Mar 18, 2011

The Hunger Games

I like to think that my book club makes a small impact on the world. Or at least on the world of literacy by helping people know how cool it is to read. Notice I didn't say "make reading seem cool" or "look cool" because reading is awesome. We don't need to make it "seem" better than it already is.

One of the fun things about our book club is that, not only do we all read more as a result (except Kristin who would read a book a week- book club or no book club) and try books we wouldn't otherwise pick up, but we get to recommend books to other people. Never has this been more true than in the past few months since we decided to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and have been recommending it to everyone we know. This originally was supposed to be our book for our October meeting, but the girls got so into it that we postponed book club until early December so that everyone could read the whole trilogy.

This book is good. It's actually juvenile fiction, but it's deep and a little dark, and makes subtle commentary on government and war and poverty, while telling the story of a girl named Katniss in a futuristic setting, where most of earth has been destructed. But don't disregard it because it takes place in the future - it's not too future-y. And don't disregard it because it's about a girl - Katniss could kill you in a split second (but she's nice, I promise, Micah kinda has a crush on her...)

Micah and I just finished the 2nd book, Catching Fire (we are behind book club, because we read them together which takes a little longer), and are about to start the third and final book, Mockingjay. If you are reading them by yourself, you will fly through them. I recommended Hunger Games to my friend Bekah and she finished it in about two days. Micah also recommended it to the 15 year old son of a lady in our Missional Community, because he needed a novel to read for school. He liked it too. Everyone likes it. Young and old. Ready to jump on the bandwagon?

And then you can get excited for The Hunger Games movie that is in production. Actually, they are still casting, so you might want to audition....

And this is supposed to be the posting that inspires me to FINALLY set up my Amazon store, so you can buy The Hunger Games trilogy and read them for yourself... better get on that.

Mar 14, 2011

Stylish Blogger

Oooh. Oooh. I have won my first ever blogging "award" from my friend Caitlin over at Hello Hines Family! As Caitlin explains on her blogs, these "awards" are not real, but just one way for one blogger to acknowledge and compliment another blogger. Whatevs. I'll take it. Thanks Caitlin! Caitlin is actually one of my real life friends who got me interested in studying mom blogs as I have watched her blog evolve so much over the past year as she prepared for and brought her adorable son, Denver, into this world!

Okay, so here is my award...

It seems somewhat silly, but I think my digital literacies classmates are going to LOVE this blogging achievement. In addition to my "award," I have also started getting some feedback from bloggers I don't actually know in real life. That's huge! While I appreciate all my friends and family who read my blog, I am excited to make blog-only friends!

And here are the rules of the receiving the title of "Stylish Blogger." I feel like it's a mommy blog chain letter...

1. thank and link back to the person who awarded you
2. share 7 things about yourself
3. pass award on to bloggers you think are fantastic
4. contact those bloggers and tell them about the award

So, seven things about myself...
Both my brother and sister have red hair. I do not, but I am considering adding red highlights in the very near future, so my sister and I can get asked if we are twins even more often than we already do. What do you think? Yay or Nay on the red...really more of strawberry blonde highlights?

Yes, my sister and I sure did dress like twins and wear fake glasses for teacher pictures... we are professionals.
The red-headed broski and me last summer... I am thinking highlights closer to his shade...
I was homeschooled for one year of my life. My mother decided she didn't like the public school systerm, so she forced me to be homeschooled in 8th grade. I always have and always will love all things school... homework, papers, competing for grades, hanging out with friends, learning from teachers, listening to lectures, taking notes, school sports. So, basically, I hated being homeschooled. I resented my mom and I didn't do any school work all year, except read my history book, because I thought it was interesting. Basically, I skipped 8th grade. But then my mom let me go back to school in 9th grade and our relationship was repaired :) And in retrospect, I went to an awful middle school and not being there when I was 14 years old might have actually been a good thing for me. Ahhh, retrospect.

I love coffee! But I am very picky about how it is made, and I typically only drink one cup a day unless I am seriously sleep deprived. I used to buy my coffee everyday (Starbucks when I lived in Texas because it was my only option and then at various espresso stands in Seattle), but now I have my own espresso maker at my house and I make a white chocolate mocha every single morning. I don't know of any place in AZ that sells Ghiriadelli White Chocolate (the ONLY white chocolate if you ask me), so I order it off Amazon and have a 10 shipped to my house every four months. My friend, Allison, and I just calculated my coffee expenses and it turns out my delish white chocolate mochas are only costing me $1.00 a day!!!

