Saturday, February 27, 2010

Becoming a Better You (Joel Osteen), Crab Legs, Parties & More!

I had to share our awesome dinner we had the other night – Alaskan King Crab Legs! Definitely one of my favorites, and Joel, being a former seafood restaurant head chef, makes them oh-so-well! Eating these allowed me to pretend I was at the beach for a moment, enjoying a nice, evening meal by the ocean – I'm so looking forward to spring and summer! They're VERY simple to make too! All you need is a large pot with a lid, a steamer basket, a few bay leaves, and some Old Bay seasoning. You drop the bay leaves into the water and season the water with the Old Bay. Then you also season the crab legs with Old Bay and then steam them for about 10-15 min (keep them cooking for just a few minutes longer after they just start turning red). Serve right away because they get cold fast!

~Served with butter & Old Bay – nothin' better!~

Thursday I celebrated my last day in the office. It was a great day – they had a little party for me complete with cake that I couldn't enjoy (but will freeze for post-Lent), 2 cards, and a $60 gift card to Starbucks – here I come Chai and London Fog! Perhaps the reality of it all will set in after Monday. I'm slightly nervous for Monday, because the first day of work, for me, is always the most stressful. It doesn't even matter that I know most of the people where I'm going – I'm still a little uneasy! I look forward to the day when I'm celebrating my last day at work in the DC area! Hopefully that will be someday soon!

~my girl, Katie, & I on my last day~

Also, I have a special surprise at the end of this post!! I can't wait to share it!!!

Moving on – I also FINALLY finished my latest book, Become a Better You by Joel Osteen. This is the second book of Joel's I have read and it didn't disappoint. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with life, and we all are, so you should just go ahead and pick it up on your next trip to the store! For those of you who don't know, Joel is an tele-evangelist out of Houston, Texas who took over Lakewood Church after his father passed away several years ago. Joel's service airs on Sunday mornings (check local listings), and he also shares that service on Itunes (for free) as a podcast either in video or audio. Check it out sometime if you haven't already done so – they are less than 30 min long. The book highlighted 7 subject areas: Keep Pressing Forward, Be Positive Toward Yourself, Develop Better Relationships, Form Better Habits, Embrace the Place Where You Are, Develop Your Inner Life, and Stay Passionate About Life. Each of those seven sections ends with action points – ways in which to apply what you've just read.

In Keep Pressing Forward, Joel talks about stretching yourself to the next level, staying faithful to God and challenging your faith in Him to move to the next level of your life. This section also touches on generational blessings, which are blessings we receive from our ancestors (not prehistoric ones – but grandparents, etc). These blessings come to us from how they've lived their life, such as parents who were able to completely provide for their families, and instill a Godly way of life in their children, which in turn can and will be passed on from generation to generation. Likewise, those who have family members who suffered from defeat (alcoholism and other addictions) also pass that on to other generations. This doesn't mean that every descendant will be an alcoholic, but they may struggle with other addictions or feelings of defeat in their lives. Part two goes on to talk about how important it is to Be Positive Toward Yourself. We need to stop listening to people who tell us we cannot do things. We need to disassociate ourselves from those who are constantly dumping their negativity into our lives, which in turn makes us feel badly. And we need to start accepting who we are and having confidence in ourselves. Developing Better Relationships is the subject area in part three. Here, Joel addresses the need to bring out the best in people – compliment people, tell them you believe in them and that they can do whatever they set their mind to. Keep strife out of your life and take a stand for your family. If your husband, wife, son or daughter does something you don't agree with, say not replacing the toilet paper when it runs out, don't get bent out of shape – just accept it and move on. Allowing small situations such as that to seep into your lives will start to wear down your relationships. It's simply not worth it. Then, we can also stop assuming responsibility for the happiness of those around us – this is part four – Form Better Habits. While we should be kind to everyone, we should be our top priority, and then our families. Still, we cannot take on a false sense of responsibility for those around us and their feelings. Part five spoke the loudest to me, although each section really did, but Embracing the Place Where You Are really nipped me in the butt. It is no mystery that I've been unsettled with where I'm at in my life right now. While I've been trying to make it better by getting a new job, moving to a different part of the metro area, and forcing myself to take on new hobbies, I'm still not where I thought I'd be at 25! With that said, part five is self-explanatory! Developing Your Inner Life, part six, focuses on developing a tender conscience. This means that we should thank God when our conscience alerts us to things we know we shouldn't be doing – maybe unethical things in the workplace, or even to our families. Some people learn to shut off that little voice in their head telling them they're doing something wrong so much so that they don't think twice before committing un-Godly acts. There is plenty of evidence around us these days of people who have shut off their conscience entirely. And finally, part seven, Stay Passionate About Life, tells us we should always live expectantly in God's eyes. We should always wake up with excitement for the day, knowing that our God will be there with us and fulfill our needs each and every day – and we should expect this.

