Friday, January 29, 2010

February Meal Plan

Here is my meal plan for Feb. for The Freezer Cooking Daze hosted by Money Saving Mom and FishMama going on today-Tuesday. I plan to shop tomorrow (leaving the kids home with Daddy--woohoo!) and cook on Monday. This month I challenged myself to use a lot of new recipes. So most of these I have never made before but am trying out of a cookbook I got for Christmas last year from my Mom called Taste of Home's 5-Ingredient Recipes.

When I did bulk cooking in November and December I noticed that four meals was almost too much of one entree, mainly because they lasted through 2 meals each so that meant we were eating one dish 8 TIMES in a month!!!! We were so sick of Sherry Chicken by the end of December that we gave my parents the last meal's worth!

So, this time I'm doing 3 each.

Freezer Meals:

Easy Lasagnax3
Fiesta Macaronix3
Green Chili Burritosx3
Bacon Cheese Friesx3
Roast Beef and Baked Potatoesx3
Green Chili Rice Casserolex3

And here are the meals I will cook regularly (1 time each):
Black Bean Soup and Quesadillas (Have some leftover in freezer from a bulk batch I made a few weeks ago)
5 Bean Soup and Biscuits (in freezer--leftover from soup-in-a-jar a friend gave me)
BLT sandwiches
Pancakes and eggs
Waffles and eggs
Authentic Enchiladas for Mom's family B-day dinner
Pepperoni Pizza-Ali's request for her B-day meal


Leftover Nightx2

My menu plan best serves me if I have the 30 meals for the month listed on a calendar sheet on the fridge and if I choose each day what sounds good off of the list. Busier days I will grab a frozen meal, days where I feel like being creative or cooking up a storm I will make one of the non-freezer meals.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weight Loss Tips...Continued....

5. General Good Health

Sometimes we eat when we think we are hungry but we are really thirsty. In the same way I think we often eat because our body is craving a nutrient it isn't getting. By taking a multi-vitamin daily and seeking to eat healthily as the norm, you will find weight management to be easier. A few years ago our family stopped eating white rice. Last year we cut out white tortillas and started adding secret veggie purees to recipes. This year we are cutting back on refined sugars and trying to eliminate food colorings. These are just a few examples of how I try to incorporate healthy changes into our family's eating every year. I'm convinced that our high-fiber diet is a big part of how I have been able to lose weight without cutting back too much on the amount of food I eat. I'm not a big water drinker but I'm making more of an effort because all the weight-loss books and articles say drinking a lot helps. I'm making a huge effort this year to get more sleep too! Experts say stress inhibits weight loss so learning to deal with stress, slow down more, and take time for some quiet and reflection could aid in weight loss!

6. Share!

This tip really works! As a mom it can be frustrating when your kids want a bite of everything they see you eating. Especially when you just fed them or when you have several kids clamoring for a bite. It used to frustrate me but now that I'm on a weight-loss kick I share freely. Every bite I give away means less calories for me! I've even been known to share my chocolate truffles a friend gave me for Christmas! (Gasp!) If you have little kids, they can be your little diet-assistants by helping mommy eat that muffin or sandwich!

7. Don't Buy!

We have never been in a habit of buying lots of junk food but my husband has a fondness for ice-cream and chips. Since I don't really eat ice-cream much, it's not a temptation to have it around. But, if there are chips around I will have some with a sandwich or for a snack. So, I've stopped buying them. If I do buy them rarely, I try to buy a flavor that my hubby likes, but I don't like. He hasn't complained too much about the lack of unhealthy snacks in the pantry. He loves fruit and veggies too. I think living with me for the last 6 years has really "corrupted" him. He used to love sugary cereal and hate Wheaties or granola, now it's the other way around! And we recently had some pop left over from a luncheon and he drank it for a few days, trying to use it up and said, "I feel so gross! I feel like I must be poisoning my body or something drinking this trash! What have you done to me?"