Hands down my favorite kitchen appliance!
Micah and I don't have a TV. I have lived in many houses in the past without cable (in fact, I haven't had cable in my home since 2005), but we don't even have a television on which to watch movies. I do have a DVD player, but it just sits in our guest closet. If we are really desperate to watch a sports game, we go across the street to this little sports bar called The Max (we like to think it's the setting of Saved By The Bell - The Adult Years). Sometimes we will watch movies on my really crappy Dell laptop from 2005 (sorry little guy... I feel like I have to apologize to him or he might crash on me as I type this). And sometimes we will invite ourselves over to other people's houses to watch sports games or movies. Someday we will actually buy a TV and invite all those people over who have let us borrown their TVs over the past six months. Until then... thank you friends!!!

My dear friend, Kristin, and I borrowing my cousin's TV to watch a Horned Frog Rose Bowl victory.
One of the best days of my life!
I think one of the best dinners in the world, especially when you don't feel good or are too tired or busy to cook, is Kraft macaroni and cheese with sliced hot dogs in it. In the Russum household, this is our comfort food. Just like my babysitter used to make it for me when I was five years old.

Micah and I are starting to look for a house to buy in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. And I LOVE looking at houses, so I am very excited. Micah said that my job this summer (instead of trying to find some extra filler job to fill the months of June and July when I am out of school) might be to find the right house for us. I am pretty excited about this. Best job ever!

I love our new church in Scottsdale. It's called Old Town Bible Church and it is amazing. Our pastor is a great teacher with a subtle sense of humor. The teaching is theologically sound and deep. Our missional community on Wednesday nights has become one of my favorite events each week, and it is so fun watching our community in the church slowly expand as we make new friends. Tonight I have the privilege of speaking on "joy" at our women's event and I am so excited to share God's word with the ladies of our church body.

Sweet Anne debuting her new Hell's Angels jacket at our Missional Community's White Elephant gift exchange....

Alla and her new hookah pipe... I think it made her a little nervous.

Adam and Shalyn model their White Elephant makeover...
Okay, I am going to pass this award on to my friend Ashley, over at One in the SAHM. Ashley is my other real-life friend who got me intrigued about mom blogs. She also had her first child this past year, an adorable son named Brecken, and has since decided to become a stay-at-home mom and blog about her adventures in motherhood. She is a hilarious writer and has great craft ideas. Enjoy!

Mar 11, 2011

Shepherd's Pie Pockets

This is one of Micah's new favorite meals. I improvised from a Shepherd's Pie recipe I found online and the results were amazing... These are basically little crescent roll pockets filled with meat and potatoes (and some veggies) and they are sooooo good.

What you need:
1 pound ground beef
*(I use half beef/half ground turkey. I would use all turkey but Micah doesn't like it.)
2 carrots, cut into thin slices
1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
*(and as usual, I only use half an onion and freeze the rest for my next recipe)
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
2 large baking potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (you can peel them, but I never do)
1/2 cup dark beer
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper
2 packages crescent rolls

What you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 375°.
  • In a skillet, add the beef, carrots, onion, celery, garlic and potato and cook, breaking up the meat, over medium-high heat until the beef is cooked through and some liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. (If your meat is not all the way thawed, I would cook it alone for about five minutes before adding the veggies.) Lower the heat to medium, add the beer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the cheese, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Let cool.
  • Open the cans of crescent roll dough and unroll. Each section should consist of two triangles that are facing each other to create a rectangular shape (scalene triangles...I had to look it up... geometry was never my strongest subject...). Break the dough apart as rectangles keeping the pairs of triangles attached. Lay one rectangle on the baking sheet and scoop a big spoonful of the meat mixture on top of it, trying to keep the meat to one side of the dough. Then fold other side of the dough square over the meat, creating a little pocket with the filling in the middle. Crescent roll dough is flimsy, so do this carefully, but don't worry if it splits apart a little as you stretch it over the meat. Just mold the pocket together a little bit, pick up any meat that spills out of the sides, and move on to the next pocket. When you bake it, it will be delicious. Do this with both cans of dough, which should create 8 pockets total. Bake for 8-10 minutes and viola!
I forgot to take a picture of the pockets themselves, which would have been the helpful picture... but here is a picture of the delish filling cooking!
*8 pockets easily serves 4 people with leftovers. You really only need one pocket for dinner, but they are so good you might be tempted to eat two. If you are only feeding two, I would half the recipe and just use one can of dough. Enjoy!

