Sometimes you have to take it easy. That's just what we did this week because I have been EXHAUSTED! (Looks like it might be my immuno-suppressant meds I'm on... : / It's also making my hair fall out. YIPPEE! If it's not one thing, it's forty more. Today, I also lost a filling, so now I have to go to the dentist this week...) Anyway, for veggie night, we made it quick and easy with these ALEXIA SWEET POTATO PUFFS along with some steamed corn and peas. We picked these bad boys up at Target for CHEEEEEEEEEEAP because Zach found a manufacturer's coupon AND a Target coupon online. (My husband is the KING of couponing!)


All we had to do was preheat the oven, open the bag, pour out some puffs, and bake for twenty-ish minutes until golden brown. They were so tasty--slightly crunchy with the expected tator tot texture inside. I had seen these in the stores before--and now Sonic has them?--but we don't eat a lot of tator tots around here. We don't eat many "fried" potatoes like French fries or hash browns unless we found ourselves with a hankering for them or they are on sale. (I have to admit that we do tend to keep hash browns in the freezer, but I rarely fry them because that makes a mess. Actually, most of our "fried" potatoes end up baked. :) We do eat a lot of mashed potatoes and baked potatoes on a weekly basis. (HEY! They aren't rough on our troublemaker tummies!)

But I am glad that Zach found those coupons to get these because they were a nice break in the potato monotony we often find ourselves in around here... :)

ready to brown

Life Without Facebook (Day One)

Well, y'all, I decided to go without Facebook for Lent. (I must be cra-a-azy. I am ALWAYS on Facebook, which is why I decided it must go. My rationalizations to keep it just showed how much I needed to leave it for a few days...or forty.)

I've almost made one day.

It's been fairly easy. :) I was very productive at work (except for a few minutes I spent on Rate My Professor looking up my friends-who-are-instructors' ratings--I have some HOT instructor friends *lol*--I ended up staying fifteen minutes after work on there!). When I got home, I was able to go walking for twenty minutes, and I dusted the upstairs AND downstairs, and I finally put all of the clean laundry away and made up the bed and started a new load of laundry. I was reading a blog in between of all of this, but it's much better than being on Facebook on Astrid (that's my MacBook's name) AND my iPhone AT THE SAME TIME. (Sooo embarrassing, guys...)

But, in other moments, it was HARD.
For example, a friend of Zach's from his undergrad days, Amy, came to eat dinner and watch Downton Abbey with us on Monday. Somehow, we decided to do quesadillas, and she said she would bring the fixings as long as we picked up some salsa and cheese. (I tried two new flavors of each--lime and garlic salsa and queso panela, and both impressed us! WIIIIIIING!) Amy even brought dessert--coconut ice cream bars! Anyway, she was so sweet to leave the leftover marinated beef, so today I made myself a half-quesadilla for lunch. IT WAS SOOO GOOD! And I immediately wanted to pop on her Facebook timeline and say thank you for leaving the leftovers (since I don't have her number--Zach does). But I couldn't. :( I hope I remember the next time we see her...

Then I was watching The Office for the millionth time, specifically the episode in which Dwight almost burns down the office to prove that the office is not prepared, and it causes Stanley to have a heart attack, and so the company brings in a CPR trainer. She explains to Michael that he should be pumping the chest to the tune of The Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive," but he starts singing Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." So the trainer corrects him, and Andy starts singing, and Kelly starts dancing. AND I SWEAR Y'ALL--I dance just like Kelly does! Which means I really don't...I do this sort of awkward moving of my shoulders and arms while rotating from side-to-side at the waist, and it's totally off-beat. I wanted to share that with the Facebook world because I have many a friend who LOVES The Office and many a friend who can appreciate my lack of coordination (because theyand many of friend who does both.

So I shared that bit of realization with Zach when he got home...and now all of you guys. ;)

Thinking about Lent...