Those are just a few things that were touched on in the book, but I did not even do it one ounce of justice! There is plenty more of great information to absorb from Joel. If you do end up reading this book, I would love to hear your thoughts on it, and what your favorite part was!

Now, last but not least, please welcome Charles – the new addition to my family!!! He will be coming home on Friday, March 5! I can hardly wait! I've wanted a cat ever since graduating college and the time was never right until now. I cannot wait to take care of this little guy! While I love taking care of my beloved plants, they certainly are not available for cuddling, and Charles will totally fulfill that purpose! I've been searching high and low for kittens online around here, and I've had a tough time finding one that met my specifications. I wanted a long haired kitten, but all I found were a bunch of long and short haired adults. But apparently they go like hotcakes – and when we visited the animal shelter yesterday, I knew he was the one as soon as I spotted him. See, I hesitated to get another black cat (RIP Hershey!) because Joel's giant cat is a huge, black, long-haired, furry monster of a feline. I thought we should bring in some variety – say an all white cat instead? However, when I saw Charles, I could not resist. I guess he had been rescued as a stray, and had just arrived at the shelter yesterday – so my little darling didn't have to be there long before I came to his rescue. He will be off to the vet for his checkup, shots and neutering, and then I'll pick him up Friday at some point. Since he was nameless, we got to give him his name and chose Charles for the name of the county I live at in MD. I wanted to give the little man a name that somehow represented both Joel and I. YAY!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This 'n That

Happy Tuesday!

I’ve got a few tidbits on my plate for ya today! Let’s start with the latest on work to get that crap out of the way, and then we’ll end on a slightly higher note – sound good?

So, this is my last week of work in my office. I work in downtown Washington, DC for the federal government, and have been with my agency for 3 ½ years. The relationship with the agency won’t end, however. I’m actually moving to another office – this time in our Virginia location. This move is so long over due. As I stated in a previous post, there is a lot riding on this decision. What got the ball rolling was my lack of work, which ultimately lead to many, many days of sadness, frustration, anger, resentment, and then back to extreme sadness. What sealed the deal was when I learned that, in less than a year, the headquarters would be relocating to another area of the city that would make for an extremely inconvenient commute for me (try 2 hours one way!). No thanks! It’s pretty hard to make that sacrifice of your time each day going in to a job you’re not fond of…. AT ALL. Fortunately, I had already established a great relationship with my future boss, and when she offered the job to me for the 5th time, I knew it was finally time to go! As an added bonus, she used to work in my current office – so I feel pretty confident and comfortable with my decision. It can only get better! The downside to leaving, as with any job, is that you’re leaving those few people in the office who really helped get you through the tough times (shout out to Katherine!!). In the end, I’m not really sad or upset because I’m not really leaving at all, I’m just going to work in another office. It’s not at all like the time I left my job at the drugstore – I was practically heartbroken and crying at that point!! Still, once I get to the new office, I have a lot of thinking to do. Do I want a complete career change (nursing/pharmacy), OR do I want to try to do a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario and get a job in IT/healthcare? It’s a tough decision, but one that has to be made, because I already can say without a shadow of a doubt that IT/finance is NOT my cup of tea. So why am I taking another IT/finance job? The answer is simple: to keep my sanity, to gain some valuable experience, and to help me make an informed decision when I decide to leave this field. I need to know definitively that this subject matter is not for me, rather than basing that solely off of one negative experience in another office. The countdown is on!

Now onto some book news! I’ve never read any Danielle Steele books, but this morning while perusing through my MyYahoo Reader, a headline on USAToday’s Book section struck a chord with me. She has recently written and published a book called Big Girl – centered on a plus-size woman’s life. Now, I must go off on a tangent…

