Friday, November 29, 2013

The Holiday Week

This week has been different from normal, and it has thrown me off completely. 

I'm going to back up JUST A LITTLE BIT, though, and go to last weekend. I started receiving several orders from my Etsy shop (Christmas gifts, I assume), so I'm feeling overwhelmed there, but it's also a great feeling. It was wonderful working on those orders in the sunlight of my home with my two fur-babies. 

Gilligan always has to be near me - even to help me make magnets!

At least Stormy stays away and lounges in the window... in awkward positions.

On Saturday, I drove over an hour away all by myself to see a movie that was out on limited release. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of my favorite books, so I headed to a suburb of Denver to see it, and it was INCREDIBLE. Seriously, guys. IT is definitely the best book-to-movie adaptation EVER. Read the book. Go see the movie. Just do it. 

After the movie, I headed to Denver International Airport to pick up Dan. He had been in California at Edwards AFB for one of his classes, and he had a BLAST out there! We stayed in a hotel in Denver that night and headed to Winter Park to hit the slopes with a friend all day Sunday. Skiing was amazing, and the mountains were beautiful, as always.

I had to work on Monday and Tuesday, which is unusual for Thanksgiving week, but it was fun because Dan came in and did physics experiments with my students during their science class, and I got to help out with that. They had a BLAST and paid SUCH good attention to him. It was incredible. I took a ton of pictures, but I can't show their faces, so I'll leave you with this one of three of my rowdy boys completely engaged with what Dan was telling them.

On Tuesday, as soon as school was out, we left to head to Missouri to see my family in Kansas City for the holidays. We always take the cats with us when we drive, but we normally drive all the way through at once. This time, we couldn't leave until close to 5:00PM, so we had to stop in a hotel for the night. Because of this, Gilligan and Stormy got to stay in a hotel room for the very first time. They were skeptical, but I don't think they minded it too much. 

We spent Wednesday and Thursday hanging out with and talking to my family. Thanksgiving was fun, and we are hanging out with some friends tonight. Having five days away from work is nice, but I am ready (already) to get back into my routine. I'm such a creature of habit. Winter break will definitely throw me off this year, as it is two weeks long, and we will be flying to two different places during it. 

Stormy hid from us, of course, but Happy Thanksgiving from us to you. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Review: Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run

When a friend recommended Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run to me, I knew I had to read it. I love running, and I love reading... so why wouldn't I love reading about running? Well, I did love it!

As always, Goodreads provides a wonderful synopsis: 

In Mile MarkersRunner’s World contributing editor Kristin Armstrong captures the ineffable and timeless beauty of running, the importance of nurturing relationships with those we love, and the significance of reflecting on our experiences. This collection considers the most important reasons women run, celebrating the inspiring passion runners have for their sport and illustrating how running fosters a vitally powerful community. With unique wit, refreshing candor, and disarming vulnerability, Armstrong shares her conviction that running is the perfect parallel for marking the milestones of life. From describing running a hardfought race with her tightly-knit group of sweat sisters, to watching her children participate in the sport for the very first time, Armstrong infuses her experiences with a perspective of hope that every moment is a chance to become a stronger, wiser, more peaceful woman. Running threads these touching stories together, and through each of them we are shown the universal undercurrents of inspiration, growth, grace, family, empowerment, and endurance.

Overall, I absolutely loved reading Mile Markers. The author is Kristin Armstrong, who just happens to be Lance Armstrong's ex-wife, so that is also pretty cool. This book was easy to read in chunks because it is split up into a series of blog posts that Armstrong has written. If you're a woman and a runner, I highly recommend this book. If you're not but you'd like to be (a runner), check it out - it will give you the inspiration you need to get started! This book makes me want to find a running group so I can become great friends with them like the women I read about. 
  • Do you like reading books about sports?
  • What is your favorite memoir type book?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Top 8 Vegetarian Side Dishes for Thanksgiving

It's that time of year! Thanksgiving is fast approaching (as in NEXT WEEK! Can you believe it?).

I am making this post because I sure would have appreciated something like it during my first vegetarian Thanksgiving five years ago. I had been meat-free for over six months when Thanksgiving hit, but it was my first true test. I made it through, but it wasn't easy. Over the years, I have come up with some delicious side dishes that fill me up and keep me happy while everyone else eats their turkey. (I'm more of a sides kind of girl anyway.)

Without further adieu, here are my top eight go-to Thanksgiving/Christmas recipes that are sure to please even those who make fun of your eating habits:

*Dish names are linked to recipes, so click on them!*

8. Cheesy Broccoli & Rice Casserole

I hope some of you found this post helpful! Even if you aren't vegetarian, these are great side dishes that accompany the rest of your meal perfectly. So now I must ask...

Are you a vegetarian?
What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish (veggie or not)? 
Do you enjoy Thanksgiving as much as I do?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book Review: Think 4:8

*Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a review.*

Think 4:8 - 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, by Tommy Newberry (with Lyn Smith), is an uplifting book based on scripture.

As always, Goodreads provides a wonderful synopsis: 

The best-selling author of "The 4:8 Principle" and "40 Days to a Joy-filled Life" returns with a special edition for teens. In just 40 days, teens can change their minds and their attitudes. Tommy Newberry, together with writer Lyn Smith, takes teens from thinking negatively to thinking positively, which will change their entire outlook on life. Not only will this devotional make teens think more positively and have a better attitude, this devotional also points teens to Scripture and helps them understand more about God. The devotions not only help teens understand how their thought life determines their perspective, but they also help them focus their minds on godly truths so they can live out their faith. This book is the perfect way for teens to get a new attitude and start living a fulfilling, joy-filled life in just 40 days.

