Thursday, January 30, 2014

Super Bowl Sunday // Top 3 Appetizers

Super Bowl Sunday for me is all about the food.  After doing some extensive researching on Pinterest, I've compiled a list of some Super Bowl Sunday "food favorites".  I'm a sucker for the seven layer dip, and anything with avocado or melty cheese.  My mouth is watering!  I can't wait to get together with family, and see my cute nephews who are visiting from Jackson.  

This first link will take you to website with 15 different dips for chips.  This one looked the most delectable to me- cheesy artichoke dip.

This next link has 40 recipe ideas for the super bowl, from finger foods to the main course.  I love how creative each idea is, but mostly I was excited about the personal sized seven layer dip.  I'd probably need four of them for myself.  

Embarrassing confession: I love lil smokies. But, unfortunately, they are kind of reserved for game day parties.  Best part about these guys?  Three ingredients.  And really, what's more manly than lil smokies and meatballs?  

These would be my top 3 game day appetizers.  Mostly because they are easy, and each has such a different taste.  This year my family is actually thinking we'll get Asian Star takeout- I'm all for it!  Go Broncos!  (I only vote for them cause my cousins are from Colorado, and my brother named his lizard Bronco so I think my family will be cheering for them too. Really I don't care).  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Enduring It Well

Recently I was browsing through Pinterest and was led to a link with a Mormon Channel series called, "Enduring It Well".  
Each episode is about 30 minutes long, perfect for a commute- also why I was seeking out something both inspiring and "page-turining" or ear turning (?) to listen to- something to help the time spent in the car go a little faster.
The episodes are all about someone who has gone through a pretty life-changing trial, and of course, endured it well.  I would recommend listening to the episode "Lessons Learned" first.  We get to hear from our incredible prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, and one of his trials, as well as little blurbs of all the other amazing people, their trial, and what they learned.

I recently listened to an episode about a teenage boy who had been given pain medication that had mistakenly not been diluted by the pharmacist.  He got 20 times the dose (similar to taking 20 Percocet), and was in a coma for 72 days from an anoxic brain injury.  Hearing the story from his parents view as well as his view was both heart-wrenching and inspiring!

Some things I have really taken to heart from these episodes...
1. Even the prophet has dark days, but choses to seek the light
(why am I wanting to use a Harry Potter quote right now?)
"Happiness can be found even in the darkest times, if one only remembers to turn on the light"
-Albus Dumbledore
p.s. the prophet has a lot of better quotes.
2. When you receive something from the holy ghost it is eternal; Heavenly Father doesn't have to remind you again and again
3. He is there.  He is always there, and he will always be there.  No matter how many times we fall.

"Only the Master knows the depths of our trials, our pain and our suffering.  He alone offers us eternal peace in times of adversity.  He alone touches our tortured souls with his comforting words, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.  Take my yolk upon you and learn of me.  For I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light"
-Thomas S. Monson

Another favorite..(or two)

"Shall I falter, or shall I finish?"
-Thomas S. Monson

"We truly need Him every hour, whether it be hours of sunshine or hours of rain"
-Thomas S. Monson

Anyways, just listen to it.


I don't know why I included this picture, other than the fact that this lady just makes me want a hug!  She's adorable and her smile is infectious.  

Sorry about those last two.  Sometimes my inner Hunger Games/ Harry Potter obsession gets a little too out of hand and I have to just let it out.  I mean, talk about inspiring right?
Hope you have an awesome week!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Life Hacks- Shredded Chicken

I love getting cooking advice from my mom.  In my eyes, she is the queen of everything kitchen.  We were talking about her chicken noodle soup recipe when she told me about this genius idea for stocking up on shredded chicken.  With Braedon and I both in school and working there are nights during the week that if we don't plan a meal we end up eating ramen. We are usually so hungry by the time we get home that we don't have the patients to let our meat thaw and cook so we resort to a quicker meal. Hopefully with this new "life hack" we'll keep the ramen eating to a minimum!  

I'm pretty excited about it.  

So, there are two ways to do this shredded chicken timesaver hack. First I'll show you how I did it, and then I'll tell you about the easier (but more expensive) way.  

First you'll need to boil your chicken.  My chicken kind of broke apart in the pot, but I started with three large breasts.  Mine were done after about 12 minutes.  

Side note: I also added a little bit of garlic salt and chicken seasoning to the water for flavor

Remove the chicken from the pot, and place in a large mixing bowl.  Leave the boiled water- we'll use it later.  