8. Be More Active!

Don't let doing your exercise work-out be the culmination of your action for the day. Sweep, mop, shovel snow, clean vigorously, or opt to walk somewhere instead of driving if possible. Justus provides lots of action for me. Every minute of the day when he's awake it seems that I am chasing after him or popping up from the computer to go check on him in the midst of writing a blog post or checking e-mail. Walk around the house when you're on the phone. Park farther away from the store. Tickle and wrestle with the kids.

9. Build Muscle

All the weight-loss books talk about how building muscle burns more flab. I don't have weight-training equipment, but I do have an excellent pilates video. I love pilates because it really helps my neck strain issues and I think it tones and builds muscle. Even though it's not a hyper-fast-sweating-tons type of exercise, it really seems to help. There are lots of tips online for building muscle/strength-training. If your options are fairly limited, like mine, try varying your work-outs. Do a brisk walk one day, then pilates 2 days later, then swimming 2 days later, etc.

Final note: If you are trying to lose weight, remember to give yourself grace. Pray about this endeavor; God cares! And while hardcore punishments can work really well, give yourself a break now and then! Don't make goals so high you can't possibly attain them or punishments so horrible that you fail to enforce them. During busy and stressful seasons revise your expectations (2 workouts a week instead of 4) and give yourself a break when on vacation or traveling.

I'd love to hear your tips and stories about your weight loss journeys if you'd like to share them in the comments!

And I'd like to give a huge shout-out to my friend Hannah for losing 32 pounds in just a few months and my friend Lesley for losing over 20 pounds! Yay! You guys are my inspiration!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Weight Loss Tips

Disclaimer: I feel really funny writing this post because I'm not at all one of those gals that jogs 5 miles a day even while preggo and is uber-strong and lives for fitness. I also don't look like the picture above. And most people who know me well would tell you that I love chocolate, cooking, baking, eating good food, reading writing, and crafting, but that exercise isn't really a hobby for me. But I do want to write this post because there are other moms out there who will benefit from these tips. It's probably stuff you've all heard before, and probably many times, but maybe hearing my take on it will be fresh inspiration for this week or this month in your own fitness journey.
About 4 months ago I got on the bandwagon "Getting Serious About Losing the Baby Weight." A couple of my good friends in MN were on a weight loss kick and they were seeing amazing results. They really inspired me. One friend is on Weight Watchers online and one is just very disciplined about hitting the gym or the running trail! I was motivated by a desire to be more active and lose the 10-15 pounds hanging on after 3 kids.
In 12 weeks I ended up losing about 9 pounds and in 2 more pounds I will meet my first goal and treat myself to a professional haircut, something I haven't had in a few years! After that, if I can, I'd like to lose just 5 more pounds and then I will be at my "ideal weight" goal. But if I don't lose the final 5, I will be content to at least reach the first goal. I'm really happy with where I'm at. Everyone is so different! My "ideal weight" might be your 9-months-pregnant weight or your "ideal weight" might be 30 pounds more than me, but the important thing is that we are healthy for our own body type and that we are able to be active.
Here are the things that have helped me the most!
1. Accountability
Every Sunday one of my best friends and I have to write each other an e-mail detailing our goals for the week and listing our current weight. We write about our successes and failures in the weight-loss journey and encourage each other with excitement and praise when we've made our goal. Another good friend of mine who is a fitness guru and I chat in person every week about how we are doing in diet and exercise too. This is my NUMBER ONE tip for losing weight. Join a group, get into an online club, or have a friend keep you accountable.
2. Punishment and Rewards
Some people seem to work well with only rewards but I'm one of those types that needs hardcore punishment to get my rear in gear. So, if I tell my friend that I need to exercise 3 times during the next week, but only do it twice, I lose chocolate for a WEEK! A couple of time of losing chocolate, especially around the holidays, was a killer for me and with the threat of this punishment hanging over my head I had several nights where I was doing my work-out late at night, no matter how tired I was! (And no, I didn't have trouble sleeping after that. I can exercise before bed, no problem.) The hardcore punishment idea works so well for me that I came up with another one to help me reach my goal of going to bed earlier this year. If I don't get to bed by 11pm 6 nights of the week, the following day I lose the priviledge of being online at all. It's been great! It's also nice to have a reward to look forward to in addition to the punishments. So, I am excited to be able to change my hairstyle in a week or two when I lose those final 2 pounds. My friend's punishment is having to write to me about her failures and losing coffee for a week.
3. Small Goals
It can be daunting to try to lose when your goal is big. Start small. Tell your partner you'd like to be one pound less each week or to just maintain your weight over the holiday season instead of going up. Don't try to lose 5 or 10# in a week. It's unhealthy and you're more likely to give up and go back to your undesired weight than if you take baby steps towards losing weight.
4. Switcheroos
I absolutely love the book Eat This, Not That, as you regular blogreaders know! I even bought a couple of the various editions for gifts for family members for Christmas! This book helped me to realize that you don't have to give up everything to lose weight, you just have to make smarter choices in what you eat. I love dessert and love a little chocolate pick-me-up during the day but now I'm looking for the "best deal" nutritionally. We have some neat pottery mugs that hold about 20 ounces of liquid. Even when I would only fill it halfway, I'd still have to add 2-3 packets of hot cocoa mix for that rich, chocolatey taste. Now, I use the smaller Corelle mugs we have, fill it halfway (4 oz.) with skim milk and have one hot cocoa packet in it for the rich, chocolatey taste. I drink green tea a lot too and save hot cocoa for the super-strong-chocolate-cravings! One night I was really, really hungry for a donut or piece of chocolately cake. But I told myself "No!" Instead I pulled a blueberry muffin out of the freezer to satisfy the hunger. Instead of cheese crackers or similar salty snacks, I make popcorn in a brown paper lunch sack in the microwave and salt lightly. A yummy yogurt and fruit smoothie (no sugar or honey added) takes away the craving for something sweet. A small, dark chocolate truffle satisfies my chocolate craving better than an entire milk chocolate candy bar. When I do make desserts or goodies, I try to use ww flour, cut back on sugar, and use pumpkin or other purees to cut down on the oil.
Tomorrow I'll continue with my final 5 tips.......