People are forever asking me how I make my book lists/selections, and I find myself stammering for words.. “Uhhh ya know… uhhhh… best seller lists?”. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to answer that question on the spot! Given some honest thought though, I’d say I pick my books in a variety of ways. Yes, I partake in best seller list selections, but I also base a lot of my decisions on previous books I’ve read (i.e. Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner to name a few – I’m hauling through ALL of their books). Also, I get ideas from talking to others, also from the former book club I used to be in (still on their listserv), and then also from reading news articles about upcoming books – whether it be articles online, or ones out of People Magazine. By the way, I love People’s book selections – I’ve read plenty! If I’m going to include People, I have to include AllYou magazine in this as well – they have a great reading series in which I’ve bought every book off their list! And to further explain – AllYou magazine is, hands down, my favorite magazine. I feel like it is a young version of Woman’s Day or Family Circle for ladies in their 20’s/30’s. It has a nice variety of everything (fashion/health/around the home decorating, etc), includes a ton of coupons (I’m the Coupon Princess according to Joel), and has an overall feel-good tone. It doesn’t include any of the smut that Cosmo or Glamour offers – so beware of if you’re into that! I cannot say enough good things about it – and I’m not being paid at all to say this! I just like to give credit where credit is due! Seriously – check it out!

Baaaaccck to what I was originally talking about! Books about plus-size women always resonate with me, and so I threw Big Girl onto my “to-read” list on Goodreads. I definitely get the feeling at times that once you’ve read one book on weight issues, you’ve read them all, but after reading Danielle’s interview with USAToday, I’m willing to give it a shot! She seemed to be a down-to-earth kind of gal and I liked the tone she gave off in her interview, so yes Danielle, you have made it onto my list of to-reads!

That’s all I’ve got for you today, my little virtual friends! I hope that your Tuesday ends on a high note!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies – am I cheating?!

Had ya worried didn't I? I JUST posted about how well I'm doing on my Lent journey with giving up sweets, and now I'm blogging about cookies?? Actually, these aren't what you think… listen up!

I never realized how many sweets much crap I ate until these last few days. It's astonishing really. Despite being on Weight Watchers for the last year and a half, I still find ways to sneak in snack cakes, fat free ice cream, chocolate, granola bars, Pop-Tarts, etc into my daily diet. In fact, since I'm not a big veggie eater, I'm always quick to reach for the sugary snacks, rather than the more sensible, filling and probably more tasty option. Who am I kidding – is a salad really more tasty than some Ghirardelli? At any rate, it has been challenging for me to eliminate the sweets, and so I found one healthful way to get my sweet fix w/o including any junk into the mix. I searched my Biggest Loser cookbook for a healthy alternative, and found Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies (pg. 196). Three simple ingredients: pitted dates, old-fashioned oats, and peanut butter! This is my kind of snack – simple, quick and delicious!

Biggest Loser's Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

12 Pitted Dates
1/3 c. Old Fashioned Oats
1 Tbsp Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter

Simply chop the dates up in a mini-food processor until the dates stick together in a ball. They need to be very finely chopped! Transfer the dates to a small mixing bowl, and add the oats and peanut butter. You can either mix with your hands or use an electric hand mixer. I found it was easiest to do with my hands, since when I tried the mixer the oats began flying all over the place. Once well mixed together, divide the cookies into 4 small balls. Place each ball between 2 sheets of wax paper and press down on each ball until the cookie is 3" in diameter. The serving size is 2 – where you get 2 cookies per serving. If you're a WW follower, I calculated these at 4 POINTS per serving. I found them very sweet and filling, especially since the fiber is coming at you left and right from the PB, dates, and oatmeal! If you make them, let me know what you think – I definitely plan to be munching on these in the near future!

White Bean & Sausage Stew

As promised, I’m posting the recipe to this stew I made on Friday, courtesy of All You Magazine. My review of the stew is 2 out of 5 stars. First, my substitutions only consisted of the sausages – I used Shadybrook Farms Turkey Hot Italian Sausages. The rest I used exactly as stated below. To me, this stew lacked flavor and moisture. After the stew has cooked for 2 hours, you then have the option of adding some additional water, which I did not do because at the 2 hour mark, there seemed to be plenty of moisture in the crockpot, but not enough, because it was very dry when it came time to eat. Maybe if I did this over, I would not have drained the tomatoes – that could have added some additional moisture. I found the stew to be very bean-y, and it definitely yielded more than 4 servings! Joel and I are still eating it, and to make it somewhat better, we’ve been adding cheddar cheese and water to the dish after microwaving it. It wasn’t the worst meal I’ve ever had, but I won’t make it again.