Mar 10, 2011

About Us

Although the deadline I gave myself of March 1st has come and gone, I FINALLY have an "About Us" page posted. Check it out! Now I don't utterly fail at participating in my blogging culture....


As of yesterday, Micah is now 29 years old. Gulp. Almost 30! I will revel in these six months that I am not almost-30 and remind Micah that he is WAYYYY older than me. Micah's 29th year has brought us many new changes already.

The first being diabetes. Okay, we don't really have diabetes, but we should after all the sugar we have eaten for the past two days. It all started Tuesday night. I was making homemade snickerdoodles, which has become a tradition for Micah's birthday. He loves these cookies, so I started making them for his b-day a couple of years ago, and now I will be making snickerdoodles on March 9th until the day I die. On Tuesday, Micah was watching a movie after dinner and asked me to bring him a cookie sampler which consisted of two balls of snickerdoodle dough, one with cinnamon, one without, three squares of oatmeal/chocolate chip cookie dough and one of each type of Girl Scout cookie that we have in our house right now (Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Dosie-dos, and Samoas). It was disgusting. I'm pretty sure he kinda wanted to puke by bed time. To make matters worse, I was munching away on freshly baked snickerdoodles in the kitchen. I am a sucker for freshly baked treats as long as they are homemade. If they are store-bought or contaminated with nuts, I will pass. But if they don't break those two violations, I'm all in. I seriously bet I ate ten cookies before bed time. To make matters worse, I also made creme brulee french toast for breakfast, because I wanted Micah to have a special start to his day, since he had to go to work on his birthday. I can't say that either of us wanted french toast cooked in brown sugar, butter, cream and eggs after all the cookies the night before, but since I planned it and prepared it, I felt like I had to make it. It was really good, but hard to choke down as our bodies were slipping in to sugar rejection mode. We definitely both felt a bit ishy on our way to work.

But Micah's 29th year has also brought us other things. The first being a new level of maturity in Micah as he put the doors back on to his work clothes closet!!! He keeps all his work clothes in the closet in our guest room and about two days after we moved in, he took of the doors to the closet for easier access. Our closets were poorly designed and the rod for the clothes sits too close the front of the closet so the hangers brush against the doors when you close them. Sure, it's annoying, but removing the doors to reveal the most crowded closet in your house? Not my style, and apparently, now that Micah is 29, it's not his style either. He put them back on this week (after I sold his old bachelor "sports" cabinet/nightstand on Craig's List and he realized our guest room didn't have to be a crowded wreck of room) and I LOVE IT.

Goodbye awkwardly large and ugly storage cabinet from Target. Hello $20 in my pocket and hello regular bedside table.
Hello closet doors. Good to see you again.

And finally, Micah got the best birthday present ever yesterday, better than anything I could have given him myself, in the form of a new oven. It has arrived and it is beautiful. It's white to match our new dishwasher. It's brand spanking new with no crumbs, no stains, no uneven baking tendencies. We love it. As soon as it arrived, I used it to make homemade cornbread and MORE snickerdoodles for our missional community last night. Ugh. Snickerdoodles, you and I are through....until next March, of course.

Hello gorgeous. I can't wait to see a beautiful relationship develop between you, me, and our other pal, the dishwasher.
Hello cookies. Goodbye cookies. We were fast friends.

Mar 8, 2011

Appliance Envy...

Micah and I love our apartment. I mean... ideally we want a house and are about to start the process of buying one, but our apartment is pretty sweet for newlyweds. People always look down on apartment life, but it's really not that bad. Sure, we've had our one crazy family that lived below us right when we moved in, but for the most part, the people around us are pretty decent, they aren't too loud, and we hardly notice them... except when they are playing video games downstairs and you can hear the same tune over and over again for hours or when their cigarette smoke somehow wafts up into our laundry closet. I just love the scent of tobacco lingering on my freshly cleaned clothes as I pull them out of the dryer...

