Pencils and Doughnuts

Here are two more puzzles I recently completed :).

The one with the pencils and erasers is a 750 piece Springbok called “Classroom Colors.” I recently bought new luggage and when I went to Goodwill to donate my old suitcases, I found this puzzle on a shelf there for only $1.99. I was pleased to discover it’s complete and in great condition. Mr. Myles helped me put it together :).

The “Doughnuts” puzzle is 1,000 pieces from Cobble Hill and was on my wish list for a long time. I finally broke down and ordered it. It was a lot of fun to put together; so pretty and colorful! My photo actually doesn’t do it justice, but that’s because the sun wouldn’t cooperate with me and come out so that I could take a good picture! It’s been overcast and raining so much all week here. Boo!

Anyway, I have a thing about doughnuts. I just like the way they look :). In fact, I think I probably like looking at them way more than I like eating them. Which is probably a good thing. Also, doughnuts make me think of “Twin Peaks,” which is never a bad thing, either.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven

Second book of the year:

A Funny Thing Happened

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven (or How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process) by Corey Taylor

Description from Amazon:

In this book, Corey Taylor undertakes something never before attempted in the history of rock superstardom: he takes you with him as he journeys undercover through various ghostbusting groups who do their best to gather information and evidence about the existence of spirits. Some are more credible than others, and, frankly, some are completely insane, but all are observed with appropriate seriousness as Taylor attempts to better understand some of the spooky things that have happened to him in his life, especially that night at the Cold House.

But that’s not all, folks. Taylor once again gives you a behind-the-scenes tour of his crazy life and the many beyond-the-grave events he’s encountered. (You’ll be shocked how often Slipknot has been invaded by the supernatural.) Taylor also touches on his religious background and how it led him to believe in much more than the Man in the Sky.


I didn’t receive too many books for Christmas this year, but I got Amazon gift cards, so before 2015 was out I bought myself a few things off my wishlist. This was one of them.

Corey Taylor, in case you don’t know, is the singer of Stone Sour and Slipknot. I’ve been on a bit of a HUGE Slipknot kick ever since S and I saw them play live back in September. They were amazing and I’ve just been really into obsessed with them ever since. When I found out Corey Taylor had written several books, I knew I had to give at least one of them a try. I decided to start with this one because the premise was just so strange and intriguing. Why would a rock star write a book about ghosts, of all things? Well, it turns out, because he is haunted. Ha, ha. Okay, so that’s not entirely precise, but…he does seem to have had an inordinate number of run-ins with the paranormal throughout his life (although, is there such a thing as an “ordinate” number of paranormal experiences? Probably not). Ghosts just seem to like him.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s not fantastically written. Frankly, parts of it are a mess. But it is interesting and thought-provoking and very, very funny. Or at least I thought it was funny. Maybe I just have a comparably juvenile/sick sense of humor to Taylor’s, but I laughed out loud so many times while reading this. I enjoyed all of his Star Trek and other sci-fi references, as I had not known he was One of Us, and I liked that he poked a lot of fun at himself because I appreciate it when famous people don’t take themselves too seriously. Honestly, he seems like one of those people that just has a million funny stories to tell you, and I came away with the feeling that he’d be a cool person to hang out and have a beer with. Although I don’t think he drinks anymore now that he’s sober. But you get what I’m saying.

I think this book may be most interesting to Taylor’s fans, and to people who like ghost stories.

But really, who doesn’t like a good creepy ghost story?

31 Days to Clean

So here’s the first book I’ve finished reading so far this year:

31 Days to Clean

31 Days to Clean – Having a Martha House the Mary Way, by Sarah Mae

This is a short little e-book that I bought almost a year ago. The edition I have seems to no longer exist :(. According to the author’s website, it’s been picked up by a traditional publisher and will be re-released in April. This is the Amazon description for that upcoming edition:

Get your home and your heart in order in just 31 days!
Sarah Mae wants to let you in on a little secret about being a good homemaker: It’s not about having a clean house. She’d never claim to be a natural, organized cleaner herself—yet, like you, she wants a beautiful space to call home, a place where people feel loved and at peace. Where people can really settle in with good food, comfy pillows, and wide-open hearts.

Is it possible to find a balance? To care for your heart—and your home—at the same time?

Journey with Sarah Mae on this easy, practical 31-day plan to get you moving and have your house looking and feeling fresh. But even more than that, you’ll gain a new vision for the home of your dreams, and how to make it a place of peace, comfort, and community. Originally published as the e-book 31 Days to Clean and now revised and expanded in print for the first time, Having a Martha Home the Mary Way will inspire you to find a happier, healthier . . . cleaner way to live.


I am one of those weird people who actually enjoys cleaning. Even the parts I dislike, I don’t mind very much. That’s part of why I like to read books about cleaning! I think this guide would probably be more helpful for people who are extremely reluctant cleaners, though, because it spends a lot of time on encouragement and motivation. But the fact that Sarah Mae focuses so much on the “why” of housecleaning rather than the “how” does make this a unique sort of book about cleaning.