On another note, I’ve had a great weekend thus far. Yesterday, Joel’s mom, Joel, and myself went shopping for kitchen cabinets for their house. While it was an unsuccessful trip, we had a good few hours together – driving through parts of MD and DC that I’ve never seen before. I always enjoy seeing new parts of this city, even if it is the ghetto! On the way back to the apartment, we did some grocery shopping and then took a trip to Wal-Mart for some insect killer. I’m having a big issue with my houseplants and gnats. Gnats are really annoying – flying around your face when you least expect it – the occasional one flying up your nose! Eww! I Googled a solution to this problem and found various options, including placing apple cider vinegar and/or wine next to each plant to attract the bugs, which will then kill them and help you identify which plant is the culprit. I don’t actually think I need the vinegar in order to figure this out! I tried it anyhow, and less than 24 hours later, I have yet to spot any gnats in the vinegar or the wine. Either way, I had a feeling this method wasn’t going to work, so I bought some insect killer for houseplants last night – I’m trying it out on 2 of the suspect houseplants to see what happens – my fingers are crossed that the spray only kills the bugs and not the plants! If you know me, then you know I love my plants dearly, but I do NOT love these bugs! I’ll let you know!

And on a final note, I’m progressing well on the “no sweets for Lent” situation. The first 2 days were rough, but yesterday I bought a ton of fruit that will hopefully help combat these sweet cravings I keep having. Fortunately I’ve been at home more than I have been in the office since Lent began, so that has helped out. It’s usually around 2 PM, or immediately following lunch, that I get the huge sweet craving! I will admit that thinking about why I actually gave up sweets is helping me a lot – rather than if I simply gave them up to try to help myself out on Weight Watchers.

Now, back to this Nascar race! Go Jeff Gordon, Go!

White-Bean and Sausage Stew
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 4 hours

6 (3 oz.) Italian sausages
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 (15 oz.) cans white beans (Great Northern or navy), rinsed and drained
1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper

Poke holes in sausages and put in a large nonstick skillet. Add 1/4 cup water; bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook sausages, turning, until lightly browned and water has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes and thyme.
Put half of bean mixture into a slow cooker. Arrange sausages on top, followed by remaining beans. Cook on high for 4 hours. Check after 2 hours and add water if mixture looks dry.
Remove sausages; slice thickly. Season beans with salt and pepper. Return sausage to stew. (Stew can be kept, frozen and tightly sealed, for up to 1 month.)

Yield: 4 Servings

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Do You Ever Have This Issue?

I’m 2/3 of the way through “Become a Better You.” And just like Joel Osteen’s other book, I love this one as well! This book has so much good information, that it’s hard to remember it all. Have you ever read a self-help book and at the time of reading it you’re thinking “Yeah, this is great, I’m going to put this all into practice”, but just as soon as you lay the book down, you practically forget what you read? That’s just how I feel with Joel’s books – the stuff he talks about is so great, and makes perfect sense, but then I have a hard time recalling all of those great things I’ve read about and applying them to my day to day life. Maybe I need to start taking notes or carrying a highlighter with me!

On another note, I’m really looking forward to the weekend! I don’t have any special plans, but I have a good feeling it’s going to be a productive one – I’ve been on a good roll since the week off of work due to the snow… I love it! I’m also looking forward to making some delicious food – cooking and thinking about cooking always calms my spirit, and that’s what I’m needing right about now. I’m thinking about making this White Bean and Sausage Stew tomorrow – I’ll post the link to the recipe later – it sounded good, and what isn’t good that comes out of a slow-cooker right?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

News, News, News!

Going to try something a little different today on Pritt-y Story to Tell! Since it’s taking me a really long time to get through my current book and I don’t anticipate a post on that anytime soon, I figured I’d throw out some book news to the people – I know you want it!

So here’s the news, short and sweet: Apparently one of my favorite authors, James Patterson, is breaking in to the comic book world! I saw here that he’s looking for a way to essentially broaden his horizons into the Hollywood realm. “Witch & Wizard” and the “Murder of King Tut” will be his first books adapted to the comic book world. This new series will be available in May & June of this year, just in case you cannot wait! I’m a JP lover, but definitely NOT a comic book lover, so I’ll pass on this one Jimmie…

Also, I think I’ve finally decided to expand on this blog to include non-book related items. Since we had a week long vacation courtesy of winter weather and the government, that meant I did absolutely no reading. As much as I would like to continue reading when I get home at night, I cannot. I want to spend as much time with Joel as possible before he goes off to work, and that never allows any additional reading time. Also, since all of my reading takes place on my daily commute, and I had no commute for over a week, we arrive at the same excuse – no reading was done! AND, sometimes I feel like I have other interesting tidbits to talk about, and I’d like to include them on my blog, but then I think “this is supposed to be about books, not ‘other’ stuff”… says who? It’s my blog, I’ll make up the rules as I go, right?

