their lives where it makes sense. Jake and I, we're not there. We want to just enjoy ourselves, get to know each other as a married couple, and hang out with our friends. It seems even our friends want to lump us in as "different" now. All I want is for people to see me as me, not any different than ever before. I truly feel that while marriage to Jake is important and worthwhile, it did not change me as a person. Jake and I had a healthy, stable relationship prior to marriage and will continue to do so. We didn't need a ring and ceremony to become that way - we wanted to get married to make a commitment to each other, God, and our family and friends but honestly would be just as committed if we weren't married. And I think that is how a marriage SHOULD be.

I see myself as an independent person who can do whatever I put my mind to. For me, now that we're married, I'm not latched permanently to Jake - we rely on each other, support each other, and enjoy each other but do not HAVE to be with each other at all times. While I was away at camp, I missed him but truly appreciated the work I was doing. I knew that being assistant director at camp was where I was supposed to be. The fact that he was so supportive shows the type of relationship that we have - we support each other. As he starts school, I am very aware that he will have a LOT of studying to do. Nights, Saturdays - he'll be studying. And I know that is what he needs to do. His goal, to go to med school and become a doctor, necessitates a large does of studying. If he does well in this program, it could be a step in the right direction towards his goal. And while for me, it is not fun to have a husband who studies all the time, I'll support him because that is what we do.

I struggle a lot with maintaining my identity as me - I've changed my name, I've gotten married, I'm growing up. I see myself as the same I've ever been but people may look at me differently now. I've got a job, responsibilities, bills. I've got a husband. My interests are maturing - I love to read, sew, decorate, shop for antiques, bargain hunt, and so on. Yet as a person, my personality is still the same. I struggle a lot because I've been told I'm not fun - and I let this get to my head. I started to really BELIEVE that I was not fun, I embodied it. If someone said it, it must be so, I thought. And then I started having a conversation with a great friend. They reassured me that I was fun, that they did enjoy hanging out with me. Camp was a big boost for me as well because I had a blast. I didn't worry about anyone liking me, anyone judging me. Camp isn't that - you are who you are. Especially our staff this summer, we really embraced each other and appreciated each other. It was so uplifting. It reminded me who I am.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Well now that camp is over, my real summer is upon me. The thing is, I can't stop myself from doing NOTHING all day! I really would like to do things (go to the pool, etc) but seem to always just end up sitting around the house instead. I have grand intentions and then do not follow through. In fact - I actually haven't even unpacked from camp!! It is all still in my trunk! I know - it is horrible. I think I have just been so worn out from a long year and then working at camp for a month that I need to rest and relax. I've even been sleeping in until I wake up without an alarm. It has been 10:30AM for the past few days. I usually wake up without an alarm at like 6AM!

There are multiple things I need to be doing instead of blogging at this moment. Those include unpacking, cleaning the house, making some lunch, more cleaning, and even perhaps taking Sebastian on a walk. I also checked out two library books - The Memory Keeper's Daughter and The Lovely Bones so I could be reading those outside instead of sitting inside this house day after day. Maybe I'll go to a coffee shop and read.. hmm.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining about my summer vacation at all! I just wish summer was like it used to be - endless amounts of pools to go to, a family beach vacation, trips to the lake, sleepovers whenever you wanted, ice cream all the time, the freedom.

Being a grown up is boring.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

for good.

My parents took Jake and I to see Wicked at the Orpheum on Friday night. It was amazing - I had never seen it but had listened to the soundtrack a lot. I was so excited to see it and was glad that it lived up to my expectations. Elephaba was awesome. Her voice was so big and perfect. It made me miss doing theater even more though!

One of the songs was my favorite and has been since before I even saw the show: For Good. The lyrics really strike me and apply to so many situations in my life.

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...


It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

I've been so lucky to have so many people come and go in my life that have changed me for the better. Whether it was a few short weeks at a summer institute at Duke or a best friend, I've been surrounded by amazing people. During the show I was thinking about those special people a lot and I've been reflecting on it ever since. Sometimes I get so down thinking about the things I could do better, the things I don't do well, the disappointments I have in my life. It is so easy to get down on oneself. However I need to keep remembering all the things I'm grateful for. All the people that have put a handprint on my heart, that have helped me write my story.

I think about my 3rd grade CLUE teacher, Lisa, who showed me that being smart and academically aggressive was a good thing and helped me explore my creativity. I was the youngest in that class (Jake was in it too) and was constantly being challenged - something that was especially important at the time. She is still in my life and continues to be a mentor for me.

Another important person who came into my life is Hester, who started as my youth director in the 6th grade. She continued doing that until my 9th grade year, left for Florida for a bit, and is now back at Calvary. She has been such a role model for me and someone to look to for guidance through many years.

My orientation team from OL2K5 taught me about the true meaning of teamwork and leadership. Through the guidance of JGam, we worked a whole summer, leading 4200 freshmen and their parents and had a blast doing so. I never thought that I would get up at 4:30AM to Rocky Top every morning, work straight until 1AM at the end of the Big Orange Bash, and enjoy it at that. The 22 of us came together as strangers and emerged as a family. I try and model the lessons I learned that summer in my daily life. This summer as assistant director at camp, I looked to my summer in Orientation a lot.

JB is another person who has shown me a lot in life. She and I first met many years ago at camp. We were rivals of sorts and had a sense of hatred for each other, as little girls tend to do. As we got older we got to know each other and formed a friendship. She eventually was my roomate freshman year and we worked together two summers at CGM. We went through some tough times together, figuring out how to work together, live together, and remain friends. JB is the type of person who keeps you honest and expects a lot out of you. If you let her down, she'll tell you. I have come to respect her so much for that. This summer we worked together again at CGM and she was a huge supporter of mine through the weeks of camp. She showed me what a true friend is and how to be one.

Of course, two people who have come into my life and helped me write my story are Elise and Chandler. The three of us have been through a lot, sometimes just Chan and me, Elise and me, sometimes all of us including Ellen. These two girls have known me for entirely too long - Elise for 23 years and 8 months and Chan since December 23, 1995. We've grown together and learned together. Elise is a genuinely caring person who has a huge heart and insanely positive personality. Chandler is the type to keep you on your toes, constantly making you be a better person. They were my maids of honor at my wedding and gave so much of themselves for me. I just hope I can do the same for them.

Those are just a few of the many people I've been thinking about lately. The people that "because I knew them, I have been changed for good."


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