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Best Blueberry Muffins

My love for blueberries dates back to the early 1980's, so I'm told.
In recent years I've been searching for a delicious blueberry muffin recipe to no avail.
Sure, the box mixes are good, but they are expensive and have a slightly artificial taste and probably all kinds of preservatives in them. A month ago, my friend Heather, served these muffins at a playdate.
They were AMAZING! I've finally found a great recipe!
She got the original recipe from The Betty Crocker Cookbook (2001)
but she has tweaked it a bit and so have I.

Blueberry Muffins

3/4 cup milk (I used whole)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or use coconut oil or melted butter--I used butter)
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour (Heather used roughly 1/3 c freshly ground flaxseed, 2/3 cup whole wheat flour, and 1 cup white flour. Lindsey used 1 C. white, 1 C. wheat)
1/2 cup sugar (you can use sucanat or brown sugar--if so, do 3/4 C)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries or huckleberries (Heather used huckleberries, which were amazing, but they are rare! I've found that fresh are the key to good blueberry muffins. Frozen will do, but the muffins don't taste quite as good! If you do use them, thaw them completely first and stir in very gently.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottoms only of muffin tins or line with paper liners.

Beat milk, oil, and egg with whisk. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder and salt all at once just until flour is moistened (batter will still be lumpy). Fold in berries.

Bake 15-20 minutes (mini muffins take around 10-15).

Note: Double or triple the recipe! These are so yummy, they will go very fast!

Monday, January 25, 2010

5 Decades of Amazing

To quote my 21 year old bro,
"Even though I've tested her a lot,
she's always made me proud that she's my Mama."
In response to my asking him for 10 things he admires in Mom for her "50 things we love about Mom on her 50th B-day" poster he went on to say that he respects her for homeschooling 3 kids for a time ("that couldn't have been easy!") and for going back to college to get her teaching degree, that she's compassionate, selfless, understanding, helpful, an excellent teacher, is happy with what she has, makes great chicken enchiladas, and has a cool dog (a golden retriever named Dai.) Grant went on and on and surpassed his 10 things quota, which is pretty inspiring for a guy! I would add that she has a strong heart for the Lord and does hard things for Him. I've learned so much from her and want to be like her in so many areas.
Happy 50th to a mom I'm thankful for, proud of, and glad to call my dear friend!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Exactly One Year Ago....

