Monday, May 28, 2012

Tried and True, America

I just want to give a quick solute to the many men and women who have given up life, limb, and livelihood so that I can sit safely in my house, blog what I want, and then go have a barbecue with my family.

I also want to applaud the spouses of those soldiers. You people and the people you are married to are what make America great. Such sacrifices humble and amaze me.

It's true that our country has problems. There's corruption, instability, and a decline in morality and courtesy.

But, my fellow Americans, our country will always be "Tried and True." Don't ever forget the fires that have refined us.

God bless the honorable. God bless the selfless. And God bless the departed who gave the ultimate sacrifice out of love for country and freedom.

Happy Memorial day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Editorial: Put it down

My sister and I had a lively discussion last week about cell phones. Oh I know you've heard the argument time and time again.

You see a room full of teenagers all sitting around. None of them are talking to each other. None of them are even looking at each other. They're looking at their cellular devices, texting someone across the room, playing Angry Birds, or updating their facebook status with song lyrics.

Or how about the kid that texts a girl to ask her out on a date, and then on the night of their date, sends her another text to tell her he's at her house to pick her up.
Seriously? You can't get off your bum, walk up to the door, and meet her parents face to face like a man?

And it gets worse.

Because it's not just the teenagers doing this. It's grown-ups. People who pay mortgages and raise children. People who have careers, not just jobs. Mature human beings who are responsible, nurturing, allowed-to-eat-dessert-before-dinner adults.

And I'm just as guilty. I'm blowing this horn at myself as well as others. Sometimes I find myself saying to myself (in my mind)... "Ames, seriously? Are you that bored with the conversation and so inconsiderate that you can't put your phone down for a measly ten minutes so you can listen to what's being said around you or, heaven forbid, to you?"

I think it's terrible. We all know our social skills are going down the toilet because of the modern technology that allows us to communicate without having to look someone in the face.

Which brings me to another weed in this nasty garden of pathetic-ness: using social networking/technology to insult, demean, cruelly criticize, or bully others. To me, this is the ultimate definition of complete cowardice.
People disagree and that's okay. But it is very possible to do it with respect.

Quick side story on that subject: I was in a creative writing class when I was about 22. A young man was reading one of his pieces in class. It was filled with terrible language. I, very politely, stated that I felt that he could have gone without it and that a more skilled linguist is someone who can express powerful emotions without the use of profanity. He disagreed with me, but was just as cordial about it. And I felt  no ill-will toward him whatsoever. So it is possible. Even in awkward circumstances.

And my final point: the cell phone use mixed with driving debate. I confess, I have texted while driving before. One time I was looking at my phone to change songs on my Pandora radio and the dude in the truck next to me saw me and motioned for me to put the phone down. I was angry. I gave him a dirty look. "I'm not texting! Leave me alone!"

But I wasn't paying attention to the road either. No, I didn't get into an accident. I was lucky. But how many people aren't so lucky? How long with my "luck" hold out?

I'm not saying you have to unplug. I'm not saying, if you're out with friends and your phone rings or you get a text that you should always ignore it. Sometimes those calls or texts are important. I'm just saying don't sit and have another conversation in text land at the same time as the one you're having in real life. Real life is what matters right now.
Rule of thumb? Pretend the people you communicate with (in person or via technology) are standing in front of you. You wouldn't hold two conversations at once or say rude things to them if they were staring you in the face, would you?

I wouldn't.

So this is what I propose...
Pledge to put the phone down. Be with the people you are with.
Don't hide behind a screen thinking you're big stuff. If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all. (Thank you, Thumper)
And for pete's sake, DON'T TEXT AND DRIVE! Find a safe place to pull over. It's allowed, you know.

I'm taking this pledge. I want to be more present. I want to be more kind. And I want to live long and prosper.

Anyone else with me?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tried and True: Homemade Chicken Nuggets

We LOVE America's Test Kitchen on PBS. Best cooking show ever. These guys know their stuff because they literally have it down to a science.

This recipe was one we felt comfortable trying ourselves.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

I have to say, though these babies aren't super low in fat (deep fried... yeah), they are the BEST chicken nuggets you will ever taste. Juicy, crispy, perfect. And you know exactly what's going in them so you don't have to worry about freaky preservatives or chemicals from frozen processed food. 

A little labor intensive, I'll admit. But if you make a whole bunch, you can easily freeze and rebake them later. I did that with our last batch and enjoyed delicious chicken nuggets for lunch later in the week!

