Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Resolutions in Review.

So…resolution time.  But first, it’s of course important to take a look back, & see what my resolutions for last year were:

1. Read at least 2 books a month:  This is the only resolution that I actually 100% achieved.  According to my Pinterest Board, I finished 36 books this year!  Granted…14 of those were youth series’ books (Finally read Harry Potter and re-read the Chronicles of Narnia).  But they’re still BOOKS, doggonnit. 

2. Follow Through on Exercise:  Umm…ermm… yeah.  Not as much as I should have. I think I was doing pretty well until August, when I started taking a class at the university.  Then “class time” kinda started taking up all of my usual “gym time”.  But now that my class is over, I’m hoping to see improvement in this arena. 

3. Not to Live Inside my Cubicle:  Umm…I think I have to call this one a draw.  My original quantification for this was to take at least 30 minutes a day to go for a walk, take an “actual” lunch, or at least take a mental break.  And I have definitely gotten better, whether it be going for a mid-day drive to run errands, or taking a real, sit down lunch with my coworkers in the break room, or just stepping outside for 15 minutes to call & chat with my mom.  But I definitely don’t do it for 30 minutes a day.  That’s tough for me.  Because that’s an extra 30 minutes I have to tag onto the end of the day…and frankly…I like going home to my hubby at a decent hour.  Throw in the 3 extra hours per week I already had to make up for while taking my class, and yeah…really hard to try to make up a lot of extra time.

4. No. New. Recipes:  BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA… *wipes tear away* Yeah…One week after making this resolution, I got my invitation to join Pinterest.  EPIC RESOLUTION FAIL.


So…what’s on the to-do list for 2013?

1. Travel out of the country twice: We have a ski trip scheduled for mid-January to British Columbia.  We’re also in the process of trying to schedule a “Maycation” with some friends around Memorial Day.  But that’s still a work in progress.  We usually go to the Gulf around that time, but this year, we’re aiming for something more tropical that actually requires a passport.  There’s some debate as to whether a cruise vs. all-inclusive resort is better.  I’m split… I like the idea of a cruise because it means more notches on the “proverbial travel belt”, but less stuff is included, and at least three days of our vacation would just be hanging out on the cruise ship, rather than “being” somewhere.  Plus we live 12 hours from the nearest cruise port (New Orleans)…although, I’m always down for a trip to NOLA.

2. Take, and hopefully PASS, the ASBOG exam in October:  For those who don’t like to click links, that’s the exam(s) I need to pass in order to become a state-certified professional Geologist.  Right now, I’m just a “Qualified Geologist”, which means I’ve got all the requirements, but haven’t taken the test.  It’s a pretty nasty S.O.B… two exams (one on Fundamentals, one on Practice, 8 hours, a total of 250 multiple choice questions)…and a $425 price tag.  So…ideally…I just want to take it ONE time.  But we’ll see.  I’ve got a lot of study materials, so hopefully I can take those to the gym with me and tackle two birds with one stone.

3. Drink More Water:  I am habitually dehydrated.  I’m horrible, really.  I nurse a cup of coffee until about lunch time.  Then have either a soda or glass of water with lunch…and that lasts me until I leave work.  Then I have another glass of water or tea or something with dinner.  And that’s about it. 

4. Keep reading…but read more non-fiction: Of the 36 books I read in 2012, 9 were non-fiction, and that’s including Thomas Moore’s “Utopia” (which is technically fiction, but it’s more of a philosophical, social commentary type of fiction, and it’s like 500 years old).  Five of the non-fictions were Mark Twain travelogues (I’m a HUGE Twain fan, since he’s from right here in Missouri.  By far, the most easy-reading 19th century books, ever.  For 2013, I’d like to read one non-fiction for every fiction.  I’ve started with C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”, and am really enjoying it so far.



5.  And the only goal specifically related to this Blog—Get 100 new blog followers in 2013.  New growth here is very important to me; otherwise, why do we do this?  Why do we put ourselves out there?  To share our experiences with interested people, am I right?  To make someone think, or laugh, or get inspired.  So if you’re reading this, and you like what you see, it would be super-wicked-awesome if you’d clickity-click one of those buttons up on the left side of the page & follow this blog via Facebook, Pinterest, FeedBurner, or Google.  Yes.  I’m inviting you to stalk me.  It’s totes okay.  Well…in the virtual sense.  I would prefer no active, creepy, B-list slasher film “in-real-life” stalking.  I am just NOT motivated enough to run away from you, and my house has no upstairs or basement for me to stupidly try to hide/trap myself in.