This is what was going on one year ago today. A Youth Group Snowboarding trip to Red Lodge, an icy hill, a snowboard tumble, 3 hours of surgery, 7 hours of torturous driving on ice and snow covered roads one way to retrieve my husband from Billings, and weeks of Dr. appts that were in towns 3-5 hours away, piles of medical bills, and living on half of our income for a while. And guess what, on this side of things, we can smile! God provided for our EVERY need and we always had enough of whatever we needed and through financial aid and Samaritan Ministries we hardly had to pay a thing on the medical bills. Thanks to our Emergency Fund, we had no trouble covering our small portion of the bills and the gas costs to and from the city for appts.

A year later, Josiah's wrist is back to 85% of it's strength and motion. He's anxious to hit the slopes soon with the Youth Group but he's going to be even more cautious than he was before the accident happened.
I can't believe how much easier life is one year later as all of our kids are that much older and we are no longer doing nighttime feedings and bottles and Jer is potty-trained and I'm not having to take in babysitting clients to help make ends meet. Last year at this time was so rough. Anyone who saw my house, (or my hair =)), could surely tell that I was beyond pooped. But we made it through by God's grace and grew in our faith as we watched our Heavenly Father take care of us!
Today is a day for remembering God's faithfulness.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Being One is Fun

After his first "flow-bee" haircut a week ago.

Yes, he didn't have much to begin with

but we cut it to even out some of the longer wisps.

He jumped right in and started cleaning the stove when I was doing it.

When he's not trying to eat garbage, fall off the kitchen table or chairs, or grab for hot objects
Justus is generally just being darling. He's the resident "servant" bringing people their shoes and throwing away kleenexes before we even ask him too. He's talking up a storm now and learning new words every day. His favorite word is "uhn-uh" and though it's naughty when he says it to Mommy and Daddy, it sounds so cute I have to remind myself not to smile or laugh.

From 1982

One of my mom's oldest Christmas ornaments. My first Christmas--1982.
I see a strong resemblance to Justus!

Friday, January 22, 2010

New Recipe--No Hurry Vegetable Curry

This is soooo yummy! And makes enough to last through about 4 or 5 meals at our house. I served with homemade whole wheat tortillas and yogurt with cumin mixed in as a dip for the tortillas.

Trying New Recipes

Brocolli Couscous stir-fry (made according to the recipe on the back of the couscous), spinach salad with salsa ranch dressing, and 7-Grain rolls fresh from the oven. Yum!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to Curl Stick-Straight Hair

When the ballet teacher makes ringlets mandatory, some of the ballet moms (myself included) shudder a little bit. How on earth do we get slick or fine and stick-straight hair to curl? What about my daughter's ragged hair-do because of her giving herself a haircut recently? What about the small kids who haven't grown much hair yet?
I discovered that there is hope!

Though these pink curlers in her hair made for some cute pics, they did a horrible job at actually curling it. I used gel, blow-dried and left in for several hours but even with lots of hair spray on the hair-do, the curls fell out in an hour or two.Excited to see the result of all of the curler torture!The second night we decided to try rag curls and mousse instead of gel. I cut some rag strips from fabric remnants and painstakingly rolled her wet hair in tiny sections while letting her watch a movie. Here, Daddy kisses his rag-headed girl goodnight. In the morning, the curls were as tight as could be and held up wonderfully the entire day through a picture session and two long performances! Alathia's curls looked no where near as gorgeous as some of the older girls who had very long hair with perfectly formed ringlets of equal size that bounced up and down like shiny, soft, slinkies. But overall, it looked very nice and the teacher was impressed!
Some moms of the girls with really short hair seemed to have success with a hot curling iron and lots of hair spray. But most used the rag curls overnight. If you have any tips on making perfect ringlets I'd love to hear them!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nutcracker Pics

In the busy month of December I think I failed to post pics of Alathia's first ballet performance. So, here are my favorites!
In the first of the 3 performances she tripped on the slick stage but got right back up and started dancing again, never letting it bother her.