But really, we like apartment life. We have two pools, a workout facility, and if anything in our apartment breaks, Arizona law requires that our landlord fix it within 48 hours. Usually they come within twelve. It's amazing. The people in the office are nice. Our buildings and grounds are well maintained. And we live in a great location for dirt cheap (at least compared to Seattle). I won't even tell you our rent, so my Seattle readers don't have to cry. Because it's probably raining there...and if you start crying on top of that, water levels might get out of hand in the city (did I mention it's been 77 degrees here for the past week?)

But the one downfall to our apartment has to be our appliances. We have two bedrooms, plenty of closets, new carpet, new woodwork, new paint, even a new washer and dryer, but our kitchen appliances suck. They might be older than we are. However, the apartment management told us when we moved in that if any of our appliances broke, instead of trying to fix them, they will just order us new ones, which is how they slowly renovate the apartments instead of doing a big, expensive remodel all at once. Since that day we have been praying, literally, that our appliances will break. Seriously. Sometimes before dinner, we will pray "Dear Lord, Thank you for this food and the oven that prepared it. But if you feel that time has come for us to have a new oven, you can break ours. Amen."

They always say that God answers prayers with a "yes," "no," or "wait..." Well, we waited and the LORD HAS ANSWERED! First, it was the dishwasher. It stopped working a couple of weeks ago. Not that it really worked to begin with. It was so gross. The wires that hold the plates in place on the bottom were bent, so you couldn't actually fit dishes between some of them. And the inside was also somewhat rusty, and who doesn't love rust splattering all over their "clean" dishes? And the worst part was this weird white powder on the inside that always got sprayed onto the dishes and dried there. At first we thought it was our fault for using cheap dishwashing soap, so we switched to namebrand. No good. Maybe it was some kind of weird soap scum that had built up after 30+ years of service (seriously, it was old) or maybe it was asbestos.... Anyway, it stopped working one weekend with about three inches of nasty, standing asbestos water in the bottom. The guy came to fix it the next day and told me it was just a motor jam, which is an easy fix (boo!). However, he came back later to unjam it and we found a note that it was worse than a jam and we would be getting a new dishwasher delivered in the next few days. Hallelujah!

The nasty, rusty, broken bottom rack
Such a lovely exterior...
A few days later I came home from school and was greeted by a big puddle of water at the top of our stairs. I looked up through the skylight at perfectly blue, sunny skies and couldn't figure it out. Then I walked inside to find this specimen of beauty and put it all together. The puddle was created by the old dishwasher as it made it's way down to it's final resting place... right next to the dumpster.

Hello new friend.
This one can actually hold an adequate amount of dishes...
RIP. We won't miss you.
We thought life couldn't get better, but then it did! We have had this ongoing problem with our oven since we moved in. Basically, if we turn our broiler on for longer than three minutes, it blows the fuse and the whole oven turns off. Typically, this happens right in the middle of cooking dinner which is always delightful. I have ignored it for many months now and just used the broiler minimally, but last week when our broiler blew the fuse again AND our buzzer broke in the same night (as in the old fashioned timer buzzer from our 80s oven was stuck ON until Micah unscrewed it with an oven mitt so the old rusty metal wouldn't cut his fingers) I had had enough. Have I mentioned I hate honking, buzzing or ringing noises? We called and complained again about our oven and a new one is arriving next week! When the maintenance guy came to look at it, he asked me in an uncertain voice, " does this thing cook?" Even he could tell that this oven was a disaster. The Lord has answered our prayers, so we no longer have to battle the temptation of appliance envy. He is good.

Mar 7, 2011

Slister's Visit

My darling sister, Katie, came to visit for her mid-winter break (one of the small luxuries of teaching at a private doesn't really make up for being underpaid, overworked, and having horrible health insurance, but still it's nice when February rolls around). My sister and I are super close and always have been (except for that one time she kicked me in the shin with her big black boot in fifth grade and made me limp home from the bus stop), so it was great to have her here. For the past two years we worked at the same school (which is why I have the credibility to make the above observations about working at a private school), and we got to see each other every single day. Now we are states apart again, and I miss her!

