Monday, October 18, 2010

How You Can Help!

Happy Monday!

Sometimes Mondays are just DULL. Right? Well today, you can do something to spice things up. What's that, you ask? Go shopping!

My cousin's family is working through the process of adopting a child from China. As you probably know, this is an extremely pricey process. So much money has been provided thus far, and this is the home stretch. Help them meet that goal in the following ways:

1. make a purchase from this Etsy shop. If you do that today, Monday, October 18, you can know that 5$ of each necklace purchased is going to the fund to bring home SarahJoy this Winter. Take a look: the necklaces are cheap (mostly 10$ or less), and you can get one for yourself, or one for a little friend. Just do it!

2. Another great way to help the Sanzone family is to shop Hip Mom Jewelry and enter code Sanzone1010 at checkout. The family will get 30% of all purchases. This site has cool jewelry for moms, but also some really beautiful other things, including stuff for athletes and other folks! So take a look, there are some lovely things, and you know some of your money is going to bring a little girl home to her family.

Enjoy the shopping, and remember the Etsy deal is TODAY only so go check that out for sure!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Month Down.

Today marks the end of August, and with that, the end of my first month of doing Crossfit.

So far, I've loved the crap out of it. I can tell I'm strong, and I think my body is loving the challenge of a different workout every day. My weight is down a bit, though that may be due to a whole lot of cereal and not a lot of real meals these past three days.

The challenge now is that gym where I was working out is no longer officially in business. I can still go other every few days, but I won't have the direct help of a trainer anymore. I'm feeling a bit daunted by this, but at the same time I know this month of going consistently three days on, one day off, has given me a good knowledge base.

Also, I have lots of friends who are smarty pants when it comes to Crossfit, so I'll have some resources. I'm nervous about being consistent, especially now that school is back in session and at least one day a week is shot (Tuesdays I'm busy from 7:30am to 8:00pm... probably not realistic to get in a workout if I plan to include a shower and decent clothing in there somewhere). I'm such a weirdo when it comes to routines and consistency. I'm glad that school has now started so I can figure out how to create a new routine, and especially figure out how to work in Crossfit. I may have to change up the three on, one off schedule (which I have LOVED by the way... wasn't sure I would because I've always been a five days on, rest on weekends person), but I can figure it out.

Most people I know who have been consistent with cf say that the three month mark is when you wake up and say "holy crap, look at me!" If that's the case, then I'm a third of the way there. I'm pretty psyched.

One thing I've really enjoyed is keeping track of what I lift and do. I know how much I can back squat now, and as I continue to workout and get stronger, I'll be able to measure my improvement. That works for my brain SO well. I like the competition with myself, and being inspired by the ridiculously fit other cfers.

If you're looking to spice up your workout, think about Crossfit. It's So challenging and very intimidating to START, but I'm loving it so far!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Crossfit, Week 2.

My latest exercise endeavor is Crossfit. If you're not familiar with Crossfit, it's basically hellacious. With that said, after the work out is over, it is amazing. After just under two weeks, I definitely feel strong, and empowered.

The idea is that you are fit and ready to do anything you want—any athletic activity or challenge you face should be doable. I LOVE that idea. 

I have been thinking about starting Crossfit for several months since many of the most fit people I know do it. It is intimidating at first because the WOD or Workout of the Day can often seem like it is written in code. I've been able to workout at a Crossfit gym and that has helped me learn the correct form, and the girls there have been great about pushing me.

Check out to see the WODs posted. They post the workouts at 8pm every night for the coming day, that way you can watch videos and figure out the moves you aren't familiar with.

So far, I'm really loving it. The gym I go to is in a garage without AC, so it does get REALLY hot, especially lately when the heat index has been above 100 degrees. With that said, it won't always be that hot!

I'd like to start posting about this, and the food I eat. With that said, my food this past week has been TOTALLY uninspired (try chicken for the past 3 lunches and four dinners...blech). You'll hear from me about Crossfit. If you're doing CF, chime in! What is your favorite workout? What do you hate? If you're doing something else, tell us about it... how do you like to burn calories?

Another Plug for Swagbucks.

For the next two days you can sign up for Swagbucks and if you use the code BackToSchool and you'll get 70 points just for signing up!

Basically, you'll use Swagbucks like you do Google. You'll accumulate points, and get to buy stuff with them. I go for the 5$ Amazon gift card which is a measly peasley 450 points. I can usually accumulate that in about a week.

If you sign up through the link I posted below, I get the credit for your referral too, so that is pretty sweet!

Here is a link to some great ways to earn with Swagbucks, or you can check out my previous posts on it.