Here's the recipe, which I'll post due to a request ;) and because the recipe is free on the Test Kitchen website, if you sign up. (the link for the website is at the bottom).


2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce

~Coating: (is that the right word for it?)
1 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs (I used regular bread crumbs but the recipe calls for panko)
2 teaspoons onion powder
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 egg whites
4 cups vegetable oil

1. Cut up chicken into 2-2 1/2'' by 1'' pieces and soak in the brine for 30 mins, covered, in the refrigerator. (Don't let it sit longer than that.)
2. Meanwhile, mix the coating ingredients together in a shallow pan.
3. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Discard brine.
4. Whisk egg whites in a bowl until foamy
5. Dredge chicken in egg whites, then press into flour until coated
6. Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes.
7. Heat oil over medium-high.
8. Return chicken to flour mixture, press to adhere (no need for any more coats of egg white, just put it back in the flour mixture again.)
9. Fry chicken in oil about 3 minutes (or until done), turning halfway through.
10. Since you'll only have room for some of the chicken in the frying pan, transfer cooked chicken to a wire cooling rack so the excess oil will drip off.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce!

*If you decide to freeze them: you can freeze the nuggets for up to a month. When you want to reheat, bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, flipping once halfway through.

Link for recipe:
If you can, sign up for the free membership and check out other recipes they've got. They are ALL amazing!!

***I was not paid or asked to promote America's Test Kitchen in any way***

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Tried and True

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Bret hates store-bought spaghetti sauce. I like it, especially the chunky mushroom one. But you know how it is ladies... you often hear the words "can you make it like my mom's?" Especially if you're a newly wed or have been married five years or less.
When we eat spaghetti, I have to make it like good old Grandma used to make. Bret's dad was raised on the sauce, and Bret was raised on the sauce. When I first tasted it, I found it nasty. It has since grown on me and I now tolerate it.

But marinara sauce is a different ball game. We use this sauce for making homemade pizza, calzones, or chicken marinara (which is just like spaghetti except with sauteed chicken).

And it's brilliant. We BOTH like it! And the best part? NO SUGAR! A lot of marinara recipes call for sugar, even just a little bit. This stuff doesn't need it. I've adapted the recipe from Ralph's Marinara Sauce via I cut the portions down since there's only two (soon to be three) of us, and added an extra-veggie option if you're so inclined. (I let it slip to Bret that I added grated carrots and red bell peppers to this last batch. He wrinkled his nose, said it made the sauce too chunky, and to skip it next time. Oh well. Maybe I'll try mushrooms next. YUM!)

So here's the recipe:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic (I use the pre-chopped garlic that comes from a jar)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon parsley
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Salt and Pepper to taste
**Optional: 1 carrot, grated, 1/3 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1. Heat oil on medium
2. Saute onions and garlic (and other veggies, if you added them) in oil until golden brown
3. Add rest of ingredients
4. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer 45 mins to an hour.

Makes just over a pint of sauce.
You can easily double or even triple the recipe.

So that's today's Tried and True. It worked for me, hope it works for you!


Before the Monday Tried and True: Results

Before I get to the Tried and True post, which will be posted later today, I thought I'd quit with the suspense and tell you who the winner of my little contest was last Friday. First, the answers:

1. Abraxas-Fitzwilliam 
Sources: Harry Potter (Abraxas Malfoy I know, I know, the bad guy's grandpa. What was I thinkinking) and Pride and Prejudice (Fitzwilliam Darcy)
2. Shawn Spencer 
Source: Psych. Main character's first and last name. Me and Bret both love this show.
3. William Peregrine 

(a tricky one) Source: Lord of the Rings. Same guy. Billy Boyd (given name, William) played Peregrine Took.
4. Benedict Sherlock 

Source: the BBC Sherlock Holmes. Played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Similar name to  #3.
5. Gaius Uther

Two of you nailed this one. Source: Adventures of Merlin, BBC show. Gaius is court physician, Uther Pendragon is the king.
6. John Ronald Reuel 

Source: J.R.R. Tolkien's full name. Author of Lord of the Rings
7. Jeremy Clark 

Another VERY tricky one. Nobody got this. Source: Top Gear (British version. Bret's favorite show.) Host is Jeremy Clarkson.
8. Durham York 

Source: two cities in northern England.
9. Dresden Autobon

Source: Germany. Where Bret served his mission. A city and a highway.
10. Phillip Mickelson

Source: Professional golfer Phil Mickelson. Bret's favorite golfer. (Phil is also an ASU alumnus.)

