Friday Favorites – 05112018

The list of stuff I’ve been digging on lately. 🙂

1) X-Men

I’ve mentioned before my affinity for digital comics. Well, I’ve been reading a lot of X-Men books lately, at Steve’s suggestion. They’re one of his favorite titles.

I’d read a few X-Men books in the past, but lately I’ve been on more of a kick. Which is good, I guess, since we’ve got plenty of issues for me to choose from (the suggested reading order he wrote up for me me is quite lengthy. Ha.)

 

God Loves, Man Kills was the basis for the film X-Men 2, and Days of Future Past was the inspiration for the movie of the same title. I liked both movies, but I thought both books were even better!

Cyclops

My favorite X-Man, Cyclops

 

2)  This guest post on Becoming Minimalist, about gratitude:

This pretty much speaks for itself, so I’ll just leave the link here:

I liked this quote:

“Think of something in your life that you tend to take for granted. It can be as simple as running water or groceries in your fridge, or that you get to listen to music you enjoy or read books that inspire you. Now consider, for a moment, what your life would be like if you didn’t have it?

Especially at times when I find myself caught up in thinking about how something is not quite right—flight is delayed, garage door is broken—I remind myself to pause and think: Imagine life without this. It doesn’t mean I don’t ever want anything or wish for something to be better, but this simple exercise fills me with deep gratitude for the many amazing things that do fill my life, and it offers a helpful way to prioritize where I spend my emotional energy.”

 

3) Amazon giveaways

Last month, I hosted a couple of giveaways on Amazon. It was so much fun I knew I wanted to do it again, so for my birthday, I gave away a bunch of books. There were winners for everything but one copy of The Princess Diaries, so I’m re-listing it again :). Check it out here:

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: The Princess Diaries (Kindle Edition). https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/2a9c6dd164ae8cd6 NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of May 18, 2018 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules. (Claimed! :))

I’m also giving away a copy of The Lunar Chronicles coloring book, because I think it’s cool and I sort of wish I had one. Ha.

Lunar Chron coloring book

(I’ll post the giveaway link when Amazon sends it to me). (Edit: This giveaway was over so soon, I didn’t have time to post the link! Congrats to the winner :))

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that anything I write is particularly similar to any of the stuff I’ve given away. These are just books I really like, by authors I think are talented. They can be counted as influences of mine, I suppose, and definitely as recommendations! 🙂

These giveaways have been a lot of fun for me, and I think I’ll probably continue to host a few throughout the rest of the year.

4) My birthday

I turned 41 last month!

It was great. 🙂

Steve and I usually like to celebrate one another’s birthdays all month long, so…we did a lot of stuff. We attended several screenings of some of my fave horror and sci-fi movies  (The Brood, Videodrome, Nightbreed) at The Alamo Drafthouse, and he also took me to see Jonathan Davis perform when he came through here on his solo tour! So fun. I’m excited for JD’s new album! Only a couple more weeks to go.

Jonathan Davis

JD and his band. Photo by Steve

On my actual birthday, we went out for breakfast doughnuts and then to see The Avengers: Infinity War, which of course was awesome.

 

Then we went out for my fave meal, pizza and beer for dinner (Because I am classy like that. Ha). I had a great time. Steve sent me these gorgeous multi-colored roses.

 

 

5) Chips and Cheese Chili Casserole

Okay, this is probably one of the easiest recipes ever, but it is so, SO GOOD. I always joke that I could probably eat a whole pan in one sitting. I like it so much, this is what I chose to make myself for my birthday meal (a few days before my actual birthday…like I said, we tend to stretch out the celebrations to an inordinate degree around here :)).

chili chips and cheese casserole ingredients

I think this casserole would be great for a pot-luck, particularly if you made it a day ahead because it tastes even better after it’s been sitting in the fridge all night.

chili chips casserole completed

Probably not the healthiest thing you could ever eat, but also not the worst for you. The recipe says it’s gluten-free and with all those beans, it’s got to be high in fiber, right? So there’s that!

chili chips casserole leftovers_1

This is pretty much all that is ever left over.