Watching the first half of the show and waiting until it was time for the Baby Sugar Plum Princesses to go up and dance.

Ali was so excited to get her first rose

(complete with a candy necklace attached)

from a sweet lady from church who helped out with the performance.

She was equally thrilled that Daddy got to see her dance

since he's never been able to attend a dance practice yet.

Daddy's not much for watching ballet

but he was bursting with pride in his little girl

and happy to watch the show for her sake!

So proud that Grammy and Boppa, my folks, came to see her!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cheap, Cute,and Simple Decor

These cute little wooden animals were 58 cents each at the nearest Walmart. They have felt accents and are painted well. You could glue them to a sign or a large photo frame or buy enough to stretch in a line around the whole room. They had about 10 animals to choose from. Cute, but simple, frugal decor for kid's bedrooms and they work for boys or girls or for brothers and sisters who share a room, like ours!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jeremiah's Bruised Head

My Jeremiah is darling. He's sweet. He's cuddly. He's gentle most of the time. We're so thankful and blessed to have him in the family. But he's also one of those people that seems to attract mishaps as though he has a accident-prone magnet stuck to his head. You know, like the person who always gets hit in the head with the frisbee even though they are ducking and running away. If you've ever seen the old movie Pure Luck (and I'm not endorsing it all here--it contains some rough language--saw it a long time ago) he is exactly like the characters in it who seem to be living proof for Murphy's Law.

Consider these facebook status' of mine from this past week:

"Only Jeremiah would bend over with his head in front of the bathroom door and yell, "Come wipe me!" only to have me run into the bathroom, causing the door to pop him in the head, knock him over, and have him land on the bath mat with a poopy bottom, getting it everywhere. Choosing to laugh instead of crying and to be... thankful for a washing machine, wet wipes, and soap and hot water."
(He wasn't hurt, just so you know.)

"Life is rough when you are 3. You're finding out stuff about life everyday and often life's little lessons hurt. Lessons like why you shouldn't step on one side of the laundry basket and what a bloody nose is."

It wouldn't be so strange if these kind of things happened rarely like they happen to Alathia and Justus. But these kind of things happen to Jeremiah ALL OF THE TIME! From getting his arm stuck and pinned to his head when he's getting dressed to trying to hop onto a chair for lunch and missing the chair and hitting the floor to standing in front of the driver's door on the van when someone is opening it, to slipping and falling flat on his face both on the way to the van and on his way back into the house, the little guy is doing these kinds of things on a daily basis (often 3x a day!) If there's a way to get hurt doing it, he'll find it even though he's not an agressive, super-testosterone-driven little boy. And even if you think there is no conceivable way he can get hurt using a certain toy or item, he'll prove you wrong.
I've heard his Daddy was just like him so maybe it's a hereditary thing. Josiah and I just shake our heads and shoot each other looks across the table. "Is this kid for real?" "How is this kid still alive?"

Help for Haiti

MoneySavingMom has made a generous offer! If you blog about what you are going to do to help Haiti, you can link up to her blog and she will donate another $10 to Haiti relief. As of this morning there are around 80 bloggers participating!

What our family plans to do to help Haiti:

We've been praying for those in the country and the rescue workers frequently

We are going to donate funds to the following ministries:

Compassion--We have a sponsored child in Ethiopia and this ministry is dear to our hearts

Samaritan's Purse--Another organization we love to give to that helps many in need around the world

Also, it is important to stay aware of the situation and not become callused or indifferent toward the tragedy.

This blog has been a good one to read for updates.
I'm also excited to see soooo many organizations and individuals pulling together to bring help to Haiti. This is encouraging!
Because I know the character of my God, I know He will use this tragedy and horror to bring good and will work it for His purposes. I would love to see this flood of aid and supplies bring about the spread of the gospel in Haiti and bring many Haitians into the kingdom which will not ever be shaken or destroyed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Best Bread Machine Caramel Rolls EVER!