So I was bad this last week and didn't take any photos of the veggies I cooked (and we were bad as a family because we didn't eat many veggies in the first place), so no Menu Monday. I guess I should have back-up recipes for times like these! (I briefly thought about posting a biscuit recipe, but I only have a picture of the product, not the process, so it still seemed like a no-go.) We almost cooked some sweet potato tater tots (with other stuff) Sunday night, but then I was too exhausted to cook, so Zach had cereal, and I just went to bed. :(

Anyway, a lot of things have been weighing heavily on my heart lately--namely the fact that my sisters' step-dad is dying of cancer and a little three-year-old boy who was in remission has now been diagnosed with a new subgroup of leukemia. Please pray for my family and the Begoon family and for everyone who is suffering some kind of disease. Though it's selfish, I have also been thinking about my own battle to keep Crohn's Disease at bay. (It's been at the forefront of our thoughts primarily because Zach and I went to our first ostomy support group meeting Sunday afternoon, and honestly, we walked away a little scared regarding my reconstruction surgery after I had already worried us by reading about its complications.) I have been trying so hard to understand why we have disease and how to get rid of it. And I don't mean just for me--but for the whole world. I know it's not my responsibility to save the world...and yet it is because we are called to serve others and share the Gospel and I know that by Jesus' stripes we are healed, and I want healing for all of us NOW (His will be done on earth as it is in heaven--God's will is to heal). But then I get caught up in theology and doctrine and terminology, trying to figure out exactly what to believe and why some people are healed and others are not even though we seem to believe in the same things. It's a lot to handle, and I guess that, even though I hope I am continually maturing in my faith, I'm just not mature enough to handle this spiritually.

With that said, Easter is right around the corner (By His stripes we are healed!)! I LOVE Easter! For years, it has been my favorite holiday, and I hate how it is not as loved as Christmas. Christ's birth is amazing, but His death seems all the more amazing to me, and I wish we had the same sort of spirit in us at Easter as we do at Christmas. I'm thinking about how we are going to mark this day, and I have a few ideas floating around in my head, including exchanging baskets (like we always do) and dyeing eggs. (We bought an egg-dyeing kit two years ago but have never had the chance to use it.) Since I feel we got cheated out of celebrating many holidays and regular days in the fall and early winter, I'm trying to make the most of every one even when our plans fall apart. (I really wanted to do something for Mardi Gras, but Zach has a work dinner. *boo* I really LOVE Mardi Gras; for the longest time, I wanted a Mardi Gras-themed wedding.)

Since today is Fat Tuesday, that means tomorrow is the beginning of Lent. And I have nooo idea what to give up this year. :/ I'm not Catholic or Methodist--I actually don't align myself with any Christian denomination--but I am still drawn to the meaning and sacrifice that Lent represents. I usually give up either sweet tea or soda pop (or, as we call it in the South, coke *hehe*). Last year, I successfully gave up sweet tea--I was so proud of myself, and I felt like I had a clearer mind and a more settled spirit. (If you know me, this was huge because I can go through a pitcher in a short time!) I was also able to finally lower the amount of sugar I use in my tea I make at home because now it's all too sweet. I can't drink sodas right now--I've had a sip of Zach's a few times, and it is far too sweet, so it wouldn't bother me to give it up--so that is out, and I really don't want to give up sweet tea since there is so many food items I can't eat. I've considered giving up Facebook, but I would really miss my daily photo album posts, and I'm not sure if my heart would stay in the right place if I still allowed myself to get on there, even for a few minutes. One of my friends from grad school made the New Year's resolution to get rid of something every day of this year, and I think that is a really great idea. (She is still going strong nearly two months later--go, Paulette!) Hmmm...I've also considered giving up sweets or meat, but once again, with my health issues, there are certain things I shouldn't give up right now for nutritional reasons or for psychological/emotional reasons.

Gosh, I don't know, but I better figure it out before tomorrow...


Now the carrot is a much beloved vegetable in this household. I used to hate cooked carrots, but have learned that they were often overcook--you have to master that fine balance between tenderness and mush. I don't like mushy carrots. I like them to have a bite. That's probably why I have always loved raw carrots. I never needed any ranch or dip with them either when I was a kid (as so many do). They are a nicely sweet vegetable.

So I decided to go with a vegetable I know and love and mix it. Zach said these MINTED CARROTS might be the best he has ever tasted (!). :)


-Using either fresh or frozen peeled and sliced carrots--I used frozen crinkle carrots, which are fun--boil them in salted water until tender.