So I know some of you, thanks to Face-space, have found out about my blog and *fingers crossed* have decided to pop in every now and then to check it out (Courtney/Megan!!). Thank you in advance! Then, you may have also seen my question I posted on my status message this morning about going back to school for nursing or pharmacy. I’m seriously considering this. I’ve been miserable with my current job for well over a year – not liking the work, not liking the commute, not liking the city itself, and just not liking the subject area (IT/finance). So, recently I made the decision to switch jobs, and while this has not yet happened, my wheels are already turning for what to do when Joel and I decide to actually leave the nation’s capital all together. My hope is that with the new job and new position, I will have some fulfillment at the end of the day – where I can say I made a contribution to the organization and have helped make a difference. However, I still think that, in the end, in the bigger picture of life, IT/finance isn’t for me. Now, IT and healthcare? MAAAAAYBE…. I don’t know! It’s hard to say since my experience solely lies in finance. The idea of going back to school somewhat excites me, but then again I love my freedom that the working world has brought to me, not to mention the money flow . I love NOT studying, I love NOT doing homework – I’m still not over the shock of the amount of time that going to college fulltime cost me! I’m still getting over the It’s-Sunday-and-now-I-must-cram-for-this-week’s-exam/assignments/etc dread, and it was ALWAYS dread for me. College was supposed to be a 1 time only thing, but now I’m reconsidering an entirely different career path, which means going back to school and giving up my time… *sigh*. What to do, what to do… I welcome the advice here…

I do know one thing – I’ve taken a giant, positive step in the right direction – and that is getting out of the current situation I’m in. While I have a job that currently pays the bills, with even some left over to have some fun, I want to at least make sure that it’s not causing me misery. With the new position, I’m hoping I can at least enjoy some of what I do, and not come home every single night frustrated and wishing I wasn’t in this city to begin with! That was step one – “Get out of current situation ASAP.”… Check! Step two – “Figure out what Hilary REALLY wants to do with the rest of her life”….In Process!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Next Big Thing by Johanna Edwards

I’ve been slacking big time in the blogging department! There’s been so much going on with the holidays and buying a new car…and my ‘mild’ obsession with Legos Star Wars on the Wii that I’ve neglected my dear, little, old blog. Whoa is me.

Alas, the first book I read off my 2010 book list was “The Next Big Thing” by Johanna Edwards. If you have an interest in reality television, particularly ones centered on weight loss, then this book is for you! It was a very easy and entertaining read. I actually really enjoyed it and looked forward to my lengthy commute home so I could dive in. It was literally like a soap opera in print!

“The Next Big Thing” is about an overweight girl, named Kat, from Tennessee. This book delivers nothing short of dramatic situations – from her internet relationship with a European hottie, to her stint on the reality television series, From Fat to Fabulous. I’m not one to judge internet relationships – that’s how I met my boyfriend of 2.5 years! However, I did not lie to my boyfriend about my looks – Kat did. She had Mr. European Vogue convinced she was a size 4 skinny minnie – oops! She had good intentions though. Kat’s plan was to finally lose her weight by trying out for the reality show, and then meet up with her boy toy after the show was over. The book goes through the trials and tribulations of getting cast for a reality tv series, then once Kat is accepted onto the show, it’s a lot of pages surrounding her life in the From Fat to Fabulous house. The House can be thought of as a Real World type setting – where there are only about 6 girls who live in it and are competing for the prize of the most weight lost, plus a nice chunk of change to go along with it. There’s the same type of drama that happens as well – there’s a vixen, an innocent one, a few normal people, and woman who blames her 7 year old child for her weight gain. What I found interesting about the depiction of the Show was, when relating it back to reality shows we watch on TV today, you forget that there is a lot of downtime off camera. On the show, they had the ladies play games, and planted little seeds for dramatic encounters to ensue, but overall there was a lot of time where they’re just in the house doing nothing. Yeah, they can work out (and are supposed to given the premise of the show), but they don’t have TV, books, magazines, etc to entertain themselves – they just have each other. And in this case, that’s not a good thing b/c Kat doesn’t get along with most of them.

By the end of the book, and the Show, a few wrenches are thrown into the loop. Other reviews have said the ending was so predictable – I, for one, did not predict the ending. I won’t spoil it for you unless you really care to know though – send me a message if you do!

Overall, I really liked the book. On a scale of 1 – 5, I’m giving it a 3. It was a good chick-lit style novel and had me wanting more!

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