Monday, July 28, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

We have had a few busy weekends in a row, so it was nice this past weekend when we discovered that we had an entire weekend with absolutely nothing planned. We tried to plan a spontaneous road trip to Columbus on Friday, but learned that the Ohio State Fair was going on and that there was a Thirty-One convention that was wrapping up in Columbus. The issue, most of the hotels that we would normally select actually had no rooms available. So, we ditched that and instead, took the kids to the Melting Pot for dinner and did some shopping at the outdoor mall. It made for a nice evening out as a family.

Saturday was a great day to get a lot done. I did some cleaning, lots of laundry, some baking, some sorting through and listing of the clothes my kids had outgrown and my husband had shrunk out of. We made a quick bike ride as a family to a nearby convenience store and got the kids each a milkshake. My husband did the grocery shopping, allowing me to wrap up a few things and sneak in some time for reading.

Sunday was a nice relaxing family day. We went to the pool, before the rain came and then came home and played Monopoly, while I made dinner. After dinner, the rain was gone, so we went out and played catch and found some time to weed the garden.

This week's menu plan is brought to us by my son. While at the library, he picked up Guy Fieri's Guy On Fire cookbook and spent some time reviewing the cookbook and marking several recipes. I took four of the recipes that he marked and included them on our menu for this week. I actually feel like I could make and eat most of the dishes that my son marked. I can tell you already though that I will have to make some slight tweaks, like reduce the amount of cheese in the Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls - but as my son said, "this is definitely a keeper".

Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls (from Guy on Fire)

leftovers (the egg rolls reheated nicely)
homemade pizza - Pepperoni-Cheese, Prosciutto and Mozzarella, Cheese/Kalamata Olives-Cheese/Jalapenos/Onions-Cheese

Mac n Cheese with Roasted Chicken and Bacon (from Guy on Fire)

Danger Dogs (from Guy on Fire)

Creamy Chicken Florentine

Grilled Chicken Wings Two Ways (from Guy on Fire)



Now that it is summer, the kids are in camp and are packing lunches. Breakfast is generally a bowl of cereal or oatmeal before they head out. For my husband and I, lunch is a quick sandwich, microwave meal, leftovers or something on the go. Breakfast is a banana and a protein shake or bar.

This post shared at Menu Plan Monday on I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren

No compensation was received for this post. A complimentary review copy of the book was provided for the purpose of sharing a review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

As I have mentioned before, I really love the chance to continue the story of the characters that I meet in novels. I think that is one of the reasons why I really enjoy reading book series by authors like Susan May Warren. Susan has a whole series of stories around the Christiansen family - in each book, she focuses on one or two of the family members, but the others are also part of the story (which makes sense since they are all in the same family). It is so nice to have a continuation of the previous story, even if only in the background of the main story.

I was excited to see that When I Fall in Love, the third book in the Christiansen family series was available for review. For me, it is the second one that I have read and it did not disappoint. (I still need to find a copy of the first one to read.) This book was focused primarily on Grace Christiansen, but also spent a good amount of time with the story of Casper.

The story in many ways was about learning to live. It was about having faith and allowing yourself to be open to the path that God has for you. After catering her older brother's wedding, Grace is given a trip to Hawaii for a cooking school by her family. Her sister Eden, suggests that she can learn to cook Hawaiian food and then help cater her wedding later that year. Grace is reluctant to go, but ultimately makes the trip. A bad flight is almost enough to cause her to hole up in her room or simply head back home, but for Max, a former teammate of her brother Owen, he won't let that happen. Won't allow her not to pursue her dream, because in his mind 'everyone who gets to have dreams should reach for them.' The irony being that he is so good at encouraging her to pursue his dreams, when he won't allow himself to dream. In exploring Hawaii and learning to cook with Max, Grace learns a lot about herself and when he leaves, learns about her relationship with God that leaves her with a deepened faith.

It was a very good story and well written. The characters are well developed, through both their personal reflection and the observations made by those around them. As was the case with the last book that I read by Susan May Warren, I found myself becoming attached to the characters and cheering them on from my seat. I really enjoyed the story and can not wait for the next installment in the Christiansen family series.

