Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Met my 15,000 Page Reading Goal!!!

I met my reading goal of 15,000 pages for the 2012 year! And it's only August!

I'm super excited, in case you hadn't noticed. I've gone up and down in my page goal success throughout the years, but this is the earliest I've ever been able to meet my page goal. I'm not sure how it happened, especially with more on my plate than before, but it happened and I'm thrilled!

This doesn't mean I'll quit reading for the year, of course...but my reading will slow down because it's my travel season. Stay tuned for more audiobooks! :)

Thanks, readers, for supporting me through this. I'll post a poll at the bottom of the page for you guys to vote on my 2013 page goal.

Happy weekend! :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Hi followers!

I just wanted to let you know that I'll likely be absent for the next month or so. Today is move-in day at the College where I work, and that signifies the kick-off to the beginning of the year! During the next month, I will be preparing to travel for weeks on end, taking a course toward my graduate degree, working tons of overtime, and being an overall mess.

Thank you for your patience throughout this time. I'll miss my readers, but hopefully the time will go by fast.

Thanks :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Stockpile Meals: Freezer Meals

Happy Sunday, readers!

This time of year is super high anxiety for me. Beginning tomorrow, I will have a week long inservice training at work, and trying to squeeze the to-do list in every chance I can get. Saturday is move-in day for our on-campus students, which I assist with. Then on Monday, classes begin--both for students at my college and at the University where I'm getting my graduate degree.

On top of all this, I begin my travels in a mere 4 weeks. For those of you who don't know, I travel for work Mondays-Thursdays from mid-September to as late as mid-December. It's exhausting.

As my anxiety is getting worse and worse, I'm trying to ensure that I keep up on my sanity by preparing as much as possible beforehand. One of the ways I'm doing this is by making Freezer Meals. Most will be for Matt to eat while I'm on the road, but it will be nice having a homemade meal to come home to on my busy days.

When I was growing up, my mother would make freezer meals when she was leaving town for an extended period of time. None of the recipes I used were hers, but I could very easily have made those recipes. Instead, I tried to use as much from the stockpile as I could, and didn't make anything that required me to purchase more than 2 items.

I do make freezer meals from time to time, but it's usually just doubling a batch and freezing it, especially with soups and bolognese sauce. This is the first time I've ever made batches of casseroles for the sole intention of freezing and not consuming at least a portion immediately.

Freezer meals are pretty easy and, for the most, pretty cheap, too. I started by looking up recipes where I knew I had most of the ingredients. I settled on making the following (I've linked the sources and recipes--check 'em out!):

Tater-tot Casserole
Baked Pasta
Cheeseburger Pie
Easy Chicken Pot Pie

So, last night I wrote down recipes and made a shopping list of what I didn't have in my stockpile. I also have had a turkey thawing since Friday. We had found a turkey in June for $.89 a pound--not bad, especially for the off season! Well, it began to crowd our freezer, so I decided to make it into freezer meals. The Chickaroni and Easy Chicken Pot Pie I made substituted the chicken for turkey.

This morning, after several pots of coffee (surprised? me neither), I ran off to the grocery store with my pre-made shopping list from the night before. I was able to breeze through the store and was back, eager to cook, by 10:30.

My first step was to put the turkey in the oven. This allowed me to work on the ground beef meals while baking the meat for the next meals.

My second step was to get out and prepare the dry (not refrigerated or frozen) ingredients. I also got out all of my packaging for the freezer meals. Doing this allowed me to not have to run back and forth to the stockpile, looking for ingredients.

I got many different pan sizes, but my favorite are those "PANS" you see in the back. They're aluminum, and disposable. Additionally, they're 4x8 pans, which is perfect portion size for Matt to have 1 dinner and 1 lunch. Or, it's just enough for the two of us to eat one dinner with a side dish. This helps so we don't get tired of the meal (which frequently happens when this family of 2 makes 9x13 pans of the same dish) and takes up less freezer space because it's more moveable. The best part? They came in packs of 4 for just $1 at our local dollar store...

I began cooking, and was impressed how quickly these meals came out...

Tater Tot Casserole (2 4x8 pans)
Cheeseburger Pie (one pie tin)

Baked Pasta (4 4x8 pans)

I packaged and froze each meal immediately upon completion.

It took a little while for my turkey to finish, so I got a nice 2 hour break (and short nap) before beginning again:
Yum yum!
I carved up the turkey. Large slices were stored for today's lunch and dinner, and I shredded the rest. I then made two turkey dishes...