Please note that I am not a teen. I am a 26 year old woman, but I selected this book to review for two reasons:

1) I am still in the early stages of discovery when it comes to my faith, and
2) I work with teenagers on a daily basis as an 8th grade teacher. 

First of all, this book is based on a verse from the Bible, Philippians 4:8. 

What I loved about this book:
1. I LOVE how Think 4:8 is a daily devotional. It is so much easier to comprehend the "lessons" each day when you have a limited amount of reading to do.

2. I enjoyed the exercises at the end of each day's reading. Sometimes it was a challenge to fill in the blanks in the tables provided, but I was really thinking about my life, what makes me happy, and how I can add more joy to my life just from thinking like Jesus. 

3. I appreciated the reminders of the scripture this book was focused on throughout the 40 days. Philippians 4:8 will forever be in my head now, and I am hoping it will continue to focus my thoughts on positive things in life and bring more joy to my life. 

What wasn't the greatest:
1. Some of the scenarios were a little unrealistic for me, as they discussed talking to your parents, teachers, etc. about situations. As an adult, that is strange; however, I acknowledge that I am an outsider looking in as a 26 year old. I still think this book would be a phenomenal tool for adolescents who are looking to grow in their understanding of God, feel better about their own lives, and find more happiness in the simple things. 

All in all, I highly recommend this book to not only teenagers but to ANYONE who is looking to focus their thoughts on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. As an adult, I was only put off a couple times, and I took MUCH MORE out of this book than was lost on me. If you're trying to rid the negativity from your life and focus on the positive, READ THIS BOOK. Seriously. 
  • What is your favorite faith based book?
  • Have you ever received a book in exchange for a review?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Have You Started Holiday Shopping?

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? I have, and I'm overwhelmed already.

If you're looking for a fun, original gift for someone on your list, consider purchasing from my Etsy shop, Two Cats Decorations.

Check out the following products below, and click on them to see them listed in my shop with pricing and shipping information.

Custom Photo Magnets

Custom Photo Collage on Canvas

Colorado Scenery Magnets

Bible Verse Magnets

Motivational Quote Magnets

Military Leadership Quote Magnets

And since I love my loyal blog followers, I want to offer you a special discount! :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Book Review: Jenny Pox

I use Grammarly's plagiarism checker because I like to prove to my students that I can catch them.

When I first heard about this book, I knew I had to read it. It sounded like it would be right up my alley, and it certainly was! Jenny Pox by JL Bryan was everything it promised to be.

As always, Goodreads provides a wonderful synopsis: 

Eighteen-year-old Jenny Morton has a horrific secret: her touch spreads a deadly supernatural plague, the "Jenny pox." She lives by a single rule: Never touch anyone. A lifetime of avoiding any physical contact with others has made her isolated and painfully lonely in her small rural town.

Then she meets the one boy she can touch. Jenny feels herself falling for Seth... but if she's going to be with him, Jenny must learn to use the deadly pox inside her to confront his ruthless and manipulative girlfriend Ashleigh, who secretly wields the most dangerous power of all.

Doesn't that sound absolutely intriguing? I couldn't put this book down, and it definitely got me out of my reading slump. I know I post a lot of reviews about YA books, but they're exactly what I'm looking for. Jenny Pox was no exception. In the novel, Jenny tries to overcome being treated poorly by a girl in her town. When she finds out that Ashleigh also has a power (actually the opposite power), she knows she has to stop her in order to finally have love in her life. 

This story is a powerful coming-of-age tale with a supernatural element. Keep in mind that although the story sounds like it is suitable for young adults, there are a couple scenes in which the content is definitely only for adults. 
  • Do you read supernatural stories?
  • What is your favorite novel?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Recipe: Vegetarian Stuffing

As we approach Thanksgiving, I've decided to showcase some of my absolute FAVORITE vegetarian side dishes. Since I don't eat turkey, I live on sides during the holidays... and I wouldn't have it any other way! Side dishes are the BEST, so I'll be posting one recipe a week until Thanksgiving to give ideas to my fellow vegetarians (or anyone with taste buds, really). 

*Note: if you are making this vegetarian, please check the ingredients on the stuffing package. Many include cooked chicken, chicken stock/broth, and/or chicken fat. I have found that many of the name brands are off limits, but the store brand where I live (Safeway) is completely meat-free!

Ingredients Needed:1 Package Stuffing Mix
1/2 Onion (chopped)
5 Celery Stalks (chopped)
3-4 Carrots (chopped)
1/2 Cup Butter (melted)
1 1/2 Cups Water or Broth (I use vegetarian "No Chicken" broth from Whole Foods)

The Recipe:
1. Melt butter in saucepan.
2. Add onion, celery, and carrot, and sauté until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add stuffing mix to saucepan.
4. Add water or broth a little at a time, tossing to mix.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Blog Planning - What Do YOU Do?

Blog planning is something that is on my mind often.

I think about the topics I want to post about. I try to decide when the best time to post about said topics would be. I make lists on paper. I make lists on my MacBook Pro. I cross out, and I draw arrows. It's a very confusing system I have.

The best way to plan that I have found for myself is setting up a calendar in Microsoft Word. Then, I just fill in the topics I want to post about on which days. I aim for a post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but that doesn't always work out.

After I have my schedule made for the month, I begin writing my posts. I do them sporadically - whenever I feel something strongly, I know it's time to write about it. Yes, I sometimes force myself to cover topics I once felt would be good and later end up not really caring about, but more often than not, I only post about topics when I feel like it. If I'm scheduled to post a recipe or book review, but I'd rather just post a life update or share photos from Instagram, I will put the recipe or book review on the back burner for a few days.

Do you have a better system for blog planning? If so, I would LOVE to hear your ideas! If I receive enough, I will make another post soon sharing the ideas and linking back to your blogs!