The people have spoken.
By people, I mean you.
A few weeks ago, I shared with you that I had gotten a little bonus and put most of it in savings but wasn’t sure what to do with about $200 that I put aside for something fun.
I was eyeing up 1) the Nest Thermostat, 2) an Amazon Wishlist shopping spree, 3) putting money towards a family vacation, 4) getting my car fixed, 5) saving toward a trip to Germany, 6) a Fitbit Force, or 7) a new camera.
I’m glad I didn’t go with the Fitbit Force because those were recalled due to some users’ allergic reaction. I read that it may have been caused by nickel in the band… which I am allergic to! Phew. You guys saved me from that one.
Your votes were varied but the recurring theme was “do something fun for yourself!” So what did I do? Amazon Wishlist shopping spree!
I actually noticed that there were a number of craft items on my Wishlist and a large chunk were from Two Peas in a Bucket so I ended up shopping there for 95% of the items you see below.
I got: four packs of alphabet stickers, 15 flair buttons, four cards perfect for Project Life pockets, a 12×12 double-sided paper, two paint brushes, black paint, and some other flair (I think they’re brads).
(Ugh! You guys! I just went to their site to link you to it and now there are new items I want too! Endless problem, I tell ya).
They had some really fantastic flair buttons. I love saying “flair buttons.” Flair buttons. Flair buttons. It makes me think of Office Space when Jennifer Aniston tells her boss what she thinks of flair (gives him the finger). haha
You might be able to pick out one of my favorite flair buttons from this photo:
That’s right. I found a button that says explore!
If you saw my basement, you’d probably think that I own more than enough craft supplies already. Surely that is what John thinks. But if you ask any creative person out there, I bet they’d say that you can never have too many craft supplies! It’s like sprinkles… the more, the merrier.
I figure these items will come in handy when I finally kick myself in the pants and get caught up on Project Life… which I haven’t even started yet for 2014. Oops. It’s been on my to-do list every single weekend and somehow gets neglected. Guess I know what I’m aiming for this weekend!
Oh and by the way, since my Mom chimed in and voted on me putting some money towards a trip to Germany to see Hootie, I also did that. Because I always listen to my mother. (cough… haha sorry Mom! But I do try!)
If you had some fun money to spare, what would you spend it on? What fun plans do you have for the weekend? Want to come pick out photos with me for Project Life?
Despite having five books with me on my twelve-day trip to France and the Czech Republic last month, I only finished one book. It was a whopper in terms of content. Because of its nature, I don’t want to do my usual book review but I do want to share it with you as well as its follow-up book which I recently finished.
A woman in my book club told me in December that Thank You for Your Service was on her list and it intrigued me. However, it’s meant to be a follow-up to The Good Soldiers so I chose to read them in order. I’m so thankful I did because I appreciated both of them for what they were: brutally honest (at least in my civilian opinion).
The Good Soldiers is heavy, heavy material. The author, a journalist, followed an infantry battalion during its 15-month deployment (2007-2008) on a mission in Iraq. He observed, tagged along, interviewed, traveled to soldiers, reviewed reports, and tried to get every angle on events that took place.
The three things I appreciated most about The Good Soldiers:
- The author removes himself from the equation so it’s like you’re watching these events unfold but it’s so detailed that it feels more like you’re living it. That right there is the closest I’ve come to feeling like I understood what some soldiers go through.
- Each chapter starts with a quote from President Bush so you really get a feel for the political environment and views on the war from back home while reading about the guys’ deployment experience.
- You get the command’s perspective too, specifically lieutenant colonel Ralph Kauzlarich, who was tasked with leading approximately 800 soldiers.
I’ve read a handful of accounts of war. I’ve read on the edge of my seat and I’ve yelled out loud when I felt like something bad was going to happen and I’ve cried when people died. And friends, that’s just me reading a book; the soldiers within these pages are real and their experiences are real and the casualties are real.
Easily, hands down, The Good Soldiers is the best war-related non-fiction book I’ve read.
Thank You for Your Service details reintegration for a handful of the battalion’s men post-deployment. It does not hide the truth. It’s injuries, lost limbs, mental health issues, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, suicides, abuse, and widows. It’s also recovery and hope and love, but not in that “let’s wrap this deployment and reintegration up in a pretty little bow” kind of way.
Between the two books, you get a pretty clear idea of Before, During, and After for this deployment for this battalion for these men. If you want to read one of the books, you should definitely go ahead and read both.
My boyfriend is an active duty soldier and since we started dating, I’ve really tried hard to get more involved in supporting the military. Before John, I had no connection whatsoever to the military and didn’t know the first thing about anything military-related. I try to read books, watch movies, read blogs, pay attention, and ask questions so I can understand as much as possible.