I liked that she takes you through two different challenges each day, one for your heart/soul (a “Mary challenge” — a reference to the biblical story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10) and one for actually cleaning part of your home (a “Martha challenge”). And I agree with her that when it comes to keeping house, motivations are important. It’s good to ask ourselves whether we are just trying to impress the people we live with and invite into our homes, or whether we are trying to create a loving, comfortable environment for them. Obviously it’s better to stay focused on the latter :).

 

Happy New Year!

Yes, I realize it is already a full week into 2016, but as it’s likely clear by now, I am not the greatest at posting in a timely fashion. Ah, well. I’m sorry. But I hope everyone had a nice holiday season — and a good 2015, for that matter.

Looking back, it was a really fun year for S and me. It seems like we went a lot of places and did many interesting things. Our most involved travel adventure was a road trip we took to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to see Rob Zombie and Korn (plus a ton of other bands) back in October. Along the way we stopped in Hope, Arkansas (where we toured the childhood home of Bill Clinton), Memphis, Tennessee (Graceland) and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (The Warhol). We had a blast!

Here are some pictures of the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich I tried at Graceland. Mmm, yummy! S, for some odd reason, does not like bananas so he didn’t partake, but he had a veggie burger that was pretty good, too :).

PB and banana sandwich

What else can I say about 2015? As the year came to a close, I found myself not feeling the need to make a ton of resolutions, for once. It feels odd saying it but I think I’ve gotten to a point where I am just generally happy and content with the way my life works. I’ve managed to cut out a lot of excess and focus on what matters most to me:  my marriage and home life, reading, and writing as much as possible.

Speaking of which…I blew my yearly reading goal out of the water. I read more books in 2015 than I ever have before in my life (or at least since I started keeping track) — 86! I know some people regularly read way more than that, but for me 86 is a crazy-high number. I usually hover somewhere around 50. The greatest part of this is that 40 of those were “old” books, or titles I’d had in my possession prior to Christmas, 2014. So I was able to wipe a whole bunch of reallly old stuff off my TBR list. This makes me happy. Very happy. So even though I didn’t do so well at controlling the number of new books I acquired (I bought 73, all told, and that’s not counting Christmas presents), I still feel pretty good about the progress I made in this area. Here’s hoping this year I can beat the reading record again, as well as actually stick to my rules of not buying stuff I can’t read right away. I still need a bit more discipline in that area, it seems.

On the writing front, I also probably wrote/revised more in 2015 than ever before, too. I’ve got a couple of long-ish projects in the works right now, but am too superstitious to say anything else about them at this point :). Soon, I hope.

And on the minimalism front…the other day I went into Walmart and didn’t buy anything that wasn’t on my (very short) shopping list. If that doesn’t say I’ve turned the minimalist corner, I’m not sure what does. And it’s not like I wasn’t tempted. I almost bought pumpkin pie- and cake batter-flavored ChapSticks. And a Star Wars puzzle. These things may or may not have gone for a little ride in my shopping cart. But the important thing is, they saw their way back out of there before I left the store! There’s a time when that wouldn’t have happened. I felt so much better having said “no” to these things, though, not because there’s anything wrong with buying them but because I know I didn’t need them and I would have regretted buying more stuff for no good reason. This year I hope to continue to buy less, get rid of more, minimize and just generally continue to simplify my life. It feels so much better this way.

Hoping your year has gotten off to a great start, and wishing you a wonderful 2016,

Elizabeth

October, 2015 horror movie round-up

Last year I wrote up a top ten list of the best horror movies S and I watched during our annual horror movie challenge. I’d planned to do that again this year but…unfortunately, this time around we didn’t watch too many that I enjoyed very much :(.

There were a few highlights, though:

8) The Butterfly Room

This story was pretty different and interesting, but I think what made watching it especially fun was seeing so many horror icons together in one movie:  Barbara Steele, Heather Langenkamp, P.J. Soles, Adrienne King, Ray Wise, etc.

7) Someone’s Watching Me!

This was made for TV (and is perhaps more of a thriller than a horror movie), but it’s interesting and worth a watch, particularly if you’re a John Carpenter fan; this is one of his earliest films.

6) Dolly Dearest

I remember always seeing the box art for this movie at the video store, but I’d never actually seen the film itself. It’s basically a Child’s Play rip-off, but it was entertaining (a lot more so than some of the other stuff we watched during the month) and I really appreciated that. Plus, it has Lt. Yar from “Star Trek TNG” in it!

5) Tusk

Kevin Smith’s body-horror movie about a man with a dark secret involving a walrus. The story line was pretty twisted, but I enjoyed all the humor in it.