So you…yeah, YOU: What are your resolutions for 2013?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rosemary Infused Olive Oil

I am what you might call, “supremely NOT GOOD at keeping plants alive”.  Unless they are of the very hardy variety.  Like, essentially, the cats of the household plant community.  I need a plant that says, “Hey….just water me.  Like…when you remember.  It’s cool.”  That’s why THIS is our garden:


A rosemary bush, and a cactus.  Oh, and there’s a bamboo and some green onions in the windowsill of our kitchen.  See what I mean?  Like literally…just some water about once a week.

And I LOVELOVELOVE my rosemary bush.  Bought it over the summer for about $5 from the local nursery.  It’s so amazingly fragrant.  I barely brush up against a stem while watering it, and I smell rosemary on my hands for the rest of the day.  WHY is there not a rosemary scented perfume?  Seriously.

And a little while back, my mom found some miscellaneous glass bottles at the thrift store, because I told her I was wanting to try infusing some olive oils.  So here was my first project.


Olive Oil

2-3 sprigs rosemary

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper



In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil over low heat (just helps the oil to absorb more of the rosemary flavor) for about 5 minutes.

While that’s going, wash your rosemary sprigs & them dry completely.

Place the rosemary & crushed red pepper in the bottle you’ll be using.

Oooooohh, artsy…

Pour the olive oil into your bottle and then let sit for a couple days.  The flavor will increase over time.  Store in a cool dry area, away from the sun (like a vampire).

A few ideas for using your olive oil?

1. Drizzle over spaghetti & add some grated Parmesan cheese. (Heck, toss some more fresh chopped rosemary on there too, if you feel so moved.)

2. Pour into a small bowl, add some minced garlic and a dash of Parm.  Maybe even some balsamic vinegar.  Dip yer bread into it. (DON’T try infusing the garlic in with the rosemary.  Garlic gets some nasty bacterial issues if it’s not properly refrigerated.)

3. Use for sautéing veggies for some extra flavor.

4.  Make some fresh pizza dough, and lightly coat the exterior of the dough in this before rolling out to keep it from sticking to your pan, while also adding some extra flavor.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Mulled Wine!

HELLO!  Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.  Was Santa good to you?  Here’s hoping your kids didn’t get The Toys That Make The Noise or have 125 pieces (like the kitchen food play set we gave my niece, because we’re evil like that.  No worries…they’ll get us back when we have kids, I’m sure.)

Today’s Thirsty Thursday is directly correlated to Christmas gifts, as this WAS a gift from my friend Babsy. 


Babs made her own blend of mulling spices and sent them our way attached to a lovely bottle of Missouri wine

Now, every mulled wine I’ve ever had prior to this was made with red wine, but Babs recently got to try it with white & was impressed, and I have to say I agree with her.  Granted—spiced red wine is delicious, but the white version is a bit lighter, and makes a wonderful alternative to apple cider.  I definitely like it better than spiked cider, and my hubs who is usually not a wine fan agrees.


Plus, this is super simple.  You can either buy some mulling spices already mixed, or make your own.  You just need some whole cloves, allspice, dried orange peel, and cinnamon sticks.  Many grocers now have bulk spice bins so you can get your ingredients on the cheap, along with the little unbleached bags they go in.


A peek inside the bag.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings):

1 bottle wine

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup apple juice (we didn’t have any on hand, but I had some Keurig apple cider and used 1/2 cup of that instead)

1 mulling spice sachet


Add wine, sugar, and apple juice to a large pot & stir until dissolved.  Then add the spice sachet and heat over medium-low for about 15 minutes.


When you’re done making this batch, do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT throw away the sachet.  It can be reused about 6 times before it loses it’s flavors.  So let it drain over the pot for a bit, then store it in a Ziploc bag in the freezer until next time.

Serve warm with a cinnamon stick for garnish. Enjoy!!!


Have a safe & happy New Year’s Eve—and remember, if you’re going to be tipping back the champagne, get a sober chauffeur!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: White Elephants & Apple Pie


My company does a white elephant gift exchange every year at the Christmas party.  Now…I don’t know what your company gift exchange is like, but at our company…well…I don’t want to stereotype, but we’re scientists…and apparently, scientists love gag gifts and booze. So it’s about a 50/50 chance that whatever gift you get will either be drinkable… or completely random (for example, this year the prize gag gifts were a “Geology for Dummies” book and a mock-up Seventeen magazine cover starring one of our coworkers getting jiggy at the anniversary party).

Last year, I ended up on the “random” end of things, and took home a roller skating Santa teddy bear that didn’t actually work.  So this year, I decided to re-gift him… but I gave him a fighting chance.

And I’m happy to report that he, and his booze, got stolen twice and went to a good home.

Sadly, I didn’t get to try any of the Apple Pie Liqueur, but the Travis Hasse website has TONS of recipes for you to try out. For example:

Spiced Apple Sour
1 oz Apple Pie Liqueur
1 oz Spiced Rum
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)


And what did I get to bring home with me this year?