-In the meantime, melt 1/4 cup butter and a 1/4 cup honey with a 1/2 teaspoon salt.

-Once it get boiling, remove from heat until the carrots are done. (Isn't that spoon holder awesome? Zach got it for me for Christmas--it was in my stocking--and this was actually the first time I really needed to use it. I think it is from the Michael Graves line at Target...)

-Drain the carrots and add them to the glaze. Heat until the glaze is cooked down to almost nothing.

-Sprinkle with some dried or fresh mint, and there you go: MINTED CARROTS! (I used some of the mint I grew last summer and dried in my oven. By the time I got around to drying some, most of it had died off from the heat, but I rescued a TON of basil dried. It made the house smell heavenly!)

I served these carrots with scalloped potatoes, peas, and Red Lobster biscuits (a.k.a. cheddar bay biscuits--very easy to make as well). I think those biscuits are Zach's favorite though I recently made 7-Up biscuits, which are supposed to taste a lot like the ones from Popeye's, and I think they may be challenging the Red Lobster ones. I will share the recipes for those some day.

It was a scrumptious meal on veggie night!

Our Love Story

I saw this on someone else's blog today and thought it looked like fun. (Sorry for the long answers!)

1. How long have you and your significant other been together?

Zach and I have been together a little over three years (dating, engagement, and marriage)--married for most of that. When you meet the one, you know!

2. How did you meet? {What’s your “love” story?}

WE MET AT A BAR!!! I know, I know, those types of situations usually do NOT work out! We met at The Flying Saucer on September 19, 2008. He was there with a friend he had made in grad school who had been in the same program as me as an undergrad, Brian (who had told Zach on the way that he would get along with me). Brian and his girlfriend Whitney, who was also an English major and grad, had no plans to play matchmakers...yet. ;) What is also funny about this situation is that one of my best friends (who was also an English major in undergrad and also in Brian and Zach's program), Katie, had told me she had met my personality soul mate during the first week of grad school after they had completed the Meyers-Briggs personality test. She said that every time my soul mate would raise his hand and say something in class, she couldn't help but think of me! (Zach is an INTJ, and I am an INFJ, which is why we are personality soul mates.) At the Saucer, we were sitting one person apart at the table, and when this guy left, we started talking one-on-one about grad school and the music, movies, and books we liked including Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Whitney said she had never seen me talk for so long to one person, especially a guy. (If you know me, this is sooo true.) We talked the whole night! When I was getting ready to leave, I went around the table to hug everyone. However, when I got to Zach, I didn't know what to do: say goodbye, shake his hand, or awkwardly hug him? I settled on awkwardly hugging him--I didn't want to leave him out!--and we ended up doing this weird, half-side hug. He had whispered to me earlier, and I quote, "It is very sexy the way you carry yourself." So bold, this guy was! I thought this was just something a guy in a bar would say to a girl, but if you know Zach, this is not something he would EVER do. *lol* (Usually, when he says the word "sexy," he half-sings it in this silly voice. But, of course, he wasn't just complimenting the way I looked, but my personality, intelligence, etc. so he said it in a serious tone then.) After I hugged him, he said that he was serious about what he said (See!) and hoped to see me again. So I told him I would look him up on Facebook. Well, the thing is things aren't always spelled the way they are pronounced. I got home and looked up "Zach Farr," who did not exist. I thought Zach was just another jerk in the bar after that! Only when he added me did I realize he is a "Pharr." We had some more funnies that happened leading up to our first date date, too...

3. If married, how long have you been married?

We were married on September 19, 2009, exactly one year after we met! So we have been married over two years.

4. If you are married, where did you get married? Big or small wedding?

We had a small Alice-in-Wonderland-themed wedding at Faulkner County Library (60-ish people). We had a reception at a former magic theater on December 20th for an even smaller group. (We would have had in on December 19th, but Zach was in a wedding that day!)