Click here to sign up! Check it out!

Questions? Send 'em my way.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Product Review: Collapsible Salad Spinner of Wonder!

So I really like kitchen gadgets, as you may know. I haven't had a salad spinner in years, but since I don't go through all that much salad while Matthew is around, I haven't really needed one.

When I started doing the CSA Box this summer, I realized I'd need something to help me dry all those beautiful greens I was getting. So... I purchased a salad spinner at the PX. The one I got happens to be a Martha Stewart, but my clever friend Laura found the same model sans MS brand on amazon (and guess what.... she bought that baby with gift cards she earned on... you guessed it! Swagbucks!).

I wanted to review this product here because it is pretty much amazing, and it appeals to me on several levels. If you've thought about a salad spinner (as I know so many of us are often pondering the ways of salad spinners), you should consider this one!

Things I love about it:

1- It is collapsible! The inside bowls both collapse in so it is about 2 inches thick- hello storage friendly!
2- It contains a colander, a bowl, and the lid that lets you spin. This is a spinner, but also a colander, and a bowl you can serve the salad out of. The colorful accents (and the ring around the outside is the part that collapses) makes this fairly aesthetically pleasing, particularly for such a pragmatic tool.
3- To spin, you pull a little string! It is WONDERFUL! The wretched spinner of my childhood was a sometimes-broken gizmo that often pinched fingers and frequently incited infantile rage at my duties of salad spinning (though, to be fair, also sometimes ignited wonder at the sheer genius of spinning things in tupperware cupboards)
4- There's a break! Press the button, the spinning stops, pull out your clean greens with minimal sheen, and be on your way to stuffing your gullet with crisp, vitamin packed leaves.

5- The part that folds in to make this so compact is really pretty smooth, and after using it a few times, the collapsing process has become easier. I was wary at first, but it's easy to clean, and I love that it stores so compactly.

Essentially, for 20$ you're getting three things in one, and you're getting glorious, non-watered-down lettuces and whatnots. Enjoy!

Go buy it! Hey look, I even put a link up! (If you are inclined to buy, you should buy it via this link- I'll get a little pat on the back via the Amazon Associates program. Also, if you're at Ft. Campbell, they do have this in the Martha Stewart version which is usually $24.95, but fancy that, the military price is the same as it is here on Amazon.)

Another Thing.

So I don't want to harp on ol' swagbucks TOO much, but I wanted to mention something.

I get the 5$ Amazon gift cards because they seem to be the "best deal" in terms of how many swagbucks you need to purchase them. You can use as many as you need on a given purchase, so it works out.

As of today, I've made $25 worth of Amazon cards! Woot! Thanks to you guys who signed up and are searching and winning for helping me-- a great way to earn more is to refer your friends.

Another way, once you've been doing it for at least 7 days, is to fill out the Trusted Surveys profiles... you'll get points for each one you fill out, and then you can start doing surveys too, which, when you qualify for them, usually yield over 100 points.

Anyway, keep at it! I try to make 25 points per day- usually 4 points from the freebies you get by clicking through the special offers, accessing the surveys, taking the daily poll, and earning the point for using the tool bar. Then I go for 2-3 searches that yield a win, and that's it! It works well, and so far I'm investing little time for free money money money.

If you haven't tried Swagbucks, I recommend it. There are a lot of other things you can do to get bucks, but those are the quick, easy ways! Search away!  Go HERE to sign up!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How to Win Swagbucks.

I'm so excited to see some of you have signed up for swagbucks! Here are the basic ways you can win:

1- take the daily poll
2- click through the special offers- you don't have to accept any (I never do), but when you do, you are awarded 1 sb
3- download the tool bar, and open it once a day- you'll get 1 sb
4- once you've been a member for 7 days, go to the Trusted Surveys... you don't even have to take the survey to get a point! Then you can do different things in that tab to earn major sb's.

5- Finally, the main one is search! When I first started I wasn't sure I got the concept. The concept is this: search! you don't have to click any links to win. When you win, make sure you click the confirmation so it sends you an e-mail... this ensures you're not a robot, and will put the sb's into your account.

There are other ways to win them-- you can do shopping through their site, etc. I haven't done that, but I bet it works!

I usually do the four things listed above every day, and then I try to search once in the morning, once around lunch, and once in the evening to win. Often, I just go for once a day and try to win something. While you don't often win much, they add up, slowly but surely!

Also, if you have twitter and fb, they post special codes and other ways to win through those outlets.