4) Exists

A found-footage movie about Bigfoot! Made near where I live! I was really excited to see this, as I have really enjoyed every movie by Eduardo Sanchez that I’ve ever seen. It didn’t disappoint. And Sanchez may officially now be one of my favorite directors.

3) Crimson Peak

I have a thing for haunted house/ghost stories (even though they are all pretty similar) and this is probably one of the best I’ve seen. The visuals are just gorgeous. Plus, I was sick as a dog (not contagious) when we went to see it and it took my mind off my misery for a while. I was truly grateful!

2) We Are Still Here

“In the cold, wintry fields of New England, a lonely old house wakes up every thirty years – and demands a sacrifice.” Another haunted house movie. Stylistically, this reminded me a bit of House of the Devil, another movie I liked a lot. This was just straight-up old-fashioned horror (with great, gory makeup effects) and I enjoyed the heck out of it.

1) Last Shift

This was the second-to-last movie we watched during the month and by this point, I was pretty tired and losing hope. But this perked me up again. It is the story of a rookie cop covering the last shift in an empty police station (i.e. having the worst night at work EVER) and it is genuinely creepy in many places.

Last but not least…we also always try to include at least a few perennial favorites in the mix, too, to ensure that we see at least some stuff we know we’ll like. This year we re-watched: Re-Animator, Suspiria, The Amityville Horror, and Ghostbusters. And they were all still awesome :).

Hope you enjoyed your Halloween!

Elizabeth

A nice video

I really liked this video!

I thought this young lady did a great job of succinctly summing up her journey from living a materialistic life to a more minimalist one, and I could relate to many of the things that she said.

If you are looking for encouragement and inspiration to make changes in your life to become more minimalist (or if you are just curious about what it means to be minimalist), I’d recommend watching it.

Have an awesome day,

Elizabeth

Mini Meatless Loaves

DSCF3571My tip for today: when you make meatloaf (or, as in my case, vegetarian meatless loaf), try cooking it in a muffin tin.This makes it easier to serve, as you don’t have to slice anything. Use a little cooking spray (or a nonstick pan) and the finished individual servings just slide right out of the muffin cups! Also, cooking the loaf this way ensures every serving is essentially an “end-piece” with that yummy crusty edge around it :).

This Morningstar Farms recipe is my go-to meatless loaf recipe. It makes 10 regular-sized muffin cups’ worth of loaf. I substitute green bell pepper for the celery because I don’t like celery, and I spread ketchup (HEB Organic is my favorite) mixed with a little seasoning salt, dry mustard, black pepper and brown sugar over the top.

Mini Meatless LoavesIt was hard for me to get a particularly appetizing picture of these little guys (I think perhaps meatloaf is just not a very photogenic food), but there are lots of other examples of various implementations of this same idea online. Like this one. Cute, right?

Happy homemaking,

Elizabeth

Two birds with one (Silver)stone.

DSCF3557

My quest to read through my TBR pile continues!

I’ve had The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone since 2010 and while I had skimmed it before, I had never read it all the way through. I think I was intimidated by it. At first glance the recipes just seemed a little too hardcore for me. So I stuck the book on a shelf and just sort of ignored it for…oh, five years.

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year, however, was to read a book about veganism and since I already had this one, I decided to give it a fair shot. I’m glad I did! It was a good read, very informative and inspiring. While I am still not ready to commit to becoming a full-on vegan, I feel like I can at least try to eat that way a lot more of the time.

So far I have tried two of Alicia’s recipes: Sweet Potato-Lentil Stew (page 166) and Sicilian Collard Greens with Raisins and Pine Nuts (page 176). I liked them both, although the stew recipe made a TON. I ate left-overs for days and still wasn’t able to finish it all :(. So yeah, I will make it again some time but probably only half the recipe. The photo above shows some of the leftovers served over brown rice. This was my first time cooking collards and I have to say they were pretty tasty!

Now I can cross a resolution off my list AND knock another title off my TBR pile. Win-win!

Speaking of the TBR pile…I’ve made some decent progress since first posting about my (crazy) dream of getting down to five TBR*:

  • May was not such a great month — I bought 10 books. BUT — I read 5 of them right away (as well as 3 others that I already had).
  • In June I bought 2 books and read one right away (as well as 4 older ones and one of the 5 new purchases I’d had left over from the end of May).
  • In July I’ve bought 6 books (2 of which I’m not counting as TBRs because I have already read them before and only bought them because the e-book editions were super cheap and I wanted to have them). Of the remaining, I read 1 and just started another. So that leaves 2 additions to the TBR pile this month. BUT I also read 6 more titles from my TBR pile!

*Bottom line:  I’ve bought approximately 38 books this year and read 52. Not great, but at least the numbers are moving in the right direction :). And yes, I realize that this (having too many books to read) is a pretty cushy “problem” to have. I’m not really complaining, just trying to remind myself to use and appreciate what I already have, and to be intentional about how and what I buy in the future!