FWIW, the recipe says there are all sorts of different ways you can make this casserole, and I’m sure that is true, but…the first time I made it, I used (1) 15 oz. can of black beans, (1) 8 oz. can of tomato sauce and (1) 14.5 oz. can of Amy’s brand Medium Chili, and this combo was so tasty, I have never bothered to change it. I think ONE time I tried it with a different kind of vegetarian chili and I just didn’t like it as much, so…these are the ingredients I normally stick with. I also like to use Kraft Triple Cheddar “Creamy Melt with a touch of Philadelphia cream cheese” in this, because it adds more tartness and pairs well with the sour cream (I think). Try it and see!

5) Craft beer

I’m not sure how Steve and I initially got into drinking craft beer, but it’s become sort of a hobby for us. We’ve been lucky enough to visit a ton of breweries around the state, as well as a few in other places.

Recently we went to Family Business Brewing Company in Dripping Springs, which is co-owned by Jensen and Danneel Ackles. The name is a nod to “Supernatural” – “Saving people, hunting things…the family business.” 😀

 

Their IPA, Cosmic Cowboy, was so good! I’m not into this craft beer stuff enough to know all the ins and outs about every different style, but I do know what I like and I am definitely an IPA fan. The hoppier and more bitter, the better IMO.

The day after the Family Business tour, we did a 5K at the Rentsch Brewery in Georgetown, and their beers were really good, too. (This is the Double Dry-Hopped IPA, which was pretty amazing). The race was fun — nice weather for it!

rentsch beer

Pic by Steve

 

6) Concerts with my husband

There was a time in my twenties when I remember being really burned out on going to concerts. I’m not sure why, but they just didn’t hold much appeal for me anymore. Then Steve and I started going to more and more live shows again, and now I love them.

John 5

Last month we went to see John 5…and I took this blurry photo of him.

We’ve been lucky enough to see tons of bands perform over the years. This past week we saw Mastodon. They’re hugely talented and put on a fantastic show. This was especially cool because we’d made plans to see them twice before and both of those shows had ended up being canceled. They said they hadn’t played here in two years! So, yeah…it was great to finally catch them again.

Mastodon

Much better pic of Mastodon by Steve

Okay, I think that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!!

XOXO,

Elizabeth

 

Friday Favorites – 03232018

When I made my last ‘Friday Favorites’ post, I hope I didn’t give the impression it would be a weekly feature here on the blog. Because it clearly hasn’t been. Because I am the world’s laziest blogger :/.

I’ve tried to figure out why this is (the blog-related laziness, I mean), but I still don’t know what my problem is. I guess most of the time I just prefer to spend my writing time on whatever piece of fiction I’m working on at the moment. What can I say? It’s more fun to spend time in fantasy-land than to re-cap reality :).

Nevertheless, here’s a short list for this week (as before, in no particular order):

1) Skillet Lasagna

I found this recipe on Pinterest years ago, and have since made it, oh, about a hundred times, give or take.

Skillet Lasagna.jpg

I like lasagna, but it can be kind of time-consuming to make, what with all the layering and then waiting for it to bake all the way through and what-have-you. With this recipe, you basically just cook the lasagna in a big skillet on the stove, which is much faster. Including prep, it only takes about half an hour. Very easy — and very delicious!

Because I don’t have an oven-proof skillet, I cook my lasagna on the stove-top and then transfer it to an oven-proof dish before completing the last step, which is to stick it under the broiler to melt and brown the cheese. If you have an oven-proof skillet, this recipe will be even easier for you, because you will be able to just pop the whole thing under the broiler and then serve it straight out of the skillet!

Regardless of the extra step I have to take, though, this is still an incredibly easy dish for me to put together, and it turns out great every time. It tastes so good and looks so pretty, it’s perfect for when you have guests over, or for a special occasion. Just serve it with a salad and some bread and maybe wine, if you’re into that. In fact, this is what Steve and I ate on Valentine’s Day this year!