5. Do you have any nick-names that you call one another? Do share!

Wooky and Pooks--they have evolved from rather common nicknames that we were initially using ironically. I guess the joke is on us! We have more than those, but we use them for a time and then discard them before picking them back up; Zach is constantly singing new nicknames at me like Ladyface. I have also tried on and off since I met Zach to give him the nickname Zaxby (like the chicken restaurant) because he is slightly allergic to chicken. These are probably the most interesting...

6. Name 3 things you love most about your honey.

a) He can always make me laugh.
b) He is thoughtful of everyone in his life, which means everyone in my life, too.
c) He is so hardworking for our family.

7. Tell us how he proposed?

I just wrote out this story for a contest, but I will keep it short and sweet. Zach proposed to me in Kansas City on July 19, 2009. We were supposed to be having a cheap trip since school was out and we weren't working, but after dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, he told me he had a surprise: we were going on a carriage ride! Around The Country Club Plaza! At sunset! Of course, the first thing I ask is how is he affording this. *lol* After the ride was over, I thought we were heading back to our friends', where we were staying, but he said he had another surprise around the corner. He pulled into the parking lot of Southmoreland on the Plaza, a B&B! He told me we were staying there for two nights, and I immediately asked about our luggage. (Our friends were in on the surprise and had brought it for us.) So we went inside and were led to our room. The key was given to me to open the door, and when I did, I was met with champagne and a "Drink Me" sign and chocolate-covered strawberries with an "Eat Me" sign. I thought the B&B had supplied them! After all, they had sherry in the rooms and appetizers every afternoon! Well, it took me a moment to realize there was an "Open Me" sign on a tiny door to the left. When I did open it, I found a shadowbox filled with photos and souvenirs and topped with a "Love Me" sign. I noticed there was another sign behind it--"Marry Me!" (I still thought the food came from the innkeepers at this point and hadn't made the Wonderland connection!) I was waiting for Zach to speak, but finally he blurted out, "Please say YES!" That boy was sweating bullets even though he knew I would say yes! So we hugged and kissed, and he told me there was a surprise under that sign: a diamond solitaire ring that shines like a snowflake! We spent the night sipping champagne on the balcony, planning our wedding and our future (I asked such practical questions as, "Where will we live?" "What will we do?" "How many kids should we have?" "What about our money?" Poor Zach!), and calling family and friends to let them know.

8. Is he a flowers and teddy bear kind of guy for v-day, or strawberries, champagne, and rose petals?

Zach tends to give very personal, thoughtful gifts for Valentine's Day, so I guess I would say he's a rose petal guy.

9. Are you a sunset dinner on the beach kind of girl, or pop a movie in and relax on the couch?

Well, I'm not a beachy gal, but I do like the idea of a sunset dinner! However, we started dating with "movie and waffle" nights at his apartment because we were poor grad students, and he worked for res life as a hall director and was always on duty. So I have some fond movie-and-snuggling memories...

10. Tell us one thing you’d like to do with your significant other one day. If you could do anything? Go anywhere?

We ARE going to England next summer! We've both been, but we haven't been together. We are thinking a week to a week and a half in a holiday cottage in the Lake District, and then a week to week and a half in Edinburgh, Scotland!

11. Tell us what you plan on doing on this Valentine’s Day?

Well, we haven't made definite plans. We found out we owe taxes this year, which has forced us to change our budget after struggling to pay off my medical bills and buy a new car because Zach's transmission went out; we were planning to go to Eureka Springs and stay, but it's probably not in the budget now. :( I told Zach, though, I was happy just staying at home since I missed it for a month! And since I didn't get to bake for Christmas, I've had lots of plans for this holiday. I've already made heart-shaped gingerbread cookies with pink cream cheese icing, and I plan to make a strawberry lemonade cake and heart-shaped cinnamon rolls for Valentine's Day. I may make some Neapolitan cupcakes (chocolate and strawberry layers with vanilla icing) for this weekend!

12. Are you asking for anything this Valentine’s day?

No, we never ask each other for anything. It's always a surprise!

13. Give us one piece of advice of keeping a relationship strong and full of love.

Respect each other.

14. Show us a picture of what love means to you.

And just for kicks: the most recent photo of us from Le Chocolate Feast on January 28! It was an event raising money for breast cancer awareness, and participants got to sample chocolatey treats for over a dozen vendors from NWA. It was SA-WEET!!!