Cinnamon rolls are so pretty!

3 ½ C. bread flour
1/3 C. sugar
1 t. salt
1 C. room-temp water
1 large egg
¼ C. softened butter
1 ½ t. yeast
(You will also need brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans, butter, and caramel ice-cream topping).

Place Ingredients in pan and put on the dough cycle. This cycle is usually 1 ½ hours. Remove the dough from bread machine and roll out on a lightly floured surface.

Spread 2 T. softened butter across the flat dough and then sprinkle with ¼ C. brown sugar mixed with 1 t. cinnamon. Finally, sprinkle with ½ C. chopped pecans (optional--leave out if you don't like nuts) and roll up. Empty one jar of caramel ice-cream topping into two lightly greased pie pans or 1 cake pan. Cut the roll of dough with dental floss (place under the roll and then bring ends of floss up and crisscross at top of roll and pull to make even slices) and then lay the rolls in the caramel in the two pie pans. Cover with plastic wrap. You can put them immediately in the fridge to rise overnight or let them rise 30-50 minutes before baking at 350 for about 30 minutes. If you put them in the fridge, pull them out about 30 minutes before you plan to bake them and let them rise as the oven is warming up. These are so simple and so delicious!
Note: The key to making them perfect is letting them cook long enough. I've under-cooked them a lot of times so this time I made sure to let them get really toasty, golden-brown colored and then I dumped them out of the cake pan onto a cookie sheet covered in foil and toasted them a little bit before serving so that the tops weren't doughy at all. I made these on Christmas Eve and then merely warmed them up in the oven for a few minutes on Christmas morning and served with gourmet scrambled eggs and strawberry and yogurt smoothies. Hopefully this will become a family tradition!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Window Markers

Alathia begged me to come and draw with her using her new window markers
from Grandpa and Grandma. I didn't realize how much fun they could be!

Don't have a chalkboard in your kitchen like Monica
that you can write fun messages on for visiting company?
Try window markers instead--sold at Walmart.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gone...But Not Forgotten

Last week a special friend of ours had a birthday.

Amy and I wanted to bless her.

30 reasons we miss Shiloh on her 30th birthday....

What was on the menu?
Pomegranate green tea and raisin tea biscuits.

Kids, conversation, and cookies.

The little girls wanted to have a tea party of their own to mimic us.

We may not have been able to physically celebrate with her, but thanks to the internet we could be with her in spirit.
Virtual celebration.
Real tears streaming down a birthday girl's face.
No longer in our state...
...but still in our hearts.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Secret to Happy Homemaking

Struggling to conquer Mount Washmore this morning? Trying desperately to start Operation Restore Order after a busy weekend but failing due to interruptions and countless tasks?
This post at my favorite "growth blog" was such a refreshing blessing to me.
I want to be a "Yes Mama" too even if yes means a mess.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Car Organizers

I found this excellent tutorial here, which inspired me in making these. But because I didn't have sturdy fabric around, I decided to use two old garments that were on their way to the rag bag. The cool thing is that I still get to enjoy my hubby's western shirt and my favorite courderoy skirt that I wore nearly everyday for the last few years on end.I forgot to take a pic of the finished skirt one,

but it's just very basic with about 5 square pockets on it and less frills than the denim one.I forgot to take a pic of the western shirt before chopping it up, but you can probably imagine it.The little hook on the back of the shirt becomes a great place to put a carabiner, where you can stash ponytail holders, keys, or pacifiers.

I even re-used the tag, figuring it would hold pens.

My pics of it in the car didn't turn out so well, so here is my daughter holding it up to give you an idea of how it works. The elastic at the bottom goes around the seat of the car to help hold it tight against the car seat.

Since I sit in the back with the kids on long car trips, these organizers really bless me! The brown, plain one went behind Justus's carseat on the front passenger seat. (He still rides rear-facing). I mainly stashed extra diapers and wipes and winter hats there since it wasn't as accessible as the one directly in front of my seat. In this one, I stashed dark chocolate, lotion, diapers, wipes, coloring book, mp3 player, keys, pacifiers, kleenex, sippy, etc.
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