Roses 02_2018

Roses someone sweet sent me for Valentine’s Day ;).

Btw, since I’m vegetarian, I obviously don’t use the ground beef called for in the recipe :). I usually use soy crumbles (like Boca or Morningstar Farms), but I have also omitted them altogether before, and just made cheese lasagna. You could probably add some spinach and other finely chopped vegetables to this, to make it a veggie version, but I’ve never tried that.

2) Lightly dried basil

This one sort of ties into the last one, since that recipe calls for fresh basil.

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I don’t use fresh basil all that much, so when I need it, I usually just buy one of those little pre-portioned cellophane packages from the produce section at the grocery store. Yes, they’re expensive, but if I only need fresh basil every once in a while, and we eat all of it when I buy it, I don’t think it’s too big a deal to purchase it this way.

However, I recently saw this at my grocery store, and gave it a try: Gourmet Garden “lightly dried” basil.

The 0.42 oz package contains “a large bunch of roughly chopped organic basil, lightly dried (just enough) to last for 4 weeks once open.” One TBSP of lightly dried basil equals one TBSP of fresh. When added to foods, it “refreshes during cooking,” and tastes more like fresh basil than dried.

This is cool for a couple of reasons, namely that it costs a lot less than those pre-portioned packages, and it lasts a lot longer. Once you open the container, you’ve got a month to figure out how to use up the rest of it. I like to add it to pasta sauces and sprinkle it on pizza, in addition to finding other recipes that call for fresh basil (here’s another one I like — Chicken Parmesan Bake).

Someday maybe I’ll get around to cultivating a fresh herb garden, but until that happens, this is a useful alternative for me :).

3) Meal Planning

Okay, so I don’t actually enjoy planning meals all that much. But I do enjoy the results, which are: a quicker trip to the grocery store, a lower bill when I check out, and of course a week’s worth of meals, which keeps me from having to scratch my head over what we’re going to have for dinner every day.

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I know there are a lot of posts about how to meal plan out there, but FWIW, here’s how I do it:

  • First I look in my kitchen cabinets and fridge, to see what I’ve already got on hand. I’m looking for things we need to use up soon, and/or that might help spur some recipe ideas.
  • I also look through the weekly HEB ad that comes in the mail. I don’t shop at multiple grocery stores. It’s possible I would save some money if I did, but honestly, HEB has pretty low prices all the time, and they always offer in-store coupons for free and discounted items. Plus, the store is VERY close to where I live, so I save a lot of time by just running over there and coming right back once a week, rather than going all over town to try and find deals. Saving money is definitely important to me, but so is saving time! (And BTW, no, I don’t work for HEB. I’m just a big fan :)).
  • Lastly, I look at recipes I’ve saved on Pinterest, or my meal planning database, to see what meals I might be able to make combining what I’ve got on hand and what’s on sale at HEB. What’s a meal planning database, you might ask? Well, it’s a handy-dandy spreadsheet Steve made for me, that lists all the dishes I like to make on a regular basis. They’re organized by protein (fake chicken, fake beef, tofu, beans, etc.) and by style (Italian, Mexican, etc.), and there’s a pivot table that allows me to filter the information accordingly. Yeah, I know, it’s the nerdiest thing ever, but it’s really helpful, particularly when I go to make the grocery list, my mind goes blank, and I can’t seem to think of anything to cook that week.

I try to keep our meals varied throughout the week, so that we don’t end up eating all pasta dishes or whatever. Usually, I make one Italian-inspired dish, one Mexican-inspired, and so on, and I usually try for at least one vegan meal, as well. Fridays are almost always pizza nights. We used to order out but then I learned how to make my own. Steve and I both like mine just fine, so this is what we eat now. It took me a few tries to get the hang of working with the dough, but I’ve now made so many pizzas, I could probably do it in my sleep ;).

4) Star Wars comics

Okay, switching gears a little bit…I recently caught up on a bunch of digital issues of Marvel’s currently ongoing Star Wars comic that Steve and I had amassed, and I have to say, this title is so good!

