Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Year in Review

I know everyone is saying this, but can you believe it's the last day of 2013?!? This has been a big year for me! I got married, we got a puppy (my first dog!), and I turned 30. Phew!

I've also become more consistent about posting (or at least, I'm trying to anyway). On Thursday, I'll share my posting goals for 2014, including at least one series that I have in the works.

And for fun, here are some blog statistics:

I started this blog on June 9, 2009.

My most read post was the first entry of the 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life series. That's the first entry I linked to my Facebook account, so that's no coincidence!

The post with the highest number of comments was Blog Every Day in May: May 11 where I had to sell myself in 10 words or less.

My least read post was actually a two way tie between this one and this one.

The most fun post to write was 'Twas the Night Before Finals.

I have published 132 posts (including this post).

I have 7 more posts sitting in my Drafts folder.

I have approximately 15 million more ideas for posts in 2014, give or take a couple.

Hope everyone has a great New Year's Eve and New Year's Day! Stay safe! =)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

'Twas the night before finals...

'Twas the night before finals, when in the library
Not a student was talking, and no one was merry.
The librarian sat at the front desk and waited,
In hopes that searches could be demonstrated.

The computers were full, and students were writing,
Checking due dates and page counts and citing
And in my office, I stared at the wall,
Wishing that I could see some snow fall.

When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
Away to my door, hurried and quick,
Ran out the front like a lunatic.

The shimmering green and well-maintained lawn,
Gave the look of a new morning, close to dawn
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a gigantic brain; I screamed in fear!

With two spindly legs and a tiny cap,
I heard students shouting "hey, what the crap??"
More wrinkled than raisins and bright as a flame,
Brain man whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now John! now Susie, now Bob and Marie!
On, Larry! On, Sara! On Karen and Bri!
I have come here today to see you at college
Now pay attention as I hand out some knowledge!

As the fall wraps up and the tests begin,
Remember this wisdom that I hold within.
So if you want to succeed on all of your tests,
Listen to me, give your minds a rest."

And then, in a twinkling, I heard a loud noise,
The bangs and crashes made me lose my poise.
As I drew in my breath and turned around,
Through the door Bookman came with a bound.

He was dressed all in tweed, from his head to his toes,
And his jacket had leather patches on the elbows.
A backpack of books he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes- how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
His long skinny face was as red as a beet,
When he walked, he tripped over his gigantic feet.

He was tall and thin, looked like a light pole,
And I laughed when I saw him; I lost self-control!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke few words, but his words were blessed,
"You all may be stressed,
"But don't worry about grades,
For I can assure you, you're all getting As!"

He ran out of sight as he waved to the crowd,
All of the students were cheering and loud.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
"Happy Finals to all, and to all a good-night!"

*Some of the lines in this are the exact lines from the "'Twas the Night Before Christmas". They were just too good not to use! =)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Review of Kroger Skillet Meals

On a night like tonight-cold, rainy, and nearing the end of another busy workweek (after a short holiday week)- the absolute last thing you want to think about is what you're cooking for dinner. But, if you're like us, then you don't want to blow your money on another mediocre fast food meal or resort to eating grilled cheese. Luckily, Kroger Skillet Meals came to our rescue! 

Kroger Skillet Meals are a handy, ten-minute solution to the nightly dinnertime dilemma. They come in a variety of flavors, but we tried the chicken stir fry flavor. The instructions were extremely easy, and the meal really did cook in only ten minutes! That's such a refreshing change from some meals I've cooked that are still cold or underdone even after cooking them the recommended amount of time.  

The skillet meals have several servings in a bag (forgot to check how many, but I want to say three), so they're filling on their own. However, we decided we wanted a little extra with our dinner, mainly so we could have leftovers for tomorrow's lunches. We decided to make Kroger brand garlic bread and a Kroger Fresh Selections house salad along with our stir fry. I know garlic bread and stir fry might seem like an odd combo, but it was delicious! The salad was great too! My husband is not a huge salad eater, but he polished his off! I'm sure the bacon, cheese, and ranch on it couldn't have hurt.

The husband's plate  

I did not check the ingredients list or nutrition information for any of these items, but I suspect they're pretty much in line with similar products, so those who are very health conscious may want to sit this one out. I did notice that everything tasted "real", meaning it didn't have a frozen or fake taste like you get with some frozen dinner kits. If you're interested in trying the skillet meal, garlic bread, or salad, let me know because I have a few coupons to hand out. (I also have some coupons for a few types of Kroger Home Sense cleaning products: laundry detergent, fabric softener sheets, disinfectant wipes, and fabric refresher spray. I don't have time to do a product review blog on those items, but they've impressed me so far).

Overall, this isn't something we would eat every night, but we both enjoyed the taste of the meal. I would like to try a couple of other varieties also. I can't speak for the price since I received coupons to try these products for free (see disclaimer below), but Kroger brand items are generally pretty reasonably priced. Give the Kroger skillet meals a try, and let me know what you think! Leave a comment and tell me what you tried and how you liked it. Also, leave a comment if you're interested in receiving a coupon to try the skillet meal, garlic bread, and salad at a discounted price!

Disclaimer: I received a free Kroger skillet meal of my choice, free Kroger salad kit, and free Kroger garlic bread as a BzzAgent, but all opinions above are my own!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What a puppy's focus taught me about my faith

Anyone who knows me knows that I can be a little...scattered. I don't mean to be, but my brain just doesn't really like to focus on one thing at a time. My husband and brother sometimes laugh at me because they will think a conversation is over, but if I think of another detail I want to add, I'll bring it up hours later, without any context (at least my mom and I can keep up with these conversation fragments. Thank goodness!). This is how my brain usually operates:

Funny Cry for Help Ecard: Ask me about my A.D.D. or pie or my cat. A dog. I have a bike. Do you like tv? I saw a rock. Hi.

Since I have this, blessing, as we'll call it, focus and discipline are two areas in which I struggle. I just finished a 21-day posting series about discipline, so I've got good tips and ideas to help me in that area, but I didn't really have any examples on how to obtain focus...or so I thought. One day when I was playing with our puppy, I noticed something. He stayed intensely focused on whatever toy we were playing with or treat I had until he was given a signal to retrieve it or take it from me. I know this may not be news to some of you out there, but this is my first dog, and it fascinated me! It didn't just happen at playtime either. Whenever I did chores, if he thought there was a possibility that he would receive a reward, he would stare at me- even if he was in another room or the hallway. 

I don't know what you have, but I want it, so I'm going to stare at you...
How in the world does this relate to my faith? Well, to me, it's a constant reminder to stay focused on my Savior. Hebrews 12:2 says "We must focus our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." My pastor has said a number of times that if we are getting offended by people or things of the world, then we are focusing on the world instead of on Jesus. Just as our puppy expects a reward when he stays focused on whatever I have, Christians can expect a reward for keeping their focus on Him. James 1:12 says "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." By remaining steadfast, or focused, we are assured of God's promises and faithfulness, even when things don't always seem to be going that well. We can rest in knowing that as long as we have our eyes on Him, we will receive the ultimate prize: the MilkBone of eternal life (I know, I know, but I had to tie it back in with the puppy somehow, right?).

So the next time I play fetch with him, I'm going to remember to focus on the Lord and pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the unexpected lesson from that crazy little pup.