Anyway! Enjoy! If you haven't signed up yet and want to, GO FOR IT!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Search & Win

I've invited some of you to use Swagbucks through e-mails, but I wanted to put a plug for it here. Swagbucks is a search engine that rewards you for searching with points. Those points add up, and you can"buy" things with them through the swagstore. So far, after using the site for about a month, I've won $15 in Amazon gift cards! I spend a total of about 5-10 minutes a day searching on it, and I've benefited already!

It's not something for people who won't put in a little time, but if you have a few minutes a day, or you normally search things on google, just go ahead and search through Swagbucks!

The nice thing is, if you sign up through my link, I get all the points you win TOO. So you get them, AND I get them, and we all get free stuff! I have lots of books to buy for Matthew, so getting them for FREE is pretty sweet!

Anyway, if you're interested, click the link and give it a whirl. If you're not, no big deal. If you want more info, please feel free to e-mail me or comment and I'll respond! (I found this via one of the coupon sites I use, and my fancy frugal friend Laura invited me, so she's getting all my points!) Click the links I've embedded here and that will let me get the credit for your referral. Thank you!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

What I've Been Eating.

Here are a few things I've been eating (from the first two weeks or so of the deployment):

First, this is my most recent vegetable box (I got it a week ago today). Some of the fruits of this have landed in some great meals!

Here's a "wedge" salad I made with some fresh blue cheese dressing.

Basil Pesto made from the basil from my box.
Salmon, salad, and sweet potato with cottage cheese.
Leftover salmon on a salad.
Buffalo chicken pizza... a little one 
(I didn't eat all of it, as even though I divided the dough 
recipe and saved half of it for another dish, it turned out big).
I made these lettuce wraps. WOW. LOVED them, and they're so good for you!

Ooo, steamy!
The recipe, if you're interested, is here. I did it with ground beef cause that's what I had, and I added some chili flakes for heat. I ended up using wine because I had a bit, but the other liquids would work. This was easy, tasty, and good for you- try it!
A close shot of the flank steak I grilled up for the following salad:

Flank steak with arugula, parmesan, and chive dressing. 
Really yummy, and the recipe is here (it's a Cooking Light recipe!).
This is what I did (a week or so later, for the record. I don't eat pizza every night!) with the other half of my dough recipe. Margherita pizza, and MAN it was good! YUM. It's pretty basic, but the recipe is here (Cooking Light again! The June issue is FABULOUS). My only change was that I added the basil to cook the whole time, and I had grape tomaties, so I just sliced them really thing.

This was a green salad with "green ranch" dressing. It's a basic ranch but then blended up with a bunch of herbs. I didn't love it, but I shouldn't be surprised since I added all the herbs that I did, many of which I don't love (cilantro, etc).
Man, this was SO easy, and so great. A Peach Galette. I made a half recipe, and it was great. I'm sure it's even better when you do the full recipe since baking can be funky. The almond crust was SO good. The recipe is for an apricot galette but I like peaches better, so voila! Really yummy. 

My folks made this recipe and loved it, so I gave it a try. Shrimp and bean sprout egg rolls. They were easy and fun! I used smaller shrimp and cut them up into pieces cause I don't like big bites of shellfish. Also, I used spicy chili sauce (Sriracha) and that DID not work. WAY too spicy. Definitely get the sweet stuff, unless you're looking to clean out your nasal cavities. Ok, gross, but for serious.

So, that's the summary of the first two weeks or so. I've been doing the South Beach diet lately, so some of these things are off the list for now. I tell you, I keep thinking about the Margherita pizza. It would be a great appetizer too. The steak dish was awesome too... I was happy with all of these! Let me know if you try any of them! I'll have another round of pictures in a while.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

My New Appliance: The Bug Catcher.

On fabulous appliance I have at my house is the Bug Catcher.

The tricky thing about it is that often, since bugs go up to lights, it requires Matthew to lift it up so it can reach them.

But it always gets those bugs!


Bug Catcher lifted into place:

Bug Catcher obtains bug:

Bug Catcher gloats in triumph:

So glad I bought one!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day.

On the 20th of May, the Brigade cased its colors. This means they place the flags of each battalion and of the brigade in a casing, and then they are taken to where they will be flown next (Afghanistan).  This picture is of all the battalions in formation (you can only see two of them, and they are only partial representations of the battalions).

The Sergeant Major and the Commander of the brigade casing the brigade colors.

This is 2-502, just after their colors are cased.

This last picture is of our battalion's colors being cased by the commander and sergeant major.
It was an emotional moment, knowing these flags will fly in combat, and won't fly again on Fort Campbell until the soldiers are home. Take care, men, and women. We're thankful for what you are doing, and what those who've come before you have done.

CSA Box #1.