Winner: Jamie from What I Did Today!
Darci, you came close. Good job everyone! These were not easy. Some of your answers were very good guesses just not the specific names I was thinking of. 

So what's our baby's name, Jamie? (Pretend we're really going to let you name him. Just for kicks.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Name that kid - Friday Editorial

29 weeks! And splotchy arms

Have you seen some of the crazy names going on out there?
Seriously. What kind of kid wants to be known as Pilot Inspektor or Apple or Tu Morrow? (celebrities....sheesh!)
Since we haven't really nailed down a name for little Abraxas-Fitzwilliam yet (don't you love our own wacko-but-mercifully-fake name for our kid?) I thought I'd make a game out of it.

The prize for the winner? You get to name the baby.
HA! Right. No you don't. But I would love to hear your suggestions!

So here's how the game will work:
Since Bret and I have such a colorful combination of interests, I thought it would be silly and fun to give name ideas for our boy having to do with the things we love best. Your part: guess where the name originates. Some of the names will be easy. Some will not. Some are downright silly. The S stands for our last name.

Make sure you give the source for first and middle names, if applicable.
Example: Pagani Veyron S = the make of one very fancy car, the model of a different very fancy car.

We'll start with his online nickname:
1. Abraxas-Fitzwilliam S (hint: it comes from two different sources)
2. Shawn Spencer S
3. William Peregrine S
4. Benedict Sherlock S
5. Gaius Uther S
6. John Ronald Reuel S
7. Jeremy Clark S
8. Durham York S
9. Dresden Autobon S
10. Phillip Mickelson S

Have fun!
Another hint: we watch a lot of Netflix.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What I'm up to Wednesday

Thanks for all the complements on my blog Redesign. I like my new layout too. And fyi, the picture of me and Bret on the sidebar? You know, the super-hot one that turned out totally amazing? Yeah, that's not because we're photogenic. It's because of the talents of my sister Jen the Photographer at Check it out.

I got lots of advice on "theme days" and stuff. I'm not going to have these themes set in stone and I'm not going to force myself to post on days when I don't have anything to say.That seemed to be the best and most frequent advice I received.

But the themes I have decided on are these:
~Monday's Tried and True (or) Tried... Denied. Whichever the occasion calls for (wanted to do Tuesday for alliteration purposes but I only wanted a theme every-other-day.)
~What I'm up to Wednesday. (this'll be my craft/writing/hobby post)
~Friday Editorial (in which I tell about my thoughts and opinions. Everything from movie/book reviews to remarks about things that have uplifted me, made me giggle, or made me cry.)

I'm not going to post every day (MAJOR kudos to those that do!!) and may not even post every other day. Tuesdays and Thursdays might make an appearance sometimes, if I don't have anything for my "themed" days.
That's the beauty of having your own infernal journal.

I've also decided to activate the email notification whenever I get a comment, so I can reply to all my commenters. I love it when I get replies from other bloggers, and I often want very much to thank my own followers or continue the conversation. It's like having lots of pen-pals. I love it.

So today is What I'm up to Wednesday.
And I decided to fill you in on a little project I've started working on and have not yet disclosed. I'm even a little reluctant to share in case there are lurkers out there who like to steal ideas. (no one I know of course, because my followers are all too awesome for that.)

But I'll tell you because I'm excited about it.

One of my favorite authors is J.R.R. Tolkien. Author of The Lord of the Rings. Countdown to The Hobbit movie commencing...291 days, 10 hours, 25 mins when I wrote this post.)
What some people may not know about him is that he and his wife Edith have the most amazing love story. Both orphans. When their relationship was discovered, they were forbidden to see each other until Tolkien's 21st birthday. On that very day, Tolkien wrote to his beloved Edith only to find out that she was engaged to someone else!
They did end up together (history will tell you that) but their story is seriously so Hollywood-worthy, I'm surprised no one's told it yet.

So I'm going to.

Not in biography style... I will take some artistic license here and there. But I want it to be as historically accurate as possible. A beautiful, rich, funny love story to make you feel cozy.

Armed with these tools:

A spiral notebook
A Mickey Mouse pen (courtesy of my visiting teachers!)
A highlighter
Post-its (which aren't sticky, come to find out. Dang Wal-mart. That's why they were so cheap)
J.R.R. Tolkien. a Biography and The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, both by Humphrey Carpenter.