Star_Wars_Marvel_2015_John_Cassaday_Special_Edition

I’ve read up through issue #44, I think, and pretty much every story has been great, or at least entertaining. I think the writers have done an awesome job capturing the personalities of the original characters, and so much of the art work is great, too!

We’re no longer subscribed to the title (because we’d fallen so far behind on reading them, we decided to just quit for a while and give ourselves a chance to catch up) so it’ll be a while before I read any more of them. But assuming they remain this fun to read, I’m sure I’ll continue buying and reading the collections as they come out!

5) X-Files Season 11

Is it just me, or has this current season been really great? Like, way better than the last one?

the-x-files-creator-chris-carter-interview-720x720

Like I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really watch much TV anymore, but The X-Files is my all-time favorite show, so of course I’ve been watching the newest episodes! I think they’ve been pretty wonderful so far, and it’s kind of sad to me that the latest one to air might be the last one ever.

I love Mulder and Scully’s dynamic this time around. They are behaving a lot closer to the way I imagine they would at this point, after so many years of working together and being best friends (and sometimes more). Scully’s a lot more relaxed and confident, no longer badgering Mulder over every little thing, but instead just trusting his instincts and accepting his quirks. For his part, Mulder seems a lot more…tired. Lol. But after everything he’s been through, it totally makes sense. He seems more relaxed and comfortable in his own skin, too, not as obsessed and intense as he used to be. In short, they both seem grown up and wise, but still pretty bad-ass when it comes to stopping bad guys.

Also, since I have shipped Mulder and Scully f-o-r-e-v-e-r (are they my OTP? Quite possibly), I’m super pleased with where that aspect of their relationship has sometimes gone this time around.

tumblr_p2i3ovVFoR1r5shc9o1_500

Episode 3, I’m referring to you.*

So sad to see this end! But then again, for ages I didn’t think there would ever be any more episodes at all, so I’ve already gotten way more than I bargained for. Thanks, Chris Carter and company, for making more for us die-hard X-philes!

Okay y’all, that’s all I’ve got to ramble about this time. Hope you have a magnificent weekend!

Love,

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*GIF found on youreadarkwizard.tumblr.com

Friday Favorites — 02092018

Hi friends, I hope you’ve had an awesome week!

I’ve decided to try out a “Friday Favorites” feature here on my blog this year. It’ll be a short list of things I’ve enjoyed throughout the week or in the recent past.

I figure this will not only allow me to share a little more about my day-to-day life, it will also work as a sort of gratitude exercise for me, helping me to stay focused on positive things.

I think my personality naturally leans toward the gloomier side (I’ve mentioned before, how depressed I was when I was younger), and while I’ve become a lot more cheerful over the years, it’s much easier for me to stay upbeat when I focus on the good.

And maybe some of the things I post about will be useful for you, too! 🙂

So, here we go, in no particular order:

1) A clean pantry, freezer, and fridge

Last week I decided to clean out my freezer, fridge and pantry. None of these areas ever gets too bad, honestly, because I try to keep on top of such things, but still…I knew both could use a bit of straightening and cleaning, and there were a few older items lurking in each that needed to come out.

fridge

I felt so much better after doing this! Especially since it reminded me of some of the dry and frozen goods I have squirreled away…which in turn helped spur some ideas for upcoming dinners – always useful when it comes time to write up the meal plan for the week!

2) Awaken with JP

I learned about this YouTube channel by listening to The Minimalists’ podcast. They had JP Sears on as a guest at one of their live events. I’d never heard of him before. Because I live under a rock. But now I’ve watched/listened to a bunch of his videos and think they’re all pretty funny.

Btw, I personally think gift cards are awesome, both to give and to receive. But the video still made me lol :).

3) Thank you notes

Steve and I spent some time over the weekend writing thank you notes for everyone who donated to our recent fundraising efforts on behalf of the Houston Food Bank (unless I didn’t have your physical address, in which case I messaged you! :)) Writing thank you notes is something I often put off, but after I do it I’m always glad I did. It reminds me to be grateful to have people in my life who care about me and support what I’m doing. So I guess you could say I’m grateful to have something to be grateful for!