Random again—but a much better kind of random, and something that was actually on my Christmas list!  Stay tuned for a future Thirsty Thursday with some fun cocktails in these glasses!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas with the Feaux’s, Part Deux.

So as I mentioned the other day, we picked up some pinecones at the park.
Um… a LOT of pinecones.
(And because I'm a nerd, if you're interested in learning about what cones come from which trees, check out this site.)
Thankfully, they’re quite versatile!

They go in bowls…
(This glass bowl is part of a set that my grandmother had.  After her passing, we each got a piece of the set as a family heirloom.)

They go in tiny sleighs…
(I got the sleigh last year from my bestie--only it was holding a variety pack of Community Coffee at that time.)

They go inside the tree (to fill in the gaps, if you’ve got a rather slim tree like us):
(We are currently on the hunt for a "new" taller, fuller FeauxTree.  A friend tipped me off to looking on Craigslist & I've been checking daily ever since.)

They go on garland!
IMG_0006 (2)

And you know what else goes well on garland?  Christmas cards!
(The other side isn't full yet.  I used ornament hooks & paper clips to hang these.)

And since photos of holiday mantels are quite trendy, here’s ours!  I'm very envious of some of the gorgeous mantels I've seen in the blogosphere, but ours is mainly just our usual mantel decor + some miscellaneous Christmas pieces that don't have a better home.)
(Yes.  That’s a Yoda nutcracker. And a Yoda snow globe.  And a Santa Yoda bobblehead.  And a Yoda stocking. Don’t be jealous.)

Speaking of Yoda… my best friend got me a post-Halloween marshmallow Yoda.  And of course… I made S’mores.
Gotta love it when your food is looking at you…

And of course, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without Spaghetti-Os.
I made two of these ornaments back in 2008... one for me & one for my Cousin Manda.  As kids, we demanded that Spaghetti-Os be included in EVERY family holiday meal, and it stuck. It's our family tradition.  These were actually super easy to make. I scanned in a label from a spaghetti-Os can, shrunk it down in a photo editor, printed it out on regular paper.  Then I bought a package of wooden spools from a craft store, spray painted them silver, trimmed the label to fit, and wrapped it around the outside.  Strung an old silver shoelace through the middle, knotted it at the bottom, and there you go!

So that's our house at Christmas time.  Thanks for taking the tour!  Stay tuned tomorrow for a super-special holiday Thirsty Thursday! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Quick Dinner: Salisbury Steak

If your house is anything like ours this time of year, life is ridonkulous.  Crazy-busy, nonstop, Christmas shopping, holiday parties, end-of-the-year rush at work… just gogogogogogo and dinner is the last thing on your mind.

For those evenings, there’s go-to staples like this that are super easy to throw together & done in under 30 minutes.  And with this meal, your entrée is under 340 calories—just add a couple sensible veggies and you’ve got a delicious, filling meal for under 400 calories!!!



1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed French onion soup

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I used Boston burger mix, which is a 60/40 blend of ground beef & pork because it’s what we had on-hand, but you could go with ground turkey, ground chicken, or extra lean beef and save almost 100 calories per serving!)

1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

4 oz can mushroom pieces


In a big bowl, mix 1/3 cup of the soup with the ground meat, bread crumbs, egg, and S&P.  Combine well & shape into 6 oval patties.

In a large skillet, brown the patties on both sides, and then drain off the excess fat.

In a small bowl, combine the rest of the soup and the remaining ingredients and whisk until well combined.  Pour the sauce mixture over the patties and cook covered for 20 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and flipping the patties halfway through.


We served with buttered peas and some roasted cabbage (which is another super-simple recipe that can cook easily in the oven while the salisbury steaks are going on the stove top). 

Makes 6 servings (which perfect for our two-person family, because it also means our lunches for the next two days are taken care of!)


 Calories 337.2 with Boston Burger meat (250 with 93% lean ground turkey, for comparison)

  Total Fat 23.2 g (9.8 g w/ ground turkey)

  Saturated Fat 8.4 g (2.9g w/ground turkey)

  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 0.4 g

  Cholesterol 89.5 mg

  Sodium 558.3 mg

  Potassium 279.7 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 13.7 g

  Dietary Fiber 1.3 g

  Sugars 4.2 g

  Protein 14.4 g

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas with the Feaux’s!!! (Part One)

Happy Holidays, y’all!!!  And so it begins—the countdown to Christmas!  Is all your shopping done?  Miscellaneous crafts completed?  Homemade gifts distributed?  Christmas parties attended?