This year, I'm thrilled to be a part of a Community Supported Agriculture group. I bought a half share, which means I get a full box of vegetables every other week. I picked up my first box on Thursday, and Matthew laughed at me as I giggled with pleasure upon seeing the contents of the box.

In the first box I got: 2 heads of iceberg lettuce, 3 heads of romaine lettuce, giant green onions, a bunch of basil, a bunch of cilantro, fresh strawberries, about two pounds of collard greens, a bunch of chard, and 2 cucumbers. 

It took about an hour and a half to get everything prepped and in the fridge. It was so fun! I had to do some research on a few of the items (the chard and collards) to find out the best way to store them. As I was washing and drying the herbs and lettuce, I piled them on the cutting board.

Dutch, who is NOT allowed on the counters, couldn't resist checking things out. He was rather startled by the lettuces, and batted at them a few times to see if they were going to come for him. Dutch Vs. the Vegetables:

Here are the glorious strawberries. They are so sweet and succulent, mm!
So far I've only made a few salads, used a few of the onions, and eaten strawberries. I've cooked the collards (and holy crap, if I may say, I did a GOOD job), and I've got a recipe I'm going to make for dinner tomorrow with the chard. I am LOVING this! I love that these are from a local farm, grown organically, and they are ALL on the "dirty dozen" list of things we should be trying to eat from organic sources. YAY!

I'll try to document my recipes and adventures with my future boxes. I'll get one every other week through the end of October! Weee!!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Updating on the Other Blog.

Are you reading the other blog?

If not, it's probably because you haven't been invited.

All you have to do to be invited is tell me that you want to be.

I dare ya!

[The other blog is focusing on my "Army life" in particular, and will serve a journal-ish function of this year of deployment. Could be interesting, eh?]

Friday, May 21, 2010

Now Accepting Reservations Chez Claire!

Come one, come all!

Approximately a week from today, I will be here with just a little beasty cat, and decent spare bedroom just WAITING to house visitors.

I hope that some of you will come for a visit sometime this year! And, in case you're really thinking about it, and you'd like to go ahead and plan to come (which I highly encourage) here is MY schedule:

June: Wide open.
July: Open until 3rd week.
August: Wide open.
September-October: no visitors please! I'll be working, and scuttling by little butt across the country three or four times for various weddings!
November: open!
December: Open til third week, then I'm heading to Utah for about 10 days.

Jan and Feb are tricky at THIS point because I'm hoping to have a sexy soldier (who I'm married to... don't get crazy on me here!) come visit on his leave during that time. That will be narrowed sometime after he's in country.

March: open, especially the second week, which is my Spring Break for school.
April: open.

So! If you're looking for a weekend getaway to another world (I feel confident in saying that Kentucky, and an Army post, for most of you, is another world) and having homemade meals (I will take requests- just call me Wesley- "as you wish") and quality time with this girl, let me know!

Several of you have very generously offered for me to come stay with YOU while Matthew is gone. I hope to take you up on some of these offers, but I'm also cautious about planning trips. For one, travel puts me out of touch with that guy-- I don't have a schmancy internet-connected phone (I have reasons why, too!) and I don't like to be out of touch for long.

Also, with all the travel that awaits me this Fall, I don't want to over do it!

Third, I actually like where I live!

Fourth, I find routine to be a kind of salve for the broken heart that inevitably occurs during deployment. Finding a way to live HERE, in my community, in my house, attending my church, doing my regular job-- that helps the days go by, and it helps me not put the whole year on hold, though it is different.

And finally, though not the least of the reasons, we're trying to KILL our debt this year. Plane tickets, hotels, meals out, shopping... these have all taken a back seat to paying off the car and loan.

So! All that is to say that I'd love to come see you, but I'd love even MORE for you to come see me. I guess it's the lazy lady's version, but I like to think that part of this is that I know myself pretty well and I do need to have boundaries on some of this business.

What I hope you take away from this is that I'd like to see you. If you can't come here, maybe we can find a time when we'll be in the same place (I'll be in Utah in October and December, Southern California in September, and Arizona in late October).

Hope to see you, wherever that may be, SOON! (and if I can't see you in person, let's really do schedule a phone or skype date- that would be fantastico.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Blog.

The time is nearing. The new blog is coming. I'll still be here, but I'll be exploring the wide world of military life and, for the next year, deployment on the other one.

If you'd like to read along about those things specifically, please e-mail me, or comment, and I'll add you to the blog. It will be protected from general readers.

What Happens in Vegas...

Ends up on my blog!