(Sorry my face is still puffy--thanks, prednisone!)

Menu Monday: ITALIAN EGGPLANT MATCHSTICKS (with marinara)

ITALIAN EGGPLANT STICKS WITH MARINARA, Green Beans, and Twice-Baked Potatoes

I said it before, and I'll probably say it again: you win some, you lose some. I think this is a more of a loss for me (like the cauliflower) though these ITALIAN EGGPLANT MATCHSTICKS with marinara were not tooooo bad. (Man, I'm doing a lousy job of selling how tasty vegetables really are. :( ) I know I have had eggplant parmesan before and was not mad about it...though I can't remember how not mad I was, you know? It was a l-o-n-g time ago when I had it. We are talking high school or so.

It probably would have been safer to try making homemade eggplant parmesan; like I said, it's been a long time ago since I had it, so I can't remember where I tried it, but I liked it enough to remember I liked it, and I LOVE chicken parm. (I don't really like using "parm" instead of "parmesan," but it's getting tiresome to type the same words over and over and over...) But Zach said he wasn't necessarily crazy about it (now he says he just thought it was boring *lol*), so I thought I would try something we both had the chance of liking. There weren't a lot of eggplant recipes available that didn't call for exotic ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes and chickpeas. (These are not really exotic to me at all; I just didn't have any on hand--thus they are exotic, or far, far away.)

So I decided on ITALIAN EGGPLANT STICKS, which doesn't have the most appetizing name in the world, so let's call them MATCHSTICKS from this moment forth. (It just sounds a bit fancier, doesn't it?) Well...Zach said he liked them alright though they were "boring." (I guess, for the time being, eggplant will just have to be boring to him until I finally find a recipe to wow him. *hehe*) I didn't care for the chewy texture of the eggplant--I guess I expected it to fall apart the way zucchini and squash do after being roasted.

The funny thing is I don't really care for zucchini and squash because of their roasted texture, so you would think the opposite would appeal to me. (It didn't.) I've also decided I don't necessary care for Panko bread crumbs. I used them when I made fried yellow squash over the summer, which I usually LOVE, but I didn't like them nearly as much as I do a good flour dredging.

I will definitely give eggplant another try--a friend from high school suggested I drain off the bitter juice before using it (although I didn't find this eggplant to be bitter, so that wasn't the problem). But after a few blah veggies, I think I am going to stick to one I know for this coming week. And, no, it won't be the potato hough I've definitely known that veggie the best and for the longest. ;)


-Preheat oven to 450.
-Gather your cooking spray, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

-Wash your eggplant and cut off the ends. Then slice into 1/4-inch slices lengthwise.

-Cut your wide strips into matchstick-like pieces.

-Place eggplant matchsticks into a bowl with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Stir or toss to coat.

-Crack an egg and discard the yolk; keep the egg white to wash your eggplant. (I suggest lightly beating the egg white with a fork.)

-Combine 1 cup of breadcrumbs with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning to taste.

-Dip each piece of eggplant in the egg white wash and then coat in the breadcrumb-parmesan mixture. I suggest using your hands to place the vegetable into the wash and then two forks to transfer each piece to be coated before placing them on a cookie sheet. This will keep your hands from becoming contaminated with raw egg and will allow you to add more breadcrumbs/parmesan/seasoning if needed as well as grab the egg carton when you run out of egg white wash. :)
-When the cookie sheet is filled, lightly spray them with your cooking spray. (This apparently makes them brown and crisp better, but it can also smoke up the kitchen. It caused our smoke alarm to go off repeatedly. It caused my husband to get MAD. I should have taken a photo or two of him repeatedly climbing up to turn the alarm off. *lol* ;)
-Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for 5 minutes longer until golden brown. Serve hot with your favorite marinara sauce or you can whip one up with tomato sauce and seasonings (as I did).

I am getting excited about this week's veggie. (I promise that as the weather improves, I will pull in some fruit.) Sometimes the oldies but goodies can't be beat...especially if you tweak them just a bit for some new flavor! Any guesses on what veggie I will be using??