About the book:

Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she'd vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled-or maybe yanked-away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime.

Max Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he feels most at home in the kitchen. Which is why he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. But just when Grace dares to dream of a future beyond her hometown, Max pulls away.

Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace's faith will face its toughest test yet.

Purchase a copy here.

About the author:

Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award-winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women's events about God's amazing grace in our lives. She also runs a writing community for authors.

Find Susan online: website, My Book Therapy, Twitter, Facebook

Read more reviews and learn more about the book at the book tour landing page.

No compensation was received for this post. A complimentary review copy of the book was provided for the purpose of sharing a review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Menu Plan Monday

Wow! What a wonderful long weekend. We were able to do so much over the long weekend that it really felt like it was several weekends in one. That is something that i really like.

I am fortunate enough to have two holidays for the 4th of July, so my weekend started on Wednesday night. Wednesday night, we had a chance to enjoy dinner at our friend's new restaurant. It started out a little frustrating because my son was tired or otherwise out of sorts and didn't want anything and was nearly brought to tears. It probably didn't help that their children's menu is not written out, but rather is a handful of options or a modification of an item from the main menu. I pulled him aside and told him that he didn't have to eat, but he did need to relax so that we could enjoy our dinner. He wound up sharing some of our food and eventually decided that he would have enjoyed the Lobster Mac N Cheese that I was eating. By then though, it really didn't make sense to order him more food, as he had eaten part of our wedge salad, a few slices of the homemade bread and butter, some of the fries from my daughter's dinner and a 1/3 of my dish. But, at least now, I know that we can go back with less stress or, perhaps we will just try to go there on date nights in the future.

Thursday was a busy day. I started out with my normal workout class, my husband went to the gym to work out, my daughter and I made butterfly cupcakes, my son had a friend over, we ran some errands, went to see Earth to Echo, grilled out and attempted to watch the fireworks from home...which we learned was not a good idea - we could see bits of it but really needed to head some place different to see the full show.

Friday we enjoyed a full day with all of my immediate family. My brother, sister-in-law and nephew were up to visit from North Carolina. We did lunch out, spent the afternoon jumping and playing laser tag, mom made dinner for all of us, we played a family game of soccer and some Corn Hole and then watched the fireworks as a family. We all stayed at Mom and Dad's house and spent Saturday morning together as well. The kids love spending the night at Grandma and Grandpa's, especially when all of their cousins are there.

Saturday the family headed out to lunch at the Mellow Mushroom and then we came home and went swimming and enjoyed a relaxed evening at home.

Sunday I fit in all of my errands, including picking up the penny deals at Office Max and getting my groceries. In addition, I fit in several loads of laundry, made dinner and enjoyed a 3 mile walk around the neighborhood with the family.

How was your weekend?

I have a bad habit of never finding time to read all of my magazines, so this weekend I spent a good amount of time reading through the stacks that had accumulated. I think I still have about 10 to go, but I easily read through about 40 magazines. In the process, I pulled out a number of recipes. Knowing that I have a bad habit of accumulating clipped recipes too, I decided that I would start to make those recipes this week and determine which to keep and which to toss. So, despite a pretty busy week of make-up sports, I am trying a number of new recipes. Sunday night dinner was a hit and I am hoping the rest of the week continues to be strong. I will come back and link up recipes for those that are keepers.

Grilled Chicken and Peaches with a Curried Tomato and Shallot Vinaigrette with brown rice
for dessert, I made Chilled Plum Oatmeal Pudding

Chicken Pot Pie Pockets

Chicken Patty Sandwiches

Hot Dogs on the grill

Ginger Soy Tilapia

Prosciutto Mozzarella Pizza

Cheesy Grits with Shrimp

Now that it is summer, the kids are in camp and are packing lunches. Breakfast is generally a bowl of cereal or oatmeal before they head out. For my husband and I, lunch is a quick sandwich, microwave meal, leftovers or something on the go. Breakfast is a banana and a protein shake or bar.