Turkey Pot Pie (2 pie tins)
Chickaroni (4 4x8 tins)
I was intending to make one more dish, but burned my hand pretty badly while draining the pasta for the Chickaroni, so I called it a day.

Here's what I was able to make in a matter of a few hours:

Freezer Meals!

I ended the day with 2 turkey pot pies, 1 cheeseburger pie, 4 baked pasta dishes, 2 tater tot casseroles, and 4 chickaroni dishes.

...and now the kitchen is a bit of a mess. Matt has volunteered to wash all the dishes from today, though, since I made so many meals for him to eat while I'm traveling (which also means fewer dishes he'll be dirtying and need to wash while I'm traveling).

Do you guys have favorite recipes or tips and tricks for freezer meals? Do share in the comments below! :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: A Girl Named Summer by Julie Garwood

I'm finally catching up on my book reviews, yay!

I joined NetGalley earlier this summer. NetGalley is a book site where reviewers can request electronic copies of books and review them. Let's be honest: I've got plenty of books on my shelf. What's nice about NetGalley's books is that they're e-books, and I always need more books to read on the go.

One of the first books I requested, and was approved for, was Julie Garwood's A Girl Named Summer. Here's the Goodreads description:

Julie Garwood's tales always sparkle with the magic that comes from falling in love. Now her talent shines brighter than ever in an unforgettable tale about young love meant especially for younger readers.
Summer never meant to lie. She just wanted to keep the most perfect guy she ever met interested in her. She had been surprised when David began hanging out with her every day...and dizzy with happiness when he kissed her. David seemed to like her unconventional Irish family, even her eccentric Grandpa. Everything was going great -- until Ann entered the picture. She collected boys like trophies. How could Summer compete with someone like that?
Before she knew it, Summer was boasting to David about her passion for long-distance running. She never dreamed he'd enter them in a six-mile race. Summer dreaded the moment when he would discover the truth: she couldn't run six blocks. And the flirtatious Ann was already working on David. Then Summer's Grandpa came up with a plan that was just crazy enough to save the day....

This sounds like a good read, and I've always loved Julie Garwood's novels. But this one, originally published back in 1986, is not the caliber of novel I've come to expect from Garwood. The main character, Summer, is a likeable high school student with a crush. She'll do everything--including exaggerate the truth--to have the boy, David, like her in return. We've all been there. From that aspect, this is a very relateable story. However, there was really no substance to it. When it ended, I just kept thinking "that's it? What was the message of this story?" It was not super entertaining, had no moral to the story, and was flat out disappointing. This story will cause me to rethink picking up any of Julie Garwood's novels in the future.

I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Girl Named Summer by Julie Garwood
Rating: 2/5         
Pages: 176          
Page Goal: 13,472/15,000  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Audiobook Review: Calico Joe by John Grisham

Happy weekend, readers! I hope this finds you all doing well!

My fiance Matt is not a reader, as I think I've mentioned. He's also not a coffee drinker. These two things break my heart--but I always challenge these. I'm convinced I'll be able to convert him to "the dark side". I knew we'd be going on the trip to Wisconsin that we took last month, and saw it as an opportunity to convert him. He's a huge baseball fan. So I purchased Calico Joe by John Grisham. I love John Grisham, so I thought this would be the perfect compromise.

For those of you who haven't yet heard of this new release, here's a description, courtesy of Goodreads:

Whatever happened to Calico Joe?

     It began quietly enough with a pulled hamstring. The first baseman for the Cubs AAA affiliate in Wichita went down as he rounded third and headed for home. The next day, Jim Hickman, the first baseman for the Cubs, injured his back. The team suddenly needed someone to play first, so they reached down to their AA club in Midland, Texas, and called up a twenty-one-year-old named Joe Castle. He was the hottest player in AA and creating a buzz.

In the summer of 1973 Joe Castle was the boy wonder of baseball, the greatest rookie anyone had ever seen.  The kid from Calico Rock, Arkansas dazzled Cub fans as he hit home run after home run, politely tipping his hat to the crowd as he shattered all rookie records.

Calico Joe quickly became the idol of every baseball fan in America, including Paul Tracey, the young son of a hard-partying and hard-throwing Mets pitcher. On the day that Warren Tracey finally faced Calico Joe, Paul was in the stands, rooting for his idol but also for his Dad. Then Warren threw a fastball that would change their lives forever…

In John Grisham’s new novel the baseball is thrilling, but it’s what happens off the field that makes CALICO JOE a classic.