Another great life hack, you can use your mixer to shred your chicken. No more cramped hands! Yay!    This changed my life.  

And voila!  Shredded chicken.  Now you can transfer the chicken into some tupperware, and slowly scoop the chicken stock (your boiled water is now chicken stock) into the tupperware.  I'm telling you guys, this was a break through for me.  

The point of the chicken stock is so that your chicken doesn't dry up in the freezer.  Now you have shredded chicken- already cooked- on hand for those busy nights!  Add it to a soup, a salad, tacos, whatever.  All you have to do now is defrost and reheat!  

The second way to do this is a little easier, and a little more expensive.  My mom told me when they first got married she did it this way because it was cheaper, but now she does it the easy way.  

The "easy" way:

1. Buy rotisserie chicken
2. Buy chicken stock
3. Pull apart rotisserie chicken (shredding it)
4. Add to tupperware and pour in chicken stock

I ended up just boiling the chicken while I was making our real dinner for the night and it actually didn't seem inconvenient at all to me.  I'll let you know which way I like better!  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Banana Bread Zucchini Muffins

I have a love-hate relationship with baking.  Mostly just a love relationship.  I have always loved to bake- cooking came after I got married.  The problem here is I have a major sweet tooth.  It's the Aiken girl curse I think.  I make cookies, I eat the dough while baking, and then I eat seven cookies cause they just taste too good out of the oven to go to waste!

Oh well.

I got this recipe from my sister Missy who is a great cook.  She is super picky so I know that if I get a recipe from her I'll love it.  I'm actually surprised she likes banana bread zucchini muffins because she gave me a soup recipe once and omitted the zucchini because she doesn't like it.  Like I said, very picky.  I love zucchini.  

Anyways, you should make these.  

And zucchini is spelled wrong below.  Don't worry, I'm a nurse.  

Also I forgot to include the flour in this picture.  It's been a while since I've blogged ok?


3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1 banana (mashed)
1 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups zucchini (I used two medium sized zucchini's)
*Extra cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on the pan before baking, and on the top of your muffins after baking

First set your oven to bake at 325 degrees.  Spray your muffin tin with pam and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top.  

Next mix your dry ingredients in a large bowl.  (Sugar, cinnamon, flour, baking soda, baking powder)

Next I grated my zucchini.  You need two cups- I used two medium sized zucchini's.  


Now you can add your "wet" ingredients in a separate large mixing bowl. 

Once the wet ingredients are mixed, slowly add in the dry ingredients about 1 cup at a time.  

Finally, add to your muffin tin (or bread pan). Bake at 325 degrees for about 35 minutes.  The bread is supposed to bake for 45 minutes so at 25 minutes I started checking my muffins about every five minutes.  (I'll call you every five minutes! Name that movie).  Missy lives in California and says everything bakes faster there so hers only baked for 15-20 minutes.  

I've never made muffins before and I feel like I filled the cups way too high.  I had some huge muffins!  Oh well, they tasted (and smelled) amazing.  Obviously I couldn't wait until after the picture to eat one.  You'll want to take a butter knife and gently flip them out of their tins before they cool or they'll stick to the pan.  

Mmmmmm these are so dang good.  I still have tons of batter leftover so tonight I'm going to bake them in a bread tin and add lots of milk chocolate chips.  Whoops.  

Now go make them, or come eat mine so I will stop.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Budget 2014 // yikes //

Yet again, I'm writing such a grown up post.  I'm really not very grown up, nor am I really qualified to be giving "budgeting" advice.  Actually, how about not qualified at all?  Ok, now that we have that out I can get to the point...

Braedon and I didn't really budget our first year of marriage.  We would pull up an excel sheet and figure out numbers/ talk about a budget but we (I) didn't really stick to it.  I needed a bigger motivation and something that I could track my spending with other than our online account.  Braedon is much more savvy than me and has this great app that he uses to track our spending.  He keeps asking me to use it but I prefer to just write it all down.... I am trying though.  I mean, the app is at least downloaded on my phone.  

When I stumbled upon this post I decided we would try a new budgeting system.  Braedon was just happy that I wanted to budget- he didn't care how we would do it!  Head over to Rylee Blake's blog to see her original post about this budgeting system.  We tweaked a few things for it to fit for our us.  

Here is how we do it....