And that's what I'm up to right now.

*Edit: and then I woke up and realized I posted this on Tuesday, thinking it was Wednesday. Another space-case moment.

Monday, May 7, 2012

30 years


I'm 30. Weird. I sometimes feel like I'm still 17.
Minus the flirting.
And plus a few extra pounds.

I woke up yesterday morning feeling pretty bummed. I don't want to be 30. 30-year-olds, in my opinion, have to take life seriously. They have to have it figured out. They have to grow up. They have to get wrinkles. They have to watch their metabolism slow down, decrease their high-heel mileage, and begin the descent into hating amusement park rides.

This all makes it sound like I'm turning 60 instead of 30.

So the day started out a little... meh. Bret either forgot, or didn't think it was important to say "Happy Birthday." (he's not a celebrater. It's just the way he was raised. Birthdays aren't a big deal to him. Although, for the record, he already took me out to dinner earlier this weekend.)

So I wallowed in my thirty-ness.
Facebook posts came.
Some even made me cry because they were so sweet.
Then my sister called and my little 2-year-old nephew sang "Happy Birthday" to me! It made me laugh and brightened my mood. (And Bret didn't totally ignore my birthday either. The man makes me laugh every single day and did make an effort to make me feel special.)

Maybe today would be good after all.

Went to church, where we had five, yes FIVE baby blessings. It left about 15 minutes for the rest of the meeting. It was good though. The blessings were beautifully given, special, and sweet. It wasn't as hard of an occasion for me as it usually is.

We got home around 2:30 to the smell of roast in the crock pot. Mmmm! Fifteen minutes later, the power went out. Uh oh. The roast had been simmering for 5 hours already, so it was cooked all the way, just not yet "flaky, fall-apart, tender" the way we like it. With no idea how long it would take for the power to kick back on, we stuck the roast in the fridge and headed to Mesa. (It's pushing the upper nineties outside right now. Didn't want to bake in our house).

This was the best part. Laughing our heads off with family. First with my in-laws, then with my fam. My sister made me a delicious little cookie-brownie number. They sang to me and I got to blow out the matches (no candles at Mom's.)

Then I fell asleep in the car on the way back to Glendale. Ironically, the power had only been out for about 30 minutes. But if it hadn't blacked out, we wouldn't have gone to Mesa. Truly, a blessing.

All in all, a lovely birthday. Sundays make it low-key but family makes it awesome.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Updates, re-designs, and a few questions

Since it's been, what, two weeks since my last post. Wow. Way to go, there, Miss Over-achiever. I figured it's time to post.

Here's my updates:
Officially into my third trimester. Little Abraxas-Fitzwilliam (real name still TBD) is kicking me as we speak. Or, as I type. Of course, once I got these words typed, he stopped, so technically it's not as we speak.


Bret is hard at work with his dex-competency exams in school. Basically they're making sure he's able to work on a human being. He'll start his third year of dental school this June. In the clinic! I'm so proud of him I could squeal! School is rough on him sometimes but he's loving the hands-on dentistry part. And I'm loving his hard work and perseverance.

We're also loving the friends we're making. I went to a baby shower last night (Gasp! I know, shocking. I actually went to one for a baby girl! It was good though. Very low key and easy on me). I am soaking up the fantastic support group and amazing women I'm making friends with.

Abraxas-Fitzwilliam now has the hiccups.

I'm wanting to redo my blog. Layout, set-up, posting, the whole works. I'd like to do the structured "days" but I'm kind of afraid they won't happen. One I really want to do is a "Tried and True" day. I have a "Tried and True" board and a "Tried...denied" board on Pinterest and I want to share the things I'm trying out. Gets me going and motivated to actually do stuff.

I'd also like to do some writing posts. Just to keep myself accountable and keep everyone posted on what's going on in my little writing world. Which isn't much. (It never is during pregnancies for me.)

A short spiritual thought day would be a good one too. I think telling about small epiphanes (ones that are share-able) would be a good way to share my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ while uplifting others at the same time.

So what other day "themes" are there? My friend Heather at A Goddess in Progress (in progress? no, the girl is already a goddess. love her!) has a Tell me truly Tuesday. I think that's cute. And I love love love Jamie's theme of What I did Today.

But I hate to copy people. So for now I'm just brainstorming.

What do you guys think?