In years past, my Christmas tree has been a bit of a mish-mash of ornaments collected over the years.  This year, we decided to go with an outdoorsy, natural, bird-esque theme.  To make it more of a challenge, I gave myself a budget of $20 for new ornaments & decorations.

I had several items already in my collection that work quite nicely; little critters for the branches, and we used the red & white glass balls that we already had since they would seem sort of “berry-ish”:

 IMG_0081 IMG_1074

At Hobby Lobby, I picked up some small birds at 50% off ($4/pack of four):


(Behind the cardinal you can see my hand-blown ornament from Springfield Hot Glass—couldn’t leave that off!)

The Hubs & I had an adventure going around town, picking up pinecones from the local parks (FREE!!!).  And thanks to Pinterest I learned to bake them for about 30 minutes to kill all the little critters inside of them.  I had a large pile of bows already, so I used some craft wire to attach the pinecones to the bows.


Then, of course, another Pinterest project!  We made some cinnamon salt dough ornaments using a bird-shaped cookie cutter (59 cents at Hobby Lobby).


One batch of dough will make about 20 ornaments.  I put about half on our tree, and used the rest as gifts.

And with so many birds, they really need a place (or two) to sleep….IMG_0003

($1 per house, plus $3 for the wood stain)

But what we REALLY needed was something for the top.  Something impressive.  Something regal.  And…something that cost about $8, because that’s all I had left in my budget.

Meet Bubo. ($7.99 at Gordmans)

And of course, there’s also my new friend Hootie, sent to me by my friend Sarah:


So there she is.  Our little tree!  With tax, our tree “remodel” came to just over $20!

Later this week we’ll show off some more of the décor, and some homemade Christmas gifts, eh?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Asparagus Artichoke Cheesepocalypse.

I’ve probably mentioned here before—my mom gets Bon Appetit magazine and saves them for me.  Which means I am bestowed with a large pile of magazines every time I visit.  I’m not complaining.  Not one bit.  I flip through the mags, tear out the recipes I want to try, and then recycle the rest.

And as I KNOW I’ve mentioned here before, my friend Kathy gave the Hubs & I this gorgeous handmade fleur-de-lis casserole dish for our wedding, with the promise that because of Kathy & I’s shared love of cheese, must be utilized for cheese-tastic dishes.  Last time, it was a de-LUSH-us lasagna.  This time…ohhhhh….this time…

Here.  I’ll just show you the page I ripped out of Bon Appetit:


I mean….SERIOUSLY.  Who in the world could ignore that page?  It’s like, the most delicious looking sheet of paper on the planet.  I would EAT the paper…but then I wouldn’t have the recipe anymore, so let’s not do that.

If you’re going to a holiday party this season, this would be a FANTASTIC thing to bring.  And if you have vegetarian friends like we do, they will LOVE you, because this gives them something fairly hearty to chow down on all evening as they avoid the meatballs and finger sandwiches.


And while I can’t really call this technically a “healthy” dish because of all that luscious CHEEEEEEESE… it’s actually not THAT awful for you.  A 1/3 cup serving has about 100 calories (plus whatever you use to dip—crackers, baguettes, veggies, etc.) and it’s crammed full of veggies.


1 cup asparagus, cut into 3/4 inch pieces

2 tbsp light butter

1 cup onions (if you don’t like onions, sub in spinach or leeks here)

2 tbsp flour

1.25 cup skim milk

1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese or white cheddar

salt & pepper to taste

14 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts in water

1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen

2 tbsp chopped green onions

4 oz crumbled goat cheese or feta


Preheat the oven to 450 F.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the asparagus pieces for about 2 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Drain and let cool.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  To this, add the onions (or spinach) and cook until soft (about 10 minutes).  Whisk in flour and then gradually add the milk. Bring this to a simmer, whisking constantly.  Continue cooking until thickened and then remove from the heat.

Add to the sauce pan the shredded cheese and whisk until melted and smooth.  Season to taste with the salt & pepper.

Mix in the asparagus (reserve the tips for the top of the dish), artichoke hearts, peas, chives, and 2 oz of the goat/feta cheese. 

Transfer this to a 4-5 cup baking dish, and then arrange the asparagus tips on the top.  Crumble the remaining goat/feta cheese over the top.


Bake until gold & bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.  Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with tortilla chips or sliced & toasted baguette.


NUTRIFACTS: (1 serving = 1/3 cup; makes 16 servings total)

 Calories 106.1

  Total Fat 6.4 g

  Saturated Fat 1.1 g

  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g

  Monounsaturated Fat 0.4 g

  Cholesterol 18.7 mg

  Sodium 139.1 mg

  Potassium 87.4 mg

  Total Carbohydrate 8.1 g

  Dietary Fiber 0.5 g

  Sugars 1.5 g

  Protein 6.2 g