1. Figure out your average income per month (kind of self explanatory).  

Depending on my hours and the type of work I am doing with my patients my income varies so we just took the average of the past three months. 

2. Create a "bills" list 

I prefer to use a notebook, Braedon prefers to use an excel spreadsheet.  Our bills include things like: cell phone, rent, car insurance, gym membership, gas.  We also included our tithing, date night, and how much we wanted to save each month under the bills category.  Date night has always been important to us and Braedon has made sure that every week (since we met) we've gone on a one on one date.  I guess I have his parents to thank for setting that example!  

One you have this list, subtract your bills from your income. 


Total Average Income Per Month
- Total Average Bills Per Month
"Everything Else Money"

3. Everything Else Money

Ok so now you get to figure out what you want to spend on groceries and "other things" each week.  If you watch the video below (she is the original budgeter and knows way more than me) you will learn that the average budget for an American for groceries should be $100 per person per household per month.  So for Braedon and I we should be spending $200 per month on groceries.  This even includes toothpaste, paper towels, shampoo....ya....harder than I thought!  We decided we would shoot for $225 per month.  The "other" category is just spending money.  This would include eating out, that lipstick I really want from MAC, iTunes purchases, a McDonald's diet coke, etc.  We are on money saver mode (as are most newlyweds) so we agreed on $20 per week, which is $100 per month (for those of us slow with math).  What we don't spend we can add to our vacation fund, or save up for a bigger purchase like a new pair of Nike Free (hint hint, Braedon, cough, Valentine's day). 

This "other" category was mostly made for me.  I was feeling so guilty whenever I bought something for myself.  But with a set amount we've both agreed that we can spend each month it's made shopping much more guilt-free!   

Alright, now that you have these numbers you can make your envelope.  (I know, I know) You even get to carry this envelope with you everywhere you go, and keep your receipts inside if you'd like.  Side note: January is kind of a weird month because it doesn't have four weeks, but it all works out over the year so we just kept our weekly budget the same.  

You can create it however you want, but just make sure to have two columns.  One for groceries, and one for "other".  The side columns divide each week out.  I had to put the last week of January on the back.  

Ok, here's where you have to set some rules or this system will not save you any money.  Let's say one week we only spend $26 on groceries, so I have $30 left over.  Say I have been eyeing a new article of clothing and it's over the $20 limit for the "other" category that week.  If this is the case, I am allowed to borrow from that week the $30 I didn't spend on groceries, and add it to the "other" category (or just take the $50 and save it).  However, you CANNOT borrow from the next week!  If you borrow from the next week you'll just keep doing it from week to week, and won't be saving any money.  

This system can work whether you want to use a card, or cash.  We started out using our card but I was too tempted to just go over the limit so we decided to switch to cash.  I divided out what we're allotted each week and stuck in in the envelope.  I keep each weeks money separated with a paper clip.  You guys, this is serious budgeting!  

Here are a few tips that help us out with sticking to our grocery budget each week.  First, I write out what we'll have for dinner each day of the week (usually done the week before).  From there, I can create a grocery list of the items we will need to complete the meal if I don't already have them.  Buying groceries every week seemed really inconvenient to me at first, but after trying it I've decided it's not so bad.  We save a lot more on produce since we aren't wasting it from not eating it fast enough, and my lists are usually pretty short so the trip is super fast.  

The picture above is not a usual week for us, but with the holiday's we ate out a lot with family.  Bonus- my grocery list is a lot shorter!  

Side Note: before Braedon and I even started this we set goals for what we wanted to save for.  This definitely helped me feel like these goals were more tangible instead of just dreams we had.  Our big goals are saving for a house, a future family, and med school.  We set an amount we'd like to save for each of these things by the end of the year.  

We also created a vacation fund.  Braedon and I are in a unique situation in that we have income from random jobs that we don't include in our average monthly income because it's so sporadic.  This includes modeling money from me, and money from Braedon's window washing business.  We decided to put this "extra" money towards a vacation fund with the goal to save up to visit Cambodia.      It all just depends on what your priorities are.  Whatever money you have leftover from each week you can put towards something fun like an iPad, furniture, etc.  You'll be surprised at how fast it adds up! We have our "fun" money in a separate savings account and it's exciting to watch it grow.  Plus it  makes it easier for me to put our "extra" money towards our vacation fun rather than spend it on eating out, or clothes.  

I'm sorry this post was ridiculously long and probably really hard to follow.  You should just watch this video about it...