This novel has quite an interesting start, as the narrator reveals his hatred for his own father. The reason, of course, isn't revealed until about three quarters of the way through. I will admit that much of the "baseball talk" portion of this novel was lost on me, but Matt understood it--and enjoyed it. For me, it wasn't very fast-paced, but was well-written. For Matt, it was fast-paced and exciting. Either way, by the end, I was crying happy tears and he was impressed with how the story touched him.

Bottom line? If you have a baseball lover at home, this would make the perfect gift.

My rating: 4/5 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

You all know how much I love memoirs. For the past few years, I've had quite a few people recommend The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls to me, claiming it's the best memoir they've ever read.

Wondering why? Here's the Goodreads description:

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an “excitement addict.” Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.
Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town—and the family—Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents’ betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.

For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.

Every recommendation I'd received for this book was earned, as it was a really good novel. Walls reveals much about her childhood and family growing up with a viewpoint of a child and an adult. I enjoyed her reflections where she describes her reaction to a situation as a child, but then looks at the situation now through an adult's eyes. However, as the reader, I felt this was much more of a narration. I would have appreciated a reveal of more emotions from the author, so I could empathize more with her. This novel was not indelible for me; I'll never look back on it and think of how deeply it impacted my life. Overall, though, I would recommend this novel for all of you memoir lovers :)

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Rating: 4/5         
Pages: 288          
Page Goal: 13,760/15,000  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Review: Blaze by Stephen King (Kind Of)

Hello again, readers!

I recognize this title sounds a little wonky. Before I review Blaze, I'd like to give you some insight as to the author, so here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:

At the beginning of Stephen King's career, the general view among publishers was such that an author was limited to a book every year, since publishing more would not be acceptable to the public. King therefore wanted to write under another name, in order to increase his publication without over-saturating the market for the King "brand." He convinced his publisher, Signet Books, to print these novels under a pseudonym. [1]
In his introduction to The Bachman Books, King does state that Bachman was also an attempt to make sense out of his career and try to answer the question of whether his success was due to talent or luck. He says he deliberately released the Bachman novels with as little marketing presence as possible and did his best to "load the dice against" Bachman. King concludes that he has yet to find an answer to the "talent versus luck" question, as he felt that he was outed as Bachman too early to know.

So, when I say Blaze is "kind of" by Stephen King, you guys know what I mean, right?

Here's the description of Blaze, courtesy of Goodreads:

A fellow named Richard Bachman wrote Blaze in 1973 on an Olivetti typewriter, then turned the machine over to Stephen King, who used it to write Carrie. Bachman died in 1985 ("cancer of the pseudonym"), but in late 2006 King found the original typescript of Blaze among his papers at the University of Maine's Fogler Library ("How did this get here?!"), and decided that with a little revision it ought to be published.
Blaze is the story of Clayton Blaisdell, Jr. -- of the crimes committed against him and the crimes he commits, including his last, the kidnapping of a baby heir worth millions. Blaze has been a slow thinker since childhood, when his father threw him down the stairs -- and then threw him down again. After escaping an abusive institution for boys when he was a teenager, Blaze hooks up with George, a seasoned criminal who thinks he has all the answers. But then George is killed, and Blaze, though haunted by his partner, is on his own.
He becomes one of the most sympathetic criminals in all of literature. This is a crime story of surprising strength and sadness, with a suspenseful current sustained by the classic workings of fate and character -- as taut and riveting as Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

The characters created in Blaze reminded me of George and Lenny in John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. In fact, one of the characters in Blaze--the one I believe is like Steinbeck's "George"--is even named George. The main character is Clayton Blaisdell, Jr, who goes by Blaze. he's had a rough life, which King explores throughout the novel. Blaze is haunted by his best friend George, and truly can't comprehend that George is no longer alive, even though Blaze witnessed his death. He carries George's memory along with him, and tries to make amends by following through with a common plan he and George shared--a kidnapping of a baby.

It's the characters that make this novel so conflicting. Blaze is the "bad guy," but readers see the nurturing, sympathetic side of him. He takes great care of the baby he kidnapped, and begins to treat the baby as his own. However, this "Lenny"-like character did not get all of my sympathy. Sorry, King.

Although I liked the character development, I was never swayed into seeing Blaze as the "good guy". The reflection on Blaze's past often only left me disliking Blaze more. The story line was disappointing for a Stephen King novel. Where was the action, the excitement? I expected my heart to be pounding throughout. This was probably the only Stephen King novel I've ever been able to put down. Perhaps it's a good thing Richard Bachman is no longer writing...

Here's where this book puts me for the year:
Blaze by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman
Rating: 3/5        
Pages: 340         
Page Goal: 13,296/15,000

Has anyone else read this? Thoughts?