So Matthew has been on leave, and I've been done with school (though as I write this, we're back to reality, at least on his end). On Friday, May 7th, I graduated. On Saturday, we headed to Vegas. Our trip started out well-- our flight was good, and we were given drink coupons when someone sitting near us found out Matthew would be leaving for Afghanistan in a few weeks. Half way through the flight when Matthew went to the bathroom, the old lady next to me forced a hundred dollar bill in my hand (I tried to resist it too! She was having none of my protestations!) and made me promise to spend it on a great meal with my husband. I got her address, thanked her profusely, and I plan to correspond with her soon. What a wonderful, completely unexpected generosity! We were so delighted by the support we felt from the people on the flight, and throughout the trip when they found out Matthew is a soldier.

We stayed at the Wynn Encore, and MAN, it was gorgeous! It is Steve Wynn's newest place, and it is absolutely GORGEOUS. They have some amazing deals right now too, so if you're looking to stay at an upscale place in Vegas, definitely check it out. My parents loved it (they usually go for the Bellagio), and we did too!

Here is the room we stayed in. This is the most basic, cheapest room...

And by the way, there was a little panel on the bedside table that controlled all the lights and curtains... so you could turn everything off and close the blinds without leaving the bed. GREAT idea! I want one for the house.

We did our share of some penny slots. We go for the more video game-like ones like Jaws, Star Trek, and Wizard of Oz. We had some fun, but of course, didn't win big. I know, we're just as shocked as you are.
We had many toasts-- to Kim and Jay's 20th, to my graduation, to the 1 year anniversary of Frank and Vinnie's departure, to Matthew, and to many other things, of course.

But most of all, we ate. Our first big fancy meal was the tasting menu at Hubert Keller's restaurant Fleur de Lys. I have a deep love for tasting menus, and if I could, that is the way I'd eat every meal (though then I'd be 400 pounds). The following are pictures of our meal at Fleur de Lys. It was fabulous, and fun, and satisfying. The pictures were taken in the dark without flash, so I lightened them here. They may look a little weird, but you'll get the idea.
This was the amuse bouche. Puffed halibut with warm potato salad and cayenne creme fraiche.

Truffled onion soup. Oh, mercy.
(with a braised duck crepe, red wine onion puree, and black truffle)

Ahi Tuna Tartare (with shaved fennel slaw, ginger ponzu, fennel seed tuile). My mom got this option and I tried it- YUM! I'm now a believer in tuna tartare!
Matthew got the chorizo wrapped suzuki sea bass (barley risotto, pipperade, tomato broth).

And I, thank you Jesus (no, really, I am so thankful when I get to taste food like this, that God created taste buds), I got braised veal and yukon gold potato ravioli (with sunchokes and English peas).

My next course was Stout braised beef short ribs 
(with melted leeks, potato puree, house made mustard).
Matthew got prime filet mignon (baby spinach, wild mushrooms, sasify, red wine reduction)
And then came dessert. I got the chocolate souffle. 
Below is my mom's Grand Marnier souffle (like the fleur de lys in the sugar?).
Matthew enjoyed the warm chocolate fondant cake 
with fleur de sel caramel center, and popcorn ice cream.

Spiced carrot and cream cheese ice cream sandwich with pineapple carrot ice cream.

And if we hadn't had enough (we did the wine pairings too...), 
they brought us a dessert from the chef-- lovely.

Um, so all of that was fantastic. And basically, we just kept eating. And eating.
The next night we went to Prime, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's steakhouse at the Bellagio.
I think it is safe to say, for both of us, this ranks as the best steak house experience, and the best steak either of us has eaten. I didn't even document the salad, soup, and sides. I should also say I had the best iceberg wedge salad EVER-- the blue cheese dressing was mind-blowing. 

My filet.
Matthew's bone-in ribeye.
And we had so many other fabulous meals. Our Mother's Day brunch was insane. Just a few things we sampled? A fresh, cold seafood platter, three kinds of ceviche, smoked salmon, a meat and cheese tray, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, an heirloom tomato caprese salad, tons of desserts, and a complete dessert bar, PLUS we could order as many things off of the menu as we wanted (I ordered french bread pudding and some crazy barbeque eggs benedict). Oh, and there was a grilled meat station which included beef tenderloin, maple glazed pork, chili-rubbed turkey, two kinds of sausage, fire-roasted shrimp, rack of lamb, and prime rib. Needless to say, we were eating our brunch for about 2 hours-- great family time, and we sat next to Steve Wynn, so we felt fancy!

We had a fabulous time, but we were glad to return home and spend a few days hanging out around the house and doing yard work. It was great to get away, but always good to come home! Thanks to the family that was able to come to Vegas and celebrate with us, and thanks to my sweet husband for making the trip SO much fun!