This post shared at Menu Plan Monday on I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Gift Buying at CafePress

No compensation was provided for this post. In exchange for this post, I will receive a gift card to allow me to purchase a product from CafePress for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.
Have you ever shopped at CafePress? I personally have not, but when looking for a birthday gift for my nephew, happened upon the site. I was looking for a US World Cup shirt and they came up in my search. I didn't wind up buying from them for his birthday, because my son decided he would rather give him a toy.

The selection of items on CafePress is almost overwhelming. Not only do they offer a lot of fun and unique items, you can even go one step further and design your own.

After getting contacted about doing a post for CafePress (be on the lookout, a giveaway for a gift card to CafePress will come when I post a review of the product that I decide to order with the gift card that they are providing), I started exploring their site looking for just the right thing to order. I had already done some exploring when I was looking for a gift for my nephew, but now I was trying to decide whether to get a gift for me or for someone else.

I thought that this shirt might be cute for my husband, who coached my daughter's soccer team this year:

or maybe this wine bag for bringing a hostess gift:

or this shirt for my morning caffeine fix:

or this cute journal:

What would you choose?

No compensation was provided for this post. In exchange for this post, I will receive a gift card to allow me to purchase a product from CafePress for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Summertime Favorites

*information for this post was in part supplied by Hormel Foods through their Hormel Extended Family Blogger program. No compensation was received for this post.

Now that it is full on summer, I am ready to stay out of the kitchen. Who needs to add heat to an already warm day by firing up the oven or stove? I don't know about your household, but at our house the menu takes a shift come summer driven both by the desire to not heat up the kitchen and the desire to enjoy the summer fresh flavor of the vegetables we grow in the garden.

I think the one characteristic that I could call out about many of the favorite summer time meals is the balance of hot and cold.

Think about a BLT, one of my favorite summertime meals (and super fast to prepare with Hormel Fully Cooked Bacon) - you have the warm crunchy toast, the cool mayonnaise, the crisp and cool lettuce, the cool juicy sweet tomato and warm salty bacon. There is something so appealing to me about the blend of hot and cold, not to mention all of the garden fresh flavor of vegetables.

Another favorite is soft tacos made with grilled chicken (no kitchen heat required) - we simply grill our chicken, slice it into thin strips and place it on our tortilla and top it with cool sour cream, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, diced hot peppers and diced onions and then add a bit of sauce or salsa. Again, a bite that provides the contrast of temperature and the summer fresh flavors of produce from the garden (or farmer's market - I haven't mastered lettuce, it always goes to seed).

We also use our grill to make hamburgers and cheeseburgers, grilled chicken served with baked potatoes and grilled fish served with fresh, cool homemade coleslaw.

Here is some information on summertime recipes that Hormel shared with me:
Crafting Your Summer Recipes
The kids are out of school and summer is on the horizon—ease into your new routine with fresh and simple meals to keep your family full and happy this season!
• Make a cold pasta to help you beat the summer heat—give your
pasta salad a distinct twist with a colorful addition of pesto and
tasty Hormel® bacon: Bacon and Pesto Pasta Salad with
HORMEL® Fully Cooked Bacon and Peloponnese® olives.
• Forget the fast food! For a quick and wholesome snack, pack this
tasty Cobb Salad Lettuce Wrap featuring HORMEL® Chunk
Chicken and HORMEL® Real Bacon Bits.
• Keep it light this summer with a Warm Chicken and Orange Salad. Take this dish—featuring HOUSE OF TSANG® Stir-fry Oil and HOUSE OF TSANG® SAIGON SIZZLE™—from your pantry to your table in just 15 minutes.

The recipes have all been submitted and in just a few weeks, you can check out the HORMEL® Chili Facebook page for the "Savor Your Summer Recipe Contest" winner announcement. Visit to see the winner.

What is your favorite summer-time snack or what recipes do you enjoy cooking with your family during the summer?

No compensation was received for this post. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am completing this post as a participant in the Hormel Foods Extended Family Blogger program. Hormel Foods provided some product and some of the information for this post.