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Weekly Planning

This post is so very "married" of me.  
At the beginning of each school semester Braedon and I usually ask for a priesthood blessing. You can read about what a priesthood blessing is here. Last semester we got council through a blessing from Braedon's dad for us to start planning together and having family "meetings".  

Ever since then we have been doing planning sessions on Sunday night of every new week.  It has strengthened our marriage, kept us on the same page, and helped us establish goals that we couldn't accomplish on our own!  I really love our planning sessions and we feel like it definitely brings us closer.  I feel like a total mom whipping out our calendar and making notes but hey, I'm not ashamed!

We pattern our planning sessions after preach my gospel with a few modifications.  You can see what preach my gospel suggests here.

We use an app called CareZone (I know, I know) and we love it. You should get it. It has a calendar, a section for "to-do's", notes, medications, you name it. Plus it links to both of our phones so if either of us makes a change we'll get an alert.  Sometimes Braedon will write something cute in the middle of the week like, "7:00 Thursday: Dancing with Stef in the kitchen" and I'll get an alert that "Braedon has made a change to the calendar".  

Here is how we do our planning...

1. Start with a prayer together: this helps us get in the right mindset and have an effective session

2. Pull up the calendar (on CareZone) and map out what you have going on that week.  We include work, school, date night, and whatever else is set in stone that we can link a day and time to.

3. Set goals for the week/ semester or however else you'd like to do it.  One of our goals this semester is less stress, more fun.  We've tried to incorporate some tasks on our "to-do" list (which will come next) that will hopefully help us fulfill these goals!  

Yes our bedtime is now 10-10:30.  Again, this is such a married post.  

4. Set your "to-do" list.  This is probably one of my favorite features because you can check it off during the week when it's done and it'll send an alert to Braedon that I "finished" the task!  One of our "to-do's" this week included making each other a playlist of new songs we both haven't heard before. We're hoping this is a good start to "less stress, more fun".  

5. Companionship Inventory.  This is such a "mission" thing, but I actually really like it and it's helped us become a stronger team and push each other to be our best. 

 Basically it goes like this; first we talk about what the other person did really well the previous week, and the things we really appreciated.  This part is easy!  Next, we talk about what improvements the other person could make for the coming week.  At first, I was so uncomfortable doing this!  Who am I to tell Braedon what he needs to improve on??  It's kind of evolved into suggestions for accomplishing goals, minimizing stress, etc. You could think of it as a very non-threatening way to address any issues you might have. 
For example, Braedon has a new business venture that he's wanting to start so I gave him suggestions on how to get it flowing.  Braedon knew I was stressed last week and gave me suggestions that he knew would help me to overcome it this week.  These are things we do during the week but for some reason at this time it feels more meaningful and sincere because the focus is just on the other person.  

6. End with a prayer.  

Prayer is probably the most important thing for us to have a successful planning session.  It sets the tone, and gets us on the same page.  I honestly look forward to this little time together each week! No matter how "married" it may seem. Hopefully some of these ideas can be helpful for you too and if you made it though this post without falling asleep I applaud you!  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year // Goodbye 2013

We rang in the new year with cafe rio and lots of fun games at the Murdock's.  My mother in law throws an awesome party complete with prizes, delicious treats, and of course Martinelli's!  We eat ourselves sick, get competitive, and wear silly new year's attire.  

One tradition I absolutely love that started when I married Braedon is participating in our annual "predictions".  We predict things about each family member at our traditional Asian Star dinner on Christmas Eve.  The predictions range from school to work, funny to somewhat outrageous.  It's fun to laugh and inspire one another for the new year.  We close the book, and no one reads it until next year when we read the last years predictions and reminisce on what really happened.  Interesting fact: Braedon's parents both predicted the right month we would get married two years ago and we weren't even engaged yet!  

Braedon and I have started doing our own personal predictions on New Years Day, and we also set our goals together in a special journal he got us for our first Christmas.  This year we went to Tsunami and stayed at the restaurant for close to two hours laughing about our predictions from last year and creating our dreams for this next year. 


Playing Bunco!  (I won most "losses", and took home a darling U of U shirt and milk duds)

Playing Telestrations...

Happy New Year!  I've decided to kick off this year right I'm going to attempt to read the Book of Mormon in 30 days.  If you'd like to join with me here is a little print out to help you keep on track!  

Wish me luck and have a Happy New Year!