The truth is, I’m a civilian with no military background. I will never, ever understand what someone goes through during a deployment. The smells, tastes, dust and dirt, blood, brotherhood, friends lost, enemies, head on a swivel, superstitions, and lucky charms. I can’t possibly understand that. But I try, while recognizing that everyone’s military and deployment experience is different. The Good Soldiers and Thank You for Your Service are my two highly recommended reads if you want to attempt to understand just a sliver of deployment life.
Also worthy of noting: if I had a loved one deployed right now or has one coming up or just got back from one or anything similar to any of those possibilities, I would steer clear of these books. I just know me; this girl does not need any reason to worry about someone else’s experience and stress that it could be my reality too. You know you best so proceed with that note in mind.
Have you read The Good Soldiers or Thank You for Your Service? Or have you read a different war recount that really moved you? Is there a topic you try to bury yourself in so you can better understand it?
PS — Feel free to follow me on goodreads where I track all of my books read, to-read, and book club selections.
Let the love-lettering begin!
I wrote five notes this month for More Love Letters. Five people were in need of a little postal love and I delivered. Well actually some postal worker somewhere will deliver. But you know what I mean ;)
If you’re not yet familiar with More Love Letters, what the heck are you waiting for? I’ve been telling you about this awesome corner of the interwebs pretty much every month for well over a year. Get your buns to the stationery store (or Target, because who doesn’t want to browse Target?), grab yourself some smooth-writing colored pens, and script yourself a delightful letter of love and strength to a
stranger friend in need.
If you’ve been looking for a volunteering opportunity that is super flexible, makes a huge difference in someone’s life, and doesn’t require a large chunk of time, More Love Letters is it. I will gladly sign your paperwork that requests Heaven give you extra credit for putting positive, loving messages out into the world.
This set of letter requests needs to be postmarked by March 10th so you still have time to write yours! Need a little help with what to write and how this all works? Check out MLL’s starter kit for some guidance.
Have you participated in any of More Love Letters’ letter requests yet? Have you ever snail-mailed a note just to tell someone that they’re awesome, beautiful, and strong? Try it. You definitely won’t regret it. You’ll probably make that person’s year.
Happy Fastnacht Day, friends!
Fastnacht Day is a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. They’re like doughnuts only a billion times better and lacking sprinkles. This is one time I will excuse the absence of sprinkles. They are delicious.
Traditionally, fastnachts are made to use up lard, butter, and other foods before Lent starts. Today, fastnachts are mostly potato-doughnuts; this is perfect for the PA Dutch area because we’re big on potato bread and heavy, rich foods.
Fastnachts are so good that you could eat 17 of them. You would definitely enjoy that during the eating phase but afterwards you’d probably feel like you have three bricks in your stomach; they kinda just sit there.
But I don’t care! Fastnacht Day is the most delicious day of the year! We wait for it and get excited about it and talk about it for a long time! And then when it’s gone… sadness.
By the way, John brought home a baker’s dozen tonite. When I asked him where the 13th fastnacht was, he said, “What 13th?” haha. Translation: in his belly.
Award-winning Chilly Morning Breakfast Chili, that is! This chili won three awards and converted this non-chili-fan into a believer. Plus its recipe has been highly desired by co-workers, friends, and internet friends like you.
Since my-mouth-is-on-fire-and-I’m-burning-up is not a desired physical response from my food, the seasonings in this chili serve as an underlying spice but provide more flavor-factor than spicy-factor. The cinnamon, apple, maple veggie-sausage, and sweet potato puffs give the dish some sweetness, while the eggs complement the whole party.
You could certainly serve this as dinner and it works equally well for a savory breakfast or brunch dish. Oh, and you could easily use any chili recipe and just pair it with the tots and eggs. I happen to be partial to my chili recipe but I won’t be offended if you switch it up, particularly if you don’t tell me you did that. ha
Chilly Morning Breakfast Chili
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 5 mini sweet peppers, chopped (use more or spicier if you prefer)
- Two carrots, chopped
- 8 oz cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, chopped
- 1 14.5oz can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 15oz can black beans
- 1 medium-sized apple, peeled and diced
- 6-8 MorningStar Farms Maple Flavored Sausage Patties (vegetarian)
- 1 tsp and 2 tsp cumin, divided
- 1 tsp and 2 tsp chili powder, divided
- 1 tsp and 2 tsp Old Bay, divided
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- Salt and pepper to taste. Preferred: smoked salt
- Alexia Sweet Potato Puffs, baked according to package directions
- Tater tots, baked according to package directions
- Scrambled eggs
- Shredded cheddar (for topping)
Preheat oven to 425°F or temperature called for on tater tot/potato puff packages.