So here is a rundown of our week. We cooked... A LOT. We made chicken and dumplings, homemade french dip sandwiches, donut muffins, homemade guacamole and beer batter fish tacos (recipes forthcoming). We also enjoyed Chick-fil-a TWICE. Once for breakfast, one for lunch. You have to. We hit up Sprinkles and bought 8 cupcakes for a sampler for our family dinner with our aunt, uncle, and cousins, and cousins' babies (cutest babies ever). Sprinkles samplers are the best by the way. If you need an easy dessert for a group event of 4-8 people, go to Sprinkles the day of and pick out 4-8 different cupcakes. Then when you are serving dessert, you cut each cupcake into fourths and each person can sample a few different flavors. This is not a cheap dessert however, since Sprinkles are over $3 a pop. But it's fun for special occasions. And Katie's arrival was definitely a special occasion. Katie also visited ASU and watched me teach my English 102 classes. We went shopping. Katie got some new cowboy boots and we hit up Saddle Ranch Chop House that night so she could show off her boots and ride the bull. And, yes , they gave us more free stuff as usual. We got a round of free drinks while we were waiting for a table AND free chips, guac, and salsa while we waited for our biscuits and cornbread to finish baking. Love that place.

Unfortunately, Katie happened to come during a cold week sandwiched between two hot weeks. The week before she arrived it was in the 70s and even reached 80 once or twice. This week it's back up to the lovely upper 70s and its beautiful. Last week, however, consisted of the most consecutive cloudy days I have seen since moving to AZ. I think one day it reached a high of 66. It was not our best weather to be sure. But Katie was a trooper and laid out every single day she was here. I even laid out with her twice, shivering and grading papers at the same time. I don't know if she was more tan when she left, but she definitely improved her bikini-in-cold-weather tolerance and got a lot of Harry Potter 7 read by the pool. Here are some pictures of our adventues. Come back in August sister, and our 120 degree heat will get you tan in five minutes flat!

 Baby Tyce... Love him!

Homemade French Dip. Mmmm...

 Chick-fil-a for lunch...

 Homemade fish tacos. Delish. But the house smelled like fish for two days. Gross.

 About to go to Zip's to play shuffleboard and darts. Best picture ever.

AND Chick-fil-a for breakfast. Oh Chicken biscuits, how I love thee.
Heading to Saddle Ranch so Katie K. can debut her new boots. Aren't they cute? And I'm actually wearing heels. Whaaaat??!!

 And Katie conquers the bull. Don't worry, she was wearing boy shorts under her dress...

Mar 3, 2011

Thursday night ramblings...

Clearly I've been a horrible blogger this week. Sorry about that. I have a bunch of posts in the works, but it's just been that kind of week, ya know? Way too many papers to grade. Blah! Next week I hope to tell you all about my sister's visit, share some home upgrades, and I will even give you a book rec and a new recipe. But until then you get my Thursday evening ramblings...

I ate dinner alone tonight. Micah left to play basketball before I could get (a very late) dinner on the table. And I would like to inform you that the asparagus was my FAVORITE part of the meal. I ate almost all the veggies, and I am supposed to leave Micah leftovers. Oops. Anyway this is a miracle, because I used to hate vegetables. But Micah started working on getting me to like them about two years ago, so that vegetables could be a part of his diet after he got married. Smart guy. Anyway, I discovered the BEST way to cook green veggies like broccoli and aspargus and I will have to share it with you next week too.

It's kind of nice having the house to myself for a few hours. However, I should probably be cleaning my bathroom and folding laundry instead of blogging. Except that I should be blogging too, since I am supposed to be participating in my online community for 20 hours a week. Utter fail on that this week. However, in mommy blogging news, I met with the chair of my department about switching my concentration from lit to rhet/comp. Nothing is finalized yet, but it's in the works. I have another meeting tomorrow. Also, I submitted an abstract to present my yet-to-be-written mommy blog paper at a conference in Seattle next fall. I have never written an abstract for a paper before and I had NO idea what I was doing, so it might be a little too abstract... oh well.

Okay, the bottle of windex is beckoning me. I must go. I am very excited for my friend Ashley over at One in the SAHM to visit Phoenix this week. Also, one of my very bests, Allison, will be arriving from Texas next Friday. Woohoo! Hallelujah for living in the most pleasant winter climate on the planet so lots of people want to visit us!

P.S. I am currently listening to my "Purchased" list on i-tunes. Bascially, that means I am listening to every song I have purchased over the past 5-6 years. It's pretty random and funny (and a little embarrassing to think I bought some of these song). But it's fun. I suggest it next time you need some background music around the house.

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