4) Digital comics

I never really read too many comics growing up, just stuff like Richie Rich and Archie when I was little. A few years after we got married, though, Steve got me into reading more grown up things…like superhero titles ;).

I’m so glad, too, because I love comics, now!

Deadpool WG vol 9

As a writer, I feel I can learn a lot from how tightly these stories are paced, and how efficiently they are told, with as few words as possible. Plus, they are just plain fun to read. And now with the advent of digital comics, it’s easier than ever to collect a whole bunch of titles without needing an extra closet (or two) in which to store all those long-boxes!

long box_1

 

I like to read my comics on the Comixology or Kindle apps, using my Amazon Kindle Fire. These past few months a lot of Marvel titles have gone on sale on Amazon, and I’ve been tearing through them. Particularly the Deadpool catalog. So funny!

5) Target runs w/Steve

I only go to Target every once in a while, when there’s something specific I need from there, so it always feels like kind of a special occasion to me. I like to wait until Steve’s off work so we can go together. It’s just more fun that way. Probably because after we’re done shopping we usually sit and have a snack and some conversation in the little concessions area up front.

pexels-photo-264529.jpeg

(Stock photo from Pexels)

 

This last time we went, I was pleased that a couple of the things I needed were on clearance, and that I remembered to use a $5 gift card. My bill ended up being only $27. This isn’t so unusual these days, but there was definitely a time when I would have spent waaay more than that, and probably on things I didn’t need at all. It still surprises me sometimes, how much my attitude toward shopping has changed, but I like love it, and so does my bank account. #ThanksMinimalism!

6) Jessica Smith TV

Jessica Smith is another YouTube discovery. I’m not even sure how I first heard of her; probably YouTube recommended one of her clips. All I know is, I quickly became hooked on her workouts. They’re so simple, yet not necessarily easy. There are no complicated moves and usually no jumping involved, yet somehow she always makes me “sparkle” (her nice word for sweat) like crazy. But I also always have fun! These are a great way to break up the week’s workouts, on those days when I don’t run.

You can watch a ton of Jessica’s content for free on YouTube, but she also has a digital store with a mind-boggling array of professionally-produced discs and digital downloads available for purchase.

walk on

This one includes my favorite routine, the “Boogie Down Mile.” Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds!

Oh, and I didn’t even mention the cute pup, Peanut, who cameos in most of Jessica’s videos. This may just be what other work out videos have always been missing: an adorable French bulldog. ‘Cause how can you go wrong with one of those? Answer: you can’t.

7) Dune

Steve and I and a friend of ours are doing a group-read of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, Dune.

It’s one of my all-time favorite books, and I’ve read it twice before, but it’s been a long time. I’m loving it all over again! Not to mention it’s bringing back lots of memories.

In some ways, I really hate thinking about my younger years (because, again, I was often in a dark place back then), but Dune is a pretty good memory for me. I was probably thirteen the first time I read it and back then, the story completely captured my imagination in a way nothing else ever had before. I remember being blown away by the realization that someone could a write a book like this, with such a detailed background, its own language and history, etc…it definitely inspired me to want to make up my own fantasy/sci-fi world, too!

Maybe someday I still will ;).

Also, how awesome is this retro cover?! I love it.

Dune

8) Pretzel buns

I know pretzel bread was sort of everywhere a few years ago now, and now…not so much. But just because they’re not trendy anymore doesn’t mean they aren’t still delicious! Steve and I had some this week, with homemade veggie burgers.

pretzel sandwich

A left-over. Went deliciously the following day with some Tofurky slices.

These buns were store-bought, but maybe sometime I’ll try to make my own.

There was that one time Steve and I made pretzels and they turned out alright, so this is not completely outside the realm of possibility!

Okay, y’all, I think that’s it for now. What have you been loving lately? I hope you’ve had a wonderful week, and that you enjoy your weekend! Love,

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