Prepare sausage patties according to package directions; allow to cool for a few minutes, chop into small bite-size pieces, and set aside.
In large pot over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add onion and sauté for approximately two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peppers and carrots. Add one teaspoon cumin, one teaspoon chili powder, one teaspoon Old Bay, and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until onions are translucent and peppers/carrots have softened, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and remaining seasonings; sauté until mushrooms are soft and have released their moisture, stirring occasionally.
Add tomatoes in liquid, black beans, apple, and veggie-sausage. Simmer on low for 15 minutes or more, stirring occasionally. Assemble the chili with tots and eggs at this point, transfer to crockpot on low to serve later, or let cool and store in the refrigerator.
For tater tots/potato puffs and eggs:
While chili is simmering, prepare tater tots and potato puffs according to package directions. Cook your scrambled eggs to taste and preference, estimating approximately one egg per serving of chili. (I recommend adding salt, pepper, a dash of Old Bay, and your favorite cheese in the egg mix before cooking).
In each bowl or ramekin, add tater tots and potato puffs (approximately 3-5 of each, depending on the size of your bowl). Heap chili overtop with some tater tots peeking through. Add scoop of scrambled eggs. Sprinkle on some shredded cheddar cheese if desired.
Loosely based on this chili.
Enjoy, friends! And please invite me over if it turns out well :)
…and I didn’t win. Damnit!
But I’ll take a step back for a moment and give you the details.
My office has a chili cook-off every year and the winner gets his or her name on a plaque. Despite not liking chili, I’ve made one every time. I won the second year and the same person has won the other three times. Wednesday was our fifth annual chili cook-off, an event that I started or perhaps inspired, so I made two chilis!
Thank you so much for all of your suggestions last week! They were so helpful. I ended up combining a bunch of recipes and used that chili as an ingredient in what I can only call “experiments” instead of recipes. haha. I really was not sure my ideas would pan out, how they would taste, or how they’d be received. Talk about anxiety!
So what did I make? Chilly Morning Breakfast Chili and TexMexItalian Chili Lasagna.
Yes, I made lasagna. haha. For anyone thinking “does that really count as chili?” I say “haters gonna hate.” Just try it.
By the way, lasagna looks like lasagna no matter which way you photograph it. In other words, it’s not photogenic.
I just built my classic Janelle lasagna using veggie and bean chili for the sauce. It turned out to be tasty but nothing magnificent, in my opinion.
But the breakfast chili! squeeeee!
It started with tots. Regular tater tots and Alexia sweet potato puffs, to be exact.
As for the cookoff, my chilis weren’t complete losers. I didn’t win the overall or get my name on a plaque but I did win three categories!
Of course, I’m the only one who made vegetarian chili so Best Vegetarian was an easy win. Add to that: Best Non-Traditional Chili and Most Creative. Three wins is three wins though and got me three $10 gift cards to Chipotle. woohoo! Shall I take you all out? Feeling a Friday burrito?
Thanks again for all your suggestions! I’m thinking I’ll post the full Chilly Morning Breakfast Chili recipe some time soon. Maybe I’ll be able to convert other not-yet chili enthusiasts!
Happy Friday and have a great weekend!
I can hardly believe this happened. Yesterday my Great Strides team was featured in an email to the entire Central Pennsylvania chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation!
Here’s a snippet:
May will mark my second year participating in a Great Strides walk, a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
I originally got involved to support Amy since her brother-in-law, Ben, had at that point just passed away from cystic fibrosis. I was very hesitant to participate at first because I felt like I might be seen as a fraud. I don’t have a “direct” connection to cystic fibrosis; while Amy and I are friends, we’ve never met in person and I never knew Ben. My hope was to show support for their family, not offend them. I think I checked with Amy and ended up going for it… and loved it. The people at the event were so great: super supportive, very friendly, and just really appreciative that The J-Team of only four walkers raised money for CFF.
If you’re considering getting involved with a charity but don’t know anyone, my advice is to reach out to the organization. There’s usually a representative or leader in your area who you can connect with. Even if that’s not the case, just sign up to attend an event. You’ll meet the nicest people who really do appreciate you taking the time and effort to be there.
I’m so, so thrilled that the Central PA chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation shared “my” story with its mailing list. I’m told that around 1,500 people will see the email, with the potential for a ton more. That’s huge! I’m excited for Ben’s life to reach so many people.
If I can encourage just one donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, or just one person to get involved who’s never done so or maybe never even heard of cystic fibrosis, I’ll be happy. Of course that’s not my only goal though! The more the merrier! Please consider finding a Great Strides walk near you and creating a team. Go be awesome!